this is bbc news. the headlines: president biden has for the first time accused russia of committing genocide in ukraine. he used the term during a speech on fuel prices in iowa. mr biden then reinforced the accusation, saying president putin was trying to wipe out the idea of even being a ukrainian. britain's prime minister, borisjohnson, and his finance minister, rishi sunak, have rejected calls for them to resign after they were fined by police for breaking covid lockdown rules by attending a party in 2020. twenty. mrjohnson�*s wife, carrie, was also fined. police in new york say they have recovered a handgun and a range of incendiary devices at the brooklyn station
where a man opened fire on commuters on tuesday morning. ten people were wounded. a major manhunt is under way. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk with stephen sackur. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. what will it take to end the waeradimir putin initiated in ukraine? in military terms, russia now seems intent on a grim campaign of attrition in the east and south, a strategy which is already taking a terrible human toll. could economic isolation inflict enough pain to force the kremlin to reconsider? well, my guest is exiled russian economist sergei guriev. is moscow outmanoeuvring the west when it comes to sanctions?
sergei guriev, in paris, welcome to hardtalk. thank you very much, stephen, for inviting me. it's a pleasure to have you on the show. and if i may, i'm going to start with some of your very own words because recently, you wrote, "the only way "to stop putin is to deprive him of the financial resources "to continue this war." that's wishful thinking, isn't it? after six weeks, we can pretty much say that's not going to happen. well, that depends on the resolve of the west and, so far, the unity and resolve of the west has been
unprecedented, and that means further steps need to be taken. putin cannot be deterred. he doubles down on his cause of continuing this war. and so, he, if he needs to be stopped, the west is to introduce new sanctions, oil embargo, oil and gas embargo in europe, or very high taxes on russian oil and gas to make sure that putin doesn't get what he's getting now. close to one billion euros per day from europe, paying for oil and gas, which he can spend on his soldiers, on his propagandas and on his policemen, beating up anti—war protesters in russian cities. he has this war, which is going on on severalfronts. on all these fronts, he needs cash. and unfortunately, without oil and gas embargo by european union, he keeps enough cash, he gets enough cash, because oil
prices are very high. well, you've pinned everything there on oil and gas revenues going to moscow. your implication is that there is this extraordinary potential leverage that the west has. now, let me just quote you a different opinion from an economist from latvia, andris strazds, who looks closely at the russian economy and its politics. and he says, "it's strange to think that we, "as the collective west, can come up with sanctions of "a size that will immediately break the russian war machine. "even if," he says, "a full embargo on gas and oil "imports is imposed, it won't do the trick because "they have their own fuel, they have a stock of rockets, "they have military equipment, they have the personnel "to be cannon fodder. "they have," he concludes, "all the main resources "to keep going for quite a while." is he wrong? he's both wrong and right. he's right that putin has soldiers and putin has tanks and putin has rockets, but putin also needs cash to pay the soldiers.
