Originally on FB, December 20, 2022 – January 3, 2023
A brief synopsis of recent developments in Russia that are pertinent to the war, collected from FB posts I made over the past month or so.
Economy & Sanctions
Putin is unhappy with the inflation rate in Russia, and as a result Rosstat, the agency collecting data, changed how inflation is calculated for the fifth time. After the change, inflation is going to be around 12% only. Well, that’s certainly one way to deal with inflation. The problem is that for the consumer, the price at the store is impervious to Rosstat shenanigans.
Putin signed a decree forbidding sales of oil to unfriendly countries that adhere to the oil price cap. Right now, this would be the G-7, of which several no longer even buy Russian oil. The Russian Ministry of Finance warned that the cap is creating problems with the budget: “prices are falling, and the volumes are going down,” said Siluanov, who estimated that the budget deficit might well exceed the projected 3 trillion rubles ($42 billion). The price cap was set at the level where Russia’s normal prewar prices were, and is designed to prevent it from profiteering from future demand spikes like the one we saw shortly after the war began. The Kremlin has been selling at huge discounts, often far below the cap, so it’s unclear what effect this particular move would have when Russia is in a desperate need of buyers for its oil. Trump flunkie Mnuchin derided the caps back in November, calling them ridiculous. Just a reminder that basically everyone in the Orange Guy’s orbit is either an utter moron or a sellout or both.
Putin allowed buyers from unfriendly countries to pay for gas in foreign currency.
The Russians can’t find buyers for their steel. They have 30 million tons sitting there and the internal market can absorb just about 3 million tons.
Russian oil exports to the EU have fallen by 90%, and Russian oil sells for $30 less than world average prices. This is because Putin is a master strategist and nobody can survive without Russian oil. Turns out, the Russians can’t survive without selling it. At almost any price.
Russia and Iran are trying to build a new trade route that would avoid unfriendly countries on the way and would save weeks of transit time, lowering transportation costs. Now, since these two are not what one would call strong economies, the profitability of this scheme depends entirely on whether other countries (like India) decide to participate in whatever schemes these two pariah regimes are concocting. This is highly doubtful. Because secondary sanctions work. Just like the primary ones. But hey, hope springs eternal. Of course, by the time this thing is completed it could well be that one or both regimes are no longer in power.
The number of Russians who are forbidden from leaving the country due to unpaid debts has doubled from last year, reaching 8 million. Part of this is because sanctions do not work, the economy is booming, and everybody makes enough money to live well, as befits the country with the richest resource base on the planet. The other part is that if you show up at the bank to pay the debt, they welcome you with a draft note.
The Ukrainian security services has officially accused Russia’s Central Banker Nabiullina for direct financing of the war, making her complicit in all crimes committed by the Russian military. You might think it’s because of her very capable leadership that prevented the meltdown of the economy in the first half of last year, but it’s over something more prosaic: it was on her order that the occupation authorities have stopped the convertibility of the hryvna, forcing everyone there to use rubles, thus propping the currency’s value and increasing tax revenue. Add another spot for the bench with accused at The Hague.
The gauleiter of Sevastopol has moved his assets and his family to Cyprus. That’s because Crimea is Russian forever, and we know after Kherson that forever has a special meaning in Russian. It also could be related to unknown drones periodically activating the air defenses of the peninsula.
The French company Gaztransport & Technigaz is ceasing all activities in Russia. The company has suspended its contract with the Russian ship-builder Zvezda for the construction of 15 ice-breaking LNG carriers for Putin. Sanctions — especially those that prohibit engineering services to Russia — do not work. That’s why the Russians will carry their LNG in plastic bags to the market.
Russian military factors are now working around the clock. For some reason, their missiles tend to fall on the way to Ukraine (two in Belgorod Oblast very recently). The Russians also said they will be using their strategic aviation to attack Ukraine. Of course, they have been using said aviation for a while — it’s the one that used to be station at Engles-2 air base. Now they are somewhere far beyond the Ural mountains, and have to fly quite a lot more before they can deliver their payloads. Despite being able to carry up to 12 missiles on paper, the aging aircraft seem to be capable of at most 4 at a time (that’s judging by the number of sorties and missiles fired over several campaigns). The reason is that their very old design was modernized for larger payloads but the planes simply cannot take the stress anymore, and nobody wants to risk trying with more missiles.
Repression & Security
All power to the marauders! Russia also legalizes corruption and plunder: under a new law, participants in the SMO in Ukraine (including bureaucrats) do not have to declare their incomes, expenditures, or property. I wonder how much property these heroic SMO participants are going to end up owning.
Moreover, the government is authorizing “forced licensing” that would license software needed for internal use even if the maker of the software does not agree with it. This was done to avoid… piracy?
The Kremlin forbids all media from reporting, discussing, or making predictions about a mobilization. This makes sense, of course, because Putin has said the mobilization is over and Shoigu did not say they need to get another 350,000 men. And because no mobilization is coming. The Russians are going to make up their losses with terracotta figurines.
Meanwhile, a video emerged of a commander from the banana republic of Luhansk beating Russian soldiers for leaving positions without orders. The beatings will continue until morale improves.
The Russian Duma adopted a law that requires cab drivers to keep passenger data for 6 months and deliver it to FSB. The thug in the Kremlin is tightening all the screws on the Russian population.
