Russia in Review, April 2-9, 2021
This Week’s Highlights
- Russian President Vladimir Putin’s deputy chief of staff Dmitry Kozak and spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned Ukraine that Russia would intervene if Ukrainian armed forces were to stage an offensive on pro-Russia separatists in Donbass, while Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that Ukraine’s NATO bid “could also entail irreversible consequences for the Ukrainian statehood.” Ukrainian top brass denied planning any offensives in Donbass and accused Russia of amassing 28 battalion tactical groups near Ukraine.
- Putin plans to take part in a climate summit organized by U.S. President Joe Biden on April 22-23, Bloomberg reports, and the Kremlin is working on Putin’s address to the virtual summit. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in New Delhi, and discussed the global climate agenda, according to RFE/RL.
- Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said the Kremlin remains interested in dialogue with the U.S. on countering terrorism and organized crime, as well as on arms control, cyber security, the conflict in Syria, North Korea’s nuclear program, the JCPOA, climate and the pandemic.
- A report by the U.S. National Intelligence Council says Russia will likely remain a “disruptive power” for the next two decades, but its global influence may decline in the face of numerous political, economic and societal headwinds, RFE/RL reports.
- The U.S. Air Force has decided to retire the planes used for monitoring Russia within the framework of Open Skies Treaty, the Wall Street Journal reports. An internal memo to U.S. partners by the State Department said the U.S. would send the “wrong message” to Russia by rejoining the Open Skies Treaty, according to Defense News.
- In a joint venture with Stollers, a Russian firm, Ford will produce an electrified version of its popular Ford Transit van at a plant in in central Russia, The Moscow Times and Bellona report.
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda
- No significant developments.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:
- No significant developments.
Iran and its nuclear program:
- Talks to bring Iran and the U.S. fully back into the 2015 nuclear deal are making progress, delegates said April 9. “The #JCPOA participants took stock of the work done by experts over the last three days and noted with satisfaction the initial progress made,” Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy to IAEA said after the meeting formally known as the Joint Commission. The Joint Commission will continue talks on implementation of the Iran nuclear deal next week, he said. There were no face-to-face contacts between the United States and Iran in Vienna, according to Ulyanov. (Reuters, 04.09.21, TASS, 04.09.21, Russia Matters, 04.09.21)
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will discuss events involving the JCPOA and the state of affairs in Syria with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif during his visit to Tehran April 13. (TASS, 04.01.21)
Great Power rivalry/New Cold War/saber rattling:
- A report by the U.S. National Intelligence Council says Russia will likely remain a “disruptive power” for the next two decades, but its global influence may decline in the face of numerous political, economic and societal headwinds. The report described Russia as a “rising and revisionist” power alongside China, keen on reshaping an international order dominated by Western institutions and norms to fit Moscow’s desire for traditional values, noninterference in its internal affairs and a “Russian-dominated protectorate covering much of Eurasia.” The report, titled Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World, suggests Russia will continue to use information warfare to amplify divisions in the West. (RFE/RL, 04.09.21)
- The Russian Navy has for the first time fired long-range Kalibr cruise missiles on a ground target in the Sea of Japan, the Russian military announced April 6. (The Moscow Times, 04.06.21)
- On April. 7, France conducted massive drills of its strategic nuclear forces that mobilized as many as 50 military aircraft including WC-135 Constant Phoenix atmospheric sampling aircraft. (Defense Blog, 04.08.21)
- A Russian warplane has intercepted Norwegian electronic warfare Falcon-20 aircraft over the Barents Sea near the Arctic, state media cited the military as saying April 7. (The Moscow Times, 04.07.21)
- U.S. President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2022 budget request asks for $753 billion in national security funding, an increase of 1.6 percent that includes $715 billion for the Defense Department. (Defense News, 04.09.21)
- Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief security adviser Nikolai Patrushev has said Moscow has "good reason to believe" the U.S. is developing biological weapons along the borders of Russia and China. (Newsweek, 04.09.21)
- The Mil.Press FLOT publication issued its annual rating of combat capabilities of the Russian and U.S. Navies. The publication said Russian Navy combat capabilities comprised 50 percent of the U.S. Navy, which is a 1 percent growth from 2019. (TASS, 04.09.21)
- Aleksandr Korshunov, a Russian defense industry executive and alleged intelligence officer, has been added to the FBI’s most-wanted list for his alleged involvement in the theft of trade secrets from a U.S. aviation company. (RFE/RL, 04.03.21)
- No significant developments.
