LIVE UPDATES: The ruble fell in value on the Moscow stock market to 81 to the US dollar today, a new historical low not seen since the ruble crash in 1998.
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.
–The Non-Hybrid War
–Kashin Explains His âLetter to Leadersâ on âFontanka Officeâ
–TV Rain Interviews Volunteer Fighter Back from Donbass
–âI Was on Active Dutyâ: Interview with Captured GRU Officer Aleksandrov
Demonstrations of hundreds of angry Russian emigres have taken place, and even more print and broadcast coverage of the story, fueling the Kremlin’s propaganda blast now claiming that Europe isn’t safe and only Russia is adequately dealing with terrorism and its aftermath.
The Kremlin’s premier propagandist Dmitry Kisilyev ran a broadcast alleging the rape on January 7 on Rossiya 24’s Vesti [News].
Yesterday, as we reported, after hearing a report of higher levels of attacks on European Jews during a meeting with the European Jewish Congress, Putin invited European Jews to move to Russia, including Jews who left Russia in the Soviet era.
Many of the Russian emigres now in Germany are Jews who were invited to emigrate during the Soviet era as part of Germany’s programs of restitution.
“The author of the false information works in Berlin. In this period, his broadcast with German subtitles on Facebook has been viewed by more than 1.3 million people. More than 28,000 of them have left nearly 3,500 vicious xenophobic comments. They incite hatred to refugees and encourage violence and other unlawful measures against the individual.”
“According to the results of the investigation, neither the kidnapping nor the rape took place.”
The far-right parties are his allies in opposing Europe’s centrist governments, which have united to sanction Russia for its depredations in Ukraine. Activists of Germany’s Islamophobic movement Pegida often wave Russian flags at their rallies. Now, the Kremlin is also using its far-reaching propaganda outlets to whip up support for these movements among the Russian-speaking diaspora.
What actually happened to the girl in Marzahn is the last thing that matters to those playing this game. Putin is acutely interested in stirring up trouble for Merkel in every way he can as he tries to wrong-foot her in talks on Ukraine and the sanctions.
Bershidsky, himself a Russian emigre who lives in Germany, said security had been stepped up at his daughter’s school over the incident:
The emigres are worried indeed, though. Parents at the bilingual Russian German school my daughters attend have demanded increased security. Many believe the Russian TV report and distrust the Berlin police, believing them to be biased toward Middle Eastern immigrants for political reasons.
Lenta.ru, an online news service which increasingly hews to the government line, reported on the allegations but also said that German police had confirmed that the girl was indeed missing for a few hours but was then returned home, and they found no evidence of the rape claims, asking people not to spread the false story.
A mass online news site, Argumenti Nedeli [Arguments of the Week] also reported that German police had refuted the rape story. But even with independent news sites and some pro-Kremlin sites willing to report the story accurately, the effect of hysterical TV broadcasting continues to spiral.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Carl Schreck of RFE/RL published a thorough investigation of Kara-Murza, Jr.’s case this week in which he cited medical documents and statements from physicians that indicated Kara-Murza was poisoned, and that reaction to an anti-depressant that he had taken for some time could not have been responsible for the collapse of his organs.
Kara-Murza’s doctors, Yevgenia says, suggested that he may have suffered from an undiagnosed kidney problem that could have allowed the drug to build up to a dangerous level in his system.
Yevgenia says the doctors also posited that the citalopram may have had a dangerous interaction with his allergy medicine, the nasal spray Flonase. However, several toxicologists told RFE/RL that the active ingredient in Flonase, fluticasone propionate, does not interact with citalopram. Nor does ranitidine hydrochloride, the active ingredient in Zantac, a common antacid he was taking, the toxicologists said.
Eran Segal, an Israeli doctor brought in by Khodorkovsky to monitor Kara-Murza shortly after his hospitalization, also cast doubt on the theory that citalopram had something to do with his illness.
“It is not the usual picture, whether an overdose is deliberate or inadvertent,” Segal told the BBC in June. “It could be a severe infection or maybe some other toxin we are not aware of. But there is no evidence of the cause,” Segal added.
