Tag Archives: International Development

VIF News Digest: International Developments (US, Europe and Russia), 16-30 June 2021

I. UNITED STATES

Politics and Society

Biden, Putin say progress made in Geneva but gulfs on issues remain, 16 June 2021

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin emergedfrom their meeting in Geneva projecting optimism for future relations despite continued divisions on thorny topics from cyberattacks to human rights abuses.In separate post-summit news conferences, Biden described the tone of the discussions as “good, positive” and Putin said it was “constructive” and there was a “glimpse of hope” regarding mutual trust.
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U.S., EU Forge Closer Ties on Emerging Technologies to Counter Russia and China, 17 June 2021

The U.S. and EU plan to cooperate more on technology regulation, industrial development and bilateral trade following President Biden’s visit, in a bid to help Western allies better compete with China and Russia on developing and protecting critical and emerging technologies. Central to the increased coordination will be a new high-level Trade and Technology Council. The aim of the TTC is to boost innovation and investment within and between the two allied economies, strengthen supply chains and avert unnecessary obstacles to trade, among other tasks.
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Biden picks Russia pro for key Pentagon post, 23 June 2021

President Joe Biden is set to nominate the chief executive of the U.S.-Russia Foundation and a former National Security Council official on Russia to be the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. The White House announced Celeste Wallander as the intended nominee on Tuesday. If confirmed, she would have a key role overseeing U.S. military security cooperation and foreign military sales at a time when Biden has placed a new emphasis on bolstering America’s alliances. Wallander also served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and defense consulting firm WestExec Advisors lists her as a senior advisor there. If the Senate approves Wallander, she would advise Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl.
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U.S. to keep about 650 troops in Afghanistan after withdrawal, 24 June 2021

Roughly 650 U.S. troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main American military force completes its withdrawal, which is set to be largely done in the next two weeks. In addition, several hundred additional American forces will remain at the Kabul airport, potentially until September, to assist Turkish troops providing security, as a temporary move until a more formal Turkey-led security operation is in place, the officials said. Overall, officials said the U.S. expects to have American and coalition military command, its leadership and most troops out by July Fourth, or shortly after that, meeting an aspirational deadline that commanders developed months ago.
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US Ambassador to Russia vows to work towards ‘stable, predictable’ relations with Russia, 24 June 2021

US Ambassador to Russian John Sullivan is back in Moscow and is ready to work to achieve stable and predictable relationship between Russia and the US, Sullivan. Upon his return to Moscow, the ambassador also participated in a TV interview with a Russian channel, TV Dozhd. Transcript of the interview.
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U.S. Carries Out Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, 27 June 2021

The United States carried out airstrikes early morning in Iraq and Syria against two Iranian-backed militias that the Pentagon said had conducted drone strikes against American personnel in Iraq in recent weeks, the Defense Department said. “At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region,” the Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, said in a statement.
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Blinken and Lapid meet in Rome amid US-Israel relations reset, 27 June 2021

Hush-hush diplomacy. In-person visits. And a very public no-surprises agreement on Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will meet in Rome on Sunday as their new governments look to turn the page on former President Donald Trump and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose close alliance aggravated partisan divisions within both countries.
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Indonesia and US building maritime training center on edge of South China Sea, 28 June 2021

Indonesia and the United States have broken ground on a new $3.5 million maritime training center in the strategic area of Batam, in the Riau Islands, Indonesia’s maritime security agency said. Attending the ceremony virtually on Friday, the US ambassador to Indonesia, Sung Kim, said the maritime center would be part of ongoing efforts between the two countries to bolster security in the region.
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Environment
The West Coast Heat Has Killed Dozens and Hospitalized More In Canada And The U.S., 30 June 2021

Scores of deaths along the U.S. West Coast and in the Vancouver metro area in Canada are being blamed on an ongoing heat wave that has broken records. Authorities said at least six deaths in Washington and have been attributed to the heat wave that began in the region. Temperatures in Portland topped at least 116 degrees on Monday after at least three days of record-high temperatures. The area is now cooling off, according to the National Weather Service, but the heat left its mark.
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Perspective
Taming the New Wild West, 23 June 2021

During the Cold War, summit meetings between the United States and the Soviet Union were often dominated by agreements to set limits on nuclear weapons and the systems built to deliver them. The US and Russia still discuss these topics, but at their recent meeting in Geneva, US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin focused in no small part on how to regulate behaviour in a different realm: cyberspace. The stakes are every bit as great.
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Biden’s summit with Putin is a good start, 19 June 2021

The summit was never intended to produce any breakthrough agreements but to lay the foundation for improving relations between the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers and largely succeeded at that modest goal. Both nations agreed to return their ambassadors to each embassy (after both the Russian and American ambassadors withdrew late last year). They agreed to work constructively with each other on cybersecurity, on counterterrorism issues in Afghanistan, and on the peaceful development of the Arctic.
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II. EUROPE

Politics and Society
EU must be ‘more robust and resilient’ against Russian attempts to undermine it, says Borrell 16 June 2021

The European Union must become “more robust and resilient” against Russia’s attempts to undermine it and respond to threats in a more systematic and unified manner, according to the European Commission. The bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, presented the Commission’s proposed policy options on EU-Russia relations on Wednesday, entitled “Push back, constrain and engage.”
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Germany, Poland mark 30 years of Good Neighbourship treaty, 16 June 2021

Signed on June 17, 1991, the Treaty of Good Neighbourship and Friendly Cooperation was a milestone in the history of Poland and Germany.
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EU slaps coup-related sanctions on top Myanmar officials, 21 June 2021

