|Author: Mamuka Komakhia, Analyst|
Review period: December 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 64th 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 speaker of the Russian State Duma is actively working in the occupied regions of Georgia.
A new official was appointed at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to supervise the direction of post-Soviet countries.
Vladimir Putin delivered a speech at a meeting of the Defense Ministry Board.
The President of Russia visited Belarus.
St. Petersburg hosted an informal CIS summit.
The Lachine corridor is still blocked; Russia, as a mediator, fails to defuse the problem.
Moldova suspends licenses of pro-Russian media outlets.
The CIS Institute marked the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Soviet Union.
Speaker of the Russian State Duma is Actively Working in the Occupied Regions of Georgia
Main Event: On December 15, 2022, during his working visit to Moscow, the chairman of the de facto parliament of the Tskhinvali region, Alan Alborov, held a meeting with the Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Volodin.
Meeting at the State Duma. Source: duma.gov.ru
Event in Details: The meeting laid the foundation for a new “inter-parliamentary” initiative, it established a bilateral commission and a corresponding agreementwas signed. The initiative aims at deepening cooperation and strategic partnership between the parties.
Volodin’s Visit to Abkhazia
On December 1, 2022, Vyacheslav Volodin visited Abkhazia, another occupied region of Georgia. Mr. Volodin and his Abkhaz “counterpart,” Lasha Ashuba, also signed a cooperation agreement between the “parliaments.” This was the first visit of the speaker of the Russian State Duma to the occupied region of Georgia after 2008, when Moscow recognized the independence of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. Vladimir Putin (as the prime minister and president), Dmitry Medvedev (as the prime minister and president) and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov have already paid similar visits.
Parliamentary Session of the Union State
On December 19, 2022, the 63rd parliamentary session of the Union State of Belarus and Russia was held at the State Duma. The chairmen of the de facto parliament of the occupied regions of Georgia were also present at the session.
Why the Event is Important: 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 is trying to increase the involvement of the de facto republics of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region in the integration process.
New Government Official Supervises the Direction of Post-Soviet Countries at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Main Event: On November 25, 2022, the Russian Ambassador to Japan, Mikhail Galuzin, was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia. He is responsible for the relations with the Union State of Russia-Belarus and the CIS, as well as with Georgia and the occupied regions of Georgia.
Mikhail Galuzin is a Soviet and Russian diplomat. He has been in diplomacy since 1983 and held various positions in the agencies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, both in the central office and as an ambassador abroad. In 2012-2018, he was the Ambassador of Russia to Indonesia and concurrently to Kiribati, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Permanent Representative of Russia to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
In 2018-2022, he was the Russian Ambassador to Japan. As ambassador, he defended Moscow’s interests in the ongoing territorial dispute with Japan over the Kuril Islands. In November 2022, Mikhail Galuzin said that the Russian side wants to restore air traffic with Japan, although Japan is against it. In addition, before leaving the post of ambassador, he blamed Japan for the deterioration of Russia-Japan relations against the backdrop of Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine.
Why the Event is Important: Mikhail Galuzin is an experienced diplomat; however, the direction of post-Soviet countries and, especially, the occupied regions of Georgia is a new field for him and can be reflected in his work as well.
Vladimir Putin Delivers aSpeech at a Meeting of the Ministry of Defense Board
Main Event: On December 21, 2022, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, delivered a speech at an extended meeting of the Ministry of Defense Board.
Event in Details: Before the start of the meeting, the President viewed an exhibition of armaments presented in the atrium of the National Defense Control Center. He was accompanied by the Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, and the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov.
During his speech, Vladimir Putin spoke about the changes to be implemented in the Armed Forces and again, named the West and neo-Nazi ideology as the cause of Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine:
It is well known that today the military potential and capabilities of almost all major NATO countries are being actively used against Russia.
You (soldiers) fight like the heroes of the war of 1812, the First World War or Great Patriotic War (World War II).
