Russia in Review, March 15-22, 2024

8 Things to Know

  1. Multiple unknown assailants, armed with assault rifles and Molotov cocktails, attacked the Crocus City Hall outside Moscow at around 8:00 pm local time on March 22. The attack left 40 people dead and more than 100 injured, according to an estimate that Russia’s FSB released shortly after 10:00 pm Moscow time. The camouflaged assailants are not known to have made any statements and, as of 10:30 pm Moscow time, no individual or group had publicly claimed responsibility for the attack, which, given the choice of target, appears to have been of terrorist nature. The first shots were simultaneously fired at the entrance to the building and on the ground floor of the concert hall, where a rock band was to perform for more than 6,000 spectators and which is located only hundreds of meters away from Moscow’s northwestern boundaries. The assailants, which some eyewitnesses have described as young, were then seen in multiple videos posted by eyewitnesses, walking across the building, firing multiple shots. Some of them also threw Molotov cocktails, which led to multiple fires, according to the BBC. As of 9:00 pm Moscow time, large parts of the hall were on fire, with its roof caved in and some concert-goers pleading from the remaining rooftops to be rescued.1 It is notable that concerts were among the “large gatherings” that a March 7 statement by the U.S. embassy in Moscow warned could be targeted by violent extremists. Russia has not seen major terrorist attacks against civilians for several years. In fact, the March 22, 2024, attack was probably the deadliest terrorist attack on Russian civilians since a Russian airliner was brought down by a bomb over Egypt on Oct. 31, 2015, with all 224 people onboard killed. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack. As for attacks by terrorists on civilians on Russian soil, the previous major act occurred in St. Petersburg in April 2017 when a suspected Islamist detonated a bomb, killing 15 in Vladimir Putin’s home city.
  2. Vladimir Putin returned to the possibility of an existential war with NATO during his very first press conference after Russian electoral authorities announced his reelection for another six-year term. This will be one step away from full-scale World War III,” he told reporters when asked what a full-fledged conflict between Russia and NATO would entail. When commenting on his main post-election tasks, Putin said: “First of all, we need to solve problems within the framework of the special military operation, strengthen defense capabilities, strengthen the Armed Forces [and] this is happening.” Putin’s electoral win of 87.28% of the ballots cast in the March 15-17 elections drew accusations of fraud and other violations, with most Western leaders refusing to congratulate him even as the leaders of China, India and some of Russia’s post-Soviet neighbors did.
  3. During his surprise visit to Kyiv on March 20, Joe Biden’s NSA Jake Sullivan declared that Ukraine will win if it can “come out of this war sovereign, independent, free and able to deter future aggression, with a strong, dynamic democracy, deep democratic institutions and an economy that is growing.” What his definition of victory did not include, however, was restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity, according to Ukrainska Pravda’s account of Sullivan’s remarks.
  4. In the past month, Russian forces have gained 53 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile, according to the March 19 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. This week has seen Russia’s Defense Ministry claim on March 19 to have captured the village of Orlivka in the eastern Donetsk region. On the same day, Ukraine’s OSINT group, DeepState, acknowledged that “the enemy advanced in Orlivka [Орлівці] and near Verbovoy.” A look at DeepState’s map of combat on March 22 revealed that Orlivka is tagged as occupied.
  5. The U.S. has urged Ukraine to halt attacks on Russia’s oil refineries, terminals, depots and storage facilities, warning that the drone strikes risk driving up global oil prices and provoking retaliation, three people familiar with the discussions told FT. Ukraine’s drones have hit facilities accounting for more than a 10th of Russia’s oil-refining capacity with Russia’s average daily oil refining rate falling to the lowest weekly level in 10 months, according to Bloomberg. At least nine major refineries have been successfully attacked this year, according to this news agency.
  6. Moscow plans to soon announce a new wave of military mobilization that would seek to enlist up to 300,000 people that would then be used in an attempt at encircling Kharkiv, according to the Vyorstka news outlet’s sources close to the Russian presidential office and defense ministry.“Kharkiv is the next in the plan, with the city to be preserved, which is possible only if it is encircled,” and that requires 300,000 additional soldiers, according to Vyorstka’s source in the presidential administration’s domestic political department. Vyorstka’s report came two days after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the formation of two new armies and on the day when the chief of Ukraine’s army Alexander Pavlyuk claimed Russia was creating a 100,000-strong grouping for a possible summer offensive.
  7. Western officials urge Ukraine to mobilize more soldiers: Ukraine needs not only weapons, but also further mobilization to compensate for casualties, NATO Military Committee Chair Rob Bauer told the Kyiv Security Forum on March 21. Bauer’s comments came three days after U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham visited Kyiv to urge Ukrainian lawmakers to quickly pass a mobilization bill that would make more citizens eligible to be drafted into the military, according to WP. The bill remains stalled in Ukraine’s parliament, with Volodymyr Zelenskyy wary of an initial military request to draft as many as 500,000 troops, according to Bloomberg. Ukraine’s prime minister Denys Shmyhal said the scope of recruiting fresh troops for the front line may be fewer than the half-million initially backed by the military, according to this news agency. 
  8. If the House of Representatives gets down to working on a bill on military aid for Ukraine, it won’t be until after its two-week break ends on April 8, according to VOAOne potential form that this aid could take would be loans. Politico reported that Congressional Republicans are “getting serious” about the loan option. Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said this week that his country will continue to back Ukraine even though the critical $60-billion military aid package remains stuck in the U.S. House of Representatives. “The United States will not let Ukraine fail,” Austin told the 20th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, according to RFE/RL.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • On March 22 many parts of Ukraine were experiencing blackouts after a massive wave of Russian strikes targeted Ukraine's energy infrastructure, temporarily severing a power line at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. (RFE/RL, 03.22.24)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko met with Chinese Special Representative Liu Xiaoming in Moscow on March 19 to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Rudenko and Liu accused the United States and its allies of threatening the military situation in northeastern Asia and warned the United States against the proliferation of Cold War-style “bloc thinking.” (ISW, 03.19.24)
  • There was “a strong possibility” Russia would veto a U.N. resolution on March 22 calling for the continuation of the current sanctions regime on North Korea, a U.N. diplomat told Reuters. Such a veto, at a vote expected on March 22, would mean dissolution of the Panel of Experts monitoring enforcement of long-standing U.N. sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. (Reuters, 03.22.24)
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw tests of multiple rocket launcher systems that can deliver nuclear weapons in a drill this week that South Korea said could be a way for Pyongyang to market its newest missiles to Russia Weapons experts said the projectiles were likely KN-25 short-range ballistic missiles from the same family of weapons Kim has sent to Russia for use in its assault on Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 03.19.24)
  • North Korea tested a solid-fuel engine for its new hypersonic intermediate-range ballistic missile, state media said March 20, a move likely aimed at bolstering the country’s strike capabilities against U.S. bases in Asia. (Bloomberg, 03.20.24)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • The European Union is pushing back against a French-German drive to sanction Iran over its providing missiles and other military hardware to its regional proxies, with EU senior officials saying new sanctions could undercut diplomacy with Tehran. (WSJ, 03.20.24)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • In Ukraine, nearly 30,000 people are reported as missing under special circumstances or illegally deprived of their freedom due to the invasion of Russia. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.21.24)
  • Authorities in western Russia’s Belgorod region announced March 19 that they will evacuate 9,000 children to other regions in the country amid an increasing number of attacks from Ukraine. Local authorities have called on residents to evacuate the town of Grayvoron in that region. (MT/AFP, 03.19.24, Meduza, 03.21.24)
  • Ukrainians in territories occupied by the Russian military were being forced to vote in the Russian presidential election. (WP, 03.17.24)
  • Some 75% of respondents to a recent poll in Ukraine by the “Rating” group believe that justice cannot be achieved without the arrest and trial of those responsible for the attack on Ukraine and war crimes. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.20.24)
  • The European Commission paid out the first tranche of assistance within the framework of the Ukrainian Fund for a total amount of EUR 50 billion. So far, 4.5 billion euros have been transferred, according to the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell. (, 03.20.24)
  • The International Monetary Fund has approved the next disbursement to Ukraine within a $15.6-billion loan program. The lender’s executive board met on March 21 to give final assent to providing about $880 million in the latest installment to Kyiv. This is the first of four tranches for a total amount of more than $5.3 billion scheduled to be released this year. (Bloomberg, 03.21.24)
  • For military strikes on civilian targets, see the following section.

