Russia in Review, Oct. 1-8, 2021
This Week’s Highlights
- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Oct. 7 that NATO decided to expel eight Russians accredited to the alliance in response to a surge in Moscow's "malign activities,” RFE/RL reports. Earlier, Sky News alleged the measure came in response to suspected malign activities, including killings and espionage. In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused NATO of duplicity and said hopes for better relations were almost totally compromised, according to RFE/RL.
- A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has urged U.S. President Joe Biden to increase staffing at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and to expel Russian diplomats from Washington if Moscow doesn’t cooperate, RFE/RL reports.
- Russia is prepared to stabilize global energy markets after gas prices hit another record on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, hinting that Gazprom may increase supplies to help Europe stave off a growing energy crisis, the Financial Times reports. Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA, said Russia has the capacity to send substantially more gas to Europe, according to the Financial Times. RFE/RL reports that the European Commission is looking into complaints that Gazprom is using its position as a major supplier to propel gas prices.
- Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan said that Taliban representatives have been invited to Moscow for talks later this month on the country’s future, RFE/RL reports. Zamir Kabulov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that the talks were planned for Oct. 20 but did not provide further details. The U.S. is expected to participate in the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
- The Taliban has provided Tajik militants based along the border with Tajikistan with new military vehicles, weaponry and other equipment over the past two weeks, security sources in Tajikistan and northeastern Afghanistan say, amid an ongoing military buildup on both sides of the frontier, RFE/RL reports.
- The EU is considering a training mission for Ukrainian officers due to the "ongoing military activities" of Russia, according to an internal EU document, RFE/RL reports.
- A new, 43rd department for international cooperation in the field of culture, science, education and sports may soon be established in the Russian Foreign Ministry, Kommersant reports. The new department will develop a strategy and coordinate Russia's actions in the field of soft power.
- Russia broke another one-day coronavirus death toll record Oct. 8, The Moscow Times reports. A government tally recorded 936 COVID-19 deaths over the past 24 hours, bringing the number of total deaths based on daily figures to 213,549.
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda
Nuclear security and safety:
- Rosenergoatom has begun unloading used fuel from the Leningrad 2 reactor in Russia. Partially used fuel assemblies will be used in units 3 and 4 at the plant during their final years of operation. Leningrad 2 is a 1000 MWe RBMK unit that started up in 1975. It was permanently shut down in November 2020 and its output has already been replaced by new VVER-1200 units at the adjacent Leningrad II power plant. (World Nuclear News, 10.05.21)
- An official with Rosatom has announced a deadline for raising two Soviet-era nuclear submarines, K-27 and K-159, that have been lying for decades at the bottom of seas in the Arctic over fears their reactors could contaminate fertile international fishing grounds. “As indicated in the strategy for the development of the Arctic, 2030, not earlier,” Anatoly Grigoriev, head of Rosatom’s international technical assistance project, said. (Bellona, 10.06.21)
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:
- No significant developments.
Iran and its nuclear program:
- The top U.S. and Russian diplomats have discussed their shared interest in the restoration of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced his conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a visit to France on Oct. 6. "The United States and Russia, I think, [are] sharing an interest in seeing a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA," Blinken said. "We had an opportunity to compare notes on where we stand, and where we hope to go," Blinken said of his conversation with Lavrov. (RFE/RL, 10.06.21)
Great Power rivalry/New Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:
- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Oct. 7 that NATO decided to expel eight Russians accredited to the alliance in response to a surge in Moscow's "malign activities," as the Kremlin warned the decision undermined "almost completely" any hope for improving relations. NATO announced Oct. 6 that the Russian officials are to be deprived of access to the organization’s Brussels headquarters from the end of the month, saying they were undeclared members of Russia's intelligence services. NATO also halved the number of positions that Russia can accredit from 20 down to 10. Earlier, Sky News alleged the measure came in response to suspected malign activities, including killings and espionage. (RFE/RL, 10.07.21, Sky News, 10.06.21)
- In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Oct. 7 accused NATO of duplicity and said hopes for better relations were almost totally compromised. (RFE/RL, 10.07.21)
- Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan said that Taliban representatives have been invited to Moscow for talks later this month on the country’s future. Zamir Kabulov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that the talks were planned for Oct. 20 but did not provide further details. The U.S. is expected to participate in the meeting, Lavrov said. (RFE/RL, 10.07.21, Interfax, 10.08.21)
- Russia did not invite military attaches from NATO countries to attend the main phase of the strategic Russian-Belarusian exercise Zapad-2021 at the Mulino proving ground in a tit-for-tat gesture, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Oct. 8. "Military attaches from the NATO countries were not invited to this phase of the exercise in retaliation, because Russian military attaches were not invited to a similar NATO exercise, Defender Europe 2021," Fomin said. (TASS, 10.08.21)
- U.S. Navy nuclear submarine USS Connecticut collided with an unidentified object during diving in the Indo-Pacific region, the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet press service said in a statement Oct. 7. (TASS, 10.07.21)
- U.S. President Joe Biden signed legislation Oct. 8 to provide financial aid to U.S. government personnel believed to be suffering from "Havana Syndrome," the mysterious illness that began afflicting diplomats and intelligence officers in Cuba's capital in 2016. (The Washington Post, 10.08.21)
China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?
