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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2190

The "Putin Team" gathers steam;
Russia courts nuclear clients in the Americas

Edited by Ilan Berman and Zachary Popovich
February 27, 2018


January 19:

Moscow will not join the world's first nuclear disarmament deal, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told the United Nations.
The Moscow Times cites Lavrov as saying that the proposed Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, which currently has 46 signatories, "is liable to have a destabilizing effect on the non-proliferation regime." "We embrace the goal of building a nuclear weapons-free world," Lavrov told a meeting of the UN Security Council. "However, to achieve this, unilateral methods upon which this treaty is based should be avoided." The U.S., UK and France have also refused to sign on to the emerging agreement, which is just four signatory nations away from coming into force.

Just how pervasive was Russian social media activity ahead of the 2016 U.S. elections? The answer, according to Twitter, was "very."
Slate cites the social media giant as saying that more than 50,000 "bots" - or robot accounts - tied to Russia were active on its platform in the run-up to the November 2016 polls. Twitter is now seeking to mitigate the potential damage caused by these accounts - and prevent them from having influence in the future. The company is reportedly reaching out to nearly three-quarters of a million users who might have come in contact with accounts run by Russian "troll farms" such as the notorious Internet Research Agency to make them aware of such activities ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

January 21:

British defense officials are citing Russia as a major concern as they seek to expand the nation's defense budget,
London's Telegraph newspaper reports. In a highly-anticipated address to the Royal United Service Institute in coming days, British Chief of General Staff Gen. Sir Nick Carter is expected to argue that Russia's expanding defense capabilities threaten to eclipse those of the UK unless serious investments are made in the country's defense sector to keep pace with Russian military modernization.

January 22:

The "Putin Team," the pro-Kremlin social movement launched by U.S. hockey player (and Russian national) Alexei Ovetchkin last Fall, is picking up steam.
According to Estonia's The Bell news website, the movement now has no fewer than 72 celebrity endorsers, among them "Olympic champions Yelena Isinbayeva and Evgeny Plushenko, the musicians DJ Smash and Nikolai Baskov, actors Anastasia Zavorotnyuk and Mikhail Galustyan." Igor Matviyenko, a well known Russian music producer, is said to be spearheading promotion for the project, which seeks to generate grassroots support for the government of president Vladimir Putin via celebrity endorsements.

According to RBC, celebrity journalist Ksenia Sobchak (the daughter of late Putin confidante and St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak) has amassed the requisite number of signatures needed to add her name to the presidential ballot in March. Sobchak is running as a candidate from the "Civic Initiatives" faction. She joins LDPR head Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Community Party candidate Pavel Grudinin as a public challenger to President Putin for Russia's top post.

January 23:

Reuters reports that Russia's state nuclear conglomerate could soon boast a bigger presence in South America. Russian president Vladimir Putin has officially confirmed that ROSATOM has proposed to build a nuclear power station for Argentina. The offer came as part of Argentine president Mauricio Macri's recent official visit to Moscow.

[EDITORS' NOTE: If implemented, the project would mark a notable increase in the regional activities of Russia's official nuclear firm, which moved into the Latin American market less than three years ago. It now has several projects underway in the region, including in Bolivia, but ROSATOM officials are actively seeking to expand the company's presence in the Americas.]


Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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