Russia in Review, Oct. 13-20, 2023

6 Things to Know

  1. U.S. President Joe Biden sought to draw parallels between Hamas and Vladimir Putin in his televised address on Oct. 19 as he urged Congress to approve a security package for Israel and Ukraine. “We cannot and will not let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win,” he said in remarks that the Kremlin denounced. While seeking more military aid for Ukraine, Biden stated in his Oct. 19 address that “we do not seek to have American troops fighting in Russia or fighting against Russia.” During the address, Biden did not specify how much money he was seeking, but the next day his administration unveiled a $106 billion proposal that includes a full year of funding for Ukraine at $61.4 billion, with $45 billion out of that sum marked for military aid, according to WP. When commenting on the request, Biden’s NSA Jake Sullivan warned that “the funding and authorities the Congress previously approved overwhelmingly has nearly run out.” In the meantime, the United States will send ammunition initially intended for Ukraine to Israel to aid in its war against Hamas militants, according to Axios.
  2. Western support for Israel’s assault on Gaza has poisoned efforts to build consensus with significant developing countries on condemning Russia’s war against Ukraine, G-7 and EU officials told FT. “We have definitely lost the battle in the Global South,” said one senior G-7 diplomat. “All the work we have done with the Global South [over Ukraine] has been lost . . . Forget about rules, forget about world order. They won’t ever listen to us again.” A senior EU official concurred. “I think it’s damaging what’s happening . . . because Russia is exploiting the crisis and saying, ‘Look, the global order that has been built after the second world war is not working for you,’” the official told FT.
  3. Vladimir Putin went on a meeting spree on the first day of his two-day visit to China on Oct. 17, dining with Xi Jinping at a banquet and also holding bilaterals with the leaders of Hungary, Pakistan, Vietnam, Mongolia, Laos and Thailand, if only to bolster the claim that the West’s attempts to isolate him are failing. On the next day Putin—who is also contemplating a visit to North Korea—attended China’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forum, referring to Xi as his “dear friend.” Xi returned the compliment, while also arranging for Putin to address the forum right after his own opening address to representatives of 150 developing nations that attended the event. Xi and Putin then met for three hours on Oct. 18 in what became their 43rd meeting since 2013, congratulating each other over projections that bilateral trade between their countries was to reach $200 billion a year. While Moscow prefers to maintain autonomy when it comes to Beijing’s $1 trillion BRI and the two sides are yet to agree on supplies of Russian gas to China via the planned Power of Siberia-2 pipeline, Russia did increase energy exports to China by 17% in 2023, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak. The two sides have also made progress in reducing exposure to the dollar and the euro in bilateral trade, with the volume of yuan trading in Russia increasing 6.5 times, according to The Bell. When commenting on the current state of Russian-Chinese relations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that they “are stronger and more effective than military alliances in the classical sense.” What China and Russia have built constitutes “the most consequential undeclared alliance in the world," in the view of Graham Allison of Harvard’s Belfer Center.
  4. In the past month, Russian forces have gained 10 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 13 square miles, according to the Oct. 17 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. In Biden’s Oct. 19 estimate, Ukraine has regained more than 50% of the territory once occupied by Russian troops, one of several metrics showing that Ukrainians are “succeeding.” This week did see the Armed Forces of Ukraine (ZSU) succeed in establishing a foothold on the left bank of the Dnieper river in the village of Poyma and then gain some territory in the villages of Pishchanivka and  Krynky, in the southern Kherson region, according to Russian pro-war sources.  At the same time, however, ZSU faced “complex” challenges as Russian forces repeatedly attacked ZSU’s positions in the Avdiivka bulge in the eastern Donetsk region, according to Ukrainian Telegram channel “DeepState.”
  5. This week has seen Ukraine's military fire a version of U.S.-provided ATACMS long-range missiles for the first time to strike Russian military aircraft in occupied Berdiansk in the south and Luhansk in the east, according to reports in the U.S. press. Commenting on the attacks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “ATACMS have proven themselves.” In the view of Vladimir Putin, however, “Ukraine ... gains nothing” when it comes to ATACMS. ATACMS is the first ballistic missile to be supplied by the West to Ukraine, though Kyiv already has Soviet-designed Tochkas. The supplied modification carries cluster munitions, which are effective for strikes against unprotected areas. Some modifications of ATACMS have a range of 186 miles, according to WP, but the version sent to Ukraine has a range of about 100 miles, according to CNN and WSJ, in contrast to the U.K.’s Storm Shadow/France’s SCALP’s 155-mile range. ATACMS can carry a payload of 500 pounds, according to Forbes, while Storm Shadow/SCALP, which Ukraine has also received and used, has a payload of 880 pounds, according to CSIS.
  6. In October 2022, Russia was producing approximately 40 long-range missiles a month. Now it is producing over 100 a month, and this is supplemented by large numbers of Geran-2 UAVs, accordingto Jack Watling of RUSI. This estimate and CSIS’s recent report, “Russia Isn’t Going to Run out of Missiles,” contrasts with repeated predictions made in 2022 that Russia was going to run out of missiles, which RM catalogued in December 2022.*


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

Israel-Hamas war: 

  • At least 16 Russian citizens died in the attack on Oct. 7 in southern Israel by the militant group Hamas, the Russian Embassy in Israel said on Oct. 14. Eight Russian citizens are listed as missing, and at least one Russian was taken hostage by Hamas and is being held in the Gaza Strip, according to the embassy. (RFE/RL, 10.15.23)
  • Moscow's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov hopes to meet representatives of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Qatar for talks to free Israeli hostages, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported on Oct.15. (MT/AFP, 10.14.23)
  • Over the weekend, Hamas wrote a message on its Telegram channel praising Putin’s position on the growing violence. “We in the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) appreciate the position of Putin regarding the ongoing Zionist aggression against our people and his rejection of the siege of Gaza,” the statement said. (WSJ, 10.15.23)
  • Putin said on Oct. 16 that Russia is ready to coordinate efforts with all constructively minded partners to bring an end to the violence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and stabilize the situation. The Russian leader made the statement during separate telephone conversations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. All presidents agreed on the need to implement an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian truce. Putin then called Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time since the deadly Hamas attack, and briefed him on the talks he had. According to Moscow, the discussion focused on "the crisis situation resulting from the brutal escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." (Xinhua, 10.16.23, MT/AFP, 10.16.23)
  • On Oct. 16, the UN Security Council has rejected a Russian draft resolution condemning the escalation of violence in the Middle East, whose text makes no mention of the Hamas attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than one 1,300 Israelis and about 200 people being taken hostage. China, United Arab Emirates, Mozambique, and Gabon—voted in favor of the resolution. The United States, France, and Japan voted against. Albania, Brazil, Ghana, Malta, Switzerland and Ecuador abstained. The resolution needed a minimum of nine votes to pass. (RFE/RL, 10.17.23)
  • The deadly blast at a Gaza hospital on Oct. 17 was a “crime” and Israel must provide proof that it was not involved, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. At least 500 people were killed in the blast at the al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said, blaming an Israeli airstrike. Israel claims the blast was the result of rockets fired by an Islamic militant group. (MT/AFP, 10.18.23)
  • “With regard to the strike on the hospital—the tragedy that happened there, this is a horrible event, which killed hundreds and left hundreds more wounded. … I do hope that this will serve as a signal that this conflict must end as quickly as possible,” Putin told an Oct. 18 news conference following a visit to China. (, 10.18.23)
  • On Oct. 18, Putin said he’s ordered fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles to begin round-the-clock patrols over the Black Sea. “This is not a threat, but we will exercise visual control—control with weapons—over what is happening in the Mediterranean Sea,” Putin said. The U.S. has moved two aviation groups into the Mediterranean in response to the Israel-Hamas war, and its recent delivery of ATACMS long-range missiles to Ukraine showed Washington was getting more deeply involved in the conflict there, he said. (Bloomberg, 10.18.23)
  • On Oct. 18, Russia sent 27 tons of humanitarian aid for civilians in the Gaza Strip to be transported from Egypt, Moscow's Emergency Situations Ministry said. (MT/AFP, 10.19.23)
  • “Hamas and Putin represent different threats, but they share this in common: They both want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy—completely annihilate it,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a televised address on Oct. 19. (, 10.19.23) See sections on humanitarian impact and military aspects of the Ukraine war, as well as the section on the great power rivalry, for more details of Biden’s address.
  • Beijing and Moscow are ready to contribute to finding a just solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, Zhai Jun, China’s Special Envoy on the Middle East, said at a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. Moscow and Beijing intend to closely coordinate efforts in view of the escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Russian Foreign Ministry said after the meeting in Doha. (TASS, 10.20.23)
  • Both Russia and China have refrained from following the lead of Western countries by condemning Hamas directly. Instead, the two countries have called for an end to the violence and a revival of talks about a Palestinian state. China’s foreign minister this weekend accused Israel of going too far in its reprisals in Gaza. And Putin urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, during a phone call on Oct. 16, to “avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.” (NYT, 10.16.23) An Oct. 12 statement issued by the Russian MFA about the Palestine-Israel conflict said: "We decisively condemn any manifestations of extremism, terrorism," without naming names.
  • Western support for Israel’s assault on Gaza has poisoned efforts to build consensus with significant developing countries on condemning Russia’s war against Ukraine, officials and diplomats have warned. (FT, 10.18.23)
    •  “We have definitely lost the battle in the Global South,” said one senior G7 diplomat. “All the work we have done with the Global South [over Ukraine] has been lost . . . Forget about rules, forget about world order. They won’t ever listen to us again. … The Brazilians, the South Africans, the Indonesians: why should they ever believe what we say about human rights?” (FT, 10.18.23)
    • “I mean, let’s be frank. This is a gift from heaven for Russia,” said a senior EU official. “I think it’s damaging what’s happening . . . because Russia is exploiting the crisis and saying, ‘Look, the global order that has been built after the second world war is not working for you,’ and addressing 1billion inhabitants in the Middle East or in the Arab world.” (FT, 10.18.23)

Nuclear security and safety:

  • IAEA said it has been informed that a second reactor at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine is being brought into hot shutdown in order to provide hot water and district heating over the coming winter. Since April, it has kept five reactors in cold shutdown and just one—currently unit 4—in hot shutdown to generate steam to process liquid radioactive waste and to heat water for Energodar, where most plant staff live. (WNN, 10.16.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russian ships linked to military transport networks have collected cargo from North Korea and delivered it to an apparent Russian military port on multiple occasions over the past two months, according to new satellite images. The images, analyzed by the London-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), suggest this operation is more regular, extensive and ongoing than the White House has previously revealed. (WP, 10.16.23)
    • The Kremlin said on Oct. 17 there was "no proof" North Korea was sending supplies of weapons to Russia, after Washington released images purportedly showing arms shipments from Pyongyang. "They report this all the time, without providing any proof," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies when asked about the reported arms shipments. (MT/AFP, 10.17.23)
  • Speaking in Pyongyang on Oct. 18, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Russia "highly values" North Korea's support for its Ukraine campaign. On Oct. 19, Lavrov met with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. After slamming U.S. policy towards the nuclear-armed state as "dangerous," Lavrov hailed North Korea as a "close neighbor and long-time partner" during their meeting, which lasted a little over an hour. Kim told Lavrov he wants to build a "forward-looking" relationship with Russia. Lavrov’s visit was expected to lay the groundwork for Putin to visit the country. In addition to Kim, Lavrov met with North Korea’s foreign minister for talks that were expected to focus on how to boost their military ties. During his visit Lavrov also called for regular trilateral security talks between North Korea, China and Russia to counteract what he characterized as a “dangerous policy” being pursued by the U.S., Japan and South Korea to tighten their joint defense posture in the region. (Bloomberg, 10.19.23, MT/AFP, 10.19.23, Bloomberg, 10.19.23, RFE/RL, 10.19.23, MT/AFP, 10.18.23, TASS, 10.19.23, MT/AFP, 10.20.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Russia said it need no longer obey U.N. Security Council restrictions on giving missile technology to its ally Iran once they expire on Oct. 18, without saying whether it now planned to support Tehran's missile development. (Reuters, 10.17.23)
    • The European Union said on Oct. 17 that it was maintaining sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program beyond the Oct. 18 deadline. (RFE/RL, 10.17.23)
    • As the UNSC-imposed restrictions on Iran expired, the Biden administration issued new sanctions on Oct. 18 on Iranian weapons makers and their alleged collaborators, sent new guidance to the private sector aimed at thwarting Iran’s proliferation goals and joined dozens of countries that say they’re committed to preventing Iran from spreading weapons around the world. (Bloomberg, 10.18.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • On Oct. 15, Russian attacks on Ukraine over a 24-hour period killed six people, local officials said. (AP, 10.15.23)
  • On Oct. 18, emergency rescue efforts continued after Russian missiles struck a residential building in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia overnight, destroying eight apartments. At least two people were killed and three wounded, while three were reported missing. Separately, one woman died and four people were wounded when Russian missiles hit residential areas in Dnipro. (Bloomberg, 10.18.23)
  • On Oct. 20, he Russian military launched fresh artillery attacks on civilian areas of nine regions of Ukraine, killing one person, wounding several more, and causing damage to civilian infrastructure that left many residents without electricity. Ukraine's Energy Ministry said in a statement that due to the shelling, power was cut partially or totally in the regions of Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, Sumy, Kharkiv, Kherson, and Chernihiv. (RFE/RL, 10.20.23)
  • Qatar has brokered a deal to reunite four Ukrainian children with their families after they were separated from their parents in Russia during Putin’s full-scale invasion of the country. The children, who range in age from 2 to 17, are the first to be returned to Ukraine after Qatar and several other mediators stepped up efforts over the children this summer. (FT, 10.16.23)
  • “We’ve have not forgotten the mass graves, the bodies found bearing signs of torture, rape used as a weapon by the Russians, and thousands and thousands of Ukrainian children forcibly taken into Russia, stolen from their parents. It’s sick,” Biden said in a televised address on Oct. 19. (, 10.19.23)
  • The destruction of the Kakhovka dam in southeastern Ukraine in June caused $14 billion worth of damage and losses, a report by the Ukrainian government and the United Nations said on Oct. 17. (AFP, 10.17.23)
  • With the nearest Russian rocket batteries just 40 seconds flight time away and still targeting his city 20 months after Moscow’s full-scale invasion, Ihor Terekhov, the mayor of Kharkiv, has ordered workers to build an underground school for up to 1,000 children by the end of the year. On the mayor’s mind is not just security, but a longer-term conundrum: how to entice back the hundreds of thousands of people who fled last year and how to keep those who stayed. (FT, 10.19.23)
  • In calls President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed ways to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses and protect grain shipments, as well as critical infrastructure, with the French president and the Norwegian prime minister. (Bloomberg, 10.18.23)
  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged a gathering of European finance chiefs to move ahead with plans for €50 billion ($52.4 billion) in fresh aid to Ukraine while pledging the White House, and a majority in Congress, will “fight” to provide new U.S. assistance for the embattled Eastern European nation. Yellen on Oct. 16 said support for Ukraine remained a "top priority" for the United States and Europe, calling it crucial to underpin Ukraine's military battle against Russia's invasion. (Bloomberg, 10.16.23, Reuters, 10.16.23)
  • Penny Pritzker, U.S. special representative for the reconstruction of Ukraine says she has begun working with the Ukrainian government to support the opening of export markets, the mobilization of foreign direct investment, and the acceleration of the country’s economic recovery. (RFE/RL, 10.16.23)
  • A steady stream of ships is hauling grain and metals from Ukraine a month after the first inbound vessel sailed through its new shipping corridor in the Black Sea. More than 30 vessels have called at ports in the Greater Odesa area since the corridor took effect in mid-September. Their cargoes include some 1 million tons of grain, Dmytro Solomchuk, a lawmaker on the Ukrainian parliament’s agriculture committee, said this week. (Bloomberg, 10.18.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 10 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 13, according to the Oct. 17 edition of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 09.17.23)
    • “Ukraine has regained more than 50 percent of the territory,” Bident said in a televised address on Oct. 19. “They are succeeding,” he said of the Ukrainians. (, 10.19.23)
    • In the 20th month of the war, it isn't clear that either side is able to significantly move the front line, which hasn't shifted much in nearly a year. "Ukraine had the initiative during the summer," Konrad Muzyka, director of Rochan Consulting, a war analysis firm with a focus on Ukraine, said. "Now, the initiative is slowly shifting. It will most likely be the Russians on the offensive." (WSJ, 10.17.23)
    • Ukrainian officers and Western officials say the transport hub of Tokmak could be a realistic target for the coming weeks, although it is beyond another line of significant Russian defenses. Even without taking that city, cutting it off would complicate Russian military supplies in the south as the main railway line runs through it. (WSJ, 10.13.23) 
  • On Oct. 14, Ukraine’s ground forces commander, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, said ”the situation in the Kupyansk and Lyman directions has worsened significantly in recent days.” (WP, 10.18.23)
  • On Oct. 14, Russia's Defense Ministry says its forces shot down two Ukrainian drones early over the Black Sea off the coast of the Krasnodar region. (RFE/RL, 10.14.23)
  • Oct. 14 Russian forces again shelled civilian areas in eastern and southern Ukraine, killing at least two people and wounding more than 20, regional officials reported. (RFE/RL, 10.14.23)
  • On Oct. 15, fighting remained fierce across eastern Ukraine, with Russian forces repeatedly attempting to encircle the city of Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region, military officials said. (AP, 10.15.23)
  • On Oct. 15, Ukrainian officials reported intense combat as Russian forces relentlessly assaulted the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka for a fifth consecutive day. (AP, 10.14.23)
  • On Oct. 15, Putin said. "Our troops are improving their position in almost all of this area, which is quite vast. … This concerns the areas of Kupiansk, Zaporizhzhia and Avdiivka," Putin said, praising the army's "active defense strategy." (MT/AFP, 10.15.23)
  • On Oct. 15, the Russian defense ministry announced that Ukraine had launched 27 drones in an overnight attack on western Russia. (AP, 10.15.23)
  • On Oct. 16, Ukraine's military reported that Russia launched 10 missiles and 12 kamikaze drones, with the air force claiming to have shot down two of the missiles targeting Ukraine's north and east. Eleven of the drones, mostly targeting western Ukraine, were shot down, according to the air force. (RFE/RL, 10.16.23)
  • On Oct. 16, Shoigu told Putin on Oct. 16 that the military had improved its position in Ukraine despite Ukrainian counteroffensives throughout the year. Shoigu also claimed Ukraine had suffered heavy losses after beginning their June counteroffensive, with Russian forces destroying hundreds of tanks and over 1,500 armored vehicles. (MT/AFP, 10.16.23)
  • On Oct. 17, Ukraine's military fired a version of U.S.-provided ATACMS long-range missiles to strike Russian military aircraft and ammunition depots in occupied Ukraine, marking Kyiv's first known use of the munitions. The military launched 18 missiles at targets in occupied Berdiansk and Luhansk. The version used by Ukraine to hit targets in Berdiansk, on the Azov Sea coast, and in the occupied eastern Luhansk region, were armed with cluster bomblets, rather than with a single warhead. Nine helicopters, an antiaircraft missile launcher, an ammunition warehouse and various special equipment being held on airfields were destroyed, the Ukrainian side said. U.K. defense intelligence estimates that nine Russian military helicopters were destroyed by ATACMS in the Berdiansk area and five were destroyed in the Luhansk area. (RM, 10.20.23, WP, 10.17.23, NYT, 10.17.23)
    • ATACMS is the first ballistic missile to be supplied by the West, though Ukraine has Soviet-designed Tochkas. Once a target has been located, ballistic missiles, such as ATACMS, generally require less time to prepare for launch (e.g. to enter targeting information) than cruise missiles such as Storm Shadow. (RM, 10.18.23)
    • ATACMS move three to four times faster—a supersonic speed of Mach 3.5—than other missiles seen on the battlefield, including the Storm Shadow. (Business Insider, 07.08.23)
    • ATACMS armed with cluster munitions would likely be more effective than other weapons Ukraine has against dispersed targets,” according to experts, such as Canadian analyst Colby Badhwar interviewed by Business Insider. (RM, 10.18.23)
    • The modification of ATACMS sent to Ukraine have a range of about 100 miles, according to CNN and WSJ. In contrast, the U.K.’s Storm Shadow/France’s SCALP has a 155-mile range.1 (RM, 10.18.23)
    • ATACMS has a payload of 500 pounds, while Storm Shadow has a payload of 880 pounds while Ukraine’s own Neptune surface attack missile has a payload of 770 pounds, according to Kyiv. (RM, 10.18.23)
    • On Oct. 17, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the “ATACMS have proven themselves. (MT/AFP, 10.17.23)
    • Pentagon officials have warned that the missiles will not solve other challenges faced by the Ukrainian military. (WP, 10.18.23)
    • When asked about delivery of U.S. ATACMS missiles to Ukraine, Putin told a news conference following his visit to China: “First, this is of course a harmful development and creates an additional threat. Second, we can fend off these attacks, make no mistake about that. … Ukraine… gains nothing. This simply prolongs its agony,” he said. Putin also said the delivery of ATACMS shows “the United States is becoming more directly involved in this conflict … this is an obvious thing,” he said, adding: “If Russia has lost the war, why are they sending the ATACMS in?” (, 10.18.23)
    • Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, described Washington’s decision to supply the ATACMS as “reckless” and “a grave mistake” that won’t alter the war’s outcome. (AP, 10.18.23)
    •  A Russian military blogger known as “Fighterbomber” posted on Telegram that the ATACMS attacks overnight were “one of the most serious blows of all time… It’s pointless to write about the fact that ‘we need to draw conclusions so that this doesn’t happen again,’” the Russian blogger wrote. “This will happen again as long as the war continues. We must be prepared for this.” (WP, 10.18.23)
  • On Oct. 17, Ukraine said it had intercepted six Shahed drones and a missile launched by Russia towards the southern Odesa region. (Bloomberg, 10.17.23)
  • On Oct. 17 Ukraine's top military command said that it had repelled more than 10 attacks over the past day around Avdiivka, compared with twice as many a few days ago. As of Oct. 19, the situation in the Avdiivka area posed very complex challenges to the Ukrainian side, according to Ukrainian Telegram channel “DeepState.” (NYT, 10.17.23, RM, 10.19.23)
    • The advance on Avdiivka marked the first time the Russians have employed large, armored columns since February, when Ukraine wiped out a Russian column advancing into the village of Vuhledar. Col. Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskiy, a Ukrainian military spokesman, claimed Russia lost 2,000 troops—with 800 killed—on Oct. 17, the first day of the assault, while Ukrainian drones and artillery took out dozens of tanks and other armored vehicles. (WSJ, 10.17.23)
    • Russia has prepared a new 25th Combined Arms Army numbering several thousand troops for a winter offensive, but has instead started committing it to the front to reinforce its overstretched lines, according to Ukrainian officials and the U.K. Defense Ministry. (WSJ, 10.13.23)
  • On Oct. 17, two Ukrainian assault brigades managed to capture the village of Poyma in the Kherson region and then gain some territory in the village of Pishchanivka in that region, according to Russian pro-war Telegram channel “Rybar.” As of Oct. 18-19, Ukrainian forces continued to maintain a foothold in Pishschanivka, according to Rybar. (RM, 10.19.23)
    • That Ukrainian forces have established a bridgehead on the left bank of the Dnieper in the areas of the Poyma village also follows from geolocation of the Russian footage analyzed by Status-6 OSINT project and published on its X account. (RM, 10.18.23)
  • On Oct. 18, Putin said that Ukrainians “have started yet another announced and expected counteroffensive in the Kherson sector—without any effect so far. Losses there are, but no result, like previously in Zaporizhzhia and other sectors.” (, 10.18.23)
  • On Oct. 18, the geolocation of the footage released by the 8th Separate Artillery Regiment of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the Kherson region indicated the Ukrainian military was able to (at least) establish a bridgehead on the left bank of the Dniper river in that area, the Status-6 OSINT reported on X. (RM, 10.18,23)
  • On Oct. 18, Russia’s air defense systems downed at least 28 drones over territories near Ukraine overnight, over the Black Sea and the Belgorod and Kursk regions in western Russia, Russian MoD said. (MT/AFP, 10.18.23)
  • On Oct. 18, President Vladimir Putin visited the headquarters of Russian forces in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don late to be briefed on the war. (Reuters, 10.20.23)
  • On Oct. 20 Ukrainian forces continued to maintain a foothold on the left bank of the Dnieper in the area of the Krynky village in the Kherson region, according to Russian pro-war Telegram channel “War Gonzo.” The Ukrainian forces landed in Krynki on Oct. 19, according to Russian pro-war Telegram channel Rybar. (RM, 10.20.23)
  • BBC and Media Zone have identified 34,587 Russian servicemen killed in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Almost 1,000 new KIAs have been identified since Oct. 6. (RM, 10.20.23)
  • With some 70% of Ukrainian combat casualties resulting from artillery strikes, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, taking Russian guns out of the fight saves Ukrainian lives. (WSJ, 10.20.23)
  • In an Oct. 15 interview Biden sought to assure the American public that the U.S. can handle aiding both Israel and Ukraine. "We can take care of both of these and still maintain our overall international defense." Biden said, asserting that America is the most powerful nation in the history of the world. "Imagine what happens. Let's say we stop, Russia takes over Ukraine and moves into Poland or moves into Belarus. We're at war. We, the United States, at war," he said. "Have you ever known a major war in Europe we didn't get sucked into? We don't want that to happen," Biden said. "We want to make sure those democracies are sustained. And Ukraine is critical in making sure that happens." (CBS News, 10.15.23)
  • In a televised address on Oct. 19, Biden urged Congress to approve a security package for Israel and Ukraine, saying America needed to overcome its domestic divisions to protect two vital allies and preserve U.S. leadership around the world. Biden did not specify how much money he was seeking but people familiar with the matter said the request was likely to involve $60 billion for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel as well as funding for border security and Indo Pacific security. In all, the package is expected to exceed $100 billion. (FT, 10.20.23)
    • As well as vowing to defeat Russia and Hamas, Biden linked them to Iran, which he again warned against entering the conflict in the Middle East. “Iran is supporting Russia in Ukraine and supporting Hamas and other terrorist groups in the region, and we will continue to hold them accountable.” (FT, 10.20.23) 
      • In the hours before the speech on Oct. 19, Biden called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to reassure him that Kyiv would continue to receive America's backing. Zelensky of Ukraine then thanked Biden for his “powerful address” after the American leader pledged in a televised address on Oct. 19 night to continue to unequivocally support Ukraine’s fight against Russia. (NYT, 10.20.23, WP, 10.20.23, NYT, 10.20.23)
      • The Kremlin denounced on Oct. 20 an address by U.S. President Joe Biden in which he compared Russia to Hamas and called Vladimir Putin a "tyrant." Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "We do not accept such a tone in relation to the Russian Federation, in relation to our president." (MT/AFP, 10.20.23)
  • On Oct. 20, Biden administration unveiled $106 billion proposal that primarily consists of funding for Ukraine and Israel, in what may prove the last major piece of domestic legislation of his first term. Biden's request includes a full year of funding for Ukraine, or $61.4 billion. At least $45 billion would go to military needs. The request also includes $16 billion for economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. Biden's funding request also calls for Congress to approve $14.3 billion for Israel. (WP, 10.20.23)
  • We can see the impacts of what we’re providing Ukraine every day as Ukraine fights for its sovereign territory and defends against continuing Russian efforts to take more Ukrainian territory. However, the funding and authorities the Congress previously approved overwhelmingly has nearly run out, and we need congressional action to ensure that we can continue to meet Ukraine’s battlefield needs and protect its people while they’re under attack,” Biden’s NSA Jake Sullivan said on Oct. 20. (, 10.20.23)
  • “These conflicts can seem far away,” Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said in a call with reporters the morning of Oct. 20. “But the outcome of these fights for democracy against terrorism and tyranny are vital to the safety and security of the American people.” (NYT, 10.20.23)
  • The package faces an uncertain fate in a House of Representatives riven by an intractable battle over its next speaker. House Republicans have also grown increasingly critical of the administration's approach to the war in Ukraine, although Kyiv enjoys substantial bipartisan support in the Senate. (WP, 10.20.23)
  • The United States will send ammunition initially intended for Ukraine to Israel to aid in its war against Hamas militants, Axios reported on Oct. 19, citing three anonymous Israeli officials with knowledge of the matter. Washington will reportedly send tens of thousands of 155mm artillery shells “in the coming weeks” to fill the depleted U.S. emergency stocks in Israel. (MT/AFP, 10.20.23)
  • U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to the White House on Oct. 20 with the promise that the United States can nonetheless deliver tens of billions of dollars worth of aid to wartime Ukraine and Israel. (AP, 10.20.23)
  • European vows to supply one million artillery shells to Ukraine by March are falling short, with countries supplying only 250,000 shells from stocks—a little more than one month of Ukraine’s current rate of fire—and factories still gearing up for more production. (NYT, 10.14.23)
  • Adm. Rob Bauer, who is the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, said “We started to give away from half-full or lower warehouses in Europe” to aid Ukraine, “and therefore the bottom of the barrel is now visible.” (NYT, 10.14.23)
  • In Oct. 2022 Russia was producing approximately 40 long-range missiles a month. Now it is producing over 100 a month, and this is supplemented by large numbers of Geran-2 UAVs, according to Jack Watling of RUSI. “Furthermore, on 18 October, UN Security Council restrictions on Iran’s missile program lapsed. Russia has been pushing for Iran to supply it with missiles after that date, with an expectation that this will provide a large supply of missiles in the winter,” he writes. (RUSI, 10.19.23)
  • “Beijing probably has taken a discreet, flexible, and cautious approach to providing material support to Russia to enable the PRC to maintain plausible deniability, control material transfers, create off-ramps to renege on agreements, and maximize the PRC’s options to aid Russia,” according to a U.S. Defense Department report. (DOD, Oct. 2023)

