News

Russia in Review

May 20, 2016

Abstract

Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for May 13-20, 2016

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

Nuclear security:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed the annual defense policy bill on May 19th.  The bill provides $120 million specifically for NNSA’s recapitalization projects and an additional $30 million for preventative maintenance. The bill also includes $717 million for defense nuclear security, an increase of $60 million to the budget request. The U.S. Senate passed its version of the defense spending bill May 12 to provide $12.9 billion for nuclear security, a $341 million increase from the prior fiscal year and in line with the president's request.  The two versions of the bill need to be reconciled before they can be summited to President Barack Obama.(CONGDP, 05.19.16, SNL Financial Extra, 05.12.16)
  • NNSA has failed to complete an overall plan to protect the country’s atomic installations and infrastructure, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated in a report on Friday. (Sputnik, 05.13.16).
  • Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom says it’s satisfied with projects to contain and revitalize some of the Arctic’s most pressing Cold War legacy installations. Specifically it singled out work at Gremikha, a storage site for submarine reactors; Sayda Bay; Andreeva Bay, a former depository for spent fuel from nuclear submarines, and the dismantlement Lepse floating spent nuclear storage vessel. (Bellona, 05.16.16).
  • The Nuclear Physics Institute of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences is being abolished and the institute's nuclear reactor will be passed under the jurisdiction of a nuclear security center to be created at the Emergency Situations Ministry. (Interfax, 05.16.16).

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Russia will complete the delivery of S-300 air defense systems to Iran by the end of the year, according to a Russian presidential aide for military-technical cooperation. (Defense News, 05.19.16).

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • NATO has reached "broad agreement" to seek another meeting with Russia before NATO leaders meet in Warsaw this July, the alliance's chief said Friday. Jens Stoltenberg said NATO’s foreign ministers "all agreed in the current situation that we need a platform (like) the NATO-Russia Council to pursue transparency, predictability and to work for enhancing mechanisms for risk reduction to avoid dangerous situations, situations which can spiral out of control." (AP, 05.20.16).
  • “Look at the enemy countermeasures,” Gen. H.R. McMaster, director of the US Army’s Capabilities Integration Center said, noting Russia’s use of nominally semi-professional forces who are capable of “dispersion, concealment, intermingling with civilian populations…the ability to disrupt our network strike capability, precision navigation and timing capabilities.” All of that means “you’re probably going to have a close fight,” he said. The recipe that’s emerging from the battlefield of Ukraine, says McMaster, is more artillery and better artillery, a mix of old and new. (Defense One, 05.19.16).
  • The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a new $602 billion defense policy bill. The bill includes $3.4 billion for military forces in Europe, which is more than four times the $789 million that was allocated in 2014. (RFE/RL, Sputnik 05.19.16).
  • Russia spends $64,600 per soldier annually. Leading NATO members spend five times that amount. When it comes to the cost of maintaining nuclear forces, the difference is not that marked: about $20 billion a year in the U.S. and from $10 to $15 billion, according to various estimates, in Russia. (RBTH, 05.19.16).
  • NATO must bolster its military presence in the Baltic States or risk nuclear war with Russia, according to Sir Richard Shirreff who was NATO's former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe between 2011 and 2014. “The chilling fact is that because Russia hardwires nuclear thinking and capability to every aspect of their defense capability, [if Russia did attack the Baltic] this would be nuclear war”. (Moscow Times, 05.18.16).
  • Equipment belonging to NATO's new "Spearhead" rapid-reaction force was disembarked in a Polish port on Wednesday as part of a major test of the force's capability to quickly relocate wherever the alliance faces a threat. NATO’s “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force “would be too vulnerable during its deployment phase to be used in Poland or the Baltic States, two senior Nato generals told the Financial Times. (AP, 05.17.16, Financial Times, 05.15.16).
  • Six NATO countries squared off last week in the Strong Europe Tank Challenge, a two-day competition that pitted some of the alliance's best tank crews against each another in a series of events centered on armored warfare. Germany took top honors in the competition, followed by Denmark and Poland in second place and third place respectively. (Washington Post, 05.17/16).
  • Montenegro and NATO have signed a protocol on the country's accession to the alliance, paving the way for the Balkan country to become the 29th member of the military alliance. (RFE/RL, 05.19.16).

Missile defense:

  • French officials said they are withholding their authorization for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to take control of the U.S.-built European missile-defense system. U.S. officials say they are worried that any delay in having NATO take operational control of the system would be interpreted by Russia as a sign of weakness. A French official said Paris's concerns have nothing to do with Russia, but rather over whether the NATO command and control would work. (Wall Street Journal, 05.19.16).
  • “Just a few years ago, our partners in the West, in Europe and the United States, were all speaking in one voice, telling us that they need a missile defense system to protect from missile and nuclear threats from Iran,” Vladimir Putin said, adding that such a threat has ceased to exist after last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. “The threat is gone, but the creation of the missile defense system is continuing.” (AP, 05.13.16).
  • Commander of the Strategic Missile Force (RVSN) Colonel-General Sergei Karakayev, told journalists this week: “The European segment of the US MD may threaten the RVSN in a limited way but cannot critically affect its battle capabilities.” (Jamestown, 05.14.16)
  • Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said new threats by Russia to "neutralize" American-backed defensive systems in Europe were misinformed and causing problems between the two powers. (Wall Street Journal, 05.16.16).
  • Chair of the Russian Senate’s defense committee Victor Ozerov quoted unnamed “specialists,” apparently from Russian military intelligence: “The US MD installations in Romania and Poland may be quickly rearmed to deliver nuclear weapons.” (Jamestown, 05.14.16)
  • Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makey says Belarus and Russia are concerned about the establishment of U.S. missile-defense systems in Eastern Europe. (RFE/RL, 05.16.16).
  • The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency is in the early phases of engineering a technology able to knock multiple incoming enemy targets out of space with a single interceptor. The new system, called Multi-Object Kill Vehicle, is designed to release from a Ground Based Interceptor and destroy approaching Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles, or ICBMs -- and also take out decoys traveling alongside the incoming missile threat. (National Interest, 05.17.16).
  • The United States, South Korea and Japan will, for the first time, jointly test their ability to detect and track North Korean missiles on June 28. (AP, 05.16.16).

Arms control:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a new $602 billion defense policy bill that calls for withholding funding from the Defense Department for matters related to the Open Skies treaty until defense officials report to Congress that the Russian flights wouldn’t violate the treaty. (RFE/RL, 05.19.16).

Counter-terrorism:

  • “We suggest to the US… starting on May 25, joint action of the Russian Air Forces and the US-led coalition forces to plan and conduct strikes against the Al-Nusra Front, which does not support the ceasefire, as well as against convoys of arms and fighters crossing the Syrian-Turkish border, “Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. Shoigu warned that, starting from next Wednesday, Russia would feel free to use its warplanes to attack any group that failed to back the ceasefire. (Russia Today, 05.20.16).
  • NATO members discussed the alliance joining the anti-Islamic State coalition in a formal way. But some allies feel having NATO formally involved would complicate relations with Russia, which is also conducting airstrikes in Syria. (Wall Street Journal, 05.19.16).
  • Russian special services, in cooperation with their Kazakh colleagues, have curbed the work of a criminal group that planned to carry out terrorist attacks according to the Paris scenario in large Russian cities, Russian Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov said. He said members of the criminal group planned to leave Russia and go to an Arab country. (Interfax, 05.19.16).
  • The five permanent members of the UN Security Council have agreed to supply Libya's internationally recognized government with weapons to fight the Islamic State group and other armed factions in the divided country. (RFE/RL, 05.17.16).
  • The Caucasus Emirate in Syria, the official Syrian branch of the al Qaeda-linked Caucasus Emirate, has released a new short video through its Akhbar Sham propaganda wing showing its fighters taking part in recent battles within Aleppo. (Long war journal, 05.17.16).
  • Police in Russia’s republic of Dagestan say two police officers and four rebels were killed in clashes on May 14 in the city of Derbent. The Sunni extremist group Islamic State claimed its fighters were behind the attack. (RFE/RL, 05.14.16).
  • Two young men in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, have been jailed for raising the flag of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in a public place. (RFE/RL, 05.2016).

Cyber security:

  • Germany's domestic intelligence agency has warned that Russia is trying to sabotage critical infrastructure through cyberspying. (RFE/RL, 05.14.16).
  • Ukrainian computer hacker Vadym Iermolovych has become the first to plead guilty to what U.S. authorities called the biggest hacking scheme ever to game global markets, reaping $100 million in illegal profits. (RFE/RL, 05.17.16).
  • Russia's new FindFace app identifies strangers in a crowd with 70 percent accuracy. (Washington Post, 05.18.16).

Energy exports from CIS:

  • No significant developments.

Bilateral economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

Other bilateral issues:

  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia does not accept the application of American justice outside the country’s jurisdiction following a report saying the U.S. Justice Department had opened a criminal investigation into alleged state-sponsored doping by dozens of Russian athletes. Russian prosecutors said in a statement on Thursday that they would investigate reports that the country’s athletes doped at three recent Olympics. (New York Times, 05.19.16, RFE/RL, 05.18.16).
  • Documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden suggest that the spy agency eavesdropped on a Russian mob kingpin in an effort to determine his possible ties to President Vladimir Putin. (RFE/RL, 05.17.16).
  • Russian prosecutors say they plan to ask U.S. authorities for assistance in their investigation of British-American financier William Browder, accusing him and New York investment fund Ziff Brothers of defrauding the Russian treasury of up to 1 billion rubles in taxes. (RFE/RL, 05.19.16).
  • A U.S. congressional committee has approved legislation targeting human rights abusers worldwide with sanctions modeled after the Magnitsky Act. (RFE/RL, 05.18.16).
  • Jake Sullivan, top aide to U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton accused her Republican rival, Donald Trump, of having a "bizarre fascination" with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other "foreign strongmen." (RFE/RL, 05.18.16).
  • Donald Trump has insisted that he barely recalls Felix Sater, the Russian-born, allegedly mafia-linked businessman in the case, but there is evidence of a closer relationship between the two. (Washington Post/Bloomberg, 05.18.16).
  • Scientists from the U.S. and Russia identified several recurrent mutations that are likely to be recognized by the immune system and that could be strong candidates for cancer vaccines. (RBTH, 05.18.16).
  • The International Space Station made its 100,000th orbit around the Earth on May 16 after nearly two decades in space, space officials say. (RFE/RL, 05.17.16).
  • The head of the Russian Constitutional Court Valery Zorkin has accused the United States of violating international standards of the United Nations and compared the rhetoric of U.S. President Barack Obama to that of Adolf Hitler. (Moscow Times, 05.19.16).

 

II. Russia news.

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia's economy contracted by less than expected in the first quarter of 2016 in a sign it may be stabilizing.  The Russian state statistics service said on May 16 that the economy declined by 1.2 percent from a year earlier, after falling by 3.8 percent in the final quarter of 2015. (RFE/RL, 05.17.16).
  • The Russian economy has been out of recession for more than six months, Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said.  (Moscow Times, 05.20.16).
  • The Russian currency is the second-best performer among its peers in emerging markets this year with a gain of almost 10 percent. (Bloomberg, 05.18.16).
  • Russia eyes $12.6 billion windfall from privatization of state companies. Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved the privatization of state oil company Bashneft. (Moscow Times, 05.17.16, RBTH, 05.18.16).
  • More than 16,000 Russians in single-industry towns are expected to lose their jobs in 2016, the RBC news website reported Wednesday. (Moscow Times, 05.18.16).
  • The Kremlin has officially denied reports of possible tax rises after the presidential elections in 2018. The claims were originally made in an article which appeared on the Wall Street Journal website Sunday. (Moscow Times, 05.16.16).
  • Over the past five years, Russians' alcohol consumption has dropped by almost a third. (Moscow Times, 05.20.16).
  • Russia’s sports minister has apologized for his country's deepening doping scandal and pleaded for Russia's athletes to be allowed to compete in the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (RFE/RL, 05.16.16).
  • The former chief editor of the RBC media holding has said that political pressure on the company resulted in the dismissal of top staff members. RBC's work on the Panama Papers was like waving a “red rag” at the Kremlin, Yelizaveta Osetinskaya said in an interview. (Moscow Times, 05.19.16).
  • The offices of the Listok independent newspaper in Siberia have been raided on suspicion of extremism. (Moscow Times, 05.16.16).
  • In an attack reflecting rising political violence in Russia, pro-Kremlin activists Tuesday beat members of an opposition party led by prominent whistleblower Alexei Navalny, injuring six and leaving one person hospitalized. (Washington Post, 05.17.16).

Defense and Aerospace:

  • The new Barguzin rail-based missile system will be employed by the Russian armed forces no earlier than 2020 and will be equipped with six missiles, Colonel General Sergei Karakayev, the commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces, has said. (RBTH, 05.17.16).
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry has announced plans to reopen a radar station on the Crimean peninsula. (RBTH, 05.20.16).
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry says a military bus has crashed into a deep ravine in South Ossetia, killing six Russian officers and injuring 16. (RFE/RL, 05.19.16).

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • At least six percent of Russia's population has been under state surveillance at some point in the last nine years. Information released by Russian human rights group Agora claims that the Russian Supreme Court received some 4,659,325 applications to monitor and record telephone communications between 2007 and 2015. The court approved almost 97 percent of these, or 4,517,515. (Moscow Times, 05.16.16).
  • Russian investigators believe that financial motives were behind the deadly altercation in Moscow's Khovanskoye Cemetery on Saturday. Three people died at the scene and more than 30 suffered injuries of varying severity.  (Moscow Times, 05.16.16).
  • A 20-year-old man from the southern Russian city of Sochi, Hussein Makhauriy, was found guilty of promoting terrorism and received a 4 ½ year prison sentence from the Sochi central district court. The man’s texts contained calls for terrorist activities and hostility toward members of certain ethnic groups and religious denominations (Moscow Times, 05.17.16).
  • Russian lawmakers gave tentative approval to forming a National Guard. (RFE/RL, 05.19.16).
  • A court in Moscow has convicted performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky on charges of vandalism for a pro-Ukraine protest and has sentenced him to 16 months of "freedom limitation," which is similar to a suspended sentence with parole limitations. (RFE/RL, 05.19.16).
  • On May 10, an unusual post appeared on Facebook, apparently signed by Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN). "Comrades and fellow soldiers," it began. "I want to apologize that I couldn't save our organization. We protected our national interests honestly." Not one FSKN general will move over to the Interior Ministry," says the source close to the security services. "It is complete annihilation."  (Moscow Times, 05.19.16).

Foreign affairs and trade:

  • Syria:
    • U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State, told reporters Tuesday that Russian capabilities are "almost identical" to what they were before President Vladimir Putin's announcement that his country's forces would soon be returning home. He added that the Pentagon was also monitoring Russia's build-up of a forward operating base near the ancient city of Palmyra. Russia denied that it has built a military base in Palmyra. The Russian military on May 17 described the camp as "temporary," saying its few housing units were being used by explosives experts who are removing mines left behind by Islamic State militants. (Washington Post, 05.18.16, RFE/RL, 05.18.16).
    • The U.S. and Russia remained at odds at the Tuesday meeting of the International Syria Support Group over the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In a concession made to Russia, John Kerry said all opposition forces must “dissociate themselves physically and politically from Daesh and al-Nusra,” in reference to Islamic State and another militant group in Syria., “Moscow is not supporting Assad,” Lavrov said. Lavrov also described Assad as a “lesser evil.” Kerry and Lavrov also said that if Assad continues to block access of humanitarian aid to besieged cities and towns, they were prepared to help the World Food Program airdrop food and emergency supplies. (Wall Street Journal, 05.17.16, New York Times, 05.18.16).
    • The Obama administration's failure to convince Moscow that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go is fueling European frustration at being sidelined in efforts to end the country's five-year civil war, diplomats say. “We haven't got anywhere near having that discussion with the Syrians themselves because the U.S. and Russia have been trying to bridge the gap, and they haven't been able to do so," a senior U.N. diplomat said. (Reuters, 05.16.16).
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed in a phone call “that the Russian and U.S. military, acting through the coordination mechanisms that have been established, will develop specific measures to separate the supporters and opponents of the ceasefire more efficiently and consider steps to block supplies to terrorists acting on Syrian soil from abroad," the Russian Foreign Ministry said. (Interfax, 05.19.16).
  • Other countries:
    • European Union nations are set to renew sanctions against Russia for six more months, six European officials said. The trade and investment sanctions are set to lapse on July 31 and require a unanimous vote to be prolonged. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said talks among the member states on rolling them over will begin in the coming weeks. Asked if sanctions expiring in July would be extended, the former Italian foreign minister said: "I expect so." "EU heads of state or government had tied the lifting of the sanctions to a full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. So far, this has not been reached,” Mogherini said. “There is no discussion at the moment on increasing the level of sanctions,” she said. (Bloomberg, 05.20.16, Reuters, 05.19.16).
    • German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier would want to "achieve a careful softening of the sanctions," which the EU must decide by July 31 on whether to renew. (Wall Street Journal, 05.17.16).
    • Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will be a star guest at President Putin’s annual showcase investment forum in his hometown of St. Petersburg next month. (Bloomberg, 05.20.16).
    • France would like to abolish short-term visas for Russian tourists due to the lack of a risk of immigration from Russia, French Ambassador to Russia Jean-Maurice Ripert has said. (Interfax, 05.19.16).
    • The French government has proposed a ban on imports of shale gas. Russian experts believe that if the measure is adopted, it will serve the interests of Russian companies such as Gazprom and Novatek. (Interfax, 05.19.16).
    • The use of the Russian factor in the ongoing EU membership referendum campaign in the United Kingdom is a new phenomenon, as this earlier happened only in the United States, says Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov. He commenting on British Prime Minister David Cameron's words that "Putin might be happy" if the United Kingdom left the EU. (Interfax, 05.18.16).
    • The Russian average monthly wage has slipped below $450, which is less than the Chinese average, Sberbank chief analyst Mikhail Matovnikov said. (Moscow Times, 05.19.16).
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to make his long-awaited visit to Japan at the end of this year, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov said on Tuesday. (Reuters, 05.17.16).
    • Egypt has announced a $25 billion loan from Russia for the building of a nuclear power plant. (AP, 05.19.16).
    • Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Poland and Hungary are embracing a leadership model touted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding to criticism in Washington over policies pursued by the eastern NATO members. (Bloomberg, 05.17.16).
    • The United Nations called on Russia to respect minority rights on the May 18 anniversary of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's mass deportation of Tatars from Crimea in 1944.  (RFE/RL, 05.18.16).
    • Aleksandr Dugin, a prominent Kremlin-connected nationalist ideologue says he has been denied entry into the European Union after arriving at a Greek airport, despite not being on an EU sanctions list. (RFE/RL, 05.17.16).
    • Russia is set to finalize an agreement with ASEAN countries including controversial references to maritime navigation and militarization of the South China Sea, a draft of the accord obtained by VOA Khmer shows. (VOA, 05.18.16).

Russia's neighbors:

  • Ukraine:
    • "We want to see Minsk implemented as soon as possible, and we think that it is now time to really step on the gas and see this implemented," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told reporters in Moscow on May 18 after talks with Russian presidential adviser Vladislav Surkov in Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the talks as a "brief exchange of opinions." Nuland said she also met with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. The United States will refuse to recognize any elections in eastern Ukraine that do not comply with the Minsk agreements, Nuland told reporters in Moscow.   (RFE/RL, Moscow Times, 05.18.16).
    • The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a new $602 billion defense policy bill. The amount of US military funding for Ukraine has decreased from $250 million in 2016 to $150 million. The defense bill details that the funds may be spent on nonlethal military aid, "to help train, equip, and assist the Ukrainian military, National Guard, and security services." (RFE/RL, Sputnik 05.19.16).
    • The Supreme Court of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya has found two Ukrainian citizens guilty of fighting alongside Chechen separatists in the 1990s. (RFE/RL, 05.19.16).
    • U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that the United States will move forward with a $1 billion loan guarantee agreement to support reforms against corruption. (RFE/RL, 05.14.16).
    • Russia says it won't support a much-needed International Monetary Fund aid package for Ukraine unless it stipulates a debt repayment to Russia. (Moscow Times, 05.17.16).
    • Ukraine’s gross domestic product edged up 0.1 percent in the first three months of 2016. (Bloomberg, 05.15.16).
    • The Ukrainian parliament has voted to change the name of the country's third-largest city from Dnipropetrovsk to Dnipro. The city was originally known as Katerynoslav. (RFE/RL, 05.19.16).
    • The Russian Justice Ministry has announced that a long-awaited prisoner exchange between Moscow and Kiev has been called off.  (Moscow Times, 05.17.16).
  • Other neighbors:
    • The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan have renewed their commitment to a cease-fire in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region and to a peaceful settlement of the conflict. A joint statement by the United States, France, and Russia said Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also agreed on a next round of talks to be held in a mutually agreed location, with the aim of resuming talks on a comprehensive settlement. (RFE/RL, 05.17.16).
    • An Azerbaijani soldier and an Armenian separatist fighter were reportedly killed in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on May 17 in the fiercest fighting since a deadly battle killed dozens of people six weeks earlier. (RFE/RL, 05.17.16).
    • France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, the co-chairman of the OSCE’s Minsk group on Nagorno-Karabakh, has accepted an invitation from Azerbaijan to visit Baku in the near future. (RFE/RL, 05.20.16).
    • The Azerbaijani parliament has approved a proposal to grant amnesty to thousands of prisoners. (RFE/RL, 05.2016).
    • The Anti-Defamation League said that the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians that began in 1915 was "unequivocally genocide" and for the first time expressed support for US government recognition of the killings as a genocide. (Boston Globe, 05.14.16).
    • Security services in Kyrgyzstan said they have arrested three politicians, including a former minister, on charges of plotting a coup. (RFE/RL, 05.14.16).
    • Tajik authorities have arrested five mosque imams for allegedly promoting extremist ideas and recruiting young people to join Islamist militant groups abroad. (RFE/RL, 05.19.16).
    • A court in Bishkek has sentenced a former Kyrgyz prime minister's son, Altynbek Muraliev, to 12 years in prison for passing classified materials to the secret services of an undisclosed foreign country. (RFE/RL, 05.19.16).
    • Kazakh authorities have intensified a crackdown on activists ahead of planned nationwide protests on May 21 against controversial new legislation on the privatization of agricultural land. (RFE/RL, 05.18.16).
    • Some 500 Russian soldiers and 100 military vehicles stationed in Moldova's breakaway republic are staging weeks of military exercises. (AP, 05.17.16).
    • Ultranationalist politician Avigdor Lieberman has been offered the post of Israel’s defense minister. Lieberman is a former nightclub bouncer from Moldova. (Guardian, 05.19.16).

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