Russia in Review, June 7-14, 2019

 This Week's Highlights:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump has told reporters he will meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at this month’s G20 summit, but the Kremlin says it has not received confirmation from Washington of a potential meeting, RFE/RL reports. Meanwhile, Putin says relations with the U.S. "are getting worse and worse" under Trump, according to CBS. The Moscow Times cites a new Levada poll as saying that the share of Russians who see the U.S. as an enemy has fallen from 78 to 67 percent over the past year.
  • The U.S. has agreed to station "about 1,000" more military personnel in Poland, but a joint U.S.-Polish declaration signed by Trump stopped short of calling the troops a permanent presence, RFE/RL reports. According to the Financial Times, Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the move a “severe blow” to the 1997 NATO-Russia Act.
  • Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and a U.S. counterpart, Andrea Thompson, met on June 12 in Prague to discuss arms control, the AP reports. Ryabkov expressed disappointment that the talks did not “form some kind of meeting calendar or a specific sequence of our actions.” Ryabkov also told the Wall Street Journal that resuscitating the INF Treaty was unlikely and ruled out new arms control deals with the U.S. "until the U.S. is ready for it." Prior to the meeting Ryabkov said the two countries’ presidents should jointly declare that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable, according to TASS.
  • Russian border guards, answerable to the Federal Security Service, or FSB, and the U.S. Coast Guard have carried out scheduled joint patrolling in the Bering Sea, TASS reports.
  • Putin told a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek on June 14 that he thinks there is a "good chance" of pairing the Eurasian Economic Union with China's so-called Belt and Road infrastructure initiative and "establishing a broad Eurasian partnership" for "open, equal and creative cooperation in the region," RFE/RL reported, adding that SCO leaders also were expected to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Chinese-Russian joint statement on development of “comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction in a new epoch,” adopted during President Xi Jinping’s June 5-7 visit to Russia, said the bilateral relationship will not entail “allied relations.”
  • Putin has fired two senior Moscow police officials over a drug-trafficking case launched against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, who was released on June 11 amid a public outcry and claims that the case against him was fabricated, RFE/RL reports. On June 12, hundreds of people marched through central Moscow in an unsanctioned protest aimed at maintaining pressure on authorities. OVD-Info, an independent group that monitors police crackdowns against demonstrations in Russia, says at least 530 demonstrators were detained.

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • The U.S. and Russia issued a statement on the 11th senior-level Plenary Meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), which they co-chaired in Buenos Aires on June 5-7. The meeting welcomed the U.N. Office of Counter-Terrorism as an official observer organization. The co-chairs also introduced the Kingdom of Morocco as the new IAG Coordinator for 2019-2021. The statement said U.S. and Russian delegations were led respectively by Christopher A. Ford and Mikhail Kondratenkov. Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a short statement on the event, saying that Moscow sent a “representative inter-agency delegation.” (Russia Matters, 06.14.19)
  • The House Armed Services Committee approved its version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The annual defense policy bill, now headed to the House floor, authorizes about 4 percent less funding than sought for active nuclear weapons programs managed by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. (Exchange Monitor, 06.13.19)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson denied that the country planned to purchase the S-400 air defense missile system from Russia. (Tasnim News Agency, 06.11.19)
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has told a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Bishkek that U.S. actions pose a "serious" threat to regional and global stability. Rouhani made the remarks on June 14, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for attacks on a Japanese and a Norwegian commercial oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman that were being escorted by the U.S. Navy. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said "accusing Iran for such a suspicious and unfortunate incident is the simplest and the most convenient way for Pompeo and other U.S. officials." (RFE/RL, 06.14.19)
  • Iran has followed through on a threat to accelerate its production of enriched uranium, the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog said on June 10. (Reuters, 06.10.19)

New Cold War/saber rattling:

  • No significant developments.

