There was an awkward moment when one of the first questions put to the head of the Russian Central Bank at the press conference on the roll-out of two new banknotes was a question about Crimea.
“You’ve put pictures of Crimea on the 200-ruble note. Aren’t you afraid it will affect the ruble’s [value]?”
Elvira Nabiullina had to talk about the gold and foreign currency reserves and “the state’s might,” for that was the mildest way of putting it.
Yes, yes, the reserves are particularly relevant in this instance. The Central Bank has been feverishly buying up gold for good reason: in case of new sanctions.
The rationale followed by the Russian authorities is clear. They have to implicate everyone in their Crimean adventure, whether they have traveled there or not, whether they have attended a pro-Putin rally or not, whether they have voted or not. There will be no getting away from the 200-ruble banknote. However, it is right that the first people who blush over it should be officials—officials who understand the whole thing and do not approve of it, but who have tacitly consented to it by saying nothing.
Shame, however is not smoke. It has not made anyone blind, but has only left their faces slightly reddened.
First, money was removed from people’s wallets to subsidize Crimea (you do remember what funded pensions were spent on, don’t you?), but now little pictures of Crimea have been put back into people’s wallets instead of money. We can roughly describe the entire Russian economy this way. The government takes our money and gives it back to us in the shape of TV presenter and Rossiya Segodnya News Agency director Dmitry Kiselyov, driving across an uncompleted bridge to his Koktebel estate.
Dmitry Gudkov is a former Russian MP who abstained from voting for the resolution approving Putin’s occupation of Crimea in 2014. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Irina Shevelenko for the heads-up