NEWSWATCH: “The Diplomacy of Dog Walking in Russia” – Foreign Policy Magazine / Amie Ferris-Rotman

File Photo of U.S. Embassy Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry Building in Distance

“Since [the early 1990’s] Svetlana has walked the dogs of American diplomats in Moscow. The 52-year-old Russian is not a U.S. Embassy employee but has come to this work through recommendations by American pet devotees … [she]doesn’t remember how many dogs … “… definitely under 100 … more than 60.” … what started out as a side job … while raising her children has […]

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Russian Futurologists Missing the Most Important Point, Shelin Says

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 22, 2017) Russian futurology, currently experiencing an unprecedented boom, is focusing on the question of who might succeed Vladimir Putin rather than on the more important question of what kind of a country Putin or someone else will have to rule, according to Rosbalt commentator Sergey Shelin. Shelin says that most […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Strengthening Strategic Stability with Russia” – RAND/ Christopher S. Chivvis, Andrew Radin, Dara Massicot, Clinton Bruce Reach

Vladirmir Putin and Donald Trump Sitting in Chairs with Flags Behind, adapted from image at whitehouse.gov

(RAND Corporation – Christopher S. Chivvis, Andrew Radin, Dara Massicot, Clinton Bruce Reach – July 2017) This report analyzes trends in strategic stability between Russia and the United States, examines Russian views on the subject, and assesses current prospects for stemming the erosion of strategic stability between the two countries. Such prospects exist, but they would require a sustained effort […]

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U.S. should be more involved in settlement of crisis in eastern Ukraine – Department of State

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

KYIV. July 23 (Interfax) – Washington wants to be more involved in the settlement of a crisis in eastern Ukraine, United States State Department’s Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker said. Volker said at a press conference in Kramatorsk on Sunday that the U.S. saw how this conflict had begun and understood how it had been managed now. He […]

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VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT: [Putin] Meeting with students from Sirius Educational Centre (transcript continued from JRL#141)

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Kremlin.ru – July 21, 2017) [Video of event with English translation youtube.com/watch?v=EhwWSiLlJ3I] Vladimir Putin met with students from the Sirius Educational Centre for Talented Children in Sochi…. [transcript appears below] Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. I am Kirill Lakhminov from Moscow. As you know, the world is on the verge of a breakthrough in biotechnology. I have a question. How […]

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RUSSIA & UKRAINE – Johnson’s Russia List table of contents :: JRL 2017-142 :: Monday, 24 July 2017

St. Basil's Domes

To inquire about a subscription to the full Johnson’s Russia List e-mail newsletter, e-mail David Johnson at davidjohnson@starpower.net [check back for updates, including more links; links also posted to facebook and twitter] Johnson’s Russia List :: JRL 2017-#142 Monday, 24 July 2017 A project sponsored through the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University’s Elliott School […]

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For the Chekists, Navalny is the Yeltsin of 1987, Portnikov says

Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – July 22, 2017) Many have forgotten that in May 1987, Boris Yeltsin, then head of the Moscow city committee of the CPSU, received representatives of the chauvinist and anti-Semitic Pamyat organization, thus sending a signal that he was someone the KGB and its allies could count on to defend their interests, Vitaly Portnikov […]

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NEWSWATCH: “What Did Trump and Putin Tell Each Other?” – New York Times editorial

File Photo of Country Flags Outside 2017 G20 Meeting in Hamburg, adapted from image at state.gov

“…  Trump initiated the conversation without the benefit of his own interpreter or the participation of any of his national security advisers. Only … Putin’s interpreter was on hand. … Putin, after all, is an adversary, not an ally. … Spicer told reporters the dinner discussion involved ‘pleasantries and small talk.’ … Trump [said that] the two men discussed ‘Russian adoptions’ … … Lavrov told […]

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Interfax: Defense finish reviewing evidence in Browder, Cherkasov dossier

File Photo of William Browder Seated at Table with Microphone as Woman Listens, with Image Watermark Saying Presented by Library of Congress with U.S. House of Representatives Seal, adapted from image at house.gov

MOSCOW. July 22 (Interfax) – The materials concerning Hermitage Capital Management co-founder William Browder and his business partner Ivan Cherkasov were sent for approval to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, the defense lawyer Alexander Antipov said on Thursday. “The defense finished reviewing the case files, currently, the dossier has been sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office but I don’t think […]

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Putin’s No Good, But Where’s the Alternative?; No opposition leader can muster a vision inspiring enough to compete.

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – July 21, 2017) Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru. No wonder it’s so difficult to imagine Russia without President Vladimir Putin: Even his most vehement opponents can’t seem to offer an alternative vision for the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “IMF says Russia’s economy is gradually recovering” – bne Intellinews

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“The IMF projects real growth of GDP in Russia at the level of 1.4% in 2017 …. According to the World Bank, the Russian economy will grow by 1.3% in 2017, while Russia’s economic development ministry put the figure at 2%. … noticeably in the last two months … both real disposable incomes and construction activity [have been] improving. …” Click […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Across Russia, Protesters and Kremlin Backers Seek the Upper Hand; In towns like Izhevsk, a reinvigorated opposition is running into efforts to nip the movement in the bud” – Wall Street Journal/ James Marson

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

“… Protest leaders face fines and jail time for minor infractions, relatives of activists receive warnings from bosses, and students are told not to attend rallies, according to opposition supporters. … The movement has energized Russia’s youth, who make up the bulk of protesters. … But protests are still relatively small. Opposition leaders say people are preoccupied with their own problems, […]

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NEWSLINK: “RUSSIANS ARE THE WORLD’S BIGGEST CAT LOVERS” – Dalia Research

File Photo of Young Cat Amidst Tall Grass, adapted from image at cdc.gov

“Our latest survey shows that a majority (59%) of Russians own a cat. This is more than 10 percentage points higher than any other country in our survey of 52 countries. Surprised? Don’t be. In Russia, cats have been placed on a high pedestal since Empress Elizabeth’s reign in the 1700s, where felines prized for their mouse-catching abilities were brought to […]

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Muscovites Hesitant to Protest Housing Demolition Scheme, Poll Finds

Aerial View of Moscow From Beyond Stadium, file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – July 24, 2017) Only one-third of Muscovites who voted against a controversial housing demolition program would participate in protests against the scheme, according to a poll published by independent pollster the Levada Center. The poll, conducted at the request of the RBC news outlet, revealed that 34 percent of those living in apartment blocks who […]

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Interfax: Aggression among people manifestation of weakness – Putin

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

SOCHI. July 21 (Interfax) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he usually manages to contain his aggressive mood and in those rare cases when he does lose his temper he is angry with himself. “Of course, I too constantly experience stressful and semi-stressful situations, I don’t like a lot of things, but I have still learnt how to control […]

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RUSSIA & UKRAINE – Johnson’s Russia List table of contents :: JRL 2017-141 :: Saturday, 22 July 2017

St. Basil's Domes

To inquire about a subscription to the full Johnson’s Russia List e-mail newsletter, e-mail David Johnson at davidjohnson@starpower.net [check back for updates, including more links; links also posted to facebook and twitter] Johnson’s Russia List :: JRL 2017-#141 Saturday, 22 July 2017 A project sponsored through the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University’s Elliott School […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin] Meeting with students from Sirius Educational Centre

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Kremlin.ru – July 21, 2017) [Russian with video here http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/55114] Vladimir Putin met with students from the Sirius Educational Centre for Talented Children in Sochi. Vladimir Putin answered the students’ questions and reviewed some of their projects. The President was shown, among other things, a device for laboratory blood testing, the so-called Lab of the Future, which, according to its […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin tries to woo Russian teens with live TV show” – AFP

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

“… Putin on Friday took part in a live television show, fielding questions from Russian youngsters in an apparent bid to connect with teenagers who have been flocking to opposition rallies. Putin, his shirt collar unbuttoned, faced his young audience at an educational centre for gifted children from 10 to 17 year of age in the Black Sea city of […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin Says Yet to Decide Whether to Run for President Again” – Reuters

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

“… Putin said on Friday he had not yet decided whether to run for re-election in 2018, but promised not to change the constitution to allow him to keep on running for Russia’s top political post indefinitely. … Speaking during a question-and-answer session with school children in the Black Sea resort of Sochi which analysts said was designed to widen […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with «NBC», Moscow, July 21, 2017” – Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Sergei Lavrov file photo

“Question: Minister, thank you very much for your time. There is a lot to talk about. There is Syria, there is North Korea, there is China, there is Ukraine, there is ISIS. But inevitably, I’d like to begin by talking to you about Russian-US relations. …”

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NEWSLINK: “Why is Vladimir Putin holding a news conference just for kids?” – Washington Post/ Andrew Roth

File Photo of Vladimir Putin at Podium Gesturing

“… The Kremlin is getting interested in Russia’s youth ahead of next year’s presidential elections, amid a growth in students at opposition rallies and research showing increased interest in politics among young Russians. In a rare, kid-targeted event, the Kremlin is rolling out its most popular talent Friday afternoon: Putin himself, who will use his exhaustive Q&A style for a […]

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Putin Answers Kids’ Questions Ahead of Election Year (Live Blog)

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – July 21, 2017) 7:00 p.m. – As the clock hits the three-hour mark, Putin addresses the audience and wishes them success in the future, taking off from the studio. With that, we conclude our live blog. Thanks for following us! 6:55 p.m. – We are now nearing the three-hour mark. Putin is taking questions from […]

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Navalny Clashes With Ex-Commander Of Russia-Backed Separatists

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

(Article ©2017 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Carl Schreck, Christopher Miller – July 20, 2017 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/navalny-girkin-debate/28629308.html) Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and a prominent former commander of Russia-backed separatists sparred over patriotism and the war in Ukraine in a debate that stoked widespread discussion and criticism among political players and watchers after it […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia Crawls Back To Life, But Locals Feel Uneasy” – Forbes/ Kenneth Rapoza

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“Russia’s economy surely is better than it was a year ago. But, tell that to the Russians. … 45% of them believe the ‘worst is yet to come’ despite a nice 3.1% recovery in economic growth over the last 12 months ending in May, according to … VTsIOM…. Higher food prices and declining savings were the biggest concerns …. Thanks to […]

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NEWSLINK: “Putin visits veteran dissident Alekseyeva on her 90th birthday. (with video)” – RussiaFeed

Lyudmila Alekseyeva file photo

“… On Thursday, July 20, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin has paid a visit to Lyudmila Alekseyeva to congratulate the veteran activist on her 90th birthday and thank her for her long-term service to the nation. …”

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Council for Interethnic Relations meeting

Russia Regions Map

(Kremlin.ru – July 20, 2017) Vladimir Putin held a meeting of the Council for Interethnic Relations in Yoshkar-Ola. Implementation at regional and municipal level of the State Ethnic Policy Strategy until 2025 was the main item on the agenda. The Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations was established in 2012 to enhance state policy in this area. The Council is made […]

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Free Russia Forum Outlines What a Post-Putin Russia Must Do to Rejoin Civilized World

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 20, 2017) The Free Russia Forum, a group of opposition politicians and analysts, says that a post-Putin Russia can only rejoin the civilized world if it operates under the principles of the primacy of law in all spheres of life. Otherwise, it will be “impossible” to build a law-based state and […]

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RUSSIA & UKRAINE – Johnson’s Russia List table of contents :: JRL 2017-140 :: Friday, 21 July 2017

St. Basil's Domes

To inquire about a subscription to the full Johnson’s Russia List e-mail newsletter, e-mail David Johnson at davidjohnson@starpower.net [check back for updates, including more links; links also posted to facebook and twitter] Johnson’s Russia List :: JRL 2017-#140 Friday, 21 July 2017 A project sponsored through the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University’s Elliott School […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia’s Evolving Grand Eurasia Strategy: Will It Work?” – Carnegie Moscow Center/ Dmitri Trenin

Asia Map

“With a shift in strategy, 2014 was a pivotal year for Russia’s foreign policy. It was then that Moscow began moving away from its traditional focus on Europe and the Atlantic, with secondary attention to the former Soviet borderlands. The Ukraine crisis served as the coup de grâce for the two concepts that had guided Russian foreign policy since the […]

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NEWSLINK: “The Politics of Russian Nationalism. Vladimir Putin as Centrist.” – Public Seminar/ Richard Anderson

Kremlin and River

“Vladimir Putin rules Russia because he is a centrist.  Since the Soviet dissolution in 1991, strange bedfellows in a coalition that combines communists with tsarists have urged reunification.  They are opposed by a few democrats, who urge Russians to content themselves with those 1991 boundaries. Americans certainly should understand why people anywhere feel safer in a larger state that aggressively […]

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NEWSLINK: “Cold weather hits Russian economy in May but recovery still on track” – bne Intellinews

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“Russia’s statistics agency released a slew of numbers for June and revised the May numbers. The bottom line is while the economy took a hit from the bad weather in May, the recovery is broadly on track and life is starting to look better for the man in the street after two years of grinding pain. Real disposable incomes and […]

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No home, no work, no family: the difficulties of rehabilitation for Russia’s ex-prisoners; Confiscation of property, slave labour, deceit, despair. What else do Russian ex-cons face when they leave prison?

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(opendemocracy.net – Tatyana Dvornikova – July 20, 2017) Tatyana Dvornikova is a Moscow-based journalist. She works with Colta, Kommersant and Radio Mel. Russia has one of the highest recidivism rates in the world. According to the Federal Penitential Service, more than half of Russia’s prison population at any moment consists of people who have done time before. Committing a second […]

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On Trump’s New Man in Russia, Jon Huntsman, Moscow Says ‘Wait and See’; The former China envoy is facing a tough crowd

File Photo of John Huntsman, Men in Military Uniforms and Others, adapted from image at army.mil

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – July 19, 2017) The appointment of reported ‘hardliner’ Jon Huntsman as the United States’ new Ambassador to Russia met with mixed reactions in Moscow on Wednesday. “It’s too early for labels,” Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko was cited as saying by the state-run TASS news agency. “[We have to] judge him by his […]

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Like Putin, Russians Don’t have ‘Image of the Future,’ Shelin Says

Putin at Desk

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 19, 2017) The report earlier this week that “the Kremlin still has not succeeded in thinking up an image of the future on which Vladimir Putin can run in the 2018 elections” (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/07/kremlin-still-unable-to-come-up-with.html) is exceptional under Russian conditions, Rosbalt commentator Sergey Shelin says. But behind it is an even deeper problem, […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Half of Russians see hardest crisis times still ahead” –  bne Intellinews

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“… Almost half of Russians (45%) believe the ‘worst is yet to come’ for them as the crisis unwinds, according to the state owned pollster, the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM).   Russia’s economy is recovering from its two-year recession and GDP growth is gathering momentum, putting in 3.1% growth year-on-year in May. Industrial production is recovering too, up […]

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Russia Ranked Among Worst Countries to Be a Pensioner

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – July 20, 2017) Russia has staked its claim as one of the five worst countries in the world for pensioners, according to a new report. The Natixis Global Retirement Index ranks Russia 40th out of 43 countries worldwide – below Turkey, China, and Mexico. Only Brazil, Greece, and India have an even lower score. Russia […]

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NEWS RELEASE/TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting with Lyudmila Alexeyeva

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Kremlin.ru – July 20, 2017) [Photos here http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/55105] Vladimir Putin congratulated human rights champion and public activist and Chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeyeva on her 90th birthday. Before leaving for a trip to Yoshkar-Ola, the President visited Ms Alexeyeva at her home and presented her with a bouquet of flowers and an engraving depicting a view of […]

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RUSSIA & UKRAINE – Johnson’s Russia List table of contents :: JRL 2017-139 :: Thursday, 20 July 2017

St. Basil's Domes

To inquire about a subscription to the full Johnson’s Russia List e-mail newsletter, e-mail David Johnson at davidjohnson@starpower.net [check back for updates, including more links; links also posted to facebook and twitter] Johnson’s Russia List :: JRL 2017-#139 Thursday, 20 July 2017 A project sponsored through the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University’s Elliott School […]

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Interfax: Moscow says Malorossiya idea far from “real politics”

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

(Interfax – July 19, 2017) The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that Ukrainian separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko’s plan to establish a new state in Ukraine – “Malorossiya” – has nothing to do with real politics. “In my view, these statements do not go in line with the obligations the sides [of the conflict] had taken as part of the Minsk […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Kremlin aide reportedly says Ukraine Malorossiya idea ‘useful'” – RIA Novosti

Vladislav Surkov file photo

(RIA Novosti – July 19, 2017) Vladimir Putin’s aide Vladislav Surkov has offered reserved praise for an idea put forward by a key Russia-backed rebel to set up a new state in Ukraine. According to a pro-Kremlin pundit, Surkov called Alexander Zakharchenko’s proposed country of Malorossiya “imaginary”, but said discussions around it were “useful”. “All this hype over the imaginary […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin] Meeting with Government members

Medical Symbol with Pole, Serpents, Wings, adapted from image at lanl.gov

(Kremlin.ru – July 19, 2017) Vladimir Putin held a meeting with Government members. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon colleagues. Today, we will discuss an issue of great importance for practically every Russian family – how we can use information technology to improve access to medical care and medicines. But first, I would like to ask Mr Manturov to […]

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Interfax: Russia to verify reports on closure of CIA program backing Syrian opposition – Foreign Ministry

Artist's Rendition of U.S. Embassy, Moscow, with the Russian Foreign Ministry in the Background

MOSCOW. July 20 (Interfax) – Russia intends to verify reports by U.S. media outlets on President Donald Trump’s decision to phase out a covert CIA program of providing aid to the Syrian opposition, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. “We welcome all steps aimed at defusing the situation and strengthening security in the Middle Eastern region. If this is being done […]

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NEWSLINK: “Moscow’s cyber-defense. How the Russian government plans to protect the country from the coming cyberwar” – Meduza

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

“Allegations that Russian hackers stole emails from top Democrats in the United States, in an effort to influence the results of America’s presidential election, are now more than a year old. Last November, Meduza published a detailed look at the operations of Russia’s cyber-soldiers. But a country’s cybersecurity is only as good as its cyber-defense, which is why Meduza’s special correspondent Daniil Turovsky returned to the subject, […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Trump to nominate Jon Huntsman as ambassador to Russia” – Washington Post/ Abby Phillip, Lisa Rein, Carol Morello

File Photo of John Huntsman, Men in Military Uniforms and Others, adapted from image at army.mil

“Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman will be nominated as the U.S. ambassador to Russia … The White House confirmed in March that it would name [him] … to the Russia post. [b]ut … delayed formally naming Huntsman and sending the nomination to the Senate for confirmation as the United States waited for the Kremlin to approve his selection. … amid what could be […]

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VIDEO NEWSWATCH: “Is Vladimir Putin’s big collapse coming soon? Author Richard Lourie talks about how Putin’s failure to wean Russia off oil will destroy the nation’s economy” – Salon/ Richard Lourie / Carrie Sheffield

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Salon – July 18, 2017 – from: salon.com/2017/07/18/watch-is-vladimir-putins-big-collapse-coming-soon/) “Salon Talks sat down with Richard Lourie to discuss his book, “Putin: His Downfall and Russia’s Coming Crash.” Lourie argues that Vladimir Putin’s Russia will collapse, just as Imperial Russia did in 1917 and the Soviet Union did in 1991. He cites the Russian president’s failure to move the nation’s economy from […]

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NEWSLINK: “The Russian spies living next door” – CNN/ Thom Patterson

Stylized Artist's Depiction of Shadowy Figures in Dark Coats and Dark Hats, One Carrying a Briefcase

“… U.S. authorities secretly surveilled all the spies for years, bugging the Guryevs’ house and even secretly searching it when they weren’t around. The FBI told CNN’s original series “Declassifed” that the Guryevs tried so hard to blend into American society that they didn’t even speak Russian inside their own home. Eventually, the United States cracked a secret code the […]

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RUSSIA & UKRAINE – Johnson’s Russia List table of contents :: JRL 2017-138 :: Wednesday, 19 July 2017

St. Basil's Domes

To inquire about a subscription to the full Johnson’s Russia List e-mail newsletter, e-mail David Johnson at davidjohnson@starpower.net [check back for updates, including more links; links also posted to facebook and twitter] Johnson’s Russia List :: JRL 2017-#138 Wednesday, 19 July 2017 A project sponsored through the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University’s Elliott School […]

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Moscow rules out linking issue of Russian diplomatic property in U.S. to provision of land for U.S. general consulate in St. Pete – Ryabkov

Sergei Ryabkov file photo

MOSCOW. July 18 (Interfax) – Moscow is against linking the Russian diplomatic property seized in the United States to the provision of a land site in St. Petersburg for the construction by Washington of a new general consulate, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “As to the Russian diplomatic property, we rule out any connection between this issue with […]

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NEWSLINK: “Rising prices and falling savings are Russians’ biggest fears” – bne Intellinews

Cash, Calculator, Pen

“Rising prices and falling savings are currently Russians’ biggest fears, according to the state owned pollster, the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM). … Mounting food prices and declining savings topped the ranking of Russians’ fears in the middle of this year. However, the fears of a military conflict with the west has also been rising steadily, the poll found, reports […]

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NEWSLINK: “The ex-spy who casts a light on the Trump-Russia saga; Moscow’s operation of influence in Washington is a long-term affair” – Financial Times/ Courtney Weaver

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

“… Like a stack of Russian nesting dolls, the number of people attending has increased from five to eight, while new characters have emerged – including Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American DC lobbyist with a penchant for opera, fine wine and imported orange bicycles. …”

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