MOSCOW, June 27. /TASS/. West signals nuclear safety concerns amid attempted armed mutiny in Russia; Kiev’s nuclear terror allegations preparing ground for active fighting near Zaporozhye nuke plant; and Western pitch to garner BRICS’ support for Ukrainian position flops at secret Copenhagen meeting. These stories topped Tuesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.
In a communication over Wagner PMC founder Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny attempt, US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy expressed the hope that Russia’s nuclear arsenal was "in order," adding that Washington had nothing to do with the situation, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Russia’s top diplomat gave assurances that Moscow was fully cognizant of the relevant risks.
Other Western officials also expressed concern about the issue of nuclear safety. On Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrel pointed out the inherent risk that could entail from "such a nuclear power as Russia entering a phase of internal political instability." US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Sunday evening that Washington could see no change in the preparedness of Russia’s strategic forces, nor that the US has changed its own preparedness amid the event. "Anytime you have a major country like Russia that has signs of instability, that’s something of concern," he told CNN.
The weekend’s developments posed no threat to either civilian or military nuclear facilities, an official with close ties to the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that Prigozhin’s fighters did not intend to pose such threats. To Viktor Murakhovsky, editor-in-chief of the Arsenal of the Fatherland military journal, various reports alleging that the private military company had plans to seize nukes are all elements of an anti-Russian propaganda campaign.
The Russian Defense Ministry’s 12th Chief Directorate is charged with ensuring security at all nuclear storage facilities, both central and temporary, including strategic airfields, labs, maintenance bases and other facilities, Pavel Podvig, senior researcher at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in Geneva, explained. Some of them are located in European Russia, where the situation around Prigozhin’s mutiny unfolded, the expert said. In general, the 12th Chief Directorate’s units can repel heavy weapons attacks, since the department itself "is a serious institution with appropriate traditions, and one can count on them to accomplish their mission," Podvig told Vedomosti.
Dmitry Kornev, a military expert and MilitaryRussia.ru columnist, said the Strategic Missile Forces, too, have their own security units. "The protocols of both the 12th Chief Directorate of the Russian Defense Ministry and the Strategic Missile Forces have been worked out, and the absence of heavy weapons at their disposal is compensated for by their ability to request immediate fire support from the Air Force or the Ground Forces," Kornev said. According to the expert, if a nuclear storage facility were to be captured, it would be extremely difficult to blow up the warheads in any case, as they are equipped with sophisticated coded devices.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Kiev’s nuclear terror allegations preparing ground for active fighting near nuke plant
No sooner had the Wagner episode ended than the Kiev regime resumed its rhetorical agitation about scenarios involving a nuclear disaster at the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). Ukrainian military intelligence head Kirill Budanov and President Vladimir Zelensky both repeated recent claims that Russia was preparing to stage a terrorist attack against the nuclear facility, although there are currently no security concerns in terms of power generation. However, experts say, Kiev itself may be gearing up to launch active fighting in Energodar, where the ZNPP is located, as it is seeking to preemptively shift responsibility onto Russia for the potential consequences of any nuclear incident.
In a recent interview with New Statesman, Budanov warned of a dangerous escalation as he said that "the situation has never been as severe as now." According to him, the Russian military moved vehicles rigged with explosives to four out of the power plant’s six power units. Russia, he claimed, may stage an attack on the ZNPP with radiation leakage as a preventive measure, in order to stop Ukraine’s counteroffensive and freeze the line of engagement where it currently stands. It is noteworthy that Kiev reiterated this soon after the aborted mutiny in Russia.
Ukrainian nuclear plant operating company Energoatom gave assurances on Monday that, despite the breach of the Kakhovka dam earlier this month, the situation around the cooling pond at the ZNPP remains stable and under control. Under such conditions, however, it is even more unclear why the Ukrainian authorities should be so transparent in their attempts to stir up the situation around the Zaporozhye nuke plant.
The Kiev regime may be jumbling together various technical details to justify the legitimacy of their warnings that Russia is preparing a terrorist attack, Igor Yushkov, senior analyst at the National Energy Security Fund and the Financial University under the Russian Government, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The relevant statements by Ukraine’s senior military officials only confirm that this is not about power generation, the expert argues. Ukraine’s forces may be planning to ramp up their military activity near Energodar and are now trying to justify their actions in advance by saying that Russia is getting ready to blow up the Zaporozhye NPP, and, therefore, it is important for Kiev to occupy it in order to save Europe from a nuclear threat. The Kiev regime has been preparing the international community for such a scenario as well.
On Saturday, Copenhagen hosted a multilateral meeting on Ukraine with political aides and national security advisers from both Western countries and their counterparts from BRICS, excluding Russia, taking part, Germany’s ARD television and Deutschlandfunk radio reported. According to the media outlets, the discussions were held "amid tight secrecy."
Following the meeting, Ukrainian Presidential Office (PO) head Andrey Yermak wrote on his Telegram channel that Ukraine was represented by a PO team and Foreign Ministry diplomats, while the meeting was also attended by officials from Brazil, Great Britain, Denmark, the EU, Italy, India, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Turkey, France and Japan. However, the South African presidential office did not confirm to TASS on Monday that it attended the Copenhagen meeting, as it said it was unaware of such an event. Although neither Yermak nor Deutschlandfunk mentioned the presence of China, ARD told a different story.
