Russia in Review, Nov. 21-Dec. 1, 2023

6 Things to Know

  1. In the past month, Russian forces have gained 12 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainian forces gained 5 square miles, according to the Nov. 28 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. Developments on and off the battlefield have prompted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week to admit that Ukraine’s counteroffensive did not produce the desired results, warning of a new phase of the war this winter and calling for a faster buildup of major defensive lines. Zelensky’s call came as The Economist warned in its analysis of the conflict that “For the first time since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 2022, he looks as if he could win,” while WSJ acknowledged that currently, “Moscow holds the advantage on the military, political and economic front.”
  2. The U.S. government has less than $5 billion available to contribute to Ukraine’s war, NYT reported this week, as Congressmen remain unable to strike a long-elusive compromise on U.S.-Mexico border policy that Republicans insist is needed for assistance to Ukraine to pass Congress. Of the $68 billion in assistance Congress has already approved since Russia invaded Ukraine, almost 90% is going to Americans, according to Marc Thiessen’s commentary in WP. In all, 31 Senators and House members whose states or districts benefit from funding for Ukraine have voted to oppose or restrict that aid, according to Thiessen. 
  3. Putin will not make peace in Ukraine before he knows the results of the November 2024 U.S. election, a U.S. State Department official was quoted by Reuters as predicting this week as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov chose not to “feign interest in negotiations with Ukraine” during his speech at a tempestuous OSCE summit in Skopje, according to ISW. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba—who vowed to boycott the summit over Lavrov’s participation—insisted that he doesn’t feel foreign partners are pushing him to start negotiations with Russia, even as Germany’s Bild claimed that Berlin and Washington hope to nudge Kyiv to do just that. See Antol Lieven’s commentary for RM on what a Trump administration might mean for the war in Ukraine here.*
  4. Russia and Ukraine have continued drone wars in the past week. A Nov. 25 Russian aerial attack on Ukrainian cities featured “a record number” of one-way attack drones, while Kyiv authorities said that it was the biggest attack on the country’s capital since the start of the invasion. Responding to the Nov. 25 attack, Ukraine launched 35 drones on Nov. 26 toward Moscow, Tula, Kaluga and Bryansk. The Ukrainian strike was described as the heaviest in at least two months, and was the first time the Russian capital was targeted since the summer.
  5. The death of Henry Kissinger has sparked a wave of reaction across the globe, with Putin sending condolencesWestern and Russian media reported. Putin singled out Kissinger's reputation as a pragmatist in a tribute that celebrated his role in the détente with the Soviet Union, describing him as an "outstanding diplomat, a wise and farsighted statesman" in a telegram sent to Nancy Kissinger, WP reported. Russia's leader praised Kissinger for his "pragmatic foreign policy line, which at one time made it possible to achieve détente in international tensions and reach the most important Soviet-American agreements that helped strengthen global security," according to the Kremlin website. See RM’s compilation of Dr. Kissinger’s views on Russia here.

  6. Russia continues to manage to import spare parts for airplanes and helicopters from Ukraine in spite of the war, according to Istories. For instance, Russian company Avia FED Servis imported 370 million rubles ($4 million) worth of such spare parts in 2022–2023, including spare parts for planes and helicopters, this independent Russian media project reported.

 

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) staff at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant said on Nov. 27 that they heard what sounded like rockets "fired from a Multiple Launch Rocket System nearby" - it came on the same day the site lost connection to its main off-site power line. (WNN, 11.27.23)
  • IAEA says the fifth unit at the Zaporizhzhia NPP is switching from hot to cold shutdown to allow investigation of why boron had been detected in a cooling circuit. (WNN, 11.22.23)
  • The 10-year process of dismantling Russia’s Lepse ship, which was used to refuel the nuclear icebreaker fleet from 1963 to 1981 and then used for the storage of used fuel and radioactive waste, has been completed, Rosatom says. (WNN, 11.23.23)
  • A smart video analytics system—that was installed at Russia’s Kola NPP in 2019 - detects and registers 95-98% of violations. It is planned that by February 2024 the system will be installed at nine out of 11 Russian NPPs. (BNE, 11.30.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • A senior Ukrainian intelligence official said Russia was now receiving frequent shipments of munitions from Iran and North Korea, including Iranian one-way attack drones and North Korean artillery shells and rockets. (FT, 11.29.23)
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un viewed photos of U.S. military facilities in Guam from a new spy satellite his state launched into orbit, and pledged to put more probes in the sky, the state’s official media claimed. (Bloomberg, 11.22.23)

  • Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dismissed U.S. calls for a return to diplomacy and lambasted its condemnations of the North’s recent spy satellite launch, vowing more launches in violation of U.N. bans. (Bloomberg, 11.29.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Iran’s Deputy Defense Minister, Brigadier General Mahdi Farahi, announced that the arrangements to acquire a range of advanced Russian military aircraft, including Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets, Mil Mi-28 attack helicopters, and Yak-130 jet trainers, have been finalized, Reports had previously indicated Tehran’s expectation of receiving 24 Su-35 Flanker-E fighter jets from Moscow. (Eurasia Times, 11.30.23)
  • White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has voiced concern that Iran may provide Russia with ballistic missiles for use in its war against Ukraine. Iran may be preparing “to go a step further in its support for Russia,” Kirby said on Nov. 21. (AP, 11.22.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • The wars that cost the most lives in 2022 were in Ethiopia and Ukraine. Battle-related deaths exceeded 81,000 in Ukraine, according to the Peace Research Institute Oslo. (NYT, 11.27.23)
  • At least four thousand civilian Ukrainians, whose names and circumstances of abduction are known to human rights activists, are in captivity in Russia, Mikhail Savva, an expert at the Center for Civil Liberties estimated. (Istories, 11.29.23)
  • On Nov. 19, A Russian actress was killed by Ukrainian shelling while performing for the Russian military in the Moscow-occupied Donetsk region. The death of Polina Menshikh, 40, was by regional officials and in a VKontakte post by a St. Petersburg theater. (MT/AFP, 11.22.23)

  • On Nov. 23, At least four civilians were killed and five wounded as Russian forces targeted civilian and infrastructure facilities in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, officials reported. (RFE/RL, 11.23.23)
  • Early on Nov. 25 The Ukrainian military reported downing 74 of 75 drones in the regions of Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, Kirovohrad and Kyiv.. The Ukrainian Air Force said that the attack had featured “a record number” of one-way attack drones while Kyiv authorities said that  it was the biggest attack on the capital since the start of the invasion. Kyiv city authorities said five people were wounded while Ukraine’s energy ministry reported nearly 200 buildings, including 77 residential ones, were left without power as a result of the barrage. (MT/AFP, 11.25.23, FT, 11.25.23, WP, 11.25.23, NYT, 11.25.23)
    • On Nov. 28, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that Russia has built up a large stockpile of missiles and intends to use them in a bid to destroy Ukraine’s power and heating infrastructure in the coming months. “We must not underestimate Russia. Russia’s economy is on a war footing,” he said following a meeting of allied foreign ministers and their Ukrainian counterpart. (FT, 11.29.23)
    • As winter cold sets in across Ukraine, concerns are growing that Russia will soon resume large-scale attacks on the power grid. Those fears are compounded by what Ukrainian experts and current and former officials say is an energy system that is more fragile than it was a year ago. Moscow launched more than 1,200 missiles and drones against energy facilities between October 2022 and April 2023. By mid-November, nearly half of the country’s power grid had been disabled, plunging people into cold and darkness. The situation looks particularly grim for thermal power plants, which are to supply 4.5 gigawatts of power this winter, a third of the country's prewar output, according to the United Nations. (NYT, 11.22.23)
    • Ukraine and its allies held a meeting on Nov. 22 to discuss ways to enhance protection against an expected uptick in Russian attacks on the war-torn country's energy and civilian infrastructure during the upcoming cold season. (RFE/RL, 11.22.23)

  • On Nov. 26, Ukraine reported being targeted by at least nine Russian drones overnight. (RFE/RL, 11.26.23)
  • On Nov. 26 The Russian Defense Ministry reported that it had downed at least 24 Ukrainian drones over Tula, Kaluga, and Bryansk, as well as the Russian capital. Russia also said it downed two S-200 air defense missiles that had been refitted to strike ground targets as they flew over the Sea of Azov to Ukraine’s south-east. A source within Ukraine’s military intelligence who wasn’t identified told Ukrainska Pravda that a total of 35 drones were launched in a planned response to Moscow’s drone barrage against Kyiv on Nov. 25.  The overnight strikes were heaviest targeted at Russia in at least two months, excluding recent attacks on the Crimean peninsula. It was the first time Moscow was targeted since the summer. (RFE/RL, 11.26.23, FT, 11.26.23, Bloomberg, 11.26.23)
  • On Nov. 29 and 30, Russian forces conducted multiple series of missile and drone strikes on Ukraine that struck civilian infrastructure. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched eight S-300 missiles and 20 Shahed-131/136 drones on Nov. 29-30. (ISW, 11.30.23)
    • On Nov. 28, Ukraine said Russian shelling of a border village in the northeastern Sumy region killed three people, including a seven-year-old child. (MT/AFP, 11.28.23)
    • On Nov. 29, Russian shelling of Ukraine's Donetsk and Kharkiv regions wounded seven in Donetsk overnight, the acting head of the region, Ihor Moroz, said on Nov. 29. Five residents were wounded in the industrial city of Toretsk and two in Severniy, Moroz said. (RFE/RL, 11.29.23, MT/AFP, 12.01.23)
  • Ukraine's air defense said 18 out of 25 Iranian-made drones launched by Russia at several Ukrainian regions were shot down early on Dec. 1 as an air-raid alert was declared in the capital, Kyiv, and its surrounding region. "In total, the enemy used two X-59 missiles and 25 Shahed-136/131 attack drones," the Ukrainian air force said. (Current Time, 12.01.23)

  • Boris Maksudov, a military correspondent for the Rossiya 24 TV channel has died from injuries sustained in a drone attack in Ukraine, the network said on Nov. 23. (MT/AFP, 11.23.23)
  • Roughly 4.2 million displaced Ukrainians have received temporary protection status across Europe since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (WSJ, 11.27.23)
    • In the year to June 2023, the top five non-European nationalities for immigration flows into Britain were Indian (253,000), Nigerian (141,000), Chinese (89,000), Pakistani (55,000) and Ukrainian (35,000). (NYT, 11.23.23)
  • Kyiv said on Nov. 24 that more than 13,000 Ukrainians had returned to the country via the only working border crossing with Russia, Kolotilovka, since it opened in the summer. (MT/AFP, 11.24.23)
  • Ukraine's human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said on Nov. 30 that Moscow had stopped swapping prisoners of war with Kyiv. "Exchanges are not taking place because Russia does not want them to," Lubinets said on Telegram. (MT/AFP, 11.30.23)

  • Polish truckers have extended their blockade along the border with Ukraine to protest against competition from Ukrainian drivers in a further blow to Kyiv’s trade and war efforts against Russia. Two Ukrainian truckers waiting to cross have since died, according to officials and labor unions in Kyiv. (FT, 11.23.23)
  • French sugar-beet growers are demanding that rising sugar imports from Ukraine be re-exported outside Europe to avoid hurting local producers. Ukrainian sugar imports to the bloc could reach 700,000-800,000 tons in the 2023-2024 season That would be about double the previous season’s imports. (Bloomberg, 11.28.23)
  • Slovak truckers are threatening to block the country's main border crossing with Ukraine from Dec. 1 unless steps are taken to limit competition from Ukrainian hauliers, the head of the country's truckers association UNAS said. (Reuters, 11.28.23)

  • Since August, more than 130 vessels have sailed from Ukrainian ports and exported more than five million tons of goods, Ukraine's Ministry of Infrastructure said. (WSJ, 21.22.23)
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Nov. 25 that special convoys will accompany vessels carrying key exports from Ukraine, including foodstuffs, via the Black Sea to ensure safe passage. (Bloomberg, 11.25.23)
  • The European Union on Nov. 22 released a new 1.5 billion euro ($1.64 billion) tranche of macro-financial assistance to Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 11.22.23)

  • The European Commission on Nov. 25 said it will provide 50 million euros ($54 million) to Kyiv to repair and upgrade infrastructure in Ukrainian ports in an attempt to increase food exports. (DPA/RFE/RL, 11.25.23)

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

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 12 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 5 square miles, according to the 11.28.23 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 11.28.23)
    • The 260 square kilometers (100 square miles) of territory reclaimed by Ukraine in the counteroffensive in 2023 amounts to less than 1% of land that was retaken last year. (Bloomberg, 11.28.23)
    • On Dec. 1 pro-war Russian Telegram channel Arkhangel Sptesnaza acknowledged  that the Ukrainian forces were conducting a “massive landing” across the Dnepr river in the area of the Krynky settlement in the southern Kherson region. The channel said Ukrainian forces controlled about 60-70% of the settlement. (RM, 12.01.23)
    • Russian forces raised the Russian flag at the western edge of the town of Mar'inka in the eastern Donetsk region, confirming the capture of the remaining streets, according to a Dec. 1 post by UAControlMap. However, Ukrainian OSINT group DeepState said in a Telegram post that it is aware of the claim, but could not confirm it. The group said it had “big doubts” about Russian troops’ full control of the northern part of the town, which is something that a video posted in pro-war Russian Telegram channel Rybar purported to prove on Dec. 1. Russian war reporter Kots would only acknowledge that a Russian flag was raised “above the Western outskirts” of Avdiivka in a post on Dec. 1 (RM, 12.01.23)
    • The battle for Avdiivka in Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk could mark the beginning of many months on the defensive for Ukraine. The Russians’ plan is to push further past Avdiivka to the north and south, then cut off its supply roads. Avdiivka’s lifeline has shrunk to a gap of less than 4 miles between the jaws of the Russian advance. (WSJ, 11.22.23)
    • The fighting may again expand beyond the east and south of Ukraine if Russia continues to boost its weapons production and improve military technologies with the help of its allies, Serhii Nayev, commander of the United Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, told ABC last weekend. (Bloomberg, 11.29.23)
    • “For the first time since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24th 2022, he looks as if he could win,” according to The Economist’s assessment. (RM, 11.30.23)
    • On Nov. 30 Zelensky has called for a faster buildup of major defensive lines amid Kyiv’s stalled counteroffensive and concerns that Russia could attempt to take more territory. He encouraged local communities to pitch in and pledged to make money available for the effort. His call signaled switch to the defensive posture after a monthslong Ukrainian counteroffensive yielded only small gains. Zelensky's announcement came after a day traveling the northeast and southeast for meetings with military commanders and soldiers." He said the focus would be the east and northeast. The fortifications will built in the areas of Avdiivka, Maryinka, Lyman  and Kupyansk, according to Russan newspaper Vedomosti. (WSJ, 12.01.23, Bloomberg, 11.29.23, RM, 12.01.23)
    • As Russia's war against Ukraine approaches its third year, Moscow holds the advantage on the military, political and economic fronts. Russia has far more men to replenish its battered army than the Ukrainians, who are running short of well-trained infantry. President Vladimir Putin is militarizing the Russian economy, using strong oil revenues to pay for rising weapons production. (WSJ, 11.27.23)
  • On the night of Nov. 23, "an attempt by the Kyiv regime to carry out a terrorist attack using aerial drones against sites on the territory of the Russian Federation was thwarted," Russia's Defense Ministry said." Air defense systems destroyed 16 drones, including 13 over the Crimean peninsula and three over the territory of the Volgograd region." (MT/AFP, 11.24.23)
    • Russia’s military began covering its Shahed attack drones with carbon to complicate the work of Ukrainian air defense, Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat said on Nov. 25. (Kyiv Independent, 11.25.23)
    • A SIM card from the Ukrainian telecommunications operator Kyivstar was found inside a downed Shahed drone, which Russia used to attack Ukraine. (Meduza, 12.01.23)
  • On Nov. 28, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country’s air defenses have had a success rate of more than 90 per cent in intercepting Russian missiles and drones in the latest wave of attacks. “There is a clear need to develop and reinforce our mobile firing groups, as well as to get all highly effective air defense systems [from Western partners],” Zelensky said. (FT, 11.2823)
  • On Nov. 29, Russia unleashed a fresh wave of drones on Ukraine overnight, launching 21 Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles and three Kh-59 guided missiles, the Ukrainian Air Force said in a statement early on Nov. 29. (RFE/RL, 11.29.23)
  • On Nov. 29, Russia claimed its armed forces had taken control of Khromove, a small village on the outskirts of Bakhmut in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region. (MT/AFP, 11.29.23)
  • On Nov. 29, Russian forces were ramping up attacks in eastern Ukraine with the nearly encircled industrial town of Avdiivka being the latest major flashpoint. (MT/AFP, 11.29.23)

  • On Nov. 30, President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Ukrainian troops on the front line in the Kupyansk area of the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv. (RFE/RL, 11.30.23)

