Russia in Review, Sept. 15-22, 2023

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

(Russia Matters – – Sept. 22, 2023)

7 Things to Know

  1. Ukraine intends to continue its counteroffensive through the autumn and into the winter, according to remarks made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley this week. “The fight right now still has plenty of fighting weather left,” according to Gen. Milley. At the beginning of last week, Gen. Milley had estimated there were “30 to 45 days’ worth of fighting weather left.” He argued that colder conditions would make it much harder for Ukraine to maneuver and described the expulsion of all Russian troops from Ukraine as a “very high bar,” according to CNN and BBCWhile references to “General Frost” in various analyses of the factors that could impact the course of combat in Ukraine is second (if not first) only to “General Mud,” it should be noted that some of the major combat developments in Ukraine occurred during the relatively cold and rainy seasons of fall and winter, including the Debaltseve cauldron in January-February 2015 and the recapture of Kupyansk in September 2022. In addition, offensive operations in the Zaporizhzhia region, where Ukraine claims to have breached Russia’s main defensive line (see number 2 below), are easier to execute during rainy periods because the sandy, well-aerated soil in that southern region dries quickly in contrast to the chernozem in the north.*
  2. The Ukrainian military claimed on Sept. 21 that its forces had breached the main Russian defensive line in the southern region of  Zaporizhzhia with armored vehicles, WSJ reported. Ukrainian troops overcame antitank obstacles including ditches and concrete blocks known as “dragon’s teeth” near the village of Verbove, allowing armored vehicles to press through, an officer in Ukraine’s air-assault forces told this newspaper. ISW also claimed that, as of Sept. 21, Ukrainian armored vehicles were operating beyond the final line of the Russian defensive layer west of Verbove. Russian opposition OSINT project, CIT, confirmed the breach, too, citing videos posted by the Ukrainian military. According to Russian pro-war Telegram channel Rybar, however, the Ukrainians had “made no visible gains” in the Verbove area as of Sept. 22. Overall, Ukrainian armed forces regained 16 square miles in the past month, while Russian forces have gained 35 square miles, according to the Sept. 19 issue of the Belfer Center’s Russia-Ukraine War Report Card.
  3. Zelensky visited the U.S. this week to meet with President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, all members of the of the U.S Senate and some of the House of Representatives, as well as to address the U.N. General Assembly. When hosting Zelensky, Biden announced a new $325 million aid package for Ukraine, drawing on funds that do not require Congressional authorization. Biden also promised Zelensky that he would provide Army Tactical Missile Systems. These missiles have a range of 180 miles, meaning they can strike targets in Russia’s land bridge to Crimea, as well as in Crimea itself.
  4. Russia’s Sept. 21 missile attacks that left 398 Ukrainian settlements without electricity that day may have heralded a resumption of the Russian forces’ campaign against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, which they pursued last winter. Grid operator Ukrenergo said it was the first Russian attack on its power infrastructure in six months, according to Reuters.
  5. The volume of trade between Russia and the United States amounted to a meagre $277 million in July 2023, which is 11 times less than it was in February 2022, according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and reported by RBC.
  6. Russia’s defense spending will rise to 10.8 trillion rubles ($112 billion, equal to 6% of its GDP) in 2024 from 6.4 trillion rubles (3.9% of GDP) this year, according to Bloomberg.
  7. Azerbaijan’s troops advanced to Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital city of Stepanakert on Sept. 22. as the self-proclaimed republic’s self-defense forces began to surrender their arms after both the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia and Russian peacekeepers failed to intervene to stop an Azerbaijani offensive. In the capital of Azerbaijan, residents celebrated the demise of the unrecognized republic by waving Russian flags, according to NYT.

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • The first batch of uranium mined at the Eastern Mining and Enrichment Plant in Ukraine has been sent to Canada where it will be converted into natural uranium hexafluoride as part of the company’s agreement with Cameco. (WNN, 09.18.23)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • North Korea’s Kim Jong Un expressed his “heartfelt thanks” to President Vladimir Putin, state media said on Sept. 18, as he headed home after nearly a week in Russia. (MT/AFP, 09.18.23)
    • Kim inspected Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers and hypersonic Kinzhal missiles on Sept. 16 in the Vladivostok area, where he was met by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Kim—who had earlier inspected the Vostochny cosmodrome and held talks with Putin—was gifted five kamikaze drones, a reconnaissance drone and a bulletproof vest by the governor of the Primorye region, which borders China and North Korea. (WP, 09.17.23, RM, 09.17.23, Reuters, 09.16.23)
    • Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Milley said he was skeptical that any munitions North Korea might provide to Russia would be decisive in Moscow’s war against Ukraine. “Would it have a huge difference? I’m skeptical,” Milley said following Kim’s rare trip outside his nation to meet with Putin. (WP, 09.17.23)
    • South Korea summoned the Russian ambassador on Sept. 19 to warn Moscow over military cooperation with North Korea after the country’s leader met Putin in Russia. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol warned of “illegal and unjust” military cooperation between North Korea and Russia must be met with a unified international response. (Bloomberg, 09.18.23, MT/AFP, 09.19.23)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said on Sept. 20 that relations with the United States can move forward if the Biden administration demonstrates it wants to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, and a first step should be easing sanctions. (AP, 09.21.23)
  • The U.S. sanctioned Chinese, Russian, Turkish and Iranian companies and people for playing a role in Iran’s drone program. (Bloomberg, 09.19.23)

Humanitarian impact of the Ukraine conflict:

  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of turning food, energy and even people into weapons of its war, and warned the U.N. General Assembly that they must stop such moves “Weaponization must be restrained. War crimes must be punished. Deported people must come back home. And the occupier must return to their own land,” he said. (Bloomberg, 09.19.23)
    • Zelensky met on Sept. 20 with U.S. financial leaders including Ken Griffin and Bill Ackman to discuss using private-sector funds to help rebuild his country, according to people briefed on the meeting. (Bloomberg, 09.21.23)
  • Ukraine accused Russia at the U.N.’s highest court of using “false allegations of genocide” to justify its full-scale invasion in February 2022, saying Moscow has invoked the Geneva Convention “to destroy.” Ukraine presented its case on the second day of preliminary hearings at The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) after Moscow opened the court a day earlier saying the case was “hopelessly flawed” and should be dismissed. (RFE/RL, 09.19.23)
  • The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kherson, Ihor Kolykhayev, is in Russian custody, the mayor’s son Svyatoslav said on Sept. 17. (RFE/RL, 09.18.23)
  • The Sept. 6 missile strike on Kostiantynivka in eastern Ukraine was one of the deadliest in the country in months, killing at least 15 civilians and injuring more than 30 others. Evidence collected and analyzed by The New York Times, including missile fragments, satellite imagery, witness accounts and social media posts, strongly suggests the catastrophic strike was the result of an errant Ukrainian air defense missile fired by a Buk launch system. (NYT, 09.19.23)
  • On Sept. 19, Russian forces targeted several Ukrainian cities, killing six civilians and destroying humanitarian supplies, Ukrainian officials and an aid group said. (NYT, 09.19.23)
  • On Sept. 21, Russia launched a barrage of missiles at targets across Ukraine on Sept. 21. The wave of rocket strikes was the largest coordinated Russian attack against civilian targets in weeks. Ukraine hasn’t been able to fully restore its energy infrastructure after the Russian strikes, meaning a new wave of attacks could bring even more blackouts. Ukrainian officials have warned residents to prepare for more in the coming weeks. (WSJ, 09.21.23)
  • Russia’s missile attack on targets across Ukraine, damaged energy facilities and caused power outages in several regions. The Ukrainian government-controlled electricity operator, Ukrenergo, said that Russia’s Sept. 21 s attacks were the first to target the country’s power grid in western and central regions in six months and had caused partial blackouts in five regions. The company said in a statement that regional operators were working to restore power to customers. As of the morning of Sept. 21, 398 settlements were without power. (NYT, 09.21.23, Istories, 09.21.23)
  • An explosion rocked a Ukraine-bound cargo ship on Sept. 20 while it was approaching the Danube river near Romania’s coast. All 12 crew members of the Seama ship under Togo flag were safely evacuated, authorities said. Romanian premier Marcel Ciolacu told journalists that the sea mine “hypothesis” was “closer to the truth” than other scenarios, such as a technical malfunction. “But let’s wait for what the ministry of defense tells us exactly,” he said. (FT, 09.20.23)
  • Ukraine has redirected some of its exports via the Danube river, though that route is slower and more expensive and Ukrainian ports and grain silos in the region have come under fire from Russian air strikes in recent weeks. Kyiv-based investment bank Dragon Capital said the alternative route had led to a 20 per cent increase in food and agriculture sales in August compared to the previous month. But sales were still 18 per cent lower than in August 2022. (FT, 09.19.23)
    • To avoid Russian interference, vessels using Ukraine’s Danube ports hug the coasts of Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as they enter and leave the Black Sea. The low depth of the delta means that only relatively small vessels of up to 10,000 tons can ply these waterways, a fraction of the size of the carriers that berth in Odesa—making exports via the Danube much more expensive. (WSJ, 09.20.23)
  • The cargo ship Resilient Africa arrived off Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait on Sept. 21, the first vessel loaded with grain from Ukraine to sail in and out of the Black Sea using a temporary corridor. The ship left the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk this week with 3,000 metric tons of grain, Kyiv had said. Ukraine last month announced a “humanitarian corridor” to release ships bound for African and Asian markets, and to circumvent a de facto blockade after Russia abandoned a deal this summer that had guaranteed its exports during the war. (Reuters, 09.21.23)
    • The Palau-flagged bulk carriers, called Resilient Africa and Aroyat, were the first to reach Ukrainian ports since Russia in July withdrew from a U.N.-brokered agreement that had permitted the export of more than 33 million tons of grain from Ukraine. (FT, 09.17.23)
  • The second ship to load Ukrainian grain at the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk since July has departed and more ships are on their way for loading, as Kyiv defies Russia’s de-facto maritime blockade. (Bloomberg, 09.22.23)
  • Speaking to 50 defense ministers and other top officials assembled in Ramstein, Germany, for the 15th meeting of what is known as the Ukraine Defense Contract Group, Mr. Austin repeated British estimates that Russian attacks on Ukraine’s ports and storage facilities have so far destroyed 280,000 tons of grain, which he said was enough to feed 10.5 million people for one year. (NYT, 09.19.23)
  • Poland will likely cut financial support to the million Ukrainian refugees it is hosting, the government said The support for refugees—which includes waiving residency requirements and the granting of work permits, free access to schools, medical treatment and family benefits—will not be extended next year, government spokesman Piotr Muller told Polsat television. (Bloomberg, 09.19.23)
  • “Ukraine is behaving like a drowning person clinging to anything available,” Polish president Andrzej Duda told Polish journalists in New York on Sept. 19. “A drowning person is extremely dangerous, capable of pulling you down to the depths . . . simply drown the rescuer.” The president’s unflattering remarks came after Poland led a coalition of central and eastern European countries that extended unilateral curbs on imports of Ukrainian foodstuffs despite the EU agreeing to lift them. (FT, 09.20.23)
    • Duda then called for de-escalation of a dispute with Ukraine, saying it shouldn’t overshadow economic cooperation between the two nations. (Bloomberg, 09.22.23)
  • Hours after the European Union ended a temporary ban on imports of Ukrainian grain and other products to five member nations, three of them—Poland, Hungary and Slovakia—defied the bloc and said they would continue to bar Ukrainian grain from being sold within their borders. (NYT, 09.16.23)
    • The government in Kyiv will file a complaint to the World Trade Organization on Sept. 18 over measures taken by Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka told Bloomberg. (Bloomberg, 09.18.23)
    • Germany has led condemnation of Poland, Hungary and Slovakia’s unilateral curbs on grain imports from Ukraine, accusing the countries of cherry-picking EU policies and putting their own interests over Ukraine. (FT, 09.18.23)
    • Slovakia’s authorities on Sept. 21 said they had reached an agreement with Ukraine, in which Kyiv will issue licenses to exporters to regulate the flow of grain. (NYT, 09.21.23)

Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts:

  • In the past month, Russian forces have gained 35 square miles of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine gained 16, according to the Sept. 19 edition of the Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. (Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, 09.19.23)
    • Ukraine has reclaimed about 54 percent of its territory occupied by Russia since February 2022, Milley said in a press briefing, leaving about 200,000 Russian troops on Kremlin-controlled turf. Milley added that it would be “impossible to predict” how long the fighting would take. (FP, 09.19.23)
  • On Sept. 17, Ukraine’s military said that it had retaken another village in the Donetsk region. The village, Klishchiivka, sits on high ground overlooking roadways in and out of the town of Bakhmut, which Moscow’s forces captured in May. (NYT, 09.18.23)
  • On Sept. 18, Ukraine’s air force said it downed 17 cruise missiles over central and western Ukraine that were fired by Russian aircraft overnight. According to an update in a Telegram post the same day, Moscow also launched 24 Iranian-made Shahed drones, 18 of which Ukraine claimed to have successfully intercepted. The Post could not independently verify the claims. (NYT, 09.18.23)
  • Satellite imagery confirms that Ukrainian forces also struck the 744th Communications Center of the Command of the Black Sea Fleet in occupied Crimea on Sept. 20 as part of an apparent Ukrainian effort to target Black Sea Fleet facilities. The imagery shows that the Ukrainian strikes destroyed a significant portion of the command post near Verkhnosadove (16km northeast of Sevastopol). [“The enemies launched a missile strike at the fleet headquarters,” Russia’s occupation leader in Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, wrote on Telegram. Russian news channels report that six people were injured after the missile struck. (FT, 09.22.23, WP, 09.22.23, ISW, 09.21.23)
  • On Sept. 21, Ukraine’s military command said its forces had attacked a Russian air base near the city of Saki, on Crimea’s western coast, but did not give details of any casualties or damage. Earlier on Sept. 21, Russia’s defense ministry said it had destroyed 19 Ukrainian drones over Crimea and the surrounding Black Sea, thwarting an attack. (NYT, 09.21.23)
  • On Sept. 21, Ukrainian forces said they had breached the main Russian defensive line in the southeast of the country with armored vehicles, a significant milestone in the 3½-month counteroffensive aimed at cutting Russia’s occupying army in two. Ukrainian troops overcame antitank obstacles including ditches and concrete blocks known as dragon’s teeth near the village of Verbove in the Zaporizhzhia region, allowing armored vehicles to press through, an officer in Ukraine’s air-assault forces in the area said. To the south of Robotyne, Ukrainian troops have reached the edge of Novoprokopivka, the next village. In late August, Ukrainian paratroopers penetrated the main Russian defensive line near Verbove, an agricultural village to the east of Robotyne, and began fighting their way through trenches, antitank obstacles and minefields. (WSJ, 09.21.23)
    • Russian opposition OSINT project, CIT, confirmed the Ukrainian side’s claim of the breach, citing videos posted by the Ukrainian military. According to Russian pro-war Telegram channel “Rybar,” however, the Ukrainians “made no visible gains” in the Verbove area as of Sept. 22. (RM, 09.22.23)
    • As of Sept. 21, Ukrainian armored vehicles were operating beyond the final line of the Russian defensive layer in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Geolocated footage posted on Sept. 21 indicates that Ukrainian armored vehicles advanced south of the Russian anti-tank ditches and dragon’s teeth obstacles that are part of a tri-layered defense and engaged in limited combat immediately west of Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv). It is unclear if Ukrainian forces retain these positions, however. (ISW, 09.21.23)
    • “They are beyond the dragon’s teeth,” Lt. Ashot Arutiunian, the commander of a drone reconnaissance unit operating in the Verbove area, said of Ukrainian armored vehicles. (NYT, 09.22.23)
  • While in the U.S., Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his forces will “de-occupy two more cities.” Ukraine will continue its counteroffensive through the autumn and into the winter, he said, declining to name which cities he’s close to reclaiming. He also said his troops would take Bakhmut. (Bloomberg, 09.22.23, Bloomberg, 09.21.23)
  • Russia’s Ministry of Labor has ordered the production of 757,305 IDs of participants in combat and 230,000 IDs for members of KIA’s families, according to Russian media outlet Vyorstka. The ministry’s documents indicate that of the 230,000 IDs, 200,000 will be distributed by the Ministry of Defense while 30,000 will be distributed by the labor agency itself. (RM, 09.18.23)
    • One in five mobilized Russian soldiers who have died in the Ukraine war were killed less than two months after being enlisted, the independent investigative outlet IStories and the war monitoring project Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) reported. (MT/AFP, 09.21.23)
  • “The fight right now still has plenty of fighting weather left,” Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters after the contact group meeting. Ukraine, he said, “has no intention to stop fighting during winter,” even if the counteroffensive, ongoing since June, has been moving more slowly than Ukrainian officials mapped out on paper. (FP, 09.19.23)
    • For Ukrainian soldiers struggling to make headway against entrenched Russian troops, the counteroffensive is taking on a new urgency as summer gives way to shorter days, drenching rain and then snow. Both Ukrainians and Russians are accustomed to biting cold, and the war has churned on during two winters, so ground troops won’t abandon the battlefield anytime soon. But relentless downpours can dissolve roads, and icy weather complicates basic operations from loading artillery shells to pulling a trigger. (WSJ, 09.17.23)
    • Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has said it is “too early” to rule out the possibility that Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russian forces will achieve “significant gains.” (RFE/RL, 08.15.23)
  • The war in Ukraine isn’t likely to end anytime soon, according to American and NATO leaders. Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sept. 17 that it will take a “long time” to kick all of Russia’s 200,000 troops out of the country, which is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s broader strategic objective. “That’s a very high bar,” Milley said. “It’s going to take a long time to do it.” (WP, 09.17.23)
  • There will be no swift end to Russia’s war in Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “Most wars last longer than expected when they first begin,” he told the Funke media group. “There is no doubt that Ukraine will eventually be in NATO,” he said, adding, “We are all wishing for a quick peace.” (WP, 09.17.23)
