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Russian elite as cynical as ever / Authorities signaling to public
Russian elite as cynical as ever / Authorities signaling to public to shed depreciating rubles / Putin, Medvedev to go down in history of political folklore / Astrologists on economic crisis, terrorist threats and World War III

Argumenty i Fakty

Russian elite as cynical as ever
The spending spree continues. While housing construction is scaled down, the number of upmarket shops grows. Some find it difficult to buy a bottle of milk (it went up 50% over the year), while others order gold-tinted windows for their mansions - the firm in Lithuania catering to Russia is awash with orders. The tone is set by the popularly elected representatives of the people. Stalls in the State Duma sell sets of gold and diamond decorations. Some of them are priced at tens of thousands of dollars. They are selling like wildfire.
The Western elite also looks after its interests. In Germany, for example, top-paid staff of corporations draw salaries 70 times the average wage across the country. But they are way behind Russia, where such salaries are 225 times as large. And it concerns not only private companies, but also large state corporations. They give away what is in fact public money.
Taking advantage of the crisis-motivated dispensing of billions of rubles, businesses with "save us" cries are seeking freebies from the state. The other day, Russia's largest diamond producer Alrosa received 44 billion rubles to repay its debts. It is interesting to know how the diamond company managed to build up such huge debts? It was not peat they were digging!
Our public television felt shy of reporting that the state allocated $2 billion for Roman Abramovich, burdened with a debt of 10 billion. The public would dearly like to know why the authorities rushed to save "the ordinary citizen Abramovich" and failed to advise him to sell the Chelsea team, his London mansions, or at least some of them to pay the debt.
The public has many questions to ask. Why is it that the state corporations have been allowed to run up such debts? Why were businessmen permitted to take abroad state funds allotted them? Why did the money fail or take too long to reach the real economy? Why, with the crisis in full swing, are consumer goods, gasoline, and food going down in the United States and Europe but continuing to grow in Russia? And where did United Russia look, when it decided to be the eyes, ears and perhaps the conscience of the people? By the way, the party's budget has risen by 40 times over the past 2 1/2 years. But it appears to fall short of the price of a pair of glasses.


Authorities signaling to public to shed depreciating rubles
The Russians are ringing in the year 2009 with a much depreciated ruble. With no bottom yet in sight, analysts believe the policy of "gradual devaluation" of the national currency will continue.
"One thing is certain: there will be no reversal in the dollar/ruble ratio until the next summer or even the summer of 2010, and the downward trend for the ruble will continue," forecasts Pavel Andreyev, head of currency markets at the BrokerCreditService investment bank.
The main causes of ruble devaluation - the weakening of Russia's payment ability, growth of volatility, and the general worsening of national macroeconomic statistics - will remain in effect next year, too, said Alexander Osin, chief economist at Finam Management.
"It can be said with 100 percent certainty that in January 2009 the ruble-weakening trend will continue," said Igor Shibanov, head of conversion operations at Russian Development Bank. "In November-December 2008, the Central Bank of Russia let the ruble weaken by 15%, which is a low figure compared with the depreciation of such currencies as the Norwegian krone or the Canadian dollar. These currencies were devalued against the dollar by 20% to 25%. It appears the Central Bank is aiming at a basket of 38 to 39 rubles. In the first quarter, therefore, the dollar may reach 32-33 rubles, and the euro 45-46 rubles."
Officials indirectly confirm this. "Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave this advice [on December 29] when he openly said that the government and the Central Bank were spending reserves to keep the ruble from falling too rapidly and allow the population to decide where to keep their savings," said Denis Barabanov, head of financial markets analysis in the Grandis Kapital investment company.
"The government and the Central Bank have been giving signals to the public for two months now to purchase foreign exchange," Andreyev said. "Understandably, the policy of gradual devaluation will continue, so anyone wishing to keep their savings from depreciation should not ignore these signals."


Putin, Medvedev to go down in history of political folklore
In 2008, President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin contributed numerous catch phrases to the Russian language. For instance, Medvedev's statement about "creating nightmares" became highly popular, while Putin said he was tired of "toiling like a slave on the galleys."
Professor Mikhail Gorbanevsky, vice-president of the Society of Russian Literature Lovers and president of the Guild of Linguistic Experts in Documentation and Information Disputes (GLEDID), said President Medvedev, a former assistant professor at St. Petersburg State University, had his own unique speech patterns, was well-versed in Russian literary language, but tended to copy his predecessor in some respects.
The expression "to create nightmares" is the most vivid example, Gorbanevsky told the paper.
"Although it is believed that President Medvedev had coined this expression, it was Putin who first used it on March 24, 2005 at a meeting with representatives of public Russian business organizations at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow," Gorbanevsky said.
"The expression 'to create nightmares' is borrowed from criminal slang and either means 'to create unbearable conditions for an inmate' or 'to intimidate'," Gorbanevsky told the paper.
Prime Minister Putin is an emotional person who sometimes does not like to read out many of his official statements and starts making impromptu remarks.
"Catch phrases are also intended to win the audience's support. Some of my friends, former intelligence operatives, told me that they were actively trained how to speak while recruiting potential secret agents. A person should know that you and he speak the same language," Gorbanevsly said.
Gorbanevsky said he did not believe that both leaders' catch phrases, even those uttered in an informal setting, were impromptu remarks. "I am dreaming that Dzhakhan Pollyeva, the official speechwriter for presidents Yeltsin, Putin and Medvedev, will someday publish a book on the art of image-making," he told the paper.
A source who had worked for Yeltsin, Putin and Medvedev for many years said there were about three impromptu phrases in each official statement.

Komsomolskaya Pravda
Astrologists on economic crisis, terrorist threats and World War III

Several years ago, Russian astrologist Pavel Globa predicted a global economic crisis that would flare up under the 44th U.S. president - Barack Obama - and would peak in 2012. He said the crisis would first affect the United States and engulf Europe, and that America, the world's No. 1 country, would drop to No. 20.
However, nobody listened to his terrifying forecasts because America's possible demise seemed far-fetched.
On the eve of 2009, Globa told the paper that President Dmitry Medvedev would serve eight years in office, that Russia would successfully overcome the crisis in 2010, that economic ministers would resign in the winter of 2009, and that the national banking system faced possible collapse.
Globa said Russia would suffer less than the United States or the European Union, which could disintegrate. He said several EUs, including the South European and North European blocs and the Eastern European bloc comprising Ukraine, Belarus and Russia would emerge by 2020.
The United States will be saved by the 46th president who will become a national hero and the founding father of a new American state, Globa told the paper.
Psychic Alexei Fad said terrorists would obtain a nuclear warhead in late 2009, that they would detonate it in a major U.S. city, and that New York, Los Angeles, Detroit or Chicago were the most likely targets. After that, America will declare war on the Arab world, Fad told the paper.
Fad said the war, which could potentially escalate into World War III, would not affect Russia, which nonetheless faced inflation and a production slump next year.

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