Russia in Review, July 9-16, 2021
This Week’s Highlights
- U.S. diplomats warned their Russian counterparts that ISIS was plotting to acquire radioactive substances in Russia, prompting all Russian operators of sites handling radioactive material and associated facilities to conduct unscheduled physical protection audits in September 2020, according to Russian Nuclear Security.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said of Russian-Chinese relations: “Our ties today outpace those that defined our military-political alliances during the Cold War period.” These comments were made during a meeting with Lavrov’s Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of a high-level international conference in Tashkent on July 15, as reported by TASS.
- Russia has tested over 320 types of weapons in its operations in Syria, the country's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced during his visit to the Rostvertol helicopter manufacturing factory in Rostov-on-Don, Daily Sabah reported.
- U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel failed to find a common position on the issue of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline—which will allow Russia to bypass Ukraine—during a meeting of the two leaders on July 15. Nevertheless, the two leaders vowed to stand together against Moscow’s aggression and promised more sanctions as Russia escalates its aggression against Ukraine, bne IntelliNews reported. Before her visit to the United States, Merkel hinted on July 12 that Germany would push to ensure that Russian gas continues to flow across Ukraine even after the current transit contract expires in 2024, according to RFE/RL and Financial Times.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin personally authorized a secret spy agency operation to support a “mentally unstable” Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election during a closed session of Russia’s national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents, The Guardian reported, adding that Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov said the idea that Russian leaders had met and agreed to support Trump was “a great pulp fiction” when contacted by the Guardian this week. Meanwhile, Trump dismissed the report as “disgusting” and “fiction,” as reported by The New York Post.
- U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and Putinagreed during a phone call on July 14 that the United States and Russia should work together on climate issues. "The climate problem is one of the areas where Russia and the United States have common interests and similar approaches," Putin said during a phone call with Kerry, who was visiting Moscow at the time, as reported by The Moscow Times/AFP, RFE/RL and the Financial Times.
- Russia is open for dialogue with Ukraine, but Kiev should focus on its own national interests rather than serving as an anti-Russian tool in somebody else’s hands, Putinsaid in a new article, according to TASS.
- Russia will continue working with the United States and other countries capable of influencing the situation in Afghanistan in order to help stabilize the republic, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a conference on Central and Southern Asia. The White House had tried to paint the drawdown of foreign troops in "the most positive colors," Lavrov said on. "But everyone understands that the mission failed," he told reporters, according to Interfax, TASS and The Moscow Times/AFP.
- In a resounding endorsement of President Maia Sandu’s anti-corruption and pro-western agenda, the Action and Solidarity party she founded won a landslide victory in Moldova’s snap parliamentary election. As of July 12, with most of the votes already in, the Action and Solidarity party (PAS) had won 52.7 percent, beating the pro-Russian Communists and Socialists Bloc (BeCS) headed by Sandu’s rival and presidential predecessor Igor Dodon, which had 27.2 per cent, Financial Times reported.
