News

Russia in Review

September 16, 2016

Abstract

Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for September 9-16, 2016

I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda.

Nuclear security:

  • U.S. intelligence chiefs were so worried in late 2003 of a nuclear terror attack, they asked the British to take over their spying in case something ‘catastrophic’ went down. (Daily Beast, 09.10.16.)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Iran has begun building a second nuclear power plant with Russian help. The project, known as Busherh-2, was officially launched on September 10, will cost around $10 billion and produce 1,057 megawatts of electricity (RFE/RL, 09.10.16.)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has accused the United States and its Western partners of "destroying the foundations of the existing world order from the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina to the wars in Libya and Iraq." Shoigu spoke on September 12 after U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter accused Moscow of having a "clear ambition to erode the principled international order." (RFE/RL, 09.12.16.)
  • A NATO official said alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg is looking forward to meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov soon on how to reduce chances of an accidental confrontation between Russian and NATO armed forces. The meeting could come next week, when Stoltenberg and Lavrov are scheduled to be in New York for the annual session of the U.N. General Assembly. (AP, 09.15.16.)
  • NATO and Russia officials have held talks on "ways to increase transparency and risk reduction," the military alliance says. A statement says NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow discussed these issues on September 15 with Russia's NATO ambassador, Aleksandr Grushko. (RFE/RL, 09.15.16.)
  • The United States military is not ready to confront a peer-level threat such as Russia or China in a high-end conflict. As it currently stands, while the United States would ultimately prevail in a hypothetical high-end war, Washington would pay a high price in blood and treasure. That’s what the nation’s top uniformed officers told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 15. (National Interest, 09.15.16.)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • A recent letter to U.S. President Barack Obama from member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Dan Coats and Senator Marco Rubio, argues that seeking a UN Security Council resolution on nuclear weapons testing ban would be "abuse of the separation of powers." (Sputnik, 09.09.16.)
  • As Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the People's Republic of China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America met in Washington, D.C., 14-15 September 2016, for the seventh P5 Conference to demonstrate continued commitment to the NPT, and to review progress made on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. (U.S. State Department, 09.15.16.)

Counter-terrorism:

  • Russian authorities have detained a man in the northwestern region of Karelia suspected of recruiting fighters for the Islamic State extremist group in Syria. The suspect, whose name was not disclosed, is a 37-year-old native of Russia's predominately Muslim North Caucasus region. From a peak of 2,000 foreign recruits crossing the Turkey-Syria border each month, the Islamic State and other extremist groups operating in Syria are down to as few as 50, according to U.S. intelligence assessments. (RFE/RL, 09.12.16, Washington Post, 09.10.16.)
  • Russia is to build a special complex dedicated entirely to preparing Special Forces that will be able to take decisive action in the event of a terrorist attack. The private center will be built in Gudermes, Chechnya. (RBTH, 09.16.16.)

Cyber security:

