Tuesday, April 3, 2018
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Top News

Zakharova: West Attempting to Deny Russia World Cup

Maria Zakkharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that the "main aim" of the United Kingdom and other Western states is to "take the World Cup out of Russia." 

This accusation comes after various critical statements by UK officials about the event, which will begin in June. Though the Royal Family will not be in attendance, there are no indications that the British team will shun the World Cup. 

These statements and measures are all ostensibly related to the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. Yulia Skripal is now reported to be conscious and speaking, and Russian consular officials have submitted a request to be allowed access to her.

In other news, the Russian transport ministry has demanded an official explanation for the search of an Aeroflot passenger plane by British authorities that took place on March 27. UK authorities have dismissed Russian concerns, describing the search as "routine."

ANALYSIS: Andrey Kortunov on the current policy of diplomatic expulsion (Russian International Affairs Council)

A look at the politics of "provocation" in Russia (The Washington Post)

An analysis of trends in governance and protest in states of the former Czechoslovakia  (Financial Times)

Baku's support of a new quadrilateral format with Iran, Turkey and Georgia, in context. (The Jamestown Foundation)

After a fire engulfed a movie theater in a shopping mall in Keremovo on Sunday, adults and children were trapped inside due to locked fire exits and a disabled alarm system. Several thousand protesters stormed the central square on February 27, when President Putin visited the city. Read more>>>
Russian Politics

Finance Ministry to Toughen Government Contract Controls

Russia's finance ministry is hoping to introduce new, stricter rules  on companies that carry out large government projects. Starting in 2019, contractors would be required to have full cost transparency and submit to the oversight of the Federal Treasury.

The proposed measures will largely target single-company contracts as well as construction and other project whose costs tend to change over the course of a contract.  

REGIONAL POLITICS: President Vladimir Putin accepted the resignation of Aman Tuleyev, governor of Kemerovo, on Sunday. In light of the fire at the Winter Cherry shopping center, the decades-long leader of the region stated that continuing to govern was "morally impossible."

In other news, over 6500 residents of Volokolamske came out to demand that authorities declare a state of emergency, release activist Artyem Lyubimov, close down the "Yadrovo" landfill, and dismiss both Moscow oblast governor Andrei Boroviev and local leader Andrei Viharev.

The protests came after waste gas in the "Yadrovo" landfill was found to have caused health problems in the community.

DIPLOMATIC CORPS: NATO withdrew and withheld accreditation from ten diplomats within the Russian mission on March 27. The decision followed the expulsion of Russian diplomats from over 20 countries in response to the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal.

Russia, which dismissed NATO's actions as "boorish," has stated that it will pursue retaliatory measures. 

In other news, American diplomats have vacated the U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg after Russian authorities ordered the diplomatic mission be shuttered.

View from Washington

Manafort Filing Alleges Misconduct by Mueller Investigation

Attorneys for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort filed a case in federal court on February 27 arguing that special counsel Robert Mueller was improperly ordered to investigate Trump-Russia "links and/or coordination” during the 2016 campaign. Manafort is protesting that Mueller prosecuted him for alleged activity that lay outside the investigation's jurisdiction. 

A previously classified memo released on April 2 by the Justice Department reveals that Mueller was given specific jurisdiction to investigate Manafort's activity before and during Viktor Yanukovych's presidency of Ukraine.The DOJ has upheld its support for Mueller's appointment.

In other news, prosecutors for Mueller filed documents on March 27 alleging that Manafort's deputy, Rick Gates, knowingly communicated with an associate who had ties to Russian intelligence services. 

The associate remained unnamed, and both the topic of conversation and the nature of the alleged intelligence ties during the campaign remain unclear. 

MILITARY: The United States signed a $4.75 billion contract on March 28 to sell Patriot missile air defense systems to Poland. Polish authorities say that the deal, the largest Poland has signed on to in nearly 30 years, is meant to increase security as part of a widespread effort to modernize defense systems.

Eastern Europe and Eurasia

Ukraine and Russia Fail to Reach an Agreement on Gas Deliveries

Russia's Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz were unable to come to a settlement on gas deliveries to Ukraine at negotiations last week. This round of talks comes after a Swedish arbitration court ruled in favor of Naftogaz in a contract dispute with Gazprom, which the Russian company plans to appeal.

The two state companies disagree on several key points, including on the parties responsible for paying for gas deliveries to the self-declared LNR and DNR. Gazprom insists that Ukraine be responsible for payment, which Naftogaz will not consider. 

Direct deliveries of gas from Russia may not resume until April, when the next round of negotiations is slated to occur.

TAJIKISTAN: Tajik airlines "Somon Air" and "Tajik Aiir" announced on April 1 that flights to certain regions of the Russian Federation would be suspended. The announcement comes after the suspension of certain regional "Ural Airlines" flights from Russia to Tajikistan last month. Tajikistan suggests "reciprocal measures" are in the works, but industry representatives are prepared to travel to Moscow in the next week for negotiations.

LATVIA:  Former NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen sent a proposal to Latvian President Maris Kucinskis to set up a task force for reforming and overseeing the country's banking sector. The task force would include top Western experts from the U.S. Treasury, the European Central Bank, and other institutions.

The letter comes in light of the collapse of a major Latvian bank and an investigation into in money laundering and corruption by the Latvian Central Bank chief.
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