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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2192

Moscow takes Tehran's side;
Preparing a "tough" response to new protests

Edited by Ilan Berman
February 28, 2018

January 24:

Russia is lashing out at the Trump administration over what it terms as an effort to "blackmail" the European Union into implementing changes to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. "It is difficult to consider Trump's recent statements as anything other than an attempt to blackmail the European participants in the deal," Russia's Permanent Representative to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, has
told the Itar-TASS news agency. "They [EU states] have been holding intensive consultations with each other and Tehran, Iran's foreign minister has been here," Chizhov said, suggestion U.S. pressure was both unwanted and unnecessary.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: President Trump has warned that he is prepared to scrap the agreement in its entirety this May, when it again comes up for Congressionally-mandated review, unless European countries agree to stricter provisions for the agreement. Those potential fixes include more extensive oversight of Iran's nuclear facilities and a broadening of the agreement to include regulation of Iran's ballistic missile arsenal - steps that both Iran and its strategic partner, Russia, oppose.]

Opposition political activist Alexei Navalny is making his case before the European Court of Human Rights.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that, in his latest appearance before the court in Strasbourg, France, Navalny has charged that "his repeated arrests at the hands of the Russian authorities are politically motivated." "The probability that there is no politics in this case is as low as the chance of us seeing a dinosaur in this building or of Putin losing the election in March," Navalny told the hearing. Navalny is seeking damages from the Russian government for repeated arrests and detentions - seven in total between 2012 and 2014, and more since then.

January 25:

The Kremlin is moving to more strictly regulate cryptocurrency within the Russian Federation.
New draft legislation from the country's Finance Ministry designates a procedure by which cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin can be bought and sold through special firms that will serve as facilitators of digital commerce. Under the scheme, purchasers would be limited in the amount of cryptocurrency they could buy, and would be prohibited from using the digital medium to pay off any outstanding debts that they may have.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The notional ordinance represents a more measured approach to cryptocurrency on the part of the Russian government than has existed previously. Back in 2016, the Finance Ministry famously proposed banning all cryptocurrencies outright, but the initiative was never implemented. In the intervening time, digital currencies have become increasingly ubiquitous, leaving Russian authorities at pains to both accept and more efficiently regulate them.]

Russian authorities are warning that they will react "toughly" to any violation of the country's public protests law in the run-up to the March election,
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. The pledge was reportedly made by First Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Gorovoi at a meeting with top police officials in Moscow. A particular subject of concern, according to RFE/RL, are nationwide protests now being planned by opposition activist Alexei Navalny to oppose official corruption on the part of the Putin regime.

Russia's newest bomber aircraft represents an important step toward strengthening the country's nuclear arsenal, Vladimir Putin has said. "This is a serious step towards developing our hi-tech sphere and strengthening the country's ability to defend itself," Russia's president has told reporters
in comments carried by Reuters, referring to the modernized TU-160M "Blackjack" nuclear bomber, ten of which are slated to be delivered to the Russian Air Force between now and 2027 at an estimated per unit cost of 15 billion rubles ($269 million) as part of the country's ongoing military modernization.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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