Russia in Review, Dec. 1-8, 2023

6 Things to Know

  1. In a move that surprised few, Vladimir Putin announced his decision to run for a fifth term during Russia’s presidential elections set for March 15-17, 2023. “I won’t hide it, at different times I have various thoughts about this,” the incumbent claimed after Donetsk separatist leader Artyom Zhoga asked him during a Kremlin event on Dec. 8 to run again.  “But ... right now is a time when decisions need to be made, and I will run for election to the position of president," Putin said. Putin’s re-election would keep him in the Kremlin until 2030 per the revised Russian constitution. He could then run for reelection again, staying in power until 2036, when he would be 84 years old. Putin is currently 71 and the people who accompany him most often are ENT specialist Igor Yesakov, oncologist Evgeny Selivanov, neurologist Roman Rotankov and carrier of the president’s nuclear suitcase Dmitry Shumeiko, according to the media outlet Project.
  2. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have told a Bloomberg journalist that “there is no way House will pass Ukraine aid in 2023” warned even though the Biden administration hasthat the U.S. would run completely out of resources to assist Ukraine by the end of 2023. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson “is firm on House leaving by Dec. 15 and no Senate deal in sight,” Bloomberg’s Erik Wasson wrote on his X account Dec. 7. On Dec. 6, Senate Republicans blocked a $111 billion national security funding package that included $66 billion in emergency Ukraine aid, as well as funds for Israel, Taiwan and stepped-up U.S. border enforcement, according to Bloomberg. The military, financial and humanitarian aid promised to Ukraine between August and October 2023 fell almost 90% from the same period in 2022, reaching its lowest point since the start of Russia's invasion in February 2022, according to The Kiel Institute for the World Economy’s estimates cited by AFP.
  3. The U.S. is working to shape the outcome of the war in Ukraine by providing aid to Kyiv, but military means alone won’t decide the outcome, according to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown. “With any military conflict, you don’t solve it completely by military means, it ends up with a diplomatic solution,” he said at the Reagan National Defense Forum. "I think the place we would like to put the Ukrainians at the end of next year is where Russia is confronted with a decision: either they have to come to the negotiating table on terms that would be acceptable to Ukraine ... or they will face a stronger Ukraine,” U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Jonathan Finer told the Aspen Security Forum, according to RBC.ua.
  4. Miscalculations and divisions marked the efforts of Kyiv and its allies to plan the counteroffensive that Ukrainian forces launched this past summer, according to the results of extensive research by WP staff into the lead-up to the largely unsuccessful multi-pronged attack. “The year began with Western resolve at its peak, Ukrainian forces highly confident and ... Zelensky predicting a decisive victory,” WP staff write. “But now, there is uncertainty on all fronts,” according to WP. Your heart is in it,” CIA director William Burns said to WP of his hopes for helping Ukraine succeed. “But … our broader intelligence assessment was that this was going to be a really tough slog.” The past month of fighting actually saw Ukrainian forces endure a net loss of 10 square miles of territory, according to the Dec. 6 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card.   Western diplomats and military strategists now say Ukraine may not be able to mount another significant counteroffensive until 2025, according to WSJ.
  5. China-Russia trade hit $218.2 billion during January-November, Chinese customs data showed this week, achieving the goal that had been set by the two countries in 2019 a year ahead of schedule, according to Reuters. Russia’s Federal Customs Service projects trade turnover with China at around $220 billion by the end of 2023, according to TASS. In contrast, U.S.-China trade reached $690 billion in 2022, according to the U.S. government.*
  6. As much as $11 billion a year of petrodollars are evaporating between when the oil leaves Russia to when it reaches buyers, according to Bloomberg’s Dec. 5 investigation of “how Russia punched a ... hole in the West’s oil sanctions.” In fact, Moscow’s monthly income from oil exports is greater now than before the invasion of Ukraine, highlighting the failure of measures to curb its war chest, according to this news agency.

 

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • On Dec. 2, Ukraine said that two power lines connecting its electricity grid to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant were cut overnight, putting the plant at risk of an "accident." The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed the temporary outage in a post on X, formerly Twitter. The threat of a nuclear accident persists amid Russia’s invasion, the Ukrainian energy ministry said after the blackout. (MT/AFP, 12.02.23, Bloomberg, 12.02.23)
  • Russia's nuclear agency Rosatom on Dec. 5 presented its two new RITM-200 reactors that will power the future Chukotka icebreaker ship. (MT/AFP, 12.05.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • North Korea has spurned all outreach from the Biden administration, Kurt Campbell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is weighing his nomination for deputy secretary of state. (Bloomberg, 12.08.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin praised his country's relations with Iran at a meeting in Moscow on Dec. 7 with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Putin added that Russian traders' eye-catching presence in Iran's trade exhibitions and the 20-percent rise in bilateral trade with an annual turnover of 5 billion U.S. dollars in the past year was indicative of the determination of Moscow and Tehran to open a new chapter in bilateral ties. Raisi stressed that "the ground is prepared" for taking more effective steps to expand cooperation between Iran and Russia in line with the interests of both sides. (Xinhua, 12.07.23, AFP, 12.08.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • Footage released by the Ukrainian OSINT project DeepState appears to show the execution of unarmed Ukrainian soldiers in Donetsk’s Pokrovskyi district in eastern Ukraine. The video, published on Dec. 2, was reportedly taken by a drone north of. (Meduza, 12.03.23)
  • The United States has charged four Russian soldiers with torture and other war crimes in connection with the alleged abduction and interrogation of an American during the early stages of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in April 2022. The U.S. citizen, who was not identified, was abducted from his home in the village of Mylove in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine and held for at least 10 days, the Justice Department said in a news release. (RFE/RL, 12.06.23)
  •  On the night of Dec. 1-2, Russian forces launched another series of Shahed 136/131 drone and missile strikes targeting southern Ukraine. On Dec. 2, at least two civilians were killed in Ukraine's Donetsk and Kherson regions in shelling by Russian troops that also caused damage to infrastructure and property, regional officials said. (ISW, 12.02.23, RFE/RL, 12.02.23)
  • On Dec. 8, Russia unleashed a fresh wave of drone and missile attacks on several Ukrainian regions, killing at least one person, wounding several others, and causing substantial damage to civilian and energy infrastructure, Ukraine's military and regional official reported. An air-raid alert was declared early on Dec. 8 in Kyiv and most Ukrainian regions. Ukraine’s military downed 14 out of 19 cruise missiles fired by Russia from strategic bombers flying within its own territory, Yuriy Ihnat, an Air Force spokesman, said. That would make it the largest such attack since Sept. 21, when Ukraine said it shot down most of the 43 cruise missiles fired from Russia. (RFE/RL, 12.08.23, Bloomberg, 12.08.23)
  • Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klichko told 20min.ch: “The Russians say they are targeting military installations, but they are targeting civilian structures and want millions of people to freeze in sub-zero temperatures. It is simply terror.” (20min.ch, 12.02.23)
  • Germany’s Baden-Württemberg is home to more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, more than in the whole of France, according to data from Eurostat, the European statistics agency. (NYT, 12.03.23)
  • The International Federation of Journalists says 94 journalists and media workers, including nine women, have been killed in 2023, a 67 percent jump over the same period a year earlier. In Europe, the IFJ said Ukraine remains a "dangerous country for journalists," with Ukrainian, Russian and French media members dying this year in Russia's war against Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.08.23)
  • The U.S. Treasury Department stated on Dec. 5 that the Russian government and Belarus's regime "have been working together to coordinate and fund the movement of children from Ukraine to Belarus." The United States on Dec. 5 imposed fresh sanctions targeting several entities and individuals that the U.S. Treasury Department says are revenue generators for the regime of Belarusian authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenka. (RFE/RL, 12.06.23)
  •  Russia has agreed to free an additional six Ukrainian children and allow them to reunite with their families in Ukraine following Qatari mediation, Lolwah Al-Khater, Qatar's minister of state for international cooperation said on Dec. 5. (WP, 12.05.23)
  • Ukraine says it has exported around 7 million tons of cargo through Black Sea ports despite Russia's blockade. Ukraine's Reconstruction Ministry said on Dec. 4 on Telegram that the 7 million tons of cargo included almost 5 million tons of Ukrainian agricultural products. (AFP, 12.05.23)
  • The first 30 trucks passed through the newly opened Uhryniv-Dolhobychuv crossing on the Ukrainian-Polish border that Kyiv expects will unblock main land corridors amid protests by Polish drivers, Ukraine's border service said on Dec. 4. (Reuters, 12.04.23)
    • One Ukrainian soldier, Oleksandr, fighting in eastern Ukraine, said that his unit was still waiting for delivery of two-night vision devices, critical for soldiers navigating their way to fighting positions safely. The equipment has been held up at the border, he said, where Polish truckers have blocked major crossings, causing miles-long backups, since Nov. 6. (NYT, 12.07.23)
  • EU member states are far from reaching a deal over topping up the bloc’s joint budget—including €50 billion for Ukraine—ahead of a summit in Brussels on Dec. 14-15, said officials involved in the discussions. EU efforts to reach a compromise are being hampered by the victory of a far-right party in last month’s Dutch election and a recent German court ruling curbing the government’s borrowing. A budget agreement would be “very, very difficult,” a senior official said. Hungary’s Orban also opposes the funding package. (FT, 12.03.23)
    • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned the European Union against discussing the start of membership talks with Ukraine at a leaders summit in Brussels on Dec. 13-15, 2023. (Bloomberg, 12.04.23)
  • Ukraine's allies have drastically scaled back their pledges of new aid to the country, which have fallen to their lowest level since the start of the war, the Kiel Institute's Ukraine aid tracker showed. The military, financial and humanitarian aid promised to Ukraine between August and October 2023 fell almost 90% from the same period in 2022, reaching its lowest point since the start of Russia's invasion in February 2022. The Kiel Institute figures showed that newly committed aid between August and October 2023 came to just 2.11 billion euros, a drop of 87% year-on-year. (MT/AFP, 12.07.23)
  • Japan has pledged $1 billion in additional aid to Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Dec. 7. (RFE/RL, 12.07.23)
  • Norway and Britain announced on Dec. 5 that they would launch a coalition to support Ukraine. (NYT, 12.07.23)
  • Scientists from the German cities of Marburg and Hanover, along with Ukrainian photographers, have documented 250 architectural monuments that have been threatened or damaged by the Russian war in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.03.23)

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

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 14 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 4 square miles, according to the 12.06.23 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 12.06.23)
    • On Dec. 1, Russian forces were assaulting the industrial town of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine from two new directions, Ukrainian officials said on Dec. 4, as Moscow expanded its bid to capture the near-encircled town. Local military officials in eastern Ukraine say Russian forces have expanded their avenues of attack against Avdiivka in an effort to surround and capture it "at any cost." (MT/AFP, 12.04.23, RFE/RL, 12.04.23)
    • On Dec. 2, Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and advanced near Avdiivka. (ISW, 12.02.23)
    • On Dec. 2, Russian troops attacked the Odesa region with 11 Iranian-made kamikaze drones overnight, the Ukrainian Air Force Command reported (RFE/RL, 12.02.23)
    • On Dec. 4, Russia's Defense Ministry said it intercepted 30 Ukrainian drones, while Kyiv said it shot down 18 of 23 that Russia fired overnight, as well as one guided missile. (MT/AFP, 12.04.23)
    • On Dec. 4, Russia's Defense Ministry said it intercepted 30 Ukrainian drones, while Kyiv said it shot down 18 of 23 that Russia fired overnight, as well as one guided missile. On Dec. 1 Russian forces were assaulting the industrial town of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 12.04.23)
    • On the night of Dec. 4-5, Russian air defenses jammed or shot down 41 drones over Crimea and the Sea of Azov overnight, the Defense Ministry said on Telegram on Dec. 5. That is one less than the number Russia said it intercepted on Aug. 25, one of the largest attacks against the country recorded to date. (Bloomberg, 12.05.23)
    • On the night of Dec. 4-5, Ukraine’s air force said Russia launched 17 Shahed-type drones and six S-300 anti-aircraft missiles overnight at areas including the western regions of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil. In total, Ukrainian air defenses destroyed 10 of those drones, according to the air force’s Telegram statement. (Bloomberg, 12.05.23)
    • On Dec. 5, Russian Naval Aviation Su-24M FENCER D fighter bomber was highly likely shot down by to a Ukrainian surface-to-air Missile (SAM) over the north-western Black Sea in the vicinity of Ukraine’s Snake Island. (U.K. Ministry of Defense’s X (Twitter) account, 12.08.23)
    • On Dec. 5, Ukraine said it had hit Russian military facilities in Crimea with drones. Russia said it had neutralized 35 Ukrainian drones over Crimea and the Sea of Azov, which lies between the warring countries. (MT/AFP, 12.06.23)
    • On the night of Dec. 5-6, Kyiv said on Dec. 6 that Moscow had launched dozens of Iranian-designed attack drones toward Ukraine. "A total of 48 Shahed-136/131 strike UAVs were launched," the Ukrainian air force said in a statement, adding that defensive systems had downed 41 of the unmanned aerial vehicles. (MT/AFP, 12.06.23)
    • On the night of Dec. 6-7, Ukrainian forces downed 15 of 18 Russian-launched Shahed-131/136 drones that primarily targeted Khmelnytskyi and Odesa oblasts (ISW, 12.07.23)
    • As of Dec. 8, nether side made any significant gains either in the southern Kherson or Zaporizhzhia regions, according to Russian pro-war Telegram channel “WarGonzo.”  Nor were there any “significant changes of the LOC” in the east, though heated fighting continued in the Donetsk region’s town of Maryiinka, according to WarGonzo. (RM, 12.08.23)
  • The Russians were able to pull out that Ukrainian M2A2 Bradley ODS-SA infantry fighting vehicle equipped with BRAT dynamic protection kit, making it the first captured Bradley by the Russian military. (Status-6 OSINT project’s X (Twitter) account, 12.03.23)
  • The Ukrainians usually attack Russian trenches in assault groups of roughly 10 to 16 soldiers. These troops are dropped right into the enemy’s trench network by two or three infantry fighting vehicles or armored personnel carriers, supported by two or more main battle tanks. Once the Ukrainian soldiers are in the Russian trench system, the armored vehicles retire, according to Franz-Stefan Gady. (FP, 12.06.23)
  • Russian and Ukrainian officials have reported that Russian crypto-mobilization efforts produce roughly 20,000 to 40,000 personnel a month, a rate that could be lower than Russia’s current casualty rate in Ukraine. (ISW, 12.07.23)
  • Ukrainian draft-dodgers have tried bribing border guards—at least 825 times to the tune of about $228,000, a Border Guard spokesman said—or attempted to pass through checkpoints as stowaways. At least 25 men have drowned while crossing the Tysa River separating Ukraine from Moldova and Romania. (WP, 12.08.23)
  • Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov recently told a European security forum that Ukraine has 1 million people in military service, including 800,000 in the armed forces. But the toll has been staggering, with U.S. security officials estimating much earlier this year that Ukraine has suffered more that 124,500 casualties, including more than 15,500 killed in action. (WP, 12.08.23)
  • Ukrainian Ground Forces Command Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Volodymyr Fityo claimed on Dec. 7 that Russian forces lost almost 11,000 personnel (presumably killed or rendered hors de combat by injury) in the Kupyansk, Lyman, and Bakhmut directions in November 2023 (ISW, 12.07.23)
  • Nearly 200 inmates left Colony No. 6 in the Chelyabinsk region high-security Russian prison to join the war in Ukraine. The majority were convicted drug sellers or murderers, seeking redemption, money or a path to freedom. The Times obtained the names and details of the 197 initial IK6 recruits, and was able to confirm the fates of 172 of them through 2023. At least one in four recruits who left jail in October 2022 was killed. Most who lived appear to have suffered serious injuries, according to interviews with survivors and relatives. (NYT, 12.04.23)
  • A Russian Navy general was killed while on duty in Ukraine, the governor of Russia's southern Voronezh region said on Dec. 4, confirming earlier reports of the senior officer's death. Major General Vladimir Zavadsky died at age 45 “while on combat duty in the special operation zone,” Voronezh Governor Alexander Gusev wrote, adding that the general served as deputy commander of the Northern Fleet’s 14th Army Corps. (MT/AFP, 12.04.23)
  • A Moscow-backed politician in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region has been killed in a bombing attack, Russian state media reported on Dec. 6. Oleg Popov, a deputy in the pro-Kremlin Luhansk regional parliament, was killed on the afternoon of Dec. 6 in the city of Luhansk, which has been under the control of Moscow-backed separatists since 2014. (MT/AFP, 12.06.23)
  • A former Ukraine lawmaker who had been charged with treason was assassinated on Dec. 6 near Moscow in an operation carried out by Ukrainian security service agents, according to officials. Ilya Kiva, 46, a proponent of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and longtime opponent of President Volodymyr Zelensky, fled to Russia last year after facing treason charges and being stripped of his mandate as a member of the Ukrainian parliament. (FT, 12.06.23)
  • Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Dec. 7 it detained a Belarusian national with permanent residence in Lithuania on suspicion of carrying out explosions on two trains on the Baikal-Amur Main Line last week. According to the FSB, the suspect, whose identity was not disclosed, confessed to the attacks, saying that Ukrainian intelligence organized them. (RFE/RL, 12.07.23)
  • Miscalculations and divisions marked the efforts of Kyiv and its allies to plan the Ukrainian military’s summer offensive, according to the results of extensive research by Washington Post staff into the lead-up to the largely unsuccessful operation. “The year began with Western resolve at its peak, Ukrainian forces highly confident and … Zelensky predicting a decisive victory,” WP staff writes. “But now, there is uncertainty on all fronts. Morale in Ukraine is waning. International attention has been diverted to the Middle East. Even among Ukraine’s supporters, there is growing political reluctance to contribute more. … Ukraine has shifted to a slow-moving dismounted slog that has retaken only slivers of territory.” “Together, all these factors make victory for Ukrainefar less likely than years of war and destruction,” WP staff write. “The year now stands to end with … Putin more certain than ever that he can wait out a fickle West and fully absorb the Ukrainian territory already seized by his troops,” according to WP. (WP, 12.04.23, RM, 12.04.23)
    • On Jan. 16, five months before the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, Gen. Mark A. Milley, then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited soldiers with the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade. “The whole thing … for them to be successful with the Russians is for them to be able to both fire and maneuver,” Milley said, describing in basic terms the essence of the counteroffensive’s “combined arms” strategy, which called for coordinated maneuvers by a massed force of infantry, tanks, armored vehicles, engineers and artillery. (WP, 12.04.23)
    • Later, in the meeting with U.S. trainers, he seemed to acknowledge the scale of the task ahead. “Give them everything you’ve got here,” he said. (WP, 12.04.23)
    • By August, Milley too had begun to air some frustration. He “started saying to Zaluzhny: ‘What are you doing?’” a senior Biden administration official said. (WP, 12.04.23)
  • Kyiv's forces are now digging in for what could be an extended period of just trying to stop any more Russian advances. Western diplomats and military strategists say a depleted Ukraine needs time to rebuild, and that it may not be able to mount another significant counteroffensive until 2025. (WSJ, 12.08.23)
  • CIA Director William J. Burns reflected in an interview: “For all their incompetence in the first year of the war, they had managed to launch a shambolic partial mobilization to fill a lot of the gaps in the front. In Zaporizhzhia”—the key line of the counteroffensive if the land bridge was to be severed—“we could see them building really quite formidable fixed defenses, hard to penetrate, really costly, really bloody for the Ukrainians.”Your heart is in it,” Burns said of his hopes for helping Ukraine succeed. “But … our broader intelligence assessment was that this was going to be a really tough slog.” (WP, 12.04.23)
  • [When asked about potential stalemate in Ukraine] Charles Q. Brown Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said “We do see as you go into the winter months, there is movement back and forth and what we are looking at is continuing to support Ukraine. … I don’t think we could actually measure that but the things they [Ukrainians]’ve been able to do over the course of the nearly 600 days has been quite impressive.” (CNBC. 11.29.23.)
  • In the first months of 2023, military officials from Britain, Ukraine and the United States concluded a series of war games at a U.S. Army base in Wiesbaden, Germany. Ukrainian officials hoped the offensive could re-create the success of the fall of 2022, when they recovered parts of the Kharkiv region in the northeast and the city of Kherson in the south in a campaign that surprised even Ukraine’s biggest backers. Again, their focus would be in more than one place. But Western officials said the war games affirmed their assessment that Ukraine would be best served by concentrating its forces on a single strategic objective—a massed attack through Russian-held areas to the Sea of Azov, severing the Kremlin’s land route from Russia to Crimea, a critical supply line. The most optimistic scenario for cutting the land bridge was 60 to 90 days. (WP, 12.04.23)
    • During one visit to Wiesbaden, Gen. Mark A. Milley, then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with Ukrainian special operations troops—who were working with American Green Berets. “There should be no Russian who goes to sleep without wondering if they’re going to get their throat slit in the middle of the night,” Milley said, according to an official with knowledge of the event. “You gotta get back there, and create a campaign behind the lines.” (WP, 12.04.23)
    • On Jan. 16, Gen. Mark A. Milley, then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited soldiers with the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade. “The whole thing … for them to be successful with the Russians is for them to be able to both fire and maneuver,” Milley said, describing in basic terms the essence of the counteroffensive’s “combined arms” strategy, which called for coordinated maneuvers by a massed f orce of infantry, tanks, armored vehicles, engineers and artillery. (WP, 12.04.23)
  • Ukrainian politicians say the military’s main idea seems to be to draft many more Ukrainians and to press Kyiv’s allies for more artillery ammunition. Civilian officials, meanwhile, want the military to provide a proper plan for the war, hinting the brass has none. “All we hear so far from [the military] is: ‘Give us more people and millions of artillery shells.’ That’s unrealistic,” said a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. But military officials said that a plan does exist. “You think that [U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin and [Commander of the U.S. European Command Christopher] Cavoli would come to meet Zaluzhny if he had no plan?” one asked. (Politico, 12.05.23)
    • In a conference call in the late fall of 2022, Austin spoke with Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top military commander, and asked him what he would need for a spring offensive. Zaluzhny responded that he required 1,000 armored vehicles and nine new brigades, trained in Germany and ready for battle. “I took a big gulp,” Austin said later, according to an official with knowledge of the call. “That’s near-impossible,” he told colleagues. (WP, 12.04.23)
      • Austin knew that additional time for training on new tactics and equipment would be beneficial but that Ukraine didn’t have that luxury. “In a perfect world, you get a choice. You keep saying, ‘I want to take six more months to train up and feel comfortable about this,’” he said in an interview. “My take is that they didn’t have a choice. They were in a fight for their lives.” (WP, 12.04.23)
    • In a meeting with Austin during his recent visit on Nov. 20, Zaluzhny, allegedly said that he requires “17 million shells and $350-400 billion in forces and funds” to achieve the goal of liberating the entire territory of Ukraine, according to an unidentified source cited by Ukrainska Pravda The anonymous source, cited in the UP article, said: “He [Austin] was surprised, to put it mildly, because there are not [that] many shells in the whole world.” (Kyiv Post, 12.05.23)
  • As Ukraine steps up efforts to press for more military support for its conflict with Russia, political frictions have emerged at a critical moment for the country. President Volodymyr Zelensky and the commander of Ukrainian forces, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, have been at odds. Vitali Klichko, the popular mayor of Kyiv, has suggested that Mr. Zelensky made mistakes in failing to prepare for the war. And the opposition leader, Petro O. Poroshenko, was on Dec. 1 blocked by the authorities from leaving for a trip abroad that he said was aimed at lobbying for more military support. (NYT, 12.06.23)
    • Zelensky communicates with the commanders of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, bypassing Zaluzhny and caustically jokes about him at meetings, according to Ukrainska Pravda. According to UP’s interlocutors at the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the first signs of rivalry and conflict between politicians and the military began in the spring of 2022. Disagreements between Zelensky and Zaluzhny have intensified significantly against the backdrop of failures during the counter-offensive. (Meduza, 12.04.23)
    • Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was denied permission to leave the country for a foreign trip, says Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU). According to the SBU, Russian intelligence had plans to use Poroshenko’s alleged future meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to promote a pro-Russian narrative. (Meduza, 12.03.23)
    • When asked to comment on commander-in-chief Zaluzhny’s observation that the war had entered a stalemate, Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klichko said: “He told the truth. Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth. … He explained and justified what the situation is today. Of course we can euphorically lie to our people and our partners. But you can't do that forever.” (20min.ch, 12.02.23)
    • When asked if he is surprised that President Zelensky's popularity is declining compared with that of the army, Klichko said: “No… People see who is effective and who is not. And there were and are many expectations. Zelensky is paying for the mistakes he made.” (20min.ch, 12.02.23)
    • The Pentagon says it has about $5 billion left Mariana Bezuhla, deputy head of the defense committee in the Ukrainian parliament, has been openly calling for Zaluzhny's dismissal, complaining he hasn't provided a detailed vision of the war for next year. (Politico, 12.05.23)
  • On Dec. 6, President Joe Biden urged Congress to approve additional aid for Ukraine before Christmas, as Republican objections fuel worries the U.S.’s will to resist Russia’s invasion is flagging. “This cannot wait,” Biden said. “Petty, partisan, angry politics can’t get in the way of our responsibility as a leading nation in the world. And literally, the entire world is watching.” Biden said he was willing to consider immigration policy changes to secure a deal. Biden has called on Congress to approve an emergency spending package that includes $61 billion in Ukraine aid. The funds earmarked for Ukraine include nearly $12 billion to keep Kyiv's government afloat, $15 billion in military support, and $2.3 billion for Ukrainian refugees. (Bloomberg, 12.06.23. WSJ, 12.06.23)
    • Biden’s budget director warned on Dec. 4 that the U.S. would run completely out of resources to assist Ukraine by the end of the calendar year, as the White House looks to ratchet up pressure on lawmakers to pass an emergency funding package. “There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment,” Shalanda Young, who leads the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to congressional leaders. Young said about 60 percent of the money approved so far—$67 billion—remained in the United States, largely to bolster American weapons manufacturers that have ramped up production over the last year to meet Ukraine’s insatiable demand. (Bloomberg, 12.04.23, NYT, 12.04.23)
  • On Dec. 6, Zelensky pledged Ukraine will defeat Russia and win a fair peace "against all odds” during a virtual meeting with Biden and other G7 leaders to discuss the war in Ukraine and military aid. We have a realistic action strategy, and it is our efforts—with your support—that can ensure Ukraine’s success on the ground,” Zelensky said. (RFE/RL, 12.06.23, Bloomberg, 12.06.23, FP, 12.06.23)
  • On Dec. 6, Pentagon announced a new Ukraine aid package that is valued at up to $175 million and includes: AIM-9M and AIM-7 missiles; High-speed Anti-radiation (HARM) missiles; Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles; Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems; artillery ammunition. (ISW, 12.07.23)
  • On Dec. 6, Senate Republicans blocked $66 billion in emergency Ukraine aid. No Republicans supported the procedural motion to consider the bill, which failed 49 to 51, well short of the 60 votes needed. The $111 billion national security funding package also included assistance for Israel, Taiwan and stepped-up U.S. border enforcement. The failed vote clarifies that Republicans—even those who strongly support continuing aid to Kyiv—are determined to hold back aid to Ukraine unless they can extract controversial changes in immigration and border policies. (Bloomberg, 12.06.23)
    • Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have told a Bloomberg journalist that “there is no way House will pass Ukraine aid in 2023” even though the Biden administration has warned that the U.S. would run completely out of resources to assist Ukraine by the end of 2023. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson “is firm on House leaving by Dec. 15 and no Senate deal in sight,” Bloomberg’s Erik Wasson wrote on his X account on Dec. 7. (RM, 12.08.23)
    • A shortfall in funding could quickly compromise Ukraine’s air defense capabilities, Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said. At the same time, Mr. Sullivan said, the supply of 155-millimeter artillery rounds—essential in the brutal fight along the front—would rapidly decrease. He cautioned that Putin’s military objectives in Ukraine remain unchanged. “Russia is still intending to continue to advance,” Sullivan said. “Its objectives in Ukraine are the full subjugation of that country, not just the taking of some territory in the south and the east,” he said. (NYT, 12.07.23, FP, 12.06.23)
    • Charles Q. Brown Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “In order for us to continue to support not just Ukraine but ourselves is to get the budget on time. And it continuing resolutions did not help us actually provide predictability.” (CNBC, 11.29.23.)
    • Cautiously optimistic U.S. officials and experts argue that Ukraine has one thing going in its favor: Nearly every senator and a vast majority of the members of the House on both sides of the aisle still support continuing U.S. military aid to Ukraine—as do a majority of American voters, according to some of the latest opinion polls. (FP, 12.06.23) 
      • House Speaker Mike Johnson has said that House Republicans won’t greenlight Ukraine aid without a Republican-backed immigration bill, H.R. 2, included in the supplemental package. Democrats have resoundingly rejected H.R. 2, which would mirror Trump-era immigration policies, including border wall construction and curbing humanitarian parole programs for asylum-seekers Those close to Johnson say his concern for Ukraine is sincere, and he is more conservative hawk than isolationist. (FP, 12.06.23, WSJ, 12.02.23)
      • The Biden administration is considering getting behind new restrictions on who can seek asylum and an expanded deportation process to secure new aid for Ukraine and Israel in a supplemental funding bill, a source familiar with discussions said. The White House would be open to heightening the standard for initial asylum screenings, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters, requesting anonymity to discuss the talks. The Biden administration also would entertain some form of a "safe third country" provision that would deny asylum to migrants who pass through another country en route to the U.S., the source said. (Reuters, 12.07.23)
  • On Dec. 5, Zelensky was meant to dial into a classified briefing to the entire U.S. Senate, but his virtual appearance got cancelled due to a last-minute scheduling conflict. (FP, 12.06.23)
  • Andriy Yermak, head of Zelensky’s presidential office, said that a postponement in U.S. aid would severely undermine Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territory and would create a “big risk” of Kyiv losing the war. (FP, 12.06.23)
  • “We will not stop defending our country—we will not give up a single piece of our land,” Oleksiy Danilov, the head of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, said in a statement issued on Dec. 7 morning, hours after Republicans in the United States Senate blocked the aid. (NYT, 12.07.23)
  • The Kremlin said on Dec. 7 that it hopes U.S. lawmakers will continue to block White House requests for emergency aid to Ukraine amid a funding row between Republicans and Democrats over border security issues. The Kremlin on Dec. 7 accused President Joe Biden of seeking to demonize Russia in order to wring more funds from Congress to keep the war in Ukraine going, something Moscow likened to burning U.S. taxpayers’ money in a furnace. (Al Arabiya, 12.07.23, MT/AFP, 12.07.23)
  • U.S. lawmakers who serve on both chambers' Armed Services committees on the night of Dec. 6 released compromise text for the annual National Defense Authorization Act. The proposal would send $300 million for security assistance to help fortify Ukraine's military after nearly two years of fighting against the Russian invasion. That is separate from the tens of billions of dollars in aid requested by Biden that failed to move forward in a Senate procedural vote on Dec. 6. (WSJ, 12.07.23)
  • This week, the U.S. government is hosting Ukrainian ministers and weapons makers for a two-day conference aimed at encouraging joint production with American companies. Officials from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense presented a "list of armaments to meet the needs of defense forces of Ukraine" during a closed-door session of a conference in Washington on Dec. 6. The comprehensive list included weapons Ukraine already has in stock like Abrams tanks and 155-millimeter artillery, as well some weaponry such as F-16s, drones and long-range ATACMS missiles that it has asked for in the past. (Reuters, 12.06.23. WSJ, 12.07.23)
    • Kyiv has agreed with two American firms to jointly manufacture 155mm artillery shells in Ukraine, Strategic Industry Minister Oleksandr Kamyshin said on Dec. 7. (RFE/RL, 12.08.23)
    • Before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. was producing 15,000 155-millimeter artillery shells a month. The U.S. Defense Department is now producing about 28,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery ammunition a month, according to the U.S. Army’s October numbers, the most used across NATO countries. The Pentagon is hoping to ramp up production of these 155-mm shells by 500% in the next two years, with costs currently estimated at $1.5 billion. (FP, 12.06.23, Bloomberg, 12.07.23)
  • Much of the equipment provided to Kyiv, including Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams tanks, are older systems that are replaced by building new equipment. The United States has already invested about $27 billion in more than 35 states, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in prepared remarks at the Ukraine Defense Industrial Base Conference in Washington on Dec.6. The supplemental would add another $50 billion, Austin said. (WP, 12.06.23)
  • Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Charles Q. Brown said, “Being able to get the funding and supplementals in place to continue to provide support for both Ukraine and Israel also supports us in our defense industrial base as well.” (Reagan National Defense Forum, 12.03.23)
  • The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation has recently released its annual survey of public opinion on defense and security issues. Some 67 percent of the respondents support helping Ukraine. And an overwhelming 76 percent say it is important for the United States that Ukraine defeats Russia. (WP, 12.08.23)
  • European Union countries have placed orders for only 60,000 artillery shells under an EU scheme to help get 1 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine by next spring, according to people familiar with the figures. (Reuters, 12.06.23)
  • Germany has delivered a new package of military aid to Ukraine that includes shells, drones, and vehicles, the government in Berlin said in a statement. It said the new package included 10 Vector reconnaissance drones, 1,750 artillery shells, 70 grenade launchers, six patrol cars, and eight trucks, as well as 100,000 military first-aid kits. (RFE/RL, 12.08.23)
  • Germany's army, the Bundeswehr, has trained a second group of Ukrainian soldiers on the Patriot air-defense system. (RFE/RL, 12.02.23)
  • Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has vetoed the country's plans to send 100 surplus armored personnel carriers (APCs) to Ukraine, sending the arrangement back to parliament for reconsideration. (RFE/RL, 12.04.23)
  • An Istanbul-managed armaments plant is thought to be churning out tens of thousands of critically-needed 122mm Soviet-standard artillery ammunition for the Ukrainian military, despite declarations by President Erdoğan that Ankara’s position on the war in Ukraine is neutral and that Turkey could act as an honest broker and intermediary for both sides. (Kyiv Post, 12.04.23)

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

  • The Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act has been scheduled for consideration by the House of Representatives next week under an expedited procedure that requires two-thirds majority to pass, Bloombergreported. Russia supplied almost a quarter of the enriched uranium used to fuel America’s fleet of more than 90 commercial reactors, making it the No. 1 supplier to the U.S. last year, according to Energy Department data. (Bloomberg, 12.06.23)
  • G7 nations have agreed to a ban imports of non-industrial diamonds from Russia starting on Jan. 1, 2024; a ban on the stones processed in third countries from Mar. 1; and a full traceability system for rough diamonds traded in G7 nations from Sept. 1, according to people briefed on the contents of a joint statement. (FT, 12.06.23)
  • Switzerland has frozen an estimated 7.7 billion Swiss francs ($8.81 billion) in financial assets belonging to Russians, the government said on Dec. 1, under sanctions designed to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. (Reuters/RFE/RL, 12.02.23)
  • The Biden administration is moving to jolt the domestic electric-car industry out of its reliance on China. The rules, which also cover Iran, North Korea and Russia, apply to battery components starting in 2024 and the minerals that go into them in 2025. (WSJ, 12.02.23)
  • Authorities in Croatia have arrested a man accused of engineering a cross-country fugitive escape that allowed a Russian man to get back to his home country. The charges were unsealed overnight in New York, where federal prosecutors say Vladimir Jovancic, a citizen of Bosnia, orchestrated the escape of Artem Uss from Italy. On Dec. 5, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller announced a $7 million reward for information leading to Uss's capture. (WP, 12.05.23)
  • New York lawyer who helped manage luxury properties in Manhattan and the Hamptons for sanctioned Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg avoided jail for money laundering. Robert Wise was sentenced on Dec. 4 to a year of home detention by U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil in Manhattan, followed by a year of probation. (Bloomberg, 12.05.23)
  • The U.K. government announced 46 new sanctions targeting individuals and groups accused of supplying and funding Putin’s war machine. Among others, the new round of U.K. sanctions target the designer of the Russian Lancet strike drones, Alexander Zakharov, as well as members of his family—wife Svetlana, daughter Maria, sons Nikita and Lavrenty. The family has a flat in central London. (Istories, 12.06.23, Uk.gov, 12.06.23)
  • The Finnish customs authorities announced on Dec. 5 that they’ve launched an investigation into two local companies suspected of supplying more than three million euros ($3.24 million) worth of sanctioned goods to Russia, including microcontrollers and semiconductor components and approximately 3,500 drones. (Meduza, 12.05.23)
  • Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich criticized Lithuania’s efforts to review its citizenship law, which allowed his children to obtain the Baltic nation’s passports. Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said on Dec. 6 that her ministry is drafting an amendment that would give the government broader rights to strip people of citizenship on national security grounds. Two of the billionaire’s seven children, 30-year-old Arkady and 31-year-old Anna, held Lithuanian citizenship when he transferred ownership of trusts to them in February and March 2022, according to Siena, a Lithuanian organization that works with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (Bloomberg, 12.07.23, Meduza, 12.08.23)
  • Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has said the government is looking into legal ways to deport individuals who decide to obtain Russian citizenship, reports Estonian publication Postimees. (Meduza, 12.02.23)
  • Barclays Plc has stepped in to support a U.K. charity set up by Russia’s richest sanctioned billionaire after JPMorgan Chase & Co. severed ties with the fund last year. The British lender is now listed as a provider of banking services for the London-based branch of Vladimir Potanin’s namesake foundation. (Bloomberg, 12.07.23)
  • The State Duma, in the third reading, approved amendments to laws allowing the president to introduce temporary management of property owned by persons from “unfriendly countries.” Previously, such measures were regulated by a decree of Putin himself. (Istories, 12.06.23)
  • Russia’s Justice Ministry has added the U.S. global policy think tank RAND Corporation to its list of “undesirable” organizations, banning its activities and putting staff at risk of jail in Russia. (MT/AFP, 12.07.23)
  • The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has declared the activities of the U.S. organization Russian America for Democracy in Russia “undesirable” on Russian territory, reported State Duma deputy Andrey Lugovoy. (Meduza, 12.07.23)
  • Russia's Interior Ministry has added Russian-American journalist, writer, and outspoken Kremlin critic Masha Gessen to its wanted list. Media reports said earlier that a probe against Gessen was launched in late August on a charge of distributing "fake" information about Russia's armed forces. (RFE/RL, 12.08.23)
  • Olympic officials on Doc. 8 announced that Russian and Belarusian athletes will be able to compete at next year's Paris Games as neutrals and outside of team events, but only if they have not actively supported Moscow's war against Ukraine. (AFP, 12.08.23)
  • When a group of Chechens with links to their region’s strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov showed up this summer to seize control of Danone’s operations in Russia, the company began receiving frightened calls from its staff in the country. Much of life at its Russian dairy operations continues as before, with Chechens largely running the expropriated factories in name only and previous leadership still involved in much of the day-to-day management. Danone’s new Chechen bosses are “running it basically as an MBA case, fairly professional and without raising too many flags—pulling the guns out and stuff like that,” according to one person close to Russia’s government subcommittee on Western assets. (FT, 12.08.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Charles Q. Brown the U.S. is working to shape the outcome of the war in Ukraine by providing aid to Kyiv, but said that military means alone won’t decide the outcome. “Well, I would just tell you with any military conflict, you don’t solve it completely by military means it ends up with a diplomatic solution, and uh, you know, I can’t predict the future on how it is going to end, but I think we can help shape it is the work that we have been continue to do in support of Ukraine providing them capability,” he said. (Reagan National Defense Forum, 12.03.23) 
  • "I think the place we would like to put the Ukrainians at the end of next year is where Russia is confronted with a decision: either they have to come to the negotiating table on terms that would be acceptable to Ukraine, and based on the U.N. charter's dictates of sovereignty and territorial integrity for Ukraine, or they will face a stronger Ukraine,” U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Jonathan Finer told the Aspen Security Forum, according to RBC.ua.
  • “I want everyone at home to know that I was the first person to say that we need a reasonable peace deal in Ukraine. Now a lot of the Neo-Cons are quietly coming along to that position with the exceptions of Nikki Haley and Joe Biden who still support what I believe is this pointless war in Ukraine.” Vivek Ramaswamy stated at the fourth Republican presidential debate. “And I think those with foreign policy experience, it’s one thing that Nikki Haley and Joe Biden have in common is that neither of them could even state for you three provinces in Eastern Ukraine that they want to send our troops to actually fight for… She has no idea what the hell the name of those provinces are but she wants to send our sons and daughters and our troops and our military equipment to go,” he said. (NewsNation, 12.7.23) 
  • In response to Vivek Ramaswamy, Governor Chris Christie said during the GOP presidential debate, “you know, his reasonable peace deal in Ukraine, he made it clear, give them all the land they have already stolen, promise Putin you’ll never put Ukraine in Russia (likely a mistake; Christie presumably meant “NATO” instead of “Russia”), and then trust Putin to not have a relationship with China. Let me tell you something: that’s no reasonable deal. (NewsNation, 12.7.23)
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview that any pause in fighting now would simply grant Russia a chance to regroup and prepare for fresh military action. "The only outcome would be Russia shaking off the losses and the troubles it faced in Ukraine and making another assault," he said. (WSJ, 12.08.23)
  • Veteran Russian pro-democracy politician Grigory Yavlinsky said he held “a very serious conversation” with Putin lasting one-and-a-half hours on Oct. 26, their first talks in more than two years. Yavlinsky, 71, said he raised the need for a cease-fire and peace talks with the president though “there were no conclusions.” He said: “This is about safeguarding 80% of Ukrainian territory” that Kyiv controls today. Peace talks “may start within one month, a year or two years, but that moment will come—it’s inevitable,” he said. “We need to stop people dying. We’re paying a horrific price and Ukraine is being destroyed.” (Bloomberg, 12.07.23)
  • In November 2022 the share of Russians—who believed that peace negotiations with Ukraine should begin—reached the record level of October 2022, which was reached after the announcement of partial mobilization in Russia, according to Levada. In November 2022 57% of respondents said that peace negotiations should begin. In contrast some 36% of respondents were in favor of continuing military operations as of November 2023. The majority of respondents (74%) support the actions of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine; 18% of respondents in November do not support. In October, 76% supported the Russian armed forces’ actions in Ukraine while 16% did not support these actions. (RM, 12.08.23)
  • American journalist Seymour Hersh claimed in his blog that Ukrainian General Valerii Zaluzhny and Russian General Valery Gerasimov are secretly negotiating a deal to end the Ukraine war, but this claim has remained unconfirmed. (RM, 12.07.23)

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

  • Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Charles Brown Jr. said: “If you think about what Putin intended to do from the very start, and the territory gained and the territory lost in Ukraine, things have not gone according to his plan. One of the key areas that I think, because of what happened in Ukraine, NATO is stronger than it's ever been, and in fact, is larger now and with Finland and Sweden, soon to follow. And because of that strength in the dialogue with many of our NATO partners, we're all committed to ensure this does not expand into NATO and go broader.” (Fox News/SEC, 12.03.23)
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stressed that it is in the defense alliance's interest to back Kyiv and it must "support Ukraine in both good and bad times. "We have to be prepared also for bad news," he told German broadcaster ARD. (RFE/RL, 12.03.23, WSJ, 12.08.23)
  • Four French Mirage 2000 fighter jets flew to the Siauliai air base in Lithuania, where on November 30th France (along with Belgium) took over from Italy for a four-month NATO air-policing operation. Accompanying them on the journey was a French air-to-air refueling tanker, which left the same morning from Istres, near Marseille. (Economist, 12.04.23)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expects Washington to “simultaneously” approve the sale of F-16 jets to Ankara in exchange for ratifying Sweden’s stalled bid to join the NATO. (FT, 12.06.23)
  • “If you look at the fact, Russia was losing that war with Ukraine. Putin had hit rock bottom. They had raised the draft age to 65. He was getting drones and missiles, drones from Iran, missiles from North Korea, and so what happened? When he hit rock bottom all the sudden his other friend, Iran, Hamas goes and invades Israel and butchers those people on Putin’s birthday.” Ambassador Nikki Haley said during the fourth Republican presidential debate. “There is no one happier right now than Putin because all of the attention America had on Ukraine suddenly went to Israel, and that’s what they were hoping was going to happen. We need to make sure that we have full clarity, that there is a reason again that Taiwanese wanna help Ukrainians cause they know if Ukraine wins, China wont invade Taiwan. There is a reason Ukrainians want to help Israelis because they know that if Iran wins, Russia wins. These are all connected.” Haley said. (NewsNation, 12.7.23) 
  • Vivek Ramaswamy asked other candidates, namely Haley and Christie, to “Name the provinces neither of you can name the first thing about eastern Ukraine.” Halley, in response, “Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea.” To which Ramaswamy quipped back, “Actually, Crimea is the wrong answer.” (NewsNation, 12.7.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • China-Russia trade hit $218.2 billion during January-November, Chinese customs data showed on Dec. 7, achieving the goal that had been set by the two countries in 2019 a year ahead of schedule. Chinese shipments to Russia rose 34% to $10.3 billion in November from a year earlier, doubling the growth rate of 17% in October Putin has hailed relations between Russia and China as `very effective’, saying he expects the bilateral trade to exceed $200 billion in 2023. Russia’s Federal Customs Service projects trade turnover with China at around $220 billion by the end of 2023, acting head Ruslan Davydov said. (Reuters, 12.08.23, TASS, 12.07.23, TASS, 12.08.23)
  • Leaders of the European Union pressed China on the country's trade imbalance with Europe and its support for Russia during the meeting, which took place in Beijing in separate sessions between China's leaders, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang, and Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission. The European leaders urged China to use its influence over Russia to end its war in Ukraine and withdraw its troops. They also pressed China to help prevent Russia from circumventing sanctions. (NYT, 12.08.23)
    • "China's position on the Ukrainian issue can be described in one sentence: [it is necessary] to seek ways for an immediate ceasefire and a political solution to the current crisis," Wang Lutong, head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Europe Department. said at a news conference following an EU-China summit. (TASS, 12.08.23)
  • Russia’s military has bought hundreds of Chinese company Shandong Odes Industry’ all-terrain vehicles popular in the U.S., in a move that risks heightening tensions between the West and Beijing over President Xi Jinping’s tacit backing for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The Russian military was already fielding 537 “basic” versions of Shandong Odes’s Desertcross 1000-3 and planned to buy another 1,500 with “additional options,” Tass reported. (FT, 12.03.23)
  • “The one way that we keep China from going into Taiwan, is one, make sure we win in Ukraine, that we protect our friends.” Ambassador Nikki Haley stated during the fourth Republican presidential debate. (NewsNation, 12.7.23) 

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments 

Nuclear arms:

  • No significant developments.

Counterterrorism:

  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • The U.S. and U.K. have launched a coordinated effort to disrupt a longtime alleged Russian government hacking campaign aimed at what they say is an attempt to undermine democratic processes in both their countries. The intrusions include targeting personal email accounts and impersonation attempts against universities and media organizations. Civil servants and journalists have also been targeted by FSB. In the U.S., the conspiracy targeted current and former employees of the intelligence community, Defense Department, State Department, defense contractors and Energy Department facilities since 2016. (Bloomberg, 12.7.23)
    • Britain's Foreign Ministry says it has placed sanctions on two Russian individuals and summoned Russia's ambassador to London after uncovering actions by a group of cybercriminals affiliated with FSB meant to interfere in British political life and the democratic process. The Foreign Office said in a statement on Dec. 7 that the cyber-spying was conducted by Star Blizzard, placing sanctions on Star Blizzard members Ruslan Alexandrovich Peretyatko and Andrei Stanislavovich." Russia’s FSB has sought to meddle in Britain’s politics and democratic processes through a “sustained” cyber campaign since 2015, the U.K. government claimed on Dec. 7. (RFE/RL, 12.07.23, FT, 12.07.23)
  • The Central Bank of the Russian Federation will introduce a ban on the purchase of Apple equipment and its use for official purposes from Dec. 25. Also, bank employees will be prohibited from using both Apple phones and tablets at work. (Meduza, 12.05.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • The United States on Dec. 1 imposed additional sanctions related to the price cap on Russian oil agreed by the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations, the European Union, and Australia to curtail Russia’s revenue from seaborne oil shipments. The sanctions target three entities and three oil tankers that the U.S. Treasury Department said carried Russian Urals crude above $70 per barrel, which exceeds the price cap by $10. (RFE/RL, 12.01.23)
    • U.K. sanctions against a Dubai-based company that controls Russia’s state-controlled oil tanker fleet are the latest sign that Western authorities are starting to react to Moscow’s effort to work around the curbs. A firm called Oil Tankers SCF Mgmt FZCO was among dozens of entities and individuals added to the U.K.’s sanctions list on Dec. 6. The firm has a fleet of 62 ships spanning oil and fuel transportation, according to the Equasis international maritime database. The vast majority are beneficially owned by state tanker company Sovcomflot PJSC, according to a separate industry database. (Bloomberg, 12.07.23)
    • Designed to reduce funding for the Kremlin’s military assault on Ukraine, the sanctions deal agreed a year ago this week included a $60 per barrel price cap for seaborne Russian oil—$24 below the average market price over the last 12 months. Instead it has fostered a lucrative business for scores of difficult-to-trace traders and shipping companies. As much as $11 billion a year of petrodollars are evaporating between when the oil leaves Russia to when it reaches buyers, according to trade data compiled by Bloomberg. In fact, Moscow’s monthly income from oil exports is greater now than before the invasion of Ukraine, highlighting the failure of measures to curb its war chest. (Bloomberg, 12.06.23)
  • The Pentagon is facing congressional pressure to stop the flow of Russian oil into its supply chain after a Washington Post examination revealing that shipments of the forbidden fuel have been making their way to a refinery that serves the U.S. military. The reporting tracked the shipment of banned petroleum products from Russian Black Sea ports to Motor Oil Hellas, the Pentagon's supplier in Greece. (WP, 12.04.23)
  • Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary can continue using oil from Russia’s Druzhba pipeline despite an EU ban, until alternative supplies are available. But an exemption allowing Slovakia to sell products made from refined Russian oil ends this week. Prague and Bratislava want to extend the rule as part of legislation implementing the EU’s proposed 12th sanctions package against Russia, arguing that otherwise shortages would push up prices in several countries. (FT, 12.05.23)
  • Lukoil PJSC said it’s considering the sale of southeastern Europe’s biggest refinery and other assets in Bulgaria as the authorities seek to reduce the Balkan nation’s energy dependence on Russia. (Bloomberg, 12.05.23)
  • OPEC+ could take further measures if last week’s production cuts agreement isn’t enough to balance the oil market, said Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak. The deal to reduce OPEC+ output by 2.2 million barrels a day for three months from Jan. 1 should allow the market to “pass safely” through the period of seasonally lower demand usually seen in the first quarter, Novak said on Dec. 5 according to the Tass news agency. (Bloomberg, 12.05.23)
  • The EU is set to give member states powers to end gas imports from Russia and Belarus nearly two years after Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Any member state will be able to ban companies from Russia and Belarus from buying capacity in its gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals, according to a draft legal text proposed by Brussels and seen by the Financial Times. (FT, 12.08.23)
  • More than a fifth of Russia’s liquefied natural gas reaching Europe is reshipped to other parts of the world, a practice that boosts Moscow’s revenues despite the EU’s efforts to curb them in response to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (FT, 11.29.23)
  • Austria is overflowing with Russian natural gas, allowing the longtime customer of Gazprom PJSC to boost sales to its neighbors while delaying efforts to pivot from Kremlin-controlled energy. (Bloomberg, 12.04.23)

Climate change:

  • Temperatures around minus-58 degrees (minus-50 Celsius) and even lower have spread over northeastern Siberia—the most severe in decades in some areas —. The mercury has dipped as low as minus-73.7 degrees (minus-58.7 Celsius) thus far. (WP, 12.06.23)
  • The United States and 21 other countries pledged on Dec. 2 at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050, saying the revival of nuclear power was critical for cutting carbon emissions to near zero in the coming decades. Endorsing countries include Moldova and Ukraine (NYT, 12.02.23, Energy.gov, 12.01.23)
  • Azerbaijan is tipped to host next year's UN climate summit after striking a deal with longtime adversary Armenia over its bid. (RFE/RL, 12.08.23)
  • Andrey Melnichenko, a Russian billionaire who made a fortune in coal and fertilizer then found himself sanctioned after the invasion of Ukraine, now has a plan to stem methane emissions from the thawing Siberian permafrost: recreating a time when woolly mammoths roamed the tundra. (Bloomberg, 12.03.23)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • A U.S. citizen named Ernest Harry Mitchell has been found dead in a migrant detention center in Russia’s Krasnodar region. Preliminary findings reportedly suggest that the 56-year-old died by suicide. The anonymous Telegram channel VChK-OGPU, citing its own sources, wrote that Mitchell’s body was found in a restroom stall with cut veins and arteries on his legs, arms, and neck. (Meduza, 12.05.23)
  • The United States says Russia rejected a new proposal to free two detained Americans, Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich and former Marine Paul Whelan. "We have made a number of proposals, including a substantial one in recent weeks," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. "That proposal was rejected by Russia," he said. Miller said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden would keep trying to find a way to free the pair, considered "wrongfully detained" by the State Department. (RFE/RL, 12.05.23)
  • The political discord in the U.S. and Europe over such issues as support for Ukraine will rise next year, Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergey Naryshkin said in an article. "Now, a few words about the situation within the Euro-Atlantic bloc. Next year, we are certain to see an increase in the level of public and political discord in the U.S. and Europe on a range of issues, ranging from support for Ukraine to the promotion of the LGBT agenda," he said in the article published in the magazine called Razvedchik, or Intelligence Officer. (TASS, 12.08.23)
  • Internet propagandists aligned with Russia have duped at least seven Western celebrities, including Elijah Wood and Priscilla Presley, into recording short videos to support its online information war against Ukraine, according to new security research by Microsoft. (WSJ, 12.07.23)
  • “What they did (federal agencies FBI, DOJ, IRS) to Donald Trump with the Russian collusion was one of the biggest abuses of power in the history of our country. The agencies need to be cleaned out.” Stated Governor Ron DeSantis during the fourth Republican presidential debate. (NewsNation 12.7.23) 

 

II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • President Vladimir Putin, flanked by soldiers who have fought in Russia's war against Ukraine, said he will run again for office in a March election where he is expected to easily win a new six-year term and extend the longest rule of a Kremlin leader since Josef Stalin. The speaker of a de facto regional parliament in Ukraine's Russian-occupied Donetsk region, Artyom Zhoga, asked Putin to take part in the election, slated for Mar. 17, to which the president agreed it was time to announce his intention to run. “I won’t hide it, at different times I have various thoughts about this,” Putin replied. “But you’re right. Right now is a time when decisions need to be made, and I will run for election to the position of president of the Russian Federation,” Putin said. His re-election for a fifth term would keep him in office until 2030 Russian constitution and orchestrated changes allow him potentially to stay in power until 2036, when he will be 84 years old. (RFE/RL, 12.08.23, FT, 12.08.23, WP, 12.08.23)
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin spent only 147 days in public in 2023—this may indicate he is “tired of people,” according to an investigation by The Project media outlet. The Project also named the names of the people with whom Putin spends the most time. According to journalists, these are ENT specialist Igor Yesakov, keeper of the “nuclear suitcase” Dmitry Shumeiko (Dima the button), oncologist Evgeny Selivanov and neurologist Roman Rotankov. (Istories, 12.08.23)
  • Russia announced on Dec. 8 that the presidential election in March will be held over three days, "The [Central Election Commission (CEC)] of the Russian Federation has approved a three-day voting period for the Russian presidential election. It will be held from Mar. 15 to 17, 2024," the commission said. (AFP, 12.08.23, RFE/RL, 12.07.23)
    • When asked an open-ended question by Levada Center in November on who they would vote for in the presidential election, the majority of Russian respondents (58%) named Vladimir Putin. Another 1.3% said they would vote for Gennady Zyuganov, a little less—for Pavel Grudinin (0.5%), Mikhail Mishustin and Leonid Slutsky (0.5%) Two-thirds of Russians intend to vote, according to the poll. Also, two-thirds believe that the upcoming elections will be fair, according to Levada. (RM, 12.07.23)
    • Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny immediately responded to the setting of the election date, urging the country's 110 million eligible voters to cast ballots for "any other candidate" than Putin even though "the final results will be rigged." (RFE/RL, 12.07.23)
  • According to a Levada poll conducted ahead of Putin's annual call-in event, Direct Line, given the chance to ask the president a question, nearly a quarter (21%) would ask about the war in Ukraine, while a greater portion (34%) either wouldn't ask anything or wouldn't know what to ask. Questions about the war were the only category to be selected by a double-digit percentage of respondents. Other notable responses included questions about the financial struggles of pensioners (8%), and questions about other social programs (8%). Judicial reform questions ranked lowest (1%). (RM, 12.05.23) 
  • Russia’s RBC news agency has just published its summary of a study of pre-war attitudes of young Russians towards their country’s development and role as well as their contribution to both. Some 4,000 individuals aged between 14 and 35 were polled by a Russian Academy of Sciences and two other Russian entitles in 2021. When asked (multiple-answers allowed) what idea should serve as the basis for developing a strategy for successful development of Russia, almost 39% said it should be the idea of social justice, while 33% pointed to uprooting of corruption and almost 33% pointed to protection of constitutional human rights. When asked what geopolitical role Russia should play, 47.3% said Russia should be one of the most economically developed and politically influential countries in the world, while almost 31% said Russia should not pursue global goals, 13% said Russia should become a super power and 8.5% said Russia should lead in the post-Soviet neighborhood. When asked what the respondents would be prepared to do for the sake of “enhancing the might of Russia and its sovereignty,” 68% said they are either not ready or at all or not quite ready to accept any changes in their lifestyles. (RM, 12.05.23)
  • During a meeting of the Presidential Human Rights Council, Putin said: “When we talk about victims of political repression … there were also completely random people. All this is important, but something else is more important for us. It’s more important for us that nothing like this happens again in our country’s history.” Human rights group Memorial has recognized 628 people as political prisoners, including more than 400 persecuted for their religion. According to OVD-Info, 1,011 people in Russia are in prison for political reason. (Meduza, 12.05.23)
  • On average, Russian Justice Ministry designates 15-20 new “foreign agents” per month, and by the beginning of Dec. 2023, there were already 367 individuals on the Ministry of Justice list of such agents. “Mediazona” studied all the data published by the courts and counted the number of people who received at least two fines under the “foreign agency” article during the year, which means they can face criminal prosecution. It turned out that in recent months this number has grown exponentially and already 57 people are one step away from criminal charges. (Mediazona, 12.05.23)
    • The Russian Justice Ministry on Dec. 4 added the Anti-War Committee and the Academic Network Eastern Europe to its registry of undesirable organizations. The activities of the two organizations will be prohibited in Russia, and anyone who cooperates with them may face criminal penalties, including up to six years in prison. (RFE/RL, 12.05.23)
  • On Dec. 2, Moscow police raided multiple clubs in the city that were holding events for LGBTQ+ people. The apparent crackdown came just one day after the Russian Supreme Court banned the “international LGBT movement” as an “extremist organization.” (Meduza, 12.02.23)
  • A bill banning private clinics from performing abortions is to be submitted to Russia’s State Duma in spring session. (Meduza, 12.06.23)
  • Samara’s Kirovsky District Court has sent singer Eduard Sharlot to a pre-trial detention center until Jan. 24, 2024, on charges of “rehabilitating Nazism” and “insulting believers’ feelings.” (Meduza, 12.03.23)
  • The Moscow City Court on Dec. 7 extended by six months the pretrial detention of Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov), once a leader of Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's east, who was arrested in July after he criticized President Vladimir Putin for “badly” handling the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.07.23)
  • A group of Russian lawmakers from the ruling United Russia party have introduced a bill to the Russian State Duma that would increase the punishment for leaking personal data and criminalize the use of such data. As independent publication Agenstvo points out, if passed, the bill would deal a huge blow to investigative journalism in Russia. Using information from leaked databases could lead to a 10-year prison sentence. (Meduza, 12.06.23)
  • A new analysis of Russia’s labor market finds the country is facing a growing labor shortage, Kommersant reported. According to experts from the consulting company Yakov & Partners, the shortage will reach 2-4 million people by 2030. The analysts expect up to 90 percent of the unfilled positions to be “key jobs” that require intermediate qualifications. (Meduza, 12.04.23)
  • Two in five Russians who fled the country in the months following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine have since returned home, the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia claimed, citing data from an immigration support company and job recruitment website. According to official statistics, 668,400 Russians left the country last year. Izvestia estimated the number of returnees at between 174,000 (26%) and 334,000 (40%). (MT/AFP, 12.05.23)
  • Russian Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov ordered an inspection of egg producers due to rising prices. Over the year the prices for eggs in Russia have risen in price by 40%. (Meduza, 12.08.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The production of armored vehicles in Russia has tripled this year, and the production of drones has doubled. This was stated by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin “Over the past 11 months, the number of products produced has increased significantly compared to last year’s figures. In communications technology, weapons, electronic warfare and reconnaissance—more than a fivefold increase. For armored weapons—three times, for aviation equipment, for unmanned aerial vehicles—two [times], and for cars—almost three times,” he said. (Nvo.ng.ru, 12.05.23)
    • Former Minister of Economic Development Alexey Ulyukaev said: “In general, there is a mobilization economy and there is a consumer economy. Now, if you produce a tractor, then with the salary your employee receives, he buys potatoes that were grown with the help of his tractor. But if instead of a tractor you produce a tank, then this exchange does not occur. The tank leaves the economy and travels along a completely different road.” (Meduza, 12.05.23)
  • All ships and shore-based strike systems that enter service with the Russian Navy are designed to carry Zircon, Caliber and Onyx missiles. This was stated by the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolai Evmenov. (NVO.ng.ru, 12.07.23)
  • Revenue from the sales of arms and military services by the 100 largest companies in the global defense industry was down in real terms an annual 3.5 percent in 2022, SIPRI said Dec. 4. Due to a lack of data, only two Russian companies were included in the Top 100 for 2022. Their combined arms revenues fell by 12 per cent to $20.8 billion. (RFE/RL, 12.04.23, SIPRI, 12.04.23)
  • The Russian Defense Ministry has proposed changing its medical fitness requirements for citizens with health issues that “do not have a significant impact” on their ability to perform military service. Exactly what policies the ministry intends to change is unclear: information about the plan has appeared on the government’s official legal portal, though the proposal itself has not. The published document says only that the changes are aimed at “improving” the health requirements for conscripts, contract soldiers, and draftees. (Meduza, 12.04.23)
  • One Russian underground antiwar network, Go by the Forest, said it has helped more than 400 men to desert and advised nearly 20,000 on how to avoid being drafted. (WP, 12.03.23)
  • Russia has been arresting migrants who have attempted to cross the border into Finland and trying to recruit them into the Russian army, BBC News Russian reported on Dec. 6. (Meduza, 12.06.23)
  • Reuters cited police officials in Nepal on Dec. 6 as saying that they detained 10 people on suspicion of sending Nepalese citizens to Russia, where they were recruited to Russian armed forces involved in Moscow's war in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.06.23)
    • The government of Nepal said late on Dec. 4 that six Nepalese nationals had been killed in Ukraine while serving with the occupying Russian forces. (RFE/RL, 12.05.23)
  • On Dec. 1, a new intake of Russian officers started their studies at the Russian General Staff Academy. The Russian MOD announced that over 60% of the intake has combat experience. Although it was not specified, the majority have likely gained this experience in Ukraine since 2022. (U.K. Ministry of Defense’s X (Twitter) account, 12.07.23)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Some 30,000 of Russia’s enlisted ex-prisoners, many of whom had been serving long prison terms for violent crimes, have returned home to liberty. (WSJ, 12.05.23)
  • Two Russian military officers, Lieutenant Colonel Anatoly Bondarev and Major Dmitry Dmitrakov, were sentenced by a military court to four years in prison for violating the rules of combat duty and failing to repel a surprise attack on Russian soil from Ukraine. (Meduza, 12.06.23)
  • A 14-year-old girl shot and killed a schoolmate and wounded five other children on Dec. 7 before killing herself at a school in the western Russian city of Bryansk, officials said. (NYT, 12.07.23)
  • In Dagestan, 242 participants in the riots at Makhachkala airport were brought to administrative responsibility. However, websites of the district courts of Dagestan, there is information about 619 unique protocols under the article on violation of the rules for holding public events (20.2 of the Administrative Code) and another 20 under the traditional “rally” article on the organization of mass simultaneous presence of citizens in public places. (Mediazona, 12.01.23)
  • Russian security organs conducted mass arrests targeting high-profile gangs in Moscow and St. Petersburg, including members and co-conspirators within the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and other internal security organs. (ISW, 12.07.23)

 

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Saudi Arabia on Dec. 6 after visiting the United Arab Emirates. Putin was seen greeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, before the two briefly sat down for televised talks. "Nothing can prevent the development of our friendly relations," Putin told Prince Mohammed, inviting the Saudi royal to visit Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two men discussed cooperation within OPEC+. The Russian leader was earlier welcomed with a full cavalry escort and motorcade in the UAE, where he met President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. "Today, thanks to your posture, our relations have reached unprecedented levels," Putin told his counterpart at the presidential palace, saying the UAE was "Russia's main trading partner in the Arab world." Bilateral trade grew almost 68% in 2022, and Putin said he expected it to "grow more this year." (MT/AFP, 12.07.23, FT, 12.06.23, WSJ, 12.06.23)
    • Saudi Arabia shelved plans for Mohammed bin Salman to visit London in the past few days, according to U.K. officials, shortly before the crown prince hosted Vladimir Putin in Riyadh. (FT, 12.08.23)
    • Asked “Do you believe Russia’s growing ties with the Gulf States are a strategic concern of the U.S. in this part of the world?”, Belfer Center director Meghan O’Sullivan said: “I think it’s of concern in the sense that say 10 or so years ago, Russia was virtually not an actor here … Russia was really not a contender in this region at all back in the Bush administration. That’s changed. I would quibble with the idea that it’s a strategic concern, because I think the countries here know that it’s important to have a good relationship with Russia, particularly when it comes to oil, but that Russia is not a strategic partner in any sense, could not possibly be a replacement for the United States or even China.” (CNBC, 12.06.23)
  • Putin on Dec. 4 complained of deteriorating ties with Western countries, which crumbled after he launched a full-scale offensive against Ukraine last year, as he accepted the credentials of several new ambassadors. "The times are not easy," Putin told the envoys. Addressing the new ambassador of the U.K., with whom ties have been especially frosty even before the Ukraine offensive, he said Moscow and London were able to overcome differences in the 20th century. "The current state of things … is well known and we should hope that the situation—in the interest of our countries and nations—will change for the better." (MT/AFP, 12.05.23)
  • Finland’s intelligence service is aware of plans by Moscow to incite demonstrations in the Nordic country, the Finnish broadcaster Yle reported on Dec. 4. (MT/AFP, 12.04.23)
    • The European Union's border protection agency has deployed some 50 guards to watch Finland's border with Russia, it said on Dec. 7, as Helsinki accuses Moscow of orchestrating a surge in migrants. (MT/AFP, 12.08.23)
  • Russia and Algeria plan to hold joint naval exercises in the western part of the Mediterranean Sea, RIA Novosti reported on Dec. 5, citing the Russian Black Sea fleet. The Admiral Grigorovich frigate, which is part of the Mediterranean group, has already arrived in the Port of Algiers to take part in the maneuvers, the state-run news service said on Dec. 5. It didn’t disclose the precise date of the drills. (Bloomberg, 12.05.23)
  • Denis Pavlov, former Kremlin envoy to the EU whom European diplomats link to Russian intelligence has been dispatched to the Central African Republic (CAR) to oversee coordination between the Wagner mercenary group and local security forces, a new RFE/RL investigation has found. (RFE/RL, 12.07.23)
  • A Russian delegation led by the deputy defense minister met with Niger's military leaders in Niamey. The trip was the first official visit by a member of the Russian government since the coup in Niger on July 26. The delegation led by Colonel-General Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was hosted for talks by the head of Niger's military government General Abdourahamane Tiani. (MT/AFP, 12.04.23)
  • Russia used disinformation and unsubstantiated claims in a plan to lobby officials in at least a dozen countries as part of an unsuccessful bid to retain a seat on the board of the international chemical weapons watchdog. (Bloomberg, 12.04.23)
  • Russia failed on Dec. 1 to win enough votes for reelection to the United Nation's shipping agency's governing council after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had urged countries not to allow Moscow to be part of the UN body's executive arm. (RFE/RL, 12.01.23)
  • Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement on Dec. 7 that Canberra has imposed sanctions on three officers of Russia's Federal Security Service and 10 other Russian citizens over two near-fatal poisonings of opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza in 2015 and 2017. (RFE/RL, 12.07.23)
  • The Russian Peace Foundation, which is headed by LDPR leader Leonid Slutsky, passed information about foreigners who were invited to visit Russia at the behest of the Slutsky’s organization to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU), according to The Insider. (Meduza, 12.08.23)
  • The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has requested that the Canadian authorities extradite 98-year-old SS veteran Yaroslav Hunka, who was invited to Canadian parliament during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit in September. (Meduza, 12.08.23)

Ukraine:

  • “I am watching what is happening in our politics recently not with sadness, but with horror,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst and director of the Penta Centre for Political Studies, a Kyiv-based think-tank. “If this vortex of conflict is not stopped, it could all end badly. Not for those fighting among themselves, but for the country.” (FT, 12.05.23),
  • Finnish media reports on Dec. 8 said the country's Supreme Court refused to extradite to Ukraine Yan Petrovsky, a Russian ultranationalist and former commander of the Rusich saboteur group, which fights alongside Russia's armed forces against Kyiv. According to the reports, the court justified the ruling by noting the poor conditions in Ukrainian penitentiaries, adding that Petrovsky may face humiliation and torture while in Ukrainian custody. (RFE/RL, 12.08.23)
  • Ukraine’s premier hailed parliament’s approval of changes to anti-graft and minorities legislation requested by the European Union as the country strives to open accession talks with the bloc. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, last month recommended a start to negotiations on opening Kyiv’s membership bid once the government completes reforms, with boosting anti-corruption efforts high on the agenda. On Friday, the legislature supported expanding the staff of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine from 700 to 1,000 people, according to lawmaker Yaroslav Zheleznyak. It also backed allowing another body, the National Agency on Corruption Prevention, to inspect assets that public servants acquired prior to taking office, (Bloomberg, 12.08.23) 
  • The National Agency for Corruption Prevention (NACP) has announced that it is launching the world's first open database of foreign components in weapons. This base will be on the War and Sanctions portal. "The database already includes more than 2,000 components used by the Russian Federation and Iran in various types of UAVs, missiles, electronic warfare systems and many other types of weapons and military equipment. Currently, the database contains information on foreign components found in Russian and Iranian weapons used by the Russian Federation during the full-scale invasion of Ukraine starting on 24 February 2022," reads a press release issued by the NACP. (Ukrainska Pravda, 12.07.23)
  • EIU’s 2023 cost-of-living index included Kyiv this year (it was omitted in 2022; the war made it impossible to collect the data). Ukraine’s capital is now ranked 38th in Europe out of 44. (Economist, 12.07.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • America’s credibility was hit when a State Department official told Congress that it would “not tolerate” an attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, yet when Azerbaijan invaded five days later the American response was limited merely to critical statements. The head of the EU’s monitoring mission in Armenia recently admitted that, in a war, the unarmed monitors would flee. “They cannot be human shields,” said a Western diplomat in Yerevan. The main problem, he said, was that the Armenians themselves “don’t know what the endgame is.” (Economist, 12.07.23) 
  • Azerbaijan released 32 Armenian servicemen on Dec. 7, while Armenia released two Azerbaijanis, according to a joint statement from the two countries that outlined other "tangible steps" toward building trust. The statement from the office of Armenian Nikol Pashinian and the administration of the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, said there is a historic opportunity to achieve long-awaited peace. (RFE/RL, 12.08.23)
    • The U.S., European Union, Russia and Turkey welcomed a joint statement by Armenia and Azerbaijan as a potential breakthrough in efforts to end decades of conflict. (Bloomberg, 12.08.23)
  • Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed a decree announcing an early presidential election in the country on Feb. 7. (RFE/RL, 12.07.23)
  • Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenka discussed ways to boost diplomatic and economic cooperation with China, as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine, during talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Dec. 4. Xi told Lukashenka that China was ready to continue to strengthen bilateral cooperation. (RFE/RL, 12.04.23)
  • Kazakhstan’s Kazatomprom has signed its first commercial uranium fuel supply contract with the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), for the United Arab Emirates' Barakah nuclear power plant. (WNN, 12.04.23)
  • Kazakh Industry Minister Qanat Sharlapaev said on Dec. 7 that the Central Asian nation's government had bought ArcelorMittal's subsidiary for $286 million following a coal mine accident in the central region of Qaraghandy in October that killed 46 miners. (RFE/RL, 12.08.23)
  • The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said on Dec. 8 that 96 Kyrgyz citizens, including 31 women and 65 children, returned to Bishkek from Syria with assistance of international organizations. (RFE/RL, 12.08.23)

 

IV. Quotable and notable

  • [Asked: Is there the possibility for Russia to show greater involvement in the Middle East, partly as an attempt to divert attention from their problems in Ukraine] Henry Kissinger said: “Before the Ukrainian war, Russia was generally in favor of Israel in the confrontation with Arabs. If Russia now would intervene, it has two options: to engage on the side of the Arabs or to appear as a mediator in the crisis—which would be strange in light of the Ukrainian war.” (Politico, 12.02.23)
  • [Asked: Do we need to squeeze Russia and or China out of the Middle East today?] Henry Kissinger said: “The ability to squeeze these powers out of the Middle East, or to encourage them to play a positive role depends fundamentally on China-American relationships. And those are not improving. Right now, the greatest difficulty with respect to Russia is that we have not heard what their thinking is, because there is no dialogue with Russia at all.” (Politico, 12.02.23)
  • "Now we have to remind ourselves that this will be a long war," a European diplomat said of the war in Ukraine. (WSJ, 12.08.23)
  • "He is the most intelligent gentleman, with the focus on gentleman—and I've met a few," Karin Kneissl, the Austrian ex-minister of foreign affairs—who moved to Russia and now heads an analytical center at St Petersburg University—said of Putin. "In the sense of what Jane Austen wrote in Pride and Prejudice about the accomplished gentleman, he amounts to this standard." (BBC, 12.07.23)

 

The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 2:00pm East Coast time on the day it was distributed.

*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 the Russian presidential press service (Kremlin.ru) under a CC BY 4.0 license.