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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2147

Putin's mandate, and next year's election;
Are Russian hackers at it again?

Edited by Amanda Azinheira and Philip Decker
August 7, 2017


July 5:

Russia is motivating private military contractors operating in Syria with promises of mining and oil extraction rights on territory that they liberate from the Islamic State,
reports the New York Times. The Syrian government, eager to put an end to ISIS activities on Syrian soil, has apparently consented to this arrangement. Companies involved include Evro Polis, which has been promised access to oil and gas wells, and Stroytransgaz, which has a claim on a Syrian phosphate mine. These businesses are affiliated with security companies that employ upwards of 2,500 Russian fighters in Syria.

Russians overwhelmingly support Vladimir Putin in the country's 2018 presidential election,
the Levada polling agency has found. When asked "Who would you like to see in the post of President of Russia after the upcoming presidential elections?" 66 percent of respondents in a recent Levada study stated their preferred candidate to be Putin, while 18 percent answered "someone else" and 16 percent answered that "it doesn't matter." Asked what direction they would like Russian domestic policy to go, nearly half (42 percent) said that they preferred the status quo, while a third (34 percent) said Russian politics should become "more conservative." Just 12 percent of respondents, meanwhile, appear to believe that Russian society should become "more liberal."

[EDITORS' NOTE: Given the effect of Russia's increasingly authoritarian political climate on pollsters and respondents alike, the results of public opinion surveys in Russia should be viewed with some caution.]

July 6:

The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation have announced that American nuclear plants have been targeted by hackers.
The New York Times reports that attackers are known to have infiltrated the plants by sending fake resumes laced with malware to engineers at the installation. Although the origin of the hackers is unknown, cyber experts have determined that their footprint resembles that of the Russian hacking group referred to as "Energetic Bear," which has been attacking American energy infrastructure since 2012.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely run for reelection as an independent,
The Moscow Times reports. Putin currently belongs to "United Russia," the largest party in the Duma, but has run as an independent in previous elections. "United Russia" has been described by analysts as a "party of power," meaning that it revolves around Putin and has little independence of its own. However, Putin is popular and Kremlin insiders believe that running as an independent would allow him to appeal to all Russians during the upcoming campaign. Although the president has not officially announced his candidacy for reelection, he is expected to run and to be easily reelected, especially because it does not appear that he will have any serious challengers.

July 7:

The Defense Intelligence Agency has revived a key Cold War-era military publication,
reports the Washington Free Beacon. The report, entitled Russia Military Power, asserts that information warfare is an important component of the Kremlin's foreign policy. Russian activities in this sphere include state-level cyberwarfare, the spread of disinformation and pro-Russian propaganda, and the recruitment private hacker groups. In future conflicts, the study contends, Russia will seek to create a so-called "information blockade" which disorients the enemy with an onslaught of conflicting information and cyberattacks. DIA Director Vincent Stewart has urged the United States to "anticipate, rather than to react, to Russian actions."

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny has been freed from jail,
reports TASS. Navalny, who served a sentence of twenty-five days for organizing illegal protests, was arrested in the wake of last month's demonstrations across Russia. His sentence had originally been thirty days' imprisonment, but was commuted by a Moscow court after appeals by Navalny's legal team. Navalny, himself a lawyer, is considered to be the leader of Russia's opposition. He is, however, a controversial figure in Russian politics, and currently ineligible to run for the presidency in 2018 due to past felony convictions - convictions which he claims were politically motivated and designed to stop him from challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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