  • Ukraine dismissed all six of its deputy defense ministers on Sept. 18, a major shake-up in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wartime leadership as he prepares to speak to world leaders at the United Nations and meet with members of Congress in the United States. The deputy defense ministers included Hanna Maliar, who has emerged in recent months as one of the most prominent government communicators of the daily movement of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. (NYT, 09.18.23)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky returned to the U.S. capital in a bid to shore up American support. Zelensky met with House leaders and all 100 senators in private meetings on Capitol Hill on Sept. 21, making his case for more assistance as Ukraine tries to sustain a counteroffensive against Russian forces. Zelensky was escorted to and from the meetings with lawmakers by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).”We had great dialogue,” Zelensky said to reporters, but didn’t answer questions about any additional aid commitments. “If we don’t get the aid, we will lose a war,” Schumer said. Zelensky also met Austin on Sept. 21 at the Pentagon. (WSJ, 09.21.23, NYT, 09.21.23)
    • Ahead of Zelensky’s arrival, a group of Republican lawmakers vowed to oppose Biden’s request for an additional $24 billion in security, economic and humanitarian aid for Kyiv. The lawmakers said in a letter viewed by The Wall Street Journal that they have concerns about the more than $100 billion in funding Congress already has approved. They complained that the administration supports an “open-ended commitment” to Ukraine and criticized what they say is an unclear strategy. The letter was signed by 23 House members and six senators, led by Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), and addressed to Shalanda Young, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. “How is the counteroffensive going? Are the Ukrainians any closer to victory than they were six months ago? What is our strategy, and what is the president’s exit plan?” they wrote. “It would be an absurd abdication of congressional responsibility to grant this request without knowing the answers to these questions.” (WSJ, 09.21.23)
      • One of the letter’s signatories, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), said in a speech on the Senate floor on Sept. 20 that he wouldn’t consent to expediting any spending bill that provides any more U.S. aid to Ukraine, citing the large federal budget deficit. “It’s as if no one has noticed that we have no extra money to send to Ukraine,” Paul said. “Our deficit this year will exceed $1.5 trillion. Borrowing money from China to send it to Ukraine makes no sense.” (WSJ, 09.21.23)
      • Sen. J.D. Vance said Ukraine’s fight with Russia could drag on for years. “Now you hear people talking about the long haul,” Vance said. “Well, is the long haul a year, $100 billion, in 10 years, a trillion dollars?” (WSJ, 09.21.23)
  • The number of Republicans to vote against more aid, unless Biden meets a list of GOP conditions, will be “at least half,” Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said. Waltz laid out those conditions in an op-ed published under the headline, “The era of Ukraine’s blank check from Congress is over.” (WP, 09.21.23)
  • Biden announced a new $325 million aid package for Ukraine on Sept. 21, during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit. Biden told Zelensky that the United States would be “staying with you.” At the White House, Biden said the United States would begin shipping over Abrams tanks. He also acknowledged that he had little choice but to have faith in a bipartisan breakthrough for continued support for Ukraine. (NYT, 09,21.23, Axios, 09.21.23)
    • Biden has told Zelensky that the United States will provide a small number of long-range the Army Tactical Missile System, known as ATACMS, three U.S. officials and a congressional official familiar with the discussions told NBC News Sept. 22. (NBC, 09.22.23)
      • Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova insisted in September 2022 that the provision of longer-range weapons to Kyiv is a “red line” that would make the U.S. “a party to the conflict.” (Responsible Statecraft, 09.10.23)
    • Top Senate Republicans Tom Cotton, Roger Wicker, Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham prodded Biden to provide Ukraine with ATACMS. (Bloomberg, 09.18.23)
  • American-made Abrams battle tanks will arrive in Ukraine soon, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said on Sept. 19 Speaking to 50 defense ministers and other top officials assembled in Ramstein, Germany, for the 15th meeting of what is known as the Ukraine Defense Contract Group, Mr. Austin also reiterated that the United States would train Ukraine’s pilots on F-16 warplanes, and urged faster production of ammunition that is desperately needed by Kyiv’s forces on the battlefield. (NYT, 09.19.23)
    • Austin said the Biden administration was focused on beefing up support for Ukraine’s war effort, but remained cool on providing Army Tactical Missile Systems. (FT, 09.20.23)
  • On Sept. 20, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley on briefed the Senate on recent developments in the Ukraine war and the need for continued U.S. assistance. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said that assuring the administration’s request for additional assistance was urgent. (WP, 09.21.23)
  • More than 30 countries have trained 84,000 Ukrainian soldiers at 40 training grounds around the world, according to Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Charlie Dietz. The U.S. training has produced about 15 battalions that can operate Strykers, Bradleys, and motorized infantry vehicles. (FP, 09.19.23)
  • Canada will contribute C$33 million ($24.5 million) to a British-led partnership that is buying air-defense equipment for Ukraine to help it fend off Russian missile and drone attacks, Defense Minister Bill Blair said on Sept. 17. (Reuters, 09.18.23)
    • Zelensky delivered an impassioned speech at the Canadian parliament on Sept. 22 in which he thanked Canada’s military support to Ukraine. (Guardian, 09.22.23)
  • The 155mm K9 self-propelled howitzer is at the center of South Korea’s unlikely rise as a weapons exporter. Manufactured by Hanwha Aerospace, it is the country’s bestselling weapon. Demand for howitzers and other weapons made in South Korea has been turbocharged as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has turned into a grinding land war. (WSJ, 09.19.23)
  • The Polish government sought to walk back remarks by its premier that the country had stopped weapons shipments to Ukraine. After Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland is no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, his office aimed to lower the temperature. “Poland is only carrying out previously agreed supplies of ammunition and armaments, including those resulting from the contracts signed with Ukraine,” government spokesman Piotr Muller said. Those include a contract to deliver locally-manufactured howitzers, he added. “Poland consistently helped repel Russia’s attack.” (Bloomberg, 09.21.23)
    • Poland summoned the Ukrainian ambassador on Sept. 20 to protest remarks at the U.N. by President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Ukrainian leader said some countries were only pretending to support his nation.” (RFE/RL, 09.21.23)
  • Ukraine’s Metinvest has supplied more than 250 decoy weapons and pieces of equipment to Ukrainian troops across the frontline. A senior specialist, who also asked to remain nameless for security reasons, says they can now produce about 10 to 15 items per month. (FT, 09.22.23)

