Russia in Review, July 1-9, 2021

This Week's Highlights:

  • President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Friday phone call that he must “take action” against cybercriminals acting in his country and that the United States reserves the right to “defend its people and its critical infrastructure,” the White House said
  • The U.N. Security Council on Friday extended a cross-border aid operation into Syria from Turkey after Russia agreed to a compromise in last minute talks with the United States, ensuring the delivery of humanitarian help to millions of Syrians for the next 12 months, according to Reuters. The United States has earlier stressed in recent weeks that it viewed the renewal of the UN authorization as a test of possible cooperation between Russia and Washington , according to AFP.
  • President Vladimir Putin has signed a National Security Strategy. Detailed provisions on relations with the United States and the European Union, which were present in the 2015 version of this strategy,  "have disappeared in [the] 2021 version," according to Igor Denisov of MGIMO. Another difference: The 2015 strategy "contained a clause on possible cooperation with NATO," Denisov was cited by RFE/RL as having written.
  • "If the Russian government cannot or will not take action against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will take action or reserve the right to take action on our own," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on July 6 when speaking about cybersecurity consultations between the two countries, in the wake of the massive ransomware attack that breached a popular software made by the information technology company Kaseya, The Washington Post reported.  
  • In January to May 2021, Russia’s key non-CIS trading partners were China, with a turnover of $50.1 billion (up 26.1% year-on-year); Germany, with a turnover of $21.2 billion (+29.7%); the Netherlands, with a turnover of $16 billion (+23.7%) and the United States, with a turnover of $13.1 billion (+24.1%), TASS reported.
  • The Russian military has begun to deploy S-350 Vityaz air defense systems, and it plans to commission S-500 air defense systems, Borei-A-class and Yasen-M-class nuclear-powered submarines in the near future, TASS reported. In contrast, the mass production of next-generation Armata main battle tanks is being delayed by about one year, Defence Blog reported.
  • Tajikistan has appealed to members of a Russian-led military alliance of ex-Soviet states for help in dealing with security challenges emerging from neighboring Afghanistan, according to media reports. Tajik authorities say that two-thirds of the 1,357-kilometer border with Afghanistan is under Taliban control. Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon sent 20,000 army reservists to guard the border. Putin promised Russia would offer Tajikistan any direct support it needed, adding that the CSTO was also ready to act, according to The Washington Post and RFE/RL.        

 

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

Nuclear security:

  • Rosenergoatom, the nuclear power plant operator subsidiary of Russia's Rosatom, has announced the successful completion of its annual emergency preparedness exercise. This year's exercise was conducted on 30 June-1 July at the Novovoronezh nuclear power plant, which was last used for such an exercise in 2011. More than 600 people from 20 organizations took part and included Rosenergoatom's Crisis Centre in Moscow. (World Nuclear News, 07.05.21)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • The Russian Embassy in Pyongyang says many of its staff have left for Russia amid North Korea's tight restrictions on cross-border travel to keep out the coronavirus. (NHK, 07.06.21)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • The date of the seventh round of talks on restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program has not been set yet, and Tehran needs more time for preparations, said Russian Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov, who heads the Russian delegation to the talks. Meanwhile Iran has begun the process of producing enriched uranium metal, the UN atomic watchdog said on July 6, a move that could help it develop a nuclear weapon and that three European powers said threatened talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. (TASS, 07.08.21, Reuters, 07.06.21)

Great Power rivalry/New Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:

  • President Vladimir Putin has signed a National Security Strategy that takes criticism of the West to a new level, claiming that Russia's "cultural sovereignty" is at risk and that its "traditional values" are "under active attack by the United States and its allies." Detailed provisions on relations with the United States and the European Union "have disappeared in [the] 2021 version," tweeted Igor Denisov, a senior research fellow at the Russian foreign-policy institute MGIMO. Another difference: The 2015 strategy, while it was adopted the year after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine and fomented separatism that contributed to the outbreak of the war in the Donbas, driving ties with the West to new lows, "contained a clause on possible cooperation with NATO," Denisov wrote (RFE/RL, 07.09.21)                                                                    
  • Russia will take all necessary measures if its state border in the Black Sea is violated, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, commenting on a statement of British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that UK Royal Navy ships would continue entering Ukrainian territorial waters. "[Both at the level of] the Russian president and other levels it has been stated many times that Russia would take appropriate measures in case of violations of the state border at sea. Therefore, in this case, every time when the Russian state border is violated, necessary measures will be taken," Peskov said. (TASS, 07.08.21)
  • The levels of cooperation and integration of participants in the Sea Breeze 2021 multinational military exercise were at an all-time high, Head of the Sea Breeze 2021 exercise from the American side, U.S. Navy Captain Stuart Bauman has said. He said during a telephone briefing on July 9 that up to 30 nations participated, and they had over 5,000 sailors, soldiers and pilots. The exercise included 30 ships and fostered a great level of cooperation and partnership between all participating nations. (Interfax, 07.09.21)
    • The naval aviation division of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, jointly with the Southern Military District air forces, carried out training flights above the Black Sea amid the Sea Breeze 2021 exercises of NATO and its partners in the region, the Black Sea fleet’s press service said in a statement. (TASS, 07.02.21)
    • The Russian military is tracking a U.S. Navy expeditionary fast transport USNS Yuma (T-EPF 8) in the Black Sea, the National Defense Control Center reported on July 8. (Defence Blog, 07.09.21)
  • NATO scrambled fighter jets, which deployed at Lithuania’s Zokniai airbase on a rotary basis, 15 times in June to track and intercept Russian military aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea, according to a Lithuanian Ministry of Defense. (Defence Blog, 07.06.21)
  • A Russian Su-27 fighter jet was scrambled on July 8 to follow a French reconnaissance plane flying over the Baltic Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry said. (Interfax, 07.09.21)

China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?

  • In January to May 2021, Russia’s key non-CIS trading partners were China, with a turnover of $50.1 billion (up 26.1% year-on-year); Germany, with a turnover of $21.2 billion (+29.7%); the Netherlands, with a turnover of $16 billion (+23.7%); the United States, with a turnover of $13.1 billion (+24.1%); the Republic of Korea, with a turnover of $11.6 billion (+47.9%); Turkey, with a turnover of $11.3 billion (+30.9%); Italy, with a turnover of $9.8 billion (+25.4%); the United Kingdom, with a turnover of $8.7 billion (+78%); France, with a turnover of $7.7 billion (+40%); and Poland, with a turnover of $7.2 billion (+29.9%). (TASS, 07.09.21)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • President Joe Biden said on July 2 that he planned to nominate Mallory Stewart to be assistant secretary of state for arms control, a position that in the past has played a central role in negotiating treaties such as New START. Stewart, a lawyer, is currently a senior director on the White House National Security Council. (RFE/RL, 07/03.21)

Counter-terrorism:

  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • The U.N. Security Council on Friday extended a cross-border aid operation into Syria from Turkey after Russia agreed to a compromise in last minute talks with the United States, ensuring the delivery of humanitarian help to millions of Syrians for the next 12 months. The United States has stressed in recent weeks that it viewed the renewal of the UN authorization as a test of possible cooperation between Russia and Washington   (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.09.21, Reuters, 07.09.21)
  • Turkey, Iran and Russia reaffirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty and pledged to cooperate on defeating terrorism in the war-torn country, the trio said in a joint statement following their latest round of Syrian peace talks. On July 7, representatives from the three countries gathered in Nur-Sultan for the 16th round of the Astana process talks sponsored by Moscow and Tehran. (Al Monitor, 07.08.21)
  • The Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet said the Kalibr cruise missile-equipped frigate Admiral Essen and the Moskva missile cruiser are en route to their home base from the Eastern Mediterranean, where they had been deployed for bombardment missions in Syria.  (The Moscow Times, 07.06.21)
  • The Project 21631 corvette ‘Ingushetia’ (NATO reporting name: Buyan-M-class) of the Black Sea Fleet has started transitioning from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea in order to replace the Project 21631 corvette “Orekhovo-Zuyevo,” according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. (TASS, 07.09.21)
  • The Syrian Kurdish administration has handed over another 20 children languishing in camps for the Islamic State group to a Russian delegation for repatriation. (RFE/RL, 07/03.21)

Cyber security:

  • Suspected Russian-speaking cybercriminals behind what may be the largest ransomware attack to date have demanded $70 million in Bitcoin in exchange for a decryption tool as companies and security experts continued to assess the extent of damage. Cybersecurity experts believe thousands of victims in at least 17 countries may be impacted by the attack on U.S.-based firm Kaseya, which provides information-technology (IT) services to some 40,000 businesses around the world. (RFE/RL, 07.06.21)                                         
    • President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Friday phone call that he must “take action” against cybercriminals acting in his country and that the U.S. reserves the right to “defend its people and its critical infrastructure,” the White House said. A new ransomware attack linked to the REvil hacking group based in Russia caused widespread disruption last weekend, affecting as many as 1,500 businesses. The White House statement announcing the hourlong call with Putin highlighted a U.S.-Russian agreement that will allow humanitarian aid to flow into Syria. (AP, 07.09.21)
    • "If the Russian government cannot or will not take action against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will take action or reserve the right to take action on our own," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on July 6 when speaking about cybersecurity consultations between the two countries, in the wake of the massive ransomware attack that breached a popular software made by the information technology company Kaseya. (The Washington Post, 07.07.21)
  • Russian government-linked hackers were behind last week’s cyberattack targeting the U.S. Republican National Committee, two unnamed sources familiar with the matter said.  The hack appears to have originated with APT29, also known as Cozy Bear, a hacker group that is widely believed to be linked to Russia’s intelligence agencies and was previously accused of the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee.  RNC officials denied that any information had been stolen.  (Bloomberg/The Moscow Times, 07.07.21)
  • Moscow and Washington are in contact on cybersecurity issues following the June summit between Presidents Putin and Biden, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on July 7. "Certain contacts have taken place based on the agreements reached in Geneva," he said. Peskov pointed out that "the launch of a mechanism for cybersecurity consultations was announced" after the Putin-Biden summit (TASS, 07.07.21)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia must prepare for major revenue losses brought by a global push toward renewable energy and subsequent fall in demand for fossil fuels, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said. A looming carbon border tax in the European Union, Russia’s largest trading partner, is predicted to cost Russian exporters billions of euros per year. Russia's Central Bank has calculated that the tariff could affect more than 40% of Russian exports. (TASS, 07.07.21)
  • Brent crude oil futures were up $1.19, or 1.6%, at $75.31 a barrel by 1355 GMT. Gains in oil prices were capped by worries that members of the OPEC+ group could be tempted to abandon output limits with talks breaking down because of an impasse between major producers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Russia was trying to mediate in an effort to strike a deal to raise output, OPEC+ sources said. (Reuters, 07.09.21)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • Russian tech giant Yandex said on July 6 it planned to launch self-driving delivery robots on U.S. college campuses later this year, the company's latest push into foreign markets. In a statement, the Russian group said it would partner with U.S. delivery giant Grubhub to deploy the self-driving rovers at 250 college campuses across the United States. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.06.21)

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • The Biden administration is revamping the way the U.S. uses punitive sanctions, aiming to stem sweeping pressure campaigns, avoid collateral economic damage and act jointly with allies rather than unilaterally, according to people involved in the planning process. The administration has nearly completed an extensive review of U.S. sanctions policy, which is expected out near the end of summer, according to one official. While details are still being ironed out, Biden administration officials have foreshadowed elements of the new strategy in a series of actions, including the planned easing of economywide sanctions against Iran. (The Wall Street Journal, 07.05.21)
  • U.S. climate envoy John Kerry will meet with Russian officials in Moscow on July 12-15, making him the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit Russia so far, at a time when the two countries are at odds. A terse State Department announcement July 8 said Kerry’s four-day trip would be aimed at discussing “means of enhancing global climate ambition.” (AP, RIA Novosti, 07.08.21)
  • Local media say former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan's legal team will request his transfer from a Russian prison to the U.S. to serve out the remainder of his sentence. Russian news outlets RIA Novosti and TASS reported on July 7 that Whelan had asked about the possibility during a visit with him at his penal colony. (RFE/RL, 07.07.21)                                                                 

II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia has confirmed 5,733,218 cases of coronavirus and 141,501 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information center. Russia’s total excess fatality count since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is around 475,000. Russia on July 9 reported 25,766 new coronavirus cases and 726 deaths as the country battles the surging Delta variant. (The Moscow Times, 07.09.21) Here’s a link to RFE/RL’s interactive map of the virus’ spread around the world, including in Russia and the rest of post-Soviet Eurasia.
  • Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik, has been the subject of fascination and controversy since the Russian government authorized its use last year, before early-stage trial results were even published. Evidence from Russia and many other countries now suggests it is safe and effective—but questions remain about the quality of surveillance for possible rare side effects. (Nature, 07.06.21)
  • Russia's annual consumer price inflation (CPI) in June 2021 accelerated to 6.5% year on year in June 2021, up from 6% year on year, as seen in May, and 5.5% year on year, as seen in April, according to the latest data by RosStat, confirming the previous estimates based on weekly data. (bne IntelliNews,  07.08.21)                                                                    
  • Rosatom has announced that Russia produced 7% more electricity from nuclear power in the first-half of this year than in the same period of 2020.  (World Nuclear News, 07.05.21)
  • A Council of Europe legal advisory body, the Venice Commission, has sharply criticized recent Russian amendments to laws regulating so-called ‘'foreign agents," saying they constitute “serious violations” of basic human rights and will have a “chilling effect” on political life. (RFE/RL, 07.08.21)                                                                    
  • In an open letter to the UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights House Foundation, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) noted that, while a recent session of the UN Human Rights Council put a spotlight on the “alarming trend” in Russia, the situation has only worsened since. (RFE/RL, 07.08.21)                                                                    
  • Russians view jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in an increasingly bad light and largely approve or remain indifferent toward the authorities’ decision to brand his political movement as “extremist,” according to an independent survey published July 9. The Levada Center polling agency said 14% of its respondents approve of Navalny’s activities, dropping from 20% last year and 19% earlier in 2021. Another 62% said they do not approve of Navalny’s activities. (RFE/RL, 07.09.21)       

Defense and aerospace:

  • The Russian Aerospace Forces hold massive air exercises in the Arctic region, according to a recent service news release. “During the tactical flight exercise, crews of the Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers conducted launches of airborne cruise missiles at land-based targets at a firing range in the Arctic region,” the Aerospace Forces said in a news release, adding that the launches were conducted routinely and the targets were hit. (Defence Blog, 07.07.21)
  • The air defense units of the Russian Aerospace Forces are set to receive the newest S-500 Prometey (Prometheus) air defense systems earlier than anticipated, according to the press department of the VKS. (TASS, 07.08.21)
  • Russia’s Surface-to-Air Missile Troops have started receiving the S-350 Vityaz (Russian Knight) medium-range SAM systems; the military service is also set to get the newest S-500 Prometey (Prometheus) long-range air defense system. (TASS, 07.09.21)
  • The Russian defense industry is reportedly delaying mass production of its next-generation Armata main battle tanks by around a year.  Russia’s Industry and Trade Minister, Denis Manturov said that mass production of the T-14 Armata tank will begin in 2022. (Defence Blog, 07.07.21)
  • "I express my confidence that the deliveries of [Project 955A] Borei-A-class and [Project 885M] Yasen-M-class nuclear-powered submarines, which are scheduled for 2021, will be fully implemented," sad Commander-in-Chief Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov said. (TASS, 07.08.21)
  • Yars (NATO reporting name: SS-29 Yars) ground-mobile missile systems will be used in combat patrol during an exercise in the Sverdlovsk Region in the Urals and the Altai Territory in southern Siberia, the Defense Ministry’s press office said. (TASS, 07.08.21)

Security, law-enforcement, justice and emergencies:

  • A passenger plane with 28 people aboard crashed in far eastern Russia on July 6, the authorities said, in the latest blow to the country’s sprawling but aging domestic aviation industry. (The New York Times, 07.06.21)
  • Wildfires ravaging northeastern Siberia have spread by nearly 70,000 hectares in the past day, marking a 17.5% increase in a single day, the Kommersant business daily reported July 9, citing the regional emergencies ministry. Some 400,000 hectares of forest are now burning in Russia’s republic of Sakha. (RFE/RL, 07.09.21)  
  • Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council Yuri Kokov told reporters that no major terrorist attacks had taken place in the country in the previous five years. “98% of these kinds of crimes are thwarted in the preparatory stage," he added. (TASS, 07.07.21)

 

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Russia's foreign trade surplus in January-May 2021 amounted to $41.2 billion, which is 8.1% (or $3.1 billion) down in comparison with the same period in 2020. Fuel and energy goods accounted for 53.1% of the Russian exports in January-May 2021 (compared to 56.5% in five months of 2020). Equipment and machinery accounted for 49.6% of goods imported during the reporting period (45.9% a year earlier). (TASS, 07.09.21)
  • Six hundred Russian security instructors have recently been sent to the Central African Republic, the foreign ministry said on July 1, bringing the total number in the country to 1,135. The announcement came after the UN's envoy to the Central African Republic (CAR) accused the nation's security forces and their Russian allies of multiple human rights violations. (AFP, 07.01.21)
  • India and Russia are on the edge of a new era in the field of military and technical cooperation, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said in his speech at Russia’s Institute of World Economy and International Relations. (TASS, 07.09.21)
  • For the first time since he took office last month, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister’s Office said July 5. The two leaders discussed a number of security issues, with Bennett thanking Putin for the role his country plays in maintaining regional stability as well as efforts by Russia to assist in the return of Israeli civilians and the remains of Israeli soldiers held in the Gaza Strip. (Times of Israel, 07.06.21)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has overturned a 2015 decree banning charter flights to Egyptian resorts, ending a six-year hiatus on travel to a popular destination for Russian tourists. Putin also withdrew his previous recommendation against selling tours to Egyptian resorts on the Red Sea. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.07.21)
  • A Russian delegation led by two Navy officers secretly visited Myanmar ahead of its junta leader’s trip to Russia last month, the independent Myanmar Now news outlet reported on July 6, citing a document it said it had obtained. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.06.21)
  • The European Union's envoy in Moscow Markus Ederer was quoted on July 8 as saying that the bloc has proposed discussing possible joint recognition with Russia of their respective COVID-19 certificates. (RFE/RL, 07.08.21)                                                                     
  • Champagne houses in France on July 5 issued a plea for diplomatic help over a new Russian law reserving the term "champagne" for Russian-produced sparkling wines, which interrupted supplies from the local market leader Moet Hennessy. (AFP, 07.06.21) 
  • Former French Prime Francois Fillon has joined to the board of Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft, the latest in a number of former top European government leaders to serve on Russian energy company boards. (RFE/RL, 07/03.21)
  • The European Union is set to propose the creation of a new anti-money-laundering agency with direct powers to supervise financial companies, according to a document seen by The Wall Street Journal. The agency would be part of a broader plan to address failures that have made the region a haven for financial crime. The European Commission—the EU's legislative arm—is set to make the proposal later this month, according to a person familiar with the matter. (The Wall Street Journal, 07.07.21)
  • Late in 2020, the UK Conservative grandee Sir Nicholas Soames received a memo about a party donor called Mohamed Amersi. Along with his partner, he has given the party more than £750,000 since 2017. That has bought him membership of the exclusive Leaders Group of donors and its monthly lunches with British government ministers. Court documents and company records show that Amersi made part of his fortune doing deals in 2005 with a business empire that a Swiss tribunal found to be controlled by a close associate of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. (Financial Times, 07.07.21)

Ukraine:

  • Ukraine sent a note of protest to the OSCE over the death of a soldier of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the wounding of three more soldiers in Donbas on July 5, the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) will start its meeting on July 6 with a discussion of the shelling. (Interfax, 07.06.21)
  • French President Emmanuel Macron believes that the “Normandy format” is essential in order to move ahead with the efforts aimed at putting an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Elysee Palace said on July 2 after the French leader’s talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. (TASS, 07.02.21)
  • Kyiv’s failure to comply with the Minsk agreements and pressure on political opponents in Ukraine are stonewalling preparations for a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Putin will soon be through with an article dedicated to Ukraine-related topics, he said. (TASS, 07.04.21)
  • Ukraine’s exports to Russia plummeted by 78% between 2013 and 2019, Tymofiy Milovanov, Presidential Economic Advisor said yesterday at the Ukraine 30 International Politics forum. (Ukraine Business News, 07.06.21)
  • Ukraine’s foreign trade in goods increased by almost 30% during the first half of this year, compared to the same January-June period last year, Taras Kachka, Ukraine’s Trade Representative, wrote on Facebook. Compared to the first half of 2019, the last “normal” year, trade is up 22% and the trade deficit is down 60%, to $1.25 billion. Exports to the European Union reached $12.3 billion, 20% higher than 2019. Exports to China reached $4.28 billion, nearly three times the level of 2019. (Ukraine Business News, 07.06.21)
  • Ukraine's international reserves grew 2% during June to $28.358 billion, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) said, quoting preliminary data. (Interfax, 07.06.21)
  • Ukraine’s current account surplus grew to $723 million in May, up from the $443 million  the country earned in April (a result revised down from the previously reported surplus of $837 million ) mostly due to a trade surplus swollen by strong exports and high commodity prices, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) reported on June 30. (bne IntelliNews, 07.01.21)
  • Some 20.6% of respondents, all of whom planned to take part in the elections and had already determined their electoral preferences, would vote for the Servant of the People party, some 16.9% would vote for the Opposition Platform-For Life party and 15% would choose the European Solidarity party, according to the results of a sociological survey conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) on June 22-29. A total of 14.7% would support the All-Ukrainian Association Batkivschyna, the Strength and Honor party would take 7% of the votes, some 5.7% of voters would choose the Radical Party of Oleh Liashko, and 5.1% would vote for the Ukrainian Strategy of Groisman party. (Interfax, 07.06.21)
  • The majority (71.7%) of Ukrainians support the holding of a referendum banning the sale of agricultural land, 65.2% would support a ban on the sale of agricultural land, and 84.1% oppose the sale of Ukrainian agricultural land to foreigners, according to the results of sociological research conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) on June 22-29. (Interfax, 07.05.21)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Tajikistan has appealed to members of a Russian-led military alliance of ex-Soviet states for help in dealing with security challenges emerging from neighboring Afghanistan, according to media reports. Tajik authorities say that two-thirds of the 1,357-kilometer border with Afghanistan is under Taliban control and they are preparing for an influx of refugees to enter the country. Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon sent 20,000 army reservists to guard the border. Putin promised Russia would offer Tajikistan any direct support it needed, adding that the CSTO was also ready to act. (The Washington Post, 07.09.21, RFE/RL, 07.08.21)                                                                 
    • Russia on July 9 said the Taliban controls about two-thirds of the Afghan-Tajik border and urged all sides in Afghanistan to show restraint. "We have noted a sharp rise in tension on the Afghan-Tajik border. The Taliban movement quickly occupied a large part of border districts and currently controls about two-thirds of the border," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, adding that Moscow urges all sides to "show restraint." (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.09.21)
    • Russia will not take any measures so long as the situation in Afghanistan does not influence events in the territory of Moscow’s allies, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference following talks with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on July 9. (TASS, 07.09.21)
    • A team headed by Chief of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Joint Staff Col Gen Anatoly Sidorov has reviewed a part of the state border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, according to the press department of the CSTO. (TASS, 07.09.21)
    • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the top diplomats of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on July 1, with Afghanistan high on the agenda as U.S. forces prepare to exit the war-torn country and Washington seeks Central Asian partners. President Biden vigorously defended his decision to end America's 20-year war in Afghanistan, asserting that the United States can no longer afford the human cost or strategic distraction of a conflict that he said had strayed far from its initial mission. (RFE/RL, 07.02.21, The New York Times, 07.09.21
  • "The West does not like our desire to unite the Central Asian republics. They don’t want this. They want to separate us all from Russia now. This is what they are working on," Nursultan Nazarbayev said in a documentary shown on Khabar republican TV channel on July 1. (TASS, 07.01.21)
  • Kazatomprom plans to maintain 2023 uranium production at a similar level to 2022, which it says would remove up to 5,000 tU from anticipated global primary supply. The Kazakh company also said its sale of a 49% share of Ortalyk LLP to a subsidiary of China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNP) will now be completed at the end of July. (World Nuclear News, 07.02.21)
  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkish intelligence agents abducted a Turkish-Kyrgyz educator whose disappearance from Bishkek last month triggered protests and concern about the man's safety. Orhan Inandi, the head of Sapat educational network in Kyrgyzstan, disappeared in the Kyrgyz capital late on May 31 under mysterious circumstances. (RFE/RL, 07.06.21
  • Canada's Centerra Gold says it has filed additional arbitration claims against the Kyrgyz government as it battles for control of the Central Asian country’s Kumtor gold-mine project. (RFE/RL, 07.08.21)                                                                     
  • Belarus’s authoritarian ruler Alexander Lukashenko says he ordered the full closure of the border with Ukraine, citing security reasons, and claimed the authorities had exposed Western-linked "terrorist" sleeper cells, as his regime faces growing international pressure over its brutal crackdown on dissent in the wake of last year’s disputed presidential election. (RFE/RL, 07.02.21)
  • Lukashenka has threatened to halt European Union goods transiting his country in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Brussels. During a government meeting on July 6, Lukashenka likened the sanctions by the West, and the EU in particular, to a "war" and said Belarus could stop the transit of goods from the bloc headed eastward. "First: not a step inside the Belarusian market; second: not a step through Belarus either," he told the meeting. (RFE/RL, 07.06.21)    
  • Lithuania has granted the Belarusian pro-democratic opposition led by Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya official status in the EU country. Lithuania has also started construction of a barrier on its border with Belarus amid a surge in illegal migrant crossings that Vilnius says Minsk is purposely organizing in retaliation for European Union sanctions.  (RFE/RL , 07.05.21, RFE/RL, 07.09.21)                                                                     
  • Lukashenko said that terrorist sleeper cells exposed in the country—so-called self-defense units—attempted to blow up the communication center of the Russian Navy in Vileyka, the Minsk Region. (TASS, 07.02.21)
  • A court in Belarus has sentenced former presidential contender Viktar Babaryka to 14 years in prison on corruption charges. Babaryka's defense team said before the ruling that the charges against their client had been fabricated to thwart his political ambitions. (RFE/RL, 07.06.21)                                         
  • Belarusian-American lawyer Yuras Zyankovich was detained by Russia’s FSB security agency alongside a veteran Belarusian opposition leader three months ago and spirited away to Minsk to face charges of attempting a coup, CNN reported July 6. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.07.21)
  • Belarus authorities on July 1 blocked another independent news organization, Nasha Niva, and dispatched police to its editorial offices, clamping down further on media not yet under tight state control. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.07.21)
  • Russia says it has given an Estonian diplomat 48 hours to leave after briefly detaining him for allegedly receiving classified documents in what the Baltic state called a "setup." The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on July 7 that Consul Mart Latte had been declared "persona non grata" for "intelligence-gathering activities incompatible with diplomatic status.” (RFE/RL, 07.07.21)                                                                    
  • Azerbaijan handed over 15 captured Armenian soldiers in exchange for land mine maps, the two countries' foreign ministries said on July 3. (RFE/RL, 07.04.21)
  • A humanitarian explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) company of the Russian peacekeeping contingency in Nagorno-Karabakh has deactivated more than 25,000 explosive objects, according to the Ministry of Defense (MoD). (TASS, 07.09.21)
  • Moscow is ready to provide consultative assistance on the delimitation of the Azerbaijan-Armenia border with its subsequent demarcation for a speedy settlement to the conflict between the two countries, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on July 9. (TASS, 07.09.21)
  • A delegation of the Russian Armed Forces will visit Armenia to discuss broader bilateral military cooperation. “Acting Armenian Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutyunyan and Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Valery Gerasimov have had a telephone call, during which they discussed the agenda of the negotiations planned for a visit by a Russian Armed Forces delegation to Armenia within the coming days to discuss programs and actions aimed at deepening Armenian-Russian military cooperation. (Interfax, 07.08.21)
  • The opposition bloc Armenia Alliance, led by former President Robert Kocharian, has asked the Constitutional Court to overturn the results of last month's elections, which it lost to acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's Civil Contract party. (RFE/RL, 07.02.21)
  • More than 20,000 Georgian troops have been on tours of duty in Afghanistan since 2004 on the rotation principle, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili said at the Senaki military base in Georgia on July 9. (Interfax, 07.09.21)
  • LGBTQ activists in Georgia said July 5 they had been forced to cancel a planned Pride march after opponents clashed with activists and police and the prime minister spoke out against the event.  (The Moscow Times, 07.05.21)
  • Georgia exported more than 28 million bottles of wine to the Russian market in January-June this year, an increase of 8% when compared to the same data for 2020, according to a statement by the National Wine Agency of the republic. (TASS, 07.09.21)
  • Russia’s Interior Ministry has prepared a bill calling for major changes in how residence permits are issued to migrant workers.  The bill, which is still in development, would replace the existing system of three-year temporary residence permits with a three-tier scheme. It would allow foreign citizens to receive permits for short-term (less than 90 days in one calendar year), long-term (over 90 days in one calendar year without the right to permanent residency), or permanent residency. (RFE/RL, 07.09.21)                                                                    

 

IV. Quoteworthy:

  • No significant developments.