RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 28 MAY 2020 by Patrick Armstrong

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RUSSIA AND COVID. Latest numbers: total cases 379K; total deaths 4142; tests per 1 million 66K. Russia has done 9.7 million tests (second after USA); among countries with populations over 10M it's fourth in tests per million and of those over 100M first. The vaccines tests are reported to be going well. Peskov is out of hospital. Karlin thinks that it's out of control in Dagestan. Doctorow argues that Russia has learned from China the value of segregating COVID sufferers in special hospitals leaving the others free for other problems. Restrictions continue to be lifted.

VICTORY DAY. Postponed because of COVID-19, the Moscow parade is scheduled for 24 June, the anniversary of the 1945 parade. The Immortal Regiment marches a month later.

OIL WARS. Russian gas shipments are down and US LNG isn't looking good. US oil production is falling and a shale oil company has gone bust. Saudi Arabia has cut its production. Oil futures are below $40. The guessimates are that US shale needs about $60, Saudi Arabia about $80 while Russia is OK at $45 and can get by on $25 for some time. So Moscow's still smiling, even if a little grimly.

PAUL WHELAN. A man of somewhat mysterious background, was arrested in Russia a year and a half ago, charged with spying and has been in jail since. Finally he's been tried in a closed session; the prosecution wants him put away for 18 years, he insists he's innocent. What I find interesting – and very singular – is that the several countries of which he is a citizen aren't making much of a fuss. Which they usually do, even when they're economical with the truth; vide spy rock and Bellona.

OPEN SKIES. In 1955 President Eisenhower suggested the idea; Moscow rejected it because it was an "espionage plot". It finally happened in 2002 and 35 countries signed on to it. Given that 26 of the 35 are NATO members it could hardly be said to advantage Russia. Nevertheless Washington is dropping out: Russia of course is at fault: it's using it to "collect information". (To someone who's been in the business since the Soviet days, this reversal of positions is a continual and amusing fascination.)

MORE RUSSIANS. Moscow has granted citizenship to nearly 216 thousand people in the first quarter of 2020; about two thirds of them from Ukraine. It's a little known fact that Russia gets a lot of migrants: in 2019 it was fourth-largest (but does KSA really qualify?); second ten years earlier.

INFRASTRUCTURE. Sapsan trip. Always fascinated how clean and shiny everything is nowadays.

LAWSUITS. He said it was a joke, Putin disagreed and fired him. Now the former head of Chuvashia, Mikhail Ignatiev, says he's going to court. Good luck with that. The lawyer representing Sturgess and Rowley wants the Skripals to be brought to court to testify. Good luck with that.

FOOD. Putin recently said that Russia was now self-sufficient in "basic food products". I take that to mean that, while there may not be as many bananas as you might want, Russia produces enough calories in the right balance. I have no difficult believing him: it's been coming. A stunning achievement – when I lived there about half the food was imported and farming was in a desperate state. The Russian counter-sanctions on food were a brilliant move. Thought they were. (Got RI wrong, though.)

FAUGH! The coolest plane ever is to be replaced by another blah flying wing.

FAKE NEWS. Something or other nefarious Russian thingee alleged in Czechia. Rubbish I say and I don't bother to pay attention. Korybko does and here's his take. Something or other in Germany. I've given up taking these accusations even partly seriously after Skripal, Russiagate, Litvinenko, MH-17 and all the rest. The burden of proof is on the West doubly so because it's lied so often.

NEW NWO. A German poll on the post-COVID world gives a very interesting result: 37% consider close relations with the US more important than close relations with China; 36% see it the other way round. Almost exactly balanced and after all the anti-China propaganda too. The wheels are coming off the wagon.

THE AMERICAN DREAM. Is just fine. And as confident as can be.

NOT ON YOUR "NEWS" OUTLET. A UN study finds that 81% of civilians killed in east Ukraine were killed by Kiev forces shelling them. Peculiar "Russian invasion" isn't it?

BIDEN-UKRAINE. Remember this photo of Biden at the head of the table? the guy sixth on his left is the so-called President of Ukraine. A recording of Biden giving Poroshenko his marching orders has appeared. Not as if we didn't already know this from Biden's own lips. A Ukrainian judge has ordered he be listed as alleged perpetrator of crime in Prosecutor’s firing. No mention of Hunter B though. So far.

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26 Responses to RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 28 MAY 2020 by Patrick Armstrong

  1. J says:

    NSA/CSS today issued a cybersecurity advisory regarding Exim Mail Transfer being actively exploited by the GRU’s Sandworm Team since at least last August. Exim is Unix-based and comes pre-installed in some Linux distributions.
    The vulnerability being exploited by Sandworm allows a remote attacker to execute commands and code of their choosing. GRU’s GTsST have used this exploit to add privileged users, disable network security settings, execute additional scripts for further exploitation as long as that network is using an unpatched version of Exim MTA.
    The patch was released last year. NSA is urging users to immediately patch to mitigate against the still current threat.
    The GRU’s team also goes by the name Voodoo Bear and Telebots.

