After months of expectations and rumors, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced he will run for re-election in the March 2018 presidential race on Wednesday evening. The head of state made the announcement while speaking to workers at the 85th anniversary of the Gorky automobile plant (GAZ) in Nizhny Novgorod. Putin’s announcement is the talk of the town for the Russian media on Thursday.
According to RBC, the announcement did not come as a surprise. The Kremlin "did not manage to stir up intrigue," political consultant Dmitry Fetisov told the newspaper. According to the expert, the surprise was only the time and venue of the announcement.
Head of the Political Expert Group think tank Konstantin Kalachev linked the sudden declaration to Russia’s recent ban from the Winter Olympics by the IOC. "The Kremlin predicted this decision in advance, and the president answered it. This all looked like he was the president of the people and relied on the people, not on the elite," he told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, noting that Putin's statement changed the news agenda.
Director General of the Center for Political Information Alexey Mukhin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, "Vladimir Putin's opponents, both inside and outside of Russia, whose activities pose threats and risks to our country, provoked his nomination. He spent two years thinking about running for a fourth term. However, at a difficult time for the country he could not back down. A decision is expected in such situations." The expert added that the nomination itself had no element of improvisation.
According to RBC, the venue for the announcement is related to the Kremlin's desire to show Putin's support among all audiences. The choice of the Gorky automobile plant for the statement is the authorities' bet on the ‘right social environment’ making him "the people's president," Kalachev told RBC.
"People, human resources, the future - the youth and the new generation," an RBC source close to the Kremlin listed the main topics of Putin’s future campaign. A source in the government told the newspaper that demographics and the nation’s youth would be the key focuses of Putin's campaign. The newspaper expects the campaign to concentrate on social issues. "A broad demographics program is addressed to quintessential Putin voters - families with children, middle-aged and older women, mothers, young families," the newspaper wrote.
According to Izvestia, Putin outlined the main thesis of his campaign, speaking at the Gorky automobile plant. "The announcement was made in direct dialogue with the public. There will be many other similar meetings and events ahead - we will see that the president's decision to run has very wide public support," Head of the ISEPR Fund Dmitry Badovsky told the newspaper.
Putin’s voter base is extensive, the problem lies in mobilizing it, Vedomosti wrote. "The older generation votes, but there are problems with middle-aged and young people. They have their own opinion, but they do not consider participating in the elections to be mandatory, they need some kind of stimulus," top pollster chief Valery Fedorov told the newspaper.
So far, the President did not say whether he would nominate himself from the United Russia party or run in the elections as a self-nominated candidate. According to Kommersant, this decision can be announced at a major annual press conference on December 14. According to Kommersant, plans to select Putin as a self-nominated candidate have not yet been changed.
The Russian presidential election will be held on March 18, 2018, and the election campaign should start in December 2017, after the election is officially set by the Federation Council. The upper house will make the decision before December 17, after that within 25 days political parties must inform the Central Election Commission about their candidates. LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, co-founder of the Yabloko party Grigory Yavlinsky, TV host Ksenia Sobchak, business ombudsman Boris Titov earlier announced their intention to run in the presidential election.
Russia will look into possibly imposing personal sanctions against the leadership of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). This issue will be discussed on December 12 at a special joint meeting in the Federation Council, where Russian athletes, MPs, diplomats and senators are expected to participate, high-ranking sources in Moscow’s parliamentary circles who will take part in the forthcoming event told Izvestia. Head of the Federation Council's Commission on Protection of State Sovereignty Andrey Klimov confirmed that retaliatory measures would be considered, noting that most WADA member states are NATO countries that systematically discredit the image of Moscow in the international arena.
Klimov told Izvestia that the decision to convene the meeting on December 12 was not spontaneous. It was set long before the IOC’s recent announcement. According to him, putting together retaliatory measures against WADA has been in the works for a long time now. "Since professionals are working against Russia, we need to think carefully about tit-for-tat steps. We know that US representatives talked to foreign diplomats and public figures, literally trying to use them against us. People who pushed for this decision have nothing to do with sport. We must clearly show that this decision is not about sport. On December 12, a meeting will be held where further actions will be determined," the senator said.
He honed in on the "geopolitical" composition of WADA’s leadership. "More than half of WADA’s management staff are representatives of the countries of the NATO military and political alliance, whose goal is to fight against Russia. At the same time, NATO represents only one-tenth of the world's population. Clearly, this is a very strange proportion," Klimov added.
According to Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov, WADA’s leadership showed its true colors. "This organization and some of its leaders play by double or even triple rules, encouraging some and discrediting others. There were scandals with athletes from the United States and Great Britain, but WADA turned a blind eye to it," Dzhabarov told Izvestia.
