Putin’s Inflation?

I’ve been rather baffled on the rhetoric of the Biden administration concerning the current rampant inflation. In mid-June, President Joe Biden concluded that “Putin’s price hike is hitting America hard”.
But is this a fair call?
A first answer can be drawn from the monthly pace of annual inflation in the United States.
A figure presenting the monthly annual change in the Consumer Price Index of the U.S. and month of the onset of the war between Russia and Ukraine (February). (GnS Economics, St. Louis Fed, BoFA, NBER)
It’s rather obvious from the figure that inflation was running rampant way before President Vladimir Putin decided to attack Ukraine. Some could even infer that the pace of the increase of inflation has actually slowed after the onset of the Russo-Ukrainian war. This, naturally, would be just statistics playing tricks with our heads….

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Vladimir Putin Warns ‘Satan-2’ Nuclear Missiles Could Be Deployed in Months

Russian President Vladimir Putin touted Moscow’s newest nuclear missile during a Wednesday address of Russia’s military academies, saying the ballistic arsenal could be ready for deployment by the end of the year.

The missile is recognized as “Satan-2” by NATO members. 

In Kremlin circles, however, the 14-story-tall missile is known as “RS-28 Sarmat,” and allegedly has nuclear capabilities that cannot be matched by other countries.

“The Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile was successfully tested,” Putin told the Moscow graduating class. “It is planned that by the end of this year, the first such complex will be put on combat duty.”

In April, Russia announced the inaugural test launch of Satan-2/RS-28; and approximately a month later, Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s state space agency, Roscosmos, said the country’s arsenal would soon include 50 of the new missiles.

“I suggest that aggressors speak to us more politely,” Rogozin reportedly quipped at the time.

And in May, the Kremlin threatened to deploy Satan-2 missiles to strike Finland, the U.K. and the United States, after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto signaled his country’s intention to join NATO.

“If Finland wants to join this bloc, then our goal is absolutely legitimate — to question the existence of this state. This is logical,” said Aleksey Zhuravlyov, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s defense committee​.

Also, “if the United States threatens our state, it’s good: Here is the Sarmat (Satan-2 missile) for you, and there will be nuclear ashes from you if you think that Russia should not exist,” Zhuravlyov continued. 

“And Finland says that it is at one with the USA. Well, get in line.”

The Satan-2, which was first introduced in 2018, can reportedly carry 10 or more nuclear warheads and decoys, and has an estimated range between 6,200 and 11,800 miles.

Such theoretical capabilities would allow the Kremlin to hit targets anywhere in the world.

In his Wednesday speech, Putin said his administration was committed to modernizing and strengthening Russia’s armed forces amid “potential military threats and risks.”

Putin added, “Among the priority areas is equipping the troops with new weapon systems that will determine the combat effectiveness of the army and navy in the years and decades to come.”

According to The National Interest, America’s most devastating nuclear bomb — the B83 — has the following capabilities:

“The B83 is one of two so-called ‘dumb’ or unguided nuclear bombs that the United States maintains as a part of its post-Cold War Enduring Stockpile arsenal. Along with intercontinental ballistic missiles and other smaller nuclear-capable bombs, stocks of the B83 are kept in case of emergency. It replaced a number of older American free-falling weapons, and is big.

“At nearly 1 1/2 tons, the B83 is the largest nuclear bomb that the United States currently keeps. Its nuclear tiled is 1.2 megatons — significantly more powerful than either of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. It’s big, it’s powerful, and it’s had a colorful history.”

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Putin: Russian Economy to Overcome ‘reckless’ Sanctions

President Vladimir Putin told Russia’s showpiece investment conference Friday that the country’s economy will overcome sanctions that he called “reckless and insane.”

Putin began his address to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum with a lengthy denunciation of countries that he contends want to weaken Russia, including the United States.

He said the U.S. “declared victory in the Cold War and later came to think of themselves as God’s own messengers on planet Earth.”

Russia came under a wide array of sanctions after sending troops into Ukraine in February, while hundreds of foreign companies suspended operations in Russia or pulled out of the country entirely.

“It didn’t work. Russian enterprises and government authorities worked in a composed and professional manner,” Putin said. “We’re normalizing the economic situation. We stabilized the financial markets, the baking system, the trade system.”

Putin noted that Russia’s projected inflation rate has fallen marginally but that the current projection of 16.7% annually is still too high.

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Putin’s Annual Call-in With Russians Postponed

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin delayed his annual phone-in session with Russian citizens.

According to the state-run TASS news agency, the session, called Direct Line, will not be held in June.

“The Direct Line cannot be held this month,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

He noted that the date of the event “has not yet been determined,” but “routine preparations are underway.”

“This is a very complex, extensive event. So the routine preparations are underway but they will enter the final phase only after the date is determined,” Peskov said.