soldiers are not volunteering without being paid. as we speak today, russian government is trying to recruit new cannon fodder — the expression used by you — to send them to the new offensive initiatives in the east of ukraine. and for that, putin needs cash. he can print roubles, but inflation in russia is already high. just to give you a magnitude, the first week of the war, russian consumer prices went up by 2% per week, and the same happened in the second week. the same happened in the third week. only now, the inflation is coming down, but it's still at 1% per week. so, inflation is a problem and soldiers who are being paid in roubles would complain, and we hear complaints from their families that these roubles are losing their value. so, in that sense, putin needs foreign exchange. putin needs to be paid for his oil and gasjust to continue to motivate, incentivise his own soldiers and officers. right, but the russians might
have just listened very carefully to what you said and they might say, ah, the key element of what sergei guriev just said is that inflation has stopped rising so dramatically. and, indeed, one could look at the rouble, for example, and the fact that it has stabilised after crashing in the first few days of the war. the russians appear to have found ways of dealing with what you call the unprecedented sanctions that have already been imposed. right. there are several elements here. first and foremost, and that is a response to your first question, is the initial sanctions immediately froze the stock of putin's cash. so, for him, what matters is the influx of cash every day went from half a billion to a billion euros, was coming up as payment for oil and gas from europe. now, this, given how high oil prices are... just to clarify, sergei, what you're saying is, because they've frozen so much of his foreign currency reserve, he is now utterly reliant on the day—to—day input
of cash that comes with the sale of oil and gas? that is, in essence... that's exactly right. right. that's exactly right. and that's why oil embargo is so important. and that's why what matters is to what extent he can continue to rely on this. and given how high oil and gas prices are, this influx of cash is sufficient for him to continue paying for this costly war. and now, the rouble, you rightly mentioned that the rouble actually came back to pre—war levels, but there are two caveats here. one is that rouble is no longer convertible. there are major capital controls, so the fact that rouble is strong doesn't mean that it is easy to buy dollars in russia. but the second thing — and this is fundamentally important — is some of the strengthening of the rouble is driven by other side of sanctions introduced by the west. sanctions on exporting technology, capital, inputs to russian economy. some of that's been introduced
by western governments, some of that was actually private boycott. so, russia doesn't import much any more. why? because it can't. and in that situation, strengthening of the rouble happens naturally. however... because nobody needs dollars, right? nobody needs dollars because there is nothing to use dollars for because you don't pay for anything that you cannot import. but that strengthening of the rouble because of this factor is not a sign of strength of russian economy. it's actually a harbinger for its fundamental problem coming up in the coming months. so, for example, the automotive sector in russia has come to a sudden stop in last months. why? because it needs imported components. it doesn't need dollars any more because it cannot import, but we see that the sales of new cars has come down by a factor of three in the month of march 2022. right. but the russians respond to that by saying, yes, ok, we do have a problem, a short—term problem, because we were over—reliant on components and tech parts
coming from overseas, particularly from the west. but you know what? we're going to fix that. we russians, thanks to our soviet history and everything else, we're very good at self—reliance and we're simply going to begin the large programme of import substitution which, actually, in the long run, will really strengthen our economy and make us so much more independent than we were in the past. stephen, you're right, we are all not young any more, and we remember 2013, where russians said exactly this. the russians said, 2014, we will turn to china, we will produce everything ourselves. but that's not happened. and the reason for that is not because russians are stupid or not innovative. it is because modern advanced manufacturing and services require global cooperation. no single country in the world today is self—reliant. china is not self—reliant. america is not self—reliant.
the devices we use to communicate with you are assembled and designed in tens of countries, and that's how the modern economy works. yes, russia can go back 30 years and rely on itself, but it will not have modern telecommunications equipment. it won't have normal cars, it won't have planes, right? one of the problems is russia cannot build its own plane without imported components, and that's just the fact, and that's what we are going to observe very soon. well, in the short—to—medium term, i guess russians can say, well, we'll live without new cars and we'll, frankly, live without a flourishing aviation sector. but the biggest problem of all for your argument is that your contention that the russian economy is fundamentally, structurally, deeply vulnerable depends on your conviction that, ultimately, the west is going to get serious about an oil and gas embargo, which makes me believe you haven't been reading the european press in recent days, because thatjust ain't going to happen. well, yes and no.
i think we've seen a major shift of opinion in european capitals in the recent just few weeks. yes, germany, all members of german governing coalition, still says, we don't believe in those mathematical models that suggest that the impact of embargo on german economy would be substantial, but not catastrophic. but you already hear josep borrell saying that embargo is going to happen sooner or later. i hope sooner. that's whatjosep borrell said just last week. well, you can choose... mario draghi... well, hang on. you can choose your quotes, i can choose mine. the austrian chancellor has just said, "it would be insane "for us to impose sanctions which are more painfulfor us "than they are on the recipient of the sanction." and you know full well that olaf scholz, the german chancellor, is still saying that a full oil and gas embargo would be absolutely disastrous for the german economy. mean hundreds of thousands of people thrown out of work. that'sjust not going to happen, is it? i'm not sure about that.
