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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2157

Is Russia ready for a woman president?;
Russia's dying diplomats

Edited by Amanda Azinheira, Evelyn Johns and Jack Verser
October 4, 2017


August 30:

In one of the largest banking bailouts in Russian history, the country's Central Bank is using its own funds to buy a majority stake (more than 75 percent) in Otkritie. Otkritie, Russia's seventh largest bank by assets and its largest private lender, recently suffered from a sustained run on deposits as a result of investor jitters,
reports CNBC. The Russian Central Bank's decision to bail out Otkritie - which officials say specialized in "high risk" operations - raises questions about the solvency of other large Russian financial institutions, and about the supervision of the Central Bank itself.

August 31:

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Trump administration is seeking to prevent Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft from obtaining a controlling interest in "critical energy assets" currently owned by Venezuela. As collateral for $1.5 billion in loans last year amid declining economic fortunes, state-controlled Petroleos de Venezuela (PdVSA) offered Rosneft half of the shares of its U.S.-based subsidiary CITGO, which controls five percent of American crude-oil refining capacity. American lawmakers are opposed to the offer, however, as they fear that Russia will use control of energy assets as a political weapon to further its foreign policy objectives.

In response to demands from Moscow that the number of U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia be reduced, Washington has ordered the Kremlin to shut down its San Francisco consulate and scale back operations at its annexes in DC and New York. The evictions and annex closures are meant to achieve parity in the size of the respective diplomatic missions of the two countries amid fraying political ties,
The Moscow Times reports. The U.S. and Russia will now each maintain an embassy and three consulates, as well as a number of annexes, on the other's territory.

September 1:

The Moscow Times reports that, according to the Vedomosti newspaper, the Kremlin is considering a set of female candidates to run against Vladimir Putin in Russia's 2018 presidential election. Five to seven women are currently being vetted for such a role, including Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian journalist and socialite, Irina Petyelyayeva, a member of the "A Just Russia" party, and Duma Deputy Natalya Poklonskaya. The idea, however, remains a far-fetched one; while multiple political analysts in Russia have suggested there may be popular support for a female candidate, all-male focus groups and previous Kremlin statements cast doubt on this notion. However, the idea has at least limited appeal, insofar as a modern, female Russian president could dramatically alter both Russia's international standing and its relations with the United States.

September 2:

Japan's Mainichi newspaper has reported that the Japanese and Russian foreign ministers have agreed to strictly implement the latest round of UN sanctions against North Korea. Japan maintains that it will cooperate closely with Russia following the latest North Korean ballistic missile test over its territory. The statement precedes a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as the heads of the two countries' security councils, to discuss regional strategy, as well as to coordinate joint economic activity in the Southern Kuril islands, which remain disputed by both Moscow and Tokyo.

CNN Politics reports that black smoke was seen from the chimney of Russia's San Francisco Consulate, just days before the U.S. deadline for Russian officials to vacate the premises. While the exact source of the smoke remains unknown, observers have speculated that it is the byproduct of sensitive documents being burned ahead of the turnover of the facility to American authorities.

September 3:

UAWire reports that eight acting Russian diplomats have died in less than a year, and at much younger age than the average Russian life expectancy of 65.9 years. Such a volume of diplomatic deaths is drastically higher than is the norm among other nations, raising questions about the exact circumstances surrounding the passing of these Russian government servants.


Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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