News

Russia in Review

June 10, 2016

Abstract

Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for June 3-10, 2016

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

Nuclear security:

  • The Mayak Production Association in Ozersk, Russia is preparing to launch a production line that will allow its RT-1 reprocessing plant to handle spent fuel of VVER-1000 reactors at the end of 2016. (IPFM, 06.09.16).
  • Northwest Russia’s nuclear waste handler SevRAO has staged an exercise at Andreeva Bay to simulate an emergency situation, in which helicopter careens out of control, striking a truck carrying casks of spent nuclear fuel. (Bellona, 06.08.16).
  • Ukraine’s Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant hosted a  full-scale exercise of response teams and forces on May 31-June 2 to practice prevention, response, protection, and assistance measures and enhancing the interface of nuclear safety and security, according to Energoatom. (Belfer Center, 06.08.16).
  • A shipment of plutonium from Japan arrived Monday at a South Carolina nuclear site, despite objections from Gov. Nikki Haley to her state being used as storage for such materials. (AP, 06.06.16).
  • "There are some problems of a cybernetic nature; [that is] when information about the orders given to use (nuclear) weapons could be deliberately corrupted,”  former Ambassador of Russia Vladimir Lukin said. (Interfax, 06.08.16).
  • Head of the Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe Moshe Kantor noted chemical weapons attacks carried out by Islamic State in Iraq, their stated desire to carry out more attacks in Europe, and evidence militants linked to the attacks in Paris had also been studying a Belgian nuclear power plant. “This, combined with poor levels of security at a host of nuclear research centers in the former Soviet Union means the threat of a possible ‘dirty-bomb’ attack on a Western capital is high," Kantor said.  (Reuters, 06.07.16).

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • No significant developments.

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • The Russian defense ministry said that during consultations with the U.S. military on June 8 "the Russian side submitted proposals to develop a mechanism to prevent incidents.” After the meeting, the ministry said, "Recommendations on prevention of incidents and on enhancing the safety of navigation on and flights over high seas were drawn up," with "emphasis...on the use of authorized signals and communication channels." (RFE/RL, 06.09.16).
  • The U.S. needs to “establish quality communications with the Russians” to back Moscow away from implementing tactical nuclear weapons in times of crisis, Gen. Philip Breedlove, the recently retired NATO commander said. (USNI, 06.08.16).
  • U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Bret Batchelder said that repositioning of the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea is meant to reassure NATO allies. "There are undoubtedly folks who are watching that and this is just a graphic representation of what we're capable of," he said. "It provides some needed presence in the Med to check...the Russians,” said a military official in Washington. "The unpredictability of what we did with Truman kind of makes them think twice." (Dow Jones, 06.08.16).
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry says Moscow will respond to the presence of a U.S. naval ship in the Black Sea with unspecified measures. The USS Porter, a U.S. naval destroyer, entered the Black Sea on June 6 on a routine deployment, according to the U.S. Navy. (RFE/RL, 06.10.16).
  • The British Royal Navy intercepted a Russian submarine as it was crossing the English Channel on June 8 and escorted it through. (RFE/RL, 06.09.16).
  • The White House has announced that U.S. President Barack Obama is traveling to Warsaw on July 7 in order to attend NATO's 2016 Warsaw summit on July 8 and 9 before traveling on to Spain. Russia's continued testing of NATO resolve in Eastern and Central Europe is expected to be on the agenda of the talks. (RFE/RL, 06.06.16).
  • Poland expects the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in July to approve a forward deployment of allied troops to the Polish northeast in order to reinforce the so-called Suwalki gap. The troops should arrive early next year. (Wall Street Journal, 06.10.16).
  • The biggest military exercise in eastern Europe since the Cold War kicked off in earnest Tuesday as roughly 2,000 NATO paratroopers were set to fill the skies over Poland. The operation, called Anakonda 2016, will span roughly 10 days. More than 30,000 troops from 24 different countries, including non-NATO states such as Finland and Kosovo, are participating. Russia says the exercises “do not contribute to an atmosphere of trust and security” in Europe. (RFE/RL, 06.07.16, Washington Post, 06.08.16).
  • Russia is building an army base near its border with Ukraine, the latest in a chain of new military sites along what the Kremlin sees as its frontline in a growing confrontation with NATO. A Reuters reporter who visited the Russian town of Klintsy, about 50 km (30 miles) from Ukraine, saw a makeshift army camp, large numbers of newly-arrived servicemen and military vehicles. (Reuters, 06.07.16).
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Finnish counterpart the Kremlin would take unspecified measures to respond to increased NATO activity in the Baltic region, making clear he was vexed by Helsinki's hosting of alliance drills. (Reuters, 06.06.16).
  • A US Air Force program to develop and field a new nuclear-capable Long-Range Stand-Off cruise missile has undergone a Pentagon review and appears poised to proceed to development soon. (Jane’s, 06.06.16).

Missile defense:

  • "We were not able to convince them [the US] to continue dialog on this issue [about missile defense] and, as I see it, it is not the best time for such consultations now," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said. "We have many areas in which we could join our efforts. However, our proposals on cooperation are left unanswered," Antonov added.  (Russia Today, 06.06.15).
  • Russia has warned the United States not to use North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program “as a pretext for changing the military-political balance in the region,” including by implementing U.S. plans to deploy missile-defense systems there. (RFE/RL, 06.05.16).

Arms control:

  • Since the Open Skies Treaty entered-into-force in 2002, the United States has flown nearly three-times as many flights annually over Russia as Russia flies over the United States. At hearing at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and top Russia official from the Defense Department Michael Carpenter  defended the Open Skies Treaty and its procedures for permitting overflights, and noted that a U.S. refusal to allow the requested Russian flight would potentially hurt future U.S. flights. (State.gov, 06.06.16, RFE/RL, 06.08.16).
  • Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland  said Moscow remained in violation or "out of compliance with" some major arms-control treaties, including INF. Moscow has consistently denied those allegations and asserted that a U.S. missile defense system for Eastern Europe violates the treaty. (RFE/RL, 06.08.16).

Counter-terrorism:

  • Russia's Prosecutor General Yury Chaika has announced that 3,500 Russians have joined terrorist groups in the Middle East. “Many have received special training there. Now, under the threat of destruction and for other reasons, hundreds of militants are returning home,” Chaika said. Around 10,000 citizens from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a Moscow-led security bloc of six post-Soviet nations, are fighting in Syria, Russian news agencies quoted CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha as saying on Tuesday. (Reuters, 06.10.16, Moscow Times, 06.08.16).
  • Six representatives of the Russian Interior Ministry went to France to provide security during the UEFA Euro 2016 championship, the ministry's press center told Interfax. (Interfax, 06.10.16).

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow has not abandoned either the South Stream or Turkstream gas pipeline projects but needs to see a clear position on them from Europe. (RFE/RL, 06.08.16).
  • European Union governments agreed on a mandate for talks on a draft law to strengthen scrutiny of natural-gas contracts with Russia and other external suppliers. Representatives of EU nations agreed to apply the ex-ante checks to intergovernmental gas deals while excluding oil contracts from the assessment. (Bloomberg, 06.06.16).
  • Despite the fact that Saudi oil is considered "light" (low-sulfur), in reality it is more "middle," that is, closer in its characteristics to Russia's Urals crude, according to Mikhail Krutikhin, a partner at RusEnergy. “This is why in north-western Europe competition with Russian oil may escalate," he said. (Gazeta.ru, 06.09.17).

Bilateral economic ties:

  • U.S. social network Facebook and Russian Internet giant Yandex are in negotiations over a potential partnership deal. The companies are discussing exchanging user data and possible joint promotions, Vedomosti reported. (Moscow Times, 06.06.16).
  • By 2013, the United States accounted for about 40 percent of Kalashnikov’s total gun sales, roughly equivalent to the volume bought by the Russian military.(New York Times, 06.08.16).

Other bilateral issues:

  • Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the U.S. Air Force doesn't have the budget flexibility to cover the cost of rapidly replacing RD-180 engines with more-expensive domestic boosters. The extra expense, projected to be between $1.5 billion and $5 billion over roughly six years, "would crowd out other important national-security investments," Mr. Work told Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida in a recent letter. (Wall Street Journal, 06.06.16).
  • A U.S. court has ordered Russian woman Olga Pimanova arrested last month in a child-custody battle that has angered the Kremlin to remain in the United States pending a resolution of the legal dispute. (RFE/RL, 06.06.16).

II. Russia news.

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia’s finance minister said the country isn’t “interested” in a stronger exchange rate after the ruble rallied the most globally since touching a record low against the dollar in January. The ruble has appreciated almost 15 percent against the dollar this year after a 20 percent loss in 2015. The Russian Economy Ministry projects that oil will average $40 a barrel through 2019. The price of oil in rubles is at 3,346, compared with the level of 3,165 which Russia used as a basis for this year’s budget. (Bloomberg, 06.08.16, 06.09.16).
  • Russian oil giant Rosneft's net profit dropped 75 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2015. Lukoil PJSC, Russia’s second-largest oil producer, said first-quarter profit dropped 59 percent as crude prices declined to a 12-year low (Moscow Times, 06.08.16, Bloomberg, 06.06.16).
  • The Bank of Russia cut interest rates on Friday for the first time in nearly a year, paving the way for an easing cycle to prop up the battered economy. The central bank cut the key rate by half a percentage point to 10.5%. (Wall Street Journal, 06.10.16).
  • Russia overtook the U.S. this year to become the biggest exporter of wheat -- a milestone that followed bumper yields of corn, rice, soybeans and buckwheat. (Bloomberg, 06.07.16).
  • Russia's State Duma has passed a new bill obliging companies to disclose information on their beneficiaries at the request of the authorities. (Moscow Times, 06.08.16).
  • Medicine sales have fallen for the first time in Russia since 2008.Analysts recorded a 10 percent drop in drug sales in the first quarter of this year. (Moscow Times, 06.10.16).
  • Most Russians (71 percent) are expecting the European Union to extend sanctions against Russia this summer, and 15 percent claim the opposite, the Levada Center told Interfax. The share of Russians who think that the country should carry on its policy despite the sanctions has grown from 65 percent in November of last year to 75 percent now. (Interfax, 06.08.16).
  • Forty-two percent of senior managers want to emigrate from Russia, a poll by headhunting company Agentstvo Kontakt revealed Tuesday. (Moscow Times, 06.07.16).
  • The Kremlin has rejected new allegations of doping in Russian sport as "unfounded slander." In a new documentary, the German television station ARD charges Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko with preventing a failed drug test by a top-flight soccer player from being made public as well as allowing several track-and-field coaches, banned for life for their involvement in doping, to continue training Russian athletes. (RFE/RL, 06.09.16).

Defense and Aerospace:

  • From January through April, Russia’s defense expenditure was 15 percent higher than for 2015. In constant prices, it increased 75 percent compared with 2010, while Russia’s economic output only grew 5.4 percent in the same period. Russia is spending 4.6 percent of its GDP on defense this year is the highest in Vladimir Putin’s entire tenure. (Bloomberg, 06.06.16).
  • The Project 21180 icebreaker Ilya Muromets intended for the Russian Navy was floated out at JSC Admiralty Shipyards on June 10. The Ilya Muromets is the first icebreaker built for the Navy in 45 years. (Interfax, 06.10.16).
  • Russia's Proton rocket, in the first flight of its latest upgrade, on June 10 placed the Intelsat-31 commercial telecommunications satellite into geostationary-transfer orbit.(Space News, 06.09.16).
  • On June 4th, 2016 the Space Forces conducted a launch of a Rockot space launcher with the Geo-IK-2 geodetic satellite. (Russianforces.org, 06.04.16).
  • The Russian corporation Irkut has rolled out its new medium-haul airliner MC-21as the country aims to challenge commercial plane-industry leaders Boeing and Airbus.(RFE/RL, 06.08.16).
  • Russia says one of its Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets has crashed in the Moscow region, killing the pilot. (RFE/RL, 06.09.16).

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russian prosecutors are investigating possible corruption among senior Interior Ministry officials revealed by the Panama Papers. The Prosecutor General's Office is reportedly investigating deputy Interior Minister Alexander Makhonov and Denis Zubov, the son of another deputy Interior Minister, Igor Zubov, for possible violations of corruption laws.(Moscow Times, 06.06.16).
  • A court in Siberia has sentenced a Kyrgyz national to five years in jail for recruiting members to the banned Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir. (RFE/RL, 06.10.16).
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied a petition for a pardon by the ex-chief of security of the now-defunct Yukos oil company, the lawyer for Aleksei Pichugin said on June 9. (RFE/RL, 06.10.16).
  • Russian opposition politician Andrei Pivovarov has been found guilty of bribery and illegally accessing a police database. He was fined 1.5 million rubles ($23,000) but dodged a jail term. (Moscow Times, 06.10.16).
  • 64.7 percent of Russian judges are female. This is much higher than the world average. The average percentage of women in a national judicial system is 25 percent.  (RBTH, 06.10.16).

Foreign affairs and trade:

  • Syria:
    • A behind-the-scenes dispute between the United States and Russia broke into the open on June 3, with Moscow claiming Washington asked it not to target Al-Qaeda's branch in Syria with air strikes. “They are telling us not to hit it [Nusra Front], because there is 'normal' opposition next...to it," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in televised remarks after speaking with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by phone. When confronted with Lavrov's accusation, the U.S. State Department insisted that it only asked Russia to carefully select its targets to avoid hitting civilians and opposition groups that have joined the peace process. (RFE/RL, 06.04.16).
    • “In terms of direct coordination of activities on the ground, that is not happening,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said. “I know there have been discussions about changing that, but at this point, our position is the same. “Asked about it Monday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “We exchange information with the United States on a daily basis, twice a day, that’s all I can say.” (AP, 06.06.16).
    • A two-pronged advance to capture Raqqa has underlined a quiet convergence of strategy between the U.S. and Russia to defeat the extremists, with Syria’s Kurds emerging as the common link. (AP, 06.06.16).
    • The United States has suggested that Russia use its planes stationed in Syria to drop food into communities that are under siege and blocked from receiving aid by the Syrian government. (RFE/RL, 06.09.16).
    • Russian and Syrian government airstrikes have resumed with increasing intensity on the rebel-held eastern side of Aleppo, producing dozens of casualties each day this week, according to residents, rescue workers and antigovernment activists. Russia's Defense Ministry has, however, denied accusations by Turkey that it bombed Syrian hospitals, mosques, and other civilian targets in Aleppo on June 8 and 9. Specifically Russia's Defense Ministry said warplanes did not launch an air strike that hit a marketplace in in the town of Al-Shaara in Syria's eastern province of Deir Ez-Zor on June 6 and reportedly killed at least 17 civilians. (RFE/RL, 06.06.16, New York Times, 06.10.16, (RFE/RL, 06.10.16).
    • A Russian military aircraft that had not previously appeared in Syria was spotted by locals near the city of Aleppo. The aircraft observed is the long-range anti-submarine aircraft Tu-142. This aircraft series, which is known for attacking nuclear submarines. (Gazeta.ru, 06.07.16).
    • A Russian military hospital opened in Palmyra, where servicemen from a combined unit of the Russian Armed Forces' International Mine Action Center were working, has been transported from Syria back to Russia. (Interfax, 06.10.16).
    • The Islamic State's military setbacks in Syria and Iraq may prompt the extremist group to stage more attacks on Western, Russian, and other international targets, a top United Nations official has said. (RFE/RL, 06.09.16).
    • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met in Tehran on June 9 with the defense ministers of Iran and Syria. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said the trilateral talks were focused on increasing cooperation between the three countries for the fight in Syria against IS militants and the Al-Qaeda linked Al- Nusra Front. (RFE/RL, 06.09.16).
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry “ made a joint appeal for compliance with the Syria truce regime at least during the Month of Ramadan," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a report posted on its website on June 7. United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura said Aug. 1 was the target date for resuming negotiations. (Interfax, 06.07.16, Wall Street Journal, 06.10.16).
  • Other countries:
    • RT-Business Development, a subsidiary of Rostec, and China’s CYTS Industrial Development will create a $500 million investment fund for the financing of Russian IT and high tech projects. (Interfax, 06.09.16).
    • China National Petroleum Corporation  is interested in buying Rosneft, provided it gets an opportunity to take part in running the company, CNPC chairman of the board Wang Yilin said. By the end of 2016, the Russian government plans to privatize 19.5 percent of Rosneft. (Interfax, 06.07.16).
    • Three Russian vessels sailed in a contiguous zone near the disputed Senkaku Islands, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said on June 9. “We have brought the matter to the attention of the Russian authorities through diplomatic channels,” Yoshihide Suga, a Japanese government spokesman, said (Interfax, 06.09.16).
    • In the upcoming government security policy guidebook currently being prepared by the German Defense Ministry, Russia will be designated one of 10 major challenges on par with terrorists, migrants and global climate change, reported Die Welt. Moscow is now Germany’s rival, which uses “hybrid instruments to blur the boundaries between war and peace” and “undermine other states,” authors of the White Paper  reportedly said. If the information that Germany has excluded Russia from its list of its partners is true, this could be a source of regret and concern, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said. (Russia Today, Interfax, 06.06.16).
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker are to discuss foreign policy and Russia-EU ties at the upcoming St. Petersburg Economic Forum. It will be the first time in 19 months that the two men come "face to face," after having last met in 2014 on the margins of a G20 summit. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said that the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project was likely to be on the table, but couldn’t guarantee that it would be discussed. (Moscow Times, Alliance News, 06.10.16).
    • The Group of Seven (G7) leading industrial nations should quickly allow Russia to rejoin the economic organization, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in an interview published on Thursday. (AP, 06.09.16).
    • The French Senate has voted overwhelmingly to urge the government to gradually reduce economic sanctions on Russia, in a sign of growing opposition to sanctions in Europe. (RFE/RL, 06.09.16).
    • Speaking on June 7 after talks in Moscow with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin said Russia and Israel need "to pool efforts to counter international terrorism." Netanyahu said he spoke to the Russian leader about continued enhanced coordination between the Israel Defense Forces and Russian army forces operating in Syria. "It's coordination that works well to avoid unnecessary encounters as well as to ensure that we are acting against the forces in Syria that are endangering us all," Netanyahu said. This was the two leaders’ fourth meeting in the last year.  During the meeting Putin said he welcomed improved relations between Israel and Turkey. He also the establishment of a free trade area with the Eurasian Economic Union could promote economic ties with Israel. Russia is to pay $83 million  in pensions to former Soviet Union citizens now living in Israel in 2017. (RFE/RL, 06.06.16, 06.07.16, Interfax, 06.08.16, Moscow Times, Haaretz, Bloomberg, 06.08.16).

Russia's neighbors:

  • Ukraine:
    • The EU is set to roll over its Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia for a further six months, Financial Times reported on June 9. The decision to extend the sanction could be made within the next two weeks, according to the paper.  (Belfer Center, 06.09.16).
    • The White House is pushing for implementation of a deal to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine before President Barack Obama leaves office, national-security adviser Susan Rice has said. Rice said U.S. officials are intensifying their efforts with their French and German counterparts to convince the two nations to carry out their parts of the Minsk peace agreement they signed in February 2015. (RFE/RL, 06.10.16).
    • Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state, said  economic sanctions continue to be the most powerful leverage Washington has over Russia, and that those measures have thwarted potential Russian efforts to seize larger swaths of Ukrainian territory, including the capital. We have deterred further land grabs in Ukraine, and that was a real risk when we first started with sanctions -- that they would try to run all the way to Kyiv and Kharkiv," she said. "I will tell you now that the Russians are now openly talking about the pain of sanctions, including when we work with them on the Minsk thing. So they know what it's going to take to get these sanctions rolled back." (RFE/RL, 06.08.16).
    • The United States is dispatching the Treasury's Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam J. Szubin to Paris and Berlin on June 7 and 8 to try to convince European allies "of the importance of maintaining sanctions pressure on Russia," the U.S. Treasury said on June 3. (RFE/RL, 06.04.16).
    • The United States has committed over $600 million in security assistance to Ukraine, according to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. U.S. has trained over 1,700 Ukrainian conventional forces and National Guard personnel and 120 Special Operations Forces. U.S. has also provided counter-artillery and counter-mortar radars, over 3000 secure radios, 130 Humvees, over 100 armored civilian SUVs, and thousands of medical kits, according to Nuland. (State.gov, 06.07.16).
    • Russia has supported the idea of setting up several security zones on the line of contact in Donbas, deploying an additional OSCE monitoring team there, and stepping up the monitoring of the heavy weapons holding areas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. Russia is also ready for a compromise on providing additional OSCE monitors on the line of contact in Donbas with personal firearms, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. (Interfax, 06.04.16).
    • A protest has taken place in the separatist-controlled eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk against the deployment of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). (RFE/RL, 06.10.16).
    • Dutch prosecutors say an international joint probe into the downing of Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine is "at a very advanced stage" and that the investigators will present their first results "after this summer." International investigators say they have found a Buk missile component at the crash site of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 06.03.16,RFE/RL, 06.07.16).
    • Hopes in Georgia, Ukraine and Kosovo that the European Union would approve their visa-free access to the bloc by the summer have faded. EU officials and diplomats now say that September appears to be the earliest date that EU governments and the European Parliament could sign off the agreements. (Wall Street Journal, 06.09.16).
    • The head of Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) said the French national arrested in Ukraine last month had been planning to stage 15 terrorist attacks during the Europe 2016 soccer championship in France.(RFE/RL, 06.06.16).
    • Ukraine's state oil and gas company Naftogaz has asked Russian energy giant Gazprom to resume the country's gas supplies, the RIA Novosti news agency reported Tuesday. (Moscow Times, 06.07.16).
    • The last damaged used fuel assembly from units 1-3 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was removed on June 6 - from the cooling pool of unit 1 - and transferred to ISF1, a wet-type interim storage facility.  (World Nuclear News, 06.06.16).
    • “They are like bad students, always saying, ‘Professor, just wait until Monday; I will do better,’” said Tymofiy S. Mylovanov, president of the Kiev School of Economics said of Ukrainian government. “Nothing changed. The same elites are there. The same oligarchs.”(New York Times, 06.06.16).
  • Other neighbors:
    • President Nursultan Nazarbaev has said that deadly weekend attacks in northwestern Kazakhstan had been organized by supporters of radical, pseudo-religious teachings who were instructed from abroad. Kazakh authorities are still searching for at least six surviving suspects after deadly attacks in western Kazakh city of Aqtobe on June 5. Kazakh security forces said on June 10th have killed five suspected militants in Aqtobe The militants were killed as part of a "counterterrorism operation," pushing the total death toll related to the attacks and the ensuing manhunt to 25, including attackers. (RFE/RL, 06.07.16, 06.08.16, 06.10.16).
    • Kazakhstan's special services said that they managed to thwart plans of local businessman Tokhtar Tuleshov’s to stage a coup d’etat.  (Moscow Times, 06.06.16).
    • The IAEA and Kazakhstan’s Ulba Metallurgical Plant signed an agreement for the construction of the LEU Storage Facility at Ulba. According to the agreement, the facility will begin operations in September 2017. (IPFM, 05.27.16).
    • Russian gas giant Gazprom is set to invest 100 billion rubles ($1.5 billion) in Kyrgyzstan’s gas pipelines by 2030, the Interfax news agency reported Monday. (Moscow Times, 06.04.16).
    • One Tajik heavy metal musician, who goes by the name Jack, said that there was only a handful of what he described as “monsters of rock” left in Dushanbe. Many popular bands had recently split up due to financial pressures, with no sign of a new wave emerging. (The Guardian, 06.08.16).
    • Senior Georgian officials say "bold" action is needed on Tbilisi's NATO aspirations and that the Western military alliance should be "desperate" for it to gain membership to demonstrate that Russia is not dictating its policies. (RFE/RL, 06.09.16).
    • Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has issued a decree setting an October 8 date for parliamentary elections, presidential spokesman Eka Mishveladze said on June 3. (RFE/RL, 06.04.16).
    • Under pressure from opposition forces that have branded his accession to power two years ago illegal and unconstitutional, Raul Khajimba, the de facto president of Georgia's breakaway Republic of Abkhazia, has scheduled for July 10 a referendum on whether or not to hold an early presidential election. (RFE/RL, 06.09.16).
    • Speaker of Russia's upper house Valentina Matviyenko said during a visit to Minsk on June 4 that Russian-Belarussian trade turnover had fallen recently by some 15 percent, mainly due to the devaluation of the countries' currencies and a "complicated world economic situation." (RFE/RL, 06.05.16).
    • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, French Ambassador to Moscow Jean-Maurice Ripert, and OSCE Minsk Group's French Co-Chair Pierre Andrieu discussed preparations for a tripartite summit on settling the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in St. Petersburg. (Interfax, 06.09.16).
    • "Recent developments in the region on the line of conflict show the cease-fire is not stable, it is fragile," Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev told a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on June 7. "The status quo is not acceptable,” he said in reference to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. (RFE/RL, 06.07.16).
    • Czech President Milos Zeman says he will ask parliament to adopt a resolution recognizing the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago as genocide. (RFE/RL, 06.08.16).
    • European leaders struck back against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's repeated criticisms of German lawmakers for voting to recognize the Ottomans' massacre of Armenians as genocide. (RFE/RL, 06.10.16).
    • The U.S. government has requested $787 million in FY2017 funding for Europe and Eurasia, including to those countries most vulnerable to Russian pressure, especially Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and the Western Balkans, according to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. (State.gov, 06.07.16).

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