we've seen a lot of changes of political course by german government. remember, before the war and in the beginning of the war, german government said nord stream 2 is a good project. german government said, we will not send weapons to ukraine and we will not even allow other countries to send weapons to ukraine through our territory. that has changed. and actually, the cost of embargo to german economy is not going to be catastrophic, and there are many estimates which suggest that, yes, it will be important, it will be sizeable. it may be i% or 3% of gdp, but this is going to be smaller than covid. and german government, with its fiscal capacity, can handle that. well, yeah. you say, ah, the good news is, it's not going to be quite as bad as covid was. but the point is, europe's just been through a covid catastrophe. they're still reeling from the economic shock that covid brought. and you're now saying, ah, well, european publics should suck up another major economic shock, which you and your
own analysis says could cost europeans 2% to 3% of their gdp. i mean, again, it's about politics. do you really believe, despite all of the horror there is about what is happening in ukraine, that europe's democratically elected political leaders are about to tell their publics they're going to experience a 3% drop in their national income because of the support of ukraine? i don't know. i've seen many things which i have not expected to happen. i mentioned the sanctions against russian central bank and its reserves. this is not something i would actually expect. on the second day of war, i gave an interview and actually said that would be the very important piece of sanctions, but i didn't believe it would happen. but that happened on the third day of war. so, these things actually are happening, things which we didn't expect, the russian government didn't expect. since we choose quotes, i would choose a quote from mario draghi last week,
who said, you need to choose between "peace and air conditioning". and i think at some point, the public outrage will come to a degree where the west will have to be serious about this. now, the german government apparently believes that the public, which is now supporting the embargo, the public is just naive and doesn't fully understand the cost that we've just discussed. and the german government thinks that the public will change the view once it sees gasoline prices, inflation, income decline. and in that sense, a government of chancellor scholz mayjust think that they're better aware of potential costs than the public. and that's why it's so important to discuss this issue in public, inform the public about the cost, prepare public for the cost, and also support low—income households with fiscal support. this is something the german government can do. german government does have fiscal capacity. sergei, let's flip the argument around forjust a minute because, so far, we've focused
on whether europe's prepared to take these punitive measures on oil and gas. let's flip it around and talk about whether there is a possibility that the russians might unilaterally turn off the taps and say, "we're not selling you oil "and gas any more because we are going "to inflict our pain on you." now, till 2012, you were pretty plugged in with the people in the kremlin who were running the economy. you still know some of them. do you think that is a possibility, that russia could take the lead here and cut off oil and gas supplies to europe? well, silvio berlusconi said some of these people have changed beyond recognition. but to be serious, i would say that we just saw how europe called mr putin's bluff. remember, a couple of weeks ago, mr putin said, "i will only sell you gas if you pay me in roubles." that's what he said. then the g7 said, "sorry, contracts are in dollars "and euros, we will pay contracts in euros. "if you like roubles, it's your problem," and gas continues to flow.
and that's yet another argument actually challenging the austrian chancellor's statement that this particular embargo will cost europe more than it costs putin. no, putin will be hit harder by the embargo than european economy. let's now switch from just talking pure economics, which has been fascinating, and talk politics as well. as i indicated, till 2012, you were wired into the kremlin. you offered a great deal of advice to then—president medvedev. i think you sometimes wrote some of his speeches. you clearly thought that a government, even then, which was dominated by putin, even though medvedev was the sort of puppet president at the time, you thought that was a government you could do business with. and you've recently written a book in which you've tried to argue that putin should be seen not as an old—style dictator wedded to violence, raw violence and raw fear, but as a more sophisticated operator, who wants to use some of the trappings of a democrat to enforce his authority.
