Russia Monitor

Gazprom's Seleznev Fired Amid Corruption Charges
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Kirill Seleznev, a close associate of Gazprom's CEO Alexey Miller and Director General of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz, has been relieved of his post as a Gazprom board member. Seleznev's dismissal may emerge as an outcome of the infamous Arashukov case, having links to the recent decision to relieve Chechnya's gas debts. He is the fourth member of Gazprom's management board to have been sacked over the past few weeks. This will, however, not hit Miller, all the more so that Seleznev has been replaced by his former deputy.

Russian Fleet Holds Military Drills in the North Atlantic
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Recent nuclear drills carried out by Russia near Norway's Lofoten archipelago confirms Moscow's intention to expand its military activities to the Norwegian Sea, able to pose a threat to NATO strategic maritime corridor running through the United Kingdom, Iceland, and Greenland. Oslo has been aware of a growing threat from Russia while boosting its military forces in northern Norway for the fear of land-attack operations from the Russian Kola Peninsula.

Sudan Coup: What's Next with Russian "Advisers"?
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Putin-Erdogan Meeting: Turkey Shifts Towards Russia
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Russia for his third meeting (and second in Moscow) this year with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. During his trip, the Turkish head of state confirmed his intention to purchase Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system despite the mounting pressure from both Washington and NATO allied countries. Also, as evidenced by the Putin-Erdogan meeting at the Kremlin, the Syrian-Russian joint offensive against Syria's rebel-controlled Idlib enclave is still to remain suspended. So far, Erdogan has made a successful attempt to hinder the liquidation of Syria's last rebel-held bastion. Ankara sees it as an essential bargaining chip in the game whose goal is to neutralize a threat posed by the Syrian Kurds.

LNG and Northern Sea Route: Putin Sets Goals for the Arctic
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has outlined general plans for the Arctic expansion. Speaking at the International Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg, Putin committed to developing naval ports and routes while expanding the energy sector (LNG) and the Northern Sea Route as a safe and economically viable route for international maritime shipping. He also urged Russia's foreign partners to take active participation in the Arctic development. This is, however, doubtful to ease concerns expressed by other countries, worried about the Kremlin's planned military buildup in the region. Also developing the Northern Sea Route has deemed doubtful as the lane is said to be unavailable for foreign shipping companies and ships sailing under foreign flags.

Russia Seeks to Boost Oil Output Despite OPEC+ Deal
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Russian commitments to cut oil output under the OPEC+ framework have recently experienced some delays. Moreover, facing the pressure from Russia's major oil producers, with state-run Rosneft at the forefront, the government will probably be likely to boost production starting from the middle of the year. Final decisions are yet to be made after talks with Saudi Arabia as the oil-rich country is keener to overcome constraints depending on global prices while paying little attention to a rigid agenda.

Netanyahu Heads to Moscow As Israelis Prepare for Elections
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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visit to Moscow five days before parliamentary elections confirmed Vladimir Putin's interest in keeping the Israeli politician in power. Also, the Russian army has recently discovered in Syria the remains of an Israeli soldier missing since the 1982 Lebanon War. The incident had a tremendous emotional significance for many Israelis and, as some claim, might have helped the Likud Party to take over votes for other right-wing parties just before the elections. Drawing minimal attention to distinct approaches to Iran's military presence in Syria was a step meant to portray Netanyahu's visit as a success while confirming his political aptitude for leading effective foreign policy, which was to give him an advantage over his domestic rivals.

Local and State Authorities Foster Novatek's LNG Expansion
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Investments led by Russia's largest private-run gas firm Novatek are backed both by the Kremlin and regional authorities. The company's plans to set up further liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in the Russian Far North is to serve multiple purposes: increase LNG output in the country, improve Novatek's results while boosting Russia's shares in the global LNG market, and provide an economic stimulus to the areas located in the close neighborhood of the Northern Sea Route, where Novatek's liquefied natural gas is expected to be shipped to both Asian and European markets.

Russia Is Waiting for the Second Round of Ukraine's Presidential Election
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According to the Russian media and a certain group of politicians, Moscow may potentially deny recognizing the final results of the recent presidential election in Ukraine. Such a scenario seems more likely if Petro Poroshenko is elected for his second term of office yet from the Kremlin's perspective, none of the two competitors who have entered the second round is favorable for Russia's interests. Naturally, the Kremlin fears that Poroshenko is reelected to a second term while Zelenskiy's victory may be viewed by the Russian authorities as a completely new opening in the bilateral negotiations on Donbas that have long remained frozen.

Rosneft's Sechin Gains Special Position in the Kremlin
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This is yet another chapter of Russia's oil price-fixing scandal. On March 19, officers of Russian services entered the headquarters of the state's largest oil traders where they carried out searches. As initially expected, these have hit all the entities that were allegedly found guilty of recent drastic increases in oil prices. Not incidentally, they all compete with Russian state-run oil giant Rosneft whose chief executive Igor Sechin requested the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Investigative Committee to open an investigation and conducted a search at the premises of Petersburg-based Solid fuel trader and those of the Saint Petersburg Commodity and Stock Exchange.

NATO–Russia Relations: The Return of the Enemy
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RUSSIA MONITOR MONTHLY 02/2019
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