Author: Mamuka Komakhia, Analyst

Review period:  July 1-15, 2021


Russia claims regional hegemony in the post-Soviet space and considers that strengthening Western positions in the region poses a threat to its national interests. The purpose of our review is to provide readers with information about important events related to Russia’s policy in the post-Soviet space. The review is a biweekly publication and will be useful for everyone – decision-makers, public employees, media representatives and other people who are interested in the ongoing processes in post-Soviet countries.


  • Russia approves its new National Security Concept.
  • Russia’s report on human rights situation criticizes the West and pro-Western countries in the post-Soviet space.
  • The pro-Western party won a landslide victory in the early parliamentary elections in Moldova.
  • The President of Russia published an article on the unity of Russians and Ukrainians.
  • Russian hackers attacked the web-page of the Ukrainian navy.
  • The President of Russia hosted the President of Belarus in St. Petersburg.
  • A high-ranking Russian cleric speaks about the threat of spreading the idea of ​​church autocephaly in Belarus.
  • Russia arrests an Estonian diplomat on charges of intelligence activities.
  • Tajikistan calls on Russia and other allies to deal with the Afghan threat.


Russia’s New Strategic Document

Main Event: On July 2, 2021, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, signed a decree approving the National Security Concept of the Russian Federation.

Event in Details:  One of the chapters of the document, on strategic stability and mutually beneficial international cooperation, discusses relations with Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. The document states that Russia’s foreign policy goals are being achieved through enhancing cooperation with the CIS member states, Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region on a bilateral basis and within the framework of integration alliances, primarily the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

Why the Event is Important: Relations with the CIS member states and the occupied regions of Georgia are one of the main foreign policy tasks of Russia’s new strategic document whose solution will help the Kremlin achieve its foreign policy goals. Therefore, deepening relations with the post-Soviet countries and influencing their policies will be a priority for the Kremlin in the short run.


Russia Publishes a Report on the Human Rights Situation in Selected Countries

Main Event:  On July 8, 2021, the Russian Foreign Ministry published a report on the human rights situation in 43 countries.

Event in Details:  The report discusses the human rights situation in the most democratic Western states in the world and does not refer to any country in Asia, Africa or Latin America. It reviews the situation in post-Soviet countries as well, except those states which have friendly relations with Russia. The report covers Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

What Does the Report Say about Georgia?

While assessing the human rights situation in Georgia, the report draws on the views of local and international human rights organizations as well as the Public Defender. The report addresses violations of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and the use of excessive force by law enforcement agencies. The report also discusses the procedure for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court, shortcomings in the judicial system and problems in the area of freedom of the media.

The report expresses concern about the rights of small ethnic groups and focuses on the low degree of their participation in public and political processes as well as their demand for broad autonomy in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli. The report also includes excerpts from reports prepared by the Council of Europe and various organizations.

Why the Event is Important:  For Russia, one of the most undemocratic countries in the world and constantly criticized by the West for human rights violations and a repressive regime, preparing such reports and manipulating facts is part of an information war and propaganda directed against those states which are hostile to Moscow.


Pro-Russian Parties Defeated in Moldova

Main Event:  Early parliamentary elections were held in Moldova on July 11, 2021. The Party of Action and Solidarity of the pro-Western President, Maia Sandu, won the elections.

Event in Details:  According to the Central Election Commission, the Bloc of Communists and Socialists of Moldova’s former presidents, Vladimir Voronin (2001-2009) and Igor Dodon (2016-2020), and the national-conservative Shor Party also crossed the electoral threshold.

Pro-Russian Igor Dodon Conceded Defeat. Source:

The Party of Action and Solidarity gained an absolute majority of 63 seats in the 101-seat parliament which will allow it to form an independent government. This will be the first time that one pro-Western party forms a government without an alliance. The Bloc of Communists and Socialists ended up with 32 ​​seats and the Shor Party received six seats.

Sandu’s party achieved success in many parts of the country, including the capital Chisinau and among the Moldovan diaspora living in Europe, which decided Sandu’s victory in the second round of the 2019 presidential elections. The Bloc of Communists and Socialists won an absolute majority in the pro-Russian Gagauz Autonomous Republic and the separatist Transnistria where pro-Russian parties are mobilizing their votes.

Why the Event is Important for Moldova:  The victory of the Party of Action and Solidarity in the parliamentary elections will transfer all branches of government into the hands of pro-Western forces which will provide the incumbent President, Maia Sandu, ample opportunities to implement the promised reforms and strengthen the Western vector of the country’s foreign policy.

Why the Event is Important for Russia:  For the first time in two decades, results of the parliamentary elections will weaken the influence of pro-Russian forces in Moldova which means that the Kremlin’s influence on Moldovan politics will decrease. If the Sandu government pursues an active Western policy, relations with Russia will deteriorate.


Vladimir Putin to Ukrainians: We are One People

Main Event:  On July 12, 2021, the Kremlin’s web-page published an article entitled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” written by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

Event in Details:  In the article, Putin develops his favorite thesis that Russians and Ukrainians are in fact one and the same people who were artificially separated in recent historical periods. In response to the publication, articles (12) were immediately published questioning the authenticity of the historical facts cited by Putin. The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, also responded to Putin saying: “We are not one and the same people.”

In the article and in his earlier interviews, Putin said that “the Velikorusians, Malorusians and Belarusians are part of one Russian people. Later, under the influence of external factors, in which the Bolsheviks also contributed, a united Russian people began to disintegrate.”

Zelensky’s Response

“We are not one people. Yes, we have a lot in common. We have a common part of history, memory, neighborhood, relatives, a common victory over fascism and common tragedies. Yes, it is all very important and we remember it; however, I repeat, we are not one people. If it were true, the Ukrainian hryvnia [national currency of Ukraine] would be in circulation in Moscow with a yellow and blue flag [state flag of Ukraine] flying over the State Duma. So, we really are not one people. Everyone has their own way,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky stated that he was ready to provide Putin with materials for another article about Ukraine.

Why the Event is Important:  Vladimir Putin sees Ukraine and Ukrainians as an artificially created state and people. The purpose of the Kremlin’s propaganda is to legitimize Russia’s influence in Ukraine and prevent the development of Ukraine as a different state/people from Russia.


Russian Hackers Attack the Web-Page of the Ukrainian Navy

Main Event:  On July 9, 2021, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine released a statement that hackers linked to the Russian government hit the web-page of the Ukrainian navy. The attack was aimed at spreading misinformation about the Sea Breeze 2021 multinational military drills which involved over 30 countries in the Black Sea.

Event in Details:  According to the Ministry, the “Kremlin propaganda machine” was involved in the hacking operation during which fake documents and fake news about the drills were published on the navy’s web-page. An unsuccessful DDoS attack was also carried out on the portal of the Ministry of Defense.

Hacking attacks are part of Russia’s hybrid war which the Kremlin uses against “hostile” states. Ukraine became one of the main targets of Kremlin hacker attacks after the 2014 events when Russia annexed Crimea and supported separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Why the Event is Important:  Russia sees Ukraine as its sphere of influence and a hostile state. Similar hacking attacks portray Ukraine as a failed state and serve to internationally discredit it.


Meeting between Putin and Lukashenko

Main Event:  On July 13, 2021, in St. Petersburg, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, hosted the President of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenko. The meeting lasted five hours.

Event in Details:  This is the third face-to-face meeting between the presidents of the two countries this year. The last meeting took place in May. At the same time, there were seven telephone conversations between the presidents in 2021.

Vladimir Putin Hosts Aleksander Lukashenko in St. Petersburg. Source:  RIA Novosti

According to Putin, the trade turnover increased between the two countries against the backdrop of the pandemic in 2021. Russia sees Belarus as a reliable and stable partner. In 2022, under the agreement between the presidents, the price of Russian gas for Belarus will be the same as this year. Belarus will also receive a loan from Russia to compensate for the financial loss vis-à-vis the tax maneuver in the field of Russian oil exports.

For his part, Lukashenko promised to repay Russian loans on time. In September 2020, Russia provided a USD 1.5 billion loan to Belarus which Belarus is slowly absorbing in tranches. With the loan, Belarus must pay off the state debt and provide services. Lukashenko believes that cooperation with Russia and support from Moscow helped Belarus to withstand the sanctions.

Political Context

The process of rapprochement between Moscow and Minsk began after the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus. If there were tensions between the parties before the elections, the situation changed after the August presidential elections. Amid protest rallies against Lukashenko, unprecedented for Belarus, and growing pressure from the West, a reconciliation with Moscow and an acceleration of the integration process with Russia became the only way for Lukashenko to maintain power.

