Russia in Review, Sept. 1-8, 2023

7 Things to Know

  1. G-20 leaders began arriving in New Delhi on Sept. 8 for their annual gathering as negotiators struggled to bridge differences over the war in Ukraine in the group’s joint statement. While it remains unclear whether a final consensus can be reached, China appears to have dropped its initial opposition to language on Ukraine and Russia, according to a Bloomberg report citing “people familiar with the deliberations.” While the leaders of China and Russia are skipping the summit, U.S. President Joe Biden has already arrived in New Delhi where he plans to call for a "just and durable peace” in Ukraine, according to his NSA Jake Sullivan.
  2. In the past month of fighting, Russian forces have gained 34 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 22 square miles, according to the Sept. 6 issue of the Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force’s Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. On Sept. 7 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Kyiv's counteroffensive is "gradually gaining ground,” while a day later Russian pro-war Telegram channel “Rybar” said that Ukrainian forces had managed to push Russian troops out of Andriivka in the Donetsk Oblast.
  3. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is to travel to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin and discuss weapons sales to Moscow, NYT reported, citing a U.S. official. The meeting will probably take place at the annual Eastern Economic Forum, which is to take place on Sept. 10-13 in Vladivostok. Arms negotiations between the countries “are actively advancing,” a National Security Council spokeswoman said, according to WP. A Kremlin spokesman refused to confirm Kim’s visit, AFP reported.
  4. SpaceX cut off Starlink satellite internet service to Ukrainian submarine drones last September just as they were launching an attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet, according to a CNN account of a new Elon Musk biography. According to the book, the drones "lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly." Ukrainian and American officials scrambled to get service restored, according to the report, appealing to Musk directly. Musk eventually agreed, according to WP and NYT.
  5. Romanian officials said this week that debris suspected to be from a Russian drone was found in their country’s territory across the Danube River from the Ukrainian port of Izmail, which Russia had attacked repeatedly, according to NYT. If confirmed that the parts belong to a Russian drone, it would represent "a serious violation of the sovereignty and territory of Romania, a NATO ally," Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said. The debris was found in the vicinity of the village of Plauru, according to WP. The United States is expanding patrol flights in Romania “right up to the Ukrainian border” in response, according to NYT.
  6. The results of the Levada Center’s latest installment in its series of polls on Russians’ attitudes toward their country’s war in Ukraine indicate that the share of peaceniks continues to exceed the share of war hawks among common Russians. In August, the share of those who preferred the launch of peace talks was 50%, while the share of those who preferred continuing the war was 38%, according to RM.
  7. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has accused Azerbaijan of concentrating forces near the border, according to RFE/RL. Over the past few days, footage has circulated across Azerbaijani social media appearing to show increased movement of Azerbaijani troops around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the border with Armenia, according to a Sept. 8 report by Eurasianet. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassador from longtime ally Armenia to protest upcoming joint military exercises with the United States, according to AP.


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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi says that the arrival of its experts at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant a year ago was "crucial" and their presence continues to be of "paramount importance.” (WNN, 09.04.23)
  • Some wild boar hunted in German forests have radiation levels that exceed the limit deemed safe for human consumption. A peer-reviewed study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology has found in the boars high levels of radiation that the researchers believe come from nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere carried out long before the Chernobyl meltdown. (NYT, 09.02.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to travel to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin and discuss weapons sales to Moscow, a senior White House official said on Sept. 4. North Korea’s leader would travel to the east coast of Russia by armored train for the meeting, which would probably take place at the annual Eastern Economic Forum in the city of Vladivostok, which opens this week. Kim is also likely to seek missile and warhead technology during his visit. (WP, 09.05.23, NYT, 09.06.23)
    • Arms negotiations between the countries "are actively advancing," Adrienne Watson, a National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement on Sept. 4. "We have information that Kim Jong Un expects these discussions to continue, to include leader-level diplomatic engagement in Russia." (WP, 09.05.23)
    • The Kremlin said it values its relations with North Korea, declining to comment on reports that Kim could visit Russia. "No, we cannot" confirm this, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked if Kim would meet Putin soon. "We have nothing to say on this." (MT/AFP, 09.05.23, WP, 09.07.23)
    • Prior to the planned visit, Kim had inspected five major munitions factories within a single week last month, calling on engineers and officials to increase production of weapons ranging from intercontinental ballistic missile launchers and cruise missile engines to sniper and assault rifles. (FT, 09.06.23)
  • South Korea’s intelligence service believes Moscow has suggested North Korea take part in joint naval exercises with Russia and China, in what would be a first for the Pyongyang regime. (FT, 09.04.23)
  • A Russian military song and dance ensemble has arrived in North Korea, state media said on Sept. 8, with a Chinese delegation also due for a key anniversary, in fresh signs of border reopening. (MT/AFP, 09.08.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • On Sept. 2, Russian forces launched a massive drone attack on Ukraine’s southern Odesa port region. The attack, which lasted for more than three hours, hit grain shipping infrastructure on the Danube, injuring at least two people. Ukrainian air defense shot down 22 of the 25 Iranian-made Shahed drones, Ukraine’s air force said. (FT, 09.0323)
  • On Sept. 5, Russia shot down at least three Ukraine-launched drones that were targeting the country's capital, the Russian Defense Ministry said. (RFE/RL, 09.05.23)
  • On the night of Sept. 5-6, Russian missile and drone strikes killed at least one person in Izmail. Ukraine’s air force said that it had intercepted 23 out of 33 missiles and drones, which also targeted Kyiv. (FT, 09.06.23)
  • On Sept. 6, President Volodymyr Zelensky said a daytime Russian rocket attack on a busy market has killed at least 16 people in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kostyantynivka. “Russian terrorists have attacked a regular market, shops, and a pharmacy, killing innocent people. The number of casualties could rise further,” Zelensky said. (FT, 09.06.23)
    • Ruslan Leviev, founder of the Conflict Intelligence Team investigative group, said that analysis of the video footage of the attack suggests that the rocket could be Ukrainian. According to Leviev, the analysis of the recording, including the reflection of the rocket on the bodies of cars, allows us to say that the rocket arrived from the north-west - from the territory controlled by Ukrainian troops. (Meduza, 09.07.23)
  • On Sept. 7, Ukrainian port infrastructure was damaged in another Russian drone attack early as Russia said drones were downed near Moscow and two other regions. A grain silo and administrative buildings were damaged in the early morning attack in Izmail, Oleh Kiper, governor of the Odesa region, said. One person was injured in the attack, the fourth on Ukraine's key Danube River port in the last five days, he said. (RFE/RL, 09.07.23)
  • On Sept. 7, two Ukrainian drones were shot down by air defense systems in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, some 60 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, according to Rostov region Governor Vasily Golubev. (MT/AFP, 09.07.23)
  • On Sept. 8, a Russian missile landed in the center of the Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, killing at least one person and injuring more than 50 others, Ukrainian officials said. (NYT, 09.08.23)
  • As many as 3.3 million Ukrainians — or almost 8% of the country’s pre-war population — may not return home after fleeing Russia’s invasion, a study showed. That estimate is up by as many as 600,000 since December, Ukraine’s Center for Economic Strategy said in a report issued on Sept. 4, citing a similar study then. (Bloomberg, 09.05.23)
  • Attacks using cluster munitions by both Russia and Ukraine since the start of the Kremlin's full-scale invasion last year have helped lead to a "dramatic" increase in the use of such weapons, highlighting the need for more countries to join a global ban. The Cluster Munitions Coalition campaign group on Sept. 5 released its annual report on cluster munitions, saying that in 2022 at least 1,172 people, 95 percent of whom were civilians, were casualties of cluster munitions in eight countries. (RFE/RL, 09.05.23)
    • By embracing cluster munitions to keep this summer's counteroffensive moving forward, Ukraine and the United States have opened themselves to human rights concerns about their long-term threat to civilians who inadvertently trigger unexploded bombs. (NYT, 09.08.23
  • During his two-day visit to Ukraine this week U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
    • Pledged an additional $1 billion in security and humanitarian funds for Ukraine on Sept. 6, presenting a package that includes millions in assets seized from sanctioned Russian oligarchs. (Bloomberg, 09.06.23)
    • Said: "By some estimates as much as one third of Ukraine's territory has to deal with mines or unexploded ordnance.” Kyiv estimates that around 67,000 square miles of the country — or just under a third of the total land area — may contain explosive hazards and, of that, about 9,600 square miles is farmland. (WSJ, 09.07.23)
    • Said the intention of his visit was “to reinforce the unwavering U.S. commitment to Ukraine.” (FT, 09.06.23)
    • Received battlefield updates from President Volodymyr Zelensky. (WP, 09.07.23)
  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pledged more U.S. financial assistance for Ukraine, saying she’s confident the effort will win congressional support despite a looming partisan showdown. (Bloomberg, 09.08.23)
  • Vladimir Putin restated his opposition on Sept. 4 to the internationally backed Black Sea grain deal, a sign that little progress was made toward reviving the agreement after bilateral talks with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (NYT, 09.04.23)
    • Erdogan said after the meeting with Putin that Ankara is against alternative proposals to the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Russia and Ukraine have proposed alternative plans, but Erdogan said the proposals "could not offer a sustainable, secure, and permanent model based on cooperation between the parties like the Black Sea Initiative." (RFE/RL, 09.04.23)
  •  Senior Ukrainian official Podlyak on Sept. 5 rebuffed a suggestion by Turkey that Kyiv should soften its stance to revive the Black Sea grain deal, saying Ukraine would not support sanctions relief for Moscow or a policy of "appeasement." (RFE/RL, 09.05.23)
  •  Putin said on Sept. 4 that Moscow is just weeks away from supplying free grain to six African countries after scrapping a deal allowing Ukrainian food exports through the Black Sea. (MT/AFP, 09.04.23)
  • Poland, Hungary and Slovakia are continuing to push for extending a ban on grain imports from Ukraine until the end of the year, warning of disruptions to their domestic markets. (Bloomberg, 09.07.23)
  • Romania's government will approve on Sept. 8 a plan to upgrade road infrastructure in the Black Sea port of Constanta, part of wider investments in the port that could help more Ukrainian grain to transit. (Reuters, 09.08.23)
  • This week Zelensky’s office said he discussed the transport of Ukrainian grain exports and the security of the Odesa region in a phone call with French leader Emmanuel Macron. (RFE/RL, 09.03.23)
    • Zelensky also said he and Macron discussed “what new supplies can help our warriors,” including training in France for pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets being supplied by allies to Kyiv. (FT, 09.03.23)
  • As Russia and Ukraine battle in the Black Sea with warships, small boats and drones, a new strategic target has emerged in the contested waters: oil and gas platforms. Both countries said late last month that their forces had clashed around a rig near Snake Island, in the northwestern part of the Black Sea. (NYT, 09.06.23)
  • The U.K. plans to host a summit for countries hit by rising food prices due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said. The event, slated for November 20th, will bring together government representatives, charities and businesses “to help vulnerable people and economies” impacted by rising food prices, Sunak’s office said. (Bloomberg, 09.07.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month of fighting Russian forces have gained 34 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 22, according to Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 09.06.23)
  • On Sept. 1, John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington, said there was a reason to be hopeful about the Ukrainian counteroffensive. "We have noted that over the last 72 hours or so, some notable progress by Ukrainian armed forces on that southern line of advance coming out of the Zaporizhzhia area, and they have achieved some success against that second line of Russian defenses," he said. (WSJ, 09.02.23)
  • On Sept. 2 Zelensky has rebuffed criticism over the slow pace of Kyiv's nearly three-month-long counteroffensive to retake territory occupied by Russia. "Ukrainian forces are moving forward. Despite everything, and no matter what anyone says, we are advancing, and that is the most important thing," Zelensky wrote on Telegram. "We are on the move." The comments came after unidentified U.S. officials expressed frustration at the progress of Ukraine's counteroffensive, backed by Western military equipment and training. (RFE/RL, 09.02.23)
    • To “obsess about how many hundreds of meters Ukraine has achieved today . . . [is] ridiculous when we don’t know the timeline for this war,” said one Western official. Ukrainian forces are making “incremental,” “methodical” and “slower than expected” progress, the official added, but 270,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded, and Russia’s army is now half the size that it was two years ago. (FT, 09.06.23)
  • On Sept. 2, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it had destroyed three sea drones targeting the Kerch Strait Bridge, a vital supply line for Moscow’s forces that links occupied Crimea to Russia. (NYT, 09.02.23)
  • On Sept. 2, Russia destroyed three Ukrainian naval drones that targeted the Crimea bridge, Moscow said. "On Sept. 2, at about 02:20 Moscow time, the third Ukrainian semi-submersible unmanned boat, sent by the Kyiv regime to carry out a terrorist attack on the Crimean bridge, was destroyed in the Black Sea," Russia's Defense Ministry said on Telegram. One drone was destroyed on Sept. 1 and two others were destroyed early Sept. 2, it said. (MT/AFP, 09.02.23)
  • On Sept. 3, the Ukrainian Navy late on claimed its forces had blasted a Russian landing craft in the Black Sea, killing six soldiers. (RFE/RL, 09.03.23)
  • On Sept. 4, the U.S. Institute for the Study of War said that the Ukrainian forces in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region have breached formidable Russian defensive obstacles. (RFE/RL, 09.05.23)
    • The Black Bird Group, a volunteer organization that analyzes satellite imagery and social media content from the battlefield, said on Sept. 4 that Ukrainian soldiers had cleared obstacles to reach Russian infantry fighting positions on the outskirts of Verbove. But analysts said that does not necessarily mean they have secured the territory. (NYT, 09.06.23)
  • On Sept. 4, Russia said it had destroyed four Ukrainian military boats carrying troops in the Black Sea. The Russian defense ministry said the boats were "traveling in the direction of Cape Tarkhankut on the Crimean coast," but did not provide further details. (MT/AFP, 09.04.23)
  • Russian authorities said on Sept. 4 that Russian border agents have thwarted a Ukrainian sabotage group’s third attempt this past month to infiltrate western Russia’s Bryansk region. (MT/AFP, 09.05.23)
  • On Sept. 7, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Kyiv's counteroffensive is "gradually gaining ground" as Ukrainian troops fight to reclaim territory from entrenched Russian forces in the country's east and south. "There's heavy fighting, difficult fighting, but they have been able to reach the defensive lines of Russian forces, and they are moving forward," he told the European Parliament. (WP, 09.07.23)
  • On Sept. 7, Russian air defense systems in the southern Volgograd region downed a drone, local authorities and media said, the first such reported incident in the region since the start of the war in Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 09.07.23)
  • On Sept. 8, the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces reported that its forces repelled Russian attacks on several towns and villages in the country’s east and south, including the Donetsk settlements of Lyman, Bakhmut, and Shakhtarsk. The military claimed “partial success” by Ukrainian forces in the south of Bakhmut, where troops “pushed the enemy out and reinforced their own positions.” (RFE/RL, 09.08.23)
  • On Sept. 8 Russian pro-war Telegram channel “Rybar” reported that the Ukrainian forces had managed to push Russian troops out of Andriivka in the Donetsk Oblast. The channel also claimed that Russian troops were trying, as of Sept. 8, to recapture parts of the nearby settlement of Klishchiivka, but did not cite any evidence to back these claims. (RM, 09.08.23)
  • On Sept. 8, the settlement of Robytyne in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast remained contested with Ukrainian forces also trying to enter Verbove, Russian pro-war Telegram channel “Rybar” claimed without citing any evidence to back that claim. (RM, 09.08.23)
  • Ukrainian officials say Moscow is to trying gain ground toward Kupyansk. Russian forces occupied the town for six months last year before Ukraine took it back roughly a year ago. Now, in a sign of the seemingly pointless destruction and circularity of this war, the Russians appear intent on seizing it again. In recent weeks they have made bloody and modest gains, prompting a public call for reinforcements from Ukraine's top commander in the east. (WP, 09.07.23)
  • Prior to replacing Oleksii Reznikov as Ukraine’s defense minister Rustem Umerov had been commended for his exemplary management of Ukraine’s agency for state assets during his year in charge. As Ukraine’s incoming defense minister, the Muslim politician, activist and former businessman has an even bigger challenge: shoring up public confidence in a defense establishment tainted by graft allegations. Vitaliy Shabunin, chair of Kyiv-based anti-graft watchdog AntAC, said Umerov’s appointment “will probably be the best decision of the president.” (FT, 09.05.23)
    • Ukraine's defense minister oversees billions in weapons and other military aid sent by Ukraine's allies. Umerov has a reputation as a skilled negotiator and anti-corruption campaigner. But he is set to take the reins of an institution under scrutiny over corruption allegations and a slow-moving counteroffensive in Ukraine's southeast. (WP, 09.05.23)
  • A British-made Challenger 2 main battle tank was destroyed by enemy fire for the first time as Kyiv presses its counteroffensive against Russian troops in the occupied southeast. A video of a destroyed tank near Robotyne, a village in the Zaporizhzhia region liberated by Ukrainian forces last month, was posted on social media on Sept. 4. (Bloomberg, 09.05.23)
    • According to a cache of Pentagon documents that were leaked in April, the Challenger 2 tanks have been attached to Ukraine’s 82nd Air Assault Brigade. (NYT, 09.08.23
  • The next tranche of U.S. aid to Ukraine is running into political trouble as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy considers tying its approval to controversial immigration and asylum policies strongly opposed by Democrats. President Joe Biden’s request for $24 billion in emergency funds to address the war in Ukraine would not be attached to a must-pass bill needed to fund the government past Oct. 1, according to a person familiar with McCarthy’s tentative plan. (Bloomberg, 09.07.23)
  • The United States will provide depleted uranium tank ammunition to Ukraine as part of a $175 million aid package, the Pentagon said on Sept. 6. The 120-millimeter rounds are for the U.S. M1 Abrams, the Pentagon said, referring to tanks that Washington has promised to Kyiv. The density of uranium -- about 1.7 times that of lead -- helps such ammunition punch through heavy armor. But depleted uranium is controversial due to its association with health problems such as cancer and birth defects, though the munitions have not been definitively proven as the cause. (RFE/RL, 09.06.23)
    • The Kremlin on Sept. 7 denounced U.S. plans to provide depleted uranium tank rounds to Ukraine. Depleted uranium munitions are controversial due to their association with health problems such as cancer and birth defects in areas where they were used in past conflicts, though they have not been definitively proven to have caused such issues. (MT/AFP, 09.07.23)
  • Two months after the United States shipped an initial tranche of the munitions to Ukraine to ensure its troops did not run out of ammunition, three American officials said the Biden administration is planning to send more, and soon. The American-supplied cluster munitions are fired from 155-millimeter howitzers, with a range of about 15 miles. (NYT, 09.07.23)
  • SpaceX cut off Starlink satellite internet service to Ukrainian submarine drones last September just as they were launching an attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet, according to Walter Isaacson’s upcoming biography “Elon Musk.” The armed submarine drones were poised to attack the Russian fleet, according to a CNN report that cited an excerpt of a forthcoming biography of Musk by Walter Isaacson, the former chief executive of CNN. Instead, according to the book the drones "lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly." Ukrainian and American officials scrambled to get service restored, according to the report, appealing to Musk directly. Musk eventually agreed. (WP, 09.08.23, NYT, 09.08.23)
    • Mr. Musk responded on his social media platform to say that he hadn’t disabled the service but had rather refused to comply with an emergency request from Ukrainian officials to enable Starlink connections to Sevastopol on the occupied Crimean peninsula. (NYT, 09.08.23)
    • A top adviser to Ukraine’s president accused Elon Musk of enabling Russian aggression, after the billionaire entrepreneur acknowledged denying satellite internet service in order to prevent a Ukrainian drone attack on a Russian naval fleet last year. (NYT, 09.08.23)
  • BAE Systems could be helping local partners in Ukraine produce spare parts for its light artillery within “months,” its chief executive has said, as Western defense contractors consider setting up manufacturing facilities in the country. (FT, 09.08.23)
  • Europe’s production of artillery ammunition is set to double this year or next as the region’s defense contractors overcome an initial struggle to ramp up output to help Ukraine’s war effort and boost the continent’s supplies. (Bloomberg, 09.06.23)

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

  • Russia is likely to publish a list of businesses from “unfriendly countries” early in September, Jocelyn Spottiswoode, of business intelligence consultancy Alaco, told an investor meeting. Those named on the list will be at risk of expropriation, the bank told clients. According to Spottiswoode, Russia’s corporate hit list is likely to include any entity that has 4,000 or more employees, or whose revenues exceed $825 million, or whose assets exceed $1.65 billion. (FT, 09.05.23)
  • European Union officials will begin meeting with member states this week to outline the bloc’s plan on how to impose a windfall tax on profits generated by more than €200 billion ($215 billion) of frozen Russian central bank assets to aid Ukraine’s reconstruction. (Bloomberg, 09.06.23)
    • The European Union’s top official met the leader of the United Arab Emirates on Sept. 7 for talks on topics including the export of sanctioned goods from the Gulf state to Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg, 09.07.23)
  • Russia is preparing a diplomatic offensive with countries it considers sympathetic, including China and Saudi Arabia, to fend off a push by Ukraine and its allies to further isolate Moscow from the global financial system. Detailed plans coordinated by the Kremlin’s financial-intelligence agency set out Moscow’s strategy, including nations to target and tactics and objectives at dozens of planned meetings ahead of an October gathering of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global financial watchdog. Russia expects that Ukraine and its allies will seek renewed penalties there. (Bloomberg, 09.08.23)
  • British American Tobacco has formally agreed to sell its Russian and Belarussian businesses. BAT’s Russian and Belarusian divisions accounted for 2.7 per cent of group revenues and 2.5 per cent of adjusted profits, as of the end of June. The cigarette maker has acknowledged an impairment charge and associated costs on its Russian business of £629 million in previous financial results. (FT, 09.07.23)
  • The Russian assets of Volvo AB, the Swedish truck maker, are to be transferred to a local investor, according to a Russian Ministry of Trade statement reported by the Interfax news agency. The statement did not name the new owner, but Russia’s company registry showed that control of several Volvo AB subsidiaries passed this week to Igor Kim, the main shareholder in Expobank, who has been involved in multiple transfers of ownership of foreign companies, and his business partners. (FT, 09.08.23)
  • The German government said on Sept. 8 it will keep two subsidiaries of Russian oil giant Rosneft, Rosneft Deutschland GmbH and Rosneft Refining and Marketing GmbH, under the control of German authorities for another six months. (AP, 09.08.23)
  • Estonia plans to be the first European Union nation to legalize the seizure of sanctioned Kremlin-linked assets to fund Ukrainian reconstruction this year, a move that the Baltic nation’s top envoy said would “really hit” Russia. (Bloomberg, 09.08.23)
  • Several Binance executives have left in recent days, including leaders overseeing its Russian business and its connections to the traditional financial system, extending a period of rapid senior turnover at the cryptocurrency giant. (WSJ, 09.06.23)
  • Virgin Media O2 has struck a deal to acquire U.K. broadband provider Upp that oligarch-backed investment company LetterOne was forced to sell on national security grounds. LetterOne is not the subject of sanctions but some of its founders, including Russian oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, have been under sanctions in various jurisdictions. (FT, 09.06.23)
  • Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman has been issued a notice of suspicion by Ukraine’s SBU state security service in a case that accuses him of “financing” Russia’s full-scale invasion. (FT, 09.05.23)
  • Russian billionaires Gennady Timchenko and Dmitry Pumpyansky lost the first round of their bid to escape European Union sanctions over their alleged close ties to President Vladimir Putin. The EU’s General Court, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, on Sept. 6 dismissed their appeals and those of Pumpyansky’s wife and son, and Timchenko’s wife. The decisions can be appealed. (Bloomberg, 09.06.23)
  • The EU’s highest court has ruled that sanctions against a Russian tech executive should be lifted, the first time it has revoked measures against a businessman sanctioned over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions Alexander Shulgin, former chief executive of ecommerce platform Ozon, will not be lifted immediately and the European Council, which first imposed the measures, could appeal or impose fresh sanctions as early as next week, when the measures are up for renewal. However, it marks a first for the court. (FT, 09.06.23)
  • The Swiss authorities twice temporarily lifted sanctions restrictions on entry into the country for then-Russian Senator Alexander Babakov, who is now vice speaker of the State Duma, so that he could receive medical care in the country in 2019 and 2021. This is evidenced by the documents found in a leak of Babakov's hacked mail, published by the Ukrainian project InformNapalm. (Agentstvo, 09.06.23)
  • Prosecutors tasked with investigating Russia's oligarchs and their assets have a new target: lawyers, accountants and other facilitators that make it possible for the Kremlin and its allies to evade U.S. sanctions. After storming out of the gate with key arrests and indictments and the seizure of yachts belonging to Suleiman Kerimov and Viktor Vekselberg, the Justice Department's Task Force KleptoCapture is increasingly turning its gaze on the professional services providers who support Russian oligarchs, said Andrew Adams, the team's inaugural director. (WSJ, 09.07.23)
  • Russian mercenary group Wagner will be proscribed in the U.K. as a terrorist organization, the government has announced. Home Secretary Suella Braverman will lay a draft proscription order against the network in parliament on Sept. 6, which will come into force in a week’s time. (FT, 09.06.23)
  • A Russian-Swede arrested last year in a dramatic dawn raid on his quiet suburban home goes on trial in Stockholm on Sept. 4 accused of passing Western technology to Russia's military. Sergei Skvortsov, a 60-year-old dual national, has lived in Sweden since the 1990s. (RFE/RL, 09.04.23)
  • Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete as neutrals in World Aquatics events, the sport's governing body said on Sept. 4. (Reuters, 09.04.23)
  • Russian and Belarusian athletes will not compete at the Asian Games in China starting on Sept. 23 after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) concluded that the plan was "not feasible." (dpa, 09.03.23)
  • French President Emmanuel Macron insisted on Sept. 6 that "the Russian flag cannot be at the Paris Olympic Games. … at a time when Russia is committing war crimes." (RFE/RL, 09.07.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • The results of the Levada Center’s latest installment in its series of polls on Russians’ attitudes’ toward Russia’s war in Ukraine indicate that the share of peaceniks continue to exceed the share of war hawks among common Russians. In fact, if adding the shares of those who definitely support and those who rather support the launch of peace negotiations with those who definitely support and those who rather support the continuation of the so-called special military operation (SVO) in Ukraine, then total support for the launch of peace talks  has exceeded total support for continued war in almost all of this center’s monthly polls since September 2022 except for May 2023. In August the share of those who prefer launch of peace talks was 50% while the share of those who preferred continuation of war was 38%, (RM, 09.07.23)

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

  • On Sept. 3, Ukraine claimed that at least one Russian attack drone fired overnight on one of its Danube delta ports had crashed across the river on to the territory of NATO-member Romania. The alleged incident occurred as Russian forces pounded Ukraine’s Danube ports. Late on Sept. 5, Romanian officials said that debris suspected to be from a Russian drone was found in Romanian territory across the Danube River from the Ukrainian port of Izmail. Russian drones have struck the port city repeatedly in recent weeks as Moscow targets what has been a shipping lifeline for Ukraine It remains unclear how the debris got there, including whether it had landed by accident. (NYT, 09.08.23, FT, 09.04.23, FT, 09.04.23)
    • If confirmed that the parts belong to a Russian drone, it would represent "a serious violation of the sovereignty and territory of Romania, a NATO ally," Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said. An investigation into exactly when the debris landed is underway, he said. The debris was found in the vicinity of the village of Plauru, according to the Defense Ministry. The village lies on the banks of the Danube opposite the Ukrainian town of Izmail. (WP, 09.06.23)
    • The United States is expanding patrol flights by the fighter jet right up to the Ukrainian border after debris following a Russian drone attack appeared to have fallen into neighboring Romania this week. The new commitment was announced after a call that Mr. Blinken had on Sept. 7 with Romania’s foreign minister, Luminita Odobescu. (NYT, 09.08.23)
    • On Sept. 4, Romania's Defense Ministry "categorically" denied a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry claim that at least one Russian drone launched during an overnight attack on a Ukrainian port fell and detonated on Romanian territory. (RFE/RL, 09.04.23)
    • On Sept. 7, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said there was no sign Russia had launched a deliberate attack on Romania after possible drone debris was found near its border with Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 09.07.23)
  • Leaders of the Group of 20 began arriving in New Delhi on Sept. 8 for their annual gathering as negotiators struggled to bridge differences over the war in Ukraine, seeking to build consensus for a successful summit. Negotiations were ongoing on Sept. 8 on the eve of the summit in New Delhi, with officials still haggling over the text’s reference to the Russian-Ukrainian war, according to multiple people familiar with the deliberations. While it remains unclear whether a final consensus can be reached, China appears to have dropped its initial opposition to language on Ukraine and Russia. (Bloomberg, 09.08.23, Reuters, 09.08.23)
    • President Biden arrived in New Delhi on Sept. 8 for the summit of the Group of 20. Jake Sullivan said Biden would call for a "just and durable peace” in Ukraine. Biden aims to seize on the absence of Xi and Putin at this week’s Group of 20 leaders meeting in New Delhi to make fresh inroads with countries that China and Russia have previously courted. Central to that effort is a push to boost the funding and scope of the World Bank and other development banks. The U.S. also plans to push for debt relief for poor countries and announce funding for new infrastructure projects. (Bloomberg, 09.06.23, WSJ, 09.08.23)
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived on Sept. 8 to head Moscow's G20 summit delegation. "We are working closely with all G20 countries to … combat attempts to explain the world's humanitarian and economic problems solely through the conflict in Ukraine," a statement from Lavrov's ministry said before his arrival. Putin is not planning to make a video address at the upcoming G20 summit in New Delhi this weekend, the Kremlin said on Sept. 7. (MT/AFP, 09.08.23, MT/AFP, 09.07.23)
    • Chinese officials involved in negotiations over the G-20 summit’s final communique have taken a softer approach toward Ukraine compared to last year, the French official said. China is emerging as a block on negotiations in the run-up to a meeting of Group of 20 leaders, with the U.K. accusing Beijing of obstructing measures to tackle climate change. (Bloomberg, 09.08.23, Bloomberg, 09.06.23)
    • India’s top official Amitabh Kant organizing this week’s Group of 20 summit has insisted that agreement on a final communique is within reach consensus for communiques on issues ranging from multilateral finance to climate change, after Russia and China led opposition to a paragraph imported from last year’s Bali summit declaration that deplored Russian “aggression.” (FT, 09.04.23)
    • India should “call out” Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and use its clout to help end the war, Rishi Sunak will urge Narendra Modi when the pair meet in New Delhi on Sept. 9. The U.K. prime minister’s spokesperson said Sunak would “use every opportunity” during the trip to impress Britain’s backing for Kyiv and “further foster global support.” (FT, 09.08.23)
  • The leaders of the 18-nation East Asia Summit including the U.S., China and Russia agreed to adopt a statement that omits any mention of the war in Ukraine after a summit on Sept. 7. The statement marks the first time in two years the leaders were able to agree on a text after a dispute over language between the U.S. and Russia prevented them from coming up with one last year in Cambodia. A statement by East Asia leaders “on Maintaining and Promoting the Region as an Epicentrum of Growth” was issued shortly after the summit concluded by Indonesia, this year’s chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. (Bloomberg, 09.07.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • China bought $11.5 billion of Russian products in August after an increase of more than a quarter from July, according to customs figures published in Beijing on Sept. 7. The monthly haul was the biggest in data going back more than two decades. Though Chinese exports to Russia dipped after two months of gains, bilateral trade now stands at a cumulative of just over $155 billion in the year to date. (Bloomberg, 09.07.23) Also see the energy exports section.
  • The four biggest banks in China have quadrupled their exposure to Russia’s banking sector since the war in Ukraine began, according to data analyzed for the FT by the Kyiv School of Economics. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China increased their combined exposure to Russia from $2.2 billion to $9.7 billion in the 14 months to March, according to Russian central bank data, with ICBC and Bank of China accounting for $8.8 billion of the assets between them. (FT, 09.03.23, Bloomberg, 09.03.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • Russia warned on Sept. 5 that it will treat any U.S. move to station nuclear weapons in the U.K. for the first time in 15 years as an “escalation,” with Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying: “If this happens, it will be treated by us as an escalation, which will lead to the exact opposite of achieving the pressing task of removing all U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe.” The U.S. Air Force has earmarked $50 million in funding for military housing at a U.K. air base. The language used to describe the purpose for the increased personnel usually refers to the handling of nuclear weapons. (Bloomberg, 09.05.23)
  • "Today the dialogue with the Americans, including the dialogue on arms control, is extremely sporadic and non-systematic. The fault and responsibility for that rests entirely with Washington," Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with the Kommersant newspaper published on Sept. 7. When commenting on U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's statement about the need to draw a line between disagreements on Ukraine and dialogue on strategic stability, Ryabkov said that no new proposals, including written ones, have been received from the U.S. (Interfax, 09.07.23)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

  • NSA chief Paul Nakasone said NSA and Cyber Command have completed studies about how they will be using artificial intelligence going forward. The threat landscape has changed to a focus on China and Russia, he said. He called China "our pacing challenge," and Russia an "acute threat." However, he touted the United States' work countering Russian information operations in Ukraine by declassifying sensitive information about those operations, making it harder for them to be effective. (WP, 09.06.23)
  • The United States announced indictments on Sept. 7 of nine Russians allegedly part of the Trickbot cybercrime group which plied ransomware schemes to extort businesses including hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic. The United States and Britain have expanded sanctions on members of Trickbot, targeting people involved in management and procurement for the group. (MT/AFP, 09.07.23, RFE/RL, 09.07.23)
  • Putin has ordered his government to fund research into artificial intelligence as competition with the West to develop such technology heats up, according to a Kremlin document published on Sept. 7. (MT/AFP, 09.07.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Saudi Arabia and Russia prolonged their unilateral oil supply curbs by another three months, a more aggressive move than traders had been expecting as the OPEC+ members seek to support a fragile global market. Saudi Arabia will continue its production cutback of 1 million barrels a day until December. The move will hold output at about 9 million barrels a day — the lowest level in several years — for six months in total. Russia’s export reduction of 300,000 barrels a day will be extended for the same duration, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said. (Bloomberg, 09.05.23)
    • Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman praised joint efforts to stabilize the global oil market as they discussed bilateral and OPEC+ cooperation. (Bloomberg, 09.06.23)
  • Oil prices rose above $90 a barrel for the first time in 2023 on September5 as Saudi Arabia and Russia said they would extend their voluntary production and export cuts until the end of the year. Saudi Arabia, which leads the expanded Opec+ cartel with Russia, has cut an additional 1 million barrels a day from the global market since July, in what was originally billed as a temporary measure. (FT, 09.06.23)
  • The price cap on Russian oil imposed by the U.S. and its allies continues to work, a senior U.S. Treasury Department official said, even though Russia’s crude keeps rising. Since the middle of July, Russia’s flagship Urals crude has been quoted above $60 a barrel, while some refined oil products have climbed above the cap set by the U.S., Group of Seven nations and European Union. The U.S. is happy to see Russia keeping the market well-supplied, and it doesn’t want to “disrupt the global oil market in a way that could lead to instability,” Eric Van Nostrand, acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy, said. (Bloomberg, 09.04.23)
  • Russia’s oil product exports dropped to an 11-month low in August as refineries wound down operations for planned autumn maintenance. Shipments of petroleum products including diesel and fuel oil totaled 2.28 million barrels a day last month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from analytics firm Vortexa Ltd. That’s down 9% from July and the lowest amount since September 2022. (Bloomberg, 09.06.23)
  • Diesel loadings from Russian ports on the Black and Baltic Seas, including some batches from Belarus, are set at 1.874 million tons this month, down almost 25% from August’s plan, according to industry data seen by Bloomberg. That’s equivalent to 466,000 barrels a day, down from about 600,000 barrels a day from last month’s schedule. (Bloomberg, 09.08.23)
  • Russia said on Sept. 6 it will soon finalize its side of the route for the "Power of Siberia 2" pipeline to China. "It is in the final phase," Russia's deputy prime minister and top energy official Alexander Novak said. (MT/AFP, 09.06.23)
  • Russia is close to an agreement with Turkey to set up a natural gas trading hub as the Kremlin seeks alternative export routes for the fuel. “I hope that in the very near future we will complete our negotiations,” Putin said in the Black Sea resort of Sochi as he opened a meeting with Erdogan. (Bloomberg, 09.04.23)
  • An audit carried out by an international firm has disproved Russian gas giant Gazprom's claim that the Moldovan government owes it $800 million, Moldovan President Maia Sandu was quoted as saying on Sept. 3. (Reuters, 09.03.23)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • U.S. uranium imports from Russia were up 2.2-fold in 2022 to 416 tons in the first six months of this year, as Washington is forced to admit that it remains heavily dependent on Russian nuclear fuel. In the first six months of the year, the U.S. more than doubled its imports of Russian uranium, spending $695.5 million in the process. Experts say that it will take at least five years of heavy investment for the U.S. to break its dependency on Russian imports of U235. (BNE, 09.01.23)

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • The United States and United Kingdom have strongly condemned the "politically motivated" case against Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza as he spent a second birthday in detention after being moved to a new prison that has not been disclosed. (RFE/RL, 09.07.23)
  • A wealthy Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin was sentenced on Sept. 7 to nine years in prison for his role in a nearly $100 million stock-market cheating scheme. Vladislav Klyushin, who ran a Moscow-based information technology company that did work for the Russian government, was convicted in February in Boston on wire-fraud and securities-fraud charges. (AP, 09.07.23)
  • The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which is trying to recruit more Russians as spies, has released a video targeting Moscow officials with an appeal to tell the truth about a system it said is riddled with lying sycophants. (AP, 09.08.23)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia’s budget moved back into the black last month, as the government dials back spending and a surge in non-oil income makes up for a drop in energy revenues. The surplus in August reached almost 456 billion rubles ($4.7 billion) in one of the biggest monthly hauls this year, according to Bloomberg calculations based on Finance Ministry data. Still, the fiscal performance in August helped shrink the shortfall in the first eight months to 2.4 trillion rubles, or 1.5% of gross domestic product, the figures showed, without breaking out the monthly totals. (Bloomberg, 09.08.23)
  • Analysts at Barclays are turning more upbeat on the economic outlook for Russia. The British bank sharply lifted its 2023 forecast. Barclays raised Russia’s GDP growth estimate to 1.7% this year. (Bloomberg, 09.02.23)
  • Russia's Central Bank announced Sept. 6 that it plans to step up support for the ruble, which has gradually weakened over the past 18 months due to Western sanctions over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. The Bank of Russia said that between Sept. 14 and 22 it would sell 21.4 billion rubles ($218.5 million) worth of foreign currency each day, around 10 times the current volume it sells on a daily basis. (MT/AFP, 09.06.23)
  • Russia's government has continued to buy foreign-made cars despite calls by Putin last month for officials to start using domestic-made vehicles, the investigative news outlet Agentstvo reported Sept. 4. Overall, Russian government bodies, agencies and state-affiliated companies purchased 151 foreign-made cars worth 566 million rubles ($5.9 million) in August. (MT/AFP, 09.04.23)
  • A top Russian general detained in the aftermath of the mutiny by the mercenary tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin has been released, according to two U.S. officials and a person close to the Russian Defense Ministry. The general, Sergei Surovikin, appeared to have been released from formal detention, it remained unclear if there were any remaining restrictions on his movement or other limits imposed by the Russian authorities. The general has retained his rank so far and is technically still an officer in the military, but he no longer has any career prospects. (NYT, 09.05.23)
    • Russia’s Defense Ministry has removed Surovikin’s biography from its website. (MT/AFP, 09.06.23)
  • Universities across Russia have admitted 8,500 veterans of the war in Ukraine and their children this academic year, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko announced Sept. 4. (MT/AFP, 09.04.23)
  • Voters across Russia are set to cast ballots in regional and municipal elections starting Sept. 8 in which they will choose, among others, 21 regional heads and deputies for 16 regional parliaments. (MT/AFP, 09.04.23)
    • Reports of widespread voting irregularities have marred the first day of Russia's local and regional elections, the independent election watchdog Golos reported Sept. 8. Elections are taking place on Sept. 8-10 in 49 Russian regions. (MT/AFP, 09.08.23)
    • Russia’s ruling, pro-Kremlin United Russia party is distancing itself from narratives related to the war in Ukraine in its campaign for the country’s regional and local elections this month. (MT/AFP, 09.06.23)
    • The wave of Russian gubernatorial elections is turning into an effort to gloss over the horrific cost of the conflict and instead laud the generous handouts and other support the Kremlin has provided for families of those killed in combat and those with loved ones still in the field. (WSJ, 09.08.23)
  • Russian authorities said Sept. 7 they will "postpone" local elections in two municipalities near the border with Ukraine amid ongoing threats from drone and artillery strikes. (MT/AFP, 09.07.23)
  • A Russian court has sentenced Siberian journalist Mikhail Afanasyev to more than five years in prison for spreading “fake news” about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Afanasyev, the chief editor of the republic of Khakasia’s Novyi Fokus outlet, was among the first to be detained on Russia’s wartime censorship laws in the spring of 2022. (MT/AFP, 09.07.23)
  • A Russian Court decided to detain mathematician Azat Miftakhov until Nov. 3 on new charges of justifying terrorism. He rejected the charges, while rights groups noted his body showed signs of torture from interrogations. Memorial, a prominent Russian human rights organization, has recognized Miftakhov as a political prisoner. (RFE/RL, 09.05.23)
  • A law requiring taxi companies to provide the Federal Security Service (FSB) with data on riders' trips has come into force. (RFE/RL, 09.02.23)
  • Western academic journals have continued to publish articles by Putin’s oldest daughter since Moscow's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the independent news outlet Mozhem Obyasnit reported Sept. 5. Maria Vorontsova is a candidate of medical sciences, roughly equivalent to a Ph.D. in Western countries, and an endocrinologist by training. (MT/AFP, 09.06.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russia will not conduct the major military exercises known as Zapad (West) this year, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said.  "No, this year we have 'training' in Ukraine," Shoigu said Sept. 4. (RFE/RL, 09.04.23)
  • Russia's former president and Security Council Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said Sept. 3 that Moscow had recruited some 280,000 people into the army since the start of the year. (MT/AFP, 09.03.23)
  • A Russian court in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk sentenced five soldiers to prison time for leaving their military units after being mobilized. (RFE/RL, 09.04.23)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said Sept. 6 it has busted a major weapons smuggling ring in dozens of Russian regions. Between June and July, authorities seized thousands of firearms and artillery shells in sting operations across 53 Russian regions, including Moscow and St. Petersburg. (MT/AFP, 09.06.23)
  • The former commander of the city of Moscow’s air defense force has been charged with bribery in connection with the expropriation of Russian Defense Ministry-owned land. Investigators accuse Maj. Gen. Konstantin Ogienko of receiving through his subordinate part of a 30-million-ruble ($300,000) sum promised by a civilian organization for military-owned land plots in the Moscow region. Ogienko commanded the Russian Aerospace Forces’ 1st Special Purpose Air and Missile Defense Army from 2021 “until recently,” according to Kommersant. (MT/AFP, 09.07.23)
  • A bomb went off outside a military enlistment office in St. Petersburg on Sept 5. Local residents reported hearing sounds of explosions near the enlistment office around noon. Authorities cordoned off a nearby abandoned bomb shelter, which Fontanka said sustained “minor damage.” (MT/AFP, 09.05.23)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Western officials briefed on confidential intelligence assessments say two Russian spy agencies — the foreign intelligence service, the SVR, and the military intelligence agency, the GRU — are vying to take over key aspects of Prigozhin’s operations. Two officials, from different governments, said that the SVR was likely to absorb Wagner’s propaganda and online disinformation outlets targeting foreign countries, while the Defense Ministry and the GRU could take in Wagner’s mercenary operation. (NYT, 09.07.23)
  • Security groups loyal to the Kremlin are moving to take control of Wagner's military forces in Ukraine and Africa. One of those companies, Redut, is now recruiting Wagner soldiers who fought in Ukraine. Redut, a security contractor for Russian companies operating in the Middle East, was founded by former Russian paratroopers and officers in military intelligence in 2008. Redut is financed by Gennady Timchenko. Another mercenary group jockeying to replace Wagner in its operations abroad is Convoy, which is led by Konstantin Pikalov who previously ran Wagner's African military operations before breaking with Prigozhin. Convoy received hundreds of millions of rubles last year from oligarch and close Putin associate Arkady Rotenberg and from state-controlled VTB bank. (WSJ, 09.06.23)
  • An investigation in South Africa has rejected a U.S. allegation that the country supplied weapons to a Russian ship under U.S. sanctions that was docked at a Cape Town naval base, after the accusation imperiled ties between the U.S. and Africa’s most industrial economy. President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sept. 3 an inquiry “found that there was no evidence to support the claim that the ship transported weapons from South Africa destined for Russia” as alleged by the U.S. ambassador to Pretoria this year. (FT, 09.04.23)
  • Japan's "militarization" complicates the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, Medvedev said Sept. 3. (Reuters, 09.03.23)
  • Cuba has arrested 17 people in connection with what its government says is a network recruiting its citizens to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to a Cuban government official. (NYT, 09.08.23)
  • Russia has increased its disinformation campaigns in Germany since its invasion of Ukraine, the German domestic intelligence agency said Sept. 5. (dpa, 09.05.23)
  • Russian opposition economist Maksim Mironov, a former associate of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said his family was attacked in Buenos Aires on Sept. 1 when an unidentified man hit his wife, Alexandra Petrachkova, in the face while she was walking their 10-month-old son and told her to "stay away" from Russia. (RFE/RL, 09.04.23)


  • The White House national security adviser met with several high-ranking Ukrainian officials late last week to discuss Ukraine’s efforts to stamp out corruption. Jake Sullivan held talks with three key officials in Zelensky’s program to wipe out corruption: the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, Semen Kryvonos; a special prosecutor, Oleksandr Klymenko; and the chief justice of the High Anti-Corruption Court, Vira Mykhailenko. The talks centered on progress Ukraine has made in combating corruption and U.S. support for reforms, the statement said. (NYT, 09.01.23)
    • At one point this year, about $980 million in contracts for weapons for Ukraine had missed their delivery dates, according to government figures, and some prepayments for weapons had vanished into overseas accounts of weapons dealers, according to reports made to Parliament. (NYT, 09.06.23)
    • Ukrainian investigative journalists have highlighted overpayment for basic supplies for the army, like eggs for 17 hryvnia, or 47 cents, each—far above prevailing prices, according to a report in Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, a Ukrainian newspaper. Canned beans were bought from Turkey at more than the price for the same cans in Ukrainian supermarkets, the newspaper reported. (NYT, 09.06.23)
  • Zelensky came under mounting pressure from a grassroots anti-corruption campaign demanding that he block new legislation on asset declarations for public officials. The draft law “deprives the public and journalists of a tool to control activities of officials — and of the main preventive measure against corruption during the war,” according to the text of the petition posted on the presidential website. (Bloomberg, 09.07.23)
  • A court in Kyiv on Sept. 2 ordered tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky held in pretrial detention for two months while authorities investigate fraud and money laundering charges against him. Kolomoisky’s bail was set at nearly $14 million, which his lawyers said he would not pay, adding that they would appeal the ruling, according to Ukrainian news media. (NYT, 09.07.23)
  • European Union member states from Central and Eastern Europe have called on Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine unconditionally and promised to provide support to Kyiv “for as long as it takes” to repel Moscow’s unprovoked full-scale invasion. (RFE/RL, 09.07.23)
  • The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has said the latest statements by Putin about Zelensky’s Jewish roots are "another manifestation of deep-rooted anti-Semitism of the Russian elites." (RFE/RL, 09.06.23)
  • Serbian President Alexandar Vucic's wife, Tamara, met with Zelensky on Sept. 7 in Kyiv, where she was participating in a summit organized by the Ukrainian first lady, Olena Zelenska. (RFE/RL, 09.07.23)
  • Russian authorities are holding local elections this weekend in occupied parts of Ukraine in an effort to tighten their grip on territories Moscow illegally annexed a year ago and still does not fully control. (AP, 09.08.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Armenia said Sept. 7 that Azerbaijan is mobilizing troops in their shared border regions. Over the past few days, footage has circulated across Azerbaijani social media appearing to show increased movement of Azerbaijani troops around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the border with Armenia. (DW, 09.07.23, Eurasianet, 09.08.23)
  • Armenian and U.S. forces will hold joint military exercises beginning next week,. Armenia's Defense Ministry said Sept. 6 that the nine-day exercise would involve "stabilization operations between conflicting parties during peacekeeping tasks." There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials. The drills, being held in Yerevan, are the first of their kind. (RFE/RL, 09.06.23)
  • The Kremlin on Sept. 5 rejected a suggestion by Armenia's prime minister that Russia had failed to ensure Armenia's security amid its standoff with neighboring Azerbaijan and was winding down its role in the wider region. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the Kremlin disagreed with Pashinian's remarks and that Russia planned to continue to play an important role in stabilizing the South Caucasus. Pashinian had said his country's policy of solely relying on Russia to guarantee its security was a strategic mistake because Moscow has been unable to ensure Armenia's security in the face of what he said was aggression from neighboring Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region. (Reuters, 09.03.23)
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry on Sept. 8 summoned the ambassador from longtime ally Armenia to protest upcoming joint military exercises with the United States and other complaints, highlighting growing tensions that are straining traditionally close relations. (AP 09.08.23)
  • A third of deaths in Nagorno-Karabakh are attributed by the local authorities to malnutrition, the BBC said. I have no way of verifying these reports, but every indication is that the situation is dire — and getting worse by the day, NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof writes. (NYT, 09.02.23)
  • The Russian military has withdrawn a regional task force from neighboring Belarus, Ukrainian border authorities and independent Belarusian war monitors have said. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko announced in October 2022 the deployment of a joint regional group of military forces after accusing Ukraine of preparing an attack on his country. On Sept. 7, the State Border Service of Ukraine said “almost all” of Russia’s forces in Belarus have been “rotated out.” (MT/AFP, 09.08.23)
  • Russian mercenary forces in Belarus have shown signs of “confusion” after the death of Prigozhin, defusing an immediate threat to the region, Lithuania’s president said. (Bloomberg, 09.05.23)
  • The United States and European Union have condemned a decree signed by Lukashenko prohibiting the renewal of passports by Belarusians living abroad. (RFE/RL, 09.07.23)
  • Estonia’s president said Prime Minister Kaja Kallas should have resigned over revelations last month that her husband’s company had business activity in Russia. The comments from President Alar Karis, short of an outright demand that Kallas step down, were unusual for the Baltic nation’s head of state (Bloomberg, 09.04.23)
  • Moldova will host joint military exercises with about 500 Moldovan, Romanian and U.S. troops from Sept. 10 to 22, including infantry and artillery drills, the Moldovan Defense Ministry said. (WP, 09.07.23)
  • Hundreds of migrant workers hailing predominantly from Central Asia have been rounded up in a wave of police raids that has swept several Russian cities in recent weeks. The round-ups appear to primarily target male migrants who recently received Russian citizenship but failed to complete their compulsory military registration. (MT/AFP, 09.07.23)
  • Uzbekistan's leading payment services Oson and Pay Way said they have suspended foreign money transfers as of Sept. 5 amid warnings from the central bank over avoiding the violation of Western sanctions imposed against Russia for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.05.23)
  • Kyrgyz opposition lawmaker Adakhan Madumarov was detained on Sept. 2 over his role in signing a Kyrgyz-Tajik border deal in 2009 when he led the country's Security Council, his defense lawyer said. (RFE/RL, 09.03.23)
  • Kazakhstan appointed former Economy Minister Timur Suleimenov as its central bank governor on Sept. 4. (Reuters, 09.04.23)
  • Tajikistan said it killed three members of a "terrorist group" who had crossed into the country from neighboring Afghanistan. (RFE/RL, 09.06.23)


IV. Quotable and notable

  • No significant developments.


The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 2:00pm Eastern Time on Sept. 8, 2023.

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