Russia in Review, April 7-14, 2023 – 6 Things to Know

File Photo of Red Square, Kremlin, Environs, adapted from image at

(Russia Matters – – April 14, 2023)

The latest batch of leaked top-secret U.S. intelligence assessments paint a significantly grimmer picture of Ukraine’s fighting chances than one would typically find on the editorial pages of America’s leading newspapers. The leaked documents warn that Ukraine’s anticipated spring counteroffensive will likely result in “modest territorial gains” that would fall “well short” of Kyiv’s goals, predicting that a “grinding campaign of attrition” that will bleed into 2024. Such a stalemate would “make leadership changes more likely” in Ukraine, according to the documents. In the shorter term, the leaked documents predict that Ukraine will have completely depleted its stock of missiles for its Buk and S-300 air defense batteries, which make up 89% of Ukraine’s air protection, by April 13 and May 3 respectively. As a result, the number of Ukraine’s unprotected critical sites to soar from six to more than 40, according to the leaked documents.

The U.S. intelligence community has penetrated the Russian military establishment so deeply that it has been able to obtain daily real-time warnings on the timing of Moscow’s strikes and on the specific targets of these strikes, according to the leaked documents. The U.S. obtained Russian plans for striking Ukrainian forces in Odesa and Mykolayiv in early March, according to the leaked documents. The latter also suggests that the U.S. intelligence community has obtained discussions of internal planning by Russia’s military intelligence and by PMC Wagner. According to the leaked documents, the U.S. has also been able to intercept communications of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, including a dispatch that claimed China’s Central Military Commission had “approved the incremental provision” of weapons to Russia.

Beijing and Moscow plan to explore the feasibility of free trade between their nations, according to a statement from Beijing released after a meeting between Foreign Minister Qin Gang and his counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday in Uzbekistan. This meeting will be followed by the April 16-19 visit of Chinese defense minister Li Shangfu to Moscow. Li will meet Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu to discuss their countries’ cooperation, which is something that 62% of Americans see as a very serious problem, according to Pew.

A Russia-NATO war may have been more likely than you thought: Few paid attention when UK defense chief Ben Wallace said in October that a Russian jet fired a missile in the vicinity of a British plane. It now turns out that the firing resulted in a “near-shoot down” of the British surveillance plane off the coast of Crimea on Sept. 29, according to the leaked U.S. intelligence documents. Two U.S. defense officials quoted in the leaked documents said the Russian pilot had misinterpreted what a radar operator on the ground was saying to him and thought he had permission to fire. The pilot, who had locked on the British aircraft, fired, but the missile did not launch properly. Had the missile struck the plane, the UK could have invoked Article 5 of the NATO treaty in a move that may have led to a full-blown war.

Russia’s economy ministry increased its 2023 GDP forecast to 1.2% growth from a 0.8% contraction but lowered its forecast for 2024 from 2.6% to 2%. In contrast, the IMF predicts Russia’s economy will grow by 0.7% this year, up 0.4% points from a previous forecast in January. In other good news for the Kremlin, Russia’s international reserves increased by 1.2%, or $6.9 billion in one week to top $600 billion for the first time since the war in Ukraine started, the Central Bank said, according to BNE.

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Russian forces have reinforced their defensive positions at and around Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in a bid to repel an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive. After earlier laying land mines around the perimeter of the plan, Russian forces have now extended their defenses, according to Dmytro Orlov, the exiled mayor of the nearby town of Enerhodar. (NYT, 04.12.23)
  • IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi says that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant’s reliance on a single functioning external power line, and two landmine explosions near the plant, mean it is “more important than ever to agree” safety measures for the site. (WNN, 04.14.23)
  •  In the dead of night on October 19, 600 elite Ukrainian troops scattered along the north bank of the Dnipro River. The teams boarded more than 30 vessels. Their orders were to launch an assault to recapture the Zaporizhzhia NPP from the Russians on the opposite bank. The main force was unable to land, however, due to Russian defenses. (Times, 04.10.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant developments.

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • No significant developments.

Leaks of alleged U.S. intelligence information and their impact on the Russia-Ukraine conflict:

Contents of the leak:

  • The war is expected to bleed into 2024 with neither side securing victory yet both refusing to negotiate an end to the conflict, according to the documents, which Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira was arrested in connection with on Thursday, and charged the following day. The analysis concludes that, even if Ukraine recaptures “significant” amounts of territory and inflicts “unsustainable losses on Russian forces,” an outcome U.S. intelligence finds unlikely, the nation’s gains would not lead to peace talks. “Negotiations to end the conflict are unlikely during 2023 in all considered scenarios,” says the document. The document anticipates that the year will end with the two sides achieving only “marginal” territorial gains as a result of “insufficient troops and supplies for effective operations.” (WP, 04.12.23)
    • For the Ukrainian side, an ongoing war of attrition will lead to frustration within the country and “criticism” about how the war is conducted, “making leadership changes more likely,” the document says. (WP, 04.12.23)
    • For the Russian side, the stalemate will force Moscow to employ “degraded reserves due to dwindling combat power,” the document says. The Kremlin also is likely to “accelerate” efforts to integrate captured territories into Russia. (WP, 04.12.23)
  • One of the slides warns Ukraine’s much-expected spring counteroffensive will likely result in “modest territorial gains” that are “well short” of Kyiv’s original goals. A February 23 slide says fighting in the east is a “grinding campaign of attrition” that looks headed toward stalemate. (FT, 04.10.23, WP, 04.11.23)
  • Ukraine will have completely depleted its stock of missiles for its Buk and S-300 air defense batteries by April 13 and May 3 respectively with the number of Ukraine’s unprotected critical sites to soar from 6 to more than 40. S-300 and Buk air defense systems make up 89% of Ukraine’s protection warplanes. The same document assessed that Ukrainian air defenses designed to protect troops on the front line, where much of Russia’s air power is concentrated, will “be completely reduced” by May 23, resulting in strains on the air defense network deeper into Ukrainian territory. (WSJ, 04.09.23, WP, 04.11.23, NYT, 04.09.23)
    • The Patriots and SAMP-T batteries that are due to arrive in Ukraine won’t be able to replace the breadth of coverage afforded by the 25 currently operating Ukrainian S-300 batteries. (WSJ, 04.09.23)
    • While the U.S., Norway, Canada and Germany have provided Ukraine with two Nasams and one Iris-T air-defense battery in recent months, these systems were on track to run out of ammunition by May, according to the leaked documents. (WSJ, 04.09.23)
    • An assessment in another leaked Pentagon document puts the number of Russian fighter jets currently deployed in the Ukraine theater at 485 compared with 85 Ukrainian jets. (NYT, 04.09.23)
  • In a trove of leaked classified files, the U.S. government recently estimated that between 124,000 and 131,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed or wounded since the start of the invasion – more than five times what Kyiv has publicly disclosed. That’s about 50-70% less than Russia’s casualties, which the leaked intelligence puts at 189,500-223,000, but let’s not forget that Ukraine’s pre-war population was less than one-third of that of Russia, meaning Ukraine cannot field as many soldiers if the meat-grinder continues for years. (WP, 04.10.23, RM, 04.10.23)
  • The war in Ukraine has gutted Russia’s clandestine spetsnaz forces, and it will take Moscow years to rebuild them, according to classified U.S. assessments obtained by The Washington Post. 22nd Separate Spetsnaz Brigade and two other spetsnaz brigades suffered an estimated 90 to 95% attrition rate, the assessments say. (WP, 04.14.23)
  • U.S. officials prepared a dire assessment of Bakhmut and pulled back the curtain on Ukrainian generals’ decision to use elite units to push back the Russians there. That said, the U.S. has a clearer understanding of Russian military operations than it does of Ukrainian planning, reflecting Washington’s struggle to get a clear view of Ukraine’s fighting strategies. (NYT, 04.08.23, NYT, 04.11.23)
  • 100 special forces troops are operating in Ukraine, including from the U.S., Great Britain, France, Latvia and the Netherlands. (FT, 04.10.23)
  • A Russian fighter jet fired a missile that resulted in a “near-shoot down” of a British RC-135 surveillance plane off the coast of Crimea on Sept. 29, according to the slides. The incident was far more serious than originally portrayed and could have amounted to an act of war. According to two U.S. defense officials quoted in the leaked documents, the Russian pilot had misinterpreted what a radar operator on the ground was saying to him and thought he had permission to fire. The pilot, who had locked on the British aircraft, fired, but the missile did not launch properly. (RM, 04.12.23, WP, 04.09.23, NYT, 04.13.23)
  • One potentially sensitive data point is the rate at which NATO-supplied howitzers are burning through the 155mm shells they fire. The documents appear to describe incoming shipment flows and projections outlining how fast the Ukrainians would run out if shipments were impeded. The Pentagon has refused to disclose such insights publicly and only vaguely describes how much artillery ammunition it provides. (WP, 04.14.23)
  • The leaked documents indicate U.S. intelligence community has penetrated the Russian military establishment at the highest level with that establishment so deeply compromised that this community has been able to obtain daily real-time warnings on the timing of Moscow’s strikes and specific targets of these strikes. For example, the U.S. had Russian plans for striking Ukrainian forces in Odesa and Mykolayiv in early March. The leak suggests the U.S. intelligence community has obtained discussions of internal planning by Russia’s military intelligence and by PMC Wagner Group. (RM, 04.13.23)
  • An additional batch, which contains 27 pages, includes a document, in which American intelligence officials say that FSB has “accused” the country’s Defense Ministry “of obfuscating Russian casualties in Ukraine.” The finding highlights “the continuing reluctance of military officials to convey bad news up the chain of command,” they say. F.S.B. officials, the document says, contend that the ministry’s toll did not include the dead and wounded among the Russian National Guard, the Wagner mercenary force or fighters fielded by Ramzan Kadyrov. (NYT, 04.13.23)
  • One of those slides suggested that Russian National Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev and Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov have a plan to sabotage Putin while he’s getting treatment for cancer. According to the [source], who received the information from an unidentified Russian source with access to Kremlin officials, Russia planned to divert resources from Taganrog, Russia to Mariupol, Ukraine, and focus its attention on the southern front,” the memo said. “According to [the source], the plan for ‘the offensive’… was suspected to be a strategy devised by Russian National Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev and Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov to sabotage Putin.” (Vice, 04.11.23)
  • The additional 27-page batch said Mr. Putin attempted to resolve the dispute personally by calling Wagner’s Yevgeny Prigozhin and MoD’s Sergei Shoigu into a meeting believed to have taken place on Feb. 22, “The meeting almost certainly concerned, at least in part, Prigozhin’s public accusations and resulting tension with Shoigu.” (NYT, 04.13.23)
  • The documents reveal a previously unknown U.S. satellite surveillance system called LAPIS, which produces what is described as “time-series video” footage. Officials familiar with the technology have described it as an advanced satellite system that allows for better imaging of objects on the ground. LAPIS is among the more closely guarded capabilities in the U.S. intelligence arsenal. (WP, 04.08.23, FT, 04.10.23)
  • The slides from the purported Pentagon presentation indicate that the U.S. intelligence community has penetrated the Russian military establishment at the highest level with that establishment so deeply compromised that this community has been able to obtain daily real-time warnings on the timing of Moscow’s strikes and on specific targets of these strikes. (NYT, 04.11.23, FT, 04.11.23, WP, 04.11.23)
  • To brace for the introduction of advanced NATO-supplied tanks on Ukraine’s battlefields, Russian forces are preparing to pay a bonus to troops who manage to damage or destroy one, according to recently leaked U.S. intelligence documents. “ (NYT, 04.09.23)
  • The analysis by the Defense Intelligence Agency outlines four “wild card” scenarios and how they could affect the course of the conflict in Ukraine. The hypothetical scenarios include the deaths of Presidents Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, the removal of leadership within the Russian Armed Forces and a Ukrainian strike on the Kremlin. The document says that the war will most likely remain protracted (NYT, 04.11.23)
    • One assessment said that a Ukrainian attack on Russian soil using NATO weaponry could draw Beijing into the war. It said that a Ukrainian hit on a significant strategic target — or senior leader — in Russia, may act as “further justification for China to send lethal aid” to Moscow. (WP, 04.11.23)
  • China approved the “provision of lethal aid” to Russia in its war in Ukraine earlier this year and planned to disguise military equipment as civilian items, according to the leaked documents. The intercept, apparently obtained through U.S. eavesdropping on Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), was included in a top-secret summary, dated Feb. 23, According to “signals intelligence,” the intelligence summary said, the SVR reported that China’s Central Military Commission had “approved the incremental provision” of weapons and wanted it kept secret. (WP, 04.13.23)
  • According to a Feb. 28 top-secret report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff intelligence directorate, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had three days earlier successfully tested a new hypersonic intermediate-range ballistic missile called the DF-27. (WP, 04.12.23)
  • The leaked documents indicate that the U.S. is spying not only on adversaries and competitors but also on some of its allies and partners, including Israel, the UK, South Korea and Egypt. (WP, 04.11.23, RFE/RL, 04.11.23)
    • One section of the leaked documents said that British State Secretary for Defense Ben Wallace had tasked his ministry to explore plans to deploy one of its two naval aircraft carriers to the Indo-Pacific, potentially in cooperation with Asian allies or the United States. (WP, 04.11.23)
    • One report says that in February, senior leaders of the Mossad spy service “advocated for Mossad officials and Israeli citizens to protest the new Israeli Government’s proposed judicial reforms, including several explicit calls to action that decried the Israeli Government.” The report cites signals intelligence. (WP, 04.11.23)
    • President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi of Egypt recently ordered subordinates to produce up to 40,000 rockets to be covertly shipped to Russia, according to a leaked U.S. intelligence document. (WP, 04.11.23)
    • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban identified the United States as one of his party’s “top three adversaries,” according to the leaked documents. (WP, 04.11.23)
    • One document reports that South Korea’s National Security Council in early March “grappled” with a U.S. request that the country sends artillery ammunition to Ukraine. Seoul was concerned that the request could anger Moscow, the report said, citing signals intelligence. (WP, 04.11.23)
  • The leaked documents suggest that U.S. agencies routinely monitor Iran’s secret weapons activity, as well as internal deliberations by top Iranian officials. (WP, 04.11.23)
  • Documents hint at U.S. monitoring of the IAEA, as a further means of gaining insight into Iran’s nuclear efforts. (WP, 04.11.23)
  • Another leaked document said Abu Dhabi had agreed to leak U.S. and United Kingdom intelligence to curry favor with Russia. “The UAE probably views engagement with Russian intelligence as an opportunity to strengthen growing ties between Abu Dhabi and Moscow and diversify intelligence partnerships amid concerns of U.S. disengagement from the region,” the document says. (Al Jazeera, 04.12.23)
  • Serbia, the only country in Europe that has refused to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, agreed to supply arms to Kyiv or has sent them already, according to a classified Pentagon document. (Reuters, 04.12.23)
  • The documents say that Zarya, a pro-Russian hacking group, has gained access to Canadian gas infrastructure and could, among other things, start an emergency shutdown of a gas distribution site. (WP, 04.11.23, WSJ, 04.11.23)
  • The Post also reviewed approximately 300 photos of classified documents, most of which have not been made public. Some feature detailed charts of battlefield conditions in Ukraine and highly classified satellite images of the aftermath of Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian electrical facilities. Others sketched the potential trajectory of North Korean ballistic nuclear missiles that could reach the United States. Another featured photographs of the Chinese spy balloon that floated across the country in February. (WP, 04.13.23)
  • A top secret document obtained by The Times includes details on negotiations over Russian fuel prices in Africa. According to the document, dated Feb. 17, the Malian authorities were at the time unsatisfied with fuel prices and were continuing to negotiate with the Russian Ministry of Energy and representatives of Africa Politology, an entity linked to the Wagner private military company. (NYT, 04.11.23)
  •  One of the leaked documents says that Wagner Group associates had plans as of late February to “discreetly” travel to Haiti to assess the potential for a contract with the government to fight the gangs that control vast swaths of the capital and that have murdered and kidnapped thousands. (WP, 04.11.23)
    • One report suggests that Turkey, a NATO ally, was approached by Wagner to help procure supplies. (WP, 04.11.23)
  • A document leaked from American intelligence sources mentions that Vladimir Putin was undergoing chemotherapy. (Tagespiel, 04.13.23)