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

  • Western companies that have continued to operate in Russia since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine have generated billions of dollars in profits, but the Kremlin has blocked them from accessing the cash in an effort to turn the screw on “unfriendly” nations. Groups from such countries accounted for $18bn of the $20bn in Russian profits that overseas companies reported for 2022 alone, according to figures compiled by the Kyiv School of Economics, and $199bn of their $217bn in Russian gross revenue. (FT, 09.18.23)
  • Russia’s largest bank is attempting to seize some of Glencore Plc’s Russian assets as compensation for what it says is an unpaid oil trading debt. Sberbank PJSC is asking a Moscow court for €114.8 million ($123 million) in compensation after its Swiss commodity trading unit sold oil to Glencore but never received payment. (Bloomberg, 09.20.23)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree nationalizing printing presses that the previous foreign owner had transferred to a Nobel Prize- winning opposition editor Dmitry Muratov. (RFE/RL, 09.18.23)
  • Russia has threatened to block the adoption of a new political declaration at the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals Summit in New York, arguing that sanctions undermine its own progress toward achieving them, the Coalition for Sustainable Development of Russia (CSDR) said on Sept. 18. (MT/AFP, 09.19.23)
  • Around 3,500 Russian citizens in Latvia will receive letters from the migration authority this week asking them to leave the country. (dpa, 09.21.23)
  • Politico has obtained access to five of the so-called “working papers” used by the Council to justify sanctioning Russian business leaders, officials and their family members. While the documents are labeled as secret, the evidence they rely upon is anything. As background material, the packets cite one-page profiles from Forbes magazine or Wikipedia articles about the proposed target for sanctions. Inclusion on the so-called U.S. oligarch list, which names some 100 people the country’s Treasury Department views as “oligarchs,” is cited as evidence of wrongdoing. (Politico, 09.21.23)
  • The U.S. Justice Department said in a statement on Sept. 18 that a Russian national, Maksim Marchenko, who has resided in Hong Kong for years, has been taken to the United States and charged with smuggling U.S.-produced dual-use microelectronics to Russia. (RFE/RL, 09.19.23)
  • A ban on Russian-registered vehicles by Moscow’s European Union neighbors appears set to hurt not only ordinary Russians but also political dissidents and Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia. (MT/AFP, 09.19.23)
  • The United Arab Emirates is considering introducing export licenses for a list of items including chips and other components that are sanctioned by the U.S. and European Union and used by Russia’s military in Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg, 09.21.23)
  • A New York firm that managed billions of dollars for sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich was sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for not registering as an investment adviser. The SEC filed suit on Sept. 19 against Concord Management LLC of Tarrytown, New York, and founder Michael Matlin. (Bloomberg, 09.19.23)
  • Documents leaked from Cyprus show that, just before Russia invaded Ukraine and Roman Abramovich was sanctioned last year, the billionaire passed his massive art collection to his ex-wife. Abramovich and his ex-wife, Dasha Zhukova, amassed a collection of hundreds of pieces of prestigious modern art, valued at $963 million in 2018. (OCCRP, 09.22.23)
  • The Dutch government suspended an employee over allegations that he evaded Russia sanctions. The Dutch financial crimes agency said two men, including a 48-year-old defense ministry staffer, are suspected to have circumvented sanctions by exporting aircraft parts to Russia by diverting it to other countries. (Bloomberg, 09.18.23)
  • North Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry has ordered the expulsion of three Russian diplomats. (RFE/RL, 09.18.23)
  • Moscow has reacted angrily to Bulgaria’s decision to expel the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia. Bulgarian ambassador to Moscow Atanas Krastin would be summoned for talks at the Russian Foreign Ministry over the expulsion of Archimandrite Vassian and two other clerics, both Belarusian citizens, for carrying out “activities directed against” the country’s national security and interests. (RFE/RL, 09.22.23)

Ukraine-related negotiations:

  • Speaking at UNGA on Sept. 19, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked nations to support a Ukrainian peace plan that would end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At the same time Zelensky warned against making deals with Russia, saying “Evil cannot be trusted.” He also demanded that countries that violate U.N. principles and unjustly invade other nations be suspended from their Security Council seats. (Yahoo News, 09.19.23, WP, 09.21.23)
  • At UNGA Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov complained that France and Germany had neglected the Minsk accords, which were intended to bring peace to Ukraine in the years before the invasion accusing Washington of buying off Ukrainian officials. He also attacked the Security Council for “selectively” respecting the U.N. Charter. (WP, 09.20.23, NYT, 09.21.23)
    • Other leaders who were in the chamber said that Lavrov’s address left little hope for a resolution to the conflict anytime soon. “With almost every country, including China, you can find some common ground,” Czech President Petr Pavel said in an interview. “With Russia, it’s like we move into parallel universes. Their vision of the world is, to a large extent, sometimes deliberately different from all the others.” (WP, 09.21.23)
  • At UNGA China’s vice foreign minister, Ma Zhaoxu, touted China’s efforts at facilitating negotiations in the conflict, saying his country has “played a positive and constructive role” in attempting to resolve the crisis through its 12-point peace plan. (WP, 09.21.23)
  • At UNGA U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called for an end to the war, condemning Russian action that he said was endangering not only Ukrainians but also the entire world. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in clear violation of the United Nations Charter and international law, is aggravating geopolitical tensions and divisions, threatening regional stability, increasing the nuclear threat, and creating deep fissures in our increasingly multipolar world,” he said. (WP, 09.21.23
  • The president of Finland, Sauli Niinisto said he does not know how long the war will last, or how it will end, or “what life will be like when we again have peace.” But even when the conflict ends, Russia will remain. “There’s also a big European interest to make sure that Russia is not returning back to warfare after peace in Ukraine” without insisting that the Russians “have to be blown out,” he said carefully. But he emphasized that trust would be needed to ensure that “a new war is not waiting behind the door.” (NYT, 09.18.23)
  • U.S. President Joe Biden has warned world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly that allowing Ukraine “to be carved up” will mean no nation is secure. “Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence,” Biden said in his speech to UNGA. “If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?” Biden said the United States and its allies would stand with Ukraine as it fights for its freedom. (RFE/RL, 09.19.23)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a top aide said approval for Sweden’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has yet to be discussed in parliament amid ongoing concerns related to a Kurdish militant group. “ (Bloomberg, 09.19.23)
  • Hungary has joined Turkey in adding more hurdles to Sweden’s NATO bid, with Budapest expected to extract further concessions from its Western allies before ratifying the expansion of the military alliance. Pro-government media in Hungary last week unearthed a 2019 Swedish educational video that described Hungary as a country where democracy was eroding. On Sept. 17, parliament speaker László Kövér, a close ally of prime minister Viktor Orbán, said that Hungary and Sweden did not see eye to eye on issues of patriotism and therefore did not belong in the same alliance. (FT, 09.19.23)
  • Five Bulgarian nationals, Orlin Roussev, Bizer Dzhambazov, Katrin Ivanova, and Vanya Gaberova, will appear in a London court next week to face allegations of suspected spying for Russia, the U.K.’s public prosecutor said on Sept. 21. (FT, 09.21.23)

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

  • A ramped-up patrol of American F-16 fighter jets is expected to begin as soon as on Sept. 22 over Romania, according to two Western defense officials, after what is suspected to be drone debris was found three times this month in the NATO ally’s territory. Four additional warplanes will bolster ongoing air policing by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and surveillance flights right up to Ukraine’s borders. (NYT, 09.22.23)

China-Russia: Allied or aligned?

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sept. 20 said his country is willing to cooperate with China to resist unipolar hegemony and bloc confrontation, and safeguard international fairness and justice. Putin made the remarks when meeting with China’s foreign minister and member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Wang Yi. Wang noted that during his current visit, he had comprehensive discussions with Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on cooperation in various fields between the two countries. (Xinhua, 09.21.23)
    • While meeting Patrushev, Wang said: “China-Russia relations have withstood the test of the vicissitudes of the international situation and continued to develop healthily and steadily,” said Wang. “The connotation of the strategic cooperation between the two countries has been continuously enriched, and the quality of pragmatic cooperation has been continuously improved.” (Xinhua, 09.19.23)
      • Wang, Patrushev and Jadamba Enkhbayar, secretary of the Mongolian National Security Council, held a meeting of high representatives for security issues in Moscow on Sept. 20. (Xinhua, 09.20.23)
    • While meeting Lavrov, Wang said that in the face of rising unilateralism, hegemonism and bloc confrontations, China and Russia should adhere to true multilateralism. (Xinhua, 09.18.23)
  • Putin will travel to Beijing in October for talks with China’s Xi Jinping, the Kremlin’s chief’s first known trip abroad since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him. Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said that the West’s attempt to contain both Russia and China should deepen cooperation between the two powers. Putin will attend the third Belt and Road Forum after an invitation by Xi during a high-profile visit to Moscow in March. (RFE/RL, 09.19.23) That Putin will visit China to attend the 3rd Belt and Road Forum in October was reported at least as early as July.
  • China’s booming coal imports include more high-grade cargoes from Australia and Russia. Imports from Russia in August hit their second-highest level this year at 9.96 million tons. (Bloomberg, 09.21.23)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms:

  • Russia, the United States and China have all built new facilities and dug new tunnels at their nuclear test sites in recent years, satellite images obtained exclusively by CNN show. (CNN, 09.22.23)
  • The president of Finland, Sauli Niinisto said wars can take unexpected paths, even toward the use of nuclear weapons. “We’re in a very sensitive situation. Even small things can change matters a great deal and unfortunately for the worse. That is the risk of such large-scale warfare,” he said, adding: “The risk that nuclear weapons could be used is tremendous.” (NYT, 09.18.23)


  • No significant developments.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant developments.

Cyber security/AI:

  • Ukrainian hackers gained access to databases of the Russian Sirena-Travel network with information about air travel from 2007 to 2023. They claim the databases contain almost 3.5 billion records of passengers’ phone numbers and 664.6 million records of passengers’ personal data, flight numbers, routes, fares and ticket price data. (Istories, 09.22.23)

Energy exports from CIS:

  • Russia has authorized unreinforced oil tankers to sail through its icy Northern Sea Route for the first time. Two tankers were granted permission in August to carry out the 3,500-mile-long journey, despite not being so-called “ice class” tankers that are strengthened to withstand icier conditions. The thin-hulled vessels sailed for China in early September. (FT, 09.15.23)
  • Moscow is pushing more crude onto the market even as it says it will extend supply curbs to the end of the year along with OPEC+ partner Saudi Arabia. That’s boosted Russia’s seaborne flows to a three-month high. Average nationwide shipments in the four weeks to Sept. 17 rose to 3.34 million barrels a day, tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s a jump of about 465,000 barrels a day from the period to Aug. 20. (Bloomberg, 09.19.23)
  • Russia has barred the export of diesel and petrol as crude oil prices rise towards $100 a barrel, marking a significant escalation that will raise fears Moscow is weaponizing oil supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions. (FT, 09.21.23)
    • European natural gas jumped to the highest in a month as Moscow’s surprise ban on some fuel exports revived concerns over Russia’s broader energy supplies. Benchmark futures surged as much as 7.3%, topping €40 a megawatt-hour for the first time since late August and extending their second weekly gain. (Bloomberg, 09.22.23)
    • The International Energy Agency has warned that Russia’s block on exports of diesel and related fuels will “aggravate” an already tight oil market ahead of winter. (FT, 09.22.23)

Climate change:

  • No significant developments.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • At the end of July 2023, trade between Russia and the United States amounted to $277.3 million—11 times less than in February 2022 (before the introduction of tough anti-Russian sanctions), and almost 13 times less than in July 2021. This follows from data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. (RBC, 09.18.23)

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter detained by Russia on espionage charges, appeared on Sept. 19 in public for the first time in months at a court hearing that confirmed his pretrial detention. On Sept.19, a Moscow court declined to hear his appeal against a ruling in August that extended his detention by three months, according to Russian state media. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy has met with Gershkovich, the envoy’s fourth such visit since the American journalist was detained in March on espionage charges he denies. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said in a social media post that Gershkovich “remains strong and is keeping up with the news.” The embassy added that “we reiterate our call for his and Paul Whelan’s immediate release.” (NYT, 09.19.23, RFE/RL, 09.15.23)
  • U.S. lawmakers on Sept. 21 called on the Biden administration to formally designate jailed Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza, a U.S. permanent resident, as “wrongfully detained” in hopes it will help secure his release. (Reuters, 09.21.23)
  • A former top executive at Novatek, Russia’s largest independent natural gas producer, has been sentenced by a Florida court to more than seven years in prison for tax evasion. Judge Joan Ericksen on Sept. 21 sentenced Mark Gyetvay to 86 months behind bars after a jury in March found him guilty of making false statements to U.S. tax authorities. He was ordered to pay more than $4.3 million in restitution and fines. (RFE/RL, 09.21.23)
  • Compared to peer countries, the U.S. is especially dominated by older elected officials; one in five congresspeople is over the age of 70, making it one of the nation’s most elderly professions. The U.S. House of Representatives is also older than its counterparts in other G7 countries and Russia, with a median age of 58 years. In the Senate, that figure jumps to 65. (FT, 09.17.23)

II. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Russia plans to increase state spending in 2024 by more than 25% compared with this year amid expectations the Kremlin will drastically raise cash for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The draft 36.6 trillion ruble ($383 billion) budget, presented by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Sept. 22, lists “strengthening the country’s defense potential” as a key priority alongside “integrating the new regions” partially annexed from Ukraine last year. (FT, 09.22.23)
  • Russia plans a new tax on exporters to soak up excess revenue that companies reap when the ruble depreciates past a certain level and support its strained wartime budget. The Finance Ministry is proposing a levy on exporters that kicks in once the ruble weakens past 80 per U.S. dollar. Oil, gas, grain and some other goods would be excluded under the plan, leaving industries like metal and mining to shoulder the biggest burden. (Bloomberg, 09.21.23)
  • The Kremlin is considering running media personality Alexei Venediktov as Vladimir Putin’s “liberal” rival in the 2024 presidential elections, the Vedomosti business daily reported. (MT/AFP, 09.19.23)
  • The Kremlin-backed leader of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has published a new video on social media amid speculation that his health is failing and that he had been hospitalized in a coma. (RFE/RL, 09.21.23)
  • A military court in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on Sept. 22 sentenced anti-war activist Richard Rouz to eight years in prison on charges of justification of terrorism and distribution of false information about Russian armed forces involved in Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 09.21.23)
  • Vladimir Komov, a lawyer with Russian LGBTQ+ legal rights group, DELO LGBT, which handles 300 legal consultations per month, said new homophobic and transphobic groups have been springing up online, with cases of violence against transgender people rising. Nearly a third of the cases the group takes to court involve violent assaults against clients, yet courts rarely classify these as hate crimes, he said. (WP, 09.19.23)
  • A majority, 68%, of Russians think Russia is moving in the right direction, according to an August survey conducted by the New Image Marketing Group company for the Ukrainian Institute of the Future, a drop from 74% in the previous survey conducted in May. Of those surveyed, 51% said Russia has not achieved the goals of its “special military operation” in Ukraine, while 36% said Russia has fully or mostly achieved those goals, nearly unchanged from the previous survey in May (50% and 36%, respectively). Additionally, 65% of respondents said they would support an announcement by Putin that the SVO has been completed, up from 59% in May. (RM, 09.22.23)

Defense and aerospace:

  • Russia’s defense spending will comprise 6% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2024, up from 3.9% in 2023 and 2.7% in 2021, according to draft budget plans seen by Bloomberg News. Secret expenditure on classified or unspecified items is forecast to nearly double as the Kremlin continues to try to avoid scrutiny of the war’s impact. Under the draft proposals discussed by the government Sept. 22, defense spending would rise to 10.8 trillion rubles ($112 billion) in 2024 from 6.4 trillion rubles this year. The forecast defense budget would be triple the 3.6 trillion rubles allocated in 2021, the last year before Putin began the February 2022 invasion. (Bloomberg, 09.22.23)
  • Millions of Russians got a notification on Sept. 20 from the country’s main government portal inviting them to download an app to report incoming drone attacks and other security incidents, which have become a nearly daily occurrence as the Kremlin presses on with its nearly 20-month invasion of Ukraine. (WP, 09.21.23)
  •  See section Military aspects of the Ukraine conflict and their impacts above.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • The Russian State Duma will reportedly propose a bill allowing the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) to include volunteer formations amid continued rumors about the Wagner Group operating alongside Rosgvardia. (ISW, 09.21.23)

III. Russia’s relations with other countries

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

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed disagreement with what he called “negative attitudes” by world leaders toward Putin over the invasion of Ukraine. “Of course, we do not have the same attitude. I do not find these attitudes right. Because Russia is not an ordinary country.” (Bloomberg, 09.21.23)
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on the Czech Republic to conduct a swift and thorough investigation into recent threats received by journalists at the independent investigative news website IStories and ensure the journalists’ safety. (RFE/RL, 09.22.23)
  • France’s far-right National Rally party said it has paid back some €6.1 million ($6.5 million) to close out a loan originally taken from Moscow-based Aviazapchast JSC bank. (Bloomberg, 09.19.23)


  • The European Union’s executive arm is preparing to recommend starting membership talks with Ukraine in earnest, offering a boost to Kyiv as it seeks to ensure that allies continue military and financial support. (Bloomberg, 09.22.23)
  • Ukraine’s war-battered economy climbed for the first time on an annual basis. Ukraine’s gross domestic product jumped 19.5% year-on-year in the second quarter, according to data published by the State Statistics Service. (Bloomberg, 09.22.23)
  • Faced with another year of fighting—and a more than $40 billion budget deficit in 2024—finance officials in Kyiv are grasping for cash to keep the wartime economy running. Ukraine’s economy stabilized somewhat this year, and the government has raised its 2023 growth forecast to 4% from 1%, according to research by ICU. Nevertheless, economic activity will likely end the year about 25% below prewar levels, according to research by ICU. (NYT, 09.19.23)
  • At least $14.3 million worth of coal produced in areas of Ukraine illegally annexed by Russia has been exported to NATO-member Turkey this year, according to Russian customs data reviewed by Reuters. (RFE/RL, 09.19.23)
  • Some western Balkan leaders are growing increasingly frustrated that Ukraine is leapfrogging their countries in the EU accession process, adding further delays to their decades-long efforts to join the bloc. “I have nothing against Ukrainians,” Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić told FT. But the EU’s level of support for Ukraine, granting it EU candidate status within a year from its application and potentially starting membership talks next year, “shows to us [such political support] has never been there for us,” he said. (FT, 09.17.23)
  • Jewish pilgrims gathered in central Ukraine to mark Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish new year, which began at sunset Sept. 15 and ended at sundown Sept. 17. More than 35,000 pilgrims—mostly from the United States, Israel and Europe—have gathered in the city of Uman, which holds historical significance for the Hasidic community, according to the regional governor, Ihor Taburets. Ukrainian and Israeli police were patrolling the area, which was under air raid alerts Sept. 17 morning. (WP, 09.17.23)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Azerbaijani troops were on the edge of the separatist stronghold of Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh on Sept. 22. On Sept. 20, separatist leaders in Nagorno-Karabakh were forced to agree to lay down their arms in the face of clashes that they said killed 200 people. (RFE/RL, 09.21.23, al Jazeera, 09.22.23)
    • In Armenia, opposition leaders called on protesters to block the main government building to disrupt executive sessions, calling for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to resign. (RFE/RL, 09.21.23)
    • Russia’s peacekeepers had done nothing to keep the peace in the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, as Putin had promised they would three years ago. In Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, residents celebrated their country’s victory by waving Russian flags. (NYT, 09.21.23)
    • Capt. First Rank (Col.) Ivan Kovgan, the deputy commander of Russia’s North Fleet submarine forces, was among Russian peacekeepers killed during Azerbaijan’s “anti-terrorist” operation on Sept. 20. The 52-year-old had been appointed to the post of deputy commander of the peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh two months earlier. (RFE/RL, 09.21.23)
  • Calls to share scarce water resources and cooperate on security issues featured heavily in a two-day summit of the five Central Asian leaders that wrapped up in Dushanbe on Sept. 15 that joined the heads of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for the fifth annual Consultative Meeting of the Leaders of Central Asia. (RFE/RL, 09.15.23)
  • The Kazakh Prosecutor-General’s Office said on Sept. 19 that it had launched a probe against former President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s nephew Samat Abish on a charge of abuse of office while serving as the First Deputy Chairman of the Committee of National Security (KNB), the post he was dismissed from in January 2022 after mass anti-government protests turned violent, leaving at least 238 people dead. (RFE/RL, 09.19.23)
  • Yury Harauski, a former member of Belarusian authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko’s special security forces, has confessed in a Swiss court to taking part in the kidnapping of three opposition figures who ended up dead. (RFE/RL, 09.19.23)
  • Kazakh authorities on Sept. 20 published a list of individuals and organizations that they say “receive financial and other types of support from foreign countries, international organizations, foreigners, and stateless persons.” Several noted bloggers and journalists, as well as the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in Kazakhstan were included on the list. (RFE/RL, 09.20.23)

IV. Quotable and notable

  • Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Gen. Mark Milley is said to have warned his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov: “You may get into Ukraine in 14 days, but it will take you 14 years to get out.” (WP, 09.21.23)
  • Sen. Rand Paul, said in a speech on the Senate floor Sept. 20 that he wouldn’t consent to expediting any spending bill that provides any more U.S. aid to Ukraine, citing the large federal budget deficit. ” Borrowing money from China to send it to Ukraine makes no sense,” he said. (WSJ, 09.21.23)
  • Russian rock star Boris Grebenshikov: “At the moment, the country that I was born in and the country that I love is” — he pauses — “in a very sad, tragic position. Millions and millions of people are afraid to think, afraid to speak out. We all know that silence is like cancer. It eats you from within and kills you. And that’s what’s happening. So I’m thinking not only of ways to help Ukrainians but Russians as well, because they are in a terrible position,” Grebenshikov said. (FT, 09.18.23)

The cutoff for reports summarized in this product was 2:00pm Eastern Time on Sept. 22, 2023.

*Here and elsewhere, the italicized text indicates comments by RM staff and associates. These comments do not constitute RM editorial policy.

Article also appeared at, with different images, bearing the notice: “© Russia Matters 2018 … This project has been made possible with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York,” with a footer heading entitled “Republication Guidelines” linking to:, which bears the notice, in part: