Russia Watch Team: Ilinka Léger, Enzo Padovan
09/24/2022: President Zelensky appealed to the Russian population, following the mobilization – Enzo Padovan
On September 24, the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, appealed to the Russian population, through a video message. Since September 21, a partial mobilization keeps growing in Russia. This has caused strong reactions amongst the recruits, who are soon to be sent to Ukraine, in order to fight. Thus, President Zelensky asked those recruits to refuse the military draft, arguing that “not taking the draft is better than dying in a foreign land, as a war criminal”. He also promised, to all Russian soldiers who wish to surrender, a just and fair treatment. Interestingly, September 24 also marks Vladimir Putin’s signature of an important law. This bill promises a criminal sentence (up to 10 years in prison) for each and every soldier who surrendered voluntarily.
This, evidently, forces the Russian population to make a difficult choice. Volodymyr Zelensky has declared that voluntary prisoners could be welcomed, and protected, by Kyiv. “The Russian power is perfectly aware that it is sending its citizens to their death”, he emphasized. For the past week, thousands of Russian reservists are converging to the country’s borders, notably in Georgia, to escape the call to arms.
09/25/2022: U.S. reminds Russia not to raise nuclear threat – Ilinka Leger
On September 25, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken once again urged Russia to stop making nuclear threats. In an interview with CBS News, he stressed that «It’s very important that Moscow hears from us and knows from us that the consequences would be horrific. And we’ve made that very clear.» Blinken thus clarified that this message was addressed to Moscow in a public way, but also through private channels. The U.S. reaction follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s television address on Wednesday, September 21, in which he said that Russia «also has various means of defense, some of which are more advanced than those of NATO countries. If our territorial integrity is threatened, we will of course use all means at our disposal to defend Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.»
09/26/2022: Opportunities to leave Russian territory diminish – Ilinka Leger
On September 26, cases of arrests of Russian citizens were reported by The Bell newspaper as they attempted to cross the border between Russia and Kazakhstan to escape mobilization. On the same day, an armored personnel carrier was reported on the border with Georgia. According to the Russian news website RBС, the FSB justified the presence of the soldiers by its desire to prevent attempts to cross the border illegally. Earlier, on September 19, the Baltic countries and Poland had already closed their borders to Russian citizens with tourist visas for the Schengen area, followed by Finland on September 23, which announced the closure of its land borders to Russian “tourists” due to the influx of people since the announcement of “partial” mobilization on September 21. According to the editorial office of Novoy Gazeta. Evropa, between 21 and 26 September, 261,000 people left Russia.
09/26/2022: “Partial” mobilization sparks wave of violence in Russia – Ilinka Leger
On September 26, a 25-year-old man opened fire in a military police station in the city of Ust-Ilimsk, in the heart of Siberia. According to the governor of the Irkutsk region, Igor Kozbev, a military commissar who was present at the time of the attack was shot and is currently in intensive care. The shooter has been arrested by the law enforcement agencies. The number of incidents has been increasing since the announcement of the mobilization of the reserve citizens by the Russian authorities on September 21. For example, the newspaper Le Monde reports that 54 military police stations have been burned since February 24, including 17 since the announcement of the “partial” mobilization. Often attacked at night with Molotov cocktails, these recruitment offices hold the files of people who have completed their military service and may be mobilized. On September 25, thousands of demonstrators gathered in Makhachkala, the capital of the Dagestan Republic, to protest the mobilization of men from the region. Composed mostly of women, the rally faced the police who fired shots in the air to calm the crowd and arrested about 100 people, according to the human rights website OVD-info. According to this organization, 2353 people have been arrested during the anti-mobilization and anti-war demonstrations since September 21.
09/28/2022: The EU announced a new sanction package against Russia, including a ceiling on prices for Russian oil and steel – Enzo Padovan
On September 28, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, announced that the EU was working on new sanctions aimed at Russia. These sanctions are discussed following the referendums in Eastern Ukraine. Their results (a strong majority supporting the annexation of the 4 regions by Russia) are causing a lot of controversy in the West. Ursula von der Leyen has declared, on Twitter, that European countries were “determined to make the Kremlin pay the price for this further escalation”; a price that could, according to previsions, amount to 7 billion dollars. More precisely, sanctions could target imports from Russia, notably those from the steel industry. 40% of Russian steel exports, in the first half of 2022, went directly to EU countries.
According to the Moscow Times, restrictions on diamond trade were also envisioned. However, Belgium has bought, in 2021, roughly 1.8 billion dollars worth of diamonds from Russia. Therefore, the Commission has decided that the risk of such a ban represented, for the Belgian economy, was too strong. It has thus abandoned this idea. Nonetheless, it could become illegal for EU citizens to hold management roles, in Russian-state owned companies. Moreover, G7 States are preparing a ceiling on the price of oil bought from Moscow. Whatever are the sanctions, Europe has until December 5 to define their conditions. Afterwards, the embargo will become effective.
09/30/2022: Russia has signed agreements with the self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, as well as with the Kherson and Zaporijia oblasts, for their integration into the Russian Federation – Ilinka Léger
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech to Russian political and religious elites in which he accused the West of “colonialism” and “satanism”, as well as of having caused the current hydrocarbon crisis due to the sanctions established against Russia. He also mentioned Russia’s willingness to resume negotiations with Ukraine, while warning that Russia would not reverse the results of the referenda held last week in Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporijia. Representatives of the two self-proclaimed Donbass republics, as well as of the two Ukrainian oblasts, were present in person at the ceremony to sign the agreements on “reattachment” to Russia. Broadcast live on Russian television, the speech was followed by numerous official reactions condemning the annexation of these territories by Russia, including by official representatives of the former Soviet republics such as the President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, who said on her twitter account: “I strongly condemn & reject Russia’s attempt to illegally annex occupied regions of Ukraine following sham votes it staged at gunpoint.”