VIF News Digest: International Developments (US, Europe and Russia), 16-31 May 2021
Dr Himani Pant, Associate Fellow, VIF

UNITED STATES

Politics and Society
Pelosi calls for U.S. and world leaders to boycott China's 2022 Olympics, 18 May 2021

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, criticising China for human rights abuses and saying global leaders who attend would lose their moral authority. U.S. lawmakers have been increasingly vocal about an Olympic boycott or venue change, and have lashed out at American corporations, arguing their silence about what the State Department has deemed as genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China was abetting the Chinese government.
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Biden meets with South Korea's Moon as North Korea threats loom large, 21 May 2021

President Joe Biden hosted South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House on Friday afternoon, Biden's second in-person meeting with a foreign leader since taking office. The meeting follows a visit last month from Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, underscoring the Biden administration's focus on the Asia-Pacific region as a foreign policy priority, even as its attention recently has been directed at the conflict between Israel and Gaza. Both sides expressed willingness to engage diplomatically with North Korea. A Joint Statement was released following the meeting.
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Biden hails ceasefire, vows U.S. will help Gaza with humanitarian aid, 21 May 2021

President Joe Biden has pledged humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Gaza as he hailed a deal to end 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas that tested his negotiating skills and exposed him to criticism from fellow Democrats. Biden, appearing briefly at the White House after news of the ceasefire agreement, also promised to replenish Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system, despite complaints from the Democratic left about a pending U.S. arms sale to Israel.
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U.S.-China Tech Fight Opens New Front in Ethiopia, 22 May 2021

A U.S.-backed consortium beat out one financed by China in a closely watched telecommunications auction in Ethiopia—handing Washington a victory in its push to challenge Beijing’s economic influence around the world. The East African country said it tapped a group of telecommunications companies led by the U.K.’s Vodafone Group PLC to build a nationwide, 5G-capable wireless network. The group had won financial backing for the multibillion-dollar project from a newly created U.S. foreign-aid agency. Click here to read...

Intelligence on Sick Staff at Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate on Covid-19 Origin, 23 May 2021

Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report that could add weight to growing calls for a fuller probe of whether the Covid-19 virus may have escaped from the laboratory. The details of the reporting go beyond a State Department fact sheet, issued during the final days of the Trump administration, which said that several researchers at the lab, a center for the study of corona viruses and other pathogens, became sick in autumn 2019 “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness.” Click here to read...

Blinken: It's 'up to Russia to decide' what relationship it will have with US, 23 May 2021

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said it was "up to Russia" whether or not it has a more stable relationship with the U.S. following a meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. While appearing on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Blinken said he and Lavrov had an "instructive, very business-like conversation over the course of nearly two hours, but President Biden’s been very clear with President Putin. And I repeated what President Biden said to President Putin to Foreign Minister Lavrov, and that’s this, we would prefer to have a more stable, predictable relationship with Russia."
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US General: as US Scales Back in Mideast, China May Step In, 23 May 2021

As the United States scales back its military presence across the Middle East to focus on great power competition with China and Russia, it risks giving those two countries a chance to fill the gap and expand their influence around the Gulf, the top U.S. commander for the region -Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, has opined. “The Middle East writ broadly is an area of intense competition between the great powers. And I think that as we adjust our posture in the region, Russia and China will be looking very closely to see if a vacuum opens that they can exploit,” McKenzie told reporters travelling with him through the Middle East. "I think they see the United States shifting posture to look at other parts of the world and they sense there may be an opportunity there.”
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Biden, Putin likely to hold summit in Geneva, 24 May 2021

President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin are likely to hold their first summit next month in Geneva, Switzerland, according to a U.S. official. Russia and the United States are at odds on numerous fronts, from cyber security to Russia’s war with U.S.-backed Ukraine. During a meeting last week between Lavrov and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the two parties laid out the various areas of dispute, but they also agreed there exist potential topics of cooperation, such as on how to stop climate change. New tensions over Belarus could also factor into the summit. Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is a Putin ally facing increasing resistance to his rule. Click here to read...

