Russian Spy Chief Blames U.S., EU for Ruble, Oil Price Collapse

The U.S. and its allies are seeking to change the regime in Moscow through sanctions and attacks on the ruble and the oil price, Russia’s spy chief said.

A decline of more than 30 percent in the oil price this year is caused partly by U.S. actions, Mikhail Fradkov, the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, said after President Vladimir Putin’s annual address to parliament.

Foreign investment funds are “taking part” in ruble speculation via intermediaries, Fradkov, a former prime minister, said in an interview in the Kremlin. “Any speculation has specific schemes and the schemes have a number of participants,” he said.

The ruble has lost 39 percent of its value against the dollar this year, the world’s worst performance after the Ukrainian hryvnia, as the U.S. and the European Union imposed sanctions after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March. They also accuse Russia of providing military support to separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, a charge Russia denies.

The U.S. and its allies want to oust Putin from power and achieve regime change, Fradkov said. “Such a desire has been noticed, it’s a small secret” he also told reporters. “No one wants to see a strong and independent Russia.”

The ruble weakened 1.8 percent to 54.1770 at 5:27 p.m. in Moscow, after Putin vowed that Russia would never back down over Crimea in his address to legislators at the Grand Kremlin Palace. The president pledged to punish speculators attacking the ruble, while he made no comment on the slump in the oil price in his 70-minute speech.

Sanctions are forcing Russia to focus on solving domestic issues, Fradkov said. The confrontation with the U.S. and the EU will continue until Russia’s adversaries learn to stop attacking the country and respect its geopolitical interests, he said.

It will take two to four years to reach the “more objective understanding needed for lifting some barriers and cooperation,” according to Fradkov.

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