Russia Geopolitical Watch – From June 4 to June 10, 2022

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

06/04/2022 : Alexei Navalny publishes a post on Telegram on his birthday -Lauren Lemaire-Hec-

On his 46th birthday on 4 June, political opponent Alexei Navalny published a post on the social network Telegram. As the politician celebrates his second birthday in prison for the second time, Alexei Navalny thanked all the good people”. He also mentioned his health and moral state, saying that he is doing very well and is not losing heart. In his positive message, the political opponent also affirmed the privilege he has in Russia to be able to say what he thinks is “right” and to do what he thinks is “necessary” – because although “the evil crooks in the Kremlin […] have locked him in a hole, they have “no power” over him. 

06/06/2022 : Russian foreign minister prevented from visiting Serbia by countries allied to Ukraine – Amandine PAILLETTE –

On June 6, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced “the unprecedented decisions” of Serbia’s neighbouring countries which have blocked their respective air spaces, preventing the Russian minister from traveling to Serbia.  Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova explained that Sergei Lavrov was planning to travel to Belgrade on Monday and Tuesday for official visits. At the time of departure, the plane carrying his connection was banned from entering the airspace of several countries bordering Serbia. These countries include Bulgaria, Montenegro and Northern Macedonia. Being NATO member countries, the Russian Foreign Minister denounced a tactic of the international alliance revealing -according to him- once again the will of expansion of the organization. He declared “A sovereign state has been deprived of its right to exercise its foreign policy“. The European Union and more broadly the West have also been the target of criticism from the Russian authorities, declaring this event as a “hostile act“.

Since the end of February, the day after the Russian offensive on Ukrainian territory, Sergei Lavrov was subject to the various sanctions put in place by the European Union. Thus, he had already been unable to attend the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) or even the Disarmament Conference in Geneva held at the end of February, due to the EU overflight ban imposed on him. 

06/06/2022 : The French Embassy in Moscow receives a package with a bone and explanatory note from an Italian producer who died in 2006 – Simon Bouclier –

On June 6, the French Embassy received a mysterious package sent by Italian film producer Pietro Notariani, who died in 2006. The producer of Luchnino Visconti’s “The Leopard” would have sent from the Crimea in a blue box with bundles of unknown contents, 11 shoe covers, several bones and an explanatory note: “I offer you souvenirs from the Crimea, I have not had time to recover the previous ones. I wish you a good reception. Thank you. 

PS : Who will buy on the Lafarge stock exchange when the price falls, the techniques and means to do so will still be in place”.

The package was reportedly turned over to security forces after it was received.

07/07/2022 : U.S. tracks Russian oligarchs, $300 million yacht seized in Fiji – Amandine PAILLETTE –

On June 7, U.S. authorities were handed a yacht allegedly belonging to Russian billionaire and oligarch, Suleimon Kerimov, by the Fiji Islands Attorney General. He was the target of international sanctions because of his supposed links with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The seized property, named “Amadea” is nearly 106 meters long. As for its value, it is estimated between 300 and 450 million dollars. 

On May 5, the boat had already been immobilized at the request of the United States. During its seizure, the Fiji court stated that the yacht would have moved without any permit in order to escape U.S. prosecution. Lisa Monaco, the U.S. Deputy Attorney General, said after being informed of the arrest; “This seizure shows corrupt Russian oligarchs that they cannot hide even in the most remote places in the world […] Every yacht bought with dirty money is in our sights“. The Russian billionaire whose fortune is estimated at 14.5 billion dollars is suspected of being the owner of the ship, information that he would have concealed with the help of a Swiss lawyer through one of his companies, Boltenko Trust AG.

08/06/2022 : The Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs has called the conditions for unblocking ports – Enzo Padovan –

On the 8th of June, the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, has identified a certain number of conditions to the reopening of Ukrainian ports to sea trade: the country notably demands that neutral States ensure the security and surveillance of its coastal waters. As a reminder, Kyiv mined its territorial waters in order to undermine the naval Russian invasion, paralyzing commercial exchanges in the Black Sea. However, 25 million tons of cereals should be currently waiting for exportation in Ukraine, threatening to create food shortages and an economic crisis in Europe. 

Thus, negotiations are currently ongoing between Russia and Turkey (a State that President Zelenskyy has identified, on the 6th of June, as a potential partner for the diplomatic process). On the 8th of June, a preliminary agreement has been signed between Ankara and Moscow, which declares that Russia vows to spare merchant ships in the Black Sea, but only if Ukraine demines its coasts, with Turkey acting as a witness and observer. 

Nonetheless, Kyiv remains extremely wary regarding such agreements. In reality, strong bombings have occurred over the city of Nikolaev, an important city for the cereal trade. This is why the Zelenskyy administration requires more guarantees coming from the UN, and accuses Russia of having seized a part of local grain production. Moscow denies those allegations, but some food exports have already been observed leaving from areas controlled by the Russian invasion forces. Therefore, the peace process can end up bogged down, and will take a long time before leading to sustainable solutions in the long term. 

06/09/2022 : Two British and a Moroccan, who were fighting in Ukraine, are sentenced to death by separatists – Manik Tadevosian –

On 9 June, the Supreme Court of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic sentenced to death two British and one Moroccan who were fighting in Ukraine. Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Brahim Saadoun were charged with “seizure of power by force or retention of power by force” and “mercenarism”. According to the official Russian news agency, TASS, Shaun Pinner and Brahim Saadoun pleaded not guilty to the charges of “mercenarism” but admitted their participation in the fighting. The three defendants will “appeal”, the lawyer of one of the three men, Pavel Kossovan, told TASS. 

The UK expressed serious concern over the announcement. “We repeat that prisoners of war should not be exploited for political reasons”, said a spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. As for Russia, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman described London’s reaction as “frantic” and “sometimes hysterical”, adding that the Britons convicted in the Donetsk People’s Republic are mercenaries and not prisoners of war. Zakharova noted that London had not contacted the DNR to clarify the fate of its convicted citizens. “Now the British leadership, which is clearly apologising, is trying to solve the problems with loud statements“, she added.

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