Russia’s war with Ukraine has entered a phase of rivalry that will force the enemy on the side to accept the location and terms of the next major armed confrontation. Russian forces are making effort to target Ukrainian positions in Donbas while the Ukrainian army has announced a counteroffensive in the Kherson region, possibly to dissuade the enemy from the idea of taking Donbas now when forces are needed along the southern front.
Russian energy giant Rosneft said it has started construction of an Arctic oil terminal at the Bukhta Sever port, part of its huge Vostok Oil project, aimed at facilitating the development of the Northern Sea Route. The project aims to show to what extent the Russian oil sector may resist Western punitive measures.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine scrapped Moscow’s plans to sell its weaponry abroad. Russian forces fall to Ukrainian troops and their Western-made military equipment. In addition, countries seeking to purchase Russian weapons may face U.S. Congress sanctions.
Amendments to the Russian criminal code further engulf the country in a climate of fear, giving the regime tools to persecute journalists and pundits.
Russian Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov went on an African tour that includes Egypt, Congo, Uganda, and Ethiopia, aimed at courting these countries to get more friends and convincing them that Russia was not responsible for the food crisis.
In its annual white paper, the Japanese defense ministry voiced concern about Chinese and Russian belligerent activities worldwide. Worryingly for Japan, Russia could look to “strengthen its relationship with China.” Like many Western countries, Japan blacklisted Russia but is unlikely to quit the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project for energy reasons.
French and Norwegian oil majors TotalEnergies and Equinor quit the Kharyaga oil field in Russia, with their combined 50 percent share to be divested to Zarubezhneft, a state-run energy company.
Moldova has refrained from outright condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with its pro-Western government trying not to tease Kremlin officials. This, however, is unlikely to prevent belligerent Russian behavior. An array of provocations in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria was the first warning and both Ukraine and Moldova were accused of them. Now pro-Russian separatists say they want to join Russia, which is a tough nut to crack for the authorities in Chisinau. What it seems is that playing a neutral card, instead of backing Ukraine and filing for NATO membership, is a big mistake as the authorities in Moldova see a drop in popularity ratings. What might be behind Moldova’s policy is its full reliance on Russian gas and scarce military capabilities.
It seems that the time when Russia sold large amounts of crude to China is slowly coming to an end. But Moscow has little cause for concern as another Asian giant is next to claim Russian crude supplies.
The Hungarian policy that favors Moscow is aimed at Orban’s retaining power amid a worsening economic situation in the country. This is why the Hungarian leader is accusing Western nations and Ukraine of war and austerity. Orban is going to war with Brussels while playing a Hungarian-speaking community in Romania’s Transylvania, seeking friendly ties with Russia to avoid the looming energy disaster. But Orban’s policy will eventually isolate his country, with its staunch allies like Poland turning back. Possibly those that will help Hungary will be just Serbia or other Russian allies.
Ukrainian counterattacks had pushed Russian forces to the east on the easter bank of the Dnipro while Ukrainian forces managed to take back several towns in the Kherson region. In Russian-controlled Kherson, Ukrainian artillery strikes damaged facilities, thus worsening the Russian military standing on the western bank of the Dnipro. Kyiv has announced a major offensive in the country’s south––even if failed, pushing Russian troops to Crimea and eastwards or capturing Kherson is a great achievement for Ukraine while a political and military defeat for Russia.
It has been on since months that Russia could roll out a plan to annex the two “people’s republics,” with Moscow’s objectives extending into the south of Ukraine. According to many sources, Russia would prepare to hold fake plebiscites while Kremlin officials bragged about better living standards in the Russian-occupied regions. What Lavrov said about “different geography” could mean that these regions could indeed hold sham referendums on September 11.
The Kremlin is looking for new troops in a method that does not utilize mandatory military service. The Russian leadership is reluctant to practice conscription for ethnic Russian Slavs, hence continuous efforts how to draw troops into the Russian war.
Russian energy major Rosneft claims to have discovered an 82-million-ton oil field in the Pechora Sea in the Arctic. While many oil analysts speculate that Russia lacks the needed technology to develop offshore Arctic fields, Rosneft boss Igor Sechin assures the country can boost output. The CEO of Rosneft says sanctions are illegal and Western countries will be hit more with a Russian oil embargo.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill expanding the definition of so-called foreign agents. The new law encompasses anyone deemed to have fallen under “foreign influence.” Russia has used its so-called foreign agent laws for the past decade to label and punish critics of government policies. Under the new document, anyone could be registered as a “foreign agent.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 19 held bilateral and trilateral meetings with the leaders of Turkey and Iran and then Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. While traveling to Iran, Putin was keen to show that international sanctions have failed to isolate Russia because Moscow has some powerful allies across the globe.
Russia’s oil revenues rose back despite lower shipments in June 2022 amid a rally in energy prices across the globe. While output is rising, an EU embargo on Russian oil will eventually come to force.
Trading giant Trafigura is continuing to unwind Russian business with the sale of its 10 percent stake in Rosneft’s Vostok Oil project. It sold a stake to an obscure Hong Kong registered purchaser.
Weeks of fighting in Ukraine’s eastern towns of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk just prompted the beginning of the real battle of Donbas. Russian efforts to push back Ukrainian forces from the entire Luhansk region have great propaganda significance, but can hardly be seen as a military success. For weeks now, Russian forces have sought to capture a small area, which affected its military capabilities elsewhere. In addition, many Russian soldiers were killed. Ukrainian troops had enough time to build a new line of defenses in Donbas. A real battle is yet to come.