Russia in Review, Dec. 9-16, 2022

6 Things to Know

  1. Ukraine’s top commander believes Russia is preparing to launch another major offensive that would aim to capture Kyiv. A major Russian attack could come “in February, at best in March and at worst at the end of January,” according to Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Zaluzhny. “I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv,” the general told The Economist. To “beat the enemy,” the Ukrainian military needs, among other things, an additional 300 tanks, 600-700 IFVs and 500 Howitzers, Zaluzhny said.
  2. U.S. Defense Secretary Austin could approve the transfer of one Patriot battery to Ukraine this week, according to NYT. The transfer would still have to be approved by Biden, who is also expected to sign off on NDAA-2023, which has been approved by Congress and provides $800 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative in FY 2023. In addition to Patriots, the U.S. may also send Ukraine advanced electronic equipment kits, JDAM, which convert unguided aerial munitions into “smart bombs,” according to Bloomberg.
  3. Products by Western companies have accounted for more than one-third of electronic components imported by Russia in the seven months to Oct. 31, a Reuters investigation of Russian efforts to evade Western sanctions has revealed. As many as $777 million of these products were made by Western firms whose chips have been found in Russian weapons systems: America’s Intel Corp, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Texas Instruments Inc. and Analog Devices Inc., and Germany’s Infineon AG, according to Reuters.
  4. More than half of Russians continue to support peace negotiations with Ukraine. Support for peace negotiations among Russians declined from 57% in October to 53% in November, but was still higher than in September, when only 48% thought Russia should sue for peace rather than continue the war, according to a poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Moscow-based Levada Center.
  5. No holiday break for the sides fighting in Ukraine. Putin’s spokesperson Peskov said the Kremlin had not received any proposals from Kyiv to halt fighting during the upcoming holiday period and that a ceasefire was not on Moscow's agenda, AFP reported. In his turn, Gen. Hromov of Ukraine's General Staff told reporters that "a full cease-fire from our point of view will come only when there are no more occupying forces on our land,” while Zelensky told The Economist that he is against “freezing this war.”
  6. Putin reportedly cancelled his annual presser for 2022 out of concerns that Ukraine may attack targets in Russia. “No one could give a 100% guarantee” that such an attack wouldn’t take place, one Kremlin official told MT. Setbacks suffered by the Russian military in Ukraine also played a role, according to MT, which interviewed six Kremlin and government officials.

NBNext week’s Russia in Review will appear on Thursday, Dec. 22, instead of Friday, Dec. 23, due to the Harvard University winter recess.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal have agreed that the IAEA will establish a continuous presence of nuclear safety and security experts at all of the country’s NPPs as part of stepped-up efforts to help prevent a nuclear accident during the current armed conflict. (Neimagazine, 12.15.22)
  • French President Emmanuel Macron said on Dec. 13 that an agreement had been reached on removing heavy weapons from Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia NPP and that talks were under way on procedures for doing this. (RFE/RL, 12.13.22)
    • Grossi is to visit Moscow on Dec. 22 for talks on this NPP, according to Russia’s pro-war Telegram channel Rybar. (RM, 12.16.22)
  • The IAEA is going to establish a permanent presence at all operating nuclear power plants in Ukraine, as well as at Chernobyl. (WNN, 12.14.22)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russia and North Korea appear to have resumed trade over a rail link that had been suspended for almost three years due COVID-19, according to satellite imagery. Goods were delivered from Russia to North Korea in late November and early December, 38 North said in report published Dec. 12. (Bloomberg, 12.13.22)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • The U.S. alleged that Russia is providing Iran with “an unprecedented level of military and technical support” as Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine draws the increasingly isolated countries closer together. Citing U.S. intelligence, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Iran is set to receive stepped up military and technical support from Russia in exchange for supplying it with drones. The Biden administration is accusing Russia of moving to provide advanced military assistance to Iran, including air-defense systems, helicopters and fighter jets, as part of deepening cooperation. (FT, 12.09.22, AP, 12.10.22)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • Ukraine announced that it had secured the release 64 Ukrainians and U.S. citizen Suedi Murekezi in its latest prisoner swap with Russian forces on Dec. 14. (AFP, 12.14.22)
  • Reporters Without Borders counts a total of 57 journalists and media workers that have been killed this year because of their job, including eight killed in Ukraine, the second most deadly location in the world after Mexico. (BNE, 12.15.22)
  • The city of Donetsk has been hit by the most intense wave of Ukrainian shelling since hostilities began eight years ago, its Moscow-installed mayor said. Separatist officials said on social media that one person was killed and nine more were injured. Mayor Alexei Kulemzin said 40 rockets fired by Grad multiple rocket launchers landed on residential buildings, a hospital, a kindergarten and other buildings including a church. (MT/AFP, 12.15.22)
  • Between January and September, there were 4.4 million applications by Ukrainians for temporary protection in the EU. (FT, 12.11.22)
  • Hungary got EU countries to lower the amount of a proposed funding freeze in exchange for Budapest lifting its veto on key items, including an aid package to Ukraine. Hungary had been on the cusp of losing €7.5 billion in EU payouts over concerns that the money may aid graft in the country. In protest, Budapest had been blocking both an €18 billion EU aid package for Ukraine and a minimum global corporate tax rate. (Politico, 12.13.22)
