Russia Monitor

Russia Suffers Major Setback in the Balkans
03/31/2020

North Macedonia has officially become NATO's 30th member. With the new North Atlantic Alliance member in the Balkans, Russia has seen a blow delivered to its policy aimed at banning former Yugoslav republics from joining Western blocs. Though Russia used a wide range of methods –– from economic to intelligence ones –– it is unable to stop their friendly Orthodox states' march towards EU and NATO membership.

Nord Stream 2 Stuck in the Waiting Room
03/30/2020

Though the Russia-to-Germany gas link was frozen after Washington had introduced a batch of sanctions, there is still a chance to complete it. Both Berlin and Moscow so far have invested many financial and political means to defend their joint undertaking. Perhaps, Russia will keep its promises and complete Nord Stream 2 on its own.

COVID-19 Disinformation: Russia Sends "Aid" to the US
04/02/2020

A statement by the U.S. Department of State shows that what Russia sent to Washington was not "humanitarian aid." Moscow is looking to make a positive PR impression while undermining the effectiveness of Western efforts.

Russia's Gazprom Lost in Court Battle with Poland's PGNiG
03/31/2020

Russian state-run gas giant saw yet another failure in a legal spat with a Central and Eastern European company. First, it lost a court battle with Ukraine's Naftogaz and now Poland's largest gas distributor PGNiG emerged victorious in its litigation with Gazprom. The Stockholm arbitration court said in a ruling that the price of gas in the Yamal Contract failed to reflect the price level on the market and was overstated. Thus, Russian gas giant Gazprom must pay about $1.5 billion in a pricing dispute case. Warsaw sees its latest victory as a vital sign that proves its years-long policy of reducing reliance on Russian-sourced gas. Poland is developing its Swinoujscie LNG terminal while planning to build a new facility in Gdansk. Also, efforts are currently underway to construct the Baltic Pipe, a gas pipeline that is expected to connect Poland with Norwegian gas fields. Thus, Poland will be able to scrap Russian gas flows when its deal with Gazprom expires by late 2022. Russian…

Kozak-Yermak Plan on Donbas: A Trap for Ukraine
03/31/2020

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is well aware of his dropping popularity ratings, is making efforts to reshuffle both the government and his presidential administration. For its part, the Kremlin is looking to take advantage of an increasingly severe crisis in Kyiv. Interestingly, those who are now Russia's top allies in Ukraine are both the leader of the country's biggest pro-Russian party and, quite unexpectedly, the head of the Ukrainian President's Office. On March 11, Andriy Yermak accepted a plan to establish an advisory board in Russian-occupied Donbas in a move that hints Kyiv's recognition of the zone's separatist authorities. A day before Viktor Medvedchuk suggested that the Normandy Format be broadened to include a parliamentary dimension. Zelensky is unable to take action as he needs to team up with Medvedchuk's party to hold critical votes in the parliament.

Russia's Coronavirus Cases Prompt Putin to Change Strategy
03/30/2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that his country is no longer an exception amid the global coronavirus outbreak. Its closure of the border with China brought adequate, albeit short-term results, as most people affected with the novel virus came back from trips to Europe, in particular from popular tourist destinations like Italy or Spain. On March 25, Putin addressed the nation on the coronavirus outbreak in a televised speech in what became a turning point for the Kremlin's fight against the epidemic. It yet seems that Putin made a mistake when he announced a paid week off work for all instead of putting in place a set of restrictions like those launched earlier in other countries. As the Russians lack self-discipline mechanisms, there may be even more cases of coronavirus infections.

Russian Oil Tycoon Embroiled in War, Sechin Becomes Public Enemy No. 1
03/30/2020

​Since March 6, the global oil market has seen an ongoing price war. And yet, Russia has witnessed a war going between CEO of Rosneft Igor Sechin and other oil firms that spoke against Russia's withdrawal from the OPEC+ pact. Massive losses amidst the declining oil prices have struck a blow to everyone, including the federal budget, but Rosneft can expect tax breaks and the Kremlin's backing, as it was the case in the past. Other companies like privately held Lukoil are now in a far worse position, though. Not surprisingly, the firm lambasted the Sechin-orchestrated decision to pull out of the OPEC+ deal. CEO of Rosneft is the most influential figure that exerts a tremendous impact on the country's oil policy. Since March 6, the global oil market has seen an ongoing price war. And yet, Russia has witnessed a war going between CEO of Rosneft Igor Sechin and other oil firms that spoke against Russia's withdrawal from the OPEC+ pact. Massive losses amidst the declining oil prices have…

Russia’s Rosneft Exits Venezuela, Sechin Reaps Double Benefit
03/30/2020

Russian oil giant Rosneft sold its assets in Venezuela to the Russian government. The company would be receiving a settlement payment worth a 9.6 percent share of Rosneft's equity capital, or some $4 billion. This means a gift for Rosneft's shareholders in what may be a maneuver to dodge any U.S. sanctions –– all from the Russian taxpayer's pocket. Furthermore, the company's asset valuation is far higher than anyone could expect. Russian oil giant Rosneft sold its assets in Venezuela to the Russian government. The company would be receiving a settlement payment worth a 9.6 percent share of Rosneft's equity capital, or some $4 billion. This means a gift for Rosneft's shareholders in what may be a maneuver to dodge any U.S. sanctions –– all from the Russian taxpayer's pocket. Furthermore, the company's asset valuation is far higher than anyone could expect.

Coronavirus in Russia: Unbelievably Low Infection Figures and Belated Measures
03/21/2020

Russian crisis management center said on March 22 the country will not impose strict quarantine measures amid the recent coronavirus outbreak. The latest decision came despite daily 30 percent growth in cases, which is like in Spain, Germany, or France. Still, there are no plans to cancel, postpone or restrict the spring call of citizens for military service. What matters most for Russian decision-makers is to maintain social peace and stability nationwide. Hence the reassuring declarations by the President and the Prime Minister who announced financial support for the affected industries and the gradual introduction of further measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Nevertheless, the real scale of the epidemic in Russia remains unknown. It is not just about tests that are far less effective than those conducted in Western countries –– Russia’s battle with coronavirus is weakened amidst the ongoing crisis in the country’s health service.

Putin Seeks to Stay in Power through Unlawful Constitutional Amendment
03/20/2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in a rush to push forward changes to the country’s political system –– while not waiting for any adverse effects of the latest coronavirus outbreak nor the global oil price war. In mid-January, Putin unveiled a constitutional overhaul, which the parliament backed in March, whereas Russian people need to accept updates in a vote planned for April this year. Further changes bolster the president’s position while giving a hint that Putin will not take up a new job, but stay in the Kremlin Added to this is a mere fact that such manner of introducing an amendment is absolutely unlawful. The president’s shake-up of Russian politics shows that he does not care about legal procedures –– in a fully conscious mode. Putting the law aside, Putin made it clear that what really matters is what both him and his closest associates seek.

New Gas Pipeline Geopolitics in Central and Eastern Europe
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