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Russia Geopolitical Watch – From February 5 to February 11, 2022

Russia  Geopolitical Watch Team: Lauren Lemaire-Hec, Manik Tadevosian, Ilinka Léger

02/05/2022: The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation summons the director of the organisation Memorial, accused of calling for the “rehabilitation of Nazism”. – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –

The Investigative Committee began its examination of the Memorial organisation on Saturday 5 February 2022. The organisation, considered a “foreign agent” by the Russian government, is accused of calling for the rehabilitation of Nazism. The press service of the Investigative Committee informed the RBK media group of the reasons for the investigation. The press service stated that Memorial seeks to rehabilitate Nazism “by denying, deliberately concealing and falsifying the crimes of Nazi collaborators and perpetuating their memory as victims of political repression in the USSR.” This was formulated in December 2021 by the “Veterans of Russia” movement, which called on Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov and the chairman of the investigative commission Alexander Bastrykin to conduct an examination of the activities of the Memorial organisation regarding these accusations. Under the article against the rehabilitation of Nazism, those found guilty of these charges face up to five years in prison.

02/05/2022: Two Russian Tu-22M3 strategic bombers fly over Belarusian airspace. – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –

On Saturday 5 February, two Russian TU-22M3 strategic bombers flew a patrol mission in Belarusian airspace. The Russian Ministry of Defence said in a statement that “during their flight, the long-range aircraft performed joint tasks with the air force and air defence of the Belarusian armed forces” and that “all set objectives were fully achieved.” This excursion took place ahead of the joint military exercises “Union Courage-2022” between Russia and Belarus announced for 10-20 February.

02/08/2022: Official visit of Emmanuel Macron to Moscow and Kiev. – Ilinka Léger –

On Monday 7 February, Emmanuel Macron travelled to Moscow for a meeting with Vladimir Putin, who said afterwards that neither he nor the French President wanted war,”that’s why he’s been here and torturing me for six hours straight with questions, guarantees, options“. Among the French President’s proposals were mutual limitations on military deployments and short- and intermediate-range missiles, as well as greater transparency on military activities. According to the Elysée, Vladimir Putin has committed to withdrawing Russian troops sent to Belarus at the end of the joint military exercises. The next day, Emmanuel Macron travelled to Kiev to meet the Ukrainian President and announced 1.2 billion euros in aid for Ukraine. During this trip, the French head of state denied having envisaged the “Finlandisation” (neutrality status) of Ukraine, while the Ukrainian authorities are asking for the country to be properly integrated into NATO.

02/09/2022: Russian Communist Party member fined 10,000 roubles for using a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre. – Laure Lemaire-Hec –

On Wednesday 9 January, the St Petersburg court fined Alexei Filippov, a member of the municipal committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, 10,000 roubles. In 2017, he published a photograph on the social network Vkontakte with the quote “every anti-communist is a dog”, told by Jean-Paul Sartre in an interview in 1965. The prosecutor’s office also sought the expertise of the University of St. Petersburg, whose experts confirmed that the quote expresses “political, ideological hatred or enmity”, but did not find any appeal to extremist orientation, inciting hatred or enmity against anticommunists. Alexei Filipov was then fined 10,000 roubles on the basis of Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences (administrative liability for the first commission of public actions against a social group). The defendant’s lawyer, Tatyana Dyachkova, told the Rotunda telegram channel that she would appeal the fine imposed on her client.

02/10/2022: Russia and Belarus start joint military exercises. – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –

On Thursday 10 February 2022, Russia and Belarus launched joint military exercises as tensions rise in the Ukraine crisis. The Russian Ministry of Defence explained that the exercises would focus on “suppression and repulsion of external aggression.” Russia has also sent six warships across the Bosphorus for naval exercises in the Black Sea and the nearby Sea of Azov. The Kremlin sought to reassure Western countries by guaranteeing that the troops deployed would return to Russia once the exercises were completed. However, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian described the situation as “very serious” on France Inter. His British counterpart, Liz Truss, sent a message to the Russian authorities, accusing Russia of adopting a “threatening posture” and urging Moscow to withdraw its forces to prove it has no intention of invading Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “the build-up of forces on the border is psychological pressure from our neighbours“. To this, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov replied that threats to Moscow would do nothing to ease tensions over Ukraine: “Ideological approaches, ultimatums, threats – this is the road to nowhere“.

02/10/2022: Vladimir Putin met with Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Kremlin. -Manik Tadevosian- 

While the Russian-Ukrainian conflict occupies the media space, a meeting took place between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev in the Kremlin on Thursday, February 10. During this meeting which lasted a little more than 3 hours, the two heads of state discussed the prospects for the development of their bilateral relations, the increase of cooperation in the field of Eurasian integration and finally some international issues. They also returned to the riots that took place in Kazakhstan in early January and left 225 people dead. “Indeed, there was a carefully prepared operation of international terrorists, bandits who attacked Kazakhstan with the aim, above all, to undermine the constitutional order and, of course, to carry out a coup d’état” said President Tokayev.

02/10/2022: Russian court sentences teen to five years in prison for “training for terrorism” on Minecraft. -Manik Tadevosian- 

On Thursday, February 10, 16-year-old Nikita Ouvarov was sentenced to five years in prison by a Russian military court for “training in terrorism”. With two of his friends, he had planned to blow up the virtual building of the FSB in the video game Minecraft.  Denis Mikhailenko and Bogdan Andreyev received lighter sentences (3 to 4 years in prison with a suspended sentence), because of their cooperation with investigators, reported the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The three teenagers were arrested in 2020 in Kamsk, Siberia, for distributing leaflets in support of a mathematician and anarchist activist on trial for vandalism. During the trial, which was held behind closed doors, the young teenager repeated “I am not a terrorist.” “I just want to finish my studies, get a degree and go far away from here to avoid bothering anyone from the intelligence services,” added Nikita Uvarov. Nikita Uvarov’s conviction was strongly denounced by the opposition, including those close to Alexei Navalny.

02/11/2022: A petition calling for Ramzan Kadyrov’s removal from office reaches 200,000 signatures. – Ilinka Leger –

Ilia Yashin, a Russian opposition politician, has launched a petition for the removal of Ramzan Kadyrov from his position as President of the Chechen Republic. Hosted by the site Change.org, it received over 100,000 signatures in less than 24 hours and has now reached the ⅔ of expected signatures. The petition follows the persecution of members of the Yangulbayev family and threats of assassination against them and Russian journalists by some Chechen political figures, including President Kadyrov. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov implied that the signatures on the petition could be produced by “robots” and that the authorities were paying close attention. The previous week, Dmitry Peskov had refused to comment on the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov that took place in the Kremlin on 2 February. The Chechen leader said of the meeting: “The president, as always, supported us”.

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