MB Radio: Ukraine, VVP and the bills – a chat with Ben Aris


With the Russian invasion of Ukraine now heading towards its 6th month Not.Gunnamatta spoke with Ben Aris, the Editor in Chief of BNE Intellinews, and long term correspondent and observer of the post Soviet world about the war and its impacts on global capital and commodity markets.


The discussion runs for about 80 minutes and covers the European dependence on Russian gas, and financing issues faced by Ukraine, as well as the impacts of the sanctions imposed on Russia because of its invasion, and the extent to which these are rewarding Russia and punishing the publics of Europe and further afield.



  1. Thanks Gunna. Really interesting interview. It was also weird comparing your mates’ experience of the Russian economy to the western propaganda in that Telegraph link in the weekend reading.

  2. Good listen, some great insights. Not that I agree with everything he said, eg the attempt to take Kyiv, no way was that a feign, more likely Putin believed his own propaganda, his yes men & they executed
    very poorly, else mostly agreed.

    • Atom Heart MotherMEMBER

      I have just had a look Peter, there is an interesting slide deck which goes with that.


      I am not sure how trustworthy on the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute is going to be on Russia, and I would note from the authorship page that the three researchers have Polish names, so I would be inclined to be very careful of all that from the get go. Then I note they are touting the ‘The Kyiv School of Economics and McFaul-Yermak Working Group under former US Ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul’ more than once, and their lead position is ‘Our team of experts, using private Russian language and direct data sources’ so it would appear to me they arent interested any more than the Russian government – which I completely agree tailors data to suit its own narrative – when it comes to being accountable for what they tout.

      I am not saying – and Ben didnt say – that Russia is not negatively affected by the sanctions thus far, but I would note that those sanctions so far arent having the disaster effect that was being called 4-5 months ago. I really am in touch with people in Russia and Ukraine and my read really is that things are (at the moment) normal-ish (as I think I said in the chat). It is high summer there, so there will be plenty of home grown food about, but the info I am getting is that there is plenty on the shelves and that the most notable development has been the proliferation of new brands mainly from Africa and Latin America to replace the staples (mainly European) everyone has been buying and some of which are now absent. As Ben mentioned the packaging has changed for many.

      On the oil and gas fungibility I would note that both China and India are posting record Russian crude imports (sure it is heavily discounted) and they are also both posting record petroleum products exports.

      I would also note vis the assertion that

      If you look at the map they slot in page 14 of that chart deck you can see they are referring to a pipeline to Central Asia.

      Then on the next page they are touting no links between the Europe facing pipeline system and the ability to provide gas to China.

      That is palpable nonsense. That gas pipeline to Central Asia on page 14 runs past a place called Aktau in Kazakhstan and then onto Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan is China’s largest supplier of gas and there is a massive pipeline from there to China. There is also a cross Kazakhstan pipe branching off near Aktau

      I’d have doubts about how much substance is in their research..

      I would also note the Russians are competent at building very big pipelines quickly

      • I read this summary of the Russian gas situation a while ago:

        Long story short – they are already diverting as much as they can to China without further pipelines/LNG plants which will take years to build out. Russia are in a much weaker position vs China than they are compared to Europe and China will get significantly discounted gas.
        Europe will have to find alternatives in the meantime which they are starting to do. It will be painful and will possibly mean blackouts/power cuts during this transition as Putin put pressure on EU govts but longer term Russia still need to sell to Europe – otherwise they will have to shut in the gas wells permanently.

      • Atom Heart MotherMEMBER

        Yep that is a much better piece written by someone who knows what they are talking about. Yeah I completely agree the transition isnt painless for Russia, and yes I completely agree too they become Chinese pawns in the process and will presumably be nailed to the floor for price. But they have signed up to supply China in a mega way and have been building those pipelines for a number of years.

        To whit

        This map shows the massive gas pipeline that Russia and China are building dated 26 July.

        which includes this map

        Note on that map the already constructed pipeline in China leading away to Kazakhstan. Note also that Sakhalin is plugged into the ‘Power of Siberia’ pipeline. I would also note that on that map the internal Russian pipeline system – to the left of Mongolia – is already up to near the Chinese border. That is connected already to the major West Siberian production fields.

  3. Very interesting……personally think this will end with Russia and Hungary sharing a land border, thus wrong-footing NATO who are busy building up Poland as the next catspaw…….not far from there to Serbia.. Until there is security for Russia, there will be no security for anyone.

    • The best salesperson for the increasing lack of security for Russia has been from the Russians themselves.
      I suppose as long as there is a NATO bogyman to distract the everyday Russian the leaders will be able to continue to plunder the country and avoid an accountable democratically elected system at all costs.