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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2150

A year on, why the "national guard" is indispensable;
Russia's war on the World-Wide Web, continued

Edited by Amanda Azinheira
August 30, 2017

July 21:

One year after its establishment, Russian President Vladimir Putin's "national guard" has become a prime example of the Kremlin's bid for long-term control,
notes the European journal Intersection: Russia/Europe/World. The special service, known as Putin's "personal army," already exceeds Russia's land forces in terms of size, and experts see it as a tool by which Putin is seeking to weaken the country's existing special services, which the Kremlin does not trust to protect Russia's ruling elite at all costs. Meanwhile, the national guard's expansion over the past year, both in terms of size and in terms of its powers, suggests that Moscow is preparing for heightened domestic political turbulence in the years ahead.

In a question and answer session at a school for talented and gifted youngsters in the Black Sea city of Sochi, President Putin announced that he is uncertain whether he will ever leave the presidency. The televised session was part of the Kremlin’s effort to increase Putin's popularity among Russia's youth, just a month after thousands of young opposition activists took to the streets to protest corruption among the Kremlin elite,
reports London's Guardian newspaper.

July 22:

Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow's election meddling and international aggression,
reports the New York Times. The phrasing of the legislation would largely limit President Trump's ability to suspend or terminate punitive measures against Russia - a feature that is sure to widen the rift between Congress and the White House over how best to handle relations with the Kremlin.

July 23:

Russia's State Duma has passed a new bill that would ban the use of proxy websites, proxy servers, and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which enable users to privately send and receive data across public networks. Lawmakers say that the bill will help to enforce the country's ban on extremist content online,
reports ABC News. The bill still has to be approved by Russia's upper house in parliament, the Federation Council, before it is signed into law by President Putin.

July 24:

The Moscow Times reports that demonstrators have taken to the streets in Russia's capital to protest a string of new laws regulating citizens’ use of the internet, and to call for the release of Russians detained for their activity online. The protest follows a government crackdown on internet freedom in Russia as authorities "restrict access to information, carry out unchecked surveillance, and censor information the government designates as 'extremist,'" Human Rights Watch has noted. Organizers claim that nearly 3000 people attended the rally.

July 25:

Bloomberg reports that, amid ongoing tensions between Russia and NATO, Russia and China have commenced military exercises in the Baltic Sea. The drills mark the first time the Russian and Chinese navies have held joint trainings in the area, a move that highlights the "deepening military cooperation between the two powers."

July 27:

Russian meddling does not appear to have been confined to the U.S. election. Citing U.S. sources,
Reuters reports that Russian intelligence agents also attempted to gather information on the election campaign of French President Emmanuel Macron via the manipulation of social media. The effort involved "creating phony Facebook personas" and using them to "infiltrate the social networks of Macron officials." The Facebook accounts were subsequently detected and deactivated by the social media platform.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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