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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2179

No more foreign eyes on Russia's legislature;
Russia banned from 2018 Games

Edited by Ilan Berman
January 2, 2018

December 2:

As part of its response to new U.S. restrictions on state broadcaster RT, the Kremlin is planning to limit access by American media organizations to both houses of the Russian parliament.
The Washington Post reports that the step, which is set to be formally approved in coming days, would also encompass a number of other foreign media outlets. Among the U.S. outlets affected will be the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Washington Post, and Bloomberg.

Russia's economic troubles are beginning to take a bite out of the Kremlin's military modernization plans.
According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia's Defense Ministry has ordered industry to cease production of rocket trains for the country's Strategic Rocket Forces. The vehicles, dubbed the "Barzugin," were to be commissioned by the Defense Ministry as a road-mobile transport for the country's strategic arsenal. But now "the topic is closed, at least for the near future," the paper reports an industry source as saying.

December 4:

A significant minority of Russians are apathetic about national politics, and have no plans to vote in next year's presidential contest,
The Moscow Times reports. In a new survey just conducted by the Levada Center, the independent pollster found that less than a quarter of respondents (24%) definitely intended to vote in next year's election. Overall, less than 60% of those polled expressed any intent to participate in the 2018 vote - significantly less than the 70% turnout the Kremlin has said it anticipates.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Given the effect of Russia's increasingly authoritarian political climate on pollsters and respondents alike, the results of public opinion surveys in Russia should be viewed with some caution.]

Some two years after his death, the case of former Russian media czar Mikhail Lesin continues to baffle.
According to the Washington Post, new details regarding the 2015 demise of Lesin - a one-time Putin confidante in charge of Russia's extensive media and foreign broadcasting efforts - indicate that he had been on a three-day alcoholic bender at the time of his death in the penthouse of the Dupont Circle Hotel. A police report acquired by the Post details that Lesin "had been drinking heavily over the three days before his body was found, including consuming beer, wine and liquor from small bottles kept in the hotel's mini-fridge and larger bottles of tequila and Johnnie Walker whiskey." Lesin was found dead in his suite by hotel employees on November 5th, 2015 of what the DC Coroner's Office later deemed were "undetermined" causes.

Closing arguments have begun in the case of former Russian Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that prosecutors have recommended a ten-year prison term for the former minister, who is accused of demanding a $2 million bribe in order to green light the merger of Russian state energy firm Rosneft with the smaller Bashneft company.

December 5:

In a blow to Russia's sporting aspirations and the Kremlin's international prestige, the International Olympic Committee has voted to formally bar the country from participating in the upcoming 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The New York Times reports that as part of the censure, levied by the IOC in retaliation for Russia's systematic (and state-sanctioned) doping practices, including during the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, the country's officials will be "forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and its anthem will not sound." Russian athletes will still be able to take part in the Games, however - but only "under a neutral flag" and under the title of "Olympic Athletes from Russia."

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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