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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2108

Russia's health system gets sicker;
The costs of Putin's military campaigns

Edited by Amanda Azinheira
January 3, 2017

November 21: 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has worked diligently for years to convey the image of Russia as a resurgent superpower and global force. The country's deteriorating health care system, however, suggests otherwise. 
According to Newsweek, Russian health care is suffering from outdated equipment, lack of medicines, and a lack of specialists, with 17,500 Russian towns and villages having no medical infrastructure to speak of. Meanwhile, doctors and nurses are woefully underpaid, and make on average $250 monthly - only slightly above the country's official poverty level. 

The image that emerges is of a very Soviet-style health care system, one that is riddled with corruption, operates at a financial deficit, and in which malfeasance reigns (including through doctors who are unwilling to administer painkillers to the terminally ill). But the worst may still be to come. The Russian government apparently wants to cut the federal health budget by 33 percent in 2017, a move that observers say will fundamentally cripple the country's health conditions. 

November 22:

Russia is moving to militarize its East Asian holdings. 
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the Kremlin has deployed Bastion and Bal coastal missile systems on the disputed Kuril Islands in the Pacific. The decision escalates the longstanding territorial dispute between Russia and Japan over the disposition of the islands, which were seized by the USSR at the end of World War II. 

November 23:

Russia's Ministry of Defense has financed the funerals of one thousand soldiers in the past four years, spending about 5.9 billion rubles in 2016 alone, 
reports The Moscow Times. The data provides new insight into a traditionally opaque area; statistics on servicemember deaths were last officially published in 2009, and numbers for the past six years are only projected based upon the calculations of the RBC news agency. Other observers, have an even grimmer assessment. According to Sergei Krivenko, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, Russia may have lost as many 300 servicemembers between 2014 and 2015 - with half of that number resulting from Russia's ongoing military operations in Ukraine. 

November 25:

Is Moscow preparing to move on Belarus? 
Writing on the website, analyst Andrew Santarovich suggests that the Kremlin is preparing to open a "second Ukrainian front" against Belarus. "In 2017, Russia's armed forces are going to dramatically increase the volume of rail transport in Belarus," Santarovich writes - a step that suggests Russia plans "to transfer to the territory of Belarus, a significant part of the personnel of the newly re-created the 1st Guards Tank Army of the Western Military District, and deploy there a large military grouping." The goals of such a move might be manifold, Santarovich suggests. It could be a precursor to an invasion of Belarus itself, or a staging area for a further invasion of Ukraine, or "to connect with the military of the Armed Forces faction in the Kaliningrad region" and thereby create a "Baltic boiler" situation. 

November 26:

Moscow may be behind the recent coup attempt in Montenegro, according to a pro-Russian mercenary detained in Montenegro who is now speaking out about the alleged plot to seize Montenegro's parliament building and kill the Prime Minister. Akelsandar Sindjelic has admitted to being part of the plot, and claims he visited Moscow where he met with Russian officials to plan the operation, 
reports the New York Times. The purported coup attempt comes amid growing Montenegrin moves toward the West, with the country recently being accepted into NATO.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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