Pussy Riot Hunger-striker Put In Isolation: Russia

The IMF predicts Russias gross domestic product will grow 1.5 percent this year and 3 percent in 2014, versus July projections of 2.5 percent and 3.3 percent. The near-term outlook is for moderate growth and inflation at the upper end of the target range of the central bank, the IMF said. To protect growth-enhancing investment spending, adjustment efforts should primarily focus on rebalancing the mix of spending and enhancing its efficiency, and pursuing structural reforms, in particular pension reform. The ruble depreciated 0.4 percent against the dollar to 31.9290 as of 4:31 p.m. in Moscow. The Micex Index of 50 stocks retreated 0.5 percent to 1,460.85. Growth, Privatization Slowing economic growth and worsening expectations for proceeds from state asset sales forced the government last week to widen its budget deficit forecasts through 2015 even as public salaries are frozen for next year. Spending in areas excluding pensions, welfare benefits and debt servicing will be cut by as much as 5 percent and dividends from state-owned companies are set to rise from 2015, according to the draft plan. Bank Rossii Chairman Elvira Nabiullina , whos overseeing the monetary authoritys planned shift to inflation targeting by 2015, last week raised the possibility of increasing interest rates because of government plans to exempt households from a tariff freeze, as she seeks to reduce inflation to 4.5 percent. Consumer-price growth, which remained at 6.5 percent from a year earlier in August, has exceeded the top end of the central banks target range of 5 percent to 6 percent for 12 months. Russias general government budget deficit, the first in three years, may amount to 0.6 percent of GDP this year and 0.7 percent in 2014, the IMF estimates. Year-end inflation may slow to 6.2 percent this year from 6.6 percent in 2012, and decelerate to 5.3 percent in 2014, it said. Russia would need more banking supervision measures to reduce risks from continued high growth in unsecured retail lending, according to the IMF.

Russia’s Putin says Syria violence could hit ex-Soviet bloc

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a meeting of leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in Sochi September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Alexey Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

For us, the quality will be much more important than the quantity.” MTS, the first Russian telecoms operator to move into banking, expects financial services to account for up to 5 percent of its total net profit by 2017. MOST IMPORTANT Megafon already has an indirect exposure to financial services through a $1 billion deal last year to buy a 50 percent stake in handset retailer Euroset, which offers online payment services in its stores. However, Megafon could ultimately sell a part of its stake in Euroset, Tavrin said, when asked whether the retailer could at some point go public. There has been speculation in the Russian press that MTS is interested in buying a stake in Euroset, which Megafon owns equally with Russia’s No.3 mobile operator Vimpelcom. MTS said it was not considering such a move. Megafon is also trying to drive growth by increasing the number of smartphones which people buy and have linked to its network. It does not currently sell Apple Inc’s iPhones in its stores and Tavrin would not comment on whether that policy would change. “(Regarding) iPhones – the most important thing for us is not whether we sell them but whether we have the right penetration of iPhones on our networks, because iPhone users … consume more data,” said Tavrin. Fashionable iPhones are out of financial reach of most Russians, who earn an average of 29,020 roubles ($910) a month. “(Smartphones) are becoming more affordable. (There are models that we sell) for $60 but I can’t say that (any time soon) the Russian population will be using a $1,000 phone,” said Tavrin, who sports an iPhone himself, though not the latest model.

Russia selected projects with a combined capacity of 504 megawatts, the industry regulator said on its website. Solar bidders had the most success, gaining support for 399 megawatts; wind developers won less than a 10th of the capacity offered. President Vladimir Putin approved a subsidy program to boost clean-energy generation in May in a bid to curb reliance on oil, gas and coal for power while cutting emissions. The country plans to expand the share of renewables to 2.5 percent of power output by the end of the decade from 0.8 percent now. The Russian tender offered 1,100 megawatts in wind capacity and 710 megawatts of solar to be built from 2014 to 2017, as well as some hydropower capacity. Solar developers bid for almost 1,000 megawatts, and 32 projects were successful. Demand for wind farms was lower, with only seven projects selected. The chosen projects were those offering the lowest capital costs, according to the regulator. Russia, which has only a handful of wind and solar plants already operating, plans a second tender for 2015 to 2018. The regulator will offer 1,645 megawatts for wind, 496 megawatts for solar and 415 megawatts for small hydro plants, it said. Its the first time Russia has detailed measures to spur large clean-energy projects.

Russia’s Megafon in talks to start bank

The Russian prison service says it has moved Tolokonnikova to an isolation cell after she launched a hunger strike over what she called slave labour conditions.AFP/File MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) The Russian prison service said Tuesday it had moved jailed Pussy Riot musician Nadezhda Tolokonnikova to an isolation cell after she launched a hunger strike over what she called slave labour conditions. “Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has been placed in a so-called safe place in the colony. It is not a punishment cell,” a spokesman for the prison service told the Interfax news agency. Tolokonnikova, a 23-year-old mother, is serving a two-year sentence in a penal colony in the Mordovia region of central Russia over the Pussy Riot punk band’s protest song in a Moscow cathedral last year. The spokesman said she was in a “single-person cell with comfortable conditions, seven square metres in area, with a sleeping area, fridge and toilet”. The head of a regional prisons watchdog, Gennady Morozov, told the RIA Novosti news agency that Tolokonnikova had been put in a “punishment isolation cell”. Her lawyer Irina Khrunova told the RAPSI legal news agency that Tolokonnikova confirmed “that she was put in a safe place. She didn’t tell me anything about a punishment cell.” Tolokonnikova on Monday declared a hunger strike, complaining that prisoners had to work 17-hour days at a sewing workshop and that she had received a death threat from the deputy governor of her penal colony in Mordovia, a region dotted with former Soviet Gulag prison camps. In a letter released to media, she described harrowing conditions at the penal labour colony No 14, saying its female inmates were treated like “slaves”. Morozov, the chairman of a Kremlin-linked prisoners’ rights watchdog for Mordovia, said the prison authorities had moved Tolokonnikova for her safety. “This is not a punishment, but is done due to Tolokonnikova’s statement that she received threats,” he said. He also said prison staff are continuing to bring her food despite her hunger strike. The regional prison service has denied Tolokonnikova’s description of the conditions, saying prisoners only work an eight-hour day. It said that she complained after being refused a request for privileged conditions.

Russia Awards First Clean-Energy Tender to Curb Oil Focus

“The problem of terrorism spilling from one country to another is absolutely real and could directly affect the interests of any one of our countries,” he said, citing the deadly attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi as an example. “We are now witnessing a terrible tragedy unfold in Kenya. The militants came from another country, as far as we can judge, and are committing horrendous, bloody crimes,” Putin said at a CSTO summit in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi. His words appeared to be a warning about violence spreading from both Syria and Afghanistan, which shares a long border with CSTO member Tajikistan in Central Asia. BORDER ASSISTANCE Reiterating concerns violence could spread to former Soviet Central Asia and Russia after the pullout of most foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, he said CSTO nations agreed to draft a plan to protect the border. “We will provide additional collective assistance to Tajikistan to strengthen the Tajik-Afghan state border,” Putin said. He gave no details. Russian border guards used to patrol the Tajik frontier with Afghanistan but left in 2005. The CSTO security alliance also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Belarus. Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan all have mostly Muslim populations. Central Asian states Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, neither members of CSTO, also have frontiers with Afghanistan. Russian officials have expressed concern that Russian-born militants fighting in Syria could return to Russia’s North Caucasus and join an insurgency that claims lives almost daily.