Russia in Review, May 31-June 7, 2024

4 Things to Know

  1. This week Vladimir Putin resumed his warnings that Russia could revise its official nuclear doctrine over its conflict with Ukraine and the West’s support for Kyiv in that conflict. “If someone's actions threaten our sovereignty and territorial integrity, we consider it possible to use all the means at our disposal,” Putin warned at a meeting with foreign editors on June 5.1 Putin then warned on June 7 that the Russian nuclear doctrine “is a living instrument, and we carefully monitor what is happening in the world, around us, and do not rule out making some changes to this doctrine.” If that were not enough, Putin also made a not-so-subtle hint on June 7 that Russia may resume nuclear testing as part of its efforts to coerce Western countries into stopping, if not reversing, an escalation of their efforts to help Ukraine on the battlefield. As has become customary, Putin alternated rattling his nuclear saber with claims that he was doing just the opposite. “They always try to accuse us of waving some kind of nuclear stick,” he claimed on June 5.  
  2. Joe Biden used his meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskyy in France on June 7 to apologize to Zelenskyy for a monthslong congressional holdup in American military assistance, announcing a new $225 million aid package for Ukraine and vowing that “I’m not going to walk away from you.” Prior to the meeting, Biden defended his decision to allow Ukraine to launch U.S.-provided weapons against military targets within Russia, characterizing it as limited in scope, Bloomberg and ABC reported. Reacting to Western countries granting Ukraine rights to use their weapons for strikes inside Russia, Putin warned that Russia would reciprocate. “Why do we not have the right to send our weapons of the same class to those regions of the world where strikes can be made on sensitive facilities of the countries that do this against Russia?'' Putin asked in remarks reported by NYT on June 5. Putin repeated the threat on June 7, according to AP.
  3. Russia has knocked out or captured more than half of Ukraine’s power generation, according to FT. Ukraine's largest private energy company, DTEK, has lost some 86% of its generating capacity as a result of the Russian attacks, according to WP. Even with moderate temperatures and no new Russian attacks on the power grid, Ukraine would be short 1.3 gigawatts during peak consumption hours this summer, according to Ukrainian energy security expert Olena Lapenko. ''Can you imagine what's going to happen in the winter?'' Lapenko asked in an interview with NYT.
  4. The June 15-16 peace summit in Switzerland will aim to carve a path to involving Russian officials in future talks after establishing agreement on nuclear safety, food security and returning abducted children, a draft document seen by Bloomberg shows. The U.S. will be represented at the summit by Kamala Harris and Jake Sullivan, while China will not be represented at all because Russia has not been invited to the event. Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi claimed this week in remarks reported by Bloomberg that both Russia and Ukraine have “affirmed most of the content” of the principles for a political solution that were laid out by China and Brazil in a recent joint statement.

 

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • The situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “remains precarious” and it would be unsafe to restart the facility, which has been occupied by Russian forces since shortly after the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said on June 3. “All seven pillars of nuclear safety and security have been fully or partially compromised,” he said. (RFE/RL, 06.03.24)
    • IAEA’s Grossi says there "was an understanding" that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant's units "would not be restarted as long as nuclear safety and security remained in jeopardy due to the conflict." Grossi, whose comments followed talks held with Rosatom Director General Alexei Likhachev in Kaliningrad last week, added: "In these circumstances [of conflict], operating this major nuclear plant would not be advisable." (WNN, 06.07.24)
  • Members of Ukraine's parliament have backed a law approving the framework agreement between Ukraine and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for funding aimed at projects to boost safety measures at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site and exclusion zone. (WNN, 06.06.24)
  • Westinghouse Electric now makes fuel bundles that are compatible with all of Ukraine’s reactors and is working on a plan that could allow Ukraine to start making some of that fuel itself. Ukraine also plans to build nine Westinghouse-designed reactors. (WSJ, 06.07.24)
  • Instructors from the Global Nuclear Security and Physical Protection Institute, Rosatom Technical Academy’s division dedicated to nuclear security, delivered physical protection training to the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant personnel. (Dmitry Kovchegin’s Russian Nuclear Security Update #13, May 2024)
  • On June 7, the Mechanical Engineering Division of the state corporation Rosatom signed a memorandum of intent with partners from the Republic of Guinea, providing for cooperation on the project of floating power units for power supply to the republic. (Rosatom, 06.07.24)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • The European Union has imposed sanctions against Primorye region Gov. Oleg Kozhemyako in Russia’s Far East over what it said were arms supplies to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions. (MT/AFP, 05.31.24)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • The IAEA has formally rebuked Iran over advances in its nuclear program and failure to cooperate with the body, a measure that Tehran has threatened to retaliate against. Russia and China opposed the resolution, but they have no veto on the 35-member International Atomic Energy Agency board. The measure passed by a vote of 20 to 2, with 12 abstentions and one member not voting. (WSJ, 06.05.24)
    • On June 5, Iran, China and Russia issued a joint statement on the “the agenda item 6 of the session of the IAEA Board of Governors ‘Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015).’” The statement said that the three countries “are convinced that it is time for Western countries to demonstrate political will, restrain themselves from the endless wheel of escalation that they have been spinning for the past almost two years and take the necessary step towards the revival of the JCPOA.” (Russian Foreign Ministry, 06.06.24)
  • The United States and the EU have imposed sanctions on four Iranian entities and one individual connected to the development, manufacture and proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which Tehran has provided to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, the U.S. State Department said on June 3. (RFE/RL, 06.03.24)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • At least 174 civilians were killed and 690 injured in Ukraine in May, the highest monthly number of civilian casualties the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) has documented since June 2023. The number of killed civilians represents a 31% increase compared to April 2024. The increase in civilian casualties was mainly due to attacks in the Kharkiv region. (UN.org, 06.07.24)
  • On June 6, Ukraine ordered the evacuation of children and their guardians from several towns and villages in the eastern Donetsk region, where fighting with Russian troops has intensified. (MT/AFP, 06.06.24)
  • There is no consensus on how many Ukrainian children were forcibly transferred or deported to Russia, in part because of Ukraine’s decentralized child-care system. Ukraine claims the total number is about 19,500 children, but in interviews, officials in Kyiv struggled to break down or verify their data. (NYT, 06.02.24)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia holds 6,465 Ukrainian prisoners of war, while 1,348 Russians are being held by authorities in Kyiv. Putin disclosed the figures at a meeting late June 5 with foreign and Russian media representatives on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. He declined to say how many Russian troops have been killed since he ordered the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 06.05.24)
  • Russian forces continue to abuse Ukrainian prisoners of war in violation of the Geneva Convention on POWs. Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Commissioner Dmytro Lyubinets amplified footage on June 2 showing a group of three Russian servicemen beating, threatening and harassing a group of four Ukrainian POWs. (ISW, 06.03.24)
  • More than 900 schools, hospitals, churches and other institutions have been damaged or destroyed in Ukraine, excluding Crimea or parts of western Ukraine where accurate data was unavailable, since the beginning of the war. Ukrainian forces have caused major damage, too, by bombing frontline Russian positions and attacking Russian-held territory like Crimea and Donetsk City. A total of more than 210,000 buildings have been damaged or destroyed in Ukraine. (NYT, 06.03.24)
  • A year after Ukraine's Nova Kakhovka dam burst, causing massive flooding, it is still causing new problems—with many buildings crumbling and in danger of collapse due to subsidence and lack of heating. Ukraine accused Russia of deliberately sabotaging the dam, which it was occupying. Russian officials claimed Ukraine was responsible. (RFE/RL, 06.05.24)
  • Russia has knocked out or captured more than half of Ukraine’s power generation, causing the worst rolling blackouts since the start of its full-scale invasion in 2022. Before Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, Ukraine’s domestic energy production was about 55 gigawatts of electricity, among the largest in Europe. That power generation capacity has currently dropped below 20GW, due to bombardments or to Russian occupation taking those plants offline, according to Ukrainian officials. Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told government meeting on May 30 that the consequences of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy sector are “long-term,” which means that saving power “will be part of our daily life in the years to come.” (FT, 06.05.24)
    • Russia’s concentrated missile attacks on power plants have been devastating. Ukraine's largest private energy company, DTEK, has lost some 86% of its generating capacity as a result of these attacks. (WP, 06.07.24)
    • Ukraine said it’s imposing more rationing of electricity supplies in the aftermath of Russian strikes on the energy sector that also affected imports from the European Union. Power supply is restricted for all Ukrainian regions, and distributors are switching off consumers, including households and businesses, for periods that last several hours and may occur several times a day. (Bloomberg, 06.04.24)
    • Olena Lapenko, an energy security expert at DiXi Group, a Ukrainian think tank, estimated that even with moderate temperatures and no new Russian attacks on the power grid, Ukraine would be short 1.3 gigawatts, during peak consumption hours this summer. That represents about one tenth of the energy consumption during peak hours. ''Can you imagine what's going to happen in the winter?'' Lapenko asked. (NYT, 06.06.24)
    • More than half of Ukraine's energy needs are provided by nuclear power, which can account for about 70% of electricity during long periods of high consumption in winter. However, the thermal and hydroelectric plants provide further electrical capacity, needed because it can be ramped up relatively quickly to cover short-term increases in consumption. Without this extra capacity, the energy system faces imbalances and shortfalls, Ukrainian officials say. (WP, 06.07.24)
  • For military strikes on civilian targets see the next section.

