Russia in Review, May 12-19, 2023

5 Things to Know

  1. Chinese President Xi Jinping told leaders of the five Central Asian republics that Beijing is ready to help them strengthen “their law enforcement, security and defense” capacities. Playing host to these leaders in Xian during a two-day summit, Xi also said China would provide $3.7 billion in financing support and “free assistance” to the five republics while also offering to increase transport and energy ties with the region, according to Bloomberg. China’s greater involvement in the Central Asian republics’ defense affairs would run counter to the previous informal division of labor between Moscow and Beijing in the region, in which the latter focused on economic issues while the former focused on defense and security issues.*
  2. The G7 summit in Japan has decided not to impose a near-outright ban on exports to Russia, Bloomberg reported. Instead, the group said it will seek to close loopholes in existing sanctions, ban exports of items critical to Russia’s war in Ukraine and target manufacturing, construction, transportation and business services, according to the news agency. Earlier, G7 finance chiefs have stated that the group has increased  “commitment of budget and economic support for Ukraine” for 2023 and early 2024 to $44 billion.  
  3. The Pentagon overestimated the value of the weapons it has sent to Ukraine by at least $3 billion — an accounting error that could be a boon for the war effort because it will allow the Defense Department to send more weapons now without asking Congress for additional funding, AP reported. Prior to the correction of the error, one U.S. congressional aide had estimated that the money to draw down existing U.S. stockpiles would expire in July, according to Politico.
  4. Zelensky has proposed occupying Russian villages to gain leverage over Moscow and bombing a pipeline that transfers Russian oil to Hungary, according to leaked  U.S. intelligence documents as described by WP. When asked if he had suggested occupying parts of Russia, Zelensky dismissed the U.S. intelligence claims as “fantasies,” but defended his right to use unconventional tactics in the defense of his country, according to WP. The revelation that Zelensky may have had at one point talked about blowing up the Druzhba pipeline was one reason why Hungary planned to block a $542 million tranche of EU financial assistance to Ukraine, Bloomberg reported.
  5. The chief judge of Ukraine's Supreme Court, Vsevolod Knyazev, has been detained for allegedly accepting a $3 million bribe, according to Ukrainska Pravda. According to Ukrainian media, Knyazev was allegedly offered the bribe in exchange for ruling in favor of Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Zhevago in a dispute over ownership over a mining combine, but Zhevago’s lawyers denied his involvement. At least three more Supreme Court judges have been implicated in the bribery case, prosecutors told NYT. The revelations came as G7 leaders praised “the continued determination and efforts of the Ukrainian government and people to combat corruption.”

*Here and elsewhere italicized text represents contextual commentary by RM staff.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Russian military forces have been enhancing defensive positions in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine in recent weeks, four witnesses said, ahead of an expected counteroffensive in the region. (Reuters, 05.19.23)
    • A May 19 statement issued by G7 said: “We express our gravest concern over Russia’s grossly irresponsible seizure and militarization of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.” (RM, 05.19.23)
  • With researchers predicting that cleaning up after aging nuclear power plants will evolve into a $125 billion global business in the near future, NUKEM should be ideally positioned to capitalize on the moment. Except for one thing: the company is wholly owned by Rosatom Corp. (Bloomberg, 05.13.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • The United States is seeing more indications that Russia and Iran are expanding a defense partnership in a way that will help Moscow prolong its war in Ukraine, the White House said. (Reuters, 05.15.23)
  • Iran and Russia agreed Wednesday to collaborate on the construction of the final part of a commercial transport network linking to the Gulf and India while avoiding Western sea lanes. The 164-kilometer (102-mile) railway in Iran's north would be completed within three years. (MT/AFP, 05.17.23)
  • One of Russia’s biggest lenders, VTB Bank PJSC, has opened an office in Iran. VTB was sanctioned by the US, EU and UK over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 05.17.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • Moscow claimed on May 13 that Kyiv used British long-range missiles to target civilian sites in the eastern city of Luhansk, wounding six children. The defense ministry said that on the evening of May 12 Ukraine's armed forces had struck two civilian enterprises. (AFP, 05.13.23)
  • A new Ukrainian government program to help repair damaged homes has drawn more than 10,000 applications in its first week, Ukrainian officials said. (NYT, 05.18.23)
  • More than 40 nations have agreed to set up a system to tally the damage Russia has inflicted on Ukraine in the hope of getting reparations. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Hungary, and Turkey will not join, at least not initially. (RFE/RL, 05.18.23)
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross warned that mines and unexploded shells in the Ukrainian countryside could have serious long-term implications for agriculture, a vital part of the country's economy. (AFP, 05.16.23)
  • Group of Seven (G7) finance chiefs put more aid on the table for Ukraine. “We call for an immediate end of Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine, which would clear one of the biggest uncertainties over the global economic outlook,” they said in a statement which notes $44 billion in funds to help support Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 05.13.23)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that the Black Sea Grain Initiative allowing for the export of Ukrainian grain through the country's Black Sea ports, has been extended for another two months. (RFE/RL, 05.17.23)
    • Only seven crop vessels remain in the Ukraine crop corridor as Russia threatens to exit the grain pact later this week, bringing traffic grinding to a halt. (Bloomberg, 05.16.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month of fighting, Ukrainian forces have gained 64 square miles of Ukrainian territory, according to the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 05.16.23)
  • On May 13, two Russian fighter jets and two military helicopters were shot down in Russia near the Ukrainian border with nine crew members killed, according to (RM, 05.19.23)
  • On May 14 Russia's Defense Ministry said that it had launched a missile attack in western Ukraine's Ternopil region. (WSJ, 05.14.23)
  • On May 14 Russia said on May 14 that two of its military commanders had been killed in combat near the frontline hotspot of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 05.14.23)
  • On May 15 — Ukrainian soldiers made further advances around Bakhmut over the weekend, the country’s deputy defense minister said on May 15, as the battle inside the eastern city continued to rage. Russia still controls about 90 percent of the largely ruined city. (NYT, 05.15.23)
  • On May 16 Ukrainian officials said 18 incoming Russian missiles were shot down early in the morning, thwarting a strike on the capital. In that attack Russia appears to have targeted one of two US made Patriot anti-missile defense systems recently obtained by Ukraine during an unprecedented barrage of projectiles against Kyiv on that day. (FT, 05.17.23)
    • Igor Konashenkov, Russia’s defense ministry spokesperson, claimed on May 16 that one of the Kinzhals took out a Patriot missile battery in Kyiv, suggesting its attack was aimed at overwhelming and taking down Ukraine’s recently received western defense systems. Russia also said it had shot down seven UK-supplied Storm Shadow long-range missiles, without providing any further evidence. (FT, 05.17.23)
    • The Patriot air-defense system damaged in Ukraine on May 16 by a Russian strike has been fixed and is operational, Deputy Pentagon Spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said. (WP, 05.18.23)
  • On May 16 Russian media said five border guards were wounded in a Ukrainian drone strike on a border control center in the Kursk region on May 15 evening. (FT, 05.17.23)
  • On May 18 the Ukrainian general staff said that Russian forces carried out 42 air and missile strikes on Bakhmut, Kherson, and Odesa, over the past 24 hours. (RFE/RL, 05.18.23)
  • On May 18 the Ukrainian OSINT channel on Telegram, DeepStateUS, reported that Russian forces “continued to push out” Ukrainian forces to areas beyond the town of Bakhmut as of that day. (RM, 05.19.23)
  • On May 19 Russia fired six Kalibr cruise missiles and launched 22 Iranian-made Shahed drones at Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian military. Air defenses shot down three of the cruise missiles and 16 of the drones, the military said. This was the 10th attack this month (WSJ, 05.19.23, NYT, 05.19.23)
  • On May 19, Russian air defenses shot down four UAVs over the northern part of Crimea, the region’s Russian-installed authorities said. (NVO, 05.19.23)
  • On May 19 Russia’s defense minister Shoigu visited troops near the front line in the partly occupied Zaporizhzhia area of southern Ukraine, according to a statement issued by the Russian Defense Ministry. (NYT, 05.19.23)
  • Ukrainians have been quietly testing their ability to push across the Dnieper and training units on how to conduct a possible river landing. (WP, 05.19.23)
  • Behind closed doors, Ukraine’s leader has proposed occupying Russian villages to gain leverage over Moscow, bombing a pipeline that transfers Russian oil to Hungary, and privately pining for long-range missiles to hit targets inside Russia’s borders, according to classified U.S. intelligence documents detailing his internal communications with top aides and military leaders. (WP, 05.13.23)
  • Ukraine's president vowed to reclaim his entire country while on his first visit to Germany since Russia attacked Ukraine last year. (WSJ, 05.14.23)
  • U.K. special forces from the British Army’s SAS and SRR regiments and the Navy’s SBS units are operating very close to the front lines in Ukraine. These personnel are serving as key interlocutors between NATO n intelligence efforts and Ukrainian forces, according to Tom Rogan. Leaked US military documents indicate that the UK has deployed as many as 50 special forces to Ukraine. (WSJ, 05.18.23, Guardian, 04.11.23)
  • The Pentagon has overestimated the value of the weapons it has sent to Ukraine by at least $3 billion — an accounting error that could be a boon for the war effort because it will allow the Defense Department to send more weapons now without asking Congress for more money. (AP, 05.19.23)
    • One US congressional aide who closely tracks the issue estimated that, based on the rate of announcements, the money to draw down existing U.S. stockpiles will expire in July. That would mean the flow of equipment could be disrupted if Kyiv has to wait an extended period for a new tranche of funding. (Politico, 05.15.23)
  • President Biden on Friday told his fellow leaders at the G7 summit that the U.S. will support a joint plan to train Ukrainian pilots on advanced fighter jets, including U.S.-made F-16s, a senior U.S. official confirmed to Axios. Zelensky hailed a “historic decision” by the White House. (Axios, 05.19.23, FT, 05.19.23)
  • US investigators are looking into reports of Javelin shoulder-fired rockets and Switchblade drones being sold online after being taken from Ukraine, but officials in Kyiv don’t believe there is widespread smuggling, according to NYT. So far, American officials said, there have been only a handful of cases of suspected arms trafficking or other illicit military transfers of advanced weapons sent to foreign conflicts, the newspaper reported. However, a Ukrainian lawmaker who tracks US arms supplies has acknowledged that “we are done … even if only a few of the US-supplied arms wind up on the black market.” (NYT, , 05.15.23, RM, 05.15.23)
  • A retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier was killed during the fight for the war-torn eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, (MT/AFP, 05.17.23)
  • Ukraine’s allies fear military support for its battle against Russia is nearing a peak, with senior European officials increasingly concerned about the flow of aid next year as the US enters a divisive presidential campaign. (FT, 05.18.23)
  • Germany is preparing new military aid for Ukraine worth more than €2.7 billion ($2.9 billion), including tanks and anti-aircraft systems, the country’s defense ministry said ahead of a possible visit by President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Bloomberg, 05.13.23)
    • ”We hope that the war will end soon,” Scholz said at a joint news conference with Zelensky at the chancellery on May 14, noting that Germany is the second-biggest backer of Ukraine after the US. “But we are preparing ourselves and our partners to be able to provide support for as long as necessary,” he added. (Bloomberg, 05.14.23)
    • Zelensky praised Germany as a “true friend and reliable ally.” German heavy weapons manufacturer Rheinmetall on May 13 announced that it will build a factory to repair and service tanks in Ukraine in a joint venture with state-owned defense group Ukroboronprom. The deliveries will include 18 self-propelled howitzers, four IRIS-T SLM air defense systems, 30 older Leopard 1 MBTs and 20 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, as well as artillery munition. (FT, 05.14.23)
  • Emmanuel Macron said France would start training Ukrainian fighter jet pilots as part of its latest package of military aid ahead of Kyiv’s planned counteroffensive against Russia. (FT, 05.15.23)
  • Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the UK has promised to send hundreds of attack drones and other military hardware to Ukraine after face-to-face talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 15. (FT, 05.15.23)
    • After the talks with Sunak, Zelensky was asked whether Ukraine was waiting for more weaponry before starting its counter-offensive. “We really need some more time,” he said. “Not too much. We will be ready in some time.” (FT, 05.15.23)
  • Russia’s military has changed the way it fights 15 months into its disastrous invasion of Ukraine and poses a significant threat as Kyiv prepares a major counteroffensive, a study said. Widespread perceptions of Russian army weakness are in some cases either out of date or misconceived according to the 30-page report by the UK’s Royal United Services Institute. (Bloomberg, 05.18.23)
  • PMC Wagner’s Yevgeny Prigozhin offered to reveal Russian troop locations to Kyiv in exchange for Ukrainian forces withdrawing from the area around Bakhmut, WP reported, citing leaked U.S. intelligence documents. According to the latter, Prigozhin has also told a Ukrainian intelligence officer that the Russian military was struggling with ammunition supplies and advised Ukrainian forces to push forward with an assault on the border of Crimea. Prigozhin denied offering such information to Ukraine, however. (WP, 05.15.23, RM, 05.15.23)
    • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on May 15 dismissed a report in The Washington Post that Prigozhin offered to reveal information about Russian military positions to Ukraine, calling the report, which was based on classified U.S. intelligence files, "yet another hoax." Prigozhin lashed out at The Post over the report on May 15, but he did not address the specific allegations against him. (WP, 05.15.23)
    • The Washington Post deleted part of the recent interview with Volodymyr Zelensky in which the Ukrainian president discussed allegations that PMC Wagner’s Prigozhin had offered to give up Russian troop positions in exchange for the Ukrainian forces withdrawing from the Bakhmut area, according to Meduza and BBC. (RM, 05.16.23)
  • Prigozhin’s PMC Wagner has been locked in a conflict with Potok, Fakel and Plamya PMCs, which are associated with Gazprom and which are also fighting in Ukraine, in the past few weeks, according to BBC. (RM, 05.16.23)

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

  • G7 nations have decided against imposing a near-outright ban on exports to Russia. The G7 will instead broaden the list of banned goods to restrict items critical to Russia’s war in Ukraine, including those used on the battlefield, such as exports of industrial machinery and tools, according to the draft statement. The G7 will also further target key sectors, such as manufacturing, construction, transportation and business services. Beyond hitting Moscow’s revenue, a main focus of the G7 is to close sanctions loopholes and strengthen enforcement, especially in regard to third countries through which Russia is importing banned goods. (Bloomberg, 05.19.23)
    • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the G7 summit this weekend in person. Zelensky will fly on a US military plane to Japan after a stop in Saudi Arabia to attend the Arab League summit. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to meet Zelensky in Japan, according to Indian officials. It would be the first meeting between the leaders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Bloomberg, 05.19.23, FT, 05.19.23)
  • The Biden administration halted the export of a wide range of consumer goods to Russia on Friday and added 71 companies to a trade blacklist, as the G7 announced new sanctions on Moscow over its war in Ukraine. (Reuters, 05.19.23)
  • A bill banning Russian uranium imports to the United States gained momentum on May 16 by passing a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, Climate and Grid Security is to mark up three bills, including the Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act. The legislation would "prohibit the importation into the United States of unirradiated low-enriched uranium that is produced in the Russian Federation." The measure also would authorize the Energy Department to issue waivers for utilities that would have to shut down nuclear reactors if Russian supplies were immediately cut off. The United States imported about 14 percent of its uranium from Russia in 2021, compared to 35 percent from Kazakhstan, and 15 percent from Canada, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. (Reuters, 05.16.23, WP, 05.17.23)
  • Britain has announced new sanctions against Russia aimed at advanced military technologies and imports of diamonds to cut Moscow's "sources of income." The sanctions, posted on the website of the British government on May 19, targeted 86 Russian citizens and legal entities. Among them are companies connected to the theft of Ukrainian grain, the development of military technologies, the supply of Russian energy carriers, as well as banks. (RFE/RL, 05.19.23)
  • Hungary will block a further €500 million-euro ($542 million) tranche of EU financial assistance to Ukraine for now and would be reluctant to back further sanctions against Russia, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday. He said that Ukraine was limiting the educational rights of the country’s ethnic Hungarian citizens. He lastly pointed to a report from the Washington Post suggesting that President Volodymyr Zelensky had at one point talked about blowing up the pipeline delivering oil from Russia to Hungary via Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 05.17.23)
  • The Czech government on May 17 canceled Soviet-era decrees that granted the Russian Embassy free use of land in Prague and other cities. (Reuters, 05.17.23)
  • Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas called for a full ban on the transit of European Union goods through Russia. Kallas said in an interview that Russia’s lucrative trade circumventing western sanctions was attracting companies in the Baltic states despite the countries’ hawkish stance on the Ukraine war. Her comments come after the Financial Times identified $1bn of such goods having disproportionately passed through the Baltic states, believed to be part of Moscow’s “ghost trade”. (Bloomberg, 05.18.23. FT, 05.17.23)
  • Dozens of Europe-based companies have continued to do business with Russian firms. The Insider outlet found that 25 companies from Germany, France, Switzerland, Hungary, Slovakia, Italy, Estonia, Lithuania, Austria and Poland had fulfilled orders with various companies known to have links to the Russian Armed Forces. Among the items sold by the European companies were microchips for missiles, fiber optics for night vision devices, tactical boots, body armor, components for warship engines and more. (MT/AFP, 05.17.23)
  • A Russian court fined Google for refusing to take down material it described as promoting same-sex relationships and discrediting the country's armed forces. On May 18's ruling imposed a 3-million-ruble penalty on Alphabet's Google, which is equivalent to about $39,000. (WSJ, 05.13.23)
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry has announced that the Russian government has banned Barack Obama and 499 other Americans from visiting Russia in response to US sanctions against Russia, Meduza reported. (RM, 05.19.23)
  • The Kremlin confirmed on May 18 it had suspended the bank accounts of the Finnish embassy in Moscow. (MT/AFP, 05.18.23)
  • Greenpeace Russia announced its closure on Friday following the authorities’ decision to label it an “undesirable” organization. (MT, 05.19.23)
  • German carmaker Volkswagen said it had completed the sale of its Russian assets to local dealership group Avilon. (MT/AFP, 05.19.23)
  • Len Blavatnik has sold his stake in Russian aluminum producer United Co. Rusal International PJSC, divesting his last major asset in the country where he seeded his $33.5 billion fortune. (Bloomberg, 05.19.23)
  • French drinks company Pernod Ricard has halted all exports of its brands to Russia, bowing to public pressure following an outcry after it continued to export brands such as Jameson whiskey as war raged in Ukraine. (FT, 05.13.23)
    • Yerevan Brandy Company, the producer of the iconic Armenian cognac brand Ararat, will halt exports to Russia because its parent company, Pernod Ricard, has stopped all exports of its international alcohol brands to Russia . (MT/AFP, 05.19.23)
  • Russian airlines performed 2,000 flights on Western aircraft with expired parts last year as sanctions acutely hit the country's air sector. (MT/AFP, 05.17.23)
    • Russia's flagship airline Aeroflot has asked its employees to refrain from recording equipment defects on aircraft, leading to planes regularly flying with malfunctions, according to the investigative news outlet Proekt, citing current and former employees at the airline. (MT/AFP, 05.15.23)
  • More than $15bn worth of exports that sustain a critical part of South Africa’s manufacturing industry is on the line as Pretoria battles the fallout from a US accusation that it covertly supplied arms to Russia. (FT, 05.17.23)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed a decree imposing sanctions on 13 individuals and 28 entities that he said have been cooperating with Russian occupying authorities in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region. (MT/AFP, 05.12.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • Zelensky said: “We cannot say that Putin alone started a full-scale war in 2022. And it would be, to be honest, just insulting to all those people who have died. They have a large collective responsibility for this. And that's why I'm just not ready to talk to him. I am not ready to talk to this collective. Not because someone is stubborn, but because they have chosen the path of destruction of Ukraine — a full-scale path. That's why we can't absolve anyone of responsibility… I think it makes no sense for Ukraine to negotiate with this collective with the name "Putin." (WP, 05.13.23)
  • China's special envoy, who visited Ukraine this week, has warned that there is "no panacea" to the war in Ukraine and urged "all parties" to work toward creating conditions to end the conflict. Special envoy Li Hui held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and other senior officials on May 16-17. The talks finished with no apparent breakthrough in Beijing’s efforts to promote a cease-fire. (RFE/RL, 05.18.23, NYT, 05.18.23)
    •  During his meeting with Zelensky, Li "explained China's position on the political solution to the Ukrainian crisis," the statement said, adding that Beijing was "willing to make its own efforts to stop the war, declare a cease-fire, and restore peace as soon as possible." A statement from China’s foreign ministry said Li repeated Beijing’s position on a “political settlement” to the war. Li is also to visit Russia and other countries to discuss a “political settlement to the Ukraine crisis”, the Chinese foreign ministry said (FT, 05.18.23, RFE/RL, 05.18.23, FT, 05.12.23)
    • Zelensky said: “For me, it is very important that China respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine according to our 1991 administrative borders, including the island of Crimea. All of this is very important to me. (WP, 05.13.23)
    • Ukraine will make no territorial concessions in exchange for peace with Russia, Kuleba told Li. (NYT, 05.17.23)
  • G7 leaders will discuss a proposal for a Ukraine peace summit during their three-day meeting in Hiroshima this week, in an effort to promote Kyiv’s proposal for ending Russia’s war against the country rather than rival plans proposed by China. (FT, 05.18.23)
  • Six African heads of state seeking to broker a cease-fire in Russia’s war with Ukraine intend to meet the two nations’ presidents early next month, a South African official said. Details of the trip are being finalized, with plans to visit Moscow and the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in early June. Zambia, Senegal, the Republic of Congo, Uganda, Egypt and South Africa will all be part of the mediation effort. (Bloomberg, 05.17.23, Bloomberg, 05.16.23)
    • Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told reporters on May 18 that several African states would lead a peace delegation to Moscow after Putin spoke to Ramaphosa last week. (FT, 05.18.23)
    • Zelensky said he had spoken with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on May 13. The two talked about “the peace formula, about justice, and about how our world should be united by the rules of international law.” (Kyiv Independent/Yahoo, 05.13.23)
  • A May 19 statement issued by the G7 said the group supported “earnest efforts by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in setting out basic principles in his Peace Formula in line with the UN Charter.” (RM, 05.19.23)
  • President Biden's aides have been exploring potential endgames, trying to identify an outcome that could be acceptable to both Kyiv and Moscow if real peace talks started, U.S. officials say. ''I know that senior-level administration officials are regularly having conversations about what peace ultimately would look like with our Ukrainian counterparts,'' said Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, ''while at the same time having conversations about how to arm them and win back as much territory as possible.'' (NYT, 05.12.23)
  • Among top U.S. officials, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been the most outspoken on the need for Ukraine and Russia to consider negotiations, arguing that a prolonged war would result in many more casualties. Mr. Blinken has taken a different position. ''There has to be some profound change in Mr. Putin's mind and in Russia's mind to engage in meaningful diplomacy,'' he said last week. (NYT, 05.12.23)
  • U.S. officials are planning for the growing possibility that the Russia-Ukraine war will turn into a frozen conflict that lasts many years — perhaps decades — and joins the ranks of similar lengthy face-offs in the Korean peninsula, South Asia and beyond. Three U.S. officials and a former Biden administration official confirmed that an extended freeze in fighting is one possibility for which the U.S. is preparing. U.S. officials also are thinking through the long-term security ties Washington will have with Kyiv, as well as Ukraine’s relationship with the NATO military alliance. (Politico, 05.18.23)
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hinted that the days of President Vladimir Putin’s “imperialism” are numbered in a show of support for Ukraine ahead of a much-anticipated push to repel Russian invaders. “At some point Russia’s war against Ukraine will end,” Scholz said in a speech at a rare summit of the Council of Europe in Reykjavik. “And one thing is certain: it will not end with a victory for Putin’s imperialism,” Scholz told delegates during the gathering’s opening ceremony. “Because we will continue to support Ukraine until a just peace is achieved.” (Bloomberg, 05.17.23) Thus, deviating from the vague mantra of "as long as it takes" that is popular in the West - Scholz sheds some light on the duration of Germany's commitment.
  • Henry Kissinger says that he wants Russia to give up as much as possible of the territory that it conquered in 2014, but the reality is that in any ceasefire Russia is likely to keep Sevastopol, at the very least. Such a settlement, in which Russia loses some gains but retains others, could leave both a dissatisfied Russia and a dissatisfied Ukraine. To establish a lasting peace in Europe requires the West to take two leaps of imagination, Henry Kissinger said The first is for Ukraine to join NATO, as a means of restraining it, as well as protecting it. The second is for Europe to engineer a rapprochement with Russia, as a way to create a stable eastern border. (Economist, 05.17.23)

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

  • Officials from NATO nations, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail sensitive diplomatic discussions, said there is consensus among the alliance's 31 members that, despite advocacy from Kyiv, NATO will not issue Ukraine a formal invitation to join at the July 11-12 meeting. (WP, 05.14.23)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and Pope Francis on May 13 on a flying visit to Rome. Zelensky praised Italy for its support in Ukraine’s efforts to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Italy, which signed a joint declaration with Zelensky supporting Ukraine’s bid to join the EU and NATO military alliance, has contributed around €1bn in military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine since the start of the conflict, including Samp-T air defense systems. (FT, 05.14.23, Bloomberg, 05.12.23)
  • NATO is considering opening a liaison office in Japan, the country's officials said this week, a move that international security experts say could deepen the alliance's engagement in the region as it grows increasingly concerned about China's support of Russia. (NYT, 05.13.23)
  • More than 1,500 UK troops will train alongside thousands of personnel from NATO members as part of a major exercise in Estonia, the Ministry of Defense said. NATO enhanced forward presence battlegroup. Around 14,000 military personnel are set to take part from 11 NATO countries, with the UK marking the first time it has conducted a brigade-sized deployment to Estonia. (Bloomberg/PA, 05.13.23)
  • Henry Kissinger begins his analysis by condemning Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. “It was certainly a catastrophic mistake of judgment by Putin at the end,” he says. But the West is not without blame. “I thought that the decision to…leave open the membership of Ukraine in NATO was very wrong.” That was destabilizing, because dangling the promise of NATO protection without a plan to bring it about left Ukraine poorly defended even as it was guaranteed to enrage not only Mr. Putin, but also many of his compatriots. (The Economist, 05.17.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping and leaders of the five Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have signed a declaration outlining their support for each other. “China is ready to help Central Asian countries strengthen capacity building on law enforcement, security and defense, support their independent efforts to safeguard regional security and fight terrorism, and work with them to promote cyber-security,” Xi said in his speech at the inaugural China-Central Asia summit in the city of Xian. Xi also offered to increase transport and energy ties with the region. He also said China would provide 26 billion yuan ($3.7 billion) in financing support and “free assistance” to the Central Asian republics. (Bloomberg, 05.19.23, RFE/RL, 05.19.2, FT, 05.19.23) Xi mentioned neither Russia nor Ukraine in his speech.
    • The first to arrive in Xian was Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Tokayev. "We have a common goal — to intensify bilateral relations,” Tokayev told Xi. Kazakhstan is China’s largest trading partner in Central Asia. Tokayev said it is “absolutely clear” that Taiwan is a part of China as the Central Asian nation looks to build ties with its eastern neighbor. (RFE/RL, 05.12.23, Reuters, 05.18.23)
  • Russia’s prime minister Mikhail Mishustin is to head a high-profile delegation to a business forum in China next week as Moscow’s economic dependency on Beijing grows, more than a year into its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Mishustin and Russia’s top energy official Alexander Novak, who are under western sanctions over the invasion, will be the most prominent Russian figures at the Russia-China Business Forum in Shanghai on May 23rd, according to people familiar with the matter. A spokesperson for Mishustin did not respond to a request for comment. (FT, 05.16.23)
  • Broker Expert, front company for the Russian mercenary group Wagner acquired tens of thousands of protective helmets from China late last year, at the same time as the group’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was raising a vast prisoner army to attack Ukraine. (FT, 05.19.23)
  • TVEL delivers new equipment for Chinese VVER-1000 fuel production. The modernized ultrasonic unit supplied by TVEL is for fabrication at the Yibin plant, in China’s Sichuan province, of Russian-designed TVS-2M nuclear fuel for VVER-1000 reactors. (WNN, 05.17.23)
  • The Kremlin on May 15 slammed comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said Russia was becoming a vassal to China as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 05.15.23)
  • Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi expressed concern on May 13 about Russian and Chinese military cooperation in Asia and said the security situation in Europe could not be separated from that in the Indo-Pacific region. (AP, 05.13.23)
  • Henry Kissinger doubts that China and Russia can work together well. True, they share a suspicion of the United States, but he also believes that they have an instinctive distrust of one another. “I have never met a Russian leader who said anything good about China,” he says. “And I’ve never met a Chinese leader who said anything good about Russia.” They are not natural allies. (Economist, 05.17.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • As of early 2023, FAS estimates that Russia has a stockpile of approximately 4,489 nuclear warheads assigned for use by long-range strategic launchers and shorter-range tactical nuclear forces. This is a net increase of approximately 12 warheads from last year, according to FAS’ Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda, and Eliana Reynolds. (BAS, 05.08.23)
  • The United States publicly released data on its nuclear arsenal on May 15 per the New START treaty and pressed Russia to do the same. Describing the data release as voluntary, the State Department said that the United States had 1,419 deployed nuclear warheads as of March 1. The figure was down from 1,515 in March 2022 and within the 1,550-limit set by the treaty signed in 2010. (MT/AFP, 05.16.23)
  • A May 19 statement issued by the G7 said: “Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric, undermining of arms control regimes, and stated intent to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus are dangerous and unacceptable.” (RM, 05.19.23)
  • The Levada Center's latest poll, conducted April 20-26, 2023, shows the proportion of Russians who don't think that (1) the Russian leadership will use nukes in its war with Ukraine; and (2) that such use would be justified, exceeds the proportion of those who do think 1 and 2 by >63% (RM, 05.14.23). See more details below.

Do you think the Russian leadership is ready to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine if it decides it is necessary to do so?

Definitely ready

Rather ready

Rather not ready

Definitely not ready





Do you think use of nuclear weapons by Russia in the course of the current conflict would be justified?

Definitely justified

Rather justified

Rather not justified

Definitely not justified





  • In an email to State Department employees on the morning of May 12, Wendy Sherman announced her retirement from the post of the deputy secretary of state. Ms. Sherman, 73, has been a fixture in foreign policy circles in Washington and capitals worldwide as the go-to diplomat for tough negotiations with U.S. rivals and adversaries: Iran, North Korea, Russia and, mostly recently, China. (NYT, 05.13.23)


  • Uzbek citizen Sayfullo Saipov, 34, received 10 life sentences and another 260 years in prison on May 17 for killing eight people with a truck on a bike path in Manhattan on Halloween in 2017. (AP, 05.18.23)

Conflict in Syria:

  • Egypt has ignored U.S. requests to close its airspace to Russian military flights. Egypt has permitted Russian overflights, giving Moscow a circuitous but certain path to Syria, where its forces have helped President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war in recent years. U.S. officials say Russia has used the flights to ferry weapons to Ukraine from Syria. (NYT, 05.15.23)
  • Syrian president Bashar al-Assad attended an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia on May 19 as regional leaders edge towards normalizing relations more than a decade after isolating Damascus following the regime’s violent crackdown on a popular uprising that triggered a civil war. (FT, 05.19.23)

Cyber security/AI:

  • Federal authorities announced criminal charges, economic sanctions and a $10 million reward on May 16 for information leading to the arrest of a Russian accused of participating in a global ransomware campaign called Babuk, whose victims allegedly included D.C. police, an airline and other American industries. The Treasury Department imposed an economic ban on financial dealings with Mikhail Matveyev, calling him a central figure in launching cyberattacks against U.S. law enforcement, businesses and critical infrastructure in 2021. (WP, 05.17.23)
  • A personal computer in Russia was used to breach DC’s Metro's computer network earlier this year after the transit agency repeatedly was warned that cybersecurity deficiencies left its systems open to information theft and national security threats, according to a report released Wednesday. (WP, 05.17.23)
  • The EU is planning an undersea internet cable to improve connectivity to Georgia and reduce dependence on lines running through Russia, amid growing concerns about vulnerabilities to infrastructure transmitting global data. (FT, 05.12.23)
  • Posing as Islamists, Russian hackers have taken aim at Sweden. (Bloomberg, 05.14.23)
  • Sam Altman, the chief executive of ChatGPT creator OpenAI called on Congress to create licensing and safety standards for advanced artificial-intelligence systems, as lawmakers begin a bipartisan push toward regulating the powerful new artificial-intelligence tools available to consumers. (WSJ, 05.17.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia exported more oil in April than in any month since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, with almost 80 per cent of crude shipments flowing to China and India, according to IEA. Russian oil exports edged up by another 50,000 barrels a day in April to a post-invasion high of 8.3mn b/d, far exceeding the 7.7mn b/d and 7.5mn b/d that it averaged in 2022 and 2021 respectively. Despite shipping more oil than in April 2022, Russia’s monthly oil export revenues were 27 per cent lower than last year, according to IEA estimates, partly due to lower global energy prices. (FT, 05.16.23)
    • Finance minister Anton Siluanov acknowledged issues during a public video conference with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, blaming “all these discounts” in explaining why energy revenues fell more than 50 per cent in the first quarter of this year. Researchers at the Kyiv School of Economics estimate about 75 per cent of the decline in Russia’s revenues can be attributed to western sanctions, rather than market prices, based on analysis of oil sales records. (FT, 05.18.23)
    •  In February, the value of Russia’s mineral fuel exports to the EU was just a fifth of the previous year’s, according to data from European thinktank Bruegel. (FT, 04.15.23)
  • Russia’s pledge to cut its crude production is intended to support global oil market prices, according to President Vladimir Putin. Russia promised to reduce its crude production by 500,000 barrels a day in March from February levels and maintain the curbs for the rest of the year. The nation implemented only 200,000 barrels a day of these cuts in April, according to the International Energy Agency. (Bloomberg, 05.17.23)
  • Since January 2022 India imported a record 1.9 million barrels a day of Russian crude in April — compared with just 65,000 on a daily basis in January last year. The price of Urals delivered to India — including shipping costs — was almost $12 a barrel cheaper than the global Dated Brent benchmark on May 15 (Bloomberg, 05.17.23)
  • China’s economy has cut its intake of West African crude by more than 40%. Shipments dropped to 730,000 barrels a day in April, from 1.3 million in early 2022. Angola remains by far the region’s largest provider. At the same time, China’s imports of Russian crude rose by 80% to about 1.5 million barrels a day since early 2022. (Bloomberg, 05.17.23)
  • Shares of tanker operating companies Frontline, Euronav, International Seaways and Hafnia have risen by between 54% and 94% in the past year. Prices for 20-year-old ships have increased substantially, too. Generally, tankers have a maximum of 25 years of useful life. The proportion of tankers aged 20 years or more has increased from 2.2% in 2019 to nearly 8% today, and on their current trajectory would rise to 15.5% by mid-2025, according to Braemar. (Bloomberg, 05.15.23)

Climate change:

  • Wildfires in the boreal forests of Canada and Russia of rising intensity are sharply reducing air quality and pumping tons of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere, the EU’s earth observation program has warned. (FT, 05.14.23)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • The White House has made periodic calls to the Kremlin to demand the release of American detainees Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, according to Russia's foreign minister, a measure of the high-level diplomacy taking place over the two men whom the State Department has designated wrongfully detained Meanwhile in Washington, President Biden said his administration is "working every day" to secure the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan. (WSJ, 05.17.23)
    • Moscow said Friday it had again denied a consular visit to Gershkovich after Washington refused visas to several Russian journalists. (MT, 05.19,.23)
  • The United States on May 16 denounced Russia's arrest of a former employee of a U.S. consulate, who risks prison time for what Washington said were routine activities. Russia's state-run TASS agency said Robert Shonov, a Russian national, was being held under a law against "confidential cooperation" with a foreign state. Shonov worked for more than 25 years for the U.S. consulate in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok until 2021, when Moscow imposed restrictions on local staff working for foreign missions. (MT/AFP, 05.17.23)
  • Natalia Arno, head of the Free Russia foundation, may have been subjected to poisoning while attending Russian opposition events in Europe this past spring. Arno turned to the FBI, upon returning to the U.S and the bureau launched an investigation, according to Russian online news agency Agentstvo. The past two years have also seen John Herbst, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and other vocal critics of Putin’s Russia experience poisoning symptoms, with the FBI launching an investigation after the former ambassador’s health had seriously deteriorated, according to the agency. (RM, 05.16.23)
    • The Atlantic Council has confirmed that Ambassador Herbst experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning two years ago. (RFE/RL, 05.17.23)
  • John Durham, special counsel appointed in President Donald Trump's administration issued a highly critical report on how the FBI handled allegations linking Mr. Trump to Russia in 2016. He said the bureau swiftly pursued a vague tip about potential contacts between a Trump campaign aide and Russia authorities in July 2016, even though, the report says, the bureau had no other information in its files to corroborate any such contact. He concluded the FBI was more cautious and skeptical of allegations of foreign influence on the Clinton campaign than on the Trump campaign in 2016. Mr. Durham said the FBI was overly reliant on investigative leads from Mr. Trump's political opponents. (WSJ, 05.15.23)
  • The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) published a recruitment video on May 16 that targets well-connected Russians angered by their leadership’s war in Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 05.16.23)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia's gross domestic product shrank by 1.9% in the first quarter of 2023, the country's statistic agency Rosstat said Wednesday. (MT/AFP, 05.17.23)
  • Russia has lost over 50,000 scientific researchers in the past five years, a senior member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) has said. “. (MT/AFP, 05.18.23)
  • The Russian authorities conducted surveys on attitudes towards the country, the war and the president across more than five hundred universities. Among the responding students’ emotions, anxiety and fear were in first place with 36%, followed by hope, with 25%. These were followed by indignation and disappointment, with about 20%. Respect, pride and trust were reported by 12-14% of respondents. About a third of the respondents said they would like to leave the country. (Istories, 05.18.23)
  • President Vladimir Putin on May 12 ordered officials to develop measures aimed at reversing the mass emigration of Russian citizens sparked by the invasion of Ukraine and the country’s “partial” mobilization of reservists. (MT/AFP, 05.12.23)
  • High-ranking Russian officials have been banned from leaving their positions during the war. “I am aware of at least two cases when governors tried to leave their posts, but the internal policy department [of the presidential staff] not only banned them, but hinted at criminal cases,” says a former FSB officer. An acquaintance of the official from the Presidential Administration also heard about this ban: “There are many who have wanted [to leave] after the start of the war. If everyone left, control would be lost.” (Istories, 05.15.23)
  • Yandex NV has received bids from billionaires Vladimir Potanin and Vagit Alekperov to buy a controlling stake in Russia’s dominant search engine that value the company’s Russian assets at about $7 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg, 05.19.23)
  • Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin will seek his third term this fall. (MT/AFP, 05.19.23)
  • Police have searched the homes of at least seven members of the Memorial human right group's successor -- the Center of Historic Memory -- in the Russian city of Perm. The group's lawyer, Yelena Pershakova, said the searches on May 19 were linked to a probe into an attempt to transfer Memorial's archives to Germany. (RFE/RL, 05.19.23)
  • Police in Russia have searched the homes of several politicians and a journalist who allegedly have ties with fugitive former lawmaker Ilya Ponomaryov, who currently resides in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 05.18.23)
  • A Moscow court has issued arrest warrants for noted film directors Aleksandr Rodnyanskiy and Ivan Vyrypayev on charges of "discrediting Russian armed forces" involved in Moscow's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 05.17.23)
  • Russian prosecutors on May 16 requested a prison sentence of nine years for opposition figure and anti-war activist Mikhail Krieger. (MT/AFP, 05.16.23)
  • Veteran Russian rock musician Boris Grebenshchikov, who currently resides out of Russia, has been charged with discrediting Russian armed forces involved in Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine (RFE/RL, 05.18.23)
  • One of the first foreign citizens accused of spreading “fake news” about Russia’s war in Ukraine has been sentenced to more than five years in prison on the charges, the Kommersant business daily reported Wednesday. Giraldo Saray Alberto Enrique, a Colombian national who has lived in Russia for 24 years, was detained in the spring of 2022. (MT/AFP, 05.17.23)
  • Russian lawmakers are drafting legislation that would punish anti-Russian words and actions deemed as “Russophobia” with up to five years imprisonment (MT/AFP, 05.19.23)
  • Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February of last year, Anna Korobkova says she has spent her days informing on her fellow citizens. In just over a year, she’s written 1,013 of them. Korobkova is perhaps the most prolific of a growing number of Russians who are joining in the Kremlin’s crackdown on critics of the war. (Bloomberg, 05.15.23)
  • According to a poll conducted by the Levada Center in late April, some 72% of Russians identify as Russian Orthodox Christians, while 18% either do not identify themselves with any religion or are atheists. The assessment of the role of religion in the personal lives of the respondents has not changed in two years: 40% consistently say that religion plays an important role in their lives. The majority, 59%, say that religion either does not have a very important place in their lives (33%) or does not play any role at all (26%). (RM, 05.17.23)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has handed over the country's most acclaimed Russian icon — Andrei Rublev's Trinity — to the Church, the Moscow Patriarchate said on May 15. (MT/AFP, 05.15.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The classified spending of the Russian budget since the beginning of the year has exceeded 3 trillion rubles, The Bell calculated based on the latest data from the federal portal Electronic Budget. These expenses include defense and national security, and since the start of the war, spending on the “attached” territories has probably been added to them. (, 05.19.23)
  • Since January 1, 2023, 117,400 people have been accepted into the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation for contract service, as well as for volunteer formations, according to Dmitry Medvedev. (Meduza, 05.19.23)
  •  The past May 9 parade in Moscow featured a T-34 tank and multiple armored off-road vehicles, but no modern tanks in what shows that Russia cannot afford any of its modern tanks involved in the Ukraine war, indicating a significant shortage according to Russian military expert Nikolai Mitrokhin. (RM, 05.15.23)
  • Russia’s largest online retailer Wildberries recorded a twentyfold increase in sales to 26,700 drones in January-March. Fellow e-commerce giant Ozon saw a fifteen-fold surge to 17,600 drones sold over the same time. (MT/AFP, 05.15.23)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • The number of acts of sabotage in Russia has more than doubled so far in 2023 compared to the previous year amid the war in Ukraine, the independent news site Vyorstka reported on May 15. At least 57 attacks on Russian railways, military enlistment centers, energy sites and other targets were publicly reported in January-May 2023. That compares with 21 similar attacks in 2022 and only one in 2021. (MT/AFP, 05.15.23)
  • As wartime Russia experiences a surge in treason cases, the arrests for high treason of three Russian academics who work on hypersonic missile technology on the same faculty in Siberia have drawn a rare, public outcry from Russia's scientific community. Valery Zvegintsev, Anatoly Maslov and Alexander Shiplyuk - all employees of the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Siberian branch in Novosibirsk - all stand accused of treason. A fourth colleague at another research institute in Novosibirsk, Dmitry Kolker, was also arrested in July on suspicion of treason last summer. He reportedly had pancreatic cancer and died while in detention. (WP, 05.18.23)
  • Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on May 16 it had arrested a 25-year-old Ukrainian woman accused of illegally gathering information on the Russian military, charges punishable by up to 20 years in prison. (MT/AFP, 05.16.23)
  • A court in Russia's northwestern region of Karelia has sentenced a 34-year-old man to six years in prison for high treason. The man, who intended to reach Ukraine via Kazakhstan, was arrested in March near the Russian-Kazakh border. (RFE/RL, 05.16.23)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • The commander of South Africa's ground forces was in Moscow this week for talks on improving combat readiness. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has spoken to his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa about the Ukraine war amid a diplomatic storm over a US claim that Pretoria covertly sent arms to Moscow. South African Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said his country resolved a row with the US over allegations that Pretoria supplied weapons to Russia and it’s unlikely to face any repercussions. (MT/AFP, 05.15.23, Bloomberg, 03.14.23, FT, 04.12.23)
  • Russia’s flagship economic forum in St Petersburg on June 14-17 has named former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt as a participant at this year’s event. Schmidt, the most prominent among a sparse list of western speakers, has not received an invitation and does not plan to go, said a person familiar with the matter. Other western speakers listed on the program, including Lucid Motors chief executive Peter Rawlinson and Stanford professor Ilya Strebulaev, said they would not attend. Foreign representation is still stronger than at last year’s forum, where the overwhelming majority of speakers were Russian and the most visible foreign delegation was from the Taliban. (FT, 05.19.23)
  • An investment forum in Russia’s republic of Tatarstan opened this week. The 14th annual KazanForum, known as Kazan Summit in its previous 13 iterations, brands itself as a platform for Islamic investors. This year’s event is expected to draw 15,000 registered attendees from 85 countries. (MT/AFP, 05.18.23)


  • The chief judge of Ukraine's Supreme Court, Vsevolod Knyazev, has been detained for allegedly accepting a $3 million bribe, according to Ukrainska Pravda. According to Ukrainian media, Knyazev was allegedly offered the bribe in exchange for ruling in favor of Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Zhevago in a dispute over the ownership of a mining combine, but Zhevago’s lawyers denied his involvement. At least three more Supreme Court judges have been implicated in the bribery case, prosecutors told NYT.  (RM, 05.19.23)
    • Experts said that, while the latest corruption revelations may further damage the country's reputation among its critics, the transparency of the investigations will ultimately work in Ukraine's favor, becoming key not just for making headway in possible accessions to the EU and NATO, but also in maintaining the flow of military aid. (Newsweek, 05.18.23)
  • A May 19 statement issued by the G7 said the group welcomed the "continued determination and efforts of the Ukrainian government and people to combat corruption.” (RM, 05.19.23)
  • Ukraine's military has purchased hundreds of drones this year using money collected by anti-graft agencies from settlements in corruption cases. The agencies have sent more than $17 million in 2023 to the government's main crowdfunding platform to support Ukraine's "Army of Drones", the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) said. (Reuters, 05.18.23)
  • The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said on May 15 that Dmytro Firtash, a powerful tycoon indicted by the United States for corruption, along with managers of companies under his control, had been served with "notices of suspicion" of embezzlement. According to the SBU, the damage Ukraine's State Treasury suffered from the embezzlement activities allegedly committed by Firtash’s group in Ukraine's gas-transit system are estimated at up to 18 billion hryvnias ($484 million). (RFE/RL, 05.15.23)
  • Ukraine is marking the 79th anniversary of Stalin-era deportations of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia. (RFE/RL, 05.18.23)
  • The Russian parliament's lower chamber, the State Duma, on May 18 approved in the final reading a bill legalizing elections planned for later this year on Ukrainian territories that Moscow took over in its ongoing invasion. (RFE/RL, 05.18.23)
  • The total value of the assets of Russian oligarchs in Ukraine now exceeds six billion dollars. (Istories, 05.15.23)
  • Russian construction company R-Story, which is actively rebuilding parts of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, which Russia has occupied, is allegedly owned by Russian businessman Aleksey Repik who also owns a pharmaceutical business and a house in the United States, according to (RM, 05.16.23)
  • Tax incentives introduced by the Russian government for reconstructing occupied areas of Ukraine have provided large profits for the black market, The Moscow Times’ Russian service reported on May 16 (MT/AFP, 05.17.23)
  • Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has recruited former Islamic State fighters to infiltrate Ukraine, Turkey and the United States, the independent Meduza news website reported. (MT/AFP, 05.16.23)
  • An explosion derailed a freight train carrying grain in the Russian-occupied region of Crimea the morning of May 18. (WSJ, 05.18.23)
  • Ukraine has removed barriers to the export of some agricultural commodities, imposed last year to prevent food shortages, in a bid to boost foreign currency income, the government said on May 16. (Reuters, 05.16.23)
  • Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol as a special presidential envoy, South Korea's presidential office said on May 16. Zelenska is visiting South Korea to participate in a media conference. (Reuters, 05.16.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Belarus has started constructing defensive fortifications near its border with Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 05.19.23)
  • Belarus has banned citizens facing "political charges," top officials, and law enforcement officers from traveling abroad. e. (RFE/RL, 05.16.23)
  • An exiled opposition leader of reclusive Belarus on May 15 called on the public to be "prepared" for political change following reports speculating on the declining health of strongman Alexander Lukashenko. (MT/AFP, 05.15.23).
  • Evghenia Gutul of the pro-Russia Shor party has won the regional leader election in Moldova's Gagauzia autonomous region. (RFE/RL, 05.15.23)
  • Moldovan President Maia Sandu says membership in the European Union is the tiny country's best way to protect itself against potential Russian aggression and its current status of neutrality can always be revisited at some point (RFE/RL, 05.18.23)
  • Georgia received the first commercial airliner from Russia in four years after President Vladimir Putin ordered the restoration of direct flights with the aspiring European Union member state. (Bloomberg, 05.19.23)
  • Armenia and Azerbaijan's leaders met on May 14 for talks in Brussels. Neither leader commented after the meetings. The talks come after fresh clashes erupted on the border between the two Caucasus countries. (AFP, 05.15.23)
  • Azerbaijani authorities said on May 16 that they apprehended a group of individuals allegedly recruited by Iran to disrupt Azerbaijan's constitutional order and establish Shari’a law in the nation. (RFE/RL, 05.16.23)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is boosting the economies of Central Asia as people and companies from his country flee to the region. Central Asia will probably grow 5% this year and next, even as Russia’s economy will shrink this year by 1.5% and grow 1% in 2024, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said on May 16. Kazakhstan’s economy is forecast to expand 3.9% this year, while Kyrgyzstan’s will grow 7%, according to the EBRD. (Bloomberg, 05.15.23)
  • Tajikistan has extradited Madina Bandarenko, the Ossetian wife of a notorious recruiter for the Islamic State extremist group in Tajikistan, to Russia along with her four children. (RFE/RL, 05.15.23)
  • A presidential plane bought by Tajikistan from Mexico last month for $92 million has arrived in Dushanbe. (RFE/RL, 05.15.23)
  • A court in Bishkek on May 16 sentenced a Kyrgyz citizen to 10 years in prison for joining Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern region of Luhansk. (RFE/RL, 05.17.23)
  • Remediation works at Mailuu-Suu - the largest uranium legacy site in Kyrgyzstan - are set to begin following the allocation of a grant of EUR23 million (USD25 million) from the Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia (ERA), managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). (WNN, 05.19.23)

Quotable and notable

  • No significant developments.

Photo obtained from, shared under a CC 4.0 International license.