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Russia

Stories under this heading cover Russia, as well as countries in the eastern part of the European continent, such as Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova.

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News
New report reveals climate impact of Russia's war in Ukraine: $32 billion damage over two years

New report reveals climate impact of Russia's war in Ukraine: $32 billion damage over two years

Russia's ongoing full-scale war in Ukraine, initiated on 24 February 2022, has caused significant environmental and climate damage, severely impacting global efforts to combat climate change. This is highlighted in the latest report from the Initiative on Greenhouse Gas Accounting of War (IGGAW), which analyses the environmental costs over the past two years. The report was published Thursday (13 June) by the Ministry for Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine in collaboration with climate advocacy groups. The IGGAW report estimates climate-related damages at $32 billion, attributed to activities such as the extensive use of military fuels and the destruction of landscapes and infrastructure. Over 24 months, the conflict resulted in the emission of 175 million tonnes of carbon dioxide - more than the annual emissions of a developed country like the Netherlands.
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News
France, Germany and Poland face the brunt of Russian disinformation attacks

France, Germany and Poland face the brunt of Russian disinformation attacks

France, Germany, and Poland have become "permanent" targets of Russian disinformation attacks in the lead-up to the European Parliament (EU) elections this week, a senior EU official reported on Tuesday (4 June). The EU has consistently warned that Russia would intensify its disinformation campaigns as the June 6-9 vote approaches. "There are three big countries under permanent attack [from Russia]: France, Germany, and Poland," said EU Commissioner Vera Jourova, citing research by the European Digital Media Observatory, of which AFP is a part. She highlighted an increase in "more massive disinformation attacks on specific topics."

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News
In the absence of Georgia, the 3 + 3 meeting in Tehran was again incomplete

In the absence of Georgia, the 3 + 3 meeting in Tehran was again incomplete

The foreign ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Turkey, met in Tehran on Monday 23 October in the second meeting of the 3 + 3 format, which however is only 2 + 3 since the third South Caucasus country, Georgia, refuses to participate in the process because of its problems with Russia. Recently, Turkey and Iran have made statements that they prefer this format of interaction with the South Caucasus countries since it excludes external players. Some Azerbaijani officials have expressed similar views. At the end of their meeting in Tehran, the foreign ministers issued a nine-point statement, in which amongst other things, they said that "expressing their positions on various international issues, they discussed the most important issues in the region and emphasized the importance of such platforms as the regional consultative "3+3" platform to provide opportunities for constructive dialogue and establish mutually beneficial cooperation between the countries of the region". commonspace.eu political editor said that the absence of Georgia in the 3 + 3 format hugely reduces the significance of the initiative since it is difficult to discuss regional issues without that country being present. However, the format is important, particularly for Iran, which has been desperately trying to have a role in the region. For the Turks, this is an opportunity to share a platform with Armenia, even as discussions on the normalisation of relations continue. The meeting between the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers, on the margins of the main event, was perhaps the most significant event in the one-day diplomatic extravaganza in Tehran. For the Russians, such a meeting has limited use. They would prefer to deal with the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis on their own, separately or together. But given that their monopoly over dealings with the two countries, especially on the issue of normalisation of relations, has now been lost, Moscow wants to make sure it is present whenever and wherever the opportunity arises.
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Commentary
Russia's role in the South Caucasus continues to be that of spoiler

Russia's role in the South Caucasus continues to be that of spoiler

For decades, Russia has tried to protect its interests in the South Caucasus following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But Russia had nothing to offer to the countries of the region, be it for their economic and political challenges, or even more importantly for the process of restoring peace in the region after it slid into conflict at the end of the Soviet era. There was however one thing that it could do, and that was to spoil any efforts for peace and reconciliation, if these efforts did not originate and were managed by Russia itself. This way it could maintain it primordial position in the region, and as much as possible, keep everyone else out, whilst often presenting itself as an exemplary peacemaker. This grotesque situation has played itself out in front of everyone’s eyes since 1992. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have for most of the time had no choice but to play along with the Russian masquerade, and the international community, most of the time distracted by other issues, generally played along, being content to be seen offering some kind of balance to Russian posturing. Russia never had, and certainly does not have now, any interest in working genuinely with international partners to support peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. If a dialogue with Russia is necessary so that Russia will not be a spoiler, than that dialogue is futile because Russian objectives are not the same as those of the West. Russia’s gloating when Azerbaijani president Aliyev failed to turn up for a crucial summit in Granada last week is a case in point. We are now already seeing Russian rhetoric increase as preparations for the long-expected meeting between Aliyev and Pashinyan, with Michel, scheduled for later this month, intensify. Russian pressure on Armenia and Azerbaijan ahead of the Brussels meeting is also increasing both overtly and covertly. There is an argument that Armenia and Azerbaijan simply cannot afford to be seen agreeing with each other, under the auspices of Brussels, without the Russians being part of the story. Thus there has been in recent weeks some frantic discussions about how that could be done, including by having the final lap of any discussions in Tbilisi, without any outside mediators. Such ideas have also found favour in Tehran and Ankara. A wonderful idea, but one that has many flaws. Any agreement will need to be somehow underpinned by some kind of international patronage. And “ownership” will also determine who is going to pick up the bill for post-conflict reconstruction and other costs of erasing the scars of the conflict from the region, including for example demining. Still, Tbilisi may be a venue that more or less can be acceptable to both the Russians as well as to the Europeans and the Americans. In the end, the location of the symbolic finishing line must not turn out to be the most important issue. All focus, and all efforts must be concentrated on getting Armenia and Azerbaijan to agree to finally put an end to this long painful episode in their history, that has taken the lives of tens of thousands, displaced hundreds of thousands and costed billions. And that would be just the end of the beginning because translating a written agreement into concrete actions that would ensure lasting and durable peace will be a much longer and more difficult endeavour.
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Opinion
Sochi Summit exposes limits of Russian-Turkish entente

Sochi Summit exposes limits of Russian-Turkish entente

Turkish President, Recip Tayip Erdogan visited Sochi on Monday, 4 September, to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin. Erdogan had sought this meeting for some time, hoping that in a face-to-face encounter he could persuade his Russian counterpart to restore the so called Black Sea Grain Deal, which enabled Ukraine to export its grain products to international markets safely, despite the ongoing war with Russia. "Erdogan failed in this primary mission", writes commonspace.eu political editor in a comment "There were of course other issues under discussion in Sochi - both related to bilateral relations, as well as issues concerning the international and regional situation. There were no new breakthroughs, no new agreements signed, nor new initiatives announced, except for one related to the supply of Russian grain to African countries via Turkey, a side issue of the main Grain Deal.  In many ways, Sochi showed the limits of the Turkish-Russian entente. It has always been built on mutual convenience as both sides try to show the world that they are independent players in a complex international system. But Russian hopes to lure Turkey away from NATO have failed miserably. Russian disappointment at Turkey's overt support for Ukraine in military as well as political spheres, is a sore point for President Putin. The Russians have also learnt that the Turks drive a hard bargain when it comes to economic issues. Reeling under heavy western sanctions the Russians need to keep the Turks on board, but the cost is high. For Turkiye too the limits of the friendship with Russia are obvious. Opinions differ on a range of issues - from the South Caucasus to Syria to Central Asia. Turkiye has tried to lure Russia into negotiations with Ukraine. Moscow politely but firmly said no. For Turkiye the war raging in the Black Sea poses a huge threat. All its efforts so far to stop it have failed, and Sochi has not brought this objective any nearer. After Sochi, Turkiye will once more have to evaluate how to position itself in the war for its long term interests. For the moment the Turkish Russian relations, which are of huge consequences for the security of the Black Sea region, remain at face value, good. But Sochi has shown signs of cracks on a number of issue, cracks that polite words and expressions of friendship in the press conference following the Summit, failed to hide."
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News
Grain deal dominates talks between Putin and Erdogan, but there are other issues on the agenda too

Grain deal dominates talks between Putin and Erdogan, but there are other issues on the agenda too

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday (4 September) is holding a long-awaited summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Central to the discussions is the question of the export of Ukrainian grain to world markets. Türkiye and the United Nations seek to revive a key agreement that allowed Ukraine to export grain and other commodities from three Black Sea ports despite the 18-month war. The visit comes more than one month after Mosow suspended the deal, which was brokered by Türkiye and the U.N. and was seen as vital for global food supplies, especially in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other goods that developing nations rely on. President Erdoğan said the grain deal was the headline issue at the daylong talks between the two leaders. But whilst the grain deal may be the centre-piece of today's discussions there are other issues on the agenda too. Turkiye and Russia have an extensive and complex bilateral agenda which the two presidents are bound to review. There are also issues related to regional peace and security, including the situation in Syria, where Russian and Turkish interests have often clashed, and the situation in the South Caucasus, where on-going tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan mar the prospects of a peace deal. The trip to the Black Sea resort city marks a rare visit by a leader of a NATO country to Russia amid Moscow's all-out war in Ukraine. Erdogan has kept open his lines of communication with Putin
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News
At least 27 killed in petrol station explosion in Dagestan, Russia

At least 27 killed in petrol station explosion in Dagestan, Russia

At least 27 people are confirmed to have been killed in a huge explosion and fire at a petrol station in the Republic of Dagestan in southern Russia on Monday (14 August). The explosion happened in the regional capital Makhachkala at 21.40 local time. Over 100 people are understood to have been injured in the incident, which is believed to have occured after a fire started in a nearby car repair workshop and spread to the petrol station, causing the explosion. Three of those killed were children, Dagestan’s governor Sergei Melikov said.
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News
Ukraine is the most heavily mined country in the world, says Defense Minister

Ukraine is the most heavily mined country in the world, says Defense Minister

The Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has told The Guardian newspaper in an interview on Sunday (13 August) that Ukraine is the "most heavily mined country in the world". He also said that Ukraine is suffering from a serious shortage of personnel and equipment in clearing the frontlines so the country can continue with its counteroffensive against Russia.
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News
Protests greet Russian cruise ship as it docks in Georgia for the second time

Protests greet Russian cruise ship as it docks in Georgia for the second time

Large protests have greeted a Russian cruise ship docking in the Georgian port city of Batumi on Monday (31 July). It is the second such protest in less than a week after the Astoria Grande docked on Thursday (27 July) despite protests, and left Georgia two days earlier than scheduled. Major demonstrations had already begun outside the port in Batumi around midnight on Monday, hours before the cruise ship, which is reported to be carrying a number famous Russian media personalities and celebrities who have expressed support for Russia's ongoing invasion, docked in Batumi.