Russia Geopolitical Watch – from November 5 to November 11, 2022

Russia Watch Team: Ilinka Léger, Enzo Padovan, Arnaud Huss, Nicolas Girard, Corentin Delon, Olga Shevchuk, Anastasia K.

11/07/2022: Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry restated its support toward Serbia on Kosovo’s situation – Nicolas Girard

On November 7th, the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry commented on the situation in Kosovo. Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Ministry, highlighted in her statement the worsening of the situation, specifically because of provocations from the ”so-called authorities of Pristina [with] the support […] of Washington and its European allies”. The Foreign Affairs Ministry also stated that Serbian authorities were acting with a ”constructive approach” despite the ”ethnic cleansing” of Serbian population in Kosovo. Russia is asking, through this statement, to Belgrade and Pristina for a solution with respect to international law, and the Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council of 1999. Said resolution planned the intervention of peacekeeping forces in the region, and reaffirmed territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia on that territory (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at the time). Kosovo declared its independence in 2008 but is not recognized as such by Serbia or Russia. However, numerous Western countries such as the United-States, France, Germany, Australia or Egypt recognized its independence.

11/08/2022: Deputies from the State Duma propose to recognize Greenpeace amongst the “undesirable” organizations – Enzo Padovan

On November 8, Alexander Yakubovsky, deputy of the Russian State Duma, submitted a proposal to the Prosecutor-General of the Russian Federation. On his Telegram channel, the deputy declared that this proposal aimed at “recognizing the activities of the Greenpeace international organization, which does not fall under the law on foreign agents, as undesirable on Russian territory”. This initiative is supported by other deputies representing regions to the Baikal Lake. On September 23, Mr. Yakubovsky, in another publication on the same Telegram page, had already accused Greenpeace of “receiving funds from the same countries that supply the weapons used to kill civilians of Donetsk, and plant total Russophobia and Nazism”.

The Russian branch of Greenpeace answered those accusations: the ecologist NGO recently opposed amendments attempts on the Law “On the Protection of Lake Baikal”. According to Greenpeace, lifting the ban on tree felling around the Lake’s shores could have strong repercussions on local biodiversity, and intensify water pollution in the region. Additionally, Alexander Yakubovsky has supported those amendments. Svoboda, an independent newspaper, specifies that the organizations qualified as “undesirable” are prohibited from operating in Russia. Any Russian citizen participating in their activities is liable to a heavy fine (up to half a million rubles), or an imprisonment sentence for up to four years.

11/08/2022: Families of mobilised Russian soldiers complain of mistreatment and “demand” their return from the front – Anastasia K.

Since the “partial” mobilisation announced by the Kremlin on 21 September, the Russian opposition media (Meduza, Tvrain) have multiplied articles deploring the treatment and management of the Russian contingents mobilised for the war in Ukraine. Soldiers’ families are more vocal about the lack of military equipment, as well as food, water and hygiene products. They denounce, for example, the lack of clarity in the instructions given to combatants on the missions to be carried out and the fact that some mobilised soldiers (refusing to take part in the offensives) are reportedly being held in basements and threatened with prison sentences or even execution for “treason”. Communication is scarce and some families have been without news for days. Since then, the families of the mobilised have sent written requests for repatriation to the local authorities, but to date there has been no response.

11/09/2022: Russian-Iranian summit on security issues in Tehran – Corentin Delon

On 9 November, a Russian-Iranian summit was held in Tehran, aimed at opening a dialogue on security issues. The Security Council of the Russian Federation reported on the meeting of the current Secretary of the Council Nikolai Patrushev with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. The themes of the summit were the fight against terrorism, the exchange of information in the field of security and justice, the need for bilateral cooperation and an exchange of views on the Ukrainian and Middle Eastern situations.

According to the Security Council press release, published on 9 November on their website, particular emphasis was placed on “the importance of increasing the exchange of experiences in developing the economic potential of Russia and Iran and building external trade relations under the pressure of sanctions“. This information highlights the mutual desire to continue the rapprochement of the two nations regularly singled out by Western powers. In conclusion, the communiqué states that “at the end of the consultations, the parties reaffirmed their willingness to further expand the Russian-Iranian dialogue through the security councils“.

11/9/2022: Vladimir Putin signs a decree to “protect traditional values” – Olga Shevchuk

On November 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the “Foundations of state policy for the preservation and strengthening of traditional Russian spiritual and moral values”. The document indicates that it should serve as the basis for strategic planning in the field of national security.

The list of traditional values included life, dignity, human rights and freedoms, patriotism, service to the motherland, high moral ideals, strong family, creative work and the priority of the spiritual over the material. At the same time, it is noted that Russia is under threat from several States :”Traditional values are threatened by the activities of extremist and terrorist organizations, mass media and communications, the actions of the United States of America and other hostile foreign states.

According to the decree, it should serve as a reference for reforms in the fields of education, culture and the media. It is also mentioned that law enforcement agencies need to improve methods to prevent the spread of foreign ideologies.

11/09/2022: Russian Education Minister announces the introduction of basic military training in Russian schools starting in 2023 – Nicolas Girard

On Novermber 9th, Education Minister Sergey Kravstov announced the implementation of a military training program for Russian schoolchildren starting in September 2023. According to Russian news agency TASS, the Minister made this statement to the press during an educational award ceremony. This announcement comes a few weeks after Duma’s Vice-president Boris Chernyshov requested such implementation in September 2022 via RiaNovosti. Since then, several Russian politicians have expressed their support for this military training. Adalbi Shkhagoshev, a presidential party United Russia member of the State Duma, stated in a video released by pro-Kremlin news media Izvestia, that it was an ”interesting initiative” and that ”mobilized citizens who received a military training in school were better prepared”.

11/09/2022: Russian withdrawal from the Kherson region has begun – Arnaud Huss

On 9 November, General Sergei Surovikin, head of the “special military operation”, announced during a military briefing (broadcast by the Ministry of Defence) the withdrawal of Russian troops from the western bank of the Dnieper river where the town of Kherson is located. This information was confirmed by Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Defence, and relayed by government press agencies on the same day. As a reminder, the Russian army was deployed in the regional capital at the beginning of March and the Kherson oblast was recognised as Russian territory on 30 September during a ceremony in Moscow. This move was described as an “attempt at annexation” by the UN General Assembly.

The newspaper Le Monde, believes that the Russian army wishes to avoid the loss of material and men known during the Ukrainian counter-offensive on Kharkhiv by withdrawing. Thus, regarding Kherson, Sergei Shoigu asked to “proceed with the withdrawal of troops and take all measures to ensure the safe transfer of personnel, weapons and equipment across the Dnieper River” (words relayed by the news agency TASS). Many analysts believe that the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson symbolises a major strategic setback for Moscow, which was seeking to deploy towards Odessa through this route. On 10 November, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg commented on the Russian withdrawal as a defeat: “Russia is under great pressure, and if they leave Kherson, it would be another victory for Ukraine“.

On 11 November, the Russian Defence Ministry said that the redeployment of its troops to the left bank of the Dnieper had been completed without casualties.

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