Russia in Review, Jan. 5-12, 2024

6 Things to Know

  1. The Pentagon has failed to properly track at least $1 billion in weapons that the U.S. has provided to Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion, according to a report by the Defense Department’s inspector general, FT  reports. The high rate of weapons that were missing or otherwise immediately unaccounted for in government databases “may increase the risk of theft or diversion,” the report found, according to NYT. The items, which have not been properly tracked, include shoulder-fired missiles and kamikaze drones.
  2. More than $110 billion in EU and U.S. aid for Kyiv remains held up, according to Bloomberg. This week has seen Republicans and Democrats in Congress continue to negotiate over Biden’s $106 billion supplemental budget, which would provide $61 billion in aid to Ukraine, but to no avail so far, as Republicans continue to condition approval of this budget on approval of immigration and border measures. Meanwhile in the EU, multiple efforts have been made this week to try to convince Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban to lift his veto on the EU’s €50 billion ($55 billion) support package for Ukraine, also without success. Short of Congress’s approval of more funding for Ukraine, the White House can either dip into the Pentagon's arsenal with no guarantee the gear will be replaced, or leave Ukraine to rely on its own growing but still small arms industry and European allies, according to WSJ.
  3. Russian forces continued to make incremental net gains of Ukrainian territory as the Ukrainian army experienced shortages. In the past month, Russian forces have gained 58 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile, according to the Jan. 9, 2024, issue of the Belfer Center’s Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. Ukrainian troops are now “officially in defensive mode” along most of the 600-mile front line, according to NYT, but are lagging behind in a key component of this mode such as fortifications, according to Ukrainian DeepState OSINT team. “Even in the most threatened areas, where the enemy has a chance to enter the operational space, ... the defense system leaves much to be desired,” DeepState wrote in its Telegram channel this week. To make matters worse, the armed forces of Ukraine (ZSU) have been experiencing a shortage of ammunition as the aforementioned delays in U.S. and EU aid continued with a lack of artillery shells most recently reported by ZSU units in the southwest, according to WSJ. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has warned that the U.S. will soon be unable to keep Ukraine’s Patriot batteries supplied with interceptor missiles, which have become indispensable for ZSU’s efforts to shoot down Russia’s air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, according to NYT. In addition to materiel shortages, the Ukrainian military is also suffering from a lack of personnel. ZSU’s hopes to receive substantial personnel reinforcements have been undermined this week by the government’s decision to withdraw the bill allowing for the mobilization of half a million, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and ZSU chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi have sparred over much to Washington’s concern, from consideration by Ukraine’s parliament.
  4. The U.S. wants Ukraine to “sharpen its plan for fighting Russia’s invasion” and Biden’s NSA Jake Sullivan is expected to raise the issue with Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Davos next week, unidentified “people familiar with the planning” were quoted by Bloomberg on Jan. 10 as saying. Meanwhile, officials in Washington remain concerned that the differences between Zelenskyy and Zaluzhnyi are slowing efforts to crystallize a new strategy, according to this agency. This is not the first time that reports have emerged that the U.S. would like Ukraine to come up with a new strategy. Politico reported on Dec. 27, citing U.S. and EU officials, that Biden’s administration and its allies in Europe are shifting their focus from “supporting Ukraine’s goal of total victory over Russia to improving its position in an eventual negotiation to end the war.” However, a State Department spokesman then told media on Jan. 4 that reports that Washington wants Ukraine to change its strategy in the full-scale war against Russia are untrue.*
  5. Zelenskyy said he so far doesn’t feel pressure from his nation’s allies to reach a ceasefire with Russia, according to Bloomberg. “There will definitely be no pauses for the benefit of Russia,” the Ukrainian leader said during his tour of the Baltics this week. His comments came less than a week after Politico reported that the Biden administration and European officials want Zelensky to eventually enter a negotiation with Russia and that negotiation would likely mean giving up parts of Ukraine to Russia. This week has seen Italy’s defense minister Guido Crosetto call for greater diplomatic efforts to end the war between Russia and Ukraine. “The time seems to have come for effective diplomatic action,” he declared, according to  FT.
  6. Russia resumes rattling its nuclear saber. Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev wrote on Jan. 11 that Ukrainian “thick-headed warriors” have discussed the idea of using Western-supplied large missiles to “eliminate ... our missile launchers across the entire territory of Russia.” Such an elimination will expose them to the risk that Russia will invoke a clause in the 2020 Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence which refers to “aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy, Medvedev warned. “This is no right to self-defense, but rather a direct and obvious foundation for our use of nuclear weapons against such a state. Everyone ... should remember this,” Medvedev wrote in his Telegram channel 


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Uranium has been a hot commodity . Spot prices for triuranium octoxide, the form of the commodity that is widely traded, hit $92.50 a pound on Jan. 8, more than doubling since Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the highest since 2007, according to uranium market-data firm UxC. (NYT, 01.09.24)
  • The Kazakh mining company responsible for more than a fifth of global output warned on Jan. 12 that its production this year would be lower than expected because of shortages of sulphuric acid, which is essential to extract uranium from ore. It added that its production plans for next year could also take a hit. (FT, 01.12.24)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • North Korea is looking to step up its military cooperation with Russia by sending Moscow new types of tactical guided missiles, while Pyongyang may soon conduct fresh tests of its own missiles designed to deliver nuclear strikes, South Korea’s defense minister Shin Wonsik said. This would mean firing a long-range rocket a distance of several thousand kilometers, he said. Shin added the flow of munitions may have reached more than 2 million rounds. North Korea is estimated to have provided around 5,000 containers of weapons to Russia as of the end of December that could hold some 2.3 million rounds of 152 millimeter shells, Yonhap reported the minister as saying. (Bloomberg, 01.11.24)
  • The Kharkiv regional prosecutor's office provided evidence on Jan. 6 that Russia attacked Ukraine with missiles supplied by North Korea, showcasing the fragments. Dmytro Chubenko, a spokesperson for the Kharkiv prosecutor's office, said the missile, one of several that hit the city on Jan. 2, was visually and technically different from Russian models. (Reuters, 01.06.24)
  • Seven members of the U.N. Security Council accused Russia on Jan. 10 of exploiting its position as a permanent member of this body by acquiring North Korean missiles and firing them into Ukraine in violation of U.N. resolutions passed by the council. (Reuters, 01.10.24)
  • Authorities in Far East Russia’s Primorye region said Jan. 10 they have launched the country’s first ski tours to neighboring North Korea. (MT/AFP, 01.10.24)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Iran has developed a new attack drone for Russia's war in Ukraine and appears close to providing Moscow with surface-to-surface missiles, an informed security source has claimed. The Shahed-107 was described as an "explosive and reconnaissance" unmanned aerial vehicle, possibly fitted with technology to seek out high-value battlefield targets such as British and American multiple-launch rocket systems. (Sky News, 01.09.24)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • More than 14.6 million Ukrainians inside the country—roughly 40% of the total population—will require humanitarian assistance this year as the war triggered by Russia's unprovoked invasion continues to cause death and destruction, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has said. (RFE/RL, 01.10.24)
  • Nearly two years after Russia's invasion, Germany hosts more Ukrainians than any other country in Europe, just over 1.1 million. "We expect at least 50% of Ukrainians to stay in Germany even after the war," says Wolfgang Hummel, head of legal affairs at the Berlin state office for refugee affairs. "And the number goes up every day as they put down roots and the war destroys more of Ukraine." (WSJ, 01.11.24)
  • Across Europe, roughly half of Ukrainian refugees have found jobs. (WSJ, 01.11.24)
  • Belarusian state television reported on Jan. 10 that authorities sent a recently arrived group of Ukrainian children from occupied Ukraine to train with the Belarusian military to learn how to evacuate in the event of a fire. (AP, 01.10.24)
  • Ukraine's Energy Ministry says 1,025 settlements were without electricity on Jan. 9. Ukraine's Energy Ministry said on Jan. 11 almost 300 settlements across the country were still without electricity that day due to bad weather. (RFE/RL, 01.09.23, RFE/RL, 01.11.24)
  • Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria joined forces to hunt mines in the Black Sea, a move aimed at improving shipping safety and shoring up vital Ukrainian grain exports to secure funding. Ukraine transported 15 million tons of cargo via its Black Sea corridor since mid-September, mainly foodstuffs. (Bloomberg, 01.11.24)
  • In 2022 Russian officials, assisted by local collaborators and the Kherson Regional Museum’s then director, had removed more than 28,000 artefacts, loaded them onto lorries and shipped them to Crimea. (The Economist, 01.05.24)
  • For military strikes on civilian targets see the next section.

