RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – November 12, 2020

Today in Russia: Michael Calvey released from house arrest; Russia says its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine 92 percent effective; Russian military launches investigation into downing of helicopter in Armenia; Sberbank’s new challenge: Mail.ru squabbles; Russia says sanctions against Germany and France over Navalny are coming; Ingushetia region on brink of bankruptcy

Michael Calvey, the founder of investment firm Baring Vostok was released [in Russian] from house arrest today. As recently as late September, it appeared that Calvey had little hope of release as the well-connected businessman with whom he had a dispute, Artyem Asvetiyan, appeared to be leveraging his close relationship with First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Bolosov to keep Calvey under arrest. However, in late November, Calvey and Asvetiyan settled their dispute, raising hopes that the largest political hurdle to Calvey’s release had been resolved. Kommersant wrote,

The Supreme Court of Russia released from house arrest the founder of the investment fund Baring Vostok Michael Calvey, his partner Philippe Delpal and other defendants in the case of embezzlement of 2.5 billion rubles. The preventive measure has been changed to prohibit certain actions. Earlier, on November 12, the Arbitration Court of the Amur Region terminated the case on the claim of Vostochny Bank against Evison Holdings Limited, controlled by Baring Vostok, and Mr. Calvey. The parties announced the settlement of claims within the framework of the settlement agreement.

The developers of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine announced that clinical trials thus far show a 92 percent effective rate. The figure is based on 16,000 test participants, but the report noted that this figure was based on just 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases among the participants. The result comes (conveniently) just days after the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was announced to be 90 percent effective in ongoing clinical trials.

The Russian military launched an investigation into the downing last week of a military helicopter in Armenia near to the Azerbaijan border. According to Interfax, “Russian military investigators, in cooperation with colleagues from Armenia and Azerbaijan, are carrying out initial investigative actions. An inspection of the scene of the accident was carried out, various examinations were appointed, including flight and technical [details].” Criminal cases have also been launched in Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev apologized to Russia over the incident and loss of life to Russian servicemembers.

Sberbank, the massive state-owned bank-turned aspiring tech giant, is following in the footsteps of its rival Yandex in finding itself in squabbles with partners. Last month, Yandex’s much publicized acquisition of Tinkoff Bank was called off due to disagreements between the two parties. Today, the Financial Times reported that Sberbank is suffering from serious disagreements with Mail.ru over a $1.6 billion joint venture. The squabbles are also reminiscent of those between Sberbank and Yandex, who recently split off from joint projects of their own. The FT notes that a similar outcome could befall the Mail.ru partnership as well.

Russia said Thursday it will soon introduce retaliatory sanctions on German and French officials over the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.”

Russia’s southern Ingushetia region is on the brink of bankruptcy, according to Novaya Gazyeta [in Russian]. Ingushetia has racked up debts of 125 percent of its annual income. While Ingushetia may “be the first to fall,” many regions across the country have struggled to make ends meet during the coronavirus crisis.

PHOTO: Mail.ru and Sberbank are suffering from disagreements over a joint venture (Financial Times montage; image from Bloomberg).