The UK’s diplomatic offensive has taken Moscow aback, as evidenced by the Kremlin’s response to London’s plan to broaden the scope of sanctions on Russia. It was followed by some strong declarations from Boris Johnson ahead of his visit to Kyiv and reports of the creation of a trilateral British-Polish-Ukrainian alliance.
Russian state-run gas company Gazprom informed about the cost of gas transit through Belarus, which is a tenth of the revenue from gas deliveries to consumers across Belarus.
Faced with criticism from countries worldwide and U.S. pressure, Berlin slightly adjusted its stance to sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas link if Russia attacked Ukraine. Yet the German government has not made a final decision on the pipeline while the ruling SPD party is in favor of completing the gas link.
In February, Russia’s Transneft will decrease its oil deliveries from European ports into EU countries by 14 percent. Among those most targeted will be the Baltic states, Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Gazprom Neft plans to boost hydrocarbon production by almost a third, the company’s CEO Alexander Dyukov said. Nonetheless, Russia is no longer able to keep pace with the OPEC+ supply deal.
All eyes of Russian oil and gas companies are now on East Siberia, which is the only remaining part of the country that is rich in easily extractable hydrocarbons. At the same time, oil firms are forced to look for new deposits as they have no chance to meet the declared targets once confronted with available resources.
Vessels of Russia’s Northern Fleet have completed anti-submarine drills in the Norwegian Sea, the Russian defense ministry said on January 31. This is yet another manifestation of Russian naval drills: the country’s vessels left their bases to practice warfare in many places around the world.
Russian energy company Gazprom Export announced a record high export volume of natural gas to Turkey via the Blue Stream gas pipeline in 2021. The gas giant said this stemmed from growing demand. This highlights Moscow’s political purpose in cutting gas flows into the EU for the past six months.
Southern Ukraine is particularly vulnerable to a Russian attack. First, a massive military force is stationed in Russian-occupied Crimea. Secondly, Russia enjoys an overwhelming advantage at sea. Possibly the Kremlin will block the Kerch Strait and sea routes running to Ukrainian sea ports west of Crimea, notably Odesa. A non-military blockade could eventually bring the Ukrainian economy to its knees.
Recent days brought more reports that Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine may begin in Donbas. Russia has started a military buildup in what is known as people’s republics and is now laying the political groundwork for an armed intervention in southeastern Ukraine.
Russia does not want a new round of talks on Ukraine and NATO. Nonetheless, after some harsh statements from Russian officials and Moscow’s belligerent actions, including its military dispatch to Belarus, Russia is now mitigating its recent demands. This is evidenced by the statement from Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who said what would satisfy Moscow in its negotiations on NATO and Ukraine.
Moldova’s gas distribution company, Moldovagaz, says it has paid Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom for natural gas supplied in December 2021. By January 20, 2022, the company has to make a down payment for this month’s gas bill. But the price of Russian gas has risen since the beginning of this year, making Moldova unable to pay its commodity bill and forcing the country to ask Gazprom for an extension. If no agreement is reached, Russia may again cut off its gas supplies to Moldova.
Talks in the Normandy format, which brings together Ukrainian, Russian, German, and French officials to help end the conflict in Donbas, have stalled. It is painful for Moscow whose top officials expected that Berlin and Paris would force Kyiv into putting the Minsk agreements into practice. As the Kremlin is seeking to turn to Washington to solve the problem, Ukraine is looking for some balance, highlighting the importance of the Normandy format. What poses a bigger threat to Kyiv is a pile of potential concessions from the Joe Biden administration.
One of two undersea fiberoptic cables which provide vital internet connection and communications links between mainland Norway and the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean was put out of action on January 7. The new chief of the UK defense staff told Russia any attempt by submarines at damage would be treated as act of war. In recent months, Russian vessels have been active close to cables linking the United States and Europe.
Failed diplomatic talks with NATO and the United States did not mitigate Moscow’s belligerent stance. The Kremlin keeps escalating tensions instead. The Russians are scrambling pieces of military hardware, including its Iskander missile launchers, from Siberia westwards, while demanding the West not to deploy weapons to Ukraine.
A recent round of diplomatic talks did not influence the military. While in talks with the United States and NATO, Russia kicked off military drills near the Ukrainian border. Western and Ukrainian officials still believe that the threat of war remains high, especially after the failed talks in Geneva, Brussels, and Vienna.
Russian-led forces have begun their gradual withdrawal from Kazakhstan, the Russian defense ministry informed. No details are known how long the pullout will take and whether any Russian troops will stay in Kazakhstan. Importantly, Moscow and ex-Soviet nations deployed more than 2,000 to help Kazakh officials not to stop the revolution, but to consolidate Tokayev’s grip on power against people close to Nursultan Nazarbayev.
A meeting of top U.S. and Russian diplomats has not produced any tangible results. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov were tasked with outlining proposals and expectations. Nonetheless, what both said after the meeting could hint at some future conclusions.
It is not only about deploying hundreds of Russian military personnel to Kazakhstan, but a great deal of political support the Kremlin threw to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The Kazakh president will pay for it later. In consequence, Kazakhstan is becoming a Russian vassal, being no longer its independent ally.
What Western and Russian officials say just before a round of talks in Geneva, Brussels, and Vienna highlights the firm positions of the two sides. The talks seem unlikely to bring a breakthrough so Russia is likely to push on Ukraine every harder than now. The latest statements by the Russian deputy foreign minister show that Moscow is ready for the fiasco and is thus upping the ante beforehand.