Russia in Review, March 22-29, 2024

5 Things to Know

  1. The March 22 attack on Crocus City Hall has become the fourth deadliest attack by non-state actors on Russian civilians since Putin’s ascent to the Kremlin in 2000RM’s research indicates. As of March 29, 143 people were reported to have died as a result of that attack outside Moscow, with more than 380 injured. Four individuals—who are believed to be Tajik supporters of the Islamic State’s Khorasan branch (ISIS-K)— were apprehended for executing the attack. At least seven other individuals have been apprehended on charges of assisting the attackers. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, with the U.S. and several of its allies describing the claim as plausible, but Russian leaders have accused Ukrainian and Western special services of facilitating the attack. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly denied these claims, as did their Western counterparts. 
  2. In the past month, Ukrainian armed forces (ZSU) have regained zero square miles of their country’s territory, while Russian forces have captured 27 square miles, according to the March 26 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. ISW estimates that Russian forces have seized 505 square kilometers (195 square miles) of territory since launching offensive operations in October 2023. In spite of the Russian gains, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CBS that ZSU forces had managed to hold off Russian advances through the worst of the winter months “when we had a big deficit of artillery ammunition, different kinds of weapons.”
  3. Commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces Oleksandr Syrskyi has announced that these forces’ General Staff has revised down the ZSU top brass’ previous estimate that 500,000 Ukrainians need to be mobilized. Syrskyi’s predecessor Valerii Zaluzhnyi and Zelenskyy were reported to have locked horns over whether half a million should be enlisted in what was bound to become an unpopular measure, and this disagreement contributed to the former’s dismissal by the latter.
  4. House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Michael McCaul expects the lower chamber’s Speaker Mike Johnson to bring the Ukrainian military aid bill to the floor after Easter, according to a March 24 report by Politico. Johnson has privately told people he would make sure the House moves to assist Ukraine, a step that many members of his party oppose, according to NYT. On March 28, Zelenskyy personally appealed to Johnson to help deliver the “critically important" aid. When asked if Ukraine would lose without American support, Zelenskyy replied, “It’s true.” Meanwhile, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. C.Q. Brown has signaled that the U.S. may be becoming amenable to supplying long-range versions of ATACMS missiles to Ukraine, according to Defense One.
  5. Russian businesses are seeking guarantees from the Kremlin that they won’t face asset seizures amid a growing list of cases where assets owned by local tycoons for decades are being nationalized, Bloomberg reports. Prosecutors filed at least 55 cases seeking to nationalize assets since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, according to this business news agency. The latest seizure was reported by Kommersant on March 28. This daily reported that the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has moved to nationalize shares of the country’s largest pasta manufacturer, Makfa JSC.  


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Countries’ 2022 civilian plutonium declarations have been submitted to the IAEA. Russia (INFCIRC/549/Add.9-25) reported owning 64.5 tons of civilian plutonium, an increase of 1 ton from 2021. The United States in its 2022 report (INFCIRC/549/Add.6-25) declared 49.2 tons of separated plutonium. The total amount of plutonium declared as civilian was about 370 tons, an increase of about 7 tons since the end of 2021. Only about 140 tons of this material are under international (IAEA or Euratom) safeguards. (IPFM, 03.25.24)
  • For Bellona’s review events in the field of nuclear and radiation safety relating to Russia and Ukraine in February, click here.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution to extend a panel of experts that has reported on North Korea’s development of its nuclear arsenal for 15 years, underscoring the increasingly close ties between Moscow and Pyongyang. Reports by the panel of experts inform decisions on international sanctions established by the Security Council in a series of resolutions aimed at barring North Korea from developing into a nuclear-armed state. (Bloomberg, 03.28.24)
  • Russia has started supplying oil directly to North Korea in defiance of U.N. sanctions, further cementing ties between the two authoritarian regimes and dealing a new blow to international efforts to contain Pyongyang. At least five North Korean tankers traveled this month to collect oil products from Vostochny Port in Russia’s Far East, according to satellite images shared with FT by RUSI. (FT, 03.27.24)
    • On the morning of March 6, a Russian tug pushed the North Korean-flagged Paek Yang San 1 into a small oil facility nestled in the corner of the container terminal at the Vostochny port in Russia, situated less than 20 kilometers southeast of the port-city of Nakhodka, in Russia's Far East. Several days later, the Paek Yang San 1 returned to the North Korean port of Chongjin, where it berthed at a facility often used to offload refined petroleum procured in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions – originally imposed in response to Pyongyang’s ongoing nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests. Less than two weeks later, on March 26, the Paek Yang San 1 was back at Vostochny port and anchored at the same oil facility it had visited 20 days earlier. (RUSI, 03.26.24)
  • A delegation of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), led by Sergei Naryshkin, visited North Korea this week and discussed boosting cooperation against spying. (Reuters, 03.28.24)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • Russia and Ukraine said March 29 that they have exchanged the bodies of 150 fallen soldiers, the third publicly known exchange between the two warring sides so far this year. (MT/AFP, 03.29.24)
  • The U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine released its 38th report on the human rights situation in Ukraine on March 26. Nearly all of the POWs that HRMMU interviewed detailed how they were tortured by Russian forces with beatings and electric shocks and threatened with execution, and over half of the interviewees experienced sexual violence. (ISW, 03.27.24)
  • For military strikes on civilian targets see the next section.

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 27 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 0 square miles, according to the March 26 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 03.26.24)
    • ISW assesses that Russian forces have seized 505 square kilometers (195 square miles) of territory since launching offensive operations in October 2023, and Russian forces gained almost 100 more square kilometers of territory (39 square miles) between Jan. 1 and March 28, 2024, than in the last three months of 2023. (ISW, 03.28.24)
  • On the night of March 23, Ukrainian forces struck a Black Sea Fleet communications center in Sevastopol, Crimea, and reportedly struck an oil depot and at least partially damaged two BSF landing ships, Yamal and Azov. (ISW, 03.24.24)
  • On March 25, nine people including a teenage girl were wounded after Ukrainian air defense systems downed two Russian missiles over Kyiv, sending metal debris crashing to the ground. (AFP, 03.25.24)
  • On March 25, Kyiv Post’s sources within the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) have confirmed that two ballistic missiles were launched from Russian-occupied Crimea toward Kyiv and were aimed at the SBU offices. (Kyiv Post, 03.25.24)
  • On March 27, one person was injured by falling debris and buildings were damaged in Belgorod as Russian forces intercepted Ukrainian missiles. Russian forces shot down 18 Ukrainian missiles approaching the Belgorod region in the early hours of that day, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. (RFE/RL, 03.27.24)
  • On March 27, one woman was killed and four others wounded in Russian attacks on eastern and southern Ukraine, officials said. (MT/AFP, 03.27.24)
  • On the night of March 28, large-scale Russian bombing damaged at least three energy stations in Ukraine, leaving parts of the country without power as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urgently appealed to the Republican leadership in Congress. Ukraine's air force said 84 of 99 targets were shot down, but Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, posting on social media, said the Russian strikes damaged energy assets in six regions. In some areas, that required emergency shutdowns.(WP, 03.29.24)
  • On March 28, a Russian Su-35 fighter jet crashed near Sevastopol. (RFE/RL, 03.28.24)
  • Ukraine’s new Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said he plans to make more changes in military leadership and general staff to bring in more officers who’ve gained experience during Russia’s invasion. (Bloomberg, 03.29.24)
  • On March 29, Kyiv said that Russia's military had fired nearly 100 drones and missiles at Ukraine overnight in a barrage that damaged three power stations. Russian attacks targeted 10 regions across the country, damaging power stations and homes, as well as wounding several people. (MT/AFP, 03.29.24)
  • On March 29, a man was killed when a Ukrainian drone crashed in the city of Belgorod, regional authorities said. (MT/AFP, 03.29.24)
  • As of March 29, Media Zone and BBC confirmed the deaths of 49,281 Russian military personnel in the war against Ukraine. (Media Zone, 03.29.24)
  • The continued degradation of Ukraine’s air defense umbrella provides one of the most immediate avenues through which Russian forces could generate non-linear operational impacts. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that Russian forces launched 190 missiles of various types, 140 Shahed drones and 700 glide bombs at targets in Ukraine between March 18 and 24. (ISW, 03.28.24)
  • Zelenskyy said that with spring approaching, Ukraine's forces had managed to hold off Russian advances through the worst of the winter months. "We have stabilized the situation. It is better than it used to be two or three months ago when we had a big deficit of artillery ammunition, different kinds of weapons," he said, "We totally didn't see the big, huge counteroffensive from Russia... They didn't have success." (CBS, 03.28.24)
  • Syrskyi has reported that following an audit of military units, Ukraine's General Staff has revised the figure regarding the issue of "enlisting 500,000 Ukrainians" downward, though he gave no exact number for the Armed Forces' needs. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.29.24)
  • Zelenskyy has dismissed Oleksiy Danilov from the post of secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. Zelenskyy appointed Oleksandr Lytvynenko, the current head of Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence Service, as Danilov’s replacement. Zelenskyy also appointed Oleh Ivashchenko, who held the position of deputy head of Ukraine's military intelligence agency, as the new head of the Foreign Intelligence Service. Danilov was then appointed Ukraine’s ambassador to Moldova. (Meduza, 03.26.24, Ukrainska Pravda, 03.28.24)
  • Russia has apparently fielded another low-cost glide weapon. Imagery showing debris of a previously unseen Russian system, referred to as a Universal Interspecific Gliding Munition (UMPB), circulated on social media in early March 2024. (IISS, 03.22.24)
  • Separate investigations conducted by Western media outlets have found that Russian forces may be using Starlink terminals in Ukraine. CNN reported on March 26 that frontline Ukrainian troops have increasingly observed Russian forces using Starlink devices despite U.S. sanctions prohibiting Russia’s use of Starlink. Bloomberg reported on March 26 that its own investigation determined that there are “wide-spanning” examples of unspecified actors trading and selling Starlink kits illegally on the black market. (ISW, 03.26.24)

Military aid to Ukraine: 

  • House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) expects Speaker Mike Johnson to bring the Ukraine aid bill to the floor after Easter, despite the risk that it could drive support for a vote to oust him from leadership. There’s a chance the Louisiana Republican could be ousted from his speakership thanks to a motion Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed last week to remove him from his post after he leaned on Democratic support to pass a $1.2 trillion government funding deal. (Politico, 03.24.14)
    • Johnson has privately told people he would make sure the House moves to assist Ukraine, a step that many members of his party oppose. In a recent impassioned monologue, Johnson explained why continued American aid to Kyiv was, in his view, vital. He invoked his political roots as a Reagan Republican, denounced President Vladimir Putin of Russia as a ''madman'' and conceded the issue had forced him to walk a ''delicate political tightrope.”  “We’re going to do our job,” he said. (NYT, 03.26.24, NYT, 03.25.24)
    • On March 28, Zelenskyy personally appealed to Johnson to help deliver "critically important" military aid to Kyiv to help it fend off escalating Russian attacks. Zelenskyy said he briefed Johnson on the battlefield situation, specifically the "dramatic increase in Russia's air terror" in a phone call. He told Johnson that in the past week Ukrainian cities and communities had been hit by 190 rockets, 140 Shahed drones and 700 anti-aircraft missiles. He said what's needed most are American Patriot missile defense systems, and more artillery. "Let's be honest, the money which is allocated by the Congress, by the administration, in the majority of cases, 80% of this money — well, at least more than 75% — stays in the U.S,” he said. When asked if Ukraine would lose without American support, Zelenskyy replied, “It’s true.” (RFE/RL, 03.28.24, CBS, 03.28.24, Washington Examiner, 03.29.24)
    • Ukraine has been asking the United States for long-range ATACMS missiles since 2021, and the White House has consistently resisted, at least publicly. But the tide may be turning. On March 28, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. C.Q. Brown, told reporters that “the risk of escalation is not as high as maybe it was at the beginning.” (Defense One, 03.28.24)
      • Syrskyi on March 28 held a conversation with Brown, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. "During the conversation, the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the coming months were discussed," the statement said. (, 03.29.24)
  • The U.S. is in talks to ramp up purchases of explosives from Turkey to boost production of artillery shells as allies scramble to ship badly needed ammunition to Ukraine. Turkish supplies of trinitrotoluene, known as TNT, and nitroguanidine, which is used as a propellant, would be crucial in the production of NATO-standard 155mm caliber ammunition — potentially tripling production, according to officials familiar with the discussions. Turkey is already on track to becoming the biggest seller of the artillery shells to the U.S. as early as this year. (Bloomberg, 03.27.24)
    • U.S. and Turkish officials discussed improving security and energy ties in Ankara, as the longtime NATO allies seek to rebuild a relationship that’s been tested by the wars in Ukraine and Syria “Energy, energy security and cooperation possibilities were discussed within the strategic framework between Turkey and the U.S.,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a post on X. (Bloomberg, 03.29.24)
  • Russia has boosted its imports of an explosive compound critical to the production of artillery ammunition, including from companies based in the U.S. and other Western countries and allies, despite international sanctions meant to choke Moscow's wartime production, according to trade data. Russian imports of nitrocellulose, a highly flammable cotton product central to gunpowder and rocket propellant manufacture, surged 70% in 2022, the first year of Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and midway through 2023 had amounted to 3,039 tons of the product, nearly double the 2021 level. (WSJ, 03.29.24)
  • Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said his government doubled its commitment in a Czech-led initiative to buy hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds for Ukraine. The Czech plan involves procuring ammunition outside the European Union and delivery of 800,000 shells to the Ukrainian front. (Bloomberg, 03.27.24)
  • France is putting pressure on its defense industry to accelerate production of equipment for Ukraine, with the government threatening to impose its authority on companies it believes are too slow. (Bloomberg, 03.27.24)
  • EU top diplomat Josep Borrell “is expected to present a proposal for joint procurement initiatives (lethal and non-lethal) by April 2024.” Borrell will also “further intensify efforts” to broker a deal on the next tranche of €500 million within the European Peace Facility, which Hungary is blocking. (Politico,  03.28.24)