Even as the Ukrainian officials once again spelled out the details of Zelensky’s "peace formula," Brazil and other developing countries did not rush to support it, TASS reported, citing a Brazilian official. Moreover, the four BRICS countries represented at the meeting proposed inviting Russia to any new discussions.
According to ARD, the West’s objective in Copenhagen was to secure the support of the BRICS, which (excluding Russia) have thus far maintained neutrality on the Ukraine conflict. The meeting was termed an important step in clearing a path for peace negotiations and official negotiations may take place as early as next month.
During the consultations, officials from India, Brazil, and, probably, South Africa and China, and Western diplomats compared their proposals for peace between Russia and Ukraine, Oleg Barabanov, program director of the Valdai International Discussion Club, told Vedomosti. "Except for India, the other BRICS members came up with their initiatives on how to broker peace in Ukraine, as their proposals become a diplomatic reality," he said. "All these nations are seeking to stop the hostilities, which mostly threaten the economic stability of the Global South, about which the South African leader has repeatedly stated, as soon as possible," the expert emphasized.
At the meeting, Western officials may have attempted to dissuade the South African leadership from hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the upcoming BRICS summit, slated to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, on August 22-24, said Alexey Arbatov, head of the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS). "By resorting to threats and promises, they have been trying to convince South Africa to join anti-Russian sanctions and distance itself from Moscow," the expert concluded.
Over the next three days, China will host an international event under the aegis of the World Economic Forum that has long been dubbed the "Summer Davos." The event will be attended by 1,500 guests from 90 countries and is primarily aimed at promoting innovation and entrepreneurship globally, with a special emphasis on Asia. However, the host country is clearly sending a political message, as Beijing and other developing economies are becoming the driving force for globalization.
One of the largest groups set to attend - Saudi Arabia’s 24-member-strong delegation, according to the Financial Times - emphasizes how Riyadh has been strengthening ties with China for some 10 years already. As they sense that the United States’ interest in the Middle East is waning, the Saudis have been looking for a replacement for America.
So far, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and China has progressed to "a comprehensive strategic partnership," which almost means an alliance for Chinese diplomacy, explains Nikolay Surkov, researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS). He told Izvestia that, today, Saudi Arabia acts as a guarantor of energy security for China, while also being viewed as a supplier of affordable hydrocarbons. While giving Riyadh access to one of the largest Asian markets and being a major destination for investments, Beijing is also an alternative high-tech source for the digitalization and modernization of the Saudi economy being pursued by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the expert said. Therefore, the two countries could conclude major new contracts at the event, and, in the longer term, their economic cooperation may be coupled with military ties. China is already playing an active role as a mediator in the Middle East, and news emerged that a Chinese military base is currently being built in a Persian Gulf country, the expert concluded.
As for the Russian delegation, no high-profile Russian officials are expected to attend. However, Moscow and Beijing have already initiated numerous bilateral projects, and thus Russia has no compelling reason to prioritze China’s "Summer Davos."
Last year, Russia’s share of European oil imports dropped by 7.6 percentage points from the previous year to 23.3%, according to the latest Statistical Review of World Energy, published by Great Britain’s Energy Institute on Monday. Physical oil supplies from Russia declined by 15.7% to 116.9 million metric tons in 2022, while the share of Russian oil in total consumption in Europe saw a more modest reduction - by 4 p.p. to 16.7%.
The share of Russian natural gas in European imports fell by 21.7 p.p. to 32.7%, while its share in total consumption decreased by 11.3 p.p. to 21%. Last year, Russia almost halved gas exports to Europe via pipelines, to 85.4 billion cubic meters, and at the same time it increased its liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies by 12% to 19.5 billion cubic meters. Overall, gas consumption in European countries decreased by 12.7% in 2022 year on year to 498.8 billion cubic meters.
Lower oil supplies from Russia came amid harsher anti-Russian sanctions. The EU imposed its embargo on Russian oil early last December, while the bloc introduced its 11th package of sanctions, which bans Russian oil supplies through the northern leg of the Druzhba pipeline to Germany and Poland, last week. Also, the oil price ceiling on Russian oil at $60 per barrel has been in effect since December 5.
Sergey Kaufman, an analyst at Finam, has a negative forecast, as he expects the share of Russian gas in EU imports to drop to 5-7% this year.
Kirill Rodionov, an expert at the Institute for the Development of Technologies, argues that such a major decline in Russian oil imports has already had a negative impact on European industries.
Analysts agree that Russia, too, would benefit from returning to the European oil and gas market. Among other things, they point to the Urals oil price remaining below Brent amid higher logistics costs with supplies are being redirected to Asia.
While Rodionov expects Russian gas giant Gazprom to try and increase its exports to Europe in the latter half of the 2020s, his counterpart Igor Yushkov, from the National Energy Security Fund, argues that Russia has already redirected substantial volumes of oil and petroleum products to Asian markets, and therefore believes that this year Russian producers should lower the Russian oil price discount to the Brent benchmark.
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