Laptops Snowden Took To Hong Kong, Russia Were A ‘diversion’

It is also much more difficult for the state to simply increase by fiat. While the government can boost government wages or increase pensions (as it has done repeatedly over the past several years), its just a lot more difficult for it to increase the total output of the industrial sector. Worryingly, via the always useful FRED , the total production of Russian industry has been essentially flat since the beginning of 2012. Does this mean that the whole house of cards is going to collapse? No. Virtually all of Eastern Europe is going through a period of severe economic weakness. Poland, everyones favorite post-communist wunderkind, grew by 1.9% in 2012 and is forecast to grow by as little as 1.1% in 2013. Slovakia, which was also lauded for its determined economic reforms and its export-led growth model, had a similarly poor performance. It grew by 1.8% in 2012 and is forecast to grow by about 1% in 2013. So, even in its currently weakened state, Russias economy is actually performing better than those of many other countries in the region. Nonetheless, continued stagnation of industrial production will eventually become a pretty serious problem. Oil prices arent going to increase forever, and even if Russia never become an export powerhouse if it wants to play an important international role it cannot have an industrial sector that is permanently frozen in early 2012. The Russian government has actually been following a very prudent and inflation-adverse monetary policy, but it has shown almost no interest in the sort of supply-side reforms that would spur investment and, eventually, improvements in productivity and production.

There have been structural improvements, but the specific corporate governance scandals this year have been striking, Westman, whose firm manages about $4 billion and is the worlds largest Russia-focused money manager, said today by phone from London . Its the worst year since after the crisis in 2009. Prosperity and investors including Templeton Emerging Markets Group and Allianz Investments are contesting a move by OAO Rosneft (ROSN) , the worlds biggest publicly traded oil producer, not to buy out minority shareholders in oil producer TNK-BP. President Vladimir Putins government is struggling to lure foreign investors to counter capital outflows due to corporate governance disputes this year at TNK-BP, OAO Pharmstandard, Russias biggest drugmaker, and OAO Uralkali, the worlds largest potash producer. Russias benchmark Micex Index (MOSBIRZ) trades at the cheapest levels of all major emerging-market indexes. 27 after Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said his company may buy back minority shareholders at a premium. Until then, Sechin had resisted minority investors demands, saying at Rosnefts annual general meeting in April that Rosneft was not a charity fund. Disappointing Offer Rosneft has approved a buyout at 67 rubles a common share and 55 rubles for preferred shares in RN Holding. Sberbank CIB analysts said the offer was disappointing for investors as they estimated Rosneft paid about $3.70 a share, or about 120 rubles a share, to London-based BP Plc (BP/) and a group of Russian billionaires in a $55 billion cash-and-share deal. Westman said Prosperity hasnt received the offer. We will want to see a buyout offer that is higher, but some investors had given up and didnt think we get anything, he said. Alexander Branis, chief investment officer at Moscow-based Prosperity, advises the Kremlin on corporate governance and will shortly submit proposals on mandatory offers for minority shareholders, according to Westman. As part of our work trying to make Moscow into an international finance center, we are coming up with proposals to strengthen the hand of minority shareholders, he said, without going into specific details.

Russia refuses to bail two Britons held for Greenpeace protest

Briton Kieron Bryan (R), a Greenpeace International commissioned freelance videographer, attends a bail hearing at the Regional Court of Murmansk October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Dmitri Sharomov/Greenpeace/Handout via Reuters

Freelance videographer Kieron Bryan and Greenpeace activist Phillip Ball, who, like the others, face piracy charges, had appealed against an order that they be held through late November. The court, in the northern port city of Murmansk, has already denied bail to four Russians held for the September 18 protest in which a Greenpeace ship was boarded by security forces close to an oil rig in the Arctic. The piracy charges – punishable by up to 15 years’ jail- appear aimed at sending a message that Moscow will not tolerate attempts to disrupt its development of the resource-rich Arctic that Greenpeace says could destroy a pristine environment. Other countries and companies are seeking to exploit Arctic energy resources and face similar concerns from environmentalists. A Finnish minister resigned on Friday over a row about a Greenpeace protest last year. Putin has said the activists were not pirates but that they had violated international law. The head of the Kremlin’s advisory body on human rights has said he would ask prosecutors to withdraw the piracy charges. Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International, has written to President Vladimir Putin asking to meet him and offering to stand as security in Russia for the release of the activists on bail. Putin’s spokesman said the letter, published in Western media on Wednesday, had not yet arrived at the Kremlin, and said it unlikely to affect the legal process. “(Putin) probably cannot get involved in a discussion about the investigative activity that is taking place,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters. MINISTER RESIGNS Investigators have said more charges will be pressed against some protesters after drugs and other suspect items were found on the boat, the Arctic Sunrise. Greenpeace denies there were illegal items aboard. Greenpeace, whose activists tried to scale the Gazprom-owned Prirazlomnaya rig, says the protest was peaceful and calls the piracy charges absurd and unfounded. Those arrested include American, Argentinian, Australian, Brazilian, Canadian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, New Zealand, Swedish, Swiss, Polish, Turkish and Ukrainian citizens.

Snowden, 30, is living in a secret location in Russia, beyond the reach of U.S. authorities who want him on espionage charges because he leaked the details of top-secret electronic spying programs to the media. He had traveled to Hong Kong in May and later, under pressure from China, flew to Moscow. U.S. officials have said that they were operating on the assumption that any classified materials downloaded by Snowden have fallen into the hands of China and Russia’s spy agencies, though the officials acknowledge they have no proof of this. McGovern said Snowden made it clear at their Wednesday meeting that there was “nothing on” his laptops. The former CIA analyst had traveled to Russia to give Snowden an award for “Integrity in Intelligence.” The other Americans who went with him were Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent; Jesselyn Radack, a former Justice Department official; and Thomas Drake, a former NSA official who the U.S. government had prosecuted for allegedly leaking secrets about an NSA project called “Trailblazer.” In a telephone interview from Moscow, McGovern said Snowden told him that Drake was the “model” for his decision to leak U.S. secrets. The government eventually dropped all but a relatively minor charge against Drake, to which he pleaded guilty. McGovern said Snowden had “no regrets at all and he said it very convincingly.” Snowden is “well protected” but also said he “can do pretty much what I like” and can “get out and about,” according to McGovern. He declined to discuss where and how they met with Snowden, but he said that they had to pass through metal detectors before the meeting and that Snowden appeared to be attended by some kind of official Russian security detail. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his close collaborator Sarah Harrison, a British journalism student who has been helping Snowden, played a major role in arranging for the meeting, McGovern said. Harrison remained with Snowden as he spent several weeks in legal limbo in a Moscow airport transit zone, and stayed in Russia after he was granted temporary asylum. McGovern said that at his Moscow hotel, he met Lon Snowden, Edward’s father, who traveled this week to try to see his son.