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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2146

Russia gets its way in Syria;
Beijing bullish on ties with Moscow

Edited by Amanda Azinheira, Tyler Russell and Philip Decker
August 4, 2017

June 30:

According to U.S. News & World Report, Russia has declined to submit its annual contribution to the Council of Europe for 2017. The move comes in response to the Russian delegation at the Council being deprived of its right to vote. The delegation originally lost its voting rights as a result of Russia's seizure of Crimea in 2014, and the continued disenfranchisement has now spurred the Kremlin into action. Russia's Foreign Ministry has declared that Moscow will send no more money to the Council until the delegation's rights are "fully restored."

July 1:

Despite strong opposition from citizens over the past few months, Russian President Vladimir Putin has officially signed into law a bill authorizing the demolition and renovation of 4,500 apartment buildings in Moscow.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the project will cost upwards of $61 billion, and will displace hundreds of thousands of residents.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin is planning for the renovations to begin in September. Authorities have ensured residents that they will only destroy apartment blocks if two-thirds of the apartments' residents vote in favor. However, given that officials will count apartments that do not vote as having given their approval, citizens are not at all confident that the voting results will be legitimate.

July 2:

Ukraine's state Security Service, the SBU, has accused Russia of responsibility for a cyberattack that hit Ukraine and sixty other nations earlier this week,
reports the BBC. Although Russia has denied all involvement, and Russian companies were also affected by the virus, the SBU claims it is in possession of data proving the connection. The SBU has also argued that the attackers used ransom demands as a "cover" to deflect attention away from the virus' state-level origins, and that its true purpose was to create chaos among governments and corporations worldwide.

July 3:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that the sole goal of the U.S. in Syria is the elimination of ISIS,
Foreign Policy reports. The comments, part of Tillerson's recent discussion with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, suggest that the Trump administration is willing to allow Russia to determine whether or not Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad will stay in power.

The remarks are a notable departure from Tillerson's statement back in April that called for "work[ing] collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving." As such, FP notes, it reflects the Secretary's attempts to "begin to rebuild some level of trust" with Moscow.

July 4:

Sino-Russian ties are currently at their "best time in history," Chinese President Xi Jinping recently told Russian reporters.
According to CNBC, Presidents Xi and Putin have met in Moscow to sign a new agreement guaranteeing $10 billion of investment linked to infrastructure projects linked to China's "One Belt One Road" initiative. The two leaders also issued a joint statement calling for the cessation of North Korean missile tests and of U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises.

Delegations from Iran, Turkey, and Russia are meeting in the Kazakh capital of Astana to discuss the possibility of allowing the Russian military to patrol de-escalation zones in Syria.
Reuters reports that while all parties agreed to the creation of four such zones in May, they have yet to work out the specifics of the arrangement. Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev, believes that, "depending on when the documents on safe-zones are signed... one should expect concrete measures on the deployment of troops within 2-3 weeks."

Related Categories: Middle East; Russia; Iraq; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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