Kiev’s initiative to restrict Russians in their rights to travel to Western countries bewildered both Moscow and European officials, as well as Russian citizens staying abroad, Vedomosti writes. In an interview with The Washington Post, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky put the blame for the Russian government’s actions on "the entire nation" and called for imposing restrictions even on those Russians who have already left the country.
Just a few Western officials supported his call. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas wrote in her Twitter account that Russians should be denied Schengen visas, saying "visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right." So far, Belgium, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Malta and Denmark have stopped issuing Schengen visas for Russians. Jussi Tanner, the director general of consular services at the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, said on Monday that his country was planning to impose restrictions on transit travel to Europe for those Russians who hold Schengen visas issued in Finland.
However, EU Commission spokeswoman on home affairs Anitta Hipper said referring to the EU’s Visa Code that the issuance of short-term visas should not be stopped. She pointed to certain categories of citizens eligible for visas in any circumstances, including family members, journalists or dissidents, as well as humanitarian cases.
Political analyst Konstantin Kostin believes Zelensky is being driven by the removal of the Ukrainian agenda from the front pages of Western media. "He used to say the sanctions he is calling for should target Russian officials, and now he is demanding sanctions against all Russian citizens. This is a very dubious measure that will hardly make any contribution either in Ukraine or at the EU level," Kostin told Vedomosti.
According to data from the FSB Border Service, almost 8.9 million Russian departures abroad were registered in the first half of 2022 against 6.8 million in the same period last year. Alexey Raksha, an independent expert in demography, argues that the statistics could not be clear, since the Border Service does not publish data on citizens’ returns. He cited estimates saying 150,000 to 300,000 people could have left the country, but doubted it would be possible to either confirm the figures or refute them.
The Russian Foreign Ministry explained why Russia suspended US inspections under the New START nuclear arms control treaty: Washington has notified Moscow that it will soon send its inspectors to Russia without any prior arrangements - a move Russian diplomats branded as "a blatant provocation." The US embassy refused to give Kommersant a detailed comment on the situation, but assured the newspaper that Washington remained committed to the New START treaty. Experts told Kommersant that the treaty could be maintained without any inspections, yet they viewed the suspension as a sign that Russian-US relations could have deteriorated further.
And it’s not clear how the sides will settle the issue. Rose Gottemoeller, the US chief negotiator of the New START treaty and a Stanford University professor, told Kommersant Moscow would hopefully be ready to do so in silence - at the negotiating table. She doubts any exchange of opinions in public or in media will work.
Dmitry Stefanovich, a research fellow at the International Security Center with the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told Kommersant that both sides could benefit from ironing out their disputes and resuming inspections. According to him, it could be important for Russia to see on the site how the launch silos on the Ohio submarines and the B-52N strategic bombers are partially exempt from the count, while of most interest to the Americans would be the Avangard, a Russian hypersonic glide vehicle, and the Sarmat, a super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, as well as Russian mobile missile systems.
Meanwhile, experts believe the New START treaty could continue functioning even without inspections, given Russia and the US keep exchanging notifications and general information online. Whether the treaty collapses over this hurdle or the sides are able to settle - this will depend on the political will of the two countries’ leadership, said Director of the Russian Nuclear Forces Project, Senior Researcher at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in Geneva Pavel Podvig.
The United States keeps betting on a deepening confrontation between Moscow and Kiev. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID, recognized as undesirable in Russia) said Washington would provide the Ukrainian government with a $4.5 billion aid in August, or almost three times as much as in July ($1.7 billion). Since the start of Russia’s special military operation, Washington has already given Kiev $8.5 billion. And the assistance will not be limited at that, as the United States has pledged to provide Ukraine with a total of some $40 billion, of which more than a third should be spent on weapons.
In August, the new US military package worth $1 billion will for the first time include the Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS), whose Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air missiles (AMRAAMs) are capable of hitting air targets at a distance of 25 km to 40 km. In addition, US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said, the Ukrainian armed forces will also receive ammunition for HIMARS launchers, 75,000 155-mm artillery shells, 1,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles, several hundred AT4 disposable gun anti-tank weapons, explosives, 50 armored medical evacuation vehicles, medicines and equipment. The bulk of those will be offensive weapons, experts warn. Kiev believes this would suffice to engage its forces in active combat in the next few months, an estimate also shared by the Pentagon official.
With this support, Kiev has so far rejected contacts with Russia on a ceasefire. However, the Ukrainian armed forces have not been showing any successes in offensive operations on any of the fronts unlike Russia which has been scoring tactical victories against this background. Western media quoted the latest report by British reconnaissance saying Russia has advanced 10 km in Donbass over the past month. According to military expert, retired Lieutenant General Yury Netkachev, London does not view this as a great success. However, up to 70% of all Ukraine’s forces are concentrated in Donbass. A very deep defense has been put up there over the past eight years, and it would be very hard to break through it, he warns. The expert said if Russian storm troops, artillery, MLRS and the Air Force keep fighting as effectively as before, we will soon see a strategic turning point in Russia’s special operation.
Helsinki and Stockholm may join the North Atlantic Alliance as full-fledged members before June 2023. The two Nordic countries reserve the right not to host NATO military bases and nuclear weapons on their soil.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry told Izvestia that membership in the alliance does not oblige the two nations to do so, while NATO itself said the issue has not been discussed yet. However, no one at NATO can guarantee the issue will not be on the agenda in the future. Russia is largely not opposed to the two countries’ joining NATO: Moscow said the alliance’s military presence there could be a problem. Meanwhile, almost three quarters of NATO member countries have already ratified Finland and Sweden’s accession protocol. And the Finnish parliament said the process could be finalized within four to 12 months, or no later than June 2023.
"NATO is an intergovernmental organization, and its member countries maintain their political independence, while all the decisions the alliance makes are consensus-based. Sweden reserves the right to decide how to act in a crisis or war, in particular which of its military units will act under NATO command," a source in the Swedish Foreign Ministry told Izvestia. "As long as there are nuclear weapons, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. <…> NATO is not posing any nuclear threats to the rest of the world, and is a defensive alliance. NATO membership does not mean Sweden will have to host nuclear weapons on its soil."
The Finnish Foreign Ministry refused to comment to Izvestia, while Finland’s former foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja, a Finnish MP, said the country reserves the right to settle these issues. "Like in Norway, there is general consent in Finland that neither military bases nor nuclear weapons will be deployed to this country. Under the existing laws, nuclear weapons supplies are banned in Finland, and I don’t think military bases or such armaments could contribute to our security," he said. Rather, the opposite is true, he concluded.
A floating power plant made by Turkey’s Karpowership company will generate electricity for the first line of Novatek’s Arctic LNG 2 plant currently under construction, sources told Kommersant.
Russian gas producer Novatek will order a Turkish floating power plant with a capacity of 300-400 MW, powered by gas piston engines. However, the sources did not reveal when the power plant will be built. The same scenario is likely to be used for power generation for the plant’s second and third lines.
Kommersant reported in June that the US-based Baker Hughes stopped servicing all Russian LNG projects, and refused to deliver LM9000 gas turbines for the Arctic LNG 2 project.
Novatek is planning to build three LNG lines as part of its Arctic LNG project, each with a capacity of 6.6 million tonnes. The company aims to launch the first line in 2023, the second line in 2024, and the third one in 2025.
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