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Navalny says Russia’s oil wealth is disappearing

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Alexei Navalny on his video today

by Sarah Hurst

Russia’s Reserve Fund dried up completely at the end of last year and the National Wealth Fund has three-and-a-half months left of funds for pensions in it, Alexei Navalny says on his latest video, published today. Russia’s Ministry for Economic Development, possibly in response to the video, announced that the National Wealth Fund will increase by $50 billion this year.

Navalny compared Russia’s diminishing returns with Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, which topped $1 trillion in assets for the first time in its history last year. “But what’s happened here thanks to the wise Putin government?” he asked. Russia’s combined reserve funds had $225 billion in them at one point – “Not as much as we’d like, but decent,” Navalny commented.

The government used the Reserve Fund to finance the budget deficit, which was 972 billion roubles at the start of 2017, according to Navalny. Out of that amount, Navalny said that 77 billion was spent on state support for the media, 8 billion on the “swindlers and censors” at communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, 108 billion on subsidising the “swindlers” at Vneshekonombank, which financed “corrupt, loss-making projects such as the Olympics”, 194 billion on subsidising Crimea, 68 billion on Russian Railways, whose ex-boss Vladimir Yakunin famously built himself a storage room for his fur coats, and 197 billion on the National Guard (“so that you ask fewer questions about where the Reserve Fund went”).

Putin spending on his own projects

Another 300 billion disappeared from the Reserve Fund due to losses made in state purchasing from big cartels at inflated prices, Navalny asserted. Meanwhile, the National Wealth Fund is supposed to guarantee the stability of Russians’ pensions in the long term, Navalny pointed out. It was worth 3.75 trillion roubles at the start of this year. But Putin is spending it on his own projects, Navalny said, for example spending $3 billion to support Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in the last days before he was overthrown in 2014.

Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov, got a loan of $1.75 billion for the Sibur company, of which he is a vice-president, while Putin’s friend Gennady Timchenko got $2.4 billion for his company Novatek, Navalny said. Timchenko’s business partner is Leonid Mikhelson, who donated 33 billion roubles to the foundation that built Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev’s lavish Milovka estate, Navalny noted. “It immediately becomes clear why Novatek got our oil money,” Navalny said.

“Our country had a historic chance, but we gave it up to turn Putin’s son-in-law, Putin’s friends and Putin himself from rich to very rich people. I went into the election to talk about this, and that’s why they banned me from it,” Navalny concluded, again calling on viewers to boycott the presidential election on March 18.

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