Russia Geopolitical Watch – from 25 March to 31 March 2023

Russia Watch Team:  Arnaud Huss, Nicolas Girard, Corentin DelonErwann Leyral, Emeline Palvany, led by Ilinka Léger and Enzo Padovan.

The files we followSanctions against Russia ; Russian economy; Russian domestic politics; Defence and military in Russia; Russian diplomacy in Africa and Asia; Soft power and Russian influence; Russia and multilateralism.

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Soft power and Russian influence Corentin Delon

On March 28, the independent newspaper The Moscow Times reported on a study, published by the business daily Vedomosti, on the growth of the esoteric market in Russia. The data collected tends to illustrate that this increase in demand coincides with doubts and concerns about the current conflict in Ukraine. Mikhail Burmistrov, director of the market research company Infoline-Analytics, told Vedomosti that “mysticism is gradually overtaking the popularity of personal development training among the Russian public”. Indeed, the statistics published by Vedomosti seem to justify their statement that “the reported increase in demand for mysticism courses coincides with a drop in traffic to divination websites and online occult stores, suggesting that people are moving away from paid services to learn to practise esoteric practices themselves”. Analysts from the Russian telecom company Tele2 agree, reporting that traffic to online sites offering esoteric training increased 19-fold between January and March 2023.

Defence and army in Russia – Nicolas Girard

On 29th March, Russian newspaper Kommersant stated that it was aware of a proposition from the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service offering inmates to work for the state-owned defence company Rostec in order to support the war effort. 

On 29th March, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner group announced on Telegram that his private military company had “almost destroyed the Ukrainian army” in Bakhmut. The private military company announced a breakthrough in the control of the eastern part of the city in the beginning of March. According to this statement, the Wagner group is moving forward to conquer the city at the expense of Ukrainian forces. On the same day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the fighters in Bakhmut, praising their efficiency and determination. 

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