With two elections next year, Ukraine is facing upheaval on the domestic front. Russia, meanwhile, is shaking up its foreign policy, particularly with the United States, after withdrawing from the INF treaty.
In Russia, the new year will kick off with price increases — the value-added tax (VAT) will jump from 18 to 20 per cent. Among other things, the government hopes that this will at least partially compensate for cuts made to the health and education systems.
Authorities deemed these cuts necessary due to the fall of oil and gas prices in recent years — Russia’s most important export commodities. The price increase is likely to have a significant impact on the already declining popularity of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government. The decision to raise the retirement age in 2018 — which was also highly controversial — kicked off a significant decline Putin’s approval ratings. While Putin can still be confident that roughly two-thirds of Russians are behind him, the president’s towering popularity appears to be a thing of the past. Nevertheless, mass protests are not expected.
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(Photo of Putin: kremlin.ru; and of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: president.gov.ua)