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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2223

Russia's expendable animals;
Moscow-Yerevan ties get a new lease on life

Edited by Ilan Berman and Margot Van Loon
June 14, 2018

May 12:

Russia's military modernization is continuing apace - at least for now.
The Itar-TASS news agency reports that Russia's Navy will induct the new nuclear-armed unmanned underwater drone, known as the "Poseidon," by the year 2027. According to the news agency, development of the "Poseidon" is part of the latest State Armaments Program approved by the Kremlin, which has mapped out the country's military procurement and modernization program over the next decade.

May 13:

Russian citizens are horrified by drastic government efforts to eradicate the country's stray urban animal population before the start of the FIFA World Cup this June.
London's Daily Telegraph reports that hundreds of stray dogs and cats have been found poisoned in Sochi, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, and other municipalities. The purge is an apparent response to Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko's call last December for a solution to the estimated two million stray animals that roam the eleven World Cup host cities. The government appropriated $1.95 million for "catching strays," and city officials have hired Basya Services and other major contractors to perform this ambiguously termed task. Yet procurement documents exposed by animal rights activists indicate that the contractors were hired to kill the offending animals outright – disregarding regulations in many regions that authorize euthanasia only when the animal poses unnecessary risk due to disease or aggression. Moreover, the activists claim that the poison darts used by the contractors kill via suffocation, constituting an unacceptably brutal method of euthanasia. The exterminations recall a similar purge before the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which prompted widespread outrage at the time.

According to the Telegraph, the Duma is attempting to reign in the violence with a bill that would protect strays and promote humane alternatives like vaccination, sterilization, housing, and registration programs. But the slow-moving legislative environment and the scarcity of resources to support these measures are no match for the cheap lethality preferred by local authorities. Basya has defended its actions as a boon to public safety that enhances Russia's "respectable" image in the eyes of visiting foreigners, and many regional officials deny that the poisonings are happening at all.

In the absence of decisive government action, activists are taking matters into their own hands. Several petitions demand an end to the "canine KGB death squads," including one petition started by activist Yekaterina Dmitrieva that has obtained 1.8 million signatures in the last few months. The Telegraph anticipates that the crisis may cause protests at the Cup and alienate potential fans.

May 14:

Russian-Armenian relations may enter a new honeymoon phase as opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan assumes the post of prime minister in Yerevan.
According to The Moscow Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of Pashinyan's first official visitors following his election last week, bolstering the new prime minister's legitimacy both at home and abroad after the recent period of political crisis. During their meeting, Putin reportedly called Armenia Russia's "closest" strategic ally in the Caucasus, emphasizing the importance of continued military and economic bilateral ties. In turn, Pashinyan affirmed his desire to deepen the relationship between the two nations.

Vladimir Putin's latest government reshuffle is claiming its fair share of casualties,
RBC reports. Most prominently, Dmitry Rogozin - the ultra-nationalist politician who has long served as deputy Prime Minister - has been shouldered aside from his post and not offered a position in Putin's new government. As a consolation prize, however, Rogozin has reportedly been offered the helm of ROSKOSMOS, Russia's state space agency, with the aim of reorganizing its bureaucracy.

May 15:

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny will serve 30 days in jail for his role in organizing the May 5th mass demonstrations against Putin's continued presidency.
The Moscow Times reports that a Moscow court ruled against Navalny on charges of disobeying police orders and repeatedly violating public assembly laws. Navalny was one of 1,600 people arrested during the peaceful "he's not our czar" protests, which took place all over the country and attracted thousands of participants.

Related Categories: Russia; Democracy & Governance; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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