Russia in Review, Sept. 4-11, 2020

This Week’s Highlights

  • U.S. President Donald Trump claimed to journalist Bob Woodward that he had overseen the creation of a new U.S. nuclear weapons system, saying, “ We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. There’s nobody—what we have is incredible,” according to Forbes. It’s not clear what Trump was referring to, but Woodward writes in his new book “Rage” that he later confirmed with sources that the U.S. military indeed had a secret new weapon system.
  • Microsoft says hackers linked to Russia, Iran and China have targeted people and organizations tied to both Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, RFE/RL reports. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov, however, has dismissed the allegations, according to Interfax, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow is ready for honest dialogue with Washington regarding the accusations of interference in U.S. elections, TASS reports.
  • Germany signaled it is prepared to reconsider its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia in light of the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, according to the Wall Street Journal. If Moscow did not begin assisting with the inquiries into Navalny’s poisoning “in the next few days,” Berlin would start talks with other countries on how to respond, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, the Financial Times reports, while Chancellor Angela Merkel couldn't rule out including Nord Stream 2 in possible sanctions against Russia should Moscow fail to investigate Navalny's poisoning. Navalny was poisoned with a new, deadlier variant of military-grade nerve agent Novichok, the German weekly Die Zeit reported.
  • The Kavkaz-2020 command and staff exercise, which will involve nine countries, will be held from Sept. 21 to Sept. 26, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, TASS reports. The Chinese military will take part in the drills, as will servicemen from Armenia, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar and Pakistan, according to TASS and Interfax. Nine more countries will send their observers. The maneuvers will be held at the Kapustin Yar and Ashuluk ranges, as well as in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
  • Russia and China agreed to continue to cooperate closely in order to implement the initiative by Russian President Vladimir Putin to call a meeting of the U.N. Security Council five permanent members, Lavrov said in the wake of talks with his Chinese counterpart, TASS reports. Lavrov also said Russia and China had reiterated their support for a regional security architecture based on ASEAN and that Russia and China oppose U.S. attempts to derail the Iran nuclear deal. Another regular meeting between Russian and Chinese heads of government will take place in late 2020, Wang said.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Sept. 8 that his 26 years in office may have been excessive, but vowed to maintain his grip on power, The Moscow Times reports. Lukashenko will visit Russia on Sept. 14 to meet Putin and discuss plans to further integrate their countries, the Kremlin said, according to AFP. Meanwhile, Belarusians have taken to the streets in the thousands every day since the disputed Aug. 9 election, demanding he step down, RFE/RL reports.
  • Elections on Sept. 13 in 23 of Russia’s 85 regions represent the most important test of the popularity of Putin’s party ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections, according to the Financial Times. Only 31 percent of Russians say they are willing to vote for the ruling United Russia Party, according to Levada Center.

 

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine has issued a permit to Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant to start commissioning work at the Chernobyl Interim Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility, which upon loading will be the world's largest dry storage installation. (World Nuclear News, 09.09.20)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Russia and China, together with the majority of the U.N. Security Council members come out against U.S. attempts to derail the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference after talks with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi Sept. 11. (TASS, 09.11.20)
  • Iran’s electricity grid will be connected with Russia and Azerbaijan in a few months, once grid compatibility studies are completed, Iran’s Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said Sept. 11. (Oil Price, 09.11.20)

New Cold War/saber rattling:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump claimed to journalist Bob Woodward that he had overseen the creation of a new U.S. nuclear weapons system, saying, “I have built a nuclear—a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before. We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. There’s nobody—what we have is incredible.” It’s not clear what Trump was referring to, but Woodward writes in his new book “Rage” that he later confirmed with sources that the U.S. military indeed had a secret new weapon system, and the sources said they were surprised Trump had disclosed the information. (Forbes, 09.09.20)
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper directed U.S. Africa Command earlier this summer to begin examining a possible move from Germany to reduce the overall number of U.S. troops in the country. The plan also includes moving U.S. European Command, located alongside Africa Command in the city of Stuttgart, to a new home in Belgium. Defense officials have framed the changes as a way to deter Russia by making the U.S. more unpredictable. But Trump has cast them as a punishment for Germany. (The Washington Post, 09.09.10)
  • Exercises involving U.S. Air Force B-52H bombers near Russia’s borders amount to provocation, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces Sergey Surovikin said at a briefing for foreign military attaches on Sept. 11. The bombers practiced cruise missile strikes on Russia from Estonian and Canadian airspace during the Allied Sky exercise on Aug. 28, he said. (TASS, 09.11.20)
  • According to a top Russian military official, NATO is massing troops near its border and increasing flights of reconnaissance aircraft. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told reporters over the weekend that NATO plans to redeploy another U.S. military contingent to Poland in the near future, and that NATO Allied Command Operations in Eastern Europe has now surpassed 10,000 troops. (The National Interest, 09.08.20)