  2. turcopolier says:

    It appears to me that the overall death rate for those deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the US is .03% (#of deaths divided by population times 100) What is the equivalent # for the Russian Federation. I would imagine that the infections are concentrated in and around large cities.

  3. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Col.Lang, and others interested,
    Imputed deaths to CoVID-19 have just reached 100,000. For comparison purposes, here is a link to a CDC article on deaths and mortality for 2017. Total deaths, all causes was about 2.8 million, deaths from influenza/pneumonia was not quite 56,000. Full breakout of causes of death is included in this article.
    At the end of this particular article are links to other articles of note which add context, particularly by way of comparisons between causes of death in both raw numbers and as percentages of the total mortality.
    Food for thought aplenty.

  4. FND says:

    Do today’s surveillance satellite capabilities make the open skies treaty less important? Sorta? I’ve heard that surveillance satellites today can read license plates. I don’t know if that’s really true. Just asking in case someone knows

  5. PL. I don’t follow it in enough detail to give a good answer. But I am pretty sceptical of all and any of the numbers as I said in the last Sitrep. I use these ones from Worldometer because they’re the ones out there. First question is how accurate are the tests? Lots of argument. Next problem is you’ve got a dead body (that’s a fact) how do you count it? The overwhelming majority of are old, overweight and have a number of other conditions. I believe the Russians are much stricter in ascribing COVID as the cause of death than we are in Canada, USA or UK. So probably impossible to compare. (Which is the reason, BTW, why deaths due to influenza are always expressed as a – rather large – range). As far as I know, about half the cases have been in Moscow but there may be problems in some of the outlying areas that haven’t been reported right (eg Karlin’s argument about Dagestan). NY is the big centre of it in the USA and that is connected with the early decision to put cases in nursing homes (probably about the very worst thing you could do). So, as far as I can see, comparisons are pretty well impossible until we get better numbers. I do not believe Russia is lying about its numbers although, as I say, some of the outlying areas may be. But even if you triple Russia’s deaths, that’s 12K, still well below lots of other places. See Doctorow on Belgium, for example: 9K deaths.

  6. FND. Satellites can probably do the job but getting a bunch of people into an aircraft and doing it together is a confidence-building thing. It’s also one of these military-to-military things where soldiers get around and complain about civilians (Been the only civilian at one of these things many times — sooner or later they all turn on me!).

  7. Fred says:

    Nice train video, 1st class is definitely the way to go. Something like that is unlikely to ever happen here in the US, especially given the incompetence of the left in their efforts this past decade. On food, as was pointed out in that Russia Insider article “why invest in complicated food processing products when it is easier and cheaper to simply import them from Europe?” Embargo’s haven’t fared well, except in the very short term. Self sufficiency is essential. How much of Russia’s medical industry is dependent upon China or India, I wonder?

  8. aukuu22 says:

    FT analysis of data from 19 countries finds Britain suffering heavy toll from pandemic
    The UK has registered 59,537 more deaths than usual since the week ending March 20, indicating that the virus has directly or indirectly killed 891 people per million.
    Until Thursday, the UK had a higher rate of death than in any country for which high-quality data exist. However, Spain made a revision to its mortality estimates, adding 12,000 to its toll of excess deaths from coronavirus in a one-off adjustment to 43,000. This increased its death rate to 921 per million.
    The absolute number of excess deaths in the UK is the highest in Europe, and second only to the US in global terms, according to data collected by the Financial Times.
    The country fares no better on another measure: the percentage increase in deaths compared with normal levels, where the UK is the worst hit in Europe and behind only Peru internationally.
    Other countries like China, Brazil and Russia have suffered large death tolls during the pandemic. However, their mortality rates are far below the UK as the number of deaths is smaller compared with their much larger populations.
    The timing of lockdowns relative to the spread of the virus had a significant effect on the total level of excess deaths, the data show.
    Countries such as Germany and Norway, which imposed restrictions when the spread of the virus was limited, suffered much lower levels of additional deaths than those in the UK where the government waited longer before ordering a lockdown.

  9. Christian J Chuba says:
    A good looking website in line with other US NOT sourced websites.
    The Russians tested the same # of people per capita but there is one important difference. The Russian tests worked in Jan. Our tests did not work for at least 6wks.
    Picture an artillery barrage that says, NJ vs Princeton University NJ, the second would be more effective (just an illustration)

  10. Fred. Russian home-grown pharmaceuticals are increasing.
    I don’t think Russia wants to have any dependencies on the West.

