Russia and the separatists it backs in Ukraine’s east are no longer quite on the same page, especially since the Kremlin abandoned ideas of annexing the breakaway republics or recognising their independence. The rift gives the new Ukrainian president an opportunity for outreach to the east’s embattled population, including by relaxing the trade embargo.
Originally published in Valdai Discussion Club
Govt’s barring of most independent candidates from Sept local elections sparked mass protests in capital Moscow, which police violently suppressed, arresting over 1,300 protesters. After authorities banned over 30 independent candidates from running in 8 Sept elections for Moscow’s city legislature, protests began mid-July. Authorities night of 24-25 July arrested opposition party leaders, including main opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, detained for 30 days, for planning to lead non-authorised protests. Shortly after his arrest, Navalny was hospitalised for one day 28 July for severe swelling; doctor said he had been exposed to “toxic agent”. Police suppressed mass protests in Moscow 27 July, assaulting protesters and arresting over 1,300. In North Caucasus region, Islamic State (ISIS) claimed deadly grenade attack at police station in Chechnya and authorities continued to arrest journalists and activists. In Chechnya, unidentified assailant 1 July attacked police post in Achkhoi-Martan district with knife and grenade, killing one police officer and injuring several others, before police shot him dead; ISIS claimed responsibility. In Ingushetia, authorities in Nazran 12 July arrested and detained for possessing drugs Rashin Maysigov, reporter for investigative news site Fortanga. According to his lawyer, Maysigov was tortured during interrogation. Russia 14-21 July reportedly blocked access to Fortanga. At Russia’s request, authorities in Sweden 8 July reportedly detained self-exiled Chechen human rights activist but later released him after refusing to extradite him to Russia. Russia 8 July appointed to post of deputy defence minister Ynus-Bek Yevkurov, former leader of Ingushetia who resigned in June amid tension over Sept 2018 border delineation deal between Ingushetia and Chechnya.
With living conditions worsening, and crossfire still claiming casualties, people residing in eastern Ukraine’s conflict zone feel increasingly abandoned by the central government. Reintegrating the area requires Russian withdrawal, but in the meantime Kyiv can and should better protect civilians and meet humanitarian needs.
Much of north-eastern Syria has been safe during the civil war. But in the event of U.S. military withdrawal, a mad scramble for control could be unleashed. Washington and Moscow should help their respective allies in Syria reach a decentralisation deal for the area.
The Kremlin is fostering a culture of military-tinged patriotism, partly to rally support for armed interventions abroad. The sentiment springs from pride in Russia’s past as a global power and desire to reclaim that status. Its possible co-optation by far-right nationalists, however, should worry Moscow.
Rivalry persists between Russia and Turkey in their shared neighbourhood of the Black Sea and the South Caucasus. But Moscow-Ankara relations have warmed overall. Building on their wider rapprochement, the two powers can work together to tamp down flare-ups of regional conflicts.
As the Syrian regime masses its forces to recapture the country’s south west from the opposition, another humanitarian disaster looms. The U.S., Russia and Jordan, which brokered a south-western ceasefire in 2017, should urgently extend that truce in preparation for a broader settlement.
[Russia is] targeting the [African] regimes that do have not have very good relations with the west or who are dissatisfied with west like Sudan, Zimbabwe and CAR.
[The rapprochement between Russia and Turkey] demonstrates a striking level of pragmatism in this relationship.
The current situation does not contribute to the post-war reconciliation [between Russia and Georgia] - it only fuels conflict with an increasing feeling of injustice for [people] living near the dividing line.
[The] assumption that [President Putin has] a grand evil plan only feeds the domestic myth of a Russia under siege.
Russia needs both the Syrian regime and Turkey. So it has to give a little bit to both and it has to ... make them equally angry, if that's what it wants.
In the end [Moscow] will want a political solution in Syria, and economic reconstruction. For that they will need European input and money and investment.
Amid expectations that Russia will test Ukraine’s new president with escalatory actions, it appears that its calculus is to wait for Kyiv’s administration to make the first move – while quietly helping the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics entrench themselves economically.
Originally published in Russia File
Originally published in Time