Reaction to the leak:

  • Senior Pentagon leadership restricted the flow of intelligence Friday in response to the revelations, two U.S. officials said. (WP, 04.14.23)
  • A European intelligence official worried that if Washington restricts allies’ access to future intelligence reports, it could leave them in the dark. (WP, 04.14.23)
  • Col. Yuri Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, said that he couldn’t comment on the veracity of the information in the leaked slides on Ukraine being close to running out of air defense missiles. He confirmed, however, that Ukraine’s air defenses face a serious challenge. “If we lose the battle for the skies, the consequences for Ukraine will be very serious,” he said. (WSJ, 04.09.23)
  • Ukraine has dismissed the documents publicly as Russian disinformation, with an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy saying that they were “fictional.” (Bloomberg, 04.10.23)
  • The leaked trove is a mixture of true, false and outdated information, the country’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said. The leak would clearly appear to benefit Russia and its supporters, he said. (Bloomberg, 04.12.23)
  • Ukraine’s most senior military intelligence official said Russia has the most to gain from the massive leak of U.S. government secrets that has dominated headlines in recent days. Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov insisted there was “no risk” that the matter would damage the relationship between his war-torn country and the United States. Instead, he downplayed the likely impact the shocking revelations will have on the battlefield, as Ukraine endures a second year of Russia’s invasion. (ABC, 04.13.23)
  • The leaked files “have no operational significance,” Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, said in an interview. “They have no impact on the front line or the planning of the General Staff.” “We need less contemplation on “leaks” and more long-range weapons in order to properly end the war,” he said. (Bloomberg, 04.14.23 (WSJ, 04.13.23)
  • President Joe Biden said the U.S. was close to concluding investigations into the leak of sensitive documents that exposed American spying practices and assessments of Russia’s war in Ukraine, even as he sought to downplay the impact of the disclosures. “I’m concerned that it happened. But there’s nothing contemporaneous” in the documents, he said. (Bloomberg, 04.13.23)
  • Russia has begun analyzing the documents, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Peskov on Monday called the revelations of U.S. espionage on other countries unsurprising. When asked about allegations of Russian involvement in the leaks, he said there was no need to comment, citing a “tendency to blame everything on Russia.”. (WP, 04.11.23, WP, 04.11.23)
  • The leak of a trove of highly sensitive documents online could be a move by the United States to “deceive” Russia, its deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying Wednesday. ” (MT/AFP, 04.12.23)
  • China won’t sell weapons to either side in the war in Ukraine, the country’s foreign minister said, responding to Western concerns that Beijing could provide military assistance to Russia. (AP, 04.14.23)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, already navigating a growing rift with the Biden administration, issued a statement Sunday describing media reports about a memo detailing potential domestic meddling on the part of the Mossad intelligence agency as “mendacious and without any foundation whatsoever.” (WP, 04.11.23)
    • Israeli media outlets reported that Netanyahu met Monday with Mossad Director David Barnea, who told the prime minister that the memo was based on a U.S. misinterpretation. (WP, 04.11.23)
  • South Korea has downplayed the leak, with Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo suggesting that Washington and Seoul “have a shared assessment that much of the information disclosed is altered.” South Korea on Tuesday said a “significant portion” of leaked U.S. intelligence documents indicating concerns in Seoul about arms supplies to Ukraine are fake. (WP, 04.11.23, RFE/RL, 04.11.23)
  • Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told ABC it was seeking “further information.” (Bloomberg, 04.10.23)
  • In a statement released Monday, Bulgaria’s Defense Ministry denied that it had held talks on donating MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, as one of the documents indicated. (WP, 04.11.23) .
  • In response to questions regarding the document and the veracity of the conversations it describes, Ambassador Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, said that “Egypt’s position from the beginning is based on noninvolvement in this crisis and committing to maintain equal distance with both sides, while affirming Egypt’s support to the U.N. charter and international law in the U.N. General Assembly resolutions.” (WP, 04.11.23)
  • France on Saturday declined to comment on the ramifications of the documents, though it denied information contained in a leaked memo saying that French soldiers were in Ukraine, the Guardian reported. (WP, 04.11.23) .
  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that “Serbia has not and will not export weapons to Ukraine” nor will it send ammunition to either side of the conflict, which began with Russia’s invasion in February 2022. “ (RFE/RL, 04.13.23)
  • The documents appear to potentially reveal sources and methods,” says Glenn Gerstell, who served as general counsel of the National Security Agency from 2015 to 2020. This may compromise the United States’ ability, for example, to spy on Russia.” (Vox, 04.11.23)
    • If Russia is able to determine how the United States collects its information and cuts off that flow, it may have an effect on the battlefield in Ukraine. (NYT, 04.08.23)
  • The incident serves as another reminder that the proliferation of technologies is making it increasingly difficult to prevent leaks of even top-secret materials. Moreover, one no longer needs to build a dedicated, searchable medium like Wikileaks to distribute these secrets. The Minecraft channel on Discord, which is a popular messaging application for fans of computer games, has worked just as well in disseminating the latest Pentagon slides, as did the subsequent circulation of the slides by 4Chan, Telegram and Twitter. (RM, 04.13.23)
  • The first appearance of some of the documents seems to have taken place on gaming platforms, perhaps to settle an online argument over the status of the fight in Ukraine. “Think about that. An internet fight that ends up in a massive intelligence disaster,” said Dmitri Alperovitch. The incident shows that leakers are skipping traditional gatekeepers and taking a DIY approach to posting their disclosures. (Bloomberg, 04.13.23, NYT, 04.09.23)
  • “ The cache of 100 or so newly leaked briefing slides of operational data on the war in Ukraine is distinctly different [from Wikileaks and Snowden’s revelations]. The data revealed so far is less comprehensive than those vast secret archives, but far more timely. (NYT, 04.09.23)

Origins and proliferation of the leak:

  • The man behind the leak shared highly classified documents with a group of mostly men and boys who had formed an invitation-only clubhouse in 2020 on Discord. Late last year the man, who some called “OG” and who was later identified as Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, allegedly posted a message of what appeared to be near-verbatim transcripts of classified intelligence documents OG stopped sharing images of in the middle of March (WP, 04.14.23, WP, 04.13.23)
  • Teixeira faces up to 15 years in prison over charges of unauthorized transmission of defense information. (BBC, 04.14.23)
  • On Feb. 28, unbeknown to OG’s group, a teenage user from the Thug Shaker Central server began posting several dozen photographs showing classified documents on another Discord server affiliated with the YouTuber “wow_mao.” Some of the documents offered detailed assessments of Ukraine’s defense capabilities and showed how far U.S. intelligence could see into Russia’s military command. (WP, 04.13.23)
  • On March 4, 10 documents appeared on “Minecraft Earth Map,” a Discord server focused on the popular video game. A user operating the account that posted the smaller tranche of images told The Post they obtained them on wow_mao. Secret and top-secret documents were now available to thousands of Discord users, but the leak wouldn’t come to the attention of U.S. authorities for another month. (WP, 04.13.23)

The documents drew greater attention once they were discovered and posted more broadly to far-right noticeboard 4Chan . On April 5, they were posted on Russian Telegram channels and the message board platform 4chan, and began migrating to Twitter. One image, showing a March 1 Ukraine status update, had been crudely doctored to inflate the number of Ukrainian casualties and downplay those on the Russian side. (WP, 04.13.23)

  • Some of the leaked documents were believed to be from assessments compiled for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One of the documents dated Feb. 15, for example, is entitled “Daily Intelligence Update, Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” prepared by the JCS “J-2 Intelligence Directorate.” The documents involved nearly every corner of the U.S. intelligence apparatus. The documents describe intelligence activities at the National Security Agency, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, law enforcement agencies and the National Reconnaissance Office. (FT, 04.10.23, FT, 04.13.23, WP, 04.14.23, WSJ, 04.13.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  •   In the past month of fighting Russian forces have gained 21 square miles of Ukrainian territory, according to The Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (RM, 04.11.23)
  • In April Ukrainian military officials said Kyiv’s forces have fought the Russian Army essentially to a standstill in the battle for two key roads near Bakhmut, the T504 highway and a route known as the 506. (NYT, 04.10.23)
  • On Wednesday Ukraine said its forces have repelled dozens of attacks by Russian forces in the east as intense fighting continued around the devastated city of Bakhmut. (RFE/RL, 04.12.23)
  • On Thursday the Ukrainian OSINT project reported no major gains by either side in the east or south as of that date. (RM, 04.14.23)
  • On Friday Russia stepped up its campaign to capture Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, pushing Ukrainian forces further from the city center as explosions rocked Russian-occupied Melitopol ahead of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive targeting the south. (WSJ. 04.14.23)
  • On Friday, the Ukrainian military said its forces repelled 49 attacks by invading Russian forces over the past day in the east as intense fighting continued in and around the besieged city of Bakhmut. (RFE/RL, 04.14.23)
  • Kyiv has stepped up strikes on the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol this month as it lays the groundwork for the offensive that is expected to target the south. Melitopol sits along a critical supply line to Crimea and is a potential prime target for the operation to retake Russian-held territory.” (WSJ. 04.14.23)
  • Ukraine’s offensive is expected to begin by mid-May and to consist of operations from multiple directions, including potential decoys, according to several European defense officials. While a Ukrainian drive toward the city of Melitopol in the south, aimed at splitting Russian forces is widely expected, some European officials are now skeptical that can be achieved this year. Instead, a more realistic target is now seen as a 30 km (20 miles) or so advance that would put Ukraine’s most capable artillery within range of Russian supply lines and create conditions for a deeper push in 2024, one of the officials said. (Bloomberg, 04.14.23)
  • In his evening address on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to reference the planned counteroffensive in an update about a Thursday meeting with senior defense officials. “Our actions will be powerful. We’re preparing our guys,” he said. “And we’re very much waiting for the supply of weapons promised by our partners.” (WSJ. 04.14.23)
  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Kyiv remained confident of success in the counteroffensive after a meeting in Washington with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov. The U.S. would go on providing the “security assistance capability” to achieve it, Austin said. (Bloomberg, 04.14.23)
  • The Biden administration is expected to request more aid for Ukraine in the summer when some $45 billion passed last year runs out. (FT, 04.10.23)
  • Ukraine’s forces say they need an average of 250,000 155-millimeter shells each month to repel Russia’s advance. In fact, the combined output of all 11 of the factories that make the shells in Europe will still fall far short of meeting Ukraine’s desperate needs. (NYT, 04.10.23)
  • Russia is deepening a crackdown on dissent in occupied areas of Ukraine. In occupied parts of Ukraine’s Kherson region, Russian security forces were raiding homes and checking local residents’ phones for prohibited photos and videos, Ukraine’s general staff said in its daily briefing. (WSJ, 04.09.23)
  • The BBC Russian Service and Media Zone, together with a team of volunteers, have identified 20,451 Russian servicemen who died during the full-scale war in Ukraine. (Media Zone, 04.14.23)
  • In Ukraine, the government on Tuesday approved rules allowing recruitment centers to send summonses anywhere in the country. Previously, summonses could only be handed to men at their registered addresses, but tracking them down proved difficult due to large-scale internal migration as a result of the war. (FT, 04.12.23)
  • The German government on Thursday approved a Polish request to export five MIG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine that once belonged to the East German army. The decision clears the way for Poland to continue to deliver the air-defense aid package it had first announced in March. (NYT, 04.13.23)
  • Also, see the section on leaks above.

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in an updated report published on Tuesday that 8,490 civilians have been killed and 14,244 injured since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, until April 9, 2023. (RFE/RL, 04.11.23)
  • More than 11 million Ukrainians have crossed into Poland since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. (NYT, 04.11.23)
  • A 50-year-old man and his 11-year-old daughter were among at least five killed in weekend shelling in the city of Zaporizhzhya. (RFE/RL, 04.09.23)
  • Kyiv launched a fresh war crimes investigation against Russian forces and called for coordinated international action after videos shared on social media appeared to show the beheading of a Ukrainian prisoner of war. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday suggested the beheading videos could be fakes. (FT, 04.12.23)
  • In recent weeks, several drones fell in Belgorod and the surrounding region, damaging electrical lines and the facades of several buildings. Ukraine has not commented on the situation, but Kyiv has said it reserves the right to strike at targets inside Russia. (RFE/RL, 04.11.23)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has blasted Russia for conducting air strikes coinciding with the observance of Orthodox Palm Sunday.” (RFE/RL, 04.10.23)
  • Pope Francis called for prayers for both the Ukrainian and Russian people over Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (RFE/RL, 04.09.23)
  • The Black Sea grain corridor ground to a halt on Tuesday after no ship inspections were conducted under the safe-passage deal that allows Ukraine to export its crops from three key ports, although activity is now expected to resume on Wednesday. (Bloomberg, 04.12.23)
  • Russia said on Thursday that there would be no extension of the U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain deal beyond May 18 unless the West removed a series of obstacles to the export of Russian grain and fertilizer. (Reuters, 04.13.23)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told a gathering of global finance leaders in Washington that his country needed $14.1 billion immediately for critical reconstruction projects, pleading with officials to use frozen Russian assets to help pay the cost. (Bloomberg, 04.13.23)

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

  • The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on over 120 targets to squeeze Russia for its war in Ukraine in a sign of stepped-up enforcement. Five entities and an individual that are part of Russian state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom were targeted in an effort to constrain the company, the State Department said, accusing Rosatom of using energy exports to exert political and economic pressure on its customers. The U.S. crackdown targeted Cypriot, Uzbek and Russian nationals connected to entities stretching from Liechtenstein and Switzerland to the United Arab Emirates and including Alisher Usmanov’s USM Holdings. (Reuters, RM, 02.13.23, FT, 04.13.23)
  • The U.K. government on Wednesday announced a fresh package of sanctions against several “financial fixers” who have assisted Russian oligarchs. Those slapped with sanctions include Cypriots Demetris Ioannides and Christodoulos Vassiliades who are thought to have assisted Abramovich and Usmanov. (FT, 04.12.23)
  • Hungary has decided to withdraw from a Russian-controlled investment bank based in Budapest and subject to U.S. sanctions, in an abrupt U-turn for Viktor Orbán after increased pressure from Washington to sever his ties with Moscow.  The Hungarian government’s decision came a day after the U.S. added the Budapest-based International Investment Bank to its sanctions list relating to Russia’s war with Ukraine. The U.S. Treasury described the IIB as enabling the Kremlin “to increase its intelligence presence in Europe” and conduct “malign influence activities” in the region. (FT, 04.13.23)
    • U.S. ambassador to Hungary Pressman expressed concerns over Budapest’s eagerness to “deepen and expand” ties with Russia, in a public display of frustration Wednesday. (WP, 04.14.23)
  • Top sanctions officials from the U.S. Treasury Department are planning international trips this month to pressure firms and countries still doing business with Russia to cut off financial ties because of the war on Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 04.08.23)
  • Lawyers of the European Commission have come to the conclusion that the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) frozen assets must be returned to Russia after the war in Ukraine ends. (BNE, 04.14.23)
  • Switzerland insisted on Tuesday that it was clamping down on Russian assets parked in the country after other countries accused the Swiss of not going far enough. Bern has frozen $8.3 billion in assets since imposing sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. That’s the equivalent of around “a good third” of the $23.4 billion frozen across the European Union, she said. (AFP, 04.11.23)
  • Canada has imposed sanctions on the National Bank of Belarus and the country’s eight other major banks over Minsk’s support of Russia’s ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 04.12.23)
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it had imposed sanctions against 333 more Canadian nationals — including regional officials, lawmakers, politicians, and athletes — “involved in unbridled Russophobia.” The move comes a day after Canada imposed sanctions against 14 Russian nationals and 34 Russian companies. (RFE/RL, 04.12.23)
  • Ukraine’s state energy company Naftogaz has secured a ruling from an international arbitration tribunal that ordered Russia to pay $5 billion in losses related to the seizure of natural gas and oil assets in Crimea. The court in The Hague found that compensation should be equal to the fair market value of Naftogaz assets before expropriation. (FT, 04.13.23)
  • Ukraine’s Interior Ministry has added Oksana Marchenko, the wife of pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, to its wanted list the same day that she was hit with sanctions from the British government. (RFE/RL, 04.12.23)
  • Amid the Western sanctions banning not only flights to and from Russia but also the maintenance of aircraft belonging to Russian airlines, Russia’s largest carrier Aeroflot has been forced to send one of its Airbus A330-300s to Iran for repair (MT/AFP, 04.11.23)
  • Danish turbine maker Vestas is being sued for more than €200 million by a Finnish client, Fortum, over the termination of contracts to deliver wind turbines into Russia. (FT, 04.13.23)
  • Deutsche Bank is winding down its remaining software technology centers in Moscow and St Petersburg. The Frankfurt-based bank has offered individual severance packages to the 500 IT experts still left on the payroll in Russia. (FT, 04.12.23)
  • Italy’s Justice Minister Carlo Nordio ordered a probe into the decision by court officials to transfer Artyom Uss from jail to house arrest in a town near Milan while his extradition request was being considered. (AP, 04.14.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • Ukraine wants India to play a bigger role in resolving the war triggered by Russia’s attack on its territory, Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova said on the first day of her four-day visit to the South Asian country. She then urged India on Wednesday to be on the “right side of the war” and asked for medicines and medical equipment to help rebuild her country’s ravaged health infrastructure. (Bloomberg, 04.11.23, NYT, 04.12.23)
  • Brazil has called for peace in Ukraine and, in carefully worded statements, criticized Russia’s invasion. But Latin America’s largest country, which relies on Russia for fertilizer and fuel, has also made clear that it will not send any weapons destined for the front lines, and is instead pushing to mediate peace talks. (NYT, 04.12.23)

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

  • Across the U.S. support for American military and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine is fading. Public support for Ukraine aid has fallen from 60% last May to 48% currently, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. According to a recent NBC News poll, while two-thirds of Democrats support more funding for Ukraine, just one-third of Republicans do. (FT, 04.10.23)
  • Russia has stepped up the defense of its northwestern borders following its neighbor Finland’s entry into NATO, Andrei Demin, deputy commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces, told the Krasnaya Zvezda. (MT/AFP, 04.10.23)
  • “We need a system of guarantees that would make aggression from Russia impossible,” defense chief Oleksiy Reznikov told a security conference in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, on Thursday. “There is no alternative to Ukraine’s accession to NATO,” he said. (RFE/RL, 04.13.23)
  • Norway’s government said Thursday that it was expelling 15 Russian diplomats from the country, saying they were suspected of spying while working at the Russian Embassy in Oslo. (AP, 04.13.23)
  • A Russian woman was detained in Sweden on espionage charges, police in the city of Gothenburg said on Friday. (RFE/RL, 04.14.23)
  • A Russian woman arrested last August in Albania on spying charges will not be extradited to Russia, a court in Albania ruled on Friday. Svetlana Timofeyeva, 34, was arrested along with another Russian and a Ukrainian on charges of entering a former military factory in Gramsh, 80 kilometers south of the capital, Tirana. (RFE/RL, 04.14.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Beijing and Moscow plan to explore the feasibility of free trade between the nations, according to a statement from Beijing released after a meeting between Foreign Minister Qin Gang and his counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. (Bloomberg, 04.14.23)
  • China’s exports bounced back sharply in March, a surprise that reflects greater demand in Asia and Europe as well as improved supply chain conditions. Another major reason that was behind the unexpectedly strong result: A more than doubling of Chinese exports to Russia in March from a year earlier. Outbound shipments from China soared 14.8% in March from a year earlier. (WSJ, 04.13.23)
  • Trade financing data from Swift, the international payments and financing platform, shows that the renminbi’s share by value of the market had risen from less than 2% in February 2022 to 4.5% a year later. Those gains put China’s currency in close contention with the euro, which accounts for 6% of the total. (FT, 04.12.23
    • Kicking off his first state visit to China since taking office in January Brazil’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has called on developing countries to work towards replacing the U.S. dollar with their own currencies in international trade, lending his voice to Beijing’s efforts to end the greenback’s dominance of global commerce. “Every night I ask myself why all countries have to base their trade on the dollar,” Lula said in an impassioned speech at the New Development Bank in Shanghai, known as the “Brics bank.” (FT, 04.13.23)
  • China is set to send its defense minister to Russia for the first time since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, the latest sign of close ties between Moscow and Beijing. Li Shangfu, who was named defense minister in March, will start the visit Sunday. Russia’s Defense Ministry said Li and Sergei Shoigu will discuss military cooperation, and global and regional security, according to Tass. Defense Minister Li Shangfu would visit Moscow from Sunday to Wednesday. (NYT, 04.14.23, Bloomberg, 04.14.23)
  • More than half of Putin’s team participating in the first round of formal talks with Xi in March in Moscow were officials directly involved in Russia’s weapons and space programs. …. This group of officials was likely assembled to pursue one main goal: deepening defense cooperation with China, according to Carnegie Endowment’s Alexander Gabuyev. (FA, 04.12.23)
  • A large majority of U.S. adults (83%) continue to have negative views of China, and the share who have very unfavorable views (44%) has increased by four percentage points since last year, according to Pew’s March 20-26 poll on the issue. Around four-in-ten Americans also now describe China as an enemy of the United States,– up 13 points since last year. Some 62% of Americans see the China-Russia partnership as a very serious problem for the U.S., up five points since October and back to the original high levels seen in the immediate aftermath of the Ukraine invasion in 2022. (Pew, 04.12.23)
  • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has urged Beijing to ask “the Russian aggressor to stop the war” in Ukraine, saying “no other country has more influence on Russia than China.” (AFP, 04.14.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • Belarusian Air Force crews have completed their training for using tactical nuclear weapons as part of Russia’s plan to deploy the weapons to its ally amid fighting in neighboring Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said Friday (Defense News, 04.14.23)
  • On Tuesday, the Strategic Rocket Forces conducted a successful launch of “an intercontinental ballistic missile from a road-mobile launcher.” The launch of Topol-ME/Yars-E signaled the resumption of missile tests from Kapustin Yar to Sary-Shagan. (Russianforces, 04.11.23)


  • In May 2013, U.S. Representative Bill Keating met Alexander Bortnikov, director of the FSB, Russia’s top security service. Bortnikov read to Keating and a small congressional delegation a list of dates, times, and communications it had collected about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers. Dumbfounded at the level of detail and struggling to keep up, Keating, a former prosecutor, asked if he could have a copy of the documents. Smiling, Bortnikov replied, “Well, you can surely get them from your own country.” Keating recalled: “I had to travel 4,000 miles to Moscow to get information that was available just blocks away at the FBI office …They gave it to us and the FBI didn’t.” (Boston Globe, 04.13.23)

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

  • On Wednesday, Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith said his company’s “digital-threat analysis team” has been spotting efforts by Russians in recent months to infiltrate online communities around videogaming. In-game chats built into popular video games have been used as a channel for covert communication by spies and terrorists in the past, according to people familiar with intelligence operations. (WSJ, 04.13.23)
  • Russia has overtaken Kazakhstan to become the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency mining country in 2023, second only to the U.S. (BNE, 04.13.23).

Energy exports from CIS:

  • World markets may be undersupplied by about two million barrels a day in the fourth quarter as a result of cutbacks announced by Saudi Arabia and its partners, according to figures in a report from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. (Bloomberg, 04.13.23)
  • Sanctions on Russia appear to be working as intended, with oil exports in March the highest since Covid yet revenue down by nearly half from a year earlier, data from the International Energy Agency show. Daily Russian oil exports averaged 8.1 million barrels a day last month, the highest since April 2020, “as deep price discounts attract traders willing to risk handling the barrels,” the IEA said in its monthly market report on Friday. Export revenue slightly rebounded from February lows, reaching $12.7 billion, but was still 43% down from a year earlier, the agency said. (Bloomberg, 04.14.23)
  • Flows of oil from Russian ports dropped by 1.24 million barrels a day, the biggest weekly decline since storms hit two export ports in mid-December. That took them below 3 million barrels a day for the first time in eight weeks. (Bloomberg, 04.11.23)
  • Russia’s government has approved the sale of Shell’s former 27.5% stake in the Sakhalin-2 energy project to Russian energy firm Novatek for 94.8 billion rubles ($1.16 billion), a government order showed on Wednesday. (Reuters, 04.12.23)
  • Italian officials are racing to review a deal to sell the country’s largest refinery after the U.S. government privately raised concerns about the sale of the Russian-owned site to a little-known fund in Cyprus. Russia’s Lukoil agreed in January to sell its Sicilian ISAB refinery to GOI Energy, a newly established branch of the Cypriot private equity group Argus. (FT, 04.10.23)
  • Moscow began exporting fuel products to Iran by rail for the first time earlier this year after its main purchasers stopped importing Russian fuel in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. (MT/Reuters, 04.11.23)
  • In Moscow Hungary’s top diplomat, Peter Szijjarto secured a deal to expand gas flows from Russia and renewed a financing agreement on its nuclear power plant. (Bloomberg, 04.11.23)
  • “Who blew up the Nord Stream pipeline?” Carlson asked Trump this week. Trump responded, coyly: “I don’t want to get our country in trouble, so I won’t answer it. But I can tell you who it wasn’t, was Russia.” (WP, 04.12.23).

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday called Russia’s imprisonment of an American journalist Evan Gershkovich on spying charges “out of bounds.” Biden then spoke on Tuesday with the family of Gershkovich and promised that the United States was working on securing his release. (MT/AFP, 04.11.23, WSJ, 04.11.23)
  • Roger Carstens, the U.S.’s top hostage negotiator called on Russia to allow American Embassy officials to visit detained Evan Gershkovich and pledged to find a way to secure his release and that of another American, Paul Whelan. (NYT, 04.13.23)
  • The State Department on Monday designated Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested by Russian security services, as “wrongfully detained,” launching a broad U.S. government effort to exert pressure on Russia to free him. (WSJ, 04.11.23)
  • President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, denied an earlier report by Bloomberg that the Russian president personally approved the arrest of Gershkovich. (NYT, 04.14.23)
  • Russia’s deputy foreign minister on Wednesday acknowledged that Gershkovich had not been granted consular access. “The question (of consular access) is under review,” Sergei Ryabkov said. Ryabkov also signaled that it was too soon to discuss a swap for Mr. Gershkovich. On Thursday, he reiterated those sentiments and said the issue of exchange could be considered only once justice runs its course (MT/AFP, 04.12.23) (NYT, 04.14.23)
  • Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said on Wednesday that the issue should be resolved “in due time.” (NYT, 04.14.23)
  • Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. suggested cutting the number of U.S. journalists allowed to work in his country as he defended the arrest of Gershkovich on spying charges. The envoy, Anatoly Antonov, said the U.S. had threatened Russia with retaliation if it didn’t release Gershkovich in the near future.  (Bloomberg, 04.14.23)
  • Russia’s detention of Gershkovich is a “brazen act” and violates the vital freedom of the press, including the safety of journalists, World Bank President David Malpass said on Monday.” (Reuters, 04.10.23)
  • Alaska Airlines canceled about two dozen flights in its namesake state on Thursday because of an ash cloud from a volcano in Russia. (AP, 04.13.23)

II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia’s economy ministry revised higher on Friday its 2023 gross domestic product (GDP) forecast to 1.2% growth from a 0.8% contraction, but lowered its forecast for 2024, mirroring a wider trend that envisages more sluggish longer-term prospects. The economy ministry forecast GDP growth of 2% in 2024, down from 2.6% when it last provided macroeconomic forecasts in the autumn. Meanwhile, the IMF raised its 2023 economic growth forecast for Russia. After contracting by 2.1% last year, the IMF now sees Russia’s economy growing by 0.7% this year, up 0.4% points from a previous forecast in January. Russia’s economy is slated to grow by 1% this year, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co., or shrink by 2.5%, if you ask the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (MT/AFP, 04.11.23, WSJ, 04.11.23,. (Reuters, 04.14.23)
  • Russia’s international reserves increased by 1.2%, or $6.9 billion, in one week to top $600 billion for the first time since the war in Ukraine started, the Central Bank said in a statement on Thursday. (BNE, 04.13.23)
  • On an annual basis, Russian inflation reached 3.5% in March from almost 11% in the previous month, according to data released on Wednesday. It’s now at a fifth of its peak last year and under the central bank’s 4% target for the first time since 2020. Putin said inflation may even be below 3% this month. (Bloomberg, 04.13.23)
  • Russia’s current-account surplus shrank last quarter by over $51 billion from a year earlier. The surplus decreased to $18.6 billion in the first three months of the year, according to preliminary central bank data. It’s the smallest surplus for any first quarter since 2016. (Bloomberg, 04.12.23)
  • Russia would need to attract as many as 1 million new migrants every year until the end of the century to maintain its current population levels, according to research cited by the RBC news website on Thursday. (MT/AFP, 04.13.23)
  • Working citizens under the age of 35 in the Russian labor market totaled 21.5 million in December, accounting for 29.8% of the country’s workforce of 72.1 million. That marks the lowest share of young workers since the start of data collection in 2006. (MT/AFP, 04.11.23)
  • In 2022, 63,150 people were registered with an HIV diagnosis in Russia compared to 61,098 people in 2021. In terms of per 100,000 population, HIV detection in Russia increased by 8% over the year. (Istories, 04.13.23)
  • Of the problems faced by Russian society, respondents to a March poll conducted by the Levada Center Center said they are most concerned about “rising prices” (58%), the “special military operation” and the consequences associated with it (33%), as well as “corruption” and “bribery” (26%). (RM, 04.14.23)
  • Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza said on Monday he stood by all of his political statements, including against the Ukraine offensive, that led him to face 25 years in jail.  Kara-Murza, 41, is accused of several charges including treason, and spreading false information about the Russian army. “I only blame myself for one thing,” Kara-Murza said. “I failed to convince enough of my compatriots and politicians in democratic countries of the danger that the current Kremlin regime poses for Russia and for the world.” (MT/AFP, 04.10.23)
    • Human Rights Watch has urged Russian authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release” Kara-Murza. (RFE/RL, 04.14.23)
  • Aleksei Moskalyov, who was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison by Russia and deprived of his parental rights after anti-war drawings by his 13-year-old daughter drew attention to his online posts about the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, has been extradited to Russia. (RFE/RL, 04.12.23)
  • Prison staff were forced to call an ambulance for Aleksei A. Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, last week, his spokeswoman said. In a series of posts on Twitter on Tuesday, Ms. Yarmysh also said that Mr. Navalny had lost more than 17 pounds after spending over 15 days in a punishment cell.  (NYT, 04.13.23)
  • A Russian court has sentenced a radio enthusiast to six years in jail for calling for President Vladimir Putin’s violent overthrown shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last year. (MT/AFP, 04.14.23)
  • Hundreds of supporters including Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin turned out on Saturday for the funeral of Vladlen Tatarsky, the high-profile Russian military blogger who was killed in a bombing attack last weekend. (MT/AFP, 04.08.23)
  • Dissident Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who once promised to return to Moscow in a U.S.-made Abrams tank, was designated as a foreign agent on April 7 by the Russian Justice Ministry for allegedly “fundraising” for Ukraine’s military. (RFE/RL/Current Time, 04.08.23)
  • Russian authorities on Tuesday banned the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum an organization created to foster cooperation between Russian and European NGOs, as an “undesirable” organization. (MT/AFP, 04.11.23)
  • A Muscovite reportedly filed a complaint with Russian police over social media posts by ex-Minister of Defense of the Donetsk People’s Republic Igor Girkin, in which he critized Russian authorities. (RM, 04.14.23)
  • Russian teacher Ksenia Krotova has filed as many as 900 complaints about alleged offenses by her compatriots, such as generating or promoting “fake news” about the Russian military since the launch of the invasion. (Media Zone, 04.14.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russian lawmakers voted Tuesday in favor of changes to the country’s military conscription rules that would make it easier to summon recruits and stop them from fleeing the country. The new bill would require conscripts and other men eligible for military service to show up to recruitment offices after being notified not only physically, but also online, according to its announced revisions. Putin signed the bill into law on Friday. (MT/AFP, 04.11.23, RM, 04.14.23)
  • The entire Russian Pacific Fleet was put on high alert on Friday for snap drills that will involve practice missile launches Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the goal of the war games was to test the capability of Russia’s armed forces to mount a response to aggression. Along with the missile launches, the drills will also involve nuclear-capable strategic bombers and other warplanes besides ones from the Pacific Fleet’s air arm, Shoigu said. (AP, 04.14.23)
  • See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Two-thirds of the 66 known defendants in criminal cases of terrorist attacks or sabotage on railways in Russia are under 21 years old, a third of the detainees are under 18 years old; only eight people with this charge are over 30 years old. (Media Zone, 04.13.23)
  • A Russian court has sentenced former security service officer Roman Nasryev and former emergencies officer Roman Nasryev to 19 years in prison each for setting fire to a city administration building last fall. (MT/AFP, 04.10.23)
  • – Russia’s Federal Security Service on Thursday accused a 35-year-old Ukrainian man Yury Denisov of playing a central role in the bombing attack in St. Petersburg this month that killed a Russian nationalist military blogger Maxim Fomin and said the assassination had been carried out on the orders of the Ukrainian security services. (WP, 04.14.23)
  • The head of Russia’s FSB security service Alexander Bortnikov on Tuesday accused Ukraine and the West of recruiting young Russians to stage armed attacks in their home country. (MT/AFP, 04.11.23)
  • Nikolay Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, said that attempts are underway to oust traditional Islam by its radical movements continue in the North Caucasus. According to Patrushev, international extremist terrorist organizations are intensifying their propaganda and recruiting activities in the North Caucasian regions. (Kommersant, 04.13.23)
  • A man has been sentenced to life in prison in Chechnya for taking part in an attack in 2000 on Russian riot police in the North Caucasus region that left at least 40 law enforcement officers dead. (RFE/RL, 04.14.23)
  • If the draft amendments to Russia’s Criminal Code are accepted, the sentence for people convicted of treason would be life imprisonment, while the maximum prison term for committing a terrorist attack would rise from 15 years to 20 years. (RFE/RL, 04.07.23)

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • The Group of 20 finance chiefs skipped issuing an agreed-upon statement from their meeting this week in Washington, extending the discord created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  India, which holds the G-20 presidency this year, released a statement Thursday that mentioned “the war in Ukraine, food and energy insecurity, climate change, and recent risks to financial stability.” (Bloomberg, 04.13.23) (Bloomberg, 04.13.23)
  • The top diplomats from Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan attended a conference on Thursday that focused on ensuring regional security in light of the situation in Afghanistan. The foreign ministers of the four countries met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and discussed the need to cooperate with Afghan authorities to maintain political stability and prevent a humanitarian crisis. (AP, 04.13.23)
  • Russia is now the biggest source of aluminum available in London Metal Exchange warehouses, according to the bourse’s latest origin report. At 220,575 tons, Russian primary aluminum made up 52% of LME on-warrant metal at the end of March, up from 46% in February, data released Tuesday show. India, another key exporter, is the other major source of LME aluminum stocks. (Bloomberg, 04.12.23)
  • South Africa has admitted that the international arrest warrant issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin represents a “spanner in the works” ahead of a BRICS summit due to take place in the country in August. (MT/AFP, 04.12.23)
  • Russian lawmakers are set to consider making it a criminal offense to comply with International Criminal Court (ICC) orders to arrest President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, said Thursday. (MT/AFP, 04.14.23)


  • During a recent trip to the country in January, Defense Department Inspector General Robert Storch said he met with the nation’s top officials, and all of them understood that submitting to Washington’s scrutiny was critical for foreign aid to continue. But he’s not in a position to accept their assurances at face value. “We get paid to be skeptics,” he said. (Defense One, 04.11.23).
  • The Ukrainian authorities have seized the assets of leading Ukrainian conglomerate Smart Holdings, changed the name of the beneficial owner of shares in the registrar and taken control of its three gas fields in what management told bne IntelliNews is probably a corporate raid. Ukraine’s security services have said they seized UAh2.5 billion ($96 million) of assets. “The property of pro-Russian oligarch Vadym Novynskyi, who is involved in aiding the aggressor country, was seized,” the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said in a statement. (BNE, 04.14.23)
  • Poland and Ukraine have found what they say is a solution to an influx of Ukrainian grain that has infuriated Polish farmers. The agriculture minister of Ukraine, Mykola Solski, had agreed that his country would ”refrain from sending wheat, corn, sunflower seeds and rape to Poland as a destination country.” (NYT, 04.11.23)
  • Members of the European Parliament met via video link on Wednesday with members of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament, to discuss Kyiv’s progress on its path to E.U. membership as the embattled country strives to deepen its ties with the bloc amid Russia’s full-scale invasion. (NYT, 04.12.23)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • The EU has called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to show “restraint” after the deadliest military clashes between the two foes in more than six months killed at least seven soldiers. Both sides exchanged artillery and machine gun fire over their disputed and unmarked border on Tuesday evening. Tuesday’s clashes, which killed at least three Azerbaijani and four Armenian soldiers, were the deadliest since hundreds of troops were killed or wounded in a flare-up in September last year. The exchange of fire occurred near Tegh, a village on the contested Lachin corridor which links the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Both sides claimed that troops from their other side had initiated the shooting. (FT, 04.12.23)
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ceyhun Bayramov, discussed “problems and misunderstandings” days after Baku expelled four Iranian diplomats over “provocative actions. (Reuters, 04.08.23)
  • The Armenian authorities have released a Russian citizen who was detained two days ago at Moscow’s request for alleged desertion, news website Armenia Today reported. Armenia’s Prosecutor General’s Office at no point considered extraditing the detained man to Moscow, the newspaper was told. The news of the 23-year-old Russian citizen’s detention in Yerevan on April 7 was first reported on Sunday, causing concern among the city’s large population of Russians in exile that Yerevan might begin extraditing other Russians being sought by Russian law enforcement. (MT/AFP, 04.10.23)
  • The authoritarian ruler of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, held talks on Monday with visiting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, Belarusian state-owned news agency BelTA reported. Lukashenka was quoted as saying that Belarus needs guarantees that Russia will defend the country “like its own territory” in the event of an attack. Lukashenka said he had discussed the security guarantees with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (RFE/RL, 04.10.23)
  • A Minsk court on Friday sentenced exiled Belarusian opposition politician Valeriy Tsepkalo to 17 years in a high-security prison in absentia, the state-run news agency Belta reported. Tsepkalo, a former head of Belarus’ equivalent of Silicon Valley, the High Technology Park, intended to run in Belarus’ 2020 presidential election but was barred from registering as a candidate. (MT/AFP, 04.07.23)
  • Neighbors Romania, Ukraine, and Moldova signed cooperation agreements in Romania’s capital on Thursday after a trilateral meeting on ways to strengthen security in their Black Sea region to counter threats posed by Russian aggression. (AP, 04.13.23)
  • Several Kyrgyz activists jailed over their protest against a border demarcation deal with Uzbekistan have been transferred to house arrest. (RFE/RL, 04.12.23)
  • Authorities in Kyrgyzstan’s southern region of Jalal-Abad said on Tuesday that Uzbek border guards had “abducted” a local shepherd near the village of Kok-Tash, close to the Uzbek border, a day earlier. (RFE/RL, 04.11.23)
  • About 100 oil workers have resumed protests in Kazakhstan’s volatile town of Zhanaozen to demand jobs after a similar protest they held in Astana was forcibly dispersed earlier this week and the demonstrators were sent home. (RFE/RL, 04.14.23)
  • The former chief of police of Kazakhstan’s southern region of Almaty, General Serik Kudebaev, has fled the country to evade a trial on charges of abusing his office in a case related to the deadly mass unrest that rocked the nation in January last year. (RFE/RL, 04.12.23)

Quotable and notable

  • No significant developments.


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