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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1996

Drilling a Baltic invasion;
How Russia exploits North Korean slave labor

Edited by Ilan Berman and Jacob Gladysz
August 12, 2015

July 17:

In another sign of ongoing tensions between Russia and Europe, the Kremlin has deployed a large contingent of paratroopers to conduct drills near the Baltics.
Newsweek reports that some 2,000 soldiers from Russia's Airborne Corps have taken part in landing drills near Russia's border with Latvia and Estonia. The military maneuvers, according to the newsmagazine, entailed extensive paratrooper jumps and the landing of "over 30 units of military equipment from an Ilyushin IL-76 military transport aircraft."

July 18:

The U.S. Defense Department has been hit by a series of
cyberattacks that are strongly suspected to be of Russian origin, the Daily Beast reports. The Pentagon has warned employees that a number of its network users have been targeted by hackers connected to previous intrusions into the White House and State Department. The incident is notable because of its complexity. "The sophistication of this attack far surpasses anything we have seen to date from any state actors," former military computer specialist Michael Adams tells the news site. "To use a military analogy, the level of sophistication of this attack is like comparing a World War I propeller-driven fighter plane to a stealth bomber coming in under the radar, completely destroying its target, and leaving before the enemy even realizes they have been attacked."

July 19:

According to The Moscow Times, Dimitry Kiselyov, the head of Russian state-owned news agency Rossiya Segodnya, claims that he has been blocked from social media sites Facebook and Instagram. Kiselyov is well known in Russia for his inflammatory comments on an array of issues, once saying that Russia could turn the United States into "radioactive dust" as well as making disparaging remarks about the LGBT community. Now, Kiselyov has claimed via Russian social media site VKontakte that his Facebook and Instagram accounts were shut down by administrators from those sites only hours after he opened them. However, not everybody believes Kiselyov's version of the story. According to the BBC Russia Service, Kiselyov shut down his own accounts after receiving hundreds of negative and abusive messages.

July 21:

Developers in Russia's
Far East have been using North Korean slave labor for building projects, the BBC reports. Faced with international sanctions and an almost non-existent economy, the North Korean regime badly needs cash. Exporting its labor is one way to get it. In Russia's sparsely populated eastern regions, North Korea is an easy, cheap, and reliable source of workers, if one is prepared not to ask too many questions. As one developer put it to the news agency, "I have a job that needs to be done and they deliver results for me... I closed my eyes long ago. I no longer take an interest in it."

The workers, who have been used for private development as well as on large state-funded projects, never see any income from the work they perform in Russia. They live in highly guarded dormitories, and as soon as they finish a job are brought back to North Korea. The consequences for those workers who try to defect can be severe. As Russian human rights activist Svetlana Ganushkina explains, while Russia should theoretically
grantappeal to asylum cases, in practice, Russian courts send would-be defectors directly back to the DPRK in violation of international human rights law.

July 22:

The Moscow Times reports that The MacArthur Foundation is shutting down its Moscow offices following the passage of new restrictions on foreign NGOs in Russia. The Foundation has given over $150 million in grants to further education and human rights, and to block the proliferation of nuclear weapons. But its president, Julia Stasch, says that it is now “"lear
the Russian government regards MacArthur's continued presence as unwelcome." The decision to close up shop comes after the Russian legislature passed a law branding "undesirable" foreign-funded NGOs as "foreign agents" and banning them from operating in Russia. 

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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