The European Union has imposed sanctions on several senior officials and organizations in Myanmar over the military coup in February and the security crackdown that followed. The EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 8 officials and froze the assets of 3 “economic entities” and the War Veterans Organization. Those targeted include ministers, deputy ministers and the attorney general, whom the EU blames for “undermining democracy and the rule of law, and for serious human rights violations.” Click here to read…

Royal Navy ship off Crimea sparks diplomatic row between Russia and UK, 23 June 2021

Britain was unexpectedly embroiled in a diplomatic and military dispute with Russia after Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender briefly sailed through territorial waters off the coast of the disputed territory of Crimea. The warship sailed for about an hour in the morning within the 12-mile limit off Cape Fiolent on a direct route between the Ukrainian port of Odesa and Georgia, prompting Russian complaints and a disagreement about whether warning shots were fired.
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Macron, Merkel and 15 other EU leaders defend LGBT rights amid row over new Hungarian law, 24 June 2021

A group of 17 EU leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have signed a joint letter in defense of the LGBT+ community amid a raging controversy over Hungary’s new anti-LGBT law. Last week, the Hungarian parliament passed a new law tabled by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that bans the portrayal of homosexuality and sex reassignment in school education material and TV programmes addressed to people under 18 years of age. Click here to read…

EU imposes broad economic sanctions on Belarus over Ryanair incident, 24 June 2021

The European Union imposed wide-ranging economic sanctions on Belarus targeting its main export industries and access to finance a month after it forced a Ryanair flight to land in Minsk. The measures include banning EU businesses from importing goods or doing business with Belarusian companies in sectors including banking, petroleum products and potash, a salt used in fertiliser that is the country’s main export. The sanctions are far stricter than measures imposed in the past, which mainly consisted of blacklists of Belarusian officials and had little or no impact on the behaviour of President Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994.
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The EU Lays Out Its Approach to Russia and Turkey, 25 June 2021.

The results of a foreign policy-focused EU summit signal that bilateral tensions with Russia will continue while a more pragmatic approach to Turkey is possible. During a summit of EU heads of government and state on June 24-25, the bloc rejected a Franco-German proposal to hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and only pledged to “explore” the format and conditions for dialogue with Moscow. The leaders also approved granting an extra 3 billion euros to Turkey over the next three years to continue the migration agreement between Brussels and Ankara, while Germany proposed to restart negotiations to upgrade the EU-Turkey customs agreement. The summit once again highlighted the European Union’s limitations when it comes to foreign policy, as the most crucial decisions are taken by unanimity, which severely constrains the bloc’s room for action on controversial issues.
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Le Pen’s far-right party suffers blow in French regional elections, 27 June 2021

Marine Le Pen’s far-right party has suffered a serious electoral blow when it failed to win a regional election in its stronghold in the south of France. The Rassemblement National (National Rally) had pinned its last chances on taking the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region (PACA) after emerging victorious from last week’s first-round vote, although by a small margin. However, an alliance of rival parties to form a “republican front” against the RN-the withdrawal of the Socialist party and left-wing alliance candidate-prevented the far right taking the region.
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UK says it has yet to receive formal EU response in sausage row, 27 June 2021

Britain has yet to receive a formal response from the European Union over its proposal to further extend a grace period on checks on some foodstuffs moving to Northern Ireland just days before the latest deadline, a minister said on Sunday. “We think we have put forward a sensible proposal, something actually quite moderate while we work out a long-term solution and I am hopeful over the next few days that those technical discussions, we’ll be able to get that secured with the EU,” Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis told Times Radio.
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German CDU chancellor candidate: Nord Stream could be halted if Russia abuses it, 27 June 2021

Germany could stop gas flowing through the almost-complete Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia if Moscow breaks the terms of the arrangement or uses it to put pressure on Ukraine, conservative chancellor candidate Armin Laschet has said. The pipeline is a source of tension with the U.S. administration, which argues that it gives too much leverage to Russian President Vladimir Putin by increasing Europe’s energy dependence on Russia.
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Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven loses no-confidence vote, resigns 28 June 2021

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven lost a no-confidence vote on 21 June morning following which he has resigned from the post. Lofven, from the Social Democratic party, had been in power since 2014. He is the first Swedish prime minister to lose a vote of no-confidence. The Social Democrat leader rejected the alternative option of calling snap elections and has asked the parliamentary speaker to find a new government. Click here to read…

EU citizens’ data will continue flowing into the UK after a crucial deal was reached, 28 June 2021

The European Union has recognized Britain’s privacy rules as adequate with its own, a key move that will allow EU-U.K. data flows to continue after Brexit. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said the decision meant EU citizens’ personal information would be treated with the same level of protection as it would inside the bloc when transferred to the U.K. Businesses had worried that Britain and the EU wouldn’t come to an agreement on data equivalence, potentially putting billions of dollars’ worth of digital trade in jeopardy. Click here to read…

Belarus cuts cooperation on migration with EU over sanctions, 28 June 2021

Belarus has retaliated to the European Union sanctions by halting cooperation on stemming illegal migration and denying entry to EU officials. The EU has imposed new economic sanctions on Belarus over last month’s diversion of a passenger jet to arrest a dissident journalist. The sanctions target the country’s top export items, including potash – a common fertilizer ingredient, petroleum products and tobacco industry exports.
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Belarus suspends participation in Eastern Partnership, 28 June 2021

Belarus is suspending its participation in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership initiative, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The Republic of Belarus is suspending its participation in the EU initiative Eastern Partnership. Belarus is beginning the procedure of suspending its readmission agreement with the EU. We cannot fulfill our obligations in the framework of this agreement while under the sanctions and restrictions imposed by the EU,” the statement said.
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EU reforms to common agricultural policy branded ‘greenwashing’, 30 June 2021

Environmentalists have criticised the European Union’s reform of its controversial common agricultural policy (CAP), arguing that it fails European citizens, small farmers and the climate. Greenpeace, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), BirdLife, Friends of the Earth Europe and the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) lambasted the provisional agreement and said it turns a blind on the climate and biodiversity crises.
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Health and Environment
European Union vaccine passports issued in 17 countries, 21 June 2021

European Union Digital COVID certificates (EUDCC) have now been issued to citizens in 17 countries. The vaccine passport (formally known as the EU Digital Green Certificate) provides digital proof whether a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from the virus. Member states are obliged to start issuing the first certificates within six weeks of 1 July, when the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation enters into application.
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EU countries approve landmark climate change law, 28 June 2021

European Union countries has given the final seal of approval to a law to make the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions targets legally binding, as EU policymakers prepare a huge new package of policies to fight climate change.
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EU negotiators still far apart on environmental justice rights, 28 June 2021

EU countries and the European Parliament are at loggerheads over the revision of the Aarhus regulation, which allows individuals and civil society to challenge law in court on environmental matters. The regulation implements the Aarhus Convention, an international treaty that promotes access to justice in environmental matters. While the EU is signed up to it, it is not acting in line with the treaty, according to the convention’s compliance committee.
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With the rise of the Covid-19 Delta variant, Europe is divided on how to police its borders, 29 June 2021

The rise of the Delta variant is rekindling tensions over the management of the EU’s external borders. These divisions, which were much discussed at the beginning of the pandemic, resurfaced during the European summit in Brussels last week. On the one hand, Germany and France want to err on the side of prudence in the face of an influx of British tourists potentially carrying the Delta variant. On the other hand, southern countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece are anxious to protect their all-important tourist seasons.
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Tech and Economy
The EU’s new VAT rules for e-commerce from 1 July 2021, 20 June 2021

The new EU VAT system for business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce sales comes into force on 1 July 2021. This package of changes comprises: a one stop shop for accounting for VAT on B2C services and intra-EU distance sales of goods; an import one stop shop to pay import VAT on low value imports from outside the EU; and special VAT rules for goods sold to EU consumers via online marketplaces.
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EU’s Google Ad Tech Probe Strikes at Heart of Business Model, 22 June 2021

Google faces a sweeping European Union probe into its advertising technology, a move that strikes at the heart of the tech giant’s business model. The European Commission said its new confrontation with the Alphabet Inc. unit will focus on concerns the company may be illegally favouring its own online display advertising technologies, squeezing out rivals. “This is probably the probe that many people were waiting for because it goes to the core of Google’s business,” said Aitor Ortiz, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. The biggest risk would be an order for Google to separate from or restrict its online ads operations, which “could have a significant impact on the money generated through online advertising,” he added.
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French delegation to attend Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, 25 June 2021

A delegation from France will participate in the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), which will be held in Vladivostok in early September, the president of the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Emmanuel Quidet said on Friday. “We will come to the economic forum in September. We would like to organize a Franco-Russian roundtable…This is important to us, it’s important for our companies, because we see and are discovering opportunities that exist in the Far East and the Arctic,” Quidet said at a meeting that Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev, the Russian president’s envoy to the Far East Federal District, held with a French business delegation in Vladivostok.
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Perspective
Why are sanctions against Belarus not more effective? 18 June 2021

It will probably not be European and American sanctions that decide Lukashenko’s fate, but the political calculation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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Europe Will Not be Strategically Sovereign, uit Compromises on the Russia Question, 26 June 2021

A strategically independent Europe needs, of course, some compromise, with an adversarial nuclear power next door, a form of “negative peace”. Unfortunately, the flaw in that plan, is that the EU is not a military power, and has no way to stop forces within which oppose this accommodation and compromises.
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A full agenda in Italy, 28 June 2021

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has just concluded a successful visit to Greece, the first in 18 years, where the two countries expressed convergence on the geo political and geo economic realities, including the Indo Pacific. The significance lies in the fact that Greece has been one of the earliest beneficiaries of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative with the strategic Piraeus port coming under the control of Chinese shipping company COSCO in 2016. As India tries to engage all countries in Europe, the prospects for a larger trade, investment and geographical indicators package become brighter. The action now shifts to the G 20 host country Italy.
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III. RUSSIA

Politics and Society
State Duma elections to be held in September, 17 June 2021

The President signed Executive Order setting the election date for the new convocation of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. September 19, 2021 has been assigned for the Duma elections.
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Russia, Belarus have common vision of progress towards integration-Lavrov, 18 June 2021

Moscow and Minsk have a common vision of how to make progress on all tracks of cooperation, including integration matters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in his opening remarks at negotiations with his Belarusian counterpart Vladimir Makei. At the meeting, evaluations were presented of the summit meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden.
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Nord Stream 2 AG begins certification as independent gas-transmission operator, continues challenging Third Gas Directive, 24 June 2021

Nord Stream 2 AG, operator of the Nord Stream 2 construction and operations project, has applied for proactive certification as an independent transport-system operator, Nord Stream 2 AG said in a statement. “The application for certification of Nord Stream 2 AG does not imply any change or mitigation in the legal position of Nord Stream 2 AG in relation to the amended Gas Directive or the goals that it continues to pursue firmly in the aforesaid litigation and arbitration proceedings,” Nord Stream 2 AG said in the statement. The application has been submitted based on a request from Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA), Germany’s federal Network Agency, in accordance with sections 4b, 10, and further to the law on the Germany’s energy industry, Energiewirtschaftsgesetz, EnWG, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
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Putin, Pashinyan discuss Nagorno-Karabakh during phone call, says Kremlin, 24 June 2021

Russia will continue its mediation efforts to ensure stability in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Kremlin press service informed after a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Acting Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. “During an exchange of opinions on Nagorno-Karabakh, they stressed the importance of steady implementation of agreements between leaders of Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan dated November 9, 2020, and January 11 of this year. Russia will continue active mediation efforts aimed to ensure stability in the region,” the message says. Click here to read…

Russian naval ships, aircraft kick off drills in Mediterranean, 25 June 2021

Russian naval ships and aircraft have kicked off joint drills in the Mediterranean Sea. The drills involve five warships, including the missile cruiser Moskva, the frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov, and the submarines Stary Oskol and Rostov-on-Don.
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India-Russia NSAs discuss cooperation in Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific, 25 June 2021

The national security advisers of India and Russia held a brainstorming session on several issues including the Afghan situation amid US troop withdrawal and the future role of Taliban on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) NSA-led meeting this week. Enhancing security & counter-terror cooperation, partnership between security agencies and the Indo-Pacific region were also among the topics discussed at the over two-hour meeting between the two NSAs.
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Russia, China Extend Treaty, Hail Ties, 28 June 2021

The leaders of China and Russia on 28 June announced the extension of a 20-year-old friendship treaty, hailing increasingly close ties and the “stabilizing role” of their relationship. The Kremlin published a joint statement from Russia and China to mark two decades since the treaty was signed, as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping held a televised meeting by video link.
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West tries to ‘lay down the law’ in international relations – Lavrov, 28 June 2021

Western countries using their rules to replace the existing instruments of international law shows that they are striving to “lay down the law” on the world stage, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wrote in his article published in Kommersant and Russia in Global Affairs. ”
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Rosatom starts building fifth unit of Kudankulam NPP in India, 29 June 2021

Rosatom Group has begun the construction of No. 5 unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in India. The ceremony was held by video conferencing due to coronavirus restrictions, the Russian state nuclear corporation’s engineering division, ASE said. “The project to build the Kudankulam NPP has been a symbol of close cooperation between Russia and India for many years. But we don’t want to rest on our laurels. Rosatom has all the latest nuclear energy technologies. Together with our Indian colleagues, we are prepared to jointly roll out serial construction of the latest 3+ generation of Russian-designed nuclear generating units at a new site in India. This is envisioned by existing agreements,” Rosatom CEO Alexei Likhachev was reported as saying at the ceremony.
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Putin slams incident with British warship off Crimea as a provocation, 30 June 2021

The incident with the British guided missile destroyer Defender off Crimea was a clear provocation, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his annual Q&A session. “This is, of course, a provocation, which is absolutely clear. What did these provocateurs want to show and what goals did they seek to achieve? First of all, it [the provocation] was comprehensive and was staged not only by the British but also by the Americans because the British warship ventured into our territorial waters in the afternoon while early in the morning, at 07:30, a US strategic reconnaissance plane took off from a NATO airfield in Greece, from Crete, I believe. I later received a report on that. We saw and observed it clearly,” the Russian leader said.
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Russia, U.S. planning meeting on strategic stability by mid-July – Lavrov, 30 June 2021

Delegations from the United States and Russia could meet for talks over strategic stability before the middle of July; the two sides understand that only mutually acceptable agreements are possible in this sphere, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
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Putin meets Nazarbayev, 30 June 2021

Vladimir Putin met with First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is in Russia on a working visit.
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Direct Line with Vladimir Putin, 30 June 2021

The annual special Direct Line with Vladimir Putin was broadcast live by Channel One, Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, NTV, Public Television of Russia (OTR) and Mir TV channels, and Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations. Click here to read…

Health and Environment
Russia’s Sputnik V shot around 90% effective against Delta variant, developers say, 29 June 2021

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 is around 90% effective against the highly contagious Delta variant of coronavirus, its developers said. The shot, which Russia has actively marketed abroad, was previously found by researchers to be almost 92% effective against the original strain of coronavirus. Denis Logunov, deputy director of Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute which developed Sputnik V, said the Delta variant efficacy figure was calculated based on digital medical and vaccine records. Click here to read…

EpiVacCorona vaccine to be manufactured in form of dosage syringes – developer, 29 June 2021

The EpiVacCorona coronavirus vaccine developed by Russian consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor’s Vector State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology will be manufactured both in the form of ampules and dosage syringes, Vector said in a statement. “As well as the usual format, ampules, the EpiVacCorona vaccine will now be available as a dosage syringe. The relevant changes to the certificate of registration were made on June 28,” the statement said. Click here to read…

Russia sees 21,042 new Covid-19 cases, all-time high of 669 deaths in past 24 hours – HQ, 30 June 2021

Russia has registered 21,042 new cases of Covid-19 and a record number of related deaths, 669, in the past 24 hours, the coronavirus response headquarters said in a statement on June 30. “Over the past day, 21,042 Covid-19 cases were confirmed in 85 regions of Russia, including 2,951 asymptomatic cases identified proactively (14.0%),” the headquarters said. mortality has grown again in Russia, to another all-time high of 669. The majority of deaths were reported in Moscow (117) and St. Petersburg (111).
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Economy
Russian economy recovering, but outlook for sustainable growth unclear amid Covid, uncertainty – minister, 18 June 2021

The public health situation and a number of other uncertainties currently make it impossible to make long-term forecasts about sustainable economic growth in Russia, Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said. “It seems to me that at the moment it’s still early to talk about the sustainability of this growth. The recovery is underway, but ultimately we would not just like recovery, we need to grow further, after all. And right now it’s premature for us to make any far-reaching conclusions based on one month. We only have April in hand at the moment, May will start coming out next week,” Reshetnikov said at a briefing when asked if the worsening Covid-19 situation will affect the macroeconomic forecast for this year. Click here to read…

