Russia Geopolitical Watch Team: Lauren Lemaire-Hec, Manik Tadevosian
03/19/2022 : Russian Defence Ministry announces first use of hypersonic weapons in Ukraine – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –
On 19 March, Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defence, announced that Russia had used Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in Ukraine. A day earlier, these hypersonic missiles were used for the first time in Ukraine by Russian forces on the town of Delyatyn, destroying an underground warehouse of missiles and aviation ammunition of Ukrainian troops. Military analyst Vasilij Kachin stated that “this is the first case of the use of hypersonic weapons in combat in the world” and that these missiles can “have higher penetration and destructive power due to their very high speed”. Indeed, these missiles, used for the very first time by the Russian military in 2016 in Syria, travel at ten times the speed of sound and are capable of reaching targets 2,000 kilometers away.
03/20/2022 : Mediazona.ru Central Asia, Agentura.ru and Ekaterina Shulman’s community on VKontakte websites blocked in Russia – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –
On 20 March, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technologies and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), restricted access to the websites of Mediazona.ru Central Asia, Agentura.ru and the community of political scientist Ekaterina Schulman on the social network Vkontakte. The press service of the political scientist’s social network said it had received a notice from the Prosecutor General’s Office, informing that “deliberately false and socially significant information that creates a threat of harm to the life and health of citizens, a threat of massive disruption of public order and public security” was published on the Vkontakte profile.
03/23/2022 : Russian TV channel “Perviy kanal” accuses journalist Marina Ovsyannikova of treason -Manik Tadevosian-
Marina Ovsyannikova, who interrupted the news “vesti” with a sign “Stop the war. Do not believe the propaganda. They lie to you” was accused of treason by the channel “Perviy kanal” on March 21. The statement was made by Kirill Kleymenov, head of the channel’s news program department. He accused the former journalist of having relations with the British Embassy. According to K. Kleymenov, before this action, Ovsyannikova had spoken on the phone with an employee of the British Embassy. He also noted that the girl “timed her action to receive her next paycheck”. Ovsyannikova’s act was heavily reported in the international media. The international media repeatedly mentioned in their publications the courageous act of M. Ovsyannikova.
03/22/2022 : Alexei Navalny sentenced to nine years in prison for fraud and contempt of court – Lauren Lemaire-Hec –
On 22 March, political opponent Alexei Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined 1.2 million roubles, while he is still serving his sentence in Pokrov’s Colony No. 2, for the Yves Rocher case. At the end of 2020, a case for fraud and swindling was opened. The investigative committee in charge of the case stated that Mr Navalny had spent 356 million roubles of the 588 million roubles transferred to various funds for personal use. On 15 February 2022, the trial on charges of fraud and contempt was held, in which four people were found to be victims of A. Navalny’s crimes. In addition, some of them, including Mikhail Kostenko and Fyodor Gorozhanko, retracted their statements, repeating several times that they had no complaints against the politician. After the verdict was delivered, Alexei Navalny commented on his Twitter account: “9 years. Well, as the characters in my favourite TV show The Wire used to say: ‘You only do two days. This is the day you go in and the day you come out’ I even had a T-shirt with that slogan, but the prison authorities confiscated it, considering the print extremist.”
03/22/2022 : Roskomnadzor bans Russian media from displaying Meta, Facebook and Instagram logos – Manik Tadevosian –
After ordering the blocking of Facebook, Instagram and restricting access to Twitter, Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor took another step in its fight against social networks, banning Russian media from displaying Meta logos on March 22. This is one of the consequences of the declaration made two days earlier by a Moscow court. These two networks, Facebook and Instagram, belonging to the American giant were declared “extremist”. From now on, the Russian media will have to refer to them by specifying that they are “extremist organizations banned in Russia” and will therefore be forbidden to show their logo. All these restrictive measures put in place by the Kremlin follow Meta’s decision to temporarily authorize the publication from Ukraine of violent messages against the army and the Russian leadership.
03/23/2022 : Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to make “hostile countries” pay for gas in rubles – Manik Tadevosian –
In response to Western sanctions against Russia, Vladimir Putin announced that purchases of Russian gas by “hostile countries” will only be allowed in rubles on March 23. The countries deemed “hostile” include the United States, the United Kingdom and all members of the European Union. During this government meeting, the Kremlin’s leader added: “I have made a decision to implement a set of measures to switch to payment in rubles for our gas delivered to hostile countries, and to renounce, for all settlements, currencies that have been compromised”. Following this announcement, he ordered Gazprom, Russia’s leading energy group, to find a new system within four days to accept payments in rubles for its natural gas exports. For their part, the Europeans denounce a potential breach of contracts.