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Russia’s August curse may strike again

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August is the month when, many Russians believe, things often go wrong for the country. The 1991 coup, the Moscow shopping mall bombing which sparked the second Chechen War in 1999, and the ruble devaluation in 1998 are prime examples.

This may just be stereotypical Russian fatalism – or could reflect that many of Moscow's power brokers take the month off, potentially leaving a leadership vacuum behind them.

Still, with President Vladimir Putin brooding over how best to combat increased Western sanctions, and Russian troops reportedly amassing on the border with eastern Ukraine, you don't have to be superstitious to sense that the next three weeks will be crucial to the development of Russia's relationship with the rest of the world. And, as it stands, the chances of them turning out positive seem slim.

Analysts are placing some hope in the power of Russian public opinion, if the average Russian's life is more directly impacted by the fallout from the Ukrainian crisis. "The Kremlin is very conscious of the threat to public support and (we) hope this will have some moderating influence," Chris Weafer, senior partner at Macro Advisory, wrote in a research note.

Here are some of the reason this August may again be Russia's cruelest month.

Russia is self-sanctioning

The country is already cutting its business ties with the outside world. Last month, Russian companies didn't borrow anything in U.S. dollars, euros or Swiss francs, for the first time since 2009. However, they have to pay between $30-$40 billion per quarter between them by the end of the year, according to Weafer. The government may be able to back some of the state-backed banks without too much trouble, but it may not have the resources to meet the borrowing – and paying back – needs of Russian companies without serious impact on its budget.

Phase 3 sanctions are coming

And this time they are likely to have more of a direct economic impact than any of the official or unofficial sanctions which have been enacted so far.

Troops are gathering

Russian troops are gathering at the Ukrainian border, which Nato is warning is a "dangerous situation." The Ukrainians are unlikely to allow further changes to Ukraine's borders, after the annexation of Crimea.

Russia has 20,000 troops on Ukraine's border: NATO

"Ukrainians also now appear much more united in favor/defense of Ukrainian statehood, and against any perceived foreign aggression. Ukraine will hence likely mount a vigorous defense against any such more direct Russian intervention," Tim Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank, wrote in a research note.

- By CNBC's Catherine Boyle

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