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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2137

Moscow versus the World Wide Web, again;
ore rights for the FSB, less rights for Russians

Edited by Amanda Azinheira
June 15, 2017

May 12:

The Kremlin is further tightening its grip on internet freedom in Russia. The Washington Times reports that a new decree signed by President Vladimir Putin has outlined a new strategy that prioritizes "traditional Russian spiritual and moral values" on the internet. The directive calls on the government to create new legislation that would further rein in online media and limit internet anonymity. It also seeks to replace foreign software and computer equipment used by the government with domestic products.

May 13:

A money laundering case stemming from the 2008 death of Russian lawyer and whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky has been settled just days before going to trial in the U.S. The tax fraud case initiated by federal prosecutors in New York, totaling $230 million, was the largest in Russian history and stemmed from graft uncovered by Magnitsky, who was arrested as a result, died in official custody and was posthumously charged with the very crime he helped to uncover. As part of the pre-trial settlement, the Russian entities involved have agreed to pay the U.S. government $6 million without admitting wrongdoing, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

May 14:

Has the Kremlin finally pushed Muscovites to the brink? Demonstrations have broken out in the Russian capital in response to a proposed law that would demolish and renovate some 4,500 apartments around the city, temporarily displacing approximately 10 percent of the city's population, reports the New York Times. Organizers say that up to 30,000 people participated in the demonstrations, drawing in a group of citizens who were previously politically apathetic. Protesters accused the government of trampling on their basic rights and even called on President Putin to leave office. In the wake of the protests, Moscow's mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, has called for major revisions as well as a delayed vote on the law.

Russia is once again at the center of a global hacking scandal, but this time as the victim. According to the New York Times, Russia was the country hardest hit by a global malware attack known as WannaCry. The virus tried to infect more computers in Russia than anywhere else, causing government computers to crash and banks, cellphone operators, and railroad systems to fend off encryption attacks. While Russian hackers have long been the pioneers of ransomware - the type of virus used in this attack - there is no evidence to suggest they were involved in this global attack. Some Russian officials have already accused the U.S. government of being behind the hack.

May 15:

As the 73rd anniversary of the Soviet deportation of Crimean Tatars approaches, the group again faces pressure in the form of arrests, searches, abductions, and killings under Russian control. For the fourth year in a row, Russian authorities have banned any traditional remembrance ceremonies for the Soviet-era crimes against the Tatars. According to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, the ban prevents Tatars from holding prayer gatherings, mass meetings or processions to honor the victims. Despite orders by the International Court of Justice to end the persecution, Moscow continues to repress the ethnic group, which is among the most outspoken critics of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

May 16:

A new decree signed by President Putin has expanded the already-extensive power of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) with respect to control of land and property. The new order, which updates a 2003 edict permitting the FSB to "make decisions within its authority regarding seizure of land or property for the needs of the Russian Federation," effectively authorizes the agency to confiscate private land for state purposes at will, according to the Independent Barents Observer. Moreover, unlike the practice of "eminent domain" in the United States, the law provides no mention of the possibility of appeal by property owners, or of defined compensation for property unilaterally taken. The new order, observers say, will likely be implemented in territories along Russia's border, where the FSB has authority and where companies are now investing billions in new infrastructure and real estate.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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