Russia in Review, June 9-16, 2023

7 Things to Know

  1. Ukraine's military command claimed, as of June 15, to have retaken approximately 40 square miles of territory in the course of its counteroffensive, even as its soldiers encountered what U.S. military officials described as fierce resistance by Russian troops. The latter have reportedly managed to destroy at least four Leopard-2 tanks, 3 Leopard 2R engineering vehicles and 17 Bradley fighting vehicles, according to FT and Bloomberg. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said of the Ukrainian counteroffensive: "Does that mean, you know, we're going to expel every Russian out of every corner of Ukraine? Probably doesn't… But I think … it may have the opportunity to begin to change the dynamics on the battlefield, and that's really what you're looking for.”
  2. In their discussions ahead of an upcoming NATO summit, members of the alliance agreed that Kyiv won’t become a member as long as the war continues, but they continue to debate how to go beyond the promise that Ukraine will join NATO that they made in 2008. One way to do so would be to remove some of the hurdles from Ukraine's path to the military alliance, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said when asked about reports that the U.S. is open to permitting Kyiv to forgo a formal candidacy process, according to Reuters.
  3. Russian tactical nuclear weapons have arrived in Belarus. “The first nuclear munitions were delivered to the territory of Belarus, but only the first ones," Putin told an economic forum in St. Petersburg on June 16. “This is the first part. But before the end of the summer, before the end of the year, we will complete this work in its entirety,” he said. When asked by Levada in May whether, to achieve a victory in Ukraine, Russia should (Option 1) or should not (Option 2) use nuclear weapons, some 86% of Russian respondents chose the second option, including 18% who said Russia should probably not use nuclear weapons and 68% who said Russia should definitely not use nuclear weapons in the conflict under any circumstances.
  4. German investigators are examining evidence that suggests a sabotage team used Poland as an operating base to blow up the Nord Stream pipelines, WSJ reported. The probe by Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office is looking into why the Andromeda yacht, which they believe was used to carry out the operation, was rented with the help of a travel agency based in Warsaw that appears to be part of a network of Ukrainian-owned front companies with suspected links to Ukrainian intelligence. It was Dutch intelligence that had learned the Ukrainian military had been planning an operation using divers to blow up one of the two Nord Stream pipelines and informed the CIA, according to NYT. The CIA then warned Kyiv not to attack the pipelines, according to WSJ.
  5. More Russians now believe their country’s military operation in Ukraine has been successful (61%) than did in November (53%). This follows from the results of May 25-31, 2023, joint Chicago Council-Levada Center survey. The survey has also found Russians are now evenly divided between those who think Moscow should continue the military operation (48%, up from 38% in April) and those who think it should move to peace negotiations (45%, down from 51% in April).
  6. It is “improbable” that Putin would survive in power if the war ends on terms that include a “Russia that recognizes that its relations to Europe have to be based on agreement and a kind of consensus,” Henry Kissinger told Bloomberg, adding that he believed that the war may, "if it’s ended properly," make such a recognition "achievable." He also described Putin’s reaction to expansion of NATO as being “at the edge of irrationality,” but cautioned that a scenario to be avoided is “the dissolution of Russia or the reduction of Russia to resentful impotence,” which risked stoking new tensions.
  7. Russia remained the number one supplier of nuclear reactor fuel to the U.S. last year, amid unsuccessful efforts to wean off of the Kremlin’s supply of uranium, Bloomberg reported. Russia supplied almost a quarter of the enriched uranium used to fuel America’s fleet of more than 90 commercial reactors. That compares with 28% in 2021, according to the latest Energy Department data cited by the news agency.