- No significant developments.
- The U.S. Air Force has decided to retire the planes used for nearly three decades to fly monitoring missions over Russia, taking a step that raises questions about whether Biden plans to rejoin the Open Skies Treaty. A State Department spokesperson said no final decision had been made on the future of U.S. involvement in the treaty. However, in an internal memo to U.S. partners at the end of March, the State Department said it would send the “wrong message” to Russia by rejoining the Open Skies Treaty. (Defense News, 04.06.21, Wall Street Journal, 04.06.21, Foreign Policy, 04.08,21.)
- The U.S. State Department released aggregate New START numbers from the March 1, 2021, data exchange. Russia declared 1,456 deployed warheads, 517 deployed launchers and 767 total launchers. In September 2020, the numbers were 1,447, 510 and 764 respectively. The U.S. numbers in March 2021 were 1357 warheads, 651 deployed and 800 total launchers (1457, 675 and 800 in September 2020). (Pavel Podvig’s blog, 04.01.21)
- The joint decision by Russia and the United States to extend the New START treaty gives hope for normalizing Russia-U.S. interaction, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said in an interview with Kommersant. (TASS, 04.07.21)
- Russia and China currently hold no negotiations on any multilateral agreement on nuclear disarmament, Russian Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov said April 7. (TASS, 04.07.21)
- No significant developments.
Conflict in Syria:
- Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recalled the “strong impression” that Putin’s stance on the Syrian civil war at the G8 summits left on him in a new interview. “Putin was never on his back foot against the seven other nations. Indeed, he appeared almost dominant,” Abe said. (The Moscow Times, 04.08.21)
- The frozen state of the Syrian conflict is fraught with a breakup of the country, while Russia is putting in effort to avert this development, Lavrov said March 31. (TASS, 03.31.21)
- No significant developments.
- No significant developments.
Energy exports from CIS:
- Ukraine from April 1 will no longer transmit gas to Romania since the required volumes are now being supplied via Russia's TurkStream 2 gas pipeline. Southward transit via Ukraine is now carried out only for Moldovan consumers. (UNIAN/Kyiv Post, 04.05.21)
- “A decrease in Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, either through renewables or diversifying to other gas suppliers, would undercut the Kremlin’s revenue generation and overall capacity, especially if those decreases could not be offset with exports to customers in Asia,” according to a report by the U.S. National Intelligence Council. (RFE/RL, 04.09.21)
U.S.-Russian economic ties:
- In a joint venture with Stollers, a Russian firm, Ford will produce an electrified version of its popular Ford Transit van at a plant in Tatarstan, in central Russia, beginning in 2022. Sollers told Kommersant that it expects some 4 percent of light commercial vehicles in Russia to be electric by 2025. (The Moscow Times/Bellona, 04.09.21)
- Goldman Sachs’ Russian outfit has reported its best ever year during the pandemic. Specific figures have not been published for the full year, but the bank had racked up a record 756 million rubles ($10 million) profit during the first nine months of 2020—a tiny proportion of its global profit of $9.5 billion. (The Moscow Times, 04.02.21)
U.S.-Russian relations in general:
- Putin plans to take part in a climate summit organized by Biden on April 22-23, according to two officials with knowledge of the preparations in Moscow. The Kremlin is working on Putin’s address to the virtual summit, though there’s been no final decision on his participation, the officials said. (Bloomberg, 04.06.21)
- U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and Lavrov met briefly in New Delhi, according to Russian media, and discussed the global climate agenda on April 6. (RFE/RL, 04.06.21)
- Asked how Biden could at once call Putin a "killer" and also work with him, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described a realpolitik approach. "The president is very clear-eyed about two things," he said. He needs "to hold Russia to account for any reckless or adversarial actions it takes" while being open to "areas in which it may be in our mutual interest to work with Russia." (The Washington Post, 04.08.21)
- Russia’s Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov will likely not return to Washington in the near future. "This is not a question of the next few days. ... The timing [of Antonov’s return] will depend on what steps Washington takes on the bilateral track,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. (The Moscow Times, 04.07.21)
