Russia in Review, Nov. 17-21, 2023

3 Things to Know

  1. In the past month, Russian forces have gained 16 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 7 square miles, according to calculations by Katherine Davidson, associate of the Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force.1Yet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has this week denied his top general Valery Zaluzhny’s recent claim that the war has reached a stalemate. In his Nov. 20 interview with  the Sun, Zelensky also reminded Zaluzhny who the boss is and warned the general from delving into politics.  “With all the respect to Gen. Zaluzhny and to all the commanders ... there is an absolute understanding of the hierarchy and that is it, and there can’t be two, three, four, five,” Zelensky said. “If a military man decided to do politics, it is his right, then he should enter politics and then he can’t deal with war,” he added. Rumors of a rift between the president and his commander-in-chief were reinforced late on Nov. 19 when Zelensky called for operational changes in the armed forces and fired the head of Ukraine’s military medical forces, the Guardian reported.

  2. Zelensky admits difficulties on the battlefield, but remains opposed to negotiations with Russia. “Is it difficult on the battlefield? Yes. But making friends or entering diplomatic table now with Russia? No!” Zelensky told the Sun. Zelensky’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has also rejected peace talks this week, asserting “Let’s be clear, there is no option for real negotiations.” Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador-at-Large Rodion Miroshnik was quoted by Reuters as saying that Russia cannot co-exist with the present "regime" in Kyiv, further clouding prospects of Moscow and Kyiv negotiating a ceasefire, to say less of a peace deal. When it comes to interaction between Russian and Ukrainian forces on the ground, they did apparently manage to agree to “an informal truce that has mostly held” at an unofficial border crossing near the northern Ukrainian city of Sumy, according to NYT.
  3. The Pentagon announced a new security package for Ukraine totaling $100 million, which CNN described as one of the smallest packages yet. The package—announced during U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s unannounced visit to Kyiv on Nov. 20—includes one High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and additional ammunition. One day after the Pentagon’s announcement, Germany unveiled its new package of military aid to Ukraine as German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius visited Kyiv. The German package includes 4 IRIS-T air defense systems and ammunition, reported. The two packages do not contain longer-range versions of America’s ATACMS missiles or Germany’s Taurus bridge-busters, which Kyiv has repeatedly asked for.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • No significant developments.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • North Korea appeared to launch its homegrown spy satellite late on Nov. 21, South Korea's military said, a much-anticipated attempt after two tries earlier this year exploded midflight. The launch has drawn extra attention because satellites represent a core pursuit of the deepening military coordination between North Korea and Russia. In September, Kim, the 39-year-old dictator, met Russian President Vladimir Putin at Russia's main spaceport. Putin at the time promised assistance for North Korea's satellite endeavors. (WSJ, 11.21.23)
  • Russian airlines have been invited to launch regular flights to North Korea, the Kommersant business daily reported on Nov. 20. Russia’s state civil aviation agency Rosaviatsiya sent offers to airlines Aeroflot and Aurora to assess their readiness to launch flights to Pyongyang, Kommersant said. (MT/AFP, 11.20.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • The U.S. fears Iran is preparing to provide Russia with its Ababil and Fateh-110 advanced short-range ballistic missiles for its military campaign in Ukraine, U.S. officials said Nov. 21. (WSJ, 11.21.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • On Nov. 18, Ukraine said two first responders were killed and at least seven people injured in Russian rocket strikes on the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia on Nov. 18. The attacks came as Kyiv's air force said Russia fired 38 drones at its territory overnight—the highest reported number in more than six weeks. (MT/AFP, 11.18.23)

  • Between Nov. 18-19, Russia launched around 50 Iranian-designed Shahed drones, primarily towards Kyiv, in two waves, according to the U.K. Defense Intelligence. In total, "15 of 20 enemy drones were destroyed," the Ukrainian General Staff said in a separate statement. (MT/AFP, 11.19.23, RM, 11.21.23)

  • On Nov. 19, Moscow was targeted by drones. The city’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin said later on Telegram that the foiled attack "did not cause any damage or casualties." (MT/AFP, 11.19.23)