U.S. Imposes Restrictions on Ethiopia And Eritrea Over Tigray Conflict, 24 May 2021

The State Department has announced visa restrictions for Ethiopian and Eritrean government officials and members of security forces over atrocities tied to a months-long conflict in northern Ethiopia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also announced that the U.S. has imposed wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia after parties to the conflict in Tigray have "taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities."
Tigray borders Eritrea and is home to most of Ethiopia's estimated 7 million ethnic Tigrayans. In early November, the regional government-controlled by the Tigray People's Liberation Front, a leftist political party- launched a full-scale siege of a key Ethiopian military base at Sero. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a federal offensive against the region in response, setting off the conflict. The situation has since devolved into a full-scale humanitarian crisis with reports of extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and indiscriminate shelling of some towns in the Tigray region. Click here to read...

States and cities across the U.S. debate the future of online learning, 24 may 2021

As the coronavirus pandemic ebbs in the United States and vaccines become available for teenagers, school systems are facing the difficult choice of whether to continue offering a remote learning option in the fall. s the 2020-2021 school year draws to a close, about one-third of American elementary and secondary students attend schools that are not yet offering five days a week of in-person learning. Those school districts are mainly in areas with more liberal state and local governments and powerful teachers’ unions. Disputes among administrators, teachers and parents’ groups over when and how to reopen schools have led to messy, protracted public battles in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. Governors, mayors and school boards around the country almost all now say that traditional in-person teaching schedules will be available in the fall, but there is still limited clarity on what rights parents will have to decline to return their children to classrooms. Many districts and states have yet to announce what their approach will be. Click here to read...

Antony Blinken arrives in Middle East to 'solidify' Israel-Gaza cease-fire, 25 May 2021.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials, among other regional leaders, following last week's cease-fire agreement between Israel and Gaza. As part of a three-day trip, Blinken will visit Israel, the West Bank, Ramallah, Cairo and Amman. He will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Jordan's King Abdullah. Click here to read...

Senate Unanimously Passes Hawley Bill Declassifying Intel on Wuhan Lab, 26 May 2021

The U.S. Senate on Monday unanimously approved a bill to require the federal government to declassify information about any links between China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology and Covid-19 following reporting by the Wall Street Journal that three researchers at the lab were hospitalized with Covid-like symptoms in November 2019. The bill requires the Director of National Intelligence to declassify “any and all information” about links between the lab and the virus within 90 days. The bill also calls for the DNI to make “as much information as possible” about the origin of the virus publicly available, in order to identify the origin “as expeditiously as possible.” Click here to read...

New Russian hacks spark calls for tougher Biden actions, 31 May 2021

Officials are calling for harsher measures against Russia following Microsoft’s assessment that hackers behind the devastating Solar Winds hack were continuing to launch cyber attacks against U.S. government agencies and other organizations. Microsoft had earlier announced that a sophisticated Russian hacking group they named “Nobelium” had gained access to an email marketing account used by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to target other organizations with malicious phishing emails. The emails continued a link that would install a backdoor if clicked on that could allow the hackers to steal data and infect other computers in the network. While most of the attacks were blocked, around 3,000 email accounts at 150 different organizations in two dozen countries were targeted, including government agencies and think tanks. Click here to read...

U.S. bans imports from Chinese fishing fleet over forced labour allegations, 31 May 2021

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has imposed a new import ban on seafood from a Chinese fishing fleet that the agency says is using forced labour on its 32 vessels, including abuses against many Indonesian workers. The CBP said it will immediately detain tuna, swordfish and other products from the Dalian Ocean Fishing Co Ltd at U.S. ports of entry. The "withhold release order" banning the imports also applies to other end-use products containing seafood from the company, such as canned tuna and pet food, a CBP official said. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the action marks the first time the CBP has banned imports from an entire fishing fleet, as opposed to the individual vessels targeted in the past. Click here to read...

Health and Environment
U.S. envoy Kerry urges to climate laggards to commit to 1.5C goal, 17 May 2021

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has urged countries that have not yet set how they plan to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, particularly those in Asia, to join the United States and others in doing so. The United States the world’s second-biggest emitter after China has pledged to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% by 2030 as it seeks to reclaim global leadership in the fight against global warming under President Joe Biden. Enhanced commitments from Japan and Canada last month at a summit organised by Biden, together with prior targets from the European Union and Britain, meant 55% of the world’s economies had publicly committed to actions to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times goal, Kerry said. Click here to read...
U.S. Covid cases near pandemic low as travel picks up for Memorial Day weekend, 30 May 2021
The U.S. has reported the lowest number of Covid-19 cases in more than a year, as the nation’s airports over Memorial Day weekend experienced the largest number of travellers since the pandemic began. The 11,976 new cases reported on May 29 were the lowest since March 23, 2020, when 11,238 new cases were reported, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Click here to read...

Perspective
‘From Ferguson to Palestine’: How Black Lives Matter changed the U.S. debate on the Mideast, 22 may 2021

Black Lives Matter, which has grown into a potent political force amid a national reckoning on race, has responded forcefully to the violence in the Mideast to extend its reach into foreign policy, pressing the Democratic Party to adopt a dramatically different approach to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whatever the aftermath of the violence in the region, it has starkly changed the Israeli-Palestinian debate in the United States, shifting it for many liberals from a tangled dispute over ancient, often-confusing claims to the far more familiar turf of police brutality and racial conflict. Click here to read...

America’s Central Asian Dilemma, 23 May 2021

Fatigued with endless wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and more sanguine about the prospects for democracy promotion, Washington is gradually disengaging from Central Asia. However, the United States needs the assistance of friendly South and Central Asian states in extricating its troops from Afghanistan and maintaining regional stability once American and NATO forces have departed.
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II.EUROPE

Politics and Society
EU parliament freezes China deal ratification until Beijing lifts sanctions, 20 May 2021

The European Parliament has halted the ratification of a new investment pact with China until Beijing lifts sanctions on EU politicians, deepening a dispute in Sino-European relations and denying EU companies greater access to China. The resolution to freeze ratification passed with 599 votes in favour, 30 votes against and 58 abstentions. Click here to read...

Belarusian journalist arrested after Ryanair flight diverted to Minsk, 23 May 2021

Belarus forced Sunday's Ryanair flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius in Lithuania to divert before arresting activist Roman Pratasevich. Pratasevich, 26, is a founder of a messaging app channel in Belarus that has been a key information conduit for opponents of Belarus’ authoritarian president. The Belarusian presidential press service said that President Alexander Lukashenko personally ordered a MiG-29 fighter jet to accompany the Ryanair plane to the Minsk airport. It said a bomb threat was received while the plane was over Belarusian territory; officials later said no explosives were found on board.
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France's Le Drian confirms kidnapping of French journalist in Mali, 23 May 2021

French Foreign Affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed on Sunday that a French journalist who disappeared last month in Mali’s northern city of Gao had probably been taken hostage by Islamist militants in West Africa’s arid Sahel region. Olivier Dubois this month appeared in a video appealing to authorities to do everything they can to free him from the JNIM (al Qaeda North Africa) holding him.
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Austria, Slovenia, Czech Republic want North Macedonia in EU, 23 May 2021

The foreign ministers of Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovenia voiced unanimous support Saturday for North Macedonia and Albania to start membership talks with European Union arguing that bilateral issues should not block the EU's enlargement into the Western Balkans. Click here to read...
EU imposes sanctions on Belarus after plane diversion, 24 May 2021
EU leaders agreed to ban Belarusian carriers from flying over the bloc's airspace. The move comes after Belarus forced a passenger plane to land in order to arrest an activist journalist. They also requested EU carriers to refrain from flying over Belarusian airspace. Click here to read...

On Bosnia's border with Croatia, migrants stranded, sick and desperate, 24 may 2021

Dozens of migrant families with small children have been sleeping rough in a village by Bosnia’s border with Croatia while looking for a chance to cross and move on toward Western Europe. People fleeing war and poverty in their countries in the Middle East, Africa or Asia are staying in small tents and abandoned houses with no running water or electricity. Click here to read...

Swiss abandon years of EU talks and reject treaty, 26 May 2021

After years of talks, Switzerland has scrapped efforts aimed at agreeing an over-arching treaty with the EU. Switzerland is not in the European Union but has signed up to many of its policies, such as freedom of movement. The relationship is currently governed by more than 120 bilateral deals, and a failure to replace them with one framework deal could harm ties. The Swiss government has highlighted three issues: protection of wages, rules governing state aid, and the right of EU citizens working in Switzerland to claim Swiss welfare benefits as part of freedom of movement. Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said Switzerland could not accept EU demands for equal rights for EU workers as it would have meant an unwanted "paradigm shift" in Switzerland's migration policy. The government also feared it could lead to higher social security costs. Click here to read...

Macron warns France could withdraw troops from Mali following coup, 30 may 2021

French President Emmanuel Macron warned in an interview on Sunday that France could withdraw its troops in Mali if the country went "in the direction" of radical Islamism. The comments come after the West African country experienced a second coup in just nine months. France has about 5,100 deployed in the Sahel — more specifically in Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger — as part of its Operation Barkhane against Islamic terrorist groups.
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Georgia's opposition returns to parliament after months of boycott, 30 May 2021

Georgia's largest opposition party United National Movement (UNM) is about to return to the parliament after having boycotted it for seven months. Earlier in May, Nika Melia was released from jail after spending more than two months in custody over accusations that he fomented violence during anti-government protests in 2019, charges he says are politically motivated. Georgia, an ex-Soviet republic with ambitions to join NATO and other Western organisations, has been going through political turmoil since the opposition declined to recognise the outcome of a parliamentary election on Oct. 31 which it said was unfair.
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China Taps Support from Poland, Serbia After Frozen EU Deal, 30 May 2021.

China and the European Union are partners, not competitors, and cooperation will help both sides, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Polish counterpart as the Asian nation seeks support after an investment deal with the bloc was put on hold. Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said his country believes a China-EU investment deal is beneficial for both sides, and the two should deal with disagreements properly, according to a Chinese government statement on Saturday. Rau and foreign ministers from Serbia, Hungary and Ireland are visiting China from May 29 to May 31 after an invitation from Wang. Rau and Serbia’s Nikola Selakovic met him in the south-western Chinese city of Guiyang on Saturday in separate meetings. Click here to read...

EU foreign ministers discuss ways to resolve rows in Eastern Neighbourhood, 30 May 2021

Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets took part in an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Lisbon on Thursday, where the ministers discussed, among other things, ways to resolve conflicts that continue in the EU's Eastern Neighbourhood -- Ukraine, Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Moldova. In addition to the set of problems related to unresolved conflicts in the Eastern Neighbourhood, EU foreign ministers also addressed EU-Africa cooperation and the creation of a single EU Strategy for India and the Pacific.
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Poots: European Union treating NI as a political plaything, 31 May 2021

The DUP leader Edwin Poots has accused the European Union of treating Northern Ireland as a political "plaything". Mr Poots claimed the EU was damaging the Northern Ireland peace process. He urged the UK government to consider invoking Article 16 of the protocol, which allows either side to suspend any part of the agreement that causes "economic, societal or environmental difficulties". Click here to read...

UK to speed up relocation of Afghan nationals who worked with British troops, 31 May 2021

Afghan staff who worked with the British military will be offered relocation to the UK, the government has announced. More than 1,300 Afghan nationals and their families have already been relocated to the UK under a previous scheme that closed in 2016. The new scheme is expected to facilitate the relocation of thousands more. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement that the country "owe a debt of to our interpreters and other locally employed staff who risked their lives working alongside UK forces in Afghanistan." "As we withdraw our Armed Forces, it is only right we accelerate the relocation of those who may be at risk of reprisals," he added.
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Health and Economy
EU and U.S. to start talks that could end steel tariffs imposed under Trump, 17 May 2021

The European Union and United States are to start talks to address the steel tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump. In a joint statement, U.S. and European trade representatives said they were looking “to find solutions before the end of the year” that will address the overcapacity in the steel sector. This issue has weighed on the trans-Atlantic relationship for more than two years. The United States imposed a 25% tariff on European steel and 10% tariff on aluminium in June 2018 on the grounds of national security. Click here to read...

