Russia in Review, Aug. 10-17, 2018

This Week’s Highlights:

  • Stiff new U.S. sanctions against Russia would only have a limited impact on its oil industry, Reuters reports. While the ruble has fallen more than 10 percent and Russian banking stocks have slumped 20 percent since the legislation was introduced, shares in Russian oil firms have climbed 2 percent, leaving them 27 percent higher so far in 2018, according to Reuters.
  • During their one-on-one meeting, Trump and Putin agreed in principle that the Iranians should exit Syria but Russia saw that as a tough task, a White House official was quoted by Reuters as saying. Also during the one-on-one meeting, Trump told Putin that Russian election meddling had to stop in 2018, according to Reuters.
  • Trump's national security adviser John Bolton will discuss arms control treaties and Iran's role in Syria in talks with Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva next week, according to Reuters.
  • Two thirds of pilots and technicians in the Russian air force received field practice during the military operation in Syria, reports TASS.

I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Topics of discussion at the Aug. 14 meeting of Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAC) included the national system on counteracting nuclear terrorism. "Additional measures aimed at the improvement of the state system of countering nuclear terrorism were developed," the NAC said in a statement. (Interfax, TASS, 08.14.18)
  • The Itarus, an enormous floating dock given to Russia by Italy, has been put to use transferring a radioactive barge from the Zvezdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk to safe storage at the Sayda Bay facility near Murmansk. (Bellona, 08.14.18)
  • Experts from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration and Defense Threat Reduction Agency have paid a working visit to Kazakhstan’s National Nuclear Center. To date the sides are working on conversion of the center’s research reactors and on how to eliminate nuclear tests effects at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. (INA Kazinform, 08.16.18)\
  • The National Defense Authorization Act signed Aug. 13 by U.S. President Donald Trump does not include a measure that the Senate, in particular Sen. Lindsey Graham, had included in its version of the bill to protect the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. (Augusta Chronicle, 08.14.18)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russia says it is working on retaliatory measures against the U.S. after Washington imposed sanctions on a Russian company and its head for helping North Korea evade U.N. sanctions. The U.S. Treasury said Aug. 15 that it was taking actions against three shipping companies based in China, Singapore and Russia, as well as the head of Russian shipping firm Profinet Pte. (RFE/RL, 08.16.18)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Iran on Aug. 11 announced it was taking back another portion of the 20 percent enriched uranium stockpile it handed over to Russia as part of the 2015 nuclear deal. Spokesman and vice-president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Behrouz Kamalvandi said the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions following the U.S. exit from the accord in May necessitated returning the uranium for domestic needs. (Times of Israel, 08.11.18)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • The U.S. voiced deep suspicion on Aug. 14 over Russia's pursuit of new space weapons, including a mobile laser system to destroy satellites in space, and the launch of a new inspector satellite which was acting in an "abnormal" way. Russia's pursuit of counterspace capabilities was "disturbing," said Yleem D.S. Poblete, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. (Reuters, 08.14.18)
  • U.S. lawmakers, accusing Russia of not complying with the Open Skies Treaty, included a provision to suspend funding for carrying out the treaty in a $717 billion national-defense bill that U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law Aug.13. (RFE/RL, 08.15.18)
  • A pair of Tu-160 bombers landed on the Russian side of the Bering Strait “for the first time in history” after completing a 7,000-kilometer journey from their home base, the Russian Defense Ministry said Aug. 16. The aircraft later took off from Anadyr, Chukotka autonomous district, refueled mid-air and landed in the Saratov region after crossing the Arctic Ocean. (The Moscow Times, 08.17.18)
  • Britain's Royal Air Force said Aug. 15 that it had intercepted six Russian bomber planes flying close to NATO air space over the Black Sea early on Aug. 13. It said that there had been “significant Russian air activity through most of the night” and that the Russian aircraft eventually turned toward Crimea. About three weeks earlier, Britain had scrambled Typhoon jets from the same base in Romania to intercept Russian aircraft for the same reason. (AFP, 08.15.18, Reuters, 07.26.18)
  • U.S. nuclear war plans during the Johnson administration included the option of a retaliatory strike against nuclear, conventional military and urban-industrial targets with the purpose of removing the Soviet Union “from the category of a major industrial power” and destroying it as a “viable” society. (National Security Archive, 08.15.18)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • During their one-on-one meeting in Helsinki, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed arms control, including the New START treaty and INF treaty, but did not agree on a way forward on arms control. Trump also raised the issue of Nord Stream 2 with Putin. Many topics they discussed were raised again in the larger group meeting that followed, an official said. Directly after his meeting with Putin, which lasted more than two hours, Trump briefed national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, about their meeting for about 15 minutes. (Reuters, 08.17.18)


  • New reports from both the U.S. Defense Department and the U.N. reveal that tens of thousands of ISIS fighters are still lurking across war-torn countries—an army of jihadists on par with the group’s peak strength in 2014. According to Pentagon data, ISIS currently has between 15,500 and 17,100 fighters in Iraq and 14,000 fighters in Syria for a total of between 29,500 and 31,100 fighters under Operation Inherent Resolve’s area of responsibility. (The National Interest/Task and Purpose, 08.15.18)
  • A suspected Islamic State fighter from Russia’s North Caucasus has been sentenced to nine years in prison for terrorist activities. Republic of Ingushetia resident Abdul-Malik Albakchiyev reportedly fought alongside the terrorist group in Syria in 2015 before being apprehended upon his return to Russia. (The Moscow Times, 08.14.18)
  • Tajik authorities say they have arrested five men in connection with the July 29 attack that killed four foreign cyclists. Authorities said they had also ordered 20 Tajik migrant workers in Russia to return home for questioning. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. (RFE/RL, 08.16.18)

Conflict in Syria:

  • A U.S. presidential administration official said U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian Vladimir Putin said the war in Syria was the leading topic of the one-on-one conversation that Trump and Putin had during their meeting in Helsinki. The two agreed in principle that the Iranians should exit Syria but Russia saw that as a tough task, the official said. (Reuters, 08.17.18)
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel says officials are looking into the possibility of a four-way meeting on Syria involving Turkey, Russia, Germany and France. The idea of such a meeting has been raised by Turkey. (AP, 08.17.18)
  • The third meeting of the Turkish, Russian and Iranian leaders on the Syrian settlement is scheduled to be held in Tehran in early September, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Aug. 15. (TASS, 08.16.18)
  • The Russian military says that its forces in Syria have made plans to help U.N. peacekeepers fully restore patrols along the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Four Russian military police posts have been placed in front of the Bravo line along the demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights and another two will be added in the near future, the deputy commander of the Russian group in Syria, Lt. Gen. Sergei Kuralenko said Aug. 14. (TASS, 08.14.18, RFE/RL, 08.15.18)
  • Turkey’s foreign minister said on Aug. 14 he hoped Turkey and Russia could find a solution over the northern Syrian region of Idlib, a rebel-held enclave which the Syrian government says it aims to recapture. (Reuters, 08.14.18)
  • An estimated 300,000 Syrians have returned to their homeland since Russia intervened in the country’s civil war on the side of the Syrian regime, the Russian Defense Ministry has said. (The Moscow Times, 08.16.18)
  • The operation to evacuate militants and their families from Syria’s Daraa province is over, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Aug. 15. (TASS, 08.15.18)
  • Two thirds of pilots and technicians in the Russian air force received field practice during the military operation in Syria, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. (TASS, 08.12.18)
  • Russian air defense assets in Syria have downed 45 drones targeting their main base in the country, its military said Aug. 16, after an attack by the Islamic State on a Syrian army base a day earlier killed seven troops. (AP, 08.16.18)

Cyber security:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump has reversed an Obama-era memorandum dictating how and when the U.S. government can deploy cyberweapons against its adversaries, in an effort to loosen restrictions on such operations. (Wall Street Journal, 08.15.18)
  • Russia’s Investigative Committee has reportedly bought Chinese surveillance equipment allowing it to hack into thousands of cell phone models, including Apple and Android devices. (The Moscow Times, 08.14.18)

Elections interference:

  • During his one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin Donald Trump told his Russian counterpart that Russian election meddling had to stop in 2018, according to a U.S. presidential administration official. Putin said in separate meetings that the Russian state did not meddle in the U.S. election, but that left a "big expanse" of other Russian actors, the official noted. (Reuters, 08.17.18)
  • On Aug. 15, U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated that he would like to see the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race end, but said he is considering giving an interview to special counsel Robert Mueller. "We're looking at it," he said. (Wall Street Journal, 08.15.18)
  • U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said there is “no factual evidence today that we’ve received” on collusion or conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign. But he said he’s still open on the issue and hasn’t personally come to any final conclusions, since the investigation isn’t finished. The Senate investigation is the last bipartisan congressional probe of Russian election interference and connections to Trump’s campaign. Burr won’t give a timeline for the end of the investigation or a final report, which could create fissures in the panel’s so-far bipartisan unity. (AP, 08.17.18)
  • U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said on Aug. 14 that Russian officials refused to acknowledge interfering in the 2016 presidential campaign during his recent trip to Russia. But Paul, a top Trump ally, called hopes that Russia would eventually admit to the interference "naive" and said the U.S. should cease expecting a diplomatic confession from Russian President Vladimir Putin or members of his government. "It's like asking a country to admit to spying," Paul said in an interview. "Are we going to wait until the end of time?” In separate remarks made on Aug. 16 Paul said he plans to ask Trump to lift sanctions on members of the Russian legislature so that they are able to travel to the U.S. for meetings with U.S. officials. (The Washington Post, 08.14.18, CNN, 08.17.17)
  • A veteran FBI agent who exchanged anti-Trump text messages with a colleague during the election has been fired from the FBI, his lawyer has said. Trump has pointed to the text exchanges as evidence of bias in the special counsel's Russia probe. (BBC, 08.13.18)
  • An associate of U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign adviser Roger Stone has been held in contempt of court after he refused to comply with a subpeona to testify before a grand jury investigating alleged Russian election meddling. (RFE/RL, 08.11.18)
  • Former CIA director John Brennan struck back at U.S. President Donald Trump on Aug. 16, writing in a blistering op-ed that Trump's claims of no collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential election are "hogwash." The piece, posted on the New York Times website, came a day after Trump announced he was stripping Brennan of his security clearance. Trump has told advisers that he is eager to strip more security clearances as part of an escalating attack against people who have criticized him or played a role in the investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, two White House officials said. (The Washington Post, 08.16.18, The Washington Post, 08.17.18)
  • A fact-check by The Washington Post found no evidence of Russia hacking Florida’s election system. (The Washington Post, 08.17.18)

Energy exports:

  • Russia has pledged to deepen cooperation with Iran and its Central Asian neighbors through a landmark deal on carving up the Caspian Sea, potentially paving the way for long-stalled energy projects. The Caspian’s surface water will be treated like a sea, with open water for common use, according to the deal. The seabed and subsoil will in effect be divided up like dry land. That will allow undersea pipeline construction with the agreement of the affected states, ending years of legal issues for the proposed Turkmen pipeline. Only nations whose seabed territories are crossed by the pipelines would have to agree to lay the new pipelines, though all five states could have a say on environmental protections. Additionally, Russia gains a ban on any military presence on the Caspian by non-signatories, in effect giving its navy full control over the waters. While the five presidents agreed on most of the issues, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani mentioned that the delimitation of the sea remains an issue for Iran. Rouhani said further talks would be needed to resolve the division of the Caspian. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov concluded his opening remarks by saying another summit should be held in Turkmenistan. (RFE/RL, 08.12.18, Financial Times, 08.12.18, New York Times, 08.12.18)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

Other bilateral issues:

  • U.S. national security adviser John Bolton will discuss arms control treaties and Iran's role in Syria in talks with Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva next week. The White House has earlier said Bolton would meet with "his Russian counterpart" in Geneva in order to follow up on the July summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Aug. 14 that Bolton would also meet with representatives of Israel and Ukraine. (Reuters, 08.17.18, RFE/RL, 08.15.18, TASS, 08.15.18)
  • Even after the U.S. announced new sanctions against Russia last week that sent the ruble into a tailspin, the Kremlin isn’t holding it against U.S. President Donald Trump. Instead, top Russian officials are hoping the U.S. president may yet be able to deliver on his promises of improving relations—or at least head off pressure growing in Congress for even more draconian sanctions. (Bloomberg, 08.16.18)
  • Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov says his country will continue to reduce investments in U.S. government bonds and may stop making global payments in dollars in response to new sanctions being imposed by Washington against Moscow. Siluanov said Aug. 12 that Russia has reduced its investments into the "American economy and American securities to the minimal level and will continue to diminish them." He also said he did not rule out moving away from the dollar for international payments, adding that it was "a risky tool for payments." (RFE/RL, 08.13.18)
  • Stiff new U.S. sanctions against Russia would only have a limited impact on its oil industry because it has drastically reduced its reliance on Western funding and foreign partnerships and is lessening its dependence on imported technology. While the ruble has fallen more than 10 percent and Russian banking stocks have slumped 20 percent since the legislation was introduced, shares in Russian oil firms have climbed 2 percent, leaving them 27 percent higher so far in 2018. (Reuters, 08.17.18)
  • U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said Aug. 16 that he plans to ask U.S. President Donald Trump to lift sanctions on members of the Russian legislature so that they are able to travel to the U.S. for meetings with U.S. officials. Paul invited the Russian lawmakers to the U.S. capital during a trip to Moscow in early August. It would be the first time in three years that members of the upper chamber of the Russian assembly would attend official meetings in Washington. (CNN, 08.17.18)
  • Oleg Deripaska’s aluminum-to-energy group En+ has presented the final version of a plan to the U.S. Treasury in a bid to free itself from sanctions, which threaten to sink the company and upend global metal markets. Under the proposal, which has been filed with the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Deripaska has agreed to reduce his holding in London-listed En+ to below 45 percent from around 70 percent currently, primarily through the transfer of shares to VTB, a Russian bank with close links to the Kremlin. En+ Group also said its power unit will move from Cyprus to a Russian offshore zone created by the Kremlin in response to American sanctions. Russia’s sanctions-hit aluminum giant Rusal said on Aug. 17 its board had also discussed and approved a change of domicile from Britain’s Jersey to Russia in order to take advantage of new special tax regulations. (Financial Times, 08.12.18, Bloomberg, 08.17.18, Reuters, 08.17.18)
  • Two of Russia's biggest mining companies, Norilsk Nickel and Alrosa, said on Aug. 15 they were investigating ruble-based payments schemes, amid calls from Moscow to reduce the role of the U.S. dollar in Russian trade and so limit the impact of U.S. sanctions. (Reuters, 08.16.18)
  • Russia’s Embassy in the U.S. has dismissed claims that Russia played a role in fanning racial tensions at a violent white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. (The Moscow Times, 08.13.18)
  • Russia has reiterated that the country finished eliminating its chemical arsenal in 2017 in response to a new U.S. demand that Moscow allow chemical weapons inspectors into the country after the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. (RFE/RL, 08.14.18)
  • Alexei Muzhetsk, a volunteer at opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s foundation, has reportedly been granted political asylum in the U.S. after being beaten and receiving death threats in Russia. (The Moscow Times, 08.13.18)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • Russian business has lashed out at a proposed new tax on the country’s biggest metals, mining and chemicals companies as ill-timed and badly thought-out, with Russia’s leading industry lobby warning it would cause a “massive withdrawal of investors.” Devised by Putin aide Andrei Belousov, the proposal would levy new taxes worth more than 500 billion rubles ($7.5 billion) on 14 leading companies, according to documents seen by the Financial Times. Putin wrote on the document: “agree.” The Russian Ministry of Economic Development has a negative attitude towards the proposal, a source in the financial and economic block of the government told TASS. (Financial Times, 08.10.18, TASS, 08.16.18)
  •, the parent company of two popular Russian social network sites, Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, has asked the government to stop prosecuting social media users under anti-terrorism laws, and offer an amnesty for people already convicted. Vkontakte has announced new privacy measures in the wake of criminal cases targeting its users for comments, images and memes posted on the popular platform. (The Moscow Times, 08.13.18, The Moscow Times, 08.15.18)
  • Kremlin-run lender VTB is to buy Vozrozhdenie Bank after its previous owners oversaw a major banking collapse, the bank said Aug. 14. (Financial Times, 08.14.18)
  • The U.N. Human Rights Committee has ruled that a Russian regional law banning gay propaganda among minors is in violation of a legally binding international treaty on human rights. (The Moscow Times, 08.15.18)
  • One of Russia’s leading private universities has announced the start of its enrollment period next week after winning a two-year battle for a state teaching license. The state education watchdog restored the European University in St. Petersburg’s license last week, two years after revoking it over building code violations. (The Moscow Times, 08.17.18)
  • Ahead of hearings on a controversial proposal to raise the retirement age, opposition leader Alexei Navalny is targeting State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, alleging in a video expose that Volodin is covering up his wealth by keeping millions of dollars in assets in his mother’s name. In a video report published Aug. 16, Navalny alleges that a spacious 230 million ruble ($3.4 million) apartment in Moscow and 10 companies held in the name of Volodin’s mother actually belong to the speaker. (The Moscow Times, 08.17.18)
  • Local authorities in Russia say they have withdrawn their approval of what would have been the country's first officially approved gay-pride parade—an event that had been scheduled for Aug. 26 in a village with only seven residents on the outskirts of the city of Novoulyanovsk. (RFE/RL, 08.16.18)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russia stands against imposing an international ban on the emerging threat of so-called “killer robots,” the Kommersant business daily reported Aug. 16, citing sources in the foreign ministry. Russia has expressed interest in lethal autonomous weapons systems—better known as killer robots—to neutralize terrorist threats and limit casualty numbers in the event of an attack. Ahead of an 80-country U.N. conference on lethal autonomous weapons systems in Geneva at the end of August, Russia will go against the 26 countries that seek to ban the future androids. (The Moscow Times, 08.16.18)
  • A full-fledged naval base will be built in Kaspiysk, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said. A decision to redeploy the Caspian flotilla from Astrakhan to the territory of Dagestan was adopted in 2017. (TASS, 08.17.18)
  • Russia rolled out its latest upgrade to the Tu-22M3 nuclear bomber, the Tu-22M3M, on Aug. 13. The upgraded Tu-22M3M focuses on modernizing the avionics, communications and controls on the Cold War era bomber. But the Tu-22M3M's integration with some of Russia's deadlier missiles, and role as a nuclear-capable maritime strike jet pose a serious challenge to the U.S. (Business Insider, 08.16.18)
  • Russia’s MiG Aircraft Corporation is working on the MiG-41 fifth-generation fighter-interceptor. (TASS, 08.17.18)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Denis Nikandrov, the former deputy head of Moscow’s Investigative Committee, has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison for accepting a bribe from a notorious mafia boss. (The Moscow Times, 08.16.18)
  • A Moscow city court ruled on Aug. 16 to place teenagers Anna Pavlikova and Maria Dubovik, accused of extremism, under house arrest, a day after hundreds of people gathered to protest their detention in central Moscow. Prosecutors say the defendants were part of a Telegram chat group that planned to topple the government. The defendants’ lawyers and families have criticized the extremism charges against the girls as being trumped up, adding that they had been provoked by an FSB officer who had infiltrated their online chat group. (The Moscow Times, 08.16.18)
  • Russian women suffering domestic violence are being deterred from going to the police since its partial decriminalization last year, campaigners have claimed after a dramatic fall in reported incidents. State statistics, released in July, reveal that the number of cases of domestic violence reported to the police in 2017 almost halved since physical abuse became punishable by a fine rather than time in prison. (The Guardian, 08.16.18)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Berlin on Aug. 18 for the second time in just over three months. Their talks are set to include the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, as well as energy issues, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. Prior to the meeting, Putin will be a guest at the wedding of Austrian top diplomat Karin Kneissl on Aug. 18. (RFE/RL, 08.13.18, RFE/RL, 08.16.18)
  • Russia backs using national currencies, not the U.S. dollar, in its trade with Turkey, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Aug. 14, but he made no firm commitments that would immediately help Ankara to weather its currency crisis. “I am confident that the grave abuse of the role of the U.S. dollar as a global reserve currency will result over time in the weakening and demise of its role,” Lavrov said. At a conference with Lavrov, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also lashed out against Western sanctions. Closer ties to Russia could help Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan make his nation less reliant on Washington and change the face of post-World War II Europe, on which its military force has been guarding NATO's southeastern flank. "We are looking for new allies," Erdogan told supporters on Aug. 12. (Reuters, 08.14.18, Wall Street Journal, 08.14.18)
  • Russia will spend $9.6 million on restoring the golden dome of the National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba, in what Russian critics have said is an example of misplaced spending. (The Moscow Times, 08.16.18)
  • Serbian police have closed a paramilitary youth camp organized by Russian and Serbian far-right groups on a mountain in western Serbia following complaints from the public. (RFE/RL, 08.17.18)


