Russia in Review, May 17-24, 2024

7 Things to Know

  1. In the past month, Russian forces have gained 171 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile, according to the May 21, 2024, issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. In recent weeks, Russian forces have gained ground all across the frontline, with their surprise offensive in the northeastern region of Kharkiv resulting in their biggest territorial gains since late 2022, according to NYT. On May 23, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces Oleksandr Syrskyi claimed his forces largely halted that offensive in the northeast, though the Ukrainian general staff acknowledged the next day that Russian forces had achieved “partial success” near the village of Ivanivka in the Kharkiv region.
  2. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Reuters that the June 15-16 peace conference in Switzerland is to focus on ensuring nuclear security, the safety of shipping in the Black Sea and Azov Sea, the return of Ukrainian children from Russia to Ukraine and the exchange of all POWs. While all these issues have earlier appeared in Zelenskyy’s peace formula, the peace formula has included several other components, including the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and prosecution of Russian officials in the International Criminal Court. However, Reuters’ summary of the 57-minute interview with Zelenskyy doesn’t include these additional issues, and it remains unclear if the Ukrainian president will try to discuss them at the summit.1 Meanwhile, Zelenskyy’s main diplomatic push to secure broader global support against Russia’s invasion at the pending summit has suffered a double blow, according to Bloomberg. First, Brazil and China announced a rival initiative early on May 24, inviting other nations to support their call for an international conference involving Russia and Ukraine to discuss an end to the war. Second, it emerged that U.S. President Joe Biden would likely be a no-show at the event because it clashes with an election fundraiser in California, according to Bloomberg.
  3. Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognizes the current battlefield lines, four Russian sources familiar with discussions in Putin's entourage told Reuters. Two of the sources said Putin was of the view that territorial gains in the war so far were enough to sell a victory to the Russian people as long as Russia cedes none of them in negotiations. In his latest public comments on the issue, Putin said in Minsk on May 24 that Russia is ready to resume peace talks with Ukraine, but they would have to be based  “on the fundamental agreements reached during negotiations in Belarus and Turkey [in 2022] and based on today’s realities on the ground,” Putin said, according to Kommersant.
  4. The Russian defense ministry has launched a multi-phase exercise near Ukraine this week meant to prepare its forces for using non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs). The Russian MoD announced on May 21 that the missile units of the Ground Forces and Aerospace Force in the Southern Military District are practicing installing nuclear warheads into the Iskander and Kinzhal missiles, respectively, and their subsequent deployment to launch areas. In comments made in Minsk on May 24, Putin has repeated his recent claim that there is nothing unusual in the exercise, which involves Belarus. In addition to the obvious purpose of preparing Russian troops to use NSNWs in battle, the multi-stage exercise is also meant to signal to the West that it should refrain from escalating assistance to Ukraine, as well as to warn the U.S. and its allies that Russia may liberalize its conditions for using nuclear weapons. The Biden administration has dismissed the exercise as bluster and muscle-flexing, according to NYT.
  5. Russia “may be testing” NATO member countries on its western frontier with recent actions linked to demarcating its borders, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said, according to Bloomberg. First, the Russian defense ministry late on May 21 laid out a plan on its website to unilaterally expand the country’s maritime borders with Lithuania and Finland, but then deleted the plan, according to FT and ISW. Then, Russian border guards removed buoys in Estonian waters of the Narva River, which demarcates the Estonian-Russian international border. Behind closed doors, Putin had told advisers he has no designs on NATO territory, reflecting his public comments on the matter, Reuters reported, citing five people who work with or have worked with Putin at a senior level.
  6. The Biden administration is considering whether to relax the ban on Ukraine using U.S.-supplied weapons to strike targets inside Russia, as well as whether to have U.S. military personnel train Ukrainian troops inside Ukraine, according to AP and NYT. In interviews granted to Western media this week, Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for lifting the ban, as well as for having Ukraine’s NATO neighbors use their air defense systems to shoot down Russian missiles fired at Ukraine.
  7. Russian law-enforcers arrested two more top Defense Ministry officials on May 23 in what appears to be a widening anti-corruption sweep at this agency, Meduza reported. That day saw ex-commander of the 58th army Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov arrested on charges of embezzling fortification materials and deputy chief of the Russian army’s General Staff Vadim Shamarin seized for alleged bribe-taking. Earlier, Russian law-enforcers arrested Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov (on April 23) and head of the ministry’s Main Personnel Directorate, Lt. Gen. Yuri Kuznetsov (on May 13). Both had served for years under the command of former Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and both were nabbed for suspected bribe-taking after Putin had replaced Shoigu with Andrey Belousov. Russian government officials and sources close to the Kremlin and the Defense Ministry told The Moscow Times that they expect dozens more military officials to be arrested in what this newspaper described as  a “sweeping purge by the security services.”


