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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2135

A new activism among Russians;
Russia's stock rises in the Mideast

Edited by Amanda Azinheira
May 31, 2017

April 29:

Protests are on the rise in Russia.
The New York Times reports that thousands of people across the country have participated in a protest initiated by former oil tycoon-turned opposition activist Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Russia organization, just a month after widespread anti-corruption protests brought thousands to the streets in various Russian cities. The protesters in the most recent rallies presented letters listing grievances to their local officials, and called for Russian President Vladimir Putin not to seek a fourth term in office in the country's upcoming elections, slated to take place next year.

May 1:

Russia is expanding its military capabilities in the Black Sea region.
According to the United States Naval Institute, Russia has installed a modern mobile electronic warfare system in Crimea in order to eavesdrop on U.S. ships in the Black Sea - as well as to potentially jam Alliance communications. The installation of the Murmansk BN system in March was a direct reaction by Moscow to an increased U.S. and NATO presence in the region. The system is designed to collect signals from adversary ships, as well as to jam high frequency communications.

May 2:

Muscovites are up in arms over a new government plan to knock down old Kruschev-era low income housing and relocate its residents. The plan was conceived as a PR move for President Putin to help fix the city's deteriorating housing situation in the run-up to the 2018 elections. The vague wording of the legislation, however, has many residents worried. The relevant bill states that any building within the "renovation zone" or any "structurally similar" building can be demolished by authorities, with no definition as to what criteria would be used to judge "similar" structures.
According to the Carnegie Moscow Center, the outcry over the plan may be enough to spark protests during elections and may have a more lasting political effect by encouraging collective action among affected communities.

May 3:

The Kremlin's multiple interventions in the Middle East are reshaping attitudes there in its favor. According to the most recent Arab Youth Survey, Russia has replaced the U.S. as the most valued international ally among young Arabs,
reports the Financial Times. Twenty-one percent of respondents in the poll, carried out by public relations firm ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller, identified Russia as their country's most trusted ally, more than double the number from the previous year. The number of respondents who viewed the U.S. as their country's biggest ally, by contrast, dropped by 8 points, to 17 percent. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, however, ranked as the most important allies in the eyes of young Arabs, garnering 36 and 34 percent support, respectively.

May 4:

U.S. fighter jets have intercepted Russian warplanes off the coast of Alaska, just one month after four similar Russian missions were detected near U.S. airspace,
reports CBS News. While the Russian planes did not violate U.S. airspace, American officials fear that the increased number of flights in close proximity to the United States could represent a response to the White House's missile strike against a Syrian air base in April, or a sign that Moscow has begun training anew for regular long range bomber flights, which were a staple of Cold War tensions between Washington and Moscow.

May 5:

As part of multilateral peace talks over Syria, Russia, Iran, and Turkey have signed a memorandum on the establishment of "de-escalation zones" in the country.
UA Wire reports that Russia was the party that proposed the agreement, which creates four separate such zones. Under the plan, the use of weapons of any kind will be prohibited within the zones, and the parties will take measures to rebuild infrastructure and facilitate the activities of humanitarian organizations there. The agreement, however, also permits foreign military contingents to be deployed in the security zones. Notably, a delegation of Syrian opposition figures suspended its participation in the talks prior to the passage of the memorandum, and does not support the signed agreement.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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