Russia in Review, Feb. 15-23, 2024

7 Things to Know

  1. In the past month, Russian forces have gained 46 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square miles in the past month, according to the 02.20.24 issue of the Belfer Center’s Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. The most significant of the Russian gains in that period is the capture of the eastern town of Avdiivka. Russia’s capture of this town – that has served as a is a gateway to the city of Donetsk – is a “strategic and symbolic blow,” according to NYT. Avdiivka has been a very important strong point in the Ukrainian system of defense because it has protected Pokrovsk, which is located about 35 miles northwest of Avdiivka and which serves as a logistical hub for the Ukrainian Army, an Ukrainian military analyst told this newspaper. Having seized the town of Avdiivka as well as the village of Pobjeda nearby[1], the Russian forces are now conducting a cohesive four-axis offensive operation in the Kharkiv-Luhansk sector in pursuit of an operationally significant objective for nearly the first time in over a year and a half of campaigning in Ukraine, according to ISW. In the south, Russia has claimed to have retaken the village of Krynki, but Ukraine has denied it. Reflecting on the realities on the front-line, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Fox News this week that “to defend that [is] our task number one.” Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told WSJ that Russia will struggle to overcome Ukrainian defenses to achieve its main strategic goal of seizing all the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions this year.
  2. An average of just 10 percent of Europeans across 12 countries believe that Ukraine will win, according to results of a poll that the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) commissioned in January 2024.[2] Twice as many (20 percent) expect a Russian victory while more than a third (37 percent) expect Ukraine and Russia to reach a compromise settlement. In the event of a “U.S. withdrawal” only a minority of Europeans (just 20 percent on average) would want Europe to increase its support for Ukraine, according to the ECFR poll’s results. In U.S. more than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) would support the United States urging Ukraine to engage in diplomatic negotiations with Russia and the United States as soon as possible to end the war in Ukraine, according to a Quincy Institute/Harris Poll February 8-12, 2024 survey.
  3. The United States and EU have timed their latest packages of sanctions to the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine. On Feb. 22, U.S. officials unveiled what WP described as a sweeping set of legal actions against Russian oligarchs and their allies. On Feb. 23, the US unveiled its biggest one-day sanctions package against Russia since the invasion, targeting more than 500 people and entities, according to NYT. In addition to seeking to punish Russian entities over the Ukraine war, a number of officials linked to the prison where Navalny died are also targeted, U.S. officials told WSJ. Some administration officials have privately played down the potential impact of the new measures, and indicated the package on the whole focuses mostly on eroding Moscow's ability to sidestep existing sanctions and fund its war, and analysts also express doubt that the latest round will have much impact, according to WSJ. Also on Feb. 23, EU announced the 13th Ukraine-related sanctions package targets Russia's defense industry and slaps assets freezes and travel bans on 106 individuals and 88 organizations, RFE/RL reported.
  4. Whether and when will Russia attack NATO? The past week has seen European and NATO officials and commanders continue to offer their answers to these questions. One senior European official went as far as saying that Russia’s “intent and capability” to attack a NATO country before the end of the decade was “pretty much consensus” within the US-led military alliance, according to FT. In contrast, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told Bloomberg on Feb. 18 that a Russian attack on NATO territory “could happen in five to eight years.” The same day NATO military committee chief Rob Bauer was quoted by the Economist as saying that 3 to 7 years is the range that “a lot of people talk about.” For RM’s compilation of forecasts on Russia’s attack on NATO, click here.
  5. American intelligence agencies have told their European allies that if Russia is going to launch a nuclear weapon into orbit, it will probably do so this year — but that it might instead launch a harmless “dummy” warhead into orbit, NYT reported. The current U.S. assessment is that Russia does not plan to detonate any orbital weapon, according to Bloomberg, and U.S. President Joe Biden said that the weapon did not pose a nuclear threat to those on Earth. Biden also said that he expected the Kremlin would ultimately decide against deploying the system. During their meeting in the Kremlin, both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu denied intending to place a nuclear weapon in orbit. Nevertheless, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and CIA Director William Burns have reached out to their Russian counterparts to warn against deploying a new nuclear-armed antisatellite weapon, Politico reported. In addition, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken warned his Chinese and Indian counterpart – whose countries are Russia’s partners – were ever detonated in low-earth orbit, it would take out their satellites, too, according to Bloomberg.
  6. Russian authorities told Alexei Navalny’s mother Lyudmila that her son would be buried in the Arctic penal colony where he died unless she agreed within three hours to a secret funeral, Navalny’s spokesperson said on Feb. 23. Earlier, Navalny’s mother was shown a medical report about his death, which claimed that he “died from natural causes.” Navalny’s team and his widow, Yulia, said he was killed by Russian authorities. According to R.Politik’, the Federal Security Service had leaned on the Federal Corrections Service to impose more severe conditions on Navalny in the colony, accelerating his physical decline in line with their own interpretation of justice. The Kremlin denies all involvement in Navalny’s death. Despite these denials, a wide range of political and civil society leaders blamed Navalny’s death on Russian authorities while his wife Yulia Navalnaya has vowed to take on his struggle.
  7. Putin’s regime has persecuted at least 116,000 in just the last six years, according to Russian investigative outlet ProektThe study, which was released on Feb. 22 and dedicated to the memory of Navalny, estimated that these were more than were persecuted under both Communist General Secretaries Leonid Brezhnev or Nikita Khrushchev during the post-Stalin-era, BNE reported.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Turkish police have arrested a Russian national with ties to ISIS working at the construction site of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant. (Dmitry Kovchegin’s substack, 02.19.24)
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has reiterated his call for "maximum restraint and strict observance" of the UN-backed safety principles at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant because of the "continued volatile situation." In a statement issued by the Vienna-based agency, Grossi "emphasized the need to protect, at all times, the physical integrity" of the plant "and avoid any attack or military activity that could impact the safety and security of the facility." (WNN, 02.22.24)
    • In its new Note Verbale sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency on Feb. 15, Russia informed about an additional 95 aerial vehicles suppressed between Feb. 6 and 12 in the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. (Dmitry Kovchegin’s substack, 02.19.24)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russia has fired at least 24 ballistic missiles of North Korean origin at Ukraine since late December, according to Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin. “Preliminarily they are identified as Kn-23/24,” Kostin told reporters on Feb. 16. Between Dec. 30 and Feb. 7 Kremlin troops launched at least 12 attacks on seven regions - including the capital Kyiv and Kharkiv in the northeast - with the missiles, causing multiple fatalities, he said.  The information on the missiles’ likely origin has been confirmed by the Ukrainian defense ministry’s Armaments Research Institute and the prosecutor general’s office. (Bloomberg, 02.16.24)
    • The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said Feb. 22 it had established that Russia had used North Korean missiles in several attacks which killed over 20 people. It identified the weapons as "Hwasong-11 ballistic missiles" and posted pictures of fragments on Telegram. (AFP, 02.22.24)
    • A North Korean ballistic missile fired last month by the Russian military in Ukraine contained hundreds of components that trace back to companies in the United States and Europe, according to a new report. The U.K.-based investigative organization Conflict Armament Research (CAR) directly examined 290 components from remnants of a North Korean ballistic missile recovered in January from Kharkiv, Ukraine, and found that 75 percent of the components were designed and sold by companies incorporated in the United States, according to the report. (CNN, 02.20.24)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bonhomie with the Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un took a fresh turn, with the Russian president gifting the limousine-loving North Korean leader a Russian Aurus car. (Bloomberg, 02.20.24)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, six sources told Reuters, deepening the military cooperation between the two U.S.-sanctioned countries. Iran's provision of around 400 missiles includes many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar, three Iranian sources said. This road-mobile missile is capable of striking targets at a distance of between 300 and 700 km (186 and 435 miles), experts say. (Reuters, 02.21.24)
    • A U.S. State Department spokesperson told RFE/RL that while they were not able to comment directly on the report, the increasing military cooperation between Iran and Russia "is something that should concern the entire world." (RFE/RL, 02.22.24)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • Russian soldiers shot Ukrainian prisoners of war dead near the village of Rabotino, Zaporozhzhia region. Law enforcement officers began an investigation into violations of the laws and customs of war. (, 02.20.24)
  • At least six wounded troops from Ukraine’s 110th Brigade became trapped behind Russian lines in Avdiivka, where they appear to have later been executed, the brigade said in a statement posted on Facebook. (WP, 02.21.24)
  • In a statement issued on Feb. 22, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) had verified 30,457 civilian casualties during the war - 10,582 killed and 19,875 injured, adding that the actual numbers were likely to be considerably higher. (RFE/RL, 02.22.24)
  • Tthe Ukrainian government estimates that 20,000 children have been deported or forcibly displaced to Russia. Only 388 have been returned. (FP, 02.23.24)
    • 11 Ukrainian children left Russia for Ukraine on Feb. 19 to be reunited with their families, the latest transfer between the warring sides under a Qatari-mediated scheme. (MT/AFP, 02.19.24)
  • The education ministry in Kyiv says just over 67,000 children in Russian-occupied territories are enrolled virtually at Ukrainian schools. (FT, 02.23.24)
  • The European Union (EU) is set to disburse an initial €4.5 billion ($4.9 billion) to Ukraine as soon as the first half of March to help cover the country’s urgent budget needs, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said. (Bloomberg, 02.17.24)
  • Ukraine is near an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to get the next $900 million disbursement from its $15.6 billion loan. (Bloomberg, 02.22.24)
  • The Associated Press won the best documentary prize at the British Academy Film Awards for Ukraine war documentary “20 Days in Mariupol,” produced with PBS’ “Frontline.”[3] (Bloomberg, 02.19.24) 
  • The U.S. State Department on Feb. 22 announced a project to protect and digitize collections of the State Archival Services of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 02.23.24)
  • For military strikes on civilian targets see the next section.

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

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 46 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have  re-gained one square miles in the past month, according to the Feb. 20 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 02.20.24)
    • Russian forces are conducting a cohesive multi-axis offensive operation in pursuit of an operationally significant objective for nearly the first time in over a year and a half of campaigning in Ukraine. The current Russian offensive in the Kharkiv-Luhansk sector involves attacks along four parallel axes that are mutually supporting in pursuit of multiple objectives that, taken together, would likely generate operationally significant gains. (ISW, 02.21.24)
    • “To defend that [is] our task number one,” Volodymyr Zelensky told Fox News. “It is not a stalemate,” he added.
    • Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov said Russia will struggle to achieve its main strategic goal of seizing all the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions this year. “They don’t have the strength,” Budanov said. Western officials and analysts see Budanov’s reading as the optimal scenario for Ukraine this year. If Ukraine can fight a smart defensive battle, wearing down Russian strength while rebuilding its own forces, the thinking goes, it could launch another counteroffensive against a weakened opponent in 2025.  (WSJ, 02.21.24)
  • On Feb. 14 outgunned Ukrainian forces began withdrawing from positions in the southern part of the eastern town of Avdiivka. The withdrawal continued on Feb. 15, Ukrainian military spokesman said that day. On Feb. 16, Ukraine’s military said it continued withdrawing troops from Avdiivka. By the afternoon of Feb. 16, Maksym Zhoryn, Deputy Commander of the 3rd Assault Brigade, which was deployed in an attempt to hold the town, said they were outnumbered 15 to one and that the Russians had sent seven brigades, totaling about 15,000 men, into the fight. However, it was before the dawn of Feb. 17 when the Ukrainian top brass ordered the complete withdrawal from the town. “Based on the operational situation around Avdiivka, in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen, I decided to withdraw our units from the city,” Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said in a post on Facebook on Feb. 17. On Feb. 18 Dmytro Lykhoviy, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military in the Donetsk region, said Russian troops had launched strikes west of Avdiivka (NYT, 02.17.24, RFE/RL, 02.16.24, NYT, 02.17.24, Bloomberg, 02.17.24, FT, 02,.17.24, RFE/RL, 02.18.24)
    • Hundreds of Ukrainian troops may have been captured by advancing Russian units or disappeared during Ukraine’s chaotic retreat from Avdiivka, according to senior Western officials and soldiers fighting for Ukraine. Two soldiers with knowledge of Ukraine’s retreat estimated that 850 to 1,000 soldiers appear to have been captured or are unaccounted for. (NYT, 02.20.24)
    • Russia’s capture of Avdiivka is a strategic and symbolic blow to Ukraine’s military. Avdiivka was a stronghold of Ukrainian defenses in the Donetsk region, protecting several key Ukrainian military positions farther west and putting the nearby Russian-controlled city of Donetsk under constant threat. (NYT, 02.17.24)
    • “The ability to save our people is the most important task for us,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) about Ukraine’s withdrawal from Avdiivka on Feb. 17. He added that Ukrainian troops had been hindered by a shortage of ammunition because of declining Western military assistance. (NYT, 02.17.24)
    • “Avdiivka is a very important strong point in the Ukrainian system of defense,” because it protects Pokrovsk, about 30 miles to the northwest, a logistical hub for the Ukrainian Army, Mykola Bielieskov, a military analyst at the National Institute for Strategic Studies in Ukraine, said in an interview. (NYT, 02.17.24)
    • American officials say the loss of Avdiivka is not a significant strategic setback, arguing that Russian gains in eastern Ukraine will not necessarily lead to any collapse of Ukrainian lines and that Moscow is unlikely to be able to follow up with another major offensive. (NYT, 02.20.24)
    • From October last year until this month - roughly the period during which Russian forces advanced on the industrial city of Avdiivka and in neighboring areas in the Donetsk region - researchers confirmed the deaths of 6,614 Russian soldiers. Avdiivka fell to Moscow's forces last week. (RFE/RL, 02.21.24)
    • Pro-war Russian military blogger Andrei Morozov claimed in his post that Russia had lost 16,000 men and 300 armored vehicles in its assault on the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, which the Russians captured last week. He deleted the post on Feb. 20 after what he said was a campaign of intimidation against him. He was found dead, apparently committing a suicide. (NYT, Newsweek, 02.22.24)
  • According to the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, on Feb. 17 they shot down two Su-34 fighter-bombers and a Su-35 fighter, on February 18 - one Su-35, on February 19 - Su-34 and Su-35. On Feb. 17, when the Ukrainians reported three downed aircraft, the telegram channel Fighterbomber, associated with the Russian Aerospace Forces, confirmed the loss of the Su-35, making it clear that it was shot down by Russian air defense. (Istories, 02.19.24)
  • On Feb. 20, Ukrainian air-defense forces shot down all 23 drones launched by Russia at Ukraine's territory on Feb. 20, the military said on Telegram. Earlier on Feb. 20, an air-raid alert was declared for the Kirovohrad, Kherson, Mykolayiv, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, and Kharkiv regions. (RFE/RL, 02.20.24)
  • On Feb. 21, Ukraine's army denied Russian claims that it had lost a key bridgehead on the Dnipro River frontline that has faced fierce attacks since Russia lost it. Russia's defense minister said Moscow's forces had retaken the village of Krynky, seized by Ukrainian troops last year. (MT/AFP, 02.21.24)
  • On Feb. 21, a Ukrainian HIMARS strike on a training range maintained by Russian armed forces in the part of the Kherson region of Ukraine, which these forces control, killed 60 servicemen, Istories reported, citing Ukrainian war monitoring Telegram channels. On Feb. 20, 68 Russian soldiers died outside the settlement of Volnovakha in the Donetsk region when struck by Ukrainian M30A1 GMLRS as they lined up to be addressed by an army commander, according to this news outlet. (RM, Istories, 02.22.24)
  • On Feb. 22, Russia claimed its forces had taken control of Pobjeda, a small village about five kilometers west of Donetsk city in east Ukraine. However,  Ukrinform reported on Feb, 23 that “Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to hold back the enemy in the vicinities of Pobjeda (Donetsk oblast).” (MT, RM, 02.22.24)
  • In an interview with Fox News that was broadcast on Feb. 22, Zelenskyy said the number one military task is defense. "To continue our successful story on the Black Sea. And we will do it. I will not now go deeply into details, but they will get some surprises, I mean Russians. That is very important. The south is important. To defend the east, where they have more than 200,000 soldiers, is also very important to defend. Of course, we will prepare a new counteroffensive and new operations. Of course, I am not saying that we will just stand. It depends on a lot of things," he noted. (, 02.23.24)
    • When asked about losses, Zelenskyy responded vaguely, mentioning tens of thousands. But he presented them as smaller than those suffered by the Russian Federation. According to him, Russia "loses five soldiers for every one Ukrainian soldier killed." (, 02.23.24)
  • On Feb. 23, at least five people were killed and 27 wounded in a new round of Russian drone and missile strikes on several Ukrainian regions, military and regional officials said. Ukraine’s Air Defense said it shot down 23 out of 31 Shahed-type drones overnight, launched from Russia and occupied Crimea over Ukraine’s central and southern regions.  Kremlin forces also fired several missiles, including S-300s, Kh-31s and Kh-22s, at Ukraine’s eastern regions, in particular Donetsk, Ukraine’s Air Defense said. (RFE/RL, 02.23.24, Bloomberg, 02.23.24)
  • Russian forces in recent days have launched multiple attacks around the southern Ukrainian village of Robotyne, military officials and experts said, targeting land hard-won by Ukraine in a rare success of its counteroffensive last summer. The Ukrainian Army said it had repelled four consecutive days of assaults from Feb. 17 to Feb. 20 involving armored vehicles and large numbers of troops that had massed in the area. (NYT, 02.22.24)
  • Journalists of BBC and Media Zona have identified 27,906 Russian soldiers killed last year - 57 percent more than the confirmed losses in the first year of the invasion. (RM, 02.22.24)
  • When asked how many Ukrainians had been killed in the war, Volodymyr Zelensky told Fox News: “tens of thousands.” (RM, 02.23.24)
  • Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's military-intelligence chief, said the Russian military had 510,000 military personnel in and around Ukraine and has been able to recruit about 30,000 a month. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in December that Ukraine has some 600,000 serving troops of various kinds, although military commanders say that not enough of those are combat-ready. (WSJ, 02.21.24)
    • It was quite telling that Zelenskyy, when asked by the audience at the MSC about the possibility of lowering the draft age from the current age of 27, elegantly dodged the question. (RFE/RL, 02.18.24)
    • Drafting an additional 400,000 to 500,000 soldiers would cost more than $8.4 billion, estimates Roksolana Pidlasa, a Servant of the People lawmaker who is head of the parliament's budget committee. Russia is mobilizing about 1,000 new recruits a day, according to Serhii Kuzan, head of the Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Center, a Kyiv think tank. (NYT, 02.16.24)
    • During an audit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, entire units of the Ukrainian military were found to “have never been to the front,” according to head of the parliament’s Servant of the People faction, David Arakhamia. According to him, the number of military personnel who have not seen combat is in the thousands. “8,000 people have already been conditionally found who were simply seconded to the General Staff and did not fight,” he said. (, 02.23.24)
  • First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Sergei Kiriyenko and First Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy in the Far Eastern Federal District Yuri Trutnev created the Soyuz volunteer unit to participate in the Ukraine war. Within a year, by December 2023, 145 people had joined the detachment. The main donors can be divided into two groups: companies on a Russian scale, in particular those included in the Rosatom group (it was headed by Kiriyenko for a long time) and companies in the Far East (Trutnev works there as a plenipotentiary representative). (Istories, 02.20.24)
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense is recruiting prisoners from women's correctional colony No. 2 in the village of Ulyanovka, Leningrad Region, to fight in the war in Ukraine. They are being offered to sign a contract for a year and are promised a pardon. (Istories, 02.19.24)
  • There is a wave of Cubans who enlisted in the Russian army, lured by salaries in the region of $2,000, far higher than they would be able to earn at home, where the average monthly wage is less than $20. Ambassador Ruslan Spirin, Ukraine's special representative to Latin America and the Caribbean, said the government believes that about 400 Cubans are fighting in the country. "We take it seriously," he said. (WSJ, 02.16.24)
  • Russia has probably spent up to $211 billion in equipping, deploying, and maintaining its troops for operations in Ukraine, and Moscow has lost more than $10 billion in canceled or postponed arms sales, a senior U.S. defense official said. The war had cost Russia an expected $1.3 trillion in previously anticipated economic growth through 2026 and about 315,000 Russian troops had either been killed or injured so far, the official added. (RFE/RL, 02.16.24)
  • Ukraine has the right to strike “Russian military targets outside Ukraine” in line with international law, the NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has said for the first time since the start of the full-scale war nearly two years ago. A NATO official confirmed to the Financial Times on Feb. 22 that Stoltenberg said Kyiv had the right to self-defense, including by striking legitimate Russian military targets outside Ukraine. (FT, 02.22.24)
  • Outside the merry diplomatic speed-dating at MSC, a Ukrainian official described the situation on the front line as absolutely dire, with the army shooting "with nothing," meaning less than 2,000 rounds per day compared to Russia's 10,000. (RFE/RL, 02.18.24)
    • At MSC, Admiral Rob Bauer, chair of the NATO military committee, acknowledged that the West had been “overly optimistic about the war in 2023,” believing that “if we give the Ukrainians the ammunition and training they need, they’ll win.” (FT, 02.19.24)
  • Speaking to Fox News, Zelenskyy said that he did not find it "fair to ask Ukrainians when the war will finish," adding that his country was "doing everything possible for the war to end as soon as possible." "When will the world be ready to stop Putin?" the Ukrainian leader posed instead. (Newsweek, 02.23.24)
    • In the interview, Zelenskyy called on U.S. President Joe Biden and Republican party favorite Donald Trump to visit Ukraine and see firsthand what is happening at the forefront of "this tragedy." (, 02.23.24)
  • An average of just 10 percent of Europeans across 12 countries believe that Ukraine will win. Twice as many (20 percent) expect a Russian victory while more than third (37%) expect Ukraine and Russia to reach a compromise settlement. In the event of a “U.S. withdrawal” only a minority of Europeans (just 20 per cent on average) would want Europe to increase its support for Ukraine, according to the ECFRpoll’s results. (ECFR, 02.21.24)

Military aid to Ukraine 

  • After months of requests from Ukrainian officials, the Biden administration is working toward providing Ukraine with powerful new long-range ballistic missiles, according to two U.S. officials. Late last year, the United States began to supply Ukraine with Army Tactical Missile Systems, known as ATACMS, but so far it has provided only the older medium-range ATACMS. Now, the United States is leaning toward sending the longer-range version of the missile, the officials said. (NBC, 02.19.24)
  • On Feb. 17, Biden said he called Zelenskyy to let him know he’s “confident we’re going to get that money.” The U.S. president blamed lawmakers’ failure to approve emergency aid to Ukraine for the fall of Avdiivka and has warned that more Ukrainian cities might be lost if the funding is not passed. (Bloomberg, 02.19.24, White House, 02.17.24)
    • “My God,” the president told reporters at the White House, condemning Congress for taking a “two-week vacation” without acting on the package for aid to Ukraine, which has been opposed by Republicans. “This is bizarre, and it’s just reinforcing all the concern, and almost — I won’t say panic — but real concern about the US being a reliable ally.” (Bloomberg, 02.19.24)
    • Biden said he would be willing to meet House Speaker Mike Johnson to discuss an emergency funding package for Ukraine and Israel, after White House officials previously dismissed the utility of direct talks. “I’d be happy to meet with him if he has anything to say,” Biden told reporters on Feb. 19 after returning to the White House from his weekend in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. (Bloomberg, 02.19.24)
      • Biden still enjoys previously granted congressional authority to send roughly $4.4 billion worth of equipment from the Pentagon’s inventory, but he has refused to do so without securing the supplemental funding to backfill the U.S. stockpile. When asked about that sum, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said, “We don't have the replenishment funds needed to resupply our own stocks. So if we can't do that, then we're not able or we don't feel comfortable enough to draw down or to give another PDA until we have those replenishment funds.” (NY Post, 02.19.24,, 02.20.24)
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers sat across from Zelenskyy at MSC and delivered the good news — and, then, the bad. The good news, recalled Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), was that if the House were to vote on sending additional aid to Kyiv, "it would pass overwhelmingly." The bad news, he said, was that there might not be a vote at all. "We have to get to the floor," Crow said he and others explained to Zelenskyy, "and that's the challenge." (WP, 02.17.24)
    • “People are looking at us with disbelieving eyes,” one leader of the American delegation at MSC, who would not speak on the record, said on Feb.17. (NYT, 02.17.24)
  • U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made a surprise visit to Ukraine to reassure Zelenskyy that the United States will follow through on the next round of aid, even as it faces obstacles in Congress. “We are here to show the Ukrainian people that America stands with them and will continue fighting to get the funding they so desperately need and deserve,” Schumer said in a statement on Feb. 23 following his arrival to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. Schumer plans to meet in Lviv with Zelenskyy and his newly appointed military commander, Oleksandr Syrsky (Bloomberg, NYT, 02.23.24)
  • U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said on Feb. 20 that she is fully confident that Congress will approve additional funding for Ukraine but that it is not possible to predict when it will happen. (RFE/RL, 02.21.24)
  • When asked at MSC what he would say to the Republicans blocking Ukraine aid, Zelenskyy quipped, "Is this being shown on television now?" Then, he said he would not comment. Zelenskyy said he would be pleased to work with Trump — and also to show him around. If he comes to Ukraine, Zelenskyy said, "I am ready to go with him to the front line." (WP, 02.17.24)
  • In the wake of a U.S. withdrawal, only a minority of Europeans (just 20 percent on average, ranging from 7 percent in Greece to 43 percent in Sweden) would want Europe to increase its support for Ukraine, according to results of a poll ECFR commissioned in January 2024 in 12 European countries.[4] (ECFR, 02.21.24)
  • This past week, Elon Musk called on his echoverse to lobby the Senate not to pass an aid package for Ukraine, in the latest example of the billionaire's speaking out about the conflict that is dragging toward its second full year. "There is no way in hell that Putin is going to lose," Musk said last week during an audio event on X. (WSJ, 02.20.24)
  • "I haven't voted for any money to go to Ukraine because I know they can't win," said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R., Ala.), one of 26 Republicans to vote against the aid package that passed the Senate on Feb. 13 after an all-night floor debate. "Donald Trump will stop it when he first gets in. He knows there's no winning for Ukraine. He can work a deal with Putin." (WSJ, 02.23.24)
  • Ukraine would need to receive as much as double the military support from the EU to bridge the gap if U.S. assistance remains stalled, according to the latest Ukraine Support Tracker from the Kiel Institute. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is about to enter a third year, newly pledged military aid amounted to €9.8 billion ($10.6 billion) between Nov. 1 and Jan. 15, down from €27 billion in the same period a year ago, which included some €21 billion from the United States, according to the researcher’s calculations. (Bloomberg, 02.16.24)
  • The impact of the funding delay is already being felt on the battlefield, Stoltenberg told reporters in Munich on Feb. 17. "There has been a reduction in the flow of standard ammunition and air defense," he said. "That makes it urgent to have a decision in the United States." (WP, 02.17.24)
  • Zelenskyy signed separate long-term security deals with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron as Ukraine’s worsening artillery shortage threatens to force a further rationing of shells. The agreements sealed on Feb 16. in Berlin and Paris are designed to deter Russia from future aggression against its western neighbor after the current war ends. They’re part of an initiative launched by the Group of Seven nations last year and Zelenskyy agreed a similar accord with the United Kingdom last month. (Bloomberg, 02.17.24)
    • Scholz said the German security accord — the first time it has taken on the role of a guarantor state — and the latest military aid send “a crystal-clear message” to Putin. The German-Ukrainian agreement states that Germany will provide over €7 billion ($7.5 billion) in military aid to Ukraine in 2024, including a €1.1 billion ($1 billion) aid package that is currently being prepared and will include 36 howitzers, 120 thousand artillery shells (including 50,000 155mm artillery rounds), two Skynex air defense systems, missiles for the IRIS-T air-to-air missile system, 66 armored personnel carriers (APCs), several mine-clearing vehicles, and various reconnaissance drone models. (ISW, 02.16.24, Bloomberg, 02.17.24)
      • Lawmakers in Germany’s ruling coalition are set to vote this week on a motion that could finally push Scholz to deliver long-range precision Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. While non-binding, the successful passage of the motion could leave Scholz symbolically isolated. The debate over delivering Taurus, a bunker-busting missile with a range of 500km, has rumbled on for months in Berlin. (FT, 02.21.24)
      • Scholz raised pressure on European allies to increase military aid to Ukraine, using a speech at MSC to warn of the political and financial cost of a Russian victory. Scholz told delegates in the Bavarian capital Feb. 17 that Germany’s military assistance for the government in Kyiv amounts to around €28 billion ($30.2 billion) and called on “all EU capitals” to make “similar decisions.” (Bloomberg, 02.17.24)
    • “Our determination is as strong as it was on day one,” Macron told reporters after the signing ceremony at the Elysee Palace, adding that he will visit Ukraine before mid-March. Zelensky later reported that France will provide Ukraine €3 billion ($3.2 billion) in military assistance over the course of 2024. (ISW, 02.16.24, Bloomberg, 02.17.24)
  • Denmark’s government pledged to support Ukraine’s security for 10 years, promising military equipment and financial support to help in the defense and reconstruction of the war-ravaged country. (Bloomberg, 02.22.24)
  • The Czech Republic has found 800,000 artillery shells of 155- and 122-millimeter caliber for Ukraine. In the coming weeks, they may be sent to the Ukrainian army, states the President of the Czech Republic Petr Pavel. (, 02.17.24)
    • European capitals are racing to raise $1.5 billion in emergency funding to provide Ukraine with artillery shells from overseas to shore up the front lines against Russia as the full-scale war enters its third year. The last-ditch scheme to buy ammunition from outside the EU is being spearheaded by the Czech Republic to compensate for the congressional deadlock on US aid and delays in European production. (FT, 02.23.24)
  • In a speech at MSC on Feb. 17, Zelenskyy pushed back against skepticism of a Ukraine victory, calling on world leaders not to ask when the war would end, but why Russia was still able to wage it. “Please do not ask Ukraine when the war will end,” he said. “Ask yourself why is Putin still able to continue it,” he said. (NYT, 02.17.24)
  • Zelenskyy said at MSC on Feb. 17 that NATO members are undermining their own security by holding back on critical weapon deliveries to Ukraine. “Keeping Ukraine in the artificial deficit of weapons, particularly in deficit of artillery and long-range capabilities, allows Putin to adapt to the current intensity of the war,” the Ukrainian president told attendees of the MSC. (FT, 02.17.24)
  • In interview with Fox News that was broadcast on Feb. 22, Zelenskyy has called on the U.S. Congress to pass a $60 billion aid package to help his country defend against invading Russian forces, saying it will be a cheaper alternative than the consequences of a Russian victory. (RFE/RL, 02.23.24)
  • Group of Seven (G-7) nations will this week aim to reassure Ukraine that their support will not waver as Russia’s war against its neighbor enters its third year. The G-7 will call on Russia to “completely” and “unconditionally withdraw its military forces” from Ukraine and will pledge to never recognize elections that Russia holds now or in future in occupied territories, according to a draft statement seen by Bloomberg. G-7 leaders are scheduled to hold a call with Zelenskyy on Feb. 24, marking two years since Russia invaded Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 02.22.24)
  • During a briefing in Brussels, Stoltenberg said the alliance has committed to providing Ukraine with one million drones. The decision was made following two days of negotiations. (Meduza, 02.16.24)
  • Stoltenberg announced that NATO and Ukraine will create a joint analysis, training, and education center in Poland following the meetings of NATO Defense Ministers in Brussels on Feb. 15. (ISW, 02.15.24)