Peskov said it will be held no earlier than July. Newsweek noted that the Direct Line has frequently taken place in June. Last year it was held on June 30.

According to Insider, which attributed its information to TASS, between 2 and 3 million Russians attempt to talk to Putin during the phone-in session each year.

The Direct Line sessions have run more than four hours.

Insider reported that it is the first in 18 years that the session has been postponed.

The unexpected delay comes amid unconfirmed reports that Putin is seriously ill.

A classified U.S. intelligence report said Putin underwent treatment in April for advanced cancer, Newsweek had reported.

The news outlet attributed the information to three U.S. intelligence leaders who have read the report. The report said Putin seems to have re-emerged after undergoing the treatment.

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UPDATE 1-EXCLUSIVE-Yeltsin’s Son-in-law Quits as Putin Advisor: Sources

Valentin Yumashev, the son-in-law of former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin who helped Vladimir Putin come to power, has quit his role as a Kremlin advisor, two people familiar with Yumashev’s thinking told Reuters.

Yumashev was an unpaid advisor with limited influence on Putin’s decision-making, but his departure removes one of the last links inside Putin’s administration to Yeltsin’s rule, a period of liberal reforms and of Russian opening up towards the West.

Putin ordered his armed forces to attack Ukraine on Feb. 24 in an invasion that Western governments say is an act of unjustified aggression, and which Moscow calls a “special operation” necessary to protect Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine.

In March, Anatoly Chubais, another senior Yeltsin-era figure, left his role as Kremlin special envoy. This month, a diplomat in Russia’s mission to the United Nations resigned over the war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Yumashev leaving his advisor role, and did not answer a call to his mobile number. Yumashev did not respond to a request for comment that Reuters sent to him.

Lyudmila Telen, first deputy executive director of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Centre, a foundation where Yumashev is a member of the board of trustees, told Reuters Yumashev had given up his Kremlin advisor role in April.

Asked why he left the role, she said: “It was his initiative.”

A second person familiar with Yumashev’s thinking, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said that Yumashev in April ceased to be a presidential advisor.

Under Yeltsin, who was Russian president from 1991 to 1999, Yumashev served as a Kremlin advisor and later as Kremlin chief of staff. He is married to Yeltsin’s daughter, Tatyana.

Yumashev was running the presidential administration in 1997 when Putin, a former KGB spy who had been given a middle-ranking administrative job in the Kremlin a year earlier, was promoted to be deputy Kremlin chief of staff.

That promotion provided the springboard for Putin to be anointed as Yeltsin’s heir apparent, and win a presidential election in 2000 after Yeltsin had stepped down.

Though Putin’s policies over the years have diverged from the values that Yeltsin espoused, the Russian leader has kept his ties to the former first family.

In January 2020, according to the Kremlin website, Putin visited Yeltsin’s daughter Tatyana at her home to congratulate her on her birthday. (Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Putin Scraps 40 as Age Limit for Russian Army in Push For Tech Specialists

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has reportedly signed a law scrapping the age limit on the Russian military to those over 40 years old to serve in the war against Ukraine.

Previously the army had age limits of 18-40 years for Russians and 18-30 for foreigners, and comes amid a push to recruit more technical specialists, the BBC reported.

The new law, signed by Putin on Saturday Business Insider reported, also aims to recruit more medics, engineers and communications experts.

Ukrainian and Western military experts say Russia has lost an estimated 30,000 killed in its war. The U.K. government estimates the toll at about 15,000, the BBC reported. Russia gave a total of 1,351 of its troops killed in Ukraine on March 25 that hasn’t been updated.

Military analysts say Russia has more than 400,000 professional contract soldiers in its 900,000-strong active armed forces, and can mobilize about two million reservists, the BBC reported.

In comparison, Ukraine’s army has an estimated 200,000 active troops and 900,000 reservists, though it has boosted those numbers since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, the news outlet reported.

Under its current martial law, Ukraine forbids men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country, demanding that they stay and fight.

According to Business Insider, UK intelligence officials recently said Russia’s losses have caused serious problems for its invasion as it focuses on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

In one update, they said personnel problems had forced Russia to rely on mercenaries and irregular forces like militants from Chechnya rather than its main army, BI reported.

After weeks of apparent stasis in the attacks on the Donbas, Ukrainian officials have recently conceded Russia is gaining ground there.

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Putin Accused of ‘Blackmailing’ Food Supply by Stealing Ukrainian Grain

Some world leaders are accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin with “blackmailing” the world food supply by stealing Ukrainian grain after satellite photos show Russian ships loading the food products onto cargo ships.

The Daily Mail reported Tuesday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Putin is “gradually stealing” Ukrainian grain and other food supplies, captured in Maxar Technology satellite photos in the Crimean Port of Sevastopol showing two large Russian cargo ships docking next to silos.

