Russia Monitor Articles
Wagner fighters will likely continue to redeploy from Russia to eastern Belarus in the coming month as the mercenary group has announced the closure of its Molkino military range in the Krasnodar region. Three weeks after a failed mutiny against Russia’s military leadership, the Kremlin and Wagner came to terms on how to handle Prigozhin’s assets.
In June, Pakistan received its first-ever cargo of Russian crude oil in two batches containing 100,000 tons of oil each. Pakistan may use Chinese yuan to pay for discounted Russian crude oil, beneficial for the two countries. Energy cooperation between Moscow and Islamabad has just been inaugurated. Interestingly, the United States has accepted the idea of shipping Russian oil to energy-starved and dollar-strapped Pakistan.
The lower house of Russia’s parliament said it had voted to give its initial backing to legislation that will allow the Defense Ministry to sign contracts with suspected or convicted criminals to fight in Ukraine. People convicted of sexual crimes, treason, terrorism, or extremism would not be able to sign up.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered all “volunteer units” involved in Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine to sign such contracts by the end of June to standardize Russian forces. The decree was in fact another chapter of a running feud between Shoigu and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the notorious Wagner mercenary group.
In May 2023, Moscow’s crucial oil and gas revenues were lower by 33 percent compared to last year. The reason was lower prices amid Western sanctions and fewer gas supplies to Europe. Moscow is running low on windfall profits due to a spike in hydrocarbon prices shortly after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s Lukoil informed that its net profit rose by 24.3 percent from last year. Shareholders approved the company’s final dividend. Meanwhile, the Russian oil company is withdrawing from Europe while seeking to invest in other markets across the globe. After Lukoil completed its oil refinery sale in Italy in early May, now the Russian oil producer is nearing to sell its assets in Romania and Moldova while showing interest in Central Asia.
Russia’s State Duma adopted a bill that grants authorities the power in certain cases to confiscate Russian conscripts’ foreign passports or declare them invalid. Russian lawmakers thus seek to prevent military personnel and fresh conscripts from fleeing the country. However, the law will not take effect until the autumn call-up.
Russian state-run gas firm Gazprom has seen a massive drop in net profits last year amid Western sanctions and its withdrawal from some major markets. Russia’s oil companies are in a far better situation, including Rosneft that saw a record-high increase in its net profit in Q1 2023.
Tensions are mounting between Saudi Arabia and Russia on OPEC oil production cuts. Riyadh has grown increasingly frustrated with the fact that recent oil cuts failed to boost prices. One of the reasons is Russia whose oil exports have grown despite declarations to curb output. Moscow also said it would oppose further cuts in production.
Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum is the first European country to have terminated a contract to buy natural gas from Gazprom Export via pipelines from Russia. Other European companies, which still hold legal supply deals with Gazprom, might follow suit.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said the transfer of some tactical nuclear weapons from Russia to Belarus had begun. Earlier the Kremlin informed Moscow had signed documents on placing Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, as announced a few weeks before. Handing out nuclear weapons to Belarus will not change the security situation in the region as Russia has deployed such weapons in its exclave of Kaliningrad. It is just a political game.
Russian oil firm Tatneft and National Oil Corporation (NOC) of Libya said they had successfully drilled a well on an oil block of Libya’s Ghadames Basin, some 330 kilometers south of Tripoli. This might be a step towards restoring Russian oil production in a divided African country although oil firms are unlikely to get involved to the same extent as before the fall of Gaddafi.
The U.S. has made efforts to curb what it says are Wagner’s destabilizing activities. Washington accused the Russian private army of trying to obscure its efforts to acquire military equipment for use in Ukraine.
Anti-Putin militia entered the western Russian region of Belgorod not to seize Russian territory or dismantle Russian forces. The aim was to exert psychological pressure on Russia in four aspects. First, that was to show that the regime was incapable of protecting its territory while continuing an assault on Ukraine. Secondly, it was a reminder that among the Russians some oppose Putin and his regime. Third, it was designed to deflect Moscow’s attention from the front line where a Ukrainian counteroffensive is drawing near. Last but not least, the incursion sought to cover claims that the eastern city of Bakhmut was under Russian control after months of heavy battle.