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

  • On Feb. 22, U.S. officials unveiled a sweeping set of legal actions against Russian oligarchs and their allies. The Justice Department said authorities in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York unsealed charges against three people, including sanctioned oligarch Andrey Kostin, and arrested two people accused of being Kostin’s “facilitators.” The United States also filed a civil forfeiture complaint to seize two Miami luxury condo properties, valued at $2.5 million, owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Perevalov. Other charges included a new indictment against Vladislav Osipov on charges of bank fraud in connection with operating the Motor Yacht Tango, a 255-foot luxury yacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. (WP, 02.22.24)
  • On Feb. 23, the United States unveiled its biggest one-day sanctions package against Russia since the invasion of Ukraine two years ago, targeting more than 500 people and entities in a fresh bid to squeeze the country’s economy and send a message over the death of dissident Alexey Navalny. Sanctioned people and entities included a military drone manufacturer and its top staff, Russia’s Mir payment system, a company that specializes in three-dimensional printed plastics and numerous others. The Commerce Department added 90 companies to a list that limits their access to U.S. technology. None of the people or entities targeted Feb. 23 were especially well known. Further measures were also being taken to diminish Russia’s energy revenues, Biden announced. "And I’ve directed my team to strengthen support for civil society, independent media, and those who fight for democracy around the world," the Biden said. A number of officials linked to the prison where Navalny died are also targeted, U.S. officials said. (Bloomberg, 02.23.24, RFE/RL, 02.23.24, WSJ, 02.23.24, OFAC, 02.23.24)
    • This latest move against the Kremlin demonstrates the limited options the Biden administration has to respond to the regime's escalating aggression, which has also included the recent detention of a Russian-American citizen. Some administration officials have privately played down the potential impact of the new measures, and indicated the package on the whole focuses mostly on eroding Moscow's ability to sidestep existing sanctions and fund its war, and analysts also express doubt that the latest round will have much impact. (WSJ, 02.23.24)
  • On Feb. 23, The European Union announced a fresh package of sanctions against Russia. The 13th Ukraine-related sanctions package targets Russia's defense industry and slaps assets freezes and travel bans on 106 individuals and 88 organizations, bringing to 2,000 the total number of people and groups sanctioned by the 27-member bloc for "undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine." The newly sanctioned individuals include dozens of Russian officials including "members of the judiciary, local politicians and people responsible for the illegal deportation and military re-education of Ukrainian children," the statement said. They also impose restrictions on companies from India, Sri Lanka, China, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Thailand, and Turkey suspected of exporting to Russia dual-use products for "supporting Russia's military and industrial complex." (RFE/RL, 02.23.24)
    • Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced Feb. 23 that it has “significantly” expanded an entry ban for European officials in response to the EU’s “illegal and unfriendly” sanctions on the eve of the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 02.23.24)
  • Britain has expanded its sanctions against Russian companies and individuals and entities outside Russia that are suspected of aiding in the circumvention of existing sanctions, the U.K. government said on Feb. 22. Foreign Secretary David Cameron said the move adds more than 50 individuals and entities to its sanctions list as it seeks to restrict and weaken the Russian defense industry. (RFE/RL, 02.22.24)
  • Japan has expanded its list of goods banned from being exported to Russia, the Kommersant business daily reported Feb. 22, citing Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Until now, Japan’s export ban included electronic components and equipment, machine parts, communication equipment and tools used to manufacture semiconductors A sixth major category in Japan’s export ban now includes automated computer numerical control machine tools. (RFE/RL, 02.22.24)
  • On Feb. 22, Latvia's parliament banned the import of food products from Russia and Belarus, including via intermediary countries, following protests by farmers over "blood grain" imports. (AFP, 02.22.24)
  • The United States is exploring options to use $300 billion in Russian state assets frozen at the outbreak of its Ukraine invasion to help pay for the war-torn country’s reconstruction, a top U.S. Treasury official said. “We’re looking for ways to unlock the economic value of those reserves for the Ukrainian people,” U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s Surveillance. (Bloomberg, 02.23.24)
  • A group of legal experts sought to bolster the case for seizing frozen Russian central bank assets, arguing that such actions are allowed under international law given the scale of Russia’s continuing attacks in Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 02.21.24)
  • Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said the West should seize Russia’s frozen assets before the U.S. election (FT, 02.19.24)
  • U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and Estonian Secretary General Tõnis Saar announced the transfer of nearly $500,000 in forfeited Russian funds for the purpose of providing aid to Ukraine. (, 02.17.24)
  • Emirati banks reportedly began to limit some transactions with Russian entities and close Russian citizens’ accounts in September 2023 due to the risk of Western secondary sanctions. Russian outlet Vedomosti reported on Feb. 19 that three businesspeople working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a representative of the Russian “Delovaya Rossiya” organization stated that banks in the UAE are not accepting deposits from or making payments to Russian entities and are closing accounts of companies whose owners are Russian citizens for unclear reasons. (ISW,02.19.24)
  • A U.S. threat to hit financial firms doing business with Russia with sanctions has chilled Turkish-Russian trade, disrupting or slowing some payments for both imported oil and Turkish exports, according to seven sources familiar with the matter. The emerging payment issues are due to Turkish banks reviewing business and tightening compliance with Russian clients. (Reuters, 02.19.24)
  • Russia's Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring) has added U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to its registry of “extremists and terrorists.” Twenty-seven people were added to the list along with Graham, including Russian environmental activist Yevgenia Chirikova. (Meduza, 02.20.24)
  • Putin allowed Expobank to buy HSBC Holdings Plc’s local unit, letting Europe’s biggest lender exit the country following the invasion of Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 02.19.24)
  • Danone is planning to sell its Russian business to a member of its Kremlin-installed management linked to the nephew of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, seven months after Putin ordered the seizure of the French company’s local operations. Ayrat Mukhamadeev, the director of a newly created company owned by Vamin Tatarstan, said it had agreed to pay Rbs17.7 billion ($191.5 million) to take control of Danone’s Russia business — Rbs7.7 billion of which will go towards servicing debt in the Russia operation with the rest paying for Danone’s equity in the company. (FT, 02.21.24)
  • A London court has charged the former Moscow-installed head of Sevastopol in annexed Crimea with violating sanctions and money laundering, BBC Russian reported Feb. 20. Dmitry Ovsyannikov was appointed as the governor of Crimea's largest city in 2016, around two years after the Kremlin invaded and subsequently annexed the Ukrainian peninsula. He stepped down from the industry and trade ministry in April 2020 after launching into an expletive-laden tirade at an airport in central Russia. it became known that Ovsyannikov is a citizen not only of Russia, but also of Great Britain (MT/AFP, 02.21.24, BBC 02.20.24)
  • The EU has agreed to lift sanctions from Russian tech billionaire Arkady Volozh, Reuters reported Feb. 21, citing three sources familiar with the matter. Volozh co-founded the Russian tech company Yandex and announced his resignation in mid-2022 after being targeted by EU sanctions. (MT/AFP, 02.22.24)
  • There were 124 fatalities worldwide aboard passenger jets in 2023 in the world, the fewest in any year other than 2017, based on data compiled by Jacdec, a German consulting firm that tracks aviation safety. One exception was Russia, where U.S. and EU sanctions have made it hard for airlines to acquire parts needed to maintain aircraft. The number of air-safety incidents there more than doubled to 81 in 2023 from 2022, according to Jacdec. (Bloomberg, 02.20.24)
  • For sanctions on the energy sector, please see section “Energy exports from CIS” below.

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • At MSC, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi led said conditions were not ripe for peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. Wang met with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, who briefed him on Ukraine’s plans for a high-level meeting to discuss ways to end the war. (Bloomberg, 02.20.24)
    • The two officials discussed bilateral relations, trade, and the “need to restore a just and lasting peace” in Ukraine, according to Kuleba’s post on X, formerly Twitter. (Bloomberg, 02.19.24)
  • Ahead of the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more than two-thirds of Americans (69 percent) would support the United States urging Ukraine to engage in diplomatic negotiations with Russia and the United States as soon as possible to end the war in Ukraine, according to a Quincy Institute/Harris Poll February 8-12, 2024 survey. (Quincy Institute, 02.16.24)

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

  • At MSC, Zelenskyy was asked about Ukrainian NATO membership, with the military alliance holding a key summit in July in Washington, but even he admitted that not all members were ready to extend such an invitation - something that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a separate discussion hammered home matter-of-factly: "As long as war is raging, Ukraine cannot become a member of NATO. We cannot overpromise. (RFE/RL, 02.18.24)
  • At MSC, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, with Trump's recent NATO comments clearly in mind, noted, "Imagine we went easy on Putin, let alone encouraged him. History offers a clue: If we stand by, they will keep going. And in the case of Putin, that means all of Europe will be threatened." (RFE/RL, 02.18.24)
    • Under Trump, the number of NATO members meeting the goal of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their own militaries increased to nine from six. Under Biden, the number has doubled to 18. (NYT, 02.17.24)
  • JD Vance, a Republican senator from Ohio who is an opponent of Ukraine aid and a close ally of Donald Trump, voiced a sentiment held by many in his party when he said his country needs to pivot the focus of its foreign policy to Asia, leaving it with fewer resources to lavish on its friends across the Atlantic. “The problem with Europe is it doesn’t provide enough of a deterrence on its own because it hasn’t taken enough of an initiative,” Vance said on a panel in Munich. “The American security blanket has allowed European security to atrophy.” "The problem with Europe is that it doesn't provide enough of a deterrence on its own because it hasn't taken the initiative in its own security. I think the American security blanket has allowed European security to atrophy," he added. (Bloomberg, 02.19.24, WSJ,. 02.23.24)
  • Dutch premier Mark Rutte, who is the front-runner to become the next NATO chief, chided those complaining about Trump’s rhetoric. “Stop moaning and whining and nagging about Trump — we don’t spend more on defense or ramp up ammunition production because Trump may come back,” Rutte said. “We have to do this because we want to do this, because it’s in our interest.” (Bloomberg, 02.19.24)
  • One senior European official went as far as saying that Russia’s “intent and capability” to attack a NATO country before the end of the decade was “pretty much consensus” within the U.S.-led military alliance. While Russia’s army is heavily deployed in Ukraine and has suffered huge losses during two years of conflict, most Western officials expect that it would be able to reconstitute its forces within five to six years.  (FT, 02.16.24)
  • “I can’t predict if and when an attack on NATO territory might occur,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told Bloomberg in an interview. “But it could happen in five to eight years.” (Bloomberg, 02.19.24) 
  • “It cannot be ruled out that within a three-to-five-year period, Russia will test Article 5 and NATO’s solidarity,” warned Denmark’s defense minister, citing “new information”. (The Economist, 02.18.24)
  • Nikolai Denkov, the prime minister of Bulgaria, said Europeans needed to separate Ukraine’s urgent needs for ammunition and air defense from longer-term strategic goals. But given the imperialist rhetoric of Russia’s leaders, Mr. Denkov said, “long term in this case means three to five and maximum 10 years — it is really urgent.” (NYT, 02.19.24)
  • In conversations with reporters at MSC, European and American officials said that they saw no evidence, for now, that Mr. Putin wants to bring NATO forces into the war. (NYT, 02.17.24)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Putin “is an inadequate person that is a threat to the whole word," Zelenskyy said in an interview with Fox News. "He will destroy NATO, that's his goal." (Newsweek, 02.23.24)
  • Hungary’s parliament could ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO as early as this month after more than a year’s delay that left the central European nation as the final holdout. Lawmakers will vote on the ratification protocol during the beginning of their spring session, which starts Feb. 26. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban confirmed that his country will remove the last obstacle to Sweden’s NATO accession after the Nordic country agreed to sell Gripen jet fighters to Budapest.  (Bloomberg, 02.17.24; Bloomberg, 02.23.24)
  • Germany could increase military spending to as much as 3.5% of economic output as it ramps up investment to reverse years of neglect of the armed forces, according to Defense Minister Boris Pistorius. (Bloomberg, 02.17.24)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Beijing has sought to resist Russia’s efforts to pull it further along into supporting the war, according to a Chinese official. While ties between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are extremely close, the rest of the Chinese bureaucracy is more skeptical of Moscow, the person said. China perceives the Russia-Ukraine conflict as a case of two brothers fighting each other, said another Chinese official familiar with Beijing’s thinking, who asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive topic. That means it’s best for the outside world to just let them get on with it, the official said. (Bloomberg, 02.20.24)
  • China offered to support longtime strategic partner Hungary on public security issues, going beyond trade and investment relations, during a rare meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orban just as NATO struggles to expand its network in Europe. China hopes to deepen law enforcement and security ties with Hungary as the two mark their 75th year of diplomatic relations, Public Security Minister Wang Xiaohong told Orban last week. (Reuters, 02.19.24)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms

  • American intelligence agencies have told their closest European allies that if Russia is going to launch a nuclear weapon into orbit, it will probably do so this year — but that it might instead launch a harmless “dummy” warhead into orbit to leave the West guessing about its capabilities. The American intelligence agencies are sharply divided in their opinion about what President Putin is planning. In the analysis that the United States has provided to allies, American officials have said that Mr. Putin may believe that the mere threat of massive disruption — even if it meant blowing up Russia’s own satellites — might infuse his nuclear arsenal with a new kind of deterrent. But American officials admit they have low confidence in their own analysis of whether Mr. Putin is really prepared to launch a nuclear weapon into orbit. (NYT, 02.21.24)
    • The current US assessment is that Russia doesn’t plan to detonate any orbital weapon, according to people familiar with the matter. However, there is risk of an accident, and a nuclear explosion could potentially affect about a third of satellites and play havoc with communications systems on earth, they said. (Bloomberg, 02.21.24)
    • President Joe Biden said that an anti-satellite space weapon under development by Russia did not pose a nuclear threat to those on Earth, and that he expected the Kremlin would ultimately decide against deploying the system. “There is no nuclear threat to the people of America or anywhere else in the world with what Russia is doing,” Biden said. The Russian program is related to damaging satellites in space, Biden said, but there was no evidence that Russia had decided to move forward with the program. (Bloomberg, 02.16.24)
    • Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken warned his Chinese and Indian counterparts last weekend that if a nuclear weapon were ever detonated in low-earth orbit, it would take out their satellites, too. He urged them to use their influence with Mr. Putin to prevent the weapon from ever being deployed. (NYT, 02.21.24)
    • Politico reported that senior intelligence and administration officials had attempted to reach out to Moscow to convince it to stop the project for weeks before it became public. The U.S. has privately warned Russia not to deploy a new nuclear-armed antisatellite weapon, which it said would violate the Outer Space Treaty and jeopardize U.S. national security interests, U.S. officials said. Several U.S. officials said that one of the channels involved Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and Yuri Ushakov, a foreign-policy adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin. CIA Director William Burns also reached out last week to Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, a U.S. official said. (Bloomberg, 02.21.24; WSJ, 02.23.24)
      • Sergei Shoigu told Vladimir Putin: “I am referring to the deployment of nuclear weapons in outer space and the use of any other nuclear weapons systems against satellites or creating debris fields that would hamper the effective operation of satellites. In reality, they know that we are not doing this, yet they are raising a fuss nonetheless.” Vladimir Putin then told Sergei Shoigu: “As for space, we are only doing in space what other countries are doing, including the United States. And you are right, of course, that they are aware of this.” (, 02.21.24)
    • What seems clear enough, so far, is that Russia isn’t building the equivalent of land-based tactical or strategic nuclear weapons in space that could lay waste to large military units or major Western cities. (FP, 02. 21.24)
  • Vladimir Putin told Sergei Shoigu: “As for strategic stability, we never refused to talk about it either. Of course, it is impossible to reconcile the calls by the United States and the West for Russia’s strategic defeat with claims about their desire to hold strategic stability talks with us, as if these two issues were not interconnected. If they want to inflict a strategic defeat on us, we must reconsider the meaning of strategic stability for our country. In other words, we do not reject any ideas; we do not refuse to discuss anything. But we need to understand what they want. They usually want to achieve unilateral advantages. They will not succeed. Nevertheless, contacts are possible, of course, at the level of the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”(, 02.20.24) The Kommersant daily’s interpretation of Putin’s remarks about possibility of talks and contacts on strategic stability is that the Russian leader is signaling that “Russia is ready for negotiations with USA on strategic stability.”  If Putin did, indeed, allow for possibility of RF-US negotiations on strategic stability and he did so without insisting that talks on this subject be linked to discussions of non-nuclear issues, then it is an important development, contrasting with earlier statements by his top diplomats.  Previously, RF MFA head Lavrov spoke against holding negotiations in the absence of linkages, criticizing US side’s ‘compartmentalization’ approach while this agency’s lead negotiator with US Ryabkov said there was “neither a format nor a subject” for US-RF discussions of strategic stability.
  • Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president and deputy chair of Russia’s security council, wrote on social media on Feb. 18 that Moscow would resort to nuclear war to defend its conquests. “Attempts to return Russia to its 1991 borders,” when the Soviet Union collapsed, “will only lead to one thing. To a global war with western countries in which we use all the strategic arsenal of our state. Against Kyiv, Berlin, London, Washington,” Medvedev wrote. (FT, 02.18.24)
  • Putin on Feb. 22 flew a Tupolev Tu-160M strategic bomber The Tu-160M, a modernized version of a Cold War-era bomber, has two internal bomb bays, each of which can hold up to six cruise missiles or 12 short-range nuclear missiles. (MT, 02.22.24)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • The U.K. is working with nations including the U.S. to provide Ukraine with thousands of new AI-enabled drones that could swarm Russian targets simultaneously, according to people familiar with the matter. Western military planners developing the technology believe it could allow Ukraine to overwhelm certain Russian positions with the unmanned vehicles, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive matters. The drones could be sent to Ukraine within months, they said, while warning the timeline could slip. (Bloomberg, 02.17.24)
  • Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's top military-intelligence officer said Russian invading forces in his country are using thousands of Starlink satellite internet terminals, and that the network has been active in occupied parts of Ukraine for a long time. (WSJ, 02.16.24)
  • Ukraine’s State Special Communication Service reported on Feb. 18 that Russian actors hacked well-known Ukrainian media outlets and posted fake information on their social media channels. Ukrainian outlets Ukrainska Pravda, Apostrophe,, and Telegraf reported on Feb. 18 that their social media accounts were hacked and that hackers posted disinformation, specifically about the alleged widespread destruction of Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka. (ISW, 02.19.24)
  • The United States on Feb. 15 announced a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the identification or location of any of the leaders of the Russian-based criminal group known as BlackCat. The group, which also uses the names ALPHV and Noberus, has targeted the computer networks of more than 1,000 victims and caused harm around the world, including to networks that support critical U.S. infrastructure, the State Department said. (RFE/RL, 02.16.24)
  • The U.S. and its allies have disrupted access by a Russian-state sponsored hacking organization to “well over a thousand home and small business routers” used for criminal and intelligence purposes, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Feb. 22. Wray said authorities managed to kick a hacking unit that is part of Russian intelligence, known as APT 28 or Fancy Bear, off the routers and “lock the door behind them.” The Russian agency was “piggybacking” on a network of hacked internet-connected devices, known as a botnet, “to run cyber operations against countries around the world, including America and its allies in Europe.” (Bloomberg, 02.16.24)
    • German security authorities have helped to shut down a Russian computer espionage network in a U.S.-led operation that uncovered, in part, spying about Germany's plans for Ukraine, the Interior Ministry said on Feb. 17. The hacker group APT 28 had installed malware on hundreds of small routers in offices and private homes on behalf of the Russian GRU military intelligence service, it said. (RFE/RL, 02.17.24)
  • Global law enforcement agencies said Feb. 20 that they have significantly infiltrated the operations of LockBit, one of the world's most prolific criminal ransomware gangs, in an international operation that aimed to disrupt the group's repeated attacks. According to a statement issued Feb.20, an international task force led by Britain's National Crime Agency, representing 11 countries' law enforcement agencies including the FBI, was behind the investigation into LockBit. The malicious ransomware variant has been deployed by criminal hackers to extort tens of millions of dollars from victims around the world — ranging from global banks to local schools. It is widely believed to be operated from Russia. (WP, 02.20.24)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia’s oil processing suffered further in the latest week as the country’s refineries struggle with damage caused by Ukraine’s drone attacks. Facilities processed 5.16 million barrels of crude a day in the second week of February, a person with knowledge of industry data said. That’s down 94,000 barrels a day from the previous week, according to Bloomberg calculations based on historic figures. (Bloomberg, 02.19.24)
  • A U.S. threat to hit financial firms doing business with Russia with sanctions has chilled Turkish-Russian trade, disrupting or slowing some payments for both imported oil and Turkish exports, according to seven sources familiar with the matter. The U.S. executive order in December did not explicitly target energy but it has complicated some Turkish payments for Russian crude as well as Russian payments for a broader range of Turkish exports, the sources said. (Reuters, 02.19.24)
  • The EU last year added €1 billion to Vladimir Putin’s war chest through fuel purchases despite sweeping bans on Russian oil, a new study shared with POLITICO found.  In 2023, the EU bought an estimated 35 million barrels of refined fuels — mostly diesel — originating at least in part from Russia, according to the analysis by NGO Global Witness based on Kpler shipping data. (Politico, 02.23.24)
  • The U.K has imposed sanctions on Dutch oil trader Niels Troost and his Swiss-based operation Paramount Energy & Commodities SA for entanglement with the Russian oil trade. (FT, 02.23.24)
  • In an interview with state television channel Rossiya 1 on Feb. 18, Putin admitted Russia had previously profited more from exporting energy, but denied the loss of business was causing problems. “Maybe it was more fun [previously], but on the other hand, the less we depend on energy, the better, because the non-energy part of our economy is growing,” he said. (FT, 02.19.24)
  • Gazprom’s pre-tax earnings hit a record Rbs4.5 trillion ($49.7 billion) in the first six months of 2022 but slumped 40% to Rbs2.7 trillion a year later, while net profits slid from almost Rbs1 trillion to Rbs255 billion. Gazprom’s oil business, Gazprom Neft, has become the company’s main lifeline, contributing 36% of revenues and 92% of net income in the first half of 2023. (FT, 02.19.24)
  • Russia’s share of EU’s gas imports dropped from more than 40% in 2021 to 8% last year, according to EU data. (FT, 02.19.24)
  • A Russian liquefied natural gas project subject to U.S. sanctions is close to exporting its first cargo after Chinese expertise filled the technical and logistical void left by western companies. The shipment shows how Russia has been able to bolster its energy industry with Beijing’s help, despite western attempts to kill the project and cripple Russia’s LNG ambitions. The U.S. placed Arctic LNG 2 under direct sanctions in November, in effect blocking its allies from buying the project’s gas when it starts production. (FT, 02.23.24)
  • In just eight years, the United States has rocketed from barely selling any gas overseas to becoming the world's No. 1 supplier. Europe has become the biggest importer of American gas in recent years, enabling the continent to slash by more than half its reliance on Russian gas since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022. (NUY, 02.19.24)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • 33-year-old woman Ksenia Karelina who lives in Los Angeles but has dual U.S. and Russian citizenship has been arrested on treason charges in the city of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) reported on Feb. 20. According to the FSB, the woman began collecting money for the Ukrainian military in February 2022. The agency also said she participated in multiple pro-Ukraine protest rallies in the U.S. The woman has reportedly been placed in pre-trial detention. (Meduza, 02.20.24)
  • A Moscow court on Feb. 20 said jailed U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich would remain in pre-trial detention until at least Mar. 30, rejecting the latest appeal brought by his legal team. (MT/AFP, 02.20.24)
  • The Supreme Court of Russia's Republic of Tatarstan ruled on Feb. 20 that RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, who has been held in Russian custody for more than four months on charges that she, her employer, and her supporters reject, will remain in pretrial detention.  Kurmasheva's lawyers requested their client to be transferred to house arrest due to her state of health, among other issues. Judge Olga Migunova rejected the request but shortened Kurmasheva's pretrial detention term by one day, from at least until April 5 to at least April 4. (RFE/RL, 02.20.24)
  • Russian government has designated Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty an "undesirable organization," according to a registry maintained by the country's Justice Ministry. The label effectively bans RFE/RL from working in Russia and exposes anyone who cooperates with the outlet to potential prosecution. RFE/RL President Stephen Capus said the move shows that Moscow considers independent reporting to be "an existential threat." (RFE/RL, 02.21.24)
  •  “We have a crazy S.O.B. like that guy Putin, and others, and we always have to worry about nuclear conflict,” Joe Biden told a crowd of donors in San Francisco on the night of Feb. 21. (NYT, 02.22.24)
    • The Kremlin on Feb. 22 said it was a "huge disgrace" that Biden had called Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a "crazy SOB." "It's clear that Mr. Biden is behaving like a Hollywood cowboy to score domestic political points," Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. (AFP, 02.22.24)
    •  Putin gave a sarcastic response on Feb. 22 when asked to comment on U.S. counterpart Biden calling him a "crazy SOB." The Kremlin leader, who endorsed Biden over rival Donald Trump in the upcoming U.S. elections, joked: "He can't of course say to me: Volodya, well done, thank you [for the endorsement], you've helped me a lot?" (AFP, 02.22.24)
  • Vladimir Putin’s interview to Tucker Carlson was a ratings flop with viewers of Russian television, failing to crack even the top 10 most-watched programs. (Bloomberg, 02.16.24)
  • Alexander Smirnov, a former F.B.I. informant accused of making false bribery claims about President Biden and his son Hunter claimed to have been fed information by Russian intelligence. ''The misinformation he is spreading is not confined'' to his false claims about the Bidens, wrote prosecutors working for David C. Weiss, the special counsel investigating Hunter Biden on tax and gun charges. ''He is actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November,'' they added. Last week, Mr. Weiss charged Mr. Smirnov with fabricating claims that President Biden and his son each sought $5 million bribes from a Ukrainian energy giant, Burisma. Smirnov, who was indicted Feb. 15 and released on bail two days ago, was in a meeting with his attorneys early Feb. 23 when he was arrested again “on the same charges and based on the same indictment,” his lawyer David Chesnoff said in a court filing requesting an emergency hearing on the matter. (NYT, 02.20.24, Bloomberg, 02.23.24)
  • On average, 48% of people across Europe view the United States’ political system as broken, including large pluralities in all 12 countries polled except for Hungary, Poland, and Romania, according to results of a poll ECFR commissioned in January 2024 in 12 European countries.[5] Some 47% on average view the EU’s political system as either completely or somewhat broken (ECFR, 02.21.24)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russian authorities told Alexei Navalny’s mother her son would be buried in the Arctic penal colony where he died unless she agreed within three hours to a secret funeral, Navalny’s spokesperson said on Feb. 23. Kira Yarmysh said Lyudmila Navalnaya refused to negotiate with the investigators because “they have no authority to decide how and where to bury her son” Alexei Navalny’s mother has been shown a medical report about his death, which said that he “died from natural causes,” reports Navalny’s press Secretary Kira Yarmysh.  Earlier Russia’s Investigative Committee said that the body of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been sent for a “chemical examination” and that the body  will be under some sort of “chemical examination” for another 14 days. (Meduza, 02.19.24; Meduza, 02.22.24, (The Guardian, 02.23.24)
    • During their meeting with Navalny’s mother Lyudmila Navalnaya Russian investigators have asked her to choose a funeral home and a cemetery for Navalny’s burial. They then set out the following conditions. The authorities will transport Navalny’s body to Moscow. In exchange, his relatives and associates will be required to keep the details of his burial secret until the plane lands. (Meduza, 02.23.24)
    • According to R.Politik’s understanding of the situation, the FSB leant on the FSIN to impose more severe conditions on Navalny, accelerating his physical decline in line with their own interpretation of justice. (RM, 02.18.24)
    • "The presidential administration and Federal Security Service officials discussed a plan on how to prevent the spread of a public campaign in support of Navalny," a Russian government official told The Moscow Times. “One of the problems discussed was how to make sure Navalny's mourning and funeral do not turn into a political demonstration and spoil the election for Putin,” a source close to the Kremlin said. “Various options have been proposed, down to the very cynical one of not releasing the body to his relatives until after the election.” (MT, 02.20.24)
  • Over 10 years, all 505 episodes on Alexei Navalny’s YouTube channel received 1.5 billion views. Most of them - 892 million - were collected by 146 investigations. An absolute hit was an investigation into the palace for Putin. It collected 129 million views in three years. In second place is “He’s Not Dimon” - 46 million viewed this investigation of Medvedev in six years. (Istories, 02.20.24)
  • The Basmanny district court in Moscow said on Feb. 15 it issued arrest warrants for the self-exiled lawyers of imprisoned Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny -- Olga Mikhailova and Aleksandr Fedulov -- on extremism charges over their association with Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). (RFE/RL, 02.16.24)
    • Russian courts have sentenced dozens of people detained at events commemorating Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to short jail sentences, official court announcements showed, with 154 sentenced in St. Petersburg alone. (MT/AFP, 02.18.24)
    • Yulia Navalnaya, a trained economist and mother of two, has vowed to take on his struggle, humanizing the late Navalny and his cause. The 47-year-old widow asked Russians to “share her fury” and not give up the fight to overthrow President Vladimir Putin, who she accused of ordering her husband’s murder. “By killing Alexei, Putin killed half of me, half of my heart and half of my soul. But I still have the other half, and it tells me that I have no right to give up,” she said. (FT, 02.20.24)
    • Jailed opposition politician Ilya Yashin said Feb. 20 that he will continue to fight for democracy in Russia after learning about the death of his friend and associate Alexei Navalny. “As long as my heart beats in my chest, I will fight tyranny,” Yashin said in a letter in which he pays tribute to Navalny, and whose death he blamed on President Vladimir Putin. (MT/AFP, 02.20.24)
    • Jailed opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza on Feb. 22 urged Russians to keep fighting for democracy despite the death of Alexei Navalny in an Arctic prison. Navalny's death last week sent shockwaves through Russia's opposition, most of which is either in exile, behind bars, or dead. Kara-Murza's own health has deteriorated in prison — he suffers from serious health problems due to two poisonings, according to his lawyers. (MT, 02.22.24)
      • “If Putin is ready to kill Navalny, he’s ready to kill anybody,” said William Browder, an investor and Kremlin critic who is campaigning for the release of Kara-Murza. (FT, 02.23.24)
    • U.S. President Joe Biden joined other Western leaders in condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he is "responsible" for the reported death of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. On Feb. 22 Biden met the wife and daughter of Alexei Navalny in California "to express his heartfelt condolences," the White House said in a statement. During the meeting, Biden expressed his admiration for Navalny's "extraordinary courage and his legacy of fighting against corruption and for a free and democratic Russia in which the rule of law applies equally to everyone," the statement said. (RFE/RL, 02.23.24, (RFE/RL, 02.16.24)
    • The White House has confirmed the US, which is pressing for “complete transparency” over how Navalny died, will bring forward a “major” package of sanctions on Feb. 23. (FT, 02.21.24)
    • U.S. vice-president Kamala Harris, speaking at the Munich security conference, said: “This is of course terrible news, which we are working to confirm. This would be a further sign of Putin’s brutality. Whatever story they tell, let us be clear, Russia is responsible and we will have more to say on this later.” (FT, 02.16.24)
      • Part of Vice President Harris’s speech at MSC was attended by Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, who spoke after the vice president, urging the gathered leaders to "come together and we should fight against this evil." "I said 'should I stand here before your or should I go back to my children,' and I thought, what would Alexei have done in my place?" she said, speaking through a translator. "And I thought that he would be standing here on this stage. "We should fight this horrific regime in Russia today," she added, her remarks bookended by standing ovations. (WP, 02.16.24)
    • U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken met Navalnaya at the conference on Feb. 16 after reports of her husband’s death emerged. Blinken offered condolences “if the reports of Alexei Navalny’s death are true, and reiterated that Russia is responsible for his death”, his spokesperson said. “For more than a decade, the Russian government and Putin personally persecuted, poisoned and imprisoned Alexei Navalny,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Munich, indicating Washington was still seeking confirmation of the news. “His death in a Russian prison and the fixation and fear of one man only underscores the weakness and rot at the heart of the system that Putin has built. Russia is responsible for this.” (Bloomberg, 02.16.24,  FT, 02.16.24)
    • Former President Donald Trump on Feb. 19 mentioned the death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, though he said Russian President Vladimir Putin's most significant opponent made him "more aware" of his own political rivals and court cases. Trump in a post on his Truth Social platform marked Navalny's "sudden death" in a Russian prison, but he did not blame or even mention Navalny's jailer, Putin. (USA Today, 02.19.24)
    • Britain on Feb. 21 sanctioned six individuals running the Russian Arctic prison where the death of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny was announced on Feb. 16. Those sanctioned -- the camp's head, Colonel Vadim Kalinin, and his five deputies -- will be banned from Britain and have their assets frozen, the Foreign Office said. "   (RFE/RL, 02.21.24)
    • European Council president Charles Michel said: “For his ideals, he made the ultimate sacrifice. The EU holds the Russian regime solely responsible for this tragic death.” (FT, 02.16.24)
    • EU’s Borrell said that ultimately “Putin himself” was responsible for Navalny’s death, but that the EU could “go down to the institutional structure of the penitentiary system in Russia” when considering whom to sanction. (FT, 02.19.24)
    • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described the news as “very depressing” and offered his condolences to Navalny’s family. Speaking in Berlin Scholz said Navalny’s fate “shows what kind of regime is in charge in Russia,” where anyone who expresses an opinion or criticizes the government “must fear for his or her life.” (Bloomberg, 02.16.24)
    • French President Emmanuel Macron said: “In today’s Russia, free spirits are sent to the gulag and condemned to death. Anger and indignation... My thoughts go out to his family, loved ones, and to the Russian people.” (FT, 02.16.24)
    • "I strongly believe that the best way to honor the memory of Alexei Navalny is to ensure that President Putin doesn't win on the battlefield, but that Ukraine prevails," Stoltenberg said. (RFE/RL, 02.23.24)
    • A host of European governments on Feb. 19 summoned Russian diplomats following the prison death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said during a visit to Argentina that Russia's ambassador in Paris would be summoned, while Norway's Foreign Ministry said it was calling on its top Russian diplomat "for a talk" about Navalny's death. Those moves followed similar announcements by Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands saying they have summoned diplomats from Russian embassies. London had done so earlier. (RFE/RL, 02.20.24)
  • 20,000 Russians have been arrested for opposing the war since Putin ordered the invasion two years ago, according to independent rights monitor OVD-Info. Politically motivated prosecutions have jumped: OVD-Info counted 732 such cases in 2022, up from 473 the year before. (FT, 02.23.24)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime has persecuted at least 116,000 in just the last six years, Russian outlet Proekt estimates in a study released on Feb. 22 dedicated to the memory of opposition figure and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny. That is more than were persecuted under both Communist General Secretaries Leonid Brezhnev or Nikita Khrushchev during the post-Stalin-era. (BNE, 02.22.24)
  • Exiled banking magnate Oleg Tinkov was declared a "foreign agent" by Russian authorities Feb. 16 over his opposition to the conflict in Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 02.16.24)
  • A Moscow court on Feb. 20 issued arrest warrants for two self-exiled Kremlin critics -- economist Konstantin Sonin and politician Leonid Gozman -- on a charge of spreading false information about Russian troops involved in Moscow's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 02.20.24)
  • A court in Russia's Far Eastern Region of Khabarovsk region on Feb. 22 declared a movement supporting the region's imprisoned former governor, Sergei Furgal, as extremist. (RFE/RL, 02.22.24)
  • A court in St. Petersburg has allowed the government to take over the assets of the country's largest auto dealership, Rolf, founded by businessman Sergei Petrov. The self-exiled Petrov called Putin's decree a manifestation of "lawlessness" at the time (RFE/RL, 02.21.23)
  • The Kremlin’s press service announced Feb. 20 that Vladimir Putin will address Russia’s Federal Assembly on Feb. 29. (Meduza, 02.20.24)
  • Russia’s Supreme Court has rejected Putin challenger Boris Nadezhdin’s claim disputing the Russian Central Election Commission’s (CEC) decision to not register him as a candidate in the country’s upcoming presidential elections. In response, Nadezhdin said he would “not accept” the decision and would appeal within five days.  (Meduza, 02.22.24)
  • Akhmat Kadyrov, the 18-year-old son of the authoritarian ruler of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been appointed the region's minister for youth and sports(RFE/RL, 02.19.24)
  • Russia's Central Bank held its key interest rate unchanged at 16% on Feb. 16, warning price rises and intense labor shortages were a lingering threat to the country's heavily militarized economy. (MT/AFP, 02.16.24)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russian courts have convicted more than 4,600 soldiers for desertion and other offenses related to refusing to serve in the military since Moscow invaded Ukraine nearly two years ago, the independent investigative outlet Proekt reported Feb. 22. (NT, 02.22.24)
  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • No significant developments.


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Maxim Kuzminov, a Russian military pilot who defected to Ukraine by flying an Mi-8 helicopter over the border in August, has reportedly been found dead in Spain. The Spanish news site reported that on Feb. 13, the body of a 33-year-old Ukrainian man was found with bullet wounds in a garage in the town of Villajoyosa. According to investigators, the man was fleeing attackers when they began to shoot. (Meduza, 02.19.24) 
    • The head of Russia’s foreign intelligence, Sergei Naryshkin, said on Feb. 20 that Kuzminov was a “traitor and criminal who became a moral corpse the moment he planned his dirty and terrible crime.” (RFE/RL, FT, 02.20.24)
    • Spanish intelligence has “no doubt” that its Russian counterparts are behind the mysterious shooting death of a Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine with a military helicopter, the national daily El Pais reported Feb. 22, citing anonymous sources. (MT, 02.22.24)
  • 10 alleged Russian agents were detained in Estonia; they are considered members of an agent network acting on instructions from Russian intelligence services. This was announced by the head of government Kaya Kallas on the social network X on Feb. 20 (, 02.20.24)
  • The SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, saw its presence in Europe eviscerated, with some 600 officers expelled from embassies across the continent. (The Economist, 02.20.24)
  • Most targeted poisonings are, by design, hard to detect. “It’s very difficult,” said Yuri Felshtinksy, a KGB historian and author of From Red Terror to Terrorist State, a book about Russia’s intelligence services. “I mean, if [someone is] killed with a gun or with a knife, it’s very easy to prove. But if the idea is to eliminate somebody without letting people obviously know that person was eliminated, poisoning is a very useful tool.” (FT, 02.22.24)
  • For years, strongmen and autocrats had a novel weapon in their hunt for political enemies. They used Interpol, the world’s largest police organization, to reach across borders and grab them — even in democracies. Belarus and Turkey, for example, have turned Interpol’s database of lost and stolen passports into a weapon to harass dissidents or strand them abroad Russia has tried repeatedly to secure the arrest of William F. Browder, a London-based human rights campaigner. (NYT, 02.20.24)
  • Portal Kombat: That's the name of the pro-Russian propaganda network unveiled by French authorities this week, with a few months to go before European elections and as Ukraine's allies try to shore up support. Among the stories stirred up by such troll armies, according to magazine Le Point: The killing of 60 French mercenaries in Kharkiv (immediately denied by the government), the appearance of over 250 Stars of David painted on the walls of Parisian streets (later linked to two Moldavans), and the amplification of bedbug spotting’s last summer in the French capital (which already looked like hysteria.) (Bloomberg, 02.16.24)
  • The Amsterdam Court of Appeals on Feb. 20 rejected Russia’s appeal against a 2014 order by an arbitration tribunal in The Hague to pay $50 billion, a sum that has risen to more than $60 billion with interest, to shareholders -- Hulley Enterprises, Yukos Universal, and Veteran Petroleum -- of the defunct Yukos oil group. (RFE/RL, 02.20.24)
  • The U.S. opposition to an immediate cease-fire in Gaza came under repeated criticism during a two-day meeting of the chief diplomats of the world's 20 largest economies in the latest sign of Washington's isolation on the issue. Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira, the host of this year's annual Group of 20 gathering, began the meeting by decrying the "paralysis" at the United Nations Security Council, where Washington vetoed a third resolution for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza earlier in the week. The top diplomats at the gathering, which included Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, offered their views on various geopolitical issues in a session that was closed to the media so officials could express themselves more candidly. (WP, 02.22.24)
  • The inclusion of the topic of Ukraine at the Group of 20 meetings is destructive and the politicization of the Group is unacceptable, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Feb. 21 ahead of the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Brazil. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are both expected in Rio de Janeiro for the first high-level G20 meeting of the year -- though not China's Wang Yi. (Reuters, AFP, 02.21.24)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reaffirmed his government’s support for the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, expressing during a visit to Caracas on Feb. 20 Moscow's commitment to strategic cooperation in numerous sectors. Lavrov said: "The peaceful use of nuclear energy, which we also discussed, is also promising." (AP, 02.21.24)
  • Ecuador plans to reverse a decision to swap decades-old Russian-made weaponry with the U.S., Moscow’s ambassador to the country, Vladimir Sprinchan, told the state-run news agency RIA Novosti. (Bloomberg, 02.17.24)


  • When news first emerged last month that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was preparing to fire his top military commander, Gen. Valery Zaluzhnyi, officials in Moscow seemed jubilant. Russian troll farms and circulated in Ukraine and across Europe, that tried to exploit what were then rumored tensions between the two Ukrainian leaders, according to a trove of Kremlin documents obtained by a European intelligence service and reviewed by The Washington Post. The files, numbering more than 100 documents, were shared with The Post to expose for the first time the scale of Kremlin propaganda targeting Zelenskyy (WP, 02.17.24)
  • A statement pledging “unwavering” support for Ukraine from the entire EU was blocked by Hungary, according to two diplomats. Hungary blocked the statement, according to the two diplomats with one of them adding that a neutral EU country had doubts about the language used on defense, specifically about missiles, and was also critical that the EU institutions have largely been silent on the Middle East. The three militarily neutral countries in the EU are Austria, Ireland and Malta. (Politico, 02.23.24)
  • The necessary conditions for Ukraine's victory in the war with Russia are increasing armaments, overcoming corruption and ensuring social cohesion. That's according to a survey conducted by the Rating Sociological Group, Ukrinform report. "Respondents were asked to name three things that are necessary for Ukraine's victory. The most frequent answers concerned the increase in weapons (46%). The second most frequent answer concerned the need to fight corruption (34%) - this alternative was mentioned more often by those who are not very sure of victory," the report said. (Ukrinform, 02.23.24)
    • “Everything is clean,” Zelenskyy said in a Fox News interview when commenting on American concerns about corruption in Ukraine. (Ukrainska Pravda, 02.2323)
    • Denys Tarakhkotelik, a protest leader during the revolution who runs Yanukovych’s former estate as a museum, is not impressed with Ukraine’s effort to tackle corruption. "The sums involved are not as large as during Yanukovych’s time, but to be honest, if you look at the recent case of embezzlement from the defense ministry, to me that’s an even worse crime because now we’re at war." (France.24, 02.22.24)
  • Ukrainian protesters killed in downtown Kyiv in 2014 were fired on by domestic law enforcement officers, not Russian snipers, according to an investigation by the nation’s prosecutors. (Bloomberg, 02.20.24)
  • EBRD has pumped nearly $1 billion into chicken farms and other large Ukrainian food businesses since Russia’s full-scale invasion, funding cheap exports that have recently helped swell farmer protests across the EU. (FT, 02.20.24)
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has requested a meeting with the Polish government of Donald Tusk to end a crippling border blockade by Polish farmers demanding tighter restrictions on Ukrainian food imports. (FT, 02.22.24)
    • Kyiv warned of serious economic consequences as Polish truckers and farmers along the border continued to block Ukrainian cargo from entering the EU nation, with intensified protests expected on Feb. 20. (RFE/RL, 02.20.24)
    • Ukraine said it’s planning an additional route via the Danube River to boost exports to pre-war levels as a spat with Poland over agricultural deliveries blocks a land border with the European Union. (Bloomberg, 02.20.24)
    • Poland’s government has appealed to the European Union’s executive arm to help defuse a dispute with Ukraine over grain shipments. (Bloomberg, 02.21.24)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Feb. 19 told Azerbaijan's visiting leader that he wanted Baku to avoid future border flare-ups with Armenia and to pursue a lasting peace.  (RFE/RL, 02.19.24)
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the leaders of bitter Caucasus rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to resolve their differences "without new violence" and that Europe was ready to support their efforts, despite a recent flare-up in hostilities. (RFE/RL, 02.17.24)
  • Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Feb. 16 reappointed Ali Asadov to the post of prime minister shortly after lawmakers approved his nomination. (RFE/RL, 02.16.24)
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reiterated that Armenia does not support Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine against the backdrop of deteriorating Russian–Armenian relations. Pashinian stated on Feb. 19 at the Munich Security Conference that “Armenia is not Russia’s ally in the matter of Ukraine.” (ISW, 02.19.24)
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has said his country has frozen its membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Pashinian said in an interview with France 24 television channel on Feb. 22 that the move comes after Moscow began several months ago to openly call on Armenian citizens to overthrow his government, and that the deluge of propaganda against him "has never stopped." (RFE/RL, 02.23.24)
  • France's Sebastien Lecornu is travelling Armenia on the first trip by a French defense minister to the South Caucasus nation, as tensions rise with Yerevan's historic rival Azerbaijan. Lecornu's trip comes after French President Emmanuel Macron expressed concern about a "risk of escalation" between Armenia and Azerbaijan as he received Armenian leader Nikol Pashinian on Feb. 21. (AFP, 02.22.24)
    • Russian war blogger Yuri Kotyonok has noted a surge in Azerbaijan’s claims of Armenian armed forces shooting at its positions, reminding readers of his Telegram channel that such a surge had preceded Azerbaijan’s initiation of the war in 2022. (RM, 02.23.24)
  • Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has warned of the danger of Russian aggression against other European countries if Ukraine loses the war. "That's the nature of Russia, that it doesn't stop if it is not stopped," the 71-year-old told dpa in an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. (DPA, 02.19.24)
  • The pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria may call for or organize a referendum on Transnistria’s annexation to Russia at a recently announced Transnistrian Congress of Deputies planned for Feb. 28. The pretext for such a call would be the purported need to protect Russian citizens and “compatriots” in Transnistria from threats from Moldova or NATO or both. (ISW, 02.21.24)
  • The EU has imposed sanctions against six individuals, including Chiril Guzun and Dmitry Milyutin, and a pro-Moscow paramilitary group Scutul Poporului accused of “destabilizing, undermining or threatening the sovereignty and independence” of Moldova, amid ongoing fears of Russian hybrid attacks against the small state bordering Ukraine. (FT, 02.22.24)
  • Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, daughter of Uzbekistan’s late first president Islam Karimov, has reportedly sold her Beverly Hills mansion, Le Palais, for around $36 million. (BNE, 02.22.24)
  • Trade turnover between Kazakhstan and China in 2023 totaled $31.5 billion, a 30% increase versus 2022. Trade turnover with Russia, Kazakhstan's second largest trading partner, reached $26 billion in 2023, a 3.7% decrease versus the previous year. (Interfax, 02.19.24)

Quotable and notable:

  • "Everything that is happening on the Ukraine front: for them it is an improvement of their tactical position, but for us it is our fate, it is a matter of life and death,” President Vladimir Putin said in remarks aired Feb. 18. (MT/AFP, 02.19.24)
  • “Putin is living in eternity,” said Boris B. Nadezhdin, an antiwar politician who tried to mount a presidential bid to challenge Mr. Putin but was barred from the March ballot. Listing rulers dating to the ninth century, he added of Mr. Putin: “It’s clear he’s thinking of himself alongside Oleg the Wise, Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible and perhaps Stalin.” (NYT, 02.23.24)
  • Russian writer Ludmila Ulitskaya said: ‘In 50 years, every town in Russia will have a Navalny Square’ (FT, 02.20.24)


The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 11.00 am East Coast time on the day it was distributed.

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

NATO photo available for fair use.

[1]On Feb 22 Russia claimed its forces had taken control of Pobeda, a small village about five kilometers west of Donetsk city in east Ukraine. However, Ukrinform reported on Feb, 23 that “Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to hold back the enemy in the vicinities of Pobjeda (Donetsk oblast).”

[2]Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden

[3] Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center held a screening of the documentary.. The screening was followed with a discussion, during which Alina Beskrovna, a Mariupol resident who is now a MPA/ID candidate at HKS, described her experience in Mariupol during the initial weeks of the Russian invasion.

[4] Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden

[5] Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden