Russia in Review, May 28-June 4, 2021

This Week’s Highlights

  • U.S. President Joe Biden says he will press Russian President Vladimir Putin to respect human rights when the two leaders meet in June 30, RFE/RL reports. Biden said he will also  rebuke Putin over a cyber attack on JBS, the world’s biggest meat processor, and that the United States has not ruled out retaliating against the perpetrator, which it suspects is a Russian criminal gang, according to reports by the Financial Times and RFE/RL.
  • Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, said on May 31 that Russia would send “uncomfortable” signals to the United States ahead of the summit, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said the two leaders might reach mutually acceptable decisions on a number of issues during the summit, Interfax reports.
  • Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that Russia’s $186 billion national welfare fund would completely divest its $41 billion worth of holdings in dollars within a month. The share of euros in the fund will be increased to 40%, while the Chinese yuan will account for 30% and another 20% will be stored in gold, The Moscow Times reports.
  • Putin said in his address to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that the first line of Nord Stream 2 has been completed and that gas supplies through the pipeline could begin in 10 days, according to reports by Financial Times and The Moscow Times.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia would form 20 new “units and formations” in the country’s west by the end of the year in response to a growing NATO threat,  The Daily Telegraph reports. Meanwhile, the command of Russia's Northern Fleet announced a "strategic military exercise" on June 1 to check the "readiness of the forces and troops" serving in and around the Arctic RFE/RL reports.
  • Trade between Russia and China has grown 13-fold over the past two decades, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on June 1, in quotes carried by TASS.
  • Patrsushev revealed that a new version of Russia’s national security strategy could include language about the use of force in dealing with “hostile actions” by foreign nations, according to media reports. In an interview with the state-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta on May 31, Patrushev said Russia would resort to economic sanctions “but also coercive forceful methods if necessary” to respond to any actions from abroad that might ultimately threaten Russia’s sovereignty.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • The Lepse nuclear service ship, long one of the most radioactive heirlooms of the Soviet Era, has finally been emptied of all 639 spent nuclear fuel assemblies, marking a major milestone in an international cleanup effort that Bellona helped bring to the fore. (Bellona, 06.02.21)
  • The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration is expected to receive nearly identical funding next year as it did this year, more evidence that Biden doesn't plan, at least for now, to ratchet down nuclear spending. The White House is requesting about $19.7 billion for the agency, a slight increase of $11 million from this year's budget, according to a partial budget the White House released June 4. (The Santa Fe New Mexican, 06.29.21)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal are heading into their most delicate phase. The most difficult questions remaining include which of its sanctions Washington would be willing to lift and how to permanently prevent Iranian nuclear facilities from being used for military purposes. EU envoy Enrique Mora, chief coordinator of the talks, said on June 2 he believes a deal will be struck at the next round of talks. The delegations of the Joint Commission of Iran and P5 have ruled to hold consultations on remaining issues in their capitals and to resume the talks next week, Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said. Each round of talks in Vienna could have been the final round. We should not rush. We have made significant progress but key issues remain," Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said last week. (TASS, 06.02.21, RFE/RL, 06.03.21, RFE/RL, 05.31.21)
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on May 31 that Iran has failed to explain traces of uranium found at several undeclared sites and that it continues to breach enrichment limits spelled out in the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers. The news, outlined in two separate reports by the IAEA, could complicate talks currently under way in Vienna to revive the deal. (RFE/RL, 05.31.21)

Great Power rivalry/New Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:

