RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – February 17, 2022

Today in Russia/CIS: Donetsk and Lugansk unrecognized territories accuse Kyiv of shelling and return fire; What are the chances Russia will actually recognize Donetsk and Lugansk? Thousands more to the border!; Russian Embassy in DC: You Americans are engaging in self-hypnosis!; Exercises (and the “mythical” troops) are gone, calm down!; Rogozin to EU: Come with us into the world of space; The road to London(grad) can no longer be purchased

Unrecognized shelling. Representatives of the unrecognized Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics accused the armed forces of Ukraine of violating their ceasefire, Kommersant reported. Donetsk forces were forced to return fire, the republic’s “people’s militia” said in a statement. The Ukrainian authorities say that the situation on the line of contact is stable.

Unsure recognition. Meduza interviewed several Russian political analysts about their views on the prospects of Russia recognizing Donetsk and Lugansk as independent republics, now that the Duma has voted to send legislation to the President’s desk. Putin, for his part, gave a mealy-mouthed answer of uncertainty when asked about this yesterday about letting the people decide. The consensus: Should Russia proceed, “The Kremlin may refer to the “will of the people” living in these regions — this was Moscow’s justification for recognizing Abkhazia’s independence from Georgia in 2008, for example,” recognition would “untie Moscow’s hands” regarding the self-imposed restrictions it set on dealing with the breakaway territories, and the biggest problem with recognition will be reconciling the desire for these territories to take more territory with Moscow’s hesitation to endorse such a move.

Still bulking up. The US accused Russia of sending “thousands” more troops to the border with Ukraine, just a day after Moscow claimed that it had pulled back a significant number of troops. “Russia has increased its presence on the border with Ukraine by “as many as 7,000 troops,” some of whom arrived Wednesday, said a senior White House official, declaring Moscow’s announcement of a withdrawal to be “false.”

Self-hypnosis! The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC released a statement via Facebook which declared the US of engaging in “self-hypnosis.” The Embassy declared, “It is obvious that the flywheel of anti-Russian hysteria hyped in the United States does not allow American colleagues to look at things objectively. Self-hypnosis about the inevitability of a Russian attack persists.”

Calm down, NATO, there’s nothing to see here. Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko declared that NATO should “calm down,” explaining that military exercises in Belarus are over and there’s nothing to fear from “mythical” troop build-ups around Ukraine. Grushko asked,

“Why did NATO suddenly become concerned about the mythical “build-up of Russian forces” in Belarus? The exercises are over, you can calm down. The subunits are returning to their places of permanent deployment on a planned basis,” he said. There is Art. 4 of the Tashkent Treaty, which provides for assistance to the state of the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization] which was subjected to a military attack. The CSTO is a purely defensive organization.”

Come join us in space. Dmitry Rogozin, the bombastic head of Russian space agency Roscosmos declared that Europe should “quickly enter the club of space powers” with the help of – but independently from – Russia. RBC noted that “Against the backdrop of aggravated contradictions between Russia and NATO countries, the head of Roskosmos proposed to Europe a way to independently, but with Russian help, launch astronauts to the [International Space Station] ISS.” In a Facebook post, Rogozin suggested this could be accomplished by equipping the French space station in French Guyana to be able to handle manned spacecraft. To that end, Rogozin urged the “use of the proven, most reliable manned spacecraft, Soyuz MS with a no less reliable rocket of the Soyuz-2” coupled with a new launcher and European space crew in French Guyana.

London(grad) is not for sale. The UK has announced that it is ending its “golden visa” program, which allowed for fast-track settlement in the UK in exchange for a hefty investment of between 2 and 20 million pounds. The Tier-1 Investor visa, as it is officially known, is coming to an end because of what Home Secretary Piri Patel says are “‘long-standing concerns’ over abuse of the scheme by criminal groups and the super-rich from several countries, including Russia, China and Kazakhstan.” Will this start a larger reckoning in the relationship between the City of London and oligarch wealth from Russia and other CIS countries, described in a 2018 Parliamentary Inquiry as “Moscow’s gold”?

PHOTO: A Soyuz VS01 rocket at the French space station in Kourou, French Guiana in 2011 (Stephane Corvaja/Getty Images).