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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2148

New concerns about Kaspersky;
Making an example out of official corruption

Edited by Amanda Azinheira and Philip Decker
August 17, 2017

July 10:

A new and controversial Russian website is helping Russian authorities to identify anti-corruption protesters who have recently rallied against the Kremlin. The website, administered anonymously and titled "Je Suis Maidan," uses identification software known as FindFace to ID protestors via their social media accounts. The site,
reports The Moscow Times, has already exposed the identities of hundreds of protesters, potentially imperiling the job security or university standing of participants in unsanctioned rallies.

July 11:

A prominent cybersecurity firm has found itself in the media spotlight amid mounting concerns over the cyber threat from Russia. Kaspersky Lab, the computer protection firm, is a leading name in its field, with a customer base of some 400 million. But increasingly public discussions over the threat posed by Russian hacking, and Kaspersky's links to the Russian government, are raising alarms in Washington,
Bloomberg reports. "The huge reach of Kaspersky's technology," the news website notes, "is partly the result of licensing agreements that allow customers to quietly embed the software in everything from firewalls to sensitive telecommunications equipment - none of which carry the Kaspersky name."

Another area of concern is the relationship between the firm and the Kremlin. As Bloomberg notes, "while the U.S. government hasn't disclosed any evidence of the ties, internal company emails obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek show that Kaspersky Lab has maintained a much closer working relationship with Russia's main intelligence agency, the FSB, than it has publicly admitted."

July 12:

The Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, has introduced legislation requiring social networks active in the Russian Federation to delete all content deemed "illegal" within 24 hours,
the Medusa Project reports. If the legislation passes, network administrators will have to process user complaints about comments or posts, assess whether or not the content is illegal, and delete the content if it is. The bill claims that illegal posts will comprise, among other things, content "clearly intended to promote war, incite ethnic, racial, or religious hatred and animosity." In practice, however, analysts are worried that the proposed law is a means for the Russian government to regulate internet content more closely and to tighten control over what is publicly stated on social media platforms.

July 14:

A spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry has declared that the Kremlin is running out of patience with the United States regarding the status of its diplomats there. In December 2016, the outgoing Obama administration expelled 35 Russian nationals believed to have been "spies" or intelligence operatives of a similar nature, and seized property belonging to the Russian government in New York and Washington. At the time, Russia did not retaliate in kind, claiming that it wanted to provide the incoming Trump administration with an opportunity to "build the bilateral relationship on the basis of mutual respect." Now, however, the Foreign Ministry claims that it will not wait much longer for relations to improve, and that the Russian government has the option of expelling American citizens active in the U.S. embassy in Moscow,
according to the New York Times.

July 15:

Two colonels from the FSB, Russia's state security service, have been charged with corruption and bribery,
reports Kommersant. According to the Russian daily, Andrei Kuternin and Alexei Kostenkov are both believed to have received sums of at least one million rubles from a private security firm in exchange for signing a contract favorable to the company. Although authorities initially considered limiting detention of the pair to house arrest, the accused have now been sent to Chechnya's Chernokozovo detention center - a prison that gained notoriety for brutal practices and prisoner abuse during the second Chechen War.

July 17:

German industrial manufacturing giant Siemens is considering withdrawing from partnerships in Russia,
according to Vedemosti. Recent reports indicate that two Siemens gas turbines originally bound for another province of Russia showed up in Crimea - a development that caused significant problems for the firm, because European Union sanctions prohibit the sale of industrial equipment for use in that region, which Russia annexed in March 2014. The international scandal generated by these events has forced Siemens to reevaluate its commercial activities in Russia, which currently encompass the joint ventures "Siemens Gas Turbine Technology" and "Interautomatica."

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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