This Week’s Highlights
Russia is now supplying more oil to the U.S. than any other foreign producer aside from Canada, Bloomberg reported, noting that U.S. imports of crude and refined petroleum products from its former Cold War adversary surged 23% in May. U.S. imports of Russian goods increased by one and a half times in the first months of 2021 compared to the same period of the last year, reaching almost $11.5 billion, RBC reported. Russian military pilots use commercial GPS receivers during their combat operations in Syria, according to Soviet Air Force veteran Viktor Alksnis, according to Defence Blog. The U.S. State Department has rejected a claim by Russia's ambassador to the United States who said Washington had asked 24 Russian diplomats to leave the country by September 3 after their visas expired, RFE/RL reported. Moscow is ready to issue visas to new U.S. Embassy employees, a senior Russian diplomat said, according to The Moscow Times/AFP. The Russian military will for the first time operate Chinese hardware at Russian-Chinese Xibu/Interaction 2021exercise, which will be held on August 9-13 at the Qintongxia training range in northwest China. The exercise will include the ZTL-11 infantry support vehicle and the ZBL-08 armored personnel carrier, TASS and Interfax reported. “There is a popular thinking in Chinese policy that a larger nuclear arsenal could help China counter the perceived strategic hostility of the United States,” Zhao Tong, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing, said, as quoted by the Financial Times. “They argue that Russia has been very firm in enhancing its interests, and that Russia is respected, so they think that a larger Chinese arsenal would also make the west respect us.” The so-called green revolution will deal a “unique” blow to the Russian economy and may lead to a global regrouping of countries and the formation of a new global elite within the next decade, according to President Vladimir Putin’s point man for sustainability, Anatoly Chubais, according to Russia Matters’ latest exclusive. The scenario of the Zapad-2021 Russian-Belarusian joint strategic maneuvers that will run on September 10-16 envisages potential acts of aggression against the Union State of Russia and Belarus, various news outlets reported, including TASS, Reuters and Interfax. Chief of the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Colonel-General Vladimir Zarudnitsky has revealed in Voeynnaya Mysl that a X-95 long-range hypersonic missile is among new weaponry systems that are “being developed and put into service” in Russia. Lithuanian officials say waves of illegal migrants arriving from Belarus have reached a new peak, with nearly 300 detentions reported in one day alone. So far this year, Lithuanian border guards have detained more than 4,000 migrants—mostly Iraqis—compared with 81 for all of 2020, various news outlets reported, including The Moscow Times and RFE/RL. Russian border guards have been deployed to the Tavush region in northeastern Armenia on the border with Azerbaijan, Interfax reported.
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda
President Biden nominated NTI’s Corey Hinderstein for Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation of the National Nuclear Security Administration. (Electric Energy Online, 08.05.21) In supporting the efforts of Moldova to strengthen its national nuclear security infrastructure, the IAEA has donated a specialized cargo vehicle to the country to facilitate the safe and secure transport of radioactive sources to designated specialized storage locations in the country. (ENP Newswire, 08.06.21)
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:
Russia and North Korea will make efforts for the soonest possible resumption of trade when the pandemic situation will make it possible to open borders between the two nations, the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang said on August 4. DPRK is hoping to develop its relations with Russia further despite the difficulties resulting from the spread of the coronavirus, North Korean Ambassador Sin Hong-Chol said. (TASS, 08.04.21, Interfax, 08.05.21)
Iran and its nuclear program:
The exact day of the resumption of negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal remains unclear and the Iranian authorities might alter their stance on certain clauses of the agreement, Russian Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said. (Interfax, 08.02.21) Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin and Iranian parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf met in Tehran on August 5 to discuss inter-parliamentary cooperation and ways of taking it to a new level, the State Duma's press-service said. (TASS, 08.05.21) Ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi was credentialed by Iran's supreme leader on August 3 in a two-step inauguration process that will fully usher in the controversial former prosecutor's hardline administration over the next two days. Raisi takes over from the relative moderate Hassan Rohani vowing to take measures to rid the Islamic republic of "tyrannical" U.S. sanctions. (RFE/RL, 08.03.21)
Great Power rivalry/New Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:
The scenario of the Zapad-2021 Russian-Belarusian joint strategic maneuvers that will run on September 10-16 envisages an escalation of the international situation and a potential aggression against the Russia-Belarus Union State, Chief of the Belarusian General Staff, First Deputy Defense Minister Viktor Gulevich said on Thursday. The "West-2021" drills will involve thousands of servicemen, including those from Moscow-led defense bloc member Kazakhstan, as well as tanks, artillery and aircraft. Members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have been invited to exercise, the communique of the meeting of SCO defense ministers in Dushanbe said. (TASS, 08.05.21, Reuters, 08.05.21, Interfax, 07.30.21) A new U.S. Navy exercise focused on countering China and Russia in the European and Indo-Pacific theaters—perhaps at the same time—is underway, testing the ability to synchronize five fleets and three Marine expeditionary forces across 17 time zones while also employing fast-moving war- fighting concepts to combat adversary missile advances. (Star Advertiser, 08.06.21) Working to strengthen the United States' relationship with Central and South American countries will be central to stemming off growing Chinese and Russian influence in the region, US Army Lieutenant General Laura Richardson told lawmakers during her confirmation hearing to be the next US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) commander. (Jane’s, 08.04.21) Two of Russia’s Il-22PP electronic warfare aircraft were intercepted and escorted by NATO fighter jets during a flight over neutral waters over the Baltic Sea. (Defence Blog, 07.31.21)
China-Russia: Allied or aligned?
The Russian military will for the first time operate Chinese hardware at Russian-Chinese Xibu/Interaction 2021exercise which will be held on August 9-13 at the Qintongxia training range in northwest China. It will include the ZTL-11 infantry support vehicle and the ZBL-08 armored personnel carrier, the Global Times newspaper reported. The Chinese military operated Russian hardware at joint Caucasus-2020 exercise in September 2020, including the T-72B3 tank, the BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle, and the Igla-S MANPAD. (TASS, 08.05.21, Interfax, 08.05.21) A train loaded with large amounts of Chinese military hardware, including Type-96 main tanks and other heavy armored vehicles, has arrived in Russia. According to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Type-96 main battle tanks and soldiers of the 75th Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) have arrived in Russia for the International Army Games 2021. (Defence Blog, 07.31.21) "Russian-Chinese military cooperation is characterized by a high development dynamic, consistent expansion of interaction spheres and more intensive contacts," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said at a teleconference dedicated to the 94th anniversary of the creation of the People’s Liberation Army of China. (TASS, 08.02.21) Russian foreign ministry special envoy for the Middle East settlement Vladimir Safronkov and China’s special envoy on the Middle East issue Zhai Jun reiterated that their country’s approaches to the Middle East settlement are very close, the Russian foreign ministry said on August 3. (TASS, 08.04.21)
No significant developments.
Nuclear arms control:
No significant developments.
Russia is registering active movement of the Islamic State terror group militants to Afghanistan’s territory from different countries, including Syria and Libya, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told journalists on July 28. (TASS, 07.28.21) Russia’s second western district military court has sentenced Anisa Arabiyeva from Moscow to three years of imprisonment for trying to persuade people to join banned terrorist organizations and travel to Syria. (Interfax, 08.02.21)
Conflict in Syria:
While the Defense Ministry in Moscow claimed Syria’s Russia-supplied air-defense systems thwarted three Israeli attacks in the past two weeks, Israel and others said that’s untrue. (Bloomberg, 08.03.21) “The regime forces and Russia have intensified the bombing of the residential neighborhoods in Zizoun village, in Sahel Alghab,” the White Helmets, a Syrian civil defense group stated. (Daily Sabah, 08.01.21)
The U.S. Justice Department says the Russian hackers behind the massive SolarWinds cyberespionage campaign broke into the email accounts of some of the most prominent federal prosecutors' offices in the United States during 2020. The Justice Department said 80 percent of the Microsoft e-mail accounts used by employees in the four U.S. attorney offices in New York were breached. (RFE/RL, 07.31.21)
Energy exports from CIS:
The cost of natural gas and electricity has surged across Europe. In Germany, wholesale power prices have risen more than 60% this year. High energy costs are set to persist. Russia is flowing less gas to Europe and Asia. Russia’s gas exports to the EU during the first half of this year were the same as January-June 2020—67 billion cubic meters. But over the same time, Gazprom’s exports to China, Finland and Turkey have tripled—to 33 bcm, reports Ukrinform, citing data from the Gas Transmission System Operator of Ukraine. Halfway through the summer, two major storage fields in Austria and Germany are only 11-13% full. (Bloomberg, 08.05.21, Ukraine Business News, 08.02.21)
U.S.-Russian economic ties:
Russia is supplying more oil to the U.S. than any other foreign producer aside from Canada as American refiners scour the globe for gasoline-rich feedstocks to feed surging motor-fuel demand. U.S. imports of crude and refined petroleum products from its former Cold War adversary surged 23% in May to 844,000 barrels a day from the month before, government data showed. (Bloomberg, 08.06.21) U.S. imports of Russian goods increased by one and a half times in the first months of 2021 compared to the same period of the last year, reaching almost $ 11.5 billion. (RBC, 07.30.21) Facebook has launched its C2C classifieds platform, dubbed ‘Marketplace,’ in Russia, reports the news agency TASS. In May 2021, Facebook attracted 35.8mn users of all ages from Russia, according to Mediascope, (EWDN/bne IntelliNews, 08.06.21).
U.S.-Russian relations in general:
The U.S. State Department has rejected a claim by Russia's ambassador to the United States who said Washington had asked 24 Russian diplomats to leave the country by September 3 after their visas expired. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on August 2 that the Russian diplomats "can apply for an extension" of their visas. Russian envoy Anatoly Antonov said that the embassy received a list of 24 Russian diplomats who are expected to leave by September 3. Last week, the State Department said it had laid off 182 local employees from its diplomatic missions in Russia ahead of an August 1 deadline set by the Kremlin to do so. (RFE/RL, 08.03.21) Moscow is ready to issue visas to new U.S. Embassy employees, a senior Russian diplomat said August 5, after the Russian ambassador in Washington decried tight visa-issuing procedures for Russian employees. Alexander Bikantov, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy spokesman, said Russia is “open for dialogue” despite what he described as Washington’s “unconstructive approach.” (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.05.21) Russia’s most famous fund manager Michael Calvey has been found guilty of embezzlement by a Moscow court, but will serve no jail time in a decision that is widely seen as a major blow to Russia’s investment climate. The judge in the Moscow district court found Calvey and his associates guilty and will deliver the sentence later. Prosecutors have asked for suspended prison terms of between four and six years for each of them. (bne IntelliNews, 08.05.21) Several American universities created programs in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but in recent years, some of them have closed. In 2018, Stanford University announced it was suspending its undergraduate Russian study abroad programs, citing security issues. That same year, Clark University in Worcester, Mass., began phasing out its program at Astrakhan State University, in Astrakhan, Russia. (The New York Times, 08.05.21) Both Russia and China have worked to promote their own vaccines through messaging that undermines American and European vaccination programs, according to the State Department's Global Engagement Center. The latest effort in Russian-aligned disinformation is a campaign that taps into skepticism and fears of coronavirus vaccination to not just undermine the effort to immunize people but also try to falsely link the Biden-Harris administration to the idea of forced inoculations. (The New York Times, 08.06.21)
II. Russia’s domestic policies
Domestic politics, economy and energy:
Russia reported 22,660 new COVID-19 cases on August 6, including 2,583 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 6,402,564. (Reuters, 08.06.21) Here’s a link to RFE/RL’s interactive map of the virus’ spread around the world, including in Russia and the rest of post-Soviet Eurasia. A study of the World Mortality Dataset, compiled by Ariel Karlinsky, an economist and statistician at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and Dmitry Kobak, a research scientist at the University of Tübingen, measured a country’s reporting accuracy by calculating the ratio of excess deaths to officially reported Covid-19 deaths. Countries that undercounted most severely were Tajikistan, Nicaragua, Uzbekistan, Belarus, and Egypt. Overall excess mortality was highest in the US, Brazil, Russia and Mexico. (Financial Times, 08.03.21) The Kremlin now expects the Russian population to shrink by 1.2 million by 2024. This year, the Tambov region registered the fastest decline in population of any in Russia, losing almost 4% of its inhabitants in the two years up to 2020, according to state news agency RIA Novosti. (The Moscow Times, 08.03.21) Russia’s central bank governor has warned that inflation is set to be a long- term phenomenon in her country, signaling that the bank is likely to continue with its tough monetary policy stance. Elvira Nabiullina told the Financial Times in an interview that public fears over soaring prices lay behind the central bank’s concerns. (Financial Times, 07.31.21) Processes within the framework of global worming are progressing 2.8 times faster in Russia than in the rest of the world, Minister of Natural Resources Alexander Kozlov said. (TASS, 08.05.21) Just a few weeks before the UN’s COP26 climate change conference, the Russian Government has asked several ministries to figure out how Russia can catch up with other developed nations on the path to decarbonization. The so-called green revolution will deal a “unique” blow to the Russian economy and may lead to a global regrouping of countries and the formation of a new global elite within the next decade, according to comments attributed to President Vladimir Putin’s point man for sustainability, Anatoly Chubais. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.05.21, Russia Matters 08.04.21) VNIPIpromtechnologii, JSC—the engineering centre of Rosatom's mining division ARMZ Uranium Holding Co—has received a "positive opinion" on design work and engineering surveys for in-situ leach development at the Kolichikan uranium deposit from the Russian State Expert Examination Board, Glavgosekspertiza. This means development of the deposit, in the Khiagda orefield, can proceed. (World Nuclear News, 08.05.21) Russia on Friday begins laying its first undersea fibre optic communications cable through the Arctic as part of a state-run project to bring high-speed internet to its remote hydrocarbon-rich north after a private-led initiative stalled. (Reuters, 08.06.21) Russian women will be able to get jobs servicing aircraft for the first time in decades starting next year, according to a Labor Ministry order published on August 3. The Soviet Union first introduced the list of banned jobs in the 1970s to protect women’s safety and reproductive health. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.03.21) The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will not send observers to Russia’s upcoming elections for the first time in nearly three decades due to "major limitations" imposed by Russian authorities. The OSCE said on August 4 that Russian authorities restricted the number of election observers the intergovernmental body could send, ostensibly due to the coronavirus pandemic. (RFE/RL, 08.05.21) Russian opposition politician Lev Shlosberg of the Yabloko party and his colleague Nikolai Kuzmin have been returned to the list of candidates running for deputy in the Pskov regional parliament. (RFE/RL, 08.05.21) A Russian court has sentenced a key ally of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny to 18 months of restricted movement after finding her guilty of inciting people to break COVID-19 safety regulations. Lyubov Sobol was charged on August 3 over her allegedly calling for Russians to attend an unsanctioned street protest in January in support of Navalny. She had initially been placed under house arrest. (Al Jazeera, 08.03.21) Oleg Navalny, the brother of imprisoned Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was given a one-year suspended prison sentence after a court in Moscow found him guilty on August 6 of publicly calling for the violation of anti-pandemic restrictions. (RFE/RL, 08.06.21) Russian authorities have blocked access to exiled former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s rights group website and news outlets, which have been critical of the Kremlin ahead of next month’s high-stakes elections. Open Media and MBKh Media said late August 4 that they had not been notified of the intention to block their websites by state media watchdog Roskomnadzor. Both said August 5 they were shutting down because of the move. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.05.21) Russia's media regulator Roskomnadzor has requested YouTube block the Navalny Live channel of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny. Navalny associate Lyubov Sobol said on her Twitter account on July 30 that the channel, along with her personal YouTube channel, had been added to Roskomnadzor’s registry of banned materials. (RFE/RL, 07.30.21) The International Olympic Committee is investigating two Russian state-run TV channels over talk shows that disparaged the lifestyles of a transgender and a gay athlete as “perversion” and “abomination,” the BBC has reported. (RFE/RL, 08.06.21) Some 42% of Russians have heard about the law “on foreign agents” in one way or another, according to Levada Center’s July 22-28, 2021 poll. Some 11%, are well aware of the law while more than half of Russians (57%) have not heard anything about the law. Opinions about the law were almost equally divided: 40% of Russians believe that the meaning of this law is to put pressure on independent public organizations, slightly less (37%)—to limit the harmful influence of the West on our country. (Russia Matters, 08.02.21) Support for erecting a monument to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin has nearly doubled in the past decade, a survey by the independent Levada Center polling agency said August 4. According to the results, 48% of Russians said they support a Stalin statue and 20% are against the idea. This marks a turnaround from 2010, when 25% of Russians expressed support for a Stalin monument compared with 36% who opposed it. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.05.21)
Defense and aerospace:
Russian military pilots use commercial GPS receivers during their combat operations in Syria, according to nationalist politician and Soviet Air Force veteran Viktor Alksnis, who drew attention to recent images of the Su-34 Fullback fighter-bomber aircraft in Syria, writing on Facebook that military pilots use commercial GPS receivers during their combat operations. (Defence Blog, 08.01.21) In his article for the August issue of the Russian defense ministry’s Voeynnaya Mysl journal, Chief of the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Colonel-General Vladimir Zarudnitsky wrote that a X-95 long-range hypersonic missile is among new weaponry systems that are “being developed and put into service” in Russia. (Russia Matters, 08.03.21) The Raduga Design Bureau unveiled an upgraded derivative of the TV-guided Kh-59MK extended-range air-to-surface missile at the MAKS 2021 International Aviation and Space