The Russian state-run media conglomerate Rossiya Sevodnya will be opening local bureaus in over 29 world capitals to expand global media presence in a bid to escalate an ongoing “information war” with the West. Details will apparently be released at an event in Moscow next month, but confirmed locations for the new bureaus include Dushanbe, Tajikistan and Belgrade, Serbia. Rossiya Sevodnya was established as the overarching entity for a number of Russian state-run news agencies established by decree of President Putin December 9 of 2013. The English website translates to Russia Today, but is not quite the same as the TV network which has been in operation for several years. Other services under the Rossiya Segodnya brand are RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia.
Simultaneously, an examination of the Russian budget reveals that Russia has increased spending on foreign media operations, appropriating some 15.38 billion rubles ($362.2 million) for RT in 2015, an increase of over 30%. Rossiya Segodnya’s budget has additionally been tripled to some 6.48 billion rubles, or $152.6 million. Western government officials have accused RT many times of being Kremlin propaganda mouthpieces, while Russian officials have accused Western media outlets of being unfairly hostile to Russian interests.
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- Kyrgyzstan has instituted stricter punishments for protestors who block roads throughout the country. Obstructing highways has become common practice for Kyrgyz discontented with the government, though the impact it has in bringing transit to a standstill has drawn the ire of the government in Bishkek. The fine for blocking highways is now up to $1,100 dollars from $80 dollars, and could include five days in jail for anyone found guilty.
- Afghan officials have announced that dozens of Tajik militants are currently fighting alongside Taliban forces in Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan. Skirmishes have taken place throughout the province in recent days, leaving at least one of the Tajik militants dead. Badakshan Province currently plays host to Taliban forces as well as to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, amongst other militant organizations.
- Chinese officials have seized nearly $140,000 USD from the bank account of recently jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti. The leading Uyghur activist and former university professor was recently given a life sentence on charges of “separatism” despite widespread criticism of the charges as oppressive and fraudulent in nature. The seizure of Tohti’s funds has put the livelihood of his family in jeopardy and made it impossible for mortgage payments to be made.
- The World Bank ranked Tajikistan number one in its list of countries with the greatest amount of business-friendly reforms adopted in the last year. The report issued by the World Bank shows that Tajikistan improved access to credit information, made starting a business easier and reduced the steps necessary to obtain a construction permit.
- Iran and China have strengthened naval relations. Chinese warships for the first time docked at an Iranian harbor this past week, while naval commanders representing both sides announced increased maritime cooperation in the coming years. Thus far few details have not been released regarding the specifics of the cooperation, though access to Iranian ports will facilitate Chinese maritime shipping operations in Africa, among other places. The Iranian navy is still limited to World War II era diesel submarines and a handful of small warships, and could benefit from closer ties with China if Beijing proves willing and able to sell Tehran some of its naval technology.
- Ukrainian and Russian officials were bargaining and negotiating last night on the latest payment of Ukrainian gas debts, while EU officials attempted to broker a deal that would keep gas flowing. EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger arranged a meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and a large delegation from Ukraine and Gazprom. Moscow frequently cites Ukraine’s gas debt at $4.5 billion, and the IMF and EU are looking for more investors to keep the government solvent.