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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2096

Back to the KGB;
Duma elections: the fix was in

Edited by Amanda Azinheira
October 14, 2016

September 17: 

In another sign of Russia's expanding use of cyber warfare, 
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Russian hacking group "Fancy Bear" has leaked confidential medical records of another 11 athletes who obtained permission to use banned drugs for medical reasons. The group accessed the records through the World Anti-Doping Agency database, and did so even as Russian President Vladimir Putin said publicly that the Kremlin frowns on such hacking. Putin, however, has effectively blessed the hack, calling the leaked information "interesting findings" relevant to the "public interest." 

September 18:

Russian election monitors have reported a series of irregularities in voting and recording of ballots during recent Duma elections. 
According to the Financial Times, Golos, a non-governmental election monitoring movement, has received 164 phone reports and 335 online reports of rule violations, most of them emanating from Moscow. Reports included instances of voter fraud and observers being barred from polling stations. Ahead of the vote, Russian officials vowed to block such instances of fraud. But, in spite of the numerous reports, they have since claimed to have been unable to verify any violations. 

September 19:

Massive reforms of Russia's federal police system are expected ahead of the 2018 presidential elections. 
The Moscow Times reports that a new "State Security Ministry" will be established shortly, giving the Federal Security Service (FSB) all the trappings and powers of its previously defunct predecessor, the KGB. The new ministry is also expected to combine the Foreign Intelligence Service and most of the Federal Protective Service - which guards the country's high ranking officials - and to have procedural oversight over the Federal Investigative Committee and the Interior Ministry. 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The announcement reflects a further effort by the government of President Vladimir Putin to centralize control over - and command greater loyalty among - the country's various, and often territorial, security services amid deepening economic recession and ballooning public debt.] 

September 20:

Observers and analysts now say that the recent Duma elections witnessed massive electoral fraud on a scale comparable to that which occurred in 2011, when mass street protests erupted. 
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that analysts believe about 12 million votes were falsified in favor of the ruling "United Russia" party, giving it a total of 343 deputies in the 450 seat lower house of parliament. While officials have so far annulled results from three polling stations implicated in fraud, they continue to maintain that there were no systematic falsifications in the voting - a claim that video evidence and data analysis increasingly have disproven. 

The U.S. government has determined that Russia was most likely responsible for a recent attack on a UN humanitarian convoy in Syria. 
According to the New York Times, the attack came as the U.S. and Russia were attempting to maintain a tenuous ceasefire in Syria. The convoy had been carrying much-needed humanitarian aid through the province of Aleppo, a region incessantly barraged by Syrian and Russian military attacks. The UN has called the attack a possible war crime. 

September 21:

Russia and Ukraine have provisionally agreed to withdraw troops from three front line areas in eastern Ukraine,
reports Deutsche Welle. The agreement is intended to dampen violence between the two sides in a conflict which has killed 9,600 civilians and soldiers since it began in 2014. In order to maintain peace and order, the OSCE will be working to monitor the notional ceasefire. However, there is skepticism about the viability of the newest agreement, since the 2014 Minsk accord did little to mitigate the violent conflict between the Ukrainians and the pro-Russian rebels in the Donbas region of Ukraine.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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