Salon, held in Zhukovsky. Designed to penetrate static hardened and buried targets, the missile is equipped with a 360 kg lethality package. (Jane’s, 07.28.21) Tests of the Tsirkon hypersonic missile from a Russian submarine carrier are reportedly scheduled to take place at the end of August as Moscow proceeds apace with its plans to arm its underwater fleet with the deadly weapons. (Newsweek, 08.06.21) The Russian Defense Ministry gave the green light to the Su-30SM upgrade program, an aircraft that has been deployed in large numbers in the Air Force and Naval Aviation, to bring it to the SM2 version or as the Russian press calls it, Super Sukhoi. With the update, aircraft will receive new engines, radars and smart weapons. (Aviacionline, 08.05.21) Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu inspected the production of Su-34 Fullback fighter-bomber aircraft and a new assembly line of the Okhotnik (meaning Hunter in Russian) stealth drones at the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant. (Defence Blog, 08.05.21) Russia will test-fire an anti-tank missile from the Orion combat unmanned aerial vehicle in the fall, state-backed news outlet RIA Novosti revealed, citing a source. (Defense Post, 08.06.21) The Russian Army provided images of its newest mine system, called the ISDM Zemledeliye, during a live-fire exercise. The ISDM Zemledeliye is a new Russian-made mass scatterable mine delivery system that delivers mines by ground vehicle. (Defence Blog, 08.04.21) Russian airborne troops are set to receive the first Typhoon K-4386 wheeled armored vehicles with enhanced mine protection. (Defence Blog, 08.04.21) Russia’s Oscar-II class submarine “Orel” was sailing together with the navy tug “Altay” and the large anti-submarine missile destroyer “Vice-Admiral Kulakov” in an inter-fleet transit from St. Petersburg towards the Kola Peninsula when it got problems with propulsion and started to drift on July 30. The incident happened on July 30 in the busy waters east of Denmark’s second-largest city Århus. (Barents Observer, 08.04.21) Engineers will need to determine if a Russian module briefly throwing the International Space Station out of position had long-term effects on the other systems in the ISS, the Associated Press quoted a Russian space official as saying August 4. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.04.21)
Emergencies, security, law-enforcement and justice:
Russia’s forest fires spread by a record margin on August 2, making the current wildfire season the country’s third-largest this century as smoke from the blazes wafts over huge expanses of Siberia, experts from Greenpeace Russia reported. The fires grew by 0.6 million hectares—98% of which were located in the far northeastern republic of Sakha, also known as Yakutia—on Aug. 2, a record for 2021 so far, the environmental group said. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.04.21) In all, the wildfires have devoured over 10 million acres of land in the Yakutia region this summer, with 175 fires still burning, according to government data. Scientists fear the amount of carbon dioxide released from the Russian blazes could surpass last year’s record. (The Wall Street Journal, 08.06.21) Russian President Vladimir Putin explained the scale of wildfires and flash floods in the country as a product of climate change. According to the President, during the last 44 years, the average yearly temperature in the country has been increasing 2.8 times faster "than in the global dimension." (TASS, 08.05.21) Four workers died and another three were in hospital with burns August 6 following a fire at a defense industry plant in southern Russia, authorities said on August 1. The Ministry of Industry and Trade implied that the workers at the Kaminsky chemical plant in the southern Rostov region violated safety regulations. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.02.21) A Russian man went on trial Friday in Austria over the execution-style shooting death of a 43-year-old Chechen in a Vienna suburb last year. Members of the Chechen exile community in Austria said the victim of the July 2020 slaying might have been targeted for criticizing the authoritarian leader of Russia’s Chechnya region, Ramzan Kadyrov. (AP, 08.06.21) Expelled Estonian consul Mart Latte was supposedly interested in Russia’s Arctic plans, according to FSB. (Barents Observer, 08.06.21)
III. Russia’s relations with other countries
Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:
Russia’s agriculture exports increased by 16% as of August 1, 2021 in annual terms, to $16.855 billion. The EU and China accounted for 12.4% of Russia’s agriculture exports each, Turkey accounted for 11.9%, South Korea accounted for 7.8%, Kazakhstan accounted for 5.7%, Egypt accounted for 5%, Belarus accounted for 3.9%, and Ukraine accounted for 2.8%. (TASS, 08.05.21) India's first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier, the future INS Vikrant, left the country's southwestern port of Kochi on 4 August to embark on its maiden sea trials. The ship, which has an overall beam of 62 m and a standard displacement of 40,000 tons, is expected to be commissioned without its Aviation Facility Complex, which will be provided by Russia's Nevskoe Design Bureau. (Jane's, 08.04.21) Iran, Ghana and other African and Latin American countries are some of the places hit hardest by delays in the delivery of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, the BBC has reported. The Islamic republic, battling a fifth wave of the Delta variant-driven outbreak, has received around 2 million doses out of the 60 million it had ordered, according to the outlet’s media monitoring service. A joint venture has been announced to localize production in an attempt to boost supplies. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.04.21) Russia has allocated $1 million to an international program that promotes free media in developing countries over the next five years, its Foreign Ministry announced. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.02.21) Major UK Conservative donor Mohamed Amersi received $4m from a company he knew to be secretly owned by Leonid Reiman who was at the time a senior member of Vladimir Putin’s regime, according to three people with direct knowledge of his business dealings. (Financial Times, 08.02.21)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says he is doing "everything" he can to end the war with Russia-backed separatists but that peace and control of territory in the so-called Donbas depends "90 percent" on Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Ukrainian president also said that the "occupied" territories of eastern Ukraine will never be Russian, and he encouraged residents there who consider themselves Russian and the region part of Russia to go and "seek a place in Russia." (RFE/RL, 08.06.21) Ukrainian police said on August 3 that they have launched a murder case after finding missing Belarusian activist Vital Shyshou dead in a park near his home in Kyiv. Police said they would investigate all possibilities, including foul play and premeditated murder. (RFE/RL, 08.03.21) The UK Royal Navy will hand over to Ukraine two Sandown-class mine hunting ships. Both Sandown-class mine countermeasures vessels “have served extensively” during careers spanning 21 years. (Ukrinform, 05.08.21) Seventy-eight Ukrainian lawmakers from all sides of the parliament have proposed to give the title ‘Hero of Ukraine’ to controversial figures such as Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych. Some Ukrainians see them as war heroes who fought for Ukrainian independence back in the 1930s and 1940s. For others, they are antisemitic war criminals who took part in the mass killings of up to 100,000 Jews and Poles during WW2 in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. (Euronews, 08.04.21) The FBI is investigating Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to make a movie about the Bidens and Ukraine. (Mother Jones, 08.06.21) As many as 100,000 bicycles stolen in Germany every year are sold in Ukraine, according to the Deutsche Welle newspaper. (Ukraine Business News, 08.02.21)
Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:
The European Union has summoned Belarus's top diplomat in Brussels and talked to Iraqi officials about suspending that country's flights to Minsk amid accusations that Belarus has "weaponized" migrants to create problems at the bloc's eastern border. (RFE/RL, 08.05.21) Lithuanian officials say waves of illegal migrants arriving from Belarus have reached a new peak, with nearly 300 detentions reported in one day alone. Most of the detainees are Iraqis who crossed the border via Belarus with apparent ease. According to Lithuanian authorities, a total of 4,112 illegal migrants, mostly Iraqis, have crossed the border from Belarus so far this year, compared to 80 last year. It is estimated that the number could reach 10,000 by the end of 2021. (RFE/RL, 08.06.21, The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.04.21, RFE/RL, 08.03.21) Russian nationals are among the thousands of migrants illegally crossing the border from Belarus to Lithuania, a senior diplomat from the EU member state told Russian media Tuesday. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.04.21) Authorities in EU member Lithuania say their border guards have been ordered to turn back migrants attempting to illegally enter the country as a crisis continues amid a surge in crossings from Belarus. (RFE/RL, 08.03.21) Belarusian authorities have shut down four more nongovernmental organizations in Minsk as Aleksandr Lukashenko's crackdown against pro-democracy activists, independent media, and civil rights groups continues. The closures bring the total number of NGOs shuttered without court decisions since mid-July to at least 65. (RFE/RL, 08.04.21) The Belarusian sprinter who appealed for international help to avoid being forced home prematurely from the Tokyo Olympics has been reunited with her husband in Warsaw. Krystsina Tsimanouskaya met with her husband, Arsen Zdanevich on August 5. The two have decided to stay in Germany with their child as the crackdown on pro-democracy groups and government critics continues in Belarus (RFE/RL, 08.06.21, RFE/RL, 08.04.21) The International Olympic Committee has