Russia in Review, Jan. 31-Feb. 7, 2020

This Week’s Highlights

  • Russia and China have the ability to attack U.S. Navy equipment when it's docked in American ports, a top U.S. admiral warned, raising concerns about increased activity by Russian submarines off the Atlantic coast, The Washington Examiner reports.
  • Chief of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff Valery Gerasimov met SACEUR Tod Wolters on Feb. 6 to discuss strategic stability and deconflicting, Tass reports. Meanwhile, the U.S. special envoy for Syria engagement warned that Russian personnel are engaging in potentially dangerous standoffs with U.S. troops on highways in northeastern Syria in violation of agreements between Washington and Moscow, according to the Wall Street Journal and Reuters. 
  • An Airbus A320 airliner with 172 passengers en route from Tehran to Damascus made an emergency landing in the Russian-controlled Khmeimim air base after Syrian air defenses nearly hit it in what the Russian Defense Ministry said was an attempt to repel an Israeli missile strike, RFE/RL reports.
  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov raised concern about the United States deploying a new low-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapon, saying the move signaled Washington’s belief that it could wage a limited nuclear conflict, according to the AP.
  • Russia surpassed Mexico as the second-largest energy supplier to the U.S. in October 2019, behind Canada, The Moscow Times reports.
  • In 16 of the 33 countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center, more people see Russia unfavorably than favorably. Only 18 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of Russia, while in Europe, a median of only 31 percent see Russia favorably.
  • Under current Russian law, foreigners wishing to become Russian citizens must first renounce their other citizenships and be residents of Russia for five years. A new “revolutionary” bill would drop these requirements to help attract between 5 million and 10 million new Russian citizens, The Moscow Times reports.
  • Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has disclosed that Mike Pompeo, when still director of the CIA, shared intelligence with the Belarusian authorities that allowed the latter to apprehend "people with nuclear materials on the border,” according to Kommersant.
  • Ukraine is going to hold local elections nationally at the end of October, but it wants the Minsk-2 agreement modified before then so that the elections in Donbas take place after Ukraine assumes control of parts of the border with Russia that are currently held by the separatists, bne Intellinews and Kommersant report.


I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security:

  • Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has disclosed that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when still director of the CIA, therefore, sometime between Jan. 17 and Apr. 18, 2019, shared intelligence with the Belarussuain authorities that allowed the latter to apprehend "people with nuclear materials on the border.” (Russia Matters, 02.05.20)
  • Over 50 Ministers and high-level government officials will join other policymakers to review the current status of international nuclear security at the IAEA’s Feb. 10-14 International Conference on Nuclear Security. (AP, 02.07.20)
  • While in the U.S., IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi met Pompeo, U.S. national security advisor Robert O'Brien and Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, Undersecretary of Energy for Nuclear Security. Grossi said the U.S. officials had expressed continued strong backing for the work of the IAEA in fostering global peace and development. Grossi expects to visit Russia later this month to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (ENP Newswire, 02.06.20, RIA Novosti, 02.06.20)
  • Representatives of the U.S. Departments of State and Energy and the Ukrainian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture discussed the best practices to stem proliferation of weapons of mass destruction-related goods and technologies in Kyiv on Feb. 4-5. (Ukrinform, 02.06.20, U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, 02.05.20)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • North Korea and Russia have temporarily suspended the operation of a railway that runs between the two countries, as Russia reported its first confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus. (UPI, 02.03.20)
  • North Korea recently filled its long-vacant role of ambassador to Moscow with foreign ministry veteran Sin Hong Chol. Sin has served as vice minister with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2014. (NK News, 02.06.20)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • The Trump Administration has extended four nuclear waivers allowing Russia, China and the U.K. to continue their work to restrain Iran’s nuclear program, including transfer of fuel to the Tehran Research Reactor by Russia, Russian activities at the Bushehr reactor and transfer of spent nuclear fuel out of Iran by Russia. (Arms Control Today, 02.06.20)
  • Iran said Feb. 3 it was halting cooperation with Ukraine in the investigation of a downed airliner after Ukrainian media published an audio recording that showed Iranian authorities knew immediately of the missile strike that brought down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 on Jan. 8. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Iran offered $80,000 per victim after it shot the jet, but that Ukraine did not accept the offer because "it was too little." (RFE/RL, 02.02.20, The Washington Post, 02.03.20)

New Cold War/saber rattling:

  • Russia and China have the ability to attack U.S. Navy equipment when it's docked in American ports, a top admiral warned while discussing Washington's intensifying rivalries with Moscow and Beijing. “The homeland is not a sanctuary,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis said on Feb. 4, raising concerns about increased activity by Russian submarines off the Atlantic coast. “Our new reality is that when our sailors toss lines over and set sail, they can expect to be operating in a contested space once they leave Norfolk,” he said. (Washington Examiner, 02.04.20, Defense One/, 02.07.20)
  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov raised concerns Feb. 5 about the United States deploying a new submarine-launched nuclear weapon, saying the move signaled Washington’s belief that it could wage a limited nuclear conflict. John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said the deployment of the so-called low-yield warheads lowers the risk of nuclear war by helping dissuade Russia from initiating a limited nuclear conflict. (AP, 02.05.20)
  • The head of Britain’s air force has warned that the threat of Russian “adventurism” in the North Atlantic is increasing, as the first of a new fleet of submarine-hunting aircraft, P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, touched down at a military base in Scotland. (Financial Times, 02.04.20)

NATO-Russia relations:

  • Chief of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov met Commander-in-Chief of NATO forces in Europe Gen. Tod Wolters in Baku on Feb. 6 to discuss strategic stability, situations in crisis regions and practical steps to prevent incidents in the process of the two sides’ military activity. (TASS, 02.06.20)
  • “It’s easy for some Western officials or commentators to say that Turkey turned its back on the West, as if we are totally aligning ourselves with the Russians on everything. It’s not the case,” said a senior Turkish official. (Financial Times, 02.05.20)
  • Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski has said that he expects Spain, the last country that needs to ratify Macedonia’s NATO accession, to be ready to do so next month. (RFE/RL, 02.04.20)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • No significant developments.


  • Russia has returned 26 children of Islamic State fighters from Syria. (The Moscow Times, 02.07.20)
  • James Jeffrey, U.S. special envoy for Syria engagement, said Feb. 5 that between 7,000 and 10,000 members of the U.S.-designated terrorist organization Al Nusra may be holed up in Idlib. U.S. officials remain concerned that the Russian-backed offensive could cause those groups to disperse across the region. (Wall Street Journal, 02.05.20)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump has announced that the U.S. killed Qassim al-Raymi, the leader of the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula extremist group in Yemen. (RFE/RL, 02.07.20)

Conflict in Syria:

  • An Airbus A320 airliner with 172 passengers en route from Tehran to Damascus has made an emergency landing in the Russian-controlled Khmeimim air base after Syrian air defenses nearly hit it. The Syrian air defenses were trying to repulse an Israeli attack near Damascus, Igor Konashenkov of Russia’s Defense Ministry was quoted as saying. (RFE/RL, 02.07.20)
  • Russian personnel are engaging in potentially dangerous standoffs with U.S. troops on highways in northeastern Syria in violation of agreements between Washington and Moscow to stay out of one another's way, the top U.S. envoy to Syria said Feb. 5. James Jeffrey, U.S. special envoy for Syria engagement, said Russia appeared to be making the incursions "to challenge our presence in the northeast." Jeffrey also said the United States was "very, very worried" about the Syrian government assault, backed by Russia, on Idlib, and he repeated calls on Moscow to stop it. (Wall Street Journal, 02.05.20, The Moscow Times/Reuters, 02.06.20)
  • Turkey deployed F-16 fighter jets against government forces in northwestern Syria on Feb. 3, after six Turkish soldiers were killed by artillery strikes. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that as many as 35 Syrian troops had been ''neutralized.'' Erdogan has warned Russia not to “stand in the way.” Speaking on Feb. 6 in Baku, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey expects Moscow to put an end to the Syrian government forces' attacks in Idlib and that his country immediately needs to work with Russia to resolve problems there. (RFE/RL, 02.06.20, New York Times, 04.02.20, Financial Times, 02.03.20)
  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Turkish Ambassador to Russia Mehmet Samsar met on Feb. 3 to discuss the situation in Libya and Syria. The Kremlin said on Feb. 3 talks between Putin and Erdogan can be arranged if "necessary" after Turkish forces killed dozens of Russian-backed Syrian government troops. (RFE/RL, 02.03.20, TASS, 02.03.20)
  • Turkey did not send its servicemen for a joint patrol mission with Russian military police units in northern Syria, the head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides Maj. Gen. Yury Borenkov said. (Interfax, 02.04.20)
  • Russian and Turkish "military specialists" were killed by militants who staged more than 1,000 attacks in the last two weeks of January in the de-escalation zone in Syria's Idlib province, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Feb. 6. (The Moscow Times, 02.06.20)
  • At least four members of Russia’s special forces have been killed in Syria on Feb. 1, the investigative website Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) reported.  (The Moscow Times, 02.03.20)
  • Drones launched by armed formations from the de-escalation zone in northern Syria attempted to attack a Russian airbase in Khmeimim on Feb. 3. The base’s air defense systems took down the drones. (TASS, 02.04.20)

Cyber issues:

  • Russia’s state-controlled telecommunications provider is proposing a 260-billion-ruble ($4.1 billion) online ecosystem to protect users from foreign influence. (The Moscow Times, 02.06.20)
  • Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia, is preparing to apply for the extension of his Russian residence permit, which expires in April. (RFE/RL, 02.07.20)

Elections interference:

  • FBI Director Christopher Wray says Russia is conducting an "information warfare" operation against the U.S. ahead of the 2020 presidential election, although he says he has not seen signs that Russian actors have attempted to breach election infrastructure. (RFE/RL, 02.06.20)
  • Trump and his Republican allies focused on exacting payback against his political opponents on Feb. 6 after his acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial. ''We first went through Russia, Russia, Russia,'' Trump said, mocking the investigations into the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 presidential election on his behalf and ties between his campaign and Moscow. ''It was all bullshit,'' he said. (The Washington Post, 02.06.20)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia has rejected a Saudi-led effort to deepen OPEC's oil production cuts in response to the deadly coronavirus in China. (Wall Street Journal, 02.06.20)
  • Russia exported 20.9 million barrels of crude oil and petroleum products to the U.S. in October 2019, the highest one-month total since November 2011. Russia also surpassed Mexico as the second-largest energy supplier to the U.S. in October 2019, behind Canada. (The Moscow Times, 02.06.20)

U.S. Imports by Country of Origin, thousand barrels, according to EIA


October 2019


November 2019




















Saudi Arabia



Saudi Arabia








U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan presented his diplomatic credentials to Putin and Lavrov in Moscow on Feb. 5. Sullivan also met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov to discuss North Korea and Afghanistan and the Asia-Pacific, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on its website. He also met Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, who told him Russia is ready to renew energy cooperation and dialogue with the U.S. (Interfax, 02.07.20, Oilprice, 02.07.20, Reuters, 02.05.20)
  • Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special representative for Venezula, warned Russia Feb. 6 over its support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, saying its backing for the embattled leader could cease to be "cost-free." Meanwhile, Lavrov denounced U.S. foreign policy in Venezuela, criticizing what he called Washington's "provocations" and attempts to create a pretext for military intervention. (RFE/RL, 02.07.20, AP, 02.07.20)
  • In the year since the Trump administration declared what amounted to economic war against the Venezuelan government of President Nicolás Maduro—an oil embargo that cut it off from its biggest petroleum buyer, the U.S.—the move has produced one clear winner: Russia. Secret deals between Moscow and Caracas to produce, transport and sell oil to other markets have become a cash cow for Russia that is earning its state-controlled enterprises an estimated $120 million a month. Russia’s Kremlin-controlled Rosneft has been heavily involved with Venezuela. The U.S. is considering sanctions on major oil companies dealing with Venezuela. (The Washington Post, 02.06.20, AP, 02.05.20)
  • Having set the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman at 328 days, NASA astronaut Christina Koch ended her historic tour aboard the International Space Station on Feb. 6. (The Washington Post, 02.06.20)
  • The Moscow City Court has upheld a decision to keep former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan in pretrial detention until March 29, pending trial on charges of espionage. (RFE/RL, 02.04.20)
  • An Italian court froze assets belonging to a Kremlin adviser’s sister as part of his ownership dispute over a Russian bank with Michael Calvey, a prominent American investor who’s awaiting trial in Moscow on embezzlement charges. A judge in the Tuscan city of Lucca ruled last month that Artem Avetisyan’s sale of real estate holding Immobiliare Roma S.r.l to his sister didn’t protect the asset from a potential seizure under a case in Cyprus. (Bloomberg, 02.05.20)
  • In 16 of the 33 countries surveyed by Pew Research Center in 2019, more people see Russia unfavorably than favorably. Only 18 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of Russia. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are 21 points more likely than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents to express confidence in Putin (31 percent vs. 10 percent), the widest partisan gap on this question in Pew Research Center polling. In Western Europe, a median of only 31 percent see Russia favorably. In India, 49 percent have a favorable opinion of Russia. (Pew Research, 02.07.20)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Putin said Feb. 4 that a nationwide vote on constitutional changes he proposed wouldn’t be used to extend his current term in office, but remained tight-lipped about his future political plans. (AP, 02.05.20)
  • Russia will next week consider changes to its 2020 budget that could increase the government’s planned expenditure by 10 percent (more than $32 billion), equivalent to around 1.3 percent of GDP. The U-turn follows years of public anger over the state of Russia’s economy. (Financial Times, 02.05.20)
  • A new $231 billion tax regime for the Russian Arctic is to provide for an unprecedented wave of investments in icy drilling. The new legislation was hammered through the government on Jan. 30. It will give national oil companies incentives for major investments in Arctic oil, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin says. (Barents Observer, 02.05.20)
  • Russia’s stock market was flying over the first two weeks of January, but a growing panic due to the spread of the coronavirus has killed off the euphoria and the dollar-denominated Russia Trading System index has given up all its gains to date, falling back into the red as of Jan. 31. (bne Intellinews, 01.31.20)
  • On Feb. 5, Russian government-commissioned military jets landed in Siberia’s Tyumen region carrying the 144 passengers evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the growing coronavirus epidemic in China. Russia will set up a quarantine area in Tyumen for Russians being evacuated the outbreak. (RFE/RL, 02.07.20, Reuters, 02.04.20)
  • Russia is postponing the Russian Investment Forum, set to take place Feb. 12 and which is attended by a string of high-ranking officials and foreign investors, due to coronavirus concerns. (Reuters, 02.03.20)
  • Under current Russian law, foreigners wishing to become Russian citizens must first renounce their other citizenships and be residents of Russia for five years. A new bill would drop these requirements to help attract between 5 million and 10 million new Russian citizens. The “revolutionary” dual citizenship bill “will definitely be introduced in the State Duma in February,” lawmaker Leonid Kalashnikov told Kommersant. (The Moscow Times, 02.07.20, Russia Matters, 02.07.20)
  • Foreign students will be able to work without obtaining a permit while studying in Russia under a new law Putin signed Feb. 6. (The Moscow Times, 02.07.20)
  • Rosatom’s Atommash has completed welding of the lower half of the reactor pressure vessel for the Kursk II nuclear power plant under construction in western Russia. Rosatom also says the automated process control system installed at Leningrad II unit two is ready for hot tests on the reactor equipment. Hot tests mark the final stage of pre-commissioning work on a reactor unit. (World Nuclear News, 02.06.20, World Nuclear News, 02.03.20)
  • Subsidiaries of Russian state technology agency Rostec will start jointly developing equipment for 5G networks. (bne Intellinews, 02.04.20)
  • Nearly half the landowners in Moscow’s luxury suburb of Rublyovka are linked to Russia’s ruling elite, the Proekt news website said. Altogether, it said the 800 Kremlin functionaries, governors and mayors own an estimated 1.3 trillion rubles ($20.75 billion) in properties dotting the Rublyovo-Uspenskoye highway in western Moscow. (The Moscow Times, 02.06.20)
  • Mishustin earned more than $35 million from his two-year spell at Russian investment group UFG, his former colleagues have said. (The Moscow Times, 02.07.20)
  • Russian authorities have added over 200 Jehovah’s Witnesses to a register of extremists and terrorists. (AP, 02.07.20)
  • Scores of cities across Russia including Moscow and St. Petersburg have experienced the hottest January in their recorded histories. (The Moscow Times, 02.03.20)
  • A Levada Center poll asked Russians: Do you think the government of Dmitry Medvedev managed to improve the state of affairs in the country in the course of its work? Here is how they answered that question:

January 2020

Certainly yes


Rather yes


Probably not


Definitely not


Difficult to answer


Defense and aerospace:

  • A maiden flight of the first experimental example of a deeply modernized Tu-160M bomber took place on Feb. 2. The M-model Tu-160 features new engines and avionics and a metallic canopy treatment that reduces the type's radar-reflectivity. (Ainonline, 02.06.20, The National Interest, 01.29.20)
  • Russia’s advanced S-500 air defense system could be delivered to the military as soon as 2020, five years earlier than previously disclosed, Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko said. The system is touted as being capable of intercepting stealth warplanes. (The Moscow Times, 02.04.20)
  • The Russian Orthodox Church is considering banning priests from blessing weapons of mass destruction, citing concerns that the practice goes against church tradition. (The Moscow Times, 02.05.20)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Chechen blogger Imran Aliyev, known for his criticism of the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been found dead with multiple stab wounds in a hotel in France. (RFE/RL, 02.04.20)
  • Yelena Milashina of Novaya Gazeta and human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina were in the Chechen capital, Grozny, to attend the trial of a well-known blogger Islam Nukhanov, when they were attacked by a group of unknown assailants on Feb. 6. (RFE/RL, 02.07.20)
  • The Moscow-based Memorial human rights center says unknown individuals have abducted four young men in the village of Gekhi in Chechnya's central-western Urus-Martan district. (RFE/RL, 02.07.20)
  • One LGBT activist was killed and seven were injured in Russia last year. In comparison, one LGBT activist was killed and five were injured in 2018. A Moscow jury has acquitted Anton Berezhnyi, accused of killing gay man Roman Yedalov last year, the LGBT rights group Stimul reported Feb. 6. (The Moscow Times, 02.05.20, The Moscow Times, 02.07.20)
  • Fifty Russian citizens have been awarded compensation totaling more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) for police brutality and illegal searches, according to four European human rights court rulings issued Feb. 4. (The Moscow Times, 02.05.20)
  • The prosecutor's office of Moscow's Western district has apologized to Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov for his illegal prosecution, in a case that has embarrassed the city's police department. (RFE/RL, 02.05.20)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • Iraq's Defense Ministry says it has discussed the possibilities for deepening military cooperation with Russia, as ties between Baghdad and Washington fray following a U.S. air strike that killed a top Iranian general in the country. (RFE/RL, 02.07.20)
  • Russia says it will sell radars in the Middle East that are designed to detect cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons. “Contracts have been signed with a number of Middle Eastern countries for the supply of Rezonans-NE,” an unidentified Russian government source told TASS.  (The National Interest, 02.06.20)
  • Russia plans to start deliveries of its S-400 air defense system to India late next year. (The Moscow Times, 02.05.20)
  • Citizens of 53 countries will be able to apply for free and simplified electronic visas to visit Russia starting next year. The 16-day e-visas will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021, for citizens of the European Union and different countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. U.S., British and Canadian passport holders are not yet eligible. (The Moscow Times, 02.06.20)
  • Lavrov visited Cuba and Mexico in addition to visiting Venezuela this week. While in Mexico City on Feb. 6, Lavrov said Mexico was in talks to buy a batch of Russian-made military helicopters. While in Havana, Lavrov said Russia and Cuba work together on large-scale projects in energy and metallurgy. (TASS, 02.05.20, Reuters, 06.02.20)
  • An obscure Russian company is suing the French far-right leader’s political party to recover an $11 million loan, the investigative website Open Media reported Feb. 3, citing court documents. Marine Le Pen’s party took out 9.4 million euros ($10.8 million at the time) from the Moscow-based First Czech-Russian Bank in 2014. Two years later, the bank lost its license and the loan was sold to a little-known Russian company called Konti. (The Moscow Times, 02.03.20)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jan. 30 visit to Moscow had been agreed within 24 hours and Putin was ready to back this Israeli initiative, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. (TASS, 02.02.20)

China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?

  • Russian-Chinese trade, which rose 25 percent in 2018 to pass $100 billion, has three major pillars. First, oil and gas accounts for about 70 percent of Russian exports to China. Second, almost all of the remainder is raw natural resources or machinery, which fuel China’s manufacturing industry. And, third, heading in the other direction to Moscow, are a plethora of finished goods, led by electronics and clothing. Of these, the first two are most at risk in the short term because of the coronavirus’ impact on economy and trade. (Financial Times, 02.04.20)


  • Ukraine is going to hold local elections nationally at the end of October, which should include the occupied territories of Donbas, presidential aide Andriy Yermak said Feb. 1. At the same time, these elections can’t be held in occupied Donbas if illegal armed formations are present there, and if Ukraine doesn’t control the border, which would violate Ukrainian law, he said. Yermak said the Minsk-2 agreement needs to be modified so that the elections take place only after Ukraine assumes control of parts of the border with Russia that are currently held by the separatists. (bne Intellinews, 02.03.20, Kommersant, 02.02.20)
  • Two Ukrainian military personnel were killed and four wounded over the weekend in the Donbas conflict zone. (RFE/RL, 02.03.20)
  • The Kremlin has distanced itself from the naming of Vladimir Pashkov, former deputy governor of Russia's Irkutsk region, as the separatist prime minister in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region. (RFE/RL, 02.06.20)
  • Ukrainians are distrustful of Putin: About eight-in-ten lack confidence in the Russian leader when it comes to world affairs, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center in 2019. (Pew Research, 02.07.20)
  • More than one-third (34 percent) of Ukrainians identify with the newly created independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, a poll found, conducted by the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center think tank. (RFE/RL, 02.04.20)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has met with his Turkish counterpart in Kyiv for talks expected to focus on trade. Zelenskiy and Erdogan were to discuss ways to "enhance strategic partnership and cooperation in all areas of interaction," according to the Ukrainian presidency. (RFE/RL, 02.03.20)
  • The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has passed at first reading a bill that proposes to reduce the number of members of parliament to 300 and elect them according to the proportional election system. (Interfax, 02.04.20)
  • Remittances from Ukrainians working outside the country grew 12 percent year-on-year last year, to $12.9 billion, reports the National Bank of Ukraine. This volume of money offset Ukraine’s $12.1 billion 2019 trade deficit. (Ukraine Business News, 02.04.20)
  • Ukraine’s farmers harvested a record 75 million tons of grain last year, up 7.2 percent from 2018, reports the Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture Ministry. (Ukraine Business News, 02.04.20)
  • When Rudy Giuliani met top aide to Ukraine’s president Andriy Yermak last August, he discussed the prospect of a coveted White House meeting for Zelenskiy while seeking Ukraine’s commitment to certain investigations that could benefit Trump politically. Giuliani also threw in a request of his own: help the mayor of Kyiv, Vitaliy Klitschko, keep his job. (New York Times, 01.31.20)
  • A federal judge in Manhattan on Feb. 3 scheduled the trail of Lev Parnas, the Florida businessman who helped Giuliani unearth damaging information about Trump’s political rivals, on charges of violating campaign finance laws for Oct. 5. (New York Times, 02.03.20)
  • Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who played a key role in the U.S. House hearings on the impeachment of Trump last November, has retired from the State Department. (RFE/RL, 02.01.20)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • At a meeting in Minsk on Feb. 1 with Lukashenko, Pompeo said the U.S. seeks closer ties with Belarus but added Minsk did not need to take sides between Washington and Moscow.  Washington would appoint a new ambassador to Minsk soon, Pompeo said. "The United States wants to help Belarus build its own sovereign country. Our energy producers stand ready to deliver 100 percent of the oil you need at competitive prices," Pompeo said at a meeting with Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makei. Washington, in another boost to its ties with Belarus, on Jan. 31 omitted it from a list of countries under a travel ban after earlier signaling its possible inclusion. (RFE/RL, 02.01.20, RFE/RL, 02.01.20)
  • The leader of Belarus boasted Feb. 4 about warming ties with the United States as his officials discussed alternative energy imports as part of efforts to win concessions from Russia. “Russia has grown worried,” Lukashenko said while visiting a factory. “Belarus determines its own foreign policy as a sovereign and independent nation.” (AP, 02.04.20)
  • Lukashenko has arrived in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi for talks with Putin. The two agreed to keep last year’s prices on supplies of gas, but reached no deal on oil prices. Belarusian Prime Minister Syarhey Rumas said the country had lost $300 million in 2019 after Russia cut energy subsidies and raised prices. (, 02.07.20, RFE/RL, 02.07.20)
  • Talks among foreign ministers in the Central Asia-U.S. (C5+1) format have evolved into an efficient mechanism for broader cooperation between countries of the region and the United States, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov said in his opening remarks at the C5+1 meeting in Tashkent on Feb. 3. Pompeo said the United States wanted "each of the nations in Central Asia to be independent and sovereign, not a supplicant or a vassal state of any other country in the region." (RFE/RL, 02.02.20, Interfax, 02.03.20)
  • Pompeo has hailed the “wonderful, rapidly growing” partnership between the United States and Uzbekistan, which he said “deserves praise for its progress on human rights issues.” Pompeo made the comments on Feb. 3 after talks with Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov. During his visit, he also met with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev, whom he thanked for his "leadership in forging the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Uzbekistan." Uzbekistan wants Central Asia to develop sustainably, rather than become an arena of rivalry between superpowers, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov said following talks with Pompeo. (RFE/RL, 02.03.20, Interfax, 02.03.20) 
  • "We have seen the new government make real changes," Pompeo said during a visit to Kazakhstan. Pompeo was in Kazakhstan on Feb. 2, pressing authorities to be wary of Russian and Chinese investment and influence. Pompeo began a brief visit to the country by meeting with ethnic Kazakhs whose families have gone missing or been detained in China’s crackdown on Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities in western Xinjiang Province. Pompeo was also congratulating Kazakhstan on its repatriation of Islamic State fighters from Iraq and Syria. Kazakhstan has taken back nearly 600 fighters and family members detained in areas formerly controlled by the group. (AP, 03.02.20, RFE/RL, 02.02.20)
  • The Trump administration has announced it was adding six more countries to the list of those whose citizens face travel restrictions to the United States. The six countries affected when the travel ban takes effect on Feb. 22 are Sudan, Tanzania, Eritrea, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria. (The Washington Post, 02.04.20)
  • Four Islamic State extremists that Dushanbe is trying to extradite from Syria include Tajik militants linked to dozens of terrorist attacks and a notorious online propaganda campaign aimed at recruiting fighters to IS. (RFE/RL, 02.03.20)
  • Tajikistan National Bank says terrorists who killed four foreign cyclists in 2018 were financed via the Russian payment system Zolotaya Korona (Golden Crown). (RFE/RL, 02.05.20)
  • Turkmenistan's authoritarian leader, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has ordered the government to allocate $1.5 billion to buy equipment and materials from foreign nations to build a new capital of the south-central region of Ahal. (RFE/RL, 02.04.20)
  • Kazatomprom expects its 2020 uranium output to remain flat compared to 2019, consistent with its market-centric strategy and previously announced intention to "flex down" planned production volumes through 2021. Total uranium production for 2019 on a 100 percent basis was 22,808 tU—5 percent higher than 2018, according to the company's operations. (World Nuclear News, 02.03.20)
  • Azerbaijanis vote Feb. 9 in a snap parliamentary election that resulted from a sudden political housecleaning last fall. (The Washington Post, 02.07.20)
  • Wife of jailed Azerbaijani banker Cahangir Haciyev Zamira Haciyev who spent 16 million pounds ($21 million) over a decade in London's Harrods department store and was the target of Britain's first unexplained wealth order (UWO) has lost her appeal against a court order to reveal the source of her money. (RFE/RL, 02.06.20)


IV. Quoteworthy:

  • No significant developments.