Russian conscripts will soon be able to sign contracts with the Federal Security Service, or the FSB. On May 17, the State Duma adopted a draft law in its first reading. Its updated versions will help the FSB add more specialists to the staff, according to Russian lawmakers. In fact, this just shows to what extent Russian power structures quarrel over staff. It also signals a decrease in the quality of Russian military staff for whom educational requirements have been lowered. The bill is little beneficial for the Russian army. The FSB could take its staff, also in the middle of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when staff shortages are acute.
The European Union has agreed on the sixth sanctions package that immediately cuts Russian oil imports to the bloc. As many as 87 percent of the polled entrepreneurs have been affected by sanctions imposed on Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine. Most of them say they have adapted to the new real, but some are struggling to run business in Russia.
While in Ukraine’s Donbas, Russian forces are following the same strategy as they did in Syria. Many officers have fought in the Middle Eastern country. Instead of simultaneous pursuit of multiple goals, the Russians have picked one goal and are now sparing no efforts to achieve it. Only after completing one, another goal could be identified. Although it has little propaganda effect, the strategy is actually efficient.
The collapse in Russia’s oil output is inevitable, according to Russian officials and oil companies. In May, Russia is recovering after a robust decline in oil output and exports in March and April. Despite more modest production and fewer supplies abroad in 2022, Russia does not forecast any decline in profits, which is due to high tariffs.
Russian gas giant Gazprom said on May 26 its board was recommending a dividend of 52.53 roubles per share on its 2021 results. The company added an annual general meeting of shareholders is due to approve the dividend on June 30. The 2021 gas crisis was beneficial for the Russian gas giant and so is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Gas prices are still high while most EU countries still buy Russian-sourced gas even in forced to pay in roubles.
As Western nations are imposing sanctions on Russian oil while the EU is seeking to ban Russian crude totally, Moscow is looking for new market opportunities. It targets Asian countries that eagerly buy oil at record discounts.
The authorities in Belgrade have consistently refused to impose sanctions on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, Serbia wants to join the European Union and has more robust economic ties with the bloc than Russia. But what changes the whole picture is political and security-related considerations. Moscow is throwing support to Serbia’s revisionist efforts and plays a leading role in the nation’s energy industry.
Western sanctions against Russia have stricken the number top source of revenue to the federal budget. As more Western nations ban Russian oil, it is not enough for Russia to open up to new markets, including India’s, to maintain current output levels.
Igor Dodon, a former president of Moldova, is a Putin ally. The criminal case against him, paired with corruption and treason charges, could shake the already fragile political landscape in Chisinau. Targeting a pro-Russian Moldovan party leader at this time might not be incidental. Efforts to neutralize a domestic threat amid provocations in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria could now be the best solution for Moldova’s pro-Western authorities.
Despite mounting pressure from military veterans and experts, the Kremlin is pursuing its strategy in the war against Ukraine. Moscow can afford months of conflict. But the regime––just in case––allows for some critical comments to know what those most interested in waging the war think about it.
Russia simplified the procedure for issuing passports to Ukrainian people living in Russian-occupied regions. This is another piece of evidence for Russian efforts to occupy the Kherson region and most of the Zaporizhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions to formally add them to the Russian Federation. Russia deploys its administration there and introduces its currency while the Russian army is taking fortified positions in Moscow-occupied southern Ukrainian regions.
Out of a sudden, Germany’s governing parties plan to strip former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of his office and staff after he maintained and defended his long-standing ties with Russia. He has come under increasing pressure from media outlets and other politicians, notably those of the CDU. Now they all suddenly found outrageous what had been known for years–––the German ex-leader used his reputation to stage lobby for Russian interests.
India buys the most Russian weapons in the world. According to SIPRI’s data, the country has bought $25 billion worth of military equipment in the last decade, which is four times more than what India spent on U.S.-made hardware. It is key to curb Russia-India cooperation that affects the Indian stance on the war in Ukraine.
With their attacks on the town of Popasna, Russian forces possibly seek to cut off the Severodonetsk-based Ukrainian battalion on the Donets River from the rest of the country. Perhaps the Russians would cut Ukrainian forces off between the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. But what is advantageous to Ukrainian is the geographical location of the northern wing, where the swampy valley of the Donets River is a major obstacle for Russian battalions.
Gazprom’s halted gas deliveries to Bulgaria and perhaps soon Moldova made eastern Balkan countries look for some alternatives. One could be an increased flow of liquefied natural gas (LNG) through Greek terminals, currently under construction. Another might consist in expanding gas facilities to deliver more gas from Azerbaijan. In addition, Romania says it will produce much gas once it starts extracting from the Black Sea shelf. The easiest and fastest solution is the second of them, though. Greece-based LNG terminals will be operational in a year and a half. It is only in four years that Romania is poised to become a gas exporter.
The leader of Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia set July 17 as a date for a referendum on joining Russia. Anatoliy Bibilov, who has been the de facto president of South Ossetia, yet lost to his top challenger who is against a vote on whether or not to join Russia. The sham referendum is a headache for Russia, being an obstacle to rapprochement efforts made by Georgia’s ruling party. If the Kremlin is seeking to please Putin, it could be through claiming some Caucasian regions from Georgia while possibly ripping some lands from Ukraine.
Russian forces once again shifted their military strategy in Donbas. As Ukrainian troops claimed success in the region, Moscow lowered its expectations. Many signs are that Russian forces will seek to encircle the Ukrainian military in Severodonetsk though to a smaller extent than intended.
Frustrated at the failure of Russia’s army to quickly defeat Ukraine and Western sanctions against Moscow, the Kremlin is making efforts to consolidate its grip on the regions. Russian President Vladimir Putin made his supporters acting governors of five regions while much is now said about eliminating popular regional elections across the country.
The Ukrainian offensive near Kharkiv, which started in early May, is the first large-scale operation Kyiv started since the war has broken out. Indeed, Ukrainian forces recaptured considerable areas in the country’s north and northeast from where Russian troops had withdrawn. By their successful assault east of Kharkiv and some earlier efforts throughout the region, Ukrainian forces show their attempts to seize areas in the south are not just an empty boast.
Kyiv halted the use of a major transit route blaming interference by occupying Russian forces, the first time exports via Ukraine have been disrupted since the invasion. Kyiv says Russia intensifying its assault with attacks reported on oil facilities. The goal is to curb the fuel supplies available and cripple the whole economy.