  • Dozens of countries on Dec. 13 pledged more than $1 billion in additional aid to Ukraine at a conference in Paris. More than $440 million of the total aid pledged is expected to be directed to Ukraine's energy network. Donor countries also pledged at least $67 million for Ukraine's water and food sectors, $18 million for health and $23 million for transportation networks. (WP, 12.13.22)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the G-7 on Dec. 13 that Ukraine needed emergency aid for its energy sector totaling around 800 million euros to help his country survive Russia's bombing of its civilian infrastructure. (MT/AFP, 12.13.22)
  • Ukraine is reliant on $6.8 billion in foreign aid monthly to fund its government and war effort, and is likely to need $7.8 billion monthly in 2023, according to Belfer Center researcher Katherine Davidson’s analysis of open sources. (RM, 12.15.22)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed ways to expand an agreement to safeguard global grain shipments with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, according to a statement from Turkey’s presidency. Erdogan in a phone call said different commodities and food products can be included in the grain corridor. (Bloomberg, 12.11.22)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • Zelensky, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny and head of Ukraine’s ground forces Oleksandr Syrsky emphasized that the outcome of the war hinges on the next few months. They are convinced that Russia is readying another big offensive, to begin as soon as January. (The Economist, 12.15.22)
    • A major Russian attack could come “in February, at best in March and at worst at the end of January,” Zaluzhny says. And it could come anywhere, he warns: in Donbas in the south, toward the city of Dnipro; even toward Kyiv itself. In fact, a fresh assault on the capital is inevitable, Zaluzhny reckons: “I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv.” (The Economist, 12.15.22)
    • “I know that I can beat this enemy,” Zaluzhny says. “But I need resources. I need 300 tanks, 600-700 IFVs [infantry fighting vehicles], 500 Howitzers.” The incremental arsenal he is seeking is bigger than the total armored forces of most European armies. (The Economist, 12.15.22)
    • Syrsky says Russia’s tactics have changed under the command of Sergei Surovikin, who took charge in October. The Wagner group, a mercenary outfit that is better equipped than Russia’s regular army, fights in the first echelon. Troops from the Russian republic of Chechnya and other regulars are in the rear. But whereas these forces once fought separately, today they cooperate in detachments of 900 soldiers or more, moving largely on foot. (The Economist, 12.15.22)
    • “It seems to me we are on the edge,” warns Zaluzhny. More big attacks [of Russian missiles] could completely disable the grid. “That is when soldiers’ wives and children start freezing,” he says. “What kind of mood will the fighters be in? Without water, light and heat, can we talk about preparing reserves to keep fighting?” (The Economist, 12.15.22)
  • Ukraine is stepping up efforts to isolate and degrade Russian forces in and around the strategically vital city of Melitopol, known as the gateway to Crimea because of its location at the crossroads of two major highways and a crucial rail line linking Russia to that peninsula and other territory it occupies in southern Ukraine. (NYT, 12.13.22)
    • Kyiv’s military demolished a hotel complex hosting dozens of Russian military personnel with HIMARS in Melitopol. (WSJ, 12.12.22)
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and Avdiyivka in the east, Ukraine’s General Staff said Dec. 16. Russian troops shelled the Nikopol district in the central Dnipropetrovsk region overnight and parts of the Mykolaiv region in the morning, local authorities said. The city of Kherson was hit by artillery fire, with Russian shells hitting residential areas and killing a woman and a child and injuring two people. (Bloomberg, 12.16.22)
  • On Dec. 5 only 10 out of 70 Russian missiles made it past Ukrainian air defenses, according to Kyiv. (FT, 12.13.22)
  • On Dec. 14 Ukrainian air defenses repelled a wave of Russian strikes in Kyiv, knocking at least 13 drones out of the sky, with explosions reported in the historical center of the city. (WSJ, 12.14.22)
  • On Dec. 16 explosions from the latest major barrage of Russian air strikes knocked out utilities in Kyiv and scores of other Ukrainian cities on Dec. 16, incljuding Kryviy Rih, Odesa, Kharkiv. It was the ninth large-scale wave of missiles to be aimed at Ukrainian infrastructure this fall. Most have featured 70 to 100 missiles. (NYT, 12.16.22, FT, 12.16.22)
    • Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said in a statement that “the enemy launched 76 missiles at critical infrastructure facilities of Ukraine from the Caspian Sea and Black Sea this morning: among them, there were 72 cruise missiles and four guided air-to-surface missiles,” adding that 60 missiles were shot down. (FT, 12.16.22)
    • Mykhailo Shymanov, a spokesperson for Kyiv’s military-civilian administration, said on state television that the barrage amounted to one of the “biggest attacks since the beginning of the full-scale war” launched by Russia in February. (FT, 12.16.22)
    • Ukrenergo, the state power company, declared a “system emergency” and nationwide “blackout,” citing a 50% loss of power within the country’s electricity system. (FT, 12.16.22)
  • “According to our calculations, they have missiles for another three to five waves of attacks,” Gen. Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy intelligence chief, said. “This is if there are 80 to 90 rockets in one wave.” Skibitsky said that Russian arms factories had been able to build 240 precision Kh-101 cruise missiles and about 120 of the sea-based Kalibr cruise missiles since the start of the war. Those numbers could not be independently confirmed.1 (NYT, 12.12.22)