revoked the accreditation of two Belarusian coaches over their alleged attempt to force Tsimanouskaya to return home to Belarus from the Tokyo Olympics. (RFE/RL, 08.06.21) Belarusian opposition leader Mikalay Kazlou was sentenced to three months in jail on August 6 on charges that he disclosed information related to an official probe into an anti-regime crisis council that sprang up after Alexander Lukashenko's disputed claim to a sixth presidential term one year ago. (RFE/RL, 08.06.21) Lawmakers in Moldova have confirmed the new government of Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita after her Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) won snap elections earlier this month. The Harvard-educated Gavrilita's PAS holds 63 of the 101 seats in parliament in Moldova for what she described as an "integrity government." (RFE/RL, 08.06.21) Leaders of five ex-Soviet Central Asian nations on Friday voiced concern about instability spilling from Afghanistan and discussed ways to coordinate their response to potential security threats. “A quick settlement of the situation in Afghanistan is a key factor for preserving and strengthening security and stability in Central Asia,” the five leaders said in a statement after the talks. (AP, 08.06.21) Russia will provide limited military support to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in case of attacks from Afghanistan, which will include weapons supplies, the use of warplanes and special operations forces. There are no plans to deploy major ground forces to the region. All this is clear from Russia’s joint drills with Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and official statements, Vedomosti writes, citing sources close to the Russian Defense Ministry. (TASS, 08.06.21) The Russian military's chief of staff arrived in Central Asia on August 5 as Russia held military drills in two ex-Soviet countries bordering Afghanistan. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian military's General Staff flew into Uzbekistan to observe joint Russian-Uzbek military drills. Both armies also took part in separate exercises with neighboring Tajikistan on August 5. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 08.05.21) Russia's military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will be employed to protect the frontiers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in the event of direct aggression from Afghanistan, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. (Interfax, 08.06.21) Turkmenistan has publicly displayed its newly acquired M-346FA light attack aircraft.TheM-346FA (Fighter Attack) is a light attack version of M-346 jet trainer developed by the Italian firm Leonardo. (Defence Blog, 08.03.21) Uzbekistan’s GDP expanded by 6.2% in H1 2021. Growth in industry was posted at 8.5%, investment grew by 5.9% and services gained by 8%. Inflation was recorded at 10.9%. (bne IntelliNews, 08.04.21) Former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariev has been arrested as part of a widening investigation into alleged corruption during the development of the Kumtor gold-mine project. On August 2, former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev arrived in Bishkek for the first time since he was ousted by demonstrations in 2005 to be questioned about the Kumtor case. (RFE/RL, 08.03.21) Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov has been inoculated against coronavirus with China's ZF-UZ-VAC2001 vaccine, the government press service told Interfax on August 5. (Interfax, 08.05.21) Russian border guards have been deployed to Tavush region in northeastern Armenia on the border with Azerbaijan, the Armenian Defense Ministry said on August 5. (Interfax, 08.05.21) Armenian President Armen Sarkisian appointed acting Prime Minister Nikola Pashinian to the post of prime minister on August 2, the first day of the parliament's new term following an election six weeks ago. (RFE/RL, 08.02.21) Asked which of these countries posed the biggest economic threat to Georgia (respondents of an IRI poll were could choose several options), the answers were as follows: Russia 71 per cent, Turkey 12 per cent, China four per cent, U.S. three per cent, Azerbaijan three per cent, Armenia three per cent, Iran two per cent, the EU less than one per cent, Ukraine less than one per cent. (Interfax, 08.03.21) The Baltic states have reportedly denied Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili official visits that were planned for the coming week. The refusals allegedly occurred due to the perceived unwillingness of Georgian authorities to punish those responsible for the July 5 far-right violence against dozens of journalists and LGBTQ activists. (bne IntelliNews, 08.05.21)
“There is a popular thinking in Chinese policy that a larger nuclear arsenal could help China counter the perceived strategic hostility of the US,” Zhao Tong, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing, said. “They argue that Russia has been very firm in enhancing its interests, and that Russia is respected, so they think that a larger Chinese arsenal would also make the west respect us.” (Financial Times, 08.04.21)