  • AP published an interview with Zelensky on Dec. 1. Key takeaways include:
    • On Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive, Zelensky admitted it did not produce the results many had hoped for. He said this was due mainly to Ukraine not receiving hoped-for weapons from allies. “Look, we are not backing down, I am satisfied. We are fighting with the second (best) army in the world, I am satisfied,” he said.
    • Said the onset of winter marks a new phase of the 21-month-old war with Russia that will impact not only front-line battlefields but also civilians in cities and towns, as well as the export of grain.
    • Said protecting civilian areas in addition to keeping up defenses on the long front line makes the winter campaign especially challenging.
    • Said the Israel-Hamas war threatens to divert attention from the conflict in Ukraine at a critical moment
    • Commenting on an AP poll that showed nearly half of Americans disapprove of continued aid to Ukraine, Zelensky said Kyiv was fighting for the long-term benefit of the U.S. and other countries.
      Said China’s continued support of Ukraine is “very important.”
    • Ukraine’s constitution mandates that it is supposed to hold a presidential election in March 2024, but Zelensky said the country is not able to have one, citing the dangers to voters amid shelling and airstrikes. (AP, 12.01.23)
  • Ukraine is struggling to replace its infantry losses from the summer counteroffensive and the costly defense of Bakhmut. Ukrainian front-line units are commonly 20% to 40% below full strength, said Ihor Romanenko, a military analyst and retired Ukrainian lieutenant general. "Because of the shortage of infantry, those remaining are tired," he said. There is little scope for rest or rotation. (WSJ, 11.22.23)
    • A company of Ukraine’s 47th began the summer of 2023 with 120 men. It’s now down to around 20, including replacements. The rest are dead, wounded or have been transferred away from assault duties. Ukrainian front-line units are commonly 20% to 40% below full strength, said Ihor Romanenko, a military analyst and retired Ukrainian lieutenant general. (WSJ, 11.22.23) 
    • A plan to draft more Ukrainian men into the army has been sitting on President Volodymyr Zelensky’s desk since June. Zelensky last week asked his government and top brass for a more comprehensive package, one better tailored to a nation exhausted by a war and preparing for another winter of fighting. It again put off the blueprint, approved by Ukraine’s parliament, to lower the draft age during war for men with no military experience to 25 from 27. (Bloomberg, 11.30.23)
    • Selective conscription in Ukraine has continued since February 2022 but has lost steam as the grim reality of a long, grueling war sets in. According to a BBC investigation, nearly 20,000 Ukrainian men evaded call-up notices either by slipping out of the country in defiance of an exit ban or fraudulently acquiring permission to leave. To help fill the ranks, Ukrainian officials have set up roadside checkpoints. The average age of Ukrainians at the front and those trained by Western allies has been 30-40, rather than more usual 18-24. (FT, 11.26.23) According to a recent Time article, the average age of Ukrainian soldier is now 43.
    • Ukraine keeps its troop and casualty numbers secret. Experts and local officials have suggested it had one million men and women under arms last year, including territorial defense, secret services and border guards—double the pre-February 2022 number. (FT, 11.26.23) 
    • Soldiers who spend a full month on the front lines are being paid more than $3,000 a month—a high salary in Ukraine, where average pay is less than $500 a month, and much more than the $650 paid for troops in support roles in the rear. (FT, 11.26.23)
  • As of late November Ukraine has destroyed 15 Russian vessels and damaged an additional 12 in the Black Sea, Ukraine's naval spokesman said. (WSJ, 21.22.23)
  • Throughout November 2023, Russian casualties, as reported by the Ukrainian General Staff, are running at a daily average of 931 per day, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry. Previously, the deadliest reported month for Russia was March 2023 with an average of 776 losses per day, at the height of Russia’s assault on Bakhmut, according to the agency. (RM, 11.27.23)
    • On Nov. 28, the deputy commander of the 14th Army Corps of the Russian Armed Forces, Major General Vladimir Zavadsky, was killed. Telegram channel VChK-OGPU reports that the general died after stepping on a landmine “far from the line of combat.” (Istories, 11,29.23, Meduza, 11.30.23)
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed on Dec. 1 that Ukraine had lost over 125,000 troops since launching its counteroffensive in June, as well as 16,000 units of “various weapons.” (MT/AFP, 12.01.23)

  • Exceptional Russian air transport movements through November 2023 suggest that Russia has likely moved strategic air defense systems from its Baltic coast enclave of Kaliningrad, to backfill recent losses on the Ukraine front. (U.K. Ministry of Defense, 11.26.23) 
  • Moscow has activated a network of sleeper spies in Ukraine in the past two months as Putin tries to destabilize society further in the face of military deadlock, Ukraine’s national security adviser Oleksiy Danilov said. (Times, 11.27.23)
  • The wife of Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence operations, and several of the agency’s officers are undergoing medical treatment after being poisoned with heavy metals. Andriy Yusov, an officer in Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence directorate, told the Financial Times that the attack on Marianna Budanova was “intentional . . . there is no other possible scenario,” adding: If Russia was able to poison Ms. Budanov, it would suggest that its agents were operating closer to the inner circles of power in Kyiv than previously thought possible. (FT, 11.28.23, WP, 11.28.23, NYT, 11.29.23)
  • A freight train carrying diesel fuel on the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) Railway caught fire inside Russia’s longest rail tunnel on Nov. 29, Russian Railways has announced. Ukrainian media sources claimed that the fire was an operation carried out by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). (Novaya Gazeta, 11.30.23. Bloomberg, 11.30.23)
  • A White House proposal to send Ukraine about $61.4 billion in additional emergency aid—out of an overall $105 billion plan—has stalled in the Republican-led House. That has left the United States with less than $5 billion available to contribute to the war. The Biden administration has predicted that the war funding will be approved by year’s end. (NYT, 11.28.23)
    •  "Of course, we can't allow Vladimir Putin to march through Europe and we understand the necessity of assisting there," House speaker Mike Johnson told reporters in Sarasota, Florida. "What we've said is that if there is to be additional assistance to Ukraine, which most members of Congress believe is important, we have to also work and change our own border policy," he continued. "We have a sense of urgency about this and there are deadlines on it as well. So I'm confident and optimistic that we'll be able to get that done, get it over the line." (Axios, 11.27.23)
    • In a letter to colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called President Biden's $106 billion emergency funding request for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and the U.S.-Mexico border "one of the most important" tasks ahead for Congress. He'll bring up the supplemental "as soon as" the week of Dec. 4, he wrote. (WP, 11.27.23)
    • Of the $68 billion in military and related assistance Congress has approved since Russia invaded Ukraine, almost 90 percent is going to Americans. In all, 31 senators and House members whose states or districts benefit from funding for Ukraine have voted to oppose or restrict that aid. (WP, 11.29.23)
  • American Senators are struggling to strike a long-elusive compromise on the U.S.-Mexico border policy that Republicans insist is needed for assistance to Ukraine to pass Congress. The Senators left Washington on Nov. 30 with no deal on immigration in sight and President Joe Biden’s $61 billion request for Ukraine hanging in the balance as that country continues to battle the invasion by Russia. (Bloomberg, 12.01.23)

    • Ukraine is already suffering from “shell-hunger,” says Michael Kofman of the Carnegie Endowment. He reckons that Ukraine was firing 220,000-240,000 larger caliber shells (152mm and 155mm) per month during the summer, but the rate of fire is dwindling and will fall to 80,000-90,000 shells a month. Even these numbers are more than America and European countries are currently producing—roughly 28,000 and 25,000 a month respectively. (Economist, 11.27.23)

  • Antony Blinken, U.S. secretary of state, said this week he saw “no sense of fatigue” among NATO members regarding support for Ukraine. (FT, 11.29.23)
  • Ukraine will likely receive its first large batch of the U.S.-pledged Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) long-range weapons, adapted to strike at a range of 160 kilometers, in early 2024, according to the Pentagon and sources familiar with the matter. (Kyiv Independent/Reuters, 11.30.23)
  • Some 45% of the American public said in November that the U.S. government is spending too much on Ukraine compared with 52% in October, according to Nov. 2-6, 2023, polling from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That shift appears to come mostly from Republicans: 59% now say too much is spent on Ukraine aid, but that’s down from 69% in October. Only 14% of the Americans polled in November said the U.S. is spending too little on Ukraine while 38% said. the United States is spending about the right amount. In addition, 40% of the Nov. 2-6 poll’s respondents said Ukraine is an ally that shares U.S. values, and 43% consider it a partner that does not share U.S. values. (AP, 11.22.23, Apnorc.org, 11.22.23)
  • The European Union's mission will present its proposals for security guarantees to Ukraine next week in Kyiv, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell announced at a joint press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Earlier, Borrell indicated that the proposals would include an initiative to create a designated section for Ukraine within the European Peace Facility fund, and that this initiative will be presented to the Council in December. (New Voice of Ukraine/Yahoo News, 11.28.23)

  • The centerpiece of Olaf Scholz’s Zeitenwende plan was a promise for an injection of 100 billion euros, or nearly $110 billion, and to raise military spending. But nearly two years later, experts and military officers say the “Zeitenwende,” is barely visible. Much of the money has either not yet materialized or is going to weapons that will not be in the hands of soldiers for years because of procurement delays and the need to ramp up long-dormant production lines. (NYT, 11.29.23)
  • With an election a year away in the U.S., Kyiv is aware that the clock is ticking and that military progress would make it easier for partners to step up their help, according to people familiar with the Ukrainian government’s thinking. But even before Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, Ukrainian officials had registered a decline in interest. (Bloomberg, 11.24.23)
  • The Russian government’s belief that it can “wait out” the West is a dangerous self-delusion, according to Mikhail Barabanov, a defense expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow. “A long war could cement the role of Ukraine as a critical ally for the United States, similar to that of Israel and such a development would be a severe geopolitical defeat for Moscow,” he said. (Bloomberg, 11.24.23)

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

  • European Commission has proposed banning importers from reselling so-called high-priority items—like semiconductors used in weapons or needed to make them—to Russia or for use in Russia, and requiring a sum to be deposited in an escrow account to ensure compliance. (Bloomberg, 11.25.23)
  • The European Union is moving ahead with a proposal to tax profits from more than €200 billion ($218 billion) of frozen Russian central bank assets to aid Ukraine’s reconstruction despite. The European Commission tentatively plans to unveil its legislative proposed on Dec. 1. (Bloomberg, 11.30.23)

  • The European Union should consider issuing defense bonds to boost financing of the defense industry as Russia’s war in Ukraine drags on, according to Charles Michel, the head of the European Council. (Bloomberg, 11.30.23)

  • Poland has charged 16 foreign nationals with spying for Russia, for allegedly preparing acts of sabotage and gathering information on military equipment deliveries to Ukraine. The charges against the spy ring, which was dismantled in March, were announced by the office of the intelligence service coordinator, Mariusz Kaminski. (RFE/RL, 11.22.23)

