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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2111

Assessing Putin's political future;
Russian hacking controversy gathers steam

Edited by Amanda Azinheira
January 11, 2017

December 7: 

As part of its effort to shore up its flagging federal reserves, the Russian government is poised to sell 19.5 percent of state oil company Rosneft to Swiss commodity trading firm Glencore and the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar. The $11 billion deal, 
the New York Times reports, was outlined to Russian President Vladimir Putin by the company's chief executive, Igor Sechin, in a televised meeting. Under the agreement, Glencore and the Qatari government will hold equal portions of the share. 

December 8:

Russia continues to actively develop its nuclear capabilities, recently testing a nuclear-capable drone submarine that the Pentagon has dubbed "Kanyon." The test - entailing the launch of the "Kanyon" from a Sarov-class Russian sub in late November, was detected by U.S. intelligence agencies, 
the Washington Free Beacon reports. "U.S. intelligence agencies estimate the Kanyon secret underwater drone will be equipped with megaton-class warheads - the largest nuclear weapons in existence, with the killing power of millions of tons of TNT," the news website notes. 

December 9:

U.S. intelligence agencies now have "high confidence" that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election. 
The New York Times reports that the Russian meddling - in the form of electronic hacking of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), among other institutions - is believed to have been carried out with the goal of boosting Donald Trump's chances in his political rivalry with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Officials familiar with the controversy note that, while many confidential DNC documents were leaked to the press in the months leading up to November vote, no Republican files were - something that, they say, reflects a Russian preference for the president-elect. 

December 10:

Is Russian President Vladimir Putin heading into his final term in office? At least one prominent opposition figure seems to think so. According to former oil tycoon - and current opposition activist - Mikhail Khodorkovsky, while Putin will invariably prevail in Russia's presidential election next year, the president might seek a political exit thereafter. Khodorkovsky 
has told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Putin will invariably face difficulties with the new generation of officials, who can best be described as "regional barons" or "siloviki," and with whom the Kremlin has had to barter in order to preserve Putin's hold on power among increasingly negative domestic and global conditions. That compact, Khodorkovsky asserts, might prompt Putin to bow out of a third term in 2024. 

December 11:

The controversy over Russia's alleged hacking of the U.S. elections continues. The CIA has judged that Russia did indeed intervene in the recent presidential contest in support of Republican candidate Donald Trump. 
The New York Times reports that the agency based its analysis on "overwhelming circumstantial evidence" - a claim that Mr. Trump has rejected. Notably, the CIA's domestic counterpart, the FBI, does not seem to share the Agency's view. According to the Times, the Bureau is skeptical that the circumstantial evidence adds up to proof. Nevertheless, the mounting furor has generated a bipartisan movement on Capitol Hill for a more comprehensive investigation into the matter. 

December 13:

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has announced his intention to run in the 2018 presidential election, 
reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Navalny plans to run on a platform that emphasizes an end to Russia's international isolation, pledging to using funds currently lost to institutionalized corruption and spent on military interventions abroad for hospitals and education. Navalny has also said he would give more power to Russia's regions, reversing the trend of centralization that has taken place under President Putin. 

Navalny, however, faces daunting political challenges. The blogger and activist may have difficulty getting on the ballot in the first place, due to the numerous politically motivated trials against him for presumed "financial crimes." Ultimately, the news agency notes, it will be the decision of Putin himself whether to allow Navalny on the ballot - although Navalny's public announcement will make it harder for the Kremlin to ban his candidacy outright.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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