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‘Russian Security Agencies Said Increasing Recruitment of Ukrainians’ and other neglected Russian stories

‘Russian Security Agencies Said Increasing Recruitment of Ukrainians’ and other neglected Russian stories
Edited by: A. N.

The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.

Consequently, Windows on Eurasia each week presents a selection of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 104th such compilation, and it is again a double issue with 26 from Russia and 13 from Russia’s neighbors. Even then, it is far from complete, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1. Putin Will Live to 130, Markov Says

Many people are talking about Putin entering old age now that he has turned 65, but Moscow commentator Sergey Markov says that is a mistake. According to him, Putin will live to 130, allowing him to serve as Russian president for many more terms even if with Medvedev-like intervals (

Meanwhile, more than half of Russians say they wouldn’t know whom to vote for if Putin doesn’t run for re-election as many are petitioning him to do ( and But at least one analyst says that Putin’s real support among voters is no more than 25 percent ( There is another indication that his appeal may be ebbing: pictures of Putin are now being offered at a deep discount, at least in Kazan (

However that may be, Russians seem to be competing with each other to come up with an epithet for the Kremlin leader. Among the ideas offered this week: “lord of the superpower of chaos” (, a new Brezhnev (, someone who could be caricatured as a bear (, and a warning that he is on the way to becoming a new Stalin (

2. Putin’s Russia Exporting Kleptocratic Norms to West

Ilya Zaslavsky says that among the most important “exports” of Putin’s Russia are “kleptocratic norms,” something that may be even more significant than hacking or compromising foreigners by bribery or other means (

As far as the US is concerned, a Moscow commentator has suggested that Donald Trump has gone from being a successful businessman to being “a political loser” ( A major reason for that conclusion appears to be that Russians believe that Trump’s positive statements on Russia notwithstanding, the US is “killing Russia with a thousand cuts” (

Other developments on the US-Russia relationship this week include:

  • White supremacists chanting “Russia is our friend” at a demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia (,
  • A media firestorm in Moscow over the handling of flags over closed Russian facilities in the United States (,
  • An annulment by Moscow of its accord with the US on adoptions followed by a statement that Moscow expects the US to continue to live up to the agreement’s provisions (, and
  • Intense interest in the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal, with some Russians insisting that such things could never happen in Russia ( and others welcoming it because it will make it more difficult for Hollywood to support Democrats in American elections (

3. Krasnoyarsk Governor Found Out about His Request to Retire from Media

The former governor of Krasnoyarsk said he “experienced shock” when he found out that he was retiring at his own request (, just one of the reasons that has sparked discussion about why the governors were changed and for what purposes (,,, and, with many concluding that the biggest reason for the replacements was to give the Kremlin the appearance of being actively involved in domestic affairs ( Stories suggesting that potential governors had to jump seven meters into water to test their mettle only added to skepticism (

The parallels with the Soviet past were also underscored by a discussion between a former Soviet dissident and a Russian one who concluded they had many similar experiences ( New studies also concluded that despite the hopes of some and the fears of other, the younger generation in Russia is increasingly apolitical (российское-поколение-z-аполитичное-и-п/ and

Another analyst said that Russians should recognize that their deputies are much richer than even they appear (, the result among other things of massive budgetary falsification and diversion ( and

The Duma does plan to inform the Russian people better about the laws it adopts by creating three new information services to explain what new legislation means ( and

4. Russia’s Foreign Debt, Capital Flight Accelerating

Russia has increased its foreign borrowing at a record pace compared to the last four years (, as officials report that capital flight has doubled since the beginning of 2017 (

  • Despite much talk about import substitution and modernization, only 18 percent of Russian firms have plans to go digital in the next five years (
  • The Russian middle class is increasingly uncertain about its prospects (
  • Income inequality continues to increase with no end in sight ( World's Most Unequal Countries (Image: Statista Charts)
  • More factories are using bankruptcy protection to avoid paying their workers (
  • And the number of Russian children living in poverty has doubled over the last five years (

5. Economic Crisis Driving School Children to Seek Work, Their Parents to Look for Food in Forests

As Russia’s economic crisis deepens for the population, if not for the Putin elite, ever more schoolchildren are seeking to find after-school jobs to help make ends meet (, while ever more of their parents are searching for what food they can in forests near their homes (