  • The White House is trying to build a legal case against Russian hackers it believes are behind recent leaks aimed at disrupting the U.S. presidential election, while Congress is eyeing sanctions as a remedy, media reports says. Reuters said the administration believes that two Russian intelligence agencies -- the military's GRU and the civilian intelligence agency -- are behind recent cyberattacks, which have become more frequent and brazen. (RFE/RL, 09.16.16, Washington Post, 09.11.16.)
  • Hackers have published confidential medical data belonging to a handful of high-profile American athletes. WADA identified the hackers as a Russian group known as Fancy Bear, which published what are called therapeutic use exemptions, waivers that allow athletes to take banned substances on medical grounds. WADA then said on September 14   another batch of athletes' data has been leaked by the same Russian cyberespionage group. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko says there is no proof that a recent cyberattack on a database of the world's main anti-doping regulator originated in Russia. Russia also says it's ready to help the WADA in fighting cybercrime. (Bloomberg, 09.13.16, RFE/RL, 09.14.16, RFE/RL, 09.15.16.)
  • A senior U.S. Justice Department official told NBC News that forensic investigation shows that Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear are not just hacker groups operating in the orbit of the Russian government but are actually operating as part of the government apparatus. (NBC, 09.15.16.)
  • A hacker who American intelligence officials believe has ties to the Russian government made public on Tuesday a second batch of documents suspected of having been stolen from the Democratic National Committee's computer system. CIA Director John Brennan is again warning about Russia's computer hacking abilities, saying the country has "exceptionally capable and sophisticated cyber-capabilities." He didn't specifically blame Moscow for the computer intrusions at the Democratic National Committee, but he did cite what he said was Moscow's aggressive intelligence collection.  (RFE/RL, 09.11.16, New York Times, 09.14.16.)
  • Newly revealed emails hacked from the private account of Republican former Secretary of State Colin Powell show the retired four-star general repeatedly blasting Donald Trump. BuzzFeed reports that it obtained the emails from the website DCLeaks.com, which is suspected of having ties to Russian cyber spies. Powell also alleged that Israel has a nuclear arsenal of 200 warheads, a thorny subject that Israel never comments on, according to an email that Russian hackers leaked earlier this week. (Newsweek, 09.16.16, ABC, 09.14.16.)
  • Despite Russia’s high-profile cyber-exploits, current and former U.S. officials said Russia’s digital espionage capabilities are inferior to those of the United States. (Washington Post, 09.14.16.)
  • The White House has rejected a call by the director of a new film on former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden for President Barack Obama to pardon him for leaking state secrets. (RFE/RL, 09.13.16.)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • The International Energy Agency said Tuesday that the global oversupply of crude oil would last until the second half of 2017.  (Washington Post, 09.14.16.)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

Other bilateral issues:

  • Vladimir Putin's government accused Barack Obama of "Russophobia" on Wednesday after he criticized Donald Trump for cozying up to Moscow.  Obama said Tuesday that Trump sees Putin as a "role model" — someone who "invades smaller countries, jails his opponents, controls the press and drives his economy into a long recession."  (NBC, 09.14.16.)
  • U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton blasted her rival Donald Trump for appearing on a Russian state-run television network and praising Russian President Vladimir Putin. (RFE/RL, 09.10.16.)
  • In a 2014 Quinnipiac survey of Americans, when given the choice between who is a stronger leader, 42 percent of those polled picked Barack Obama and 42 percent picked Vladimir Putin. And when asked individually whether each man had "strong leadership qualities," more agreed with that statement about Putin (57 percent) than Obama (49 percent) (Washington Post, 09.09.16.)
  • A 2015 Fox News asked whether Vladimir Putin or Barack Obama had the upper hand in Syria. 53 percent chose Putin and 22 percent chose Obama. The same poll showed just 32 percent of Americans said Obama was a "strong and decisive leader" on foreign policy, while 52 percent said he was "weak and indecisive." By contrast, 46 percent thought Russia's actions in Syria showed strength, while 29 percent thought they showed weakness. (Washington Post, 09.09.16.)
  • “The problem with the American view of Russia is that we have always thought of Russia as an incipient NATO country,” Henry Kissinger said last month at a forum in Kent, Conn. “That it would gradually slide into an orbit and accept a so-called rules-based system. But Russia has a different history and a different culture.” (New York Times, 09.14.16.)
  • Russia’s investigators have sent a request to the U.S. Federal Reserve System to help them uncover the origin of an unprecedented cash haul seized from senior Russian anti-corruption official Dmitry Zakharchenko, Kommersant business daily wrote on Sept. 16. (Tass, 09.16.16.)
  • U.S. intelligence agencies are expanding spying operations against Russia on a greater scale than at any time since the end of the Cold War, U.S. officials said. At the height of that decades-long conflict, former officials said, U.S. spy agencies often devoted 40 percent or more of their personnel and resources to tracking the Soviet Union and its Communist satellites. U.S. officials said that CIA and other agencies now devote at most 10 percent of their budgets to Russia-related espionage, a percentage that has risen over the past two years. (Washington Post, 09.14.16.)
  • Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, is believed to have 150 or more operatives in the United States, officials said, concentrated not only in Washington and at the U.N. headquarters in New York but in San Francisco and other major cities. The CIA, by contrast, has at most several dozen case officers — the term for agency employees responsible for stealing secrets abroad — based in Russia, with several dozen more scattered across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet states, former officials said. (Washington Post, 09.14.16.)

