Russia in Review, June 21-28, 2019

This Week’s Highlights:

  • Putin, in an interview with Financial Times, said “the liberal idea” had “outlived its purpose,” sparking disagreement from Western leaders. In the same interview, Putin asserted that Russia no longer has oligarchs and that his successor will be chosen by the Russian people via direct secret ballot, a process “different from what you have in Great Britain. We are a democratic country.”
  • At their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan, Putin invited Trump to attend the 2020 Victory Day festivities in Moscow and Trump reacted positively to the invitation, according to the Associated Press. The presidents discussed a range of issues, including improving economic ties, arms control issues, Syria and China.
  • Last-ditch efforts to persuade Iran to not to exceed nuclear limits within days were on course for failure as Iranian officials said their demands had not been met and Washington rebuffed European calls to ease sanctions to allow negotiations, Reuters reports. Trump warned Iran that any attack on "anything American" would be met with force after Iranian officials slammed new U.S. sanctions as permanently closing the path to diplomacy, according to The Washington Post, while a Russian Foreign Ministry official said that Iran “won’t be alone” if the U.S. decides to launch a military strike on the republic, The Moscow Times reports.
  • Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he believes Trump won the 2016 presidential election because of Russian interference on his behalf, The Washington Post reports. Putin, however, credits Trump’s win to the Trump campaign team’s understanding that the U.S. middle class did not benefit from globalization, Putin said in an interview with Financial Times.
  • Russian senators have voted unanimously to uphold Putin’s suspension of the INF Treaty, The Moscow Times reports. Speaking after a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said NATO is preparing for a post-INF Treaty world, the Associated Press reports, while Moscow earlier said it will respond in kind to any steps NATO takes over Russia’s decision to suspend the Treaty, according to Reuters.
  • Hackers working for Western intelligence agencies broke into Russian internet search company Yandex in late 2018 deploying a rare type of malware in an attempt to spy on user accounts, according to Reuters. The malware, called Regin, is known to be used by the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance of the U.S., Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • North Korean and U.S. officials are holding "behind-the-scenes talks" to arrange a third summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the fate of the North's expanding nuclear arsenal, South Korea's president said. (AP, 06.26.19)
  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “[W]hether we recognize North Korea as a nuclear power or not, the number of nuclear charges it has will not decrease. We must proceed from modern realities, which are that nuclear weapons pose a threat to international peace and security. … We must respect North Korea’s legitimate security concerns. We must show it respect, and we must find a way of ensuring its security that will satisfy North Korea.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump on June 25 warned Iran that any attack on "anything American" would be met with "great and overwhelming force" after Iranian officials slammed new U.S. sanctions as permanently closing the path to diplomacy. A day later, Trump said he was “not talking boots on the ground” should he take military action against Iran and that he had “unlimited time” to try to forge an agreement with Tehran. (The Washington Post, 06.25.19, Reuters, 06.26.19)
    • Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said that Washington is not seeking war with Iran, but is ready to defend U.S. interests against any attacks by Tehran. Trump says he doesn’t want war with Iran but that if there is one, “it won’t last very long” because the U.S. has military superiority.  (RFE/RL, 06.27.19, AP, 06.26.19)
    • Iran “won’t be alone” if the U.S. decides to launch a military strike on the Islamic republic, Zamir Kabulov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s special envoy for Asian countries including Iran, said on June 26. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the geopolitical tensions in the Gulf between the U.S. and Iran had become “explosive” in an interview. (The Moscow Times, 06.26.19, Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • Tehran should not view the U.S. decision to hold back from launching a retaliatory military strike against Iran as a sign of weakness, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told reporters in Jerusalem June 25. Bolton spoke after a historic trilateral meeting with his Russian and Israeli counterparts, Nikolai Patrushev and Meir Ben-Shabbat, about regional security. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed the Israeli delegations at the talks. (Jerusalem Post, 06.25.19)
  • Russia has military intelligence that shows that a U.S. drone was in Iranian air space when it was shot down by Iran last week, Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of Russia's Security Council, said on June 25. Patrushev said evidence presented by the U.S. alleging Iran was behind attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman was poor quality and unprofessional. (Reuters, 06.24.19)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on June 26 that Moscow will try to persuade the United States and Iran to start “civilized” dialogue. “This, of course, assumes the end to the policy of ultimatums, sanctions and blackmail,” Lavrov told a briefing. (Reuters, 06.26.19)
  • Russia is ready to help Iran with oil exports and its banking sector if the Instex European payment system is not launched, Interfax cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. (Reuters, 06.21.19)
  • Russia and its partners will take steps to counter new sanctions that Washington has said it will impose on Iran, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying. (Reuters, 06.24.19)
  • NATO allies gave the U.S. no firm commitments that they will participate in a global effort to secure international waterways against threats from Iran, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said June 27. (AP, 06.27.19)
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on June 25 that the White House has a “mental handicap” and vowed that Tehran would not be intimidated by American sanctions—drawing a blistering threat of “obliteration” from U.S. President Donald Trump. (New York Times, 06.25.19)
  • Iran on June 27 warned that if the 2015 nuclear agreement unravels, it would follow the path of North Korea and quit a treaty aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. Last-ditch talks to persuade Tehran not to exceed nuclear limits within days were on course for failure on June 28, as Iranian officials said their demands had not been met and Washington rebuffed European calls to ease sanctions to allow negotiations. Iran said the June 28 meeting in Vienna between the remaining signatories of the nuclear deal was the “last chance” to save the accord and warned Tehran would not accept “artificial” solutions to U.S. sanctions. (Wall Street Journal, 06.27.19, Reuters, 06.28.19, Reuters, 06.28.19)

New Cold War/saber rattling:

  • No significant developments.

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • Britain’s defense ministry says Royal Air Force jets deployed in Estonia have been scrambled twice in a single day to intercept Russian aircraft. The ministry said June 26 that the missions brought the number of incidents involving Russian planes to 11 since taking over the Baltic Air Policing mission in May. (AP, 06.26.19)
  • The U.S. and Turkey appeared to make no progress during talks at NATO headquarters on June 26 toward resolving a major dispute over Ankara’s plans to acquire a Russian air defense system, just ahead of its expected July delivery. Russia will make first delivery of the S-400 missile systems to Turkey in July, Russian news agencies cited the head of Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport saying on June 26, in accordance with earlier-stated plans. (Reuters, 06.26.19, Reuters, 06.26.19)
    • Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on June 26 he had not seen indications in his talks with U.S. President Donald Trump that the U.S. will impose sanctions on Ankara over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems. Trump may visit Turkey in July, Erdogan said in an interview in Japan, where he will attend the G20 summit and is expected to meet with his American counterpart. (Reuters, 06.26.19, Reuters, 06.27.19)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • Russian senators have voted unanimously to uphold President Vladimir Putin’s suspension of the INF Treaty on June 26. (The Moscow Times, 06.26.19)
  • The U.S. deployment of land-based missile systems near Russia's borders could lead to a stand-off comparable to the Cuban missile crisis, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying on June 24. "If things get as far as an actual deployment on the ground of these sorts of systems, then the situation won't just get more complicated, it will escalate right to the limit," Ryabkov was quoted as saying. "We could find ourselves in a situation where we have a rocket crisis close not just to the crisis of the 1980s but close to the Caribbean crisis," Ryabkov said, using the standard Russian term for the Cuban missile crisis. (Reuters, 06.25.19)
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on June 26 refused to rule out that the military alliance might adapt its nascent missile defense shield to counter the potential threat posed by a new Russian missile system. Speaking after a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels on June 26, Stoltenberg said Russia showed no sign of returning to compliance before the U.S. deadline and “NATO is preparing for a world without the INF treaty.” Moscow will respond in kind to any steps NATO takes over Russia’s decision to suspend the INF Treaty, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier on June 26. (AP, 06.26.19, Reuters, 06.26.19)
  • When asked if there is likelihood of a new nuclear arms race, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “I believe there is such a risk. … [I]f this treaty [New START] ceases to exist, then there would be no instrument in the world to curtail the arms race.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “[T]he U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, and has recently quit the INF treaty as well. But this time, it did not just quit but found a reason to quit, and this reason was Russia. … Now the agenda is focused on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New Start). … We said that we are ready to hold talks and to extend this treaty between the U.S. and Russia, but we have not seen any relevant initiative from our American partners.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty “was the cornerstone of the entire international security system. … I made very energetic attempts to convince our U.S. partners not to withdraw from the treaty. … I suggested working jointly on missile-defense projects that should have involved the U.S., Russia and Europe. … I am convinced that the world would be a different place today, had our U.S. partners accepted this proposal.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)


  • The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a gun attack on security officials in Russia’s republic of Chechnya. (The Moscow Times, 06.24.19)

Conflict in Syria:

  • Hosting an extraordinary meeting on June 25 of the Russian, American and Israeli national security advisers, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressed for ridding Syria of all foreign forces, in particular Iranians and their proxies across Israel’s northern frontier. (New York Times, 06.25.19)
  • The U.S. and Israel are working to convince Russia to join them in reining in Iran during an unusual gathering of the three countries' national security advisers this week, part of a flurry of diplomatic activity amid tensions with Tehran. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked off the effort on June 24 by meeting with Russia's national security adviser. (Wall Street Journal, 06.24.19)
  • “A deeper understanding” between Russia and the U.S. is needed to move the Syrian peace process forward, U.N. Syria envoy Geir Pedersen said. (Reuters, 06.27.19)
  • Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen called for Russia and Syria to de-escalate military operations in the last rebel-held strongholds in Idlib and northern Hama and warned that the U.S. will keep ratcheting up pressure if this doesn’t happen. (AP, 06.27.19)
  • One Turkish soldier was killed and three others were wounded on June 27 when their observation post in Syria’s Idlib region was attacked by shelling and mortar fire from territory controlled by Syrian government forces, the Turkish Defense Ministry said. The ministry said Russia’s Ankara attache was summoned to military headquarters in connection with the attacks and was told that the attacks will be “punished in the strongest way.” (Reuters, 06.27.19)
  • Russia’s intervention in Syria was a clear-cut success, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with Financial Times. Apart from killing thousands of radical Islamists and shoring up President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Putin said the exercise had given Russia’s armed forces invaluable fighting experience. (Financial Times, 06.27.19)

Cyber security:

  • Hackers working for Western intelligence agencies broke into Russian internet search company Yandex in late 2018 deploying a rare type of malware in an attempt to spy on user accounts, four people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The malware, called Regin, is known to be used by the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance of the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the sources said. Yandex confirmed it was subject to a cyberattack at the end of last year but said no user data was compromised as it caught the attack at an early stage and “neutralized” it before any damage could be done. (Reuters, 06.27.19, RFE/RL, 06.28.19)
  • U.S. hackers are routinely targeting Russia's defense and atomic energy industry to steal key data, Russian officials announced on June 27. Nikolai Murashov, deputy director of the National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents, told reporters during a press conference that analysis of information from the Russian government's system for identifying, warning and eliminating the effects of cyberattacks against the country's IT resources, "indicates that most attacks are aimed at stealing information." (Newsweek, 06.27.19)
  • The EU will conduct war-games to prepare for any cyberattacks in a sign of the bloc’s determination to increase co-operation against Russian and Chinese meddling. (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • The Dutch intelligence agency (AIVD) on June 27 warned of the escalating threat of state-backed cyber espionage, saying the Netherlands was particularly vulnerable as a hub for international business, telecoms and human rights groups. “Russia, China and Iran are examples of states with an offensive cyber-program,” the AIVD said in its report, which listed several examples without naming the state involved. (Reuters, 06.27.19)

Elections interference:

  • Asked by reporters whether he would raise the issue of election interference during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, held on the sidelines of a G20 summit, U.S. President Donald Trump said: “Yes, of course I will,” drawing a laugh from Putin. Trump then turned to Putin. “Don’t meddle in the election, please,” Trump said. (Reuters, 06.28.19)
  • Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said June 28 that he believes a full investigation of the 2016 election would show that U.S. President Donald Trump prevailed because of Russian interference on his behalf and otherwise would not be in office. (The Washington Post, 06.28.19)
  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “Russia has been accused, and, strange as it may seem, it is still being accused, despite the Mueller report … of mythical interference in the U.S. election. What happened in reality? Mr. Trump looked into his opponents’ attitude to him and saw changes in American society, and he took advantage of this.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “The middle class in the U.S. has not benefited from globalization; it was left out when this pie was divided up. The Trump team … used this in the election campaign. It is where you should look for reasons behind Trump’s victory, rather than in any alleged foreign interference.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • Former U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller is set to testify in open session before the House of Representatives Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on July 17. Democrats are framing his appearance as a major opportunity for Americans to see how the Trump administration misled them about his two-year Russia probe. (Reuters, 06.25.19, Reuters, 06.26.19,
    • U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out June 26 at Mueller, accusing him without evidence of committing a crime by deleting text messages exchanged by two former FBI officials who had expressed disdain for the president. (The Washington Post, 06.26.19)
  • The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation designed to enhance election security following outrage over Russian cyber interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Democratic-sponsored bill would mandate paper ballot voting and postelection audit as well as replace outdated and vulnerable voting equipment. (RFE/RL, 06.28.19)
  • Democratic presidential hopefuls promised to punish Russia for its 2016 hacking and disinformation campaign during the second night of their first debate June 27. (The Washington Post, 06.28.19)
  • U.S. Attorney General William Barr's review of the origins of the Russia investigation is focused in part on the U.S. intelligence assessment that found Moscow intervened in the 2016 presidential election to help then-candidate Donald Trump, according to people familiar with the matter. (Wall Street Journal, 06.21.19)
  • Final versions of the Senate's five-part report on Russian interference in the 2016 election will be released in stages starting in July, the panel chairman, Sen. Richard Burr said. (Politico, 06.27.19)
  • Giorgi Rtskhiladze, a Georgian-American businessman who pitched a plan in 2015 to build a Trump Tower in Moscow met on June 25 with the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating possible counterintelligence concerns related to Trump’s business dealings in Russia during the 2016 campaign. (Wall Street Journal, 06.26.19)
  • A federal judge on June 21 demanded that Roger Stone explain why she should not find he violated a court gag order and his release terms pending trial after prosecutors criticized his recent social media posts attacking the FBI and Robert Mueller's special counsel probe. Lawyers for Stone on June 27 denied accusations that he violated the gag order. (The Washington Post, 06.23.19, Reuters, 06.27.19)

Energy exports:

  • Russia and Saudi Arabia are still discussing whether to extend a pact between OPEC and other oil producers on extending supply cuts beyond the end of June, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on June 28. OPEC and allies including Russia are scheduled to meet on July 1 and July 2 to discuss an extension of production cuts to support prices. Novak said he believed OPEC and its allies would reach an agreement. (Reuters, 06.28.19, Reuters, 06.26.19, Reuters, 06.27.19)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will discuss energy issues during their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit. (Reuters, 06.26.19)
  • Belarus accused Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft of obstructing access to samples of oil following a major oil contamination issue this year, state-owned Belta news agency reported on June 28. Belarus will take Russia to court if Moscow refuses to compensate Minsk for profits it lost due to the contamination, Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Lyashenko said on June 28. Belarus plans to finish clearing contaminated Russian oil out of its pipeline system by Aug. 15. (Reuters, 06.28.19, Reuters, 06.28.19, Reuters, 06.28.19)
  • Russia’s pipeline monopoly Transneft plans to compensate Kazakhstan for tainted oil at a rate of $15 per barrel though the deal has yet to be formalized, two industry sources said. Transneft is expected to compensate Kazakhstan a total of around $76 million, which includes quality losses, demurrage and storage costs. The mechanism for compensating oil companies hit by Russian contaminated oil will be the same for oil producers, according to industry sources. (Reuters, 06.27.19, Reuters, 06.26.19)
  • The number of suspects Russia is investigating over a major oil contamination in the Druzhba pipeline earlier this year has risen from 10 to 13, RIA news agency reported. (Reuters, 06.28.19)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

Other bilateral issues:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Japan on June 28. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Putin invited Trump to attend festivities marking the 75th anniversary of the World War II victory and that Trump reacted positively to the invitation, noting that he will wait for an official invitation. Peskov added it will be sent shortly. He said the presidents also talked about ways to improve economic ties and had a detailed discussion about arms control issues. He said they also talked about Syria and mentioned Turkey in that context. Peskov said China also figured in the discussion, but didn’t provide further details. (AP, 06.28.19)
    • “I’ll have a very good conversation with him [Putin],” Trump told a reporter before leaving Washington on June 26. “What I say to him is none of your business.” (AP, 06.26.19, New York Times, 06.27.19)
  • “We’ve had great meetings. We’ve had a very, very good relationship,” U.S. President Donald Trump said on June 28 of his past meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “And we look forward to spending some very good time together. A lot of very positive things going to come out of the relationship.” Trump sought common ground with Putin at the expense of the gathered journalists. “Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it. You don’t have this problem in Russia but we do,” Trump said. To which Putin responded, in English: “We also have. It’s the same.” (Reuters, 06.28.19)
  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “Mr. Trump is not a career politician. … I do not accept many of his methods when it comes to addressing problems. … I think that he is a talented person. He knows very well what his voters expect from him.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “I believe this may explain his [Trump’s] seemingly extravagant economic decisions and even his relations with his partners and allies. He believes that the distribution of resources and benefits of globalization in the past decade was unfair to the U.S. … Maybe this could explain his unusual behavior.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • The chairman of the House Oversight Committee in a letter to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on June 24 demanded an explanation for why the administration had failed to answer the panel's questions about its preservation of records related to U.S. President Donald Trump's meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Wall Street Journal, 06.25.19)
  • A transcript of former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s closed-door testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee was released June 27. There were large sections redacted, including some where he discusses issues related to an Oval Office meeting that involved the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. (AP, 06.27.19)
  • During the first Democratic debate, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio called Russia the greatest geopolitical threat to the U.S. “because they’re trying to undermine our democracy and they’ve been doing a pretty damn good job of it and we need to stop them,” he said. During the second night of debate, two other candidates, Sen. Michael Bennet and Andrew Yang, voiced similar positions. (New York Times, 06.26.19, The Washington Post, 06.28.19)
  • During the second night of the Democratic debate, Sen. Kamala Harris said, “You want to talk about Russia? He [Trump] takes the word of the Russian president over the word of the American intelligence community when it comes to a threat to our democracy and our elections.” (The Washington Post, 06.28.19)
  • Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on June 27 that a $50 billion U.S. economic plan for the Middle East was "counterproductive," according to Interfax. (Reuters, 06.27.19)
  • The U.S. Embassy said in a statement on June 26 that it has sent a note of protest to the Russian foreign ministry, asking it to investigate the allegations that Paul Whelan has been mistreated while in custody and that his safety is ensured. (AP, 06.26.19)
  • Maria Butina, the Russian gun-rights activist convicted in the U.S. for acting as an unregistered foreign agent, had her prison sentence reduced by 10 days, and will finish it on Oct. 25. (RFE/RL, 06.24.19)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “"No matter what the current leader does and how he does it, not matter who he represents or how, it is the voter that has the final word—the citizen of the Russian Federation. … [A successor will be chosen] by means of a direct secret ballot, universal direct secret ballot. Of course, it is different from what you have in Great Britain. We are a democratic country.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • Bragging rights for the world’s hottest major stock market this year belong to an unlikely leader: President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The combination of surging Russian share prices and a buoyant ruble has generated some of the best investment returns on earth in 2019. In dollar terms, Russian stocks are up more than 28 percent (and more if you factor in dividends). The S&P 500, by contrast, is up more than 16 percent. (New York Times, 06.28.19)
  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “We do not have oligarchs anymore. Oligarchs are those who use their proximity to the authorities to receive super profits.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • Thirty percent of Russia’s population is currently middle class, down from 37 percent in 2014, according to a study by Alfa Bank cited by The Bell business website. The report defines members of the middle class as having monthly earnings from 39,000 rubles ($620) to 99,000 rubles ($1,600). (The Moscow Times, 06.24.19)
  • Moscow placed 27th and St. Petersburg 75th out of 209 cities worldwide for the most expensive locations to work abroad in Mercer’s 2019 ranking, dropping by 10 and 26 spots from last year respectively. (The Moscow Times, 06.26.19)
  • Nearly one in six Russian mayors have faced criminal prosecution over the past decade, according to a new study published by the Civic Initiatives Committee on June 27 said. (The Moscow Times, 06.28.19)
  • The head of Russia’s smallest region has resigned following months of controversy over a land-swap deal with the neighboring republic of Chechnya. Violent protests reignited in March as thousands of Ingush residents demanded the resignation of governor Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who signed the agreement with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. (The Moscow Times, 06.25.19)
  • Russia's communications watchdog has instructed Internet service providers in several regions to provide operational information as it prepares for the November launch of a law allowing Russia to isolate the country’s Internet from the rest of the world. (RFE/RL, 06.27.19)
  • The Russian Defense Ministry has introduced a bill that would place sanctions on foreign individuals who do not show due respect to Russian war history. If adopted by the State Duma, the law will pave the way for Russian state legal action in cases of "desecration" of war memorials abroad. (The Barents Observer, 06.28.19)
  • Foreign students who graduate from Russian universities may find it easier to get a Russian passport as soon as this year as the country grapples with a shrinking population, a cabinet official has said. (The Moscow Times, 06.25.19)
  • Two people were killed and seven injured when an Antonov An-24 passenger plane made an emergency landing on June 27 at an airport in Russia’s Buryatia region in Siberia. The plane carrying 48 people, including 5 crew members, overshot the runway after landing, hit a small building and caught fire. (Reuters, 06.27.19)
  • Half of Russians are unable to tell the difference between real news and fake news, the head of a state-funded polling agency said on June 26. Almost one-third of Russians said they have encountered fake news online and one-fifths on television in recent years, the VTsIOM pollster said in April. (The Moscow Times, 06.27.19)
  • The Russian Orthodox Church has developed plans to construct its own Vatican to the tune of $2 billion in the Moscow region, Vedomosti reported on June 27. (The Moscow Times, 06.27.19)
  • Russians are increasingly likely to rally over social than political issues, according to a newly released study of protests in the first three months of 2019 by the Center for Social and Labor Rights. More than one-third of 429 rallies in 2019 concerned social issues. (The Moscow Times, 06.26.19)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The Russian Orthodox Church seeks to stop the practice of blessing weapons of mass destruction under rules that could be approved later this summer, said Bishop Savva of Zelenograd, a senior official at the Moscow Patriarchy. (The Moscow Times, 06.24.19)
  • The 2019 Army forum, displaying new military technology, was held June 25 in the outskirts of Moscow. (The Moscow Times, 06.26.19)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • One in every 10 Russians has experienced torture at the hands of law enforcement, according to a new poll by the Levada Center commissioned by the U.N.-affiliated Committee Against Torture. (RFE/RL, 06.26.19)
  • The coordinator of Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny’s St. Petersburg office, Aleksandr Shurshev, says has been beaten by an unknown attacker. (RFE/RL, 06.26.19)
  • Facial recognition cameras have helped police catch scores of suspects on the streets of Moscow and up to 10 criminals a month on the metro in the past two years, Russia’s Vedomosti business daily reported. (The Moscow Times, 06.27.19)
  • Russian investigators have opened a criminal probe into a former lawmaker who clashed with the Kremlin about its policies in Ukraine and other places. The federal Investigative Committee said in a statement on June 27 that Sergei Petrov was accused of illegally siphoning off 4 billion rubles ($63.5 million) out of Russia in 2014. (RFE/RL, 06.27.19)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

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

  • In a Financial Times interview in the Kremlin on the eve of the G20 summit in Japan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “the liberal idea” had “outlived its purpose” as the public turned against immigration, open borders and multiculturalism. Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said, “I strongly disagree with the main argument that liberalism is obsolete. We are here as Europeans also to firmly and unequivocally defend and promote liberal democracy.” British Prime Minister Theresa May said the U.K. “would continue to unequivocally defend liberal democracy and protect the human rights and equality of all groups, including LGBT people.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19, Financial Times, 06.28.19)
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May told Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 28 Russia must end its “irresponsible and destabilizing activity” if relations between the two countries, soured the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil, were to improve. May also told the Russian president during their meeting at the G20 summit in Japan that she wanted the two Russians Britain says is responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last year brought to justice, her office said in a statement. The Kremlin said on June 28 that Putin provided her with the relevant answers to questions regarding the attack. (Reuters, 06.28.19)
    • May and Putin also spoke of the need to look for ways to revive business ties between Britain and Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. (Reuters, 06.28.19)
    • In an earlier interview with Financial Times, Putin said: “I think that both Russia and the U.K. are interested in fully restoring our relations.” (Reuters, 06.28.19, Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • Maxim Oreshkin, Russian economy minister, told reporters on June 28 that there was no common agreement between the G20 members on how to reform the WTO but in Moscow’s opinion, the WTO should remain the cornerstone of global trade. (Reuters, 06.28.19)
  • EU ambassadors on June 27 officially prolonged for another six months economic sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 06.27.19)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on June 24 extending a Russian ban on food imports from the EU until the end of 2020. (Reuters, 06.24.19)
  • Russia is responsible for the unexplained GPS disruptions in Israeli airspace over the past month, Israeli security officials believe, as part of Moscow's attempts to protect its planes in northwest Syria. (Haaretz, 06.27.19)
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on June 26 that the Russian air force plane that landed in Venezuela on June 24 was carrying a rotation of military specialists but that their number in the country had not increased, TASS news agency reported. (Reuters, 06.26.19)
  • Alexander Shchetinin, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Latin America department, told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview that the Norway talks have produced a "chance, albeit very fragile, for political and diplomatic solution" to the crisis in Venezula. (AP, 06.26.19)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed India’s deal to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia during his visit to India, but at his joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, neither mentioned a resolution to the issue. (Reuters, 06.26.19)
  • A court in Moscow has sentenced a Polish national to 14 years behind bars on charges of espionage. Marian Radzajewski has reportedly been held in custody in Russia since April 2018. (The Moscow Times, 06.25.19)


  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “Russia and China are not directing their policy against anyone. We are just consistently implementing our plans for expanding cooperation. We have been doing this since 2001… [T]here is nothing unusual here, and you should not search for any implications of the Chinese-Russian rapprochement.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “Russia and China have many coinciding interests, this is true. This is what motivates our frequent contacts with President Xi Jinping. Of course, we have also established very warm personal relations, and this is natural. … We never direct our bilateral relations against anyone. We are not against anyone, we are for ourselves.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “[T]he level and the development scale of China’s nuclear forces are much lower than in the U.S. and Russia. China is a huge power that has the capability to build up its nuclear potential. This will likely happen in the future, but so far our capabilities are hardly comparable. Russia and the U.S. are the leading nuclear powers, which is why the agreement [on intermediate nuclear forces] was signed between them. As for whether China will join these efforts, you can ask our Chinese friends.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)
  • In an interview with Financial Times before the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “I do not think that there would be some such threats [of military conflict] from China. I cannot imagine that, really. But it is hard to say whether the U.S. would have enough patience not to make any rash decisions, but to respect its partners even if there are disagreements. But I hope, I would like to repeat this again, I hope that there would not be any military confrontation.” (Financial Times, 06.27.19)


  • Ukraine’s new president has expressed dismay after the Council of Europe, set up to guard democracy and human rights in Europe, paved the way for Russia to return after years of estrangement. Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was “disappointed” that the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly voted on June 24 to revive Russia’s membership. Zelenskiy had lobbied Western European capitals to prevent the move. (Financial Times, 06.25.19)
  • The party set up by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy continues to lead in an opinion poll published on June 26 ahead of a snap parliamentary election due on July 21. The survey conducted by research group Reiting from June 20 to June 24 showed Zelenskiy’s party, Servant of the People, had the support of 37.3% of people who said they would vote. (Reuters, 06.26.19)
  • Russia-backed separatists from Ukraine's eastern Donbass region have released four Ukrainian citizens. (RFE/RL, 06.28.19)
  • Ukraine's armed forces have begun to pull back from the town of Stanytsia Luhanska in the Luhansk region, one of only six civilian crossing points along the 450-kilometer line of contact in the Donbass war zone. (RFE/RL, 06.26.19)
  • Two Russian paratroopers have drowned during exercises in the Moscow-annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea. (RFE/RL, 06.26.19)
  • Alexei Miller, the head of Russian gas giant Gazprom, on June 28 warned of difficult talks with Ukraine on gas transit to Europe once the current deal expires at the end of the year. (Reuters, 06.28.19)
  • Austria’s supreme court on June 25 approved a U.S. extradition request for Dmitry Firtash, leaving the Russia-linked Ukrainian oligarch one step from a trial in Chicago over alleged bribery involving titanium dealings in India. (Financial Times, 06.25.19)
  • He has been called the shadow White House chief of staff, but Sean Hannity also sought to assist Paul Manafort as he defended himself from the special counsel's investigation, according to court documents unsealed on June 21. (New York Times, 06.22.19)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi since June 20 in protest against Russian interference, the largest demonstrations in over seven years. Angry protests erupted in Tbilisi after a Russian lawmaker’s visit last week, prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to suspend flights to Georgia, a popular vacation destination for Russians, as of July 8. Russia’s Transport Ministry later said that Georgian flights to Russia will also be suspended starting that day. Georgia’s economy could lose up to $300 million annually from the absence of Russian tourists amid tensions between the ex-Soviet neighbors, Georgian analysts estimate. (Time, 06.27.19, The Moscow Times, 06.25.19)
    • Georgia’s ruling party has announced electoral changes in line with demands of protesters who have taken to the streets of Tbilisi in the past days. The parliamentary elections in Georgia in 2020 should be held under a proportional system, the head of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, said on June 24. (RFE/RL, 06.24.19)
    • On June 26, protesters were angered by the announcement that opposition lawmaker Nika Melia was facing prosecution over the anti-government protests and called for the resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who oversees riot police and crowd-control units. (RFE/RL, 06.27.19)
  • The Russian military has launched a massive exercise to simulate a response to possible security threats in Central Asia. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the five-day drills that began June 24 will “check the armed forces’ ability to ensure security in the Central Asian region that faces serious terrorist threats.” (AP, 06.24.19)
  • The Swiss Attorney General's Office says it seized $133 million that ultimately belongs to Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of the late president of Uzbekistan who is serving prison term on corruption charges. (RFE/RL, 06.24.19)
  • Former Uzbek Prosecutor-General Rashidjon Qodirov has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on corruption charges. (RFE/RL, 06.26.19)
  • All six judges at Moldova’s Constitutional Court, whose decisions have fueled a deep political crisis in the ex-Soviet republic, have resigned. The court said in a statement June 26 that the judges stepped down and “the competent authorities will be notified in order to appoint new judges.” (AP, 06.26.19)
  • Hundreds of people have rallied in Arys, a southern Kazakh city, and blocked a major road, demanding to be relocated following a series of explosions at an ammunition warehouse that killed three people on June 24. (RFE/RL, 06.27.19)
  • Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan on June 27 voted overwhelmingly to lift the immunity of former President Almazbek Atambaev, clearing a path for his prosecution on charges of corruption that could rattle the Central Asian nation. Atambaev has rejected all accusations leveled against him by lawmakers and the prosecutor-general (RFE/RL, 06.27.19, RFE/RL, 06.26.19)
  • Police in Baku briefly detained the leader of the opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Ali Karimli, before letting him go amid allegations he was trying to undermine public stability. (RFE/RL, 06.28.19)

IV. Quoteworthy

  • No significant developments.