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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1981

New restrictions on abortions, non-Russian languages;
Moscow takes aim at social media

Edited by Ilan Berman and Jacob Gladysz
June 15, 2015

May 17: 

Russia is continuing its latest foray into Latin America. The country's state oil conglomerate, Rosneft, has just inked an agreement with Brazilian firm PetroRio to take on a leading role in prospecting for natural gas and oil in the Amazon, 
Sputnik reports. The deal gives Rosneft ownership of two separate energy leases in the Solimoes Basin of the Amazon river, and an overall 45 percent stake in regional exploration there. "The Solimoes project establishes Rosneft in Brazil, a country with major upstream growth opportunities and synergies with Rosneft operations in Venezuela," the company confirmed via an official statement. 

May 19:

The Russian government has closed a critical NATO supply corridor to Afghanistan. 
According to theWashington Times, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a formal order closing down the transshipment hub at Ulyanovsk - which has served as a critical supply route for non-lethal materiel since 2008, and for defense supplies since 2010. While use of the route has tapered off in recent times, until now it has remained an important symbol of U.S.-Russian cooperation, despite recent friction between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine. 

The Russian government is making it more difficult for its citizens to have abortions. 
According to Interfax, the State Duma has put forward a bill significantly altering the availability of abortions in Russian society. Under the measure, health insurance for abortions - until now mandatory - will be cancelled, and only state-run healthcare institutions will be authorized to preform the procedure. Violators of the measure will face stiff fines; institutions performing abortions in violation of the ordinance will face penalties of up to 200,000 rubles (nearly $4,000) per incident. 

The Kremlin is expanding its tracking of the Russian opposition in cyberspace. 
The Moscow Times reports that a pro-government political center has launched a new computer network designed to scan social network sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and report any actionable data on opposition rallies and other activities to Russian authorities. "We are now facing a serious cyber threat - the mobilization of protest activists in Russia by forces located abroad," Yevgeny Venediktov of the Center for Research in Legitimacy and Political Protest, the originator of the software, explains. "All this demands that we take active and urgent measures to create a Russian system of monitoring social networks and [develop] software that would warn Russian society in advance about approaching threats." 

May 20:

In his Window on Eurasia blog, Russia expert Paul Goble notes a new Kremlin initiative to bolster national identity: an "attack on non-Russian languages." "Vladimir Putin wants to make the number of hours of Russian-language instruction in Russian schools inviolable," Goble writes, "something that will mean non-Russian parents will be able to secure instruction in their native languages only by sacrificing other programs and thus putting the future academic and professional careers of their children at risk." The approach, announced by the Russian president during a recent joint session of the Council of Inter-National Relations and the Council on the Russian Language, is likely to have "severe" consequences for non-Russians, "reducing still further the number of languages in which their children can receive instruction in their native languages and the number of hours devoted to them." 

May 21:

The Russian government has put leading social media websites on notice. 
Reuters reports that the country's media watchdog, ROSKOMNADZOR, has sent formal letters to Google, Twitter and Facebook warning them that they risk being blocked in Russia if they don't comply with the Russia's increasingly draconian Internet laws - which have given Kremlin authorities far greater latitude to block offending websites unilaterally. In order to remain in the Kremlin's good graces, the news agency reports, "the three firms must hand over data on Russian bloggers with more than 3,000 readers per day, and take down websites that Roskomnadzor sees as containing calls for 'unsanctioned protests and unrest.'"

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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