 

II. Russia’s domestic news.

Politics, economy and energy:

  • President Vladimir Putin has called on Russians to go to the polls on September 18 to elect a new State Duma, the lower house of parliament. The outcome of this vote is widely predicted to be similar to the last one in 2011 -- a win for President Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party. (RFE/RL, 09.15.16.)
  • Russians' real incomes fell by 5.3 percent in the first six months of 2016. Real wages, however, stayed on the same level as in the first six months of 2015. (RFE/RL, 09.14.16.)
  • The number of births in Russia in the first half of 2016 increased by 1.6 percent compared to the same period last year. (Moscow Times, 09.15.16.)
  • The Russian central bank cut the key rate to 10% from 10.5%, in line with market expectations, for the second time this year. (Wall Street Journal, 09.16.16.)
  • Russia’s spending on education as a share of economic output is among the lowest for countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, at almost half the level of its emerging-market peers Brazil and South Africa. While defense expenditure rose to 3.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2015 from 2.5 percent five years earlier, and social spending jumped to 13 percent from 11 percent, the share of funds allocated for education has barely budged at 3.8 percent. (Bloomberg, 09.12.16.)

Defense and Aerospace:

  • Russia has deployed cruise missiles, multiple rocket launchers, and its air-defense missile system in the Crimean Peninsula during the final stage of the large-scale Kavkaz-2016 military exercises. (RFE/RL, 09.09.16.)
  • The next strategic command staff exercise, Zapad-2017, will be held in western Russia next year, the chief of the Russian armed forces’ General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, has told the media. (Tass, 09.14.16.)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • One of Russia's top anti-corruption officials has been arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes after a search of his home revealed stacks of cash worth $123 million. Police arrested Dmitry Zakharchenko, deputy head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs' Committee for Economic Security and Combating Corruption, after uncovering the money in his car, study and sister's apartment. Zakharchenko also held 300 million euro ($336 million) in Western bank accounts, the Rosbalt news agency reported Wednesday (Moscow Times, 09.12.16. 09.14.16.)
  • Yaroslav Odintsev, the head of the company tasked with piloting helicopters for Russian President Vladimir Putin has been placed under house arrest, the RBC news website reported Tuesday.  (Moscow Times, 09.13.16.)
  • A report in Russia’s RBK newspaper claims that Aleksandr Bastrykin, the longtime head of Russia's Investigative Committee, will resign following this weekend's State Duma elections. (RFE/RL, 09.15.16.)

III. Foreign affairs and trade:

Syria:

