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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2136

Crimea's coming water crisis;
How the Kremlin manages eastern Ukraine

Edited by Amanda Azinheira
June 13, 2017

May 6:

Protesters have gathered again in Moscow, this time to call for the revival of anti-governmental protests that erupted after Vladimir Putin's reelection to the presidency five years ago. The recent demonstration marked the fifth anniversary of the violent police crackdown that ended protests in 2011 and 2012, and drew support from Russians across the political spectrum.
The New York Times reports that, while the Interior Ministry has officially cited a turnout of around 1,000 people, the actual numbers were several times higher. As such, the gathering marks the latest in a string of relatively small but noteworthy demonstrations that have erupted in Russia in recent months.

May 7:

Despite its potential, Russia is trailing behind its counterparts in the BRICs bloc in renewable energy,
reports the Financial Times. Currently, 3.6 percent of Russia's total energy consumption comes from renewable energy sources, as compared to 25 percent for China and 45 percent for Brazil. According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Association, Russia has the potential for renewable energy to account for 11.3 percent of its energy consumption by 2030, but politics and a historical dependence of fossil fuels are holding it back.

May 9:

Is Moscow getting a taste of its own political medicine?
According to the Wall Street Journal, a group of hackers recently released the private emails of several Russian officials, prompting a renewed outcry against corruption and adding momentum to the anti-corruption protests organized by opposition activist Alexei Navalny last month. The incident marks just the latest hack of the Kremlin; last year, another hacking group similarly disclosed emails that contradicted the Kremlin's official narrative regarding the war in Ukraine, sparking outrage among ordinary Russians.

Russia's newest region is on the verge of a water crisis. Before its annexation by Moscow in 2014, the main source of water for the Crimean Peninsula was the Dnipro River, which runs under Ukraine's territory and provided Crimea with some 85 percent of its usable water. Access to the Dnipro, however, has become contentious since Crimea's absorption into the Russian Federation, with Russian authorities accusing Kyiv of blocking the supply of water to the territory. For their part, Ukrainian authorities pin the blame on mismanagement of hydrological resources by local Crimean officials. Additionally, Crimea now owes money to Ukraine for previously provided water, a debt that has caused Ukraine to build a dam on the border with Crimea that, as of earlier this year, became permanent.

The result,
Ukraine's Hromadske news portal reports, is a burgeoning water deficit in Crimea. There, local water sources can only cover 15 percent of demand, forcing residents to build more wells at deeper levels to make up the difference. But even this water supply is now running out, experts say.

May 11:

Despite Kremlin claims to the contrary, new evidence confirms that Moscow does indeed call the shots among rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine.
Reuters reports that three former rebel leaders have described in detail how Vladislav Surkov, a top aide to President Vladimir Putin, controls the pro-Moscow administration in Ukraine's contested Donbass region, including deciding who gets what position in the governmental hierarchy of the self-declared autonomous territories of the LPR and DPR. Surkov, the three men say, controls the situation on the ground via hand picked proxies who give him regular situation reports and through aides who rig local elections.

Is the White House backtracking on its support for Ukraine? A day after separately meeting with the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia, President Trump has called on the two countries to make peace, and presented the U.S. as a neutral peacemaker in the ongoing conflict. Trump's message marks a change in tone toward Kyiv,
notes the Wall Street Journal, and differs from the approach of the Obama administration, which demanded the termination of Russian aggression in Ukraine's east as a prerequisite for normalization during its time in office.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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