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview: “Who knows what is really happening at the nuclear power plant in the city of Enerhodar? Who really knows the details? But we know. The IAEA knows. It is mined. There is weaponry there. There are armed individuals from the Russian Federation, mercenaries or military. There are Ukrainian citizens working at the plant who, for the first year, constantly sent us information about the situation there. There has never been danger like this before. If we remove them from there tomorrow, that station will definitely collapse. It will be a risk for everyone. Six reactors. It’s like six Chernobyls.” (NYT, 05.21.24)
  • In his latest update on the situation at the six-unit plant, which has been under Russian military control since early March 2022, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said: "The IAEA will remain present at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant for as long as it is needed. The nuclear safety and security situation at the plant remains extremely precarious and challenging." (WNN, 05.17.24)
  • Rosatom State Corporation took part in the International Conference on Nuclear Security ICONS-2024, organized by the IAEA. At ICONS-2024, Rosatom presented advanced technologies and solutions in the field of nuclear security.  (Rosatom, 05.24.24)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 20 expressed his condolences over the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash over the weekend. “Sayyid Ibrahim Raisi was an outstanding politician whose whole life was devoted to serving [his] country,” read a statement published on the Kremlin’s website. “As a true friend of Russia, he made an invaluable personal contribution to the development of good-neighborly relations between our countries, and made great efforts to bring them to the level of strategic partnership,” the statement continued. Russia sent Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin to attend the funeral. (MT/AFP, 05.20.24,, 05.22.24)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • Regional officials say the Russian attack in the northeast of Ukraine has so far displaced about 8,000 people. (NYT, 05.22.24)
  • Russia has returned six children to Ukraine with the help of Qatari mediators, Russian state media reported May 22. (MT/AFP, 05.22.24)
  • Yuriy Boiko, a member of Ukrenergo's supervisory board, said Ukraine has lost some eight gigawatts of electricity production because of Russian strikes - approaching half of what this country of more than 30 million, the size of Texas, needs during peak periods. (WP, 05.20.24)
  • U.S. and Ukrainian officials, as well as medics, soldiers and international researchers say Russian use of toxic gases on the battlefield is increasing as Moscow ramps up an offensive designed to seize more of Ukraine's territory than the roughly 20% it already occupies. (WSJ, 05.23.24)
  • 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 171 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile, according to the May 21, 2024, issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 05.21.24)
    • Russian troops in recent weeks have been taking ground from Ukraine all across the front line. In some cases, they are seizing land that Ukrainians had recaptured in hard-fought battles just last year. And in a surprise offensive in the northeast, Moscow has made its biggest territorial gains since late 2022. Russia appears close to retaking the village of Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region. Further east, Russian troops have moved into Klishchiivka, a settlement that Ukraine retook in September, in one of its most significant advances at the time. Russia's biggest advances so far this year have taken place in Ukraine's northeast, near the city of Kharkiv, where Moscow opened a new front about two weeks ago and seized settlements that Ukraine had liberated in the fall of 2022. (NYT, 05.24.24)
    • Once the Russians opened their attack in northeastern Ukraine on May 10, some points along the Ukrainian lines buckled and troops fled amid the heavy bombardments, said Denys Yaroslavsky, a lieutenant with the 57th Brigade. “There are many more questions for those who were responsible for building fortifications on the first line, those who were supposed to mine it and strengthen it,” he said. (NYT, 05.18.24)
  • On May 18, the Ukrainian Army said that Russian troops had tried to break through its defenses near the village of Lyptsi, which lies directly north of Kharkiv. It said the attacks had been repelled, but maps of the battlefield compiled by independent groups analyzing publicly available video of the fighting showed that Russian troops had almost reached the outskirts of the village. (NYT, 05.18.24)
  • On May 19, Russian air strikes in eastern Ukraine killed at least 11 people amid Moscow's renewed offensive in the Kharkiv region, government officials said May 19, while Russia said it came under a drone attack. (RFE/RL, 05.19.24)
  • On May 19, the Russian military said it had shot down nearly 60 Ukrainian drones over the Krasnodar region of southwest Russia. A Ukrainian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military matters, said Ukrainian drones had hit the refinery as well as a military airfield in the region. On May 19, a Ukrainian drone attack on a minibus of people going strawberry picking in Russian occupied territory killed one person and injured several more. The attack happened in the Kherson region that Russia has partially occupied. (NYT, 05.20.24, MT/AFP, 05.19.24)
  • On May 20, Zelenskyy said "Currently the situation at the front is one of the most difficult because a new... Russian offensive has begun in the direction of Kharkiv. A very powerful wave (of fighting) is going on in Donbas.” (Reuters, 05.20.24)
  • On May 20, Russian shelling on the outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv killed at least four civilians and wounded eight. (MT/AFP, 05.19.24)
  • As of May 20, Russian forces maintained their relentless assault on Ukraine’s Kharkiv region—including a massive drone attack on the city itself—but local officials said the outgunned Ukrainian troops still held about 60% of the border town of Vovchansk, the focal point of Moscow’s drive over recent weeks. On May 20, Russia stepped up attacks in the east of Ukraine, advancing toward the strategically important city of Chasiv Yar. Also on May 20, Russia said its forces captured the Ukrainian village Bilogorivka, one of the few remaining settlements in the eastern Luhansk region under Kyiv's control. (Bloomberg, 05.20.24, RFE/RL, 05.20.24, MT/AFP, 05.20.24)
  • On May 21, a woman was killed and three others were wounded in a drone strike on western Russia’s Belgorod region, local authorities said May 21. (MT/AFP, 05.21.24)
  • On May 22, Russia claimed that its forces retook the Donetsk region settlement of Klishchiivka, one of only a handful of villages on the eastern front that Ukraine regained during its counteroffensive last summer. (MT/AFP, 05.22.24)
  • On May 22, a man was killed and one other person was wounded in an attack on southwestern Russia’s Belgorod region, local authorities said. Russia’s Defense Ministry said air defense systems had shot down six Ukrainian missiles. (MT/AFP, 05.22.24)
  • On May 23, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces Oleksandr Syrskyi said Kyiv’s forces largely halted a Russian incursion in the northeast. “After the first insignificant successes in the course of offensive actions in the Kharkiv region, the enemy is now fully bogged down in street fighting for Vovchansk,” Syrskyi said in a post on Facebook. (Bloomberg, 05.23.24)
  • On May 23, Ukraine’s Govoryat Snaiper Telegram channel reported that Ukrainian units had abandoned the village of Krynki in the Kherson region. (RM, 05.24.24)
  • On May 23, drones of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense struck several targets of the Russian military-industrial complex in Tatarstan. (, 05.23.24)
  • On May 23, Russian forces pounded the northeastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv with 15 missiles, local officials said. At least seven people were killed when a missile hit a printing plant in Kharkiv city, and at least 40 others were injured in the strikes, local officials said. (WP, 05.24.24)
  • On May 23, GUR spokesman Andrey Yusov said regarding the fighting in the Kharkiv region: “What is happening is not an attack on Kharkiv.” (Ukrainska Pravda, 05.23.24)
  • The investigative group Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) confirmed on May 23 that a Ukrainian missile attack four days earlier on the port of Sevastopol hit a Cyclone missile carrier ship belonging to Russia's Black Sea Fleet. (RFE/RL, 05.23.24)
  • On May 24, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported that Russian forces have achieved “partial success” near the village of Ivanovka in the Kupyansky area. Also, Russian troops have intensified assault operations in the Kramatorsk direction in the Donetsk region. (, 05.24.24,, 05.24.24)
  • On May 24, Ukraine hit a Russian military complex in Crimea with U.S.-provided ATACMS long-range missiles overnight. The missile strike hit a communications center of Russian air-defense forces in the city of Alushta, according to a Ukrainian defense official. (WSJ, 05.24.24)
  • “The weeks and months ahead will be crucial. So we'll continue to act with resolve. Ukraine's survival and success are central to Ukrainian security, European security, global security—and American security,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the Opening of the 22nd Ukraine Defense Contact Group. (, 05.20.24)
  • Oleksandr Lytvynenko, Ukraine’s chief of national security and defense council, told FT that about 50,000 Russian soldiers had been deployed across the border from Russia’s Belgorod region.Russia now has about 510,000 troops in the fight, according to an analysis published this week by RUSI. (FT, 05.23.24, NYT, 05.18.24)
  • As of May 24, more than 1 million people liable for military service have updated their military registration data in Ukraine’s Reserve+ mobile application. (Ukrainska Pravda, 05.24.24)
  • On May 24, Ukrainian OSINT group DeepState reported on its Telegram channel that “The enemy has advanced near Ocheretiny. Fighting continues in Vovchansk, Berestovo, Klishchiivtka, Umansk and Krasnohorivtka.” (RM, 05.24.24)