Kara-Murza,Jr. told RBC.ru that the samples of blood, urine, hair and nails were taken on May 29, that is three days after he was first hospitalized and medical interventions to cleanse his blood had already been taken.
The analysis of the samples was made on May 30 in a laboratory in France by Dr. Pascal Kintz and were reviewed by RBC.ru. The findings were as follows regarding four heavy metals found in his blood:
– 59.5 times the normal level of manganese (33.9 nanograms per milligram of hair);
– 1.8 times more copper than normal (112 nanograms per milligram);
– zinc 2.25 times normal (473 nanograms per milligram);
– and mercury, 1.2 times normal (2.01 nanograms per milligrams).
At the same time there was found 19 times less than the minimum amount of iron (0.68 nanogram per milligram).
“I am absolutely convinced that this was an attempt at murder with the purpose of cutting off my civic and political activity. There is no doubt that tihs was a poisoning, since that was the official diagnosis. It doesn’t happen that a healthy person, out of nowhere, within a few hours, could have all his basic life-sustaining organs shut down.”
“We do not have a ready-made hypothesis for what Kara-Murza was poisoned with. But apparently some deliberate poisoning took place, as follows from this data.”
“As a rule, access to such poisons is available only from the relevant special [intelligence] agencies, or those who have left these agencies.”
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The chief reasons for their departure were the devaluation of the ruble, the reduced purchasing capacity of Russian clients of German firms.
Earlier this month, Volvo recalled 4,804 vehicles manufactured in Russia due to engine problems, Reuters reported. Volvo is among the German companies that have said they will “stick it out” in Russia, even though Volkswagen and other firms have pared back production.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
“I see here a large number of my colleagues from the government. It’s not clear who went to Davos to go skiing in the mountains. Before, people used to go with great desire; not they don’t go. Apparently they don’t have the money for the tickets. They’re cutting costs. They’re spending wisely; home is where they should be working.”
RT.com ran a story with the headline “Kremlin Top Brass Bails on Davos,” noting that the top Kremlin leadership was ignoring Davos for the third consecutive yar, and had sent the presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District, Yury Trutnev.
RT.com says this could be “intended to embody Russia’s pivot to Asia,” but it could also be a snub to the West by sending an official associated with the Far East. A source told Gazeta.ru it was about the Asian outlook but confirmed the anti-Western position:
“Russia has no common agenda with the West aimed at the development of bilateral economic ties. And the appearance of Trutnev is a signal that Russia continues its pivot to the East, including within the framework of the Silk Road.”
“Everything seems to be normal. What interventions? You should watch the [currency] rates less.”
Participants expressed anxiety as the Davos Forum opened today about the drop in the price of oil, the Chinese slowdown and turbulence in financial markets, AP reported.
The blast took place on Darulaman Road, on which the embassy is located.
But Russia’s LifeNews channel reports that a representative of the embassy had denied the bomber had targeted their building.
According to the embassy, the bomb went off 1-200 metres from the embassy “opposite the Afghan parliament.”
Indeed, we have compared photographs of the scene with Google’s satellite imagery of the area and, while the match is offset by the age of the Google Earth photos (which date from 2011), we can verify that the blast took place some distance down the road, closer to both the Polish embassy and the parliament:
— Pierre Vaux
“The last two years have been rather difficult for the economy, objective difficulties affected practically all her sectors, but it must be noted that on the whole, business withstood it, including small business.”
He added that there was “a certain positive dynamic” in the number of new businesses appearing.
Some analysts expect the ruble to fall further in value, even to 100 per dollar, but others think it may have hit bottom with 80 to the dollar, said RBC.
About 150 people whose housing loans were denominated in foreign currency gathered to protest at DeltaBank today, demanding that their loans be restructured, RBC.ru reported. Several of them chained themselves to the building. Authorities have enabled debtors with loans in rubles to restructure them, but have refused to do the same for those who took loans out in dollars or euros.
A similar protest was reported at BTB24 bank branch involving 50 people who demanded to speak with bank official to re-negotiate their loans, Gazeta.ru reported.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick