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Russia Geopolitical Watch – from September 10 to September 16, 2022

Russia Watch Team : Ilinka Leger, Enzo Padovan

09/10/2022: Russian Minister of Defense announced the murder of the leader of the Katiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad terrorist group – Enzo Padovan

On September 10th, the Meduza newspaper relayed the information regarding the death of Sirojiddin Mukhtarov, a wanted terrorist ringleader. At the head of the jihadist group Katiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (in English: the battalion for unity and the Jihad), Mukhtarov was killed in the vicinity of Idlib, in Syria, on September 8th. Major General Oleg Yegorov, director of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, confirmed the information on September 9th. It was Moscow’s air force who took care of the assassination. Mukhtarov was from Kirghizstan, and came to Syria in order to fight alongside other terrorist organizations. His own group recruited citizens from ex-soviet republics, such as Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, according to Russian authorities. Mukhtarov was also strongly opposed to Vladimir Putin’s interventionism in the Levantine conflict, as the attack on Saint-Petersburg metro system suggests.

For context, on April 3rd 2017, a bomb was detonated on Metro line 2, in Saint-Petersburg. The bombing caused the death of 15 people (including the perpetrator), and injured dozens more. The culprit, Akbarzhon Jalilov, was a Russian citizen with Kirghiz and Uzbek origin, and had been in contact with Katiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. Despite the official claim of the attack by Al-Qaeda, the government has identified Mukhtarov and his group as potential future threats, due to the anti-russian motivation of the crime. 

09/13/2022: The United Kingdom refused to invite Russian representatives to the Queen’s funerals – Enzo Padovan

On September 13th, the United Kingdom presented a list of foreign representatives, who were invited to participate in Elizabeth II’s funerals, on September 19th. Diplomatic staff coming from a large number of countries will be present to the event, but some others were not invited. Amongst those are Myanmar, Belorussia, and Russia. Myanmar’s absence can be explained by their political oppression of the Rohingya people, as well as the antidemocratic nature of the current regime. When it comes to Minsk and Moscow, their exclusion is linked to the Ukrainian crisis, which has been going on since February 24th 2022. It can also be explained by the British sanctions aimed at those two States. Interesting fact, Burmese military authorities have maintained diplomatic exchanges with Russia, despite the international sanctions against it.

In total, 500 foreign representatives should be present at the funerals. Although Vladimir Putin has not been invited to the event, he still has presented his condolences to the king Charles III. The Russian presence in London had, anyway, been largely compromised. On September 9th, already, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, had announced that a Russian visit to the United Kingdom “wasn’t considered”.

09/14/2022: The Wagner group is accused to recruit common-law prisonners to fight in Ukraine – Ilinka Léger –

A video posted on social networks identifies the Wagner paramilitary group’s owner, Evgeni Prigojin, explaining himslef to the inmates of a Russian penal colonny,  located 800 km away from Moscow, the conditions of deployment of prisoners on the Ukrainian front. According to Prigojin, they would benefit from a waiver of legal proceedings if they serve for six months and a salary of between 100,000 and 300,000 roubles per month (€1,600 to €5,000). In case of death, their relatives would receive 5 millions roubles. However, Prigojin announced from the start that, in case of attempted defection, the prisonners-fighters will be shot without futher trial. The investigation website The Insider reports that Prigojin’s intervention in the colonny if Iochkar-Ola is not an isolated event and that the Wagner group is actually organizing a tour of the country’s prisons. Wagner used to keep the recruitment of its soldiers vague, but today it voluntarily communicates its needs in men using Telegram and a dedicated website (wagner2022.ru). This new phase of recruitment reflects the difficulties of the regular Russian army and the paramilitary society in deploying qualified military personnel to the Ukrainian theatre.

09/15/2022: Vladimir Putin takes part in the SCO’s summit in Samarkand – Ilinka Léger – 

The Russian president travelled to Sarmacand where the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit was held, which for the first time in three years brought together the heads of state of the organisation in person. On 15 September, Vladimir Putin met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, for bilateral negotiations. The Russian president took the opportunity to thank China for its position on the war in Ukraine and to assure Russia’s support on the Taiwan issue against “US provocations“. Xi Jinping said that China “is ready to work with Russia to support each other on issues concerning their respective core interests“. On 16 September, the organisation’s Council of Heads of State was held with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. An expanded format meeting also included representatives from Belarus, Iran, Mongolia, as well as Azerbaijan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

09/16/2022: Coronarvirus cases are on the rise in Russia – Ilinka Léger –

Heading the Federal Supervisory Service for Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), Anna Popova announced a rise of coronavirus cases to come in September. According to her, an increase in the number of infections has been observed in 50 regions of the Russian Federation (out of 85). On September 16, according to official data, the number of infections in 24 hours was 59 035, the number of hospitalizations was 4178 and the number of deaths amounted to 110. The private press agency Interfax underlines that the number of hospitalizations is as high as it was in march 2022, but the number of deaths is smaller. After the launch of the Ukrainian war, the Russian governmental authorities canceled all the restrictions councerning the coronavirus and the mandatory wearing of masks. Finally, according to official data, 61,81% of the Russian population received a complete vaccination. 

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