Russians cut their spending by 1.3 percent in September, twice the rate they reduced it in August ( And a new survey found that Russians say they need far more each month to live adequately than they are now receiving with the gap varying widely from region to region (

To try to maintain their standard of living, Russians are doing what their governments are: borrowing more and more, with the greatest increases in personal debt now found in the poorest regions ( and As a result, personal bankruptcies have doubled in the last year (

And recognizing that the Russian market is contracting, ever more foreign retailers are pulling out (

6. Russian Educational System Failing to Produce People Prepared for Future

The rector of the Moscow Higher School of Economics says that the Russian educational system is failing to produce people adequately prepared for the future (

Two other school problems this week:

  • Educational authorities in some regions are forcing special needs children to exercise in the basement so that they “won’t frighten” the others (, and
  • The education minister says she has found 700 additional schools without indoor plumbing, bringing the current reported number to 3400 (

7. Most Russians Are Second Class Citizens and Think That’s The Way It has to Be

One of Russia’s biggest problems is that the many residents who are treated as second class citizens think that is appropriate, some observers suggest ( Another is that Russians have almost no understanding of what property is about (

Some Russians have gone to bat to protect animals, overriding a governor who banned feeding homeless animals but not yet blocking a new Duma measure that would require them to register and pay fees for their pets (,, and

On the transportation front:

  • The government says it will build a total of only 1500 kilometers of new federal highways by 2020 (,
  • Russian rail has hiked prices for many routes pricing them beyond the means of many Russians (

In other social news:

  • Officials say that nearly a third of all Russians in prison were convicted of drug-related crimes (,
  • The Sakha Republic wants to reintroduce Soviet-style sobering up stations because half of all crimes there are alcohol-related (, and
  • Despite reports about a record harvest, experts say that Russia is lagging behind in the development of advanced types of seed and biotechnology and so will suffer more losses in the future ( and

8. Putin’s Health “Optimization” Program Killing Hundreds of Russians Outside of Moscow, Doctors Say

Doctors say that significant cutbacks in health care delivery systems outside of Moscow has already resulted in hundreds of deaths and will claim even more unless something is done (

Thousands of Russian women aren’t getting mammograms and thus many are dying of breast cancer (, and pupils are dying in physical education classes because there are no health care facilities nearby (

Putin’s cost-cutting measures are not the only cause, however:

  • Forty percent of Russian adults are skeptical about vaccines and many don’t have their children immunized (,
  • Air quality is bad in many places (, and
  • In St. Petersburg, the ground is even more heavily contaminated and dangerous to health than water or air (, moreover
  • To save money, the government is reducing the amount of iodized salt on the market, thus opening the way to more thyroid-related diseased (

9. One Moscow Marriage in Four is Now Ethnically Mixed

Ethnically-mixed marriages in Russia (Image:

Statistics show that Muscovites are increasingly intermarrying across ethnic lines, a trend that some will see as promoting stability in an ever more multi-ethnic and poly-confessional city but that others will view as a threat to Russian national identity (

The commitment of the new head of Daghestan to ignore ethnicity in appointing people to positions is one of the reasons he is likely to fail there and even more a reason why his approach could destabilize the situation in many multi-national republics (, and

There was a lot of Circassian news this week:

  • The Circassian Cultural Center in Moscow burned (,
  • Regional officials sought to suppress Circassian commemorations of history but faced resistance from the population ( and, and
  • A leading Circassian activist said he was ending his hunger strike because he had achieved his goal of attracting attention to the travails of the Circassians (

The situation of the peoples of the Far North also became more tense with another criminal case involving a member of an indigenous nationality accused of killing Russian oil field workers ( and a new bureaucratic and political fight broke out over who will control the registries of northern peoples that will in turn determine who gets special subsidies and who doesn’t ( and

10. Putin’s New Secularism Isn’t, Lunkin Says

Roman Lunkin of the Slavic Center for Law and Justice says that Vladimir Putin’s much ballyhooed talk about Russia remaining a secular state is just that, talk, and that in fact, the role of Russian Orthodoxy in government affairs has made a mockery of the Constitution’s declaration (

