Russia Updates

Russian news agency RIA Novosti citing Russian deputy head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs who tells that Russia is planning to continue providing Europe with crude oil via the Druzhba pipeline in the year 2023 in the same quantities as before. This is, by the way, in direct contradiction to the statement of the vice-Premier Novak, who told that Russia will not supply oil to the countries which impose the oil-price-cap. Simultaneously, Ukraine informed Russian pipeline operator, the Transneft, that it will be raising transportation fees of the crude oil, carried by Druzhba pipeline through UA to EU. While the US and EU governments are trying to destroy Europe’s economy, Russia is adamant in its resolve to keep it alive. Only reasonable explanation I can think of is that Russian ruling elites like money more than they like their country.

Rybar, made a repost on the group’s Telegram channel, about the fate of the Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter, downed on the 24th of February. The shot-down helicopter was left intact for 40 days there it made its emergency landing. All the weapons and systems were left intact, including weapons and friend-or-foe identification system (I assume equally critical sensors and communication equipment were left undestroyed as well). No attempts to evacuate or destroy it were made during that time. As a result, one of the most sophisticated pieces of Russian military hardware was left for UA to capture and, presumably, pass it to the West for testing and evaluation.

I will make a small remark here: sensitive military hardware usually has self-destruction measures to destroy all the secret data and components in such cases. On the other hand, it is quite possible pilots didn’t activate it, expecting the aircraft will be brought for repair to Russia, or fearing they could be charged with destroying military equipment (there are precedencies of pilots being sued by MoD and ordered by the court to repay the value of the aircraft that was damaged in accident — presumably by pilot’s fault). It is also possible commanders on the ground there afraid to make such decision as well, so they will not become escape goats for some MoD officials. There are a lot of reports of Russian Army abandoning all sorts of military equipment intact after minor breakdown without destroying it. This hardware then gets repaired by Ukrainians and put into service against Russian forces.

Ukrainians made another attempt to attack targets in Crimea, using 7 Chinese commercial drones, launched from Odessa airfield. 5 of those $10,000 drones were shot down using S-300 and Pantsir air-defence systems, and the other two were shot down while nearing their intended targets (an oil reservoir facility and a power plant) by unreported measures. Since those are cheap, off-the-shelf drones, those kinds of attacks can proceed indefinitely, expending much more expensive Russian air-defence missiles.

Russian Duma is working on new legislation directed against Russian citizens who chose to work in Russia remotely, from abroad. Some of professions will be forbidden to work remotely from outside of Russian Federation, while others will be taxed above the taxation level from the ones working in Russia. While legitimate security concerns may explain the ban for certain professions to work from foreign countries, the taxation portion is obviously intended to punish Russian citizens who fled the country, including the ones that did it because the fear of mobilization. This alone probably won’t make them want to return back to Russia, but may push them towards leaving their job for another one, outside of Russia. Those are mostly middle-class, blue-collar workers. The so-called “oligarchs” or ideologically oriented activists are obviously not the ones targeted by this new legislation.

Russian state budget for the year 2023 is built on $70 per-barrel oil price projection. Unlike most countries, Russian budget is built not on the basis of country’s tax and other incomes, but on the energy export. (The natural gas prices in long term contracts are tied by the Russians to the oil prices, at least before the start of the war.) In recent years, Russian budget was built using much lower estimates, leaving a large “profit” margin in the budget, that was directed into the “National Welfare Fund”, gold and foreign currency reserves, special federal projects etc. Currently, Russian government have left some margins to allow remain within the budget if the oil price will fall below $70. That being said, in present situation world oil prices are half-detached from the Russian oil prices, as a result of Western disruptions directed against Russian oil export. Currently, the Russian “Urals” oil is selling at $51, much lower than the “Brent” $84.

The Russian frontal assault on the most defended Ukrainian defences continues in Artemovsk. Both sides are seemingly willing to put their forces through the meatgrinder. While Ukrainian decision is understandable, providing the advantage to the defenders, the Russian rational is being questioned more and more. The possible explanations are: Russian Amry don’t have enough quality troops to produce a deep flanking maneuver in Donbass, or Russian government seized the opportunity to relief itself of the large numbers of inmates charged with violent crimes who were recruited into the Wagner Group. I assume both explanations are correct. It is also possible those assaults are only needed to provide some optics of fighting and progress for the benefit of Russian public, while having no military strategic point whatsoever.


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