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday agreed on a cease-fire for Syria that, if implemented, would include joint military targeting by the two nations against Islamist militant groups. Once there are seven consecutive days of reduced violence and aid groups receive humanitarian access to the war-torn Aleppo area, the U.S. and Russia would begin working out of a "joint implementation center" where they would discuss how they would continue fighting the Syria Conquest Front. A "bedrock" of the agreement, Kerry said, is Russia's ensuring that Assad's air force will no longer fly combat missions over opposition and civilian areas. Mr. Kerry said the U.S. and Russia believe the plan, if implemented, could be "a turning point.”  U.S. officials said Ashton Carter was the only administration principal to dissent against the agreement during discussions on the matter on Friday. Syrian state media reported over the weekend that President Bashar al-Assad's government says it has accepted the deal. Ahrar Al Sham, a powerful Syrian rebel group allied to al-Qaeda’s wing in Syria said it won’t respect the deal.  (Bloomberg, 09.12.16, RFE/RL, 09.09.16, Washington Post, 09.12.16, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, 09.10.16.)
  • The US-Russia brokered truce in Syria officially began at sundown on Monday. Russian and Syrian warplanes have stopped bombing areas of possible location of opposition units, Lieutenant General Viktor Poznikhir, the first deputy head of the main operations department of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, said on Sept. 15.But clashes erupted Friday between Syrian rebels and government forces just outside Damascus, state media and activists said, puncturing days of calm under a cease-fire brokered by Russia and the United States. (Financial Times, 09.13.15, Washington Post 09.16.16.)
  • The agreement that Secretary of State John Kerry announced with Russia to reduce the killing in Syria has widened an increasingly public divide between John Kerry and Ashton B. Carter, who has deep reservations about the plan for American and Russian forces to jointly target terrorist groups. “I’m not saying yes or no,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of the United States Air Forces Central Command, told reporters on a video conference call. “It would be premature to say that we’re going to jump right into it.” "There are challenges with this. There is a trust deficit with the Russians," acknowledged General Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. military's Central Command. Chief among Pentagon concerns is whether sharing targeting information with Russia could reveal how the United States uses intelligence to conduct airstrikes, not just in Syria but in other places. (New York Times, 09.13.16, Washington Post, 09.15.16.)
  • Russia and the United States are to coordinate their fight against the Islamic State through a dedicated center in Geneva.  Reactions of U.S. military officials range from caution to outright skepticism over a Geneva-based "joint integration center" that may soon bring together American and Russian militaries to discuss shared targets for the first time since World War Two. Officials stress the Geneva-based JIC would not be similar to JOCs, the joint operation centers typical in war zones, like Iraq, replete with classified computer systems and giant television screens that show live feeds from armed drones carrying out strikes. U.S. officials say Defense Secretary Ash Carter also would need to issue a waiver to a U.S. law that puts strict limitations on U.S. military cooperation with Russia.  Following the new cease-fire and coordination deal, aides said, lawmakers have already requested waiver information from the Pentagon but have not yet received an answer. (Reuters, Washington Post, 09.15.16.)
  • The U.S. military will have to shift surveillance aircraft from other regions and increase the number of intelligence analysts to coordinate attacks with Russia under the Syria cease-fire deal partly in order to target militants the U.S. has largely spared, senior officials say. (AP, 09.16.16.)
  • Late Wednesday, a Pentagon statement said that senior Defense Department civilians and military officers had held a video conference with their Russian counterparts about ongoing in-flight safety “to avoid accidents and misunderstandings in the air space over Syria.” The meeting, the statement emphasized, “Was not part of separate discussions taking place on the possible stand-up of the joint integration cell.” (Washington Post, 09.15.16.)
  • “I think we’d have some reasons to be skeptical that the Russians are able or are willing to implement the arrangement consistent with the way it’s been described,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Monday at a briefing. He added, darkly, “But we’ll see.” (New York Times, 09.13.16.)
  • Russia has accused the United States of failing to fulfil its obligations under the truce agreement in Syria. A defense ministry statement said Washington was using a "verbal curtain" to hide its reluctance to rein in the rebel groups it supports. Russia also on Sept. 13th accused U.S.-backed rebel groups of having repeatedly violated the latest cease-fire in Syria and urged the United States to pressure violators into compliance. (RFE/RL, 09.13.16, BBC, 09.15.16.)
  • The U.S.-Russian agreement is to allow for humanitarian aid to reach besieged areas, with the rebel-held part of the northern city of Aleppo as a priority. However, some 20 trucks carrying U.N aid and destined for rebel-held eastern Aleppo remained Wednesday in the customs area on the border with Turkey “because of lack of de facto assurances of safe passage by all parties,” Jens Laerke, deputy spokesperson for the U.N. office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the United States and Russia to push all warring sides in Syria to allow safe passage for desperately needed aid to besieged civilians. (RFE/RL, 09.14.16, Reuters, 09.14.16.)
  • Russia wants the United Nations Security Council next week to endorse the Syrian cease-fire agreement that it brokered with the United States. (RFE/RL, 09.16.16.)
  • The U.S. should adhere to the agreements on ceasefire in Syria reached with Russia because there is no plan ‘B’, the Russian President’s Envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told BBC. (Tass, 09.16.16.)
  • The Russian military said on September 14 that its air force has struck Islamic State fighters preparing an attack on the Syrian city of Palmyra. (RFE/RL, 09.14.16.)
  • A mobile observation point of Russia’s center for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria has been established on the Castello road leading to Aleppo. The Russian Defense Ministry will also be broadcasting the situation in Syria’s Aleppo live using both cameras on the ground and installed on a drone. (Tass, 09.13.16, 09.15.16.)
  • The chief of the Russian army's general staff, Valery Gerasimov, met his Turkish counterpart in Ankara on Thursday for "very productive" talks on military cooperation and Syria. (Reuters, 09.15.16.)
  • Almost two weeks after a drone strike targeted one of the Islamic State's top leaders, the Pentagon said Monday that the militant -- Abu Muhammad al-Adnani -- was confirmed dead.  On Aug. 31, Russia, citing "intelligence channels," said it had also eliminated Adnani during an airstrike on a group of Islamic State fighters 16 miles west of where the Pentagon said it had targeted him. (Washington Post, 09.13.16.)
  • France on Thursday called on the United States to share details of a ceasefire deal it struck with Russia on Syria saying that the information was crucial to ensure Islamist militants and not mainstream rebels were being targeted on the ground.  Russia stands for the publication of its agreement with the United States on Syria from the very outset in order to avoid speculations, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news briefing on Sept. 15. (Tass, 09.15.16, Reuters, 09.15.16.)
  • U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has applauded a Syrian cease-fire deal brokered by the United States and Russia, but said its success is "up to the Russians." (RFE/RL, 09.16.16.)