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

  • On June 1, Ukrainian officials said Russia fired a combined 100 missiles and drones at Ukraine overnight in a barrage that targeted energy sites across the country. Ukrainian officials said energy infrastructure in five regions across Ukraine was damaged in the attack. The Polish Army said its fighter jets and those of other allies had been scrambled to protect their borders in case a Russian weapon crossed them, as has happened in the past. The strike was Russia’s sixth attack on energy facilities in Ukraine since March, part of a wider campaign seemingly aimed at cutting off power to swaths of the country and making life miserable for civilians. (NYT, 06.01.24, MT/AFP, 06.01.24, RFE/RL, 06.01.24) See the section Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict for assessment of the damage to Ukraine’s energy system.
  • On June 1-2, Ukrainian forces struck a Russian S-300/400 air defense battery in Belgorod Oblast likely with HIMARS. On June 4, Yehor Chernev, the deputy chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament's committee on national security said that Ukrainian forces had destroyed Russian S-300 and S-400 missile launchers with the June 1-2 strike in the Belgorod region, about 20 miles into Russia. Ukraine's forces used HIMARS, he said. It was the first time a Ukrainian official has acknowledged publicly that Ukraine had used American weapons to fire into Russia since U.S. President Joe Biden lifted the ban on such strikes. (NYT, 06.04.24, ISW, 06.03.24)
  • On June 2, nine people were wounded in Ukrainian strikes on the Russian border regions of Belgorod and Kursk. On June 2, the governor of Russia's southern Belgorod region bordering Ukraine said a deputy district leader and Security Council secretary was killed and three other local officials suffered minor injuries when ammunition "detonated" in the Korochansky district, without elaborating. (RFE/RL, 06.02.24, MT/AFP, 06.02.24)
  • On June 2, Russia's Defense Ministry claimed to have captured a tiny village in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, where it has been on the offensive making territorial gains. Russian troops "have managed to liberate the village of Umanskoye in the People’s republic of Donetsk," the ministry said in reference to the Ukrainian village of Umanske. (MT/AFP, 06.02.24)
  • On June 3, three people including a 12-year-old boy were killed in Russian attacks on eastern Ukraine. The head of the Donetsk region, which the Kremlin claimed to have annexed in late 2022, said two people were killed and another wounded by Russian attacks on the village of Mykhaylivka. (MT/AFP, 06.03.24)
  • On June 5, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrskyi on his telegram channel called the situation on the battlefield that had developed in the Kupyansk region of the Kharkov region “complicated.” (Istories, 06.05.24)
  • On June 5, Putin claimed at a meeting with foreign journalists that fighting in Ukraine could end within two or three months if the U.S. stopped supplying Kyiv with weapons. (WSJ, 06.06.24)
  • On June 6, drones attacked the Novoshakhtinsk refinery in southern Russia near the border with Ukraine, sparking a fire at the plant. The fire was extinguished at 4 a.m. local time, Rostov region Gov. Vasily Golubev said. The facility, which processed over 4.8 million tons of crude last year, or around 97,000 barrels a day, was the target of a drone strike earlier this year. (Bloomberg, 06.06.24)
  • On June 7, the Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian forces of firing five U.S.-supplied ATACMS missiles at the Russian-controlled eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk. Separately, Leonid Pasechnik, the Russia-installed governor of the region, said on the Telegram messenger app that three people had been killed in the strike and that the total number of victims had risen to 35, including three children. (Reuters, 06.07.24)
  • On June 7, a Ukrainian drone strike killed a woman in southwestern Russia’s Belgorod region, officials said. (MT/AFP, 06.07.24)
  • Overall, the front line has not shifted significantly in more than two weeks, despite fierce and bloody fighting, according to soldiers on the front, military reports and satellite maps of the battlefield compiled by independent monitoring groups. (NYT, 06.07.24)
  • Putin claimed at the St. Petersburg economic forum on June 7 that since the beginning of 2024, Russian forces have established control over almost 900 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory, on which 47 settlements are located, Interfax reported. (RM, 06.07.24)
  • If we want to do this [in Ukraine] as quickly as possible, then the current contingent [of Russian forces in Ukraine] is not sufficient, But we adhere, as I said, to a different tactic: we push the enemy out of those territories that should be brought under our control. In this sense, we have no need to mobilize. We don't plan this,” Putin said on June 7 at the St. Petersburg economic forum. (Kremlin.ru, 06.07.24)
  • Wherever the new soldiers come from, Ukrainian field commanders said that because training is so deficient, they must often devote weeks to teaching them basic skills, such as how to shoot. "We had guys that didn't even know how to disassemble and assemble a gun," said a 28-year-old deputy battalion commander from the 93d Mechanized Brigade. (WP, 06.02.24)
  • Russian opposition outlet Verstka reported that Russian military authorities began forcibly sending hundreds of Russian servicemembers who refused to take part in Russian combat operations to the front in Ukraine, including to northern Kharkiv Oblast and Donetsk Oblast, in May 2024. (ISW, 06.03.24)
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry said June 6 that its forces captured a Columbian man who purportedly fought as a mercenary on the side of Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 06.06.24)

Military aid to Ukraine:

  • On June 6, Biden defended his decision to allow Ukraine to launch U.S.-provided weapons against military targets within Russia, characterizing it as limited in scope amid worries it could spark a wider war. “They are authorized to be used in proximity to the border,” Biden said. “We are not authorizing strikes 200 miles into Russia. We’re not authorizing strikes on Moscow, on the Kremlin.” (Bloomberg, 06.06.24)
    • On June 5, Putin warned that Western nations supplying Ukraine with long-range missiles and allowing them to be used to attack inside Russia was a ''dangerous step'' that could prompt Moscow to reciprocate against Western targets. (NYT, 06.06.24)
    • In his June 7 remarks at the St. Petersburg economic forum Putin said that Russia will consider sending weapons to adversaries of Western countries that supply arms to Ukraine, repeating a warning made days earlier. He didn’t specify where such arms might be sent, saying only that they might be “states or even other legal entities that face certain pressure, including military (pressure), from those countries that send weapons to Ukraine and urge it to use it against us, against the Russian territory.” (AP, 06.07.24)
    • Western army instructors training Ukrainian soldiers in the country would have no "immunity" from Russian strikes, the Kremlin said June 4, amid reports that France could dispatch military trainers to Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 06.04.24)
  • On June 7, Biden announced a new $225 million aid package for Ukraine during a meeting with his counterpart, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Biden said part of the aid package would help Ukraine rebuild its electrical grid, which has been decimated by Russian attacks. It also includes munitions, artillery systems and air defense interceptors. “I’m not going to walk away from you,” Biden told Zelenskyy. “We’re still in completely, thoroughly.” Biden also for the first time publicly apologized to Zelenskyy for a monthslong congressional holdup in American military assistance that let Russia make battlefield gains. (AP, 06.07.24, Bloomberg, 06.07.24)
  • U.S. officials continue to attempt to clarify U.S. policy regarding Ukraine's ability to strike a limited subset of Russian military targets within Russia with U.S.-provided weapons, but public communications about U.S. policy remain unclear. U.S. National Security Spokesperson John Kirby stated during a press conference on June 4 that "there's never been a restriction on the Ukrainians shooting down hostile aircraft, even if those aircraft are not necessarily in Ukrainian airspace." (ISW, 06.05.24)
  • Following their meeting this week in France on the sidelines of the ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, Biden will meet with Zelenskyy again next week at the Group of Seven summit in Italy. The dual meetings will “really allow them to go deep on every aspect and every issue in the war,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. The pair will discuss “how we can continue and deepen our support for Ukraine,” he added. (Bloomberg, 06.05.24)
  • On June 6, French President Emmanuel Macron said France will send Mirage fighter jets to Ukraine and train thousands of soldiers to help the country repel Russia’s invasion. The jets “will allow Ukraine to protect its soil, its airspace. So from tomorrow, we’ll launch a pilot training program.” His comments came after Zelenskyy joined world leaders in France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. (Bloomberg, 06.06.24, RFE/RL, 06.06.24)
    • "Macron demonstrates absolute support for the Kyiv regime and declares readiness for France's direct participation in the military conflict," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "We consider these statements to be very, very provocative, inflaming tensions on the continent and not conducive to anything positive," Peskov said. (MT/AFP, 06.07.24)
  • Ukraine says it has 30 pilots who are eligible to start training in the U.S. immediately. Yet the Biden administration has told Kyiv it lacks the school seats in its Arizona-based program to accept more than 12 pilot trainees at a time, according to three people with direct knowledge of the request. Two other facilities in Denmark and Romania have a similar issue with available training spots. (Politico, 06.05.24)
  • Zelenskyy's chief of staff has said that using Western weapons to strike inside Russia was a vital decision that would impact Moscow's tactical aviation and its offensive ability in border regions. "This will impact the conduct of the war, planning of counteroffensive actions, and will weaken Russians' abilities to use their forces in the border areas," Andriy Yermak said on Telegram. (RBC.ua, 06.04.24)
  • Ukrainian soldiers operating near Vovchansk (northeast of Kharkiv City) told the Telegraph that Western-provided ammunition started to reach their sector of the frontline, but that Russian forces in the area still maintain a munitions advantage. (ISW, 06.05.24)
  • NATO is planning to expand cooperation with Ukraine on defense technology and share more intelligence about Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities, as some of its members lift constraints on Kyiv’s ability to wage war. (Bloomberg, 06.06.24)

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

  • The U.S. is ready to lead a loan of $50 billion to Ukraine repaid by profits from frozen Russian assets if the EU can indefinitely extend sanctions against Moscow, according to a leaked discussion paper. Washington needs the EU to prolong the bloc’s sanctions on Russian state assets, which expire every six months unless renewed by unanimous consent, until the end of the war to ensure the U.S. is not left on the hook for repayments. (FT, 06.05.24)
  • Euro-area finance ministers gave political backing on June 5 to an effort by Group of Seven nations to provide loans to Ukraine using windfall profits generated from immobilized Russian central bank assets. “The discussion among ministers showed appreciation for the constructive engagement with G-7 partners in this regard and full support for it to continue,” Eurogroup president Paschal Donohoe said in a statement following a video conference meeting of finance ministers. (Bloomberg, 06.05.24)
  • Russia's Foreign Ministry said on June 3 that it had expanded Moscow's sanctions list of British nationals by adding an unspecified number of "representatives of the political establishment, the expert community, and the U.K. media." The ministry said those sanctioned have been responsible for "forming and implementing London's anti-Russian course." It did not give any details on those who were added to the sanctions list. To read the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement, click here. (RFE/RL, 06.03.24)
  • Starbucks has applied for several patents in Russia almost two years after exiting the country over its war in Ukraine, the Vedomosti business daily reported June 4, citing the database of Russia’s intellectual property agency Rospatent. Experts speculate the move could signal either Starbucks’ potential return to the Russian market or an effort to extend patent protections before they expire next year. (MT/AFP, 06.04.24)
  • “Along the BRICS line, we’re working on developing an independent payment system not subject to political pressure, abuse and external sanctions interference,” Putin told the St. Petersburg economic forum on June 7. “BRICS has a large potential for attracting new members,” he said. (MT, 06.07.24)
  • German customs investigators and the public prosecutor's office took action on June 6 against the suspected illegal export of luxury cars to Russia. The customs investigation office in the western city of Essen and the public prosecutor's office in Bochum announced that they suspected that managers of a car dealership in Bochum sold a large number of luxury vehicles worth over 5 million euros ($5.44 million) to Russia, violating the existing export embargo. (RFE/RL, 06.06.24)
  • An ex-employee has alleged that Amazon breached U.K. sanctions by providing Moscow with its facial recognition technology after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The allegation forms part of evidence presented by Charles Forrest in a claim he brought against his former employer, Amazon Web Services, which the company is fighting. (FT, 06.07.24)