  11. Ulenspiegel says:

    The Russsian Covid-19 numbers are still an accumulation of unaccuracies, to be friendly.
    1) Nobody really believes the number of tests. We had this already in the past.
    2) The excess death rate in Moscow indicates that Russia is underreporting Covid-19 death by at least factor three.
    3) With 400 hospitals with severe Covid-19 outbreaks the situation tell a lot about control or better not having control.
    Russia made stupid PR stunts like delivering stuff to Italy while losing at home the battle.

  12. J says:

    One has to wonder what’s the level of the virus infection among the Russian Military personnel, in particular and how it’s affecting their on-alert strategic assets.
    I’m also curious as to how the infection rate is affecting their HUMNIT collection activities. Hmmmm……

  13. Lytenburgh says:

    What new information dies “Poroshenko-Biden” tapes tell us?
    1) One telling tidbit – Poroshenko brags (yes, brags – says with pride) to Biden, that while IMF asked him to raise the internal tariffs only by 75%, he increased them by 100%
    2) That the US of A directly funded Samopomich/Self-Help party, which was in the First Coalition, that rubber-stamped Poroshenko’s decrees in Verkhovna Rada (like the increase in tariffs above). Poroshenko asked Biden specifically to cut their funding, should they stop voting as he says. We don’t know what happened on the American side of this arrangement – only that the Second Coalition in Verkhovna Rada that rubberstamped Poroshenko’s decree now included national-populist “Radical Party” of Oleh Lyashko.
    Note: Self-Help party ( is based in the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv/Lwow/Lemberg, and is a proponent of the “national liberalism” and headed by that city’s former mayor Sadovy. In recent years he and his party became notable only on two occasions – when they became a first “HQ” after Mishiko Saakashvili’s mad dash through the Polish-Ukrainian border, and for suffering total city-wide garbage overflow, made worse by a series of torrential rains. Now the party degenerated into complete obscurity. According to the latest polls, it scores slightly above totally marginalized “National Corps” (i.e. in 0.2-0.3% range), while Lyashko’s “Radicals” are more popular (about 3.5%) in comparison.
    IMHO, someone did pull the plug on Samopomich/Self-Help funding.
    3) Biden suggested for Poroshenko to name a new PM, after Yatsenyuk’s dismissal – Natalya Yaresko (, an American born US citizen of the Ukrainian descent, who served as Ukraine’s Minister of Finance from December 2014 until April 2016. Biden claims that his decision to recommend her is based on “seeing her Facebook post”. Poroshenko is obviously uncomfortable with the decision, and, after much wiggling and begging, suggest instead his fellow Vynnitsa dweller Volodymyr Groysman (which he did in the end). Poroshenko even went so far as saying: “You remember him – he shook your hand during your visit to Verkhovna Rada!”.
    Something tells me, that there was something else behind Biden’s decision to “recommend” Natalie Jaresko as new PM. Could it be her own brother – a certain John Jaresko. He’s a fine chap by all accords – a pillar of the Ukie community, a recipient of the medal form the former Western darling and former Ukrainian president Victor Yuschenko (in 2010). Which, curiously, coincided with Natalie Jaresko’s appointment to Yuschenko created Foreign Investors Advisory Council and the advisory board of the Ukrainian Center for Promotion of Foreign Investment under the auspices of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.
    John Jaresko is no slouch himself – he’s one of the top managers at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which, in turn, has many ties with both Joe Biden (and his family) and his funds? E.g., Biden in 2016 had been advertising for his very own Cancer Moonshot fund, aiming to collect $215 mlns. Out of the blue, Bristol-Myers Squibb decided to lavish him with $25 mlns – the biggest contribution from any other donor sans Biden.
    There are many, many easily googlable photos showing John Jaresko and Biden together, John Jaresko and “the Ukrainian Patriach” Filaret and Joe Biden + Filaret.
    Was it a kinda-sorta bribe? We can’t prove it. Biden-Poroshenko phone call happened on March 22, 2016 – that’s for sure. We only know that this rich donation, which culminated J. Jaresko’s “courting” of Joe Biden took place on October 17, 2016. In 20 March 2017, Natalie Jaresko was appointed as executive director of the Financial Oversight & Management Board for Puerto Rico. You know – where there was its own quasi-Maidan just last year.
    “Coincidence? I don’t think so!” (c)

  14. Always fascinated how clean and shiny everything is nowadays.
    Unless, of course, you get Sapsan filled with Indians and Chinese. Chinese empty the bar pretty much half-way from Moscow to St.Pete, while Indians, in our case, decided to carry some of their food onboard and smell of curry was in the air. Nothing wrong with curry (I cook lamb curry all the time) but it was noticeable. Two Sapsan cars of them. So, it depends, of course. But Sapsans generally are very nice, and yes, very clean. They also make sure that the stewardesses (conductors) are very lovely looking young girls or women–Aeroflot influence.

