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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2245

Another blow to Soviet remembrance;
Moscow, Delhi draw closer on counterterrorism

Edited by Ilan Berman and Margot Van Loon
August 23, 2018

July 21:

Among the topics apparently floated by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his July 16th summit with President Trump in Helsinki, Finland was the idea of a referendum for eastern Ukraine - one that would help determine the region's future, presumably in a direction favorable to Moscow. According to Russian sources, Putin had made "concrete proposals" to President Trump about his preferred settlement for the region, where conflict between Russia and Ukraine since 2014 has killed more than 10,000 people. But,
the Associated Press reports, the White House has rejected the idea for such an effort in the Donbass region, which U.S. officials would say would have "no legitimacy."

Another Gulag museum has been shuttered under shady circumstances in the latest manifestation of Vladimir Putin's quest to paper over Soviet-era atrocities.
The Japan Times reports that the Memorial National Museum of Gulag's History in Yoshkar-Ola, a town in Russia's Volga Region, was forced to close its doors after the local Cultural Ministry claimed its state of disrepair posed "a danger to visitors." The museum's director, Nikolai Arakcheyev, denies the claims, theorizing that his ongoing work to document Stalin-era mass killings in the forest surrounding the town had attracted the government's wrath. "They want to destroy the museum, which is a source of historical truth and freedom," Arakcheyev contends.

July 22:

After protracted negotiations between Moscow and Jerusalem over the status of Iranian forces in southwest Syria, Russia's ambassador to Israel is now signaling that the two countries may have arrived at a compromise.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov disclosed in an interview with TV channel Rossiya-24 that the two sides "came to an understanding" after a senior-level Russian delegation visited Israel this week and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke once again by phone with Vladimir Putin – the tenth such call in a year marked by high-tempo bilateral engagement. However, the Jerusalem Post notes, a divergence exists in the countries' "laconic" public statements about the nature of this compromise, with Israel highlighting its opposition to Iranian entrenchment and Russia more vaguely referring to "an emphasis on the Syrian settlement process."

July 23:

In Moscow, representatives of the Russian-Indian Working Group to Combat International Terrorism have called on the global community to avoid all "double standards" in the ongoing effort to counter terrorism and violent extremism.
According to China's Xinhua news agency, the session was the tenth meeting since 2002 of the senior-level bilateral working group. The meeting's agenda covered preventative measures, denial of material support to terrorist organizations, and methods of dealing with returning flows of foreign fighters. The meeting also provided an opportunity for representatives to update each other on best practices and relevant legislative developments, as well as opportunities for additional cooperation through existing global governance channels.

Russian attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure may have reached a crucial milestone last year.
The Wall Street Journal reports that hackers working for the Russian state-sponsored group known as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear successfully broke into the control rooms of multiple U.S. electricity providers by stealing the identities of company employees to gain access and potentially cause blackouts. Although the attacks were first detected in 2016 and continued for the next year, the companies themselves may still be unaware of the breach's full extent, according to Department of Homeland Security sources. The Department itself has yet to comment.

The future of Russia's space missions, it seems, will be automated.
According to technology website, ROSKOSMOS, the Russian state space agency, is planning to deploy two "humanoid" robots to the International Space Station next year. The robots, known as FEDOR (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research), will "fly for the first time to the ISS as crew members, and not as cargo in the transport compartment," Russian news agencies have reported.

The new duty highlights the growing sophistication of Russia's robotic capabilities in general - and the FEDOR project in particular. "Originally designed for rescue work, FEDOR has since been given the ability to perform various human-like actions such as push-ups, lifting weights, power drilling, driving, and fist-bumping," reports defense website Defense One. "In 2017, FEDOR added shooting guns to its repertoire."

Related Categories: Russia; Terrorism; Southeast Asia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine; South Asia Program

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