Tag Archives: Russia

Lukashenko plans to meet with Medvedev in December, media reports say

 Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko plans to meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who may come to Minsk for this specific purpose, before the end of the year, the Belarusian leader said on Tuesday at a meeting with the head of his administration Igor Sergeyenko and Chairwoman of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly Natalya Kochanova, the news agency BelTA reported.

During a conversation with the Russian prime minister, they agreed to meet ahead of the New Year, he said.

“He (Medvedev) was pleased to agree that we’ll meet somewhere and find time for it. He says that he might even come to Minsk. I think we’ll find a place to meet,” Lukashenko said.

The Belarusian leader stated that it is important to synchronize watches on the integration agenda not just with the Russian president but with the prime minister as well. “There are issues which concern our governments. I’d like the conversation with Dmitry [Medvedev] to be held on certain issues,” Lukashenko said.

On December 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko held a lengthy meeting in Sochi at which they discussed avenues for further integration between Moscow and Minsk. The heads of state agreed to continue dialogue on this issue on December 20.


Russia explains protests in Iran by US sanctions

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday the protests in Iran have been caused by U.S. sanctions against the country.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Zakharova said the decisions, taken by the Iranian leadership about raising petrol prices, were provoked by Washington’s pressure on Tehran.

“All this was provoked by the absolutely illegal and massive sanctions pressure that the U.S. is exerting on this country.

“And, in general, because of Washington’s actions, the fundamental human rights and legitimate interests of the Iranian population to freely receive food, medicines and all kinds of necessary products are violated,” she said.

Demonstrations broke out across Iran last week after the government imposed petrol rationing and raised fuel prices at least 50%.

At least 100 banks and dozens of shops have been set ablaze during the protests, the semi-official Mehr news agency said, quoting security officials.

Although there are no official figures on the arrests, the Fars news agency said more than 1,000 protesters have been detained.

Also speaking about a recent military purchase spat between Egypt and the U.S., Maria Zakharova denounced the American threats of sanction on this country.

She said the U.S. threats to sanction over purchase of Russian weapons is an example of “aggressive behavior” and “unfair trade”.

The spokeswoman insisted that the best way to compete on the arms sales market is to prove the competitive advantages of goods and not blackmailing.

“The method of threats discredited itself completely. Trying to put pressure on other countries, the U.S. only undermines their confidence and make the world once again think about the need to abandon trade payments in U.S. dollars,” she said.

After years of fruitless efforts to buy U.S. F-35 fighter jets, Cairo turned to Moscow and in March sealed a contract with Russia on delivery of the Russian analogue of F-35, Su-35 fighter jets.

The move was protested by Washington, and on Nov. 13, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Egypt that by buying Russian Su-35 aircrafts, the country risks to fall under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act suggesting slapping sanctions on buyers of Russian arms.


Russia sets up helicopter base in northeast Syria

The Russian military says it has begun setting up a new combat helicopter and air defense base at a formerly US-controlled civilian airport in northeastern Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced the news in a statement, carried by the state-run TASS news agency, on Thursday, with the ministry’s Zvezda TV channel releasing footage of helicopter gunships arriving at the site.

The base is located in the northeastern city of Qamishli, which had been occupied by US troops until last month. Following a cross-border offensive launched by Turkey into the northeastern parts of the Arab country, the American forces left the city, and Syrian government troops re-established control over it.

The new Russian base is guarded by Pantsir surface-to-air missile systems; and three military helicopters, two Mi-35 gunships, and a Mi-8 transport helicopter have already been deployed there, with more to follow.

The footage also showed armored vehicles and ground support crews for the helicopters, as well as a weather station and a small medical clinic.

“This is the first group of Russian military helicopters here in northern Syria… It’s a historic moment. From this day onwards, our aviation group will operate permanently at Qamishli’s city airport,” said Pavel Remnev, Zvezda’s correspondent.

Turkish army forces launched the cross-border operation in Syria on October 9, in a declared attempt to create a 30-kilometer “safe zone” free from the presence of members of the so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militant group.

Thirteen days into the operation, Turkey clinched a deal with Russia in Sochi to push the YPG militants — regarded by Ankara as a national security threat — south of the frontline, and launched joint patrols of the area with Russia.

According to Timur Khodzhayev, the head of the new Russian base, also referred to as an aviation commandant’s office, the helicopters there will be used to expand the area of Russia’s patrols in border areas.

