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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2199

Russian doping, again;
The cost of U.S.-Russian friction

Edited by Ilan Berman and Zachary Popovich
March 29, 2018

February 19:

According to the New York Times, Russian curler Alexander Krushelnytsky has come under investigation for allegedly using a banned substance during the most recent Winter Olympics in South Korea. Following a routine urine check, traces of meldonium were found in Krushelnytsky's system. Over the past few years, a number of Russian athletes have been caught with the banned substance, which is used as a heart medication to increase blood flow and stamina. The allegation is a further blow to Russia's international sporting image, which was tarnished by the discovery of widespread state-backed doping during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

February 20:

Moscow's Simonovsky district court has sentenced a key associate of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to a ten-day jail sentence,
according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Roman Rubanov is the director of Navalny's Anticorruption Foundation, and was arrested for allegedly organizing an unauthorized rally in late January. The January 28th "Voter Strike" demonstrations took place throughout Russia in protest of the Central Election Commission's refusal to register Mr. Navalny as a presidential candidate. Navalny himself has called on voters to boycott the March 18th presidential election, which he claims is a "reappointment" of President Putin rather than a truly democratic election.

February 21:

Following her filing of a lawsuit calling for President Vladimir Putin's disqualification as a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, television channels across Russia have blocked coverage of presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak,
reports Radio Svoboda. According to the voter rights movement "Voice," references to Sobchak across TV programs have been halved, relegating her to the bottom of the current list of eight presidential candidates. Ms. Sobchak's claim, which was dismissed by Russia's Supreme Court, held that President Putin was ineligible to seek the presidency for a fourth term due to his already lengthy tenure as president. Ms. Sobhchak has framed herself as a "candidate against all" and will represent the Civil Initiative party in the March 18th presidential election.

The Moscow Times reports that Russia has lost some $3 billion in failed defense deals with nations afraid of U.S. sanctions. Despite President Trump's reluctance to enforce congressionally mandated sanctions against Russia, the threat of possible U.S. sanctions has deterred states and businesses from buying Russian defense equipment, arms, and supplies. A State Department spokesman has confirmed that "[s]topping transactions like that is, in effect, a punishment" and that Washington will continue to analyze what countries and businesses continue to do business with Russia.

February 22:

Moscow is once again running diplomatic interference for Tehran.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Russia has blocked a bid by the United States and its allies to pass language in a UN resolution condemning Iran for violating an international arms embargo on Yemen's Houthi rebels. The language was to be included in a renewal of the arms embargo, but Russia thwarted the British-led resolution, deeming it "unacceptable." "We don't like condemnations at all, in general," Russia's UN Ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, has explained. "The resolution is about Yemen... not about Iran."

February 22:

Russian metals magnate Oleg Deripaska has stepped down as head of the Rusal aluminum empire,
according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The oligarch's decision comes on the heels of a new documentary by opposition activist Alexei Navalny which chronicles links between him and Kremlin officials such as Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko, suggesting improper conduct and insider access - claims that Deripaska has rejected as "mendacious."

[EDITORS' NOTE: Deripaska's departure may have to do with more than simply bad optics about insider dealing. The tycoon was among the oligarchs identified by the U.S. Treasury Department in its January report to Congress about potential future sanctions targets, and Russia's Kommersant newspaper has suggested that this designation - and the potential for him to be targeted by U.S. economic pressure - is what actually lies behind Deripaska's decision to step down.]

Related Categories: Russia; Iran; Russia and Eurasia Program

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