  • Russia has “frozen” the exchange of prisoners with Ukraine since August. This was reported by RBC-Ukraine with reference to the representative of the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War in Ukraine, Peter Yatsenko. (Istories, 11.18.23)
  • The scale of Russian grain theft in occupied Ukraine likely constitutes the war crimes of starvation and pillage, a new report by the Global Rights Compliance legal practice has said. Russia’s billion-dollar operation enabled occupying forces to steal up to 12,000 tons of grain a day, The Hague-based NGO said. (MT/AFP, 11.20.23)

  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has launched a national consultation in which he links further EU aid to Ukraine to Brussels unblocking funds for his own country. One of 11 questions put to voters in a plebiscite that started on Nov. 18 was: “Brussels wants even more money to support Ukraine . . . We should not pay more to support Ukraine until we get the money we are due.” The plebiscite is expected to last until early January. (FT, 11.21.23)
  • Ukraine has launched an effort to support truck drivers stuck for days at three Ukrainian-Polish cross-border points because of a strike by Polish truckers. Some 11,000 food kits have already been delivered. (Bloomberg, 11.19.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 16 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 7 square miles, according to calculations by Katherine Davidson, associate of the Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force. (RM, 11.21.23)
  • As of Nov. 19, Russian forces continued to “exercise pressure in multiple areas,” including Kupyansk, Bakhmut and Avdiivka, according to Ukrainian OSINT Telegram channel DeepState. On Nov. 21, Ukraine’s military said that its forces were facing fierce assaults by Russian troops in the east around the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka. (RM, 11.21.23, NYT, 11.21.23)
  • Speaking on state television on Nov. 19, Ukrainian military spokeswoman Natalya Humenyuk said it has pushed Russian forces some "3 to 8 kilometers" away from the bank of the Dnieper River as its forces attempt to secure beachheads on the eastern side of waterway. On Nov. 21 Ukrainian Marines launched an offensive from the village of Krynky in the Kherson region toward the M-14 road, which runs parallel to the line of contact, according to Russian pro-war Telegram channel War Gonzo.  If the Ukrainian soldiers succeed in reaching this road, “serious problems will arise” for the Russian armed forces, according to this channel. (RFE/RL, 11.19.23, RM, 11.21.23)

  • Since the beginning of November, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have lost over 13.7 thousand people, about 1,800 units of weapons and military equipment. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed a meeting at the Ministry of Defense. (TASS, 11.21.23)
  • Russia has now refrained from launching its premier air launched cruise missiles from its heavy bomber fleet for nearly two months, likely allowing it to build up a substantial stock of these weapons, according to the U.K. Defense Intelligence. (RM, 11.21.23)
  • There are rumors of tensions in Volodymyr Zelensky’s team, and of a rift between the president and his commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny, which were reinforced late on Nov. 19 when Zelensky fired  head of Ukraine’s military medical forces Tetiana Ostashchenk and called for operational changes in the army. Ostashchenko was replaced by Major General Anatoly Kazmirchuk. However, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, denied there was conflict between Zelensky and Zaluzhny. “Zelensky is his direct boss, there cannot be a conflict by definition,” he said. (Guardian, 11.20.23, FT, 11.20.23)
    • Volodymyr Zelensky warned his military leadership against dabbling in the country’s politics, taking a jab at Zaluzhny.“ With all the respect to General Zaluzhny and to all the commanders who are on the battlefield, there is an absolute understanding of the hierarchy and that is it—and there can’t be two, three, four, five,” he said. Zelensky said: “If a military man decided to do politics, it is his right, then he should enter politics and then he can’t deal with war,” he said. (Bloomberg, 11.21.23, The Sun11.20.23)

  • Zelensky acknowledged the lack of progress had discouraged some allies who doubt if Ukraine can expel Russian forces. And he admitted: “We need more successful results on the battlefield.” But he denied his top general Zaluzhny’s claims that the war had reached a stalemate. He said: “In the morale, there is no stalemate. We are at our home. Russians are on our land. Therefore, there is no stalemate in this.” (Sun, 11.20.23)
    • “The positional war in Ukraine is not a stable stalemate,” Frederick W. Kagan of American Enterprise Institute, wrote this past week. The balance on the battlefield now, he said an interview, could readily be tipped in either direction by a number of factors: the strategic choices made by Ukraine and Russia, the level of assistance provided by the West and the Kremlin’s willingness to eventually fully mobilize Russian society for war. (NYT, 11.20.23)

