Tuesday, June 19, 2018
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Top News

World Cup 2018: Russia Wins Opening Match Against Saudi Arabia, Boosts Counter-terrorism Efforts


The Russian Federation won the first match of the 2018 World Cup on June 14 against Saudi Arabia, 5-0. The match followed the opening ceremony of the games in Moscow. 

In other World Cup news, Russia has been employing enhanced security measures after recent threats against the games by Islamic State affiliates. These measures include face recognition software, video monitoring, and military exercises by the Russian army, navy and air force.

ANALYSIS: An examination of Turkmenistan's recent economic woes (RFE/RL)

One take on the long-term challenge of foreign fighters returning to Russia and Eastern Europe (Russia Matters)

An analysis of the true extent of the threat posed by Russia to undersea communications cables (RFE/RL)

Former CGI Rising Expert Nicholas Trickett on the effect of  the Belarus-Russia border dispute on transit (The Diplomat)

Bloomberg reported that Russia planned to propose a significant increase in oil production, which would be shared proportionally among producers. Russian and Saudi Arabian leaders met to discuss oil policy on June 14th. Read more>>>
Russian Politics

Duma Passes Measures Raising Retirement Age, Value Added Tax

Russia's parliament passed a series of measures that will gradually increase the retirement age to 65 for men and 63 for women. The Value Added Tax, currently at 18%, will be raised to 20% by 2019. 

Russia's Central Bank also announced that in light of these other measures, it would not lower interests rates at this time. The bank will maintain the current rate of 7.25%.

TELEGRAM: Encrypted messenger app company Telegram submitted its second complaint to the European Court of Human Rights contesting Roskomnadzor's blocking of the company's operations in Russia. The complaint cites restrictions on the free spread of information.

CYBER: The European Parliament passed a resolution that called for more oversight on its IT and communications providers, including Russia-based Kaspersky Labs. The resolution classified the latter company as "malicious." In response, Kaspersky Labs dismissed this classification and announced a halt to cooperation with all European law enforcement entities.

View from Washington

Treasury Imposes New Sanctions On Russian Companies, Individuals

The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on five additional Russian companies and three individuals due to alleged support to cyberattack efforts by Russia's Federal Security Service. 

The sanctions freeze the assets of Digital Security, Kvant Scientific Research Institute, Divetechnoservices and other individuals and firms and prohibit any American citizens from conducting business with them.

MUELLER PROBE: Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted a request to a federal judge to protect evidence from being released to Concord Management and Consulting LLC. The company was indicted and pleaded not guilty to orchestrating a mass trolling campaign aimed at exploiting political divisions in the lead-up to the 2016 elections.

Mueller's request contends that sensitive materials relating to sources and intelligence-gathering methods used in procuring evidence in the case could undermine ongoing national security investigations. It further contends that any foreign national desiring to disclose those materials must pass through a separate government "firewall counsel."

In other probe news, new evidence has uncovered a previously-undisclosed May 2016 meeting between Trump confidant Roger Stone, campaign communications official Michael Caputo, and Russian national Henry Greenberg at which Greenberg offered compromising information on Hillary Clinton. 

MANAFORT TRIAL: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was jailed after allegations of witness-tampering in connection to his ongoing trial for federal conspiracy and money-laundering. A federal judge issued the order after Manafort was charged with contacting witnesses in his case and urging them to lie. 

Eastern Europe and Eurasia

Georgia's Prime Minister Steps Down

On June 13, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili  publicly announced his resignation from his post. Kvirikashvili cited differences with Georgian Dream party chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili over economic policy.  

Kvirikashvili, who has been Prime Minister since 2015, identified “the floating exchange rate, gradual increase of key policy rate,” and steps against dollarization and excess debt as key economic reforms carried out by his government.

Under Georgia's constitution, the ruling party must nominate a new prime minister, who will in turn nominate cabinet members. The new government's confirmation will be contingent on a parliamentary vote of confidence.

MACEDONIA: On June 13, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov refused to sign a deal with Greece to resolve the decades-long dispute over his country's name. Ivanov cited the country's constitution as prohibiting the change. 

The prime ministers of Macedonia and Greece had come to an accord the day prior to rename the country the Republic of North Macedonia, while its people and language would still be known by their previous names.  After the president's rejection of this agreement, nearly 1,000 protesters gathered in Skopje to demand that Prime Minister Zoran Zaev step down.

UKRAINE & RUSSIA: A Swedish appellate court has halted the implementation of an earlier court ruling in favor of Ukrainian gas company "Naftogaz" against Russia's "Gazprom." Naftogaz had been attempting to recoup $2.6 billion in damages from Gazprom awarded in the original ruling by freezing the Russian company's assets.
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