Russia Geopolitical Watch – From May 7 to May 13, 2022

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

05/09/2022: Putin promised to admit to universities children of Russian soldiers who died in Ukraine without exams -Enzo Padovan-

On May 9th, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree promising the implementation of special quotas within the country’s universities, directed at the children of the soldiers killed or injured during the Ukrainian conflict: this quota should represent 10% of all applicants of graduate studies. This announcement took place during the Victory Parade, which is organized every year in Moscow, in order to commemorate the 1945 Soviet victory against Nazi Germany. Therefore, children of deceased army personnel will be able to enter colleges without taking formal exams, and military schools (like those of the Suvorov network, which are scattered throughout the country) will be opened to the families of the wounded. In total, casualties report by the Russian service of the BBC has estimated that, at the time of May 6th, 2,120 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine. Moreover, the Ministry of Education and Science has declared that Russian universities would now be open to all students from the Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, increasing the number of foreign graduates from 5,000 up to 23,000 across Russia. 

05/10/2022: The Lithuanian Parliament declares Russia a “terrorist state” -Enzo Padovan-

On May 10th, the Seimas (the Lithuanian Parliament) has, during the visit of Olena Kondratiouk, vice-president of Kiev’s Lower House, unanimously voted a resolution labeling Russia a terrorist state: indeed, Moscow is accused of “deliberately and systematically selecting civilian targets for bombings”. In addition, Lithuania has acknowledged the crimes committed by Vladimir Putin’s army in Ukraine as acts of genocide, and has invited the international community to follow its example. Vilnius even went as far as suggesting the creation of an international criminal court dedicated to the Ukrainian conflict, which could have the power to arrest heads of States or government members. As of this week, Latvia, Estonia, and Canada have all recognized the Russian aggression as a form of genocide. Moreover, Olena Kondratiouk has declared that she wished Lithuania to play an active role in Ukraine’s possible integration in the EU, thanks to the large support Kiev has received from Vilnius: it was the first EU member State to have renounced to the Russian gas, as well as having excluded Russian embassy staff from its territory. 

05/10/2022: Sergei Lavrov visits Algeria -Lauren Lemaire-Hec- 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived on 10 May in Algeria for talks with his Algerian counterpart, Ramtan Lamamra. The last visit of the Russian minister was held 3 years ago, in 2019. The current trip takes place in the year of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states. Received by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune Sergei Lavrov said that Russia “[greatly] appreciates Algeria’s balanced, objective and balanced position on the Ukrainian issue”. Along with Morocco and Egypt, Algeria is one of Russia’s top three trading partners in Africa. Moreover, it has not adhered to Western sanctions against Russian actions in Ukraine. In this context of sanctions, notably on Russian gas and oil exports, several European countries seek to reduce their dependence on Russia by turning to Algeria. Discussions during this visit will focus on the resolution of international problems: the war in Ukraine, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Syrian settlement, the crisis in Libya, among other topics.

05/11/2022: The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, accused Ukraine of targeting the village of Solokhi -Manik Tadevosian- 

On 11 May, the governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, announced that one person had been killed and three injured in southwest Russia due to shelling from Ukraine. According to Vyacheslav Gladkov, 17 houses and six cars were also damaged and the windows of a school, a post office and a shop were smashed. The attack has not been confirmed by the Ukrainian authorities. This is not the first time that the governor of the Belgorod region has accused the Ukrainian authorities of bombing on his territory. In April, Vyacheslav Gladkov accused Ukrainian helicopters of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod. Regarding the 11 May attack, Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said that “this is a situation that makes it necessary to take additional measures to strengthen the security of these areas adjacent to Ukraine“.

05/12/2022: Forest fires ravage Russia -Lauren Lemaire-Hec- 

On 12 May, the total area of forest fires in Russia during the day increased by about 9,000 hectares. These forest fires are becoming more and more frequent every summer in Russia. This year, the press service of the Federal Forest Air Protection Service reported that the largest fire area was reported in the Amur region. On 11 May, 155 forest fires covering 16,987 hectares had been recorded – and 204 forest fires had been extinguished in Russia covering 26,291 hectares. As part of the interregional manoeuvres, 910 Air Safety Service fighters took part in fire suppression in the regions: 76 in the Amur region, 573 in the Kurgan region, 62 in the Republic of Khakassia, 27 in the Republic of Buryatia, 37 in the Republic of Tyva, 117 in the Krasnoyarsk Territory and 18 in the Omsk region.

05/13/2022 : Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia will be “obliged to take military-technical measures” if Finland joins NATO -Manik Tadevosian-

Following the announcement by the Finnish President and Prime Minister of their willingness to join NATO “without delay“, Russia threatened Finland with a “military-technical” response on 13 May. If membership goes ahead, Russia will be “obliged to take reciprocal military-technical and other measures to put an end to threats to its national security”, the Russian Foreign Ministry replied in a statement, calling on Helsinki to “realise its responsibilities”. Moscow thus perceives this probable enlargement as a threat. Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We have already stated several times that the enlargement of Nato and the bringing of the Alliance’s military infrastructure closer to our borders will not make the world and our great continent of Europe more stable and secure. Russia’s decision to suspend electricity supplies to Finland from 14 May follows these events. 

05/13/2022 : Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN says Russia no longer sees a difference between Ukraine’s membership in the European Union and NATO -Lauren Lemaire-Hec-

The country’s deputy representative to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, announced on May 13 that Russia has changed its position on the issue of Ukraine’s membership in the European Union. In an interview with the British media outlet Unherd, Dmitry Polyansky said: “I think we were not very worried about the European Union at that time [during the Istanbul negotiations at the end of March], but the situation has changed after Mr Borrell’s statement that this war must be won on the battlefield. And as the EU is the leader in arms supply, I think our position on the EU is now closer to the position on NATO, because we don’t see the difference”. Earlier, at the end of March, the head of the Russian delegation to the talks with Ukraine, Vladimir Medinsky, said that Russia was not against Ukraine’s entry into the EU: “For its part, the Russian Federation is not opposed to Ukraine’s desire to join the European Union”. The diplomat also commented on the potential accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, saying that the appearance of alliance units in the border areas would make these territories a possible target for Russian strikes – just as Russia’s territory would be a possible target for NATO strikes.

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