  • On May 24, Ihor Prokhorenko, an official in Ukraine’s General Staff, said that the Ukrainian army is planning counterattacks to push back Russian forces that seized territory in the northeast Kharkiv region. “The enemy has been stopped,” he told a briefing in Kyiv. Russia is accumulating troops along the border in the neighboring Sumy region, Prokhorenko said. (Bloomberg, 05.24.24)
  • More than 3,000 convicts have already submitted applications for parole from serving their sentences to participate in the defense of Ukraine. At least 50 convicts have been freed under a new law that allows them to serve in exchange for the possibility of parole, part of an effort to replenish Ukraine’s depleted forces. (NYT, 05.24.24, Ukrainska Pravda, 05.21.24)
  • The staff of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is to be reduced by 60%. Using the released personnel, the plan is to replenish the command and control bodies at the operational and tactical levels, as well as combat military units. (, 05.24.24)
  • Romanian prosecutors announced May 24 that they had ordered the arrest of a man suspected of spying for Moscow, while the government declared a Russian diplomat persona non grata. The arrest of a person suspected of spying marks the first of its kind in Romania since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago. Prosecutors said the arrested man, a Romanian citizen, had "since 2022, been monitoring Romanian or NATO military objectives located near the municipality of Tulcea," a town near the border with Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 05.24.24)
  • A military appeals court in St. Petersburg on May 20 rejected a motion filed by Darya Trepova against the 27-year prison term she was handed in January after she was found guilty for her role in the killing of prominent pro-Kremlin blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, a fervent proponent of Russia's war in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 05.20.24)
  • A woman from Russia’s Far East has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for allegedly sharing footage of Russian troop movements with Ukraine, state media reported May 22, citing the local FSB branch. The woman was detained at age 21 on treason charges last July. (MT/AFP, 05.22.24)
  • A court in Siberia on May 20 sentenced anti-war activist Ilya Baburin to 25 years in prison on a high-treason charge that stemmed from allegations that the 24-year-old planned to set several military recruitment centers on fire. (RFE/RL, 05.20.24)
  • A court in southern Russia’s Saratov region has sentenced a man to three and a half years in prison for trying to persuade his friend to surrender to the Ukrainian army, Russian media reported May 22. (MT/AFP, 05.22.24)

Military aid to Ukraine: 

  • The U.S. is sending $275 million worth of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine to bolster its defense of Kharkiv, as Russia steps up aerial assaults on the city and its surrounding areas. The weaponry, drawn from U.S. stockpiles, includes 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds, precision rockets for the high mobility artillery rocket system launcher, mortar rounds, precision aerial munitions, Javelin missiles, anti-tank systems and mines, ammunition for small arms, grenades and protective gear. This is the fourth installment of military aid for Ukraine since Congress passed a long-delayed foreign aid bill late last month. (FT, 05.24.24, AP, 05.23.24)
  • The United States is now considering training Ukrainian troops inside the country, rather than sending them to a training ground in Germany. That would require putting American military personnel in Ukraine, something else that U.S. President Joe Biden has prohibited until now. (NYT, 05.22.24)
  • Propelled by the State Department, there is now a vigorous debate inside the administration over relaxing the ban to allow the Ukrainians to use U.S.-supplied weapons to hit missile and artillery launch sites just over the border in Russia — targets that Zelenskyy says have enabled Moscow’s recent territorial gains. The proposal, pressed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a sobering visit to Kyiv last week, is still in the formative stages, and it is not clear how many of his colleagues among Biden’s inner circle have signed on. It has not yet been formally presented to the president, who has traditionally been the most cautious, officials said. (NYT, 05.22.24) 
    • On May 20, Zelenskyy said: "We are negotiating with partners so that we can use their weapons against buildups of Russian equipment on the border and even (on) their territory. So far, there is nothing positive." "When missiles are flying, Polish planes are sent up, but they don’t shoot down Russian missiles. Can they do this? I’m sure that yes. Is this an attack by NATO countries, involvement? No." (Reuters, 05.20.24) 
    • “We extremely need the air defense to protect Kharkiv” and other cities in Ukraine’s northeast, Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelenskyy’s office, said in an interview. (NYT, 05.18.24)
    • “The time it takes S-300 missiles to reach Kharkiv—it’s just minutes,” Ilya Yevlash, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, said in an interview this month. “There’s no time to react to these threats.” Only U.S.-made Patriot air defense systems can intercept S-300 missiles fired at short range, Yevlash said, and Ukraine does not have enough of them. “We can count them on the fingers of one hand,” he said. (NYT, 05.18.24)
    • On May 23, Moscow attacked "hothead" U.S. lawmakers after mounting calls, including from House Speaker Mike Johnson, for Ukraine to be allowed to fire donated American weaponry into Russia. (MT/AFP, 05.23.24)
  • On May 21, Zelenskyy said in an interview:  “Our neighbors are already deploying planes anyway. So my question is, what’s the problem? Why can’t we shoot them down? Is it defense? Yes. Is it an attack on Russia? No. Are you shooting down Russian planes and killing Russian pilots? No. So what’s the issue with involving NATO countries in the war? There is no such issue. It’s defense.” (NYT, 05.21.24)
  • Zelenskyy has urged the alliance to come through with more F-16 fighter jets as well as Patriot air defense systems. “Can we get seven?” he said, saying Ukraine needed more Patriot systems but would settle for that number to protect regions key to the nation’s economy and energy sector. "The Russians are using 300 planes on the territory of Ukraine. We need at least 120, 130 (F-16) planes to resist in the sky." (NYT, 05.21.24, Reuters, 05.20.24)
    • The first group of Ukrainian pilots has already completed training on F-16s at a military base in Arizona, according to Arizona National Guard spokesperson Erin Hannigan. (, 05.24.24)
  • Zelenskyy aims to attend next month’s D-Day commemoration in France followed by the G-7 meeting in Italy. Zelenskyy is expected to use this trip to call for more military support from the West and ask for NATO to shoot down Russian missiles. Zelenskyy will also demand that the U.S. and European countries seize Russian assets to help fund Ukraine’s defense and eventual reconstruction. (Istories, 05.23.24)
  • The U.S. should lift its “absolutely unfair” ban on the Ukrainian army using American-supplied weapons to strike targets inside Russia, in order to help thwart Moscow’s new offensive, Ukraine’s top national security official has said. Oleksandr Lytvynenko, the newly appointed secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defense council, told FT “it would be beneficial” for his country if the Biden administration lifted that restriction. (FT, 05.22.24)
  • The Swedish government will provide Ukraine with military support worth 25 billion kronor ($2.3 billion) annually under a new three-year framework announced May 22. The military aid in the 2024-2026 period could take the form of equipment donations as well as financial contributions and support for procurement of defense materials, the government said in a statement. “Sweden will support Ukraine’s struggle for as long as it takes,” it said. (Bloomberg, 05.22.24)
    • Sweden’s defense minister said it will take as long as two years to reach desired capacity to furnish Ukraine with more ammunition and beef up its own military, after the Nordic nation became NATO’s newest member. (Bloomberg, 05.21.24)
  • Berlin has handed over 10 Leopard 1 A5 tanks, ammunition for Leopard 2 tanks, 8,500 rounds of 155 mm ammunition, 20 Vector reconnaissance drones with spare parts, 34 RQ-35 Heidrun reconnaissance drones and other aid in its latest delivery of military aid to Ukraine, the German government said May 22. (Kyiv Independent, 05.24.24)
    • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrived in Kyiv on May 21 and made a plea for more international support to protect the country's skies from Russian air strikes. (RFE/RL, 05.21.24)
  • Polish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Pawel Wronski stated on May 23 that Poland is considering using its air defense to protect Ukrainian airspace against Russian strikes. (ISW, 05.23.24)
  • Polish authorities are stepping up security around the main transit hub for foreign military aid to Ukraine as a series of arrests announced this week lay bare mounting concerns over Russian-backed sabotage operations. Interior Minister Tomasz Siemoniak confirmed that measures are being taken to boost security around the Rzeszow-Jasionka airport. Located less than 100 km (62 miles) from the Ukrainian border, the facility has handled as much as 90% of Western materiel headed to the frontline. (Bloomberg, 05.23.24)
    • Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said nine people have been arrested for allegedly plotting acts of sabotage in Poland and other EU member states in co-ordination with Russian intelligence. He said the detained people were Ukrainian, Belarusian and Polish citizens, possibly recruited from organized crime and were accused of “beatings, arson and attempted arson.” (FT, 05.21.24)
    • European investigators increasingly see Russian fingerprints around recent acts of suspected sabotage on strategic infrastructure but are struggling to respond. (WSJ, 05.21.24)
  • The assailant charged with shooting Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said he acted out of frustration with the government’s policies, above all the premier’s decision to halt military support for Ukraine, a court document said. The suspect, identified as 71-year-old Juraj C., told investigators that he acted alone. (Bloomberg, 05.24.24)
    • It didn't take Russia's misinformation machine long to settle on who was to blame for the first assassination attempt on a European national leader in more than two decades. When Slovakia's prime minister was shot five times on May 15, pro-Kremlin propaganda blamed Ukraine even before the authorities released any details about the gunman. (Bloomberg, 05.22.24)

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

  • On May 21, European Union member states approved a plan to use the profits generated by frozen Russian sovereign assets to support Ukraine’s recovery and military defense. This move will provide Ukraine as much as €3 billion ($3.3 billion) this year, 90% of which will go to Ukraine’s military. (Bloomberg, 05.21.24)
  • Washington’s G-7 allies are warming to a U.S. plan to rush tens of billions of dollars in funding to Ukraine before Donald Trump’s potential return to the White House. Under the plan, set to be discussed at a June summit, Kyiv would receive money upfront from a G-7 loan. The loan would be backed by future profits generated from about $350 billion of Russian assets that have been immobilized in the West in response to Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Group of Seven finance ministers will lay the groundwork for using the profits from frozen Russia assets to help Ukraine, according to a draft of the communique that they’re set to sign on May 25. (FT, 05.20.24, Bloomberg, 05.21.24, Bloomberg, 05.23.24, Bloomberg, 05.23.24, Bloomberg, 05.24.24)
    • U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the U.S. push to tap frozen Russian assets for Ukraine’s benefit isn’t driven by the looming presidential election in November, but by Kyiv’s needs. She added that Group of Seven leaders will “hopefully” be able to endorse a plan now in the works at their summit in Apulia, Italy, June 13-15, which Zelenskyy is to attend. (Bloomberg, 05.21.24, Bloomberg, 05.23.24, Bloomberg, 05.23.24)
    • The French government backed a U.S. a proposal to tap frozen Russian assets for Ukraine’s benefit, raising the prospect of a deal this week at a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers. (Bloomberg, 05.22.24)
    • In an about face, German officials are ready to support a U.S. plan to leverage the future revenue generated from frozen Russian assets to back $50 billion in aid to Ukraine, according to people familiar with the discussions. (Bloomberg, 05.21.24)
  • Norway will further restrict its entry conditions for Russian tourists from May 29, a decision the government said backed its allies’ reactions to the war being waged in Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 05.23.24)
  • The EU is preparing to tighten sanctions against Belarus and close a loophole that has allowed Moscow to import luxury cars and other Western goods banned in Russia in response to the war in Ukraine. (FT, 05.23.24)
  • Putin ordered the government to prepare retaliation for any seizure of assets by the U.S. as Washington tries to build support for using revenue from frozen Russian funds to support Ukraine. Russian companies whose assets are confiscated can file a court complaint to potentially receive compensation from assets that U.S. and U.S.-affiliated entities still hold in Russia, including the property of American citizens, according to the order. (Bloomberg, 05.23.24)
  • A St. Petersburg court has seized over €700 million-worth of assets belonging to three Western banks — UniCredit, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank — according to court documents. The seizure marks one of the biggest moves against Western lenders since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine prompted most international lenders to withdraw or wind down their businesses in Russia. (FT, 05.18.24)
  • Roughly 30% of Mondelez International Inc. shareholders voted in favor of a proposal on the company’s human rights policy in Russia and Ukraine, sending a clear signal to management that investors want the snack maker to provide more clarity on its business practices in the warring countries. (Bloomberg, 05.23.24)

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

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognizes the current battlefield lines, four Russian sources told Reuters, saying he is prepared to fight on if Kyiv and the West do not respond. Three of the sources, familiar with discussions in Putin's entourage, said Putin had expressed frustration to a small group of advisers about what he views as Western-backed attempts to stymie negotiations. Putin's insistence on locking in any battlefield gains in a deal is non-negotiable, all of the sources suggested. Two of the sources said Putin was of the view that gains in the war so far were enough to sell a victory to the Russian people. Three sources said Putin understood any dramatic new advances would require another nationwide mobilization, which he didn't want. Putin will slowly conquer territories until Zelenskyy comes up with an offer to stop, one of the four persons said. All five sources said Putin had told advisers he had no designs on NATO territory, reflecting his public comments on the matter. (Reuters, 05.24.24)
    • Putin said during his talks with Lukashenko in Minsk on May 24 that Russia is not rejecting the possibility of peace talks with Ukraine and is ready to resume them, Kommersant reported. "We see now that conversations have resumed about the need to return to negotiations. Well, let them return, but not out of what one side wants, but rather they should be based on the fundamental agreements reached during negotiations in Belarus and Turkey and based on today’s realities on the ground,” Putin said. (RM, 05.24.24)
    • A U.S. State Department spokesperson said any initiative for peace must respect Ukraine’s “territorial integrity, within its internationally recognized borders” and described Russia as the sole obstacle to peace in Ukraine. “The Kremlin has yet to demonstrate any meaningful interest in ending its war, quite the opposite,” the spokesperson said. (Reuters, 05.24.24)
  • Zelenskyy told Reuters that the June 15-16 peace conference in Switzerland is to focus on ensuring nuclear safety and security, the safety of shipping in the Black Sea and Azov Sea, the return of Ukrainian children from Russia to Ukraine and the exchange of all POWs. While all these issues have earlier appeared in Zelenskyy’s peace formula, the peace formula also includes several conditions Russia has rejected, such as the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and prosecution of Russian officials in charge of the war in the International Criminal Court. Reuters’ summary of the 57-minute interview with Zelenskyy doesn’t include these additional issues. Whether Zelenskyy will try to have these additional issues discussed at the summit is unclear, though Russia’s Kommersant daily has interpreted Zelenskyy’s interview to Reuters to mean that Zelenskyy will not make such an attempt.  (RM, 05.24.24)
    • Zelenskyy’s main diplomatic push to secure broader global support against Russia’s invasion has suffered a double blow less than a month before leaders gather for the June 15-16 summit. First, Brazil and China announced a rival initiative early on May 24 aiming to bring both Ukraine and Russia to the table. Brazil and China invited other nations to support their call for an international conference involving Russia and Ukraine to discuss an end to the war. It’s the first time they’ve made a joint appeal on the war since Russia began the February 2022 invasion. The statement came after a meeting on May 23 between China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Brazil’s Celso Amorim, chief adviser to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Wang and Amorim in Beijing on May 23 "expressed their support for an international peace conference recognized by Russia and Ukraine at an appropriate time, with the equal participation of all parties, and fair discussion of all peace proposals," according to Xinhua. Second, it emerged that Biden would likely be a no-show at the Ukraine conference in Switzerland because it clashes with an election fundraiser in California alongside stars including George Clooney and Julia Roberts. (Bloomberg, 05.24.24, Bloomberg, 05.23.24)
    • On May 20, Zelenskyy said of the June peace summit in Switzerland: "It is very important that they are there (China). Because in principle, after this summit, it becomes clear who wants to end the war, and who wants to remain in strong relations with the Russian Federation. … Why is Russia not involved? Because they block everything, they will sabotage everything, they will not rest until they show this or that plan of ending the war, which will be an ultimatum. … Involving all countries is not just about politics, it's about political influence and pressure on them [Russia]." (Reuters, 05.20.24)
    • When asked about his plans for after the war, Zelenskyy said in an interview: “I would like to … after the war, after the victory, these are different things. After the war, it could be different. I think my plans depend on that. So, I would like to believe that there will be a victory for Ukraine. Not an easy one, very difficult. It is absolutely clear that it will be very difficult.” (NYT, 05.21.24)
  • “Look, an [Olympic] truce is not for me the endgame. Sustainable peace is the endgame. But I think it’s very important. First, this is a tradition, and it’s very important to use this window during one-month time,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. (CNBC, 05.23.24)