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

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • When asked “Is Russia's proposal for, to end the war in Ukraine, the best that Ukraine can hope for at this point?”, Biden said, “No, it's not. And by the way, I don't know why you skip over all that’s happened in the meantime. The Russian military has been decimated. You don’t write about that. It’s been freaking decimated. Number one. Number two, NATO is considerably stronger than it was when I took office.” (Time, 06.04.24)
  • When asked “So what is the endgame though in Ukraine and what does peace look like there?”, Biden said, “Peace looks like making sure Russia never, never, never, never occupies Ukraine. That's what peace looks like. And it doesn't mean NATO, they are part of NATO. It means we have a relationship with them like we do with other countries, where we supply weapons so they can defend themselves in the future. But it is not, if you notice, I was the one when—and you guys did report it at TIME—the one that I was saying that I am not prepared to support the NATOization of Ukraine. ... If we ever let Ukraine go down, mark my words: you'll see Poland go, and you'll see all those nations along the actual border of Russia, from the Balkans and Belarus, all those, they're going to make their own accommodations.” (Time, 06.04.24)
  • The June 15-16 peace summit in Switzerland will aim to carve a path to involving Russian officials in future talks after establishing agreement on nuclear safety, food security and returning abducted children, a draft document shows. Zelenskyy said at the 2024 Shangri-La Dialogue: “At the first summit, we will address three points of the Peace Formula – nuclear security, food security, and the release of prisoners of war and, of course, the Ukrainian children abducted by Russia.” (President of Ukraine, 06.02.24, Bloomberg, 06.04.24)
    • The White House said Vice President Kamala Harris and national-security adviser Jake Sullivan will attend the conference. The United States is urging China to attend the summit on Ukraine this month in Switzerland, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told reporters on June 6. (RFE/RL, 06.06.24, RFE/RL, 06.03.24)
    • Speaking at the Shangri-La event on June 7, Cui Tiankai, a former Chinese ambassador to Washington, said China would not attend the summit because Russia was not invited. He said it was “impossible” to achieve peace without the participation of both parties in the conflict. (FT, 06.02.24)
      • Zelenskyy has accused China of helping Russia pressure countries not to attend the summit. Speaking in Singapore at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue defense forum, Zelenskyy said Beijing was trying to disrupt the event for Moscow. The Ukrainian leader said China was “in the hands” of Putin. Zelenskyy also criticized China for supplying Russia with dual-use items that the U.S. says are being used to rebuild Moscow’s defense industry. (FT, 06.02.24)\
        • Andrii Sybiha, Ukraine’s first deputy minister for foreign affairs, met Chinese vice-foreign minister Sun Weidong and Li Hui, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs. The two sides discussed steps to deepen high-level contact and economic cooperation, according to a Ukrainian readout of the meeting. (FT, 06.06.24)
    • Zelenskyy met his Philippine counterpart, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in Manila on June 3. The two leaders discussed the summit and Zelenskyy underscored the importance for Southeast Asian countries to be represented there. (Bloomberg, 06.03.24)
    • On June 5, Zelenskyy visited Qatar to promote the summit. (Bloomberg, 06.05.24)
  • China’s top diplomat said more than two dozen countries have expressed backing for Beijing’s vision to resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict, days after China indicated it will skip an upcoming peace summit in Switzerland. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on June 4 that both Russia and Ukraine have “affirmed most of the content” of the principles for a political solution that were laid out by China and Brazil in a joint statement last month. The document called for an international conference recognized by both Russia and Ukraine — an alternative to Kyiv’s peace plan which is backed by Western nations and due to be discussed at the Swiss gathering this month. Russia has not been invited. (Bloomberg, 06.04.24)
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is convinced that Russia won’t limit its threats to European security to its war in Ukraine alone, and that diplomacy toward Putin will only be successful from “a position of strength.” “The threat from Russia will continue,” Scholz said at the East German Economic Forum in Bad Saarow. (Bloomberg, 06.02.24)
  • A nationwide survey by the Levada Center, which was conducted from May 23 to May 29, showed that the majority of respondents (79%) support the actions of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine. Half of those surveyed (50%) are of the opinion that it is necessary to begin peace negotiations, while 43% say that military action must continue. Three quarters of respondents (76%) believe that Russia should not make concessions to Ukraine in order to end the war and sign a peace agreement. Some 17% say that Russia should make concessions. (RM, 06.05.24)