11. On Language Issue, Shaymiyev Warns Putin that Tatarstan is a State

Mintimir Shaymiyev, the former president of Tatarstan, warned Vladimir Putin that Tatarstan is a state and that the Kremlin leader should approach language issues, properly the affair of such a state, with much greater care than he has shown so far (

Meanwhile, Moscow appears to have dug in on the language issue:

  • Officials now call for a language section to be added to the country’s nationality policy program (,
  • Protesters against the Russian first language policy arrested (, and
  • Decisions being taken by regional officials because Moscow has not yet been able to articulate a coherent policy ( and

One commentator has suggested that Putin has achieved something remarkable: both sides on the language fight in Russia feel that their rights have been violated (

12. Putin has Completed Destruction of Russian Federalism, Shelin Says

Vladimir Putin has achieved one of his goals by destroying Russian federalism, Rosbalt commentator Sergey Shelin says ( In fact, however, the fight goes on.

One Karelian portal says that news from that republic increasingly sounds like combat reports from an occupied territory (, and the Russian procuracy has found that 94,000 laws in the regions and republics still are not in correspondence with federal ones as they are required to be ( But attacks on regionalism continue ( and

Moscow’s population continues to expand, by 50,000 in the first seven months of the year, while many cities, not just villages, are now being abandoned ( and And experts warn that beyond the ring road, there are many areas of poverty and demographic collapse which are larger than European countries (

One group of regions has complained about the micromanagement they are subjected to from Moscow by demanding that the country at least have “alcohol federalism,” where regions would decide how much people can drink (

13. Protests Spread Across Russia — and Moscow Risks Restarting Anti-Plato Truckers Strike

Russians this week organized demonstrations against high gas prices, non-payment of wages, back pay, official malfeasance, and fishing rights (,,, and

But the Russian government has now set the stage for a restart of the large long-haul truckers strike it faced earlier as Moscow has announced that it wants to quadruple fines for those who don’t pay the Plato Road Toll System fees (

14. As in Stalin’s Time, Moscow Wants to Punish 12-Year-Olds as Adults

A group of Duma deputies has called for lowering the age at which children can be punished for crimes as adults to 12, the same year it was in Stalin’s time (

Russian officials also want to limit or even shut down Radio Liberty’s activities in Russia (

More information has come out about Moscow’s moves against all things Navalny, with his supporters losing their jobs or positions in universities and facing violence and the planting of evidence (,,, and

In other repressive moves:

  • Officials want each kiosk owner to be given a list of extremist materials (,
  • The Russian Central Bank wants to limit websites offering crypto-currencies (, and
  • Russia continues to help CIS countries arrest and deport dissidents back to their homelands (

Unfortunately, a new poll shows that half of Russians favor placing severe limits on Internet social networks (

15. One Place Bomb Threats Haven’t Emptied – Lenin’s Mausoleum

Telephone terrorism continues across the Russian Federation, but there is one place where despite bomb threats, officials have not chosen to evacuate even once: Lenin’s mausoleum on Red Square (

Other developments affecting Russia’s domestic security:

  • One commentator notes that progress in Putin’s Russia means that the FSB now does openly what the KGB used to do secretly (
  • In addition, there are ever more reports of violence in various parts of the country, including organized violence over large numbers of people (,,,,, and
  • In some places, police are resigning in large numbers because they feel they have lost control of the situation and aren’t getting the support they need (/
  • The Russian media is reporting that in recent dedovshchina cases, military courts are punishing soldiers but not officers (, although a Chechen commander was removed from a Russian Guard unit when it was discovered that he was withholding the pay of the soldiers under his command and pocketing it for himself (

But perhaps the most worrisome development was a combination of two reports: the government says it is being forced to cut more social spending to finance the defense ministry, but the finance ministry has refused to raise the pay of soldiers and officers ( and

16. Girkin Says Russia Suffered 100 Combat Deaths in Syria in Last Two Weeks

Igor Girkin, the former leader of Russian military forces in the Donbas says that Russian forces in Syria have lost at least 100 men in combat over the last two weeks (, a report that has reignited discussions about whether Moscow really cares about those who fight for it or not (, and

