Russia in Review, Dec. 2-9, 2022

4 Things to Know

  1. Putin touts land gains in Ukraine war, but reduces nuclear saber-rattling and admits the war could drag on. Vladimir Putin chose a video-session of his human rights council on Dec. 7 to make a number of significant statements with regard to his war against Ukraine. First, he admitted that the war could be a “long process.” Second, he touted territories seized from Ukraine as a “significant result for Russia.” Last but not least, the Russian leader toned down his nuclear rhetoric. Not only did he choose not to repeat his recent threats to use nuclear weapons to reverse Ukraine’s gains in recapturing its land, but he also explicitly pledged to avoid “brandish[ing] these weapons like a razor.”
  2. The drones Ukraine used to strike targets deep within Russia may be old, but they highlighted two factors highly relevant for the present war. First, the fact that a Soviet-made, Ukrainian-repurposed Tupolev-141 Strizh drone covered an estimated total of more than 650 kilometers across Russia before exploding in the Saratov region proves that the Ukrainian military has attack systems with a range that theoretically allows them to strike Russian Schwerpunkte, such as Moscow. Second, that the Ukrainian military successfully targeted the Engels airbase, which houses bombers that are part of Russia’s strategic nuclear triad, indicates that Ukrainian leaders are not averse to escalation, even if it is something their U.S. counterparts do not encourage.
  3. Poll shows more Americans now want Ukraine to settle for peace, but support for Ukraine remains strong. When asked in November whether the U.S. should (1) support Ukraine for “as long as it takes” or (2) urge Ukraine to “settle for peace as soon as possible,” 48% of Americans chose the first option (down from 58% in July) and 47% chose the second option (up from 38% in July), according to polls conducted by Ipsos for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The share of Americans who believe that neither Russia nor Ukraine have the advantage in this war stood at 46% in November, according to the poll. The share of those who believed that Russia has the advantage and the share who believed that Ukraine has the advantage were equal at 26% each. This may explain why almost half of Americans would urge Ukraine to settle for peace.
  4. The version of NDAA FY2023 passed by the House of Representatives on Dec. 8 provides for $800 million to be spent on the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which procures armaments for Kyiv. The bill also requires the Biden administration to submit a plan for short- and mid-term Ukraine security aid, which must address the Ukrainian Air Force’s needs, according to Defense News. The bill also requires a report from U.S. inspectors general who oversee spending on aid to Ukraine, according to Roll Call.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Russian forces have installed multiple rocket launchers at Ukraine's shut-down Zaporizhzhia NPP, Ukrainian officials claimed Dec. 8. (RFE/RL, 12.09.22)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Washington will focus on preventing the supply of Iranian weapons to Russia and supporting Iranian protests instead of continuing deadlocked negotiations with Iran on restoring the nuclear deal, said Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran. (Bloomberg, 12.04.22)
  • Iran has begun construction on a new NPP in the Khuzestan Province, Iranian state TV announced. The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build and cost around $2 billion. (AP, 12.03.22)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • U.N. humanitarian chief Griffiths said more than 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced—7.8 million to Europe and 6.5 million still within the country—and 17,023 civilians have been killed, including 419 children, though the U.N. human rights office believes “the real toll is far greater.” (AP, 12.07.22)
  • Russian forces killed extrajudicially at least 441 civilians outside of Kyiv, in what likely amounted to war crimes, in the first weeks of the invasion of Ukraine, according to a U.N. report released Dec. 8. The actual number of civilians summarily killed is likely to be “considerably higher,” the report found. (WP, 12.07.12)
  • The Ukrainian government has a website, Children of War, on which it regularly updates the number of children killed, wounded, missing and deported to Russia. As of Dec. 2, it estimated those deported at 12,572. (FT, 12.03.22)
  • Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office, said on Telegram that 60 Ukrainian prisoners returned home in an exchange confirmed by Russia's Defense Ministry, which said an identical number of Russians were released. (RFE/RL, 12.06.22)
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement Dec. 8 that it has visited more prisoners of war held by Russia and Ukraine in recent weeks. (RFE/RL, 12.08.22)
  • Russian strikes on energy infrastructure aimed at targets across the country on Dec. 5 came on one of the coldest days of the year in Ukraine. Ukrainian air defense systems shot down 60 of 70 missiles fired at infrastructure targets on Dec. 5. (NYT, 12.06.22)
  • The postwar reconstruction of Ukraine will cost about 500-600 billion euros ($525 billion-$630 billion), World Bank Vice President Anna Bjerde said. (Die Press, 12.04.22)
