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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2158

Russia, Europe edge closer to political divorce;
Facebook wises up to Russian propaganda... finally

Edited by Amanda Azinheira, Evelyn Johns and Jack Verser
October 9, 2017


September 4:

Politico reports that the Council of Europe, Europe's top human rights organization, has expressed concerns that Russia may be forced to leave its ranks over its 2014 annexation of Crimea. The Council responded to the annexation by revoking Russia's voting rights, excluding the country from any decisions on the election of new judges or officials. In turn, the Kremlin passed a new law allowing the Russian Constitutional Court to overrule the European Court of Human Rights. These developments have put one of the only remaining European ties to Russia in danger, in addition to leaving approximately 140 million Russians without an external recourse in case of human rights violations.

September 5:

According to Forbes, representatives of Russia's Central Bank have expressed reservations regarding the implementation of Bitcoin, Bitcoin derivatives, and other crypto-currencies into Russian markets. Opponents cite the anonymous nature of Bitcoin and its high circulation risk as their main objections, claiming that such anonymity could easily facilitate money laundering for terrorist or extremist organizations.

September 6:

Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to oppose cutting off oil exports to North Korea, directly contravening the wishes of the United States and its allies. The stance,
the New York Times reports, is logical. Although the majority of North Korea's oil supply comes from China, the Kim regime is increasingly reliant on Russian support in response to mounting political pressure from Beijing. Putin, for his part, has maintained that such an embargo would do little to dissuade North Korea from further nuclear development, and would instead hurt North Korean citizens.

Over 1,000 people in St. Petersburg and Moscow have been detained at anti-corruption rallies organized by opposition candidate Alexei Navalny,
reports The Moscow Times. Navalny himself was recently jailed for 25 days for his role in the demonstrations, while one protestor received two-and-a-half years in prison for kicking two National Guard officers.

September 7:

Since 2004, Russia has interfered in the domestic affairs of 27 nations in Europe and North America utilizing tactics ranging from cyberattacks to disinformation campaigns, according to a new analysis by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund think tank. The study,
cited by USA Today, lays out evidence pointing to an extensive campaign of Russian political subversion that spans a number of former Soviet republics, countries in Europe, and the United States. Moreover, the methods used by Russia in its interference in the 2016 presidential campaign closely resemble the pattern of meddling carried out by Moscow in other countries in order "to undermine democratic institutions," notes the Alliance's Laura Rosenberger.

Belatedly, Facebook is taking action against Russian Internet trolls on the popular social media site.
The Moscow Times reports on that the site has claimed that 470 accounts associated with a St. Petersburg troll factory known as Teka, allegedly funded by Russian restaurant oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, have been identified and subsequently shut down. Over 3,000 ads were bought for $100,000 to target U.S. communities with pro-Kremlin propaganda in the period between June 2015 and May 2017, the site has discovered. "We have since shut down the accounts and pages we identified that were still active," Facebook's chief security officer, Alex Stamos, has said publicly.

September 8:

Citing cyber security concerns, President Putin has warned Russian technology companies that they are ineligible for state orders if they use foreign software. Putin explained to the Interfax news agency that Russia cannot risk its institutions using foreign software that might lose or corrupt information related to matters of critical importance to the state.
According to Fortune, Russian state institutions have increasingly employed domestic technologies following the imposition of Western sanctions in 2014. Another factor contributing to the policy is worries among Russian officials about need to protect the country from potential cyber attacks by foreign intelligence agencies.