Russia in Review, Aug. 26-Sept. 2, 2022

6 Things to Know

  1. IAEA inspectors arrived at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Sept. 1 amid continued fighting in the area. IAEA Director Rafael Grossi noted that the plant’s physical integrity has been damaged several times, WP reports, while Ukraine’s Energoatom accused Russia of limiting the inspectors’ access to the site, hampering their ability to make an impartial assessment of the situation, RFE/RL reports. A Russian-installed official in Zaporizhzhia denies any obstruction. Two IAEA inspectors will remain at ZNPP “on a permanent basis,” Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy to the agency, said.
  2. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, died aged 91. As Western leaders praised his implementation of democratic reforms in the USSR, Russians reacted with criticism expressed alongside tributes, reflecting his polarizing legacy within Russia, MT reports. While Putin saluted Gorbachev’s “huge influence on the course of global history,” he will not attend the funeral due to his busy schedule, according to the Kremlin. Separately, Lavrov accused the West of using Gorbachev’s name for its geopolitical purposes, TASS reports.
  3. Ukraine launches its counteroffensive in the Kherson region. Ukraine said its forces conducted strikes in the Kherson region in the country’s south on Aug. 31 as its military tried to retake ground seized by Russian forces in February, NYT reports, while Russia’s Defense Ministry said that its forces had repulsed ground attacks by Ukraine in Kherson and the neighboring region of Mykolaiv. Meduza reports that the offensive appears to have entered an operational pause as of Sept. 2 due to heavy losses, but will likely continue due to Ukraine’s trump card: the Russian army’s supply problems.
  4. Russia launches Vostok-2022 joint military exercise with China, India and others. The large-scale joint military exercises with China, India and several other countries in the Far East began on Sept. 1, but involved far fewer troops and hardware than in previous years, MT reports. A total of 50,000 troops will take part in the Vostok-2022 war games—compared to 300,000 who participated in the same drills four years ago.
  5. G-7 countries agree to introduce a price cap on purchases of Russian oil as Gazprom extends Nord Stream 1 shut down. To limit the Kremlin’s ability to fund its war against Ukraine, G-7 members agreed to allow maritime transportation of Russian-origin crude oil and petroleum products only if supplies are purchased at or below a to-be-determined price, RFE/RL reports. In response, Russian officials threatened to stop all oil and gas imports to Europe, according to MT. Meanwhile, Gazprom on Sept. 2 raised the possibility of a prolonged halt of natural gas supply to Germany for an unspecified length of time, citing the need for urgent maintenance work, according to the AP.
  6. The EU agreed to suspend a visa deal with Moscow. The measure, the first time that the EU has agreed to directly target ordinary Russians in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, will curb the number of Russians crossing into EU countries, according to FT. While the Kremlin warned of a response, U.S. officials emphasized the importance of distinguishing between ordinary Russian citizens and the Russian government, FT reports.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Ukraine and Russia traded blame for fresh shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant Aug. 27, underscoring the persistent danger of fighting around the plant as the United Nations' atomic watchdog prepares to visit the site next week.
    • Russian troops "repeatedly" targeted ZNPP between Aug. 26 and Aug. 27 afternoons, Ukraine's nuclear power agency said in a statement Aug. 27.
    • Moscow, meanwhile, blamed Kyiv's forces for attacks on the nuclear plant, alleging Aug. 27 that shells launched by the Ukrainian military hit the power plant's territory three times over the previous day—with four shells hitting the roof of a building housing nuclear fuel and 13 exploding near storage sites for nuclear fuel and solid radioactive waste. (WP, 08.27.22)
  • Though the plant is under Russian control, it is run by about 1,000 Ukrainian workers, which is less than 10% of its usual workforce. (WP, 08.28.22)
  • Russia on Aug. 26 blocked agreement on the final document of a four-week review of the NPT Review conference which criticized its military takeover of ZNPP. The four references in the draft final document to the plant would have had the parties to the NPT express “grave concern for the military activities” at or near the facility and other nuclear plants. It also would have recognized Ukraine’s loss of control and supported IAEA efforts to visit.
    • “Russia is the reason we do not have consensus today,” Adam Scheinman, the U.S. special representative for nuclear nonproliferation, said. “The last-minute changes that Russia sought were not of a minor character. They were intended to shield Russia’s obvious intent to wipe Ukraine off the map.”
    • Igor Vishnevetsky, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department, told the delayed final meeting of the conference that “unfortunately there is no consensus on this document.” (AP, 08.27.22)
  • The European Union is set to donate 5.5 million potassium iodide tablets to Ukraine, the bloc’s executive arm said Aug. 30, amid growing concerns about the shelling around ZNPP and the threat of a radiation leak. (NYT, 08.30.22)
  • ZNPP was forced to deploy emergency backup responses after shelling struck the facility on Sept. 1 morning, Ukraine’s nuclear power company said, just as U.N. nuclear experts set off toward the plant. Energoatom said it was "the second time in 10 days" that Russian shelling had forced the closure of a reactor. It said the plant's emergency protection system kicked in, shutting reactor five, and that a backup power supply "was damaged" in the attack. (WP, 09.01.22, MT/AFP, 09.01.22)
  • Russia said Sept. 1 it thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to recapture ZNPP, according to a Defense Ministry statement published by Russian state-run news agencies. (MT, 09.01.22)
  • Three civilians were killed in Ukrainian shelling of the city of Enerhodar near ZNPP, Russian-installed authorities told state-run media Sept. 1. Two kindergartens caught fire in the shelling, the Moscow-backed administration told the RIA Novosti news agency. Ukraine accused Russian forces of staging "false-flag attacks" ahead of the IAEA inspectors' visit. (MT, 09.01.22)
  • The UN’s atomic safety watchdog was able to inspect the ZNPP in southern Ukraine on Sept. 1, and said it would set up a “continued” presence at the site. A team led by Rafael Grossi, director-general of the IAEA, left Europe’s largest nuclear power station at about 6pm to return to Ukrainian-controlled territory, leaving five inspectors at the site, according to Energoatom. (WP, 09.01.22, WSJ, 09.01.22, RFE/RL, 09.01.22, FT, 09.01.22)
    • Two IAEA inspectors will remain at ZNPP “on a permanent basis,” Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy to the agency, said Sept. 2. “I can confirm that to the best of my knowledge this is the intention of the IAEA. We welcome this intention,” he said. (WP, 09.02.22)
    • “The physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times,” according to Grossi, who said he worries about the risks “until we have a situation which is more stable.” (WP, 09.02.22)
    • Energoatom said on Sept. 2 that the IAEA mission had not been allowed to enter the plant's crisis center, where Ukraine says Russian troops are stationed. It added that access to employees at Europe's largest nuclear power station "was significantly limited" and inspectors would struggle to make an impartial assessment of the situation. A Russian-installed official in Zaporizhzhia, Vladimir Rogov, said Sept. 2 that representatives weren't obstructed during their visit. "Members of the IAEA mission got access to everything they wanted," he told TASS. (RFE/RL, 09.02.22, WSJ, 09.02.22)
    • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized the IAEA for not calling for “demilitarization” of the ZNPP after its inspectors arrived there on Sept. 1. Zelensky earlier met with Grossi on Aug. 30, telling him that it was important for Ukraine that the IAEA demand a demilitarized zone around the power plant, state news agency Ukrinform reported. (FT, 09.02.22, WP, 08.30.22)
  • Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continued Sept. 2 near ZNPP. (AP, 09.02.22)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Pyongyang wants to dispatch laborers to the Russia-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine—Donetsk and Luhansk—providing the Kim regime with a much-needed source of overseas income.  (WSJ, 08.28.22)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Iran surpassed Egypt and Turkey as Russia's largest wheat buyer in July, scooping up twice as much as these two countries with deliveries of 360,000 metric tons, according to data-intelligence company Kpler. Overall, bilateral trade is up 10% between Russia and Iran this year. In 2021, trade between the two countries surged 80% higher to $4 billion, according to Russia. (WSJ, 08.27.22)
  • The U.S. assesses that Russia has received its first shipment of Iranian combat drones to use on the battlefield in Ukraine, Biden administration officials said Aug. 30. The drones can conduct air-to-surface attacks, electronic warfare and targeting. Russian operators are receiving training in Iran to use them, officials said. (FT, 08.30.22)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • Ukraine exported a million tons of agricultural products through seaports after the conclusion of a grain deal at the end of July, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to the Ukrainian Seaports Administration, 44 ships have transported more than a million tons to 15 countries of the world during the 26 days of the corridor’s operation. However, experts warn that the U.N.-brokered grain deal is not likely to be the silver bullet to solve a global hunger crisis. (Meduza, 08.28.22, NYT, 08.30.22)
    • On Aug. 30, the second ship earmarked for humanitarian aid departed from Ukraine, for Yemen, where conflict and drought have raised the specter of famine. (NYT, 08.30.22)
  • With men ages 18 to 60 prohibited from leaving Ukraine so they can fight Russia, women are volunteering to drive transport cars from other countries in Europe for use by Ukraine’s military. (NYT, 08.19.22)
  • Russian shellfire killed five people on Aug. 30 in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, a local official said. (NYT, 08.30.22)
  • Russia's troops have forcibly transferred Ukrainian civilians en masse from occupied areas into Russia and processed thousands in camps where some have been held for up to a month in sometimes squalid conditions, Human Rights Watch said in a report published Sept. 1, saying the actions amounted to potential war crimes and crimes against humanity. (WSJ, 09.01.22)

Military and guerilla aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past two weeks, a Ukrainian official said, a further 8,000 Russian paratroopers have taken up positions near Kherson, a Russian-occupied city that Ukraine wants to liberate, and the region around the town of Mykolayiv, which is under constant Russian assault. “From there, they can move anywhere they want in two hours,” he added. “It’s a lot of men.” (FT, 08.28.22)
  • On Aug. 23, U.S. citizen Alan Jones Joshua died while fighting on Ukraine’s side in the Donbas’ Yegorovka, according to Daria Morozova of the self-proclaimed DPR. (Media Zone, 08.28.22)
  • Russia is moving to significantly bolster its forces in Ukraine. A series of volunteer battalions formed in recent weeks across Russia is preparing to deploy to Ukraine, officials and military analysts say, including a new 3rd Army Corps. The Conflict Intelligence Team has posted photographs of the new Corps’ military equipment on railcars, including Buk surface-to-air missile systems and T-80BV and T-90 tanks.  (WSJ, 08.28.22, CTI, 08.27.22)
  • Ukraine said it had launched a counter-offensive against Russian forces near the southern city of Kherson in an attempt to reverse some of Moscow’s biggest territorial gains. A senior Ukrainian government adviser confirmed that Kyiv had begun a major operation aimed at retaking the strategically important city captured by Russian forces early in the war. The Ukrainian military continued to pound targets across southern Ukraine on Aug. 30 as it sought to disrupt Russian supply lines, degrade Russia’s combat capabilities and isolate Russian forces, part of what analysts said could be the beginnings of a broad and coordinated counteroffensive. The military said that its forces had broken through Russia’s first line of defense in multiple points along the front in the occupied Kherson region, but officials offered little detail and their claims could not be independently verified. (FT, 08.29.22, NYT, 08.30.22)
    • Ukraine said its forces conducted strikes in the Kherson region in the country’s south on Aug. 31 as its military tried to retake ground seized by Russian forces in February. Ukraine’s southern command said it had struck Russian command posts and logistical sites as well as bridges. Russia’s Defense Ministry said that its forces had repulsed ground attacks by Ukraine in Kherson and the neighboring region of Mykolaiv. It also said it had destroyed tanks that were trying to cross the Inhulets River. The claims of both sides could not be independently confirmed. (NYT, 08.31.22)
    • Ukrainian officials are saying little publicly about the offensive, citing the need for secrecy in military operations. (WSJ, 09.01.22)
    • The Pentagon's assessment, given at a briefing by its spokesman on Aug. 31, appeared to support Ukrainian soldiers' cautious optimism. "We are aware of Ukrainian military operations that have made some forward movement, and in some cases in the Kherson region we are aware in some cases of Russian units falling back," Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters. (WSJ, 09.01.22)
      • The U.S. war-gamed with Ukraine ahead of the counteroffensive and encouraged a more limited mission. (CNN, 09.01.22)
    • The Ukrainian offensive on the border of the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, which began on Aug. 29, almost stopped by Sept. 2. This is probably not the end of the operation, but an operational pause caused by the fact that the first strikes turned out to be heavy losses for the attackers and did not lead to the collapse of the Russian defense. The Ukrainian command in the Kherson region has a trump card that is difficult for the Russians to beat: the Russian army has big problems with supplies on three bridges and several ferry crossings across the Dnieper, which are constantly being attacked by Ukrainian missiles. (Meduza, 09.02.22)
  • A former deputy who switched allegiance from Zelensky to the occupying Russian forces in the southern region of Kherson has been shot dead, Russian investigators said Aug. 29. Alexei Kovalev, "the deputy head of the military and civil administration in the Kherson region was killed by bullets," the investigators said on Telegram. (MT/AFP, 08.30.22)
  • A senior U.S. defense official told reporters that Russia is struggling to find more soldiers to fight in Ukraine and said many recruits are older, in bad shape and are receiving little training. The defense official said Kremlin military recruiters are often looking to Russian prisons for new recruits to join the fight. (RFE/RL, 08.30.22)
  • The United States has determined that Russia is suffering “severe manpower shortages” in its six-month-old war with Ukraine and has become more desperate in its efforts to find new troops to send to the front lines, according to a new American intelligence finding disclosed Aug. 31. Russia is looking to address the shortage of troops in part by compelling soldiers wounded earlier in the war to return to combat, recruiting personnel from private security companies and even recruiting from prisons, according to a U.S. official. (AP, 08.31.22)
    • The Russian Defense Ministry has offered to grant veterans of the war in Ukraine free land in the Moscow region, Sevastopol and Crimea, as reported by "Parliamentary newspaper" with reference to a published draft decree. (Meduza, 09.02.22)
  • A fleet of decoys resembling advanced U.S. rocket systems has tricked Russian forces into wasting expensive long-range cruise missiles on dummy targets, according to interviews with senior U.S. and Ukrainian officials and photographs of the replicas reviewed by The Washington Post. (WP, 08.30.22)
  • Russia has lost more than 900 special forces soldiers, paratroopers, marines and pilots in over six months of war in Ukraine, the BBC’s Russian service reported Thursday citing publicly available data. At least 337 marines have been killed, while the National Guard’s special forces and riot police lost 245 troops, Russia’s military intelligence lost 151 soldiers, elite paratrooper units saw 144 members killed and the FSB and Federal Guards Service together suffered 20 deaths, according to the BBC. Many of the dead were officers. (MT, 09.01.22)
  • Putin has called Ukraine “an anti-Russian enclave” as Moscow delivered a renewed threat to Western efforts to curb surging energy prices. Speaking in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on Sept. 1, Putin said of Ukraine: “Our guys who are fighting there are defending both the residents of Donbas [the industrial area in the east largely occupied by Russia] and defending Russia itself,” according to news agency Interfax. “They started creating an anti-Russian enclave on the territory of today’s Ukraine that is threatening our country,” Putin said. (FT, 09.01.22)
  • Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of Putin, has reportedly recruited almost 1,000 inmates from two penal colonies in the southwestern Rostov region, promising them early release if they fight in Moscow's war against Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.02.22)
  • The White House is asking Congress for $13.7 billion to continue supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia. The money would go to military and intelligence support, and to help Kyiv continue operating its government and sustain uranium to fuel U.S. nuclear reactors in the chance of a potential decrease in Russian supplies. (WSJ, 09.02.22)
  • Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov sternly warned Washington Sept. 2 against supplying long-range weapons to Ukraine, noting that the U.S. is balancing on the edge of direct involvement in the conflict. He also pointed to the country’s military doctrine that envisages the use of nuclear weapons in case of a threat to the existence of the Russian state. “We have repeatedly warned the U.S. about the consequences that may follow if the U.S. continues to flood Ukraine with weapons,” Ryabkov said. “It effectively puts itself in a state close to what can be described as a party to the conflict.” (AP, 09.02.22)
  • A Russian shipping line with ties to the country's Defense Ministry has been ferrying weapons and supplies through the Bosporus to ports on the Black Sea in support of Moscow's war effort, according to Ukrainian officials who have urged Turkey to block their access. (WSJ, 09.02.22)
  • Journalists from the BBC’s Russian Service and Media Zone, as well as a team of open source volunteers, have found that at least 6,024 Russian servicemen have died in Ukraine since the start of the war. (Meduza, 09.02.22)

Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:

  • The biggest flaw in sanctions against Russia is that full or partial embargoes on Russia are not being enforced by over 100 countries with 40% of world GDP. (The Economist, 08.25.22)
  • Dell Technologies on Aug. 27 said it had ended all operations in Russia after shutting its offices earlier this month, becoming the latest Western company to leave Russia in the face of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 08.28.22)
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry has suspended the issuance of biometric foreign passports for “technical reasons,” the ministry said in an Aug. 26 statement. The ministry did not give a reason for the decision, but earlier Russia stopped issuing biometric internal documents because of a deficit of the required chips due to sanctions. (RFE/RL, 08.28.22)
  • At request of Britain's Foreign Office, the team of jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny has published a list of Russian officials, journalists and celebrities it says should be sanctioned immediately for pushing the Kremlin's narrative in its ongoing unprovoked war against. The MFBK emphasized six names on the list—Finance Minister and Security Council member Anton Siluanov, presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky, Central Bank Chairwoman Elvira Nabiullina, businessman Iskandar Makhmudov, and television journalists Yekaterina Andreyeva and Tina Kandelaki. (RFE/RL, 08.30.22)
  • Gazprom is further reducing gas deliveries to French gas and power group Engie, heightening concerns over energy supplies to Europe as the Nord Stream 1 pipeline shuts for maintenance. Engie said it was informed by Gazprom on Aug. 30 that the reduction will occur immediately. It did not provide any details about the nature of the dispute with Gazprom. (RFE/RL, 08.30.22)
  • The EU on Aug. 31 has agreed to suspend a visa deal with Moscow and backed demands by eastern member states to curb the number of Russians crossing into their countries, as it bows to pressure to punish travelers over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The move also marks the first time that the EU has agreed to directly target ordinary Russians in the wake of the invasion. The Kremlin on Aug. 30 warned it would respond if the European Union makes it harder for Russians to travel to the bloc as part of measures in support of Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 08.30.22, FT, 08.31.22)
    • U.S. officials on Aug. 31 emphasized the importance of distinguishing between ordinary Russian citizens and the Russian government, and reiterated the Biden administration’s position that it was against blanket travel bans. (FT, 08.31.22) 
  • Exxon Mobil Corp. has notified Russian officials it will sue the federal government unless Moscow allows the company to exit a major oil-and-gas project, according to people familiar with the matter. (WSJ, 08.30.22)
  • Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson, told reporters Russia and Gazprom “have been and remain faithful to our obligations and contracts” but now “just can’t fulfil them because of the limits and sanctions,” according to Interfax. (FT, 08.31.22)
  • Andriy Yermak, chief of staff for Zelensky, called on Brussels to deepen sanctions against Russia for weaponizing energy supplies and because of the war in Ukraine. “The answer to Russian gas blackmail is visa restrictions and a gas embargo,” said Yermak. “Russia can only be defeated by force.” (FT, 08.31.22)
  • The Justice Department announced on Aug. 31 that the U.S. had obtained a warrant from a district court to seize a $45 million Boeing aircraft owned by Russian oil and gas giant Lukoil based on a violation of sanctions dating back to the Russia's partial invasion of Ukraine in 2014. (RFE/RL, 09.01.22)
  • In a retaliatory move, Russia has imposed sanctions on 55 more Canadian military and political officials, barring them from entering the country amid ongoing tension over Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.01.22)
  • China’s UnionPay payment system has stopped accepting cards issued by Russian banks under Western sanctions over fears of penalties, the RBC news website reported Sept. 2, citing financial industry sources. (MT, 09.02.22)
  • The G-7 countries have agreed to introduce a price cap on purchases of Russian oil in an attempt to limit the Kremlin’s ability to fund its war against Ukraine. G-7 members said agreed provisions would allow maritime transportation of Russian-origin crude oil and petroleum products only if supplies are purchased at or below a price to be “determined by the broad coalition of countries adhering to and implementing the price cap.” (FT, 09.02.22, RFE/RL, 09.02.22)
    • Russian officials threatened Sept. 2 to stop all oil and gas imports to Europe if major Western countries go ahead with plans to implement energy price caps. (MT, 09.02.22)
  • Federal agents in the United States have searched several properties linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, whose superyacht was seized in Spain earlier this year at the request of the United States. (RFE/RL, 09.02.22)
  • Russia is trying, but failing, to by-pass Western sanctions on high-tech goods for military purposes and its energy sector, and it is struggling to obtain international funding, U.S. State Department sanctions coordinator James O'Brien said on Sept. 2. (Reuters, 09.02.22)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • No significant developments.

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

  • The Czech Republic and Poland signed an agreement to protect the airspace of neighbor and fellow NATO member Slovakia as Bratislava ceases use of its old Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets at the end of this month. (RFE/RL, 08.28.22)
  • The United States is establishing a new ambassadorial position for the Arctic as NATO has stressed the strategic challenges Russia's increased activity in the increasingly competitive region poses for the military alliance. (RFE/RL, 08.28.22)
  • The “special military operation” in Ukraine is being carried out in order to prevent World War III, Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, stated in an interview with French TV channel LCI. “We must do everything so that the third world war does not happen, and the policy of our country is aimed precisely at this,” Medvedev said. (Meduza, 08.28.22)
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for a new European air defense system. He also pledged that Germany would continue to send state of the art weapons to Ukraine, including air defense and radar systems and reconnaissance drones, and said Germany could take on “special responsibility” for building up Ukraine’s artillery. Germany would also ensure that the planned EU rapid response force would be ready for deployment in 2025. Scholz also said he is “committed” to the enlargement of the European Union to include the six countries of the Western Balkans, as well as Ukraine, Moldova and ultimately Georgia, declaring that the “center of Europe is moving eastwards.” (FT, 08.29.22, RFE/RL, 08.29.22)
  • The United States is concerned about India’s plans to participate in joint military exercises with Russia, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Aug. 30. (ANI, 08.31.22)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Aug. 31 said Western public figures exhibit double standards and pursue geopolitical purposes when they extol former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s role in the world politics, while disregarding his stance on Crimea and Ukraine. (TASS, 08.31.22)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Russia and China will embark on a series of military exercises this week, a sign of Moscow’s deepening ties with Beijing and of the Kremlin’s desire to project a “business as usual” image despite the mounting costs of its war in Ukraine. The Vostok war games, which begin on Aug. 30, are held every four years in Russia’s far east. (FT, 08.29.22)
  • Two years ago this month, China’s Xi Jinping and Putin agreed to a “financial alliance.” As economist Ivan Tchakarov at Citigroup reports, yuan trading at the Moscow Exchange, Russia’s largest, has surged more than 40-fold this year. What’s more, Tchakarov notes, yuan dealing “has now started to dominate trading in more traditional currencies. This is happening against the backdrop of fast-declining trading in the U.S. dollar.” (Asia Times/Bloomberg, 08.26.22)
  • The Biden administration has imposed new restrictions on sales of some sophisticated computer chips to China and Russia, the U.S. government’s latest attempt to use semiconductors as a tool to hobble rivals’ advances in fields such as high-performance computing and artificial intelligence. (NYT, 08.31.22)
  • Lionized in the West for ending the Cold War, Gorbachev is seen in China as the man who brought disaster on his own people and blithely dismantled a great socialist nation in a cautionary tale of failed leadership that Chinese Communist Party officials have obsessively studied for decades. (WP, 08.31.22)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • No significant developments.


  • Abdusalom Odinazoda, Tajikistan-born former researcher at the University of Western Australia, has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years for inciting terrorism abroad. Australian news agencies reported that, officially known in Australia as Abdussalam Adina-Zada and considered by the authorities in Western Australia to be one of the state’s most dangerous people, will be eligible for release on parole in August 2023. (RFE/RL, 08.29.22)

Conflict in Syria:

  • Satellite imagery confirmed Russia redeployed an S-300 surface-to-air missile system from Syria, and observers believe the battery is already in transit through the Black Sea to support Russia’s war in Ukraine. (Drive, 08.27.22)

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia exported 7.4 million barrels of crude and products such as diesel and gasoline each day in July, according to the IEA, down only about 600,000 barrels a day since the start of the year. Even with the dip in oil exports, Russia has earned $20 billion in average monthly sales this year compared with a $14.6 billion monthly average in 2021. (WSJ, 08.28.22)
  • Gazprom’s shares skyrocketed more than 30% Aug. 31 after its board recommended paying dividends on record net profits in the first half of this year. Gazprom said the day before that it made a record 2.5 trillion rubles ($41.36 billion) in net profit in the first six months of this year “despite sanctions pressure and an unfavorable external environment.” (MT, 08.31.22)
  • Russian oil production may increase this year, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Sept. 1, despite Western sanctions over Ukraine, while the country supports OPEC+ deal extension beyond 2022. He said production of oil and gas condensate is expected at between 520 million tons and 525 million tons in 2022 after it reached 524 million tons in 2021. (Reuters, 09.01.22)
  • Gazprom on Sept. 2 raised the possibility of a prolonged halt of natural gas supply through a key pipeline to Germany, citing the need for urgent maintenance work. The Russian state-run energy company said in a social media post that it had identified “malfunctions” of a key turbine along the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. The company said the pipeline will remain shut down until the issue is fixed, without giving any timeline. Russia on Aug. 31 halted gas flows through the pipeline as Gazprom started three days of planned maintenance on the line. (AP, 09.02.22, FT, 08.31.22, WSJ, 09.02.22)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Biden’s statement on Gorbachev’s passing: “Mikhail Gorbachev was a man of remarkable vision. … As leader of the USSR, he worked with President Reagan to reduce our two countries’ nuclear arsenals, to the relief of people worldwide praying for an end to the nuclear arms race. After decades of brutal political repression, he embraced democratic reforms. … These were the acts of a rare leader—one with the imagination to see that a different future was possible and the courage to risk his entire career to achieve it. The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people.” (White House, 08.30.22)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, has died aged 91, Russian state media reported on Aug. 30. Gorbachev died following a “serious and long-term illness,” the hospital said, according to the report. He will be buried at Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow, the final resting place for hundreds of Russian and Soviet dignitaries, alongside his wife Raisa. (FT, 08.30.22)
    • Putin has saluted Gorbachev’s “huge influence on the course of global history” in a message to the late Soviet premier’s family. The Russian leader said Gorbachev, “led our country through a period of difficult, dramatic change and substantial foreign policy, economic and social challenges,” the Kremlin said Aug. 31. However, Putin will not attend the funeral due to his busy schedule, Peskov said Sept. 1. Instead, Putin visited on Sept. 1 the hospital where Gorbachev died and placed flowers in Moscow’s House of Unions where Gorbachev is lying in state. (FT, 08.31.22, MT, 09.01.22)
    • The death of Gorbachev prompted differing reactions from Russians on Aug. 31, with criticism expressed alongside tributes, reflecting the Nobel Prize-winning leader’s polarizing legacy in the country that he called home. (MT, 08.31.22)
  • Russia’s banking sector lost 1.5 trillion rubles ($24.8 billion) in the first half of 2022, a top Central Bank official said Sept. 2. This is the first time the Central Bank has disclosed financial results since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February. (MT, 09.02.22)
  • Economist Sergei Guriev on Sept. 2 warned that Russia could become like "North Korea on steroids" when Putin is replaced. "It's very hard to predict what will come after Putin. The reason for that is Putin has built his regime in a way nobody can replace him," Guriev said. (CNBC, 09.02.22)
  • Investigative outlet Projekt obtained the indictment and "state secrets" for the espionage trial of war correspondent Ivan Safronov. In the spring of 2021, FSB investigator Alexander Chaban persuaded Russian-German political scientist Dmitry Voronin to admit that he allegedly received secret information about Russia from Safronov. Chaban began to inquire about the name of Voronin’s "curator" in the special services, and the political scientist came up with the call sign Wichser. This answer suited the investigator, who sent a request to the Foreign Intelligence Service and received an answer: such an agent really exists, despite the fact that in desperation Voronin said the first word that came to his mind in German, which translates to a profanity. However, the documents at the disposal of Projekt allow us to conclude that all the alleged "state secrets" given over by Safronov are in open sources. (Projekt, 08.29.22)
    • The prosecution has asked a Moscow court to convict and sentence Safronov to 24 years in prison in a high-profile treason case that is widely considered to be politically motivated. (RFE/RL, 08.30.22)
  • Ravil Maganov, the chairman of Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil producer, died on Aug. 31 after falling from a sixth-floor hospital window in Moscow, the country’s state media reported, the latest in a series of deaths of businessmen with ties to the energy industry since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. (NYT, 09.01.22)
  • From Sept. 1, Russian schools will have an additional weekly lesson: "Conversations about the important." In these lessons, as part of “protecting Russian society from destructive information and psychological impact” and “strengthening traditional Russian spiritual and moral values,” teachers will have to instill patriotism and love for the motherland in schoolchildren. (Istories, 08.26.22)
  • Russia recorded 50,952 new COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours, the government's coronavirus task force said on Sept. 2, the highest daily tally in almost six months. (Reuters, 09.02.22)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russia launched large-scale joint military exercises with China, India and several other countries in the Far East on Sept. 1, although they involved far fewer troops and hardware than in previous years. A total of 50,000 troops will take Vostok-2022 (East-2022) war games—compared to 300,000 who participated in the same drills four years ago. (MT, 09.01.22)
  • An order announced Aug. 25 raises Russia’s target number of active-duty service members by about 137,000, to 1.15 million, beginning in January. Putin’s announcement “is unlikely to make substantive progress toward increasing Russia’s combat power in Ukraine,” Britain’s defense intelligence agency said Aug. 28. (NYT, 08.28.22)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Elena Belova, the woman who set fire to the BMW of the Deputy Chief of the Eighth Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Yevgeny Sekretarev in Moscow, was misled by unidentified scammers into thinking she was participating in a “special operation.” During the detention, the scammers asked her to shout pro-Ukrainian slogans. (Baza 08.28.22)
  • Russia’s top security agency on Aug. 29 identified a second Ukrainian that it alleged was involved in the killing of the daughter of a Russian nationalist ideologue. Russia’s FSB said that Ukrainian national Bogdan Tsyganenko helped prepare the killing of Darya Dugina. (AP, 08.22.22)
  • One hundred Russians have been accused or convicted under Russia’s draconian wartime censorship law on spreading "false information," according to leading human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov. Two people have so far been sentenced to prison terms and 28 people accused of the crime are in jail awaiting trial, according to figures Chikov posted Sept. 1 on Telegram. (MT, 09.02.22)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Two senior officials at Germany's economy ministry "who are involved with energy supply in key positions" are being investigated over allegations of spying for Russia, newspaper Die Zeit reported on Wednesday. (Politico, 08.31.22)
  • In the Central African Republic, Wagner PMC operatives have targeted civilians in more than half of all their operations since 2018, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a crisis monitoring organization. (NYT, 08.30.22)
  • The Vatican on Aug. 30 for the first time said that Russia was the aggressor in the Ukraine war, condemning Moscow’s invasion in strong terms after earlier comments by Pope Francis prompted criticism from Kyiv. (NYT, 08.30.22)


  • The Kremlin is planning to hold referendums on joining Russia in September in two regions of Ukraine amid continuing heavy fighting, independent Russian media outlets reported Aug. 26. Moscow is “impatient” and would like to “pull off” referendums in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as fast as possible amid stalemate on the battlefield, said the Vyorstka news website citing unidentified government sources. At the same time, the Kremlin is putting off similar referendums in the occupied Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which it hopes can be staged at a later date, according to Vyorstka. The Vedomosti business daily reported Aug. 25 that the Kremlin had ditched plans to tie the southeast Ukrainian referendums to Russia’s local elections on Sept. 11 because of the ongoing fighting.  (MT/AFP, 08.28.22)
    • However, U.S. officials say Russia is gearing up to hold sham referendums not only in Ukrainian areas under its occupation in the south, but also in parts of Kharkiv in the northeast, with preparations also underway in Russian-controlled Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south and in the Donbas region in the east, Vedant Patel, a deputy spokesman for the State Department, told reporters Aug. 30. (NYT, 08.31.22)
  • Putin has signed a decree allowing Ukrainian passport holders who have entered Russia since the Kremlin's offensive to live and work in the country indefinitely. The new measure allows Ukrainian citizens and people from Ukraine's separatist eastern regions that Russia recognizes as independent to work in Russia without a work permit and to live in the country "without a time limit," according to the temporary decree published on Aug. 27. (MT/AFP, 08.28.22)
  • A poll in Ukraine in July offered respondents three options: "yes, we need an immediate ceasefire no matter the territorial cost" (5.6% chose this response); "yes, we need a ceasefire but only under the right conditions" (15.4%); and "no we should only have a ceasefire when we have liberated all our lands" (70.5%). (WP/Monkey Cage, 08.30.22)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Lavrov warned Moldova on Sept. 1 that threatening the security of Russian troops in the breakaway region of Transdniestria risked triggering military confrontation with Moscow. (Reuters, 09.01.22)
  • Moldovan President Maia Sandu marked the 31st anniversary of the small nation’s independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union with a speech that included a condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a push for the country's eventual EU membership. (RFE/RL, 08.28.22)
  • Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev says his country’s armed forces have taken control over the key town of Lachin, which links Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, that had been under the control of Russian peacekeepers since November 2020. Aliyev wrote on Twitter on Aug. 26 that Azerbaijani armed forces also now control the villages of Zabux and Sus in the Lachin district. (RFE/RL, 08.28.22)
  • Armenian exports to Russia, its largest trade partner, grew 49% in the first half of 2022 compared with the same period last year, the country’s official statistics agency reported at the beginning of August. Imports grew 42%. That suggests a heavy level of re-export, independent economist Suren Parsyan told Eurasianet. (Eurasianet, 08.31.22)
  • The Defense Industry Commission of Kazakhstan approved the proposal of the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development to suspend arms exports until the end of August 2023. (Media Zone, 08.28.22)
  • In the Latvian capital of Riga, an obelisk that soared high above a park to commemorate the Soviet Army’s capture of that nation in 1944 was toppled last week. Days earlier in Estonia, a replica of a Soviet tank with the communist red star was removed by cranes and trucked away to a museum—one of up to 400 destined for removal. And in Poland, Lithuania and Czechia, monuments to the Red Army have been coming down for months, a belated purge of what many see as symbols of past oppression. (AP, 08.31.22)
  • Kazakhstan's president, Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, has called for an early presidential election in the coming months in which he will seek a second term in office. In an annual address on Sept. 1, Toqaev also proposed increasing the presidential term to seven years from five years while barring future presidents from seeking more than one term. (RFE/RL, 09.01.22)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • “They gave us the gift of at least 30 years of life without the threat of a global nuclear war. We have wasted this gift. The gift does not exist anymore,” said Dmitri Muratov, a Russian newspaper editor and a winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on the legacy of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. (NYT, 09.01.22)
  • “There is an axiomatic policy—don’t poke the bear—that’s been around for decades,” said Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk assessment firm in Washington. “The Ukrainians are turning that policy on its head. And the bear has proven remarkably pokable.” (NYT, 08.26.22)
  • Exports of Russian fuel oil, a lightly refined version of crude, now go to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The arrangement adds supply to the global oil market, helping put a lid on prices. “This is a win-win situation for the Russians and even, I would say, for the Europeans and the U.S.,” said Carole Nakhle, chief executive at consulting firm Crystol Energy. (WSJ, 08.28.22)