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

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 53 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile, according to the March 19 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 03.19.24)
  • On March 16, the Ukrainian State Security Service reportedly conducted a series of successful drone strikes against three Russian oil refineries in Samara oblast. SBU struck the Novokuibyshevsky, Kuibyshevsky and Syzran Rosneft oil refineries in that region. (ISW, 03.16.24)
  • On March 16, the all-Russian pro-Ukrainian Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) stated that it was continuing a “limited military operation” in Russia’s Belgorod and Kursk oblasts and denied previous Russian claims about the RDK, Freedom of Russia Legion (LSR) and Siberian Battalion suffering heavy losses. On March 17,  LSR and Siberian Battalion claimed that their forces entered the Gorkovsky border settlement in Belgorod oblast and seized the settlement’s administration building. On March 21, a volunteer of the Russian Freedom Legion claimed that the operation will continue. (ISW, 03.17.24, ISW, 03.16.24. Ukrainska Pravda, 03.21.24)
    • On March 18, when commenting on Russians volunteering to fight on the Ukrainian side, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his first post-election press conference: “We do not have the death penalty, but we will always treat these people - both now and in the future – the same way we treat those who are in a combat zone.” (RIA, 03.18.24)
    • The FSB has arrested seven Moscow residents said to be linked to the pro-Kyiv militia accused of attacking Russia's border regions, state news agencies reported on March 22. (MT/AFP, 03.22.24)
    • On March 21, the FSB said it arrested a man in the western Belgorod region on suspicion of planning attacks in coordination with pro-Ukrainian paramilitary groups. (MT/AFP, 03.21.24)
  • On the night of March 16 to 17, Ukraine conducted a successful drone strike against a Russian oil refinery in Krasnodar Krai. The crude oil atmospheric distillation columns of the Slavyansk oil refinery in Slavyansk-on-Kuban, Krasnodar Krai, were struck. (ISW, 03.17.24)
  • On March 17, the Russian Defense Ministry reported downing 35 Ukrainian drones overnight, including four in the Moscow region. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said there were no casualties or damage. The attack temporarily shut down three Moscow airports. Meanwhile, Russia launched a missile attack on the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolayiv, injuring five people, local officials said. (RFE/RL, 03.17.24)
  • On March 18, two people were killed and four others were wounded in a Ukrainian air strike on Russia's Belgorod region. (RFE/RL, 03.18.24)
  • On March 18, when commenting on his main post-election tasks, Putin said at his first post-electoral press conference: “First of all, we need to solve problems within the framework of the special military operation, strengthen defense capabilities, strengthen the Armed Forces [and] this is happening... at a very good pace and with excellent quality. Putin also responded to a media question on whether Russia needs to occupy Kharkiv Oblast to ensure the security of Belgorod Oblast, stating that he does “not rule out” the idea of establishing a demilitarized “sanitary zone” in Ukrainian-controlled areas in response to recent “tragic events” along the Ukrainian-Russian international border. (ISW, 03.18.24, RIA, 03.18.24)
    • Speaking on March 18, following Putin's re-election victory speech, where he broached the idea, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that a zone between Russia and Ukraine was the best way to protect Russians. (BNE, 03.19.24)
    • Russia's ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzia, claimed that one of the goals of the special military operation in Ukraine — demilitarization — has been accomplished, since the Armed Forces of Ukraine (APU) have no weapons left of their own. (Kommersant, 03.22.24)
  • On March 19, Russian shelling killed three civilians in Ukraine's southern region of Kherson. In the Donetsk region, one man was killed. On that day Russian troops also shelled border territories and settlements in the northeastern Sumy region. At least one person was killed. (RFE/RL, 03.19.24, RFE/RL, 03.20.24)
  • On March 19, Russia claimed that its troops had made gains in eastern Ukraine. "On the Avdiivka front, units of the 'Center' grouping of troops liberated the village of Orlivka," the Russian Defense Ministry claimed. (MT/AFP, 03.19.24)
  • On March 20, Jake Sullivan, U.S. national security adviser, made a surprise visit to Kyiv. During the visit he said that Ukraine will win if it comes out of the war as a sovereign, democratic and free country. "I said that Ukraine must win today. What does it mean? It means that Ukraine will come out of this war sovereign, independent, free and able to deter future aggression, with a strong, dynamic democracy, deep democratic institutions and an economy that is growing not only in traditional industries but also in the field of high technologies, in industries where you are innovating, and even in the face of Russian attacks, you are innovating. That's what winning means." At the same time, he did not mention restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity among the conditions for victory. “We will get a strong bipartisan vote in the House for an assistance package for Ukraine, and we will get that money out the door as we should. So I don’t think we need to speak today about plan B.” (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.21.24, Bloomberg, 03.20.24)
  • On March 20, Russia said that one person was killed in Ukrainian attacks on its Belgorod region. Regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov told ruling party officials that 16 people had been killed and nearly 100 injured in the past week, adding “we are evacuating a large number of villages.” (Bloomberg, 03.20.24, MT/AFP, 03.20.24)
  • On March 20, Ukrainian drones attacked a Russian air base that houses strategic bombers located near the city of Engels in the Saratov region. The air base, known as Engels 2, has been used by Russian strategic bombers in attacks against Ukraine. Russian air defense systems on downed four drones near the base, regional authorities said. (RFE/RL, 03.20.24, MT/AFP, 03.20.24)
  • On March 21, Russian missiles streaked into Kyiv, injuring at least 13 people and damaging several residential buildings and industrial facilities, according to local officials. The Ukrainian Air Force said that air defense systems had intercepted all 31 of the Russian missiles that targeted Kyiv. Almost all missiles Russia struck Kyiv with on the morning of March 21 were aimed at objects of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense. (NYT, 03.21.24,, 03.21.24)
  • On March 22, Russia launched its largest targeted attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure of the war. On that day, Russia launched 151 UAVs and missiles to hit power facilities, including the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant, one of Europe’s largest such plants and dams, in what led to blackouts in many parts of Ukraine with some 1.2 million people have been left without power, according to RFE/RL and The Independent. Russia launched 63 Shaheds, 12 Iskander-Ms, 40 Kh-101’s/Kh-555’s, 5 Kh-22’s, 7 Kinzhals, 2 Kh-59s and 22 S-300s/S-400s on that day. None of the Iskander-M, Kinzhal, S-300/S-400, or Kh-22 were intercepted, according to Rob Lee. Ukraine's Interior Ministry said the strikes killed at least two people and injured 14, while three were reported missing. Several power facilities were damaged in the south-east Dnipropetrovsk region, including the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant, one of Europe’s largest such plants and dams. (FT, 03.22.24, MT/AFP, 03.22.24,, 03.22.24, RM, 03.22.24)
    • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the strikes showed that Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv, in the northeast, urgently need Patriot air defense systems to protect infrastructure and civilians. (WP, 03.22.24)
  • On March 22, one woman was killed and several others were injured in Ukrainian strikes on the Russian city of Belgorod, regional authorities said. (MT/AFP, 03.22.24)
  • Just this year, Russia has dropped more than 3,500 glide bombs, Ukraine’s military said. (NYT, 03.20.24)
  • When conducting air strikes against Ukraine, Russia may be relying on satellite photos provided by U.S. companies, The Atlantic reported on March 18, citing an unnamed Ukrainian defense official. (, 03.18.24)
  • Peskov said Russia is “in a state of war” in Ukraine, casting aside the Kremlin’s usual description of the invasion as a so-called special military operation. Peskov blamed Western support for Ukraine. “Everyone should understand this for their own internal mobilization,” the Kremlin spokesman told Argumenty i Fakty newspaper in an interview published March 22. Putin calls it a “special military operation,” while criminal penalties for “discrediting” the army have been used against journalists and others who’ve labeled it a war. (Bloomberg, 03.22.24)
  • Russia is creating a new group of troops of more than 100,000 soldiers. It is possible that in the summer the invaders will try to carry out a new offensive, commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Alexander Pavlyuk, said. (, 03.22.24)
    • The Vyorstka Telegram channel on March 22 cited four sources close to the presidential office and Defense Ministry as saying that Moscow plans to soon announce a new wave of military mobilization that would seek to enlist up to 300,000 people to bolster its troops involved in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. According to the sources, the idea to announce the mobilization came about because of the decreasing number of people willing to go to the war. After Putin announced a partial mobilization in September 2022, tens of thousands of Russian men fled the country to avoid enlistment. (RFE/RL, 03.22.24)
    • Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets stated on March 21 that the Russian military command plans for the bulk of its “strategic reserves” to be operational ahead of Russia’s reported summer 2024 offensive but suggested that it is unlikely that Russia’s “strategic reserves” will be equipped to their full end strength by this time due to materiel and manpower shortages. (ISW, 03.21.24)
  • Ukraine’s prime minister Denys Shmyhal said the scope of recruiting fresh troops for the front line may be fewer than the half-million initially backed by the military. A contested draft bill calling for the conscription of younger soldiers is stalled in Ukraine’s parliament, with Zelenskyy wary of an initial military request to draft as many as 500,000 troops. His prime minister said an assessment showed that scale wasn’t necessary given rotations taking place on the front line and incoming weaponry. “We will continue the fight if we will have support from our partners for artillery shells, for long and middle range missiles,” Shmyhal said. (Bloomberg, 03.20.24)
    • Ukraine needs not only grenades but also further mobilization to replace the killed and wounded, says NATO Military Committee Chair Rob Bauer at the Kyiv Security Forum. He stresses that Ukraine needs not only weapons but also people for further warfare. "You don't only need new grenades, and tanks and armed vehicles, you also need unfortunately new soldiers. Because soldiers die and soldiers get wounded. And then you talk about mobilization," Bauer said. (, 03.21.24)
    • On March 18, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called on Ukrainian lawmakers to quickly pass a mobilization bill that would make more citizens eligible to be drafted into the military, and he sharply questioned exempting men under 27 from the fight. “We need more people in the line,” he said. As he issued his advice on the draft, Graham, who met with Zelenskyy, could offer no true assurances about the pending aid package, instead telling reporters that he is “more optimistic than I’ve ever been that something will get out of the House pretty soon.” (WP, 03.18.24)
    • Few men of fighting age are left in the village of Makiv in southwest Ukraine — about 45 miles from the borders of Romania and Moldova, and those who remain fear they will be drafted at any moment. (WP, 03.15.24)
    • Ukrainian border guards detained eight men who tried to leave Ukraine by wearing protective overalls and passing through the Kuchurgansky estuary in the Odesa region; they paid the organizers of the escape $5,300 each. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.20.24)
    • In Ukraine’s Cherkassy, a law enforcement officer was detained who, for $7,500, promised to influence members of the military commission so that men would be exempted from military service. (, 03.22.24)
    • A Ukrainian who was pretending to be a Nigerian and wanted to leave for Slovakia was stopped on the border, Ukraine’s Border Guard Service reported March 22. (, 03.22.24)
  • “At some point, symbolic becomes strategic,” Yuri Sak, a former adviser to the Ukrainian minister of defense, said of the fighting. Defending the gains of the offensive, he said, is “important for morale, it’s important for the support of the population, it’s important for the inner belief in our potential to win.” The combat is also more costly in casualties for the attacking Russians than the Ukrainians in their defensive positions, Mr. Sak said. (NYT, 03.20.24)
  • Since Russia's invasion two years ago, Ukraine has revolutionized warfare with its use of drones in the air and at sea. Now it wants to do the same with unmanned ground vehicles, or UGVs, aiming to replicate the low-cost, do-it-yourself approach that it has used to such deadly effect. (WSJ, 03.22.24)
  • It is hard to estimate the rate at which Ukraine is destroying Russian artillery. Ukraine’s armed forces claim to have destroyed more than 10,000, but the number which can be visually confirmed is far lower. Oryx has images of around 1,000. Based on the rate at which equipment is being withdrawn from the open-air stock, the OSINT analyst on X suggests that the Ukrainians have destroyed perhaps 5,500 big guns. (The Economist, 03.21.24)
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said: “At least 315,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded since Putin's all-out invasion in February 2022. Russia has squandered up to $211 billion to equip, deploy, maintain and sustain its imperial aggression against Ukraine. Putin's war of choice will cost Russia $1.3 trillion in previously anticipated economic growth through 2026.” (, 03.19.24)

