Throughout 2020, U.S. companies bought a great deal of crude oil and related products from Russia. Nonetheless, this is a brief situation and has no political background. The United States remains self-sufficient for fuels and the recent increase in imports from Russia stems mostly from its struggle to keep output at a constant level amid the coronavirus pandemic. Importantly, these are just temporary problems.
The Russians are sure to complete the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline on time. As the U.S. administration has not introduced any new sanctions, Russia is going ahead with the construction of its controversial energy link. Construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for carrying Russian natural gas to Europe will be completed this year, Viktor Zubkov, the chairman of Gazprom’s board of directors, said on March 26 while visiting Berlin. Gazprom’s board chairman said that work on Nord Stream 2 was already 92.5 percent complete while intense work was underway to complete the link.
Tensions are on the rise on the frontline in Donbas. Last Friday, on March 26, four Ukrainian soldiers were killed in shelling as Russian forces and pro-Russian separatist fighters opened fire. Among the killed was Lieutenant Colonel Serhiy Koval. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the leaders of the so-called Normandy Format, a diplomatic process involving Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France aimed at resolving the conflict, to tackle the conflict amid the increase in fighting in Donbas.
The arrest and then the removal of the governor of the Penza region on suspicion of taking a bribe suggests a new wave of criminal cases against senior officials in Russia. Right before the election, the Kremlin seeks to accomplish two goals: show people that the government is ruthlessly pursuing high-level corruption cases and discipline local elites ahead of the State Duma vote in September this year. Targeting the governor of Penza shows that even those officials who are most loyal to the Kremlin cannot feel secure in their positions.
Tatyana Voronova, a senior official in the State Duma of the Russian Federation, has got a lucrative job in the private energy giant Novatek. Voronova has long been a protege of Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament. These two in the past worked together in the Kremlin.
The State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, has approved a law that gives the incumbent president the right to run for two more terms. Importantly, the new legislation resets all presidential terms held before the updates came into effect. This means that Vladimir Putin is eligible to serve as Russian president for two more terms once his current one expires.
The Russian government approved a development program for liquefied natural gas (LNG), as earlier prepared by the Ministry of Energy. The paper sets LNG exports as a priority and stipulates the opening of as many as ten new gas liquefaction facilities.
Only recently has it been announced that General Sergey Korolev would become the first deputy director of the Federal Security Service, or FSB. Now it turns out that a former senior officer charged with bribery has made a deal with investigators. Who will he rat out and will this influence the process of appointing a new director of the agency? Nobody knows.
Recent Russian air raids and the rise in Syrian artillery attacks do not mean the resuming of a land offensive in the last rebel-held province. Agreed on months ago, the balance of power in Syria should not see any shifts. Russia still has to observe its deal with Turkey even though it feels mounting pressure from al-Assad to thwart the rebellion by capturing Idlib province.
Tensions are rising in Donbas where three Ukrainian troops were killed in three days. Russian-controlled rebel fighters have rolled out heavy weapons while the Kremlin is taking provoking decisions in occupied Crimea. Many say that new strains between Russia and Ukraine are what Vladimir Putin is looking for, notably over domestic reasons.
Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny never got along with the country’s opposition parties. Their distrust and spats over what strategy to adopt are beneficial for the authorities. The State Duma elections in September will, however, be a challenge for the Kremlin as support for United Russia is dropping.
This is another spying scandal between Bulgaria and Russia. The country’s counterintelligence service and the prosecutor’s office detained six Bulgarians who had access to classified information. One of them is a former high-ranking military intelligence officer accused of being in charge of the spy network. Bulgaria said it was the first time in its recent history that such a ring had been uncovered.
Tensions go high on the frontline in Donbas while the death toll is rising. Both sides accuse each other of provocations and staging a mass-scale offensive. Concluded back in the summer of 2020 and although formally in force, the truce is actually dead now.
The Wagner Group, a private military company, has for years served the Kremlin’s interests across the globe – from Ukraine’s Donbas, through Syria, to African states. Its people usually sustain local regimes and shield the business interests of the company’s top sponsor, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The number of Russian servicemen who died in Syria during the military operation in this country since September 30, 2015, was 112, said Andrei Krasov, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee. The death toll is surprisingly high as officially only the Russian air forces are involved in the war.
The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, known by its Russian acronym SVR, delivered an official message about the internal affairs of a third country. “In Washington, dissatisfaction is growing with the actions of the ruling Georgian Dream party, which is declining to submissively carry out American demands,” according to the statement published on the SVR website.
This is another sign of tightened cooperation between Belarus and Russia, or the higher level of Minsk’s reliance on Moscow. Alexander Lukashenko began shipping his country’s top export commodity, or oil products, through Russian ports after having withdrawn from the more profitable ports in the Baltic States, notably in Lithuania.
Another clash between Saudi Arabia and Russia at the latest meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC countries again ended up with a compromise. Riyadh managed to defend its stance that there should be no risk to boost oil output despite the increase in global oil demand – as this may trigger a decline in crude price.
After a months-long hiatus, General Alexander Bortnikov, the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), finally has the main deputy. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree appointing Colonel-General Sergey Korolev for the post of the first deputy director of the FSB.
Austria’s former foreign minister Karin Kneissl – as another European official – has been chosen for a seat on oil giant Rosneft’s board of directors. In August 2018, the Austrian politician made headlines when she invited Putin to her wedding.