Russia Watch Team: Ilinka Léger, Enzo Padovan, Arnaud Huss, Nicolas Girard, Corentin Delon
10/18/2022: Russian Defence Ministry refutes use of suicide drones in Ukraine – Nicolas Girard
On 18 October, the Russian Ministry of Defence refuted accusations that its army was using Iranian-made drones, following the numerous “kamikaze drone” attacks that occurred in Ukraine on 17 October. These attacks, which occurred only a few days after the partial destruction of the Kerch bridge in Crimea, are, according to many Western media (Reuters, RFI, BBC News, New York Times), the work of the Russian army. On the other hand, according to the governmental press agency RiaNovosti, Moscow certified that it had not received any weapons from Tehran. However, on 18 October the Russian Defence Ministry revealed through General Surovikin numerous destructions in Ukraine carried out with the help of drones, without specifying their origin. Under UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union have called on the UN to put in place sanctions against companies and states buying arms from Iran, potentially targeting Russia. Also according to RiaNovosti, on 19 October, Russia’s deputy representative to the UN, Dmitry Poliansky, threatened the international institution with a halt to cooperation between its General Secretariat and Russia in the event of an investigation implicating the latter in the Iranian drone affair.
10/18/2022: The Estonian Parliament condemns Russia as a State sponsor to terrorism – Enzo Padovan
On October 18, the Estonian Parliament, the Riigikogu, published a declaration condemning Russia as a terrorist State. According to an article from Svoboda, out of the 101 Members of Parliament, 88 have voted in favor of this publication. The 13 remaining representatives weren’t present, at the time of the vote, or abstained. The declaration thus condemns Moscow’s annexation of Ukrainian terrorists, as well as the overall Russian aggression. Meduza News specifies that Estonia has advocated for the creation of an international tribunal, dedicated to the Ukrainian conflict, and the war crimes which were committed as its result. Finally, the Riigikogu suggested a modification of Russia’s role within the UN Security Council, in order to strip it from its status as a permanent member. However, a few amendments proposals were left out of the declaration’s final version. One of those proposals, for instance, aimed towards a complete closure of the Russian-Estonian border, and the withdrawal of all previous border agreements with Moscow.
Latvia, too, had published a similar condemnation back in August. Riga went as far as accusing Moscow of practicing a “targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people”. Estonia considers that “[Vladimir] Putin’s regime, with its threats of nuclear attack, has turned Russia into the biggest danger to peace, both in Europe and in the whole world”. However, the Moscow Times remarks that the US have refused to use the terrorist State adjective to designate Russia. President Joe Biden’s administration considers that it is not the most effective terminology, if future negotiations are to be organized.
10/20/2022: Maria Zakharova warns NATO against aid to Ukraine by its members – Corentin Delon
On 20 October, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova pointed to “competition” among NATO members in sending aid to Ukraine. In an interview with the state-run TASS news agency, Maria Zakharova said that these various supplies of ammunition, intelligence, training and other resources only bring NATO closer to “a dangerous line of direct armed confrontation with Russia“. The spokeswoman also gave a figure of $42.3 billion in aid to Ukraine from NATO countries, including $28.3 billion from the US alone since 24 February 2022. While Russia points the finger at the lack of neutrality of Western countries in the conflict in Ukraine, on 12 October NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed that “NATO is not a party to the conflict” at a regular NATO ministerial meeting. This statement, reported by the newspaper Le Monde, recalls the current debate, both political and academic, on the qualification of the involvement of Western countries in the conflict in Ukraine, namely whether the European Union and NATO are waging a war by “proxy”, as Russia supports, or whether it is a simple “support for the sovereignty and defence of Ukraine” as Jens Stoltenberg recalled on 12 October.
10/21/2022: Phone conversation between Sergey Shoygu and Lloyd Austin – Arnaud Huss
The Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, Sergey Shoygu, and his US counterpart, Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, had a telephone conversation on Friday 21 October. The Russian Ministry of Defence reported via its Telegram channel that Sergey Shoygu and Lloyd Austin discussed “current international security issues, including the subject of Ukraine“. Conversations between Western and Russian officials have been sufficiently rare in recent times for this call to be noticed by the international press. Indeed, according to the Moscow Times article on the call, the last conversation between the two ministers was in May 2022. For its part, the Pentagon issued a short press release on 21 October to officially confirm the contact between the two men. It states that the US Secretary of Defense stressed the importance of “maintaining lines of communication amid the ongoing war against Ukraine“.