- China supports Lavrov’s statement about the negative role of AUKUS (Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.) and the Quad (the U.S., Japan, India and Australia) military alliances established in the Asia Pacific region, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said. (TASS, 10.08.21)
- Russia and China believe the military-biological activities of the U.S. and its allies pose a threat to their national security, the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers said in a joint statement. (Interfax, 10.08.21)
- No significant developments.
Nuclear arms control:
- The Biden administration has declassified the number of nuclear weapons the U.S. possesses. The act reverses the secrecy of the Trump administration. According to the new data, the United States possessed a total of 3,750 nuclear warheads in the Department of Defense nuclear weapons stockpile as of September 2020. The 3,750-warhead number is only 72 warheads fewer than in September 2017, the last number made available before the Trump administration closed the books. (Federation of American Scientists, 10.06.21)
- Capturing former U.S. President Donald Trump's attention was no easy task, according to Fiona Hill, who once advised him on Russia, but when it came to the topic of nuclear weapons, she believes he "really cared" about the issue. She called him "genuinely interested" in the nuclear issue and that his depth of interest was so great, it even seemed to "take the Russians by surprise." "Countering terrorism, striking back against [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad when he used chemical weapons against the civilian population in Syria, trade tariffs and dealing with China fell into that category," Hill wrote in her new book. (Newsweek, 10.05.21)
- In 2018, Trump met with Putin in Helsinki. During a one-on-one meeting with Putin, Fiona Hill wrote in her new book, Trump caught him making an inaccurate assertion about the terms of extending the 2010 New START agreement. Later, during a lunch with Cabinet members, Hill wrote that Trump raised the fact that Putin's comment was incorrect. She said Putin was "slightly embarrassed" and had to clarify the comment he made. (Newsweek, 10.05.21)
- Trump has attacked his British-born former top Russia adviser Fiona Hill, calling her a "know-it-all" with a "nice accent." (Daily Telegraph, 10.08.21)
- No significant developments.
Conflict in Syria:
- The terrorist threat is still in place in Syria’s Idlib zone and is even escalating in certain areas, Lavrov said Oct. 4 after talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shourky. Lavrov also said Russia hopes that Turkey will be guided by the principles of respect to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity it has repeatedly declared. Lavrov and Shoukry also discussed the withdrawal of all foreign armed forces from Libya. (TASS, 10.04.21)
- Syria talks in the Astana format, initially scheduled for this fall, are not planned before the end of this year, an informed source told Interfax. It was reported earlier that the next round of Syria talks in the capital of Kazakhstan might be held in the fall, approximately in October. (Interfax, 10.01.21)
- Microsoft said Russia accounted for most state-sponsored hacking that the software giant has detected over the past year, with hackers mostly targeting U.S. government agencies and think tanks. In a report released Oct. 7, Microsoft also highlighted the growing threats of ransomware attacks, saying the U.S. was by far the most targeted country. (RFE/RL, 10.08.21)
- Russia hasn't significantly changed its behavior in cyberspace since Biden's warning to Putin, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly said. (The Washington Post, 10.06.21)
Energy exports from CIS:
- The European Commission is looking into complaints that Gazprom is using its position as a major supplier to propel gas prices, the EU’s energy policy chief said. "We are looking into this claim, together with Executive Vice President [Margrethe] Vestager, who is responsible for competition rules, because it is of course a very serious matter," European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson told Reuters. (RFE/RL, 10.05.21)
- Russia is prepared to stabilize global energy markets after gas prices hit another record on Oct. 6, Putin said, hinting that Gazprom may increase supplies to help Europe stave off a growing energy crisis. Putin told officials Oct. 6 that Gazprom was on course to set a new record for gas supplies to Europe this year and was exceeding its contractual obligations to send 40 billion cubic meters of gas via Ukraine by “more than 8%.” Putin also said that Europe was to blame for the current energy crisis after soaring gas prices spurred accusations that Moscow is withholding supplies to pressure the West. He said that one of the factors influencing the prices was the termination of "long-term contracts" in favor of the spot market. European and U.K. gas prices surged Oct. 6 by more than 25%, energized by soaring demand before the northern hemisphere winter. (AFP, 10.06.21, Financial Times, 10.06.21)
- Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said Oct. 7 there was “potential” to increase gas supplies to Europe, and hinted strongly that Nord Stream 2 was the best way to do it. (Financial Times, 10.07.21)
- Jennifer Granholm, the U.S. energy secretary, said this week that the U.S. was “carefully” watching Russia’s role in the European gas crunch, including assessing whether Gazprom was manipulating the market. (Financial Times, 10.07.21)
- Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA, said Russia has the capacity to send substantially more gas to Europe. Speaking the day after Putin hinted at a boost to shipments, Birol urged Russia to prove it is a “reliable supplier” by helping alleviate a supply crunch that has rocked energy prices and threatened the global recovery from pandemic lockdowns. (Financial Times, 10.07.21)
- The operator of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany—criticized by some Western countries as a geopolitical weapon—said Oct. 4 it had begun filling the pipeline with gas. The latest step pushing the Baltic Sea pipeline to completion comes as Europe faces an energy crisis with natural gas reserves at a low level and energy prices surging. (AFP, 10.05.21)
- The transit of Russian gas to Hungary through the Berehove border point with Ukraine resumed on Oct. 3 after a temporary suspension. (Ukraine Business News, 10.05.21)
- U.S. oil prices rose to the highest level in seven years after OPEC and its allies, including Russia, declined to accelerate plans to increase crude production, snubbing calls from the White House to help tackle a growing global energy crunch. (Financial Times, 10.06.21)
U.S.-Russian economic ties:
- No significant developments.
U.S.-Russian relations in general:
- A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has urged Biden to increase staffing at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and to expel Russian diplomats from Washington if Moscow doesn’t cooperate. The letter, signed by Sens. Bob Menendez, Mark Warner, Jim Risch and Marco Rubio, notes that, while Russia currently has more than 400 diplomats spread throughout the United States, the U.S. has only about 100 in Russia. The letter said Russia must issue enough visas "to approach parity" between the number of U.S. diplomats serving in Russia vis-a-vis the number of Russian diplomats serving in the U.S. "If such action is not taken, we urge you to begin expelling Russian diplomats to bring the U.S. diplomatic presence to parity," the letter said. The letter estimates this would mean the expulsion of as many as 300 Russian diplomats. (RFE/RL, 10.05.21)
- Russia on Oct. 8 accused three American embassy employees of theft and demanded that they leave the country or face prosecution, further exacerbating already tense relations. Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the three staff members of “stealing personal belongings from a Russian citizen.” No details of the alleged incident were offered. (The Washington Post, 10.08.21)
- A group of 45 countries including the U.S., Britain and Germany have demanded at the global chemical weapons watchdog that Russia provide answers about the poisoning of jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Western countries on Oct. 5 gave a list of questions to Russia at a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the global body responsible for implementation of and compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. (RFE/RL, 10.05.21)
- The U.S. and the EU have marked the 15th anniversary of the murder of prominent investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya in central Moscow by renewing their calls for all those responsible to be brought to justice, amid an intensifying crackdown on independent media and the opposition. (RFE/RL, 10.07.21)
- The founder of one of Russia’s largest privately-owned banks has agreed to pay the U.S. IRS more than $500 million after pleading guilty to tax fraud. Oleg Tinkov, who was arrested in the U.K. in February 2020 at the behest of the U.S., will be sentenced to time served at his hearing on Oct. 29, the Justice Department said on Oct. 1. (RFE/RL, 10.01.21)
II. Russia’s domestic policies
Domestic politics, economy and energy:
- Russia broke another one-day coronavirus death toll record Oct. 8, as more regions reimpose restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and the Kremlin stops short of reintroducing nationwide measures. A government tally recorded 936 COVID-19 deaths over the past 24 hours, bringing the number of total deaths based on daily figures to 213,549. Russia’s total excess fatality count since the start of the pandemic is around 596,000 according to Moscow Times estimates. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 10.08.21) Here’s a link to RFE/RL’s interactive map of the virus’ spread around the world, including in Russia and the rest of post-Soviet Eurasia.
- A new opinion poll indicates that Russians' trust in Putin has dropped to its lowest level in nearly a decade. The Levada Center survey released Oct. 6 found 53% of respondents saying they trusted Putin, down from 71% in September 2017. (RFE/RL, 10.07.21)
- When asked by the Levada Center on Sept. 23-29 who they had voted for in the parliamentary elections earlier that month, 38% said they had cast ballots for United Russia, 24% of voters answered that they voted for the Communist Party, 9% answered that they voted for the Just Russia-Patriots-For Truth party and 7% answered that they voted for the Liberal Democratic Party. Some 46% of Russians believe that the past elections to the State Duma were fair while 45% think otherwise, according the Levada poll. (Russia Matters, 10.05.21, 10.06.21)
- The ICIJ said that Russian nationals are “disproportionately represented” in the Pandora Papers, with 14% of the more than 27,000 scrutinized companies having Russian beneficiaries and 46 Russian oligarchs found to use offshore companies. Among them are the family of Sergei Chemezov, CEO of Russia’s defense conglomerate Rostec and one of Putin’s oldest friends; German Gref, CEO of Russia’s state-controlled lender Sberbank; and Konstantin Ernst, CEO of one of Russia’s most-watched state-run broadcasters Channel One. Financial records analyzed by the ICIJ also found Putin’s alleged mistress Svetlana Krivonogikh becoming the owner of a $4.1 million apartment in Monaco via an offshore company in 2003. The company was reportedly set up weeks after Krivonogikh gave birth to Luiza Vladimirovna Rozova, whom Russian investigative reporters named as Putin’s extramarital daughter last year. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 10.05.21, The Washington Post, 10.04.21, Al Jazeera, 10.04.21)
- Russia has dismissed revelations leaked in the Pandora Papers as “unsubstantiated claims” after an investigation by a media consortium shone a light on wealth allegedly amassed by Kremlin-linked individuals. The Kremlin also said Oct. 4 that the Pandora Papers financial leaks expose the U.S. as the world’s largest offshore haven. (Al Jazeera, 10.04.21, The Moscow Times/AFP, 10.05.21)
- This year's Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta editor in chief Dmitry Muratov and Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression." (RFE/RL, 10.08.21)
- A German prize for democracy and freedom of expression was on Oct. 6 awarded to Navalny and his anti-corruption foundation. "Of course, we'll keep going," Navalny's close ally Leonid Volkov, who lives in exile, said as he accepted the M100 Media Award in Potsdam. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 10.08.21)
- Russia added the investigative outlet Bellingcat and nine journalists from various news outlets to its “foreign agents” registry Oct. 8. Bellingcat, as well as the independent Caucasian Knot news website and journalists including BBC Russian correspondent Andrei Zakharov and Dozhd journalist Daniil Sotnikov, appeared on the Justice Ministry’s lists of media outlets and individuals “performing the functions of a foreign agent.” (The Moscow Times/AFP, 10.08.21)
- A Russian nongovernmental organization that has defended the rights of conscripts in the Russian Army for more than two decades says it has ceased its activities because it faces possible persecution from the authorities. Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg made the announcement Oct. 5, citing "serious restrictions" imposed by Russia's main domestic security service on the group’s activities. (RFE/RL, 10.06.21)
- A Russian court has extended by three months the pretrial detention of Ivan Safronov, a prominent former journalist accused of high treason in a case widely considered to be politically motivated. On Oct. 4, the Moscow City Court ordered Safronov, who covered the defense industry for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti, be remanded in custody until Jan. 7. (RFE/RL, 10.04.21)
- Investigators have indicted Group-IB founder Ilya Sachkov for treason, sources in law enforcement told RIA Novosti and TASS on Oct. 7. (Meduza, 10.07.21)
- The Russian economy continued to normalize on a year-on-year basis, although many sectors started to see stagnation, the housing market being an exception. The GDP growth rate slowed to 3.7% y/y in July vs. 10.5% y/y in 2Q21. (bne IntelliNews, 10.05.21)
- Russia’s inflation rate shot up to a new five-year high in September, heaping more pressure on the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Annual price rises came in at 7.4%, the Rosstat statistics agency said Oct. 6—ahead of market expectations and a significant jump from the 6.7% inflation rate recorded in August. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 10.08.21)
- The melting of permafrost in Russia is a result of climate change, according to scientists and research from Russia's government. Two-thirds of the country sits on such soil, including much of its oil and gas infrastructure. Since 1976, Russia's average temperature has risen 0.92 degree Fahrenheit per decade, or 2 1/2 times the global pace, government data shows. Mines and plants are experiencing increasing corrosion leaks and cracks, stemming in large part from defrosting ground. (The Wall Street Journal, 10.06.21)
Defense and aerospace:
- The Russian military said Oct. 4 that it had successfully test-fired a hypersonic "Tsirkon" missile from a submarine for the first time. The missile was launched from the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine from a depth of 131 feet and hit a test target in the Barents Sea. (CBS, 10.04.21)
- Sevmash CEO Mikhail Budnichenko says he expects the latest Russian super-sized submarine, Belgorod, to complete trials by the end of the year. The 604-foot-long Belgorod is one of the biggest submarines ever. It was designed to carry as many as six 79-foot-long, nuclear-powered underwater Poseidon drones armed with a huge dirty-bomb warhead. (Defence Blog, 10.04.21)
- A Russian actress, Yulia Peresild, a director, Klim Shipenko and their veteran Russian astronaut guide, Anton Shkaplerov, arrived at the International Space Station Oct. 5 to shoot scenes for the first feature-length film in space. (The New York Times, 10.05.21)
Security, law-enforcement and justice:
- A prominent NGO that tracks abuses in Russia’s prison system says it has received “thousands” of leaked video clips showing inmates being beaten and tortured by guards in several prisons across the country. “This is an unprecedented leak that will send shockwaves across the country. In total we have over 40 gigabytes of files showing widespread torture,” Vladimir Osechkin, the founder of the Gulagu.net rights group, told The Moscow Times. Osechkin said the inmate was a Belarusian IT specialist who reportedly gained access to footage stored in the prison's computers that were shot in several prisons in the Irkutsk, Vladimir and Saratov regions between 2018-2020. (The Moscow Times, 10.05.21, RFE/RL, 10.05.21)
- The number of victims who died after drinking bootleg alcohol rose to 17, officials said, as police announced the arrests of several people. Regional police said Oct. 8 that a resident in the town of Orsk had been arrested for allegedly distilling the booze at his house, and three other men were detained for distributing the alcohol in local shops. (RFE/RL, 10.07.21)
- An Azerbaijan-born Russian billionaire wanted by Moscow for allegedly ordering contract murders has been detained in Montenegro. Local media in Montenegro reported Oct. 2 that Telman Ismailov is seeking asylum in the Balkan country, a day after he was arrested in Podgorica on an international arrest warrant issued by Russia. (RFE/RL, 10.02.21)
III. Russia’s relations with other countries
Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:
- The EU has accused Russia of delaying the mutual recognition of coronavirus vaccine certificates to ease travel between countries. EU Ambassador to Russia Markus Ederer said the 27-member bloc had sent the Russian Health Ministry “all the information and requests needed to decide on recognizing the equivalence” of EU and Russian certificates. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 10.08.21)
- A new, 43rd department for international cooperation in the field of culture, science, education and sports may soon be established in the Russian Foreign Ministry. The new department will develop a strategy and coordinate Russia's actions in the field of soft power. (Kommersant, 10.05.21)
- Mali has summoned the French ambassador to Bamako as the row between the west African country at the center of a jihadist insurgency in the Sahel and the ex-colonial power leading the fight against it deepened over its decision to consider hiring Russian private security business Wagner Group. The move came in response to comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who last week said any deal with Wagner would “certainly” destroy the countries’ alliance and said Mali’s ruling military junta lacked “democratic legitimacy” after it took power in two successive coups in the past year. (Financial Times, 10.06.21)
- The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany announced on Oct. 6 that it had secured an additional $767 million in benefits for Holocaust survivors. As part of the most recent negotiations, the Claims Conference said, Germany agreed to recognize the extreme suffering of Russian Jews who had endured the more than two-year Nazi siege of Leningrad, which is now St. Petersburg, Russia. (The New York Times, 10.06.21)
- The EU is considering a training mission for Ukrainian officers due to the "ongoing military activities" of Russia, according to an internal EU document. With tensions between Kyiv and Moscow running high, some members of the bloc want Brussels to set up an independent training program called the EU Military Advisory and Training Mission Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 10.03.21)
- The presidents of Ukraine, Israel and Germany have inaugurated a memorial center for the victims of the Babyn Yar massacre in Ukraine, 80 years after the infamous mass slaughter by the Nazis. About 34,000 Jewish men, women and children were killed at the Babyn Yar ravine on the outskirts of Kyiv on Sept. 29-30, 1941, soon after the Nazis occupied the city. (RFE/RL, 10.06.21)
- Ukraine’s parliament has voted to appoint Ruslan Stefanchuk, a lawmaker from the ruling Servant of the People party, as the new speaker. A total of 261 lawmakers in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada backed Stefanchuk's appointment on Oct. 8. He is replacing Dmytro Razumkov, who was remove the previous day amid differences between him and the ruling Servant of the People party. (RFE/RL, 10.08.21)
- Ukraine's state-owned export-import bank lent $60 million to companies owned by a businessman with interests in parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, a new investigation has found. The businessman, Serhiy Bryukhovetskiy, has also paid millions of Ukrainian hryvnyas in taxes to the separatists and put up as collateral for the loan a Kyiv shopping mall whose ownership is under dispute. (RFE/RL, 10.08.21)
- A former official in the Ukrainian president's office has been accused of treason for allegedly passing on secret information to a foreign country, Ukraine’s security agency said. The Ukrainian Security Service said Oct. 1 that a counterintelligence investigation found the former official was recruited by an unnamed foreign intelligence service. (RFE/RL, 10.02.21)
- A Ukrainian lawmaker who was previously involved in a push to oust the country’s prosecutor-general died while riding in a taxi in Kyiv. The National Police said in a statement Oct. 8 that a forensic examination had been ordered to establish Anton Polyakov’s cause of death. (RFE/RL, 10.08.21)
- "In the first half of 2021, foreign direct investment in Ukraine amounted to $2.83 billion, of which $2.33 billion came from the EU. Investment growth in the first half of the year is at a record level for the last four years,” said Prime Minister Denys Shmygal on Facebook. (Ukraine Business News, 10.05.21)
Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:
- A Tajik militant group in Afghanistan that may be beyond the control of the Taliban could be planning an incursion into Tajikistan, according to Russian media reports. Moscow on Oct. 8 responded to the reports, saying Russia, which has a military base in Tajikistan, stood ready to protect its ally in the event of any such cross-border attack from neighboring Afghanistan. (bne IntelliNews, 10.08.21)
- The Taliban has provided Tajik militants based along the border with Tajikistan with new military vehicles, weaponry and other equipment over the past two weeks, security sources in Tajikistan and northeastern Afghanistan say, amid an ongoing military buildup on both sides of the frontier. The sources also told RFE/RL Oct. 4 that the Taliban has also “removed” ethnic Uyghur fighters from an area close to Afghanistan's small border with China. Tajik militants based in Afghanistan’s northern province of Badakhshan have been seen with U.S.-made weaponry and vehicles, including Humvees, with some of them wearing American combat gear, according to an official with Tajikistan’s state border services. (RFE/RL, 10.05.21)
- Visiting Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and his Uzbek counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoev, discussed the situation in Afghanistan when the two leaders met in Tashkent Oct. 5. “It was stressed during the talks that peace and stability in Afghanistan are the key to sustainable development in the entire Central Asian region,” the Uzbek presidential press service said. (RFE/RL, 10.05.21)
- During a visit to Kabul, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov discussed economic cooperation with the Taliban leadership and said he received "clear assurances" that the militant group will never pose any security threat to Uzbekistan. (RFE/RL, 10.08.21)
- U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has met with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev in Tashkent to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries and the situation in Afghanistan. During the Oct. 4 meeting in the Uzbek capital, Sherman thanked Mirziyoev for his country's "close cooperation with the United States in Afghanistan," and "underscored the importance of the United States' strategic partnership with Uzbekistan," according to the State Department. (RFE/RL, 10.04.21)
- Georgia's ruling party has won the Oct. 3 nationwide municipal elections that outside observers said were well-run but tainted by irregularities—a victory overshadowed by the arrest of returning former President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose supporters staged protests for his release Oct. 4. After all results from the country's 3,743 precincts were tallied, the ruling Georgian Dream party had 46.7%, according to the Central Election Commission on Oct. 4. The main opposition party, the United National Movement, had 30.7%. The rest of the vote was split among the remaining 48 parties, with the For Georgia party third at 7.8%. (RFE/RL, 10.04.21)
- The Georgian government has ruled out the option of extradition of Saakashvili to Ukraine. (Ukraine Business News, 10.05.21)
- A group of ambassadors representing the diplomatic corps accredited to Georgia has raised “grave concerns” about reported wiretapping by the South Caucasus country’s security services. Last month, Georgia was hit by a scandal when thousands of alleged security-service files were leaked, seeming to document widescale and long-running state surveillance of journalists, clergymen, diplomats and others. (RFE/RL, 10.05.21)
- Turkey and Azerbaijan have launched joint military drills in Azerbaijan's Naxcivan exclave. The "Unshakable Brotherhood" exercise running from Oct. 5 to Oct. 8 comes amid heightened tensions between Baku and Tehran, with Iran launching rare war games along its border with Azerbaijan in recent days. Azerbaijan’s restrictions on Iranian truck drivers' access to Armenia and the detention of two drivers, as well as Azerbaijan's ties to Iran's archenemy Israel are also fueling a spiraling standoff between the two neighbors. Azerbaijan has closed a mosque and an office linked to Iran's supreme leader in Baku just days after Tehran held military maneuvers close to the two countries' common border. (RFE/RL, 10.06.21, RFE/RL, 10.06.21)
- Armenia is preparing to launch a joint development in which a new nuclear power plant will support an expansion of copper mining in a collaboration between the country and Russian billionaire businessman Roman Trotsenko. The plan taking shape involves developing the Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine, which has recently been taken over by Trotsenko's GeoProMining and shared with the Armenian state. (World Nuclear News, 10.08.21)
- Prominent migrant rights defender Valentina Chupik has fled to Armenia following a 30-year entry ban to Russia, she told The Moscow Times Oct. 5. Chupik, an Uzbek activist who had held asylum in Russia since 2009, was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport last month, with FSB officers telling her that her refugee status was revoked for alleged “document falsification” and that she is banned from entering Russia for 30 years. (The Moscow Times, 10.05.21)
- The Belarus edition of Moscow-based Komsomolskaya Pravda said Oct. 5 it was shutting down after Belarusian authorities blocked its website and detained one of its journalists last week. Henadz Mazheyka was indicted for insulting a government official or inciting social hatred, the Interior Ministry said Oct. 4. The authorities have detained nearly 120 people across Belarus on similar charges since a Sept. 28 shooting in the capital in which an IT worker and a KGB officer died, according to the Minsk-based human rights group Vyasna. (RFE/RL, 10.05.21, The Moscow Times, 10.05.21)
- A Belarusian court has sentenced Alyaksey Syankou, a senior official at the Justice Ministry, to two years in prison for taking part in an unsanctioned mass protest last year against official election results that handed authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko a sixth consecutive term. (RFE/RL, 10.06.21)
- Moldova's opposition-appointed top prosecutor has been suspended and detained for alleged corruption. Anti-corruption prosecutor Victor Furtuna said Prosecutor-General Alexandru Stoianoglo was accused of abuse of office, exceeding official duties, corruption and making false statements. (RFE/RL, 10.06.21)
- No significant developments.