Putin expects inflation in Russia will not exceed 5% in 2021, 30 June 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin said inflation in 2021 would be above the 4% target but that he did not think it would exceed 5%. “Inflation was in the region of 4% [in annual terms]. Now it has risen to 5.9% [annual, as of the end of May], nearly 6%. Of course the task is to suppress it. It is for this reason that the Central Bank has raised the key rate a little, so there is no excess money supply in the economy,” Putin said during a Q&A session.”I expect that inflation will return to the target, to 4%. We are unlikely to achieve it [4%] this year, but I think we’ll be able to get [back down] to a level of 5% [by December],” he said.
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Perspective
While the media focused on theatrics, Putin & Biden quietly launched a new diplomatic effort to avert an apocalyptic nuclear war, 21 June 2021

Atomic warfare was top of the agenda as Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, met for crunch talks last week in Geneva, amid escalating hostilities and talk of a return to a ‘Cold War’ mentality. The first summit between the pair gives some room for cautious optimism. The atmosphere was respectful and calm, compared to how it might have been, and there seemed to be few aggressive or emotional accusations flying around in the way that has dominated relations between Moscow and Washington in the past.
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China-Russia: A Strategic Partnership Short on Strategy, 30 June 2021

The Sino-Russian relationship, nothing like an “alliance,” will continue to endure and in some ways deepen. Chinese firms are still interested in Russia’s human capital and natural resources and Russian firms and investors want to find growth in China’s market. The Putin-Xi meeting, however, emphasized performance over substance, limited by domestic political considerations and the scope of the two countries’ mutual interests. There’s a sense that there is no clear consensus over what order in Central Asia and Eurasia more broadly ought to look like, nor any attempt to show that it’s not just the world’s democracies talking a mean game about coordinating climate efforts. Instead, China and Russia continue their repeated focus on presenting a united front against the dominance of American and transatlantic power – without reflecting on what that power is actually doing right now. Click here to read…

VIF News Digest: International Developments (US, Europe and Russia), 01-15 June 2021

I. UNITED STATES

Politics and Society
U.S. Formally Ends Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Asylum Policy, 1 June 2021

The United States has formally ended the Trump-era “remain in Mexico” policy, which forced tens of thousands of Central American asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. court cases, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo sent to agency leaders. The administration of President Joe Biden paused the program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), shortly after he took office on Jan. 20. Since then, more than 11,000 migrants enrolled in it have been allowed to enter the United States to pursue asylum claims.
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Ransomware Disrupts Meat Plants in Latest Attack on Critical U.S. Business, 1 June 2021

A cyber attack on the world’s largest meat processor has forced the shutdown of nine beef plants in the United States, according to union officials, and disrupted production at poultry and pork plants. The attack could upset the nation’s meat markets and raises new questions about the vulnerability of critical American businesses. The company, JBS, said the majority of its plants would reopen on in a day. But even one day’s disruption at JBS could “significantly impact” wholesale beef prices, according to analysts at Daily Livestock Report. The cyberattack is attributed to Russian hackers.
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Biden pushes for US voting rights law as restrictions mount, 2 June 2021

President Joe Biden used the 100th anniversary of Tulsa’s race massacre to make a plea for sweeping legislation in Congress to protect the right to vote as Republican-led governments in Texas and other states pass new restrictions making it tougher to cast ballots.
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Biden suspends oil leases in Alaska’s Arctic refuge, 2 June 2021

The Biden administration has suspended oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reversing a drilling program approved by the Trump administration and reviving a political fight over a remote region that is home to polar bears and other wildlife — and a rich reserve of oil.

The order by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland follows a temporary moratorium on oil and gas lease activities imposed by President Joe Biden on his first day in office. Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order suggested a new environmental review was needed to address possible legal flaws in a drilling program approved by the Trump administration under a 2017 law enacted by Congress.
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US to Swiftly Boost Global Vaccine Sharing, Biden Announces, 3 June 2021

President Joe Biden announced Thursday the U.S. will swiftly donate an initial allotment of 25 million doses of surplus vaccine overseas through the United Nations-backed COVAX program, promising infusions for South and Central America, Asia, Africa and others at a time of glaring shortages abroad and more than ample supplies at home. Of the first 19 million donated through COVAX, approximately 6 million doses will go to South and Central America, 7 million to Asia and 5 million to Africa. Click here to read…

US pullout from Afghanistan half done, but questions remain, 8 June 2021

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is more than half done, and U.S. officials say that while it could be completed by July 4, the final exit of equipment and troops more likely will be later in the summer.
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Senate approves sprawling $250 billion bill to curtail China’s economic and military ambitions, 9 June 2021

The Senate voted has voted to adopt an approximately $250 billion bill to counter China’s growing economic and military prowess. The proposal commits billions of dollars in federal funds across a wide array of research areas. It pours more than $50 billion in immediate funding into U.S. businesses that manufacture the sort of ultrasmall, in-demand computer chips that power consumer and military devices, which many companies source from China. And it paves the way for the next generation of space exploration at a time when Washington and Beijing are increasingly setting their eyes on the stars. lawmakers also approved a host of proposals that seek to limit China’s economic aspirations and curb its political influence. The bill opens the door for new sanctions targeting Beijing over its human rights practices, commissions a new study about the origin of the coronavirus and calls for a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. It even authorizes $300 million specifically to counter the political influence of the Chinese Communist Party.
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Biden opens overseas trip declaring ‘United States is back’, 10 June 2021

President Joe Biden opened the first overseas trip of his term Wednesday with a declaration that “the United States is back” as he seeks to reassert the nation on the world stage and steady European allies deeply shaken by his predecessor. Biden has set the stakes for his eight-day trip in sweeping terms, believing the West must publicly demonstrate it can compete economically with China as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
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US closes Trump-era office for victims of immigrant crime, 12 June 2021

The Biden administration has dismantled a Trump-era government office to help victims of crimes committed by immigrants. This symbolises an effort to not link the immigrants with crime. President Trump had created the Victim of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, known by its acronym VOICE, by executive order during his first week in office in January 2017. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it was replacing VOICE with a “more comprehensive and inclusive victim support system” – the Victims Engagement and Services Line.
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Biden, working with U.S. allies, pledges to confront China and Russia, 13 June 2021

President Joe Biden vowed that the U.S. would once again work alongside its democratic allies to fight autocratic governments, singling out both Russia and China for aggressive behaviour at a news conference following the G-7 meeting of world leaders. He spoke about his commitment to reengage America on the world stage after four years of Donald Trump’s “America First” policies.
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Some US allies near Russia are wary of Biden-Putin summit, 14 June 2021

Central and Eastern European nations are anxious about the coming summit meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, wary of what they see as hostile intentions from the Kremlin.Some in the countries that once were part of the Soviet Union or the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact during the Cold War worry that Washington could scale down support for its allies in the region in a bid to secure a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia.
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Health and Technology
President Biden Announces Historic Vaccine Donation: Half a Billion Pfizer Vaccines to the World’s Lowest-Income Nations, 10 June 2021

The U.S. has committed to donating 500 million life-saving vaccines by June next year, including 200 million to be delivered by the end of 2021. Donation will serve as the foundation for a coordinated effort by the world’s democracies to vaccinate people around the world.
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Biden drops Trump attempt to ban TikTok, WeChat; orders new review, 10 June 2021

President Joe Biden on Wednesday withdrew a series of Trump-era executive orders that sought to ban new downloads of WeChat and TikTok, and ordered a Commerce Department review of security concerns posed by those apps and others.
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US lawmakers introduce bills targeting Big Tech, 12 June 2021

US lawmakers have introduced five bills aimed at limiting the power held by Big Tech companies. The bills were drafted after a 16-month investigation into the powers of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. They address topics including data, mergers, and the competitive behaviour of these companies – which could ultimately lead to them being forced to sell some assets. But there is not unanimous support for the bills targeting Big Tech.
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Novavax: Large study finds COVID-19 shot about 90% effective, 14 June 2021

Vaccine maker Novavax has noted that its COVID-19 shot was highly effective against the disease and also protected against variants in a large study in the U.S. and Mexico, potentially offering the world yet another weapon against the virus at a time when developing countries are desperate for doses. The two-shot vaccine was about 90% effective overall, and preliminary data showed it was safe, the American company said. That would put the vaccine about on par with Pfizer’s and Moderna’s.
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Economy
The U.S. Economy Is Sending Confusing Signals. What’s Going On? 3 June 2021

Unemployment is still high, but companies are complaining they can’t find enough workers. Prices are shooting up for some goods and services, but not for others. Supply-chain bottlenecks are making it hard for homebuilders, automakers and other manufacturers to get the materials they need to ramp up production. A variety of indicators that normally move more or less together are right now telling vastly different stories about the state of the economy.
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Perspective
Decoding the NATO summit, 14 June 2021

In the summit communique, NATO members stopped short of labelling China a threat, but did little else to conceal their concerns, referencing “systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers.” The allies criticized Russia directly, saying it has “intensified its hybrid actions against NATO Allies and partners, including through proxies.”
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Biden-Putin summit: Ukraine should not expect miracles, 1 June 2021

Ukraine is set to be high on the agenda when US President Joe Biden holds a hotly-anticipated summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Switzerland on June 16. However, there is little reason to expect any breakthroughs towards ending the Kremlin’s seven-year campaign of aggression against Ukraine. Instead, the meeting will likely highlight the need for Ukrainian policymakers to bolster the country’s own defensive capabilities and strengthen Kyiv’s international position.
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II. EUROPE

Politics and Society
Brussels unveils plans to reform borderless Schengen Area, 2 June 2021

With the aim of preparing the Schengen area for the post-COVID era and making it “stronger and more resilient”, the Commission has unveiled a new strategy centred on three pillars: external borders, internal measures and governance. The plan comes as European economies reopen after lifting coronavirus restrictions and cross-border travel gradually normalises. Schengen’s integrity has been severely damaged by two recent crises: the 2015 influx of migrants and refugees and the COVID-19 pandemic. Both episodes saw many EU countries reintroduce border checks, arguing the extraordinary circumstances required extraordinary measures.
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France’s New Caledonia set for final independence referendum in December, 2 June 2021

The French Pacific Island of New Caledonia, which rejected independence in two previous referendums, will have a third and final vote on 12 December, France’s overseas territories minister said. The referendum would be followed by a two-year transition period to allow Paris to clarify its relations with New Caledonia, minister Sebastien Lecornu said. New Caledonia, which houses business operations for Brazilian multinational mining company Vale and French mining group Eramet, has been hit by riots in recent months.
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EU to impose new sanctions on Myanmar junta, companies, 3 June 2021

The European Union will impose a new round of sanctions on Myanmar’s military junta and its economic interests in the coming days, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told Reuters.
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G7: Germany urges vaccine solidarity, 3 June 2021

German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Thursday urged COVID-19 vaccine producers to step up alliances with manufacturers in developing countries. His remarks came ahead of a meeting of G7 health ministers in Britain amid increasing calls for wealthy countries to share COVID-19 vaccines with lower-income nations. Spahn also reiterated Germany’s support for financing the COVAX vaccine sharing program.
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The EU Bans Belarus Airlines and Reroutes Flights Around Its Airspace, 4 June 2021

European and U.S. governments have been engaged in an apparent tit for tat with Belarus and Lukashenko’s government following the arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich by the Belarusian government last month in which it forced the plane he was aboard to land in Minsk. European Union ambassadors have approved a plan to ban Belarus airlines from flying over EU territory or landing in EU airports. European Union airlines will be prohibited from flying over Belarus as well. That affects about 400 civilian flights that usually fly over Belarus every day, according to European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol. That includes 300 overflights, about 100 operated by EU or British carriers.
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Resisting patent waiver, EU submits vaccine plan to WTO, 5 June 2021

The European Union has submitted a plan to the World Trade Organization that it believes will more effectively broaden the supply of COVID-19 vaccines than the intellectual property (IP) rights waiver backed by the United States.India, South Africa and dozens of developing countries are demanding the waiver to address what they say is a “staggering inequity” in access to vaccines and other COVID-19 treatments.
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The EU is planning to end U.S. tariff battle with Biden due in Brussels next week, 9 June 2021
The European Union wants the United States to commit to end their aircraft-related tariffs next week, according to a draft statement seen by CNBC, as both sides look to get the transatlantic relationship back on track. The EU is also hoping that President Joe Biden, who is due in Brussels for a summit early next week, will vow to end steel and aluminium duties before December this year, according to the document from the EU.
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MEPs back action against European Commission over Poland and Hungary, 10 June 2021

MEPs have backed legal proceedings by the European parliament against the European Commission over a failure to trigger financial sanctions against Poland and Hungary for undermining the rule of law. The parliament’s legal service is now expected to prepare a case to be lodged at the European court of justice later this year, pitting two EU institutions against each other in the EU’s highest court, with only the formality of approval by key committees of the chamber now required.
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UK, EU seeking “radical” solutions to N. Ireland trade, 11 June 2021
Britain is working with the European Union to urgently find radical proposals that would solve the post-Brexit trade problems in Northern Ireland, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said. The two sides are at loggerheads over how to ease post-Brexit trade between Britain and its province of Northern Ireland, with both accusing the other of dealing with part of their divorce deal called the protocol in bad faith.
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The EU-US summit, 15 June 2021

The EU-US summit on 15 June 2021 marked the beginning of a renewed transatlantic partnership and set a joint agenda for EU-US cooperation in the post-pandemic era. The leaders committed to regular dialogue to take stock of progress.
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Canada, EU form raw materials pact to cut reliance on China, 15 June 2021

Canada and the EU launched a new partnership to secure supply chains for critical minerals and reduce dependence on China in a push for jobs and to counter climate change. “With EU partners, we talked about what we can do to build a cleaner economy for years to come,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday after meeting with EU chiefs in Brussels. “To begin with, in order to continue creating good, green jobs for the middle class, we must secure supply chains for critical minerals and metals that are essential for things like electric car batteries.”
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U.S. and EU resolve 17-year Boeing-Airbus trade dispute, 15 June 2021

The United States and European Union have resolved a 17-year-long fight over aircraft subsidies, agreeing to suspend tariffs for five years stemming from the Boeing-Airbus dispute. “This meeting has started with a breakthrough on aircraft,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who met with President Joe Biden at a U.S.-EU summit in Brussels. “This really opens a new chapter in our relationship because we move from litigation to cooperation on aircraft -after 17 years of dispute.”
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EU-China investment deal is still possible-but not before 2023, analyst says, 15 June 2021

An investment pact between the European Union and China is still possible, but both sides may wait until 2023 at the earliest to ratify the deal, said an analyst from risk consultancy Eurasia Group. The EU and China agreed on the deal in December after seven years of negotiations. But tensions between the two-which saw both sides imposing sanctions on each other-led the European Parliament to freeze the deal until Beijing lifts sanctions on EU politicians.
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Economy

EU reaches deal on tax transparency for multinational firms, 2 June 2021

European Union government and parliament negotiators have reached a deal on rules that will force large multinational companies to disclose how much revenue and tax they pay in the 27-nation bloc and how much in countries considered tax havens by the EU.
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The hurdles to German investments in India, 2 June 2021

Germany is the seventh largest FDI provider in India since April 2000. The fast-track mechanism of problem resolution, however beneficial, has not led to a quantum leap in German investments. First, inter-governmental collaboration led to an increasing support for India’s development through governmental funding. However, Germany does not tie its ODA to its enterprises, unlike Japan, whose companies use ODA projects to create business in India. This is detrimental to converting ODA projects into greater trade and FDI into India. Secondly, large old German companies such as Siemens, Bosch, Bayer and Daimler have been in India for more than a century, reinvesting profits more than bringing in new FDI. There is also a regional dimension to this lack of diversification. There is also the problem of the lack of a bilateral investment treaty.
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Europe’s social peace requires a return to fiscal discipline, 2 June 2021

“In the long run we are all dead,” wrote John Maynard Keynes 98 years ago. He believed short-term economic intervention was necessary in times of crisis to stabilise the economy. New stimulus programmes, including the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, are in line with this tradition. I was in favour from the outset — to the surprise of some people”, writes Wolfgang Schäuble-president of the Bundestag and a former German finance minister.
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Perspective
As the EU debates rules for its economy, a more ambitious political vision is inevitable, 3 June 2021

