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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2156

Selective punishment for cyber specialists;
Russia makes strides in drone warfare

Edited by Amanda Azinheira, Evelyn Johns and Jack Verser
October 2, 2017

August 24:

Leonid Volkov, the campaign manager for Russian opposition presidential candidate Alexei Navalny, has announced that the campaign was being evicted from its headquarters in Moscow. Despite the two month notice described in the lease of the building, the campaign was only given one week to vacate the premises. Activists say that the eviction represents just the latest instance of official harassment of Russia's political opposition generally, and of Navalny in particular,
reports The Moscow Times.

August 25:

United Press International reports that, amid growing concerns of a perceived assassination threat from the United States and South Korea, the North Korean regime has hired ten former KGB agents as military advisers. The former agents are providing military education and training to Korean escort commanders, whose sole responsibility is to protect DPRK leader Kim Jong Un.

Two senior Russian cybersecurity officials were arrested in Moscow on charges of treason last December, sparking speculation that they were involved in alerting U.S. authorities to Russia's suspected hacking of the DNC during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The New York Times reports that the arrested men, Sergei Mikhailov, a senior officer at the FSB, and Ruslan Stoyanov, head of computer incident response investigations at Kaspersky Lab, had played a role in prosecuting cybercriminals in the past.

Western cybersecurity analysts have posited that Russian security services recruited criminal hackers to carry out politically motivated attacks in exchange for immunity in hacking for financial gain. Mikhailov and Stoyanov are suspected of interfering in this operation. Additionally, the director for Russia's official Center for Information Security, Andrei Gerasimov, was fired back in January - a termination that observers speculate was connected to his agency's cooperation with Kaspersky in solving criminal hacking cases.

August 26:

In yet another instance of the Kremlin's continuing crackdown on free speech, a number of activists at a sanctioned rally for internet freedom in Moscow have been arrested,
reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The main concern of the protesters was the recently-implemented legislation known as the "Yarovaya Package," a series of regulations named after conservative State Duma member Irina Yarovaya. Those laws permit a significant expansion of internet censorship and government surveillance for the stated purpose of combating terrorism and extremism.

August 27:

Russia is rapidly catching up to the U.S. in drone technology, a leading expert on the Russian military has noted. Samuel Bendett of the Center for Naval Analyses
has told The National Interest that the Russian military is increasingly using UAVs for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions that have materially aided Russian military operations. In particular, notes Bendett, "[t]he Russian military has been able to successful[ly] use new UAV technology as a force multiplier in Syria."

"These UAVs performed a wide range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance duties that enabled Russian force sand their Syrian allies to better control the situation on the ground," says Bendett. That, in turn, "puts Russia well on the par with their American counterparts in utilizing unmanned aerial systems in hostile and forbidding environments and ongoing combat operations."

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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