Review period: December 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 63th 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.
Key Messages of Denis Gonchar’s Interview
Main Event: On December 10, 2022, in an interview with the Russian state news agency TASS, Denis Gonchar, the Director of the 4th CIS Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke about the South Caucasus and the occupied regions of Georgia.
Event in Details: At the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the 4th SIC Department is responsible for the relations with Georgia and the occupied regions of Georgia. Denis Gonchar was appointed to the position of Director of the department on April 4, 2019.
During the interview, in addition to talking about bilateral relations with the South Caucasus countries and the occupied regions of Georgia, Denis Gonchar also expressed several important opinions:
Key messages of the interview:
Why the Event is Important: Denis Gonchar oversees the direction of the South Caucasus and the occupied regions of Georgia at the Ministry. His statements reflect the vision of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and are important for understanding the Kremlin's regional policy.
Priest Accused of “Glorifying Russia” in Ukraine
Main Event: On December 1, 2022, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) reported that a priest of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra was accused of “glorifying Russia.”
Event in Details: The announcement was preceded by the November 22 “counter-intelligence measures” conducted by the SBU in several monasteries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, including in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. According to the SBU, the “counter-intelligence measures” were aimed at revealing “subversive activities” of the Russian Special Services
Reportedly, the priest and several of his parishioners glorified the “Russian world” during a religious ritual. The Prosecutor's Office of Kyiv will accuse the clerics of “justifying, recognizing, legitimizing or denying the aggression against Ukraine.” The expert investigation established that the suspects actions were illegal.
Counter-Intelligence Measures in Kyiv. Source: Telegram Channel of the Security Service of Ukraine
Other Pro-Russian Activities
On November 18, the Ukrainian Special Services revealed new facts of subversive activities of a diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Vinnytsia region. According to the investigation, the head of the diocese prepared propaganda materials justifying Russia's military aggression and occupation of the southern and southeastern regions of Ukraine.
On December 10, the Ukrainian Special Services conducted counter-intelligence activities in a number of churches and monasteries located in the Kharkiv region.
On December 3, Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, announced that Ukraine will continue the fight for its “religious independence.” He said that laws should be introduced which would ban the activities of religious organizations connected to Russia in Ukraine. Although the Ukrainian Orthodox Church declared independence from Moscow in May, people in Ukraine do not believe they are truly independent from Moscow.
Why the Event is Important: The Russian Church and its Head, Patriarch Kirill, overtly support the Kremlin's military aggression in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is under the influence of the Russian Patriarchate, is a tool of Moscow's foreign policy which the Kremlin tries to use for its political purposes. Such measures of the SBU are aimed at preventing hostile actions of the clergy under the influence of Russia in the conditions of war.
European Parliament Recognized the Holodomor
Main Event: On December 15, 2022, the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognizing the Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine as a genocide of the Ukrainian people. A total of 507 deputies voted for and 12 - against the resolution.
Event in Details: Recently, amid the backdrop of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine, facts of recognizing the Holodomor as genocide have increased. On November 24, the Moldovan Parliament adopted a declaration on the Holodomor and on November 30, the German Bundestag recognized the Holodomor as a genocide of the Ukrainian people. The parliaments of Ireland, Romania and the Czech Republic and the US Senate have already made similar decisions.
The events of 1932-1933 are officially recognized as genocide in Ukraine. According to the data of the Ukrainian History Institute, the Holodomor took lives of four million people in Soviet Ukraine alone. Ukraine marks the Day of Remembrance to the Victims of the Holodomor in November.
Why the Event is Important: The Kremlin sees the recognition of the Holodomor as a genocide and an act targeted against Ukrainians as an anti-Russian decision aimed at rewriting history and blaming the Soviet/Russian state.
Blocking of the Lachine Corridor and Moscow's Response
Main Event: On December 12, 2022, Azerbaijan blocked the only road connecting the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Armenia which is located in the Lachine corridor.
Event in Details: According to the Armenian side, ethnically Azerbaijani citizens, presenting themselves as environmental activists, blocked the road connecting the capital of the de facto republic and the Armenian city of Goris.
According to the Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, for the population of Nagorno-Karabakh blocking the corridor and stopping its operation means genocide in three different scenarios: de-Armenization of Nagorno-Karabakh, loss of identity and physical destruction of the population. Mr. Pashinyan also spoke to the President of Russia about the problem created in the corridor.
