Friday, February 23, 2018
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Top News

Prokhorov Funds Suit Against Doping Whistleblower

The oligarch and current owner of the Brooklyn Nets is financing the defamation lawsuit against Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov on behalf of three former Russian biathletes who were stripped of their silver medals due to doping allegations. 

The multimillion-dollar suit was filed on February 20 in New York State Court.

In other doping news, Alexander Krushelnytsky, an Olympic Athlete from Russia currently competing in Pyeongchang, has tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug called meldonium. As a result, Krushnelnytsky and his partner were stripped of their bronze medal.

The Russian curler insists that another athlete who was not allowed to compete had spiked his drink with the substance.

ANALYSIS: Anton Troianovski interviews Marat Mindiyarov, a former employee of the St. Petersburg "troll factory" implicated in the recent Mueller probe indictments (The Washington Post)

How corruption in military spending has undermined Ukrainian efforts (The New York Times)

An inside look at Polish public opinion and Euroskepticism (The New York Times)

A farewell letter of sorts on Russian nationalism and transformation from longtime Guardian Moscow correspondent Shaun Walker. (The Guardian)

The  “Royal Manifest of the Abolishment of Serfdom" reinstated personal rights and liberties of serfs. While imperfect in form and execution, the law led to the reconfiguration of Russia's entire economy. Read more>>>
Russian Politics

Navalny Detained, Faces 30 Day Sentence

Opposition activist Aleksei Navalny was detained by police on February 22. 

Authorities have initiated legal proceedings against Navalny for organizing illegal protests.
If convicted, Navalny could face 30 days of imprisonment.

In other news, a suit filed by presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak against President Vladimir Putin was rejected by Russia's Supreme Court.

The lawsuit demanded the disqualification of Putin as a presidential candidate on the grounds that he had already served three terms, "bypassing the law" by inviting Dmitri Medvedev to serve from 2008-2012.

SYRIA: After staunch opposition from the Russian Federation, the UN Security Council failed to pass a resolution on February 22 that would have instituted a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. The ceasefire was intended to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to a rebel-held Damascus suburb.

CYBER: Russia has officially denied accusations levied by the United Kingdom and the United States that the country was responsible for the destructive 2017 "NotPetya" cyberattack on Ukrainian infrastructure.

View from Washington

13 Russian Nationals Indicted in Probe

The Department of Justice announced on February 16 that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had indicted 13 Russian nationals on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States. 

According to the indictment, members of the Internet Research Agency, an organization based out of the Russian Federation, impersonated and interacted with Americans on social media to coordinate political activities and communicate with "unwitting" Trump campaign officials. The indictment indicates that these activities began as early as 2014. 

On February 19, the Russian Federation denied any Russian government interference, citing a lack of evidence.

CONGRESS: Lawmakers are currently considering holding Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress after the former Trump chief strategist refused to answer numerous questions at his February 15 House Intelligence Committee meeting.  Bannon once more invoked a wide interpretation of executive privilege, answering only 25 White House-approved questions posed to him during the meeting.

PENTAGON: On February 17, the US Navy has deployed a second warship to the Black Sea in order to "conduct maritime security operations" and to demonstrate the U.S.'s "enduring commitment to regional stability, maritime security of our Black Sea partners, and the collective defense of our NATO allies."

The following day, Russia announced the deployment of several more of its own ships to the Black Sea to conduct naval exercises.

Eastern Europe and Eurasia

New Wave of Protests Among Saakashvili Supporters

Thousands of supporters of recently-deported former Georgian President and Odessa mayor Mikheil Saakashvili marched in Kiev, Ukraine on February 18. The ministry of internal affairs estimated turnout at around 3,000, while journalists reported that an estimated 10,000 had participated in the demonstration.

The supporters demanded the impeachment of current President Petro Poroshenko, a former Saakashvili ally who has recently been the target of much criticism from the opposition politician.

Saakashvili has been banned from entering Ukraine until 2021.

KAZAKHSTAN: Kazakhstan has once again opted to alter its alphabet, after switching from a Cyrillic to a Latin system last year.  New changes will dispense with the unpopular and unwieldy asterisk convention, replacing them with accents instead.

In  finance news, a Belgian courts has frozen $22.6 billion worth of assets held for Kazakhstan's Sovereign Wealth Fund. The ruling is one of several imposed by European courts in relation to a multi-vector suit by Moldovan energy investor Anatolie Stati.

ARMENIA: Armen Sarkissian has officially accepted the nomination of current President Serszh Sarkisian to run for the Armenian presidency on March 9. Armenia will then transition to a parliamentary system of government wherein many of the presidential powers will be transferred to the Prime Minister.

Polish EU Affairs Minister Konrad Szymanski spoke out against EU plans to tie measures of judicial independence with EU financing from 2021 onward, citing infringement of sovereign rights. In talks on the subject, Italy has also been advocating linking funding to migration policy. Poland has exhibited resistance against granting asylum to migrants.
Fellow Visegrad group member Hungary has also been firmly against taking in migrants.  While campaigning for Fidesz in the leadup to the April elections, current Hungarian President Victor Orban stated that “Christianity is Europe’s last hope,” reinforcing the current focus on anti-migration advocacy in the ruling party's platform. 

In other news, Poland was also censured by the European Court of Justice on February 20 for logging in a protected forest in violation of EU law.
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