Russia in Review, Oct. 20-27, 2023

7 Things to Know

  1. Newly elected GOP speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson asserted that Putin can't be allowed to prevail in Ukraine. Johnson also suggested that he would be open to sending more funding to Kyiv, but asserted the House will consider new military assistance for Ukraine and Israel as separate measures. Johnson was among 117 House Republicans who voted against $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine in September. He also voted against the 2022 $40 billion Ukraine Supplemental Appropriation. For more on Johnson’s voting record on aid to Ukraine as well as his statements on the Ukraine war, please see RM’s blog post.*
  2. Since 2015, the CIA has spent tens of millions of dollars to transform Ukraine's security and intelligence services into potent allies against Moscow, officials told WP. The agency has provided Ukraine with advanced surveillance systems, trained recruits at sites in Ukraine as well as in the United States, and shared intelligence, WP reported. However, the CIA has had no involvement in targeted killing operations by Ukrainian agencies, U.S. intelligence officials said. This week has seen Ukrainian-born Yegor Semyonov accused of attempting to poison Russian pilots in a plot that Russia’s FSB suspects its Ukrainian counterpart to have organized, while Pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Oleg Tsarev was badly wounded in Crimea.  
  3. Ukrainian armed forces re-captured 27 square miles in the course of their offensive in the past month, while Russian forces seized 11 square miles of Ukrainian territory, according to the Oct. 24 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. Apparently unsatisfied with the outcomes of the multi-pronged offensive, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged his troops on Oct. 22 to make gains against Russia “every day” to maintain the support of its allies. Even during the peak of the offensive Ukraine launched this past summer, its forces’ daily gains averaged only 90 yards—the same pace as the Allied forces during the bloody five-month Battle of the Somme in 1916, according to a CSIS report cited by NYT.
  4. Having initially refrained from explicitly condemning Hamas for its deadly terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, the Kremlin did so on Oct. 25 with Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters: "We condemn terrorism, terrorist acts, including terrorist acts that were against Israeli civilians. And we believe that … terrorism in all its manifestations must be fought,” Peskov said. While being more explicit in its criticism of Hamas’ attacks, Moscow was careful not to burn its bridges to this violent organization completely. The Russian Foreign Ministry hosted a delegation led by Hamas’ Moussa Abu Marzouk this week. The Kremlin’s ambivalent approach toward the conflict is reflected in Russian public opinion. Some 21% of Russians are more likely to sympathize with the Palestinians in the conflict, while 6% of Russians sympathize with Israel, according to the Levada Center’s Oct. 19-25 poll.
  5. On Oct. 26, Russia practiced what Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu described to Vladimir Putin as a “a massive nuclear strike by the strategic offensive forces in response to an enemy’s nuclear strike." Multi-warhead ICBM Yars and SLBM Sineva have been launched across Russia in the “Grom” (Thunder) exercise, along with cruise missiles fired from two Tu-95 strategic bombers. If what Shoigu has told Putin about the scenario of the wargame is accurate, then the simulated response would be in compliance with Russia's strategic documents on use of nuclear weapons, which allow retaliatory nuclear strikes in response to an adversary's first nuclear strike. The exercise took place as Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov acknowledged that Moscow had received an informal memo from Washington for renewed dialogue on strategic stability, but asserted talks were out of the question for now, AFP reported.
  6. Russian lawmakers backed a record increase in military spending to fund Moscow's offensive on Ukraine, in a first reading of the bill on Oct. 6, according to AFP. Defense spending will account for almost a third of all outlays in 2024—up 68% to 10.8 trillion rubles ($115 billion). At more than 6% of the country's GDP, military spending will hit its highest share of the economy since the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to AFP.
  7. Most European Union leaders meeting for an EU summit on Oct. 27 backed granting more financial support to Ukraine, but Hungary and Slovakia voiced reservations ahead of a decision the bloc needs to make unanimously in December, Reuters reported. Speaking on the sidelines of the two-day summit in Brussels, Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, claimed the EU’s strategy with regard to the war “has failed” and a plan B should be created as Kyiv will not win the frontline battle against Russia, according to Reuters. Speaking ahead of the summit, Slovakia’s new premier Robert Fico said his government would not vote in favor of any new measures to help Ukraine or sanctions against Russia without a full assessment of how they could affect Slovakia, FT reported. He also claimed that Ukraine was “the most corrupt country in the world,” according to Ukrainska Pravda.


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

Israel-Hamas war:  

