In the last week of October, some Russian regions entered a lockdown. The nationwide shutdown is in force since October 30 and is expected to end on November 7 to stop a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths. But as the Russians are reluctant to get vaccinated, these measures will be short to stop the pandemic.
Russia is seeking to prevent the return of U.S. and NATO troops to Central Asia. On October 27, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on former Soviet republics in Central Asia “not to allow a military presence of U.S. and NATO forces which plan to move there after leaving Afghan territory.” However, it is unlikely that the U.S. Army will set its foot in any of the post-Soviet republics.
Russian state oil major Rosneft is developing a new strategy centered on the transition to renewable energy resources, CEO Igor Sechin said at the 14th Eurasian Economic Forum. Sechin also said that Rosneft had invested more than $580 million in green energy in 2020 and that it had reduced the volume of pollutants it released into the atmosphere by 14 percent.
The Moldovan government and Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom said on October 29 they have agreed to extend a contract for Russian natural gas supplies for a period of five years. It is said off-the-record that the price formula suits more the Moldovan side. It is little surprising that Moscow eventually reduced its expectations as Gazprom cannot afford to halt supplies to Moldova as Russian-sourced gas powers some utility plants in the Moscow-loyal breakaway region of Transnistria.
Trading firm Vitol closed a deal to buy large supplies of crude oil from Russia’s biggest oil firm Rosneft. The Russian giant signed a preliminary agreement to sell a 5 percent stake in Vostok Oil to a consortium that includes Vitol and planned to finalize the deal this fall.
The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 combat drone has been deployed at Donbas by the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation for the first time, the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement. The drone targeted the positions of pro-Russian insurgents on October 26. The incident has been met with criticism from Moscow.
The Belarusian dictator claimed that Poland had moved tanks to the border as part of its response to thousands of illegal crossings in what he named as an excuse to “bring troops closer to the Belarusian borders.” This is ridiculous but a handy cover-up for Lukashenko to invite more Russian soldiers to Belarus.
The Russia-China strategic cooperation is intensifying as evidenced by their joint drills in the Sea of Japan and their patrols including 109 vessels transiting twice between the islands of Japan.
Russian energy giant Gazprom is trying to force Moldova into signing a new contract to purchase gas at eye-watering prices. Russia is taking advantage of a gas monopoly by exerting pressure on Moldova and restricting its gas flows to the country. The government in Chisinau is hoping that the EU and Ukraine helps the country while the Moldova gas crisis shows the danger of becoming fully reliant on Russian energy commodities.
Russia cut almost all remaining ties with the North Atlantic Alliance for the expulsion of Russian diplomats, who were allegedly working as intelligence officers. Moscow is now fueling its rhetoric targeting the Western military alliance. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has described relations with Russia as hitting a new low since the end of the Cold War. Russia’s policy confirms that Moscow sees the alliance as the biggest obstacle to its belligerent deeds. Hitting the military bloc fits into the Kremlin’s long-lasting strategy consisting of crippling or breaking up the transatlantic bloc.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Sochi for talks in which these two focused on what their countries had in common. It was an important meeting for the Israeli official. Bennett is seeking to keep cordial ties Putin and Netanyahu had maintained for many years. A bridge between the former prime minister and his successor is Minister Zeev Elkin, an Israeli specialist in Russia affairs.
State authorities in Kosovo said the two diplomats at Russia’s liaison office to Kosovo were ordered to leave the country. As the office is closely linked to the Russian embassy in Belgrade, the expulsion could have been due to renewed tensions between Kosovo and Serbia. Russia and Serbia are allies; furthermore, Moscow does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state while Russian intelligence outlets have been involved in many joint operations with Serbian operatives in this Balkan country.
Turkish authorities have arrested six men on charges of alleged plans to attack Chechen opposition activists residing in Turkey. Four of the purported hitmen are Russian citizens. All signs are that the operation was staged to take revenge on critics of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya.
The epidemiological situation in Russia is worsening every single day. New restrictions come far too late while the country is likely to see a renewed surge in cases and deaths. Russian health minister says the virus has already overwhelmed the country’s hospitals. Those to be blamed are state authorities who have neglected the pandemic for months now while failing to encourage people to vaccinate.
Moldova is now on the verge of a gas crisis after Russia imposed exorbitant conditions for gas supplies. Gazprom seeks to repeat the same scenario in Romania. In addition, Russia is waging an information campaign involving ambassadors and President Putin himself to force the EU, now in the middle of an energy crisis, into concessions to Gazprom, and to be able to launch the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. At the same time, Moscow no longer hides that halting gas transit through Ukraine is just a matter of time.
Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev accused Washington of meddling in the recent State Duma elections and fueling tensions between Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia. For his part, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there was a risk that U.S.-Russian relations could worsen, a comment he made during the visit of U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland to Moscow. This was the first top-level U.S.-Russia meeting since a summit in Geneva where the presidents of the United States and Russia held talks.
State authorities in Russia are seeking to break the deadlock in relations with the Taliban and gain some influence in Kabul, hence an idea of an international conference in Moscow, attended by new Afghan authorities. So far, the Taliban have reneged on promises to make their government more inclusive, contrary to what Moscow had expected. Russia and China are urging the Taliban to take Afghanistan on a more moderate political course to facilitate international recognition of the new government of the Central Asian country.
In just a couple of days, Russia’s biggest oil and gas company announced it would mark a significant footprint in Caspian gas and crude oil exploration in Azerbaijan. Lukoil has bought shares from BP and Petronas, following approval from Azeri authorities.
The fall in Vladimir Putin’s popularity ratings is bucking the trend. So is that of the public trust in the army yet it came first in the popularity ratings. The trust in secret services is also falling dramatically but is far higher than that for the Orthodox Church and media outlets. This shows that the Russian regime is now redoing so state authorities resort to fraudulent, manipulative, and forcible practices more often than before.
The price of gas commodities contracted for November is now four times higher in Europe than last year. If this winter is similar to the last one, the European Union will face a major energy crisis. Gazprom is taking advantage of the whole situation to push for European concessions on Nord Stream 2.