Mikhail Mishustin was largely unknown both in- and outside Russia until two weeks ago. The head of the Federal Tax Service since 2010, he was unexpectedly promoted to prime minister, replacing Vladimir Putin’s longtime deputy, Dmitri Medvedev.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has called for a referendum to approve constitutional changes that would nominally hand more power to parliament.
The changes, if approved, might improve Russia’s rating in the Freedom House index, but democracy is probably not on his mind.
Only hours after his yearly address to the combined Federal Assembly, in which he made his proposals, Putin accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and replaced him with the little-known head of the Federal Tax Service, Mikhail Mishustin.
German chancellor Angela Merkel is traveling to Moscow on Saturday, officially to discuss the conflicts in Libya, Syria and Ukraine, as well as the tension between Iran and the United States, with Vladimir Putin.
Russia and Ukraine have agreed to secure the flow of natural gas into Europe for the next five years. A deal between the two countries satisfies the economic needs of all three parties involved. Russia guarantees the export of its gas, Ukraine continues to benefit financially from transiting the gas, and the EU receives a steady supply of gas for the immediate future.
Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, will pipe 65 billion cubic metres of gas into Europe in 2020. The amount will fall to 40 billion over the next four years. The agreement mentions the possibility of extending the contract by another ten years upon maturity.
Ukraine will receive up to $7 billion in transit fees, which would be around 5 percent of its national budget.
An agreement has not (yet) been reached on direct gas supplies to Ukraine. For the time being, it only stands to benefit financially.
Days after sending military aid to prop up the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has done a deal with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to halt the fighting in Libya.
Russian mercenaries fight on the side of warlord Khalifa Haftar, who controls the bulk of the country, including its oil industry.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also support Haftar, who has reportedly received Chinese-made drones and Russian-made air defenses from the UAE.
The Arab states see Haftar as a bulwark against Islamist influences, including the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is part of the Tripoli government. Egypt’s generals overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood in their country with the backing of most Arab monarchs in 2013.
Earlier this month, the presidents of Belarus and Russia met in Sochi to discuss a merger of their two states. Nothing came of the meeting. Another is due on Friday. It is unlikely to produce results either.
At this rate, the annual talks about closer integration are becoming a tradition without meaning.
After four years of construction, the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) has started pumping gas into Europe.
TANAP is part of Europe’s Southern Gas Corridor, connecting the South Caucasus Pipeline (completed) with the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (still under construction). It aims to transport natural gas from Azerbaijan all the way through to Italy, where it flows into the European market.
Russia has started piping gas to China through a new pipeline, called Power of Siberia. After five years of construction, it will be able to send up to 38 billion cubic meters of gas to China per year.