Russia Geopolitical Watch – From May 14 to May 20, 2022

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

05/14/2022 : Russia suspends Finland’s electricity supply -Lauren Lemaire-Hec-

During the night of 13-14 May, RAO Nordic Oy, a subsidiary of the Russian company InterRAO, suspended the supply of electricity to Finland. The reason for the suspension is a default in payment by Finland for electricity supplied since 6 May, according to RAO Nordic Oy. The end of this supply comes at a time when Finnish-Russian relations are strained in the context of the war in Ukraine. On 13 May, Helsinki expressed its willingness to join NATO “without delay” – a move that displeases Moscow, which has repeatedly stated that it sees membership as a “threat” and that it “will be forced to take retaliatory measures, both military-technical and otherwise” if Finland joins the Atlantic Alliance. Furthermore, representatives of the Finnish electricity grid company Fingrid stated that “there is no threat to the sufficiency of electricity in Finland”, as only 10% of total consumption comes from Russia. Finland is expected to stop importing Russian electricity completely in 2023, a decision justified by “the assessment of risks to the energy system in a changing international environment”. For its part, RAO Nordic Oy commented on the issue in a statement: “We hope that the situation will soon be resolved and that electricity trade with Russia will resume”

05/14/2022 : The President of Finland speak with his Russian counterpart on Finland’s application to join NATO -Manik Tadevosian-

Following the announcement by the Finnish President and Prime Minister of their willingness to join NATO “without delay”, Finnish Head of State Sauli Niinistö spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart to inform him of the application for membership of the Atlantic alliance on 14 May. As the two countries share a 1,300-kilometre border, Russia views Finland’s membership of NATO in a hostile manner. Thus, Vladimir Putin warned that abandoning the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, “because there is no threat to Finland’s security,” the Kremlin press service said. The statement stressed that Helsinki’s decision could “have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations”. For his part, Sauli Niinistö said that “the conversation was honest and frank”. He also added that “it was necessary to avoid tensions”.

 05/16/2022: Vladimir Putin declares that an expansion of military infrastructures on Finland and Sweden’s territories would cause a Russian reaction -Enzo Padovan-

On the 16th of May, during the summit for the Collective Security Treaty Organization (a military alliance of six members, notably Russia, Kazakhstan or Belarus), Vladimir Putin has declared that Sweden and Finland’s integrations in NATO weren’t posing a direct threat to Moscow. However, he has also declared that “an extension of military infrastructure on this territory” (Sweden and Finland) “would spark a Russian reaction” that would greatly damage relationships between his government and the two Scandinavian nations. Moreover, the Russian President has implied that this application to join NATO was a mistake, which could have dire consequences for Finland and Sweden on the long term; the nature of these consequences has yet to be publically defined by Putin. This opinion is shared by Serguey Ryakbov, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs in Russia, who claimed that his country’s reaction would depend on the decisions taken by the Atlantic Alliance following the process of adhesion. In addition, still according to Vladimir Putin, it is an attempt of Western powers to spread their influence outside of their normal political borders, and thus, to interfere with the policies of Russia’s neighbors. Sanna Marin, Finnish Prime Minister, has declared, on the 15th of May, that this decision emerged after Helsinki started to consider Moscow a threat, and that the Ukrainian conflict ended up fuelling this application. Eventually, the Russian President has promised his interlocutors from the summit to speak to them, behind closed doors, about the “special operation” still ongoing in Ukraine. 

05/16/2022 : Russia plans to create a youth movement -Simon Bouclier-

On Monday 16 May, the Russian presidential administration, Rosmolodezh and the Ministry of Education are planning to present a bill to the Duma to create a youth movement called BIG CHANGE. This bill was submitted to the Duma on 19 May 2022 on the occasion of the centenary of the creation of the Soviet pioneer movement. Among the objectives of this movement would be to “promote the implementation of state policy in the interests of children and young people” in order to “teach patriotism, love of the Fatherland and citizenship to children and adolescents”. According to several sources, Damikh Fattakhov, the deputy head of Rosmolodezh, is being considered to lead this new youth movement. 

05/17/2022: Russia and Ukraine announced the suspension of negotiations -Enzo Padovan-

On the 17th of May, one of the Russian vice-ministers of Foreign Affairs, Andrey Rudenko, has announced that the peace process between his nation and Ukraine had been momentarily suspended. Mister Rudenko declared that Kyiv “has withdrawn from the negotiations procedure”, and “is trying to blur the provisions that have already been agreed upon at the previous stages”. Mikhail Podolyak, advisor at President Zelenskyy’s cabinet, has confirmed this information, but has also stated that the peace conditions offered by Russia, in order to ensure the end of the conflict, were unacceptable, due the severe military resistance opposed to the invasion of the Ukrainian territory. The first round of peace talks took place in March, in Istanbul (a city considered to be a neutral ground, and thus, a good choice for discussions), and according to the participants present for the exchanges, progress had started to appear regarding the end of the war. Unfortunately, Moscow has quickly accused its opponent of voluntarily stalling the discussions, to which President Zelenskyy’s administration has responded that because of the Russian war crimes committed on Ukrainian soil, and the victories achieved by the defenders, the local population was not willing to find a peace agreement with its warmongering neighbor. Kyiv’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmitry Kuleba, has stated that Russia wasn’t ready for real negotiations to actively end the conflict. 

05/20/2022 : Russian Duma proposes to abolish the age limit for contracted military service -Simon Bouclier-

On Friday 20 May, a bill was presented to the Duma by United Russia deputies Andrei Kartapolov and Andrei Krasov to abolish the age limit for a first military service contract. The indicative note of this bill states that “the aim of the bill is to eliminate the age limit for citizens of working age (foreign citizens), at which they are entitled to enter into the first military service contract”. Currently, Russian law allows first military service contracts for Russian citizens between the ages of 18 and 40 and for foreign citizens between the ages of 18 and 30. This new law could extend the possibility of concluding a first military service contract up to the age of 65. As the draft note states: “The implementation of such approaches will help attract specialists in popular specialties, mainly those related to civilians (medical support, engineering, maintenance, operations, communications, etc.) for military service contract”.

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