Tuesday, May 15, 2018
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Skripal Reportedly Briefed European Powers on Russian Intelligence

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy who was poisoned in Salisbury earlier this year, allegedly held meetings with Czech and other European intelligence services and advised them on the inner workings of Russian military intelligence.

Such information, although limited to the time before his pardon and exchange in 2004, included the names of agents still in operation. These meetings were reportedly facilitated by British intelligence agency MI6. 

ANALYSIS: An in-depth look at Renova affiliate Columbus Nova (RFE/RL)

A case study on the resilience of certain Russian companies under sanctions (Bloomberg)

An op-ed on Russia expertise, ties to Bush-era enhanced interrogation, and other benefits and drawbacks of Gina Haspel's potential confirmation as CIA director (Washington Post)

An examination of the roles played by core U.S. officials working on Eurasia in determining U.S. foreign policy (The New York Times)

The above figures outline the military forces and heavy weaponry that took part in Moscow's Victory Day parade on May 9th. The parade showcased several new weapons and aircraft, including the hypersonic "Kinzhal" missile. Read more>>>
Russian Politics

Protesters Gather in Moscow for Second Telegram Ban Demonstration

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Russia's capital on May 13 to protest Roskomnadzor's blocking of Telegram in April. 12 protesters were ultimately detained.

This was the second such demonstration, with protests last month drawing crowds of thousands. Though some users are flouting the ban via VPNs and other means, the telecommunications watchdog has shut down other IP addresses and disabled other internet functions in its attempt to block Telegram

In other news, in an interview with a Moscow radio station during the Victory Day Parade on May 9, Roskomnadzor director Sergei Dorenko admitted to his continued use of Telegram. 

KREMLIN: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order establishing Dmitri Medvedev as the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. Putin proposed Medvedev's candidacy after the former Prime Minister's government officially stepped down on May 7th. 374 Duma deputies voted in favor of Medvedev, with 56 voting against.

MINFIN: After expectations that he might be granted a more powerful position within the Russian economic policy establishment, former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin was confirmed as the new head of Russia's Audit Chamber.

View from Washington

Renova Group Affiliate's Payment to Essential Consultants Draws Scrutiny

Evidence has been uncovered that a U.S. affiliate of recently-sanctioned Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg's Renova Group allegedly contributed $500,000 to Essential Consultants, a shell company established by attorney to Donald Trump Michael Cohen. The allegations come after Vekselberg was questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller last week as well as following revelations that Essential Consultants paid $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016 to ensure her silence about an alleged affair with Trump.

The U.S. affiliate, Columbus Nova, cited real estate interests in explaining the 2017 payments and denies that Vekselberg had any involvement in Cohen's hiring or payment. It has also recently been discovered that a series of alt-right websites were registered to Columbus Nova in August of 2016. The company denies previous knowledge of these registrations.

In other probe news, Concord Management and Consulting has requested to be allowed to review materials and instructions involved in the company's original indictment. Concord has been charged by Mueller's office with attempting to defraud the United States.

SENATE: The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on May 8 detailing the extent to which Russian cyber operations affected voting systems during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

The committee found that although at least 18 states were targeted, several of which saw breaches of election computer defenses, neither voter registration information nor the votes themselves were altered. The Department of Homeland Security has stated that 17 states have already undergone or will soon undergo the agency's most intensive risk and vulnerability assessments.

SANCTIONS: The United States Department of State has added six Russian companies involved with the production and delivery of certain classes of ballistic missiles to its list of sanctioned entities. 

CYBER: An investigation by the Associated Press has linked 2015 death threats to U.S. military spouses by the CyberCaliphate hacking group to Russian hacking collective Fancy Bear. The CyberCaliphate, previously linked to ISIS, was allegedly a front for Fancy Bear.

Eastern Europe and Eurasia

Pashinyan Chosen Prime Minister of Armenia

On May 8, Armenia's parliament voted 59 to 42 to select opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as the country's Prime Minister. Pashinyan lost the first parliamentary vote on May 1st after protests he had spearheaded led to the former Prime Minister, Serzh Sargsyan, to resign.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a congratulatory telegram to Pashinyan, urging the new leader to continue to honor the two countries' framework of bilateral agreements. Pashinyan met with Putin  for the first time on May 14th.

POLAND: Poland's anti-trust watchdog has launched an investigation against Russia gas company Gazprom  and five other international companies that have invested in the Nordstream-2 pipeline project. Investors could face fines or, if not able to prove competition, could be forced to sell a portion of their stakes in the project.

UZBEKISTAN: Uzbek journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev was cleared of government conspiracy charges and released from custody by a Tashkent court. Though the court convicted him of anti-government propaganda, this lesser charge brought with it a minor sentence of community service.
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