Russia in Review

July 01, 2016


Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for June 24-July 1, 2016


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

Nuclear security:

  • The upper house of the Russian parliament  has approved the creation of a National Guard. The troops will be used to fight terrorism and organized crime, provide territorial defense, protect public order and secure government facilities. The guard’s lawyers have also begun drafting bills that would transfer guarding of civilian nuclear facilities in Russia from the Interior Ministry to the newly established service, according to RIA Novosti.  (Moscow Times, Belfer Center, 06.29.16).

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • No significant developments.

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says Russia has agreed to hold a Russia-NATO Council meeting after the alliance holds its July Warsaw summit. Ayrault said after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris on June 29 that Russia wanted to meet after the NATO summit so that Moscow could evaluate "the decision taken there."(RFE/RL, 06.29.16).
  • President Vladimir Putin says that Russia will respond to NATO's military buildup near its borders, but will not be drawn into an arms race. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says Russia is beefing up its western border by deploying “2,000 units of new and modernized equipment” in what he cast as a response to a NATO buildup in Eastern Europe.  "The intensity of the trainings of the NATO armed forces conducted in direct vicinity of the Russian borders has more than doubled," Shoigu said. (Interfax, 06.29.16, RFE/RL, 06.30.16, AP, 06.30.16).
  • The Russian Navy is to open a new base on the Black Sea coast in Novorossiysk hosting Varshavyanka class Project 636.6 diesel-electric submarines with Kalibr cruise missiles. (RBTH, 06.29.16).
  • Russia has complained that a U.S. naval ship passed too close to one of its ships in the Mediterranean Sea and released a video that Moscow says shows how dangerous the encounter was.  The USS Gravely had a close encounter with the Russian warship at a distance of 60-70 meters at the left side and crossed the Yaroslav Mudry's sailing course along the bow at a dangerous distance of 180 meters, the Russian Defense Ministry statement said. But Pentagon officials gave a different version of events and blamed the incident on the Russian warship, which they said carried out "unsafe and unprofessional" operations near two U.S. Navy ships. (RFE/RL, Moscow Times, 06.28.16).
  • Canada will serve as one of four lead nations for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization deterrent force in Eastern Europe, Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said Thursday. NATO diplomats have said Canadian forces are expected to go to Latvia while the U.S. battalion goes to Poland, the Germans to Lithuania and the U.K. in Estonia. Other nations, including Denmark and France, are contributing smaller numbers of forces, officials have said. (Wall Street Journal, 06.30.16).
  • Moscow has issued its strongest warning yet over the prospect of Montenegro becoming a full member of NATO. The Russian State Duma addressed a statement to the parliamentary assemblies of NATO and OSCE countries, as well as to the national parliaments of the Balkan states, warning of the possibility of "a new Cold War." (RFE/RL, 06.26.16).
  • NATO has appointed the highest-ranking woman in its history, naming U.S. Under Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller as its next deputy secretary-general. (AP, 06.27.16).

Missile defense:

  • A team from China’s People’s Liberation Army and their Russian counterparts in Moscow ran a five-day computer simulation of a joint response to a ballistic missile attack, Financial Times reported. The exercise took place in the Central Research Institute of Air and Space Defense in Moscow and involved sharing information in an extremely sensitive sphere, Vasily Kashin, an expert on China’s military at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, told Financial Times. (FT, Belfer Center, 06.23.16).
  • U.S. ambassador to Russia John Tefft insisted the U.S. missile-defense network was not designed to attack Russia. “We have talked to the Russian side; they have walked out of talks. We have offered to set up NATO-Russia facilities to show how these things would work to be. It would be, in effect, a confidence-building measure," he said. "Russia has not accepted any of those [offers]." (RFE/RL, 06.27.16).
  • The first prototype of the S-350 air defense missile system will be ready in the imminent future, Sergei Babakov, head of the air defense missile troops department of the Russian Aerospace Force’s Air and Ballistic Missile Defense Forces Command, said. (Tass, 06.27.16).

Arms control:

  • The United States has authorized a Russian surveillance jet to overfly U.S. territory as part of the Open Skies Treaty, closing a dispute that had elicited vocal criticism from some lawmakers over the technology being used by the Russians. (RFE/RL, 06.28.16).


  • The upper house of the Russian parliament has passed a controversial anti-terrorism legislation package. The laws include far-reaching surveillance initiatives, harsher punishments for inciting or justifying terrorism online, and an increase in the number of crimes with which children aged between 14 and 17 can be charged. (Moscow Times, 06.29.16).
  • Russian man was the alleged organizer of ISIS’ attack on the Istanbul airport, the Yeni Safak news website reported Friday. Chechen Ahmed Chataev has been accused of orchestrating the assault, which left 41 people dead and injured more than 230. Turkish media reported Thursday that another Russian national, Osman Vadinov, was amongst three terrorists who died at the airport. A Kyrgyz and an Uzbek national are also alleged to have died, Yeni Safak reported. One terrorist was detained by police, while a further three are still being sought.  Kyrgyz authorities have said it is too early to confirm Turkish media claims (Moscow Times, 07.01.16, RFE/RL, 07.01.16).
  • Kazakh authorities say security forces have apprehended a group of suspected radical Islamists weeks after a deadly attack in the city of Aqtobe. Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee said on June 29 that one of the suspected Islamists blew himself up when security forces tried to arrest him. (RFE/RL, 06.29.16).

Cyber security:

  • Russia stands behind leading nations in relation to development of information technology, the draft information security doctrine posted by Russia's Security Council said. "The absence of any rules to regulate state-to-state relations in cyberspace or any appropriate international legal mechanisms to reflect specific features of information technology, make it harder to forge a system of international information security, as designed to bring about strategic stability and facilitate an equal strategic partnership," the document said. (Interfax, 06.25.16).
  • The attack on the Democratic National Committee's computer network this past spring was part of a broader months long campaign by Russian hackers against groups with ties to U.S. politics, according to a new report by SecureWorks Corp. The DNC is "confident" that Russian government hackers were responsible for the breach and has "deployed the recommended technology" to secure their systems, said a senior DNC official. In a previous statement, a Kremlin spokesman said: "I completely rule out the possibility of the government or government structures being involved in this." (Wall Street Journal, 06.27.16).

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Gazprom will send some of the gas from Nord Stream 2 pipeline through Slovakia, Financial Times reported. The paper quoted Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller as saying Russian company had “reached an agreement” with Slovak pipeline group Eustream that “Slovakian gas transport capacity will be used as part of the Nord Stream 2 project.”  (Financial Times, Belfer Center, 06.30.16).

Bilateral economic ties:

  • The Russian State Duma has passed a bill banning the import and production of genetically modified organisms. (Moscow Times, 06.24.16).

Other bilateral issues:

  • Russian intelligence and security services have been waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against U.S. diplomats, embassy staff and their families in Moscow and several other European capitals that has rattled ambassadors and prompted Secretary of State John F. Kerry to ask Vladimir Putin to put a stop to it. The U.S. is also “preparing a response” to claims that Russia has been harassing its diplomatic staff based in the country, the Interfax news agency reported Thursday. (Washington Post, 06.27.16, Moscow Times, 06.30.16).
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry has denounced allegations by the U.S. State Department that American diplomats in the country are suffering from “continuous interference” by Russian security services. “Our diplomats in U.S. are constantly facing provocations from the FBI and CIA, whose employees do not hesitate to use illegal methods such as psychological pressure,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.  (Moscow Times, 06.28.16).
  • Russia's Foreign Ministry says a U.S. diplomat who was involved in an altercation with a Russian guard outside the Moscow Embassy was a spy returning from an unspecified intelligence operation. The U.S. diplomat suffered a broken shoulder after being tackled on a sidewalk outside the U.S. Embassy compound in central Moscow on June 6, according to a U.S. official who spoke to RFE/RL about the incident.  (RFE/RL, 06.30.16).
  • Russia’s Investigative Committee has requested help from U.S. authorities to investigate criminal charges against Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Russia's anti-doping laboratory  who exposed large-scale doping violations in Russian sport.  (Moscow Times, 06.27.16).
  • The United States has extradited Russian man Gennady Gavrilets wanted by Moscow for allegedly organizing a murder in the 1990s. (RFE/RL, 06.28.16).
  • "I would be the slowest with the (nuclear) button," Donald Trump claimed. "But I would be the one who doesn't have to use it because they're going to respect us again. Nobody respects us now." (Washington Examiner, 06.29.16).

II. Russia news.

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia’s recession is easing and growth may resume by the end of this year, analysts at Fitch Ratings said in a new report providing a country-by-country overview of sovereign credit trends in emerging Europe released on June 30. (Tass, 06.30.16).
  • The Russian Purchasing Manager’s Index surged to 51.5 in June from 49.6 in May, rising above the threshold of 50 that separates contraction from growth for the first time since last November, Markit Economics said Friday in a statement. (Bloomberg, 07.01.16).
  • Russian air carriers saw passenger traffic drop 14.3 percent last month, the Federal Air Transportation Agency announced in a statement Wednesday.  (Moscow Times, 06.29.16).
  • The production of vodka in Russia has increased year on year by 30 percent in April and 29 percent in May. The increase has been informally linked to raids carried out by the Federal Security Service and Federal Tax Service.  (Moscow Times, 06.29.16).
  • President Vladimir Putin has praised the "vital" role of United Russia in consolidating society over the last 15 years, trying to whip up support for his party ahead of September 18 elections with the country in its longest recession in decades.  Putin also spoke  out against the risks of “speculating on Russia's current difficulties,” in the run-up to the general election. (RFE/RL, Moscow Times, 06.27.16).
  • Russia has for the first time charged a human rights activist for failing to comply with its vague "foreign agents" law, Human Rights Watch said Monday. On Monday, Russian authorities informed Valentina Cherevatenko, chair of the coordination board of "Women of the Don Union", that they were bringing criminal charges against her. (RFE/RL, 06.28.16).
  • The Kremlin has denied reports that Children’s Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov has been fired from his post. The news came shortly after the ombudsman drew public criticism for asking a young survivor of a deadly boating accident, “how was your swim?”(Moscow Times. 07.01.16).

Defense and Aerospace:

  • In the wake of an unprecedented purge of dozens of senior officers from Russia's Baltic Sea Fleet, the Defense Ministry on July 1 appointed two seasoned admirals from the larger Black Sea and Pacific groupings to take the helm and stabilize the ailing fleet. The new commander of the fleet will be Vice-Admiral Alexander Nosatov, who served as the head of the Baltic Fleet's main naval base in Kaliningrad from 2009-2012. (Moscow Times, 07.01.16).
  • Russia recently wrapped up nine days of inspections of its military forces in order to judge their readiness.  The surprise inspections involved all four of Russia’s military districts, with the focus on command and control structures as well as military arsenals. (Voice of America, 06.27.16).

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • A Russian governor arrested for corruption has claimed his innocence in a Moscow court. Nikita Belykh, governor of the Kirov region in central Russia, was arrested Friday after allegedly taking a 400,000 euro ($440,000) bribe. (Moscow Times, 06.27.16).
  • Sergei Fedotov, the  head of a Russian organization dedicated to protecting authors' rights has been detained on suspicion of fraud. (RFE/RL, 06.28.16).
  • The remains of two men have been found inside an exploded car in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region of Dagestan. Preliminary investigations suggest that the men were transporting a homemade explosive device that detonated unexpectedly, killing the two men, who have not been yet identified.(RFE/RL, 06.28.16).
  • Six Russian citizens and a Ukrainian have been detained by the Spanish Civil Guard, the El Mundo newspaper reported Tuesday. The Spanish daily said that the arrests were “a new blow to the Russian mafia in Spain.” (Moscow Times, 06.28.16).
  • Moscow City Court has dismissed the criminal case against Domodedovo Airport owner Dmitry Kamenshchik, the news website reported Friday.  (Moscow Times, 07.01.16).

Foreign affairs and trade:

  • Syria:
  • U.S. President Barack Obama has set out a possible new agreement on military cooperation between Russia and the U.S. in Syria. The crux of the deal is a U.S. promise to join forces with the Russian air force to share targeting and coordinate an expanded bombing campaign against Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria. In exchange, the Russians would agree to pressure the Assad regime to stop bombing certain Syrian rebel groups. The United States would not give Russia the exact locations of these groups, under the proposal, but would specify geographic zones that would be safe from the Assad regime’s aerial assaults. The text of the agreement was sent to the Russian government on Monday (Washington Post, Moscow Times 06.30.16).
  • CIA Chief John Brennan has had "numerous interactions" with Russia, which he said hasn’t lived up to its commitments to enforce a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria, where its military backs President Bashar al-Assad. "We are continuing to push the Russians" because there’s no way forward on the political front without them, Brennan added. (Bloomberg, 06.29.16).
  • Russia will countenance Syrian President Bashar al-Assad leaving office, but only when it is confident a change of leader will not trigger a collapse of the Syrian government, sources familiar with the Kremlin's thinking say. (Reuters, 06.30.16).
    • Other countries:
    • Russia and Turkey have agreed to resume cooperation on travel and trade after the presidents of the two counties held their first telephone conversation since Ankara downed a Russian plane last year.  Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip also agreed to hold a face-to-face meeting in September on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in China. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also ready to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in August in Sochi, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. The conversation was initiated by Putin in a response to the Turkish president's letter this week, in which Erdogan expressed regret for the downing of a Russian jet last year. Alparslan Chelik, the alleged killer of the Russian Su-24 bomber pilot, will remain in custody in Turkey. Following Putin’s instructions Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has instructed ministers to prepare measures for the removal of economic sanctions against Turkey. (RFE/RL, 06.29.16. Tass, 06.27.16, Moscow Times, 06.28.16, 06.30.16, Tass, 06.30.16).
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met his Turkish counterpart in Sochi amid a thawing of recently tense bilateral relations. After the meeting, Lavrov said that Moscow and Ankara have agreed to restore their antiterror cooperation and military contacts. (RFE/RL, 07.01.16, Tass, 07.01.16).
    • Turkish officials have offered to give a house in the country's seaside resort of Kemer to the family of a Russian fighter pilot downed by Turkish air forces, the TASS news agency reported Friday.  The family of the Su-24 pilot Oleg Peshkov, however, turned down the offer. The Turkish government also announced Tuesday that the country was ready to pay a compensation “if necessary,” but later backtracked on the claim. (Moscow Times. 07.01.16).
    • The European Union has officially decided to extend its economic sanctions against Russia to January 31, 2017. (RFE/RL, 07.01.16).
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin has extended the food embargo against the countries, which imposed sanctions against Russia, until the end of 2017. (Interfax, 06.29.16).
    • A new European Union policy document describes Russia as "a key strategic challenge," wording that constitutes a compromise between member states that are more hawkish toward Moscow and those resisting an escalation of rhetoric.  T he strategy also says EU should actively involve Russia in cooperation to prevent and resolve disputes. (RFE/RL, 06.27.16, Tass, 06.27.16).
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin said the "traumatic effect" from Britain's vote to leave the European Union will be felt for a long time, although global market turbulence has subsided. (RFE/RL, 07.01.16).
    • While it’s “unreasonable to draw direct parallels,” it’s obvious that the U.K. is going through a “turbulent, confusing and unpredictable period,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Monday. Russia “has gone through the collapse of the Soviet Union and many generations clearly remember the period of the Soviet collapse, that period of uncertainty.” (Bloomberg, 06.27.16).
    • The Kremlin is hopeful that the UK's decision to leave the EU will mean better relations between London and Moscow, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced Friday.  (Moscow Times, 06.24.16).
    • Czech President Milos Zeman called for a referendum on the country’s membership in the European Union and NATO, adding to concern that more European countries will copy Britain’s Brexit vote even as he said he supported remaining in both blocs. (Bloomberg, 07.01.16).
    • Lithuania, concerned about losing a strong defender of Russian sanctions in the European Union, has called for a gradual British exit from the EU that preserves ties with London. Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius expressed worries that "the voices of the more principled positions will be weaker" within the European Union when it comes to dealing with Russia. (RFE/RL, 06.28.16).
    • Russia's arms export agency Rosoboronexport has delivered a dozen Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopters to Iraq in accordance with a 2012 agreement, says a source within the Russian defense industry. (RBTH, 06.30.16).
    • Rosatom will start work on the Ruppur Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Bangladesh by the summer of 2017.  (Interfax, 06.28.16).
    • Russia has only managed to attract $560 million in foreign direct investment from China, less than 0.5 percent of China’s total outbound direct investment in 2015 and much less than the $4 billion in Chinese investment Russia received in 2013, before the Ukraine crisis. (Foreign Policy, 06.25.16).

Russia's neighbors:

  • Ukraine:
  • One Ukrainian soldier has been killed and four wounded in attacks over the past 24 hours by Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country, a Ukrainian military spokesman said on July 1. (RFE/RL, 07.01.16).
  • Ukrainian opera singer Vasyl Slipak who left the Paris Opera two years ago to fight Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has reportedly been killed. (RFE/RL, 06.29.16).
  • Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman has predicted Ukraine will join the European Union within the next 10 years. (RFE/RL, 07.01.16).
    • Other neighbors:
    • Pope Francis waded into turbulent geopolitical waters once again on Friday during his first visit to Armenia when he made an unscripted remark referring to the World War I-era massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks as a genocide. The pontiff said Friday that “that tragedy” had been “a genocide” and was “the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century. (New York Times, 06.24.16).
    • German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned that the conflict over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh could escalate and says Turkey and Armenia should hold talks to resolve their long-standing differences. (RFE/RL, 06.30.16)
    • Armenian lawmakers have approved the cabinet's decision to join Russia's air-defense system amid protests by the opposition. (RFE/RL, 06.30.16).
    • Former Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat has been sentenced to nine years in jail on corruption charges.  (RFE/RL, 06.27.16).
    • Kazakhstan has been elected non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council for the 2017-2018 biennium. The former Soviet republic's campaign centered on four pillars: food security, water security, energy security and nuclear security. (EFE, 06.29.16).
    • The U.S. State Department says Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Georgia next week for talks on Tbilisi's push for closer ties with NATO and the European Union. (RFE/RL, 06.30.16).
    • Kazakh security officials say followers of an ultra-conservative branch of Islam were behind a foiled terror attack.  The Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB) said on June 29 that it had detained several members of a group that had planned "terrorist acts using improvised explosive devices." (RFE/RL, 06.29.16)
    • Belarus on Friday redenominated its currency, wiping four zeros off its ruble, the country's Central Bank said Friday. (Moscow Times, 07.01.16).

Back issues of Russia in Review are available here.If you wish to either unsubscribe from or subscribe to Russia in Review, please e-mail Simon Saradzhyan at

For more information on this publication: Please contact US-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism
For Academic Citation:Russia in Review.” News, , July 1, 2016.