Russia Monitor

Russia's Head of Intelligence Service and Deputy Defence Minister in Pakistan

The Russians seek to mark their presence in Pakistan; first, the country was visited by Russia’s Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergey Naryshkin, who took part in a meeting of leaders of intelligence services of Russia, China and Iran. Then, it was Russian Deputy Defence Minister who paid visit to the country with the aim of discussing a deal on training Pakistani officers in Russia. In addition, a Pakistani warship was presented during the recent parade of the Russian fleet in St. Petersburg; thus, it seems that security cooperation between both countries is dynamically developing, as we wrote in our report a few month ago.The Russians tend to replace the Americans while their recent rapprochement with Pakistan may considerably affect the development of the situation both in a neighbouring Afghanistan as well as in the region.


Russian Problems in Gazprom-Naftogaz Conflict

As informed by Reuters, Gazprom has already suspended its external borrowing program. The reason is simple: an intensifying legal dispute with Ukraine's Naftogaz within the framework of the award of the Stockholm Arbitration. In June, a court in London froze Gazprom's assets in Great Britain at the request of Naftogaz. The Ukrainian company has been using its best efforts to force Gazprom to pay a compensation of 2.6 billion dollars, as ordered by the tribunal. It seems that the British verdict has scared off Western banks that traditionally cooperate with Gazprom. Thus, it is more likely that any new funds, which may be acquired by Gazprom in London, might also been frozen under the aforementioned decision. Such state of affairs has seemingly complicated Gazprom's plans, as the company is obliged to repay 15.2 billion dollars of external indebtedness until the end of the year. In addition, the corporation needs some extra funds for the implementation of gas pipeline projects to China…


Oil-For-Goods and Investments: Will Russia Save Iran's Oil Industry?

Huge protests have recently erupted in Iran in response to the deteriorating economic situation in the country; as a result, the Parliament expects President Hassan Rouhani to provide it with necessary explanation. U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (reached in 2015) keeps increasing the pressure on Iran's economy. Nevertheless, the worst is yet to come for Tehran as it may be most threatened by sanctions imposed on the state's oil sector. It is rather certain that Western companies will withdraw from Iran, as they will not risk any American repressions. And now Tehran counts primarily on Moscow's further steps. The Russians have already assured that they would provide Iran with any necessary help; at the same time, many Iranians warn that the Kremlin might sell its Middle East ally to the Americans. So one may be afraid of political tensions amid Iran's military presence and Syria as well as reports about an alleged secret…


Russian Intrigue in the Heart of Africa

The fact of murdering three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic (CAR) may have serious political repercussions both for the authorities in Bangui and Russia's interests in the country. The journalists were investigating a Russian private military company; disclosing some information would harm mercenaries from the Wagner Group as well as they would possibly hit the policy implemented by the Kremlin in Africa.


Western Sanctions: Little Impact to Russia's Oil and Gas Sector

It is expected that Western restrictions, imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union after the annexation of Crimea, will become troublesome for the state's economy only in a few years. The Russians are currently managing all resources they have at their disposals; in addition, they have been also maximally exploiting the existing infrastructure. President Vladimir Putin is aware of any dangers caused due to such long-term cut-off of Russian business from Western technologies. So this issue will certainly constitute one of the main themes of his closer relations with the U.S. President Donald Trump after the Helsinki summit. In this respect, the most urgent problem is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.


Attractive Russian Woman and Guns

Mariia Butina, a Russian national indicted by a federal grand jury, has been spying for Russia for years. The 29-year-old has specialized in an alleged fight for the broadest possible right to bear a gun in her native country. Moreover, she used this pretext to infiltrate the Russian opposition; since 2015, Butina has been spying on American right-wing circles, including the National Rifle Association (NRA).


Rosneft to Start Extracting Oil in Iraqi Kurdistan

The Russians will start to extract oil in the Kurdish part of Iraq at any moment, as confirmed by reports from both sides of a deal concluded in October 2017. At that time, Russia's oil company Rosneft purchased 80 percent of shares in five oil fields. From the very beginning, the agreement was widely criticized by the government in Baghdad. However, the Russian oil giant did not seem to care about it.


Russia's Tax Manoeuvre: Triumph of Oil Lobbies

A long-time battle over the shape of taxation changes in Russia’s oil industry will probably end up with the success of oil companies. The government will use its best efforts to make sure that they feel as less affected by the consequences of the so-called tax manoeuvre as possible. Thus, there will be some discounts for refineries while the authorities may refund export duties to companies in the case of sharp increases in oil prices.


Oil Companies Damage Russian Environment

An environmental NGO Greenpeace has recently drawn attention to damages made to Russia's natural environment due to the disastrous state of the country's pipelines. The main defendant, Russia's oil giant Rosneft, has accused Greenpeace of performing actions ordered by other entities. The organization has long been under Russia's scrutiny. Nonetheless, their findings have been recently confirmed by official data issued by state institutions. Thanks to the current Russian law and, more importantly, political connections, the Sechin-ruled group, as well as other oil companies, managed to avoid any punishment. And they have no intention to change their approach to the problem.


Kremlin's Pressure on Lukashenko: FSB Officer to be Russia's New Ambassador

Russia's new ambassador to Moscow used to serve in both the KGB and the FSB. Previously, he had been nominated to hold a diplomatic position in particularly sensitive regions. Such designation suggests that the Kremlin may tighten its policies towards Belarus. And special attention is paid to the recent commentaries of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko who indicated that Russia posed more serious threat to his country.


Putin’s Persian Game

The Russian-Iranian alliance has not been exposed to such a difficult test for a long time. Such a state of affairs was first triggered by a clash between Moscow and Tehran at the OPEC+ summit in June. In July, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting at the Helsinki summit; both leaders met face-to-face in order to discuss the issue of Syria as well as the role of Iran. Nothing is known about any details of their conversation; nonetheless, the U.S. President might have wanted Putin to provide him with a guarantee of limiting Iran’s role in Syria, and perhaps even eliminating the country from the Syrian territory. Such is the main goal of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


Under Special Supervision: Corruption Scandal in Russia’s Refineries

It was only recently that a series of corruption scandals have been revealed in the supervisory institution of Russia's refinery industry. An investigation led to the deputy head of Rostekhnadzor; interestingly, she is a friend of Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin. It is another example of his huge influence in the Russian oil and gas sector; in addition, it constitutes a blatant manifestation of a high-level corruption in this industry.


Putin’s Inner Circle in Turmoil Following Corruption Scandal

The Investigative Committee and the FSB are currently dealing with the corruption case in Gazprom and its subsidiary, Sogaz insurance company. The enterprise constitutes one of the oil giants in Russia; in addition, it has been privatized and is now controlled by businessmen belonging to Putin’s inner circle. For years, the company has been provided with lucrative contracts from state-owned companies (primarily Gazprom); nonetheless, it maintains very close business relations with Rosneft. Thus, a corruption scandal was not such as shock as the fact that it was disclosed in such business environment.


FSB's Spy-Hunt: Hypersonic Leak and an Expert on Latvia

While Russian spies are being exposed, expelled and detained in some Western countries (as evidenced by the case of 12 GRU officers and the arrest of Mariia Butina in the USA as well as scandals in Greece and Macedonia), the FSB counter-intelligence officers are now hunting Western spies in Russia. First, the media revealed information about the detainment of a well-known political scientist from Kaliningrad who had previously been associated with some pro-government institutions. The next morning, the FSB entered the offices of the Roscosmos research workers who might have known something about Russia's hypersonic weapon projects. In both cases, the investigation is being conducted under article 275 of Russia’s criminal code (for treason). It is liable to imprisonment for 20 years.


Russia's Threat to Finland

The recent summit in Helsinki reminded that the city had already witnessed some important meetings between representatives of the West and the East. Nonetheless, they all took place during the Cold War era. At that time, Finland held a specific status of a state actually belonging to the Soviet zone of influence; nonetheless, the country kept its nominal independence and political system (which led to the creation of the term "Finlandization"). Nonetheless, in recent years, mostly due to Moscow's aggressive foreign policy, Helsinki has clearly began to approach NATO structures. Such state of affairs may be disapproved by the Kremlin as the Russian authorities would like to draw Finland back into their zone of influence or at least make the country "no one's land" between Russia and NATO. The Trump-Putin summit aimed to alarm Finland. At that time, the Russians made several military gestures as well as threats towards its western neighbour.


Helsinki Summit: No Peace for Trump

There is no doubt that the Trump-Putin summit held in the Finnish capital constitutes anything but an easy PR opportunity for Russian President. Such state of matters may increase Putin's approval ratings; however, it does not necessarily have to influence his popularity. There were no concrete decisions that the Kremlin could consider in terms of an American concession made to Russia. Thus, it was not so much about Putin's victory but rather it was Trump who had lost, as the latter preferred to focus on Russiagate and his own troubles in Washington. All additional events, such as the accusation of 12 Russia's GRU agents by the American authorities or the detainment of Mariia Butina (referred to as "a secret agent of the Russian government"), seem to constitute rather a part of the escalation in U.S.-Russian diplomatic relations. So Russia's party of war is likely to come into prominence in Moscow. The risk of Russia’s aggressive actions has increased after the FIFA World Cup and the…


Russia’s GRU: Front-Line Service in the War with the West

A federal grand jury in the United States charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with carrying out hacking activities during the 2016 presidential campaign. The media have also reported that either former or current GRU officers had been responsible for the attempted assassination of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. This is another accusation against Russian military intelligence. Thus, the GRU is gradually becoming the special service of Putin's regime, responsible for front-line fights with the West.


Russia's Diplomatic Failures in the Balkans: No End to the War

Russia's attempt to undermine a deal between Macedonia and Greece may eventually end up with a great political catastrophe. Aggressive activities conducted by the state's services have already resulted with a crisis in its relations with Greece: the country that has traditionally been friendly with Russia. The latter may have even more serious problems, as it is stribing at all costs to torpedo the idea of changing the name of Macedonia in the country. So Moscow risks a complete breakdown of its relations with Athens as well as it may result with acceleration of Skopje's integration within the NATO structures.


Brand-New Missiles and New Deadlines: Russia Modernizes Its Nuclear Army

Not only are the Russians providing their nuclear army with new types of weapon but they also change the methodology of the military drills. After 20 years, they finally managed to achieve a sufficient quality of the Bulava ballistic missile while works on the Yars missile are still in progress. Russia's Strategic Missile Troops Commander has already confirmed exact dates when the army will obtain new equipment and weapons.


Wagner versus Patriot: Fighting for Mercenary Control

Russian war veterans have recently sent an appeal for the legalization of private military companies in the country. The statement ended "conspiracy of silence" on the issue. In addition, it coincided with some information about a new Russian private military company operating in Syria. It seems that its emergence marks the beginning of a new battle between institutions and entities willing to control Russian mercenaries; thus, there is a conflict between the Russian army and the GRU on one hand as well as the FSB and Putin's oligarchs on the other.


Putin-Trump Summit in Helsinki: What Worries Russian President

The Kremlin took advantage of a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump to consider this fact as a great success of its propaganda. Moscow's hopes were even more fuelled by Trump's vague statements about NATO and Crimea. Moreover, the U.S. President was not eager to answer the question whether Russia could be perceived in terms of America's friend or rather enemy. And, in addition, Trump has overtly criticized Germany at the very beginning of the NATO summit. The reason is somehow surprising since it is all about its close cooperation with Russia. So what can Putin expect at the Helsinki summit? Its potential results remain still a great conundrum as well as they give analysts of Russian services and diplomacy a headache.


Dangerous Activities of Russia’s Navy Fleet

While organizing a large-scale sports event, each country is expected to take care of its security. So it does not come as a surprise that Russia had decided to alert its services as well as the army. But what do these two, preventing terrorist attacks and massive force concentration in the Sea of Azov, have in common? It seems that the Kremlin traditionally used a big sports event to cover up the activities of its army as they could possibly result with some aggressive activities carried out right after the end of the FIFA World Cup. Such state of affairs might be most worrying for Georgia and Ukraine, with special regard to the latter. Russia's current actions resemble the ones that happened in 2008 and 2014.


Pension Gap Between Russia's Siloviki and Civilians

The decision to raise the retirement age has recently caused huge resentment among many Russian citizens. Their outrage may turn out to be even greater as well as it might eventually result in social protests if the authorities do not change the rules of the so-called uniformed service personnel pensions. Such may be the case as the Kremlin tends to take care about the pillar of its power. And the siloviki will be expected to suppress social discontent if it gets out of control.