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • The U.S. has agreed to station "about 1,000" more military personnel in Poland However, the joint U.S.-Poland declaration signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12 stopped short of calling it a permanent presence. Nevertheless, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on June 13 that the move was a “severe blow” to a separate 1997 deal between Russia and NATO restricting military build-up in Eastern Europe and represented a “further dangerous build-up of military capabilities on the continent.” (Financial Times, 06.13.19, RFE/RL, 06.12.19)
  • Russia said on June 11 that it plans to deliver its S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey in July, just days after Washington gave Ankara a deadline of July 31 to reverse the purchase or face the loss of subcontracting work on the U.S.-led F-35 fighter-jet project. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that Ankara will retaliate against any possible sanctions imposed by Washington over S-400s. (RFE/RL, 06.11.19, RFE/RL, 06.14.19)
    • Training by Turkish pilots on F-35 fighter jets has come to a faster-than-expected halt at a U.S. air base in Arizona, U.S. officials said on June 10, as the U.S. winds down Ankara’s involvement in the program over Turkey’s plans to buy S-400s. (Reuters, 06.11.19)
  • The version of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act that the House Armed Services Committee was to mark up on June 12 provided for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to be continued for another year with an allocation of $250 million. It was also to renew the limitation on the use of funds “for bilateral military-to-military cooperation” between the U.S. and Russia until Moscow’s compliance with the Minsk Protocols, but allowed to continue military-to-military contacts aimed at deconfliction. The bill also calls for an increased military presence in Europe and affirms NATO’s “founding values and commitments” and for U.S. “efforts … to counter … Russia’s global campaign to interfere in and undermine democratic systems of government, election.” (JustSecurity, 06.12.19)
  • Russia's Defense Ministry said on June 11 its Su-27 jet intercepted U.S. and Swedish reconnaissance planes over the Baltic Sea where NATO is holding Baltops 2019 naval drills. (Reuters, 06.11.19)
  • Border guards of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and the U.S. Coast Guard have carried out scheduled joint patrolling in the Bering Sea. The patrolling mission was carried out by Russia's Sakhalin ship and USCGC Alex Haley. Their crews practiced exchanging radio communications, including with a deck helicopter, and conducted a training session on using internationally recognized signals for joint maneuvers. (TASS, 06.11.19)

Missile defense:

  • Since 2012, Congress has required that the Government Accountability Office provide an annual assessment of the Missile Defense Agency’s activities. “MDA did not meet its planned goals,” this year’s report states, saying that the MDA only completed 65-70 percent of its planned deliveries and tests for FY18, chalking it up to “failures, cancellations and delays.” (Federation of American Scientists, 06.11.19)

Nuclear arms control:

  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Andrea Thompson met June 12 in Prague. Ryabkov expressed disappointment that the talks with Thompson did not “form some kind of meeting calendar or a specific sequence of our actions.” Ryabkov said in that resuscitating the INF Treaty was unlikely and he also ruled out new arms-control deals with the U.S. "until the U.S. is ready for it." Relations between the U.S. and Russia are at their most dangerous point in years, he said. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the deterioration of relations was a direct result of Russia's actions in recent years. Prior to the June 12 meeting, Ryabkov said the presidents of Russia and the U.S. should jointly declare that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable. (AP, 06.12.19, Wall Street Journal, 06.11.19, TASS, 06.11.19)
  • The U.S. military intelligence agency stepped up its accusations against Russia over low-yield nuclear testing on June 13. "The U.S. Government, including the Intelligence Community, has assessed that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons tests that have created nuclear yield," the statement released June 13 said. (The Washington Post, 06.14.19)


  • The Islamic State has lost its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, but in the forbidding mountains of northeastern Afghanistan, the group is expanding its footprint, recruiting new fighters and plotting attacks on the U.S. and other Western countries, according to U.S. and Afghan security officials. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, who heads the U.S. Central Command, on June 12 told reporters that Islamic State "in Afghanistan certainly has aspirations to attack the United States." (AP, 06.10.19, RFE/RL, 06.13.19)

Conflict in Syria:

  • Turkey denied Russian assertions on June 13 that a ceasefire had been put in place in Syria's Idlib province and demanded Russia restore calm, after the Syrian army and its allies shelled and attacked a Turkish observation post there. Late on June 12, the Russian military said Moscow and Ankara had agreed on a full ceasefire in the northwest, centered on Idlib. (Reuters, 06.13.19)
  • At least 25 people have been killed in aerial bombardment carried out by Russian jet fighters in the Idlib region, with schools and medical centers knocked down during a continued Syrian military offensive. The Russian-backed offensive has so far failed to make major inroads into rebel territory in northern Hama and southern Idlib provinces, where mainstream rebels backed by Turkey alongside fighters aligned to al-Qaeda-linked groups are putting up fierce resistance in their last remaining bastion in Syria. (Al Jazeera, 06.10.19)
  • The ongoing military assault in Idlib—spearheaded by the Syrian army and supported by Russia—may be the first significant military operation in which pro-Iranian militant groups have not taken part. (Al-Monitor, 06.10.19)