On the same day, the de facto government of Nagorno-Karabakh accused Azerbaijan of shutting down the gas pipeline connecting the de facto republic and Armenia.
According to the Azerbaijani side, Azerbaijani environmental activists are protesting the illegal extraction of resources on the territory of Karabakh. The government of Azerbaijan reports that specialists were to study and evaluate the available resources in Karabakh; however, they could not conduct the monitoring due to provocative actions by “aggressive young people.” The Azerbaijani side says that despite the preliminary agreement, Russian peacekeepers could not create normal working conditions for Azerbaijani specialists. Baku demanded Moscow to fulfill the agreement reached and provide unhindered access to the place of extraction of metal minerals (gold, copper) in Karabakh. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan linked the blocking of the road to the actions of Russian peacekeepers.
To this day, it is not possible to restore traffic in the corridor. On December 15, the Russian Foreign Ministry only expressed concern over blocking the corridor and hoped that it would end soon.
The Lachine corridor is the only road connecting the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Armenia and is protected by Russian peacekeepers under the November 9, 2020 agreement.
Why the Event is Important: Incidents alike in the Russian peacekeeping zone indicate that Russia is failing to secure the Armenian population living in the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as expected by Armenia and the de facto republic itself. The frequency of such incidents and the inability of Russian peacekeepers to prevent them will increase the pressure from Azerbaijan on Armenia and the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the future.
Uzbekistan Not to Join a “Gas Union”
Main Event: On December 7, 2022, in his interview with KunUZ, the Minister of Energy of Uzbekistan, Jurabek Mirzamahmudov, stated that Uzbekistan cannot give up its national interests in exchange for natural gas.
Event in Details: On November 28, 2022, during a meeting with the Kazakh President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, in Moscow, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, put forward an idea of establishing a gas union with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. If the idea is implemented, a gas transportation mechanism should be created between the three and other countries, including China.
According to the Uzbek Minister, “signing a gas contract with Russia does not mean establishing an alliance or a union. This will be a technical contract. We cannot give up our national interests. If we receive gas from Russia, we will be guided by commercial purchase/sale contracts.” He said that Uzbekistan agrees to buy gas from Russia only at an “acceptable price.”
Why the Event is Important: Amid the Western sanctions on Russian energy imports, the Kremlin is trying to develop new routes for its gas exports. In this regard, Moscow considers Central Asian countries as partners, although these countries are trying to avoid cooperation with Russia in areas which would increase the risk of sanctions against them and energy dependence on Russia.
Moldova Started Receiving Gas from Romania
Main Event: On December 3, 2022, Romania started exporting gas to Moldova through the Iasi-Ungheni pipeline.
Event in Details: Moldova started receiving gas from Romania amid a severe energy crisis. Against the backdrop of Russia's military aggression in Ukraine, Moldova's energy system is facing challenges. It is difficult to get electricity from Ukraine due to Russian missile attacks. Moldova also receives gas from Russia, on which it is completely dependent.
In autumn, Moldova was left without electricity several times and without the help of Romania it would be impossible for the country to alleviate the energy crisis.
Iasi-Ungheni Gas Pipeline
In 2014, in order to reduce dependence on Russian energy resources, the 150 km Iasi-Ungheni-Chisinau pipeline was built as an alternative to Russian gas pipeline network which connects Moldova to the Romanian gas distribution network. The full realization of the project will allow Moldova to improve the possibility of integration with Romanian and European gas networks.
The gas pipeline consists of two sections. The Iasi-Ungheni interconnector is connected to the Ungheni-Chisinau gas pipeline on the territory of Moldova. Currently, the interconnector is the only gas pipeline which connects Moldova to the EU pipeline system. The gas pipeline starts in the Romanian city of Iasi, crosses the Romanian-Moldovan border, connects to the Moldovan city of Ungheni and ends in the capital Chisinau.
Why the Event is Important: Although gas imports from Romania cannot fully replace Russian gas at this stage, the existence of alternative sources and their further development are crucial for Moldova's energy security.
