Russia Monitor Articles
In just a few days, a local row over the upcoming elections for the Moscow City Duma became what was called Russia’s most important political problem. But contrary to what some commentators believe, this recent turmoil does not act to the detriment of the regime. Much indicates that Russia’s authorities seem to have sought to escalate the Moscow crisis, or at least such was an intention of those who opt for a tightening course in domestic policy.
Speaking at Russia’s Navy Day festivities, Russian President Vladimir Putin said nothing new: he stressed his country’s military power and declared further buildup. Attending the main celebrations in St. Petersburg, the Russian leader received the parade of warships. Large-class festivities were also held in other main ports in the country. But this overly optimistic image of Russian naval forces does not correspond with the reality. Russia’s navy shares its fate with other types of the state’s armed forces.
Bilateral ties between Paris and Moscow are now getting stronger than ever. The June meeting between French and Russian heads of government will be soon followed by a high-level visit to France by a Russian leader. French President Emmanuel Macron said that he will receive Vladimir Putin for talks at the Fort de Brégançon summer residency on August 19, a few days before hosting the G7 heads of state meeting in the French city of Biarritz.
Russia is now playing a strategy of constructing two energy pipelines – Nord Stream 2 in the north and Turkish Stream in the south – to bypass Ukraine while exporting gas supplies to the West. The pipeline was set to become operational after Russian-Ukraine gas transit deal expired in early 2020. But Bulgaria’s section of the natural gas pipeline extension into Europe may not kick off as initially scheduled, while Gazprom has recently encountered a major problem in the south, specifically in the Balkans.
Austria has issued international arrest warrant for a Russian man named Igor Zaitsev. He is believed to be linked to the case against a retired Austrian military officer who was identified as a suspect who spied for Russia. Austria has ordered an arrest of a man to whom it referred as Russian military intelligence officer.
Russia’s largest private natural gas extractor and liquefied natural gas (LNG) producer Novatek has entrusted a new subcontractor with building gas liquefaction facilities for Arctic LNG 2, its second LNG project to be developed in the Arctic. The Russian company inked a $7.6 billion deal with TechnipFMC, a global leader in subsea, onshore/offshore, and surface projects.
Russia played on time before holding talks on compensating all losses incurred by crude recipients for contaminated oil flows injected into the Druzhba pipeline system. This reaction probably stems from a Russian internal clash between the country’s largest oil producer Rosneft and oil pipeline monopoly Transneft. The latter has recently made a unilateral decision to define the maximum compensation for tainted crude supplies.
For the second time in less than two months, Gazprom recorded a remarkable leap in value in one trading session. On July 25, the company’s shares on the Moscow Stock Exchange increased by 6 percent in a few hours, reaching nearly 300 billion roubles. This time, investors rushed to purchase Gazprom’s securities alarmed by speculation that unknown investors could buy a block of shares from subsidiaries of the concern.
A row over the reasons for the Druzhba pipeline contamination crisis gave rise to an open conflict between Russia’s biggest crude producer and the country’s oil pipeline monopoly. But what was initially seen as nothing more than just leveling mutual accusations has gone beyond a typical business quarrel between two large firms.
German exports to Russia are still growing while the construction of the Nord Stream 2 energy pipeline is advancing despite joint efforts made by its opponents. Participants of the Petersburg Dialogue forum therefore have good reasons to be pleased with the outcomes of the meeting. Russian-German top-level political ties are becoming better and better, as proved by the first meeting since the annexation of Crimea held between Russia’s and Germany’s foreign ministers at the sidelines of the Russian-German forum.
In the final stretch to the upcoming parliamentary runoff in Ukraine, the Kremlin has boosted its activities, as exemplified by the meeting with the leader of Ukraine’s pro-Russian opposition party, developing a fast-track passport procedure in Donbas or a tough stance on releasing the Ukrainian seamen. By doing so, Moscow hopes to make a powerful pro-Russian camp enter a new Verkhovna Rada.
Russian oil production collapsed in early July, dragged by decreasing output from Rosneft, the country’s largest crude producer. And this stems from the firm’s limited exports capabilities following the Druzhba pipeline contamination crisis, resulting in both from equipment failure and a restrictive policy pursued by the Russian state-owned oil pipeline operator Transneft.
Shortly after Vladimir Putin took the oath of office for his next term as Russian president, many speculated what the Kremlin’s host would be able to do in a bid to remain in power after his two consecutive terms expire in 2024. Under one of many theories that have recently resonated in the media, Putin could serve as a prime minister, however enjoying greater powers, a shift possible thanks to changing election rules.
A few weeks have passed since a major failure of the Druzhba oil pipeline and there is still no answer to the three key issues. First of all, the system has not yet been fully cleaned up. Secondly, Russia has still not decided to compensate foreign recipients for all losses incurred. And thirdly, investigators are probing into who is to be blamed for and, while new suspects are coming up, this does not answer the question whose fault it was.