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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2123
The Duma rides to Putin's defense;
Second thoughts about Trump in Moscow
Edited by Amanda Azinheira and Kaitlyn Johnson
March 17, 2017
VladimirChairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin has called for legislation that would legally protect the "honor and dignity of the Russian president." According to The Moscow Times, Volodin - who previously served as Putin's deputy chief of state - has claimed that such laws are already commonplace everywhere else in the world, setting a precedent for Russia to implement the same. In making his case for the legislation during a speech at a university in Tatarstan, Volodin also equated the current president to the essence of the state itself. "Where there's Putin, there's Russia - when there's no Putin, there's no Russia," he opined.
The Kremlin is selecting a new wave of regional governors ahead of elections this Fall. In one week, three of Russia's governors have stepped down and declared that they are not standing for reelection in September, when Russians go to the polls to select representatives for parliament and various regional and municipal posts. According to Meduza, it is accepted practice for governors to step down after two terms, allowing the president to appoint a temporary replacement. The Kremlin-approved candidate then has time to master the position and gain support, thus virtually guaranteeing a win in the election. State run media groups are now saying it is likely that four more governors will step down in the near future, with their replacements already having been chosen.
Ukraine is facing a new barrage of cyberattacks which Oleksandr Tkachuk, the head of the country's security service, has attributed to Russia's main state security organ, the FSB. Reuters reports that the most recent cyberattacks have targeted Ukraine's infrastructure, including its financial system and power grid, causing top Ukrainian cyber experts to cancel their trip to attend the RSA cyber security conference in San Francisco. Ukraine claims that Russia carried out 6,500 cyber attacks against it in November and December alone - charges that Moscow has denied.
In a shift away from its recent pro-Trump rhetoric, the Kremlin has asked Russian media to tone down favorable coverage of the newly-elected U.S. president. The Hill newspaper reports that the Kremlin is concerned that President Trump's policies now that he is in office will not reflect the pro-Russia position he touted during his campaign. The official instruction comes after a number of public criticisms of Russian behavior by both White House staff and President Trump himself.
Russia and Egypt are moving to reinstate regular flights between the two countries, reversing a moratorium on travel imposed after the October 2015 downing of a Russian airliner in Egyptian airspace by the Islamic State terrorist group. According to Egypt's Independent newspaper, Russia has ratified a safety protocol under which it will soon begin observing Egyptian aviation routines and practices. If Egypt adheres to the protocol and demonstrates a "commitment to the safety and security measures," the Russian government plans to resume flights in the near future, an official statement regarding the agreement has laid out.
Russian Ministry of Finance officials announced that the country will, by the end of 2017, repay all of the Soviet Union's foreign debts. Russia has drafted plans to pay off the final $125.2 million owed by Moscow to Bosnia and Herzegovina as the successor state of the former Yugoslavia. The agreement now awaits Bosnia and Herzegovina's signature, but if all goes as planned Russia will make this final payment before this summer, reports Meduza.
For the first time since April 2016, credit ratings agency Moody's has assessed the Russian economy as "stable" - a step up from the prior "negative" outlook the country had been given.Â According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the trend is attributable to several positive macroeconomic developments, among them lessening dependence on oil and gas revenues, as well as improved fiscal management, resulting in a gradual increase in savings. However, despite the positive outlook, Moody's still rated Russia's debt in the "junk" category.