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

  • Belgium said it would use the corporate tax it already collects on Euroclear’s profits from the Russian assets to create a €1.7 billion fund dedicated to Ukraine. Mairead McGuinness, the EU’s financial services commissioner, told the FT that the move by premier Alexander De Croo’s government was “the start of something significant,” and that it was now up to member states to discuss further steps. “We need to make Russia pay and this is the start of that process,” McGuinness said. (FT, 10.17.23)
  • Latvia has temporarily closed two border crossings in response to Russia's decision to restrict the entry of Ukrainian citizens to the airport in Moscow and one of its crossings with Latvia, the country's interior minister said. Latvia's Pededze and Vientuli checkpoints "have been successfully closed," Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis told a Latvian broadcaster on Oct. 16. (dpa, 10.16.23)
  • Finnish authorities blocked three property sales to Russian buyers on defense and security grounds. The properties are located close to the border in the southeast, and the Defense Ministry said. (Bloomberg, 10.19.23)
  • Canada has sanctioned nine more individuals and six television stations involved in actions to destabilize Moldova and to facilitate Russia's war in Ukraine. The new restrictions, announced on Oct. 17, target individuals who have links with Moldovan oligarchs Vlad Plahotniuc. (RFE/RL, 10.18.23)
  • Russia has been suspended from the Egmont Group of financial intelligence units. The group brings together more than 160 intelligence units from around the world, including the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, to cooperate and share information on money laundering, terrorist financing and other related crimes. (Bloomberg, 10.19.23)
  • Kazakhstan's trade ministry has denied banning the exports of goods to Russia as part of Western sanctions after an official said more than 100 items including drones were prohibited. On Oct. 19, Deputy Trade Minister Kairat Torebayev was quoted by local media as saying that the ex-Soviet state has banned the export to Russia of 106 goods including "drones, their electronic components, special equipment and chips." Local Kazakh media outlets reported that the ban would only apply to products "linked to the war." (MT/AFP, 10.20.23)
  • Mikhail Fridman, the sanctions-hit Russian businessman, has asked London’s High Court to allow him to make payments, including a £30,000 monthly fee for the running costs of his London mansion plus payments to cover a driver. (FT, 10.17.23)
  • Russia has designated the Austria-based Central European University (CEU) as an “undesirable” organization, the Prosecutor General’s Office said in a Telegram post on Oct. 16. (MT/AFP, 10.16.23)
  • The Ukrainian parliament passed a preliminary vote on Oct. 19 for a bill that could ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has close ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, from operating within Ukraine's borders. (WP, 10.20.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • Malta will host the next round of international talks on Ukraine’s proposed peace formula to end Russia’s invasion, bringing senior officials from Western and non-Western states for discussions on Oct. 28-29. (FT, 10.20.23)

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

  • In an Oct. 19 televised address Biden said: “So, if we don’t stop Putin’s appetite for power and control in Ukraine, he won’t limit himself just to Ukraine. … If Putin attacks a NATO Ally, we will defend every inch of NATO which the treaty requires and calls for.” We will have something that we do not seek—make it clear: we do not seek—we do not seek to have American troops fighting in Russia or fighting against Russia,” he said, declaring that the world at an "inflection point in history." (, 10.19.23)
  • When asked by a Russian journalist to comment on what he described as the “main priority of the collective West is to finally put Putin down,” the Russian leader said the “desire to suppress someone means exactly that they have to learn a lot. And the key is to learn respect for others. It includes, among other things, the ability to search for compromises… And then there will be no need to put anyone down.” Putin made these comments on Oct. 17 during his visit to China. “This is not about me personally. This is about the country’s interests, and it is impossible to put down Russia’s interests, they will have to be taken into account,” he said. (, 10.17.23)
  • Viktor Orbán has become the first Western leader to meet Putin since the International Criminal Court indicted the Russian president for alleged war crimes, in what the Hungarian prime minister said was a bid to “save everything that is possible from our bilateral contacts.” The leaders discussed oil and gas shipments and their cooperation in nuclear energy. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Belt and Road forum in Beijing on Oct. 17. Hungary is party to the ICC. (FT, 10.17.23)
    • Orbán told Putin that Hungary “never wanted to confront Russia,” adding that Budapest’s goal “has always been to establish and expand mutually the best contacts. … We are interested in supporting this cooperation not only at the level of communication but also at the economic level,” Orbán said. “We have never been in such a difficult situation,” Orbán told Putin, according to a Russian translation of his remarks. “Due to a military operation or sanction, these relations of ours unfortunately suffered a lot, it was deeply affected,” he added. Orbán reiterated his call for an end to the conflict. (FT, 10.17.23)
    • Putin told Orbán that Hungary was among “many European countries where our relations have been preserved and are developing, [which] can only be to our liking.” He added he was looking forward to “having the chance to exchange views with an EU country, Hungary in this case, not just about bilateral relations but also the situation in the world and in Europe.” (FT, 10.17.23)
  • NATO should consider a halt to Russian shipping in the Baltic Sea if evidence emerges that the Kremlin is behind the damage to a pipeline connecting Finland and Estonia, Latvia’s president said. (Bloomberg, 10.20.23)
    • Finnish police said on Oct. 20 evening it was focusing on Newnew Polar Bear, a Hong Kong-registered container ship, as its movements coincided with the time and place of the damage. A Russian ship, Sevmorput, operated by the state nuclear-powered icebreaker company Atomflot, was also in the area at the time. (FT, 10.20.23)
    • Finland's Foreign Ministry said on Oct. 20 that it had contacted China and Russia via diplomatic channels regarding the investigation of damage to a pipeline and a telecoms cable in the Baltic Sea. Finnish police said on Oct. 19 that they had completed their crime scene investigation into the damage to the subsea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia. (Reuters, 10.20.23, Reuters, 10.19.23)
  • On Oct. 15, Russia said it had intercepted a Global Hawk drone close to Russia’s Black Sea border. A Su-27 fighter was scrambled to intercept the drone, which turned away and ultimately did not cross into Russian airspace, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement on social media. (AP, 10.15.23)
  • Russia’s military says it scrambled two fighter jets to stop three U.K. aircraft from crossing the Russian border in the Black Sea on Oct. 19. (FT, 10.19.23)
  • When the Salvor, a U.S. Navy rescue and salvage ship, pulled into a port in India’s southeast this summer, the job at hand was patching up the aging vessel. But there was a bigger mission, too: opening another door for a U.S. military trying to stretch out across the Indo-Pacific and counter Chinese power. Repairing American ships in Indian ports is a first step, as the U.S. military seeks to stretch out across the Indo-Pacific. (NYT, 10.20.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • “Chairman Xi Jinping calls me his friend, and I call him my friend,” Putin told Chinese state media prior to departing for China where he attended the Third Belt and Road Forum and held a series of bilateral meetings on Oct. 17-18. The Kremlin claimed that Putin was the “main guest” at the forum, where the Russian leader was second to give an address after Xi. (NYT, 10.16.23, FT, 10.17.23, Novaya Gazeta, 10.19.23)
    • Represented at the BRI forum were nearly 150 developing nations. China has disbursed close to $1 trillion through the Belt and Road Initiative, largely in loans, to build power plants, seaports, and other infrastructure across Asia, Africa and Latin America. The BRI forum followed a study by New York-based research firm Rhodium Group that found about $79 billion of loans under the program had been renegotiated or written off in the past three years. (FT, 10.17.23, NYT, 10.18.23)
  • On Oct. 17, during the first day of his visit to China (his first outside the former Soviet Union this year) Putin met Xi at a banquet, and also had bilateral talks with leaders of Hungary, Pakistan, Vietnam, Mongolia, Laos, and Thailand, according to the home page of the Kremlin’s web site. (RM, 10.17.23) One purpose of this meeting spree has been to bolster the Kremlin's claim that an ICC arrest warrant and sanctions are failing to isolate Putin. Other, more material, purposes can be gleaned from looking at who accompanied Putin to China on Oct. 17-18. These included advisor Yuri Ushakov, Foreign Minister Lavrov, Deputy PMs Alexander Novak and Dmitry Chernyshenko, Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov, Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, head of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina, head of the Federal Service for Financial Monitoring Yuri Chikhanchin and director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugaev. Gazprom’s Alexei Miller, Rosneft's Igor Sechin and Rosatom’s chief Alexei Likhachev were also part of the delegation. Putin was clearly interested in more than just additional fossil fuel deals, such as Power of Siberia-2, on which the sides are yet to reach a deal. Nuclear energy and arms trade were probably also on the agenda, along with reducing exposure to Western sanctions (e.g. through the invoicing of more of bilateral trade in yuan and less in dollars/euros.)
  • On Oct. 18, Xi said in a speech at the opening of the BRI forum in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing: “Ideological confrontation, geopolitical rivalry and bloc politics are not a choice for us. … What we stand against are unilateral sanctions, economic coercion and decoupling and supply chain disruption,” Xi said, clearly referring to efforts by the United States and its Western allies to pressure China. (NYT, 10.18.23)
    • Putin’s Oct. 18 remarks at the BRI forum sought to signal his geopolitical autonomy from China, his country's more powerful neighbor. He outlined Russia's own grandiose infrastructure plans in the region and called for foreign investment, without stating plans to join China's existing projects. Later on Oct. 18, he called the two visions “complementary.” (NYT, 10.18.23)
    • “Our Chinese friends are working successfully. We are happy for them, because this also concerns many of us … Russia and China have reached a practical agreement on a concurrent and coordinated development of the EAEU and the Belt and Road Initiative and a non-preferential agreement on trade and economic cooperation between EAEU member states and the People’s Republic of China,” Putin told the BRI forum on Oct. 18. (, 10.18.23)
  • On Oct. 18, Putin and Xi held talks that lasted for three hours, including a private conversation that lasted for an “hour and a half, maybe two hours,” Putin said after the talks. He said he and Xi “discussed some very confidential issues face to face. It was a very productive and informative part of our meeting,” according to (RM, 1018.23)
    • “My dear friend, welcome to China… Mutual trust in our political relations is steadily growing. Close and effective strategic collaboration is being maintained. Bilateral trade has achieved historic records and is approaching the target of $200 billion we have set. Mr. President, during the ten years since 2013, the two of us have held 42 meetings and established good business-like relations and a strong personal friendship,” Xi said on Oct. 18 ahead of his talks with Putin, according to the Kremlin’s transcription of the event. (, 10.18.23)
      • During the talks Xi reiterated that China supports Moscow’s efforts in safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and development interests. Deepening ties between China and Russia is not an expedient but a long-term solution, Xi said. China is keen to work with Moscow to ensure grain and energy security, and wants to see “substantial progress” in the Power of Siberia-2 natural gas pipeline between both countries and Mongolia as soon as possible, Xi added. (Bloomberg, 10.18.23)
      • Xi lauded China-Russia relations. The political mutual trust between the two countries is continuously deepening. The two countries have maintained close and effective strategic coordination and bilateral trade volume has reached a historical high, which is progressing toward the goal of 200 billion U.S. dollars set by the two sides, Xi said. (Xinhua, 10.18,23) 
      • In his remarks Xi did not mention the term “no-limits” partnership, which was used to describe the relationship during Putin’s last visit to Beijing in February 2022, days before he launched Russia’s attack on its neighbor. Xi also conspicuously failed to mention it during his visit to Moscow in March, when he warned Putin behind closed doors against using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. (FT, 10.18.23
    • “Mr. Xi Jinping, dear friend… Under the difficult present-day conditions, it is particularly relevant to maintain close foreign policy coordination, something we are doing now. Today, we will discuss all of this, including, and primarily, our bilateral relations. … If we look at the year-on-year figures—we analyzed this yesterday evening—the 200-billion target was reached between this day a year ago and today, and this bar will certainly be exceeded by the end of the calendar year. Therefore, we are advancing very confidently on the bilateral plane as well,” Putin said on Oct. 18 ahead of his talks with Xi. (, 10.18.23)
      • Putin said that world conflicts "strengthen" his country's relations with China, after talks with Xi. At a press conference following the talks, Putin said that global turmoil served to bring China and Russia even closer together. (MT/AFP, 10.18.23)
      • Notably, Putin did not even mention the Power of Siberia-2 pipeline plan—a deal he had insisted was all but done at their meeting in March. (FT, 10.18.23)
  • On Oct. 19, the fifth China-Russia Energy Business Forum opened in Beijing, with Vice Premier Ding Xuexiang addressing the opening ceremony and reading a congratulatory letter from Chinese President Xi Jinping. The vice premier said that China and Russia should implement the important consensus of the two heads of state, build a closer energy partnership, push forward China-Russia energy cooperation to make more new achievements, and make more new contributions to ensuring global energy security and promoting sustainable development of energy, he said. (Xinhua, 10.19.23)\
    • In his address to the participants of the forum, Putin said: “Relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China have reached an unprecedented high level and continue to develop dynamically. One of the key components of these relations is energy cooperation, which is becoming increasingly active and multifaceted.” (, 10.19.23)
    • Russia increases supplies of its energy commodities to China by 17% in 2023, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said at the Russian-Chinese Energy Forum. Russia plans to supply more than 4 billion kWh of electricity to China this year, he said. (TASS, 10.19.23)
    • Russia has supplied more than 75 million tons of oil to China in 2023, which is by 25 percent more than in 2022, Igor Sechin, CEO of Russia’s oil major Rosneft, said. (TASS, 10.19.23)
  • "The Russian President [Vladimir Putin] and the Chairman of the People's Republic of China [Xi Jinping] have repeatedly said in their numerous documents that our relations are stronger and more effective than military alliances in the classical sense," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. (TASS, 10.20.23)
  • Russian state media has painted Putin’s visit to China this week as a symbolic triumph over the West by the Russian leader who they say enjoys global prestige and respect despite attempts to isolate him. (MT/AFP, 10.19.23)
  • Russia’s war on Ukraine in February 2022 represented a major, unexpected challenge for the PRC as it sought to react to the largest military conflict in Europe since the end of World War II. As Beijing deliberates the scale and scope of materiel commitments to Russia’s war on Ukraine, it probably will seek to balance its strategic partnership with Russia while avoiding reputational or economic costs that could result from its assistance,” according to a U.S. Defense Department report.” Western sanctions against Russia almost certainly have amplified the PRC’s push for defense and technological self-sufficiency and financial resilience, the report said. (DOD, Oct. 2023)
  • In the first nine months of this year, China-Russia trade topped $176 billion, a surge of about 30% year-on-year, according to Chinese customs data. Putin says he hopes trade between the countries will reach $200 billion by the end of the year. (WSJ, 10.17.23)
  • In January-July 2023, the volume of yuan trading in Russia increased 6.5 times compared to the same period a year earlier, according to The Bell. (RM, 10.18.23)
    • Russia and China should expand the use of the yuan and ruble in payments not only between each other, but also with third countries, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said. (TASS, 10.19.23)
    • India is rejecting pressure from Russian oil suppliers to pay for crude imports in the Chinese currency. (Bloomberg, 10.19.23)
  • LNG supplies from Russia to China increased by 47% in Jan.-Sept. 2023 in annual terms to 6.2 million tons, according to figures provided by the General Administration of Customs of China. (TASS, 10.20.23)
  • Russia and China intend to increase mutual cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) to at least 50 million tons per year by 2030, the Russian government said in a statement following Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak's working visit to China. (Interfax, 10.19.23)
  • Russia followed its ally China in suspending all Japanese seafood imports over Tokyo's release of wastewater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. (MT/AFP, 10.16.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • No one in their right mind should leave open the possibility of a war between nuclear powers, Putin said in an interview with Rossiya 1 television. "I don't think this thought should or can occur to people in their right mind. But if it does, it only makes us wary," he said. That’s even more true, he continued, if it’s about the chance of war with both Russia and China at the same time. "It’s nonsense, of course. I don't think it's at all serious. I think they are just scaring each other," the president said. (TASS, 10.15.23)
  • The State Duma, the Russian parliament’s lower chamber, on Oct. 18 approved a bill revoking the ratification of the CTBT. Lawmakers passed the second and third readings of the bill unanimously, with 415 votes in favor, no abstentions and votes against. Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said that Moscow might even abandon the pact altogether. Parliament is expected to hold a final vote on the issue on Oct. 19. The bill to de-ratify CTBT was sponsored by 438 deputies out of 449 Duma deputies, which is—a record in the history of the State Duma. (Kommersant, 10.17.23, RFE/RL, 10.17.23, RFE/RL, 11.18.23))
    • The head of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) said on Oct. 18 it was "deeply regrettable" that Russian lawmakers had moved toward revoking ratification of the treaty. (RFE/RL, 11.18.23)
    • The U.S. conducted a high-explosive experiment at a nuclear test site in Nevada just hours after Russia revoked a ban on atomic-weapons testing, prompting concerns of a new arms race between the world’s top nuclear powers. (Bloomberg, 10.20.23)
  • On Oct. 16, the Generalissimus Suvorov submarine of the Borey-A/Project 955A class arrived in Vilyuchinsk in Kamchatka where it joined the 25th submarine division of the Russian Pacific Fleet. The submarine, the sixths in the Project 955 line and the third Project 955A/Borey-A submarine, was officially accepted for service on Dec. 29, 2022. (, 10.17.23)
  • New satellite imagery shows that preparations to deploy Russia’s new RS-28 Sarmat (SS-29) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) are well underway at the first regiment of the 62nd Missile Division near Uzhur in south Siberia. However, the imagery also indicates that President Putin’s claims of deployment “in the near future” may be too optimistic. It is potentially possible that one or two missiles could be deployed early, but major construction is still ongoing at many of the silos in the first regiment and has not yet begun at all of them, and the completion of construction at all eventual Sarmat regiments may be over a decade away. (FAS, 10.19.23)
  • The head of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill said: “They [Soviet scientists] created [nuclear] weapons under the protection of St. Seraphim of Sarov, because according to God’s ineffable providence these weapons were created in the monastery of St. Seraphim. … Thanks to this power, Russia remained independent, free, and, of course, we must all keep in our hearts and in memory this wonderful feat of our scientists,” said the patriarch, while giving Radiy Ilkaev—who, who heads the Kurchatov-founded Russian Federal Nuclear Center in Sarov—the Order of St. Sergius of Radonezh. (Istories, 10.18.23)
  • The air forces of NATO member states launched the annual "Steadfast Noon" nuclear deterrence exercise in Europe on Oct. 16, involving 60 various types of aircraft from 13 NATO countries, including fighter-bombers carrying nuclear bombs, reconnaissance aircraft and tanker aircraft, as well as the strategic bomber B-52 operated by the United States Air Force (USAF). The exercise is expected to last until Oct. 26. (, 10.20.23) 
  • China has developed an arsenal of more than 500 operational nuclear warheads and is set to double that number by the end of the decade, exceeding previous Pentagon estimates, according to a U.S. Defense Department report. (WP, 10.20.23)
  • Russian media outlets, RTVI,, apologized to pro-Kremlin Russian media figure Margarita Simonyan for reporting that she supported the idea of testing a nuclear bomb over Siberia. In its apologies, stated that Simonyan did not propose detonating a nuclear bomb over Siberia. (The Insider, 10.20.23, RM, 10.20.23)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • The European Union’s crackdown on Google’s Android has led to an unintended consequence: boosting the popularity of Russia’s favorite search-engine Yandex, accused by the bloc of spreading Kremlin propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 10.19.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Sofia on Oct. 13 introduced a Lv20 (€10) excise tax per megawatt-hour of transiting Russian gas, days after it hit the Russian-owned Lukoil refinery on its Black Sea shore with a 60 per cent tax on profits. The main goal of both measures was to squeeze the Russians out of the European market, officials said. The new transit fee amounts to about a fifth of the current TTF benchmark gas price (€50p/MWh). Transit fees are normally low single-digit percentages of the actual gas cost. (FT, 10.17.23)
  • Russia doesn’t currently have plans to ease remaining restrictions on diesel exports, according to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, indicating that there won’t be additional relief for the tight fuel market. (Bloomberg, 10.18.23)
  • Russia’s seaborne crude exports rebounded in the seven days to Oct. 15, boosting four-week average flows to their highest in more than three months. About 3.51 million barrels a day of crude was shipped from Russian ports last week, a rise of about 285,000 barrels a day from the previous seven days, tanker-tracking data monitored by Bloomberg show. That lifted the less volatile four-week average to about 3.36 million barrels a day. (Bloomberg, 10.17.23)
  • Of the 4.44 billion euros, equivalent to around $4.68 billion, in fossil fuels that Russia exported in the week ending Oct. 1, 37% moved on ships owned or insured by companies in Europe or the Group of Seven, according to analysis by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air think tank. (WSJ, 10.09.23)

Climate change:

  • “Warming is about to end. And the cause is not humans, but the interplay between the Sun and Earth. Currently, we are in a favorable period, but we will inevitably transition to an unfavorable [cold] one … around 2030-2035.” This statement by Andrei Fedotov, director of the Limnological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), was published in an interview this month by RAS. (MT/AFP, 10.18.23)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • “I believe that President Biden is certainly one of the most experienced politicians in the world, in terms of his time in the so-called upper echelons of power. He has been in politics for a long time and, of course, he is an experienced person who knows what tasks he should set for himself and how to achieve them. If they have no other tasks but how to construct relations with Russia, that’s fine in a sense,” Putin told Russian TV on Oct. 17 during his visit to China. (, 10.17.23)
  • Russia’s efforts to discredit and undermine democratic elections appears to be expanding rapidly, according to newly declassified intelligence, spurred on by what the Kremlin sees as its success in disrupting the past two U.S. presidential elections. The U.S. intelligence findings, shared in a diplomatic cable sent to more than 100 countries and obtained by VOA, are based on a review of Russian information operations between January 2020 and December 2022 that found Moscow “engaged in a concerted effort … to undermine public confidence in at least 11 elections across nine democracies.” (VOA, 10.20.23)
  • Russia has detained a second U.S. journalist, accusing the reporter of failing to register as a foreign agent while collecting information online, according to her employer and a press freedom group. If found guilty, Alsu Kurmasheva, a dual Russian-U.S. citizen who works for U.S. government-funded outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, could be sentenced to up to five years in jail, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. Kurmasheva is accused by authorities of having “deliberately conducted a targeted collection of military information about Russian activities via the internet in order to transmit information to foreign sources,” the CPJ said. A Russian court then accepted a request by prosecutors to extend the detention of Kurmasheva until Oct. 23. (FT, 10.19.23, RFE/RL, 10.20.23)
  • The U.S. ambassador to Russia visited jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on Oct. 17, a week after a Russian court upheld an extension of his pretrial detention. This was the fifth visit to Gershkovich by U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy since the reporter was detained. On Oct. 17, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow posted a statement on the social-media platform X, saying that "Evan remains in good spirits despite his challenging circumstances. We continue to call for his immediate release," it said. (WSJ, 10.18.23)
  • Former U.S. president Donald Trump has told a London court he would be willing to come to the U.K. to testify in his data protection lawsuit over the notorious dossier that alleged links between him and the Russian state. (FT, 10.17.23)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • As of Jan. 1, 2023, 146.45 million people lived in Russia. By Jan. 1, 2046, according to Rosstat, the population will decrease to 138.77 million people. (Meduza, 10.20.23)
  • Putin faces no real competition ahead of next year's election, his spokesman said on Oct. 17, adding that there could be "no rivals" to the long-time leader. (MT/AFP, 10.17.23)
  • A Russian governor was accused by critics on Oct. 15 of “discrediting Russia’s armed forces” after telling residents in her region that the country had “no need” for its war in Ukraine. Natalya Komarova, the governor of the Khanty-Mansiysk region and a member of Putin’s governing United Russia party, made the remarks during a meeting with residents in the Siberian city of Nizhnevartovsk on Oct. 14. (AP, 10.15.23)
  • Russian lawyers may be deprived of their status if they stay abroad for a year or more or decide to permanently reside in another country, according to a bill proposed by the Russian government. (Kommersant, 10.16.23)
  • Russia’s legal community has called on authorities to stop “harassing and intimidating lawyers and obstructing their professional activities” following the arrests of three lawyers of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Alexander Fedulov, a lawyer for Navalny, has fled Russia after three other lawyers who defended the Kremlin critic were arrested last week. Navalny condemned the arrest of three of his lawyers. (MT/AFP, 10.16.23, MT/AFP, 10.17.23, Current Time, 10.16.23)
  • A Moscow court on Oct. 17 extended the pretrial detention of the co-chairman of the Golos movement, Grigory Melkonyants, until at least Jan. 17, 2024. Melkonyants was arrested in August on a charge of "running an undesirable organization," which carries a sentence of up to six years in prison. (RFE/RL, 10.17.23)
  • Russian police are conducting a pre-investigation check into whether a September article by Vladislav Surkov, former assistant to Putin, in which Surkov foresees a triumvirate of Russia, Europe and the U.S. forming a "Great North," violates Russian law, according to Meduza. (RM, 10.20.23) In 2018, Surkov penned an article in which he foresaw 100-200-300 years of  "geopolitical solitude" for Russia.
  • Russia's Justice Ministry has declared Olga Romanova, the founder and head of Russian prisoner advocacy organization Russia Behind Bars, and 11 other activists as foreign agents. (RFE/RL, 10.14.23)
  • The Russian Interior Ministry on Oct. 16 added self-exiled former Russian lawyer Mark Feigin, who has defended noted Russian and Ukrainian activists, to its wanted list on unspecified charges. (Current Time, 10.16.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • More than half of Russian soldiers in Ukraine wounded severely enough to require medical examination have sustained injuries that require limb amputations, Deputy Labor Minister Alexei Vovchenko said Oct. 17. While Vovchenko did not provide the exact number of Russian soldiers wounded during Moscow’s 20-month invasion of its neighbor, the 54% rate of required amputations he identified may indicate the difficulties faced by the Armed Forces in Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 10.17.23)
  • Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin has said that migrants who obtained Russian citizenship should be stripped of it if they refuse to fight in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 10.20.23)
  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russian courts have convicted a record number of soldiers on charges of sexual violence, murder and other felonies in the first half of 2023, the independent news website Mediazona reported, citing Supreme Court data. The courts issued 32 murder convictions against Russian soldiers from January to June 2023. By comparison, fewer than 20 convictions were made during the same periods of 2020, 2021 and 2022, according to Mediazona. (MT/AFP, 10.18.23)
  • The number of Russians convicted under the country’s terrorist act has increased eightfold this year, according to the Telegram channel We Can Explain, which cited researchers who studied statistics from the Supreme Court. The data showed that 39 people were convicted under the terrorist act from January to June. This compares with five people convicted during the same period last year. (RFE/RL, 10.18.23)
  • Russia’s Embassy in Paris has denied links to the suspect of a deadly school stabbing that the French government described as an Islamist terrorist attack, state-run media reported Oct. 16. Police in France named Oct. 13's suspected perpetrator as Mohammed Moguchkov, who was born in Ingushetia in Russia's North Caucasus. (MT/AFP, 10.16.23)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Poland's election results, which showed pro-EU opposition parties set to win a parliamentary majority, were unlikely to improve strained ties between Warsaw and Moscow, the Kremlin said Oct. 17. Relations between Russia and Poland have been historically tense but have dipped to new lows since Moscow's offensive in Ukraine which began in February last year. "Honestly, it is at the moment unlikely," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian agencies when asked whether the results could change bilateral relations. (MT/AFP, 10.17.23)
  • Putin accepted an invitation from Vietnam’s President Vo Van Thuong to visit the Southeast Asian country “soon,” according to a post on Vietnam’s government website. The leaders met in Beijing during China’s Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. (Bloomberg, 10.18.23)
  • DW reported in an August article entitled "Poland's far-right Confederation party set to be kingmaker” that Confederation MP Janusz Korwin-Mikke shares his pro-Russian stance with another high-profile member of the Confederation alliance, Grzegorz Braun, leader of the Polish Crown party. (RM, 10.17.23)
  • Thailand will allow Russian citizens to visit for longer periods in a bid to boost tourism during peak travel season, a government minister said. Starting from November, Russian visitors may enter Thailand visa-free and remain in the country for a maximum of 90 days, up from the current 30 days, until the end of April 2024. (Bloomberg, 10.16.23)
  • Russian investigators said Oct. 20 they had leveled genocide charges against Nazi war veteran Yaroslav Hunka, who was inadvertently applauded by Canadian lawmakers last month. (MT/AFP, 10.20.23)


  • The Ukrainian Embassy in Israel announced that a third evacuation flight for Ukrainian citizens has departed Israel. The flight left around 10:30 p.m. local time with 74 Ukrainian citizens, mostly women and children, onboard. (RFE/RL, 10.17.23)
  • When Biden traveled to Ukraine this year, he was the first president to visit a country at war outside the relative security of an American military presence, but that trip was likewise shrouded in secrecy. (NYT, 10.20.23)
  • A Ukrainian court on Oct. 18 handed a former police officer a life sentence and gave two others 15-year prison terms over the deaths of dozens of people killed in 2014 during the Maidan protests that toppled pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. (RFE/RL, 10.18.23)
  • While Ukraine remains in full compliance with the EU’s requirements for maintaining a visa-free travel regime with the bloc, Kyiv needs additional measures to counter corruption and instances of weapons smuggling, the European Commission said in a report on Oct. 18. (Yahoo News/The New Voice of Ukraine, 10.18.23)
  • Viktor Podlesny, former director of the state-owned Ukrtelefilm has been handed a five-year prison sentence, Ukraine's High Anti-Corruption Court ruled on Oct. 18. (Yahoo News/Kyiv Independent, 10.18.23)
  • Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said Kyiv has decided to officially recognize Romanian as the language of Ukraine's Romanian minority and welcomed President Volodymyr Zelensky's backing of the move. (RFE/RL, 10.19.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned a small group of U.S. lawmakers that his department is tracking the possibility that Azerbaijan could soon invade Armenia. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has previously called on Armenia to open a “corridor” along its southern border, linking mainland Azerbaijan to an exclave that borders Turkey and Iran. Aliyev has threatened to solve the issue “by force.” In an Oct. 3 phone call, lawmakers pressed Blinken on possible measures against Aliyev in response to his country’s invasion of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Blinken responded that the State Department was looking at avenues to hold Azerbaijan accountable and isn’t planning to renew a long-standing waiver that allows the U.S. to provide military assistance to Baku. He added that State saw a possibility that Azerbaijan would invade southern Armenia in the coming weeks.  (Politico, 10.13.23)
  • Aliyev has raised his country's flag in the main city of the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, the city known as Xankendi to Azeris and Stepanakert to the territory's ethnic Armenians. (RFE/RL, 10.15.23)
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is ready to sign a peace deal with Azerbaijan by the end of the year based on the principles outlined in meetings with European mediators, he said. (RFE/RL, 10.18.23)
  • President Vahagn Khachaturian has signed into law a decision by the Armenian parliament to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), putting the Caucasus nation in the jurisdiction of the Hague-based institution despite warnings from its longtime ally Russia. (RFE/RL, 10.14.23)
  • Georgia’s Constitutional Court ruled President Salome Zurabishvili violated the constitution by traveling to EU countries without government consent, clearing the way for lawmakers to continue their drive to hold impeachment proceedings against her. Georgia’s constitution forbids the president to get involved in the country’s foreign relations without the agreement of the government. (RFE/RL, 10.16.23)
    • Zurabishvili survived an attempt to impeach her after the ruling party failed to gain enough votes in parliament to support her removal from office. (Bloomberg, 10.18.23)
  • In November 2011, GRU Unit 29155 blew up an ammunition depot in Lovnidol, Bulgaria, containing artillery destined for Georgia. It was the first known terror attack perpetrated by the team of hitmen and saboteurs who would later poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal in England, a Bulgarian arms dealer in Sofia and blow up a host of other storage facilities and buildings across NATO territories. The Insider has obtained travel records and leaked correspondence from members of Unit 29155 that points to their culpability in the inaugural attack in Bulgaria. (The Insider, 10.20.23)
  • An official of the Turkish Aerospace Industries company, Erol Oguz, said on Oct. 15 that the company's Anka drones will be assembled in Kazakhstan soon, adding that further investments in the project are under discussion. The move makes Kazakhstan the first production base of the Anka outside Turkey. (RFE/RL, 10.16.23)
  • Moldovan President Maia Sandu says steps taken by her country--one of Europe's poorest—to diversify its gas supplies means Russia can no longer "blackmail" Chisinau "as it used to." Sandu said Moldova's move to access gas through purchases on the open market and not directly from Russian energy giant Gazprom has given independence it previously didn't have. (RFE/RL, 10.16.23)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • "Over the past decade, Xi has built with Putin's Russia the most consequential undeclared alliance in the world," Graham Allison, professor at Harvard University and a former assistant secretary of defense under Bill Clinton, told Reuters. "The U.S. will have to come to grips with the inconvenient fact that a rapidly rising systemic rival and a revanchist one-dimensional superpower with the largest nuclear arsenal in the world are tightly aligned in opposing the USA.” (Reuters, 10.15.23)
  • White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. administration had the means to support both Israel and Ukraine in the near term. “But you don’t want to be trying to bake in long-term support when you’re at the end of the rope,” he said. (Independent, 10.13.23)



  1. Some modifications of ATACMS have a range of 186 miles, according to WP. BBC’s story on the supplies of Storm Shadows says their range is over 155 miles, but doesn’t specify whether the modification supplied to Ukraine has that range.

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 ( under a CC BY 4.0 license.