  • Russian special forces are planning to remove Ukraine’s leadership from power by the end of 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told The Sun. Zelensky claimed Russia would use “any means available to them,” including assassination, in the operation supposedly dubbed “Maidan 3.” Zelensky told the Sun: “The goal is to change the president. Maybe not by killing, but it's a change.” (MT/AFP, 11.21.23)

  • Funding for Ukraine was omitted from a stopgap spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden last week, raising concerns about continuing military aid from the United States, which is by far the biggest backer of Kyiv’s war effort. Mr. Zelensky alluded to the issue in a speech released overnight in which he reiterated his view that Ukraine’s struggle matters beyond the country’s own fate. “The key thing now is to make sure that support for Ukraine will be sufficient next year as well,” he said. “This signal must be sent to Russia: No matter what they do, the world will not get tired of defending freedom and international order.” (NYT, 11.20.23)
  • U.S. defense secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Kyiv by on Nov. 20. Austin reassured Ukrainian leaders of Washington’s continued support. “I’m here today to deliver an important message—the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine in their fight for freedom against Russia’s aggression, both now and into the future,” Austin said. Zelensky said he had discussed the battlefield situation with Austin. (FT, 11.21.23, NYT, 11.20.23)
    • During Austin’s visit, the Defense Department announced a new security package for Ukraine totaling $100 million—one of the smallest packages yet as available funding for U.S. assistance begins to run low. The package—which is the 51st to be provided from DOD inventories—includes one High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and additional ammunition (CNN, 11.20.23)
    • Despite the growing challenges, officials traveling with Austin said the United States would be able to continue sending aid, including longer-range weapons and artillery ammunition, which have emerged as a cornerstone of Ukraine's military strategy, "for some time" at least. "These are two militaries facing two different kinds of fights," a senior defense official told reporters ahead of Austin's arrival in Kyiv, regarding the joint demands from Israel and Ukraine. "There is some overlap," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security matters. "But where there is overlap in certain kinds of ammunition … there is no reduction in provision of capabilities." (WP, 11.20.23)
    • A videoconference of defense ministers to coordinate military aid to Ukraine that Mr. Austin will host later this week. (NYT, 10.20.23)
  • For months, the aerial vehicles supplied by Quantum Systems, a German technology firm, had worked smoothly for Ukraine's military, swooping through the air to spot enemy tanks and troops in the country's war against Russia. Then late last year, the machines abruptly started falling from the sky as they returned from missions. Quantum's engineers soon homed in on the issue: Russians were jamming the wireless signals that connected the drones to the satellites they relied on for navigation. “Electronic warfare has impacted the fighting in Ukraine as much as weather and terrain,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. (NYT, 10.20.23)
  • In one November 2022 report, a Chinese defense think tank detailed how a Russian electronic attack had tricked NATO's detection equipment, leading Ukraine to reveal the location of its own electronic defenses. “The Russian army's anti-drone combat capabilities are superior to those of the U.S. military,” the report said. (NYT, 11.20.23)
  • German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius arrived in Kyiv on Nov. 21. According to Pistorius, the new package of military assistance from Germany to Ukraine will include 4 IRIS-T systems, 20 thousand 155-mm caliber shells, anti-tank mines, and other weapons. (FT, 11.21.23,, 11.21.23)
  • “The choice is very simple. If we are ready to send another 300,000 or 500,000 lives of Ukrainian soldiers to capture Crimea and liberate Donbas, and if we get the right number of tanks and F16s from the West, we can do this,” said Volodymyr Omelyan, a former minister of infrastructure who signed up for the territorial defense forces “But I don’t see the 500,000 more people ready to die and I don’t see the readiness of the West to send the type and quantity of weapons we would need.” The other option, said Omelyan, would be “a ceasefire deal to make great reforms, become a member of NATO and the EU, then Russia will collapse and later we will take back Crimea and Donbas.” (Guardian, 10.20.23)
  • Bulgarian officials estimate that as much as 40 percent of the bullets and shells used by Ukraine in its war against Russia are manufactured in Bulgaria. (FT, 11.19.23)