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda
- According Rosatom’s annual report for 2020, it was warned that year that ISIS was planning to acquire radioactive sources handled at Russian sites. The warning was delivered via the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs which in its turn had received an “unofficial” document from an U.S. Embassy. Following the warning, all Russian operators of sites handling radioactive material and associated facilities conducted unscheduled self-audits of physical protection in September 2020. The operators also conducted operational and functional tests of protective equipment and tests of pro-force response. (Russian Nuclear Security, 07.12.21)
- A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week completed a nuclear security advisory mission in Belarus, which was carried out at the request of the country’s government. The two-week International Physical Protection Advisory Service mission reviewed the national security regime for nuclear material and associated facilities and activities. (World Nuclear News, 07.12.21)
- At its Seibersdorf facility near Vienna, the IAEA has begun construction on a new building that will house a nuclear security training center. The IAEA Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre—which is scheduled to be operational in 2023—will help strengthen countries' abilities to tackle nuclear terrorism in areas such as the illegal trafficking of nuclear material and the physical protection of facilities and major public events. (World Nuclear News, 07.13.21)
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:
- Russia maintains regular contact over the situation on the Korean Peninsula with all countries involved in efforts to resolve the issue, including the United States, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Ambassador-at-Large Oleg Burmistrov said on July 16. (TASS, 07.16.21)
- Russia is ready to assist North Korea in its fight against COVID, including with deliveries of humanitarian aid, COVID-19 vaccines and medical equipment, if necessary, but this will require the resolution of certain logistical issues, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s First Asian Department Georgy Zinovyev said on July 16. (TASS, 07.16.21)
Iran and its nuclear program:
- Iran has indicated that it will not return to talks aimed at a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal until after a new government headed by President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office next month, U.S. officials said on July 14. (The Washington Post, 07.15.21)
- The United States said on July 14 that it was permitting Iran to use funds frozen by sanctions to settle debts in South Korea and Japan. Analysts will assess the move as an attempt to sweeten the path for Tehran towards an agreement between the Iranians, Washington and other major powers that would relaunch the 2015 nuclear deal. Such a revival of the pact, known as the JCPOA, would see the United States lift a range of heavy sanctions on Iranian economic sectors including oil, banking, shipping and automaking. (bne IntelliNews, 07.15.21)
New Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:
- Estonia’s Foreign Ministry has expelled a Russian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move against Moscow. “The step was taken in line with international diplomatic customs and the principle of reciprocity as a response to the expulsion of an Estonian consul from Russia,” the Estonian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on July 15. (RFE/RL, 07.15.21)
China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said of Russian-Chinese relations: “Our ties today outpace those that defined our military-political alliances during the Cold War period.” These comments were made during a meeting with Lavrov’s Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of a high-level international conference in Tashkent on July 15. (TASS, 07.15.21)
- The successful military cooperation between Russia and China is exclusively defensive and is not aimed against any third countries, Lavrov wrote in an article that marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Russian-Chinese treaty on friendship, good-neighborliness and cooperation. (TASS, 07.16.21)
- China and Russia should join forces to blow the whistle on any manifestations of "pseudo-multilateralism", defend the true multilateralism, maintain coordination and resolutely oppose interference into domestic affairs, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Tashkent. (TASS, 07.16.21)
- "In the context of unceasing attempts by the West to contain the technological development of our countries, interaction in the field of science and innovation is of particular importance. In 2020-2021, we conducted scientific, technical and innovative cooperation. Military and military-technical cooperation has gone far ahead," Russian Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said. (Global Times, 07.12.21)
- Russia and China are set to extend the ballistic missile and space rocket launch notification agreement until 2030. A federal bill on the ratification of the relevant protocol will be discussed at a government meeting on July 15, the government press service said. (TASS, 07.15.21)
- Russia and China expect to bring the volume of mutual trade to record levels by the end of the year, Director of the First Asian Department at the Russian Foreign Ministry Georgy Zinoviev said on July 15. (TASS, 07.15.21)
- No significant developments.
Nuclear arms control:
- No significant developments.
- No significant developments.
Conflict in Syria:
- Russia tested over 320 types of weapons in its operations in Syria, the country's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced during his visit to the Rostvertol helicopter manufacturing factory in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on July 14. (Daily Sabah, 07.15.21)
- Putin and Biden, have praised the coordination of their countries’ efforts on the Syrian agreement, the Kremlin press service said on July 9 after their telephone conversation. "[During the telephone call] the sides also touched upon the situation in Syria, with a focus on humanitarian aspects. Both sides gave a positive assessment of the coordination of Russia’s and the United States’ efforts on these topics, including within the United Nations Security Council," it said. (TASS, 07.09.21)
- The United States is offering $10 million rewards for information leading to the identification of cybercriminals after a series of ransomware attacks by hackers believed to be located in Russia. The U.S. State Department said in a statement on July 15 that it would pay $10 million to anyone who can identify or locate a person who attacks U.S. critical infrastructure online "while acting at the direction or under the control of a foreign government." (RFE/RL, 07.16.21)
- President Biden told Putinon July 9 that the United States will take "any necessary action" to defend U.S. infrastructure, the White House said, after Russia-based hackers carried out the largest known ransomware attack to date. (The Washington Post, 07.11.21)
- A Russian-based hacker group blamed for a massive ransomware attack earlier this month has gone offline, sparking speculation about whether the move was the result of a government-led action. The webpages of the group known as REvil disappeared from the dark web on July 13, cybersecurity researchers said. Both its data-leak site and ransom-negotiating portals were unreachable. (RFE/RL, 07.14.21)
Energy exports from CIS:
- Biden and Merkel failed to find a common position on the issue of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that will allow Russia to bypass Ukraine during a meeting of the two leaders on July 15. Nevertheless, the two leaders vowed to stand together against Moscow’s aggression and promised more sanctions as Russia escalates its aggression against Ukraine. They also promised to present a common front against China. The nearly completed $11 billion Nord Stream 2 being laid under the Baltic Sea has created a rare strain between the two allies. But Biden again signaled that he is ready to move beyond the matter, saying "Good friends can disagree." (bne IntelliNews, 07.16.21, RFE/RL, 07.16.21)
- Before her visit to U.S. Angela Merkel hinted on July 12 that Germany would push to ensure that Russian gas continues to flow across Ukraine even after the current transit contract expires in 2024. “We are not powerless there,” she said. “We’ve promised it to Ukraine and we’ll stick to that.” A second idea to address the issue would involve close co-operation between Germany and Ukraine in renewable energy. "Ukraine is and will remain a transit country even once Nord Stream 2 is completed," Merkel told a press conference in Berlin on July 12 alongside visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. (RFE/RL, 07.12.21, Financial Times, 07.14.21)
- Since the beginning of the year, according to preliminary data, Gazprom has increased gas production by 17.9% (by 42.4 billion cubic meters) year-on-year, to 278.8 billion cubic meters, the company said in a statement on July 16. Gas exports to non-CIS countries for 6.5 months increased by 24.3% (by 21 billion cubic meters), to 107.5 billion cubic meters, approaching a historical maximum. (TASS, 07.16.21)
- OPEC reached a compromise with the United Arab Emirates, agreeing to lift the amount of oil the cartel member can eventually pump as part of a wider agreement with Russia-led producers to boost global supplies, according to people familiar with the matter. (Wall Street Journal, 07.14.21)
U.S.-Russian economic ties:
- No significant developments.
U.S.-Russian relations in general:
- Putin personally authorized a secret spy agency operation to support a “mentally unstable” Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election during a closed session of Russia’s national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents. The key meeting took place on 22 January 2016, the papers suggest, with the Russian president, his spy chiefs and senior ministers all present. Russia’s three spy agencies were ordered to find practical ways to support Trump. (The Guardian, 07.15.21)
- Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov said the idea that Russian leaders had met and agreed to support Trump in at the meeting in early 2016 was “a great pulp fiction” when contacted by the Guardian on July 15. (The Guardian, 07.15.21)
- The new report alleging Russian spy agencies were told to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election is “disgusting” and “fiction,” the former president said. (The New York Post, 07.15.21)
- U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and Putinagreed in a phone call on July 14 that the United States and Russia should work together on climate issues, the U.S. State Department said in a statement. "The climate problem is one of the areas where Russia and the United States have common interests and similar approaches," Putin said in a phone call with Kerry who is visiting Moscow, the Kremlin said in a statement. “We believe that there is space for us to co-operate in [combating climate change] and to perhaps open up better opportunities on other issues as we do,” Kerry said at the start of talks with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s veteran foreign minister. Lavrov said Kerry’s visit to Russia was “an important positive sign in terms of developing bilateral relations, lifting tension, and arranging professional, substantive work in areas where common ground can be found”. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.14.21, RFE/RL, 07.15.21, Financial Times, 07.12.21)
- A prosecutor has asked a Moscow court to hand prominent U.S. investor Michael Calvey a six-year suspended sentence in his high-profile embezzlement case. The state prosecutor on July 15 also asked the Meshchansky district court to hand a five-year suspended prison term to Calvey’s associate, Philippe Delpal, who is a French national, and suspended prison terms between four years and five years to five other defendants in the case. (RFE/RL, 07.15.21)
- According to a U.S. federal court documents, New Hampshire-based Intertech Corporation allegedly “intentionally falsified shipping documents, avoided and circumvented export compliance regulations, and obfuscated end-users” to send scientific instruments to recipients in Russia. These recipients included Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the FSB, The Daily Beast reported, citing a search warrant application. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.14.21)
- Jailed former U.S. marine Trevor Reed has been transferred to a penal colony in Mordovia, a region about 350 kilometers east of Moscow historically known as the location of Russia's toughest prisons, including Soviet-era labor camps for political prisoners. (RFE/RL, 07.16.21)
- The Russian Foreign Ministry sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. Embassy after one of its employees was caught on video stealing a railway sign this spring, thus endangering passengers' lives, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.13.21)
- Authorities in Russia’s largest and coldest region of Yakutia have politely declined Hollywood actor and environmental activist Leonard DiCaprio’s offer to help with its fast-spreading wildfires. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.13.21)
II. Russia’s domestic policies
Domestic politics, economy and energy:
- Russia on July 16 reported 25,704 new coronavirus cases and 799 deaths — a new single-day mortality record for the fourth consecutive day — as the country battles the surging Delta variant. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine produces a weaker immune response against aggressive new mutations of the coronavirus such as the Delta variant, the jabs’ developers announced July 12 in a new peer-reviewed study. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.13.21, The Moscow Times, 07.16.21) 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.
- June 2021 was the second-hottest June in Russia’s recorded history, with even more record-breaking heat to come, the country’s weather chief said at a press conference July 13. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.13.21)
- Authorities in Russia have effectively banned investigative news outlet The Project after declaring it an “undesirable” organization in a major escalation of the Kremlin’s curbing of independent media. Eight journalists were also labeled as “foreign agents,” including reporters from The Project, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Open Media, according to a July 15 update of a Justice Ministry registry. (RFE/RL, 07.15.21)
- Russian business ombudsman Boris Titov says he has stopped his campaign to repatriate foreign-based Russian businesspeople over concerns they may face arrest upon arrival.Titov's report to Putin.(RFE/RL, 07.13.21)
- Moscow opposition municipal deputy Ilya Yashin said July 12 he is stepping down as chairman of a local assembly over state pressure he attributes to his support for jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.13.21)
- Fyodor Krasheninnikov, an outspoken Kremlin critic and noted political observer, says he has left Russia for Lithuania for the "foreseeable future" after coming under pressure from authorities for his work. (RFE/RL, 07.13.21)
Defense and Aerospace:
- A Russian next-generation single-engine fighter jet has been spotted at the Zhukovsky International Airport outside Moscow on July 15. Just this week, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation reported that it plans to unveil the new military aircraft on the first day of the MAKS-2021 international aerospace show. UAC, is waiting until July 20 to unveil the new military aircraft. (Defence Blog, 07.15.21, Defence Blog, 07.13.21)
Emergencies, curity, law-enforcement and justice:
- A Russian plane that went missing in Siberia with 19 people on board has been found with reports that all crew and passengers survived an emergency landing. (RFE/RL, 07.16.21)
- Europe’s top human rights court has ordered Russia to recognize same-sex unions in a new ruling on July 13. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)’s ruling came in response to complaints filed in 2010 by three Russian same-sex couples whose attempts to register their marriages in Russia were rejected. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.13.21)
- A Russian court has sentenced 27 suspects to prison terms ranging from two to 10 years for their roles in a deadly 2019 ethnic brawl. The Penza regional court on July 14 also acquitted one defendant in the case of a mass brawl in the village of Chemodanovka, after which dozens of Romany families left the village. (RFE/RL, 07.15.21)
- Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has foiled a terror attack in Moscow, apprehending a Russian national, who plotted to set off an explosive in a crowded area, the FSB press office told TASS on July 15. The FSB operatives found components of an improvised explosive device in the cache, as well as instructions on how to produce it and correspondence with members of international terrorist organizations based in Syria, the press office said. (Vestnik Kavkaza, 07.16.21)
III. Russia’s relations with other countries
Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:
- The European Union's review of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine could be delayed until after the summer over “major” data shortcomings and the vaccine maker’s perceived lack of experience with overseas regulators, Reuters reported July 13. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.13.21)
- The developers of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine said on July 13 a deal had been struck with Indian vaccine maker the Serum Institute to produce 300 million doses annually. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.13.21)
- Germany’s spy chief Thomas Haldenwang has warned that foreign intelligence agencies could be seeking to influence September’s Bundestag election, with a spike in phishing attacks on German MPs and regional politicians. (Financial Times, 07.14.21)
- The German government has said it is unable to help repair a Siberian village road in response to appeals from local residents. (Sibir.Realii, 07.14.21)
- State-run Russian Railways (RZD) is investing $17 billion over a decade as part of an ambitious plan that aims to carry not just passengers but also grab a bigger slice of the billions of dollars worth of goods and raw materials that are transported annually from Asia to Europe. The cost of taking cargo from Asia to Europe by train, based on the Eurasian Rail Alliance index, is half the price of doing so by sea, as measured by the World Container Index. (Financial Times, 07.16.21)
- The growth rate of exports of agro-industrial products from Russia has accelerated; as of July 11, exports grew by 18% against 17% a week earlier, according to federal center Agroexport under the Russian Ministry of Agriculture. (TASS, 07.14.21)
- Russia is open to dialogue with Ukraine, but Kyiv should focus on its own national interests rather than on serving as an “anti-Russian tool in somebody else’s hands,” Putin said in a new article. Putin wrote: “Do you want to create your own state? You are welcome! But on what terms? Let me remind you of the assessment given by one of the brightest political figures of the new Russia, the first mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak [who]…: the founding republics of the Union, after they themselves annulled the 1922 Treaty, should return to the boundaries in which they joined the Union. All of the other territorial acquisitions are a subject for discussion, negotiations, because the basis for them has been annulled. In other words, leave with what you came with.” (TASS, 07.12.21, Kremlin press service, 07.12.21)
- Putin’s lengthy treatise on Russia and Ukraine’s shared history has been added to the Russian military’s curriculum. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.16.21)
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has trolled his Russian counterpart, saying he was "envious" that Putin has enough free time on his hands to research the history of their peoples. Zelenskiy made the comment on July 13 in response to a question from journalists seeking his reaction to Putin's more than 5,000-word article contending that Ukrainians and Russians are one people. (RFE/RL, 07.14.21)
- The foreign ministers from EU member states have approved a six-month extension of economic sanctions against Russia, a statement released in Brussels on July 12 said. The economic sanctions include: restrictions on access to primary and secondary capital markets of the EU to five Russian financial establishments with a majority share of the state in the charter capital and their subsidiaries, in which these organizations have a majority share and which were founded outside the EU, as well as for three large Russian energy companies and three defense companies; export and import ban on arms trade; the imposition of a ban on the export to Russia of dual-purpose goods for military purposes or for the Russian army; restriction of Russia's access to some strategic technologies and services that can be used for the development and extraction of oil. (Interfax, 07.12.21)
- The Sea Breeze-2021 multinational military exercise, which began on June 28, has ended. Ukraine and the United States jointly conducted the exercise with the participation and support of 32 countries. (Interfax, 07.10.21)
- Head of the President's Office Andriy Yermak and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland discussed in a telephone conversation progress in Ukraine's implementation of reforms, newly appointed president's press secretary Serhiy Nykyforov has said. (Interfax, 07.10.21)
- On the second night of his visit to Kyiv, Blackwater founder Erik Prince had a dinner date on his agenda. According to interviews with close associates and confidential documents detailing his ambitions, Prince hoped to hire Ukraine’s combat veterans into a private military company. Prince also wanted a big piece of Ukraine’s military-industrial complex, including factories that make engines for fighter jets and helicopters. His full plan, dated June 2020, includes a “roadmap” for the creation of a “vertically integrated aviation defense consortium” that could bring $10 billion in revenues and investment. (Time, 07.07.21)
- The Ukrainian army said on July 10 that a soldier had been killed and three others wounded in the country's pro-Russian separatist east, amid rising tensions in the conflict-torn region. (AFP, 07.10.21)
- Ukraine's Defense Ministry said Russian government hackers attacked the website of the Ukrainian Navy to spread disinformation about the ongoing multinational Sea Breeze military exercises in the Black Sea. It was the fourth Ukrainian soldier killed in the past week. (AFP, 07.10.21)
- Ukraine’s gross international reserves increased by $0.52 billion, or 1.9%, to $28.36 billion to 4.3 months of import cover in June, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) reported on July 6. (bne IntelliNews, 07.09.21)
- Ukrainian lawmakers have approved Denys Monastyrskiy as the country's new interior minister, replacing Arsen Avakov, who resigned this week. Monastyrskiy is a 41-year-old lawmaker from Zelenskiy's Servant of the People party. (RFE/RL, 07.16.21)
Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:
- Russia will continue working with the United States and other countries capable of influencing the situation in Afghanistan in order to settle the situation in the republic, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a conference on Central and Southern Asia. The White House had tried to paint the drawdown of foreign troops in "the most positive colors," Lavrov said. "But everyone understands that the mission failed," he told reporters at a conference in Uzbekistan attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Lavrov also called for launching intra-Afghan negotiations as soon as possible to stabilize the situation in the country at negotiations with Ghani in Tashkent on July 16. (Interfax, 07.16.21, TASS, 07.16.21, The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.16.21)
- On July 14, the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) called on all sides fighting in Afghanistan to stop the violence and start peace talks about the future of the country. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took part in a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon. Tajikistan is presiding over the organization this year and will host a meeting of the SCO Heads of State Council in September. (TASS, 07.14.21, Anadolu Agency, 07.14.21)
- SCO must counter the attempts of America "to wash its hands" of Afghanistan and shift responsibility to other states in the region, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who is on a tour of Central Asian countries this week. (TASS, 07.15.21)
- The Uzbek and Afghan presidents, Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Ashraf Ghani, discussed on July 15 prospects for cooperation on regional security, the press service of the Uzbek leader reports. Ghani is currently in Tashkent for an international conference. (TASS, 07.15.21)
- Russia launched military exercises in Tajikistan as the Taliban continue their blistering offensive in neighboring Afghanistan. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 07.14.21)
- Turkmenistan has begun moving heavy weaponry, helicopters, and other aircraft closer to its border with Afghanistan, and reservists are being put on alert in the capital. (RFE/RL, 07.11.21
- Turkmenistan is facing an unprecedented population decline, with only about 2.8 million people -- or less than a half of what the government says -- living in the country in 2021, three different officials told RFE/RL. (RFE/RL, 07.12.21)
- Turkmen state media say that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has promoted his son Serdar to the post of deputy prime minister for economic and banking issues . It is the latest in a series of promotions for the 39-year-old Serdar, who Berdymukhammedov appears to be grooming to succeed him in the future. (RFE/RL, 07.11.21)
- The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry has appealed to authorities in neighboring Tajikistan to facilitate the passage to their common border of hundreds of ethnic Kyrgyz who fled Afghanistan amid a major Taliban surge that is raising security concerns in neighboring former Soviet republics. (RFE/RL, 07.15.21)
- Kyrgyzstan's economy shrank by 1.7% y/y in the first half of 2021, significantly improving from the 5.3% y/y contraction recorded in the same period last year, according to latest data released by the country's National Statistical Committee. (bne IntelliNews, 07.14.21)
- In a resounding endorsement of President Maia Sandu’s anti-corruption and pro-western agenda, the Action and Solidarity party she founded won a landslide victory in Moldova’s snap parliamentary election.With almost all votes counted on July 12, the Action and Solidarity party (PAS) won 52.7 per cent, beating the pro-Russian Communists and Socialists Bloc (BeCS) headed by Sandu’s rival and presidential predecessor Igor Dodon, which had 27.2 per cent. (Financial Times, 07.12.21)
- Moldova is set to receive half a million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) coronavirus vaccine from the United States. (RFE/RL, 07.11.21)
- The head of the EU Delegation in Moldova Peter Michalko assured that €600 million aid for the economic recovery of the country will be made available to the new government immediately it is formed. (bne IntelliNews, 07.14.21)
- Authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka says Belarus, hit hard by rounds of Western economic sanctions over its brutal crackdown on dissent and independent media, will fulfill its financial obligations to Russia "at any cost." At an unannounced meeting with Putinin St. Petersburg, on July 13, Lukashenka accused the West of resorting to "individual terror" and thanked Russia for being a "reliable economic partner." (RFE/RL, 07.13.21)
- Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte has warned that the Baltic nation may continue to experience a "sudden" surge of migrants due to efforts by Belarus to flood it with people from third countries. Vilnius and the EU have accused Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka of organizing migrant smuggling to punish the Baltic nation for its vocal support of Belarus’s democratic opposition. On a visit to Athens on July 15, Simonyte said there were "20 times" more people who crossed the border so far this year when compared with 2020 or 2019. (RFE/RL, 07.15.21)
- Security forces have raided the offices and homes of several independent journalists across Belarus, including the premises of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Minsk. Witnesses said the officers broke through the door at RFE/RL's Minsk bureau on July 16 as part of a sweep targeting the media. (RFE/RL, 07.16.21)
- Belarusian police have raided the offices of 12 nongovernmental organizations, including the Vyasna human rights center and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, as authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka further ramps up his crackdown on opponents and dissent. (RFE/RL, 07.14.21)
- Kyrgyz-Turkish educator Orhan Inandi, who is currently in Turkish custody, says he was abducted in Bishkek in late May by three Kyrgyz men, who may be part of the country's security services, before he was transferred to Turkey, where he is accused of involvement in terrorist activities. (RFE/RL, 07.14.21)
- A Georgian TV cameraman Lekso Lashkarava who was among dozens of journalists attacked by a right-wing mob during a melee aimed at LGBT campaigners has died. (RFE/RL, 07.11.21)
- Georgia's foreign trade in the first six months of 2021 increased by over one-fifth year-on-year, Geostat reported on July 13. Furthermore, it was 0.5% above the pre-coronavirus crisis trade turnover seen in H1 2019. (bne IntelliNews, 07.14.21)
- Authorities say a shoot-out along the border has left one Armenian soldier dead and "losses" on the Azerbaijani side as tensions continue to simmer between the two countries after last year's war over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region. (RFE/RL, 07.14.21)
- The Western-leaning former secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigorian, has been appointed first deputy foreign minister in a move that ruling party representatives see as a first step toward his being named foreign minister, a position that is currently vacant. (RFE/RL, 07.15.21)
- No significant developments.