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

  • Moscow has sparked condemnation from NATO members after proposing to redraw Russia’s borders in the Baltic Sea. The Russian defense ministry late on May 21 laid out a plan to unilaterally expand the country’s maritime borders with Lithuania and Finland, both members of the military alliance. Less than 24 hours later, it deleted the proposal from the government website. Russian border guards removed buoys in Estonian waters of the Narva River, which demarcates the Estonian-Russian international border, likely to set conditions to further question maritime borders and test NATO resolve. (FT, 05.22.24, ISW, 05.23.24)
    • Russia “may be testing” the NATO member countries on its Western frontier with recent actions linked to demarcating its borders, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said. (Bloomberg, 05.24.24)
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said he was seeking to “redefine” the terms of NATO membership due to his long-standing opposition to aiding Ukraine against Russia’s war. “Our lawyers and officers are working [to define] how Hungary can exist as a NATO member without taking part in NATO operations outside NATO territory,” Orbán told national radio on May 24. (FT, 05.24.24)
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote in the Economist: “Our goal is to turn the Bundeswehr into Europe’s strongest conventional force. As of this year, and in the future, we will be spending 2% of GDP on defense.” (The Economist, 05.24.24)
  • Poland outlined a 10-billion zloty ($2.55 billion) investment in strengthening its borders with Russia and Belarus to deter potential aggression. The plan, dubbed “East Shield,” will include the construction of new fortifications, fences, changes in landforms and special forestation along 400 kilometers (249 miles) of land border, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said May 18. (Bloomberg, 05.18.24)
  • The Finnish government on May 21 introduced a bill into parliament that would allow authorities to turn away asylum seekers at the country’s border with Russia, an announcement that comes months after Helsinki first shuttered its eastern frontier over an influx of asylum seekers it says was organized by Moscow. (MT/AFP, 05.21.24)
  • Lithuania plans to raise taxes on companies and alcohol as part of a package of measures the government is presenting to cover higher defense spending next year. The cabinet is seeking to generate an additional €400 million ($435 million) to meet its targeted 3% of gross domestic product in military expenditures in 2025. (Bloomberg, 05.21.24)
  • Western officials warned that Russian intelligence services intend to increase sabotage activities and other hybrid operations against NATO member countries. Norway's Police Security Service (PST) and the Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS) warned on May 22 that there is an increased threat of Russian sabotage against Norwegian arms supplies and other Norwegian organizations involved in the delivery of military materiel to Ukraine. (ISW, 05.22.24) 
  • A 64-year-old man named as Howard Michael Phillips of Harlow has been charged in the U.K. with offences under section 3 of the National Security Act, London’s Metropolitan Police said on May 23. “The country to which the charge relates is Russia,” the Met said. Phillips had been remanded in police custody and was expected to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court later in the afternoon. (FT, 05.23.24)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • British defense minister Grant Shapps accused China of providing or preparing to provide Russia with lethal aid for use by Moscow in its war against Ukraine. Shapps told a conference in London that U.S. and British defense intelligence had evidence that "lethal aid is now, or will be, flowing from China to Russia and into Ukraine, I think it is a significant development." (Reuters, 05.22.24)
    • China rejected U.K. accusations it is working to provide Russia with combat equipment in Ukraine “We condemn the irresponsible smearing of China by British politicians,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on May 23 at a regular news briefing in Beijing. “It must be pointed out that it is the British side, not the Chinese side, who are involved in fueling the Ukraine issue,” he added. (Bloomberg, 05.23.24)
    • In a split with Britain, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said he had not seen evidence that China was directly sending lethal military assistance to Russia for its war against Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 05.23.24)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear and space arms:

  • On May 21, Russia started combat drills to practice the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Troops are training with Iskander missiles deployed on land launchers and aircraft equipped with hypersonic Kinzhal weapons for the exercises, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. The goal is to ''unconditionally ensure the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian state in response to provocative statements and threats of individual Western officials,'' the ministry said. Putin ordered the drills the day before he was sworn for a fifth presidential term, in response to what Russia called “provocative” Western statements. That came after France raised the idea of sending ground troops to Ukraine and the U.K. said it would allow Kyiv’s forces to strike Russia with British-made weapons. (Bloomberg, 05.21.24. NYT, 05.22.24)
    • Putin said on May 24 after talks with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko that there is nothing unusual in the nuclear exercises of Russia and Belarus, referring to the NSNW wargame launched on May 22. "There is nothing here that we would be violating, there is nothing unusual compared to the work of the NATO bloc. The same exercises are regularly held there, which involve NATO countries on whose territory tactical American nuclear weapons are located," Putin said, noting that the NATO exercises involve American servicemen, combat aircraft and other means of delivery. (TASS, 05.24.24)
    • Dmitry Medvedev wrote in his Telegram channel on May 17: “If this continues, then the guaranteed sanitary zone will be established somewhere on the border with Poland. Or already in Poland itself. And that would be completely dangerous. Moreover, non-strategic nuclear weapons, which our country is conducting exercises with, as announced, are a very loose concept. Such weapons (tactical or non-strategic), as everyone knows, include nuclear charges that significantly exceed the power of Little Boy and Fat Man. So carefully calculate the range of what you allocate to the [Ukrainians], gentlemen.” (RM, 05.18.24)
    • Russia’s NSNW exercises are being dismissed by the Biden administration as bluster and muscle-flexing. (NYT, 05.22.24)
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on May 24 to announce the termination of the 1993 Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of Japan on cooperation to assist in the elimination of nuclear weapons subject to reduction in the Russian Federation and the creation of a Cooperation Committee for these purposes. (RM, 05.24.24) 
  • Zelenskyy urged the U.S. and Europe to do more to defend his nation, dismissing fears of nuclear escalation. Zelenskyy said in an interview: “When it comes to escalation and nuclear weapons, and all these narratives that Russia speaks of—you know, he’s [Putin] an irrational person. Because a rational person cannot unleash a full-scale war against another state. ... When he failed to capture us in the first year of the war, he didn’t use them [nuclear weapons]—because he may be irrational, but he loves his own life very much and understands that the doors will be completely closed, completely, if he uses nuclear weapons. Because the use of nuclear weapons is not a red line. It’s a different level. So that’s it.” (NYT, 05.21.24)
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote in the Economist: “To be clear, there will not be any ‘EU nuclear weapons’—that is simply unrealistic. There is also no intention to question the sovereignty of the French dissuasion nucléaire. At the same time, I welcome the fact that the French president emphasised the European dimension of the French force de frappe.” (The Economist, 05.23.24)
  • The U.S. government has assessed that Russia recently launched a "counterspace weapon" into orbit that could be used to attack satellites, U.S. officials said this week. U.S. Space Command on May 21 pointed to the launch earlier this month of a Soyuz rocket from Russia's Plesetsk launch site, saying it likely involved "a counterspace weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites in low Earth orbit." Russia's top arms control diplomat Sergei Ryabkov dismissed as "fake news" the assertion by the United States that Russia had launched a weapon into low-Earth orbit that was capable of inspecting and attacking other satellites. (Reuters, 05.22.24, WP, 05.23.24)
    • The Pentagon is rushing to expand its capacity to wage war in space, convinced that rapid advances by China and Russia in space-based operations pose a growing threat to U.S. troops and other military assets on the ground and American satellites in orbit. Defense Department officials have increasingly acknowledged that the initiative reflects a major shift in military operations as space increasingly becomes a battleground. (NYT, 05.20.24)
  • On May 17, a dozen House and Senate Democrats wrote a bicameral letter to Biden on the need for renewed arms control talks amid Russia’s war in Ukraine and its suspension of participation in the New START treaty. In the letter, organized by Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.), members of Congress wrote: “The stakes are too high not to try again. Even as the United States continues to provide aid and support for Ukraine in its effort to repel Russia’s ongoing assault, we can and must seek to engage with Russian leaders on risk reduction and arms control measures in order to protect U.S. and allied security.” (Arms Control, May 2024)


  • FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov claimed during a visit to Bishkek on May 24 that his agency has proof that “Ukraine’s military intelligence is directly related” to the Moscow concert hall terrorist attack on March 22. Bortnikov told a meeting of the Council of Heads of Security Agencies and Special Services of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) that FSB investigators have established that attack plans, financing and escape logistics were coordinated online by members of the Islamic State–Khorasan Province terrorist group (Meduza, 05.24.24)

