Russia Watch Team: Ilinka Léger, Enzo Padovan, Arnaud Huss, Nicolas Girard, Corentin Delon, Olga Shevchuk
10/24/2022:Russia accuses Ukraine of preparing a “dirty bomb” to attack its own territory – Corentin Delon
Through telephone calls with his American, French, British and Turkish counterparts on Sunday, October 23, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu expressed Russia’s fears regarding the possible use of a “dirty bomb” by Ukraine on its own territory. As a reminder, a “dirty bomb” or “radiological bomb” combines conventional explosives and radioactive materials. In a video published on the website of the Ukrainian presidency on the evening of October 23, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was keen to point out a Kremlin maneuver: “If Russia calls on the phone and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means one thing: Russia has already prepared everything. I think the world should react as harshly as possible now.”
The Russian accusations were met with suspicion by Western authorities, as evidenced by the joint statement issued by the foreign ministers of France, the United States and the United Kingdom on October 24, which reaffirmed the confidence of these three countries in the Ukrainian authorities. The statement said that the three NATO members “reject Russia’s obviously false allegations” and that “no one would be fooled by an attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation“. On the Russian side, the Russian government news agency TASS reported on October 24 the statements of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, made at a press conference held the same day. Lavrov reaffirmed the Russian position by emphasizing the reliability of the intelligence on which Moscow’s accusations against Kiev are based: “We have information, which we have checked through the appropriate channels, that this is not an unfounded suspicion, that there are serious reasons to believe that such things could be planned.”
10/24/2022: Meeting of participants of the Valdai International Discussion Club – Olga Shevchuk
On October 24, the 19th meeting of the international discussion club Valdai opened in Moscow. On this occasion, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov spoke at a press conference, where he answered questions about the current geopolitical agenda of Russia and the war in Ukraine. He also commented on the reactions of French, British and American authorities to Russia’s announcement of a threat of a “dirty bomb” that Kiev would potentially use against its own territory: “They say that Russia itself is planning to do something similar in order to later blame the Zelensky regime – this is not a serious conversation.” The meeting lasted four days and was closed by an intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin, broadcasted on the website of the Russian presidency. On 27 October he said that Western countries were participating in the escalation of tensions. “In recent years, and especially in recent months, the West has taken a number of steps to aggravate the situation.” He also called the next decade “the most dangerous, the most important, the most unpredictable” since the end of World War II.
10/25/2022: State visit of the President of Guinea-Bissau and ECOWAS in Russia and Ukraine – Nicolas Girard
On October 25th, Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Bissau-Guinean counterpart during a state visit in Moscow. According to the Kremlin website, both presidents have discussed historical relations between the two countries, international issues and the interaction between the Russian Federation and the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States). The two State Leaders have also mentioned the next Russia-Africa Summit about peace, security and development, that should take place in Saint Petersburg in July 2023. This meeting occurs in a particular international situation in which Russia has been looking for bonding with African states for several years. The abstention of many African states in the UN General Assembly votes to condemn the invasion of Ukraine on March 2 and October 12, 2022, testifies to strong bilateral relations between the Kremlin and the African continent.
The next day, on October 26th, the Bissau-Guinean president went to Kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to the Ukrainian President’s Office, the two leaders have discussed the Russian invasion and the resultant problems regarding food security, especially for West African countries that heavily depend on Ukrainian wheat. According to JeuneAfrique, the ECOWAS President’s official visit was intended in a peace-seeking way in order to help Ukraine and Russia stop the conflict.
10/25/2022: Chechen president refers war in Ukraine to “jihad”– Nicolas Girard
On October 25th, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov called for «Jihad» in Ukraine in a video message posted on his Telegram account. In this very explicit message, the Chechen President used the Kremlin discourse denouncing the Western decadence and its imperialistic visions toward Russia : “Indeed, there, in the West, Sanatism operates freely against Russia. Satanic democracy is when Atheists rights are protected and Believers are offended“. Those words are then followed by an open call for Jihad : “Today, the State and the President need us. Therefore, first of all, I am calling out Caucasians […]. A Muslim person that respect themself will not be looking for excuses. Wallah, this is Jihad“. Neither Russian press agencies nor Russian news companies spread or commented on this message. The Russian Government’s websites did not mention it either.
10/25/2022: Russia comments on its participation in the 7th edition of the International Cyber Week, in Singapore – Enzo Padovan
On October 25, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented on the International Cyber Week, in an official statement. This yearly summit (currently at its seventh edition) took place last week, in Singapore, from October 18 to 20. Russia has been participating in this conference since 2018, and has spoken about “cyber resilience in the New Normal” for this year’s edition, thus analyzing the progress of cybersecurity after the Covid-19 sanitary crisis. Moreover, Moscow’s delegations were present for a closed meeting with ASEAN’s member States, also on the topic of digital security, during the event.
The statement ends by declaring that Russia “intends to continue working with like-minded people from Southeast Asia, at international and regional platforms”. This will to get closer to Southeastern Asian countries is a deliberate strategy. Vladimir Putin’s regime still keeps strong ties with Vietnam and Myanmar (whose army is partly supported by Russia), both members of the ASEAN. According to the Caspian News journal, Moscow seeks to strengthen its trading relationship with this group of nations, being always on the lookout for new allies after the strong sanctions supported by the Western countries.
10/25/2022: Russia prepares measures against EU contries, in response to the new sanctions – Enzo Padovan
On October 25, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement regarding the “anti-Russian” measures taken by the European Union. Following the annexation of 4 Ukrainian regions by Russia (which qualifies this act as “perfectly legal” in the communiqué), on October 6, the EU had taken a few decisions towards Moscow. As a new pack of sanctions were discussed the next week, the Ministry’s declaration specified that access to Russian territory is still prohibited, for certain types of European citizens. This list will be soon expanded, adding European armament companies who have supplied the Ukrainian forces.
Russia also appears proud of its decision to leave the Council of Europe, which dates back from March 15, 2022. This withdrawal was confirmed by a resolution from this Council, which became effective the following day. According to Moscow, this institution “has lost its objectivity, deliberately ignoring the horrors committed by Kyiv’s regime in the Donbas for the last 8 years, by shelling the civilian population”. Vladimir Putin’s regime thus accuses Europe of ignoring the “open discrimination and extermination of the Russian or Russian-speaking population”, promising additional retaliatory measures if the Western countries maintain their pro-Ukrainian position.
10/27/2022: Duma signs new law against “LGBT propaganda” among youth – Arnaud Huss
The lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, passed a bill on October 27, concerning LGBT matters in Russia. The text has been adopted on first reading. From now on, it will be forbidden to publish, to share, any content that can lead “to promote non-traditional sexual relations” to the youth. Indeed, as in Hungary in June 2021, this bill aims to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality by the media, books, Internet or other platforms that distribute content to minors. According to the government information agency TASS, the representative of the State Duma and author of the bill, Vyacheslav Volodin, had previously called on the various Duma committees (on information policy, information technology and communications, and on family, women’s and children’s issues) to prepare for hearings.
According to the press release published on the Duma website on October 27, the bill was voted by almost 400 deputies (out of 450 in the institution). Deputy Vyacheslav Volodin said that he will not hesitate to vote for new amendments in the second reading to ban the depiction of homosexuality completely. The co-author of the bill, deputy Alexander Kishtein, a deputy from the United Russia party, is pushing the bill even further. He would not exclude the hypothesis of a new bill, for the total ban on homosexuality in Russia. The current bill is in line with a first law passed in 2013 (law no. 135-fz), which already established administrative responsibility for “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.”