Russia Monitor Articles
Russia’s traditional World War Two victory parade and Vladimir Putin’s speech show that the Kremlin is making efforts to appropriate the historical memory of what the Russian refer to as the Great Patriotic War. Though the Soviet Union––which consisted of multiple nations––fought a war with the Third Reich, now Moscow is making efforts to be the only one associated with this victory. At the same time, this is in line with Putin’s confrontational policy both at home and abroad, toward Western nations. The policy seeks to depict Russia as a besieged fortress being under attack from both the outside and the inside.
Over 500,000 people living in the Russian-occupied part of Ukraine’s Donbas are now Russian citizens. Issuing passports to people is a political tool already tested in some breakaway regions: Moldova’s Transnistria and Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
People in Russia have to spend more on petrol for a couple of months now. State authorities believe this comes from the policy of petrol-producing companies that prefer selling their commodities abroad to leaving them on the domestic market. The government is considering some measures to restrict the export of petrol, but its market-controlling attempts may prove little helpful.
Russia’s biggest oil company Rosneft is planning to spend 50 percent of its 2020 net profit on dividends. In this way, shareholders will have their payout five times lower than the year before. The general shareholders meeting of Rosneft will take place on June 1, 2021, in absentia.
Throughout 2021 Russia’s gas giant Gazprom is planning to spend twice as much to gasify Russian regions as the year before. The company has hurried up to connect customers across the country to the gas grid at the request of Vladimir Putin. Last year the Russian president declared this as one of the top priorities of the state’s social policy.
Senior Russian officials are confirming efforts to prepare the Putin-Biden meeting while at the same time threatening to respond to what they name as Washington’s additional “unfriendly steps.” However, the Kremlin seems very keen on the meeting, which explains its relatively moderate reaction to a fresh batch of U.S. sanctions and perhaps also the decision to pull out some troops from its border with Ukraine.
As Alexey Navalny ended his hunger strike while Russia pulled back its troops from the border with Ukraine, this was enough for Berlin to redisplay its Moscow-friendly policy. Germany’s top officials openly say that Nord Stream 2 should be completed while the country’s foreign minister criticized those in the West who ask for a more resolute stance on the Kremlin.
Only after a week did Czech President Milos Zeman speak to the nation to comment on some reports that the government believed the Russian military intelligence agency had orchestrated the arms depot explosion in Vrbetice in 2014. Zeman, who has often expressed his pro-Russian views and hostility to his country’s counterintelligence service, did Moscow a service with what he announced, sparking a reaction from the state government. The Czech interior minister said that his country is probing into the Vrbetice arms depot explosion as a GRU sabotage scheme despite the president’s words that there are two possible theories on the blast.
The 2014 blast at a munitions depot in the Czech Republic was linked to the Russia-Ukraine war as the arms were reportedly supposed to be sent to the frontline in Donbas. Another link was the attempted assassination of Emilian Gebrev, the Bulgarian arms dealer, in 2015.
New details on a purported plot to kill the Belarusian leader confirm one thing: this is nothing but a provocation made up by Belarusian and Russian services. What Lukashenko said is somewhat unbelievable while any evidence submitted so far seems neither credible nor coherent.
Russia’s largest private natural gas producer seeks to reduce its LNG exports and is planning to add some shifts to its Arctic projects. Novatek––just like another Russian energy giant Gazprom––is looking for some fresh solution as Europe is reviewing its energy strategy by quitting oil and gas. One idea might be to go for ammonia instead of liquefied gas.
Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are among states that on April 22 and 23 said they had declared persona non grata seven Russian diplomats in solidarity with the Czech Republic that accused Russian secret services of being behind a fatal explosion at an arms depot in 2014. The government in Prague urged NATO and the EU to take similar steps against Russian intelligence agents operating under diplomatic cover as those three years ago after the attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal.
Russia’s military and intelligence activities in Moscow-friendly states neighboring the Caribbean Sea raise concern in others as Russia breaks the existing rules. The latest example is a protest note from Colombia whose airspace was violated by a Russian aircraft.
The entire Black Sea Fleet, 15 units of the Caspian Flotilla, 5 units of the Northern Fleet and the Baltic Fleet – the concentration of Russian naval forces in the waters bordering Ukraine translates into a further escalation of tensions in this part of Europe. It’s possible that it is at sea that Moscow is planning the most important part of the operation against Ukraine.