Russia in Review, Sept. 3-10, 2021

This Week’s Highlights

  • Russia's main trading partners among non-CIS countries in 7M 2021 were China, trade with which rose 29.1% year-on-year to $74.2 billion; Germany, up 39.2% to $31.0 billion; the Netherlands, up 46.5% to $20.5 billion and the United States, up 41.0% to $19.8 billion, according to Interfax.
  • Health-food provider JSC VkusVill and stock exchange PJSC SPB Exchange are preparing for initial public offerings in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reports. So far in 2021, Russian companies have issued around $6 billion in stock, the largest volume in five years, according to VTB Capital, the investment-banking arm of Russia's second-biggest lender.
  • The last piece of the Nord Stream 2 pipe was welded into place on Sept. 7. The operating company remains vague on the timing for the commencement of gas flow, but said it would start before the end of the year, according to the Financial Times and bne IntelliNews.
  • Russia and Belarus began a massive week-long military exercise Sept. 10 after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko agreed on a new effort toward integrating the nations, including creating a "single defense space," The Washington Post reports.
  • Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sept. 10 said all-out war with Russia was a possibility, adding that he wanted to have a substantive meeting with Putin, according to The Jerusalem Post.
  • Russian state polling agency VTsIOM has published survey results suggesting the ruling United Russia party would receive 35.3% of the ballots cast by voters who say they are likely to go to the polls in the Sept. 17-19 State Duma elections, RFE/RL reports.


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

Nuclear security:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Moscow is concerned about the rapid progress of Iran's nuclear capabilities, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told TASS on Sept. 8. "We are definitely concerned about the rapid progress that is being observed in Iran's nuclear capabilities," Ryabkov said. At the same time, Russia will vote against a draft resolution condemning Iran if it is put to vote at the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Russia’s Permanent Representative to the Vienna-based international organizations Mikhail Ulyanov said Sept. 10. (TASS, 09.08.21, TASS, 09.10.21)
  • New Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has pushed back against the U.N. nuclear watchdog's criticism in a confidential report accusing Tehran of blocking inspectors' access to atomic sites. Raisi told European Council President Charles Michel Sept. 8 that Iran's "serious cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency is a clear example of Iran's will to be transparent about its nuclear activities.” The diplomatic riposte follows news of a confidential quarterly report from the IAEA accusing Iran of blocking access to some of its nuclear sites for inspectors. Raisi told state television on Sept. 4 that his government is "pursuing outcome-oriented negotiations." (RFE/RL, 09.08.21, RFE/RL, 09.04.21)
  • The Sept. 16-17 summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will initiate the process of granting membership to Iran, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported Sept. 9, citing Kremlin sources. It typically takes two years to complete the accession to SCO, according to Kommersant. On Sept. 7, reported that Raisi will fly to the Dushanbe summit and in doing so will be conducting his first overseas trip since taking office. (bne IntelliNews, 09.09.21, Russia Matters, 09.09.21)   

Great Power rivalry/New Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:

  • The vice commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, Lt. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, told a Mitchell Institute nuclear seminar forum on Aug. 27 that China may replace Russia as the top nuclear-capable adversary of the United States. (The National Interest, 09.06.21)
  • The Turkish Defense Ministry has reported that its two F-16 fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian Su-24 Fencer attack jets that were flying over the Baltic Sea. (Defense Blog, 09.05.21)
  • Former U.K. Prime Minister John Major has criticized the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan as a “strategically very stupid” decision which he found “morally incomprehensible.” (Financial Times, 09.04.21)

China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?

  • All Chinese troops participating in the "Peace Mission 2021," a counter-terrorism military exercise for Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states, arrived at the training range in Orenburg, Russia Sept. 10. The drill is set to be held in Orenburg from Sept. 11 to 25. (Xinhua, 09.10.21)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the SCO summit in Dushanbe on Sept. 16-17, Special Envoy of the Russian President for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyor Khakimov told TASS. (TASS, 09.09.21)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • No significant developments.


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • Twenty-one out of 24 missiles fired by Israeli fighter jets at targets in Syria were downed by Syria’s air-defense forces, Vadim Kulit, deputy chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria, said Sept. 3. (TASS, 09.03.21)
  • Israel will continue to defend itself against Iranian actions in Syria, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in Moscow, following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, amid concerns about Russian moves to curb Israeli strikes. Lapid acknowledged Russia’s “key interests in the region,” and said that is why the “necessary and effective” military deconfliction mechanism between Moscow and Jerusalem exists. On Sept. 5, a Russian-made missile launched from Syria landed in the Gush Dan region. (The Jerusalem Post, 09.09.21)
  • Syrian army units backed by Iranian-backed militias resumed the shelling of the rebel enclave of Daraa in southern Syria Sept. 5 after the collapse of a Russia-brokered deal to allow the government to reinstate full control over the area. (Reuters, 09.05.21)
  • The first joint exercise of Russian and Syrian helicopter pilots has taken place in a Syrian desert, Chief of Aviation of the Russian forces in Syria Andrei Yermakov told reporters. The exercise involved Russia’s Mil Mi-8 transport helicopters and Kamov Ka-52 combat helicopters, while Syria used the Mil Mi-24 helicopters. (TASS, 09.07.21)
  • Russian military engineers successfully operated passive exoskeletons in Syria, according to Rostec press. (TASS, 09.02.21)
  • Dutch authorities will have to explain their support for the Sultan Murad radical group in Syria, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Telegram channel on Sept. 7. The members of the Dutch Parliament found out that the Hague was providing aid to the so-called Sultan Murad division. (TASS, 08.31.21)
  • The Pentagon is denying reports by Iranian state media that U.S. military forces abandoned three bases inside Syria used in the fight against the Islamic State. (Washington Times, 09.02.21)

Cyber security:

  • The German government called on Moscow on Sept. 6 to cease "illegal cyber activities" immediately amid an increase in phishing attacks on politicians in the lead-up to pivotal parliamentary elections later this month. A spokesman for Germany's federal prosecutors told reporters on Sept. 9 that a formal investigation into a series of cyberattacks that have targeted German politicians had been opened "on suspicion of espionage"—attacks that the Foreign Ministry has blamed on Russia. (The Washington Post, 09.06.21, RFE/RL, 09.09.21)
  • Russian tech company Yandex said a cyberattack on its servers this summer was the largest known distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in the history of the Internet. In a Sept. 9 blog post, Yandex said it had identified a powerful new botnet, a network of computers infected with malware and controlled without the owners’ knowledge, that has also carried out DDoS attacks in other countries. (RFE/RL, 09.10.21)
  • Moscow’s intelligence services have influence over Russian criminal ransomware groups and broad insight into their activities, but they do not control the organizations’ targets, according to a report by the cybersecurity company Recorded Future released Sept. 9. (The New York Times, 09.09.21)
  • A Ukrainian national has been extradited to the United States, where he faces charges of hacking and stealing computer passwords, the U.S. Justice Department said Sept. 8. Glib Ivanov-Tolpintsev is suspected of hacking into tens of thousands of computers to steal passwords that he later sold to criminals on the dark web. (RFE/RL, 09.09.21)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • The last piece of the Nord Stream 2 pipe was welded into place on Sept. 7, completing the construction of the controversial pipeline connecting Russia’s vast Yamal gas fields directly to Germany and bypassing Ukraine, the operating company said in a statement. The pipeline still has to go through technical testing and certification, which normally takes a couple of months, according to industry experts. The operating company remains vague on the timing for the commencement of gas flow, but said it would start before the end of the year. (Financial Times, 09.10.21, bne IntelliNews, 09.07.21)
    • Pumping commercial natural gas supplies via the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will not start until a German regulator gives the green light, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Sept. 9, according to TASS news agency. (Reuters, 09.09.21)
  • Trading houses are rushing to supply Russian Urals crude to the United States where oil production was hammered by Hurricane Ida in August. (Reuters, 09.10.21)
  • The pain is being felt across Europe, where gas is used for home heating and cooking as well as electric power generation. Citing record natural gas prices, Britain's energy regulatory agency, Ofgem, recently gave utilities a green light to increase the ceiling on energy bills for millions of households paying standard rates by about 12 percent, to 1,277 pounds, or $1,763, a year. Russia, the largest gas supplier to Europe, and Algeria have substantially increased their exports but not enough to ease market concerns. (The New York Times, 09.09.21)

U.S.-Russian economic and financial ties:

  • Health-food provider JSC VkusVill and stock exchange PJSC SPB Exchange are preparing for initial public offerings in the U.S. this year or early next, according to people familiar with the companies, the latest in a string of Russian corporations joining the global IPO rush. So far in 2021, Russian companies have issued around $6 billion in stock, the largest volume in five years, according to VTB Capital, the investment-banking arm of Russia's second-biggest lender (Wall Street Journal, 09.07.21)

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Russia's Foreign Ministry says U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan has been summoned over alleged election interference by U.S. tech giants. The ministry said Sullivan met with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Sept. 10 where he was informed that Moscow has proof of violations of Russian law by U.S. tech firms ahead of elections to the State Duma later this month. (RFE/RL, 09.10.21)
  • The Supreme Court of Russia's Republic of Mordovia says it will decide within a week on the date of a hearing into a request to transfer Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who is serving a lengthy prison term in Russia on espionage charges he calls trumped up, to the United States to serve out the rest of his sentence. Whelan's lawyers, Olga Karlova and Vladimir Zherebenkov, told Interfax Sept. 8 that a hearing on the issue had been set for Sept. 27. (RFE/RL, 09.08.21)
  • Newly released, previously classified documents from the U.S. Justice Department shed further light on how FBI agents and U.S. government scientists rushed, and struggled, to pinpoint the cause of the two mysterious illnesses that nearly killed Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza. (RFE/RL, 09.07.21)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Here’s a link to RFE/RL’s interactive map of COVID-19’s spread around the world, including in Russia and the rest of post-Soviet Eurasia.
  • Regional authorities say more than 6,000 people were convicted and sentenced in the first half of the year for violations of the law on public gatherings in Moscow. According to the latest report by the Moscow directorate of the Supreme Court's judicial department, about 90 percent of the 6,727 cases related to violations of the law on public gatherings ended with convictions. (RFE/RL, 09.08.21)
  • Russian media published an audio leak Sept. 7 that they say shows a ruling pro-Kremlin party official instructing poll watchers to ignore voter fraud at the upcoming election. The United Russia party is seeking to maintain its lower-house majority in the Sept. 17-19 parliamentary elections despite its historic unpopularity. The Siberia-based news website said it had obtained audio of a United Russia functionary telling poll watchers to avoid “making things worse” by filing complaints at the ballot. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 09.08.21)
  • Russian state polling agency VTsIOM has published survey results suggesting the ruling United Russia party would receive 35.3% of the ballots cast by voters who say they are likely to go to the polls in the Sept. 17-19 State Duma elections. According to the poll, which was posted on Facebook by VTsIOM Director Valery Fyodorov, 52%of voters plan to participate in the elections, while another 16% said they "likely" would vote and 13% said they have not yet decided. (RFE/RL, 09.10.21)
  • Russian military personnel in three settlements of the northwestern Murmansk region were gathered on Sept. 7 to cast ballots early in Russia’s Sept. 17-19 legislative elections, according to a report in Novaya gazeta the same day. (RFE/RL, 09.08.21)
  • Russia's media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has blocked the last remaining portal open to the Smart Voting website developed by jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny's team to support candidates in the upcoming elections to defeat Kremlin-linked figures and candidates for the ruling United Russia party. (RFE/RL, 09.07.21)
  • Internet giant YouTube has blocked RFE/RL's Russian Service and Russia's Dozhd television from using a clip from an Aug. 30 election debate shown on Russian state television in which candidate Maksim Shevchenko called for the release from prison of Navalny and other "political prisoners." (RFE/RL, 09.08.21)
  • One of Russia’s top human rights lawyers, who is representing jailed journalist Ivan Safronov, has left the country after the authorities opened a case against him for allegedly disclosing classified information about his client’s case. Ivan Pavlov wrote on Telegram on Sept. 7 that he was in Georgia as "restrictions imposed on me over the probe have gradually made my work impossible." (RFE/RL, 09.07.21)
  • Russia has branded four more media outlets as "foreign agents," adding to the growing list of news organizations and individual journalists caught up in what critics say is an accelerated Kremlin campaign against independent media ahead of nationwide legislative elections. The Justice Ministry announced Sept. 3 that it had added to the list Altair 2021 LLC, Vega 2021 LLC, Editor-in-Chief 2021 LLC and Romashki Monolit LLC. (RFE/RL, 09.04.21)
  • Russian authorities are preparing to block major domain name systems (DNS) in what experts warn would hurt online privacy and allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny link to efforts to block his websites. (The Moscow Times, 09.10.21)
  • Russia’s 2020 temperatures were a record 3.22 degrees Celsius above the historical average, according to a new draft report by Environment Ministry experts published Sept. 7. The spike represents the first time temperatures have been over 3 C higher than the norm since measurements began in 1936. Last year’s anomaly beat the previous record seen in 2007 by more than 1 C, the report said. Winter 2019-2020 was also the warmest winter since 1936 in all but two Russian regions, with nationwide temperatures 5 C higher than the 1961-1990 average. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 09.07.21)
  • The Russian economy expanded by 10.5% year on year in the second quarter of 2021, Rosstat data showed on Sept. 10, posting its strongest leap since 2000 as it recovered after a sharp contraction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Reuters, 09.10.21)
  • Russia’s central bank raised interest rates for the fifth time in a row on Sept. 10, and indicated it might hike further to curb surging prices and food costs that are pushing up inflation in many emerging markets. The Bank of Russia raised its key interest rate by 25 basis points to 6.75%. (Financial Times, 09.10.21)
  • Russia’s inflation rate accelerated to a new five-year high of 6.7% in August, the federal statistics service said Sept. 8. Prices are now rising at their fastest rate since August 2016. Food prices have risen by 8.5% over the last 12 months, with surveys showing rising supermarket bills are regularly cited by Russians as their biggest problem. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 09.09.21)
  • For years, Sberbank thought its thousands of green-liveried branches across Russia were holding it back from becoming a global tech leader, and spoke of closing them as customers migrated online. But the branches, once relics of the time when Sberbank was the Soviet Union’s only savings bank, are now key to the state-owned lender’s ambitions to create a “Russian Amazon,” repurposed as hubs for last-mile ecommerce delivery. The shift in approach indicates how Sberbank, which has a quasi-monopoly in retail banking, wants to use the competitive advantages from its enormous funding base to offer users everything from food delivery to streaming entertainment. (Financial Times, 09.07.21)
  • E-commerce in Russia is growing five times faster than the real economy. (bne IntelliNews, 09.08.21)
  • Nominal wages increased by 11.7% in Russia in July and despite the current high rate of inflation of 6.5% that still translates into a gain in real wages of 4.3%. Indeed, real wage growth has been in the black since the start of this year; nominal wages rose to 58,782 rubles in June, or $758 per month in dollar terms, up from $666 in January. (bne IntelliNews, 09.08.21)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russia's military has kicked off Arctic drills to secure a key navigation route Sept. 9 against the backdrop of major exercises held simultaneously in neighbor Belarus. Some 8,000 troops, 120 aircraft and 50 warships have been deployed across waters abutting the entire stretch of Russia’s vast northern coast, according to the Russian Armed Forces’ Northern Fleet. (The Moscow Times, 09.10.21)
  • Bloggers found an abandoned and unguarded heavy artillery systems near the railway station of the city of Pochep in Russia’s Bryansk region. In footage shot by one of the bloggers, at least ten 2S19 MSTA-S self-propelled howitzers, 3 1V13 artillery fire control vehicles and 3 1V14 artillery command and reconnaissance vehicles from the 1V12 command and control vehicle complex. Pochep is a town in a region that borders northeastern Ukraine. (Defense Blog, 09.05.21)
  • A smoke alarm sounded Sept. 9 in Russia's segment of the International Space Station (ISS) and astronauts smelled "burning" on board, Russia's space agency and NASA said. The incident, which Roscosmos said happened at 1:55 a.m. GMT ahead of a scheduled spacewalk, is the latest in a string of problems to spur safety concerns over conditions on the Russian segment. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 09.09.21)

Emergencies, security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russia's FSB has accused five detained Crimean Tatar activists of sabotaging a gas pipeline one day after Ukraine dismissed the charges as fabricated. (RFE/RL, 09.07.21)
  • Russia’s Minister of Emergency Situations and former bodyguard of Vladimir Putin died Sept. 8 while trying to rescue a person during exercises in the Arctic near the city of Norilsk. (Bobfm, 09.08.21, Russia Matters, 09.08.21)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Russia's main trading partners among non-CIS countries in 7M 2021 were China, trade with which rose 29.1% year-on-year to $74.2 billion; Germany, up 39.2% to $31.0 billion; the Netherlands, up 46.5% to $20.5 billion; the United States, up 41.0% to $19.8 billion; Turkey, up 55.3% to $17.8 billion; South Korea, up 63.6% to $17.5 billion; Italy, up 36.3% to $14.8 billion; Britain, up 14.5% to $13.8 billion; France, up 65.7% to $11.8 billion; and Poland, up 44.8% to $11.4 billion. (Interfax, 09.09.21)
  • Russia's trade surplus widened by $33.9 billion or 55.5% year-on-year in January-July 2021 to $95.5 billion, the Federal Customs Service said. Exports grew 37.7% to $258.2 billion and imports jumped 29.2% to $162.6 billion. Foreign trade grew 34.3% year-on-year to $420.8 billion. (Interfax, 09.09.21)
  • Fuel and energy accounted for 51.7% of Russian exports in 7M 2021, down from 54.2% a year before; metals and metal goods accounted for 14.0% of exports in value, up from 10.2%; chemical products for 7.4%, up from 7.2%; machinery and equipment for 6.2%, down from 6.4%; food and ingredients for 6.3%, down from 7.9% a year previously; and forest products and cellulose and paper products for 3.6%, down from 3.7%. (Interfax, 09.09.21)
  • In a statement adopted during their online summit on Sept. 9, BRICS: strongly condemned terrorism and rejected double standards in countering terrorism; called on countries to prevent terrorists from carrying out attacks from Afghanistan; stressed the importance of preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; expressed concern about rising cybercrime; reaffirmed commitment to preventing an arms race in space; and emphasized the importance of using science-based methods to figure out the origins of the coronavirus. Countries need to build effective cooperation and strengthen the emerging multipolar world order, Putin said in an address to the virtual BRICS summit. (TASS, 09.09.21)
  • Putin says private businesses, including Japanese firms, operating on the disputed Kurile Islands will receive tax breaks in an effort to boost the local economy. Speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 3, Putin said private companies registered and physically present on the Kurile Islands will receive income and property tax breaks for 10 years. (RFE/RL, 09.03.21)
  • The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it still needs more data on Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine before the jab can be authorized for use across the EU. The regulator said Sept. 9 it was still in discussions with Russia over the data submitted to support its application, adding that the timeline for when the vaccine could be granted emergency use authorization was “uncertain.” (The Moscow Times/AFP, 09.09.21)
  • Western media news websites are being hijacked by pro-Russian trolls to spread propaganda and disinformation supporting the Kremlin, according to research published by a British university on Sept. 6. The Crime and Research Security Institute at Cardiff University said it had unearthed evidence from 32 major news outlets in 16 countries that have been targeted via manipulation of their readers' comments sections. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 09.06.21)
  • According to the independent Levada Center polling agency, 57% of Russian respondents say their country is isolated internationally compared to 38% who hold the opposite view.  Russians’ positive attitudes toward China (70%) and Belarus (82%) far exceed their positive views of Ukraine (39%) and Georgia (55%), which both have strained relations with their larger neighbor. Positive views toward the U.S. (39%) and European Union (46%) also lagged far behind those of Russia’s allies. Yet positive attitudes toward the West and Ukraine are gradually improving following a notable drop in spring 2021, Levada’s latest results said. Additionally, younger Russians aged 18-24 were most likely to favor treating the West as an ally (50%) or as a friend (21%) compared to Russians aged 55 and older, who were most likely to back treating the West as a rival (33%). (The Moscow Times/AFP, 09.09.21)


  • Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sept. 10 said all-out war with Russia was a possibility, adding that he wanted to have a substantive meeting with Putin. "I think there can be," Zelenskiy said when asked if there was a real possibility of all-out war with Russia, speaking at the Yalta European Strategy (YES) summit. "This is the worst thing that there can be, but unfortunately there is such a possibility," he added. (The Jerusalem Post, 09.10.21)
  • Most Ukrainians believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction, the Rating sociological group said in a statement on Sept. 7. "A third of the respondents, or 34%, said that the country is headed in the right direction, while 58% said it's the wrong direction, and 8% are undecided," the group said in its report. (Interfax, 09.07.21)
  • Ukraine has accused Russia of trying to ramp up military support for separatists after Moscow refused to extend the mandate of international observers stationed on the border between the two countries. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hit back, saying Ukraine and the West had not shown "proper respect" for Russia's agreement to deploy OSCE monitors on the border. (AFP, 09.03.21)
  • U.S. President Joe Biden's administration has tapped Robin Dunnigan, a career diplomat with a background in energy, to oversee policy for Central and Eastern Europe at the State Department. Dunnigan, who served as deputy assistant secretary for energy diplomacy in the State Department's Bureau of Energy Resources from 2014 to 2017, will help craft policy toward Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, as well as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, a spokesperson told RFE/RL. (RFE/RL, 09.08.21)
  • The United States will strive to increase air defense capabilities, help modernize Ukraine's Navy, and provide Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missile systems, U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham said at a briefing following a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Sept. 6. The delegation headed by Graham also included Sens. John Barrasso, Ben Sasse, Tommy Tuberville and Rep. William Timmons. (Interfax, 09.06.21)
  • According to preliminary data, nine people died as a result of a break in the rope of a transport cage at Krasny Partyzan mine in Chervonopartyzansk, controlled by the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LPR). (Interfax, 09.07.21)
  • Around 30,000 Hasidic Jews from more than 10 countries gathered in the Ukrainian city of Uman on Sept. 7 to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. (RFE/RL, 09.08.21)
  • The Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers has now included Turboatom, more than 75.22% of which is state-owned, in the list of objects for privatization. It’s the only Ukrainian manufacturer of turbine equipment for hydro, thermal and nuclear power plants. (Ukraine Business News, 09.06.21)
  • Ukraine’s gas imports amounted to 22.3 mcm per day as of Sept. 1, the Ukrainian Energy Exchange reports. Imports from Europe came mainly from Hungary. The volume of domestic production came to an average of 54.46 million cubic meters of natural gas per day. (Ukraine Business News, 09.06.21)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • The Taliban on Sept. 6 seized Panjshir province, a restive mountain region that was the final holdout of resistance forces in the country, cementing the group's total control over Afghanistan a week after U.S. forces departed the country. (The Washington Post, 09.07.21)
  • The Taliban’s all-male 33-strong cabinet is dominated by the movement’s heavyweights, all but three ethnic Pashtuns, who have for years exercised political control over Kabul despite accounting for 40 percent of the population. Russia has said it would not recognize the Taliban government unless it was inclusive. (Financial Times, 09.08.21)
  • The Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has started three days of military exercises in Kyrgyzstan it says are needed in response to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. Military units from Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as operative groups of the CSTO's United Staff and Secretariat, started the Rubezh (Frontier) 2021 maneuvers on Kyrgyzstan's Edelveis training field. Tajik troops were originally scheduled to take part as well, but withdrew at the last moment. (RFE/RL, 09.07.21)
  • Russia is to equip its military base in Tajikistan, which neighbors Afghanistan, with 30 new tanks by the end of the year, the Interfax news agency reported. (Reuters, 09.10.21)
  • Uzbekistan might have the best lines of communication with the Taliban of any Central Asian state. But Tashkent is now facing problems after the Taliban requested the return of 585 Afghan government military personnel along with more than 40 warplanes and helicopters that crossed the border into Uzbekistan in mid-August. (RFE/RL, 09.05.21)
  • Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has accepted the nomination from the pro-government Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan to be its candidate and seek a second term in office in next month's election. (RFE/RL, 09.09.21)
  • A rising population and a diversified economy could help Uzbekistan overtake Kazakhstan to become Central Asia’s top economy within a decade, according to some international estimates. Uzbekistan is aiming to be second to Russia in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which unites most ex-Soviet countries. “In a few years, maybe by 2030, our GDP will be the second highest in the CIS,” according to Jamshid Kuchkarov, Uzbekistan’s deputy prime minister and a long-serving finance official. Uzbekistan’s GDP reached $57.7 billion last year, compared with Russia’s $1.5 trillion, and Kazakhstan’s $170 billion, according to World Bank data. (Financial Times, 09.09.21)
  • Latvia says it has prevented more than 1,000 people from illegally entering the Baltic country since a state of emergency was declared at its border with Belarus a month ago, amid accusations that Minsk is intentionally sending migrants into EU member states. (RFE/RL, 09.08.21)
  • U.N. special rapporteur Anais Marin has cited "terrible repression" and says the crackdown in Belarus on the country's human rights groups has hindered international monitoring of abuses there. Marin said via video link on Sept. 7 at which she discussed strongman Alexander Lukashenko's targeting of the Vyasna human rights group that since she's not allowed in Belarus, Vyasna's volunteers were "crucial" to her work. (RFE/RL, 09.07.21)
  • More questions were raised than answered after Putin and Lukashenko met in Moscow on Sept. 9. Following their fifth face-to-face meeting this year, the two spoke of further economic, energy and military plans to integrate Belarus and Russia, but the results they described fell short of forecasts and remained vague in many cases, with details apparently left unstated or left for further negotiation. (RFE/RL, 09.10.21)
    • Putin and Lukashenko did agree on a range of economic policies aimed at integrating the two ex-Soviet countries more closely. The pair said they had agreed on 28 programs unifying their economies, but stopped short of discussing political integration. After talks in the Kremlin, Putin said the agreements mean the countries will eventually have a unified "macro-economic policy." Lukashenko assured that Russia would not "swallow" his country. (AFP/The Moscow Times, 09.09.10)
    • Putin says that he and Lukashenko have also agreed on a new unified gas market, and he praised Belarus, saying the situation there was "stabilized” after months of turmoil. (RFE/RL, 09.09.21)
  • Russia and Belarus began a massive week-long military exercise on NATO's borders Sept. 10 after Putin and Lukashenko agreed on a new effort toward integrating the nations, including creating a "single defense space." Up to 200,000 servicemen, about 80 planes and helicopters, 290 tanks, 240 artillery pieces, rocket launchers, mortars and 15 ships will be involved in this year's weeklong exercises, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Zapad-2021, which held its opening ceremony on Sept. 9 and will run until Sept. 16, involves 200,000 military personnel and has raised alarms at NATO, which says the Kremlin has refused to invite observers as obligated under an international agreement. Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin stated his country’s preparedness to invite Western experts, according to a statement that his agency issued in February. (RFE/RL, 09.08.21, Russia Matters, 09.09.21, The Washington Post, 09.10.21)
  • Belarusian officials say Russian fighter jets have arrived to help patrol Belarus's borders, as part of a new joint military effort. The arrival of the Sukhoi jets, announced on Sept. 8, comes a day ahead of a critical meeting between Lukashenko and Putin in Moscow. (RFE/RL, 09.09.21)
  • A new report has found a correlation between the influx of Chinese capital into a country and a negative impact on its environment and the quality of governance. The study—published by the Bulgarian-based Center for the Study of Democracy on Sept. 9—says Beijing’s growing economic footprint in Central and Eastern Europe over the last decade has coincided with a drop in legal and governance standards and raises concerns about the environment and rising debt levels in the region. (RFE/RL, 09.09.21)


IV. Quoteworthy

  • “I became the only person in history whose underpants were discussed at the Security Council of Russia!” fumes Alexei Navalny. (Financial Times, 09.10.21)
  • Celebrated travel writer Colin Thubron: “In spite of the official Russia-Chinese entente, they hate each other, honestly. Well, the local Russians hate the Chinese, and the Chinese, it’s hard to say what they feel about the Russians—a certain sense of superiority now.” (Financial Times, 09.10.21)