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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1992

Russia's AIDS epidemic continues to worsen;
Protectionism hits the national media

Edited by Ilan Berman and Jacob Gladysz
July 27, 2015

July 1: 

HIV/AIDS continues to spread rapidly within the Russian Federation, a top scientist has said. 
In an interview with Novaya Gazeta, Vadim Pokorovsky, who heads the Russian Academy of Sciences' Center for Prevention and Control of AIDS, discloses that the number of citizens infected with the HIV virus has experienced "steady growth" for the past two decades and is currently growing by "10% a year." The primary culprit, according to Pokorovsky, remains intravenous drugs, which account for nearly 60% of new infections. In all, "more than one percent of pregnant women are infected with HIV” in 15 of Russia’s 84 regions, making HIV a "generalized epidemic." 

The Russian government, meanwhile, has virtually given up in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Pokorovsky argues that the Kremlin has been "practically sidelined" in the fight against HIV, devoting insufficient resources to treatment and scientific research. That disengagement, he maintains, is at least partially responsible for a massive growth of the epidemic within Russia. 

The U.S. and Russia may still be deeply at odds over Ukraine, but the two countries have found at least one new arena for cooperation: Iran. 
According to the Associated Press, the current negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program are "also serving as a conduit between Russia and America on various ways of reducing Mideast turmoil." The motivations behind Moscow's new, cooperative tenor are unclear, however. While some experts note that avoiding an American conflict with Iran is in Moscow's interest, others point to Russia's efforts to reduce American influence in the Middle East, and to the fact that a cooperative tone on Iran will give Moscow more wiggle room over Ukraine. Specifically, "[t]here may be a calculation by Moscow that the Western powers may be more reluctant to elevate sanctions over Ukraine in order not to jeopardize cooperation over Iran," former Obama administration nuclear negotiator Gary Samore has surmised.

July 3:

In the midst of political turmoil and increasing uncertainty, Jews are again fleeing Russia en masse, 
reportsRadio Free Europe. According to Israeli authorities, over 4,500 Jews immigrated to Israel in 2014, double the figure for each of the previous sixteen years. The pace of emigration from Russia has continued to increase significantly this year as well, with the Jewish Agency for Israel reporting a 40% increase in immigration to Israel between January and March compared to the same period in 2014. And while at least some of the new émigrés come to Israel for economic reasons, the surge can largely be attributed to growing political instability within Russia itself. Russian journalist Vladimir Yakovlev, the founder of the influential Kommersant publishing group and himself an expat, puts it this way: "The big problem with Russia, and the main reason why I left, is the fact that our value system was destroyed. Life in Russia has turned into Russian roulette. Every morning you turn the roulette wheel, you never know what is going to happen to you." 

The Moscow Times reports that its Dutch founder, Derk Sauer, is under fire from nationalist Russian politicians. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, has recommended to the Russian State Duma that Sauer be forced out of his position as President of Russian news agency RBC on the grounds that it is important for Russian news organizations to be headed by Russians and not foreigners. RBC, which is owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, is a leader in business reporting in Russia. Zhirinovsky's initiative comes on the heels of protests outside RBC offices in Moscow at which activists demanded that Sauer must go. Duma Deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov, who attended the protests said, "It [RBC] is an extremely important media outlet that defines the position of business. And it is headed by a citizen of NATO, whose main task is to organize crises and sanctions in Russia." 

[EDITORS' NOTE: The move to unseat Sauer is part of a larger effort by authorities to force westerners out of Russian institutions. It comes just days after the dismissal of an American professor at a central Russian University on accusations that he was "working against Russia's state interests."]

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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