Russia Monitor

Russia Puts Pressure on Norway: Svalbard as the Bone of Contention

Moscow has accused Oslo of discriminating against Russian activity on the Svalbard archipelago. Sergey Lavrov has sent a letter to Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs regarding the matter and is awaiting a meeting. The Russians emphasise that they intend to intensify their activities on the islands located over 800 kilometres north of Scandinavia. Although the archipelago is not of great economic significance, for the Russian military it is an important point on the map of the Arctic, a region that is being heavily militarised by Moscow.

Deputy Chief of Russia’s General Staff Arrested: The FSB Hits the Military

The FSB, Russia’s military counter-intelligence service, has detained the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, and a court has sentenced him to two months in prison. It is about the embezzlement of state funds intended for the repair of military equipment. Although the case began back in 2013, only now has it hit General Khalil Arslanov, a senior communications officer in the Russian military. Taking into account the fact that in Russia everyone is, pretty much, corrupt and steals from the state, every high-level corruption scandal has its own political background. Kompromat, that is, compromising materials, can be found on everyone, which suggests that the selective fight against corruption has become a tool for achieving one’s political ends. In this case, the civil service (the FSB) deals a blow to its traditional rivals from the military.

Putin “Supreme Leader”? Slowdown in Russia's Constitutional Overhaul

The second reading of the draft bill on Russia's constitutional amendments was scheduled to take place as early as February, followed by a nationwide vote in April. Nonetheless, recent days have brought a slowdown in the sweeping political reshuffles Vladimir Putin launched on January 15, quite unexpectedly for many. No one knows precisely what he could do to stay in power beyond 2024. As many as 50 percent of Russians believed that the president’s desire to maintain power is the sole purpose of Putin's proposed overhaul. But only a handful has taken to the streets.

Belarus Loses Dispute Over Oil Transit Fees

Minsk and Moscow failed to reach a new oil deal after lengthy negotiations over an increase in the tariff on oil transit via the territory of Belarus. Russia refuted new rates as suggested by Belarus, so Minsk could raise its transit rates, albeit to a smaller extent it had initially intended. In doing so, Belarus attempted to recoup at least some of the profits it had failed to reap in 2019 amidst the contamination of the Druzhba pipeline. Oil transit tariffs will be set based on the 2010 methodology, a move that will yet yield more profits to Russia.

Pompeo Pledges US Support For Sovereign Belarus During Minsk Visit

Held in a warm atmosphere, the U.S. top diplomat's meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has come as a vital signal of Washington's support for sovereign Belarus. The move has grown in importance amid Moscow's escalating pressure on Minsk in its effort to integrate more closely, or rather to absorb Belarus. Lukashenko, for his part, has no intention to bow to pressure, hence his country's crude spat with Russia.

Gazprom Struggles to Maintain Position in Europe

Russian gas giant Gazprom plans to maintain gas exports to European countries at the record-hitting level of previous years, Elena Burmistrova, the head of Gazprom's exporting arm Gazprom Export, was quoted as saying. But the year 2020 may become the toughest ever experienced by the Russian energy firm. With an unusually mild winter and mounting competition from the liquefied natural gas (LNG) market, Gazprom has fewer opportunities to eliminate any drawbacks from a decrease in gas production in Europe. In consequence, not only does the Russian gas giant export less, but it also offers cheaper energy.

Erdogan Criticizes Russia: Crisis or Tactical Move?

Russia's Lavrov Flies to Latin America in Response to Pompeo's Central Asia Tour

In early February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will leave for Latin America to visit Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela. Of all his trips, the one to Caracas might be of utmost importance as Venezuela is looking for a stronger alliance with Russia through the latter's tighter involvement in the Venezuelan oil industry. Lavrov's tour to Latin America may come as a response to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's earlier trips to the four post-Soviet countries that Moscow considers to be within its traditional sphere of influence. Hence the Russian senior official's demonstrative visits to the region that borders the United States.

Is Bulgaria Weak Link in Russia’s TurkStream Gas Pipeline?

One billion cubic meters of gas pumped in less than a month was what Gazprom has recently boasted about, meaning the TurkStream natural gas pipeline inaugurated earlier this year. Nonetheless, the project is not yet fully complete, while shipments have not been made to Hungary and Serbia. Bulgaria has not yet terminated its stretch of the gas pipeline. The situation is likely to deteriorate amid Sofia's strained ties with Moscow, while Russian President Vladimir Putin even accused Bulgaria of delaying the building of the pipeline on its territory. Sofia, in turn, has emphasized its pursuit to diversify energy supplies and narrow down its reliance on Russian gas flows.

Lukoil Asks Putin For Caspian Oilfields While Hoping to Purchase Assets Overseas

Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov would like to gain access to three locations in the Caspian Sea, and he sent an official letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin. With increasingly limited prospects on Russia's domestic market, Lukoil plans to develop investments in Africa and the Gulf of Mexico.

New Gas Pipeline Geopolitics in Central and Eastern Europe
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