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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2126
Medvedev's crooked dealings;
The Kremlin monkeys with election procedures
Edited by Amanda Azinheira, Kaitlyn Johnson and Garrett Lynch
April 10, 2017
The Anti-Corruption Foundation has accused Russian Prime Minister (and former President) Dmitri Medvedev of using his government posts to enrich both himself and his associates in a detailed online report. According to the study, Medvedev has "created a corrupt network of charity foundations that he uses to get bribes from oligarchs and to maniacally build himself palaces and dachas all around the country," while also using his extensive wealth to buy up vineyards and yachts. Aside from receiving bribes from oligarchs and credits from large Russian companies, the study asserts, the success of Medvedev's machinations stem from his utilization of multiple "puppet" charity foundations, such as the Dar Foundation, which the Prime Minister leverages as fronts to mask his financial dealings and acquisitions.
The Baltic states are not ready to counter a potential Russian attack, a panel of leading international security experts has warned lawmakers. USNI News reports that, in recent testimony before the House Armed Services Committee's Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee, a trio of experts detailed that a recent war-game simulation held by the RAND Corporation found the NATO alliance is currently "unprepared" to effectively counter a Russian land offensive against the Baltics - and that its defenses would collapse within 36-60 hours of a Russian invasion. The experts, who hailed from RAND and the Center for Strategic & International Studies, urged the deployment of additional armored brigades to the Alliance's eastern periphery in order to enhance deterrence against a resurgent Russian threat.
Russia is pushing back against recommendations of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on how to combat police brutality. According to The Moscow Times, the recommendations were issued by the ECHR last Fall in response to a complaint filed by Tatiana Shmeleva, whose son Denis Vyrzhikovsky was beaten to death while in police detention back in 2010. The Russian government has acknowledged that police violated Vyrzhikovsky's right to life and humane treatment, and the five officers allegedly involved in Vyrzhikovsky's torture have been tried in court twice. However, their convictions were overturned by an appellate court in 2015. Officially, meanwhile, the Kremlin has declined to take a more intensive look at the issue - despite the existence of two other cases of acknowledged police torture.
The Russian government is proposing a flurry of changes to political procedures in the run-up to next year's elections. According to Kommersant, starting in 2018, current legal language explicitly allowing video surveillance of polling locations will be removed from legislation, making it harder for election observers to catch cases of election fraud. The absentee process is also being simplified in an attempt to remove barriers for Russian citizens to vote. However, some experts worry that the new absentee structure could allow for citizens to more easily cast multiple votes. Additionally, in a move ostensibly aimed at further simplifying the voting process, Russia's regions will now be allowed to increase the number of operational polling stations.
The Washington Post reports that the Russian government and affiliated media outlets have dismissed recent corruption allegations leveled against Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, stating that they are nothing more than an attention-grabbing stunt by a "self-proclaimed" presidential candidate with no chance of winning. Navalny's organization has issued a documentary that charges Medvedev funneled more than $1 billion in bribes through charities and companies run by his associates, and claims that the premier has used this ill-gotten wealth to purchase palaces, vineyards and luxury yachts. Russia's netizens, however, have been far less dismissive of the accusations, with the video receiving more than five million views on Youtube, and with many viewers commenting that they support its conclusions.
As part of its attempts to overhaul the country's banking system, Russia's government is attempting to dismantle "Potemkin" banks - financial institutions that are insolvent, fictitious or engage in broad-based criminal activity. Reuters reports that a top banking official has disclosed that the Kremlin is planning to extend its review of bank licenses and shutter more banks in the next two years.
"Our work to clean up the banking system is sometimes much more like the work of a financial investigator, an investigator of financial crimes, than the work of a modern banking regulator, which checks whether a bank is sufficiently capitalized or not," Vasily Pozdyshev, a deputy governor at Russia's central bank, has told the news agency. "We are up against a whole business of creating fictitious borrowers... This is a whole virtual world managed by IT programs and servers which very often aren't located in the bank."