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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2114
An HIV epidemic... and official neglect;
Cyber target: Ukraine
Edited by Amanda Azinheira
January 30, 2017
Russian energy giant Gazprom has contracted with Stroygazmontazh, a national oil and gas contractor, to build the new Ukhta-Torzhok 2 pipeline. According to Sputnik, the $653.9 million contract envisions Stroygazmontazh building three segments of a 173-mile section of the pipeline which will service northwestern Russia. The new energy route is vital to the Kremlin's energy plans, providing the country with a new, northwestern route to export energy, as well as supplying energy for domestic use.
Russia could soon have a new military base of operations for its ongoing campaign in Syria. Itar-TASS reports that Iran's government has signaled its readiness to enter into negotiations with Moscow over the possibility of the latter using the Hamedan air base in northwestern Iran as a launchpad for aerial operations in support of the Assad regime. "Since we're cooperating with Russia in struggle with terrorism, we're given some privileges to it as regards the landings and takeoffs of combat aircraft and we'll consider these privileges for Russia again when we feel it necessary and if Russia makes a request for them," Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan has confirmed.
According to the New York Times, over one million Russians have now been diagnosed with HIV, marking the highest infection rate in Europe and among the most widespread national epidemics in the world. However, the problem is not being adequately addressed by Russian lawmakers, due to the intense stigma attached to the disease within the country. According to Vadim Pokrovsky, the head of the Moscow-based Federal AIDS Center, Russia's HIV epidemic "can already be considered a threat to the entire nation."
The policy ball remains squarely in Vladimir Putin's court, given the Russian president's extensive power over governmental spending. As yet, however, Putin hasn't given the issue much attention, and funding for HIV research and treatment - at just $338 million annually - remains minimal. The disease, meanwhile, has been stigmatized by the Russian Orthodox Church, which has called for "moral education" and the "establishment of family values, ideals of chastity and marital fidelity" as the best way to combat it.
Russian state officials are no longer allowed to own foreign assets through third parties. According to The Moscow Times, the new order is part of the National Anti-Corruption Plan imposed by President Putin, and applies to members of the Russian parliament, law enforcement officers, and other officials. Under the language of the law, any assets either physically located or registered abroad are defined as being "foreign" in nature.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: On its face, the new law, an expansion of legislation passed in 2013 and intended to ban offshore bank accounts, is an attempt by the Russian government to combat corruption. However, it also serves a secondary purpose: to make it more difficult for capital to leave the country, thereby shoring up Russia's ailing economy.]
Russia is continuing to wage cyberwar against Ukraine, the country’s president, Petro Poroshenko, has charged. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the Ukrainian government estimates Russian hackers have targeted state institutions approximately 6,500 times in the last two months. "The investigation of a number of incidents indicated the complicity directly or indirectly of Russian security services waging a cyberwar against our country," Poroshenko has told reporters. "Acts of terrorism and sabotage on critical infrastructure facilities remain possible today."