Russia in Review, April 21-28, 2023

6 Things to Know

  • In his first conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky since Russia’s invasions, Xi Jinping has told the Ukrainian leader that China will not "add fuel to the flame” of the conflict and promised he’d send a special envoy to seek a “political resolution of the Ukraine crisis and conduct deep dialogue with all parties,” WaPo reported. “Dialogue and negotiation are the only way forward,” Xi added. But a readout of the call from Zelensky’s office avoided any reference to negotiation and instead “expressed hope for China’s active participation in efforts to restore peace,” according to FT. Meanwhile, U.S., NATO and EU officials described the call as “important” but not very hopeful, while a Kremlin spokesman said Russia was “prepared to welcome everything that could bring the end of the conflict in Ukraine closer” but still remained intent on “achieving all of the goals that have been set.”
  • U.S. intelligence holds that Russia will be able to fund the war in Ukraine for at least another year, even under the heavy and increasing weight of unprecedented sanctions, according to leaked U.S. documents cited by The Washington Post. Moreover, given Russia’s bigger reserves of equipment and manpower, President Vladimir Putin believes he will ultimately emerge victorious, NYT cites U.S. intelligence officials as saying. The chances that Putin will back down or cut his losses in response to a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive, a senior European official was quoted as saying, were “less than zero.” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has told other officials that he, too, believes Russia has the numerical advantage on the battlefield and that makes him supremely confident that Russia will eventually prevail, according to NYT.
  • The Biden administration is embracing the possibility that Ukraine’s spring counteroffensive could fall short of expectations, but Kyiv is hopeful. American officials believe the offensive, which may begin next month, is unlikely to result in a dramatic shift in momentum in Ukraine’s favor, according to NYT. According to Politico, U.S. officials believe Ukraine will “make some progress in the south and east” but will fail to sever Russia’s land bridge to Crimea. Given that, “there is belief that Kyiv is willing to consider adjusting its goals,” with talks underway on “framing it to the Ukrainians as a ‘ceasefire,'” as opposed to “permanent peace talks,” per unnamed Biden aides cited by Politico. According to Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kirilo Budanov, however, Ukraine is quite capable of pushing Russia back to 1991 borders this year. After the offensive is over, there is little chance that the West can recreate the buildup that it did for Ukraine’s coming assault in the foreseeable future, because Western allies do not have enough supplies in existing inventories to draw from and domestic production will not be able to fill the gap until next year, experts told NYT.
  • The share of American voters who believe the U.S. is doing too much to help Ukraine increased from 6% in March 2022 to 38% this month, according to WSJ surveys. The same period of time saw the share of those who believe the U.S. should do more for Ukraine fall from 46% to 20%. The share who believe the U.S. is doing the right amount has not changed, staying at 35%.
  • An investigative report by Russia’s Vyorstka has concluded that Putin made the fundamental decision to invade Ukraine as early as February-March 2021. According to the report—in addition to overly optimistic assessments from Russia’s intelligence, security and defense agencies—Putin’s decision was shaped, in part, by conversations with his Russian billionaire friend Yuri Kovalchuk and pro-Russian Ukrainian tycoon/politician Viktor Medvedchuk. “Kovalchuk convinced him that the West was weak; Medvedchuk [convinced him] that Ukraine was weak" and not opposed to a Russian intervention, writes the report’s author, Ilya Zhigulyov, after interviewing Russian officials, including sources in the Kremlin, among others, for his report.
  • The number of Russian corporate legal entities owned by companies and individuals from the EU, U.K., U.S. and other "unfriendly states" (with the exception of Cyprus) decreased by 2,600 between late February 2022 and early April 2023, according to Istories. Before their departure, these companies accounted for about 15% of total sales in Russia, selling about 3 trillion rubles' ($36.6 billion) worth of goods and services. Earlier this spring, the Kyiv School of Economics analytics center estimated that 207 of 1,400 foreign companies (15%) with legal entities in Russia and revenues of at least $5 million a year prior to the war have fully sold their Russian divisions and left the Russian market. In contrast, a paper co-authored by Simon J. Evenett of the University of St. Gallen and Niccolò Pisani of the International Institute for Management Development estimated that only about 4.8% of foreign companies with commercially active equity investments in Russia before the war divested from Russia as late as November 2022.


I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security and safety:

  • The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant currently has only about one-quarter of its regular maintenance staff available, the IAEA has said. The watchdog reported on April 23 hearing shelling ''almost every day'' over the past week at the plant. (WNN, 04.24.23, NYT, 04.23.23)
  • On April 26, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine marked the 37th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster with a post on the social messaging app Telegram, saying that the episode had “left a huge scar on the whole world.” (WP, 04.26.23)
  • Russian nuclear regulator Rostekhnadzor has granted a license to build the country's first land-based small modular reactor in the Republic of Sakha. (WNN, 04.24.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk Yeol said on April 26 that the US military would deploy more nuclear-capable bombers and other strategic assets on temporary missions to South Korea to send a clear message to Pyongyang about deterrence. During his visit to the US Yoon can also expect pressure from Biden to supply munitions to Ukraine. (FT, Politco, 04.27.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Russian ships are ferrying large quantities of Iranian artillery shells and other ammunition across the Caspian Sea to resupply troops fighting in Ukraine, Middle East officials have said. (WSJ, 04.24.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • Russian bombing killed at least 25 people across Ukraine, demolishing residential and commercial buildings on April 28. The attack was the largest of its kind in weeks. The deadliest strike appeared to be in the city of Uman, which is nearly 200 miles north of the front line and has not been a frequent target of attacks. (FT, 04.28.23, NYT, 04.28.23)
    • A survivor in Uman filmed the scene in her home after a Russian rocket hit her apartment building. Twelve hours after the missile struck, the death toll had climbed to 23, including four children, according to Ukrainian emergency services. Seventeen residents had been pulled out alive. (NYT, 04.28.23, NYT, 04.28.23)
  • Russian attacks killed two people and injured 13 others in a village in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region on April 24. Also, on April 25, a Russian missile strike on a museum in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kupyansk killed at least one person and wounded 10 others. (RFE/RL, 04.25.23, WSJ, 04.25.23)
  • In the Russian city of Belgorod, on the border with Ukraine, authorities on April 22 ordered more than 3,000 people to evacuate their apartment buildings for several hours because of unexploded ordnance found at the site where another bomb dropped by Russia's own air force had exploded April 20, injuring three. (NYT, 04.23.23)
  • Ukrainian journalist Bogdan Bitik working with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica was killed and his Italian colleague Corrado Zunino was injured on April 26 when they came under attack as they traveled to the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, the newspaper reported. (NYT, 04.27.23)
  • On April 27 a Russian rocket barrage left at least one person dead and almost two dozen injured in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv after months of relative calm there. (NYT, 04.27.23)
  • Russian troops are forcibly relocating people from occupied areas near the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, Ukrainian officials said on April 23, suggesting it could indicate that Moscow’s forces might be preparing to withdraw further from that area ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive. (NYT, 04.25.23)
  • Ukraine is working with the FBI to collect war crime evidence, FBI special agent Alex Kobzanets has said. Ukrainian authorities are gathering phone data and geolocation information from battlefields, as well as forensic analyses of DNA samples to prove Russian war crimes, Kobzanets told the RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco. (WP, 04.26.23)
  • About 20% of recruits in Russian prisoner units are H.I.V. positive, Ukrainian authorities estimate based on infection rates in captured soldiers. In Russian prisons, they said they were deprived of effective treatment for their H.I.V. Some were promised anti-viral medications if they agreed to fight. (NYT, 04.22.23)
  • Police in the Russian city of Saratov on April 24 detained former Wagner member Azamat Uldarov, who publicly said weeks earlier that the mercenary group's fighters killed civilians, including children, in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 04.25.23)
  • On April 26, the Russian Ministry of Defense said that 40 Russian servicemen were returned from Ukraine following negotiations. In return, Zelensky's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said Ukraine had recovered two civilians and 42 soldiers, including several who fought to defend the port city of Mariupol last year. (WSJ, 04.26.23)
  • Damages caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine are estimated at $143.8 billion, the deputy chief of Ukraine's Committee of National Security, Defense and Intelligence, Yuri Aristov, said on April 21. (RFE/RL, 04.21.23)
  • In the 14 months since the Russian invasion, the U.S. Agency for International Development has provided $18 billion in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including about $15.5 billion in direct support to the government to prop up its healthcare and education systems and to repair its power grid, which Russian forces have repeatedly targeted. (NYT, 04.25.23)
  • U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres confronted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Security Council on April 24, denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a violation of the UN Charter as well as international law. Russia’s invasion “is causing massive suffering and devastation to the country and its people,” Guterres said. “We must find a way forward and act now as we have done before to stop the slide toward chaos and conflict.” (Bloomberg, 04.25.23)
  • The Russian Defense Ministry on April 25 accused Ukraine of violating their grain-shipping agreement by using a designated safe corridor in the Black Sea to attack Russian forces in Crimea. The ministry said the attacks jeopardize the extension of the agreement, which allowed Ukraine to resume its vital exports of food products from three Black Sea ports last year. (WSJ, 04.25.23)
  • Ukraine’s grains will continue to enter the EU tariff-free for another year despite protests from Poland and other countries, which have seen their own farmers hurt by the influx of cheaper foodstuffs. EU ambassadors reached a deal April 28 to extend the tariff-free access, but with some concessions for Ukraine’s E.U. neighbors. (NYT, 04.28.23)
    • EU countries criticized Warsaw and other capitals on April 25 for refusing to reverse unilateral import bans on grain from war-torn Ukraine. Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria imposed varying restrictions more than a week ago on cereals and other foodstuffs following a glut building up on their local markets. (FT, 04.26.23)
  • The agriculture ministers of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia have inquired with the European Commission over potentially expanding the range of products that fall under so-called exceptional safeguard measures related to imports from Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 04.23.23)
  • Bali Governor Wayan Koster said in a news briefing that he has proposed revoking the visa-on-arrival program for travelers from Russia and Ukraine. (WP, 04.23.23)

Leaks of US intelligence assessments:

Contents of the alleged leaks:

  • In February 2023, with the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine days away, officials in Kyiv were busy making plans to attack Moscow. Maj. Gen. Budanov, the head of the country's military intelligence directorate, the HUR, instructed one of his officers "to get ready for mass strikes on Feb. 24," according to a classified report from the U.S. National Security Agency. Officials even mused about a sea-based strike using TNT in the Black Sea port city of Novorossiysk. On Feb. 22, two days before the anniversary, the CIA circulated a new classified report: The HUR "had agreed, at Washington's request, to postpone strikes" on Moscow. (WP, 04.24.23)
    • The leaked documents make clear that the U.S. intelligence community is monitoring Budanov's communications. (WP, 04.24.23)
  • U.S. intelligence holds that Russia will be able to fund the war in Ukraine for at least another year, even under the heavy and increasing weight of unprecedented sanctions, according to leaked military documents. "Moscow is relying on increased corporate taxes, its sovereign wealth fund, increased imports and businesses adaptability to help mitigate economic pressures," reads part of the assessment, which is labeled top secret. (WP, 04.26.23)
  • In mid-February, Putin “reportedly backed” his military’s proposal to “quietly recruit” 400,000 additional troops throughout 2023 for the war in Ukraine, according to one of the intelligence documents allegedly leaked on Discord. The document, categorized as a CIA daily intelligence update, indicates the information was based on a “signals intelligence report.” Separate from the goal of enlisting 400,000 men for the war this year, the CIA update said that Russian Defense Ministry officials “reported a Putin-supported plan” to recruit over 415,000 contract troops in 2023. (WP, 04.27.23)
    • The need for additional troops risks alienating the Russian public. To shield Putin from the backlash and redirect any public discontent away from the Kremlin, the current plans involve tapping regional governors to organize recruitment campaigns, and to continue drawing men from Russia’s prisons, according to another leaked U.S. intelligence document dated Feb. 17. (WP, 04.27.23)
  • As many as12 Ukrainian combat brigades of about 4,000 soldiers each are expected to be ready at the end of April, according to leaked Pentagon documents that offer a hint of Kyiv’s timetable. The United States and NATO allies are training and supplying nine of those brigades, the documents said. (NYT, 04.24.23)
  • Classified military assessments dating to February and March, from the leaked documents, show senior military leaders and planners from NATO states determined that 253 tanks were necessary for Ukraine to defend its territory in the coming counteroffensive. But the documents concluded that only 200 tanks would be delivered or otherwise ready to fight by the end of April. The majority, 140, would be refurbished Soviet-era tanks, including from Ukraine’s current arsenal. (NYT, 04.22.23)
  • Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, U.S. intelligence found, had drafted a letter to Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in early March to seek backing for contingency plans to avoid a "potentially embarrassing collapse" of Russian state-controlled entities such as the International Investment Bank, the International Bank for Economic Cooperation and the Eurasian Investment Bank, because of the sanctions. (WP, 04.26.23)
  • According to another document, U.S. intelligence found that officials at Russia's top intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, were concerned about the insufficient amount of foreign currency held by domestic Russian banks. These officials also warned that the United States could impose secondary sanctions on the Chinese companies that still did business with Russia, and urged that such transactions be kept secret. (WP, 04.26.23)
  • While some of Russia's economic elites might not agree with the country's course in Ukraine, and sanctions have hurt their businesses, they are unlikely to withdraw support for Putin, according to an assessment that appears to date from early March. Those elites "are likely to persist in upholding the Kremlin's objectives in Ukraine" and in "helping Moscow circumvent sanctions," the leaked assessment finds. (WP, 04.26.23)
  • While the leaked documents do not include in-depth discussion of their sources, they are marked with a code indicating the data was gleaned from intercepted communications. That suggests that the United States has gained access to channels where Russian figures privately discuss how to limit the impact of sanctions. (WP, 04.26.23)
  • Russia's troubled space program "very likely will diminish during the next decade" as it faces increased global competition, U.S. sanctions and the rise of SpaceX, which has eaten a large chunk of Russia's revenue, according to a leaked top secret U.S. intelligence document. (WP, 04.26.23)
  • The Wagner Group is moving aggressively to establish a "confederation" of anti-Western states in Africa, according to leaked secret U.S. intelligence documents. One document in the trove lists nearly a dozen "kinetic" and other options that could be pursued as part of "coordinated U.S. and allied disruption efforts." The files propose providing targeting information to help Ukrainian forces kill Wagner commanders. One of the documents in the trove indicates that France "has communicated a willingness to strike Wagner if the [paramilitary organization] supports a coup in Chad." (WP, 04.23.23)
    • The threats Chad is facing are underscored by several leaked U.S. intelligence documents, which describe an effort by Russia's paramilitary Wagner Group in February to recruit Chadian rebels and establish a training site for 300 fighters in the neighboring Central African Republic. (WP, 04.25.23)
  • Over recent years, Russia's paramilitary Wagner Group has established close ties with Sudan's security forces and sought to exploit these connections to advance Moscow's economic and military interests, including lucrative gold mining concessions and arms deals. Inside Sudan, Wagner has previously provided equipment and training to the security forces, advised government leaders and conducted information operations, according to a leaked U.S. intelligence document seen by The Washington Post. (WP, 04.22.23)
    • Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the notorious private military company Wagner, has offered weapons to the paramilitaries fighting for control of Sudan, according to American officials. (NYT, 04.23.23)
  • According to an intelligence report, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt rejected the idea of Cairo supplying the Russian side. (NYT, 04.24.23)
  • China's government is testing capabilities to get around a cybersecurity model that the U.S. federal government has embraced—and that testing, combined with "advanced infiltration techniques," will "probably" allow Chinese access to some government networks protected by the model within the next five years, according to a leaked classified document that hasn't previously been reported. (WP, 04.24.23)

Origins and proliferation of the leak:

  • In February 2022, days after the invasion of Ukraine, a user profile matching that of Airman Jack Teixeira began posting secret intelligence on the Russian war effort on a previously undisclosed chat group on Discord, a social media platform popular among gamers. The chat group contained about 600 members. It appears the first leak came less than 48 hours into Russia's invasion of Ukraine. ''Saw a pentagon report saying that 1/3rd of the force is being used to invade,'' the user wrote. (NYT, 04.21.23)
  • On March 4, 10 documents appeared on "Minecraft Earth Map," a Discord server focused on the popular video game. A user operating the account that posted the smaller tranche of images told The Post they obtained them on "wow_mao," a different Discord server affiliated with a YouTuber of the same name; apparently, they had been posted there by a teenage member of the small group of gamers that hung out with Teixeira on Thug Shaker Central, a private Discord server. Secret and top-secret documents were now available to thousands of Discord users, but the leak wouldn't come to the attention of U.S. authorities for another month. (WP, 04.23.23)
    • Members of the private Discord group said that foreign citizens, including from Russia and Ukraine, as well as Europe, Asia and South America, were among the roughly two dozen people who congregated on the server. The Post has not confirmed the presence of users from these locations. (WP, 04.23.23)
  • On March 27, 2022, the suspect shared classified information about the Russian pullback from Kyiv, information he said he ''found on an NSA site." "Some 'big' news,'' he wrote. ''There may be a planned withdrawal of the troops west of Kiev, as in all of them.'' Two days later, Russian officials announced they were pulling back from the Ukrainian capital. (NYT, 04.21.23)
  • The case against Teixeira pertains to the leaking of classified documents on Thug Shaker Central, a Discord group of about 50 members. There, he began posting sensitive information in October 2022, according to members of the group cited by NYT. The Washington Post reported that one former member told law enforcement officials that Teixeira began sharing classified documents in December, but two others told The Post that he provided documents earlier than that, beginning around last summer. (NYT, 04.21.23, WP, 04.21.23)
  • Teixeira reportedly claimed that he was actively combing classified computer networks for material on the Ukraine war. When one of the Discord users urged him not to abuse his access to classified intelligence, Teixeira replied: ''too late.'' At one point he offered to share information privately with members of the group living outside the United States. ''DM me and I can tell you what I have,'' he wrote. (NYT, 04.21.23)
  • Teixeira claimed to have access to intelligence from U.S. partners. ''I usually work with GCHQ people when I'm looking at foreign countries,'' he told the chat group in September 2022, referring to Government Communications Headquarters, the British agency for intelligence, security and cyberaffairs. (NYT, 04.21.23)

