News

This page features the weekly news and analysis digests compiled by Russia Matters. Explore them by clicking "Read More" below the current week's highlights and subscribe using the subscribe links throughout the site, like the one below, to receive our digests via email. Past digests are available in the News Archive, which is accessible via the link on this page.

4 Things to Know

  • Nuclear power plants damaged and disabled: Shelling has caused a “close call” at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and forced NPPs across the country to disconnect from the power grid this week. Strikes around the Zaporizhzhia plant over the weekend damaged some of its storage tanks but left key equipment intact, according to the U.N. nuclear watchdog. IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said whoever fired the shells was “gambling with many people's lives" and described the incident as a "close call." Russian strikes on Ukraine energy facilities Nov. 23—believed to be among the most damaging attacks in weeks—forced all the country’s NPPs to temporarily go offline, the Energy Ministry said, and left “the vast majority" of consumers without power.
  • Iran has agreed to set up production of its military drones in Russia, The Washington Post reports, citing three unnamed officials “familiar with the matter.” The agreement was reached earlier this month, according to new intelligence seen by Western security agencies, which  believe Russia has already procured and deployed more than 400 Iranian-made attack drones against Ukraine since August. A report issued Nov. 22 by a weapons research group says the Iranian drones used by Russia in Ukraine are built with parts almost exclusively made by companies with headquarters in the U.S., Europe and Asia, the New York Times writes.
  • Ukrainian territory by the numbers: Ukraine’s army has now reclaimed about 55% of the territory Russia occupied after invading in February, the NYT reports, but about one-fifth of Ukrainian territory is still occupied by Russia. Only 288 of the 61,000 square miles freed of Russian control have been cleared of land mines, improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordnance, according to U.S. State Department data cited by the paper.
  • OECD: Among G20 economies, Russia’s to perform worst in 2022-2023. Russia’s GDP will decline by 3.9% in 2022 and 5.6% in 2023, according to the OECD’s new forecast. That would constitute the worst performance among G20 economies, with the U.K. expected to be the second worst performer.
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6 Ideas to Explore

  1. Key U.S. officials have begun to wonder whether “the U.S. has already reaped all the advantages the Ukraine war has to offer,” according to Hal Brands of Johns Hopkins University. “As time passes, the cost may get higher [for the U.S.]—in distraction from other regions, in scarce munitions consumed, in vulnerability to crises that break out elsewhere,” Brands writes in his commentary for Bloomberg. “If the situation in the Taiwan Strait is deteriorating as rapidly as American officials say, then the premium on ending the Ukraine conflict relatively soon may get higher,” Brands warns.
  2. Following the U.S. midterm elections, pressure is building in Washington to boost tracking of weapons supplied to Ukraine, according to WP. “Most in Washington are in agreement that, generally, the push for more oversight is a good thing,” this daily reports. As of early November, U.S. monitors had performed just two in-person inspections of U.S.-supplied weapons in Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February, according to WP.
  3. The Russian-Ukrainian war is chewing up stockpiles of artillery ammunition at a rate that Kyiv’s Western suppliers are struggling to keep up with, according to NYT. Over the summer, the Ukrainians were firing 6,000-7,000 artillery rounds per day in Donbas, while the U.S. produces only 15,000 rounds per month, according to this daily. If the Pentagon donated to the Ukrainian military all the “dumb” rounds it is to purchase for regular artillery in 2022, the latter would use them up in two weeks, according to RUSI estimates cited in FT. In addition to Ukraine’s uphill battle in acquiring sufficient artillery rounds from its Western partners, a third of some 350 Western-made howitzers donated to Kyiv are out of action at any given time, according to NYT.
  4. The idea that a price cap at $65-$70 a barrel will have an impact on Putin’s decision-making is ridiculous, according to Bloomberg columnist Javier Blas. To defund Putin, the cap, which the EU needs to agree on by Dec. 5, would need to be not higher than the $45-a-barrel mooted by European diplomats to their American counterparts, according to Blas. “There is still huge uncertainty over how hard EU sanctions will hit Russia’s crude exports when they come into effect on Dec. 5, or if they will have any impact at all,” according to another Bloomberg writer, Julian Lee.
  5. The U.S. and Russia still need to discuss further steps in bilateral arms control despite Moscow postponing the meeting of the U.S.-Russian Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), which was to discuss the implementation of New START. Washington and Moscow can rely on the technical experts—who will participate in the BCC meeting when it takes place—to develop a framework for a follow-on treaty, according to Rose Gottemoeller of Stanford University.
  6. During his pre-invasion visit to China on Feb. 4, Putin won Xi’s consent to secretly agree that their countries would come to each other’s aid militarily, but only in the case of a foreign invasion, according to long-time Russia watcher Owen Matthews. “That extremely canny and prescient proviso, inserted at Chinese insistence, would effectively exclude territories recently annexed during wartime, thus releasing Beijing from any commitment to respond to attacks on annexed territories in Ukraine,” Matthews writes in a preview of his forthcoming book on the Russian-Ukrainian war for the Spectator.
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