Russia in Review, May 17-24, 2019

This Week’s Highlights:

  • When passing a $750 billion draft National Defense Authorization Act on May 23 the Senate Armed Services Committee acknowledged that “our margin of military supremacy has eroded and is undermined by new threats from strategic competitors like China and Russia,” Reuters reports.
  • The head of Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, says that militants from the extremist group Islamic State have been amassing in northern Afghanistan, near its borders with former Soviet republics in Central Asia, according to RFE/RL. Alexander Bortnikov said he was concerned about this "redeployment" of around 5,000 IS fighters.
  • Despite Russian government efforts to move state agencies onto domestic software, 96 percent of these organizations were still using unapproved foreign programs last year, the Financial Times reports.
  • The Russian statistics service Rosstat said on May 17 that GDP rose just 0.5 percent in the first three months of 2019 from the same period a year earlier, RFE/RL reports. The figure was the lowest since late 2017, when growth was 0.3 percent.
  • A special forces serviceman has claimed that Russian soldiers in Siberia have told their supervisors they are willing to open fire on protesters if ordered, according to an interview posted online by opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s local office and reported by The Moscow Times. Russia’s Defense Ministry called the soldier’s remarks a “primitive hoax.”
  • China is on pace to surpass Russia by next year as Ukraine's biggest single-country trading partner, according to The Washington Post. In 2018, Ukraine traded $9.8 billion in goods with China—a 51 percent increase over two years and more than double the $4 billion in trade with the United States.

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Officials at the Nerpa shipyard near Murmansk said they have begun removing hundreds of spent nuclear assemblies from what was once the country’s most radioactive nuclear fuel service ship, the Lepse. (Bellona, 05.22.19)
  • The U.S. House Appropriations Committee on May 21 marked up the fiscal year 2020 energy and water development spending bill that includes nearly $16 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration, including $2.07 billion for defense nuclear nonproliferation. (Inside Defense, 05.21.19)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • The U.S. has sanctioned three Russian entities for allegedly violating international arms control restrictions on exports to Iran, North Korea and Syria. The new sanctions target the Gatchina surface-to-air missile training academy, the high-precision weapons maker Instrument Design Bureau in Tula and the Moscow Machine Building Plant Avangard. (The Moscow Times, 05.22.19)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Speaking to reporters on May 23, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the White House was intentionally provoking the Iranians, hoping to pressure them into retaliation that would provide a casus belli for a military strike. (Newsweek, 05.24.19)

New Cold War/saber rattling:

  • No significant developments.

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • The Senate Armed Services Committee unveiled a $750-billion draft National Defense Authorization Act on May 23. When doing so, the committee acknowledged that “our margin of military supremacy has eroded and is undermined by new threats from strategic competitors like China and Russia.”  (Reuters, 05.23.19)
  • The draft National Defense Authorization Act that the Senate Armed Services Committee has unveiled would remove Turkey from the list of nations that have worked together to build F-35 fighter jet over Turkey’s plan to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently again insisted he will go through with the purchase of  S-400 defense systems, but Turkey's defense minister spoke of what he called a growing "rapprochement" with Washington over the issue. (Reuters, 05.23.19, RFE/RL, 05.19.19, RFE/RL, 05.22.19)
  • Six Russian Tu-95 heavy bombers and several Russian Su-35 fighters probed U.S. air-defenses on May 20 and May 21, prolonging a period of aerial tension between the Moscow and Washington. U.S. Air Force F-22 stealth fighters and supporting aircraft on both days peacefully intercepted the Russian planes. (The National Interest, 05.23.19)
  • The next summit of NATO's heads of state and government will take place on Dec. 3-4 in London to mark the alliance's 70th anniversary. (RFE/RL, 05.22.19)

Missile defense:

  • Russia has vowed action against a radar station being built not far from its border with Norway, arguing that the site would serve as part of the United States' global missile defense system. The radar, called Globus-III, was being jointly established by the U.S. and Norway near the village of Vardo. (Newsweek, 05.24.19)

Nuclear arms control:

  • "As to the trilateral negotiations on arms control, China's position is clear-cut," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a briefing on May 20. "The premise and basis for trilateral arms control negotiations do not exist at all, and China will never participate in them." (Newsweek, 05.20.19)


