Russia in Review, May 3-10, 2024

5 Things to Know

  1. On May 10, Russia launched a new offensive on Ukraine’s northeastern region of Kharkiv. The assault began around 5 a.m. with massive shelling and aerial bombardments of Ukrainian positions followed by armored columns trying to punch through at several points along the border, according to NYT. On the first day of the offensive, Russian forces captured four border villages in the Kharkiv region: Strileche, Krasne, Pylna, and Borysivka, while also advancing toward the town of Vovchansk, about 70 kilometers northeast of Kharkiv, which is the capital of the region and Ukraine’s second largest city, according Ukrainska Pravda. Ukrainian officials and Western military analysts have told NYT that Moscow probably lacks the combat power to capture Kharkiv. Instead, they may be trying to create a 10-kilometer deep buffer zone inside the region, according to a senior Ukrainian military source quoted by Reuters 
    1. In the month prior to the May 10 offensive, Russian forces had gained 51 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while the Ukrainian forces re-gained six square miles, according to the May 7, 2024, issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. In the week prior to the offensive, Russian forces claimed control over the town of Ocheretyne and the village of Soloviove in the Donetsk region as well as the village of Kotlyarivka in the Kharkiv region.  
    2. The critical phase of the war will come in the next two months, according to an estimate Lt. Gen. Oleksandr Pavliuk, head of Ukraine’s ground forces, shared with The Economist. He said one of the most urgent tasks on his desk is raising 10 new brigades for repelling the Russian offensive. Part of this new force will be deployed to protect the capital, he said.
  2. Ukraine’s security services said this week they had foiled a Russian plot to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other top military and political figures, according to NYT and FT. Two colonels of Ukraine’s State Protection Service accused of participating in the plot have been arrested. The agents allegedly working at Russia’s direction were tasked with identifying people close to Zelenskyy’s security detail who could take him hostage and later kill him, according to these newspapers. The FSB’s network of agents in Ukraine was also allegedly tasked with observing and passing on information about the whereabouts of chief of Ukrainian military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov and head of the Security Service of Ukraine Vasyl Malyuk, according to NYT. 
  3. In his May 7 inaugural address, Putin was bristling with optimism about his ongoing war against Ukraine and promised that the country would be victorious, according to WP. In separate remarks to commanders fighting in Ukraine, the Russian leader said his country’s entire economic and social development depended on the invasion’s success, according to FT. Having fired his entire government upon his inauguration, as required by law, Putin chose to reappoint his top manager of the Russian economy: premier Mikhail Mishustin. Russian lawmakers were quick to endorse his choice, promising to wrap up the process of voting on other members of the government by May 14. A promotion may be on the cards for agriculture minister Dmitry Patrushev and for the governor of the Kaliningrad region Anton Alikhanov, according to FT. For the prospects of Russia’ relations with the West during Putin’s new six-year term, see RM’s expert survey.*
  4. Vladimir Putin has ordered an exercise in which MoD units in southern Russia are to practice using non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs), according to his defense ministry. The wargame is supposed to prepare these units for what the ministry described as “unconditionally ensuring the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian state in response to provocative statements and threats of individual Western officials against the Russian Federation,” according to the Russian MoD’s May 6 statement. “There is nothing unusual. It is planned work,” Putin said of the wargame on May 9 shortly after he had watched mobile ICBMs being paraded down Red Square, vowing that “our strategic forces are always in combat readiness.” When asked that same day to comment on the wargame Putin ordered, his deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said, “We’re warning our enemies that their policy of escalation, of course, presents us with the need to take steps which effectively mean increasing the deterrence measures.” When asked in the same media opportunity if Russia could revise its nuclear doctrine to allow a preventive strike, Ryabkov said: "The environment itself is changing. This is why the correspondence between the basis documents in this sector and the need of ensuring our security is being constantly analyzed.” Ryabkov's comments corroborate our recent hypothesis that the ongoing statements of the Russian leadership on conditions for use of  nuclear weapons may be signaling by the Kremlin that it may revise the country's doctrinal documents on use of nuclear weapons.
  5. During a May 7 meeting with his French host Emmanuel Macron, President Xi Jinping of China said he would support convening an international peace conference on Ukraine as long as it is recognized by both Russia and Ukraine, with equal participation of all parties and fair discussion of all peace plans. He also joined Macron’s call for an ''Olympics truce'' this summer. Addressing Xi, Macron said, ''Without security for Ukraine there can be no security for Europe.” The EC’s Ursula von der Leyen—who also participated in some of the talks with Xi—went even further than Macron, describing “threats stemming from this war” as “existential” for Europe. During his three-country tour of Europe this week, Xi also won support for his peace initiative from his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban. And it took Russia, which has not been invited to participate in the Ukraine peace conference next month in Switzerland, one day to say it was interested in Xi’s latest peace ideas. “We have received with interest the idea of the Chinese leader to hold a forum in which both Russia and Ukraine could participate to discuss all peace initiatives," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

 