Why the Event is Important:  Amid the political crisis and the Western sanctions, Russia’s political and economic support is the only way for the Lukashenko regime to survive. Russian loans and the old price for Russian gas are critical for Lukashenko to maintain his power.


High-Ranking Russian Clergyman Talks About the Belarusian Church

Main Event:  In an interview with the Россия-24 news channel, Metropolitan Hilarion, the Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, the influential clergyman of the Russian Orthodox Church, said that the possibility to develop the “Ukrainian scenario” in Belarus is not high.

Event in Details: “Small groups of people who refer to themselves as the “Autocephalous Church of Belarus” and try to separate believers following the “Ukrainian scenario” are in the US and other countries, not in Belarus,” the Metropolitan said.

According to the Metropolitan, forces who want to disrupt the political situation in Belarus are well aware of the events in Ukraine when the Patriarch of Constantinople and three other autocephalous churches recognized the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which was under Russian influence. These forces are interested in promoting the idea of the​​ autocephaly of the Belarusian Church in order to incite tensions.

According to him, the idea of ​​autocephaly has no support among the people, the hierarchs and the clergy of the Church of Belarus; however, the Metropolitan did not rule out that forces, who are trying to divide the Russian Orthodox Church and have manifested themselves in Ukraine, will try to do the same in Belarus.

Speaking about the issue, the President of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenko, warned the clergy about the intention of the country’s opponents – to declare the autocephaly of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.

Why the Event is Important:  After recognizing the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is seen as a step against the Church and state of the Russian Federation, Moscow fears that the process could spread to those Orthodox countries where Russia’s religious or political influence is high. In this regard, it is important for the Russian Church to prevent the spread of the idea of ​​the autocephaly of the Church in Belarus or other countries under the Russian Patriarch.


Russia Arrests the Estonian Consul on Charges of Intelligence Activities

Main Event:  On July 6, 2021, in St. Petersburg, the Russian Federal Security Service arrested the Estonian Consul, Mart Latte, while receiving classified information. He was declared persona non grata and was requested to leave the country.

Event in Details:  The Consul is accused of getting classified documents from a Russian citizen. Latte often participated in various public events. In 2020, he attended a trial of Yury Dmitriev at the Karelia Supreme Court. Dmitriev was the regional Leader of the Memorial Society and was committed to expose atrocities of the Communist regime. The Kremlin views the activities of the Society as “hostile.”

Estonia says the detention was a “setup and provocation.”

The Kremlin has expelled Estonian diplomats two times this year, both in retaliation for Estonia’s expulsion of Russian diplomats. In April of the same year, the Ukrainian Consul was arrested in St. Petersburg while trying to get secret information.

Other Cases

On October 6, 2020, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation arrested a Russian military serviceman in Smolensk and his brother in Pskov on charges of high treason. According to the Russian special services, the detainees were collecting and sharing state secret information with the Estonian special services.

Why the Event is Important: Post-Soviet countries, which Russia considers to be its sphere of influence, are a special target of the Russian Special Services. The recent high level of espionage indicates a high degree of political confrontation between Russia and Ukraine and the Baltic states.


Tajikistan Calls on Allies to Deal with Afghan Threat

Main Event:  On July 9, 2021, during a visit to Moscow, Taliban officials stated that their recent gains across Afghan territory pose no threat to Russia or Central Asia.

Event in Details:  Following the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan, Taliban fighters are pushing government forces in several directions, including along the borders of Central Asian countries. Hundreds of militants of government forces fled to Tajikistan which fears that the conflict could spread on its territory. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have similar fears.

On July 5, the Tajik President, Emomali Rahmon, announced the mobilization of 20,000 reserve soldiers along the Afghan border. Rahmon also discussed security challenges with the leaders of Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. On July 7, Tajikistan appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for assistance. Dushanbe said it will not be able to address instability along the borders without foreign aid. Earlier, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that the Kremlin was ready to use its 102nd military base in Tajikistan to protect allies in the region if the tension escalates. Anatoly Sidorov, the Chief of the Joint Staff of the CSTO, who is visiting Dushanbe, made the same statement.

On July 8, the CSTO stated that it will start mobilization of troops if the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border escalates. The Russian Foreign Ministry claims that the Taliban promised that they will not violate borders of the Central Asian countries.

Why the Events is Important:  Moscow seems to have received assurances from the Taliban that Russia’s allies in Central Asia will not be threatened which is why Moscow is refraining from providing additional military assistance to Tajikistan at this stage.