  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on May 31 that Russia would form 20 new “units and formations” in the country’s west by the end of the year in response to a growing NATO threat. (The Daily Telegraph, 05.31.21)
  • The command of Russia's Northern Fleet announced a "strategic military exercise" on June 1 to check the "readiness of the forces and troops" serving in and around the Arctic. It added that the exercises will also "ensure the safety" of the Northern Sea Route. (RFE/RL, 06.01.21)
  • Lavrov on June 1 assured that the country is ready to resume the activities of the Russia-NATO Council. After the online meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the BRICS group, Lavrov said the dialogue should be initiated by the military. (Prensa Latina,  06.01.21)
  • Russia scrambled a MiG-31 fighter jet to accompany a U.S. military plane over the Barents sea on June 4. Russian military said the U.S. plane was identified as a P-8A Poseidon aircraft and the Russian fighter jet was returned to its base as soon as the U.S. plane made a U-turn and (Reuters, 06.04.21)
  • Dozens of Russian diplomats and their families have left the Czech Republic after Prague ordered their expulsion in April. A flight carrying 54 Russian Embassy employees and their families left Prague on May 29 for Moscow, according to the Russian state news agency TASS. In all, Prague has ordered 63 diplomats to leave the country. The remaining Russian diplomats are expected to leave the Czech Republic on May 31. (RFE/RL, 05.29.21)
  • Turkey will send home Russian military experts helping it operate the Russian-made S-400 air defense system but will not budge on the key U.S. demand to scrap the deal altogether, Bloomberg reported this week. (The Moscow Times, 06.02.21)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Lavrov said on June 1 that the Treaty on Good Neighborliness, Friendship, and Cooperation between Russia and China has played a significant role in accelerating trade and economic interaction between the countries; over the 20 years of its existence, trade between Russia and China has grown 13-fold, he said. (TASS, 06.01.21)
  • The BRICS nations share the opinion that international problems should be addressed by means of reforming the United Nations, its chief structures and other multilateral institutions, according to a joint statement issues on June 1 after an online meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers. (TASS, 06.03.21)
  • The BRICS nations commend the finalization of an agreement among BRICS space agencies on cooperation with respect to a BRICS remote sensing satellite constellation, the five countries’ foreign ministers said in a joint statement on June 1. (TASS, 06.02.21)
  • Beijing and Moscow can establish a better world order through joint efforts, said Xie Fuzhan, the president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, at the sixth international conference dubbed "Russia and China: Cooperation in a New Era.” (TASS, 06.01.21)

Missile defense:

  • According to Voenno-boltovoy kanal, a Russian Telegram channel devoted to military developments, Russia was planning to conduct a launch from the Plesetsk test site toward the Laptev Sea on 29 May 2021. Such notifications are normally issued before a test of the Nudol ASAT system. (Russian Nuclear Forces Project, 05.29.21)

Arms control:

  • The Russian parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council, has voted to withdraw the country from the Open Skies Treaty, which allowed surveillance flights over military facilities, following the departure from the accord by the United States late last year. (RFE/RL, 06.01.21)
  • Moscow sees no reason to link the final Russian withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty to the upcoming Russian-U.S. summit, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on June 2. (Interfax, 06.02.21)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • The Biden administration has decided it will not renew a waiver that allowed a politically connected U.S. oil company, Delta Crescent Energy, to operate in northeast Syria under Trump’s pledge to “keep the oil” produced in the region, according to a U.S. official familiar with the decision. The Biden administration’s decision is grounded in the hope that it can negotiate with Moscow on two key aid channels into the country in exchange for pulling out of the oil fields, sources have told Kurdistan 24. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will visit the Turkish border with Syria this week ahead of a likely showdown with Russia in the U.N. Security Council over the extension of a cross-border humanitarian aid operation sometime before July 10. (Military Times/AP, 05.28.21, Kurdistan 24, 05.29.21, Reuters, 06.01.21)
  • Putin congratulated Bashar al-Assad on his re-election victory in the May 26 presidential race in Syria. China will provide assistance to Syria in reviving its economy, improving living standards as well as combating COVID-19, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a telegram to Assad. (TASS, 06.01.21, TASS, 05.28.21)
  • Russia supplied 350,000 tonnes of wheat to Syria in March. (Reuters, 05.28.21)

Cyber security:

  • U.S. authorities have attributed aan attack on Brazil-based meat processor JBS to hackers believed to be tied to Russia and said U.S. investigators are working "diligently" to bring the group to justice. Investigators have attributed the JBS attack to REvil and Sodinokibi, an FBI statement said, urging anyone who is the victim of a cyberattack to contact the bureau immediately. Biden will rebuke Putin over the cyber attack on JBS, the world’s biggest meat processor, when the two presidents meet later this month, and the United States does not rule out the possibility of retaliation against the perpetrator, the White House said on June 2. (Financial Times, 06.02.21, RFE/RL, 06.02.21)
  • FBI Director Christopher Wray said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that Russia was harboring many of the known users of ransomware. y sales, to a criminal ransomware gang in Russia.Mr. Putin dismissed the accusations on June 4.  “It’s just laughable,” he said in his television interview. There are “those who are trying to provoke some new conflicts before our meeting with Biden,” he said. (The Wall Street Journal, 06.04.21)
  • The White House has suggested that government agencies largely rebuffed the latest cyber assault on U.S. targets by suspected Russian intelligence operatives and downplayed adversarial tensions ahead of a summit next month between the U.S. and Russian presidents. Asked whether the hacking discovery would affect the Biden-Putin summit, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, "We're going to move forward with that." (RFE/RL, 05.29.21)
  • ''If Moscow is responsible, this brazen act of utilizing emails associated with the U.S. government demonstrates that Russia remains undeterred despite sanctions following the SolarWinds attack,'' Representative Adam B. Schiff said, referring to the attack last year on the software supply chain. ''Those sanctions gave the administration flexibility to tighten the economic screws further if necessary—it now appears necessary.'' (The New York Times,  05.28.21)
  • Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: ''We must make clear to Russia—and any other adversaries—that they will face consequences for this and any other malicious cyberactivity,.” (The New York Times,  05.28.21)
  • The cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, based outside Boston, tracks about 25 ransomware groups, of which about 15—including the five biggest—are believed to be based in Russia or elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, said the firm’s threat intelligence expert, Dmitry Smilyanets.  (The New York Times, 05.31.21)
  • The White House has urged U.S. businesses to bolster their cyber defenses in the wake of audacious ransomware attacks that have disrupted critical supply chains run by large companies. (Financial Times, 06.04.21)
  • Efforts to hammer out a new Russia-U.S. "security equation" should include an evaluation of cybersecurity threats and the situation in outer space, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with the news outlet. (TASS, 06.02.21)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • “Just two and a half hours ago, the pipe laying was completed for the first line of Nord Stream 2, and works are advancing on the second line. Within a month or two I hope this one will be completed. Gazprom is willing to start supplies, it’s up to the German regulator,” Putin said in his address to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum where 5,000 had gathered on June 4. Putin then said gas supplies could begin in 10 days. (Financial Times, 06.04.21, The Moscow Times, 06.04.21)
  • Russia welcomes the intention of the United States to forgo imposing sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project and is also planning to continue supplying gas to Europe via the territory of Ukraine, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said. (Interfax, 06.01.21)
  • Germany and the United States are holding talks in Washington to try to settle a dispute over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters on June 1. Germany's Funke Media Group reported on May 31 that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had sent two of her top aides to Washington to work on a compromise deal on Nord Stream 2 ahead of Biden’s visit to Europe in mid-June. (RFE/RL, 06.01.21)
  • The member states of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied producers like Russia confirmed a plan to increase output in June and July, reflecting growing demand for petroleum. (The New York Times, 06.01.21)
  • A former Austrian foreign minister who danced with Putin has been voted onto the board of directors of Russia’s largest oil company. Karin Kneissl, who served as Austria’s foreign minister from 2017-2019, will join the board of state-controlled Rosneft, the company said June 2 in a statement. (The Moscow Times, 06.02.21)

U.S.-Russian economic and financial ties:

  • Russia’s sovereign wealth fund will ditch its holdings in dollars, dramatically increase its holdings of Chinese yuan and invest in gold for the first time ever, Russia’s Finance Ministry said June 3. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that Russia’s $186-billion national welfare fund would completely divest its $41 billion worth of holdings in dollars within a month. “Today we have about 35% of NWF investments in dollars,” Siluanov said. “We’ve decided to get out of dollar assets completely, replacing investments in dollars with an increase in euros and gold.” The share of euros in the fund will be increased to 40%, the Chinese yuan will account for 30% and another 20% will be stored in gold. (The Moscow Times, 06.03.21)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said June 4 that Russia could ditch the dollar in its energy trade with Europe and use the euro instead, in another possible step of weaning Russia’s economy off the greenback. (The Wall Street Journal, 06.04.21)

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Biden says he will press Putin to respect human rights when the two leaders meet in June. "I'm meeting with President Putin in a couple weeks in Geneva making it clear we will not … stand by and let him abuse those rights," Biden said during a speech honoring the U.S. holiday Memorial Day on May 30. (RFE/RL, 05.30.21)
    • Biden should urge the release of U.S. citizens detained in Russia at his first summit with Putin, former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was jailed in Russia for spying, has said. (The Moscow Times, 06.02.21)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would try to improve strained relations with the U.S. at his coming summit. “We have no disagreements with the United States, we have only one disagreement: their desire to hold back our development,” Mr. Putin said June 4 at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russia’s flagship investment event. “We should try to find ways to settle Russian-U.S. relations.”  “I don’t expect any breakthrough in Russian-American relations, nothing that could amaze us all with its results,” he said. (The Wall Street Journal, 06.04.21)
  • Russia's deputy foreign minister said on May 31 Russia would send what it described as “uncomfortable” signals to the United States ahead of a summit between the two countries’ leaders next month and announced it was beefing up its western border militarily. "The Americans must assume that a number of signals from Moscow ... will be uncomfortable for them, including in the coming days," Sergei Ryabkov said. (Reuters, 05.31.21)
  • Moscow and Washington might develop mutually acceptable decisions on a number of issues, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said in comments on his recent meeting with United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Geneva. "I can say also that we can count on developing mutually acceptable decisions on a number of positions," Patrushev said in an interview published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta. (Interfax, 06.01.21.)
  • Russian lawmakers on June 1 backed a bill that would force foreign internet companies to set up local offices or face harsh penalties, including an outright ban. The bill was passed on the first of its three required readings, parliament's lower house said in a statement. The legislation concerns online companies whose daily users in Russia tops 500,000. (The Moscow Times, 06.01.21)
  • Russia has banned non-state-approved educational activities and cooperation with foreign academics, according to highly criticized changes to Russia’s education law that came into effect June 1. Two key provisions of the controversial law concern the requirement to obtain state permission for public outreach outside formal settings as well as for foreign academic partnership deals.  (The Moscow Times, 06.01.21)
  • While in Ukraine, Democratic senators Chris Murphy and Jeanne Shaheen, alongside their Republican colleague Rob Portman said that while Washington and Moscow have areas where they agree, such as the New START treaty and denuclearization efforts, Biden should press the point during the meeting with Putin that his subversive actions against the United States will not be overlooked. (RFE/RL, 06.03.21)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia reported 8,933 new COVID-19 cases and 393 deaths on June 3. Russia on June 4 confirmed 8,947 new coronavirus cases and 377 deaths. (The Moscow Times, 06.04.21, Reuters, 06.03.21) Here’s a link to RFE/RL’s interactive map of the virus’ spread around the world, including in Russia and the rest of post-Soviet Eurasia.
  • “I often hear that Russia is not interested in addressing global climate issues. This is nonsense. And in some cases it is a deliberate, blatant twisting of facts. We feel the risks and challenges. ...We have whole cities built on permafrost. Should it thaw, imagine the consequences for Russia. We are very concerned about that,” Putin said in his address to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 4. (The Moscow Times, 06.04.21)
  • IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has warned Russia’s business and political elite not to underestimate the challenges the global green energy transition will present for the country. “The world is moving to carbon pricing. Some 23% of global emissions will be covered by carbon pricing this year. We still have a long way to go, but during the pandemic many jurisdictions moved to taxing or pricing carbo,” she said. The European Union’s carbon border tax alone could affect more than 40% of Russian exports, the Central Bank has calculated. The country’s leading business lobby has estimated the cost to Russian firms at $50 billion over the next decade.(The Moscow Times/AFP, 06.03.21)
  • Russian lawmakers for the first time have passed a law that will limit private enterprises’ greenhouse gas emissions as the country looks to catch up with global climate reforms. According to the bill, companies that emit more than 150,000 tons of CO2 (or the equivalent mass of other greenhouse gases) per year must limit their emissions from 2023. Companies emitting between 50,000 and 150,000 tons annually will have to report their emissions starting from 2024. (The Moscow Times, 06.04.21)
  • Russia’s gross international reserves (GIR) posted $600.9 billion in May, its highest level ever, and $2 billion more than the previous all-time high set in August 2008, just before the global financial crisis hit.  (bne IntelliNews, 06.01.21)
  • Surging inflation is not a temporary trend and poses a serious threat to Russia’s economic recovery, Central Bank chief Elvira Nabiullina has warned: “The continued acceleration of inflation will be an impediment to economic growth.” Russian inflation is currently running at 5.5%, well above the Central Bank’s official 4% target. Analysts expect the bank to hike interest rates by at least 25 basis points from 5% to 5.25% when it meets next week. (The Moscow Times, 06.03.21)
