Russia in Review, Jan. 20-27, 2023

6 Things to Know

  1. What do Abrams, Leopards and Challengers have in common? They will all find themselves in Ukraine this year. Having previously rejected Kyiv’s requests for tanks, Washington has reversed its stance this week, announcing that it will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. Germany has asked for this reversal as a condition for both sending its own Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine and letting other European countries operating these MBTs do the same. All in all, more than 100 of these German-made tanks could end up being sent to Ukraine from Europe now that this condition has been met. However, it will take three or more months before either Abrams or Leopards can join a counter-offensive that Ukraine is reportedly planning. By then, Russia may have launched its own new offensive. (In contrast, the first of 14 Challenger 2 tanks pledged by the U.K. are to arrive in Ukraine in March.)
  2. Regaining Crimea by military force may be impossible partly because Putin has indicated that an assault on the peninsula would be a tripwire for nuclear escalation. This follows from an interview that WP columnist Ignatius has conducted with a U.S. State Department official familiar with Secretary of State Blinken’s thinking on the Russian-Ukrainian war. At the same time, Washington believes it is up to Kyiv to decide, whether it’s Crimea or other Ukrainian territories. The U.S. is not going to “tell the Ukrainians where to strike, where to attack, where to conduct offensive operations,” according to a senior Biden administration official’s press briefing.
  3. Rather than provide post-war Ukraine with Article 5-type guarantees, the U.S. will seek to turn it into a bastion capable of deterring future Russian aggression. This is the view that Blinken has come to hold, according to WP columnist Ignatius. Instead of binding guarantees of collective defense, Ukraine’s security will be ensured by potent weapons systems—especially armor and air defense—along with a strong, noncorrupt economy and membership in the EU, according to Blinken’s vision for Ukraine’s deterrence framework.
  4. The Republican heads of House armed services, foreign affairs and intelligence committees have asked the Biden administration to determine whether Russia is complying with New START by Jan. 31. Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rogers told FT that he believed Russia was in “clear violation” of the treaty and the Biden administration “should say so.” Russia cancelled the November meeting of the New START Bilateral Consultative Commission, and Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said this week that no new date has been set for this session, blaming the “escalation trend in both rhetoric and actions by the United States.”
  5. This week saw Zelensky sign off on the ouster of at least 10 senior officials over alleged graft, misconduct and other excesses, in what reignited a debate among U.S. policy-makers on whether some of the Western aid to Ukraine could be misused. Among those recently ousted for alleged corruption and embezzlement were Deputy Defense Minister Shapovalov, deputy infrastructure minister Lozinskiy and governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region Reznichenko. The governors of the Sumy, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions were also fired this week. In addition, prosecutors of the Zaporizhzhia, Kirovohrad, Poltava, Sumy and Chernihiv regions were relieved of their duties, while the deputy head of Zelensky’s administration Tymoshenko stepped down, as did deputy general prosecutor Symonenko. Referring to these dismissals, U.S. Sen. Merkley warned at Senate hearings this week that corruption within Ukraine’s government could be “a kind of cancer eating away at support that they need from everyone in the world.” However, Wallander, the assistant secretary of defense, insisted at the Jan. 26 hearings that she had seen no evidence of such diversion.
  6. Western sanctions have caused serious problems for less than one-fifth of Russians, according to a Chicago Council-Levada Center poll conducted at the end of last year and released this week. More than half of the respondents of the Nov. 24-30, 2022, poll said the punitive measures imposed by the U.S. and its allies on Russia have not caused serious problems for their households.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • In 2021, the United States purchased 14% of its uranium from Russia. (WP, 01.21.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • North Korea condemned on Jan. 27 the decision by the United States to supply Ukraine with advanced battle tanks to help fight off Russia's invasion. Sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong, Un Kim Yo Jong, said the Biden administration was “further crossing the red line” by sending tanks. She also said that North Korea "will always be in the same trench with Russia’s army and people." (ABC, 01.27.23, TASS, 01.27.23)
  • Seoul is in consultations with Washington on an alleged deal between Pyongyang and the Wagner private military company, South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lim Soo-suk said on Jan. 26. In December 2022, U.S. White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby claimed that North Korea had provided weapons to Wagner. (TASS, 01.27.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Iran has enough highly enriched uranium to build “several” nuclear weapons if it chooses, the IAEA’s Rafael Mariano Grossi said. (AP, 01.26.23)
  • The unprecedented sanctions pressure on Russia and Iran proves that the two countries are successfully countering the United States’ and NATO’s expansion, speaker of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin said on Jan. 23 in Teheran. (TASS, 01.27.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • Russian shelling has killed at least eight civilians in towns and villages along the front line in Donetsk Province in eastern Ukraine over the past 24 hours, local officials said Jan. 27, the latest violence in a region that has experienced the war’s heaviest recent fighting and that Ukraine fears could be a target of a fresh offensive by Moscow. (NYT, 01.27.23)
  • The European Union is exploring ways to create a special prosecution office to help probe Russian war crimes in Ukraine while separate talks on a special international tribunal to punish crimes of aggression continue to be mired in legal wrangling. (Bloomberg, 01.27.23)
    • The EU wants swift accountability for the "horrific" crimes in Ukraine, EU justice ministers said Jan. 26, even as they differed over the methods about how to bring prosecutions, seek evidence or fund war-damage repairs. (Reuters, 01.27.23)
  • One of the independent members of the recently established U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine says investigators have found evidence of war crimes, including sexual abuse of children, during Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 01.23.23)
  • British volunteer aid workers Chris Parry and Andrew Bagshaw were killed during an attempted humanitarian evacuation in eastern Ukraine, Parry's family said on Jan. 24, weeks after they were reported missing in the war-torn country. (Reuters, 01.24.23)
  • The IMF is exploring a multiyear aid package for Ukraine worth as much as $16 billion to help cover the country’s needs. (Bloomberg, 01.26.23)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for the removal of obstructions that he said continue to disrupt food exports from his country's Black Sea ports. (RFE/RL, 01.21.23)
  • The Norwegian police are planning to release Andrei Medvedev, a former member of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, who was arrested for entering the country illegally after he fled Russia earlier this month. (MT/AFP, 01.25.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • Having previously refused to supply MBTs, the Biden administration has reversed its stance this week with President Joe Biden announcing the U.S. will send 31 of its M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, without giving details of the timing. Germany, which has previously conditioned its consent for supplies of MBTs on U.S. supplies of such vehicles, has agreed to both supply its own Leopard-2s and allow other operators of these tanks to do so. (Bloomberg, 01.25.23, RM, 01.25.23)
    • Biden said on Jan. 25: “With spring approaching, the Ukrainian forces are working to defend the territory they hold and preparing for additional counter-offensives ... And today—today, I’m announcing that the United States will be sending 31 Abram tanks to Ukraine ... It is not an offensive threat to Russia. If Russian troops returned to Russia, they’ll be there for—where they belong, and this war would be over today.” It is expected to take months before the Abrams tanks reach the battlefield. (The Hill, 01.25.23,, 01.25.23)
    • The aim is for Germany and its partners to supply two battalions totaling 112 Leopards. The package includes training in Germany for Ukrainian troops, logistics, ammunition and maintenance. (Bloomberg, 01.25.23, Bloomberg, 01.25.23)
      • Scholtz told a cabinet meeting that Berlin would send 14 Leopard 2-A6 tanks from stocks held by the Bundeswehr, Germany’s army. The first consignment will be possibly arriving within three months.  (FT, 01.25.23, Bloomberg, 01.25.23)
      • Canada will send four Leopard-2s in the coming weeks. Poland on Jan. 27 said it would send 60 upgraded T-72 tanks—half of them Polish-made PT-91 Twardy tanks—in addition to its contribution of 14 Leopards. Poland has also urged European nations to pledge 100 Leopards for its neighbor. Norway immediately announced its plan to transfer 36 Leopards. Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden have said they are also considering sending Leopard tanks. (BNE, 01.26.23, Bloomberg, 01.26.23, WSJ, 01.27.23)
      • A Deutschlandtrend poll last week showed that 46% of Germans are in favor of sending Leopards, but 43% are against, with 11% undecided. (FT, 01.23.23)
      • Russia’s Ambassador to Germany Sergei Nechayev said the transfer of Leopard-2s will inevitably lead to “the death of not only Russian soldiers, but also the civilian population.” (MT/AFP, 01.25.23)
      • "No single weapons system or platform can be a game changer," said Franz-Stefan Gady, a senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. He said the impact of the "limited number" of tanks arriving in March would depend on training and how well the new formations are integrated on the front line. (WP, 01.26.23)
  • European and American officials acknowledged that three months ago, it would have been inconceivable that Biden and leaders of European nations would have contributed MBTs. But over time, they argued, the battlefield has changed and they believed the threat that President Vladimir Putin would reach for a tactical nuclear weapon to eviscerate Ukrainian forces has diminished. (NYT, 01.26.23) 
  • Kyiv's ambassador to London, Vadym Prystaiko, says Ukrainian tank crews "will arrive soon" in the U.K. to begin training to operate the Challenger 2 tanks. Britain's government said on Jan. 26 that it was aiming to send the tanks to Ukraine at the end of March. (RFE/RL, 01.21.23, AFP, 01.26.23)
  • The Kremlin warned that tanks supplied by allies to Ukraine would be destroyed on the battlefield. “These supplies don’t mean anything good for the future of the relationship. They will definitely leave an inevitable mark,” Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson, said. (FT, 01.25.23, Bloomberg, 01.25.23)
  • Zelensky has quickly pivoted to pressing his requests for long-range missiles and military aircraft, hours after Germany and the United States pledged to provide Kyiv with dozens of advanced battle tanks. “We have new tasks ahead: Western-type fighter jets,” Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, wrote on Twitter on Jan. 25. (RFE/RL, 01.26.23, NYT, 01.26.23)
    • Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal said: “While the tanks represent a tremendous upgrade in Ukraine’s military, we urge the Biden Administration and our allies to send more long range artillery, such as ATACMS, and fighter aircraft such as F-16s and MiG-29s.” (Kyiv Post, 01.27.23)
    • A senior executive at Lockheed Martin, the U.S.’s largest defense contractor and manufacturer of the F-16 fighter jet, told the FT that there is “a lot of conversation about third party transfer of F-16s,” that they were increasing production and “will be able to backfill pretty capably any countries that choose to do third party transfers to help with the current conflict.” (FT, 01.26.23)
  • The Pentagon is racing to boost its production of artillery shells by 500% within two years, pushing conventional ammunition production to levels not seen since the Korean War as it invests billions of dollars to make up for shortfalls caused by the war in Ukraine and to build up stockpiles for future conflicts. (NYT, 01.24.23)
  • An EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Jan. 23 approved a new tranche of military aid to Ukraine worth 500 million euros. (France24, 01.23.23)
  • Switzerland took a crucial step toward allowing other countries to re-export Swiss-made armaments to Ukraine. The relevant committee of the parliament’s lower house on Jan. 24 adopted a motion that would allow for the re-export of weapons to conflict zones under certain conditions. (Bloomberg, 01.24.23)
  • A group of Ukrainian soldiers are to begin training in Germany on armored fighting vehicles that Berlin donated to help Kyiv repel Russian forces. The contingent arrived in Cologne on Jan. 26 and will soon begin training on Marder vehicles at a German army training base in Munster. Germany this month pledged to give 40 Marder vehicles to Ukraine. (FT, 01.27.23)
  • This week’s news that Zelensky has dismissed at least 10 senior officials, some of whom have been accused of graft and misconduct, provoked a discussion among U.S. policy-makers on the accountability aspects of the military and other aid the U.S. provides to Ukraine. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, U.S. officials have watched with some anxiety as billions of American dollars flowed into the country, well aware of Kyiv’s history of political corruption and fearing that aid might be siphoned off for personal gain. The ouster of several top officials from Ukraine’s government on Jan. 24 following accusations of government corruption has lent those concerns a fresh urgency. (NYT, 01.27.23, RM, 01.27.23) See Ukraine section in III below for details on the individuals and circumstances of the firings.
    • The corruption allegations that led to a shake-up in Ukraine’s government in recent days do not appear to have involved the billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid supplied by the United States, a State Department spokesman said Jan. 24. (NYT, 01.24.23)
    • Celeste Wallander, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the administration “has not seen credible evidence of any diversion of U.S.-provided weapons outside of Ukraine.” (NYT, 01.26.23)
    • Testifying at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Ukraine, Victoria Nuland, the under secretary of state, said, “We have been very clear that we need to see, as they prosecute this war, the anti-corruption steps, including good corporate governance and judicial measures, move forward.” (NYT, 01.26.23)
    • Sen. Jeff Merkley said he was worried that corruption within Ukraine’s government could be “a kind of cancer eating away at support that they need from everyone in the world.” (NYT, 01.26.23)
    • A number of Republican Congressmen have called for more accounting of the money being sent to Ukraine and questioned whether the U.S. should continue to offer billions in aid. "Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and the war with Russia doesn't change that," Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said. "How much of America's hard earned tax dollars are being stolen or going to people or things it wasn't supposed to go to? We will audit Ukraine." (WSJ, 01.24.23)
    • On Jan. 26, the Senate foreign affairs committee’s Democratic chairman, Bob Menendez, commended Zelensky and his cabinet “for their serious oversight plans for U.S. and international assistance,” and said that anti-corruption measures implemented before Russia’s invasion last February had been effective. (NYT, 01.27.23)
    • A bipartisan group of senators who traveled to Ukraine earlier this month said at a press conference that the firings hadn't shaken their confidence in Zelensky and that they were assured while in the country that there is no evidence that U.S. equipment or funds had been affected. (WSJ, 01.24.23)
    • The largest type of cash infusion into Ukraine’s government from the United States—$13 billion of it so far—is called direct budgetary support. It is approved by Congress, administered by the United States Agency for International Development and distributed by the World Bank. Ukrainian officials ultimately decide how to allocate the money. (NYT, 01.27.23)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken backs Ukraine's desire for significant battlefield gains this year. But ... there is a widespread view in Washington and Kyiv that regaining Crimea by military force may be impossible ... partly because Putin has indicated that an assault on Crimea would be a tripwire for nuclear escalation, according to WP columnist David Ignatius. (WP, 01.24.23)
  • A senior Biden administration official, responding to a question of whether the administration supports Ukraine retaking territory in the Donbas and Crimea, said that the U.S. does not “tell the Ukrainians where to strike, where to attack, where to conduct offensive operations.” (The Hill, 01.25.23)
  • Putin is preparing a new offensive in Ukraine, at the same time steeling his country for a conflict with the U.S. and its allies that he expects to last for years. The renewed offensive may start as soon as February or March, the people close to the Kremlin said. Putin believes he has no alternative but to prevail in a conflict he sees as an existential one with the U.S. and its allies, they said. (Bloomberg, 01.27.23)
  • Russian forces launched another massive series of missile and drone strikes across Ukraine on Jan. 26. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valery Zaluzhnyi stated that Russian forces launched 55 air- and sea-based missiles, including Kh-101, Kh-555, Kh-47 and Kh-95 Kalibr and Kinzhal missiles at Ukraine from Tu-95, Su-35 and MiG-31K aircraft from the waters of the Black Sea. Ukrainian air defense shot down 47 of the 55 missiles and all 24 Shahed 136 and 131 drones. (ISW, 01.26.23)
  • Russian forces have been this week advancing in three directions but continue to concentrate their main efforts on an offensive in the Bakhmut direction, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military said Jan. 22. Moscow's forces also pushed toward two towns in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region. On Jan. 27, Ukrainian forces said they had repelled Russian attacks on Vuhledar and several other villages in the eastern Donetsk region over the preceding 24 hours. Russia also launched 148 attacks along the front line with Ukrainian forces in the southern Zaporizhzhia region over the past day using tanks, rockets and artillery, the regional military administration said. (RFE/RL, 01.22.23, MT/AFP, 01.22.23, WSJ, 01.27.23)
    • Zelensky on Jan. 27 said the situation at the front remained "extremely acute," particularly in the eastern Donetsk region where Russia is stepping up an offensive. Zelensky reported major battles for Vuhledar, to the southwest of Donetsk, and Bakhmut, to the northeast. (Reuters, 01.27.23)
    • Ukraine’s military acknowledged a gain for Russian forces that brings them closer to encircling the strategic eastern city of Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces have retreated from the small town of Soledar following weeks of bitter fighting, a military spokesman said Jan. 25. (Current Time, 01.25.23)
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has officially relieved the commanders of the Western and Southern Military Districts. Col. Gen. Sergei Kuzovlev—who took command of the Western district only in December—will now head the Southern Military District, replacing Army Gen. Alexander Dvornikov. As for the Western district, it will be headed by Lt. Gen. Yevgeny Nikiforov. In addition to heading the southern district, Dvornikov also used to command all Russian forces in Ukraine. (Atlas News, 01.23.23, RBC, 01.23.23, RM, 01.23.23)
  • Chief of Russia’s Airborne Forces Mikhail Teplinsky may have been fired from his post over his reported refusal to endorse chief of Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov’s plan to have his paratroopers form the bulk of a force for a new offensive in Ukraine, according to BBC. (RM, 01.25.23)
  • “Contemporary Russia has never known such a level and intensity of hostilities. Today, our country and its Armed Forces are opposed by ... the entire collective West,” Gerasimov told AiF. "For … carrying out offensive operations, the General Staff needed ... [to conduct] partial mobilization. There hasn’t been anything like this since [WWII].” “The system of mobilization training in our country has not been fully adapted to new modern economic relations. So we had to fix everything on the go,” he said. (RM, 01.25.23)
  • Of the 50,000 Russian prisoners recruited by the Wagner PMC to participate in the war in Ukraine, only ten thousand remain, in the estimate of Olga Romanova, head of the Rus Seated charity foundation. The rest have been killed or deserted or captured, she claimed. (Meduza, 01.23.23)
  • Putin is pardoning convicts to allow them to fight in Ukraine as members of the Wagner paramilitary group, the Kremlin has admitted. (FT, 01.27.23)
  • More Russian soldiers were killed than officially confirmed in Ukraine’s New Year’s Day strike on a temporary barracks in Russian-occupied Makiivka. BBC Russian journalists used open-source data to verify the identities of 92 Russian soldiers killed in the strike, the outlet said. Another 16 soldiers who were at the makeshift barracks in the eastern Ukrainian town at the time of the attack remain unaccounted for. (MT/AFP, 01.25.23)
  • Daniel Swifformer, a Navy SEAL, was killed in Ukraine this week, the Navy said Jan. 20, the latest American combat fatality in a war that has drawn legions of international fighters. (WP, 01.22.23)
  • Four out of five Chechen battalions are part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The only battalion that is not part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is the Sheikh Mansour Battalion. It "coordinates" its actions with the Ukrainian units. Chechens say about the Ukrainian war that it is easier than the Chechen ones. Some of them call the Ukrainian war a five-star war. (Istories, 01.27.23)

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

  • EU member states have been told the bloc has the legal authority to temporarily leverage at least €33.8 billion ($36.8 billion) of Russian central bank assets to help pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine. The bloc’s Council Legal Service told diplomats that such a plan is legally feasible, as long as the assets aren’t expropriated and certain conditions are met, the people said. Those include a termination date, a focus on liquid assets and clarity that the principal and interest would be returned to Russia at some point, the people said. (Bloomberg, 01.26.23)
    • Charles Michel, who represents the EU bloc’s 27 national leaders, said he wanted to explore the idea of actively managing the Russian central bank’s frozen assets to generate profits, which could then be earmarked for reconstruction efforts. (FT, 01.23.23)
  • The Council of the European Union on Jan. 27 extended sanctions targeting specific sectors of Russia's economy by six months, until July 31. The sanctions include restrictions on trade, finance, technology, industry, transport and luxury goods; a ban on the import or transfer of seaborne crude oil and certain petroleum products from Russia to the EU; a de-SWIFTing of several Russian banks; and the suspension of Russian broadcasting activities. (RFE/RL, 01.27.23)
  • A Nov. 24-30 Chicago Council on Global Affairs-Levada Center poll, the results of which the Chicago Council disclosed on Jan. 23, reveals that only 18% of Russians say that Western sanctions have caused serious problems for their household, while a narrow majority of Russians say that sanctions have not created problems for them or their families (53%). Six in 10 Russians are somewhat (30%) or very unconcerned (30%) about Western political and economic sanctions on Russia, while only four in 10 are somewhat (20%) or very (19%) concerned. (Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 01.23.23)
  • The U.S. Treasury has formally designated Russia’s Wagner Group as a “significant transnational criminal organization.” The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said it was placing sanctions on Wagner in addition to 15 other Russian entities, as well as eight individuals and four aircraft, in an effort to “degrade the Russian Federation’s capacity to wage war against Ukraine.” (FT, 01.26.23)
    • Russia dismissed the U.S. Treasury’s move to label Yevgeny Prigozhin’s group, which is playing an increasingly prominent role on the front lines as Putin’s full-scale invasion enters its 12th month, as a “transnational criminal organization.” (FT, 01.27.23)
  • Banks should be on alert for Russian oligarchs attempting to circumvent U.S. sanctions by investing in commercial real estate, the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said. (WSJ, 01.25.23)
  • The U.K. said Jan. 25 it was reviewing how sanctioned individuals are permitted to use the country's legal services, after reports the government helped Yevgeny Prigozhin sue a British journalist. (MT/AFP, 01.26.23)
  • Meduza, the largest Russian independent news site, has been declared an “undesirable
  • Organization” in Russia. The decision means Meduza, most of whose reporters are based in Latvia, is banned from operating in Russia, while anyone who “cooperates” or even posts a hyperlink to its online content could face a prison sentence of up to six years. (FT, 01.26.23)
  • RT France, the French arm of the Russian state broadcaster, will shut down after its French bank accounts were frozen as part of the most recent EU sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. (AFP, 01.21.23)
  • NATO and EU members Estonia and Latvia have told their Russian ambassadors to leave after Moscow said it was downgrading diplomatic relations with Estonia, accusing it of "total Russophobia.” (Reuters, 01.23.23)
  • Wintershall Dea chief executive Mario Mehren revealed last week that the company was finally leaving Russia, saying Moscow-owned Gazprom had taken control of the German company’s joint ventures in Siberia and emptied their shared bank accounts. Almost €2 billion of Wintershall’s cash had vanished, Mehren said, blaming Gazprom. (FT, 01.25.23)
  • Worth $85.6 billion before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s international corporate bond market has shrunk by about $12.7 billion since the invasion of Ukraine prompted the West to block Russia’s access to foreign capital. Now Russia’s biggest companies are bypassing Wall Street to repay their outstanding debt after the crackdown broadly disrupted the financial plumbing needed to service bonds. (Bloomberg, 01.23.23)
  • While the European Union’s overall imports via rail from China did decline through the first nine months of 2022, some key goods continued to make the journey by train across Russia.  European imports of some raw materials—especially rare earths from China that are used in modern weapons—are increasing. (Bloomberg, 01.23.23)
  • Polymetal is preparing to relocate its domicile from Jersey to Kazakhstan, so that the Anglo-Russian gold miner can carve out its Russian business in the wake of sanctions and war. By redomiciling to Kazakhstan, the company could be allowed by Moscow to split its assets, carving out its Kazakh and Russian mines into separate entities. (FT, 01.26.23)
  • London-headquartered Truphone has been sold to a pair of European businessmen for £1, taking the small British telecoms company out of the limbo it had faced since Roman Abramovich had sanctions imposed on him by the U.K. government last March. (FT, 01.24.23)
  • Russia's path to sending a team to the Paris Olympics next year became clearer on Jan. 26 amid fierce objections from Ukraine. The International Olympic Committee indicated on Jan. 25 that it favors officially neutral teams from Russia and its ally Belarus at the 2024 Olympics. A day later, Russia and Belarus were invited to compete at the Asian Games, a key Olympic qualifier. (AP, 01.26.23)
  • H&M blamed high clothes prices, its exit from Russia and a cost-cutting program for an unexpectedly large collapse in its earnings. Operating profit plunged 87% to $80 million in the fourth quarter to the end of November from a year earlier. (FT, 01.27.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • Victoria Nuland, the U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, believes that a possible condition for easing some of the sanctions implemented against Russia is the withdrawal of troops from all of Ukraine and an agreement to negotiate seriously. "In the context of Russia's decision to negotiate seriously and withdraw its troops from Ukraine and return territories, I would certainly support that [easing of sanctions]. I think the U.S. Secretary of State, Blinken, would do the same," she said. (Yahoo, 01.26.23)
  • Diplomatically, Russia has sought to win supporters among non-Western countries with appeals for talks on a cease-fire. Even people close to the Kremlin admit those are hopeless at present. The minimum the Kremlin would accept would be a temporary truce that left Russia in control of the territory its forces currently hold in order to win time to rebuild its forces, the people close to the Kremlin said. Though short of the boundaries of the regions that Putin illegally annexed in September, that would still leave Russia with a large swath of land, linking the areas it occupied before the war. As a result, the idea is a nonstarter with Kyiv and its allies. (Bloomberg, 01.27.23)
  • With no end of fighting in sight, Ukrainian, U.S. and European officials said they have dialed back expectations that Roman Abramovich could play a key role in brokering dialogue in the war. After peace talks that he helped orchestrate collapsed in April, he now facilitates narrower deals for prisoner exchanges and to get grain out of Ukraine and ammonia out of Russia. (WSJ, 01.20.23)

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

  • The deterrence framework Blinken now proposes for Ukraine is somewhat different from last year's discussions with Kyiv about security guarantees similar to NATO's Article 5. Rather than such a formal treaty pledge, some U.S. officials increasingly believe the key is to give Ukraine the tools it needs to defend itself. Security will be ensured by potent weapons systems—especially armor and air defense—along with a strong, noncorrupt economy and membership in the European Union. (WP, 01.24.23)
  • Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez questioned whether the Biden administration had a clear plan for the war in Ukraine. “In the immediate term, I think there is a question that needs to be answered: What is your strategy for helping Ukraine achieve victory?” (NYT, 01.26.23)
    • “Many Americans, certainly many Tennesseans that talk to me, are very concerned about a type of open-ended commitment to Ukraine,” said Sen. Bill Hagerty, who asked for “a clearer picture of where we’re headed.” (NYT, 01.26.23)
  • “Did the [Law and Justice] government think about the partition of Ukraine? I think he had a moment of hesitation in the first 10 days of the war when we all didn't know how it would go, that maybe Ukraine would fall. If not for the heroism of Zelensky and the help of the West, it could have been different,” Polish MEP and ex-foreign minister Radosław Sikorski told Radio Zet. (RM, 01.23.23)
  • Finland for the first time opened the door to potentially decoupling its NATO application from that of Sweden, after its neighbor encountered fresh resistance from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Sweden should not expect Turkey's support for its NATO membership after a protest near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm over the weekend that included the burning of a copy of the Koran, Erdogan said. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Jan. 26 it was "meaningless" to hold a trilateral meeting with Sweden and Finland to discuss their NATO bids after the anti-Turkish protests in Stockholm. (Bloomberg, 01.23.23, Reuters, 01.23.23, Reuters, 01.26.23)
  • Putin said in June 2022 that Sweden’s and Finland’s entry into NATO “does not create an immediate threat,” but Gerasimov thinks otherwise. He told Russia’s AiF this week that “new threats” to Russia are NATO’s “aspirations” “to expand at the expense of Finland and Sweden." (RM, 01.24.23)
  • Spanish police arrested a 74-year-old pensioner Jan. 25 in the letter bombing campaign that targeted the prime minister and the Ukrainian embassy, authorities said. The Spanish citizen was taken into custody in Miranda de Ebro in northern Spain. Earlier American and European officials told NYT they believe that Russian military intelligence officers directed associates of Russian Imperial Movement, a white supremacist militant group based in Russia, to carry out the attacks. (MT/AFP, 01.25.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • The Biden administration has confronted China’s government with evidence that suggests some Chinese state-owned companies may be providing assistance for Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, as it tries to ascertain if Beijing is aware of those activities, according to people familiar with the matter. The support allegedly consists of non-lethal military and economic assistance that stops short of wholesale evasion of the sanctions regime the U.S. and its allies imposed after Russian forces invaded Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 01.24.23)
  • Sen. Bob Menendez cited what he said was evidence that Chinese companies have been exporting dual-use technologies “that Russia needs to continue its onslaught of Ukraine.” “It seems to me that we should not forsake the potential of sanctions against China if it is providing critical assistance, and it shouldn’t be able to hide behind some companies,” he said. (Bloomberg, 01.27.23)
  • The U.S. unveiled new sanctions Jan. 26 aimed at blunting Russia’s ability to wage war in Ukraine, including by targeting a Chinese company that allegedly provided satellite imagery to Wagner Group mercenaries. The Treasury Department singled out Spacety China and its Luxembourg subsidiary for providing “satellite imagery orders over locations in Ukraine” to a Russian technology company, enabling Wagner combat operations. (Bloomberg, 01.27.23)
  • Russia agreed with China on the purchase of electronic components for Russian spacecraft because of Western countries' sanctions, which ban deliveries of microelectronics to Russia, Roscosmos head Yuri Borisov said. (Interfax, 01.24.23)
  • Russia’s frigate Admiral Gorshkov, armed with Tsirkon hypersonic missiles, will take part in joint drills with China’s People’s Liberation Army and the South African Navy in February 2023. (TASS, 01.25.23)
  • If Urals trades in the range of $40 to $50, Russia’s revenue will fall as much as 2.5 trillion rubles ($36 billion) short of what the government budgeted, meaning monthly yuan sales would have to be more than triple the amount expected in January, according to Natalia Lavrova of BCS Financial Group. Russia won’t burn through its stock of 310 billion yuan ($45 billion) assets this year unless Urals halves and averages $25, according to Bloomberg Economics. (Bloomberg, 01.24.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • The Republican heads of the House armed services, foreign affairs and intelligence committees have asked the Biden administration to determine whether Russia is complying with New START by Jan. 31. Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mike Rogers told the FT that he believed Russia was in “clear violation” of the treaty and the Biden administration “should say so.” (FT, 01.25.23)
    • Russia said on Jan. 23 that no new date had been set for talks with the United States on the New START nuclear arms treaty, accusing the U.S. of ramping up tensions between the two sides. "The situation does not, frankly speaking, allow for setting a new date, ... taking into account this escalation trend in both rhetoric and actions by the United States," Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said. (Reuters, 01.23.23)
  • Russia will not keep the U.S. in the New START Treaty by force if Washington should decide to destroy it, but it would cause deep regrets, Ryabkov said in an interview for Kommersant, published Jan. 26. (TASS, 01.26.23)
  • "The parties showed balanced approaches to each other’s security red lines at certain times during the Cold War in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This cannot be said about those who are in charge in Washington today. It certainly affects the prospects for resuming strategic dialogue," Ryabkov said. (TASS, 01.26.23)
  • The format of talks that brings together all five nuclear-weapons states can’t yet substitute arms control talks between Russia and the U.S. because the U.K. and France oppose any reductions of strategic arms, Ryabkov said. (TASS, 01.26.23)
  • “If Washington and NATO countries supply weapons [to Ukraine], which will be then used to strike peaceful cities and attempt to seize our territories, ... this will lead to retaliation with more powerful weapons ... Given the technological superiority of Russian weapons ... this could end in a tragedy on a global scale that will destroy their [Western] countries. ... Arguments that nuclear powers have not previously used weapons of mass destruction in local conflicts are untenable because these states have not encountered a situation where there was a threat to the security of their citizens and the territorial integrity of [their] countries,” speaker of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel this week. (RM, 01.22.23)
  • A source close to the security services told R.Politik that a Russian nuclear strike is only likely in response to the prospect of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO, or if Russia risks losing control over the entirety of the territories it seized after Feb. 24, 2022. (R. Politik, 01.23.23)
  • The Doomsday Clock has moved closer to midnight than it has ever been, and is now just 90 seconds away from striking 12, scientists have said. The clock, a symbolic timepiece showing how close the world is to ending, has been moved forward by 10 seconds by its keepers. The announcement means the perceived threat is now more severe than it was last year, with the scientists citing "unprecedented danger" posed by the Russia-Ukraine war.  (Bloomberg, 01.24.23)
    • "The situation as a whole is really alarming," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, calling for a sober appraisal of the tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis. He said there was no prospect of any detente, based on "the line that was chosen by NATO under U.S. leadership." (Reuters, 01.26.23)


  • After finding Uzbek man Sayfullo Saipov guilty of committing murder with the goal of joining the Islamic State militant group, a Manhattan jury will return on Feb. 6 to consider whether the death penalty is appropriate punishment. Saipov, an Uzbek national who moved to the United States in 2010, was convicted on all of the 28 counts he faced. (Reuters, 01.27.23)

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security:

  • Hive ransomware was seized after a joint U.S.-German law enforcement crackdown that thwarted $130 million in demands for payment from more than 1,500 victims around the world. The FBI penetrated the group’s website starting in July, captured its decryption keys and offered them to victims in 80 countries. U.S. authorities also seized the servers of the Hive. Researchers said Hive's gang included veterans of one of the most notorious Russian-speaking ransomware gangs, Conti. (Bloomberg, 01.26.23, WP, 01.26.23, WSJ, 01.27.23)
  • British cybersecurity officials are warning that hacking groups linked to Russia and Iran are duping people into clicking malicious links by impersonating journalists and experts. The hackers have sought to steal emails from people working in academia, defense, the media and government, as well as from activists and non-governmental organizations, according to an advisory released by the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Center. (Bloomberg, 01.26.23)
  • The private messaging app Telegram has for the first time overtaken WhatsApp in traffic volume in Russia, the Vedomosti business daily reported Jan. 23, with experts predicting the Russian-founded messenger will also surpass the user count of its Meta-owned competitor this year. Telegram accounted for 60-80% of total traffic exchanged in Russia by the start of 2023. (MT/AFP, 01.23.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Europe's heavy dependence on Russian gas, which once provided 40% of EU supplies, has been rapidly severed. Now it only accounts for about 14.4% of EU supplies, per S&P Global Commodity Insights. (Axios, 01.23.23)
  • Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Bloomberg this week that Germany learned its lesson from being too dependent on Russia. The goal now is to build capacity that gives Germany the chance to have as much gas as it had before the invasion without importing from Russia, he said. (Bloomberg, 01.22.23)
  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she’s confident that discussions aimed at extending restrictions on the sale of Russian petroleum products will be concluded by Feb. 5. EU officials Jan. 26 floated a plan that would set a services-related price cap of $100 a barrel on Russian diesel, and a $45 cap on cheaper group of fuels. (Bloomberg, 01.27.23)
  • EU diplomats are due to start discussions on Jan. 27 about a review of a price cap on Russian crude oil exports to third countries that the G-7 and the EU put into place late last year. They also need to decide price levels for new caps on petroleum products, including diesel, by early February. (Bloomberg, 01.27.23)
    • The European Union is floating a plan to cap the price of Russian diesel at $100 a barrel—a level that might help to stave off the very worst effects of a fuel-imports ban that the bloc will impose on Moscow on Feb. 5. (Bloomberg, 01.26.23)
  • Uzbekistan will import natural gas from Russia for the first time ever as the Central Asian country faces an energy crisis. (MT/AFP, 01.26.23)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • A new U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne M. Tracy, arrived in Moscow on Jan. 26, according to an embassy spokesman, returning to Russia at a time when relations between Washington and Moscow have reached a post-Cold War low point. Tracy is expected to visit the Russian Foreign Ministry next week. (Interfax, 01.27.23, NYT, 01.26.23)
  • Charles McGonigal, a former high-ranking FBI agent, has been charged with violating U.S. sanctions and engaging in money laundering by working for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Sergey Shestakov, a 69-year-old former Russian diplomat turned U.S. citizen, was charged alongside McGonigal for helping Deripaska. The duo attempted to get the sanctions against the oligarch lifted in 2019, prosecutors said. (FT, 01.24.23, Reuters, 01.23.23)
  • Russian media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has blocked the websites of the CIA, FBI and the State Department's national security rewards program, according to the Roskomsvoboda project. (RFE/RL, 01.27.23)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • The value of imports into Russia in the fourth quarter of 2022 decreased at a slower pace year on year, the Central Bank of Russia reported on Jan. 26. In the fourth quarter the current account surplus decreased to $31 billion versus $47 billion for the same period a year earlier. Despite the fall in the last quarter of last year, the current account surplus hit an all-time high of $227 billion, almost double the already record high a year earlier of $122 billion. (BNE, 01.27.23)
  • The volume of Russia’s international reserves for the fourth quarter of 2022 increased to $582 billion as of Jan. 1, 2023, (as of Oct. 1, 2022: $541 billion). (BNE, 01.27.23)
  • Putin said on Jan. 24 that there were shortages of some medicines in Russia and that prices had gone up, despite the country producing more of its own drugs. (Reuters, 01.24.23)
  • Putin on Jan. 27 repeated a claim that neo-Nazis were committing crimes in Ukraine—an allegation Moscow has used to justify its military intervention—as the world marked Holocaust Remembrance Day. (MT/AFP, 01.27.23)
  • Kremlin officials and Russian cabinet members will file anonymous tax returns. According to Vedomosti, Russia’s cabinet of ministers is considering allowing so-called “generalized” income tax information for themselves and members of the presidential administration. (MT/AFP, 01.25.23)
  • Lawmakers in Russia's autonomous republic of Tatarstan have approved in one day all three readings of a series of constitutional amendments, including a change that almost immediately abolishes the title of the republic's president, sooner than previously planned. (RFE/RL, 01.26.23)
  • A court in the Russian capital ordered the closure of the Moscow Helsinki Group, one of Russia’s most prominent and respected human rights organizations, on Jan. 25. (MT/AFP, 01.25.23)
  • Russia has declared the Andrei Sakharov Foundation an "undesirable" organization. (Current Time, 01.23.23)
  • Jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was returned to solitary confinement for the 11th time since his nine-year prison sentence began in March, his press secretary said on Jan. 25. (MT/AFP, 01.25.23)
    • Even from jail, Navalny gets more done than most people. He has announced a new media platform with nearly 1.8 million YouTube subscribers, filed more than 10 lawsuits against Russian authorities and is now the leading voice inside Russia against the war in Ukraine. (WP, 01.24.23)
    • Thousands of Russian emigres in more than 60 cities, from Seoul and London to Yerevan, Vilnius and Belgrade, took part in solidarity rallies Jan. 21 in support of Navalny and other Russian political prisoners. (MT/AFP, 01.22.23)
    • Nobel Peace Prize laureates Dmitry Muratov and Maria Ressa have urged the International Committee of the Red Cross to intervene on behalf of Navalny. (RFE/RL, 01.24.23)
  • Ilya Ponomaryov, a former member of the Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, has been added to the Interior Ministry's list of terrorists and extremists. Ponomaryov was the only lawmaker in the State Duma who voted against Russia's 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 01.25.23)
  • Retired Russia police major Oleg Kashintsev received eight years in prison for spreading "fakes" about the Russian army in Ukraine. This the first sentence in absentia under this article: shortly after the start of the war with Ukraine, Kashintsev left Russia. (Istories, 01.27.23)
  • Uzbekistan-born Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov, who is under Western sanctions over Moscow's war in Ukraine, has asked the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs to cancel his membership. (RFE/RL, 01.23.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The Russian Defense Ministry said on Jan. 21 that it held a training exercise in the Moscow region on repelling air attacks on military industrial and administrative facilities. The ministry announced the exercise in a statement, saying that it involved an S-300 antiaircraft missile system. (RFE/RL, 01.21.23)
  • Russia’s defense industry has stepped up production of ammunition for the military to use in Ukraine. “We have increased the production of ammunition on orders by the Defense Ministry several times over,” Sergei Chemezov, who heads the state defense conglomerate Rostec, said Jan. 27, without providing figures. (MT/AFP, 01.27.23)
  • Russian soldiers were nearly three times more likely to be accused of crimes against military service including desertion and insubordination in 2022 than the previous year, according to Prosecutor General's Office data. Courts issued 2,835 guilty verdicts for crimes against military service out of 3,047 cases opened in 2022, the RBC news website reported Jan. 25, citing lawyer Maxim Grebenyukt. That compares to 1,089 convictions and 1,514 overall cases in the same category reported in 2021. (MT/AFP, 01.26.23)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • No significant developments.


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed South Africa’s “independent and balanced” stance on the war in Ukraine while on his latest diplomatic mission to Africa. Lavrov briefed his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor on the conflict on Jan. 23, and rebutted criticism of plans by South Africa, Russia and China to hold naval exercises off South Africa’s east coast. The two nations signed a new cooperation agreement, but didn’t provide any details. Lavrov on Jan. 24 pledged security training to Eswatini, Africa's last absolute monarchy. (Bloomberg, 01.23.23, MT/AFP, 01.25.23)
    • As she hosted Lavrov, South Africa’s foreign minister Naledi Pandor said her government, nominally neutral in the conflict, was now less inclined to criticize Moscow due to the West’s supply of battle tanks to Kyiv. A repeat of the call South Africa made early in the war for a Russian withdrawal from Ukraine would be “simplistic and infantile, given the massive transfer of arms that’s occurred” since, she said at a briefing, with Lavrov beaming on. (FT, 01.27.23)
  • After visiting South Africa, Lavrov then confirmed Russia's willingness to comply with all its obligations to export food to African countries in need during his visit to Eritrea. In turn the Eritrean authorities discussed with Lavrov preparations for the second Russia-Africa Summit to be held in July 2023 in Saint Petersburg. (Presa Latina, 01.27.23).
  • Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori criticized the government’s supportive stance on Ukraine. He expressed doubt about the degree to which Japan is throwing its weight behind Ukraine, adding Russia could not lose the war, the agency said. (Bloomberg, 01.25.23)
  • Europe’s top human rights court has agreed to hear a Dutch case against Russian disinformation following the shooting down eight years ago of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, an incident that killed 298 people from around a dozen countries. A key excerpt of the decision says the court “further found that the respondent State”—Russia—"had a significant influence on the separatists’ military strategy.” (RFE/RL, 01.25.23)
  • German police have detained a second man suspected of passing classified material from the BND foreign intelligence service to Russia. A German citizen and not a government employee, the man is accused of receiving information from a senior BND analyst and traveling to Russia to deliver it to an intelligence service there, according to the statement. The analyst was detained last month. (Bloomberg, 01.26.23)
  • Russian citizens relocating to Turkey in recent weeks are being refused residence permits, independent Russian-language media outlet Current Time reported Jan. 23. (MT/AFP, 01.23.23)
  • Exiled Russian tycoon Boris Mints failed to block a pair of state-run Russian banks from pursuing an $850 million lawsuit against him, in one of the first major U.K. court tests of its sanctions regime. He faces a fraud suit for his alleged role in the collapse of Bank Otkritie, which he founded, prompting a rescue by the Russian central bank. (Bloomberg, 01.27.23)
  • Alex Gerko has become the U.K.’s biggest taxpayer. The XTX Markets founder contributed about £487.4 million ($602.5 million) to Britain’s public finances in the past year or so. Gerko, a Russian native who’s now a British citizen, founded XTX eight years ago. He is calculated to have a $6.4 billion fortune through his majority. (Bloomberg, 01.27.23)


  • This week, Ukraine has seen a series of resignations or dismissals, many of which appeared to be related to allegations of graft. (WP, 01.26.23)
    • Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov submitted his resignation on Jan. 24, following allegations in the local media that the country’s military was overpaying for food services. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov accepted the resignation. Although he did not personally sign the defense food and catering contract worth 13 billion hryvnias (€326 million), journalists and watchdogs said that he had ultimate responsibility. (WSJ, 01.24.23, Politico, 01.23.23)
      • The Prosecutor-General’s Office said on Jan. 25 that prosecutors of the regions of Zaporizhzhia, Kirovohrad, Poltava, Sumy and Chernihiv had been relieved of their duties over the allegations that the Defense Ministry was overpaying suppliers for food for troops. (RFE/RL, 01.25.23)
    • Valentyn Reznichenko was fired by Zelensky on Jan. 24 from the post of governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region after he was accused in local media of funneling more than $40 million in government contracts to associates, including his girlfriend. The governors of the Sumy, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions were also fired on Jan. 24. (WSJ, 01.24.23, Axios, 01.24.23)
    • On Jan. 24, Zelensky accepted the resignation of Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a deputy head of his administration. Oleksiy Kuleba, who is to step down as head of the Kyiv region, is replacing Tymoshenko in Zelensky’s administration. In October, Tymoshenko was pictured driving a new Chevrolet Tahoe SUV that had been donated for humanitarian aid. Two months later, Tymoshenko was filmed multiple times driving a 2021 Porsche Taycan. (FT, 01.25.23, FT, 01.25.23, WP, 01.26.23, WSJ, 01.24.23)
    • Oleksiy Symonenko, deputy general prosecutor, resigned following reports he had a recent holiday abroad. (FT, 01.25.23)
      • Zelensky signed a decree barring state employees from leaving the country except on official government business. The ban was an apparent response to reports that Symonenko went on vacation in December to Spain, where he drove a Mercedes car belonging to a prominent Ukrainian businessman. (WSJ, 01.24.23, NYT, 01.27.23)
      • Zelensky confirmed on Telegram Jan. 22 that he has fired Vasyl Lozinskiy from the post of Ukraine’s deputy infrastructure minister. Lozinskiy was detained over the last weekend for allegedly embezzling $400,000 intended for purchasing aid, according to Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau. (Axios, 01.24.23, RFE/RL, 01.22.23)
      • State news agency Ukrinform reported on Jan. 24 that special anti-corruption prosecutors had asked general prosecutor Andriy Kostin to approve “illegal enrichment” charges against Pavlo Khalimon, an MP from Zelensky’s ruling Servant of the People party. (FT, 01.25.23)
        • Ukraine has been dubbed the most corrupt country in Europe. In the most recent Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, the country was ranked 122 worst out of 180 countries. With huge sums of money flowing into Ukraine, the graft may well be worse than ever. (WP, 01.26.23)
  • Ukrainian Cabinet Secretary Oleg Nemchinov confirmed in a Telegram post the dismissal of two deputy ministers from Ukraine’s Ministry of Development of Communities and Territories. (Axios, 01.24.23)
  • Ukraine has appointed a new supervisory board to oversee the state-owned natural gas monopoly Naftogaz, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Jan. 24, meeting a requirement of a financial assistance program from the International Monetary Fund. (Reuters, 01.24.23)
  • Spanish police have broken up a gang that operated three illegal tobacco factories employing Ukrainians who fled to escape Russia's invasion. (AFP, 01.22.23)
  • Zelensky attended a memorial service on Jan. 21 for senior Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy and 13 other people who were killed when an emergency-services helicopter crashed into a kindergarten. (RFE/RL, 01.21.23)
  • Russian authorities have detained six Crimean Tatars after their homes were searched in Ukraine's Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula. The men were taken away by officers of Russia's FSB. (RFE/RL, 01.24.23)
  • According to a report on Jan. 24 by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 67 news media workers were killed worldwide in 2022, the highest number since 2018. The CPJ noted that more than half—35 of the 67 killings—took place in just three countries: Ukraine, Mexico and Haiti. In war-battered Ukraine, 15 news workers were killed last year, the CPJ said. (AP, 01.25.23)
  • As people around the world commemorated the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Zelensky honored Holocaust victims on Jan. 27 and took a moment to offer a stark reminder of the current threats his country faces. (NYT, 01.27.23)
  • French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna arrived on Jan. 26 in the Ukrainian Black Sea port city of Odesa as part of France's efforts to boost its relationship with Ukraine. (Reuters, 01.26.23)
  • The United Nations’ cultural agency decided on Jan. 25 to add the historic center of Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odesa to its list of endangered World Heritage locations. (AP, 01.25.23)
  • Valeriy Zaluzhniy, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, has donated $1 million that he received from the estate of Gregory Stepanets, a U.S. citizen of Ukrainian origin. (RFE/RL, 01.25.23)
  • Russia will switch four occupied areas of Ukraine to Moscow’s time zone. (NYT, 01.27.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Blinken has urged Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to reopen Nagorno-Karabakh's land link with Armenia, warning that a blockade of the corridor could undermine peace efforts between the two countries. Blinken spoke by telephone with Aliyev "to urge an immediate reopening of the Lachin Corridor to commercial traffic," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Jan. 23. "He underscored that the risk of a humanitarian crisis in the Lachin Corridor undermined prospects for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan," the statement added. (RFE/RL, 01.23.23)
  • Russia on Jan. 26 accused the EU of seeking to fuel "geopolitical confrontation" by sending a civilian mission to monitor Armenia's volatile border with Azerbaijan. Moscow has sought to maintain its role as a powerbroker between the ex-Soviet republics despite being bogged down in its offensive in Ukraine. On Jan. 23, the EU launched a civilian mission to help monitor Armenia's border with Azerbaijan, bolstering the bloc's role in a region viewed by the Kremlin as its sphere of influence. (MT/AFP, 01.27.23)
  • Former Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has officially been named as chairman of the country's People's Council (Halk Maslahaty) under its new mandate as an independent legislative body. Also on Jan. 21, Serdar Berdymukhammedov signed a law granting his father the title of "national leader of the Turkmen people." (RFE/RL, 01.22.23)
  • Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has cut the staff of the government and state entities by 24%. According to a presidential decree signed on Jan. 25, the number of deputies of ministers and heads of numerous state bodies will be cut to 144 people, which will allow 703 vehicles and 10 buildings to be used for other needs. (RFE/RL, 01.25.23)
  • More than 20 bilateral documents have been signed during talks between Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Sadyr Japarov, in Bishkek. Japarov has offered Uzbekistan to sign a treaty of allied relations and establish a supreme interstate council at the level of the heads of state. Bishkek and Tashkent have completed the border delimitation process, Japarov said following talks with Mirziyoyev on Jan. 27. (TASS, 01.27.23, Interfax, 01.27.23, RFE/RL, 01.27.23)
  • Former Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Jenish Razakov has been arrested on fraud charges. Law enforcement officials told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity on Jan. 26 that Razakov was currently being held in pretrial detention. No other details were provided. There was no official statement about the arrest of Razakov, who served as the Central Asian country's deputy prime minister from 2012 to 2016. (RFE/RL, 01.26.23)
  • The fear of a fresh military mobilization by Moscow to support its war in Ukraine has prompted many Kyrgyz workers in Russia to return to their home country. But some of the workers who have Russian passports, and are eligible for the military draft, say they have been prevented from leaving Russia in recent weeks. (RFE/RL, 01.22.23)
  • A court in Bishkek has ordered the Kyrgyz Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policies to produce documents relating to its decision to block the local-language websites of RFE/RL. (RFE/RL, 01.26.23)
  • A court in Astana has sent two officers from Kazakhstan's National Security Committee, Col. Erkin Amanov and Maj. Khamit Abdighali, as well as Qairat Sartai of the Border Guard Service, to pretrial detention for two months on a charge of torturing people arrested during and after nationwide mass anti-government protests in Jan. 2022. (RFE/RL, 01.26.23)
  • Belarus's lower legislative chamber on Jan. 25 voted to terminate a 2010 intergovernmental agreement with France on cooperation in the areas of culture, education, science and technology and mass media. (RFE/RL, 01.25.23)
  • Three more Belarusian activists who were arrested for allegedly damaging railways in the country to disrupt the supply of Russian arms and troops to Ukraine have gone on trial in the eastern city of Mahilyou. (RFE/RL, 01.23.23)
  • The European Union has condemned as "shameful and politically motivated" the sentencing in Belarus of Darya Losik, the wife of jailed RFE/RL journalist Ihar Losik, to two years in prison on a charge of facilitating extremist activity. (RFE/RL, 01.26.23)
  • Putin has urged boosting the international ties of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), including talks on free trade with the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia. He did so in an address to EAEU colleagues on the occasion of Russia’s chairmanship in 2023. (TASS, 01.27.23)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • Just after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, Russian journalist Alexei Venediktov was called in for a meeting and sits with Putin for two hours. “Then [Putin] says, ‘Listen, you were a history teacher. What will they write about me in the school textbooks?’” Venediktov recalls. The editor stumbles out an answer about events during Putin’s first two terms in office. Putin is not pleased. “‘That’s all?’” Six years later, in 2014, Venediktov finds himself in the Kremlin for a meeting with Putin together with other editors. Putin greets each one, and upon reaching Venediktov, says: “‘What about now?’” (FT, 01.17.23)
  • ''Why do we know Azovstal?'' asked Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, referring to the enormous steelworks in Mariupol that the Russians blasted for months during the war. ''Who occupied Azovstal last? That was the Germans,'' he said. “Everybody who is older here knows what the killing fields are. The names are familiar to them. Sending tanks there? Wow. Sending howitzers there? Well, to many older people, that's still hard,'' he said.  (NYT, 01.23.23)
  • Alexei Arestovich, a former adviser to Zelensky, said that “if everyone thinks that we are guaranteed to win the war, it seems very unlikely.” (RT, 01.22.23)