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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2138

Moscow, Ankara normalize ties;
No compromise with Russia

Edited by Amanda Azinheira, Tyler Russell and Philip Decker
June 20, 2017

May 18:

The Kremlin has announced that all trade and travel restrictions with Turkey will be lifted this week. The news comes after the presidents of both countries concluded new agreements covering all outstanding trade issues earlier this month,
reports Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News. The restrictions were originally put in place during the diplomatic rift that formed between the two countries when Turkey shot down a Russian military jet back in 2015.

Is Russia's ruling party starting to lose support?
According to The Moscow Times, the Kremlin has terminated planned measures to increase voter turnout in the upcoming gubernatorial elections in five of the sixteen regions holding elections this September. Opposition candidates in Sverdlovsk, Yaroslavl, Kaliningrad, Kirov and Buryatia regions have garnered a considerable amount of support, leading officials in the ruling "United Russia" party to fear a loss in the upcoming elections should the proposed measures continue. The Kremlin was hoping for strong turnout in gubernatorial elections in order to garner support ahead of next year's presidential vote.

May 19:

Russia's government now has formal legal cover to erect an exclusionary nationalist identity. According to Valery Zorkin, the chief justice of Russia's Constitutional Court, the protection of human rights is secondary to state interests. Human rights should not threaten state sovereignty, undermine "the moral standards of society," or "disrupt its religious identity,"
The Moscow Times quotes Zorkin as saying.

The International Monetary Fund has improved its forecast for Russia's economic growth,
reports Reuters. Easier financial conditions and higher oil prices will help economic recovery and boost predicted GDP growth to 1.4 percent this year, up from the 1.1 percent projected earlier. Russia is climbing out of a two year recession due to effective governmental policies, coupled with ongoing Western sanctions and the low price of world oil. The IMF has warned, however, that the country's mid-term economic growth will remain low as a result of systemic disfunction.

May 21:

For a second time, and despite weeks of ongoing protests, Russian transport minister Maksim Sokolov has refused to meet and negotiate with representatives of striking long-haul truckers over a road tax implemented earlier this year. The stonewalling,
writes Paul Goble in his Window on Eurasia blog, has led the truckers to seek more formal legal remedies, and plans to widen the protests to include other societal groups. "[I]f representatives of the government and Minister Sokolov have taken a fine decision to ignore the strikers, then the strike will shift from an economic protest to a social-political one," Goble cites Maria Pazukhina of the Carriers Union as saying. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has begun pushing back against the protests, with police starting to making arrests in an effort to quell the unrest.

May 22:

Russia has filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization against Ukraine,
reports Reuters. The complaint details that Russia is facing a "universe of restrictions, prohibitions, requirements and procedures" from the Ukrainian government that adversely affect goods and services emanating from Russia. Ukraine will have 60 days to settle the dispute, after which Russia could ask the WTO to intervene.

May 23:

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has once again come under fire from Russian lawmakers, who are now calling for an investigation into the group.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the renewed pressure follows allegations by Natalya Poklonskaya, a state Duma deputy, that the organization could be colluding with the anti-corruption campaign of opposition activist Alexei Navalny. "Maybe it would be a good thing to investigate them for corruption. Because, as they say, a guilty mind betrays itself. Maybe that's why they yell louder than everyone else," Poklonskaya, a former Kremlin official in Crimea, said in a recent interview. For its part, Transparency has threatened that it will begin an investigation of its own into Poklonskaya.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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