Cyber security:

  • British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has told the BBC that he has signed an extradition order to send WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the U.S. (RFE/RL, 06.13.19)
  • Twitter said it has removed four more accounts that the firm believes are affiliated with the Russian Internet Research Agency. (RFE/RL, 06.13.19)

Elections interference:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to shift his stance on how he would handle information about political rivals offered by foreign actors, saying June 14 he would take a look at any material but also alert federal investigators. "If you don't look at it, you won't know it's bad, but, of course, you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that," Trump said (Wall Street Journal, 06.14.19)
  • The Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee said on June 13 that it had issued two new subpoenas demanding that Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, and Rick Gates, a former top Trump campaign aide, provide testimony and documents related to their interactions with Russians and other foreign powers. Flynn has retained conservative lawyer and commentator Sidney Powell as his new counsel as he awaits sentencing for lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts in Robert Mueller's investigation. (New York Times, 06.14.19, The Washington Post, 06.12.19)
    • As the special counsel's investigators pursued the question of whether U.S. President Donald Trump tried to impede their work, they uncovered compelling evidence—a voice mail recording and statements from a trusted witness—that might have led to him. A lawyer for Trump, John Dowd, reached out to a lawyer for a key witness who had just decided to cooperate with the government, Michael Flynn. Dowd fished in his message for a heads-up if Flynn was telling investigators negative information about Trump—while also appearing to say that if Flynn was just cutting a deal without also flipping on the president, then he should know Trump still liked him. (New York Times, 06.10.19)
  • The House of Representatives expects to receive the first files of underlying evidence from Robert Mueller’s report soon, after a sudden shift by the Justice Department as Democrats weigh impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump. It’s unclear if the deal announced June 10, just moments before the start of a Judiciary Committee hearing with Watergate star witness John Dean, will produce the kind of documents Democrats want to see from the special counsel’s work. (AP, 06.11.19)
  • Attorney General William Barr's review of the origins of the 2016 Russia investigation and surveillance issues surrounding U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign will be "broad in scope and multifaceted," examining actions by U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies, "as well as non-governmental organizations and individuals." (CNN, 06.10.19)
  • Justice Department officials intend to interview senior CIA officers as they review the Russia investigation, indicating they are focused partly on the intelligence agencies’ most explosive conclusion about the 2016 election: that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened to benefit U.S. President Donald Trump. (New York Times 06.12.19)
  • Robert Anderson and Stephanie Douglas, two former senior FBI officials, warned lawmakers June 12 that Russian intelligence agencies will keep trying to interfere in U.S. politics, arguing the report by special counsel Robert Mueller shows how pervasive such efforts are. (The Washington Post, 06.12.19)
  • When asked by an AP editor whether he can vouch that the Russian state will not support interference in U.S. elections by any state or non-state actors at a June 6 meeting with editors, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “Do you not know that today Russia is one of the leaders in Internet use? And the citizens of the country, when they hear how, who and where our country is being spoken of, they of course, react to this in some way, express their point of view, promote it in modern mass media, including Internet resources. Can we forbid them from doing this? … We have said many times: let's adopt some general rules, let's agree on this.” (Russia Matters, 06.07.19)
  • The EU says that it has gathered evidence of "continued and sustained" disinformation activity by Russia aimed at influencing the results of May's elections for the European Parliament. The European Commission report said "Russian sources" tried to suppress voter turnout and influence voters' preferences. (RFE/RL, 06.14.19)

Energy exports:

  • A group of U.S. Republican senators has introduced a bill to sanction entities involved with a Kremlin pipeline project as Washington seeks to force its European allies to reduce their dependence on Russian energy. The ESCAPE bill—if passed—would likely delay the completion of Nord Stream 2, a key Russian project to deliver natural gas to Germany by sea, thus avoiding transit through Eastern Europe. (RFE/RL, 06.13.19)
  • Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft expects the Druzhba pipeline to be pumping normal volumes within two or three months following a major oil contamination, TASS news agency cited the company as saying on June 11. Belarus sent Russia’s Energy Ministry on May 31 a preliminary assessment of damages incurred from the contamination, Belarusian state energy company Belneftekhim said. The company said it had not completed its full evaluation of damages, however, and added that 760,000 tons of contaminated oil remained on its territory. (Reuters, 06.11.19, Reuters, 06.11.19)
  • Russia’s average oil output stood at 11.04 million barrels per day (bpd) on June 1-10, up from an average of 10.87 million bpd on June 1-3. (Reuters, 06.11.19)
  • OPEC and other producers including Russia are in final talks for an agreement, that may be signed in early July, to cooperate on oil supplies on a long-term basis, Japan’s Nikkei reported, citing Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak. Novak has earlier said there is a risk that oil prices could drop to as low as $30 a barrel because OPEC and its Russia-led allies could produce more oil by the end of the year than market demand. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said on June 10 Russia was the only oil exporter undecided on extending an output deal between OPEC and its allies until the end of the year. (Reuters, 06.14.19, Oil Price, 06.10.19, Reuters, 06.10.19)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

