Russia on the Ground – June 2019

Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov stands inside a defendant cage as he attends a court hearing in Moscow on June 8.

This resource serves to track domestic news inside Russia – focusing primarily on demographics, public opinion, economy, and major domestic political events inside Russia.

It is intended to give students who are otherwise following major issues and events within Russia greater context from which to view those issues and events. This resource lists useful but often under-reported information that can help build a pragmatic and objective view of Russia’s domestic situation.



75 Percent of Residents of Major Russian Cities Use Internet Every Day; Only 70 Percent Watch TV that Often
In the first quarter, Mediascope found, 75 percent of residents of major Russian cities turned to the Internet at least once a day, while only 70.4 percent of this category watched television, the first time Internet has outpaced television in Russia this way and something that will have major consequences for advertisers and possibly the Kremlin as well.

Most Russians approve of President Putin’s job performance, say Russia heading in right direction
Two-thirds (66%) of Russian citizens recently interviewed by the Levada-Center approve of Vladimir Putin’s work as president, while 32% disapprove of it, according to the findings of a Levada-Center survey seen by Interfax.

Almost 3/4 of Russians trust Putin, 2/3 approved of him as president – poll
Russian President Vladimir Putin is trusted by a majority of citizens (72.3%), according to the findings of a VCIOM poll obtained by Interfax on Friday.

Most Russians Say Soviet Union ‘Took Care of Ordinary People’
A majority of Russians believe that the Soviet system took care of the common man and woman, according to a recent poll by the independent Levada Center pollster.

Russians Are Losing Interest in Foreign Policy, Poll Says
Less than half of Russians pay attention to foreign policy issues, according to a new poll by the state-run Foundation of Public Opinion (FOM) pollster.



There Are Still 10 Chernobyl-Style Reactors Operating Across Russia. How Do We Know They’re Safe?
In the new HBO miniseries “Chernobyl,” Russian scientists uncover the reason for an explosion in Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which spewed radioactive material across northern Europe.

Russia plans Arctic sea route
Russia has agreed with a clutch of leading investors, port operators and mining corporations to jointly develop the ambitious $11bn Northern Sea Route.



Russian president Putin enacts capital Amnesty 3.0
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a package of laws and decrees that prolong the ongoing capital amnesty and repatriation drive from June 1 2019 to February 29 2020, Vedomosti daily said on May 30 citing state legal information portal.

The Russian Economy Is Stagnating
The Russian economy is stagnating and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to revitalise it with his 12 national projects is off to a very slow start.

One Year In, Putin’s Grand Economic Plan Is Tainted With Manure
In early May, one year into his last consecutive term as president, Vladimir Putin summoned four dozen officials from across Russia to the Grand Kremlin Palace for a televised progress report on the central pledge of his re-election campaign.

Russia’s National Projects: Economic Reboot or Mucky Bog?
While Moscow has been aggressively advancing its interests on the international stage, Russia’s stagnating economy means the country risks gradually falling behind the rest of the world and possibly facing social unrest at home.

The Central Bank of Russia is worried about a potential housing bubble
While Moscow has been aggressively advancing its interests on the international stage, Russia’s stagnating economy means the country risks gradually falling behind the rest of the world and possibly facing social unrest at home.

Druzhba pipeline problems cut Russia’s oil exports by 3.2%, output by 1.1%
The ongoing troubles with contaminated Russian oil in the Druzhba pipeline and Ust-Luga port have cut Russia’s oil exports by 3.22% in May as compared to April, while oil output declined by 1.1%, Interfax and Vedomosti daily reported on June 3 citing the CDU TEK official industry data.

Russia Holds Rare Earths But Mines Little. That’s Changing
With rare earths in the cross hairs of the U.S.-China trade war, there’s a sharp focus on who else can sell the critical minerals.

Coca-Cola, Boeing among US companies to attend Russia’s St. Petersburg Economic Forum
Major US companies will take part in the annual business forum in St Petersburg despite a boycott by the official US delegation, the head of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Russia has revealed.

Russia to double global food exports, ready to replace US agricultural products in China
Russian agricultural exports will continue to grow and are expected to reach $45 billion within the next five years, according to Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev.

Russia’s Fx/gold reserves tops $500bn for the first time in five years
The foreign currency and gold reserves of the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) amounted to $502.7bn as of end of the week of June 14 — the first time the Central Bank of Russia’s (CBR) gross international reserves (GIR) topped the $500bn mark since 2014, when the reserves where slashed from $510.5bn to $388bn by the need to support plummeting ruble rate, the regulator reported on June 13.

Chinese agro investment expands as COFCO eyes Russia’s third largest grain terminal
The Sino-Russian ties are deepening as China ramps up its investment into Russian agriculture. Chinese COFCO trading corporation is eyeing a 25% stake in Russian KSK grain terminal in Novorossiysk, Vedomoti daily and Reuters reported on July 14 citing the sources close to the deal.

Will Russia have a role in the changing global economy? Contrasting Western and Russian cultural lenses
The purpose of this paper is to examine the dramatically changed role of Russia in the global economy since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, as the Soviet institutions collapsed and were either reformed or replaced in a new Russian institutional landscape.

Top German companies plan to invest €395mn into Russia in the next 12 months
The top German companies working in Russia plan to invest at least €395mn into Russia over the next 12 months, according to the Russian-German Chamber of Commerce, as cited by Tass on June 27.

Russia’s inflation gets closer to 5% mark
Russian consumer prices increased by 0.1% week-on-week in the week of June 24, following three weeks of zero weekly inflation in a row. Since the beginning of the month inflation stood at 0.1%, Sberbank CIB estimated on June 27.

State to resume support for Russian car market
The Russian government will resume the support for Russian car market as of July 1 given declining demand and sales.

– Business

Russia’s Tinkoff Bank positions itself on Russia’s $15bn online travel market
Russia’s only purely online bank, Tinkoff Bank, has launched an own-branded online travel agency. The offer includes air and railway tickets, packaged tours, hotels and car rentals, reports East-West Digital News (EWDN).

Russia’s energy sector explained in 4 simple questions
Energy resources traditionally make up a substantial part of Russia’s export revenues. But what part of its oil and natural gas does Russia consume domestically and is it working on developing renewable energy resources?

Russia’s X5 retailer to launch online pharmaceutical marketplace
Russia’s leading retailer X5 Group and Santens Service Group will set up an online pharmaceutical marketplace on the basis of online store, the companies announced.

Russia’s TON blockchain in testing phase
Telegram Open Network (TON), one of the most highly anticipated projects in the blockchain world, is gaining momentum and is now in beta testing mode.

Russia develops a major face-recognition scheme
Russia is working on a large-scale face-recognition scheme that could provide a useful tool for law enforcers and a large order for its tech partner, NtechLab. Meanwhile, the segment’s other local companies are also working on similar solutions.

How Russia’s Citizens Can’t Escape Their Largest Tech Company
Not so long ago, most decisions in Russia were decided by the state. Now, Russia’s largest tech company can cater to your every need.

– Finance

Geopolitics, Sanctions, and Russian Sovereign Debt Since the Annexation of Crimea
This report illustrates how the Russian Federation’s sovereign debt, particularly foreign currency bonds, have become an arena for interstate competition in the aftermath of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Russia’s Ministry of Finance places a record number of OFZ bonds in 2Q19
Russia’s Ministry of Finance has placed a record number of ruble-denominated OFZ treasury bills in the second quarter of this year, bringing the total outstanding to RUB8 trillion ($126.8bn) as foreign investors increased their share again to 27.8% of the total outstanding.



Zyuganov Says He’s Loyal to Putin Out of Fears of Disorders
In an interview in advance of his 75th birthday, KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov says he has been loyal to Putin for the same reason he did not challenge the results of the 1996 election: he fears disorder in Russia now just as he feared war in 1996 — with all the negative consequences these could have for Russia and the Russian people.

Policy and Conflict Post Soviet


Economists Forecast 6th Year of Falling Incomes for Russians
Russians’ incomes will fall for a sixth consecutive year in 2019, experts from Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE) and Russia’s Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) said.

Nearly Half Of Russian Families Can Afford Only Food, Clothing
Nearly half of all Russian families say that they only have enough money for food and clothing and cannot buy items of longer-term use such as furniture and appliances, media reports cite data from the state statistics agency Rosstat as saying.

Russia wants to make HIV/Aids denialism illegal to halt epidemic
Russia is proposing a ban on so-called HIV/Aids denialism as the country struggles to manage one of the largest epidemics in eastern Europe or central Asia.

Russia’s Middle Class Is Shrinking – Bank Report
Russia’s middle class has fallen by nearly one-fifth since the start of the country’s economic crisis in 2014.


Civil Society

Russians Stand Side by Side at LGBT Film Festival
Last week, the annual Side by Side (Bok o Bok in Russian) LGBT International Film Festival was held in Moscow. Amid screenings of films, gatherings within the community and providing a safe space for the LGBT community, the presence of anti-LGBT protestors and bomb threats tainted an otherwise peaceful event in the capital.

Political Reporters Quit Russia’s Kommersant En Masse In Solidarity With Fired Colleagues
Almost a dozen journalists covering political news for the prominent Russian newspaper Kommersant have quit their jobs in solidarity with two colleagues who were fired over an article about a possible change of leadership in the upper chamber of parliament, reporters say.

Russian internet giant Yandex takes rare stand against state snooping
Russia has always been some version of a national security state, in which individuals, companies, and other group interests are expected to unquestioningly submit to the needs and demands of state agencies.

‘We are Ivan Golunov’: Russian media fights back after reporter’s arrest
Very few Russians had even heard of Ivan Golunov before his arrest for alleged drug possession Thursday. But what had begun as a typical Putin-era case of what is sometimes called lawfare – abuse of the police and prosecutorial machinery to brand political opponents as criminals – waged against a journalist has blown up into what could be a pivotal moment in the relationship between Russia’s Fourth Estate and the government.

Is Russia Loosening Its Grip on the Press?
Over the last few days in Russia, the name of Ivan Golunov, a journalist for Meduza, an online opposition site, became the symbol of free journalism and civic courage, a popular hashtag, and a banner uniting tens of thousands of people who came out onto the streets in cities from the Far East to the Baltics.

Interior Ministry exposes violations committed during detention of journalist Golunov
The internal security branch of the Moscow police force has found that police personnel in the city’s western administrative district committed violations in detaining journalist Ivan Golunov, of the internet resource Meduza, the Moscow police force’s press-service told TASS.

Russians Are Increasingly Protesting Social, Not Political Issues
Russians are increasingly likely to rally over social than political issues, according to a newly released study of protests in the first three months of 2019.

Russian court fines man for homophobic comment online
The Sysert district court in Sverdlovsk Region in the Urals fined a Russian citizen for discriminatory comment left under a video clip on social media.

About the Author

Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson is the Assistant Director for The School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) and Communications Director for Alinga Consulting Group. In those capacities, he has been managing publications and informative websites covering geopolitics, history, business, economy, and politics in Eurasia since 2003. He is based in Moscow, Russia. For SRAS, he also assists in program development and leads the Home and Abroad and Challenge Grant scholarship writing programs.