  • The U.N. Security Council failed again Oct. 25 to adopt a unified position on stopping the carnage in the Middle East, with the United States and Russia vetoing each others' resolutions. The principal difference between the competing resolutions was Washington's call for "all measures, specifically to include humanitarian pauses," to allow aid to flow into Gaza—a position it rejected as recently as last week and with no specific mention of ongoing Israeli airstrikes—vs. Moscow's call for a complete cease-fire. (WP, 10.26.23)
    • U.S. President Joe Biden on Oct. 25 ramped up his response to Arab concerns about Israel's airstrikes in Gaza, saying there must be "a vision of what comes next" after the war, calling directly for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and stressing that Israel must minimize civilian casualties regardless of whether it poses a "burden." (WP, 10.26.23)
    • Two polls released this week, one by Quinnipiac University and the other by CBS News, found 85% of American respondents are concerned about a wider war in the Middle East; the CBS poll also found that while respondents were overwhelmingly sympathetic to Israel, less than half favor sending weapons and supplies. (WSJ, 10.22.23)
  • On Oct. 23 Russian President Vladimir Putin called for "unhindered access" for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza in a telephone call with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Kremlin said. According to a readout of the call, the two leaders "expressed serious concern about the growing number of civilian casualties and stressed the fundamental importance of an early ceasefire, the evacuation of foreign citizens from the Gaza Strip, and of ensuring unhindered access to the enclave for humanitarian aid." (MT/AFP, 10.23.23)
  • On Oct. 24 Putin expressed fears of a sharp deterioration of the situation in besieged Gaza during a call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (MT/AFP, 10.24.23)
  • A Hamas delegation led by a senior member of the Palestinian militant group’s leadership has flown to Russia. Moussa Abu Marzouk and other members of the Hamas delegation were in Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Oct. 26 that a delegation from the militant group Hamas visited Moscow to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip, prompting a rebuke from Israel. (FT, 10.26.23, RFE/RL, 10.26.23)
  • Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Oct. 25: "We condemn terrorism, terrorist acts, including terrorist acts that were against Israeli civilians. And we believe that … terrorism in all its manifestations must be fought. But innocent people should not suffer at the same time." (TASS, 10.25.23)
    • In earlier comments Peskov has called on Hamas to release all hostages. Russia wanted “all hostages to be released immediately and without delay, this is our firm position,” he said according to Interfax. (FT, 10.24.23)
  • The Russian Prosecutor General's Office refused to recognize the Hamas movement as a terrorist organization, Istories reported. This follows from a response by the Prosecutor General’s Office to a request from St. Petersburg municipal deputy Sergei Samusev: “An organization can be recognized as terrorist only if there is a court conviction that has entered into legal force, confirming the commission on its behalf or in its interests of at least one of those listed in Art. 24 laws of crimes,” says the response. To date, there are no such cases. As a result of an attack by Hamas militants on Israel, 23 Russian citizens were killed, the Israeli Foreign Ministry reported on Oct. 25. (Istories, 10.26.23)
  • The popular messaging app Telegram, founded by Russian-born tech entrepreneur Pavel Durov, has partially restricted access to the accounts of Hamas militants and their affiliates, Russian media reported Oct. 24. (MT/AFP, 10.24.23)
  • Terrorgence, an information network that includes advisers to Israeli police, said in October that Israeli border forces had confiscated antipersonnel mines manufactured in Iran and Russia. (WSJ, 10.26.23)
  • Israel has resumed accepting applications from Russians for its repatriation program days after suspending document processing over fears of protests outside the Israeli embassy in Moscow, Israel’s Ambassador in Russia Alexander Ben Zvi said. (MT/AFP, 10.26.23)
  • Some 88% of Russians are aware of the new escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and a third (32%) are closely following developments, according to the Levada Center’s Oct. 19-25 poll. Some 21% are more likely to sympathize with the Palestinians, more than double the figure from 15 years ago. Six percent of Russians say they sympathize with Israel; this number has halved in recent years, according to Levada. Some 45% of respondents blamed the United States and NATO countries for what’s happening, while 12% blame Israel, 11% believe that no one in particular is responsible and 8% blame Hamas/the Palestinian side. (Levada, 10.27.23)

Nuclear security and safety:

  • On Oct. 26 at least three Ukrainian drones attempted to attack a Russian nuclear plant located some 110 kilometers from the border with Ukraine, Russia’s state nuclear plant operator claimed. Rosenergoatom stressed that the incident at the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant did not cause any damage or affect the plant's operations. (MT/AFP, 10.27.23)

  • IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi warns that nearby explosions which shattered windows at Ukraine's Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant "show just how close it was—and underlines the extremely precarious nuclear safety situation ... which will continue as long as this tragic war goes on." (WNN, 10.26.23)
    • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that the plant was the likely target of an overnight Russian drone attack in western Ukraine that wounded 20 people. " (RFE/RL, 10.25.23)
  • The Ministry of Emergency Situations of Belarus issued a license on Oct. 24 for the industrial operation of a second power unit at the Astravets nuclear power plant. (RFE/RL, 10.24.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said a free-trade zone between the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Union and Iran would be established by the end of the year. trade between Russia and Iran had grown to a record 350 billion rubles ($3.6 billion) in the previous year. (RFE/RL, 10.26.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • On Oct. 21 a Russian antiaircraft missile hit a sprawling mail facility near the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, killing six postal workers and injuring 17 others, local officials said. (WP, 10.22.23)
  • On Oct. 23 eight civilian areas in the Donetsk, Kherson, Beryslav, Sumy and Odesa regions were targeted in the latest series of Russian attacks that employed drones and guided missiles, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said.. (RFE/RL, 10.23.23)
  • On Oct. 27 a Russian missile struck a fire station in the Ukrainian town of Izyum in the northern Kharkiv region overnight, injuring at least eight rescue workers and damaging the facility, Ukrainian officials said. (Reuters, 10.27.23)
  • The Ukrainian government has ordered the evacuation of hundreds of children in shattered villages across southern Ukraine, and is sending police door to door to convince parents that it is time to escape the widespread Russian shelling in the region. Officials are also evacuating children in eastern Ukraine. (NYT, 10.24.23)
  • Ukraine managed to secure the return of three more children who were illegally taken to Russia, Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian parliament’s commissioner for human rights, announced Oct. 21. (RFE/RL, 10.21.23)
  • In a rare show of public criticism in wartime, families of missing Ukrainian soldiers are pressing the government for information on their status. Hundreds of women draped in Ukrainian flags, carrying banners and balloons, chanted on the street around the corner from the president’s office last week. The number of Ukrainians missing in the war runs to 26,000. Fifteen thousand soldiers are missing in action. (NYT, 10.27.23)
  • U.S. officials have suggested at least 70,000 Ukrainian fighters have been killed in action. If true, that means Ukraine may now be a country with tens of thousands of new widows. (NYT, 10.26.23)
  • More than 20 months into the war, Ukraine’s medics are in constant need of crucial supplies. More than a dozen combat medics interviewed since the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in May expressed frustration that defective medical equipment and a lack of medical training were costing soldiers’ lives. (FT, 10.26.23)
  • A United Nations commission has found new evidence that Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine, including deliberate killings, rape and the removal of Ukrainian children, according to a report released on Oct. 20. Victim testimonies also asserted the systematic and widespread use of torture in several Russian detention facilities, the report said. (NYT, 10.21.23) 
  • Germany will provide another 200 million euros ($212 million) to Ukraine to support education, health care and drinking water supplies, as well as urban reconstruction. (dpa, 10.21.23)
  • Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said Russia has committed some “2,500 environmental crimes” since launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 10.21.23)
  • Away from the public eye and the bloody front line, Ukraine and Russia are still talking. The countries are managing to negotiate on a few core humanitarian issues: exchanging prisoners of war and dead soldiers' bodies; the passage of ships from Ukraine's Black Sea ports; and, most recently, the return of Ukrainian children from Russia. (WP, 10.26.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 11 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 27, according to the Oct. 24 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 10.24.23)
    • Ukraine needs to make battlefield advances against Russia “every day” to maintain the support of its allies, Zelensky said. “Even if it’s one kilometer or 500 meters, but to move forward every day to improve Ukrainian positions, to press the invaders,” he said Oct. 22 in his nightly video address. (Bloomberg, 10.22.23)
    • Ukraine’s attempts at lightning thrusts were thwarted by fortified Russian defenses, including dense minefields, south of the Ukrainian city of Orikhiv. "We are exhausted," said the Ukrainian officer in the area. "There were big losses." “We are advancing," said one Ukranian officer serving in southeastern Ukraine, "but it doesn't look like a breakthrough." (WSJ, 10.22.23)
  • On Oct. 21 Ukrainian forces were reported to have stepped up assaults across the Dnipro river near the southern city of Kherson, carrying out raids into Russian-controlled territory on the eastern bank. The increased activity has prompted speculation among analysts and in Russian military circles that Kyiv might be planning a more ambitious effort to open a new front in the war. (NYT, 10.21.23)
  • As of Oct. 23 Ukrainian forces were still fighting to break through heavily fortified Russian lines in the south, but the pace of their advance has been slow, averaging only 90 yards per day during the peak of the summer offensive, according to a new analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. That is the same pace as the Allied forces during the bloody five-month Battle of the Somme in 1916, the analysis said. (NYT, 10.23.23)
  • Ukrainian Telegram channel Deep State's map shows Russian gains to the west and southwest of Krasnohorivka in the Donestk region over the four days preceding Oct. 23, according to Rob Lee. The channel itself described the overall situation along the entire frontline as “difficult” as of Oct. 26. (RM, 10.27.23)
  • On Oct. 24 Zelensky pledged to keep pressure on Russian-occupied Crimea after another attempt to attack Moscow's Black Sea Fleet installation in the city of Sevastopol overnight. (RFE/RL, 10.24.23)
  • On Oct. 25 Russia’s Defense Ministry said its chief Sergei Shoigu inspected command posts of Russian troops in Ukraine's Donetsk region, during a working visit close to the war's front lines. Shoigu ordered senior officers to prepare soldiers for the winter. (Reuters, 10.25.23)
    • Russian forces have received systems that have shot down 24 Ukrainian warplanes over the past few days, Shoigu was quoted by TASS as claiming on Oct. 25. Shoigu didn’t back his claim with any evidence.Russia employed the latest S-400 air defense system in conjunction with an A-50 flying radar in the special military operation in Ukraine, a source close to the Defense Ministry said when commenting on the defense minister’s claim, according to TASS. (RM, 10.25.23)
  • On Oct. 26 Kyiv's troops repelled as many as 15 attacks by Russian forces in and around Avdiivka, a town that has largely been turned to rubble due to Russian bombing, over the preceding 24 hours, according to the Ukrainian armed forces. Avdiivka has been the site of Moscow’s largest offensive in the war in months, and some analysts say Ukraine's supply lines have been whittled down to a narrow corridor. (RFE/RL, 10.26.23)
    • Zelensky’s former adviser Oleksii Arestovych has warned that Kyiv's forces will not be able to hold on to Avdiivka, the Donetsk town where fierce fighting is raging. (Newsweek, 10.25.23)
  • As of Oct. 27 Russia’s Starhe Eddy and Rybar pro-war Telegram channels acknowledged that Ukrainian forces continued to retain control over part of the Krynky village in the Kherson region. (RM, 10.27.23) 
  • On Oct. 27, Russia’s WarGonzo pro-war Telegram channel reported that Russian forces had retreated from the village of Nesteryanka in the Zaporizhzhia region. (RM, 10.27.23)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly confident Russia’s military can outlast Ukraine as a second winter of war approaches with Kyiv’s U.S. and European allies distracted by the deepening conflict between Israel and Hamas. The Kremlin is convinced developments are moving in Putin’s favor and that he’ll be able to hold on to territories in southern and eastern Ukraine that his army seized in the invasion, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. Russia’s playing for time as Putin prepares for presidential elections in March, two of the people said. The aim is to secure territory Russia currently holds and, with neither side able to make a decisive breakthrough, wait for war fatigue in the U.S. and Europe to mount and shift pressure onto Ukraine to seek a settlement. (Bloomberg, 10.21.23)
    • Moscow’s decision to commit thousands of soldiers and hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles to the fight for Avdiivka is a sign of the Kremlin’s confidence that it has sufficiently blunted the Ukrainian offensive in the south to allow it to press forward elsewhere. (NYT, 10.23.23)
  • New ATACMS long-range missiles provided by the U.S. to Kyiv for its defense against Russia are “having a major impact on the battlefield,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov claimed. (Bloomberg, 10.21.23)
  • “We have a huge deficit of ammunition not just in Ukraine but all over the world,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told the Financial Times. “We understand we should produce this here in Ukraine because all around the world it’s finished, it’s depleted. All the warehouses are empty.” (FT, 10.24.23)
    • Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for innovation and digital transformation, said the drone revolution he oversaw was enabled by opening up the traditionally state-run industry. That same shift to the free market was essential if Ukraine was to develop a munitions industry, he added. “We’ve revolutionized the bureaucracy [for drones],” he said, citing tax cuts for drone companies and the removal of duties on components. (FT, 10.24.23)
    • Oleksiy Arestovych, former Advisor to the Office of the President of Ukraine, said in reference to procuring indigenously produced weapons: “They [the Russians] are doing their job. Now, the question is posed to us. Are we doing our job as we should? Are we looking for cheap solutions? ... Putin can order, and in this case, of course, 85% will be embezzled, but we embezzle 80%, and yet no one does anything. We just tell our allies: 'Give, give, give.' ... Ukrainian soldiers are going into battle for light and freedom, but what have we made for them on the home front, (something) beginning with ideology and ending with corruption?" (Novaya Gazeta, 10.22.23)
  • House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) gave his first national television interview since winning the speaker's gavel to assert that Putin can't be allowed to prevail in Ukraine. He also suggested he would be open to sending more funding to the Eastern European country. Johnson also said the House of Representatives will consider new military assistance for Ukraine and Israel as separate measures, he said. Johnson was among 117 House Republicans who voted against $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine in September. (WSJ, 10.26.23, WSJ, 10.26.23, WP, 10.27.23, Bloomberg, 10.27.23) For more on Johnson’s voting record on aid to Ukraine as well as his statements on the Ukraine war, please see RM’s blog post.*
    • The number of Republican members of the House of Representatives who are opposed to funding Ukraine aid is growing, and now makes up more than half the GOP conference. (WSJ, 10.26.23)
  • A group of Republican senators introduced a stand-alone bill that would send billions of dollars in aid to Israel but not Ukraine, underscoring the challenges facing a much larger $106 billion Biden administration proposal that includes more funding for Kyiv. While Democrats back additional funding for Ukraine, some Republicans are skeptical of new aid, while others would prefer to finance weaponry instead of humanitarian aid or direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government. (WSJ, 10.26.23)
    • The administration's proposal includes about $61 billion for Ukraine, and another $14 billion for Israel for security needs. (RFE/RL, 10.26.23)
      • The latest Treasury Department figures showed a budget deficit of $1.7 trillion in 2023, up from $1.37 trillion in 2022. (NYT, 10.20.23)
  • The White House has been quietly urging lawmakers in both parties to sell the war efforts abroad as a potential economic boom at home. Aides have been distributing talking points to Democrats and Republicans who have been supportive of continued efforts to fund Ukraine’s resistance to make the case that doing so is good for American jobs, according to five White House aides and lawmakers familiar with the effort and granted anonymity to speak freely. (Politico, 10.25.23)
  • The Biden administration is pulling an additional $150 million in military equipment from U.S. stockpiles to aid Ukraine, sending more air defense missiles, rockets, artillery ammunition, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons as Kyiv continues its counteroffensive against Russia. (Bloomberg, 10.26.23)
  • The White House said on Oct. 26 that Russia is executing soldiers who fail to follow orders and threatening entire units with death if they retreat from Ukrainian artillery fire. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called the practice “reprehensible” and “barbaric." (AP, 10.26.23)