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

  • Two Russian soldiers whose unit was linked to war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha were barred from entering the United States, the State Department said. The sanctions, announced on Nov. 20, targeted Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov and Russian Guard Corporal Daniil Frolkin. Their unit, the 64th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, was honored by President Vladimir Putin in April last year, around the same time that Ukrainian officials linked the brigade to alleged crimes committed in Bucha and the town of Andriyivka. (RFE/RL, 11.21.23)

  • Finland’s government is preparing a decision to close the Russian border to at least asylum seekers, adding to restrictions on movement, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported. The government of the newest member of the NATO defense bloc could meet as soon as Nov. 21, the newspaper said. The move would be intended to stem a flow of migrants that Helsinki says is organized by the Russian government. (Bloomberg, 11.21.23)

    • The Finnish Defense Forces are helping the country’s Border Guard construct temporary fences on the Russian border. (MT/AFP, 11.20.23)

    • In the past week, at least 150 migrants with expired Russian visas have been detained in the republic of Karelia while heading to the Finnish border. (MT/AFP, 11.21.23)

  • EU member states are discussing whether to restrict travel by Russian diplomats after the Czech Republic complained that potential spies were evading monitoring thanks to the EU’s borderless zone. (FT, 11.21.23)

  • Russia's Foreign Ministry on Nov. 18 said it had summoned the Czech Republic's temporary charge d'affaires in Russia the previous day over Prague's decision to freeze Russian state-owned properties. (Reuters, 11.18.23)

  • Azimut Benetti, the world’s biggest maker of luxury yachts. Then Western sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine lost her a tenth of her customers. (Economist, 11.16.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • “If you ask them are you willing to give up to Russia, our lands? Are you ready to talk to Russians on how to end all this?” “Are you ready for compromise, personally, with Putin and are you tired of this? They will tell you we are not tired. We are ready to stand further,” Zelensky said of the Ukrainians. “Is it difficult on the battlefield? Yes. But making friends or entering diplomatic table now with Russia? No!” Zelensky said. (Sun, 11.20.23)
  • Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, said “Let’s be clear, there is no option for real negotiations. All it would be would be an operational pause. Russia would use this to significantly improve its army, carry out new mobilization and then relaunch its war, with even more tragic consequences for Ukraine.” Podolyak admitted there had been a “chill” in relations with many non-Western nations. “It has made it harder to make a broader coalition of support for Ukraine in the fight against Russia,” he said. (Guardian, 10.20.23)
  • Russia cannot co-exist with the present "regime" in Kyiv, a senior Russian official said Nov. 21, reaffirming the goals of what Putin calls a special military operation to "demilitarize" Ukraine. "The current regime [in Kyiv] is absolutely toxic, we do not see any options for co-existence with it at the moment," Russian Ambassador-at-Large Rodion Miroshnik told reporters in Moscow. (Reuters11.21.23)
  • Evelina, a social worker who until this month lived under Russian occupation in southeastern Ukraine, has taken an unusual but increasingly popular route back into Ukrainian-controlled territory: traveling into Russia and heading north and west, then back into Ukraine through an unofficial border crossing near the northern city of Sumy. The armies use the crossing to trade bodies and prisoners, and have negotiated an informal truce that has mostly held, border guards working in the area said. (NYT, 11.16.23)

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

  • NATO members Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria are nearing an agreement to create a joint force to clear mines drifting into their parts of the Black Sea as part of the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 11.20.23)

  • NATO and Serbia are looking into the possible resumption of joint military exercises, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said after talks in Belgrade with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. (RFE/RL, 11.21.23)

  • NATO supports Bosnia's territorial integrity and is concerned by “malign foreign interference," including by Russia, in the volatile Balkans region that went through a devastating war in the 1990s, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Nov. 20. (BG, 11.20.23)
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance is considering making permanent an increase in its military presence in Kosovo that came after violence erupted in northern Kosovo in September. (RFE/RL, 11.20.23)

  • Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins is looking to join the list of contenders to succeed NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg. (Bloomberg, 11.19.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent greetings to the participants in the United Russia Party - Communist Party of China Dialogue, noting that Moscow and Beijing coordinate their efforts in solving world problems. Moscow and Beijing are developing relations in all areas, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov said at a meeting with China’s Deputy Prime Minister Ding Xuexiang. Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin called for expanding parliamentary cooperation formats at a meeting with Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China Zhao Leji on Nov. 21. (Interfax, 11.21.23, TASS, 11.20.23)
  • “China can push Russia more. I don’t see that they [China] are interested in the Middle East, unlike Russia and Iran. I don’t think that China is interested in helping Russia occupy Ukraine,” Zelensky told the Sun. (News Yahoo, 11.21.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • The newest silo-based strategic missile system “Sarmat” with the heavy liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) of the same name has been put on test combat duty in the Uzhur formation of the Strategic Missile Forces. (NVO, 11.18.23)
  • The Russian Interior Ministry found no violations in the words of propagandist Margarita Simonyan about the explosion of a nuclear bomb over Siberia” Simonyan spoke about the possible consequences of a nuclear explosion over Siberia in early October. “It’s no big deal. Not the nuclear winter that everyone is afraid of. No monstrous radiation that will kill everyone around, and those who are not killed will die within ten years from oncology. None of this will happen. What will happen is that all radio electronics will be disabled,” she said at the time. (Istories, 11.20.23)
  • A video of an evangelical church service in St. Petersburg featuring songs about ballistic missiles and the chorus “Russia for Christ” went viral over the weekend, prompting Pastor Olga Golikova of the Light of Christ Mission Church to respond this on Nov. 19. The video, published in March, featured Golikova saying “We take, Lord, this runway, we rise into the sky with your ballistic missiles. We rise there, Lord, with supersonic planes to carry the good news that Russia is for Christ!” (MT/AFP, 11.21.23)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • No significant developments.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia will produce 527 million tons of oil and 440 million tons of coal in 2023, its LNG production will reach 33 million tons, while gas output will fall by 30 billion cubic meters due to falling supplies to Europe, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said, adding that electricity production will add 0.8% this year. (TASS, 11.21.23)
  • Russian pipe gas supplies to China surged by about 73% on an annualized basis in January - October 2023 and totaled $5.36 billion, the Main Customs Administration of China reported. According to statistics, Turkmenistan ranks first among pipe gas exporters to China, with deliveries down 2% to $8.07 billion over ten months of this year. Russia is second. (TASS, 11.20.23)
  • "76.5 million metric tons [of coal] were exported to China over nine months of this year. This is already more than throughout the last year; 21.3 million metric tons [were exported] to India, department director of the Russian Energy Ministry Pyotr Bobylev said. (TASS, 11.21.23)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Russia's Interior Ministry has placed Sergei Aleksashenko, formerly a deputy governor of the Bank of Russia and a deputy finance minister, on its wanted list, Russian state news agencies reported on Nov. 18. Aleksashenko, who has criticized Russia's war in Ukraine, has been living in exile in the United States after falling out with Putin's government and had already been designated a "foreign agent.” (Reuters, 11.18.23)

  • Soviet pilot Viktor Belenko, who hijacked a MiG-25 military jet to Japan in September 1976, has died in the United States at the age of 76. The New York Times quoted Belenko's son on Nov. 20 as saying that his father had died after a brief, unspecified illness in a nursing home in Rosebud, Illinois, on September 24. (RFE/RL, 11.21.23)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • The Russian currency’s reversal of fortunes since early October has brought it to around 90 per dollar, a level near to the average for next year forecast by the Economy Ministry. The recent appreciation was among the key factors that acted as a check on inflation, according to Bloomberg Economics. (Bloomberg, 11.19.23)

  • Wives and mothers of Russian soldiers who have been mobilized for the war in Ukraine are facing restrictions and intimidation as they demand to bring their loved ones back from the front. On  Nov. 19, a group of women held an anti-mobilization protest in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. Similar protests planned in Moscow and St. Petersburg were denied authorization this month (MT/AFP, 11.20.23)