  15. @FND
    I’ve heard that surveillance satellites today can read license plates. I don’t know if that’s really true. Just asking in case someone knows
    They could do this already by 1990s. Visual, or more precisely optronic observation is not the issue, other sensors carried by aircraft are also important. I don’t remember from the top of my head what sensors were allowed per now defunct Treaty, but I believe they had (could be wrong) dosimeters, plus synthetic aperture radar.

  16. Andrei M. Read licence plates. Yes — nice sharp pictures of Russian aircraft in Syria but, for some reason, blurry indistinct pictures of Russians “invading” Ukraine. Curious, isn’t it?
    Combine harvesters or artillery? Pretty blurry either way.

  17. LBurgh. Golly! So many “conspiracy theories” for the NYT to declare “debunked”.

  18. @Patrick.
    Curious, isn’t it?
    Exactly. The excuse, however, is funnier still–an alleged desire not to “disclose” capabilities. Yeah, sure, I remember early 1980s it was a normal procedure in my (and other) Naval Academy to delay march to lunch across massive academy’s main square towards dinner hall to allow US satellite pass over in order to deny it counting us and taking other relevant pictures. 1980-1985.

  19. Andrei M. 1980-85. Gosh. I was on a couple of REFORGER exercises (as a defence scientist observer) in those days practising to stop you Commie hordes from coming across.

  20. JohninMK says:

    Is the Open Skies Treaty going to be defunct or is everyone else just continuing on with it?

  21. to stop you Commie hordes from coming across.
    Oh yeah!!! So many wonderful memories from Luftwaffe Starfighters harassing us on long-range cruise in Danish Straits, or French Brege Dassault Atlantics over us in Biscay. Fun times. I mean it.

  22. The Russians are saying that they will not be happy if all the NATO members keep flying and passing any info to the USA. So that’s a potential problem. Will the puppies do as they’re told? They’ve protested the US action. We’ll see.

  23. Paul Anderson says:

    Patrick, anywhere else we can see your work?
    I appreciate the international, and particularly Russian coverage, with the occasional Canadian echoes.

  24. Paul A, I write here
    But everything I’ve done since I retired is here

  25. English Outsider says:

    There were some most interesting exchanges on the Colonel’s site recently on the pandemic. From those exchanges I got the message that the circumstances in the various countries are so different that comparisons tell one very little.
    One would think that figures for excess deaths – that is death rates above normal – gave one a good basis for comparison but I don’t find that at all. How reliable are the attributions of cause of death? How many died because they couldn’t get their normal health care? How many died because life under restriction is more stressful? And how can one compare areas of low population density with crowded inner cities?
    On the figures one does get, last I saw the UK is in the higher band but not an outlier in that band, the US somewhere in the middle, and Germany has done amazingly well.
    Does that tell us much? One would need to know much more. Germany has a more suitable health infrastructure for these circumstances and made better preparations. Some countries – the UK as well – fed the infected into care homes. You couldn’t kill off more of the vulnerable that way if you’d deliberately targeted them! Some countries treated Covid-19 patients separately. Some didn’t so the hospitals themselves became major centres of infection.
    On top of that you have great differences in how prepared the various populations are to accept the onerous and sometimes intrusive measures needed to control the disease.
    Compare for example New Zealand and Brazil. That looks like a cut and dried comparison. New Zealand took early action and imposed heavy duty restrictions. Few excess deaths. Brazil didn’t. They’re heading for high excess deaths. So that shows that early response and heavy duty lockdowns work. Case proven?
    Not at all. Had Brazil attempted a New Zealand type approach the circumstances are so different, and the population has such a different attitude to authority, that Brazil might have ended up as badly off anyway.
    So we can’t look at those excess deaths figures and say that the US should have done this, or Sweden that. All I know is that we in the UK didn’t handle the pandemic that well. But I don’t know whether we could reasonably expect to have handled it better, as things were.
    An anodyne conclusion, perhaps, from someone who believes we should go all out to eradicate this disease rather than live with it as best we can. From someone who is appalled at what the pandemic revealed about our state of preparedness in the UK.
    But let the epidemiologists and the statisticians grub around with all these variables and attempt to draw some conclusions about excess deaths that might be generally applied. I’d rather just say that it happened as it did. No going back to put things right. We’re probably going to make many more mistakes in the future. Given all that, how is the post-pandemic world going to function. How should a post-pandemic economy function?
    There doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of thinking going on about that.

  26. SAC Brat says:

    Maybe 25 years ago I lived near Willow Run airport in Michigan that had a museum with military airplanes that several of my airline coworkers helped work on. As the museum developed there was a need to move a B-52D that was loaned to the museum by the USAF to a nearby location, maybe a few hundred yards, to improve the museum grounds.
    The museum staff said a representative of the USAF showed up soon to the museum to ask what was happening to the B-52 due to a Russian inquiry on why it was moved, as it was counted in the START treaty.

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