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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2225

The perennial president;
Britain: a safe haven for Russian "dirty money"

Edited by Ilan Berman and Margot Van Loon
June 19, 2018

May 18:

Russian President Vladimir Putin may have just started his fourth term in office, but his supporters are already planning his next political victory.
The Washington Post reports that Russia's parliament is set to consider a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Putin to stand in Russia's next election - in 2024. The amendment in question would change the country's constitution to allow the president to hold office for three consecutive terms, rather than the current limit of two.

Russia is reviving a Soviet-era law allowing authorities to impose criminal penalties for political opposition to the Kremlin. On May 15th, "the State Duma approved on the first reading a law making it a criminal offense, punishable by up to three years in prison, for Russian citizens to 'intentionally enable foreign states, alliances of foreign states, or international organizations to impose restrictive measures on Russian persons and public entities,'"
writes Russian political activist Vladimir Kara-Murza in the Washington Post. Indeed, Kara-Murza - a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin's government - is himself an intended target of this new measure.

"The official justification behind the measure is that participation in the imposition of such restrictions is directed 'against Russia,'" he notes. "Of course, it is not. There can be nothing more pro-Russian than to bring much-needed accountability to those who violate the rights of Russian citizens and steal the money of Russian taxpayers — and continue to spend that money, buy real estate and park their families in the West."

May 19:

Labor migrants from Central Asia are changing the complexion of Russia's interior. The influx of millions of Muslim migrants into the Russian countryside Is becoming "Russia's most radical ethnic makeover in centuries,"
notes Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The trend, coupled with Russia's negative domestic demographic trends, is creating growing fears "among many of Russia's 142 million people of an uncontrolled influx of migrants eager to snatch up jobs and wildly tilt the country's demographics in favor of the newcomers."

May 20:

Reuters reports that the Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility for a new terrorist attack in Chechnya. The May 19th attack saw four militants assault an Orthodox church in Russia's restive republic of Chechnya, killing two policemen and one churchgoer. The ISIS claim of responsibility was released via the group's dedicated media channel, Amaq.

May 21:

A new British parliamentary report has taken aim at London's role as a safe haven for Russian "dirty money,"
the BBC notes. The report, issued by the foreign affairs committee of the British House of Commons, charges that the UK has become a permissive environment where the "corrupt assets" of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his cronies have been hidden. The reason, according to Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the committee, has everything to do with the British government's lack of a resolute response. Number 10 Downing Street's "lethargic response is being taken as proof that we don't dare stop them... London's markets are enabling the Kremlin's efforts," Tugendhat has charged.

The government of Prime Minister Theresa May, for its part, is pushing back against the charges. Ben Wallace, Britain's Security and Economic Crime Minister, has said that the UK is "determined to drive dirty money and the money launderers out," and will use existing powers and new legal authorities in order to "clamp down" on Russian illicit finance in the country.

Related Categories: Europe; Russia; Central Asia; Terrorism; Radical Islam; Russia and Eurasia Program

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