  • The EU is falling behind on plans to provide Ukraine with a million artillery shells by March, people familiar with the matter said, potentially giving Russian forces an advantage in the supply of ammunition.  Under plans made earlier this year, the EU pledged to provide the artillery ammunition rounds to Ukraine over a 12-month period. With more than half of that time now gone, the initiative has so far delivered about 30% of the target and, based on the volume of contracts signed to date, risks missing its goal. (Bloomberg, 10.26.23)
  • Most European Union leaders meeting for an EU summit in Brussels on Oct. 27 backed granting more financial support to Ukraine as it fights a Russian invasion. The EU executive has proposed that the bloc's 27 countries chip in more funds in a revision to its shared budget to finance additional shared spending through 2027, including extending $52.8 billion in new aid to Kyiv. Overall EU support for Ukraine has totaled almost 83 billion euros since Russia invaded in February 2022, the European Commission said this week. (Reuters, 10.27.23)
  • Slovakia and Hungary threatened to scupper EU unity on providing military support to Ukraine, as the bloc’s leaders gathered in Brussels for a summit where the conflict in the Middle East was taking center stage. (FT, 10.26.23, FT, 10.26.23)
    • Speaking ahead of the EU summit, Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, has said that he is “proud” of his country’s engagement with Russia after he faced criticism for meeting Putin last week. Orban, arriving at a summit of EU leaders on Oct. 26, said Hungary had a “clear and transparent policy” when it came to its engagement with Russia and Putin. Speaking in Brussels on the sidelines of the EU summit Orban also said the EU’s strategy with regard to the war “has failed” and a plan B should be created as Kyiv will not win the frontline battle against Russia. He said he saw no reason for Hungary to send its taxpayers’ money to support Kyiv. (RFE/RL, 10.27.23, FT, 10.26.23, FT, 10.26.23)
    • Slovak PM Robert Fico said on Oct. 26 ahead of the EU summit that his government would not vote in favor of any new measures to help Ukraine or sanctions against Russia without a full assessment of how they could affect Slovakia. He also claimed that Ukraine was “the most corrupt country in the world,” speaking on doubts about the need to increase the European Union's financial assistance for Ukraine, according to Ukrainska Pravda (FT, 10.26.23, FT, 10.26.23, RM, 10.27.23)
  • Ukraine has set up a joint defense venture with German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall to service and repair Western weapons sent to help Kyiv against Russia's full-scale invasion. (Reuters, 10.24.23)
  • In Nepal, hundreds of young men have taken sides in the Ukraine war—both sides. According to Nepali government officials, documents shared with The New York Times and interviews with family members and a soldier serving in Ukraine, the bulk of them are fighting for Russia. But a smaller group has joined the Foreign Legion on the side of Ukraine, according to legion members. “If this situation continues, Nepalis will kill each other in the Russia-Ukraine war,” said Rajendra Bajgain, a member of the governing coalition in Nepal’s Parliament. “I feel guilty seeing all this before my eyes. It’s criminal.”  (NYT, 10.20.23)

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

  • Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the 27 EU countries have adopted 11 sanction packages, targeting raw materials. But minerals that the EU considers "critical" raw materials–34 in total–still flow freely from Russia to Europe in vast quantities. Between March 2022 and July this year, Europe imported €13.7 billion worth of critical raw materials from Russia. More than €3.7 billion arrived between January and July 2023, including €1.2 billion of nickel. The European Policy Centre estimates that up to 90% of some types of nickel used in Europe comes from Russian suppliers. (Investigate Europe, 10.24.23)
  • EU leaders have endorsed plans to use billions of euros in earnings generated by frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine, with the European Commission expected to put forward legal proposals in early December. Western sanctions have immobilized $300 billion belonging to Russia’s central bank since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. The lion’s share — €180 billion according to the Belgian government — is held at Euroclear, the world’s largest securities depository, headquartered in Brussels. (FT, 10.27.23)
    • Sanctioned Russian assets frozen in Belgium have generated nearly €3 billion ($3.2 billion) in profits as European Union states continue to haggle over what to do with the money. (Bloomberg, 10.26.23)
  • The U.S. is seeking to force the sanctioned Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov to forfeit the Amadea, a $300 million superyacht. Meanwhile, another Russian man who’s not under sanctions claims he’s the owner of the ship, and he’s trying to get it back. The 348-foot luxury ship already was seized in Fiji last year at the request of the U.S. government, which on Oct. 23 asked a federal judge in New York to formerly transfer its ownership. (Bloomberg, 10.23.23)
  • Former Conservative party chair Sir Brandon Lewis has taken a job advising an investment company set up and still partly owned by two sanctioned Russian oligarchs. Lewis, a Tory MP, will join LetterOne, a London-based investment vehicle co-founded by billionaires Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, who were placed on Western sanctions lists following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (FT, 10.25.23)
    • Friedman failed to win some relief from strict sanctions imposed on him after a U.K. court denied his request for access to extra cash to pay for staff and the upkeep of his north London mansion. (Bloomberg, 10.26.23)
  • A Stockholm court on Oct. 26 acquitted a Russian-Swede accused of passing Western technology to Russia's military, ruling that while he did export the material his actions did not amount to espionage. Prosecutors had sought a five-year sentence against Sergei Skvortsov, a 60-year-old dual national who has lived in Sweden since the 1990s running import-export companies. (MT/AFP, 10.26.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations: 