Something attacked the Engels airport in Saratov Oblast, Russia. Again. After the first attack on December 4, the Russians could think of nothing better than to write “Death to Nazis” on the tarmac — although maybe in the absence of a decent air defense, shamanic incantations could be hoped to provide some protection. As usual, thoughts and prayers did nothing, and another drone flew 800km into Russia. The Russian Defense Ministry said it had been taken out by the air defenses — just like the first time! It will be a bit awkward to explain the 3 dead from the strike though.
Several former convicts recruited by Wagner have disappeared from their training facility with their weapons. It does not appear that they have rushed toward Ukraine to start killing ukronazis because they found the training too slow. Putin’s cook and future leader of the peasant rebellion Prigozhin brought a sledgehammer to the training camp in Krasnoyarsk to remind recruits that from his perspective, their heads look like nails.
All consumer gadgets sold in Russia would come with VKontakte (the Russian answer to Facebook), Yandex (their version of google), and rutube (their version of YouTube) preinstalled, along with all automatic “report to authorities” tools that monitor your online activity, conversations, and — soon — thoughts. Impure thoughts = draft note to the war.
Several hundred mobilized Russians spontaneously demilitarized in Makiivka along with several pieces of equipment. The authorities of banana republic of Donetsk blamed the men for using their cell phones where they were not supposed to. Ironically, a few of them survived when they went outside to see why someone was setting off fireworks in the vicinity.
Education & Religion
Russia is eliminating the study of European languages from its schools. Instead of English, German, French, and Spanish, the kids can now study Kazakh, Turkmen, and a bunch of African languages. I predict that in a few months, they are only going to be studying African languages.
Russia is reinstating the Soviet practice of quotas in universities: 10% of spots will be reserved for children of members of the military and “heroes of the SMO” (in my time, these were called “active fighters against fascism”).
The Russian Patriarch Kirill declared that the Russians are the chosen people (did not say for what) who are on a special mission (did not say to where). Also mentioned something about fascism. Pope Benedict XVI died so he would not have to listen to this drivel. Propagandist Solovyev announced that he expects to go to Heaven, which was a nice warning for all those who intended to go there to change their plans.
Kadyrov, who happens to have multiple honorary degrees from various Russian universities, who is a member of Chechnya’s Academy of Sciences, who has published numerous research articles on economics and politics, was asked what he likes to read. Turns out he does not like to read. It’s not clear that he can. But then again, as the proverb says, who can’t do, reads, and who can do, records TikToks.
Society & Politics
The government is also taking care of children not yet born to heroes of the SMO: it is willing to pay for the collection of the sperm from the military… just in case?
Clown Kadyrov declared that he’s eligible to run for president in 2024. Then he said he would not do it because “after such a wise and far-seeing leader like Putin, it would be practically impossible to rule the country.” Yeah, Gorbachev also found it difficult to rule a country that did not exist anymore.
Russia was kicked out from the Council of Europe last spring, and now Putin & Co have decided to withdraw from its all agreements and conventions with Europe, including those pertaining to human rights, corruption, financing terrorism, education, and archaeological heritage. No doubt the Russian people will experience the “special way” of their government on its “mission to somewhere.” Russia is turning into a vast gulag that exports death.
Unknown people attacked an army recruiting station in Moscow with Molotov cocktails. During the New Year celebrations in the city, locals were dancing to Ukrainian music in the street not two blocks from the Kremlin. It’s unclear whether this was related to the numerous arrests the security forces made in the city during the night, dragging revelers straight into the prison vans. This is because Russians love Putin and can’t wait to go to Makiivka.
Russia’s Lavrov, on Russia’s burning desire to negotiate an end to the war on reasonable terms: “Our proposals for the demilitarization and denazification of the territories controlled by the regime, the elimination of threats to Russia’s security emanating from there, including our new lands, are well known to the enemy. The point is simple: Fulfil them for your own good. Otherwise, the issue will be decided by the Russian army.” Macron, what say you? Also, what Russian army? The one that’s occupying Kyiv after taking it in 3 days?
Kazakhstan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Tleuberdi told the Japanese channel NHK that while Kazakhstan is not party to the sanctions against Russia, his country will not help Russia circumvent them. On Goebbels-TV, the Russians are threatening Kazakhstan, this time because of some imaginary biolabs that, apparently, the US ran with the Kazakhs just like the ones we ran with the Ukrainians. “There is no doubt that there will be a direct conflict with Kazakhstan.” Do these guys ever sleep without dreaming of invading someone?
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova is now threatening Moldova because they banned some pro-Russian tv channels. She also called Zelenskyy “son of a bitch,” a new low for supposed diplomats. It really does seem that the Russian government has lost its collective marbles. All they can do is rage impotently, insult, and threaten like the lowlife thugs most of them are.
Zakharova is busy. In the same outing where she called Zelenskyy a son of a bitch (twice!) and doubted he had gone to Bakhmut (oh, this must really hurt the Russians — having a coward for a president), she had some time to try to bully another country. The Russians are now threatening Greece with “consequences” if they send the S-300 SAMs to Ukraine. Remind me again why everyone and their mother wants to be in NATO.
The Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia Grigoryan said that Russia is pressuring Armenia to join a union state. Kremlin spokesman Peskov characterized the statement as provocative. In other words, the Kremlin is really turning the screws on Armenia, which seems to have few options left given how emboldened Azerbaijan is feeling these days. The Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Bairamov said that Baku will not put off the resolution of the status of Karabakh to future generations.