Russia Monitor
11/24/2020

Russian Inspection: Lavrov, Shoigu Visit Armenia and Azerbaijan

Over the course of just one day, a high-ranking Russian government delegation traveled to Armenia and then Azerbaijan – the two Caucasus countries being now in an open conflict one with another. On the sidelines of the talks, the Russians discussed dispatching its troops to the Nagorno-Karabakh war theater, possibly with more servicemen to be sent than initially agreed. Over the course of just one day, a high-ranking Russian government delegation traveled to Armenia and then Azerbaijan – the two Caucasus countries being now in an open conflict one with another. On the sidelines of the talks, the Russians discussed dispatching its troops to the Nagorno-Karabakh war theater, possibly with more servicemen to be sent than initially agreed.

11/19/2020

Rosneft and Gazprom Neft Let Foreign Investors Enter Arctic Projects

Russian oil firms are desperate for money – and even more technology – to exploit oil-rich deposits in the country's Far North, a situation that pushes them to look for foreign partners to invest in Arctic mining projects. Recent days brought such moves from two of Russia's largest energy companies: Rosneft and Gazprom Neft. Russian oil firms are desperate for money – and even more technology – to exploit oil-rich deposits in the country's Far North, a situation that pushes them to look for foreign partners to invest in Arctic mining projects. Recent days brought such moves from two of Russia's largest energy companies: Rosneft and Gazprom Neft.

11/18/2020

Moldova Election: Sandu Smashes Russia's Candidate

It was quite likely for Maia Sandu to win Moldova's run-off after she defeated the incumbent Igor Dodon in the first round. What is yet surprising is the scale of the victory for Maia Sandu. The difference is so big that the Kremlin quickly disowned the outgoing president who lost the ballot. Now Russia will do much to prevent Moldova from making a tilt towards the European Union and the United States. It was quite likely for Maia Sandu to win Moldova's run-off after she defeated the incumbent Igor Dodon in the first round. What is yet surprising is the scale of the victory for Maia Sandu. The difference is so big that the Kremlin quickly disowned the outgoing president who lost the ballot. Now Russia will do much to prevent Moldova from making a tilt towards the European Union and the United States.

11/17/2020

Russia's Coronavirus Vaccine Race Continues

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia has set itself a goal of producing a vaccine as quickly as possible, also to convince the whole world it managed to be a world first. Back in early August, Moscow announced it had approved the vaccine – despite mounting doubts whether it is effective. Will the World Health Organization succumb to Russian lobbying? Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia has set itself a goal of producing a vaccine as quickly as possible, also to convince the whole world it managed to be a world first. Back in early August, Moscow announced it had approved the vaccine – despite mounting doubts whether it is effective. Will the World Health Organization succumb to Russian lobbying?

11/12/2020

Russia Launches Cabinet Reshuffle Also In Energy Ministry

The reshuffle was the result of a routine ministerial rotation and not tied to the ministers’ performance, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Russia carried out the cabinet overhaul to improve its overall performance yet it is hard not to notice that Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin fired only those ministers that formed the previous cabinet. Also, personnel reshuffles are unlikely to bring a new political course in some ministries – like in the Energy Ministry whose long-standing boss was appointed deputy minister and will still head the ministry. The reshuffle was the result of a routine ministerial rotation and not tied to the ministers’ performance, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Russia carried out the cabinet overhaul to improve its overall performance yet it is hard not to notice that Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin fired only those ministers that formed the previous cabinet. Also, personnel reshuffles are unlikely to bring a new political course in some…

11/12/2020

Russia Deploys Its "Peacekeepers" To Nagorno-Karabakh

Moscow's diplomatic intervention saved Armenia from a total military defeat and its loss of breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh. The country found it extremely painful to accept the ceasefire, brokered jointly by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. However, there is no doubt that Azerbaijan clinched a military victory while Russia notched up a success, by dispatching its "peacekeeping forces" to the area. Besides, many signs are that Pashinyan's incumbent government will collapse, and a Kremlin-loyal will come to power. Armenia has always relied on Russia, but now – with a new balance of power and borders – it is fully at the mercy of an ally who is holding up to offer help until Pashinyan's Armenia bleeds out. Moscow's diplomatic intervention saved Armenia from a total military defeat and its loss of breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh. The country found it extremely painful to accept the ceasefire, brokered jointly by…

11/10/2020

Russian Police and Intelligence Disagree Over What Really Happened To Navalny

Russian officials deliver somewhat contradictory statements about reasons for the sudden health crisis of Alexey Navalny. Specialized laboratories in the West determined that the Russian opposition figure was poisoned with a substance of the Novichok group. Moscow denies having been behind the crime yet is unable to precise a coherent version of events. On the same day when the chief of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Sergey Naryshkin, said that Western intelligence agencies had staged a provocation to assassinate the Russian opposition activist, law enforcement agencies in Siberia admitted that Navalny's falling ill might have been caused by the exacerbation of chronic pancreatitis. Russian officials deliver somewhat contradictory statements about reasons for the sudden health crisis of Alexey Navalny. Specialized laboratories in the West determined that the Russian opposition figure was poisoned with a substance of the Novichok group. Moscow denies having been behind the…

11/04/2020

U.S. Election: What Is Russia Counting On?

The longer it takes to announce the winner of the U.S. presidential runoff, the better it looks from Moscow's point of view - as Russia is setting its eyes on neither of the candidates in the 2020 vote. Russia's goal is far from hoping for the victory of either Donald Trump or Joe Biden; its true purpose is to shake the political situation in the United States and even spark a crisis in the U.S. election system, sending shockwaves into the Americandemocratic model. The Kremlin can also enjoy the U.S. post-election turmoil to go ahead with its own political operations - like those in the post-Soviet area. The longer it takes to announce the winner of the U.S. presidential runoff, the better it looks from Moscow's point of view - as Russia is setting its eyes on neither of the candidates in the 2020 vote. Russia's goal is far from hoping for the victory of either Donald Trump or Joe Biden; its true purpose is to shake the political…

11/04/2020

Weak Rouble, Tight Budget: New Lockdown Would Smash Russian Economy

Issues like political spats, low crude prices and the second wave of the coronavirus strike a blow to the Russian economy. However, authorities have resisted a second lockdown despite a surge in new cases. Yet the Russian national currency is seeing constant drops in value. Issues like political spats, low crude prices and the second wave of the coronavirus strike a blow to the Russian economy. However, authorities have resisted a second lockdown despite a surge in new cases. Yet the Russian national currency is seeing constant drops in value.

11/02/2020

Moldova Presidential Election: Russia Helps Dodon

Pro-Western opposition leader Maia Sandu secured a surprise lead against Moldova's current president Igor Dodon. The Kremlin-endorsed incumbent leader eventually came second. A second round is set to take place in two weeks. The country's former prime minister is likely to win the ballot, but Russia will do everything to keep Dodon in office. Pro-Western opposition leader Maia Sandu secured a surprise lead against Moldova's current president Igor Dodon. The Kremlin-endorsed incumbent leader eventually came second. A second round is set to take place in two weeks. The country's former prime minister is likely to win the ballot, but Russia will do everything to keep Dodon in office.

10/30/2020

Rosneft Plans Oil Production On Taymyr Peninsula

Russian oil giant Rosneft and Neftegazholding are planning to produce up to 50 million of liquefied natural gas on the Taymyr peninsula. Rosneft is a state-run company while its partner – a privately owned firm belonging to a former Rosneft president Eduard Khudainatov. This is not their first joint project. Russian oil giant Rosneft and Neftegazholding are planning to produce up to 50 million of liquefied natural gas on the Taymyr peninsula. Rosneft is a state-run company while its partner – a privately owned firm belonging to a former Rosneft president Eduard Khudainatov. This is not their first joint project.

10/29/2020

Serbia Is Most Enthusiastic About TurkStream

The Russian ambassador to Serbia announced that the Serbian stretch of the TurkStream natural gas pipeline running from the Bulgarian border to the country's border with Hungary would be ready soon. But before this happens, there is still the Bulgarian leg to be complete. Yet Moscow's ties with Belgrade are now very cordial. The Russian ambassador to Serbia announced that the Serbian stretch of the TurkStream natural gas pipeline running from the Bulgarian border to the country's border with Hungary would be ready soon. But before this happens, there is still the Bulgarian leg to be complete. Yet Moscow's ties with Belgrade are now very cordial.

10/29/2020

More Libyan Oil Causes Headache For Russians

With Africa's largest proven oil reserves, Libya took a major step toward reviving its oil industry by reopening its biggest field, presenting a new headache for OPEC+. The alliance of major producers and its allies hopes to be able to boost production next year yet without price drops. The new wave of coronavirus and the risk of the economic slowdown are again on the table. Now Libya, a top oil producer, is coming back on track. Perhaps OPEC+ will not trim output limits by at least mid-2021. This is also true for Russia that sees more modest revenues from oil exports this year, a situation that poses a threat both to its oil companies and the federal budget.

10/28/2020

Putin, Erdogan Discuss Caucasus War And Mercenaries

Armenia and Russia have blamed Azerbaijan for using Muslim mercenaries in the current phase of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from its beginning. Turkey is believed to deliver hired guns from Syria. In their phone talk, the presidents of Russia and Turkey broached that topic, too. Many signs are that their conversation failed to bringany breakthrough to the whole case. Armenia and Russia have blamed Azerbaijan for using Muslim mercenaries in the current phase of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from its beginning. Turkey is believed to deliver hired guns from Syria. In their phone talk, the presidents of Russia and Turkey broached that topic, too. Many signs are that their conversation failed to bringany breakthrough to the whole case.

10/28/2020

Russia Provokes Turkey In Syria's Idlib

Russian aircraft have carried out a strike – the bloodiest surge in violence – in the stronghold of Syria's rebel forces, also targeting rebel proxies siding with Turkey. What Russia has done might prompt the escalation in Syria's Idlib. Perhaps Russia seeks to get upsides with Turkey over the latter's involvement in the Azerbaijan-Armenia fighting. Russian aircraft have carried out a strike – the bloodiest surge in violence – in the stronghold of Syria's rebel forces, also targeting rebel proxies siding with Turkey. What Russia has done might prompt the escalation in Syria's Idlib. Perhaps Russia seeks to get upsides with Turkey over the latter's involvement in the Azerbaijan-Armenia fighting.

10/27/2020

Balkan Stream Or TurkStream: Bulgaria Is Under U.S. Pressure

U.S. sanctions targeting the Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream natural gas pipeline may have severe repercussions for Bulgaria that is now building the Balkan leg of the latter energy link. The authorities in Sofia say that the Balkan Stream gas link is a separate project to TurkStream. The United States, however, believes something different. U.S. sanctions targeting the Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream natural gas pipeline may have severe repercussions for Bulgaria that is now building the Balkan leg of the latter energy link. The authorities in Sofia say that the Balkan Stream gas link is a separate project to TurkStream. The United States, however, believes something different.

10/26/2020

Lukoil Freezes Crude Projects Over Low Oil Prices

The situation on the global oil market has taken its toll on crude projects, also in Russia. As there are huge crude stocks whilst oil price is stable at roughly $40 per barrel, oil output is little profitable and so is looking for new fields. The CEO of Lukoil Vagit Alekperov said that the low oil price resulted in a sharp decline in the number of new oil projects, a situation that forced his firm to end some of them, too. The situation on the global oil market has taken its toll on crude projects, also in Russia. As there are huge crude stocks whilst oil price is stable at roughly $40 per barrel, oil output is little profitable and so is looking for new fields. The CEO of Lukoil Vagit Alekperov said that the low oil price resulted in a sharp decline in the number of new oil projects, a situation that forced his firm to end some of them, too.

10/25/2020

Lukashenko Plays Against Time in Russia Game

Alexander Lukashenko has no intention of handing full power to Russia. Regardless of what he agreed on with Vladimir Putin during the September visit to Sochi, it is still challenging to imagine Russia taking control of Belarus, a scenario many projected until quite recently. Alexander Lukashenko has no intention of handing full power to Russia. Regardless of what he agreed on with Vladimir Putin during the September visit to Sochi, it is still challenging to imagine Russia taking control of Belarus, a scenario many projected until quite recently.

10/23/2020

U.S., Russia Play Cat And Mouse Over New START Treaty

Concluded by the Barack Obama administration, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is the last remaining U.S.-Russian arms control treaty. It will expire in February 2021. Moscow has long been keen to extend the treaty yet Donald Trump demands some extra commitments. Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused, suggesting a one-year extension of the existing deal. The Kremlin believes that even after Joe Biden's victory, the Democrats candidate will at least remain the New START treaty in force - according to what he said. It will be far worse for the Kremlin if Trump wins the ballot, throwing the last remaining pact constraining the arsenals of the world’s two major nuclear powers to the rubbish bin and thus impairing Russia's position. Concluded by the Barack Obama administration, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is the last remaining U.S.-Russian arms control treaty. It will expire in February 2021. Moscow has long been keen to extend the treaty…

10/23/2020

GRU Hackers and Conspiracy Theories of Russian Intelligence Chief

There are more and more strains appearing in U.S.-Russia ties. First, the U.S. Justice Department announced an indictment against six Russian GRU officers charged with engaging in a series of hacking and malware deployment operations to attack the United States and the whole civilized world. Shortly afterward, the head of Russia's civilian intelligence agency accused Washington of working behind the scenes to overthrow the government in Moldova in what he named as an attempted "color revolution," suggesting U.S. efforts to spark political crises in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, two of which friendly to Moscow. There are more and more strains appearing in U.S.-Russia ties. First, the U.S. Justice Department announced an indictment against six Russian GRU officers charged with engaging in a series of hacking and malware deployment operations to attack the United States and the whole civilized world. Shortly afterward, the head of Russia's civilian intelligence agency accused Washington of…

10/22/2020

U.S. Widens Sanctions Against Nord Stream 2

The U.S. administration is making consistent efforts to annihilate the Russia-to-Germany gas link across the Baltic Sea. As eliminating other-than-Russian-flagged vessels from the game proved little effective––since Russia deployed its own fleet­­––the United States stepped up sanctions against companies having anything to do with those vessels. The U.S. administration is making consistent efforts to annihilate the Russia-to-Germany gas link across the Baltic Sea. As eliminating other-than-Russian-flagged vessels from the game proved little effective––since Russia deployed its own fleet­­––the United States stepped up sanctions against companies having anything to do with those vessels.

10/22/2020

HRW Syria Report: Putin Responsible for War Crimes

In its report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Syria-Russia alliance of committing possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by attacking civilians in Idlib province. The watchdog also called for sanctions against people behind the joint Russian-Syrian raids. Among the blacklisted is also Russian President Vladimir Putin. Human Rights Watch submitted evidence that the strikes are war crimes and might indeed be classified as crimes against humanity. In its report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Syria-Russia alliance of committing possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by attacking civilians in Idlib province. The watchdog also called for sanctions against people behind the joint Russian-Syrian raids. Among the blacklisted is also Russian President Vladimir Putin. Human Rights Watch submitted evidence that the strikes are war crimes and might indeed be classified as crimes against humanity.

10/22/2020

Russia, OPEC+ Show Cautious Optimism on Crude Volumes

Oil cuts in force under the OPEC+ deal will remain unchanged for the time being, at least until November 17, 2020, thus the next meeting of the ministerial monitoring committee on crude oil limitations. "We reached an agreement to continue executing the deal in full scope," Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak informed. Oil cuts in force under the OPEC+ deal will remain unchanged for the time being, at least until November 17, 2020, thus the next meeting of the ministerial monitoring committee on crude oil limitations. "We reached an agreement to continue executing the deal in full scope," Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak informed.

10/20/2020

Moscow’s Game with Syrian Kurds

Russia's policy towards the Syrian Kurds has its clear-cut goal: to convince them to sign a peace deal with the regime in Damascus and force the United States to quit Syria. Moscow officials are trying to convince Kurdish circles to cooperate albeit these are hoping to forge an alliance with the United States. Gaining influence over Syrian Kurds is of key importance as the Kurd-controlled regions of the country hold the lion's share of its crude oil reserves and crop fields. Russia's policy towards the Syrian Kurds has its clear-cut goal: to convince them to sign a peace deal with the regime in Damascus and force the United States to quit Syria. Moscow officials are trying to convince Kurdish circles to cooperate albeit these are hoping to forge an alliance with the United States. Gaining influence over Syrian Kurds is of key importance as the Kurd-controlled regions of the country hold the lion's share of its crude oil reserves and crop fields.