“Military police, special equipment, vehicles, and fuel to ensure uninterrupted flights have also been allocated,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Russian jets have been carrying out air raids against targets belonging to the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group and other terror outfits inside Syria at the Damascus government’s formal request since September 2015.

The airstrikes significantly helped Syrian forces advance against anti-Damascus militants, who began a campaign of terror in Syria in 2011.


Fifth Russian-Turkish joint patrol mission continues in Syria despite provocations

Russian and Turkish servicemen are conducting the fifth joint patrol mission east of the Euphrates in Syria, despite provocations, the Turkish National Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

“The fifth Russian-Turkish ground patrol mission is underway near Ayn al-Arab [Kobani — TASS] east of the Euphrates. The due level of security is ensured for both civilians and the military personnel, despite terrorists’ provocations,” it said.

On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Sochi to agree on a ten-provision memorandum on joint operations to control the situation in northeastern Syria. Under the arrangement, Russian military police and Syrian border guards were deployed to Syrian territories outside the zone of Turkey’s Peace Spring operation. They are tasked to facilitate the withdrawal of Kurdish units to a distance of 30 kilometers from the Syrian-Turkish border. The previous patrol missions were conducted east of the Euphrates on November 1 (near Qamishli), on November 5 (near Ayn al-Arab), on November 8 (between Qamishli and al-Malikiyah), and on November 11 (from Sheyreq along the Syrian-Turkish border).


Saudi Aramco’s IPO Is Vulnerable to the Russians

 In finance, as in comedy, timing is everything. Get it right and you have investors (or the audience) in the palm of your hand. Get it wrong and the ensuing silence is painful.

Saudi Arabia has stepped on stage finally to launch the initial public offering of its oil monopoly Saudi Aramco. By a strange quirk of the calendar, the price of the shares will be set on the same day OPEC meets to decide the next step in its strategy of propping up the price of crude.

It’s hard to see this coincidence as anything other than unhappy for Riyadh. To get the best price for its Aramco shares, it needs to stop the oil price from weakening. Yet this leaves it at the mercy of members of the OPEC+ group of nations that haven’t been doing their fair share of cutting crude production to shore up the price: namely Russia and Iraq, who’ve preferred to let the Saudis shoulder the burden along with their allies Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The kingdom and its bankers are in a difficult spot as they try to convince potential Aramco investors that the company won’t bear an undue share of the burden of the output cuts. That would be a tough sell at the best of times; it’s even harder in the run-up to the OPEC meeting, which may need to prolong the current production cuts beyond March 2020, and even deepen them. While it’s crucial for Aramco to put a floor under the crude price, it’s also important that the company isn’t having to slash output.

Moscow and Baghdad will be perfectly aware of the pressure on the kingdom to prop up the price because of the looming IPO. If they refuse do their bit, they know Riyadh will just have to do more. 

OPEC’s Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo is doing his best to help the Saudis, painting as positive a picture as he can. He says next year is “looking brighter” for producers in terms of supportive news for the crude price, with “upside potential that may actually surprise the market.”

China and the U.S. are inching toward a partial settlement of their trade dispute, offering hope of a boost to demand, though its hard to rely on the whims of President Donald Trump. At the same time, the second U.S. shale boom is coming to an end, removing some excess supply from the market. However, there will still be output growth next year from other non-OPEC+ states such as Norway, Brazil and Guyana.

Saudi Arabia is pressing the output cut laggards to shoulder more of the burden, but the looming IPO ties its hands. Russia’s oil industry is already balking at more output cuts.

And the pressure on the Saudis won’t end on Dec. 5, the day of the IPO price-setting and the OPEC meeting. Once those shares are priced, the kingdom can’t afford to let them fall. This is only the first tranche of stock that is likely to be sold. A poor performance now could fatally undermine interest in any future offering.

In its struggle to drive OPEC+ production policy, Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil revenues already ties one hand behind its back. Now it’s going to be constrained too by the needs of investors in Aramco. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is clearly in a hurry. This is one instance where a pregnant pause may have strengthened his punchline.


European sides showed inability to guarantee Iran’s interests: Russia

Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova made the remarks in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza on Saturday.

She maintained that Iran’s exit from the nuclear deal would be an undesired outcome after the diplomatic work carried out in 2013-2015, saying that “the collapse of the agreement is an extremely undesirable option.”

“Unfortunately, there was a unilateral, illegitimate withdrawal from the deal by the US,” she added, noting that the JCPOA was adopted by the UN Security Council, with an officially approved exit procedure, which was not respected.

“European partners, in turn, showed an inability to guarantee the conditions proposed to Iran,” Zakharova added.

The Russian ministry spokesperson lamented the consequences of the US and European sides’ “irresponsible” and “without real results” policy, voicing doubt that the same level of negotiations that took about four years to reach results, could repeat.

She maintained that the issue of trust in the agreement has been undermined, adding “if the result achieved through negotiations is destroyed once, who will agree to play by the same rules once again, if they are not respected?”

One year after the US’ unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, and in the absence of any practical measures from the European sides to the deal to safeguard Iran’s economic interests against US sanctions, Iran announced in May 2019 that it is reducing commitments to JCPOA in a transparent manner and according to Paragraphs 26 and 36 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in a bid to “create balance between the country’s rights and commitments to the JCPOA.” 

Tehran announced the start of the fourth step in reducing commitments on Nov. 5, stressing however that all measures will be taken under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency and are reversible the moment the other sides to the agreement begin to live up to their commitments.


Russian Woman Jailed In Belarus For Drug Trafficking

A Russian woman has been sentenced to 17 years in prison in western Belarus for illegal drug trafficking.

The Brest regional court said on November 4 that a Russian citizen, whose name was not disclosed, was found guilty of trafficking 100 kilograms of ecstasy and more than 550 grams of hashish.

The woman, who’s residence is in Moscow, was arrested in May after Belarusian border guards found the illegal drugs in her car when she tried to cross the border between Belarus and Poland.

Belarusian officials said at the time that it was the largest seizure of ecstasy at the border in the last 25 years.


LONG Tycoon Khodorkovsky Talks Putin, Russia’s Problems, And Opposition

In a far-ranging interview with RFE/RL, Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky analyzed the Russian president, spoke about the opposition’s prospects and Russia’s problems, and compared governing systems all from a viewpoint living in self-imposed exile for more than five years.

Khodorkovsky, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main opponents, didn’t hide his respect for the Kremlin leader’s ability to stay in power for 20 years.

Speaking in Germany’s capital on October 1, the tycoon called Putin an “autocrat,” who has a knack for spotting weaknesses in people and quickly size them up.

Putin knows how to ingratiate himself with politicians at home and world leaders by telling them what they like or want to hear, Khodorkovsky said, who now runs a project called the Civil Society Support Group in Russia. The endeavor is part of Khodorkovsky’s effort to unseat Putin from power.

Like any good spy “handler,” he said, Putin has effectively managed relationships with U.S. President Donald Trump, former Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, and others, for example.

“The KGB was a good school” for teaching that skill, Khodorkovsky said of Putin’s past career in the spy agency.

Putin ascended power based on his ability to capture the public’s mood 20 years ago, when the public had “grown tired of revolution, it wanted a counterrevolution, it wanted to return to the past.”

However, a new generation has grown up, so “society has changed, and the people want something else,” he said without specifying.

Another factor to Putin’s longevity is that has delegated macroeconomic matters to “systemic liberals” like central bank chairwoman Elvira Nabiullina, Sberbank CEO Herman Gref, and Economic Development Minister Maksim Oreshkin.

People like them have “prevented catastrophic failures” in the economy.

Once Russia’s richest man, Khodorkovsky spent 10 years in prison for what he has said were trumped up charges.

A mistake he made was in trusting former President Boris Yeltsin’s choice of Putin to replace him in 2000.

“Boris Nikolayevich made a choice that benefited him and his family the most, not the country,” Khodorkovsky said.

As for Putin’s main weakness, it is that “he doesn’t believe in institutions at all.”

Putin “believes that a person can be faithful to him, he believes that he can control a person, but he does not believe in institutions.”

In developmental terms, Russia is behind Europe by at least 60 years, and “Moscow is stuck somewhere in the 1980s.”

Khodorkovsky called having one homogenous opposition group a “mistake” because if it comes to power the “regime won’t change, only the faces and names will.”

A diverse group of opposition groups “with different ideas” is healthy so if they replace the current government, a ruling “coalition” will emerge.

He insisted that any change in power should be done democratically through “free and fair elections on a regular basis.”

Democracies are superior to authoritarian regimes because they could adopt to change faster and “meet challenges” effectively.

Since there is no rule of law in Russia, “any autocrat understands that when he leaves, he goes to prison if he does not die,” Khodorkovsky said of Putin. “Any autocrat understands that if he ceases to be a key element of balance, he will be demolished, and he will be in prison at best. That is why such an autocrat, like Putin, ties the balance personally.”

Some of Russia’s problems from afar do seem “trivial” at times, but as a country of 140 million people, its problems still matter to Europe, he said.

“Russia is that part of Euro-Atlantic civilization that has not yet fully decided where it belongs,” Khodorkovsky said. “And this is very significant in today’s world, which is built on the cultural competition of civilizations.”


Officer Dies After Moscow Attack At Russian Investigative Committee

An officer has died in hospital after being stabbed inside the building of Russia’s Investigative Committee in Moscow.

Russian media reports quoted medical personnel at the Sklifosovsky Emergency Medical Center as saying that Colonel Vladislav Kapustin of the Investigative Committee, the country’s analogue to the FBI, had died of a stab wound he received in the attack on October 1.

Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said a man stabbed the officer, who was organizing visitors for the Investigative Committee.

According to Petrenko, the attacker was detained and is being interrogated by investigators.


Turkey in talks with Russia over buying Su-35 fighter jets: Russian official

A senior Russian official says Moscow and Ankara are holding talks about the possible sale of Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets to Turkey, after Washington removed Ankara from its F-35 fighter jets program after the latter received the first parts of advanced Russian S-400 missile defense system.

Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugaev said in an exclusive interview with Russia’s state-run RIA news agency on Friday that Su-35 model is in order of priority as the “first in a line of Russian combat aviation,” while Su-57 can be considered in the next stage.

We have a progressive interaction in this area. It is too early to talk about any contracts and say that we have started something specific, but the issue is being studied, [and] consultations are being held at the level of specialists and experts,” he noted.

Back on August 10, Turkish daily newspaper Yeni Şafak reported that the Turkish defense procurement authorities had called on the country’s military to formally consider the purchase of Su-35 jets from Russia.

Ankara would start official negotiations with the Russian state arms company Rosoboronexport if the military approved the proposal, the paper said.

Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced in a statement on September 15 that the delivery of the second battery of S-400 missile defense systems has been completed at Murted Airfield Command, located 35 kilometers (22 miles) northwest of the capital Ankara, and that the systems would become operational in April 2020.

The first part of the S-400 delivery was completed in late July. Russia delivered 30 planeloads of S-400 hardware and equipment – as part of the initial batch – to Murted Airfield Command.

Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems, which the United States says are not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusglu told Turkish-language CNN Turk television news network in an exclusive interview in mid-September that S-400 missile systems would be activated despite repeated US warnings.

“They (US officials) told us ‘don’t activate them and we can sort this out’, but we told them that we didn’t buy these systems as a prop,” the top Turkish diplomat said, adding that Turkey would be open to buying US-made Patriot surface-to-air missile systems as well.

On September 9, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Donald Trump’s administration was considering imposing sanctions on Turkey over purchase of S-400 systems, but no decisions have been made yet.

Cavusoglu told private Turkish-language TGRT Haber television news network in an exclusive interview back on July 22 that his country would take retaliatory measures in case the United States slapped sanctions on Ankara over the Russian-made systems


“If the United States portrays an adversarial attitude towards us, we will take retaliatory measures, as we’ve told them. This is not a threat or a bluff. We are not a country that will bow down to those who show an animosity towards Turkey,” he said.

Cavusoglu added that he did not expect the US administration to take such an action.

The White House said on July 17 that it was no longer possible for Turkey to be involved in the program for the F-35 stealth jets after parts of S-400 began arriving in Ankara.

It also said it would impose sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

The US Congress passed the CAATSA against Russia in August 2017 over allegations of interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The law, among other things, imposes sanctions on countries and companies that engage in contracts to purchase weaponry from Russia.

Moscow and Ankara finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 in December 2017.

Back in April 2018, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of the S-400. At the time, it was said that the delivery could be made between late 2019 and early 2020.

A number of NATO member states have criticized Turkey for purchase of the S-400, arguing the missile batteries are not compatible with those of the military alliance.

They also argue that the purchase could jeopardize Ankara’s acquisition of F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in US sanctions.

The S-400 is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.

Ankara is striving to boost its air defense, particularly after Washington decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkish border with Syria, a move that weakened Turkey’s air defense.

Before gravitating towards Russia, the Turkish military reportedly walked out of a $3.4-billion contract for a similar Chinese system. The withdrawal took place under purported pressure from Washington.