Other bilateral issues:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump says he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Group of 20 summit in Japan later this month, although the Kremlin says it has not received confirmation from Washington of a potential meeting. (RFE/RL, 06.12.19)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says relations between his country and the U.S. "are getting worse and worse" under U.S. President Donald Trump. In a Russian TV interview, Putin focused on the sanctions slapped on Russia by the U.S., but made no mention of Russia's interference in American elections. "I think it is inevitable that we will restore our relations, after all it is inevitable," Putin said. (CBS, 06.13.19)
  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov denied reports that Moscow has dispatched combat troops to help Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro remain in power amid a battle with opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim president in January. Ryabkov said Moscow supported efforts by Norway to resolve the Venezuelan crisis and would respect any agreement that defused tensions. Ryabkov has said he planned to visit Venezuela, a close Moscow ally, in "the next few weeks." (RFE/RL, 06.13.19, Wall Street Journal, 06.11.19)
  • The share of Russians who see the U.S. and Ukraine as enemies fell sharply from 78 percent to 67 percent over the past year and from 49 percent to 40 percent respectively, according to the Levada Center poll cited by the Vedomosti business daily. Russians are most likely to view Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Azerbaijan, all ex-Soviet republics, as Russia’s closest allies, according to the poll. (The Moscow Times, 06.14.19)
  • Jon Huntsman, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Russia since 2017, is expected to leave his job by the end of the year and is seriously considering a run for governor of Utah. (The Atlantic, 06.10.19)
  • A court has ordered Baring Vostok to surrender a stake in a Russian bank at the center of a dispute that saw the private equity firm’s U.S. founder Michael Calvey arrested. In his first public comments on Calvey—whose arrest in February on fraud charges shocked Moscow’s business community—Russian President Vladimir Putin backed the case against Calvey, which he said he hoped would be “public and transparent.” (Financial Times, 06.11.19, Financial Times, 06.08.19)
  • A senior American banker once secretly awarded a shareholding in powerful Moscow investment bank Renaissance Capital to one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest friends and brokered meetings for the friend with top U.S. foreign policy officials a decade ago, emails show. The American banker, Robert Foresman, currently vice chairman at UBS investment bank in New York, headed Dresdner Bank's investment banking operations in Russia in the early 2000s, served as Renaissance Capital's vice chairman from 2006 to 2009 and then led Barclays Capital's Russia operation until 2016. Putin's friend, Matthias Warnig, sits on the boards of several Russian state-controlled firms. (Reuters, 06.10.19)
  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov urged Washington to review a number of cases where, he said, Russian citizens had been "arbitrarily convicted" and given long prison sentences in what Moscow views as politically motivated cases. (Wall Street Journal, 06.11.19)
  • A Russian software developer charged by U.S. authorities with trying to obtain user manuals and instructional materials for F-16 fighters jets will forgo a scheduled jury trial to enter a plea. Oleg Tishchenko will be sentenced on June 19 by a Utah court immediately following his plea, according to court documents filed on June 13. (RFE/RL, 06.14.19)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia believes that Western investors’ fears of U.S. sanctions on its sovereign debt have eased, paving the way for a borrowing spree this year. Demand for the country’s debt has rocketed, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Kolychev said, allowing Russia to sell 375 billion rubles ($5.8 billion) of ruble-denominated government bonds last month on top of a record 400 billion rubles of issuance in April. (Financial Times, 06.13.19)
  • Russia’s central bank cut interest rates by 0.25 percent for the first time in a year to 7.5 percent, citing easing inflationary pressure and lowering yields on sovereign debt. The central bank said in a statement on June 14 that inflation had fallen to 5 percent in June and that year-to-year consumer price growth had met its target of 4 percent when excluding seasonal factors, allowing it to cut rates. The bank also said the cut could be followed by two more in 2019. (Financial Times, 06.14.19, Bloomberg, 06.13.19)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has fired Maj. Gen. Yury Devyatkin, the head of the Moscow police department's drug-control directorate, and Maj. Gen. Andrei Puchkov, the police chief in Moscow's West administrative region, over a drug-trafficking case launched against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, who was released on June 11 amid a public outcry and claims that the case against him was fabricated. (RFE/RL, 06.13.19)
    • Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said all charges against Golunov, a 36-year-old journalist who works for the Latvia-based online journal Meduza, were dropped because "the alleged crime has not been proven." (RFE/RL, 06.13.19)
    • On June 12, several hundred people marched through central Moscow in an unsanctioned protest aimed at maintaining pressure on authorities over Golunov's case. OVD-Info, an independent group that monitors police crackdowns against demonstrations in Russia, says at least 530 demonstrators were detained. (RFE/RL, 06.13.19, OVD-Info, 06.13.19)
  • A Russian court has granted early release to Oyub Titiyev, a prominent human rights leader in Russia's republic of Chechnya, Interfax reported June 10. Titiyev, who runs the office of the Memorial Human Rights Center in the southern Russian region, was sentenced to four years in a penal settlement in March after he was found guilty of possessing illegal drugs. His supporters say he was framed, with the drugs planted in his car. (The Moscow Times, 06.10.19)
  • Ten providers of virtual private network (VPN) servers have been told to connect to a national blacklist maintained by Russia’s telecoms and media regulator, Roskomnadzor. They have 30 days to respond to a request to link their servers to the government-run IT system. Only one provider has complied with the request: Kaspersky Lab, according to Russian news agency Interfax. The nine remaining companies have said they will not comply. Unlike Kaspersky, they are all based overseas. (MIT Tech Review, 06.10.19)
  • Russia’s Murmansk region is among the country’s 10 most polluted, according to a new report published by Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s federal consumer rights agency. (Bellona, 06.13.19)

Defense and aerospace:

  • No significant developments.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • A Moscow court has sentenced a former anti-corruption official in the Interior Ministry to 13 years in prison after finding him guilty of large-scale bribery and obstruction of justice. Dmitry Zakharchenko was arrested in September 2016 on bribery and abuse of power charges. Authorities seized 9 billion rubles from Zakharchenko’s apartments in 2017, which was then valued at around $125 million, the largest cash seizure in modern Russian history at the time. (The Moscow Times, 06.10.19)
  • Russian police uncovered around $3 million worth of stolen diamonds, and over $2.5 million in cash, at the homes of a criminal ring operating inside state-controlled diamond producer Alrosa, authorities said on June 10. (The Moscow Times, 06.10.19)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

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

  • The leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has rejected a call by a fellow party member to ease sanctions pressure on Russia, saying they should remain until Moscow changes its behavior in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Her comments countered remarks by fellow CDU member Michael Kretschmer, the governor of the German state of Saxony. Kretschmer met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on June 7 and later tweeted that "for a better relationship, we need an end to the sanctions." (RFE/RL, 06.09.19)
    • Euroskeptic and nationalist politicians who performed well in recent European Parliament elections appear unlikely to wield significant power in the legislature after they failed to organize as a single group. (Wall Street Journal, 06.13.19)
  • Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom is opening a subsidiary of Rusatom Overseas—which is responsible for the promotion of the integrated offer for Nuclear Power Plants and Centers of Nuclear Science and Technologies construction projects on global markets—in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh. (TASS, 06.10.19)
  • Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents,” leaked documents reveal. The mission to increase Russian influence on the continent is being led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman based in St. Petersburg who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. One aim is to “strong-arm” the U.S. and former colonial powers the U.K. and France out of the region. Another is to set off “pro-Western” uprisings, the documents say. (Guardian, 06.11.19)
  • Israel is anticipating Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit in January 2020. (TASS, 06.14.19)
  • Global athletics governing body IAAF on June 9 extended a ban against Russia's athletics federation and said Reuters findings on banned Russian coaches still working with athletes would be investigated. (The Moscow Times, 06.10.19)
  • A group of Siberian residents who asked for Canadian asylum over the weekend, citing worsening environmental conditions, will only be able to apply for the status if they’ve left Russia, local media cited Canada's immigration ministry as saying on June 11. (RFE/RL, 06.11.19)