We have always considered the Ukrainian people a brotherly people, I still think so. What is happening now is certainly a tragedy, our common tragedy; however, this is not the result of our policy, on the contrary, it is the result of the policy of other countries, third countries, which have always strived to disintegrate the Russian world.
The brainwashing of the citizens of Ukraine, the use of neo-Nazi, extremely nationalistic ideology for decades did their job.
Why the Event is Important: The Russian President uses meetings of such importance to deliver messages to the political elite and domestic audiences. According to his main message, the main culprit in the ongoing war in Ukraine is the West which has historically fought against the Russian world.
Russian President Visits Belarus
Main Event: On December 19, 2022, the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, hosted the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.
Meeting Between the Presidents. Source: president.gov.by
Event in Details: This was the first visit of the Russian President to Belarus in the last three years while the Belarusian President has visited Russia several times this year alone. The main agreement of the meeting refers to the continuation of military cooperation and joint military exercises.
According to Vladimir Putin, they will continue to conduct joint exercises and supply weapons to each other and train Belarusian pilots to operate aircrafts capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Aleksander Lukashenko spoke about military cooperation as well as emphasized the importance of solving economic issues. According to President Putin, the trade turnover between the two countries increased to USD 38.5 billion in 2021 which further increased by 10% in the first ten months of this year.
Belarus is Russia’s ally and Moscow uses its territory for the military aggression against Ukraine. At the initial stage, a Russian military attack on Ukraine was also carried out from the territory of Belarus and the Russian military contingent is currently stationed in the country. Given that Belarus participates in joint military exercises it still avoids joining the war with its own military force. Ukraine and the West perceive Belarus as Russia’s ally in the ongoing war and, therefore, the regime of sanctions against Lukashenko is in effect. Aleksander Lukashenko’s main concern is to avoid getting involved in the war and at the same time get economic support from Russia and soften the impact of Western sanctions on Belarus.
Why the Event is Important: The Russian President’s visit to Belarus after a three-year hiatus indicates
the importance of ensuring a higher involvement of Belarus in the ongoing military aggression against Ukraine, especially in the military direction.
St. Petersburg Hosts an Informal CIS Summit
Main Event: On December 26-27, 2022, the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg hosted an informal summit of leaders of the CIS member states.
Event in Details: The informal meeting between leaders of the CIS member states has become a tradition and is held annually in December, before the New Year, in St. Petersburg. Leaders of all member states participated in the meeting, except for Moldova, whose pro-Western head, Maia Sandu, refuses to participate in such events and focuses on joining the European Union.
Reportedly, the informal summit meeting lasted seven hours. Vladimir Putin presented guests with symbolic gifts – golden rings, nine in total. Mr. Putin kept one for himself. Each ring features the CIS emblem and the inscription “Happy New Year 2023.”
Leaders of the CIS Member States Visit the Russian Museum. Source: kremlin.ru
According to President Putin, the turnover of goods between the CIS countries has already reached USD 81.5 billion. He also spoke about the challenges and threats in terms of security and stability, including the tensions between member states of the organization.
Vladimir Putin stated that the cooperation between the CIS countries includes the preservation of a common cultural and humanitarian space. “Our peoples are connected by many things, including the Russian language, which is a powerful unifying force,” he said. The year of 2023 will be the Russian language year in the CIS countries.
Why the Event is Important: The CIS’s traditional pre-New Year’s summit is an opportunity for leaders of post-Soviet countries to interact in an informal setting. Against the backdrop of ongoing Russian military aggression in Ukraine, such meetings are another opportunity for Moscow to gain their support in certain issues in easing the sanctions imposed by the West.
Lachine Corridor – Still Blocked, Russia’s Mediation – Unsuccessful
Main Event: On December 30, 2022, the spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, expressed concern that there is no progress in restoring the full functionality of the Lachine corridor and the inability to move citizens, vehicles and cargo. As she noted, the Russian peacekeeping forces are taking consistent steps to regulate the situation.
Event in Details: 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.
According to the Armenian side, ethnic Azerbaijani citizens, with the motive of environmental protection, blocked the road connecting the capital of the de facto Republic with the Armenian city of Goris. As the Azerbaijani side reports, 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.
On December 25, thousands of people rallied in Stepanakert/Khankendi, the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, to demand the opening of the corridor.
Earlier, on December 23, the Armenian Foreign Minister, Ararat Mirzoyan, refused to negotiate with the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Jeyhun Bairamov, through the mediation of the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, which caused criticism from the latter. Mr. Mirzoyan, for his part, expressed surprise at Lavrov’s reaction.
Why the Event is Important: Since the end of the second Nagorno-Karabakh war of 2020, there have been frequent instances when Russian peacekeepers fail to adequately secure the Armenian population living in the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The blocking of the Lachin corridor by the Azerbaijani side is the first time when the vital transport corridor for Karabakh Armenians has been closed for so long. The frequency of such incidents and the inability of Russian peacekeepers to prevent or solve them in a timely manner will further increase security challenges for the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
Moldova Suspends Licenses of pro-Russian Media Outlets
Main Event: The Prime Minister of Moldova, Natalia Gavrilita, announced a decision of the Moldovan government to revoke the broadcast license for six TV channels following allegations of spreading “false information” about the Russian military aggression in Ukraine and lacking correct information while covering national events.
Event in Details: All TV channels (First in Moldova, RTR Moldova, Accent TV, NTV Moldova, TV6, Orhei TV) are owned by a well-known pro-Russian businessman and politician, the leader of the Shor Party, Ilan Shor, and his associates. A criminal case was initiated against Ilan Shor. The USA and Great Britain have put him on the list of sanctions.
The suspensions were also made with the aim of preventing the risk of disinformation or attempts to manipulate public opinion. Four of the six suspended channels regularly broadcast Russian TV programs.
The pro-Western President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, assessed the decision as “an important step to prevent attempts to destabilize the country.”
The spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, criticized the decision and called it “a cynical infringement of the rights of national minorities.”
The ban on broadcasting came into force on December 19 and will remain in effect during the state of emergency which the Moldovan authorities declared on February 24 after the start of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine.
Why the Event is Important: Russia uses the media for propaganda purposes aimed at influencing public opinion outside the country, strengthening pro-Russian sentiments and promoting the Kremlin’s propaganda narrative about the ongoing war in Ukraine. For Moldova, part of whose population is pro-Russian, the restriction of such television channels is a matter of security aimed at limiting the spread of the Kremlin’ narrative.
CIS Institute Marks the 100th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Soviet Union
Main Event: On December 28, 2022, the CIS Institute in Moscow hosted a scientific conference entitled the “History of Russia is Unified and Continuous. To the 100th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Soviet Union.”
Event in Details: Members of the State Duma, members of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union, public figures, representatives of leading educational centers and historians participated in the conference. According to the Institute, despite heated discussions, the conference participants agreed on one common issue that the Soviet period was an important stage in the history of Russia and that the history of Russia is a single continuous process from the early Russian state to the present day.
The conference was organized by a State Duma deputy, Konstantin Zatulin, who concurrently is the director of the institute.
The main topics of the conference were: the establishment of the Soviet Union – a way to overcome the geopolitical catastrophe caused by the fall of the Russian Empire; the Soviet Union – the legal successor of the Russian Empire; the phenomenon of national-state organization of the Soviet Union; the Russian issue in the Soviet Union; the Soviet period in Russian history; world-historical significance of the Soviet Union; and the Russian Federation – a new reincarnation of Russian statehood; integration – the imperative of the Eurasian space.
Why the Event is Important: Russia sees itself as the legal successor of the Soviet Union and considers the Soviet period as an integral part of the history of the Russian state (Russian Empire, Soviet Union, Russian Federation). During the rule of Vladimir Putin, the Soviet Union and its successes, including the victory in WWII, are especially glorified and criticism of the Soviet Union is perceived as part of anti-Russian hysteria.