  • U.K. Chief of the Defense Staff Adm. Tony Radakin said Russia faced a “critical shortage of artillery munitions,” having planned for only a 30-day war. Yet just days earlier, the head of Estonia’s defense intelligence center estimated Russia still had about 10 million artillery shells in stock and was producing more at a rate of about 3.4 million per year. (Bloomberg, 12.15.22)
    • “Even our Iskander use GPS. So if the grid is shifted slightly, we miss,” said Alexander Khodakovsky, a Russian serving field commander. He was referring to Russia’s short range ballistic missiles, known as Iskanders. (Bloomberg, 12.15.22)
  • Shortly after a large wave of Russian missiles in October, Ukraine’s intelligence officials noticed the wreckage of a Kh-55 subsonic cruise missile designed in the 1970s to carry a nuclear warhead. The warhead had been removed and ballast added to disguise the fact that it was not carrying a payload, said Skibitsky. (NYT, 12.12.22)
  • Ammunition and spares for the S-300 and Buk systems, the mainstay of Ukraine’s air defenses, are dwindling. Purchasing additional S-300 or Buk missiles from Russia, where they are produced, is impossible. (FT, 12.13.22)
  • Congress has passed a record $858 billion defense bill that would bolster support for Ukraine. The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2023 would extend and modify the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, as well as authorize $800 million in funding in fiscal year 2023, which is $500 million more than was contained in last year’s defense bill. The 2023 bill would also require the Defense Department, State and USAID Inspector Generals to regularly carry out comprehensive reviews and audits of assistance provided to Ukraine.  (CNN, 12.15.22, Reuters, 12.15.22,, 12.08.22)
  • Biden told Zelensky in a call on Dec. 11 that his country is committed to continue providing Ukraine with security, economic and humanitarian assistance, as well as holding Russia accountable for the war. The White House said in a statement that Biden emphasized that the U.S. would prioritize strengthening Ukraine’s air defense system. (Bloomberg, 12.12.22, NYT, 12,12,22)
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin could approve a directive as early as this week to transfer one Patriot battery already overseas to Ukraine, officials said. Final approval would then rest with Biden. (NYT, 12.13.22)
    • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said any Patriot air-defense missile batteries on Ukrainian soil would be a target for Russia’s military as the U.S. weighs delivery of the system to Kyiv. (Bloomberg, 12.14.22)
  • The Biden administration is planning to send Ukraine advanced electronic equipment that converts unguided aerial munitions into “smart bombs.” The kits incorporate global positioning devices for precision and can be bolted onto a variety of weapons, creating what the Pentagon calls a Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM. (WP, 12.14.22)
  • As of Dec. 9, the U.S. has committed to Ukraine more than 1 million 155mm artillery rounds, 180,000 105mm artillery rounds, more than 8,500 Javelin anti-tank missiles, 4,200 precision-guided Excalibur 155mm artillery rounds and 1,600 shoulder-mounted Stinger missiles. (Bloomberg, 12.16.22)
  • The U.S. military announced it will expand training in Germany of Ukrainian military personnel. Starting in January, 500 troops a month will be trained, building on more than 15,000 Ukrainians trained by the United States and its allies since April. (RFE/RL, 12.16.22)
  • EU foreign ministers agreed on Dec. 12 to put another 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) into a fund that has been used to pay for military support for Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.12.22)
  • G-7 leaders promised on Dec. 12 to “continue to coordinate efforts to meet Ukraine’s urgent requirements for military and defense equipment with an immediate focus on providing Ukraine with air defense systems and capabilities.” (FT, 12.13.22)
  • Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said, “The possibility of a cease-fire seems very limited, and while we support efforts in that direction, in the meantime we need to continue to fully support Ukraine.” (Bloomberg, 12.13.22)
  • In some cases, the complexity of the Western weapons supplied to Ukraine or the confidentiality surrounding them means maintenance must take place on NATO territory, hundreds of miles away from the front line. (WSJ, 12.11.22)
  • The German military will begin preparations to deploy a surface-to-air Patriot anti-missile system in Poland. (dpa, 12.11.22)
  • Putin told a press conference in Kyrgyzstan on Dec. 9: “The SMO [special military operation] is running its course and everything is stable—there are no questions or problems there now.” (RM, 12.11.22)
  • Croatian lawmakers on Dec. 16 rejected a proposal for Croatia to join an EU mission in support of the Ukrainian military. (RFE/RL, 12.16.22)
  • Over 10,000 Russian soldiers have been identified as killed since Moscow invaded Ukraine, according to a tally of confirmed military deaths kept by BBC and Mediazona. Of these, 123 were lieutenants, 44 were colonels and four were major generals. Some 85 of KIAs are recruits from prisons. Buryatia, Krasnodar and Dagestan are among the provinces of Russia with the greatest shares in the overall death toll. (MT, 12.16.22)
  • The Russian Northern Fleet’s 200th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade sent its best fighters and weapons to Ukraine on Feb. 24 and was effectively destroyed. A document detailing a mid-war inventory of its ranks shows that by late May, fewer than 900 soldiers were left in two battalion tactical groups that, according to Western officials, had departed the brigade's garrison in Russia with more than 1,400. (WP, 12.16.22)
  • The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has posted instructions online for Russian soldiers explaining how they can rely on Ukrainian drones to escort them into captivity. (Meduza, 12.13.22)

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

  • A late-night session of EU leaders on Dec. 15 agreed on the ninth round of sanctions on Russia. The package still needs to be formally adopted by EU foreign ministers, which is expected to happen by noon on Dec. 16. (BNE, 12.16.22)
    • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the new sanctions target “almost 200 individuals and entities involved in attacks on civilians and kidnapping children.” (AP, 12.16.22)
    • The package will deal a blow to 168 “entities”—companies or state organizations—linked to the arms industry. The package expands the export ban on aviation and space industry-related goods and technology to include aircraft engines and their parts, with the measure applying to both manned and unmanned aircraft. (AP, 12.16.22, BNE, 12.16.22)
    • In the energy sector, the EU said it will prohibit new investments in Russian mining, with the exception of mining and quarrying activities involving certain critical raw materials. (BNE, 12.16.22)
    • An assets freeze will be imposed on two additional Russian banks, while the Russian Regional Development Bank will be added to the list of Russian state-owned or -controlled entities that are subject to a full transaction ban. (BNE, 12.16.22)
    • Four additional media outlets perceived as propaganda tools used to destabilize the EU—NTV/NTV Mir, Rossiya 1, REN TV and Pervyi Kanal—will have their broadcasting licenses suspended. (BNE, 12.16.22)
    • The EU agreed to ease curbs on Russian fertilizer exports as part of the ninth sanctions package, drawing a rebuke from Ukraine. (Politico, 12.15.22)
  • The United States has imposed financial sanctions on one of Russia's richest men, Vladimir Potanin, and Russian commercial bank Rosbank in another expansion of efforts to curb Moscow's ability to fund its war in Ukraine. The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control is also blacklisting 17 entities related to Russia's financial-services sector. These are all subsidiaries of VTB Bank, Russia's second-largest bank. (RFE/RL, 12.16.22)
  • Five Russian citizens and two U.S. nationals were charged by U.S. federal prosecutors on Dec. 13 with conspiring to illegally obtain and ship millions of dollars worth of American-made, military-grade technology to Russia. In addition to Yevgeniy Grinin, a 47-year-old Moscow resident, the Justice Department identified the defendants as Alexey Ippolitov, 57, of Moscow; Boris Livshits, 52, a former Brooklyn resident now living in St. Petersburg, Russia; Svetlana Skvortsova, 41, of Moscow; Vadim Konoshchenok, 48, of Tallin, Estonia; Alexey Brayman, 35, of Merrimack, N.H.; and Vadim Yermolenko, 41, of Upper Saddle River, N.J. Yermolenko, an American citizen, and Brayman, a permanent U.S. resident identified in court filings as an Israeli citizen, were arraigned on Dec. 13. (NYT, 12.13.22)
  • At least $2.6 billion of computer and other electronic components flowed into Russia in the seven months to Oct. 31, Russian customs records show. At least $777 million of these products were made by Western firms whose chips have been found in Russian weapons systems: America’s Intel Corp, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), Texas Instruments Inc. and Analog Devices Inc., and Germany’s Infineon AG. (Reuters, 12.13.22)
  • A joint investigation between RUSI, Reuters and iStories has found that Russian companies closely associated with the St. Petersburg-based Special Technology Centre Limited Liability Company—the Russian military-affiliated manufacturer of the Orlan-10 UAV1—have drastically increased imports of critical Western-manufactured components since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine began. (RUSI, 12.15.22)
  • Canada says it will revoke a time-limited sanctions waiver that allowed turbines for Nord Stream 1, Russia's biggest gas pipeline to Europe, to be repaired in Montreal and returned to Germany. (RFE/RL, 12.15.22)
  • The U.K. has announced a new package of 16 sanctions targeting senior Russian commanders for their involvement in the Russian military, and Iranian businessmen and officials involved in the production and/or supply of drones to Moscow. (RFE/RL, 12.13.22)
  • The EU is to appoint David O’Sullivan, a former EU ambassador to the U.S., as sanctions envoy to push for tighter enforcement of its penalties in countries including Turkey, as the bloc seeks to crack down on circumvention of its measures against Russia. (FT, 12.12.22)
  • TotalEnergies has moved to further loosen its ties with Russia, taking a $3.7 billion writedown on its stake in Novatek and removing its directors from the board of the gas producer even as it holds on to the investment. (FT, 12.09.22) 
  • Swedish fashion retailer H&M announced on Dec. 15 that it had closed its last remaining stores in Russia and Belarus. (MT/AFP, 12.15.22)
  • French broadcasting authority Arcom has told the Eutelsat satellite company to stop broadcasting Rossia 1, Channel One and NTV, whose programs on the war in Ukraine "include repeated incitement to hatred and violence and numerous shortcomings to honesty of information." (Reuters, 12.15.22)
  • Estonia’s top diplomat Urmas Reinsalu called for the “complete isolation” of Russia’s financial system and an oil-price cap that would cripple the nation’s energy producers, extending punitive measures to cover the whole economy. (Bloomberg, 12.13.22)
  • Lithuania's Interior Ministry said on Dec. 13 that it has annulled the citizenship of Adolfas Kaminskas, husband of Yelena Kaminskas, aka Shebunova, who is reportedly the mother of two extramarital children from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. (RFE/RL, 12.13.22)
  • The influential sanctions-hit Russian fertilizer billionaire Dmitry Mazepin has called on global commodities traders to unblock a U.N.-brokered deal to resume shipments of ammonia. (FT, 12.13.22)
  • The deepening economic ties between Turkey and Russia is "a cause for great concern," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. It was important that Turkey not offer Russia any workarounds to sanctions, Borrell cautioned. (dpa, 12.11.22)
  • In December, the EU commissioned a secret report to assess just how badly the war in Ukraine, and the polycrisis it is fueling, is hurting Europe’s economy. Good news: the conclusion was that the bounce-back effect of sanctions imposed on Russia has “largely spared” Europe’s own economy. In all, the EU member states have spent a total of €525 billion on relief and subsidies, and given the size of the EU economy (€16.6 trillion) that is a relatively modest amount—3.1% or less than many countries spent on stimulus during the coronavirus crisis. (BNE, 12.14.22)
  • A group of sanctioned Russian billionaires, including Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, German Khan and Gennady Timchenko, have picked a fight with the European Union—challenging an order to declare all their assets from luxury villas to bank accounts within six weeks or face prosecution. (Bloomberg, 12.15.22)
  • Kazakh Prime Minister Alikhan Smaiylov says 19 international companies have relocated from Russia to Kazakhstan since Moscow launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.12.22)
  • State Duma deputy Dmitry Sablin might be the unidentified Russian legislator who Ukraine’s law-enforcers believe to own 11 apartments in Kyiv, which they intend to impound, according to Meduza and (RM, 12.13.22)
  • The International Olympic Committee is exploring ways to loosen its bans on athletes from Russia and Belarus, which would allow them to participate in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, most likely as independent competitors. (WP, 12.13.22)
  • In November, concern about sanctions remained practically unchanged in Russia compared to August, according to a Levada Center poll. November saw some 30% of respondents say they are not at all worried about sanctions, compared with 31% in August, while 30% said they were not very worried, compared with 26% in August. (RM, 12.16.22)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • “Why am I against freezing this war? Because in Donbas we have already seen it. They take away part of the territory and then freeze it for some time, to become more powerful occupiers, ready for more occupation, and that’s all,” Zelensky told The Economist.
    “Why do I say ‘we have to go to our borders’? Because, if it does not work, he will come back.” (The Economist, 12.15.22)
  • Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Dec. 14 that the Kremlin had not received any proposals from Kyiv to halt fighting in Ukraine during the upcoming holiday period and that a ceasefire was not on Moscow's agenda. The withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine by the end of the year is "out of the question," he said on Dec. 13, adding that any peace deal with Kyiv was "impossible." (WP, 12.13.22, AFP, 12.14.22)
    • "A full cease-fire from our point of view will come only when there are no more occupying forces on our land," Gen. Oleksiy Hromov, a senior officer on Ukraine's General Staff, said Dec. 15. (WSJ, 12.15.22)
  • On Dec. 12, the Czech Republic, the three Baltic states, Poland and Slovakia sent a demarche to Paris to protest against Macron’s comments on the need to give Russia security guarantees as part of negotiations to end its war against Ukraine. (BNE, 12.14.22)
  • The share of Russians who support Putin’s war in Ukraine increased from 73% in October to 74% in November, according to surveys released on Dec. 13 conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Moscow-based Levada Center. The share of Russians who think the so-called special military operation is a success declined from 68% in April to 53% in November. The share of Russian who think the operation should engage in peace negotiations rather than continue increased from 48% in September to 57% in October before declining to 53% in November. (RM, 12.13.22)
  • “A peace process should link Ukraine to NATO, however expressed,” Henry Kissinger wrote in a commentary. And “if the pre-war dividing line between Ukraine and Russia cannot be achieved by combat or by negotiation, recourse to the principle of self-determination could be explored. Internationally supervised referendums concerning self-determination could be applied to particularly divisive territories which have changed hands repeatedly over the centuries,” Kissinger wrote. (Spectator, 12.17.22)

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

  • “As a result of this war, Russia has lost the ability to threaten Europe with conventional attack, because it's been demonstrated that NATO can not only stop a conventional attack, but reverse it. And so the military position on which Russia has been able to count in the entire post-World War II period he has already lost. The whole border now between Russia and the West is a NATO border,” Henry Kissinger told an interviewer. (Lowy Institute, 12.13.22, Spectator, 12.17.22)
  • “The preferred outcome for some is a Russia rendered impotent by the war. I disagree. For all its propensity to violence, Russia has made decisive contributions to the global equilibrium and to the balance of power for over half a millennium. Its historical role should not be degraded,” Kissinger wrote in a commentary. (Spectator, 12.17.22)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • In recent weeks, Xi has instructed his government to forge stronger economic ties with Russia, according to policy advisers to Beijing. The plan includes increasing Chinese imports of Russian oil, gas and farm goods, more joint energy partnerships in the Arctic and increased Chinese investment in Russian infrastructure, such as railways and ports, the advisers say. Russia and China are also conducting more financial transactions in the ruble and yuan. (WSJ, 12.15.22)
  • While the EU exported 43% fewer goods to Russia during June to August, China exported 23% more, according to Kiel Institute. (FT, 12.14.22)
  • Chinese vehicles now make up over 30% of Russian market sales, more than triple their share at the start of the year, with the auto dealers group expecting it to reach about 40% in 2023. Should domestic production stagnate, sales by Chinese carmakers could eventually account for 70% of the total, according to the association. (Bloomberg, 12.14.22)
  • Chinese authorities have banned sales of Chinese-made Loongson processors to Russia because they are being used in China’s military-industrial complex, according to Kommersant. These processors could have replaced Intel processors in case gray imports of the latter by Russia are somehow foiled, according to the daily. (RM, 12.13.22)
  • A report sent up by Xi’s alma mater, the prestigious Tsinghua University, argued [in 2017] that Russia’s economy had no future, implying little gain for China in a closer relationship, according to people with knowledge of the matter. “Nonsense,” Xi wrote in the margins of the report, the people say. (WSJ, 12.15.22)
  • The share of Russians with a positive view of China decreased by one percentage point to 87% in August-November, but still dwarfed the share of those with positive views of Western countries and Ukraine, according to the Levada Center. (RM, 12.13.22)
  • “I believe that Russia and China will pursue their national policies as they conceive them, but that they will not, that the alliance between the two of them, will not be a significant factor in the next phase of international politics,” Kissinger told an interviewer. (Lowy Institute, 12.13.22)
  • Japan will overturn six decades of postwar security policy and arm itself with one of the world’s largest defense budgets to counter “an unprecedented and the greatest strategic challenge” posed by China’s rising military aggression, according to its new national security strategy. (FT, 12.16.22)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • Putin told a press conference in Kyrgyzstan on Dec. 9: “Our strategy talks about a retaliatory strike ... What is a retaliatory strike? That is a response strike. It is when our early warning system, the missile attack warning system, detects missiles launched toward Russian Federation territory. First, it detects the launches, and then response actions begin ... The United States has this theory of a preventive strike. ... They are developing a system for a disarming strike. ... Regarding a disarming strike, perhaps we should think about using the achievements of our U.S. partners and their ideas about how to ensure their own security. We are just thinking about this.” (RM, 12.11.22)
  • Russia's ex-president Dmitry Medvedev said on Dec. 11 the country was ramping up production of new-generation weapons to protect itself from enemies in Europe, the United States and Australia. "We are increasing production of the most powerful means of destruction. Including those based on new principles," Medvedev said. (MT/AFP, 12.11.22)
  • A unit of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces in Bologovsky in the Tver region has put mobile Yars ICBMs on combat duty. (, 12.16.22)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • Erdogan told Putin on Dec. 11 that it was imperative the Kremlin "clear" Kurdish forces from northern Syria. Erdogan then said he wants a three-way meeting with Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad and Putin, signaling a thaw with Damascus that could help end the war in Syria. (MT/AFP, 12.11.22, Bloomberg, 12.15.22)

Cyber security:

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russian crude oil is being shipped to India on tankers insured by Western companies, in the first sign that Moscow has reneged on its vow to block sales under the G-7-imposed price cap. (FT, 12.16.22)
  • Turkey said Dec. 13 it has cleared up a dispute linked to a Western price cap on Russian crude that had stalled the passage of tankers through the Bosporus and Dardanelle straits. (MT/AFP, 12.13.22)
  • Speaking on Dec. 14 at a summit in Turkmenistan with his Turkmen and Azerbaijani counterparts, Erdogan has backed the idea of linking energy-rich Turkmenistan via Turkey with the European market to decrease Europe’s dependence on Russian gas amid Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 12.15.22)
  • The leaders of Hungary, Romania, Georgia and Azerbaijan plan to meet in Romania's capital on Dec. 17 to conclude an agreement on an undersea electricity connector that could become a new power source for the European Union amid a crunch on energy supplies caused by the war in Ukraine. (AP, 12.12.22)
  • Russia’s Vedomosti daily has got hold of a draft presidential decree that bans sales of Russian oil to countries that have either joined the agreement to impose a price cap on Russian oil or have pledged to comply with that agreement. (RM, 12.13.22)
  • Ingosstrakh, top Russian insurer of oil tankers against risks including collisions and spills said it won’t fill any void that’s created by sanctions targeting the nation’s petroleum exports. G-7 sanctions that started on Dec. 5 prohibit companies from providing insurance related to Russian oil if the cargo is purchased at a price of more than $60 a barrel. (Bloomberg, 12.12.22)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • Exports to Russia from the U.S. were down 85% in May compared with the same month the previous year, according to European Central Bank research. (FT, 12.14.22)

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • The U.S. government reportedly floated offers to send Russia two alleged cybercriminals alongside arms dealer Viktor Bout, as part of negotiations to free both WNBA star Brittney Griner and Marine Paul Whelan. Russia didn't take that part of the offer, leaving Alexander Vinnik and Roman Seleznev behind bars in the United States and Whelan in captivity in Russia, as Griner and Bout were swapped and returned to their home countries. (WP, 12.13.22)
  • Month after month, as American diplomats pushed for the release of Griner and Whelan from Russian prisons, they received the same, infuriating answer: If you want both prisoners, we want Vadim Krasikov as part of the deal. Krasikov is an assassin who murdered a Chechen fighter in a park in Berlin in broad daylight in 2019. (NYT, 12.12.22)
  • Roger Carsten, the U.S. special envoy who helped secure Griner’s release, said he spoke to Whelan and assured him “we’re coming to get you.” (Bloomberg, 12.11.22)
  • Bout has joined Russia's ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party. (RFE/RL, 12.12.22)
  • The share of Russians with a negative view of the U.S. increased from 71% to 73% in August-November, according to the Levada Center. The same period saw the share of Russians with a negative view of the EU and Ukraine increase from 65% to 68% and from 66% to 70%, respectively. (RM, 12.13.22)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • The cancellation of Putin's annual press conference earlier this week was a last minute decision taken due to growing fears the televised event would be dominated by the Ukraine war, Kremlin and government officials said. In particular, there were worries in the Kremlin that Kyiv might be able to stage a major attack in the run-up to the event. In addition, Putin’s annual address to the parliament will not take place in December, but may take place in 2023. (MT, 12.14.22, RM, 12.15.22)
  • One month before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s top economic confidants briefed him on the likely fallout from Western sanctions. Herman Gref, chief executive of Sberbank, led a 39-page presentation warning the Russian president of disastrous consequences. Elvira Nabiullina, the central bank governor, shared his concerns and had helped prepare the presentation. The latter warned Putin that “harsh sanctions” would set Russia’s economy back decades. GDP could fall by 30% in dollar terms in two years. Inflation would force the central bank to raise interest rates to 35%, cutting real incomes by a fifth. At that moment, the technocrats feared Putin was on the verge of recognizing two Kremlin proxy separatist statelets in Ukraine’s Donbas. (FT, 12.16.22)
  • While a preliminary assessment from the Federal Statistics Service suggested GDP shrank an annual 4% last quarter, Bloomberg Economics estimates output actually grew 1% from the prior three months if seasonal factors are taken into account. (Bloomberg, 12.14.22)
  • Russia’s budget surplus more than quadrupled in November despite the financial drain of the war in Ukraine, reaching 557 billion rubles ($9 billion) in the first 11 months of the year, the Finance Ministry said Dec. 12, up from 128.4 billion rubles reported for January-October. (Bloomberg, 12.12.22)
  • Russia’s central bank has held its interest rate at 7.5 % for the second consecutive time after months of successive cuts from the emergency 20% rate it set after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Russian inflation has retreated to 12.7% after reaching 20% in April, a two-decades high. But it remains far above the 4-5% levels that it held from 2017 to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (FT, 12.16.22)
  • Demand for luxury homes in Moscow has fallen to its lowest level in five years, according to research by real estate company NF Group. The number of property sales in so-called elite new builds in the Russian capital fell 44% year-on-year, from 1,620 sales in 2021 to just 900 in 2022, the lowest number recorded for five years. (MT/AFP, 12.12.22)
  • Jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny says prison administrators have placed a roommate in his punitive cell as a way of imposing psychological pressure on him. (RFE/RL, 12.12.22)
  • Roskomsvoboda, a group that promotes uncensored online media in Russia, says Russian authorities have blocked almost 15,000 websites in just one week, then blocked some 18,000 websites and online accounts between April 19 and April 26. (RFE/RL, 12.12.22)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The Russian Defense Ministry denied rumors on Dec. 11 that Gen. Valery Gerasimov resigned or was removed from his position as Chief of the General Staff. (ISW, 12.11.22)
  • Russian job sites are advertising trench- and fortification-digging jobs in occupied Ukrainian and nearby Russian regions, independent media reported Dec. 15. (MT/AFP, 12.16.22)
  • Moscow transportation authorities have removed city bus ads recruiting Central Asian nationals into the Russian military with promises of expedited citizenship. (MT/AFP, 12.12.22)
  • Russian and NASA engineers were assessing a coolant leak on Dec. 15 from a Soyuz crew capsule docked with the International Space Station that may have been caused by a micrometeorite strike. A space walk by Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin has been canceled because of the leak. (MT/AFP, 12.16.22, RFE/RL, 12.15.22)
  • The share of Russians who think every “real man” should serve in the army declined from 60% in 2019 to 49% in 2022, according to Levada. (RM, 12.11.22)
  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • New legislation that punishes organization, financing and recruitment for acts of sabotage with stiff sentences of up to life imprisonment was approved by Russia's State Duma in its first reading on Dec. 14. (MT/AFP, 12.15.22)
  • Novaya Gazeta counted the number of terrorist attacks the FSB has claimed to have prevented in 2013-2022. This number went from 86 in 2013 to 47 in 2022. Of the attacks the FSB intercepted in 2022, around one-third was blamed on Islamists, while more than half were blamed by the FSB on Ukrainian nationalists and Ukraine’s special services, according to the Novaya Gazeta count. According to FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov, however, his service prevented 64 terrorist attacks in 2022. (RM, 12.13.22)
  • Chechen blogger Tumso Abudrakhmanov, whose death was reported last week, is alive and under the protection of the Swedish police, according to Prime Minister of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Akhmed Zakayev. (Meduza, 12.09.22)
  • Dozens have reportedly gone missing after security forces entered the town of Urus-Martan in Russia's Chechnya following an armed clash between local traffic police and officers from the Special Rapid Response Unit over the weekend. (RFE/RL, 12.12.22)
  • A court in Moscow has sentenced Mukhtar Medzhidov, the former prime minister of Russia's North Caucasus region of Daghestan to five years in prison for embezzling 108 million rubles ($1.7 million) from the country’s Defense Ministry in 2012. (RFE/RL, 12.13.22)
  • According to the FSB, Vyacheslav Mamukov, a resident of the city of Khabarovsk, was handed a 12 1/2 year prison term after a local court found him guilty of planning to pass "classified data linked to transport infrastructure" to Ukraine for financial award. (RFE/RL, 12.15.22)
  • Dmitry Sitiy, head of a Russian cultural center in the Central African Republic (CAR) was hospitalized on Dec. 16 after an explosive device sent to him in the mail detonated. Sitiy has been linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin whose PMC Wagner is present in CAR and who confirmed the attempt on Sitiy’s life. (MT/AFP, 12.16.22, RFE/RL, 12.16.22)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Putin discussed energy, trade, defense and security cooperation in a phone call on Dec. 16. Modi also reiterated his call for “dialogue and diplomacy” as the “only way forward” to end the Russian war in Ukraine, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. The call comes days after Bloomberg reported that Modi won’t be holding an annual in-person summit with the Russian leader this year. (Bloomberg, 12.16.22)
  • The World Bank, IMF and other institutions forecast Russian imports this full year to be down by a quarter on the previous year. During June to August this year, Russia imported $4.5 billion less per month than in 2021, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. (FT, 12.14.22)
  • The Vatican confirmed on Dec. 15 that it had apologized to Russia after Pope Francis made comments in which he singled out the allegedly cruel role of Russian ethnic minorities in the Ukraine conflict. (MT/AFP, 12.16.22)
  • Burkina Faso has allegedly become the latest country in Africa to contract mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group to fight insurgents, according to Ghana’s president. (FT, 12.16.22)
  • The Kremlin on Dec. 12 called for a "diplomatic" resolution to a recent flare-up in tensions in Kosovo following attacks targeting the police. (MT/AFP, 12.12.22)


  • Representatives for the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian trio awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize amid the war in Ukraine and crackdowns on dissent by Moscow and Minsk have received the awards at a ceremony at Oslo City Hall in the Norwegian capital and spoken defiantly of opposing authoritarian forces. (RFE/RL, 12.10.22)
  • The European Parliament has recognized the "artificial" famine in Ukraine caused by the policies of the Soviet government led by Josef Stalin in the early 1930s as genocide. (RFE/RL, 12.15.22)
  • Hungary is simultaneously urging the speeding up of Ukraine’s integration into the European Union while maintaining close ties to Russia, according to Balazs Orban, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief adviser. (Bloomberg, 12.16.22)
  • Ukrainian security agents conducted counterintelligence operations at more than a dozen cathedrals and monasteries in the Kharkiv region belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as part of a weeks-long, wide-ranging probe into suspected pro-Russia activity by members of its leadership. (RFE/RL, 12.10.22)
  • A court in Ukraine has sentenced 15 separatist fighters from the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk to 15 years in prison on charges of high treason and collaboration. (RFE/RL, 12.16.22)
  • Ukrainian prosecutors are reporting that during searches in a trading pavilion in Lviv, law enforcement officers have discovered a stockpile of more than 18,000 spare parts for military aircraft, such as MiG. In addition, more than 40,000 similar spare parts have been found in another region. These include sensors and other components designed for military aircraft. Investigators believe that these components have been stolen from a defense enterprise. According to preliminary estimates, the value of the seized components is more than UAH 250 million. (, 12.16.22)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Dec. 19 will host Putin in Minsk for talks on security and “joint measures to respond to emerging challenges,” as well as economic cooperation including on import substitution, according to a statement on the Belarusian leader’s website Dec. 16. (Bloomberg, 12.16.22)
  • Belarus said on Dec. 13 that its army was assessing its combat readiness. Military experts say it is highly unlikely that Belarus will send troops to Ukraine, not least because it would be deeply unpopular domestically. (NYT, 12.13.22)
  • Belarus's National Assembly approved in two readings on Dec. 14 a bill that allows authorities to strip citizenship from anyone, including native Belarusians, for extremism. (RFE/RL, 12.14.22)
  • The United Nations said after a meeting between U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Belarus's deputy foreign minister that Minsk has agreed to allow shipments of Ukrainian grain across its territory bound for Lithuanian ports "without preconditions." (RFE/RL, 12.10.22)
  • Lukashenko has appointed Syarhey Aleynik as the country's new foreign minister. (RFE/RL, 12.13.22)
  • The U.S. and the EU called on Azerbaijan to restore movement along a vital road to the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh that’s been blocked for a third day. “Closure of the Lachin corridor has severe humanitarian implications and sets back the peace process,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said, urging negotiations. The EU expressed “serious concern” over the dispute and called on Azerbaijan to ensure movement on the route in line with the truce accord. (Bloomberg, 12.14.22)
  • Several secret meetings of an Indian delegation and Armenian government officials have taken place in Yerevan in December, according to Russia’s pro-war Telegram channel Rybar. The main topic of the talks was military-technical cooperation between the countries: joint exercises, mutual training of military personnel, as well as the supply and joint production of weapons, according to the channel. (RM, 12.16.22)
  • Ukraine is demanding that Georgia grant it access to imprisoned former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who holds Ukrainian citizenship and whose health is said to be deteriorating. (RFE/RL, 12.16.22)
  • Mary Lawlor, the United Nations' special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, concluded a two-week visit to Tajikistan on Dec. 9 by urging its government to "eliminate the intense atmosphere of fear" in the post-Soviet Central Asian republic. (RFE/RL, 12.10.22)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • “Life will be simpler and there’ll be less money. People will make do with less. There will be more paper in the sausage,” says a Russian oligarch who is under sanctions. “It’s going to be like this for 15-20 years, unless [President Vladimir Putin] dies. Fundamentally nothing will change.” (FT, 12.14.22)


More than half of Russians still want Moscow to start peace negotiations as of November, according to surveys conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Moscow-based Levada Center. At the same time, 74% of Russians supported the “special military operation” as of that month, and 53% thought it was a success. More predictably, perhaps, Russians’ attitudes toward the U.S., EU and Ukraine continued to deteriorate, according to Levada.



  1. See RM’s blog post on claims that Russia is running out of missiles.