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Putin’s Ukrainian War, Sanctions, and the Tragedy of the Russian People

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By John R. Bryson, Professor of Enterprise and Economic Geography at the University of Birmingham

Russia’s Ukrainian military campaign has many origins. One of these is Putin’s on-going failure to govern Russia to create better outcomes for those living and working in Russia. Another reflects the failure of all governments, including all European states, the US and China, to impose effective sanctions on Russia in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014, and in response to the Salisbury 2018 Novichok poisoning.

Vladimir Putin is concerned that Russia is no longer treated as a superpower. His actions in Ukraine are one response to ensure that Russia is taken seriously, and the interests of the Russian people are no longer ignored. It is important to distinguish between Putin’s interests and the interests of the Russian people. These are two very different things.

Putin wants to ensure that he creates a legacy as the great leader of the Russian people who was solely responsible for ensuring that Russia reclaimed superpower status. For the Russian people the key issue is about everyday living conditions. There is an important point here in that Putin’s concern with Russia’s standing in international affairs deflects investment away from activities that would produce better outcomes for all Russian citizens.

It is essential that there is a coordinated response by all nations to Russia’s invasion of an independent nation. There must be an immediate cross-cutting response that impacts on the lives of all Russians. This will be a tragedy for the Russian people, but this is occurring at a time when Ukrainians are being slaughtered by the Russian military. This response needs to be extreme as it must represent a warning both to Russia, and other countries, over any actions that result in the illegal annexation of territory.

The current response is to impose sanctions on Russian banks and oligarchs. Russia has also been stripped of the honour of hosting the 2022 Champions League final. However, these sanctions are nowhere near the level needed to deter this type of illegal military action. The sanctions that are imposed must impact on every Russian citizen. The level and degree of impact required would be a tragedy for the Russian people. The question is what sanctions are available and what strategy should be adopted?

The strategy should be to develop a structured approach, but it is an approach that needs to be coordinated. Sanctions should include business, finance, educational, sporting, cultural, and travel activities.

It is not enough, for example, to shift the location of the Champions League final. No Russian citizen should be permitted to participate in any international sporting event. By this I mean ‘no Russian’. It is not acceptable to permit Russians to participate under an alternative arrangement. Thus, no Russian could participate at any Olympics, and this would include representing the Russian Olympic Committee. This exclusion would be permanent until Ukraine becomes a free and completely independent state. This would be a tragedy for all those Russians who have devoted their lives to training to compete in all types of sports. Nevertheless, it must be recognised that an illegal military action by a state has consequences for all citizens of that state. The same exclusion must also be imposed on all international activities in which Russian citizens participate including all cultural activities.

Money matters and foreign earnings are important for the Russian economy. Thus, effective sanctions are required that would disrupt and stop these flows. Countries must agree to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas with immediate sanctions imposed on Russia’s energy sector. These sanctions must include all major Russian exports including wheat.  It must be appreciated that such sanctions would impact directly on the Russian people, but they would also have extreme negative impacts on the global economy. This level of sanction would result in rapid energy and food price inflation, including energy shortages across Europe and elsewhere. Any attempt to reduce the impacts on the global economy would, however, ultimately encourage further conflict to occur either led by Russia or other countries.

For sanctions to be effective they must have a major negative impact on the everyday lives of all Russian citizens. There is a triple tragedy here. First, we need always to remember that innocent Ukrainians are being killed by the activities of Russian soldiers. Second, there is the tragedy of the Russian people as effective sanctions must disrupt their everyday lives. Third, there is the tragedy that will come from imposing sanctions on Russia including increased energy and food poverty in other counties. Nevertheless, without effective sanctions there will be other military annexations made by Russia and other countries.

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Government

EFCC Finally Arrests Okorocha After Hours of Siege, Gives Reason 

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Okorocha

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has finally arrested the All Progressives Congress’ presidential candidate and former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha after laying siege on his residence for hours. 

Security operatives attached to the EFCC had surrounded the residence of the former governor earlier on Tuesday and before they finally arrested him late in the evening. 

Investors King can confirm that lots of gunshots and tear gas canisters were fired to disperse angry supporters of the lawmaker who tried to resist the arrest before he was finally arrested.

According to an official of the anti-graft agency, Okorocha will be taken to the headquarters of the commission where he will be until May 30 when he will be arraigned in court.

In an official statement obtained by Investors King, signed by the EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, “the move to arrest Okorocha was followed by the refusal of the former governor to honour invitations after jumping the administrative bail earlier granted him by the Commission.

EFCC had on January 24, 2022, filed a 17-count criminal charge bordering on diversion of public funds and properties to the tune of N2.9bn against Okorocha.

“The case was assigned to Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja but attempts to arraign Senator Okorocha was twice stalled owing to the absence of the ex-governor who evaded service of processes”.

EFCC added that at the last adjourned date, March 28th 2022, Justice Ekwo, before adjourning until May 30th, 2022, had warned that it was “the last adjournment I shall grant in this matter”.

“In the circumstances, the Commission is left with no option but to effect the arrest of Senator Okorocha and bring him to trial”, the statement had read. 

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Russia Halts Supply of Gas to Finland, Disagrees on Payment Mode 

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Gas-Pipeline

Russia’s majority state-owned multinational energy corporation, PJSC Gazprom, on Saturday, halted gas exports to one of its neighbouring countries, Finland, in the latest escalation of an energy payments dispute with Western nations.

A statement released by Finland’s gas system operator, Gasgrid said: “Gas imports through Imatra entry point have been stopped.

“Starting from today, during the upcoming summer season, Gasum will supply natural gas to its customers from other sources through the Balticconnector pipeline”. 

Investors King gathered that majority of the European supply contracts are denominated in Euros or Dollars and Moscow already cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland last month after they refused to comply with the new payment terms.

Imatra is the entry point for Russian gas into Finland and even though majority of the gas used in Finland comes from Russia, gas only accounts for about five per cent of its annual energy consumption.

Gazprom Export has requested that European countries pay for Russian gas supplies in Russian currency (roubles) because of sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but Finland refuses to do so.

Gazprom Export, on Friday, said: “flows would be cut because Gasum had not complied with the new Russian rules requiring settlement in roubles.”

Earlier on Friday, the Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler, Gasum had said the Russian Gazprom warned that flows would be halted from 04:00 GMT on Saturday morning.

The decision is coming at a time when Finland and Sweden announced that they were going to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance, a decision inspired by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last week, the  Finish Prime minister, Sanna Marin had said: “When we look at Russia, we see a very different kind of Russia today than we saw just a few months ago.

“Everything changed when Russia attacked Ukraine. And I personally think that we cannot trust anymore that there will be a peaceful future next to Russia.”

Marin noted that joining NATO is “an act of peace [so] that there will never again be war in Finland in the future”.

According to Swedish leader Andersson, “to ensure the safety of Swedish people, the best way forward is to join NATO together with Finland”.

The announcements were met with support from leaders in almost all NATO nations.

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken told reporters that the United States would strongly support the NATO application by either Sweden or Finland should they choose to formally apply to the alliance.

Investors King recalls that Russia had in April, announced the suspension of gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria on the same payment disputes. 

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FG Resumes Conditional Cash Transfer Programme Across Six Local Govt. In Kebbi

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NAIRA - Investors King

The Federal Government has resumed the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme in Kebbi State, commencing with a payment of N9.24bn to 76,107 CCT beneficiaries.

The National Coordinator of the programme, Hajiya Halima Shehu, made the announcement during a state visit to Governor Atiku Bagudu in Birnin Kebbi.

“As at now, payment to CCT beneficiaries is ongoing in the state. A total number of 76,107 beneficiaries across six local government areas of Bagudu, Danko, Wasagu, Dandi, Jega, and Shanga, will be receiving the payment. The beneficiaries will be receiving 26 months of payment circles, starting from January to February 2020.

“The payment will be in two batches of those 60,000 beneficiaries for four payment cycles, using the virtual account. The second batch has 70,107 beneficiaries for nine payment cycles through the debit cards. The total amount for the two batches in the state, according to Shehu, was over N9.24 billion.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria, in partnership with the World Bank in 2016, designed and developed a safety net programme for Nigeria under the platform of National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP).

“One of the components of NASSP is the national conditional cash transfer office responsible for implementing the household uplifting- conditional cash transfer to the poor and the vulnerable households across the country,” she said.

Shehu commended the governor for providing her an audience and the chance to update him on the commencement of payments and the state’s successful implementation of the program.

Responding, Gov. Bagudu, represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Samaila Yombe-Dabai, thanked the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, headed by Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, for actualising the programme in the state.

“I assure you that the state government will do all it takes to support the success of the programme in the state.

“We are looking forward to getting more local governments to be involved in the cash transfer programme,” Bagudu said.

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