  • Ukraine has lost at least $1 billion of wheat that was harvested in areas controlled by Russia, according to research using satellite imagery from NASA’s food security and agriculture program. (Bloomberg, 12.03.22)
  • Soon after Russian tanks rolled into eastern Ukraine, three of that country's biggest farming operators lost tracts of land equivalent to more than twice the area of New York City. The land ended up in the hands of the family company of former Russian agriculture minister, Alexander Tkachev. (WSJ, 12.06.22)
  • The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has denounced a European Union proposal to create a U.N.-backed special tribunal to prosecute crimes in Ukraine, saying his court was capable of effectively dealing with war crimes committed there. (AP, 12.05.22)
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has accused Russia of "deliberate cruelty" in its war in Ukraine, saying Moscow was intentionally targeting civilians. Austin also said the Pentagon is concerned about escalating the Ukraine conflict into a U.S. war with Moscow: "We will not be dragged into Putin's war." (Reuters, 12.03.22)
  • Pope Francis on Dec. 7 compared the war in Ukraine to the Nazi genocide of the Jews, in his latest escalation of rhetoric on the war. (WSJ, 12.07.22)
  • European Union finance ministers failed to agree Dec. 6 on providing more than $18 billion of vital economic assistance for Ukraine next year, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government stymying for now efforts to secure the loan through common EU debt issuance. (WSJ, 12.06.22)
  • Ukrainian strikes on residential blocks of Donbas and the universal Western silence on this issue are horrible, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. "Strikes are carried out directly at residential areas. It is impossible that no one is aware of that. Everyone is silent. Like nothing happens. This is horrible, of course," the head of state said at a meeting with the Russian Human Rights Council. (TASS, 12,08.22)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he will speak to Putin on Dec. 11, and he will also speak to Zelensky in order to strengthen the U.N.-backed Black Sea grain deal. (RFE/RL, 12.09.22)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • Three people have been killed and at least two nuclear-capable bombers were likely damaged in separate blasts at two Russian airfields on Dec. 5. Two long-range strategic bombers were damaged by a drone that fell on the runway at the Engels base in western Russia’s Saratov region. In a separate incident, a fuel tanker explosion caused three deaths and six injuries at an airfield in the Ryazan region’s Dyagilevo airfield. (MT/AFP, 12.05.22)
    • The Russian Defense Ministry blamed the attacks on Ukrainian-operated drones. The Engels site was hit by a Soviet-era Tupolev-141 Strizh drone, according to pro-Kremlin Russian journalist Alexander Kots. Kots wondered how such an old aircraft had travelled 650 kilometers undetected. He also reminded his over half a million subscribers that “to Moscow from the Ukrainian border is less than 650 kilometers.” (FT, 12.06.22)
    • Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine can't be expected to hold back while it wages an existential war. Kuleba also called on the country's allies not to fear a possible breakup of the Russian state as a consequence of the war. (WSJ, 12.08.22, WSJ, 12.08.22)
    • “The attacks are repeatable. We have no limitation on distance and soon we will be able to reach all targets inside Russia—including in Siberia,” said a Ukrainian government defense adviser on condition of anonymity. “ Soon Russia will also have no safe zones.” (FT, 12.07.22)
    • The United States has not encouraged or enabled Ukraine to carry out attacks inside Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, after drone strikes targeted Russian military airfields this week. (WP, 11.07.22)
    • “We have been very clear about our concerns over potential escalation,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Dec. 7, in answer to a question on whether Washington was discouraging Ukraine from strikes inside Russia. “It’s their decision to make. We have not encouraged them to do that.” (Bloomberg, 12.07.22) 
  • Some of the Kh-101 cruise missiles that Russia launched at Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure in late November were manufactured months after the West imposed sanctions intended to deprive Moscow of the components needed to make those munitions, according to Conflict Armament Research. That Russia has continued to make advanced guided missiles like the Kh-101 suggests that it has found ways to acquire semiconductors and other matériel despite the sanctions or that it had significant stockpiles of the components before the war began. (NYT, 12.06.22) 
  • Ukrainian forces escalated a counteroffensive in the east, military officials said on Dec. 7, aided by plunging temperatures that have frozen the ground and enabled them to use vehicles that had been bogged down in mud. Russian forces pounded the entire front line in Ukraine's eastern region of Donetsk and Luhansk, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military said on Dec. 9. The fiercest fighting continued near the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiyivka in Donetsk, regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said. (RFE/RL, 12.09.22, NYT, 12.08.22)