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

  • The U.S. and U.K. are reviewing more than $20 billion of cryptocurrency transactions that passed through a Russia-based virtual exchange, according to people familiar with the matter, as part of allied efforts to crack down on the sanctions evasion that’s supporting Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 03.28.24)
  • Speaker Mike Johnson has pondered imposing new sanctions against Russia. And he has debated how the money should be structured — straight assistance versus a loan — and whether it should be exclusively for lethal aid, a type of assistance that is more widely supported by his conference, or also include nonmilitary assistance. (NYT, 03.25.24)
  • Latvian authorities have arrested and plan to extradite to the U.S. local man Oleg Chistyakov over his work for a Kansas-based company in the alleged smuggling of avionics equipment through third countries destined for Russia, in violation of U.S. export controls, the Justice Department said. (Bloomberg, 03.28.24)
  • The EU must wean itself off Russian nuclear fuel “as fast as possible,” Belgian’s prime minister Alexander De has said, to stop a renaissance in Europe’s interest for the low-carbon energy inflating Moscow’s war chest. (FT, 03.24.24)
  • A company based in the West African nation of Gabon imported nearly $1.5 billion worth of aircraft parts to Russia last year despite Western sanctions. (MT/AFP, 03.28.24)
  • Russia has extended restrictions on money transfers abroad for another six months, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) announced March 29. Banks from “unfriendly” countries are limited to transfers in Russian rubles within Russian banks, according to the CBR’s statement. The transfer ban does not apply to foreign companies under the control of Russian citizens or entities. (MT/AFP, 03.29.24)
  • Yandex NV has extended through April the timeframe for completing the first stage of a $5.2 billion deal to sell its Russian business, the Dutch-based company said in a statement. (Bloomberg, 03.28.24)
  • The first part of a complex sequence of deals to repatriate Raiffeisen Bank International AG capital stranded in Russia began on March 27, with the transfer of shares in an Austrian construction company owned by sanctioned oligarch Oleg Deripaska. (Bloomberg, 03.27.24)
  • Armenian banks on March 29 said they would stop processing transactions made by Russian Mir payment cards due to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 03.29.24)

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

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • No significant developments.

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

  • Russia has no plans to attack any NATO country, Putin said on March 28, but he warned that Moscow's forces could target NATO bases if they host F-16 fighter jets flying combat sorties in Ukraine. "We have no aggressive intentions toward [NATO] states," Putin told air force pilots at a facility in the Tver region northwest of Moscow, according to a Kremlin transcript. He said it would be "complete nonsense" to suggest that Russia would attack countries such as Poland, the Baltic states and the Czech Republic, adding: "Just nonsense, another way to cheat their population and force them to allocate additional resources." (RFE/RL, 03.28.24)
  • Romania has found drone fragments on farmland near its border with Ukraine after recent Russian air attacks, adding to concerns that Kremlin troops may inflict damage on the territory of a NATO member. (Bloomberg, 03.29.24)
  • Latvia’s Edgars Rinkēvičs and Estonian President Alar Karis have urged other European countries to do more to prepare for a possible armed confrontation with Russia by looking at everything from conscription and a special defense tax to significantly increasing military spending. (FT, 03.25.24)
  • Leading German historians have condemned Chancellor Olaf Scholz over his party’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, deepening a dispute over left-wing calls for negotiations with Moscow. The historians include Heinrich August Winkler, one of the country’s most respected academics and an SPD member for more than 60 years. The letter’s four other signatories are also party members. (FT, 03.28.24)
  • The NATO-Ukraine Council met on March 28 following recent Russian airstrikes on Ukraine. Allies strongly condemned the escalation in Russian air strikes and reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen Ukraine’s defenses. (, 03.28.24) 
  • The Polish commander of Eurocorps, a multinational NATO-EU battlegroup based in France, has been dismissed and recalled to Warsaw to face a counter-intelligence investigation. The Polish defense ministry said the probe was to look at “the personal security clearance” of Lt. Gen. Jarosław Gromadziński and gather new information about him. The Polish commander was recently also involved in overseeing the training of Ukrainian soldiers in Germany. Neither Gromadziński nor the Defense Ministry suggested the counter-intelligence probe had any link to Russia. (FT, 03.28.24, Newsweek, 03.28.24)
  • In an interview aired on March 28, Zelenskyy warned that Putin's war could spread to NATO territory. "For him, we are a satellite of Russian Federation. At the moment, it's us, then Kazakhstan, then Baltic states, then Poland, then Germany. At least half of Germany," he said. (CBS, 03.28.24)
  • U.S. claims to a swath of mineral-rich seabed are being challenged by China and Russia because Washington has failed to ratify a treaty that governs access to resources in international waters. Chinese and Russian diplomats said last week that a U.S. claim to an extended area of seabed was unacceptable given its position on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. (FT, 03.25.24)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Russia’s central bank said it has no better options than the Chinese yuan for its reserves after two years of the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine and the subsequent seizure of its international assets. Last year, the yuan replaced the U.S. dollar as the most traded currency in Russia. (Bloomberg, 03.29.24)
  • "We believe that China and the United States should jointly address the global challenges and establish a more stable, healthy and sustainable relationship," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Harvard professor Graham Allison during their meeting in Beijing on March 26, according to Xinhua. According to Allison’s account of the meeting on the X social media platform, the two discussed “the ways in which China is seriously seeking to escape Thucydides’s Trap.” Allison also participated in a March 27 meeting of U.S. executives with Chinese President Xi Jinping. During the meeting, Xi told U.S. executives that bilateral relations can improve, according to NBC. (RM, 03.28.24)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • Putin said on March 27 in reference to F-16s that Western countries plan to supply to Ukraine: “Of course, we would see them as legitimate targets if they operate from the airfields of third countries, no matter where they are located. F-16 aircraft can also carry nuclear weapons, and we will also have to heed this while organizing our combat operations.” (, 03.27.24)
  • When asked “Do you think there are still sensible leaders or high-ranking military officers in NATO today who clearly understand that a direct clash with Russia will lead to a nuclear war, that is, to the destruction of humanity?” Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs A.V. Grushko said: “If we talk about NATO’s position, as formulated by the Secretary General, then, obviously, the prevailing point of view is about the danger of getting involved in a direct conflict with Russia and the preferability of continuing the hybrid war unleashed by the West against our country in all its forms. But the risks of such a conflict will increase exponentially if individual NATO countries try to openly enter Ukraine individually or as part of a coalition, as stated by French President E. Macron.” (, 03.21.24)
  • The U.S. “officials are even more impudent. They are openly and without hesitation waging a hybrid war against us” while “wanting to resume the strategic dialogue on armaments,” chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev wrote on X. “Not a chance. It would be the same as negotiating with Hitler about lowering the threshold of offensive weapons during the Great Patriotic War.” (Medvedev’s X account, 03.19.24)
  • “At first, I was in shock from the [March 22] terrorist attack, and then from the potential consequences. For example, a serious escalation, possibly even resorting to using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” said one Kremlin insider. “Currently, the top leadership isn’t articulating clear decisions, just reassuring citizens. There’s already an established formula: avoid making sudden moves if possible.” (Meduza, 03.26.24)


