Friday, March 2, 2018
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Top News

I.O.C. Rules Athletes Not Allowed to March Behind Russian Flag

In light of two failed drug tests by Olympic Athletes from Russia competing in Pyeongchang, the International Olympic Committee unanimously upheld its suspension of Russia's competition at the games by refusing to allow the independent athletes from Russia to march behind the Russian flag at the closing ceremony.

The Russian Federation was restored to the I.O.C. on February 28.

ANALYSIS: Anne Appelbaum argues that the systemic problems concerning social divisions and social media extend beyond Russian bots (The Washington Post)

Insight into the latest proposed restrictions on NGO's and public invective against George Soros in Hungary (NPR)

A guide to roadblocks in the process of EU expansion to the Western Balkans (Bloomberg)

An analysis of Latvia's banking scandal, in context (Financial Times)

Russia called a five-hour truce in Syria's eastern Ghouta on February 27 in order to allow the evacuation of civilians and the wounded. However, the UN and other monitors in Syria have observed ongoing airstrikes and shelling, rendering the brief pause impracticable.. Read more>>>
Russian Politics

Roskomnadzor Removes Navalny Site From Banned Registry

In explaining the agency's decision, Roskomnadzor spokesman cited the compliance of opposition activist Alexei Navalny's site with the ruling of a Krasnodar court.

The Ust-Labinsky District Court ruled in favor of plaintiff Oleg Deripaska in his lawsuit against Anastasia Vashukevich (Nastya Rybka) and Alexander Kirillov (Alex Lesley), ordering that access to photos, videos, and audio recordings posted by the defendants be removed from various sites. Vashukevich and Kirillov, currently detained in a Thai prison, have asked the United States to grant them political asylum. Navalny was not directly implicated in the suit, as he used the social media content in an independent investigation.

The telecommunications watchdog had notified Navalny of the inclusion of the webpages in the registry on February 10th.

DIPLOMATIC CORPS: Six suspects, including one former Russian diplomatic worker, were arrested in connection with a drug smuggling ring based out of the Embassy of the Russian Federation to Argentina. The 14-month investigation began after 400 kilograms of cocaine were found on embassy grounds in Buenos Aires. Though only flour, substituted for the cocaine before its shipment on a diplomatic flight, was ever delivered to Moscow, the suspects are charged with attempted drug trafficking.

The Kremlin has declined to comment on the investigation, directing inquiries toward the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

NONPROLIFERATION: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated on February 28 that the U.S. was in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, in carrying out so-called "joint nuclear missions" with European allies. Lavrov insisted that, in so doing, "the U.S. military prepares the military of European countries for the use of nuclear weapons against Russia." 

In other news, President Vladimir Putin made reference in a pre-election speech to a supposedly "invincible missile" in Russia's nuclear arsenal.

CYBER: Germany has indicated that malware discovered in its Foreign Ministry's computer systems could be linked to Russian hacking group Fancy Bear.

View from Washington

House Intelligence Committee Minority Memo Released

On February 24, the House Intelligence Committee released a partially redacted memo drafted by committee Democrats in rebuttal to a competing majority GOP memo. The latter memorandum was released in full earlier this month, while the minority memorandum's full release was blocked by the White House.

The GOP memo asserts that the FBI did not follow procedure in its use of Steele dossier information to procure a warrant for surveillance on Trump aide Carter Page. The minority memorandum cites classified and unclassified sources in its attempt to discredit this claim.

SPECIAL COUNSEL: U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a superseding indictment against Paul Manafort on February 23rd. The new indictment alleges that multiple former European presidents and prime ministers were paid in excess of 2 million euros by Manafort to lobby on behalf of Ukraine and then-President Victor Yanukovych.

All suspected leaders have denied participation in the secret lobbying group, informally termed the "Hapsburg Group."

ENERGY: On February 27, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol stated that the United States would overtake the Russian Federation as the number one oil producer no later than 2019. Birol attributes this change to the growth in U.S. shale oil production.

Eastern Europe and Eurasia

Money Laundering Scandals Plague Baltic States

Estonian financial regulators have launched an investigation into illegal money laundering activity in the country's branch of Denmark-based Danske Bank. The money laundering schemes have been linked to members of the Russian, Azerbaijani, and Moldovan political and intelligence elite.

In other financial news, ABLV, Latvia's third-largest bank, will close down. This development occurred in light of allegations of money laundering by the U.S. Treasury and a subsequent run of depositors on the bank.

UKRAINE: A Swedish tribunal ruled in favor of Naftogaz in a long-running dispute with Russia's Gazprom, awarding the Ukrainian state gas company $4.63 billion in damages. The tribunal found that Gazprom had defaulted on its supply obligations.

Gazprom has stated they will appeal the ruling, and has decided to withhold gas from Ukraine this month. 

HUNGARY:  Fidesz, Hungary's ruling party, suffered a surprising loss in a local election in a former Fidesz stronghold. Independent candidate Peter Marki-Zay won the closely-watched Hodmezovasarhely mayoral race by a 16% margin, with turnout reaching an unprecedented 62%. This upset comes a little over a month before April's highly-anticipated parliamentary elections.

POLAND: Poland has postponed a debate on establishing a Remembrance Day to commemorate Poles who sheltered Jews during World War II. Opposition parliamentarians cite the unfortunate timing of the debate, coming so soon after international backlash over the recently passed "Holocaust law," which restricts negative portrayals of Poland's role in the Second World War.
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