|Author: Mamuka Komakhia, Analyst|
Review period: October 16-31, 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 57th 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.
Vladimir Putin Offers Maps to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Resolve Border Dispute
Main Event: On October 17, 2022, the Secretary of the Kyrgyz Security Council, Marat Imankulov, said that the President of Kyrgyzstan, Sadir Japarov, asked the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to help in the demarcation and delimitation of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.
Event in Details: Sadir Japarov met with Vladimir Putin in Astana on October 13, within the framework of the summit of the Heads of the CIS member states. The President of Tajikistan, Emamoli Rahmon, also participated in the tripartite meeting. The Russian President offered archival Soviet-era maps which are kept in Moscow to help the parties resolve the border dispute. According to Mr. Putin, Russia keeps more “reliable” information about the borders of the former Soviet Union than the post-Soviet countries.
The 984-kilometer Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border is not fully demarcated which has periodically led to border conflicts between the two neighboring countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The border dispute between the two countries resumed in September, resulting in deaths of military and civilians. A new controversy was observed even after the meeting in Astana. On October 19, the Tajik side accused the Kyrgyz government of escalating the situation.
Why the Event is Important: Russia is unable to prevent disputes, including military confrontations, between allies and seeks to play a mediating role between the warring parties which, the Kremlin believes, will preserve Moscow’s political influence over post-Soviet states.
Ukraine Dismisses its Ambassador to Kazakhstan
Main Event: On October 18, 2022, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, dismissed the Ukrainian Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Petro Vrublevsky, from the post.
Even in Details: The Ukrainian Ambassador to Kazakhstan became embroiled in a scandal in August when in an interview with a Kazakh blogger he said that “the more Russians die now, the fewer of our children will die in the future.”
On October 4, 2022, the spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, demanded that Kazakhstan expel the Ukrainian Ambassador, Petro Vrublevsky, calling him an “odious nationalist.” Russian organizations in Kazakhstan also demanded the expulsion. 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. The authorities of Kazakhstan practically did not meet the request of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expel the Ukrainian ambassador from Kazakhstan and allowed Ukraine to make its own decision.
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. In this case, Astana demonstratively indicated to Moscow that it will not consider the Kremlin’s demands in its relations with Ukraine.
Kyrgyzstan also Suspends Service of Russian Credit Cards
Main Event: On October 18, 2022, like some Central Asian countries, several banks in Kyrgyzstan restricted the use of Russian credit cards.
Event in Details: The following Kyrgyz banksrestricted the use of cards of the MIR Russian payment system: Bakai Bank, Kompanion Bank and Dos-Kredobank. The restriction period is not known at this stage.
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 countries’ 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.
Some International Companies Moving from Russia to Kazakhstan
Main Event: On October 19, 2022, during a meeting with local community representatives, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, said that over 50 international companies moved from Russia to Kazakhstan (after the start of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine).
Event in Details: According to the Kazakh President: “It is counterproductive to concentrate all these companies in large cities. Administrative units should ensure the relocation of similar companies in the vicinity of Almaty, along the Big Almaty Ring Road, which would substantially help the region’s economy. The government and companies should discuss the issue.” According to Mr. Tokayev: “We should create all the necessary conditions for investors to open new production facilities, including those relocating from other countries.”
According to the Prime Minister, Alihan Smaiylov, a total of 56 international companies which have left Russia in recent months as of October 19 intend to relocate their businesses to Kazakhstan. As Mr. Smaiylov said Honeywell, inDriver, Fortescue and Marubeni are among those companies which have already relocated their offices to Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is also attractive to Russian migrants who left the country after the announcement of “partial mobilization” on September 21. According to the Kazakh authorities, the country received more than 300,000 Russian citizens, half of whom remained in Kazakhstan. In addition, 200,000 foreign citizens (most likely the vast majority of them are Russian citizens) have already requested individual identification numbers which will enable them to work and open bank accounts in the country.
Why the Event is Important: Kazakhstan, which does not overtly support Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine, is trying to take advantage of the challenges which international companies face in Russia and encourages these companies to get established in Kazakhstan.
Croatia Hosts the First Parliamentary Summit of the Crimean Platform
Main Event: On October 24-25, 2022, the First Parliamentary Summit of the Crimean Platform was held in Zagreb, Croatia. The Summit adopted a declaration the main topic of which was the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 and Russia’s ongoing military aggression against Ukraine. The Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia also participated in the event.
Event in Details: The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, online attended the Summit. As he said a similar format could be extended to other regions, including Abkhazia, Transnistria and the South Kuril Islands. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the de facto Republic of Abkhazia, Inal Ardzinba, assessed the statement and said that Volodymyr Zelensky showed poor knowledge of history and is engaged in open provocation.
The Crimean Platform is a new consulting and coordination format initiated by Ukraine. The founders of the Crimean platform are 44 countries and international organizations. The format is aimed at improving the effectiveness of the international commonwealth’s response to the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, responding to growing security threats which Ukraine faces and increasing international pressure on the Kremlin. The main task of the platform is to ensure the de-occupation of the Crimean peninsula and the restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty there. The First Summit of the Crimean Platform was held in Kyiv on August 23, 2021, which adopted a joint declaration. The second summit was held on August 23, 2022.
Why the Event is Important: Such platforms are a foreign-policy tool for Kyiv which Ukraine uses to pressure Russia and start the process of deoccupation of Crimea.
EU Deploys Observers in Armenia
Main Event: The European Union Monitoring Mission (EU Monitoring Capacity/eumcap) in Armenia became operational on October 20, 2022.
Event in Details: The EU Monitoring Capacity in Armenia became operational following the decision of the European Union to deploy monitoring experts along the Armenian side of the international border with Azerbaijan. The mission in Armenia, consisting of 40 EU civilian monitoring experts, will report on military posture and ceasefire related developments in the border regions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The EU monitors will also provide observations of human rights related developments. They will not have an investigative role.
The decision to set up the EU Monitoring Capacity was made on October 17 based on a proposal of Joseph Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The Mission is aimed at facilitating the restoration of peace and security in the area, the building of confidence and the delimitation of the international border between the two states. Only civilian monitors will be deployed. The mission will operate for two months.
On October 7, 2022, the European Council issued a statement on a document adopted following a two-round quadrilateral meeting (October 6) 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. Armenia agreed to facilitate the EU civilian mission alongside the border with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan agreed to cooperate with this mission as far as it is concerned.
Why the Event is Important: Deploying the EU Monitoring Capacity in Armenia is an important message that the EU is ready to engage in the peace process in the region and contribute to regional stability and the settlement of the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenia’s request for the EU monitoring mission is a proof that Armenia no longer trusts Moscow and is trying to get security guarantees from the West as well.
Extraordinary Meeting of CSTO Leaders
Main Event: An extraordinary meeting of the Council of the Collective Security Treaty Organization was held on October 28, 2022.
Event in Details: The meeting, which was held online, was attended by the leaders of the CSTO member states. Among the participants were the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and the Secretary-General of the CSTO, Stanislav Zas. The meeting discussed the issue of joint measures to support Armenia. The participants of the meeting also emphasized the need to resolve the disputed issues by political-diplomatic means. The Russian President delivered a speech and noted that Moscow has ties with both Yerevan and Baku.
Why the Event is Important: Although Armenia is a member of the CSTO, the organization’s position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is more neutral, indicating that the CSTO would not be a reliable partner for Armenia in the event of a confrontation with Azerbaijan.
Vladimir Putin Hosts Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev in Sochi
Main Event: On October 31, 2022, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, hosted the Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, in Sochi.
Event in Details: Before the tripartite meeting, Vladimir Putin first met with Nikol Pashinyan and then with Ilham Aliyev. According to the Russian President, not all the issues were agreed during the tripartite talks after which the parties issued a joint statement which did not contain specific decisions and was limited to general formulations.
Meeting Between Vladimir Putin and Nikol Pashinyan. Source: kremlin.ru
Nikol Pashinyan emphasized Russia’s role in the peace process and requested the withdrawal of the Azerbaijani military from the area under the responsibility of Russian peacekeepers. In addition, the issue of the launch of transport communications was an urgent issue. According to Mr. Pashinyan, all communications passing through the territory of Armenia should be under the control of Yerevan.
According to Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan offers Armenia five main principles the recognition of which gives Baku hopes to normalize relations between the two countries. The Azerbaijani President believes that the Karabakh conflict was resolved two years ago and it is already history.
Why the Event is Important: Such meetings are an attempt of Russia to demonstrate that Moscow remains the main mediator in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. This became especially important after the EU Monitoring Capacity started operation in the border regions of Armenia.
Orthodox Church of Latvia Appeals to the Patriarch of Russia with a Request to Grant Autocephaly
Main Event: On October 20, 2022, the Latvian Orthodox Church appealed to Patriarch Kirill of Russia to grant them autocephaly.
Event in Details: A meeting of representatives of the Latvian Orthodox Church was held in Riga, which, in addition to the appeal to Patriarch Kirill, discussed the issue of adopting relevant changes in the church charter. Metropolitan Alexander (Kudryashov) of Riga and All Latvia participated in the meeting. A total of 160 participants supported the decision and only one voted against.
On September 5, 2022, the President of Latvia, Egils Levits, addressed the Saeima (Latvian Parliament) with an initiative to introduce amendments to the law on the Latvian Orthodox Church which will terminate Latvia’s ties with the Russian Orthodox Church. On September 8, the Saeima also supported the bill. The Latvian Orthodox Church published this information on its web-page. On September 22, the Latvian government instructed the Minister of Justice to address to Patriarch Kirill and inform him about the amendments to the law on the Latvian Church adopted by the Saeima.