  • A meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) opened on June 14 in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. The leaders of Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan met behind closed doors for what Bishkek called "narrow format" talks. The leaders of SCO observer states—Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia—joined the meetings later on June 14. Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov has said the summit would focus on expanding cooperation within the SCO on security, fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, economic development, industry and humanitarian cooperation. Russian President Vladimir Putin told the gathering that he thinks there is a "good chance" of pairing the Eurasian Economic Union with China's so-called Belt and Road infrastructure initiative and "establishing a broad Eurasian partnership" for "open, equal and creative cooperation in the region." SCO leaders also were expected to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan. (RFE/RL, 06.14.19)
  • The joint statement on development of “comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction in a new epoch,” which Russia and China adopted during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia on June 5-7, said the bilateral relationship will not entail “allied relations.” (Russia Matters, 06.08.19)


  • Twenty-nine percent of Russians say they would like to see the Donbass become an independent state, according to a Levada poll published June 11, while another 27 percent say they would prefer for the breakaway Ukrainian region to join Russia. Another 17 percent of respondents said the Donbass should remain part of Ukraine but be given greater independence from Kiev, while 14 percent said it should remain part of Ukraine with the same conditions as it has now. (The Moscow Times, 06.11.19)
  • The first group of Ukrainian nationals from Donetsk and Luhansk claimed their Russian passports under a simplified procedure on June 14 as part of a Russian program condemned by the Ukrainian government and the country's Western allies. (Deutsche Welle, 06.14.19)
  • EU ambassadors have agreed to extend the bloc's investment ban on Crimea by another year. The measures include an EU-wide ban on imports from Crimea unless they have Ukrainian certificates, a ban on cruise ships flying the flag of an EU member state or controlled by a member state to call at ports in Crimea and a prohibition of the purchase by EU companies of property and companies there. (RFE/RL, 06.12.19)
  • Russia is ready to discuss the settlement of the crisis in eastern Ukraine in the Normandy format, but it’s important to honor the agreements reached by the Contact Group, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on June 11. Russian President Vladimir Putin said June 7 he was ready to meet Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian who said that Kiev’s drive to join the EU and NATO would mark “the death of Russia’s imperial project.” But Putin offered little indication that he would ease Russia’s stance on peace negotiations. (TASS, 06.11.19,  Financial Times, 06.08.19)
  • Kiev has urged an international arbitration panel in the Netherlands to hear its case about alleged Russian breaches of a U.N. maritime convention, accusing Moscow of "wholesale violations" of its rights in waters around Crimea. (RFE/RL, 06.11.19)
  • The U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has documented more than 500 cases of ill-treatment, incommunicado detention and torture by both Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists since the conflict erupted in April 2014, the mission’s head said on June 13. (RFE/RL, 06.13.19)
  • The Institute for Economics and Peace said the greatest increase in peacefulness in the last year occurred in the Russia and Eurasia region, where "the number of deaths from conflict declined, owing to the de-escalation of violence in Ukraine," which rose two places to rank 150th out of 163 countries in the 2019 Global Peace Index. (RFE/RL, 06.12.19)
  • In the latest opinion poll prior to the July 21 elections, 48.5 percent of decided voters favor Zelensky’s Servant of the People party. The Russia-friendly Opposition Platform comes in second with 12 percent in the poll released June 10 by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology. (Ukraine Business News, 06.11.19)
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked parliament to sack General Prosecutor Yuri Lutshenko and to appoint a former Ukrainian envoy to NATO, Vadym Prystaiko, as new foreign minister. (Reuters, 06.11.19)
  • Russia may resume gas supplies to Ukraine at a price 25 percent lower than the current one, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said at a briefing on the results of negotiations with the European Commission’s Vice President for Energy Union Maros Sefcovic. (TASS, 06.13.19)
  • Reflecting confidence in Ukraine’s new president, Ukrainian finance ministry officials are on a European roadshow this week, seeking to place at least 500 million euros in seven-year Eurobonds. (Ukraine Business News, 06.11.19)
  • Ukraine’s Central Bank reserves were down 5.5 percent month on month in May to $19.4 billion, enough to cover 3.2 months of imports. The drop, not a surprise, was largely caused by a planned redemption of a $1 billion 2014 Eurobond. Year to date, reserves are down 6.8 percent, or $1.4 billion, largely due to debt repayments. (Ukraine Business News, 06.11.19)
  • Since the start of the year, the Ukrainian hryvnia has gained 3 percent. (Ukraine Business News, 06.11.19)
  • Aivaras Abromavičius, a reformist who was the Ukrainian economy minister from 2014-2016, is expected to be named director general of UkrOboronProm, the state-controlled defense industry conglomerate. (Ukraine Business News, 06.11.19)
  • Holtec International, Ukraine's Energoatom and the country's State Scientific and Technology Center have formally entered into a partnership to advance the U.S. company's SMR-160 small modular reactor for deployment in Ukraine. (World Nuclear News, 06.12.19)
  • Ukraine’s Chernobyl might be on track to become 2019′s surprise tourism destination, after a widely discussed HBO miniseries resulted in a surge in bookings for trips to the site and the nearby town that were abandoned after a major nuclear accident in 1986. Trip bookings for May 2019 were 30 percent higher than in May 2018. (The Washington Post, 06.11.19)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • The U.N. Human Rights Office has called on Kazakh authorities "to respect freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression and right to political participation" following the detention of hundreds of protesters during rallies since Kazakhstan's June 9 presidential election. Demonstrators protested against the official results of the presidential election—which gave the victory to Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, the handpicked successor of former authoritarian President Nursultan Nazarbaev. The Kazakh Prosecutor General's Office representative Saparbek Nurpeisov said 957 detained people had been "punished." Toqaev said he would listen to grievances aired during recent protests as his government transitions from decades of tight state control. (RFE/RL, 06.13.19, Wall Street Journal, 06.14.19)
  • On June 13, after Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov met with China's president, the Kyrgyz leader said that the internment of ethnic Kyrgyz and other mostly Muslim indigenous people in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang was an "internal matter” for China. (RFE/RL, 06.14.19)
  • A new census in Turkmenistan, one Ashgabat source said, "revealed an acute decline of population, with nearly 2 million people having left the country in 10 years." (RFE/RL, 06.08.19)
  • Moldova's Democratic Party (PDM) says Prime Minister Pavel Filip's government is resigning, signaling that a standoff with an incoming coalition cabinet is coming to an end. Vladimir Cebotari, vice president of PDM, announced the decision at a news conference in Chisinau on June 14. He said PDM decided to stand down in an effort to resolve the weeklong political crisis that pitted the party against a coalition between the ACUM pro-EU alliance and the pro-Russian Socialist Party following months of political limbo caused by an inconclusive parliamentary election. (RFE/RL, 06.14.19)

    • In an extraordinary parliamentary session on June 8, the pro-Russian Socialist Party and the pro-European ACUM bloc formed a coalition and elected a government headed by ACUM co-Chairwoman Maia Sandu. The former cabinet, dominated by the Democratic Party of controversial tycoon Vlad Plahotniuc, questioned the legitimacy of the session, and this position was backed by the Constitutional Court. (RFE/RL, 06.14.19)

    • While pro-Europe and pro-Russian forces have long vied for supremacy, the clash in Chisinau had spawned an unusual political alliance between parties aligned to Brussels and Moscow to block powerful tycoon Vlad Plahotniuc allied with neither. Five European nations and Russia declared support June 10 for elected lawmakers in Moldova. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he will not give up support for Moldova's pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon. Moldova’s newly declared prime minister Maia Sandu has urged the U.S. to back her fledgling coalition. (Financial Times, 06.10.19, RFE/RL, 06.13.19, AP, 06.10.19, Financial Times, 06.14.19)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has praised Georgia's "leadership role as an aspiring NATO nation" and condemned "Russia's ongoing occupation" of the South Caucasus country's territory. "Georgia has fought to maintain its territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression, and Russia's unlawful occupation of the Georgian territory and its failure to adhere to cease-fire obligations," Pompeo said on June 11 in Washington as he met with visiting Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze. (RFE/RL, 06.12.19)
  • Georgia’s president wants Western countries to do more to face up to Russia and the “very heavy pressure” she says Moscow exerts on her nation as it pursues a “natural road” toward integrating with Europe. Salome Zurabishvili, who took office as Georgia’s first woman president in December, insisted during an interview in Geneva that Georgia would one day join the EU and NATO. (AP, 06.10.19)
  • Elections for the legislative body in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia were held on June 9. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the U.S. "does not recognize" the legitimacy of the elections in South Ossetia, and it "will not acknowledge their outcome." (RFE/RL, 06.11.19, RFE/RL, 06.10.19)