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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2133

Venezuela's woes are Russia's gain;
Russia fortifies its border with the DPRK

Edited by Amanda Azinheira and Kaitlyn Johnson
May 10, 2017

April 15: 

Russia's state owned Rosneft oil company could soon hold a much bigger stake in the American refining sector. 
According to New York-based current affairs outlet VICE News, Venezuela's PDVSA, which owns Texas-based refiner Citgo, put up nearly half of Citgo's shares as collateral for a recent $1.5 billion loan from Rosneft. But Venezuela, now in the throes of a major, protracted economic crisis, is in danger of defaulting on its debt - a situation that, coupled with Russia's previous acquisitions of Citgo stock, could leave the Kremlin with controlling interest in the company, which owns some five percent of America's total refining capacity. 

The news has sparked concerns among American lawmakers. "We are extremely concerned that Rosneft's control of a major U.S. energy supplier could pose a grave threat to American energy security, impact the flow and price of gasoline for American consumers, and expose critical U.S. infrastructure to security threats," six senators - including Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) - wrote in a recent letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 

April 17:

Analysts at a meeting of the Russian Association of Political Consultants have predicted a lower voter turnout and a smaller margin of victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin in next year's presidential elections. According to Lev Gudkov, head of the independent polling group Levada Center, feelings of "hopelessness, despair, and unfocused anger" among Russian citizens will diminish the wave of enthusiasm generally associated with electoral campaigns in the country - a trendline which was already on display during last year's Duma elections. This trend, moreover, has persisted despite the Kremlin's repeated attempts to boost its poll numbers in order to secure greater legitimacy, 
reports Kommersant

April 18:

Despite shrinking wages and an economic recession, Russia remains one of the top global destinations for migrants, absorbing the second highest number of immigrants worldwide (after the United States). Migrants have become essential to the country's labor market, filling the gap caused by an aging population and poor demographics, and now making up 5-7 percent of the total labor market. This reliance on migrant labor, moreover, will continue to grow, 
Bloomberg reports, because Russia's working-age population is expected to decrease by 10 million in the next 15 years. 

April 19:

Another outspoken Russian journalist has been killed under suspicious circumstances. Nikolai Andrushchenko, a prominent Russian journalist and outspoken critic of Putin's regime, died after being found unconscious from a severe beating by unidentified assailants, 
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. Andrushchenko was the co-founder of the weekly newspaper Novy Peterburg, which often reported articles critical of the government. He was previously the victim of a similar beating, after reporting on corruption in St. Petersburg, and was arrested in 2007 on charges of defamation after reporting on a murder investigation trial. 

April 20:

Russia's Supreme Court has banned the Jehovah's Witnesses after the country's Justice Ministry requested that the group be labeled "extremist" under Russia's vague anti-extremism law. 
According to NPR, officials had previously banned the group's website and literature, and arrested some of its members. Now, under the new ruling, the state will also take over all of the group's assets, including the main office of the order, which boasts around 170,000 followers in Russia. 

April 21:

Local media in Russia's Far East have reported sightings of large military convoys moving heavy military equipment toward Russia's border with North Korea. 
According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, local residents have reported seeing armored personnel carriers and helicopters, among other equipment, in the transports. A Russian military spokesman claimed the movement of materiel is part of routine military exercises, and government officials have refused to comment. However, it comes amid deepening global worries over the potential for confrontation between the United States and the North Korean regime.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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