Russia in Review, Aug. 25-Sept. 1, 2023

7 Things to Know

  1. Ukrainian troops have breached the first of three lines of Russian defense in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, advancing east from Robytne to Verbove, Ukrainian officials said. According to Aug. 31-Sept. 1 accounts of fighting by prominent Russian pro-war Telegram channels, such as Rybar and Voyenkor_Kotyonok, Ukrainian forces have so far failed to capture Verbove, though they did at one point control the western outskirts of this village. The Ukrainian troops’ progress in the area could threaten Russian control of Tokmak, while a breach at Verbove could open a path further south to the Russian-occupied port cities of Berdiansk and Mariupol, according to WSJ’s Aug. 31 assessment. Satellite images show that to reach Tokmak, Ukrainian forces will have to breach two more Russian defensive lines in the area, according to NYT. Of Russia’s typical three lines of defense, the second one is the main one in this conflict. It has “properly dug trenches and concrete-reinforced firing posts, tank obstacles, ground-laid cable to coordinate artillery strikes, and even more mines,” according to Jack Watling of RUSI.
  2. This week has seen Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky issue a number of calls to fight corruption among reports of ongoing investigations into abuses of office and graft at various levels of the executive branch. Among other things, Zelensky said his officials are looking into allegations of corruption at commissions that grant medical exemptions to potential military recruits, NYT reported. Zelensky has also called for corruption to be equated with treason, triggering backlash from officials who warn the plan could hobble some of Ukraine’s main anti-graft bodies while strengthening the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), according to Politico. Meanwhile, the SBU announced on Aug. 26 that it has detained four more officials on charges of accepting payments to help people evade the draft, NYT reported. In addition, Bloomberg has reported that Ukraine’s anti-graft bodies are investigating senior government officials for purchasing food for regions in what has allegedly resulted in $1.7 million in losses, while Ukrainska Pravda has reported that the Ministry of Defense has continued to sign deals with a Polish company even after it repeatedly failed to fulfill its obligations to supply weapons. Ukraine’s defense minister Oleksii Reznikov may be dismissed as soon as next week amid reports of the MoD’s acquisitions at inflated prices, according to UP.
  3. Russia’s efforts to obstruct Ukraine’s food exports are working, according to Bloomberg. As a result of Russia’s withdrawal from the grain deal, Ukraine’s monthly export capacity fell from about 7-8 million tons to a maximum of about 4 million tons, according to this news agency. Turkey had reportedly been among the three biggest buyers of Ukrainian foodstuffs that had been shipped out of Ukraine per the grain deal before Russia walked out of it. This explains why the Turkish government has been so active in trying to revive the deal, with the country’s top diplomat meeting his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Aug. 31 and Erdogan poised to visit Putin on Sept.4  to discuss reviving the deal.*
  4. The Kremlin is weighing options for bringing PMC Wagner under its control after the death of its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, Western officials told NYT. Options under consideration include absorbing Wagner into either the Defense Ministry or the intelligence branch of the General Staff, known by its former acronym, the GRU, according to NYT. It is unclear how many veteran Wagner mercenaries would accept such subordination, according to NYT, which warns of a possible “mass exodus.” In one shape or another, the Wagner group is likely to continue operating in the interests of Putin’s regime outside Russia, regardless of whether it comes under MoD command and the costs of doing so, according to Kimberly Marten of Barnard College, Columbia University.
  5. Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council Alexei Shevtsov has become the latest Russian official to claim that his country has deployed non-strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus. “The aggressive behavior of our Western neighbors near the borders of the Union State forced us to take measures in response, including the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, and increasing the combat potential of the aviation component of the joint regional group of forces,” Shevtsov told the Russian government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
  6. The Kremlin has begun handpicking the challengers to Vladimir Putin’s re-election bid next spring, and the main criterion is age, according to Meduza. Putin’s “sparring candidates” cannot be younger than 50, two sources close to the Kremlin told this news outlet. Anyone younger than that could make Russian voters conclude that Putin—who will turn 71 in October—is “no longer the man who came to power with a firm hand,” Russian presidential officials told Meduza. So far, the Kremlin has approved Communist Party mainstay Gennady Zyuganov, 79, and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party Leonid Slutsky, 55, according to MT/AFP.
  7. Pope Francis praised 18th-century Russian emperors whom Vladimir Putin has invoked as models for his territorial annexations in Ukraine, WSJ reported. Speaking by video to a gathering of Russian Catholic youth in St. Petersburg last week, Pope Francis said, "Do not forget your heritage. You are heirs of the great Russia—the great Russia of saints, of kings, the great Russia of Peter the Great, Catherine II, the great, educated Russian Empire of so much culture, of so much humanity. Never give up this heritage." The Vatican subsequently tried to walk back the pope’s remarks, arguing that they had not meant to praise expansionist thinking, but they stilled stirred controversy, according to Bloomberg and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Russia said a Ukrainian drone hit a building in the town of Kurchatov that’s home to one of the country’s most powerful nuclear plants, the second such incident in the past two months. “One drone was confirmed to hit a non-residential building” causing slight damage, Kursk Region Governor Roman Starovoyt said. Nobody was hurt, he said. Kurchatov is a few kilometers from the Kursk nuclear power plant. (Bloomberg, 09.01.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • The U.S. said arms negotiations between Russia and North Korea are “actively advancing” after Russia’s defense chief tried to convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition to Moscow on a recent trip to the country. “Under these potential deals Russia would receive significant quantities and multiple types of munitions from the DPRK, which the Russian military plans to use in Ukraine,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. The United States said on Aug. 30 that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un had written to each other pledging to increase their cooperation. (FT, 08.30.23, Reuters, 08.31.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • The United Nations has confirmed the deaths of 9,511 people in Ukraine and an overall civilian casualty count of 21,717 as a result of Russia’s full-scale invasion, launched in February 2022. The U.N.'s rights monitoring mission in Ukraine said that between Aug. 1 and Aug. 27, 585 Ukrainian civilians died in attacks, including five children. (RFE/RL, 08.29.23)
  • Ukrainian authorities on Aug. 29 said Russia has handed over the bodies of 84 Ukrainian soldiers killed in action. On Aug. 4, Russian media had reported an exchange of fallen soldiers, with Russia receiving the bodies of 160 soldiers and Ukraine receiving 44 bodies. (Current Time, 08.29.23)
  • On Aug. 26, two people were killed and one wounded after Russian forces shelled a village near the town of Kupiansk in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkov region, the region's governor said. (MT/AFP, 08.27.23)
  • On Aug. 26, Russia said it downed two Ukrainian drones flying over border regions on Aug. 27 after the governor of Belgorod region said a drone carrying explosives had killed a man. (MT/AFP, 08.27.23)
  • Russia struck Ukraine's eastern region of Poltava overnight, causing deaths and damage, regional authorities reported on Aug. 28. (RFE/RL, 08.28.23)
  • On Aug. 29 Ukrainian officials said that a 45-year-old resident of Kupiansk died under Russian artillery shelling on Aug. 29 morning, as attacks on the northeastern city mounted and the authorities stepped up calls for civilians to evacuate. (NYT, 08.29.23)
  • On September 1 a man was killed in Russian shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, the regional military administration said. Three people were wounded when a private enterprise was hit by a long-range cruise missile in the early hours of September 1 in the city of Vinnytsya. (RFE/RL, 09.01.23)
  • On September 1, regions across western and central Russia were targeted in a fresh overnight wave of drone attacks, the second this week. In Moscow, air defense systems destroyed a drone on its approach to the Russian capital, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on September 1. Air defense near the Lyubertsy district on the southeast outskirts of the capital "thwarted another attempt to fly a drone to Moscow." (MT/AFP, 09.01.23)
  • Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has led to the destruction of more than 1,300 Ukrainian schools over the past 18 months, disrupting education for millions of children in the war-torn country, according to UNICEF. (MT/AFP, 08.30.23)
  • An FT reporter asked Russian oligarch Andrei Melnichenko if what Russia is doing in Ukraine is a crime. “In my view, yes,” he says. He subsequently got in touch with the FT to say his answer referred to specific scenes of attacks on civilian targets which are, in his view, a crime. (FT, 09.01.23)
  • Poland has closed the biggest refugee center set up for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war, saying that the facility was no longer needed because most of its occupants had already found homes elsewhere. (FT, 09.01.23)
  • Russia’s efforts to obstruct Ukraine’s food exports are working. As a result of Russia’s withdrawal from the grain deal, Ukraine’s monthly export capacity fell from about 7-8 million tons to a maximum of about 4 million tons. (Bloomberg, 08.25.23.
    • Ukrainian farmers currently get paid up to about $160 a metric ton for wheat they deliver to ports on the Danube River, less than before the deal collapsed, analysts say. Just across that same river, Romanian farmers can get around $215 a metric ton for wheat. (WSJ, 08.26.23)
  • A newly released U.S. intelligence report warns that disruptions to the world’s grain supply caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine mean that poorer countries will probably struggle to provide food to their populations through at least the end of this year, given volatile agricultural prices and rapid rises in the price of fertilizer and fuel across the globe. The DNI report was released on Aug. 30 by the House Intelligence Committee. It found that the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which had allowed Ukraine to ship millions of tons of grain despite the war, had lowered food prices at the end of 2022 globally. (NYT, 08.30.23)
  • Citing a senior U.S. State Department official who briefed journalists, Reuters reported on Aug. 30 that the United States and Romania are working to increase Ukraine's grain exports by way of the Danube River as one alternative to the failed Black Sea initiative. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Washington and Bucharest were studying the possibility of "potentially trying to double" grain exports that currently go through the Danube route. (RFE/RL, 08.30.23)
  • The Ukrainian grain industry is lobbying the governments of Ukraine and Romania to set up anchorage areas in the waters of both countries to help increase outbound grain shipments via the Danube River. (Bloomberg, 09.01.23)
    • Romania will double the capacity of its main Black sea port and Danube shipping lanes within two months to help Ukraine ship its grain out of Russia’s reach, according to the country’s prime minister. (FT, 08.27.23)
  • Ukraine will challenge any extension of a grain-import ban by five European Union nations as it seeks an end to restrictions imposed by some of its closest allies in the bloc Ihor Zhovkva, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s deputy chief staff, said the government will seek to appeal restrictions with an arbitration panel if the EU extends the measures beyond a Sept. 15 deadline. (Bloomberg, 09.01.23)
  • United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent Russia a new proposal aimed at getting grain and fertilizer to international markets in hopes of reviving a deal that allowed Ukraine to ship almost 33,000 tons of grain at a time of growing global hunger. But Moscow wasn’t satisfied with the proposal sent to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this week. (AP, 09.01.23)
  • President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are set to meet in Russia on Aug. 28, the Kremlin said on September 1, as international efforts to revive a deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea appear to be stalled. (NYT, 09.01.23)
    • Turkey's foreign minister has emphasized how important reviving the Black Sea Grain Initiative is to global food security during a meeting in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (RFE/RL, 08.31.23)
  • European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis urged Russia on Aug. 26 to renew a grain deal to allow the safe export of Ukrainian grain through Black Sea ports. (Reuters, 08.26.23)
  • A Liberian-flagged bulk carrier that was the second ship to sail from Odesa since Russia quit the Black Sea safe-transit deal has reached Romanian waters, said Zelensky. The Singapore-operated Primus successfully navigated the temporary Black Sea corridor set up by Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 08.27.23)
  • South Korea has announced financial aid of 520 billion won ($394 million) for Ukraine next year, an eightfold increase on the amount pledged for 2023. (RFE/RL, 08.29.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month of fighting Russian forces have gained 13 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 20, according to the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 08.29.23)
  • On Aug. 25, in an apparent break with Pentagon advice, Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s top general in the east, called for “all measures” to defend an area where Russia was threatening to take more territory. Russian forces have managed to push forward around the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kupiansk in recent weeks. (NYT, 08.26.23)
  • On Aug. 26 Russia said it had shot down a Ukrainian drone in the Moscow region. The drone was destroyed by air defenses near the town of Istra, northwest of Moscow, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. (NYT, 08.26.23)
  • On Aug. 29 a wave of exploding drones was launched at targets in six regions of Russia, damaging four Il-76 military cargo planes in the Pskov region at an airfield 30 miles from the border with Estonia and more than 400 miles from Ukraine in an apparent sign that Ukraine was increasingly capable of striking back deep inside Moscow's territory. (NYT, 08.30.23, RFE/RL, 08.30.23, WSJ, 08.30.23)
    • Zelensky says his country has developed a weapon that hit a target 700 kilometers away, in an apparent reference to the previous day’s strike on an airport in western Russia. (AP, 08.31.23)
    • "The drones used to attack the Kresty air base in Pskov were launched from Russia," Ukraine's GUR military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov wrote on social media on September 1. (MT/AFP, 09.01.23)
  • On Aug. 30, Russia unleashed an aerial assault on at least three regions of Ukraine, officials in Ukraine said, including one of the most significant barrages the Kyiv region has experienced in months. Ukraine’s air force said it had shot down 43 of 44 incoming missiles and drones. Explosions and the roar of air-defense missiles shook Kyiv, the capital, around 5 a.m. Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv regional military administration, said that two people in the city had been killed by falling debris. (NYT, 08.30.23)
  • On Aug. 30 Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Aug. 31 it has repelled a Ukrainian sabotage group’s attempt to infiltrate western Russia’s Bryansk region. (MT/AFP, 08.31.23)
  • On Aug. 31 after penetrating the first line of Russian defenses around the southern village of Robotyne, Ukrainian forces were engaged in a fierce battle a few miles farther to the east. The Ukrainian 46th Brigade, which was taking part in the fighting in the area, said that its assault units were attacking Russian positions near the village of Verbove, nine miles east of Robotyne. A breach at Verbove could open a path to the Russian-occupied port cities of Berdyansk and Mariupol, while progress south of Robotyne could threaten Tokmak. Satellite images show that to reach Tokmak, Ukrainian forces will have to breach two more Russian defensive lines. Russia is redeploying crack troops from its 76th air assault division to reinforce the area. (FT, 09.01.23, NYT, 08.31.23, WSJ, 08.31.23, FT, 08.28.23, NYT, 08.29.23)
    • The Ukrainian DeepState OSINT Telegram channel reported that fighting was underway “west of Verbove” as of Aug. 31. (RM, 09.01.23)
    • According to Aug. 31-Sept. 1 accounts of fighting by prominent Russian pro-war Telegram channels, such as Rybar and Voyenkor_Kotyonok, Ukrainian forces have so far failed to capture Verbove, though they did at one point control the western outskirts of this village. (RM, 09.01.23)
    • The U.S. envoy to the European Union dismissed concerns over the pace of Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia, recalling the challenge the U.S. and its allies faced in World War II. The Ukrainians have “the courage and the incentive and the determination to win, and they will,” Ambassador Mark Gitenstein said. (Bloomberg, 09.01.23)
  • On Sept. 1, Russia said it captured several strategic heights near Kupiansk, an eastern Ukrainian city where Moscow's troops stepped up pressure in August. (MT, 09.01.23)
  • Zelensky said he expects “a powerful September for Ukraine,” including key decisions from Western allies regarding the provision of important weapons and equipment. (RFE/RL, 08.27.23)
  • By the end of the year, 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers will have received training in Germany, part of a broader western drive to equip the Ukrainian armed forces with tanks, artillery and air defense systems that has seen 63,000 recruits dispatched by Kyiv to attend training camps in Europe and the U.S. (FT, 08.28.23)
  • Germany agreed to send up to 18 modern Leopard 2A6 battle tanks to Ukraine. The Leopard 1A5 is so old, in fact, that the German trainers had to rely on soldiers from the Dutch and Danish armies -- where the model was used for longer -- and former German tank drivers who trained back in the 1980s and 1990s. (NYT, 09.01.23)
  • The United States will begin instructing Ukrainian pilots in flying F-16 aircraft in Arizona this fall, the Pentagon said. (WP, 08.26.23)
  • Ukraine’s troops are now using a U.S. rocket system known as the Vampire to destroy Russian drones, according to the Pentagon. (Bloomberg, 08.30.23)
  • Raytheon Missiles and Defense, Tucson, Arizona, was awarded a $192 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the purchase of Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) for Ukraine by November 29, 2024. (, 09.01.23)
  • British military equipment maker BAE Systems says it has established a local legal entity in Ukraine to "ramp up" its support to the country’s armed forces, prompting an immediate warning from the Kremlin that the enterprise will be a target for attack. BAE, Britain's biggest defense company, said that the venture will also "explore" the supply of 105-millimeter light guns to Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.01.23)

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

  • Russia is adapting to Western sanctions on its military supply chain by turning to a netherworld of shipping and logistics companies to bring in more of the armed drones from Iran now playing a pivotal role in its war in Ukraine, according to an assessment from the government in Kyiv. Five Russian-flagged ships -- named Baltiyskiy-111, Omskiy 103, Skif V, Musa Jalil and Begey — have taken 73 trips across the Caspian Sea to ports in Iran over the past year, according to the Ukrainian government document. None of the ships is under U.S. sanctions. (WSJ, 08.29.23)
  • A Russian-German man, Arthur Petrov, 33, arrested earlier this week in Cyprus was charged on Aug. 31 by U.S. authorities with seeking to export American-made electronics to Russia for military use. (MT/AFP, 09.01.23)
  • A German-Russian dual citizen has been arrested in Germany on allegations of violating the country’s foreign trade act multiple times by exporting electronic components to a company in Russia involved in the production of military materiel and accessories. The suspect, who was only identified as Waldemar W. in line with Germany privacy rules, was arrested in March. In the period from January 2020 to March 2023, he exported electronic components on 26 occasions to a company in Russia whose production included the “Orlan 10” drone currently used by the Russian armed forces in its war against Ukraine. (AP, 08.28.23)
  • Konstantin Malofeyev, a powerful Russian businessman who has been under financial sanctions for nearly a decade has nevertheless used American and European banks to raise money for orphanages in a region that is at the heart of the Kremlin's program of deporting Ukrainian children to Russia, records show. (NYT, 08.28.23)
  • Arkady Volozh, co-founder of Russian tech giant Yandex, has formally requested that the EU lift sanctions against him in the first big test of whether the bloc will reward prominent figures who publicly break with the Kremlin. Volozh’s request comes after he became only the second prominent Russian billionaire to unreservedly denounce the war in Ukraine earlier this month. (FT, 08.27.23)
  • The world’s largest crypto exchange Binance said on Aug. 28 that it has banned Russia-based users from trading in all currencies besides the ruble. Binance’s restrictions follow reporting on a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the company's possible violation of financial sanctions on Russia. (MT/AFP, 08.28.23)
  • The Czech Republic has launched an investigation against Raiffeisen Bank International due to its activities in Russia, Czech TV reported on Aug. 29. The Czech Association for the Rights of Citizens and Entrepreneurs filed a complaint against Raiffeisen, accusing it of continuing activities in Russia and sponsoring Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 08.29.23)
  • Switzerland has proposed sweeping measures to clamp down on money laundering in an effort to shed the country’s reputation as a haven for ill-gotten gains. Switzerland has come under particular international pressure in recent months to tighten up its financial controls as a result of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (FT, 08.30.23)
  • The Federal Council of Switzerland adopted further sanctions against Belarus on Aug. 30 to align it with the measures taken by the European Union. More than 40 individuals and entitles were added to the sanctions list. (RFE/RL, 08.31.23)
  • A Russian restaurateur and a pro-Kremlin rapper who together bought the Starbucks business in Russia last year are now taking over the Russian assets of Domino's Pizza. Anton Pinsky and Timati said they would run the restaurants under the barely changed brand Domino Pizza, with the "i" in Domino replaced by the equivalent Russian letter “и.” (RFE/RL, 08.31.23)
  • Russians are the top buyers of properties from Dubai’s biggest developer, a sign that demand from investors seeking safe havens remains strong more than a year after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Sara Boutros, an analyst at CI Capital, estimates that Russians accounted for about 12% of buyers in Emaar developments this year, compared with second place in 2022 and ninth in 2020. (Bloomberg, 08.31.23)
  • Denmark has decided to cap the number of Russian diplomats allowed at the Copenhagen embassy to five and administrative staff to 20, forcing Moscow to cut its staffing, the Danish foreign ministry said in a statement on Sept. 1. (Reuters, 09.01.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • The West should make a “deal” with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine’s new security architecture, which shouldn’t include the return of Crimea nor membership in the NATO military alliance, according to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The Hungarian leader told former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that Ukraine was on track to lose the war because it was outnumbered by Russian troops. “We should make a deal with the Russians on the new security architecture to provide security and sovereignty for Ukraine but not membership in NATO,” Orban said. (Bloomberg, 08.30.23)
  • Ukraine needs more time to discuss its peace formula with non-Western countries, its foreign minister said. Speaking alongside his French counterpart, Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine would use the opportunity of the next session of the United Nations to speak with Asian and Latin American nations that have yet to show support. (Bloomberg, 08.29.23)

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

  • The Biden administration and its European allies are laying plans for long-term military assistance to Ukraine to ensure Russia won't be able to win on the battlefield and persuade the Kremlin that Western support for Kyiv won't waver. A basic political problem hovers above all these difficulties: Will current governments be able to effectively carve out and protect military spending for Ukraine in future years when they may no longer be in power? Nowhere is the answer to the question more uncertain than in Washington. (WSJ, 08.29.23)
    • ''The American political uncertainties are very much on the minds of Ukrainians, and all of Europe,'' said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who met with Zelensky in Kyiv just as the Ukrainian president was returning from his F-16 tour last week. ''One of the objectives here, clearly, is to lock in commitments as clearly and unequivocally as possible.'' He said Zelensky did not directly discuss next year's U.S. elections during their meeting, which also included Senators Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. (NYT, 08.30.23)
  • Group of Seven leaders understand that the war in Ukraine may be lengthy but are prepared to support the country for as long as it takes, Canada’s prime minister said in an interview. “Certainly from the conversations we’ve had at the G7 and NATO, we are ready for a war that will take as long as it needs to, because we cannot and must not let Russia win.”. (Bloomberg, 08.26.23)
  • “With the United States of America we will probably have a model like Israel, where we have weapons and technology and training and finances and so on,” Zelensky said in an interview broadcast on Ukrainian television on Aug. 27. He added that he did not believe a new American president would endanger such an agreement because “these are things that are voted on by the Congress.” (NYT, 08.28.23)
  • The European Union should make a "bold move" and accept new members by 2030, European Council President Charles Michel said on Aug. 28. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine, and Moldova have been granted candidate status, while Montenegro, Serbia, and Kosovo have applied for membership. (AP, 08.28.23)
    • EU funding to shore up Ukraine is being held up by fractious disagreements among member states. (FT, 08.29.23)
  • In interviews coinciding with the publication of a memoir, Nikolas. Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, said that reversing Russia’s annexation of Crimea was “illusory,” ruled out Ukraine joining the European Union or NATO because it must remain “neutral,” and insisted that Russia and France “need each other.” “People tell me Vladimir Putin isn’t the same man that I met. I don’t find that convincing. I’ve had tens of conversations with him. He is not irrational,” he told Le Figaro. He urged Mr. Macron, with whom he regularly confers, to “renew dialogue” (NYT, 08.27.23)
  • Former Energy Minister Grant Shapps replaced Ben Wallace on Aug. 31 as Britain's defense minister, a surprise move that reaffirmed London's support for Ukraine while raising questions over his lack of experience of the military." (Reuters, 08.31.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to make his first foreign trip since a warrant for his arrest on alleged war crimes was issued by the International Criminal Court. The Kremlin is preparing Putin’s visit to China for the Belt and Road Forum in October, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. (Bloomberg, 08.29.23)
  • China’s president Xi Jinping is not planning to attend the G20 summit in New Delhi next weekend, officials said. Russia said it will send Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as the nation’s leader, Vladimir Putin, will not travel. (Bloomberg, 08.31.23, FT, 08.31.23) 
  • U.K. foreign minister James Cleverly on Aug. 30 sought to repair ties with China during the first high-level British government visit to Beijing for five years. In response to a question about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he said it was in China’s interests for the war to come to “a fair and successful conclusion.”. "I don't think it is in China's interest for there to be a perception they are supporting actively or even passively Putin's actions." (FT, 08.30.23, BBC, 08.30.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council Alexei Shevtsov said: “The aggressive behavior of our Western neighbors near the borders of the Union State forced us to take measures in response, including the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, and increasing the combat potential of the aviation component of the joint regional group of forces.” (Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 08.28.23)
  • Moscow is not planning to abandon the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the Russian Foreign Ministry told RBC. However, Russia will resume test explosions if the United States does so first, according to RBC. (RM, 08.28.23)
  • Yuriy Borisov, head of the Roscosmos space agency, said on September 1 that Russia’s new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile complex, is now ready for combat duty. The Sarmat, Russia’s largest ever ballistic missile, was first tested last year and has been in development for more than a decade. It is designed to carry a payload of up to 10 heavy warheads. Moscow has said that the complex can hit targets 10,000-18,000 km away. (FT, 09.01.23)


  • The Biden administration says it detected and stopped a network attempting to smuggle people from Uzbekistan into the United States through its southern border and that at least one member of the network had links to an unspecified foreign terrorist group. (AP, 08.30.23)

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

  • Investigators in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Latvia took aim at a notorious strain of malware known as Qakbot that had infected more than 700,000 computers, took control of them and enabled them to be leased out to criminal gangs to facilitate more cyberattacks. U.S. officials did name several ransomware groups that have rented Qakbot to support their extortion campaigns. (WSJ, 08.31.23)
  • Cyber executives told the Financial Times that the west is struggling to replicate the collaborative methods that had proved successful in the Ukraine conflict, complaining they are instead mired in regulatory and legal roadblocks that thwart fast-moving responses that require open sharing of often sensitive or embarrassing information. (FT, 08.29.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Germany has been discreetly probing the explosions that devastated the Nord Stream 1&2 pipelines. The result was inconclusive, but the evidence strongly suggests a link to Ukrainian nationalists, Spiegel reported. The investigation indicated that a specialized commando unit comprising Ukrainian divers and explosives experts chartered the ship Andromeda approximately a year ago. In a covert operation, they sailed unnoticed from Warnemünde in northern Germany to reach the site of the explosions which then occurred on September 26, 2022, destroying three of the four strands of the two pipelines. (BNE, 08.29.23)
    • German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in an interview with Der Spiegel that she hopes prosecutors will find sufficient evidence to indict whomever carried out the attacks. (AP, 08.25.23)
  • The EU is set to import record volumes of liquefied natural gas from Russia this year. In the first seven months of this year, Belgium and Spain were the second and third-biggest buyers of Russian LNG behind Chinan. Overall, EU imports of the super-chilled gas were up 40 per cent between January and July this year compared with the same period in 2021, before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The jump comes from a low base as the EU did not import significant amounts of LNG before the war in. But the rise is much sharper than the global average increase in imports of Russian LNG, which was 6 per cent over the same period, Global Witness said The NGO’s analysis is based on data from industry analytics company Kpler, which showed that the EU is importing about 1.7 per cent more Russian LNG than it did when imports hit a record high last year. (FT, 08.30.23)
  • Gazprom PJSC’s net income for the first half of the year fell to the lowest since 2020, due to the Russian natural gas giant’s sharply reduced flows to Europe. Net income fell to 296.2 billion rubles ($3.1 billion) in January-June, from 2.5 trillion rubles for the same period a year ago, Gazprom said on Aug. 29. The producer reported a loss of 18.6 billion rubles in the second quarter. (Bloomberg, 08.29.23)
  • The drop in Gazprom PJSC’s natural gas production showed signs of bottoming out in July, with industry data indicating the smallest annual decline so far this year. The combined output of this group in July was 24.3 billion cubic meters, down 8% from a year earlier. That compares to an annual decline of just under 27% in May and nearly 17% in June, according to Bloomberg calculations. These companies accounted for 57% of nation’s total output last month, according to data seen by Bloomberg. (Bloomberg, 08.30.23)
  • Ukraine is ready to store and re-export European gas for the 2023/2024 winter, the country's gas transmission operator said. (Reuters, 09.01.23)
  • Russia agreed with OPEC+ on further cuts in oil exports and will announce its steps next week, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told President Vladimir Putin. Novak said earlier this week that the nation is discussing with its OPEC+ partners the possibility of extending oil-export cuts into October. Russia already committed to a cut of 300,000 barrels a day for September. Russia is the big winner from OPEC+ production cutbacks. Oil and natural gas revenue rose last month for the first time this year. For the country, the price increases have more than offset the lower production and export volumes, in stark contrast to the situation faced by Riyadh. (Bloomberg, 08.31.23, Bloomberg, 08.30.23)
  • Russia’s seaborne crude flows soared to an eight-week high ahead of a planned easing of an export cut Moscow began to implement in June. Average nationwide shipments in the week to Aug. 27 rose to 3.4 million barrels a day, tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s a jump of about 880,000 barrels a day from the previous week, with the biggest increases seen at the Baltic ports of Primorsk and Ust-Luga. (Bloomberg, 08.29.23) 
  •  India’s appetite for cheap Russian oil took a breather in August as monsoon rains dampened demand and refiners scheduled routine maintenance works. The world’s third largest oil consumer reduced imports from Moscow for the third consecutive month in August to 1.57 million barrels a day, down 24% on the month and bringing them to their lowest since January, according to data intelligence firm Kpler. (Bloomberg, 08.31.23)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Russia’s domestic security service said on Aug. 28 that Robert Shonov, former employee of the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok had been charged for illegally collecting information about the war in Ukraine and passing it to American officials. FSB, said on Aug. 28 that it planned to interrogate two U.S. diplomats after accusing them of directing Shonov to gather information about Russia's war in Ukraine. The United States denied the Russian allegations, calling them "wholly without merit," State Department spokesman Matt Miller said. (WP, 08.29.23, NYT, 08.28.23).
  • American journalist Evan Gershkovich has appealed a decision to extend his pretrial detention in Russia until the end of November, according to court documents. Five months into his detention in a Russian prison, no date has been made public for the trial of Gershkovich who is caught in a justice system in which defendants can wait for a year or more before their cases are heard. American officials expect the case to progress slowly. (WSJ, 08.30.23, AP, 08.26.23)
  • The White House on Aug. 29 said it was reassuring to see video footage of U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia over what the United States calls bogus espionage charges, and called on Moscow to release him immediately. (Reuters, 08.29.23)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • As Russia’s labor market feels the squeeze from the war in Ukraine, real wages are soaring for those who have a job. They increased in June by an annual 10.5%, the Federal Statistics Service reported Aug. 30, well above the median 9.4% rise forecast by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. (Bloomberg, 08.30.23)
  • With imports still making up to 40% of the average Russian consumer basket, two recent surveys show Russians have already started to reduce spending. One published Aug. 16 by Russia's largest market research agency, Romir, found that 19% of respondents had begun cutting back on purchases of basic goods such as toothpaste, washing powder and food in July, compared to 16% the month before. (WP, 08.30.23)
  • Russia is hashing out a strategy for countering outflows of capital, with top officials disagreeing over the option of tighter controls as the ruble again comes under pressure to depreciate. Speaking at a central bank event in Moscow on Sept. 1, Elvira Nabiullina said she opposed stiffer restrictions because companies are able to bypass measures such as mandatory currency sales. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, who advocates a tougher approach, acknowledged the differences but pledged that “we’ll still find a joint solution.” (Bloomberg, 09.01.23)
  • The Kremlin has begun handpicking the challengers to Putin’s re-election bid next spring, Meduza reported, citing two anonymous sources close to the administration. So far, the Kremlin has approved Communist Party mainstay Gennady Zyuganov, 79, and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party Leonid Slutsky, 55. (MT/AFP, 08.28.23)
    • The political bloc of Russia’s presidential administration, led by Sergei Kiriyenko, has decided on "sparring partners" who will "compete" with Putin in the 2024 presidential election. According to two Meduza sources close to the Kremlin, age was one of the main selection criteria. Among the registered candidates there should not be politicians younger than 50 years old. The presence of such candidates on the ballot could make Russians think that the 70-year-old Putin is “no longer the man who came to power with a firm hand,” according to presidential officials. (Meduza, 08.28.23)
  • Levada Center polls have recorded a slight decline from 66% in July to 62% in August in the share of respondents who believe things in the country are going in the right direction. Putin’s approval rating has not changed significantly: 80% approved of his activities as president in August compared to 82% in July. When asked an open-ended question to name several trusted politicians, 44% named Putin in July, and as many in August. (RM, 08.31.23)
  • A private ceremony was held to commemorate Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, his press service said Aug. 29, urging mourners to pay their respects at a cemetery in his native city of St. Petersburg. “Those wishing to say goodbye can visit the Porokhovskoye cemetery," it said. Putin did not attend the funeral. (MT/AFP, 08.29.23, FT, 08.30.23) Also see section Defense and aerospace
    • Genetic testing proved that Prigozhin had been onboard the private jet that crashed outside Moscow on its way to St. Petersburg, a spokeswoman for the Russian investigation committee said Aug. 27.  (FT, 08.27.23)
    • The [AF1] decision to keep Prigozhin’s funeral a secret was made by the Russian presidential administration and the security services, two acting Russian officials told The Moscow Times on condition of anonymity. (MT, 08.30.23)
    • A quarter of respondents of a late August poll by Levada (26%) are inclined to think the death of Progzhin was a tragic accident, while a fifth (20%) believe it was caused by the authorities’ decision to exact revenge for the June coup attempt. About 16% of respondents generally believe that Prigozhin himself staged the plane crash and is actually alive. Approximately the same number (14%) believe that foreign intelligence services are behind the attack. (Levada Center, 09.01.23)
    • Russia will not investigate the Brazilian-made Embraer plane crash that killed Prigozhin under international rules, Reuters reported Aug. 29, citing Brazil’s aircraft investigation authority. (MT/AFP, 08.30.23)
    • The Kremlin said Aug. 30 that investigators were probing all possible scenarios surrounding the death of Prigozhin in a plane crash, including premeditated murder. (AFP, 08.30.23)
    • Long before his private jet plunged from the sky, Prigozhin suspected it could be the stage for his assassination. The Embraer Legacy 600 was one of several private jets the chief of the Wagner mercenary firm outfitted with equipment to detect surveillance, electronically tinted smart windows and white leather seats. (WSJ, 08.30.23)
    • In 2006 Putin signed a secret decree awarding Prigozhin with a state decoration as a Kremlin staffer. (MT/AFP, 08.29.23)
    • Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov has said he is ready to die for Putin, as hardliners seek to dispel any doubts about their allegiance to the Russian president following the demise of the Prigozhin. (FT, 08.31.23)
    • Prigozhin is survived by his mother, Violetta Prigozhina, his wife, Lyubov Prigozhina, and three children, Polina, Pavel and Veronika. All but Veronika, the youngest daughter, have been the subject of sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and Britain at the outset of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (NYT, 08.27.23)
  • The co-founder and military commander of the Russian mercenary group Wagner was buried near Moscow on Aug. 31, after dying in an unexplained plane crash that also killed his boss, Prigozhin. Dmitry Utkin, 53, whose call sign "Wagner" gave the private army its name, was buried in a town on the outskirts of Moscow. (Reuters, 08.31.23)
  • A Moscow court rejected a bid for the pretrial release of Igor Girkin, the former leader of Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine and the latest one-time Kremlin favorite finding himself in peril after criticizing Putin’s sputtering war effort in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 08.29.23)
  • Russian authorities arrested a notable fringe ultranationalist Russian milblogger on accusations of discrediting the Russian military, likely as part of centralized efforts to silence some critical milblogger voices without prompting a general backlash. Russian authorities arrested Andrei Kurshin, who reportedly runs the Telegram channel “Moscow Calling,” on Aug. 31 but did not specify what content Kurshin posted that prompted the charges. (ISW, 08.31.23)
  • Russian prosecutors have requested prison sentences of 13 years for exiled anti-war journalists Ruslan Leviev and Michael Nacke, who are accused of spreading “war fakes.” (MT/AFP, 08.28.23)
  • A court in the Russian city of St. Petersburg sentenced anti-war activist Olga Smirnova to six years in prison on Aug. 30 on a charge of spreading fake news about the armed forces. (RFE/RL, 08.30.23)
  • Russia's Second Western District Military Court has sentenced Ramazan Murtuzov to 15 years in prison for allegedly preparing an explosion in a shopping center or train station in the city of Kursk, near the border with Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.01.23)
  • The former head of the administration of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Sergei Filatov, has died at the age of 87. (Current Time, 08.27.23)
  • Authorities in Russia’s southern Rostov region have appointed a male official to lead the region's newly formed council on women’s rights. (MT/AFP, 08.31.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The Kremlin is considering options on bringing the private military group Wagner under its direct control after the presumed death of Prigozhin, according to U.S. and Western officials. Among those possibilities, officials say, are absorbing Wagner into the Defense Ministry or its military intelligence arm. The Kremlin could also install a Russian general or other government ally as its new chief, according to people briefed on the preliminary intelligence. On Aug. 25, the Wall Street Journal reported that a GRU general was poised to take over Wagner’s African operations. (NYT, 08.26.23)
  • The U.S. has new information that Russia and Putin are moving swiftly to take control of Prigozhin’s sprawling operations in Africa and the Middle East. A Defense Ministry-affiliated armed contractor is poised to assume charge of Wagner’s operations in the Central African Republic. All of Wagner’s covert overseas network is due to fall under effective Russian military command. (Bloomberg, 08.31.23)
    • The Wall Street Journal reported that the GRU had begun trying to take control over the Wagner Group’s units in Africa, with the head of this military intelligence agency’s covert operations, Andrey Averyanov, tapped for the role. (RM, 09.01.23)
    • A top adviser to the president of the Central African Republic said Prigozhin had visited the country days before the plane he was believed to be traveling on crashed in Russia. ''He came here to galvanize his troops and then went elsewhere in Africa,'' said Fidèle Gouandjika, the adviser to President Faustin-Archange Touadéra. (NYT, 08.26.23)
  • Pentagon officials say that under Prigozhin, the Wagner forces were Russia’s most effective combat forces on the battlefield in Ukraine, notably in the fight to seize the city of Bakhmut in the east. (NYT, 08.26.23)
  • CSTO’s Combat Brotherhood 2023 exercises, which opened on Sept. 1 and are scheduled to last in Belarus through Sept. 6, include troops from Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Armenia is also a member of the CSTO but did not send troops. (RFE/RL, 09.01.23)  
  • It is "highly likely" that Russia has canceled this year’s Zapad (West) military exercise, its large-scale joint strategic exercise, due to the lack of available troops and equipment, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported Aug. 28. (Kyiv Independent, 08.28.23)
  • Russia's Northern Fleet conducted navy exercises in the Barents Sea this month aimed at preventing the passage of unauthorized and foreign ships. (Reuters, 08.26.23)
  • A military court in the Russian city of Sochi has sentenced two soldiers to terms of at least two years in penal colonies for refusing to return to the war in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 08.28.23)
  • Rights activists says migrants from Central Asian countries are being pressured into signing contracts with Russia's Defense Ministry as the Kremlin tries to bolster the pool of recruits to help fight its war against Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 08.28.23)
  • A Russian soldier, identified as Ildar B., committed suicide in a pretrial detention center in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, on Aug. 30, local media reported. The man was detained after being accused of desertion on Aug. 2. (RFE/RL, 08.31.23)
  • Russia has moved two S-300 surface-to-air missile systems from a chain of disputed Far East islands that Japan claims as its own, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported Sept. 1, citing satellite imagery. “The Russian military is deploying all weapons at their disposal, which is evidence of their active engagement in the [Ukrainian] conflict,” Koizumi told Kyodo. (MT/AFP, 09.01.23)
  • The government has doubled its defense spending target for 2023 to more than $100 billion, pumping in more than $60 billion in budget funds into the defense industry in the first half of 2023, according to government figures disclosed this month by Reuters, to feed its war machine. (WP, 08.30.23)
  • Also see section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Igor Berdov, a 36-year-old resident of Russia's Karelia region, was arrested on Aug. 28 for allegedly assaulting Al-Jazeera journalist Rania Dridi near the building where the Wagner mercenary group has offices in St. Petersburg. (RFE/RL, 08.28.23)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Putin touted Russia’s close ties with India in a phone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Relations between the countries are “developing progressively in the spirit of a specially privileged strategic partnership,” according to a statement from the Kremlin on Aug. 28. India’s readout of the meeting avoided any characterization of the relationship, mentioning only that Putin confirmed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would attend the G-20 summit on behalf of Russia. (Bloomberg, 08.29.23)
  • Russia is considering setting up a unified trading company to export fertilizers in a bid to increase its pricing influence on global markets. The idea was proposed in July by UralChem PJSC’s founder Dmitry Mazepin. (Bloomberg, 08.28.23)
  • Ambassadors of Russia and its ally Belarus will be invited back to the Nobel Prize ceremonies, a decision that has drawn criticism from Kyiv after the two countries were left out last year because of the Kremlin's war on Ukraine. (WP, 09.01.23)
  • Pope Francis praised 18th-century Russian emperors whom Putin has invoked as models for his territorial annexations in Ukraine, WSJ reported. Speaking by video to a gathering of Russian Catholic youth in St. Petersburg on Aug. 25, Pope Francis said,  "Do not forget your heritage. You are heirs of the great Russia -- the great Russia of saints, of kings, the great Russia of Peter the Great, Catherine II, the great, educated Russian Empire of so much culture, of so much humanity. Never give up this heritage." The Vatican subsequently tried to walk back the pope’s remarks, arguing that they had not meant to praise expansionist thinking, but they stilled stirred controversy, according to Bloomberg and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (RM, 08.31.23)
  • Russia on Aug. 30 vetoed a U.N. proposal to extend sanctions on military-run Mali, which has become a close partner of Russia's Wagner mercenaries. (RFE/RL, 08.31.23)
  • Polish authorities are investigating a series of sabotage attacks that brought dozens of trains to a standstill over the weekend amid heightened concerns about Russian attempts to disrupt the country. (WP, 08.28.23)
  • A Russian man based in Germany was found guilty on Aug. 31 of plotting to kill a Chechen dissident on the orders of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The defendant, named as Valid D., was sentenced to 10 years in jail for "willingness to commit murder and preparing a serious act of violence endangering the state," a spokeswoman for the Higher Regional Court in Munich said. According to German media reports, the target was Mokhmad Abdurakhmanov, the brother of exiled Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov, who lives in Sweden. (AFP, 08.31.23)
  • A Russian-born Swedish citizen was charged Aug. 28 with collecting information for the Russian military intelligence service GRU for almost a decade. Sweden’s Prosecution Authority said Sergei Skvortsov, 60, was accused of “gross illegal intelligence activities against Sweden and against a foreign power.” (AP, 08.28.23)
  • Serbian authorities have canceled the residence permit of Yevgeny Irzhansky, a Russian citizen who organized concerts of anti-war bands and arts events in Serbia, the Belgrade-based expat NGO Russian Democratic Society announced on Aug. 29. (RFE/RL, 08.30.23)
  • Finland has finished inventorying its existing bomb shelters in a government effort prompted by neighboring Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year and found it has 50,500 of them. (Reuters, 08.29.23)
  • Bulgaria will allow a Russian national to stay in the country, after earlier rejecting three asylum requests. Aleksandr Stotsky fled Russia immediately after the start of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.01.23)
  • Montenegro has rejected Russia's extradition request for Dmitry Senin, a former officer for the Federal Security Service (FSB). Senin left Russia in 2017 to evade potential arrest in connection with a case involving his friend and relative, former Interior Ministry Col. Dmitry Zakharchenko. (RFE/RL, 08.30.23)


  • Ukraine’s anti-graft bodies are investigating senior government officials they suspect of purchasing food for war-hit regions. The procurement contracts under scrutiny led to 62.5 million hryvnia ($1.7 million) in losses to the state, Ukraine’s Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau said in a statement. The purchases involved humanitarian aid for regions most affected by the war including Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia in the east and south, as well as Kyiv. (Bloomberg, 08.25.23)
  • The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) entered into a series of contracts with Polish company Alfa in 2022 for the supply of various types of weapons and ammunition. However, the company failed to fulfil its obligations and, as of 2023, owed the Ukrainian MoD over UAH 3.5 billion (roughly $94.77 million). Ukrainska Pravda (UP) is aware of at least seven agreements concluded by the Ukrainian MoD directly with Alfa. Some of them are being disputed in international arbitration. (Ukrainska Pravda, 08.28.23)
    • Zelensky dismissed Ukraine’s defense minister following accusations of corruption linked to procuring military supplies. The Ukrayinska Pravda newspaper, citing sources it didn’t name, said on Aug. 31 Minister Oleksii Reznikov may be replaced as early as next week. The report followed accusations from anti-corruption activists and media that under his leadership the ministry has purchased food and uniforms at inflated prices. On Aug. 28, Reznikov said it was up to the president to decide who runs the Defense Ministry. (Bloomberg, 08.31.23)
  • Zelensky said corruption can be equated with treason and he will ask parliament to increase penalties for people found guilty of corruption during wartime. (RFE/RL, 08.27.23)
    • Zelensky’s move to equate wartime corruption with treason is triggering a backlash from officials and watchdogs, who warn the plan could hobble Ukraine’s main anti-graft forces. Two senior officials following the proposal, who were granted anonymity to speak candidly, say concerns are growing within Ukraine’s anti-graft agencies that Zelensky’s plan will take top corruption cases away from their oversight and pass them to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which falls under the president’s command. (Politico, 08.28.23)
  • Ukrainian officials are reviewing the commissions that grant medical exemptions to potential military recruits, Zelensky said. He said that since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, “at least thousands of people” had used falsified health documents to avoid conscription and flee abroad. (NYT, 08.31.23)
    • The Security Service of Ukraine announced on Aug. 26 the detainment of four more officials in military enlistment offices and military medical commissions on charges they were taking payments to help people evade the draft. (NYT, 08.26.23)
  • Zelensky in his nightly video address on Aug. 30 said authorities will crack down on corruption in the drafting of men for the country’s military service. (RFE/RL, 08.31.23)
  • Zelensky is expected to attend the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York this month and take part in a U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.01.12)
  • Zelensky says he will stand for re-election if scheduled elections are held earlier next year, despite promising to only serve one term in office when he took over in 2019. (BNE, 09.01.23)
  • Authorities in separatist and Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine on Aug. 31 announced the start of early voting in local elections. Voting was due to take place on Sept. 10, as part of elections scheduled in dozens of regions across Russia, where voters will elect new governors, local parliaments and municipal councils. (MT/AFP, 08.31.23)
  • Ukraine said on Sept. 1 that two commercial vessels carrying metallurgical products had departed its Black Sea ports, marking the first attempt at non-food maritime shipments since Russia imposed a naval blockade. (FT, 09.01.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Four Armenian soldiers have been killed after Azerbaijani shelling near the border town of Sotk, northwest of Nagorno-Karabakh according to Armenia’s Ministry of Defense. Azerbaijan said Armenia had struck its positions across the border in the Kalbacar region using drones, wounding three soldiers. (al Jazeera, 09.01.23, RFE/RL, 09.01.23)
  • For nearly nine months the Lachin Corridor has been blocked by Azerbaijani authorities, resulting in severe shortages of food, medication, hygiene products and fuel in the breakaway region. "People are standing in queues for hours to get minimal food rations. People are fainting in the bread queues," local journalist Irina Hayrapetyan says in a recorded voice message from inside the ethnic Armenian enclave. (BBC, 08.30.23)
  • “We are deeply concerned about deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh resulting from the continued blockage of food, medicine and other goods essential to a dignified existence,” U.S. State Department spokesperson said. (, 08.31.23)
  • French President Emmanuel Macron on Aug. 28 announced plans to discuss the situation in the Lachin Corridor with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Macron told a conference of French ambassadors in Paris that he would hold talks with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in the coming days. "We will demand full respect for the Lachin humanitarian corridor and we will again launch a diplomatic initiative internationally to increase pressure on this issue," he said. (RFE/RL, 08.28.23)
  • Arayik Harutiunyan, president of Nagorno-Karabakh, officially announced his resignation on Aug. 31. Harutiunyan expressed the need for new leadership in the region to better address the significant challenges it faces, nearly three years after a devastating defeat in a war with Azerbaijan. (BNE, 09.01.23)
  • Georgia’s ruling party began moves to impeach President Salome Zourabichvili after she defied a government attempt to ban her from making state visits abroad, including ones she said were aimed at lobbying for the country to gain European Union membership. (Bloomberg, 09.01.23)
  • Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia say they will completely seal off their borders with Belarus if a "critical incident" involving Wagner mercenaries occurs. (RFE/RL, 08.28.23)
    • Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Aug. 31 criticized what he called "stupid demands" from Poland and the Baltic states for Wagner fighters sheltering in his country to leave. "They are whipping up hysteria about the presence of Wagner private military employees on our territory," Lukashenko told members of his Security Council. (MT/AFP, 08.31.23)
  • The Wagner mercenaries who fled to Belarus after Prigozhin’s rebellion are being issued Belarusian passports in other names, Belarusian oppositionist Pavel Latushko told the Polish edition of PAP. (Istories, 08.28.23)
  • Poland and the Baltic states on Aug. 28 asked Minsk to expel the Russian mercenary group Wagner. (MT/AFP, 08.28.23)
  • Moldovan President Maia Sandu marked her country’s Independence Day by recalling the effort of Moldovans to "win freedom" 32 years ago and by saying that Moldovan authorities now "have the chance and the duty" to take the country into the European Union. (RFE/RL, 08.28.23)
  • A Russian consul general in Kazakhstan has been sacked following a controversial interview in which he claimed that the Central Asian country was intentionally discriminating against the Russian language in schools. (MT/AFP, 08.28.23)
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged Kyrgyzstan to stop a move to liquidate the Kloop Media Public Foundation, an anti-corruption investigative website that has been critical of the Central Asian nation's government, saying it is "outrageous and shameful" to stifle free speech and independent reporting. (RFE/RL, 08.29.23)
  • The Kyrgyz Ministry of Culture has issued a directive to block the video-sharing app TikTok inside the Central Asian nation, citing appeals from NGOs over the social media platform's effects on the mental health of children amid concerns the government is taking moves to block free speech and the flow of information. (RFE/RL, 08.30.23)
  • Thousands of teachers, health-care workers and other state employees in Turkmenistan have been forced to pick cotton as the annual harvest season kicked off in August amid scorching summer heat. (RFE/RL, 08.27.23)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • No significant developments.

NB: Due to a technical issue, the Aug. 28, 2023, Russia Analytical Digest was sent without the highlights section. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. You can find the full digest here. Thank you.


The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 2:00pm Eastern Time on Sept. 1, 2023.

*Here and elsewhere, the italicized text indicates comments by RM staff and associates. These comments do not constitute RM editorial policy.

Slider photo shared by via Wikimedia Commons under a CC BY 4.0 license.