Russia Monitor

German-Russian Company Signs Agreement on Energy Project in Egypt

On the occasion of the recent security conference in Munich and Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Germany, a meeting has been held between the head of Russian diplomacy and his German counterpart. Sergey Lavrov and Heiko Maas have also attended a working breakfast with representatives of German business. This further emphasises the increasingly closer economic cooperation between Russia and Germany. The most evident manifestation of it is the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. However, it also needs to be highlighted that there are other German-Russian projects in the field of energy that are underway.


“January Revolution” Gone Wrong: Putin Continues to Lose Public Support

Another opinion poll conducted by the Levada Centre, an independent research centre, has confirmed the decline in Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings. The latest survey showing a drop in confidence in the president is all the more worrying for the Kremlin, as it was carried out shortly after the recent political shake-up in Russia, that is, Putin’s annual address to parliament and the dismissal of the unpopular prime minister.


Russia Strengthens Its Military Bases in Central Asia

Moscow is increasing its military presence in Central Asian countries. What it all boils down to is air defence. In autumn 2019, the Russians deployed S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems at their military base in Tajikistan, and now they intend to strengthen air defence facilities at their military base in Kyrgyzstan. Not only is this the pretext to combat the Islamist threat in Afghanistan, but it also confirms Russia’s rivalry with both the U.S. and China throughout Central Asia.


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.


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.


Amerykanie blokują patrole rosyjskie w Syrii

W ostatnim czasie w północno-wschodniej Syrii doszło do serii incydentów między Rosjanami a Amerykanami. Najczęściej to siły USA blokują rosyjskim patrolom ruchy na strategicznej autostradzie M4 i nie dopuszczają ich w rejon złóż naftowych administrowanych przez miejscowe autonomiczne władze kurdyjskie. Potwierdza się, że mimo wycofania części sił z Syrii w październiku 2019 roku, nie ma mowy o końcu militarnej obecności USA w tym kraju. Amerykanie nie pozwalają na rozszerzenie kontroli reżimu Asada nad tą częścią Syrii.


Wschodnia misja Pompeo. Kreml ma powody do obaw?

Ukraina, Białoruś, Kazachstan, Uzbekistan. Już dawno tak wysoki rangą amerykański urzędnik nie odbywał takiej długiej podróży po krajach postsowieckich. Na dodatek są to kraje, których relacje z USA bardzo mocno interesują Rosję. Wizyty szefa amerykańskiej dyplomacji szczególnie w Mińsku i w Kijowie mogą mieć ogromne znaczenie dla dalszego rozwoju sytuacji w obszarze postsowieckim, który Moskwa uznaje za swą tradycyjną strefę wpływów. Z kolei obecność Mike’a Pompeo w Nur-Sułtanie i Taszkiencie potwierdza rosnącą aktywność USA w Azji Centralnej.


Rosja-Białoruś. Wojna naftowa

Od początku stycznia 2020 roku Białoruś nie zarabia na przerobie taniej rosyjskiej ropy. Każdy dzień przynosi straty budżetowi. Rosjanie zapewniają tylko minimalną ilość surowca dla podtrzymania pracy rafinerii. Mińsk rozmawia z Moskwą, ale jednocześnie szuka alternatywy. Na Białoruś trafiły już pierwsze tony ropy norweskiej. Rozmowy toczą się też z Kazachastanem i Azerbejdżanem. Alaksandr Łukaszenka mówi zaś o imporcie ropy przez kraje bałtyckie, Polskę i Ukrainę.


No Disagreements With Gazprom? Novatek Unveils Ambitious Plans

Russia's largest private gas producer Novatek has outlined a plan to double investments, boost output and exports and launch more liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. The company's business expansion yet could not be to the liking of Gazprom. Therefore, Novatek CEO is making all efforts to prove that gas volumes sold by his company are not a competition for those traded by the state-run energy giant.


Double Hit Against Russia: Bulgaria, Novichok and Spies

Two days were enough for Bulgaria to take two steps that are likely to aggravate the crisis that erupted in its ties with Moscow in the wake of a series of spy scandals back in the autumn of 2019. First, the Bulgarian Prosecutor General's Office said that three Russian nationals had attempted to poison a Bulgarian businessman in 2015 and issued international arrest warrants for them. What came only a day later was the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry's statement saying it might expel two Russian diplomats it accused of espionage.


OPEC+ Is Favorable For Russia

For the first time in Russia's alliance with OPEC, the country is changing the way it complies with its oil-output curbs. In the first quarter of 2020, Russia is authorized to exclude a type of light oil called condensate from the production data that the country should submit to the group. It is good news for Russian producers, with Gazprom and Novatek at the helm, while this should not affect revenues to the federal budget.


Russia’s “Corrupt Stabilization”

Released by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report said Russia ranked 137th out of 180 countries rated. Released by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report said Russia ranked 137th out of 180 countries rated. The country lacks the political will to take its fight against corruption. Also, it is doubtful to see any changes after the latest reshuffles took place within the government and a new prosecutor general was named.


Russia’s Kozak Takes On a New Task

As a result of a massive shakeup in Russia’s political elites, some of the former cabinet members found new jobs in the presidential administration. As a result of a massive shakeup in Russia’s political elites, some of the former cabinet members found new jobs in the presidential administration. But what is most important is the nomination for the current deputy prime minister, Dmitry Kozak, who will oversee integration processes in the post-Soviet zone of influence. The official will be tasked with managing the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC), a move that shows that both issues score high on Putin's agenda in the years that follow.


Putin's "January Revolution": What Does A New Prosecutor General Mean For Russia?

What came as one of the elements of massive reshuffles in Russia's key institutions, marked by recent proposals to amend the constitution and the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev's government, was the dismissal of the country's senior prosecutor. On January 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin fired top prosecutor Yuri Chaika and nominated Igor Krasnov to replace him. This move has fitted into Putin's political shakeup intended to initiate a generation change within the ruling elite. As a new presidential representative to the North Caucasus, Chaika is doomed to lose much of his political significance. What draws attention is a mere fact that this is yet another example of a political overhaul, with an unpopular politician, muddied by a series of corruption scandals, being replaced by an efficient technocrat who so far avoided the public spotlight, far from any controversy. The third issue these recent dismissals and nominations had in common is that they led to the promotion of…


A New Prime Minister for Special Assignments?

The decision on who was to replace Dmitry Medvedev as Russia's next prime minister has shown Putin's aspiration to improve the image of the government while pushing forward his social agenda more smoothly and efficiently. Unlike his predecessor, Mikhail Mishustin offers greater guarantees to go ahead with a way more effective economic policy.


The Constitution According to Putin

Lofted sometime before by Vladimir Putin's closest associates, trial ballons might have brought a positive outcome, as evidenced by the Kremlin's decision to announce upcoming amendments to the Russian constitution publicly. These are likely to keep Putin in power after he is obliged to leave the presidency past 2024, with the government of Dmitry Medvedev having fallen the first victim of this surprise shakeup.