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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2131

Corruption protests, and crackdowns;
Moscow courts Managua

Edited by Amanda Azinheira, Kaitlyn Johnson and Garrett Lynch
May 4, 2017

April 2: 

Russian police have detained at least 59 opposition protesters who participated in an unsanctioned anti-corruption demonstration in central Moscow. The arrests come a week after authorities rounded up more than 1,000 who took part in the largest anti-government protests in Russia in the past five years on March 26th. 
According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Russian government has already announced it has opened a criminal investigation against the unidentified individuals who called for the April 2nd protests, and authorities reportedly blocked access to a number of internet websites calling for the demonstrations before they occurred. 

April 3:

A new survey by the Levada Center, an independent pollster, reveals that discontent with state corruption has grown appreciably over the past year. Roughly 31 percent of those polled said citizens should demand more from the state (up from 25 percent in March 2016) while 65 percent of respondents described the level of government corruption as "absolutely intolerable." The data, 
notes The Moscow Times, reflects a refocusing on domestic issues by the Russian public as attention to the Kremlin's interventions in Ukraine and Syria diminishes.

[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.] 

April 4:

Moscow is continuing its crackdown on corruption with the arrest of the governor of Russia's Udmurtia region. 
According to The Moscow Times, authorities suspect that Alexander Soloviev accepted 140 million rubles ($2.5 million) in bribes from local construction firms between 2014 and 2016 in exchange for diverting public money toward the construction of a bridge close to the town of Kambarka, as well as granting a number of licenses to mine the area. Soloviev's is the latest in a string of high-profile arrests linked to bribery and government corruption over the past year. The list of those apprehended for graft to date also includes the former governor of Russia's Kirov region, Nikita Belykh, and former Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev. 

A bombing in a St. Petersburg's metro station has killed 14 people and wounded at least 60, 
reports the New York Times. Russian officials have identified the bomber as a Russian citizen of Kyrgyz origin, although it is not yet clear whether the suspect had established links to the Islamic State or other transnational terrorist groups. 

April 6:

Kremlin authorities may now be talking of an economic turnaround, but ordinary Russians are continuing to struggle under deeply adverse conditions. 
According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the number of Russians living below the minimum acceptable income level established by the Russian government has now reached its highest point since 2006. A drop in the price of world oil, coupled with soaring commodity prices, has caused the number of Russians living in poverty to rise to 19.8 million - an increase of 300,000 over 2015 figures. 

April 7:

In response to the Trump administration's missile strike on Syria, Russia has suspended a bilateral agreement intended to improve safety and minimize incidents between Russian and U.S. planes over Syria, 
reports the Washington Post. The agreement allowed for the exchange of information between the two countries regarding the flight patterns of coalition forces. Russia has decried the U.S. strike as an illegitimate action in violation of the U.S.-Russia memorandum. 

April 8:

Moscow is trying to rekindle a Cold War-era client relationship. As part of its renewed interest in Latin America, 
reports the Washington Post, the Kremlin has begun increasing its economic activities and military presence in Nicaragua. Under the umbrella of joint anti-narcotics cooperation, Russia is selling arms, sending soldiers, and building facilities in the Central American nation - activities and installations that some U.S. officials fear could be used to expand electronic surveillance of the U.S.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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