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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2118

The emptying of Crimea;
Moscow courts Moldova

Edited by Amanda Azinheira and Kaitlyn Johnson
February 22, 2017

January 17: 

Russia's existing gun laws are ineffective at combatting illegal gun ownership, which is on the rise. While the Russian National Guard issues gun licenses easily, the process is slow and requires ample paperwork. With these complications, 
Komsomoskaya Pravda reports, many Russians turn to the black market in an effort to circumvent the bureaucracy and speed up the process. The results are striking. Today, according to the paper, eighty percent of the 25 million privately owned guns in Russia are owned illegally. 

January 18:

The Russian government has granted notorious NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden permission to stay in the country for another two years, 
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. Further, according to Snowden's lawyer, the fugitive will also be allowed to apply for citizenship after living in Russia for five years. 

Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, nearly 170,000 Ukrainians have received Russian citizenship, 
reports Current Time. While the Russian government has not disclosed individual information on the new Russian citizens, it is clear that the majority are coming from Crimea. Nikolai Smorodin, the deputy head of the Federal Migration Service of Russia, has stated that in all, over 1.1 million Ukrainian citizens had moved to Russia at the beginning of 2016, with no intention of returning to Ukraine. 

January 19:

A recent poll by the Public Opinion Foundation has found that 45 percent of Russians are dissatisfied with the general situation in their country. Almost half those polled in the survey expressed dissatisfaction with the state of healthcare, the economy, and the social safety net in Russia, with most believing that the social safety net will not improve within the next 20 years. 47 percent of respondents, meanwhile, said they are satisfied with current conditions, 
reports The Moscow Times, which notes that a growing number of those polled are now refusing to answer polling questions, signaling a fear to speak negatively. 

[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.] 

January 20:

The Kremlin is trying a new tack in its ongoing efforts to sway its neighbors back into its geopolitical orbit. 
The Wall Street Journal reports that, in a new draft agreement between the two countries, Russian president Vladimir Putin has offered to relax tough immigration rules and lift the embargo on Moldovan wine if the former Soviet nation breaks ties with the EU by canceling its association agreement with the bloc. 

The new, more conciliatory approach marks a shift from Russia's traditionally hardline policy to its former bloc neighbors. It is one, moreover, that appears to be paying dividends. Moldova's pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon, has signaled that he will likely accept the deal if his party wins a parliamentary majority next year. "Our relations have entered a new era,” the Journal cites Dodon as saying.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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