Emperor of All Russia
Written by Javier Maquieira, Associate
Edited by Sabina Kadić-Mackenzie, Associate Partner
As world leaders decide their next emergency steps to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, seems to be taking the opportunity to advance his plans for everlasting rule. Yesterday, the Kremlin leader endorsed an amendment to Russia’s constitution that could extend his twenty-year grip on power until 2036 by resetting term limits to zero. The proposal, which was adopted by the pro-Putin State Duma, would remove the restriction for any citizen – including the current president – to take part in future elections. If this constitutional change goes ahead after a ‘public vote’ on 22 April and receives the approval of the Constitutional Court, the balance of power between president and parliament in Russia could be significantly altered. While this happens, Putin is still committed to spreading Russia’s influence abroad. Only last week, the former KGB officer refused to back OPEC’s plan to make further oil supply cuts in response to the collapse in global demand as a result of Covid-19. Saudi Arabia, which leads the cartel, retaliated Moscow’s decision by launching a price war over the weekend. This could see US shale oil companies, which rely on higher prices, drown – an outcome Putin has been wanting to see since 2018, when debt-fuelled American frackers took Russia’s title as the world’s largest oil producer. Putin’s influence ambitions involve presidential politics, too. According to American officials briefed on recent intelligence, the Russian government would be seeking to interfere (once again) in November’s US general election by allegedly amplifying white supremacist groups and inciting them to spread hate messages more aggressively. The sense of chaos that such activities might bring about could bolster Donald Trump’s re-election bid if he decided to frame his presidential campaign along continuity and law-and-order lines, and ultimately weaken the US’ standing in the world due to Trump’s retreating foreign policy. We haven’t seen the last of Putin. He might not wear a crown or be invested with regalia, but the Russian president is certainly working hard for his autocratic title.
The parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department of Health and Social Care, Nadine Dorries, has tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus. In a statement issued yesterday evening, the health minister said she had been self-isolating at home since the moment she was informed. Dorries was among those who helped draft the government's response to the outbreak, which is expected to hit its peak within the next 15 days. Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, announced travel restrictions on people entering the country from Italy unless they present a medical certificate. The Austrian government is also organising the repatriation of Austrians in Italy, who will have to self-isolate for two weeks, as part of the country’s attempt to stop coronavirus spreading. Former US vice-president and Democratic candidate Joe Biden has secured a key victory in the delegate-rich state of Michigan in what was considered a major blow to his rival, the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. Biden is also projected to win in the primaries in Mississippi, Missouri, and Idaho.
Business and economy
The Bank of England has cut its interest rates by 50 basis points to 0.25% in an emergency move to protect the British economy from the impact of Covid-19. The cut comes as part of a wider package of measures unveiled by Mark Carney in his final week as governor of the bank. The Royal Bank of Scotland plans to enable customers affected by Covid-19 to defer mortgage and loan repayment for up to three months in order to allow people to access cash and alleviate the impact of the virus. Other banks, such as TSB and Lloyds, are also announcing extra support for affected customers and businesses. British Airways and Ryanair have confirmed the suspension of all their fights to Italy in response to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, where approximately 60 million people will effectively go into quarantine until 3 April. Another airline, Norwegian, has announced a 15% slash to its services to Italy from next week with a lay-off of a “significant” number of employees as the company responds to a collapse in demand for air travel. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, will deliver his first budget today, during which he is expected to signal the end of austerity with the largest rise in public borrowing in 30 years, aimed at supporting proposed increases in public spending and infrastructure projects. Already deemed the ‘Coronavirus Budget’, Sunak’s spending plans will be judged on whether they help alleviate serious economic disruption and individual hardship as a result of the outbreak. (£)
Columns of note
Writing in the Financial Times, Robert Armstrong argues that the coronavirus outbreak is a global crisis, not a crisis of globalisation. This is an important distinction, opines Armstrong, since the virus has revealed the fragility of global supply chains, triggering a ‘backlash’ to globalisation. However, global companies have managed to build relationships of mutual advantage that, by not respecting borders, have binded futures together and act as a source of stability. (£) Zoe Williams calls for feminist solidarity to be trans-inclusive in The Guardian. She argues that feminism’s raison d’être is to take the side of the oppressed, a mainstream feminist view that has been sidelined to maintain a fictional and obliterative debate between old feminists that resist trans inclusion and those that see trans women as what they are: women, or womxn.
Source: The Times
What happened yesterday?
The bounce in London stocks faltered yesterday after the FTSE 100 suffered its worst day since the financial crisis on Monday. The index closed 0.01% lower at 5,960.23, as reports signalled a delay in the implementation of measures to help the US economy. However, sentiment was boosted by announcements from Barclays, Lloyds, and RBS to support businesses affected by Covid-19. In corporate news, oil firms BP (+3.36%) and Shell (3.69%) closed in the green after Monday’s bloodshed. Asset manager Standard Life Aberdeen (+2.13%) also closed higher even as it reported a fall in adjusted full-year profits as a result of a decline in revenues due to lower fee income. In Wall Street, US stocks cut Monday’s losses in half after coronavirus fears continued to roil shares. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 4.89% stronger at 25,018.16, while the S&P 500 was up 4.94% at 2,882.23 and the Nasdaq Composite, 4.95% firmer at 8,344.25.
What's happening today?
Finals Advanced Medical Solutions Group Aptitude Balfour Beatty Breedon Dignity FDM Group Gem Diamonds Di Lookers Prudential UK economic announcements (09:30) Balance of Trade (09:30) Index of Services (09:30) Manufacturing Production (09:30) Gross Domestic Product (09:30) Industrial Production Int. economic announcements (11:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US) (12:30) Consumer Price Index (US)
Did you know?
William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes both died on 23 April 1616, but they actually died 10 days apart. England was still using the Julian calendar, whereas Spain had adopted the Gregorian calendar.
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