On March 22, four individuals – who are believed to be ethnic Tajik supporters of the Islamic State’s Khorasan branch (ISIS-K)[1] – attacked the Crocus City Hall outside Moscow to fire at concert-goers and set the building on fire. As of March 29, 143[2] people were reported to have died as a result of the attack and more than 380 were reported to have been injured. The attack has become the fourth deadliest attack by non-state actors on Russian civilians since Putin’s ascent to the Kremlin in 2000, RM’s research indicates. At least a dozen suspects have been apprehended. Among those arrested were all four gunmen: Dalerjon Mirzoyev, 32; Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, 30; Shamsidin Fariduni, 25; and Muhammadsobir Faizov, 19, who were intercepted in Russia’s Bryansk region as they fled toward Russia’s western borders. Also, Isroil Islomov and his two sons, Aminchon Islomov and Dilovar Islomov, have been arrested on charges of assisting the attackers, as was Alisher Kasimov and Nazrimad Lutfulloi. The organizer of the terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall may have been a dual Russian-Tajik citizen Abdullo Buriev. He has been on the radar of Turkish intelligence services as a senior ISIS associate, according Istories. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, with the U.S. and its allies describing the claim as plausible, but Russian leaders have accused Ukrainian and Western special services of facilitating the attack, without providing evidence. Ukrainian and Western officials have repeatedly denied the accusations.

  • The attack was prepared over just a month — an exceptionally short period which ensured that the operation remained secret and avoided detection. This presents the secret services with a difficult task, given how hard it is to pre-empt plans with such a short period of preparation, according to the March 25 issue of Tatiana Stanovaya’s R.Politik bulletin. (RM, 03.25.24)
  • Two men accused in the terrorist attack on a Moscow concert hall spent time in Istanbul just weeks before the assault, a senior Turkish security official said on March 26. The official did not say whether the men’s time in Turkey was believed to have any connection to the planning or preparation for the attack, but said that Turkey’s security services had assessed that the men had been radicalized before arriving in Turkey. Both men were from Tajikistan, but had been living in Russia as migrant laborers. (NYT, 03.26.24)
  • On March 6, a day before the U.S. embassy in Moscow put out a rare public alert this month about a possible extremist attack at a Russian concert venue, the local CIA station delivered a private warning to Russian officials that included at least one additional detail: The plot in question involved an offshoot of the Islamic State known as ISIS-K. American intelligence had been tracking the group closely and believed the threat credible. The adversarial relationship between Washington and Moscow prevented U.S. officials from sharing any information about the plot beyond what was necessary. (NYT, 03.28.24)
  • On March 7, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued a security alert, warning that its personnel were “monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts.” The statement warned Americans that an attack could take place in the next 48 hours. (NYT, 03.22.24)
    • One of the U.S. officials said the warning resulted from a flow of compelling intelligence in recent months. "We have basically a steady stream of intelligence dating back to November about ISIS wanting to strike within Russia," the official said, referring to Islamic State. (WSJ, 03.23.24)
    • National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement that “the U.S. government had information about a planned terrorist attack in Moscow.” “The U.S. government also shared this information with Russian authorities in accordance with its longstanding ‘duty to warn’ policy,” she added. (Bloomberg, 03.23.24)
    • At a meeting with senior FSB officers on March 19, Putin hit out at “frankly, provocative statements” by Western officials this month warning of a possible imminent terrorist attack. “All this resembles outright blackmail and the intention to intimidate and destabilize our society,” the president said. (Bloomberg, 03.23.24)
  • On March 7, the Russian government’s Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily reported, citing FSB, that the latter “liquidated members of an Islamic State cell” in the Kaluga region who had planned an armed attack on a synagogue in Moscow. RG didn’t say how many suspected ISIS members were killed, noting that they had offered armed resistance and that guns, ammunition and bomb components were found in their house in Kaluga. (RM, 03.26.24)
  • Russian investigative opposition outlet Dossier Center reported on March 24 that Russian intelligence services were closely monitoring IS-K activities before the March 22 attack. A few days before the terrorist attack, members of Putin’s Security Council received a warning that Tajik citizens could participate in terrorist attacks on Russian territory, a source close to the Russian intelligence services told the Dossier Center. (RM, 03.25.24, ISW, 03.25.24)
  • On March 23, Putin told his nation in a televised address that the assailants had been trying to escape via Ukraine, "where according to preliminary data, a window for them to cross the state border was prepared by the Ukrainian side." Putin didn’t directly accuse Ukrainian authorities of involvement in the attack. (WP, 03.25.24, Bloomberg, 03.23.24)
    • Even his closest ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, appeared to undercut Putin’s claim that the suspects were trying to escape to Ukraine. Lukashenko told reporters that the suspects first headed for Belarus until they saw that border security had been tightened “so they turned away and went toward” Ukraine instead, the state-run Belta news service reported. Lukashenko claimed that the Russian leader had sought his neighbor’s help in cutting off the suspects’ entry to Belarus. (Bloomberg, 03.27.24, MT/AFP, 03.27.24)
  • On March 24, Dalerjon Mirzoev, Saidakram Rajabalizoda, Muhammadsobir Faizov and Faridun Shamsiddin were formally charged with committing the mass shooting at the Crocus City Hall concert venue near Moscow on March 22 that killed more than 130 people. (RFE/RL, 03.25.24)
  • On March 24, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov expressed concerns about Russian ultranationalist reactions to the Crocus City Hall attack. Kadyrov claimed that the scale of the Crocus City Hall attack is “much larger and deeper” than solely the attack itself because Russia’s enemies are trying to undermine Russia by promoting nationalism. (ISW, 03.24.24)
  • On March 24, Russian State Duma Deputy Mikhail Sheremet proposed that Russia limit the entry of migrants into Russia during the war in Ukraine and claimed that Western intelligence targets migrants to conduct terrorist attacks in Russia and destabilize Russia. (ISW, 03.24.24)
  • Tajik authorities detained nine people this week in connection with the March 22 deadly attack on a concert hall near Moscow. All nine were reportedly detained by the state security service in the Vahdat district in Dushanbe outskirts, and brought to the capital. They are allegedly also suspected of having connections with the Islamic State group, which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack. (RFE/RL, 03.29.24)
  • On March 25, during a meeting of top law-enforcement officials with Putin, Chairman of Russia’s Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin told Putin that the apprehended suspects have told investigators who ordered the attack, but he did not disclose any information on them. Bastrykin also said it has been established that 42 of the victims died of gun shots and knife wounds, while 45 died of burns and inhalation of smoke/combustion products. That leaves the cause of death to be determined in 50 victims. The causes of deaths also raise questions about fire safety standards and enforcement of these standards, which is something that Bastrykin said his committee is investigating. (RM, 03.28.24)
  • On March 25, senior Russian officials continued to call for the strictest punishment, including the death penalty, for all those found to be involved in the terrorist attack. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said: "It is more important to kill everyone involved. Everyone. Those who paid. Those who sympathized. Those who helped. Kill them all.”  (RFE/RL, 03.25.24)
  • On March 25, Putin’s spokesman refused to answer a question regarding indications that the four suspects in the deadly terrorist attack on a concert hall outside of Moscow may have been abused during and after their detention. (RFE/RL, 03.25.24)
  • “Of course, Ukraine,” Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s security council, told reporters March 26 in response to a question whether Islamic State or Ukraine was responsible. “The terrorists and those behind them — the bloody regime of Ukraine, Washington, Brussels — hope that through such terrorist attacks they will be able to split our society,” Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, said. (Bloomberg, 03.27.24)
  • On March 26, Alexander Bortnikov, the director of the FSB, claimed that the assault “was prepared by both radical Islamists themselves and, naturally, facilitated by Western special services.” Bortnikov claimed its perpetrators had been caught fleeing to Ukraine, which planned “to meet them as heroes.” (NYT, 03.26.24, FT, 03.26.24)
  • On March 26, Bortnikov emphasized in public comments that the information the United States provided was “of a general nature.” “We reacted to this information, of course, and took appropriate measures,” he said, noting that the actions the FSB took to follow up on the tip didn’t confirm it. (NYT, 03.28.24)
  • On March 27, Bloomberg reported, citing four people with close ties to the Kremlin, that there’s no evidence of involvement by Ukraine. Putin was present at discussions where officials agreed there’s no link to Kyiv, but remains determined to use the tragedy to try to rally Russians behind the war in Ukraine, according to one person with knowledge of the situation, asking not to be identified. (Bloomberg, 03.27.24)
  • On March 27, Putin claimed that the U.S. “is trying to convince its satellites and other countries of the world that according to their intelligence data, there is supposedly no Kyiv trace in the Moscow terrorist attack.” (Bloomberg, 03.27.24)
  • On March 28, Russia’s Investigative Committee detained another suspect in the case of the terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall, who, according to investigators, participated in a “terrorist financing scheme.” His name was not released. Meanwhile, having combed Telegram chats, “Important Stories” found a crypto wallet associated with ISIS’ Vilayat Khorasan, from where, after the terrorist attack, an amount equivalent to that announced during the arrest on suspicion of committing a terrorist attack in Crocus City Hall by Shamsiddin Fariduni was withdrawn. The telegram channel SHOT claims that the offices of several crypto exchanges in Moscow City are being searched as part of the investigation into the terrorist attack.(Istories, 03.29.24, Istories, 03.28.24, Media Zone 03.29.24)
  • On March 29, Russia’s Investigative Committee claimed, without providing evidence, that the individuals who carried out the March 22 attack testified that they were coordinated by a man who told them to ride toward Russia’s border with Ukraine and then collect their rewards in Kyiv. (Meduza, 03.29.24) 
  • Dossier Center and other Russian insider and opposition outlets noted that Russian law enforcement was very slow in responding to the incident and reported that security officers first arrived at Crocus City Hall an hour after the attack began, despite the fact that the Moscow Special Purpose Mobile Unit (OMON) headquarters is less than three kilometers from the hall. (ISW, 03.25.24)The police station of the Krasnogorsk district’s Pavshino micro district is 530 meters by foot away from the Crocus City Hall, according Russia’s Yandex’ map service.
  • Russian security forces are investigating a telegram chat in which “ISIS emissaries” were recruiting individuals for the terrorist attack in Moscow according to investigators, according to a head of the press service of the St. Petersburg courts, Daria Lebedeva. Immediately after his arrest for the suspected participation in the attack, Shamsuddin Fariduni said that he was listening to sermons on Telegram, and that there  the preacher’s anonymous assistant suggested that he carry out a terrorist attack. The Gray Zone telegram channel claims that Fariduni was in the chat "Rokhnamo Khuroson" ("Guide Khorasan"), where he listened to lectures by ISIS recruiter and ethnic Tajik who went by the name of Salmon Khorasani. (Istories, 03.28.24)
  • The arrests and violent interrogation of the four Tajikistani citizens suspected of carrying out the Crocus City Hall terrorist attack in Moscow last week appeared to mark the first time that Russian security agents have openly published footage of alleged terrorists being tortured. State media employees told the independent outlet Verstka that their superiors asked them to underscore the brutality with which the authorities had “dealt with” the suspects. Meanwhile, the officers themselves told journalists that they are just responding to demand from the Russian people, who supposedly want to see “blood and revenge.” (Meduza, 03.28.24)
  • Russian authorities are increasing legal pressure against migrants in Russia following recent Russian officials’ proposals for harsher measures against migrant communities in response to the March 22 Crocus City Hall attack. (ISW, 03.27.24)
  • An elderly resident of Russia’s Far Eastern Magadan region is facing up to seven years in prison after being charged with “publicly justifying terrorism” in the aftermath of the Crocus City Hall terrorist attack. (Meduza, 03.29.24)
  • Despite Russia’s international isolation over the war in Ukraine, adversaries of the Kremlin joined its allies in condemning the concert hall massacre on March 23 and calling for accountability. Statements of condolence and outrage came from around the world, including from China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, and from the U.S. government. (NYT, 03.23.24)
    • Ukraine has denied involvement in the attack, calling the assertions “absurd lies.” Russia’s speculations, the foreign ministry said, were an attempt at “discrediting Ukraine in the eyes of the international community.” (NYT, 03.23.24, FT, 03.26.24)
      • Russia knew about the preparation of a terrorist attack in Crocus since at least February 15, claimed the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of Ukraine Kirill Budanov at the Third International Forum on Strategic Communications. (Istories, 03.28.24)
      • White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on March 28 that Russia's charge of Ukrainian involvement in the attack was “nonsense and propaganda." Vice President Kamala Harris quickly rejected claims that Ukraine could be involved with the terrorist attack. “No, there is no, whatsoever, any evidence [of Ukraine involvement],” Harris said in an ABC interview on March 24. “In fact, what we know to be the case is that ISIS-K is actually by all accounts responsible for what happened.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the shooting a “heinous crime” in statement March 23. “We condemn terrorism in all of its forms and stand in solidarity with the people of Russia in grieving the loss of life from this horrific event,” Blinken said in the statement. “We send our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed and all affected by this heinous crime.” “The United States strongly condemns the heinous terrorist attack in Moscow,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a separate statement, adding that “ISIS [ISIL] is a common terrorist enemy that must be defeated everywhere.” (RFE/RL, 03.28.24, Hill, 03.24.24, Guardian, 03.23.24, Al Jazeera, 03.23.24) 
      • U.S. and European officials, as well as security and counterterrorism experts, say the failure to prevent the attack most likely resulted from a combination of factors, paramount among them the deep levels of distrust, both within the Russian security establishment and in its relations with other global intelligence agencies. (NYT, 03.28.24)
      • French President Emmanuel Macron on March 25 said France has information that a branch of Islamic State carried out the March 22 attack in a Moscow-area concert hall, warning Russia against using the attack in its war against Ukraine. France has intelligence that "it was an entity of Islamic State that planned the attack and carried it out," Macron told reporters after arriving on a trip to the French South American region of French Guiana, adding that "this particular group made several attempts [at attacks] on our own soil." (RFE/RL, 03.25.24)
      • The European Commission has rejected any suggestions that Ukraine was linked to March 22’s terrorist attack on a concert venue in Moscow and called on the Kremlin not to use it as a pretext to ramp up its war against Kyiv or to increase internal repressions in Russia. “Naturally we are concerned by the indications from representatives of the regime in Moscow who are trying to create a link between this attack and Ukraine, which we reject entirely,” said Peter Stano, Commission foreign policy spokesperson. “There is no proof whatsoever that Ukraine was in any way linked to this attack.”(FT, 03.25.24)
      • British Foreign Secretary David Cameron called the attack an act of terrorism that his government condemns in the strongest terms. “Nothing can ever justify such horrific violence,” he wrote on X, offering Britain’s “deepest sympathy.” (NYT, 03.23.24)
      • Germany’s Foreign Ministry called it “a horrific attack” that must be “investigated quickly.” The French Foreign Ministry said that “all effort has to be made to determine the causes of these heinous acts.” (NYT, 03.23.24)
        • “Isis-K is currently the biggest Islamist [terror] threat in Germany,” said Nancy Faeser, interior minister of Germany, which has foiled several Isis-K-linked plots over the past 18 months. (FT, 03.28.24)
      • Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry, said the country condemned the attack “in the strongest terms” and “considers it a blatant violation of all human standards.” (NYT, 03.23.24)
      • The foreign minister of Pakistan, Ishaq Dar, offered prayers for the victims and their families. “At this hour of national tragedy, Pakistan stands in solidarity with the people and government of the Russian Federation,” he wrote on X. (NYT, 03.23.24)
      • Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India also expressed solidarity with Russia “in this hour of grief.” (NYT, 03.23.24)
      • Russia and Mali agreed to strengthen their cooperation over counterterrorism. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to the head of the Malian junta, Colonel Assimi Goita, and the President of Congo-Brazzaville, Denis Sassou Nguesso. (MT/AFP, 03.27.24)
  • The number of Islamist-related organizations on the register of extremist organizations listed by Russian Federal Service for Financial Monitoring has declined since 2013. At the same time, hundreds of organizations have been added related to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Security experts said the expanding focus wasted resources and diverted the attention of senior leaders. The head of the Second Service, for instance, was increasingly involved in areas far afield from counterterrorism; in 2020, according to the U.S. government, he and his branch of the FSB were involved in the poisoning of Mr. Navalny(NYT, 03.28.24)
  • The FSB reported on March 29 that it has prevented a terrorist attack at a large gathering in Russia’s Stavropolsky Krai and that three suspects were apprehended. All of them are natives of Central Asia, according to the FSB. (Brief, 03.29.24)
  • Police in the Siberian republic of Tyva detained a nine-year-old girl on suspicion of urging strangers to commit acts of terrorism via text message. (MT/AFP, 03.28.24)
  • Following the terrorist attack in Moscow, a large-scale “anti-migrant” operation has begun in St. Petersburg to deport citizens of Central Asian countries, a local human rights NGO reported. (Istories, 03.29.24)

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • The attempt to penetrate sensitive computer systems run by Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) — the party of former chancellor Angela Merkel — occurred last month, but was revealed on March 22 by party officials and cyber security analysts who warned of more Russian efforts to compromise political parties across Europe. The fake email sent to CDU officials, written in German, invited addressees to an “evening meal with regional party officials” on March 1 and included a questionnaire to be filled in with personal details. “Dress code: business smart,” it read. The attempted hack was uncovered by the U.S. cyber security company Mandiant, owned by Google. (FT, 03.23.24)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • A string of attacks by Ukraine this month that have shuttered 7% of total refining capacity, Reuters calculations show, on top of unrelated maintenance. (Reuters, 03.25.24)
    • Head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) Vasily Malyuk estimates that Russia has lost 12% of its capacity for both production and refining of oil due to Ukrainian attacks. (Istories, 03.28.24)
  • How much are western sanctions targeting Russia’s petroleum-export machine really hurting Moscow? When it comes to exports of crude oil from the country’s western ports, try somewhere between 6% to 8% of the price of a barrel of crude. It’s a level that’s held reasonably steady for the past three months, aside from a spike in late February. (Bloomberg, 03.26.24)
  • Ukrainian drone strikes against oil refineries in Russia are reportedly forcing Russia to import gasoline from Belarus. Reuters reported on March 27 that Russia has significantly increased gasoline imports from Belarus in March due to unscheduled repairs at oil refineries following Ukrainian drone strikes. (ISW, 03.28.24)
  • Russia’s seaborne crude exports clawed back about half of the previous week’s losses even though there’s growing evidence that sanctions are finally starting to stymie Moscow’s oil supply chain. (Bloomberg, 03.26.24)
  • The world’s biggest oilfield services company has no plans to exit Russia. Olivier Le Peuch, chief executive of SLB, told the Financial Times the company had taken no decision on whether to follow its two biggest rivals Baker Hughes and Halliburton in selling its Russia operations and is honoring its contracts with customers.(FT, 03.25.24)
  • When a Russian fuel tanker docks east of Havana this week, it will be welcome relief for Cuban officials trying to stymie growing unrest. Some 715,000 barrels of crude are due to arrive March 29 at the port of Matanzas in Russia’s first oil shipment to Cuba in a year. (Bloomberg, 03.28.24)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • A Russian court extended the detention of Evan Gershkovich by three months, almost a year to the day since the Wall Street Journal reporter became the first U.S. journalist to be detained there on an allegation of espionage since the end of the Cold War. The Kremlin said on March 28 that discussions continued to take place over a possible prisoner exchange involving Gershkovich. The Wall Street Journal reporter’s family pledged to continue to fight for release from a Moscow prison. (NYT, 03.26.24, RFE/RL, 03.29.24, MT/AFP, 03.28.24)
    • “We will continue working every day to secure his release. We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia’s appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement on March 29. “I admire the hell out of him,” Biden said of Gershkovich as he spoke to reporters. “We’re not giving up”. (FT, 03.29.24)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russian businesses are seeking guarantees from the Kremlin that they will not face asset seizures and privatization reviews amid a growing list of cases where assets owned by local tycoons for decades are being nationalized. Russia is seeing more cases of assets owned by local tycoons since the 1990s being nationalized, prompting businesses to seek guarantees from the Kremlin that they won’t face privatization reviews. (Bloomberg, 03.29.24)
    • The Prosecutor General’s Office has moved to turn shares of the country’s largest pasta manufacturer, Makfa JSC, into state income. The Russian prosecutors maintain that this company and a dozen other enterprises, including Smak and Chelyabinskoblgaz, have been purchased with illegal funds because their beneficiaries Mikhail Yurevich and Vadim Belousov were engaged in business activities while being on state service in violation of Russian laws. (Kommersant, 03.28.24)
  • China’s Hurun Research Institute has released another Global Rich List rating. In Russia, according to Chinese researchers, six billionaires were added over the past year, which allowed it to remain in the top 10 - in seventh place with 76 billionaires. (Kommersant, 03.27.24)
  • The majority of Russians (73%) believe that things in the country are going in the right direction, but for the first time since September last year this figure stopped growing and decreased slightly (from 75% in February). The share of those who are of the opinion that the country is moving along the wrong path is 16%; another 12% found it difficult to answer the question. (Levada Center, 03.28.24)
    • The level of approval of Vladimir Putin's activities as president has not ceased to grow since last year; in March, 87% of Russians approved of his activities, 11% disapproved. (Levada Center, 03.28.24)
    • According to the open-ended question (respondents were asked to independently name several politicians whom they trust most, no prompt options were offered). The top 10 politicians have not changed since last month. In March, the level of trust in Vladimir Putin was 55% (the increase has continued since October last year), in Mikhail Mishustin - 18%. The level of trust in Sergei Lavrov is 15%, Sergei Shoigu is 7%, Sergei Sobyanin is 5%, Dmitry Medvedev and Vyacheslav Volodin are 3% each, Gennady Zyuganov, Dmitry Peskov and Leonid Slutsky are 2% each. (Levada Center, 03.28.24)
  • According to the DSM Group data, Russian pharmacies sold 3.6 million packs of antidepressants worth 2.9 billion rubles ($31.3 million) in the first 11 weeks of 2024. That’s up from 2.7 million packs sold over the same period in 2023, 3.3 million packs in 2022 and 1.8 million packs in 2021 and 2020 each. (MT/AFP, 03.27.24)
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented that at least 320 members of the press were behind bars around the globe as 2024 began. In Putin’s police state, at least 22 journalists are jailed, most for committing that most elemental of journalistic duties, speaking the truth. Two of them are American reporters: Evan Gershkovich and Alsu Kurmasheva. (NYT, 03.22.24)
  • Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) foiled an attempted arson attack earlier this month against a campaign office for Putin ahead of the 2024 presidential election, the independent news outlet Mediazona reported March 25. (MT/AFP, 03.25.24)
  • On March 27, a Russian court sentenced a man to six years in jail for online messages denouncing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Nikolai Farafonov, 35, was found guilty of "public incitement to commit terrorist acts.” (MT/AFP, 03.27.24)
  • A court in Yekaterinburg sentenced mathematician Azat Miftakhov on March 28 to four years in prison on a charge of justifying terrorism, which he and his supporters reject. Miftakhov, 31, was arrested in September immediately after he served almost six years for involvement in an arson attack against the offices of the ruling United Russia party. (RFE/RL, 03.28.24)
  • Russian police have detained at least two independent journalists on “extremism” charges in connection with a criminal case against the late opposition activist Alexei Navalny: Antonina Favorskaya and Olga Komleva. (MT/AFP, 03.28.24)
  • Lawyers for imprisoned Russian human rights defender Oleg Orlov say their client is being held in "inhumane" conditions. (RFE/RL, 03.27.24)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed that Lieutenant General Esedulla Abachev became the Leningrad Military District (LMD) Deputy Commander as the Russian military continues the formal disbandment of the Western Military District (WMD) and recreation of the LMD and Moscow Military District (MMD). (ISW, 03.25.24)
  • The Russian government has seized 15 defense companies valued at some 333 billion rubles ($3.6 billion) since last year, Russia’s Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov told the Kommersant business daily in an interview published late March 26. After Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine, Russian authorities have sought to nationalize key assets in the country’s defense industry in a bid to command greater control over ramped-up military production. (MT/AFP, 03.27.24)
  • Russian warships from the Pacific Fleet have crossed the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and entered the Red Sea, the state-run TASS news agency said, venturing into a maritime region plagued by Houthi attacks and crowded with naval vessels. (Bloomberg, 03.28.24)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • In 2023, the military courts of Russia accepted 179 criminal cases for arms trafficking — this is the highest number since at least 2014. 78 participants of Russia’s so-called special military operation were identified in these cases as accused of such trafficking. (Brief, 03.29.24)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • In a surprise move March 25, the United States abstained during a United Nations Security Council vote calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. The American abstention allowed the resolution to pass 14-0, marking the first successful cease-fire measure to proceed in the U.N.'s top decision-making body in more than five months of punishing Israeli air and ground offensives against militant group Hamas. It also underscored the widening rift between the Biden administration and Israel's wartime government, led by right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (WP, 03.26.24)
  • Latvia has declared one employee of the Russian Embassy persona non grata and expelled him from the country. At the request of the Latvian Foreign Ministry, the diplomat must leave by April 10. (RFE/RL, 03.27.24)
  • Polish security services said on March 28 they had raided a Russian spy network in cooperation with Czech intelligence, which a day earlier had busted a major Russian propaganda network. (MT/AFP, 03.28.24, MT/AFP, 03.27.24)
  • European officials have accused an oligarch close to Putin of bribing EU lawmakers as part of a Russian influence operation in the run-up to bloc-wide elections in June. Viktor Medvedchuk, who is godfather to one of the Russian president’s daughters, was allegedly running a scheme that was paying politicians to peddle Kremlin propaganda, according to Belgian and Czech authorities.  Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told parliament on Thursday that “Russia had approached EU parliamentarians and also paid them to promote Russian propaganda here”, a day after Czech authorities sanctioned Medvedchuk and his close associate Artem Marchevskiy. (FT, 03.29.24, RFE/RL, 03.28.24)


  • Ukraine’s economy grew 5.3% last year. It was more resilient than expected in 2023, with robust growth outturns, continued sharp disinflation, and the maintenance of adequate reserves. However, headwinds are re-emerging in 2024, with growth expected to soften to 3-4 % due to uncertainty about the ongoing war and as supply constraints become more binding. Ukraine’s GDP is expected to grow by 6.5% in 2025, by 5% in 2026 and by 4.5% in 2027.  (IMF, 03.21.24, Bloomberg, 03.28.24)
  • India’s close ties with Russia are based on a “Soviet legacy” that is “evaporating,” Ukraine’s foreign minister warned as he urged New Delhi to stand by Kyiv. On a visit to India, the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba also said it should be concerned about Russia’s deepening ties with China, which is locked in a tense border conflict with its southern neighbor India. (FT, 03.29.24)
  • A Franco-Polish push to expand curbs on Ukrainian food imports into the EU risks prolonging Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to Kyiv’s agriculture minister. Mykola Solskyi told the Financial Times that the additional restrictions, subject of a fierce debate within the bloc and designed to placate angry farmers, would hit Ukraine’s revenues and “increase the chances that the war will drag on.” (FT, 03.26.24)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko this week threatened Poland and other NATO countries bordering Russia and Belarus by asking his military commanders how they were preparing for a potential conflict in the region. Lukashenko also discussed a possible attack on the Suwałki Gap in the presence of the top brass. "They shouldn’t be behaving like this. But now you will have to confront the Baltic republics... And you will take part of Poland," Lukashenko said upon learning the width of the Gap (42 kilometers as the crow flies). Lukashenko then asked the military commander whether he can hold the territory with "his troops." (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.26.24, (FT, 03.28.24)
  • Senior Russian officials, such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, are intensifying their victim-blaming of Armenian leadership as Armenia continues to distance itself from security relations with Russia after the Kremlin abandoned Armenia to its fate as it lost Nagorno-Karabakh. (ISW, 03.28.24)
  • Two men were wounded by a grenade they detonated as they attempted to storm a police station in Armenia's capital on March 24, the Interior Ministry of the Caucasus country said. The two men were among three who attempted to break into the administrative building of the Nor Nork police precinct of Yerevan at around 5 p.m. local time, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The men detonated a grenade during the attempt to penetrate the building, the ministry said, adding that the two injured men, described as a 52-year-old and a 56-year-old, were taken to the hospital with shrapnel wounds in their legs. (RFE/RL, 03.25.24)
  • The Moldovan Constitutional Court reversed a ruling banning the Kremlin-affiliated Shor Party on March 26, which will likely allow pro-Russian Moldovan actors to reconsolidate around the Shor Party and reverse the impacts of the previous Moldovan ban on the party. Ilan Shor is a U.S.-sanctioned, pro-Kremlin Moldovan politician who founded the Shor Party and whom Moldovan authorities convicted in absentia for massive fraud and money laundering. (ISW, 03.26.24)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • Joe Biden said: “You know how many billionaires there are in America?  There’s now a thousand billionaires.  You know what their average tax they pay — federal tax?  8.2%.   Well, guess what?  If they just paid 25% — it’s not the highest bracket by a longshot — 25% — do you know what that would do?  That would raise $40- — $400 billion over the next 10 years.  Imagine what we could do with that.  ...  We could do so many things — consequential — including finally making sure that we take care of Ukraine from that butcher Putin.” (, 03.26.24)
  • “Putin will take more and more Americans,” said Fiona Hill, who sat across the table from Russia’s president as the top Russia adviser for President Trump. “He has figured out he can exploit our domestic preoccupations and anxieties.” (WSJ, 03.27.24)


[1] ISIS’ operations in Russia date back to at least in 2015 when Dargin warlord Rustam Asildarov pledged allegiance to this terrorist organization, which then established its Caucasus vilayat in 2015, taking responsibility for an attack on civilians in Dagestan that year. The Caucasus vilayat has been mostly manned by natives of the North Caucasus. In contrast, the Khorasan vilayat was partially manned by jihadists from Central Asia, having accepted many fighters from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of the Russian embassy in Kabul in 2022.   

[2] Colonel of the 3rd separate special forces brigade of Russia’s military intelligence Timur Myasnikov died as a result of a terrorist attack in Crocus City Hall. (Istories, 03.29.29)


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.

Photo by shared under a Creative Commons 4.0 license.