News

Russia in Review

Sep. 27, 2016

Abstract

Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for September 2-9, 2016

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

Nuclear security:

  • US nuclear security facilities are dangerously decrepit and putting national security goals at risk, according to U.S. nuclear officials who are asking Congress to back the administration's push to modernize the system. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the total cost of deferred maintenance across all NNSA property stood at $3.7 billion, NNSA Administrator Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz said. Today, more than half of NNSA's approximately 6,000 real property assets are over 40 years old, and nearly 30% date back to the Manhattan Project era, Klotz said. (CNN, 09.07.16)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Tehran has fully withdrawn its lawsuit filed against Russia on the S-300 missile systems, Vladimir Kozhin, Russia’s Presidential Aide for Military Technical Cooperation, said. (Tass, 09.07.16)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • “Look, I believe that all sensible people who are involved in real politics understand that references to threats posed by Russia to, let us say, the Baltic States are absolute nonsense. Do you think we are going to start a war with NATO? How many people are there in the NATO countries? About 600 million, right? Russia's population is 146 million. Yes, we are the largest nuclear power. But do you really think we are going to use nuclear weapons to take over the Baltics? Nonsense!” Russian President Vladimir Putin told Bloomberg on Sept. 1. (Kremlin.ru, 09.05.16)
  • The U.S. secretary of defense had some harsh words for Russia, accusing Moscow of "clear ambition to erode the principled international order." Ash Carter made the comments on September 7 in a speech at Oxford University in England. He told students Russia had engaged in "unprofessional behavior" in Ukraine, Syria, and cyberspace, and said Moscow was also guilty of nuclear "saber rattling." "We don't seek an enemy in Russia. But make no mistake: we will defend our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords all of us," Carter said. “And we will not ignore attempts to interfere with our democratic processes,” he said. (RFE/RL, 09.07.16, Wall Street Journal, 09.07.16)
  • Pentagon said a Russian fighter aircraft made an "unsafe close range intercept" with a U.S. Navy jet over the Black Sea on Wednesday. Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in an emailed statement that the Russian Su-27 came "extremely close" and spent 19 minutes intercepting the U.S. P-8A Poseidon. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told Interfax that the U.S. P-8 was operating without a transponder signal, causing the Russians to launch their Su-27s from Belbek, an air base in Crimea. A U.S. defense official said the Russian Su-27 maintained a 30-foot distance from the U.S. P-8A Poseidon aircraft before closing to within 10 feet, a perilously close brush (Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, 09.08.16)
  • The Estonian military says Russian aircraft violated Estonian airspace over the Baltic Sea, the fourth such violation by Russia this year. The military said in a statement on September 6 that a Russian Antonov An-72 transport plane was in Estonian airspace without permission for about 90 seconds near the Baltic Sea's Vaindloo Island. (RFE/RL, 09.06.16)
  • Sweden’s government affirmed its military neutrality even as a government-commissioned report broadly sided with those in favor of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization amid rising tensions with Russia (Bloomberg, 09.09.16)

Missile defense:

  • The Polish government says it will seek Washington’s approval to purchase eight Patriot missile defense systems from US defense manufacturer Raytheon.  (Russia Today, 09.07.16)
  • Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who supports Donald Trump’s candidacy said: “We are technologically ahead of Russia and China. We can develop a nuclear shield for the United States, for Poland, and for the Czech Republic. Russia is deadly frightened of that.” (Washington Post, 09.09.16)

Nuclear arms control:

  • U.S. President Barack Obama, who has weighed ruling out a first use of a nuclear weapon in a conflict, appears likely to abandon the proposal after top national security advisers argued that it could undermine allies and embolden Russia and China, according to several senior administration officials. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter argued that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Kim Jong-un, could interpret a promise of no first use as a sign of American weakness. Obama and his national security team have rejected a second option: ''de-alerting'' nuclear missiles ready to fire on short notice. (New York Times, 09.06.16)

Counter-terrorism:

  • U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said: "If we had a relationship with Russia, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could work on it together and knock the hell out of ISIS? Wouldn't it be wonderful?" he asked. (RFE/RL, 09.08.16)
  • A military court in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don on September 7 found Magomed Magomedov guilty of taking part in the activities of the Al-Nusra Front in September-November 2015. (RFE/RL, 09.07.16)
  • Russian security forces say they have killed six militants in a special operation in Makhachkala. The National Antiterrorism Committee said on September 7 that the militants included Magomed Khalimbekov, who was described as a local gang leader. Earlier the same committee said two militants who were involved in a series of terrorist attacks have been killed in Dagestan’s southern district of Magaramkent. (RFE/RL, 09.07.16, RFE/RL, 09.05.16)
  • Tajik authorities are reportedly investigating threats purportedly made by a former Tajik police colonel who joined the Islamic State extremist group in Syria. Some Tajik servicemen received text messages on their mobile phones in fugitive police commander Gulmurod Halimov's name. (RFE/RL, 09.06.16)
  • Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security said on September 7 that 38-year-old Kazakh citizen Shamo Mamedov was placed in pretrial detention on suspicion of organizing the transfer of Kyrgyz citizens to Syria, where they joined Islamic militants. (RFE/RL, 09.07.16)
  • Kyrgyz authorities say they have identified the organizers of a bombing attack against the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek last month. The Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security said on September 6 that the alleged attacker was a 33-year-old ethnic Uyghur with a Tajik passport, Zoir Halilov, who was a member of the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan. (RFE/RL, 09.06.16)
  • Kyrgyz officials say a member of an international terrorist group has been "liquidated' near Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security said on September 6 that the 39-year-old perpetrator was killed in a shoot-out with law enforcement officers on August 29. (RFE/RL, 09.06.16)

Cyber security:

  • U.S. President Barack Obama said he discussed cybersecurity during his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin on sidelines of the G20 summit. Obama said he wanted to be sure not to “duplicate a cycle of escalation” as was seen in the past with arms races. “What we cannot do is have a situation in which this becomes the wild, wild West in which countries that have significant cyber capacity start engaging in competition, unhealthy competition,” Obama said. The president declined to directly answer a reporter's questions about Russia's alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee's emails, citing an ongoing investigation, but he acknowledged tensions. (RFE/RL, Moscow Times, 09.05.16, Washington Post, 09.06.16)
  • James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, suggested Wednesday that recent computer attacks carried out against the Democratic Party were perpetrated by Russians. “The Russians hack our systems all the time, not just government but also corporate,” he said. (Wall Street Journal, 09.07.16)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Brent oil dropped on September 5 after a pledge by Russia and Saudi Arabia to cooperate to stabilize the market failed to include any specific measures to bolster prices. Futures fell as much as 1.7 percent in London after climbing 4.8 percent over the previous two sessions. (Bloomberg, 09.05.16)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • American airline Delta has suspended direct flights to Russia until the end of the year. The move was due to an expected drop in demand during the winter season. (Moscow Times, 09.06.16)

Other bilateral issues:

  • “This is not a normal state of relations and we would like to restore full-fledged relations with the United States ,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told journalists on sidelines of the G20 summit (Kremlin.ru, 09.05.16)
  • The Kremlin says expanded U.S. sanctions against Russia are not consistent with talks over possible cooperation between Russia and the United States. The United States announced on September 1 a new round of sanctions targeting 37 individuals and companies involved in Russia's aggression in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.07.16)
  • “Yes, we did raise the sanctions matter in passing, but we did not discuss it in detail because I see no sense in discussing matters of this sort,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said of his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit on September 5. “As for restrictions on technology, they never ended and the CoCom restrictions were never properly abolished,” he said.(Kremlin.ru, 09.05.16)
  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on September 5 expressed concern about "credible reports" of Russian interference in the U.S. election. In earlier separate comments Clinton accused Putin of endorsing "foreign interference" in the presidential election after he said recent leaks of Democratic e-mails were a "public service."  (RFE/RL, 09.06.16, 09.03.16)
  • U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has told a Russian-funded television network on September 8 that "it's probably unlikely" that Russia is trying to influence the U.S. election. When RT’s Larry King asked about reports that U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether Russia is trying to disrupt the election through cyberattacks, Trump said “I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out," Trump said. "I hope that if they are doing something, I hope that somebody's going to be able to find out, so they can end it, because that would not be appropriate at all." (RFE/RL, 09.09.16)
  • U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that Vladimir Putin “has been a leader far more than our president [Obama] has been". Trump also has charged that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, would be unable to stand up to tough adversaries like Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Hillary likes to play tough with Russia. Putin looks at her and he laughs," Trump said as he campaigned in Virginia on September 6. Putin is "very much of a leader," Trump said. Putin "has very strong control over a country," Trump said. ''I think it's inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,'' Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, Mr. Trump's running mate, said on CNN. (New York Times, 09.09.16, RFE/RL, 09.07.16, BBCM 09.08.15)
  • U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday slammed Republican candidate Donald Trump for saying U.S. military generals have been "reduced to rubble" during his time in the White House and that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been a better leader. (Wall Street Journal, 09.08.16)
  • "Meanwhile, bizarrely, once again, he (Donald Trump) praised Russia's strongman, Vladimir Putin, even taking the astonishing step of suggesting that he prefers the Russian president to our American president," Hillary Clinton said on September 8th "Now that is not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country as well as to our commander in chief, it is scary." (Washington Post,09.08.16)
  • When asked about Donald Trump's comments on Putin, House Speaker Paul Ryan noted Thursday only that "Putin is an aggressor that does not share our interests" and that the Russian president "is acting like an adversary." "Other than destroying every instrument of democracy in his own country, having opposition people killed, dismembering neighbors through military force and being the benefactor of the butcher of Damascus, he's a good guy," quipped Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) of Putin. (Washington Post, 09.08.16)
  • The Republican ticket’s assessment of Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama’s leadership is at odds with a majority of Americans, according to a Bloomberg Politics poll conducted last month. About half of U.S. adults, 51 percent, said Obama was the stronger leader, while 31 percent chose Putin. One in 10 American adults said they had a favorable view of Putin, while 64 percent said they had an unfavorable view. (Bloomberg, 09.08.16)
  • Moscow will be ready to work with any new U.S. leader, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said addressing MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) lecturers and students on Sept. 1.  (Tass, 09.01.16)
  • Moscow expects Washington to display political will on building good relations with Russia after the presidential elections, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sept. 8. (Tass, 09.08.16)
  • US President Barack Obama and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev did not discuss any particular issues during their meeting in Laos, with their conversation being limited to the exchange of greetings, a source in the Russian delegation told RIA Novosti on Thursday.  (Sputnik, 08.09.16)
  • Russia's Justice Ministry says its decision to place the independent national pollster the Levada Center on its official register of organizations "operating as foreign agents" was made due to financial support the pollster received from the United States. The U.S. State Department has condemned Russia's designation of the nation's only independent polling organization as a "foreign agent." (RFE/RL, 09.06.16, 09.07.16)
  • A U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts finished a 172-day mission aboard the International Space Station and descended onto the steppes of Kazakhstan in a dawn landing, NASA TV showed. (RFE/RL, 09.07.16)
  • To combat the African swine fever, American scientists are working with genetic material and bioinformatics systems, while their Russian colleagues are conducting animal tests. The project brings together some of the best minds from Russia's National Research Institute of Veterinary Virology and Microbiology, and from the state universities of Illinois, Nebraska and Connecticut in the U.S. (RBTH, 09.07.16)
  • Mormon Church officials have cut the number of missionaries being sent to Russia, saying the adjustment was forced by Russia's new antiterrorism law. (RFE/RL, 09.06.16)
  • A photograph has appeared on social media that appears to show a senior Russian general using a fake quotation attributed to former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney declaring Washington's intention to "destroy Russia." The fake quotation has appeared on dubious Russian websites and blogs repeatedly over the last few years. The same quotation has also been attributed to former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. (RFE/RL, 09.07.16)
  • Film director Oliver Stone has finished shooting a documentary about Russian President Vladimir Putin. (RIA Novosti, 09.08.16)

II. Russia’s domestic news.

Politics, economy and energy:

  • When asked whether he plans to run for reelection in 2018 Russian President Vladimir Putin told Bloomberg: “It is quite premature to talk about it. … We should achieve the improvement of living standards, economic development, social wellbeing and national defense capability. Depending on what we will have accomplished on these tracks, we will think about the arrangements for the presidential election campaign in 2018 and who should participate in it. I have not made my mind yet.” He also noted that “I believe that the next Russian leader should be a fairly young yet mature person.” (Kremlin.ru, 09.05.16)
  • Russia is pushing ahead with plans to try to raise over $11 billion through the sale of nearly one-fifth of state oil company Rosneft before the end of the year, President Vladimir Putin said. (RFE/RL, 09.03.16)
  • Russia spent 18.4 percent of its reserve fund in a single month to plug deficits in the federal budget, Finance Ministry figures released Tuesday have revealed. The country's reserve fund fell from $38.18 billion to $32.2 billion during the course of August 2016, shrinking to just over a third of pre-crisis levels. (Moscow Times, 09.06.16)
  • The international branch of the human rights group Memorial says Russian authorities have begun a surprise audit to determine whether it should be designated as a "foreign agent." The new move comes as the Justice Ministry announced on September 5 that it had placed independent pollster Levada Center on the register, potentially threatening its existence.(RFE/RL, 09.07.16)
  • A group of women who blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Beslan school massacre have been sentenced to either community service or fined. (RFE/RL, 09.02.16)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed his longtime children's rights commissioner, Pavel Astakhov. His replacement is Anna Kuznetsova, a mother of six who founded a charity in 2010 and had headed an association of groups supporting families since 2015.  (RFE/RL, 09.09.16)

Defense and Aerospace:

  • Moscow is conducting large-scale military drills “Kavkaz-2016” in the south. The Russian Defense Ministry said the Russian Navy in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea are participating in the Sept. 5-10 exercises and that planes also are being used. The six-day exercises is testing the army's ability to "plan, prepare, and carry out military actions," the ministry said in a statement. More than 120,000 people, both military personnel and civilians, have taken part in the Kavkaz-2016 exercise, but no more than 12,500 were engaged simultaneously, according to the Chief of Russia’s General Staff, Valery Gerasimov. (RFE/RL, 09.05.16, Tass, 09.09.16)
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry has signed long-term contracts worth more than 130 billion rubles ($2.019 billion) at the Army-2016 International Military-Technical Forum, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said on Sept. 7. (Tass, 09.07.16)
  • Russia is currently developing a plane with a new-generation laser weapon. (Tass, 09.08.16)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russian prosecutors have arrested two associates of billionaire Viktor Vekselberg on bribery charges after masked officers raided his Renova conglomerate offices. They have also added former head of Russia's division of VimpelCom telecom group Mikhail Slobodin to the country’s federal wanted list. (RFE/RL, 09.07.16, RFE/RL, 09.06.16)
  • Ruslan Martagov, prominent critic of Ramzan Kadyrov's regime in Chechnya has gone missing. Also colleagues of a journalist in Russia's troubled Chechnya region says a court has ordered him imprisoned for three years on drug charges. The Shali district court sentenced Zhalaudi Geriyev on September 5 for alleged marijuana possession. (Moscow Times, 09.02.16, (RFE/RL, 09.07.16)
  • The long-awaited inquest into the mysterious death of  Russian whistleblower Alexander Perepilichny has been delayed because the UK government is trying to stop certain documents related to the case being made public.(Business Insider, 09.07.16)

III. Foreign affairs and trade:

Syria:

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has started a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva to discuss a political agreement that could help bring an end to the conflict in Syria. Ahead of the September 9 talks, the State Department said the discussions would focus on "reducing violence, expanding humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, and moving toward a political solution needed to end the civil war." It has been earlier reported that the Russian side was counting on Kerry to arrive on September 8th, but Kerry chose to delay the trip. (RFE/RL, 09.09.16, Bloomberg, 09.08.16)
  • "We can't guarantee in any way at this point that we are on the cusp of finishing," a senior U.S. administration official told reporters who flew to Geneva with Secretary of State John F. Kerry to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on September 9. "The opposition tell us they want us to reach a deal with the Russians if, in fact, it would stop some of the worst forms of violence against the Syrian people. So they want us to continue," a second U.S. official said. "If we reach a deal, then that's great. And if we don't, we're not going to go on forever for the sake of pursuing a deal." (Washington Post, 09.09.16)
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin failed during their talks on Monday in China to reach agreement on a cease-fire in Syria. Obama told reporters afterwards that Moscow and Washington "haven't yet closed the gaps in a way we think it would actually work." Obama also said he and Putin had agreed to instruct their diplomats to keep trying over the coming days to reach a deal.  “We have moved closer in our positions and in our understanding of what we can do to defuse the situation in Syria,” Putin told journalists after the meeting.  Talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the margins of the G20 summit in Hangzhou had also ended without agreement.  A White House official described the final differences between the U.S. and Russia on a Syria deal as "technical" and related to implementation of the proposed agreement. The Obama administration had earlier told Russia that it is at the end of its patience in trying to arrange a cease-fire in Syria, along with proposed joint U.S.-Russia counterterrorism operations, and that it expects a decision from Moscow in the next several days. A final proposal was given to the Russians as Obama met Putin on Monday. The outlines of the deal were agreed upon weeks ago, but U.S. officials have accused Russia of backtracking on some elements, including the timing and duration of a cease-fire before the other aspects of the agreement begin. (New York Times, 09.06.16, RFE/RL, 09.05.16, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, 09.07.16)
  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said U.S. diplomats were testing whether Russia would prove willing and able to influence the Syrian government toward a political transition to end the country's civil war. “Today’s news out of Syria is not encouraging," Mr. Carter said. "The choice is Russia's to make, and the consequences will be its responsibility." “I don’t trust the Russians one iota,” a senior U.S. defense official with knowledge of the negotiations told Foreign Policy. “No one thinks that any of this is actually going to come to pass.” (Foreign Policy, 09.02.16, Wall Street Journal, 09.07.16)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a face-to-face meeting for nearly two hours late on September 4 on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the two leaders discussed the Syrian conflict, especially the "catastrophic" humanitarian situation in Aleppo. (RFE/RL, 09.05.16)
  • Syria's main government opposition issued a road map on Wednesday for a transition to a democratic state without President Bashar al-Assad. U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called the HNC proposal "the first credible picture of Syria without Assad" and said it answered to Russian concerns about what might follow the Syrian president's exit.  (Wall Street Journal, 09.07.16)
  • Russian airstrikes helped the Syrian government and allied forces seize critical territory on the outskirts of the divided northern city of Aleppo on Monday, tightening a siege of rebel-held territory. Also an airstrike killed a top rebel commander of al Qaeda's rebranded Syria branch, militants said Friday as they mourned the loss of a crucial figure in their fight to prevent more loss of territory to advancing regime forces in Aleppo. Abu Omar Saraqib of the Syria Conquest Front was killed in an air raid on the outskirts of Aleppo late Thursday, rebels said. (New York Times, 09.06.16, Wall Street Journal, 09.09.16)

Other far abroad countries and foreign affairs in general:

  • Russia supports China’s stance on the South China Sea court dispute and opposes any third-party interference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday. “As far as the Hague Arbitration Court and its ruling are concerned, we agree with and support China’s position to not recognize the court’s ruling. And I’ll tell you why. It is not a political but a purely legal position. It is that any arbitration proceedings should be initiated by parties to a dispute while a court of arbitration should hear the arguments and positions of the parties to the dispute. As is known, China did not go to the Hague Court of Arbitration and no one there listened to its position. So, how can these rulings possibly be deemed fair? We support China’s position on the issue," Putin said. (Kremlin.ru, Sputnik, 09.05.16)
  • “China today is a leader in terms of economic growth rates…. Because a leader is a leader, and I believe that any success, even in countries that have a difficult past history of relations with China, cannot but cause satisfaction, because this reflects on the global economy as a whole. Yes, our trade has declined somewhat but we are unfazed by this because I believe something more important is happening.  What is this something? It is a change in our structure of trade. Its quality is improving and the number of machines and equipment that we supply to the Chinese market is increasing.” Russian President Vladimir Putin told journalists on sidelines of the G20 summit (Kremlin.ru, 09.05.16)
  • Russia's Foreign Ministry says Palestinian and Israeli officials have agreed to meet for talks in Moscow, in an effort to restart the peace process in the Middle East now dormant for more than two years.  But the announcement, made on September 8, said only that the two sides had agreed "in principle" to meet, and no date or format was given for the proposed talks. (RFE/RL, 09.09.16)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern after North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on Friday. Lavrov told reporters a message must be sent "very strongly" on implementing U.N. resolutions on North Korea. Kerry said he expected President Barack Obama to address the issue on Friday and said there would be discussions at the United Nations. (Reuters, 09.09.16)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Theresa May held talks for the first time on September 5, with Moscow keen to improve ties. (RFE/RL, 09.05.16)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed resuming complete diplomatic relations on the eve of the G20 summit in China. (RFE/RL, 09.03.16)
  • Russia says Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed with Japan's prime minister to draw up proposals this year to end a row over disputed islands. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed that officials on both sides would keep working on a draft deal that the two leaders would consider when the Russian president visits Japan in December.  The Japanese leader made what one Russian executive at the conference described as an appeal for a “bromance”. “We could walk into the virgin forest of the taiga in the light of the sun’s rays and push through the foliage, like in Akira Kurosawa’s film ‘Dersu Uzala’, and think about what relations between Japan and Russia should be like in 20 or 30 years,” Abe told Putin.  (RFE/RL, 09.02.16, Financial Times, 09.03.16)
  • European Union ambassadors have prolonged asset freezes and visa bans on 146 individuals and 37 entities that, according to the bloc, have threatened Ukraine's territorial integrity. (RFE/RL, 09.07.16)
  • Antoni Macierewicz, Poland's defense minister, has promised to present a new government report that he says “leaves no doubts” Russia is to blame for the 2010 plane crash that killed Polish president Lech Kaczyński. (Moscow Times, 09.02.16)
  • A report Wednesday night by Israel's Channel 1 News seems to indicate that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was a KGB agent for a period of time, although the Palestinian Authority very quickly denied the claims, calling them another Israeli slur against the struggling president. (Washington Post, 09.08.16)

Ukraine:

  • “As for the Normandy format, for better or for worse it is the only group even trying to find solutions to the conflict now, and so of course Russia continues to support it.”  Russian President Vladimir Putin told journalists on sidelines of the G20 summit. “I do not think it makes sense to hold meetings just for the sake of it. I had the impression that no one wants to meet just for the sake of it, except perhaps Poroshenko, perhaps. I do not know, as I have not spoken to him for a long time,” Putin said. (Kremlin.ru, 09.05.16)
  • U.S. President Barack Obama said he discussed Ukraine during his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin on sidelines of the G20 summit. He said he made clear to the Russian leader that until the Minsk accord is implemented, Washington “will not pull down sanctions.” Obama said the meeting was “constructive but not conclusive.” He said, "We will see whether Putin, despite talking about wanting a negotiated solution, is comfortable with a constant low-grade conflict on the Russian-Ukraine border.” (RFE/RL, 09.05.16)
  • German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke "very concretely" about the conflict in Ukraine and how to implement the Minsk agreement, a cease-fire and peace plan aimed at resolving the war in eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.05.16)
  • The European Union sought to jump-start diplomatic efforts to unwind the conflict in eastern Ukraine on Friday. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he and his German counterpart were seeking a date to return to Kiev to advance talks. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc had discussed ways to help Ukraine overcome one of the biggest obstacles to a permanent peace: Ukraine's promise to hold local elections in its troubled eastern provinces. (Wall Street Journal, 09.02.16)
  • In his annual address Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Ukraine cannot afford to make concessions to Moscow, which says the first step should be for Kyiv to pass legislation giving the separatist-held territories more autonomy and granting the separatist fighters amnesty. “Security issues remain first," Poroshenko said. "We must see a complete and sustainable cease-fire, the pull-out of Russian troops and military hardware, disarming of militants, control over the whole Ukraine-Russian border [returned to Kyiv]." Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said. "Russia wants to turn the territory it occupies in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as someone has said, into a Donbas protectorate, and then infiltrate it back into Ukraine on its terms to destroy us from within," he said. "I'll put it bluntly, we will not allow them to do this and it will not happen,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said. (RFE/RL, 09.06.16)
  • Ukraine has reported its first combat death since a new cease-fire with Russia-backed separatists went into effect on September 1. Kiev said the casualties were suffered during an attack by separatists around the eastern town of Mariinka near Donetsk. Earlier this week, the separatists claimed the death of one its fighters. In late August, the warring sides agreed their latest truce to coincide with the new school year.  (RFE/RL, 09.09.16)
  • In a briefing Thursday in Kiev, Alexander Hug of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors the conflict in Ukraine, said a particularly serious incident occurred Monday night around the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, where both sides exchanged fire with mortars, automatic grenade launchers, small arms and heavy-machine guns. (Wall Street Journal, 09.09.16)
  • Warning that a full-scale Russian invasion cannot be ruled out, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he was prepared to appeal again for lethal defensive weapons from the West. But for now, he said, Ukraine "must rely most of all on itself.” (RFE/RL, 09.06.16)
  • The Pentagon said in a statement released on September 8 that retired U.S. Army general John Abizaid will advise Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak as Ukraine tries to reform oversight of its armed forces and root out the endemic corruption that has hobbled it in its fight against Russia-backed separatists. Mr. Carter told reporters traveling with him that the new appointment did not mean that the United States had decided to provide Ukraine with offensive military weaponry or maneuvers against Russia in the east. (RFE/RL, 09.08.16, New York Times, 09.09.16)
  • Lithuania has supplied Ukrainian troops fighting Russia-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country with 150 tons of ammunition (RFE/RL, 09.03.16)
  • Britain's High Court in January will hear a case Moscow has filed against Ukraine for defaulting on a $3 billion Eurobond, a deputy Russian finance minister has said. "The court hearing has been set for January 17-20. The hearing will last three days," Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak said on September 8. (RFE/RL, 09.09.16)
  • European and U.S. officials have denounced an arson attack on a pro-Russian Ukrainian television station, calling such violence "unacceptable." European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic on September 6 urged Ukraine to conduct a full, independent investigation into the attack on the TV station, which was set ablaze in Kyiv over allegations that it is pro-Russian. (RFE/RL, 09.06.16)
  • EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn expressed confidence on September 3 that there will be a decision in both the European Parliament and among EU member states to grant visa liberalization -- which would enable Ukrainians to travel more freely throughout the EU -- later this year. (RFE/RL, 09.06.16)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the grave of the former president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, as he paid his respects in Karimov's home city of Samarkand. Uzbekistan's parliament has appointed Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyaev as interim president following the death of Karimov. Mirziyaev has ruled out military alliances, following the same course as late strongman Islam Karimov. (RFE/RL, 09.06.16, 09.08.16, 09.09.16)
  • Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has dismissed Prime Minister Karim Masimov and appointed him chairman of the Committee for National Security. Deputy Prime Minister Baqytzhan Saghyntaev was appointed Kazakhstan’s acting prime minister. (RFE/RL, 09.08.16)
  • Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian has announced his widely anticipated resignation, citing his government’s failure to address the many economic and political challenges facing the country. Abrahamian is replaced by Karen Karapetian, a technocrat former head of the national gas distributing company and former mayor of the capital city. (RFE/RL, 09.08.16)
  • Armenia has sent 129 Chinese and Taiwanese telecoms fraud suspects to China for investigation and likely prosecution. (RFE/RL, 09.08.16)
  • Muhiddin Kabiri, leader of Tajikistan's banned opposition Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT), has been added to Interpol’s wanted list on Dushanbe's request. (RFE/RL, 09.05.16)
  • The European Parliament's civil liberties committee voted on September 5 for visa liberalization for Georgia to the EU's Schengen zone. (RFE/RL, 09.05.16)
  • China and Kazakhstan have taken a step closer to the supply of Kazakh fuel pellets to Chinese companies. The relevant documents enabling such transactions are between Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP), a subsidiary of Kazakh uranium producer KazAtomProm, and CGNPC-URC, a subsidiary of China General Nuclear (CGN). (World Nuclear News, 09.05.16)
  • Moldova has rejected a decree by Transdniester's leadership that says the breakaway region should join Russia, in line with the results of a referendum 10 years ago. (RFE/RL, 09.09.16)

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For Academic Citation:Russia in Review.” News, , September 27, 2016.