  • Russia is willing to improve strategic communication with China and strengthen the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his Aug. 15 meeting with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. (Xinhua. 08.17.18)


  • Yulia Tymoshenko is leading in a new poll presented in Kiev on Aug. 15. Of the respondents, 20.3 percent who would take part in the next presidential election would vote for Tymoshenko (12.5 percent of all respondents). Current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko took fifth place, with 8.3 percent of respondents ready to vote for him. (Interfax, 08.15.18)
  • Ukraine’s defense ministry said Aug. 15 one of its soldiers has been killed and three wounded as a result of clashes with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 08.15.18)
  • On Aug. 1, Italian police announced they had arrested three men accused of recruiting mercenaries to fight in eastern Ukraine. Three others are still being sought after prosecutors in the northern Italian city of Genoa accused the six of fighting in eastern Ukraine and recruiting others to the cause. It was the first time that Italian authorities have charged anyone with fighting in eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 08.16.18)
  • The Kremlin has rejected a request by the mother of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov to pardon her son and release him from a Russian prison. A member of Russia's Presidential Advisory Council on Human Rights, Zoya Svetova, said that Sentsov's health was "bad" as a result of his three-month hunger strike. U.N. experts have called on the Russian government to "immediately and unconditionally release" Sentsov. (RFE/RL, 08.15.18, RFE/RL, 08.16.18)
  • Ukrainian prosecutors in the treason trial against ex-President Viktor Yanukovych have asked the court in Kiev to sentence the pro-Russian former leader to 15 years in prison. (RFE/RL, 08.16.18)
  • A court in Ukraine has issued a suspended three-year prison sentence against Olena Odnovol from Crimea charged with high treason. Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko said Odnovol had played an active role in Russian President Vladimir Putin's election campaign by collecting signatures in 2017 from his supporters in "Russia-occupied Ukrainian territory." (RFE/RL, 08.17.18)
  • The jury in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort returned to court Aug. 17 for its second day of deliberations, as U.S. President Donald Trump said Manafort is a "very good person" and called the trial "very sad." Prosecutors said Manafort had collected $65 million in foreign bank accounts from 2010 to 2014 and spent more than $15 million on luxury purchases in the same period. They also alleged that Manafort had lied to banks in order to take out more than $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian political work dried up in 2015 and accused him of hiding foreign bank accounts from federal authorities. (CNN, 08.17.18)
  • The World Bank says it is preparing a $650 million guarantee to help Ukraine obtain funding in global-debt markets, but Kiev must first comply with economic reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund. (RFE/RL, 08.17.18)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • NATO forces and troops from partner countries have concluded over two weeks of combat training in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Some 1,300 Georgian troops have been joined by over 2,000 others from 12 countries—including more than 1,000 U.S. forces—for the "Noble Partner" drills, which began on Aug. 1. (RFE/RL, 08.15.18)
  • Russia and its Central Asian allies will conduct joint military drills in Tajikistan near the Afghan border in late October, TASS reported this month. The details of the drills are being coordinated in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe by representatives of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Russian Central Military District and delegations from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. (TOLONews, 08.09.18)
  • The EU has welcomed the decision by an Azerbaijani court to release opposition politician Ilqar Mammadov after more than five years in prison. (RFE/RL, 08.15.18)
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has marked the 100th day since his sudden and unexpected rise to power by vowing to “speed up reform” in the nation. (RFE/RL, 08.16.18)
  • Former Armenian President Robert Kocharian has been released from a pretrial detention facility after the country's court of appeals ruled that he cannot be prosecuted for the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. (RFE/RL, 08.14.18)
  • The head of Armenia's Special Investigative Service says former President Serzh Sarkisian will be questioned as part of an investigation into a deadly crackdown against protesters following the country's 2008 presidential election. (RFE/RL, 08.16.18)
  • Taliban and Uzbek officials say the head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar traveled to Uzbekistan, where he led a delegation for talks with senior officials from Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry. (RFE/RL, 08.11.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has hosted the leader of Turkmenistan for talks. Ahead of the informal meeting, the Kremlin said the talks would touch upon the "entire range of bilateral relations," including a "possible energy dialogue." (RFE/RL, 08.16.18)
  • Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has visited Uzbekistan for talks seen as an important step toward mending a tense and complicated bilateral relationship. (RFE/RL, 08.17.18)
  • The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe has expressed concern about Russian forces’ "river-crossing military exercise" in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniester and said its team was blocked from monitoring the maneuvers. (RFE/RL, 08.16.18)

IV. Quoteworthy

  • No significant developments.

V.  A note to our readers

Last week’s Russia in Review digest originally included a story from The Moscow Times saying that a Levada Center poll conducted in July 2018 found that only 16 percent of Russians support Putin’s foreign policy. This was not a correct representation of the poll. Instead, the poll asked respondents what they found attractive about Putin, with 16 percent pointing to his foreign policy, which they supported. The poll found that it was Putin’s experience as a politician that attracted the greatest share of respondents (49 percent). When asked what they dislike about Putin, 17 percent (the highest share) named his ties to large businesses. The results of the poll, which allowed multiple answers, are available in Russian here. We apologize for the lapse.