Russia in Review, Jan. 12-19, 2024

5 Things to Know

1. In the past month, Russian forces have gained 57 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile, according to the Jan. 16, 2024, issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. In an article on the war entitled “Russia Regains Upper Hand in Ukraine’s East as Kyiv’s Troops Flag,” NYT noted this week that “[n]ow Russian troops are on the attack, especially in the country’s east. The town of Marinka has all but fallen. Avdiivka is being slowly encircled. A push on Chasiv Yar, near Bakhmut, is expected.” A new Russian offensive could occur sometime between Jan. 12 and Feb. 2, ISW reportedciting estimates of Russian war watchers. For Ukraine to survive Russian offensives in 2024, it needs to pursue the strategy of active defense, according to Western officials cited by FT. Pursuing this strategy, toward which the Ukrainian government has recently allocated $466 million, could be vital, given the ammunition and personnel shortages the Ukrainian armed forces are suffering from, the former partially blamed on delays in disbursements of military aid by the U.S. and EU:

  • Russian artillery fire now exceeds Ukrainian artillery fire at ratios between five-to-one and ten-to-one, ISW reported this week, citing Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov. “Today we had two shells, but some days we don’t have any in these positions,” a commander of a Ukrainian artillery crew told NYT. “I have two tanks, but only five shells,” a deputy Ukrainian battalion commander told this newspaper.
  • Russian forces can generate forces at a rate equal to Russian monthly personnel losses, while Ukrainian forces struggle to find adequate personnel reinforcements, according to the Ukrainian MoD’s military intelligence cited by ISW and  NYT, respectively. “Three out of 10 soldiers who show up are no better than drunks who fell asleep and woke up in uniform,” a Ukrainian soldier confided to NYT in reference to new recruits that arrive at his brigade. Ukrainian MPs are expecting to receive a revised version of the mobilization bill, which is expected to allow a mobilization of half a million Ukrainians, in the first week of February, according to Ukrainska Pravda.

2. Several top figures in NATO’s staff and alliance members’ governments have asserted this week that they believe a war with Russia is possible, with some warning that it could possibly erupt as soon as 5 years from now. Among them are Germany's Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and Britain’s defense secretary Grant Shapps. "We have to take into account that Vladimir Putin might even attack a NATO country one day," Pistorius—whose country’s military is reportedly gaming out a Russian-NATO conflict in 2025—told Tagesspiegel. "Our experts expect a period of five to eight years in which this could be possible,” he added, according to Politico. As for Shapps, he has said that Western countries need to prepare for further conflicts involving Russia over the next five years, according to FT. In the view of NATO military committee chief Rob Bauer, a conflict could occur in the next 20 years. The alliance needs to be on high alert for war, and “that's why we are preparing for a conflict with Russia,” Bauer said. Putin and his top ministers have repeatedly rejected predictions that Russia might attack a NATO country.

3. Around 90,000 troops will participate in NATO's largest exercise in decades, known as Steadfast Defender 2024, which will kick off next week, the alliance's top commander Chris Cavoli was quoted by Reuters as saying on Jan. 18. Steadfast Defender 2024 will run to late May and involve units from all 31 NATO member countries, plus Sweden, according to AFP. The drills will include at least 1,100 combat vehicles, 80 aircraft and 50 naval vessels and will be taking place in the Baltics and Poland, according to Axios and The exercise will be the biggest since the 1988 Reforger drill during the Cold War, according to AFP.

4. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected U.S.-Russian arms control talks because of U.S. support for Ukraine and warned about the risks of a direct confrontation, according to Reuters and  Bloomberg. “There is already more and more talk of a direct clash of nuclear powers” while “there are fewer and fewer restraining factors in the West,” he claimed at a Jan. 18 press conference meant to sum up Russian diplomats’ work in the past year. Lavrov—who will travel to New York for UNSC meetings next week—said Washington had proposed separating the issues of Ukraine and the resumption of talks on arms control, but Russia found the proposal unacceptable. Lavrov’s warning of a nuclear clash comes one week after Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev’s threat to carry out nuclear strikes if Ukraine tried to target “our missile launchers across the entire territory of Russia.” Speaking in Washington on Jan. 18, Pranay Vaddi, senior director for arms control at the White House national security council, expressed hope that Russia may change its mind as the February 2026 expiration of New START approaches.

5. Security officials from 83 countries have discussed the terms of Ukraine’s Peace Formula in Davos this week, with Switzerland agreeing to host the next meeting even as its foreign minister said it would be an “illusion” to think that Russia would participate on such terms. These include the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its 1991 borders and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian territories. In a setback to Ukraine, China chose not to attend the Jan. 14 meeting, which took place ahead of the World Economic Forum, even though Chinese Premier Li Qiang was attending WEF. In addition, officials from some non-Western states that did attend the meeting reiterated their position that a settlement should address Moscow’s security concerns, such as Ukraine’s desire to join NATO, according to FT. In remarks made this week, Putin and his foreign minister Lavrov rejected Kyiv’s peace formula again, with Lavrov reiterating Russia’s maximalist demands, including Ukraine’s “backing out of joining of NATO.”


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • After several days of wrangling with Russian official, experts from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency on Jan. 15 were given access to the sixth and final reactor unit at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Bellona, 01.19.24)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin met the visiting foreign minister from North Korea for talks that could facilitate a trip to Pyongyang for the Russian leader and arms transfers to aid Moscow in its war on Ukraine. Putin held talks with Choe Son Hui in Moscow. Putin and Choe discussed bilateral relations as well as the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. Peskov called North Korea a “very important partner,” and said Russia intends to further develop relations in all spheres, including sensitive ones. Choe also met counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who expressed appreciation for Pyongyang’s “support within the context of the special military operation in Ukraine,” Tass said, without providing further details. “We always support North Korea at the United Nations and very much appreciate your similar stance in support of Russia's position, including on matters related to our special military operation in Ukraine," Lavrov told Choe.  (MT/AFP, 01.16.24, Bloomberg, 01.17.24)
  • In recent weeks, Russian forces have fired short-range ballistic missiles in Ukraine provided by North Korea, according to assessments from Washington, Seoul and Kyiv. Pyongyang has provided Moscow with dozens of the weapons, the U.S. says. Officials concluded that North Korean weapons were being used by analyzing debris collected in Ukraine. Russia is believed to have used Pyongyang's new KN-23 and KN-24 short-range missiles, defense experts say. (WSJ, 01.18.24)
  • The increased military cooperation between Russia and North Korea could "drastically" influence the type of security threats emanating from North Korea over the coming decade, said Pranay Vaddi, the White House's senior director for arms control said on Jan. 18. "What we're seeing between Russia and North Korea is an unprecedented level of cooperation in the military sphere," Vaddi said. "And I say unprecedented very deliberately - We have never seen this before." (Kyiv Independent/Yahoo News, 01.19.24)
  • North Korea has said it successfully fired a solid-fuel “hypersonic” missile for the first time, demonstrating Pyongyang’s increasingly sophisticated missile capabilities as the regime deepens defense cooperation with Russia. The intermediate-range ballistic missile was launched from a site near Pyongyang on Jan. 14 and flew eastward on a lofted trajectory for less than 12 minutes before splashing down in waters between North Korea and Japan. (FT, 01.15.24)
  • According to state media reports, North Korea has formally abandoned peaceful reunification as a key policy goal. In announcing the drastic shift, the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said the North no longer saw the South as “the partner of reconciliation and reunification” but instead as an enemy that must be subjugated, if necessary, through a nuclear war. (NYT, 01.16.24)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • A report by the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) said that in December alone, 101 Ukrainian civilians were killed and 491 were wounded in Russian strikes, amounting to a 26.5 % month-on-month increase in verified casualties. (RFE/RL, 01.17.24)
    • For accounts of individual military strikes, including strikes on civilian targets, see the next section.
  • Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago, only 517 children of some 20,000 who were illegally taken and held in Russia have been returned, Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets said. (RFE/RL, 01.15.24)
  • Russia has sentenced more than 200 Ukrainian prisoners of war to lengthy jail sentences, state-run media reported Jan. 15, citing a top law enforcement official. (MT/AFP, 01.15.24)
  • The United Nations has asked donors for $4.2 billion this year to provide humanitarian aid for Ukrainians. More than 14.6 million Ukrainians inside the country, or some 40% of the total population, require humanitarian assistance this year, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. (RFE/RL, 01.15.24)
  • Polish truckers have agreed to suspend a border blockade with Ukraine that was hurting Kyiv’s trade and war efforts and casting a shadow over Donald Tusk’s premiership. The truckers will stop their blockade while they hold further negotiations with the ministry in order to reach a final deal by March 1. (FT, 01.16.24)
    • Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk is maintaining the protectionist stance of the previous government and is set to oppose the renewal of an EU free-trade deal with Ukraine. (FT, 01.15.24)
  • Ukraine's Border Service says traffic has resumed through one of three border crossings with Romania blocked by protesting haulers and farmers. "The blocking of truck traffic through the Vicovu De Sus checkpoint opposite the Ukrainian border crossing of Krasnoilsk has ended. Traffic has resumed," the Border Service said on Jan. 19. (RFE/RL, 01.19.24)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 57 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile, according to the Jan. 16, 2024, issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 01.16.24)
    • Now Russian troops are on the attack, especially in the country’s east. The town of Marinka has all but fallen. Avdiivka is being slowly encircled. A push on Chasiv Yar, near Bakhmut, is expected. Farther north, outside Kupiansk, the fighting has barely slowed since the fall. On Jan. 16 Russian forces made confirmed advances near Kreminna and Bakhmut. (NYT, 01.13.24, ISW, 01.16.24)
      • Since Russia launched its offensive around Avdiivka in October, U.S. intelligence estimates that the Russian military has suffered more than 13,000 casualties and over 220 combat vehicle losses, or the equivalent of six maneuver battalions. (FT, 01.19.24)
    • On Jan. 18, Russia's defense ministry claimed that Russian forces have taken control of a settlement named Vesele in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region. The ministry provided no details about the settlement. A village with the same name, populated by about 100 people, is located 20 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of the Russian-controlled city of Bakhmut in an area which has seen intense fighting. (Reuters, 01.18.24)
      • In a Jan. 19 post on its Telegram channel, Ukrainian OSINT team DeepState acknowledged that the Russian forces have established “either partial or full fire control” over the settlement, blaming it in part on the lack of fire support for the Ukrainian defenses there and poor coordination between Ukrainian units in the area. (RM, 01.19.24)
    • Russian sources claimed that Russian forces are preparing to launch a new offensive in the coming weeks once the ground freezes in eastern and southern Ukraine. Russian historian Sergey Pereslegin claimed on Jan. 12 that Russian forces will launch a large-scale offensive effort in Ukraine sometime between Jan. 12 and Feb. 2. (ISW, 01.14.24)
    • “Not only has their counter-offensive failed, but the initiative is entirely in the hands of the Russian Armed Forces. If this continues, then Ukrainian statehood may suffer an irreparable, very serious blow,” Putin told a gathering of provincial officials on Jan. 16. (RM, 01.16.24)
  • On the morning of Jan. 13, Russia attacked Ukraine with several waves of missiles, putting the entire country under an air-raid alert. The attack, which started around 5 a.m. local time and lasted about three hours, involved nearly 40 cruise and hypersonic missiles. They were directed at cities including Kyiv and Lviv, near the border with Poland. The Ukrainian Air Force said that it had shot down eight missiles — a low interception rate compared with previous assaults — but that more than 20 other missiles and drones had missed their targets because of electronic jamming. (NYT, 01.13.24)
  • On Jan. 15, Ukrainian officials announced that Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft and severely damaged an Il-22 airborne command post aircraft on the night of Jan. 14. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi posted flight tracking footage indicating that Ukrainian forces struck the A-50 and Il-22 over the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Col. Yuriy Ihnat stated that the Ukrainian strike forced the Il-22 to land in Anapa, that the Il-22 is likely irreparable and that there were wounded and dead among its crew. (ISW, 01.15.24, FT,  01.18.24)
    • When an A-50 reconnaissance aircraft crashed over the Sea of Azov on Jan. 14, 11 to 12 pilots were killed, reported the telegram channel Fighterbomber, which is close to Russian military aviation. (Istories, 01.16.24)
    • The cost of one A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft ranges from $330 million to $500 million. (Istories, 01.16.24)
    • According to Military Balance, until this moment the Russian Aerospace Forces had three A-50 aircraft and six modernized A-50U aircraft in service. This data was confirmed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Another A-50 aircraft was damaged as a result of sabotage at the Machulishchi military airfield in Belarus. (Istories, 01.16.24)
  • On the night of Jan. 15-16, a young girl was injured and dozens of apartments were damaged during overnight drone strikes in the Russian city of Voronezh. (MT/AFP, 01.16.24)
  • On Jan. 16, Russia attacked the north-eastern city of Kharkiv with two S-300 missiles late that night and Odesa came under drone attacks after midnight. Seventeen civilians were injured in Kharkiv. (Bloomberg, 01.17.24)
  • On Jan. 17, Kyiv said that Russia had launched 20 Iranian-designed attack drones at targets in southern Ukraine overnight and that its air defense systems destroyed all but one. "The enemy struck with 20 Shahed-136/131 attack UAVs from the Primorsko-Akhtarsk region of Russia and with two S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles from the Belgorod region of Russia from near Kharkiv," Ukraine's air force said. (MT/AFP, 01.17.24)
  • On Jan. 17, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov wrote that 19 people were injured in attacks on the city, while Kharkiv Regional Police Chief Volodymyr Timoshko reported that one person was killed and 17 were injured. Russia claimed that the strike has killed 60 foreigners fighting on Ukraine’s side, including French nationals. (Meduza, 01.17.24, MT/AFP, 01.17.24, RM, 01.19.24)
  • On Jan. 18, for the first time since the start of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry has reported that a drone was shot down over Russia’s Leningrad region. Ukrainska Pravda, citing a source in Ukraine’s special services, reported that drones hit an oil depot in the region. reported that the drone flew over Putin’s Valdai residence on its way to the depot. (RM, 01.18.24, Meduza, 01.18.24)
  • On Jan. 18, Kyiv said that Russian forces used nearly three dozen Iranian-designed drones to attack Ukraine overnight, while also firing guided missiles at the northeastern city of Kharkiv. (MT/AFP, 01.18.24)
  • On Jan. 19, a Ukrainian drone attacked an oil depot in Klintsy, in Russia's Bryansk region, sparking a fire at oil storage tanks before being shot down by Russian air defenses, regional Gov. Alexander Bogomaz said on Telegram. The Jan. 19 attack was the fourth on a Russian oil facility in the past three weeks, in what experts say is an effort by Ukraine to deliver setbacks to Russia’s military capabilities by targeting the facilities that supply fuel to tanks, fighter jets and other critical military equipment. Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s minister for strategic industries, said on Jan. 18 that an “asymmetrical war” was underway. (NYT, 01.19.24, Current Time, 01.19.24)
  • Ukraine has successfully employed a Ukrainian-refurbished hybrid air defense system (FrankenSAM) for the first time. Ukrainian Minister of Strategic Industries Oleksandr Kamyshin stated on Jan. 17 that Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian Shahed drone with a hybrid air defense system — referring to the so-called FrankenSAM systems that merge advanced Western air defense missiles with modified Soviet launchers or other missile launchers — for the first time. (ISW, 01.17.24) 
  • Russia fired more than 500 drones and missiles between Dec. 29 and Jan. 2 alone, said officials in Kyiv. The second big strike of the year came on Jan. 8, when Russia launched 59 drones and missiles and Ukraine’s air defenses shot down less than half of them, compared with their usual 80% interception rates. On Jan. 13, Russia fired its third big barrage of the year, launching 40 drones and missiles including ballistic missiles, which its defense ministry said targeted Ukraine’s “military-industrial complex.” (FT, 01.14.24)
    • In the past nine months, the FPV drone numbers have surged by at least 10 times, and more casualties are caused by drones than artillery on some parts of the front, Ukrainian soldiers said. (NYT, 01.13.24)
  • Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said that Russian artillery fire exceeds Ukrainian artillery fire at ratios between five-to-one and ten-to-one depending on the sector of the front and combat intensity. (ISW, 01.18.24)
  • At the height of Ukraine’s summer counter-offensive, it was using some 7,000 artillery shells a day, significantly more than the Russians. This has reversed: since last month, while Ukrainian forces have been rationed to 2,000 shells a day, the Russians have been firing five times that number.      (The Economist, 01.14.24)
    • “Today we had two shells, but some days we don’t have any in these positions,” said the commander of a Ukrainian artillery crew from the 10th Brigade, who goes by the call sign Monk. “The last time we fired was four days ago, and that was only five shells.” “I have two tanks, but only five shells,” said deputy battalion commander from the 68th Brigade, who goes by the call sign Italian, and is fighting the Luhansk region. (NYT, 01.13.24)
  • A senior Ukrainian intelligence official confirmed that Russian forces can generate forces at a rate equal to Russian monthly personnel losses, which is consistent with ISW’s assessment that Russian forces are able to conduct routine operational level rotations in Ukraine. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Deputy Chief Maj. Gen. Vadym Skibitskyi stated that Russia recruits about 30,000 personnel per month, which the Russian military uses to replenish losses and form reserve regiments. (ISW, 01.15.24)
    • “They are sparing no effort in their reconstitution,” NATO top commander Chris Cavoli said on Jan. 18 of the Russians. “They are devoting an enormous fraction of their budget to the military over the coming years ... and they are running their defense industrial base just as fast as they can right now.” (, 01.18.24)
    • Since the introduction of a new law changing requirements for contract service eligibility, at least five Russians born in 2005 and 48 Russians born in 2004 have lost their lives in the war in Ukraine, according to open-source data collated by Mediazona and BBC. (Meduza, 01.13.24)
  • Ukrainian MPs are expecting to receive a revised version of the mobilization bill in the first week of February, Ukrainska Pravda reported on Jan. 18. The government withdrew the original bill, which called for mobilization of half a million, earlier this month to introduce revisions. Top figures of Ukraine’s civilian and military authorities have clashed over the contents of that bill. (RM, 01.18.24)
    • “Three out of 10 soldiers who show up are no better than drunks who fell asleep and woke up in uniform,” said a Ukrainian soldier, referring to the new recruits who arrive at his brigade. (NYT, 01.13.24)
  • The need to cannibalize a destroyed Russian vehicle to help protect Ukraine’s dwindling supply of equipment underscores Kyiv’s current challenges on the battlefield. (NYT, 01.13.24)
  • Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Deputy Chief Maj. Gen. Vadym Skibitskyi stated on Jan. 18 that Russian forces have completely adapted the Kh-101 air-launched cruise missile compared to the model that Russia used in 2022. Skibitsky stated that new Kh-101s are equipped with an active electronic warfare (EW) system and "thermal traps" to prevent the missiles from emitting trackable heat signatures. (ISW, 01.18.24)
  • Russia reportedly has used a rare 4-ton P-35 anti-ship missile for the first time in its war against Ukraine, according to Defense Express. The missile, with a length of 10 meters, was initially introduced into the Soviet arsenal in 1962 and is still in use by the Russian military. (Defense Blog, 01.19.24)
  • One Western official working on Ukraine policy believes there is “little prospect of an operational breakthrough by either side in 2024” let alone in the next few months. 
    The Western official says that a strategy of “active defense” — holding defensive lines but probing for weak spots to exploit coupled with long-range air strikes — would allow Ukraine to “build out its forces” this year and prepare for 2025, when a counteroffensive would have a better chance. (FT, 01.19.24)
    • Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s number two commander in charge of ground forces, suggested this week that the strategy does not amount to a drastic shift. “Our goals remain unchanged: holding our positions . . . exhausting the enemy by inflicting maximum losses,” he told Reuters. (FT, 01.19.24)
  • The Americans are pushing for a more conservative approach by the Ukrainian military in the war. Instead of ground offensives, the focus would be to hold the territory. In the meantime, according to the U.S. view, Ukrainian troops could continue to look for weak spots in Russian defenses. Equally, Ukraine could carry on with — and possibly step up — the long-range air attacks. (FT, 01.19.24)
  • Assessments vary, but virtually all of them assume that there will be at least two more years of fighting in Ukraine, according to multiple sources familiar with the intelligence. Privately, some U.S. and Western officials say there could be as many as five more years of fighting. (CNN, 01.19.24)

Military aid to Ukraine:

  • On Jan. 18, U.S. Congressional leaders said they were cautiously optimistic about reaching a deal on stricter border security that would unlock funding for Ukraine, following a White House meeting with Biden.[1] While lawmakers struck a positive tone, there were few signs of concrete progress toward breaking a months-long stalemate that has delayed funding for Kyiv, as well as Israel. (Bloomberg, 01.18.24)
    • During the meeting Biden pointed to air defense systems and artillery ammunition as examples of key capabilities that could be depleted without U.S. support. Biden also warned that U.S. personnel were on the line, saying that if the Ukraine-Russia war spills over into NATO territory, the U.S. would have to get directly involved in the conflict.  (CNN, 01.19.24)
    • House Speaker Mike Johnson said the session with Biden and congressional leaders was “productive” but reiterated Republican demands for a crackdown at the U.S.-Mexico border. Johnson said later on Fox News he had been consulting “pretty frequently” with Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who opposes an emerging border compromise in the Senate. (Bloomberg, 01.18.24)
      • Trump is moving to quash any hopes of a bipartisan compromise on immigration and Ukraine as the Senate prepares for votes as early as next week on a possible deal. “I do not think we should do a Border Deal, at all, unless we get EVERYTHING needed to shut down the INVASION,” Trump wrote. “Also, I have no doubt that our wonderful Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, will only make a deal that is PERFECT ON THE BORDER.” (Bloomberg, 01.18.24)
      • "The speaker is going to have to make a hard decision about what to do," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), said. "If we abandon our NATO allies and surrender to [Vladimir] Putin in Ukraine, it's not going to make the world safer, it's going to make the world more dangerous. … [Ronald] Reagan would never have surrendered to the Soviet Union. Maybe that's a shift in our party." (WP, 01.19.24)
    • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the meeting “very positive” because everyone at the table agreed on the need to address the border and Ukraine. The chances the Senate reaches a bipartisan agreement are “a little bit greater than half now,” he said.  “If we don’t come to Ukraine’s aid,” Schumer said, “the consequences for America around the globe would be nothing short of devastating.” (Bloomberg, 01.18.24)
  • "We must gain air superiority for Ukraine. Just as we gained superiority in the Black Sea, we can do it. This will allow progress on the ground ... Partners know what is needed and in what quantity," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in Jan. 16 address to the World Economic Forum in Davos. In his address, Zelenskyy made no direct appeals for weaponry for new offensives on the battlefield, but he did discuss U.S.-Ukraine defense cooperation with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken while at WEF. He also discussed Russian strikes and NATO summit preparations with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the battlefield situation and Ukraine’s defense needs with Luxembourg Prime Minister Luc Frieden. (AFP, 01.16.24, RFE/RL, 01.16.24, NYT, 01.16.24, ISW, 01.16.24)
    • In his Jan. 16 address to WEF Zelenskyy called Putin a “predator” and told an audience of global finance and political leaders that aid to Ukraine is worth the investment. “Please strengthen our economy and we will strengthen your security,” the Ukrainian president said. He warned that any frozen conflict will “eventually reignite” – and that Putin, a figure unable to change his course of action, “embodies war.” Zelenskyy also spoke with JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon, Blackstone Inc.’s Steve Schwarzman and Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio to try to replenish the state coffers. (Bloomberg, 01.16.24, Bloomberg, 01.16.24)
  • The European Union’s foreign-policy arm has presented member states with a proposal to revamp a fund that provides military support to Ukraine, as the EU shifts from sending weapons from existing stockpiles to procuring new ones. A document by the European External Action Service sets out the terms to establish a previously proposed Ukraine Assistance Fund with an annual budget of about €5 billion ($5.4 billion) that EU governments have failed to agree on. (Bloomberg, 01.19.24 )
  • Brussels is conducting an audit of how much weaponry EU member states have provided to Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country, in response to claims that some capitals have failed to send as much as they could. The EU’s diplomatic service, the External Action Service (EEAS), aims to present the findings to capitals before a summit of EU leaders on Feb. 1. (FT, 01.16.24)
  • European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who also spoke at Davos on Jan. 16, said Ukraine could prevail in the war, but warned that the allies needed to “continue to empower their resistance.” “Ukrainians need predictable financing throughout 2024 and beyond. They need a sufficient and sustained supply of weapons to defend Ukraine and regain its rightful territory. They need capabilities to deter future attacks by Russia.” (FT, 01.16.24)
  • On Jan. 16, Germany and France announced additional military assistance to Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Jan. 16 that Germany will provide Ukraine with military goods worth more than seven billion euros (roughly $7.62 billion) in 2024. The German government announced that the aid package includes ammunition for Leopard tanks, armored personnel carriers, reconnaissance drones and Marder infantry fighting vehicles. French President Emmanuel Macron said that France will send 40 SCALP long-range missiles and “several hundred” unspecified bombs to Ukraine in the coming weeks. (ISW, 01.17.24)
  • France and the United States will lead a coalition of 23 countries to provide artillery and ammunition to Ukraine, French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu said Jan. 18. The coalition aims to boost Ukraine’s artillery capacity in the short term, and France is looking for its partners to help finance the purchase of 72 Caesar howitzers for Ukraine in 2024, according to Lecornu. Six of these howitzers will be delivered to Ukraine in the next few weeks, according to the Ukrainian defense ministry (Defense News, 01.18.24,, 01.18.24)
    • French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans on Jan. 16 to deliver more long-range cruise missiles as well as bombs to Ukraine. (AP, 01.17.24)
  • 33,000 Ukrainian soldiers have now been trained via the U.K.-led Operation Interflex. Operation Interflex continues in 2024, as does the U.K.'s support for Ukraine. (U.K. Ministry of Defense’s X (Twitter) account, 01.18.24)
  • Poland’s president has accused Ukraine’s western backers of “war fatigue” in their support for Kyiv as Russia’s full-scale invasion approaches its second anniversary. “Yes, it can be said. Maybe it’s not very politically correct. Maybe some people are afraid to say it out loud, but this war fatigue is visible,” Andrzej Duda told the World Economic Forum event in Davos on Jan. 17. (FT, 01.17.24)
  • Latvia’s defense chief said the Baltic nation is making progress in assembling a coalition of almost 20 countries to arm Ukrainian forces with “thousands” of new unmanned aerial vehicles. (Bloomberg, 01.16.24)
  • Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Ukraine still has a path to victory and allies can help it defeat Russian forces by contributing a chunk of their economic output to the war effort. Every member of the so-called Ramstein group — more than 50 countries including all 31 members of NATO — should channel the equivalent of 0.25% of their gross domestic product to Kyiv annually, Kallas said. That would raise at least €120 billion ($131 billion) and swing the conflict in Ukraine’s favor, she said. (Bloomberg, 01.17.24)
  • The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine allocated a record amount for the development of defense lines - 17.5 billion hryvnia ($466 million), Prime Minister Denis Shmygal said Jan. 19. (, 01.19.24)

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

  • Over the first eight days of December, civilian Russian airplanes experienced at least eight serious mechanical failures, terrifying many passengers as pilots were forced to make emergency landings in cities across the country. The incidents did not kill anyone, but they illustrate the rising peril of air travel in Russia. Nearly two years of sanctions over the war in Ukraine have left airlines struggling to obtain vital spare parts and, as a result, shortcutting safety standards — in some cases with government approval. (WP, 01.16.24)
    • The largest private airline in Russia, S7, plans to downsize its Moscow office and redistribute flight crews due to route changes and flight reductions, reports Kommersant. According to Kommersant, about 20% of S7’s aircraft are grounded because of problems with American engines, which cannot be repaired due to sanctions. (Meduza, 01.16.24)
  • The U.S. Treasury Department on Jan. 18 issued new Russian-related sanctions targeting a United Arab Emirates shipping company and 18 vessels that the department said have shipped Russian seaborne oil priced above the $60-per-barrel cap set by a U.S.-led international coalition. The Treasury Department said it has designated the U.A.E.-based Hennesea Shipping Company, which it said was the "ultimate owner" of the 18 tankers. (RFE/RL, 01.18.24)
  • The U.S. special envoy for Ukraine's economic recovery Penny Pritzker said on Jan. 15 that tapping frozen Russian assets would be an "easy" source of money for Kyiv, but G-7 countries must first agree collectively to do it. Pritzker spoke in Davos. Ukraine has pushed for the West to seize $300 billion in frozen Russian assets to pay for its reconstruction. (MT/AFP, 01.16.24)
  • The European Union has started discussions on a new sanctions package that it aims to approve by Feb. 24. Potential measures could include further listings, more trade restrictions and cracking down on Moscow’s continued ability to get around the bloc’s sanctions both through third countries and companies within the EU, according to people familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg, 01.19.24)
  • Germany’s price adjusted gross domestic product declined 0.3% compared with the previous year, according to preliminary data published Jan. 15 by Germany's statistics office Destatis. Output in industry, long a successful component of Germany's economic model, contracted 2%, primarily from lower production in the energy sector, as the industry learned to deal with higher prices after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (WSJ, 01.15.24)
    • While energy prices have come down, Max Jankowsky, chief executive of GL Giesserei Lössnitz, a 175-year-old foundry in the east German state of Saxony, is still paying three or four times as much for electricity than before Russia invaded Ukraine—and more than five times what American competitors pay. (NYT, 01.15.24)
  • Banks in Turkey have increased scrutiny of transactions linked to Russia to avoid falling foul of U.S. sanctions and put the NATO member more in line with Washington in efforts to undermine Putin’s war machine. The move has led to longer processing times for money transfers and instances where funds are sent back or delayed for days, bankers familiar with the matter said. (Bloomberg, 01.17.24)
  • More than 20 Finnish companies are supplying Russia with military goods, reports Finnish news agency Yle, after studying customs documents. The companies reportedly supply Russia with goods needed for its war in Ukraine. (Meduza, 01.15.24)
    • On Jan. 19, Ukraine urged the West to "get serious" about curbing Russia's arms production by shutting loopholes that allow it to keep sourcing critical components for weapons. (MT/AFP, 01.19.24)
  • Finland is considering banning Russian citizens from buying property in the country, with a final decision on the matter possibly coming as soon as this spring, the Finnish Defense Minister said Jan. 15. (MT/AFP, 01.15.24)
  • An Israeli-American businessman was arrested for his involvement in a scheme to illegally export sensitive U.S. tech to Russia, before and during its war on Ukraine, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a Jan. 19 statement. Ilya Kahn was arrested Jan. 17. (Jpost, 01.19.24)
  • The Estonian authorities will not renew the residence permit of Metropolitan Yevgeny (Valery Reshetnikov), the head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, in a response to public statements Reshetnikov has made in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Meduza, 01.18.24)
  • Russia’s Government Commission on Legislative Activities has endorsed a bill that would allow for property to be confiscated from those convicted of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army for “personal gain,” report RBC and RTVI, citing their own sources. Currently, property confiscation is stipulated for individuals convicted of crimes under more than 80 articles of Russia’s Criminal Code. (Meduza, 01.16.24)
  • At least 2,500 scientists have left Russia since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Novaya Gazeta – Evropa. (RM, 01.18.24)
  • The International Esports Federation announced Jan. 18 it was suspending the Russian esports governing body over claims by Kyiv that it has established offices in occupied Ukrainian territories. (MT/AFP, 01.19.24)
  • A billionaire ally of Roman Abramovich renewed his challenge of the U.K.’s sanctions regime, saying that the-then Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pressured the Foreign Office to place restrictions on him. (Bloomberg, 01.17.24)
  • The dating app Tinder will stop working in Belarus beginning on Feb. 15, its press service has announced. (Meduza, 01.16.24)

For sanctions on the energy sector, please see section “Energy exports from CIS” below.

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • On Jan. 14, security officials from 83 countries gathered in Davos to discuss terms known as Ukraine’s Peace Formula, according to FT. At the Jan. 14 meeting, some non-Western states reiterated their position that Russia should be involved and that a settlement should address Moscow’s security concerns, such as Ukraine’s desire to join the NATO military alliance, FT reported. Switzerland agreed to host the next meeting, but its foreign minister, Ignazio Cassis, said Russia should be invited too, according to NYT. In his Jan. 15 remarks, Cassis noted that the Ukrainian plan represented only one side in the war and Russia’s positions would have to be heard eventually. It would be an “illusion,” he added, to think that Russia would participate on the terms Ukraine has laid out in the peace formula. (RM, 01.16.24)
    • The active participation of national security representatives from India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, countries from the so-called Global South who maintain diplomatic relations with Russia, was hailed as a positive signal by Western officials. But the decision by China, Moscow’s most important ally, not to attend, undermined its importance, they added. Russia itself was not invited. Officials said some non-western states reiterated their position that Russia should be involved and that a settlement should address Moscow’s security concerns, such as Ukraine’s desire to join the NATO military alliance. (FT, 01.14.24)
      • Ukrainian leaders made no secret of wanting to meet with Chinese officials in Switzerland this week but Zelenskyy has headed home without the desired encounter in a blow to Kyiv. Just before Davos, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said it was imperative for China to join peace talks and hinted that Zelenskyy would have an opportunity to chat with Chinese Premier Li Qiang. In the end, Ukraine made no headway on getting China to commit to negotiations, and Zelenskyy and Li failed to speak. (Politico, 01.17.24)
      • On Jan. 18, Ukraine’s top diplomat said Kyiv is seeking to organize a call with Xi as the war-battered nation plans a leaders summit to push forward its blueprint for peace. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, said the government is pushing for the direct channel between Xi and Zelenskyy. (Bloomberg, 01.18.24)
  • On Jan. 15, Zelenskyy unveiled in Davos plans for a high-level meeting in Switzerland later this year to move forward with Ukraine’s Peace Formula. The summit should take into account "everything that has already been achieved" and should determine that the end of the war "should be exceptionally fair" under international law, Zelenskyy said. On Jan. 16, Zelenskyy said that anyone who believed Putin’s war was only about Ukraine was “fundamentally mistaken,” adding that the Russian president was interested in war “without an end.” The solution was not a frozen conflict in Ukraine, he added. “Putin is a predator who is not satisfied with frozen products.” (FT, 01.16.24, Bloomberg, 01.18.24, RFE/RL, 01.15.24)
  • In response to Donald Trump's claim that he would quickly end the war in Ukraine, Zelenskyy presented a counter-question while at Davos: what would Trump do if the Russian president did not stop after defeating Ukraine? '''I don't believe Putin is capable of changing, only humans can do that,'' Zelenskyy said. (Ukrainska Pravda, 01.17.24, NYT, 01.16.24)
  • “Nobody is talking about stopping, much less about a ceasefire. The Russian Federation will use any ceasefire to improve the tactical situation and gain greater ability to restore or open new areas of combat operations,” Vadim Skibitsky, a representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, said in Davos. (, 01.17.24)
  • “As for this negotiation process, [it is] an attempt to encourage us to abandon the conquests that we have attained over the past year and a half. This is impossible. ... Everyone understands, it’s just that these so-called peace formulas, which they talk about in the West and in Ukraine, are a continuation of the implementation of the decree of the President of Ukraine that prohibited negotiations with Russia,” Putin told a gathering of provincial officials on Jan. 16. (RM, 01.16.24)
  • Lavrov reiterated that Russia’s maximalist objectives in Ukraine remain unchanged and that Russia is not interested in negotiations with Ukraine or the West. Lavrov stated at a press conference on Jan. 18 that Russia “will achieve the goals of its ‘special military operation’ consistently and persistently.” Lavrov reiterated that these goals are unchanged, claiming that “serious” talks about the “realistic” conditions for ending the war “presuppose [Ukraine’s] renunciation of Nazi ideology, Nazi rhetoric, racism toward everything Russian and entry into NATO.” (ISW, 01.18.24)

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

  • NATO has warned that the West should step up preparations for the unexpected, including a war with Russia. "We have to realize it's not a given that we are in peace. And that's why we [NATO forces] are preparing for a conflict with Russia," Dutch Adm. Rob Bauer, the NATO military committee chief, said in Brussels. The alliance needs to be on high alert for war and "expect the unexpected," Bauer said. “We have to realize it's not a given that we are in peace. And that's why we [NATO forces] have the plans, that's why we are preparing for a conflict with Russia,” Bauer told reporters after a meeting of NATO defense chiefs in Brussels. In a stark warning, he said civilians must be ready for a conflict in the next 20 years that would require wholesale change in their lives. (Daily Mail, 01.18.24, RFE/RL, 01.19.24)
    • Britain’s defense secretary Grant Shapps has said the post-Cold War “peace dividend” is over and that Western countries need to prepare for further conflicts involving China, Russia, North Korea and Iran over the next five years. (FT, 01.15.24)
    • "We hear threats from the Kremlin almost every day ... so we have to take into account that Vladimir Putin might even attack a NATO country one day," Germany's Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told German outlet Der Tagesspiegel in an interview published Jan. 19. While a Russian attack is not likely "for now," the minister added: "Our experts expect a period of five to eight years in which this could be possible." (Politico, 01.19.24)
    • Western allies must focus their efforts on stopping Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or Moscow will continue trying to expand beyond its borders, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said. “If we are not stopping Russia, there are prospects of Russia actually going further and starting new aggressive wars, and they are openly talking about this.” (Bloomberg, 01.19.24)
  • Leaked German military documents describe a chilling scenario where Russia wins in Ukraine and then goes to war with NATO. The classified documents were obtained by Bild, a German tabloid.  The documents, produced by Germany's Defense Ministry, imagine a situation in which Russia launches a massive spring 2024 offensive to take advantage of waning Western support. In this scenario, it defeats Ukraine. The documents are not a prediction but part of worst-case-scenario planning, a common exercise within militaries. A German official called the scenario "extremely unlikely." The German documents imagine Russia turning its sights on NATO members in Eastern Europe, with it seeking to destabilize its enemies through cyberattacks and inciting internal chaos in the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. (Business Insider, 01.16.24)
  • Around 90,000 troops will participate in NATO's largest exercise for decades, known as Steadfast Defender 2024, that will kick off next week and run through to May, the alliance's top commander Chris Cavoli said Jan. 18. Adm. Rob Bauer, the Dutch chairman of the NATO military committee, said the exercise serves as preparation for possible conflict with Russia. Steadfast Defender 2024 will involve units from all 31 NATO member countries, plus candidate-member Sweden, Cavoli told journalists. The drills taking place in the Baltics, Poland and other countries will include reinforcements from North America. The drills will include at least 1,100 combat vehicles, 80 aircraft and 50 naval vessels. The exercise will be the biggest since the 1988 Reforger drill during the Cold War. ( AFP, 01.18.24 Axios, 01.19,24,, 01.18.24, Reuters, 01.18.24, Al Arabiya/AFP, 01.18.24) 
  • The U.S. won’t quit NATO regardless of the outcome of this year’s elections and despite threats by Trump to exit the military alliance, according to the organization’s chief. “The U.S. will remain a staunch and important ally because it is in the security interest of the United States to have more than 30 friends and allies,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. (Bloomberg, 01.16.24)
    • If the U.S. were to withdraw its forces from Europe, it would be a “nightmare scenario” at a time of Russian aggression, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said. “Europe as it is now is in great peril and we’re definitely counting the hours till the next phase of Russian escalation,” Landsbergis said. (Bloomberg, 01.17.24)
  • The agreement on the creation of a common line of defense was signed on Jan. 19 in Riga by the defense ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Estonian Ministry of Defense reports. It will appear “in the coming years.” Exact dates have not been specified. (Istories, 01.19.24)
  • Russia on Jan. 19 summoned France's ambassador in Moscow and issued a formal complaint over his country's alleged "growing involvement" in the war in Ukraine. (AFP, 01.19.24)
  • Nine in 10 Finns are in favor of membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after the Nordic country joined the alliance in April, according to a government survey. (Bloomberg, 01.19.24)
  • Countries supporting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s bid to lead NATO have been working behind the scenes to make sure the race is wrapped up by this summer, according to people familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg, 01.19.24)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • "The Russia-China relationship, as our leaders have repeatedly stressed, is going through its best period ever. … These relations are more durable, reliable and advanced than any military alliance within the old framework of the Cold War era," Lavrov said. "I am sure that you are aware of our assessments of the development of relations with China. It is the fastest growing economy, along with the Indian economy. Relations with China are experiencing the best period in their centuries-long history," Lavrov said at his annual news conference to sum up the main foreign policy results in 2023. (TASS, 01.18.24)
  • In 2023, Chinese exports fell 4.6% from a year earlier, down for the first time in seven years. China offset some of its lost trade by deepening ties with Russia. Two-way trade with Russia hit a record of $240 billion last year. Goods shipped from China to Russia, including large numbers of gas-powered cars, surged 46.9% in 2023 from a year earlier, while China's imports from the country grew 12.7%. Overall, China's trade surplus was $823 billion for the year, down slightly from a record of $878 billion in 2022. (WSJ, 01.13.24)
    • China’s state-owned banks are tightening curbs on funding to Russian clients after the U.S. authorized secondary sanctions on overseas financial firms that aid Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 01.16.24)
    • Chinese lenders’ exposure to Russia’s banking sector has increased, having already quadrupled in the 14 months to the end of March last year. (FT, 01.18.24)
  • Chinese automakers sold a record total of 553,000 cars in Russia in 2023, accounting for almost half of Russia's auto market, says industry experts. The share of Chinese cars in the Russian market surged from 17% to 49%, according to a report released on Jan. 12 by Otkritie Auto, the auto business unit of Russia's Otkritie Bank. (Xinhua, 01.15.24)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms

  • Russia on Jan. 18 rejected U.S.-Russian arms control talks because of U.S. support for Ukraine. Lavrov told reporters that Washington had proposed separating the issues of Ukraine and the resumption of talks on arms control. Lavrov said the proposal was unacceptable to Russia because of the West's backing of Ukraine and accused the West of conducting a "hybrid war" against Moscow. However, he did not rule out the possibility of future arms control talks. Lavrov also warned on the risks of confrontation between nuclear powers. “There is already more and more talk of a direct clash of nuclear powers,” he said. “There are fewer and fewer restraining factors in the West.” Lavrov issued his warning as he prepares to travel to New York for United Nations Security Council meetings next week. (Reuters, 01.18.24, Bloomberg, 01.18.24)
    • A senior White House official said Russia may change its mind as the February 2026 expiration of the New START treaty approaches, though he said there were no guarantees. "We have to take Russia at its word ... They're refusing to engage bilaterally on these issues," Pranay Vaddi, senior director for arms control at the White House national security council, said in response to a question at a think-tank event on Jan. 18. "It casts some doubt on Russia's willingness to entertain a conversation about a New START follow-on or returning to New START compliance." "I think that they will want to come back to the table at some point, and ideally before expiration, but Russia could also be unpredictable," Vaddi added. (Reuters, 01.18.24)
  • The defense minister of Belarus said on Jan. 16 that the country will put forth a new military doctrine that for the first time provides for the use of nuclear weapons. Viktor Khrenin said Belarus's views on the use of tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Belarus are clearly communicated in the doctrine. "A new chapter has appeared, where we clearly define our allied obligations to our allies," he said. Russia has sent tactical nuclear weapons to be stationed in Belarus. The doctrine is to be presented to the All-Belarusian People's Assembly, which acts in parallel with the parliament. (AP, 01.16.24)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • The Swiss government on Jan. 18  denounced an attack on several of its websites, saying Russia-linked hackers had claimed it was retaliation for hosting Zelenskyy at the World Economic Forum. (Bloomberg, 01.18.24)
  • Veon, the parent company of Ukraine's largest mobile operator, Kyivstar, will take a hit of around 3.6 billion hryvnias ($95 million) in revenue in 2024 due to a massive cyberattack in December, the Dutch telecoms group estimated. (RFE/RL, 01.18.24)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia’s oil-export revenue in December dropped to a six-month low as declining crude prices offset the highest overseas flows since last spring, according to the International Energy Agency. The top-three global oil producer earned $14.4 billion from foreign sales of its crude and oil products in December, down nearly 9% from the month before. (Bloomberg, 01.18.24)
  • Russia's invasion of Ukraine kicked U.S. exports into overdrive. Since March 2022, U.S. developers have signed 57 supply agreements representing about 73 million metric tons of LNG annually, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights—more than four times the number of contracts they signed between 2020 and 2021. Many of these contracts run for 20 years. (WSJ, 01.13.24)

Climate change:

  • Russia experienced its third hottest year on record in 2023, the head of Russia's Hydrometeorological Center said. Global temperatures last year smashed records going back to 1850, with the planet measuring 1.35-1.54 Celsius warmer on average compared to pre-industrial levels. While 2023 was just the third hottest ever reliably recorded for Russia overall, in the European part of the country — which includes regions west of the Ural Mountains — last year was the hottest on record, according to chief scientist Roman Vilfand. (MT/AFP, 01.17.24)
  • There is a tantalizing alternative for long-distance sea trade: a series of routes that could cut up to 40% off the length of journeys made via the Suez Canal. But there is a catch: the Northern Sea Route (nsr), North-West Passage (nwp) and Transpolar Sea Route (tsr) cross an ocean covered in ice. Could the Arctic be a viable option for commercial shipping? Increasingly, yes—and for a worrying reason. The Arctic is warming four times faster than the global average. (The Economist, 01.18.24)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Russia will open polling stations for its March presidential election at three diplomatic missions in the United States, its envoy in Washington said Jan. 17. (MT/AFP, 01.17.24)
  • U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy visited Evan Gershkovich, the American reporter held in Moscow on espionage charges, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow announced. The embassy said on X, "We continue to call for Evan's immediate release." (RFE/RL, 01.18.24)
  • President Biden, 81, is the ninth-oldest leader in the world and the oldest president in American history. His presumptive opponent in this year's election, Donald Trump, is 77. President Xi Jinping of China is 70 and President Vladimir Putin of Russia is 71. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, is 84. (Stephen Kinzer in The Boston Globe, 01.18.24)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia’s government has tapped almost half of the national wealth fund’s available reserves to shield the economy. The National Wellbeing Fund’s holdings of cash and investments that can be easily liquidated slumped to 5 trillion rubles ($56.5 billion) at the end of last year from 8.9 trillion rubles before the war, while total holdings fell almost 12% to 12 trillion rubles, Finance Ministry data showed. The value of the fund’s stakes in Russian companies and in bonds that were issued to finance infrastructure projects has surged by more than 2 trillion rubles, according to Bloomberg calculations. (Bloomberg, 01.17.24)
  • Russia’s largest lender Sberbank posted a record net profit of 1.49 billion rubles ($16.87 billion) in 2023. The preliminary financial results show the bank's recovery from a 75% drop in 2022. Sberbank’s previous record net profit stood at 1.246 trillion rubles in 2021 before falling to 300 billion rubles in 2022. (MT/AFP, 01.17.24)
  • Behind the soaring price tag of eggs in Russia—up around 60% in December from a year earlier—is a convergence of factors symptomatic of the economy's travails. Western sanctions have hurt the poultry industry by scrambling supply chains for farm equipment previously coming from Europe. The weak ruble has made imports of feed and veterinary products more expensive while a labor crunch has left some suppliers without enough farm hands. Booming government spending, meanwhile, has increased wages, boosting demand for food and other goods. All of which makes the egg shock a manifestation of the imbalances building in Russia's war economy. (WSJ, 01.18.24)
  • The average price for an economy class flight within Russia increased by 22.2% in 2023. (Meduza, 01.19.24)
  • Alcohol dependency in Russia has increased for the first time in 10 years, Russia’s Kommersant reported Jan. 15, citing data from the state statistics agency Rosstat. In the decade between 2010 and 2021, first-time alcohol use disorder diagnoses declined from 153,900 to 53,300. But in 2022, doctors issued 54,200 first-time diagnoses of alcohol use disorder, according to Rosstat’s “Healthcare in Russia 2023” handbook published in December. (MT/AFP, 01.15.24)
  • Putin is defying Russian election laws by unofficially campaigning during his work trips and meetings while enjoying preferential coverage on state television. (MT/AFP, 01.18.24)
  • The Putin administration’s political bloc wants Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of Russia’s ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, to win second place in the country’s upcoming presidential election, according to two sources from Russian regional governments, one source from a presidential envoy’s office and two sources from the LDPR’s leadership who spoke to Meduza. (Meduza, 01.16.24) 
  • Just days after invading Ukraine, Putin signed a censorship law that made it illegal to ''discredit'' the army. The law has led to more than 6,500 cases of people being arrested or fined, more than 350 a month on average, according to a New York Times analysis of Russian court records through August 2023. (NYT, 01.13.24)
  • Russian police in riot gear fired tear gas and stun grenades to violently break up a large protest in the central Bashkortostan region after a local activist was sentenced to four years in prison. The clash with demonstrators came after several thousand people massed outside a courthouse in the town of Baymak to protest the jailing of Fail Alsynov on a charge of inciting hatred over a speech he made in April 2023. Hundreds of people gathered on the central square in Ufa, the capital of Russia's Bashkortostan region, on Jan. 19 to support Alsynov. (Bloomberg, 01.17.24, MT/AFP, 01.17.24, RFE/RL, 01.19.24)
    • The governor of Russia’s republic of Bashkortostan claimed that violence between protesters and police in his region was provoked by separatists living abroad. (MT/AFP, 01.18.24)
  • The prosecution has asked a court in Moscow to convict and sentence Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov), once a leader of Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's east, to almost five years in prison on a charge of making public calls for extremist activities. (RFE/RL, 01.18.24)
  • A court in the northwestern Russian city of Cherepovets on Jan. 18 sentenced a local human rights defender, Gregory Vinter, to three years in prison on a charge of distributing "false" information about Russian armed forces. (RFE/RL, 01.18.24)
  • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, marking the third anniversary of his incarceration on charges widely believed to be politically motivated, said the model of power created by Putin in Russia "is inviable because it is built on lies." (RFE/RL, 01.17.24)
  • Lavrov said Jan. 18 that Moscow's large-scale military intervention against Ukraine had "cleansed" Russian society. (MT/AFP, 01.18.24)
  • Russia’s federal censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, plans to create a database of the geolocations of Russian users’ IP addresses, according to a draft order published on the government’s portal of draft regulations. (Meduza, 01.17.24)
  • Putin’s daughter Maria Vorontsova received about 200 million rubles in 2020 in the form of dividends from the profits of the NOMECO company she founded; All the money for the company came from the clinic of the Sogaz insurance company, which is owned by top managers of NOMECO, according to an investigation of Navalny’s associates. (media zone, 01.15.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Oleg Gumenyuk, who served as mayor of the far eastern city of Vladivostok between 2018 and 2021, and then was convicted over bribery, had his prison sentence cut short after signing a contract to fight with Russia's military in Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 01.14.24)
  • Putin appointed cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev to be his special envoy for international space cooperation as Russia seeks to reform a space industry suffering from U.S.-led sanctions. Krikalev, 65, will replace Yury Borisov, the head of Russian space corporation Roscosmos, as the envoy. (Bloomberg, 01.19.24)

 See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Ex-commander of the 4th Air Defense Dmitry Belyatsky was found guilty of corruption and fined him 2.5 million rubles. Since the military man retained not only his freedom, but also his rank, he may well be returned to the armed forces. (Kommersant, 01.18.24)
  • A Russian National Guard officer has been sentenced to six years in prison for buying anti-drone radars that failed to protect the Russian-built Crimea bridge from attacks, media reported Jan. 16. (MT/AFP, 01.16.24)
  • Russia has handed a five-year jail sentence to a 20-year-old student for allegedly working with Ukrainian special services and planning sabotage attacks on military bases, law enforcement authorities said Jan. 15. (MT/AFP, 01.15.24)
  • Prosecutors have asked a military court in the Russian city of St. Petersburg to sentence Darya Trepova, who is accused of being involved in the killing of prominent pro-Kremlin blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, to 28 years in prison on charges of terrorism and forgery. (RFE/RL, 01.19.24)
  • A military court in Saint Petersburg sentenced a Russian man to eight years on terrorism and treason charges for plotting to burn down an army recruitment building in 2022. (MT/AFP, 01.18.24)
  • Ruslan Zinin, who shot a military commissioner at an enlistment center in Siberia in 2022 amid protests against a military mobilization for the war in Ukraine, has been sentenced to 19 years in prison. (RFE/RL, 01.19.24)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Saudi Arabia is still considering an invitation to become a member of the BRICS bloc of countries after being asked to join by the grouping last year, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Jan. 18. The group had in August invited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iran, Argentina and Ethiopia to join starting Jan. 1, although Argentina signaled it would not take up the invitation in November. The two sources said Jan. 1 was not a deadline for a decision. (Reuters, 01.18.24)
    • The Kremlin has no reason to believe Riyadh is having second thoughts about joining the organization, Peskov told reporters. (TASS, 01.19.24)
  • In a Jan. 15 phone conversation, Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed interest in further stepping up mutually beneficial bilateral ties and wished each other every success at the upcoming elections – the presidential election in Russia and the general election in India, according to the Kremlin’s readout of the conversation. (RM, 01.15.24)
  • Russia and the Central African Republic are in negotiations regarding Russian military basing in CAR. Russian Ambassador to CAR Alexander Bikantov stated that Russia’s and CAR’s defense ministries are discussing the creation of a Russian military base in CAR and are currently selecting the base’s location. (ISW, 01.18.24)
  • Muhammad al-Bakhiti, a member of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) political bureau, assured that ships from Russia and China are not under threat while sailing in the Red Sea. (TASS, 01.18.24)
  • Putin is going on a property hunt, ordering officials to find Russian assets that once belonged to its former empire or were owned by the Soviet Union. An order from the Russian president published late Jan. 18 allocated funding for a state unit to conduct searches for property abroad and ensure Russia’s ownership rights are registered. (Bloomberg, 01.19.24)
  • Turkey says people from Turkmenistan and Russia are the two largest groups of foreigners living in the country as they seek better living conditions. According to a report from the Migration Directorate of Turkey, among the 1.1 million foreign nationals residing in Turkey with residence permits, 109,000 are Turkmens and 100,000 are Russian citizens. (RFE/RL, 01.16.24)
  • Amnesty International has called on several European countries to "immediately halt" the transfer of refugees and asylum seekers from the North Caucasus back to Russia, citing the risk of torture and other mistreatment. (RFE/RL, 01.18.24)


  • A series of attacks and smear campaigns targeting prominent Ukrainian journalists has cast a shadow over Zelenskyy’s record on safeguarding media freedom. Investigative journalist Yuriy Nikolov, who exposed corruption in the defense ministry, was targeted by several men, who banged on his door, yelling that he would be sent to the front line, and plastered signs that called him a “traitor” and “provocateur.” Nikolov’s articles led to the resignation of defense minister Oleskiy Reznikov, who was not directly accused of graft, and Zelenskyy saying he would demand greater transparency and reforms. The incident targeting Nikolov was followed by what appeared to be a coordinated campaign to discredit, an investigative news outfit in Kyiv that has spent years exposing government corruption. (FT, 01.18.24)
  • Ukrainian law enforcement officials have exposed another scheme of theft of public funds on defense orders for the Security and Defense Forces of Ukraine. As a result of complex measures in Kyiv, on Jan. 15, the head of one of the departments of the Armed Forces Support Forces Command and his accomplice, the general director of a company supplying defense goods, were detained. We are talking about a colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the head of a Lviv company, who established a scheme of “kickbacks” during the conclusion of contracts. According to the investigation, the military official was supposed to receive a bribe from the businessman in the amount of almost $45,000. (Ukrainska Pravda, 01.19.24)
  • Valeria Gontareva, who was Ukraine’s central bank governor from 2014 to 2017, said she was concerned about the seizure of oligarchs’ assets during the war and how government officials might use them for personal gain. “It’s state capitalism,” Gontareva said. “Now the threat is not the old oligarchs, but the new ones who benefit from the war through the redistribution of assets and business segments.” Daria Kaleniuk, the executive director of Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Action Center, concurred. “In the fight against dragons,” she said, “we have to be cautious not to become dragons ourselves.” (NYT, 01.15.24)
  • Acting head of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court Serhiy Holovaty may lose his job over alleged violations, including his alleged demand to fire a complainant, and Ukrainska Pravda reported, citing the country’s anti-corruption agency. (RM, 01.18.24)   
  • Ukrainian authorities have detained an investment banker in an investigation involving a real estate project, but his company said the detention was retribution for his complaints about law enforcement pressure on business The banker, Igor Mazepa, was taken into custody by the State Bureau of Investigation as he tried to cross the border into Poland, according to a spokeswoman for his company Concorde Capital. (Bloomberg, 01.19.24)
  • Rinat Akhmetov is one of only two billionaires left in Ukraine, down from 10 before the war. (NYT, 01.15.24)
  • Russian Security Council Chairman Dmitry Medvedev took to Telegram on Jan. 17  to argue, not for the first time, that Ukraine should not exist in any form. In a mini-essay titled “Why Ukraine is dangerous for its residents,” Medvedev argued that from now on, any independent state that lies on “historical Russian territories” will serve as a “pretext for renewed hostilities” for as long as it exists. (Meduza, 01.17.24)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • The head of a de facto security body in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia has been quoted by Russian state media as saying Moscow is preparing to build a naval base in the Black Sea coastal enclave. (Current Time, 01.13.24)
  • The Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, has urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to focus in their ongoing peace talks on ensuring rights for everyone affected by the conflict between the two Caucasus rivals. (RFE/RL, 01.13.24)
  • The Estonian authorities have arrested a political science professor on suspicion that he was spying for Russia, the Estonian broadcasting network ERR reported on Jan. 16, citing state prosecutors. Vyacheslav Morozov is a Russian citizen who taught at the University of Tartu until earlier this month, when the school dismissed him after learning he was facing espionage charges. (Meduza, 01.16.24)
  • Moldova’s Central Bank Governor Anca Dragu said an influx of EU financial aid and fresh energy supplies from Romania were behind last year’s slowdown in inflation to 4.2% from more than 30% in 2022. (Bloomberg, 01.17.24)
  • Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region on Jan. 17 announced trade duties for Moldovan farmers after Chisinau earlier this month introduced import and export duties for the Moscow-backed separatist region. (RFE/RL, 01.18.24)
  • The oil majors behind the giant Kashagan field are close to a deal with the Kazakh authorities that will settle a dispute over a potential $5 billion environmental fine, according to people familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg, 01.16.24)
  • Security officers in Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, detained Asel Otorbaeva, the director-general of the news website, and chief editor Makhinur Niyazova on Jan. 15 after searching the independent media outlet's offices. Niyazova told reporters while being forced into a police car that the searches and the detentions were linked to a probe into an article about Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 01.15.24)
  • Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev will pay a state visit to China on Jan. 23-25 for summit talks, the Uzbek presidential press service said on Jan. 19. (Interfax, 01.19.24)
  • Eight international human rights groups have called on the Kyrgyz government to stop its crackdown on independent media after 11 journalists were detained in a move the watchdogs said was aimed at "intimidating and harassing" journalists to keep them from carrying out their work. (RFE/RL, 01.17.24)
  • Turkmenistan's president fired the country's chief prosecutor Serdar Myalikguliyev on Jan. 16, for failing to properly fulfill his duties. (AP, 01.17.24)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • In Spring 2022, Ukraine “was living with the feeling that the only thing preventing the end of the war was the weather,” Ukrainian journalist Pavlo Kazarin wrote recently for the independent Ukrainian Truth news outlet. “We enter this winter with an apparently smaller reserve of psychological resilience — and with an apparently greater collective fatigue.” The nation’s worries are not entirely misplaced. Right now, it is Russian forces who are on the offensive. (FT, 01.19.24)
  • A Western official working on Ukraine policy says: “It’s probably fair to say that the Ukrainian system is entirely dependent on the continued military assistance from the West.” (FT, 01.19.24)
  • “Russia knows that the victory it covets over Ukraine would have a global effect. Russia also understands that it cannot achieve its goals there without disrupting the global order,” Oleksandr Lytvynenko, head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, wrote. (The Economist, 01.19.24)



  1. As part of the border-deal negotiations with Republicans, the White House has signaled it would accept some changes to humanitarian parole, an authority that allows the government to let in people who don’t qualify for a visa. (WSJ, 01.18.24)


The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 11:00am East Coast time on the day it was distributed.

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

Photo by NATO available under terms of fair use.