Review period: October 1-15, 2022
In 2022, we should consider the developments in the post-Soviet countries in the light of the ongoing Russian military aggression in Ukraine. The decisions of these countries are also dictated by Russia's military aggression. The 59th publication reviews important and/or interesting events in post-Soviet countries which are directly related to Russia’s war against Ukraine.
See also the 50th publication which reviews the developments from February 21 to March 3, the 51st publication which recounts Moldova’s response, the 52nd publication which covers the response of the Central Asian countries, the 53rd publication – about the response of Azerbaijan and Armenia to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the 54th publication about the key messages of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the Russian military aggression and the 55th publication about the response of Belarus to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Armenia and Azerbaijan Agreed to Cooperate without Russia’s Mediation
Main Event: On October 7, 2022, the European Council issued a statement on a document adopted following a two-round quadrilateral meeting which took place in Prague within the framework of the European Political Community Summit. According to the document, Azerbaijan and Armenia recognize each other's territorial integrity.
Event in Details: The French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, participated in a meeting between the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan.
Pashinyan-Aliyev-Macron-Michel Meeting. Source: armenpress.am
According to the document adopted as a result of the meeting, both sides confirmed their commitment to the Charter of the UN and the Alma-Ata 1991 Declaration through which both sides recognize each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty. They confirmed it would be a basis for the work of the border delimitation commissions and that the next meeting of the border commissions would take place in Brussels by the end of October. Armenia agrees to facilitate an EU civilian mission alongside the border with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan agreed to cooperate with this mission as far as it is concerned. The mission will start in October for a maximum of two months. The mission will carry out its activities only on the territory of Armenia.
Request for an International Mission
Armenia officially requested the deployment of an international mission two weeks earlier. In his speech at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly on September 22, Nikol Pashinyan said that the deployment of the international monitoring mission in the Armenian-Azerbaijani border area would be an important factor for the regional stability. Mr. Pashinyan also spoke about the issue of the deployment of the international mission at a government meeting on September 29. According to him, the international mission can be carried out by the UN Security Council, the OSCE or any other international organization.
Why the Event is Important: For the first time in history, the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides recognize each other's territorial integrity; moreover, without the participation of Russia and with the involvement of the West. Sending the EU civilian mission to the region is a sign that Armenia no longer trusts Moscow and is trying to get security guarantees from the West which, according to Yerevan, can deter Azerbaijan.
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Calls on the Armenian and Azerbaijani Sides to Probe into Video Material Exacerbating Tension
Main Event: On October 3, 2022, the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Maria Zakharova, answered a question of a journalist of the Russian propaganda news agency, Rossiya Segodnya, about video footage circulating on the network which allegedly shows the execution of Armenian and Azerbaijani servicemen.
Event in Details: “Images of how soldiers are being stabbed can be seen in the videos and they are full of scenes of extreme brutality. All cases of the violation of international humanitarian law must be thoroughly investigated. We call on the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides to immediately conduct a multifaceted in-depth analysis of these videos, especially to pay attention to the signs of war crimes. If the facts are confirmed, the criminals must be punished with all the strictness of the law,” Maria Zakharova said.
On October 3, Toivo Klaar, the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, called on the parties to investigate the content of the video recordings and bring the perpetrators to justice if the authenticity is confirmed.
About the Videos
On October 2, a video was circulated on social media where it is believed that Azerbaijani soldiers shooting at close range are aiming at several Armenian war prisoners. On the same day, a video was released showing a group of soldiers and civilians insulting the dead dressed in military and civilian outfits. According to the video, Armenian soldiers are insulting dead Azerbaijanis. The authenticity of the videos has not been verified at this stage.
Why the Event is Important: Russia's Foreign Ministry is trying to play the role of a neutral mediator and refrains from openly supporting its strategic ally, Armenia.
Russia Completed Formal Procedure of Annexing Ukrainian Regions
Main Event: At a plenary session of the State Duma on October 3, 2022, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, appealed to MPs to ratify agreements signed between the Russian Federation and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions on joining the Russian Federation and creating new entities within it. In his address, Mr. Lavrov assessed the annexation of the Ukrainian regions as a logical continuation of returning Russian territories which began in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol. Lavrov's appeal is one of the steps envisaged by the formal procedure.
Event in Details: To legitimize the annexation of the Ukrainian regions, illegal referendums were held in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics as well as in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions on September 23-27. According to Russia, the “referendum” results showed that the majority of locals supported joining Russia. The illegal referendums in the occupied regions of Ukraine were held in a war situation and under the conditions of Russian military presence; therefore, the international community does not recognize their legitimacy.
On September 30, a signing ceremony of agreements on the entry of the occupied regions of Ukraine into the Russian Federation was held in Moscow. From the Russian side, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, signed the agreements. On October 2, the Russian Constitutional Court approved the annexation decision. The State Duma and the Federation Council also adopted a law on the occupation of Ukrainian territories. On October 3, the Russian President approved the ratification of the agreements. He also signed laws on the annexation of the occupied regions of Ukraine and the establishment of new entities. Based on these laws, the Constitution of Russia will be amended and four new entities will be added to it. At the same time, Vladimir Putin appointed the incumbent de facto leaders as acting “commanders” of the occupied regions.
As per the new laws, residents of the occupied regions are recognized as Russian citizens from September 30. There will be a transition period until January 1, 2026. Elections in the annexed regions will be held on September 10, 2023.
According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dimitry Kuleba, the Russian President is annexing regions of Ukraine in order to try to occupy the territories which he cannot physically control. The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, announced that they will no longer hold talks with Vladimir Putin.
Why the Event is Important: Holding the “referendums” in the occupied regions of Ukraine and the decisions made by relevant government bodies were a formality for Russia which Moscow needed to legitimize the annexation of the occupied regions of Ukraine. Such a radical decision can be explained by Russia’s recent failures on the frontline in Ukraine and the legitimization of the general military mobilization.
Belarus and Russia Agree to Create a Joint Group of Armed Forces
Main Event: On October 10, 2022, at a meeting with representatives of the military and security agencies in Minsk, the President of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenko, announced that a regional group of Russian and Belarusian Armed Forces will be deployed on the western borders of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.
Event in Details: According to the Belarusian President: “If the threat level reaches the current level as it is now, we will begin to use the regional grouping of the Union State.” Aleksander Lukashenko also accused Ukraine of preparing an attack on Belarus. At the same time, he said that Belarus will not engage in the war against Ukraine.
After this announcement, the first echelons of the Russian military appeared in Belarus on October 15.
Belarus is not directly involved in the war against Ukraine; however, Russia launched military aggression against Ukraine from the territory of Belarus on February 24. Aleksander Lukashenko has long avoided involvement in military operations. He tries to limit himself only to pro-Russian rhetoric and allows Russia to use Belarusian territory for military purposes.
Why the Event is Important: Although the Belarusian leader avoids military involvement, the failure of Russian military aggression in Ukraine will increase pressure on Belarus to take part in some form of military action.
UN Condemns Illegal Annexation of Ukrainian Regions by Russia
Main Event: On October 12, 2022, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning Russia's “attempted illegal annexation” of four regions of Ukraine and calling on countries not to recognize Moscow's annexation claim.
Event in Details: Out of the 193 members of the General Assembly, a total of 143 countries supported the resolution. Apart from Russia, Syria, Nicaragua, North Korea and Belarus voted against and 35 countries, including China, were absent. The Central Asian countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan also did not participate in the voting this time. In 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea, only 100 countries supported a UN resolution declaring the Crimean referendum illegal.
On February 28 at an emergency special session, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The resolution, entitled Aggression against Ukraine, was supported by 141 (including Georgia, Moldova and the Baltic states) and opposed by five countries (including Belarus and Russia). The Central Asian countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan did not take part in the voting. The resolution condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine. A similar result was observed at a session of the UN General Assembly on March 24 which adopted the second resolution on Ukraine. The resolution was supported by 140 countries (including Georgia, Moldova and the Baltic states) and five opposed (including Belarus and Russia). A total of 38 members did not attend the meeting. The Central Asian countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan still did not participate in the voting.
Why the Event is Important: The UN’s adoption of the resolution against Russia's actions is another failure of Moscow in the international arena which also indicates that even the states considered to be Russia's allies in the post-Soviet space are refraining from supporting the Kremlin.
Kazakhstan Refuses Russia’s Request to Expel Ukraine's Ambassador
Main Event: Kazakh authorities rejected a demand of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expel the Ukrainian Ambassador from Kazakhstan.
Event in Details: On October 4, 2022, representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, demanded that Kazakhstan expel the Ukrainian Ambassador, Petro Vrublevsky, calling him an “odious nationalist.” According to Ms. Zakharova, Mr. Vrublevsky called for “killing as many Russians as possible” On August 21. The Ambassador left Kazakhstan on September 8; however, he later returned and continued his activities. On October 4, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Kazakh Ambassador to Russia who was told that “such a situation is categorically unacceptable.”
On the other hand, the Spokesman of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, Aibek Smadyarov, criticized Maria Zakharova for her tone on October 5. According to him, Kazakhstan and Ukraine fully understand the situation and only Kyiv can withdraw its diplomat from Kazakhstan. As per an existing agreement, Petro Vrublevsky will leave Kazakhstan after he is replaced by a new ambassador.
“The more Russians die now, the fewer of our children will die in the future,” Petro Vrublevsky said in an interview with a Kazakh blogger in August.
Why the Event is Important: After Russia's military aggression in Ukraine, the steps taken and the decisions made by Kazakhstan do not always “deserve” Russia’s approval which expects full support from Kazakhstan. Russian-Kazakh disagreements indicate that Kazakhstan does not intend to support Russia's military aggression and, moreover, in some cases demonstratively tries to distance itself from Moscow.
Kyrgyzstan Cancels CSTO Planned Exercises
Main Event: On October 9, 2022, Kyrgyzstan cancelled military drills of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which were scheduled for October 10-14. The Ministry of Defense of Kyrgyzstan did not specify the reason for the decision.
Event in Details: In addition to the CSTO members, representatives of Serbia, Uzbekistan and Syria were planning to participate in the Indestructible Brotherhood – 2022 military exercises. The CSTO exercises ended on October 8 in Kazakhstan and the military were to continue trainings in Kyrgyzstan.
Last month, there was a sharp military confrontation between the CSTO two members, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The border conflict between the two neighboring Central Asian states resumed on September 16. In recent years, military confrontations in border regions between the two countries have become more frequent, resulting in deaths of civilians. The Kyrgyz side appealed to the CSTO for assistance, however, with no result. The Russian President called on the parties not to allow further escalation and to use only peaceful, political-diplomatic means for settling the situation.
Last month, Armenia also refused to participate in two-week CSTO exercises in Kazakhstan after accusing individual members of the organization of openly supporting Baku during the border standoff with Azerbaijan.
The CSTO is a military alliance which unites Russia's allies in the post-Soviet space - Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Why the Event is Important: Kyrgyzstan's refusal to hold military exercises may indicate that Kyrgyzstan was unhappy with the CSTO’s actions during the confrontation with Tajikistan and had higher expectations from the organization in Bishkek. The Organization’s passive role in the Kyrgyz-Tajik and Armenian-Azerbaijani military conflicts indicate that the CSTO cannot protect the interests of its members.
Bulgaria Will Receive Azerbaijani Gas Through a New Pipeline
Main Event: On October 1, 2022, a new gas pipeline connecting Greece-Bulgaria was opened. The pipeline will reduce the dependence of Southeastern Europe on Russian gas and increase the export of Azerbaijani gas to Europe.
Pipeline Opening Ceremony. Source: sea-news.az
Event in Details: After the start of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine, the EU countries are trying to reduce their dependence on Russian energy resources. Bulgaria was also reliant on Russian gas and after it refused to pay the Russian state company Gazprom for gas in Russian rubles, Moscow stopped supplying the country with gas in April.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, as well as the leaders of Bulgaria, Greece, Azerbaijan, Romania, Serbia and North Macedonia, attended the ceremonial opening of a new 182-kilometer pipeline. The owner of the 240 million-EUR pipeline is a union of Bulgarian, Greek and Italian state and private companies.
Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria will supply Bulgaria with one billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas. At this stage, the pipeline capacity is three billion cubic meters per year which can later be increased to five billion cubic meters. In the future, the pipeline can supply non-Russian gas to Serbia, North Macedonia and Romania as well as Moldova and Ukraine.
The pipeline is connected to the Trans-Adriatic pipeline which is part of the Southern Gas Corridor and provides transportation of Azerbaijani gas to Europe through Georgia.
Why the Event is Important: Due to the Russian military aggression in Ukraine, the EU member states plan to gradually reduce their dependence on Russian gas in the coming years. To achieve this goal, it is important to find and develop alternative sources. In the strategy of reducing reliance on Russian gas, Azerbaijani gas occupies a major place, especially in the conditions when the gas pipeline connecting Azerbaijan and Europe is already operating and supplying European countries.