One commentator has pointed out that Putin is using his portrait of a highly threatening outside world to restore the USSR not just territorially but functionally, turning it into military camp with 3.3 percent of GDP now going to the armed forces (, and

In other foreign security developments:

  • Russian officials are calling for for a new law on dual citizenship for CIS countries (
  • Moscow says it won’t establish a second base in Kyrgyzstan (
  • For the first time in five years cuts its foreign aid program (
  • Problems are mounting at Russia’s cosmodrome both with equipment and with workers who are striking for unpaid wages ( and

17. Moscow, Pyongyang Cozy Up

A Russian Duma delegation consisting of representatives from all parliamentary parties traveled to Pyongyang (, and partially as a reward, the North Koreans have announced that they recognize Crimea as legitimately part of Russia (

18. A Million Russians in 50 Cities March Against Mathilda, Russian Orthodox Activists Say

A million Russians marched against Mathilda the same weekend of the Navalny protests, a figure that independent experts say is an exaggeration ( and

Patriarch Kirill gave them implicit backing by denouncing the film as a falsification ( Some people are even pushing for the canonization of Duma deputy from Putin’s party United Russia Natalya Poklonskaya, the leader of the anti-Mathilda actions, but the hierarchy has rejected that idea (

One MGIMO analyst argued that the film was all about “delegitimizing the Crimean consensus” ( Russia’s central television channels announced they will not carry advertising about the film (

Meanwhile, pro-Nicholas II billboards are going up in Yekaterinburg. They had earlier appeared in Moscow ( and

19. Monuments Wars Continue Elsewhere Unabated

There is a controversy over the renaming of Tutuyev to restore its tsarist name ( SERB activists again pulled down the memorial sign to Boris Nemtsov (

A statue to Russian mercenaries fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas has gone up in Rostov (

Conflicts over Soviet statues have expanded in Ryazan and Novosibirsk ( and And the first conflict over whether to build a cathedral on the waters in Yekaterinburg continues unabated (

Meanwhile, in what may be a diversion, Russian officials have approved the erection of a Shakespeare monument in the center of Moscow but only at the end of 2019 (

20. US Olympic Committee Head Calls on IOC to Take Action Now on Russian Doping

The head of the US Olympic Committee has asked the IOC to take action against Russian doping in an apparent effort to put pressure on that body before next year’s Olympiad ( In an apparent response, the IOC says it will test any and all Russians who do take part in those games (

Problems continue with the construction of venues for the 2018 FIFA World Cup still scheduled for Russia (

Russian football fans remain among the most violent in the world, according to observers, and include many who are openly racist ( and

St. Petersburg officials are worrying about how to keep visitors to the competition occupied between matches ( Officials in the Northern capital are also resisting demands that they tear down yet another building to prepare for the World Cup (

Meanwhile, Poland announced that it will not simplify border crossing for the World Cup period (

21. Moscow’s New Ruble Bills Cause Problems

Not only does one of the new Russian ruble bills show occupied Sevastopol, something that has outraged many Ukrainians, but another shows Sakhalin as a peninsula rather than the island it is, something that has led to often bitter jokes on Russian social networks (,, and

Russia's new 200 ruble bill showing the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol in Crimea annexed by Putin in 2014
Russia’s new 200 ruble bill showing the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol in Crimea annexed by Putin in 2014

22. Russian Textbooks Often Neglect to Show Kaliningrad, Crimea and Kuriles

Russian commentators are complaining that many school textbooks fail to provide accurate maps, dropping Kaliningrad, Crimea or the Kuriles because they are not directly connected with Russia proper. That only encourages young Russians to ignore them, some say (

23. Sergey Markov Says Moscow Doesn’t Produce Anti-Ukrainian Propaganda

In the most sweeping lie of the week, Sergey Markov, a former Duma deputy and Moscow commentator, says that the Russian government has not ever and does not now produce any anti-Ukrainian propaganda whatever anyone says (

24. ‘Oil Apocalypse’ Spreads Across Russian Far North

Ever more oil leaks are destroying the land and water of Russia’s Far North and thus making it impossible for many of the indigenous peoples there to survive or even to continue to live where they have been since time immemorial (

25. ‘Muscovization of Russia’ Said Leading to ‘Greatest Geopolitical Catastrophe of 21st Century’

Many blame Lenin’s creation of the union republics for setting the stage for the disintegration of the USSR; now some analysts are suggesting that the hypercentralization of institutions and power in Moscow will have the same effect on the Russian Federation (,1,100157-doktrina-razmoskvichivaniya.html).

The Russian government’s claim from the very beginning to be the legal successor to the Soviet regime, a claim that was accepted by most governments around the world, has the unintended consequence of setting the stage for Vladimir Putin’s revanchist policies, according to one Moscow commentator (


And 13 others from countries in Russia’s neighborhood:

1. Ukraine, Georgia Recommit to Eventually Joining NATO

The presidents of Ukraine and Georgia both said this week that they remain committed to having their countries become members of the Western alliance ( and

2. Trade Among CIS Countries Down Sharply, Reducing Organization’s Importance

Trade between members of the CIS has fallen sharply as a result of the economic crisis, a trend that not only reduces the importance of the CIS but also makes the region as an entity less important to most of its members ( and

3. GUAM Plans to Set Up Its Own Free Trade Zone

GUAM, the organization that unites Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, having just marked its 20th anniversary, has committed itself to organizing a free trade area among its members, something Moscow very much opposes ( and

4. Kyiv’s Language Law Goes into Force

A Ukrainian law requiring that television stations broadcast at least 75 percent of their programs in the national language and that restricts the use of minority languages, including Russian, in schools and other institutions has gone into effect, sparking complaints from Moscow which imposes even more draconian rules on languages in the Russian Federation and from Europeans who appear not to understand the difference between multi-culturalism that arises on its own and language policies needed to overcome imperial occupation (

5. Russian Security Agencies Said Increasing Recruitment of Ukrainians

The Ukrainian security service says that Russian FSB operatives have radically increased their recruitment of Ukrainians visiting or working in Russia in recent months, thus threatening the security of the country (

6. Crimean Occupiers Keeping Russians from Russia from Becoming Officials There

The heads of occupation authorities in Ukraine’s Crimea not only are working hard to maintain their control of the situation by excluding Russians from the Russian Federation from key government positions ( but have stepped up their repression of ethnic and religious minorities there, this week attacking the use of Gideon Bibles ( and

Other related developments include the emergence of Kherson Oblast as a de facto Crimean Tatar autonomy within Ukraine ( and a decision by Volkswagen to ban the sale of its car in the Russian occupied Ukrainian peninsula (

7. Ukrainian Deputy Says Kyiv Ready to Help Sakha Separate from Russia

A Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada deputy says Ukraine will help the Republic of Sakha achieve independence from Russia, a statement that has drawn fire from both Moscow and Yakutsk ( and

8. Belarus Ranks Only 13th Among Recipients of Russian Aid …

According to new data, Belarus ranks only 13th in the receipt of Russian assistance, despite being part of the union state and Moscow’s closest ally on my issues (

9. … But Despite That, Minsk Ranks First in Providing Russia with Sanctioned Products

Belarus is nonetheless proving to be the largest channel for goods Russia cannot purchase directly (

10. Belarusians Trust the EU More than the Eurasian Economic Union

Polls show that whatever the Lukashenka may be doing, Belarusians trust the European Union more than the Moscow-dominated Eurasian Economic Union (

11. Latvia’s Harmony Party Ends Cooperation with Russia’s United Russia

Latvia’s Harmony Party which promotes inter-ethnic concord has ended a cooperation agreement it had with Russia’s ruling United Russia Party (

12. Moscow Supplies 90 Percent of South Ossetian State Budget

The Russian authorities provide 90 percent of the state budget of the unrecognized breakaway South Ossetian government (

13. Kazakhstan Confronts ‘Specter of Separatism’

Astana, facing what some officials there view as “the specter of separatism,” has imposed new rules to regulate movement of people from one region to another and blocked Russia Today (aka RT) broadcasts inside Kazakhstan (, and


Edited by: A. N.
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