Russia in Review, Jan. 19-26, 2024

4 Things to Know

  1. In spite of President Joe Biden’s dire predictions that if Congress fails to authorize additional military aid for Ukraine, Russia could win in weeks, the probability of such authorization has become even lower this week as Donald Trump pressed GOP Congressmen negotiating a deal tying funding for Kyiv with stricter controls on immigration to kill it. Trump—whom half of Senate Republicans now officially back for president—publicly riled against the deal, which some Republicans have argued could hurt Trump’s reelection chances by removing a potent campaign issue, in a post on Jan. 25. 
  2. In the past month, Russian forces have gained 70 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained just 1 square mile, according to the Jan. 23, 2024, issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. On Jan. 20, Russian forces advanced along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line in eastern Ukraine, capturing the village of Krokhmal'ne, according to ISW. Four days later, Russian forces reportedly entered the eastern town of Avdiivka for the first time, though the Ukrainian units subsequently then managed to re-capture “a number of positions” in the southwestern parts of town, according to WarGonzo. However, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office Andriy Yermak has rejected the notion of pivoting to a defensive posture, arguing that it can lead to “the freezing of the conflict,” according to RFE/RL.
  3. The Kremlin on Jan. 26 denied that President Vladimir Putin is probing to see whether the United States is willing to engage in talks for ending the war in UkraineMT reported. “It’s completely untrue,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Jan. 26 in a reference to a Jan. 25 Bloomberg report, which quoted “two people close to the Kremlin” as claiming the Russian leader is testing the waters on whether the U.S. is ready to engage in talks for ending the war. Putin, they claimed, may be even willing to consider dropping an insistence on neutral status for Ukraine, but it would come at the cost of accepting Kremlin control over territory it has come to occupy, according to Bloomberg. This is not the first time that reports citing anonymous sources have emerged speculating that Putin might be signaling to the West through an intermediary that he is ready to make a deal on Ukraine. NYT published one such report on Dec. 23, citing “two former senior Russian officials close to the Kremlin and American and international officials.”*
  4. Ukrainian forces have reportedly expanded the range of their attacks on northwestern Russia in what may allow Kyiv to threaten a key route for Russia’s much-needed oil exports. Ukrainian drones attacked facilities in the port of Ust-Luga which is located some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the Russian-Ukrainian border, on the night of Jan. 20 to 21, according to ISW. One of the drone strikes caused a fire that shut down Novatek’s gas-condensate plant at this port, according to Bloomberg. The port also hosts an oil terminal, which together with the oil terminal in Primorsk, accounts for 40% of Russia’s total seaborne crude exports, according to this business news agency. In addition to Novatek’s facility in Ust-Luga, Ukrainian drones also damaged Rosneft’s refinery at Tuapse on Russia’s Black Sea coast this week in what Ukrainian official told Bloomberg was another element of his country’s campaign to attack facilities that provide revenue to the Kremlin and supply fuel to its army. If launched from Ukraine, the Jan. 20-21 drone attack on Ust-Luga could have broken a record for such attacks by Ukraine, which claimed last summer that it had deployed a drone with a range of 1,000 kilometers. However, it remains unclear where exactly the drones were launched from to attack Ust-Luga. In the past, there have been intelligence reports alleging that some of the Ukrainian drones have been clandestinely launched from the territory of Russia. 


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Part of the area around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, occupied by Russia since early 2022, has been mined again, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. In the most recent update at the situation at the plant the IAEA said that its team at the site had discussed maintenance activities with those running it and were shown the high-level maintenance plan for such work. (Bloomberg, 01.20.24, WNN, 01.23.24)
  • IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi says he will visit Ukraine, Russia and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the next two weeks, with one aim being to ascertain long-term plans for the plant, such as restarting units. The possibility of a nuclear disaster at the plant remains “very real,” Grossi said. (WNN, 01.26.24, MT/AFP, 01.26.24)
  • Ukraine expects to start construction work on four new nuclear power reactors this summer or autumn, Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said all four reactors will be built at the Khmelnytskiy NPP in the west of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 01.25.24)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • During his meeting with the visiting foreign minister of North Korea last week, “President [Vladimir] Putin once again expressed his deep gratitude for the fact that Chairman of State Affairs Comrade Kim Jong Un invited him to visit Pyongyang at a convenient time, and also expressed his readiness to visit the DPRK in the near future,” according to North Korean news agency KCNA. (RM, 01.21.24)
  • As the war in Ukraine approaches its second anniversary, the Russians are beginning to deploy North Korean arms. While so far the number of missiles transferred is small, likely fewer than 50, U.S. and European officials believe there could be far more to come. U.S. officials say the missiles are proving as accurate as Russia's home-built equipment. Three barrages of North Korean-made missiles targeted Ukrainian positions around the new year, American officials say, and they believe more were used on the battlefield on Jan. 21. (NYT, 01.22.24)
    • The North Korean missiles sent to Russia so far are similar in size and flight dynamics to Russia’s Iskander series, weapons experts have said. (Bloomberg, 01.22.24)
    • Ukraine’s military spymaster, Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov claimed North Korea is Russia’s biggest arms supplier at present. Budanov’s deputy Vadym Skibitskyi claimed that North Korea delivered one million rounds of artillery ammunition to Russia from September to November 2023. (ISW, 01.21.24, FT, 01.21.24)
    • An unpublished U.K. defense intelligence report shows imagery taken between September and December of three Russian ships, the Maia, Angara and Maria, loading containers at North Korea’s revived Najin port before transiting to Russian ports in the far east. While the agency said it could not identify what was in the containers, it followed a U.S. announcement last week that ballistic missiles from North Korea had been used by Russia in Ukraine last week.(The Guardian, 01.22.24)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and Palestinian National Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al Maliki as part of efforts to deepen Russian relations with Middle Eastern actors. Lavrov met with Abdollahian and emphasized strengthening mutually beneficial Russian-Iranian cooperation. (ISW, 01.23.24)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • The Russian forces have destroyed more than 200 schools in Ukraine and damaged another 1,600, Ukraine’s Ministry of Education reported. (Ukrainskaya Pravda, 01.24.24)
  • Russia has flatly rejected allegations that it has deported Ukrainian children since its invasion but said that more than 700,000 have moved into its territory. (AFP, 01.23.24)
  • Russia has conducted 1,522 attacks on Ukrainian health care facilities since February 2022, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s X (Twitter) account. (RM, 01.26.24)
  • On Jan. 26, Russia and Ukraine said that they have exchanged the bodies of 132 fallen soldiers. Moscow received the remains of 55 soldiers, according to Russian lawmaker Shamsayil Saraliyev, the RBC news website reported. Meanwhile, Ukraine repatriated 77 bodies, its Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said on the messaging app Telegram. (MT/AFP, 01.26.24) See section on military aspect of the conflict below for reports on the shooting down of a Russian Il-76, which reportedly carried Ukrainian POWs. For military strikes on civilian targets, also see that section.
  • There are two camps for holding Russian prisoners of war in Ukraine, and there are plans to create a third. (, 01.24.24) 
  • About 400,000 refugees expected to return to Ukraine in 2025, due to the “implementation of reducing security risks.” This was stated by Deputy Head of the National Bank of Ukraine Sergei Nikolaychuk. (, 01.25.24)
  • The last open border crossing between two warring nations begins in Russia’s Belgorod region and leads to the quaint courtyard of a former elementary school in Krasnopillya, in northeastern Ukraine. Ukraine’s government estimates that about five million Ukrainians remain in Russian-occupied areas, roughly half the territory’s prewar population. (FT, 01.26.24)
  • Ukraine faces a $40 billion-plus financial shortfall this year, slightly smaller than 2023's gap. Funding from the U.S. and EU was expected to cover some $30 billion of that. Ukraine can pull together $8 billion and balance its budget for the first three months of the year by tapping leftover funding from 2023, delaying salaries and other noncritical spending and increasing domestic borrowing. (WSJ, 01.22.24)
  • OSCE’s new chief Ian Borg is to visit Kyiv next week as the chair of the world’s largest regional security body in a show of “unwavering support” to Ukraine while demanding that Russia withdraws unconditionally and immediately from the territory. (Times of Malta, 01.25.24)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 70 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile, according to the Jan. 23, 2024, issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 01.23.24)
    • The head of Ukraine’s presidential office dismissed the idea of pivoting to a defensive posture, saying it would only lead to a persistent stalemate. "The transition to a defensive position often leads to the freezing of the conflict. We have seen this since 2014. We will never accept a frozen conflict with Putin," Andriy Yermak said in an interview with Le Figaro. (RFE/RL, 01.20.24)
    • Row upon row of freshly-dug trenches, concrete dragon’s teeth and underground command centers adorn vast expanses of Ukraine’s countryside. The new fortifications have sprung up along key segments of its more than 621 miles of front as Kyiv’s spluttering counteroffensive turned into what military analysts have described as an “active defense.” One reason for Ukraine to increase focus on strengthening defenses, suggest Ukrainian security officials speaking on condition of anonymity, is that Russia may be planning a large-scale offensive as early as summer. (FT, 01.19.24, Telegraph, 01.20.24)
  • On Jan. 20, Russian forces advanced along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line. Geolocated imagery published on Jan. 20 indicates that Russian forces captured Krokhmal'ne (20 kilometers northwest of Svatove). Although Kyiv has tried to minimize the importance of the loss, saying the village was home to only about five households before the war, the development and evacuation orders have spurred fears that Ukrainian troops are preparing to surrender even more ground. (WP, 01.23.24, ISW, 01.20.24, Meduza, 01.21.24)
  • Ukrainian drones attacked facilities in the port of Ust-Luga which is located some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the Russian-Ukrainian border, on the night of Jan. 20 to 21, according to ISW. One of the drone strikes caused a fire that shut down Novatek’s gas-condensate plant at this port, according to Bloomberg. The port also hosts an oil terminal, which together with the oil terminal in Primorsk, accounts for 40% of Russia’s total seaborne crude exports, according to this business news agency. On the night of Jan. 20-21 Ukrainian drones also attacked Shcheglovsky Val Plant in Tula City, Tula Oblast. The Pantsir anti-aircraft missile systems are produced in this plant. (RM, 01.26,24, ISW, 01.21.24, Bloomberg, 01.22.24,, 01.21.24)
  • On the morning of Jan. 21, at least 27 people were killed by shelling at a market on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk in Russian-occupied Ukraine, the head of the Russian-installed authority in Donetsk said. An additional 25 people were injured in the strike on the suburb of Tekstilshchik, including two teenagers, said Denis Pushilin, who accused the Ukrainian military of firing the shells. He blamed Ukraine for the attack, calling it a "horrific" artillery strike on a civilian area. (RFE/RL, 01.21.24)
  • On the night of Jan. 22-23, Russian forces conducted a series of missile strikes against Ukraine’s Kharkiv, Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy oblasts. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched four S-300/S-400 ground-to-air missiles, 15 Kh-101/555/55 cruise missiles, eight Kh-22 cruise missiles, 12 Iskander ballistic missiles and five Kh-59/Kh-31 missiles, and that Ukrainian forces shot down all of the Kh-101/555/55 missiles, five Iskander missiles and two Kh-59 missiles. On Jan. 23, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed a strong response to the wave of Russian missiles that hit Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities killing 18 people and wounding more than a hundred. (ISW, 01.23.24, RFE/RL, 01.23.24)[1]
    • Ukrainian rescuers found two more bodies in Kharkiv on Jan. 24, bringing the total number of dead in the eastern city to 10. (RFE/RL, 01.24.24)
      • For Russia, Kharkiv makes for one of the easiest targets. The city is so close to the border that even modern air defense systems like the American-designed Patriot, which Ukraine uses in Kyiv, would struggle to respond in time to high-speed missiles moving on a ballistic trajectory. (WP, 01.26.24)
  • On Jan. 24, Russia accused Ukraine of shooting down a military plane it said was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners for an exchange. The Il-76 aircraft crashed in Russia’s Belgorod region on that day, killing all 74 people on board, including the prisoners as well as six crew and three Russian soldiers, the Defense Ministry in Moscow claimed. Russian radar systems tracked the launch of two surface-to-air missiles from the nearby Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, it said. All six crew members killed in the crash were assigned to the 117th military transport aviation regiment stationed in Orenburg and have been identified by regional authorities. Two black boxes have been recovered from the crash site. (MT/AFP, 01.25.24, Bloomberg, 01.24.24, WP, 01.25.24, MT/AFP, 01.25.24)
    • In their statements about the incident, senior Ukrainian officials, including Zelenskyy, have not denied downing the plane, and some have emphasized Ukraine's right — and urgent need—to target Russian military aircraft. Zelenskyy said he would insist on an international investigation and that he’d summoned his military and intelligence chiefs to report on the crash. He said Russia was "playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners.” Ukraine's SBU security service opened a criminal investigation into the downing. (Bloomberg, 01.25.24, WP, 01.25.24, MT/AFP, 01.25.24, MT/AFP, 01.25.24)
    • Ukraine and Russia have contradicted each other over whether there had been proper notification to secure the airspace around an area where the plane crashed. Russian lawmaker Andrei Kartapolov told deputies in Moscow on Jan. 25 that Ukrainian military intelligence had been given a 15-minute warning before the plane entered the Belgorod region and that Russia had received confirmation the message was received. Kartapolov stated that Russia will continue POW exchanges because Russia “cannot abandon [its] guys.”  (RFE/RL, 01.25.24, ISW, 01.25.24)
      • Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov reiterated that it had not received either a written or verbal request to secure the airspace where the plane went down. (RFE/RL, 01.25.24)
      • On Jan. 26, officials in Kyiv said that Russia has not provided evidence that Ukrainian prisoners of war were aboard the downed plane. (WP, 01.26.24)
    • On Jan. 25, an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, called at Moscow's request, yielded no new information about the plane's destruction or who was on board. On Jan. 26, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov complained that the global reaction was inadequate. (WP, 01.26.24)
    • Putin claimed on Jan. 26 during a meeting with Russian students who had fought in Ukraine that Ukrainian intelligence knew there were Ukrainian POWs on board the Il-76 plane. Putin also claimed the plane was downed by either a U.S.-made or a French-made air defense system, according to the Kremlin. (RM, 01.26.24)
  • Late on Jan. 24, fire damaged Rosneft’s major Tuapse refinery on Russia’s Black Sea coast. The refinery was hit by a drone attack, according to a Ukrainian official speaking on condition of anonymity. The nation’s security service aims to attack facilities that provide revenue to the Russian state and supply fuel to the Russian army, the official said. (Bloomberg, 01.25.24)
  • On Jan. 24, Russian forces entered the war-battered town of Avdiivka for the first time but were pushed back, its mayor told AFP. On Jan. 25, however, pro-war Russian Telegram channel WarGonzo acknowledged that Ukrainian units had managed to capture “a number of positions” in the southwestern parts of Avdiivka in the Donetsk Oblast, making the Russian salient in this town to be “too narrow and long.” Northwest of Avdiivka, Russian forces retreated from the center of Bohdanivka, according to Russian pro-war channel Rybar’s Jan. 26 assessment. (RM, 01.26.24, MT/AFP, 01.24.24)
  • On Jan. 24, an Ukrainian strike on a training range near Illovaiska killed 24 Russian servicemen, according to Russian Telegram channel VCHK-OGPU. (RM, 01.25.24)
  • On Jan. 25, Russia launched fresh drone and missile attacks on Ukraine’s southern regions of Odesa, Mykolaiyv and Dnipropetrovsk, wounding several people and causing material damage. A total of 11 of the 14 Iranian-made drones launched by Russia were downed—10 in Odesa and one in Mykolaiyv. Regional Gov. Oleh Kiper said six people were wounded by falling debris in the Black Sea port. (RFE/RL, 01.25.24)
  • On Jan. 25, pro-war Russian Telegram channel WarGonzo claimed that Ukrainian units were “attempting to advance” towards Verbove in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, while Ukrainian Telegram channel DeepState claimed that the Ukrainian forces advanced west of this settlement on Jan. 25. (RM, 01.26.24)
  • Putin said on Jan. 26 during a meeting with Russian students who had fought in Ukraine that there are more than 600,000 Russian servicemen in the zone of the so-called special military operation, according to the Kremlin (RM, 01.26.24)
  • At least 42,284 Russian military personnel have been killed since the start of Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, according to research by journalists from Mediazona and the BBC Russian Service who have established the deceased soldiers' identities. The number includes 5,089 mobilized soldiers and 7,810 inmates recruited from Russian prisons, the two media organizations said. (Current Time, 01.20.24)
  • The head of the Ukrainian parliament's Servant of the People faction, David Arakhamia, proposes to disclose data on Ukraine’s losses in the war with Russia. According to him, they are less than 100,000(, 01.26.24)
  • Zelenskyy said: “Personally, today I don’t see the need to mobilize half a million people.” As of Jan. 25 the Ukrainian parliament was yet to have the bill, which would authorize additional mobilization, resubmitted for its consideration, according to UNIAN. (RM, 01.25.24, Ukrainskaya Pravda, 01.21.24)
    • Ukraine’s military spymaster Budanov warned that “it is not even conceivable to think that we can do without mobilization”—echoing the top brass’s call for more recruits. “The shortage [of manpower] is palpable,” he said. (FT, 01.21.24)
    • During his visit to the Ukrainian parliament, commander of the Ukrainian armed forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi explained that the simultaneous conscription of half a million people into the army was unnecessary and impossible as ZSU simply does not have that many uniforms and weapons, according to military expert Nikolai Mitrkhin. In the end, the bill that would initiate the mobilization of that many people was discarded, according to the expert. (, 01.23.24)
    • As of Jan. 24, the Supreme Rada of Ukraine had not received a bill from the Ministry of Defense regarding mobilization, military registration and military service. (, 01.25.24)
    • Sending a single soldier to the front-line costs Ukraine 1 million hryvnia a year, equivalent to about $26,000, said Natalia Shapoval of KSE Institute. (WSJ, 01.22.24.) If KSE’s estimate that it costs $26,000 to send one soldier to the front line is accurate for a year, as reported in WSJ, then sending half a million would cost $13 billion a year.*
  • There are no official figures available for the Ukrainian military, but the average age of a soldier in Kyiv’s army is widely estimated to be about 43. (Times of London, 01.20.24)[2]
  • The Russians military has increased the number of vehicles in the Black Sea that can carry Kalibr missiles, reported, citing the Ukrainian military. “The overall level of missile threat has been increased, the total carrier equipment has increased to 16 Calibers,” the Defense Forces told (, 01.21.24)
  • Last summer, Ukraine was firing as many as 7,000 artillery shells a day and had managed to damage Russia's ammunition supplies to the point that Russia was firing about 5,000 rounds a day, according to U.S. and other Western analysts. Now the Ukrainians are struggling to fire 2,000 rounds daily, while Russian artillery, augmented by the North Korean shells, is reaching about 10,000 a day, analysts said. (NYT, 01.22.24)
  • Ukraine went from firing 8,000 shells per day during its counteroffensive in the summer to just 2,000 in recent weeks, according to a platoon commander. (FT, 01.23.24)
  • Ukrainian officials estimate that Russia can now produce or procure around 100,000 drones per month, whereas Ukraine can only churn out half that amount, according to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Russia has doubled the number of tanks built annually before the invasion, from 100 to 200. In addition, a 152-millimeter artillery shell costs around $600 to produce in Russia, whereas a 155-millimeter shell costs up to ten times that much to produce in the West, according to Schmidt. (FA, 01.22.24)
  • Martin Herem, the commander of the Estonian Defense Forces, said predictions that Russian forces would reach the limits of their resources haven’t come true. Putin’s military has the capacity to produce several million artillery shells a year, far outstripping European efforts, and can recruit hundreds of thousands of new troops, he said. (Bloomberg, 01.24.24)

Military aid to Ukraine:

  • On Jan. 21, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk pledged to make his country the “most reliable” backer of Ukraine. “It is very important to build the feeling that Poland is the most reliable, most stable ally of Ukraine in this deadly clash with evil,” Tusk said during a visit to Kyiv. “There is nothing more important than supporting Ukraine in its war effort against the Russian attack. This is absolutely number one.” While in Kyiv, Tusk pledged to help Ukraine obtain more weapons and ammunition. (FT, 01.21.24, Reuters, 01.22.24, (Bloomberg, 01.22.24)
  • On Jan. 23, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov told a meeting of the Contact Group on the Defense of Ukraine that sufficient quantities of equipment and ammunition, maintenance and spare parts "are a critical component of success." "A breakthrough requires innovation and significant technological progress. That is why in 2024, defense technologies will play a central role on the agenda of the Ministry of Defense," the official noted. (, 01.23.24)
    • On Jan. 23, NATO concluded contracts for the purchase of over 200,000 artillery shells, worth $1.2 billion, likely either to allow NATO to send additional aid to Ukraine or to replenish NATO stockpiles. "The war in Ukraine has become a battle of ammunition," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after a signing ceremony at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels. (Reuters, 01.23.24, ISW, 01.23.24)
    • U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated that the U.S. believes that Ukraine is appropriately using military aid and stated that the United States continues to monitor and account for U.S. security assistance delivered to Ukraine. Austin stated explicitly that the U.S. has seen “no credible evidence of the misuse or illicit diversion of American equipment provided to Ukraine.” Speaking by video link from an office at his home on Jan. 23, Austin urged a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group to “dig deep” and support Zelenskyy’s forces in their battle against Russia. (Bloomberg, 01.23.24, ISW, 01.23.24)
  • U.S. President Joe Biden’s top aides bluntly told lawmakers in a private meeting on Jan. 17 that if Congress fails to authorize additional military aid for Ukraine in the coming days, Russia could win the war in a matter of weeks—months at best, according to two people familiar with the meeting. (NBC, 01.19.24)
  • On Jan. 22, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that the next few months would be “critical for Ukraine,” whose commanders are faced with “difficult decisions” about what weaponry to deploy “because they don’t know when the next shipment is going to come.” “That’s a horrible place to put the Ukrainian military in,” Kirby warned, “as the Russians certainly aren’t suffering under that same uncertainty, as they reach out to North Korea for ballistic missiles . . . and drones from Iran and [continue] producing on their own.” (FT, 01.23.24)
    • Last week , Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, the top American commander in Europe, told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that he believed the Ukrainian military had enough air defenses to survive the winter, two senior U.S. officials said. (NYT, 01.22.24)
  • On Jan. 24, during a virtual meeting, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reassured Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal that the Biden administration was committed to securing $11.8 billion in budget support to Kyiv as part of a supplemental U.S. funding request. (Reuters, 01.24.24)
  • More U.S. aid for Ukraine’s war effort this year is hanging by a thread as Donald Trump tries to kill a deal in Congress tying more funding for Kyiv with stricter controls on immigration. For weeks, negotiators in the Senate have tried to craft a bipartisan agreement on stricter measures at the southern border with Mexico, which Republicans had demanded in exchange for their support for more security assistance to Ukraine. But Trump – whom half of Senate Republicans now officially back for president, -  publicly riled against the deal, which that some Republicans have argued could hurt Trump’s reelection chances by removing a potent campaign issue. “We need a Strong, Powerful, and essentially ‘PERFECT’ Border and, unless we get that, we are better off not making a Deal, even if that pushes our Country to temporarily ‘close up’ for a while,” Trump posted on Truth Social on Jan. 25. (FT, 01.26.24, NYT, 01.26.24)
  • On Jan. 26, speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson choke off the last remaining glimmers of hope for a bipartisan immigration compromise to emerge from Congress this year, repeating that a deal under discussion in the Senate would almost certainly be “dead on arrival” in the Republican-led House. The fate of additional aid for Ukraine also hangs in the balance, with hard-right House Republicans also dug in against it and threatening to depose Johnson if he seeks to push it through over their objections. (NYT, 01.26.24)
  • Senate Republicans struggled to hold together support for a bipartisan border-for-Ukraine deal on Jan. 25 as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell privately acknowledged Trump’s opposition to the deal has complicated its future. In a closed-door meeting Jan. 24, McConnell acknowledged that the politics have changed for passing a border deal given Trump’s opposition. McConnell’s comments came during a meeting on the subject of funding Ukraine as it continues to fend off a Russian invasion. Several GOP senators have argued against continuing to send U.S. aid to the embattled country, while McConnell has made the case in near-daily floor speeches of the necessity of stopping Putin. (WP, 01.25.24)
  • “Everybody’s got the same opinion of Vladimir Putin, he’s a thug,” said Sen. Mike Braun about the tone of Jan. 24’s meeting. “He’s invaded a country. It’s a question for many of whether that’s going to have to be a settled issue, negotiated, or if you keep spending money, whether it’s going to end up in any type of result.” (WP, 01.25.24)
  • Celeste Wallander, the Pentagon’s top official overseeing international security affairs, said this week that Ukrainian officials had relayed concerns from front-line troops that ammunition was running low. “They believe that units do not have the stocks and the stores of ammunition that they require, and that is one of the reasons we have been focusing on the need to answer Congress’s questions so that they are able to move forward on a decision to pass the supplemental,” Wallander said, referring to the White House’s funding request to Congress. (FT, 01.26.24)
  • This week European Union officials will start tackling a new plan to unlock tens of billions of dollars in military assistance for Ukraine. The EU’s external service proposal suggests starting a dedicated Ukraine military fund, which would absorb some of the EPF’s remaining assets and be topped up by €5 billion a year from 2024 and 2027. If the new EU plan wins approval, it foresees more than €20 billion of EU funds being fed back to member states for tens of billions euros of military assistance they give to Ukraine over the next four years. (WSJ, 01.22.24)
    • European Union leaders are moving toward an agreement next week to transfer some €50 billion ($54.1 billion) in aid to Ukraine, Latvia’s leader Edgars Rinkevics said. He said an agreement for Kyiv will either involve a deal with all 27 member states, or a “different mechanism” that would work if unanimity isn’t achieved. Hungary blocked the funding at a meeting in Brussels last month. EU leaders return for a summit on Feb. 1 to finalize a deal. (Bloomberg, 01.26.24)
    • Hungary will drop its objections to the creation of a €5 billion ($5.4 billion) Ukraine military assistance fund, paving the way for an agreement to revamp a vehicle that aims to steady supply of weapons to Kyiv, once member states sort out technical issues. Budapest said it won’t stand in the way of a consensus at a meeting of European Union ambassadors on Jan. 24, where a deal on a larger €50 billion financial aid package remains stuck. (Bloomberg, 01.25.24)
  • The Pentagon expects Ukraine to receive its first F-16 fighters and the accompanying spare parts and infrastructure this year, according to Celeste Wallander. (Ukrainskaya Pravda, 01.24.24)
  • Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said he is trying to “put some urgency” into providing ammunition and defense systems to avoid a “too little, too late” scenario as Ukraine fights off Russa’s full-scale invasion. (RFE/RL, 01.24.24)
  • Germany will give Ukraine six Sikorsky Sea King anti-submarine warfare helicopters, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has announced. (RFE/RL, 01.24.24)
    • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated that Russia’s war in Ukraine is “directed against the very existence of Ukraine as a sovereign state.” (ISW, 01.25.24)
  • Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov stated that Belgium plans to provide Ukraine with 611 million euros (about $663.4 million) worth of military aid in 2024. (ISW, 01.23.24)
  • Slovakia’s Russia-friendly prime minister has made an unexpected U-turn on Ukraine, pledging support on his first trip to the war-torn country only days after questioning Ukrainian sovereignty. Robert Fico claimed there were only “minor” political differences with Kyiv. Shmyhal later said in a statement that Fico had pledged not to stop Slovak companies from supplying weapons to Ukraine and help build its defenses. Bratislava will also back Kyiv’s EU membership bid and funding, the Ukrainian prime minister said. (FT, 01.24.24)

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

  • The EU is readying more sanctions against Russia and financial support for Kyiv ahead of the second anniversary of the war, in a bid to revitalize waning levels of Western assistance to Ukraine. The package includes a 13th set of restrictions on businesses and individuals connected to the 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, as well as a long-delayed agreement on €50 billion for Kyiv over the next four years, some of which could be paid out as soon as a deal is struck, according to people familiar with the preparations. Another €5 billion in military assistance per year and a decision to set aside profits arising from Russia’s frozen assets are also part of the overall set of support measures. “It’s money, weapons and sanctions at a time when we recognize [the Ukrainians] need encouragement,” said one EU diplomat involved in negotiations over the package. “But two years in, there are limits to what we can do.” (FT, 01.24.24)
  • The European Union is progressing with plans to apply a windfall tax to the profits generated by frozen Russian central bank assets, while opting not to seize the immobilized money outright. EU foreign ministers gave their political blessing to the windfall tax on Jan. 22, and it will be discussed by the bloc’s ambassadors later this week, according to people familiar with the plans. Ukraine’s allies broadly agree that Russia needs to pay for the damage its war has caused. The EU, G-7 nations and Australia have frozen about €260 billion ($283 billion) in Russian central bank assets in the form of securities and cash, with more than two thirds of that immobilized in the EU. The majority of the EU-based assets are held by the clearing house Euroclear, where they earned about €3 billion last year. (Bloomberg, 01.23.24)
  • A U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation on Jan. 24 that would help set the stage for the United States to confiscate Russian assets and hand them over to Ukraine for rebuilding. The committee voted 20 to 1 in favor of the unprecedented Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity (REPO) for Ukrainians Act. If it were to pass the full Senate and House of Representatives and be signed into law by Biden, the act would pave the way for Washington's first-ever seizure of central bank assets from a country with which it is not at war. (Reuters, 01.24.24)
  • The United States and its partners are also exploring using some of the $300 billion in frozen Russian Central Bank reserves to back loans to Ukraine. Economists warn that those efforts could take years to bear fruit. (WSJ, 01.22.24)
  • Russia imported more than $1 billion of advanced U.S. and European chips last year, despite restrictions intended to stop Putin’s military getting hold of technology to fuel its war in Ukraine. Classified Russian customs service data obtained by Bloomberg show that more than half of imported semi-conductors and integrated circuits in the first nine months of 2023 were manufactured by U.S. and European companies. They included Intel Corp, Advanced Micro Devices and Analog Devices Inc. as well as European brands Infineon Technologies AG, STMicroelectronics NV and NXP Semiconductors NV. There’s no suggestion the companies breached sanctions laws and the data does not indicate who exported the technologies to Russia, from where they were shipped and when the goods were manufactured. (Bloomberg, 01.25.24)
  • Aluminum rallied in London after Politico reported that the EU is considering sanctions on Russian aluminum ahead of the second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine. Prices rose as much as 3.6% on the London Metal Exchange. (Bloomberg, 01.23.24)
  • Dutch Fiscal Information and Investigation Service said on Jan. 23 that it had arrested three people suspected of circumventing sanctions on Russia related to the war in Ukraine. Dutch authorities said the operation was part of an international action with searches and probes also taking place in Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Canada. (Reuters, 01.23.24)
  • The Russian government has submitted a bill to parliament to annul a 1956 agreement on fishing rights between the Soviet Union and Britain. (RFE/RL, 01.20.24)
  • Multinational tech giant Apple has paid the Russian government 1.2 billion rubles ($13.2 million) in fines, Russia’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) announced Jan. 22. (MT/AFP, 01.22.24)
  • A district court in the Croatian city of Split has ruled in favor of transferring the Royal Romance yacht that belonged to pro-Moscow Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk to the Ukrainian state, the head of Ukraine's Asset Recovery and Management Agency, Olena Duma, reported on Telegram. (Current Time, 01.26.24)

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

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • The Kremlin on Jan. 26 denied reports that Putin is probing to see whether the United States is willing to engage in talks for ending the war in Ukraine. “That’s false information, it’s completely untrue,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Jan. 26, referring to a Bloomberg report, which said Putin is testing the waters on whether the U.S. is ready to engage in talks for ending Russia’s war in Ukraine. He’s put out feelers to the U.S. via indirect channels to signal he’s open to discussion, including potentially on future security arrangements for Ukraine, according to two people close to the Kremlin. The people close to the Kremlin said the signals were conveyed to senior U.S. officials last month through an intermediary. Putin, they said, may be willing to consider dropping an insistence on neutral status for Ukraine and even ultimately abandon opposition to eventual NATO membership. But it would come at the cost of accepting Kremlin control over territory it has come to occupy. (Bloomberg, 01.25.24, MT/AFP, 01.26.24)
    • “President Putin has stated numerous times that Russia was, is and will continue to be open for negotiations on Ukraine,” Peskov said. “We are determined to reach our goals. And would prefer to complete it by diplomatic means. If not, the military operation will be continued till we reach our goals.” (Bloomberg, 01.25.24)
    • “We are unaware of the shifts in Russia’s position described,” U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said. “It will be up to Ukraine to decide whether, when and how to negotiate with Russia.” (Bloomberg, 01.25.24)
    • “I heard these rumors,” Swedish National Security Advisor Henrik Landerholm said in an interview in Washington, where he was meeting his U.S. counterpart, Jake Sullivan. “Putin would obviously be pretty happy if he could get an agreement based on the current territorial gains, which is of course out of the question for our Ukrainian friends.” (Bloomberg, 01.25.24)
    • “It benefits them for everyone to think that there’s a back channel and it’s so secret no one can figure it out because it scares the hell out of the Ukrainians,” said Fiona Hill, a former top White House official responsible for Russia. “The Russians want us to create this idea that the channel is there and that everything depends on the U.S. so no one or nothing else plays a role,” she added. “It’s a classic Russian play.”  (Bloomberg, 01.25.24)
  • Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Jan. 20 the only way to end Russia's war against Ukraine is for Kyiv to give up some of its territory to the invaders, and reiterated his opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine. “There has to be some kind of compromise," Fico said. "What do they expect, that the Russians will leave Crimea, Donbas and Luhansk? That's unrealistic." Fico reiterated his opposition to Ukraine's bid to join NATO. (Politico, 01.21.24)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Jan. 22 clashed with Ukraine's supporters at a U.N. meeting in which Moscow ruled out any peace plan backed by Kyiv and the West. Russia's top diplomat claimed that Ukrainian forces had been "incapable" of defeating or weakening Russia. He told the Security Council that Moscow was always ready to negotiate peace, but plans presented by Ukraine and its Western "masters" were "only used as cover to continue war and continue getting money from Western taxpayers." U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood dismissed Lavrov's claims as "blatant disinformation." China's U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun, also a member of the UNSC, supported Russia, warned that more global geopolitical chaos could worsen the already slowing global economy. (BNE, 01.24.24, AP, 01.23.24, MID, 01.22.24)
  • Peskov said during a press briefing on Jan. 22 that there have been no contacts between Russian diplomats and Trump about the settlement of the situation in Ukraine. "No, we have no understanding of how this could be feasible. There have been no contacts to this effect," he noted regarding Trump's promise to get the Ukraine war "straightened out very fast, very early" even before the official inauguration. (Breaking News, 01.22.24)
  • Ukraine has invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to participate in a planned "peace summit" of world leaders in Switzerland, Ihor Zhovkva, top diplomatic adviser to Zelenskyy said. (Reuters, 01.26.24)

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

  • Steadfast Defender 24, NATO’s largest military exercise in decades, began on Jan. 24, 2024. It is the largest exercise since the Cold War.  It will take place in several locations, with associated exercises running until May 31, 2024, and it will feature about 90,000 service members from the 31 NATO allies and Sweden. The exercise incorporates defense plans based on Russia's actions. Officials said the exercise is based on a fictitious Article 5 scenario "triggered by a fictitious attack against the alliance launched by a near-peer adversary," officials said. (DOD, 01.25.24, NATO, 01.24.24)
    • “The alliance will demonstrate its ability to reinforce the Euro-Atlantic area via trans-Atlantic movement of forces from North America," said Army Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, in reference to the wargame. "Steadfast Defender 2024 will be a clear demonstration of our unity, strength and determination to protect each other, our values and the rules-based international order."  (Department of Defense, 01.25.24)
  • Swedish Prime Minster Ulf Kristersson has accepted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s invitation to meet in Hungary in an effort to clear the last hurdle before the Nordic country’s accession to the NATO military alliance. Kristersson said he was willing to hold talks in Budapest “at a time convenient for both of us,” according to a letter sent on Jan. 25. Kristersson has also offered to meet Orban in Brussels next week. (Bloomberg, 01.25.24, Reuters, 01.25.24)
    • Orban is preparing his lawmakers to ratify Sweden’s accession to NATO after Turkey’s parliamentary approval effectively left Budapest as the lone holdout to the military alliance’s enlargement. (Bloomberg, 01.24.24)
      • Biden has urged congressional lawmakers to approve the sale of F-16 warplanes to Turkey, after that country agreed to allow Sweden’s entry into NATO. (Bloomberg, 01.24.24)
    • David Pressman, U.S. ambassador to Hungary, has accused Orban of running a “fantasy foreign policy” that serves the interests of the Kremlin and harms the unity of the NATO alliance. (FT, 01.26.24)
  • Finland is as safe as it has been for centuries and does not fear any provocations or attacks from neighboring Russia, according to the frontrunner to become the Nordic country’s next president, Alex Stubb. (FT, 01.23.24)
  • Lithuania’s top security body signaled it would purchase German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks as the Baltic nation moves to establish an army division by 2030 aimed at deterring Russian aggression. (Bloomberg, 01.23.24)
  • Italy will use its presidency of the G-7 major democracies to challenge growing perceptions that Russia is winning in Ukraine. (Reuters, 01.23.24)
  • Swedish National Security Advisor Henrik Landerholm said southern European nations were “more open” to narratives spread by Russia’s propaganda apparatus than their western and northern European counterparts and developing countries were often willing to give Russia the “benefit of the doubt.” (Bloomberg, 01.25.24)
  • Trump said NATO countries spent “billions and billions” of dollars on their defenses after he threatened to not protect Europe if it were attacked. (Politico, 01.20.24)
  • The CIA posted a video to social media called “Why I got involved with the CIA: For the homeland,” urging Russians to cooperate with the intelligence agency. Peskov commented on the clip, noting that countries’ intelligence agencies often take to social media to recruit employees. (Meduza, 01.23.24)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Russia blew past Saudi Arabia to become the biggest source of Chinese oil imports last year, highlighting the ineffectiveness of Western sanctions. The world’s biggest oil importer bought a record 107 million tons of crude from Russia in 2023, almost a quarter more than the year before. That compared with just under 86 million tons from Saudi Arabia. It’s the first time Russia has been China’s number one supplier since 2018, and translates to around 2.15 million barrels a day. (Bloomberg, 01.22.24)
    • Data from the Chinese General Customs Administration on Jan. 20 that shows a 24% increase in Russian crude oil exports to China from 2022 to 2023 and a 23% increase in Russian exports of LNG. (ISW, 01.20.24)
  • China and Russia have launched satellites that are meant to inspect and repair other spacecraft but could be used to attack U.S. assets, according to a new report from the U.S. Space Force. (Bloomberg, 01.26.24)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms

  • Russia has four operational early-warning satellites of the EKS/Kupol system, according to expert on Russian nuclear forces Pavel Podvig. (, 01.20.24)
  • Russian scientists have created a new simulator to train Moscow's troops on how to operate in the event of a nuclear explosion, according to a state media report this week. The simulator, which was patented by scientists at the General A. V. Khrulev Military Academy of Logistics, will be used in military exercises to prepare Russian ground forces for post-explosion combat missions. State media said the simulator will also instruct chemical, biological and radiation reconnaissance teams on how to find the epicenter and determine the characteristics of a blast. (, 01.26.24)
  • The war between Ukraine and Russia must come to an end through negotiations and the renunciation of nuclear weapons by Russia, according to an interview of Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Defense Ivan Havryliuk with Tagesspiegel. (, 01.20.24, Tagesspiegel, 01.20.24)
  • Atomic scientists on Jan. 23 kept their "Doomsday Clock" set as close to midnight as ever before, citing Russia's actions on nuclear weapons amid its invasion of Ukraine, nuclear-armed Israel's Gaza war and worsening climate change as factors driving the risk of global catastrophe. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, as they did last year, set the clock at 90 seconds to midnight - the theoretical point of annihilation. (Reuters, 01.23.24)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • An elite hacking group sponsored by Russian intelligence gained access to the emails of some of Microsoft's senior executives beginning in late November. Microsoft said it had discovered the intrusion a week ago. The hackers appeared to focus on combing through Microsoft's corporate email accounts to look for information related to the hacking group, which Microsoft's researchers called Midnight Blizzard. The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service has run the hacking group since at least 2008, according to the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. (NYT, 01.19.24)
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise disclosed Jan. 24 that suspected state-backed Russian hackers broke into its cloud-based email system and stole data from cybersecurity and other employees. The provider of information technology products and services said it was informed of the intrusion on Jan. 12. It said it believed the hackers were from Cozy Bear, a unit of Russia's SVR foreign intelligence service. (Bloomberg, 01.24.24)
  • Russian national Vladimir Dunayev has been sentenced in U.S. to five years and four months in prison for his involvement in malicious software known as Trickbot used in ransomware attacks on U.S. hospitals, schools and businesses. (RFE/RL, 01.26.24)
  • Online services at some Swedish government agencies and shops have been disrupted in a ransomware attack believed to have been carried out by a Russian hacker group, IT consultancy Tietoevry said. (MT/AFP, 01.23.24)
  • The United States and Britain on Jan. 23 followed Australia in imposing sanctions on Russian citizen Aleksandr Yermakov, who was designated for his alleged role in a cyberattack that compromised the personal information of 9.7 million Australians. (RFE/RL, 01.23.24)
  • Denmark is allocating DKK 91 million ($13.3 million) to projects to support the development of cybersecurity and defense of Ukraine’s Armed Forces and its Ministry of Defense. (Korrespondent, 01.24.24)
  • The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense’s Main Intelligence Directorate has said that a database of the Far Eastern research center for space hydrometeorology "Planet" was destroyed in Russia. This Russian state enterprise is engaged in receiving and processing data from satellites, and also provides relevant products to more than 50 government entities, primarily the military. (, 01.24.24)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Ukraine denied it would be ready to renegotiate a key gas pipeline deal with Russia that expires at the end of this year after Slovakia’s Prime Minister said it was a possibility. “The position of the Ukrainian side is unambiguous: the transit contract expires at the end of the year,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal’s press office told Bloomberg News. “We are not going to talk to the Russians and extend the contract.” (Bloomberg, 01.25.24)
    • Russia will use alternative routes and supplies of sea-borne liquefied natural gas in case Ukraine does not extend the deal on Russian gas transit to Europe, Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said Jan. 26. (Reuters, 01.26.24)
    • The EU is preparing to rule out a renewal of a key Ukraine gas pipeline deal with Russia when it expires at the end of the year, according to people familiar with the matter. The rationale of the EU’s executive arm is that even countries most reliant on Russian supplies — including Austria and Slovakia — would be able to find alternative supplies in the event of a cutoff, the people said. (Bloomberg, 01.26.24)
  • Russia expects its pipeline gas exports to recover by almost a fifth this year, partially offsetting the loss of most of its European customers through higher shipments to China. Gas shipments via pipelines to foreign markets will reach 108 billion cubic meters this year, up from 91.4 billion cubic meters in 2023, as the Power of Siberia link to China gradually reaches its nameplate capacity, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said. (Bloomberg, 01.25.24)
  • Japan in December imported the highest monthly volume of LNG from Russia in seven years, the RBC news website reported Jan. 24, citing data from the Japanese Finance Ministry. Japan is among the world’s largest LNG importers, with Australia, Malaysia and Qatar supplying two-thirds of the energy source, while Russia accounts for 9%. According to preliminary data, Japan shipped 833,000 metric tons of LNG from Russia last month—up 42.5% from December 2022. (MT/AFP, 01.24.24)
  • White House sanctions on a new liquefied natural gas plant in Siberia have upended plans to start exports this month. Operator Novatek PJSC has struggled to find buyers since the penalties were imposed in November, and the maiden voyage is now delayed until at least February. Foreign partners in the Arctic LNG 2 project, including France’s TotalEnergies SE and Chinese oil firms, have declared force majeure on their participation. (Bloomberg, 01.26.24)
  • More than a dozen tankers loaded with 10 million barrels of Russia's Sokol grade crude oil have been stranded off the coast of South Korea for weeks, so far unsold due to U.S. sanctions and payment issues, according to two traders and shipping data. The volumes, equating to 1.3 million metric tons, represent more than a month's production of the Sakhalin-1 project. (Reuters, 01.26.24)
  • Output from nuclear power plants is expected to rise by about 3% both this year and next to 2,915TWh, overtaking the previous peak of 2,809TWh in 2021, and by a further 1.5% in 2026, the International Energy Agency (IEA) saidMeanwhile, both China’s and Russia’s influence in the sector is growing, the IEA added, with the two countries providing the technology for 70% of the reactors under construction. (FT, 01.24.24)

Climate change:

  • Russia’s exclusion from the international scientific community since the start of the war in Ukraine hampers global researchers’ understanding of the Arctic, according to a new study published in the British scientific journal Nature. The study’s authors found that removing Russian field stations from the International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic led to a “marked” loss of data used to monitor changes in ecosystems. Moreover, Siberia’s extensive taiga forest is not represented at all which the authors warn could be “particularly detrimental” for monitoring melting permafrost, an area of major concern for climate scientists. (MT/AFP, 01.23.24)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • A court in Moscow on Jan. 26 extended the pretrial detention of an American reporter for The Wall Street Journal who is awaiting a hearing on an espionage charge that he, his newspaper and the U.S. government vehemently deny until at least March 30. The ruling means that Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, will spend at least a year in custody awaiting trial on a spying charge Washington says is politically motivated. (NYT, 01.26.24)
  • RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva spent her 100th day in a Russian jail on Jan. 25, and despite pressure to designate her as "wrongfully detained" as it has other U.S. citizens held in Russia, the U.S. State Department appears no closer doing so. (RFE/RL, 01.25.24)
  • South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley accused Republican rival Trump of being "obsessed" with dictators and too old to lead on Jan. 27 in a final stretch of campaigning in New Hampshire ahead of the Jan. 20 presidential nominating contest. Haley emphasized Trump’s relationships with strongmen such as Putin, Xi and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. (Reuters, 01.20.24)
  • The Kremlin on Jan. 23 mocked the CIA for using Western social media platforms to recruit Russian operatives disillusioned with the country's political leaders. The U.S. spy agency’s ad, released Jan. 22, depicts a fictional Russian intelligence officer who gradually comes to the realization that the country's “true enemy is from within” and decides to contact the CIA “to save Russia.” “The elite sold out the country for palaces and yachts, while our soldiers chew on rotten potatoes and fire ancient weapons,” the fictional agent says. (MT/AFP, 01.23.24)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • In Russia, specialists such as engineers, mechanics, machine operators, welders, drivers and couriers can now find jobs with salaries comparable to or greater than in roles with the army after compensation for such work rose by 8-20% last year, according to data from local recruitment service Superjob seen by Bloomberg. (Bloomberg, 01.24.24)
  • In 2023, spending on medicine procurement dropped by 7% in Russia from the preceding year, according to data cited by RBC. Russian authorities reportedly spent 864.3 billion rubles (about $9.8 billion) on medicine in 2023, a significant decrease from the 929.4 billion rubles (about $10.5 billion) spent in 2022. (Meduza, 01.25.24)
  • Rosatom's mining division exceeded its uranium production target by 90 tons in 2023, it told its annual Stakeholder Dialogue event. According to World Nuclear Association information, Russia produced 2508 tU in 2022, making it the sixth largest producer of uranium in the world, while Russian reactor requirements for 2023 were estimated at 6284 tU. (WNN, 01.23.24)
  • A Russia-based company has become the legal owner of tech giant Yandex as it prepares to separate from its Dutch parent company, the state-run Interfax news agency reported on Jan. 23. MKAO Yandex was registered last month in the Kaliningrad region’s Oktyabrsky Island, an offshore zone known as a “special administrative region.” (MT/AFP, 01.23.24)
  • Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that polling stations for the upcoming presidential election will be opened in all countries where Russia maintains a diplomatic mission, including in countries deemed “unfriendly” by the Kremlin. (Meduza, 01.26.24)
  • Russian anti-war presidential hopeful Boris Nadezhdin has gathered over 150,000 signatures endorsing his bid to run in the March election, his campaign website showed on Jan. 25. While Nadezhdin hit the milestone of 100,000 signatures needed for the Russian Central Election Commission's (CEC) review on Jan. 23, his campaign had stressed that it would aim to collect 150,000 overall to avoid any mistakes in the paperwork and surpass the regional quota. Under Russian election laws, a presidential hopeful running from a party not represented in parliament must collect 100,000 signatures of endorsement, with no more than 2,500 from each of Russia's regions. (MT/AFP, 01.25.24)
    • Thousands of Russians have been lining up in the capital and across the country to leave signatures in support of Nadezhdin, who is campaigning for peace with Ukraine. Nadezhdin, 60, who is running from the Civic Initiative party, must gather the signatures of 100,000 supporters by the end of January to be allowed to continue his campaign for the Mar. 17 election. (MT/AFP, 01.22.24)
  • Russian lawmakers have introduced a bill to the State Duma proposing amendments to Russia’s Criminal Code that would allow for the confiscation of personal property from those convicted of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army. (Meduza, 01.22.24)
  • A court in Moscow has sentenced Russian nationalist Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov) to four years in prison on a charge of making public calls for extremist activities. The prosecution last week had sought almost five years in prison for the former leader of Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Girkin has denied the charges. Girkin, 53, was arrested in July 2023 after strongly criticizing Putin in online statements for his handling of the Ukraine invasion. He accused the Kremlin leader of "cowardly mediocrity" and described him as a "nonentity." (RFE/RL, 01.25.24)
  • Russia's prosecutor-general has added the Doxa student magazine to the register of "undesirable organizations," according to a post on the Telegram channel of the State Duma commission that investigates alleged interference by foreign states in Russia's domestic affairs. (RFE/RL, 01.25.24)
  • A Russian court has handed down the country's first-ever sentencing against a person for appearing in an interview with an “undesirable” organization, the independent news website Mediazona reported Jan. 25. Activist Nadezhda Nizovkina from the Far East Russian republic of Buryatia appeared on the independent news channel Dozhd during a broadcast in August, just two months after Russian authorities designated the outlet “undesirable.” (MT/AFP, 01.25.24)
  • Associates of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny say the outspoken Kremlin critic was placed in punitive solitary confinement for 10 days for "failing to promptly introduce himself to a prison guard." (RFE/RL, 01.22.24)
  • Russian economist Sergei Guriev has been appointed dean of London Business School (LBS). Guriev will join LBS from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), where he served as vice-rector since 2022. He will assume the position of dean at the beginning of the next academic year. (Meduza, 01.26.24)

Defense and aerospace:

  • A military court in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, a city in Russia’s Far East, sentenced seven contract soldiers to up to 2.5 years in a penal colony for refusing to fight in Ukraine, reports independent media outlet Mediazona, citing the court’s press service. (Meduza, 01.20.24)
  • Russia has ended its practice of granting presidential pardons to prisoners who agree to fight in Ukraine, instead offering them conditional release and sending them to the front until the war is over. (MT/AFP, 01.25.24)

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

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Since the beginning of the “special military operation”, Russian security forces have identified 220 attacks on military registration and enlistment offices and other “authority facilities,” as well as 184 acts of sabotage on railway tracks. (Meduza, 01.22.24)
  • A military court in St. Petersburg on Jan. 25 sentenced Darya Trepova to 27 years in prison after finding her guilty of killing prominent pro-Kremlin blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, a fervent proponent of Russia's war in Ukraine. Prosecutors had asked the Second Western District Military Court for a sentence of 28 years in prison and a fine of 800,000 rubles ($9,000) on charges of terrorism and forgery. Trepova, who pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charge and entered a guilty plea to the charge of document forgery, was arrested after an explosion in a restaurant in St. Petersburg on April 2 killed Tatarsky, whose real name was Maksim Fomin. The blast also wounded 52 people. (RFE/RL, 01.25.24)
  • Russian Federal Customs Service employees and FSB officers found over 1,200 kilograms (2,646 pounds) of cocaine at St. Petersburg’s Great Port.  The estimated black-market value of the seized shipment exceeds 13 billion rubles ($146.9 million). The cocaine was reportedly found among bags of coffee in a shipping container which arrived from Antwerp, Belgium. This is the second large cocaine shipment seized at St. Petersburg’s Great Port this month. (Meduza, 01.25.24)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Russia bolstered its influence in the troubled Sahel region of West Africa with about 100 military personnel from the country arriving in Burkina Faso on Jan. 24, the first large deployment in that nation. The troops, the initial contingent of a planned force three times that size, will provide security for Ibrahim Traoré, the president of the country’s military regime, and the Burkinabe people, the Russian Africa Corps said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel. The “military specialists” carrying equipment and weapons will train Burkinabe troops and patrol dangerous areas, The Africa Initiative, a pro-Russia group, said in a statement on Telegram. (Bloomberg, 01.24.24)
  • Chad's transitional president Gen. Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno embarked on Jan. 23 on an official visit to Russia "at the invitation" of Putin, the two states announced. The Kremlin said the two leaders would meet on Jan. 23 to discuss "perspectives for the development of Russian-Chadian relations in different areas along with current regional and international issues." (MT/AFP, 01.23.24)
  • A Huthi delegation made a rare visit to Moscow on Jan. 25 to discuss "the need to increase efforts to pressure" the United States and Israel to end the war in Gaza, a spokesman for the Yemeni rebels said. (RFE/RL, 01.26.24)
  • Digital forensic experts in Germany have uncovered a vast, pro-Russia disinformation campaign against the government using tens of thousands of fake accounts on the social media platform X. More than 1 million German-language posts were sent from an estimated 50,000 fake accounts, amounting to a rate of two every second. The overwhelming tone of the messages was the suggestion that the government of Olaf Scholz was neglecting the needs of Germans as a result of its support for Ukraine. (The Guardian, 01.26.24)
  • Slovakia’s Culture Ministry said on Jan. 20 that it will resume cooperation with Russia and Belarus. (RFE/RL, 01.20.24)
  • The Russian government is to introduce mandatory consular registration for Russian citizens living abroad and will also create a “digital profile” for foreigners coming to the country, according to reports by RBC and Kommersant. (RFE/RL, 01.20.24)
  • A court in Germany has banned the U.S. edition of Forbes magazine from claiming that Russian-Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov has close ties to President Vladimir Putin, the RBC news website reported Jan. 23, citing an obtained copy of the ruling. Forbes, citing an anonymous expert, reported in early Feb. 2022 that Usmanov “has repeatedly fronted for Putin and solved his business problems.” The European Council cited the Forbes article later that month when slapping war-related sanctions against the businessman, including a travel ban and asset freeze. (MT/AFP, 01.23.24


  • The European Commission has initiated the process of assessing Ukrainian legislative reforms to align them with EU laws, which marks the start of Ukraine’s formal membership negotiations, Zelenskyy said on Jan. 25. (BNE, 01.26.24)
  • Ukraine’s central bank spent a net $3.6 billion in December propping up the currency, the biggest monthly intervention since the early days of the war. (WSJ, 01.22.24.)
  • The Ukrainian economy likely grew about 5% in 2023, according to the central bank. The annual rate of consumer inflation rose 5.1% in December, down sharply from 26% at the start of 2023. (WSJ, 01.22.24.)
  • Ukrainian ports handled 62 million tons of cargo last year, of which 56.3 million tons were exported. (Ukrainskaya Pravda, 01.24.24)
  • Zelenskyy marked Ukraine's Day of Unity with the introduction of a draft law that allows multiple citizenships, a move that would make it possible for foreign fighters and ethnic Ukrainians outside the country to hold Ukrainian passports while not giving up other citizenship. (RFE/RL, 01.22.24)
  • A meeting between Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and his Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto, scheduled for Jan. 29 will be "related to the preparation of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's visit to Ukraine," Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna said. (RFE/RL, 01.25.24)
  • Zelenskyy on Jan. 22 signed a decree calling for the preservation of Ukrainian national identity in Russia. (MT/AFP, 01.22.24)
  • Moscow plans this year to cut financing for the four Ukrainian regions it partially occupies, the Russian edition of Forbes reported Jan. 23, citing budget figures. The Kremlin claims to have annexed parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, a move widely condemned by the international community. Last year, the four regions received some 513 billion rubles ($5.8 billion) in subsidies from the Russian state budget, according to Forbes. (MT/AFP, 01.23.24)
  • Alexander Gladun, deputy director for research at Ukraine’s Mikhail Ptukha Institute of Demography and Social Research, believes that if the war in Ukraine ends at the end of 2024 or 2025, then 15 years after that the population of Ukraine will be approximately 30.5 million people. (, 01.23.24)
  • A poll conducted by independent analytical platform VoxUkraine found that 63% of Ukrainians who left the country because of Russia’s invasion had returned by July-Aug. 2023. The poll also found that 64% of respondents who have not yet returned to Ukraine do have plans to return and that 27% will return to Ukraine. (ISW, 01.20.24)
  • Supervisory boards will appear under two procurement agencies of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, which are involved in logistics support for the army and the purchase of weapons and equipment. They will also include Ukraine’s main international partners. This was announced by Deputy Minister of Defense Dmitry Klimenko. He said that in December Ukrainian law-enforcers eliminated a corruption scheme for the purchase of ammunition for the Armed Forces of Ukraine for almost 1.5 billion hryvnia that were withdrawn from Ukraine. (, 01.24.24)
  • The son of Lviv businessman Igor Grinkevich, Roman, detained in Odesa on reported charges of being involved in a group that had allegedly supplied military uniforms of subpar quality, hoped to find people who would help him illegally leave for Moldova. Igor Grinkevich was detained in December 2023 upon allegedly offering a $500,000 bribe to investigators. (, 01.23.24)
  • Zelenskyy promised Ukrainian companies better protection from the pressure of corruption investigations as he sought to reassure angry business owners, even as he warned them to pay their taxes. Business executives have increasingly complained of overreach by authorities, an issue that culminated in the detention of investment banker Igor Mazepa on Jan. 18 on charges of real estate violations. Mazepa alleged that he was held in retribution for speaking out about corruption in law enforcement. (Bloomberg, 01.24.24)
  • The Security Service of Ukraine, together with the Office of the Prosecutor General, eliminated a large-scale corruption scheme at the Tysa customs post of Transcarpathian customs. Local customs officers were engaged in systematic "extortions" from carriers. The defendants demanded up to 1.5 thousand euros from each bus. (, 01.22.24)
  • An ambulance medic in Kyiv, who promised to help with evading military service, was exposed by local law enforcement officers. The attacker demanded $9,000 for his “services,” police said. (, 01.24.24)
  • In the Odesa region, the theft of more than 8 million hryvnia of grant funds provided by Romania was exposed. The funds were allocated to Ukraine by Romania for management services and were to be provided as part of a joint project to reconstruct sewer networks and install a backup pipeline in the city of Izmail. (, 01.26.24)
  • On Jan. 25, the High Council of Justice (HCJ) extended the period of temporary suspension from the administration of justice for four judges of the Kyiv Court of Appeal suspected of corruption. (, 01.25.24)
  • Denmark will allocate 60 million DKK ($8.75 million) to Ukraine to support the fight against corruption within the framework of the EU anti-corruption program (EUACI), the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports. (, 01.26.24)
  • The National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption discovered signs of the acquisition of unjustified assets worth almost 3.9 million hryvnia from the head of the department for combating drug crime of the Main Directorate of the National Police of the city of Kyiv, as reported on its website. As the press service of the National Police told RBC-Ukraine, an internal investigation will be conducted against this employee. (, 01.26.24)
  • In an interview for Channel 4, Zelenskyy stated that, “I think the issue of fighting corruption is very sensitive in Ukraine. After all, when you are fighting for your European life, for the future, for your independence, you cannot create such small, you know, corruption problems. Therefore, everything is very sensitive. People’s attitude is literally Everything is very emotional,” the head of state said. He added that corruption problems must be fought even in small things. (, 01.21.24)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Alexander Lukashenko, the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, has announced that Minsk has received the Iskander operational-tactical missile systems from Russia. (Ukrainskaya Pravda, 01.20.24)
  • The European Union and United States on Jan. 25 slammed Belarus for a series of political raids this week as rights groups said more than 150 people were detained or interrogated by the Belarusian security service in a single day. (RFE/RL, 01.26.24)
  • The Investigative Committee of Belarus has launched a "special investigation" of 20 individuals now living outside the country—including RFE/RL journalist and analyst Yury Drakakhrust—for providing comments to independent media in Belarus. (RFE/RL, 01.25.24)
  • China and Uzbekistan announced on Jan. 24 that they've upgraded their ties to an "all-weather" comprehensive strategic partnership, a move that raises the level of diplomatic ties between the two countries. (RFE/RL, 01.24.24)
  • The Kyrgyz parliament's committee for constitutional laws on Jan. 23 approved on second reading a controversial bill that would allow authorities to register organizations as "foreign representatives" in a style that critics say mirrors repressive Russian legislation on "foreign agents." (RFE/RL, 01.23.24)
  • Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu announced his resignation during a press briefing in Chisinau on Jan. 24, saying that he has achieved the goal set for him by pro-Western President Maia Sandu to bring Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, closer to integration into the European Union. (RFE/RL, 01.24.24)
  • Moldovan authorities are cracking down on attempts to secure citizenship through fraud as the former Soviet republic seeks European Union accession and shifts away from Russian dominance. (Bloomberg, 01.26.24)
  • The government of NATO member Lithuania has drafted legislation to ban its military personnel from taking non-work-related trips to Russia, Belarus, and China. (Current Time, 01.25.24)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • No significant developments.


  1. Yuriy Ihnat, an air force spokesman, said that the military had intercepted only about half of the total barrage, and just five of the 24 ballistic missiles. (NYT, 01.23.24)
  2. For RM’s take on the implications of the ageing of Ukrainian combat personnel, see this blog post.


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 Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Manvir Gill availabe in the public domain.