Estonia

Mass exodus of Russian youth

Tens of thousands of conscription-age Russian men have fled to neighboring countries since President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization of military reserve troops to fight in Ukraine. The tide has grown in recent days amid fears that the Kremlin will impose an exit ban. The sense of a closing window has led to chaotic scenes on Russia's land borders with Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia—countries that do not require a visa for visiting Russians. There has been a particular crush at Russia's sole border crossing with Georgia, where some 3,500 cars have backed up the road for nearly 10 kilometers. (Moscow Times)

Intrigue over assassination of Daria Dugina

Darya Dugina, Russian state media war propagandist and the daughter of ultra-nationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin, was killed when a remote-controlled explosive device planted in her SUV went off Aug. 20 as she was driving on the outskirts of Moscow. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) is charging that the assassination was "prepared and perpetrated by the Ukrainian special services." According to the FSB, a Ukrainian citizen, Natalya Vovk, carried out the attack and then fled to Estonia. Russian media reports are claiming she was a member of Ukraine's Azov Battalion, and that the elder Dugin was the actual target of the attack. A statement from Russia's Foreign Ministry said Dugina's killing reflects Kyiv's reliance on "terrorism as an instrument of its criminal ideology."

Russia: irredentist claims on Alaska

The speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament on July 6 threatened to "claim back" Alaska if the United States freezes or seizes Russian assets in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine. "Let America always remember: there's a piece of territory, Alaska," Vyacheslav Volodin said at the last session of the State Duma before summer break. "When they try to manage our resources abroad, let them think before they act that we, too, have something to take back," Volodin said. He noted that deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoy had recently proposed holding a referendum in Alaska on joining Russia. The day after Volodin's comments, billboards proclaiming "Alaska Is Ours!" appeared in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, apparently placed by a local "patriot."

Submarine incident in flashpoint Kuril Islands

Amid quickly escalating tensions over Ukraine, Russia has lodged a diplomatic protest with the US embassy in Moscow, claiming that a US nuclear submarine penetrated Russian territorial waters near the Kuril Islands. According to Moscow's Defense Ministry, a Virginia-class US Navy submarine was detected Feb. 12 off Urup Island, where Russia's Pacific Fleet was conducting exercises. The Defense Ministry said the submarine was chased off by Russian vessels, and retreated at "maximum speed." The statement accused the US of a "violation of Russia's state border." The Pentagon issued a statement, saying: "There is no truth to the Russian claims of our operations in their territorial waters." US President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin spoke by phone for an hour later that day to discuss Ukraine, but according to the Kremlin the Kurils incident was not brought up. (TASS, Reuters)

Cold War nostalgia as 'missile shield' goes live

The US Aegis anti-missile station at Deveselu, Romania, was officially activated this week—to harsh protests from Moscow, despite Washington's claim that the system is intended to intercept missiles fired from the Middle East. Together with an installation in Poland, the Deveselu facility forms the long-delayed "missile shield" first conceived under the George Bush administration. (BBC News, AFP, RT, May 12) Moscow's claim that the "missile shield" is actually aimed at encircling Russia is mirrored by Washington's charge that Russia is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, having deployed cruise missiles in contravention of the 1987 pact. (Arms Control Association, May 2016)

Senate bill to halt release of Gitmo inmates

A group of US senators on Jan. 13 proposed legislation (PDF) that would place a moratorium on the release or transfer of prisoners from Guantánamo Bay. Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte (NH), John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Richard Burr (NC) touted  the new bill as the best course of action to protect US national security. The act, titled "The Detaining Terrorists to Protect America Act of 2015," would halt all releases of Guantánamo detainees with high or medium risk ratings, issue more prohibitions ontransfers and provide more transparency on how detainees' risk levels are determined. Ayotte stated, "It's clear that we need a 'time out' so that we do not re-confront the terrorists that we had captured and are currently in Guantánamo." The new legislation will place pressure on the White House as the Obama administration released 28 prisoners from Guantánamo in 2014.

Baltics militarized by NATO amid Russian threats

NATO on April 1 began a two-day exercise, briging more than 100 US Air Force personnel, along with F-15 fighter jets and a Germany-based Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) craft, to former Soviet air bases in Lithuania. Denmark is also sending six F16 fighter jets to the Baltic as part of an expanded NATO air policing mission, with regular patrols to begin May 1. The incidence of Russian jets flying close enough to Baltic airspace this year to prompt NATO jets being scrambled has increased to about once a week, according to Lithuania's defense ministry. NATO jets were scrambled about 40 times in both 2012 and 2013; in 2004, the year the Baltic republics joined NATO, it only happened once.

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