Arresting the Magomedov brothers may be perceived as the revenge of the Rosneft CEO, Igor Sechin, who could have done it for two main reasons. First, he may have been some economic ones as he fought with the owners of the Summa Group because of high charges for handling crude oil in the port of Novorossiysk. The case may also have its political dimension.
The unprecedented in the history of the West action of banishing the Russian secret intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover is a reaction to Sergei Skripal’s poisoning. Seemingly, evidences provided by London are so strong, that even Germany decided to join the retaliatory measures. There is no doubt that it is a big and sad surprise for Moscow, which for years is aiming to divide the West and the EU.
A squadron of the Russian fleet in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea was reinforced in March by another two frigates, including one armed with a Kalibr missile. Moscow claims, that it is only a reaction to the American threats of attacking Damascus.
An Iranian state-owned National Iranian Oil Company signed a contract with a Russian state-controlled Zarubezhneft on the increase of production on two oilfields in the western part of Iran. This is the second deal between Iran and a foreign oil company in compliance with new regulations introduced after the agreement concerning the nuclear program and abolition of restrictions on oil cooperation with Iran.
According to the Russian Constitution a new government is formed after a presidential election. Everything indicates that the new government will be similar to the old one. Dmitry Medvedev is believed to keep his position. However, the political position of the government in Vladimir Putin’s new term will be weaker – and this is for a number of reasons.
Very good financial results in 2017, further foreign investments, development vision and high dividends – this is what Lukoil boasts about encouraging foreign investors. It became symbolic that this private concern managed to overtake Gazprom in terms of capitalization.
When PM Theresa May talked about possible sanctions against Russia for poisoning Sergei Skripal, she mentioned minimising the British dependence on the Russian gas supply. Not less important is the outright objection of the government in London to the Nord Stream 2 project – which is appealed for by a group of British MPs.
Long before the presidential elections in Russia, the Kremlin assumed that it would be preferable for Putin to win 70% of the vote with 70% turnout. And such a plan has actually been put into practice. Even if voter turnout leaves much to be desired, it was possible to award Putin with more than 75% of the vote.
According to unofficial sources, the recent speculations about the changes in investigative structures in Russia might turn out to be true. There is every indication that a new government agency will be established, in which the structures and the investigative powers of the Investigative Committee (SKR), the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Federal Security Service (FSB) will be merged into one.
Shortly after an unsuccessful meeting between representatives of oil companies and the government, Russia’s Ministry of Finance calls again for launching tax reform in the country’s oil sector.
An increase in fiscal burden, a fall of world oil prices and effects of sanctions from the West have a negative influence of the Russian oil sector. The situation has became so severe that the discussions about changes, which will invigorate the production and processing of oil in Russia, have started.
Almost at the same time, the largest Russian oil company lost two important foreign partners. U.S. oil company ExxonMobil is pulling out of a joint venture with Rosneft because of U.S. sanctions against Russia.
The information that a billionaire Oleg Deripaska was granted a Cypriot citizenship reminded of the intensifying practice of buying EU countries’ passports by the Russian regime beneficiaries. It concerns not only Cyprus, but also e.g. Malta.
A decline in Vladimir Putin’s ratings in the biggest cities – where every fourth Russian voter lives in – was connected with the official beginning of the campaign and the occurrence of rivals, but also with a series of bad information for Kremlin, i.a. from Syria.
Everybody in Moscow realises that a maintenance of the Russian occupation in the part of Donbass in a current shape does not bring political dividends and is expensive, instead.
Regardless of whether the perpetrators can be determined, a poison plot against Sergei Skripal seems to affect the image of the Russian state. It seems that a highly poisonous substance the man was exposed may indicate that Moscow had been involved in the attack on the former GRU officer.
For many years, Gazprom has been implementing the strategy of avoiding Ukraine in gas exports to Europe. Such a purpose could be achieved thanks to the Nord Stream pipeline while the Nord Stream 2 and the Turkish Stream projects will allow the Russians to almost completely resign from transit through Ukraine.
This is another bad information for Kremlin coming from Syria. The closer the presidential elections, the more Russian victims of the war, which was officially declared by Vladimir Putin as completed victory in December last year.
A major defeat of Russian state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom in a conflict with Ukraine’s Naftogaz as well as some problems with obtaining financing for such projects as Nord Stream 2 and the Turkish Stream pipeline may eventually weaken the company’s position also against its domestic competitors.
At the very end of the campaign preceding the presidential elections on March 18, Vladimir Putin toughens his rhetoric by acting as the supreme leader of the nation threatened by the internal and external enemies. After his proclamation to the Federal Assembly devoted mainly to external dangers, Putin participated in the expanded FSB meeting.