Other far abroad countries and foreign affairs in general:

  • Russia and China have launched joint military exercises in the South China Sea, the site of heated territorial disputes between Beijing and its neighbors. The eight-day Joint Sea-2016 exercises, which began on September 12, simulate "seizing and controlling" islands and shoals in the area, Chinese naval spokesman Liang Yang was quoted as saying. (RFE/RL, 09.12.16.)
  • Pakistan and Russia will hold their first-ever joint military exercises later this year, signaling what may be an emerging realignment in South Asia amid cooling relations between Islamabad and Washington. Around 200 military personnel from the two sides would take part in the war games. (RFE/RL, 09.13.16.)
  • Joint drills by India and Russia, dubbed Indra 2016, are scheduled to be conducted in the Russian Far East from Sept. 22 to Oct. 2. (Tass, 09.14.16.)
  • The European Union extended its asset freeze and travel ban against 150 Russian officials and pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine to March 15, 2017. The decision is formal because on Sept. 7 the Committee of Permanent Representatives brought the political verdict to extend the sanctions. (Wall Street Journal, Tass, 09.15.16.)
  • Russia is to boycott Western imports of salt, the Kremlin announced in a statement Tuesday. The embargo, which will come into effect from Nov. 1, will add to the long list of Western food products currently banned in Russia, which include fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, milk and dairy.  (Moscow Times, 09.13.16.)
  • A new Polish commission reinvestigating the 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others in Russia has accused its predecessors of doctoring evidence and manipulating facts. (RFE/RL, 09.16.16.)

Ukraine:

  • The UN Human Rights Office said that by September 15 it had documented 9,640 conflict-related deaths and 22,431 injuries. (RFE/RL, 09.15.16.)
  • Ukraine said on Sept. 13 that three government troops have been killed and 15 wounded in fighting with pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine in the past 24 hours.  (RFE/RL, 09.13.16.)
  • German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Ukrainian leaders have agreed to observe a new cease-fire for the country's east. Steinmeier was speaking in Kyiv on September 14 at a joint press conference with his French and Ukrainian counterparts, Jean-Marc Ayrault and Pavlo Klimkin, following talks with President Petro Poroshenko. The German and French foreign ministers then made their first visit to eastern Ukraine since the start of the conflict. The leaders of the separatists in Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk announced a unilateral cease-fire starting at midnight on September 14. Steinmeier then said on September 15that the new cease-fire still appeared to be holding. (RFE/RL, 09.13.16-09.15.16.)
  • The latest cease-fire in eastern Ukraine isn’t enough for the former Soviet republic to proceed with political overhauls contained in a stalled 2015 peace accord, President Petro Poroshenko said. Russia must “pull out occupation troops, pull out weapons, and we’ll agree and settle everything,” he told the Yalta European Strategy conference Friday in Kiev, the capital. “If we close the border, there’ll be no conflict in Ukraine anymore.” Earlier Poroshenko said that he expects the parliament to vote soon on constitutional amendments granting autonomy to eastern Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 09.16.16, RFE/RL, 09.13.16.)
  • Ukraine is amassing evidence to bring cases in the International Criminal Court against senior Russian officials and generals for annexing Crimea and fomenting the two-year war in eastern Ukraine. (Financial Times, 09.12.16)
  • U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting in New York next week. Ukrainian officials said on September 14 that both Clinton and Trump had been invited to meet Poroshenko, but so far only Clinton has confirmed. (RFE/RL, 09.15.16.)
  • The Ukrainian government Thursday welcomed a long-delayed emergency payment of $1 billion from the International Monetary Fund. The money, part of a $17.5 billion package from the IMF, has been withheld for almost a year, The reboot in the IMF programmer also paves the way for Kiev to receive a $1bn US loan guarantee and hundreds of millions of dollars in additional financing from the EU and other international financial institutions.  Russia said earlier this week that it would vote against the disbursement of more IMF money to Kiev as a result of the lingering dispute. But it was not immediately clear if it did so on Wednesday as IMF board votes are secret. To pass the third tranche, Ukraine just needed a simple majority of the IMF board to agree. Russia represents only 2.6% of the vote. Ukraine failed to draw down the full amount from all but one of the seven loans it took between 1995 and 2010, leaving $19.5 billion untapped.  (Forbes, 09.14.16, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, 09.15.16, Bloomberg, 09.16.16.)
  • Russia's finance minister is planning to meet next month with his Ukrainian counterpart for talks on Kyiv's multi-billion-dollar bond default. Talks mediated by Germany are being planned during International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington in early October, Anton Siluanov said on September 12, adding that he is open to an out-of-court settlement.  (RFE/RL, 09.12.16.)
  • Ukraine’s government needs to cut spending to steer the 2016 budget back to the goal agreed on with international lenders, as delayed privatization and a weak economic recovery prevent revenue from keeping pace with costs, Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk said. “We had an unrealistic budget for 2016,” Danylyuk said. (Bloomberg, 09.11.16.)
  • According to the Ukrainian State Statistics Service, the economy grew 1.3% in the second quarter of 2016 compared with the same period a year earlier. The World Bank expects growth to reach 1% in 2016. Inflation, which reached 48.7% in 2015 according to the World Bank, has slowed and the country even saw deflation last month. (Wall Street Journal, 09.15.16.)
  • Ukraine has filed a complaint at the World Trade Organization to challenge Russia over restrictions on freight transit. (RFE/RL, 09.15.16.)
  • European Parliament President Martin Schulz says he hopes the bloc will vote on visa liberalization for Ukraine in October. (RFE/RL, 09.16.16.)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Former Economy Minister Baqytzhan Saghyntaev has been appointed Kazakhstan's new prime minister, as President Nursultan Nazarbayev shuffled his cabinet and top government and security posts.  (RFE/RL, 09.09.16.)
  • Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s elder daughter has been appointed to chair the Senate International Affairs, Defense, and Security Committee, just three days after she was appointed a member of the parliament's upper chamber. (RFE/RL, 09.16.16.)
  • Acting Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyaev will run in the presidential election scheduled for December 4, the country's election commission has said. (RFE/RL, 09.16.16.)
  • Nordic telecommunications operator Telia says it will have to pay $1.4 billion to settle U.S. and Dutch probes into deals the company made in Uzbekistan in 2007 (RFE/RL, 09.15.16.)
  • The Tajik government has rejected the UN Human Rights Council’s call to release prisoners held on “politically motivated charges,” tackle “torture” in detention facilities, and redouble efforts to ensure media freedoms. (RFE/RL, 09.15.16.)
  • Karen Karapetian, a top executive at the Russian gas giant Gazprom, has become Armenia's new prime minister. Karapetian, 53, also served as the mayor of Yerevan from 2010-11. (RFE/RL, 09.13.16.)
  • Azerbaijan's central bank has raised its key interest rate for the fourth time this year in an effort to "boost trust in the national currency." The central bank said the benchmark was increased to 15 percent from 9.5 percent, effective on September 14, as the manat continues its fall on the back of a slump in global oil prices. (RFE/RL, 09.14.16.)
  • Two opposition figures have won seats in the next parliament in Belarus, the first time the opposition will be represented in parliament in 20 years. The United Nations' special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Miklos Haraszti, has said there was no real difference between the September 11 parliamentary elections and all the previous ones carried out in the country. (RFE/RL, 09.15.16, RFE/RL, 09.11.16.)

 

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