Bishkek Hosts a Session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council
Main Event: On December 9, 2022, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, hosted a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in which the presidents of the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union took part. The Prime Minister of Uzbekistan attended the meeting as well as President of Cuba (online).
Meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council. Source: eec.eaeunion.org
Event in Details: The Council made various decisions, including approving the main directions of the international activity of the Eurasian Economic Union for 2023. The meeting discussed the prospects of deepening the integration processes, especially the improvement of the functioning of the common market of goods and services. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, gave a speech at the meeting.
The Eurasian Economic Union unites Russia's allies in the post-Soviet space - Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Russia's goal is to develop an alternative economic union to the European Union in the Eurasian space where it will be the leading economic power.
Why the Event is Important: In the context of ongoing global changes and amid the military aggression in Ukraine when Russia’s international isolation increases and the scale of sanctions expands, it is important for Moscow to develop such economic relationships which will help it to overcome economic challenges. Similar meetings are an opportunity for the Russian leader to convince other countries that economic relations with Russia are useful.
Russia Requests Kazakh Media Delete Reports on the Russian Military Aggression in Ukraine
Main Event: The Kazakh news agency Vlast.kz did not comply with Russia's request to delete information about the activities of the Russian military forces in Ukraine, in particular, the news about bombing the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia which killed dozens of people as well as the news about the death toll of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol which had been under the Russian siege for several months.
Event in Details: On December 13, the Vlast.kz news agency reported that the Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor requested to remove the information. According to the agency, its activities are not regulated by the Russian legislation; therefore, it does not intend to delete the reports related to Russia's military aggression in Ukraine. Earlier, other Kazakh web-pages such as Arbat.media and Ratel.kz also refused to comply with a similar request; however, the Newstimes.kz news agency, fearing the loss of the Russian audience, fulfilled such a request.
The Kremlin demands media coverage of the ongoing military aggression in Ukraine based only on official information, otherwise it threatens to close media outlets. As for the Kazakh media, they are threatened to block their broadcasting in Russia if they refuse to comply with this requirement.
Why the Event is Important: Russia is trying to fit reports about the military aggression in Ukraine into the Kremlin's propaganda narrative. The refusal of the Kazakh media indicates that not everyone in the Kazakh political elite and society shares the Kremlin's vision. This is evidenced not only by the mentioned case but also by the form and content of the statements of the leaders of Kazakhstan, which do not always correspond to the Kremlin’s policy.
Chairman of the Russian State Duma Visits Occupied Abkhazia
Main Event: On December 1, 2022, the Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Volodin, paid his first official visit to occupied Abkhazia.
Event in Details: The official purpose of this visit was to sign a cooperation agreement between the Russian State Duma and the de facto Parliament of Abkhazia. This is the first visit of the chairperson of the State Duma to the occupied region of Georgia after the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev and Sergey Lavrov visited Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region at different times.
As part of the visit, Vyacheslav Volodin met with the de facto President of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, and then with the Speaker of the de facto parliament, Lasha Ashuba. The Russian official also addressed the de facto Parliament of Abkhazia. Mr. Volodin and Mr. Ashuba signed a cooperation agreement between the parliaments of the two countries which provides for the creation of a working group to resolve existing issues in a parliamentary format.
Russia's military aggression in Ukraine has increased its international isolation. Moscow's aggressive campaign is openly supported by only a small number of states and the de facto governments of the occupied regions of Georgia. Against the backdrop of the military-political and economic challenges which Russia is facing, Moscow has increased pressure on the de facto government of Abkhazia which is not particularly eager to comply with Russia’s requests. Russia is demanding that Abkhazia grant Russian citizens Abkhaz “citizenship” and the right to buy real estate, limit the activities of Western-funded organizations and hand over its energy sector to Russia. In recent months, the issue of transferring the Bichvinta state country house to the ownership of Russia has become particularly acute. Although the de facto leaders of Abkhazia are ready to comply with some of the demands of Russia, they are in no hurry to make such decisions due to the intensified internal political conflict.
Why the Event is Important: The visit of the Chairman of the Russian State Duma to Abkhazia is aimed at putting pressure on the political elite of the de facto republic of Abkhazia to timely decide issues which Russia has been demanding for a long time. One of the issues is handing over the Bichvinta state country house to the Russian side which the society of the de facto republic and part of the political spectrum oppose.