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Russia Geopolitical Watch – From May 28 to June 3, 2022

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

05/28/2022: Dmitry Medvedev proposes stricter accountability for “foreign agents” -Lauren Lemaire-Hec-

On 28 May, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said he wanted to establish “stricter control” for foreign agents by introducing a more precise classification and stricter accountability for them – which should be “strictly controlled and become transparent to [society]”. He also noted that it was necessary to “stop being too nice, especially in times of a special military operation and endless anti-Russian sanctions”. According to Dmitry Medvedev, the response must be “hard and fast” for those foreign agents whose “activities are directed against the country in such a difficult period and receive money from [Russia’s] enemies for this”. In addition, the Vice President also noted that Russia is far more liberal and humane in its convictions than US lawmakers, pointing out that even after passing the Foreign Agents Act, Russian authorities have “substantially not much interfered with the activities of various malicious NGOs”

In April, the State Duma had introduced a bill “on the control of activities of foreign-influenced persons”. While until now a distinction was made between “foreign agent” and “foreign influence”, separated into four registers – the draft aims to remove these distinctions and merge them. 

05/30/2022: Vladimir Putin signs a decree introducing a simplified procedure for granting Russian citizenship to orphans from Ukraine -Lauren Lemaire-Hec- 

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed on 30 May a decree simplifying the procedure for acquiring Russian citizenship for orphans from the Russian-occupied regions, as well as from the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics (also applying to children without parental care and disabled parents). According to the decree, guardians and administrators of these children, directors of organisations for orphans and institutions providing educational, medical and social services located in the DPR, LPR, Zaporozhye or Kherson regions of Ukraine are entitled to apply for citizenship. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry denounced the invalidity of the decree as “an attempt by the Kremlin to legalise the illegal transfer of Ukrainian children to the territory of the Russian Federation from the territories of Ukraine temporarily occupied by the Russian army”, stressing that this document is a serious violation of the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949, “which provides for the obligation of the occupying State not to change the civil status of children, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989. Under international law, Russia’s actions can also be described as the forced transfer of children from one human group to another”.

05/31/2022 : The Russian army promises free passage to merchant ships transporting grain, if Ukraine clears off mines in its waters – Enzo Padovan – 

On the 31st of May, Serguey Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, promised free passage to merchant convoys of cereals. However, there is one condition to this offer: Kyiv must clear off the naval mines that its fleet has scattered throughout the Black Sea. Effectively, Ukraine, in response to the blockade maintained by Russia since the start of the conflict, has tried to deny its enemy access to its coastal waters, and weaken their grip on the sea. However, Ukraine is famous for its important grain production (the country is the 4th cereal producer in the world), which has been crippled after the war started. This has caused an increase in the price of food products across Europe, and threatens to cause shortages or an economical crisis in Ukraine. The United States estimate that 20 million tons of cereals are currently waiting for the end of the blockade to be exported. 

According to Russia, the Westerners “have taken a certain number of illegal actions, which have led to this blockade.” By using this rhetoric, Moscow condemns the sanctions that the international community has taken against its economy. M. Lavrov has accused said sanctions of creating “a lot of artificial problems“, thus motivating the Black Sea lockdown. The 30th of May, Vladimir Putin announced to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that his country was willing to open up commercial corridors from Ukraine. A meeting will take place on the 8th of June in order to discuss the implementation of said corridors. Nevertheless, Kyiv demands additional internal guarantees before studying the proposition in detail.

06/02/2022 : African Union Chairperson Macky Sall travels to Russia for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi – Manik Tadevosian – 

On 2 June, the President of Senegal and of the African Union, Macky Sall, traveled to Russia to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi amid fears of a global food crisis. Indeed, since the beginning of the military offensive led by Russia in Ukraine, African countries including Senegal have been particularly affected by the paralysis of food exports. According to the press release, this visit was “part of the efforts of the current chairmanship of the African Union to contribute to a lull in the war in Ukraine and to the release of stocks of cereals and fertilisers whose blockage particularly affects African countries”. During the meeting the following day, Senegalese President Macky Sall asked Vladimir Putin to “realise” that Africa was a victim of the conflict in Ukraine, because of the danger of a global food crisis. He also noted that the “sanctions against Russia have become more serious” because of their impact on Russia’s logistical, commercial and financial chain. For its part, Moscow has claimed that the blockage is not its fault, nor the result of the presence of its war fleet off the coast of Ukraine, but the result of Kiev’s mining of Ukrainian ports. 

06/03/2022 : European Union imposes sanctions against Yandex founder Arkady Volozh – Simon Bouclier –

On June 3, the name of Arkady Volozh (founder of Yandex) appeared in the 6th package of sanctions taken by the European Union against 65 Russian and Belarusian personalities and 18 companies. According to the official newspaper of the European Union, Yandex is accused of promoting the Kremlin’s policies abroad.

When the sanctions were announced, Arkady Volozh announced that he was leaving the company’s board of directors and his position. The former director then reportedly placed all his shares in the company in a family trust. On the same day, Yandex shares fell by 10%.

However, the management of Yandex remains optimistic and explains that the sanctions will affect only Arkady Volozh and not the company. Two Yandex sources say that the former director himself “had no suspicions and was full of hope“. This confidence could be explained by the restructuring project of Yandex. Indeed, the company could be divided into two: one specialized in the international, and the other specialized in Russia according to an investigation by Meduza.

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