Foreign ministry picks new Asia relations deputy
After weeks of rumours and whispers in the corridors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andrey Rudenko, we have learned, should shortly be in charge of handling Russia's relations with Asia.
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Pope Francis had to hold off plans to visit Russia as part of his efforts to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow. The Russian Orthodox Church, which also wants to play a role in resolution of the conflict, is trying to adopt a more open position.
Aid and cooperation agency Rossotrudnichestvo is a highly versatile tool in Russia's public relations armoury that has close links with the intelligence services. The role of the agency and its satellite bodies have been remodelled somewhat, however, since the start of the war in Ukraine.
Moscow is trying to maintain its influence in Central Asian countries through its soft power agencies with the aim of consolidating and strengthening its alliances in the region. But the 9 May celebrations revealed deep dissensions within some countries.
The champions of Russia's protection of its "compatriots" - Russian-speaking descendants of the USSR that Moscow is trying to reconquer or keep in its cultural fold - were going all-out to support Moscow's latest moves in Ukraine.
The shadow of the unresolved conflict between Tokyo and Moscow over four islands in the Pacific has become a recurring theme in Russian-Japanese relations. This has led to a series of extremely high-profile public relations exercises by Moscow, which Washington is gradually becoming embroiled in.
Moscow has grand plans for its networks of influence abroad over the coming year, starting with the need to maintain its declining dominance in Central Asia. But these ambitious goals could come up against the situation in Kazakhstan, where India, China and other powers are using their own approaches.
The "Centre", the headquarters of Russia's SVR foreign intelligence agency, has long used compatriots for intelligence or influence operations. Ukraine has in contrast relied little on its own nationals or descendants living abroad. But Volodymyr Zelensky now intends to exploit this precious resource.
While the Franco-Russian relationship has been sustained by a resurgence of activity in recent months, the end of the year was not as fruitful as hoped. In order to restore order and to mitigate the nuisances caused by political disputes, the head of the Russian cultural institution Rossotrudnichestvo visited Paris in person at the end of November.
NIIRK, the small scientific research centre made up of ex-KGB agents is making assessment of "communication flows" a central priority. It is examining these in the three Baltic countries and five Central Asian states where Moscow is trying to push its narratives using soft power tools, such as the Rossotrudnichestvo and state media outlets.
While FSB officers' assignments are often the subject of fierce rivalries between ambitious young men, the positions of regional heads are kept for the most promising among them. The new postings give a glimpse of some of Moscow's future leaders but also reveal those who are being dispensed with for having not met Russia's domestic spy agency's expectations.
Being both head of the SVR and chairman of the Russian Historical Society puts Sergey Naryshkin in a position to reinstate a number of Soviet-era intelligence officers and in doing so furthering the Kremlin's regional strategy.
For the inauguration of its new centre in Paris headed by academic Darya Loyola, the powerful Russian Geographical Society called in experts in Russian-French relations, as well as professional promoters of Russian policy for compatriots abroad.
Eager to increase its influence over Russian "compatriots" living overseas, the Kremlin can count on Konstantin Zatulin, who has influence among Russian speakers in neighbouring countries, to help with its state programme for voluntary resettlement.
From Washington to Beijing via London, Brussels and Moscow, Samia Suluhu Hassan has revived the links with the capitals that were ignored by her predecessor John Magufuli - and this Tanzanian president has no problem exploiting the differences between her new allies.
The Putin-friendly patriarch of Moscow severed ties with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine when Russia invaded Ukraine's Donbass region and the impact of this break-up is now rippling across Africa, where the head of the Russian Orthodox Church is trying, again in step with Moscow, to outstrip the Patriarch of Alexandria.