Russia in Review, May 31-June 7, 2019

This Week's Highlights: 

  • Speaking on June 6 at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, President Vladimir Putin said that all nuclear-armed countries should be involved in discussions on arms control, RFE/RL reported, noting that this is something China has opposed.
  • In public comments made with his Russian counterpart in Moscow, Chinese President Xi Jinping tallied up his various Russia visits and meetings with President Vladimir Putin, according to Foreign Policy: This was his first state visit to Russia following his re-election as China’s president last year; his eighth trip to Russia since 2013; and he and Putin have met “almost 30 times in the last six years,” Xi said. Putin, in turn, said that “China firmly holds the position of Russia’s leading foreign trade partner,” adding that “last year trade went up by a quarter to reach a record $108 billion.”
  • Influential Russian economic adviser Alexei Kudrin, who now heads the national budget watchdog, says tens of billions of dollars have left the country due to the arrest of American investor Michael Calvey, RFE/RL reports. Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 6, Kudrin called the arrest "a shock" for Russia's economy. Though attendance of the forum by Western business has dwindled, according to the Financial Times, Russian officials touted a record thousand-strong Chinese delegation, double the size of the U.S. contingent.
  • A senior U.S. official said the goal of the talks that John Bolton is to hold with his Israeli and Russian counterparts in Jerusalem in this month is "to see how we can potentially work together to get rid of the primary irritant in the Middle East, which is the Islamic Republic of Iran," Reuters reports. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has denied allegations that the U.S. and Israel are planning to offer Moscow recognition of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s legitimacy and the lifting of sanctions in exchange for Russia's assistance in restricting Iran's influence on Syria, according to Interfax.
  • U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Christopher Ford was to attend the plenary session of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism in Argentina this week, according to the State Department. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent his greetings to the meeting participants, urging them to continue constructive cooperation “as partners … based on a mutual understanding of issues related to the threat of nuclear terrorism.”
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s own government doesn’t believe his ambitious campaign pledges to improve living standards are attainable, Bloomberg reports. There are some classic big-spending efforts in the president’s six-year, $400 billion stimulus plan, like building roads and airports, the New York Times notes, adding: “And then the plan gets creative. It calls for Russia to buy 900 pianos.”

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent his greetings to the participants of the plenary session of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) in a telegram published on the Kremlin’s website on June 5. "It is important that despite a difficult global situation, members of the Initiative continue to cooperate as partners in a constructive manner, based on a mutual understanding of issues related to the threat of nuclear terrorism,” he wrote. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Christopher Ford is attending the GICNT session in Argentina. (TASS, 06.07.19,, 05.31.19)
  • Ukraine and Norway have agreed to cooperate to reduce the risk of nuclear and radiation accidents and incidents and the risk of radioactive contamination. (UkrInform, 06.04.19)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Kim Yong Chol, a senior North Korean official, who was reported last week as being the victim of a purge, has reappeared in public sitting not far from the country's leader, Kim Jong Un. (The Washington Post, 06.03.19)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump says he is prepared to talk to Iran but that there was always a chance of U.S. military action against Tehran. (RFE/RL, 06.05.19)
  • While in Germany, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would not object to a system that Europeans are developing to shield companies from U.S. sanctions if they deal with Iran, so long as the focus is on providing humanitarian aid and other permitted goods. Pompeo declined to comment on whether Washington would impose sanctions on German companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Pompeo then said the United States is willing to talk to Iran with "no preconditions." (RFE/RL, 05.31.19, RFE/RL, 06.02.19)

New Cold War/saber rattling:

  • Russia's Pacific Fleet said that the USS Chancellorsville had come within just 50 meters of the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov in the East China Sea. That version of events was rejected by the U.S. Navy, which said the behavior of the Russian ship had been "unsafe and unprofessional." The incident comes days after Washington and Moscow sparred over an allegedly unsafe spy plane intercept by a Russian fighter jet near Syria. (Reuters, 06.07.19)
  • The House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on strategic forces on June 3 released its proposed language to be considered in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. The bill includes several space policy and space procurement provisions but makes no mention of a Space Force or whether the subcommittee support the establishment of a new military branch for space. (Space News, 06.03.19)
  • The U.S Army is planning to test jam-resistant GPS systems in Europe as a potential step toward countering Russian electronic warfare. (The National Interest, 06.07.19)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • Turkey will not halt the purchase of the S-400 Russian air defense system, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on June 4. The United States has already decided to stop accepting any more Turkish pilots who had planned to train in the U.S. on F-35 fighter jets. (Financial Times, 06.04.19, Reuters, 06.07.19)
  • During a visit to North Macedonia, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that NATO is "ready to welcome" the Balkan country as its 30th member. (RFE/RL, 06.03.19)

Missile defense:

  • The House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on strategic forces on June 3 released its proposed language to be considered in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. The bill directs the Missile Defense Agency to continue development of a sensor payload for a space sensor layer for hypersonic and ballistic missile tracking, and to work with the Space Development Agency and the U.S. Air Force on the overall constellation architecture. (Space News, 06.03.19)
  • Russia has tested a new unidentified missile at a launch site where the country had previously test-launched missiles designed to protect Moscow’s airspace, the Russian military said. (The Moscow Times, 04.06.19)

Arms control:

  • “We do not have to extend it. Our systems can guarantee Russia's security for quite a long period of time," Russian President Vladimir Putin said of New START at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. "If no one feels like extending the New START agreement, well, we won't do it then," Putin said. "Everything ends in 2021,” he said. “There will be no instruments left to curb the arms race.” Putin also criticized the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty, denying Washington’s claims of Russian violations of the agreement. (RFE/RL, 06.06.19, AP, 06.06.19)
  • Speaking on June 6 at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that all nuclear-armed countries should be involved in discussions on the matter—something China has opposed. (RFE/RL, 06.06.19)
  • Over Republican objections, a Democratic-controlled House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces subcommittee on June 4 advanced legislation to halt deployment of a new low-yield nuclear warhead and bar any withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty. (Defense News, 06.04.19)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • The U.S. announced last week that John Bolton, White House national security adviser, would meet his Israeli and Russian counterparts in Jerusalem in June. Beyond discussions to prevent any unintended military escalation in Syria, a senior U.S. official said the goal of the talks would be "to see how we can potentially work together to get rid of the primary irritant in the Middle East, which is the Islamic Republic of Iran." (Reuters, 06.05.19)
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied allegations that the U.S. and Israel are planning to offer Moscow recognition of the legitimacy of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the lifting of sanctions in exchange for Russia's assistance in restricting Iran's influence on Syria. (Interfax, 06.03.19)
  • Russia blocked the U.N. Security Council on June 3 from issuing a statement sounding alarm about the increasing fighting in and around Syria’s Idlib province and the possibility of a humanitarian disaster. (AP, 04.06.19)
  • Attacks launched by terrorists from Syria's Idlib de-escalation area are inadmissible and measures are being taken to neutralize them, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. (Interfax, 06.03.19)
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Syrian-Russian "military alliance" of using a "cocktail of internationally banned and indiscriminate weapons" in attacks on civilians in northwestern Syria. Since April 26, hundreds of attacks have been carried out every day in areas controlled by anti-government groups in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo provinces, killing an estimated 200 civilians, including children, HRW said in a statement. (RFE/RL, 06.03.19)
  • A rise in fighting in the past month in Syria’s Idlib province has resulted in the deaths of 948 people, nearly a third of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said May 31. On May 15, Syrian bombs destroyed the Tarmala Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Idlib, the 19th medical facility attacked since late April. (RFE/RL, 05.31.19, New York Times, 06.02.19)
  • The Kremlin rebuffed criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump of Russian and Syrian government military action in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, saying it was needed to shut down rebel attacks being launched from there. (The Moscow Times, 06.03.19)
  • Armenia says it has sent a new team of demining experts and other personnel to Syria as part of what it describes as a humanitarian mission with the assistance of Russia. (RFE/RL, 06.05.19)

Cyber security:

  • Russian media reported that Yandex, the country's largest search engine, has refused to turn over encryption keys that would give the country's law enforcement the ability to decode its entire e-mail traffic. (RFE/RL, 06.04.19)
  • Russian regulators have ordered the popular dating app Tinder to comply with the country's new Internet data laws, raising concerns that the country's security services could get access to citizens' intimate exchanges. (RFE/RL, 06.03.19)
  • Russia's communications watchdog Roskomnadzor hopes to make a decision in January on how to force Twitter and Facebook to move its Russian user data onto servers inside the country. (Reuters, 06.06.19)

Elections interference:

  • U.S. Attorney General William Barr ratcheted up his criticisms of the special counsel's office and defended U.S. President Donald Trump's actions in a wide-ranging interview broadcast on May 31. Barr distanced the Justice Department from the report on Trump's attempts to interfere in the Russia investigation written by the Robert Mueller. Barr also said he could have skipped writing his controversial summary of the special counsel's work if investigators had done more to prepare the report for public consumption. (New York Times, 06.01.19)
  • In a key finding of the Mueller report, Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is tied to Russian intelligence. But hundreds of pages of government documents—which special counsel Robert Mueller possessed since 2018—describe Kilimnik as a “sensitive” intelligence source for the U.S. State Department who informed on Ukrainian and Russian matters. (The Hill, 06.06.19)
  • The Russian government is likely to try to influence the 2020 presidential election, not through the release of stolen emails and other documents but through faked videos, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said on June 4. (New York Times, 06.04.19)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 6 reaffirmed his staunch denial that Moscow meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election despite the extensive evidence to the contrary, and insisted Moscow has no intention of interfering in any future votes, either. (AP, 06.06.19)

Energy exports:

  • Russia is fighting to allay fears that shortages in crude flowing to Europe because of contamination at its Druzhba pipeline could force oil prices higher. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the tainted crude would not affect its 2019 crude output, which he has forecast could beat last year’s 556 million tons, or 11.2 million barrels a day, to go as high as 560 million tons. (Financial Times, 06.07.19)
  • Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Saudi counterpart Khalid Al-Falih met on June 6 in St. Petersburg, but the two architects of the production-cuts deal showed no sign of resolving their differences. (Bloomberg, 06.07.19)
  • Royal Dutch Shell and Gazprom Neft have agreed to create a joint venture that will be exploring and developing oil fields in the Yamal region in Russia. (Oilprice, 06.06.19)
  • Russia and Slovakia are in talks about Bratislava joining the Nord Stream 2 and Turkstream gas pipeline projects. (Reuters, 06.05.19)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said U.S. attempts to block China’s Huawei from Western markets and stop Moscow from building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe are “economic raiding” and will lead to “endless conflicts, trade wars” that could end in global conflict. (Financial Times, 06.07.19, RFE/RL, 06.07.19)
  • The lackluster attendance of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is most visible among American companies. Coca-Cola Co., Air Products & Chemicals Inc. and Weatherford International Plc. are among only a handful of U.S. firms with chief executives listed on panels. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman is boycotting the event because of U.S. investor Michael Calvey’s arrest. Alexei Kudrin said tens of billions of dollars in cash outflows from the country can be traced to the arrest of Calvey, which he called "a shock" for Russia's economy. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on June 3 that he hoped jailed executives from private equity firm Baring Vostok will be released and that Calvey will be allowed to attend the forum. (Financial Times, 06.03.19, Bloomberg, 06.05.19, RFE/RL, 06.06.19)

Other bilateral issues:

  • “I think we can have a good relationship with Russia. I think it’s hurt by the phony witch hunt, you know,” U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News during a taped interview in Normandy, France on June 6. Meanwhile, the Kremlin said on June 7 that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump could meet at the G20 meeting in Japan later this month. (The Moscow Times, 06.07.19)
  • Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin has asserted that the U.S. is seeking to "spread its jurisdiction" worldwide, accusing Washington of risking the eruption of trade wars and real wars. (RFE/RL, 06.07.19)
  • Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied Moscow is pulling defense personnel out of Venezuela, contradicting an earlier comment by U.S. President Donald Trump. "We aren't creating any bases or sending troops there," Putin said of Venezuela. "But we will be keeping our obligations in the sphere of military and technical cooperation." Putin also said he feels “absolutely neutral” about Guaidó. Trump tweeted on June 3 that Russia had told the U.S. it had removed "most of their people" from Venezuela, where Moscow has maintained close military and economic ties with socialist President Nicolas Maduro. (RFE/RL, 06.06.19, AP, 06.06.19, Reuters, 06.04.19)
  • Russia is ready to send more military specialists to Venezuela if needed, Russia's foreign ministry said according to the state-run RIA news agency. Another state news agency, TASS, quoted the ministry as saying Russia did not rule out increasing the number of its military personnel in Venezuela. (Reuters, 06.07.19)
  • Russia cannot and will never support solving the crisis in Venezuela by military means, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on June 3. (TASS, 06.03.19)  
  • The Lima Group, a regional bloc of countries in the Americas has called on the international community to put more pressure on Venezuela’s allies, including Russia, to resolve the growing crisis in the South American country and help remove its "illegitimate" government. (RFE/RL, 06.07.19)
  • Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA plans to open an office in Moscow this month, Interfax cited Venezuela's oil minister as saying on June 6 during a trip to St. Petersburg. (Reuters, 06.06.19)
  • Among the world leaders who joined Queen Elizabeth II and other heads of state to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, one was conspicuously absent: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Asked on June 6 why he was not invited, Putin dismissed the suggestion that he was deliberately snubbed. Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the West on June 5 the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 did not play a decisive role in ending World War II. (CNN, 06.07.19, Reuters, 06.05.19)
  • U.S. prosecutors have released a less-redacted version of an FBI memo describing the interview agents had with former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn in January 2017. The document shows that Flynn told investigators that Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak asked him during a Dec. 28, 2016, phone call to set up a “VTC,” an apparent reference to a video teleconference, between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (The Hill, 06.06.19)
  • Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine held in Russia on suspicion of spying, is being illegally isolated in a Moscow pre-trial detention center and prevented from communicating with visitors, Russian rights activists and U.S. diplomats said. (Reuters, 06.05.19)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recounted how U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s suggestion “told me in April 2014: ‘It’s all clear. Everything happened as the Crimean people wanted. But, for the sake of maintaining order, hold another referendum,’” Lavrov said. (The Moscow Times, 06.06.19)
  • Unhappy with HBO's “Chernobyl,” Russia is planning its own series that blames the CIA for the disaster. (The Washington Post, 06.07.19)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • The Russian economy will grow by 1.2 percent in 2019, the World Bank said June 4 in at least the third downgrade. The curtailed expectations parallel the World Bank’s downgraded forecast for global growth from 2.9 percent to 2.6 percent. (The Moscow Times, 06.05.19)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s own government doesn’t believe his ambitious campaign pledges to improve living standards are attainable. Officials have analyzed the $400 billion spending program, dubbed the National Projects, and found that the majority of targets will be impossible to achieve before the end of Putin’s term in 2024. There are some classic big-spending efforts in the plan, like building roads and airports. And then the plan gets creative. It calls for Russia to buy 900 pianos and build 50 covered ice rinks. Russian scientists will, by 2024, publish 200 articles on genetics in top-rated journals, the plan states. (New York Times, 06.06.19, Bloomberg, 06.03.19)
  • Russian-annexed Crimea has experienced the fastest economic growth in Russia in 2019 so far, the RBC news website reported on June 3. More than $13 billion in Russian funds will have been spent on the Crimean economy between 2015 and 2022. (The Moscow Times, 06.03.19)
  • Russian economic growth is hampered by deep-seated corruption in the country’s legal system, Audit Chamber head Alexei Kudrin told the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. (The Moscow Times, 06.06.19)
  • Russian gas giant Gazprom on June 3 became the country’s top publicly traded company by market capitalization after its shares shot up to their highest level since 2008, driven by a new dividend policy. The state-owned company’s shares rose 12 percent on June 3 from May 31’s close, peaking at 241.65 rubles ($3.68) per share on the Moscow Stock Exchange. This spike raised Gazprom’s market capitalization to 5.62 trillion rubles, putting it ahead of Sberbank. (Financial Times, 06.03.19)
  • Unit 2 of the Novovoronezh II nuclear power plant in southwest Russia has entered the pilot commercial operation stage, Rosenergoatom has announced. (World Nuclear News, 06.04.19)
  • Regional authorities say emergency rescue operations have been completed following a series of massive blasts that devastated an explosives plant in central Russia. The Russian Health Ministry said on June 2 that 89 people, including 44 employees of the Kristall plant in the town of Dzerzhinsk, have been seeking medical help following the explosions. (RFE/RL, 06.02.19)
  • Some 7,000 demonstrators have rallied in Russia's northwestern Komi Republic against the construction of a new landfill in the neighboring Arkhangelsk region. (RFE/RL, 06.03.19)
  • At least 14 journalists have been detained in central Moscow while holding single pickets to protest the arrest of fellow journalist Ivan Golunov. Golunov, an investigative reporter for the Meduza news website, was detained June 6 on drug trafficking charges which his colleagues say were “persecution” for his reports. (The Moscow Times, 06.07.19)
  • Russian news agencies said security agents have detained 15 members of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the North Caucasus region of Daghestan in the latest roundup targeting members of the religious group. (RFE/RL, 06.06.19)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted the resignation of Sergei Morozov, the acting governor of the southwestern region of Astrakhan, and appointed a deputy presidential envoy to the North Caucasus region, Igor Babushkin, to the post. (RFE/RL, 06.05.19)
  • Russia’s Kommersant business daily, plagued by a censorship scandal that led to a mass walkout of its reporters, is now facing fines under a law that punishes media for disseminating state secrets. (The Moscow Times, 04.06.19)
  • Tourists are not traveling to Moscow because they think it’s too expensive and unsafe, according to a Boston Consulting Group survey. (The Moscow Times, 06.04.19)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told the Defense Ministry collegium on June 4 that the armed forces will receive 400 new or modernized armored vehicles before the end of this year. (Russian Defense Policy, 06.06.19)
  • The Russian air force is scheduled to start taking Tu-22M3M deliveries in 2021, while dozens of Tu-22M3’s will be retrofitted with the M3M upgrade package over the coming years. (The National Interest, 06.06.19)
  • Russian soldiers of the future will be assigned service in specific military branches based on their hereditary predispositions detailed in so-called “genetic passports,” the country’s chief scientist has said. (The Moscow Times, 06.07.19)
  • The Russian Defense Ministry held talks with defense chiefs from 17 countries in the first five months of 2019, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. (TASS, 06.04.19)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russia must pay $1.8 million to the families of 20 people abducted from Chechnya during separatist fighting in the 2000s, Europe’s top human rights court has ruled. (The Moscow Times, 06.05.19)
  • Authorities in Russia have arrested the former associate of a researcher at a Russian rocket- and spacecraft-design institute who had been in detention for almost a year on treason charges, his son says. A Moscow court has sent Roman Kovalyov to pretrial detention for two months, his son said. (RFE/RL, 06.06.19)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

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

  • Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Moscow is against "any foreign intervention" in Sudan, where more than 100 protesters have been killed in a military crackdown this week. (RFE/RL, 06.06.19)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Pope Francis next month, the Vatican said on June 6, an encounter that could help pave the way for an historic papal trip to Russia. (Reuters, 06.06.19)
  • Speaking on June 6 at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it is time for Russia and U.K. to “turn the page” in their strained ties and to “leave behind” matters related to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in England last year. (RFE/RL, 06.06.19)
  • Russia will in the near future send 30 military personnel to the Central African Republic where they will form part of a U.N. mission to help stabilize the country. (Reuters, 06.03.19)
  • The Czech Foreign Ministry has criticized Russian legislation that it says misrepresents the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The ministry statement, released on June 3, came amid reports that Russian lawmakers were proposing to amend existing laws for veterans, stating that Soviet troops participated in the 1968 invasion to suppress "an attempted coup." (RFE/RL, 06.04.19)


  • Chinese President Xi Jinping told Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow that it is his first state visit to Russia following his re-election as Chinese president last year, and is the eighth time he traveled to the country since 2013. All, in all, he said that he and Putin met almost 30 times in the last six years. Xi described Putin as “my old friend” and “one of my closest friends and a great colleague.” He noted that he hoped his visit will "serve as an incentive for the development of Chinese-Russian relations, comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction in a new era.” “We are ready to go hand in hand with you,” he said. (Foreign Policy, 06.06.19, RFE/RL, 06.05.19, Reuters, 06.05.19, Kremlin, 06.05.19-06.07.19)
  • “This is a truly comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow. Putin described Xi as “my dear friend” and “my good long-time friend” and said the Russia-China relationship has reached an “unprecedentedly high” point. “China firmly holds the position of Russia’s leading foreign trade partner,” Putin said  (Foreign Policy, 06.06.19, Financial Times, 06.07.19, RFE/RL, 06.07.19, Kremlin, 06.07.19)
  • Bilateral trade in goods between China and Russia stood at $3.2 billion in the first four months this year, up 5.8 percent year on year. As Russia's largest trading partner, China's import from the country rose to $18.8 billion, while export was $14.4 billion in the January-April period, up 7.6 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively. About 30 investment projects worth a total of $22 billion are underway in Russia with Chinese partners and Chinese capital, according to Putin. “A substantial part of these funds is being invested in projects in the Russian Far East ($3.5 billion),” he said. Putin also said that “Russia leads in oil distribution to China: Last year, 67 million tons of raw materials were sent to China.” (Foreign Policy 06.06.19, Xinhua, 06.06.19)
  • With China's President Xi Jinping standing by his side at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin lambasted the U.S. for its actions against Chinese telecom giant Huawei. "The situation around Huawei, for instance, which is not only being sidelined, but blatantly squeezed out of the global market … is already seen in certain circles as the first technological war of the new digital era," Putin said. (Financial Times, 06.07.19, RFE/RL, 06.07.19)
    • Russia’s top cellphone operator MTS has signed an agreement with Huawei to develop 5G technology. (The Moscow Times, 06.06.19)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin's foreign-policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, called China "Russia's most important economic partner." Ushakov said that "the positions of Russia and China are very close or coincide completely on most international issues," including the North Korean nuclear program, the crisis in Venezuela and Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. (RFE/RL, 06.05.19)
  • Though attendance of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum from Western business has dwindled, Russian officials touted a record thousand-strong Chinese delegation, double the size of the U.S. contingent. (Financial Times, 06.07.19)
  • The general contract for Russian-designed VVER-1200 reactors for units three and four of the Xudabao nuclear power plant in China's Liaoning province was signed yesterday in Moscow in the presence of the countries' heads of state. The signing ceremony had been planned to coincide with Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Russia. (World Nuclear News, 06.06.19)
  • In 2018, bilateral Russian-Chinese trade in agricultural products surged 28.2 percent to $5.23 billion. Of the number, Russia's export to China surged 51.3 percent to $3.21 billion. (Xinhua, 06.06.19)
  • Cherkizovo Group, the largest meat producer in Russia, began shipping poultry products to China last month, and is now looking forward to selling pork and soybeans there, according to CEO Sergey Mikhailov. (South China Morning Post, 06.06.19)
  • Chinese tourists made a total of 1.26 million trips to Russia last year, while trips made by Russian tourists to China reached 1.98 million. (Xinhua, 06.06.19).


  • The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said on June 5 that three Ukrainian soldiers and one separatist had lost their lives in a battle with separatists. The ministry then said on June 6 that another Ukrainian soldier was wounded. The ministry said on June 7 that two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 10 were wounded after separatists opened fire, violating a cease-fire 23 times in a 24-hour period. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Moscow to "rein in" the separatists. (RFE/RL, 06.07.19, RFE/RL, 06.06.19)
  • The Ukrainian Embassy in the U.S. has said that a draft bill has been presented at the U.S. House of Representatives that would grant Ukraine the status of “major non-NATO ally” until the country becomes a full NATO member. The possible designation of Kiev as a major non-NATO ally of the U.S. will destabilize the situation in Ukraine and affect regional security, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said. (Interfax, 06.04.19, Emerging Europe, 06.03.19)
  • The U.S. could send Ukraine anti-ship and anti-aircraft weapons to defend against Russia if a bill from Eliot Engel, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Democratic chairman, and top Republican Michael McCaul becomes law. The bill comes days after the Senate Armed Services Committee advanced separate legislation, the draft 2020 defense policy bill, that authorizes up to $300 million for security assistance to Ukraine, making $100 million available for lethal assistance and adding coastal defense and anti-ship missiles as eligible categories of security assistance. (Defense News, 05.31.19)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for inviting him to pay an official visit to Washington. (Interfax, 06.01.19)
  • Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky has used his first trip to Brussels to reassure Kiev’s Western backers by distancing himself from a controversial oligarch. Zelensky, a former comedian with little political experience, rejected Ihor Kolomoisky’s call for war-scarred Ukraine to back away from a multibillion-dollar IMF-backed reform program by defaulting on external debt. Ukraine is seeking billions of dollars this year from a $3.9 billion IMF standby program. (Financial Times, 06.05.19)
  • While in Brussels, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine's "strategic course to achieve full-fledged membership in the EU and NATO" remained unchanged, but that Ukraine should hold a referendum on NATO membership. “Ukraine in the EU is the death of the Russian imperial project . . . it is a powerful blow against Russian authoritarianism, it is the path to democratic change in Russia and the whole post-Soviet space,” Zelensky told Donald Tusk, European Council president, on June 5. A spokesperson for Ukraine’s former president Petro Poroshenko accused Zelensky of “banal plagiarism,” saying this and other statements by Zelensky this week in Brussels were lifted word for word from speeches given by Poroshenko. (Financial Times, 06.05.19, RFE/RL, 06.04.19, RFE/RL, 06.05.19)
  • Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, held a “warm first meeting” with Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky and was also scheduled to attended a session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. (RFE/RL, 06.06.19, Financial Times, 06.05.19)
  • While in Brussels, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he is ready to negotiate with Russia to end the war in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has described former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who has been reappointed as Kiev's representative to the Trilateral Contact Group for Donbass, as an experienced politician, but said that the prospects of these talks depend on Zelensky’s stance. (Interfax, 06.04.19, RFE/RL, 06.06.19)
  • Russia will consider Ukraine's proposals on settling the conflict in Donbass if they are really new, Russian Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee head Konstantin Kosachyov said. (Interfax, 06.03.19)
  • "This is an economic question, because we might lose about $3 billion in gas transit fees, and it's a geopolitical question, too, considering that if Ukraine stops gas transit, then we'll become an object rather than a subject," Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Danylyuk said. (Interfax, 05.31.19)
  • Several thousands of people from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics have applied for Russian citizenship since relevant centers opened in Russia's Rostov region, the Russian Interior Ministry said. (Interfax, 06.03.19)
  • Russia has argued that the International Court of Justice lacks jurisdiction in Kiev's case over Moscow's seizure of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 06.03.19)
  • Russia is not cooperating sufficiently in the investigation of the downing of flight MH17 over Donbass in July 2014 and must report on what happened, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said. (Interfax, 06.04.19)
  • Newly discovered documents suggest that at least 170 Russian troops were deployed near the Ukrainian border shortly before Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in 2014, Russia’s investigative Novaya Gazeta newspaper said, supporting previous reports. (The Moscow Times, 06.06.19)
  • A court in Ukraine's eastern Dnipropetrovsk region has sentenced five men to prison terms in the high-profile case surrounding the death of anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk. (RFE/RL, 06.06.19)
  • After a 5-year-old boy was fatally shot by two allegedly drunken police officers, Ukraine's powerful and controversial interior minister, Arsen Avakov, is defending his job in the face of angry protesters who want him gone. (RFE/RL, 06.05.19)
  • A bill tabled by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, on confiscation of corrupt assets of officials and the restoration of criminal responsibility for illegal enrichment provides for confiscation of illegal assets by court decisions in a civil process without a conviction, according to the president's official website. (Interfax, 06.03.19)
  • The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General’s Office on June 6 announced that Viktor Yushchenko is being investigated for suspected abuse of power and possession of state property in what investigators called the illegal privatization of a residential complex near Kiev that served as a residence for his prime minister and successor Viktor Yanukovych. (RFE/RL, 06.07.19)
  • Head of the Council of the National Bank of Ukraine Bohdan Danylyshyn says Ukraine's international reserves shrank in May 2019 over state debt repayments worth $1.7 billion. (Interfax, 06.03.19)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Kassym Jomart Tokayev, who was installed as acting president on former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s recommendation when he resigned in March and who faces only little known opponents from an opposition in disarray after years of suppression, is expected to win the presidential elections on June 9 by a big margin. (Financial Times, 06.07.19)
  • A Kazakh court has extended the house arrest measure for Serikzhan Bilash, the leader of a group that raised concerns over the internment of ethnic Kazakhs in China's northwestern Xinjiang region. (RFE/RL, 06.07.19)
  • Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has pardoned dozens of inmates on the eve of Eid al-Fitr—the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that was celebrated after sunset on June 4. (RFE/RL, 06.04.19)
  • The former warden of a prison in Tajikistan's northern city of Khujand has been handed a prison sentence over a deadly riot in November in which dozens of people were killed, a Tajik official has said. (RFE/RL, 06.07.19)
  • Former Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General Aida Salyanova has been detained over the early release in 2013 of one of the country's most notorious crime bosses. (RFE/RL, 06.04.19)
  • Lithuania's parliament has recognized the deportation of Crimean Tatars in 1944 by the government of the Soviet Union as an act of genocide. (RFE/RL, 06.06.19)

IV. Quoteworthy

  • “Under Trump Admin, US is arming Ukraine, formally recognizing opposition to Venezuelan regime and pushing for regime change in Iran. … There’s been no US Administration so directly hostile to Russian interests since Soviet collapse,” says Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group. (Twitter, 05.31.19)
  • “I would like to thank Mr. Xi and all our Chinese colleagues for transferring two giant pandas to the Moscow Zoo. We know that China almost never does this. This is a sign of special respect and trust with regard to Russia and our specialists,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told a visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow. (Foreign Policy, 06.06.19)
  • German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on May 31: “The dual strategy of deterrence and détente is most likely what the former director of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, the bold thinker, strategist, and foreign policy expert Egon Bahr, meant when he said, ‘For Germany, America is indispensable; Russia is immovable.’” (Arms Control Today, June 2019)