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has restated that "there must be no attack of any kind from or against this major nuclear facility" amid reports of drone activity in the area of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant  (WNN, 05.10.24)
  • The World Association of Organizations Operating Nuclear Power Plants (WANO) has completed its mission to evaluate the implementation of recommendations for Russia’s floating nuclear power plant in Chukotka. WANO experts, together with the plant’s representatives, assessed its operation and developed measures aimed at improving the safety and reliability of the plant. (Rosatom, May 2024)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • About half of the North Korean missiles used by Russia to strike Ukraine failed to reach their target, according to the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine. According to the Office, prosecutors examined the debris of 21 out of about 50 North Korean ballistic missiles that Russia used to strike Ukraine between late December and late February. (RBC.ua, 05.07.24)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • Since President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, Russia has dispatched hundreds of thousands of men to battlefields that have become charnel houses. Now, the mothers and wives of servicemen whose fates are unknown have emerged as some of the most vocal critics of the Russian war effort, presenting a rare public challenge to Putin and the authoritarian system he has built. Amplifying the grief and anger is the Russian government's lack of transparency about soldiers who are missing or presumed to be dead. (WSJ, 05.07.24)
  • Families, lawyers and rights groups say that the Ukrainian military is simply overloaded with casualties and unable to account for thousands of the dead, adding to the anguish of soldiers' families. (NYT, 05.05.24)
  • Ukrainian officials on May 8 said they were preparing to order electricity rationing measures across the country following a major overnight missile strike by Russia—the latest in a relentless bombing campaign against civilian infrastructure. (WP, 05.08.24)
    • 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 51 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces have re-gained six square miles, according to the May 7, 2024, issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 05.07.24)
  • On the night of May 3 to 4, Russian forces made a notable tactical advance northwest of Avdiivka near Arkhanhelske, likely following a Ukrainian decision to withdraw from the area in eastern Ukraine on May 3. (ISW, 05.03.24) 
  • On May 4, Russia said it had downed four U.S.-made ATACMS long-range missiles over the Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula. (MT/AFP, 05.04.24)
  • On May 4, civilian facilities in the Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv and Odesa came under Russian missile fire, according to local officials. Four people were wounded in Kharkiv. Civilian infrastructure was also damaged by a missile near Odesa, injuring three people. (Bloomberg, 05.04.24)
  • On May 4, Russian forces said they have claimed control over the town of Ocheretyne in the Donetsk region. (RFE/RL, 05.05.24)
  • Speaking on May 4, NSA Jake Sullivan said that he still expects “Russian advances in the coming period” on the battlefield, despite the new U.S. funding package approved last month, because “you can’t instantly flip the switch.” But he said that with the new aid from Washington, Kyiv would have the capacity to “hold the line” and “to ensure Ukraine withstands the Russian assault” over the course of 2024. And pointing to the scenario for the war next year, Sullivan said Ukraine intended “to move forward to recapture the territory that the Russians have taken from them.” (FT, 05.04.24)
  • On May 5, Russian forces launched 24 Shahed-type UAVs over the southern region of Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine and the northeastern Kharkiv region overnight. Ukraine’s air defense shot down 23 of the drones, its command said on Telegram. At least six people were injured in an overnight Russian drone attack on Ukraine's Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, according to local officials, while Russian officials said five people were injured in an explosion in the city of Belgorod. (Bloomberg, 05.05.24, RFE/RL, 05.04.24)
  • On May 6, suspected Ukrainian drones struck two vans and a car near the village of Berezovka in Russia’s Belgorod region, killing eight and wounding 32, according to Russian officials. (MT/AFP, 05.08.24)
  • On May 6, Russia attacked Ukraine's Sumy region with drones and artillery. The Ukrainian Air Force said it had downed 12 out of 13 drones launched by Russia at energy infrastructure targets in Sumy. (RFE/RL, 05.06.24)
  • On May 6, Moscow said that its forces had captured two more frontline villages in eastern Ukraine: Kotlyarivka in the Kharkiv region and Soloviove in the Donetsk region. On May 6, Russia’s army also made further incremental gains in its quest to capture the strategically important town of Chasiv Yar in the eastern Donetsk region. (MT/AFP, 05.06.24, Bloomberg, 05.06.24)
    • The purpose of the fighting around Chasiv Yar is not to retain every inch of land, but to prevent the Russian army from sweeping across the rest of Ukraine and taking its main cities, including Kharkiv, Dnipro, Odesa and Kyiv. Similarly, Putin is not interested in the Donbas for its territory; he is trying to subjugate Ukraine and end its quest to become part of the European order. (The Economist, 05.09.24)
    • Ukraine still holds Chasiv Yar, which is the key to a cluster of towns and cities behind it, the last urban centers of the Donbas that remain in Ukrainian hands. Lt. Gen. Oleksandr Pavliuk, head of Ukraine’s ground forces, appears to be preparing public opinion for what some believe to be inevitable. He argues that losing Chasiv Yar would have no “decisive significance”; it is just “a regular urban settlement.” (The Economist, 05.10.24)
  • On May 7, Russian shelling killed one civilian and wounded eight in several Ukrainian regions, officials reported. One man was killed in Petrivka in the Donetsk region and four people were wounded in Kostyantynivka. Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Synyehubov said three people were wounded when a guided aerial bomb struck the village of Borova in the Izyum district. Kherson Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin reported one wounded in his region. (RFE/RL, 05.07.024)
  • On May 8, Russia conducted a large-scale missile attack across Ukraine, injuring civilians and causing significant damage to residential buildings, as well as civilian and energy infrastructure, according to the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces. Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko reported that the strikes targeted electricity generation and transmission facilities in Ukraine’s Poltava, Kirovohrad, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Vinnytsia regions. The Ukrainian energy company DTEK said that Russia hit three of their thermal power stations, causing serious damage to equipment. (Meduza, 05.08.24)
    • In the May 8 attack, Russian forces launched 21 Shahed-136/131 drones and 55 missiles, including 45 Kh-101/555 cruise missiles, four Kalibr sea-launched cruise missiles, two Iskander-M ballistic missiles, an Iskander-K ballistic missile, two Kh-59/69 cruise missiles and a Kh-47 "Kinzhal" aeroballistic missile. Ukrainian forces intercepted 33 Kh-101/555 cruise missiles, all four Kalibr cruise missiles, both Kh-59/69 cruise missiles and 20 Shaheds. This is the fifth large scale Russian missile and drone strike targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure since March 22, 2024. (ISW, 05.08.24)
    • Ukraine’s largest private electricity company, DTEK, said in a statement that three thermal power plants had been hit in the May 8 attacks, further straining Ukraine’s electricity generation capacity, which was already reeling from previous assaults. The company said that 80% of its available generating capacity had been damaged or destroyed by the recent attacks. (NYT, 05.08.24)
    • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the attacks “massive” in a post on X that pointed out that they came as countries marked the anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany at the end of World War II. (Bloomberg, 05.08.24)
  • On May 8, Russia's Defense Ministry claimed that its forces had captured two more frontline villages in eastern Ukraine: Kyslivka in the Kharkiv region and Novokalynove in the Donetsk region. (MT/AFP, 05.08.24)
  • On May 8, Newsweek reported that a social media source tracking Russian military depots stated that satellite imagery indicates that Russia's vehicle stores have significantly decreased from pre-war levels by nearly 32% from 15,152 in 2021 to 10,389 as of May 2024. (ISW, 05.08.24.)
  • On the night of May 8-9, fresh Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian and infrastructure targets killed two people and caused serious damage to Ukraine's already battered energy infrastructure, regional officials and the military said. Russian shelling killed a 62-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman in the southern city of Nikopol, wounding another two and causing damage to houses and roads, Dnipropetrovsk regional chief Serhiy Lysak said on Telegram. (RFE/RL, 05.09.24)
  • On May 9, Zelenskyy said at a joint press conference with the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola that Ukraine will be able to stop the Russian offensive in the east if the arms supplies increase. "With increased arms supplies, we will be able to stop them (the Russian troops - ed.) in the east. They have the initiative there now. This is not a secret. We need to stop them, take the initiative into our own hands. It is possible only when you have something strong in your hands," the president said. (RBC.ua, 05.09.24)
  • On May 9, Gen. Alexander Trepak was appointed commander of the Special Operations Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. His predecessor, Sergei Lupanchuk, was dismissed from this position. Lupanchuk was appointed commander of the Special Operations Forces in November last year. (Korrespondent.net, 05.09.24)
    • Zelenskyy appointed former commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeryi Zaluzhnyi as ambassador to the U.K. in decree No. 316/2024, published on the website of the head of state on May 9. (Korrespondent.net, 05.09.24)
  • On May 9, Ukrainian attacks in and around the Russian city of Belgorod have injured at least eight people, Russian authorities said. (MT, 05.09.24)

  • On May 9, there was a drone attack on the Salavatnefteorgsintez oil refinery in Russia’s Bashkiria. Before the attack, the drone flew a record 1,500 km, according to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). On the night of May 9, an explosion occurred in Russia’s Krasnodar region after a drone attack on a local oil depot. (RBC.ua, 05.09.24)
    • The U.S. government has publicly urged Kyiv to stop its attacks on Russian oil refineries out of concern that they could affect global oil markets. But Ukraine has instead doubled down on its strategy. Damien Ernst, an energy expert and professor at the University of Liege in Belgium, said the strikes have taken more than 10% of Russia's oil-refining capacity offline. The refinery hit on May 9 is one of Russia's biggest, with a capacity to process 10 million metric tons of oil a year, according to Gazprom, its owner. (NYT, 05.10.24)
    • Ukraine’s strikes on Russian oil refineries are doing what oil sanctions have failed to achieve: reducing the Kremlin’s income from oil production. Russia’s oil products production has fallen by an estimated 14% between January and March as a result, causing shortages for the civilian population, if not for industry and the military. However, Russia has significant over-production capacity to enable exports and only an estimated 40% of its refineries are in range. (BNE, 05.10.24)
  • On May 10, Russia launched a new offensive on Ukraine’s northeastern region of Kharkiv. The assault began around 5 a.m. with massive shelling and aerial bombardments of Ukrainian positions followed by armored columns trying to punch through at several points along the border, according to NYT. On the first day of the offensive, Russian forces captured four border villages in the Kharkiv region: Strileche, Krasne, Pylna1 and Borysivka, while also advancing toward the town of Vovchansk, which is about 70 km northeast of Kharkiv, which is the capital of the region and Ukraine’s second largest city, according Ukrainska Pravda. Ukrainian officials and Western military analysts have told NYT that Moscow probably lacks the combat power to capture Kharkiv. Instead, they may be trying to create a 10-kilometer deep buffer zone inside the region, according to a senior Ukrainian military source quoted by Reuters. (RM, 05.10.24)
  • Lt. Gen. Oleksandr Pavliuk, head of Ukraine’s ground forces, says the critical phase of the war will come in the next two months. With American assistance only beginning to reach the front lines, Putin’s generals are throwing in all the combat-ready materiel they have to test Ukraine’s exhausted and undersupplied troops. He believes Russia will continue to focus on Luhansk and Donetsk, but intelligence suggests Russian forces will soon stretch defenses by attacking the northeastern districts of Kharkiv and Sumy. “Over the whole range of the front, Russian guns are firing seven times as many shells as Ukraine’s.” (The Economist, 05.10.24)
  • Pavliuk says one of the most urgent tasks on his desk is raising 10 new brigades in preparation for the Russian offensive. ... Part of this new force will be deployed to protect the capital. Two and a half years after the Russian army was stymied there, it has not abandoned its ambition to ultimately take the city, the general says. (The Economist, 05.10.24)
  • On May 10, drones attacked a small oil refinery about 100 miles (161 kilometers) from Moscow, in the second apparent Ukrainian strike on Russian crude-processing facilities in two days. The drones caused a fire at four fuel-storage tanks on the site of the refinery in Russia’s Kaluga region. (Bloomberg, 05.10.24)
  • Zelenskyy put the number of soldiers killed at 31,000 in February, and Kyiv has said that about half again as many are missing. The high number of missing soldiers underscores the nature of the ubiquitous trench fighting, which often leaves bodies from both sides abandoned in great numbers in buffer areas between the armies, muddying the picture of the war’s toll. (NYT, 05.04.24)
  • Ukrainian recruitment efforts have been hampered by reports about shortages of ammunition, claims of corruption, incompetent commanders and inadequate training swirling on social media, as well as the lack of leave for frontline troops. A proposal to allow soldiers to demobilize after 36 months was dropped after army chiefs feared too many experienced troops would leave early next year. (FT, 05.07.24)
    • Ukraine's military is turning to towering billboards and Instagram posts that mix bravado with stark warnings in an effort to attract recruits and make up for shortfalls in personnel. (WSJ, 05.07.24)
    • Ukraine is to start recruiting prisoners to fight against Russia under a new law designed to bolster its frontline forces, including with men convicted of murder or fraud. (FT, 05.09.24)
  • The Russian Army is gradually expanding the role of women. The military's stepped-up appeal to women includes efforts to recruit female inmates in prisons, replicating on a much smaller scale a strategy that has swelled its ranks with male convicts. (NYT, 05.04.24)
  • Ukraine’s security services said this week they had foiled a Russian plot to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other top military and political figures, according to NYT and FT. Two colonels of Ukraine’s State Protection Service accused of participating in the plot have been arrested. The agents allegedly working at Russia’s direction were tasked with identifying people close to Zelenskyy’s security detail who could take him hostage and later kill him, according to these newspapers. The FSB’s network of agents in Ukraine was also allegedly tasked with observing and passing on information about the whereabouts of chief of Ukrainian military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov and head of the Security Service of Ukraine Vasyl Malyuk, according to NYT. (RM, 05.10.24)
    • Zelenskyy dismissed the head of the unit that protects Ukraine’s top officials following the arrest of two colonels who were allegedly involved in a Russian plot to assassinate the president. Serhiy Rud, who was fired by a decree signed May 9 evening by Zelenskyy, had been in his post since 2019 and previously led the president’s personal security unit. (Bloomberg, 05.10.24)
    • Putin's spokesman declined to comment on May 8 on an assertion by Ukrainian intelligence officials a day earlier that they had "thwarted" an assassination plot against Ukraine's president involving Russia's FSB. (RFE/RL, 05.08.24)
  • A Russian man accused of trying to blow up two court buildings on behalf of Ukraine has been detained and charged with terrorism, Russia's FSB said May 6. The man, described as being in his mid-forties, was found "placing unknown objects in construction waste" near a railway station in the central city of Tambov, the law enforcement body said. The FSB said the objects were revealed to be "two homemade explosive devices," which the man planned to detonate near two court buildings in the city. (MT/AFP, 05.06.24)
  • The Ukrainian Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate says a Russian correctional colony employee in Moscow-occupied Berdyansk who had been implicated in the alleged torture of Ukrainians has been "eliminated.” (RFE/RL, 05.06.24)

Military aid to Ukraine: 

  • Gen. Pavliuk, head of Ukraine’s ground forces, says Ukraine urgently needs more air defense and the anticipated delivery of F-16 fighter jets by early June will offer a significant psychological boost. But it remains uncertain whether Ukraine will receive the newer versions of the F-16 (block 50 onwards) that are needed to challenge Russia’s bombers (The Economist, 05.10.24)
  • The United States will announce a new $400 million military aid package for Ukraine on May 10. The package, which will involve transferring weapons already in U.S. stocks, includes new Patriot missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, Bradley fighting vehicles, MRAPs, Javelin anti-armor systems and other munitions. (Politico, 05.10.24)
  • During the NATO summit in July, the command of military aid will pass from the U.S. to NATO, according to Corriere della Sera. However, the summit will also confirm that the alliance will not send soldiers into battle in Ukraine, according to this Italian newspaper. (RM, 05.08.24)
  • Lithuania is prepared to send its soldiers to Ukraine on a training mission, its prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė told the FT. She said she had parliamentary permission to send troops to Ukraine for training purposes — something her government has floated before — but that Kyiv had not yet asked for this. (FT, 05.08.24)
  • Romania will consider sending one of its Patriot air defense systems to neighboring Ukraine, President Klaus Iohannis said on May 7. Speaking after a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, Iohannis said the eventual decision can’t jeopardize his country’s security. A NATO member for two decades, Romania shares the longest border with Ukraine among the European Union’s member states. (Bloomberg, 05.07.24)
  • The Netherlands will start transferring F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine as early as this fall. This follows Denmark's decision, announced Dutch Minister of Defense Kajsa Ollongren. (RBC.ua, 05.07.24)
  • Ukraine will receive three HIMARS mobile rocket systems from U.S. stocks with Germany footing the bill, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on May 9. (Bloomberg, 05.09.24)

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

  • EU countries have agreed to use an estimated €3 billion in profits arising from Russia’s frozen state assets to jointly buy weapons for Ukraine. The deal struck by the bloc’s 27 ambassadors on May 8 only targets profits made by Belgium’s central securities depository Euroclear, where about €190 billion of Russian central bank assets are held. Western nations immobilized Russia’s state assets abroad in 2022, in response to its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (FT, 05.09.24)
    • Since the beginning of the year, the European depository Euroclear has received €1.6 billion in income from blocked assets of the Russian Federation, the head of the depository Valerie Urbain said in an interview with L'Echo. (Istories, 05.08.24)
  • The European Union has proposed restrictions on 11 vessels that contribute to Russia’s ability to sustain its war against Ukraine. The proposed measures, if approved by member states, would ban the ships from accessing EU ports and anchorage zones, and complicate the logistics of operating them by barring them from using European companies for an array of services. (Bloomberg, 05.07.24)
  • Brussels will propose a ban on Russian funding of political parties, non-governmental organizations and think-tanks as part of a fresh round of sanctions aimed at crippling Moscow’s ability to pursue its war against Ukraine and spread discord among European allies. The proposal is part of the latest package of sanctions sent to member states by the European Commission for their approval, according to a confidential draft seen by FT. (FT, 05.07.24)
  • Moscow’s trade volumes with key partners such as Turkey and China have slumped in the first quarter of this year after the U.S. targeted international banks helping Russia acquire critical products to aid its war effort. In the first quarter of this year, Turkey’s exports to Russia fell by a third year on year to $2.1 billion. And the value of its reported exports of high-priority goods to Russia and its neighboring countries fell 40% to $93 million in the first quarter of 2024 from the previous quarter, showing the impact of the executive order. (FT, 05.05.24)
  • So far, there are few signs that Western sanctions have significantly disrupted air travel within Russia. Cirium data shows that flight hours are around the prewar level. But data collected by the FT shows that there has been a sharp drop in the amounts of components entering Russia over the past two years. For example, the ability of S7 and its subsidiaries to obtain parts at will has been devastated — from peaks of over $100 million per month in late 2021 to well under $20 million in most months over the past two years. Russian airlines have made up some of this shortfall by using a sprawling network of sometimes fly-by-night companies. Russia is also taking steps to prolong the life of foreign-made parts. (FT, 05.10.24)
  • Raiffeisen Bank International AG canceled a complex share deal aimed at bringing capital out of Russia after scrutiny by regulators. The planned transaction would have allowed the Austrian lender to repatriate about €1.5 billion ($1.6 billion) of retained profits from its Russian unit. It involved the purchase of shares in an Austrian construction company that were previously held by sanctioned businessman Oleg Deripaska. (Bloomberg, 05.08.24)
  • For Russia’s elite, passing on family wealth has become more complex than ever. With the war in Ukraine stretching into a third year and the rich getting accustomed to the idea that Russian citizens are no longer welcome in the West, the tried-and-true playbook for transferring fortunes has been effectively vanquished. Even Cyprus and Switzerland — some of the favorite spots of old — have introduced bans on providing management services to family trusts with Russian nationals as trustors or beneficiaries. (Bloomberg, 05.08.24)
  • The U.K. stepped up efforts to break Russia’s monopoly over a uranium-fuel market that’s expected to play a key role in a powering a new generation of small, factory-built reactors. (Bloomberg, 05.07.24)
  • Russian prosecutors on May 7 declared the Washington-based Freedom House human rights watchdog an "undesirable organization." (RFE/RL, 05.07.24)

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

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • President Xi Jinping of China’s talks in Paris with President Emmanuel Macron in France produced a joint call for an ''Olympics truce'' this summer. In addition, China supports convening an international peace conference on the Ukraine crisis at an appropriate time that is recognized by both Russia and Ukraine and ensures the equal participation of all parties and fair discussions on all peace plans, Xi said. Noting that history has proven time and again that at the end of the day, conflicts can only be resolved through negotiation, Xi said that China calls on all parties to resume engagement and dialogue to build mutual trust. (NYT, 05.06.24, Xinhua 05.07.24, Xinhua, 05.06.24) 
    • "China, France and the EU desire a prompt cessation of hostilities and restoration of peace in Europe and endorse a political settlement of the crisis," Xi said. "The three sides must jointly counter the spread of side effects of the conflict and escalation of hostilities, establish conditions for peace talks and maintain the stability of industry and supply chains." (TASS and Xinhua, 05.06.24)
    • Russia is interested in Xi's idea of holding a peaceful conference on the Ukrainian crisis, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. "We have received with interest the idea of the Chinese leader to hold a forum in which both Russia and Ukraine could participate to discuss all peace initiatives," she said at a briefing. (TASS, 05.08.24)
    • While in France, Xi spoke out firmly against criticism of his country for its close relationship with Russia during the war in Ukraine, saying that ''we oppose the crisis being used to cast responsibility on a third country, sully its image and incite a new cold war.'' Flanked by Macron, Xi stiffened as he defended China's role, recalling it was ''not at the origin of this crisis, nor a party to it, nor a participant.'' (NYT, 05.06.24, Xinhua 05.07.24)
    • Macron and Ursula von der Leyen on May 6 told Xi that they wanted him to use his influence on Russia to end its war in Ukraine, while underscoring that the EU wouldn't waver in its support for Kyiv. "We count on China to use all its influence on Russia to end Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine," von der Leyen told reporters. Macron said coordination with China on Ukraine was "absolutely decisive." (RFE/RL, 05.06.24)
    • Addressing a visiting Xi on May 6, Macron said, ''Without security for Ukraine there can be no security for Europe.'' But he emphasized that France was not at war with Russia or its people and did not seek to overturn Putin's regime. Macron added, with respect to the war, that France and China ''must maintain a close dialogue.'' Earlier in the day, von der Leyen said, ''More effort is needed [on China’s part] to curtail delivery of dual-use goods to Russia that find their way to the battlefield,.” ''And given the existential nature of the threats stemming from this war for both Ukraine and Europe, this does affect EU-China relations,” she said. (NYT, 05.06.24)
    • Hungary and China stand for the peaceful settlement of any disputes between states and reaffirm their commitment to the international system, the core of which is the U.N., according to a joint statement of the two countries adopted on May 9 in Budapest after negotiations between Xi and Hungarian President Tamas Sulyok and Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The document is titled "China-Hungary Joint Statement on the Establishment of an All-Weather Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for the New Era." Hungary supports any international initiatives aimed at putting an end to the conflict in Ukraine, including the peace plan proposed by China in February 2023, Orban told reporters after his talks with Xi. (TASS, 05.09.24)
  • At the peace summit in Switzerland, participating countries will consider a number of key issues related to the war in Ukraine. According to Zelenskyy, one of the key issues will be the possibility of returning prisoners in the “all for all” format, which concerns not only military personnel, but also Ukrainian civilians illegally detained by Russia. Issues of nuclear and food security will also be discussed. Heads of state and government from more than 160 countries including the Group of Seven, Group of 20, the European Union and the so-called BRICS bloc were invited to the gathering set to take place on June 15 and 16 near Lucerne. Russia isn’t included on the guest list. (Bloomberg, 05.06.24, RBC.ua, 05.09.24)
  • Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella told the U.N. General Assembly on May 7 that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can’t be solved by rewarding its aggression and peace can only come when Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are restored. (RFE/RL, 05.08.24)

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

  • In his inaugural address May 7 for another six-year presidential term, Putin said:
    • “We have been and will continue to be open to strengthening good relations with all countries that view Russia as a reliable and honest partner. Indeed, those constitute the global majority. ... Together with our partners in Eurasian integration and other sovereign development centers, we will continue to build a multipolar world and an equal and indivisible security system.” (Kremlin.ru, 05.07.24) Reference to China.
    •  We are not rejecting dialogue with Western states. The choice is theirs: whether they intend to continue trying to contain Russia’s development, continue the policy of aggression, the relentless pressure they have been exerting on our country for years, or seek a path to cooperation and peace. To reiterate, we are open to talks, including on security and strategic stability, but not to negotiations from a position of strength. We are open to a conversation without arrogance, conceit or exceptionalism – a dialogue on an equal footing and with respect for each other’s interests.” (Kremlin.ru, 05.07.24)
  • Russia says it warned Britain that if British weapons are used by Kyiv to strike inside its territory, Moscow was entitled to retaliate by striking back at British military targets both inside and outside Ukraine. The Russian ministry said it summoned British Ambassador Nigel Casey on May 6 over what it called "hostile" remarks by Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who said Ukraine "has the right" to launch attacks inside Russia with British-made weapons. The Western allies "are deliberately leading the situation toward a further escalation of the Ukrainian crisis toward an open military clash between NATO countries and Russia," Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. (RFE/RL, 05.06.24, RFE/RL, 05.06.24)
  • Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged to defend Germany’s three Baltic NATO allies in case of a Russian attack and to complete the establishment of a permanent brigade in Lithuania by the end of 2027. “Germany is determined to defend every inch of alliance territory,” Scholz said May 6 after talks in Riga with his counterparts from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. “And I would also like to say this here: an attack on you would also be an attack on all of us,” he added, at a joint news conference with Latvia’s Evika Silina, Estonia’s Kaja Kallas and Lithuania’s Ingrida Simonyte. (Bloomberg, 05.06.24)
  • Finland has successfully tested its ability to run a war economy and has begun storing military equipment outside its national borders as the Nordic country renowned for its high level of preparedness deals with an increasingly aggressive Russia. Lt. Gen. Mikko Heiskanen, deputy chief of staff for armaments and logistics in the Finnish defense forces, told FT that Finland had recently checked on more than 1,000 agreements it has with private companies to produce equipment or provide services for times of war. (FT, 05.06.24)
  • Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk called on the European Union to mobilize at least 100 billion euros ($108 billion) on defense and build a joint air-defense system as the bloc contends with Russian aggression. (Bloomberg, 05.07.24)
  • European intelligence agencies have warned their governments that Russia is plotting violent acts of sabotage across the continent as it commits to a course of permanent conflict with the West. Russia has already begun to more actively prepare covert bombings, arson attacks and damage to infrastructure on European soil, directly and via proxies, with little apparent concern about causing civilian fatalities, intelligence officials believe. (FT, 05.04.24)
  • The British government said on May 8 that it was expelling Russia’s defense attaché for spying, removing diplomatic status from properties in the U.K. that it believes Moscow has used to gather intelligence and limiting the length of visas granted to Russian diplomats. (FT, 05.08.24)
  • Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has put his former defense chief and outspoken Russia critic in charge of the interior ministry amid heightened concerns about Moscow-backed spying. Tusk on May 10 said Tomasz Siemoniak will run the interior ministry while retaining his current role as coordinator of domestic intelligence services. Siemoniak was defense minister from 2011 to 2015 during Tusk’s previous term as prime minister. (FT, 05.10.24)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Putin’s state visit to China on May 15-16 implies a visit to Beijing and another city, presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters. Putin’s calendar of upcoming official foreign visits has been almost finalized, Ushakov said on May 7. "The most important summit for us is the BRICS summit in Kazan in October," he said. "In addition to the APEC and the SCO summits, there will be a lot of events, there will be a million of events of different kind, including bilateral meetings, bilateral visits both to us and our trips abroad." "As of today, it is important to pay a visit to China and we will announce the date in the days to come," Ushakov added. No dates have been set yet for Putin’s trip to Turkey, but the trip will come after his visit to China, Ushakov said. (TASS, 05.07.24)
    • Beijing congratulated Putin on assuming the post of the Russian president, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lin Jian said at a briefing. (TASS, 05.08.24)
  • China-Russia trade turnover increased by 4.7% year-on-year to $76.58 billion in January - April, the General Administration of Customs of China announced. According to the report, imports from Russia over four months increased by 10.2% to $43.85 billion. Chinese exports to Russia decreased by 1.9% to $32.73 billion. (TASS, 05.09.24)
  • Over 60 countries are set to participate in the 2024 BRICS Games in Kazan in June, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on May 8. (TASS, 05.08.24)
  • Delegations from 25 Russian regions will take part in the fourth Sino-Russian forum on interregional cooperation on the sidelines of the Russia-China Expo in Harbin on May 17, 2024, head of the Russian trade mission in China Alexey Dakhnovsky said at a press conference. (TASS, 05.06.24)
  • Lithuania’s president called for improved relations with China. President Gitanas Nauseda said that, while he views setting up a trade outpost as “positive in principle,” the representative office should adopt the word Taipei rather than Taiwan in line with international standards in a bid to defuse simmering tensions with Beijing. “The adjustment could serve as a signal from Lithuania to normalize diplomatic relations with China,” Nauseda, who is seeking reelection in a presidential contest on May 12, told Baltic News Service. (Bloomberg, 05.07.24)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • The Russian Defense Ministry issued the following statement on May 6, 2024: “On the order of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and in order to  increase the readiness of non-strategic nuclear forces to carry out combat missions, the General Staff has begun preparations for holding exercises of missile formations of the Southern Military District with the involvement of aviation, as well as the forces of the Navy in the nearest future. During the exercise, a set of activities will be carried out to practice preparation and use of non-strategic nuclear weapons. The exercise is aimed at maintaining the readiness of personnel and equipment of units for the combat use of non-strategic nuclear weapons to respond and in order to unconditionally ensure the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian state in response to provocative statements and threats of individual Western officials against the Russian Federation.” (RF MoD’s Telegram channel, 05.06.24)
    • According to a video posted on the TASS website, Putin said on May 9 with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko standing next to him in reference to these wargames: “This is not use, this is training. There is nothing unusual. Since non-strategic nuclear weapons are located on Belarus’ territory, we this time offered to our friends, allies, and Belarus had asked for that, too, to take part in this exercise. We hold them regularly. This time they will be conducted in three phases. During the second phase the Belarussian colleagues will participate in our joint actions. Appropriate instructions have been given to our defense ministries and general staffs.” (RM, 05.09.24)
      • On May 7, a sudden “check of the supply of nuclear weapons to delivery vehicles” began in Belarus, the Security Council of Belarus announced. It involves Iskander complexes and Su-25 attack aircraft, which can carry NSNWs. According to Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin, “the entire range of activities will be checked: from planning, preparation to the use of strikes with tactical nuclear weapons.” (Istories, 05.08.24, RM, 05.09.24)
        • Two important documents have been approved in Belarus: The Military Doctrine and the National Security Concept. For the first time, the Doctrine spells out the goal of deploying Russian tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of the country. The deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of neighboring countries, which pursue an “unfriendly policy” against Minsk, will be perceived by the Belarusian authorities as a “military threat.” (Kommersant, 04.27.24)
    • Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said the Western “threats,” which the Russian MoD was referring to in its May 6 announcement of the NSNW wargames, included a recent interview with Macron, in which the French leader repeated his refusal to rule out sending ground troops to Ukraine. Peskov also alluded to a comment made last week by David Cameron, Britain’s top diplomat, in which he said that Ukraine was free to use British weapons to strike inside Russia — a departure from Western governments’ typical policy of discouraging such strikes in order to avoid being drawn deeper into the war. “This is a completely new round of escalation of tensions — it is unprecedented,” Peskov told reporters May 6. “And, of course, it requires special attention and special measures.” (NYT, 05.06.24)
    • Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, when asked on May 9 to comment on the NSNW wargames announced by Russia’s MoD earlier that month, said, "We're warning our enemies that their policy of escalation, of course, presents us with the need to take steps which effectively mean increasing the deterrence measures. The exercise to practice the skills of using the non-strategic nuclear weapons is an element of this effort. But I would like to emphasize that the current doctrine and other documents have always clearly described the scenarios where our use of nuclear weapons is permitted." (Interfax, 05.09.24)
    • Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said the U.S. had seen no change in Russia’s strategic force posture after Moscow announced the drills. He described the announcement as “an example of the kind of irresponsible rhetoric that we’ve seen from Russia in the past.” (FT, 05.06.24)
  • Putin said during the May 9 Victory Day parade: “We reject exceptionalist claims of any country or alliance. We know what this unchecked ambition may lead to. Russia will do the utmost to avoid a global confrontation but it will not allow itself to be threatened. Our strategic forces are always in combat readiness.” (Kremlin.ru, 05.09.24)
    • The parade of military hardware that then trundled past the Lenin mausoleum outside the Kremlin culminated with three RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, which Russia claims can strike any target across the globe. (FT, 05.09.24)
  • Ryabkov, when asked on May 9 if Russia could revise its nuclear doctrine to allow a preventive strike, said, "The opportunities for using nuclear weapons first are clearly outlined in the doctrine and the fundamental state policy principles on the nuclear deterrence. There are currently no changes related to it, but the environment itself is changing. This is why the correspondence between the basis documents in this sector and the need of ensuring our security is being constantly analyzed.” (Interfax, 05.09.24) 
  • Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev wrote: “Sending your [Western/NATO] troops to the territory of former Ukraine will entail direct entry of their countries into the war, to which we will have to respond. And, alas, [the response] will not be on the territory of former Ukraine. In such a case, none of them will be able to hide either on Capitol Hill, or in the Elysee Palace, or on Downing Street 10. A world catastrophe will come. By the way, Kennedy and Khrushchev managed to understand this more than 60 years ago. But the current infantile morons who have seized power in the West do not want to understand.” (Medvedev’s Telegram channel, 05.06.24)
  • After meeting Xi in Paris, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she was “confident” the Chinese leader would continue to play “an important role in de-escalating Russia’s irresponsible nuclear threats.” ''President Xi has played an important role in de-escalating Russia's irresponsible nuclear threats,'' von der Leyen said. ''I'm confident that President Xi will continue to do so against the backdrop of the ongoing nuclear threats by Russia.'' (NYT, 05.07.24)
  • American officials are trying to increase international pressure on Russia not to deploy an antisatellite nuclear weapon in space, and have obtained information that undermines Moscow's explanation that the device it is developing is for peaceful scientific purposes, Mallory Stewart, the assistant secretary of state for arms control, said. Stewart said that while the device was not deployed and did not pose an imminent threat, it would, if launched and used, ''render lower earth orbit unusable, for a certain amount of time.'' (NYT, 05.04.24)

Counterterrorism:

  • Since a deadly terrorist attack claimed by the Islamic State extremist group near Moscow on March 22, Russia has increasingly talked up its relationship with the Taliban, which is battling the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) offshoot in Afghanistan that is believed to have carried out the attack. (RFE/RL, 05.05.24)

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • American and Chinese diplomats plan to meet later this month to begin what amounts to the first, tentative arms control talks over the use of artificial intelligence. A year in the making, the talks in Geneva are an attempt to find some common ground on how AI will be used and in which situations it could be banned -- for example, in the command and control of each country's nuclear arsenals. (NYT, 05.07.24)
  • Current and former U.S. officials worry that the advent of generative artificial intelligence, combined with the reach of social-media platforms, has the potential to amplify misinformation ahead of key U.S. elections. "The top line is that AI will exacerbate the threats that exist to our elections," said Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, speaking on a panel at the RSA Conference May 7. (WSJ, 05.09.24)
  • Criminals are using technology such as generative AI to launch attacks that have historically been the preserve of well-funded, sophisticated threat groups backed by nation-states, said Cynthia Kaiser, a deputy assistant director in the FBI's cyber division. "Suddenly, a beginner can get to an intermediate level, and even our most advanced adversaries are at least becoming more efficient at what they do," Kaiser said in an interview May 8 on the sidelines of the RSA Conference. The latter group includes hackers backed or directly controlled by Russia, North Korea, China and Iran, she said. (WSJ, 05.09.24)
  • Pentagon officials working with Elon Musk’s SpaceX have blunted the Russian military’s unauthorized use of Starlink internet terminals on the battlefield in its war with Ukraine, according to the Defense Department’s space policy chief John Plumb. (Bloomberg, 05.09.24)
    • U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren urged the Department of Defense to rein in the use of Starlink in Russia and other unauthorized regions, saying the SpaceX-owned satellite business poses a “serious national security threat” to the U.S. and its allies. (Bloomberg, 05.06.24)
  • Germany has temporarily recalled its ambassador to Russia after members of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's political party were targeted in what Berlin said was a state-sponsored Russian cyberattack, the German Foreign Ministry said May 6. Moscow slammed the allegations as "unsubstantiated and groundless." (MT/AFP, 05.06.24)
  • The Czech government summoned Russia’s ambassador to protest cyber attacks against the country’s institutions and critical infrastructure, for which Prague and its NATO allies blame the Kremlin’s intelligence services. (Bloomberg, 05.06.24)
    • The Polish Foreign Ministry has joined Germany, the Czech Republic and other countries in condemning alleged cyberattacks by the Russian APT28 group, saying it was also targeted. (RFE/RL, 05.04.24)
  • A payroll system used by Britain’s Ministry of Defense was targeted in a significant cyberattack, senior British politicians said. The cyberattack, which targeted a third-party payroll system used by Britain’s Ministry of Defense, yielded the names and bank details of some serving members of the armed forces and some veterans, they said, as well as a small number of addresses. (NYT, 05.07.24)
  • Electricity providers in Europe will soon have to perform cybersecurity risk assessments for regulators, including disclosing incidents, reporting threats and implementing safeguards, under coming rules that aim to prevent hacks from causing blackouts in multiple countries. The new rules are expected to take effect as soon as lawmakers approve them, which could come as soon as this week. (WSJ, 05.07.24)
  • In recent months short videos have been popping up online which play to Chinese nationalists’ feelings of superiority and continue a tradition of using foreigners to aggrandize China. They feature pretty young Russian women expressing their admiration for China and their desire to marry Chinese men. The videos are deepfakes, produced with increasingly cheap artificial-intelligence (AI) tools. (The Economist, 05.09.24)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia’s oil revenue more than doubled in April from a year earlier, despite international sanctions. Proceeds for the Russian budget from oil-related taxes jumped to 1.053 trillion rubles ($11.5 billion) last month compared to nearly 497 billion rubles in April 2023, according to Bloomberg calculations based on Finance Ministry data. Total oil and gas revenues in April increased nearly 90% year-on-year, to 1.23 trillion rubles, according to the data. Rising prices for Russia’s crude helped to drive the increase in budget revenue. (Bloomberg, 05.06.24)
  • Russian gas supplies to the EU via Turkish Stream increased by almost 40%. This was reported by Vedomosti with reference to data from the European Network of Gas Transmission System Operators (ENTSOG). In January–April 2024, deliveries on this route increased by 38% year on year. In just four months, 5.11 billion cubic meters of gas were supplied to the EU, with an average daily pumping level of 42.2 million cubic meters. (Istories, 05.07.24)
  • Greece’s Navy extended a series of exercises aimed at preventing tankers from transferring Russian oil just miles off its coastline. The navy said in a notice that it will be conducting exercises until May 19 in the Laconian Gulf, an expanse of water that’s become well-known in the oil market as a location for Russian oil switching. (Bloomberg, 05.08.24)
  •  Russia’s oil and gas sector lacks some 40,000 employees this year, according to estimates from Moscow-based Kasatkin Consulting, formerly Deloitte’s research center in the region. The industry raised the number of online job listings in the first quarter by 24% compared to a year before, looking not just for qualified personnel but also low-skilled workers, show data from major Russian recruitment platform hh.ru. (Bloomberg, 05.06.24)

Climate change:

  • The world just experienced its hottest April on record, extending an 11-month streak in which every month set a temperature record, the European Union’s climate change monitoring service said on May 8. (Euroactiv, 05.08.24)
  • Russia is assessing crop damage after an unseasonal sub-zero snap hit key wheat and oilseeds areas this month following an early and unusually warm spring. In Voronezh alone, as much as 265,000 hectares (654,830 acres) were damaged by May 9, according to officials. An emergency was declared in those regions — where wheat, oilseeds and corn are grown — as temperatures dipped as low as -6C for several nights over the last two weeks. (Bloomberg, 05.10.24)
  • Russia's Constitutional Court has registered its first lawsuit against the government over its climate policy. According to media outlet Kedr, environmental activists are demanding that several laws be declared inconsistent with the constitution, which says all citizens have the right to a healthy environment. (RFE/RL, 05.09.24)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • "There will be a presidential election in the United States soon. There is no division between Democrats and Republicans over Russia and China. One may be 'tougher,' the other 'even tougher,’ but in principle, we don't see any difference. For both, no matter who wins the election, we are, by and large, the enemy. Whether we are an adversary or an enemy is a nuance. But the 'strategic defeat' that they say should be inflicted on Russia is the goal of the American establishment," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. (TASS, 05.05.24)
  • Jailed Russian dissident and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza was awarded the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for commentaries for his articles that appeared in The Washington Post. Kara-Murza "won for passionate columns written at great personal risk from his prison cell, warning of the consequences of dissent in Vladimir Putin's Russia and insisting on a democratic future for his country," the Pulitzer Committee said in a statement on May 6. Kara-Murza is currently serving a 25-year sentence -- the longest jail term handed to a Kremlin opponent in post-Soviet Russia -- for discrediting the Russian military and treason over remarks he made in speeches outside Russia that criticized Kremlin policies. (RFE/RL, 05.06.24)
  • Pervomaisky district court in Russia's Far East city of Vladivostok ordered the arrest of U.S. Staff Sergeant Gordon Black and sent him to pretrial detention until at least July 2, court spokeswoman Yelena Oleneva said on May 7. U.S. authorities confirmed that Black had been arrested in Russia and had been accused of stealing from a woman after traveling from South Korea -- where he was stationed -- without informing his superiors. The Pentagon said the soldier traveled to Vladivostok through China without official clearance. Black, seemed smitten with the Russian woman he met while stationed until last month in South Korea. She poked fun at him, called him her "husband," prompted him to swear in Russian. Then, last fall, she returned to the Far Eastern Russian city of Vladivostok without him. (RFE/RL, 05.07.24, WP, 05.09.24, FT, 05.07.24)
  • Russian authorities disclosed on May 7 that an American, identified by court officials as William Russell Nycum, had been detained 10 days ago in an unrelated case and was in custody in Moscow on "petty hooliganism" and alcohol charges. (RFE/RL, 05.07.24)
    • The arrests of two Americans in Russia this month came against a stark backdrop: At least six U.S. citizens and one permanent resident were already behind bars in jails and prisons across the country, some serving long sentences and others facing trials that few believe will be fair. (RFE/RL, 05.07.24)

 

II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • In his was bristling with optimism about his ongoing war against Ukraine and declared he would place Russia's security above all else and promised that the country would be victorious. "We are one, great nation," Putin declared in his inauguration speech. "Together we will overcome all obstacles. We will fulfill everything we have planned. Together we will win." (WP, 05.07.24)
    • In separate remarks to commanders fighting in Ukraine, which the Kremlin said were made a day earlier, he said Russia’s entire economic and social development depended on the invasion’s success. “We have every possibility of meeting these targets. But only under one condition — your successful work on the battlefield. This is the key link at the moment,” Putin said. (FT, 05.09.24)
      • The United States and most EU nations said they boycott the inauguration ceremony. Britain and Canada also said they would not attend. Armenia did not attend. Representatives from France, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Malta and Cyprus were in attendance. Also present were leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and several African countries, as well as ambassadors from Pakistan, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Qatar, Israel, Kazakhstan and the DPRK. (Reuters, 05.06.24, RFE/RL, 05.06.24, Radio Svoboda, 05.07.24, X, 05.07.24, Msk1, 05.07.24, FederalPress, 05.07.24) 
  • With his armies grinding forward in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin marked the May 9 Victory Day, the World War II commemoration that is Russia's most significant holiday, with an unusually harsh speech, accusing the West of "hypocrisy and lies" and of inciting global conflicts, and warning that Russia's nuclear weapons are always ready for war. (WP, 05.09.24)
    • The ballistic missiles, including Yars ICBMs, rolled through Red Square, the fighter jets zipped overhead and rows of foreign dignitaries impassively looked on. About 9,000 servicemen marched through the Red Square as snow fell, compared with about 8,000 in 2023. Of these, about 1,000 were participants in Russia's war on Ukraine, marching in a separate column, after Putin extolled them as heroes in his speech. (NYT, WP, RM, 05.09.24)
    • The leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Laos and Guinea-Bissau were present for the parade. After the May 9 parade, Putin said he met with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu; the chief of Russia's general staff, Valery Gerasimov; and Putin's closest military ally, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, on the night of May 8, for intensive discussions on the Ukraine war, the Interfax news agency reported. Lukashenko said the meeting ended at 3 a.m. (WP, 05.09.24)
  • On May 10, Russian lawmakers voted to reappoint Mikhail Mishustin as prime minister after President Vladimir Putin nominated him to continue in the post he’s held for more than four years. Mishustin was backed by 375 deputies in the lower house of Russia’s parliament at a hearing on May 10, with none against and 57 abstentions. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov earlier announced that the fraction would abstain. Putin named Mishustin, 58, as prime minister in January 2020, shortly before he changed the Russian constitution to allow himself two more terms as president. (Bloomberg, 05.10.24)
    • Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said that after approving Mishustin’s candidacy on May 10, the parliament will move on to deputy prime ministers, of which Russia currently has 10, and then to the 20 ministers. The process is expected to be completed by May 14. (FT, 05.10.24)
    • Few positions have been announced but three candidates have been put forward by the parliament for the role of the head of the Accounts Chamber. They include Boris Kovalchuk, son of one of Putin’s closest long-time friends. (FT, 05.10.24)
    • A promotion may be on the cards for agriculture minister Dmitry Patrushev, the son of one of Putin’s closest allies for decades. The younger Patrushev, often described as a possible successor to Putin, may be given a job as a deputy prime minister. (FT, 05.10.24)
    • Denis Manturov, head of the trade and industry ministry for the past 12 years and architect of Russia’s import replacement strategy in response to Western sanctions, is expected to step down, with the post offered to a lesser-known figure, the current governor of the Kaliningrad region Anton Alikhanov. (FT, 05.10.24)
  • Christians around the world celebrated Easter, holding vigils and attending midnight Masses to mark the Orthodox calendar's holiest day. In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin joined other worshippers early on May 5 at the Russian capital's main church (RFE/RL, 05.05.24)
  • Putin ordered the government to develop policies for raising life expectancy to 81 years in Russia by 2036, up from 73.4 years last year, in a new decree on national development goals. The decree updates a goal Putin set in 2020 for life expectancy to rise to 78 years by 2030. The 71-year-old president was inaugurated on May 7 for his fifth term to 2030 and can potentially rule until 2036. (Bloomberg, 05.08.24)
  • Russian law enforcement authorities have charged journalist Nadezhda Kevorkova with “justifying terrorism” over posts she made on social media, her lawyer said May 6. Kevorkova, 65, is a Russian war correspondent, author, and filmmaker who has written about the Middle East and Russia’s North Caucasus for both the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the Kremlin-funded broadcaster RT. (MT/AFP, 05.06.24)
  • Authorities in Russia have issued an arrest warrant for the exiled anti-war rapper Oxxxymiron. Russia’s Justice Ministry designated Oxxxymiron — whose real name is Miron Fyodorov — as a “foreign agent” in October 2022. The rapper has organized concerts in support of Ukrainian refugees since leaving Russia shortly after the invasion, which he has called a “catastrophe and a crime.” (MT, 05.09.24)

  • The Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, on May 6 approved in the second and third readings a bill that would ban individuals added to the controversial "foreign agents'" list from taking part in federal, regional, and local elections. (RFE/RL, 05.06.24)
  • As part of one Levada study in April, respondents were also asked several questions about attitudes towards the death penalty and torture of detainees. When asked directly about their attitude towards capital punishment, more than half of the respondents (57%) answered that they were definitely and rather in favor of the death penalty, a third were rather and definitely against it (33%), the remaining 10% were undecided. (RM, 05.08.24)

Defense and aerospace:

  • The Economist has adjusted SIPRI’s defense spending estimates for military purchasing-power parity (PPP) and ranked the top countries in terms of defense spending, PPP for 2023: 1) U.S. 2) other NATO members 3) China 4) Russia, 5) Ukraine 6) India 7) Saudi Arabia 8) South Korea and 9) Brazil. The U.S. spent more on defense than any country on the list—$916 billion in 2023. Taken together, its 31 allies in NATO come in second: they spend $434 billion or $719 billion adjusted for cost differences. The alliance’s armed forces are not unified, but comparing its spending with others’ is still useful. Russia and China, for example, respectively spent just 8% and 22% of the NATO total in 2023. When that spending is adjusted for military-PPP, it is worth 24% and 32% of NATO’s outlay. (The Economist, 05.07.24)
  • A Russian insider source, who has routinely been accurate about past Russian military command changes, claimed that the Russian military command appointed the commanders and chiefs of staff of the newly formed Leningrad and Moscow military districts (LMD and MMD). The insider source claimed that Russian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Alexander Lapin became the commander of the LMD, echoing claims from a Russian regional outlet from March 31. The insider source claimed that the former commander of the 36th Combined Arms Army (CAA) (Eastern Military District), Lieutenant General Valery Solodchuk, became the LMD Chief of Staff. Commander of the Southern Military District (SMD) Colonel General Sergei Kuzovlev reportedly became the commander of the Moscow Military District (MMD). Lieutenant General Mikhail Zusko, who commanded the 58th CAA (SMD) in 2022, reportedly became the MMD Chief of Staff. (ISW, 05.06.24) 
  • Indian authorities have arrested four people accused of "trafficking" citizens of the country to fight for the Russian army in Ukraine. At least two Indian soldiers have been killed in Moscow's war on Ukraine, with several recruits previously telling AFP they were shipped to the front lines under false pretenses. A statement published by India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) late May 7 said four men had been arrested, including one who had worked in Russia as a translator for a network facilitating the recruitment of Indian soldiers. (MT/AFP, 05.08.24)
  • The Russian authorities have reportedly given a state award to a convicted pedophile who was recruited into the army directly from prison. Ilya Belostotsky, a former children’s TV show director convicted of sexually assaulting a minor in 2022, announced May 6 that he had received a medal “for saving lives” while serving in the Russian army in Ukraine. (Meduza, 05.07.24)
  • A Russian army deserter has been detained in Poland after crossing the border from Belarus, the Polish border guard announced May 8. “The Border Guard confirms the detention of a deserter from Russia. He is a 41-year-old man who illegally crossed the border from Belarus to Poland,” the state agency wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “Further actions are being taken against him,” it added without providing further details. (MT/AFP, 05.08.24)
  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement, justice and emergencies:

  • Russia’s FSB and the Investigative Committee are developing a criminal case that could affect another deputy of Sergei Shoigu. At the beginning of April, the Basmanny Court of Moscow sent the owner of GC "Piket" Andrei Esipov under arrest. The Investigative Committee suspects the businessman of large-scale fraud (worth more than 2 billion rubles) in the supply of body armor to the Ministry of Defense. According to the committee, the money – that was supposed to be spent to produce flak jackets for 20,000 servicemen deployed to fight in Ukraine ended up being allegedly spent on shares and shares of a number of companies, a business center in Moscow and plots in the Moscow region were purchased as well as transferred to two dozen private accounts, Kommersant reportedShoigu’s deputy Alexey Krivoruchko, is responsible for the departments of government procurement and state defense order in the Ministry of Defense. In 2022, Alexei Navalny’s team discovered that one of Krivoruchko’s daughters had U.S. citizenship, and the other had the right to obtain it. (Istories, RM, 05.06.24) Bad news for Shoigu, especially in the wake of the attest of his deputy Timur Ivanov for allegedly being involved in seeking a 1 billion ruble bribe.
    • A Moscow court rejected an appeal on May 8 by Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov against his pretrial detention. Ivanov was arrested last month and charged with taking bribes of some $10.9 million, which he denies. (RFE/RL, 05.08.24)
  • At least four people have died and six others were injured when a passenger bus plunged into a river in central St. Petersburg, Russia’s state-run news agency TASS reported May 10 (MT, 05.10.24)

 

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • New Russian military advisers and military equipment have arrived in Niger, according to state television in the African country that wants U.S. forces to leave. A first set of about 100 Russian advisers had arrived in Niger on April 10, along with air defense systems. Two military transporters arrived Saturday, according to Tele Sahel that said Russia has now sent three cargo planes of military material and instructors in the past month. (MT/AFP, 05.05.24)
  • Russia may be switching sides in the Sudanese civil war to support the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in pursuit of a Red Sea naval base for Russia. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Representative for the Russian President in Africa and the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov met with SAF head Abdel Fattah al Burhan and several other Sudanese officials during a two-day visit to Sudan on April 28 and 29. Bogdanov stated that his visit could lead to increased cooperation and expressed support for “the existing legitimacy in the country represented by the [SAF-backed] Sovereign Council.” (ISW, 05.06.24)
  • In Germany, two suspects hired by Russian intelligence to target military bases had come to the country as teenagers. In Estonia, young men with criminal records were recruited over Telegram to vandalize a minister’s car and national monuments for a bit of cash. Elsewhere in Europe, government workers are advised to take precautions against a greater risk of violence by Russian-backed thugs. (Bloomberg, 05.09.24)
  • A Ukrainian national accused of carrying out a Russian influence campaign in Europe on behalf of a pro-Kremlin oligarch has gone into hiding and is claiming his innocence. Artem Marchevskyi was a longtime associate of a pro-Russia media mogul, Viktor Medvedchuk. Czech authorities in March alleged that the pair set up an online outlet in Prague called Voice of Europe as a conduit to pay politicians to peddle Kremlin lines ahead of European parliament elections in June. Both men and the company are subject to asset freezes in the Czech Republic. (FT, 05.08.24)
  • The OECD, IMF and World Trade Organization are forecasting a sharp rebound in the global flow of products this year after a slowdown in 2023 driven by higher prices, surging interest rates and sluggish demand. According to the OECD, global trade in goods and services is expected to rise 2.3% this year and 3.3% in 2025. This compares with growth of just 1% last year. In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF also predicted that growth in global trade volumes would hit 3% in 2024. The WTO, which does not provide forecasts for services trade, expects goods trade to rise by 2.6% in 2024, after falling by 1.2% last year. (FT, 05.07.24)

Ukraine:

  • In April, Ukraine's international reserves fell by 3.1% to $42.4 billion after a historical high. (Korrespondent.net, 05.07.24)
  • Ukraine warned the Kremlin is expanding its use of TikTok to question the legitimacy of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s presidency and undermine the nation’s morale as Russia presses its advantage in cyberspace as well as on the battlefield. (Bloomberg, 05.07.24)
  • Russia's Interior Ministry has opened a criminal investigation against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, ex-President Petro Poroshenko, and other government officials and placed them on its wanted list, Russian state media reported on May 4. (RFE/RL, 05.04.24)
  • Ukraine’s National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption is looking into allegations that the mayor of Ochakov has illegally enriched himself to the tune of more than 12 million UAH and lied in his tax declaration, Korrespondent reported. (RM, 05.07.24)
  • The Verkhovna Rada dismissed Mykola Solsky from the post of Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine. On April 23, Ukrainian investigators announced that they suspect Solsky of illegal acquisition of state land worth UAH 291 million and an attempt to acquire another land plot worth UAH 191 million. (RBC.ua, 05.09.24)
  • Oligarch Igor Kolomoisky is suspected of organizing a contract murder. (RBC.ua, 05.08.24)
  • Since Russia invaded in 2022, Ukraine’s economy has shrunk by a quarter. However, the ravages of war are not the only reason for the government’s reduced tax take. Businesses are also making use of the chaos to dodge paying their fair share. This is particularly true in agriculture, which, before the war, was responsible for 40% or so of Ukraine’s exports by income. (The Economist, 05.08.24)
  • Ukrainian lawmakers voted to dismiss the nation’s powerful infrastructure minister as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy seeks to reassert control over key areas of government. The removal of Oleksandr Kubrakov, who had also served as deputy premier in charge of wartime reconstruction, was backed by legislators on May 10. (Bloomberg, 05.09.24)
  • Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, the trade in war trophies has moved online. Russian helmets, some with their owner’s name inscribed, can fetch more than $1,400 on eBay. Other items range from Spetsnaz uniforms to bits of downed Sukhoi fighter jets. Some sellers turn military wreckage into key chains that sell for $200. Items can move from corpse to buyer in days. Dealers argue the trade keeps Westerners interested in the war. “It’s marketing,” reckons a seller. (The Economist, 05.09.24)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • A Polish judge has defected to Belarus, claiming he was “persecuted and intimidated” by the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk but instead sparking accusations he was a traitor serving Russia’s staunchest wartime ally. During a news conference after his arrival in Minsk, Judge Tomasz Szmydt praised Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko for bringing stability. (FT, 05.07.24)
  • Moldova’s bid to join the European Union received a boost May 9 as a senior official in the bloc said the country will likely soon be able to start accession talks. When asked during a visit to the Moldovan capital about when talks might begin, EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn said he didn’t want to speculate but was confident they’d happen in the near future. (Bloomberg, 05.09.24)
  • Russian border guards will withdraw from a number of regions of Armenia but will continue to be deployed on the Armenian-Turkish and Armenian-Iranian border following an agreement between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Armenia has also asked Moscow to withdraw the Russian border guards that had been deployed at Yerevan's main airport starting from August 1. Armenia has also announced the suspension of funding for CSTO. (RFE/RL, RM, 05.09.24)
  • Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat in a crucial swing district, and his wife were charged with participating in a yearslong $600,000 bribery scheme involving Azerbaijan and a Mexican bank, according to a federal indictment unsealed in Houston on Friday. Prosecutors disclosed a detailed inventory of interactions between Mr. Cuellar and Azerbaijani officials that indicated a close level of cooperation. They also included evidence that he pressured officials in the Obama administration to take a harder line against Armenia, which has long clashed with Azerbaijan over disputed territory. (NYT, 05.04.24)
  • Armenia could ban Russian television broadcasts if Moscow continues ignoring Yerevan’s requests for more balanced coverage, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said May 7. (MT/AFP, 05.07.24)
  • A court in Bishkek announced on May 6 that an internal investigation had been launched into the escape of a Kyrgyz man to Russia after he was handed a suspended seven-year prison term for joining Russia's armed forces and fighting in Ukraine. Askar Kubanychbek-uulu fled Kyrgyzstan for Russia last month. (RFE/RL, 05.06.24)

 

IV. Quotable and notable

  • “God has a chevron with the Ukrainian flag on his shoulder [and] with such an ally, life will definitely win over death,” Zelenskyy said in an address to Ukrainians to mark the third Orthodox Easter since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. (FT, 05.04.24)

 

Footnotes

  1. Ukraine’s OSINT group Deep State confirmed Russians’ presence in Pylna in a post on its Telegram channel on May 10, claiming that this presence has been underway for several days.

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

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

Slider photo by Kremlin.ru shared under a Creative Commons 4.0 license.