Post card from Russia

April 24, 2009

This is one in a series of post cards from Reuters reporters across Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Who rules the world’s biggest energy producer? That’s the question that is bugging many people in Russia as the country’s two leaders – PM Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev — try to cope with the worst economic crisis since the 1998 domestic debt default.

Many believe Putin, a former KGB spy, is still the boss despite handing over power to Medvedev last year. But boss of what? The economy forecast to contract this year and Moscow is facing tumbling budget revenues as the income from oil, gas and metals exports dries up.

The Kremlin says it is concentrating on avoiding social tensions but the country’s richest men – the oligarchs – also say they need state bailouts. Russia’s richest man has been forced to open restructuring talks with Western creditors and more are likely to follow.

Russian debt and equity markets have rallied this year as bottom feeders snap up what they say are bargains of the decade. Sovereign yield spreads have narrowed. But friends in major companies report tumbling demand across the board – from shampoo to cars. The banking system has stopped giving out credit, job losses are soaring and the property market is paralysed with fear.

The smartest people in Moscow expect this to be a deep, long Russian crisis that will send prices down far further. The question is how the ruling duo of Putin and Medvedev handle the crisis; or rather, what happens if they fail to.

(Communists line up at Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum to pay their respects to the Soviet state founder on his birthday in the Red Square in Moscow April 22, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (RUSSIA POLITICS))

2 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Hi are we going back to “Square one”, I mean back to 70′sto make it more clearer, back to “Eastern-Western Blocks”; Soslan Asetey

Why all comments about Russia is so bad and project Russia as evil country? It is not fair! There is more evil in the world and still Russia is the one of the favorite countries to pick up.If people believe in communism let them believe in what they want. There is not danger for US or other world from communism – the danger is greed of capitalism.Why not focus on real bad greedy guys worldwide.

Posted by Tatiana | Report as abusive