  • Finland decided to close the last road border crossing that had remained open on its frontier with Russia after it continued to push migrants into the Nordic country. New information and estimates indicated that “instrumentalized immigration” would have intensified without the decision, Prime Minister Petteri Orpo and Interior Minister Mari Rantanen told reporters on Nov. 28 in reference to the closing of the Raja-Jooseppi crossing in the far north. A railway crossing in Vainikkala remains open to cargo. (Bloomberg, 11.28.23, FT, 11.28.23)

    • EU will help Finland bolster its borders following a surge of migrants trying to enter from Russia. Helsinki has accused Moscow of facilitating their passage. Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said on Nov. 30 it would send 50 border-guard officers and other staff, along with equipment, expected to be on the ground as soon as next week. (WSJ, 11.24.23)

    • Estonia on Nov. 30 warned its citizens against "any travel" to Russia, suggesting that it may temporarily close the border with its eastern neighbor amid an influx of asylum seekers on the Russian-Finnish border. (MT/AFP, 11.30.23)

    • Sending European military advisers to Finland’s border with Russia is an unnecessary security measure that may fuel tension, according to the Kremlin’s spokesman Peskov. (Bloomberg, 11.29.23)

    • “Putin and the Kremlin are depicting Russia as being in an existential war with the West.” They would “do anything” to pressure “any country that can be influenced in Russia’s further interest,” Fiona Hill said. “They will hone in on any cracks in the political system. In Finland right now, the Russians are weaponizing migrants, and you know, sending them on bicycles, towards the Finnish border to the point where the Finns are closing the border.” (Irish Times, 12.01.23)

  • The German Consulate in Kaliningrad has stopped working; now only the country's representative offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg operate in Russia. (Media Zone, 11.30.23)
  • Brian Nelson, U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence warned Turkish officials that the country is fueling violence across two continents by serving as a financing haven for Hamas and a trade hub for Russia's war machine. U.S. officials say Turkish ports are being used to service sanctioned Russian tankers and facilitate arms smuggling, and Russian shell companies and Turkish firms have fueled a sixfold increase in the export of so-called dual-use goods the Kremlin's military needs to prosecute a prolonged war. (WSJ, 11.30.23)
    • Turkey’s exports to Russia of goods vital for Moscow’s war machine have soared this year. The growing trade, and the corresponding rise in imports to Turkey of 45 civilian materials used by Russia’s military, has undermined the U.S. and European attempts to curb Moscow’s ability to equip its armed forces. In the first nine months of 2023, Turkey reported $158 million of exports of 45 goods the U.S. lists as “high-priority” to Russia and five former Soviet countries suspected of acting as intermediaries for Moscow. That was three times the level recorded over the same period in 2022, when the war in Ukraine began. (FT, 11.27.23)
  • Russian firms based in the United Arab Emirates are coming under greater scrutiny from local banks as the Gulf state faces increased U.S. pressure to tackle sanctions evasion and ramps up efforts to get off a global organization’s watch list. (Bloomberg, 11.23.23)
  • Russian Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev has revealed that Russia has lost 76 passenger planes under sanctions imposed on the aviation industry. (Ukrainska Pravda, 11.24.23)
  • German Khan, co-founder of investment firm LetterOne, lost a court challenge against European Union sanctions over his alleged close ties to President Vladimir Putin and influential roles in Russia. (Bloomberg, 11.29.23)
  • Former chief executive of Russian state oil company Rosneft Eduard Khudainatov's has claimed ownership of a yacht seized by U.S. authorities last year as part of a crackdown on alleged sanctions violations. The Justice Department says the yacht is owned by sanctioned Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov. (RFE/RL, 11.29.23)
  • Russia has opened a criminal case against prominent Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen on suspicion of spreading fake information about Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 11.23.23)
  • The European Union promised to shut down the flow of Vladimir Putin’s propaganda after Russia invaded Ukraine, slapping sanctions on state-backed media RT and Sputnik days after the attack. RT.com may now be inaccessible in the EU, but a series of less popular mirror sites provides the same content, aimed at undermining the bloc’s support of Ukraine. One is swentr.site, or RT News in reverse. (Bloomberg, 11.23.23)
  • President Vladimir Putin ordered the transfer of all the rights to managing St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport from foreign shareholders that include Germany’s Fraport AG and the Qatari wealth fund by shifting their stakes into a new Russian entity. (Bloomberg, 12.01.23)

  • The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow "will not leave unanswered" Chisinau's decision to align with a package of European Union sanctions against Russia. (RFE/RL, 11.25.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • Putin will not make peace in Ukraine before he knows the results of the November 2024 U.S. election, a senior U.S. State Department official said. A senior official briefing reporters after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels said the alliance reiterated its support for Ukraine knowing that a peace agreement in the next year is unlikely. "That was the context in which the allies all expressed strong support for Ukraine" in the NATO meeting on Nov. 28, the official added. (Reuters, 11.28.23) See Anatol Lieven’s take on what a second Trump presidential term would entail for the war in Ukraine in RM.
  • Davyd Arakhamiia, leader of the Servant of the People faction who led the Ukrainian delegation at "peace" talks with the Russians in Belarus and Turkey in 2022, said that the Russian delegation promised Kyiv peace in exchange for refusing to join NATO, but the Ukrainians did not believe them. “They were prepared to end the war if we agreed to—as Finland once did—neutrality, and committed that we would not join NATO,” Arakhamia said. “This was the key point,” he said. When asked why Ukraine did not agree to this point, Arakhamia replied that there was no confidence in the Russians. “Moreover, when we returned from Istanbul, Boris Johnson came to Kyiv and said that we would not sign anything with them at all, and let's just fight,” Arakhamia said. (Pravda.com.ua, 11.24.23)
  • Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he doesn’t feel foreign partners are pushing him to start negotiations with Russia even as his country’s troops haven’t had a major breakthrough on the front line over the past year. “No, I don’t feel any pressure,” Kuleba said during a joint briefing with European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell in Brussels. (Bloomberg, 11.28.23)
    • Speaking prior to a meeting of NATO and Ukrainian foreign ministers this week, Ukraine’s top diplomat Kuleba said that those who propose Ukrainian-Russian negotiations should consider first asking their countries’ governments to give up territories and population before he agrees to listen to their proposals, according to Kommersant. (RM, 11.29.23)
  • The U.S. and Germany allegedly hope to nudge Ukraine to negotiate with Russia through a carefully targeted scope of arms deliveries, the German tabloid Bild reported on Nov. 24, citing an anonymous government source. "Zelensky should realize that things cannot go on like this. Without any external request," the source told Bild. "He should address the nation of his own free will and explain that negotiations must be launched." (Kyiv Independent/Yahoo News, 11.24.23)
    • Ukraine risks being pushed into peace negotiations with Russia involuntarily as allies fail to supply it with the weapons and ammunition it needs to win the war, according to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis. (Bloomberg, 11.23.23)
  • On Nov. 22, Putin told Group of 20 video summit in an eight-minute address that it was necessary to think about how to stop "the tragedy" of the war. “Russia has never refused peace talks with Ukraine,” Mr. Putin said. “It was Ukraine, not Russia, which publicly announced that it was withdrawing from the negotiating process.” Putin rebuffed criticism that the war’s aggression was “shocking” and accused Western nations of a double standard because of their response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. (RFE/RL, 11.23.23, NYT, 11.22.23)
    • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Nov. 22 that he urged Russian Putin to end Moscow's war in Ukraine and withdraw all troops during the first Group of 20 video call Putin participated in since the conflict began. (RFE/RL, 11.23.23)
  • During a meeting with university students in the city of Mykolaiv on Nov. 30, Volodymyr Zelensky said he believes that residents of the occupied Donbas region will be more difficult to “mentally” return to Ukraine than residents of Crimea. (Meduza, 11.30.23)
  • A striking 68 percent of Russians support continuing the war, which has killed tens of thousands on each side, and a hardline group of 22 percent strongly oppose a cease-fire under any circumstances, according to a report based on polling and focus groups by the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center and the Levada Center. A similar number, about 20 percent, strongly oppose the war. A majority of Russians—72 percent—support peace talks, yet only 19 percent are willing to make concessions to Ukraine for the sake of peace. Polls cited in the report were face-to-face representative national surveys of 1,600 people. (WP, 11.28.23)
  • Moscow-based research group Chronicles published results of what it said was a phone poll of Russians on Oct. 17-22. The poll showed that for the first time since February 2023 more the share of Russians who would support Putin’s decision to withdraw troops without achieving the goals of the so-called special military operation in Ukraine exceeded the share of those who would not support such a decision: 40% versus 33%. At the same time, the number of those who would support the withdrawal of troops remains stable all year at the level of 39-40%, but the number of those who would not support the withdrawal of troops (that is, in favor of continuing the war) is systematically decreasing: in February 2023 there were 47%, in July 2023 - 39%, according to Chronicles. (RM, 12.01.23)
  • The UN on Nov. 21 voted to adopt a traditional truce around the 2024 Paris Olympics despite objections from Russia. (AP, 11.22.23)

