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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2093

Moscow, Ankara move closer;
Putin muzzles public opinion

Edited by Amanda Azinheira and Evan Revak
September 21, 2016


September 2:

The Kremlin’s new anti-terror law could end up bankrupting the country’s pension system. According to The Moscow Times, Russia’s Industry and Trade Ministry has responded to the so-called “Yarovaya Law,” which requires Russian telecommunication firms to retain certain data for up to six months, by suggesting that the National Informatics Center (NIC) handle the data storage – and do so by utilizing funds from the Pension Fund of Russia (PFR). Over time, the proposal suggests, the data storage system could become profitable. However, there is concern that the outlays envisioned by the Ministry could result in the PFR becoming insolvent before it does.

September 3:

After a protracted period of strained relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are moving to mend diplomatic fences. The about-face, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, is spurred by a souring of relations between Turkey and the United States in the wake of a recent foiled coup attempt in Turkey (which Erdogan’s government has alleged was instigated in part by the U.S.). In response, Erdogan has declared that Istanbul and a cash-strapped Moscow would take “certain measures” to improve bilateral ties, including pushing through a project aimed at bringing Russian gas to Southern Europe through Turkey.

September 5:

Levada, Russia’s last independent polling center, has officially been deemed a “foreign agent” by the Justice Ministry, reports The Moscow Times. Under the country’s notorious 2012 NGO law, the center will now be prohibited from any activity that might be seen as political. This determination comes just a week before parliamentary elections, and as President Vladimir Putin gears up for a reelection bid in 2018. For the organization, the consequences are catastrophic. Levada’s director, NAME, has said it would be impossible for it to continue operating while listed as a foreign agent, and as a result the center will likely have to close down.


September 6:

Are Russian attitudes toward Japan warming? A recent survey by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, a state-run statistics firm, has found that, despite ongoing territorial disputes with Tokyo over the Kuril Islands, 78 percent of Russians have generally warm feeling towards the Russo-Japanese relationship, and an overwhelming majority support greater economic, technological and political cooperation between the two countries. The positive findings indicate Russians believe that cooperation with Japan can help improve the country’s “science, technology, trade, and international security.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Given Russia’s increasingly authoritarian political character, the results of polls and opinion surveys carried out within the country should be viewed with some skepticism.]

September 7:

Despite continued internal debate on the issue, the European Union has voted to extend sanctions against Russia, Itar-TASS reports. The measures, originally leveled against Moscow in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in the spring of 2014, include a blacklist of 146 people and 37 organizations involved in the Crimean annexation and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. The decision, which will be formally announced in coming days, extends sanctions for another six months.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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