Tuesday, April 10, 2018
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Top News

Russia and Syria Blame Israel for Air Base Attack

Syria and Russia have officially accused Israel of carrying out an airstrike on a government-controlled airbase April 9. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its culpability in the incident.  Israeli officials have stated, however, that they viewed Iranian troop presence at the base as untenable.

The attack follows recent reports of a poison gas attack by Syrian forces on a rebel-controlled town.

ANALYSIS: Karolina Wigura presents an insider's perspective on the Law and Justice party's reign in Poland (The Guardian)

One analyst's take on the thaw in Uzbekistan's governance system  (The New York Times)

A thorough look at the effect of the Ukrainian conflict on healthcare in the Donbas (The Washington Post)

A case study on the success of "Orbanomics" in one Hungarian village (The New York Times)

After Teutonic knights attempted to overtake Novgorod, Prince Alexander Nevsky routed their attack in the famous battle, depicted here in Sergei Eisenstein's iconic 1938 film "Alexander Nevsky" Read more>>>
Russian Politics

Navalny Calls Meeting of New Political Party

Opposition activist Alexei Navalny has notified the Justice Ministry of a planned congress of a new political party, currently going by the name "Working Title."

This second attempt at forming a party comes after the failed congress of Navalny's first party, Party of Progress. Two weeks before Navalny's party's scheduled meeting on March 3, former deputy campaign head Vitaly Serukanov held a founding congress for his own Party of Progress. The current working title is an attempt to avoid a repeat of that situation.

The meeting is set to take place on May 19.

OPCW PROBE: The Russian Federation was outvoted in its bid to be included on a collaborative  Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigation into the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in the U.K. Only China, Iran, Azerbaijan, Algeria, and Sudan voted in support of Russia's motion, while 17 of the 41 OPCW members abstained.  

The independent OPCW investigative commission has collected samples from the poisoning site and will present its results soon. Russia's ambassador to the U.K., Alexander Yakovenko, has signaled that Russia will not accept the OPCW findings without full transparency about which countries participated in the probe.

ROSKOMNADZOR: The state telecommunications watchdog has officially filed a suit to limit access to Telegram messenger within the Russian Federation.

The filing comes after Telegram failed to turn over the decoding key to the FSB by the April 5th deadline. Telegram founder Pavel Durov had previously challenged the legality of the government's demand in the absence of a court order. The Supreme Court dismissed Durov's suit.

View from Washington

U.S. Imposes New Sanctions on Russia

Executive branch officials announced on Wednesday that the United States would be imposing a new round of sanctions. According to these officials, the economic measures target seven oligarchs and 17 government officials linked to Vladimir Putin. Twelve Russian companies were also sanctioned, including state-controlled arms dealer Rosoboroneksport.

The sanctions have led to an 8 percent drop in Russian stocks and a decrease in the price of government bonds. The ruble has also fallen 4 percent in relation to the dollar.

The move comes in light of recent pressure, including from outgoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster, to enact further punitive measures against Russia.

CYBER: Facebook announced on April 4 that it had removed over 200 Instagram and Facebook pages controlled by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization recently indicted in the Mueller probe for exerting influence on the 2016 presidential election. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the move "censorship toward Russian mass media."

The majority of these pages were created in 2016, although neither their content nor any direct relation to the election were grounds for their removal. Instead, Facebook cited identity falsification by the IRA when creating the relevant accounts. This is the second widespread removal of IRA pages, 400 of which were taken down in September 2017.

MUELLER PROBE: Alex van der Zwaan, an international lawyer, has been sentenced to a 30 day jail term for lying to Mueller probe investigators about interactions with a suspected Russian spy in Ukraine. The lawyer is the first to be sentenced in the investigation.

The sentence was relatively lenient due to the fact that van der Zwaan revealed his full knowledge of the relevant communications during a later round of questioning.

Eastern Europe and Eurasia

Investigation Reveals Manafort's Strategies for Bolstering Yanukovych

The details of multimilllion-dollar lobbying campaign executed by Paul Manafort for the government of Viktor Yanukovych from 2011-2013 have now been revealed by a Guardian investigative report.

According to the investigation, Manafort's strategies included establishing a fake Vienna think tank in order to create and promote pro-Yanukovyvch content, proposing a Wikipedia smear campaign against Yanukovych opponent Yulia Tymoshenko, and a social media blitz aimed at other Western states. The investigation has also unearthed evidence that the team briefed the U.S. right wing website Breitbart with attacks on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

SLOVAKIA: An estimated 45,000 people once again took to the streets of Bratislava on Thursday to demand that the interior minister sack the current chief of police.

The movement, as defined by some protesters, has two additional demands: a new, fundamentally different government and an impartial investigation into the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak. This murder was the event that sparked the first mass protests in Slovakia more than a month ago.

CZECH REPUBLIC: On April 3, the White House came out in praise of the Czech Republic's decision to extradite Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin to the U.S. rather than to Russia. Nikulin faces felony charges related to the hacking of LinkedIn, Dropbox and other sites.

With this decision, the Czech Justice Minister resolved an 18th-month dispute over the country in which Nikulin would be tried.

KAZAKHSTAN: Kazakhstan's Information and Communications Minister announced on April 3 that a request had been submitted to Telegram to delete content from the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, a political party which was recently designated as extremist by a court ruling. 

A March 27 statement suggests that the popular encrypted messaging system could be blocked if it refuses to accede to this request. 
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