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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2065

The great Far East land giveaway;
Legal troubles for Putin's cronies

Edited by Ilan Berman
June 1, 2016

May 2: 

The Kremlin is buttressing its extensive media messaging effort with a new tool: legal action. 
According to Interfax, Rustem Adagamov, a popular Russian blogger, has been ordered by a Moscow city court to pay the state-owned Russia Today television and multimedia channel 500,000 rubles for defaming its image. Adagamov has charged that the outlet "creates news from nothing" and "invents news." 

Russia's government is seeking to encourage migration into the country’s distant - and sparsely populated - Far East. 
The Moscow Times reports that President Vladimir Putin has signed off on a new law that would provide Russian citizens with parcels of land in the Far East, free of charge. Under the new measure, any Russian citizen will be eligible for apply for as much as a hectare of land "in the Kamchatka, Primorye, Khabarovsk, Amur, Magadan and Sakhalin regions, the republic of Sakha, or the Jewish and Chukotka autonomous districts." The opportunity, however, comes with restrictions. "The land can be used for any lawful purpose but can only be rented, sold, or given away after an initial five-year waiting period, according to the bill," the Times reports. 

May 3:

President Putin's inner circle has suddenly found itself in the international legal crosshairs. 
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that a Spanish judge has issued arrest warrants for a number of close Putin confidantes, among them former officials and prominent political personalities. The list includes former Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, as well as former Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov. They, along with a raft of other individuals close to the Russian president, are named in a dozen indictments for their alleged connections to criminal groups. 

May 4:

The appetite of ordinary Russians for organized protests seems to be low - and declining. 
According to, a new poll by the independent Levada Center has found that nearly three-quarters (74%) of Russians surveyed see mass protests against the country's declining standard of living to be "unlikely." 95% of respondents similarly said that they have not participated in public rallies or strikes in the past year, and 77% said that they were opposed to such measures. 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Given the effect of Russia's increasingly authoritarian political climate on pollsters and respondents alike, the results of public opinion surveys in Russia should be viewed with some caution.] 

May 5:

Russia's new domestic super-agency appears to be girding for urban combat. "Russia's Interior Ministry [has] purchased 120 Shmel portable flame rocket launchers, used by Soviet troops in Afghanistan and by Russian troops in Chechnya," 
reports The Moscow Times, citing assorted domestic news sources. "The model bought by the ministry suggests that the weapon is designed for use in urban areas, though it could be also used to destroy buildings, transport and lightly armored vehicles in the field and in mountainous areas." The paper cites retired general Alexander Mikhailov as saying that the weaponry is likely destined for the newly-created National Guard, which was established by President Putin last month.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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