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Russia & CIS

Russian elections: Boycott or accept / Russia - Mon, 20/09/2021 - 16:00
The elections in Russia have gone without any serious incidents or sensations. However, the current election campaign differs from all previous ones. One of these differences is about the attitude of a number of international organizations, which decided to find the results of the parliamentary elections in Russia illegitimate, in advance, even before the results would be announced. First and foremost, it goes about the European Parliament. On September 16, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that recommended EU member states how to treat Russia correctly. The resolution particularly says:
Categories: Russia & CIS

Putin fails to formulate Russia's national idea / Russia - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 19:37
Vladimir Putin voiced the national idea — strong family with children. Yet, this is not an idea, but a goal. One has to coin the idea, or Putin's Russia will collapse under the pressure of ideological forces otherwise. Why Putin can't come up with a national idea During the United Russia congress, President Putin said that he often hears about the need to build a national idea. "You know, dear friends, I try to avoid those grandiloquent words, but I think that it is the strong, prosperous family with two, three, four children growing up that should be the image of the future of Russia. One does not need to coin anything here," said Vladimir Putin.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Putin intimidates the world with the power of the Russian Navy / Russia - Mon, 26/07/2021 - 21:05
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his speech dedicated to the Day of the Russian Navy, recalled the threats that Russia is currently facing from a number of countries. Putin speaks bellicose rhetoric Experts noted that Putin resorted to the rhetoric of threats for the first time as he vowed "to destroy anyone, anywhere." Putin spoke not only about the historical significance of the date, but he also mentioned those who positioned themselves as Russia's opponents.
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RUSI Global Security Briefing on Black Sea

Russian Military Reform - Fri, 16/07/2021 - 17:22

I recently participated in the RUSI Global Security Briefing podcast hosted by Neil Melvin, Director of RUSI International Security Studies. Together with Neil and Maryna Vorotnyuk, we discussed how security relations have shifted around the Black Sea following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the subsequent build-up of regional military forces, including the significance of the recent confrontation between the UK warship HMS Defender and Russia’s armed forces in waters off Crimea.

Here’s the full show description:

Episode 7: Regional Security in the Black Sea

In this episode, the panel discuss the fast-evolving security environment in the Black Sea region, including the significance of the recent confrontation between the UK warship HMS Defender and Russia’s armed forces in waters off Crimea.

Dr Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Research Scientist at CNA in the US, and Dr Maryna Vorotnyuk, RUSI Research Fellow, discuss how security relations have shifted around the Black Sea following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the subsequent build-up of regional military forces with host Dr Neil Melvin, Director RUSI International Security Studies.

Putin's article: Ukraine can exist only in partnership with Russia / Russia - Tue, 13/07/2021 - 13:01
Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an article On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians which was published on the Kremlin website with a version in the Ukrainian language. During his recent Q&A conference, Putin stated that he considered Russian and Ukrainian peoples to be one single nation and promised to publish a lengthy article on the problem in the near future. The president warned that as a result of the policy of assimilation, which is now being carried out in Ukraine, the Russian people may decrease "by hundreds of thousands, or even by millions." "It goes about the coercive change of identity. The most disgusting thing is that Russians in Ukraine are forced not only to renounce their roots, from generations of ancestors, but they are also forced to believe that Russia is their enemy," Putin said.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Why did the Taliban delegation come to Moscow for talks? / Russia - Fri, 09/07/2021 - 19:30
On Thursday, July 8, a delegation of the Taliban* movement paid a visit to Moscow to assure the Kremlin that the Taliban* does not threaten either Russia or its allies in Central Asia. Needless to mention that those statements cannot be trusted. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Putin's aide for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov met with a Taliban delegation on Thursday, July 8, to express concerns over escalation of the crisis in northern Afghanistan. Kabulov urged Taliban representatives not to allow militants to move beyond the borders of Afghanistan. "We received assurances from the Taliban that they will not violate the borders of the Central Asian countries, as well as their security guarantees for foreign diplomatic and consular missions in Afghanistan," Kabulov said.
Categories: Russia & CIS

The HMS Defender Incident: What happened and What Are the Political Ramifications?

Russian Military Reform - Thu, 01/07/2021 - 17:13

I wrote a piece on the HMS Defender incident for Russia Matters. Here’s a preview. You can read the whole article here.

