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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2229

The fallout from Babchenko's fake killing;
Nervous in Tehran

Edited by Ilan Berman and Margot Van Loon
July 6, 2018

June 1:

The ruse orchestrated by Ukrainian authorities to capture the would-be assassin of Russian opposition journalist Arkady Babchenko is beginning to pay dividends.
According to The Moscow Times, the alleged go-between in the plot to kill Babchenko has been detained by a Ukrainian court, and is now cooperating with authorities. Among the revelations proferred by the suspect, Borys Herman, is that the contract killer (who has not been publicly named) was on the payroll of the Kremlin. "In the process of communicating with him," Herman has divulged, "it turned out that he works for the fund of Comrade Putin precisely to orchestrate destabilization in Ukraine."

June 2:

Still more details of the plot surrounding the Babchenko sting have emerged.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that, in the wake of their investigation, Ukrainian authorities say they have uncovered a list of no fewer than forty-seven potential targets of Russian operations abroad. These individuals, "mainly Ukrainian and Russian-emigre journalists," were singled out for their opposition to Russian policy or criticism of the Kremlin.

Have Moscow and Jerusalem reached some sort of accommodation on Syria? Russia's UN envoy, Vasily Nebenzya, signaled as much recently when he said that he believed a deal had been reached between Russian and Israeli officials over the need for an Iranian pullout from southern Syria - a core demand of the Israeli government. "As I understand it, an agreement was reached," Nebenzya has told reporters
in comments carried by the Times of Israel. "At this point, I can not answer if it is being realized, but as far as I understand, the parties that were involved in reaching an agreement are satisfied with what they have achieved."

June 4:

When the World Cup comes to Rostov-on-Don in mid-July, 300 local Cossacks will support law enforcement efforts to provide security – and they have chosen a provocative way of broadening their mandate.
According to The Moscow Times, Cossack patrol units in the southern city have vowed to tip off police to all public instances of same-sex kissing during the tournament. The Cossacks are no strangers to controversial crowd control – less than a month ago, they gained notoriety for horsewhipping anti-government protesters in Moscow.

Crimea, once a bustling tourist hub, has steadily lost its appeal as a travel destination since being absorbed into the Russian Federation in 2014, and no reprieve appears to be in sight for the economically-ailing peninsula.
According to Kommersant, Russian airlines have "sharply" reduced their estimates of the number of passengers traveling to Crimea this summer, traditionally the region's busiest tourist season. The projected drawdown (a reduction of expected passengers by more than 550,000) comes as a result of a number of factors, among them a sharp increase in tariffs at the Simferopol airport, which has made some airlines contemplate significant fare hikes. At least one airline, however, remains committed to servicing the peninsula; Aeroflot, Russia's national air carrier, is dedicated to "ensuring the transport accessibility of the Crimea" and will not be reducing the number of its flights there, as other airlines are now contemplating doing.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un could soon be headed to Moscow. Amid preparations for the upcoming summit between Kim and President Trump in Singapore,
Interfax reports that, during a recent visit to Pyongyang, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov delivered an invitation to Kim from Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Russia in the near future as part of an effort to strengthen ties between Moscow and Pyongyang.

The quickening strategic contacts between Russia and Israel have left Iranian officials nervous,
ASharq al-Awsat reports. Policymakers in Tehran are said to be worried about the "unspoken intentions" of the Kremlin, which has taken pains in recent days to coordinate closely with the Israeli government over the need to expedite Iran's departure from southern Syria. These jitters, the pan-Arab weekly reports, are being reflected in stepped-up anti-Russian rhetoric in the Iranian media - with some outlets even going so far as accusing Moscow of "betraying Iran and the axis of resistance" with its recent diplomacy.

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

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