POLITKOVSKAYA TRIAL. Indictments were handed down and, having first agreed to have the trial open, the judge closed it at the request of the jury. Given that the prosecution’s contention is that she was murdered in a mob hit, that both the actual killer and the boss who ordered it are in Europe and that the plot was assisted by members of the security forces, I can’t blame them for feeling insecure. However, one juror, who has resigned, said the jury only objected to live video and TV. The trial has been recessed until 1 December.
RUSSIA’S PROSPECTS. The World Bank has produced a report. The prognosis is not so bad: growth this year is estimated at 6% but will fall to 3% next year (which, the way things are going, may make Russia a star); inflation will remain in the 12%-14% range. As it says, the impact of the global crisis in Russia is cushioned by its large cash reserves and “prudent fiscal policy”.
BALANCE SHEET. The Duma heard reports on Russia’s reserves. The Reserve Fund is US$131.26 billion ($129.32 billion in June) and the National Welfare Fund US$61.16 billion ($32.60 billion in June). Some money is invested outside Russia; the Central Bank reduced its investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds from US$65.6 billion to US$20.9 billion over the year (everybody thought they were solid investments it seems!). The Bank has spent $57.5 billion between September and October supporting the ruble exchange rate. So, still money in the kitty although it is being spent and energy prices mean it is not arriving at the old rate.
DEMOGRAPHICS. The Health Ministry reported the highest birthrate in 16 years: up 100,000 in the first 9 months to 1.2 million. Reasons were a combination of the encouragement program and better medical care.
NEW PARTY. SPS, Civil Force and the Democratic Party have disbanded and re-formed as Pravoye Delo.
FIRST FRUITS? The Ingushetia Supreme Court has overturned the “accidental death” ruling in the case of Magomed Yevloyev and ordered a new investigation. New President, new telephone? Or shutting off the old?
PIRACY. A Russian warship, Neustrashimyy, is escorting ships in the Horn of Africa and claims to have prevented the seizure of a Saudi Arabian ship on Sunday. An issue that offers the possibility of real international cooperation and there have been meetings between French and Russian sea officers in the area.
OSCE. The former OSCE official, Ryan Grist, insists that the observers in Tskhinvali warned Vienna of Georgian preparations to attack saying it was an “absolute failure” that the warnings were not passed on. Not for the first time I wonder what they do in the OSCE headquarters. (See Ruslan Gelayev’s attack on Abkhazia in 2001 right under the noses of observers).
EU-US. I have long suspected that a fallout of the war will be a rift between the EU and Washington. Sarkozy is quoted as saying that Washington did not want him to go to Moscow in the first place. I remain stunned, given the resources it is supposed to have, by how ill-informed the White House was (I prefer that to the other possibility). When Daniel Fried testifies “the Georgians told us” as his source for key events, all I can say is !!!.
SOUTH CAUCASUS SECURITY. The Geneva meeting on Tuesday produced some progress and delegations from South Ossetia and Abkhazia attended. Given that the root cause of the situation is their refusal to be part of Georgia, nothing can be decided without their presence. Meanwhile Moscow says its bases in Abkhazia (Gudauta) and South Ossetia (Java) are fully manned with 3700 troops each.
GAS WARS. Ukraine is – again – behind in payments. Will we have another orgy of “Russian gas weapon” stories? Or will the West, having been so readily manipulated in the Ossetian war, have learned scepticism? Why shouldn’t Ukraine, and the others, pay the going rate?
UKRAINE AND NATO. Another poll in Ukraine in which 45.6% of respondents say NATO membership would be destabilising. I cannot think of any issue better calculated to split Ukraine than NATO membership – so much so that one wonders whether Washington wants to break up the country.
CAUCASIAN RUMOURS OF WARS. More events. In Ingushetia attacks on military convoys on the 13th and 18th and a bomb on the 16th ; in Dagestan 4 jihadists were killed on the 17th and there was an assassination attempt on a cleric on the 18th.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (See http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)