On June 23, the HMS Defender—a British Type 45 destroyer—was involved in a confrontation with the Russian military while sailing near the Crimean Peninsula. The ship was in the Black Sea to participate in NATO’s Sea Breeze exercise. Prior to the start of the exercise, it had completed a port visit to the Ukrainian port of Odesa and was on its way to make a similar port visit to Batumi, Georgia. As it passed through territorial waters claimed by Russia, the ship was closely shadowed by Russian forces. Furthermore, the Russian military claimed that it fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the vicinity of the ship, forcing it to move into international waters. What actually happened during the incident? Why did the British and Russian governments take the actions they took? What is the likely impact of the incident on the confrontation between Russia and NATO? And how does it affect the likelihood of future escalation?


The HMS Defender was part of a NATO naval task force participating in Operation Sea Guardian, NATO’s counter-terrorism mission in the Mediterranean. It entered the Black Sea on June 14 after a port visit to Istanbul. Its first stop was Odesa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port. While they were moored in Odesa, the HMS Defender and a Dutch navy ship had their automatic identification system (AIS) signals spoofed by Russian electronic warfare systems to indicate that they were traveling toward Crimean waters, approaching to within two nautical miles of the entrance to Russia’s Sevastopol naval base. In actuality, video evidence showed that the ships did not leave Odesa harbor for several more days. After the visit to Odesa, the HMS Defender was scheduled to make a port visit to Batumi, Georgia before joining the multi-national NATO-led Sea Breeze exercise that began in the Black Sea on June 28.

The most direct route from Odesa to Batumi involves a passage through Crimean territorial waters off Cape Fiolent, and this was the route that the HMS Defender took on June 23 as it transited from Odesa to Batumi. The ship entered Crimean waters at either 11:50am (according to British sources) or 11:52am (according to Russian sources). It was shadowed by two Russian Coast Guard ships. Approximately 20 Russian aircraft, including a Su-24 bomber, a Su-30 fighter, and a Be-12 amphibious aircraft flew near the British ship. At noon, the Coast Guard warned that a live fire gunnery exercise would start imminently. At some point, the Russian military warned the HMS Defender by radio that it would fire if the British ship did not change course. One of the Russian ships fired shots in the general vicinity of the British ship at 12:08pm. According to Russian sources, the Su-24 dropped four unguided OFAB-250 fragmentation bombs at 12:19pm. However, no video evidence of this action has been released and the British Navy has repeatedly rejected the claim that any bombs were dropped in the vicinity of its ship. The HMS Defender then departed Crimean waters at either 12:24pm (according to Russian sources) or 12:26pm (according to British sources) and made its way to Georgia without further incident. In his call-in show on June 30, Vladimir Putin claimed that a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was in the vicinity and operating in concert with the HMS Defender, suggesting that the two countries were therefore working together during the confrontation.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Fraudster stands up to defend corruption / Russia - Tue, 22/06/2021 - 22:18
The sentence to Alexander Popov, the former head of Togliattikhimbank, evoked an extremely emotional reaction from Sergei Makhlai, the owner of the bank and Togliattiazot beneficiary, who was arrested in absentia and convicted of fraud. In a recent interview with a Samara-based publication, Sergei Makhlai called the verdict "a shame for the judges", "perversion of the judicial system" and "total disgrace". One may wonder who got Popov involved in criminal activities and for whose interests he committed his crimes. According to the investigation, the man behind the bribe, for which Popov was busted, was Sergei Makhlai, the 100-percent owner of Togliattikhimbank. Makhlai has been residing in the United States since 1994. He holds US citizenship. However, as we can see, it is in Russia, where he prefers to engage in criminal activity. Two years ago, Makhlai and his accomplices were convicted in absentia in Togliatti for the theft of TOAZ products under Art. 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (fraud on an especially large scale by prior conspiracy). They were ordered to compensate victims of fraud in the amount of 87 billion rubles. Makhlai is also named in cases about the establishment of an organized criminal group, taking part in it (Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and tax evasion (Article 199 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). He has no intention to make any payments to anyone nor does he recognize decisions of the Russian courts.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Kremlin stands up to defend Biden's sanctions against Russia / Russia - Mon, 21/06/2021 - 23:04
In less than a week after the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva, Washington has announced the preparation of new sanctions against Russia. It appears interesting how the Kremlin commented on the news. Understand and forgive: how Biden was defended in the Kremlin A couple of days ago, US President National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the White House was preparing another package of restrictions due to the situation with Russian opposition activist and blogger Alexei Navalny. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier that the law required the White House to continue to consider restrictions related to the alleged use of chemical weapons. Washington imposed a portion of such sanctions several months ago against a number of Russian companies and research institutions.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Russia to sanction others states for banning Russian language / Russia - Wed, 02/06/2021 - 20:45
The Federation Council raised the issue of sanctions against the countries that infringe upon the right of Russian-speaking citizens to use their native language. Russian senators are to develop proposals on restrictive measures in the near future before they can be submitted for consideration to the government. The move was based on yet another appeal to international parliamentary organizations, parliaments and the public with a call to protect the right to use native language and conduct educational programs in it. The Federation Council approved the appeal on June 2. During the discussion, the senators raised the question of how long they would have to continue approving such documents and whether it was time to move on to action. "Don't you think that, in parallel with this appeal, we should have sent another appeal to our government requesting economic sanctions be introduced against the countries that have been violating both the rights and the law on the Russian language and the rights of Russian-speaking citizens for many decades. Maybe it's time to take economic action against those countries and sell them less gas, oil and so on," Svetlana Goryacheva, a Senator from the Far East (Primorye region) said.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Russia has no intention to cut natural gas transit via Ukraine / Russia - Tue, 01/06/2021 - 19:17
Russia welcomes the intention of the United States not to impose sanctions against Nord Stream 2. In addition, Russia still intends to continue to supply natural gas to European states via Ukraine, Putin's official spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Why Russia has no intention to cut gas transit to EU through Ukraine "President Putin is aware of those statements from Washington, and the Russian side welcomes them," Peskov said, answering a question from journalists about Putin's reaction to reports about the decision of the United States not to impose sanctions against Nord Stream 2. Peskov also reminded of the agreement between Russia and Ukraine on gas supplies to Europe. Dmitry Peskov stressed that the agreement would remain in force for the entire period of its validity.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Putin gets really angry at Ukraine's Zelensky for persecuting Russia's 'friend' / Russia - Fri, 14/05/2021 - 20:15
Russian President Vladimir Putin promised a response to the "cleansing up the political field" in Ukraine. What can Putin do? Putin promised to respond to Ukraine During a video conference on May 14 with members of the Russian Security Council, Putin commented on the persecution of Viktor Medvedchuk, the co-chairman of the pro-Russian Ukrainian party Opposition Platform for Life. Putin pointed out that the Ukrainian authorities, at the suggestion of the West, tend to turn the country into an antipode of Russia, "into some kind of anti-Russia." Therefore, Moscow will constantly monitor news from Ukraine that requires special attention from the point of view of security.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Sputnik V: The geopolitical veto from the North / Russia - Tue, 11/05/2021 - 11:57
The scandalous smokescreen represented by the refusal of the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) to recommend the use of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and the "technical" veto, minutely detailed in a report prepared by "impartial experts committed to science", hides something that understandably escapes the knowledge of the Brazilian public. By Fabio Reis Vianna  
Categories: Russia & CIS

