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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2105

Firebase: Crimea;
Russian subversion in the Balkans

Edited by Amanda Azinheira
December 8, 2016

November 1: 

As part of a new plan to militarize Crimea, Moscow is reactivating multiple Soviet-built military facilities, building new bases, and stationing large numbers of soldiers on the peninsula. 
According to a report by Reuters, the Russian military buildup in Crimea now goes far beyond what existed while the region was under Kiev’s control, and totals 18 or more sites, "including naval bases, radar stations and airfields." While some of these installations harken back to Russia's Cold War presence in the region, some are "entirely new" - and highlight the growing militarization of what has effectively become the front line of Russia's increasingly tense geopolitical stand-off with NATO. 

November 2:

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov have both been added to Reporters without Borders' list of "enemies of the press," 
reports The Moscow Times. The two join a list of some 35 foreign officials, politicians and organizations - including Belarusian president Alexandr Lukashenko and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il - who are deemed to be active opponents of free media and press on a global scale. 

November 4:

Russia's military presence in and around Syria continues to expand. On November 1st, Russia's Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier reached the Mediterranean Sea escorted by three submarines equipped with Kalibr long-range cruise missiles. 
According to a report by the Institute for the Study of War, the development reflects a larger effort by Russia to escalate its military operations in Aleppo and Damascus "in order to tout its standing as a great power, reinforce its claims to be a credible partner against violent extremism, and reinvigorate domestic support for its continued participation in the Syrian Civil War." 

November 5:

The former governor of Kaliningrad, Yevgeny Zinichev, has been appointed deputy director of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB). A former bodyguard for President Putin, Zinichev previously worked in both the FSB and KGB for many years. As such, 
notes Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, his appointment should be seen as part of a large-scale and ongoing cabinet reshuffle being undertaken by Russia's president as a way to strengthen his political hand in the run-up to the country's presidential election in 2018. 

November 6:

Moscow is meddling anew in the Balkans. Montenegro's Chief Prosecutor has accused Russian nationalists of being behind a coup attempt and attempted assassination of the Balkan country's pro-Western prime minister. Milivoje Katnic has claimed that Russia organized the criminal group that planned an attack on the country's parliament on election day in order to bring a pro-Russian coalition to power, 
the Associated Press reports

November 7:

Russia's political leadership has played a central role in the creation of "one of the most aggressive cyber armies in the world," a new investigation has concluded. 
The Washington Free Beacon cites a new study by the independent Meduza news website in reporting that "senior Russian officials" carried out a broad-based campaign to recruit hackers for cyber units housed across various ministries and military divisions within the Russian federal bureaucracy. 

November 8:

The Kremlin has threatened to bar U.S. observers from Russian elections as retaliation for its officials being denied access to polling stations in three states during the U.S. presidential poll. 
According to The Moscow Times, the U.S. embassy in Moscow has been given an official warning via a diplomatic note that U.S. observers should not expect to be given accreditation for future elections in Russia unless they are part of an international mission.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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