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The focus of this edition of the S-RM regional bulletin is the Russia & CIS region, where Russia remains the key story, both at home and abroad. In March, mass anti-corruption protests across several Russian cities led to the arrest of prominent opposition figure Alexey Navalny, while in May, foreign minister Sergey Lavrov visited Washington amid continued claims of cooperation between Russian actors and the election campaign of Donald Trump. Elsewhere, Ukraine’s development of closer ties with the EU received a boost, and Azerbaijan withdrew from an international transparency group after failing to make adequate progress in improving civic freedoms.

Our first feature article takes a look at a disturbing story which emerged from Chechnya, a Russian republic in the Caucasus, regarding the alleged imprisonment and murder of gay or bisexual men. If true, the story represents the latest in a series of increasingly unpredictable and extreme moves by Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the republic and a long-time ally of Vladimir Putin. The Russian president has indulged Kadyrov in return for keeping the peace in Chechnya, the setting for two civil wars in the 1990s and 2000s, although questions are now being asked of Putin’s ability to keep Kadyrov in check.
Away from Russia, our second feature examines its often overlooked neighbour: Belarus. A controversial so-called ‘parasite’ tax on those not in full-time employment led to street protests in Minsk, the capital city, in a rare display of public resistance to the regime of Alexander Lukashenka, the country’s president since 1994. We take a close look at the motivations behind the unrest, as well as Lukashenka’s positioning of Belarus as a political pawn between Russia and the West more generally.

We hope you enjoy this edition of our regional bulletins, which forms part of a fortnightly release of region-specific news and analysis. For further information about S-RM and our services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

With best wishes,
Casey O’Brien
Senior Associate