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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2116
Russia's dying print media;
Relaxing penalties for domestic violence
Edited by Amanda Azinheira and Kaitlyn Johnson
February 8, 2017
Russia appears to be drawing down its presence in Syria. According to Reuters, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to reduce his government's military presence in Syria late last month. The pullback, confirmed by General Staff Chief Valery Gerasimov, will entail a withdrawal of the naval carrier group headed by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which has played a critical role in providing air support to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
As temperatures plummet in Europe, Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled gas giant, is reaping the benefits. The gas company supplies one third of the gas consumed by the European Union, and recently set a record for the most exports shipped in a single day, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Allegations of Russian election-related hacking continue to proliferate - and not only in America. USA Today reports that Russian entities are suspected of having been involved in influencing elections in a number of foreign nations over the past several years, among them Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, and Ukraine. This history, the paper notes, indicates that the current allegations of Russia's attempts to influence the results of the U.S. presidential election are part of a deeper and more pervasive problem, as Russia attempts to undermine Western democratic institutions.
A bipartisan group of ten senators has introduced legislation aimed at levying new sanctions on Russia. According to the Huffington Post, the new measures are a response to Russia's alleged hacking of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The legislation effort, led by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), is aimed at imposing costs on Russia for its cyber activities, as well as its ongoing intervention in both Ukraine and Syria.
The effort, however, may meet resistance at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. President-elect Donald Trump has indicated that, once in office, he may scale back some anti-Russian sanctions as part of a new, more conciliatory stance toward the Kremlin.
Russia's print media industry continues to shrink. Writing in his Window on Eurasia blog, Russia expert Paul Goble notes that the Kommersant publishing group's decision to suspend publication of two of its "flagship" journals is indicative of a larger, nationwide collapse of print media in the Russian Federation. Moreover, according to Goble, "[t]he state of the print media may be even worse at the local level... [where] Many local papers which have been in existence for decades are folding as their readership declines and local governments cut back subsidies."
The overall picture is grim. "Only about one Russian in ten subscribes to any paper now, down from far larger shares in the Soviet past. And while this is a worldwide trend, its impact on Russia is likely to be even greater given the role that the print media has traditionally played there."
Russia has begun the process of decriminalizing domestic violence. According to the Meduza news portal, the State Duma has given preliminary approval to a bill making domestic violence a civil - rather than a criminal - offense, unless it is committed more than once in a single year. The bill was approved in its first (of three) readings with 368 votes for, 1 vote against, and 1 abstention. "The bill - which will now be prepared for its second reading - would exclude domestic violence from Russia's Criminal Code, thereby no longer making it a felony," the news agency reports.