Friday, March 16, 2018
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Top News

EU Extends Sanctions for Another Six Months

EU sanctions imposing travel restrictions and asset freezes on 38 companies and 150 individuals in retaliation for Russia's annexation of Crimea and involvement in Eastern Ukraine will now be in force until September 15. 

The European Council stated that “An assessment of the situation did not justify a change in the sanctions regime."

ANALYSIS: An examination of Britain's retaliatory options and the domestic Russian response (The Washington Post)

A look at the history and effects of the Novichok nerve gas (The New York Times)

A comprehensive list and analysis of all available information on Russia and the 2016 election (Russia Matters)

A brief analysis of past and current "base talk" in Kyrgyzstan (The Diplomat)

How the lack of grain cars is hindering the Ukrainian grain boom (Bloomberg)

Recommendations to Georgian and Western leaders in light of Georgia's diminished global profile (New Eastern Europe)

The deal, originally set to take place before the end of 2017, has been hindered by multiple complications such as the recent arrest of CEFC founder Ye Jianming. CEFC would bear the majority of the risk if the deal should fall through. Read more>>>
Russian Politics

Russia Cites Protocols in Failing to Meet U.K. Deadline in Poisoning Case

After British allegations that Russia was involved in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, Prime Minister Theresa May issued a 24-hour ultimatum to Russia, the deadline of which has since passed.

The U.K. had demanded on March 13 that Russia make available all of its knowledge relating to the poisoning by midnight or else face increased visa bans, sanctions, and other financial measures. The U.K. has since expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the attack.

Russia denied the U.K's claims and called for access to samples of the nerve agent used in the poisoning as well as 10 days to respond, which are traditionally afforded under international chemical weapons protocol.

Russia promised retaliatory action should further sanctions be introduced, and has warned it will restrict British media access to Russia if the U.K.-based arm of the Russia Today media outlet is shuttered by British authorities. Russia also plans to expel British diplomats in the near future.

MILITARY: Russia's Ministry of Defense stated that it had successfully tested the hypersonic "Kinzhal" missile, which President Vladimir Putin had referred to as "invincible" in a recent speech.

Officials say the missile, which has a range of 1,200 miles, successfully hit its target in the test. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis made assurances that this test did not signal a change in Russia's military capability and would not affect U.S. policy.

View from Washington

House Intelligence Committee Dissolves Investigation into Collusion

An announcement by House Intelligence Committee Republicans on March 13 brought an end to the House investigation into collusion between Russia and Donald Trump in order to influence the results of the election.

According to committee leader K. Michael Conaway, committee members agree with intelligence reports that indicate Russian interference in the election, but "disagree with the narrative that they were trying to help Trump.”

Committee Democrats have released a dissenting report that outlines the topics and actors that they feel were not adequately investigated. They also protest that their Republican counterparts have prioritized the interests of the president over those of the country as a whole. 

Robert Mueller's probe, however, is as yet ongoing, and a Senate Intelligence Committee is set to release a report on election security-related findings later this month.

CONGRESS: House and Senate Democrats have sent a letter to the White House requesting the extradition of the 13 Russian nationals indicted in Mueller's probe last month.

The request, in addition to concerns about further election meddling, was also motivated by Russian President Vladimir Putin's remark that "Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews, but with Russian citizenship" could be responsible for the interference rather than ethnic Russians.

Putin has stated that he would not extradite these individuals under any circumstances.

Eastern Europe and Eurasia

New Agreements Signal Tajik-Uzbek Rapprochement

After years of tensions, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon announced intentions to bolster bilateral relations, signing a total of 27 agreements to that effect on March 9. 

Among other measures, the new agreements have demarcated some sections of the Tajik-Uzbek border and introduced bilateral visa-free travel for 30-day periods. 

Bilateral relations had been extremely strained under Uzbekistan's former president, Islam Karimov, due to various disputes.

NAGORNO-KARABAKH: Azerbaijan threatened the United States with unspecified reciprocal measures after Bako Sahakyan, the de facto president of the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh territory, was allowed to visit Washington.

While in the United States, Sahakyan visited with pro-Armenian congressmen at the Capitol, where he bestowed several "Presidential Medals of Gratitude." Azerbaijan characterized the granting of a visa to Sahakyan as a “serious blow” to US-Azerbaijani relations.

SLOVAKIA: After mass demonstrations over the killing of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, Prime Minister Robert Fico has resigned from his post. Deputy Prime Minister Peter Pelligrini will soon be asked to form a government, pending a parliamentary vote of confidence.

Interior Minister Robert Kalinak also announced his resignation earlier this week. Kalinak, a key ally of Fico and a member of the mafia-linked Smer-Social Democracy party, was also linked to corruption scandals last year.

A Polish law banning trade on Sundays has come into effect, levying a fine of up to 100,000 zlotys for all violations..

The law will restrict trade on two Sundays of each month in 2018, three Sundays per month in 2019, and all Sundays from 2020 onward.
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