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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2143

Ahead of the World Cup, an emerging soccer scandal;
Backward from government transparency

Edited by Amanda Azinheira, Tyler Russell and Philip Decker
July 17, 2017

June 14:

Human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch has logged a number of cases of abuse, poor working conditions and lack of pay among workers employed on stadium projects for the 2018 World Cup, which is to be held in Russia. Jane Buchanan, HRW's associate director for Europe and Central Asia, claims that "construction workers on World Cup stadiums face exploitation and abuse, and FIFA has not yet shown that it can effectively monitor, prevent, and remedy these issues,"
Reuters reports.

For its part, FIFA, the governing body overseeing the sport of soccer worldwide, is denying the allegations. The organization has announced that it has already investigated conditions in Russia, and that its findings do not corroborate those of HRW. Furthermore, FIFA has maintained, the responsibility of providing for the employees of these projects ultimately falls on Russian authorities.

The controversial housing bill governing the demolition of a large segment of apartments in Moscow has passed its third and final hearing in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament. Despite massive protests across the city, the bill received overwhelming support among lawmakers, with only two votes against,
The Moscow Times reports.

June 15:

Does the Russian mafia enjoy impunity in the United Kingdom?
News website Buzzfeed has published a series of reports based on new U.S. intelligence suggesting that the Russian mafia has been behind the assassination of at least 14 people on British soil over the past few years. Even more disturbing is the unwillingness of British law enforcement agencies to open any investigation into the deaths. In one report, new evidence shows that the 2014 death of multi-millionaire fixer Scot Young ultimately resulted from Young's involvement with the late Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, yet British police continue to claim that suicide was the cause of Young's death. "The Brits made a deal years ago that the Russians could come in and spend money on housing and stimulate the economy and they’ll look the other way," the news site reports one senior U.S. intelligence officer as saying.

The State Duma has just passed the second reading of a proposed bill that would enable the Federal Protective Service to withhold the "personal data" of key government officials and their families,
the Meduza news portal reports. The bill's vague wording could apply to anything from bank account information to information concerning real estate owned by those individuals in Russia and abroad. Ilya Shumanov, the deputy general director of Transparency International Russia, warns that such legislation would obstruct "not just citizen investigations, but investigative work by the state authorities." Nevertheless, the bill stands a high chance of passing, having been put forward by President Putin himself.

June 16:

New cracks are beginning to emerge in the already-fragile transatlantic consensus over sanctions against Russia. Most recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced her strong objections to the U.S. Senate's move to strengthen sanctions against Russia in response to the Kremlin's aggression in Ukraine, its deployment of nuclear weapons, and its interference in U.S. elections,
reports the Financial Times.

June 18:

According to the Times of London, civilians are being kidnapped and tortured in eastern Ukraine as Russian-backed separatists continue to wage war against Ukrainian armed forces in the Donbas region. Hundreds of civilians are said to have been imprisoned, tortured or beaten to death in poor conditions, while citizens of Eastern Ukraine report that in certain areas rule of law has broken down almost entirely. Pro-Russian separatists in the region, as well as Russian forces deployed there, often use captives as tools for propaganda and as bargaining chips to obtain pardons for militants seized by Kyiv. Human rights groups have accused Ukrainian troops of similar abuses, but on a significantly smaller scale.

Reuters reports that NATO forces have carried out the first large scale defensive drill in the Baltic region in a show of solidarity with Baltic States nervous about possible Russian aggression. The exercises took place in the Suwalki Gap between Poland and Lithuania, and entailed a potential scenario in which Russia tries to cut off the Baltics from the rest of NATO. While Russia denies any plans for an attack and accuses NATO of threatening stability in eastern Europe by building up its military presence there, Alliance officials anticipate that the Kremlin will carry out an even larger military exercise in Russia and Belarus in September, including a mock invasion of the Suwalki Gap.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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