“The world community must help Ukraine unblock seaports, otherwise the energy crisis will be followed by a food crisis and many more countries will face it,” Zelensky said Saturday in a CNN story. “Russia has blocked almost all ports and all, so to speak, maritime opportunities to export food — our grain, barley, sunflower and more. A lot of things.”

According to the report, Russian and Ukrainian grain make up about 30% of global trade, in addition to Ukraine being the fourth largest exporter of corn and selling about half of its wheat to the United Nations World Food Program to battle world hunger.

According to the report, each Russian cargo ship can carry 30,000 metric tons, and the Ukrainian Defense Ministry claims 40,000 metric tons have already been removed from the country by the Russians, operating through Crimea to the Black Sea, which they currently control.

“(The stolen food) is sent in an organized manner in the direction of Crimea,” Ukrainian minister of Agrarian Policy and Food, Mykola Solsky told CNN. “This is a big business that is supervised by people of the highest level.”

It’s not just Ukrainian officials saying Russia is taking the food supplies.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the Daily Mail Russia is using “blackmail” on the world by threatening food shortages.

“In Russian-occupied Ukraine, the Kremlin’s army is confiscating grain stocks and machinery,” she said in the Mail’s story. “And Russian warships in the Black Sea are blockading Ukrainian ships full of wheat and sunflower seeds.”

The Kremlin is calling the theft allegations “fake news,” and said it is the trade sanctions imposed by the other countries in the world that are causing any food shortage, CNN reported.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken rebuked Russia’s response.

“The Russian Federation claims falsely that the international community’s sanctions are to blame for worsening the global food crisis. Sanctions are not blocking Black Sea ports, trapping ships filled with food, and destroying Ukrainian roads and railways,” Blinken said. “Russia is.”

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UPDATE 2-Jailed Kremlin Foe Navalny Lambasts Putin’s ‘stupid War’ in Ukraine

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Tuesday lambasted President Vladimir Putin, casting the Kremlin chief as a doomed madman who started a “stupid war” that was butchering the innocent people of both Ukraine and Russia.

Appealing unsuccessfully against his latest nine-year sentence, Navalny used his address to a Moscow court to deliver a stinging attack on Putin and the war – a rare public act of dissent in a country where it is a criminal offense to criticize the army and its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Castigating Putin’s Russia as a state run by thieves and criminals, Navalny said the current leaders of Russia would ultimately be crushed by the forces of history and burn in hell for creating a bloodbath in Ukraine.

“This is a stupid war which your Putin started,” Navalny, 45, told an appeal court in Moscow via video link from a corrective penal colony. “This war was built on lies.”

“One madman has got his claws into Ukraine and I do not know what he wants to do with it – this crazy thief,” Navalny said of Putin.

The judge repeatedly interrupted Navalny.

Navalny, by far Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, was appealing against a nine-year jail sentence he was handed in March for fraud and contempt of court, on top of 2-1/2 years he is already serving.

He denies all the charges against him and says they were fabricated to thwart his political ambitions. His appeal was rejected by the court.

A former lawyer who rose to prominence more than a decade ago by lampooning Putin’s elite and voicing allegations of corruption on a vast scale, Navalny has long forecast Russia could face seismic political turmoil through revolt.

He earned admiration from the disparate Russian opposition for voluntarily returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany where he underwent treatment for what Western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him with a nerve agent in Siberia.

On his return he was jailed. Russia denies Navalny’s claims that Russia’s secret police poisoned him with Novichok.


Navalny cast the prosecution’s “facts” as “lies” – and compared them to the lies he said Putin, Russia’s paramount leader since the last day of 1999, had used to begin the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

“What do you want to achieve – do you want short-term control, to fight with future generations, to fight for the future of Russia?” Navalny asked the court. “You will all suffer historic defeat.”

“Your time will pass,” Navalny said. “When you will all be burning in hell, your grandfathers will be adding wood to your fires.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed Navalny’s claims about Putin, who it says has won numerous fair elections in Russia since 2000 and remains by far the country’s most popular politician. It has dismissed Navalny’s claim that Putin is corrupt as nonsense.

Putin says the “special military operation” in Ukraine is necessary to demilitarize and “denazify” the country, and because the United States was using Ukraine to threaten Russia through NATO enlargement and Moscow had to defend against the persecution of Russian-speaking people.

Ukraine and its Western allies reject these as baseless pretexts to invade a sovereign country.

© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Ukrainian Authorities: 49 Russian Soldiers to Face War Crimes Trials

Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediktova announced Monday during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, that authorities have opened 49 war crimes trials so far against Russian soldiers, Newsweek reported.

Venediktova told attendees at a panel organized by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation that Russian forces have engaged in “heinous crimes” against Ukrainians since their invasion of the country began in late February.

“We have already initiated close to 13,000 cases which are connected only to war crimes,” the Ukrainian prosecutor said.

“In this category, suspicions were reported [about] 49 individuals, which we started to prosecute [for] war crimes,” she continued, adding that authorities have gathered a list of around 600 suspects thought to have engaged in war crimes.

Courts are already hearing two cases involving three Russian soldiers, Venediktova confirmed. In total, she counted 4,600 total civilian deaths in the conflict so far, including 232 children.

Meanwhile, Venediktova claimed the Kremlin is engaging in forced deportations of Ukrainian civilians into Russia, where they are allegedly being interrogated, “tortured,” and held in “filtration camps.”

“Russia uses the practice of forced transfer of civilian populations, especially in children, to Russian territories,” Venediktova said. “Tens of thousands of people have been forcibly relocated. Children are separated from families and put into the foster care system available for adoption in Russia. One can only imagine the stress children are going through.”

“Russia also opened makeshift filtration camps, detaining and subjecting civilians to brutal interrogations and torture for any supposed links to the Ukrainian government,” she further stated.

Venediktova’s comments in Davos came shortly before 21-year-old Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin became the first soldier in the conflict convicted of war crimes, according to Newsweek.

Shishimarin pleaded guilty to the killing of a 62-year-old Ukrainian civilian at the beginning of the war in February. He was sentenced to life in prison.

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Putin Channels Victory Over Hitler to Spur Russian Army in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin evoked the memory of Soviet heroism in World War Two to inspire his army fighting in Ukraine, but offered no new road map to victory and acknowledged the cost in Russian soldiers’ lives.

Addressing massed ranks of service personnel on Red Square on the 77th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany, Putin condemned what he called external threats to weaken and divide Russia, and repeated familiar arguments that he had used to justify Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24 – that NATO was creating threats right next to its borders.

He directly addressed soldiers fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which Russia has pledged to “liberate” from Kyiv’s control.

“You are fighting for the Motherland, for its future, so that no one forgets the lessons of World War Two. So that there is no place in the world for executioners, castigators rs and Nazis,” he said.

His speech included a minute of silence. “The death of each one of our soldiers and officers is our shared grief and an irreparable loss for their friends and relatives,” said Putin, promising that the state would look after their children and families.

He was addressing Russia on one of its most important annual holidays, when the nation honors the 27 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives in the struggle to defeat Adolf Hitler – a source of national pride and identity.

But Putin had no victory to announce in Ukraine and his 11-minute address, on day 75 of the invasion, was largely notable for what he did not say.

He did not mention Ukraine by name, gave no assessment of progress in the war and offered no indication of how long it might continue. There was no reference to the bloody battle for Mariupol, where Ukrainian defenders holed up in the ruins of the Azovstal steel works were still defying Russia’s assault.

Putin has repeatedly likened the war – which he casts as a battle against dangerous “Nazi”-inspired nationalists in Ukraine – to the challenge the Soviet Union faced when Hitler invaded in 1941.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said it is Russia that is staging a “bloody re-enactment of Nazism” in Ukraine in an unprovoked war of aggression.

Preceded by a stirring fanfare, Putin delivered his address after a group of eight high-stepping guards marched across the cobbles of Red Square carrying the Russian tricolor flag and the red Soviet hammer-and-sickle victory banner, accompanied by stirring martial music.

The fighting forces responded with booming cheers as Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu crossed the square in a black limousine, saluting units including missile, national guard and paratroop units and congratulating them on the anniversary.

Putin’s speech was followed by a parade across the vast square featuring Russia’s latest Armata and T-90M Proryv tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and intercontinental ballistic missiles. A planned fly-past was canceled because of cloudy conditions.

Putin then laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and placed red carnations on memorials commemorating Soviet Hero Cities that resisted Hitler’s forces. They included Kyiv and Odesa – a reminder of the huge losses sustained by Ukrainians as well as Russians in the war.

The imposing display could not mask the fact that – 75 days into the biggest assault on a European country since World War Two – Russia’s army has failed to deliver victory for Putin.

Plagued by logistics and equipment problems and poor coordination and tactics, it was repelled in an initial attempt to storm the capital Kyiv and subsequently declared a more limited objective to take the Donbas.

But there too, it has struggled to make decisive progress, while the war has killed tens of thousands of people, uprooted millions and devastated large areas of Ukraine.

Kyiv and the West say Russia’s own death toll from the war exceeds the 15,000 Soviet soldiers killed in the Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-1989. Russia has not updated its casualty figures since March 25, when it said 1,351 troops had been killed.

The West has imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russian banks, businesses and members of Putin’s circle, and U.S. President Joe Biden has called him a war criminal. Moscow denies that its forces have targeted civilians or committed war crimes.

British Defence Minister Ben Wallace said on Monday that for Putin and his generals, “there can be no victory day, only dishonor and surely defeat in Ukraine.”

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