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

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 58 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile, according to the Jan. 9, 2024, issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 01.09.24)
    • Ukrainian troops along most of the 600-mile front line are officially in defensive mode. Only in the southern region of Kherson were they still on the offensive as of earlier this week in a tough assault across the Dnipro River. (NYT, 01.08.24)
    • Ukrainian DeepState OSINT team’s Telegram channel reported on Jan. 11 that in the view of its editors, Ukrainian forces were lagging behind in construction of defensive fortifications. Even in the most threatened areas, where the enemy has a chance to enter the operational space, the defense system leaves much to be desired,” DeepState wrote. (RM, 01.12.24)
    • Since the start of the war in February 2022, Russia has directed more than 3,800 drones and 7,400 missiles at Ukrainian towns and cities. In aerial assaults in just a five-day span beginning on Dec. 29, United Nations observers documented 90 civilian deaths, including two children, and 421 civilian injuries. (NYT, 01.06.24)
  • In a five-day span ending Jan. 2, Russia directed more than 500 missiles and drones at targets across Ukraine. The barrage left at least 90 civilians dead and more than 400 injured, according to the United Nations. (WP, 01.10.24.)
    • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, pointing to 500 strikes within a few days even before the Jan. 8 barrage: “There is a lack of air defense both on the battlefield and for the defense of Ukrainian cities across the country.”  (FT, 01.08.24)
  • On Jan. 5 Russia said it had intercepted 36 Ukrainian drones over Crimea. (The Economist, 01.05.24)
  • On Jan. 6 Russian shelling of the Donetsk region’s Pokrovsk district left 11 people dead and eight people injured, according to the head of the region’s military administration Vadim Filashkin. Five children were among those killed. According to Filashkin, Russia launched S-300 missiles at the Pokrovsk district on Jan. 6. (Meduza, 01.06.24, Bloomberg, 01.06.24)
  • On Jan. 6 Russia said its military shot down four Ukrainian missiles over Crimea. (MT/AFP, 01.06.24)
  • On the morning of Jan. 6, Ukrainian Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk said that Ukrainian troops struck a Russian command post at the Saky air base. (Meduza, 01.06.24)
  • On Jan. 6 Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement that it “intercepted and destroyed” four missiles over the Crimean peninsula. (Bloomberg, 01.08.24)
  • On Jan. 7 Ukrainian officials said Russia launched 28 drones and three cruise missiles overnight, and 12 people were wounded by a drone attack in the central city of Dnipro. In the southern city of Kherson, meanwhile, Russian shelling from across the Dnieper River left at least two people dead, officials said. (RFE/RL, 01.07.24)
  • On the night of Jan. 7-8, Russian forces pounded Ukraine with nearly 60 missiles and attack drones, the largest nationwide air strikes since a massive barrage over the new year period. Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said air defenses intercepted 18 of 51 missiles fired overnight into Jan. 8 morning, as well as eight attack drones, adding that “critical, civil infrastructure, industrial and military facilities were attacked.” Kryviy Rih Gov. Serhiy Lysak said at least four deaths resulted from the strikes. (FT, 01.08.24)
  • On Jan. 8 a Russian warplane made an “emergency release” of a bomb over Ukraine’s occupied Luhansk region. (MT/AFP, 01.08.24)
  • On Jan. 10 dozens of schoolchildren were evacuated from the Russian border city of Belgorod following a spate of deadly Ukrainian shelling attacks, the region's governor said. Some 300 residents had already left Belgorod. (MT/AFP, 01.10.24)
    • This week Russia said that its military would do everything possible to stop the Ukrainian shelling of Belgorod. The vow came as the Defense Ministry said it had downed four Ukrainian drones over western Russia. (MT/AFP, 01.09.24)
  • On Jan. 11 Russia's Defense Ministry said four Ukrainian drones were intercepted and destroyed over the territory of the Rostov, Tula and Kaluga regions. (RFE/RL, 01.11.24)
  • On Jan. 11 two Russian missiles struck a hotel in Ukraine's second city Kharkiv, injuring 13 people including foreign journalists. (MT/AFP, 01.11.24)
  • On Jan. 11 Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, sent a bill on amending the rules for mobilization back to Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers for revision, said parliament member Davyd Arakhamia, leader of the Servant of the People party. Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said that the department has already prepared a new version of the document “taking into account all the proposals agreed upon routinely with deputies at meetings of the National Security Committee.” They are ready to submit it to the Cabinet of Ministers for consideration. (Istrories, 01.11.24, Meduza, 01.11.24)
  • On Jan. 12 Russian shelling from across the Dnieper River hit a street in the southern city of Kherson, killing two civilians, including a woman, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram. (RFE/RL, 01.12.24)
  • On Jan. 12 Ukrainian shelling and a drone strike near the city of Horlivka in the Russia-occupied region of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine has killed two people and wounded six others, Denis Pushilin, the Kremlin-backed regional leader said on Telegram on Jan. 12. (RFE/RL, 01.12.24)
  • In an interview published on Jan. 12, Ukraine's military spy chief Kyrylo Budanov said that Kyiv's attacks against Russian-annexed Crimea were set to intensify, adding that Moscow's economy was proving surprisingly resilient despite sanctions. (MT/AFP, 01.12.24)
  • About 70% of all Ukrainian combat deaths and injuries result from Russian artillery and rocket barrages, according to the Global Surgical and Medical Support Group. (NYT, 01.07.24)
  • The head of the armored service of the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV), Col. Arman Ospanov, was killed while visiting the positions of the 104th Guards Air Assault Division near Kozachi Laheri in Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast on Jan. 6. (Status-6 OSINT project’s X (Twitter) account, 01.08.24)
  • In early 2022 Ukraine's military leadership, under Zaluzhnyi, had successfully kept Kyiv's war planning secret—and not just from the Russians. Neither Washington nor many senior officials in the Zelenskyy administration knew Zaluzhnyi's blueprint, according to WSJ reproter Yaroslav Trofimov’s upcoming book "We were pessimistic about Ukraine holding out in part because the Ukrainians didn't share any of their preparations or planning with us," a senior Pentagon official told Trofimov later. "And the preparations and plans that they did share with us were military deception." (WP, 01.09.24)

Military aid to Ukraine:

  • The Defense Department’s inspector general found that American defense officials and diplomats in Washington and Europe had failed to quickly or fully account for all of nearly 40,000 weapons sent to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion nearly two years ago. At least $1 billion in weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles, kamikaze drones and night-vision devices, that the United States has sent to Ukraine have not been properly tracked by American officials, a new Pentagon report concludes, raising concerns they could be stolen or smuggled at a time Congress is debating whether to send more military aid to Kyiv. The high rate of weapons that were missing or otherwise immediately unaccounted for in government databases “may increase the risk of theft or diversion,” the report found. Sen. Deb Fischer, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee's strategic forces subcommittee, said that she hadn't yet seen the inspector general's report, but that she would find the department's failure to properly track such a large quantity of weaponry "concerning,” while Trump ally and longtime critic of Ukraine aid Sen. Josh Hawley called the report "pretty harrowing."  (FT, 01.11.24, NYT, 01.11.24, WP, 01.12.24)
  • The U.S. wants Ukraine to sharpen its plan for fighting Russia’s invasion as the war heads into its third year and is expected to raise the issue with Zelenskyy in Davos next week. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is likely to bring up the topic with the Ukrainian leader and American officials will continue to push the point in the coming weeks. Washington’s effort is the latest sign of friction between Ukraine and its most important ally. (Bloomberg, 01.11.24)
  • More than $110 billion in European and U.S. aid for Kyiv remains held up and Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year - heavily backed by U.S. and European arms and training - failed to deliver a major breakthrough. (Bloomberg, 01.11.24)
  • At the moment, U.S. lawmakers are negotiating over Biden's request for more than $10 billion in additional military assistance for Israel as part of a $106 billion supplemental budget request that would provide billions of dollars for U.S. border security, as well as military assistance for Ukraine and Taiwan, but remains stalled as Republicans and Democrats search for an agreement on immigration reforms targeting illegal crossings at the U.S. southern border. Most of the roughly $45 billion earmarked for Ukraine would run through 2025; it includes $12 billion for direct sales of weapons, $18 billion to refill Pentagon and allied stockpiles and around $4 billion to boost domestic production. (WSJ, 01.07.24, WP, 01.10.24)
    • Senate negotiators are working on changes to U.S. border policy, which Republicans previously demanded as a condition for supporting a $110.5 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. That effort remains stalled. (WSJ, 01.08.24)
    • House Speaker Mike Johnson is weighing direct talks with U.S. President Joe Biden as soon as this week as Senate negotiations on the border drag on, according to a person familiar with the matter. The White House, though, has pushed Johnson to instead focus on prodding the bipartisan Senate discussions forward. (Bloomberg, 01.08.24)
      • Falling short on immigration — particularly as ultra-conservatives loudly opposed the Jan. 7 spending deal — could set Johnson up for an ignominious ouster by a handful of renegades. (Bloomberg, 01.08.24)
    • Biden will deliver his third State of the Union address on March 7. (NYT, 01.06.24)
  • Short of congressional approval of more funding, the White House can either dip into the Pentagon’s arsenal with no guarantee the gear will be replaced, or leave Ukraine to rely on its own growing but still small arms industry and European allies. (WSJ, 01.07.24)
  • White House officials met with executives from Palantir Technologies Inc., Anduril Industries Inc., Fortem, Skydio Inc. and other defense companies on Jan 9 to discuss battlefield technologies that can aid Ukraine in its bid to combat Russia’s invasion. National Security Council aides spent hours with more than a dozen companies in the defense, tech and venture capital industries to talk about how the U.S. might be able to provide additional assistance to Kyiv. (Bloomberg, 01.08.24)
  • "This is about preventing war. It's always been about preventing war. ... If we support Ukraine, that's only 3 1/2% of our defense budget. Biden and no one else is telling the American people the truth about that. The Europeans have put in more than that, and they should; it's their neighborhood,” Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley said during the final GOP debate on Jan. 10 She added: "This is about keeping Americans safe." Haley has criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for last year saying that the United States has no vital interest in a "territorial dispute" between Russia and Ukraine. Haley clarified that she wants to send military equipment and ammunition to Ukraine, but not money. (WP, 01.11.24, WSJ, 01.11.24)
  • “They will not tell you when they’ve achieved their goal, and this is going to go on maybe hundreds of billions more into the future,” DeSantis said during the Jan. 10 debate, claiming that Haley cared “more about Ukraine’s border than she does about our own southern border.” DeSantis said: “It's an open-ended commitment ... They will not tell you when ... they have achieved their goal. And this is going to go on maybe hundreds of billions more into the future. I think a lot of people have died. We need to find a way to end this.” On Ukraine he asked, "Where is some of that money going? They've done tens of billions of dollars to pay salaries for Ukrainian government bureaucrats. They've paid pensions for Ukrainian retirees with your tax dollars?" Haley noted, "I have never said that we should give salaries or benefits or anything else to Ukrainians." (WSJ, 01.11.24, NYT, 01.11.24, WSJ, 01.11.24)
  • On Jan. 12 British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called on Western allies to urgently secure military aid packages for Ukraine as he announced U.K. military funding to the country would increase to £2.5 billion in the next financial year on a visit to Kyiv (an increase of £200 million over the past two years). Sunak and Zelenskyy signed a “historic” bilateral agreement on security cooperation, which Sunak said would “formalize” Britain’s “long-term” support for Kyiv. The U.K. on Jan. 12 said its new support package would include long-range missiles, air defense, artillery ammunition and maritime security. Britain also said it would sign a long-term security-cooperation agreement with Ukraine guaranteeing "swift and sustained" assistance to the country should it ever be attacked by Russia again. (WSJ, 01.12.24,  FT, 01.12.24)
    • I hope that our eternal enemies, the arrogant British, understand that the deployment of their official military contingent in Ukraine will mean a declaration of war on our country,” Deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev claimed on Jan. 11 on his Telegram channel. (RM, 01.12.24)
  • On Jan. 8 German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on fellow EU members to provide more military support this year to Ukraine in its fight against Russia's full-scale invasion. "Arms deliveries to Ukraine, currently planned by most EU member states, are too small. ... I call on our allies in the European Union to also step up their efforts in favor of Ukraine," Scholz said. Germany is the second-largest provider of military aid to Ukraine after the United States. (RFE/RL, 01.09.23)
    • The German government has balked at sending long-range Taurus missiles that could strike Crimea or deep into Russian-held territory. That reluctance has prompted some to “look at our actions with concern and ask myself whether our support is sufficient,” as Germany’s former president, Joachim Gauck, said in an interview. (NYT, 01.10.24)
    • Many East Germans harbor suspicion of the West and blame Ukraine, not Russia, for “provoking” a war for its own survival. (The Economist, 01.11.24)
  • Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is seeking to convince Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban to lift his opposition to the European Union’s support for Ukraine and to improve relations with Zelenskyy. Movement on those issues could pave the way for Orban’s Fidesz party to join the far-right European Conservatives and Reformists political party alongside Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice and the nationalist Sweden Democrats. (Bloomberg, 01.11.24)
    • The European Commission is willing to bow to some of Hungary’s demands in order to secure a €50 billion support package for Ukraine, according to senior officials. As a way to convince Orbán to drop his veto, the commission is open to giving Hungary’s premier an opportunity in 2025 to stop the funding deal midway through. (FT, 01.11.24)
  • On Jan. 10 Zelenskyy appealed for badly needed air defense systems at the start of a tour of Baltic states. Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop at Ukraine, he said, during an unannounced visit to Vilnius. Zelenskyy was on the first stage of a tour of staunch Baltic allies Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as he seeks to bolster wavering support among other Western backers. “We have proven that Russia can be stopped, that deterrence is possible,” he said. (RFE/RL, 01.10.24, MT/AFP, 01.10.24)
    • Only the Patriot air-defense systems are designed to counter ballistic missiles, and from the moment the first Patriot battery entered the combat space, they reshaped the battle for the skies. White House and Pentagon officials have warned that the United States will soon be unable to keep Ukraine’s Patriot batteries supplied with interceptor missiles, which can cost $2 million to $4 million apiece. (NYT, 01.06.24)
    • Ukrainian soldiers said they started to notice a shortage of artillery a few months ago. "We've stopped all assault operations in the area," said the 31-year-old commander of a drone squad working near Robotyne, a village on the southeastern front retaken by Ukrainian forces over the summer. "We're focused on holding our ground and defending positions."(WSJ, 01.07.24)
    • From a bunker on the southeastern front, it's easy to hear how Ukraine's supply of artillery ammunition has dwindled. For every five or six incoming Russian shells, the Ukrainians fire back once or twice. With artillery shells running low, Ukrainian troops on the front lines are improvising and using explosive FPV drones to try to hold the Russians back. (WSJ, 01.08.24)
  • According a NATO-Ukraine Council statement on Jan. 10, NATO countries agreed on a plan to “provide Ukraine with major military, economic, and humanitarian assistance, and many Allies outlined plans to provide billions of euros of further capabilities in 2024.” The statement doesn’t say what specifically this would entail. (Meduza, 01.11.24)
    • A recent report by Estonia’s Defense Ministry outlines in stark terms what it wants NATO to do to win the war in Ukraine. It says Ukrainian forces must be given enough training and firepower — at least 200,000 rounds of 155-millimeter artillery shells each month — to kill or severely wound at least 50,000 Russian troops every six months. That is far beyond what the European Union and the United States combined can currently deliver. (NYT, 01.10.24)
  • On Jan 12 Zelenskyy said that he was “grateful” for the Patriot missile systems that Ukraine’s allies have already delivered and that have helped his country weather the enormous Russian air assaults. But he said that Ukraine urgently needed to further reinforce its defenses if it were to withstand more air attacks. (NYT, 01.12.24)
  • Denmark’s donation of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine will be delayed by months, the Berlingske newspaper reported, citing the Nordic country’s ministry of defense. (Bloomberg, 01.06.24)
    • The Russian attacks on Ukrainian air bases are seen as a pre-emptive attempt to destroy runways and aviation infrastructure before Kyiv receives its first batch of F-16 fighter jets from Western allies. Ukrainian pilots are currently training on F-16s at NATO nation bases, including in nearby Romania. (FT, 01.08.24)
  • Japan will allocate $37 million to a NATO fund that will purchase drone detection systems for Ukraine. (Meduza, 01.08.24)
  • What Ukraine needed to succeed in its planned offensive in the south in summer 2022 were about 90 additional howitzers and adequate ammunition, according to calculations by Zaluzhnyi that his aides discussed with WSJ reporter Yaroslav Trofimov for his upcoming book. It wasn't a huge ask, but Ukraine’s Western allies weren't convinced, Trofimov writes in the book, an excerpt of which WP published on Jan. 9, and without the requested package of U.S. weapons and ammunition, the Zaporizhzhia push was impossible. All the hardware that Ukraine was begging for in 2022 — Leopard and Abrams tanks, Bradleys and Strykers, and Patriot batteries — was eventually provided the following year. "But, by then, it was a different war. The Ukrainian offensives of 2023 gained little ground against an entrenched, prepared and more numerous enemy,” according to Trofimov. (WP, 01.09.24)

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

  • The United States and its partners are exploring ways to use some of the $300 billion in frozen Russian central bank reserves to back loans to Ukraine, one of a series of ideas that Western officials are considering as they struggle to agree on a method to seize Russian funds without spooking international investors. Pushed by the Biden administration, the G-7 democracies is now exploring several ways to confiscate the frozen Russian funds to give to Ukraine, a move that would represent a significant escalation against the Kremlin and that is fraught with legal difficulties. G-7 officials hope to present options in time for the second anniversary of the invasion in February (WSJ, 01.12.24)
    • Internal EU discussions on taxing the Russian proceeds have avoided talk of confiscating the underlying Russian assets, diplomats say. A decision by the bloc would likely need backing by all 27 governments. (WSJ, 01.12.24)
    • President Joe Biden’s administration is backing legislation that would let it seize some of $300 billion in frozen Russian assets to help pay for reconstruction of Ukraine, a shift as the White House seeks to rally support in Congress to further fund the war against Vladimir Putin’s forces. (Bloomberg, 01.11.24)
    • Russia is devising a legal challenge to snarl any efforts by the US or Europe to confiscate some of its $300 billion in frozen central bank assets in favor of Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter. Officials in Moscow, who are studying the possibility of the funds being seized, have concluded such an outcome is unlikely, they said, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The Bank of Russia is currently nearing an agreement with international law firms to represent the country’s interests in case of a court showdown. (Bloomberg, 01.12.24)
  • Nearly 10,000 companies with foreign involvement have exited Russia in the two years since it invaded Ukraine, the Vedomosti business daily reported Jan. 11, citing corporate data. The number of legal entities with foreign affiliation declined by 6,200 in 2022 and 3,400 in January-October 2023, totaling 9,600, according to the publication. Overall, Vedomosti said 23,500 companies with foreign co-owners have been liquidated since March 2022. (MT/AFP, 01.11.24)
  • The U.S. State Department on Jan. 11 imposed sanctions on three Russian entities and one individual involved in the transfer and testing of North Korea's ballistic missiles for Russia's use against Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. "We will not hesitate to take further actions," Blinken said in a statement. (Reuters, 01.12.24)
  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury added Vladimir Mikheichik, CEO of the Russian state-owned Open Joint Stock Company 224th Flight Squadron, to the sanctions list on Jan. 11, as he is under investigation in Ukraine for aiding and abetting Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In addition, the restrictions were imposed on the Ashuluk training ground in Russia's Astrakhan Oblast. (, 01.12.24)
  • South Korean automaker Hyundai’s former production plant in St. Petersburg has reopened under new Russian management, state media reported Jan. 9, citing the factory’s press service. In December, the Hyundai plant — which suspended operations in March 2022 amid an exodus of foreign companies from Russia — was sold to the company Art-Finance for a reported 10,000 rubles ($111). Art-Finance is owned by the auto dealership group Avilon, which in May bought the Russian assets of German carmaker Volkswagen, including its flagship Kaluga factory near Moscow. (MT/AFP, 01.09.24)
  • Ukraine’s anti-corruption watchdog placed U.S. sandwich chain Subway on its list of “war sponsors,” saying the company’s more than 500 restaurants operating in Russia help fuel the nation’s economy as it continues its war with Kyiv. (Bloomberg, 01.11.24)
  • Finland decided to keep its border with Russia closed for another four weeks as it still sees risks that an assisted flow of migrants could resume at the checkpoints. All eight border stations on Finland’s demarcation with Russia will remain closed until Feb. 11, Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said at a news conference on Jan. 11. The new decision follows a monthlong shutdown which was set to expire on Jan. 14. “National security is a critical question for Finland, it surpasses everything,” she said. “The threat of a Russian hybrid operation still exists.” (Bloomberg, 01.11.24)
  • Finnish border guards arrested a group of men who illegally crossed the closed Russian frontier through the forest. (Bloomberg, 01.12.24)
  • Finnish authorities prevented a real estate acquisition by a buyer with links to Russia as part of a push to stop transactions with potential to undermine national security. Defense Minister Antti Hakkanen blocked the sale of a property in Ilomantsi, a town near the Russian border, to a partially Russian-owned company, the government. (Bloomberg, 01.10.24)
  • The Latvian Saeima (Parliament) has passed in its final reading a law transferring the Moscow House cultural center in Riga to state ownership, reports the parliament’s press service. The Moscow government currently owns the center. (Meduza, 01.11.24)

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

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • A secret meeting took place Dec. 16 between Ukraine, its G-7 allies and a small group of Global South countries in Saudi Arabia to try to rally support for Kyiv’s conditions for holding peace talks with Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. There was no major progress at the latest meeting, held in Riyadh, according to people familiar with the session who asked for anonymity to discuss matters that are not public. Ukraine and its G-7 allies continued to resist calls from the Global South nations to engage directly with Russia, they said. Moscow has denounced the allied efforts — to which Russia has not been invited — as a farce. China, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates did not send their representatives, the people said. (Bloomberg, 01.09.24)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he so far does not feel pressure from his nation’s allies to reach a ceasefire with Russia. Zelenskyy ruled out any pause in fighting as his Estonian counterpart said peace proposals to end the nearly two-year Russian invasion are being floated “behind the curtains.” “There will definitely be no pauses for the benefit of Russia,” Zelenskyy told reporters in Tallinn on Jan. 11. He spoke alongside Estonian President Alar Karis, who said that a number of countries and “interest groups” are putting pressure on Kyiv to start talks with the Kremlin. "Give Russia two to three years and it will simply run us over. We wouldn't take that risk.... There will be no pauses in favor of Russia," Zelenskyy said. "A pause would play into [Russia’s] hands.... It might crush us afterward.” (Bloomberg, 01.11.24, RFE/RL, 01.11.24, Bloomberg, 01.10.24)
  • Premier Li Qiang is among global luminaries set to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos. Around 70 top officials will participate in a Jan. 14 meeting on Ukraine’s peace formula to rally the Global South’s support in its resistance against Russia’s invasion.  (Bloomberg, 01.09.24)
    • Beijing has brokered a “formal ceasefire” between Myanmar’s military and a rebel guerrilla alliance in the south-east Asian country, as the civil war near China’s southern border tests its ability to mediate in foreign conflicts. (FT, 01.12.24)
  • Italy’s defense minister Guido Crosetto has called for greater diplomatic efforts to end the war between Russia and Ukraine, despite Kyiv’s warnings that Moscow has no intention to do so. Crosetto told a parliamentary hearing on Jan. 10 that Italy would seek “a dual-track strategy” with military support for Kyiv to be coupled with more engagements towards a “negotiated settlement.” “We must be realistic and cannot ignore the military situation on the field,” Crosetto said as lawmakers approved more bilateral aid to Kyiv. “The time seems to have come for effective diplomatic action.” (FT, 01.11.24)

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

  • The United States is "disappointed" by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Ukraine policy and looks forward to Budapest fulfilling its promise not to be the last to ratify Sweden's NATO accession, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Jan. 11. Jim O'Brien, assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, expressed disappointment that Orban “has chosen to stand alone in the European Union in questioning the fight to support Ukrainians." (Reuters, 01.11.24)
  • Haley said during the GOP debate on Jan. 10: "Russia said once they take Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics are next." (WP, 01.11.24)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Trade between China and Russia reached a record $240 billion in 2023, official Chinese data showed on Jan. 12. China’s General Administration of Customs Data said two-way with Russia in 2023 grew by 26.3% from the year earlier. Similarly, Chinese exports to Russia increased by 46.9%, while imports from Russia rose 13% last year. (MT/AFP, 01.12.24)
  • Russia obtained at least one-third of its foreign-sourced critical battlefield components from companies based in the United States and its allies last year — in large part because of outsourced production facilities in states that apply weaker export controls. These goods — worth a total of $7.3 billion — were mainly manufactured in countries that are not part of the U.S.-led export-control coalition, according to an analysis by the Kyiv School of Economics. The largest share of these goods — worth around $1.9 billion — were produced in China. The 485 types of components in the analysis include semiconductors, computer parts, electronics, automotive components and bearings. (FT, 01.11.24)
  • U.S. intelligence indicates that President Xi Jinping’s sweeping military purge came after it emerged that widespread corruption undermined his efforts to modernize the armed forces and raised questions about China’s ability to fight a war. The U.S. assessments cited several examples of the impact of graft, including missiles filled with water instead of fuel and vast fields of missile silos in western China with lids that do not function. In a potential warning for Beijing, Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine have been publicly hobbled by corruption, a problem that PLA researchers as far back as 2014 called “the number one killer that impairs the military’s ability to fight.” (Bloomberg, 01.06.24)

Missile defense:

  • The Russian Ministry of Defense is forced to abandon the construction of a high-readiness station for the Voronezh missile attack warning system on the Crimean peninsula. Plans for the construction of a new VZG early warning radar "Voronezh-M" in Crimea were not destined to come true due to the very high possibility of it being hit by Ukrainian missiles.   (VCHK-OGPU, 01.05.24)

Nuclear arms

  • Since the first days of the Ukraine war, the White House's overriding priority had been not to overstep Russia's "red lines" and provoke a direct confrontation between Moscow and NATO — especially a nuclear one, according to WSJ reporter Yaroslav Trofimov’s upcoming book. “Putin's [nuclear] admonishments [at the beginning of the invasion] worked, to a significant extent. In the months to come, the United States and its partners held back from supplying Ukraine with Western-made capabilities at a time when they would have had the biggest effect,” according to the book. “The United States.... kept taking Russian nuclear warnings seriously,” according to the book. (WP, 01.09.24)
    • According to U.S. intelligence estimates, Putin was likely to consider a nuclear strike under three scenarios during Ukraine’s summer-fall 2022 offensive, according to WSJ’s Trofimov. One was a major attack on Russia proper, especially with NATO involvement. Another was the possibility of losing physical control over Crimea. And the third, according to a senior Pentagon official, was a Ukrainian battlefield victory "that would completely and totally shatter the Russian military, such that the Russian state would sense an existential threat." (WP, 01.09.24)
    • "The Venn diagram between our and Ukrainian interests overlaps about 85%, but that remaining 15% is pretty important," a senior Pentagon official told WSJ reporter Yaroslav Trofimov. "The Ukrainians are already fighting for their existence. But the United States has a special obligation to avoid a nuclear war that would end all life on Planet Earth forever,” according to Trofimov’s upcoming book.(WP, 01.09.24)
  • Deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev wrote on Jan. 11 that Ukrainian “thick-headed warriors” have discussed the idea of using Western-supplied large missiles to “eliminate ...our missile launchers across the entire territory of Russia.” Such an elimination will expose them to the risk that Russia will invoke a clause in the 2020 Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence which refers to “aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.” “This is no right to self-defense, but rather a direct and obvious foundation for our use of nuclear weapons against such a state. Everyone ... should remember this,” Medvedev wrote on his Telegram channel. (RM, 01.12.24)


  • Police in the German city of Cologne say a Tajik national detained in late December on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack on Cologne Cathedral is wanted in Austria and will be sent there to face charges. (RFE/RL, 01.08.24)

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia was on pace for a second year of record oil drilling in 2023, further evidence of the nation’s resilience to Western sanctions. The boom in activity came alongside a recovery in both the volume and value of Russia’s oil exports. In the first 11 months of 2023, Russia drilled oil production wells with a total depth of 28,100 kilometers, according to industry data seen by Bloomberg. That’s on track to beat the previous year’s post-Soviet record. (Bloomberg, 02.14.23, Bloomberg, 01.10.24)
  • A ship hauling Russian oil had a narrow miss with a missile fired from Yemen, as vessels increasingly dodge the Red Sea following airstrikes on Houthi rebels. (Bloomberg, 01.12.24)
  • The United States accounted for more than 40% of Europe’s LNG imports last year, according to data from Kpler. It was also the third-largest LNG exporter in the world in 2022 and is set to claim the top spot in 2023. America’s Cheniere Energy said it has provided 760 LNG cargoes to Europe since Russia’s invasion, or about one in five cargos imported by the region. (FT, 01.08.24)
  • Polish officials have resisted cooperating with an international probe into the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines and failed to disclose potentially crucial evidence, according to European investigators working on the case. They have been slow to provide information and withheld key evidence about the alleged saboteurs’ movements on Polish soil, investigators said. Investigators say efforts by Polish officials to hinder their investigation have made them increasingly suspicious of Warsaw’s role and motives. European investigators have long believed the attack was launched from Ukraine via Poland. (WSJ, 01.08.24)

Climate change:

  • Azerbaijan has appointed its ecology and natural resources minister to serve as president of the United Nations COP29 climate talks to be held in Baku in November. (RFE/RL, 01.05.24)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • In his speech on Jan. 5, Joe Biden referred to Donald Trump’s “admiration for Putin.” (, 01.05.24)
    • Trump’s potential election as U.S. president is “clearly a threat” to Europe judging by the policies in his first term in office, European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde has said. (FT, 01.12.24)
  • Russian authorities have arrested a 32-year-old Russian-U.S. citizen over alleged drug charges. The dual citizen, Robert Romanov Woodland, was detained last week, according to a statement by the Ostankinsky District Court in Moscow, and ordered jailed until March 5 on charges of "illegal acquisition, storage, transportation, manufacture, processing of narcotic drugs." (WP, 01.09.24, Bloomberg, 01.09.24)
  • Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, said the U.S. plans to interfere in Russia’s upcoming presidential election and to “destabilize the situation in the country” with the help of Russians who have participated in U.S. student exchange programs, Russian state media reported on Jan. 11, citing the agency’s press service. (Meduza, 01.11.24)
  • Three prominent Russian fencers who openly criticized Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine and moved to the United States are seeking U.S. citizenship in hopes of representing the country at the Paris Olympics this year. According to USA Today, the move by Konstantin Lokhanov, Sergei Bida and Violetta Bida has been supported by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and USA Fencing. (RFE/RL, 01.12.24)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia’s budget deficit widened more than expected last year, as oil and gas revenues fell by almost a quarter and the Kremlin increased spending amid its war in Ukraine. The fiscal gap reached 3.2 trillion rubles ($36.1 billion), or 1.9% of gross domestic product, Finance Ministry data shows. That’s 300 billion rubles higher than both the budget target and the late-December estimate of Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. The deficit widened as spending exceeded projections by 11%. Taxes from oil and gas — a key source of funding for the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine — slumped 24% from a year ago, but still accounted for almost a third of total budget revenue last year, according to Finance Ministry figures. (Bloomberg, 01.11.24)
  • Russia's annual rate of inflation unexpectedly slowed in December after ticking up continuously for seven months, official data showed Friday, in a boost for the Kremlin ahead of elections. Inflation had been predicted by economists to rise in December 2023 but instead edged down to 7.4% year-on-year, compared with 7.5% in November. (MT/AFP, 01.12.24)
  • Russia’s income from oil and gas fell by 24% last year, according to data published on Jan. 11 by the Finance Ministry. As spending reached a record high of 32.4 trillion rubles ($360.7 billion) in 2023, the Russian budget deficit rose for the second year in a row to more than 1.9% of GDP. That exceeds forecasts from Putin, who said in December that the deficit would reach 1.5% of GDP. (FT, 01.11.24)
  • Russia’s population could drop to 130 million by 2046 due to declining immigration numbers and low birth rates, according to a worst-case projection by Russia’s statistics agency Rosstat. (MT/AFP, 01.10.24)
  • In Russia, excluding the Chechen Republic, 1.213 million children were born last year, the lowest annual figure since 1991, according to demographer Alexey Raksha. (Istories, 01.12.24)
  • Almost 10,000 coronavirus deaths were reported in December. The WHO said in an email Jan. 11 that Russia appears to be reporting the most cases. (WP, 01.12.24)
  • In Russia, church attendance is steadily falling. Official data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs shows that last Christmas, one of the key religious holidays, only 1.4 million people came to church. Considering that Russia's population is about 146 million people, this is about 1%. Compared to the pre-war period, the occupancy of Russian Orthodox Church facilities at Christmas fell sharply—by about a million people. (, 01.08.24)
    • Head of the Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill stated that Russia cannot reject Russian citizens who “understand they made a mistake” by fleeing Russia after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and now want to return home. (ISW, 01.07.24)
  • The volume of cargo traffic along Russia’s Northern Sea Route (NSR) in 2023 has reached a record total of 36.25 million tons. (Rosatom, 01.10.24)
  • Putin continued to court Russian servicemen and their families ahead of the March 2024 presidential election during a meeting with family members of deceased Russian servicemen on Jan. 6. (ISW, 01.07.24)
    • Wives and relatives of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine held a series of small protests in Moscow, the latest in a series of public displays of dissent against Kremlin policies. (RFE/RL, 01.07.24)
  • Putin has ordered for the Klimovsk Specialized Ammunition Plant in the town of Podolsk, where a mechanical failure in a boiler room caused approximately 22,000 people to lose heat and water amid freezing temperatures last week, to be nationalized, Moscow Gov. Andrey Vorobyov announced Jan. 9. The plant was sanctioned by the United States in July 2023. Investigators also arrested a senior local official and two factory managers in relation to the heating system breakdown, Russian authorities said in a statement. (Bloomberg, 01.09.24, Meduza, 01.09.24)
    • Residents across Russia affected by unprecedented winter heating outages in recent days have expressed their growing frustration and urged local authorities to restore heating in their homes. (MT/AFP, 01.10.24) 
    • Residents of over two dozen Russian regions have been left without heating. On Jan. 3. approximately 1,500 people were left without heating in Yaroslavl oblast. On Jan 3. more than 100 apartment blocks were left without heating and hot water in Voronezh. Thousands have been left without heating in Novosibirsk, some 3,000 people were left without heat in Vladivostok, and about 150,000 people were left without heat in Moscow’s suburbs. (RFE/RL, 01.12.24)
  • Putin has traveled to the Chukotka autonomous district, the first time he has visited Russia's easternmost region during his more than two decades in power. (MT/AFP, 01.10.24)
  • According to Russian presidential hopeful Boris Nadezhdin, he has long been in favor of ending mobilization and returning those mobilized home. “The main problem is clear: the SVO must be stopped,” the presidential candidate wrote. (Istories, 01.10.24)
  • A court in Moscow has sent Russian opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov to pretrial detention on a charge of justifying terrorism. The Basmanny district court ruled on Jan. 12 that Udaltsov must stay in pretrial detention until at least Feb. 15, after he reported earlier on Jan. 11 that police were searching his house. (RFE/RL, 01.12.24)
  • Siberian film director Artyom Burlov told RFE/RL on Jan. 8 that he has been charged with discrediting Russian armed forces involved in Moscow's invasion of Ukraine for the third time since early December. (RFE/RL, 01.08.24)
  • Russia's financial watchdog, Rosfinmonitoring, on Jan. 10 added Rustam Fararitdinov, the half-brother of self-exiled Kremlin critic Ruslan Gabbasov, to its list of "terrorists." Fararitdinov was arrested in November on terrorism charges. (RFE/RL, 01.11.24)
  • Cancer-stricken Russian anti-war activist Igor Baryshnikov, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on a charge of spreading "false" information about Russia's armed forces involved in the ongoing war in Ukraine, has been transferred to a prison infirmary amid demands by his lawyers for medical assistance. (RFE/RL, 01.11.24)
  • Russia's Interior Ministry has added exiled Kremlin critic and ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky to its wanted list on a charge of distributing "fakes" about Russian armed forces involved in Moscow's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 01.09.24)
  • Russian Justice Ministry declared the following entities and individuals "foreign agents" on Jan. 11, according to VCHK-OGPU Telegram channel: writer Grigory Chkhartishvili (Boris Akunin); Internet publication "Kholod"; editor of the Moscow Calling Telegram channel Andrey Kurshin; and journalist Alexander Minkin. (RM, 01.12.24)
  • A Moscow court on Jan. 10 suspended for three months the operations of the Mutabor night club after it hosted the "almost naked" party attended by many celebrities last month, sparking outrage among lawmakers and pro-Kremlin groups. (RFE/RL, 01.10.24)
  • A music channel owned by the media arm of Russian energy giant Gazprom was fined $11,300 for spreading “LGBT propaganda among minors” in a 90s-era music video that shows two women kissing, the independent Vyorstka news outlet reported Jan. 12. (MT/AFP, 01.12.24)
  • Putin’s oldest daughter Maria Vorontsova has given a rare interview in which she described Russia as a “human-centric” state. (MT/AFP, 01.11.24)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russia's military budget, at over $100 billion for 2024, is the highest it has been since Soviet times, growing by more than two-thirds from last year. (WSJ, 01.06.24)
  • Putin talks with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu several times a day, press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters. (, 01.10.24)
  • A bill allowing foreigners with a criminal record to sign a contract with Russia’s Defense Ministry has been introduced to the Russian State Duma, according to a document posted on its legislation portal. (Meduza, 01.12.24)
  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Emergencies, security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Fourteen wagons of a freight train derailed on the Transbaikal railway, Russian Railways said on Jan. 8. Tracks were damaged and passenger traffic along the Moscow-to-Vladivostok route was affected. Baza and another Telegram channel, Kanal 112, reported that an explosive device detonated on the tracks in the railway station, adding that a second explosive device that failed to detonate was discovered nearby. (RFE/RL, 01.08.24)
  • Rosgvardia, the Russian National Guard, is bolstering its resources and personnel as a result of upheavals in Russia’s internal security scene from the war in Ukraine. Elements of private military company Wagner Group came under Rosgvardia from October 2023, followed on  January 3, 2024, by the Donetsk People's Republic’s (DNR) "Vostok" Battalion. Moscow has also been advancing its efforts to dissolve the DNR’s "Kaskad" group, which specializes in drone operations, and subordinate parts of it to Rosgvardia. (U.K. Ministry of Defense’s X (Twitter) account, 01.08.24)
  • Three officers of Russia's FSB have been arrested on corruption charges related to a 5 billion ruble ($55 million) bribery case, Russia's TASS news agency reported on Jan. 8. Officer Alexander Ushakov was placed in a detention center and charged with organizing a criminal group using his official powers. Two other officers, Alexei Tsaryov and Sergei Manyshkin, who agreed to cooperate with investigators, are under house arrest. All three served in the FSB's anti-corruption department. (RFE/RL, 01.08.24)
  • Russian Federal Customs Service employees and FSB officers seized a large cocaine shipment at St. Petersburg’s Great Port. The cocaine, packaged into 1,000 bricks and weighing over a ton, was found in a container that arrived from Nicaragua. The estimated black-market value of the seized shipment is 11 billion rubles (over $120 million). (Meduza, 01.10.24)
  • Czech police arrested Russian citizen Yevgeny Gerasimenko at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport on Jan. 7 in response to an international arrest warrant issued by Moscow, according to the Czech news outlet Denik N. At the time of his arrest, Gerasimenko was traveling from Riga to Paris, where he planned to request political asylum on the grounds that the Russian authorities persecuted him for opposing the war in Ukraine and attending protests. Russia issued the arrest warrant against Gerasimenko in 2023 for alleged financial crimes. (Meduza, 01.09.24)
  • Russia's FSB said on Jan. 12 that its officers detained an employee at an unspecified classified industrial facility whose identity was not disclosed in the Penza region on suspicion of spying for Poland. (RFE/RL, 01.12.24)
  • Russia’s Interior Ministry has issued an arrest warrant for Igor Volobuyev, the former vice president of the state-owned Gazprombank, who joined the Ukrainian army after Moscow's invasion, the state-run TASS news agency reported Jan. 12. (MT/AFP, 01.12.24)
  • Russia's Interior Ministry on Jan. 12 added self-exiled Siberian journalist Andrei Serafimov to its wanted list on unspecified charges. (RFE/RL, 01.12.24)
  • Prosecutors asked a court in Russia's Republic of Bashkortostan on January 11 to convict and sentence to four years in prison Fail Alsynov, the ex-leader of a banned Bashqort group, which for years promoted the Bashkir language and culture (RFE/RL, 01.12.24)
  • A Russian serial killer pardoned by Putin in exchange for fighting in Ukraine was killed on the front lines, the independent Mediazona news website reported Jan. 11. Denis Zubov, 41, from the southern Russian city of Volgograd, was sentenced to 21 years in a maximum-security colony in 2017 for the murders of three people. (MT/AFP, 01.12.24)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • The global economy is on track for its worst half-decade of growth in 30 years, the World Bank has warned in its latest projections for 2024, as higher borrowing costs and geopolitical tensions weigh on output. Eastern Europe would see slower growth owing to its links with Russia, the bank said. (FT, 01.09.24)
  • Yemen's Houthi rebels responded defiantly to U.S.-led strikes against them Jan. 12, saying that the attacks had failed to cause significant damage and that they remained undeterred from launching more attacks on U.S. and international targets in the region Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow condemned the attacks, calling them reckless and adventurist. Iraq's foreign ministry also criticized the strikes and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they were disproportionate. (WSJ, 01.12.24)
  • Russian consulates in some countries designated as “unfriendly” by the Kremlin might not organize polling places for the upcoming presidential election, potentially leaving Russians living abroad with no clear way to vote, the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti reported Jan. 9, citing diplomatic sources. (Meduza, 01.09.24)
  • Putin on Jan. 9 signed a decree granting citizenship to 44 foreign nationals, including Ratko Samac, a former officer of the Yugoslav army who is wanted in Bosnia-Herzegovina for war crimes in 1993. The list of other new Russian citizens includes Kremlin-friendly U.S. professional boxer Kevin Johnson; Canadian hockey player Brendan Leipsic, who plays for SKA club in St. Petersburg; and Croatian physician Mirela Jakupanec, who supported the Russian occupation of Ukraine's Donetsk region and resides there. (RFE/RL, 01.09.24)
  • Canada has granted Russian anti-war activist Maria Kartasheva citizenship, reversing an initial decision to block her from taking the citizenship oath due to her criminal prosecution in Russia for spreading “fake news” about the war in Ukraine, Canadian media reported Jan. 9. (MT/AFP, 01.10.24)


  • Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said that an internal audit of the Defense Ministry found financial violations over the last four months worth 10 billion hryvnia ($260 million) as he vowed that authorities would "respond harshly to all cases." (Newsweek, 01.09.24)
  • DeSantis said of Haley during the GOP debate: "She supports this $106 billion [for Ukraine] that they're trying to get through Congress. Where is some of that money going? They've done tens of billions of dollars to pay salaries for Ukrainian government bureaucrats. They've paid pensions for Ukrainian retirees with your tax dollars." (WP, 01.11.24)
  • Israeli and Egyptian security services have refused to allow the evacuation of 29 Ukrainian citizens from war-ravaged Gaza, Ukraine's ambassador to Israel, Yevhen Korniychuk, told RFE/RL. (RFE/RL, 01.11.24)
  • On Jan. 11, Ukrainian lawmakers returned the government’s bill on mobilization and military service for a revision. The parliament's Anti-Corruption Policy Committee said on Jan. 8 that the government's proposal creates corruption risks and suggested alterations in a meeting with defense representatives. (Kyiv Independent, 01.11.24)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • The World Road Transport Organization said the first Chinese TIR truck loaded with electronic products departed from China's southern city of Shenzhen to reach its final destination, the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, via a new 6,500-kilometer transportation corridor that runs through Kyrgyzstan. (RFE/RL, 01.10.24)
  • Moscow said Jan. 11 it will seek retribution for Latvia’s confiscation of a building it owns in Riga. Latvia’s parliament, the Saeima, voted earlier Thursday to seize the Moscow House, which has been funded by the Moscow Mayor’s Office since its opening in 2004 as a cultural and activities center for Russian nationals living in Latvia. In its decision, the Saeima said Latvia’s security and intelligence agency concluded that the Kremlin used the Moscow House to “spread propaganda,” and therefore threatened Latvia’s national security. (MT/AFP, 01.11.24)
  • The leader of Moldova's separatist Transdniester enclave denounced Chisinau's introduction of import and export duties for his pro-Russian region, saying central authorities were violating fundamental rights and crushing business. (Reuters, 01.06.24)
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Moldovan ambassador on Jan. 10 to protest "unfriendly acts" on the part of the ex-Soviet state's pro-European government and said it was barring entry to a number of its nationals. (Reuters, 01.10.24)
    • Seven Moldovan journalists, including RFE/RL reporter Denis Dermenji, and five senior officials have also been banned from entering Russia, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Jan. 11. (RFE/RL, 01.11.24)
  • Minsk has recalled its ambassador to Sweden over the appointment of Sweden’s former ambassador to Belarus to serve as Stockholm’s representative to the Belarusian democratic community abroad. (RFE/RL, 01.05.24)
  • Poland's Internal Security Agency (ABW) said on Jan. 9 that a Belarusian woman had been sent to pretrial detention on an espionage charge. According to the ABW, the woman, whose identity was not disclosed, was detained in December and accused of sending information to the Belarusian KGB about the Belarusian diaspora in Poland, including organizations uniting Belarusians and Poles of Belarusian origin. (RFE/RL, 01.09.24)
  • Belarusian authorities on Jan. 8 said they will not invite observers from the OSCE to monitor the country's parliamentary and local elections in February. (RFE/RL, 01.08.24)
  • Belarusian authorities have added Current Time, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, to its registry of extremist organizations. (Current Time, 01.11.24)
  • A Belarusian photojournalist went on trial on Jan. 12 in Minsk on charges linked to his professional work covering protests, the latest move in a relentless government crackdown on dissent. Alexander Zyankou faces up to six years in prison if convicted on charges of “participation in an extremist group.” Belarusian Association of Journalists said Zyankou was arrested for “taking pictures to chronicle brutal repressions.” Andrei Bastunets, head of the association, said the authorities “hate anyone speaking about or taking images of political terror in the country.” (AP, 01.12.24)
  • The Georgian Orthodox Church sought to defuse a row that erupted after an icon featuring Josef Stalin that brought tensions with neighboring Russia back into focus after a series of incidents last year. The Patriarchate of Georgia on Jan. 11 called for changes to be made to the image, which depicts Stalin as listening to St. Matrona of Moscow, saying there was insufficient evidence that a meeting took place. An activist had thrown paint at the icon, which is located in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in the capital, Tbilisi. (Bloomberg, 01.11.24)
  • France accused Azerbaijan on Jan. 9 of holding a French national arbitrarily and demanded his immediate release after Baku's ambassador to France said the man had been arrested on Dec. 4 on suspicion of espionage. In a statement sent to Reuters, the French Foreign Ministry confirmed the detention of French citizen Martin Ryan. (Reuters, 01.09.24)
  • The European Commission is urging Google and other big technology companies to help dissident Belarusian media by promoting their stories higher than those published by pro-regime outlets, which opposition journalists argue are favored by search algorithms. (FT, 01.08.24)A monument of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has disappeared from a site in front of the National Defense University in Astana. University officials on Jan. 12 refused to comment on why the monument was removed, adding that it disappeared over the weekend. (RFE/RL, 01.12.24)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • One Ukrainian soldier bemoaned the lack of EW protection for his unit, which was largely wiped out during weeks of intense bombardment on the eastern front, with Russian drones “hitting us like mosquitoes.” “What radio-electronic warfare? . . . We had none. I don’t even want to recall those days in the trenches. Our boys were falling like flies,” he added. (FT, 01.07.24)
  • "If this is going to happen, the best thing is that maybe it should happen quickly," a senior aide to German chancellor Olaf Scholz told WSJ journalist Yaroslav Trofimov ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. (WP, 01.09.24)
  • A European business consultant was struck by the [post-invasion] elation of the moneyed Russians, the kind of people who would normally have been skiing in Courchevel at this time of year. “They know they won’t be allowed back to the French Alps for 25 years,” he said. “Until then they can go to Dubai or party here – it’s pretty wild.” (The Economist, 01.11.24)
  • “It’s time for Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair to assume the mantel of a new and improved Dr. Henry Kissinger,” Bloomberg columnist Adrian Wooldridge wrote. (Bloomberg, 01.09.24)


The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 2:00pm 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.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Amanda Jett shared in the public domain.