Covid still a threat to Europe – travel should be avoided, says WHO, 20 may 2021

Covid vaccines in use in Europe appear to protect against all new variants but progress in region remains “fragile” and international travel should be avoided to prevent pockets of transmission quickly spreading into “dangerous resurgences”, the World Health Organization has said. Weekly official cases in Europe have fallen by almost 60% from 1.7m in mid-April to nearly 685,000 last week with deaths also in decline, the WHO regional director, Hans Kluge, said, but incidence rates remained stubbornly high in some countries.
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Perspective
Let the European Union spend, 31 May 2021

Europe’s budget discipline rules, more honoured in the breach than in the observance, are outdated, over-complicated and increasingly misguided. The EU would do better to circumvent the Stability and Growth Pact in order to promote public investment in the green and digital economy, rather than waste energy trying to reform a complex legal framework that has always produced more good intentions than compliance.
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III. RUSSIA

Second Sputnik V shipment delivered in India, 16 May 2021.

The second shipment of Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine was delivered to India, Russian envoy Nikolai Kardashev told journalists. "The second shipment of the Sputnik V has been delivered to the city of Hyderabad. We are very glad that the joint fight of Russia and India against COVID-19 - which is one of the most important fields of our cooperation today - has firmly set on track and moves forward," the envoy said. https://tass.com/world/1290079?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=smm_social_share" target="_blank">Click here to read...

Russia implements 98 percent of ECHR resolutions, 17 May 2021

Russia acts to the full extent on about 98% of resolutions, made by the European Court of Human Rights, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said at the opening of courses at the European Studies Institute of MGIMO University and the Council of Europe. "It will be appropriate to stress that in terms of the number of lawsuits the court has accepted for consideration proportionately to the population only this method gives an accurate picture. At the moment, we are in 30th place or so of the 47% CE member-states and comply with about 98% of ECHR resolutions to the full extent, he said.
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Indian Shilpa Medicare signs deal to produce Sputnik V, 17 May 2021

Indian pharmaceutical company Shilpa Medicare Limited entered into an agreement with Dr. Reddy's Laboratories on the production and supply of the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine, the company reported on Monday in a press release. It was noted that production of the Sputnik V two-component vaccine is planned to be 50 mln doses within the first 12 months from the date of commercialization - that is 50 mln of the first component and 50 mln of the second component.
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Russia may ban foreign IT giants without local offices from working with new users, 19 May 2021

The bill regulating the work of IT giants in Russia may imply that foreign owners of the internet resources that do not have representative offices in the country are banned from working with new Russian users if these companies store their personal data outside of Russia, head of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy Alexander Khinshtein told reporters. He is one of the authors of the initiative.
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Lavrov heads to Iceland to meet with US State Secretary for first time, 19 May 2021

The long-awaited negotiations will take place on the sidelines of the Arctic Council ministerial session that will take place in Reykjavik on May 20.
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Russian, Serbian troops practice counter-terror operations in joint drills, 21 May 2021

The Russian and Serbian tactical groups of special operations forces practiced preparing for accomplishing counter-terror tasks in full. The participants in the joint Russian-Serbian tactical exercise practiced preparations for fulfilling counter-terror tasks, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported. Click here to read...

Tackling dumped nuclear waste gets priority in Russia’s Arctic Council leadership, 23 May 2021

Russia’s Foreign Ministry invites international experts from the other Arctic nations to a June 2022 conference on how to recover the sunken radioactive and hazardous objects dumped by the Soviet Union on the seafloor east of Novaya Zemlya. No other places in the world’s oceans have more radioactive and nuclear waste than the Kara Sea. The reactors from the submarines K-11, K-19, and K-140, plus the entire submarine K-27 and spent uranium fuel from one of the old reactors of the Lenin-icebreaker have to be lifted from the seafloor and secured.
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Russian PM requests allocation of $680 mln for coronavirus treatment, medical aid, 24 may 2021

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has requested allocation of at least 25 bln rubles ($340 mln) for each of providing help to people with the coronavirus infection and high-tech medical aid. A respective point is on the list of requests following the cabinet’s report in the State Duma (lower house), press service of the government said in a statement. Click here to read...

India's Panacea Biotec begins producing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine -RDIF, 24 May 2021

Indian biotech firm Panacea Biotec Ltd (PNCA.NS) has begun production of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19, said the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets the shot internationally. Click here to read...

S-400 teams hold air defence drills in Crimea, 25 May 2021

The teams of S-400 ‘Triumf’ anti-aircraft missile systems held air defence and anti-saboteur drills in Crimea, the Black Sea Fleet’s press office reported on Tuesday. "In the course of the air defence drills, the personnel of an S-400 ‘Triumf’ battalion practiced a set of measures to relocate positions and redeploy to an alternate area under the protection of Pantsyr-S surface-to-air missile/gun launchers. Click here to read...

Russia confirms $500m loan for Belarus as West toughens sanctions, 31 May 2021

Russia has agreed to release a second $500m loan to Belarus as Moscow stepped up its support for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko amid outrage in the West about the grounding of a European passenger plane and the arrest of a dissident journalist. The financial support was announced after Russian President Vladimir Putin held a second day of talks with Lukashenko, and treated his guest to a yacht tour in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on 29 May.
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Health and Economy
Russia and UNICEF agree to supply Sputnik V vaccine, 27 May 2021

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) have signed an agreement on the supply of 220 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, the RDIF said in a statement."The agreement with UNICEF on the Sputnik V vaccine will expand access and meet the demand for vaccines around the world. Supply to UNICEF will become possible after the vaccine is included in the list of products recommended by WHO for procurement in an emergency," according to the statement.
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Russia’s coronavirus spread rate declines to 1.09, 31 May 2021

Russia’s coronavirus spread rate slightly decreased to 1.09, according to TASS estimates based on the anti-coronavirus crisis centre’s latest data. Moscow’s coronavirus spread rate dropped to 1.27 in the past day, the estimates show. The coronavirus spread rate exceeds 1 in four out of ten Russian regions with the largest number of COVID-19 cases. Apart from Moscow, these are the Samara Region (1.06), the Nizhny Novgorod Region (1.02) and the Moscow Region (1.01), the latest data indicate. Click here to read...

Perspective
Russia and Central Asia: Between Pragmatism and Geopolitics, 18 May 2021

The recent armed border clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as the extremely uncertain prospects for the central government in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the US and its allies, have forced Russia to re-examine the question of the extent of Russia’s responsibility for what is happening in Central Asia. Most of the countries in the region are formal allies of Russia, as members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation or, like Uzbekistan, on the basis of a bilateral agreement. The chances that other major powers will be able to provide their capabilities to ensure the security of Central Asia are negligible. At the same time, Moscow’s economic interest in this region is not significant, and therefore geopolitics would take centre stage.

The defining condition for Russian policy towards the Central Asia region now is the absence of an immediate threat to national security in the form of a hostile alliance of states or one strong power. Russia is no longer likely to strive to take full responsibility on its own-a condition for this would be the total return of Central Asia to the imperial order controlled by Moscow, and there are no conditions for this. Therefore, in the future, Russia will rely on the independent capabilities of regional states and interaction with China, which is no less interested in its internal stability than Moscow. Click here to read...

How Disastrous Would Disconnection From SWIFT Be for Russia? 28 May 2021

The April 29 resolution passed by the European Parliament on excluding Russia from the SWIFT international payment system should its troops invade Ukraine may be legally nonbinding, but it did not go unnoticed by the Kremlin. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a potential cut-off was a serious threat, and that its implementation could not be ruled out. Click here to read...

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