Russia Monitor

More Information about Montenegro Coup Trial Is Revealed

One of the suspects on trial over a failed 2016 coup attempt fled to the Serbian Embassy. Branka Milic is among the twelve people whose trial is currently taking place in Podgorica while two alleged suspects, officially identified as Russian GRU military intelligence officers, are to be judged in absentia for organizing the failed coup plot. Media recently reported on the real personal details of the second of them.


Russia’s GRU: New Chief, Same Goals

Vice Admiral Igor Kostyukov is the first naval officer nominated to head the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. He was appointed the acting head of the Russian GRU following the death of his predecessor Igor Korobov on November 21, 2018. His nomination will not introduce any changes to the core domains of GRU’s activities. First and foremost, it should be expected that Russia’s military intelligence will continue its hitherto offensive actions targeted against the West.


Russian-Indian Military Partnership: Military Drills and Weapons Purchase

The Indian government strives to intensify its armaments cooperation with Russia disregarding the U.S. warnings. Russian naval vessels and missiles seem very desirable equipment for the state’s army. It is just a matter of time when India and Russia will seal next deals, especially after the visit of the Indian navy commander to Russia. Following a certain period of cool diplomatic relations with Moscow, India has now upgraded its defense ties with Moscow, becoming the largest purchaser of Russian military equipment and weapons.


Russia Helps Venezuela Alleviate the Crisis

Moscow is currently doing its utmost to prevent the Venezuelan leftist regime from collapsing as such a situation would eventually deprive the Kremlin of its key ally in the confrontation with the United States in the western hemisphere. Russia has long subsidized poor Venezuela’s declining economy, mostly by encouraging investments and granting oil-backed loans by the state-owned giant Rosneft. Russian economic entities are thus used to circumvent U.S. sanctions while carrying out financial operations.


More Russian Bases in Central Asia?

Russia to a large extent provides military protection to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Both republics border Afghanistan, which makes them potentially vulnerable to Islamist aggression. Yet the threat can no longer be referred to as the one posed by the Taliban, with whom Moscow has only recently entered into cooperation. Instead, the countries may be at risk from the Islamic State in neighboring Afghanistan. Russia is not in a hurry to boost its military presence in the region, though. Yet the situation may dramatically change if Russian communications and radio-electronic intelligence facilities face potential danger. They seem important for the operation of Russia’s fleet and its strategic missile forces while little attention is attracted to the conventional security of the countries where they are located.


Rosneft and Lukoil in a Row Over Oil Supplies in Russia’s Far North

Russia’s two largest oil firms have argued over the possibility of exporting resources from the Varandey oil terminal in the Arctic. The state-owned Rosneft and the private-held Lukoil are currently involved in a commercial partnership in the Trebs and Titov oil projects. Both firms extract oil in the fields that are among the biggest in the far northern Nenets tundra. Yet they have entered into a clash over the cost of delivering oil via seaways.


Caspian Opportunity for the West

The hydrocarbon-rich Caspian Sea region may constitute a real chance for global oil markets, which are currently looking solutions to increase their output. Though rich in resources and easily accessible, the Caspian Sea deposits were prevented from being extracted due to the unregulated status of the coastal sea of Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Azerbaijan. The August convention on the Caspian Sea’s legal status finally paves the way for the development of Trans-Caspian oil and gas transport. The development of Caspian hydrocarbon exports, with the current output of 2 million barrels per day, would improve the situation on the world oil market, for example by increasing the amount of raw material, reduced as a result of the civil war in Libya and U.S. sanctions against Iran. This may also provide an opportunity for the region’s political stabilization as well as eventually result in a more effective rivalry between the West and both Russia and Iran.


Oil Companies Keep Paying Off Their Debts to the Kremlin

Russian state authorities need to tackle an uneasy challenge of cooling down public discontent, which forces them to prevent from any further increases in prices of basic services and commodities, including gas and fuels. Prior to the beginning of his new term of office, Vladimir Putin was assured by representatives of oil companies that they would hinder further growth in fuel prices during the pre-election period. Putin’s victory was then followed by the plan to raise the retirement age, which yet again resulted in anti-government moods. The thorny issue translated into the Russians’ drop in support for the Prime Minister, President, and the government. Facing such a delicate situation, the state authorities should do their utmost to prevent any further social and economic phenomena that could additionally aggravate the already tense situation. Hence the unanimous consent of Russia’s oil giants to refrain themselves from raising fuel prices – at least until the end of the


Gazprom’s Lavish Spending

Russia’s state-run gas giant Gazprom has recently increased spending on the implementation of its key projects, including Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream. This will eventually mean that the company’s debt is likely to deepen as the firm is no longer able to cover all investment expenditures from its own pocket, despite record gas sale revenues in Europe. The market has negatively assessed a policy, which seemed yet again to corroborate the fact that Gazprom is not a typical profit-oriented enterprise. Instead, it serves for the Kremlin’s purposes, also in order to subsidize the companies belonging to Putin’s friends with public money.


Kadyrov’s Oil Assets: End of the War for Chechen Resources

Great personal relations between Ramzan Kadyrov and Vladimir Putin seem to triumph also in business matters. The President of Chechnya announced that his government is taking over 100 percent of ownership in the company Chechenneftekhimprom, enabling the Chechens to develop independent processes of handling, extracting and selling crude oil. The decision has directly hit Russia’s state-owned oil giant Rosneft and its CEO Igor Sechin. While the loss of Chechen assets does not seem to affect the firm to a greater extent, such a political defeat in the battle against Kadyrov will be a bitter pill for Sechin to swallow.


Putin Pleased with Macron’s Idea of Forming a European Army

Even if Russian President Vladimir Putin did not manage to hold any longer talks with his American counterpart Donald Trump during World War I centenary events in Paris, he might still consider his trip to the French capital as highly succesful. To Putin’s great satisfaction, Macron’s idea provoked a conflict within the Euro-Atlantic community whilst the notion of a unified “European army”, considered as offensive to the United States, seems like a perfect gift for Moscow as it has long sought to break the unity between Europe and its transatlantic partner, mainly in the area of defense. It is therefore to be expected that the Russians will try their utmost to feed the dispute while encouraging Paris and its European allies to push through a concept that may put an end to the existing Euro-Atlantic defense system.


Dry-Dock Breakdown Complicates Kremlin’s Naval Plans

A floating dry deck has recently sunk in the Russian city of Murmansk while holding Russia’s sole aircraft carrier aboard. The incident is thus likely to complicate the Fleet’s plans to refurbish its largest naval vessels and impede Russia’s program for a potential war with the United States, thus preventing the fleet from achieving its previously scheduled maximum combat readiness.


U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry Visits Poland: Bad News for Russia’s Gazprom

The latest visit of the U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to Poland – along with all his declarations and newly signed deals – shows that Poland is expected to be an important partner of the United States in terms of energy cooperation. So far, the ever-increasing alliance concerns primarily gas issues, as exemplified by LNG contracts and the two countries’ joint standpoint on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, while Perry’s trip to Poland opens the way for further cooperation in other energy areas, also including nuclear power. It could transform exclusively commercial relations into a strategic partnership in terms of energy security. Nonetheless, the U.S.-Polish partnership does not seem favorable for Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom, as the company is getting ready for bilateral talks with Poland regarding the extension of the current gas supply deal set to expire in 2022.


Russian-Austrian Problem with the GRU in the Background

The latest espionage scandal may bring about more serious consequences to Moscow than all earlier similar instances, perceived as much more controversial ones. This time, the incident took place in Austria, a state that was to play a key role in the Kremlin’s strategy, aiming to change the EU policy towards Russia. As in the case of Greece, the country, traditionally considered as Russia’s close ally, will be forced to sever the bilateral diplomatic relations with Moscow following the disclosure of a spying scandal.


A New Revolutionary Terrorism: Russia’s FSB Head Identifies the Enemy

A suicide bombing in the Russian city of Arkhangelsk symbolically marked the beginning of a new era in terms of Russian terrorism. Though, due to propaganda reasons, it appears much more dangerous for the regime than all hitherto attacks carried out by Islamists. The emerging risk has been also distinguished by the Director of the FSB who may probably take advantage of the situation in order to intensify repressive measures against the opposition. Such a solution will not eradicate the problem of the ever-increasing youth radicalization.


Russia’s FSB Shaken by Regional Reshuffles

Recent personnel reshuffles took place at three FSB regional offices while two of them, Kaliningrad and Crimea, seemed extremely important from the point of view of intelligence and counterintelligence security. The Kremlin’s latest decision aims to put an end to local criminal and political ties as well as to deploy experienced officers tasked with restoring order in the regions.


Russia and Cuba: United in the Face of a Common Enemy

Cuba’s new President recently paid a visit to Moscow, giving the green light to the further advancement of Russian-Cuban cooperation. Over the past few years, Moscow and Havana sought to enhance their economic and energy ties while they now draw attention to developing military ties. The more so that the ongoing crisis in relations with the United States may tempt some Kremlin officials to restore Russia’s military presence in Cuba.


Spy Hunting in Russia

Russian special services have recently detained another person convicted of high treason. It is about a young expert of a private military think tank whose interests included the activities of Russian mercenaries. Interestingly enough, over the past few months, there emerged a couple of similar cases that had at least three aspects in common. Firstly, most defendants specialize in the domain of security and armaments. Secondly, their cases are being classified as strictly confidential. Thirdly, all top-secret information transferred abroad by the alleged detainees is generally available and can be accessed even in some scientific publications. Such a “spy hunting” seems to place into a context of an atmosphere of suspicion and danger as well as the “besieged fortress” syndrome as developed by the state authorities.


The Kremlin to Strengthen Russia’s Far East

On November 3, Russia’s Vladimir Putin signed a presidential decree on adding the Republic of Buryatia and Zabaykalsky Krai to the Far Eastern Federal District. The President’s decision came amid poor results of the recent regional elections held in this part of the country. At the same time, Putin sought to stress out that the region is a top priority for the Kremlin.


Russia’s New Weapon: Putin Did Not Keep His Word

According to Russian information agencies, quoting sources in the country’s armaments industry, the new generation inter-continental ballistic missile Sarmat is scheduled to enter duty no sooner than in 2021. Back in May this year, President Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian army was expected to receive a weapon in 2020. Such was the initial schedule, yet it is not known whether it would be possible to enter the system into service by 2021 as the missiles do not appear to have started testing yet.


Putin Voices Solid Support for GRU Military Intelligence

Vladimir Putin’s presence in a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of Russia’s military intelligence services – as well as his speech – clearly indicate that the GRU should not be afraid of any purges, even in the face of a series of mishaps that have occurred over the past few months. The state’s military intelligence services obediently follow the Kremlin’s instructions, thus gaining Putin’s trust. Moreover, the President’s announcement to restore the GRU to its original name constitutes a symbolic part of the Kremlin’s aggressive policy.


Gazprom and Ukraine Face Another Litigation over Gas Supplies

Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom has filed an appeal against Ukraine to an international arbitration tribunal. It was about a fine imposed on Russia’s firm almost three years ago by the country’s Antimonopoly Committee for allegedly abusing its position in the gas transit through Ukrainian pipelines. This is yet another episode of the legal and financial wrangle between Russia’s Gazprom and the Ukrainian authorities. Earlier, the court in the Swedish capital considered complaints from both parties related essentially to the provisions and further implementation of two large gas deals, both of them dating back to 2009. They provided for the purchase of gas by Kiev as well as the transit of Russian gas to Western countries, via Ukraine’s territory.


Moscow Hopes for Iraq’s New Government

Following the recent parliamentary elections, Iraq has still to face a long and complicated process of forming its government. It seems that the country’s ruling team will pursue even a more open policy towards Russia than the previous one. Speaking of Moscow, it hopes to deepen its military and economic partnership with Iraq as there has even emerged an offer to set the Russian permanent military presence on the state’s territory.