At a joint meeting of the operators of the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline, Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft informed that the oil pollution was intentional. Belarussian refineries were made to halve oil production due to high levels of organic chloride detected in oil while Polish and Ukrainian operators halted oil transit.
A top Russian FSB official in charge in the banking sphere has recently been arrested along with two fellow officers holding positions in the same department. Their detainments may be part of a large-scale operation against Ivan Tkachev, the head of the FSB’s Department K. Also, these activities might have been commissioned by a Lubyanka influential officer, reportedly close to the Rotenberg brothers.
Copenhagen’s latest declaration to delay granting permission for the construction of the Nord Stream 2 in Denmark’s exclusive economic zone in the Baltic is bound to translate into a delayed implementation of the project. After a Russian-Ukrainian gas transit contract expires at the end of 2019, Gazprom will be prevented from lessening the amount of gas exported to Europe through the Ukrainian pipeline network.
A recent poll showed a negative tendency for the Russian regime, revealing the fall in Putin’s popular support and giving no prospects for enhancing the public image of the president. The Kremlin has yet much time to reverse the unfavorable trend, though. The problem is that the present-day slump in Putin’s approval ratings differs from comparable periods under his rules in the past.
Russia’s largest oil company Rosneft has recently made a formal offer to make the country’s Northern Sea Route a strategically important and economically viable maritime shipping lane. Its development should be partially possible thanks to Rosneft’s increased mining activity in Russia’s Far North. Sechin’s firm has declared its readiness to invest in the Arctic provided that it gains solid guarantees from the Kremlin.
Russian Defense Ministry has declared its plans to boost its military buildup in the Baltic part of the Western Military District. Although Moscow claimed such intention to serve as a defensive response to the Alliance’s activity in the Baltic region, both composition and deployment of Russian forces may imply their aptness to be used in the event of a war.
Russia’s Baltic LNG has recently experienced a sudden and radical change in the line-up of partners committed to implementing the gas project. Russia’s state-owned Gazprom has removed its European partner from a joint investment, yet welcoming a firm run by the Rotenberg brothers.
North Korean leader will meet the Russian president for the first time, which is what seems most important about the negotiations scheduled to take place in the Russian city of Vladivostok. Yet no one should expect any groundbreaking conclusions to be made during the summit, a fact that even Kremlin officials seem aware of. This event should, however, be viewed in a general context of Russian-U.S. relations.
Russia is set to finalize by the end of April a deal to lease Syria’s sea port of Tartus for 49 years while the upcoming round of peace talks within the framework of Astana Format is scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan. Both these topics have been covered during recent discussions held between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a Russian delegation.
Traditionally, the annual Moscow Conference on International Security serves as a forum for revealing anti-Western rhetoric. Seen in a way as a competitive event to the Munich conference, the summit was attended by Russia’s allies from all over the world. Participants of the conference voiced sharp criticism over NATO’s activities, including its latest efforts to strengthen its eastern flank.
Vladimir Putin pledged his intention to abolish military conscription in Russia, yet saying that both time and sufficient funds will be necessary to carry out such a revolution. Putin’s declaration is “nothing new under the sun” as the Russian leader has reemphasized his commitment at least several times. None of these promises have been kept so far as the Russian army’s professionalization has emerged as an impractical undertaking.
Kirill Seleznev, a close associate of Gazprom’s CEO Alexey Miller and Director General of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz, has been relieved of his post as a Gazprom board member. Seleznev’s dismissal may emerge as an outcome of the infamous Arashukov case, having links to the recent decision to relieve Chechnya’s gas debts. He is the fourth member of Gazprom’s management board to have been sacked over the past few weeks.
Nuclear drills carried out by Russia near Norway’s Lofoten archipelago confirms Moscow’s intention to expand its military activities to the Norwegian Sea, able to pose a threat to NATO strategic maritime corridor running through the UK, Iceland, and Greenland. Oslo has been aware of a growing threat from Russia while boosting its military forces in northern Norway for the fear of land-attack operations from the Russian Kola Peninsula.
Although the Sudanese army has seized power in the country, this has not put an end to social unrest that sparked a few months before. Sudan’s dictator Omar al-Bashir has been put under house arrest while the opposition did not allow a military junta to assume power in the country. Bashir’s political demise may thus put an end to Moscow’s hopes for making Sudan its strategic stronghold in East Africa.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Russia for his third meeting (and second in Moscow) this year with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. During his trip, the Turkish head of state confirmed his intention to purchase Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system despite the mounting pressure from both Washington and NATO allied countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has outlined general plans for the Arctic expansion. Speaking at the International Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg, Putin committed to developing naval ports and routes while expanding the energy sector (LNG) and the Northern Sea Route as a safe and economically viable route for international maritime shipping.
Facing the pressure from Russia’s major oil producers, with state-run Rosneft at the forefront, the government will probably be likely to boost production starting from the middle of the year.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visit to Moscow five days before parliamentary elections, confirmed Vladimir Putin’s interest in keeping the Israeli politician in power. Also, the Russian army has recently discovered in Syria the remains of an Israeli soldier missing since the 1982 Lebanon War.
Investments led by Russian Novatek are backed both by the Kremlin and regional authorities. The company’s plans to set up further LNG facilities in the Russian Far North is to serve purposes like: increase LNG output in the country and provide an economic stimulus to the areas located in the close neighborhood of the Northern Sea Route.
According to the Russian media and a certain group of politicians, Moscow may potentially deny recognizing the final results of the recent presidential election in Ukraine. Such a scenario seems more likely if Petro Poroshenko is elected for his second term of office yet from the Kremlin’s perspective, none of the two competitors who have entered the second round is favorable for Russia’s interests.