Six months after the crisis in the Persian Gulf had erupted due to a rupture in relations between Qatar and its neighbors, Doha clinched its first diplomatic victory. Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani participated in the 38th summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on December 5-6 in Kuwait City, receiving an invitation to attend the forum together with other Arab leaders. According to Kommersant, the mediation of Kuwait is aimed at an early settlement to the conflict, which threatens to morph from a regional problem into a global quagmire. Nonetheless, diplomats and experts in the region assessed the normalization prospects very cautiously, noting that the rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia that initiated the blockade continues.
Held behind closed doors for six hours, the forum did not produce any specific agreements. Nevertheless, according to regional experts interviewed by Kommersant, the presence of high-ranking officials from the main opposing states in the Gulf has an important symbolic significance.
According to the newspaper, the current the alignment of forces within the ‘big six’ of the GCC testifies to the formation of two opposite approaches to the "Qatar problem". While the three countries lead by Saudi Arabia insist on continuing the blockade of Qatar, Kuwait and Oman are working towards ending the confrontation that threatens to disintegrate the Gulf monarchies "union", dubbed the regional "analogue" of the EU.
Experts interviewed by Kommersant on the prospects for resolving the crisis in the Gulf are divided in their opinions.
"Kuwait has mediation experience in Middle East politics with over a century-long history. The current initiative cannot be considered spontaneous, and it will continue," Kuwait City-based executive director of the Gulf Monitoring Group Daref al-Adjmi told the newspaper.
In turn, Kommersant source close to Oman’s Foreign Ministry, noted that the sultanate supports Kuwaiti efforts to overcome the rift within the Persian Gulf ‘big six’. "Without the restoration of GCC unity, this association has no future. Therefore, we need to look for ways to de-escalate the situation, the source told the newspaper.
Professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies Bertrand Badie told the newspaper, that the Gulf crisis must be seen as a systemic one. It will not only affect the interests of the ‘big six’, but would also draw world powers into it.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich confirmed on Wednesday that the government deliberated on creating special tools for capital repatriated to Russia that belongs to sanctioned individuals. According to Kommersant, the government was instructed to place such funds in new issues of Russian Eurobonds in 2018, the quota for them could amount to around $1 bln, and if necessary might be increased to $3 bln. At the same time, the "sanctions" securities may need to be serviced in Russian depositories without Euroclear.
Sources in the Russian government told Kommersant that "repatriation bonds" in November 2017 was indeed discussed at meetings among government officials and staff from the presidential administration. The sources know the volume of potential requests for placement - around $1 bln, and the maximum pre-announced amount of "demand for repatriation tools" reaches $3 bln, which implies that it is not a question of returning the largest fortunes to Russia.
So far, no final decisions on the use of this system were made and are not expected before February 2018, the newspaper wrote. "From the description of the mechanism, it is quite obvious that its meaning lies not so much in protecting the ‘repatriated’ funds, as in preventing Russian banks from ‘getting infected’ with sanctions when dealing with this money," Kommersant wrote. Within the next three months, whether or not the banking and financial structures set to deal with this capital will be subject to sanctions remains unclear.
In 2019, Russia's GDP for the first time in history will exceed 100 trillion rubles ($1.7 trillion), according to the macroeconomic forecast of the Economic Development Ministry for 2018-2020. Currently, the figure came to 92 trillion rubles ($1.5 trillion). According to Izvestia, the Russian economy in the next three years will grow due to industrial production, construction and investment. Experts add agriculture and the projected consumer lending boom to act as a driver of growth. The demand for loans is expected to grow at an accelerating rate due to the slowdown in inflation and a decline in the Central Bank's key rate.
Based on the Economic Development Ministry’s forecast, construction appears in the list of economic growth drivers for the first time - in recent years, the industry has seen a decline. According to the State Statistics Service in 2016, it sank by 4.3%. Another driver is investment in fixed assets, which in the next three-year period will increase at an average rate of 5.3%.
According to Deputy Director of the Development Center Institute at the Higher School of Economics Valery Mironov, other sectors will make a large contribution to the growth of the economy. "In my opinion, agriculture, mining, the defense industry and some branches of engineering will be among the engines for economic growth," he told Izvestia.
Deputy Director of Gazprombank Center for Economic Forecasting Maxim Petronevich agrees with the Economic Development Ministry that until 2020 the economy will be supported by investments, manufacturing and construction.
"I would add to the number of drivers next year the surge in both mortgage and consumer lending. Loans to the population, according to my estimates, will grow at double-digit rates - from 17 to 20%," he told Izvestia.
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