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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2076

Russia's bridge to nowhere;
Playing fast and loose with New START

Edited by Ilan Berman, Amanda Azinheira and Daniel Jimenez
July 14, 2016

June 8: 

Are Russians drinking less? 
According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Russia's state statistics agency, ROSSTAT, continues to see declining sales numbers for alcoholic beverages for the second consecutive year. The industry is also changing. According to the head of Russian Alcohol Regulation, Igor Chuyan, bootleg liquor may soon comprise 40 percent of the total alcohol market in the Russian Federation. Both changes are being attributed to the high price of alcohol within the country, which has increased overall by as much as 35 percent in the past two years. 

Russia now sees video gaming as a legitimate sport. 
The Moscow Times reports that the Kremlin has issued a document officially recognizing "competitive video gaming" as a form of sport. The decree means that - in a break from past practice - gamers will be able to compete in official e-sport competitions and will even be eligible to receive awards and titles. 

Electronic sports have seen a marked increase in popularity over the past year, owing in part to $100 million allocated to the cause by Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov. Usmanov's investment is aimed at boosting the popularity of computer sports in Russia, and will help fund e-game arenas and create media channels to cover the competitions. The shift to electronic sports comes amid reports of rampant Russian cheating in traditional sports competitions, and prohibitions on the country from participating at the upcoming summer Olympics in Rio. 

Construction on the Kremlin's much anticipated land bridge linking Russia and Crimea has reached a standstill. The culprit, 
according to, is a financial shortage, as money from federal coffers for the project has effectively dried up. The bridge across the Kerch Strait, which is estimated to cost 228.3 billion rubles ($3.56 billion), is being funded by the billionaire-owned Stroygazmontazh company. But Arkady Rothenberg, the company's owner and friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has recently complained that his company has not received payment since last December for its work on the project. The Kremlin, for its part, cites "peculiarities of banking and maintenance of the treasury" as the reasons for the delay in payment. 

June 9:

Just how high up does Russia's doping scandal go? According to a German television report, the answer is to the very top of the governmental bureaucracy. 
Radio Free Europe reports that a new documentary by Germany's ARD channel alleges that Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko "was directly involved in covering up cheating and avoiding bans" on the use of performance-enhancing drugs by Russian athletes. ARD, citing documents in its possession, alleges that Mutko himself covered up failed drug tests by Russian athletes as part of the country's widespread doping scandal. 

New evidence uncovered by U.S. nuclear arms inspectors points to the fact that Russia is in violation of the 2010 New Start Treaty. 
According to the Washington Free Beacon, during an on-site inspection of Russia's strategic forces back in April "U.S. technicians found critical components of SS-25s - road-mobile, intercontinental ballistic missiles - had been unbolted instead of cut to permanently disable the components." As a result, "inspectors were unable to determine if the missiles were properly eliminated as required by the 2010 arms treaty." The U.S. State Department has so far refused to discuss the matter, or to elaborate on the potential consequences of Russia being out of compliance with the accord.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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