  • The head of Russia's Federal Security Service says that Islamic State militants have been amassing in northern Afghanistan, near its borders with former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Alexander Bortnikov said he was concerned about what he called the "redeployment" of around 5,000 IS fighters "to the northern provinces of Afghanistan." (RFE/RL, 05.21.19)
  • A deadly prison riot in Tajikistan has put a spotlight on the alleged role of Behruz Gulmurod, the eldest son of the country's most-wanted man, police colonel Gulmurod Halimov, who defected to Islamic State four years ago. Authorities claim that Gulmurod was among four instigators of the riot that broke out on May 19 in the high-security Kirpichniy prison, which left 32 people dead, including three prison guards. (RFE/RL, 05.21.19)
  • Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee says FSB officers have killed two men suspected of plotting a terrorist act in the Vladimir region east of Moscow. It asserted that the men were members of a terrorist group with ties in foreign countries and were planning a terrorist operation. (RFE/RL, 05.22.19)

Conflict in Syria:

  • Syria’s southern Idlib province and parts of Hama province, just to the south, have come under heavy attack in the past three weeks from Russian warplanes and pro-government forces. Syrian soldiers on the ground have also regained control of at least 12 villages there. Syrian government troops also repelled three big attacks by militants in Idlib on May 22, the Russian Defense Ministry said. (Reuters, 05.22.19, New York Times, 05.20.19)
  • Measures needed to ease tensions in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone were in focus during a telephone conversation between Russian and Turkish defense ministers. Russia will not condone terrorists in Syria’s Idlib endlessly, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said. (TASS, 05.20.19)
  • Russia’s air defense forces shot down two unmanned aerial vehicles during a terrorists’ attack on the Hmeyimim airbase in Syria, the Russia’s Defense Ministry reported May 20.  (TASS, 05.20.19)
  • The U.S. has found no evidence so far that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have begun again using chemical weapons in Syria's continuing civil war, the top American diplomat for Syria said on May 22, a day after the U.S. State Department warned of an ''alleged chlorine attack'' in the country's northwest. (New York Times, 05.23.19)

Cyber security:

  • U.S. authorities have filed new criminal charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, accusing him of causing the U.S. major harm by publishing thousands of classified documents. Press advocates decried the new charges, saying that Assange's conduct in obtaining the materials was virtually indistinguishable from the conduct of conventional investigative journalists who cover national security or subjects involving classified government secrets. (RFE/RL, 05.24.19)
  • Russia's Communications Ministry has specified a list of threats that may necessitate isolation of the country's Internet under a new law approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin. These include a threat to the network's "wholeness"; a threat to its resilience through the failure of certain equipment or the occurrence of a natural disaster; and a threat to the network's security, via a hacking attack on service providers' equipment or an instance when the network is subjected to "destabilizing internal or external informational pressure." (RFE/RL, 05.24.19)
  • Despite Russian government efforts to move state bodies on to Russian software, 96 percent of these organizations were still using unapproved foreign programs last year, while ministries and state companies spent 3.3 billion rubles on foreign software in violation of government regulations, according to a report by the Audit Chamber. Oracle sold 13.3 billion rubles in software to the Russian government in 2018 alone, its highest total since sanctions were introduced. (Financial Times, 05.21.19)
  • Britain has shared information on Russian cyber activities with 16 NATO allies, helping them counter malicious threats against their countries over the past year and a half, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on May 23. (RFE/RL, 05.23.19)

Elections interference:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump took extraordinary steps on May 23 to give Attorney General William P. Barr sweeping new authorities to conduct a review into how the 2016 Trump campaign's ties to Russia were investigated, significantly escalating the administration's efforts to place those who investigated the campaign under scrutiny. (New York Times, 05.23.19)
  • Don McGahn, former top lawyer for the White House, has refused to appear before a congressional panel investigating U.S. President Donald Trump. (RFE/RL, 05.22.19)
  • The House Intelligence Committee chairman said May 22 that the U.S. Justice Department had agreed to begin honoring a subpoena for intelligence materials related to the special counsel’s investigation—a hint of easing tensions between the Trump administration and Congress. (New York Times, 05.22.19)
  • The House Intelligence Committee late May 20 released two days of sealed testimony given by U.S. President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. They include an allegation that Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow provided him with a false timeline about the Trump Tower Moscow project to give to Congress. Cohen was in constant contact with—and received thousands of dollars from—a Russia-linked firm starting on Election Day in 2016, according to the documents. (Politico, 05.22.19, The Washington Post, 05.21.19)
  • U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a critic of U.S. President Donald Trump who has entertained a run against him in 2020, became the first Republican congressman to say the president "engaged in impeachable conduct" based on the Mueller report. (The Washington Post, 05.19.19)
  • Days before crucial elections for the European Parliament, politicians, security services and social media companies that were bracing for an onslaught from Russia are surprised that, so far, they seem to have avoided one. Lawmakers say they haven't seen what they once feared: a flood of hacked, embarrassing documents or Twitter accounts calling for street protests that post only during Moscow business hours. (The Washington Post, 05.21.19)

Energy exports:

  • Russia plans to take back around 1 million tons of contaminated oil from Belarus, cleaning up the Druzhba export pipeline section leading to Poland and Germany, according to industry sources. Russia is using rail, storage tanks and ships to remove contaminated oil from the pipeline, and has so far extracted around 2 million tons of the tainted oil—or over a third of volumes hit. Russian suppliers will have to provide financial compensation for their mistakes over contaminated oil, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said May 21. (Reuters, 05.21.19, Reuters, 05.23.19, Reuters, 05.24.19)
  • The Kremlin said May 21 that U.S. sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany would be an act of unfair competition that would be seen as unacceptable in Moscow and some European capitals. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said earlier on May 21 in Kiev that a sanctions bill putting onerous restrictions on companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 project would come in the "not too distant future." (Reuters, 05.21.19)
  • OPEC and its allies are set to debate at least two scenarios that would increase oil production beyond current levels. (Wall Street Journal, 05.18.19)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • Toronto-based Uranium One has published NI 43-101 technical reports. A total of 1.6 million pounds of U3O8 (615 tU) was produced from seven facilities, according to the report by the company, which is owned by Russia's ARMZ. (World Nuclear News, 05.20.19)

Other bilateral issues:

  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin out-prepared U.S. President Donald Trump during a key meeting in Hamburg in 2017. In response to Tillerson's remarks, Trump said in a statement that he "was perfectly prepared for my meetings with Vladimir Putin." (The Washington Post, 05.23.19)
  • U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman will boycott Russia’s showcase economic forum in St. Petersburg in June in response to the house arrest of American investor Michael Calvey, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said. Calvey, who was transferred to house arrest last month, faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted on embezzlement charges. (The Moscow Times, 05.25.19)
  • U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Kellogg III has pleaded guilty to two counts of espionage and sentenced to three years after admitting he took classified information about the Navy’s nuclear-powered warships and planned to give it to a journalist and then defect to Russia. (AP, 05.24.19)
  • A Moscow court has extended the pretrial detention of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who called the case politically motivated and revenge for U.S. sanctions. "I call for FSB investigator captain Aleksei Khizhnyak to be called off [the case]. He is insulting my dignity and threatening my life," Whelan was quoted as telling the Moscow court. (RFE/RL, 05.24.19)
  • Maria Butina, the Russian gun-rights activist convicted in the U.S. for acting as an unregistered foreign agent, has issued a video appeal for financial contributions to help pay her legal bills. (RFE/RL, 05.19.19)
  • Russia refused a visa to former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, who is on the Russian sanctions list, Interfax reported. (CrimeRussia, 05.24.19)
  • John Weaver, an anti-Trump Republican consultant, on May 16 backed out of a contract with Rosatom-owned nuclear energy company Tenam Corporation following backlash online. (Washington Examiner, 05.16.19)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • The Russian statistic service Rosstat said on May 17 that GDP rose just 0.5 percent in the first three months of 2019 from the same period a year earlier. The figure was the lowest since late 2017, when growth was 0.3 percent. (RFE/RL, 05.18.19)
  • Since 2014, the share of those in Russia who consider themselves middle class has shrunk from 60 percent to 47 percent. This is according to a study commissioned by the investment arm of Sberbank. (The Russia File/The Moscow Times, 05.14.19)
  • The HIV epidemic has led to the deaths of an estimated 318,000 Russians since the first case was registered in 1987, or 10,000 every year, the country’s national consumer watchdog has said. (The Moscow Times, 05.20.19)
  • The son of LUKoil chief executive Vagit Alekperov, Yusuf Alekperov, is Russia’s richest heir with an expected inheritance of $21.8 billion, according to rankings published by Forbes Russia on May 23. (The Moscow Times, 05.23.19)
  • Officials in Russia's Sverdlovsk region have scrapped plans to build an Orthodox church in a Yekaterinburg park after a rare public outcry over the project that prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to urge all sides to find a comprise. (RFE/RL, 05.22.19)
  • Dozens of Crimean Tatars have marked the anniversary of Stalin-era deportations from the Black Sea peninsula, with police warning participants that the event was unauthorized but otherwise not interfering. (RFE/RL, 05.18.19)
  • More than 180 journalists at the prominent Russian newspaper Kommersant have signed an open letter to readers, saying the country "deserved freedom of speech." The move came a day after almost a dozen journalists covering political news for Kommersant quit their jobs in solidarity with two colleagues who were fired over an article about a possible change of leadership in the upper chamber of parliament. (RFE/RL, 05.21.19)
  • Gay Russian man Maksim Lapunov, who says he was abducted and tortured by police in Chechnya, has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights after Russian investigators refused to open a criminal case in the matter. (RFE/RL, 05.24.19)
  • Nearly half of Russians support equal rights for members of the LGBT community, marking the highest level of support in 14 years, according to the independent Levada Center pollster. (The Moscow Times, 05.23.19)
  • A Russian judge who showed leniency toward two teenagers charged with plotting to overthrow the government has reportedly been forced to resign after a topless selfie of her was obtained by superiors who were critical of her ruling. (RFE/RL, 05.20.19)
  • A Danish adherent of the Jehovah's Witnesses jailed for six years in Russia after being found guilty of organizing a banned extremist group lost his court appeal on May 23. (Reuters, 05.23.19)
  • Leonid Volkov, an associate of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says he has been arrested and charged with organizing unsanctioned rallies. (RFE/RL, 05.21.19)
  • A court in Moscow has sentenced in absentia a former lawyer of the now-defunct oil giant Yukos, Pavel Ivlev, who has been residing in the U.S. since 2004. The Khamovniki district court on May 24 found Ivlev guilty of money laundering and embezzling $14 billion and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. (RFE/RL, 05.24.19)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russian soldiers in Siberia have told their supervisors that they are willing to open fire on protesters if ordered, a special forces serviceman has claimed in an interview. Russia’s Defense Ministry called the soldier’s remarks a “primitive hoax.” (The Moscow Times, 05.22.19)
  • Russia’s armed forces have introduced a new military rank of sergeant major, “experimenting” with 370 of the new recruits in the southern district. (The Moscow Times, 05.24.19)
  • The delivery of Russia's most expensive and technically advanced nuclear submarine to the Russian navy is being delayed by design flaws, Russian media have reported. "Kazan" (K-561) is the first modernized multipurpose submarine of the Yasen-M class after "Severodvinsk" was handed over to the Northern Fleet in 2013. (The Barents Observer, 05.24.19)
  • New systems for radio-electronic warfare installed along Russia’s Arctic coast are capable of jamming foreign ships and aircraft from thousands of kilometers away, Russian military officials have been cited as saying by the Izvestia tabloid. (The Barents Observer, 05.22.19)
  • Satellite imagery has confirmed The War Zone's initial assessment of Russia's S-70 Okhotnik-B, or Hunter-B, unmanned combat air vehicle as very large, with a wingspan greater than that of an Su-34 Fullback combat jet. (The Drive, 05.21.19)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • More than 12 billion rubles ($185.6 million) in rubles, dollars, euros and valuable material assets have reportedly been found in the possession of Federal Security Service Col. Kirill Cherkalin and two of his subordinates, Dmitry Frolov and Andrey Vasilyev. All three men have been jailed as their embezzlement and bribery cases proceed. (Meduza, 05.17.19)
  • Russia's deputy chief of police, Arkady Gostev, declared an income of 38 million rubles ($588,000) two days after complaining that law enforcement officers’ living standards are falling. (The Moscow Times, 05.24.19)
  • Russian military intelligence officer Andrei Nikolenko, whose unit was accused of hacking the U.S. presidential election, has been charged in Russia for running a Ponzi scheme involving Apple products, the RBC news website reported. (The Moscow Times, 05.21.19)
  • Rauf Arashukov, a Russian lawmaker from the ruling party who was arrested on murder charges during a parliament session in January, has been stripped of his seat in the Federation Council, Russia's upper parliament house. (RFE/RL, 05.22.19)
  • Russian investigators say they have found drugs in the apartment of detained former minister Mikhail Abyzov, Interfax reported on May 23. (The Moscow Times, 05.23.19)
  • Police officers in large Russian cities will be able to identify criminals using face recognition glasses by 2020, the head of state-owned industrial conglomerate Rostec said May 23. (The Moscow Times, 05.24.19)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

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

  • Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) says that all its ministers will step down from the coalition government amid a corruption scandal. The political crisis was triggered last week by a 2017 video purportedly showing FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache offering contracts to a potential Russian benefactor in exchange for political donations. Strache stepped down as vice chancellor on May 18. The Kremlin shrugged off suspicions of involvement in the scandal. (RFE/RL, 05.20.19)
  • A Russian court rejected a French private equity executive’s appeal to be released from jail on May 21 in a case that has put a chill on Moscow’s sizeable French business community. Moscow city court upheld a lower court’s decision to hold Philippe Delpal, a partner at Baring Vostok. (Financial Times, 05.21.19)
  • Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar’s almost two-month assault on the capital, Tripoli, has stalled and he can’t take the city, according to Lev Dengov, Russian special envoy to the North African state. “It was absolutely predictable that Haftar would get bogged down,” he said. (The Moscow Times, 05.23.19)
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government is increasingly turning to allies Cuba, China and Russia to offset a health crisis caused by U.S. sanctions, a minister said on May 22. (Reuters, 05.22.19)
  • Russia has signed a bilateral agreement to send military “specialists” to the Republic of Congo to advise their counterparts and repair Soviet equipment in a move that further increases Moscow’s footprint on the continent. (The Moscow Times, 05.24.19)
  • BBC is hoping to mine Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s fame—or infamy—with a comedy series presented by a digital effigy of Putin, who cackles in a trailer for the program that his next great geopolitical victory will be to host the “No. 1 chat show in the U.K.” (New York Times, 05.23.19)


  • Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have discussed the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia and his participation in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in early June. The meeting was held in Bishkek on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Foreign Ministers’ Council. (TASS, 05.23.19)
  • For the first time since the Soviet era, Russia is sending poultry to China. (Bloomberg, 05.23.19)


  • China is on pace to surpass Russia by next year as Ukraine's biggest single-country trading partner. In 2018, Ukraine traded $9.8 billion in goods with China—a 51 percent increase over two years and more than double the $4 billion in trade with the U.S. (The Washington Post, 05.10.19)
  • Volodymyr Zelensky took the oath of office during a ceremony in the Ukrainian parliament on May 20. Zelensky announced at that he was dissolving parliament to make way for early parliamentary elections. Zelensky also pledged to keep Kiev on a path towards EU and NATO integration. He said ending the war in eastern Ukraine was his top priority as president, though he insisted he would not give up any territory to do so. "Our primary objective is to cease fire in Donbass," he said. "So that our heroes don't die anymore, I'm ready to do anything," Zelensky said in his speech. "I'm ready to lose my ratings, my popularity, my post for peace to come—without losing our territories." (The Washington Post, 05.20.19, Wall Street Journal, 05.20.19, The Washington Post, 05.20.19, Financial Times, 05.20.19)
  • Ukraine's parliament has ended an emergency session without discussing amendments to the electoral law proposed by Zelensky who called for electing the next chamber entirely on party lists. First Deputy Speaker of Ukraine's parliament Iryna Gerashchenko has said that July 21 or July 28 could be a probable date for the early parliamentary elections. Early parliamentary elections are expected to benefit Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, which polls indicate has the support of about 40 percent of voters. (Interfax, 05.21.19, Financial Times, 05.20.19, RFE/RL, 05.22.19)
  • Volodymyr Zelensky picked his legal adviser, Andriy Bohdan, as his chief of staff. Bohdan has also worked as a lawyer for tycoon Ihor Kolomoyskiy, adding to questions about the extent of ties between the new president and the billionaire. (RFE/RL, 05.22.19)
  • Volodymyr Zelensky appointed on May 21 a new chief of the General Staff to head the Ukrainian military amid a conflict with Russia-backed separatists who hold parts of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Gen. Ruslan Khomchak reportedly commanded Ukrainian troops during the disastrous battle of Illovaisk. (RFE/RL, 05.22.19, Russia Matters, 05.22.19)
  • Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman’s letter of resignation was registered in the country’s parliament on May 23. Hroysman announced his intention to resign in a televised statement, saying that he would step down at the government meeting on May 22. (Interfax, 05.24.19, RFE/RL, 05.20.19)
  • Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation launched a probe under the application of Andriy Portnov, who accuses former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of state treason, the establishment’s press office reported, over the events of Nov. 25, 2018 when two armored boats and tugboat were captured by Russian border guards in the Azov Sea. (112 International, 05.21.19)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked U.S. officials to step up sanctions against neighboring Russia in one his first foreign policy actions. “I would like to urge the United States to keep increasing sanctions against [Russia],” Zelensky said in a meeting with U.S. lawmakers and Trump administration officials, including Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. (The Moscow Times, 05.21.19)
  • The draft U.S. National Defense Authorization Act that the Senate Armed Services Committee unveiled on May 23 proposes that funding allocated for Ukraine's security in 2020 be increased to $300 million. (UNIAN, 05.23.19)
  • Ukraine's new President Volodymyr Zelensky and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone on May 24. Both leaders agreed on the need to restart peace efforts, including the so-called Normandy format. (RFE/RL, 05.24.19)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 20 pointedly did not congratulate Zelensky and gave no sign he was ready to compromise. His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Crimea was "a region of Russia" and that the war in eastern Ukraine was for Kiev to solve. (The Washington Post, 05.20.19)
  • The U.N. Security Council has rejected a Russian request to hold a meeting on a new language law in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 05.21.19)
  • Ukrainian authorities say eight military personnel have been captured by Russia-backed fighters in the eastern region of Donetsk. According to Ukrainian authorities, the servicemen were captured after they took a wrong turn while moving aboard a truck near the town of Novotroyitske on May 22. (RFE/RL, 05.22.19)
  • While 57,000 women currently work in the Ukrainian military, with 26,000 on active duty, the authorities last year registered only five sexual harassment cases. In the course of the five-year war, no top army commander has ever been disciplined for sexual abuse. (New York Times, 05.19.19)
  • A major Ukrainian bank at the center of a scandal involving a powerful, politically connected billionaire has sued its former oligarch owners in U.S. court, amid a battle for control that could affect relations with Western lending institutions. PrivatBank, which was nationalized by Ukraine three years ago, filed the lawsuit on May 21 in Delaware state court against Ihor Kolomoyskiy and Hennadiy Boholyubov. (RFE/RL, 05.24.19)
  • Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani referred to some of Volodymyr Zelensky's advisers as "enemies" of U.S. President Donald Trump in a Twitter posting on May 18. (The Washington Post, 05.20.19)
  • Top figures in Ukraine's new Orthodox Church are meeting in a synod amid an apparent power struggle between Patriarch Filaret and the new church's elected head, Metropolitan Epifaniy. Patriarch Filaret has said that he should govern the new church that got its independence from the Moscow Patriarchate earlier this year, while Metropolitan Epiphany should represent it internationally. (RFE/RL, 05.24.19)
  • Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who served as governor of Ukraine's Odessa region, has asked Ukraine's new president to reinstate his Ukrainian citizenship. (RFE/RL, 05.23.19)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat producer, says it is eyeing expansion into Kazakhstan as it seeks growth overseas. (RFE/RL, 05.23.19)
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka has proposed opening talks with Kazakhstan on possible oil shipments to Belarus, the state-run Belta news agency reported on May 23. (RFE/RL, 05.23.19)
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has called on citizens to block the entrance to courts to protest the release from custody of bitter foe and former President Robert Kocharian, who is facing corruption and coup charges. Armenian prosecutors have lodged appeals against court decisions to suspend the trial of Kocharian and release him from pretrial detention (RFE/RL, 05.20.19, RFE/RL, 05.23.19)

IV. Quoteworthy

  • The Russian government has been “stimulating demand, but not competition,” said Andrei Movchan, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “Quality falls and the price goes up. It’s a totally Soviet idea. Officials don’t want good, cheap producers—they want to drive the cost up to the maximum, so [people] buy bad goods at very high prices.” (Financial Times, 05.21.19)
  • “If cryptocurrency worked, we would be completely ruined today because all financial flows would be taken out of Russia and Russia would end because cryptocurrencies were created to ensure that the state does not control the flow of capital,” said Nikolay Arefyev, Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma’s Committee on Economic Policy, Innovative Development and Entrepreneurship. (Daily Hodl, 05.24.19)
  • "If they ban us from working with China, then the first thing I'll do is fire 10,000 people,” said Vyacheslav Boguslayev, whose sprawling Soviet-era company, Motor Sich, is one of the most advanced military aircraft engine manufacturers in the world. A Chinese company now owns a stake of at least 25 percent in it. (The Washington Post, 05.10.19)