Russia in Review, Jan. 5-12, 2018

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

Nuclear security:

  • “My sense is nuclear terrorism remains among one of the most significant threats to the security of this country, to the security of our allies and to the security of our partners,” NNSA administrator Frank Klotz told a hearing at the U.S. House of Representatives Jan. 9. “The thing that keeps me up at night is the threat of nuclear terrorism. I mean, the devastating economic, psychological consequences of a dirty bomb or a nuclear device set off by a rogue nation would be horrendous.” (SEC Wire, 01.09.18)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has “won this match” in the contest to acquire nuclear weapons, as North Korea had succeeded in developing a nuclear warhead capable of hitting any target. (Bloomberg, 01.11.18)
  • Russia welcomed the results of the recent talks between South and North Korea, expecting the latest development to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. During their high-level meeting Jan. 9, North Korea accepted Seoul's proposal to hold military talks and send a delegation to next month's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. “North Korea's weapons are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, China or Russia,” North Korean delegation head Ri Son Gwon said. (Yonhap 01.10.18, Reuters, 01.09.18)
  • Andrei Tarasenko, governor of the Pacific Primorye region, has asked Moscow to allow an estimated 10,000 North Korean migrant workers to remain in the country despite U.N. sanctions. (The Moscow Times, 01.12.18)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif about preparations for a Russian-hosted Syrian People’s Congress. Cooperation between Tehran and Moscow has proved effective in the fight against terrorism, Zarif said at a meeting with Lavrov on Jan. 10 in Moscow. He also thanked Russia’s authorities Lavrov in particular for playing a role in reaching agreements related to the 2015 nuclear deal and said that Tehran calls on the nuclear deal participants to continue implementing it. (AP, 01.10.18, Reuters, 01.12.18, TASS, 01.10.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to agree this week to continue Iran’s reprieve from sanctions over its nuclear program. Iran's top nuclear official said Jan. 8 that his country might rethink its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency if Trump scrapped American participation in the 2015 nuclear deal. European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has urged "all parties" to continue complying with the deal. (New York Times, 01.08.18, RFE/RL, 01.12.18, The Washington Post, 01.11.18)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • Kevin Harrington, deputy assistant to U.S. President Donald Trump for strategic planning, reportedly proposed withdrawing some U.S. military forces from Eastern Europe as an overture to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the early days of the Trump administration. (Daily Beast, 01.09.18)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is holding negotiations with Washington regarding the New START treaty. Putin said that U.S. plans to re-equip some of its nuclear capable aircraft and submarines to carry conventional weapons has drawn Russian concern. (AP, 01.11.18)
  • The Trump administration reportedly plans to loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons and develop a new low-yield nuclear warhead for U.S. Trident missiles. The final version of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review is scheduled to be released in February. (The Guardian, 01.09.18, Huffington Post, 01.11.18)

Counter-terrorism:

  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • More than a dozen drones attacked Russia's military bases along the western coast of Syria over the weekend, an assault with foreign fingerprints, Moscow says. The Russian Defense Ministry said Jan. 8 that unknown militants used 10 sophisticated, armed unmanned aerial vehicles to target the Hemeimeem air base and three more against the naval facility in Tartus. The Russian military said seven of the drones were downed by air defense systems and the remaining six were forced to land. (New York Times, 01.08.19, AP, 01.11.18)
    • Russia on Jan. 10 identified opposition-controlled Muwazarra in southern Idlib province as the village from which the swarm of drones armed with crude explosives originated, and released photographs of the crudely constructed aircraft. Russia said it held Turkey accountable for the attack. (AP, 01.10.18)
    • “Engineering solutions used by terrorists when attacking Russian facilities in Syria could have been received only from a country with high technological potential on providing satellite navigation and distant control of firing competently assembled self-made explosive devices in [an] appointed place," the Russian Defense Ministry said. (New York Times, 01.08.18, AP, 01.11.18)
    • Russian Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov referred to the “strange coincidence” of a U.S. military intelligence plane allegedly flying over the Mediterranean when the drone attack took place. The Pentagon strongly denied any involvement. (AP, 01.11.18)
  • The Russian Defense Ministry said Jan. 12 that using drones, it had tracked down the rebels who attacked Russia's air base in Syria and struck the group with artillery while they were getting into a minibus in the northwestern province of Idlib. The Russian military also said it destroyed a rebel facility for assembling drones in Idlib. (AP, 01.12.18)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Jan. 11 that Russia should stop Syrian attacks on its opposition in northern Syria if he wants peace negotiations to succeed. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has also earlier called on Russia and Iran to fulfill their obligations under a peace plan for Syria and prevent attacks by Syrian government forces in Idlib province, saying the violations could not happen without their support. (Reuters, 01.11.18, RFE/RL, 01.10.18)
  • The United Nations expressed alarm on Jan. 11 about a surge of fighting and destruction in the Idlib province, the last major area of the country held by insurgents, where assaults by Russian-backed Syrian forces have put tens of thousands of civilians at risk. (New York Times, 01.11.18)
  • When asked how Russian military managed to conceal initial deployment of Russian aircraft to Syria in 2015, Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov told Komsomolskaya Pravda in a recent interview: “The operation was carefully planned … but we had practically no previous experience in transferring troops and forces to such a distance, to the territory of a state that does not border on our country. There was only one precedent in 1962—Operation Anadyr, when the USSR transferred troops to Cuba and we took that experience into account. … the whole thing took about one month.” (Russia Matters, 01.08.17)
  • Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov told Komsomolskaya Pravda that as many as 2,500 Russian nationals fighting as rebels in Syria had been killed in the past two years. (Russia Matters, 01.08.17)
  • Regarding the U.S. reaction to Russia’s proposal for military cooperation in Syria, Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov told Komsomolskaya Pravda: “We did not see any desire to interact on their part even though, of course, this would have generated great benefits, joint planning, strikes, conducting operations.” (Russia Matters, 01.08.17)
  • When asked where ISIS members are going from Syria, Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov told Komsomolskaya Pravda that he believes “the main mass is relocating to Libya and countries of South East Asia,” while some also relocate to Afghanistan. (Russia Matters, 01.08.17)
  • Some 48,000 Russian military servicemen have been rotated in and out of Syria, including commanders of all Russia’s military districts and their command staff, Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov told Komsomolskaya Pravda. (Russia Matters, 01.08.17)
  • Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov told Komsomolskaya Pravda that the main military goal in Syria in 2018 would be the destruction of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. (Russia Matters, 01.08.17)
  • Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov told Komsomolskaya Pravda that the Russian military tested 200 various weapons during the Syrian campaign. (Russia Matters, 01.08.17)
  • “If we did not intervene in Syria, what would happen? … Several thousand of our ‘compatriots’ went there to fight. We would have to face this force already on our territory. They would operate in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Volga region. There would be problems of a much larger order. We broke the spine of ISIS in Syria. In fact, our armed forces defeated the enemy on the far approaches to the borders of our state,” Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov told Komsomolskaya Pravda. (Russia Matters, 01.08.17)
  • Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s representative to the EU, has urged the EU to launch reconstruction efforts in Syria within months, escalating a row over who should foot the bill for rebuilding the nation as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reasserts his control. (Financial Times, 01.09.18)

Cyber security:

  • The same Russian government-aligned hackers who penetrated the Democratic Party have spent the past few months laying the groundwork for an espionage campaign against the U.S. Senate, the Trend Micro cybersecurity firm said Jan. 12. The revelation suggests the group often nicknamed Fancy Bear, whose hacking campaign scrambled the 2016 U.S. electoral contest, is still busy trying to gather the emails of America’s political elite. (AP, 01.12.18)
  • Virginia-based cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect Inc. said Jan. 11 it had found early indications that Russia-based hackers may be planning attacks against anti-doping agencies in retaliation for Russia’s exclusion from the Winter Olympic Games. On Jan. 10, the Fancy Bear group began publishing what appeared to be Olympics and doping-related emails from between September 2016 and March 2017. (Reuters, 01.11.18, AP, 01.12.18)
  • Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, on Jan. 11 defended the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Sept. 13 decision to ban software from Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab on federal networks. Concerns about the potential threat posed by Kaspersky software have circulated in U.S. intelligence circles for years. U.S. intelligence issued more than two dozen reports referring to the company or its connections, with the Pentagon first mentioning the firm as a potential "threat actor" in 2004. (Wall Street Journal, 01.11.18, Wall Street Journal, 01.05.18)
  • The Lefortovo District Court on Jan. 12 rejected a motion for the release on parole for Vladimir Anikeyev, leader of the Shaltai-Boltai hacking group. (RFE/RL, 01.12.18)