Putin wants the West not even try to cross the red line with Russia / Russia - Wed, 21/04/2021 - 14:31
On Wednesday, April 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his Address to the Federal Assembly. In the speech, Putin annually expresses his assessment of the state of affairs in the country and his vision of the main tasks for the future.  Today's speech became Putin's 17th Address to the Federal Assembly. Putin, who was vaccinated against the coronavirus, appeared for the speech in person, but there were restrictions imposed at Moscow's Manezh, where the event was held. Usually, about 1,000 guests are invited to the ceremony - deputies, senators, members of the cabinet, representatives of the presidential administration, heads of the Prosecutor General's Office, Constitutional and Supreme Courts, heads of regions, etc. This year the number of guests has been reduced, and the venue has been sanitized. To take part in the event, one had to take three coronavirus tests on April 16, 19 and 20. All guests were seated in accordance with health safety  requirements.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Russia lashes itself to punish Turkey / Russia - Tue, 13/04/2021 - 14:06
According to the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR), the decision to limit flights to Turkey means the closure of the most popular tourist destination among Russian tourists. The decision of the Russian authorities will lead to a large number of postponed tours and deal a huge blow to the tourist industry. According to ATOR, the total number of tourists who booked tours to Turkey from April 15 to May 31 (for the time when regular and charter flights from Russia to Turkey will be suspended) counts 533,200 tourists, of which more than 40 percent are families with children. The tours that have been booked for this period of time are evaluated at a total of 354.6 million euros (32 billion rubles), according to the ATOR website. Another 71 million euros (6.4 billion rubles) will account for the losses of medium and niche tour operators that switched to booking expensive tours to Turkey in the absence of their own traditional travel range. Another 6-7 thousand Russian tourists were to visit Tanzania in the same period of time.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Russia and China will make Northern Sea Route become the new Suez Canal / Russia - Fri, 02/04/2021 - 15:46
As it can be seen from last year's experience of cargo transportation along the Northern Sea Route, the limits of navigation are expanding due to climate change. New opportunities are opening up for the development of the natural resources of the Arctic and the development of international shipping. At the same time, the risk of aggravation of rivalry between Russia and Western countries in the region is growing. The volume of cargo transportation along the Northern Sea Route grows steadily from year to year. Even the pandemic did not stop it from gaining 4.7 percent in 2020 as compared to the previous year. The first shipment of liquefied gas from the port of Sabetta (the Yamal Peninsula) to the east took place already in May, although it usually happens in July. The Christophe de Margerie gas carrier carrying gas from the Yamal LNG plant traveled to China accompanied by an icebreaker. Many other ships followed. The experiment with the passage of the Christophe de Margerie and the Nikolay Evgenov LNG tanker on the Northern Sea Route in January 2021 without accompaniment was a success too, although this has never happened before. 
Categories: Russia & CIS

Oh no, Twitter is slow / Russia - Wed, 10/03/2021 - 19:31
On March 10, Russia slowed down Twitter. Roskomnadzor, the state communication watchdog, reported a slowdown of Twitter services on all mobile platforms and half of stationary devices. It goes about limiting the speed to download photos and videos, whilst text messages can be sent as usual. "In order to protect Russian citizens and coerce the Internet service to comply with the legislation on the territory of the Russian Federation, on March 10, centralized responsive measures were taken in relation to Twitter - the service speed was slowed down in accordance with the regulations," the press release published on the Roskomnadzor website said. The department promised to take measures "in accordance with response regulations (up to blocking the service) as long as calls to minors to commit suicide, child pornography, as well as information about the use of drugs remains online."According to Roskomnadzor, Twitter, starting from 2017 and to this day, has not taken any measures to delete messages containing suicidal calls, child pornography and information on how to use drugs. During that period of time, Roskomnadzor has sent more than 28,000 "initial and repeated claims to remove illegal links and publications" to the company. As of March 10, 2021, "3,168 materials containing prohibited information (including 2,569 posts calling minors to commit suicide, 450 posts with child pornography, 149 posts with information about the use of drugs) have not been deleted."
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Should Russia obey ECHR and release Alexei Navalny? / Russia - Wed, 17/02/2021 - 19:54
The European Court of Human Rights demanded Russian opposition activist and blogger Alexei Navalny be released from custody. In this judgment, the ECHR relies on Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court on the application of interim measures. The rule is binding, and it is used if the court finds that the applicant is in danger.The news about the requirement of the ECHR to immediately release Navalny came from his lawyer, Olga Mikhailova. She noted that "the European Court of Human Rights applied Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court and ordered the Russian government to immediately release Navalny from the detention center." Mikhailova stressed out that such a decision was "made by the ECHR for the first time, and the Russian authorities must execute it."The ECHR made such a decision, "having considered circumstances and possibilities that jeopardise the applicant's life", taking into account "general circumstances of the applicant's current detention".On February 2, the Simonovsky District Court of Moscow overturned Navalny's suspended sentence in the Yves Rocher case and replaced it with a real jail term.It should be noted that information about a decision that the ECHR could make appeared on February 16. As a matter of fact, the decision was made the same day, but it was reported only a day later.The ECHR decision was made public a few days before the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union, which, among other things, will be devoted to the topic of EU-Russia relations. The question about new sanctions against Russia will most likely be considered at the meeting as well.
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Navalny's zugzwang for the Kremlin: Will Putin muddle along? / Russia - Tue, 02/02/2021 - 13:13
Pravda.Ru editor-in-chief Inna Novikova interviewed political strategist, president of the Federation for Electoral Policy Research Andrei Mironov about the latest major events in Russia associated with the trial of Alexey Navalny. Why did Navalny return to Russia? What is his strategy? Is Navalny a fighter for people or a Western protege?"The return of Alexey Navalny and all subsequent events that have been happening to him have become one of the most talked-about topics on social media. How do you think the situation may develop in the nearest future?" "One can of course admire his courageous act, because this is a very well thought out, but at the same time a very courageous step that Alexey Navalny made. Yet, as a specialist in political technologies, I approach this from the point of view of certain technologies that the team of Alexey Navalny used to achieve a particular goal.Hands down, the Navalny team won this round playing against the methodologists of the presidential administration. The authorities simply acted according to the old methodology. They follow the path of the methodists of the Communist Party of the Soviet era. Therefore, the Navalny team won this round, there are no doubts about that. "What do you think about the protest actions and the appeals from the Navalny team and from Navalny himself to young and even juvenile citizens to take part in those protests? After all, this is a clear and gross violation of the law, a provocation. Naturally, the authorities had to react.""There are political strategists, and there are methodologists. A good political strategist achieves victory through the strategy of the enemy. Methodologists work according to manuals. This is the main mistake that the authorities make. The authorities are taking the steps that political strategists calculate, and Navalny calculated that. What is the Navalny project about? Alexey Navalny has been working for his own name inside the country for 10 years. After his poisoning and return home from Germany, he faced a question of how to continue as a political strategist, how to enter politics.Naturally, Navalny's return is a well-thought-out and balanced step, but he obviously needed a safety cushion. A law of political technologies says that a candidate who works to achieve his goal must have two things:  recognizability,  and capitalization of his recognizability to achieve a particular goal. Navalny became famous while being abroad. He thus obtained a safety cushion, with which he returned to Russia. He knew perfectly well that he would be arrested. Accordingly, he took steps to make the authorities swallow the bait, and so they did. What surprises me is why the methodologists of the presidential administration played on that  option so awkwardly. Why did they have to redirect the airplane for landing? They should have let him come home to Russia quietly. On January 19, he had to speak to the PACE. Navalny would have safely flown there, and then he would have flown for Joe Biden's inauguration. In this case, Russian methodologists could make him look like an agent, who works for the West. Instead, they decided to arrest him right at the airport while foreign reporters were filming everything on their cameras. Such a move stirred up an international scandal. The President of Finland was the first to make a call to the Kremlin, then other European officials did the same, and so on and so forth. This is how the safety cushion works. Therefore, Alexey Navalny is now practically safe, as I think. Only a madman can now harm Navalny, because sanctions will immediately follow.The resolution of the European Parliament, where 581 MPs vote in favour of the sanctions is also a part of Navalny's safety cushion, and the Kremlin can hardly cope with such a big problem. To crown it all, Navalny has created a zugzwang situation: every next step of the authorities will be worse than the previous one. All the bans and prohibitions that the Russian authorities resort to to keep the state of affairs in the country as calm as possible work in the opposite way. The forbidden fruit is always sweet, and they can hardly stop public discontent from growing. They want to think that they try to put the flames down, but instead they add more fuel to the fire. This is a big mistake that the Russian authorities make.
Categories: Russia & CIS

Is Russia ready to recognise Donbass republics? / Russia - Mon, 01/02/2021 - 19:43
If chief propagandists of the nation get involved in something, one should pay closer attention to that. It goes about the Russian Donbass forum that takes place in Donetsk.The participants of the forum promulgated the doctrine of the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. The doctrine stated the statehood of the republics should be strengthened as Russian nation-states, plus the two unrecognised republics should be returned to the sphere of the Russian historical space.The chairman of the Union of Journalists of Russia, Vladimir Solovyov, who is known to be Russia's chief patriot, sent a welcoming message to the participants of the forum. RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan took part in the forum and made an emotional speech. "The people of the Donbass want to be able to be Russian, to speak Russian, so that no one can ever take away this right from them. We must let it happen, we must give them that opportunity. The people of the Donbass want to live at home and be a part of our great, generous Russia. Mother Russia, take the Donbass home," exclaimed Margarita Simonyan. It is worthy of note that Mrs. Simonyan is not only the editor-in-chief of RT - she is the head of the large media machine, the mouthpiece of Russian state media and Russian official propaganda, which works targeting foreign audiences.Press Secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov, commenting on Simonyan's remarks, noted that the issue of the Donbass becoming part of Russia was not on the agenda "either directly or indirectly." Spokespeople for the Foreign Ministry of Russia said that Simonyan expressed her personal views on the subject. She did, but it is doubtful that she could say such things without the permission from the relevant bodies.The forum was held against the backdrop of fruitless negotiations within the Contract Group for the Peaceful Settlement of the crisis in the Donbass and the Norman Format talks. Boris Gryzlov, the head of the Russian delegation to the Contract Group, described Kiev's actions as "absolutely irresponsible and aggressive." In his opinion, the Ukrainian authorities not only fail to comply with the Minsk agreements, but continue to nurture the idea of ​​the military suppression of the Donbass crisis and "set themselves up for its certain implementation."The head of the Ukrainian delegation, Leonid Kravchuk, seemingly denied those suspicions, having said that the return of the lost territories by military means was out of the question. However, he immediately made a very significant clarification: "in the near future."The forum came as a message to US President Joe Biden, who, according to his press attaché Jane Psaki, "did not hold back" in his recent telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin. Dmitry Peskov, Putin's official spokesman, said that Russia and the United States shared completely different views regarding the Donbass crisis. All this means that the state of affairs can change at any moment. Will Russia eventually recognise  the two unrecognised republics?
Categories: Russia & CIS