Russia Monitor

Druzhba Oil Pipeline Contamination Brings Russia’s Transneft Into Disrepute
05/14/2019

Adverse effects of the Druzhba oil pipeline contamination crisis are likely to be felt until the end of the year. This was the most significant technical failure in its 55-year history while real normalcy is expected to come long after it had been promised. For his part, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed the cost of damages from contaminated oil received via the pipeline could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The recent equipment failure showed that importing hydrocarbon supplies from Russia is a risky undertaking while its effects were immediately experienced by refineries in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. About 36.7 million barrels of crude oil were contaminated yet no information has been given how polluted supplies had entered the pipeline. Although the Russian pipeline operator provided on some explanations, many recipients considered them highly doubtful. It might have been Transneft’s responsibility, and the company is…

Russian Military Activity in Yellow Sea Raises Concerns in South Korea
05/11/2019

An air incident has recently taken place during the joint Russian-Chinese naval drills in the Yellow Sea as two Russian aircraft penetrated South Korea’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), forcing South Korea to mobilize its fighter jets in response. Not incidentally, Russian jets have so far violated the South Korean zone as many as four times. The occurrence happened during a Russian-Chinese bilateral naval exercise, codenamed Joint Sea 2019.

Idlib Air Raids Continue As Negotiations Come to Standstill
05/10/2019

Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes intensified in late April and early May bombardment of Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province and neighboring regions, killing dozens of civilians. And yet, the issue of the rebel-controlled enclave has come to a standstill due to Turkey’s calls for stopping the invasion by government forces, backed by Iranian and Russian allies. Also, it was expected to become one of the topics discussed during the next Astana format meeting. Yet peace talks have eventually failed to bear any fruits, as a result of which Idlib’s status quo is likely to be maintained until July.

Russian GRU Agents Found Guilty of Attempted Montenegro Coup
05/09/2019

A court in Podgorica found a group of people guilty of plotting a coup aimed at overthrowing the Montenegrin authorities back in the autumn of 2016. Armed attacks were planned and carried out under the supervision of Russian military intelligence officers. As initially planned, Serbian nationalists were supposed to trigger off a storm on the parliament building and assassinate the Montenegrin prime minister. The coup was thwarted by Montenegrin services, after being tipped off by one of the plotters. In June 2017, Montenegro joined NATO, becoming its 29th member.

To What Extent Is Russia Cutting Military Spending?
05/07/2019

Russia’s 2018 military expenditure dropped, marking the falling tendency for a third consecutive year, the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) revealed. Pessimists in Moscow have already sounded the alarm, claiming that Russia halts further military spending while those of other countries have recently rocketed. Also, they pointed to Moscow’s economic problems as the reason for limiting the scope of the country’s armaments. For their part, optimists said that dropping figures came in the aftermath of a proposal to upgrade the army, scheduled a few years ago, while Moscow spends less yet makes better investments than its international rivals. The sums themselves have sparked off a heated controversy, given that various methods of converting currency in which expenses were expressed (from roubles to dollars) whereas a considerable part of Russian military budget is not revealed to the public.

Russian Operator Says Dirty Oil in the Druzhba Pipeline Could Be Sabotage
04/28/2019

At a joint meeting of the operators of the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline, Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft informed that the oil pollution was intentional. Belarussian refineries were made to halve oil production due to high levels of organic chloride detected in oil while Polish and Ukrainian operators halted oil transit.

Were Top FSB Officials Jailed over Oligarchs' Struggle?
04/27/2019

A top Russian FSB official in charge in the banking sphere has recently been arrested along with two fellow officers holding positions in the same department. Their detainments may be part of a large-scale operation against Ivan Tkachev, the head of the FSB's Department K. Also, these activities might have been commissioned by a Lubyanka influential officer, reportedly close to the Rotenberg brothers. Tkachev belongs to a group of Sechin's loyal people.

Nord Stream 2: Denmark Helps Ukraine to Maintain Current Gas Transit Levels
04/27/2019

Copenhagen's latest declaration to delay granting permission for the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Denmark's exclusive economic zone in the Baltic is bound to translate into a delayed implementation of the project. This has arisen as relevant information for Kiev. After a Russian-Ukrainian gas transit contract expires at the end of 2019, Gazprom will be prevented from drastically lessening the amount of gas exported to Europe through the Ukrainian pipeline network. Such a move is likely to weaken Moscow's stance in the upcoming negotiations over a new transit arrangement.

No More "Teflon" Putin: Latest Polls Show President's Plunging Popularity
04/26/2019

A recent poll showed a negative tendency for the Russian regime, revealing the fall in Putin's popular support and giving no prospects for enhancing the public image of the president. The Kremlin has yet much time to reverse the unfavorable trend, though. The problem is that the present-day slump in Putin's approval ratings differs from comparable periods under his rules in the past. Unlike earlier circumstances, the Kremlin has no longer any political aces in the pocket that earlier had aided to boost the president's popularity.

Rosneft's Sechin Makes Promises for the Arctic
04/25/2019

Russia's largest oil company Rosneft has recently made a formal offer to make the country's Northern Sea Route a strategically important and economically viable maritime shipping lane. Its development should be partially possible thanks to Rosneft's increased mining activity in Russia's Far North. Sechin's firm has declared its readiness to invest in the Arctic provided that it gains solid guarantees from the Kremlin.

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RUSSIA MONITOR MONTHLY 03/2019
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