Russia Monitor Articles
Russian Gazprom uses its dominant position in the region to enforce improper trade conditions for Georgia and Armenia. These two issues seem to be closely linked as gas shipments to Armenia, a Russian ally, need to flow through Georgia that has been in conflict with Moscow. Further, conducted against the Kremlin’s will, the change of the government in Yerevan will result in higher gas tariffs by 10%.
A trilateral meeting held in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi was expected to break the deadlock over Syria’s thorniest problems, including the presence of terrorists in the rebel-held province of Idlib and the future of the Kurd-controlled zones following the U.S. withdrawal. However, the Astana triangle with the presence of Iran, Russia and Turkey, did not bear fruits, meaning Putin’s failure.
Russia has launched what it called its largest military drills this year, with thousands of troops taking part and hundreds of equipment involved. Even if all eyes are on the Southern Military District, Russia is holding its war games across the country, also in the direct vicinity of the NATO borders.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on dismissing nearly a dozen of senior military officials that held governmental positions. Most changes affected Russia’s Ministry and the Investigative Committee of Russia (ICR) where sacked officials were in charge of conducting high-profile investigations.
On February 9, military branches of the Kurdish-Arab SDF alliance, backed by the U.S.-led international coalition, launched an armed offensive against ISIS’s last remaining stronghold east of the Euphrates River. This means that Turkey and Russian and Iranian-backed al-Assad’s regime need to refrain from initiating armed operations against Kurds and the rebel-held Idlib province respectively.
Moscow is paving its way for making a final decision to launch another military base in Kyrgyzstan. Such a step came as an aftermath of Sergei Lavrov’s recent visit to Bishkek. Despite previous behind-the-scenes talks, none of the sides seems eager to play the role of an initiator.
Russian diplomatic activity boosted as the country decided to interfere in the Middle East’s most sensitive conflict. Russia’s Foreign Ministry offered to host a meeting between Hamas and Fatah leaders, a step aimed at reconciling Palestine’s two parties. But that is only the first stage as it is much more important to come up with an appropriate mediation plan between Palestinians and Israel.
U.S. decision to withdraw from the landmark INF Treaty was followed by the Kremlin’s same step. Vladimir Putin informed on February 2 that country intends to suspend its obligations under the arms control deal while saying he had recommended expanding Russia’s medium-range missile arsenal, including advanced works on a brand-new supersonic nuclear missile system.
Russian state-run oil giant Rosneft hopes to be granted some tax reliefs while exploiting the Priobskoye field, as indicated by a letter submitted to President Vladimir Putin by the company CEO Igor Sechin. Everything seems now to indicate that his request will be positively considered, meaning that the state budget will lose a total of 460 billion roubles in a ten-year period.
Last-ditch talks, which took place in Beijing to save the landmark INF Treaty, failed to bring any results just a few days ahead of the expiration of a U.S. deadline for Moscow to comply with the treaty. Russia still claims that it does not violate the provisions of The Treaty on the Elimination of The Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, commonly referred to as the INF.
The independence move of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been the most significant blow to the Russian Orthodox Church for decades as the latter institution remains a traditional tool in the Kremlin’s hands. The decision of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church caused fury in Moscow.
As many as ten air incidents, mostly related to intercepting enemy aircraft and violating the airspace of one of the countries over the Baltic Sea, were reported within less than two weeks. They all involved the use of fighter jets, bombers aircraft and reconnaissance planes affecting NATO, Russia and, importantly, neutral Sweden.
Russian federal authorities recently detained a number of people who were reportedly linked to Gazprom’s regional subsidiaries, including leaders of an influential clan from Karachaevo-Cherkessiya. Russian Senator Rauf Arashukov was detained at a session of the Federation Council, the Russian parliament’s upper chamber, on January 30 while his father, Raul Arashukov, was taken into custody in St. Petersburg.
U.S. restrictions against Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA are the worst-case scenario for Maduro’s regime. PDVSA and Russia’s state-run oil giant Rosneft participate in a number of joint mining projects; in addition, the Venezuelan company owes Sechin’s firm a total amount of 3 billion dollars.