  • The headline seasonally adjusted IHS Markit Russia Manufacturing PMI registered 51.9 in May, up from 50.4 in April, its strongest improvement since March 2019, Markit said in a press release on June 1.  (bne IntelliNews, 06.01.21)
  • Russian corporate profits in March soared by 3.2 trillion rubles ($44.1 billion) after losing 277 billion rubles the year before–the only month in 2020 where companies made an aggregate loss. The result was also three times higher or more than in any March for the last five years. (bne IntelliNews, 05.30.21)
  • The Russian banking sector profitability continued to follow the course of 2019. On a cumulative basis this year’s profits in April were slightly ahead of those in 2020 with banks earing 779 billion rubles ($10.6 billion) over the first four months of the year, against 611 billion rubles a year earlier. (bne IntelliNews, 05.30.21)
  • Specialized research agency Data Insight has just released the international version of its Russian e-commerce report for 2020. Domestic sales of physical goods amounted to 2.7 trillion rubles (some $37 billion at the average exchange rate of the year), up 58% from 2019–placing Russia among the world’s fastest-growing e-commerce markets. (bne IntelliNews, 06.01.21)
  • Russia’s unemployment rate fell to 5.2%, its sixth consecutive month of decrease since the out of work rate spiked to 6.4% in August last year, according to the latest RosStat figures.  (bne IntelliNews, 05.30.21)
  • Sales of new cars in Russia totaled 147,378 vehicles in May, up 133.8% from the same month last year, when a strict coronavirus lockdown was in place, the Association of European Businesses (AEB) said on June 4. (Reuters, 06.04.21)
  • Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov claimed that Russian metals majors have "cheated" the state of 100 billion rubles ($1.4 billion) worth of capital investments and state military orders in an interview to RBC business portal. Deputy PM Belousov noted that the missing 100 billion could be reclaimed from the metals companies through fine-tuning the taxes on the industry. (bne IntelliNews, 06.01.21)
  • Putin has signed into law a bill that would ban supporters and members of organizations deemed by authorities as "extremist" from being elected to any post— move making it virtually impossible for anyone connected to jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny from gaining public office. (RFE/RL, 06.04.21)
  • Online business media outlet VTimes has announced its closure after the Russian Justice Ministry added it to the registry of "foreign agents" last month, a move the site says "destroyed" its business. (RFE/RL, 06.03.21
  • The Russian online media outlet NEWSru has announced its closure, blaming the country's current "political situation," which has made it economically impossible to function, as advertisers shun independent sources of information. (RFE/RL, 05.31.21)
  • Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has defended her country's controversial labeling of some foreign-funded media as "foreign agents" by saying Moscow was "forced" to adopt the measure in response to actions taken by the United States. (RFE/RL, 06.03.21)
  • At least seven Jehovah's Witnesses have been handed prison terms in Russia amid a continuing crackdown on the religious group, which was banned in the country in 2017. (RFE/RL, 06.03.21)
  • Russian opposition politician and former lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov was released from custody on June 3 without being formally charged. Gudkov was detained in Moscow two days earlier over an allegedly unpaid debt on a rented property dating from several years ago. (RFE/RL, 06.04.21)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Patrushev revealed that a new version of Russia’s national security strategy could include language about the use of force in dealing with “hostile actions” by foreign nations. Patrushev said in an interview with the state-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta on May 31 that Russia will resort to economic sanctions “but also coercive forceful methods if necessary” in response to any actions from abroad that might ultimately threaten Russia’s sovereignty. The wording is expected to be included in the revised version of Russia’s national security strategy, which was last amended in 2015. (The Daily Telegraph, 05.31.21)
  • The defense ministers and top commanders of 49 countries have already given their consent to take part in the Moscow conference on international security, First Deputy Chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Department for International Military Cooperation Major General Yevgeny Ilyin said on June 2. The core events of the Moscow security conference will take place on June 23 and 24. (TASS, 06.02.21)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Seven out of 10 Russians support government plans to revive a Stalin-era practice reminiscent of the gulag labor camps that would use prisoners for major construction projects, according to a state-backed survey released by VTsIOM June 1. (The Moscow Times, 06.01.21)
  • The 2nd Western District Military Court found five natives of Tajikistan guilty of plotting an attack in the Moscow region and sentenced them to terms ranging from nine to 17 years in a high-security penitentiary on June 4. (Interfax, 05.28.21)
  • Russian tennis player Yana Sizikova was arrested at the French Open and has been placed in custody over the suspected fixing of a doubles match at the French Open last year, sources told news agencies on June 4. (RFE/RL, 06.04.21)


III. Russia’s relations with other countrie

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

  • Dmitry Polyansky, the Russian deputy ambassador to the United Nations, has described hundreds of Russian soldiers due to be sent to the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) this month as "unarmed instructors.” Moscow has maintained a contingent of soldiers since 2018 in the C.A.R. to train the country's army. They were joined last December by hundreds more Russian paramilitaries, along with Rwandan troops, who were key in aiding President Faustin Archange Touadera's army in thwarting a rebellion. (RFE/RL, 05.29.21, AFP, 05.30.21)
    • A military convoy struck a roadside bomb in the northwest of the conflict-wracked C.A.R., leaving two policemen and three Russian paramilitaries dead, the government said on May 30. They said the convoy was blown up on the road between Berberati and Bouar, more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the capital Bangui. (AFP, 05.30.21)
  • Sudan’s transitional government is renegotiating the previous administration’s naval base agreement with Russia, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported June 1. The Sudanese army chief of staff’s remarks follows Arab media reports in April that Sudan had suspended the naval base agreement. (The Moscow Times, 06.02.21)
  • A reactor pressure vessel (RPV) has been installed at unit 1 of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is under construction in Turkey. Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, which is constructing four VVER-1200 reactors at the site in Mersin province, described the milestone as "one of the key stages in the main equipment assembly." (World Nuclear News, 06.02.21)
  • Cooperation between Riyadh and Moscow includes their partnership in the nuclear energy sphere, particularly Russia’s involvement in the construction of reactors in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Minister of Energy Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud said. (TASS, 06.03.21)
  • The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Secretary General Helga Schmid will pay a visit to Russia in the middle of June, Russian Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich said. (Interfax, 06.01.21)
  • Russia is seeking to expand wide-ranging sanctions it adopted in response to a U.S. human rights abuse law to all foreigners but will continue to limit its controversial adoption ban to U.S. citizens, according to legislation introduced June 2. (The Moscow Times, 06.03.21)
  • Israel has prohibited its citizens and residents from travelling to Russia after placing the country on a travel blacklist, the Israeli Ministry of Health said Sunday. The ministry said Russia was one of a number of countries where the risk of coronavirus remained high and banned its citizens from travelling to Russia from May 31 until at least June 13.  (The Moscow Times, 05.30.21)


  • Real wages in Ukraine rose 19.7% year on year in April, accelerating from 9.5% y/y growth in March, the State Statistics Service reported on May 28. The average monthly nominal wage amounted to UAH 13,543 ($485), declining from UAH 13,612 in March, or 1.2% month on month in real terms.  (bne IntelliNews, 05.31.21)
  • Only 5% of citizens assess the economic situation in Ukraine positively, and 60% assess it as bad, according to the results of a sociological survey conducted by the Razumkov Center on May 21-26. (Interfax, 06.02.21)
  • President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky discussed security issues in eastern Ukraine, the buildup of Russian armed forces near the Ukrainian borders and occupied territories of Ukraine with the U.S. Senators who arrived in Ukraine on a visit. A delegation of U.S. Senators, which includes Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Chris Murphy, as well as Republican Senator Rob Portman, is visiting Ukraine. The senators pledged to advocate for continued support of Ukraine's military and to support its bid for NATO accession. (RFE/RL, 06.03.21, Interfax, 06.02.21)
  • The regular Ukraine-EU summit will be held on October 12. (Interfax, 06.01.21)
  • The Russian Armed Forces will closely monitor preparations for and the holding of the major military exercise Sea Breeze in Ukraine involving NATO from June 28 through July 10. (Interfax, 06.02.21)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • European Union ambassadors on June 4 adopted a measure to ban Belarusian carriers from flying over EU territory or landing at EU airports, EU officials said. (RFE/RL, 06.04.21)
  • A bipartisan group of senators met with exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in Vilnius, Lithuania, as the United States. and its European allies consider applying further pressure on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko following his state hijacking of a commercial airliner. Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) called for more sanctions on Lukashenko and his allies. (The Wall Street Journal, 06.04.21)
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said personnel at Belarus's diplomatic mission to the alliance will have their access restricted at its headquarters in the wake of the forced landing of a passenger plane by Minsk and the arrest of opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich who was on board the plane. Stoltenberg says he thinks it is likely that Belarusian authorities organized the diversion last week of an Irish airliner to Minsk with ally Russia. (RFE/RL, 05.29.21, RFE/RL, 05.31.21)
  • Belarus says it is reducing the permitted number of diplomats and other staff at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk and tightening visa procedures for American citizens, in response to U.S. sanctions imposed on the Eastern European country over a sweeping crackdown on the opposition. (RFE/RL, 06.03.21)
  • Belarus’ Finance Ministry said June 2 it had received a $500 million payment from Moscow—the second tranche of a $1-billion funding package the two countries agreed last year. (The Moscow Times, 06.02.21)
  • Russia’s and Belarus’ intelligence agencies have joined forces against “destructive” Western activities in the wake of Minsk’s highly criticized plane diversion to arrest a dissident, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin announced June 3. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 06.03.21)
  • Belarus said June 1 it is further restricting citizens from leaving the country, including those with foreign residency permits, in a move the opposition denounced as "an absolute violation of the law." (AFP, 06.01.21)
  • A new video featuring Roman Protasevich has sparked a fresh outcry, with the opposition and the parents of the Belarusian journalist saying he had been coerced into making the statements and urging the international community to apply further pressure on strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko. On the Nothing Personal program on the ONT state television channel late on June 3, a tearful Protasevich praised Belarusian strongman Lukashenko and said he "immediately confessed to organizing mass disorder" after his arrest. (RFE/RL, 06.04.21)
  • Three associates of jailed Belarusian blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, the husband of opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, have been handed prison terms in the western city of Grodno as the authorities continue to tighten their clampdown on dissent. (RFE/RL, 06.01.21)
  • Belarusian authorities have detained Alexey Shota, the editor in chief of the independent news portal, in the western city of Grodno. (RFE/RL, 05.30.21)
  • Lithuania has never been safer despite sharply rising tensions with neighboring Belarus and Russia, according to the country’s prime minister. Ingrida Simonyte told the Financial Times that the forced landing of a Ryanair flight between Athens and Vilnius by Belarus last weekend and the seizure of a dissident onboard showed that “you cannot exclude anything,” and “must be prepared for anything,” with the regime of president Alexander Lukashenko. (Financial Times, 05.31.21)
  • French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Azerbaijan to withdraw its troops from “the sovereign territory of Armenia" after a series of recent border incidents between the two South Caucasus countries heightened regional tensions. Hosting Armenia's caretaker Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian for talks in Paris on June 1, Macron also called on the two neighbors to demarcate their border through negotiations and without “any fait accompli on the ground.” (RFE/RL, 06.01.21)
  • Georgia’s GDP surged by 44.8% y/y in April, according to a preliminary flash estimate from statistics office Geostat. Recoveries seen in both external and domestic demand contributed.
  • GDP was up 8.1% y/y in January-April. (bne IntelliNews, 06.01.21)
  • Georgia's main opposition leader, Nika Melia, has said that his United National Movement (ENM) will enter parliament after a nearly seven-month boycott. Melia was released from prison on bail with the help of the European Union earlier in May, after three months of pretrial detention on charges that he organized "mass violence" during 2019 anti-government protests.  (RFE/RL, 05.30.21)
  • Kazakhstan's GDP contracted by 1.5% y/y in the first quarter, according to latest official figures provided by the national statistics office.  (bne IntelliNews, 06.03.21)
  • Tajikistan and Pakistan have signed several accords to boost ties between the two nations, including defense and armaments. "It is very important that our defense cooperation develops," Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said after the June 2 meeting. (RFE/RL, 06.03.21)
  • Tensions escalated along a disputed segment of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border as Bishkek said on June 4 that Tajik military personnel had placed a container overnight on what Kyrgyz officials called "a disputed area" along the border between the two Central Asian nations. (RFE/RL, 06.04.21)


IV. Quoteworthy:

“Any doofus can be a cybercriminal now,” said Sergei A. Pavlovich, a former hacker who served 10 years in prison in his native Belarus for cybercrimes. “The intellectual barrier to entry has gotten extremely low.” (The New York Times, 05.31.21)