Russian Politics in the Post-Soviet Space

Review of Russia’s Policy in the Post-Soviet Space: N61

Author: Mamuka Komakhia, Analyst

Publication:  N61

Review period:  November 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 61th 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.

  • The UN General Assembly called for Russian reparations to Ukraine.
  • A monument to the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was dismantled in Kharkiv.
  • The President of Russia celebrated National Unity Day at the monument to Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky.
  • Migrants from post-Soviet countries are leaving Russia.
  • The President of Russia hosted the former leader of Turkmenistan.
  • The Kazakh Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs talks about country’s multi-vector foreign policy.
  • Two more Kyrgyz banks refused to service Russian bank cards.
  • Russia fuels exceptional energy crises in Moldova.
  • Kazakhstan starts exporting oil bypassing Russia.
  • Moscow hosts the so-called Minister of Foreign affairs of the occupied Tskhinvali region of Georgia.

UN General Assembly Calls for Russian Reparations to Ukraine

Main Event:  On November 14, 2022, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution calling for Russia to be held accountable for its conduct in Ukraine, and make reparations to the country.

Event in Details:  Out of the 193 members of the General Assembly, a total of 94 countries supported the resolution which recommends that the assembly’s member states create an international register to document claims and evidence against Russia. The Central Asian countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan did not participate in the voting this time.

Other Resolutions

On February 28 at a special emergency 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. 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). The Central Asian countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan did not take part in the voting. 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. 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 were absent. The Central Asian countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan also did not participate in the voting this time.

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.

 

Bust of Alexander Pushkin Dismantled in Kharkiv

Main Event:  The bust of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was dismantled in Kharkiv, Ukraine as was reported by the Kharkiv City Council on November 9, 2022.

Event in Details:  The statement issued by the City Council says that residents of Kharkiv will decide the fate of the bust after Ukraine’s victory in the war – either store it in a museum or find another place in the cultural and historical space of the city. The bust can become part of an exposition dedicated to the Ukrainian national liberation movement. More than a century ago, even before the 1917 revolution, activists of this movement planned to demolish the bust.

 Dismantling of the Monument to Alexander Pushkin. Source: city.kharkov.ua

In April, a monument to Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov was dismantled in Kharkiv. In August and October alone, more than 130 streets and squares in Kyiv whose names were associated with Russia or the Soviet Union were renamed. A similar trend can be observed in other cities of Ukraine.

The most recent similar case was recorded in Odesa where the city authorities, based on an online survey, decided to dismantle the monument to the Russian Empress Catherine II and put a wooden fence around it. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, often claims that Odesa is an indigenous Russian city and Catherine II is the founder of the city.

Why the Event is Important:  Before Russia's military aggression in Ukraine, Kharkiv was one of the most pro-Russian cities populated mostly by Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Moscow's military aggression has changed the mood not only in central and western Ukraine but also in Ukrainian regions which were pro-Russian before the war. This indicates the defeat of the policy aimed at creating a Russian world (Russkiy mir) in Ukraine.

 

Russian President Celebrates National Unity Day at Monument to Minin and Pozharsky

Main Event:  On November 4, 2022, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, visited the monument to Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky on the Red Square and honored their memory.

Event in Details:  Russia celebrates National Unity Day on November 4. The date was established in 2005 to commemorate the 1612 events when leaders of the Second People's Voluntary Corps, Kuzma Minin and Dmitri Pozharsky, liberated Moscow from the Poles.

 Putin Celebrates People's Unity Day. Source:  kremlin.ru

Vladimir Putin also spoke with representatives of the youth movement participating in the event who recounted the humanitarian aid provided by the movement in the occupied cities of the Kherson region, how grateful the local population was and how they asked for the Russian flag. Representatives of other youth and patriotic organizations also related to the Russian President  about problems of the occupied regions of Ukraine and the humanitarian activities carried out there.

In his turn, Vladimir Putin recalled the “Russian history” of Ukraine. He said that the occupied Mariupol  is an old Russian city where Peter I established the first military colony and won his first victories. Mr. Putin also spoke about the connections of Suvorov and Catherine II with the city and added that the government is working on the reconstruction of the city.

Why the Event is Important:  Vladimir Putin's participation in such events and “conversations” with people is part of the Kremlin's propaganda which is aimed at justifying the Russian military aggression in Ukraine with historical narratives and mobilizing the population with patriotic motives.

 

Migrants from Post-Soviet Countries Leaving Russia

Main Event:  After the start of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine, migrants from post-Soviet countries are either leaving Russia and returning to their historical homeland or looking for better opportunities in other countries.

Event in Details:   According to the Russian State Statistics Service, a record number of migrants from Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan left Russia in eight months of 2022. In January-August 2022, a total of 506 thousand migrants left Russia, which is 62.5 thousand people more than the number of those who arrived.

