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Russia’s Growing Pains Not All Europe’s Fault

Im not there to make a difference, Zawadzki said of the Sochi Games, should she earn a spot on the 2014 U.S. squad. I want to focus on myself and what I have to do well to compete well at the Olympics. Two-time U.S. figuring skating champion Ashley Wagner , 22, a Potomac graduate, spoke earnestly, conceding she was nervous discussing the issue given that she was just an athlete but was determined to do so as someone with gay family members and many friends in the LGBT community. I have such a firm stance on this, said Wagner, who narrowly missed the 2010 Vancouver Games . I really believe we all should have equal rights. I obviously do not support the legislation in Russia, but its not my place to go into Russia and tell them how to run their country. Signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, the law lays out heavy penalties for those deemed to promote homosexuality to anyone under 18. It has been sharply criticized by human rights activists worldwide, some of whom have called for a boycott in response. And its breadth and ambiguity have raised concern among many planning to attend the Sochi Games, whether as athletes, coaches, relatives and supporters or journalists, given confusion over what sort of statement constitutes propaganda under the law. A gay-pride march? A rainbow flag? A reasoned debate within earshot of anyone under 18?

Bad sentiment on Europe doesnt help. Last week, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev blamed much of Russias lackluster growth on the E.U., their chief trading partner. The European economy is teetering on the edge of recession, and has slowed growth in all BRICS countries. The U.S. economy cannot fully recover with high unemployment, and many individual Americans are just beginning to crawl out of debt, Medvedev wrote in the official address on the state of the economy on Friday, available on the Kremlins website if you can read Russian. During the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg this month, Vladimir Putin even said the R word: recession is back on the table. Maybe not in Russia, but if Europe does worse than expected next year, it will surely hurt Russias plans. Not that they have gangbuster plans here either. This is a very conservative economic administration. Public debt to GDP is around 11%, lower than any of the big four emerging markets and light years lower than that of the budget-busting United States, which recently closed down Washington because they dont now how to count. While ridiculous expectations are an American forte, lowered expectations are Russias thing. The reduction in the investment scene is problematic, but not leading to Russias demise, said Anton Siluanov, Russias Finance Minister and one of the brains behind Russias recent budget cuts. Despite a weak investment flow, our currency is strong, the budget is strong, the budget deficit is almost zero, and will be minimum for three years to come, he told investors at Russia Calling! this morning on a chilly October morning.

State companies are set to reach 35 percent of profit under International Financial Reporting Standards in 2016, Svetlana Nikitina, a Finance Ministry spokeswoman, said today by phone. The draft budget on the State Dumas website shows estimated payments for 16 companies, including oil pipeline monopoly OAO Transneft, telecommunications operator OAO Rostelecom and airline OAO Aeroflot. Russia is weighing dividend increases to help attract investors and balance the budget after President Vladimir Putin pledged to boost social spending. The government is freezing price growth next year for monopolies including Gazprom and Transneft to fight inflation, while Putin today told state companies to maintain investments to pull the economy out of its slowest growth since a 2009 recession. We are disappointed and hope the government will speed up the dividend reform, Lev Snykov, a partner at Greenwich Capital in Moscow, which holds Russian stocks including Gazprom, said by phone today. The investment attractiveness of state-owned energy companies will clearly suffer should the RAS-based dividend policy remain for longer. Gazprom dropped 1.6 percent to 143.35 rubles, while Transneft sank 1.5 percent and VTB fell 1.3 percent. The government will set companies payouts on an individual basis during the transition period in 2014 and 2015, according to Nikitina. Gazprom, the worlds biggest natural gas producer and Russia s gas pipeline owner, and Transneft plan to pay out 25 percent of 2013 net income under Russian accounting standards. Gazprom said earlier this year it would switch to basing distributions on international-standard profit from 2014, after previously saying it was aiming for the 2013 financial year. A move to international standards isnt realistic before 2015 or 2016, Transneft President Nikolay Tokarev told reporters today in Astrakhan. VTB Chairman Andrey Kostin said yesterday that the bank isnt against paying out 35 percent of net income. German Gref , the head of OAO Sberbank, said last week the lender, majority owned by the central bank, would need additional capital to meet the requirement or may slow lending, according to Prime news service. Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov wasnt immediately available for comment. Under the budget plan, the Finance Ministry estimates state revenue from Gazprom and VTB dividends will nearly double in 2016 from 2015, while Transnefts payment will jump 13-fold to 48.8 billion rubles ($1.5 billion). For Related News and Information: Russia Tightening State Dividend Rules Before Asset Sales To contact the reporters on this story: Evgenia Pismennaya in Moscow at epismennaya@bloomberg.net ; Jake Rudnitsky in Moscow at jrudnitsky@bloomberg.net To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net