Russia Geopolitical Watch Team: Lauren Lemaire-Hec, Manik Tadevosian, Enzo Pavodan
04/24/2022 : Russia blocks Chess.com, the world’s biggest online chess platform -Lauren Lemaire-Hec-
The Federal Service for Media Supervision, Roskomnadzor, blocked on April 24, 2 pages of the world’s largest online chess platform – Chess.com. A day earlier the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation had taken the decision to block the pages about the conflict in Ukraine: “Ukrainian chess players during the war” and “About the war in Ukraine”. As Chess.com uses the https network protocol, blocking one of its pages leads to the complete blocking of the site in Russia. Sergey Karyakin, an international chess grandmaster, had also asked Roskomnadzor to block the site after Chess.com restricted access to the accounts of Russian and Belarussian chess players subject to international sanctions. On March 21 2022 the player had been suspended for 6 months by the International Chess Federation, because of his support for the invasion, “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine”.
04/25/2022: Russia expelled 40 German diplomats – Enzo Padovan –
On April 25th, Russia announced its decision to expel 40 employees of the German embassy in Moscow; this is a diplomatic retaliation against a similar expulsion measure, where 30 members of the Russian embassy staff in Berlin were also declared persona non grata. The German minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Burbock, had made this choice public on April 4th, shortly after the European news coverage of the Bucha massacres. The minister justified the measure, indicating that the expelled staff “was working daily against freedom and the unity of society”. Of course, Berlin’s choice is part of the sanctioning and campaigning policy in regards to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Thus, Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for Moscow’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has compared this decision to “an evil act of the German political machine”, foreshadowing the diplomatic action of April 25th. Since the beginning of the hostilities in Ukraine, more than 400 diplomats under the Kremlin’s orders have been expelled by other nations, mainly in Europe.
04/25/2022: Sergei Lavrov says the danger of nuclear war is “serious and real” -Lauren Lemaire-Hec-
The Russian Foreign Minister spoke about the nuclear threat on 25 April in an interview with “Bolshaya igra” on the “Pervyi Kanal” channel. In the interview, Sergei Lavrov said that the risks of a nuclear war are “very high”. The Minister also supported Russia’s position that a nuclear war was unacceptable and that, given the seriousness of such a scenario, the risks should not be “artificially magnified or underestimated”. According to the minister, “under no circumstances should a third world war be allowed” – insisting that Moscow nevertheless has the impression that “the West wants Ukraine to continue fighting, to continue […] to exhaust the Russian army and its military-industrial complex”. In his interview 60 days after the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Sergei Lavrov reminds us of the Cuban missile crisis: “there were not many written rules. But the rules of conduct were clear enough”, adding that “there was a channel of communication in which both leaders trusted” – whereas now there are “few rules left” and “nobody is trying to create” such a channel of communication.
04/26/2022 : Russian President Vladimir Putin meets UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Kremlin – Manik Tadevosian –
Before going to Kiev, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was received by the head of diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, and then by Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the Ukrainian conflict on 26 April. During these meetings with Vladimir Putin, Antonio Guterres proposed the creation of a humanitarian contact group – composed of Russia, Ukraine and the UN – “to explore the possibilities of opening safe corridors, with local cessations of hostilities, and to ensure that they are truly effective“. With regard to the civilians trapped in the Azovstal factory in Mariupol, the Secretary General proposed that the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Ukrainian and Russian forces coordinate their efforts to enable the evacuation of civilians. Although the results of these meetings were modest, according to a UN press release published after the meeting, the Russian president apparently agreed “in principle” to the participation of the UN and the ICRC in the evacuation of civilians in this area.
04/26/2022 : Russia fines Wikimedia 5 million rubles for refusing to remove articles about the war in Ukraine -Lauren Lemaire-Hec-
The Wikimedia Foundation (which runs the online encyclopedia Wikipedia) was fined 5 million rubles by the Tagansky court on 26 April. The court found the foundation guilty under Article 13.41 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences, i.e. guilty of not suppressing content that is prohibited in Russia. More precisely, Wikimedia was fined 3 million roubles on 16 April for refusing to remove five articles about the war in Ukraine, such as “Battle for Kiev (2022)” and “War crimes during the Russian invasion of Ukraine”. The next day, a fine of 2 million roubles was added for not removing other articles from the platform, such as “Russian invasion of Ukraine (2022)”.
04/27/2022: Vladimir Putin announces a retaliation to anyone who interferes in the conflict in Ukraine -Lauren Lemaire-Hec-
At a meeting of the Russian Legislative Council on 27 April, Vladimir Putin warned of a “rapid and fulgurant” response against anyone who interferes from outside and threatens Russia strategically. The Russian President also stressed that they have “all the tools that no one else can boast of”, which Russia will use “if necessary”. Furthermore, Vladimir Putin commented on Russia’s actions in Ukraine, judging them to be “correct and on time”, taking place according to the established plan.
04/27/2022: Gazprom announces the end of gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria -Manik Tadevosian –
On April 27th, Russian oil giant Gazprom announced that it would stop delivering gas through the Yamal pipeline to Bulgaria and Poland, two European Union member states that had not made payments in roubles. This decision is part of a decree signed by Vladimir Putin, according to which Russia will no longer accept payments in dollars or euros for gas deliveries to so-called unfriendly states, primarily the European Union. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that his country “will not need Russian gas at all from the autumn“, considering that the suspension of deliveries to Poland was not only “a direct attack” on Poland, but also an attack on “the energy security of the whole of Europe, the food security of the whole of Europe“. As for Bulgaria, the country’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov declared that the interruption, decided on the grounds of non-payment in roubles, “constitutes a serious breach of contract“.
04/29/2022 : Kremlin announces no foreign leaders for May 9 parade -Lauren Lemaire-Hec-
Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the Russian president, announced on April 29 that no foreign leaders will be present at the May 9 parade celebrating the 77th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War. The press secretary explained that the Kremlin will not invite anyone, as “the year is not a jubilee”, a celebration marking a 50-year interval. This celebration, Dmitry Peskov reminds us, “is a holy day for all of Russia, for all Russians”. The 9th of May, or Victory Day, is the day of commemoration of the signing in Berlin of the act of surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allied troops. In addition, the Russian Ministry of Defence informed that a total of 11,000 servicemen, 131 weapons, military and special equipment, as well as 77 airplanes and helicopters, will participate in the Victory Day parade in Moscow.