Russia in Review, June 1-8, 2018

This Week’s Highlights:

  • “We have a world to run and the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out, they can let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table,” U.S. President Donald Trump said.
  • Putin says China’s Belt and Road initiative should lead to fair results when coupled with the Eurasian Economic Union.
  • India has declared its intention to disregard recent U.S. sanctions against Moscow and further the acquisition of five Russian S-400 Triumf self-propelled surface-to-air missile systems.
  • A Russian force that deployed on Syria’s border with Lebanon has reportedly withdrawn and been replaced by Syrian troops.
  • Non-NATO member Israel is participating in Saber Strike, a major U.S.-led military exercise in Eastern Europe, for the first time.
  • Russia and the United Arab Emirates signed a declaration proclaiming the establishment of a strategic partnership.

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Finland will host the executive meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism on June 11-12, according to the country’s foreign ministry. “International cooperation is necessary to combat nuclear threats and it is very positive that Russia and the United States co-lead the work of this network,” Finland’s Foreign Minister Timo Soin said. (Russia Matters, 06.08.18)
  • The Pilot Demonstration Center at the Mining and Chemical Combine in Zheleznogorsk successfully completed a test run of its reprocessing line. It reprocessed a spent fuel assembly delivered from the VVER-1000 reactor at Balakovo NPP. According to Rosatom, the Center will use a new reprocessing technology that does not produce liquid radioactive waste. (IPFM Blog, 06.02.18)
  • The U.S. Energy Department's plans for plutonium pit production and for disposal of 34 tons of surplus plutonium are facing challenges in Congress as well as from litigation by South Carolina. (IPFM Blog, 06.02.18)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. should reward Pyongyang if it suspends nuclear and missile tests. Putin says Moscow has “big hopes” for the success of the meeting set for June 12. He noted that Russia, as a nation that shares a border with North Korea, is frightened by the prospect of a conflict. As to speculation that Putin might meet Kim at a regional security summit in China this weekend, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said no such meeting is planned. (AP, 06.04.18)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Iran says it has informed the U.N. nuclear agency that it has launched the process of increasing its capacity to enrich uranium in case the 2015 agreement that curbed its nuclear program collapses. French President Emmanuel Macron has warned of the potential for "conflict" following this announcement. IAEA has reiterated its call for Iran to provide "timely and proactive cooperation" on inspections that are part of the 2015 nuclear deal. (RFE/RL, 06.05.18, RFE/RL, 06.04.18, RFE/RL, 06.06.18)
  • In a letter to top U.S. administration officials, the foreign and finance ministers of Germany, France and Britain, as well the EU have asked the U.S. to spare EU firms doing business with Iran from punitive measures. (RFE/RL, 06.06.18)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • NATO defense ministers have agreed to moves to protect the alliance and its allies against increased threats from Russia and to bolster combat readiness by easing the transport of troops across Europe in the event of a crisis. The measures would reinforce NATO's presence in a potential European crisis with the deployment of 30 troop battalions, 30 squadrons of aircraft and 30 warships within 30 days—the so-called "Four 30s" plan. (RFE/RL, 06.07.18)
  • “NATO will never turn off dialogue with Russia. NATO will never turn its back on trying to make better relations with Russia,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters en route to a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on June 6. “But when we see what has gone on in the American elections and some European elections certainly, when we see other aspects of the Russians changing borders in Europe through the force of arms, then NATO has to respond,” he said. (The Moscow Times, 06.07.18)
  • Gen. Joseph Dunford, current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, met June 8 in Finland as part of talks designed to prevent regional conflicts from escalating. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the parties had "a thorough discussion of the European security situation" and "emphasized the importance of a direct telephone line established last November, which helps build mutual trust and increase transparency amid growing military activities in the Baltic Sea area." The two generals also exchanged views on ways to prevent military incidents and the situation in Syria, as well as touching upon bilateral cooperation. (AP, 06.08.18, RFE/RL, 06.07.18, TASS, 06.08.18)
  • Speaking during an annual live television phone-in with the Russian people, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of upsetting the strategic nuclear balance, and said nobody should take any hasty steps: "The understanding that a third world war could be the end of civilization should restrain us." (The Moscow Times, 06.07.18)
  • A major U.S.-led military exercise with 18,000 soldiers from 19 primarily NATO countries has kicked off in the alliance's eastern flank involving Poland and the three Baltic states. Non-NATO member Israel is taking part in Saber Strike for the first time, with several dozen Israeli paratroopers being sent to Eastern Europe. The exercise began on June 2 and will continue until June 15. (AP/Haaretz, 06.04.18, Jewish News International, 06.06.18)
  • The U.S. Army’s new “Vision” for future war calls for a fast-moving emphasis on long-range precision fire to include missiles, hypersonic weapons and extended-range artillery—to counter Russian threats on the European continent, service officials explain, citing concerns that Russian weapons and troop build-ups present a particular threat to the U.S. and NATO in Europe, given Russia’s aggressive force posture and arsenal of accurate short, medium and long-range ballistic missiles. (The National Interest, 06.08.18)
  • The U.S. military is increasing spending on a secret research effort to use artificial intelligence to help anticipate the launch of a nuclear-capable missile, as well as track and target mobile launchers in North Korea and elsewhere. (Reuters, 06.05.18)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • No significant developments.