  • Russia on Oct. 26 criticized Ukrainian-backed peace talks set to be held in Malta this weekend, warning any discussions without its participation would be counterproductive. The talks, which Zelensky hopes will drum up support for his own peace plan, come after similar gatherings in Jeddah and Copenhagen earlier this year. "Obviously such gatherings have absolutely no perspective, they are simply counterproductive," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters. (MT/AFP, 10.26.23)
  • China is not expected to attend the meeting of national security advisers in Malta this weekend where officials from more than 55 nations will discuss Ukraine’s drive to build support for its so-called peace formula. (Bloomberg, 10.26.23)

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

  • Biden said Oct. 20 that the 50-year post-war period had “run out of steam” following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas and Russia and Ukraine. “A new world order” is needed, Biden said at a campaign reception, adding that the U.S. could “unite the world if we’re bold enough and have enough confidence in ourselves.” (MT/AFP, 10.23.23)
    • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Oct. 23 that Biden’s remarks marked “a rare case when we absolutely agree.” “But the part where we disagree is the U.S.’ capability of building such an order,” Peskov said. (MT/AFP, 10.23.23)
  • Since 2015, the CIA has spent tens of millions of dollars to transform Ukraine's security and intelligence services into potent allies against Moscow, officials told WP. The agency has provided Ukraine with advanced surveillance systems, trained recruits at sites in Ukraine as well as the United States, built new headquarters for departments in Ukraine's military intelligence agency and shared intelligence. The new capabilities were transformative, officials said. "In one day we could intercept 250,000 to 300,000 separate communications" from Russian military and FSB units,” said a former senior GUR [Ukrainian military intelligence] official. U.S. intelligence officials stressed that the agency has had no involvement in targeted killing operations by Ukrainian agencies.  Officials acknowledged that these killings included the August 2022 assassination of Russian ultranationalist Daria Dugina, who had called for killing Ukrainians. (WP, 10.23.23)
    • Russia’s FSB said Oct. 26 it had killed a Russian man accused of planning to attack a military enlistment office on orders from Ukrainian intelligence services. (MT/AFP, 10.26.23)
    • Ukrainian-born deliveryman Yegor Semyonov was accused of attempting to poison the graduates of a Russian military aviation academy during their reunion in a plot that the FSB suspects its Ukrainian counterpart to have organized. (MT/AFP, 10.24.23)
    • Ukrainian lawmaker Oleg Tsarev was badly wounded in an assassination attempt near his house in Crimea. Tsarev, a leader of Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, was seen by Moscow as a potential successor to Zelensky, had Russian troops overthrown Ukraine’s government in their February 2022 invasion. A Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman said his agency was aware of “such information” about Tsarev, but made no comments on whether Ukrainian special services had played a role in the assassinations. (Bloomberg, 10.27.23, RM, 10.27.23)
  • NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said governments may need to strip away regulations for the defense industry or pay for companies’ spare capacity to ensure manufacturing lines don’t go cold during peace time. (Bloomberg, 10.25.23)
  • Turkey’s parliament may schedule a debate next week in the foreign relations committee over Sweden’s bid to join NATO after Erdogan earlier this week asked lawmakers to start proceedings. (Bloomberg, 10.25.23)
  • Men in Finland must join the military or do alternative civilian service at some point between 18 and 30 years of age; it is voluntary for women. In peacetime, just 13,000 people serve in the military, 4,500 of them civilians. If needed, Finland has a potential strength of 280,000, consisting of the younger and best trained reservists, with another 590,000 reservists under the age of 60 who have had military training. (NYT, 10.26.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Russia’s trade turnover with China is on track to reach $220 billion this year, surpassing government projections by some $20 billion, the acting head of Russia’s customs agency said Oct. 25. Ruslan Davydov said Russian-Chinese trade increased by 27% year-on-year between January and September, or by $35 billion. (MT/AFP, 10.25.23)
  • Chinese Premier Li Qiang told his Russian counterpart that he wants to boost their trade and other cooperation, underscoring the nations’ close ties with the war in Ukraine well into its second year. China is “willing to further align its development strategies with Russia” and “maintain the growth momentum of cooperation on trade and investment,” Li said in a meeting Oct. 25 with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in Bishkek. (Bloomberg, 10.25.23)
  • Despite much back-slapping about the Sino-Russian partnership, Putin was unable to secure any agreement on constructing the long-awaited Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline even though Putin asserted six months ago, after meeting Xi in Moscow, that “practically all the parameters” of the project had been agreed. “Right now, China has no urgent need to sign up to a gas agreement. There is no risk that Russian gas will be bought by someone else. Also, there is no risk that Russia will need time to fully develop the field—gas from Yamal can go to China in almost full volumes as soon as the pipeline is ready,” energy expert Sergei Vakulenko said. (The Bell, 10.20.23.)
  • Gazprom will send additional gas to China and Hungary this year, Alexei Miller, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview with Russia state television. According to Miller, additional gas flows to China for the remainder of the year may reach 600 million cubic meters. Those volumes aren’t significant given that estimated pipeline gas flows to China are expected to be 22 billion cubic meters this year and 30 billion cubic meters in 2024. (Bloomberg, 10.23.23)
  • Russian aluminum giant United Co. Rusal International PJSC agreed to buy a 30% stake in a Chinese alumina plant to plug a gap in supplies of the key ingredient amid disruptions triggered by the invasion of Ukraine. The Russian firm will pay Wenfeng 1.91 billion yuan ($261 million) for the 30% share. The final price will be adjusted based on Wenfeng’s working capital and debt, but isn’t expected to top 2.5 billion yuan. (Bloomberg, 10.24.23)
  • NATO is increasingly concerned about China’s shipping on Russia’s Northern Sea route, and the possibility that its commercial and scientific interests could be a precursor to a Chinese military presence in the Arctic, the alliance’s senior military officer said. “We know there are military scientists on board these ships,” Adm. Rob Bauer, who chairs NATO’s Military Committee, said in an interview in Iceland. “They haven’t said they won’t go there militarily.” (Bloomberg, 10.21.23)
  • The multilateral lender established in 2015 by the BRICS group of emerging-market countries is seeking its first-ever syndicated loan, according to people familiar with the matter. Shanghai-headquartered New Development Bank is looking to raise $1.25 billion through a three-year dollar-denominated loan. (Bloomberg, 10.25.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • On Oct. 26 Russia practiced what Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu described to Putin as  “a massive nuclear strike by strategic offensive forces in response to an enemy’s nuclear strike." Multi-warhead ICBM Yars and SLBM Sineva have been employed in the “Grom” (Thunder) exercise along with Tu-95 strategic bombers. It follows from the Kremlin's description of this Russian strategic deterrence forces annual exercise that a Yars was launched from Plesetsk in the far north to Kura in the far east, a Sineva was launched by the Tula SSBN from the Barents Sea, while the two Tu-95s launched cruise missiles. If what Shoigu has told Putin about the scenario of the wargame is accurate, then the simulated response would be in compliance with Russia's strategic documents on use of nuclear weapons, which allow retaliatory nuclear strikes in response to an adversary's first nuclear strike. (RM, 10.25.23)
  • Russia said Oct. 25 it would study U.S. proposals to resume dialogue on nuclear arms control, but that it would not accept them unless Washington dropped its "hostile" stance toward Moscow. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agencies that Moscow had received an informal memo from the U.S. calling for renewed dialogue, but that talks were out of the question for now. (MT/AFP, 10.25.23)
    • The U.S. Embassy in Moscow told Kommersant that the U.S. has indicated its readiness to begin negotiations with Russia to reduce nuclear risks and develop new agreements in the field of arms control. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed to Kommersant that American ideas on nuclear arms control are being conveyed to Moscow “through various channels.” The ministry said “the form and content of a potential response” by Moscow to Washington’s proposals will be determined by Russia “over time.” (Kommersant, 10.21.23)
  • Speaking at a forum dedicated to Eurasian security in Minsk, Russian Foreing Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Russia’s criticism of NATO’s nuclear sharing scheme. According to Lavrov, this arrangement creates “increased strategic risks,” as well as generating “an extremely destabilizing charge and forces us to resort to compensatory measures amid the general increase of threats posed by NATO.” (RT, 10.26.23)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI: 

  • A cyber specialist who briefly worked at the top-secret U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) pleaded guilty on Oct. 23 to attempting to spy for Russia, the U.S. Justice Department said. Jareh Sebastian Dalke spent less than four weeks working at the NSA, the United States government's intelligence gathering agency, before he suddenly quit at the end of June last year, citing family problems. (MT/AFP, 10.24.23)
  • Artificial intelligence company ScaleAI, which was co-founded in 2016 to help other companies organize and label data to train AI algorithms, has been aggressively pitching itself as the company that will help the U.S. military in its existential battle with China, offering to help the Pentagon pull better insights out of the reams of information it generates every day, build better autonomous vehicles and even create chatbots that can help advise military commanders during combat. (WP, 10.22.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Total Russian oil exports declined by around 900 kb/d below their pre-invasion level in August 2023, but revenues surged. In September 2023, Russian oil export earnings reached $18.8 billion, the highest since July 2022, and the current account surplus in Q3 2023 rose to $16.6 billion (compared to $9.6 billion in Q2 2023). The reason is that the spread between Russian export prices and Brent decreased from $40 per barrel in January 2023 to below $14 per barrel in September. (Russian Sanctions Digest by KSE Institute, 10.24.23)
  • About 3.53 million barrels a day of crude was shipped from Russian ports in the week to Oct. 22, an increase of 20,000 barrels a day from the previous seven days, tanker-tracking data monitored by Bloomberg show. That lifted the less volatile four-week average to 3.5 million barrels a day, the highest since June. (Bloomberg, 10.24.23)
  • The European Union is on track toward its goal of ending Europe's reliance on Russian fossil fuels within this decade, the European Commission said. In a report published on Oct. 24, Brussels said the EU expected imports of Russian gas to drop to 40-45 billion cubic meters (bcm) this year, compared with 155 bcm in 2021, the year before the Ukraine war. (Reuters, 10.24.23)
  • The world’s demand for natural gas is set to be even lower than anticipated through 2040 as renewables take up a greater share of the energy mix, while Russia’s gas-market share is set to dwindle, according to the International Energy Agency. The IEA now expects gas demand to peak in all forecast scenarios by 2030, with “little headroom remaining for either pipeline or LNG trade to grow beyond then,” it said. (Bloomberg, 10.24.23)
  • Damage to a Baltic Sea gas pipeline earlier this month is believed to have been caused by a ship dragging a large anchor along the seabed, Finnish police said Oct. 24. (Reuters, 10.24.23)

Climate change:

  • Russia’s Sakhalin region has become the first in the country to set carbon quotas, the latest step in its goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2025. (MT/AFP, 10.26.23)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, as well as domestic extremists, are likely to try to disrupt the 2024 U.S. election with some different techniques from those they relied upon in the past, the Department of Homeland Security warned in a recent threat assessment. (WP, 10.23.23)
    • The State Department’s Global Engagement Center is taking the unusual step of disclosing a covert Russian operation when it is barely off the ground. An article that appeared in August on an international news outlet, Pressenza, recycled a false Russian claim that the West was looting religious relics and art from a monastery in Kyiv, one of the holiest sites in Russian Orthodoxy. (NYT, 10.26.23)
  • Alsu Kurmasheva, a Russian-American journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has been ordered to stay in pre-trial detention until December on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent, her employer said Oct. 23. (MT/AFP, 10.23.23)
    • Russia's Investigative Committee on Oct. 26 specified the charge against Kurmasheva. The Investigative Committee announced that Kurmasheva has been charged under a section of the Criminal Code that refers to the registration of foreign agents who carry out “purposeful collection of information in the field of military, military-technical activities of Russia,” which, if received by foreign sources, “can be used against the security of the country.” (RFE/RL, 10.26.23)

  • The United States has made a “serious proposal” to Moscow for the release of ex-Marine Paul Whelan as his imprisonment in a Russian prison nears five years, CNN reported Oct. 24. (MT/AFP, 10.24.23)
  • The sister of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia on spying charges, appealed for his release on Oct. 24 ahead of his upcoming 32nd birthday. (AFP, 10.24.23)
  • U.S. ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy said: "These days in Russia … there is almost absolutely no space for dissent.” "What we've seen is unfortunately Russia going backward. Where we are now feels like a level of repression that I certainly don't recall seeing in the times or the experience that I've had with Russia or the Soviet Union." “The importance of maintaining a channel of communication remains one of our highest priorities here," Tracy said. (WSJ, 10.27.23)


II. Russia’s domestic policies 

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • “All [emerging market] currencies have gotten clobbered recently, weighed down by the rise in long-term U.S. yields. There’s one exception: Russia’s ruble,” according to Robin Brooks, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance. “Rising oil prices are giving Putin the same windfall in 2023 that he got last year, just as attention is getting pulled away from Ukraine,” he writes via X. A graphic included with the text shows 23 emerging markets’ currencies, 20 of which experienced negative spot returns (-0.27% to -8.99%) between Aug. 31 and Oct. 23, while the ruble rose by 1.18%, according to a recent X post by Brooks. (RM, 10.25.23)
  • Russia’s central bank raised interest rates by two percentage points to 15 percent on Oct. 27, higher than the 14 percent analysts had predicted, citing high inflation and the weak ruble as it hiked for the fourth consecutive meeting. (FT, 10.27.23)
  • Some 45% of Russians said that their salary is not enough to pay for basic needs, RBC reports, citing a survey by the job search platform Two years ago this figure was 25%. (Istories, 10.23.23)
  • In October, 64% of respondents to a Levada poll said they believed that things in Russia are moving in the right direction, compared to 62% in September. Some 82% of the October poll’s respondents approve of Putin’s activities as President compared to 80% in September.
  • When asked to independently name several politicians whom they trust most, 44% named Putin, compared to 38% in September. (Levada, 10.27.23)
  • The Kremlin plans to boost President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating ahead of next year's elections by launching a nationwide lottery among Russian families, the independent news website Meduza reported on Oct. 25. (MT/AFP, 10.25.23)
  • Some of the servicemen of Russian military intelligence 29155, which was reportedly involved in the poisonings of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and other acts of sabotage in Europe, are now working as civil servants in Russian regions. Ivan Terentiev has become the chief federal inspector for the Sakhalin region; Nikolay Yezhov has become the chief federal inspector of the Far Eastern Magadan region; Rustam Dzhafarov has become Putin’s first deputy representative in the Far Eastern region; Sergey Romanov was the trade representative of the Russian Federation in Thailand for about 10 years. Reportedly only Vladimir Moiseev continues his sabotage service and was supposed to organize actions in the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (The Insider, 10.20.23, Istories, 10.20.23)
  • A State Duma deputy from the United Russia party, Andrei Gurulev, said Russian President Vladimir Putin is supported by 80% of citizens, and he proposed “isolating” or “somehow destroying” the remaining “rot.” In his words: “All this rot that remains it should be, if not isolated, then at least somehow destroyed.” (Novye Izvestia, 10.21.23)
  • More than 820,000 people have left Russia since February 2022, according to a study by Re: Russia, a website run by exiled academics. While many dissidents have stayed in the countries to which they fled, some young professionals are choosing to return to Russia. Emil Kamalov and Ivetta Sergeeva, of the European University Institute in Florence, have been studying the outflow of Russian émigrés in surveys. Yet more than 15% of those surveyed had returned to Russia—some to settle their affairs, others more permanently. (FT, 10.25.23)
    • A survey conducted by the Centre for Social Projecting “Platform” reveals that 58% of Russians take a critical view of fellow citizens who chose to leave the country following the start of the full-scale war against Ukraine. (R.Politik, 10.23.23)
  • Russian courts have imprisoned more people under wartime censorship laws so far in 2023 than in all of 2022, the Kommersant business daily reported on Oct. 23, citing Supreme Court data. According to Kommersant, eight out of 21 convictions for “war fakes” resulted in real jail time between January and June 2023. (MT/AFP, 10.23.23)
  • Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been placed in punitive solitary confinement, a day after his allies said he was stripped of writing materials—his only means of communicating with the outside world. (Current Time, 10.24.23)
  • Russian prosecutors are seeking a three-year prison sentence for veteran human rights campaigner Oleg Orlov, who was fined by a Moscow court earlier this month, after he wrote an article saying Russia had become a "fascist" country under President Vladimir Putin, the Memorial rights group said Friday.  (MT/AFP, 10.27.23)

  • A Moscow court has deprived a former Russian state television journalist who conducted an on-air protest against the invasion of Ukraine of custody of her two children. The court on Oct. 25 upheld a complaint filed by the former husband of Marina Ovsyannikova in absentia. (RFE/RL, 10.26.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russian lawmakers backed a record increase in military spending to fund Moscow's offensive on Ukraine, in a first reading of the bill on Oct. 26. Defense spending will account for almost a third of all outlays in 2024—up 68% to 10.8 trillion rubles ($115 billion). At more than 6% of the country's GDP, military spending will hit its highest share of the economy since the collapse of the Soviet Union. (MT/AFP, 10.26.23)
  • Russia's Armed Forces have recruited 385,000 people so far this year, officials said Oct. 25, as Moscow needs masses of soldiers for its Ukraine offensive. (MT/AFP, 10.25.23)
    • Russia has freed up to 100,000 prison inmates and sent them to fight in Ukraine, according to government statistics and rights advocates—a far greater number than was previously known. (WP, 10.26.23)
  • Russian Col. Gen. Viktor Afzalov has been appointed commander of the Russian Air Force. Afzalov was promoted from his position of acting air force chief. Afzalov previously commanded the Air Force and Air Defense Army of the Eastern Military District. He replaces Gen. Sergei Surovikin. (RFE/RL, 10.21.23, AP, 10.27.23)
  • Adam Delimkhanov, a State Duma deputy and one of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s closest associates, said that Ruslan Geremeyev has been appointed commander of a Russian MoD battalion, which would be manned by natives of Chechnya and named after Sheikh Mansur, Istories reported. The lawyer for Boris Nemtsov’s relatives alleged that Geremeyev was the organizer of Nemtsov’s murder. (RM, 10.26.23) It should be noted that a native of Chechnya, Sheikh Mansur fought the Russian imperial army during the latter's conquest of the Caucasus. It should also be noted there is already a Sheikh Mansur battalion fighting on the Ukrainian side.
  • Russian police reportedly rounded up Muslim worshippers exiting a Moscow region mosque after Oct. 20 prayers and brought them to a military enlistment office for the war in Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 10.23.23)
  • Putin said on Oct. 26 that the first segment of the new space station that Moscow plans to construct to replace the ISS should be in orbit by 2027. (MT/AFP, 10.26.23)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • A Moscow court has sentenced physicist Anatoly Gubanov who worked on hypersonic development to 12 years in a penal colony on treason charges. He was detained in December 2020 and accused of passing secret hypersonic development materials to colleagues from the Netherlands with whom he collaborated on the HEXAFLY-INT, the world’s first civil hypersonic airliner. (MT/AFP, 10.27.23)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Raiffeisen Bank International said it has accumulated enough capital to pay out a dividend on last year’s result that it withheld while assessing the future of its Russian unit. The Vienna-based lender called a shareholder meeting for Nov. 21 to vote on the €0.8 ($0.84) per share dividend announced in February. (Bloomberg, 10.27.23)
  • When Magomed Musaev, a Kremlin-connected tycoon, gathered friends in New York to celebrate his 60th birthday, he was joined at the head table by top executives from the Forbes Media Group. Days before the party, had told associates that he was the Forbes buyer and had sealed the deal of a lifetime, according to five audio recordings and one video recording obtained by The Washington Post in which he discussed the deal. (WP, 10.20.23)
  • Soon after Israeli businessmen Royi Burstien and Lior Chorev touched down in the busy capital of the West African nation of Burkina Faso, they concluded that the real threat to the leadership of this country came from Russia, which was running what appeared to be a wide-ranging disinformation campaign aimed at destabilizing Burkina Faso and other democratically-elected governments on its borders. Three years later, the governments of five former French colonies, including Burkina Faso, have been toppled. (WP, 10.21.23)
  • The EU is bringing the European Film Festival back to Russia this November despite Russia's war against Ukraine. The festival, which did not run in 2022 due to the conflict, will showcase 21 films from EU countries. (dpa, 10.27.23)


