Russia in Review, Sept. 8-15, 2023

5 Things to Know

  1. Russia has managed to overcome sanctions and export controls imposed by the West to expand its missile production beyond prewar levels, according to U.S., European and Ukrainian officials cited by NYT. “With revenue from high energy prices, Russia’s security services and ministry of defense have been able to smuggle in the microelectronics and other Western materials required for cruise missiles and other precision guided weaponry. As a result, military production has not only recovered but surged,” the newspaper reported. Western officials estimate that Russia can now produce two million artillery shells a year, which is 100% more than the amount Western intelligence services had initially estimated Russia could manufacture before the war, according to NYT.  Russia has also doubled its pre-war capacity for tank production from 100 to 200, a senior Western defense official told NYT. That Russia would run out of missiles was repeatedly forecast by Western and Ukrainian officials and researchers in 2022. Such forecasts continued into 2023, though some research organizations, such as CSIS, have questioned them.
  2. The leadership of Ukraine’s counteroffensive has reported small gains this week. The Ukrainian General Staff announced on September 15 that its troops had retaken the village of Andriyivka, about 10 kilometers southwest of the town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region. That the Ukrainian military has recaptured this village, which had a pre-war population of less than 100, has also been confirmed by a number of Russian pro-war Telegram channels. Ukraine recaptured 3 square kilometers between Sept. 5 and Sept. 12 while Russia gained no territory during that period, according a Sept. 12 estimate of the Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force. The past several days have also seen Ukraine claim to have recaptured drilling platforms in the Black Sea off the Crimean coast, as well as to have damaged an advanced air defense system, a submarine and a large landing ship onshore in Crimea. Russian sources such as the Rybar Telegram channel confirmed that the two vessels had been hit in a dry dock, though the extent of damage has been contested.
  3. Kim Jong Un exchanged guns and compliments with Vladimir Putin, but signed no deals with his Russian host, the Kremlin claimed. Hosting Kim at the Vostochny cosmodrome on Sept. 13,  Putin promised to help with North Korea’s space program. Prior to the talks Putin also told Kim–who was accompanied by the DPRK’s weapons production and satellite technology chiefs–that they would discuss military-technical cooperation. However, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that the two leaders did not sign any deals, either during the Sept. 13 talks or during the meal they shared the same day.  During that six-course lunch Putin toasted “the strengthening of friendship and cooperation” between Russia and North Korea, while Kim called for the “strengthening” of the two countries’ “strategic and tactical cooperation.'' In separate remarks Kim also offered his country’s “full and unconditional support” for Putin’s war in Ukraine, which he called a “sacred fight” against imperialism. Having exchanged rifles as gifts with Putin and having secured the latter’s consent to visit DPRK, Kim then toured a Russian warplane manufacturer on Sept. 15. He is also expected to visit the headquarters of Russia’s Pacific Fleet for a “demonstration.” It would not be surprising if it were to turn out that Kim–who is keen to acquire Russian weapons technologies –and Putin–who is as keen to acquire DPRK ammunition for the Ukraine war, did reach some agreements, but chose to keep them secret, given the existing sanctions. The latter include sanctions that the U.S. and its allies seek to impose on countries that provide material support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, as well as sanctions that the UNSC has imposed on North Korea with Russia’s previous support. 
  4. The declaration adopted by members of the G-20 at their summit in New Delhi omitted any condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or of its brutal conduct in the war, according to NYT. “In line with the UN Charter, all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state,” said the document’s eighth paragraph, which focused on the war. “The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible,” it added. Analysts told WP that the language of the Sept. 9 document is an indication that the United States prioritized having a consensus document over a condemnation of Russia, which would have been boycotted by some members.  
  5. The majority of Russians view their country and China as “great,” but would not say the same of the U.S. or its allies, according to Levada Center polling. The share of Russians who view their own country as great has almost doubled over the past two decades, from 43% in 2002 to 80% in 2023. The same period has seen the share of Levada respondents who view China as great triple from 19% in 2002 to 63% in 2023. By comparison, the share of Russians who view the U.S. as great halved from 62% in 2002 to 30% in 2023. The same period saw the share of Russians who view Japan, the U.K., Germany and France as great shrink at an even faster rate, ending at 9%, 9%, 8% and 3%, respectively, in 2023. Interestingly, while the share of Russians who admire Western greatness has shrunk dramatically over the past two decades, shorter-term measurements reveal certain improvements in Russians’ views toward some of these countries. For instance, the share of Russians who say they have a good attitude toward the U.S. was 22% in August 2023, which is higher than at any other point since February 2022.

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • In remarks made at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 12, Vladimir Putin claimed the FSB had “eliminated” a “sabotage group from the Ukrainian special service,” which was “trained by British instructors” and which had been tasked with “damaging one of our nuclear power plants.” He went on: “Do they understand what they are playing with? Are they trying to provoke us into taking retaliatory actions against Ukrainian nuclear facilities?” He added: “You know I am aware that once I say this, they will start yelling that this is another threat, nuclear blackmail, and so on.” The Russian leader did not produce any evidence to back his claim, but the latter follows similar allegations by some of his subordinates. In an interview published on Sept. 10, Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council Yuri Kokov claimed that Russian law enforcement had interdicted Ukrainians’ plans “to commit a provocation on their own territory by detonating a so-called dirty bomb, with the aim of subsequently accusing Russia of nuclear terrorism.” (RM, 09.12.23)
  • Writing via his Telegram channel on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said: “I don’t want to invite a disaster for anyone, but they [Americans] will wait to see terrorists carry out another attack in the style of 9/11, but this time with atomic or biological components at some point. Or something even worse could happen: the leadership of one of the nuclear countries could lose their nerve and make an emotional decision to use a WMD. Moreover, the nuclear club is constantly expanding, and a significant portion of [its members] are not bound by any obligations.” (RM, 09.10.23)
  • Russia's military presence at Ukraine's occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and fighting near the facility pose a security risk, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said. Grossi referred to his recent Ukraine report, in which he spoke of a "continued, significant military presence" at the nuclear site. (dpa, 09.11.23)
    • Member states of the IAEA now owe more than EUR 200 million ($214 million), and Grossi has warned that unless payments are made, in a month's time "we will run out of money. … I will not be able pay salaries or for the lights. … We will grind to a halt.” (WNN, 09.12.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for talks on Sept. 13 at Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian far east.  Kim – who was accompanied by top military officials in charge of North Korean weapons production and satellite technology --  then inspected Russian fighter jets as part of his visit on Sept. 15. He was also expected to visit Russia’s Pacific Fleet. (NYT, 09.15.23, MT/AFP, 09.15.23, WSJ, 09.13.23)
    • Putin said Moscow would help Pyongyang build satellites, telling reporters that the two would discuss issues including weapons supplies, according to Russian state media. Asked about military-technical cooperation, Putin said: “There are certain restrictions which Russia adheres to, but there are things that we can discuss, and there are prospects.” Putin said he had a "frank exchange" with Kim, including talks on Russian assistance with agricultural development in North Korea. (AP, 09.09.23, WSJ, 09.13.23, WP, 09.13.23, FT, 09.14.23, NYT, 09.13.23)
      • The Kremlin on Sept. 15 said that "no agreements" were signed during Kim’s ongoing visit to Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was talking to reporters amid concern in Washington that the two countries could be preparing an arms deal. (RFE/RL, 09.15.23)
        • Putin is notorious for making world leaders wait for scheduled meetings, yet on Sept. 13 Putin showed up 30 minutes early to greet Kim. (WP, 09.14.23)
    • Kim offered his country’s “full and unconditional support” for Russia’s war in Ukraine, which he called a “sacred fight” against imperialism and the West. “Russia has risen to a sacred fight to protect its sovereignty and security . . . against the hegemonic forces,” Kim told Putin. “We will always support the decisions of President Putin and the Russian leadership . . . and we will be together in the fight against imperialism.” (FT, 09.13.23, WP, 09.14.23)
      • On Sept. 14, North Korean state media said the two leaders had “reached a satisfactory agreement and consensus of views,” without providing specifics. (NYT, 09.13.23)
    • Putin accepted Kim’s invitation to visit North Korea, the Kremlin and Pyongyang state media said on Sept. 14. Such a visit would be Putin’s first to North Korea since 2000 and would highlight deepening relations between Moscow and Pyongyang that have dismayed the U.S. and its regional allies. (FT, 09.14.23)
    •  During a six-course lunch on Sept. 13, Mr. Putin rose with a glass of red wine to toast “the strengthening of friendship and cooperation between our countries.” Mr. Kim, in his own toast, announced he had come to a consensus with Mr. Putin on “further strengthening strategic and tactical cooperation.” Kim and Putin gifted each other rifles. (NYT, 09.13.23, MT/AFP, 09.14.23)
    • Putin hosted a meeting in Sochi on Friday with his Belarusian ally Alexander Lukashenko, who suggested that Minsk could join Moscow’s efforts to revive an old alliance with Pyongyang. The Kremlin said in a statement that Lukashenka also noted that "three more months" are needed to accomplish the needed steps to complete the integration efforts between Russia and Belarus.  (AP, 09.15.23, RFE/RL, 09.15.23)
    • “We express our deep concern and regret that despite repeated warnings from the international community, North Korea and Russia discussed military cooperation issues, including satellite development,” said Lim Soo-suk, a South Korean foreign ministry spokesperson. (FT, 09.14.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • The United States and three European allies have threatened Iran with another resolution at the UN nuclear watchdog's board demanding action on issues such as explaining uranium traces found at undeclared sites but left open whether or when they might follow through. The warning comes as the West's standoff with Iran has been complicated by secret U.S.-Iran talks. (Reuters, 09.14.23)
    • Dozens of countries have demanded that Iran immediately answer questions about its nuclear program, including disclosing the current location of nuclear materials from former secret facilities. The demand came in a joint statement on Sept. 13 from more than 60 countries at IAEA Board of Governors meeting in Vienna. (dpa, 09.13.23)
    • IAEA chief Raphael Grossi said on Sept. 11 that he was concerned by a "decrease in interest" from unnamed IAEA member states over Iran's nuclear efforts. "There is a certain routinization of what is going on there [in Iran] and I am concerned about this, because the issues are as valid today as they were before," he told reporters on the first day of the IAEA board of governors' meeting in Vienna. (AFP, 09.11.23)
  • In a gesture of frustration with Iran’s flagrant breach of its commitments to limit nuclear enrichment under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Britain, France and Germany have said they would retain ballistic missile and nuclear proliferation-related sanctions on Iran that were set to expire. Under the terms of the original deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, some United Nations sanctions were to be lifted on Oct. 18 as part of a sunset clause that would allow Iran to import and export ballistic missiles. (NYT, 09.15.23)
  • The head of Israel's intelligence agency said on Sept. 10 that Iran's attempts to supply Russia with missiles had been foiled. Mossad chief David Barnea did not elaborate on how the supply deal was interrupted and by whom. "I have a feeling that more deals will be foiled soon," he said, again without elaborating. Israel believes Russia could sell advanced weaponry to Iran, Barnea said.. Russia hasn’t said if it will supply the S-400s, which Israeli officials believe would hamper their ability to strike Tehran’s nuclear program. (RFE/RL, 09.10.23, Bloomberg, 09.10.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • On Sept. 10, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian forces struck a vehicle carrying international volunteers with a direct hit from an anti-tank missile system. A Canadian man was killed and a Spanish woman likely also died, while a German and a Swede had been taken to hospitals in the city of Dnipro, Zelensky said in his regular evening address. (Bloomberg, 09.11.23)
  • On Sept. 11, two Ukrainian drones attacked a town in western Russia’s Kursk region overnight, the regional governor said. (MT/AFP, 09.12.23)
  • Torture perpetrated by Russian officers against Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war has reached such a level that it is clearly a systematic, state-endorsed policy, a United Nations expert on torture said on Sept. 9. Witnesses shared accounts that were credible, said Alice Jill Edwards, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture, and that confirmed a consistent pattern of torture, including rape and beatings, in different detention facilities under Russian occupation and among Ukrainian soldiers captured by Russian forces. She spoke in an interview on Sept. 9 as she wrapped up a seven-day visit to Ukraine. “This is not random, aberrant behavior,” Ms. Edwards said. (NYT, 09.10.23)
  • A Russian-installed court in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region jailed two Ukrainian soldiers for 29 years each, Russia's Investigative Committee said on Sept. 13, after it accused them of killing three civilians. (MT/AFP, 09.13.23)
  • Ukraine's prosecutor general said on Sept. 14 the International Criminal Court (ICC) had opened a field office in Kyiv, as part of efforts to hold Russian forces accountable for potential war crimes. (MT/AFP, 09.14.23)
  • Russia's military targeted a civilian cargo ship in the Black Sea with "multiple missiles" last month, but they were successfully intercepted by Ukrainian forces, Britain said on Sept. 11. (Reuters, 09.11.23)
  • Russian drone and missile strikes in Ukraine have also destroyed 280,000 tons of stored grain since July, according to the U.K. government. (FT, 09.13.23)
  • The EU has ignored pleas from Poland and ended a partial ban on grain imports from Ukraine, asking Kyiv instead to voluntarily prevent surges of produce into neighboring countries. (FT, 09.15.23)
    • The Polish government has agreed to extend a ban on Ukrainian grain imports unilaterally even if the current EU restrictions expire on Sept. 15. (AFP, 09.12.23)
  • Zelensky has said he is grateful to Bulgaria for not extending restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports from Sept. 15. (RFE/RL, 09.14.23)
  • The UN rights chief Volker Turk on Sept. 11 blamed Russia's withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal as well as its alleged attacks on agricultural facilities for higher food prices that have been particularly damaging in the Horn of Africa. " (Reuters, 09.11.23) For more on the G-20 summit declaration’s language on the Black Sea grain deal see the Section “Great Power rivalry/new Cold War/NATO-Russia relations.”
  • Ukraine has nearly completed repairs to its power systems following Russian air strikes on energy infrastructure last winter, and is ready for the coming winter, Volodymyr Kudrytskiy, head of the state-owned Ukrenerho power grid operator, told national television. (Reuters, 09.13.23)
  • Ukraine needs between $12 billion and $14 billion in financial aid from the U.S. next year as budget spending remains high amid Russia’s ongoing invasion. “There are no talks yet, there are a lot of uncertainties and we do not have confidence that this is guaranteed,” Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko told reporters. Ukraine also hopes to get $3.3 billion from the U.S. before year-end. (Bloomberg, 09.11.23)
  • President Biden will appoint a former commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker, to be special representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery, a new position that signals the Biden administration’s concern about the country’s long-term economic survival even as its war with Russia grinds on. (WP, 09.14.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the period of time between August 12 and September 12  Russian forces gained 33 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 21 square miles, according to the Sept. 12 issue of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card.  In the period of time between September 5 and September 12,  Russia gained 0 square miles while Ukraine gained 3 square miles, according to the card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 09.12.23)
  • Adm Sir Tony Radakin, the U.K. chief of defense staff, said "Ukraine is winning and Russia is losing.” "That is because the aim of Russia was to subjugate Ukraine and to put it under Russia's control,” he said. "That has not happened and it never will happen, and that's why Ukraine is winning." He added that Ukraine was making progress in its battle to regain its territory, having recovered 50% of the ground Russia seized. (BBC, 09.10.23) According to Kate Davidson, a researcher with the Avoiding Great Power War Project, Radakin is correct that Ukraine has liberated 50% of territory seized by Russia since the invasion—approximately 29,000 of 54,000 square miles. However, this has been true since November 2022 when Ukraine’s counteroffensive in Kherson ended. Ukraine’s progress in its 2023 counteroffensive has been significantly slower so far, allowing them to regain about 130 square miles total.
  • Gen Mark Milley said colder conditions would make it much harder for Ukraine to maneuver. He admitted the offensive had gone more slowly than expected. But he said: “There’s still heavy fighting going on. "The Ukrainians are still plugging away with steady progress." Gen Milley said it was too early to say whether the counter-offensive had failed, but said Ukraine was "progressing at a very steady pace through the Russian front lines. … There's still a reasonable amount of time, probably about 30 to 45 days' worth of fighting weather left, so the Ukrainians aren't done. … [The battle’s] not done … they haven't finished the fighting part of what they're trying to accomplish." (BBC, 09.10.23)
  • Asked about the weather's impact, the head of Ukraine's military intelligence, Lt Gen Kyrylo Budanov, said on Sept. 9 that "the fighting will continue one way or another.” He acknowledged it was harder to fight in cold, wet weather, but said it was a question of adjustment, not of calling a halt. “In the majority of cases, unfortunately, our offensive is walking on foot," he said. “We’re not Africa with a rainy season,” he said. (BBC, 09.10.23, FT, 09.15.23)
    • Ukraine’s top commanders, including Valeriy Zaluzhnyi and Kyrylo Budanov, spoke with US General Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s Supreme Commander for Europe. Defense chiefs from NATO nations are meeting in Oslo through Saturday, days before the Ukraine defense contact group is scheduled to meet in Germany (Bloomberg, 09.15.23)
  • On Sept. 10-11, Ukraine claimed gains along the front line. “Over the past seven days, we have advanced,” Mr. Zelensky said on Sept. 11. He added that Ukrainian forces had success on the southern front in Zaporizhzhia, near the town of Tavria, and in the east, near the occupied city of Bakhmut. On Sept. 11, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said: "In the direction of Bakhmut, the defense forces have partial success in the Klishchiyivka area of the Donetsk region, they dislodge the enemy from their occupied positions.” On Sept. 11, Kyiv claimed forces had recaptured an oil and gas drilling platform in the Black Sea that had been controlled by Moscow since 2015. (NYT, 09.11.23, RFE/RL, 09.11.23, MT/AFP, 09.11.23)
  • On Sept. 10, Ukraine’s military said that it had foiled a large Russian drone attack on the capital, Kyiv. The military said it shot down 26 of the 33 drones launched at the capital. (NYT, 09.10.23)
  • On Sept. 10, Russia said that it destroyed three military speedboats carrying Ukrainian soldiers in the Black Sea which Moscow claims were headed toward annexed Crimea. (MT/AFP, 09.10.23)
  • On Sept. 11, Russia said it destroyed two Ukrainian drones in the western Belgorod region, with no casualties being reported. (MT/AFP, 09.11.23)
  • On Sept. 13, Ukraine targeted a Russian navy yard in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, striking a Kilo-class submarine and a large landing ship undergoing repairs in dry docks. Footage posted on social media captured missile strikes and fiery explosions at Sevmorzavod, Russia’s main Black Sea fleet shipbuilding and maintenance plant. Russian sources, such as the Rybar Telegram channel confirmed that the two vessels had been hit in a dry dock,  extent of damage has been contested.  (RM, 09.15.23, FT, 09.13.23, MT/AFP, 09.13.23, NYT, 09.13.23)
  • On the night of Sept. 13-14, Russia said it destroyed multiple Ukrainian drones in its border regions of Bryansk and Belgorod, with no casualties reported. (MT/AFP, 09.14.23)
  • On Sept. 14, Ukrainian forces claimed to have destroyed one of Russia's most advanced air-defense systems in Crimea, the S-400 missile system stationed near Yevpatoriya in western Crimea. The Russian Ministry of Defense said it had destroyed 11 Ukrainian aerial drones over Crimea, without commenting on any damage sustained by its own forces. Russian military correspondents published satellite images that they said suggested the strike destroyed at least one missile launcher of an S-400 or less-advanced S-300 system. (WSJ, 09.14.23)
  • On Sept. 14, Russia said it destroyed nearly two dozen Ukrainian drones trying to attack annexed Crimea and patrol ships in the Black Sea. (MT/AFP, 09.14.23)
  • Early on Sept. 15, the General Staff of Ukraine's military said its troops had retaken the Donetsk town of Andriyivka, about 10 kilometers southwest of Bakhmut, "inflicting significant losses on the enemy in manpower and equipment." Andriyivka had an estimated pre-war population of fewer than 100 people. (RFE/RL, 09.15.23, MT/AFP, 09.15.23)
    • Ukraine's 3rd Assault Brigade said its troops had surrounded the village of Andriyivka and inflicted heavy losses on Russia's 72nd Separate Motor Rifle Brigade over two days, killing four senior officers. (WSJ, 09.15.23, DeepState, 09.15.23)
    • That the Ukrainian military has recaptured Andriyivka as well as Klishchiyivka has been confirmed by a number of Russian pro-war Telegram channels. (RM, 09.15.23)
  • On Sept. 15, Russian forces launched 17 drones against targets in Western Ukraine, but the Ukrainian armed forces claimed to have shot down all of them. (Meduza, 09.15.23)
  • In the past several weeks, as Ukrainian forces launched a push in the south of the country, Russia unleashed its own offensive toward Kupyansk, deploying more than 50,000 troops to attempt to retake the city. Despite triumphant reports in Russian state media of Kupyansk's imminent fall, the Russians have had little success. (WP, 09.13.23)
  • The idea that Ukrainian forces, lacking any air cover, would storm through Russian lines was always going to be more of a Hollywood plotline than reality. But three months into the counteroffensive, Zelensky and his government are dealing with the reality that it has not achieved the desired decisive breakthrough—and are girding themselves for a drawn-out war. The meager results have exposed divisions between Kyiv and some Western officials over strategy. (FT, 09.15.23)
    • Ukrainian military’s losses of Western-supplied equipment amounted to nearly a fifth of the NATO kit provided for the counteroffensive in its opening days in May and June, according to Ukrainian and Western officials and forced Kyiv to pause its operation and rethink its strategy. (FT, 09.15.23)
  • After seeing the success of cluster munitions delivered in 155 mm artillery rounds in recent months, the U.S. is considering shipping either or both Army Tactical Missile System. (ATACMS) that can fly up to 190 miles. (306 km), or Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missiles with a 45-mile range packed with cluster bombs, three U.S. officials said. “A decision could be coming soon,” one senior Biden administration official had said on Sept. 9. "Our position all along has been we will get Ukraine the capabilities that will enable it to succeed on the battlefield," deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told reporters on Sept. 10, declining to say whether the system would be provided. (Reuters, 09.11.23, FT, 09.10.23, WSJ, 09.15.23)
  • Kyiv's military leaders say they could have Ukrainian pilots flying F-16s in combat as early as this winter, a more optimistic timeline than previous estimates, and one that could give Ukrainian forces a significant new capability for next year's fight. The Ukrainian pilots are expected to arrive at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, by October. Ukraine is seeking up to 50 F-16 fighter jets; in August, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv was set to receive 42 of them. (WSJ, 09.10.23, AP, 09.13.23)
  • American arms dealer Marc Morales makes millions on supplying Ukraine with armament with the help of a senior sergeant of the Ukrainian army who is paid to arrange meetings with his contacts in the government. Morales has been paying Volodymyr Koyfman, chief sergeant of the Ukrainian army, to arrange meetings with the official’s government contacts. (NYT, 09.10.23)
  • The Swedish government is considering donating Gripen fighter jets to Ukraine to help it fight Russia, Swedish public radio (SR) reported on Sept. 12t. (Reuters, 09.12.23)
  • Hundreds of Ukrainian-made decoys of military equipment have been targeted by Russian forces almost as soon as they were deployed. (CNN, 09.11.12)
  • The Biden administration has established a new system for responding to incidents in which foreign forces are suspected of using American-made weapons to injure or kill civilians, a first-of-its-kind initiative in an ongoing effort to minimize the human toll of U.S. arms exports and military operations worldwide. In an Aug. 23 cable to all foreign embassies and consulates, the State Department announced the new Civilian Harm Incident Response Guidance, under which officials will investigate reports of civilian harm by partner governments suspected of using U.S. weapons and recommend actions that could include suspension of arms sales. (WP, 09.13.23)
  • Russia used up to 11 million shells in Ukraine last year, according to recent Western estimates, and is set to fire 7 million more rounds this year, said Jack Watling, senior research fellow for land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute, a British think tank. (WP, 09.13.23)
  • Ukraine’s draft 2024 budget puts the deficit at 1.548 trillion hryvnia. ($42 billion) or at about 20.4 percent of gross domestic product. More than half of all planned Ukrainian budget spending next year, or 1.7 trillion hryvnias, is planned for the defense sector. (Reuters, 09.15.23)

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

  • Russia has managed to overcome sanctions and export controls imposed by the West to expand its missile production beyond prewar levels, according to U.S., European and Ukrainian officials. Russia subverted American export controls using its intelligence services and ministry of defense to run illicit networks of people who smuggle key components by exporting them to other countries from which they can be shipped to Russia more easily. Before the war, one senior Western defense official said, Russia could make 100 tanks a year; now they are producing 200. Western officials also believe Russia is on track to manufacture two million artillery shells a year—double the amount Western intelligence services had initially estimated Russia could manufacture before the war. (NYT, 09.13.23)
  • The United States said on Sept. 14 that it was sanctioning more than 150 businesses and people from Russia to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Georgia to try to crack down on evasion and deny the Kremlin access to technology, money and financial channels that fuel President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. Sanctioned Russian entities include the AvtoVAZ and Moskvich carmakers as well as A1, which is Alfa Bank’s investment branch. (AP, 09.14.23, RM, 09.15.23)
  • Currently, the United States and the European Union have a joint list of 38 different categories of items whose export to Russia is restricted. American officials said nine of the 38, mostly microelectronics that power missiles and drones, are the highest priority to block. So far American banks have alerted the U.S. government to 400 suspicious transactions. (NYT, 09.13.23)
  • A ban on imports of Russian diamonds is expected to be agreed by Group of Seven nations in the next two or three weeks, a Belgian official said on Sept. 15. The mechanism will consist of a direct ban on purchases, which would take effect on Jan. 1, as well as an indirect ban, which would kick in more gradually, the official added. (Bloomberg, 09.15.23)
  • According to the Institute of International Finance’s chief economist, Robin Brooks, Greek ships currently account for almost 50 percent of tanker capacity out of Russian ports, up from 33 percent before the invasion. But Greek shipowners have discovered an apparently even more lucrative source of revenue: selling the ships themselves to mysterious buyers linked to Russia. Sales began soaring in February 2022. In the 12 months since then, Greek owners have sold some 125 crude and vessel carriers to the tune of $4 billion. (FP, 09.11.23)
  • Russian airlines that need spare parts have many ways of circumventing sanctions. The easiest one is to buy them in a “friendly” country. The leaders in our sample are the United Arab Emirates (more than 9 billion rubles), China (5 billion) and Turkey (2 billion). Surprisingly, there are suppliers of sanctioned aircraft parts even in “unfriendly” Europe; they have intermediaries from the CIS at their service, who will place an order for themselves that will end up in Russia. Thus, judging by customs data, the Russian airline Air Fly bought aircraft parts from the Lithuanian Right Direction Aero—spare parts from European and American manufacturers, including for Boeing—for more than 145 million rubles. (Istories, 09.11.23)
  • The U.S. on Sept. 14 will sanction around 150 foreign companies and individuals, including for allegedly shipping American or other Western technology to Russia, according to people familiar with the matter, marking an expanding Western effort to cut off the flow of goods Moscow needs to prosecute its war against Ukraine. (NYT, 09.14.23)
  • The U.S.-based company that owns clothing brands Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger has become the latest Western business to exit the Russian market amid Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.13.23)
  • Finland said on Sept. 15 that all vehicles with Russian license plates will be banned from entering the country as of Sept. 16. Earlier this week, the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, introduced similar bans for Russian-registered automobiles in line with a European Commission measure, according to which cars with such plates are not allowed to enter the EU as part of sanctions imposed on Russia over its aggression against Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.15.23).
    • Moscow’s Foreign Ministry has slammed a European Union ban on Russian citizens from bringing their personal vehicles and other belongings across EU borders as a “racist” move. (MT/AFP, 09.11.23)
  • Last month, shareholders of United Medical Group CY Plc and MD Medical Group Investments Plc, controlled by tycoons Igor Shilov and Mark Kurtser, approved the companies’ move from Cyprus to Russia. That transfer will help push the total value of assets that have been re-domiciled by the wealthiest Russians since February 2022 to at least $50 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. (Bloomberg, 09.14.23)
  • Russia’s Deputy Health Minister Oleg Salagay was turned away at Copenhagen airport en route to a World Health Organization conference in Denmark. Condemning the incident, the embassy demanded an apology from Danish authorities. The Danish foreign ministry is investigating the matter, according to local media. (Politico, 09.13.23)
  • The EU has agreed to lift sanctions against three Russian business tycoons targeted in response to Moscow’s war against Ukraine, in the most prominent delistings since the conflict began. EU member states on Sept. 13 formally agreed to take off the sanctions list billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov, businessman Grigory Berezkin and Alexander Shulgin, the former head of ecommerce company Ozon—in a rare move to reduce the scope of the bloc’s restrictions against Moscow. (FT, 09.13.23)
  • The EU will keep Russian tech billionaire Arkady Volozh under sanctions despite his recent condemnation of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. (MT/AFP, 09.13.23)
  • Russian steel billionaire Victor Rashnikov lost a European Union court fight against his inclusion on the bloc’s sanctions list following the invasion of Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 09.13.23)
  • Britain’s National Crime Agency dropped its investigation into alleged sanctions evasion by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman after dramatically raiding his London home late last year. (Bloomberg, 09.15.23)
  • The family of the head of Moscow’s water utility company Mosvodokanal, Alexander Ponomarenko, runs a company called Evanka Invest GmbH in Germany, which is engaged in real estate deals in Berlin, according to an investigation conducted jointly by der Spiegel, OCCRP and other entities. According to investigators, the son, daughter and stepson of the head of Mosvodokanal, as well as his partner Lyubov Komissarenko, manage luxury real estate in the German capital. In particular, they own the upscale residential complex Riverside Square, near Berlin’s Central Station. The land under this complex alone is estimated to be valued at 22 million euros. In June, Istories discovered that Mosvodokanal was recruiting contract soldiers into the Ministry of Defense units as part of a covert mobilization. (Istories, 09.14.23)
    • Leaked documents analyzed by the Tamedia group showed that family members of Ponomarenko, had "placed millions in Switzerland, even after the start of the war." (MT/AFP, 09.15.23)
  • Slovakia said on Sept. 14 it was expelling an employee of the Russian Embassy in Bratislava for activities in "direct violation" of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. (RFE/RL, 09.15.23)
  • Moscow-born figure skater Margarita Drobiazko has lost her Lithuanian citizenship over her participation in an event in Russia in August 2022. (RFE/RL, 09.15.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • In remarks made at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 12 Russian president Vladimir Putin has said that Kyiv must repeal its non-negotiation decree and halt its counteroffensive before peace talks to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can begin. “First, [the Ukrainian authorities] must repeal the decree that prohibits negotiations and declare that they want [peace talks]—and then we will see,” Putin said at the Russian Eastern Economic Forum on Sept. 12. (RM, 09.12.23, FT, 09.12.23)
  • Vladimir Putin said during a meeting with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Sept. 15: “We have never refused to negotiate, so if the other side wants to, let them do it. He will talk about it. So I say this, but from the other side I can’t hear anything,” Putin also commented on U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s observation that “It takes two to tango and thus far, we see no indication that Vladimir Putin has any interest in meaningful diplomacy.” Putin said of the comment: “Tango is good,” but for Ukraine “it is important not to forget the hopak” dance, Putin said. “Otherwise, they will always be dancing to someone else’s music and someone else’s tune,” he said of the Ukrainians. (Meduza, 09.15.23)
  • Any peace initiative imposed on Ukraine without Kyiv’s acceptance would backfire for the West by failing to draw a line under “Russian imperialism,” the Czech Republic’s top envoy said. As Ukraine’s grinding counteroffensive makes halting progress and winter approaches, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky urged Ukraine’s allies to maintain their resolve even if Kyiv doesn’t make a quick breakthrough. (Bloomberg, 09.14.23)

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

  • A painstakingly negotiated declaration at the G-20 summit in New Delhi on Sept. 10 omitted any condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or its brutal conduct of the war, instead lamenting the “suffering” of the Ukrainian people. Wording on the invasion was substantially diluted from last year's statement in Bali. Analysts say the language is an indication that the United States prioritized having a consensus document led by India over a more aggressive condemnation of Russia that would have been boycotted by some members. (WP, 09.11.23, NYT, 09.09.23)
    • The declaration, which members of G-20 adopted at their summit in New Delhi on September 9, said: “Concerning the war in Ukraine … we reiterated our national positions and resolutions adopted at the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly  and underscored that all states must act in a manner consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the UN  Charter in its entirety. In line with the UN Charter, all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state.” (RM, 09.09.23)
    • The U.S., EU and other Western allies had agreed to remove condemnation of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine from the meeting’s communique, in exchange for pledges from all 20 states—including Russia and China—to respect territorial integrity and work towards a “just peace” for Kyiv. (FT, 09.10.23)
    • Janet Yellen has rejected accusations that the G-20 watered down its position on Ukraine over the weekend, as the U.S. Treasury secretary touted the summit’s accomplishments in boosting funding for developing economies. In an interview with the Financial Times, Yellen defended the joint statement agreed at the end of the world leaders’ meeting in New Delhi, saying it was “substantively very strong” in its wording on the war in Ukraine. (FT, 09.11.23)
    • “The major economies of the world—including, by the way, Brazil, India, South Africa—are united on the need to uphold international law and for Russia to respect international law,” said Jon Finer, the deputy U.S. national security adviser. (FT, 09.10.23)
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed diplomatic victory on Sept. 10, declaring a G-20 summit in India a "success" after the bloc shied away from direct criticism of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. "We were able to prevent the West's attempts to 'Ukrainize' the summit agenda," Lavrov said as the two-day meeting of leaders closed. "The text doesn't mention Russia at all," Russia's veteran diplomat said. (MT/AFP, 09.10.23)
    • Russia’s lead negotiator praised the statement—which also calls for a return to the Black Sea grain deal to export Ukrainian foodstuffs that Moscow has withdrawn from—as “balanced.” Ukraine, however, condemned the shift in rhetoric as “nothing to be proud of.” . (FT, 09.10.23)
      • The G-20 Summit Declaration calls for a return to the Black Sea grain deal to export Ukrainian foodstuffs that Moscow has withdrawn from—as “balanced.” Any initiative to revive the Black Sea grain deal that isolates Russia is not likely to be sustainable, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a press briefing after the conclusion of the G-20 summit in New Delhi on Sept. 10. Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey are going to continue to discuss the grain deal, Erdogan added. Erdogan is urging several G-20 leaders to meet some of Russia’s demands to try to revive a deal that had allowed Ukrainian grain shipments and eased global food prices. (Bloomberg, 09.09.23, Reuters, 09.10.23, FT, 09.10.23)
    • The final declaration of the G-20 left Kyiv angry over its refusal to condemn Moscow for its aggression against Ukraine. "We are grateful to the partners who tried to include strong wording in the text," Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko posted on Facebook. "However, in terms of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, [the] G-20 has nothing to be proud of," he wrote. (RFE/RL, 09.09.23)
      • The G-20 isn’t the right place to seek diplomatic progress on ending Russia’s war in Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron said after Kyiv voiced frustration at the summit’s final communique this weekend. (Bloomberg, 09.10.23)
  • Romania's Defense Ministry said elements of what could be a drone were identified on the NATO member's territory following a Russian drone attack early on Sept. 13 on Izmayil in southern Ukraine, just across the border. A crew from a Romanian Air Force helicopter identified “fragments that could have come from a drone, dispersed over an area of several dozen meters,” the ministry said, noting investigators were sent to the site to conduct a preliminary search and to collect samples for examination. If confirmed, it would be the third time fragments from a drone have been found on the territory of Romania in recent days. (RFE/RL, 09.13.23)
    • Secretary-General Mircea Geoana said on Sept. 11 that there is “no risk” that alliance member Romania will be dragged into a war following the recent discovery of drone fragments on its territory near the border with war-torn Ukraine. “The most important thing is to re-confirm the fact that there is no indication of a deliberate action [by Russia] to strike Romanian territory and therefore NATO territory,” Geoana told journalists during a visit to a school near Romania’s capital, Bucharest. (AP, 09.11.23)
  • A Russian pilot tried to shoot down a RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft surveillance plane after believing he had permission to fire. The RAF plane, with a crew of up to 30, was flying a surveillance mission over the Black Sea in international airspace on Sept. 29 last year when it encountered two Russian SU-27 fighter jets. As the two Russian SU-27s approached the RAF spy plane, they received a communication from their ground station controller. One Western source told the BBC the words they received were to the effect of "you have the target.” This ambiguous language was interpreted by one of the Russian pilots as permission to fire. The Russian pilot released an air-to-air missile, which successfully launched but failed to lock on to its target, the BBC has been told. The pilot of the second SU-27 did not think they had been given permission to fire. He is said to have sworn at his comrade. Yet the first pilot still released another missile. The second missile simply fell from the wing - suggesting the weapon either malfunctioned or that the launch was aborted. (BBC, 09.14.23) That RS-135 had been nearly shot down last fall was reported both in Western and Russian media this spring, with reports citing documents leaked by a U.S. airman. Still, shooting down a NATO member’s warplane with up to 30 people onboard would have required a response, especially given the slim chances that the crew would survive. Whether or not the UK’s response had included invoking Article 5 of the NATO treaty, the already tense interaction between Russia and the alliance could have escalated into a direct conflict.
  • NATO is preparing its biggest live joint command exercise since the cold war next spring, assembling more than 40,000 troops to practice how the alliance would attempt to repel Russian aggression against one of its members. The Steadfast Defender exercise is expected to involve between 500 and 700 air combat missions, more than 50 ships, and about 41,000 troops, NATO officials said. It is designed to model potential maneuvers against an enemy modelled on a coalition led by Russia, named Occasus for the purposes of the drill. (FT, 09.11.23)
  • German Rear Admiral Stephan Haisch says he is confident that participants in large-scale naval maneuvers set to begin next week in the Baltic Sea are well prepared. For the first time, the two-week naval drills -- led this year by Germany -- revolve around an alliance defense scenario. Haisch was quoted by dpa on Sept. 8 as saying he did not expect any provocation by the Russian Navy during the exercises and said there are ways to communicate if they get too close to each other at sea. (RFE/RL, 09.09.23)
  • Sweden will increase its defense spending next year by almost 30 per cent to SKr119 billion ($11 billion) to meet NATO’s target of 2 per cent of gross domestic product. (FT, 09.11.23)
  • The U.S. Space Force conducted the first launch of a new constellation of early warning satellites designed to track Chinese or Russian spacecraft that could potentially disable or damage orbiting American systems. (Bloomberg, 09.10.23)
  • As the U.S. and Russia vie for greater influence in Africa, Moscow is seeking access for its warships to a Mediterranean port in Libya that could expand its naval footprint in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's backyard. Senior Russian officials, including Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, met with Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar in recent weeks to discuss long-term docking rights in areas he controls in the war-torn country's east, according to Libyan officials and advisers. The Russians have requested access to the ports of either Benghazi or Tobruk, the Libyan officials and advisers said, both of which are located less than 400 miles from Greece and Italy. (WSJ, 09.15.23)
    • General of the Russian Army Sergei Surovikin is currently in Algeria with a delegation from his country’s Ministry of Defense. A source close to the military leader told Kommersant about this, confirming this information with photographs. (Kommersant, 09.15.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Vladimir Putin told Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Zhang Guoqing in Vladivostok on Sept. 12 that Russian-Chinese trade is up 24% on the first seven months of this year, totaling 120 billion USD, according to the Kremlin. In his turn, Zhang estimated that the bilateral trade reached $155 billion in January-August 2023. The two were to discuss during their meeting bilateral contacts at the "highest-level" by the end of the year. Putin is to travel to China in mid-October 2023 to attend the Third Belt and Road Forum, according to Reuters. (RM, 09.11.23)
  • Western nations are trying to restrain China’s development because they see how the country, under Xi Jinping’s leadership, is developing by leaps and bounds, Mr. Putin said In remarks made at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 12. “They are doing everything to slow the development of China, but this will not be possible,” he said, adding: “They are late. The train has left the station.” (NYT, 09.12.23)
  • Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Sept. 15 it has made the first delivery of liquefied natural gas to China via the Arctic Northern Sea Route as receding ice sheets render the route more viable. (MT/.AFP, 09.15.23)
  • China’s defense minister Li Shangfu hasn’t been seen in public for more than two weeks, with a steady trickle of reports suggesting that China’s fourth-most senior military figure is the latest top Communist Party official to be abruptly ousted from the upper echelons of Xi’s ranks. Li is under investigation for corruption and likely will be removed, two U.S. officials said this week. (WP, 09.15.23) If Li remains MIA or resurfaces with charges again him, one might start to wonder about how good Xi and his key aides are at selecting cabinet members.
  • The majority of Russians view their country and China as “great,” but would not say the same of the U.S. or its allies, according to Levada Center polling. The share of Russians who view their own country as great has almost doubled over the past two decades, from 43% in 2002 to 80% in 2023. The same period has seen the share of Levada respondents who view China as great triple from 19% in 2002 to 63% in 2023. By comparison, the share of Russians who view the U.S. as great halved from 62% in 2002 to 30% in 2023. The same period saw the share of Russians who view Japan, the U.K., Germany and France as great shrink at an even faster rate, ending at 9%, 9%, 8% and 3%, respectively, in 2023. While the share of Russians who admire Western greatness has shrunk dramatically over the past two decades, shorter-term measurements reveal certain improvements in Russians’ views toward some of these countries. For instance, the share of Russians who say they have a good attitude toward the U.S. was 22% in August 2023, which is higher than at any other point since February 2022. (RM, 09.13.23)

Nuclear arms:

  • Paragraph 8 of the declaration, which members of G-20 adopted at their summit in New Delhi on September 9 and which focused on the war in Ukraine, stated that “The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”  (, 09.10.23)
  • “The New START treaty was concluded under diametrically different conditions in the international arena and in relations between Moscow and Washington than those that have developed now due to the West’s declaration of war on Russia through Ukraine with the aim of inflicting a ‘strategic defeat’ of Russia,” Sergei Lavrov told members of the press while attending the G-20 summit. “Under these conditions, there can be no talk of any negotiations on the implementation of the current agreement or new negotiations on strategic stability. However, as we stated, we will adhere to its parameters, first and foremost with respect to the maximum number of relevant weapons, until the New START’s expiration,” he said on Sept. 10, according to the Russian MFA’s transcript of his remarks. (RM, 09.11.23)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

  • U.S. billionaire Elon Musk has agreed to sell a portion of Starlink assets to the U.S. Department of Defense, removing himself from decision-making regarding geofencing Ukraine’s access to the satellite internet service. (The New Voice of Ukraine, 09.13.23)
    • The Starlink satellite service is a “vital tool” for Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, following reports the billionaire turned off the system near the Crimean coast last year to prevent a Ukrainian drone attack on Russian warships. (Bloomberg, 09.10.23)
    • The Senate Armed Services Committee is looking into national security issues raised by Elon Musk’s decision not to extend the private Starlink satellite network to aid a Ukrainian attack on Russian warships near the Crimean coast. (Bloomberg, 09.15.23)
  • The Security Service of Ukraine has responded to around 7,500 attempted cyberattacks by sophisticated hackers since the Russian invasion in early 2022, a top Ukrainian cyber official said on Sept. 14. (Politico, 09.07.23)
  • Cybercriminals in Turkey have teamed up with recently arrived Russian émigré hackers to flood a once moribund online marketplace with tens of millions of newly stolen personal credentials, an evolution in the transnational nature of such fraud. (FT, 09.10.23)
  • The iPhone of a prominent Russian journalist whose news outlet has effectively been outlawed by President Vladimir Putin was infected with Pegasus spyware this year, researchers say, in the first known case of the powerful eavesdropping tool being used against a significant Russian target. The spyware appears to have been installed while the phone's owner, Galina Timchenko, owner of the news outlet Meduza, was in Germany for a meeting with other Russian journalists in February. (WP, 09.13.23)
    • Pegasus spyware may have also been used to hack the cellphones of Novaya Gazeta Europe CEO Maria Epifanova and Novaya Gazeta Baltics journalist Yevgeny Pavlovy. Separately, Yevgeny Erlich, the former editor-in-chief of the Baltiya program on the Current Time broadcaster, said his phone may also have been hacked. (MT/AFP, 09.15.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • The world is at “the beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era, according to the leading global energy watchdog, which for the first time has forecast that demand for oil, natural gas and coal will all peak before 2030. The International Energy Agency projected that the consumption of the three major fossil fuels will start to decline this decade because of the rapid growth of renewable energy and the spread of electric vehicles. (FT, 09.12.23)
  • Uranium prices have surged to their highest level in 12 years. Prices for the commodity dubbed “yellowcake” have jumped about 12 percent to $65.50 per pound over the past month, Barring a surge last year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, that is their highest level since 2011, when the Fukushima meltdowns led to the shutdown of dozens of reactors. (WSJ, 09.14.23, FT, 09.15.23)
  • Turkey's energy minister has publicly questioned for the first time the need for a new natural gas hub that Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed last year. Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar told a group of reporters on Sept. 14 that Turkey already had a well-functioning gas trading platform. (MT/AFP, 09.15.23)
  • Russia will again raise an oil-export levy the country’s producers pay, bringing more money into its coffers as surging prices compensate for smaller shipments. The government will increase the duty to $23.90 per ton in October, the highest level this year, following a rally in the price of Russia’s key export blend Urals, the Finance Ministry said on Sept. 15. That’s up 12% from Sept. and equates to about $3.26 a barrel. (Bloomberg, 09.15.23)

Climate change:

  • President Joe Biden said the sole threat to humanity’s existence is climate change, and that not even nuclear conflict poses a similar danger. “The only existential threat humanity faces, even things more frightening than a nuclear war, is global warming,” Biden said. (Bloomberg, 09.11.23)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • In remarks made at Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 12 Vladimir Putin called the criminal cases against Donald J. Trump good for Russia and an indication of the American system’s “rottenness.” Mr. Putin said that the prosecution of Mr. Trump was a “good thing” because it showed “the rottenness of the American political system, which cannot pretend to teach others about democracy.” (NYT, 09.12.23)
    • Early on Sept. 13, Trump pointed to sympathetic comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to bolster his case that he is being treated unfairly by prosecutors in the United States. (WP, 09.13.23)
  • Moscow has brought up the case of Vadim Krasikov convicted for murder of Zemlikhan Khangoshvili in prisoner-swap negotiations, according to Western officials. The officials said Krasikov is central to U.S. efforts to win the release of people held by Russia, possibly including U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. Officials in several countries also said a multilateral deal to swap Russian detainees in Western countries for Western citizens held in Russia, as well as imprisoned dissidents such as Alexei Navalny, was possible. (WSJ, 09.10.23)
    • The family of Gershkovich said on Sept. 13 they have appealed to the United Nations to help seek his release from detention in Russia. (MT/AFP, 09.14.23)
    • Moscow will not discuss “speculation” about the inclusion of jailed Kremlin critic Navalny in a list of candidates for a prisoner swap with the West, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.(MT/AFP, 09.13.23)
      • Navalny, who is serving a total of 19 years in prison on extremism and other charges, has been placed in punitive solitary confinement for the 19th time since August 2022. (RFE/RL, 09.12.23)
  • The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, visited Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia over what the United States calls bogus espionage charges, for the first time in four months. The State Department on Sept. 13 said Tracy met with Whelan at the penal colony in Mordovia -- a Russian region 350 kilometers southeast of Moscow, notorious since Soviet times for its penal colonies(RFE/RL, 09.13.23)
  • Moscow on Sept. 14 said it was expelling two U.S. Embassy employees for allegedly "liaising" with a former U.S. consulate worker accused by Russian authorities of spying for Washington. Russia's Foreign Ministry said the two American diplomats, Jeffery Sillin and David Bernstein, were engaged in "illegal activities by liaising with a Russian citizen, [Robert] Shonov." (MT/AFP, 09.14.23)
  • A Russian man has been convicted of treason and jailed for 12 1/2 years for sending missile components to the United States, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Sept. 15. (Reuters, 09.15.23)
  • In remarks made at Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 12 Mr. Putin expressed his own admiration for Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX whose influence in the Ukraine war has in recent days come under scrutiny. The billionaire entrepreneur is an “active, talented businessman,” Mr. Putin said, noting that all around the world Mr. Musk is recognized as an “outstanding person” in private business. (NYT, 09.12.23)
  • One American and two Russians made a quick trip Friday to the International Space Station aboard a Russian capsule. (AP, 09.15.23)


II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia’s Central Bank raised interest rates from 12% to 13% on  Sept. 15 as it said it remains concerned about an inflationary spiral taking hold across the Russian economy. The move is the second rate hike in two months following an emergency meeting in August held after the Russian ruble fell below 100 against the U.S. dollar. Russia's Central Bank also trimmed its forecast for economic growth next year—it now expects GDP to expand by 0.5-1.5%, compared to 0.5-2.5% in July. (MT/AFP, 09.15.23)
    • A toxic mix of a sliding currency, booming military spending and an intractable labor shortage has fueled price rises in recent months in Russia. Overall, the annual inflation rate has more than doubled to 5.2% in August from 2.3% in April. (WSJ, 09.15.23)
  • In remarks made at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 12, Mr. Putin called on businessmen to keep their money inside Russia, warning them that “we see what is happening with capital, where it is moving.” He also said that Western governments’ seizures of Russian assets had “crossed all lines.” In July, a report from Russia’s central bank said $253 billion had been pulled out of Russia since the start of the war. Russia is steering clear of extreme measures for now in response to economic turbulence, Putin said. (NYT, 09.12.23, Bloomberg, 09.12.23)
  • Russia on Sept. 10 wrapped up widely denounced regional and municipal elections in 85 regions, including in regions annexed from Ukraine, delivering strong support for President Vladimir Putin amidst criticism of vote rigging and Kyiv's push to reclaim its land. According to Russian officials, United Russia received large majorities in the regions, taking at least 70% of the vote in each. But in the regions voting, electoral competition was limited, as strong candidates, including some from Russia's main opposition Communist Party, were blocked from running by authorities. (Reuters, 09.11.23)
    • "It is … totally unacceptable for Russia to conduct such 'elections' in these regions on the basis of such an illegal 'annexation'," Japan's foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, said in statement over the weekend. (Reuters, 09.11.23)
    • Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has won his third term in office. With 100% of the ballots counted as of early Sept. 11, Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) website showed Sobyanin securing 76.39%, or 2.5 million, of the votes. (MT/AFP, 09.11.23)
    • Viktor Bout, the convicted gun runner who spent nearly a decade in a U.S. prison before being sent back to Russia in a prisoner swap, has won a seat in a regional legislature. The Ulyanovsk regional election commission said in a statement that Bout won a seat on the regional assembly as a result of party-list voting. Bout is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. (RFE/RL, 09.13.23)
    • American-born mixed martial artist Jeff Monson has been elected to office in the regional parliament of Russia’s republic of Bashkortostan. (MT/AFP, 09.14.23)
  • A Russian court on Sept. 12 sentenced journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev from the North Caucasus region of Dagestan to 17 years in prison on charges of financing terrorism that he and his supporters reject as politically motivated. (RFE/RL, 09.12.23)
  • A court in Russia's Republic of Tatarstan on Sept. 11 sentenced blogger Parvinakhan Abuzarova to three years in prison on a charge of making calls online for Russian soldiers to desert the armed forces. (RFE/RL, 09.12.23)
  • A court in Moscow has extended the pretrial detention of Igor Girkin, once a leader of Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's east, who was arrested in July and charged with public calls for extremism after criticizing President Vladimir Putin for “badly” handling the ongoing invasion of Ukraine until at least December 18. (RFE/RL, 09.12.23)
  • President Vladimir Putin suggested that Anatoly Chubais, a former top government official who fled after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, may have left due to financial irregularities at the state-run corporation he oversaw. (RFE/RL, 09.12.23)
  • A guard at one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's residences in occupied Crimea has fled to Ecuador, calling the Kremlin leader a war criminal. Vitaly Brizhaty, who worked on the Ukrainian peninsula for the Federal Protection Service (FSO), said he opposed the war in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.10.23)
  • The Kremlin on  Sept. 15 denied a Russian investigation into a mysterious plane crash that killed Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has been too slow, despite no update on what may have caused the crash in more than three weeks. (MT/AFP, 09.15.23)
    • Jerusalem Post listed Prigozhin as among the “50 most influential Jews” in 2023. (RM, 09.15.23)
  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has dismissed the head of state civil aviation agency Rosaviatsia, the government’s press service announced on Sept. 15. Alexander Neradko will leave his post as director of Rosaviatsia and will be replaced by his deputy, Dmitry Yadorov. (MT/AFP, 09.15.23)
  • A statue of Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police, Cheka, was unveiled in front of the headquarters of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) in Moscow on Sept. 11. (Current Time, 09.11.23)
  • Every fifth Russian says they speak a foreign language freely, according to Levada’s August 2023 poll. Some 15% of the respondents said they speak English freely, 3% said it was German and 2% said it was Ukrainian. (RM, 09.13.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • In remarks made at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 12 Vladimir Putin played up Russia’s development of “weapons based on new physical principles. “Weapons on new physical principles will ensure the security of any country in the near future. We understand this very well and we’re working on it,” the Russian leader said at the forum's plenary session. (MT/AFP, 09.12.23)
  • Some 270,000 Russians have voluntarily signed up for service in the past six to seven months, with 1,000 to 1,500 more signing up each day, Mr. Putin claimed in remarks made at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 12. He skirted a question about the possibility of another round of mobilization to replenish Russian forces. (NYT, 09.12.23)
  • Russia's regions have ramped up spending this year on national security and law enforcement as the state intensifies its crackdown on any form of dissent amid a failing war, according to a new report. Regional spending on security services and police rose on average by more than half, a new record since the fall of the Soviet Union, according to a detailed report released by Russia’s Gaidar Institute Spending on security and law enforcement remains a small part of Russian regions' overall budget, with the federal budget overwhelmingly covering those needs. (RFE/RL, 09.10.23)
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Sept. 15 that the Russian Navy has received two new ships this year and is to receive another 12 by the end of 2023. (Reuters, 09.15.23)
  • A shopping mall in the Russian city of Izhevsk is set to be converted into a drone production facility, the third such repurposing in the city over the past year, local activists said on Sept. 15. (MT/AFP, 09.15.23)
  • A Russian Su-24 bomber on Sept. 12 crashed in southern Russia during a training flight, state-run media reported. (MT/AFP, 09.13.23)
  • Also see section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russian prison inmates who were pardoned in order to fight with the Wagner mercenary group in Ukraine are now reportedly being recruited into Russia's National Guard. (Current Time, 09.12.23)
  • Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia's Security Council, wrote in Russia's foreign intelligence agency's house magazine that "In recent years, hundreds of employees of foreign intelligence services, as well as other persons involved in organizing intelligence and subversive activities against our country and our strategic partners, have been identified and neutralized." (RFE/RL, 09.15.23)
  • A Russian court has sentenced a notorious gangster from Russia's Republic of North Ossetia in the North Caucasus, Aslan Gagiyev (aka Dzhako), to life in prison for his role in several murders. The South District Military Court in the southwestern city of Rostov-on-Don sentenced Gagiyev on Sept. 14 after finding him guilty of leading a criminal group and organizing six murders. (RFE/RL, 09.14.23)
  • A court in Moscow has issued a life sentence to Aleksandr Syomin for the 2018 molestation and murder of Huvaido Tillozoda, a 5-year-old ethnic Tajik girl, a case that caused a public outcry in Tajikistan. (RFE/RL, 09.14.23)
  • A court in Russia's Republic of Bashkortostan on Sept. 13 ruled that an 86-year-old man who served 13 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of murder and attempted murder in 1959, should receive compensation of about 32 million rubles. ($333,400). (RFE/RL, 09.14.23)
  • RFE/RL has welcomed a decision by the European Council to sanction two officers of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) who are responsible for the investigation into, and torture of, the journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko. (RFE/RL, 09.11.23)
  • A court in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk on Sept. 14 sentenced the former prefect of Moscow’s Northern Administrative Precinct, Oleg Mitvol, to 4 1/2 years in prison in a high-profile embezzlement case. (RFE/RL, 09.14.23)


III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the Soviet invasion of Hungary and Czechoslovakia as a “mistake” that harmed other nations, even as he continued to defend his war in Ukraine. “This aspect of Soviet Union policy was wrong and only fueled tensions,” Putin said during a panel session at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 12. “It is not right to do anything in foreign policy that is in direct conflict with the interests of other nations.” His remarks, while glossing over Moscow’s ongoing aggression against Kyiv, were aimed at extending an olive branch to central and eastern European countries where politicians have espoused more sympathetic views towards Russia than their Western allies. (FT, 09.13.23)
  • Brazil's leader withdrew on Sept. 11 his personal assurance that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be arrested if he attends next year's G-20 summit in Rio de Janeiro, saying it would be up to the judiciary to decide. Putin missed this year's gathering in India, avoiding possible political opprobrium and any risk of criminal detention under a warrant for his arrest issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC). (AFP, 09.11.23)
  • India will offer Russia options to invest the billions in rupees it has accumulated for exports, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sept. 10 in New Delhi. “Lavrov also said Russian arms contracts with India remain in force, despite difficulties with payments caused by sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Bloomberg, 09.10.23)
  • Hanoi is making clandestine plans to buy an arsenal of weapons from Russia in contravention of American sanctions, an internal Vietnamese government document shows. The Ministry of Finance document, which is whose contents have been verified by former and current Vietnamese officials, lays out how Vietnam proposes to modernize its military by secretly paying for defense purchases through transfers at a joint Vietnamese and Russian oil venture in Siberia. The document notes that Vietnam is negotiating a new arms deal with Russia that would “strengthen strategic trust” at a time when “Russia is being embargoed by Western countries in all aspects.” (NYT, 09.10.23)
  • In recent months, diplomats and observers say, the international willingness to call out Russia publicly has diminished. A number of emerging countries have come out against calls from Ukraine and its backers to seek reparations from Russia over war damage and create an international tribunal targeting Russia's leadership. (WSJ, 09.14.23)
  • “For the first time since the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the volume of goods unloaded at Russia's three largest container ports, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Novorossiysk, is approaching the levels seen at the outbreak of the war," the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in Germany wrote in a report published on Sept. 7. The United States and its allies imposed harsh economic sanctions on Russia after it launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, banning high-tech exports needed for industrial production and cutting off many of its banks from Western financial markets. (RFE/RL, 09.10.23)
  • Austria’s longest-serving spymaster has warned about the risks of the hard right Freedom party coming back to power after next year’s elections, given that it has not severed its ties to Russia. Peter Gridling, who led the Austrian intelligence service BVT between 2008 and 2020, told the Financial Times that the Freedom party continued to have ties to the Kremlin even if the war in Ukraine and recent controversies over Russian meddling have forced it to be more discreet. (FT, 09.13.23)
  • Former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, who moved to live in Russia, brought two of her ponies to the Leningrad region. Russian-pro war Telegram channel Fighterbomber claims that the military transport Il-76 was used to transport the animals. On Sept. 12, Kneissl declared she was moving to live in St Petersburg, citing a “schizophrenic” attitude to Russia in Europe. (The Insider, 09.12.23, FT, 09.13.23)


  • President Joe Biden will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sept. 21 at the White House following the United Nations General Assembly. Both men are slated to address the 78th session of the UN gathering on Sept. 19. Zelensky is expected to use his in-person appearance with U.S. and world leaders to rally support and plead for advanced weapons and ammunition. Zelensky would also meet individually with U.S. lawmakers and leaders. He is also expected to visit the Pentagon to meet Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.  (RFE/RL, 09.15.23, FT, 09.15.23, Bloomberg, 09.15.23)
    • The American presidential election now looms over Russia's war in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested. Mr. Zelensky said Russia is hoping an opponent of military aid to Ukraine will win in the United States, but that he did not believe U.S. policy would shift either way. “Of course, they are counting on this,” Mr. Zelensky said of Russians. “They are counting on the American elections very much.” (NYT, 09.09.23)
  • Elon Musk gave his biographer private messages from a top Ukraine official without seeking permission, revealing exchanges over the entrepreneur restricting the Starlink internet service to thwart Kyiv’s military. Ukrainian deputy prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov told the Financial Times on Sept. 8 that he was unaware that Walter Isaacson had obtained and published the messages in a forthcoming biography of Musk written with the billionaire’s full collaboration. (FT, 09.08.23)
  • In an address, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, expressed support for Ukraine and several other nations joining the bloc over the next few years. The European Union’s top official on Sept. 13 called for a major expansion of the bloc to include not only Ukraine but also Moldova, several Western Balkan nations and Georgia over the next few years, a move that would push the group from 27 to over 30 members with more than half a billion citizens, and would make the world’s largest free-trade, free-travel area even larger. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had pushed Europe to respond “to the call of history.” (WP, 09.13.23)
    • Ukraine has made "great strides" to join the European Union since being granted candidate status in 2022, but full accession is a merit-based process and hard work lies ahead, von der Leyen said. (RFE/RL, 09.13.23)
    • An EU survey released this week showed that about two-thirds of Europeans (67%) believe that the EU should support Ukraine's path to European integration, and 65% are behind Ukraine's integration into the single European market. The survey also showed that 65% of those surveyed support ongoing financial aid and 71% of respondents back the sanctions regime. Another 57% believe that the EU should support the purchase and supply of military equipment for Ukraine and the training of the Ukrainian military. (BNE, 09.11.23)
    • Ukraine is prepared to make changes to its laws on minority rights to unlock EU agreement later this year on opening accession talks, its deputy prime minister has said. Olga Stefanishyna, who is in charge of Ukraine’s drive to join the EU, told the Financial Times Kyiv was prepared to make “additional amendments” to rules on secondary education in minority languages, including Hungarian, as long as a balance was struck with teaching in Ukrainian. (FT, 09.12.23)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vetoed legislation that allowed officials to continue not disclosing their assets, as Kyiv struggles to clamp down on corruption and assure allies that it’s committed to fighting graft. The Sept. 12 veto comes days after Zelensky pushed out his defense minister and shuffled several other top officials amid growing concerns that corruption and embezzlement have continued despite the ongoing Russian invasion, now in its 18th month. (RFE/RL, 09.12.23)
  • In an interview with CNN published on Sept. 10, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that cases of corruption in Ukraine don't involve financial or military aid sent by Kyiv's partners. When asked if he thinks he can stop the corruption that persists in Ukraine and put a system in place that will stop further corruption, Zelensky said that the war has created more sensitivity about the fight for justice, as Ukrainians are "currently fighting for these values." (Kyiv Independent, 09.11.23)
  • Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) said on Sept. 15 that arrested tycoon Ihor Kolomoyskiy faces a new, third charge, the latest for illegally obtaining 5.8 billion hryvnia. ($156 million) through fictitious cash deposits. (RFE/RL, 09.15.23)
  • The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) says former lawmaker Serhiy Polishchuk, who is currently out the country, is suspected of high treason for his appearances on Russian television where he "denied the existence of Ukraine" while allegedly taking money from Russian security authorities. (RFE/RL, 09.12.23)
  • Ukraine’s central bank trimmed borrowing costs for a second consecutive meeting, pressing ahead with monetary easing after inflation dropped into single-digit territory. Policymakers in Kyiv cut the benchmark interest rate by two percentage points to 20% on Sept. 14, according to a statement. (Bloomberg, 09.14.23)

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Officials in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh said a Russian truck carrying humanitarian aid arrived on Sept. 12 in the region via territory controlled by Azerbaijan, the first time such a crossing has been allowed in more than three decades. The Russian Red Cross's humanitarian aid reached the territory's capital, Stepanakert, carrying blankets, toiletries and 1,000 food parcels. Access via a link with Armenia, known as the Lachin Corridor, has been effectively blocked by Baku for more than nine months, prompting Yerevan to accuse Azerbaijan of creating a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh. (RFE/RL, 09.12.23)
    • Armenian-backed leaders in Nagorno-Karabakh have said Azerbaijani authorities agreed to allow aid deliveries to the breakaway region through the Lachin Corridor from Armenian territory in an operation to be controlled by Russian peacekeeping troops and the Red Cross. In return, Karabakh authorities agreed on Sept. 9 to also allow Russian-provided aid to be delivered directly from Baku-controlled territory via the Agdam road, opening a transport link from Azerbaijan proper for the first time since Karabakh broke away from Baku in a war that ended three decades ago. (RFE/RL, 09.09.23)
  • Armenia's foreign minister on Sept. 13 said his country has received "new proposals" on a potential peace deal from bitter rival Baku, hours after his Azerbaijani counterpart said Baku was prepared to allow the Red Cross to transport humanitarian aid into Nagorno-Karabakh on a regular basis. Earlier, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told Blinken he is ready for urgent talks with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev. (RFE/RL, 09.13.23, Bloomberg, 09.09.23)
  • Major General Gregory Anderson, Commanding General, 10th Mountain Division, and Brigadier General Patrick Ellis, U.S. Army Europe and Africa Deputy Chief of Staff will join U.S. ambassador to Armenia Kristina Kvien to observe the U.S.-Armenian Eagle Partner exercise at the Zar Training Area, the embassy informed. (Newsam, 09.15.23)
  • In a long-awaited visit to Georgia last week, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, warned that Brussels will need to see more signs of progress on key reforms if it is to give the green light to the country’s application as part of an enlargement update expected in October. A year ago, the bloc backed candidate status for fellow hopefuls Ukraine and Moldova, while only acknowledging Georgia’s “European perspective” and handing down a list of 12 reforms, including “de-oligarchization,” tackling. (Politico, 09.08.23)
  • Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said that as of Sept. 11, Chinese citizens can enter the South Caucasus nation without visas. (RFE/RL, 09.11.23)
  • Belarus on Sept. 11 accused Poland of firing warning shots and using tear gas and physical force to push back migrants trying to enter the European Union through their volatile border. (MT/AFP, 09.11.23)
  • The European Parliament has recognized Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as an "accomplice" to Russia's military aggression and war crimes in Ukraine, according to a resolution adopted on Sept. 13. (MT/AFP, 09.14.23)
  • The first images since the confirmation of the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin show that a suspected tent camp thought to be occupied by troops from Russia's Wagner mercenary group near the Belarusian village of Tsel, has been further dismantled. (RFE/RL, 09.14.23)
  • Latvia prevented 246 people from illegally crossing from neighboring Belarus on Sept. 10 -- a 24-hour record, the Latvian Border Guard said on Sept. 11. According to the Border Guard, 472 people tried to cross the EU's external border in the past three days. That brings the total number of attempted illegal border crossings this year to over 7,800, compared to just under 5,300 last year. (dpa, 09.11.23)
  • Moldovan authorities have expelled the director of Russia's Sputnik state news agency in Moldova, Vitaly Denisov, saying he poses a national security threat. (RFE/RL, 09.13.23)
  • Mircea Snegur, who oversaw Moldova's break from the Soviet Union and the newly independent country's first president, has died at the age of 83 after a prolonged illness. (RFE/RL, 09.14.23)
  • The Fifth Consultative Meeting of the Heads of States of Central Asia opened on Sept. 14 in Dushanbe. RFE/RL, 09.14.23)

Quotable and notable

  • No significant developments.


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.