Elections interference:

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators has expressed interest in speaking with U.S. President Donald Trump. However, Trump said that it “seems unlikely” that he’d give an interview in Mueller’s investigation. (AP, 01.11.18, AP, 01.09.18)
  •  “We're going to be very careful. We're going to be very, very, careful about Russia—and about anybody else, by the way,” U.S. President Donald Trump said when asked whether and what concrete steps that the administration is taking to make sure Russia doesn't interfere in the 2018 elections. “We are looking at all sorts of failsafes and we are going to make sure that no country including Russia can have anything to do with the result of the midterms or any other election.” (Wall Street Journal, 01.12.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 11 that messages exchanged between FBI employees working on a special counsel investigation into alleged Russian election meddling amounted to treason. “I also think that primary collusion, because there was no collusion on our side, the collusion was on the Democrat side with the Russians,” he said. (Reuters, 01.12.18, Wall Street Journal, 01.12.18)
    • In recent weeks, Republican congressional investigators have publicly and privately questioned senior Justice Department and FBI leaders about interactions with reporters covering the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. The goal, according to a half-dozen lawmakers and aides, is to expose any concerted effort by law enforcement officials to spin an anti-Trump narrative in the media through unauthorized leaks. (Politico, 01.09.18)
  • On Jan. 9, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, went around committee chairman Republican Charles E. Grassley to publish the transcript of a 10-hour closed-door interview in August with Glenn Simpson, founder of Fusion GPS, the research firm behind a now-famous dossier detailing Trump’s alleged Russia ties. Trump said Feinstein’s release of testimony on the controversial dossier was “underhanded and possibly illegal,” and he called on Republicans to “take control” of congressional probes. (The Washington Post, 01.11.18, Bloomberg, 01.10.18)
    • According to the transcript, an associate of U.S. President Donald Trump expressed concerns to the FBI about contacts between Russia and Trump’s presidential election campaign team, helping to trigger the probe. (Reuters, 01.10.18)
  • The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended on Jan. 5 that the Justice Department investigate for possible criminal charges former British spy Christopher Steele, author of the now-famous dossier. (The Washington Post, 01.05.18)
  • The U.S. will not be prepared to defend against possible Russian meddling in the 2018 midterm elections or the 2020 presidential contest unless it takes action now, according to a new report detailing the extent to which Moscow has tried to shape elections across Europe. The report, released Jan. 10 by Sen. Ben Cardin, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, draws from European experience to outline ways in which Russia's "malign influence operations" can be deterred. (CNN, 01.10.18)
    • The Kremlin on Jan. 11 dismissed a new report by Senate Democrats describing Russian interference in the U.S. and throughout Europe as unfounded, while some European politicians said they are mindful of Moscow’s meddling. (AP, 01.11.18)
  • U.S. Rep. Adam B. Schiff said committee Republicans had blocked Democrats’ efforts to subpoena Deutsche Bank for financial records related to President Donald Trump’s family on the suspicion that Russians “may have laundered money through Trump properties.” Democrats also were stymied in their effort to subpoena executives at Twitter. (The Washington Post, 01.11.18) 
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election is nowhere near over, as lawmakers probe issues including a June 2016 meeting between top aides to then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and a Russian lawyer.  (Reuters, 01.05.18)
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller has added veteran cyber prosecutor Ryan Dickey to his team, filling what has long been a gap in expertise and potentially signaling a recent focus on computer crimes. (The Washington Post, 01.10.18)
  • Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, says that U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, should testify in the Russia probe. (Newsweek, 01.12.18)
  • Michael Cohen, the longtime personal lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump has filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed for publishing an unverified dossier of allegations about Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. (AP, 01.10.18)
  • Former White House strategist Stephen Bannon has hired prominent Washington attorney William Burck to represent him as he prepares to testify to the House Intelligence Committee about his role in Donald Trump's presidential campaign. (The Washington Post, 01.11.18)
  • U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster says the Kremlin has launched a sophisticated campaign to influence Mexico’s 2018 presidential election, a video obtained by a Mexican newspaper shows. (RFE/RL, 01.08.18)
    • The Kremlin dismissed a U.S. allegation it was meddling in Mexican politics ahead of a presidential election there as unfounded. (Reuters, 01.11.18)
  • German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Jan. 10 that “attempts at disinformation in the digital domain,” some of which “originate from Russian sources” have worried Berlin. (AP, 01.11.18)
  • Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who calls her country the West's "eyes and ears" on Russia's northern border, said Moscow's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has put European democracies on alert for future meddling. (The Washington Post, 01.10.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the United States “screwed up” by backing opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s bid to get on the 2018 presidential ballot.  Russia’s embassy in the United States has earlier blasted public remarks by U.S. officials over the disqualification of Navalny. “In this regard, we wish to calm the ‘hot heads’ in America: demands to allow someone’s participation in the Russian elections [...] are unacceptable and are deemed as direct interference in our country’s internal affairs,” the Russian Embassy said. (The Moscow Times, 01.10.18, The Moscow Times, 01.12.18)
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry has accused the CIA chief of lying about Russian attempts to undermine U.S. elections. In an interview with CBS News published Jan. 7, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that the Kremlin has been trying to interfere in U.S. elections “for decades." (The Moscow Times, 01.08.18)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • The polar chill that gripped the U.S. East Coast this month has led to a tanker loading a cargo of liquefied natural gas in the U.K. for Boston, some of which was likely produced by the Yamal LNG project in Siberia targeted by U.S. financial curbs. The Gaselys tanker is due to arrive in Boston on Jan. 22 after loading fuel from storage tanks at the U.K.’s Isle of Grain. (Bloomberg, 01.09.18)
  • Seaborne exports of Russia’s flagship Urals crude will fall in 2018 to their lowest since the early 2000s as Moscow diverts oil from the West to the East and boosts supplies to China, plans by Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft showed. (Reuters, 01.12.18)
  • A drawdown in U.S. inventories and a pullback in production, combined with steady demand and the extension of OPEC’s global supply cut agreement, has bolstered the oil-market rally for several weeks, helping push Brent crude through $70 a barrel for the first time since December 2014. (Reuters, 01.11.18)
  • "I am for massive oil and gas and everything else, and a lot of energy," U.S. President Donald Trump said. "Putin can't love that. I am for the strongest military that the United States ever had. Putin can't love that." (The Washington Post, 01.11.18)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

Analysis and recommendations:

  • No significant developments.

Other bilateral issues:

  • The U.S. Treasury Department is finishing its first official list of “oligarchs” close to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, setting off a flurry of moves by wealthy Russians to shield their fortunes and reputations. Some people who think they’re likely to land on the list have stress-tested the potential impact on their investments, while others are liquidating holdings. Russian businessmen have approached former U.S. Treasury and State Department officials with experience in sanctions for help staying off the list. The U.S. is expected to penalize up to 40 Russian defense firms and intelligence agencies starting next month in retaliation to Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Bloomberg, 01.12.18, The Moscow Times, 01.08.18)
  • Russia has created an office to ensure continued military development in the face of new U.S. sanctions that are expected in less than a month.  (The Moscow Times, 01.08.18)
  • Russian authorities have destroyed 19,000 tons of food since 2014 in compliance with an import ban on certain food products from Western countries.  (The Moscow Times, 01.09.18)
  • Two out of three Russians say that their country has enemies, of which the United States is the biggest adversary, a new poll by Levada suggests. Of those two-thirds, 68 percent named the U.S. as Russia's biggest enemy. It was followed by Ukraine and the EU at 29 percent and 14 percent each. (The Moscow Times, 01.10.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump wondered online Jan. 11 whether his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton had a financial arrangement with the Russian government, suggesting in a tweet that evidence contained on Democratic National Committee servers or on Clinton’s infamous email servers had been destroyed. (Politico, 01.11.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was sued by a company tied to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who claims he was defrauded after giving $18.9 million to Manafort to invest in a Ukrainian cable television venture. (Bloomberg, 01.10.18)
  • Local authorities Washington have voted to rename a square in front of the Russian Embassy in honor of the murdered opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, drawing angry responses from Russian lawmakers. (The Moscow Times, 01.10.18)
  • The United States has ordered the Russian government-funded Sputnik news agency to register as a "foreign agent," the latest episode in a media war that has unfolded between the two countries in the past year. (The Moscow Times, 01.10.18)
  • The U.S. State Department listed Russia as one of the most dangerous countries to visit in a new travel advisory system released Jan. 11, together with states including Sudan, Pakistan and Niger. Russia is listed as a Level 3 country, to which travel should be reconsidered “due to terrorism and harassment." Reacting to the State Department’s report, Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Jan. 12 accused the U.S. agency of cultivating “blind fear of Russia among Americans.” (The Moscow Times, 01.11.18, Los Angeles Times, 01.12.18)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. says the Russian economy capped last year with two consecutive quarters of contraction—or a technical recession—a surprise cooldown that ranged from struggling consumer spending to a flop in industrial output. (Bloomberg, 01.12.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Jan. 10 that the minimum wage in Russia will be raised May 1 from 9,489 rubles ($166.47) at present to be in line with the minimum cost of living, which now stands at 11,163 rubles. (Reuters, 01.10.18)
  • Russia’s finance ministry said on Jan. 10 it has fully spent its reserve fund, as planned, in late 2017 to cover budget shortfalls. The finance ministry said it converted foreign currency in its reserve fund into rubles and channeled more than 1 trillion rubles ($17.53 billion) to cover budget deficit in December. (Reuters, 01.10.18)
  • The Russian Supreme Court has upheld its decision to reject an appeal by opposition leader Aleksei Navalny against a decision to bar him from running in Russia's 2018 presidential election. (RFE/RL, 01.06.18)
  • The Russian Communist Party moved to overhaul its geriatric image on Jan. 12, registering wealthy 57-year-old farm boss Pavel Grudinin to challenge incumbent Vladimir Putin for the presidency in a gamble it hopes will revive its electoral fortunes. (Reuters, 01.12.18)
  • Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox church, has called on believers to vote in the coming presidential elections in March. (The Moscow Times, 01.08.18)
  • Russia’s parliament has given preliminary approval to a bill that could oblige some journalists to register as foreign agents. (AP, 01.12.18)
  • Yuri Dmitriev, a Russian historian of the Soviet-era system of forced labor camps known as the Gulag, is scheduled to undergo enforced psychiatric testing this week, apparently having ruffled some official feathers because of his dedication to unearthing and publishing information about Stalin's murderous rule. (New York Times, 01.11.18)
  • Authorities in Chechnya are threatening the family of a prominent rights advocate who was detained earlier this week. Authorities are investigating Oyub Titiyev, chief of the local branch of the rights group Memorial, for drug possession, saying marijuana was found in his car after he was stopped by police. (AP, 01.11.18)
  • A St. Petersburg court has disbanded one of Russia’s largest labor unions, the Interregional Labor Union of Automobile Workers, over accusations that it received funding from abroad. (The Moscow Times, 01.11.18)
  • The European University in St. Petersburg was forced to hand over its main campus building to the authorities after losing the latest stage in a battle to keep its license. Critics say the private post-graduate school for the social sciences and humanities is being targeted for political reasons. (The Moscow Times, 01.11.18)
  • The Russian State Expert Examination Board has approved the operation of the floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov. Currently moored at the Baltiysky Zavod shipyard in St. Petersburg, the plant houses two 35 MW KLT-40S nuclear reactors, similar to those used in Russia's nuclear-powered ice breakers. (World Nuclear News, 01.11.18)
  • Three more of Russia’s next-generation Lider-class nuclear-powered icebreakers will be constructed in 2023 to 2025. (The National Interest, 01.06.18)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The long-range aviation of the Russian air force will receive six upgraded strategic bombers this year. (TASS, 01.09.18) 
  • Yevgeny Avrorin, a renowned nuclear physicist who played an important role in developing Russia’s atomic weapons, has died at the age of 85. (AP, 01.09.18)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • More than 1.9 million crimes were registered in Russia between January and November 2017, marking a 4.3 percent drop from 2016. Overall, crime in Moscow dropped by 20 percent in 2017, while the annexed Crimean peninsula saw a spike in crime of over 50 percent, according to data released by the prosecutor general’s office. (The Moscow Times, 01.08.18)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

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

  • Russia said on Jan. 8 it would contest efforts by the European Union to impose 1.39 billion euros ($1.67 billion) in trade sanctions over a World Trade Organization dispute. The EU said in December it was seeking authorization to impose the annual trade sanctions, alleging Russia had failed to comply with a WTO ruling on pigs and pork. (Reuters, 01.08.18)
  • A Dutch appeals court on Jan. 9 upheld a lower court ruling granting rights to the famed “Stolichnaya” vodka brand to Russia’s state-owned Sojuzplodoimport and stripping them from Luxembourg-based Spirits International. (Reuters, 01.09.18)
  • In Germany, U.S. President Donald Trump’s unpredictable outbursts of anger have already played into the hands of those long demanding normalized relations with Russia, despite its annexation of Crimea and election meddling abroad. The chorus of voices demanding an end of sanctions against Russia are growing. Moscow has had a strong lobby in Berlin for years, and doubts over Trump’s reliability could now become one of their strongest arguments. (The Washington Post, 01.06.18)
  • The Finnish government has voiced concern over surprise inspections on Finnish cargo ships visiting Russian ports in recent weeks. (Reuters, 01.12.18)

China:

  • Russian-Chinese trade grew by 20 percent in 2017 to total $84.07 billion, TASS reported, citing Chinese customs authorities. (Russia Matters, 01.12.18)
  • Chinese tourists were the largest single group travelling to the Russian Arctic National Park in 2017, according to Russian tourism association World Without Borders. (ECNS, 01.12.18)

Ukraine:

  • Ukraine's military said on Jan. 12 that one of its soldiers was killed and four wounded in clashes that took place in the eastern part of the country during the previous 24 hours. A day earlier, the military said three soldiers were killed by separatist shelling. (RFE/RL, 01.12.18)
  • Ukrainian naval aviation and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney held joint training in the Black Sea. (Unian, 01.12.18)
  • Two U.S. military aircraft—the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and the RQ-4A Global Hawk long-endurance drone—carried out a large-scale reconnaissance operation on Jan. 7, which included coverage of Crimea. (Interfax, 01.09.18)
  • Italy's foreign minister says he will visit Ukraine and Russia in the coming weeks to "intensify" efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as he took up the post of chairperson-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. (RFE/RL, 01.11.18)
  • Ukrainian law enforcement officers have detained a suspect in the murder of human rights activist and lawyer Iryna Nozdrovska. Yuriy Rossoshansky is the father of Dmytro Rossoshansky, who last May was jailed for seven years for a fatal road accident that killed Nozdrovska's sister, Svitlana Sapatynska. (Interfax, 01.09.18, Unian, 01.09.18).
  • A court in Cyprus has issued an order to freeze $820 million in assets held by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man, as part of a legal battle with a rival over the ownership of fixed-line telecoms group Ukrtelecom. (RFE/RL, 01.05.18)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev at the White House on Jan. 16. (RFE/RL, 01.09.18)
  • The speaker of Moldova's parliament, Andrian Candu, has signed legislation appointing seven new government ministers along with a law that bans Russian "media propaganda." (RFE/RL, 01.11.18)
  • A court in Azerbaijan has sentenced journalist Afqan Muxtarli to six years in prison after convicting him of smuggling and other crimes in a politically charged trial condemned by rights groups. (RFE/RL, 01.12.18)

IV. Quoteworthy

  • No significant developments.