Tuesday, June 12, 2018
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Normandy Format Foreign Ministers Meet to Discuss Ukraine

The foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany met in Berlin on June 11th to further discuss the issue of Eastern Ukraine. 

At the summit, the foreign ministers suggested the possibility of a future meeting between the heads of state of the Normandy Format countries. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin stated that several issues with exclusively political significance would be reserved for discussion at such a meeting. 

ANALYSIS: An examination of the limits of the Russia-China partnership (Russia Matters)

Paul Goble on Russia's hopes for Gagauzia after Moldova strips Russian language of its special status (The Eurasia Daily Monitor)

Understanding the role of oligarchs in the sanctions era-system (Carnegie Moscow Center)

An analysis of what can be learned from this year's "Direct Line" (The Washington Post)

The Bolshoi Theater's ballet about gay Russian dancer Rudolf Nuyerev received these accolades at the prestigious Prix Benoit awards in Moscow on June 5. The play's former choreographer, Kirill Serebrennikov, was detained by authorities last August on charges of embezzlement.  Read more>>>
Russian Politics

OSCE Report: 2018 Election Not Adequately Competitive

International monitors from the OSCE commission to Russia have released a report detailing their evaluation of the presidential election which took place in March of this year. Although the report states that electoral process was carried out "effectively and transparently" in legal and technical terms, it found that the competitiveness of the election was lacking.

The OSCE cited uneven media coverage for candidates other than incumbent president Vladimir Putin and circumstances that prevented Alexei Navalny from running. 

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the report "another instance of political partisanship."

DIRECT LINE: President Vladimir Putin held his annual televised question-and-answer session on June 6. During the program, Putin dismissed a proposed prisoner exchange of Russian journalist Kirill Vishinsky and Ukrainian journalist Oleg Sentsov. Putin also fielded questions on the Crimea bridge, infrastructure, teachers' salaries, and other issues.

SECURITY SERVICES: On June 8, Russian media cited a regional police official as revealing that an internal, inter-agency order signed in 2014 authorized the destruction of historical files relating to gulag prisoners. The order specifically calls for the destruction of release files and registration records of former prisoners once they reach 80 years of age. 

View from Washington

Trump: Russia Should Be Reinstated To G-7

U.S. President Donald Trump stated that Russia should be admitted once again to the Group of Seven leading world economies. Trump made this remark on June 8 as he was leaving for the G7 summit in Canada, which was centered on countering foreign election meddling. 

Trump stated, “It may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run. … They should let Russia back in.” Russia was expelled from the group after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

CONGRESS: After expressing support for the Justice Department's investigation and the FBI despite backlash from supporters of President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan stated that there was “no evidence of collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russian Federation. 

NORTH KOREA: On June 12, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov expressed Russia's pledge of support in implementing the deal struck by U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Though Ryabkov qualified his statement by saying that "the devil is in the detail," he added that Russia would also support a renewed six-party format on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and other issues.

Eastern Europe and Eurasia

Ukraine's SBU Investigates Leaked "Hit List" of Journalists

Ukrainian news website published an as yet unverified list of 47 Ukrainian journalists and activists allegedly targeted by the would-be killers of journalist Sergei Babchenko. SBU representatives stated that the Ukrainian security service had initiated a criminal investigation into the unauthorized leak of the "hit list," the authenticity of which they did not comment upon. 

Authorities have taken measures to inform and ensure the safety of the 47 people listed on a possibly distinct roster which the SBU had discovered.

The purported leak occurred in the wake of the attempted killing of Babchenko, who explained the next day that his faked death was part of an SBU sting operation to catch those who had arranged for his killing. Ukrainian arms manufacturer Borys Herman was has since been arrested and charged with ordering the assassination, while the shooter, Oleksiy Tsimbalyuk, revealed that he had been working in coalition with the SBU.

HUNGARY: The Hungarian parliament began debating a set of draft laws, known informally as the "Stop Soros" bill, which would criminalize assistance to undocumented migrants in navigating the immigration system.

In other Ukraine news, President Petro Poroshenko signed a bill that would create an independent Supreme Anticorruption Court. The measure has long been urged by the IMF and other international actors.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Czech President Milos Zeman reappointed Prime Minister Andrej Babis for a second time after Babis' months-long struggle to form a government. This decision sparked mass protests in cities across the country, the latest in a series of popular demonstrations that began after the killing of a Czech journalist. Babis is currently under criminal investigation for embezzlement of European Union funds meant for small businesses.

A new coalition deal with the Social Democrats will be put to a vote on June 15.
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