  • Zelensky, who addressed the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation, said Ukrainian forces have liberated 1,888 settlements from Russian occupation so far in the fighting. (RFE/RL, 12.08.22)
  • Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Zelensky, has said that 10,000 to 13,000 of the country's soldiers have been killed since Russia invaded, offering a rare government assessment of the casualties. (NYT, 12.03.22)
  • Ukrainian Army commander Valeriy Zaluzhniy has spoken with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, by phone and pressed Kyiv's requests for additional weaponry and equipment. (RFE/RL, 12.04.22)
  • The version of NDAA FY2023 passed by the House of Representatives on Dec. 8 provides for $800 million to be spent on the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which procures armaments for Kyiv. The bill also requires the Biden administration to submit a plan for short- and mid-term Ukraine security aid, which must address the Ukrainian Air Force’s needs, according to Defense News. The bill also requires a report from U.S. inspectors general who oversee spending on aid to Ukraine, according to Roll Call. (RM, 12.09.22)
  • U.S. officials said that Washington was preparing to send Ukraine a $275 million military aid package containing new capabilities to defeat drones and strengthen air defenses. (RFE/RL, 12.09.22)
  • The U.S. secretly modified the advanced HIMARS rocket launchers it gave Ukraine so they can't be used to fire long-range missiles into Russia, U.S. officials said, a precaution the Biden administration says is necessary to reduce the risk of a wider war with Moscow. (WSJ, 12.05.22)
  • The director of U.S. national intelligence said on Dec. 3 that fighting in Ukraine will continue at a reduced tempo for the coming months. Avril Haines also said Russia appeared to be using up its military stockpiles “quite quickly.” “It’s really pretty extraordinary, and our own sense is that they are not capable of indigenously producing what they are expending at this stage,” she said. Haines also said that U.S. intelligence saw no indication that the level of Russian dissent or opposition to the war in Ukraine might lead to a change in the government of Putin. (Reuters, 12.04.22, Reuters, 12.03.22)
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he believed Russia was trying to freeze the conflict over the winter. "What we see now is Russia is actually trying to have some kind of 'freeze' of this war at least for a short period of time so they can regroup, repair, recover," Stoltenberg said. "And then try to launch a bigger offensive next spring." (WSJ, 12.08.22)
  • EU foreign ministers could sign off on the €2 billion increase in the military fund when they meet in Brussels on Dec. 12, said people familiar with the deliberations. If not finalized by then, EU leaders could take up the matter later in the week. (Bloomberg, 12.08.22)
  • Russia’s Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Dec. 6 that the border region is forming self-defense units amid Russia’s ongoing war with neighboring Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 12.06.22)

Punitive measures related to Ukraine and their impact globally:

  • The European Commission will propose a ban on new investments in Russia’s mining sector as part of a fresh package of sanctions against Moscow as part of a ninth EU sanctions package that officials aim to have agreed by the end of next week. The proposed package would also target three banks, four media outlets, export restrictions on chemicals and technologies used for military purposes and some 200 individuals and entities. The list includes the Russian armed forces, as well as individual officers and defense industrial companies, MPs, ministers, governors and political parties. (FT, 12.06.22, Bloomberg, 12.07.22)
  • Finnish Customs has transferred eight yachts to the National Enforcement Authority after completing its investigation into vessels potentially linked to owners covered by sanctions against Russia and Belarus. (Bloomberg, 12.07.22)  
  • A Russian businessman arrested Dec. 3 in London was identified by Russian state media as Mikhail Fridman, the founder of one of the country’s largest banks and an Israeli citizen. A statement from the U.K.’s National Crime Agency—which didn’t name Fridman—said he is suspected of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Home Office and conspiracy to commit perjury. (Times of Israel, 12.04.22)
  • The U.S. is preparing a fresh round of sanctions on Russia and China for what it describes as human rights abuses by both countries, according to an official familiar with the matter. The sanctions against Russia were expected to focus on the country’s efforts to procure weapons—especially drones—from countries including Iran. (Bloomberg, 12.09.22)
  • A Ukrainian lawmaker who has been sanctioned by the U.S. government has now been charged with violating the sanctions when he purchased two luxury properties in California. The seven-count indictment against Andriy Derkach, unsealed on Dec. 7 in New York City, also charges him with money laundering and bank fraud conspiracy in the purchase and maintenance of the two properties in upscale Beverly Hills. (RFE/RL, 12.07.22)
