HARVARD

 

This Week’s Highlights

  • The new low-yield nuclear warheads that U.S. President Donald Trump wants to add to the American arsenal look poised for Congressional approval. In justification of the low-yield W76-2 warhead, U.S Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that Russia had increased the number and diversity of its nuclear weapons and issued veiled nuclear threats to U.S. allies.
  • Following his meeting with Kim Jong Un, Trump wants another dramatic one-on-one meeting, this time with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as soon as this summer. “There’s no stopping him,” a senior administration official said. “He’s going to do it. He wants to have a meeting with Putin, so he’s going to have a meeting with Putin.” 
  • Earlier Trump told G7 leaders that Crimea is Russian because everyone who lives there speaks Russian. Trump also seemed to question why the G7 leaders were siding with Ukraine, telling leaders that “Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.” 
  • A federal judge revoked former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s bail and sent him to jail on June 15 to await trial, citing new charges that Manafort had tried to influence the testimony of two of the government’s witnesses. 

I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security and safety:

  • “I did it because nuclear [security] is always No. 1 to me,” U.S. President Donald Trump said of his meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore June 12. (USA Today, 06.13.18)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a historic summit June 12, with a resulting pledge for North Korea to move toward complete denuclearization, while the United States promised its old foe security guarantees.
    • “Just the fact that such a meeting took place and direct first-hand dialogue was started can only be welcomed,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on June 13. Russian President Vladimir Putin asked North Korean official Kim Yong Nam at their meeting on June 14 to pass an invitation to visit Russia in September to Kim Jong Un. (RFE/RL, 06.13.18, Reuters, 06.14.18)
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “The mere fact of the meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea is positive … We are following the comments that both sides are making but we have not seen the document yet.” (The Moscow Times, 06.13.18)
    • Sergei Ryabkov, Russian deputy foreign minister, said: “Now we can only welcome the fact that an important step forward has been made. Of course, the devil is in the detail, and we have yet to delve into specifics. But the impulse, as far as we understand, has been given.” (The Moscow Times, 06.13.18)
    • The Russian Foreign Ministry said: “We commend the U.S. president’s statement following the meeting on the inappropriateness of holding [joint U.S.-South Korean] military exercises during the negotiation process.” (The Moscow Times, 06.13.18)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit highlighted the implementation of commitments by Russia, China and the European sides to the JCPOA, and called for the necessary conditions that would allow Iran to enjoy the economic benefits of the nuclear deal. (Mehr News Agency, 06.11.18)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • The new low-yield nuclear warheads that U.S. President Donald Trump wants to add to the American arsenal look poised to receive backing from Congress, despite outcry from anti-nuclear advocates and attempts by Democratic lawmakers to defund or limit their introduction. In a detailed justification of the new low-yield W76-2 warhead, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that Russia had increased the number and diversity of its nuclear weapons and issued veiled nuclear threats to U.S. allies. (The Washington Post, 06.13.18)
  • All 29 NATO allies, as well as Finland and Sweden, will participate in Trident Juncture 18, NATO’s biggest exercise in recent years, which will take place in and around Norway in October-November. The exercise will show the world that the alliance is “relevant, united and ready to defend itself,” according to U.S. Adm. James Foggo, the commander of NATO’s Joint Force Command. (RFE/RL, 06.12.18)
  • Member countries of NATO’s eastern flank, known as the “Bucharest Nine,” are calling on the alliance to bolster its presence in their region at the upcoming summit in the face of what they see as Russian “aggression.” (RFE/RL, 06.08.18)
  • Russia says that a new NATO plan to enhance its combat readiness in Europe would weaken security on the continent, and is warning that Moscow would take that into account in its own military planning. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko criticized the Four Thirties initiative in comments June 13. He said that Russia would take all necessary military measures to guarantee its own security. (RFE/RL, 06.13.18)
  • Norway will ask the United States to more than double the number of U.S. Marines stationed in the country in a move that could raise tensions with neighboring Russia. The new troops will be rotated in for five-year periods, while the posting of U.S. troops in Norway since last year was only for six-month intervals that were extended repeatedly. The plans “cause us serious concern,” Russia’s embassy in Norway wrote. (RFE/RL, 06.13.18, Local Norway, 06.15.18)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said that during his last telephone conversation with the American president, Donald Trump ”expressed his concern about the threat of a new round of the arms race.” ”I agree with him,” Putin said. (New York Times, 06.11.18)

