Since the beginning of the war in Donbas, Russia has depicted the conflict as a Ukrainian civil war. In addition, the Kremlin consequently denies being a party to the ongoing conflict. Yet its recent decisions amid the upcoming State Duma elections and the fight against the coronavirus pandemic clearly show that one-third of Donbas, or so-called “people’s republics,” is in fact subordinated, or controlled, by the Kremlin. Ukraine’s government has banned the registration of Sputnik V in the country.
Russia was the world’s second-biggest crude oil producer in the first five months of 2021 only to the United States, according to data from Rosstat, the Federal Statistics Service.
The coastal defense missile systems Bal and Bastion were developed to ensure Russia’s control of the Gulf of Finland––and so was the purpose of similar complexes installed in Crimea nearby Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Intimidating enemies with missile defense systems is in line with Russia’s long-running strategy to build up the Western Military District, notably its positions in the Baltic Sea.
The 16th meeting of the Astana trio – made up of Turkey, Russia, and Iran – on Syria took place in July in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan. They all vowed to continue their fight against the Islamic State (IS) and other Syrian-based “rebel groups.” The new round of Astana Syria talks took place amid conflicting interests both Moscow and Ankara have on Syrian soil.
Russian oil producer Tatneft is ready to resume oil production in Libya and the company’s specialists are already working on this matter locally. Furthermore, not only does the giant wish to restart work abandoned as hostilities broke out in the country, but it is also looking for new opportunities for exploration. The Libyan government is encouraging Russian companies to come back to the country, seeking to rebuild economic ties both states had enjoyed in the Gaddafi era.
Armenia opted for an alliance with Russia, hoping that Moscow would protect it against the fall of the Soviet Union and taking control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region alongside neighboring Azerbaijani enclaves. For decades, Russia has been the sole, albeit disloyal, ally of Yerevan, as was the case last fall when Armenia suffered defeat in the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. At that time, Turkey was actively supporting Azerbaijan. Russia did not offer its support to Armenia but responded with diplomatic measures only when the ex-Soviet country was about to surrender. Russian troops were deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh to secure the deal. Being under pressure from both Azerbaijan and Turkey, Armenia is more prone to agree on a bigger Russian presence. And that was what Moscow was about.
Russian passport holders in parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists will be able to vote in the Russian parliamentary elections in September. According to a resolution adopted by Russia’s Central Election Commission on July 20, any person willing to do so will have to register and cast their vote online. This is a step towards incorporating Donbas and part of the Kremlin’s part to improve the election result of the ruling party.
At least two large-scale military drills between Russia and its partners near the Afghan border serve as a wake-up call to the Taliban. Although the Taliban told Moscow they would not invade Russia’s Central Asian allies, for the Kremlin, it is better safe than sorry. It is also important for Russia to reassure its allies hence Moscow’s decision to perform drills in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Moscow is involved in military drills in Central Asia, pledging support to its allies in case of Islamist aggression from the south. At the same time, the Russian foreign ministry praised the Taliban for their territorial gains in northern Afghanistan, labeling them as a stabilizing factor. This is not an obstacle to maintain friendly ties with the government in Kabul or to suggest the United States could somewhat use Russian facilities in Central Asia. Moscow is making efforts to carve out a robust position in Afghanistan once the civil war is over in the country.
Anti-government protests in Cuba pose a challenge to Russia. If the Communist regime collapsed, Moscow would lose a crucial ally in Latin America and its security foothold where the Kremlin enjoys influence, too.
Tensions go high along the demarcation line in Donbas while there are more and more cases of the exchange of fire, with an increase in the number of wounded Ukrainian soldiers. In addition, Russia reportedly amasses heavy weaponry in the areas controlled by Moscow-loyal fighters. If the Kremlin launches a new offensive against Ukraine this summer, the eastern region of Donbas will certainly serve a pivotal role in the conflict.
An annual parade of warships in the port city of St. Petersburg is traditionally intended to showcase Russia’s military strength. Nonetheless, this does not seem so for the country’s navy as Russia still lags far behind some world powers, including the United States as well as the United Kingdom and China. This year, Putin used a Navy Day parade to deliver his latest reminder of Russia’s military muscle and its successful attempts to develop new weapons, also cutting-edge hypersonics.
Russian-made military equipment and weapons are relatively cheap so they attract a great deal of interest in less wealthy countries, for instance in Africa. The MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon has turned out to be a tremendous opportunity to promote Russian military hardware and thus make inroads into the continent’s defense market.
A U.S.-German deal on the Russian natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 deals a blow to the energy security of Eastern Europe, notably Ukraine, whose military security is at stake, too. As the Joe Biden administration is making new concessions to Russia while France and Germany show a Moscow-friendly attitude, Vladimir Putin feels encouraged to take further aggressive action, also militarily. At the same time, the deal offers no security guarantee to Kyiv.
Russia is keeping up with the espionage and diplomatic war it has waged against Western states. This time Moscow hit Estonia, and more precisely its St. Petersburg-based consul. The incident resembles a provocation staged against a Ukrainian consul a few months ago. Russian counterintelligence outlets thus can take similar steps to target Russian-based diplomats of any state that Moscow recognizes as hostile.
Oil producers agreed to increase production at a July 18 meeting by 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) from August. The decision will be beneficial to Russia since its daily oil output is projected to rise by 500,000 barrels beginning in May 2022. The two previous OPEC+ meetings were called off as the United Arab Emirates rejected a proposal.
Russia is violating truce in the east of Ukraine as tensions are on the rise on the frontline since late June. Despite the deal in force for a year now, Russian forces and pro-Russian rebels keep firing at Ukrainian positions. The Ukrainian army saw some casualties; there were some wounded, too.
Moscow has for years had its strategic goal to break up the European Union. The Kremlin is now struggling to take advantage of a row inside the EU over the bloc’s policy towards Russia. This has been confirmed by top-level political relations between France and Russia and the corruption of the French political elite.
Russia offers comprehensive assistance to Belarus, notably when the European Union introduces sanctions on Lukashenko’s regime, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on July 1. Putin and Lukashenko first had a phone call and then met at the Forum of Regions of Russia and Belarus via video conference.
The Russian president once again confirmed how painful it is for him to see Ukraine decide for itself and not yield to Moscow’s pressure. Addressing the nation during an annual televised call-in show, Putin came back to an old rhetoric that Ukrainians were not a separate nation, attacking the pro-Western government in Kyiv and claiming the country was “managed from the outside”.