HARVARD UNIVERSITY

 

This Week’s Highlights:

  • At their July 16 summit in Helsinki, U.S. President Donald Trump will initially meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the meeting Trump hopes to secure Russia’s help in evicting Iranian forces from Syria, according to John Bolton.
  • Russian and American military personnel have participated in a joint peacekeeping exercise in Mongolia along with their colleagues from 24 other countries.
  • The Pentagon is analyzing the cost and impact of a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of American troops stationed in Germany, which U.S. President Donald Trump claims to be paying too little toward collective NATO defense.
  • Russia is one of just a few countries that can quickly ramp up oil production, and Russian oil companies are priming the pumps to significantly boost crude output this summer.
  • Of the 26,000 immigrants to Israel last year, the most—28 percent—came from Russia.
  • More than 3.2 million Ukrainian citizens are employed abroad on a permanent basis.

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

Trump-Putin summit in Finland on July 16, 2018:

  • U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power wasn’t a strategic issue for the U.S. and that U.S. President Donald Trump hoped to secure Russia’s help in evicting Iranian forces from the country. Bolton said Iran’s presence in Syria was a question the “two presidents will want to discuss at length.” CNN on July 5 said Trump hoped to clinch a deal with Putin in Helsinki that would allow for prompt pullout of U.S. troops from Syria. “I have no idea what the CNN report is based on, if there is something real behind this report,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. (TASS, 06.29.18, Wall Street Journal, 07.01.18)
  • The question of Ukraine is also expected to come up during the Trump-Putin summit. In an interview, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton attempted to add new context to Trump’s remarks last week to reporters on Air Force One in which Trump appeared to raise the possibility that his administration would formally recognize annexation of Crimea. “We’re going to have to see,” Trump said. Commenting on these remarks, Bolton said: “I think the president often says ‘we’ll see’ to show that he’s willing to talk to foreign leaders about a range of issues and hear their perspective. President Putin was pretty clear with me about it and my response was we’re going to have to agree to disagree on Ukraine.” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders also said the U.S. continues to reject Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The Kremlin says Putin is open to searching for compromises with his U.S. counterpart on “all” issues except the status of Crimea, which Moscow claims is part of Russia. (The Washington Post, 07.01.18, RFE/RL, 07.02.18, RFE/RL, 07.06.18, RFE/RL, 07.01.18, RFE/RL, 07.03.18)
  • The issue of extending the New START arms treaty is expected to come up for discussion during the July 16 meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, as will the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, an agreement that Washington has accused Moscow of violating repeatedly. (RFE/RL, 07.06.18)
  • In an interview, U.S. President Donald Trump did not answer a question about whether he would confront Russian President Vladimir Putin over the elections interference allegations. Instead, Trump reiterated his attacks on Hillary Clinton for using a private email server when she was secretary of state. The Kremlin says Putin is prepared to reiterate to Trump that Moscow did not meddle in the elections if Trump raises the issue during their upcoming summit. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told lawmakers on June 28 that he was sure Trump would raise the allegations of Russian interference in U.S. and other Western elections. (The Washington Post, 07.01.18, RFE/RL, 06.29.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump mocked critics of his personal diplomacy with Russia and North Korea on July 5, saying he will be judged unfairly no matter how he handles delicate diplomacy such as his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Will he be prepared for the meeting?” Trump said of his meeting with Putin, affecting an exaggerated newscaster baritone. “Trust me, I’ll do just fine,” Trump said. (The Washington Post, 07.05.17)
  • U.S. national security adviser John Bolton defended U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin as a way to get beyond the “political noise” that has consumed Washington over the ongoing investigation of Russian election interference. Bolton said the summit would be “somewhat unstructured,” especially during the leaders’ one-on-one time, to avoid “the pressure of immediate deadlines or crises.” “He wants to understand the Russian position, but, more importantly, he wants Putin to understand our position,” Bolton said. “Let them discuss these issues and see exactly where there might be room for progress or where we find there is no room at all.” (The Washington Post, 07.01.18)
  • The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart may meet in private during their summit. Jon Huntsman, U.S. ambassador to Russia, also said U.S. President Donald Trump will initially meet one-on-one with Putin, followed by an expanded meeting to include top advisers. Huntsman has defended Trump’s decision to meet with Putin and insisted that it was up to Moscow to reverse the downward spiral in relations. “It is in the interest of America’s national security to determine if Russia is willing to make progress in our bilateral relations,” he said. (RFE/RL, 07.06.18,RFE/RL, 07.03.18)

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Terrorists are avowedly trying to build nuclear bombs, but U.S. spending to safeguard the world’s atomic materials has dipped in recent years. According to the Arms Control Association, Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget request for “core” nuclear nonproliferation programs at the U.S. Energy Department is 18 percent lower than the level of funding eight years ago, even before accounting for inflation’s shrinking effect on purchasing power. Moreover, Trump’s five-year Energy Department budget plan would increase spending on nuclear security programs at an average of less than 1.5 percent a year. (Roll Call, 07.02.18)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi discussed in Vienna on July 6 bilateral issues, the Iran nuclear deal and the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in North Korea on July 6 for a series of talks aimed at persuading the country to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. (TASS, 07.06.18, New York Times, 07.06.18)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Diplomats from Iran and five world powers met in Vienna to discuss how to preserve the nuclear deal with Tehran following the withdrawal of the U.S. The July 6 meeting between Iran, Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China will consider proposals for salvaging the 2015 deal. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Tehran expects the EU to compensate for the U.S. “illegal measure” over the nuclear deal. (AP, 07.06.18, Xinhua, 07.06.18)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • The Pentagon is reportedly analyzing the cost and impact of a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of American troops stationed in Germany, amid growing tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A senior NATO official said that neither the alliance headquarters nor individual member governments had been notified of any Trump plans to raise the issue of withdrawing or repositioning American troops in Europe at the upcoming NATO summit, although all are aware of Polish lobbying to place at least some components there. The official said Poland’s offer was “peanuts by comparison” to U.S. military investment in Germany, including “the value of 60 years of sunk costs in facilities” such as the Landstuhl military health complex and Ramstein Air Base. (The Washington Post, 06.29.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump complained on July 5 that Germany pays too little toward defense, and appeared to renew threats to change the nearly 70-year-old transatlantic alliance. “And I said, ‘You know, Angela, I can’t guarantee it, but we’re protecting you, and it means a lot more to you than protecting us,” Trump said, referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Because I don’t know how much protection we get by protecting you.” Trump has earlier sent letters to the leaders of several NATO allies, including Belgium, Canada, Germany and Norway, saying that they are spending too little on defense. (The Washington Post, 07.05.17, RFE/RL , 07.03.18)
  • A total of 1,400 military personnel from 26 countries, including the U.S., Russia, Germany, China, Bhutan and Qatar participated in a two-week-long peacekeeping exercise that ended in Mongolia on June 28. (Xinhua, 06.28.18)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • No significant developments.

Counter-terrorism:

  • The U.S. should “refrain from participating” in the U.N. High-Level Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies instead of just downgrading the level of its participation, unless it is inclined to fight terrorism together, the Russian mission to the U.N. said in a statement. The statement came after U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley criticized the U.N. Office of Counter-Terrorism on June 27 for making what she called the “unprecedented and indefensible” decision to exclude civil society from some meetings at the conference. (Interfax, 06.29.18)
  • Lawyers for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are asking for recordings of police interviews with a Chechen man who was killed in 2013 during a confrontation with the FBI. (RFE/RL, 07.06.18)

Conflict in Syria:

  • Syrian government forces seized control of the Nassib border crossing with Jordan on July 6, a military news service run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah said, after Russia concluded a surrender agreement with rebels in the area. Syrian civilians who fled a government offensive in southwestern Syria will be able to return to their homes with Russian guarantees of protection as part of a deal brokered by Russia on July 6, rebel sources said. More than 320,000 people in the Dara’a region have been displaced by the fighting, according to the U.N. The Syrian government’s attack on the area, with the backing of its ally Russia, violated a cease-fire negotiated last year that deemed the area part of a de-escalation zone. The UNHCR refugee agency urged Jordan to open its borders to Syrians who have fled the fighting, saying the total number of displaced now stood at more than 320,000, with 60,000 of them gathered at the border crossing with Jordan. At least 15 Syrians have died in makeshift camps near the Jordanian border reportedly because of scorpion bites, dehydration and diseases transmitted through contaminated water. (Reuters, 07.06.18, Reuters, 07.05.18,Reuters, 07.06.18, New York Times, 07.06.18)
  • The Russian military says it has downed unidentified drones near its Hmeimim airbase in western Syria. An air base spokesman said that all the drones involved were destroyed by antiaircraft weapons. (RFE/RL, 07.01.18)
  • A son of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed in battle with Russian forces and Syrian government loyalists in the Syrian province of Homs, the IS propaganda agency Amaq announced. (RFE/RL, 07.04.18)
  • Russian military veterans urged the government on July 5 to acknowledge it sends private military contractors to fight in Syria, in a bid to secure financial and medical benefits for the fighters and their families. (The Moscow Times, 07.06.18)
  • More than 150 officers of the Russian military police have returned home after fulfilling their combat tasks in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said. (TASS, 06.30.18)
  • Russia must make full use of its military operation experience in Syria when training military personnel, Russian President Vladimir Putin believes. (TASS, 06.28.18)
  • The Black Sea Fleet’s frigate Admiral Essen is returning to Sevastopol from a Mediterranean mission. The ship is armed with Kalibr cruise missiles, which were used against terrorist fighters during the active stage of Russia’s campaign in Syria. (Interfax, 06.29.18)

Cyber security:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 6 called for closer international cooperation in fending off cyberattacks. Addressing a cyber security conference in Moscow, Putin said it’s important to develop common cyber security standards that take into account the interests of all nations. He noted that cyber threats have mounted around the world. (AP, 07.06.18)

Elections interference:

  • The leading U.S. congressional committee looking at Russia’s alleged election meddling has endorsed the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions, saying that Russian propaganda efforts were much greater than previously reported. The report, released July 3 by the Senate Intelligence Committee, was endorsed by its Republican and Democratic leaders, serving as a subtle rebuke to U.S. President Donald Trump as he prepares for a summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. (RFE/RL, 07.03.18)
  • During the special counsel’s Russia investigation, Konstantin Kilimnik has been described as a fixer, translator or office manager to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. But Kilimnik was far more involved in formulating pro-Russia political strategy with Manafort than previously known, according to internal memos and other business records. (AP,07.03.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen said that he intends to “put family and country first,” comments that suggest that he may be prepared to cooperate with federal prosecutors. (RFE/RL, 07.02.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump falsely claimed on July 6 that he had “won” a lawsuit alleging that his campaign colluded with Russia to publish emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election campaign. “Just won lawsuit filed by the DNC and a bunch of Democrat crazies trying to claim the Trump Campaign (and others), colluded with Russia,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “They haven’t figured out that this was an excuse for them losing the election!” (Newsweek, 07.06.18)

Energy exports:

  • Russian oil companies are priming the pumps to significantly boost crude output this summer, taking on an unusually important role in a global effort to keep prices in check. Alongside Saudi Arabia, Russia is one of just a few countries that can quickly ramp up oil production, a capability that could help a group of big producers—who agreed in late June to boost output—as they try to cool a sizzling global oil market. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak has said the country hopes to expand output by 200,000 barrels a day, clawing back two-thirds of what it initially agreed to cut back in 2016. (Wall Street Journal, 07.03.18)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

Other bilateral issues:

  • A delegation of Republican members of the U.S. Congress visited Moscow this week:
    • Talks between the U.S. and Russian lawmakers in Moscow included Russia’s alleged election meddling and the war in Syria, one participant said. “Our discussions have been brutally frank, no-holds-barred, as candid as I have ever been in,” said U.S. Sen. John Kennedy. “I asked our friends in Russia not to interfere in our election this year. I asked them to exit Ukraine … I asked for their help in bringing peace to Syria, and I asked them not to allow Iran to gain a foothold in Syria, as I believe it will lead to further war,” he said. Russian Duma Financial Market Committee head Anatoly Aksakov confirmed that the U.S. delegation brought up Russia’s alleged interference, Ukraine and Syria during their meeting with State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin on July 3. Kennedy also said he wants to see how Russia’s economy is doing. “Some say it’s in shambles,” he told CNN. “Others say with the increase in the price of oil, it’s doing much better. Others say [Russia is] spending all their money on Syria and weaponry and the people are starving to death. Others say that’s not true. So, I don’t know.” Asked if he would bring up the topic of alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections, Kennedy said: “Now, I don’t want to do anything to start an international incident, but I believe in talking frankly about these things.” (RFE/RL, 07.03.18, Financial Times, 07.03.18, Interfax, 07.03.18)
    •  “We think it’s good for us to talk,” U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby said before the trip. “I believe we will always be competitors. The world is competitive. I compete with my family. But we don’t have to be adversaries,” Shelby told a meeting with a group of senior Russian lawmakers. “We know that we need a new beginning. We could go on about recriminations on both sides for days. But I believe Russia, the U.S. and the world will be better off if we improve our relationship,” he added. “Perhaps it will not be a utopia. Most marriages are not a utopia. But an improvement? Gosh, I hope so.” “We will be rivals, but we do not need to be enemies. Perhaps, a new chapter in our relations will begin,” Shelby told reporters. (Financial Times, 07.03.18,RFE/RL, 07.03.18)
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met the delegation of U.S. lawmakers on July 3 and said the visit was very timely ahead of a July 16 summit and should improve ties between the two nations’ legislatures. (RFE/RL, 07.03.18)
  • Russia is reportedly taxing 87.6 million U.S. dollars’ worth of some U.S. imports for the coming year in response to the U.S. steel and aluminum import tariffs. Russia has earlier submitted a claim to the World Trade Organization (WTO) against these duties on imports of aluminum and steel. U.S. President Donald Trump imposed the tariffs in March, levying 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum. He said they were justified by national security concerns and therefore outside the WTO’s remit.  (Xinhua, 07.06.18, Reuters, 06.29.18)
  • When the Trump administration blacklisted Russia’s biggest aluminum producer, Rusal, in April, it was among a blast of measures aimed at the country’s elite. But the sanctions are already weighing on the residents of the Siberian factory town of Sayanogorsk. The smelter in town is still running, employing more than 6,000 of Sayanogorsk’s 45,000 residents. But Rusal has frozen its $24 million budget for community spending in company towns, including Sayanogorsk’s $3 million share.  (Wall Street Journal, 07.02.18)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow on July 4 that his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have to take place after the planned talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki on July 16. (RFE/RL, 07.04.18)
  • The annual U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons report, released June 2018, said Russia “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” and has not done so for the past six years. (The Moscow Times, 06.29.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin wished his American counterpart Donald Trump a happy Independence Day on July 4, the Kremlin said. (Xinhua, 07.04.18)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • On July 3, a poll from the independent Levada Center showed a 12 point drop in trust toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, down from 60 percent in January to 48 percent in June, dipping below 50 percent for the first time since 2012 and 2013. Putin’s average trust rating stands at 56.5 percent. Trust in Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who made the controversial announcement of Russia’s plans to raise the retirement age while public attention was focused on the opening of the World Cup, was at 9 percent. (The Moscow Times, 07.05.18)
  • Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Russia to protest the government’s plan to raise the retirement age. Labor unions, political parties and opposition politician Aleksei Navalny had called on Russians to demonstrate on July 1 against a bill to raise the pension age from 60 to 65 by 2028 for men and from 55 to 63 for women by 2034. (RFE/RL, 07.02.18)
  • A recent survey conducted by state-funded pollster VTsIOM shows that 1 out of 10 Russians want to leave the country. Young Russians were especially keen to move: Among those aged 18 to 24, almost one-third of respondents said they wanted to leave the country. (The Moscow Times, 07.05.18)
  • Among the world’s 37 top economies, data comparing GDP to hours worked ranks Russian productivity near the bottom, according to an annual report from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (The Moscow Times, 07.05.18)
  • Despite an unfavorable business climate, 11 of the 24 richest Russians have together expanded their wealth by upwards of $10 billion in the first half of the year, according to data from the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Another 13 billionaires lost more than $7 billion from January to July 3, 2018. Leonid Mikhelson, currently Russia’s richest man with a net worth of $19 billion, earned the lion’s share of the money at $2.23 billion. (The Moscow Times, 07.03.18)
  • Russia’s central bank said on June 29 it would spend an extra 217 billion rubles ($3.45 billion) on recapitalizing three failed top-10 lenders, taking the total bill for bailing them out to nearly 3 trillion rubles. (Financial Times, 06.29.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a two-year plan to combat corruption. One of the draft bills could exempt corrupt officials from criminal liability under “force majeure,” or exceptional, circumstances. (The Moscow Times, 07.02.18)
  • A new measure tightening registration rules for foreigners is set to cause mayhem for millions of labor migrants and expats in Russia, making their stay in Russia illegal overnight. According to amendments to migration law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, starting July 8, employers will no longer be able to register their foreign employees unless they actually reside at the office. Instead, foreigners will have to be registered by their landlords with their home address. (The Moscow Times, 07.05.18)
  • Controversial anti-terror legislation requiring Russian telecom companies to store users’ communications entered into force on July 1, leaving providers scrambling to implement the government’s demands. Russian telecommunications operators will have to use foreign technology to comply with the law on storing data, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin told his government to ensure local companies produced the equipment. The law requires operators to store the content of users’ phone calls and text messages for six months to aid the security services. (The Moscow Times, 07.01.18, Reuters, 07.05.18)
  • A State Duma working group has approved a new version of a bill which could see individuals labeled as “foreign agents” by the General Prosecutor’s Office or by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Russia’s moves to label some individual journalists and bloggers as “foreign agents” are the latest step in the authorities’ “systematic policy” toward obstructing the free flow of information, the Committee to Protect Journalists says. (The Moscow Times, 07.04.18, RFE/RL, 07.04.18)
  • A court in Russia has fined Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) for allegedly failing to comply with a Russian law regulating media outlets branded by the government as “foreign agents.” The media freedoms office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has denounced the ruling. (RFE/RL, 07.05.18, RFE/RL, 07.06.18)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko has signed the contract to begin work on the first 12 Su-57 PAK FA jet fighters. (IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, 07.03.18)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Thousands of imprisoned Russians can expect an early release under a new law that would count time spent awaiting trial toward a jail sentence. Russia’s Federal Prison Service estimates that almost 600,000 suspects and inmates are held in the country’s prison system as of June 2018. (The Moscow Times, 07.04.18)
  • Spanish police said they captured seven key members of the Armenian faction of a Russian organized crime group described as Europe’s most dangerous gang. Police in Madrid said about 130 members of the Vory V Zakone crime group have been arrested in Spain and France after more than 70 properties were raided, uncovering evidence of criminal activities including drug-trafficking, money laundering, extortion and illegal activity around sports betting. (Bloomberg, 07.05.18)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

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

  • British police are scouring sections of Salisbury and Amesbury in southwest England, searching for a container feared to be contaminated with traces of the deadly nerve agent Novichok. More than 100 police officers are hunting for an object that contaminated a British couple who fell ill over the weekend in Amesbury, a small town near the city of Salisbury where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed on March 4. The two new victims—Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley—are in critical condition in a hospital. Police said they had established that the couple were exposed to the nerve agent after “handling a contaminated item” that may have been used in the attempted murder on the Skripals. It was unclear how the 45-year-old man and the 44-year-old woman came into contact with the nerve agent. (RFE/RL, 07.06.18)
  • Among the 26,000 immigrants to Israel last year, the most, 28 percent, came from Russia, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. In second place was Ukraine with 27 percent, followed by France with 12 percent and the U.S. with 10 percent. (Xinhua, 07.06.18)
  • Qatar’s emir said his country has not reached a deal yet over the purchase of Russia’s most advanced air defense missile system. (AP, 07.06.18)
  • France’s media regulator has issued a warning to RT France, the French outlet of Russia’s state-run broadcaster, for allegedly misrepresenting facts in a program about a chemical weapons attack in Syria. (RFE/RL, 06.29.18)
  • The Kremlin critic investigating an alleged $230 million Russian fraud is set to file a criminal complaint against Danske Bank in its home country of Denmark, accusing it of being a central player in a vast money laundering scheme. Bill Browder, chief executive of Hermitage Capital Management, whose lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was beaten to death in jail after uncovering the alleged fraud, told the Financial Times that he would also file a new criminal complaint in Estonia as the number of legal fronts multiply for Danske. (Financial Times, 07.06.18)
  • India has received an offer from Russia to jointly design and build submarines. (Economic Times, 07.06.18)

China:

  • No significant developments.

Ukraine:

  • The EU has extended economic sanctions against Russia for the annexation of Crimea and its support of rebels fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine for another six months. The decision continues EU restrictions on economic activity that could benefit Russia’s defense, financial or energy sectors until Jan. 31, 2019. Crimean businesses have seen specific sanctions, with the EU prolonging a ban on EU-based companies investing in the peninsula until June 23, 2019. (The Moscow Times, 07.06.18)
  • Ukraine’s accession to the EU is supported by 51 percent of Ukrainians surveyed, according to a poll conducted by Social Monitoring Center, Socis Company and the Ukrainian Institute of Social Studies named after Yaremenko. If there was a referendum on Ukraine’s accession to NATO next Sunday, 41.4 percent of Ukrainians would vote in favor of the move and 36.8 percent would vote against it. (Interfax, 07.03.18)
  • Some 58 percent of respondents believe that at the moment there is external control of Ukraine, while 30 percent do not, according to a poll conducted by Social Monitoring Center, Socis Company and the Ukrainian Institute of Social Studies named after Yaremenko. Additionally, 51 percent of respondents believe that it is worth getting rid of such external management. (Interfax, 07.03.18)
  • The Ukrainian president’s representative in the Verkhovna Rada, Iryna Lutsenko, has proposed that deputies join the work on securing European and Euro-Atlantic policy in the country’s constitution and send their proposals to the constitutional commission. (Interfax, 07.03.18)
  • A delegation of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry headed by First Deputy Minister Serhiy Yarovy has visited the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base in California, operated by the California National Guard, which provides overall coordination of forces and facilities in case of an emergency. (Interfax, 06.30.18)
  • Kiev is ready to exchange 23 Russian citizens convicted in Ukraine for 23 Ukrainians incarcerated in Russia for political reasons, Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Commissioner Liudmyla Denisova said at a press briefing in Moscow on June 29. (Interfax, 06.29.18)
  • Ukrainian blogger Stanislav Aseyev, who is being held by Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk, has declared a hunger strike. (RFE/RL, 07.05.18)
  • U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan has spoken in support of Moldova’s, Georgia’s and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity at a meeting with parliamentary speakers Andrian Candu of Moldova, Andriy Parubiy of Ukraine and Irakly Kobakhidze of Georgia in Washington on July 4. (Interfax, 06.28.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has named several military units after cities or other places in Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Germany and Romania, a step that may be seen as provocative by people in those countries. Ukraine’s top military officer Viktor Muzhenko has condemned Putin’s order. (RFE/RL, 07.02.18, RFE/RL, 07.03.18)
  • Three Ukrainian soldiers died and nine were wounded during a training accident on Friday morning. (Reuters, 07.06.18)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has met with his Serbian counterpart in a bid to repair ties with the Balkan country, a key Russian ally in Europe, as both states seek to join the EU. (RFE/RL, 07.04.18)
  • Ukrainian Minister of Social Policy Andriy Reva has said that more than 3.2 million Ukrainian citizens are employed abroad on a permanent basis. (Interfax, 07.03.18)
  • Ukrainian nuclear power plant operator Energoatom has welcomed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Ukraine’s Turboatom and Japan’s Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation. Through the agreement, the companies will initially cooperate on upgrading turbine island equipment at nuclear power plants in Ukraine. (World Nuclear News, 07.05.18)
  • Media reports in western Ukraine’s Zakarpattya region say that a 30-year-old Romany woman was killed in the city of Berehove amid tensions over a series of attacks on Romany community members. (RFE/RL, 07.02.18)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • A provincial court in Uzbekistan has convicted an Uzbek-born U.S. citizen of links to a militant group and calling for the overthrow of the government, but imposed only a $67 fine for the offenses committed almost two decades ago. Zokir Aliev was detained on June 16 on suspicion of joining a terrorist group and fighting alongside Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan. (RFE/RL, 07.04.18)
  • European lawmakers have expressed serious concern over the “further deterioration” of democratic standards in Moldova, after local courts invalidated the results of the mayoral election in the capital, Chisinau. Andrei Nastase, an antigraft campaigner and politician, took 52.5 percent of the vote in the June 3 runoff election, defeating Socialist Party candidate Ion Ceban, who favors closer relations with Russia. (RFE/RL, 07.05.18)
  • The planned Belarusian nuclear power plant at Astravets has “generally met the requirements” of a European Union “stress test” designed to avert repeats of the Fukushima disaster, while the controversial issue of the site’s location—less than 50 kilometers from the Lithuanian capital—was not addressed in the test. (RFE/RL, 07.03.18)
  • The European Parliament has listed a number of conditions for deepening ties between the EU and Azerbaijan, including ensuring that fundamental freedoms are respected in the South Caucasus nation. Negotiations for a new agreement regulating the relationship between the EU and the oil- and gas-rich country were launched in February 2017. (RFE/RL, 07.05.18)
  • Investigators in Armenia have reopened a criminal probe in an alleged attempted murder case in which former President Serzh Sarkisian’s nephew is a suspect, citing the emergence of new evidence. (RFE/RL, 07.05.18)
  • The U.S. ambassador to Yerevan said recent political changes in Armenia will help bring new trade and investment to the country. “I am confident that this new chapter in Armenian history is going to spark a lot of interest from U.S. businesspeople,” Richard Mills said. (RFE/RL, 07.05.18)

IV. Quoteworthy

  • No significant developments.

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