Counter-terrorism:

  • An international police cooperation center has been inaugurated on the outskirts of Moscow to facilitate coordination between officers from the 32 countries that qualified for the World Cup in Russia. Russia’s head of World Cup security estimated last week that 105 representatives from 30 countries have confirmed involvement in the cooperation center. Meanwhile, Russia’s 17,000-member police trade union has warned that overstretched police staffing at the tournament could lead to “grave consequences” for overall security. (The Moscow Times, 06.12.18)

Conflict in Syria:

  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied that Syria’s main military ally, Russia, is making decisions for him. He has also said he needs the assistance of Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria and they will stay for as long as they deem necessary. “Iran is an allied country, as [is] the case with Russia,” he said. (Aljazeera, 06.11.18, RFE/RL, 06.14.18)
  • The U.S. has charged five employees of Russia’s Sovfracht shipping company and three Syrians with supplying Syria with jet fuel in violation of U.S. sanctions. An indictment announced by the U.S. Justice Department late on June 12 also charged the eight people with laundering millions of dollars by wiring dollars to sanctioned entities in Syria without obtaining a Treasury license to do so. (RFE/RL, 06.13.18)
  • The banned nerve agent sarin and chlorine were used in two more attacks in Syria last year, the global chemical-weapons watchdog has said. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on June 13 that sarin was used south of the city of Ltamenah in the Hama area on March 24, 2017. (RFE/RL, 06.14.18)
  • The Russian military has warned that the U.S. is helping Syrian rebels stage a chemical weapons attack against civilians, which it claims will be used as cover to carry out airstrikes against government targets. In a statement on June 11, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the anti-government Free Syrian Army rebels had brought chlorine canisters to the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. (The Moscow Times, 06.11.18)
  • U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on June 10 called for an investigation into deadly air strikes in northern Syria last week that were allegedly conducted by Russian jets. Guterres made the call days after the air raid in Idlib Province reportedly left dozens of people dead, including children and women. (RFE/RL, 06.12.18)

Cyber security:

  • U.S. and British intelligence officials are warning soccer fans traveling to Russia for the World Cup that their mobile phones and computers could be hacked by cyberspies. William Evanina, director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said that in Russia, even people who believe they are unimportant can be targeted by hackers. A branch of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, London’s electronic eavesdropping agency, also issued a warning to the public. (RFE/RL, 06.14.18)
  • The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on three Russian individuals and five firms on June 11, saying they had worked with Moscow’s main intelligence service on ways to conduct cyberattacks against the U.S. and its allies. “The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia’s cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB, and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. (The Moscow Times, 06.11.18)

Elections interference:

  • A federal judge revoked former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s bail and sent him to jail on June 15 to await trial, citing new charges that Manafort had tried to influence the testimony of two of the government’s witnesses after he had been granted bail. (New York Times, 06.15.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump claimed June 15 that he had been “totally exonerated” by a new Justice Department report that is highly critical of several key FBI figures in the Hillary Clinton email probe, including former FBI director James Comey. The inspector general’s report offered no findings regarding the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign. But the president seemed to suggest that he had been cleared because of the criticism in the report directed at top FBI officials—whom he referred to as “scum”—who had expressed animus toward him or otherwise used poor judgment during the investigation of Clinton. Several of those officials have also played key roles in the Russia investigation. (The Washington Post, 06.15.18)
    • Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, on June 14 called for Mueller to be suspended and for two Justice Department officials to “redeem themselves” following the report. (Wall Street Journal, 06.15.18)
    • Former FBI director James Comey acted improperly in his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation but was not politically motivated in his actions, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog said in its June 14 report. The FBI did not properly look into the emails for a month, according to the report, which said the explanations given for the delay included prioritizing the agency’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election. (Financial Times, 06.15.18)
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is worried that Russian intelligence services will use a criminal case in Washington to gather information about Mueller’s investigation and U.S. intelligence-gathering methods. In court papers filed June 12, prosecutors are asking a federal judge to impose limits on the information that can be shared by attorneys in the first criminal case directly related to Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (AP, 06.12.18)
  • It was reported over the weekend that Russia’s ambassador to the U.K., Alexander Yakovenko, had met several times with Arron Banks, the biggest donor to the Brexit campaign, and allegedly discussed a potential Russian mining deal with him. (Financial Times, 06.12.18)

Energy exports:

  • Crude prices fell on June 15 ahead of the meeting between major producers in Vienna next week where a decision to raise production is expected. West Texas Intermediate futures fell 2.1 percent to $65.48 a barrel at the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, was down 2.4 percent at $74.14 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange. Saudi Arabia is considering an increase of 500,000 to 1 million barrels a day and Russia wishes to raise output by as much as 1.5 million barrels a day. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 14 that Saudi Arabia wants to continue cooperation with Russia on global oil markets, adding that this cooperation was beneficial for the whole world. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih have agreed to expand cooperation in the oil and gas sector, Russia’s ministry said in a statement after their meeting in Moscow. (Reuters, 06.14.18, Wall Street Journal, 06.15.18, The Moscow Times, 06.15.18)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

Other bilateral issues:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump repeated on June 15 that he would prefer to have Russia back in the grouping of industrial economies. “I think it’s better to have Russia in than to have Russia out. Because just like North Korea, just like somebody else, it’s much better if we get along with them,” Trump said. When earlier asked if the G7 discussed bringing Russia back into the club, Trump told his G7 news conference: “It has been discussed. We didn’t do votes or anything, but it has been discussed. Some people like the idea of bringing Russia back in,” he said. “I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G7. I think the G8 would be better. I think having Russia back in would be a positive thing.” (The Washington Post, 06.15.18,The Washington Post, 06.10.18)
    • Western powers dismissed Trump’s suggestion of inviting Russia back into the G7, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that won’t happen until “progress” is made in resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Although Merkel said the “common view” in Europe was to continue to exclude Russia, Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, later echoed Trump’s call for returning Russia to the “negotiating table” in a post on Twitter. (RFE/RL, 06.09.18)
    • The G7’s final communique, from which the U.S. leader revoked his signature, said that should Moscow’s actions require it, “we stand ready to take further restrictive measures to increase costs on Russia.” (RFE/RL, 06.09.18)
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin said on June 10 during a visit to China that he would meet President Trump ”as soon as the American side is ready” but insisted Russia was in no hurry to win readmission to the G7 because it already belongs to a Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), that he described as more important. ”What is important is that the meeting, if it takes place, is filled with specific content,” he said. “A lot of things deserve to be criticized” in Trump’s actions, Putin said. “But there’s one circumstance that I’ve mentioned previously: Trump keeps the promises that he made in his campaign.” He went on: “One of those promises was to improve Russian-American relations. I hope that this also takes place.” Putting a brave face on a failed effort by Trump to have Russia readmitted to the world’s most exclusive diplomatic club, Putin said the G7 represented fewer people and had less economic heft than the SCO. (New York Times, 06.11.18, The Washington Post, 06.09.18)
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was not seeking to rejoin the G7. Lavrov said the G20 “is a mechanism to reach consensus” and the “most promising format for the future.” (RFE/RL, 06.09.18)
  • Following his meeting with Kim Jong Un, U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing his team to arrange another dramatic one-on-one meeting, this time with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as soon as this summer. Negotiations with the Kremlin have been under way for weeks. “There’s no stopping him,” a senior administration official familiar with the internal deliberations said. “He’s going to do it. He wants to have a meeting with Putin, so he’s going to have a meeting with Putin.” The Kremlin has said Vienna is one of the cities being considered as a venue for a possible meeting between Putin and Trump. (The New Yorker, 06.15.18, RFE/RL, 06.09.18)
  • There are “areas of shared interest upon which we can work with powers such as China and Russia,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford said. “There are both competitive and cooperative aspects of our relationships with them, and our willingness now to acknowledge and act in response to their competitive policies does not mean that we are uninterested in cooperation where we do share critical interests,” he said. (U.S. State Department, 06.06.18)
  • David Schenker, the nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, said on June 14 he would dissuade countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt from weapons deals with Russia that could trigger U.S. sanctions. (Reuters, 06.14.18)
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry has angrily reacted to the latest round of U.S. sanctions targeting Russian individuals and entities, calling it another “fruitless” attempt to impose pressure on the country. (RFE/RL, 06.13.18)
  • A new proposal will help Russian state firms avoid incurring U.S. sanctions by hiding information about some public contracts from disclosure. New sweeping amendments to a federal law proposed by the Russian Ministry of Economic Development would allow the government “to determine cases where business entities could avoid disclosing or providing information.” (The Moscow Times, 06.12.18)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • The Russian government proposed increasing the retirement age on June 14, as the world’s attention was trained on the opening of the 2018 World Cup. Starting in 2019, the proposal suggests gradually raising men’s retirement age from 60 to 65-years-old by 2028, and for women from 55 to 63-years-old by 2034. (The Moscow Times, 06.14.18)
  • Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev endorsed an increase in value-added tax (VAT) from 18 percent to 20 percent, raising prices and adding 1.5 percent to the consumer inflation index. First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov estimated that the VAT increase could add at least 600 billion rubles ($9.6 billion) a year to government revenue. (The Moscow Times, 06.14.18)
  • One out of every two unemployed Russians is between the ages of 20 and 34. Russia’s unemployment rate stood at 4.9 percent, or a total of 3.7 million people out of work, in April. (The Moscow Times, 06.15.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has fired his main adviser on Internet issues, the latest in a series of personnel moves that Putin has made since being inaugurated for a fourth term. Putin also opted to retain his chief of staff, Anton Vaino, two deputies—Sergei Kiriyenko and Aleksei Gromov—and top aides including foreign policy adviser Yury Ushakov and Vladislav Surkov. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov will also keep his position. (RFE/RL, 06.13.18)
  • The Federal Tax Service has been named Russia’s most bloated and expensive bureaucracy. Russia employed 1.2 million federal, regional and municipal workers in 2017, according to the latest open data from Russia’s Finance Ministry. (The Moscow Times, 06.11.18)
  • One in five Moscow residents have expressed a willingness to emigrate, according to the results of two Levada polls that contrast the traveling habits of residents of the capital to those of other Russians. (The Moscow Times, 06.13.18)
  • Russian paramilitary units providing security for the World Cup included among their members Cossack fighters who took part in clandestine campaigns in Ukraine and Syria that Kiev and Washington condemn as backed by Moscow. (Reuters, 06.14.18)
  • Moscow police have repeatedly attempted to derail a theater performance about a jailed Chechen human rights activist by using bomb threats and forced evacuations. (The Moscow Times, 06.14.18)
  • Reporters Without Borders ranked Russia’s press freedom in 148th place out of 180 countries this year. The organization says at least 34 journalists have been killed in connection with their reporting since Vladimir Putin came to power almost two decades ago. (The Moscow Times, 06.14.18)
  • A top Russian Interior Ministry official has denied reports that officials are destroying the archived records of people who survived imprisonment in Soviet-era gulag labor camps. On June 13, the ministry released a statement saying that it is digitizing the records, not destroying them. (The Moscow Times, 06.11.18, RFE/RL, 06.13.18)
  • A court has overturned the acquittal of prominent Russian historian and civil rights activist Yury Dmitriev on child pornography charges, sending the high-profile case back for a retrial. (The Moscow Times, 06.15.18)
  • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, set free after a month behind bars for organizing opposition protests, reports that Moscow’s prisons have been refurbished to accommodate rowdy foreign World Cup fans. Navalny is denouncing the high cost of hosting the World Cup and alleging that some of the money spent by Moscow was embezzled by wealthy businessmen who are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.  (The Moscow Times, 06.14.18, RFE/RL, 06.15.18)
  • A senior Russian lawmaker overseeing family-related issues has some advice for fellow Russian women during the World Cup: Don’t have sex with foreign men. (RFE/RL, 06.13.18)

Defense and aerospace:

  • More than 100 Russian warplanes took part in military exercises in Crimea. Russian fighter jets, bombers and helicopters practiced defending a simulated enemy’s warships and paratroopers, the Defense Ministry-run news channel Zvezda reported this week. Sources close to the Russian military said on June 14 that Russian naval forces in the Black Sea had been put on heightened alert to discourage Ukraine from trying to disrupt the World Cup. (The Moscow Times, 06.15.18, The Moscow Times, 06.08.18)
  • The Russian Defense Ministry has received Khibiny complexes upgraded according to experience in Syria. They can defend an aircraft or a small air wing from anti-aircraft missiles. (TASS, 06.09.18)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russia’s interior ministry has ordered police to withhold news about thefts and killings from the media during the World Cup and instead report successes such as crimes being solved, two police sources said on June 14. (Reuters, 06.14.18)
  • U.K.-based gay rights activist Peter Tatchell was briefly detained by police in Moscow on the opening day of the World Cup. Video of Tatchell’s protest on June 14 showed him holding a sign which read: “Putin fails to act against Chechnya torture of gay people.” He was approached by several police officers and taken to a police station, before later being released. Tatchell tweeted that he is due to appear in court on June 26 accused of violating laws which bar “all protests near the Kremlin & during World Cup.” (CNN, 06.14.18)
  • A Chechen man has been sentenced to 14 years in prison over a deadly hostage-taking in the southern Russian city of Budyonnovsk in 1995, a turning point in the first of the two post-Soviet separatist wars in Chechnya. The North Caucasus Regional Military Court in the city of Rostov-on-Don on June 14 found Badruddi Daudov guilty of hostage-taking and taking part in a terrorist attack. (RFE/RL, 06.14.18)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • The Bulgarian parliament has approved by 172 to 14 Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s proposal to develop a plan to resume construction of the nuclear plant on the Danube River by the end of October. Bulgaria had already spent around $1.8 billion on the plant when the government in 2012 put a moratorium on further work, under pressure from the U.S. and EU to limit its energy dependence on Russia. (Bellona, 06.12.18)
  • Japan has expressed displeasure with a Russian plan to lay fiber-optic cables on disputed Pacific islands, seized from Japan at the end of World War II, to provide local residents with internet access. (The Moscow Times, 06.11.18)
  • The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia wrongly revoked the residence permit of American human rights activist Jennifer Gaspar in 2014. The court said that Russian authorities violated Gaspar’s right to respect for family life, as it had compelled her to leave Russia, where her husband and minor child were living. (RFE/RL, 06.13.18)

China:

  • Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member nations signed the Qingdao Declaration on June 10. The Declaration says that amid the increasingly diverse and multi-polar geopolitical situation and growing uncertainties, the international community urgently needs to seek common ground and effectively cope with global challenges. Russian media reports say SCO leaders adopted a total of 17 documents at the summit, including documents endorsing the 2018-2022 Action Plan to implement the Treaty for Long-Term Good-Neighborly Relations, Friendship and Cooperation between the SCO states and the 2019-2020 Program for Cooperation in Countering Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism. The leaders also signed a decision to approve the 2018-2023 Anti-Drug Strategy and an Action Plan to implement it. (ASIA-Plus Information Agency, 06.11.18)
  • Russia and China have signed four agreements envisaging the construction of four VVER-1200 units at Xudabao and Tianwan, cooperation in the CFR-600 fast reactor pilot project and supply of the RITEG (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator) parts for China’s lunar exploration program. The signing ceremony was held in Beijing and attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (World Nuclear News, 06.08.18)
  • During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest visit to China, Russian Railways and the China Railway Corp signed a memorandum of understanding to establish high-speed freight railway routes linking China, Russia and Europe. (CGTN, 06.13.18).
  • Russia and China have signed a memorandum of understanding on lunar and deep space exploration amid Moscow’s deteriorating relations with the West. The agreement was signed following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Putin became the first foreign head of state to be awarded the first ever Friendship Medal of China on June 15, China’s highest state honor for foreigners. (Global Times, 06.10.18, The Moscow Times, 06.08.18)
  • China’s President Xi Jinping warned against unilateralism and trade protectionism as he, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Central Asian leaders used a regional meeting to criticize U.S. policy. At the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Xi and Putin and others pledged their support of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal from which U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew. “China is willing to work with Russia and other countries to preserve the JCPOA,” said Xi. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who attended as an observer, praised China and Russia for supporting the deal. He warned of “destructive consequences” if it falls apart. (The Wall Street Journal, 06.11.18)
  • At the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized U.S. trade policy, casting themselves as upholders of free trade and multilateralism. “We have reaffirmed our readiness, our willingness, to go with the rules of trade that exist in the current world,” Putin said. “This is a very important statement.” India was the only SCO member to decline to endorse China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. (The Wall Street Journal, 06.11.18)
  • Although China and Russia are not playing in the World Cup, an estimated 100,000 Chinese and 35,000 Americans are expected to visit Russia for the cup, according to Forbes and Kommersant. (Russia Matters, 06.11.18)

Ukraine:

  • “President Obama lost Crimea, because President Putin didn’t respect President Obama,” U.S. President Donald Trump said during an impromptu news conference outside the White House on June 15. He repeated his point about Obama and the 2014 annexation from Ukraine several times. Trump did not directly answer whether he considers Crimea to be a part of Russia. Earlier Trump told G7 leaders that Crimea is Russian because everyone who lives there speaks Russian, according to two diplomatic sources. Trump also seemed to question why the G7 leaders were siding with Ukraine, telling leaders that “Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world,” a source said. (BuzzFeed, 06.14.18, The Washington Post, 06.15.18)
  • The foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France met in Berlin on June 11 to discuss the implementation of a fragile ceasefire for Ukraine and the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country’s conflict zone. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after the four-way talks that Russia and Ukraine agreed in principle on a U.N. peacekeeping mission, but their ideas about how to implement it were still “very much apart.” France and Germany also offered Ukraine and Russia logistical help for the securing of minefields in the combat zones. (The Moscow Times, 06.12.18)
  • The European Parliament has overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on Russian authorities to release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov and all the other “illegally detained Ukrainian citizens” in Russia and Russia-annexed Crimea “immediately and unconditionally.” The Ukrainian government’s human rights chief has been denied access to Sentsov. Russian President Vladimir Putin says that it is too early to discuss details of a possible exchange of prisoners with Kiev, including Sentsov. (RFE/RL, 06.14.18, The Moscow Times, 06.15.18, RFE/RL, 06.10.18)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a bill on an anticorruption court, an institution the International Monetary Fund and Western governments say is crucial for Kiev. (RFE/RL, 06.11.18)
  • In the first year of the visa-free regime with the EU, border crossings by Ukrainians to the EU jumped by 15 percent to 20.3 million. (Ukraine Business News, 06.12.18)
  • Ukraine’e central bank head Yakiv Smoliy predicts that Ukraine will receive its fifth tranche of International Monetary Fund money this fall. (Ukraine Business News, 06.12.18)
  • Ukraine’s new acting finance minister Oksana Markarova said her government hoped to strike an agreement on raising natural gas prices within months so that Kiev could unfreeze a $17.5m billion International Monetary Fund assistance package “by autumn.” (Financial Times, 06.10.18)
  • The National Bank of Ukraine has filed lawsuits in Swiss and Ukrainian courts against Ihor Kolomoisky, seeking recovery of $385 million from five bad loans made by PrivatBank to Kolomoisky. (Ukraine Business News, 06.12.18)
  • Hungary continues to block the possibility of holding a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission at the highest level, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze has said. (Interfax, 06.12.18)
  • C14, a group whose members have openly expressed neo-Nazi views and been involved in the recent violent attacks on Romany camps in Kiev, and the far-right affiliated Svoboda political party, are the recipients of Youth and Sports Ministry grants for “national-patriotic education projects,” according to a June 13 report by Hromadske Radio. (RFE/RL, 06.14.18)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Georgia’s ruling party has nominated acting Finance Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze as a candidate to become the next prime minister, a day after the resignation of the cabinet following a series of antigovernment protests in Tbilisi. A wave of demonstrations started on May 31 to protest against what demonstrators said was a miscarriage of justice following the killing of two teenagers in December. (RFE/RL, 06.14.18)
  • The European Parliament has passed a resolution demanding that Russia reverse its “decision to recognize the so-called independence of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” (RFE/RL, 06.14.18)
  • The European Commission is proposing a 30 percent increase in its 2021-27 external-action budget, with a focus set on helping countries in its southern and eastern “neighborhoods” to raise standards in their efforts to join the EU. The commission on June 14 said the planned increase to 123 billion euros for the period is intended to show EU leadership “in times of uncertainties all over the world.” (RFE/RL, 06.14.18)
  • China and Tajikistan should continue helping and supporting each other to cope with challenges and achieve common development, Chinese President Xi Jinping said while meeting with his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon. (Xinhua, 06.09.18)
  • Top Kyrgyz and Uzbek defense officials have met to discuss cooperation for the first time since the countries gained independence following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. (RFE/RL, 06.13.18)
  • Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has pardoned dozens of inmates on the eve of Eid al-Fitr—a holiday marking the end of Ramadan that will be celebrated later this week. (RFE/RL, 06.13.18)
  • Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has pardoned 611 inmates on the occasion of a religious holiday. (RFE/RL, 06.11.18)

IV. Quoteworthy

  • No significant developments.
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