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The focus of this edition of the S-RM regional bulletin is the Russia & CIS region, where elections, reshuffles and corruption scandals have made the headlines over the past few months. On 15 October, elections in Kyrgyzstan brought to an end the six-year presidential tenure of Almazbek Atambayev. The campaign trail was characterised by allegations of misconduct and a diplomatic tiff with Kazakhstan, who Atambayev has accused of meddling in Kyrgyz affairs. Sooronbay Jeenbekov, a former prime minister and the candidate backed by Atambayev, claimed victory. In Russia, presidential elections may be five months away, but their impact is already tangible. Ten regional governors have resigned since September, a shake-up which some have interpreted as an attempt by the Kremlin to consolidate regional support for President Putin.

Our first feature article takes us to Central Asia, as we take a look at the progress of reform in Uzbekistan ten months into the reign of its new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Mirziyoyev inherited a state beset by corruption, Soviet-style secrecy and human rights abuses. While the economy of neighbouring Kazakhstan has steadily developed on the back of its natural resources riches, Uzbekistan remains one of the world’s poorest countries. In his first year, Mirziyoyev has forged consensus on implementing a program of reform aimed at attracting foreign direct investment, including liberalising the country’s currency and freeing a number of political prisoners. Uzbekistan has already signed contracts USD 20 billion with China, an indication that Mirziyoyev’s plan is working.

In our second feature article, we examine the Russian banking sector amid rumours of a potential crisis. The Russian Central Bank (RCB) has taken drastic measures to clean up the sector under the guidance of Elvira Nabiullina, withdrawing 300 banking licences since 2013. But while the RCB has successfully dealt with failing small to mid-sized lenders, problems at Russia’s bigger independent banks present a different challenge. Already this year the RCB has bailed out Otkritie and Binbank, leading to speculation among analysts that a sector-wide crisis may only be a matter of months away.

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