This Wednesday, while NATO and Russia negotiated the military de-escalation in Eastern Europe under enormous pressure, more than 10,000 soldiers from the Slavic country began new military exercises in the regions near Ukraine and Georgia, countries to which the Alliance promised in 2008 a future adhesion to the atlantic organization. The Russian Ministry of Defense has reported the start of military maneuvers with live fire by motorized and armored battalions of the Army and ships of the Black Sea and Caspian fleets in southern Russia, Crimea and the Caucasus, areas bordering the two former Soviet republics that Moscow wants to ban forever from NATO.
The maneuvers that began this Wednesday have the objective, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, of improving the preparation of the units against artillery and enemy snipers. The tests are being carried out in the Rostov (west) and North Ossetia (Caucasus) regions, from which Russia launched two military interventions, respectively: in Donetsk and Lugansk, in 2014 and 2015, and in South Ossetia to deal with to the Georgian Army in 2008.
The movement of soldiers is constant. According to US estimates, the Kremlin has more than 100,000 troops deployed around Ukraine. The Russian Armed Forces announced on December 25 that some 10,000 soldiers were returning to their bases after a month of training. However, last Tuesday, a day after the bilateral summit in Geneva (Switzerland), Moscow announced the dispatch of another 3,000 soldiers and 300 combat vehicles to four areas near Ukraine.
At the same time that the military began their rehearsals, Russian President Vladimir Putin was attending to other fronts that were no less important for the Kremlin: pensions and the health crisis caused by the coronavirus. In a meeting with his Cabinet of Ministers, the president has urged to set the revaluation of subsidies to retirees above the general increase in prices, which the Rosstat statistics agency placed at 8.39% in 2021. “Al 8.6%, with a small margin because there are still no final figures on inflation”, ordered Putin, who has recognized that this problem worries millions of citizens.
Inflation is one of the great weaknesses of the Russian Government. The Russian Central Bank attributes the sharp increase in prices to supply problems that affect the entire planet, and over the past year it was forced to revise exchange rates up to seven times, which rose from 4.25 % to 8.5%.
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This increase in inflation has not been accompanied by an increase on a par with neither salaries nor pensions: the Government had initially set the income of retirees to rise by 5.9% from the New Year. According to the RIA Novosti agency, the vice president of the Social Policy Commission of the Russian Upper House, Elena Bibikova, the increase proposed by Putin would make the average pension rise by about 1,400 rubles (16 euros) more per month, since the pension average is currently around 16,000 rubles (188 euros). Upon receiving instructions from the president, the Ministry of Finance has reported that this revaluation will cost the state budget an additional 549.7 billion rubles (6.5 billion euros), a significant burden on a pension fund endowed this year with 3.7 trillions of rubles from public coffers
Another front for the Russian government is the health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the omicron variant. “We see what is happening in the world, we have at least a couple of weeks to prepare,” Putin told Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Wednesday, whom he has urged to increase the rate of vaccination, especially in peripheral regions. Putin has also praised the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. “It appears to be working effectively, even more than other vaccines used in the world,” the president said.
The authorities announced this Wednesday the detection of 698 new positives by omicron, a figure that contrasts, for example, with the 17,946 new cases of coronavirus. The authorities, who do not give an updated number of vaccinated, placed the percentage of the immunized population at 63.2%, which includes both citizens who have received at least one dose and those who have been previously infected with covid.
The president closed his agenda this Wednesday with a visit to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office for its 300th anniversary. Putin has asked his staff to monitor compliance with human rights in prisons. In autumn, the filtration to the portal Gulag of several videos of torture of prisoners led to the dismissal of several officials of Russian prisons. Despite verifying the authenticity of their complaints, the website is still prohibited.