Russia in Review, Nov. 12-19, 2021

This Week’s Highlights

  • In his annual address to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s board, Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed his diplomats to maintain tensions with the West. “Our recent warnings have had a certain effect: tensions have arisen there anyway ... it is important for them to remain in this state for as long as possible, so that it does not occur to them to stage some kind of conflict on our western borders,” Putin said, according to’s translation of his Nov. 18 address.
  • Preparations are underway for a virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Putin, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Nov. 17, according to Foreign Policy. Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said the Putin-Biden meeting could take place this year, according to, while Kommersant has earlier reported that the two leaders may hold a virtual meeting this year, followed by an in-person meeting early next year. In a related development, Patrushev discussed Ukraine, cybersecurity and the migrant crisis on Belarus’s border with Poland with U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan over the phone, according to Foreign Policy.
  • Western intelligence suggests a “high probability of destabilization” of Ukraine by Russia as soon as this winter after Moscow massed more than 90,000 troops at its border, according to Kyiv’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, Financial Times reports. In his annual address to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s board, Putin said the West is "escalating" the Ukraine conflict by holding drills in the Black Sea and flying bombers near its borders. Putin said Moscow has been "constantly raising concerns about this" but "all our warnings and talk about red lines are treated superficially," The Moscow Times/AFP reports.  
  • A makeshift migrant camp on Belarus' border with Poland has been cleared, Minsk said Nov. 18, as hundreds of Iraqis who failed to make the crossing to enter the European Union returned home, The Moscow Times/AFP reports. Hope for de-escalating the crisis, which has seen thousands camping in desperate conditions on the border for weeks, had been mounting in recent days, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko twice by phone earlier this week. Lukashenko also spoke with Putin Nov. 19 to tell the Russian leader that he had de-escalated the crisis, The Washington Post reports.

NB: Next week’s Russia in Review will appear on Wednesday, Nov. 24, instead of Friday, Nov. 26, because of the U.S. Thanksgiving holidays.


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

Nuclear security:

  • Rosatom experts completed an inspection of the Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant. “After checking the system of accounting and control of nuclear materials at the plant, we have a positive impression, ” said chief specialist of the nuclear materials department of Rosatom Andrei Konopeshko. The state of the system of state accounting and control of nuclear materials is checked every five years at all nuclear power plants in Russia. (Rosatom, 11.16.21)
  • “We will proactively participate in international efforts to counter common challenges and threats which, unfortunately, still include terrorism and cross-border crime, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, poverty, inequality, climate change and environmental degradation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board on Nov. 18. (, 11.18.21)
  • Ukraine's nuclear power plant operator, Energoatom, is conducting the final pre-commissioning trials of the Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The company's acting president recently inspected simulation tests of the removal of nuclear fuel from unit 3 of the Rovno nuclear power plant using technology supplied by U.S. company Holtec International. The transfer of fuel is scheduled to begin next year. (World Nuclear News, 11.18.21)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog has been invited to visit Iran "probably soon," the country's Foreign Ministry said, amid concern over a lack of contact with Iranian authorities ahead of the expected resumption of negotiations with world powers on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal. (RFE/RL, 11.15.21)
  • Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's foreign minister has warned Iran not to come to the next round of talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with a "sham" negotiating stance. "If this discussion is a sham, then we will have to consider the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) empty," he said. (AP, 11.19.21)

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

  • Putin has vowed to maintain “tension” with the West over Ukraine and complained that Moscow’s red lines on regional security were being dismissed, days after the U.S. warned over a Russian troop surge at the border. “Our recent warnings have had a certain effect: tensions have arisen there anyway ... it is important for them to remain in this state for as long as possible, so that it does not occur to them to stage some kind of conflict on our western borders,” Putin told the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board Nov. 18. (Financial Times, 11.19.21,, 11.18.21)
  • “ I think they [NATO] will want to [cooperate], they are already sending signals that they want to cooperate, but why did they expel our diplomats just like that, out of the blue, for no reason?...This also applies, by the way, to Russia-U.S. relations, which, as you know, largely underlie global security and stability,” Putin told the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board Nov. 18. (, 11.18.21)
  • NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana has called on Russian officials to establish a "solid, transparent and honest dialogue.” NATO officials "are seeking and looking forward to continuing discussions with their Russian counterparts" on both the political and military levels. "We stand ready to continuing and urging Russia to come back to the NATO-Russia Council," he said. "For the time being, Russia is turning down our invitations, but we hope that they realize the merit of having a solid, transparent, and honest dialogue with NATO." Geoana rejected Russian suggestions that NATO is a potential threat to the country as "just not true," saying, "Everything we do in the Black Sea or on the eastern flank of NATO is purely defensive and perfectly transparent." (RFE/RL, 11.18.21)
  • An anti-satellite missile test blew up a defunct Russian satellite on Nov. 15 and generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and will likely generate hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces, U.S. officials said. According to NASA, the debris forced the crew aboard the space station—four Americans, a German and two Russians—to shelter into their docked spaceship capsules for two hours as a precaution to allow for a quick evacuation had it been necessary. (RFE/RL, 11.16.21)
  • Without naming Russia, French Defense Minister Florence Parly Nov. 16 lashed out at "space vandals" who were producing dangerous amounts of debris, after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Moscow for its "dangerous and irresponsible" anti-satellite missile test. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and NASA administrator Bill Nelson denounced Russia's "reckless" action. (RFE/RL, 11.16.21)
  • The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed it had conducted a weapons test targeting an unused Russian satellite that had been in orbit since 1982, insisting that the debris it generated “did not and will not pose a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities.” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called accusations against Russia baseless. (RFE/RL, 11.16.21) 
  • Two Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers made a scheduled, 10-hour flight over neutral waters near Alaska, the defense ministry said Nov. 19. (Reuters, 11.19.21)

China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?

  • “We will continue strengthening ties with our good neighbors and friends in the People’s Republic of China. Our bilateral ties have now reached the highest level in history and amount to a comprehensive strategic partnership. ... Some of our Western partners are openly trying to drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing. ... Together with our Chinese friends, we will continue responding to such attempts by expanding our political, economic and other cooperation, and coordinating steps in the world arena. Russia has a similar approach in relations with India, our specially privileged strategic partner,” Putin told the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board Nov. 18. (, 11.18.21)
  • “We should also enhance, through practical actions, our partnership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) ... Of course, we will develop cooperation in BRICS in the same vein. BRICS brings over 40% of the world’s population together and occupies more than a quarter of the Earth’s land area,” Putin told the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board Nov. 18. (, 11.18.21)
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Nov. 19 that the joint air patrol by two Russian Tu-95MS and two Chinese Hong-6K strategic bombers was not aimed against third countries. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Putin that Russian long-range combat aircraft and Chinese military planes successfully coped with their tasks during their joint air patrol over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Nov. 19. "According to the report, a Su-35S aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Force provided fighter support for the strategic bombers. Command and control of the bombers in the air was exercised from an A-50U radar surveillance and control plane," he said. The flight lasted over 10 hours. (TASS, 11.19.21)
  • Putin has signed a law ratifying the protocol on the extension of the Russian-Chinese agreement on launch notifications of ballistic missiles and space rockets until 2030. (Interfax, 11.19.21)

Missile defense:

  • “Anti-missile defense systems have been deployed right next to our borders in Romania and Poland. These can easily be put to offensive use with the Mk-41 launchers there; replacing the software takes only minutes,” Putin told the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board Nov. 18. (, 11.18.21)

Nuclear arms control:

  • Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping have agreed to hold talks aimed at reducing tensions, as U.S. anxiety grows at China’s expanding nuclear arsenal and its recent test of a hypersonic weapon. Jake Sullivan, U.S. national security adviser, said the U.S. and Chinese leaders had discussed the need for nuclear “strategic stability” talks in their virtual meeting on Nov. 15. The two sides did not decide on a format for the talks and the U.S. wants to see if China will follow through on the pledge from Xi. (Financial Times, 11.17.21)


  • Russia has drafted a declaration on combating the use of the internet by terrorists to be discussed at an OSCE Ministerial Meeting on Dec. 2-3 in Stockholm, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Nov. 19 after talks with OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde. (TASS, 11.19.21)

Conflict in Syria:

  • The Russian and Turkish defense ministers held telephone talks on Nov. 15, the Turkish Defense Ministry reported. During their call, the ministers "exchanged opinions on bilateral and regional issues of defense and security, above all on the recent situation in Syria," the ministry said. (TASS, 11.15.21)

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Germany’s energy regulator said Nov. 16 it had “temporarily suspended” certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, dealing a setback to the Kremlin-backed gas project and sparking a rise in U.K. and continental European gas prices. The regulator said it could not yet approve the project, led by Russia’s Gazprom, because its owners had chosen to create a German subsidiary branch that was not yet properly set up according to German law. It said Nord Stream 2 would then be able to continue the four-month certification process laid out by law. (Financial Times, 11.16.21)
    • Prices for the benchmark European natural-gas contract jumped nearly 8% on Nov. 17. The contract has risen nearly 60% in November, though it is still below the peak set in October. (RFE/RL, 11.17.21)
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that the EU faces “a choice” between “sticking up for Ukraine” and approving Nord Stream 2. (Financial Times, 11.16.21).
  • Gazprom has rejected an opportunity to book extra transit capacity on pipelines to Europe for the third month running. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.16.21)
  • The International Energy Agency reported that global production of oil increased by a hefty 1.4 million barrels per day in October, or more than 1% of supplies, and that it expected another 1.5 million barrels a day to come on the market over November and December.  (The New York Times, 11.16.21)

U.S.-Russian economic and financial ties:

  • Russia’s investments in U.S. government securities decreased to $3.918 billion in September compared with the previous month, according to the files released by the U.S. Treasury. In August and July, such investments were estimated at $4.004 billion and $4.006 billion, respectively. (TASS, 11.17.21)

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Preparations are underway for a virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Putin, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed to reporters on Nov. 17. No meeting date has been set, he said. Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said the Putin-Biden meeting could take place this year, according to Kommersant reported last week that Putin and Biden may hold a virtual meeting this year and then an in-person meeting early next year. (Foreign Policy, 11.18.21, RM, 11.19.21)
    • “President Biden in Geneva last June opened up a few opportunities for a dialogue and gradual alignment, straightening out our relations, and it is important that both sides consistently expand the agreements reached... Indeed, something is already being done, this much must be admitted: joint work has begun on the strategic stability and information security agenda,” Putin told the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board Nov. 18. (, 11.18.21)
  • U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, on Nov. 17. A brief statement from U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said the two discussed a variety of key issues concerning the U.S.-Russian relationship. The Kremlin said the two officials discussed Ukraine, cybersecurity and the migrant crisis on Belarus’s border with Poland. (Foreign Policy, 11.18.21)
  • In an interview with The New York Times last week, Sergei Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister of Russia, welcomed Biden’s engagement, while making it clear that Russia would expect concessions. To Russia, Ryabkov said, stability and predictability meant “less American meddling in our domestic affairs, with less attempts by the U.S. to limit our completely legal and legitimate interaction with our friends, allies and partners all over the globe.” (The New York Times, 11.19.21, Financial Times, 11.15.21)
  • The Kremlin slammed Nov. 19 a proposal by the U.S. Congress not to recognize Putin’s presidency beyond 2024. Congressmen Steve Cohen and Joe Wilson introduced a resolution Nov. 18 to end the recognition of Putin as Russian president “if the autocrat remains in power” after his current term. Constitutional amendments passed last year grant Putin the ability to stay in power until 2036 by resetting his number of terms served. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.19.21)
  • The U.S. State Department has officially added Russia to its register of the world's “worst violators” of religious freedom, a list that includes Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and five other countries. (RFE/RL, 11.17.21)
  • A Russian diaspora group in the United States said Nov. 18 it has suspended activities over what it called FBI harassment of its members as part of an undisclosed probe into “foreign agent” law violations. The Russian Community Council of the U.S.A., which organizes events to popularize the Russian language and cultural heritage within the U.S., said 300 of its members have been subjected to “pressure reminiscent of the Cold War era.” (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.19.21)
  • A Russian mixed martial arts fighter has been arrested on the U.S. territory of Guam for allegedly killing a doctor during a dispute over COVID-19 vaccines. Akmal Khozhiev, who called himself the “Unvaccinated Assassin” in social-media posts, has been charged with aggravated murder and aggravated assault after stabbing Dr. Miran Rabiti with a knife and a bone, according to multiple reports from local media. (RFE/RL, 11.17.21)
  • A former U.S. Marine serving a nine-year prison term in Russia ended a hunger strike he launched to protest against alleged violations of his rights, his lawyer told AFP Nov. 17. U.S. citizen Trevor Reed is serving his sentence in a penal colony some 500 kilometers southeast of Moscow after being convicted of assaulting police officers while drunk in 2019.   (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.17.21)
  • The United States has the largest prison population in the world—according to mass media, over 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated in the U.S., while China is the first runner-up with the prison population nearing 1.65 million people. Brazil has surpassed Russia in the global ranking with a prison population of 607,000. (Interfax, 11.18.21)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia on Nov. 19 confirmed 37,156 COVID-19 infections and a new record of 1,254 deaths, up 1,251 from Nov. 18 and 1,247 on Nov. 17. Meanwhile, Russia's herd immunity has surpassed 50%, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said Nov. 19. (The Moscow Times, 11.19.21, AP, 11.19.21) 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.
  • Russia’s agriculture exports increased by 20% from the beginning of 2021 to Nov. 14 in annual terms to $29.544 billion, the Agroexport federal center under the Ministry of Agriculture reported Nov. 17. (TASS, 11.17.21)
  • St. Petersburg’s average winter temperatures could be 4 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial average by 2050, while summer temperatures will rise by 2 C, said Yelena Akentieva, a senior researcher at the Voeikov Main Geophysical Laboratory. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.19.21)
  • Russia's newest nuclear-powered icebreaker, the Sibir, has left the Baltic Shipyard and headed into the Gulf of Finland for sea trials. Two more identical ships are under construction at the shipyard near Saint Petersburg. (World Nuclear News, 11.18.21)
  • Two Russian Nobel Peace Prize winners have issued a joint appeal for authorities to drop a bid to close one of Russia's most venerated human rights groups—Memorial. In a joint statement on Nov. 18, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, and the editor in chief of the Novaya gazeta newspaper, Dmitry Muratov, said attempts to close Memorial have “caused anxiety and concern in the country, which we share.” (RFE/RL, 11.19.21)
  • Muratov and his newspaper Novaya Gazeta have been fined for failing to properly label “foreign agents” mentioned in their news coverage, Russian media reported Nov. 17.  (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.18.21)
  • Pyotr Verzilov, the publisher of the independent media website Mediazona, has been added to Russia's wanted list for allegedly hiding his dual citizenship. (RFE/RL, 11.15.21)
  • Russia’s Supreme Court has banned the criminal prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses for joint worship, potentially putting an end to the law enforcement practice of jailing believers for prayer sessions. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.17.21)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russia has fired its Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile from a warship in the north of the country, the military said Nov. 18. The Admiral Gorshkov frigate has test-launched the Tsirkon several times in recent years. The latest launch hit a target in the White Sea, TASS cited the Russian Defense Ministry as saying.  (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.18.21)
  • Russia has also launched construction of several prototypes of its cutting-edge AI-powered stealth fighter jet dubbed “The Checkmate,” the head of Russia’s aircraft corporation said. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.15.21)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Britain says it will hold a public inquiry into the death of a woman believed to have died indirectly during the 2018 poisoning of a former Russian double agent. Dawn Sturgess's inquest could be converted into a public inquiry, Home Secretary Priti Patel wrote in a letter to Coroner Heather Hallett, saying she hoped it would "bring comfort" to the family. (RFE/RL, 11.18.21)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • “Our diplomacy should be more active in countering attempts by the European Union and the United States to assume the right to dictate the climate agenda single-handedly and to create standards for it ... But we are not calling for dissent; on the contrary, we are calling for a search for mutually acceptable solutions,” Putin told the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board Nov. 18. (, 11.18.21)
  • Russia has launched deliveries of its advanced S-400 defense systems to India. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.15.21)
  • The Russian military said Nov. 18 it has resumed evacuating citizens of Russia and regional allies from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.18.21)
  • EU foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on Russian mercenary company Wagner Group, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Nov. 15, as European diplomats warned that the company poses a growing threat to EU interests. (The Wall Street Journal, 11.15.21)
  • A Danish high court has rejected an appeal filed by a Russian citizen sentenced to three years in prison on an espionage charge. Russian media reports have identified the man as Alexei Nikiforov. (RFE/RL, 11.18.21)
  • Sberbank will provide Rosatom’s Akkuyu Nuclear with a loan for the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey. To this end, the bank opened two credit lines (in the amount of $500 million and $300 million) for a period of seven years. The funds will be used for the construction of four blocks of the station. (Rosatom, 11.16.21)


  • In a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron on Nov. 15, Putin said the naval exercises in the Black Sea were “provocative” and accused Ukraine of “destructive” military activity in the Donbass region that he said was “designed to break the Minsk accords.” Both sides agreed the conflict in the Donbass was “getting even worse,” according to a Kremlin readout of the call. During the conversation, Macron expressed "our deep concern and our willingness to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine," the French president's office said. Putin responded by saying that negotiations were "made difficult" by the Ukrainian authorities, the Elysee Palace said, adding that this line of reasoning was "often" used by the Russian leader. (Financial Times, 11.15.21, AFP, 11.15.21)
  • Putin on Nov. 18 said the West is "escalating" the Ukraine conflict by holding drills in the Black Sea and flying bombers "20 kilometers from our border." Putin said Moscow has been "constantly raising concerns about this" but "all our warnings and talk about red lines are treated superficially." "Brussels needs to understand that the decreasing of military-political tensions is not only in Russian interests, but in those of the whole of Europe, and even the world," Putin said. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.18.21)
  • Putin told state television last weekend that Moscow was concerned about unannounced NATO drills in the Black Sea involving a “powerful naval group” and planes carrying strategic nuclear weapons, which he said presented a “serious challenge” for Russia. Putin said he had warned his defense ministry away from conducting its own unplanned drills in the region and limited it to accompanying NATO planes and ships because “there’s no need to aggravate the situation further.” (Financial Times, 11.14.21)
  • Russia will never agree that it is a party to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Putin said. (Interfax, 11.15.21)
  • Peskov has disagreed with the opinion of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the migrant crisis on the Belarusian-EU border has been provoked by Minsk to distract attention from Russian activity near Ukraine. (Interfax, 11.15.21)
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Nov. 17 that the Russian troop movements “certainly have our attention” and he urged Russia to be “more transparent” about its intentions. Earlier in the day, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned a panel of senior lawmakers that it would be a “tragic mistake” for the Kremlin to undertake “military adventurism.” (RFE/RL, 11.18.21)
  • Russia will face “serious consequences” if it threatens Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Paris and Berlin have warned, as ministers held meetings to discuss the threat posed by a build-up of troops on the country’s border. In a joint statement, Heiko Maas and Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign ministers of Germany and France, pledged “unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine” after meeting their counterpart from Kyiv. (Financial Times, 11.15.21)
    • France and Germany have accused Moscow of violating diplomatic protocol by publishing confidential correspondence related to Normandy Format efforts to resolve the conflict in parts of eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 11.18.21)
  • “Unfortunately, in reality, [Germany and France] are indulging the current Kyiv leadership’s course on dismantling the [Minsk agreements], which, unfortunately, has led the talks and the settlement itself into a dead end,” Putin told the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board Nov. 18. (, 11.18.21)
  • Western intelligence suggests a “high probability of destabilization” of Ukraine by Russia as soon as this winter after Moscow massed more than 90,000 troops at its border, according to Kyiv’s deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar. Maliar added that allies’ conclusions were “based not only on information about the number of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border,” suggesting Washington had additional intelligence about Putin’s intentions. (Financial Times, 11.14.21)
  • Ukraine is not registering any amassment or movement of Russian troops near the border between the two states, spokesman for Ukraine’s State Border Service Andrei Demchenko said Nov. 15. (Interfax, 11.15.21)
  • Kyiv estimates Russia has deployed as many as 114,000 forces to the north, east and south of Ukraine—including about 92,000 ground soldiers and the rest in air and sea military forces, Kyrylo Budanov, chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence, told the FT. (Financial Times, 11.14.21)
  • “2,100 Russian troops are permanently present on the territories of the Donbass which are not under Ukraine’s jurisdiction,” said Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi. (Ukraine Business News, 11.15.21)
  • Footage on social media appears to show huge amounts of Russian military gear near the city of Voronezh, 200 miles east of the Ukrainian border. A large number of Russian tanks, howitzers and armored vehicles were reported to have been moved there. (Mirror, 11.14.21)
  • Stoltenberg said Nov. 15 that NATO had seen "large and unusual concentrations of Russian forces close to Ukraine's borders" in recent weeks.” (The Wall Street Journal, 11.15.21)
  • The Ukrainian Naval Forces conducted a PASSEX-type exercise with ships of the U.S. Navy, Turkey and Romania, according to the public relations service of the command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. (Interfax, 11.14.21)
  • The Ukrainian Defense Ministry will buy a new batch of Bayraktar unmanned aerial vehicles from Turkey for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine next year, Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said. (Interfax, 11.12.21)
  • Ukraine has received about 80 tons of ammunition from the U.S., the U.S. embassy in Kyiv said in a statement. (Interfax, 11.15.21)
  • A task force of up to 600 British troops is ready to deploy in Ukraine. Units from the SAS and Parachute Regiment have been warned they could be sent to the country within hours. (Mirror, 11.14.21)
  • Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist has announced his country's readiness to send Swedish troops to Ukraine as part of an EU-led training mission, Sveriges Radio has reported. (Interfax, 11.17.21)
  • The Ukrainian Army says its soldiers knocked down a Russian drone that crossed the demarcation line in the Joint Forces Operation area in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region. (Defense Blog, 11.17.21)
  • Britain's intention to provide Ukraine with a 1.7 billion pound loan for the development and reinforcement of its navy will contribute to a further increase of instability in Europe, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said. (Interfax, 11.17.21)
  • Zakharova said that the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in Donbass had registered a considerable increase in ceasefire violations in Ukraine. In October, there were about 6,000 cases, while in the first week of November, more than 8,000. (TASS, 11.17.21)
  • An alleged plot by Ukrainian intelligence agencies to capture almost three dozen Russian mercenaries fell apart after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office requested a postponement, according to an investigation by Bellingcat and the Russia-focused media outlet The Insider. (RFE/RL, 11.17.21)
  • The U.S. Energy Department is funding an independent review by a technical advisory body to Ukraine's nuclear regulator of the NuScale Power Module Safety Analysis Report. This review will be made available to any utility in Ukraine interested in deploying NuScale Power's small modular reactor (SMR) technology. (World Nuclear News, 11.19.21)
  • A U.S. citizen has been arrested in Ukraine for allegedly planning to kill the country's minister for agrarian policies and food, Roman Leshchenko, in August. Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy told reporters in Kyiv Nov. 18 that the suspect and his alleged accomplice, a Ukrainian woman, had been apprehended a day earlier. (RFE/RL, 11.19.21)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • A makeshift migrant camp on Belarus' border with Poland has been cleared, Minsk said Nov. 18, as hundreds of Iraqis who failed to make the crossing to enter the EU returned home. Hope for de-escalating the crisis, which has seen thousands camping in desperate conditions on the border for weeks, had been mounting in recent days, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko twice by phone. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.19.21)
  • Polish authorities say migrants tried to cross the border from Belarus overnight—but in smaller numbers—after Belarus cleared some camps where people had gathered in freezing temperatures and as hundreds of migrants were flown back to Iraq. The developments appeared to signal an easing of a weeks-long crisis on the EU’s eastern border, but the dispute was not yet resolved as the bloc rejected Minsk’s proposal that it take in 2,000 migrants. (RFE/RL, 11.19.21)
  • Lukashenko said he had de-escalated a months-long migrant crisis on the Polish border in a call Nov. 19 morning with Putin, according to the Kremlin press service. But Poland disagreed, warning Nov. 19 that it would block rail freight traffic at the Kuznitsa railway checkpoint starting Nov. 21 unless Belarus took action to stabilize the border, Interfax Belarus reported. The crossing is one of several important rail freight routes via Belarus to Europe. (The Washington Post, 11.19.21)
  • Lukashenko's spokeswoman Natalya Eismont said Nov. 18 there were currently around 7,000 migrants in the country. She said Belarus will send 5,000 migrants home, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel will negotiate with the EU on creating "a humanitarian corridor to Germany" for the 2,000 on the border. Merkel spoke to Lukashenko for the second time in three days on Nov. 17. Lukashenko’s press service said the two had reached “a certain understanding on how to move forward and solve existing issues.” During his first conversation with Merkel, Lukashenko reportedly had demanded he be recognized as the Belarusian president. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.18.21, Financial Times, 11.17,21)
  • EU diplomats are doubtful that the new sanctions being drawn up against Minsk could be staved off. A more realistic deal, one Western diplomat said, would be one in which the EU provided financial or logistical support to ease the humanitarian crisis. The EU is considering sanctions on two dozen Belarusian officials, a Syrian airline and a hotel in Minsk, diplomats said. (Financial Times, 11.14.21, Financial Times, 11.17.21)
  • The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has suspended making any new private sector investments into Belarus to synchronize its actions with Europe's efforts to increase pressure on Lukashenko. (bne IntelliNews, 11.17.21)
  • Biden expressed concern Nov. 12 about the refugee crisis on the Polish-Belarussian border, calling it "a great concern." "We communicated our concern to Russia, we communicated our concern to Belarus," Biden said. "We think it's a problem." (RFE/RL, 11.13.21)
  • Russia on Nov. 17 welcomed direct talks held between EU and Belarus officials over a migrant crisis on the Polish border. "It is very important that contact has been made between representatives of the EU and the leadership of Belarus," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, days after Merkel discussed the issue with Lukashenko. It was Lukashenko's first phone call with a Western leader since last year's protests, that erupted over an election that the EU says he rigged. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.17.21)
  • Blaming Western policies in the Middle East for the crisis, Putin hit back at claims from Poland and others that Russia is working with Belarus to send migrants to the border of the EU. "I want everyone to know. We have nothing to do with it," he said Nov. 13. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.13.21)
  • Azerbaijan and Armenia have agreed a ceasefire to end a large-scale Azerbaijani offensive against Armenian territory in the worst fighting between the two countries since the end of last year’s Karabakh war. Armenia’s defense ministry announced that at 1pm local time on Nov. 16, Azerbaijani forces launched a major assault on Armenian positions on the country’s eastern border. The Armenian defense ministry said six of its soldiers were killed and that communication with 24 other servicemen had been lost, while 13 others were taken prisoner by Azerbaijani forces. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian replaced his defense minister. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said on the morning of Nov. 17 that seven of its soldiers were killed and 10 others wounded in renewed fighting. The fighting comes as Azerbaijan continues to push for a “Zangezur corridor” that will provide it land access to the ethnic Azerbaijani Nakhchivan enclave inside Armenia. (bne IntelliNews, 11.17.21, RFE/RL, 11.17.21, RFE/RL, 11.19.21, RFE/RL, 11.15.21)
  • “Undoubtedly, Russian diplomacy is playing a growing role in further efforts to settle disputes between Azerbaijan and Armenia, restore economic ties and unblock vital transport corridors in the South Caucasus. We have established an interstate commission at the level of deputy prime ministers. It is working, and I think it has good prospects,” Putin told the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board Nov. 18. (, 11.18.21)
  • Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko and his Turkish counterpart Sedat Onal have confirmed the relevance of promptly launching a 3+3 mechanism of talks (by Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Turkey and Iran) for the Southern Caucasus. The idea of six-party talks on Nagorno-Karabakh and the resumption of economic and transport ties in the region was put forward by Azerbaijan’s leader Ilham Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Iran welcomed this proposal, saying it was prepared to assist in steps for building peace in the region.  (Interfax, 11.15.21)
  • Hundreds of protesters have gathered in the center of the Georgian capital to demand the transfer of jailed former President Mikheil Saakashvili to a high-profile civilian clinic as concerns grow over the health of the opposition figure, who has been on a hunger strike for 50 days. Saakashvili has demanded to be taken to a civilian hospital, which the government has refused, claiming that his supporters would storm such a facility. Saakashvili risks death if he is not transferred from a prison hospital to a regular clinic, a doctor who examined him said Nov. 19. (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.19.21, RFE/RL, 11.19.21)
  • “The Eurasian Economic Union is a key integration association. The EAEU goal is to create a common market for goods and services, capital and workforce. … [C]onsidering the risks and challenges arising along the perimeter of our borders, we should pay special attention to joint efforts with our allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization,” Putin told the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board Nov. 18. (, 11.18.21)
  • Kazakh-American law professor Saule Omarova, who has been nominated as the top U.S. banking regulator, defended her qualifications at a contentious Senate hearing where some lawmakers, mostly Republicans, honed in on her Soviet upbringing. (RFE/RL, 11.19.21)
  • U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy and Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski have urged Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the authoritarian president of Turkmenistan, to release political prisoners in his country. (RFE/RL, 11.18.21)
  • Russia and Uzbekistan signed 18 documents during Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s visit to Moscow, his press service said Nov. 19 after talks with Putin. (TASS, 11.19.21)


IV. Quoteworthy

  • Former U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster: “The long war against jihadist terrorist organizations isn't over; it is entering a new, more dangerous phase. America's rivals—including China, Russia, North Korea and Iran—are emboldened. They are watching a Defense Department that seems to focus more on climate change than being prepared to fight.” (The Wall Street Journal, 11.10.21) 
  • Rapper and fashion mogul Kanye West said: "I am Putin. I am young Putin. ... I realized that I was Vladimir when I realized that culture is an oil, culture is an energy. And I am the king of culture for the past 20 and the next 2,000 years." (The Moscow Times/AFP, 11.15.21)