Why the Event is Important for Georgia: Currently, the transportation of Azerbaijani gas to Europe via an alternative pipeline route is possible only through the territory of Georgia. Increasing demand for Azerbaijani gas by the West will be important for Georgia as well whose role as a transit country will further strengthen and will ensure additional economic and political benefits.
Moldova Will Receive Military Assistance from Germany
Main Event: On October 1, 2022, the German Defense Minister, Christine Lambrecht, visited Moldova and met with her counterpart, Anatolie Nosatîi. On the same day, Ms. Lambrecht unexpectedly visited the Ukrainian city of Odesa.
Event in Details: Against the background of Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine, the main topics of discussion were the development of bilateral cooperation in the field of defense and security challenges which emerged due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The German government is already implementing various programs for the development of the Moldovan Armed Forces and plans to sell the country drones and other equipment.
Moldova, which shares a land border with Ukraine, has taken in hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees since the start of the war. Moldova has not joined the sanctions imposed against Russia, although it receives various types of assistance from EU countries, including Germany.
About 1,500 Russian soldiers are stationed in the separatist Transnistria region of Moldova and there was a danger that the conflict would escalate in Moldova as well at the beginning of the military aggression in Ukraine.
Why the Event is Important: Against the backdrop of Russia's military aggression in Ukraine, Moldova has faced significant economic and security challenges. The West positively evaluates the steps taken by the pro-Western government of Moldova during the crisis. For Chisinau, such high-level visits and assistance from a leading EU country are a guarantee that the country will not face the Russian threat alone.
Informal and Official Summits of the Heads of the CIS States Were Held in St. Petersburg and Astana
Main Event: On October 7, 2022, the Heads of the CIS member states convened an informal summit in St. Petersburg and an official meeting of the leaders took place in Astana on October 14.
CIS Summit. Source: kremlin.ru
Event in Details: The informal meeting was dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the CIS. The guests were hosted by the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. At the meeting, Mr. Putin also touched on the topic of Ukraine and called the ongoing events there “tragic.” He also spoke about the conflict between some post-Soviet countries.
Interestingly, the President of Kyrgyzstan was not present at the summit, which may be due to discontent caused by Russia's passive role in the recent military conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Summit of the Leaders of the CIS States
On October 14, the summit of the leaders of the CIS member states was held in Astana, Kazakhstan. Within the framework of the summit, Vladimir Putin held bilateral meetings, including with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and held a tripartite meeting with the leaders of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. On the same day, the Russian President took part in the Russia-Central Asia summit. According to media reports, Ukraine was not the main topic of the ongoing meetings in Astana. The leaders of the participating countries mainly tried to address their own problems.
Why the Event is Important: For the Russian President, who is under the sanctions and in a state of confrontation with the West, such summits are an attempt to deepen relations and strengthen positions in the post-Soviet space.
Fifty-sixth Round of the Geneva International Discussions
Main Event: On October 5, 2022, the next round of the Geneva International Discussions was held.
Event in Details: The meeting was held for the first time since December 2021. The 56th round of Talks was prevented by the Russian military aggression in Ukraine.
As part of the Talks, Georgia focused on the main issues of the agenda concerning the necessity of fully implementing the terms of the cease-fire agreement signed by Russia on August 12, 2008, with the mediation of the EU. The Georgian delegation also highlighted one of the most important issues on the agenda - the safe and dignified return of the internally displaced persons and refugees from the occupied territories to their homes.
According to the Russian side, the actions of some participants (meaning the West) of the Discussions are destructive and the work of the Geneva format was “frozen” for nine months due to their anti-Russian character. Russia expressed concern that attempts to make the Geneva Discussions hostage vis-à-vis the processes taking place in other regions and the general geopolitical situation do not stop. Russia urged the organizers to avoid politicizing the negotiation process. According to the Kremlin, the situation in the conflict zone is relatively calm despite the efforts of non-regional participants to provoke tension in the region.
Assessments of the Abkhazian and Ossetian Sides
The Abkhazian side has traditionally demanded that the Georgian side undertake the non-use of force. The Ossetian side had the same request. Both sides also expressed concern over the expansion of military-technical potential in Georgia which is underway with the support of the US and NATO countries.
Why the Event is Important: Russia's military aggression in Ukraine has limited Moscow’s participation in international discussions which involves Western countries and organizations. The Geneva International Talks is a small opportunity for Russia to break through the current isolation and contribute to the positive presentation of its role in the solution of regional problems.