Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Top News

Zakharova: Skripals Being Forcibly Detained


Spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova claimed on May 16 that former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were being held against their will by British authorities. 

Zakharova cited British statements that Yulia had refused access to Russian consular officials and the denial of a visa to the Skripals' relative, Victoria Skripal.

In other UK news, the British Foreign Affairs Committee issued a statement that characterized money laundering by the Russian elite in Britain as a serious threat to UK foreign policy interests.

ANALYSIS: An examination of Russia's role as a mediator between Iran and Israel in Syria (Russia Matters)

Andrey Movchan on what to expect from Putin's fourth term (Carnegie Moscow Center)

One take on how Russia should respond to sanctions (Eurasianet)

Russia's proposed sanctions on multinationals complying with sanctions, in context (Bloomberg)

A stampede for free food, drink  and commemorative objects at an official festival celebrating the coronation of  Nicholas II led to the deaths of nearly 1500 people and the injury of thousands more in Khodynka Field near Moscow. Read more>>>
Russian Politics

Putin Inaugurates Crimea Bridge

Russian President Vladimir Putin commemorated the official opening of the bridge between Crimea and the Russian mainland by leading a fleet of construction vehicles across the newly completed structure. Russian authorities hope the bridge will help to lower costs for Crimean consumers and encourage tourism.

The project, overseen by sanctioned Russian billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, has been plagued by engineering and budgetary complications. The Crimean Bridge is set to be opened to truck traffic by the fall. 

KREMLIN: Vice President Dmitry Medvedev presented President Vladimir Putin with his proposal for a new structure of government. Under the new arrangement, the Department of Education and Science would officially be broken into two separate departments. Few other changes of significance were proposed. 

In other news, Medvedev has announced plans to develop "offshore" structures within the Russian Federation. Special administrative zones on Russky Island in Vladivostok and on Octyabrskiy Island in Kaliningrad would be subject to special tax rules. 

JUDICIARY: A Kemerovksy oblast prosecutor did not find evidence that former regional governor Aman Tyleev owned certain pieces of property depicted in a videoclip by Fight With Corruption Fund founder Alexei Navalny. Navalny has been threatened with a defamation suit. 

View from Washington

Senate Judiciary Committee Releases Testimony on Trump Tower Meeting

The Senate Judiciary Committee has released thousands of pages of transcripts containing the testimony of attendees at a June 2016 meeting between campaign officials and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Despite an original understanding that Veselnitskaya would present compromising material on then-candidate Hillary Clinton, a majority of the testimony confirms that she instead focused the discussion on sanctions and adoption issues related to the Magnitsky Act. 

A Trump attorney allegedly forwarded a suggested statement on to Rob Goldstone, the music publicist who arranged the meeting. The message urged its recipient to corroborate the version of events set forth by the attached statement and by then-candidate Donald Trump.

SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Senator Richard Burr, Republican head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement on May 16 that corroborated intelligence agencies' conclusions that Russia favored Trump in the 2016 elections. This statement is the second of four interim assessments that will precede the committee's final report.

DOJ: The Justice Department has formally requested that inspector general Michael Horowitz expand a probe into surveillance practices relating to the Russia investigation to include targeting of Trump campaign staffers. The request came after President Donald Trump issued a series of tweets calling for such an investigation. 

The DOJ also has come to an agreement to allow certain congressional leaders to review unspecified classified documents and information related to the Russia inquiry. Leaders threatened to hold deputy attorney Rod Rosenstein in contempt of Congress if he did not comply. DOJ officials warned the release of such documents could threaten important sources, international relationships, and the lives of operatives and contacts.

DNC: The DNC has filed a request for a federal court order that would require the State Department to present a suit to the Russian Federation on the DNC's behalf. The lawsuit alleges that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to hack Democratic Party computer networks and leak private material. The Trump campaign is officially contesting the claims.

Eastern Europe and Eurasia

Ukraine's SBU Raids RIA, RT in Kiev

The SBU, the Ukrainian domestic security agency, raided the Kiev offices of the two Russia-based news agencies on May 15. The agency also detained Kirill Vyshinskiy, head of RIA Novosti in Kiev, on charges of treason. If convicted, Vyshinskiy could face up to 15 years of jail time.

The Russian government openly condemned the raid, which Ukrainian authorities stated was part of an investigation into Russia's use of media outlets as levers in a "hybrid war" against Ukraine.

GEORGIA: Authorities have promised to hold talks with White Noise, a grassroots group that organized protests for the liberalization of drug laws and the resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. 

These protests were sparked by police raids of two clubs in Tbilisi on May 11, and disbanded as counterprotests gathered momentum on May 13. 
Kvirikashvili has stated that the government will maintain its firm stance on the drug trade while advocating for a more humane policy on drug users.

SLOVAKIA: Slovak President Andrej Kiska has announced that he would not seek reelection next year. Kiska, a pro-EU independent, was the most high-level opponent to controversial former Prime Minister Robert Fico. Fico resigned after mass protests demanded his removal in March.
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