- The relations between Moscow and Washington are currently at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War, but Russia is hoping that a constructive dialogue can be resumed, Patrushev said in an interview with Kommersant. Patrushev said the Kremlin remains interested in dialogue with the U.S. on countering terrorism and organized crime, as well as on arms control, cyber security, the conflict in Syria, North Korea’s nuclear program, the JCPOA, climate and the pandemic. (Russia Matters, 04.07.21, TASS, 04.07.21)
- The Kremlin regrets that the U.S. continues to artificially hamper the development of humanitarian and scientific cooperation with Russia, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. (TASS, 04.08.21)
- The Russian government has backed an extension of cooperation with the U.S. on the peaceful exploration of outer space until Dec. 31, 2030. The U.S. exempted a list of national security items from the export restrictions, including those in support of aviation and commercial space launches, until Sept. 1. (The Moscow Times, 04.05.21)
- A Russian spacecraft carrying two Russians and an American has docked with the International Space Station after a flight honoring the anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human to reach space 60 years ago next week. (RFE/RL, 04.09.21)
- Elon Musk has advised Russia to work toward “full reusability” in its Amur rockets, similar to that of his SpaceX corporation’s rockets. (The Moscow Times, 04.05.21)
- The Roskomnadzor state monitoring agency has filed 390 protocols against RFE/RL for failing to mark its materials distributed in Russia as the product of a Russian-government-designated "foreign agent." The Tverskoi District Court has so far upheld about 260 of the protocols with total fines approaching $1 million. Blinken has expressed his support for U.S. international media amid concerns over Russian efforts to shut down and muzzle RFE/RL. (RFE/RL, 04.07.21, RFE/RL, 04.07.21)
- Russia backed off a threat to block Twitter, signaling a pause in the country’s campaign to more closely control social media content. Twitter is now deleting content that promotes illegal activity or pornography at a faster rate, internet watchdog Roskomnadzor said. (Bloomberg, 04.05.21)
II. Russia’s domestic policies
Domestic politics, economy and energy:
- Russia has confirmed 4,623,984 total cases of coronavirus and 102,247 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information center. Russia on April 9 confirmed 9,150 new coronavirus cases compared to 8,672 cases on April 8, and 402 deaths compared to 365 on April 8. (The Moscow Times, 04.09.21, Interfax, 04.08.21) Here’s a link to RFE/RL’s interactive map of the virus’ spread around the world, including in Russia and the rest of post-Soviet Eurasia. For a comparison of the number and rate of change in new cases in the U.S. and Russia, visit this Russia Matters resource.
- The number of Russians who have died from the coronavirus has surpassed 225,000, the nation’s statistics agency reported April 2. The figure puts Russia third globally for the most coronavirus-related deaths after the United States and Brazil. (RFE/RL, 04.02.21)
- Almost 25,000 Russians who have returned home this year have tested positive for COVID-19, about 1 percent of all arrivals. (Financial Times, 04.09.21)
- “This will be such a message of ‘the new time,’ I would say, formulating a new coordinate system. Meanwhile, I’m sure that as always, it will analyze major current tasks, highlight key points and give direct orders," Federation Council speaker Valentina Matvienko said in reference to Putin’s state-of-the-nation address on April 21. (TASS, 04.06.21)
- Putin has signed into law a controversial bill that opens the door for him to potentially remain in power until 2036. (RFE/RL, 04.05.21)
- Putin signed a decree to remove Vyacheslav Bitarov from his post as head of the republic of North Ossetia, replacing him with former Sevastopol governor Sergei Menyailo, the Kremlin said April 9. Bitarov becomes the latest regional head to lose his post this week, joining the republic of Tuva’s Sholban Kara-ool and Ulyanovsk region governor Sergei Morozov. (The Moscow Times, 04.09.21)
- In the fourth quarter of 2020, Russia’s GDP declined 1.8 percent from a year ago, the Federal Statistics Service said April 1. That was less than the median forecast of economists for a drop of 2.2 percent. The full-year contraction was revised to 3 percent from 3.1 percent, the service said, also updating previous quarters. (Bloomberg, 04.02.21)
- Russia’s local bonds have dropped every day this week, lifting the yield on the 10-year benchmark more than a quarter percentage point in the period. The ruble was the biggest decliner in emerging markets April 9 against the dollar after the Brazilian real, Czech koruna and Peruvian sol, trading 0.6 percent weaker at 77.28 per dollar as of 5:38 p.m. in Moscow. (Bloomberg, 04.09.21)
- Foreign investors’ holdings of Russian government debt fell below 20 percent for the first time in six years at the end of March. (The Moscow Times, 04.06.21)
- Inflation climbed to 5.8 percent last month, official data showed, but the regulator worries caps are the wrong way to address surging prices. Russia’s Central Bank chief has urged the government to “abandon” price caps on food products “as quickly as possible.” (The Moscow Times, 04.07.21)
- Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has two herniated disks and has started to lose feeling in his hands, his attorneys said April 7, after they visited him in the penal colony where Navalny and his supporters say he is being denied proper medical care. (The Washington Post, 04.07.21)
- The Levada Center polling agency said 48 percent of Russian respondents consider Navalny’s sentence of two and a half years in one of the country's most notorious penal colonies to be fair. Only 29 percent of respondents called Navalny’s verdict unjust, according to the poll results. (The Moscow Times, 04.05.21)
- Russia's Constitutional Court on April 9 ordered stronger laws to punish repeat domestic violence offenders, saying both the penalties as well as protection for victims were insufficient. (The Moscow Times, 04.09.21)
- In Russia and in “much” of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, violations of the right to a fair trial remained “widespread,” with authorities citing the pandemic to deny detainees' meetings with lawyers and prohibit public observation of trials, according to a report by Amnesty International titled The State of the World's Human Rights. (RFE/RL, 04.07.21)
- Vladimir Litvinenko, the rector at the St. Petersburg State Mining University who chaired the committee that awarded Putin his doctorate in 1997, has become one of the new members of the Forbes billionaire's list with $1.5 billion. (RFE/RL, 04.07.21)
Defense and aerospace:
- A planned “combat readiness” inspection began in the Russian Armed Forces on April 6, according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The ministry described the drill as a “massive inspection,” to check combat readiness on the territory of all military districts and the Northern Fleet, in the Far North, on the Kuril Islands and Kamchatka. (Defense Blog, 04.06.21)
Security, law-enforcement and justice:
- No significant developments.
III. Russia’s relations with other countries
Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:
- Germany said April 8 it would talk to Russia about purchasing doses of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine pending approval from European regulators, without waiting for coordinated EU action. (AFP, 04.08.21)
- The backer of Sputnik V has demanded that Slovakia return thousands of doses after the country's drug regulator said the doses received differed from those being reviewed by the European Union's drug overseer. (RFE/RL, 04.08.21)
- Slovakia has reportedly turned to neighbor Hungary for assistance examining shipments of Sputnik V as a dispute widens over the reliability and consistency of 200,000 doses supplied to Bratislava last month. (RFE/RL, 04.09.21)
- Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said April 6 he planned to visit Moscow and China as part of his government’s efforts to ensure that its supply agreements for vaccines against COVID-19 are honored. (Reuters, 04.06.21)
- Russia will not invite foreign dignitaries to its annual World War II victory parade on Red Square next month, the Kremlin announced. (The Moscow Times, 04.07.21)
- Russia said April 6 it opposed sanctions against the junta in Myanmar, warning that punitive measures could spark a large-scale civil war in the country. “A course toward threats and pressure including the use of sanctions against the current Myanmar authorities has no future and is extremely dangerous," a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. (AFP, 04.06.21)
- Putin has expressed condolences to Queen Elizabeth II following the death of her husband, Prince Philip. (The Moscow Times, 04.09.21)
China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?
- "Russian-Chinese relations have achieved the best level in history, but these relations do not pursue the aim of creating a military alliance," Lavrov said following talks with his Indian counterpart on April 6 in New Delhi. (TASS, 04.06.21)
- Russia hopes India and China will find mutually acceptable political and diplomatic ways to settle the border standoff near the Ladakh union territory, Lavrov said. (TASS, 04.05.21)
- While China and Russia share a common competitor in the United States and other Western democracies, U.S. intelligence said Moscow and Beijing are likely to “shun formal alliances” with each other and other countries in favor of transactional relationships, according to a report by the U.S. National Intelligence Council. Such a flexible approach will allow the two countries to “exert influence and selectively employ economic and military coercion while avoiding mutual security entanglements.” As long as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin remain in power, Beijing and Moscow are likely to remain “strongly aligned.” (RFE/RL, 04.09.21)
- Russian space agency Roscosmos anticipates additional negotiations with China at a conference in June, building upon an agreement on lunar exploration announced in February. The February agreement, in the form of a memorandum of understanding, announced the intent of China and Russia to develop an “International Lunar Research Station,” likely at the south pole of the moon. (Space News, 04.04.21)
- Two Ukrainian soldiers were mortally wounded April 5 by a sniper in Donbass, according to the Ukrainian miliary. (Defense Blog, 04.06.21)
- Ukraine on April 5 denied reports that its forces had killed a five-year-old child in an attack on pro-Moscow eastern separatists, after Russia said it would launch an investigation. (AFP, 04.05.21)
- Ukraine said April 9 it would not launch an offensive against pro-Russia separatists controlling two regions in the east, as fears grow of a major escalation. "The liberation of the temporarily occupied territories by force will inevitably lead to the death of a large number of civilians and casualties among the military, which is unacceptable for Ukraine," Ruslan Khomchak, chief of the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said in a statement. (AFP/The Moscow Times, 04.09.21)
- The Russian military has deployed motorized rifle, artillery and airborne as well as likely tank units near Ukraine, according to a group of Russian military bloggers known as the Conflict Intelligence Team. “We haven’t seen such a concentration of troops since the hot phase of the war in Ukraine in 2014-15,” CIT said. (The Moscow Times, 04.07.21)
- The Janes defense publication said it located through open-source intelligence at least 14 Russian Armed Forces units, including Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems, that have moved or are moving to the Ukrainian area of operations since late March. (The Moscow Times, 04.09.21)
- The Ukrainian military estimates that Russia has deployed 28 battalion tactical groups in at least four regions including annexed Crimea. (AFP, 04.08.21)
- Russia’s Defense Ministry said April 8 it was moving more than 10 navy vessels, including landing boats and artillery warships, from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea to take part in exercises. (Reuters, 04.08.21)
- “I support the assessments that also exist inside Ukraine that the beginning of hostilities [in eastern Ukraine] is the beginning of the end of Ukraine,” Putin’s deputy chief of staff Dmitry Kozak said. “It’s a self-inflicted wound, a shot not in the leg but in the face,” he said. The senior Putin aide added that Moscow “would have to come to the defense” of Russian citizens in eastern Ukraine “depending on the scale of the fire.” (AFP, 04.08.21)
- When asked by Kommersant, "Does Russia have any ‘red lines,’ upon crossing which it'd be ready to openly intervene in the conflict in Ukraine?" Patrushev said in an interview published April 7: "We are not harboring such plans, no,” but he also vowed Russia would take "concrete measures as the situation develops." (Russia Matters, 04.07.21)
- On April 6, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Putin, warned that Ukraine joining NATO would “further aggravate the situation” in Ukraine’s restive east, adding that membership in NATO was “deeply unacceptable” for many citizens. On April 9, Peskov said “The Kremlin has fears that a civil war could resume in Ukraine, and if a civil war, a full-scale military action resumes near our borders, that would threaten the Russian Federation’s security.” Asked about comments by Kozak would likely act to protect civilians if they faced a potential massacre, Peskov said that in such a case, “all countries, including Russia, will take steps to prevent such tragedies.” (Financial Times, 04.06.21, Defense Blog, 04.06.21, AP, 04.09.21, RFE/RL, 04.09.21)
- Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned April 9 that Ukraine’s NATO bid “wouldn’t only lead to a massive escalation of the situation in the southeast but could also entail irreversible consequences for the Ukrainian statehood.” (AP, 04.09.21)
- Moscow and Washington remain in touch at a high level, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said April 5. (Interfax, 04.05.21)
- The United States plans to send two warships to the Black Sea in a show of its support for Ukraine amid Russian militarization along its border. Turkey said the U.S. had notified it that two warships would remain in the Black Sea until May 4. (The Moscow Times, 04.09.21, Bloomberg, 04.09.21)
- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said April 6 that he had called Ukraine's president "to express serious concern about Russia’s military activities in and around Ukraine and ongoing ceasefire violations." Stoltenberg expressed support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity but stopped short of clarifying whether NATO was ready to offer a MAP. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reportedly told Stoltenberg that a path toward NATO membership was the only way to end war in eastern Ukraine. Zelenskiy also urged NATO member states to strengthen their military presence in the Black Sea region as a "powerful deterrent" to Moscow. (Financial Times, 04.06.21, RFE/RL, 04.06.21, RFE/RL, 04.06.21)
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Putin to reduce Russia's troop buildup near Ukraine. Putin for his part "drew attention to the provocative actions of Kyiv, which has recently been purposefully exacerbating the situation on the frontline," the Kremlin said. (AFP, 04.08.21)
- EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell has assured the Ukrainian government of "unwavering EU support.” Borrell said on Twitter April 4 that he spoke by phone with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and added that he was "following with severe concern the Russian military activity surrounding Ukraine." (RFE/RL, 04.05.21)
- Lawyers based in Russia and in parts of eastern Ukraine held by Moscow-backed separatists have flooded the European Court of Human Rights with thousands of complaints against Kyiv for alleged rights violations in conflict-ridden Donbass, in what appears to be a coordinated campaign to tar Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 04.08.21)
- RFE/RL freelance correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko, who was arrested in Russia-annexed Crimea, has told a court he was tortured with electric shocks, beaten and threatened with being killed unless he "confessed" to spying on behalf of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 04.06.21)
- By the end of 2020, Ukraine’s GDP totals about $148 billion, which is only 81 percent of its 2013 level. (The National Interest, 04.06.21)
- George Kent, the deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state, said it is time for Ukraine to tackle corruption and weak institutions, including going after Dmytro Firtash, whose natural-gas holdings have made him one of the country's most notorious, and powerful, oligarchs. (RFE/RL, 04.09.21)
Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:
- Armenia's prime minister has asked Putin for help in releasing dozens of prisoners of war captured by Azerbaijan during last year’s brief war over Nagorno-Karabakh. (RFE/RL, 04.07.21)
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on Russia to stop denying entry to foreign reporters in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russian peacekeepers controlling access to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia via the Lachin Corridor have denied entry to at least 10 foreign journalists since February, RSF said. (RFE/RL, 04.09.21)
- The jailed leader of Georgia's main opposition force has gone on trial in a case that has deepened a protracted postelection political crisis in the South Caucasus country. Nika Melia's trial opened in Tbilisi on April 8 at a hearing held behind closed doors due to pandemic measures, with hundreds of his supporters gathered outside the courtroom. (RFE/RL, 04.08.21)
- When the exchange rate of Turkmenistan's national currency, the manat, fell to 40 to the dollar on the black market on April 3, it was more than 11 times the long-standing official rate of 3.5 manats per dollar. (RFE/RL, 04.08.21)
- The international retail franchise operator Alshaya Group earlier this year announced plans to set up a Starbucks coffee chain in Uzbekistan. And now, according to information provided by AFC Uzbekistan Fund, its plans have started to come to fruition. The company has determined a premise for its first coffeehouse and has announced a commissioning date. (bne IntelliNews, 04.06.21)
- Andrei Kolesnikov of Carnegie Moscow Center: “Russian authorities can no longer attribute all of Russia’s misfortunes to Western intrigues. It was once said that ‘never have Russians lived as badly as they did under Barack Obama.’ That’s definitely not true anymore.” (Foreign Policy, 04.02.21)