HARVARD 

Russia in Review, Jan. 6-13, 2017

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

Nuclear security:

  • No significant developments.

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Iran is to receive a huge shipment of natural uranium from Russia to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant, diplomats say, in a move approved by the outgoing U.S. administration and other governments seeking to keep Tehran committed to a landmark nuclear pact. (AP, 01.09.17)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • American soldiers rolled into Poland on Jan. 12. New deployment—which includes some 3,500 U.S. troops—marks the first-ever continuous deployment to the region by a NATO ally. “These actions threaten our interests, our security,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Jan. 12. (AP, 01.12.17)
  • The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved a resolution supporting Montenegro’s membership in NATO, sending it to the full Senate for a vote. (RFE/RL, 01.12.17)

Missile defense:

  • China and Russia have expressed concern about a U.S. plan to deploy an antimissile system in South Korea and vowed to take unspecified “countermeasures,” state media reported. (RFE/RL, 01.13.17)

Nuclear arms control:

  • The Obama administration has unilaterally cut the number of nuclear weapons in the Pentagon’s nuclear weapons stockpile to 4,018 warheads, a reduction of 553 warheads since September 2015. The reduction was disclosed by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (Federation of American Scientists, 01.11.17)

Counter-terrorism:

  • Russian warplanes have carried out airstrikes to support Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria against the Islamic State. The air missions took place for about a week near the strategically important town of Al Bab. According to U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, however, Russians have given “virtually zero” support to the United States in fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. (New York Times, 01.08.17, AP, 01.08.17)
  • Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has said dozens of suspected militants were detained and four of them killed in a special security operation in Chechnya on Jan. 11. (RFE/RL, 01.12.17)
  • Russian student Ruslan Saifutdinov, convicted of fighting for Islamic State in Syria, has died in prison just days before he was due to be released. (The Moscow Times, 01.09.17)

Conflict in Syria:

  • The U.S. and Russian militaries have a year-old air safety agreement, but American pilots still find themselves having close calls with Russian aviators either unaware of the rules of the road, or unable or unwilling to follow them consistently in the skies over Syria. However, according to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, his agency has received no official protests from the United States over any incidents that might be described in terms of “dangerous encounters.” (Wall Street Journal, 01.09.17, TASS, 01.11.17)
  • An Israeli satellite firm claims to have confirmed that Russia has deployed Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles to the Russian base in Latakia, Syria. (The National Interest, 01.07.17)
  • On Jan. 12 Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed sending new combat aircraft to Syria, but insisted that Moscow was adhering to a recent ceasefire agreement under which Russia will withdraw its military contingents. (The Moscow Times, 01.12.17)
  • The first six Sukhoi Su-24 bombers have already been relocated from the Khmeymim base in Syria to Russia, with more aircraft heading back home soon, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told the media on Jan. 12. (TASS, 01.12.17)
  • Russia’s Northern Fleet will continue its voyages in 2017, including missions in the Mediterranean Sea, the Fleet’s press office reported on Jan. 9. (TASS, 01.09.17)
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said his government is ready to negotiate on “everything” if proposed peace talks with the Syrian opposition go ahead. (RFE/RL, 01.09.17)
  • International investigators have said for the first time that they suspect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his brother are responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. (Reuters, 01.13.17)
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry says that it has signed an agreement with the Turkish Army to ensure flight safety over embattled Syria. The ministry said on Jan. 12 that the memorandum lays the groundwork for coordination between the two countries’ air forces to “prevent accidents involving planes and drones” in Syrian air space. (RFE/RL, 01.12.17)
  • On Jan. 12, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed broadening a ceasefire in Syria with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin by telephone. (Reuters, 01.12.17)

Cyber security and allegations of Russia’s interference in U.S. elections:

  • U.S. President-elect Donald Trump conceded for the first time that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic institutions during the presidential election. “I think it was Russia,” Trump said Jan. 11 at a news conference. Trump and most fellow Republicans in Congress have concluded that while Russia may have hacked the November election, it had no influence on the outcome. Trump has also vowed to take aggressive action to stop cyberattacks, but prior to seeing the classified intelligence report on Jan. 6, insisted in an interview with the New York Times that the storm over Russian hacking was a “political witch-hunt.” Trump said on Jan. 13 that his administration would produce a full report on hacking within the first 90 days of his presidency and accused “my political opponents and a failed spy” of making “phony allegations” against him. (Bloomberg, 01.13.17, RFE/RL, 01.07.17, The Moscow Times, 01.09.17, RFE/RL, 01.07.17)
  • An unverified dossier accusing Russia of gathering sexually explicit material to blackmail U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has been published online by American news site Buzzfeed. The report claims that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump over a number of years to help him reach the White House. It also accuses the Kremlin of attempting to control Trump by using “compromising information” of “perverted sexual acts … arranged [or] monitored by [Russian security services] the FSB.” Experts and journalists have found several errors in the report, which was reportedly complied by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele:
    • Trump vigorously denied the swirl of allegations, calling it “fake news” and praising Russian President Vladimir Putin for saying it was false. Trump called BuzzFeed “a pile of garbage” for publishing the allegations. In comments made before his Jan. 11 conference, Trump said that “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me” and criticized intelligence agencies, saying they “should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public.” “One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Trump said. Trump also said on Jan. 12 that U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called him to denounce the “false and fictitious” report about a dossier that makes salacious, unverified claims about him in Russia.
    • Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer called BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the report “outrageous and highly irresponsible,” while Vice President-elect Mike Pence said it was an effort by some in the media to delegitimize the election and discredit the incoming administration
    • Incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus called the report “total, complete garbage.” Priebus said “there was no craziness in Russia” and that he had first heard about “salacious details” in the memo when it was published by BuzzFeed, indicating that they were not included in the briefing Trump received from top intelligence officials last week.
    • Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said there was never any worry that the BuzzFeed report would be damaging to Trump. “It’s not an intelligence report. It’s an internet report,” Conway said. “It’s not even fake news. It’s fake.”
    • Trump Organization official Michael Cohen tweeted “I have never been to Prague in my life” with a picture of the front of his passport. One of the memos published by BuzzFeed alleged that Cohen had met with “Kremlin officials” in Prague in August 2016. A Czech investigative journal quotes local intelligence officers as saying they also have no evidence that Cohen traveled to the Czech capital last year.
    • Classified documents presented last week to U.S. President Barack Obama included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN. The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work U.S. intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, according to CNN.
    • A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 11 dismissed as an “absolute fantasy” allegations that the Kremlin has collected compromising information about Trump. “The Kremlin has no compromising dossier on Trump, such information isn’t consistent with reality and is nothing but an absolute fantasy,” Dmitry Peskov said. Peskov, whose own alleged role in overseeing an effort to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is described in the report, called the dossier claims a “complete fabrication” and said the Kremlin “does not engage in collecting compromising material.” Peskov has earlier dismissed a U.S. intelligence report that claims Putin personally ordered a hacking and disinformation campaign to help Trump win the U.S. election. Peskov added: “We are tired of such accusations. This is beginning to remind us of a full-fledged witch hunt.”
    • Russians, including Konstantin Kosachev and Aleksej Gubarev named in an unverified dossier on President-elect Donald Trump, reacted with incredulity to allegations they were tied to Kremlin-led efforts to interfere with the U.S. elections. Kosachev, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, on Jan. 11 dismissed an allegation in the dossier that he facilitated contact last year in the Czech Republic between the Kremlin and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, and hit out at a factual error in the document. U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he had told Trump that the leak of a classified report detailing unsubstantiated claims that Russia has compiled damaging information on the president-elect probably didn’t come from U.S. spy agencies.
    • “The intelligence dossier presents profoundly disturbing allegations; ones that should shake every American to the core,” Neera Tanden, a Hillary Clinton ally and president of the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-aligned research group, said in a statement. “They must be fully investigated.” (New York Times, 01.11.17, Bloomberg, 01.11.17, The Moscow Times, 01.11.17, Bloomberg, 01.11.17, The Moscow Times, 01.11.17, Bloomberg, 01.10.17, AP, 01.11.17,Bloomberg, 01.10.17, RFE/RL, 01.11.17, The Washington Post, 01.11.17, Bloomberg, 01.11.17, CNN, 01.10.17, Bloomberg, 01.11.17, Reuters, 01.12.17, AP, 01.09.17, RFE/RL, 01.09.17,Brisbane Times, 01.10.17)
  • “I don’t think I underestimated him,” U.S. President Barack Obama said of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, “but I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation, for cyber hacking and so forth, to have an impact on our open societies, our open systems, to insinuate themselves into our democratic practices in ways that I think are accelerating.” (The Washington Post, 01.08.17)
  • U.S. Vice President Joe Biden defended U.S. spy agencies’s handling of a dossier of salacious, unverified allegations about U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and said the president-elect’s open criticism of the intelligence community has harmed U.S. national security and helped Russia. (Bloomberg, 01.12.17)
  • Democrats in the U.S. House of Representative emerged from a briefing about Russian interference in the 2016 election demanding that the FBI investigate what links may have existed between the Kremlin and President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign. (The Washington Post, 01.13.17)
  • In his farewell address on Jan. 10 U.S. President Barack Obama also appeared to reference Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to interfere in the U.S. elections, decrying “autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets, open democracies and civil society itself as a threat” in the same breath as radical terrorists.(Bloomberg, 01.10.17)
  • U.S. President Barack Obama’s response to Russia’s alleged election-related hacking was “disproportionate” compared with past actions, and President-elect Donald Trump will have a different approach once he takes office next week, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said. (Bloomberg, 01.09.17)
  • U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Mike Pompeo said during the Jan. 12 confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee that it would not be surprising if Russia’s leadership sees the uproar over what U.S. intelligence calls a Russian hacking campaign “as something that might well rebound to their benefit.” Pompeo said he accepts the assessment by U.S. intelligence that Russia was behind the cyberattacks. (RFE/RL, 01.12.17)
  • Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says Russia initially doubted that Republican Donald Trump could defeat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, believing that he was a “fringe candidate.” Clapper made the assertion at a Jan. 10 hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Eventually, however, “the Russians came to the conclusion that because the president-elect is a businessman, that he would be easier to make deals with than the Democrats,” Clapper said. Clapper said unlike China, which has been conducting large-scale cyber espionage operations he described as “passive collection,” the Russian operations were aggressive. “The Russians are unique,” Clapper said. They were caught “actively purloining information and then using it for a political end,” he said. (The Washington Free Beacon, 01.11.17, RFE/RL, 01.10.17)
  • CIA Director John Brennan stated that in early August he confronted Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Alexander Bortnikov about the Russian election hacking. Brennan said he told the FSB chief that the “Russians were playing with fire” by interfering in U.S. politics and that the activity would backfire and be roundly condemned by both the U.S. government and the American people. “He said he would relay that to Mr. Putin at the time,” Brennan said. “[Bortnikov] denied any type of activity along these lines. But I made it very clear to him that we were on to him.” (The Washington Free Beacon, 01.11.17)
  • Russian hackers targeted the U.S. Republican Party’s national organization, but did not succeed in intruding on the presidential campaign of Republican Donald Trump, FBI Director James Comey has told lawmakers. Comey refused to say on Jan. 10 whether the bureau has investigated ties between Russia and associates of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.  (RFE/RL, 01.10.17, Foreign Policy, 01.10.17)
  • Democratic members of the U.S. Congress called on Jan. 9 for the creation of an independent commission to investigate Russia’s attempts to intervene in the 2016 election, similar to the September 11 panel that probed the 2001 attacks on the United States. (Reuters, 01.09.17)
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Washington shouldn’t limit itself in how it responds to the Russian hacks. “I don’t think it should be a military, or purely military response,” he said. Carter said on Jan. 10 that the United States’ response so far to Russia orchestrating hacks during the 2016 presidential campaign was just the start. (Foreign Policy, 01.09.17, Reuters, 01.11.17)
  • During his confirmation hearings Sen. Jeff Sessions—who has been nominated for the post of attorney general—acknowledged he is not well-informed on the recent high-profile cyber provocations by Russia. He said he believed the FBI’s conclusion that Russia was the responsible party was “honorably reached,” and that the U.S. might need to develop protocols so that “a price is paid, even if we can’t prove the exact person who did it.” (The Washington Post, 01.10.17)
  • Retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, who is President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of Homeland Security, said he agrees “with high confidence” in the intelligence community’s assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to influence the presidential race. Kelly said back in 2015 that “Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere. We have seen a clear return to Cold War tactics” under Putin, he said at the time. He said in his written testimony Jan. 10 that he still agrees with that assessment. (Bloomberg, 01.10.17)
  • K.T. McFarland, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for deputy national security adviser, said it would be a mistake for Democrats to look at Russia as a “scapegoat” for Hillary Clinton’s loss. (Bloomberg, 01.10.17)
  • According to a new Quinnipiac University poll—conducted, notably, before the Jan. 11 news conference at which U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said he thought Russia did it—64% of Republicans disagreed that “the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election through hacking.” Just 29% agreed. (The Washington Post, 01.13.17)
  • In the wake of Russia’s cyberattacks aimed at influencing the November presidential election, the United States said is it designating election infrastructure such as voting machines as “critical” for national security. (RFE/RL, 01.07.17)
  • Russian newspaper Kommersant reports that Russia’s cyber security forces total 1,000 employees, and the Russian Defense Ministry spends about $300 million annually on such activities. (RBTH, 01.12.17)
  • Russia’s Communications Ministry has denied any knowledge of a Russian cyber corps carrying out attacks on foreign computer systems. (The Moscow Times, 01.10.17)
  • Margarita Simonyan, the head of the Kremlin-financed news channel RT, dismissed an American intelligence assessment released Jan. 6 on Russia’s alleged role in influencing the U.S. presidential election, calling it “the comedy hit of the year.” (Wall Street Journal, 01.09.17)
  • United States intelligence officials have determined that last year’s cyberattacks on the World Anti-Doping Agency originated with the Russian government. (New York Times, 01.07.17)
  • More than a third of Russians have fallen victim to cyber-crime, a report by state-run pollster the Russian Public Opinion Research Center revealed Jan. 11. (The Moscow Times, 01.11.17)
  • The Russian government has officially blocked 1,200 websites since 2014. (The Moscow Times, 01.12.17)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia is fulfilling all its obligations under a deal between OPEC and non-OPEC oil exporters to curtail global crude output, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Jan. 10. (Reuters, 01.10.17)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • Russia’s wealthiest have seen their fortunes grow by $29 billion since the election of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in November, Forbes magazine reported Jan. 10. (The Moscow Times, 01.10.17)

Other bilateral issues:

  • Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who will be U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s national security adviser, spoke with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, the day before U.S. President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for election hacking, to arrange a phone call between President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Trump once he becomes president, a Trump spokesman said Jan 13. “The call centered around the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and the president-elect after he was sworn in, and they exchanged logistical information,” Sean Spicer, Trump’s spokesman, told reporters on a conference call on Jan. 13. (New York Times, 01.13.17)
  • President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said the U.S. needs to aggressively confront Russian President Vladimir Putin while also negotiating with his government, but in his Senate confirmation hearing Jan. 11, he refused to commit the Trump administration to maintaining or significantly ratcheting up sanctions on Russia. Tillerson said the U.S. should use “economic aid and economic sanctions, where appropriate, as instruments of foreign policy,” but said he wouldn’t back legislation that didn’t allow the executive branch flexibility on how to impose sanctions. “We must also be clear-eyed about our relationship with Russia,” Tillerson said. “Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests. It has invaded Ukraine, including the taking of Crimea, and supported Syrian forces that brutally violate the laws of war. Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia,” he said. Tillerson said the U.S. and Russia are “not likely to ever be friends,” adding that U.S. and Russia value systems “are starkly different.” Tillerson urged an “open and frank dialogue” so that “we know how to chart our own course.” Tillerson also faulted a lack of U.S. leadership for Russia’s aggressiveness. He said it’s a “fair assumption” that Putin knew about Moscow’s meddling in America’s 2016 presidential election and that “there’s no respect for the rule of law in Russia today.” (AP, 01.10.17, Bloomberg, 01.10.17, AP, 01.10.17,Wall Street Journal, 01.11.17, Just Security, 01.11.17)
  • James Mattis, the former Marine Corps general tapped to be the next U.S. defense secretary, says Russia has chosen to become a “strategic competitor” and that Washington must confront this behavior. Speaking to lawmakers about Russian activity beyond its borders, Mattis gave a full-throated defense of NATO and said he supports the Pentagon’s European Reassurance Initiative, which has added military power in eastern Europe in response to concerns about Russian pressure on the Baltics. “The most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with Mr. Putin and we recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance, and that we take the steps … to defend ourselves where we must.” As he did with Iran, Mattis, despite his harsh rhetoric, provided few specific ideas for using military means to push back against Russia. (RFE/RL, 01.12.17, The Washington Post, 01.12.17)
  • Mike Pompeo, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said that Russia had reasserted itself by invading Ukraine and “threatening Europe.” In the opening statement of his Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 12, the Congressman also said that Russia had done nothing to defeat Islamic State militants. The CIA under his leadership, he said, would provide ”accurate, timely, robust and clear-eyed analysis of Russian activities.” (RFE/RL, 01.12.17, CNN, 01.12.17, RFE/RL, 01.12.17)
  •  “I think it’s safe to say that Mr. Pompeo is very skeptical of Vladimir Putin,” Rep. Devin Nunes said of Mike Pompeo, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Central Intelligence Agency. “I don’t think you can get any more concerned about Putin’s advancement” than Pompeo. (New York Times, 01.11.17)
  • The Kremlin said Jan. 12 that Russia and the United States could fix their ravaged ties with interactions based on mutual respect once U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that while Moscow and Washington won’t agree on everything, they could normalize their strained relations if they show “mutual respect.” (AP, 01.12.17)
  • U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has praised the man who will replace him, saying Vice President-elect Mike Pence knows more about Russia than his running mate, Donald Trump. “I never know what [Trump] means” when he talks about Russia, Biden said. “But I do think that Mike is significantly more informed about Russian conduct, potential intentions and Putin’s behavior than…the president-elect is, based on what the president-elect says.” (RFE/RL, 01.13.17)
  • A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is pushing new legislation that would cement into U.S. law the sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The legislation, introduced Jan. 10, could make it harder for the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump to lift the sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama following the 2014 annexation. Responding to the election-year hacking, the legislation titled “Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017” would also would impose visa bans and asset freezes on foreigners tied to cybersecurity breaches, ban transactions with key Russian intelligence agencies and codify in law Obama’s recent executive order on cybersecurity. The sponsors of the measure include 10 Republican and Democratic senators, which gives it more of a chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate. A similar measure is being drafted in the House of Representatives. The proposed Senate legislation is an attempt to prolong the harm already done to U.S.-Russian ties, the Kremlin said on Jan. 10. (RFE/RL, 01.10.17, Reuters, 01.10.17)
  • The alleged killers of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko have become the latest targets of U.S. sanctions. Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun were blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury on Jan. 10, alongside the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, and two other officials, Stanislav Gordievsky and Gennady Plaksin. A Kremlin spokesman said the U.S. decision to impose personal sanctions are “further steps in the artificially created degradation of our relations.” (The Moscow Times, 01.10.17, RFE/RL, 01.10.17)
  • “Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world—unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in his farewell address Jan. 10. (The Washington Post, 01.10.17)
  • Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak will take part in the inauguration ceremony of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Washington on Jan. 20. (RBTH, 01.10.17)
  • In late 2016, Russia and the U.S. jointly studied the polar bears living along the border of Alaska and Chukotka. Their findings will help develop a three-year plan to save the species. (RBTH, 01.10.17)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • The slow return of growth to Russia’s economy this year will not provide much help to people looking for jobs, with unemployment expected to remain elevated, the International Labor Organization has said. The organization expects the number of unemployed in Russia to remain at last year’s level of 4.3 million. (RFE/RL, 01.13.17)
  • According to an annual report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Russians spent an average of 1,978 hours at work last year, which is 44% more than the average German, 18% more than the average British citizen and 10.5% more than the average American. (RBTH, 01.11.17)
  • More than one-fifth of Russians still receive at least some of their salary “off the books,” according to a report by the state-run Russian Public Opinion Research Center published on Jan. 12. (The Moscow Times, 01.12.17)