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

  • Biden joined world leaders in Normandy on June 6 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, a somber setting where he drew a link between the historic fight to defeat the Nazis and the modern-day battles against authoritarianism and isolationism. "Make no mistake, the autocrats of the world are watching closely to see what happens in Ukraine; to see if we let this illegal aggression go unchecked," he said. "We cannot let that happen. To surrender to bullies, to bow down to dictators, is simply unthinkable." (WP, 06.06.24)
  • “The United States will continue to stand strong for a free and secure Ukraine—and for an open world of rules, rights and responsibilities. As Prime Minister Kishida said at the White House just a few weeks ago, 'We must resolutely defend and further solidify a free and open international order based on the rule of law,’” said U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the 2024 Shangri-La Dialogue. (U.S. Department of Defense, 06.01.24)
  • Norway’s chief of defense said the NATO alliance has a window of two to three years to prepare before Russia has rebuilt the ability to carry out a conventional attack. “At one point someone said it’ll take 10 years but I think we’re back to less than 10 years because of the industrial base that is now running in Russia,” Gen. Eirik Kristoffersen said in an interview in Oslo on June 3. (Bloomberg, 06.04.24)
  • “We’re observing a real race between countries to strengthen their sovereignty,” Putin told the St. Petersburg economic forum on June 7. “Countries that until recently acted as leaders of global development are trying with all their might, by hook or crook, to maintain their elusive role as hegemons.” (MT, 06.07.24)
  • A Russian nuclear-powered submarine will visit Havana next week, Cuba's communist authorities said on June 6. The nuclear submarine Kazan, which will not be carrying nuclear weapons, and three other Russian naval vessels -- the missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov, an oil tanker, and a salvage tug -- will dock in the Cuban capital from June 12-17. (RFE/RL, 06.06.24)
  • Germany may purchase 10 additional F-35 fighter jets from U.S. defense manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp. on top of the 35 units it ordered shortly after Russia’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg, 06.07.24)
  • The NATO alliance is weighing plans to install a permanent new Ukraine envoy based in Kyiv as it looks to ramp up its long-term commitments to Ukraine amid the country’s war against Russia despite new warnings from Moscow about escalating the conflict, Western officials and U.S. congressional aides familiar with the matter confirmed to Foreign Policy. (FP, 06.07.24)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • On June 1, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that a war with China is neither imminent nor unavoidable, striking a nonconfrontational tone a day after his first face-to-face meeting with his Chinese counterpart. Speaking at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue defense forum in Singapore, Austin signaled that the Biden administration is seeking to cool tensions with China, despite an increase in friction following military activities by both countries around Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea. (WSJ, 06.01.24)
    • This year Austin and China's defense minister, Adm. Dong Jun, held talks at the summit, something the top defense officials from the two countries have not always done at this gathering. But Dong made clear that China remained antagonistic to U.S. influence and alliance-building across Asia, especially American support for Taiwan. (NYT, 06.03.24)
    • Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue defense forum, Dong told the forum that China had not provided weapons to either party in the war in Ukraine. He said Beijing had “strict” export controls on dual-use items and had “never done anything to fan the flames.” (FT, 06.02.24)
    • Senior Col. Cao Yanzhong, a research fellow at China's Academy of Military Sciences, asked Austin if the U.S. was pursuing a NATO-like alliance in Asia. He suggested that Russia's invasion of Ukraine was prompted by an expansion of NATO—a claim often advanced by Putin to justify his decision in 2022 to invade his smaller neighbor. "I respectfully disagree with your point that the expansion of NATO caused the Ukraine crisis," Austin said, drawing applause from the audience. (WSJ, 06.01.24)
  • Russia’s attempts to conclude a major gas pipeline deal with China have run aground over what Moscow sees as Beijing’s unreasonable demands on price and supply levels, according to three people familiar with the matter. Beijing’s tough stance on the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline underscores how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left President Vladimir Putin increasingly dependent on Chinese leader Xi Jinping for economic support. The people familiar with the matter said China had asked to pay close to Russia’s heavily subsidized domestic prices and would only commit to buying a small fraction of the pipeline’s planned annual capacity of 50 billion cubic meters of gas. (FT, 06.03.24)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • On June 5, Vladimir Putin told a selection of editors of foreign media outlets on June 5: “Let us not allow it to slide to not only use [of nuclear weapons], but even to the threat of use. For some reason, the West believes that Russia will never use it [nuclear weapons]. We have a nuclear doctrine—see what is written there … If someone's actions threaten our sovereignty and territorial integrity, we consider it possible to use all the means at our disposal. …  They always try to accuse us of waving some kind of a nuclear stick. But have I just now raised the question of the possibility of using nuclear weapons? This is what you do—you bring up this topic, and then say that I waved a nuclear stick,” (Kremlin.ru, 06.05.24)
  • Putin said on June 7 at the St. Petersburg economic forum:
    • Regarding nuclear escalation: we never started this rhetoric. .... We have a nuclear doctrine, and everything is written there. Yesterday I spoke with the heads of news agencies and said that. We have everything written there: use [of nuclear weapons] is possible in exceptional cases - in the case of a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, in exceptional cases. I don’t think that such a case has emerged – there is no such need. But this [Russian nuclear] doctrine is a living instrument, and we carefully monitor what is happening in the world, around us, and do not rule out making some changes to this doctrine. Now this is also connected with nuclear weapons testing.” (Kremlin.ru, 06.07.24)
    • “If, God forbid, it comes to some kinds of strikes, then everyone should understand that Russia has an early warning system. The USA has it too. In Europe there is no developed [early warning] system; in this sense, they are more or less defenseless. This is the first [point]. The second is the power [yield] of the blows. Our tactical nuclear weapons are four times more powerful than the bombs used by the Americans against Hiroshima and Nagasaki ... We have many times more of them - both on the European continent, and even if the Americans bring theirs from the USA - we still have many times more... Of course, the Europeans must think it over: if those with whom we exchange such blows no longer exist, will the Americans get involved in this exchange of blows at the level of strategic weapons or not? I very much doubt that, and Europeans must think this over.” Putin also agreed with moderator Sergei Karaganov’s proposition that the use of nuclear weapons could increase the speed of achieving Russia's objectives in the conflict, but even more importantly, the health of the Russian military at the front. (Kremlin.ru, 06.07.24, RBC, 06.07.24, RM, 06.07.24)
  • The Biden administration was to announce its intention to embrace a more assertive nuclear weapons strategy on June 7, after China and Russia spurned U.S. efforts to discuss arms control over the past year. Pranay Vaddi of the National Security Council is expected to outline the new direction at an arms control conference June 7. A senior U.S. administration official told Semafor that the administration’s increasingly forceful thinking was reflected in decisions to develop a new nuclear gravity bomb and efforts to extend the life of some Ohio-class nuclear submarines. (Semafor, 06.06.24)
  • Bulgaria’s pro-Russian President Rumen Radev has accused NATO of getting involved in the war in Ukraine, which, he said, risks escalation and a “nuclear Armageddon.” “With the decision to allow for an attack with Western weapons deep in Russia and the formalization of sending advisers and instructors to the very front line, these red lines have already been crossed and unfortunately our politicians become part of such inadequate decisions with all the consequences,” Radev said. (BNE, 06.04.24)
  • “If there was ever a nuclear war between Russia and the United States of America, the Americans would only shoot from Europe. And in a nuclear war, one side will shoot back where the other is shooting from,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said. (Ukrainska Pravda, 06.06.24)
    • Orban accused Ukraine of seeking to drag not only the European Union but the entire world into a war against Russia, saying that his country should stay away from the war. "The Ukrainians believe that the more countries they can drag into the war against the Russians, the greater the chance of victory, so they will drag the European Union or even the whole world into the war. From the Ukrainian national point of view, the escalation of the war is logical,” he said. (Ukrainska Pravda, 06.06.24)

Counterterrorism:

  • Russia's Investigative Committee said on June 3 it had arrested a man suspected of being involved in a deadly hostage-taking in the southern Russian city of Budyonnovsk in 1995. (RFE/RL, 06.03.24)
  • Christine S. Abizaid, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will step down next month, Biden administration officials said on June 5. (NYT, 06.06.24)

