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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2122

Navalny's moment of truth;
Media watchdog takes aim at foreign ownership

Edited by Amanda Azinheira and Kaitlyn Johnson
March 13, 2017

February 6: 

Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Antanov has been named as the next Russian ambassador to the United States. 
According to The Moscow Times, Antanov was originally suggested as a candidate for ambassador last fall, when Hillary Clinton was expected to take the White House, due to his hardline approach to U.S.-Russian diplomacy. Antanov joined Russian Foreign Ministry in 1978, and has since served in a variety of roles, including as head of security and disarmament, engaging U.S. officials on issues relating to nuclear reductions. He now awaits parliamentary approval of his appointment. 

February 7:

Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny is emerging as a real challenger to the Kremlin, 
notes Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The pro-democracy activist holds significant sway among Russian intellectuals disenfranchised under President Vladimir Putin's rule, as well as with the country's working class. While he is not a current threat to the Kremlin's power, his ability to manipulate social media and his nationalist and anti-corruption rhetoric may garner him significant support in the run-up to next year's election. According to RFE/RL, that makes the verdict in the Kremlin's long-running, politically charged trial against Navalny - which is expected later this week - particularly significant, and will provide insight into exactly how much of a threat the Putin government believes Navalny to be. 

February 8:

Investors are beginning to dip their toes back into Russia's struggling economy, which is finally emerging from a two-year recession. In a sign of the emerging thaw, 
the Wall Street Journal reports that a Russian toy retailer has announced the country's first major initial public offering since the annexation of Crimea back in 2014. 

President Putin has been assured an easy victory in the 2018 presidential election with the conviction of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. 
According to the New York Times, Navalny was the only prospective candidate who was likely to seriously challenge President Putin. However, a court in Kirov, Russia has convicted Navalny of embezzlement, making him ineligible to stand for public office. The charge against Navalny was widely considered to be unfounded, and to have been used as a political instrument to thwart the activist's bid for political office. 

February 9:

The United States has reaffirmed that it will not lift sanctions on Russia until the Crimean Peninsula is officially returned to Ukraine. 
The Moscow Times reports that the U.S. Senate is currently working on measures to require Congressional approval for the president to lift sanctions on Russia. The bill, just launched by six senators, bars the removal of sanctions without Congressional approval and unless the administration can prove that Russia is not continuing to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty. 

February 10:

Roskomnadzor, Russia's state media watchdog, is launching a new crackdown on the country's media. 
The Moscow Times reports that Roskomnadzor has commanded Ekho Moskvy, a liberal Russian radio station, to provide documents proving that it is in compliance with the foreign ownership law which went into effect on January 1, 2016. Previously, this law has been interpreted to mean that foreign entities or individuals, including Russians with dual citizenship, cannot own more than 20 percent of the shares of any media corporation. However, the new demands by Roskomnadzor suggest that the law is now being interpreted to completely prohibit any kind of foreign ownership of Russian media. Ekho Moskvy has five days to prove its compliance with the new interpretation of the foreign ownership regulations. 

February 11:

Moscow is once again using Iranian airspace to launch attacks in Syria. Russia began using an Iranian base to carry out missions in August of 2106, but stopped after garnering criticism from both the United States and some Iranian officials, 
reports Reuters. But Russia has recently resumed using Iranian airspace to carry out operations in support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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