Russia Watch Team: Ilinka Léger, Enzo Padovan, Arnaud Huss
10/11/2022: The possibility of a meeting between Putin and Biden commented on by Russian and American authorities – Ilinka Léger
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave a television interview on 11 March for the programme “60 Minutes” on the government channel Rossiya-1, in which he commented on the possibility of a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin within the framework of the G20 summit to be held in Bali on 15 and 16 November. Sergei Lavrov stressed that nothing has yet been officially arranged, but said: “We have said several times that we never refuse meetings. And if an offer comes to us, that’s when we will consider it.” On the same day, US President Joe Biden was asked about the issue in an interview with CNN and his response was “It depends.” Indeed, Joe Biden, refuses to negotiate bilaterally with Russia on the aftermath of events in Ukraine in the latter’s absence, but the US President hinted that there was a possibility of discussion on other issues, including the conditions for the release of American basketball player Brittney Griner currently imprisoned in Russia. Finally, on 14 October Vladimir Putin told a press conference in Astana that he did not see “the need” to negotiate with the US President on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
10/11/2022: Both Elon Musk and the Kremlin deny allegations of phone call with Vladimir Putin – Enzo Padovan
On October 11, Elon Musk, president of the SpaceX and Tesla companies, denied the accusations about a potential phone call with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. “I have spoken with Putin (sic) only once and that was about 18 months ago. The subject matter was space”, he defended himself on Twitter. Such accusation, according to The Guardian, can be traced back to Iam Bremmer, a political analyst and founder of the Eurasia Group consulting firm. Iam Bremmer told Vice News that Elon Musk, in a spoken conversation, told him about his discussion with Vladimir Putin. A list of proposition were advanced to solve the conflict with Ukraine, notably that Kyiv should stay neutral in the coming years, and that Crimea must be officially recognized as a part of Russia.
This allegation follows a tweet, dating back from the 3rd of October. Elon Musk was offering to redo the referendums on the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, arguing that “Russia leaves if that is will (sic) of the people”. This tweet sparked a strong controversy on social media, and those propositions were approved by Moscow, according to the BBC. Ian Bremmer has also mentioned the use of weapons of mass destruction. If he is telling the truth, Elon Musk explained that the Russians were willing to use nuclear weapons on Kyiv, if Ukrainian troops attempted to retake Crimea. On October 12, the Moscow Times announced that Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin’s spokesperson, confirmed Elon Musk’s account. According to Russia, there was indeed a call between Vladimir Putin and Tesla’s president 18 months ago, but there hasn’t been any contact since.
10/12/2022: FSB announces arrest of 8 suspects in Crimean bridge explosion – Ilinka Léger
In a press release issued on 12 October, the FSB said it had arrested eight people suspected of being “organisers and accomplices of the terrorist attack on the Crimean Bridge“. The statement named “the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, its head Kyrylo Budanov, its employees and agents” as the organisers of the explosion. According to the BBC, Ukrainian officials have described these accusations as “nonsense“. In addition, the newspaper Meduza reports that a total of 12 suspects have been identified (four Ukrainian citizens, two Georgian citizens, one Armenian citizen and five Russian citizens), but only eight have been arrested. As a reminder, the Kerch Bridge connecting Russia and Crimea and inaugurated in May 2018, had been the target of a truck bomb on 8 October, which heavily damaged the facility and killed three people, including the truck driver. The authorities of Bulgaria and Georgia mentioned in the FSB statement that the truck had not crossed their borders. The National Security Service of Armenia issued a statement on 13 October announcing the opening of criminal proceedings for complicity in the terrorist act on the Crimean bridge due to the publication of information “that the explosives used in the terrorist attack […] on 8 October 2022 were hidden in a truck driven by a citizen of the RA”.
10/12/2022: UN General Assembly calls on Russia to reverse its “illegal annexation attempt” of the four Ukrainian territories – Ilinka Leger
On 12 October, the member countries of the United Nations met in the General Assembly (UNGA) to decide on the “integration” of the self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk and the oblasts of Kherson and Zaporijia into the Russian Federation, which was formalised in Moscow on 30 September. According to the UN press release, issued on 13 October, the UNGA wanted to hold a vote on the issue after Russia used its veto power to counter a similar initiative by the UN Security Council. The UNGA resolution is entitled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine: upholding the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations” and was adopted with 143 votes in favour, 5 against and 35 abstentions. Those voting against were Belarus, the Russian Federation, North Korea, Nicaragua and Syria. Among the countries abstaining were Armenia, Kazhakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and China. In essence, the resolution condemns the “attempted illegal annexation” of four Ukrainian regions as a result of “so-called illegal referenda” and calls on Russia to reverse its decision. However, the resolution adopted by the UNGA is not binding, so Russia can decide not to comply with it without penalty.
10/12/2022: Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, says mobilization has not entered its “second wave” – Enzo Padovan
On October 12, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has denied the rumors according to which a new wave of mobilization had begun in Russia. Meduza news reports that the Kursk and Rostov oblasts had announced a new series of mobilizations, raising questions among the population. Thus, Dmitry Peskov declared that “each individual governor needs to be asked what they meant”. The governors of the Ryazan oblast, and the Trans-Baikal Krai, have also indicated that they fulfilled their recruitment quotas, and weren’t planning on renewing the calls. However, Igor Kibalnik, of Buryatia’s military commissars, confirmed that a “small additional recruitment” was ongoing, within the mobilization process. In the same vein, the Trans-Baikal Krai still accepts volunteers to this day.
According to Meduza’s estimations, 213,000 soldiers have been recruited between September 21 and October 5, but those numbers only account for two-thirds of Russian regions. If the government’s official declarations are to be trusted, 300,000 in total should join the ranks of the army. Nonetheless, rumors linked to two additional waves of recruitments (one starting on October 11, and the last one taking place from October 26 to November 10) keep being touched upon by independent sources.