  • The European Union's executive is set to present an assessment on November 8 of progress made by Ukraine in its membership bid, three officials said, a key step in the bloc's decision on starting accession talks with Kyiv. (RFE/RL, 10.24.23)
    • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held talks with the European Commission ahead of its expected decision next month to recommend opening accession talks with Kyiv. “Ukrainians have been and remain optimistic about the European Union,” Zelensky told the meeting after joining the EU’s executive arm via video conference, according to a transcript. The commission is likely to give the green light as part of an enlargement report—and Ukraine is expected be asked to meet outstanding conditions on issues including the fight against corruption and treatment of minorities. (Bloomberg, 10.24.23)
  • Zelensky reportedly asked prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu whether he could visit Israel along with other leaders to show solidarity. The response from Jerusalem came quick and cold: “Now is not the time,” according to Hebrew-language media. (FT, 10.22.23)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a phone call with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on ways to further develop Ukraine’s ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, according to Zelensky’s post on social media platform X. Zelensky invited a Saudi Arabia. (Bloomberg, 10.23.23)
  • More than 100 foreign heads of government, cabinet members and leaders of international governmental organizations from Europe, North America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia have traveled to the war zone to demonstrate their support. (WP, 10.23.23)
  • The Welsh parliament has approved a resolution recognizing the 1932-33 Holodomor as a genocide of the Ukrainian people. (RFE/RL, 10.26.23)
  • Traffic through Ukraine’s new Black Sea shipping corridor was paused by local authorities amid a push to iron out tax and customs issues and root out corruption, according to a Ukrainian official. (Bloomberg, 10.26.23)
  • Ukraine’s central bank delivered its biggest interest-rate cut since Russia’s invasion and raised its forecast for growth this year as sliding inflation eased pressure on the war-battered economy. The National Bank of Ukraine cut the benchmark rate by four percentage points to 16% on Oct. 26, deeper than the 18% forecast in a Bloomberg survey. (Bloomberg, 10.26.23)
  • Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskiy, who was arrested in Kyiv last month on suspicion of fraud and money laundering, has transferred corporate rights over his 1+1 media group to the company’s employees. (RFE/RL, 10.26.23)
  • According to the results of a recent poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, the majority of Ukrainians—59%—believe that there are indeed attempts to fight corruption and positive developments in Ukraine. At the same time, a significant share of respondents chose the answer option that the latest cases are evidence of "the hopeless corruption of Ukraine and there are no positive changes" (34%). (KIIS, 10.25.23) 

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Azerbaijan said on Oct. 23 that it had begun joint military exercises with its ally Turkey near the border with Armenia as foreign ministers from the three countries are meeting their Iranian and Russian counterparts in Tehran to discuss a number of issues, including the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. (RFE/RL, 10.23.23)
  • Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly described most of Armenia, including the capital, Yerevan, as historically Azerbaijani lands that should be recovered. Even though he recently stated that Azerbaijan has no territorial claims on Armenia, officials and state-controlled media in Baku continue referring to most of Armenia as "Western Azerbaijan." Aliyev on Oct. 25 canceled plans to meet Pashinyan for talks later this month in Brussels. (WSJ, 10.26.23)
  • This week Armenia signed a deal to purchase from France modern air defenses, moving to fill a key capability gap that allowed Azerbaijan to rout Armenian forces in 2020. (WSJ, 10.26.23)
  • Bound to Russia by a military alliance and an economic union, Armenia is seeking new partners because Moscow has failed to live up to its commitments as an ally, especially during Azerbaijan's takeover of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave last month, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said. (WSJ, 10.26.23)
  • Luis Moreno Ocampo, the first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said: “The U.N. Security Council is divided because of Ukraine, so they will do nothing here. The case is showing how primitive our global institutional system is. We saw the same in [Nagorno-Karabakh] just two weeks ago. Azerbaijan committed genocide against Armenia and nothing happened. We really need to adjust our institution and invent new things. (WP, 10.22.23)
  • Moldova blocked access to more than 20 Russian media websites on Oct. 24, saying that they had been used as part of an information war against the country. (Reuters, 10.24.23)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • “They are razing Gaza to the ground,” Russian state television anchor and propagandist Vladimir Solovyov said during a recent show. “We [the Russian army] don’t fight like that, not even close.” (MT/AFP, 10.24.23) Solovyov’s claim runs counter to a wealth of evidence, such as that of carpet-bombing in Grozny during the Russian-Chechen war, as reported by HRW and other organizations.


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.