Eurasian Affairs – June 2019

Vladimir Putin about to shake hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20 summit.

Eurasian Affairs looks at the wide expanse of Eurasia, but particularly focuses on those issues affecting relations between Eurasian states and the US and/or with Russia. Also of specific interest within that focus are issues that might affect global economic, human rights, or military concerns.

This free resource from GeoHistory serves to track and analyze these issues as they develop in Eurasia.

 

Global

Here’s how Russia is advancing a “post-West” order, says foreign policy expert
Russia’s efforts to maintain the appearance of a neutral arbiter in the conflict-ridden Middle East and its instrumental approach to ties with Beijing have helped it project outsize geopolitical clout, despite its aging population and ailing economy.

Population Change in the Former Soviet Republics Between 1989 & 2018
This map tells a dramatic story of change in the population of the 15 former republics of the Soviet Union between 1989 (before the breakup of the USSR) and 2018.

MH17 crash: 3 Russians, 1 Ukrainian face murder charges for downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
An international team of investigators has named four key suspects as it builds a criminal case against those responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Why Does Putin Continue to Agree to an Oil Deal That’s Bad For Russia?
Russia’s president has geopolitical goals that are helped by going along with OPEC+ oil cuts.

 

Asia

– Central Asia

It’s now or never for an Uzbek gas boom
Natural gas production in Uzbekistan goes all the way back to the Soviet-era. But following the USSR’s collapse, the Uzbeks did not manage to exploit the hydrocarbon-rich export path pursued by neighbours Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Nine Things to Know About Kazakhstan’s Election
Kazakhstanis will vote for a new president on June 9. The election was supposed to be a smooth transition to a handpicked, pliant successor, not an open contest. But things are not going as originally planned.

Economic as well as political dismay fuelled Kazakhstan’s ‘rigged’ election protests
Kazakhstan is rarely top of the international news but during its June 9 snap presidential election it hit the front page as some vigorous protests broke out, resulting in the arresting of hundreds of people on the streets.

Majlis Podcast: Youth Group Breathes Life Into Kazakh Politics
During Kazakhstan’s presidential campaign and in the days following the election, it was clear that many citizens — particularly young people – feel that they have no say in how Kazakhstan is run or in selecting the officials who run it.

Georgian protesters attempt to storm parliament after “protocol blunder” with Russian MP
Thousands of protesters attempted to storm Georgia’s parliament in Tbilisi on June 20 after angry demonstrationswere sparked when word spread that a Russian lawmaker was giving a speech from the speaker’s chair inside the legislature.

Disgraced daughter of late Uzbek dictator pleads for clemency
Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of late Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov imprisoned on charges of massive telecoms and other corruption, has requested clemency from President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

Georgia’s Perpetual Street of Protest
The anger is not all about Russia. The Georgian Dream government is increasingly unpopular with large segments of the population

President Tokayev showers debt relief on restive Kazakh population
It’s fair to say Kassym-Jomart Tokayev didn’t have the most tranquil of starts as he took over the presidency from long-time ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev

Russia to Suspend Georgian Flights to Russia Starting July 8
Russia will suspend passenger flights of Georgian airlines to Russia, the Transport Ministry said on Saturday following an outbreak of unrest in Tbilisi triggered by the visit of a Russian lawmaker.

– China

Growing Sino-Russian Academic Ties
Growing scholarly collaboration between China and Russia could signal a shift in the balance of power in global higher education, according to researchers who suggest that it could have significant implications for academic freedom in the region.

– Middle East

Top US and Russian diplomats discussed ways to end Syria war
Top U.S. and Russian diplomats discussed step-by-step implementation of a 2012 roadmap to U.N.

 

Europe

Pro-EU parties in Moldova close to forming “anti-oligarch” alliance with Socialists
The pro-EU ACUM alliance and pro-Russian Socialists of President Igor Dodon in Moldova are close to forming a ruling coalition aimed at ousting the Democrats led by oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, one of the parties within ACUM has announced.

Constitutional crisis erupts in Moldova
The Pro-Russian Socialists that are de facto led by President Igor Dodon and the pro-EU ACUM alliance reached an agreement on June 9 to form a parliamentary majority and a government that has already been recognised by the European Union and Russia.

US to Send 1,000 More Troops to Poland
Last fall, Warsaw asked for a tank division. Looks like they’re getting rotating logistics troops instead.

Belarus’ Plan B to avoid economic crisis
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned Minsk last November that it better have a “Plan B” ready if it could not persuade Moscow to pay it compensation for a change in the way oil exports are taxed that will badly affect the Belarusian budget.

Moldova pulled back from the brink
The outgoing government of Prime Minister Pavel Filip resigned on June 14, bringing an end to a standoff that had seen two rival governments — one headed by Filip and a new government under Maia Sandu and backed by President Igor Dodon — installed in Chisinau.

Sanctions against Russia at Council of Europe lifted sparking outrage from Ukraine
Russian representatives will be allowed to return to the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly after the body voted to restore their voting rights.

Ukrainian delegation suspends its participation in PACE
The Ukrainian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) says it will suspend its participation in the European human rights organisation following the PACE decision to readmit the Russian delegation, which was suspended following the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Seven New Europe members of PACE walk out in protest against Russia’s readmission
The delegations of Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine and all walked out of a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) session to “consult with the government” following the decision to reinstate Russia’s delegation earlier this week.

 

Military

EXCLUSIVE: US Intelligence Officials and Satellite Photos Detail Russian Military Buildup on Crimea
Five S-400 anti-aircraft missile batteries, plus additional troops and fighters, let Moscow better defend the Black Sea and threaten Europe and the Middle East.

Erdogan Threatens Reprisal Against Any U.S. Missile Sanction
Turkey will retaliate against any U.S. sanctions imposed after it takes delivery of a missile-defense system from Russia, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, showing no signs of backing off from a dispute that has roiled a critical alliance.

Russian Orthodox Church to stop blessing missiles
They bless car engines, apartments, ships, hospital scanners, soldiers, tanks and rockets.

– Cyber

Putin Drops Hints about Upcoming National AI Strategy
Russian leader calls for “technological sovereignty” and, somewhat surprisingly, for protecting IP and civil rights.

U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid
The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively.

Washington’s Dr. Strangeloves
Is plunging Russia into darkness really a good idea?

Russia’s Power Grid Is an Easy Target for U.S. Hacking
The real message U.S. officials are sending to Moscow is that Russia can be attacked without White House authorization.

Russia, post-Soviet bloc stop thousands of cyber attacks against key facilities in 2019
Russia’s cooperation with overseas partners proved effective with over 7,000 attacks foiled

Exclusive: Western intelligence hacked ‘Russia’s Google’ Yandex to spy on accounts – sources
Hackers working for Western intelligence agencies broke into Russian internet search company Yandex in late 2018, deploying a rare type of malware in an attempt to spy on user accounts.

– Nuclear

Here’s how many nuclear warheads exist, and which countries own them
The number of warheads has decreased over the past year, even as countries continue to modernize their nuclear forces, according to an annual assessment of global nuclear arms.

Russian Parliament’s Upper Chamber Approves Bill To Suspend Participation In INF Treaty
The Russian parliament’s upper chamber, the Federation Council, has voted to support a decree by President Vladimir Putin to suspend the country’s participation in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of missiles.

 

Ukraine

Reformatting the Ukrainian Political Landscape
The inauguration of Vladimir Zelensky was indeed somewhat different from the inaugurations of his predecessors. The procedure wasn’t the main thing that was different. It was standard, although it lacked celebrations and festive receptions. Zelensky’s inaugural speech stood apart from those given by his predecessors because he gave it in Russian, and announced the dissolution of parliament; calling on members of the government to resign as well.

Analysis: Ukraine scrambles to avert ‘triple energy crisis’
The Ukrainian government under newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky appears intent on continuing the pro-Western, anti-Kremlin energy policy of the previous administration.

HBO show success drives Chernobyl tourism boom
The success of a U.S. television miniseries examining the world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl has driven up the number of tourists wanting to see the plant and the ghostly abandoned town that neighbors it for themselves.

Political uncertainty over Ukrainian President Zelenskiy’s authority to dissolve parliament hurts the bond market, endangers debt repayments
Ukrainian parliamentarians have challenged President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s decision to dissolve parliament early in the Constitutional Court, which has increased uncertainty and unsettled investors into Ukraine’s bonds.

Former Ukrainian President Yushchenko Suspected In Corruption Surrounding Residential Complex
Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has been served on charges of suspected abuse of power and possession of state property in what investigators call the illegal privatization of a residential complex near Kyiv that served as a residence for his prime minister and successor Viktor Yanukovych.

Ukraine’s Mariupol stuck between war and Russian blockade
Mariupol is Ukraine’s principal port on the Sea of Azov and has great economic and strategic significance.

Ukrainian President Reinstates Saakashvili’s Citizenship
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has reinstated the Ukrainian citizenship of Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who served as governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region in 2015-16.

Eight Ukrainian soldiers killed, 42 wounded in Donbas in May
Eight Ukrainian servicemen were killed and another 42 soldiers were wounded and injured in military operations in eastern Ukraine in May 2019.

Ambassador William B. Taylor returns to Ukraine to lead US mission
William B. Taylor, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from May 2006 to May 2009, has returned as chargé d’affaires, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine announced today.

Crowd at Ukraine’s gay pride march doubled this year
Ukraine celebrated its seventh Kyiv Pride day on June 23 with a record turnout of 8,000 people, twice the level of last year, who marched through the capital despite violent threats from far right extremists who had also travelled to Kyiv to prevent the march.

Austrian Supreme Court Upholds U.S. Extradition Request For Ukrainian Tycoon Firtash
Austria’s Supreme Court has upheld a decision allowing a request by the United States to extradite Ukrainian tycoon Dmytro Firtash, the latest twist in the case for the oligarch who has been fighting against extradition since his 2014 arrest in Vienna.

Ukraine’s top taxpayer Naftogaz earned UAH11.6bn in profits in 2018
Ukraine’s national gas company Naftogaz released its 2018 annual report that announced UAH11.6bn ($443mn) in profits and showed that the company’s tax and dividend payments account for 19% of Ukraine’s government income, making it the biggest tax payer in the country.

‘New blood’ in Ukraine parliament will ease reform path: Zelenskiy party chief
Ukraine can pass reforms to make politicians more accountable and lift a ban on the sale of farmland after lawmakers hostile to change are tossed out in a July snap election.

Ukraine in ‘Very Active’ Talks With IMF Over Longer Aid Program
Ukraine is “in very active discussions” with the International Monetary Fund over a new loan program as the country gears up for a snap general election, according to Finance Minister Oksana Markarova.

Bye, Bye, Bankova: Like The President He Played On TV, Ukraine’s Zelenskiy To Relocate His Administration
In the first few weeks of Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s presidency, fact following fiction has been more of a rule than an exception.

US

Deripaska slams US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control memo accusing him of playing politics
Russian metals magnate Oleg Deripaska slammed an evidentiary memorandum issued by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which sets out its justifications for last year’s April 6 round of sanctions that specifically targeted the businessman and his companies, as well as a few other prominent tycoons.

Russiagate: A coming of age moment for Soviet immigrants
We never knew what it was like to have the country’s media and political class brand people like us a possible threat. Until now.

Russia Calls U.S. Accusation Of Nuke-Treaty Violation A ‘Smear’
Russia has reacted angrily to an assertion by a top U.S. defense official that Moscow “probably” violated an international nuclear test ban treaty.

U.S. to Send $250 Million in Lethal Aid to Ukraine
The deployment of sniper rifles and electronic warfare gear serves as a reassurance to those who thought Trump and new Ukrainian President Zelenskiy would balk at deterring Russia.

Cutting Language Training Is the Latest Foolish Retreat from Global Engagement
Cancelling bought-and-paid-for air tickets to study-abroad programs is the latest Trump administration blow to programs that support strategic understanding.

Top Russia expert leaving Trump’s National Security Council
Fiona Hill, the top official on Russian affairs at the National Security Council, will depart the Trump administration this summer, according to two people familiar with the matter.

About the Author

SRAS Students
SRAS students come from around the world to study, intern, or research in Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Poland, Georgia, or Russia. They often write while abroad - to complete class or scholarship requirements, or sometimes just because they are inspired to do so. This account will be used to publish exceptional examples of this student writing. Note that when SRAS students is indicated as the author, more specific author info will be made available at the end of the entry or article.