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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2117
The dismal state of domestic rights... and labor;
For Russians, it's better to be feared
Edited by Amanda Azinheira and Kaitlyn Johnson
February 15, 2017
Russia's internal human rights conditions deteriorated further in 2016, a leading human rights watchdog has assessed. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the annual assessment of Human Rights Watch has noted that, over the past year, and in response to demonstrations against voter fraud and other abnormalities, the Russian government's restrictions of personal freedoms and liberties has expanded. The results, it details, is a further constriction of the "already shrinking space for free expression, association and assembly" within Russia, as well as "intensified persecution of independent critics."
The Washington Post reports that, in an overture to the incoming U.S. administration, Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited president-elect Donald Trump to attend upcoming Syrian peace talks in Kazakhstan. The invitation was reportedly extended to the new White House during a phone conversation between Russia's U.S. ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and National Security Advisor-designate Gen. Michael Flynn. The incoming administration has signaled that it has not yet made a decision regarding attendance at the upcoming summit, which is slated to take place in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, later this month.
Unemployment remains rampant in Russia. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, while economic conditions within Russia have improved slightly thanks to rising oil prices, the country's overall job outlook is "not improving." "This is mainly because economic growth is based on a narrow range of commodity sectors, which have limited potential to generate jobs," notes the International Labor Organization, a UN agency. In fact, by its estimates, "joblessness will actually rise in Russia" in the near future, and out-migration by job seekers will constrict the size of the national labor force.
Russians believe the world sees their country as a threat. According to Interfax, a late December survey carried out by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center found that 86 percent of respondents are convinced that other countries see Russia as a danger to their security, while three-quarters of those people believe that this is a good thing. Furthermore, approximately half of all Russians polled believe that the world has a negative overall view of Russia.
[EDITORS' NOTE: Given the effect of Russia's increasingly authoritarian political climate on pollsters and respondents alike, the results of public opinion surveys in Russia should be viewed with some caution.]
Is president-elect Donald Trump mulling the lifting of sanctions on Russia in exchange for a new nonproliferation agreement? Reuters, citing the London Times, reports that the new White House is considering the possible lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia because of its involvement in Ukraine in exchange for further reductions in the Russian nuclear stockpile that could be undertaken by the Kremlin.
Russia's new economy minister, Maxim Oreshkin, has suggested that Russia should prioritize competitive markets over privatization. "If you simply privatize a large state-owned company that dominates a particular market, you won't improve the competition situation and there won't be a significant positive impact on growth," the Financial Times reports Oreshkin as saying in his first major interview to foreign media. In a departure from recent Kremlin policy, which has concentrated on privatizing a number of state-controlled firms as a way of stabilizing the country's rickety economy, Oreshkin suggested that the answer to the country's