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin told his live televised annual phone-in with the Russian people on June 7 that Russia's armed forces would stay in Syria for as long as it was in Russia's interest. "We are not yet planning a withdrawal of these military forces," he said, adding that Russia could leave the country quickly if necessary. (The Moscow Times, 06.07.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is banking that he can persuade his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump that Russia offers the best chance to allow U.S. troops to leave Syria “very soon,” as Trump has indicated he would like to do. Preparations are underway for a U.S.-Russia presidential summit, where Syria may become one of the key issues for discussion, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says. Sources from the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper say the U.S. is ready to pull out the opposition from the southern areas and even dismantle its Al-Tanf base in exchange for the withdrawal of Iranian and pro-Iranian forces. (TASS, 06.05.18, AL Monitor, 06.03.18)
  • Air strikes on a village in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province killed at least 44 people overnight, the highest death toll in a single attack on the region this year. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian war planes probably carried out the attacks. The Russian Defense Ministry later denied its war planes were involved. (The Moscow Times, 06.08.18)
  • A Russian force that deployed on Syria’s border with Lebanon has reportedly withdrawn and been replaced by Syrian troops. (Haaretz, 06.05.18)
  • The Russian military has finally offered an explanation for its mysterious, and brief, deployment of Su-57 stealth fighter prototypes to Syria in February. The Su-57s conducted "practical" test launches of "promising multipurpose tactical cruise missiles," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. (Newsweek, 06.04.18)
  • A top Iranian military official has said that his country’s troops will not withdraw from Syria, despite reports that Russia and Israel had reached a deal that would see Iranian militias retreat from the southern part of the country. (Yahoo, 06.04.18)

Cyber security:

  • The Russian military is building a giant cloud, the latest improvement in its ability to keep operating if its connection to the global internet is lost, severed or hacked. “Russian Armed Forces will receive a … closed ‘cloud’ storage for proprietary and confidential information,” Izvestia reported this week. The cloud will rely on data centers, built with all-Russian hardware and software at an estimated cost of 390 million rubles (about $6 million) and slated for completion by 2020, the report said. The cloud will connect to the Closed Transfer Segment, the Russian military’s massive internal network. (Defense One, 06.07.18)

Elections interference:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump on June 4 asserted he had the "absolute right" to pardon himself, citing "numerous legal scholars," should the special counsel investigation implicate him in wrongdoing. On Twitter, the president added, "but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?" On June 5 Trump blamed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference, suggesting in a tweet that the probe could have been shut down by now if Sessions had not recused himself. Trump also said on June 7 that a special counsel was not needed to investigate Russian election interference and asserted unprecedented bias among the lawyers conducting what he termed a "Witch Hunt Hoax." (The Washington Post, 06.07.18, The Washington Post, 06.04.18, The Washington Post, 06.05.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump's attorney Rudolph Giuliani publicly pressed Trump's expansive view of executive power this weekend, arguing on two June 3 TV shows that the president probably has the sweeping constitutional authority to pardon even himself. (The Washington Post, 06.03.18)
  • Amid intense scrutiny of contacts between U.S. President Donald Trump's inner circle and representatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ivanka Trump's name has barely come up. But during the campaign, she connected her father’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen with Russian athlete Dmitry Klokov, who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and four sources with knowledge of the matter. (BuzzFeed, 06.06.18)
  • A federal grand jury indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Konstantin Kilimnik on charges of trying to influence the testimony of potential witnesses at Manafort’s upcoming September trial. The indictment charges Manafort and Kilimnik with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice, alleging that they this year “knowingly and intentionally” sought to influence the testimony of two unnamed potential witnesses. Special counsel Robert Mueller made the accusation in asking the court to revoke or revise an order releasing Manafort ahead of his trial. Mueller's charge originated with two veteran journalists who turned on Manafort after working closely with him to prop up the former Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, interviews and documents show. The journalists, who helped lead a project to which prosecutors say Manafort funneled more than $2 million from overseas accounts, are the latest in a series of onetime Manafort business partners who have provided damaging evidence to Mueller. (Wall Street Journal, 06.08.18, RFE/RL, 06.06.18, New York Times, 06.07.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said in reference to alleged election interference by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a restaurateur close to Putin and the alleged brain behind the pro-Kremlin “troll factory”: “Could it be that the media and political standards of Western countries have fallen to such low levels that a Russian restaurant owner can sway voters in a European country or the United States? Isn’t that ridiculous?” (The Moscow Times, 06.05.18)
  • U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan says there’s no evidence of collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. (AP, 06.07.18)
  • The U.S. Justice Department says it will offer a third classified briefing for lawmakers next week on the FBI’s handling of its Russia probe. (AP, 06.07.18)
  • Stefan A. Halper, a longtime source of information for U.S. intelligence and law enforcement personnel, used his position at the University of Cambridge to reach out to three Trump advisers in 2016, introducing himself as a scholar interested in discussing foreign policy. (The Washington Post, 06.05.18)
  • A former Senate Intelligence Committee aide was arrested on June 7 in an investigation of classified information leaks where prosecutors also secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records. It appeared that the FBI was investigating how the reporter, Ali Watkins, learned that Russian spies in 2013 had tried to recruit Carter Page, a former Trump foreign policy adviser. (New York Times, 06.07.18)

Energy exports:

  • The Trump administration is edging closer to imposing sanctions on energy companies from Germany and other European countries in a bid to scuttle the construction of a politically contentious Russian gas pipeline across the Baltic. “They will stop at nothing to block Nord Stream,” one source said, referring to members of the Trump White House. One of the officials leading the push for sanctions is Wess Mitchell, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. (Foreign Policy, 06.01.18)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

Other bilateral issues:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump said on June 8 that Russia should also be attending a Group of Seven nations summit. "You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run and the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out, they can let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table," he told reporters before leaving for the summit. (The Moscow Times, 06.08.18)
    • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, on U.S. President Donald Trump's remark that Russia should be attending a G7 meeting, said: "Russia is focused on other formats, apart from the G7.” (Reuters, 06.08.18)
  • The White House is reportedly planning for a potential summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a meeting that would bring to the international stage one of the world's most enigmatic political relationships. A senior administration official said June 1 that Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, has been in Washington to help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. The planning is still at an early stage, the official said, with the two nations needing to agree on a date and location. (Wall Street Journal, 06.02.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed political ructions in the U.S. for difficulties in arranging a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. Asked by Austrian broadcaster ORF why it was taking so long to arrange, he said: "You have to ask our colleagues in the USA. In my view it is the consequence of the fierce domestic political contest in the United States." (Reuters, 06.04.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 4 signed into law counter-sanctions legislation that was drawn up by lawmakers in response to U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia in April. (Reuters, 06.04.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said on June 7 that he had warned European countries years ago about the risk of the U.S. imposing its rules on others, and that they were now paying the price for ignoring him. Speaking during an annual live television phone-in with the Russian people, Putin likened the tariffs that Washington imposed last week on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the EU to economic sanctions. “In essence, these are sanctions,” Putin said of the tariffs. “What, did they 'annex Crimea,' as many of our partners say?” On Western sanctions against Russia, Putin said: "It is because Russia is seen as a threat, because Russia is seen as becoming a competitor. I believe this approach is mistaken. Instead of restraining whoever, it would be better to establish constructive cooperation, and then the overall effect on the global economy would be positive.” (The Moscow Times, 06.07.17, The Washington Post, 06.07.18)
  • The U.S. Treasury Department has granted investors in the sanctioned Russian firm En+ Group and its subsidiary EuroSibEnergo a reprieve from an impending June 5 deadline, saying they have until October 23 to divest their holdings. (RFE/RL, 06.05.18)
  • Russian aluminum producer Rusal faces a struggle to retain control of its lucrative stake in metals giant Norilsk Nickel after U.S. sanctions threatened its ability to service a debt to Sberbank, the Kremlin’s largest lender. (Financial Times, 06.08.18)
  • Swiss banks have reportedly frozen $1 billion in the accounts of Russian metals tycoon Viktor Vekselberg over fears that they may be fined following U.S. sanctions against Vekselberg. (The Moscow Times, 06.05.18)
  • A Russian space capsule carrying three astronauts has docked with the International Space Station two days after it was launched from Kazakhstan. (AP, 06.08.18)
  • A Florida man has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for conspiring to illegally export military-grade equipment to Russia. A U.S. Attorney's Office news release said June 4 that 32-year-old Vladimir Nevidomy was sentenced in Miami federal court to 26 months in prison. He pleaded guilty in March. (AP, 06.05.18)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has skirted a question about a possibility that he could stay at the helm beyond 2024. Speaking in an interview with the Austrian ORF television broadcast on June 4, Putin said he wouldn’t comment on speculations that a referendum could keep him in power after his current term ends. (AP, 06.05.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top priority and his "Russian dream" are focused on improving the lives of the country’s people as much as possible. (TASS, 06.06.18).
  • In a poll conducted in May, the Levada Center found that 51 percent of those surveyed fully or partially disapprove of Dmitry Medvedev's re-appointment as prime minister, while 41 percent fully or partially support it. (RFE/RL, 06.04.18)
  • A 51-year-old Russian electrician has received a two-year suspended sentence for online posts critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin. (The Moscow Times, 06.06.18)
  • Russian officials are reportedly destroying the records of gulag prisoners under a secret order passed in 2014, Russian media have reported. (The Moscow Times, 06.08.18)
  • The president of soccer's world governing body has downplayed concerns about racism, human rights and security, and instead praised Russia, saying it is "100 percent ready" to host the World Cup next week. Russia will host the tournament from June 14 to July 15 at 12 stadiums in 11 cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi. (RFE/RL, 06.07.18)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile crashed in four out of four tests, according to a recent U.S. intelligence report. (Arms Control Center, 06.06.18)
  • The U.K. Defense Journal reports that Russia is planning to arm its Poseidon underwater drones, currently under development, with thermonuclear warheads. (Arms Control Center, 06.06.18)
  • Russia is sharply curtailing the number of Soviet-era tanks that it is planning to scrap from some 10,000 to as few as 4,000. (The National Interest, 06.06.18)
  • Russia’s military personnel and athletes are increasingly turning to ancient pagan beliefs, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church has warned. (The Moscow Times, 06.08.18)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russian authorities said two alleged militants have been killed in a counterterrorism operation in the North Caucasus region of Ingushetia. (RFE/RL, 06.08.18)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

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

  • Russia’s gas giant Gazprom and Austria’s OMV energy company signed a new deal to extend Russian gas supplies to Austria through to 2040. The deal was signed on the day of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Vienna, in what was his first trip to the West in almost a year. The previous gas deal with Austria was set to expire by 2028. Last year, Gazprom increased gas supplies to Austria by more than 50 percent to 9 billion cubic meters, from 6.1 billion cubic meters in 2016. The deal has earlier riled Norway as it would give the Russian gas giant access to the Norwegian continental shelf. (The Moscow Times, 06.06.18)
  • During an official visit to Vienna on June 5 Russian President Vladimir Putin asked Austria’s chancellor to organize a meeting with Trump there this summer and the White House is pondering the offer, a senior European official has said. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz accepted the request and pledged to approach Trump, according to the person. (Wall Street Journal, 06.07.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an interview broadcast on June 4, said he did not want to divide the EU as he prepared to visit Austria in his first bilateral trip to a West European country in almost a year: "We are far more interested in the EU being united and flourishing because the EU is our most important trading and economic partner," Putin said. (Reuters, 06.05.18)
  • "We will support opening up to Russia ... We will push for a review of the sanctions system, starting with those that risk humiliating Russian civil society,” Italy's new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said in his first address to parliament. Conte also  broke sharply with the EU at his first international summit on June 8 and joined U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for Russia to be reinstated to G7. (Reuters, 06.05.18, Politico, 06.08.18)
  • France's foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says Paris opposes any quick rethink of European sanctions imposed on Russia over its aggression of Ukraine, insisting that their lifting be conditioned on advances in the peace process in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 06.06.18)
  • Britain’s General Consulate in St. Petersburg officially shut its doors on June 7. The closure is the aftermath of diplomatic tensions between London and Moscow following the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal. (The Moscow Times, 06.08.18)
  • When asked about allegations of Russian involvement in the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would like "to be given access to our citizens, to Yulia, and we would like to have the opportunity to take part fully in the investigation." (The Moscow Times, 06.07.18)
  • Asked a question about visa problems experienced by billionaire Roman Abramovich in Britain, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his live televised annual phone-in with the Russian people on June 7 that Russian businessmen were being persecuted in countries like Britain, and that they would be better off in Russia along with their assets. (The Moscow Times, 06.07.18)
  • Russian billionaire restaurateur Yevgeny Prigozhin has reportedly set his sights on gold prospecting in Africa after high-level Kremlin meetings late last year. (The Moscow Times, 06.05.18)
  • New Delhi has declared its intention to disregard recent U.S. sanctions against Moscow and further the acquisition of five Russian S-400 Triumf self-propelled surface-to-air missile systems for the Indian air force. (Jane’s, 06.06.18)
  • Russia and the United Arab Emirates signed a declaration June 8 proclaiming the establishment of a strategic partnership, the Kremlin said. The document was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. (Xinhua, 06.01.18)
  • When Russia welcomed a Libyan warlord aboard its aircraft carrier last year, it looked like the Kremlin was throwing its weight behind a rival to the U.N.-backed government in Libya. But by that time a Russian businessman was already one year along on a quieter Kremlin-backed mission to court the official administration in Tripoli. Russia has staked a foothold in Libya's future by cultivating allies on opposing sides of the conflict. (Wall Street Journal, 06.07.18)
  • Egypt’s national soccer team, led by the Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah, has gotten a World Cup training base in Chechnya. For Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has spent a decade building a pervasive cult of personality at home, playing host to a national side in this year’s World Cup is a step toward his foreign policy ambitions: carving out a niche as Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Middle East and the de facto voice of Russian Muslims abroad. (Guardian, 06.07.18)


  • Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 8:
    • Xi and Putin signed a statement saying that “in conditions of a growing global instability and uncertainty” Russia and China will “deepen their consultations on strategic stability issues.” The statement also criticized the U.S. decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and said they would endeavor to keep it alive and ensure further trade with Iran. (AP, 06.08.18)
    • Xi and Putin oversaw the signing of several agreements, including a joint industrial investment fund. The Russia-China Investment Fund and China Chengtong Holdings Group have agreed to establish the joint $1 billion fund. (Reuters, 06.08.18, The Moscow Times, 06.08.18)
    • Xi gave Putin China's first friendship medal on June 8. "President Putin is the leader of a great country who is influential around the world," Xi said. "He is my best, most intimate friend." (The Moscow Times, 06.08.18)
    • “Cooperation with China is one of Russia’s top priorities and it has reached an unprecedented level,” Putin told Xi. In an effusive interview with Chinese state television ahead of the visit, Putin recalled celebrating his birthday with Xi following an Asia-Pacific leaders' summit in 2013, describing the time he “sliced some sausage” and drank vodka with his Chinese counterpart, signifying the growing closeness between the two sides. (AP, 06.08.18, South China Morning Post, 06.05.18)
  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit will be held on June 9-10:
    • Chinese officials said the SCO summit will promote Beijing's massive Belt and Road infrastructure project in Central and South Asia. The Belt and Road initiative should lead to fair results when coupled with the Eurasian Economic Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with the China Media Group in the run-up to his visit to China. (TASS, 06.06.18, RFE/RL, 06.08.18)
    • The leaders from the eight-member bloc are expected to address major global issues, including the tensions on the Korean peninsula, the Iran nuclear deal and U.S. trade policies. (South China Morning Post, 06.08.18)
    • Chinese authorities said Iranian President Hassan Rohani will visit Beijing on June 8 before taking part in the SCO summit in the northern Chinese port of Qingdao. The presence of Xi, Putin and Rohani at the SCO summit may facilitate talks about the recent U.S. decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. (RFE/RL, 06.08.18)
    • Joint efforts to combat terrorism are the most important aspect of regional cooperation, the head of China’s Ministry of Public Security’s International Cooperation Department said. “The threat of terrorism is the most grave security challenge facing the region,” Liao Jinrong said. (South China Morning Post, 06.08.18)
    • China and Russia expect to sign an agreement during the upcoming SCO summit allowing each other's transport vehicles to run freely in both countries. (Global Times, 06.05.18).
  • Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on June 4 called for more collective efforts by the five BRICS countries to promote global peace and stability.  Wang made the appeal at the formal meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers. The top item on their agenda was laying the groundwork for the 10th BRICS summit to be held in Johannesburg in July. (Xinhua, 06.04.18)
  • Russian and Chinese hackers have targeted South Korean entities, likely government groups, ahead of next week’s U.S.-North Korea summit, the FireEye cybersecurity researcher says. (Wall Street Journal, 06.05.18).


  • The U.N. Security Council has unanimously condemned the "continuous violations of the cease-fire" in eastern Ukraine and called for an immediate withdrawal of heavy weapons. In a resolution sponsored by France and Germany on June 6, the council also called for expanded U.N. efforts to help civilians caught up in the conflict. (RFE/RL, 06.07.18)
  • Speaking during an annual live television phone-in with the Russian people, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned neighboring Ukraine that if it tried to make any military moves against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine while Russia hosts the impending soccer World Cup, it would suffer. "I hope that there won't be any provocations, but if it happens I think it would have very serious consequences for Ukrainian statehood in general," he said. (The Moscow Times, 06.07.17)
  • When asked in an interview whether the Ukrainian problem could be solved if Ukraine declared itself a neutral country and would not join NATO, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "As for the neutral status, this issue is up to the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian leadership. For us, for Russia, the important thing is that there would be no military facilities in Ukraine that could threaten our security, such as new missile defense systems aimed at thwarting our nuclear potential." (Interfax, 06.05.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would not cede Crimea to Ukraine under any circumstances. Putin also blamed Ukraine for allowing Malaysia Airlines plane MH17 to fly over a conflict zone before it was shot down. (Newsweek, 06.05.18, TASS, 06.04.18)
  • Tensions are rising between Russia and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov. Russia recently accused Ukrainian border guards of acting like "Somali pirates" for detaining a Russian fishing vessel, while Ukraine says Russia is harassing merchant ships heading for Ukrainian ports. (RFE/RL, 06.06.18)
  • Envoys from Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia will gather in Berlin on June 11 to try to revive a stalled peace process in eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 06.01.18)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have discussed ways to boost defense and security cooperation between the two countries during a telephone call. During the call, Poroshenko again thanked the United States for delivering to Ukraine Javelin antitank missile systems. (RFE/RL, 06.02.18)
  • The strange cast of characters emerging in the faked assassination of prominent Putin critic Arkady Babchenko—including a Russia-hating right-wing priest and the director of a Ukrainian arms manufacturer—set the already bizarre case on a path to a murky, up-is-down mess of the sort that Ukraine seems to specialize in. Both the priest and the executive claimed to be working for Ukraine's intelligence services. Ukrainian officials at first denied that but, in the case of the priest, subsequently reversed themselves and admitted he had played a role. They would not say what. (New York Times, 06.03.18)
  • The leak of an alleged "Russian hit list" has stirred anxieties and raised more questions about the bizarre Ukrainian staging of journalist Arkady Babchenko's death after journalists on the list said they doubted its authenticity. The whole affair took a strange new turn on June 5 when a purported "hit list" of 47 people—mainly journalists and political activists—that the Security Service of Ukraine claims to have discovered during the Babchenko operation was leaked to, an opposition news site, and published online. (RFE/RL, 06.06.18)
  • A senior EU official involved in Ukraine said the staged murder of journalist Arkady Babchenko could undermine trust in Kiev if the government did not come forward quickly with evidence of what they claimed and the plot's links to Russia. A marker will be the July 9 EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels, where Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will need to show proof, if not before, the official said. (Reuters, 06.04.18)
  • Swinging axes and sledgehammers as a camera rolled, members of the far-right Azov National Druzhyna militia destroyed a Romany camp in Kiev's Holosiyivskiy Park on June 7. (RFE/RL, 06.08.18)
  • Ukrainian activist Oleksandr Kolchenko, who is serving a 10-year prison term in Russia on extremism charges that he and his supporters consider politically motivated, has stopped his hunger strike. (RFE/RL, 06.07.18)
  • The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's media freedom representative has expressed concern over an Internet post in which he said Larysa Sarhan, a spokeswoman for Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko, accused several journalists and other public figures of being traitors. (RFE/RL, 06.05.18)
  • Kiev and journalism watchdogs have strongly condemned the sentence given to Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko by a Russian court after it convicted him of spying. (RFE/RL, 06.05.18)
  • Ukrainian lawmakers have voted to dismiss Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk after a public spat with the country's prime minister, in a move expected to raise concern among the country's foreign backers. The moves came soon after the parliament passed a bill on a long-awaited anticorruption court, whose creation is a key condition in order for the IMF to distribute more aid. Oksana Markarova, the first deputy finance minister since 2015, had been unanimously approved as acting finance minister. (RFE/RL, 06.07.18)
  • With 13.3 percent, Batkivshchyna Party leader Yulia Tymoshenko has the most support among respondents who plan to take part in Ukraine’s presidential elections, according to a May poll conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation. Civil Position Party leader Anatoliy Hrytsenko is in second place with 9.4 percent, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pulled 7.6 percent. (Interfax, 06.05.18)
  • A Dutch court has authorized freezing Gazprom assets in the Netherlands as part of Ukraine’s effort to get the Russian company to pay a $2.6 billion bill. (Ukraine Business News, 06.06.18)
  • Through May, Ukraine cut its natural gas imports by 44.5 percent to 3.3 billion cubic meters, compared to the first five months of last year. (Ukraine Business News, 06.06.18)
  • Ukraine now rivals Argentina as the world’s second largest honey exporter. China has 19 percent of world honey exports, while Ukraine and Argentina each account for 10 percent. (Ukraine Business News, 06.05.18)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • A Swedish court has sentenced Uzbek national Rakhmat Akilov to life in prison for a truck attack that killed five people in Stockholm last year. (RFE/RL, 06.07.18)
  • Kyrgyzstan's supreme court has upheld the convictions of three opposition politicians in a high-profile case but reduced their prison sentences. (RFE/RL, 06.07.18)
  • Andrei Nastase, the mayor-elect of Moldova’s capital, called on "pro-European, anti-oligarchic" voters and forces to remain united for parliamentary elections later this year. Nastase, from the Dignity and Truth Platform, was speaking late on June 3 after winning the second round of Chisinau’s snap mayoral election that was seen as a test for the country’s political parties ahead of the general polls. (RFE/RL, 06.04.18)
  • Hundreds of people gathered outside the old Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi on June 3 for a fourth day of protests urging the government and the prosecutor-general to resign. The demonstrations were launched on May 31 by people dissatisfied with a court verdict in the case of two men charged with fatally stabbing a teenager. (RFE/RL, 06.03.18)
  • A court in Armenia has released a member of the Sasna Tsrer armed group from pretrial detention on bail. (RFE/RL, 06.08.18)

IV. Quoteworthy

  • "Recently one of Germany's famous and popular publications wrote that President Trump is pushing Europe towards Putin. If we take this together with an earlier joke, that Russia influenced elections in the United States, then this all taken together starts sounding pretty funny. We apparently influenced the election of the U.S. President, and then he gifted us Europe. Total nonsense. There's no way to describe this other than as a joke,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his live televised annual phone-in with the Russian people on June 7. (The Moscow Times, 06.07.18)