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • Russia has deployed advanced tech to interfere with Elon Musk’s satellite internet service, Ukrainian officials said, leading to more outages on the northern front battle line. As Russian troops made gains this month near Kharkiv, they deployed stronger electronic weapons and more sophisticated tools to degrade Starlink service, Ukrainian officials said. The new outages appeared to be the first time the Russians have caused widespread disruptions of Starlink. If they continue to succeed, it could mark a tactical shift in the conflict. (NYT, 05.24.24)
  • For more than two weeks, thousands of medical personnel in U.S. hospitals have turned to manual methods for charting and tracking patient illnesses after a cyberattack on Ascension, one of the nation's largest health systems with about 140 hospitals in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The large-scale attack on May 8 was eerily reminiscent of the hack of Change Healthcare, a unit of UnitedHealth Group that manages the nation's largest health care payment system. (NYT, 05.23.24)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • IEA predicts that Russia’s share of global gas exports will fall to 15% by 2030—down from 30% before Moscow’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine. (ISW, 05.20.24)
  • The United States and its allies in G-7 nations set two goals in 2022 when they enacted a novel plan to cap the price of Russian oil: restrict Moscow's ability to profit from its energy exports while allowing its oil to continue flowing on international markets to prevent a global price shock. A year and a half later, only the latter goal appears to have worked. A report published this month by S&P Global said that 76.6 % of Russian oil exports, or three million barrels per day, were transported in April on tankers operated by companies that were not based in the G-7 or backed by Western insurance. The volume of Russian oil exports last month was the highest it had been since December 2022, and tax revenues from oil doubled from April 2023. (NYT, 05.21.24)
  • Dozens of tankers remain stuck doing nothing months after being sanctioned by the Treasury Department—a signal of the U.S.’s scope to disrupt Moscow’s petroleum supply chain if it chooses to. Since October, 40 ships involved in Russia’s oil trade have been added to the Treasury’s list of designated entities, mostly for breaching a price cap that’s meant to restrict the Kremlin’s access to petrodollars. Only one of them, the SCF Primorye, collected a cargo since being designated. It is heading to Asia. If it’s able to offload the barrels it’s carrying without any problems, it might encourage Russia to use more of the ships again. (Bloomberg, 05.20.24)
    • A shadow fleet oil tanker transporting Russian crude had an engine failure as it was passing through Turkey’s Dardanelles shipping strait, forcing a temporary blockage to maritime traffic. (Bloomberg, 05.23.24)
  • Russia temporarily lifted its ban on gasoline exports to avoid overstocking at refineries as domestic supplies have met demand. Refiners are allowed to export gasoline from May 20 until June 30. (Bloomberg, 05.20.24)
  • Russia exceeded its crude production commitment for April and will soon present OPEC and its allies with a plan to make up for the extra output, the country’s Energy Ministry said. (Bloomberg, 05.22.24)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • The FBI cut ties to at least a handful of informants and issued warnings about dozens of others after an internal review prompted by concerns that they were linked to Russian disinformation, current and former U.S. officials said. The review was carried out in 2020 and 2021 by a small group within the bureau's counterintelligence division, with the findings then passed along to field offices, which handle informants. It led to the severing of sources—some of whom had offered information about Russia-aligned oligarchs, political leaders and other influential figures—at a moment when the bureau was asking agents to produce more information from and about those same networks. (NYT, 05.21.24)
  • Trump claimed Putin would release detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich "almost immediately" after the U.S. presidential election if Trump wins. (RFE/RL, 05.23.24)
  • Trump again invoked authoritarian leaders at a rally May 23, a reminder of a vision he has been outlining for a potential second term. Trump referenced Putin, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban—authoritarian foreign leaders he has praised numerous times before—during the campaign stop in the South Bronx. Seeking to contrast them with Biden, Trump said the leaders were "at the top of their game, whether you like it or not." (WP, 05.24.24)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • The Russian economy grew by 5.4% in the first quarter of 2024, according to the Russian state statistics body Rosstat on May 17.  Economic growth accelerated in the first three months of the year from 4.9% in the fourth quarter of 2023, which was largely driven by military spending. (FT, 05.18.24)
  • Forecaster IKAR has revised down its expectations for Russia’s 2024-25 wheat harvest by 10% in May, now seeing production at 83.5 million tons after recounting for a “more exact assessment of frost damage and dryness across the south.” According to USDA estimates, the world’s largest wheat grower is looking at a nearly 4% year on year decline in output. (Bloomberg, 05.21.24)
  • A Moscow court ruled May 21 that investigators acted lawfully when they refused to look into two alleged murder attempts against jailed Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza. Kara-Murza fell severely ill in 2015 and 2017 with symptoms that he said indicated he was poisoned, but Russia's Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, did not open an inquiry after the allegations. An investigation led by journalists from Bellingcat in 2021 suggested that agents from Russia's FSB were involved in both cases. (MT/AFP, 05.21.24)
  • A military court in Moscow has started the trial of theater director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk, who are charged with justifying terrorism. The two women reiterated their innocence as the trial began on May 20. They were arrested in May 2023 following a production of the play Finist -- The Brave Falcon. The play is about Russian women who married Muslim men and moved to Syria. The play, first performed in December 2022, won Russia's Golden Mask national theater award. If convicted, the women face up to five years in prison each. (RFE/RL, 05.20.24)
  • The Memorial human rights group on May 22 recognized Bashkir activist Fail Alsynov as a political prisoner. The 37-year-old was sentenced to four years in prison in January on a charge of inciting hatred that he and his supporters call politically motivated. (RFE/RL, 05.22.24)
  • Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov announced May 21 that the head of the North Caucasus region’s government has stepped down, becoming the second high-ranking regional official to resign over the past week. “My dear brother Muslim Khuchiyev resigned as chairman of the government of the republic of Chechnya in connection with his transfer to another job,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram. Khucihev was reported on May 24 to have been appointed to the post of Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s assistant.  (MT/AFP, 05.21.24, Meduza, 05.24.24)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russia now boasts 6,000 military-industrial enterprises, a notable increase from the prewar figure of less than 2,000. These establishments collectively employ over 3.5 million individuals who operate round-the-clock, with three shifts and six-day workweeks becoming the norm. (FT, 05.18.24)
  • Russia has managed to recruit about 30,000-40,000 soldiers every month, according to an estimate by the U.K. Defense Ministry. Despite its heavy losses, the Russian army is now 15% larger than when it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, according to a recent report by Gen. Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s top commander in Europe. Oleksandr Lytvynenko, Ukraine’s chief of national security and defense council, told FT that Russia mobilized more than 385,000 soldiers last year. (FT, 05.23.24)
  • Putin appointed ex-auditor of the Accounts Chamber Oleg Savelyev as Deputy Defense Minister to Andrei Belousov. The corresponding decree was published on the Kremlin website. By another decree, the leader dismissed the former Deputy Minister of Defense, Col Gen. Yuri Sadovenko. He headed the office of ex-Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Savelyev already worked under Belousov when he headed the Ministry of Economic Development in 2012–2013. (Istories, 05.21.24)
  • Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov oddly stated on May 13 that "no changes are foreseen yet" when specifically asked about chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov's position, suggesting that Gerasimov's tenure over the longer term is not assured. (ISW, 05.23.24)
  • Sukhrab Akhmedov, who commanded the 20th Army since December 2022, has been removed from his post. This was stated by Z-blogger Vladimir Rogov. Previously, among Russian “military officers” Akhmedov was accused of large losses of personnel. In December 2022, he led the 155th brigade, which lost 300 people and 50% of equipment during four days of assaults on Pavlovka in the Donetsk region. (Istories, 05.24.24)
  • Russia’s new Defense Minister Andrei Belousov had close contact with the former head of the Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and studied the “development prospects” of this PMC in Russia, according to The Dossier Center. Belousov travelled with Putin to Minsk on May 24. (Istories, 05.21.24, Interfax, 05.24.24)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement, justice and emergencies:

  • Russia arrested two more top Defense Ministry officials on May 23 in what appears to be a widening anti-corruption sweep. Four generals are now in pre-trial detention on felony charges, with three accused of taking multimillion-ruble bribes and the fourth suspected of large-scale fraud. The arrests have coincided with the ouster of Shoigu. Speaking to journalists on May 23, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov rebuffed questions about a “purge” of the Defense Ministry. (Meduza, 05.24.24)
    • On April 23, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov was arrested on felony charges of accepting an “especially large bribe,” which investigators estimated at around 1.125 billion rubles ($12.4 million). (Meduza, 05.24.24)
    • On May 13, another Defense Ministry official was arrested on the same charges of large-scale bribery: the head of the ministry’s Main Personnel Directorate, Lt. Gen. Yuri Kuznetsov. Investigators alleged that during his tenure from 2021–2023 as head of the 8th Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Kuznetsov “accepted a bribe from representatives of commercial structures for performing certain actions on their behalf.” (Meduza, 05.24.24)
    • On May 21, news broke that police had arrested another military official, career officer Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov, the former commander of Russia’s 58th Army. But whereas Ivanov and Kuznetsov were charged with bribery, Popov was accused of large-scale fraud. (Meduza, 05.24.24)
    • Also on May 23, news broke of the arrest of Lt. Gen. Vadim Shamarin, the deputy chief of the Russian army’s General Staff and the head of its Main Communications Directorate. Investigators claim that between April 2016 and October 2023, Shamarin accepted 36 million rubles (around $400,000) in bribes from Telta, a telephone company based in Perm, in exchange for “increasing the volume of products supplied” under Defense Ministry contracts. (Meduza, 05.24.24)
      • The recent arrests of five top Russian military officers are likely just the first of dozens of military figures who will be jailed in a sweeping purge by the security services, Russian government officials and sources close to the Kremlin and the Defense Ministry told MT. (MT/AFP, 05.24.24)
  • The case of the largest bribes in Russian history came to court. Officials of the Investigative Committee, 35-year-old justice Maj. Marat Tambiev and 27-year-old Lt. Kristina Lyakhovenko, have been charged with ten counts of accepting bribes in the amount of more than $1.5 million and 2,718 bitcoins (7.3 billion rubles), Kommersant writes, noting that these are the largest bribes in the history of modern Russia. (RBC, 05.23.24)
  • At least six former and current law enforcement officials have been arrested on various charges in Russia’s Yekaterinburg over the past week, independent news website Govorit NeMoskva reported May 24. Andrei Dyakov, who heads the anti-corruption department at the Sverdlovsk region branch of Russia’s Interior Ministry, was charged with abuse of power and bribery. Authorities accuse him of accepting 200 million rubles ($2.2 million) in bribes, allegations he denies. A Yekaterinburg court ruled May 23 to keep Dyakov in pre-trial detention until July 20, according to local media. (MT/AFP, 05.24.24)
  • A court in St. Petersburg sentenced Russian physicist Anatoly Maslov on May 21 to 14 years in prison for treason. The 77-year-old expert in the field of fluid gas and a professor at the Aerohydrodynamics Department at Novosibirsk State Technical University was arrested in 2022 on suspicion of passing classified information to a foreign country. Maslov rejects the charge. At least 12 scientists have been arrested in Russia on treason charges since 2018. (RFE/RL, 05.21.24)
  • Sergei Katsuba, a graduate student at the School of Law at University College Dublin’s studied 1,500 court decisions in criminal cases, which mentioned the “gay orientation” of trial participants in Russia. According to the scientist, the first surge in hate crimes against LGBT people in Russia occurred after 2013. The peak occurred in 2014-2018, after which the number of victims began to gradually decrease. And in 2023, it increased sharply again against the backdrop of new homophobic laws: at least 20 people were killed and another 60 were injured. In 2022, there eight people were killed and 46 injured. Most often, homosexual men become victims, and in approximately 5% of cases, transgender women. (Istories, 05.21.24)
  • Authorities in Far East Russia’s republic of Sakha (Yakutia) have declared a state of emergency after seasonal flooding submerged hundreds of homes and forced residents to move to temporary shelters. Nearly 450 homes and more than 550 land plots have been flooded since the Lena River, with a length of 4,294 kilometers, started overflowing last week due to ice jams, the Emergency Situations Ministry said May 21. The ministry said at least one elderly woman was rescued and later hospitalized. More than 300 displaced residents, including 71 children, have been placed in temporary shelters. (MT/AFP, 05.21.24)
  • A jailed Russian tycoon won a U.K. court ruling blocking a sanctioned Russian entity from getting $7.5 billion in a suit linked to control of a strategically crucial port in the Black Sea. A London judge said that a Russian-court ordering Ziyavudin Magomedov to pay billions for pursuing litigation in the U.K. would be “utterly disproportionate.” (Bloomberg, 05.24.24)
  • Russia's Investigative Committee said on May 21 that the former deputy governor of the Kalman district in the Siberian region of Altai Krai, Vitaly Manishin, will face trial over the deaths of 11 women. (RFE/RL, 05.22.24)
  • The number of prisoners in Russian penal colonies in 2023 decreased by 58,000 people. This follows from an article in the FSIN magazine; the project “To Be Precise” drew attention to it. (Istories, 05.24.24)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Glencore Plc is keeping its contract with Russian aluminum giant United Co. Rusal International PJSC for at least another year, even as sales volumes dwindle. The deal — starting in 2020 for the delivery of more than 1 million tons of aluminum a year — has been rolled over into 2025 and early 2026, according to people familiar with situation. (Bloomberg, 05.22.24)
  • Two pro-Russian paramilitary organizations operating in Bulgaria should be closed because their activities violate the constitution, a district prosecutor’s office said on May 22. The request to shut down Billiono Shipka and the Vasil Levski Military Union was submitted to the district court in Varna by the local prosecutor’s office.. (RFE/RL, 05.22.24)


  • Russia proceeds on the premise that Zelenskyy’s presidential legitimacy is over, Putin said on May 24 after talks with Lukashenko, Meduza reported. “Of course, we are aware that the legitimacy of the current head of state has ended,” Putin claimed. (RM, 05.24.24)
  • Finland’s central bank estimates that Ukraine’s GDP collapsed by about 29% in 2022, before recovering somewhat last year. GDP growth is projected to be 4.3% this year and 5.4% in 2025. (FT, 05.18.24)
  • Ukraine's top anti-corruption officer suspended his chief deputy on May 24 while investigators probe a suspected leak inside an agency considered key to the country's push for transparency. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) said that director Semen Kryvonos had suspended the first deputy head based on the employee's own admission of "a possible conflict of interests" over an investigation into the leak. (Reuters, 05.24.24)
    • The Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) and police officers conducted searches on May 22 at the office of a representative of NABU as part of an investigation into the leakage of information in a high-profile criminal case concerning Great Construction (a government program initiated by Zelenskyy in March 2020). (Ukrainska Pravda, 05.22.24)
  • Law enforcement officers suspect ex-deputy head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office Andrei Smirnov of illegal enrichment worth 15.7 million hryvnia. The investigation established that from 2020 to 2022, the official acquired assets worth 17.1 million hryvnia, having savings and official income for this period of more than 1.3 million hryvnia. Thus, the difference between the cost of the acquired property and the official’s funds amounted to 15.7 million hryvnia. (, 05.22.24)
  • Since February 2024, the Security Service of Ukraine has been investigating possible inflated prices for wood that the Kharkov Regional Military Administration purchased from private companies for the construction of fortifications. (Ukrainska Pravda, 05.24.24)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili on May 18 put a mostly symbolic veto on the "foreign influence" law that sparked unprecedented protests and warnings from Brussels that the measure would undermine Tbilisi's EU aspirations. Ruling Georgian Dream party lawmakers voted through the legislation this week in defiance of protesters concerned the ex-Soviet republic is shifting away from a pro-Western course back toward Russia. The move has sparked a wave of protests unprecedented in the recent history of the Black Sea nation. (MT/AFP, 05.18.24)
    • Several EU countries are pushing for sanctions against Georgia, including the suspension of visa-free travel to the bloc, in response to the government’s defiant stance on its Russian-inspired “foreign agents” law. (FT, 05.22.24)
    • The U.S. has said it is reviewing its bilateral c0operation with Georgia over its controversial "foreign agent" law that triggered weeks of mass protests in the capital Tbilisi. In a statement, Blinken said Washington was introducing visa restrictions for individuals responsible for "undermining democracy in Georgia." (BBC, 05.24.24)
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan indirectly accused Russia and directly accused Belarus of helping Azerbaijan to prepare for the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, against the backdrop of deteriorating Armenian-Russian relations. (ISW, 05.22.24) 
    • Russia recalled its ambassador to Armenia Sergei Kopyrkin for consultations on May 24 amid a continuing deterioration of relations between the two longtime allies. (RFE/RL, 05.24.23)
  • Iranian leaders have used the occasion of President Ebrahim Raisi's funeral events to emphasize close ties with Armenia even as tensions between Yerevan and Moscow continue to increase. (ISW, 05.23.24)
  • Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has reiterated Beijing's readiness to "firmly support Kazakhstan's efforts to defend its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity." Speaking after a meeting with Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev in Astana on May 20, Wang echoed several similar statements made by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in recent years for China's backing of its neighbor to the northeast. (RFE/RL, 05.21.24)
  • Moldova has signed a security and defense partnership with the European Union, the first country to ink such a pact, according to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. (RFE/RL, 05.22.24)
  • Lukashenko on May 23 appointed Maj. Gen. Paval Muraveyka to the post of the chief of the Belarusian armed forces' general staff. Muraveyka's predecessor, Viktar Hulevich, 55, was relieved of his duties on May 10 for what was officially called "his age." (RFE/RL, 05.23.24)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • No significant developments.


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

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

Slider photo available in the public domain.


  1. Russia’s Kommersant daily has interpreted Zelenskyy’s interview with Reuters to mean that he will not make such an attempt.