Russia Watch Team: Ilinka Léger, Enzo Padovan, Arnaud Huss
10/01/2022: The Russian government has limited trucking in Russia for European companies – Enzo Padovan
On the 1st of October, according to newspapers Meduza and Svoboda, the Russian government has adopted retaliatory measures against the majority of European nations. The week before, the EU announced a new wave of sanctions towards Moscow, in response to the annexation of 4 Ukrainian regions by Vladimir Putin’s administration. Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, has thus signed a decree prohibiting all terrestrial transport for EU members’ companies. In addition, Norwegian, British and Ukrainian companies are also included in the ban, due to their countries’ support for the economic sanctions on the Russian economy.
This decree will become effective by October 10, and will be maintained until December 31 2022. However, a few specific products are spared from the restrictions. Still, according to Svoboda, tobacco, drinks (alcoholic or not), and some parts of the food industry (dairy products and meat) are free to transit on Russian soil. There are parallels to be drawn here with European measures: the EU had also imposed bans on the transport of goods coming from Russian or Belorussian companies, soon after the conflict with Kyiv started. The new wave of European sanctions should be approved in the next few weeks.
10/02/2022: The Russian submarine Belgorod, announced as carrying a new type of strategic nuclear weapon, has been launched – Arnaud Huss and Ilinka Léger
The Belgorod submarine, derived from the Oscar II class and launched in 2019, has been launched in the Baltic Sea, according to several international newspapers including the Times and the Repubblica, which reported the news on 2 and 3 October. This submarine is capable of launching the Status-6 Poseidon nuclear-powered ocean-going drone. This weapon could carry a thermonuclear charge of 2 to 100 Megatons. It was announced by Vladimir Putin during the 2018 Armoury speech. This torpedo is still officially in the testing phase. The detonation of this torpedo is capable of causing a tsunami in order to raze coastal cities or to destroy a US carrier battle group according to the rare information provided. However, the operational value of such a weapon is still under debate compared to a conventional nuclear delivery system.
Since the recent annexations of the Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, deemed illegal by the international community, Russia is in a position to retaliate and unleash an all-out war against Ukraine. Indeed, these occupied regions have become Russian territory and according to the Russian engagement doctrine, must be protected by the Russian army. Recent Ukrainian counter-offensives in the Kherson and Kharkiv regions have demonstrated the weakness of the Russian army’s conventional posture. Once considered as belonging to Russia, Moscow could authorise a tactical nuclear strike, in accordance with its nuclear doctrine of protecting its territory. The real Russian nuclear doctrine is still under debate in view of the numerous contradictory statements by various Russian military figures. Unlike the United States or France, Russia has not renounced the use of tactical nuclear weapons, as illustrated by the potential nuclearisation of short-range delivery systems (Iskander, Kalibr, Kinzhal, Kh-32…). The collapse of Russia’s conventional power has reawakened fears of a tactical strike as a last resort, and the deployment of the Belgorod and potential tests of the Status-6 Poseidon could be part of a more general nuclear signalling manoeuvre, with the dispatch of Iskander and elements of the 12 GUMO.
10/05/2022: Investigation into the death of Daria Dugina – Arnaud Huss and Ilinka Léger
The New York Times published an article on 5 October, based on information released by US intelligence services, stating that the Ukrainian authorities were behind the attack on Daria Dugina, daughter of Alexander Dugin, an ideologist close to Vladimir Putin. The attack, which took place on 20 August 2022, was originally aimed at Aleksandr Dugin himself, but his daughter was the victim. According to the New York Times, Kiev “authorised” the attack on his car.
Daria Dugina studied in France, at the University of Bordeaux-Montaigne in 2012-2013. In line with the theories developed by her father, she supported the neo-Eurasian movement, theorised in part by Aleksandr Panarin (of the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences in Moscow), which defends Samuel Huntington’s vision of the clash of civilisations, while adding an element of struggle between the East and the Western bloc.
10/06/2022: Russian Ambassador to Kazakhstan summoned by Kazakh Foreign Ministry – Arnaud Huss and Ilinka Léger
On 6 October, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan informed the local press (Radio Azzatik, Kazakh Telegraph Agency) that the Russian ambassador to Kazakhstan, Aleksei Borodavkin, had been summoned the previous day “for a serious discussion“. This discussion was in response to a statement by Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, who welcomed “with deep regret” the return of the Ukrainian ambassador to Kazakhstan. Astana has also repeatedly expressed its concerns about the recent actions of the Russian authorities and its opposition to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The distance taken towards Moscow in recent months contrasts with the dynamics of rapprochement that had established the Russian military intervention at the beginning of 2022 to support the presidency of Kassym Jomart Tokayev, in the framework of the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation).
10/07/2022 : The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the NGO Memorial – Arnaud Huss and Ilinka Léger
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the NGO Memorial on Friday 7 October in Oslo, Norway. This organisation fights for the recognition of crimes committed during the Stalinist period and the defence of human rights in Russia today. This NGO was dissolved in December 2021 by the Russian legal authorities and now operates from its international branch. It also condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet that the NGO Memorial, but also Ales Bialiatski, a political opponent of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, and the Centre for Civil Liberties in Ukraine, were honoured as “steadfast defenders of human rights in Europe“. Indeed, the strong symbolism carried by the 2022 Nobel Prize is the awarding of the prize to Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian activists at the same time.
10/07/2022: CIS gathers for an informal meeting in Saint-Petersburg – Enzo Padovan
On October 7, Vladimir Putin’s 70th anniversary, the Commonwealth of Independent States (also known as CIS) gathered for an informal meeting in Saint-Petersburg. The Diplomat reveals that Armenian, Belorussian, Uzbek, Kazakh and Tajik leaders will be present. According to AzerFocus, Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, is also participating in this meeting. Whilst no official reason has been given to gather the member States of the CIS, it is important to look at this conference within a larger context, where Russia plays a key role.
More precisely, CIS was created on December 8 1991, and regroups currently 9 members, all previous USSR republics. Both Ukraine and Georgia have left the community, respectively in 2018 and 2008, due to the degradation of their diplomatic ties with Russia. Nowadays, because of Moscow’s isolation, the CIS regroups some of Russia’s closest partners, explaining the strategic importance of the exchange. However, tensions are not unheard of within their ranks: Armenia and Azerbaijan come to mind, whose rivalries in the Nagorno-Karabakh region are still fresh, but there are also border tensions between the Tajik and the Kirghiz people. Thus, Russia’s role in the Commonwealth (being traditionally seen as a kind of mediator between nations), there are great stakes in the continuity of such a community of previous soviet republics for Vladimir Putin.