Investigation and prosecution of the leak:

  • The FBI has been interviewing members of a private Discord server, an indication that law enforcement officials are trying to understand how potentially dozens of people may have had access to highly sensitive information before it circulated on the internet and was obtained by journalists. (WP, 04.23.23)
  • The Air National Guardsman charged with the most damaging intelligence disclosures in a decade tried to cover his tracks by destroying computer equipment and warning an online gaming associate to delete their messages and not talk to investigators, US prosecutors said. Teixeira poses an ongoing risk to national security and should not be released on bail, prosecutors wrote. Teixeira’s attorneys denied he is a flight risk. (Bloomberg, 04.27.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

· In the past month of fighting Russian forces have gained 3 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine has taken back 35, leaving Kyiv with a net gain of 32 square miles, according to the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 04.25.23)

  • On April 22: Ukraine's Air Force said it had shot down four of five Iranian-made attack drones launched by Russia overnight. (NYT, 04.23.23)
  • On April 23: A drone loaded with 17 kilos of C-4 explosives was found on the outskirts of Moscow. The drone had been broken in two, Telegram channel Baza reported, claiming it was Ukrainian. (RFE/RL, 04.24.23)
  • On April 24: Three Ukrainian unmanned boats attacked the base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, a key military port city on the Crimean Peninsula. (WSJ, 04.24.23)
  • On April 26 heavy fighting continued in the western districts of Bakhmut. The U.K.'s Ministry of Defense said that heavy fighting has also been taking place in recent days on the outskirts of Bakhmut, especially near the village of Khromove, as Ukraine strives to defend the ground around the last supply route. (WSJ, 04.26.23)
    • Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskiy, the commander of ground forces overseeing the Bakhmut campaign, outlined the rationale for continuing to defend the city in an interview with local media on April 25, saying it denied Russia the ability to advance more broadly in Ukraine's eastern Donbas area. (WSJ, 04.26.23)
    • Prigozhin said Wagner men fighting in Bakhmut would kill rival soldiers and take no more prisoners. (AFP, 04.24.23)
  • On April 28: Russian forces attacked Kyiv and several other cities across Ukraine with more than 20 missiles and two drones on April 28. (FT, 04.28.23)
  • Ukrainian forces have established a presence on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region, according to the Institute for the Study of War. (WSJ, 04.23.23, RFE/RL, 04.23.23)
  • Preparations for a long-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive are in their final stages, the country’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said April 28, with new Western weapons having arrived in Ukraine and training completed. Earlier reports said the counteroffensive could begin as early as next month, likely unfolding in the country’s south, including along Ukraine’s coastline on the Sea of Azov, near the Russian-annexed Crimea. (NYT, 04.28.23, NYT, 04.24.23)
    • The Biden administration is quietly preparing for the possibility that Ukraine’s spring counteroffensive falls short of expectations. Current American assessments are that Ukraine may make some progress in the south and east but won’t be able to repeat last year’s success. Ukraine has hoped to sever Russia’s land bridge to Crimea and U.S. officials are now skeptical that will happen, according to two administration officials familiar with the assessment. Given that, “there is belief that Kyiv is willing to consider adjusting its goals,” with talks underway on “framing it to the Ukrainians as a ‘ceasefire,'” as opposed to “permanent peace talks,” per Biden aides. (Politico, 04.24.23)
    • American officials have assessed that it is unlikely the offensive will result in a dramatic shift in momentum in Ukraine’s favor. (NYT, 04.24.23)
    • “If they can break through, then I think they can change the dynamic on the battlefield,” Adm. Christopher W. Grady, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a brief interview. (NYT, 04.24.23)
    • After the offensive is over, there is little chance that the West can recreate the buildup that it did for Ukraine’s coming assault for the foreseeable future, because Western allies do not have enough supplies in existing inventories to draw from and domestic production will not be able to fill the gap until next year, experts say. (NYT, 04.24.23)
    • U.S. officials said the White House will be watching the offensive closely, understanding that its success or its failure will have a strong effect on the Biden administration's ability to maintain support from Congress and the American people. (WSJ, 04.25.23)
    • The success of the offensive is "very important because one of the reasons I think the American people are committed has been the courage and success of the Ukrainian people and then also the recognition that they're really fighting our fight," said Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee. (WSJ, 04.25.23)
    • Russia has boosted its defenses in occupied Ukraine ahead of Kyiv's anticipated counterattack, wagering its position on 800 kilometers of triple-fortified lines and a gush of manpower. The Ukrainian terrain, muddied by the spring thaw, has begun to dry and Russia's latest wave of attacks has fizzled out. The Russian defensive wall runs from Kherson, in Ukraine's south, to the northeast of the country, spanning more than 500 miles. (MT/AFP, 04.27.23)
    • “The Russians still have numerical advantage, and they have the escalation dominance on the battlefield,” Merkel’s ex-military advisor Gen. Erich Vad said. “And they are now in a very strong defensive position. And if you want to attack, you need at least three- to five-times superiority on the ground.” (RFE/RL, 04.27.23)
    • “Quite,” Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Budanov claimed in an interview with when asked if Ukraine can restore control of its territories per 1991 borders this year. “I think that sufficient swaths of territory will be returned by force during this operation,” he said. (RM, 04.25.23)
    • “What is happening with the counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine? It's raining today. On the second of May the last rain should pass. It takes another week for the wind to dry the soil. After that, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be ready to move,” said Prigozhin, founder of Wagner. (NVO, 06.24.23)
  • Given Russia’s bigger reserves of equipment and manpower, Putin believes he will ultimately emerge victorious as the West’s appetite to support Ukraine subsides, according to some American intelligence officials. The chances that Putin will back down or cut his losses in response to a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive, a senior European official said, were “less than zero.” Instead, the official said, Putin will likely opt to call up more soldiers and send them in. (NYT, 04.24.23)
  • In private meetings, Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, has told other officials that he believes Russia has the numerical advantage on the battlefield because it has more planes, tanks, artillery pieces and soldiers than the Ukrainians, according to a senior European official aware of the discussions. In these conversations, Shoigu came across as supremely confident that Russia will eventually prevail. (NYT, 04.24.23)
  • Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said after a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on April 21: “I do think the M1 tank, when it's delivered, will make a difference,” he told a press conference. “There’s no “silver bullet,” he said. (Bloomberg, 04.21.23)
    • U.S. defense officials said that about 31 Abrams tanks could reach Ukraine by the fall, bringing one of America’s most powerful weapons a step closer to the war. (NYT, 04.22.23)
  • Some 38% of respondents said in a WSJ survey this month that the U.S. was doing too much to help Ukraine, up from 6% in March of last year, shortly after the war began. The share who say the U.S. should do more has fallen from 46% in March 2022 to 20% now. About 35% say the U.S. is doing the right amount, a number that has remained the same since the March poll. (WSJ, 04.25.23)
    • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that Europeans needed to do more for Ukraine. "I mean, this is their continent," DeSantis said in an interview with Nikkei on April 25 in Tokyo. "The U.S. has provided security for them," he added. Poland's efforts should be appreciated, DeSantis said. "But Germany, they're not doing anything," he said. (WSJ, 04.25.23)
    • Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said that he expects "significant scrutiny" to be applied to any future supplemental package for Ukraine and that Republicans would be more inclined to support more military aid as opposed to economic and humanitarian relief. Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) said continuing to dole out aid to Ukraine at the same levels could come at the cost of other priorities, such as a potential conflict over Taiwan. (WSJ, 04.25.23)
  • The Ukraine Defense Contact Group has delivered more than 230 tanks, more than 1,550 armored vehicles and other equipment and munitions to support more than nine new armored brigades, US Secretary of Defense Austin said after the group's meeting on April 21.”Right now … what we all believe is what Ukraine needs most urgently is ground-based air defense capability,” he said. (Defense,gov, 04.21.23)
  • 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers are conducting training right now in Germany, according to Gen. Milley’s April 21 remarks. Another 8,800 have completed training and have returned to Ukraine. And there are 65 Ukrainians that completed training on Patriot missile systems just recently, he said. (Defense,gov, 04.21.23)
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that "more than 98%" of the combat vehicles pledged by the allies have already been delivered. "That means over 1,550 armored vehicles, 230 tanks and other equipment, including vast amounts of ammunition.” (RFE/RL, 04.27.23)
  • “Air defense remains priority No. 1… We have a Soviet system, for which missile stocks are depleted. If they are not produced in our country, and they are available only in countries from which we cannot take them, then we need to replenish them with something else. How? With Western air defense systems,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Reznikov told (RM, 04.27.23)
  • German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius rejected the possibility of delivering German fighter jets to Ukraine at a meeting of Kyiv’s allies in Germany. (RFE/RL, 04.21.23)
  • The Pentagon's most recent package of weapons for Ukraine includes relics from the Cold War to help blunt Russian advances and limit their ability to maneuver during an expected spring offensive—M21 anti-tank land mines that have been in service with the Defense Department since at least the early 1960s. (NYT, 04.22.23).
  • The Azov brigade is hoping to recruit 6,500 new fighters who will provide restored combat heft even as its leaders push for the return of more than 1,000 brigade troops who remain in Russia as prisoners of war. (WP, 04.26.23)
  • Glide bombs are an increasingly popular weapon in Russia’s arsenal as it attempts to seize Ukrainian territory. (MT/AFP, 04.26.23)
  • Russia's daily casualty count dropped in April, Britain's Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update April 25. Russia's average daily casualty rate has fallen by about 30% after "exceptionally heavy" casualties from January to March, it said. (WSJ, 04.25.23)
  • More than 200 freshly dug graves bearing the insignia of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group have been located at a cemetery in Russia’s third-largest city, Novosibirsk. (MT/AFP, 04.25.23)
  • Prigozhin has accused “decision-makers” in Russia of treason for not providing his troops and military units of Russia's regular armed forces with ammunition needed to fight in Ukraine. "A criminal group did not give us ammunition,” Prigozhin said in a five-minute audio. (RFE/RL, 04.26.23)
  • An investigative report by the Vyorstka online newspaper says Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine by early March 2021. According to the report, which is based on interviews with sources close to the Russian leadership, the last straw in Putin's decision to invade came when Ukrainian authorities confiscated assets and media outlets controlled by Russia-friendly Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk in February 2021. The preparations for the invasion, launched in late February 2022, took a year, with Putin’s close associate billionaire Yuri Kovalchuk bein gthe main supporter of the idea. (RFE/RL, 04.25.23)
    • Kovalchuk convinced him that the West was weak, while Medvedchuk convinced him that Ukraine was weak and not opposed to a Russian intervention, according to Vyorstka’s sources. (Vyorstka, 04.25.23)
    • According to a source close to the Russian presidential administration, one of the Russian security officials present at the meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in October 2021 confirmed in private conversations on the sidelines of the meeting that Western fears that Russia was preparing for war were not far from reality: “It’s true, we want to change the regime in Ukraine.” (Vyorstka, 04.25.23)
    • Shoigu did not argue against and "even rejoiced" at Putin's decision to invade Ukraine in 2022: “He did not have an understanding of the state of the [Russian] army, and he was interested. He came to believe that Putin knew something that he did not know, and he really thought that it would not be much more serious than the annexation of Crimea” [in 2014], according to one of Putin’s old friends. (Vyorstka, 04.25.23)
  • Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Budanov claimed in an interview with that FSB director Alexander Bortnikov had been opposing the war but changed his mind about two weeks prior to Putin’s decision to launch the invasion. (RM, 04.25.23)
  • According to Western intelligence estimates, Russia started its invasion in February 2022 with a force of around 150,000. (WP, 04.27.23)

Punitive measures related to Russia’s war against Ukraine and their impact globally:

  • The EU and Japan have pushed back against a US proposal for G7 countries to ban all exports to Russia, as part of negotiations ahead of a summit of the world’s most advanced economies. A G7 leaders’ statement being drafted for their meeting in Hiroshima next month includes a pledge to replace the current sector-by-sector sanctions regime against Russia with a complete export ban with a few exemptions, according to documents seen by the Financial Times. The full export ban would include exemptions for agricultural, medical and other products. (FT, 04.25.23)
  • The European Union is set to propose a ban on many goods transiting through Russia as the bloc attempts to tighten the screws on the enforcement of sanctions imposed over the past year. The transit ban would extend to numerous technologies and other goods, including several types of vehicles, but not all items would be barred from traveling via Russia en route to third countries, according to people familiar with the proposals. The ban would be part of a new package of sanctions that’s being prepared by the European Commission. (Bloomberg, 04.22.23)
  • The US has warned four European countries about the methods Russia is using to evade sanctions and provided them with a detailed list of the high-value dual-use goods it is trying to acquire, as Washington steps up efforts to stop Moscow procuring weapons for the war in Ukraine. Brian Nelson, US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, visited Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Germany this week on a tour designed to show how Russia is trying to repair its degraded military industrial supply chains by getting round Western export controls. (FT, 04.21.23)
  • Putin signed a decree April 25 authorizing "temporary" state control over foreign companies’ Russia-based assets. The move marks Russia’s latest retaliation to the freezing of its assets abroad over the invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s decree lists the Russian divisions of the German energy giant Uniper and Finland’s Fortum whose shares had already been taken over by Moscow. The decree covers the assets of companies or individuals from “unfriendly” states, which include the US and its allies (MT/AFP, 04.26.23, Bloomberg, 04.26.23)
  • Russia has expropriated 20 billion rubles ($250 million) in “voluntary contributions” into its budget from foreign businesses that have left the country in the past four and a half months. (MT/AFP, 04.24.23)
  • The number of corporate legal entities owned by companies and individuals from the EU, U.K., U.S. and other "unfriendly states" (with the exception of Cyprus) decreased by 2,600 between late February 2022 and early April 2023, according to Istories. Before their departure, these companies accounted for about 15% of total sales in Russia, selling about 3 trillion rubles ($36.6 billion) worth of goods and services. Earlier this spring, Kyiv School of Economics’ analytics center, the KSE Institute, reportedly estimated that 207 of 1,400 foreign companies (15%) with legal entities in Russia and revenues of at least $5 million a year prior to the war have fully sold their Russian divisions and left the Russian marker. In contrast, a paper co-authored by Simon J. Evenett of the University of St. Gallen and Niccolò Pisani of the International Institute for Management Development estimated that only about 4.8% of foreign companies with commercially active equity investments in Russia before the war divested from Russia as late as November 2022. (RM, 04.26.23)
  • Moscow may retaliate if the G7 proceeds with a total ban on most exports to Russia by withdrawing from the safe-transit deal that allows Ukraine to ship grains from Black Sea ports, said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council. Russia would also consider banning exports of some of its own goods, Medvedev said in a Telegram post. (Bloomberg, 04.23.23)
  • Russian shipbuilding behemoth United Shipbuilding Corp. is running out of key engine parts, delaying or halting the production of tankers and ocean vessels the country needs to move its oil and cargo. (WSJ, 04.24.23)
  • On April 25, Sweden expelled five Russian diplomats, Russia's state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported. The agency cited Sweden's foreign minister as saying the diplomats were engaged in "activities incompatible with their diplomatic status." (WSJ, 04.25.23)
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on April 22 announced the expulsion of "more than 20" German diplomats as a retaliatory measure for the "mass expulsion" of Russian embassy staff from Berlin. Maria Zakharova told state-run television Zvezda that Moscow had decided to expel "more than 20" diplomats. Her statement came shortly after her ministry denounced "another mass expulsion of employees of Russian diplomatic missions in Germany." (MT/AFP, 04.22.23)
  • Russia said on April 26 that it was expelling 10 Norwegian diplomats as a "retaliatory measure" after Norway announced it was kicking out 15 Russians. "[Norway's Ambassador to Russia] Robert Kvile was handed a note declaring 'persona non grata' 10 representatives of the Norwegian Embassy in Moscow," Russia's Foreign Ministry said. (MT/AFP, 04.26.23)
  • Cyprus has cracked down on those named by the United States and Britain for allegedly helping Russian oligarchs bypass sanctions on Moscow, an official said April 22. (AFP, 04.22.23)
  • New York lawyer Robert Wise admitted in court that he illegally helped manage six luxury properties for sanctioned oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. (Bloomberg, 04.26.23)
  • Anti-Kremlin protesters staged a rally in Paris on April 23, urging the EU to slap sanctions on the socialite wife of Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov, whom they accuse of bypassing sanctions. Chanting "Sanctions" and holding placards, several dozen activists gathered outside the presumed Paris home of Svetlana Maniovich. (AFP, 04.23.23)
  • Russian billionaire Dmitry Pumpyansky attacked European Union sanctions against him and his family as making them “collateral damage” in the bloc’s foreign policy efforts to thwart Putin. Pumpyansky, his wife and son were sanctioned following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine subjecting them to stringent travel bans and asset freezes. (Bloomberg, 04.25.23)
  • Given the intense scrutiny that Prigozhin has faced in recent years, there has been surprisingly little attention on his immediate family. Up until days before the Ukraine invasion, Prigozhin’s children, Pavel, Veronika and Polina, were able to move freely across the EU, enjoying a life of international luxury even as their father and his companies had been under Western sanctions since 2016. Last year, the US said that Polina, Pavel and Prigozhin's wife, Lyubov, “play various roles in Prigozhin’s business enterprise,” which benefits from “his favored status within Russia’s elite.” (FT, 04.26.23)
  • A court in Ukraine has frozen more assets belonging to Oksana Marchenko, the wife of pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk. (RFE/RL, 04.25.23)
  • The Czech government has made the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, the first person on its national sanctions list due to his support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said on April 26. (Reuters, 04.26.23)
  • Vladimir Saldo, who has governed southern Ukraine’s Kherson region since April 2022 after it fell under Russian control, is reportedly listed as the owner of the agriculture commodities firm Grainholding Ltd in the U.K. (MT/AFP, 04.27.23)
  • Russian police ascribed an increase in road accidents to Western sanctions that have shifted traffic flows toward ill-equipped infrastructure in the country’s east, the Kommersant business daily reported April 27. (MT/AFP, 04.27.23)
  • Profits at Euroclear have more than doubled in the last year as the world’s largest settlement house gained an unexpected windfall from the Western sanctions on Russia. The Brussels-based group said on April 28 that its balance sheet had swelled by €88 billion to €140 billion at the end of March as payments the company normally moves to and from Russian bank accounts were frozen and locked in its accounts. (FT, 04.28.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping had a phone call with Zelensky on April 26, the first conversation between the leaders since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (FT, 04.26.23)
    • Xi told Zelensky that the only way to achieve peace for Ukraine is through negotiations with Russia. Xi also told the Ukrainian leader that China will send its special government representative for Eurasia Li Hui to visit Kyiv to seek a “political resolution of the Ukraine crisis and conduct deep dialogue with all parties.” Li was Beijing’s ambassador to Moscow for 10 years. Xi told Zelensky that China "will neither watch the fire from afar, nor add fuel to the flames, let alone exploit the situation for profit," according to the Chinese readout of the call. "Amid the current rise of reasonable thinking and voices from all sides, we should seize the opportunity to build up favorable conditions for a political settlement of the crisis," Xi told Zelensky, according to the Chinese summary. “Dialogue and negotiation are the only way forward,” Xi added. (Bloomberg, 04.26.23, FT, 04.26.23. WP, 04.26.23)
    • Zelensky told the Chinese leader that “no one wants peace more than the Ukrainian people,” according to a readout of the call provided by his office. But that peace, he said, must be “just and sustainable.” “There can be no peace at the expense of territorial compromises,” he said. “The territorial integrity of Ukraine must be restored within the 1991 borders.” The readout of the call from Zelensky’s office avoided any reference to negotiation. Zelensky described the almost hour-long call as “long and meaningful.” “I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter. (FT, 04.26.23, NYT, 04.26.23)
      • Following the call, Chinese media reported the conversation “was widely welcomed in the international community, and many voiced expectations that China will continue to play a constructive role in promoting a peaceful settlement of the Ukraine crisis.” Chinese reports said Xi stressed the necessity of a peace settlement and noted “no one wins a nuclear war.” (Xinhua, 04.27.23) 
      • “We believe it’s important for President Xi and PRC officials to avail themselves of the Ukrainian perspective on this illegal, unprovoked invasion by Russia,” said John Kirby, the spokesman for the US National Security Council. “Whether that’s going to lead to some sort of meaningful peace movement or plan or proposal, I just don’t think we know that right now.” (Bloomberg, 04.26.23)
      • Kirby said it was a “good thing” that Xi and Zelensky had spoken, since Washington had been pressing the Chinese for a call and for Beijing to hear the “Ukrainian perspective” on the conflict. (FT, 04.26.23)
      • “It is an important, long overdue first step by China,” said Eric Mamer, spokesman for Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. (FT, 04.27.23)
      • NATO’s secretary general, Stoltenberg, on April 27 welcomed the call: It is important that “China gets a better understanding of the Ukrainian perspectives,” he said at a news conference in Brussels. “This doesn’t change the fact that China has not been able to condemn Russia’s illegal war, illegal invasion of Ukraine.” (NYT, 04.27.23)
      • Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told reporters Russia was “prepared to welcome everything that could bring the end of the conflict in Ukraine closer” but said Russia was still intent on “achieving all of the goals that have been set.” (FT, 04.27.23)
      • Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the call demonstrated “China’s readiness to make efforts to straighten out the negotiating process” but added that the US would probably push its Ukrainian “puppets” to reject Beijing’s proposals. (FT, 04.27.23)
  • “Our assessment is that Putin is not serious about negotiations at this stage. It is Ukrainian progress on the battlefield that is most likely to shape prospects for diplomacy, and so a great deal is at stake in the coming months,” CIA director William Burns said at a speech at Rice University earlier this month. (RM, April 2023)
    • For the Ukrainians to force a real negotiation, they must make sure “Vladimir Putin’s hubris, his arrogance, is punctured,” Burns said. (NYT, 04.24.23)
  • Celeste Wallander, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said there is no sign that Putin is ready for a compromise. “There is very little evidence and little reason to believe that Putin will give up on his strategic goal of subjugating Ukraine politically, if not fully militarily,” she said in an interview. (NYT, 04.24.23)
  • Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said that Ukraine “does not want to stop” the war and insisted peace talks should begin, even though Moscow continues its missile attacks on civilian targets and Russian troops are still occupying parts of Ukraine. While Lula made clear that he condemned the invasion of a sovereign state, he did not disavow comments made last week in the United Arab Emirates that Russia and Ukraine bore joint responsibility and that the US and EU were “contributing” to the conflict. (FT, 04.24.23)
  • The Hungarian government's call for a cease-fire in Ukraine is "cynical" given large swathes of the country are occupied by invading Russian forces, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman said April 26. (Reuters, 04.26.23)

Great Power rivalry/new Cold War/NATO-Russia relations:

  • Putin “still believes today that he can make time work for him… that he can grind down the Ukrainians, that he can grind down the United States and our European allies, and that ultimately Ukraine matters more to him than to us,” CIA Director William Burns said in a talk at Texas A&M University earlier this month. (RFE/RL, 04.27.23)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, presiding over the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council, urged countries to reject what he described as a world order dominated by American and European priorities. "Let's call a spade a spade: Nobody allowed the Western minority to speak on behalf of all humankind," Lavrov said. Western governments sharply criticized Lavrov's U.N. diplomacy, saying Russia is using the Security Council presidency in an attempt to muddy the waters over its invasion of Ukraine. (WSJ, 04.26.23)
  • Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said of lessons of the war in Ukraine: “We’re learning now to grow our industrial base and to study that industrial base, which has been for the last 60 years in a bit of a feast and famine cycle. … It’s helping us think about the capabilities that make the most sense to invest in,” Hicks said. Hicks added that the Ukraine conflict has demonstrated the ability of the US to work with its allies to bring economic “pressure” on aggressors and underlined the value of intelligence sharing. (Bloomberg, 04.26.23)
  • German and British warplanes intercepted three Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea, German air force officials tweeted April 26. Two Russian air force Sukhoi Su-27 fighter aircraft and one Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft flew in international airspace over the Baltic Sea without a transponder signal, Germany's Luftwaffe said. (WP, 04.26.23)
  • During a visit to Ukraine, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said she backed Kyiv's efforts to join NATO and the European Union "as soon as conditions allow." (RFE/RL, 04.24.23)
  • Global defense expenditure increased by 3.7% in real terms to reach a record high of $2.24 trillion in 2022, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, said April 24. About half the annual increase was due to Ukraine’s ballooning military budget, according to data for the country that excludes foreign aid. (Bloomberg, 04.24.23)
  • The U.S. on April 25 asked Brazil to extradite an alleged Russian spy, Sergey Cherkasov, charged last month by the Justice Department with posing as a foreign student in Washington while carrying out espionage operations against the West, according to U.S. and Brazilian officials. Moscow is pursuing its own effort to secure the release of Cherkasov, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Brazil for document fraud related to his fake identity. (WP, 04.27.23)
  • A Russian special vessel was spotted near the Nord Stream gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea four days before it was sabotaged, Danish media reported, citing a document access request. A Danish patrol boat had taken 26 images of Russia’s SS-750 special vessel with an AS-26 Priz mini-submarine on board on Sept. 22 near Bornholm where the explosions later took place, Denmark’s Dagbladet Information newspaper said. (MT/AFP, 04.28.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Lu Shaye, Beijing’s ambassador in Paris said: “These ex-Soviet Union countries do not have effective status under international law because there is no international accord to concretize their status as a sovereign country.” When asked whether Crimea was part of Ukraine, Lu said the question was “not simple to answer with a few words” and pointed out that Crimea used to belong to Russia, while neglecting to mention that Russia illegally annexed the peninsula in 2014. (FT, 04.23.23)
    • Beijing has been forced to backtrack after Lu’s comments. “After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, China was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with relevant countries,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a press briefing, adding: “China respects the sovereign status of the republics after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.” (FT, 04.24.23)
    • Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have said they will summon Chinese diplomats to complain about the remarks by Lu. Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, said: “If anyone is still wondering why the Baltic states don’t trust China to ‘broker peace in Ukraine,’ here’s a Chinese ambassador arguing that Crimea is Russian and our countries’ borders have no legal basis.” The French foreign ministry also expressed “dismay” over Lu’s comments. (FT, 04.23.23)
    • Ukrainian officials dismissed Lu’s comments. “All post-Soviet Union countries have a clear sovereign status enshrined in international law,” tweeted Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. (FT, 04.23.23)
    • The Chinese “need to do some damage control after the Paris ambassador’s comments,” said one senior EU official, adding that the gesture towards Ukraine was “a signal to others in the Global South that they are a global leader.” (FT, 04.27.23)
  • China appears to have been deterred, at least for the moment, from providing ammunition or other lethal aid to Russia. U.S. officials publicized intelligence about Beijing’s private discussions with Moscow, and they have not seen any evidence since that China is sending arms. Similarly, Russian efforts to acquire guided missiles from Iran have not borne fruit so far. (NYT, 04.24.23)
  • Nineteen countries expressed an interest in joining the BRICS group of nations as it prepares to hold an annual summit in Cape Town on June 2-3 to discuss its enlargement, Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s ambassador to the group, has said. The foreign ministers from the five member states have all confirmed they’ll attend the discussions in June. Saudi Arabia and Iran are among the countries who’ve formally asked to join, Sooklal said. (Bloomberg, 04.24.23)
  • Even as the US continues to arm Ukraine in Europe, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said its primary focus will remain competition with China in the Pacific. “We’re not trying to weigh between two theaters. We have a clear strategy that’s focused on China,” Hicks said, adding that there are no platforms or weapons systems that the US has not been able to pursue as a result of the war. (Bloomberg, 04.26.23)
  • Measured in comparable terms (at “purchasing power parity”), the economies of the US and its allies remain some 80% bigger than those of China and Russia together. At PPP, China’s GDP per head in 2022 was still less than 30% that of the US, according to FT columnist Martin Wold. (FT, 04.26.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • The Kremlin on April 28 played down the idea that Russia might be preparing to carry out a nuclear weapons test, saying all nuclear states were abiding by a moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons. It was responding to an interview by Lynne Tracy, U.S. ambassador to Moscow, who told the Kommersant newspaper that Russia was the only country talking about the possible resumption of nuclear testing. (Reuters, 04.28.23)
  • The crews of a separate missile division of the Armed Forces of Belarus, equipped with the Iskander-M operational-tactical missile system, studied how to use “tactical special ammunition,” Russia's Defense Ministry said. Training of Belarusian missilemen took place from April 3 at one of the training grounds of the Southern Military District. The Belarusian Defense Ministry confirmed the troops had already returned to base after the training. (NVO, 04.26.23, Bloomberg, 04.26.23)
  • The United States is wiring Ukraine with sensors that can detect‌‌ bursts of radiation from a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb and can confirm the identity of the attacker. In part, the goal is to make sure that if Russia detonates a radioactive weapon on Ukrainian soil, its atomic signature and Moscow’s culpability could be verified. (NYT, 04.28.23)
  • Dmitry Medvedev wrote in his Telegram channel: “Poland—with or without pieces of Ukraine—is an entity that is endlessly hostile to us. The presence of Bandera in the Polish Army also does not affect the weather. Nor does it affect the accuracy of the use of Sarmatians, Caliber and Zircons.” (RM, 04.24.23)
  • “Nuclear weapons for our country matter as the very bond that gathers the state. Let's say it directly, if you have some kind of weapon in your hands, and I, as a former president, know what it is, you must be prepared to ensure your hand will not waver to use it in a certain situation, no matter how monstrous and cruel it may sound,” Medvedev said in separate remarks. (RM, 04.25.23)
  • The NNSA’s Fiscal Year 2023 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan – Biennial Plan contains a single reference to Russia, noting that “Russia is relying on nuclear weapons as a means to counter U.S. conventional superiority, replacing Soviet-era systems with new missiles, submarines and aircraft while developing new types of tactical nuclear weapons.” (RM, 04.25.23)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • Air Force Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, head of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said that since March 1, Russian forces have violated the US-Russian agreement to avoid direct confrontation in Syria more than 60 times. Russian planes have flown within 500 feet of American pilots at least twice in recent weeks, he said. (WSJ, 04.25.23)
  • Sergei Shoigu on April 25 hosted four-way talks aimed at normalizing ties between Ankara and Damascus, which were severed at the start of Syria's civil war in 2011. The meeting in Moscow was attended by the defense ministers of Turkey, Syria and Iran. "Practical steps were discussed in the field of strengthening security in the Syrian Arab Republic and normalizing Syrian-Turkish relations," the Russian Defense Ministry said. Moscow stressed the importance of countering "the fight against all extremist groups in Syria." In addition to normalizing relations with Damascus, the meeting focused on possible ways for Syrian refugees in Turkey to return home. (MT/AFP, 04.25.23, Bloomberg, 04.24.23)

Cyber security/AI:

  • Countries including China and Iran are deploying digital repression more frequently to target dissent both at home and beyond their borders, the top US intelligence official said, raising the alarm about the erosion of democratic norms worldwide. Invasive spyware, disinformation and other technological tools pose a grave threat to US national security, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said. She also singled out Russia for passing laws that censored opposition to its invasion of Ukraine and imprisoning people who spread so-called “fake news.” (Bloomberg, 04.25.23)
  • Russia’s Sberbank on April 24 announced that it has developed a rival technology to ChatGPT. (MT/AFP, 04.24.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia’s revenue from oil exports fell by almost a third in the first quarter of this year, according to oil sales records compiled by the Kyiv School of Economics. The data analysis shows that three-quarters of the drop in sales of Russian oil and oil products between January and March can be linked to Western restrictions. The remaining 25% of the fall was linked to lower global prices. (FT, 04.26.23)
  • U.S.-led sanctions designed to throttle Moscow's fossil-fuel income face a new challenge: a big jump in the price Russia gets for its oil. The price of Urals crude, Russia's main grade of oil, has gone up to about $55 a barrel from a daily low of $35 in January, according to commodities-data firm Argus Media. (WSJ, 04.26.23)
  • There’s no need for additional oil output cuts beyond what key producers have already agreed, as the global crude market has achieved balance, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said. (Bloomberg, 04.27.23)
  • Losing all Russian LNG could more than double European natural-gas prices from their current €40 a megawatt hour, equivalent to around $44, to around €90 a megawatt hour, if no other sources of gas are available to replace it, according to consulting firm Energy Aspects. (WSJ, 04.27.23)
  • Germany is seeking to open by early 2024 a controversial LNG terminal linked to infrastructure from Russia’s now-defunct Nord Stream natural gas pipeline network. (Bloomberg, 04.23.23)
  • In a test run Lithuania has disconnected all of its connections to the Russian electricity grid for the first time. (dpa, 04.22.23)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov has said that it is up to voters in the United States to evaluate Joe Biden's statement that he will seek a second term as U.S. president. Russia doesn’t meddle in the affairs of other countries, Foreign Minister Lavrov said April 25, when asked to comment on Biden’s decision to run for a second term as president. (Interfax, 04.26.23, TASS, 04.25.23)
  • Lavrov on April 23 said Moscow "will not forgive" Washington for denying U.S. visas to Russian journalists meant to accompany him on a visit to UN headquarters. "We won't forget, we will not forgive this," said Lavrov, who will chair several UN Security Council meetings in New York. Russia took up the presidency of the UN Security Council in April despite the Ukraine offensive, which Kyiv said was "a slap in the face." (MT/AFP, 04.23.23)
    • Russia rejected a US Embassy request to visit jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, saying the measure was in retaliation for a failure to issue visas to its journalists for Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to the United Nations in New York. (Bloomberg, 04.27.23)
  • Over 300 foreign correspondents have called for the release of Gershkovich in an open letter to Lavrov. (MT/AFP, 04.24.23)
  • The Biden administration on April 27 sanctioned Russia’s Federal Security Service and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps intelligence organization, accusing them of wrongfully detaining Americans. The measures are largely symbolic, since both organizations already are under sweeping sanctions. (AP/WP, 04.27.23)
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Russia’s Wagner Group, which has reportedly provided Sudan’s paramilitary force with advanced weapons, risks intensifying the conflict. “We do have deep concern about the engagement of the Prigozhin group — the Wagner Group — in Sudan,” Blinken told a news conference on April 24, referring to the group’s founder. (FT, 04.25.23)
  • Approval of Russia's global leadership abilities plummeted from 33% to 21% since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, according to "Rating World Leaders," a report published April 25 by Gallup, which conducted surveys in 137 countries. That is one percentage point lower than its previous low of 22% after its occupation of Crimea in 2014. Approval U.S. leadership rose dramatically among Ukrainians, up 29 percentage points from the previous year to reach 6 %, according to Gallup. However, the overall U.S. rating stood at 41% in 2022, a dip from 49%. (WSJ, Gallup, 04.25.23)
  • Pranksters posing as Ukraine’s president tricked Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, into a conversation in January about the U.S. and global economy, based on video clips covered on Russian state television and posted online. (NYT, 04.28.23)

II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Industrial production was up 1.2% in Russia in March from a year earlier, according to the Federal Statistics Service, well ahead of the 1.4% decline expected in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Mining and resource extraction were down 3.6%. but manufacturing was up more than 6%, led by a 30% gain in “finished metal goods,” which includes arms and ammunition. Computers, electronic and optical products, which economists say is likely to include parts for aircraft and rocket engines, as well as optical sights and other systems, grew 23%. (Bloomberg, 04.26.23)
  • Russia’s government is considering cutting subsidies to the nation’s oil refineries as it looks for ways to limit spending. Last year, the Russian state spent 2.17 trillion rubles ($26.6 billion) compensating refiners for the difference between the base price of domestic fuels and their theoretical value if exported to Europe. Now, as a second year of war in Ukraine strains Russia’s budget, the government in Moscow is looking to raise the base price of gasoline and diesel in the subsidy formulas by as much as 50%. (Bloomberg, 04.26.23)
  • Compared with 99,300 smart phones moved in January-March 2022, only 46,900 Russian-made smartphones have been sold in the first quarter of 2023. That marks a drop in the market share from 1% to 0.5%. BQ was the most popular Russian smartphone brand in 1Q2023, with 32,800 gadgets sold. (MT/AFP, 04.27.23)
  • Almost all senior Russian technocrats and a large majority of their immediate subordinates — officials who guide Russia’s economy — remain in their posts more than a year after the invasion. Their expertise has helped Putin largely keep the economy afloat in the face of Western sanctions. Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Sorokin studied in London and worked at Morgan Stanley. Putin’s chief economic adviser Maxim Oreshkin, 40, worked in the French bank Crédit Agricole. And Alexei Sazanov, 40, an Oxford-educated deputy finance minister, works on maximizing Russian tax revenues from oil and gas exports hit by sanctions. (NYT, 04.22.23)
  • A leaked phone call reportedly between Roman Trotsenko, one of Russia’s richest businessmen, and Nikolai Matushevsky, the creator of Moscow’s Flacon and Khlebozavod design spaces, highlights frustration with Russia’s leadership and war effort among the country’s elite. “The Russia that we love so sincerely fell into the clutches of a**holes,” one of the voices is heard saying in the recording as the other voice emphatically agrees. “They’re professing some strange 19th-century [beliefs]. This can’t end well; it will end in hell. People will kill each other on the streets of Moscow,” the voice adds. (MT/AFP, 04.26.23)
    • A former high-ranking Russian security official said in reference to the recent leaks of phone conversations by prominent Russian businessmen, in which they criticized Putin and the Ukraine war: "After a while, they will, of course, go after participants in these conversations. They were allowed to make money in the land ruled by the anointed one, but they must do so with their mouths shut and their pants down.” (Istories, 04.26.23)
  • The headline-grabbing decision by the International Criminal Court last month to issue an arrest warrant for Putin on war crimes charges has caused nervousness among the Russian elite, according to current and former officials who spoke to The Moscow Times. (MT/AFP, 04.24.23)
  • The head of the State Duma commission on “foreign interference,” Vasily Piskarev, announced that the Duma is amending the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offenses to introduce punishment for “creating and participating in the activities of branches of foreign NGOs that are not registered in Russia.” (Media Zone, 04.26.23)
  • Putin on April 28 signed amendments introducing into law life imprisonment as the punishment for treason. (AP/WP, 04.28.23)
    • Russian senators voted April 26 to stiffen punishment of dissent by adding life sentences for treason and measures stripping people of citizenship for anti-war speech. The amendments to Russia’s Criminal Code are being advanced amid an intensifying crackdown on the few Kremlin critics who have not fled the country. (MT/AFP, 04.26.23)
  • Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said he faced life in prison after being charged with terrorism, and Russian investigators had told Navalny he would be tried by a military court for alleged terrorist attacks he is accused of committing while in prison, Navalny told a court hearing. Ivan Zhdanov, head of Navalny’s exiled foundation, said investigators had come up with the terrorism charge following the death of a pro-war military blogger in a bombing at a café in St Petersburg in April. (FT, 04.26.23)
    • Navalny has been given just over one day to get acquainted with 700 pages that form a new criminal case launched against him. (RFE/RL, 04.24.23)
    • The prosecution has asked a court in Ufa, the capital of Russia's Bashkortostan region, to convict and sentence Lilia Chanysheva, the former leader of Navalny's team in the region, to 12 years in prison. (RFE/RL, 04.27.23)
  • Russian authorities have cracked down on more human rights groups, ordering one—the Sova Center, which monitors racism and xenophobia—to shut down and raiding the homes of advocates from another, the legal-aid group Team Against Torture in Nizhny Novgorod. (AP/WP, 04.28.23)
  • Law enforcement authorities in Yekaterinburg, Russia's fourth-largest city, on April 27 arrested Alexei Mosin, the local branch head of Memorial, the country’s oldest human rights group, the organization said. The authorities opened two separate cases against him — both accusing Mosin of “discrediting” the Russian army. (MT/AFP, 04.27.23)
  • A court in Moscow has sentenced former police officer Sergei Vedel to seven years in prison on a charge of distributing "false information" about Russia's armed forces. (RFE/RL, 04.25.23)
  • Yevgeny Roizman, a prominent Kremlin critic and popular former mayor, stood trial on April 26 over accusations of “discrediting” the Russian military. (MT/AFP, 04.26.23)
  • A group of leading Russian lawyers on April 25 asked the country's highest court to declare unconstitutional a law banning criticism of the armed forces, in a rare display of opposition to the draconian censorship imposed by the Kremlin in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. (NYT, 04.25.23)
  • Local officials in Russia’s third-largest city, Novosibirsk, on April 26 scrapped direct mayoral elections. (MT/AFP, 04.26.23)
  • The son of Putin's longtime spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told Russian media he fought in Ukraine as a member of the mercenary Wagner group. Thirty-three-year-old Nikolai Peskov also claimed that he earned a medal for bravery. (RFE/RL, 04.23.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Anatoly Razinkin said on April 26 that 15,000 cases of men being called up to the military illegally had been registered. (RFE/RL, 04.26.23)
  • The authorities in several Russian regions are distributing digital summons to men of call-up age, according to media reports, less than a week after a radical overhaul of the country’s military draft system was signed into law by Putin. (MT/AFP, 04.21.23)
  • A Russian MiG-31 military plane crashed in the country’s northern Murmansk region on April 26. (MT/AFP, 04.26.23)
  •  See section on "Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts" above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • An explosion early in the morning on April 27 in Ukraine's Russian-occupied city of Melitopol killed the Moscow-installed district police chief, occupying Russian officials said. (RFE/RL, 04.27.23)
  • The Moscow City Court has rejected an appeal filed by Darya Trepova against her pretrial detention for her alleged role in the assassination of prominent Russian war blogger Tatarsky. (RFE/RL, 04.24.23)
  • A Russian soldier has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for treason and illegal access to state secrets. The case against the serviceman, whom TASS identified as Corporal Ilya Trachuk, was heard by the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don. (MT/AFP, 04.25.23)
  • A large fire broke out at the Russian Center of Science and Culture in Cyprus's capital, Nicosia, after a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the building. (MT/AFP, 04.26.23)
  • Russian authorities announced April 25 that they will close Moscow’s Red Square to the public for an unprecedented two weeks ahead of the country’s annual parade marking the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. (MT/AFP, 04.25.23)

