Russia Geopolitical Watch Team: Lauren Lemaire-Hec, Manik Tadevosian
03/12/2022 : Russian Investigative Committee opens criminal case against Meta for inciting extremism and promoting terrorism. – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –
On 12 March, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation opened criminal proceedings against employees of Meta (owner of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp). The head of the Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption of Russia, Vasily Piskarev, called for the opening of criminal proceedings against employees of the Meta company involved in spreading calls for violence against citizens of the Russian Federation. In addition, United Russia State Duma deputy Sultan Khamzaev said that Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg should apologise for the company’s decision to allow calls for violence against Russians. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has opened a criminal case “in connection with illegal calls for murder and violence against citizens of the Russian Federation by employees of the US company Meta” under Articles 280 and 205.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Public calls for extremist activities” and “Assistance to terrorist activities”.
03/12/2022 : Aeroflot deputy CEO Andrey Panov has resigned and left Russia. – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –
Aeroflot’s deputy director general for strategy, services and marketing, Andrey Panov, said on 12 March that he had resigned from his post and left Russia, without specifying the reasons for his departure. In a message posted on Facebook, Andrey Panov wrote: “We have left Russia. I have left Aeroflot. The old life is over”. The former deputy general manager for strategy, services and marketing had joined Aeroflot in 2018. He had been involved in the development of the airline group’s overall strategy – according to which the number of passengers was to grow from 60.7 million to 130 million by 2028. On 4 March, the general manager of Pobeda (a subsidiary of Aeroflot), Andrey Kalmykov, resigned. In a letter to the Pobeda administration, he wrote: “I have taken the difficult decision to leave our project. (…) I will stay in Russia and develop other projects where I can be more useful in the current conditions”. According to the Russian media outlet Kommersant, the reasons for these departures are linked to the sanctions imposed on the Russian transport sector by the United States, Canada, Great Britain and other countries in connection with the conflict in Ukraine.
03/12/2022 : The Russian President spoke by phone with his German and French counterparts – Manik Tadevosian –
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke again with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the war in Ukraine on 12 March. During this telephone exchange, which lasted just over an hour and a half, the French President and the German Chancellor demanded “an end to the siege of Marioupol, where the situation is humanly unbearable”, said the French Presidency. The Elysée also said that the discussion was “very frank and difficult”. The meeting follows talks on 10 March in which France and Germany “demanded an immediate ceasefire from Russia”. Following the last telephone conversation, the Kremlin claimed that there had been “numerous facts of flagrant violations of international humanitarian law by the Ukrainian security forces – extrajudicial executions of dissidents, hostage-taking and the use of civilians as human shields, placement of heavy weapons in residential areas, near hospitals, schools and kindergartens”. This was denied by the Élysée.
03/14/2022 : Instagram is blocked in Russia – Manik Tadevosian-
After ordering the blocking of Facebook and restricting access to Twitter, the Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor blocked Instagram, owned by US giant Meta, on 14 March. The decision was taken by Moscow following Meta’s announcement that it would allow exceptions to the regulation on incitement to violence by leaving messages hostile to the Russian military and leaders. The blocking of the social network came after users were given two days to transfer their content to other platforms. This caused a strong reaction in Russia. Indeed, Instagram is a popular platform in Russia, especially among young people.
03/14/2022 : The United Russia party has proposed amendments on the criminal liability of those who “follow and implement” Western sanctions against Russia. – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –
On 14 March 2022, the secretary of the General Council of United Russia, Andrei Turchak, said on the instant messaging application Telegram that the United Russia party is preparing the establishment of criminal liability of corporate executives for the implementation of sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation by Western countries. Andrei Turchak recalled the “hysteria of Western sanctions”, adding that “there are cases where Russian companies, including companies with public participation, refuse to work with sanctioned banks and companies on the pretext that they themselves might fall under sanctions”. The General Council secretary also said, according to the United Russia press service, that “the facts of adherence to foreign sanctions in the country” were “indirect evidence of their support” and “betrayal”.
03/16/2022: Journalist Maria Ovsyannikova, who interrupted the Russian news programme holding up a “No War” sign, has been released following her arrest – Manik Tadevosian –
After interrupting the news programme presented by Ekaterina Andreyeva on the Russian channel “perviy kanal” with a sign “Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you”, the channel’s journalist Maria Ovsyannikova was found guilty of committing an “administrative offence” on 15 March. She was fined 30,000 roubles and released the same day. Following her release, Maria Ovsyannikova said on her social network that she had been interrogated for over 14 hours. The international media repeatedly mentioned Ovsyannikova’s courageous act in their publications. French President Emmanuel Macron said he was ready to offer Ovsyannikova diplomatic protection, either at the embassy or by granting her asylum in France.
03/16/2022: Vladimir Putin announces measures to overcome the “economic blitzkrieg” of Western countries. – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –
In a televised government meeting on 16 March, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised financial assistance to the country’s population and businesses. During the meeting, the president acknowledged that the situation “is not easy for [them] now”. However, he added that the “economic blitzkrieg against Russia has failed” and that “the current situation is, of course, a test”. Vladimir Putin also compared foreign sanctions to the anti-Semitic violence of fascists, saying that “the West has dropped its mask of civility and started to act in a bellicose manner”: Western leaders would therefore have left him “no option to resolve the process peacefully”. Furthermore, he said that “the Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from traitors and spit them out like a fly that has accidentally flown into a mouth” and that he is “convinced that such a natural and necessary purification of society will only strengthen [the] country”.
03/17/2022: Dmitrij Medvedev says that the Western countries’ approach to Russia in recent years is “disgusting, criminal and immoral” – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –
On 17 March, the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, Dmitrij Medvedev, dedicated his first post on Telegram to the West’s attitude towards Russia. He states that “the West’s frenzied Russophobia will apparently never bottom out”. He also explains that the reasons for the worsening of the international situation are linked to “the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders, the economic and information warfare unleashed against [their] country on all fronts, the endless threats and intimidation, the fierce persecution of fellow citizens abroad”. He also recalled the cooperation between the West and Russia in the 20th century in the victory over fascism and in the agreement of universal rules of security and cooperation. Dimitrij Medvedev also underlines the “double standards of the West” which has “lied shamelessly for the sake of their own interests”, and the “anti-Russian hysteria” which, according to him, is not new. The Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council concluded his message by saying that Russia is powerful enough to “put all the country’s odious enemies in their place” and that Russians will continue “to fight for a world order that suits the Russian Federation and [Russian] citizens”.