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Russia Geopolitical Watch – From July 2nd to July 8, 2022

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

07/04/2022 : Colonel General Lapin receives the title of Hero of Russia – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –

On 4 July, Vladimir Putin conferred the title of Hero of Russia on Colonel General Lapin. 

As the commander of the Central Military District and the Central Grouping, Colonel General Lapin participated in the capture of the Lugansk region, which is why the Russian President and his Defence Minister chose to award him this title. According to Sergei Shoigu, the region has been “completely liberated”, i.e. 182 square kilometres are under the control of Russian forces.

During the discussion between Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shoigu, the President of the Russian Federation proposed to “also give state awards to all soldiers who distinguished themselves during these military operations”. Vladimir Putin said he knew “that there are many brave, professional, courageous in the right sense of the word soldiers in the Russian army, enough of them, and they should all be honoured with the appropriate state awards of the Motherland”.

07/04/2022: Moscow State University presents a new Master’s program “Information and hybrid warfare” – Olga Shevchuk –

On July 4, journalists discovered that the Faculty of Political Science of Moscow State University, one of the oldest and largest universities in Russia, started enrollment of students in a Master’s degree program for the training of specialists “in the field of combating modern, hybrid information technologies, trade wars and color revolutions.”

The objective of the program is to train specialists capable of developing, planning and implementing operations to counter information, hybrid warfare and hybrid color revolutions“, stated on the University’s website.

The program will be led by Andrei Manoilo, a participant in the war in Syria and author of books on information policy and Russian foreign affairs. Students are encouraged to study such disciplines as “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” and “Information Support for Military and Police Special Operations in the Media”.

07/06/2022: Novaya Gazeta fined 300,000 roubles -Lauren Lemaire-Hec-

On 6 July, the Simonovsky District Court of Moscow fined Novaya Gazeta for sharing false information under Article 13.15 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation: sharing deliberately inaccurate socially significant information under the guise of reliable information.

According to a source of the Russian media outlet TASS, the reasons for the conviction are related to the publication of a video message by the editor-in-chief of the publication, Dmitry Muratov, on the website of Novaya Gazeta dedicated to the special operation in Ukraine. In the video, the editor-in-chief’s comments went against the Roskomnadzor’s demands not to call the military campaign in Ukraine an “invasion”, “attack” or “declaration of war” – which was not respected by Dmitry Muratov: “We all met in the editorial office early today. We are in mourning. Our country, on the orders of President Putin, has started a war against Ukraine. And there is no one to stop the war. Therefore, along with grief, we feel shame… Only the anti-war movement of Russians, in my opinion, can save lives on this planet.” 

The media’s press officer, Nadezhda Prusenkova, said that no representative of the newspaper was present at the court hearing, and that the editors are not aware of the nature of Roskomnadzor’s claims.

07/07/2022: Ivan Safronov, journalist and former employee of Roscosmos accused of high treason, “celebrates” his two years of imprisonment – Olga Shevchuk –

On July 7,  it is the second anniversary of the arrest of prominent journalist Ivan Safronov, who worked for the Vedomosti and Kommerasant newspapers, as well as a press adviser to the director of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. Since July 7, 2020, he has been detained in a remand center in Moscow. Safronov is charged with “high treason” for using secret sources in his articles and for spying for Czech and German intelligence services, according to the investigation. He has written articles on military topics causing political scandals, such as the deaths of Russian officers in Syria or the accident of the top secret Losharik submarine, which claimed the lives of 14 sailors in 2019.

July 7 is exactly 2 years since the beginning of my story and exactly at the same time that I live in the remand center of Lefortovo under the charge of what I did not commit… I refuse to assimilate journalism and espionage: because I have been engaged in the first for 10 years, and I have nothing to do with the second. This has already been proven in court,” Safronov wrote in his letter.

The trial began on March 5, and on the eve of the anniversary, another lawyer for the journalist, Dmitry Talantov, was arrested. Ivan Safronov faces up to 20 years in prison.

07/07/2022 : Russian President Vladimir Putin meets party leaders in the Duma – Manik Tadevosian –

On 7 July, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with party leaders to assess the situation in Ukraine. During the meeting, Vladimir Putin said that Russia has “not yet started serious things”. “At the same time, we do not refuse peace negotiations. But those who refuse them must know that the longer (they refuse), the more difficult it will be for them to negotiate with us”, he added. At the same time, the Russian president challenged the West to defeat Russia “on the battlefield”. “Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. What can we say? Let them try!” “We have heard several times that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people. But it seems that everything is heading in this direction”, he continued. These statements come against the backdrop of increased arms deliveries to Ukraine by the US and European countries. 

07/07/2022 : Turkey has released the Russian cargo ship Zhibek Zholy, Ukraine claims it is carrying stolen grain – Enzo Padovan –

On July 7th, the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs declared that the cargo ship Zhibek Zholy, which belongs to Russia, had left the Turkish port of Karasu. Since the 1st of July, the ship was detained and monitored by local authorities, after Ukraine had accused Moscow of using such boats to transport stolen grain from the city of Berdyansk. However, on July 8th, the ship weighed the anchor and regained Russian coastal waters ; according to the geographical data collected on its possible destination, the crew set their course to Port-Kavkaz, located on the strait linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. 

In response to such events, Oleg Nikolenko, spokesperson for the Ukrainian diplomatic staff, has declared on Twitter that he “regretted that the Russian ship Zhibek Zholy, loaded with stolen Ukrainian cereals, had received authorization to leave the port of Karasu. Moreover, Ukraine has summoned the Turkish ambassador in Kyiv, so that he could explain Ankara’s decision to let the ship leave port. This decision could, at least partially, be justified by the balance Turkey strives to achieve. In fact, the country does support Kyiv as a member of NATO; but it is also dependent on Moscow for its energy production, thus justifying its strategy to remain as neutral as possible.

Russia denies any expropriation of Ukrainian goods, despite the worrying consequences the conflict had on food exports. As a reminder, there could be up to 20 million tons of cereals waiting in the Black Sea warehouses, which has a very high impact on the global nutrition economy.

07/08/2022 : Indonesia, the host country of the G20, calls, in the presence of Sergei Lavrov, for an end to the conflict in Ukraine – Amandine Paillette –

On July 8, the G20 meeting in Bali opened, bringing together the various heads of diplomacy of the member countries. The opportunity for Retno Marsudi, Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, to call on the countries of the world to give priority to diplomacy over armed conflicts. She said in her opening speech for the meeting “It is our responsibility to end the war as soon as possible and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield“. Adding that the war “is felt around the world, on food, energy and budgets […] And as always, poor and developing countries are the most affected“.

The spokeswoman for the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, had warned on the eve of the first G20 meeting that Russia could use the meeting in Indonesia as “a platform for its propaganda” in connection with the conflict in Ukraine. While the United States and the European Union had asked to exclude Russia from the international forum, Indonesia had objected, wishing to represent a neutral figure as the G20 host state. As a result, the invitation to Moscow was maintained, as was that to Kiev. Sergei Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, was present at the opening of the meeting, sitting between his Mexican and Saudi counterparts. 

The latter, for his part, told his Chinese counterpart that the “aggressive line of the West” allowed his country to receive from countries of the international community “the understanding and support of a growing number“. Moreover, no official group photo was taken with the heads of diplomacy, as usual. 

07/08/2022: Deputy Aleksey Gorinov is sentenced to 7 years in prison for “false information about the Russian army in Ukraine” -Olga Shevchuk-

On July 8, the Meshchansky District Court of Moscow sentenced Alexei Gorinov, deputy of the Krasnoselsky district, to 7 years in a penal colony after his speech about the war in Ukraine. He became the first to be sentenced to a real prison term under the new article 207.3 of the Penal Code.

I have been an opponent of all wars since childhood. I opposed the Vietnam War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the bombing of Belgrade, the wars in Iraq and Syria. Russia overstepped the limit of wars in the 20th century… I am on trial for my opinion, for my statement, for my words,” Alexey Gorin commented on his criminal case.

On March 15, at a meeting of the Council of Deputies, Aleksey Gorinov proposed to declare a minute of silence “for the victims of military aggression in Ukraine.” Charges in the case were also brought against his colleague Elena Kotenochkina, who left Russia. They are both accused of calling the Russian invasion of Ukraine a “war” rather than a “special operation”, as well as speaking out about the deaths of children in Ukraine. 

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