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has backtracked on a claim that his party wanted to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, ahead of a planned visit to the country by Putin, who was indicted last month for war crimes in Ukraine. (FT, 04.26.23)
  • Despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Rosatom has said that its foreign sales topped $10 billion last year, a roughly 15% increase from the year before. Rosatom's total foreign order book is around $140 billion, according to the company. (WSJ, 04.27.23)
  • Norwegian and Russian coast guards still cooperate on Arctic search-and-rescue operations, and their border commissioners speak almost daily. Russia even allows wildlife rescue when the occasional reindeer strays over the border from Norway, although Norway doesn't return the courtesy. (WSJ, 04.22.23)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on April 27 reemerged from a two-day absence and spoke by video link with Putin at a virtual ceremony to unveil a Russian-built nuclear power plant. Putin praised Erdogan's leadership during the virtual ceremony and said Moscow was "always ready to extend the hand of friendship" to Turkey. “This is a flagship project and it brings both mutual economic benefits and, of course, helps to strengthen the multifaceted partnership between our two states,” Putin said. (AFP, 04.27.23, MT/AFP, 04.27.23)
    • Turkey’s opposition leader has vowed to reverse a slide toward autocracy but stressed that Turkey, a NATO member, would maintain economic relations with Russia. Though Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the presidential candidate of a six-party opposition alliance, told the Financial Times, “We do not find it right for Vladimir Putin to attack and occupy Ukraine.” Turkey’s decision not to join U.S. and EU sanctions against Russia has irked Western allies since it has given Moscow access to a $900 billion trading partner in a strategic location. (FT, 04.28.23)
  • The French chief of counterintelligence has given new details about a Russian spy ring broken up by France in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, saying the six intelligence agents were caught red-handed interacting with a source on French soil. (AP/WP, 04.27.23)
  • Milan prosecutors have dropped their investigation of Italian lobbyists who allegedly sought Russian funding for right-wing leader Matteo Salvini’s pro-Moscow party. (AP/WP, 04.28.23)
  • Russia on April 21 added the Japanese NGO Union of Residents of Chishima and Habomai Islands to its registry of undesirable organizations, saying the group's activities compromise Russia’s territorial integrity. (RFE/RL, 04.21.23) .


  • A new Kremlin policy says that Ukrainians living in occupied territory who refuse Russian passports could be relocated from their homes. A decree signed by Putin on April 27 says residents who have not pledged allegiance to Russia are now considered foreigners and their legal residency in officially annexed regions will expire in July 2024. (NYT, 04.28.23)
  • Zelensky has signed two laws that strictly reinforce his country’s national identity, banning Russian place names and making knowledge of Ukrainian language and history a requirement for citizenship. (NYT, 04.22.23)
  • Zelensky has welcomed a resolution adopted April 27 by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) saying Russia's forced transfer of Ukrainian children amounts to genocide. (RFE/RL, 04.27.23)
    • Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said he asked Pope Francis during a private Vatican audience April 27 to help facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who were forcibly taken to Russia. (AP/WP, 04.27.23)
  • Two new advisory bodies will help make Ukraine's Defense Ministry more efficient and transparent, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said April 28. The Office for the Support of Changes and the Public Anti-Corruption Council were set up earlier this month following allegations that the ministry bought food for troops at inflated prices. (Reuters, 04.28.23)
  • Ukraine said April 25 that it had evacuated 138 people, including 87 of its own citizens, to Egypt from Sudan. (AFP, 04.25.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has called for a bigger international presence to ease rising tensions with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Pashinian accused Azerbaijan of provocation by installing a checkpoint in the Shushi region effectively cutting off four communities. Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Elnur Mammadov has said the checkpoint was set up in response to "safety concerns.” Yerevan already accuses Baku of inciting tensions with the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting the mostly Armenian-populated region with Armenia. (RFE/RL, 04.27.23)
    • Yerevan said on April 27 that Russian peacekeepers should have full control of the only land link between Armenia and the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. (MT/AFP, 04.27.23)
    • Russia said on April 26 it had appointed Col. Gen. Alexander Lentsov, a former deputy commander of the Russian ground forces, as the head of the peacekeeping force in Karabakh, replacing Maj. Gen. Andrei Volkov. (RFE/RL, 04.27.23)
    • Moscow on April 24 expressed "serious concern" over fresh tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. (MT/AFP, 04.24.23)
    • French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna began a visit to Azerbaijan to hold talks on easing tensions in the South Caucasus.. (MT/AFP, 04.27.23)
  • Armenia has approved a draft amendment to the law on military service that would allow women to serve in the country's armed forces on a voluntary basis. (RFE/RL, 04.22.23)
  • Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili met in Brussels with European Union and NATO leaders to press the Caucasus nation’s bid to join those international organizations. (RFE/RL, 04.25.23)
  • EU officials circulated a confidential briefing that details several individualized plans to win back — or not lose — four key “priority" countries, including Kazakhstan. (Politico, 04.25.23)
  • Karim Masimov, the former chief of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB), has been sentenced to 18 years in prison over his role in deadly events that followed unprecedented anti-government protests in the Central Asian country in January 2022. (RFE/RL, 04.24.23)
  • A prosecutor in Kazakhstan asked a court in Astana on April 25 to convict and sentence the wife of a jailed nephew of the Central Asian nation's former strongman President Nursultan Nazarbaev to eight years in prison on charges of corruption, organizing a felony and abduction over the alleged illegal appropriation of shares and assets of a number of enterprises. Gulmira Satybaldy was arrested along with her husband, Qairat Satybaldy, in March last year and tried separately. (RFE/RL, 04.25.23)
  • Kazakhstan's prosecutor-general says the former chief of police of the southern region of Almaty, Gen. Serik Kudebaev, who fled the country to evade trial for abuse of office in a case related to the deadly mass unrest that rocked the country in January 2022, has been apprehended. (RFE/RL, 04.27.23)
  • A Kazakh student at Tomsk State University in Siberia who joined Russia's private mercenary group Wagner in March may face up to nine years in prison for being in a mercenary group if he returns home, Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov said April 24. (RFE/RL, 04.24.23)
  • The chief of the State Committee of National Security (KDAM) branch in Tajikistan's southern city of Khorugh, Komron Rajabzoda, has been killed in a shoot-out with alleged drug and weapons traffickers along the Tajik-Afghan border. The KDAM said in a statement on April 28 that the incident took place overnight. Two sources close to security entities confirmed to RFE/RL that Rajabzoda was killed in the incident. Tajikistan's Border Guard Service said one Tajik serviceman was killed in the shoot-out but did not give further details. (RFE/RL, 04.28.23)
  • A court in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, has accepted a request from the Culture Ministry to shut down the operations of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk—a decision the company called "outrageous"—over the broadcaster's refusal to remove a video on clashes along a disputed segment of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. (RFE/RL, 04.27.23)
  • Kyrgyzstan's top hygienic expert has questioned Russia's stated reasons for suddenly banning its dairy imports after calls emerged in the Central Asian country to abandon the Cyrillic alphabet imposed by Soviet authorities after the 1940s. (RFE/RL, 04.23.23)
  • On April 25, Russia's Foreign Ministry said it expelled a Moldovan diplomat in retaliation for the expulsion last week of a Russian diplomat in Moldova, according to Russian state news agency TASS. (WSJ, 04.25.23)
  • The Lithuanian parliament has approved legislation legalizing the practice of turning back migrants who cross its border illegally from Belarus. (RFE/RL, 04.25.23)
  • The prosecution has asked a court in Minsk to convict and sentence Raman Pratasevich, a journalist who was detained in Belarus in 2021 after the commercial flight he was on was forced to land in Minsk, to 10 years in prison—less than half the maximum possible—on charges linked to his reporting. (RFE/RL, 04.21.23)
  • Former would-be Belarusian presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2021 on corruption charges he and human rights activists say were politically motivated, has been hospitalized after reportedly being severely beaten in prison. (RFE/RL, 04.27.23)
  • A court in Minsk on April 27 sentenced to three years in prison a cousin of the deputy commander of the Kastus Kalinouski platoon, which is fighting alongside Ukrainian armed forces against invading Russian troops. Syarhey Franchuk, a 34-year-old cousin of Vadzim Kabanchuk, was arrested in August in the eastern city of Babruysk (RFE/RL, 04.28.23)

Quotable and notable:

  • French Vice-admiral Patrick Chevallereau explains: “A Russophile sentiment has long existed within part of traditionalist France, from which certain officers have come: that a ‘holy Russia’ … constitutes a kind of civilizational ally against an ‘Islamist’ and conquering south.” (FT, 04.27.23)