in a way, that was a charitable view of putin, and i wonder if you now feel that you got vladimir putin wrong? well, as i said, things change. and, indeed, in our book spin dictators, we, with daniel triesman, show that most of current dictators, most of 21st—century dictators are indeed dictators who pretend to be democrats and rely on deception, on manipulation of information, on spin, rather than on terror, fear and mass repression. but you're right that mr putin is changing, and when we finished the manuscript — it was a year ago, the bookjust came out, but we finished the manuscript last may — we wrote that there is a sign that mr putin's regime is changing, is travelling back in time from spin dictatorship to a dictatorship based on fear. this is not uncommon. this happens. and in the book, we describe the example of venezuela, where mr chavez was the spin dictator, while his successor,
mr maduro, is a bloody, 20th—century, repressive, totalitarian dictator, who is using mass repression. 0k. so, that's an argument which allows you to say, "you know what? i didn't get putin wrong. "i didn't misjudge him. "it's just that he's fundamentally "transformed and changed, so, it's not my misjudgement. "it's putin's change. " so, explain to me, if i'm to believe that, you've got to really persuade me of what made putin change. when, why and how did this transformation come over him? because you've watched him for many, many years. right, this is a great question and, basically, a spin dictator needs to remain popular, needs to convince the audience that he is better than any alternative, and mr putin has been doing that, initially based on his economic performance. then, as his economy was destroyed by corruption, by domination of his friends, by the domination of the state, he was losing popularity, and then he did annexation
of crimea in 2014. his popularity shot through the roof. and that's a typical spin dictator war — without blood, very quick. now, then he was losing popularity again. there was a rise of very effective opposition. in particular, mr navalny, who was a very smart user of modern social media, which allowed to circumvent mr putin's propaganda machine. and that also forced mr putin to look for new sources of legitimacy. his popularity was going down. he tried to kill mr navalny. now he put him injail on trumped—up charges and, still, his popularity was going down, so he wanted to do another crimea. so, if he captured kyiv in two days, without anybody killed, he would walk back home and he would say, "i'm he would walk back home and he would say, "i'm again a popular guy. "i don't need to close down independent media. "i don't need to move to a fear—based model." and this is what we observed for the few first days of the war. he didn't close independent media before the war. he only closed them one week
later, when he understood that things are not going according to the plan. and so, that is the moment when the transformation from spin to fear was actually complete. explain this to me, then. i understand your analysis, but the truth is, even if we accept the war is not going to plan, and it seems pretty clear it's not going to plan, vladimir putin still, it seems, according to polls — and polls are difficult in russia, because it's very far from a free society — but the levada institute and others, they do polling, and time and again, they seem to suggest that between 55 and 70—plus per cent of the population support this "special operation", they call it, this war in ukraine, and even putin's approval ratings seem to have spiked upwards, despite the fact the war isn't even going well. so, what are we to make of that? is this putin's war or, actually, is there something deeper going on? it's notjust putin's war.
well, definitely not every russian supports this war, and i don't support this war, and together with mikhail baryshnikov and boris akunin, we launched a website called truerussia.org, where we fundraise for, among russians, to help ukrainian refugees, and we have a lot of people writing to us supporting this initiative. we also set up anti—war committee, where russians actually speak publicly against the war. however, it is not just one person's war. we see war crimes committed by russian soldiers and officers, so it's not going to be easy to say, "this is just one person who did that." no, there are many people who do that, many people who support the war. there are many people who believe propaganda. and on the other hand, the polls are not really reliable exactly because mr putin introduced wartime censorship. no, i understand that. so, if i say something that i'm saying to you now, i can go, in russia,
i can go to jail for up to 15 years. so, whenever a pollster calls you and says, "do you support the special military operation?", you remember that there is a law that whenever you say something which is different from the official version, you can go to jailfor up to 15 years. and i can go under various ways to measure the true support of the war, which is much lower than the polls, poll numbers show... no, i understand that. ..but i would just say that the support is not as high as it seems. oh, i understand that. and as a journalist, i would hesitate to rely on polling evidence from inside russia. i quite agree with you. but nonetheless, ijust wonder if there's something to be said for this idea that you, sergei, you've lived outside of russia for pretty much a decade now. many of the people you mention in the russian anti—war movement, of course, are exiles, who are not running the risk of imprisonment inside russia right now. isn't there a truth that there is a strong strain of nationalism, based on victimhood and resentment, inside your homeland, which runs very deep, and which putin is tapping into today?
that's true. and this is a normal post—imperial nostalgia, which has been used and, indeed, reinforced by mr putin's propaganda. this is not unique to russia. many former empires have this problem. i live in france now. france has gone through a very painful period of decolonialising its narrative and its relationship with former colonies. i'm pretty sure that you can attest to something like this in great britain as well. but, yes, this is true that russia should have done more in 1990s to explain to russians that it's time to move on. it's time to recognise neighbours as sovereign nations, and this is what many russians have not done. and these are people who support the war. last question, then. even if we were to imagine a russia where putin, for one reason or another, was off the scene, that wouldn't necessarily solve the problem, would it? i mean, this is much deeper
than just whether putin can be removed from power. let me give you just polls before the war. right? so, if you actually look at polls in september and october, the levada centre that you mentioned, the only major independent pollster in russia, they would show that support for putin's ruling party is just 30%. now, because of fraudulent election, they got 50% of the vote and 70% of the seats. but in the polls, only 30% support putin's ruling party. and also, in polls about electoral ratings, levada will ask a question, "would you vote for mr putin "if election is this week?", and only 30% would say, "yes, we would like to vote for mr putin." so, his popularity was quite low, and that is one of the reasons why he launched this war. and in that sense, i'm much more optimistic about the future of russia than other people who would say that russians are necessarily
bad people, who want to kill ukrainians and, for that matter, other neighbours. i think we want to see what happens in truly democratic elections, with a truly independent media in the elections, where opposition is also represented. russia is a country which has dark history but, as we say in russia, our future is always brilliant. sergei guriev, we'll revisit the future, i hope, at a later date. thank you forjoining me on hardtalk today. thank you very much, stephen. thank you. hello. the easter weekend is just around the corner,
and as we move closer to it, things will turn drier and warmer for many. not always sunny, complicated slightly by some mist and low cloud lingering for northern and western areas, and here we could see some patchy rain at times, but a lot of dry weather in the forecast. it is looking drier for many as we head through wednesday. the area of rain we had on tuesday came courtesy of this area of low pressure, and it is pulling away into the north sea through wednesday. still close enough to scotland that it will bring more cloud, still some patchy rain into north—east scotland and the northern isles through the morning, that will pull away. some mist and low cloud likely to linger for some northern and western coasts through the day, but elsewhere, some spells of sunshine developing, but also some sharp afternoon showers, perhaps with a rumble of thunder. the winds will be a light—to—moderate westerly for many, and that means a warmer day across north—eastern coasts, where we have the best of the sunshine through wednesday afternoon, temperatures quite widely into the mid or high teens. pollen levels, though, will be high for much of england and wales through wednesday, moderate across northern england, and also moderate across southern scotland, and into
northern ireland, as well. so through wednesday evening, most of the showers will fade. many of us will see some clearer skies, although mist and low cloud will start pushing back in to wales, south—west england, north—west england, and also more cloud nudging into northern ireland and the western isles. again, for many, it is a mild night, with temperatures typically between six and nine celsius. so for thursday, we've got this area of high pressure, which is the dominant feature. i'm sure you can see these fronts trying to push in from the west, and will bring much more cloud across northern ireland, maybe some patchy rain, particularly for western areas through the afternoon. some of that could just push into the western isles, too. once again, mist and low cloud will be slow to clear for some northern and western areas, but elsewhere, spells of sunshine developing through thursday, particularly the further east you are, and here is where we will see the highest temperatures, mid—to—high teens for many, perhaps 19, 20, maybe even 21 celsius in south east anglia and south—east england. for the easter weekend, for many, we hold onto this high pressure.
frontal systems trying to push in from the atlantic, they will be fairly weak affairs, but particularly as we head into easter sunday, then we could begin to see some more showery outbreaks of rain into the north and the west, but for most, over the easter weekend, it is looking warmer, it is mainly dry — yes, there will be some overnight mist and fog, but also some sunshine, too. goodbye.
this is bbc news. i'm sally bundock, with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. president biden has, for the first time, accused russia of committing genocide in ukraine. i called it genocide, because it's become clearer and clearer he wants genocide for ukraine. he is wanting to wipe out the idea of being a ukrainian. we have a special report from the front line in eastern ukraine, as forces prepare for a major russian onslaught. they are notjust having to worry about russian armour or a russian offensive coming in this direction they have to worry about the enemy within. britain's prime minister and his chancellor are resisting calls to resign, after being fined for