  • In the past six months, private clinics in three Russian regions have heeded calls by the church and local officials to relinquish their licenses for performing abortions. For Russia, the trend is striking. Though President Vladimir Putin has pushed traditional family values in recent years and promoted the role of the Russian Orthodox Church, liberal abortion laws have a long history in the country. (FT, 11.21.23)
  • A court in Russia on Nov. 21 extended the pretrial detention of sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky for at least another six months on a charge of making online calls for terrorism. (RFE/RL, 11.21.23)

  • Vadim Kobzev, a lawyer for imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, will remain in pretrial detention until at least Dec. 13, the Moscow City Court ruled on Nov. 20. Kobzev and two other lawyers for Navalny—Igor Sergunin and Alexei Lipster—were taken into custody last month for allegedly participating in an extremist community. (RFE/RL, 11.21.23)

  • A member of Russia's presidential Council for Human Rights says the incarceration of Russian artist Aleksandra Skochilenko for using price tags in a supermarket to distribute anti-war messages could be "deadly dangerous" to the 33-year-old. More than 100 Russian doctors signed an open letter to President Vladimir Putin calling for the release of Skochilenko. (RFE/RL, 11.18.23, RFE/RL, 11.20.23)

  • The Moscow City Court on Nov. 21 issued an arrest warrant for a founding member of the Pussy Riot protest group, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, on a charge of "insulting believers' religious feelings.” (RFE/RL, 11.21.23)

  • The Dossier discovered two yachts used by Vladimir Putin and his entourage. It is the 71-meter Victoria and her accompanying 38-meter Orion boat. Victoria was built at the shipyards of the Sevmash military plant along with the Graceful boat. It is currently being repaired at a Turkish shipyard. (Dossier, 11.20.23)
  • The Russian Strelkov (Igor Girkin) Movement (RDS) predictably backed Igor Girkin’s Nov. 19 formal announcement of his intent to run in the 2024 Russian presidential election. (ISW, 11.20.23)
  •  The governor of the Siberian region of Kemerovo, Sergei Tsivilyov, said on Nov. 20 that his predecessor, who led the coal-rich region for more than 20 years, Aman (aka Amangeldi) Tuleyev, has died at the age of 79. (RFE/RL, 11.20.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Three in four Russians (75%) interviewed for Gallup this past summer expressed confidence in the military, which is down from the 80% measured in the early months of the war. In contrast, confidence in the police (63%), financial institutions (56%) and the judicial system (49%) have increased in 2023, with all three reaching record highs since Gallup began tracking these data in Russia. (Gallup, 11.21.23)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Nikolai Ogolobyak, a self-confessed member of a Satanist sect serving a 20-year prison sentence for murder and the desecration of dead bodies has been freed after completing six months of military service in Ukraine.” (MT/AFP, 11.21.23)

  • Two former Wagner mercenaries recruited from penal colonies who recently returned from the war in Ukraine were detained in Russia's North Caucasus region of Dagestan on a charge of kidnapping a businessman for ransom. (RFE/RL, 11.20.23)

  • A woman was detained in Russia's western Kaliningrad exclave on suspicion of attempting to set an enlistment center on fire, regional authorities reported. (RFE/RL, 11.20.23)

  • Russia's Investigative Committee said on Nov. 21 that it has launched a probe into mass overdose cases among drug addicts in the southwestern city of Astrakhan. Three people have died, while 20 remain in the hospital, including 10 in grave condition. (RFE/RL, 11.21.23)