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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • UN nuclear chief Rafael Grossi on June 15 said the situation at the Moscow-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine was "serious" but was being stabilized. Grossi arrived at the NPP to assess potential safety risks after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam, which caused huge floods and exacerbated fears for the facility's safety. (MT/AFP, 06.15.23)
  • The FSB for the Sverdlovsk region opened a criminal case on divulging state secrets against a 55-year-old resident of the "closed" town (ZATO) Lesnoy who previously worked at an enterprise belonging to Rosatom. Investigators say the man agreed in writing that he could not leave the country until April 2023 but had tried to go to Abkhazia. (Media Zona, 06.13.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russia has resumed sending oil to sanctions-hit North Korea for the first time since 2020, deepening bilateral cooperation that the U.S. claims also includes sending arms from Pyongyang to help the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 06.13.23)                                                                      
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered his country's "full support and solidarity" to Moscow in a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 12, state media reported. Kim sent the message of congratulations on the national Russia Day holiday. (MT/AFP, 06.12.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • The Biden administration has quietly restarted talks with Iran in a bid to win the release of U.S. prisoners held by Tehran and curb the country's growing nuclear program, people close to the discussions said. (WSJ, 06.16.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • A missile attack in Kryviy Rih killed at least 11 people, Ukrainian officials said on June 13. (FT, 06.13.23) 
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed unhappiness on June 12 at the results of an inspection he ordered into all Ukrainian shelters after three people were killed when they were unable to access one during a Russian air strike in Kyiv. (Reuters, 06.13.23)
  • Consequences of the breach of the collapse of the Kakhovka dam:
    • Nearly 3,000 people have so far been evacuated from the towns under Ukrainian control. Ukraine’s interior affairs minister said on June 11 that the flooding had killed at least five people on Ukrainian-controlled territory and estimated at least 14 casualties in Russian-occupied parts of the Kherson region. Another 35 people were missing. The governor of the Ukrainian Kherson region, Oleksandr Prokudin, said three civilians were killed and 10 people injured on June 11, including two law enforcement officers, after Russian forces fired at a rescue boat evacuating people from Russian occupied areas. (FT, 06.12.23, NYT, 06.10.23)
    • Nearly 19,000 buildings in four settlements on the Russian-held eastern bank of the Dnipro were inundated by the water, according to an initial study by the Kyiv School of Economics. (NYT, 06.15.23)
    • The Kakhovka irrigation system — the largest in Europe and one of the largest in the world — provided essential water to more than 617,000 acres of farmland in Ukraine’s dry southern steppes. That is now lost. (NYT, 06.10.23)
    • The floods have obscured the location of land mines and swept others to unknown locations, according to experts and deminers on the ground, posing a dire danger to civilians, even as they evacuate. (WP, 06.10.23)
    • The humanitarian situation in Ukraine is “hugely worse” than before the Kakhovka dam collapsed, UN Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths said, asserting that an “extraordinary” 700,000 people are in need of drinking water and warned that the ravages of flooding in one of the world’s most important breadbaskets will almost inevitably lead to lower grain exports. (AP, 06.10.23)
  • More than 2,500 Ukrainians have been returned in prisoner of war exchanges since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on June 12. (NYT, 06.13.23)
  • The trial of 22 Ukrainian members of the Azov Battalion, who are accused of terrorist activities against Russia, began on June 15 in a military court in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. Eight women who worked as cooks at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol during Russia's siege of the facility in 2022 are among the accused. (RFE/RL, 06.16.23)
  • Russia is considering leaving the deal that allows Ukraine to ship grain exports from Black Sea ports, President Vladimir Putin said at a televised meeting. The Russian leader said that his country had agreed to the deal’s extension several times not in Ukraine’s interests, but for its allies in Africa and South America. (Bloomberg, 06.13.23) With Africa-Russia summit planned for end of July in St. Petersburg, it is doubtful Putin would want to walk out of the grain deal imminently, as this could increase the price of grain and related goods (like feed) on world markets in a development that would hurt African economies.                                                                      
  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on June 12 he is concerned that Russia will on July 17 quit a deal allowing the safe wartime export of grain and fertilizers from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports. (Reuters, 06.12.23)
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has admitted requests by 32 of Ukraine's allies to join a trial in which Kyiv alleges that Russia is guilty of genocide in the current war and that Moscow misused the international genocide convention to falsely justify its invasion of Ukraine last year. (RFE/RL, 06.10.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the month preceding June 13, Ukrainian forces regained a net total of 96 square miles, according to the latest issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 06.13.23)
    • On June 9 Russian forces targeted Ukrainian towns and cities far from the front, firing missiles and drones at the port city of Odesa. Ukraine’s military said that its air defenses shot down all eight drones aimed at the city, but that debris from the weapons fell onto a nine-story apartment building, killing at least three people and injuring about two dozen others, including a pregnant woman and two children. (NYT, 06.10.23)
    • On June 10 Zelensky said the long-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive had begun. “Counteroffensive and defensive actions are being taken in Ukraine,” he said at a news conference with the visiting Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau. “At what stage, I will not disclose in detail.” (NYT, 06.10.23)
    • On June 11 the Ukrainian army said that it had liberated Blahodatne, Neskuchne and Makarivka, three villages in the south of the Donetsk region — marking a break in at least one layer of Russian fortifications. (FT, 06.12.23)
    • Russia’s Defense Ministry says it repelled an attack by Ukrainian speedboats on one of its Black Sea naval vessels early on June 11.The Vishnya-class intelligence ship Priazovye was attacked at about 1:30 a.m. Moscow time, 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Sevastopol in Crimea, the ministry said on its Telegram channel. (Bloomberg, 06.12.23)
    • One June 11 a source in Ukraine’s General Staff said: "We haven’t committed our main forces, and the Russians haven’t committed their main forces.” Both were involved in a “chess game” to draw out each other's reserves, he said. (The Economist, 06.11.23)
    • On June 12 Ukraine’s military said it had retaken the village of Storozhove, near a string of small settlements along a river in eastern Ukraine. (NYT, 06.12.23)
      • While Moscow hasn’t officially commented, Russian military bloggers acknowledged that Ukrainian forces had taken control of Storozhove and Novodarivka and said there were clashes on the outskirts of Makarivka. (Bloomberg, 06.12.23)
    • On June 13 Russian forces struck back in an area where Ukraine had earlier announced it had retaken several villages. The Russians attacked with aviation and artillery barrages, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military said. One village at the center of the fighting, Makarivka, was reduced to ruins through the course of the day. (NYT, 06.13.23)
    • On June 14 Russia unleashed a barrage of missiles and drones in southern and eastern Ukraine overnight, killing at least six people. Ukraine's air force said it had shot down 12 of the 19 missiles and drones fired by Russia as fighting intensified along the front line in the south and east of the country. A spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military's Southern Command said the attacks sought to disrupt Ukraine's counteroffensive. (WSJ, 06.14.23)
    • On June 13 Putin claimed Ukraine had “not had any success” at any of the positions it attacked on the front lines during its counter-offensive and claimed, without providing evidence, that Ukrainian forces had suffered “catastrophic” casualties. (FT, 06.13.23) 
      • Putin claimed that Russia had lost 54 tanks during the Ukrainian offensive and that Ukraine had lost some 160 tanks — a figure that seems inflated, according to independent observers. Oryx said on June 13 that it had counted fewer than 10 Ukrainian tank losses so far. (WSJ, 06.13.23)
        • “Demilitarization. We are dealing with this gradually, methodically. What are the Armed Forces of Ukraine fighting with? Do they produce Leopards or Bradleys or the F-16s they haven’t received yet? They don’t produce a thing. The Ukrainian defense industry will soon cease to exist altogether,” Putin said at a meeting on June 13 with war correspondents and bloggers. (, 06.13.23)
          • Russian MP Konstantin Zatulin, who is close to the FSB top brass said that Russia had so far failed in all of its war aims and that some of them had become "senseless." "What were the aims announced at the beginning of the special military operation?" Zatulin asked, using the Kremlin's term for the war. "You all remember — denazification, demilitarization, neutrality for Ukraine, and the defense of the residents of Donetsk and Luhansk. On which of these points have we reached results today? Not one." (WP, 06.10.23)
    • On June 15 Russia’s invasion forces rained two dozen attack drones and missiles targeting Kryviy Rih and the Black Sea port of Odesa for a second time this week. Ukraine’s air force said all 20 kamikaze drones were intercepted by air defense systems as well as one of four cruise missiles fired. (FT, 06.15.23)
    • On June 15 officials in Kyiv said Ukrainian fighters have retaken approximately 40 square miles of territory from Russian occupying forces. (WP, 06.15.23)
      • “It is very difficult to advance,” Hanna Malyar, a deputy Ukrainian defense minister, said. Ukraine’s forces have met fierce resistance and have suffered losses both in human casualties and in the Western tanks newly supplied to them, U.S. military officials said. (NYT, 06.16.23)
    • On June 16 Ukrainian troops were pressing on at Velyka Novosilka in the Donetsk region, and south of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region. On that date, Russian pro-war Telegram channels, such as WarGonzo acknowledged that the Ukrainian forces had made inroads into Piatykhatky, Zaporizhzhia region. (RM, 06.16.23, NYT, 06.16.23)
  • The Ukrainian army has lost at least four Leopard-2 tanks, 3 Leopard 2R engineering vehicles and 17 Bradley fighting vehicles. (Forbes, 06.13.23, FT, 06.14.23)
  • Russian propagandists have reported the alleged killing of Maj. Gen. Sergei Goryachev, chief of staff of the 35th Combined Arms Army of the Russian Armed Forces, in Ukraine. (Upravda, 06.13.23, MT/AFP, 06.16.23)
  • Deputy Chief of Combat Training of the Russian Airborne Forces, Col. Andrey Stesev, died in Novaya Tavolzhanka, Belgorod region, after being ambushed, according to Goryachev would be "the first Russian general confirmed killed in Ukraine since the start of 2023," the British military said in an intelligence update. (RM, 06.13.23, MT, 06.16.23)
  • Joint investigating by independent Russian media outlet Mediazona and the BBC's Russian service has recently confirmed more than 1,200 newly identified Russian troop deaths in Ukraine, putting the number of Russians killed and identified through open sources so far in the 15-month invasion at 25,218. (Current Time, 06.10.23)
    • Authorities in the southern Siberian republic of Khakasia have stopped publishing the obituaries of local soldiers killed fighting in Ukraine to avoid their inclusion in independent media tallies of Russia’s war dead. (MT/AFP, 06.13.23)
  • Russia claims to have injured Ukraine's military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov in a Kyiv strike. But Kyiv says reports that Budanov was injured by a missile strike on his office is "disinformation." (Telegraph, 06.15.23)
  • With this year’s flow of billions of dollars’ worth of advanced Western weaponry to Ukraine, “everybody’s hopeful that, you know, you’d see overwhelming success,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters last week. The Russian forces “probably can’t be strong, you know, in every place. So it’s incumbent upon the Ukrainians to find those points of advantage where they can leverage and exploit,” Austin said. “Does that mean, you know, we’re going to expel every Russian out of every corner of Ukraine? Probably doesn’t,” he said. “But I think … it may have the opportunity to begin to change the dynamics on the battlefield, and that’s really what you’re looking for.” (WP, 06.14.23)
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced C$500 million ($375 million) in new military assistance to Ukraine during a surprise visit to the war-torn country on June 10. (WSJ, 06.12.23)
  • The Biden administration announced a new $325 million military assistance package for Ukraine on June 13, including Bradley fighting vehicles, Stinger anti-aircraft systems, Stryker armored personnel carriers and Javelin anti-armor systems. (Bloomberg, 06.13.23) 
  • Ukraine’s Western allies announced two new military assistance packages on June 13, offering armored fighting vehicles and air defense abilities to the country as it forges ahead with its counteroffensive against Russia. Altogether, the new aid provides $441 million to Ukraine in security aid. (NYT, 06.14.23)
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised U.S. military aid to Ukraine that he said is helping its counteroffensive against Russia, defending the billions of dollars spent just days after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy signaled wariness over further funds that may breach new caps on spending. (Bloomberg, 06.13.23)                                                                   
  • President Emmanuel Macron of France, Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz and Poland’s president Andrzej Duda have pledged to support Ukraine militarily against the Russian invasion for as long as it takes while they and other Western powers work on issue of “security guarantees” aimed at shoring up Ukraine’s defenses and assuring its sovereign future. (FT, 06.13.23)
  • If Western planes, which NATO supplies to Ukraine, end up being based “at air bases outside Ukraine and used in combat operations, we will have to look at how we can hit and where we can hit those weapons that are used in hostilities against us. This is a serious danger of further drawing NATO into this armed conflict,” Putin told SPIEF on June 16. (, 06.16.23)

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

  • The Kremlin last week secretly ordered legislation to enable Western assets to be appropriated at knockdown prices and is discussing even more draconian measures to fully nationalize groups, according to people familiar with the deliberations. The insiders said Putin’s economic team wanted the threat of nationalization to be part of a carrot-and-stick approach aimed at punishing Western countries that seize Russian assets while rewarding those that play by the Kremlin’s rules. (FT, 06.16.23)
  • Moscow has approached more than half a dozen countries including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates in recent weeks to spell out the negative consequences for trade ties if the Financial Action Task Force imposes more restrictions this month. (Bloomberg, 06.14.23)
  • The Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity for Ukrainians Act was introduced on June 15 in both chambers of the U.S. Congress. It would give the U.S. president the authority to confiscate Russian assets frozen in the United States and transfer them to help Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 06.16.23)
  • A bipartisan group of American lawmakers has asked the Biden administration to punish South Africa for what it sees as the country’s support of Russia’s war in Ukraine by moving a major trade conference scheduled to be held there this year to another country. (NYT, 06.13.23)
  • “We are going to continue to source titanium from [Russia] as long as we are authorized to do so,” French jet engine maker’s chief executive Olivier Andriès told the Financial Times. (FT, 06.14.23)
  • The Czech president's office on June 16 watered down his claim that Russians living in the West should be monitored, likening them to Japanese Americans who were interned in the United States during World War II. President Petr Pavel said on June 15 that Russians living in Western countries should be closely monitored by security services, given Moscow's "aggressive war" in Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 06.16.23)
  • Australian lawmakers passed legislation on June 15 banning Russia from constructing its new embassy near parliament following intelligence service warnings about possible security threats. (RFE/RL, 06.15.23)
  • Swedish hygiene and health company Essity announced on June 10 it had secured a deal to sell off its business in Russia. (MT/AFP, 06.10.23)
  • Lithuania plans to unilaterally ban a swathe of dual-use goods that may enter Russia via Belarus and potentially end up on the battlefield in Ukraine, raising pressure on the European Union to tighten restrictions targeting Moscow. (Bloomberg, 06.16.23)
  • The UK is expected to see a net outflow of 3,200 high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) in 2023 — higher than the projected 3,000 net loss for Russia, according to the Henley Private Wealth Migration Report 2023. In comparison, 8,500 HNWIs exited Russia in 2022. (H&P, 06.13.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • Macron said he hopes Ukraine’s military counteroffensive against Russian forces will be as successful as possible and lead to talks. “We hope it is as victorious as possible to be able to then launch a phase of negotiations in good conditions, but our support will last as long as necessary.” (Bloomberg, 06.12.23)                                                                      
  • Four African presidents and three representatives held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on June 16 before heading to St. Petersburg on June 17 to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. " Zelenskiy said after the meeting that peace talks with Russia would be possible only after Moscow withdraws its forces from occupied Ukrainian territory.  (RFE/RL, 06.16.23, FT, 06.16.23, Reuters, 06.16.23)
    • The African peace mission was to propose a series of "confidence building measures" during initial efforts at mediation, according to a draft framework document seen by Reuters. Those measures could include a Russian troop pull-back, removal of tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, suspension of implementation of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant targeting Putin, and sanctions relief, it indicated. A cessation of hostilities agreement could follow and would need to be accompanied by negotiations between Russia and the West, the document stated. (Reuters, 06.16.23)
    • Explosions were heard in central Kyiv on June 16 as the African delegation visited Ukraine on a peace mission, witnesses and Kyiv's mayor reported. The Kyiv City Military Administration said six Kalibr cruise missiles and two reconnaissance drones had been detected and destroyed during the attack. Three people — two children and a grandmother — were injured in the region around the capital. (NYT, 06.16.23, RFE/RL, 06.16.23, FT, 06.16.23)
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on June 10 that he planned to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone soon to urge him to withdraw Russia's troops from Ukraine. (Reuters, 06.10.23)
  • A May 25-31, 2023, joint Chicago Council-Levada Center survey found that:
  • More Russians now believe their country’s military operation in Ukraine has been successful (61%) than did in November (53%); 
  • Russians are now evenly divided between those who think Moscow should continue the military operation (48%, up from 38% in April) and those who think it should move to peace negotiations (45%, down from 51% in April). (, 06.13.23)
  • Russia and Ukraine wanted to agree on the status of Crimea during peace talks in Istanbul last year, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview to Rossiya 1 TV. “Putin showed me the document that was initialed by the delegations. It was a normal document. It even suggested some kind of a long-term lease for Crimea, had provisions on the Donbas, the east… the ministries of foreign affairs were getting ready to initial them, to get them submitted to the heads of state. It was a good process, but they turned it down.” (Belta, 06.14.23)
    • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia had ever discussed "leasing" Crimea. (VM, 06.16.23)
  • While the US and its allies were correct to resist Russia’s attack on Ukraine, it’s “increasingly important” that parties to the conflict consider how they want to end it through diplomacy, Henry Kissinger said in a June 7 interview. “Europe will become more stable, the world will become more stable when Russia accepts the fact that it cannot conquer Europe, but it has to remain part of Europe by some sort of consensus as other states do,” he said. “I would like a Russia that recognizes that its relations to Europe have to be based on agreement and a kind of consensus and I believe that this war will, if it’s ended properly, may make it achievable,” he said. Asked whether Putin could survive in power if the war ended on those terms, Kissinger replied: “It’s improbable.” He also said it preferable to avoid “the dissolution of Russia or the reduction of Russia to resentful impotence” that risked stoking new tensions. (Bloomberg, 06.16.23)

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

  • More than 200 planes from 25 countries gathered in Germany for NATO’s largest-scale war games in decades, held with an eye on the war in Ukraine. The Air Defender 2023 began on June 12 as 25 nations took to the air in fighter jets, bombers and cargo planes in a pointed demonstration to Russia. (NYT, 06.12.23)
  • The US and its closest allies are pursuing a multilateral agreement with Ukraine that will allow western powers to provide long-term security assurances to Kyiv. The so-called Quad is working on an overarching political declaration with Ukraine, according to officials who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the talks. They said that, under the umbrella declaration, Ukraine would conclude bilateral agreements formalizing the current level of military and financial aid — and establish it on a more long-term footing with space to expand it if deemed necessary. But neither the framework document nor the bilateral agreements would have the status of legal treaties and they would be signed outside the NATO alliance. (FT, 06.14.23)
  • NATO defense ministers were weighing on June 16 how to bolster Europe’s defense and whether Ukraine will be allowed to join the military alliance, two issues that will loom over other goals at the alliance’s annual summit next month. (NYT, 06.16.23)
    • NATO allies agree Ukraine won’t become a member as long as the war continues. At issue is how to provide Kyiv with a more concrete promise that goes beyond what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreed in 2008 — that Ukraine will eventually join. (Bloomberg, 06.15.23)
    • NATO allies may be ready to remove some hurdles from Ukraine's path to the military alliance, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on June 16. "There are increasing signs that everyone will be able to agree on this," Pistorius told reporters in Brussels when asked about reports that the U.S. is open to permitting Kyiv to forgo a formal candidacy process required of some other nations in the past. (RFE/RL, 06.16.23)
    • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has privately suggested that allies agree Ukraine could join NATO after the war without following a Membership Action Plan. President Joe Biden is “open” to the plan and told Stoltenberg as much during their discussion in Washington. A senior diplomat from Eastern Europe said on June 16 that the proposal to remove the need for a MAP, “if suggested, is a good one.” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius was also upbeat.  However, Hungary and Turkey are “uncomfortable” with inching Ukraine along the membership path, an official from a NATO country said. “It won’t be that straightforward” at the NATO summit in Vilnius. (Politico, 06.16.23) 
    • Polish President Andrzej Duda has called on NATO member states to give Kyiv a clear roadmap to joining the defense alliance. "Ukraine is waiting for an unambiguous signal regarding a clear prospect of membership in NATO," Duda said. (RFE/RL, 06.12.23)
    • Czech President Petr Pavel says NATO's July summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, should offer Ukraine "clear language" about its future membership in the military alliance once the conflict with Russia is over. (RFE/RL, 06.15.23)
  • Stoltenberg praised the counteroffensive being mounted by Ukraine as he met with President Biden at the White House on June 13 to discuss the long-term strategy in Ukraine and future leadership for the 31-member military alliance. (NYT, 06.13.23)
    • NATO leaders are leaning towards extending Jens Stoltenberg’s term as secretary-general amid mounting pessimism around the military alliance agreeing a successor ahead of next month’s summit in Lithuania.  (FT, 06.14.23)
  • NATO defense ministers failed to reach agreement over new plans on how to respond to a Russian attack, and one diplomat blamed Turkey for thwarting them.  (RFE/RL, 06.16.23)
  • Sen. James E. Risch, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, is halting a $735 million U.S. arms sale to Hungary as punishment for the country's refusal to approve NATO membership for Sweden. (WP, 06.14.23)
  • “We wanted and still want to have the best possible relations with all our neighbors after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is what we are doing," Putin said a meeting on June 13 with war correspondents and bloggers, according to the Kremlin. "We have accepted that what happened happened, and now we must live with it. And you know, I’ve already said that, no secret here, we did offer every option to our Western partners, as I used to call them; we thought we were one of them, we wanted to be in the family of so-called civilized nations. I reached out to NATO suggesting that we look into that possibility, but we were quickly shown the door.” (RM, 06.13.23) The early 2000s did see Putin ask Bill Clinton and Lord Robertson when NATO would invite Moscow into the alliance.
  • Germany has unveiled its first-ever national security strategy. It commits Germany to increase spending on defense to 2% of its gross domestic product, though only on a “multi-annual average”. It also designates the Bundeswehr as the “cornerstone of Europe’s conventional defense”. Russia poses “the greatest threat to peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic area”, the plan says. (FT, 06.14.23)
  • Putin was both the inheritor of a traditional Russian outlook and also someone who grew up on the streets of Leningrad, where more than half the population died of starvation during World War II. Putin “translated that into never wanting European military power to be in easy reach of St. Petersburg and major cities like Moscow,” and reacted “at the edge of irrationality” to its expansion, Henry Kissinger said in a June 7 interview. (Bloomberg, 06.16.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Putin on June 15 lauded his "dear friend" Xi Jinping in a message for the Chinese leader's 70th birthday.  Putin told Xi "it is difficult to overestimate the efforts you have been making to foster the comprehensive partnership" between Russia and China, which have ramped up cooperation in recent years. (MT/AFP, 06.15.23)
  • China supports South Africa in hosting various BRICS activities this year, President Xi Jinping told his counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa on June 16 in a phone call, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The call took place as Pretoria considers switching the venue of an upcoming summit of heads of state from the five-member bloc to avoid having to execute an international arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin if he attends. (Bloomberg, 06.09.23)
  • A video of Chinese-built armored vehicles posted online this week by the leader of Chechnya, a backer of Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine, is raising new questions of whether equipment from China could be used to support Moscow's military campaign. (WSJ, 06.10.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • When asked by Dmitri Simes, who moderated the panel at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), at which Putin spoke on June 16, to comment on tactical nuclear weapons, the Russian leader said: “This use of nuclear weapons is certainly theoretically possible. For Russia, this is possible if a threat is created to our territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty, the existence of the Russian state. Nuclear weapons are created in order to ensure our security in the broadest sense of the word and the existence of the Russian state. But, firstly, we do not have such a need [for use], and secondly, the very discussion of this topic decreases the possibility of lowering the threshold for the use of weapons. This is the first part. The second is that we have more such weapons than the NATO countries. They know about it and all the time they persuade us to start talks on reductions. Fat chance, you know? is our competitive advantage.” (, 06.16.23)
  • “As you know, we have been negotiating within our union state - with President Lukashenko - that we will transfer part of these tactical nuclear weapons to Belarusian territory. It happened. The first nuclear munitions were delivered to the territory of Belarus, but only the first ones. This is the first part. But before the end of the summer, before the end of the year, we will complete this work in its entirety. This is just like an element of deterrence, so that everyone who thinks about inflicting a strategic defeat on us should not forget about this circumstance. (, 06.16.23)
    • Belarusian authoritarian ruler Alexander Lukashenko the decision to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil was his and not that of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Lukashenko then boasted that the weapons are “three times more powerful” than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II, saying they were capable of killing a million people “immediately.” (RFE/RL, 06.13.23, Bloomberg, 06.14.23)
    • There are no indications that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons and the United States sees no reason to adjust its own nuclear posture, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on June 16. (Reuters, 06.16.23)
    • NATO should respond to steps by Russia aimed at deploying nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus, according to Polish President Andrzej Duda. (Bloomberg, 06.13.23)
  • While the total number of nuclear warheads in the world dipped year on year from 12,710 to 12,512, the number of nuclear weapons ready for use at the start of this year — 9,576, accounting for about two-thirds of the total — grew last year by 86, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said. Russia and the US together possess almost 90 per cent of the total global inventory of warheads. (RFE/RL, 06.12.23, SIPRI, 06.12.23)
  • ICAN’s new report shows nine countries spent $82.9 billion on nuclear weapons, of which the private sector earned at least $29 billion in 2022. The United States spent more than all of the other nuclear armed states combined, $43.7 billion. Russia spent 22% of what the U.S. did, at $9.6 billion, and China spent just over a quarter of the U.S. total, at $11.7 billion.  (ICAN, 06.12.23) How did ICAN arrive at estimate that in 2022 "Russia spent 22% of what U.S. did [on nukes], at $9.6 billion." If by converting Russia's expenditures at market exchange rates, then significantly underestimates those. Russian military doesn't pay for nukes in rubles, so PPP needed.
  • When asked by Levada in May whether, to achieve a victory in Ukraine, Russia (1) should  use nuclear weapons or (2) should not use nuclear weapons under any circumstances, some 86% chose the second option, including 18% who answered that Russia should rather not use nuclear weapons, and 68% who thought Russia should not use nuclear weapons in the conflict under any circumstances. Back in April, Levada asked respondents whether use of nuclear weapons by Russia in the current conflict with Ukraine would be justified. Some 56% said it won’t be justified while 29% said it could be justified. (RM, 06.16.23)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • A Russian colonel was killed in Syria, months after he was deployed to the Middle Eastern country to carry out "special tasks," local government officials said. The death of Colonel Oleg Pechevisty, 49, was announced by the administration of Russia's Podporozhsky district in the Leningrad region. (Newsweek, 06.12.23)
  • A Russian fighter was killed and several others wounded in Syria's northern province of Aleppo on June 12, a war monitor and a Kurdish security source said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors conflict in Syria, said the Russian casualties occurred when the convoy they were traveling in was hit by Turkish shelling. (Reuters, 06.13.23)

Cyber security/AI:

  • A Russian ransomware group gained access to data from federal agencies, including the Energy Department, in an attack that exploited file transfer software to steal and sell back users' data, U.S. officials said on June 15. Jen Easterly, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, described the breach as largely “opportunistic.” According to an assessment by C.I.S.A. and F.B.I. investigators, Easterly said, the breach was part of a larger ransomware operation carried out by Clop, a Russian ransomware gang. (NYT, 06.15.23)
    • A contractor at a U.S. national lab and a radioactive waste storage site managed by the Department of Energy were among the victims of the attack. (Bloomberg, 06.15.23)
  • The website of the port of Rotterdam was targeted in a cyberattack blamed on Russia-aligned hackers last week. (Bloomberg , 06.14.23)
  • The U.S. has charged two Russian nationals related to the 2011 hack of the cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox and the operation of the illicit cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e. The two Russians – Aleksei Bilyuchenko, 43, and Aleksandr Verner, 29, -- are charged with conspiring to launder approximately 647,000 Bitcoins from their hack of Mt. Gox. (Reuters, 06.09.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • German investigators are examining evidence that suggests a sabotage team used Poland as an operating base to blow up the Nord Stream pipelines. The probe by Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office is examining why the Andromeda yacht they believe was used to carry out the operation journeyed into Polish waters. DNA samples were left aboard, which Germany has tried to match to at least one Ukrainian soldier. German investigators say they also are looking into why the yacht was rented with the help of a travel agency based in Warsaw that appears to be part of a network of Ukrainian-owned front companies with suspected links to Ukrainian intelligence, (WSJ, 06.10.23)
    • Dutch intelligence officials shared information with the C.I.A. in June 2022 that they had learned the Ukrainian military had been planning an operation using divers to blow up one of the Nord Stream pipelines. The original tip by the Dutch, according to U.S. officials, was that Ukraine had already reconsidered and canceled the operation. In reality, American officials now believe, the operation was not aborted but delayed, potentially with a different Ukraine-aligned group carrying out the attack. Central Intelligence Agency warned the Ukrainian government not to attack the Nord Stream gas pipelines last summer. (NYT, 06.13.23, WSJ, 06.14.23)
    • A Polish government official said news reports suggesting a link between Poland and explosions that damaged the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea last year echo Russian propaganda. (RFE/RL, 06.10.23)
    • Russia again told the UN Security Council that it wants an international investigation into explosions last September on the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.  (RFE/RL, 06.15.23)
  • European officials are now contemplating whether to support links to Bilche-Volytsko-Uherske and other facilities scattered across Ukraine — home to the continent’s biggest network of underground caverns that can hold gas for when demand and prices spike in the winter. (Bloomberg, 06.12.23)
  • Germany may be forced to wind down or even switch off industrial capacity if Ukraine’s gas transit agreement with Russia isn’t extended after it expires at the end of next year, according to Economy Minister Robert Habeck. (Bloomberg, 06.12.23)
  • Russia’s oil-export revenue in May fell to the lowest since February as supplies and prices dropped, according to the International Energy Agency. The flow of money into the country from international oil sales totaled $13.3 billion last month, down $1.4 billion from April, the IEA said in its monthly market report. That’s a 36% decline from a year earlier. (Bloomberg, 06.14.23)
  • The share of seaborne exports of Urals — Russia’s main crude blend — carried on ships more than 15 years old has surged since the war began, according to figures from shipbroker Braemar. In the six months in the run-up to the conflict, the average share carried by older ships was 33.6 per cent. Since December 2022, the share has been 62.6 per cent. (FT, 06.12.23)
  • Russia's Rosneft is close to striking long-term deals to sell substantial supplies of oil, a sign that Moscow can continue to count on petroleum exports to fund its war on Ukraine. (WSJ, 06.16.23) 
  • Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif says the first cargo of discounted Russian crude oil arranged under a new deal struck between Islamabad and Moscow has arrived in Karachi. ". (Reuters, 06.12.23)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • Russia remained the number one supplier of nuclear reactor fuel to the US last year, amid unsuccessful efforts to wean off of the Kremlin’s supply of uranium.  Russia supplied almost a quarter of the enriched uranium used to fuel America’s fleet of more than 90 commercial reactors. That compares with 28% in 2021, according to the latest Energy Department data. (Bloomberg, 06.15.23).

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • A Russian court has detained a U.S. citizen on drugs charges that could see him jailed for several years. Moscow's Khamovniki District Court said Travis Leake, a "former paratrooper and musician," had "organized the sale of drugs to young people." He will be remanded in custody "until Aug. 6, 2023," pending a possible trial. The detention period could be extended, the court said on Telegram. (MT/AFP, 06.11.23)
    • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on June 12 said that Washington is seeking to learn more about the detention of Leake, 51, in Russia and working to get consular access to the musician and former paratrooper. (Reuters, 06.12.23)
  • The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution on June 13 calling on the Russian government to release Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter arrested in March, and provide unfettered consular access to him in the meantime. The resolution also calls for the immediate release of Paul Whelan. (NYT, 06.14.23)

II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • In his address to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) President Vladimir V. Putin on June 16 rejected suggestions that Russia had become isolated over its invasion of Ukraine, telling the audience that the Russian economy was resilient and that Moscow’s ties with other nations had grown. in saying that Russia’s public finances were “generally balanced,” Mr. Putin acknowledged that military spending to purchase weapons had “naturally” increased.(NYT, 06.16.23)
    • Technocrats including Bank of Russia Governor Elvira Nabiullina, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov addressed SPIEF as well. The speakers coalesced around a consensus that the economy is holding up so well that it even risks overheating. The central bank expects growth of as much as 2% this year, with output likely to reach pre-war levels by the end of 2024. (Bloomberg, 06.15.23)
    • Nabiullina warned at SPIEF that Russia is at risk of reverting to a planned economic system as it grapples with restructuring challenges driven by soaring war expenses and unprecedented Western sanctions. (MT/AFP, 06.15.23)
        • Mobile internet access will be disrupted at ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s keynote speech, organizers said on June 16, just hours before the Russian leader is expected to arrive at the event grounds. (MT/AFP, 06.16.23)
  • Russia has unveiled a windfall tax on big companies to raise an estimated Rbs300bn ($3.6bn) from its oligarchs, as the war in Ukraine continues to stretch the Kremlin’s finances. The proposed levy, outlined in a draft bill introduced on June 13, will require Russian groups making profits of more than Rbs1bn a year since 2021 to pay a one-off tax worth up to 10 per cent of the gains. (FT, 06.13.23)                                                                         
  • In the first quarter of this year, Russian companies reported the biggest shortage of personnel since data collection began in 1998, according to a survey by the Russian Central Bank. The number of employees under 35 years old in Russia at the end of last year dropped by 1.3 million to its lowest level since the early 1990s, according to an analysis by consulting firm FinExpertiza. In May, Russia's unemployment rate hit a post-Soviet low. (WSJ, 06.16.23) 
  • Russia will struggle to meet its strategic goal of more than quadrupling Arctic Sea shipments by the end of the decade as the nation cannot increase and upgrade its small, aging ice fleet fast enough, according to the Northern Sea Route operator Rosatom. (Bloomberg, 06.15.23)
  • Russia’s browbeaten opposition gathered in Brussels to plot a path back to democracy this week, with Vladimir Putin’s main rivals in jail or exiled and squabbling about how to move forward. Rather than uniting Russia’s liberals, the war in Ukraine has deepened existing rifts and added new controversies, such as backing a military defeat for Moscow and Kyiv’s demands for reparations, which some see as politically toxic among Russians. (FT, 06.10.23)
  • Anatoly Berezikov, anti-war activist has died in police custody in southern Russia after receiving death threats from law enforcement officials, his lawyer told the OVD-Info human rights monitor late on June 14. (MT/AFP, 06.15.23)
  • A Russian court on June 14 sentenced Lilia Chanysheva, a former regional coordinator of jailed Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny to seven-and-a-half years in prison on charges of creating an extremist group. (MT/AFP, 06.14.23)
  • The Moscow City Court sentenced activist Vitaly Koltsov to six years in prison on June 14 after a jury found him guilty of attacking a police vehicle with two Molotov cocktails. (RFE/RL, 06.14.23)
  • A marathon held by several independent media outlets in Russia on June 12 to raise funds to support political prisoners and Russian citizens who openly condemn Moscow's ongoing invasion of Ukraine has raised 34.5 million rubles ($415,000). (Current Time, 06.13.23)
  • Russia's Justice Ministry has started investigating a museum dedicated to the late President Boris Yeltsin for possible activity as a "foreign agent.” (RFE/RL, 06.16.23)
  • Russian lawmakers voted on June 14 to ban legal or surgical sex changes. (MT/AFP, 06.14.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • In a meeting on June 13 with war correspondents and bloggers,
    • President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that Russian forces fighting in Ukraine lack sufficient advanced weapons. “It became clear that we lack many things - high-precision ammunition, communications, drones,” Putin said. “We have them, but we lack quantity.” “We have increased production of the main types of weapons by 2.7 times over the year and by 10 times in the most sought-after areas,” Putin said. (FT, 06.14.23, Bloomberg, 06.13.23)                                                                      
    • Putin said there was no need to declare martial law or a new mobilization in Russia despite what he called a "large-scale" offensive by Kyiv. The Kremlin leader also said that Russia needed to do more to root out enemy agents and secure its own domestic defenses after a series of attacks in Russian border areas. (WSJ, 06.13.23)
    • “At the start of the special military operation, we quickly realized that the ‘carpet generals’ […] are not effective, to put it mildly,” Putin said. “People started to come out of the shadows who we hadn’t heard or seen before, and they turned out to be very effective and made themselves useful.” (FT, 06.14.23)
    • Putin backed a drive to bring Russia’s irregular forces fighting in Ukraine under the authority of the Defense Ministry, appearing to side with the army in its long-running dispute with the Wagner paramilitary group. The Akhmat military unit of Ramzan Kadyrov signed a contract with Russia’s Defense Ministry on June 11, but Wagner group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said his mercenary forces fighting in Ukraine won’t sign contracts with Russian Defense Ministry. Following Putin’s comments, Prigozhin visited the Russian Defense Ministry’s offices in Moscow to hand in his own version of an agreement between the ministry and his company on June 16. (Grey Zone Telegram channel, 06.16.23, FT, 06.14.23, Bloomberg, 06.12.23, RFE/RL, 06.12.23)
  • Roscosmos, Russia’s state space agency is now, according to recruitment videos, teaming up with the Russian army to raise, fund and equip a militia to fight in Ukraine. (FT, 06.16.23)
  • Men from Central Asia are being forced to support Russia's ongoing war against Ukraine in a penal colony in the Russian city of Samara by doing things such as producing military equipment for the country's armed forces. (RFE/RL, 06.13.23)
  •  Also see section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • A court in Russia's Komi Republic has sentenced leaders of a notorious criminal group -- Yury Pichugin and Khadis Azizov -- to life in prison on multiple charges, including murders, extortion, and abductions they had organized since 1992 in the country's northwestern region. (RFE/RL, 06.16.23)

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Putin hailed Russia's ties with the United Arab Emirates on June 16 as he met the leader of the oil-rich nation, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, at SPIEF. Al-Nahyan said he was in favor of "de-escalation" and a "political solution" to the Ukraine conflict during the talks, in which the pair discussed their countries' "strategic partnership," according to the UAE official news agency WAM. (MT/AFP, 06.16.23)
  • The French authorities have identified a digital disinformation campaign against several European countries including France since September involving “state entities or entities affiliated with the Russian state” that have been “amplifying false information.” (Bloomberg, 06.13.23)                                                                      
  • Putin and the head of Mali's junta, Colonel Assimi Goita, discussed security and economic relations between their two countries, both sides reported on June 14. (MT/AFP, 06.14.23)
  • Putin said on June 12 he was saddened by the death of his “dear friend” former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (MT/AFP, 06.12.23)


  • Ukraine's High Anti-Corruption Court on June 14 sentenced former Kyiv judge Mykola Chaus to 10 years in prison after finding him guilty of taking a bribe. The court also ruled to confiscate Chaus' property and barred him from taking posts in the judicial system for three years. Chaus has denied the charges and his lawyers said they will appeal it. (RFE/RL, 06.14.23)
  • A legal effort by Ukraine’s largest bank to recover billions of dollars in assets from its former oligarch owners opens in England’s High Court on June 12 — a fraud trial that has become a test of Kyiv’s commitment to tackling corruption. PrivatBank is claiming $1.9bn together with interest of up to $2.5bn from Igor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov, who co-owned the bank until it was nationalized in 2016. The state took it over after regulators found a $5.5bn hole in its balance sheet, allegedly from fraudulent lending. Its recapitalization cost the state 6 per cent of Ukraine’s gross domestic product. (FT, 06.12.23)
  • Henry Kissinger said in a June 7 interview it’s important that Ukraine emerges from the war as a strong democracy tensions. (Bloomberg, 06.16.23)
  • Natasha, please spend 20 minutes searching for stories on Ukraine fighting corruption, and post here.

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Between 2021 and 2022, approval of Russia’s leadership fell sharply across many ex-Soviet countries, according to Gallup. In Kazakhstan, Moldova and Armenia — countries that have been historically sympathetic to Russia — more people now disapprove than approve of the country’s leadership. (FT, 06.16.23)

Quotable and notable

  • “Every victory has its components,” General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, head of Ukraine’s armed forces, said in a rare television interview last month. “I see how it is possible to do it. I see what needs to be done. But I know for sure that there is … a very long way to go.” (FT, 06.14.23)


Homepage photo shared by the Kremlin for media use.