Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2212

New U.S. sanctions target Russian elites;
The slow death of Russia's rural schools


May 7, 2018


April 4:

Russia has bumped up the delivery date for the S-400 missile systems purchased by Turkey last December.
According to Reuters, Turkey will now receive the equipment in July 2019 – more than six months earlier than originally planned. Turkey signed the $2.5 billion deal despite objections from fellow NATO members over the difficulties with integrating Russian systems with the rest of the Alliance's military architecture. The Turkish undersecretary for defense systems, Ismail Demir, announced the new delivery date over Twitter after a summit between leaders of the two countries intended to kick off cooperation on Turkey's first nuclear power station.

How successful has Russia actually been in developing new strategic capabilities?
According to the Washington Free Beacon, Pentagon officials have confirmed that U.S. intelligence agencies monitored two Arctic tests of Russian nuclear-powered cruise missiles, a highly classified experimental technology that President Vladimir Putin publicly acknowledged for this first time this March. In his pre-election State of the Nation address, Putin claimed that the "invincible" missile was successfully tested last year, and the Russian press has reported that it could be fielded within a decade. Yet according to the Beacon's sources, the missiles' nuclear power source failed to function as intended in both tests. Weapons experts note the possibility that a non-nuclear energy source was substituted during the tests, given the danger involved in flight testing an active nuclear reactor, the high likelihood of meltdown, and the certainty of substantial radiation release.

April 5:

The controversial case of Yury Dmitriev has finally drawn to a close. Dmitriev, an activist and head of the Karelia Memorial Society, was acquitted by a Petrozavodsk court of the child pornography charges leveled against him.
According to The Moscow Times, Dmitriev is well-known for his research into Soviet crimes, including uncovering evidence of a mass grave from the Great Purge – work that may have angered local authorities. He was arrested in December 2016 after a search of his computer yielded naked photos of his daughter. The historian maintained throughout the case that the photos were taken to monitor his ailing child's health. Over the course of the sixteen-month investigation, which has been widely decried as political, Dmitriev was forced to undergo psychiatric testing and faced a harsh 15-year sentence if convicted.

April 6:

The Treasury Department has leveled a new round of economic sanctions on Russia. The
latest measure targets 38 individuals and entities closely connected with the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin's administration. They include, among others, metals magnate Oleg Deripaska, Gazprom chief Alexei Miller, and National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev - all of whom have been blacklisted from doing business with U.S. companies and individuals, and who now face having any of their assets that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction frozen.

The latest sanctions provide new insights into the Trump administration's strategy for dealing with the Kremlin. "The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
noted upon announcing the new measure. "The Russian government engages in a range of malign activity around the globe, including continuing to occupy Crimea and instigate violence in eastern Ukraine, supplying the Assad regime with material and weaponry as they bomb their own civilians, attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities. Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government's destabilizing activities."

April 7:

Education officials are voicing their alarm over the effects of aggressive school closures on rural communities in Russia. Oleg Smolin, the deputy head of the Duma's education committee, has told a hearing of the Federation Council, Russia's upper chamber of parliament, that the Kremlin continues to mandate the closure of village schools, claiming insufficient numbers of students - and is doing so in spite of modest increases in enrollment in these areas. "In 1995, there were 67 thousand schools in Russia. By 2016, there were 42.6 thousand," Smolin told lawmakers in comments
carried by the RosBalt news agency. "During these years, we lost 24.5 thousand schools," despite a pledge by officials like acting Education Minister Olga Vasiliyeva to stop the "liquidation" of the rural school system.

Related Categories: Russia; Missile Defense; Democracy & Governance; Economic sanctions/warfare; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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