The Latvian Orthodox Church is autonomous, although formally subordinate to the Russian Patriarch Kirill who is known for his close ties to the Russian President and his support for the Russian military aggression in Ukraine. Approximately 350,000 Orthodox people, mostly Russian-speaking, live in Latvia. The Head of the Church is Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia who has held this position since 1990.
Statements in Russia
According to a representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gennady Askaldovich, the efforts of the Latvian authorities to isolate the Latvian Orthodox Church from the Russian Orthodox Church will have consequences. Archbishop Nikolai Balashov, who is an adviser to the Russian Patriarch, said that the Russian Orthodox Church condemns the recognition of the independence of the Latvian Orthodox Church by the Saeima.
Why the Event is Important for Latvia: The Russian Orthodox Church is seen as an instrument of the Kremlin’s foreign policy and its activities in Russia’s neighboring countries are not viewed in religious terms. Despite the fact that obtaining autocephaly is a difficult and prolonged process in the Orthodox world, the initiative of the Latvian President is aimed at reducing the influence of the Russian Church as well as Russia’s political influence. The Latvian authorities consider that severing of ties with the Moscow Patriarchate is critically important for the Orthodox people living in the country, for the entire Latvian society and national security.
US Imposes Sanctions on Pro-Russian Oligarchs in Moldova
Main Event: 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.
Event in Details: The main targets of the sanctions are those individuals and companies which serve the interests of Russia in the world and try to change the situation in the US and its allied countries, including Moldova and Ukraine. Moldovan oligarchs have been accused of “systemic corruption” and attempts to influence the results of elections in the country.
One of the oligarchs is Vladimir Plahotniuc who was the most influential person in the country, although he had to flee in 2019. He still retains quite a bit of influence which is directed against the pro-Western President, Maya Sandu. The second sanctioned oligarch 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. Both oligarchs and related persons/companies have been involved in the political life of Moldova for years and, thanks to their finances and influence, negatively affected the process of the country’s rapprochement with the West. The names of both of them are connected with the high-profile scandal in Moldova – the loss of USD 1 billion from the country’s banking system.
Why the Event is Important: In Moldova, where there are strong pro-Russian sentiments, the Kremlin is trying to change the political environment in its favor through oligarchs and pro-Russian politicians. The current government of Moldova strives to get closer to the West, therefore discrediting the current president and the government is part of Moscow’s foreign policy plans. That is why Washington’s decision aims at weakening the pro-Russian groups in Moldova and strengthen the pro-Western government.
Announcement of 2023 as the Year of the Russian Language
Main Event: The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is trying to popularize the Russian language in the post-Soviet space.
Event in Details: Vladimir Putin spoke about the promotion of the Russian language at a summit of the Heads of the CIS member states which took place in Astana on October 14. According to Mr. Putin, it was agreed in December 2020 that the CIS would declare the year 2023 as the year of the Russian language – a language of communication between peoples. In this context, the Russian President also approved an initiative of his Kazakh counterpart, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, to create an international organization for the promotion of the Russian language within the CIS. Mr. Putin promised to support the implementation of this initiative.
According to the Russian President, he is also proposing the CIS members to declare the year 2025 as the year of the 80th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War (World War II) as well as the year of peace and unity in the fight against Nazism.
Why the Event is Important: The Russian language is a tool of Russia’s “soft power” which the Kremlin uses to maintain/increase its cultural and political influence over the post-Soviet countries. The decline in the use of the Russian language in some post-Soviet countries over the past decade is a message to Moscow that the Russian language and culture are no longer attractive in countries which Moscow considers to be its sphere of influence; therefore, any measure related to the promotion of the Russian language is viewed through the prism of Russia’s foreign policy the main target of which are the post-Soviet countries.
Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club and Vladimir Putin’s Speech
Main Event: On October 27, 2022, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin delivered a speech at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club.
Event in Details: Vladimir Putin also gave a speech at a summary plenary session of the 19th regular meeting of the Valdai Club. This year, the theme of the forum was “The World After Hegemony: Justice and Security for All.” A total of 111 experts, politicians, diplomats and economists attended the four-day meeting. In addition to attendees from Russia, representatives of 40 foreign countries were also present. The Club has been operating since 2004 and the main component of its sessions is a meeting with Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin Delivers a Speech at the Valdai Meeting. Source: kremlin.ru
Vladimir Putin’s Key Messages:
Why the Event is Important: In his address at the Valdai Club, Vladimir Putin repeated the Kremlin’s old narratives about confronting the West and starting a war in Ukraine. The mentioned meeting was another opportunity for him to single out the West as the main evil and to justify Russia’s aggressive actions with the West’s anti-Russian policy.