News

Russia in Review

Apr. 29, 2016

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Georgia’s security service says it has detained a group of five Georgian citizens, alleged to have been trying to sell Uranium-238 and Uranium-235 for $3 million. The group was caught in possession of Uranium-238 and Uranium-235. The arrests come less than two weeks after the country’s security service detained six individuals who were trying to sell Uranium-238. (Russia Today, 04.28.16).
  • "I am grateful that the NDAA continues construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX) at the Savannah River Site. This facility is critical to our national security and environmental clean-up missions converting weapons-grade plutonium into green fuel, and is the only viable method of upholding our nonproliferation commitment with the Russian Federation,” Congressman Joe Wilson stated after the House Armed Services Committee completed the markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017. The NDAA funds MOX at $340 million, and includes specific language requiring the funding go towards continued construction of the facility. (CONGDP, 04.28.16).
  • “The threat of nuclear terrorism is currently growing, which forces us to pay particular attention to the return of militants from abroad,” Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan said  in Moscow on Wednesday. (Sputnik, 04.27.16).
  • An international effort to seal the destroyed remains of the nuclear reactor that exploded in Ukraine 30 years ago is finally close to completion, and remarkably,, it's close to being on schedule. Associated Press reporters who visited the edge of the Chernobyl exclusion zone in Belarus say that milk from a dairy farm there contains levels of radioactive isotopes at least 10 times higher than the country’s food safety limits. Leading Chernobyl researcher Dr. Timothy Mousseau says the potential for fresh catastrophe is hidden in the forests of the exclusion zone around the site of the world's worst nuclear accident. (RFE/RL, 04.25.16, Washington Post, 04.25.16).
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry says a decommissioned Soviet-era Oscar-I class nuclear submarine that was being disassembled in Russia’s Far East has caught fire. (RFE/RL, 04.29.16).
  • French utility EDF has signed an agreement to extend its cooperation with Rosenergoatom. Through the agreement, EDF and Rosenergoatom intend to develop cooperation in areas such as the maintenance, modernization and operating period extension of nuclear power plants, as well as decommissioning and radioactive waste management. They will also conduct research and development into operating issues. (World Nuclear News, 04.26.16).
  • The State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom and The Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful uses. (Arab Finance, 04.27.16).

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Russia’s RIA news agency quoted an Iranian Foreign Ministry official on April 25 as saying that Tehran is conducting talks with Russia about sales of heavy water.(RFE/RL, 04.25.16).
  • Iran and Russia have developed “specific plans” for bolstering the two countries’ military and technical cooperation, Iran’s defense minister Hossein Dehqan said after meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Wednesday. Referring to Iran’s historical nuclear agreement, Dehqan said “under the current conditions bright horizons can be drawn for strategic cooperation between the two countries in various fields.”    During the meeting “Russia and Iran reached… some agreements and drew up specific plans towards furthering military and technical cooperation,” he noted. (PressTV, 04.27.16).

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • Lawmakers on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee voted to back an administration proposal called the European Reassurance Initiative, а $3.4 billion effort to increase the U.S. military presence in Eastern Europe. The 60-2 vote on the entire defense bill pushes it for a vote by the full House of Representatives, expected next month.  (RFE/RL, 04.28.16).
  • U.S. President Barack Obama said he has sought to disabuse Russian leader Vladimir Putin of his belief that NATO and the European Union are threats. "I think he's mistaken," Obama said. "I've indicated to him that, in fact, a strong, unified Europe working with a strong, outward-looking Russia, that's the right recipe. So far, he has not been entirely persuaded." Obama also said Putin views European unity as a threat and is trying to undermine it. (RFE/RL, 04.26.16).
  • Speaking in Hannover on April 25, U.S. President Barack Obama said he will insist at a July NATO summit in Warsaw that all members of the alliance must take responsibility for security. He underlined that NATO has to bolster its "front-line allies in Poland, in Romania, and in the Baltic states" while also meeting "the threat of its southern flank.” (RFE/RL, 04.25.16).
  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said: “Five evolving challenges are now driving the focus of DoD's planning and budgeting…The first such challenge is in Europe, where we're taking a strong and balanced approach to deter Russian aggression…. Russia and China are our most stressing competitors, as they've both developed and are continuing to advance military systems that threaten our advantages.”(CONGDP, 04.27.16).
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a security conference in Moscow that an April 20 meeting of the NATO-Russia Council  “did not inspire optimism” about the Kremlin’s relations with NATO and the European Union. Shoigu said it was “not our fault that Russia’s military cooperation with NATO and EU countries has been frozen.” (RFE/RL, 04.27.16).
  • “It is inappropriate to talk about the security of Europe and separately talk about the security of Russia, as if we are located at the opposite poles. We are geographically located on the same continent, but economically we are in the same boat. There have been no ideological barriers between us for a long time, but there are common threats and dangers,” Chief of the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Sergei Makarov told the the 5th Moscow conference on international security, according to the Russian defense ministry’s web site. (Belfer Center, 04.28.16).
  • A Russian-U.S. Joint Commission on POWs/MIAs will gather for a plenary session in the U.S. on May 23-24/ (Interfax, 04.22.16).
  • A Russian inspection team visited Bulgaria's Novo Selo Training Area April 20 to conduct an inspection under the Vienna Document 2011 Confidence and Security-Building Measures. On hand for the inspection were liaison officers from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency-Europe.(Army.mil, 04.20.16).
  • The U.S. Air Force landed two of its most advanced  F-22 jets in Lithuania for the first time on April 27.(RFE/RL, 04.29.16).
  • Moscow would respect any decision by Sweden to join NATO, but would take "measures" to respond to the military alliance's approach to its borders, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned. Russia is finalizing the development of new generation missiles that are likely to be deployed in the country’s northern territories if Sweden joins NATO, the deputy chair of the Russian upper house’s Arms Committee said Friday. (RFE/RL, IBTimes.04.29.16).

Missile defense:

  • See the section on foreign affairs below.

Arms control:

  • Lawmakers on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee took aim at the Treaty on Open Skies. The NDAA-2015 bill passed by the committee on April 28 aims to cut off funding for cooperation with Russia on U.S. overflights until intelligence officials say there is no threat from the flights. (RFE/RL, 04.28.16).

Counter-terrorism:

  • "On the whole, we positively assess our interaction with the United States in Syria. Bilateral agreements on the prevention of air incidents are working, and military entities supervising reconciliation of the sides are interacting," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at the Fifth Moscow Conference on International Security. "Our countries are ought to cooperate more closely in the fight against international terrorism. We are ready for that, and the ball is in Washington's court," he said. (Interfax, 04.27.16).
  • The Russian government estimates that up to 4,500 citizens of Russia and other CIS countries were in the ranks of ISIS and other terrorist organizations in the Middle East as of early 2015, according to chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov. Speaking at the defense ministry’s annual international conference Gerasimov said the rise of terrorism was partly the result of "attempts to transfer the values of Western democracy to countries with their own mentality, spiritual values and traditions... this had exploded North Africa and the Middle East". (BBC, 04.28.16, Belfer Center, 04.28.16).
  • More than 700 criminal cases were opened against Russian citizens fighting for the Islamic State in the past year, according to Russia's Prosecutor General Yury Chaika. The report also said there was a sharp increase in terrorism-related crime in Russia this year, with the number of such criminal cases reaching 1,538 — a 36.3 percent increase from last year. (Moscow Times, 04.26.16).
  • Russia's Federal Security Service said on April 25 that Gairatzhon Tazhibaev was sentenced to five years in the Russian city of Perm after being found guilty of recruiting fighters for Islamic militants in Syria. (RFE/RL, 04.25.16).
  • The Moscow Regional Military Court has sentenced a man from the Orenburg region to 5 1/2 years in prison on terrorism charges. Azerbaijan-born Russian citizen Murad Nadzhafov was found guilty of participating in militant activities as part of the group that calls itself Islamic State. (RFE/RL, 04.28.16).
  • Ethnic Armenian from Kazakhstan has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail on Islamic extremism charges in Russia. Vazgen Zargarian pleaded guilty to several attempts to join the militant group in Syria that calls itself Islamic State. (RFE/RL, 04.27.16).
  • Authorities in Moscow have detained a man on suspicion that he is a recruiter for extremist organizations. The suspect was identified as a 23-year-old citizen of an Asian country. (RFE/RL, 04.27.16).
  • Russia has proposed that the United Nations Security Council blacklist Syrian rebel groups Jaish Al-Islam and Ahrar Al-Sham because of their links to the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups. (RFE/RL, 04.28.16).

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is on the verge of realizing a decade-old dream: Russian oil priced in Russia. “The goal is to create a system where Russian oil is priced and traded in a fair and straightforward way,” said Alexei Rybnikov, president of the St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange, or Spimex, in a phone interview (Bloomberg, 04.27.16).
  • Russia doesn’t anticipate any new initiatives to freeze oil production before an OPEC meeting scheduled for June, according to Energy Minister Alexander Novak. (Bloomberg, 04.26.16).

Bilateral economic ties:

  • Russian property mogul Vladislav Doronin’s  OKO will spend $1 billion to acquire land and develop three luxury condo buildings in Miami. (Wall Street Journal, 04.27.16).

Other bilateral issues:

  • Despite differences with China and Russia, “we are not bound to be adversaries,” Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said. In his much-anticipated foreign policy speech Wednesday, Trump expressed hope about the potential for improvement in American-Russian relations. "I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia, from a position of strength only, is possible," Trump said, though he added that the United States should be willing to walk away from the negotiating table if Russia is too demanding.(Wall Street Journal, CNN,  04.28.16).
  • The U.S. Air Force would have access to as many as 18 Russian RD-180 rocket engines under a bill the  House Armed Services Committee approved April 28.By allowing United Launch Alliance to import twice the number of RD-180 engines allowed under last year’s National Defense Authorization Act is intended to allow the Defense Department to continue to launch satellites aboard ULA’s  Atlas 5 rocket until the company’s next-generation launcher, Vulcan, is ready to take over around 2022. (Space News, 04.28.16).
  • According to a new Gallup poll 18 percent of Americans view Russia as the top threat to the United States.  (National Interest, 04.27.16).
  • Thirty-four percent of respondents in Russia and the United States agree that bribery and corruption are widespread in their country, a survey by multinational financial services company EY (Earnest & Yong)  reported. (Moscow Times, 04.22.16).
  • In its annual report Washington-based Freedom House described Russia as "an innovator of modern state propaganda" that tightened information control at home and also stepped up efforts to manipulate the media in "geopolitically significant" neighbor states such as Ukraine, Moldova, and the Baltic and Central Asian states.(RFE/RL, 04.27.16).

II. Russia news.

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia’s ruble headed for a fourth month of gains, in the best start to a year on record, as oil moved closer to the $50 per barrel milestone and the central bank kept interest rates unchanged for a sixth meeting. The world’s best-performing currency this year strengthened 1.1 percent to 64.039 at 2:10 p.m on Friday. (Bloomberg, 04.29.16).
  • Russia is continuing to receive insufficient oil and gas revenues. By the end of the first quarter of 2016 their share of the federal budget declined to 34 percent. Oil and gas earnings are calculated after the tax on mineral extraction and export duties on oil, gas and the products made from them. (RBTH, 04.29.16).
  • Companies and individuals are paying the least in almost two years to borrow cash from banks, while lenders have been charging each other less than the Bank of Russia benchmark for overnight funds for most of April. (Bloomberg, 04.28.16).
  • Moody's Investors Service on April 22 said it decided against downgrading Russia's credit rating, citing its economic resilience in recovering from January's plunge in oil prices. The Wall Street credit agency confirmed Russia's Ba1 bond rating.(RFE/RL, 04.23.16).
  • Russian Labor Minister Maxim Topilin has stated that there are no poor pensioners in Russia. “As you know, we have no poor pensioners. All pensioners receive additional payments on top of the subsistence level,” Topilin told the TASS news agency, Slon reported. (Moscow Times, 04.27.16).
  • Eighty-two percent of Russians are satisfied with the work of Vladimir Putin as Russian President; 17 percent are not, the Levada Center told Interfax after an April survey. (Interfax, 04.28.16).
  • Russia ranks tenth in the ratings of the most visited countries in 2015 according to UN. According to the organization, 31.6 million foreigners visited Russia last year, which is a 6.2 percent increase from 2014. The number of tourists from China who have visited Russia exceeded one million people last year. (Interfax, 04.25.16).
  • The attitude of Russians to the atomic energy industry has drastically changed over the past quarter of a century: 56 percent opposed its development (14 percent voiced their support) in 1990, and now atomic energy is welcomed by 58 percent (and opposed by 28 percent), the Russian Public Opinion Study Center has said. (Interfax, 04.26.16).
  • Banking records obtained from the Panama Papers show links between cellist Sergei Roldugin, a close ally of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and the case of Sergei Magnitsky, according to the website of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. (Moscow Times, 04.27.16).

Defense and Aerospace:

  • A Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle carrying three satellites blasted off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome on April 28.It is the inaugural launch from the new Russian Cosmodrome, built in the Amur region. Interfax, 04.28.16).
  • China and Russia are planning to deepen military cooperation and increase the number of joint military exercises in 2016, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and his Chinese counterpart, State Councilor and Defense Minister Gen Chang Wanquan, said in a meeting in Moscow on April 27. (The Diplomat, 04.28.16).
  • Russia and Afghanistan are set to create a military-technical cooperation committee and to pool efforts in the fight against international terrorism, acting Afghan Defense Minister Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai said in Moscow on April 27. (Interfax, 04.27.16).
  • Russian electronic-warfare powerhouse KRET has started testing a powerful new ground-based jamming system that could cut the crucial data-links that enable the United States military to conduct operations around the world. (National Interest, 04.26.16).
  • Russia’s 3M22 Zircon hypersonic cruise missile is expected to enter into production in 2018. The new weapon—which is capable of speeds of around Mach 5.0-Mach 6.0—is currently in testing. (National Interest, 04.22.16).
  • Russia hosts an informal meeting with ASEAN defense ministers in Moscow on April 26-28. (Interfax, 04.25.16).

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russia’s Investigative Committee said on April 29 that unknown attackers shot the former chief of police in Dagestan’s Shamil District overnight. (RFE/RL, 04.29.16).
  • The Russian Interior Ministry has offered a reward of 3 million rubles ($45,000) for information leading to the killers of a policeman and his family in Russia's southern city of Syzran, the ministry said in a statement Monday. (Moscow Times, 04.25.16).
  • Georgy Bedzhamov, the fugitive co-owner of Russia's Vneshprombank, has been detained in Monaco, the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office said on April 21.(RFE/RL, 04.22.16).
  • The Supreme Court of Russian-held Crimea has branded the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Mejlis, as an extremist organization and has officially banned it. (RFE/RL, 04.26.16).
  • An unaccompanied 11-year-old girl slipped through security checks at Moscow's Vnukovo airport and flew to St. Petersburg without a ticket or ID, according to Russian media reports. (Moscow Times, 04.27.16).

Foreign affairs and trade:

  • Syria:
    • Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva says the Syrian Army is preparing to launch offensives against Islamic State militants in the cities of Deir Ez--Zor and Raqqa.(RFE/RL, 04.29.16).
    • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies in Moscow and Tehran have set the stage for an imminent offensive to complete the encirclement of Aleppo City. (Institute for Study of War, 04.28.16).
    • In rough overall terms, Moscow’s air campaign has helped the regime regain little more than 4,000 square miles, roughly five percent of Syrian territory and only a fraction of the territory ISIS held at its height. This leaves Assad in control of around a third of the country and 63 percent of the remaining population.  (Foreign Affairs, 04.21.16).
    • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Americans have proposed to the Russians to a new 24-hour monitoring system in Syria. “We’ve even proposed drawing a line, an absolute line, and saying, ‘You don’t go over there, we don’t go over here, and anything in between is fair game.’ And they are considering that, and I think we will get there in the next week or so.” "This has been discussed regularly and for a long time but simply as an idea, nothing concrete," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said of Kerry’s proposal. Russia should examine a new U.S. initiative concerning truce monitoring in Syria, State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov said. The U.S. proposal to divide Syria into zones of influence is unreasonable, according to Viktor Ozerov, who chairs the Defense and Security Committee of Russia's Federation Council. (New York Times, 03.22.16,Interfax, 04.24.16)
    • The Russian Defense Ministry said that Russian military officials interact with their U.S. counterparts on Syria at a high level. "Today, we have good contact established with the U.S. in the military field, as we maintain a permanent dialogue between our servicemen in Hmeimim and the U.S. servicemen stationed at their base in Amman. We have good contacts in Geneva," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said.(Interfax, 04.25.16).
    • Russia said Friday that U.S. plans to increase the number of its military personnel in Syria was illegal and violated the sovereignty of the war-torn country. (Wall Street Journal, 04.29.16).
    • As the Pentagon prepares to send another 250 special operators and their support forces to Syria, military planners are putting together plans to share their locations with the Russians. “In the past, we have identified, we did identify, a specific geographic area where we asked the Russians not to strike,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters Monday.  (Foreign Policy, 04.26.16).
    • "The Russian and US sides in concurrence with the Syrian leadership are introducing a ‘regime of silence’ in northern part of Latakia Province from 12:01am local time on April 30, 2016,” Lieutenant General Sergey Kuralenko said. (Russia Today, 04.29.16).
    • UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura called on Russia and the United States to salvage a "barely alive" cease-fire in Syria to revitalize faltering peace talks. "There is no reason that both [Russia and the United States], which have been putting so much political capital in that success story and have a common interest in not seeing Syria ending up in another cycle of war, should not be able to revitalize [the cease-fire] they created and which is still alive, but barely," he said.(RFE/RL, 04.28.16).
    • During their meeting in Moscow,  Vladimir Putin handed to John Kerry a draft constitution “which [was] based on documents by legal experts close to the [Syrian] government.” The Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported that Robert Malley, senior adviser for the U.S. Counter-ISIL Campaign in Iraq and Syria, was in Geneva to negotiate on the constitution, which would see Assad remain in power, possibly with three “vice presidents.” .  (Foreign Affairs, 04.21.16).
    • “Syria must remain a secular state, which it was until 2011, and it can remain such a state thanks to everyone’s efforts,” chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov told the the 5th Moscow conference on international security. (Belfer Center, 04.28.16).
    • Russian forces in Syria employ 50 UAVs to monitor the Syrian conflict, chief of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operational Department Sergei Rudskoi told the the 5th Moscow conference on international security. (Belfer Center, 04.28.16).
    • The remains of  Russian special forces soldier Aleksandr Prokhorenko killed in Syria during the battle to recapture Palmyra from Islamic State militants has been returned to Russia. (RFE/RL, 04.29.16).
    • Russia's Investigative Committee has launched a criminal investigation into the killing of  Russian pilot Oleg Peshkov in Syria. (Moscow Times, 04.27.16).
  • Other countries:
    • Russia offered support for China’s opposition to U.S. actions in two of Asia’s biggest security flash points Foreign ministers from China and Russia expressed "grave concern" about the possible U.S. deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea to defend against the growing North Korean nuclear threat. Russia also backed China’s stance that non-claimants like the U.S. shouldn’t "interfere" in territorial disputes in the South China Sea. "Russia’s position is that it should not be an international issue and no external forces should interfere," Lavrov said. (Bloomberg, 04.29.16).
    • Russia’s Yamal LNG signed two 15-year credit line facilities for 9.3 billion euros ($10.6 billion) and 9.8 billion yuan ($1.5 billion)with two Chinese banks (Wall Street Journal, 04.29.16).
    • Chinese online retail giant AliExpress will be the first foreign company to accept Russia's national card payment system, the Vedomosti newspaper reported Wednesday. (Moscow Times, 04.27.16).
    • The French National Assembly has adopted a resolution calling for the country’s government to reject sanctions against Russia, the Interfax news agency reported Thursday. French deputies voted in the resolution 55-44. Sanctions will not be lifted before Moscow and Paris agree upon terms of a working partnership to fight terrorism, Interfax reported. (Moscow Times, 04.28.16).

Russia's neighbors:

  • Ukraine:
    • The United Nations on April 28 raised its estimate of the total killed during the conflict in eastern Ukraine to 9,333 from 9,160 in March. (RFE/RL, 04.29.16).
    • The security situation in eastern Ukraine is worsening, with cease-fire violations at their highest level in months, the chief OSCE monitor warned on April 28. OSCE confirmed on April 27th that four civilians were killed in the shelling of a border checkpoint near the Elenovka checkpoint of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. The Ukrainian government  said on April 24th that three troops have been killed in the volatile eastern Ukraine over the past 24 hours.   .(Moscow Times, 04.28.16, RFE/RL, 04.28.16, AP, 04.24.16).
    • Speaking in the German city of Hannover on April 25, U.S. President Barack Obama called on European leaders to keep sanctions in place on Russia over its role in the war in eastern Ukraine until Moscow implements its obligations under the Minsk agreement. "We must not allow borders to be drawn by brute force in the 21st century," he said. After his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Obama said the German leader also agrees that Ukraine-related sanctions targeting Russia should only be lifted if Moscow complies with the Minsk deal. "Unfortunately, we do not have any stable cease-fire yet and we must make progress in the political process," Merkel said, adding that she and Obama "discussed very detailed steps to be taken next in this regard." (RFE/RL, Washington Post, 04.25.16).
    • Lawmakers on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee voted April 28 to allocate $150 million to help train and equip Ukrainian government forces. But the bill appears to stop short of heeding Kyiv’s repeated requests for weaponry other than the defense equipment Washington has been providing to date. (RFE/RL, 04.28.16).
    • The United States is not setting a precise deadline for Kyiv to hold disputed elections in war-wracked eastern Ukraine, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said.  Nuland's statement came after Ukrainian lawmaker Viktoria Voytsitska, a member of the reformist Samopomich (Self-Reliance) party, told reporters after meeting Nuland on April 25 that the U.S. diplomat was setting a July deadline for the elections as a precondition for extending sanctions imposed on Russia for its alleged involvement in the war. (RFE/RL, 04.27.16).
    • Ukraine told the UN Security Council that its cease-fire with separatists in the east must be strengthened before progress can be achieved on a political solution to the two-year conflict. (RFE/RL, 04.29.16).
    • U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said in Kiev financial aid from Washington was tied to Kyiv's ability to combat corruption and implement austerity measures outlined in an International Monetary Fund (IMF) rescue package, rather than its progress toward fulfilling the points outlined in the Minsk deal. (RFE/RL, 04.27.16).
    • Russia said it temporarily suspended its demand for full repayment of a $3 billion loan to Ukraine to give the new government in Kyiv time to decide what to do about it. "We gave the new Ukrainian government a reprieve," Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on April 22. (RFE/RL, 04.23.16).
    • The European Union says it has postponed an EU-Ukraine Summit that was scheduled for next month until September to give the new government in Kyiv the necessary time to carry out political and financial reforms in the country. (RFE/RL, 04.28.16).
    • Jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko has received official forms needed for her to be extradited from Russia to Ukraine, her lawyer says. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says the sister of Savchenko, Vira Savchenko, has returned to Ukraine after she was prevented from leaving Russia at the end of a visit related to her sister's case. (RFE/RL, 04.28.16, RFE/RL, 04.27.16).
    • A warrant for the arrest of Vice Admiral Alexander Vitko, commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, has been issued by a Kiev court (Moscow Times, 04.28.16).
  • Other neighbors:
    • Collective Security Treaty Organization said Tuesday it has plans to ensure rapid deployment to Tajikistan. CSTO is in a position to deploy 1,500 Russian troops in Tajikistan and that 15,000 paratroopers are already at the disposal of the CSTO. (Wall Street Journal, 04.26.16).
    • Armenia will not resume negotiations on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict unless Azerbaijan agrees to safeguards against ceasefire violations proposed by international mediators, President Serzh Sargsyan said. Sargsyan also said that heavy fighting around Karabakh could again break out “at any moment.” Sargsyan also said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov didn’t “bring any new proposals” to Yerevan during his visit because “he realizes very well that it doesn’t make sense to talk about negotiations immediately after a four-day war.” There’s no place for Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone to separate the two sides, Sargsyan said. (Bloomberg, 04.24.16, RFE/RL, 04.25.16).
    • Azerbaijani officials said on April 28 that one civilian was killed and 8 were injured by an artillery strike from the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh overnight. Stepanakert said earlier this week that three of their soldiers were killed by Azerbaijani attacks. (RFE/RL, 04.28.16).
    • The founder of an orphanage in Burundi who defied death threats and witnessed unspeakable violence is the winner of a new prize created in memory of the Armenian genocide a century ago. The winner, Marguerite Barankitse, was announced on Sunday at a ceremony in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. (New York Times, 04.25.16).
    • The new government of Kyrgyzstan, led by Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov, has taken the oath of office. On April 27, the Kyrgyz parliament elected Chynybai Tursunbekov, of the Social Democratic Party, as the parliament's new speaker in the second round of a secret ballot. (RFE/RL, 04.28.16).
    • Thousands of protesters have demonstrated on the streets of Moldova's capital, demanding that the government resign and calling for early elections. (RFE/RL, 04.24.16).
    • The top U.S. diplomat in Belarus, Scott Rauland, and Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makey said on April 25 that their countries are ready to discuss the possible return of their ambassadors. (RFE/RL, 04.25.16).
    • U.S. prosecutors said the daughter of Uzbekistan’s president and several associates failed to comply with a court order to turn over more than $500 million held in Swiss banks as part of a long-running money-laundering investigation. Norway's Telenor said two executives had agreed to resign over their handling of the telecoms company's ownership stake in Amsterdam-based peer VimpelCom, which was recently hit with a hefty fine after admitting to bribing an Uzbek official in exchange for business. (RFE/RL, 04.22.16, Wall Street Journal, 04.29.16).

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