Defense and Aerospace:

  • When it comes to strategic deterrence, Russia might replace its nuclear weapons with precision bombs in order to help reduce international tensions and strengthen world peace, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. “By 2021, we plan to more than quadruple the combat capabilities of our strategic conventional forces, which will fully meet the demands of [Russia’s] conventional deterrence,” Shoigu said. (The Moscow Times, 01.12.17)
  • A regiment equipped with the new S-400 Triumph air defense missile system has taken up combat duty in the Moscow Oblast, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Jan. 11. (TASS/RBTH, 01.11.17)
  • Moscow’s Institute of Thermal Technology, which is tasked with building a new set of launchers for Russia’s Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles, recently told the Kremlin that sub-contractors’ financial woes was the reason the order of ballistic missile launchers would not be delivered on time. (The Moscow Times, 01.10.17)
  • Power supplies have been disconnected in 15 Defense Ministry facilities in the Amur region, including office buildings, warehouses, garages and workshops due to unpaid bills. (The Moscow Times, 01.13.17)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • A Moscow court has extended the pretrial house arrest of former Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev by three months until April 15. (RFE/RL, 01.10.17)
  • Tagir Israpilov, an alleged militant suspected of involvement in the murder of an investigator in Russia’s Dagestan region, has been extradited from the Czech Republic to Russia. (RFE/RL, 01.10.17)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • Russia’s embargo against Western food imports may come to an end in the near future, according to Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. Legally, the sanctions end on Dec. 31, 2017. (The Moscow Times, 01.13.17)
  • Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to visit Russia in early 2017. (TASS, 01.08.17)
  • Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says that with a military buildup in the Baltic Sea region, the Scandinavian country is facing security threats, especially “in light of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.” (AP, 01.08.17)
  • Canada’s newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, is on the Kremlin’s list of sanctioned foreign officials, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Jan. 11. “The issue of removing her from the list is that it needs to be mutual,” an unidentified source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told RIA Novosti.   The source maintained that sanctions against Freeland would not interfere with her contacts with Russian officials. (The Moscow Times, 01.11.17)
  • Italy’s foreign minister Angelino Aliano has said he hopes Russia will soon rejoin the Group of Eight (G8) world powers, which was pared back to seven powers after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. (RFE/RL, 01.12.17)
  • Eastern Libyan-based military commander Khalifa Haftar toured Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier anchored off the Libyan coast and held a video call with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the biggest sign yet of growing ties between the Kremlin and Haftar. (Bloomberg, 01.11.17)
  • Turkey has renamed the street that serves the Russian Embassy after the ambassador who was killed in an attack in the Turkish capital.(AP, 01.10.17)
  • The German government has reclassified a ministerial G20 agriculture meeting as an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) event in order to allow Russia to take part, German news outlet Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland reported Jan. 13. (The Moscow Times, 01.13.17)

Ukraine:

  • Ukrainian government officials tried to help Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and undermine U.S. President-elect Donald Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. They also helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found. (Politico, 01.11.17)
  • U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, one of Ukraine’s strongest political supporters, will fly to Kiev on Jan. 15 for a farewell visit, as Ukraine looks forward with apprehension to the new administration of Donald Trump. (Reuters, 01.11.17)
  • A Ukrainian government official said on Jan. 11 that the nation’s forces have captured new positions in the rebel-held east. Olexander Motuzyanyk, presidential spokesman for the operation in the east, said on Jan. 11 that one soldier was killed and three injured in fighting in the conflict zone in the past 24 hours. (AP, 01.11.17)
  • Ukrainian lawmaker Nadia Savchenko has published the names of hundreds of people who have been taken captive or gone missing during the nearly three year war in eastern Ukraine, ignoring appeals by authorities to keep the information secret. (RFE/RL, 01.10.17)
  • Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has called on European leaders to begin lifting sanctions against Russia in exchange for “any positive development” in the Ukrainian crisis. (The Moscow Times, 01.09.17)
  • Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has said he may form a Ukrainian “government-in-exile” after a December Moscow court ruling held that the collapse of his government in early 2014 was the result of an illegal coup. (RFE/RL, 01.09.17)
  • Police at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport detained a Dutch national for more than two hours when he returned from Ukraine’s Donbass region carrying debris from Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in his bag on Jan. 7. (The Moscow Times, 01.09.17)
  • Russia remains Ukraine’s main supplier of coal, according to data from the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine. Ukraine spent $906.3 million on Russian coal last
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