Military aid to Ukraine:

  • On March 19, at the 20th gathering of the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group:
    • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff CQ Brown said: “Ukraine continues retrenching their defenses to fortify their lines and maximize the effects of their ammunition and supplies." (, 03.19.24)
    • U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said his country will continue to back Ukraine in its fight against Russia's unprovoked invasion even though the critical $60-billion military aid package remains stuck in the U.S. House of Representatives due to Republican opposition. “The United States will not let Ukraine fail,” Austin told representatives from some 50 allies of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 03.19.24)
    • Austin and Brown held talks beforehand with Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov and Gen. Oleksandr Syrski, who became the country's top commander in a military shake-up last month. (WP, 03.20.24)
    • Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrski held a meeting with the NATO delegation led by the head of the NATO Military Committee Rob Bauer. The interlocutors discussed the main needs of the defense forces and decided on key priorities - ammunition and air defense. (, 03.21.24)
  • Congress’s main priority is the approval of the U.S. government budget for 2024, and since this issue is almost resolved, the package of aid to Ukraine and its partners will be moved to the near future. This was stated by speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson on March 20, answering questions from journalists. At the same time, after March 22, the sessions of the House of Representatives begin a two-week break, so lawmakers will most likely move to the draft law on financing aid to Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. partners after April 8. (VOA, 03.21.24)
    • Congressional Republicans are getting serious about one potential solution to the monthslong fight over Ukraine aid: packaging at least some of it as a loan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) hinted at the new strategy, posting online that he floated the prospect of a “no-interest, waivable loan” during a meeting in Kyiv with Zelenskyy. (Politico, 03.19.24)
    • Ukraine’s prime minister Denys Shmyhal said blocked U.S. funding could arrive as soon as this month. Crucial to Ukraine’s effort is more than $60 billion in funding that’s being held up by House Republicans in Washington. Shmyhal, who said Ukrainian officials are in “active dialog” with Congress members from both parties, signaled he expects positive news on the funding “this month, or maximum next month.” (Bloomberg, 03.20.24)
  • The Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General launched a new website March 19 to give more information to Americans about the oversight of U.S. weapons and equipment provided to Ukraine. (The Hill, 03.19.24)
  • A $300 million U.S. aid package for Ukraine that the Pentagon announced last week is not something that officials expect to happen again, the Pentagon's spokesman Patrick Ryder, said. (RFE/RL, 03.19.24)
  • American F-16 fighters can only be used within the sovereign territory of Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder stated in an interview. (, 03.20.24)
  • Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren says Ukraine should receive its first F-16 fighter jets this summer. (RFE/RL, 03.21.24)
  • “The first group of Ukrainian pilots have completed basic flying training in the U.K. We salute their courage and determination. They will now continue their training journey in France, before eventually getting to grips with the F-16.” (U.K. Ministry of Defense’s X (Twitter) account, 03.22.24)
  • By activating relations dating back to the Cold War, Prague has sourced around 800,000 artillery shells from a diverse coalition of suppliers spanning the globe and identified another 700,000 that could be secured with extra funds. The shells include 300,000 Soviet-standard shells and around 500,000 Western-made rounds, to be delivered in batches by the end of the year. (WSJ, 03.18.24)
  • The European Council has approved the creation of the Ukraine Assistance Fund (UAF) and earmarked 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) for it as Kyiv struggles to battle invading Russian forces. (RFE/RL, 03.18.24)
  • Berlin announced a new €500 million military aid package to replenish Kyiv’s artillery stocks, while Brussels laid out how it would use the vast majority of profits earned from immobilized Russian assets to purchase weapons for Ukraine. (FT, 03.19.24)
  • Brussels is actively exploring how to work around an EU treaty clause prohibiting arms purchases from the union’s budget, as it steps up efforts to increase financing for defense and Ukraine. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive, has proposed that a legal task force revisit a crucial provision — known as Article 41(2) — that stops the EU common budget from funding “operations having military or defense implications,” according to four people familiar with the discussions. Any move to use the budget to purchase lethal weapons would mark the most significant shift in Brussels’ defense policy since the start of the war against Ukraine. (FT, 03.21.24)

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

  • The U.S. proposed to its G-7 allies that they create a special purpose vehicle to issue at least $50 billion of bonds backed by the profits generated by frozen Russian sovereign assets and use the proceeds to support Ukraine, according to people familiar with the plan. The proposal would pool the $280 billion of Russian central bank assets that have been immobilized by G-7 countries and the European Union in the SPV, the profits of which would back the so-called freedom bonds, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. (Bloomberg, 03.21.24)
  • The European Union has prepared legislation that would see Ukraine start to receive profits generated by frozen Russian sovereign assets as early as July. The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell sent a proposal to member states that would send 90% of the windfall revenue to the European Peace Facility, which is used primarily to reimburse governments for military purchases bound for Ukraine. The remaining 10% would be sent to the regular EU budget, he said. (Bloomberg, 03.20.24, Bloomberg, 03.18.24)
    • Zelenskyy has called on EU leaders at the opening of their two-day summit in Brussels on March 21 to "progress on the issue of fair use of Russia's frozen assets."  (RFE/RL, 03.21.24)
    • The Kremlin said March 20 that the EU would be committing an "unprecedented violation" of international law if it used frozen Russian assets to help arm Ukraine. "The Europeans are well aware of the damage such decisions could do to their economy, their image, their reputations as reliable guarantors," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. (MT/AFP, 03.20.24)
  • The EU is preparing to levy tariffs on grain imports from Russia and Belarus to placate farmers and some member states. In the coming days, the European Commission is expected to impose a duty of 95 euros ($103.26) per ton on cereals from Russia and Belarus. (Reuters, 03.19.24)
  • Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office on March 18 labeled two Canadian educational institutes -- the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs -- and the Russian Canadian Democratic Alliance NGO as "undesirable." (RFE/RL, 03.18.24)
  • When the U.S. and Europe tried to sever Russia from the Western financial system, Moscow found workarounds. Key among them: banks in the Persian Gulf and Europe that maintained ties with Russia. Now, Washington's efforts to close these loopholes appear to be paying off. Dubai's main state-owned bank shut some accounts held by Russian oligarchs and traders of Russian oil. Emirates NBD, the Dubai banking giant, is central to the shift. Turkish lenders are growing wary of handling Russia-related business. The U.S. put bankers in Vienna, another financial hub, on notice. (WSJ, 03.20.24)
  • Armenia's Central Bank will reportedly ban the use of Russia’s “Mir” national payment system from March 30 to prevent Armenia from falling under secondary U.S. sanctions. (ISW, 03.19.24, MT/AFP, 03.19.24)
  • Russia's seizure of billions of dollars’ worth of foreign-owned planes has set off the biggest-ever brawl in the normally staid business of aircraft insurance. At stake: billions of dollars, more than 400 planes, hundreds of millions in legal costs.  The planes, mostly Airbus and Boeing commercial jets leased to both Russian and foreign airlines, were worth more than $10 billion when they were stranded in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine just. The planes are owned by a small number of big but mostly no-name aircraft-leasing companies. They are covered by insurers from both Russia and the West, including giants such as American International Group, Chubb and Swiss Re. (WSJ, 03.19.24)
  • Russia’s Federal Customs Service on March 21 accused Lithuanian authorities of blocking freight trucks from entering Lithuania from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. (MT/AFP, 03.21.24)
  • Russia refused to extend the visa for Spanish journalist Xavier Colas and ordered him to leave the country within 24 hours, the reporter's employer, the El Mundo newspaper, said on March 21. (RFE/RL, 03.21.24)
  • The Kremlin on March 21 slammed the West for putting "unprecedented pressure" on Chinese banks accepting payments from Russia, admitting there were some "problems" with cross-border transactions. Citing Russian financial sources, the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper reported earlier on March 21 that some Chinese lenders had stopped accepting payments in Chinese yuan from Russian companies. "The unprecedented U.S. and EU pressure on China continues... this creates certain problems," Peskov told journalists when asked about the reports. (MT/AFP, 03.21.24)
  • For sanctions on the energy sector, please see section “Energy exports from CIS” below.

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Paris in early May, marking his first trip to Europe since the pandemic, several officials based in Paris and Brussels told POLITICO. Officials told POLITICO recently that China is trying to persuade Europe to let Russia sit at the table for future peace talks, potentially in Switzerland — or Beijing will boycott such meetings. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is also heading to China for a visit in April. (Politico, 03.18.24)
    • China is considering taking part in a Ukraine peace conference planned by Switzerland, according to Wang Shihting, its ambassador to the European country. In an interview with the Neue Zuercher Zeitung newspaper, Wang said China is following the plans for the talks closely and is “looking into the possibility of participating.” “All parties should work toward ending the war,” he said. “The crisis must be prevented from worsening or even getting out of control.” (Bloomberg, 03.18.24)
  • India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Zelenskyy and Putin over the phone on March 20, weeks ahead of a global peace summit in Switzerland to resolve the war in Ukraine, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. The South Asian nation will “continue to do everything with its means to support a peaceful solution,” Modi told Zelenskyy and reiterated India’s position of resolving Russia’s war in the country through dialog and diplomacy. (Bloomberg, 03.20.24)
  • In a March 16 interview, Macron implied that negotiations require both Russia and Ukraine to engage in negotiations, highlighting Russia’s unwillingness to engage in legitimate and good-faith negotiations with Ukraine as an equal party. (ISW, 03.17.24)
    • Putin said at his post-election press conference on March 18: “I would very much like France to play a role that does not lead to aggravation of the conflict, ... and that does not provoke ... we are talking about possible ways of a peaceful settlement. In this sense, France could play its role; all is not lost.” When commenting on with whom Russia can be negotiating in Ukraine, he said: “This is a question that waits to be answered by a researcher. We'll think about it.” (RIA, 03.18.24)
  • Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will visit India this month, seeking to rally support for a global peace initiative to end the Russia-Ukraine war, according to people familiar with the matter. Kuleba will meet his counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, during the trip. (Bloomberg, 03.19.24)
  • U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said that on March 20, a meeting of national security advisers from countries around the world took place in Kyiv, at which Zelenskyy’s “peace formula” was discussed. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.21.24)
  • Macron stated in a March 16 interview that there will be “no peace in Europe if Ukraine is forced to capitulate.” Macron called on European countries to speed up military assistance deliveries to Ukraine and stated that a “lasting peace” will restore the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and guarantee the security of Ukraine and all of Europe. (ISW, 03.17.24)
  • On the day after the Feast of St. Joseph, Pope Francis entrusts the cause of peace to the intercession of St. Joseph, the holy spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, urging all sides to "make every effort to negotiate an end to war." "To St Joseph, we commend the war-torn peoples of Ukraine and the Holy Land, Palestine and Israel, who suffer so greatly from the horror of war." (Vatican news, 03.20.24)

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

  • Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Adm. Rob Bauer said that the Alliance countries are prepared for a potential direct clash with Russia. "Now we all understand that in the context of a return to collective security, time is not on our side. Because the enemy decides when and where they attack you, and how long the conflict will last. Ukraine, unfortunately, has become convinced of this ... Are we ready? Answer: Yes!” said Bauer. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.22.24)
  • Putin’s attempts to set conditions to stabilize Russia’s economy and finances are most likely part of Russian financial and domestic preparations for a potential future large-scale conflict with NATO and not just for a protracted war in Ukraine. Such a conflict is not imminently but likely on a shorter timeline than what some Western analysts have initially posited.  (ISW, 03.20.24)
  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said: “Let's not kid ourselves. Putin will not stop at Ukraine ... Ukraine's survival is on the line. And all of our security is on the line.” "Today, Ukraine's survival is in danger, and America's security is at risk," he said. (, 03.19.24)
  • When commenting on the possibility of a large-scale conflict between Russia and NATO, Putin said at his post-election press conference on March 18: “I think anything is possible in the modern world. But what I’m saying, and this is clear to everyone, that this will be one step away from full-scale World War III.” (RIA, 03.18.24)
  • Putin responded to Macron’s recent proposals to send Western troops to Ukraine by claiming that NATO personnel are already in Ukraine. Putin stated on March 18 that military personnel from NATO member countries are already in Ukraine, including personnel who speak French and English, and acknowledged Macron’s claim that Western personnel would perform “secondary functions.” (ISW, 03.18.24)
    • On March 19, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service chief Sergei Naryshhkin said Russia has intelligence that France is gearing up to send 2,000 of its soldiers to Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 03.19.24)
    • The potential decision of any NATO country to deploy a contingent of its troops to Ukraine affects the interests of all allies, and will therefore require consultation between member states, Rob Bauer, Chair of the NATO Military Committee, said. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.22.24)
    • Italy is against any kind of direct intervention in Ukraine even if it continues to fully support the country which has been invaded by Russia. Any direct military involvement would “lead to a dangerous escalation,” Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said March 19, echoing a position already shared by other European Union and U.S. allies. Meloni spoke to lawmakers ahead of an EU summit later this week centered on aid to Ukraine and the outlook in the Middle East. (Bloomberg, 03.19.24)
  • The German intelligence services have prepared an analysis of the military threat from Russia for the government, which predicts that "from 2026 onwards," it may attack the territory of NATO member countries. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.16.24)
  • NATO’s European members need to find an extra €56 billion a year to meet the alliance’s defense spending target, but the shortfall has halved in the past decade, according to research by Germany’s Ifo Institute for the Financial Times. (FT, 03.16.24)
  • At an international forum, the secretary of state said artificial intelligence’s ability to disrupt the global flow of information could prove politically perilous during a year of elections. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on March 18 that a malicious “flood” of disinformation was threatening the world’s democracies, fueled in part by the swift rise of artificial intelligence, which he says sows “suspicion, cynicism and instability” around the globe. (NYT, 03.18.24)
  • Niger’s ruling junta ended an agreement that let U.S. military staff operate from a $110 million drone base, paving the way for Russian troops to move in. (Bloomberg, 03.17.24)
  • Repeated scans of patients suffering from the mysterious ailment commonly known as "Havana syndrome" found no significant evidence of brain injury, according to an ongoing investigation by the National Institutes of Health. (WP, 03.19.24)
  • Former U.S. President Donald Trump said he would defend fellow NATO allies who have fulfilled their defense spending commitments, amid worries in some foreign capitals over the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s support for the military alliance. “Yes, 100%,” Trump said in an interview with British politician Nigel Farage on GB News, when asked if America would be there if NATO allies “start to play fair” over their spending obligations. “The United States should pay its fair share, not everybody else’s fair share,” Trump said in the interview, which aired March 19, adding that he believed the U.S. had paid a disproportionate share of the cost for the military alliance. “It’s more important to them than it is to us. We have an ocean in between some problems. We have a nice big, beautiful ocean.” (Bloomberg, 03.19.24)
  • Europe would need at least 20 years to build a European force capable of reversing a Russian invasion of Lithuania and nearby parts of Poland without the U.S., according to an analysis by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank, in 2019. (WSJ, 03.21.24)
  • Germany will have to loosen its debt restrictions if it wants to maintain defense spending above NATO’s target in coming years, according to the co-leader of the Social Democratic Party. (Bloomberg, 03.21.24)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-backed resolution March 22 in the United Nations Security Council that would have said the world body “determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire to protect civilians” in Gaza. It was the closest the U.S. has come to pressing its ally Israel, which has endorsed only a limited halt in fighting to free hostages held by Hamas. But the U.S. resolution also included a condemnation of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. (Bloomberg, 03.22.24)
  • Despite Beijing’s economic challenges, its official defense budget has increased by 16% over recent years to more than $223 billion, Admiral John Aquilino, the leader of the Indo-Pacific Command, told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. In the three years since he took command, he said the People’s Liberation Army has added more than 400 fighter aircraft, along with more than 20 major warships. It’s also doubled its inventory of ballistic and cruise missiles since 2020, he said. (Bloomberg, 03.21.24)
  • The Yemen-based Houthis have told China and Russia their ships can sail through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden without being attacked, according to several people with knowledge of the militant group’s discussions. In exchange, the two countries may provide political support to the Houthis in bodies such as the United Nations Security Council, according to the people. (Bloomberg, 03.21.24)
  • Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, who is also acting prime minister, said on March 21 that relations with Russia and China are in Belgrade's "vital national interest.” (RFE/RL, 03.21.24)
  • China is on track to import a record amount of Russian crude this month, bolstered by large volumes of Sokol oil which have been shunned by India due to concerns over U.S. sanctions, according to Kpler. The Asian nation is poised to receive about 1.7 million barrels a day of Russian crude this month, data tracked by Kpler show. Volumes of Sokol are expected to triple from a month earlier to an all-time high of 379,000 barrels a day. (Bloomberg, 03.18.24)
  • Chinese purchases of Russian coal slumped in the first two months of the year, after Beijing reimposed import taxes that make Russian supplies less competitive. While China’s total coal imports over January and February surged 23% year-on-year to 74.5 million tons, Russia’s sales fell 22% to 11.5 million tons, according to the latest customs data. Import levies were restored at the start of the year, although other major suppliers like Indonesia and Australia aren’t affected due to free-trade agreements with Beijing. (Bloomberg, 03.21.24)
  • Estonia said on March 19 it had expelled a diplomat from the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, accusing the diplomatic mission of interfering in its internal affairs. (MT/AFP, 03.19.24)
  • A Russian diplomat has been declared persona non grata in Slovenia and ordered to leave the European Union country within seven days, its Foreign Ministry said March 21. (AP, 03.21.24)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms

  • A military depot in central Belarus has recently been upgraded with additional security perimeters and an access point that indicate it could be intended for housing Russian nuclear warheads for Belarus’ Russia-supplied Iskander missile launchers. The upgraded enclosure is located inside an existing military depot east of the town of Ashipovichy. Leaked documents on Discord indicated that in February 2023, the CIA reported that “a senior officer from the Russian Ministry of Defense inspected a facility in the vicinity of Asipivochy [sic] for potential upgrades” to serve as “a nuclear warhead storage facility in Belarus.” (FAS, 03.14.24)
  • "Germany does not need its own nuclear weapons. ... there is no reason to question NATO and transatlantic cooperation now. And NATO includes the U.S. nuclear umbrella. For Germany, this means nuclear sharing,” Scholz said. (U. Kuhn’s X account, 03.20.24)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • The United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution to promote “safe, secure and trustworthy” artificial intelligence systems, one of the most high-profile efforts yet to establish global standards for the rapidly rising disruptive technology. The non-binding proposal, which was introduced by the U.S. and co-sponsored by more than 110 countries including China and India, encourages members to support “responsible and inclusive” AI development through domestic regulations and governance. It passed by consensus on March 21 without a formal vote. (Bloomberg, 03.21.24)
  • A viral video clip showed a well-known TV presenter announcing the alarming news that Macron had cancelled a planned trip to Kyiv because of an assassination plot. The Élysée and the TV station concerned, France 24, quickly debunked the video as fake and AI-generated. But they were not able to contain its spread, particularly after former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev reposted the video, describing Macron as “scared of a real, or presumed assassination.” Officials in Brussels and other European capitals are warning that more vigilance and tougher penalties for online platforms will be needed to counter Russia’s disinformation campaigns designed to weaken support for Ukraine and interfere with EU-wide elections in June. (FT, 03.21.24)
  • Maj. Yurii Myronenko, head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP), said were 2,194 “cyber incidents” in 2022 of which 1,048 were “major or critical.” In 2023, there were 2,554, of which only 367 were serious. So, Ukraine’s cyber defenders have drastically reduced the rate of serious attacks. But in the first two months of this year, the Russians stepped it up, and he expects 2024 to be “even harder in terms of cyber warfare.” He says the SSSCIP has learned that 10% of attacks come from cyber units of the Russian security services, while the rest come from affiliated criminal hacker groups and others. (The Economist, 03.21.24)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • The U.S. has urged Ukraine to halt attacks on Russia’s energy infrastructure, warning that the drone strikes risk driving up global oil prices and provoking retaliation, according to three people familiar with the discussions. The repeated warnings from Washington were delivered to senior officials at Ukraine’s state security service, the SBU, and its military intelligence directorate, known as the GUR, the people told FT. (FT, 03.22.24)
  • Russia’s average daily oil refining rate fell to the lowest weekly level in 10 months after a flurry of Ukrainian drone attacks hit several major facilities. Refiners processed 5.03 million barrels a day of crude from March 14 to 20, according to a person with knowledge of industry data. That’s down more than 400,000 barrels a day from the average for the first 13 days of the month, according to Bloomberg calculations based on historical data. (Bloomberg, 03.22.24)
  • Ukraine’s drones have hit facilities accounting for more than a 10th of Russia’s oil-refining capacity, but the actual reduction in crude processing may be just half that size because the country’s downstream industry can utilize existing slack in the system. Russia’s primary crude-processing volumes are expected to decline by 300,000 to 400,000 barrels a day as a result of the latest flurry of Ukrainian drone attacks, to an average of 5 million to 5.2 million barrels a day, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. (Bloomberg, 03.22.24)
  • Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion has entered a new phase, pitting homegrown drone technology against a 2,000 kilometer (1,200 mile) swathe of largely Soviet-era oil facilities. At least nine major refineries have been successfully attacked this year, currently taking offline 11% of the country’s total capacity by some estimates. (Bloomberg, 03.20.24)
  • Gunvor Group Ltd. CEO Torbjörn Törnqvist estimates about 600,000 barrels of Russia’s daily oil-refining capacity has been knocked out by Ukrainian drone strikes. (Bloomberg, 03.18.24)
  • Ukrainian drone strikes have been able to hit refineries deep in Russian territory, indicating a new vulnerability. But such disruptions do not mean Ukraine can truly undermine the Russian energy behemoth, which is at the core of its economy and war efforts. Sergey Vakulenko, an energy expert at CEIP, said Russia was producing far more diesel than it needed to supply its troops. (NYT, 03.21.24)
  • Large volumes of Russian diesel are floating at sea, a sign that Moscow is finding it difficult to find homes for the barrels. It’s not clear why the glut has emerged, but the U.S. and its allies have stepped up sanctions on Russian oil in recent months. An average of 6.2 million barrels of diesel had been floating in the 10 days to March 17, according to data from Kpler. That’s the highest the measure’s been since at least 2017. (Bloomberg, 03.22.24)
  • Russia’s state oil tanker company PJSC Sovcomflot said that U.S. sanctions are putting pressure on its operations. “New sanctions are creating additional operational difficulties for doing business,” Sovcomflot said in a statement. “The company is working to overcome current challenges and continues to operate the fleet as usual.” (Bloomberg, 03.18.24)
  • Oil tankers suspected of helping Russia evade western sanctions have started to routinely reject expert help in navigating the dangerous straits that connect the Baltic and the North Seas, increasing the risk of spills. Since the start of January, at least 20 tankers carrying Russian oil have refused to take onboard specialist pilots, according to leaked internal reports seen by FT and Danwatch, a Danish media and research group. (FT, 03.22.24)
  • Danish maritime authorities have detained a tanker that was due to carry Russian oil after it collided with another ship in its waters earlier this month. The Andromeda Star collided with a cargo ship called Peace south of Copenhagen on March 2, the Danish Maritime Authority said. (Bloomberg, 03.21.24)
  • The European Union is “progressively” putting more pressure on importers of Russian liquefied natural gas to cut purchases this year, according to Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. (Bloomberg, 03.16.24)
  • The IAEA cautioned there’s no quick way to loosen Russia’s grip on nuclear supply chains and threatening to sever ties too soon would harm global energy markets. New data published last week showed Russia’s nuclear-fuel trade rising to a record in 2023. (Bloomberg, 03.21.24)

Climate change:

  • Most of Russia is set to experience prolonged periods of "high" and "extreme" wildfire danger this year, the state Hydrometeorological Center has forecast based on climate and weather data. (MT/AFP, 03.19.24

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Russia canceled a Soyuz rocket launch carrying a crew to the International Space Station just before it was due to take off. The Soyuz MS-25 mission was postponed after an automated abort command at the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. Russian commander Oleg Novitskiy, NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Belarusian Marina Vasilevskaya were on board. NASA said in a post on X that the take-off was aborted at the 20-second mark and that “the spacecraft and crew remain safe.” It wasn’t immediately clear why the mission was postponed. (Bloomberg, 03.21.24)
  • The United States has imposed sanctions on two people and two companies it said have supported disinformation efforts directed by the Russian government. The sanctions were imposed on the Moscow-based Social Design Agency and its founder, Ilya Gambashidze, and on the Russian-based Company Group Structura and its CEO and owner, Nikolai Tupikin. The sanctions freeze any assets they have in U.S. jurisdiction and generally bar Americans from dealing with them. (RFE/RL, 03.20.24)
  • Trump is expected to enlist Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager he pardoned, as a campaign adviser later this year, according to four people familiar with the talks. (WP, 03.18.24)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • On March 21 Russia’s Central Election Committee (CEC) officially declared Putin the winner of the 2024 presidential race. With a record of 76.27 million votes counted in his favor, Putin received a record of 87.28% of the ballots cast in the March 15-17 election, according to CEC head Ella Pamfilova. Communist candidate Nikolai Kharitonov placed second with 4.31% of the vote, followed by New People candidate Vladislav Davankov and nationalist Leonid Slutsky at 3.85% and 3.20%, respectively. (MT/AFP, 03.21.24)
    • The independent Russian election monitoring movement Golos said that Putin’s 2024 presidential campaign contained more constitutional violations than any it has observed since its founding more than two decades ago. (Meduza, 03.18.24)
    • Almost 22 million votes received by Putin in the “presidential elections” of March 15–17 were falsified, “Important Stories” calculated using the method of physicist and electoral analyst Sergei Shpilkin. (Istories, 03.19.24)
    • According to one election strategy document obtained by Meduza, the leadership of one Russian region set themselves this exact target, 80% of the vote, and planned to achieve it primarily through mobilizing public sector employees and the employees of companies close to the state. But in the weeks before the vote, the Putin administration began to express a “desire” for the incumbent to win upwards of 80%, two regional officials said. As a result, 80% support was perceived as an absolute minimum and many regions decided to aim for 85%. As a Meduza source close to the administration put it, the head of the Kremlin’s political bloc, Sergey Kiriyenko, really “wanted to show the president very high numbers—and that’s what he did.” (Meduza, 03.18.24)
    • Voters at polling station No. 271, aboard the refrigerated cargo ship Amber Baltik, gave a plurality of their votes to Leonid Slutsky, one of three token candidates who barely campaigned and whose positions echoed Putin's. Slutsky polled 37.5% to Putin's 31.3%. "This polling station…was the only one in the Kamchatka region where Vladimir Putin lost to anyone," a report concluded. (RFE/RL, 03.20.24)
    • Putin lost in at least six cities abroad, according to official data from the Central Election Commission. Vladislav Davankov beat Putin in Warsaw, Prague, The Hague, Vilnius, Haifa and Yerevan. Putin scored the least in The Hague (15.22%) and Prague (15.68%). According to the CEC, Putin took first place, for example, in Baku with 77.26%, Tallinn with 75.22% and in Genoa with 70.86%. It is also claimed that he "won" in Seoul and Phuket by a small margin. (Istories, 03.18.24)
    • An “unprecedented” number of Russians living abroad voted in the March 15-17 presidential election, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said March 18. Preliminary data shows 372,779 Russians cast their ballots outside of Russia during the three-day race, according to Zakharova. (MT/AFP, 03.18.24)
    • Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of opposition leader Alexei Navalny cast her ballot for Russian president at the Russian Embassy in Berlin after standing in line for more than six hours on March 17. "You are probably curious what I wrote on my ballot," she said, "who I voted for. Of course, I wrote in the name 'Navalny.'" Navalnaya was one of many Russian opposition leaders who urged those who oppose Putin and his seemingly unstoppable bid for a fifth term in the Kremlin to come to their polling station at precisely 12 p.m. in an action called "Noon Against Putin." Navalnaya urged the international community to refuse to recognize Putin as a "legitimate" leader of the country. (RFE/RL, 03.17.24, RFE/RL, 03.19.24)
    • After his orchestrated win, Putin:
      • Said he would not back down in Russia’s war against Ukraine: “We are forced to literally defend the interests of our citizens, our people, with arms in our hands, and to create a future for fully-fledged sovereign and safe development of the Russian Federation, our Motherland. And... the [electoral] results ... the turnout, show that ordinary people feel this and understand that.” (RIA, 03.18.24, NYT, 03.18.24)
      • Said he agreed to swap Navalny several days before the opposition leader died in prison last month. (RFE/RL, 03.17.24)
        • Foreign ministers of the European Union agreed on new sanctions related to the death Navalny. The restrictive measures include some 30 persons and two entities, according to an earlier draft of the proposal seen by Bloomberg. (Bloomberg, 03.18.24)
        • A Russian court rejected a lawsuit filed by the mother of Navalny against guards of a prison where he died last month, his associate Ivan Zhdanov said on March 21. (RFE/RL, 03.21.24)
      • At a Security Council meeting on March 22, Putin proposed discussing measures to combat the spread of neo-Nazi ideologies. "As the first issue today, we will consider measures to combat the spread of neo-Nazi ideas. I won't go into details. We are aware of what this entails and how important it is in the context of today's events. Let's get to work," he said. (IZ, 03.22.24) 
      • Serbia has remained the most reliable ally of Russia for centuries, and this is well remembered in Moscow, said Putin on March 22. "They are spiritually close to us. And for centuries, I want to emphasize, for centuries, they have been the most reliable ally of Russia. And Russia, of course, remembers this. We know about it and remember," he commented on the relationship with Serbia in the documentary film "Belgrade" by TASS General Director Andrey Kondrashov on the "Russia-1" TV channel. (TASS, 03.22.24)
    • China’s President Xi Jinping said that Putin’s re-election meant “Russia will certainly be able to accomplish greater achievements,” while India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was looking forward “to working together to further strengthen” ties with Moscow. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also sent his congratulations. Xi said China stands ready to maintain close communication with Russia to promote the sustained, sound, stable and in-depth development of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era to benefit the two nations and their people (Xinhua, 03.18.24, FT, 03.18.24)
    • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has congratulated Putin on his reelection despite condemnation of the vote by many Western governments. (RFE/RL, 03.21.24)
    • The United States said that it recognizes Putin as the leader of Russia and is prepared to deal with him for another six years, while also emphasizing the March 15-17 presidential election was neither free nor fair. “Nothing about the election outcome was unpredictable because Putin had closed the political space, had locked up political opponents. Some of his political opponents had tragically died,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at a press briefing. (MT/AFP, 03.19.24)
    • Blinken says the Kremlin's marginalization of civil society and the "intense repression" of independent voices in Russia mean Russia’s presidential election "can only be described as undemocratic." (RFE/RL, 03.19.24)
    • This weekend’s vote “took place in a highly restricted environment,” the EU said in a statement. “Russian authorities have continued to increase the systematic internal repression . . . which has resulted in an alarming increase of violations of civil and political rights,” it added. (FT, 03.18.24)
    • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesperson Christiane Hoffmann said: “Russia is a dictatorship and is ruled in an authoritarian manner by Vladimir Putin.” (FT, 03.18.24)
    • “The conditions for a free, pluralist and democratic election have once again not been met,” France’s foreign ministry said, as it condemned Moscow’s decision to stage the election in five Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine. (FT, 03.18.24)
    • U.K. foreign secretary David Cameron said: “Putin removes his political opponents, controls the media and then crowns himself the winner. This is not democracy.” (FT, 03.18.24)
    • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia's presidential election was "not free nor fair" and only confirms that Russia is "an authoritarian society." The NATO secretary-general said Putin incorrectly stated in his victory speech that NATO troops are in Ukraine. NATO allies have provided training but "are not planning any military presence on the ground." (RFE/RL, 03.18.24)
      • “As for the reaction from some foreign countries [to the elections], it is expected. Did you want them to applaud? They are fighting us, and are doing so by armed means. ... They have set themselves the goal of holding back our development,” Putin said at his first post-electoral press conference. (RIA, 03.18.24)
  • The OVD-Info rights group said on March 21 that a court in Moscow had sentenced poet Alexander Byvshev to seven years in prison on a charge of calling for terrorism and distributing false news about Russia's military. The charges stem from poems Byvshev wrote that contain verses condemning Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 03.22.24)
  • Russia’s state financial watchdog Rosfinmonitoring has added the so-called “international LGBT public movement” to its list of terrorists and extremists. (MT/AFP, 03.22.24)
  • Russian authorities have launched the country’s first-ever criminal case into “LGBT extremism,” the head of the Kremlin-aligned Safe Internet League Yekaterina Mizulina said March 18, just months after a top court banned the so-called “international LGBT movement.” (MT/AFP, 03.18.24)
  • A Moscow court has issued an arrest warrant for the self-exiled founder of the group, which monitors inmates' rights. The warrant was issued on March 21 after the Federal Security Service launched a probe against Vladimir Osechkin on a charge of justifying terrorism. (RFE/RL, 03.21.24)
  • A recent joint survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Levada Center revealed that eight in 10 young Russians (82%) say they are very (65%) or somewhat (17%) proud to be Russian citizens, while few say they are not very (3%) or not at all proud (4%). Just under half of Russian youths say democracy is preferable to any other kind of government (48%), while roughly equal amounts are amenable to authoritarian governments (20%) or do not think it matters for people like them (21%). (Chicago Council, 03.18.24)
  • At the end of February 2024, almost half of those surveyed heard that the Central Election Commission did not register Boris Nadezhdin as a candidate in the presidential elections. Among all respondents, about 9% assumed the possibility of voting for Boris Nadezhdin in the presidential elections if he were registered as a candidate. (Levada, 03.22.24)
  • Russia’s central bank held interest rates unchanged on March 22, as it navigates inflation risks that now include attacks on regions bordering Ukraine. For the second meeting in a row, policymakers left their key rate at 16%, in line with the unanimous forecasts of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The Bank of Russia gave no guidance on the likely direction of its next move, saying “tight monetary conditions will be maintained in the economy for a long period.” (Bloomberg, 03.22.24)
  • The number of new cars sold in Russia in January and February jumped more than 80% compared with the same period last year, according to Avtostat, a news website about the Russian auto industry. (NYT, 03.17.24)
  • The Big Port of St. Petersburg stopped shipping saltpeter amid UAV attacks, Kommersant writes. Transshipment stopped in February; it may be moved to Ust-Luga or another locality outside St. Petersburg. For the city port, this means a loss of 3 million tons of cargo per year. “For the port, which is already in a difficult situation due to the loss of trade operations with Europe, this is quite a significant blow,” the publication writes. (Istories, 03.21.24)

Defense and aerospace:

  • On March 20, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to boost Russia's conventional military capabilities, saying that it had formed an army corps and a motorized division. In addition, he said that the Russian military plans to form two combined arms armies and 14 divisions, as well as 16 brigades, by the end of 2024. Shoigu also said Russia has formed the “Dnipro River Flotilla” and a “brigade” of boats as part of the flotilla. (ISW, 03.20.24, Newsweek, 03.20.24)
  • The Russian military confirmed that Northern Fleet Commander Adm. Alexander Moiseev replaced Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov as acting Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy. The Russian military officially introduced Moiseev as acting Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy at a ceremony in Kronstadt in St. Petersburg on March 19. Konstantin Kabantsov may become the new head of the Northern Fleet. (ISW, 03.19.24, Barents Observer 03.19.24)
  • Russian lawmakers voted on March 19 to allow future suspected or convicted criminals to join the military, thus expanding the wartime practice of recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 03.19.24)
    • Mark Denisov, the human rights commissioner for Russia’s Krasnodar region, said March 21 that several prisons in the region are slated to be shut down in 2024, Kommersant reported. At a Krasnodar legislative assembly meeting, Denisov said the decision is a response to a recent decrease in the number of prisoners in the region. (Meduza, 03.21.24)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Multiple unknown assailants, armed with assault rifles and Molotov cocktails, attacked the Crocus City Hall outside Moscow at around 8:00 pm local time on March 22. The attack left 40 people dead and more than 100 injured, according to an estimate that Russia’s FSB released shortly after 10:00 pm Moscow time. The camouflaged assailants are not known to have made any statements and, as of 10:30 pm Moscow time, no individual or group had publicly claimed responsibility for the attack, which, given the choice of target, appears to have been of terrorist nature. The first shots were simultaneously fired at the entrance to the building and on the ground floor of the concert hall, where a rock band was to perform for more than 6,000 spectators and which is located only hundreds of meters away from Moscow’s northwestern boundaries. The assailants, which some eyewitnesses have described as young, were then seen in multiple videos posted by eyewitnesses, walking across the building, firing multiple shots. Some of them also threw Molotov cocktails, which led to multiple fires, according to the BBC. As of 9:00 pm Moscow time, large parts of the hall were on fire, with its roof caved in and some concert-goers pleading from the remaining rooftops to be rescued. (RM, 03.22.24)
    • "The entire world community must condemn this despicable crime!", Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram. (AFP, 03.22.24)
    • Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev called for “total executions of the terrorists and repressions against their families.” (Meduza, 03.22.24)
    • Putin has “issued all the necessary instructions,” according to his press secretary Dmitry Peskov. (Meduza, 03.22.24) 
    • "There is no indication at this time that Ukraine, or Ukrainians were involved in the shooting," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on March 22. Kirby also offered condolences to the victims of the attack, news of which broke minutes before the daily White House briefing. "The images are just horrible and hard to watch, and our thoughts obviously are going to be with the victims of this terrible, terrible shooting attack," he said. (AFP, 03.22.24) 
  • Putin presented the FSB as a key guarantor of Russian security and sovereignty following his victory in the Russian presidential election. Putin delivered his first major address following his March 18 electoral victory speech at the FSB board meeting on March 19 and praised FSB officers for ensuring Russian security and sovereignty. (ISW, 03.19.24)
  • A Russian court has sentenced former Deputy Education Minister Marina Rakova and former university rector Sergei Zuyev to real and suspended prison terms for fraud. (MT/AFP, 03.19.24)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Western firms bought hundreds of millions of dollars of titanium metal from a Russian company with deep ties to the country's defense industry after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, according to a review of Russian export data. The titanium firm, VSMPO-AVISMA, has not been placed under sanctions by the United States or the European Union. Roughly 15,000 tons of titanium worth $370 million were exported by VSMPO in 2022, the vast majority of it sent to Western nations that supported Ukraine, according to the export database, with Germany, France, the United States and Britain topping the list. VSMPO, which essentially is a monopoly in Russia, then exported at least $345 million in titanium in 2023, according to more-limited data for that year seen by The Post. (WP, 03.21.24)


  • The EU has agreed to reduce imports of many Ukrainian foodstuffs to appease protesting farmers who claim a glut has reduced their income. The EU will levy tariffs on Ukrainian poultry, eggs, sugar, oats, maize, honey and groats (grain kernels) if quantities exceed the mean average imported in 2022 and 2023 under an “emergency brake” in a provisional deal reached on March 20 morning. (FT, 03.20.24)
    • Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has welcomed a provisional decision by the EU to extend by one year the suspension on import duties on Ukrainian agricultural products announced early on March 20. (RFE/RL, 03.20.24)
  • Ukraine’s grain exports more than doubled to more than 5 million metric tons in December 2023 compared with around 2 million tons in September 2023. The increase, if sustained, should add $3.3 billion to exports this year and 1.2 percentage points to economic growth, according to Yulia Svyrydenko, Ukraine's economy minister. (WSJ, 03.16.24)
  • Internal security of the State Border Service has alleged that a Ukrainian in the Lviv region offered a border guard a $9,000 bribe in exchange for being able to leave Ukraine. The 29-year-old resident of Lviv and his friend planned to travel abroad, but did not have documents giving the right to travel during martial law. (, 03.18.24)
  • Employees of the State Bureau of Investigation, in collaboration with the Office of the Prosecutor General, exposed the former head of the Central Food Supply Directorate of the Logistics Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for illegal enrichment. The police report does not indicate the name of the military man, but according to Ukrainska Pravda, this is Alexander Kozlovsky. According to the investigation, the official acquired unsubstantiated assets worth almost UAH 58 million in 2022-2023, including a Toyota car, an apartment in Kyiv, 53 land plots in Ukraine and other property. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.21.24)
  • According to the study "Corruption in Ukraine 2023: Understanding, Perception, Prevalence," 61.2% of the Ukrainian population and 46.3% of businesses noted an increase in the level of corruption in 2023. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.22.24)
  • Head of Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party, Elena Shulyak, argued in an interview with that presidential elections cannot be held in Ukraine as long as martial law remains in effect. Shulyak argued that suspension of party affiliation by the military personnel and the latter’s inability to run for office are among factors that disallow holding elections. That 20% of Ukraine’s population has left Ukraine also makes holding elections difficult, as does the destruction of polling stations in the course of the war, she argued. (RM, 03.21.24)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Moldovan President Maia Sandu announced that a referendum on European Union membership will be held in October as she seeks to ensure the nation of 2.6 million maintains progress toward joining the bloc. (Bloomberg, 03.18.24)
  • Moldova's government has dismissed claims in Russian and Transdniester media that a drone strike on March 17 had destroyed a military helicopter on the ground in the breakaway region. (RFE/RL, 03.18.24)
  • Moldovan police detained a man on March 17 after two Molotov cocktails were reportedly thrown at the Russian embassy, where voting was underway for Russia's presidential election. (MT/AFP, 03.17.24)
  • Moldova's Foreign Ministry says it has declared a Russian diplomat persona non grata after Moscow's embassy opened polling stations in separatist Transdniester during the weekend's Russian presidential election. (RFE/RL, 03.19.24)
  • Kyrgyz officials said on March 17 that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan agreed on roughly another 11 kilometers of the border between the two nations after special talks were held in the Tajik town of Buston last week. (RFE/RL, 03.18.24)
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says the delimitation and demarcation of the border with Azerbaijan, an issue that has been a key hurdle to a peace deal between the two countries after Baku retook control over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year, has begun. (RFE/RL, 03.19.24)
  • South Ossetia, a breakaway region in Georgia, has discussed its possible inclusion into Russia with Moscow, Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing South Ossetia's parliament speaker on March 17. (Reuters, 03.17.24)
  • Kazakh officials have confirmed the conviction of a nephew of former President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who lost his influence on the country's political scene after deadly, unprecedented anti-government protests in January 2022. Samat Abish was convicted of abuse of power and handed a suspended sentence of eight years in late February. (RFE/RL, 03.20.24)


IV. Quotable and notable

  •  No significant developments.



  1.  As many as 6,200 tickets had been sold to the Piknik rock band’s concert, which was to take place in the hall that night, according to Meduza.

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

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

Slider photo by shared under a Creative Commons 4.0 license.