Russia Update: Ruble Plunges to Lowest Level of Value in a Year

December 30, 2015
A woman walks at an exchange office sign showing the currency exchange rates of the Russian ruble, U.S. dollar, and euro in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. The Russian ruble continued its decline on Tuesday, dropping by 0.6 percent to 72.6 rubles to the dollar. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The ruble reached a record year-long low in value at 74 to the dollar and is currently trading at 73.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

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Iran Reportedly Already Paying For The S-300 Which Russia Is Already Delivering

The Russian state-operated propaganda outlet Sputnik reports that the S-300 advanced anti-aircraft system is already being paid for by Iran and Russia has already begun delivery of the weapon system:

Russia has begun fulfilling a contract with Iran on the delivery of S-300 air defense systems that the Islamic Republic has already been paying for, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Wednesday.

“This contract is being completed and is being paid for. The delivery is underway and there will be other contracts after this one,” Rogozin said during an interview on Russia’s Rossiya-24 television channel.

Another Kremlin-funded project, Russia Beyond The Headlines, reports that the issue is “settled,” according to Rogozin:

“We [earlier] refused to deliver this S-300 system, and Iran got agitated and made the decision on filing a sizeable and serious lawsuit against us. This lawsuit didn’t really move ahead, and no deliveries were made. And now we have secured the settlement of this dispute through lengthy, complicated and delicate negotiations – as they say, the East is a delicate thing,” Rogozin said.

James Miller

How War Changed In 2015

A new analysis from Peter Pomerantsev explores 2015’s “grey conflicts,” including russia’s engagements in Ukraine and Syria:

From China in Asia to Russia in Europe and the Middle East, and ISIS just about everywhere, 2015 has seen the flourishing of conflicts that exist in a gray zone, one which is not quite open war but more than regular competition, which is attuned to globalization, which liberal democracies are ill-equipped to deal with, and which may well be the way power is exercised and conflict conducted in the foreseeable future.

Described by scholars as “hybrid,” “full-spectrum,” “non-linear,” “next-generation,” or “ambiguous”—the variations in the description indicate the slipperiness of the subject—these conflicts mix psychological, media, economic, cyber, and military operations without requiring a declaration of war.

How War Changed in 2015

A new form of conflict emerged in 2015-from the Islamic State to the South China Sea.

View full page →

Dec 31, 2015 00:29 (GMT)

James Miller
Russian Blogger Sentenced To Five Years In Prison For Advocating For Protests

Vadim Tyumentsev, a 35 year-old blogger from Siberia, has been sentenced to five years in prison after urging people to protest against high transport fees and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Reuters reports:

Tyumentsev irked local authorities in Tomsk with a series of blogs in which he accused them of corruption and incompetence. He had also sharply criticized pro-Kremlin separatists in eastern Ukraine, saying he did not see why ordinary Russians should go and fight with them.

A statement from Tomsk’s regional court said Tyumentsev had urged people to overthrow the authorities, a reference to an appeal he made for people to attend an unsanctioned meeting to protest against a hike in local bus fares.

He had also urged people to take hostile action against Ukrainian refugees, the court said, referring to a video in which he complained about their presence in Tomsk and said they should be deported.

As we have been reporting, an all out Kremlin offensive against dissent appears to be underway:

For a month now the Russian government has been engaged in a full-scale – and accelerating – crackdown against political dissent and the freedom of the press. TV stations have been raided, protesters sentenced to years of hard labor, and activists homes have been searched for crimes that were committed when they were little kids. In particular, Russian opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been charged with a seventeen year-old murder, despite the fact that a suspect is already serving time, and the offices and homes of his employees have been raided over a twelve year-old fraud case despite the fact that there have already been trials and convictions in that case as well.

In our latest podcast (listen here in a new window or click play below) Boston College professor Matt Sienkiewicz is joined by The Interpreter’s Managing Editor James Miller and Andy Owens, a visiting assistant professor at BC, to discuss the state of human rights in Russia.

James Miller
Two Young Russian Women Sentenced to 5 Years Labor Colony for Sending Donations to ISIS
Two young women were sentenced by Moscow District Military Court to prison for financing militants from ISIS, Novaya Gazeta reported, citing RIA Novosti.
Elena Arshakhanova was sentenced to 5 years and 3 months of standard-regimen labor colony and Saida Khalikova was sentenced to 5 years and 6 months. 
Both women were said to send money they had made from selling children’s clothing and home-made soaps to accounts of terrorists.
Khalikova denied the charges and said she had sent money as a charitable contribution to to help need Islamic youth.
The FSB said they had seized a cash transfer to an ISIS account amounting to 45,000 rubles ($613) from Makhachkala. 
A third woman, Darye Itsankova, who was said to be the organizer of funding for terrorists, went into hiding and was placed on the federal wanted list.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Ruble Plunges to Lowest Value in a Year

The ruble reached a new low in value today, AP and other media reported:

The Russian ruble has hit its lowest level in a year against the dollar as the country’s economy is battered by a decline in the price of its oil exports.

The ruble dropped 1.3 percent in early morning trading on Wednesday to 73.2 rubles per dollar, its weakest level in about 12 months. The national currency lost 40 percent of its value last year and is now 20 percent down compared to a year ago.

Russia’s ruble is currently trading at 73.31 to the dollar and 80 to the euro.

The price of Brent crude oil is $36 per barrel.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick