Russia Geopolitical Watch – From June 18 to June 24, 2022

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

06/18/2022: Russian journalists showed a video featuring two American missing in Ukraine– Enzo Padovan –

On the 18Th of June, a video was published by correspondents from the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Company: said video focuses on two US citizens who have been taken prisoners in Ukraine, where they were fighting as volunteers alongside Kyiv’s troops. Those two former Marines are from Alabama. Their names are Alexander John-Robert Drueke (age 39) and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh (age 27). They have been missing since the 9th of June, when they were last seen during a skirmish against Russian soldiers north of Kharkiv, in the eastern part of the country. Their fate remained unknown, up until the broadcasting of the interview realized by RT, a Russian television channel, which showed them detained in a prisoner camp. The location of the said camp, as well as the identity of their jailers, has yet to be identified. Nevertheless, according to CNN, it is possible to hear one of the prisoners’ speakers declare that they are locked up somewhere in or near Donetsk. If this is the case, they could meet the same fate as 3 additional foreign volunteers (two British citizens and one from Morocco), who were condemned by the Donetsk People’s Republic, also on the 9th of June.

In the video, the two prisoners claim that they are “opposed to the war”, and Andy Hyun has added that “Russian are quite humane guys”. It is difficult to know if those kinds of declarations are genuine, or have been influenced by an exterior pressure. However, the Human Rights Watch NGO has condemned the interview’s diffusion, which directly violates the Geneva Convention: according to this Convention, fair treatment of prisoners requires that they are not humiliated, or that they won’t be the target of pressure or intimidation from their jailers. In total, the Russian Ministry of Defense estimates that out of the 6,956 foreign volunteers who have enrolled themselves in the Ukrainian forces, 1,956 of them have died since the beginning of the conflict.

06/20/2022 : Russia exported a record amount of oil to China in May -Lemaire-Hec-

On 20 June, the Reuters news agency published an article indicating that Russia exported a record amount of oil to China during the month of May. According to data from China’s General Administration of Customs, Chinese crude oil imports from Russia jumped 55% year-on-year to a record high in May, overtaking Saudi Arabia. The volume of supply in the said month amounted to nearly 8.42 million tonnes, or about 1.98 million barrels per day – a quarter more than in April. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is now China’s second-largest supplier.

This sharp increase is explained by the context of the war in Ukraine. International sanctions on supplies of Russian natural resources have allowed Moscow to turn east: since the end of February, the United States, the European Union and others have put in place restrictive measures against the supply of Russian oil. In early June, European countries approved a package of sanctions banning oil purchases from Russia, which resulted in Moscow selling its oil at large discounts to Chinese buyers. 

06/21/2022 : Institute for the Study of War says Kremlin purge of Russian military underway, as a result of losses in Ukraine – Amandine Paillette –

On June 21, the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank founded in 2007, published an analysis that examines the evolution of the conflict in Ukraine. Citing unconfirmed Ukrainian sources, the report states, among other things, that the commander of the airborne forces, Andrei Nikolayevich Serdyukov, has been sacked. 

Indeed, for several weeks rumors have been spreading about the fate of Andrei Nikolayevich Serdyukov following statements by Pentagon soldiers who said they had not seen the commander in the field for nearly two weeks. The report indicates that several Russian media outlets have confirmed that Mikhail Teplinskiy, a colonel-general who previously headed the Central Military District headquarters, has been named as his successor. Although the Institute for the Study of War cannot confirm the exact role Andrei Nikolayevich Serdyukov played in the invasion of Ukraine, the report explains that if the reports are true, it would imply that the former commander was responsible for unsuccessful operations that led to heavy losses of the Russian army paratroopers On June 17 and 18, the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate published transcripts of telephone calls – which have not been confirmed – in which Russian army soldiers complained about conditions on the frontline but also about a general lack of personnel. 

Thus, in its report the think tank analyzed the situation explaining that this absence “would indicate a major crisis within the leadership of the Russian army and perhaps a purge by the Kremlin of senior officers blamed for the failures in Ukraine“. It was also noted that “Such drastic changes are not the work of an army on the verge of great success and indicate a permanent dysfunction in the way the Kremlin conducts war“. 

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has not officially communicated about these changes in its army.

06/21/2022: Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov auctions his Nobel peace medal for $103.5 million, which will be served to help Ukrainian children. -Olga Shevchuk-

On 21 June, an auction took place in New York where the editor-in-chief of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov, sold his Nobel peace medal for the benefit of Ukrainian refugee children for USD 103.5 million. It is the most expensive sale of a Nobel medal in the history of the prize, but the winner of the auction remains unknown.

All proceeds will go to UNICEF, which will distribute to help child refugees in Ukraine. The auction was timed to coincide with World Refugee Day, celebrated on 20 June. “We realized that to help Ukrainian children, you can and should give the most precious and important thing you have. And we decided to auction the Nobel Gold Medal. All proceeds will go to the refugee children. Wherever they are: in Europe, Ukraine or Russia. There are no more foreign refugees in the world”. – Novaya Gazeta announced June 1 as Universal Children’s Day.

Dmitry Muratov received his award in October 2021, together with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, for “efforts to protect freedom of opinion, which is a condition for democracy and peace”. After the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Novaya Gazeta suspended its publication in Russia.

06/23/2022: 14th BRICS summit, the Russian president calls his partners to cooperate in the face of “selfish and thoughtless actions” of some countries – Amandine Paillette –

On June 23rd, the fourteenth BRICS summit took place in Beijing. The members of this organization are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. During this virtual meeting, the Russian president discussed the global economic crisis and called on his BRICS partners to join forces. 

Indeed, Vladimir Putin denounced the waves of sanctions put in place by some Western countries like those of the European Union, explaining “Businessmen of our countries are forced to develop their activities in difficult conditions because Western partners neglect the basic principles of the market economy, free trade“. Addressing the BRICS, he added: “Only by basing ourselves on honest and mutually beneficial cooperation can we seek solutions to the crisis situation affecting the world economy due to the selfish and thoughtless actions of some countries“. With this criticism of the practices of some Western countries, Vladimir Putin shared his determination to strengthen economic ties with his BRICS partners, saying “A leadership role on the part of the Brics countries is needed today as never before to develop a unifying, positive policy aimed at creating a truly multipolar (world) system“. 

This summit was an opportunity for the Russian leader to share his perspectives for the future of his country’s economy, explaining that he would diversify but above all reorient “its trade flows and its external economic contacts towards reliable international partners, above all towards the Brics countries“. Numerous sectors were discussed, including the automotive, agricultural and oil sectors. The issue of monetary policy was also mentioned, and Vladimir Putin declared that he wanted to work with the BRICS countries to develop “alternative mechanisms for international transfers” as well as an “international reserve currency“, the aim being to emancipate itself from the dollar and the euro.

06/24/2022 :  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says NATO and the European Union are forming a coalition against Russia -Manik Tadevosian- 

On 24 June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, during his visit to Baku, said that NATO and the European Union are forming a coalition to fight Russia. “When the Second World War started, after all, Hitler gathered a large part, if not most, of the European countries under his banners for the war against the Soviet Union. Today, the European Union and NATO are assembling an already modern coalition to fight and, by and large, wage war against the Russian Federation” Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference with his Azerbaijani counterpart. The Russian foreign minister also added that Moscow will “carefully examine the behaviour of the European Union” and “follow the real steps” that Brussels, as well as Moldova and Ukraine, will take after obtaining EU candidate status. Indeed, on 23 June, EU-27 leaders granted EU candidate status to Kiev and Chisinau. 

06/24/2022 Russian Foreign Ministry denies any possibility of “nuclear war” – Simon Bouclier –

On June 24, the Russian Foreign Ministry denies any possibility of nuclear war at the conference of participating states of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which took place from June 21 to 23 in Vienna. The spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Ms. Zarakhova, explained in a statement that: “The statements made on the eve of the conference of participating states in the context of the Ukrainian conflict about the ‘mutual threats to use nuclear weapons’, as well as individual statements on the rostrum of the conference about the ‘nuclear blackmail’ allegedly exercised by Russia, can only cause confusion. We stress again: no ‘nuclear threat’ has ever been and is ever heard from Russia”.

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