Russia Geopolitical Watch – From July 16 to July 22, 2022

Russia Geopolitical Watch Team: Lauren Lemaire-Hec, Manik Tadevosian, Enzo Pavodan, Simon Bouclier, Amandine Paillette, Olga Shevchuk

07/19/2022: State of emergency declared in Yakutia and Khabarovsk following fires -Lauren Lemaire-Hec- 

On 19 July, a state of emergency was declared in Yakutia and the Khabarovsk Krai to fight the fires that are ravaging these territories. Indeed, the fires are not only devastating Europe – they are also present in Russia. From the beginning of 2022 until 19 July, the total area of forest fires in Yakutia and the Khabarovsk Territory amounted to 603.4 thousand hectares. This is 3.2 times less than in the same period last year. Despite this improvement, the authorities have put in place a simplified emergency procedure to avoid large-scale fires, as was the case in previous years.  “The federal emergency regime is being introduced for the first time in the areas currently burning in Yakutia and the Khabarovsk Territory. Last year, due to administrative barriers, we were simply not allowed to use federal forces in burnt-out Yakutia until the fires reached the right criteria,” said Alexander Kozlov, Minister of Natural Resources. 

07/19/2022: Vladimir Putin has met the leaders of Turkey and Iran in Tehran – Enzo Padovan –

On the 19th of July, Vladimir Putin made his first visit in a foreign country (apart from previous USSR republics) since the start of the hostilities in Ukraine. In fact, his destination was Tehran, where he met Turkish President Erdogan, as well as the Iranian Head of State, Ebrahim Raisi. This diplomatic reunion stems from a context of diplomatic negotiations regarding the Syrian conflict, which has now been going on for eleven years.

Turkey is effectively supporting the rebel troops, opposed to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and wished to prepare an offensive against the Kurdish militias in the north of Syria; even going as far as comparing them to “terrorist organizations”. However, its Russian and Iranian partners are far closer to the Syrian government, and have not approved such an initiative. Other matters, more related to economics, have also been touched upon: the Russian gas company Gazprom has signed an investment contract with the National Iranian Oil Company.

It isn’t difficult to understand the other motivations that led such actors to reunite at this time of the year; mainly the search for new allies. Russia appears isolated since the start of the Ukrainian war, and is now looking towards another historical rival of the Western powers: Tehran, which could become a new partner in the future. Regarding Iran, it is still facing competition for regional power from its two main adversaries, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, President of the United States Joe Biden has visited both of these States, respectively on July 13 and 17. The Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has, conveniently, declared that if Russia had not attacked Kyiv, “the other side, through its initiatives, would have started the war”. Finally, Turkey, despite being a NATO member, has kept a relatively low implication in the sanctions against Moscow: it has directly taken part in the Russo-Ukrainian negotiations, regarding the grain supply issue, in the last couple of weeks. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on such meetings, which could potentially be a new crucial event in the global game of alliances and rivalries.

07/20/2022 : Russian head of state Vladimir Putin participated in the forum “Strong Ideas for the New Era” – Manik Tadevosian- 

As soon as he returned from Tehran, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin took part in the forum “Strong Ideas for the New Era” in Moscow on 20 July 2022. This event organised by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, a body close to the Kremlin, aims to collect 100 strong ideas for the development of Russia. During this event, the Russian head of state outlined his vision of the world of tomorrow: the end of the unipolar world, the defence of oppressed peoples, the denunciation of a “racist” West, the apology of a healthy way of life and of local agriculture. Thus, V. Putin stated “both at the national and global level, we are witnessing the development of the foundations and principles of a new world order. A more harmonious, just, socially oriented and secure world order”.

07/21/2022 : Tverskoy District Court dismissed the lawsuit of blogger Dmitry Polushin to acknowledge the illegal blocking of the publication of -Lauren Lemaire-Hec- 

On 21 July, a Moscow court dismissed a lawsuit against Krasnews editor-in-chief Dmitry Polushin. This follows the blocking on March 28 of the website for sharing “unreliable socially significant information”. The publication in question repeatedly mentioned the word “war”, as a representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office pointed out. However, according to the latter, “the declaration of war presupposes the occurrence of socially significant legal consequences (mobilisation of the population, establishment of a curfew, etc.).

An unreliable presentation of the essence of the current military operation with the simultaneous use of the term ‘war’ is of increased social significance, as the participation of the Russian Federation in large-scale military operations will affect a wide range of public interests, both in the social and economic spheres”. For these reasons, the court rejected the editor’s request that the blocking of the site and the publication be recognised as illegal. 

07/21/2022: Yana Pinchuk, a Belarusian activist arrested in Russia, is being extradited from the country – Olga Shevchuk –

On July 21, the Second Court of Appeal in Saint Petersburg upheld the City Court’s decision to extradite activist Yana Pinchuk to Belarus. She is accused of “calling for the seizure of power” and “the creation of an extremist group”, being the administrator of the Telegram chat “97% Vitebsk”, in which the anti-government protests in 2020 were coordinated, according to the investigation. She faces up to 19 years in prison.

Previously, the UN Human Rights Committee had banned the extradition of Yana Pinchuk. «The Committee found reasonable risks of irreparable harm in the event of extradition and called on the Russian government to refrain from extraditing Yana in order to allow her access to internal asylum procedures, to ensure her immediate access to essential property and to ensure that her life, physical and mental integrity is protected while her case is considered by the Committee», the statement dated July 12 said.

Yana Pinchuk left Belarus in 2020. She was arrested on November 1, 2021 in Saint Petersburg at the request of Belarusian authorities.

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