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

  • NATO’s top diplomat Jens Stoltenberg warned that it would be “dangerous” to curtail support to the war, as member countries tried to pin down the United States on its commitments to Kyiv. As foreign ministers gathered on Nov. 28 at the military alliance’s headquarters, Stoltenberg, insisted that Ukraine would remain a top priority. He predicted that U.S. assistance would continue—not only to protect American security interests but also because it’s “what we have agreed.” Stoltenberg added: “it will be a tragedy for Ukrainians if President Putin wins. … It will also be dangerous for us." (NYT, 11.28.23)
  • “In our meeting today, allies reiterated . . . unwavering support as the Ukrainians bravely defend their country,” Stoltenberg said, referring to new pledges of assistance from Germany and the Netherlands. “All of this helps to save Ukrainian lives. And sends a message to Russia that our support will not falter.” (FT, 11.29.23)
  • The Kremlin said that NATO's desire to have a military analogue of the Schengen Zone in Europe to allow the alliance's armed forces to move around freely to counter Russia had ratcheted up tensions and was a cause for concern. (Reuters, 11.24.23
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has once again claimed that Ukraine will not be able to defeat Russia on the battlefield. The corresponding fragment of Orban’s speech was published on the social network X (formerly Twitter) by the official representative of the Hungarian government, Zoltan Kovacs. In particular, Orban said that Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine is unacceptable, but Western countries, in his opinion, have chosen the wrong way to resolve this conflict. Thus, according to Orban, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict from the very beginning should have been “localized” and “isolated,” and not “globalized,” as it happened in the end. (Meduza, 11.26.23)
    • Hungary will not support any European Union proposal to begin talks on making Ukraine a member of the bloc, a government minister said on Nov. 30. Gergely Gulyas, the chief of staff to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said at a news conference in Budapest that it was premature to begin formal talks with Kyiv. Earlier this month, the EU's executive arm recommended allowing Ukraine to open membership talks once it addresses governance issues. (AP, 11.30.23)

  • A total of 40% of Ukrainians fully or rather support the idea of Ukraine joining NATO with only those territories currently under government control, according to the telephone survey of 1,000 people conducted by the Rating pollster on Nov. 22-23. Still, 53% of respondents said they rather don’t support or don’t support at all the idea of Ukraine joining NATO without the occupied regions. (Bloomberg, 11.29.23)

  • Turkey has told Sweden that it expects to ratify its long-delayed accession to the NATO military alliance within weeks, Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Nov. 29. (RFE/RL, 11.29.23)
  • Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins has staked his claim to the top job at NATO, saying that the alliance needs a consensus builder who is committed to higher defense spending and has a clear vision of how to deal with Russia. (AP, 11.29.23)

  • Ten northern European countries agreed to deploy vessels and planes across the Baltic Sea region to protect critical undersea infrastructure in response to last month’s suspected acts of sabotage. The move comes as Finland, Estonia and Sweden are investigating incidents on an undersea gas pipeline and two communication cables in the Gulf of Finland as acts of sabotage, with vessels registered under Hong Kong and Russia being probed as part of the events. (Bloomberg, 11.28.23)
  • The Biden administration has offered security assistance in exchange for easing Wagner out, said three Central African officials briefed on the discussions. Recently, representatives of the American private security firm Bancroft met with Central African officials in the country’s capital, a person familiar with the meeting confirmed. Fidèle Gouandjika, the security adviser to the country’s president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, said that his administration had until next month to tell U.S. officials whether it was willing to partner with them. (NYT, 11.26.23)
  • Putin told World Russian People’s Council: “Russophobia and other forms of racism and neo-Nazism have almost become the official ideology of Western ruling elites. They are directed not only against ethnic Russians, but against all groups living in Russia: Tatars, Chechens, Avars, Tuvinians, Bashkirs, Buryats, Yakuts, Ossetians, Jews, Ingush, Mari and Altai.” (Kremlin.ru, 11.28.23) 

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • China is willing to strengthen ties with Russia and jointly promote the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, Xi said in the meeting on Nov. 22 with Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin of the Duma, Russia’s lower legislative house, according to state run broadcaster CCTV. Volodin said Russia adheres to the one-China policy and firmly supports China in safeguarding territorial integrity. (Bloomberg, 11.22.23)

  • Russian and Chinese business executives with government ties have held secret discussions on plans to build an underwater tunnel connecting Russia to Crimea in hopes of establishing a transportation route that would be protected from attacks by Ukraine, according to communications intercepted by Ukraine’s security services. (WP, 11.24.23)
    • Statements by Western media about the alleged plans of Russia and China to build an underwater tunnel under the Kerch Strait do not correspond to reality, said press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov.” It is nonsense,” he said. (ura.ru 11.24.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • No significant developments.

Counterterrorism:

  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • NATO countries are taking part in a cyber defense exercise this week set against the backdrop of the continuing conflicts in Ukraine and Israel. The exercises simulate cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, including on operational technology systems commonly used in electrical substations, energy grids and water-treatment plants. (WSJ, 11.30.23)
  • In remarks made on Nov. 24 at Artificial Intelligence Journey 2023 Vladimir Putin said: “Banning it is not an option, because AI will continue to develop no matter what.” Putin then said, when commenting on his own observation that AI should be used, among other things, to limit AI. “You know, this idea occurred to me just now during my speech. But I would like to express one more idea. It is obvious, there is nothing difficult in this. After all, humanity has drafted certain rules on the use of nuclear technology, including military use. It invented the rules for the non-proliferation of the carriers of this nuclear technology. Humanity managed to come up with these rules, so we can certainly find common solutions that would be acceptable for all and required by all.” (Kremlin.ru, 11.24.23)
    • In other remarks on Nov. 24 Putin said West had a "dangerous" monopoly over artificial intelligence and Russia needed to rival "biased" Western chatbots with its own technology. "I think you are well aware that some Western search engines, as well as some generative models, often work in a very selective, biased way," Putin said. (MT/AFP, 11.24.23)
  • While the U.N. is providing a platform for governments to express their concerns over risks of robot warfare,, the process seems unlikely to yield substantive new legally binding restrictions. The United States, Russia, Australia, Israel and others have all argued that no new international law is needed for now, while China wants to define any legal limit so narrowly that it would have little practical effect, arms control advocates say. “We do not see that it is really the right time,” Konstantin Vorontsov, the deputy head of the Russian delegation to the United Nations. said. (NYT, 11.22.23)
  • Russia’s decision to ban Facebook and Instagram at the start of the war boosted VKontakte’s users by 4m in just a few weeks. It now has a penetration rate of 75%, is assumed to be closely monitored by the security services and is instrumental in spreading pro-war messages. (Economist, 11.30.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • OPEC+ agreed to make 1 million barrels a day of additional oil-supply cuts to go alongside Saudi Arabia’s much-anticipated extension of its voluntary reduction of the same size. (Bloomberg, 11.30.23)

  • Washington is aiming to halve Russia’s oil and gas revenues by the end of this decade, a senior U.S. diplomat has said, arguing Western sanctions on Moscow will need to be maintained “for years to come.” Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. assistant secretary of state for energy resources, told the Financial Times that the curbs on Vladimir Putin’s ability to fund the Ukraine invasion must ensure Russia can never again mount an attack on its neighbors. (FT, 12.01.23)
  • A Western scheme to limit Russian oil revenues by capping the price for its crude at $60 a barrel has failed because a parallel trading structure has emerged beyond the reach of the West. The price of Urals crude from Russia is $64, up nearly 10% since the start of 2023. (The Economist, 11.30.23)
  • Europe banned most oil shipments from Russia almost a year ago, but it’s binging on diesel that may well have been made from Russian crude. The region’s imports of diesel from India, one of the biggest buyers of Russian crude, are on course to soar to 305,000 barrels a day, the most since at least January 2017, data from market-intelligence firm Kpler show. (Bloomberg, 11.27.23)
  • Three major Greek shipping firms, Minerva Marine, Thenamaris and TMS Tanker, have stopped transporting Russian oil in recent weeks in order to avoid U.S. sanctions now being imposed on some shipping firms carrying Russian oil/ Oil tanker owners in Greece, the world’s most powerful ship-owning nation, scaled back how much Russian crude they’re hauling, a decision that could ultimately disrupt the flow of Moscow’s petroleum. The number of Greek-owned tankers going to Russia will fall by a quarter this month compared with last, and is down 60% from June, ship tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. That may well alarm officials in the Kremlin because the country still needs assistance from foreign vessel operators to get all its barrels to the global market. (Bloomberg, 11.27.23, Reuters, 11.23.23)
  • India increased oil imports from Russia last month as refiners maximized purchases of cheaper barrels to bolster margins and meet product demand, according to Kpler data. Cargoes from Russia climbed 9.7% from October to 1.74 million barrels a day. (Bloomberg, 12.01.23)

  • More than a fifth of Russia’s liquefied natural gas reaching Europe is reshipped to other parts of the world. Of the 17.8 billion cubic meters of Russian liquefied natural gas flowing to the EU between January and September this year, 21 per cent was transferred to ships destined for non-EU countries including China, Japan and Bangladesh, according to data from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. (FT, 11.28.23)
  • Russia’s Gazprom PJSC said its natural gas deliveries to China have hit a new historic high amid rising demand. Russia aims to export 30 billion cubic meters of gas to China next year and eventually raise the flows to 38 bcm per year. (Bloomberg, 11.25.23)
  • Russia expects to reach an agreement soon on a planned natural gas hub in Turkey, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said. A Turkish delegation is due to hold consultations with Russian gas producer Gazprom PJSC in St. Petersburg, Novak said. (Bloomberg, 11.25.23)

Climate change:

  • President Biden will not attend a major United Nations climate summit that begins on Nov. 30 in Dubai, skipping an event expected to be attended by King Charles III, Pope Francis and leaders from nearly 200 countries, a White House official said. John Kerry is leading the U.S. delegation. Russia is to be represented by Putin’s climate envoy Ruslan Edelgeriev. (NYT, 11.26.23, RM, 11.26.23)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • The death on Nov. 29 of Henry Kissinger has sparked a wave of reaction across the globe. Before his death, Kissinger expressed deep concern about the growing confrontation between Russia and the United States amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. In an interview with The Economist earlier this year, Kissinger said: “If I talked to Putin, I would tell him that he, too, is safer with Ukraine in NATO.” (MT/AFP, 11.30.23)

    • After Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year, Kissinger sounded warnings about the need to make peace with Russia, regardless of differences over fundamental values. He said it was a mistake for the West to dangle before Ukraine the possibility of joining NATO, arguing that it provoked Moscow. But, he said, Russia's invasion made it incumbent for the West to help defend Ukraine and, after a negotiated peace, treat it as a member of the alliance. "We are at the edge of war with Russia and China on issues which we partly created, without any concept of how this is going to end or what it's supposed to lead to," he told The Wall Street Journal in 2022. (WSJ, 10.30.23)

    • Putin singled out Kissinger's reputation as a pragmatist in a tribute that celebrated his role in that détente, describing him as an "outstanding diplomat, a wise and farsighted statesman" in a telegram sent to Nancy Kissinger, the late diplomat's wife. Russia's leader praised Kissinger for his "pragmatic foreign policy line, which at one time made it possible to achieve détente in international tensions and reach the most important Soviet-American agreements that helped strengthen global security," according to the Kremlin website. (WP, 11.30.23, MT/AFP, 11.30.23)

  • A Moscow court on Nov. 28 extended the detention of the Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich until at least Jan. 30, prolonging his imprisonment since March on charges of spying, which he, his employer and the State Department forcefully deny. (WP, 11.28.23)
  • Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) said on Nov. 29 that U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year espionage sentence in a Russian prison, had been assaulted by another inmate, a Turkish citizen. According to the FSIN, the attack came as a result of "political differences." (RFE/RL, 11.29.23)
  • The human rights group Memorial has recognized Alsu Kurmasheva, a veteran journalist of RFE/RL who has been in Russian custody since Oct. 18, as a political prisoner. Kurmasheva holds dual U.S. and Russian citizenships, traveled to Russia for a family emergency in May. A district court in Kazan, about 500 miles east of Moscow, ordered the editor, Alsu Kurmasheva, who holds both Russian and United States citizenship, to remain in custody until Feb. 5 as she awaits trial, Russian news agencies reported. (RFE/RL, 11.30.23, NYT, 12.01.23)

  • When asked during Nov. 2-6, 2023, polling from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research about their top concerns with multiple answers allowed, 74% of Americans said their top concern was spread of misinformation. The concern about Russia’s influence ranked seventh on that list with 50% of Americans concerned about it. The concerns about extremist groups in the U.S. (57%), Iran’s nuclear program (54%) China’s influence (54%), North Korea’s nuclear program (54%) all exceeded the concern about Russia, according to the poll. (AP, 11.22.23, Apnorc.org, 11.22.23)
  • Giant letters in support of Moscow's armed forces fighting in Ukraine have been installed in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. (MT/AFP, 11.30.23)

 

II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Putin will hold his annual press conference and field questions from the public on Dec. 14, the Kremlin said on Nov. 30, stoking speculation he will use the event to announce he is seeking another six years in power. (The Straits Times, 11.30.23)
    • The share of Russians who think Russia is headed in the right direction increased from 64% in October to 67% in November, according to the Levada Center. The same period saw Putin’s approval rating grow from 82% to 85%. When asked to name several politicians they trust most, 47% named Putin in November compared to 44% in October. Premier Mikhail Mishustin was named by 18% of the respondents in November, while Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu were named by 15% and 8% respectively, according to Levada. (RM, 11.30.23)[1]
    • Russia’s parliament will officially announce the start of the 2024 presidential race on Dec. 13, the head of Russia’s Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov told reporters during a press briefing on Nov. 28. (MT/AFP, 11.28.23)
  • Putin told the World Russian People’s Council: “Let us remember that Russian families, many of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had seven, eight or even more children. Let us preserve and revive these excellent traditions. Large families must become the norm, a way of life for all Russia’s peoples. The family is not just the foundation of the state and society, it is a spiritual phenomenon, a source of morality.” (Kremlin.ru, 11.28.23)
  • Putin on Nov. 27 signed a national budget for the next three years that increases spending by around 25%. The budget foresees spending in 2024 of 36.6 trillion rubles ($415 billion) with an expected deficit of 1.595 trillion rubles ($9.5 billion). (AP, 11.27.23)

  • The Russian government’s budget increased by 26% last year and will rise by another 16% next year. Defense spending will almost double next year, to 6% of GDP—the highest it has been since the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Economist, 11.30.23)
  • In the first year of the war Russia earned $590 billion in export revenues. According to calculations by Re: Russia, that is $160 billion more than the annual average over the prior decade. In the second year, revenues should still be some $60 billion above the average. Re: Russia believes that the war costs at least $100 billion a year—so the extra income from oil covers most of the expense of waging it. (Economist, 11.30.23)
  • Russia's Central Bank said Nov. 27 it will resume buying and selling foreign currency through its sovereign wealth fund next year as the ruble continues to recover from a dramatic summer slide. The ruble has gained 14% since the start of October after Moscow reimposed currency controls, hiked interest rates and halted foreign currency interventions. (MT/AFP, 11.27.23)
  • Since 2013, GDP per capita in Russia has increased 5%. That’s lower than the world average, and below that of most developing countries. Before Maidan, GDP per capita in Russia was just 2% below the global average; now this gap is five times as big. (The Bell, 11.24.23.)
  • From January to September 2023, 68,000 Russians received citizenship or residence permits in other states, twice as many as in the same period last year, according to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. (Meduza, 11.25.23, TASS, 11.25.23)
  • Russia’s Supreme Court on Nov. 30 declared the international gay rights movement an “extremist organization,” another chilling crackdown on gay and transgender people whose rights have been scaled back drastically since the start of the war in Ukraine. The court was acting on a lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Justice requesting the designation. (NYT, 11.30.23)
    • The ruling escalates the threat for gay communities inside Russia. Experts said the decision would make the work of all LGBTQ organizations, as well as any political activity, untenable. It could be used to mete out jail sentences of six to 10 years to gay rights activists, their lawyers or others involved in any kind of public effort. (NYT, 12.01.23)
  • Stickers demanding Russian husbands be returned from fighting in the Kremlin's war against Ukraine appeared on cars across Russia on Nov. 28. The stickers, which used Latin letters "Z" and "V" -- signs of support for Russia's aggression against Ukraine -- translated into English as "Return my husband. I am f**ked up," and "Return my son-in-law." The pictures of the cars appeared on the Way Home Telegram channel. A day earlier, hundreds of women in Russia signed a petition calling Putin's September 2022 partial mobilization "a big mistake." (RFE/RL, 11.28.23)

    • A new, grass-roots movement has been gathering steam in Russia over the past several weeks. Women in various cities are seeking to stage public protests, challenging the official argument that mobilized troops are needed in combat indefinitely to secure their Russian homeland. (NYT, 11.27.23)

  • On Nov. 20 Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who is serving a total of 19 years in prison on extremism and other charges, was placed in a punitive solitary confinement for the 23rd time since August 2022. (RFE/RL, 11.21.23)

  • Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation has established that 13 members of the Russian State Duma have family members who own property in Dubai. (RM, 11.22.23)
  • Navalny said he received a letter from Russia's Investigative Committee informing him that a case had been opened against him "for a crime under Part 2 of Article 214 of the Criminal Code," which deals with vandalism. (Current Time, 12.01.23)

  • A Moscow court on Nov. 21 rejected journalist and Nobel laureate Dmitry Muratov's appeal against the Justice Ministry's September decision to add him to the so-called foreign agents registry. (RFE/RL, 11.21.23)

  • A court in Moscow on Dec. 1 fined imprisoned Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza for a "violation of the law on foreign agents" because while incarcerated he failed to report every three months to the Justice Ministry about his activities due to his designation as a "foreign agent." (RFE/RL, 12.01.23)

  • Russian academic Sergei Abramov, a noted scientist, mathematician and a leading expert on supercomputers who is charged with financing an unspecified extremist group, will be sent to a psychiatric clinic for three weeks for an examination. (RFE/RL, 11.29.23)
  • Russian singer Eduard Sharlot was detained upon his arrival in St. Petersburg from Armenia, where he had published a video of himself burning his Russian passport, media reported Nov. 22. (MT/AFP, 11.22.23)

  • Russia is to introduce legislation that will impose fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($5,660) on third parties that "intentionally or unintentionally" promote or distribute materials produced by "foreign agent" entities without appropriately labeling them, Deputy Justice Minister Oleg Sviridenko said on Nov. 23. (RFE/RL, 11.24.23)
  • The Russian Justice Ministry on Nov. 24 added opposition politician and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov--who has reportedly left the country--to the list of so-called "foreign agents." (RFE/RL, 11.24.23)
  • Valery Gergiev, the Russian maestro, who heads the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, will also control the Bolshoi in Moscow, replacing Vladimir Urin, who spoke out against the Ukraine war. (NYT, 12.01.23)
  • Russia's capital will more than double its spending on video-surveillance equipment next year, the budget approved by the Moscow City Duma shows. The amount earmarked for such equipment, is 1.97 billion rubles ($22.2 million) in 2024, according to the budget passed last week, compared to 800 million rubles ($9 million) spent this year. (RFE/RL, 11.28.23)

  • Russians banned from traveling abroad must hand in their passports within five days of the date when they were notified of the travel ban, according to a government decree from Nov. 22 published on the official portal of legal documents. (RFE/RL, 11.29.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Putin signed a decree establishing the staffing level of the Russian Armed Forces at 2,209,130, including 1,320,000 military personnel. The Ministry of Defense says it has no plans to carry out mobilization in connection with the decree, which would increase the military personnel strength of the Russian Armed Forces by 170.000, according to Interfax. (12.01.23)
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced Dec. 1 that Russia will hold major military drills next year. The drills, called Ocean-2024, will involve all branches of the Russian Armed Forces, Shoigu said. In total, the minister said, there will be “about 20” of these preparatory exercises, including four within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. (Meduza, 12.01.23)
  • Russia is increasing the domestic production of battle drones.[2] Official statistics have shown an approximately 80% annual increase in the production of remote-control equipment, including those used for guiding combat unmanned aerial vehicles. Overall, industrial production in Russia grew 5.3% in October from the same period last year. (Bloomberg, 11.29.23)

  • The Russian defense industry is moving to close the capability gap with Ukraine in the development of one-way attack uncrewed surface vehicles (OWA USVs). On Nov. 27 Mikhail Danilenko, head of Russian firm KMZ, announced their USVs would be trialed in the “special military operation” with a view to establishing series production in 2024. (U.K. Defense Ministry’s X account, 12.01.23)
  • In Izhevsk, a poor city close to the Ural mountains which produces guns, missiles and equipment for electronic warfare, the average salary has gone up by 25% since the start of the war. (Economist, 11.30.23)
  • More than 452,000 people were accepted into service in the Russian Armed Forces in the interests of the Russian war against Ukraine from Jan. 1 to Dec. 1. This was announced by Deputy Head of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev. (NVO.ng.ru 12.01.23)
  • Espanola, a military unit within the Redut network, is hiring women as fighters in its assault detachments that participate in Russia’s war in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 11.29.23)
  • Russia's Supreme Court has issued a ruling confirming the right of a mobilized Russian man to perform alternative civil service. (RFE/RL, 11.24.23)
  • Some 4,121 criminal cases of unauthorized abandonment of military units have been sent to Russian courts to be heard there after the start of mobilization, according to Media Zona. (RM, 11.24.23).
  • Zorigto Arabzhayev from the Siberian region of Buryatia was sentenced to five years in prison after it turned out that he attempted to avoid returning to the war in Ukraine by acquiring a false death certificate, RFE/RL has learned. (RFE/RL, 11.24.23)
  • The Kremlin said Nov. 22 that it had not changed its policy of pardoning prisoners in exchange for fighting in Ukraine, after local media reported a "satanist" killer had been released. Nikolai Ogolobyak, 33, was sentenced to 20 years for the ritualistic murder of four teenagers in 2008. He was freed earlier this month after fighting in Ukraine, local media said Nov. 21. (MT/AFP, 11.22.23)

  • The mother of a former Russian prisoner who was recruited into the Storm Z unit and sent to fight in Ukraine told Novaya Gazeta Europe that there is a robust bribery system in the Russian army. Soldiers can buy medical “injury” reports, leave passes and specific rotations, and can even pay to be left out of assault missions. (Meduza, 11.30.23)
  • Vladislav Inozemtsev, a Russian economist, estimates that the family of a soldier who gets killed after five months’ service would receive about 15 million rubles in total, including pay and compensation. It would take an average Russian man 30 years to earn as much. Putin’s regime is trying to turn getting killed into an economically rational choice, argues Inozemtsev. (Economist, 11.30.23)
    • Sergei, a former factory worker from Perm near the Ural Mountains, signed up for the Russian army in October for money. His old job paid 30,000 rubles a month, this Russian POW said, or about $340. The army offered him 100,000. (WSJ, 11.30.23)
  • Twelve Russian Marines were killed and four more people were injured at the Kuzminsky military training ground in Russia’s southern Rostov region due to the explosion of a shell that happened to have been in a bonfire. (Media Zone, 11.30.23)
  • Adam Kadyrov, the son of the head of Chechnya, has become the curator of a Russian Defense Ministry battalion named after 18th century Chechen rebel leader Sheikh Mansur and manned by ethnic Chechens. (NVO.ng.ru, 11.29.23)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • A former Siberian police officer who is serving a life sentence for the killings of more than 80 women was handed an additional 10 years in prison on Nov. 22 for the killing of three more women in 1997, 1998 and 2003. Dubbed the Angarsk Maniac by Russian media, Mikhail Popkov is the most prolific known serial killer in Russian and Soviet history. (RFE/RL, 11.22.23)

  • As many as 90 residents of Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Dagestan could have been jailed following the anti-Israeli riot at Makhachkala International Airport, according to an analysis of court records by the independent Mediazona news website. (MT/AFP, 11.22.23)

  • Russia's FSB said on Nov. 29 that its officers detained a resident of the northwestern city of Pechory on suspicion of spying for Latvia. (RFE/RL, 11.29.23)
  • Russia has detained a French citizen for illegally entering the country from Estonia, the FSB said Nov. 21. (AFP, 11.21.23)

  • Russia's Investigative Committee says it has arrested a Russian-Italian citizen suspected of bombing a freight train in the Ryazan region last month. (RFE/RL, 12.01.23)

  • Six teenagers went on trial in Paris on Nov. 27 over the killing of teacher Samuel Paty in 2020 by an 18-year-old refugee from Russia's Chechnya who was shot dead at the crime scene. The defendants are accused of having identified Paty to the killer in exchange for promises of money. Eight adults implicated in the case will go on trial next year. (RFE/RL, 11.28.23)

 

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • The OSCE summit opened in the Northern Macedonia capital of Skopje on Nov. 30 with Russia and Ukraine’s allies in open conflict. (MT/AFP, 11.30.23)

    • The U.S. sent Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Skopje ahead of the OSCE meeting. Washington presented this as an opportunity to support the OSCE, thank North Macedonia for hosting and welcome Malta who stepped in as next year’s chair, after Russia vetoed Estonia’s candidacy for the 2024 presidency. He departed last night for Israel, just as Lavrov was arriving in North Macedonia (FT, 11.30.23)

      • During his speech at the summit, Lavrov faced Western critics and blamed “NATO’s reckless expansion to the East” for war returning to Europe. The Russian foreign minister spoke for 15 minutes before walking out of the meetings. Lavrov claimed that the OSCE is turning into an appendage of NATO and the EU and said that the organization is "on the brink of an abyss,” but he notably did not promote Kremlin information operations feigning interest in negotiations with Ukraine. (AP, 11.30.23, Bloomberg, 11.30.23, ISW, 11.30.23)

        • Lavrov’s plane had to change its route to reach North Macedonia after Bulgaria refused to allow it to cross its airspace. The plane traveled instead through Greece. (AP, 11.30.23, Bloomberg, 11.30.23)

      • Three Baltic countries and Ukraine said they won’t attend a meeting of the OSCE after it invited Lavrov to take part. (Bloomberg, 11.28.23)

      • North Macedonia's foreign minister, Bujar Osmani, who currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE, slammed Russia's ongoing invasion in his opening remarks as host of the summit. "Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine flies in the face of all this organization holds dear," Osmani said. Osmani said Nov. 27 that Malta has agreed to take over the OSCE's rotating presidency from Skopje in January. (RFE/RL, 11.30.23, RFE/RL, 11.27.23, RFE/RL, 11.27.23)

        • At the time of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the wife of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko was serving as a senior assistant in the OSCE secretary-general's office. Rudenko's wife Saltanat Sakembaeva, is one of several Russian citizens whose employment with the OSCE has raised concerns. She returned to Russia five months after Moscow's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. These individuals also include career Russian diplomat Anton Vushkarnik, and Daria Boyarskaya, who served as an interpreter for Putin during talks with Trump, and is currently employed in the Vienna Liaison Office of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly. (RFE/RL, 11.29.23)

  • Argentina won’t join the China-led BRICS bloc during Javier Milei’s presidency, his incoming top diplomat said, underscoring the significant foreign policy shift his administration plans once in office. “We won’t go into the BRICS,” Diana Mondino, Milei’s pick for foreign affairs minister, wrote Nov. 30 on X. (Bloomberg, 12.01.23)

  • Russian shipments of donated grain are due to begin landing in Africa within days. The shipments will total 200,000 tons by year-end, the Russian Agriculture Ministry said Nov. 17, with Somalia and Burkina Faso set to be the first recipients. Zimbabwe, Mali, Eritrea and the Central African Republic are also due to get between 25,000 and 50,000 tons of grain each, Putin said in July. That’s a tiny fraction of what they consume. (Bloomberg, 11.26.23)
  • Officials from around three dozen African countries have been invited to Moscow next month to meet with Russian IT specialists and investors pitching digital services aimed at improving governance. The project is supported by the Innopraktika center, which is affiliated with the National Intellectual Development Foundation, where Putin’s younger daughter Katerina Tikhonova is the general director. (Bloomberg, 11.29.23)
  • Hamas said on Nov. 26 that it had released a Russian hostage while praising Putin for the Kremlin’s support. The release was not part of the hostage exchange deal between Hamas and Israel. In a statement on Telegram, Hamas said that the hostage was released “in response to the efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin” and in “appreciation of the Russian position in support of the Palestinian cause.” (NYT, 11.27.23)
    • Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov revealed that Hamas has released 13-year-old Gali Tarashchansky, daughter of Russian citizen Ilya Tarashchansky. This is stated in his video message on the embassy’s telegram channel. He also said that two Russian and Israeli citizens released the day before, Irina Tatti and Elena Trufanova, were handed over to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Israeli Defense Forces. (Istories, 11.30.23)

    • Moscow thanked the Hamas militant group for freeing two Russian hostages from Gaza, which was organized separately from a truce deal with Israel. (MT/AFP, 11.30.23)

  • Russia was not re-elected to the executive board of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for the period from 2024 to 2026. (Meduza, 11.30.23)
  • Russia wants foreigners entering the country to sign a “loyalty agreement” pledging not to challenge the Kremlin on issues like Putin’s war in Ukraine and a ban on promoting LGBT relationships, according to the TASS news service. (Bloomberg, 11.29.23)

  • Leading Russian state television anchor Olga Skabeyeva has praised the victory of Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders in The Netherlands’ elections, saying his win plays to Russia’s advantage in its war on Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 11.23.23)

Ukraine:

  • Pope Francis on Nov. 26 called the Holodomor a “lacerating wound” that has been made even more painful for Ukraine by the ongoing war.  He spoke one day after Ukraine commemorated the 1932–33 famine in Soviet Ukraine under dictator Josef Stalin that killed millions. (RFE/RL, 11.26.23)
  • Internal polling seen by The Economist suggests Zelensky has been tarnished by corruption scandals in his government and by concern over the direction of the country. The figures, which date from mid-November, show trust in the president has fallen to a net +32%, less than half that of the still-revered Zaluzhny (+70%). Ukraine’s spy chief, Kyrylo Budanov, also has better ratings than the president (+45%). The same polling suggests Zelensky risks losing a presidential election were he ever to go head-to-head with Zaluzhny. (Economist, 11.28.23)
  • A specialized court in Ukraine has accepted a request by anti-corruption prosecutors and ruled to place the ex-chief of the country's special communications agency in custody, setting his bail at 25 million hryvnyas ($687,000). Yurii Shchyhol, the chief of Ukraine's State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection (SSSCIP), was fired by the government on Nov. 20 when he was officially declared a suspect in an investigation into the embezzlement of 62 million hryvnyas ($1.72 million). (RFE/RL, 11.23.23)
  • Yurii Myronenko has been appointed as the new head of Ukraine’s State Special Communications Service, replacing Yurii Shchyhol, who was dismissed in November on suspicion of having misappropriated over 62 million hryvnyas (about $1.7 million) of public money. (Ukrainska Pravda, 12.01.23)
  • Russia continues to manage import spare parts for airplanes and helicopters from Ukraine in spite of the war, according to Istories. For instance, Russian company Avia FED Servis imported 370 million rubles ($4 million) worth of such spare parts in 2022–2023, including spare parts for An-124, An-24, and An-12 planes as well as for Ka-32 helicopters, according to this independent Russian media project. (RM, 12.01.23)
  • Ukraine's judicial reforms were hit by a serious setback after the Rada undermined the Public Integrity Council, an independent watchdog that oversees the appointment of judges, Kyiv Independent reported Nov. 28. On the 10th anniversary of the EuroMaidan Revolution, the Rada approved a bill in the first of three readings that could effectively dismantle the council by subordinating it to the High Qualification Commission, which would effectively make it impossible for the council to assess a judge’s integrity. (BNE, 11.30.23)
  • The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) has seized $1.5 million worth of cryptocurrency from Yuriy Shchigol, Ukraine's former head of the State Special Communications Service, according to local news outlet RBC. The seizure, which involved $1.2 million worth of tether [USDT] and 6.9 bitcoin [BTC], was supported by the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court in Ukraine. (RBC/CoinDesk, 12.01.23)
  • Ukrainian investigators have charged five emergency officials with violating aviation safety regulations that led to the helicopter crash that killed Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy and 13 other people in January. (RFE/RL, 11.27.23)
  • The Ukrainian edition of Forbes magazine last December calculated that the combined wealth of Ukraine’s 20 billionaires had roughly halved to $22 billion since Russia’s full-scale invasion. The biggest loser was Renat Akhmetov, whose two vast steel plants in Mariupol were destroyed in Russia’s offensive. Although still Ukraine’s richest man, his fortune was estimated to have shrunk from $13.7 billion to $4.4 billion. (FT, 11.29.23)
    • “I can assure you 100% there won’t be any oligarchs as a result of this war,” says Rostyslav Shurma, deputy head of the office of the presidency and Zelensky’s business affairs adviser. (FT, 11.29.23)
  • Historical treasures that were stored for years at an Amsterdam museum during an ownership dispute sparked by Russia's annexation of Crimea have been safely transported to Ukraine, the museum announced Nov. 27 (Bloomberg, 11.27.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Sahin Mustafayev and his Armenian counterpart, Mher Grigorian, led a fifth meeting of the two South Caucasus countries' border-delimitation commissions on Nov. 30 and agreed to intensify future talks. (RFE/RL, 11.30.23)

  • Armenia's Foreign Ministry has signaled its readiness to “reengage" in peace negotiations with Azerbaijan following an offer of direct talks from Baku. On Nov. 21, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry called for direct negotiations with Armenia at a “mutually acceptable” venue, including along the state border between the two Caucasus neighbors. (RFE/RL, 11.22.23)

  • The Kremlin said it "regretted" Armenia's decision to skip a summit of a Moscow-led security alliance, amid a souring of relations between the two ex-Soviet allies. Neither Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan nor his defense minister showed up to a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Minsk on Nov. 23, which comes as Russia worries Yerevan could pull out of the alliance altogether. (MT/AFP, 11.23.23)
  • Armenia is not considering quitting the CSTO, Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safarian said on Nov. 23, despite Yerevan's decision not to attend a CSTO summit in Minsk on Nov. 23. (RFE/RL, 11.24.23)
  • Pashinyan said on Nov. 24 that Russia had failed to deliver weapons Yerevan had already paid for and accused Russia's media of destabilizing his country's political situation. (MT/AFP, 11.24.23)
  • David O'Sullivan, the European Union's special envoy for the implementation of sanctions, met with Kazakh officials in Astana on Nov. 28 and said the Central Asian nation had significantly reduced the reexport of dual-purpose goods to Russia but increased other exports to its northern neighbor. (RFE/RL, 11.28.23)

  • At least 13 people were killed and dozens injured in Ukraine, Moldova and Russia due to a winter storm that wreaked havoc in areas of Southeastern Europe and along the Black Sea coast, toppling trees and pulling down power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without electricity. (RFE/RL, 11.27.23)

  • Police in Moldova say they have identified one of the perpetrators of a series of spray-painted Stars of David that appeared last month on buildings in Paris as being a Moldovan citizen who was acting on orders from fugitive businessman Ilan Shor in order to "denigrate the Republic of Moldova." (RFE/RL, 11.29.23)

  • The Qaraghandy regional court in central Kazakhstan told RFE/RL on Nov. 28 that a local resident, Aleksei Shompolov, had been sentenced to six years and eight months for joining Russia's Wagner mercenary group and fighting against Ukrainian forces in May in Bakhmut, where he was injured. (RFE/RL, 11.28.23)

  • A court in Kazakhstan’s northern city of Petropavl handed prison terms to four residents on Nov. 28 on charges of separatism and calls to change the country's constitutional order. The four were arrested in March after they called themselves People's Council and publicly announced that they promote "our independence and sovereignty" and "the territorial integrity of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic." (RFE/RL, 11.28.23) 
  • The chief of Kyrgyzstan's State Committee of National Security, Kamchybek Tashiev, said on Nov. 28 that almost 20 former top officials, including "two ex-presidents, four former prime ministers and two former parliament speakers," had been held responsible for their roles in the high-profile Kumtor gold mine case. (RFE/RL, 11.28.23)

 

IV. Quotable and notable

  • Gen. David H. Petraeus wrote in a book that he co-authored in 2023, “Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine”: 
    • “Putin had failed to grasp how warfare had evolved since the days of Blitzkrieg, and how the advantage in recent years had shifted decisively from the offense to the defense.” 
    • “The first principle of strategic leadership is to get the overall strategy right, yet [Vladimir] Putin, [Valery] Gerasimov, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and their staffs all failed miserably in this when they approved the plans to attack Ukraine on no fewer than seven different axes, rather than to launch a diversionary attack but then concentrate on taking Kyiv, the decisive and main effort.” 
    • “Although, Vladimir Putin has had thousands of accomplices, he alone is ultimately to blame for launching the most consequential war of recent times, the first year of which will be taught in staff colleges around the world for decades to come as providing a masterclass in how not to fight a war.”

 

Footnotes

  1. The share of Russians who told Levada that they typically do not participate in polls has remained at 58% in April 2022-October 2023. When it comes to results of political polls, some 45% of Levada’s respondents told this pollster in October 2023 that they trust these results compared to 54% in 2022. The share of those who do not trust the results of political polls increased from 34% to 42% in the same period. (RM, 11.22.23)
  2. The Pentagon is planning to build an army of thousands of small, cheap drones. (WP, 12.01.23)

 

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 Russian presidential press service (Kremlin.ru) under a CC BY 4.0 license.