Russia in Review, June 30-July 7, 2023

5 Things to Know

  1. The U.S. has included cluster munitions in its latest $800 million package of military aid to Ukraine. More than 100 countries have signed onto the Convention on Cluster Munitions, vowing to never use them, but the U.S. is not one of them. A significant percentage of the submunitions often fail to detonate, effectively turning them into landmines that can pose a threat for years after their initial use, FT reported, citing the International Committee of the Red Cross.
  2. The upcoming NATO Summit in Lithuania will reaffirm that Ukraine will eventually become a member of the alliance, but will not offer Kyiv a membership action plan. Rather, Ukraine will be offered security commitments, which could take the form of mutual defense pacts or security memorandums, according to US and NATO officials. In addition, the July 12-13, 2023 summit will offer a comprehensive assistance package for Kyiv. This follows from statements by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who just had his tenure at the alliance extended for a year.
  3. A group of former senior U.S. national security officials have held secret talks with Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov and other prominent Russians to discuss laying the groundwork for potential negotiations to end the war in Ukraine, according to NBC. The meeting with Lavrov took place in April in New York and was attended by such prominent U.S. foreign policy experts, as Richard Haass, Charles Kupchan and Thomas Graham, NBC reported, citing half a dozen people briefed on the discussions. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson described the report as a “fake,” but a Ukraine official expressed concern, nevertheless, NBC reported.
  4. Iran joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this week in another step toward ending its global isolation as it builds warmer ties with Russia and China, Bloomberg reported. In addition to supporting Iran’s SCO membership, Moscow has engaged Teheran bilaterally, the latest fruit of which has been the opening of a new factory that produces Iranian-designed war drones in Russia’s Tatarstan.
  5. Almost 70% of Russians want Vladimir Putin to continue leading their country after his term expires in 2022, even though 36% of Russians believe he prioritizes the interests of siloviki while 25% believe he represents interests of the oligarchs.. This follows from Levada Center’s polling of Russians on June 22-28, 2023. Only 20% of the respondents said they did not want Putin to remain president beyond 2024, according to the poll.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • On July 4 Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that Russia might be preparing to blow up part of the Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), which has been reconnected to a backup power line that had been down since March 1. (FT, 07.05.23, WNN, 07.03.23)
  • On July 5 Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed that there was a risk of ZNPP being damaged in some way by Kyiv. (FT, 07.05.23)
  • On July 6 Ukraine said that "tension" around ZNPP was "decreasing.” (MT/AFP, 07.06.23)
  • Russian operators of ZNPP continue to ignore requests from safety regulators to bring the last partly-operational reactor under their supervision into a state of full shutdown. (Bloomberg, 07.07.23)
  • On July 6, IAEA, which has four inspectors on-site at the plant, said it has urged the plant’s unit No. 5 to be completely turned off but has been rebuffed by Rosatom. (Bloomberg, 07.07.23)
  • On July 7, Sergei Kiriyenko, the Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff, visited ZNPP and claimed the facility remains safe. (Bloomberg, 07.07.23)
  • On July 7, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said his agency is "making progress" on inspecting several parts of ZNPP after claims it had been mined. (AFP/RFE/RL, 07.07.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • The United States and its Western allies clashed with Russia and Iran at the UN Security Council on July 6 over Tehran’s advancing uranium enrichment and its reported supply of combat drones to Moscow being used to attack Ukraine. (AP, 07.07.23)
  • Russia’s covert drone partnership with Iran has included close co-operation on a new factory in the Russian republic of Tatarstan. Albatross, the company operating on a key site for Russo-Iranian collaboration, has produced reconnaissance drones for Russian military, with roughly 50 delivered for combat in eastern Ukraine. (FT, 07.06.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • On July 4 More than 40 people, including 12 children, were injured on July 4 in a Russian strike on the town of Pervomayskiy in the eastern Kharkiv region, Ukrainian officials said. (RFE/RL, 07.04.23)
  • On July 5 Ukraine’s military shared the video in a post on the Telegram messaging app, saying that a “Russian base” in Makiivka had “ceased to exist” thanks to Kyiv’s forces. Pro-Russian officials in Makiivka accused Ukraine on July 5 of using Western-supplied long-range rockets and artillery to attack civilians. (NYT, 07.05.23)
  • On July 5 Russian regional authorities said at least one person was injured in attacks on Russia’s Belgorod and Kursk regions. (MT/AFP, 07.05.23)
  • On July 7 emergency workers pulled additional bodies out of the wreckage missile strike in Lviv, western Ukraine, bringing the number of people killed to 10, Ukrainian officials said. It was the biggest attack on the city since the beginning of the full-scale invasion in February 2022. Ukraine’s president has vowed to retaliate for the strike. (FT, 07.06.23, NYT, 07.07.23)
  • The number of people who have died because of the breach in the Kakhovka dam reached 75 after the Russian-installed administration of occupied Kherson reported finding two more bodies, according to Istories. (RM, 07.07.23)
  • The UN estimates that 6.3 million Ukrainians remain refugees, and more than five million are "internally displaced persons." (Istories, 07.03.23)
  • At least 43 Ukrainian clergy members have faced persecution by the Russian military in the Kyiv, Donetsk and Kherson regions, according to the investigation. Eight were taken prisoner, and five were killed. When taken prisoner, some were subjected to interrogations and even torture, Vyorstka reported. (MT/AFP, 07.07.23)
  • An international office opened in The Hague on July 3 to investigate alleged crimes committed by Russia during its war against Ukraine. The office is seen as the first step toward the creation of an international tribunal for Russian leaders. (AFP, 07.03.23)
  • A memorial has been unveiled in the Kyiv region city of Bucha to memorialize the civilians who died there while it was occupied by Russian forces in the early part of 2022. (RFE/RL, 07.03.23)
  • Ukraine has urged its supporters to make multiyear commitments of financial aid, saying the EU’s four-year pledge worth €50bn was “a good signal” for the US and other powers to follow. (FT, 07.03.23)
  • The EU is considering a proposal to allow Russian Agricultural Bank, which is under sanctions, to carve out a subsidiary that would reconnect to SWFIT, as a sop to Moscow aimed at safeguarding the threatened Black Sea grain deal, which expires on July 17. (FT, 07.03.23)
  • Papal envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi said on July 2 that his mission to Moscow on the Ukraine war focused on humanitarian issues and had not involved any discussions of a peace plan. (Reuters, 07.02.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

· In the past month of fighting Russian forces have gained 23 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine regained 166 square miles, according to the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 07.05.23)

  • On July 3 Ukraine came under renewed attack from Iranian-made Russian drones and shot down 13 out of 17 that were deployed across southern, eastern and central regions, according to the country’s air defense force. (Bloomberg, 07.03.23)
  • On July 4 several drones were intercepted in the Moscow region, including near the Vnukovo airport, Russian officials said, blaming Ukraine. (NYT, 07.05.23)
  • On July 6 Lukashenko said the Wagner fighters were still in their base camps near the front line in Ukraine. The camps are believed to be in the Luhansk region. Russia is preparing to send more Chechen fighters and convicts to Ukraine to fill holes left by Wagner mercenaries that were pulled from the battlefield, European intelligence officials believe. (Bloomberg, 07.05.23, FT, 07.06.23)
  • On July 6 Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut, western Donetsk, and western Zaporizhzhia directions. Geolocated footage posted on July 6 shows that Ukrainian troops have advanced towards the western outskirts of Klishchiivka, about 5km southwest of Bakhmut. (ISW, 07.06.23)
  • On July 7, a Russian pro-war Telegram channel, WarGonzo, acknowledged that the Ukrainian offensive had made some gains northeast of Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region and noted “fierce fighting” north of Klishchiivka, near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, but reported no gains by either side there or elsewhere. (RM, 07.07.213)
  • An update of the Ukraine Support Tracker database maintained by Germany’s Kiel Institute for the World Economy said Kyiv’s backers had delivered 471 new tanks since the start of the war, with a further 286 still to arrive. (Bloomberg, 07.06.23)
  • According to Oryx, which records only losses it can confirm, 2,082 Russian tanks have been destroyed, damaged, abandoned or captured since the start of the war in 2022. (Bloomberg, 07.06.23)
  • UK Chief of the Defense Staff Tony Radakin claimed that “Russia has lost nearly half the combat effectiveness of its army.” Radakin said Russia faces a critical shortage of artillery munitions.  Last year Russia fired 10mn artillery shells but at best can produce 1mn shells a year, according to Radakin. He also claimed that Russia has lost 2,500 tanks while “at best” it can produce 200 new tanks a year, according to Bloomberg. (RM, 07.06.23)  Radakin’s claim that Russia has lost half of its combat effectiveness is misleading. Ammunition estimates vary, but per US estimates Russia is firing at rate of about 2 million artillery rounds per year, down from 7 million during fall counteroffensive, still likely outfiring Ukraine by about 2:1 based on estimates from the US government and Washington Post. Also, one should take into account that Russia is has a stockpile of at least 5,000 older tanks, according to IISS.*
  • "It's going to be very difficult. It's going to be very long, and it's going to be very, very bloody," U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the Ukrainian counteroffensive last week. (WSJ, 07.06.23)
  • The counteroffensive is “slower than we had hoped” but the Ukrainians have a lot of combat power left, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said (Guardian, 07,.07.23)
  • President Biden has approved the provision of U.S. cluster munitions for Ukraine, with a drawdown of the weapons from Defense Department stocks. The Pentagon said it will send their most modern dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICMs) that have a failure rate or "dud rate" of 2.35% or less. The munitions are part of a new military aid package worth up to $800 million. Also included in the new package are additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems and ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket systems, While Russia has used cluster munitions far more extensively, Ukraine has also allegedly deployed these weapons during the war. (WP, 07.07.23, ABC, 07.07.23,. Guardian, 07.07.23)
    • When commenting on the decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl claimed that the  munitions were a temporary “bridge” as defense production ramps up to produce more regular artillery shells. (The Hill, 07.07.23)  
    • The bomblets are designed to explode on impact, spraying high-velocity pieces of shrapnel. But a substantial percentage of the fired munitions, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross — often fail to detonate, effectively turning them into landmines that can pose a threat for years after their initial use. More than 100 countries have essentially banned cluster munitions. Governments that signed onto the "Convention on Cluster Munitions" in 2008 committed to never using, producing or stockpiling cluster munitions(ABC, 07.07.23, FT, 07.07.23)
    • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that Germany opposes sending cluster munitions to Ukraine (Reuters/RFE/RL, 07.07.23)
    • Sarah Yager, the Washington director at Human Rights Watch, said cluster bombs were already “all over” Ukraine and it is “not a good enough excuse for the United States to be sending more.” Russia’s dud rate is reportedly as high as 40 percent, while Ukraine’s is as high as 20 percent, according to Yager. At least 38 human rights organizations have publicly opposed the transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine. (The Hill, 07.07.23, Guardian, 07.07.23)
  • The US hasn’t made a decision on whether to send ATACMS long-range missiles or cluster munitions to Ukraine, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said, adding that a counteroffensive against Russian forces was making slow but steady advances. (Bloomberg, 06.30.23)
  • NATO countries will not send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine in time for its current counteroffensive, Adm. Rob Bauer, the chair of NATO’s military committee said. (NYT, 07.04.23)
  • Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said that his country would probably not receive the first F-16s until early next year. At a press conference last week in Kyiv with Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez, Zelensky blasted Ukraine’s western partners over the delay. (FT, 07.06.23)
  • The war in Ukraine is the first time that NATO weaponry is being used on a large scale against Russia’s army and it is giving western militaries invaluable insights into the performance of their kit. Experts had long suspected the Patriot was capable of shooting down a Kinzhal, but it took the Ukrainian military to demonstrate it. They have since intercepted more than a dozen. (FT, 07.05.23)
  • The EU presidency announced early on July 7 that the member states and the EU Parliament had reached a deal “to urgently mobilize” half a billion euros from its budget for an Act in Support of Ammunition Production. (AP, 07.07.23)


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

  • Italy has frozen Russian oligarchs' assets valued at around 2 billion euros ($2.5 billion) following the invasion of Ukraine last year, the country's central bank said on July 4. (Reuters, 07.04.23)
  • Swiss authorities are probing a prominent Geneva-based oil trader’s legal arrangements to sidestep Russia sanctions. The regulatory questions to Paramount, posed in April, are one of the first known efforts by a European authority to investigate compliance with the western sanctions regime on Russian oil. (FT, 07.05.23)
  • Bucharest on a special flight arranged by the Kremlin following the June 8 order by Romania’s Foreign Ministry to reduce Moscow’s diplomatic presence in the country. Romanian authorities said 11 diplomats and 29 technical-administrative staff were on the plane. The plane departed after a six-hour delay, officials said. (RFE/RL, 07.01.23)
  • Russia has withdrawn consent for Finland to operate its consulate in St. Petersburg and expelled nine Finnish diplomats, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on July 6. (WP, 07.06.23)
  • The UK government has updated the Russian sanctions list, excluding former first deputy chairman of Sberbank Lev Khasis. (Istories, 07.06.23)
  • Ukraine plans to nationalize Sense Bank, one of the country’s systemically important lenders, from its Russian owners, including Mikhail Fridman and Peter Aven, as early as next week, according to a person familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg, 07.07.23)
  • Russian authorities are investigating the U.S. food and chocolate maker Mars Inc. on suspicion of financing the Ukrainian armed forces, state media reported on July 7, citing anonymous law enforcement sources. (MT/AFP, 07.07.23)
  • Gazprom chief Miller said Russia may sanction Ukraine’s state-run energy company Naftogaz if it pursues legal claims against the nation and Gazprom PJSC, putting gas shipments to Europe at risk. (Bloomberg, 07.06.23)
  • The life of Mikhail Fridman, one of Russia’s original oligarchs, was “destroyed” after he was hit by European Union sanctions following the Kremlin-led invasion of Ukraine, his attorney told an EU court. (Bloomberg, 07.05.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • The Kremlin said it will "closely follow" upcoming talks between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Turkey counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 7, describing their meeting in Istanbul as "important." "Mr. Erdogan has repeatedly made great efforts to end various problems within the framework of the Ukrainian conflict and played a mediating role," Peskov said. He added that Moscow "did not exclude" talks between President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan. (MT/AFP, 07.07.23)
  • A group of former senior U.S. national security officials, including Richard Haass, Charles Kupchan and Thomas Graham have held secret talks with prominent Russians believed to be close to the Kremlin — and, in at least one case, with Sergei Lavrov (in NYC in April)— with the aim of laying the groundwork for potential negotiations to end the war in Ukraine, half a dozen people briefed on the discussions told NBC News. On the agenda of the April meeting were some of the thorniest issues in the war in Ukraine, like the fate of Russian-held territory that Ukraine may never be able to liberate, and the search for an elusive diplomatic off-ramp that could be tolerable to both sides. (NBC, 07.06.23)
    • “Reports about secret talks on Ukraine … with the American side do not correspond with reality. It’s a fake,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Telegram. (NBC News, 07.07.23)
    • Ukraine expressed concern Friday over the willingness of some former U.S. government officials to meet with Moscow’s top diplomat. “The question arises whether Washington’s tough position regarding the invitation of Ukraine to NATO is somehow not connected with these backroom consultations,” a Ukrainian official said in a statement on behalf of the Ukrainian government. (NBC News, 07.07.23)

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

  • On July 7 NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the upcoming NATO summit allies would "reaffirm that Ukraine will become a member" — which has been the alliance's fraught position for 15 years — and "unite on how to bring Ukraine closer to this goal." (WP, 07.07.23)
    • Stoltenberg will serve another year as NATO secretary general after member states agreed to extend his term as the military alliance continues to confront Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a statement on NATO’s website. (Bloomberg, 07.04.23)
  • At the summit NATO would agree “a strengthened, comprehensive assistance package” for Kyiv, including immediate help to “secure communications, anti-drone systems and fuel” and longer-term assistance in transitioning from Soviet standard arms and equipment to their western equivalents, Stoltenberg said. (Guardian, 07.07.23)
  • With or without NATO membership, Ukrainian officials are looking for security commitments by Western nations "without delay and as soon as possible," which would potentially encourage Moscow to withdraw its forces Details of the security package are still not finalized, diplomats said. But U.S. and NATO officials have described evolving proposals for bilateral or multilateral agreements that they characterized as mutual defense pacts or security memorandums with Ukraine." (WP, 07.07.23)
  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, will address the NATO summit, where he is expected to follow on from a plea made July 3 at the G7 meeting in Germany for western countries to provide arms so the war does not “drag on over winter.” (Guardian, 07.07.23)
    • Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Slovakia on July 7 after stops in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic on July 6, as he seeks a clearer path to joining the military alliance before the group’s summit in Vilnius next week. (Bloomberg, 07.07.23)
    • Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, said the summit "must end" with Zelensky and Stoltenberg "standing next to each other" and proclaiming, in Sak's words: "Today, we have reached a historical decision. Today, we have invited Ukraine to join NATO." (WP, 07.07.23)
  • NATO released figures showing that defense spending among its 30 members was expected to increase by 1.2% in real terms in 2022, the slowest growth rate in eight successive years of growth. Nine countries are projected to exceed the 2% of GDP target, led by Greece on 3.76% and the US on 3.47% with Britain sixth on 2.12%, down marginally on the two previous years. France spends 1.9% and Germany 1.44%. (Guardian, 07.07.23)
    • Germany will increase its defense budget to a record amount next year, helping Europe’s biggest economy meet a NATO target of spending at least 2% of output annually on the military. Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said €51.8 billion ($56.4 billion) will be allocated. (Bloomberg, 07.03.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Iran joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, another step toward ending its global isolation as it builds warmer ties with Russia and China. (Bloomberg, 07.05.23)
  • President Vladimir Putin told a regional security grouping that Russians were united behind his leadership in his first international appearance since the failed mutiny. Putin also thanked leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization “who have expressed support for the actions of the Russian leadership to protect the constitutional order,” (Bloomberg, 07.05.23)
  • China said it wants closer ties with Russia’s military, a sign Moscow still has Beijing’s support after the aborted Wagner mutiny. Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu said in a meeting on July 3 with Nikolai Yevmenov, commander-in-chief of Russia’s navy, that “with the joint efforts of both sides, the relations between the two militaries will continue to deepen and solidify, constantly make new progress and reach a new level.” (Bloomberg, 07.03.23)
  • ''From a security perspective, this war [in Ukraine] has not enhanced China's security but has subjected China to more security threats,'' said Yan Xuetong, a senior international relations scholar at China's prestigious Tsinghua University. (NYT, 07.02.23)
  • China’s Chery, Haval and Geely brands were three of the four most popular cars in Russia in the first half of 2023 behind the locally made Lada, whose sales of 143,618 were still greater than all three Chinese makes combined. Chinese models accounted for more than a third of overall Russian sales. Total car sales rose by 10% to 428,308 units in the first six months of the year. (Bloomberg, 07.06.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • A nuclear “Apocalypse is not only possible, but also quite probable,” according to Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council whose nuclear saber-rattling has been among the loudest since the launch of the Ukraine invasion. To avoid that the nuclear war, the West needs to concede to ‘regime’ change in Kyiv, a new Helsinki Act and restructuring of the UN, then the current “era of confrontation” between Russia and West will end in a nuclear apocalypse, according to Medvedev’s op-ed in the Russian government’s daily. (RM, 07.05.23)
  • Xi Jinping personally warned Putin against using nuclear weapons in Ukraine during their meeting in Moscow in March, according  to western and Chinese officials. Since then, Deterring Putin from using such a weapon has been central to China’s campaign to repair damaged ties with Europe, said a senior adviser to the Chinese government. (FT, 07.06.23) That Xi has come out against the use of nuclear weapons since the launch of Russia’s invasion is no news. He was reported to have spoken against such use or signed off on statements opposing their use, during the G20 summit, at his meeting with German chancellor Scholz in November 2022 and during his meeting with French president Macron in April 2023. His UNSC envoy Geng Shuang also spoke out against threat or use of nuclear weapons in March 2023. In addition, China's 12-Point Ukraine Peace Proposal explicitly states "the threat or use of nuclear weapons should be opposed." However, RM’s monitoring of the Putin-Xi March summit revealed no claims that Xi had personally warned Putin against the use of nuclear weapons. Nor could RM verify FT’s July 6, 2023 claim of such warning, given that it was attributed to unnamed officials.


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • The US military accused Russia of using fighter jets and flares to repeatedly disrupt its drone missions in Syria. The latest incident took place on July 6 when Russian Su-34s and Su-35s dropped flares in front of US MQ-9 drones in northeast Syria, according to a statement and video footage released by US Air Forces Central, which is part of US military command responsible for the Middle and Near East. The previous day, three Russian jets harassed three US drones by dropping multiple parachute flares, it said. (Bloomberg, 07.07.23)

Cyber security/AI:

  • Over 100 actors, ranging from nation-state hackers to loosely defined groups of volunteers, have carried out cyberattacks related to the war in Ukraine since the invasion, , according to CyberPeace’s report released last week. In 2022, 461 of those attacks targeted countries other than Russia or Ukraine. That number has surpassed 900 in the past six months alone, CyberPeace has found. (NYT, 06.30.23)
  • Japan’s biggest maritime port was crippled by an alleged Russian cyberattack, disrupting cargo as operators rushed to prevent a wider delay in shipments. Ransomware — used by hackers to lock access to files or systems unless a payment is made — caused a container terminal at the Port of Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture to suffer an outage on July 4 morning, the Nagoya Harbor Transportation Authority said on July 5. (Bloomberg, 07.05.23)
  • The technologies, which Russian companies have developed, have given the police and FSB, access to tools that track certain kinds of activity on encrypted apps like WhatsApp and Signal, monitor the locations of phones, identify anonymous social media users and break into people’s accounts, according to documents from Russian surveillance providers. (NYT, 07.03.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • India’s imports of Russian oil hit another record last month as the South Asian nation potentially nears the limit of its buying splurge from the major OPEC+ producer. Daily volumes climbed to 2.2 million barrels a day in June, rising for a 10th month, according to Viktor Katona, the head of crude analysis at Kpler. Russian purchases again exceeded the combined shipments of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, data from the analytics firm show. (Bloomberg, 07.03.23)
  • Saudi Arabia’s state news agency, citing an official source, said the kingdom would extend the 1mn-barrels-a-day production cut announced last month for July into August, while Russia’s deputy prime minister and top energy official Alexander Novak said Moscow would also make a “voluntary” supply cut of an additional 500,000 b/d next month. (FT, 07.03.23)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • CIA Director William Burns quietly reached out to his Russian counterpart in the aftermath of a failed mutiny by Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, delivering a message that the U.S. had no involvement in Russia's internal chaos, officials familiar with the matter said. The message from the chief of the Central Intelligence Agency was: "The U.S. wasn't involved. This is an internal Russian matter," one official said. (WSJ, 06.30.23)
  • The invasion of Ukraine has had a “corrosive effect” on Russian society and President Vladimir Putin’s regime, creating an “opportunity” for the US, Burns said. “Disaffection with the war will continue to gnaw away at the Russian leadership, beneath the steady diet of state propaganda and practiced repression,” Burns said. For US intelligence that’s created “a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” he said, adding “we’re not letting it go to waste.” (Bloomberg, 07.02.23.)
  •  The Kremlin said on July 4 that Russia and the United States were in contact over the possibility of a prisoner swap, an apparent reference to the jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich that came the day after he met with the U.S. ambassador. The U.S. ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy's was granted access to Gershkovich in the second such visit since his detention in March. (WP, 07.03.23, NYT, 07.05.23)
    • “I do not want to give false hope,” said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan. “I cannot stand here today and tell you that we have a clear answer to how we are going to get Evan home.” (WSJ, 07.07.23)
  • Marc Fogel is one of at least six Americans known to be currently detained in Russia, but his case has drawn less attention and action. That is because the State Department hasn't designated him as "wrongfully detained," as it has with Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former Marine, who were both arrested on charges of espionage. (WSJ , 07.02.23)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia's ruble strengthened on July 7, paring some of the losses sustained in the previous day’s slump to a more than 15-month low past 93 against the dollar. By 1427 GMT, the ruble was 1.3% stronger against the dollar at 91.14, after dropping to 93.85 in the previous session, its weakest point since March 28, 2022. (Reuters, 07.07.23)
  • Levada polled Russians on June 22-28, 2023, finding that 68% of Russians want to see Putin remain president of Russia after 2024, compared to 72% in May 2022. In contrast, 20% said they don’t want Putin to serve as the president beyond 2024 (in May 2022, that figure was 19%). Asked whose interests Putin represents (and given the option of selecting multiple choices), 39% said "siloviki" (compared to 40% in 2021); 29% said “ordinary people” (17% in 2021); 25% said the "oligarchs;” 24% said the middle class; and 22% said bureaucrats. (RM, 07.07.23)
  • Prigozhin called on the Russian public to stand up for his Wagner paramilitaries July 3 as the group continued to recruit troops for the war in Ukraine. Speaking on the Telegram messaging app for the second time since leading an aborted insurrection last month, Prigozhin said “we need your support more than ever,” as he thanked backers inside Russia. (FT, 07.03.23)
    • Prigozhin appeared free to travel around Russia just weeks after attempting to march on Moscow with his fighters, suggesting he was hardly being treated as public enemy number one. A person who has known the warlord since the 1990s suggested the leeway to tie up loose ends at his businesses was probably part of a peace deal hashed out as Wagner’s tanks rumbled towards Moscow in June. “With regards [to] Yevgeny Prigozhin, he is in St Petersburg,” Lukashenko said. Lukashenko said on July 6 that if Wagner did relocate to Belarus, it would not pose risks to Minsk (FT, 07.06.23, FT, 07.07.23, FT, 07.06.23)
    • Russian state TV said that Prigozhin's Wagner Group of mercenaries received more than 858 billion rubles ($9.8 billion at current rates) under government contracts. (Current Time, 07.02.23)
    • Russian authorities have returned 10 billion rubles ($111.2 million) to exiled Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin which they had seized in police raids during his aborted rebellion last month. (MT/AFP, 07.04.23)
    • Russian Field, a private polling firm, conducted surveys on Russians’ views of Prigozhin shortly before and shortly after the mutiny. Specifically, between June 16-19, the pollster asked respondents about their views of Prigozhin’s role in the “military operation” in Ukraine, at which point 55% voiced approval and 14% disapproved. Asked the same question between June 26-30, those figures shifted to 29% and 39% respectively. (RM, 07.07.23)
  • Prominent Russian investigative reporter Yelena Milashina received a brain injury and multiple fractures when she and lawyer Alexander Nemov were brutally beaten by unidentified assailants in Chechnya. The two arrived in Grozny to attend the court hearing of Zarema Musayeva, the mother of Chechen human rights lawyer and activist Abubakar Yangulbaev. Russian investigators have opened a criminal probe into the attack, which left Nemov with a knife wound. As for Musayeva, she was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison on charges she denies. (MT/AFP, 07.04.23, MT/AFP, 07.04.23, AP, 07.05.23, RFE/RL, 07.06.23)
  • Artem Savinovsky, chief executive of the Nasdaq-listed Internet company Yandex faces prosecution in a Russian court for alleged offenses under the country’s so-called gay "propaganda” law. (Reuters, 07.05.23)
  • Family members of imprisoned Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny have officially sued the penal colony where he is being held for not allowing them access to him. (RFE/RL, 07.03.23)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin's former election spokesman Andrei Kondrashov has been appointed to run the state news agency TASS. (Reuters, 07.05.23

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu praised his army's "loyalty" during an armed uprising last month by the Wagner military group. (MT/AFP, 07.03.23)
  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Sergei Surovikin, 56, a career military officer dubbed “General Armageddon” for his ruthless tactics in Syria, hasn’t been seen since Prigozhin’s rebellion. He was quizzed over his links to Prigozhin over several days last week at an undisclosed location, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. (Bloomberg, 07.03.23)
  • Russian authorities are still investigating Prigozhin over his failed mutiny last month despite the Kremlin’s promise to drop the criminal charges against him, state television reported. (MT/AFP, 07.06.23)
  • Putin is said to work out of identically constructed offices at multiple residences so that photographs don't reveal his location. (NYT, 07.05.23)
  • A Russian court has sentenced two Ukrainian citizens to more than 20 years in prison over an attempted assassination of Vitaly Bulyuk — the Kremlin-backed deputy governor of southern Ukraine’s partially occupied Kherson region. (MT/AFP, 07.06.23)
  • FSB said on July 3 it had thwarted an assassination attempt on Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-backed head of Crimea. (Reuters, 07.03.23)
  • FSB has shot and killed a man it accused of trying to blow up a gas distribution network in the western Siberian region of Tyumen, state media reported on July 6. (MT/AFP, 07.06.23)
  • Russian investigative journalist and former Meduza reporter Ivan Golunov said he was awarded 1.5 million rubles ($16,500) in damages for fabricated drug charges against him, the MSK1.RU news outlet reported on July 4. (MT/AFP, 07.05.23)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Putin spoke by phone on June 30 with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who "expressed understanding and support" for Putin's actions to solidify power in the aftermath of the failed Wagner revolt — according to a Kremlin readout. India's government said that Putin had informed Modi about the events. (WP, 07.01.23)
  • The New Development Bank, a financial institution created by the BRICS bloc of emerging markets, doesn’t have any immediate plans for the group to create a common currency, its vice president and chief financial officer Haslinda Amin said. (Bloomberg, 07.06.23)
  • Russia lost $19 billion of foreign investment in 2022 as businesses withdrew from the country following its invasion of Ukraine. (WSJ, 07.05.23)
  • There is an investigation in Brazil into whether Moscow is using the country as an incubator for deep-cover agents seeking to infiltrate the West. (WSJ, 07.02.23)
  • An Israeli-Russian academic who had been missing in Iraq for months is being held by the pro-Iran armed faction Kataeb Hezbollah, the Israeli prime minister's office announced on July 5. (MT/AFP, 07.05.23)


  • The April 21-May 22 poll, commissioned by the Washington-based International Republican Institute took place in cities under Ukrainian control between April 21 and May 22. About 90% or more of respondents in each city don’t plan to move out after the war, while between 74% and 90% viewed the future as “rather promising” in the survey of 16,800 people by Kyiv-based pollster Sociological Group Rating. (Bloomberg, 06.30.23)
  • Bulgaria is nearing an agreement to sell two Russian-made nuclear reactors and other critical equipment to Ukraine's state-owned atomic energy company. Under the deal, which is still being negotiated, Sofia's state power company NEK would sell Energoatom equipment from the unfinished Belene Nuclear Power Plant for at least 600 million euros. (WSJ, 07.06.23)
  • Putin held a televised meeting on July 3 with the head of Russia’s central election committee, Ella Pamfilova, who told him plans were in place to hold regional elections in occupied regions of Ukraine in September, though the votes could be postponed if the situation deteriorated. (Bloomberg, 07.03.23)
  • OCCRP investigators have established that Ukraine is investigating hundreds of firms, many created since Russia’s full-scale invasion scrambled the grain market, for allegedly failing to properly document their trading in Ukrainian grain or to pay taxes on it. (OCCRP, 07.05.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Belarus appears to be dismantling tent camps on Belarusian territory used to train Russian soldiers, raising questions about whether Moscow is in need of more troops at the front to halt Ukraine's large-scale counteroffensive. (RFE/RL, 07.07.23)
  • Poland is to deploy additional police officers to its border with Belarus to boost security in response to plans by the Wagner group of Russian mercenaries to set up base there. (dpa, 07.02.23)
  • Georgia's Foreign Ministry criticized Ukraine on July 4 for urging the Georgian ambassador to return to Tbilisi for consultations over the poor health of imprisoned former President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is also a Ukrainian citizen. (AP, 07.05.23)
  • Kyrgyzstan on July 6 announced the arrest of 10 members of the country’s main opposition party, accusing its leaders of secretly preparing a coup. "Members of the Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan party were secretly preparing riots and large-scale unrest in the country to carry out a coup," the State Committee for National Security (UKMK) alleged. (RFE/RL, 07.06.23)
  • The Kazakh national atomic company has announced that its Kazatomprom-SaUran LLP subsidiary has completed a "major investment project" to modernize a 1600-tonne per year refinery in Turkestan. (WNN, 07.04.23)
  • Seven people have been detained in western Germany on suspicion of forming an Islamist terrorist cell, prosecutors said on July 6. They are also alleged to have supported the Islamic State extremist group. (dpa, 07.06.23)
  • A court in Azerbaijan has sentenced two Armenian soldiers to lengthy prison sentences for trespassing when they crossed into the country for allegedly attempting to supply a group of "saboteurs," a charge that has exacerbated already heightened tensions between the two countries. (RFE/RL, 07.07.23)

Quotable and notable

  • No significant developments.


Correction: The following item "In the past month of fighting Russian forces have gained 23 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine regained 166 square miles, according to the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 07.05.23)" was corrected at 7.18 pm on July 7, 2023 to reflect the accurate number of square miles regained by Ukraine, per Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force's 07.05.23 estimate.

The cutoff for inclusion of the news reports summarized in this digest was 3:00 pm U.S. East Coast time on July 7, 2023.

*Here and elsewhere, the italicized text indicates insights from RM staff.

Photo shared by the Ukrainian presidential press service via a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.