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • A day after U.S. officials said Ukraine could use American weapons in limited strikes inside Russia, a deepfake video of a U.S. spokesman discussing the policy appeared online. The fabricated video, which is drawn from actual footage, shows the State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, seeming to suggest that the Russian city of Belgorod, just 25 miles north of Ukraine’s border with Russia, was a legitimate target for such strikes. (NYT, 05.31.24)
  • A pro-Russian propaganda effort is using artificial intelligence as part of a vast operation to suggest that violence is likely to occur at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, according to Microsoft Corp. findings released Sunday. One disinformation group used fake AI-generated audio to make it appear as if actor Tom Cruise had narrated a video titled Olympics Has Fallen, modeled after the 2013 action movie Olympus Has Fallen, researchers found. (Bloomberg, 06.03.24)
  • Poland’s government announced plans to spend as much as 3 billion zloty ($760 million) on boosting cybersecurity measures following attacks it blames on Russia. (Bloomberg, 06.03.24)
  • A major Russian retailer says it has been unable to work with payment cards for three days following a hacking attack. The Verny trade network's website and app have also been out of operation. Officials from the network confirmed that the problems arose after hackers attacked several of its systems. Last week, SDEK delivery service activities in Russia were paralyzed for three days after its online systems were attacked by a ransomware virus. A pro-Ukrainian Head Mare hacking group claimed responsibility for that attack. (RFE/RL, 06.03.24)
  • European satellite companies have been suffering for months from interference attempts originating from Russia, according to documents seen by Bloomberg, leading to interrupted broadcasts and even violent programming sent to a children’s television channel. (Bloomberg, 06.07.24)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • OPEC+ on June 2 agreed to extend all production curbs into 2025 in an effort to shore up oil prices, delegates said, with top producers in the group continuing to haggle over a deal to cut output further. Lagging compliance to agreed curbs has been a bone of contention between Saudi Arabia and other top producers. Russia, Iraq and Kazakhstan respectively overproduced 200,000 barrels a day, 240,000 barrels a day and 72,000 barrels a day in April, according to S&P Global's commodities-data service Platts. (WSJ, 06.02.24)
    • U.S. crude prices on June 3 suffered their steepest one-day decline in nearly five months despite the Saudi-led OPEC and its Russia-led allies agreeing on June 2 to extend production cuts. Benchmark U.S. crude changed hands for $74.22 a barrel, according to Dow Jones Market Data, its cheapest price since Feb. 7. (WSJ, 06.04.24)
  • The Greek Navy resumed drills in an expanse of water just off the country’s coast, effectively blocking Russia’s ability to use the area for the transfer of petroleum between tankers. (Bloomberg, 06.04.24)
  • Finland called for the European Union to procure a vessel to be on standby for oil spills in the northern parts of the Baltic Sea, as Russian crude transports are posing a growing threat in the region. (Bloomberg, 06.05.24)
  • Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on June 4 that the country will stop using all Russian oil by the end of the first half of next year by increasing capacity at the Transalpine Pipeline (TAL). (RFE/RL, 06.04.24)
  • Gazprom is unlikely to recover gas sales lost as a result of Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine for at least a decade, according to a report commissioned for the Russian energy group’s leaders and written late last year. The company’s exports to Europe will average 50 billion-75 billion cubic meters a year by 2035, barely a third of prewar levels, the research predicted. “The main consequences of sanctions for Gazprom and the energy industry are the contraction of export volumes, which will be restored to their 2020 level no earlier than in 2035,” the document’s authors wrote. The report estimates that Russia’s LNG exports will rise to 98.8-125.8 bcm in 2035 from 40.8 bcm in 2020, and account for about half of total gas exports. (FT, 06.05.24)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • In terms of relations with Washington, Putin told a selection of editors of foreign media outlets that that he did not think the looming presidential election would change much as long as the United States continued to pursue ''greatness.'' Asked about the recent conviction of former president Donald Trump, Putin said that the United States was burning itself from within. ''It is obvious all over the world that the prosecution of Trump, especially in court on charges that were formed on the basis of events that happened years ago, without direct proof, is simply using the judicial system in an internal political struggle,'' he said. (NYT, 06.06.24)
  • On the subject of Evan Gershkovich, the American reporter from The Wall Street Journal who has been imprisoned in Russia on espionage charges for more than a year, Putin told a selection of editors of foreign media outlets that the United States was taking ''vigorous steps'' toward his release. Gershkovich, The Journal and the U.S. government have all denied the charges. Such issues ''should only be resolved on the basis of reciprocity,'' Putin added. ''The relevant U.S. and Russian agencies are in contact with each other on this issue.'' (NYT, 06.06.24)
  • American actor George Clooney denied on June 3 that the human rights organization he co-founded with his wife intends to seek the arrest of Russian journalists who support Moscow's war against Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 06.03.24)

 

II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • "We have set a goal to enter the top four largest economies in the world. By the way, according to some data, including World Bank estimates, just last week the World Bank made additional calculations and put Russia in fourth place. We found ourselves ahead of Japan. Russia ranks fourth in terms of GDP in terms of purchasing power parity, as I said, ahead of Japan," Putin claimed in remarks at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on June 7, according to TASS. GDP growth must be at least 3 percentage points annually for Russia to remain the fourth largest[2] economy in the world by 2030, Sberbank CEO Herman Gref was quoted by TASS as saying. (RM, 06.07.24)
    • SPIEF, Russia’s premier business and investment event, kicked off in the country’s second-largest city on June 5 with a focus on Russia’s place in a “multipolar” world, partnerships with the Global South and, increasingly, on domestic business deals. The highest-ranking guests are the Bolivian and Zimbabwean presidents and the Hungarian foreign minister. (MT/AFP, 06.05.24)
    • Speaking at SPIEF, Russia's Central Bank chief Elvira Nabiullina on June 6 called for Russia to be an "open economy" despite the barrage of Western sanctions and trading restrictions it has faced over the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. At a panel discussion on June 6, Nabiullina said Russia must prioritize "ensuring the openness of our economy." "Despite the sanctions, we should be ready to integrate our economy" into the world economy, she added. (MT/AFP, 06.06.24)
    • The president’s daughters, Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova, are among the speakers at SPIEF this week. Former Defense Minister and current Security Council Secretary Sergei Shoigu’s daughter, Ksenia, also takes part in a panel event. So does Kremlin Chief of Staff Anton Vaino’s son, Alexander. Anna Tsivileva, named as a relative of Putin’s by the U.K. government and who’s married to Energy Minister Sergei Tsivilev, is also due to speak. (Bloomberg, 06.05.24)
  • Russia’s oil proceeds to the state budget increased almost 50% in May from a year ago, as its crude prices rose and the nation adapted to international sanctions. Oil-related taxes rose to 632.5 bn rubles ($7.1 bn) last month, according to Bloomberg calculations based on Finance Ministry data. Total oil and gas proceeds increased 39% to 793.7 bn rubles, the ministry said. The revenue spike follows higher prices for Urals crude, Russia’s key export blend. (Bloomberg, 06.05.24)
  • Russia’s manufacturing sector saw near-record employment growth in May, according to a new report from S&P Global, as an already tight labor market struggles to meet the surge in demand for workers. S&P Global’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for Russian manufacturing rose to 54.4 last month compared to 54.3 in April. A PMI value above 50 points indicates growth. (MT/AFP, 06.03.24)
  • Russia’s central bank extended its interest-rate pause but signaled that monetary tightening is still an option, as the country’s war in Ukraine continues to overheat the economy and stoke inflation. For the fourth meeting in a row, policymakers kept their benchmark at 16% on June 7. (Bloomberg, 06.07.24)
  • At least 150,000 Russians are dead on the battlefield, according to Western estimates. Nearly a million fled the country after the war began. The number of births is at its lowest in more than two decades, with bigger-than-average drops in babies born in some regions closest to the fight. The biggest single boost to Russia's population in recent years came when the country annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, adding around 2.4 million inhabitants. Russia today has around 146 million people by official statistics, ranked ninth globally between Bangladesh and Mexico, according to U.N. data. (WSJ, 06.06.24)
  • The apparent demotion of former First Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council and United Russia Secretary Andrei Turchak on June 4 is likely part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing effort to remove from power the political and military figures that violated his trust in 2023. The Russian Federal Council terminated Turchak’s powers on June 5 after Putin appointed Turchak to become the governor of Altai Republic on June 4. (ISW, 06.05.24)
  • Dozens of Alexei Navalny supporters have visited his grave to lay flowers and pay tribute to the late Kremlin critic on what would have been his 48th birthday. Dozens of people gathered in front of the Russian Embassy in The Netherlands on June 4 to commemorate him. The rally in The Hague was one of several events held across Europe to mark his birthday. Inside (RBC.ua, 06.04.24, MT/AFP, 06.04.24)
  • Russia’s Supreme Court on June 5 upheld a five-year prison sentence against the prominent anti-war sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky on charges of “justifying terrorism,” state media reported. (MT/AFP, 06.05.24)
  • A Moscow court on June 5 sentenced Twitch streamer Anna Bazhutova to five and a half years in prison for livestreaming witness testimony about alleged Russian atrocities in the Ukrainian city of Bucha. "It's f***** up. It's disgusting and vile," the 30-year-old Bazhutova, speaking from the glass defendant's box, said. (MT/AFP, 06.05.24)
  • A court in St. Petersburg on June 5 sentenced U.S.-Russian citizen Yury Malev to 3 1/2 years of colony settlement on a charge of "rehabilitating Nazism." (RFE/RL, 06.05.24)
  • Self-exiled Russian journalist Dmitry Kolezev said on June 5 that investigators had requested a Moscow court issue an arrest warrant for him on a charge of "distributing of false information about the Russian military motivated by political hatred." (RFE/RL, 06.05.24)
  • The popular language learning platform Duolingo has removed references to LGBTQ+ people in its Russian version at Moscow’s request, the state-run news agency TASS reported June 4. (MT/AFP, 06.04.24)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Putin stated on June 4 that former Russian Defense Minister and Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Shoigu will coordinate efforts to increase Russian defense industrial capacity alongside former Tula Oblast Governor and Presidential Aide Alexei Dyumin and Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that Shoigu, Dyumin, and Medvedev will each oversee an unspecified aspect of the effort to increase Russian defense industrial capacity. (ISW, 06.05.24)
  • Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko surpassed his own record for total time spent in space after he logged 1,000 days in Earth’s orbit on June 5, according to the Russian space agency Roscosmos. Kononenko, 59, became the world record holder in February when he overtook fellow (MT/AFP, 06.05.24)
  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement, justice and emergencies:

  • Russia’s special services have ramped up the already strict security measures surrounding President Vladimir Putin to an unprecedented degree, two Russian officials who have been present at many of Putin’s public appearances as well as a source close to the Kremlin told The Moscow Times. The Kremlin — already on heightened security alert due to its invasion of Ukraine — has been rattled by recent attacks on high-ranking politicians in Europe and Asia and has stepped up Putin’s security in response. (MT/AFP, 06.04.24)
  • A senior member of a group known for reporting on public figures who oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the authorities has been killed in Moscow, the group confirmed June 7 following media reports of his stabbing death. Anton Yegovtsev, deputy chairman of the Zov Naroda (Call of the People) movement was killed near his home overnight, the group said on social media. (MT/AFP, 06.07.24)

 

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s external policies and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • Sudan’s deputy leader traveled to Russia for talks, days after the North African nation’s army said it may get weapons in exchange for letting the Kremlin establish a military fueling station on the Red Sea coast. Former rebel chief Malik Agar will meet President Vladimir Putin to discuss ways to improve ties between Russia and civil war-torn Sudan, according to a statement from Sudan’s military-backed government on June 3. (Bloomberg, 06.04.24)
  • Russia is seeking to take over uranium assets in Niger held by a state-controlled French company, according to people informed about the matter, in a further challenge to Western interests in Africa. Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear company, has had contacts with Niger’s military-led authorities about acquiring assets held by France’s Orano SA, according to a person in Moscow familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. (Bloomberg, 06.03.24)
  • South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance has accused former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party, whose spectacular electoral debut has upended the country’s politics, of receiving campaign finance from Moscow. (FT, 06.07.24)
  • Moscow will increase the number of its military instructors in Burkina Faso, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced June 5 during a visit to the West African nation as part of a wider regional tour. (MT/AFP, 06.05.24)
  • Russian and Taliban officials expressed interest in bilateral cooperation, indicating that Russia will likely soon delist the Taliban as a prohibited organization in Russia. Taliban acting Minister of Labor and Social Relations Abdul Umari gave an interview to Kremlin newswire TASS at SPIEF on June 6 in which he expressed interest in expanding economic and energy ties with Russia and stated that the Taliban is "looking forward to Russia's decision to exclude [the Taliban] from the list of banned organizations [in Russia]. (ISW, 06.06.24)
  • Western governments are struggling to respond to what they say is a growing Russian campaign of sabotage attempts, including arson at military bases and civilian infrastructure across Europe. The goal of these “grey zone” attacks, which security officials said were often led by Russian GRU military intelligence, is to promote disunity among Ukraine’s allies, disrupt military supplies to Kyiv and test Western resolve. The issue has risen to the top of the agenda of Ukraine’s Western allies following recent incidents. These have included an alleged Russian-backed arson attack on a Ukrainian-linked warehouse in the UK, a sabotage plot against U.S. military bases in Germany, attempts to disrupt Europe’s railway signal networks, and the jamming of GPS civil aviation navigation systems in the Baltics. Microsoft has warned that Russia is directing “malign disinformation” against the Paris Olympic Games. (FT, 06.04.24)
  • French counterintelligence detained a 26-year-old native of Donbas near the Charles de Gaulle airport, who fought against Ukraine on the side of Russia for two years, Le Figaro reports, citing sources in the investigative authorities. The man has Russian and Ukrainian citizenship. He assembled an improvised explosive device (IED) in an airport hotel room using triacetone triperoxide - a high-yield explosive popular with terrorists - and a mobile phone. The bomb accidentally exploded and the Russian suffered burns. In the room, gendarmes of the General Directorate of Internal Security found counterfeit documents and elements for making IEDs. (Istories, 06.06.24)
  • Russian prosecutors on June 7 requested that a French man accused of collecting information about the military be placed in pre-trial detention pending a court hearing on charges of breaking Russia's "foreign agents" law, his lawyer told MT/AFP. Laurent Vinatier, a French national who works with the Geneva-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, was arrested June 6 in Moscow and faces up to five years in jail. (MT/AFP, 06.07.24)
  • With its athletes barred from competing in the Summer Olympics under the country's flag, Russia has turned its fury on the Games and this year's host, Paris. Russian propagandists have created an hourlong documentary, spoofed news reports and even mimicked French and American intelligence agencies to issue fake warnings urging people to avoid the Games, according to a report released on June 2 by Microsoft. (NYT, 04.06.24)
  • For nearly a year, European intelligence officials said, the Czech authorities secretly recorded hours of meetings between several far-right politicians from across Europe and, Artem Marchevsky, an associate of one of Putin's closest allies, who was running the propaganda website, Voice of Europe. E.U. and Czech authorities, which have shut down the site, have labeled Voice of Europe a Russian propaganda operation. The Czech probe rapidly expanded into Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and France. (WP, 06.04.24)
  • A special commission tasked with investigating Russian and Belarusian influence in Poland was to begin its work on June 5, Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced. (RFE/RL, 06.05.24)
  • Czech police at Prague airport have detained four Russian-speaking people suspected of attacking Ukrainian activists in the Czech capital on June 1. (RFE/RL, 06.04.24)
  • Vladimir Putin and “other hostile actors” are able to abuse a lack of regulation for the Telegram platform to spread fake news in the European Union’s eastern nations, Vera Jourova, European Commission vice president for values and transparency, told Bloomberg TV. (Bloomberg, 06.01.24)
  • Recently unearthed documents reveal that leaders of an online news site aimed at Americans have received money from both Russian and Iranian government media outlets, showing how widening geopolitical alliances are making it harder to identify and trace foreign influence operations. Hacked emails and other documents from the Iranian government-funded Press TV show payments of thousands of dollars to a writer who is now a Washington-based editor for Grayzone, whose founder regularly appears on Russian television and once accepted a trip to Moscow for a celebration of Russian state-controlled video network RT that featured Vladimir Putin. (WP, 06.03.24)

Ukraine:

  • The European Commission has recommended that the E.U. start accession talks with Ukraine this month, in an effort to signal support to the war-torn country before Budapest takes over the rotating presidency of the bloc, according to people familiar with the matter. (FT, 06.07.24)
  • A former U.S. soldier accused of going on an "international crime spree" appeared in his first court hearing in Florida on June 3 after being extradited from Ukraine, where he had previously said he was part of a volunteer battalion fighting Russian separatists, according to U.S. authorities. Craig Austin Lang, 34, is facing charges in three states for allegedly killing and robbing a Florida couple in 2018, conspiracy to commit passport fraud and aggravated identity theft, among other possible crimes, according to a Justice Department news release. (WP, 06.04.24)
  • Russia’s second-largest lender VTB Bank announced June 4 that it plans to open new offices in occupied Ukraine this year. “The bank will open two new branches in Luhansk in July, and, by the end of the year, it plans to start customer service in Mariupol and Donetsk,” VTB said in a statement. (MT/AFP, 06.04.24)
  • The latest public opinion survey in Ukraine conducted by the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Center for Insights in Survey Research (CISR) shows strong interest in how local officials will direct the reconstruction of the country when the war ends, low reported levels of local corruption, and continued robust support for EU and NATO membership. (IRI, 06.05.24)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Moldova’s former chief of the general staff shared sensitive military information with Russian intelligence services at the height of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to a new report by The Insider, which cited leaked Telegram messages. Igor Gorgan, Moldova’s chief of the general staff between 2013 and 2016, and then later between 2019 and 2021, began corresponding with a handler from Russia’s GRU military intelligence in April 2022 (MT/AFP, 06.05.24)
  • A multinational operation in Moldova has uncovered an international criminal organization with links to people from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine suspected of undermining an Interpol system for identifying fugitives, Moldovan authorities and Interpol said on June 4. (RFE/RL, 06.04.24)
  • The pro-Russian leader of Moldova's largest opposition party has called for better relations with Russia and China and urged other groups to join forces in fielding a single challenger to pro-Western President Maia Sandu in the country's October election. Igor Dodon, leader of the leftist Socialist Party and a former president who was defeated by Sandu in 2020, said Moldova was ignoring its traditional allies -- Russia, China, and other countries -- and called on Chisinau to "return to a normal dialogue" with those partners. (RFE/RL, 06.01.24)
  • Georgia’s ruling party put forward draft legislation targeting LGBT rights, adding to a crackdown on civil society that has drawn strong condemnation from the U.S. and the E.U. The measures against “LGBT propaganda” would ban portrayals of same-sex relationships in films, television and advertising, outlaw the registration of same-sex marriages and make it illegal for non-heterosexual couples to adopt children. (Bloomberg, 06.05.24)
  • Russia’s deputy foreign minister claimed June 4 that the West may be planning to overthrow the government of Georgia ahead of its parliamentary elections later this year, as tensions continue to boil over in the South Caucasus nation after the recent passing of a controversial “foreign influence” law. “We see Western attempts to escalate the situation in Georgia in the context of the parliamentary elections scheduled for October,” Mikhail Galuzin told the state-run TASS news agency. (MT/AFP, 06.04.24)
  • Vladimir Putin: We have been successful, steady and pragmatic in developing our relations. “You know, we can sense how committed Azerbaijan’s leaders are to building relations between our countries based on mutual interests or, I should even say, based on a certain degree of mutual sympathy we have for each other,” Vladimir Putin told a selection of editors of foreign media outlets on June 5. (Kremlin.ru, 06.05.24)

 

IV. Quotable and notable

  • "The most successful population program that the Kremlin has had has been annexing neighboring territories, not increasing the birthrate," said Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., who studies Russian demographics. (WSJ, 06.06.24)

 

Footnotes

  1. RM’s research indicates that Putin’s June 7, 2024, remarks were the fifth time since the launch of the invasion of Ukraine that either Putin or other top Russian officials warned that Russia could use nuclear weapons if there was a threat to its sovereignty. It was also the 11th time that either Putin or other top Russian officials warned that Russia could use nuclear weapons if there was a threat to its territorial integrity. Neither of these threats are explicitly identified as conditions for use of nuclear weapons in Russia’s publicly available strategic documents, such as the 2014 Military Doctrine and 2020 Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence. 
  2. According to the World Bank’s International Comparison Program 2021, Russia was the fourth largest economy in the world as measured by GDP, PPP in 2021 at $5.7 trillion after China ($28.8 trillion), the U.S. ($23.6 trillion) and India ($11 trillion).

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 the European Union. The EU allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed.