Financially weakened Iran to accept $5 billion 'investment' from Russia

Salaam Times and AFP

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech on December 8, presenting the Islamic republic's budget for the next fiscal year. [STR/AFP]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech on December 8, presenting the Islamic republic's budget for the next fiscal year. [STR/AFP]

TEHRAN -- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Sunday (December 8) a "budget of resistance" backed by a $5 billion Russian "investment" following the Iranian regime's bloody crackdown on protestors last month.

The proposed budget is for the fiscal year starting next March.

Iran has suffered a sharp economic downturn, with a plummeting currency sending inflation skyrocketing and driving up import prices.

A sharp fuel price hike last month triggered nationwide demonstrations that turned deadly.

The budget will benefit from a $5 billion "investment" from Russia that was still being finalised, said Rouhani.

"We hope that $5 billion in capital will enter the country, either through plans that have already been finalised or which will be finalised next year," he said.

The Iranian and Russian regimes have strengthened ties in recent years, with both backing President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war.

The Kremlin often uses loans as a tool to manipulate weakened foreign governments and to insinuate itself in other countries to further Russian interests.

Bloody crackdown

The budget announcement comes after fuel price hikes that Tehran announced in mid-November triggered demonstrations across the country before security forces cracked down on protesters amid an internet blackout.

Officials in Tehran have yet to give an overall death toll for the unrest in which petrol pumps and police stations were torched and shops looted.

At least 208 people were killed in the crackdown, said the London-based human rights group Amnesty International.

At least 7,000 people have "reportedly" been arrested in Iran since mass demonstrations erupted last month, said the United Nations (UN) December 6. It called for the immediate release of those arbitrarily detained.

In a statement, the UN Human Rights Office also said it had obtained "verified video footage" showing security forces firing on protesters, apparently with intent to kill.

The rights office added that it had "information suggesting that at least 208 people were killed" during the unrest, supporting a toll previously given by Amnesty International.

"There are also reports, which the UN Human Rights Office has so far been unable to verify, suggesting more than twice that number killed," the statement added.

Video obtained by that office shows "severe violence was used against protesters", said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

"We have also received footage which appears to show security forces shooting unarmed demonstrators from behind while they were running away, and shooting others directly in the face and vital organs – in other words shooting to kill," Bachelet said.

Additional video material shows "armed members of security forces shooting from the roof of a justice department building" in Javanrud, west of Tehran in Kermanshah Province, as well as gunfire from helicopters in Sadra, in Fars Province, she said.

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