Ayear ago, the European Union arrived at a Hamiltonian moment. The sense of human solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deaths it was causing pushed European leaders to make unprecedented choices. The heart attack suffered by the economy justified a surge of concrete and mutual support. To manifest it, fiscal rules constraining member states’ social expenditures were suspended and a sizable and shared EU financial facility was established through the issuance of common debt. Europeans seemed ready to follow in the footsteps of the agreement engineered in 1790 by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton that transformed the United States into a true federation with a stronger central government.
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III. RUSSIA

Politics and Society
Putin highlights relations with ex-Soviet nations as Russia’s foreign policy priority, 1 June 2021

Relations with former Soviet countries are among Moscow’s foreign policy priorities, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a video conference meeting with the permanent members of the country’s Security Council. “Relations with our closest neighbours, the former Soviet countries, are among Russia’s most important foreign policy priorities,” the president pointed out.
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Russia is ready supply at least 40 mln tonnes of coking coal to India, 1 June 2021

India asked Russia to supply at least 40 mln tonnes of coking coal annually and Russia is ready to provide this volume, Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky told reporters on the sidelines of the Russian Coal and Mining exhibition. “We have prepared a draft memorandum of cooperation between the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Steel Industry of India. While preparing this document, we held several meetings via videoconferencing because of the pandemic and our Indian partners said, that they would like to purchase at least 40 mln tonnes of coking coal from Russia.
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President’s meeting with heads of international news agencies, 4 June 2021

On the sidelines of the 24th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Vladimir Putin met by videoconference with the heads of the world’s leading news agencies.
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First line of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline now laid – Putin, 4 June 2021

The pipes for the first line of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline have now been laid, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. “I am pleased to announce that today, 2.5 hours ago, the laying of pipes for the first line of the gas pipeline was successfully completed,” he said.
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Putin signs law denouncing Open Skies Treaty, 7 June 2021
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on Russia’s denunciation of the Treaty on Open Skies. The document was published on the official web portal for legal information. The law denouncing the Treaty on Open Skies was unanimously adopted by the State Duma on May 19 and approved by the Federation Council on June 2. Moscow has said that its denunciation of the treaty is connected to the United States’ own withdrawal from the treaty.
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The Foreign Ministry on about the expectations from the meeting between Putin and Biden, 8 June 2021

A number of issues related to the organization of the summit of Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden are at an advanced stage of development, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Russia hopes that the result of the meeting between the presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States, Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, will fix the movement forward in the field of strategic stability and stabilize relations with the United States, he added.
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Full transcript of exclusive Putin interview with NBC News’ Keir Simmons, 14 June 2021

NBC News interview with Russian President Vladimir Putintook place in Moscow on June 11, 2021; NBC’s Keir Simmons posed several questions on Russia’s view on global and regional developments in the days leading to the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva.
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Erdogan sticks to his position on Russian missile deal after meeting with Biden, 14 June 2021

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave no indication that Ankara’s deal with Moscow for the S-400 missile system, which triggered U.S. sanctions on the NATO ally, would be reversed. Erdogan’s comments came on the heels of his first face-to-face bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the NATO leaders’ summit.
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Russia ready to reciprocally transfer US convicts, Whelan not among them – diplomat, 15 June 2021

Russia is ready to hand over US citizens, convicted in Russia, via the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons mechanism; however, US citizen Paul Whelan, convicted in Russia for espionage is not among them, says Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
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Health and Economy
CoviVac vaccine efficacy tentatively estimated at over 80% – developer, 2 June 2021

The efficacy of the CoviVac coronavirus vaccine developed by the Chumakov Center exceeds 80%, however, the final stage of clinical trials is still ongoing, the Chumakov Center said in a material presented at the stand of the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
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Russian GDP growth in April tops 10%, Econ Ministry could revise annual forecast in June – minister, 3 June 2021

Russian annual GDP growth in April exceeded 10% compared to the decline in April of last year, the recovery of the economy is slightly ahead of expectations, and the annual forecast for 2021 could be revised in July, Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov told reporters on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).
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Gazprom Neft considers Arctic development relevant; oil prices and tax regime facilitate this, 15 June 2021

The current oil price environment, the tax regime for Arctic projects in Russia, and Gazprom Neft’s portfolio of shelf assets allow the company to consider development of the Arctic shelf as relevant, in connection with which dialog with the state on supporting geological exploration on the shelf is necessary, Deputy CEO for Upstream Vadim Yakovlev told reporters. “The tax regime [in the Arctic] creates good stimuli for projects at the production stage. This is primarily a lower rate of mineral extraction tax. At the same time, such projects are characterized by a very long investment cycle from the stage of seeking an estimate, geological exploration to commissioning. For this, we believe stimuli need to be created at the geological exploration state too, so that this part of the country’s resource potential also gets the opportunity for development,” Yakovlev.
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Perspective
Will Russia Put China’s Arctic Ambitions on Ice? 5 June 2021

Despite its enthusiasm, China’s efforts to become a key voice in Arctic affairs have been met with skepticism, even alarm by Arctic states, and few of its investment initiatives have borne fruit. Are China’s fortunes turning with strategic partner Russia assuming the role of chair of the Arctic Council, a two-year rotating position? For China, an observer in the organization since 2013, Russia’s new status as of May 20, 2021 provides opportunities as well as risks.
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Russia-US Summit: Global Is More Important than Bilateral, 15 June 2021

The most positive expectations from the upcoming Russia-US summit are associated with the fact that neither side is approaching it from the position of maintaining peace and improving relations at any cost. Unlike a number of contacts of this level in the past, now Moscow and Washington are not ready, and do not seek, to compromise their principles in order to make their own lives calmer and more comfortable, and those around them – more confident in their future. The maximum diplomatic achievements of the summit (one can expect, for example, the return of the ambassadors to both countries) will not change the nature of the relationship.
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