Labor migration from the post-Soviet countries to Russia began in the 1990s. Russia, due to its cultural or economic factors, was a stable source of income for migrants and their homelands which received high remittances from Russia. As a result of the military aggression in Ukraine, not only Ukrainian migrants, but also citizens of Russia's allied states leave Russia. The largest number of migrants returned to Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The only exception is Tajikistan where the number of people who arrive from this country is higher than of those who leave.

Why the Event is Important for Post-Soviet Countries:  The decline in the number of migrants to Russia indicates that Russia is no longer an attractive country for migrants from the post-Soviet countries since it can no longer ensure their security and income. This will have a negative impact on these countries since remittances, which have been an important source of income for their citizens for three decades, will decrease.

 

Russian President Hosts Former Leader of Turkmenistan

Main Event:  On November 3, 2022, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, hosted the former President and Chairman of the People's Council of the National Assembly of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, at the Kremlin.

Event in Details:  Vladimir Putin awarded Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow with the state Order for Merit to the Fatherland, IV class. This was Mr. Berdimuhamedow’s first official visit to Moscow with his new status. His eldest son, Serdar Berdimuhamedow, has been the President of Turkmenistan since March 2022; although the former President still maintains an influence on country's political life. It is noteworthy that Turkmenistan has not made any statement regarding the Russian military aggression in Ukraine and prefers to remain silent on this matter.

Vladimir Putin Hosts the Former President of Turkmenistan. Source:  kremlin.ru

Within the framework of the visit, the Head of the National Equestrian Games Group of Akhal-Teke Horse Complex of Turkmenistan also met with the Director of the Great Moscow State Circus. The meeting discussed the perspectives of cooperation in equestrian art. Popularization of the Akhal-teke horse is a subject of special concern for Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, and the issue is being addressed at the state level. The former President has also published books on this issue.

Why the Events is Important:  The former President of Turkmenistan remains the most influential figure in Turkmen politics. That is why his visit to Moscow is also of political importance. This visit can be explained by balancing the foreign policy of Turkmenistan given that the country did not support Russia's military aggression in Ukraine, although it also did not show any open political support for Ukraine.

 

Kazakh Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Talks about Country’s Multi-Vector Foreign Policy

Main Event:  In an interview with DW on November 4, 2022, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Roman Vasilenko, spoke about the multi-vector foreign policy of Kazakhstan.

Event in Details:  After the start of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, which is Russia's ally in the Eurasian Economic Union and the CSTO, did not support the Russian aggression and did not recognize the independence of the separatist republics of Ukraine and its subsequent annexation by Russia. On November 11, at a summit of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), which was held in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, the Kazakh President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, emphasized that Kazakhstan supports the territorial integrity of all countries. At the same time, Kazakhstan did not join the sanctions imposed by the West and did not support the UN resolutions against Russia. Mr. Vasilenko called such a position “balanced” which is based on the national interests of the country. According to the Deputy Minister, Kazakhstan supports the resolution of the conflict through diplomatic means.

Roman Vasilenko said that the widespread opinion that Astana is trying to distance itself from Moscow is not true. “Kazakhstan and Russia have the longest border in the world, 3.4 million Russians live in Kazakhstan and 1.5 million Kazakhs - in Russia. The two countries are the largest trading partners, and 11,000 Russian companies are involved in the economy of Kazakhstan,” he added.

According to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the basis of Kazakhstan's international policy is “multi-vector approach” and Astana tries to establish economic relations with all countries. Today, Russia is not the largest investor in Kazakhstan and Western and Chinese companies are also involved in the largest projects.

Why the Event is Important:  After the start of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine, Kazakhstan refused to support Russia and is trying to develop a foreign policy which will not excessively irritate Russia and, at the same time, will contribute to the development of relations with other regional powers. The main messages of the interview of the Kazakh government representative were also aimed at explaining the multi-vector nature of Astana's foreign policy.

 

Two More Kyrgyz Banks Refuse to Service Russian Bank Cards

Main Event:   On November 4, 2022, two more Kyrgyz banks, Optima Bank and Bai Tushum, suspended to service cards of the MIR Russian payment system.

Event in Details:  On October 27, Kyrgyz Investment and Credit Bank refused to accept Russian bank cards. In October, a total of eight Kyrgyz banks refused to service Russian cards. In total, 20 banks used to service Russian cards in Kyrgyzstan.

Before Kyrgyzstan, banks of other Central Asian countries made a similar decision. Halyk Bank, Kazakhstan’s leading financial service group, was the first in Kazakhstan to refuse the use of Russian bank cards. The situation is the same in Uzbekistan where the use of MIR cards have been suspended since September 23. On September 27, the Tajik Dushanbe City Bank refused to service the system due to “technical problems.” A similar situation was created in several banks in Turkey and Vietnam.

Under the conditions of the Western sanctions, Russia has been developing its independent payment system MIR for several years. These cards are used in several countries including Armenia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as in the occupied regions of Georgia.

The refusal from banks was preceded by a warning from the US Treasury about possible sanctions. Organizations which promote the operation of the Russian payment system MIR outside of Russia will face the risk of sanctions.

Why the Event is Important:  The refusal of the Central Asian banking sector to service the Russian payment system will limit the ability to use MIR cards outside Russia which will harm and impede Russian citizens and companies doing business in these countries. At the same time, with a similar step, the banking systems of these countries will avoid possible Western sanctions.

 

Energy Crisis in Moldova

Main Event:  The separatist Transnistria region of Moldova cut off power supply to Moldova, triggering another energy crisis in the country.

Event in Details:  Moldova's largest thermal power plant which provides 70% of the country's electricity, is located in the separatist Transnistria and is owned by the Russian state company Inter Rao.

The electricity supply was cut off after the Infrastructure Minister, Andrei Spinu, said that the state energy company Energocom was unable to sign a November contract with the plant because Russia reduced gas supplies to Moldova by 40%. On November 1, the country's pro-Western President, Maia Sandu, visited Bucharest and gave a speech in the Romanian Parliament where she said that the country's electricity supply is a daily challenge. In the created crisis situation, Romania provides 90% of Moldova's electricity needs. Ukraine can no longer supply Moldova since its energy infrastructure was damaged by Russia.

Due to Russia's renewed missile attack on Ukraine's energy infrastructure on November 15, the electricity supply to Moldova was interrupted again.

Sanctions on Pro-Russian Oligarchs

Due to the energy crisis, pro-Russian political groups are also active in Moldova, especially against the backdrop of the US sanctions on Moldova's pro-Russian politicians. On October 26, 2022, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on nine individuals and 12 legal entities, including two Moldovan oligarchs who are fighting against the country's pro-Western government. Moldovan oligarchs have been accused of “systemic corruption” and attempts to influence the results of elections in the country. One of the sanctioned oligarchs is Ilan Shor who is known for his sympathies for Russia. His party, the Shor Party, which is also represented in the Moldovan Parliament, has been organizing anti-government demonstrations in Chisinau for several weeks. In recent days, participantsof anti-government demonstrations demanded the resignation of the government and the holding of elections. 

Why the Event is Important:   Moldova depends on the separatist Transnistria region and Russia for supplies of gas and electricity. For 30 years, Moldova has not been able to provide the country with sufficient alternative energy sources which periodically causes energy crises. Energy dependence on Russia remains a serious challenge for the country since pro-Russian forces and the Kremlin use this reliance against the pro-Western government of Moldova.

 

Kazakhstan Starts Exporting Oil Bypassing Russia

Main Event:  During his visit to the country's legislative body on November 10, 2022, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Alikhan Smailov, told journalists that Kazakhstan will start exporting 1.5 million tons of oil through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline on January 1, 2023.

Event in Details:   According to Alikhan Smailov, Kazakhstan plans to increase the volume to 6-6.5 million tons during the year in addition to the current 1.5 million tons. At the same time, the number of tanks has increased and pilot transportation along the railway line in the direction of Batumi and Uzbekistan has started, he said. As per the existing plan, the oil will arrive at the port of Baku from the Kazakh port of Aktau and it will be further transported through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. In addition, there are talks of using the Baku-Supsa pipeline and the Baku-Batumi railway line.

Kazakhstan has faced challenges in oil exports since the transit of Kazakh oil through the pipeline of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium to the territory of Russia was stopped a few months ago which Kazakhstan perceived as an attempt of pressure from the Kremlin. Kazakhstan has two main pipelines for oil exports: the Caspian Pipeline Consortium supplying Western markets via Novorossiysk and the Kazakhstan-China pipeline transporting oil to China.

Why the Event is Important:  Kazakhstan also exports oil via the pipeline network to China; however, reliable access to Western markets bypassing Russia is only possible through the South Caucasus. Although at this stage, Kazakhstan does not have a fully functioning infrastructure to connect to the South Caucasus transit corridor. Increasing the export of Kazakh oil via pipelines/railways through the South Caucasus will create the prospect of larger oil exports in the future.

 

Moscow Hosts So-Called Foreign Minister of the Occupied Tskhinvali Region of Georgia

Main Event:   On November 1, 2022, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, met with the de facto Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Tskhinvali region, Akhsar Jioev, in Moscow.

Event in Details:  Reportedly,  the meeting discussed various aspects of mutual cooperation and further perspectives. As Sergey Lavrov stated, a visit of the Chairman of the de facto parliament of the Tskhinvali region to Moscow is being prepared at the invitation of the Chairman of the Russian State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin. He also thanked Akhsar Jioev for his objective and measured position towards Russia's military intervention in Ukraine and his support for referendums held in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Meeting Between Sergey Lavrov and Akhsar Jioev. Source: COMINF.ORG

Akhsar Jioev was appointed as the “Minister” on August 15, 2022. This was his first “official” visit and meeting with Sergey Lavrov. On June 15, the Russian Foreign Minister also met the de facto President of the Tskhinvali region, Alan Gagloyev.

Why the Event is Important:   Meeting with the de facto leaders of the occupied regions of Georgia is part of Moscow's policy aimed at developing relations with the regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali and establishing full control over the ongoing processes in these regions.

 

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