Russia in Review, March 8-15, 2024

7 Things to Know

  1. Vladimir Putin has continued to play both good and bad cop in Russia’s nuclear messaging to the U.S. and its allies in an interview with Russian TV this week. On one hand, Putin sought to assure his audiences in the March 13 interview that he doesn’t think a nuclear war is imminent, if only because Americans are not ready. On the other hand, however, in the course of the interview, Putin at least twice went beyond the description of conditions under which Russia would initiate the use of nuclear weapons that can be found in the 2020 Basic Principles of State Policy on Nuclear Deterrence and 2014 Military Doctrine. First, when asked “When there were tough moments at the front in connection with Kharkov or Kherson, were you thinking of tactical nuclear weapons?”, Putin said: “The decision to withdraw troops from Kherson ... did not mean at all that our front was falling apart there.” Second, when asked whether the “idea” of using nuclear weapons has ever occurred to him, Putin said: “We have our own principles; what do they say? That we are ready to use weapons, including the ones you have just mentioned, when it is about the existence of the Russian state, about harming our sovereignty and independence. We have everything spelled out in our Strategy.” However, neither the 2014 doctrine nor the 2020 principles explicitly say Russia can initiate the use of nuclear weapons when its sovereignty and independence are “harmed.”
  2. Russia hails China’s initiative calling on nuclear powers to sign a treaty prohibiting first use of nuclear weapons, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. "It is obvious for us that in a situation when the collective West has embarked on a path of non-stop escalation of the international situation and is disregarding the risks stemming from a direct armed confrontation between nuclear powers, such ideas present some common sense," he said of the proposal. In late February, Director-General of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Department of Arms Control Sun Xiaobo called on nuclear powers to sign a treaty agreeing to not use nuclear weapons first. 
  3. “Without supplemental assistance [from the U.S. and its allies] in 2024, you’re going to see more Avdiivkas,” CIA director William Burns predicted. “And that, it seems to me, would be a massive and historic mistake for the United States,” Burns was quoted by NYT as saying when co-presenting the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community in the Congress this week. Burns was echoed by a senior U.S. official, who told WP, “This doesn’t go well for Ukraine over time without a supplemental, and it could lead to potential collapse.” “There is no future that is bright for Ukraine without a supplemental and continued U.S. support,” the official said. 
  4. In the past month, Russian forces have gained 65 square miles of Ukrainian territory while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile, according to the March 13 issue of the Belfer Center’s Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. Moscow has made continual incremental battlefield gains since late 2023, according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The recent Russian gains included the village of Nevelske in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine, according to Russia’s MoD. However, it was the Russian armed forces that went on defensive in the Belgorod and Kursk regions this week when the Ukraine-based Russian volunteer units tried to seize territories in these two Russian provinces that border Ukraine. Russia’s MoD and FSB claimed to have fought off the incursions, according to Meduza.
  5. Russia can likely sustain its war effort for two to five more years at the current scaleWSJ cited a senior NATO official as estimating. At least two European military-intelligence agencies also believe Russia can produce enough weapons to last several more years, according to this newspaper. Russia is producing about 250,000 artillery munitions per month, or about 3 million a year, according to NATO’s estimate cited by CNN. In addition, each month, Russia is producing between 115 to 130 long-range missiles, and 300 to 350 one-way attack drones based on an Iranian model provided by Tehran, according to the estimate.
  6. There are multiple controversies in a new draft of Ukraine’s mobilization law, which seeks to update the country’s legal framework ahead of an anticipated recruitment wave, which could cost about $20.8 billion and in which up to 500,000 people could be drafted, according to FT. The most controversial aspect of the planned changes is the introduction of a so-called economic reserve system, which would exempt men considered critical to the economy, according to FT. Under the new system, these exempted individuals will instead have to contribute to the war effort financially. A February survey by Info Sapiens found that 48% of Ukraine’s men were not prepared to fight, while last year saw almost 1,300 Ukrainians sentenced for evading military service, according to FT and Ukrainska Pravda, respectively. The combat personnel shortage has become so acute that the Ukrainian parliament is considering a bill that would allow prison inmates to join the war effort, according to Bloomberg.
  7. Over 80% of the world, if measured by population, and 40% by GDP, is not enforcing sanctions on Russia, according toThe Economist. 


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • “Terrorists will maintain an interest in conducting attacks using chemical, biological and radioactive materials against U.S. persons, allies and interests worldwide. Terrorists from diverse ideological backgrounds continue to circulate instructions of varied credibility for the procurement or production of toxic or radioactive weapons using widely available materials in social media and online fora,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.” (, 03.11.24)
  • Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has regained access to its only remaining back-up power line, following an outage of more than three weeks that once again underlined persistent nuclear safety and security risks facing the site, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi of IAEA said. The ZNPP’s connection to the 330 kilovolt (kV) off-site power line was restored shortly after 6pm local time on March 14.  IAEA did not name the accomplice while ZNPP’s Russia-installed director Yuri Chenichuk accused the Ukrainian armed forces of dropping an explosive meters away from  diesel fuel tanks. Reuters was unable to immediately verify battlefield reports from either side. (IAEA, 03.15.24, Kommersant, 03.15.24, Reuters , 03.14.24)
  • On March 13, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement about Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), thanking IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi for his efforts to promote nuclear safety and his visits to Russia and to the plant itself, as well as the stationing of IAEA experts there. But Russia’s Permanent Representative to the Vienna-based international organizations Mikhail Ulyanov also criticized a recent IAEA resolution that "expresses serious concern about the unstable state of nuclear safety and security at the ZNPP.” (WNN, 03.13.24)
  • If EU countries paid a total of €280 million for Russian nuclear fuel in 2022, that more than doubled to €686 million for last year. (Bellona, 03.15.24)
  • The NNSA’s FY 2025 Budget request of $25 billion is an increase of $865 million, or 3.6%, over the FY 2024 enacted level. It builds on years-long bipartisan efforts to modernize and invest in capabilities that underpin U.S. strategic deterrence. (NNSA, 03.12.24)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • A Russian cargo ship has returned to a North Korean port that allegedly facilitates arms transfers for use against Ukraine, according to NK Pro analysis of satellite imagery, likely signaling a restart of the shipping operation after a one-month pause. Planet Labs imagery shows a ship matching the size and appearance of the Russia-flagged Lady R docked at Pier 1 of North Korea’s Rason Port. (NKNews, 03.12.24)
  • A Russian cargo plane under U.S. sanctions touched down in Pyongyang this week for an unannounced trip that raised concerns about illegal arms transfers, a specialist news service reported. The Ilyushin 76TD plane linked to Russia’s military departed from Shanghai on March 11 and made a sharp turn toward North Korea, NK News reported. The plane departed for Tianjin, southeast of Beijing and then left for Moscow on March 12, it said. (Bloomberg, 03.13.24)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • G-7 nations have escalated warnings to Iran over military co-operation with Russia, including the transfer of advanced rockets, saying they are preparing to hit Tehran with a new wave of sanctions. Washington has not confirmed that short-range ballistic missiles have been shipped from Iran to Moscow, but a senior administration official said that negotiations between Russia and Iran over the shipments had been “actively advancing.” (FT, 03.15.24)
  • Iran sent Russia at least 300,000 artillery shells last year — “probably more than that,” a Western official said — and North Korea provided at least 6,700 containers of ammunition carrying millions of shells. (CNN, 03.11.24)
  • Russia, China and Iran are holding the joint Maritime Security Belt – 2024 naval exercise in the Gulf of Oman between March 11–15. (ISW, 03.11.24)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • The bodies of 100 fallen Ukrainian soldiers were returned to Ukraine, the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War—a Ukrainian government agency—reported on March 15. During the last exchange, Ukraine returned the bodies of 58 soldiers and Russia 61, the agency said. Russia took the bodies of 69 dead soldiers, State Duma deputy from Chechnya Shamsail Saraliev told RBC. (Current Time, 03.15.24, Media Zona, 03.15.24)
  • A Ukrainian court has convicted 15 Russian soldiers of war crimes in absentia two years after they crammed an entire village into a school basement. The harsh conditions forced upon 368 victims, including 69 children, in the Ukrainian village of Yahidne north of Kyiv, led to the deaths of 17 civilians. (FT, 03.11.24)
  • Ukrainian prisoners of war are being tortured for months in Russian captivity, according to a report by the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. (, 03.15.24)
  • Joe Biden’s FY 2025 Budget Request includes $482 million requested for Ukraine. This sum includes $250 million for economic and development assistance; $95 million in security-sector assistance for FMF for immediate and medium-term capabilities to help Ukraine win the war against Russian aggression; $71 million for health programs; and $66 million for other security assistance activities such as supporting civilian security, rule of law and for demining and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (, 03.11.24)
  • Ukraine plans to submit a proposal as early as next week to enact a series of reforms and investments required to unlock most of the €50 billion ($54.6 billion) aid package recently pledged by the European Union, according to people familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)
  • The Ukraine Development Fund is on track to secure at least $500 million from countries, development banks and other grant providers, along with $2 billion from private investors. (Bloomberg, 03.14.24)
  • The U.N.’s Human Development Index (HDI) fell in 2020 for the first time since its launch in 1990. It fell again in 2021. The HDI is one of the most widely used measures of countries’ development, after GDP. Living standards in Ukraine and Russia have dropped: the countries fell by 23 and four places respectively between 2021 and 2022. (The Economist, 03.14.24)
  • For military strikes on civilian targets see the next section.

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

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 65 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile, according to the March 13 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 03.13.24)
  • On the night of March 8-9, Ukrainian forces claimed to have "destroyed or heavily damaged" one of Russia's prized but scarce A-50 spy planes in Taganrog. Russia's Defense Ministry said on March 9 that its air defenses had intercepted 47 Ukrainian drones over Russian territory overnight, including 41 over the southwestern Rostov region. (Newsweek, 03.10.24)
  • On March 9, Russian shelling and strikes on Ukraine's Kherson region killed one person and wounded several, with at least two civilians also killed in attacks on the center and east of the country, Kyiv said. (MT/AFP, 03.10.24)
  • On March 10, Russian shelling of towns in eastern Ukraine killed three people, Ukrainian officials said, while a strike on a residential building in the town of Myrnohrad wounded a dozen people. (MT/AFP, 03.10.24)
  • On March 10, Ukrainian shelling of a Russian border village in the western Kursk region killed one woman. (MT/AFP, 03.10.24)
  • On March 10, Russian authorities said a Ukrainian drone was shot down in the Leningrad region near the village of Fornosovo after operations were suspended at the nearby Pulkovo airport in St. Petersburg. (RFE/RL, 03.10.24)
  • On March 11, Ukrainian air defenses shot down 15 out of the 25 drones that Russia launched at Ukraine's territory, the military said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. (RFE/RL, 03.11.24)
  • On March 11, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine is digging trenches and erecting barriers along the 2,000 kilometer (1,200 mile) front. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)
  • On the night of March 11-12, Ukraine mounted one of the most wide-ranging attacks inside Russia in months, hitting energy sites and a major oil refinery in drone strikes on at least seven regions. Some drones targeted the Lukoil oil refinery in Nizhny Novgorod, disrupting operations of its AVT-6 processing unit. The refinery is the fourth largest refining plant in Russia and it accounts for producing 11% of all gasoline in the country. It also produces jet fuel. The drone strikes also caused a fire at a petroleum facility in Oryol, 95 miles from the border. In contrast, a strike near Surgutneftegas PJSC’s Kirishi refinery not far from St. Petersburg didn’t cause any damage. (Istories, 03.12.24, WP, 03.12.24, Bloomberg, 03.12.24, FT, 03.12.24) For the impact of the missile strikes on the Russian refineries on Russia’s energy output and exports, see section “Energy exports from CIS.”
  • On March 12, a Ukrainian UAV hit the Belgorod administration building. Two women were wounded, one with shrapnel wounds, the other with a concussion. (Istories, 03.12.24)
  • On March 12, armed clashes erupted between Russian soldiers and formations supporting Ukraine near Russia’s Belgorod and Kursk regions. Fighters from the Freedom of Russia Legion, the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Siberian Battalion, who all claim to be Ukraine-based Russians battling Putin's government, released statements and video about their attacks. The Freedom of Russia Legion claimed to have captured the village of Tyotkino, but this could not be confirmed. (Meduza, 03.12.24, FT, 03.12.24, WP 03.12.24, MT/AFP, 03.12.24)
    • Putin said in an interview that the incursions and drone attacks were meant in part to disrupt presidential elections. (FT, 03.13.24)
  • On March 12, Moscow said its forces had captured the village of Nevelske in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 03.12.24)
  • On March 12, Russian air defenses intercepted a total of 25 Ukrainian drones in seven regions including Moscow, the Russian Defense Ministry said. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)
  • On March 12, four people were killed by a missile in Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine, Mayor Oleksandr Vilkul said. Another 44 people were injured, including 12 children, he said. Two people died in Sumy in a strike, while two others were killed in Myrnohrad near the eastern city of Donetsk. (Bloomberg, 03.13.24, RFE/RL, 03.12.24)
  • On the night of March 12-13, Ukrainian actors conducted large-scale drone strikes against energy infrastructure and military assets within Russia. Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) sources stated that SBU agents conducted drone strikes against oil refineries in Ryazan, Nizhny Novgorod and Leningrad oblasts and military airfields in Buturlinovka and Voronezh City, Voronezh Oblast. Drones also attacked the Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery in the Rostov region of southwestern Russia, also temporarily putting it out of commission, Rostov governor Vasily Golubev said on Telegram. (ISW, 03.13.24, WP, 03.13.24)
  • On March 13, a Ukrainian drone attack hit Rosneft PJSC’s largest oil refinery, in Ryazan, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) southeast of Moscow. The facility has a capacity of 17.1 million tons a year, or around 340,000 barrels a day. Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) was behind the attack. (Bloomberg, 03.13.24, RFE/RL, 03.13.24)
  • On March 14, clashes between Russian forces and pro-Ukraine fighters along the two countries’ border broke out for the second time in just three days. According to pro-Kremlin “war correspondents” on Telegram, pro-Ukraine “saboteurs” tried to cross into Russia’s Belgorod and Kursk regions but were repelled by Russian forces. (Meduza, 03.14.24, MT/AFP, 03.14.24)
    • On March 14, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that troops from the Special Operations Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces landed near the Russian border from Mi-8 helicopters. After the landing, the landing party headed for the village of Kozinka, Belgorod region. (Istories, 03.15.24)
  • On March 14, two people died and 17 more were wounded in western Russia's Belgorod region as the country faced widespread drone attacks for a third night in a row, officials said. Russia's Defense Ministry said 14 Ukrainian drones were destroyed. (MT/AFP, 03.14.24)
  • On March 14, Russian forces attacked Ukraine's northeastern regions of Sumy and Kharkiv with drones and a missile, causing damage to civilian infrastructure, regional officials reported. (RFE/RL, 03.14.24)
  • On the night of March 14-15, Ukrainian drones attacked the First Plant oil refinery near Kaluga. (Istories, 03.15.24)
  • On March 15, a Russian missile strike hit civilian infrastructure in the Ukrainian city of Odesa, killing at least 20 people and injuring scores of others, Ukrainian officials said. (CNN, 03.15.24)
  • On March 15, at least one person was killed and two others were injured in an attack on the Russian city of Belgorod, local authorities said. (MT/AFP, 03.15.24)
  • On March 15, a Moscow-installed official said Ukrainian shelling of the Russian-held city of Donetsk killed three children. (MT/AFP, 03.15.24)
  • Ukrainian shortages of ammunition and other war materiel resulting from delays in the provision of U.S. military assistance may be making the current Ukrainian front line more fragile than the relatively slow Russian advances in various sectors would indicate. German outlet Der Spiegel published interviews with unnamed Ukrainian commanders on March 12 who stated that almost all Ukrainian units and formations have to husband ammunition and materiel because of the overall ammunition shortage and that some Ukrainian units with limited ammunition and materiel can only hold their current positions if Russian forces do not “attack with full force.” (ISW, 03.13.24)
  • U.S. officials foresee a range of bleak scenarios in Ukraine if the military aid President Joe Biden has requested doesn't materialize, including a catastrophic breakdown of Ukrainian lines in the grimmest contingency and the likelihood of massive casualties in the best. "This doesn't go well for Ukraine over time without a supplemental, and it could lead to potential collapse," a senior U.S. official said. " Even if Ukraine holds on, what we really are saying is that we are going to leverage countless lives in order to do that." "Whether it ends in collapse or large casualties" remains a subject of internal debate, the senior official said. "But there is no future that is bright for Ukraine without a supplemental and continued U.S. support." (WP, 03.15.24)
  • "Russia can lean and lean and lean and waste human resources at a shocking rate, and so it is difficult," a second senior U.S. official said. "And so the question is, how do [Ukraine's] forces stand up, and their morale, during this time?" A senior adviser to Zelenskyy agreed there was a high likelihood of significant Russian territorial gains against Ukraine by the summer in the absence of new U.S. aid. "People don't understand how bad the front is right now," the adviser said. "The morale is low; the momentum is low. Young men are afraid they will be mobilized to die because of a lack of weapons." (WP, 03.15.24)
  • When the eastern city of Avdiivka, a Ukrainian stronghold, fell to Russian forces three weeks ago, Kyiv and its allies feared that Moscow’s troops could build on their momentum and quickly press ahead toward strategic military hubs and population centers. But after making rapid gains in the subsequent days, Russian assaults have stalled around three contested nearby villages of Berdychi, Orlivka and Tonenke. Military experts cite several factors, including terrain that does not favor offensive operations, Russian troops exhausted by months of fighting and a Ukrainian army that has committed significant forces to defending the area. (NYT, 03.09.24)
  • “This deadlock [in the war with Ukraine] plays to Russia’s strategic military advantages and is increasingly shifting the momentum in Moscow’s favor. Russia’s defense industry is significantly ramping up production of a panoply of long-range strike weapons, artillery munitions and other capabilities that will allow it to sustain a long high-intensity war if necessary. Meanwhile, Moscow has made continual incremental battlefield gains since late 2023, and is benefitting from uncertainties about the future of Western military assistance,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.” (, 03.11.24)
  • Putin told Russian TV: “They [the Ukrainian armed forces] achieved none of the goals they had set last year. What is more, our Armed Forces have fully regained the initiative now ... If we leave these people1 today, tomorrow our losses may increase many times over. Our children will have no future, because we will feel insecure, we will be a third- or fourth-class country. No one will factor us in if we cannot defend ourselves, so the consequences could be catastrophic for the Russian statehood.” (, 03.13.24)
  • Russia can likely sustain its war effort for two to five more years at the current scale, according to a senior NATO official. At least two European military-intelligence agencies also believe Russia can produce enough weapons to last several more years. (WSJ, 03.12.24)
  • Russia's air force has dramatically boosted its effectiveness in the Ukraine war with its increased use of "glide bombs," contributing to Moscow's recent battlefield successes, according to Western experts. The plentiful Soviet-era bombs, which carry up to a half-ton of explosives, have been fitted with wings and guidance systems to fly long distances with some accuracy — allowing the Russian jets that release them to operate away from Ukrainian antiaircraft systems. The most effective counter to this increasingly plentiful Russian menace, say Ukrainians, is still a long way off: the U.S.-made F-16 fighter plane. (WP, 03.11.24)
    • Twelve Ukrainian pilots are expected to be ready to fly F-16s in combat by this summer after 10 months of training in Denmark, Britain and the United States. But by the time the pilots return to Ukraine, as few as six F-16s will have been delivered out of about 45 of the fighter jets that European allies have promised. (NYT, 03.11.24)
  • For a while, the Ukrainians enjoyed a honeymoon period with their self-detonating drones that were used like homemade missiles. The weapons seemed like an effective alternative to artillery shells for striking Russian forces. Now, the bad days are starting to outweigh the good ones: electronic countermeasures have become one of the Russian military’s most formidable weapons after years of honing their capabilities. Interviews with Ukrainian soldiers, commanders and military analysts say that Russia’s jamming capabilities are straining Ukraine’s limited supplies of off-the-shelf drones and threatening to sideline a key component of Ukraine’s arsenal as the Kremlin mass produces its own fleet of drones. (NYT, 03.12.24)
  • While Ukraine has tried to shoot down 4 of every 5 missiles fired at its cities, it soon may be able to target only 1 in 5, one official said. (WP, 03.15.24)
  • Russia is on pace to manufacture 2.7 million shells, according to Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine's deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, far outstripping near-term U.S. production. (WP, 03.15.24)
  • Russia is producing about 250,000 artillery munitions per month, or about 3 million a year, according to NATO intelligence estimates of Russian defense production shared with CNN, as well as sources familiar with Western efforts to arm Ukraine. Collectively, the U.S. and Europe have the capacity to generate only about 1.2 million munitions annually to send to Kyiv, a senior European intelligence official told CNN. (CNN, 03.11.24)
  • Last year, Russia brought out at least 1,200 old tanks from storage, Michael Gjerstad, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, estimates, based on a review of satellite images before and after the start of the war. That means that, at the very most, Russia produced 330 new tanks last year, though the true figure is likely to be half that number, Gjerstad said. (WSJ, 03.11.24)
  • According to a senior NATO official, Russia is producing between 115 to 130 long-range missiles, and 300 to 350 one-way attack drones based on an Iranian model provided by Tehran, each month. Although before the war, Russia had a stockpile of thousands of long-range missiles in its arsenal, today it is hovering around 700, the official said. (CNN, 03.11.24)
  • Ukraine has allocated nearly half of its $87 billion budget for this year to defense-related expenditure, but its domestic revenues are just $46 billion, meaning it needs to cover the gap with help from international partners and by reducing its non-military spending. (FT, 03.10.24)
  • A new mobilization law — due to be put to a parliamentary vote on March 31 — seeks to update Ukraine’s legal framework ahead of an anticipated recruitment wave this year in which up to 500,000 people could be drafted. (FT, 03.13.24)
    • Ukraine’s finance ministry and army have said the new wave of mobilization will cost Ukraine about $20.8 billion in 2024. (FT, 03.13.24)
    • Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the changes is the introduction of a so-called economic reserve system, which would exempt men considered critical to the economy. Estimates suggest the fee model put forward by the parliament’s economic affairs committee would generate between $5.2 billion and $13.1 billion annually, based on calculations that up to 2 million men would be able to afford to pay the proposed $520 monthly levy. (FT, 03.13.24)
    • Data on Ukraine’s male population, shared by the parliamentary economics committee, shows that of 11.1 million Ukrainian men aged between 25 and 60, only an estimated 3.7 million are eligible for mobilization. (FT, 03.13.24)
    • A February survey by Info Sapiens, a Ukrainian social research organization, found that 48% of men were not prepared to fight while 34% were. (FT, 03.13.24)
  • In 2023, almost 1,300 Ukrainians were sentenced for evading military service. In total, during the 10 years of the war since 2014, Ukrainian judges issued almost 3,800 such sentences. (, 03.11.24)
  • Ukrainian lawmakers plan to consider a bill that would allow prison inmates to join the war effort. (Bloomberg, 03.15.24)
  • About 65,000 women are currently serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, about a 30% increase since the war began. Roughly 45,000 serve as military personnel, and the rest hold civilian positions, according to the Defense Ministry. Just over 4,000 are in combat positions. (NYT, 03.12.24)
  • A recent defense intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine from the British MoD stated that the average daily number of Russian casualties (killed and wounded) in Ukraine throughout February 2024 was the highest rate it has been, at 983 per day. (U.K. Ministry of Defense’s X (Twitter) account, 03.07.24)
  • Russia said March 14 that its forces have killed nearly 6,000 foreign volunteers fighting on the side of Ukraine since Moscow’s full-scale invasion over two years ago. According to the Defense Ministry, 13,387 “foreign mercenaries” from dozens of countries have fought in Ukraine since February 2022. Overall, Russian forces have killed 5,962 of those volunteer fighters, it said. (MT/AFP, 03.14.24)
  • Russia’s FSB has arrested four individuals in St. Petersburg on terrorism charges. The FSB asserted that all four were members of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC), an armed formation whose members say they are Russians fighting on the side of Ukraine. According to the FSB, the individuals planned to “poison food products” intended as humanitarian aid for Russian soldiers in Ukraine. (Meduza, 03.14.24)
  • The level of support for the actions of the Russian armed forces remains consistently high in Russia at 76%—a slight decrease from February 2023 (77%), according to the Levada Center’s latest poll on this issue. Supporters of peace negotiations still constitute slightly more than half at 52% of those surveyed, but their number has slightly decreased from 57% in November 2023. Russians consider the main goals of the "special operation" to be the protection of the residents of Donbas (25%) and ensuring the country's security (23%). Over the past six months, the number of those confident in the success of the "special operation" has grown by 15%; today, 70% of respondents believe it is proceeding successfully. (Levada, 03.07.24)

Military aid to Ukraine:

  • On March 13, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) told Republican senators to expect the House to send them legislation to help Ukraine. Johnson told senators that the House will send a Ukraine aid package to the Senate but floated the idea of making it a loan or lend-lease program so U.S. taxpayers would not be shelling out tens of billions of dollars without any expectation of getting a return. The Speaker also talked about including something similar to the REPO for Ukrainians Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), which would authorize the confiscation of Russian sovereign assets and deposit the proceeds of liquidated property into a Ukraine support fund, senators said. (The Hill, 03.14.24)
    • Johnson continues to insist the Biden administration take action to secure the U.S.-Mexico border before he’ll offer a Ukraine bill in the House. Still, he’s publicly discussed the importance of preventing Russia from overtaking Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 03.14.24)
  • William Burns, the CIA director, and Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, warned that without additional American aid, Ukraine faced the prospect of continued battlefield losses. The deadlock in Ukraine is “shifting the momentum” in the war there in Moscow’s favor, they said. In their Congressional testimonies on the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” the two officials described an increasingly dire situation for Ukraine. If the House approved the $60 billion in security assistance for Ukraine that passed the Senate, Burns said, Kyiv would be able to strike a strategic blow against Russia. “It’s our assessment that with supplemental assistance, Ukraine can hold its own on the front lines through 2024 and into early 2025,” he said. “Without supplemental assistance in 2024, you’re going to see more Avdiivkas,” he said. “And that, it seems to me, would be a massive and historic mistake for the United States.” (NYT, 03.12.24, Bloomberg, 03.11.24)
  • The White House announced a package of $300 million in military assistance to Ukraine. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Ukraine “desperately needs” the assistance to hold the line against Russia. The Pentagon plans to transfer artillery rounds, rockets for Ukraine's HIMARS launchers, antiaircraft missile and antitank weapons, using funds in the Army budget left over from weapons contracts for replacing arms sent to Kyiv, officials said. The new assistance package also includes additional shorter-range ATACMS missiles, an administration official said. That version of the weapon has a range of about 100 miles and is armed with cluster munitions. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24,, 03.13.24, WSJ, 03.13.24)
    • The $300 million in new weaponry the United States is sending to Ukraine will help Ukraine hold off Russian troops for a few weeks, analysts say, but it will not change the overall situation on the battlefield, where Moscow currently has the advantage. (NYT, 03.13.24)
  • Biden thanked Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk visiting the White House for their assistance to Ukraine at a critical point in the war and pressed U.S. lawmakers to approve more funds to help Kyiv repel Russia’s invasion. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)
  • Ambassadors of the European Union agreed in principle to provide €5 billion ($5.5 billion) in military support for Ukraine, after member states reached a compromise to allow purchases from outside the bloc. (Bloomberg, 03.13.24)
  • French President Emmanuel Macron on March 14 reiterated his position that sending Western troops into Ukraine shouldn't be ruled out. In an interview on French national television, Macron was asked about the prospect of sending Western troops to Ukraine, which he publicly raised last month. "We’re not in that situation today," he said, but added that "all these options are possible." Macron, who is the commander in chief of the country's armed forces, declined to describe in which situation France would be ready to send troops. “If, faced with someone who has no limits, faced with someone who crossed every limit that he had given us, we tell him naïvely that we won’t go any further than this or that — at that moment, we are not deciding peace, we are already deciding defeat,” he said. “If Russia wins this war, Europe’s credibility will be reduced to zero,” Macron added. “Do you think that the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Estonians, the Romanians, the Bulgarians could stay in peace even for a second?” (AP, 03.14.24, NYT, 03.15.24)
    • Macron has called for a parliamentary vote on France’s military support for Ukraine as he attempts to put the spotlight on the far right’s muddled positions on Russia. Macron’s gambit aims to remind voters of Marine Le Pen’s past proximity to Putin in an attempt to blunt her surge in the polls, where her far-right Rassemblement National party is 12 points ahead of his centrist alliance. (FT, 03.12.24)
    • France is reportedly prepared to build a coalition of countries that are open to potentially sending Western military personnel to Ukraine. French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné announced on March 9 during a meeting with Baltic and Ukrainian officials that Ukraine could use foreign troops for operations such as demining or similar efforts and that Western personnel in Ukraine would not necessarily fight. (ISW, 03.11.24)
    • Polls showed that 79% of the public would oppose French troops fighting in Ukraine, but a slight majority of 52% would support soldiers being sent to carry out support functions, according to an Elabe poll. (FT, 03.12.24)
    • Poland's foreign minister said the presence of NATO forces in Ukraine is "not unthinkable" and that he appreciated the French president for not ruling out that idea. (AP, 03.09.24)
    • Latvia Prime Minister Evika Silina said she supports the idea of sending NATO troops to Ukraine to train the country’s soldiers, after Macron signaled he was open to such a move. (Bloomberg, 03.14.24)
  • Ukraine's backers will use windfall profits on frozen Russian assets to finance arms purchases for Kyiv, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said following a meeting with his French and Polish counterparts aimed at showing unity after weeks of friction. At a joint press conference in Berlin, Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk reaffirmed their support for Ukraine. (Reuters, 03.15.24)
  • Scholz’s top coalition partners are pushing the German chancellor to drop his opposition to supplying long-range Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 03.13.24)
    • Scholz has again voiced his opposition to delivering long-range Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. "Prudence is not something that can be classified as weakness, as some do, but instead prudence is what the citizens of this country are entitled to," Scholz said. (dpa, 03.13.24)
    • The Taurus cruise missiles, fired by fighter jets, are roughly the same length and weight as the U.K.’s Storm Shadow and France’s Scalp-EG. What really sets the German missile apart is its Mephisto intelligent warhead system. Unlike traditional warheads which detonate after a set time, Mephisto can penetrate several layers of material and its so-called fuse that activates the warhead, can be programmed to go off in the optimal spot, ensuring maximum damage to structures such as bridges and bunkers. (FT, 03.15.24)
  • Japan and the U.S. are discussing collaborating on military gear in a bid to provide more munitions to Ukraine and increasing ways for the Asian country to repair American warships and jet fighters, the Yomiuri newspaper said. (Bloomberg, 03.10.24)
  • Ukraine has urged Western allies to fund its domestic weapons production with its recently ramped up manufacturing capacity now vastly exceeding the money available for orders.
  • Ukraine’s top diplomat said badly needed ammunition stocks being collected through a Czech-led initiative will begin arriving on the front line in the “foreseeable future” rather than months. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said officials from the Czech Republic will lay out a delivery plan for artillery shells this week. (Bloomberg, 03.13.24)
  • “The fastest way to start production is to do it in Ukraine,” said Oleksandr Kamyshin, minister for strategic industries, in an interview with FT. “We are very capable. We are price competitive and we are close to the front lines.” (FT, 03.15.24)
  • NATO’s Stoltenberg said: "Unprecedented aid from NATO allies has helped Ukraine to survive as a sovereign nation, but Ukraine needs even more support, and they need it now." (RFE/RL, 03.14.24)
  • The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on March 14 after holding meetings in Washington that securing new support for Ukraine could not wait since the outcome of the war in Ukraine will be decided this spring and summer. Borrell told reporters that his message for U.S. policymakers was that: "Whatever has to be done, it has to be done quickly." (Reuters, 03.14.24)
  • The 20th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) is set for March 19 at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the U.S. Air Force said on March 9. (RFE/RL, 03.09.24)

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

  • Brussels is pushing to give Ukraine €2 billion-€3 billion this year from profits derived from Russia’s frozen assets, accelerating the funding plan as U.S. financial support to Kyiv wanes. The European Commission is preparing a plan, according to officials, that would involve seizing sanctions-related profits, dating from February onwards, earned at the central securities depository Euroclear. After months of wrangling, a first tranche of money could be disbursed as early as July if Brussels can secure the approval of member states, officials said. The proposal is expected before a summit of EU leaders next week. (FT, 03.12.24)
  • European Union leaders will next week call for new sanctions targeting Belarus, North Korea and Iran over their role in helping Russia conduct its war against Ukraine. “Russia’s access to sensitive items and technologies with battlefield relevance must continue to be restricted,” according to draft conclusions of the March 21-22 leaders’ summit seen by Bloomberg. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)
  • The European Union executive is preparing a proposal to restrict the import of agricultural products from Russia. (Bloomberg, 03.15.24)
  • At least five U.S.-listed producers are reopening uranium mines in Texas, Wyoming, Arizona and Utah that were idled following a market crash caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in 2011. A handful of exploration companies are searching for new deposits of uranium, which has tripled in price since the start of 2021 because of a resurgence in interest in nuclear energy. (FT, 03.10.24)
  • Moscow has set terms for a proposed swap of Russian and Western investors’ frozen assets, allowing each side to claw back lost value after sanctions were imposed over President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. The Kremlin hopes the potential exchange will unblock about Rbs100 billion ($1.1 billion) in European securities, mostly owned by Russian retail investors, by letting Western investors buy them with their own stranded funds. The exchange of stranded securities is the first step in a plan to compensate 3.5 million Russian retail investors, who hold a total of Rbs1.5 trillion ($16.5 billion) in assets in Western countries. (FT, 03.11.24)
    • Russia appointed a broker to conduct swaps of assets between Russian and foreign investors caught up in international sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. Investitsionnaya Palata LLC, a Voronezh-based brokerage that isn’t under sanctions, will gather bids from Russian investors wishing to exchange shares they hold abroad for cash that non-residents hold in so-called C accounts in Russia. (Bloomberg, 03.11.24)
  • Putin halted the seizure of the local Russian subsidiary of French yogurt maker Danone SA, clearing the way for a potential sale to a firm favored by the Kremlin. (Bloomberg, 03.13.24)
  • Russia has banned 227 U.S. citizens -- including State Department spokesman Matthew Miller -- from entering the country in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Washington on Russians for their support of the Kremlin's ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The list, which now totals 2,078, targets representatives of the executive branch of power in the U.S., businesspeople, journalists, and academics. (RFE/RL, 03.14.24)
  • Moscow on March 12 banned entry to 347 citizens of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia over what it called the “hostile policy” of the three Baltic states toward Russia. (MT/AFP, 03.12.24)
  • Switzerland’s attorney-general has opened a criminal investigation into alleged violations of its Russia sanctions by an unnamed company, in the first sign that the country is willing to prosecute groups for doing business with Moscow. (FT, 03.12.24)
  • The European Union on March 12 lifted sanctions imposed in 2022 against the co-founder of Russian Internet giant Yandex, Arkady Volozh, over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 03.13.24)
  • Late last month, U.S. authorities unveiled a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest and or conviction of the man they say was running the "Tango” yacht staff and orchestrated the deception with the robes — Vladislav Osipov, 52, a Swiss-based businessman from Russia. Tango was owned by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg under U.S. sanctions, and doing business on his behalf violated federal law. (WP, 03.14.24)
  • Shares in one of eastern Europe’s biggest fashion retailers plunged as much as 35% after activist short-seller Hindenburg Research said the Polish company’s withdrawal from Russia was a “sham (Bloomberg, 03.15.24)
  • Finland plans to adopt temporary legislation that will allow its border authorities to block asylum-seekers seeking to enter its territory from Russia, the government said. (Reuters, 03.15.24)
  • In their Congressional testimonies William Burns, the CIA director, and Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, seemed to acknowledge that Putin had a high tolerance for the economic pain of sanctions and the political risk of continued high casualties. (NYT, 03.12.24)
  • Over 80% of the world, measured by population, and 40% by GDP, is not enforcing sanctions on Russia. (The Economist, 03.14.24) 
  • For sanctions on the energy sector, please see section “Energy exports from CIS” below.

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • On March 8 Zelenskyy reiterated that a ceasefire in Ukraine would allow Russia to rebuild its forces and means for future offensive operations. Zelenskyy noted that Russia would benefit from a pause or ceasefire as Russian forces would use the pause to optimize Russia’s military and overall war effort, including by training its soldiers, many of whom deploy to the front line with very little training. Zelenskyy then explained why negotiations with Russia will only worsen the situation If there is a pause in the war, then this will be the next “Minsk”, which will allow Russia to prepare, the president noted. (, 03.12.24, ISW, 03.08.24)
  • In his March 13 interview Putin described his end goal in Ukraine as a deal with the U.S. akin to the “security guarantees” that Russia proposed in 2021, on the eve of the invasion, which would have given Moscow a new sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and which the West rejected as unacceptable. He also indicated that he saw Russia’s negotiating position as improving, given its military’s advances on the battlefield. “Putin indicated that he was not prepared to discuss surrendering any of the territory annexed from Ukraine and appeared confident Russia’s army could advance further. “We’re only ready for negotiations based on the realities that have come to pass on the ground, not on some [Kyiv] wishlist,” he said (Bloomberg, 03.12.24, NYT, 03.13.24, FT, 03.13.24)
  • Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev outlined the following “peace formula” in his Telegram. Ukraine’s recognition of its loss in the military component of the conflict; recognition of the Nazi nature of the Ukrainian regime by the international community and de-Nazification of all bodies of power of Ukraine; ban on Ukraine’s membership in any military alliances without Russia’s consent, “resignation” of all constitutional bodies of power in Ukraine and elections to an interim parliament which would then pass a law to compensate Russia and a law that would recognize Ukraine as part of Russia. (RM, 03.15.24)
    • Medvedev’s remarks amounted to a detailed call for the total elimination of the Ukrainian state and its absorption into the Russian Federation. (ISW, 03.14.24)
  • Pope Francis has reiterated in a new interview that Ukraine should negotiate to end the war with Russia, but this time he used language -- adopting his interviewer's expression, ''white flag'' -- that has drawn attention and raised questions about whether the pope was suggesting that Ukraine surrender. The Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, then immediately clarified that the pope meant ''cease-fire and negotiation,'' not surrender, when he said white flag, a universal symbol for giving up. Speaking on March 13, Pope Francis said many young people die in war and added a prayer for “the grace to overcome this madness of war, which is always a defeat."  (NYT, 03.10.24, RFE/RL, 03.13.24)
    • Ukraine on March 11 summoned the Vatican's envoy to Kyiv after Pope Francis suggested the country should consider raising "the white flag" against Leaders in Ukraine vehemently rejected Pope Francis's suggestion of negotiations with Russia to bring an end to the war. Praising Ukrainian chaplains on the front line, Zelensky said: "This is what the church is — it is together with people, not two and a half thousand kilometers away somewhere, virtually mediating between someone who wants to live and someone who wants to destroy you." Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged the Vatican to support the Ukrainian people "in their just struggle for their lives," writing: "Our flag is blue and yellow. Under it, we live, die, and triumph. We will not raise any other flags." He thanked Francis for his prayers for peace and urged him to visit Ukraine. (WP, 03.11.24, Bloomberg, 03.10.24, MT/AFP, 03.11.24)
    • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg dismissed a call by Pope Francis for Ukraine to "raise the white flag and negotiate with Russia," saying the best way to end the conflict is to arm Kyiv. "If we want a negotiated, peaceful, lasting solution, the way to get there is to provide military support to Ukraine," Stoltenberg said on March 11 in response to a Reuters question about the Catholic leader's comments. (RFE/RL, 03.11.24)
    • Russia congratulated Pope Francis March 13 on 11 years in office, hailing his support for "humanism and peace.” (MT/AFP, 03.13.24)
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, back in the country after a private meeting in the U.S. with Donald Trump, said the former president has "quite detailed plans" about how to end Russia's war against Ukraine and won't give Kyiv any further funding to hasten an end to the conflict. Orban said after his meeting with Trump that "it is obvious that Ukraine on its own cannot stand on its feet." (RFE/RL, 03.11.24)
    • David Pressman, U.S. ambassador to Hungary has warned Budapest about its expanding relationship with Russia and raised "legitimate security concerns" in a speech marking the 25th anniversary of Hungary joining NATO. (RFE/RL, 03.14.24)
  • William J. Burns arrived to a November 2022 meeting with Sergei Naryshkin to warn what would befall Russia if it used a nuclear weapon, Mr. Naryshkin apparently thought the C.I.A. director had been sent to negotiate an armistice agreement that would end the war. He told Mr. Burns that any such negotiation had to begin with an understanding that Russia would get to keep any land that was currently under its control. It took some time for Mr. Burns to disabuse Mr. Naryshkin of the idea that the U.S. was ready to trade away Ukrainian territory for peace. (NYT, 03.09.24)

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

  • “Russia almost certainly does not want a direct military conflict with U.S. and NATO forces and will continue asymmetric activity below what it calculates to be the threshold of military conflict globally. President Vladimir Putin probably believes that Russia has blunted Ukrainian efforts to retake significant territory, that his approach to winning the war is paying off, and that Western and U.S. support to Ukraine is finite, particularly in light of the Israel–HAMAS war,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.” (, 03.11.24)
  • “Moscow will continue to employ all applicable sources of national power to advance its interests and try to undermine the United States and its allies, but it faces a number of challenges, such as severance from Western markets and technology and flight of human capital, in doing so,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.” (, 03.11.24)
  • Biden’s FY 2025 Budget Request includes $1.5 billion for countering the Kremlin’s aggression. The request includes $999 million to be spent across Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia to counter malign Kremlin and PRC influence in the regions. Biden proposes spending $895 billion on military programs in the coming fiscal year, up from an expected $886 billion this year. (, 03.11.24, WSJ, 03.12.24)
  • Biden pledged an ''ironclad'' commitment to America's allies on March 12 as he sought to reassure NATO members that the United States would not abandon its international obligations despite the threats of aggression by Russia and disruption by his all-but-certain fall election rival, former President Donald J. Trump. Hosting the leaders of Poland at the White House, Biden made a show of defiance not only against Putin, who continues to wage war on Ukraine, but also, implicitly at least, against Trump, who has said he would ''encourage'' Russia to attack NATO members that do not spend enough on their militaries. (NYT, 03.12.24, NYT, 03.13.24)
    • Biden said there was no need for additional U.S. troops to bolster Poland’s border ahead of a request from Polish President Andrzej Duda for more personnel and military equipment to ease worries over Russian aggression on NATO’s eastern flank. (Bloomberg, 03.11.24, Bloomberg, 03.11.24)
  • Duda said Putin will attack other states if the Kremlin wins its war in Ukraine as he sought to convince the United States to approve further assistance for Kyiv. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)
  • Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said Russia was preparing for a "long conflict with the West," and he asked for more spending and coordination on European defense. (Reuters, 03.13.24)
  • Sweden is open to reinforcing defenses on the Baltic Sea’s most crucial island, Gotland, according to its prime minister. Often dubbed a “giant aircraft carrier”, the island that sits in between Sweden and Latvia has been named several times on Russian TV as a possible target should Moscow seek to invade the Baltic states. (FT, 03.12.24)
  • The German armed forces’ digital and communications systems are in a woeful state, Eva Högl, the commissioner responsible for overseeing the Bundeswehr, warned on March 12.  This includes radios that cannot communicate with allies; paper-only medical records that need to be mailed; and military documents sent by fax, rather than secure email. (FT, 03.13.24)
  • Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said he will run for NATO's top job as the influence of the alliance's Eastern European member states grows stronger. (RFE/RL, 03.12.24)
  • Putin told Russian TV: “We need to increase our weapons in terms of its number and power, while also improving the effectiveness of the forces and means used. ... In principle, based on what we see on the battlefield, we are coping with the tasks we set ourselves. As for the states saying that they have no “red lines” with Russia, they should realize that Russia will have no “red lines” with them either.” (, 03.13.24)
  • British outlet The Times reported on March 14 that the British government believes that Russia deliberately jammed the satellite signal on a plane carrying British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps back to the U.K. from Poland. (ISW, 03.14.24)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • “President Xi Jinping envisions China as the preeminent power in East Asia and as a leading power on the world stage.  The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will attempt to preempt challenges to its reputation and legitimacy, undercutting U.S. influence, driving wedges between Washington and its partners, and fostering global norms that favor its authoritarian system.  Most significantly, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will press Taiwan on unification, an effort that will create critical friction points with the United States,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. (, 03.11.24)
  • “Moscow’s deep economic engagement with Beijing provides Russia with a major market for its energy and commodities, greater protection from future sanctions, and a stronger partner in opposing the United States. China is by far Russia’s most important trading partner with bilateral trade reaching more than $220 billion in 2023, already surpassing their record total 2022 volume by 15%,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.” (, 03.11.24)
  •  The value of trade between Russia and China hit $37 billion in January and February (up 9.3% year-on-year), according to Chinese data. China’s exports to Russia were up 12.5% year-on-year in these two months to $16.8 billion, while imports from Russia were up 6.7% to $20.2 billion. As before, Russia maintains an average monthly trade surplus with China worth $1.5 billion and $2 billion. (The Bell, 03.08.24)
  • China leads in developing, testing and deploying hypersonics, besting Russia as the United States works to catch up on the new weapons that travel five times the speed of sound, according to Jeffery McCormick, senior intelligence analyst for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center. Russia has used the weapons in Ukraine but lags behind China in total inventory and support systems, McCormick said. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms and space systems:

  • When asked “are we really ready for a nuclear war?”, Putin told Russian TV: “From a military-technical point of view, we are certainly ready. They [the troops] are constantly on alert. This is the first thing. Secondly, our nuclear triad is more advanced than any other one, and this is also a universally recognized fact. We and the Americans are the only ones who have such a triad, actually.... They [Americans] are developing all their components, as are we. But, in my view, this does not mean that they are ready to wage this nuclear war tomorrow. If they want to, what is there to do? We are ready.” (, 03.13.24)
  • When asked “perhaps, to make it more compelling, we should conduct nuclear tests at some stage?”, Putin told Russian TV: “If they conduct such tests, we will not necessarily do it, we should think whether we need it or not, however, I do not rule out that we can do the same. ... We are always ready. I want to make it clear that these are not conventional weapons, this is the kind of troops which are always on alert.” (, 03.13.24)
  • When asked “last year, when there were tough moments at the front in connection with Kharkov or Kherson, were you thinking of tactical nuclear weapons?”, Putin told Russian TV: “What for? The decision to withdraw troops from Kherson was taken at the suggestion of the then command of the grouping. But it did not mean at all that our front was falling apart there. Nothing like that ever happened. It was just done to avoid unnecessary casualties among the personnel.” (, 03.13.24)
  • When asked: “That is to say such idea [using nuclear weapons] did not even occur to you?”, Putin told Russian TV: “What for? Weapons exist to be used. We have our own principles; what do they say? That we are ready to use weapons, including the ones you have just mentioned, when it is about the existence of the Russian state, about harming our sovereignty and independence. We have everything spelled out in our Strategy. We have not changed it.” (, 03.13.24)
    • On March 13, the White House said it had seen no indications that Moscow is ready to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine after Putin said he was ready to deploy them if Russia's sovereignty was threatened. "We have not seen any reasons to adjust our own nuclear posture, nor any indication that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine," spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said. Putin appeared to be "restating Russia's nuclear doctrine" after he was asked about using the weapons. Jean-Pierre added that “Russia's nuclear rhetoric” has been "reckless" throughout its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (AFP, 03.14.24)
    • French President Emmanuel Macron has declared his nation “ready” to use nuclear weapons in an uncharacteristically brash retort to Putin following the latest bout of nuclear saber-rattling from the Kremlin chief. “We must first and foremost feel protected because we are a nuclear power. We are ready; we have a doctrine (for the use of nuclear weapons),” Macron told reporters, saying the Kremlin's willingness to issue nuclear threats was inappropriate. Having nuclear weapons “imposes on U.S. the responsibility never to escalate,” Macron said, in a dig at the constant reminders issued by top Russian officials and media personalities of their nuclear arsenal. (Daily Mail, 03.15.24)
    • U.S. press flagships diverged in their interpretation of modality of Putin’s March 13 remarks. “Putin Rattles Nuclear Saber Ahead of Presidential Elections; Raising specter of nuclear confrontation allows Russian leader to keep his population on edge, analysts say,” was the headline on WSJ’s story on these remarks. FT’s headline was “Russia ‘prepared’ for nuclear war, warns Vladimir Putin. President resumes bullish rhetoric over use of atomic arsenal if west threatens Moscow’s sovereignty,” while CBS News’s was “Putin again threatens to use nuclear weapons, claims Russia's arsenal "much more" advanced than America's.” In contrast to WSJ, CBS and FT, NYT went with “Putin, in Pre-Election Messaging, Is Less Strident on Nuclear War. The Russian leader struck a softer tone about nuclear weapons in an interview with state television.” (WSJ, 03.14.24, FT, 03.13.24, CBS, 03.13.24, NYT, 03.13.24, RM, 03.14.24)
  • Russia hails China’s initiative calling on nuclear powers to sign a treaty on the non-use of nuclear weapons first, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. "We are studying this proposal. It is obvious for U.S. that in a situation when the collective West has embarked on a path of non-stop escalation of the international situation and is disregarding the risks stemming from a direct armed confrontation between nuclear powers such ideas present some common sense," he said. According to Ryabkov, Russia wants to clarify the West’s position on this matter to know whether it is ready "to consider such ideas or not." "This concrete topic was not raised during the recent expert meeting at the level of senior officials in Riyadh," Ryabkov said. In late February, Director-General of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Sun Xiaobo called on nuclear powers to sign a treaty on the mutual non-use of nuclear weapons first. (TASS, 03.12.24)
  • Russia’s Representative to U.N. offices in Geneva Gennady Gatilov said, “For our part we are firmly committed to the postulate that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. That is why it is necessary to prevent any armed conflicts between the nuclear Powers, and thus in effect demonstrate readiness to mutually respect the security concerns of other parties, as stipulated in the Joint Statement of the Leaders of the Five Nuclear-Weapon States signed on January 3, 2022.” (RF MFA, 03.06.24)
  • “Moscow’s military forces will face a multi-year recovery after suffering extensive equipment and personnel losses during the Ukraine conflict.  Moscow will be more reliant on nuclear and counterspace capabilities for strategic deterrence as it works to rebuild its ground force. Regardless, Russia’s air and naval forces will continue to provide Moscow with some global power projection capabilities,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. (, 03.11.24)
  • “Russia will continue to modernize its nuclear weapons capabilities and maintains the largest and most diverse nuclear weapons stockpile.  Moscow views its nuclear capabilities as necessary for maintaining deterrence and achieving its goals in a potential conflict against the United States and NATO, and it sees this as the ultimate guarantor of the Russian Federation. Within Russia, continues to drive concerns that Putin might use nuclear weapons,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. (, 03.11.24)
  • “Moscow will continue to develop long-range nuclear-capable missiles and underwater delivery systems meant to penetrate or bypass U.S. missile defenses.  Russia is expanding and modernizing its large and diverse set of nonstrategic systems, which are capable of delivering nuclear or conventional warheads, because Moscow believes such systems offer options to deter adversaries, control the escalation of potential hostilities, and counter U.S. and Allied conventional forces,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. (, 03.11.24)
  • “Russia continues to train its military space elements and field new antisatellite weapons to disrupt and degrade U.S. and allied space capabilities.  It is expanding its arsenal of jamming systems, directed energy weapons, on-orbit counterspace capabilities, and ground-based ASAT missiles that are designed to target U.S. and allied satellites,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. (, 03.11.24)
  • During this period from late summer to fall 2022, the National Security Council convened a series of meetings to put contingency plans in place “in the event of either a very clear indication that they were about to do something, attack with a nuclear weapon, or if they just did, how we would respond, how we would try to preempt it, or deter it,” a senior Biden administration official told a CNN journalist. In late 2022, the United States began “preparing rigorously” for Russia potentially striking Ukraine with a nuclear weapon. (CNN, 03.09.24)
  • U.S. intercepts of Russian military communications in Fall 2022 revealed that for the first time since the war in Ukraine had broken out, there were frequent conversations within the Russian military about reaching into the nuclear arsenal. Some involved the units that would be responsible for moving or deploying the weapons. The most alarming of the intercepts revealed that one of the most senior Russian military commanders was explicitly discussing the logistics of detonating a weapon on the battlefield. The scare in 2022 involved so-called battlefield nukes. (NYT, 03.09.24)
  • William J. Burns arrived to a November 2022 meeting with Sergei Naryshkin to warn what would befall Russia if it used a nuclear weapon. “I made it clear,” Mr. Burns later recalled, that “there would be clear consequences for Russia.” He wanted to be detailed enough to deter a Russian attack, but to avoid telegraphing Mr. Biden’s exact reaction. “Naryshkin swore that he understood and that Putin did not intend to use a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Burns said. (NYT, 03.09.24)
    • Responding to U.S. media reports on how Russia was preparing to use nuclear weapons in 2022, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “These messages are from the category of speculations [rassuzhdalok] that are published in various newspapers. I don't think this needs any comment.” (Meduza, 03.11.24)
  • Russia has moved tactical nuclear weapons from its own borders into neighboring Belarus, several hundred miles closer to NATO territory, Western officials confirmed to Foreign Policy. The move, which Putin first announced in June of last year, is likely aimed at ramping up pressure on NATO’s eastern flank. (FP, 03.14.24)
  • Putin urged his government to find funds for a plan to develop a nuclear-powered spacecraft, part of Russia’s push to bolster its space program despite U.S.-led sanctions. A nuclear power unit for work in space “should be funded on time,” Putin told a cabinet meeting late March 14. “This topic is important.” Russia has “competencies that other countries do not possess, but we need to pay special attention in order to develop them,” Putin said. (Bloomberg, 03.15.24)


  • Kazakhstan confirmed on March 9 the deaths of two of its citizens in an anti-terrorism operation in Russia that Moscow claims prevented an attack against a synagogue in the Russian capital. Russia's FSB security service on March 14 confirmed an operation against a suspected branch of the Islamic State (IS) militant group had taken place in the Kaluga region southwest of Moscow. Russian media had claimed that two suspects of Kazakh origin who arrived in Russia in February were killed in the operation. (MT/AFP, 03.09.24)

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • “Russia will pose an enduring global cyber threat even as it prioritizes cyber operations for the Ukrainian war. Moscow views cyber disruptions as a foreign policy lever to shape other countries’ decisions and continuously refines and employs its espionage, influence, and attack capabilities against a variety of targets,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. (, 03.11.24)
  • Ukraine’s hackers intercepted a 2023 correspondence between State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin and Putin, in which he proposes, after the “elections,” to strengthen state control and confrontation with Western countries. (, 03.11.24)
  • Meduza, an independent, Russian-language media outlet, accused the Russian authorities of carrying out an unprecedented wave of cyberattacks last month with the intent to “destroy” it. (RFE/RL, 03.12.24)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • The Russian energy ministry warned that the amount of refined products in Russia will decline due to the “repair of refineries”, Pavel Sorokin, deputy energy minister, said at an official meeting on March 14 following a wave of drone attacks on Russian oil refineries a day prior. (FT,  03.14.24)
  • Mikhail Krutikhin, an independent Russian energy analyst living in exile in Oslo, said the Ukrainian strikes on Russian had prompted Moscow to introduce a six-month ban on gasoline exports, starting March 1, to try to ensure that domestic demand is met while repairs are made to damaged refineries. (NYT, 03.15.24)
  • Russia's revenues from seaborne crude oil exports increased by 12% in February (24 million euros per day), but its export volumes fell by 3% compared to January. This is stated in a report by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA). (Korrespondent, 03.15.24)
  • “Moscow has successfully diverted most of its seaborne oil exports and probably is selling significant volumes above the G-7–led crude oil and refined product price caps, which came into effect in December 2022 and February 2023, respectively—in part because Russia is increasing its use of non-Western options to facilitate diversion of most of its seaborne oil exports and because global oil prices increased last year.... Russia will retain significant energy leverage. In the first half of 2023, Russia was still the second-largest supplier of liquefied natural gas to Europe and announced reduction in its crude oil exports as part of its OPEC+ commitment,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. (, 03.11.24)
  • South Korean customs authorities are investigating the origins of the nation’s imports of naphtha, a plastics-making ingredient, with a focus on Russian supplies. (Bloomberg, 03.13.24)
  • European companies have supplied over $630 million worth of equipment according to the current exchange rate to Russia’s Arctic LNG 2 project since the invasion of Ukraine despite it being under Western sanctions, The Moscow Times’ Russian service and the Arctida NGO reported March 12 in a joint investigation. (MT/AFP, 03.12.24)
  • Pipeline imports of Russian gas to the EU in 2023 were 84% down from the pre-invasion year of 2021. (FT, 03.15.24)
  • Nord Stream is suing insurers including Lloyd’s of London for about €400 million in the High Court for refusing to cover explosions that destroyed gas infrastructure connecting western Europe to Russia. Court documents show the Switzerland-based company brought a lawsuit last month claiming that insurers “failed to pay” for damage done by underwater explosions that mangled and deformed the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. (FT, 03.13.24)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • “Moscow views U.S. elections as opportunities and has conducted influence operations for decades and as recently as the U.S. midterm elections in 2022.  Russia is contemplating how U.S. electoral outcomes in 2024 could impact Western support to Ukraine and probably will attempt to affect the elections in ways that best support its interests and goals,” according to the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. (, 03.11.24)
  • Putin told Russian TV: “We know what American troops in the Russian territory are. These are invaders. That is how we will treat them even if they appear in the territory of Ukraine, and they understand it. ... I have said that Mr. Biden is a representative of the traditional school and this is proved. Yet, apart from Mr. Biden, they have enough specialists in Russian-American relations and strategic deterrence. Therefore, I do not think that it is getting closer to a head-on collision. ... But we are ready for it. I have said many times that it is a matter of life and death for U.S., while for them it is a matter of improving their tactical position in the world.” (, 03.13.24)
  • Putin told Russian TV: “While the Americans seem to be talking about negotiations and strategic stability, they declare the need to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia.” (, 03.13.24)
  • Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) on March 11 accused Biden's administration of attempting to meddle in Russia's coming presidential election. Without offering evidence, the SVR said the Biden administration was using non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to try to affect voter turnout. (Newsweek, 03.11.24)
  • Historian Emmanuel Todd in 1976 and ecologist Peter Turchin in 2010 correctly forecast the collapse of the Soviet Union and the surge of growing instability in the West, respectively. Today, Todd criticizes American involvement in Ukraine and “foresees the West’s defeat,” according to a summary of this historian’s views in NYT. In his new book, Todd argues that American leadership is failing, according to this newspaper. For his part, Turchin tells FT that it is “almost a mathematical certainty” that Russia will win in Ukraine. He also claims that the U.S. is closer to a “macro-breakdown” than Russia. (NYT, 03.09.24, FT, 03.11.24, RM, 03.11.24)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • In the first two months of 2024, Russia’s budget recorded a deficit of 1.474 trillion rubles or 0.8% of GDP, according to preliminary reports. That’s 1.6 times less than the equivalent period in 2023, according to the Finance Ministry. The big deficit at the start of last year was due to high spending, particularly on the military. (The Bell, 03.08.24)
  • Weekly inflation in Russia between February 27 and March 4 was 0.09%. That’s the first time in many months that it has fallen below 0.1%. (The Bell, 03.08.24)
  • The output of Russian nuclear power plants in 2023 decreased by 2.8% compared to 2022. A decrease in output occurred for the first time in 10 years and only the second time in 20 years – the last one was in 2013. (Bellona, 03.14.24)
  • Russia is weighing options for big tax increases to raise as much as 4 trillion rubles ($44 billion) as the war in Ukraine puts growing pressure on the government’s coffers. The government may raise personal income tax to 20% from 15% now for those earning more than 5 million rubles, and company taxation to 25% from 20%, according to the “Important Stories” news site and confirmed by two people involved in the discussions. (Bloomberg, 03.11.24)
  • Two years after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, many in Russia have reason to feel the wartime economy is working well for them. Wages have soared by double digits, the ruble has stabilized, and poverty and unemployment are at record lows. For the country’s lowest earners — a key constituency for the Kremlin — salaries over the last three quarters have risen faster than for any other segment of society, clocking an annual growth rate of about 20%, Federal Statistics Service data show. (Bloomberg, 03.14.24)
  • Putin told Russian TV: “In terms of purchasing power parity, that is the size of the economy, Russia is actually the fifth largest economy in the world and has every chance of overtaking Japan. But the structure of the economy in these two countries has an obvious advantage over that of Russia. There is still a lot to be done for our country to take a decent position not only in terms of purchasing power parity, but also in terms of [GDP] per capita.” “One of the main challenges today is to enhance labor productivity,” he said. (, 03.13.24)
  • Putin told Russian TV: “Truly, the distribution of the tax burden should be fair in the sense that corporations, legal entities, and individuals who earn more should contribute more to the national treasury, towards addressing nationwide problems, primarily towards fight against poverty.... essentially a progressive tax.” (, 03.13.24)
  • Putin told Russian TV: “I think the birth rate was 1.31 or 1.39…. Perhaps ideally we should double it – [to a ratio of] three. Because this is literally a disaster for society.” (, 03.13.24)
  • Putin avoided the traditional visit to a polling station that he’s made in past presidential elections and was shown voting via computer in a video posted late March 15 by the Kremlin. He waved to a camera recording the scene but said nothing. The government said more than 4.5 million people have registered to vote this way in a system being used in 29 of Russia’s regions  Putin also urged Russian citizens to vote in the election, which he said comes at a "difficult" time for the country. (MT/AFP, 03.14.24, Bloomberg, 03.15.24)
    • The European Council president congratulated Putin on his big win in the Russian presidential election — just as three days of voting began Friday. “Would like to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his landslide victory in the elections starting today,” blasted Michel, who is more renowned for diplomatic faux pas than social media snark. “No opposition. No freedom. No choice.” (Politico, 03.15.24)
    • Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned Russian efforts to conduct its presidential election in occupied areas of Ukraine, a U.N spokesperson said on March 15. (Reuters, 03.15.24)
  • Putin may carry out a significant government shake-up for the first time since 2020 after this week’s elections, according to people close to the presidential administration and the government. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)
    • Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev, 46, the son of Putin’s powerful security council secretary Nikolai Patrushev, may also be in line for a new position, possibly becoming deputy prime minister. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)
    • Yury Trutnev, who’s currently deputy prime minister in charge of development of Russia’s Far East, may also get a bigger role. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)
    • Mikhail Mishustin is likely to carry on as prime minister, but there’s an outside chance he could be replaced by Sergei Kiriyenko, the influential deputy head of the presidential administration. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)
    • Son of Putin’s friend Yuri Kovalchuk, Boris Kovalchuk, has been appointed deputy head of the main control department of the Presidential Administration, after stepping down as CEO of Russian utility Inter RAO. (Brief, 03.15.24)
  • More than 400 polling stations in remote parts of Russia's Far East have claimed a 100% turnout on the first day of the presidential election, the independent news website Vyorstka reported March 15 (MT/AFP, 03.15.24)
  • The Kremlin believes Putin’s reelection campaign has gone “more or less smoothly,” despite the ongoing war in Ukraine and recent protests in response to late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s death, sources in the Putin administration said. Sources close to Putin’s administration say that New People candidate Vladislav Davankov may come in second in the elections after Putin. But the Kremlin isn’t “concerned” by Davankov’s current rating, sources told Meduza. The state-owned Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) puts him at 6%, and Russian Field at 7.4%. (Meduza, 03.15.24)
  • At least four people in regions across Russia carried out arson attacks at polling places on March 15 as the first day of voting in the March 15-17 presidential election got underway. As Russians headed to the polls on the first official day of the country’s presidential vote, people in various regions have begun pouring ink and dye into ballot boxes, presumably rendering the ballots inside unusable. At least four people in regions across Russia carried out arson attacks at polling places on Friday. (MT/AFP, 03.15.24, Meduza, 03.15.24, MT/AFP, 03.15.24)
  • Russia's online voting system briefly crashed on March 15, the first day of the March 15-17 presidential race, with independent election observers saying the likely cause was "huge numbers" of workers being forced to vote. (MT/AFP, 03.15.24)
  • As polls opened, Navalny’s allies are opting for what they say is the only way to protest without getting arrested: showing up to cast their ballots en masse at the same time, a symbolic rejection of the Russian president’s re-election and his war in Ukraine. (FT, 03.15.24)
  • The parents of Navalny thanked the crowds of Russians paying their respects to their son in a message published March 9 by his widow Yulia Navalnaya. Navalnaya has vowed to continue her husband's work and called on Russians to stage protests by forming long queues outside voting stations in Russia's upcoming presidential elections. (MT/AFP, 03.09.24)
  • A top aide to Navalny blamed Putin for a hammer attack on him in Lithuania, and vowed to continue pursuing his campaign against the Kremlin. Leonid Volkov, a long-time ally of Navalny, was assaulted near his home in the capital Vilnius late March 12. (Bloomberg, 03.13.24)
  • The Khoroshevsky district court in Moscow has sentenced two members of Navalny's team on extremism charges. Alina Olekhnovich, 21, and Ivan Trofimov, 22, each were sentenced on March 14 to 3.5 years in prison. (RFE/RL, 03.14.24)
  • A multi-country prisoner exchange that might have freed Navalny was being discussed and progressing when he died last month, multiple sources have told CNN, and included the direct involvement of a Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich. (CNN, 03.08.24)
  • Police in Moscow and several other Russian cities have searched the homes of artists as part of an investigation into an unspecified treason case that local media reports said involved Pyotr Verzilov, a founder of the Pussy Riot protest group and the former publisher of the Mediazona website. The Moscow City Court on March 11 canceled the verdict and sentence of Verzilov, and sent the case back for retrial. A lower court in Moscow sentenced Verzilov in absentia to 8.5 years in prison in November on a charge of distributing via the Internet fake news about Russia's armed forces involved in the invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 03.11.24, RFE/RL, 03.12.24)
  • Russian state news agency RIA Novosti cited sources on March 13 as saying a probe was launched against the self-exiled writer and former chief editor of Dozhd television, Mikhail Zygar, for spreading false information about Russia's military. (RFE/RL, 03.13.24)
  • Leading Russian human rights activist Oleg Orlov, who is serving a 2.5-year prison term for criticizing the Putin regime, was asked to join the war “almost immediately” upon arriving at the detention center where he was sent after his sentencing, the human rights group Memorial reported on March 15. (Meduza, 03.15.24)
  • Former Moscow municipal lawmaker Alexei Gorinov, who is serving a seven-year prison term he was handed in July 2022 for opposing Russia's aggression against Ukraine, says that he is being regularly "tortured by guards." (Current Time, 03.14.24)
  • On March 11 Putin signed into law a bill that bans advertisers from working with “foreign agents,” a move widely expected to make it next to impossible for independent media outlets hit with the designation to earn money. (MT/AFP, 03.11.24)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Putin has sacked the commander of Russia’s navy after it suffered a series of humiliating losses in the Black Sea, according to Ukrainian officials with knowledge of the shake-up. Putin sacked Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, who had led the navy since 2019, and replaced him with Alexander Moiseev, commander of its Northern Fleet, two Ukrainian officials told the Financial Times. Pro-war bloggers with close ties to the Russian military reported in February that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet’s commander, Viktor Sokolov, had been relieved of his post, though the ministry has yet to confirm this. (FT, 03.11.24) Shows (1) enduring importance of the Northern Fleet in the Russian navy; (2) that command of BSF not alone in paying for BSF losses.*
  • Putin told Russian TV: “I will not refer to our statistics – instead, I will cite the Stockholm Institute: last year our defense spending was 4%, and this year it is 6.8%, meaning we have grown by 2.8 percentage points. This is a noticeable increase, but not critical at all. In the Soviet Union, it was 13%, whereas we are currently at 6.8%.” (, 03.13.24)
  • The U.S.’s arms exports grew by 17% between 2014–18 and 2019–23, and its share of total global arms exports rose from 34% to 42%. France’s arms exports increased by 47% between 2014–18 and 2019–23 and for the first time it was the second biggest arms exporter, just ahead of Russia. Russian arms exports fell by 53% between 2014–18 and 2019–23. (SIPRI, 03.11.24)
  • About 3.5 million Russians now work in the defense sector, up from somewhere between 2 and 2.5 million before the war. (CNN, 03.11.24)
  • Russia's Defense Ministry said an Il-76 military transport plane with eight crew and seven passengers onboard crashed in the Ivanovo region on March 12. (Current Time, 03.12.24)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • The most likely candidate for the post of Chairman of the Russian Supreme Court is its deputy chairman, head of the Judicial Collegium for Economic Disputes, Irina Podnosova. (Istories, 03.14.24)
  • The Investigative Committee opened 159.4 thousand criminal cases in 2023, which was a record since at least 2011. (Istories, 03.12.24)
  • The St-Labinsky District Court of the Krasnodar Territory released crime boss Shakro Molodoy (Zakhary Kalashov) for medical reasons. In March 2018, the court sentenced Kalashov to nine years and ten months in prison for extortion on an especially large scale from the owner of the Elements restaurant, Zhanna Kim. The indictment called Kalashov “the leader of the Russian criminal world.” (Istories, 03.13.24)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • A key part of Russia’s southern plan is a 100-mile $1.7 billion railway set to begin construction this year that would be the final link in a route between Russia and Iranian ports on the Persian Gulf — providing easy access to destinations like Mumbai, India’s trading capital. Russia has agreed to loan Iran $1.4 billion to finance the project. Putin  has said that the new route will cut the time for cargo to travel to Mumbai from St. Petersburg to only 10 days, from 30 to 45 days now. (NYT, 03.13.24)
  • Demand to move goods from Asia to Europe by rail via Russia has soared since the start of the Red Sea crisis. Germany’s DHL said requests to transport goods on the Russian rail corridor had jumped about 40% since container ships started diverting via a longer route in December. RailGate Europe said demand was up 25 percentage points to 35%, while Netherlands-based Rail Bridge Cargo said cargo rail traffic via Russia this year was 31% higher compared with the same time last year. Figures from Eurasian Rail Alliance, a Russian company that organizes freight movement on railways using Russia’s 1,520mm rail track gauge — wider than European tracks — show that container rail movements from China to Poland were 14,532 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers in January. (FT, 03.10.24)
  • Russia has taken a South Korean national into custody on espionage charges for the first time, adding to the strains between the two nations. (Bloomberg, 03.12.24)
  • Austria has expelled two Russian diplomats for espionage activities. The country’s foreign ministry said on March 14 that the two individuals, who had been working at a Russian mission in Vienna, “undertook actions that were incompatible with their diplomatic status” — a form of words commonly used to describe spying. (FT, 03.14.24)
  • Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky called on Moscow during a United Nations debate to release RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, who has been held in Russian custody for almost five months on charges that she, her employer, and her supporters reject. (RFE/RL, 03.14.24)


  • The U.S. State Department is planning to send several dozen diplomats to the overstretched U.S. Embassy in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv and to give officials more flexibility to travel around the surrounding region, four people familiar with the decision told Foreign Policy. (FP, 03.09.24)
  • Ukraine’s central bank unexpectedly lowered borrowing costs, citing slowing inflation and improved expectations of foreign financial assistance for Kyiv as it continues to repel Russia’s invasion. The National Bank of Ukraine cut the key rate to 14.5% from 15%, according to a statement published March 14. (Bloomberg, 03.14.24)
  • Farmers from Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic demonstrated on March 9 at the intersection of their countries against EU agricultural policy and imports of cheap produce from Ukraine. (dpa, 03.09.24)
  • In Finland, Ukrainian and Finnish detectives detained three people who are suspected of stealing money from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine allocated for the purchase of 5,000 body armor for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.14.24)
  • Judge of the Economic Court of the Ivano-Frankivsk Region Vladimir Bulko, who was exposed by NABU in 2018 for taking a bribe of 5,000 euros, was sentenced on March 13 to six years in prison with confiscation of all property. (, 03.13.24)

·  The Kyiv Pechersk District court extended the detention of Roman Hrynkevych, who is under investigation for a large-scale defense procurement corruption scheme, by one month, Ukrainian media outlet Suspilne reported on March 14. (Suspilne, 03.14.24)

·  Vitalii Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre, has reported that Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation has filed two criminal proceedings against him. (Ukrainska Pravda, 03.09.24)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Armenia will leave the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) if its lingering security concerns are not addressed by the Russian-led military alliance, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian warned again on March 12. (RFE/RL, 03.12.24)
  • Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said his nation is considering applying for EU membership. Pashinyan on March 14 called for broad public dialogue on the prospect of applying for EU membership. (RFE/RL, 03.09.24, MT/AFP, 03.14.24)
  • Russian border guards must leave Yerevan's Zvartnots airport from August 1, 2024. Pashinyan said this at a press conference on March 12. (, 03.12.24)
  • The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) claimed that the West intends to use Armenia as a tool against Russia, a notable escalation in its information operations criticizing Armenian efforts to distance itself from security relations with Russia. (ISW, 03.11.24)
  • The leaders of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan on March 11 greeted the first containers delivered from China to Azerbaijan's eastern Absecon district via a new train route crossing the vast territory of Kazakhstan. (RFE/RL, 03.11.24)
  • Azerbaijan has defended its position as yet another oil and gas producing nation to host the world’s most important climate summit, with the incoming COP29 president saying the Caucasus country was vulnerable to climate change.  In his first international interview since being appointed, Mukhtar Babayev told the Financial Times that Azerbaijan was suffering from the effects of global warming with water shortages and land degradation. (FT, 03.10.24)
  • The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has found that candidate Moldova has ticked off two of the remaining three requirements for opening accession talks: taking further measures toward de-oligarchization and providing adequate resources to its anticorruption authority. The third condition – the vetting of judges and appointing a new prosecutor-general – is already in an advanced phase, it said. (RFE/RL, 03.12.24)
  • The Kyrgyz parliament has approved without debate the third and final reading of a controversial bill that would allow authorities to register organizations as "foreign representatives" in a way that critics say mirrors repressive Russian legislation on "foreign agents." (RFE/RL, 03.14.24)
  • Belarus said on March 14 it was blocking a range of imports from Lithuania in retaliation for its neighbor closing two more border checkpoints. (AFP, 03.14.24)
  • “Everything is more or less going to the plan again” for Russia, said Kaupo Rosin, the director-general of the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service. (FP, 03.14.24)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • No significant developments.



  1. Putin was referring to “Russians there just like us” in Ukraine.

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 Vitaly V. Kuzmin shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.