NATO-Russia relations:

  • For nearly four years, Trump has publicly railed against NATO, angrily demanding that its members pay more for Europe’s collective defense. In private, Trump has gone further—speaking repeatedly about withdrawing altogether from the military alliance, according to those familiar with the conversations. (New York Times, 09.03.20)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • No significant developments.

Counter-terrorism:

  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • Speaking during a meeting in the Syrian capital with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov and Lavrov, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he wanted to expand business ties with Russia. Borisov said he expected the countries to sign an economic deal by December. The accord proposed by Moscow includes the rehabilitation of power plants and oil exploration in Syrian waters, he said, adding that its aim is to provide relief from U.S. sanctions. The new agreement implies restoring about 40 Syrian infrastructure sites, in particular, those related to the energy sector and the production at offshore deposits, Borisov said. Lavrov, in Damascus for the first time since 2012, said Syria needed international help to rebuild its economy and accused Western countries of “trying to strangle the Syrian people.” (RFE/RL, 09.07.20, Interfax, 09.07.20)
  • There are differences of opinion in the approaches of the Astana process guarantor states (Russia, Iran and Turkey) to the settlement in Syria but they are united by the common aspiration not to allow the repetition of Libyan and Iraqi scenarios in Syria, Lavrov said Sept. 7 in Damascus. (TASS, 09.07.20)
  • Moscow believes that there are grounds to be sure that joint efforts with Ankara to separate terrorists from the opposition in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone will be followed through, Lavrov said Sept. 7. (TASS, 09.07.20)

Cyber security:

  • Russia’s premier intelligence service, the SVR, targeted vaccine research networks in the United States, Canada and Britain, espionage efforts that were first detected by a British spy agency monitoring international fiber optic cables. (New York Times, 09.07.20)
  • The long-delayed evidentiary hearing in the extradition case of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange returned to the courtroom in London Sept. 7. U.S. prosecutors say the Australian publisher and activist violated the Espionage Act by conspiring to obtain and disclose hundreds of thousands of pages of secret government documents, including classified diplomatic cables and sensitive military reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (The Washington Post, 09.07.20)

Elections interference:

  • The U.S. Treasury on Sept. 10 imposed sanctions on a Ukrainian politician who has helped Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani investigate Joe Biden, describing the official as “an active Russian agent.” Andrii Derkach, a pro-Russian Ukrainian member of parliament, was interviewed by Giuliani, who made claims in social media that Biden engaged in corrupt activities in Ukraine while the Democratic presidential nominee was serving as vice-president. The Treasury said he had “directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in an attempt to undermine the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election.” (Financial Times, 09.10.20)
  • Microsoft says hackers linked to Russia, Iran and China have targeted people and organizations tied to both Trump and Biden. The announcement on Sept. 10 came at the same time that Biden's main campaign advisory firm said it had been told by Microsoft it was being targeted by the same Russian hackers who intervened in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. A campaign-advisory company working for Biden was targeted by suspected Russian state-backed hackers, a Reuters report has found. (RFE/RL, 09.11.20, RFE/RL, 09.10.20)
  • Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has dismissed allegations about Russian hackers interfering in U.S. elections as phobias. "Russia hasn't interfered, isn't interfering now and isn't going to interfere in the internal affairs, in the electoral processes, of any country. And we hate it when others try to meddle in our affairs," he said. Moscow is ready for honest dialogue with Washington regarding the accusations of interference in U.S. elections, Lavrov said Sept. 11 during a press conference on the outcomes of talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (Interfax, 09.11.20,TASS, 09.11.20)
  • The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against three employees of the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm based in Russia that spread disinformation on social media as part of the Kremlin’s election interference campaign in 2016. (New York Times, 09.10.20)
  • Russia is seeking "to undermine public trust in the electoral process" by spreading false claims that mail-in ballots are riddled with fraud and susceptible to manipulation, according to a new intelligence bulletin by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (The Washington Post, 09.06.20)
  • Brian Murphy, who led the Department of Homeland Security’s office of intelligence and analysis for part of last year, said in a complaint that Chad Wolf, acting secretary of homeland security, instructed him in mid-May “to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States.” Murphy said he was told by Wolf that assessments on the Russian threat made Trump "look bad." (The Moscow Times, 09.10.20, Financial Times, 09.09.20)
  • Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris warned Russian election interference could hand Trump another four years in the White House. In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union, Harris said she believed Moscow would attempt to interfere in the 2020 presidential election in the same way that U.S. intelligence agencies say it did in 2016. (Financial Times, 09.06.20)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Germany signaled it is prepared to reconsider its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia in light of the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who was roused from an induced coma on Sept. 7. If Moscow did not begin assisting with the inquiries “in the next few days,” Berlin would start talks with other countries on how to respond, Heiko Maas, German foreign minister, said. Maas’s remarks are the first time a minister in Angela Merkel’s government has accepted that the attack could carry consequences for Nord Stream 2. Merkel couldn't rule out including Nord Stream 2 in possible sanctions against Russia should Moscow fail to investigate Navalny's poisoning, according to a spokesman. Germany's reaction would depend on Russia's actions in the coming days, the spokesman said. (Wall Street Journal, 09.08.20, Financial Times, 09.06.20)
  • Gazprom has begun project development for the Power of Siberia 2 trunk gas pipeline, the chairman of the gas giant's management board said. (Interfax, 09.03.20)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will not travel to New York for the coming United Nations General Assembly, the Kremlin has confirmed, citing the "unstable" coronavirus situation in the U.S. A preliminary U.N. program said Putin's video address is scheduled for Sept. 22. TASS reported that Lavrov will lead the country's delegation to the summit. (Newsweek, 09.09.20)
  • Trump routinely referred to Black leaders of foreign nations with racist insults and had an abiding admiration for Putin’s willingness to treat Russia like a personal business. Those are the descriptions that Michael Cohen, a former personal lawyer and self-described fixer for Trump, lays out in his book. (New York Times, 09.07.20)
  • Trump said Sept. 4 that he had not yet seen proof that Navalny had been poisoned as stated by Germany. "I don't know exactly what happened. I think it's tragic, it's terrible, it shouldn't happen," Trump said. "We haven't had any proof yet, but I will take a look at it," Trump said in a press conference. (AFP, 09.05.20)
  • The issue of "exchanging" sentenced citizens of Russia and the United States has not been touched upon in the contacts with U.S. officials, Russia’s Ambassador in Washington Anatoly Antonov said in a statement Sept. 9, commenting on a recent publication in the New Yorker weekly. (TASS, 09.09.20)
  • Bob Woodward's book ''Rage,'' which will be released next week, says then-director of national intelligence, Dan Coats was haunted by Trump's tweets and believed that Trump's gentle approach to Russia reflected something more sinister. (New York Times, 09.09.10)

 

II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia's coronavirus cases continue to rise as the country confirmed 5,504 new coronavirus infections Sept. 11, bringing the country’s official number of cases to 1,051,874. The number of new daily infections has increased for three consecutive days. (The Moscow Times, 09.11.20) 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. For a comparison of the number and rate of change in new cases in the U.S. and Russia, visit this Russia Matters resource.
  • Russia has launched Phase 3 trials of its highly touted coronavirus vaccine to determine the its long-term safety and effectiveness, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said. Russia's Health Ministry says the first batch of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine has been released for civil distribution. The ministry also said that a mass, countrywide COVID-19 vaccination campaign will begin next month following post-registration tests. (RFE/RL, 09.08.20, The Moscow Times, 09.09.20)
  • Elections on Sept. 13 in 23 of Russia’s 85 regions represent the most important test of the popularity of Putin’s party ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections. (Financial Times, 09.08.20)
    • Only 31 percent of Russians say they are willing to vote for the ruling United Russia Party, according to independent pollster the Levada Center. If elections to the State Duma took place Sept. 13, 31 percent of Russians would vote for United Russia. The study showed that 11 percent of respondents are now ready to vote for the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) headed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky and 7 percent for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) headed by Gennady Zhuganov. (bne Intellinews, 09.09.20) 
  • Russia’s economy is coming through the pandemic better than most other big emerging markets, and analysts say the outlook could yet improve. Renaissance Capital is forecasting a contraction of 3.3 percent this year and a 3.8 percent rebound next. Even the current Bloomberg survey, which shows a 4.8 percent shrinkage this year, is less than half what the government feared when the virus first hit. (Bloomberg, 09.08.20)
  • Putin has canceled his annual call-in session with the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. (The Moscow Times, 09.09.20)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The Kavkaz-2020 command and staff exercise, which will involve nine countries, will be held from Sept. 21 to Sept. 26, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. The Chinese military will take part in the drills, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced Sept. 10. Servicemen from Armenia, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar and Pakistan will participate as well. Nine more countries will send their observers. The maneuvers will be held at the Kapustin Yar and Ashuluk ranges, as well as in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. (TASS, 09.09.20, Interfax, 09.08.20)
  • A Beriev A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft has acquired supersonic and stratospheric targets during an exercise of the CIS Joint Air Defense System, the Russian Defense Ministry said. (Interfax, 09.11.20)
  • Russian engineering troops will receive Uran-14 robotic complexes. The vehicles can reach fire places and operate in dangerous conditions for humans. They will accelerate the advance of army units. In peacetime, the robots will eliminate the aftermath of man-made and natural calamities, the Izvestia daily writes. (TASS, 09.11.20)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • German magazine Der Spiegel has reported that Navalny has come out of his coma and was able to speak, although a Navalny spokesperson appeared to downplay the report. Navalny was poisoned with a new, deadlier variant of military-grade nerve agent Novichok, the German weekly Die Zeit reported Sept. 9. (RFE/RL, 09.10.20, RFE/RL, 09.10.20)
    • Putin has promised to set up a panel of inquiry into the suspected nerve-agent poisoning of Navalny, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in an interview published Sept. 10. (The Moscow Times, 09.10.20)
    • Russia's Interior Ministry wants to question Navalny in Berlin. The ministry's transportation police directorate branch in Siberia said Sept. 11 that with Navalny coming out of a medically induced coma earlier this week, it is preparing a request that German authorities allow its investigators to take part in questioning him. (RFE/RL, 09.11.20)
    • Unidentified attackers beat up activist Alexei Baraboshkin, who was campaigning for Navalny in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk. (The Moscow Times, 09.10.20)
  • Italian prosecutors are probing the mysterious drowning of a Russian model while on a photo shoot near a major NATO base on Sardinia over the weekend. Coast guards found the naked body of Galina Fedorova on Sept. 5 after she and a photographer reportedly went for a swim off the Italian island's southern coastline near Teulada. (The Moscow Times, 09.10.20)
  • Prosecutors in Russia's North Caucasus region of Ingushetia have asked a court in the regional capital, Magas, to sentence Rashid Maisigov, a former editor of the opposition online media outlet Fortanga, to five years in prison on drug charges that he and his lawyers reject. (RFE/RL, 09.10.20)
  • Amateur Russian military historian Andrei Zhukov was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison for treason this week, the latest in a string of treason and espionage convictions targeting a wide range of Russians. (The Moscow Times, 09.10.20)
  • A Russian deputy energy minister has been arrested on suspicion of embezzling more than 600 million rubles worth of public money, investigators announced Sept. 9. Anatoly Tikhonov, one of eight deputies to Energy Minister Alexander Novak, is accused of misusing public funds worth around $7.9 million. (The Moscow Times, 09.09.20)
  • Russian actor Mikhail Yefremov, an outspoken Kremlin critic, has been sentenced to eight years in prison for killing a person while driving under the influence of alcohol. (RFE/RL, 09.08.20)
  • A former top official in Chechnya's separatist government, Akhmed Zakayev, who resides in London, says his relatives have been detained in Chechnya after a video statement he posted online condemning the humiliation of a teenage activist. (RFE/RL, 09.11.20)

 

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations have condemned the "confirmed poisoning" of Navalny and demanded that Russia quickly find and prosecute those behind the "abhorrent" attack. (RFE/RL, 09.08.20)
  • Britain on Sept. 6 said Russia had "a very serious set of questions to answer" about the poisoning of Navalny, suggesting some form of state involvement in the high-profile case. (AFP, 09.06.20)
  • Russia says it has protested strongly to Berlin's envoy to Moscow over "unfounded accusations and ultimatums" purportedly made by Germany over Navalny’s illness. (RFE/RL, 09.09.20)
  • Moscow is prepared to help ease tensions in the eastern Mediterranean where Cyprus and Greece are embroiled in a standoff with Turkey over maritime and energy rights, Lavrov said. (AFP, 09.08.20)
  • Saudi King Salman and Putin discussed Sept. 7 the possible joint production of a Russian coronavirus vaccine, the Kremlin said. (AFP, 09.07.20)
  • President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and Putin have agreed to boost high-level dialogue in a telephone call, the Serbian presidential press service said Sept. 10. The Serbians expect Putin to visit Belgrade in October. (TASS, 09.10.20)
    • Putin and Lavrov have apologized to Vucic for a social media post by Russia’s diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova that appeared to mock him. (The Moscow Times, 09.11.20)
    • Serbia has dropped out of planned military drills in Belarus with Russia after pressure from the EU, the Balkan state's defense minister said Sept. 9. "We are asked, at the cost of leaving our European future... to abandon the planned military exercises with Belarus," said Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin. (RFE/RL, 09.10.20)
  • The agreement between Russia and Vietnam on cooperation on the GLONASS satellite navigation system is expected to be signed this year, Roscosmos said in its annual reports. (TASS, 09.08.20)
  • The 2nd Caspian Economic Forum will be held in Moscow in 2021, Lavrov said. (TASS, 09.09.20)

China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?

  • Russia and China agreed to continue to cooperate closely in order to implement the initiative by Putin to call a meeting of the U.N. Security Council five permanent members, Lavrov said in the wake of talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. (TASS, 09.11.20)
  • China is ready to pool efforts with Russia in the interests of security and the prosperity of future generations, China’s President Xi Jinping said in a congratulatory telegram to Putin on the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II. (TASS, 09.02.20)
  • Members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) must continue implementing joint mechanisms of fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic, and China is ready to expand cooperation in this sphere, Wang said Sept. 10 during a session of the SCO Foreign Ministers Council in Moscow. (TASS, 09.10.20)
  • Lavrov said at a press conference on Sept. 11 following talks with Wang that Russia and China had reiterated their support for a regional security architecture based on ASEAN and called for maintaining the organization’s mechanism for consensus decision-making. (TASS, 09.11.20)
  • Another regular meeting between Russian and Chinese heads of government will take place in late 2020, Wang said during a press conference on the outcomes of the talks with Lavrov. (TASS, 09.11.20)

Ukraine:

  • Half of Ukrainians (53 percent) want relations with the Donbass restored and see the local population as victims, not the perpetrators of efforts to break away from the rest of the country pursued by separatist rebels, according to a poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. (bne Intellinews, 09.10.20)
  • The family of sanctioned Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who has close ties to Putin, has been selling refined oil products to the U.S. through an intermediary, the latest example of a Kremlin friend finding legal ways around Washington's financial restrictions. (RFE/RL, 09.05.20)
  • The advisors to the leaders of the Normandy Four countries are expected to meet on Sept. 11, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. (Interfax, 09.08.20)
  • Ukraine’s consumer inflation increased to 2.5 percent year on year in August from 2.4 percent year on year in the prior month, the Ukrainian State Statistics Service reported. (bne Intellinews, 09.11.20)
  • The China Road Construction Corporation International Investment is discussing building a massive Black Sea grain terminal in Ukraine that could handle 5 million tons a year, the equivalent of 10 percent of Ukraine’s corn and wheat exports. (Ukraine Business News, 09.07.20)

Belarus:

  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Sept. 8 that his 26 years in office may have been excessive, but vowed to maintain his grip on power despite widespread protests against his rule. “I may have stayed [in power] a little too long,” Lukashenko told Russian journalists. He reportedly repeated his suggestion that a new election might be held after constitutional reforms are effected. Lukashenka also said he and "the Russian establishment" had concluded that "if Belarus collapses today, Russia will be next." He said he calls Putin his "older brother" and blamed the U.S. and the Telegram messaging service for Belarus's unrest. Lukashenko will visit Russia on Sept. 14 to meet Putin and discuss plans to further integrate their countries, the Kremlin said. (RFE/RL, 09.08.20, The Moscow Times, 09.08.20, AFP, 09.11.20)
  • U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun has said Russia risks losing the friendship of the Belarusian people if the Kremlin continues to back Lukashenko. “We hope the message from Moscow is that the ruler needs to give way to the will of his people,” Biegun said. The United States also signaled it will soon punish individual Belarusians with sanctions for election fraud and a brutal crackdown on protests as Washington urged Russia to tell Lukashenko to step down. (RFE/RL, 09.12.20, RFE/RL, 09.11.20)
  • Belarusians have taken to the streets in the thousands every day since the disputed Aug. 9 election, demanding Lukashenko step down after a vote they contend was rigged to hand him a landslide win over an opposition candidate who drew unprecedented support before the balloting. (RFE/RL, 09.08.20)
  • Maria Kalesnikava, one of the last core opposition leaders left in Belarus, was detained at the border with Ukraine after thwarting an attempt to expel her from the country, a day after she was allegedly abducted amid a crackdown on antigovernment protesters. Pavel Latushko, an opposition member, said that Kalesnikava had stymied the attempt to force her to leave Belarus by tearing up her passport at the checkpoint. (Wall Street Journal, 09.08.20)
    • The deputy interior minister of Ukraine called the circumstances of Kalesnikava's detention an attempt at a "forcible expulsion" with the aim of "compromising the Belarusian opposition," after weeks of massive anti-government demonstrations. (RFE/RL, 09.08.20)
  • Authorities in Belarus said Sept. 7 that they had detained some 633 protesters as tens of thousands marched in the capital and other cities the previous day as part of the continuing opposition-led effort to pressure Lukashenko to resign. (RFE/RL, 09.07.20)
  • Prosecutors have opened a criminal case against a leading opposition figure inside Belarus as Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the exiled leader of the country's reinvigorated opposition to Lukashenko, urged protesters at home to "remain peaceful" amid an intensifying crackdown that featured another suspected abduction by regime forces. Tikhanovskaya urged Russians on Sept. 9 to resist what she called state media efforts to smear her country’s post-election protests as anti-Russian. (RFE/RL, 09.09.20, The Moscow Times, 09.09.20)
  • Leading Belarusian opposition official Paval Latushka has called on the EU to live up to its commitment to support democracy and announce that it will stop recognizing the rule of Lukashenko at the end of a three-month transition period. (RFE/RL, 09.11.20)
  • The EU’s foreign policy credibility is being undermined by its lack of action on Belarus, where it needs to encourage democracy and counter Russia’s influence, according to Lithuania’s foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius. (Financial Times, 09.06.20)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • The United National Movement (UNM) and several other opposition parties in Georgia that are members of the Strength in Unity political movement have nominated former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as their candidate for the prime minister’s post ahead of elections in October. (RFE/RL, 09.07.20).
  • Moldova’s President Igor Dodon announced his broadly expected candidacy for another term on Sept. 9, “on behalf of the people” and with a strong message: he pledged to dissolve the parliament in his first move after the elections. (bne Intellinews, 09.10.20)
  • Police in Baku arrested dozens of protesters and some journalists at a demonstration called in support of hunger-striking opposition politician Tofig Yagublu, who was convicted on “hooliganism” charges earlier this week. (bne Intellinews, 09.10.20)
  • A court in Bishkek has reversed a decision by the Central Election Commission to refuse to register the Butun Kyrgyzstan (United Kyrgyzstan) political party for parliamentary elections next month. (RFE/RL, 09.09.20)

 

IV. Quoteworthy

  • No significant developments.