Russia in Review, Jan. 24-31, 2020

This Week’s Highlights

  • Russia has reported its first two cases of coronavirus, RFE/RL reports. In an effort to contain the spread of the virus, Russia has closed its border with China, suspended the issuance of electronic visas for Chinese citizens and is blocking organized tour groups from China, according to the Financial Times and The Moscow Times. Russia will begin evacuating Russian citizens from China on Feb. 1, according to Reuters, and is working jointly with its neighbor to develop a vaccine, RFE/RL reports. However, Russia’s leading airline Aeroflot continued flights to China and back as of Jan. 31.
  • While in Teheran to meet his counterpart, chairman of the Russian Duma Viacheslav Volodin announced plans to create a free trade agreement between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union, according to the Times of London.
  • Moscow is taking initial steps toward building a military port in the Horn of Africa that could become Russia’s first permanent base on the continent, the New York Times reports.
  • Russia and India are discussing the construction of nuclear power plants in Africa as the next stage in their cooperation in nuclear energy, according to World Nuclear News.
  • Twenty-seven percent of Russians want to see Russian President Vladimir Putin stay in power after his term ends in 2024, 25% want Putin to either return to private life or retire and 33% of want to see Putin retain some kind of political role, according to a recent Levada Center poll cited by The Moscow Times.
  • Russians’ real disposable incomes grew by 0.8 percent last year—the first significant increase since 2014, Rosstat has said, The Moscow Times reports. Russia's GDP in 2019 grew by 1.4 percent compared to 2.5 percent in 2018, according to the Ministry of Economic Development. 
  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov have moved to curb the powers of First Deputy Prime Minister appointee Andrei Belousov, according to bne Intellinews.Russian authorities identified cases when computers at Russian government organizations were used for mining cryptocurrency, a senior FSB officer was quoted by Kommersant as saying.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Kyiv said that the Trump administration was committed to supporting Ukraine in its defense against aggression by Russia, the New York Times reports, and denied that the Trump administration is making an invitation for Volodymyr Zelenskiy to visit the White House conditional on Kyiv opening an inquiry into the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden's family, according to the Wall Street Journal.


I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security:

  • Russian military prosecutors have sent to court a case of four former defense ministry servicemen who have been charged with embezzling nuclear funds, Kommersant reported on Jan. 27. The four will stand trial on charges of pocketing 350 million rubles from the ministry’s “nuclear complex” budget, according to this daily. One of the suspects is Oleg Sobolev who has served as a chief accountant of a military unit based in the Moscow region’s Sergiyev Posad district and which is part of the ministry’s 12th Main Directorate (12th GUMO), according to Kommersant. (Russia Matters, 01.27.20)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • The U.S. Congressional Research Service said that "Russia has skirted the end-of-2019 requirement to send North Korean labor teams home by issuing them tourism and education visas." The roughly 1,000 North Korean workers who remain in Russia do not constitute a violation of international sanctions on the DPRK, Russia’s Foreign Ministry insisted amid reported criticism from U.N. member states about Moscow’s implementation of U.N. resolutions. (UPI, 01.28.20, NK News, 01.31.20)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Viacheslav Volodin, chairman of the Russian Duma, travelled to Tehran where he announced plans to create a free trade agreement between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union. During the visit, Volodin met with Iran’s Majlis speaker Ali Larijani, who said “cooperation between Iran and Russia is very important.” (Times of London, 01.28.20, Teheran Times, 01.27.20)
  • “[We need to] offer Iran an agreement on military cooperation and urgently sell the most modern weapons so that no one dares throw anything in the direction of Iran,” Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, said. He expressed confidence that the S-400 or S-500 missile defense systems would be able to “close the entire sky over Iran.” (Al Monitor, 01.24.20)

New Cold War/saber rattling:

  • Two long-range Russian Tu-160 bombers capable of carrying nuclear missiles buzzed Canadian airspace on Jan. 31. (The Star, 01.31.20)
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the Pentagon does not intend to remove all its forces from Africa, amid concerns from allies that Washington could abandon the continent militarily while China and Russia “aggressively” look to increase their influence and as the extremist threat remains. (RFE/RL, 01.31.20)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump will seek a 20 percent budget increase, bringing the budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration to $20 billion. Head of the NNSA Lisa Gordon-Hagerty had argued internally for boosting the funds for nuclear weapons modernization in fiscal year 2021. (Digital Journal, 01.29.20)
  • The U.S. Navy has now deployed the new W76-2 low-yield Trident submarine warhead on the USS Tennessee in the Atlantic Ocean. (Federation of American Scientists, 01.29.20)
  • Russia’s Research and Production Association of Machine-Building (part of the Tactical Missiles Corporation) is working on extending the service life for UR-100N UTTKh ICBMs, which carry Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicles. (TASS, 01.31.20)
  • Last fall, a pair of historians revealed that yet another Soviet spy, code named Godsend, had infiltrated the Los Alamos laboratory where the world’s first atom bomb was built. The spy’s real name was Oscar Seborer. (New York Times, 01.27.20)
  • Moscow has expelled a Japanese man for attempts to collect "classified information," the Russian Foreign Ministry said Jan. 27. The announcement comes a day after Japanese police arrested a former employee of Softbank for allegedly stealing proprietary information from the company and giving it to Russian officials. (RFE/RL, 01.27.20)

NATO-Russia relations:

  • Russian news outlets have highlighted that this year’s Defender Europe exercise scenario is based on a war breaking out on the continent in 2028 between NATO and an enemy close to its borders. Referring to the magnitude of the drills, Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, compared them to the 1983 Able Archer, which resulted in Soviet forces being placed on alert. (Jamestown, 01.29.20)
  • Russia’s defense minister said it is sending out invitations to NATO states to take part in annual Moscow-led military drills called the “International Army Games.” Around 6,000 troops were expected to take part in the event that runs from late August to early September, the ministry said. (Defense Post, 01.27.20)

Missile defense:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin calls Russia’s Avangard hypersonic missile “invincible.” The U.S. military is looking to prove him wrong.  On Jan. 28, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced that it had awarded $13 million to defense contractor Northrop Grumman for its Glide Breaker program, an experimental effort to develop interceptors to take out highly advanced and highly maneuverable hypersonic missiles. (Defense One, 01.28.20)

Nuclear arms control:

  • No significant developments.


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • Backed by Russian air power, Syrian government forces have advanced in Idlib province at a rapid pace since last week, taking back dozens of towns. In the course of the assault, the Syrian army captured the key town of Maaret al-Numan and cut off the strategic M5 highway, which connects the major cities of Aleppo and Hama. (The Washington Post, 01.27.20, Reuters/The Washington Post, 01.31.20, AP, 01.29.20)
    • The assault has spurred some 700,000 people to flee toward the Turkish border, the U.S. special envoy for Syria said Jan. 30. (Reuters/The Washington Post, 01.31.20)
    • Mike Pompeo said forces of Russia, Iranian proxies, and the Syrian government “are conducting indiscriminate aerial bombardment and ground attacks that have trapped thousands of civilians under bombardment in Marat an-Numan, leaving them nowhere to flee.” (RFE/RL, 01.28.20)
    • Russian air strikes have killed at least 10 civilians in Idlib, according to the Observatory for Human Rights. Russia's Defense Ministry denied the report. (RFE/RL, 01.30.20)
    • Turkey may launch a military operation in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region unless fighting there is quickly halted, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Jan. 31. In earlier comments, Erdogan said that Russia is violating agreements aimed at stemming conflict in that province.  (Reuters, 01.29.20, Reuters, 01.31.20)
  • Russian and U.S. forces have faced off for what could be the fourth time in less than two weeks in northeastern Syria. Following the “skirmish” at the entrance to the town of Tal Tamr, the U.S. and Russian convoys reportedly headed in different directions. Russian helicopters and U.S. warplanes flew over Tal Tamr half an hour after the incident, the Anha news agency reported. (The Moscow Times, 01.27.20)
  • The case of a Russian general "intercepted" by the U.S. military in the Syrian area of Manbij occurred about 14 months ago and “is a good example of effective existing channels of interaction between the military of the two countries in Syria," Russia’s Defense Ministry said. (TASS, 01.25.20)
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel believes it is possible to hold a four-way meeting on Syria involving the leaders of Russia, Germany, Turkey and France in the first quarter of 2020. (TASS, 01.24.20)

Cyber security:

  • Russia’s communications watchdog has launched fresh proceedings against Facebook and Twitter over their failure to comply with local data laws. The social media giants could be forced to pay a fine ranging from 1 million rubles (approximately $16,000) and 6 million rubles ($94,000). (The Moscow Times, 01.31.20)
  • In 2019, Russian authorities identified cases when computers at Russian government organizations were used for mining cryptocurrency, according to Nikolay Murashov, Deputy Head of the National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents at the FSB. (Kommersant, 01.30.20)
  • Russia said Jan. 29 it had blocked Swiss email service ProtonMail, popular among journalists and activists for its focus on user privacy and high level of encryption. (Reuters, 01.29.20)

Elections interference:

  • A U.S. judge is asking whether Michael Flynn should be compelled to testify before the court considers whether the former general can withdraw from his plea agreement with the special counsel that investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election. (The Washington Post, 01.25.20)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia is ready to bring forward a meeting of OPEC and its allies to February from March to address a possible hit to global oil demand from coronavirus, Russia's energy minister said on Jan. 31. (Reuters, 01.31.20)
  • “The Nord Stream 2 project, which is already 94 percent complete, will be finished by the Russian side,” Gazprom’s deputy head Elena Burmistrova said. Russian officials’ estimates for the completion of Nord Stream 2 now vary from the end of 2020 to early 2021. (Financial Times, 01.28.20)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • The U.S. Treasury Department has joined the EU and Canada in imposing new sanctions on Russia in response to Moscow's "continued aggression toward Ukraine and attempted occupation of Crimea." A total of eight individuals and a privately owned railroad company face restrictive measures in the form of asset freezes in the U.S. There are now 692 individuals and entities, as well as their subsidiaries, blacklisted by the U.S. government. (RFE/RL, 01.29.20)
  • New U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan has urged Moscow to release Paul Whelan and accused the Russian authorities of "shameful treatment" of the former U.S. Marine, who is accused of spying. (RFE/RL, 01.31.20)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Real disposable incomes grew by 0.8 percent last year—the first significant increase since 2014, Rosstat said Jan. 28. The 2019 uptick compares to a negligible 0.1 percent increase recorded in 2018. Economists pointed to low inflation, which dropped from 5 percent to 3 percent over 2019, as the reason for the pick-up. (The Moscow Times, 01.29.20)
  • Russia's GDP in 2019 grew by 1.4 percent compared to 2.5 percent in 2018, according to the Ministry of Economic Development. Independent studies suggest real GDP growth was just 1.2 percent last year and will be around 1.6 percent this year and 1.8 percent in 2021. (Financial Times, 01.29.20, Finam, 01.28.20)
  • Since the end of 2015, Russia’s international currency reserves have risen almost 50 percent to $542 billion at the end of November, the highest level since 2011 and close to a record peak achieved in 2008. Thanks to a relatively steady increase in oil prices since 2014 and the successful implementation of the wealth fund, Russia had $124 billion saved up at the start of December—about 7 percent of GDP. (Financial Times, 01.29.20)
  • Since the beginning of 2020 foreign investors have brought over $1 billion into Russian funds. (bne Intellinews, 01.27.20)
  • Russia plans to allocate an additional 4.13 trillion rubles ($66.7 billion) as part of a nationwide effort to address its dwindling population in 2020-2024. (RFE/RL, 01.29.20)
  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov have moved to curb the powers of Vladimir Putin’s appointee First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov. Normally the first deputy prime minister would oversee the work of the Finance Ministry and Siluanov would have to report to Belousov. But in an unusual break with etiquette, Siluanov will bypass Belousov and report directly to Mishustin, making it the only ministry that will not be overseen by a deputy prime minister. (bne Intellinews, 01.31.20)
    • Mishustin has divided spheres of responsibility among his deputies. One can familiarize themselves with the division of labor at this Russian-language page of the government’s web site. (Russia Matters, 01.25.20)
    • The average age of the 31 members of the Mishustin government is just over 50, compared with 53 for the previous cabinet under Dmitry Medvedev. (Bloomberg, 01.23.20)
    • Mishustin and his family own 2.8 billion rubles ($45 million) worth of real estate in and around Moscow, Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said. (The Moscow Times, 01.29.20)
  • Twenty-seven percent of Russians want to see  Vladimir Putin stay in power after his term ends in 2024, 25 percent want Putin to either return to private life or retire and 33 percent want to see Putin retain some kind of political role after he exits the presidency, according to a recent Levada Center poll. (The Moscow Times, 01.31.20)
  • Russia marked the 76th anniversary of the Siege of Leningrad on Jan. 27. Mourners brought flowers to the Piskaryovskoye Cemetary, a mass grave where up to 500,000 victims of the siege are buried. (The Moscow Times, 01.28.20)
  • In a poll of recent Russian graduates conducted by the RAEX rating agency, 53.7 percent wanted to work for state-controlled companies and 28.4 percent wanted to go into public service. (Bloomberg, 01.23.20)
  •  Vladimir Putin has dismissed Gov. Mikhail Ignatyev. The head of Chuvashia drew criticism after video showed him dangling a set of keys to a fire engine above a firefighter, forcing him to jump. Lawmaker Oleg Nikolayev was immediately appointed Chuvashia's acting governor. (The Moscow Times, 01.29.20)
  • Russia’s Supreme Court will not review Moscow protester Konstantin Kotov’s guilty verdict, his lawyer said Jan. 31, days after President Vladimir Putin promised to investigate whether his conviction was lawful. (The Moscow Times, 01.31.20)
  • Russia has reported its first two cases of coronavirus. The cases were registered in the Zabaikalye region, which borders China, and in the Tyumen region bordering Kazakhstan. (RFE/RL, 01.31.20)
  • Russia is considering extending the maximum length of tourist visas from 30 days to six months to attract tourism. (The Moscow Times, 01.29.20)

Defense and aerospace:

  • On Jan. 22,  Vladimir Putin appointed Gen. Lt. Alexander Matovnikov to be Deputy Commander in Chief of the Ground Troops. He had been Polpred in the North Caucasus Federal District since mid-2018 and Commander of Special Operations Forces from 2015 to 2018. (Russian Defense Policy, 01.29.20)
  • Igor Ozar, who has been managing Russia’s Sukhoi aircraft designer and maker since 2011, will be replaced at this post by Ilya Tarasenko, deputy general director of the MiG corporation. (Vedomosti, 01.30.20)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Five former Moscow police officers have been detained in the high-profile drug-trafficking case against Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, who was arrested and then released amid a public outcry and allegations of police corruption. (RFE/RL, 01.29.20)
  • Russian authorities have issued an arrest warrant on embezzlement charges for Boris Mints, the billionaire businessman who now lives in London, TASS reported Jan. 30. In 2019, the High Court in London blocked $572 million worth of assets belonging to Mints and his three sons. (The Moscow Times, 01.30.20)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • Vietnam signed a $350 million deal last year to buy a dozen combat training aircraft from Russia, Vedomosti reported Jan. 29. (The Moscow Times, 01.29.20)
  • Russia and India are discussing the construction of power plants in Africa as the next stage in their cooperation in nuclear energy, Indian Ambassador to Moscow Venkatesh Varma said. They could replicate the Rooppur project in Bangladesh, he reportedly said. (World Nuclear News, 01.27.20)
  • Moscow is taking initial steps toward building a military port in the Horn of Africa that could become Russia’s first permanent base on the continent. (New York Times, 01.28.20)
  • Forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a former Libyan military commander who leads a faction based in the country's east, shelled the Libyan capital's only functioning airport this week as they attempted to take control of Tripoli from the U.N.-backed government. The two sides have accused each other of breaking a fragile cease-fire put in place this month after Turkey and Russia, who back opposing sides in the conflict, called for a truce. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hit out at Abu Dhabi for bankrolling Russian mercenaries for Haftar. (bne Intellinews, 01.29.20, Wall Street Journal, 01.31.20)
  • Russia now handles more than two-thirds of Venezuela's crude oil, current and former administration officials said, including helping to conceal export destinations. Russia has provided Venezuela more than $300 million in currency over the past 18 months. (Wall Street Journal, 01.27.20)
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is weighing whether to attend  Vladimir Putin’s World War II commemoration parade in Moscow this May in a diplomatic test of his new government’s attitude towards Russia. French President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed he will attend the event, whil Donald Trump has said he “appreciates” his invitation. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also been invited. (Financial Times, 01.23.20)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met  Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss the U.S. peace plan for the Middle East. Netanyahu described his Moscow visit as symbolizing "further strengthening relations.” U.S.-Israeli citizen Naama Issachar flew from Moscow to Israel with Netanyahu after she was granted a presidential pardon and released from a Russian prison where she had been serving a sentence for possession of drugs. (RFE/RL, 01.30.20, Times of Israel, 01.30.20)
  • The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly voted in favor of the restoration of full rights to the Russian delegation on Jan. 29. (EU Today, 01.30.20)
  • The Netherlands’ supreme court has ruled that the rights to the iconic Stolichnaya vodka brand belong to Russia, not owner SPI Group, scoring a key victory for Moscow in one of the world’s longest-running trademark disputes. (Financial Times, 01.27.20)
  • The Levada Center asked Russian citizens: “Do you think Russia is a great power?”

Mar. 1999

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Difficult to say












China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?

  • Russia has closed its more than 4,000 kilometer-long (approximately 2,600 miles) land border with China over the coronavirus. The closure of the 16 border crossings was to come into effect at midnight on Jan. 31. (RFE/RL, 01.30.20,  Financial Times, 01.30.20)
    • Russia’s foreign ministry has suspended the issuance of electronic visas for Chinese citizens, who were previously able to use the permits to enter the country in St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad and at multiple south Asia crossing points. (Financial Times, 01.30.20)
    • Russia is blocking organized tour groups from China over the coronavirus outbreak. (The Moscow Times, 01.28.20)
    • Russia’s state railway operator on Jan. 30 cancelled a decision to halt rail freight shipments between Russia and China over coronavirus fears after the Transport Ministry intervened. (Reuters, 01.30.20)
    • Russia said on Jan. 31 it would begin moving its citizens out of China via its Far Eastern region on Feb. 1 in response to the outbreak. At least 140 Russian citizens are currently in Hubei. (Reuters, 01.31.20, The Moscow Times, 01.27.20)
    • Russia has received the genome of the coronavirus from China and is working jointly with its neighbor to develop a vaccine. (RFE/RL, 01.29.20)
  • Russia’s trade with China has risen 53 percent in the last three years to $107 billion in 2019.  (Financial Times, 01.29.20)
  • China has leapfrogged Russia to become the world’s second-largest arms producer, according to SIPRI. SIPRI’s new research, based on what it says is credible financial information, estimates the scale of China’s 2017 weapons production at $54.1 billion. (The Moscow Times, 01.27.20)
  • Mike Pompeo declared the Chinese Communist Party “the central threat of our times.” (New York Times, 01.30.20)
  • Harvard professor Graham Allison writes in the Aspen Strategy Group's book on China that China's "entente with Putin’s Russia ... has emerged so rapidly since Xi came to power that many Western observers have missed it. The quality of coop between China and Russia has surpassed that of the U.S. and India." (Aspen Strategy Group, January 2020)
  • Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Robert Blackwill writes in the Aspen Strategy Group's book on China: "An American president who understood the China challenge'd ask how NATO enlargement'd affect Moscow’s interaction with Beijing [and] whether ever-closer Russia-China relations are consistent with U.S. national interests." (Aspen Strategy Group, January 2020)


  • In Kyiv on Jan. 31, Mike Pompeo:
    • Said the Trump administration was committed to supporting Ukraine in its defense against aggression by Russia.
    • Attended a wreath-laying ceremony for soldiers who have died fighting in the Donbas.
    • Denied that the Trump administration is making an invitation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to visit the White House conditional on Kyiv opening an inquiry into the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden's family. "President Zelenskiy will be welcome to come to Washington when we have the opportunity to do good things for the American people and the Ukrainian people," Pompeo said. "We'll find the right time." He did not elaborate on when that could be or if an invitation had already been extended to the Ukrainian leader.
  • When Mike Pompeo, in a curse-laden tirade to a reporter Jan. 24, asked, ''Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?'' he was getting at an essential element of Donald Trump's defense in the impeachment trial. White House officials are convinced that Americans are indifferent to what happens in the struggling former Soviet republic, and they may be right. Pompeo blasted NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly for repeatedly asking him why he refused to express support for the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Kelly said afterward Pompeo berated her using profanity and challenged her to locate Ukraine on an unmarked map, which Kelly said she did. Pompeo said Kelly lied in setting up an interview with him on Jan. 24, but email records indicate that Pompeo’s staff was aware that she would ask Pompeo about several topics in the interview and raised no objections, contrary to Pompeo’s characterization. (The Washington Post, 01.26.20, New York Times, 01.26.20)
  • Donald Trump asked dinner guests how long Ukraine would be able to resist Russian aggression, according to a tape recorded at a 2018 gathering with donors. “How long would they last in a fight with Russia?” Trump is heard asking. Someone is heard on the tape saying, “Without us, not very long."  (RFE/RL, 01.26.20)
  • Donald Trump told his then-national security adviser John Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by Bolton. Bolton privately told Attorney General William Barr last year that he had concerns that Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to the manuscript. (New York Times, 01.27.20, New York Times, 01.26.20)
  • Mark Paoletta, general counsel at the White House Office of Management and Budget, signed off on the delay of security assistance to Ukraine, overruling the objections of some career staffers at the OMB and the Pentagon. (The Washington Post, 01.28.20)
  • The U.S. last year resettled more nationals from Ukraine, a country that barely registers in U.N. assessments of the global refugee crisis, than it did almost any other nationality. Only people fleeing Congo and Myanmar outnumber the flow of Ukrainian refugees to the U.S. The 4,451 Ukrainians who arrived in the U.S. during fiscal 2019 made up 15 percent of the 30,000 total refugees who resettled in the country. In 2016, Ukrainians accounted for just 3 percent. (The Washington Post, 01.30.20)
  • Dmitry Kozak, a former Russian deputy prime minister, was appointed to a newly created position in the Russian presidential administration last week. The promotion has been welcomed by Kyiv as a signal of renewed willingness in Moscow to resolve the conflict between the two countries. The announcement was followed by reports of the resignation of Vladimir Putin’s chief negotiator on Ukraine Vladislav Surkov. (Financial Times, 01.29.20)
    • Surkov is still de jure a presidential aide, and the adjustment of nuances concerning the distribution of duties between top officials in the presidential office, including those in charge of the relationship with Ukraine, is continuing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. (Interfax, 01.28.20)
    • “Zelenskiy’s guys just associate all the problems with Surkov. They don’t get who they’re dealing with,” a Kremlin official said. “Of course they won’t give the territories back. It’s a fantasy.” (Financial Times, 01.29.20)
  • In a statement Jan. 26, the Ukrainian military said one soldier was killed and another wounded by gunfire, while in a separate incident another soldier was killed and another wounded by an improvised explosive device in Donbas. (RFE/RL, 01.26.20)
  • Former Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson in Ukraine and the Trilateral Contact Group Martin Sajdik said that in 2019, the smallest number of civilian casualties in the Donbas conflict was recorded, with 19 killed and 128 wounded. (Interfax, 01.28.20)
  • Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, has said he wants to visit the front line in the war zone of eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 01.29.20)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in Krakow, Poland it was an honor for him to meet with Holocaust survivors, telling them on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp's liberation that they are a living testament to the strength of humanity. The Kremlin Jan. 28 lashed out at the Ukrainian president for blaming both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union for triggering World War II. (RFE/RL, 01.27.20, Telegraph, 01.28.20)
  • The ratio of Ukraine’s state and state-guaranteed debt to the forecasted GDP at the end of 2019 is about 50 percent, and the public debt is 44 percent compared to 60.9 percent and 52.3 percent at the end of 2018 respectively, the Ministry of Finance has said. (Interfax, 01.28.20)
  • Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov has bought a 200 million euro villa on the French Riviera from the Campari group, in the latest example of the ultra-wealthy plowing money into real estate. (Financial Times, 01.27.20)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • France has rejected suggestions that the Eastern Partnership could lead to EU membership for countries included in the program, and insists that half of its future funding goes to environmental investments. (RFE/RL, 01.27.20)
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has accused Moscow of pressuring his country to merge with Russia and he vowed he would never let it happen. Lukashenko, speaking on Jan. 24 to workers at a paper plant in eastern Belarus, slammed Russia, the country's main provider of cheap oil and natural gas, for exploiting Minsk's reliance on oil deliveries to force it to be "dissolved" into Russia. (RFE/RL, 01.25.20)
  • Kazatomprom intends to sell its 50 percent interest (minus one share) in Uranium Enrichment Centre JSC to its partner in the joint venture, TVEL, for 6.3 billion rubles (about $100 million). TVEL is the nuclear fuel manufacturer subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom. (World Nuclear News, 01.31.20)
  • Kazakhstan says it is suspending all forms of passenger travel to and from neighboring China, as an outbreak of a new coronavirus continues to widen. (RFE/RL, 01.29.20)
  • Tajik police have arrested 113 people on suspicion of being members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group. (RFE/RL, 01.28.20)
  • Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has promised to provide citizenship to individuals who moved to the Central Asian nation prior to 1995 and have resided there since. (RFE/RL, 01.24.20)
  • U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Jeanne Shaheen have expressed concerns in a letter to Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia over recent events that indicate "a backsliding" on the Caucasus country's commitment to build the institutions of democracy, the second such letter to Tbilisi in just over a week. (RFE/RL, 01.30.20)


IV. Quoteworthy

  • No significant developments.