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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2169

Shaping Syria's political future;
Kremlin outrage over Twitter ban

Edited by Ilan Berman
December 5, 2017

October 28:

The Trump administration's pointman on Ukraine has caucused with Ukrainian and Crimean leaders in Kyiv,
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. During his visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kurt Volker, the White House's special envoy for the crisis in Ukraine, met with Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz, two Crimean Tatar leaders who were released from Russian custody in recent days. Volker hailed the release of Umerov and Chiygoz - both previously deputy chairman of the Mejlis, the Crimean governing body that has been outlawed by the Kremlin - as a "positive sign" from Moscow. However, he also communicated a number of points regarding the Trump administration's approach to Ukraine: that the recent peacekeeping proposal floated by the Kremlin was insufficient for resolving the conflict, that Russian actions in Ukraine have been counterproductive, and have "produced a Ukraine that is more unified, more nationalist, more anti-Russian, more westward-looking than ever existed before," and that Washington was now "actively considering" the provision of lethal defensive weapons to the Ukrainian military.

October 30:

Russia is taking the lead on shaping Syria's future political system.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the Kremlin's top envoy for Syria has signaled that Moscow is willing to host talks between the disparate factions in Syria's ongoing civil war as early as next month. "This matter is still being discussed," Aleksandr Lavrentyev has told reporters, but the outlook is cautiously optimistic because Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, at Russia's urging, "has confirmed his readiness for... the preparation of a new constitution and the holding of new parliamentary and presidential elections on this basis" - something which Moscow views as "a very important announcement."

The long-running tensions between Moscow and Tokyo have flared anew after Japan was forced to scramble fighter jets from its Self-Defense Force to intercept two Russian bombers that strayed into Japanese airspace.
The New Zealand Herald reports that the pair of Russian "Bear" long-range bombers "skirted the islands of Hoshu and Hokkaido before flying back across the Sea of Japan."

October 31:

The Kremlin is dipping its toe into the South Asian energy market.
Pakistan's The News International reports that Russia's Ministry of Energy is readying to sign a new energy agreement with Islamabad that would position state-owned natural gas giant Gazprom as a long-term supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for Pakistan as part of an opaque, no-bid arrangement between Moscow and Islamabad.

November 1:

Just days after Russian bombers approached Japan's main island, putting Tokyo's military on alert, U.S. fighter jets were forced to escort Russian warplanes away from American aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan. The Russian planes,
reports CNN, flew some 80 miles from the USS Ronald Reagan, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Nimitz, which are currently deployed in East Asia as part of U.S. military preparations for a possible confrontation with North Korea.

November 2:

Russia's government is lashing out at social media platform Twitter for its decision to ban ads from Russian television broadcaster RT in the wake of Congressional scrutiny of Russian interference in last year's U.S. elections. "By imposing this ban, Twitter demonstrates its commercial insolvency and absolute dependence on the will of the US security establishment, which directly controls the decision-making process in this company, as we see it at the moment," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has told reporters
in comments carried by Sputnik.

A new report from the World Economic Forum has highlighted some improvement in the "gender divide" between men and women in Russia,
The Moscow Times reports. The study, an annual product of the WEF, notes recent improvements in female health and education statistics. Nevertheless, the study finds, Russia "remains one of the two dozen worst-performing countries for women in terms of political empowerment," with women only marginally represented at "the political top" in national government.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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