Russia in Review, Jan. 26-Feb. 2, 2024

7 Things to Know

  1. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy summoned Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (ZSU) Valerii Zaluzhnyi on Jan. 29 to tell the general he was being fired. At the meeting, Zaluzhnyi was offered the post of secretary of the national security council, but he turned it down, according to The Economist.[1] Two days after the meeting, the general, still in command of ZSU, published an essay with CNN, in which he said that bureaucracy is holding back Ukraine’s defense industry and “a new philosophy of training and warfare” is needed in 2024. By doing so, he “doubled down on a confrontation with Zelenskyy over military leadership,” according to Bloomberg. Zelenskyy and Zaluzhnyi have recently sparred on whether to mobilize an additional 500,000, with the president arguing that his government lacks the money to sustain such a mobilization. Zelenskyy has also been reportedly discontent with both the insufficient progress of ZSU’s counteroffensive last year and Zaluzhnyi's acknowledgement of stalemate on the battlefield. In addition, some members of Zelenskyy’s staff have reportedly become weary of Zaluzhnyi's growing popularity as he has become the most trusted figure in Ukraine. The removal of Zaluzhnyi, which was yet to be formalized as of Feb. 2, but which Kyiv has already informed Washington about, would cause an uproar within both Ukraine’s civil society and ZSU’s rank-and-file, according to FT. Nevertheless, two generals are being mentioned as contenders to replace Zaluzhnyi, commander of the ground forces Oleksandr Syrsky and military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov, according to the Economist and WP.
  2. In the past month, ZSU have re-gained zero square miles of their country’s territory, while Russian forces have captured 56 square miles of Ukrainian land, according to the Jan. 30, 2024, issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. Recent Russian gains include the village of Krokhmalne in the eastern Kharkiv region, as well as part of the village of Tabaivka, according to Meduza. In the view of the Ukrainian MoD’s intelligence chief Budanov, Russian forces aim to reach the Zherebets River (in the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border area) and the administrative borders of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, ISW reported. According to Vladimir Putin, his forces are aiming to establish a “demilitarized” or “sanitary” zone in Ukraine that he claims would place Russian territory—including occupied Ukraine—out of range of both frontline artillery systems and Western-provided long-range systems, ISW reported. In the estimate of CIA director William Burns, “this year is likely to be a tough one on the battlefield in Ukraine” even though “Putin’s war has already been a failure for Russia on many levels.”
  3. Ukraine’s “deeper strikes” behind frontlines and its steady gains in the Black Sea might prompt Putin to resume nuclear saber-rattling this year, according to CIA director William Burns. If Putin does rattle his nuclear saber again, “it would be foolish to dismiss escalatory risks entirely.” “But it would be equally foolish to be unnecessarily intimidated by them,” Burns writes in FA,
  4. The Biden administration is working on a long-term strategy for supporting Kyiv that does not anticipate significant gains by the Ukrainian forces in 2024, focusing instead on helping Ukraine fend off Russian advances while also strengthening its combat capabilities and its economy, according to WP. The strategy is to be outlined in an official U.S. document, which is being “written with four phases in mind: fight, build, recover and reform,” according to this newspaper. The strategy calls for significant ongoing assistance to Ukraine. The Senate is to vote on a revised package containing nearly $60 billion in military assistance for Ukraine as well as border-security measures next week, according to Chuck Schumer.
  5. EU leaders have finally struck a deal as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban yielded to their demands to lift his veto on a €50 billion ($54 billion) financial aid package for Ukraine, Bloomberg reported. The package, the adoption of which has been repeatedly delayed, will be spent on nonmilitary expenses. Prior to the Feb. 1 deal, NYT warned that further delays would trigger an all-but-certain economic crisis, noting that “Ukraine has also contributed to its own problems, with chronic corruption that has made Western allies more skeptical that money donated is going to the right cause.”
  6. Ukrainian defense officials stole about $40 million meant for the purchase of ammunition for the military, the country's internal security service (SBU) said, confirming a massive procurement fraud as Kyiv seeks to assure international backers that it is cracking down on corruption, according to WP. Though it was state money—not foreign aid—that was embezzled, the SBU said in a statement, the scheme is likely to resonate in both Washington and Brussels, according to WP’s Jan. 28 report. The SBU did not name the suspects, but Ukrainian media identified Toomas Nakhkur as one. Following these revelations,  Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov suspended Nakhkur, who led the defense ministry's department for technical policy, according to Reuters. In the meantime, Inspectors General from the Departments of Defense, State and USAID have visited Kyiv this week to discuss preventing corruption in procurement, among other issues, according to Umerov, who hosted the U.S. delegation on Jan. 31, according  to
  7. Russia’s economy will expand much more rapidly this year than previously expected, according to IMF’s January 2024 update of its World Economic Outlook.  Russia’s GDP is forecast to rise 2.6% this year, more than double the pace the IMF predicted earlier, according to FTIMF also now forecasts Russian GDP to grow by 1.1% in 2025.  


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


Nuclear security and safety:

  • IAEA chief Mariano Grossi is to travel to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) next week. It will be the fourth time Grossi crosses the frontline of the war to visit the ZNPP, whose six reactors have all been in shutdown for nearly 18 months and produce no electricity but still hold large amounts of nuclear fuel that must be kept safe, including adequately cooled, and secure. Russia’s decision to block any staff yet to sign a contract with the Russian operators of ZNPP and its impact on safety, is going to be raised by Grossi. (IAEA, 02.01.24, WNN, 02.02.24)
  • On Jan. 31 the second unit at the Kursk nuclear power plant, an RBMK-1000 reactor, came to the end of its service life and stopped generating power. It began commercial operation in 1979. (WNN, 01.31.24)
  • Rostechnadzor, a Russian nuclear regulatory body, has issued an order approving an annual program for prevention of violations of requirements in the area of nuclear energy use. Noticeable findings related to nuclear security include that inspections over the control and accounting of nuclear materials revealed one anomaly in control and accounting due to a discrepancy in the actual physical inventory and book inventory of nuclear materials. The Rostechnadzor report does not identify the organization or reveal investigation results. (Dmitry Kovchegin’s Nuclear Security Update, 01.29.24)
  • Ukraine's Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said that Ukraine was working closely with Westinghouse for the construction/completion of the third and fourth units, based on VVER-1000 technology, of the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant, as well as the construction of two completely new units using Westinghouse's AP1000 technology. He said that "with the power that the six reactors at the Khmelnitsky will be able to produce, it will be the largest in Europe and even more powerful than Zaporizhzhia." (WNN, 01.29.24)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • North Korea fired its fourth barrage of cruise missiles in some two weeks, a move that came just hours after Kim Jong Un called for stepping up “war preparations” during a visit to a naval shipyard. (Bloomberg, 02.02.24)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he worries about Russia's partnership with Iran. Years ago, he says, he "told President Putin that Iran's military buildup in Syria would pose an unacceptable security threat to Israel." That would raise a real possibility of Israel's air force clashing with Russia's. "Thankfully, so far, we've avoided such a clash." But now "Iran has become the chief arms supplier to Russia, and we're obviously concerned about Russian reciprocation." (WSJ, 01.27.24)
    • Fiona Hill said: “[B]eyond Russia rekindling old ties and worrying about domestic extremism, the big shift in the Russian relationship with Israel is rooted in Moscow’s increasingly close bilateral security relationship with Iran. I don’t think we can emphasize this enough. This development puts the rest of us—the United States and Europe—in quite a predicament.” (Brookings, 01.31.24)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • The national police of Ukraine have documented the death of 9,700 civilians in Ukraine as a result of the full-scale aggression of the Russian Federation, almost 7,000 civilians are missing. (Ukrainskaya Pravda, 01.31.24)
  • Russia and Ukraine have exchanged prisoners for the first officially reported time since a Russian Il-76 military plane, which Russian authorities claim was carrying Ukrainian POWs, crashed in the Belgorod region. During the full-scale war with Russia, more than 3,000 Ukrainians were released from captivity, according to the Ukrainian president. (, 01.31.24, Meduza, 01.31.24)
    • Ukraine says it has repeatedly asked Moscow to return the bodies of dozens of prisoners of war that Russia says died in the crash. The Kremlin denied claims by Kyiv that it had ignored requests to return the remains of Ukrainian prisoners of war. The Russian president said that the plane was shot down by a U.S.-made Patriot missile system. (MT/AFP, 02.01.24, RFE/RL, 02.02.24, MT/AFP, 02.01.24, Meduza, 02.01.24)
    • A French military official told The Associated Press that the country’s military concluded that Ukrainian forces used a battery of Patriot surface-to-air missiles to shoot down the Il-76, firing from about 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) away. He said the Ukrainian battery apparently managed to stay hidden while getting closer to the target and then switched on its radar “just long enough to hit them.” (AP, 02.02.24)
    • Russia’s Investigative Committee said investigators have found over 670 body fragments and identified all of the crash victims. The Investigative Committee said investigators have found over 670 body fragments and identified all of the crash victims. (AP, 02.02.24)
  • A Russian reconnaissance and sabotage group have shot at a civilian car in the Sumy region on Jan. 27. A 54-year-old man and his 68-year-old sister were driving along the road between two villages of the Khotyn community, Sumy district, when shot and killed. (, 01.27.24)
  • The National Democratic Institute has asked Ukrainians if they have experienced the loss of family and friends from the war. In May 2022, one-fifth of respondents indicated that they had. In November 2023, almost half said they had lost loved ones, with higher rates among middle-aged and young respondents. (Gerard Toal in The Conservation, 01.29.24)
  • The United Nations’ top court said Feb. 2 it has jurisdiction to rule on a request by Ukraine for a declaration that Kyiv is not responsible for genocide, but not on other aspects of a Ukrainian case against Russia. (BG, 02.02.24)
  • European Union leaders struck a deal as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban yielded to their demands to lift his veto on a €50 billion ($54 billion) financial aid package for Ukraine. As part of the accord, the member states agreed to debate the implementation of the Ukraine aid package every year and, “if needed,” the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, could be asked to propose a review in two years. The Hungarian leader’s demand for a veto was dropped. The EU package of about $54 billion will be spent on nonmilitary expenses, like pensions, payments to displaced people and paying teachers and doctors. (NYT, 02.02.24, Bloomberg, 02.01.24)
    • Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said Feb. 1’s agreement showed “Europe’s unwavering commitment to supporting Ukraine.” “We know Ukraine is fighting for us . . . so we will provide them with much-needed stability,” she said. “This sent a very strong message to Putin.” (FT, 02.01.24)
    • Prior to the EU deal, Ukraine’s government said it has cobbled together financing to last several months without long-stalled aid from the United States and Europe. But further delays would trigger an all-but-certain economic crisis. Ukraine has also contributed to its own problems, with chronic corruption that has made Western allies more skeptical that money donated is going to the right cause. (NYT, 01.31.24)
    • Ukraine relies on foreign aid for about half its annual budget, and is prohibited by donors from spending that assistance on the military. On Jan. 26, the government announced cutbacks in such payments for internally displaced people in Ukraine, to save about $530 million this year. (NYT, 01.31.24)
  • Wartime support from the International Monetary Fund is contingent on the United States, for example, continuing to support Ukraine’s government. If the United States backs out, Ukraine would have to renegotiate the fund’s $5.4 billion program this year. (NYT, 01.31.24)
  • By the beginning of 2022, the population of Ukraine in the 1991 borders was approximately 42 million. If the war ends at the end of 2024 or 2025, then 15 years later, the population will be approximately 30.5 million people. (, 01.23.24)
  • With 6.3 million tons of goods exported in December, the Odesa region’s three ports—Odessa itself, Chornomorsk and Pivdenny—are now almost back to pre-war volumes. (Economist, 01.28.24)
  • The EU said on Jan. 31 that it plans to extend tariff-free entry for Ukrainian farm products for a year from June, but with "safeguards" to stop cheaper imports flooding the market at the expense of Europe's own farmers. (RFE/RL, 01.31.24)
  • For military strikes on civilian targets see the next section.

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 56 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 0 square miles, according to the Jan. 30, 2024, issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 01.30.24)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi on Jan. 29 to personally discuss the issue of his resignation, according to Ukraine’s Dzerkalo Tyzhnia news outlet’s sources in the office of the president and among Zaluzhnyi’s staff. During the meeting, Zelenskyy told Zaluzhnyi he was being dismissed, said a senior Ukrainian official. (, 01.29.24, RM, 01.29.24, WP, 02.02.24)
    • In the conversation between Zelenskyy and Zaluzhnyi, the general laid out some parting thoughts about the problems his successor will inherit — making clear why a quick improvement of Ukraine’s position on the battlefield is unlikely. A senior Ukrainian official said that Zaluzhnyi told the president during the meeting that Ukraine must mobilize at least as many people as Russia plans to — some 400,000. Ukraine must also prepare for losses, which are expected to be comparable to last year’s, he said. Zaluzhnyi’s ultimate figure was close to 500,000. (WP, 02.01.24)
  • While a decision had been made in Zelenskyy’s office to dismiss Zaluzhnyi, he may not be ousted for some time after reports of the plans appeared in Ukrainian media, according to four people familiar with the discussions. (FT, 01.30.24)
  • At the Jan. 29 meeting Zaluzhnyi was offered another role: secretary of the national security council. He turned it down. (The Economist, 01.30.24)
  • A Ukrainian member of Parliament who had been briefed on the plans gave a similar account, saying the two men met on Jan.29 but no decision was made. One of the sticking points for the government was that there was no immediate replacement to take Zaluzhnyi’s place, the person said. (NYT, 01.30.24)
  • Two generals are being mentioned as contenders for Zaluzhnyi’s job: Oleksandr Syrsky, 58; and Kyrylo Budanov, 38. (The Economist, 01.30.24)
    • Syrsky is considered more accessible to some U.S. commanders. He built rapport with Gen. Christopher Cavoli, who as head of the U.S. European Command oversaw much of the Pentagon’s effort to train and equip Ukraine’s army. Meanwhile, during Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive, Cavoli could not reach Zaluzhnyi for weeks. Within the ranks of the Ukrainian military, however, Syrsky is widely disliked. Some soldiers say his orders are unreasonable, at times sending men to their obvious deaths. Others disrespect him for removing popular commanders in favor of those more loyal to him. (WP, 02.01.24)
    • The removal of Zaluzhnyi would also cause an uproar within Ukraine’s rank-and-file military and civil society, among whom he enjoys huge support. In a Ukrainian poll released in December, 88% of Ukrainians said they trusted Zaluzhnyi compared with 62% who said they trusted Zelenskyy. (FT, 01.30.24)
    • The firing would be a disruptive military shake-up amid Ukraine's struggles on the battlefield and after months of friction between the president and the popular general. Zelenskyy would lose military advice from an experienced commander if he were to fire the general. The United States and other allies would need to adjust to working with new military leaders, and a dismissal could fuel worries of instability in Ukraine’s wartime leadership. (NYT, 01.31.24, NYT, 02.01.24)
    • A swift, negative reaction in the military ranks, misgivings among some officials in Kyiv and uncertainty in the West suggest Zelenskyy’s removal of the popular general could backfire. It could also deliver a blow to morale among troops on the front lines, especially because there has been no public explanation for Zaluzhnyi’s expected dismissal. “Only Russia wins in this situation,” said a current senior military official. (WP, 02.01.24)
    • The government of Ukraine has informed the White House that Zelenskyy has decided to fire Zaluzhnyi, in what would be the most consequential personnel shake-up of the war, said two people familiar with the discussion. White House officials did not support or object to the high-stakes decision. (WP, 02.02.24)
    • On Feb 1. Ukraine’s top general doubled down on a confrontation with Zelenskyy over military leadership, escalating the power struggle in Kyiv. Zaluzhnyi, whose future as commander-in-chief of the armed forces is hanging in the balance, said in a Feb. 1 opinion piece for CNN that bureaucracy is holding back Ukraine’s defense industry and “a new philosophy of training and warfare” is needed in 2024 to cope with limited resources. In the essay, Zaluzhnyi also presented an overarching strategy to seize the theater-wide initiative in Ukraine and retain it to facilitate Ukrainian battlefield victories. Zaluzhnyi’s strategy aims to offset Ukraine’s existing challenges and pursue advantages over the Russian military through widespread technological innovation and adaptation. (Bloomberg, 02.02.24, ISW, 02.01.24)
      • “It is these unmanned systems – such as drones –  along with other types of advanced weapons, that provide the best way for Ukraine to avoid being drawn into a positional war, where we do not possess the advantage,” Zaluzhnyi wrote in a commentary. “We must constantly find new ways and new capabilities to help us gain an advantage over the enemy. Perhaps the number one priority here is mastery of an entire arsenal of (relatively) cheap, modern and highly effective, unmanned vehicles and other technological means,” he wrote. “The challenge for our armed forces cannot be underestimated.  It is to create a completely new state system of technological rearmament.” (CNN, 02.01.24)
      • “Our goal must be to seize the moment – to maximize our accumulation of the latest combat capabilities, which will allow us to commit fewer resources to inflicting maximum damage on the enemy, to end the aggression and protect Ukraine from it in the future,” Zaluzhnyi wrote in a commentary. (CNN, 02.01.24) The commentary does not contain references to Ukraine’ territorial integrity.*
  • At the moment, the Russian offensive operation in Ukraine continues, but in early spring it will fizzle out completely, according to head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense Kyrylo Budanov. Budanov stated that Russian forces aim to reach the Zherebets River (in the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border area) and the administrative borders of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. (ISW, 01.30.24,, 01.30.24)
  • In an interview with German media Zelenskyy would not say whether the war in Ukraine could end in 2024, but he is convinced that Russia can be stopped by preventing the destruction of Ukraine and World War III. Zelenskyy said he expects the top military brass to produce a just draft of a bill on mobilization, calling for justice for those liable for military service and digitalization of the recruitment process. (Ukrainskaya Pravda, 01.29.24, Ukrainskaya Pravda, 01.29.24)
  • Putin doubled down on his maximalist and purposefully vague territorial objectives in Ukraine on Jan. 31. Putin stated that pushing the current frontline deeper into Ukraine is the most important goal for Russian forces across the theater. Putin emphasized the idea of a “demilitarized” or “sanitary” zone in Ukraine that he claimed would place Russian territory – including occupied Ukraine – out of range of both frontline artillery systems and Western-provided long-range systems. Putin included Kharkiv City in this hypothesized demilitarized zone. Putin also highlighted the Russian offensive effort near Avdiivka likely to portray that effort as successful to domestic Russian audiences and to further justify the Russian war in Ukraine (ISW, 01.31.24)
    • If Putin is interested in "demilitarization," it should start with those parts of Ukraine where Russian troops are present, according to U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. (, 02.02.24)
  • Still smarting from last year’s failed counteroffensive in Ukraine, the Biden administration is putting together a new strategy that will de-emphasize winning back territory and focus instead on helping Ukraine fend off new Russian advances while moving toward a long-term goal of strengthening its fighting force and economy. The idea now is to position Ukraine to hold its position on the battlefield for now, but “put them on a different trajectory to be much stronger by the end of 2024 … and get them on a more sustainable path,” said the senior official, one of several who described the internal policymaking on the condition of anonymity. The U.S. document, according to U.S. officials closely involved in the planning, is being written with four phases in mind: fight, build, recover and reform. (WP, 01.26.24)
  • “This year is likely to be a tough one on the battlefield in Ukraine, a test of staying power whose consequences will go well beyond the country’s heroic struggle to sustain its freedom and independence.,” CIA Director William Burns wrote in FA. (FA, 01.30.24)
  • On Jan. 26 and 27, Russian forces struck civilian infrastructure in Myrnohrad and Novohrodivka in Donetsk Oblast and Antonivka, Kherson Oblast with nine S-300 missiles and in Slovyansk, Donetsk Oblast with an Iskander-M missile on Jan. 26 and 27. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that Ukrainian forces shot down all four Shahed-136/131 drones that Russian forces launched at Ukraine on Jan. 27. (ISW, 01.27.24)
  • On Jan. 27, Ukrainian officials said Russia had intensified attacks in the past 24 hours, with a commander saying the sides had battled through "50 combat clashes" in the past day near Ukraine's Tavria region. (RFE/RL, 01.27.24)
  • On Jan. 28 the unofficial Ukrainian war-tracking Telegram channel DeepState reported that Russian forces had occupied the village of Tabaivka in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region. On Jan. 29 Russia’s Defense Ministry said that Russian troops have captured the village, a claim that Ukrainian military spokesperson Volodymyr Fityo was quick to deny. The DeepState’s map showed the village to be contested with Russian forces on offensive as of Feb. 2. (Meduza, 01.29.24, RM, 01.29.24)
  • Early on Jan. 29, Ukraine's air defenses say all eight drones launched by Russia at targets in four regions -- Mykolayiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Khmelnytskiy, and Rivne -- were shot down. One Iskander-M and three S-300 missiles were also launched at Ukraine's territory, the General Staff said. (RFE/RL, 01.29.24)
  • On Jan. 29, Ukraine said its troops were trying to expand their foothold on the Russian-occupied eastern bank of the Dnipro River. (MT/AFP, 01.29.24)
  • On Jan. 29, Russian air defenses repelled a Ukrainian drone attack on the Slavneft-YANOS oil refinery in the city of Yaroslavl. (RFE/RL, 01.29.24)
  • On Jan. 30, a drone landed on the premises of an oil refinery in St. Petersburg after being downed by air defense forces, the news outlet Fontanka and the Telegram channel “Mash na Moike” reported. (Meduza, 01.31.24)
  • On Jan. 30, Russia's attacks on military and energy infrastructure in Ukraine killed two, as frontline shelling left one more dead, authorities said. (MT/AFP, 01.30.24)
  • On Jan. 31, an unmanned drone crashed near the center of St. Petersburg, causing an explosion at an oil refinery. (MT/AFP, 01.31.24)
  • On Feb. 1, Ukraine's military intelligence (GUR) said that sea drones attacked and sank a Russian corvette Ivanovets in the Black Sea near Crimea overnight. In total, Ukraine has destroyed at least 22 of the 80 working combat vessels of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, and damaged another 13. (Economist, 01.28.24, RFE/RL, 02.01.24)
  • On Feb. 1, a Russian strike killed two French aid workers in the town of Beryslav in the southern Kherson region, Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said. French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the attack as “cowardly and outrageous.” (AP, 02.02.24)
  • On Feb. 2, Ukrainian air defense shot down 11 out of 24 Russian drones launched early on at critical infrastructure facilities in the Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Kirovohrad and Kharkiv regions, the military said. (RFE/RL, 02.02.24)
  • Ukraine has warned its allies that it is facing a “critical” shortage of artillery shells. Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said Ukraine is unable to fire more than 2,000 shells a day across a frontline that stretches for 1,500 kilometers (930 miles), according to a document seen by Bloomberg. That’s less than a third of the ammunition Russia uses. (Bloomberg, 01.31.24)
  • Since the beginning of 2024, the Russian military has fired more than 330 missiles of various types and about 600 drones into Ukraine, according to Zelenskyy. (, 01.30.24)
  • According to a survey by the National Democratic Institute, Ukrainians do not think the conflict will end any time soon, with 43% saying that war will go on for an additional 12 months, at least. One-third responded that they simply do not know when the conflict will end. In May 2022, just a few months into the conflict, one in four Ukrainians thought the war would end within three months. In November 2023, only 3% had that expectation. (Gerard Toal in The Conservation, 01.29.24)

Military aid to Ukraine: 

  • The Senate is to vote on a revised package containing nearly $60 billion in military aid for Ukraine as well as border-security measures next week, according to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Any bill in the Democratic-controlled 51-49 Senate would need at least nine Republican votes to advance. But Republicans said that they would only deliver the necessary votes if more than half the Senate Republican conference, or 25, can vote yes. (WSJ, 02.01.24)
    • A standalone Ukraine package would likely provoke opposition from the right. “It’s time for us to move something, hopefully including a border agreement. But we need to get help to Israel and Ukraine,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Jan. 31. (Bloomberg, 01.31.24)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Jan. 29 warned that Ukraine's gains over two years of fighting invading Russian troops were all in doubt without new U.S. funding, as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg visited to lobby Congress. (AFP, 01.30.24)
  • "Bipartisan support for Ukraine remains strong across the country," U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told reporters in Kyiv on Jan. 31 after a day of talks with Ukrainian leaders. "I have great confidence that that understanding will be reflected in the vote that the Congress makes on this request from President Biden," she said. (RFE/RL, 02.01.24)
  • Inspectors General from the Departments of Defense, State and USAID have visited Kyiv this week to discuss prevention of corruption in procurement, among other issues, according to Defense Minister Rustem Umerov who hosted the U.S. delegation on Jan. 31, according  to This and other meetings “support oversight & accountability for U.S. assistance to Ukraine,” according to U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink. (RM, 02.01.24)
  • The Pentagon has successfully tested a new long-range precision bomb for Ukraine that is expected to arrive on the battlefield as soon as Jan. 31, according to two U.S. officials and two other people with knowledge of the talks. Ukraine will receive its first batch of Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs. (Politico, 01.30.24)
  • EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell stated that the EU will not be able to send the promised one million shells to Ukraine by March 2024, but is planning to fulfill this promise by the end of 2024. (ISW, 02.01.24)
  • Defense ministers from the EU’s 27 member states have had an informal meeting in Brussels to discuss the need to beef up the bloc's defense industry and its military support to Ukraine, which has pleaded for months for military supplies in its war to repel invading Russian forces. (RFE/RL, 01.30.24)
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will travel to Washington for a meeting with Biden on Feb. 9, as the leaders look to rally support for additional assistance for Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 01.27.24)
  • French President Emmanuel Macron urged Europe's leaders to find ways to "accelerate" aid to Ukraine as Russia continued to pound the EU hopeful with missiles. "We will, in the months to come, have to accelerate the scale of our support," Macron said in a speech on Jan. 30 during a visit to Sweden. (RFE/RL, 01.30.24)
  • A plan to provide more artillery shells to Ukraine by having Japan send munitions to Britain has stalled. (WSJ, 01.30.24)
  • Ukraine and Canada agree on security guarantees for our country. The relevant agreement is in the final stages, according to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly at a briefing with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. (, 02.02.24)

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

  • EU member countries have backed a plan to set aside billions of euros of profits arising from the freezing of assets of Russia’s central bank in a first step towards their possible use for Ukraine’s reconstruction. The unanimous decision on Jan. 29 has yet to be formalized in coming weeks. Of the €260 billion of Russian foreign reserves immobilized in 2022 in response to Moscow’s invasion, €191 billion is sitting in Belgium’s Euroclear, a central security depository. Euroclear earned €4.4 billion last year from these assets. The Brussels-based group disclosed on Feb. 1 that earnings related to interests from Russian assets more than quadrupled from €821 million in 2022 due to rising interest rates. (FT, 01.30.24, FT, 02.01.24)
  • Turkish banks have started closing Russian corporate accounts following threats of secondary sanctions from the United States, the Vedomosti business daily reported Feb. 1, citing financial consultants and business owners. (MT/AFP, 02.01.24)
  • Ex-Russian minister Dmitry Ovsyannikov has been arrested in London. The former official, who was previously appointed leader of occupied Sevastopol, is the first person to be charged in the United Kingdom with breaching Russian sanctions. (The Sun, 02.01.24)
  • The EU on Monday announced sanctions against the Kremlin-aligned Safe Internet League and its head Yekaterina Mizulina for silencing Russian anti-war content creators and reinforcing government censorship. (MT/AFP, 01.29.24)
  • A suspected Russian GRU officer Viktor Labin has settled in Brussels. From there, he supplies the Russian defense industry with coordinate measuring machines, according to the Insider. One of his sons helps him run his business, while the other organizes protests in Europe in support of the Kremlin (The Insider, 01.27.24)
  • Since January 2023, Russian-owned company I Machine Technology has imported over $20 million of sophisticated equipment called CNC machine tools made in Taiwan, a U.S. strategic partner, according to trade records and Russian tax documents obtained by The Washington Post. The computer-controlled machines are used for the complex and precise manufacturing that is critical in many industries, including weapons production. (WP, 02.02.24)

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

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • U.S. policymakers say they expect the war will eventually end through negotiations — but also that they do not think Putin will be serious about talks this year, in part because he holds out hope that Trump will win back the presidency in November and dial back support to Kyiv. (WP, 01.26.24)
  • According to Assistant to the Russian leader Yuri Ushakov, Putin plans to visit Turkey in February for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Speaking about the possibility of resuming peace negotiations on Ukraine within the Istanbul format, he noted, “I can say that Ukrainian issues will, perhaps, be one of the main subjects of negotiations.” (, 01.29.24)
  • Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergei Naryshkin reiterated that the Kremlin is not interested in any settlements short of the complete destruction and eradication of the Ukrainian state. (ISW, 01.28.24)
  • The leader of Germany’s new left-wing populist party the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance (BSW) called for an immediate end to the Ukraine war at it its founding congress in Berlin on Saturday. Sahra Wagenknecht, the party’s leader, told delegates that society was at a tipping point, with voters overcome with “insecurity, outrage and fury.” (FT, 01.27.24)
  • Since the war began, the National Democratic Institute survey has asked if Ukraine should engage in negotiations with Russia to try to achieve peace. A majority (59%) said yes just a few months into the war in May 2022. But by January 2023, the share of those in favor had dropped 30 points to a low of just 29%. To most Ukrainians, it is unacceptable to hold only the territory it currently controls as the price for peace – 71% strongly reject this, another 13% less strongly in the survey. Only 12% see peace based on current territorial control as acceptable. (Gerard Toal in The Conservation, 01.29.24)

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

  • “Putin’s war has already been a failure for Russia on many levels. His original goal of seizing Kyiv and subjugating Ukraine proved foolish and illusory. His military has suffered immense damage. At least 315,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded, two-thirds of Russia’s prewar tank inventory has been destroyed ...Meanwhile, Russia’s economy is suffering long-term setbacks, and the country is sealing its fate as China’s economic vassal. Putin’s overblown ambitions have backfired in another way, too: they have prompted NATO to grow larger and stronger,” CIA Director William Burns wrote in FA. “One thing I have learned is that it is always a mistake to underestimate his [Putin’s] fixation on controlling Ukraine and its choices. Without that control, he believes it is impossible for Russia to be a great power or for him to be a great Russian leader,” Burns wrote in FA. (FA, 01.30.24)
  • Russia is increasingly confident that deepening economic and diplomatic ties with China and the Global South will allow it to challenge the international financial system dominated by the United States and undermine the West, according to Kremlin documents and interviews with Russian officials and business executives. Internal Russian Security Council documents show that the Kremlin convened meetings in 2022 and 2023 on ways to undermine the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. “One of the most important tasks is to create a new world order,” one of the documents dated April 3, 2023, states.” (WP, 01.27.24)
    • While most of the West still hopes for a return to the previous order, a senior European security official said Russia’s billionaires “have understood that the old life is finished and now is the time to create a new future.” Russians, the official continued, “have passed through the Rubicon, and the West has not. The West wants to return to business as usual. But the Russians understood that this is impossible, and they are trying to build a new world.” (WP, 01.27.24)
  • The United States may discuss Turkey’s return to the F-35 fighter jet “family” if a spat over Ankara’s acquisition of advanced Russian air defenses is resolved, U.S. Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said during a visit to Turkey. (Bloomberg, 01.30.24)
  • The Biden administration should consider imposing sanctions on Hungarian officials and removing the country from a favorable visa regime to punish Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for rolling back democracy and weakening NATO unity, said Senator Ben Cardin (Democrat-Maryland), chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (RFE/RL, 02.01.24)
  • Stoltenberg has played down fears that the reelection of former U.S. President Donald Trump would weaken the defense alliance as it works to ensure robust support for Ukraine. Stoltenberg said he did not think a second Trump presidency would jeopardize U.S. membership in NATO. (Reuters, 01.31.24)
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba believes that if Putin wins in Ukraine, he will try to test Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which obliges all NATO members to defend an Alliance country if it is attacked. He noted that no one had previously thought that Russia could attack Georgia or Ukraine, but that this happened nonetheless. (, 02.02.24)
  • Germany expects to achieve a NATO goal of spending at least 2% of economic output on defense this year for the first time in more than three decades. “Security doesn’t come for free,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said. (Bloomberg, 01.31.24)
  • Britain has fewer troops than at any point since the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, according to WP correspondent Lee Hockstader. (WP, 01.02.24)
  • Russia views NATO as a "threat" and is taking measures to deal with it, the Kremlin said on Jan. 31 when asked about the alliance's large-scale Steadfast Defender military drills. (MT/AFP, 01.31.24)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Russian-Chinese relations are at their “best period in their history” in a Jan. 31 call with Chinese Defense Minister Admiral Dong Jun. Shoigu claimed that Russian-Chinese military cooperation is steadily developing and that the Russian and Chinese militaries regularly conduct operational and combat training exercises. Shoigu and Dong emphasized a desire to increase Russian-Chinese strategic cooperation, and Dong reported that China provided unspecified “support” to Russia in the war in Ukraine. Chinese authorities will not refuse supporting Russia on the Ukrainian issue in spite of pressure by the United States and threatened cooperation on defense between Beijing and the EU, Dong said. China feels and fully appreciates Russia’s strong support on the Taiwan issue, he said. (ISW, 01.31.24, TASS, 01.31.24)
  • In Beijing, the Russian and Chinese delegations exchanged their assessments regarding the military application of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to reaffirm the similarity of the Russian and Chinese approaches to the issue of military application of artificial intelligence. (TASS, 02.02.24)
  • On Feb. 1, Beijing hosted Russian-Chinese interdepartmental consultations on space security, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that both sides focused on consolidating efforts to prevent an arms race in space. (TASS, 02.01.24)
  • Turkish and Chinese companies have helped Russia replenish its dwindling stocks of ammunition by exporting large volumes of a key component used to produce gunpowder. The EU banned shipments of nitrocellulose to Russia in April 2022 as part of sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Still, Russia was able to ramp up shipments of the key component by more than five times in 2022, to over 2,000 metric tons, customs data show. In 2023, that figure stood at around 4,000 metric tons. (MT/AFP, 01.31.24)
  • Some Chinese banks have begun refunding payments to Russian companies for goods even in yuan, one Chinese equipment supplier familiar with the transactions of Russian buyers told Important Stories on the condition of anonymity. As an example, the interlocutor cited several transactions for the purchase of metalworking equipment in China for a small Russian company not associated with the military-industrial complex. The bank returned the money to the Russian buyer, while the seller explained what happened with “sanctions since January 23.” It is unknown what kind of sanctions we are talking about. (Istories, 01.30.24)
  • China has warned Ukraine about designating Chinese companies as "international sponsors of war," saying it could damage relations between the two countries, Reuters reported, citing unidentified sources familiar with the matter. Chinese officials last month communicated their displeasure to Kyiv, which has included 14 Chinese entities among a list of 48 companies it claims have aided Russia. (Reuters, 02.01.24)
  • “While Russia may pose the most immediate challenge, China is the bigger long-term threat, and over the past two years, the CIA has been reorganizing itself to reflect that priority. “We have started by acknowledging an organizational fact I learned long ago: priorities aren’t real unless budgets reflect them,” CIA Director William Burns wrote in FA. (FA, 01.30.24)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms

  • The United States is planning to station nuclear weapons in the United Kingdom for the first time in 15 years amid a growing threat from Russia, according to a report. The United States previously placed nuclear missiles at RAF Lakenheath and removed them in 2008 after the cold war threat from Moscow receded. Pentagon documents seen by the newspaper reveal procurement contracts for a new facility at the airbase. (The Guardian, 01.26.24)
  • “At the moment, the most acute risks of a strategic nature come from the U.S.’ and NATO’s commitment to escalating the Ukrainian crisis, which is fraught with a slide into a direct military clash between nuclear powers with catastrophic consequences. Russia is committed to the understanding, which was developed back in the 1980s, that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that it should never be fought,” Russia’s envoy to UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva Gennady Gatilov told a plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament. “We consider it important pay increased attention to the agenda item ‘Prevention of nuclear war, including all related issues,’” he said. (, 01.25.24)
  • Manfred Weber, leader of the center-right European People’s Party — currently tipped to come first in the European Parliament election in June — said: “Europe must build deterrence, we must be able to deter and defend ourselves.” “We all know that when push comes to shove, the nuclear option is the really decisive one.” “I would like to see the European dimension of nuclear defense as a long-term goal,” the EPP leader said. (Politico, 01.25.24.)
  • Ukraine’s “deeper strikes” behind frontlines and its steady gains in the Black Sea might prompt Putin to resume nuclear saber-rattling this year, according to CIA director William Burns. If Putin does rattle his nuclear saber, “it would be foolish to dismiss escalatory risks entirely.” “But it would be equally foolish to be unnecessarily intimidated by them,” Burns writes in FA. (RM, 02.02.24)


  • One Tajik and one Russian were detained in Istanbul over a church shooting, Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said late on Jan. 28, describing the two men as members of the Islamic State (IS) extremist organization. Earlier in the day, two masked men opened fire at the Italian Santa Maria Catholic Church in Istanbul's Sariyer district, killing a Turkish citizen. (RFE/RL, 01.29.24)
  • Kazakhstan's Committee of National Security said on Jan. 29 that, over the weekend, Turkey deported to Astana a 22-year-old Kazakh man suspected of joining an armed group in Syria. The suspect was born in Kazakhstan’s southern city of Turkistan and joined a military group in Syria in 2020, the committee said. No further details were given. In September 2023, a 19-year-old in Kazakhstan’s southern city of Shymkent was handed a seven-year prison term on the same charge. (RFE/RL, 01.29.24)
  • “We are confident that the initiative to develop ... an International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Chemical and Biological Terrorism remains relevant. The Convention is intended to eliminate the gaps in international law that do not allow a prompt and effective response to the qualitatively new threat of WMD terrorism, which is becoming increasingly large-scale, systemic and transboundary in nature,” Russia’s envoy to UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva Gennady Gatilov told a plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament. (, 01.25.24)

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • Security experts expect many more companies to disclose that they have been hacked by Russian intelligence agents who stole emails from executives following disclosures by Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise in the past week. Microsoft said late Feb. 1 that it had found more victims and was in the process of notifying them. (WP, 01.27.24)
  • Russian Internet users from across the country using several different operators have reported disruptions to their mobile service, as well as issues with accessing certain services and websites. The service Downradar has recorded complaints about the performance of the Russian operators MTS and MegaFon, according to Russian newspaper Kommersant. (Meduza, 01.31.24)
  • Russian opposition sources suggested that widespread internet outages in Russia on Jan. 30 may be the result of Russian efforts to establish the “sovereign internet” system. (ISW, 01.30.24)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • The refineries in Ust-Luga on the Baltic Sea, and Tuapse on the Black Sea attacked by Ukraine in January are export-oriented, and do not play a major role in the domestic market. However, if small drones with no more than five kilograms of explosives managed to reach Ust-Luga, which is 620 miles from Ukrainian territory, this means there are a total of eighteen Russian refineries with a combined capacity of 3.5 million barrels per day (more than half the Russian total) that are possible targets, according to Russian energy expert Sergey Vakulenko. (CEIP, 01.26.24)
  • Russia carried out its pledged cuts in overseas supplies of oil, according to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak. Moscow, in coordination with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, has pledged to deepen cuts in oil exports to 500,000 barrels a day in the current quarter compared with the average in May-June. That includes curbs in daily exports of crude oil by 300,000 barrels and refined products by 200,000 barrels. (Bloomberg, 01.27.24)
  • OPEC+ nations plan to decide in early March whether to extend oil output cuts into the second quarter, delegates said. Seven coalition members have pledged supply curbs totaling about 900,000 barrels a day this quarter, in tandem with a 1-million-barrel reduction by group leader Saudi Arabia. (Bloomberg, 02.01.24)
  • The latest batch of sanctions by the United States and European Union have increased the discounts Russia is having to offer to sell its barrels, according to the country’s top oil official. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told reporters in Moscow that Russian prices have seen bigger reductions relative to global prices since the most recent sanctions packages were brought into effect at the end of last year. (Bloomberg, 01.31.24)
  • A U.S. refiner imported 10,000 barrels of Russian oil through a blending loophole at storage terminals in the Bahamas. The crude, brought into Wilmington, Delaware in November, did not violate US sanctions because it was exported from Russia to the Bahamas prior to March 8, 2022, when the sanctions began, said Morgan Butterfield, an Energy Information Administration spokesperson. (Bloomberg, 01.31.24)
  • There is "growing evidence" that Russia is using "shadow tanker fleets" to circumvent a Western oil price cap, a watchdog committee of British lawmakers warned on Jan. 31. (MT/AFP, 01.31.24)
  • The Dörtyol terminal, based in Turkey’s Hatay province, received just three shipments of oil by sea, from Israel, Egypt and Greece between March and June of 2022, according to ship tracking data from Kpler. Then from July of that year, as the first western restrictions on Russian trade began to take effect, seaborne oil deliveries to Dörtyol soared. Most of the oil arriving at the terminal by sea is refined fuel from Russia and much of that has then been shipped to Europe, in contravention of EU sanctions, experts who have reviewed the data said. (FT, 01.30.24)
  • Brazilian imports of diesel from Russia last year soared 4600% while purchases of fuel oil rose by almost 400%, in a $8.6 billion boost to the Russian economy as the war in Ukraine enters its third year. (FT, 01.30.24)
  • Mongolia’s prime minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene told the Financial Times that he expected construction of the 3,550 km Power of Siberia 2 pipeline, including 950 km through Mongolian territory, to begin in 2024. Asked whether the partners will stick to that timetable, he said that Russia and China are yet to agree on critical details of the project. (FT, 01.28.24)
  • According to Kpler, a research firm, U.S. gas exports to Europe more than doubled from 2021 to 2022, to about 52 million metric tons, and then increased modestly in 2023. It is now the world's largest L.N.G. exporter, with more than 60% going to Europe last year. After the invasion of Ukraine, European countries including Germany, the Netherlands and Greece scrambled to build new L.N.G. terminals and lock up supply deals with the United States. (NYT, 01.27.24)

Climate change:

  • The rate of forest destruction caused by wildfires in Russia's northern latitudes more than tripled between 2012 and 2021 compared to the previous decade, according to a new study by the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). According to the study's findings, an average of more than 1.2 million hectares of Russia’s northern forests were ravaged by wildfires each year between 2012 and 2021. In the decade before, that figure stood at just 359,000 hectares. (MT/AFP, 01.31.24)
  • The UN’s climate chief has urged countries to intensify action to close the financing gap to tackle global warming at this year’s COP29 summit in Baku, where the hosts of the annual talks are under growing scrutiny. In a speech at the ADA University in Baku on Feb. 2, Simon Stiell, the UN’s top climate official argued that COP29 in November should be a “crucial enabling” summit. He said COP29 must take concrete action on climate finance or else the global agreements reached at COP28 in Dubai in December, which included transiting away from fossil fuels by 2050 and tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030, will “quickly fizzle away into more empty promises”. (FT, 02.02.24)
    • Meghan O’Sullivan was less sanguine about the possibility that the energy transition will diminish great power rivalry, particularly between the U.S. and Russia. But common interests in combating climate change, she said, will “become important for the peaceful navigation of this relationship” between the U.S. and China. (Harvard Magazine, 01.26.24)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • On the London Metal Exchange, JPMorgan Chase & Co. has stepped in to buy Russian aluminum even as Citigroup Inc. is abandoning the trade, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. (Bloomberg, 01.31.24)

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • A court in the Russian city of Kazan has extended the detention of Alsu Kurmasheva, a veteran journalist of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Tatar-Bashkir Service who has been in Russian custody since Oct. 18, by two months until Apr. 5. (RFE/RL, 02.01.24)
  • A Moscow court has commuted the suspended sentence of U.S. investor Michael Calvey after he pleaded guilty to controversial fraud charges, the state news agency Interfax reported Feb. 1. (MT/AFP, 02.01.24)
  • Nikki Haley denounced Trump in an interview. “That’s not what you want a president to be, but more than that, that’s not what we want Russia to see, that’s not what we want China to see and that’s not what we want Iran to see.” (NYT, 01.28.24)
  • Trump lost his London lawsuit against an ex-British spy after a court dismissed his claim linked to the notorious dossier about alleged ties between the Kremlin and the former U.S. president’s successful run to the White House. The Republican Party frontrunner for this year’s presidential election sued ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele and his Orbis business intelligence firm last year in a data-protection case, saying he’d suffered “significant damage and distress” from the publication of the dossier. (Bloomberg, 02.01.24)
  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California and the former House speaker, on Jan. 28 called for the FBI to investigate protesters demanding a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, suggesting without evidence that some activists may have ties to Russia and Putin. (NYT, 01.29.24)
  • The U.S. Justice Department has warned that several foreign powers, including Iran, Russia and China, have become increasingly brazen in their attacks on dissidents and refugees living in the United States. (NYT, 01.30.24)
  • Sotheby’s was cleared by a New York jury of allegations that it helped a dealer defraud a Russian billionaire, likely ending a nearly decade-old battle over the often murky relationships that surround high-end art deals. Jurors on Jan. 30 rejected Dmitry Rybolovlev’s claims that Sotheby’s aided and abetted fraud, following a three-week trial in federal court in Manhattan. (Bloomberg, 01.31.24)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia’s economy will expand much more rapidly this year than previously expected, according to the IMF, as Putin’s military spending feeds through into wider growth. Gross domestic product is forecast to rise 2.6% this year, more than double the pace the IMF predicted as recently as October, and slightly slower than the 3% expansion estimated for 2023. The Russian upgrade, by 1.5 percentage points, is the largest for any economy featured in an update to the fund’s World Economic Outlook, released on Jan. 30. IMF also now forecasts Russian GDP to grow by 1.1% in 2025. (FT, 01.30.24, RM, 02.01.24)
  • Russian industry expanded for the third straight year in 2023 as the government’s spending on its prolonged war on Ukraine helped counter the impact of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies. Industrial production increased by 3.5% last year after 0.6% growth in 2022, according to data published Jan. 31 by the Federal Statistics Service. (Bloomberg, 02.01.24)
  • Despite strict international sanctions intended to isolate the Russian financial system as punishment for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, its banks generated 3.3 trillion rubles ($37 billion) in 2023, up about 16 times from the previous year, the Russian Central Bank (CBR) said in a report published on Jan. 30. (FT, 01.31.24)
  • Sales of new vehicles, including cars, light commercial vehicles, trucks and buses, surged by 53% in January 2024 on an annual basis to 95,600 automobiles, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade said. (TASS, 02.02.24)
  • The number of millionaires in Russia (owners of liquid assets worth at least $1 million) decreased by 24% to 68.4 thousand millionaires from 2013 to 2023, according to a new study, BRICS Wealth Report, prepared by Henley & Partners together with research firm New World Wealth. (, 01.30.24)
  • Some 71% of Russians believe that things in the country are going in the right direction – this is an increase from 66% of Russians in January 2023. Also, some 85% of Russians approve of Vladimir Putin’s activities as President, slightly increasing from 82% approval in January 2023. According to an open-ended question (respondents were asked to independently name several politicians whom they trust most), the three most-trusted political figures were Putin (51%), Mikhail Mishustin (19%), and Sergei Lavrov (16%). (Levada Center, 02.01.24)
  • Putin has been officially registered as a candidate in Russia's upcoming presidential election. Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) on Jan. 30 published Putin’s financial earnings, showing that he made 67.6 million rubles ($753,000) over the past six years. (MT/AFP, 01.30.24, RFE/RL, 01.29.24)
  • Russia’s Central Election Commission (TsIK) has said it has found irregularities in some of the paperwork submitted by presidential hopeful Boris Nadezhdin, putting in peril the bid of the only politician in the March election who has openly called for a halt to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 02.02.24)
  • Russian authorities are taking steps to hinder voting by its citizens living abroad in the upcoming presidential election, in what some observers call a move to restrict votes cast by anti-war emigres. (MT/AFP, 01.31.24)
  • The Russian city of St. Petersburg on Jan. 27 marked the 80th anniversary of the end of a devastating World War II siege by Nazi forces. Putin claimed Ukraine "glorifies" Adolf Hitler's SS killing squads and vowed to "eradicate Nazism," as he opened a memorial marking 80 years since the end of the siege. (AP, 01.27.24, MT/AFP, 01.27.24)
  • A court in Russia’s Rostov region has sentenced a 72-year-old woman to 5.5 years in prison for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian army, according to the legal aid group Net Freedoms Project. (Meduza, 01.29.24)
  • Rifat Dautov, a resident of Ufa, the capital of Russia's Republic of Bashkortostan, has died after police detained him last week in a village on suspicion of taking part in mass rallies protesting the imprisonment of noted Bashkir activist Fail Alsynov in mid-January. (RFE/RL, 01.29.24)
  • A Moscow court on Jan. 29 issued arrest warrants for imprisoned opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's self-exiled associates -- Maria Pevchikh, Kira Yarmysh, Dmitry Nizovtsev, and Anna Biryukova -- on charges of organizing an extremist group. (RFE/RL, 01.29.24)
  • Russian authorities are seeking the arrest of a fourth lawyer of Navalny, the independent news website Mediazona reported Feb. 2. The Interior Ministry added Olga Mikhailova to its wanted list without specifying the crime that she is accused of committing (MT/AFP, 02.02.24)
  • Navalny has called for a protest against Putin during a presidential election next month by having voters turn out en masse at noon on the voting days to form huge lines as a show of opposition." (RFE/RL, 02.01.24)
  • Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza has been transferred to a single cell-type room (EPKT) in prison colony No. 7 in Omsk, Russia, reports Novaya Gazeta. Communicating through his lawyer, Kara-Murza said that he had been sent to the EPKT for four months. An EPKT is a prison within a prison and amounts to the harshest punishment prison officials can give. (Meduza, 01.30.24)
  • Putin has signed a decree establishing a new mechanism governing the civil service's personnel reserve. It means other initiatives promoted by the Kremlin's domestic policy overseers (such as Leaders of Russia) that used to be used heavily for selecting senior officials may lose their influence. (R. Politik digest, 01.28.24)
  • In the first six months after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, from late February to September 2022, over 100,000 Russians are estimated to have left Russia. Some 16% returned to Russia, but a significant majority of those (82%) soon left once again. (R.Politik Bulletin, 01.28.24)
  • The Russian State Duma has passed a law allowing for property to be confiscated from those convicted of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army. (Meduza, 01.31.24)
  • Russia's Prosecutor General has declared Russian Election Monitor (REM) an "undesirable" organization, the State Duma commission to investigate foreign interference in Russian politics reported on Feb. 1. (Current Time, 02.01.24)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The U.K. Ministry of Defense reported that the Russian defense industrial base can produce at least 100 main battle tanks per month and is therefore able to replace battlefield losses, allowing Russian forces to continue their current tempo of operations “for the foreseeable future.” (ISW, 01.30.24)
  • “We’re currently in a scenario where Russia is spending 40% of GDP on this war - that’s more than health and education,” a Western official told The Telegraph this week. (Telegraph, 01.26.24)
  • The Russian authorities have been coercing refugees from Middle Eastern and African countries into fighting in the war against Ukraine, according to a new investigation from Novaya Gazeta. (Meduza, 02.01.24)
  • Russian Army Gen. Alexander Dvornikov was reportedly appointed the new chairperson of the Russian Volunteer Society for Assistance to the Army, Aviation and Navy of Russia. (ISW, 01.30.24)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • In 2021, Russian military garrison courts heard about 600 cases of bribery. In 2022, there were 671 such cases, and in 2023 there were even fewer than usual—a little more than 500.
  • “Services” that are “sold” in the army— a day off, a vacation, a test in physical training (gives an increase in salary), a military rank, a driver’s license category C, which gives the right to drive trucks, and the connivance of officers who will not punish for using telephone or drunkenness. After February 2022, the set of “services” was updated. New items appeared in it - certificates of injury, inclusion in the list for receiving a state award for participation in the war with Ukraine, the opportunity not to go on a combat mission. (Verstka, 01.30.24)
  • At least 50 people died in Russian pretrial detention centers, special detention centers, courts, police stations, and police cars last year, according to Next, a group that analyzed reports from government departments and the media. (RFE/RL, 01.31.24)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated on Jan. 30 that Japanese sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine will continue but that Japan is interested in resolving its territorial issues with Russia and signing a peace treaty. Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev responded to Kishida’s statement and claimed that the disputed Kuril Islands are Russian and that the “territorial question” between Russia and Japan about the islands is “closed.” (Bloomberg, 01.30.24, ISW, 01.30.24)
  • South Africa’s foreign minister said Saudi Arabia and four other countries have accepted the invitation to join BRICS. Minister Naledi Pandor said that Russia, who takes over as chair of the bloc this year from South Africa, has received written interest from 34 countries who want to join. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates are now full members, she said. (Bloomberg, 01.31.24)
  • India is seeking to distance itself from its largest arms supplier after Russia's ability to supply munitions and spares was hobbled by the war in Ukraine, but must step carefully to avoid pushing Moscow closer to China, Indian sources said. "We are not likely to sign any major military deal with Russia," said Nandan Unnikrishnan, a Russia expert at New Delhi think tank the Observer Research Foundation. "That would be a red line for Washington." (Reuters, 01.28.24)
  • Russia on Jan. 30 criticized a decision by several countries to suspend their funding for the United Nations' Palestinian refugee agency, calling it a form of "collective punishment." "What has happened and is happening is collective punishment, prohibited by international humanitarian law," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. (MT/AFP, 01.30.24)
  • The Kremlin on Jan. 30 called for a de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East after Washington vowed to respond to an attack in Jordan that left three U.S. military servicemen dead. "In our view, the overall level of tension is very alarming and, on the contrary, now is the time for steps to de-escalate tensions," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. (MT/AFP, 01.30.24)
  • Burkina Faso’s junta said Russian troops may join the fight against an Islamist insurgency in West Africa, a week after Moscow deployed about 100 military personnel in the country. Russia delivered a donated shipment of wheat to Burkina Faso this week, as Moscow bolsters ties with countries on the continent. The arrival of the 25,000-ton cargo comes as about 100 military personnel from Russia came to the country in the first large deployment to the West African nation. (Bloomberg, 01.27.24, Bloomberg, 01.31.24)
  • Russia, in a new push to expand its influence in Africa, is recruiting for an armed force to replace the Wagner group’s mercenaries across the continent. The Africa Corps would bolster Russia’s military presence with what it says would be a network of planned Defense Ministry-controlled bases, in a bid to revive Moscow’s Cold War-era clout on the continent at a time of steeply declining Western influence. (Bloomberg, 01.30.24)
  • The Foreign Ministry in Moscow has told its diplomats to pursue Russian artists and celebrities who speak out against Putin and in support of Ukraine from so-called “friendly” countries that have avoided taking sides over the war, according to two people familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg, 02.01.24)
  • Russia is likely behind an increase in instances of jamming satellite signals used by airlines, smartphones and weapons systems in eastern Europe, according to a senior Baltic military commander. (Bloomberg, 01.31.24)
  • Bulgaria has issued a European arrest warrant for six Russian citizens accused of involvement in the destruction of arms factories and warehouses between 2011 and 2020, the prosecutor's office said on Jan. 30. It did not release their names. (RFE/RL, 01.30.24)
  • Vladimir Sergienko, a Ukrainian-born advisor to a German lawmaker from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, is allegedly working with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), according to an investigation released on Feb. 1 by the independent Russian media outlet The Insider. (Kyiv Independent, 02.02.24)
  • A new investigation from the outlet The Insider alleges that Tatjana Ždanoka, a member of member the European Parliament from Latvia, has been working undercover for Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) at least since 2004. (Meduza, 01.29.24, RFE/RL, 01.28.24, Meduza, 01.30.24)
  • Russian nationals registered some 9,000 new businesses in Serbia by the end of 2023, a number that is set to grow in 2024, according to the Serbian Business Register Agency (APR). (MT/AFP, 02.01.24)
  • On Jan. 29 a public inquiry in Canada began probing the extent of foreign interference in the country’s last two elections. The initial part of the inquiry will look at the role China, Russia and other countries attempted to play in the elections in 2019 and 2021. (The Economist, 02.01.24)
  • The inflow of foreign tourists to Russia in 2023 increased by 3.5% year on year versus 2022 to reach 8.5 million visitors. (TASS, 02.02.24)


  • The National Bank of Ukraine expects economic growth to slow to 3.6% this year. (Ukrainskaya Pravda, 02.02.24)
  • Ukrainian defense officials stole about $40 million meant for the purchase of ammunition for the military, the country's internal security service (SBU) said confirming a massive procurement fraud as Kyiv seeks to assure international backers that it is cracking down on corruption, according to WP. Though it was state money — not foreign aid — that was embezzled, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said in a statement, the scheme is likely to resonate in both Washington and Brussels, according to WP’s Jan. 28 report. The SBU did not name the suspects, but Ukrainian media identified Toomas Nakhkur as one of them. Following these revelations,  Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov suspended Nakhkur, who led the defense ministry's department for technical policy and weapons development, according to Reuters. (RM, 02.02.24)
  • Ukraine continues to improve its standing in Transparency International's Corruption Index, rising to a score of 36, the 11th straight year it has gone up. The watchdog said in its annual report, released on Jan. 30, that despite having to fight a war against invading Russian troops, the country has made progress on judicial reforms as part of its push to join the EU. Russia's score was 26 and it placed 141st. (RFE/RL, 01.30.24)
  • Zelenskyy declared his personal income for the first time since the outbreak of war with Russia. In 2022, the first year of the Russian invasion, the Zelenskyy family’s income fell to 3.7 million hryvnia as he earned less income from renting real estate he owned because of the hostilities. (Bloomberg, 01.28.24)
  • The United Nations' top court on Jan. 31 mostly rejected Ukraine's claims that Russia was financing "terrorism" in eastern Ukraine, saying only that Moscow had failed to investigate alleged breaches. (MT/AFP, 01.31.24)
  • The lowest level of ethnic prejudice in Ukraine exists against Ukrainians and Poles, according to a survey by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. Sociologists measured the social distance of respondents with ethnic groups. Namely, how close a relationship they are willing to allow with representatives of each of the groups (where 1 is "family member", 7 is "wouldn't be allowed into Ukraine"). The smallest social distance is in relation to Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians (index - 2.03). Then there are Poles and Russian-speaking Ukrainians (2.93 and 2.95).  The greatest social distance is observed for Africans (4.69), Roma (4.75), Russians - residents of Ukraine (4.96) and Belarusians - residents of Belarus (5.30). (Ukrainskaya Pravda, 01.29.24)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • The ruling Georgian Dream party named its outgoing chairman, Irakli Kobakhidze, as the next prime minister amid a shakeup in the government that saw the current premier resign ahead of October parliamentary elections. Former Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili made the announcement Feb. 1 at a party gathering, after saying on Jan. 29 that he would step down from his position and take on the role of Georgian Dream chairman. (Bloomberg, 02.01.24)
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Jan. 28 told an Army Day celebration event that he had proposed a nonaggression pact to bitter rival Azerbaijan." (RFE/RL, 01.28.24)
  • Moscow said Feb. 1 that it hopes Armenia joining the International Criminal Court (ICC) would not affect relations between the two countries. (MT/AFP, 02.01.24)
  • On the sidelines of the meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Russian-Belarussian Union State, held on Jan. 29 in St. Petersburg, a Memorandum was signed between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of Belarus on deepening strategic cooperation in the field of the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and related high technologies. (Rosatom, 01.29.24)
  • Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Serebrian, Moldova's top negotiator in resolving the three-decade-old dispute with its pro-Russian Transdniester separatist enclave on Jan. 28 ruled out any role for Moscow in finding a solution as long as it was engaged in its war in Ukraine. (Reuters, 01.28.24)
  • Senior Armenian and Azerbaijani officials held another round of direct talks on the delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, a key hurdle to a comprehensive peace deal between the two nations. (RFE/RL, 01.31.24)
  • Moldova's central bank (BNM) on Jan. 30 officially applied to join the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), the simplified payment integration initiative that enables countries in Western Europe to effect cashless bank transfers and direct debits in euros." (RFE/RL, 01.30.24)
  • Kyrgyz presidential spokesman Askat Alagozov told RFE/RL on Jan. 30 that President Sadyr Japarov will take part in the next presidential election scheduled for 2026. (RFE/RL, 01.30.24)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • Masha Gessen wrote: “All of the people I spoke with this fall and winter in Ukraine—politicians, government officials, civil activists, journalists, a book publisher, a movie producer, and several soldiers—said that they no longer thought about the end of the war.” (New Yorker, 01.29.24)



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

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

Photo by shared under a CC BY 4.0 DEED license.


[1] The current secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine is Oleksii Danilov.