  • The former chief of the Investigative Committee's internal security, Mikhail Maksimenko, was found dead at Correctional Colony No. 11 in the Nizhny Novgorod region, local media reported on Nov. 21. (RFE/RL, 11.21.23)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will take part in a virtual G20 leaders' summit on Nov. 22, after skipping the flagship in-person meeting in New Delhi in September. "Vladimir Putin will take part in the virtual G20 summit," Russia's Vesti TV show said in a social media post on Nov. 19, citing Putin's schedule for the upcoming week. (AFP, 11.20.23)
  • The international community should join forces to find a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, addressing an extraordinary summit of the BRICS group convened on Iran’s request. During the virtual summit Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on the world community to convene an international conference on the Palestinian problem. (TASS, 11.21.23)
  • Argentinian Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero was to take part in the online BRICS summit on the Middle East due on Nov. 21, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. Moscow would like to understand what Buenos Aires thinks about joining BRICS, now that the presidential election in Argentine is over, Ryabkov told TASS. Diana Mondino, a foreign policy adviser for President-Elect Javier Milei, said in late October that Liberty Advances, the political coalition that nominated Milei, believes it makes no sense for Argentina to join BRICS. (TASS, 11.21.23)
  • Joint naval exercises of ships of the Pacific Fleet (PF) of the Russian Federation and the Indian Navy are taking place in the Bay of Bengal. “The large anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs and the medium sea tanker Pechenga of the Pacific Fleet are conducting a joint exercise in the Bay of Bengal with ships of the Navy of the Republic of India,” PF said. (TASS, 11.21.23)
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reportedly started public recruitment for the Russian “Africa Corps” aimed at subsuming Wagner Group operations in Africa after alleged failed MoD attempts to directly recruit former Wagner personnel. (ISW, 11.20.23)
  • A Bulgarian arms magnate who survived two Russian assassination attempts has raised the alarm about a sabotage campaign that he says Moscow has been waging for years as it tries to disrupt crucial weapons supplies to Ukraine. Emilian Gebrev, whose company, Emco, produces much of the Bulgarian output of Soviet-standard bullets and tank shells shipped to Kyiv, told the Financial Times that Russian saboteurs have actively targeted his factories and depots—including after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. (FT, 11.19.23)


  • A war-battered Ukraine on Nov. 21 commemorated the 10th anniversary of the so-called Maidan revolution. Several top European officials visited Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, on Nov. 21 to reaffirm their support to the war-torn nation, including Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Boris Pistorius, Germany’s defense minister. Moldovan President Maia Sandu has arrived in Kyiv on the 10th anniversary of the start of Ukraine's Euromaidan protests. (NYT, 11.21.23, RFE/RL, 11.21.23)

  • The Ukrainian government on Nov. 20 dismissed the chief of the country's State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection, Yuriy Shchyhol, and informed him that he was a suspect in an investigation into the embezzlement of 62 million hryvnias ($1.72 million). (RFE/RL, 11.20.23)

  • Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday announced investigations into two lawmakers on suspicion of involvement in attempts to bribe top reconstruction officials, part of a closely watched campaign to stamp out high-level corruption. Kyiv has stepped up efforts to fight graft as it pursues membership of the European Union and prepares to receive billions of dollars in Western aid to rebuild from Russia's ongoing full-scale invasion. (Reuters, 11.21.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko scheduled elections to the lower house of parliament for Feb. 25, 2024, setting the stage for the country’s first nationwide campaign since his own disputed reelection three years ago. (Bloomberg, 11.20.23)

  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has said that while Yerevan and Baku have agreed on basic principles for a peace treaty, the two sides are "still speaking different diplomatic languages" in talks. (RFE/RL, 11.18.23)

  • Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev accused France on Nov. 21 of creating conditions for a new war in the South Caucasus by supplying arms to Armenia. (Reuters, 11.21.23)

  • The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Nov. 20 that it summoned Moldovan Ambassador Lilian Darii to inform him that "a number of Moldovan officials were banned from entering the Russian Federation" in an "asymmetrical" response to Moldova's move to block several Russian websites. (RFE/RL, 11.20.23)

  • A court in Bishkek has ruled that Russian citizen Mansur Movlayev, an outspoken critic of the authoritarian ruler of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, who was sentenced in Kyrgyzstan earlier in October to six months in prison for illegal border-crossing, must be released but that his deportation order to Russia remains in force. (RFE/RL, 11.20.23)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • “At the end of last year and beginning of this one, there was such euphoria. Now we see the other extreme, the down, and I guess we will see some ups and downs for some time to come,” said Bartosz Cichocki, who last month finished a four-year posting as Poland’s ambassador in Kyiv. (Guardian, 10.20.23)



  1. The next issue of the report card is to be published on Nov. 21, 2023 via RM’s blog.


The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 2:00 pm 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 RM editorial policy.

Slider photo shared by the Ukrainian presidential press service via a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.