  • In June, the United States designated the $156 million superyacht Madame Gu, which is linked to Andrei Skoch, a Russian steel magnate and lawmaker under sanctions, as blocked property. The Justice Department is now taking steps to seize the Madame Gu moored in UAE. (NYT, 12.01.22)
  • At least 38 businessmen or officials with ties to Putin own homes in Dubai that are collectively valued at more than $314 million, according to the Center for Advanced Defense Studies. Five of those owners are under U.S. sanctions. (NYT, 12.03.22)
  • The EU must clarify procedures for restoring access for Russian airlines once the war in Ukraine is over, International Air Transport Association Director-General Willie Walsh said. Flights into and over the EU are integral to unlocking reciprocal access to Russian airspace for European carriers serving Asia, Walsh said Dec. 6. (Bloomberg, 12.07.22)
  • Germany, France and the Netherlands are among leading EU member states calling on Brussels to tweak its sanctions on Moscow to make a clearer exemption for supplies of Russian grain and fertilizer, claiming the current rules are delaying vital shipments to poor countries. (FT, 12.07.22)
  • South Korea’s defense exports totaled about $17 billion as of November this year, up from $7.25 billion a year before. Major buyers include countries that have for decades relied on stockpiles of aging Russian weaponry, like Poland, but have seen that many of those systems are no match for the weapons that arm the U.S. and its allies. (Bloomberg, 12.07.22) 
  • PPF, the largest Czech-owned financial group, reported an audited loss of €318 million for the first half because of goodwill writedowns on its disposals in Russia. (BNE, 12.07.22)
  • A Kyiv government agency is planning to sell the confiscated Royal Romance 300-foot vessel linked to Viktor Medvedchuk, a prominent politician who was seen as a key conduit of Russian influence in the country. (NYT, 12.05.22)
  • A Vilnius court on Dec. 9 cancelled the residence permit of Yelena Kaminskas, aka Shebunova, a Russian citizen who is reportedly the mother of two extramarital children from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. (RFE/RL, 12.09.22)
  • The United Kingdom has announced a new wave of sanctions that targets 30 individuals and entities—including several Iranian and Russian officials—it says are oppressing fundamental freedoms. Among those sanctioned are Andrei Tishenin and Artur Shambazov, Moscow-installed officials in Crimea, and Valentin Oparin and Oleg Tkachenko, from the Rostov region of Russia that borders Crimea. (RFE/RL, 12.09.22)
  • The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control has permitted Kazakh banks to operate with Russia's Mir payment cards, which had been blocked due to international sanctions against Moscow for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.  (RFE/RL, 12.09.22)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • Washington sees no signs that Moscow is interested in talks on ending the war in Ukraine, Blinken said. "There's always value in diplomacy if the parties in question and in this case Russia, are actually interested in meaningful diplomacy. And what we've seen, at least recently, is exactly the contrary," Blinken said Dec. 4. (RFE/RL, 12.04.22)
  • The conditions for a peaceful settlement to the war in Ukraine are “not there now,” Stoltenberg has said, as he urged members of NATO to continue providing weapons to Kyiv over the winter because, he warned, Russia was preparing a spring offensive. (FT, 12.07.22)
  • Peace talks could be used by Putin to restock his army in Ukraine before launching another attack, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said. (Telegraph, 12.03.22)
  • Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak has chided Elon Musk for the billionaire's "magical simple solutions.” Podolyak listed "exchang[ing] foreign territories for an illusory peace" and "open[ing] all private accounts because freedom of speech has to be total," as examples of such suggestions in comments on Twitter on Dec. 4. (RFE/RL, 12.04.22)
  • The Minsk accords were signed in order to "give Ukraine time" to make the country stronger, ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. (TASS, 12.07.22)

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

  • Putin told a video-session of his human rights council on Dec. 7 that because of the war, Russia had “gained new territories,” referring to four regions of Ukraine that Russia illegally annexed in late September.” Putin described the land gains as “a significant result for Russia,” noting that the Sea of Azov "has become Russia’s internal sea” and recalled how Peter the Great fought to get access to it. Putin also said he has not ruled out that the fighting in Ukraine could turn into a "lengthy process.” (NYT, 12.09.22, RFE/RL, 12.08.22)
    • Hours after Putin’s speech, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “denazification and demilitarization remain among the goals” of what his government still calls a “special military operation.” He added that Russia was focused on reversing the gains of a recent Ukrainian counteroffensive, which recovered large areas of Russian-occupied territory in northeastern and southern Ukraine. (NYT, 12.09.22)
  • “Let’s be clear about what we’ve seen in Ukraine. Russia wasn’t provoked. Russia wasn’t threatened,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Dec. 3. “Putin’s war is not the result of NATO expansion. It is the cause of NATO expansion.” (FT, 12.04.22)
  • French President Emmanuel Macron said that during his visit to the U.S. he and Biden had talked about the need for the U.S. and Europe to prepare a “security architecture for tomorrow” for the region. “This means that one of the essential points we must address—as [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has always said—is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia,” Macron said. (FT, 12.04.22)
    • “Someone wants to provide security guarantees to a terrorist and killer state?” Oleksiy Danilov, Zelensky’s national security chief, said in a tweet. Referring to the post-second world war tribunals, he added: “Instead of Nuremberg—to sign an agreement with Russia and shake hands?” (FT, 12.04.22)
  • When asked in November whether the U.S. should (1) support Ukraine for “as long as it takes” or (2) urge Ukraine to “settle for peace as soon as possible,” 48% of Americans chose the first option (down from 58% in July) and 47% chose the second option (up from 38% in July), according to polls conducted by Ipsos for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The share of Americans who believe that neither Russia nor Ukraine have the advantage in this war stood at 46% in November, according to the poll. The share of those who believed that Russia has the advantage and the share who believed that Ukraine has the advantage were equal at 26% each. (RM, 12.09.22)
  • The government in Helsinki submitted the NATO accession proposal to the parliament in a bid to ensure it can complete the process swiftly once the remaining ratifications are received. (Bloomberg, 12.05.22)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • The trade turnover between Russia and China soared by 32% year-on-year to a record-high $172.4 billion between January and November 2022, the Main Customs Administration of China reported on Dec. 7. In the 11 months of 2022, China’s exports to Russia rose 13.4%, reaching some $67.3 billion. Imports of Russian goods and services surged by 47.5%, to $105.07 billion in the reported period. (TASS, 12.06.22)
  • Inter RAO, Russia’s operator of electricity export-import, expects that by the end of the year electricity exports to China will amount to a record-breaking 4.4-4.5 billion kWh, the company’s CEO Boris Kovalchuk told reporters. (TASS, 12.07.22)
  • The transition to a multipolar world order opens new opportunities for joint efforts to counter present-day threats, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said following a meeting of defense chiefs from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Commonwealth of Independent States in Moscow on Dec. 9. China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe addressed the event via video conference. (TASS, 12.09.22)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • When asked at the Dec. 7 video-meeting of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights whether he would commit Russia to a no-first-nuclear-use policy, Putin said: “As for the threat of nuclear war, ... it would be a sin to hide that such a threat is growing. As for the [proposed commitment that] Russia will not use [nuclear weapons] first under any circumstances, if Russia were not to use [nuclear weapons] first under any circumstances, it would not use [them] second either, because [our] capabilities—to use [nuclear weapons] in case a nuclear strike has been carried out on our territory—would be very limited. Significantly, Putin choose not to repeat his recent threats to use nuclear weapons to reverse Ukraine’s gains in recapturing its land and explicitly pledged to avoid “brandish[ing] these weapons like a razor.” (RM, 12.07.22)
    • U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price reacted hours after Putin’s statement, criticizing what he called Putin's "nuclear saber-rattling" as "irresponsible" and "dangerous." (Newsweek, 12.08.22)
    • Moscow's envoy in Washington Anatoly Antonov has defended Putin's rhetoric on nuclear deterrence against U.S. criticism, telling Newsweek the Kremlin's approach was part of a successful self-deterrence doctrine and one not unlike that of the White House. (Newsweek, 12.08.22)
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi won’t be holding an annual in-person summit with Putin after the Russian president threatened to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine. The relationship between India and Russia remains strong but trumpeting the friendship at this point may not be beneficial for Modi, said a senior official. India’s decision was clear at a regional summit held in September in Uzbekistan, when Modi urged Putin to seek peace in Ukraine, said a Russian official familiar. (Bloomberg, 12.09.22)
  • Former senior colonel in China's People's Liberation Army Zhou Bo told FT that China is restraining Russia over use of nuclear weapons. “The world is afraid that President Putin might resort to use of nuclear weapons. China’s voice matters. And China’s friendship with Russia would matter all the more on this issue. So probably it has already played a significant role in reducing such a nightmare from happening,” Zhou said. (FT, 12.09.22)
  • The risk of Putin using nuclear weapons as part of his war in Ukraine has decreased in response to international pressure, Scholz said. "Russia has stopped threatening to use nuclear weapons. As a reaction to the international community marking a red line,” he said. (Reuters, 12.08.22)
  • Putin wrote in an address to Rosatom: “Rosatom makes a huge contribution to improving our deterrence potential, strengthening the power of our nuclear triad, and developing and deploying advanced weapons systems and military equipment. Many of them have no analogues in the world.” (, 12.02.22)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

  • Clint Watts, general manager of Microsoft’s digital threat analysis center, urged customers to prepare for more Russian cyber-attacks over the winter. (Bloomberg, 12.03.22)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia has quietly amassed a fleet of more than 100 ageing tankers to help circumvent Western restrictions on Russian oil sales following its invasion of Ukraine. Shipping broker Braemar estimates Moscow has added more than 100 ships this year, through direct or indirect purchases. Energy consultancy Rystad says Russia has added 103 tankers in 2022 through purchases and the reallocation of ships servicing Iran and Venezuela, two countries under Western oil embargoes. (FT, 12.03.22)
  • “The decision is being prepared, but one thing is clear: we will not recognize any cap on the price of oil,” Peskov said, describing the policy as “destabilizing global energy markets.” In response to a question from reporters, Peskov said the oil price cap would not affect Russia’s ability to finance the war in Ukraine. (FT, 12.05.22)
  • Russia will not export oil that is subject a Western-imposed $60 per barrel price cap even if Moscow has to accept a drop in oil production, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Dec. 4. (Reuters, 12.04.22)
  • Moscow is considering either imposing a fixed price for the nation’s barrels, or stipulating maximum discounts to international benchmarks at which they can be sold, according to two officials. (Bloomberg, 12.06.22)
  • India isn’t worried by a European Union price cap on Russian crude, oil minister Hardeep Puri said, signaling that the South Asian economy intends to continue purchasing from Russia for now. (Bloomberg, 12.05.22)
  • Argus Media, an energy-data provider, said the price of benchmark Urals crude exported from Primorsk on the Baltic Sea fell to about $47.90 a barrel on Dec. 5, down around 30% from the start of November. That is a hefty discount to Brent, the global yardstick, which traded above $78 a barrel Dec. 7. (WSJ, 12.07.22)
  • Oil rose as Russia’s president said the country may cut production in response to the G-7 cap on the price of its crude. West Texas Intermediate futures climbed above $72 on Dec. 9, rising as much as 2%. Putin said a decision on Russia’s response to the price cap will be made in the next several days, according to comments broadcast on state Rossiya 24 TV. (Bloomberg, 12.09.22)
  • OPEC+ decided not to make any immediate changes to the group’s production targets, but said the oil producers’ cartel was ready to “meet at any time” and could “take immediate additional measures.” (FT, 12.04.22)
  • Western officials have blamed Turkey for the disruption to crude shipments from the Black Sea, stressing there was no reason to block traffic through the Turkish Straits. At least 22 crude tankers have been stopped from crossing Turkish waters over fears in Ankara that the shipments might be uninsured due to rules that bar tankers transporting Russian crude from accessing European maritime insurance unless the oil is sold for $60 a barrel or less. (FT, 12.09.22)
  • Rosneft said Dec. 7 its profit over the past nine months had been badly hit by the seizure of its German-based refineries by Berlin. "In 3Q 2022, the most significant negative impact on income came from the transfer of the company's assets in Germany... which resulted in the recognition of an additional loss of 56 billion rubles (around $889 million)," Rosneft said. (MT/AFP, 12.07.22)
  • Italy’s largest refinery, ISAB Lukoil refinery, which is owned by Russia’s Lukoil PJSC, is not destined for nationalization, according to Industry Minister Adolfo Urso. (Bloomberg, 12.03.22)
  • Russia’s seaborne coal exports returned to near the highest levels on record after the European Union loosened restrictions on transporting the commodity. Shipments in October were almost 16.6 million tons—just shy of the level in June, which was the highest since at least 2017, figures from analytics firm Kpler show. Exports have slipped a bit since then, in line with normal seasonal volatility. (Bloomberg, 12.07.22) 
  • Uzbekistan has rejected the idea of creating a so-called "natural gas union" with Russia and Kazakhstan that was proposed by Putin last month. (RFE/RL, 12.08.22)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will use talks with the presidents of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan next week to revive an idea of bringing Turkmen natural gas via his country to Europe, senior Turkish officials said. (Bloomberg, 12.09.22)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • American basketball star Brittney Griner returned to the United States early on Dec. 9 after being freed in a high-profile prisoner exchange following nearly 10 months in detention in Russia. Notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, arrived back in Russia earlier on Dec. 9. (AP, 12.09.22)
    • The deal was met with jubilation from Griner’s family and supporters. But the controversial swap for Bout—as well as the exclusion of Paul Whelan, another U.S. citizen imprisoned in Russia—also drew criticism and raised questions about how America’s adversaries might leverage arrests of its citizens in the future. (FT, 12.09.22)
    • Bout told Kremlin-run media on Dec. 9 that Western countries are seeking to "destroy" and "divide" Russia. (AFP, 12.09.22)
  • Russian and U.S. diplomats met in Istanbul on Dec. 9 to discuss a number of technical issues in the bilateral relationship, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. The TASS news agency said the two sides would discuss "difficult questions" including visas, embassy staffing levels and the work of each side's institutions and agencies abroad, among other unspecified issues. Ryabkov said the meeting was between heads of department from the Russian Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department. (Reuters, 12.09.22)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Sales of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in Russia declined by 62% year on year in November to 46,403 vehicles, according to the Association of European Businesses that oversees the industry. In the first 11 months of 2022, the market contracted by 61% y/y to 0.55 million vehicles sold. (BNE, 12.07.22)
  • Alexei Kudrin, who resigned as head of Russia's Audit Chamber last week, said on Dec. 5 he had accepted an offer from technology giant Yandex to become an adviser on corporate development. (RFE/RL, 12.05.22)
  • Russia hit back Dec. 8 at widely reported data which placed the country as a leader in new HIV infections worldwide as “provocative propaganda.” Russia accounted for 3.9%—the world's fifth-highest share—of the 1.5 million new HIV cases reported around the world in 2021, data platform Statista said. (MT/AFP, 12.08.22)
  • A Moscow court has sentenced opposition politician Ilya Yashin to 8 1/2 years in prison on a charge of spreading false information about the Russian military amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Yashin  is an outspoken Kremlin critic and one of the few prominent opposition politicians still in Russia. (RFE/RL, 12.09.22)
  • A court of appeals in Moscow has rejected an appeal filed by Ivan Safronov, a prominent former journalist, against his conviction in a high-profile treason case that highlighted the Kremlin's crackdown on the media in September. The Moscow City Court sentenced Safronov to 22 years in prison in early September after finding him guilty of handing secret materials to foreign agents in a case that is widely considered to be politically motivated. (RFE/RL, 12.07.22)
  • Putin has signed a law that expands an existing ban on promoting "LGBT propaganda" to children by prohibiting it among people of all ages. Human rights defenders and activists working with LGBT+ groups believe that the new law will make it impossible for public organizations that help LGBT+ organizations to function. (RFE/RL, 12.05.22)
    • Russian bookstores have started removing LGBT-themed works from their catalogues after Putin signed a wide-reaching ban on expressions of LGBT identity into law on Dec. 5. (MT/AFP, 12.06.22)
  • The BBC has named Russian pop diva Alla Pugacheva, jailed anti-war activist Alexandra Skochilenko and prominent journalist Taisia Bekbulatova on its list of the year's most influential women. (MT/AFP, 12.07.22)
  • A St. Petersburg court on Dec. 6 recognized the Russian human rights NGO Vesna as an extremist organization, the group announced in a statement, a move that if upheld will compel the organization to disband and cease all activity in Russia. (MT/AFP, 12.06.22)
  • Almost 300 Russian activists, many young and from the diaspora, gathered in Berlin to try to forge a common path, beyond struggling against Putin and the war in Ukraine. There was a consensus that Russia needed to confront the long chain of violent repression that links the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and the country under Putin, participants said, even if the activists acknowledge how difficult any change will be. (NYT, 12.07.22)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Putin has said he does not see the need for a second wave of the draft to bolster his forces in Ukraine even as he warned that Russia’s nine-month invasion could become a “lengthy process.” (FT, 12.07.22)
  • State budget data from the Russian Ministry of Finance shows defense expenditures rising this year by around 30% compared with 2021 to around $78 billion and increasing further next year to around $82.5 billion. (WSJ, 12.06.22)
  • Russia's Defense Ministry says it has deployed mobile coastal-defense missile systems on a northern Kurile island. The Russian Bastion systems, which have missiles with a flight range of up to 500 kilometers, were deployed on the island of Paramushir, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Dec. 5. (Reuters, 12.06.22)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Putin has signed a decree to increase the number of police officers in the country to 938,000 by 2025. According to the decree, dated Dec. 5, the number of police in the country will be 922,000 next year, and 934,00 in 2024. (RFE/RL, 12.07.22)
  • A Chechen opposition Telegram feed has reported that prominent dissident Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov has been killed. The 1ADAT channel on Dec. 5 cited unidentified sources as saying Abdurakhmanov had been shot dead and that his brother, Mukhammad, was under police protection. (RFE/RL, 12.05.22)
  • Prosecutors in Moscow are seeking a life sentence for a former member of the parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council, Rauf Arashukov and his father, Raul, both of whom a jury found guilty in September of organizing two murders. (RFE/RL, 12.06.22)
  • Police in Russia's Rostov region have apprehended a man suspected of opening fire with a machine gun at a group of police officers on Dec. 6, wounding one of them. Some media reports identified the man as Pavel Nikolin, a 38-year inmate of a penitentiary in Bashkortostan, who was recruited in prison to join the war in Ukraine but deserted with a machine gun. (RFE/RL, 12.07.22)
  • A court in Norway has acquitted the dual-national son of Putin’s former ally on charges of defying a ban on flying drones, media reported late Dec. 7. Andrei Yakunin was arrested in October on accusations of launching drones from his luxury yacht over the strategic Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. (MT/AFP, 12.08.22)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Russia, which for decades did not appoint honorary consuls, has increasingly leveraged the system in service of its political agenda. Inside Russia, several of Putin’s closest associates formed an advocacy group called The League of Honorary Consuls. Outside Russia, the government has appointed honorary consuls on six continents, quadrupling their number to more than 80 in the first decade after Putin took office. (ICJ, December 2022)
  • The Russian embassy in Berlin on Dec. 7 denied maintaining links to far-right terror groups in Germany after a Russian woman was among 25 people arrested in a series of police raids over a suspected plot to overthrow the government. (MT/AFP, 12.07.22)
  • Individuals linked to the Wagner Group have set up a shell company in the Central African Republic (CAR) to secure and sell diamonds, European researchers say. (WP, 12.06.22)
  • Putin held a total of about 300 international events and 220 telephone conversations in 2022, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters Dec. 8. (TASS, 12.09.22)


  • The prime minister of Montenegro and president of Ukraine have signed a joint declaration on Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic perspective. (RFE/RL, 12.05.22)
  • Ukraine has exported almost 18.1 million tons of grain so far in the 2022/23 season, down 29.6% from the 25.8 million tons exported by the same stage of the previous season, Agriculture Ministry data showed on Dec. 2. (Reuters, 12.03.22)
  • Ukrainian embassies in Denmark and Romania have received more "bloody packages," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. (Ukrinform, 12.06.22)
  • Two-way traffic has been restored on a Russian-built bridge that connects Russia to the Crimean Peninsula (RFE/RL, 12.05.22)
  • Russia's national nuclear company says its Internexco GmbH subsidiary and Brazil's state-owned Industrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB) have signed a contract to supply the Angra NPP from 2023 to 2027. (WNN, 12.07.22)
  • Time magazine has chosen Zelensky and the "Spirit of Ukraine" as its person of the year for 2022. (RFE/RL, 12.07.22)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Putin will attempt to shore up Russia’s regional authority on a visit Dec. 9 to Kyrgyzstan for a summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with the leaders of Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. (MT, 12.09.22)
  • Belarusian lawmakers approved in the first reading on Dec. 7 a bill that envisages the death penalty for high treason committed by officials and military personnel. The bill also includes criminal prosecution for "spreading false information discrediting Belarusian armed forces." (RFE/RL, 12.07.22)
  • The Belarusian Security Council says it plans to start a two-day program of moving military personnel and equipment on Dec. 7 in "a counter-terrorism exercise." (BelTA, 12.07.22)
  • More than 60 media outlets and independent journalists broadcasting and writing in Russian, including those based in Latvia, have expressed support for the independent Russian television channel Dozhd (Rain) after Latvia's electronic media authority revoked its broadcasting license. (RFE/RL, 12.07.22)
  • Georgia's jailed ex-president, Mikheil Saakashvili, was "poisoned" in custody by heavy metals and risks dying without proper treatment, according to a medical report distributed on Dec. 5 by his legal team. (AFP, 12.05.22)
  • Top Turkish military officials traveled to Azerbaijan to oversee joint military drills near the Azeri border with Iran as tensions between the two neighbors continue to escalate. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Chief of Military Staff Yasar Guler and the commanders of Turkey’s land, air and maritime forces arrived in Baku Dec. 5 to oversee the exercises codenamed “Fraternal Fist.” (Bloomberg, 12.06.22)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • “They are just meat to Putin,” Kostyantyn, an exhausted Ukrainian machine-gunner at Ukrainian military positions on the eastern edge of the city of Bakhmut, said, referring to the Russian soldiers, “and Bakhmut is a meat grinder.” (FT, 12.09.22)