This Week’s Highlights:

  • The U.S. State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy.
  • Sergei Skripal, the former Russian spy who was poisoned along with his daughter in England, had provided information to the U.K. and other Western intelligence agencies for some time after his 2010 arrival in Britain. “While it wasn’t spying there was an ongoing use,” one security official said. The nerve agent used to poison Skripal was likely manufactured in a laboratory with military capability, says one toxicology expert, also noting that it will takes weeks to identify the responsible party.
  • “I actually think that everyone there [in Ukraine] is our people,” Vladimir Putin said in a new TV interview, noting that thinking about Ukrainian soldiers being allegedly killed by Russia-supplied arms “leaves a deep impression” on him.
  • In Syria, the Kremlin will eventually have to deal with Washington, whose coalition forces control about one-third of Syria, including most of the oil wealth.
  • Italy plans to propose to other European Union members that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development resume lending to small- and medium-sized enterprises in Russia.

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • The NNSA’s Office of Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence recently teamed up with Interpol to deliver training on investigating suspected acts of terrorism involving radiological and nuclear materials. Participants from Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine attended the workshop in January 2018. (NNSA, 03.01.18)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russia believes that a possible meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un “is a step in the right direction,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters. (Reuters, 03.09.18)
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry on March 7 condemned new U.S. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after Washington concluded that North Korea had used the chemical warfare agent VX to kill the half-brother of Kim Jong Un in Malaysia in 2017. (The Moscow Times, 03.07.18)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Iran tested and deployed the S-300 Russian-made anti-aircraft missile system last year that has long worried U.S. and Israeli military officials because it gives Iran a “generational improvement in capabilities,” the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency disclosed. (Bloomberg, 03.07.18)
  • Iran has agreed to buy grain from Russia and Kazakhstan, and total shipments may reach as much as 1 million metric tons a year over the next five years. (Bloomberg, 03.07.18)
  • Russian oil companies could sign contracts with Iran by March 21 that would allow them to work on Iranian oilfields, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said. (Reuters, 03.06.18)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump issued a rare rebuke to Vladimir Putin, criticizing the Russian leader as “irresponsible” for showing off new “invincible” nuclear weapons during his annual state-of-the-nation address, some of which appeared to target the U.S. in animated videos. (Bloomberg, 03.05.18)
  • “The military environment has shifted from the existence of the United States as the single power able to dominate challengers and to deter aggression through conventional means to one in which foreign militaries are emerging with near-peer and, in some areas, peer capabilities,” Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “China and Russia present the greatest threat of developing new military capabilities using emerging and disruptive technologies,” Ashley said. (The National Interest, 03.07.18)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has discussed ways to counter the Russian “threat” with his counterparts from the Baltic states. (RFE/RL, 03.06.18)
  • The top U.S. military commander in Europe, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, warned that the Balkans are facing increased covert and overt pressure from Russia, and that Washington and NATO need to do more to keep the region from destabilizing. (RFE/RL, 03.09.18)

Missile defense:

  • Drafts of a new missile defense strategy, which may be published later this month, include suggestions that the program may now turn to developing missile defenses against Russia and China, not just countering states like North Korea with smaller arsenals. (New York Times, 03.05.18)

Nuclear arms control:

  • Russian lawmakers have said they are “hopeful” after U.S. Senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging dialogue with Russia over arms control. Three Democratic senators and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders sent the letter on March 8, calling for U.S.-Russia strategic dialogue and saying that arms control had become more urgent following Putin’s March 1 public address, which presented Russia’s improved nuclear capabilities. (The Moscow Times, 03.08.18)
  • Moscow and Washington are not holding negotiations on further arms reductions after the New START treaty expires in 2021, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on March 7. (TASS, 03.07.18)
  • U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry said he believes Russia is preparing to increase opposition to nuclear modernization plans through social media and other means. (Defense News, 03.08.18)


  • In his speech at Russia’s Federal Security Service, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the threat of terrorism meant that Russia had to remain open to cooperation with foreign spy agencies, even with those from countries with whom Moscow had disagreements. He said Russia had prevented 25 acts of terrorism last year and 68 terrorist crimes. (Reuters, 03.05.18)

Conflict in Syria:

  • Russia’s Defense Ministry has raised the death toll from a military transport plane crash near the Hmeimim air base in Syria to 39. According to preliminary information, 33 passengers and six crew members died when the plane crashed while landing at the base on March 6. Jaish al-Islam, an Islamist group in Syria, has claimed responsibility for the crash. (RFE/RL, 03.06.18, RFE/RL, 03.07.18)
  • Air strikes by Russia and a U.S.-led coalition killed civilians in Syria on a large scale last year, while the Assad government carried out unlawful chemical weapon attacks in rebel-held eastern Ghouta, U.N. war crimes investigators said on March 6. (The Moscow Times, 03.06.18)
  • The U.S. on March 4 made its strongest accusation to date of Moscow’s complicity in civilian deaths in Syria, saying Russian aircraft flew bombing missions over eastern Ghouta in defiance of a U.N. ceasefire. (Reuters, 03.05.18)
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry said that Washington was flouting a U.N. resolution on Syria by failing to stop rebels it controlled from launching daily attacks on the Syrian army in eastern Ghouta and shelling Damascus. (The Moscow Times, 03.05.18)
  • The Russian military has offered Syrian rebels safe passage out of eastern Ghouta, setting out a deal by which the opposition would surrender its last major stronghold near Damascus to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (The Moscow Times, 03.06.18)
  • Turkey, Russia and Iran will hold a summit in April to discuss Syria and potential steps in the region. (Reuters, 03.06.18)
  • Sitting down with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad late last year, a senior Kremlin envoy described the benefits to come as Moscow shepherded the Syrian conflict toward a political settlement, particularly in rebuilding the war-ravaged country. But Assad cut the Russian off, asking why, with the Syrian government so close to victory, a political solution was necessary at all. Ultimately, analysts say, the Kremlin will have to deal with Washington, whose coalition forces control about one-third of Syria, including most of the oil wealth. (New York Times, 03.08.18)

Cyber security:

  • The U.S. is still uncertain how to make use of its cyberweapons after spending billions of dollars to build an arsenal. It is concerned that the Russians—along with the Chinese, the Iranians and the North Koreans—could easily retaliate against any attack, striking American banks, utilities, stock markets and communications networks. (New York Times, 03.05.18)
  • U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who is also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said on March 8 that the U.S. government did not have an effective unified approach to deal with Russia’s cyber threat. (Reuters, 03.08.18)
  • A U.S. Department of Justice statement says 46-year-old Israeli-Russian dual citizen Stanislav Nazarov was sentenced on March 5. He pleaded guilty on Dec. 12 to conspiracy to commit money laundering. The statement says in December 2016, Nazarov received $50,000 from a 2015 cyber-phishing scam that tricked a company’s director into wiring $1.4 million to a bank account in the U.S. (AP, 03.07.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s internet adviser German Klimenko has sought to reassure Russians that contingency plans are ready in case the country is cut off from the global internet. (The Moscow Times, 03.05.18)

Elections interference:

  • New sanctions against Russia will probably be unveiled “within a week” and will include measures against the 13 Russians indicted last month in the special counsel’s probe of election interference, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said March 6. (The Washington Post, 03.06.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump said he’s not worried that Moscow will meddle in the upcoming midterm elections because the U.S. will take steps to prevent it. “Whatever they do, we’ll counteract it very strongly,” he said. (AP, 03.06.18)
  • The top U.S. intelligence official said that President Donald Trump’s administration is “actively engaged” in efforts to prevent Russian efforts to influence the November midterm elections, even as he warned of Moscow’s continuing “malign activities.” “The White House is actively engaged,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a U.S. Senate hearing. “This is a high priority for them,” he said. (Reuters, 03.06.18)
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller has learned of two conversations in which U.S. President Donald Trump asked witnesses about matters discussed with investigators. (Reuters, 03.07.18)
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller has requested documents and interviewed witnesses about incidents involving Michael Cohen, the longtime lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump, whose wide-ranging portfolio has given him a unique vantage point into Trump’s business, campaign and political activities. There is no indication that Cohen is a subject or target of the investigation into Russian election interference. (The Washington Post, 03.06.18)
  • Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg, who had balked at testifying in the investigation of Russian election meddling, appeared at the federal courthouse in Washington on March 9 as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. (Reuters, 03.09.18)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort again pleaded not guilty on March 8 to criminal charges in the investigation into alleged Russian election meddling and will face the first of two trials in July. Manafort pleaded not guilty to additional charges ranging from bank fraud to filing false tax returns. (Reuters, 03.08.18)
  • A former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was interviewed March 8 for a second time by the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which has its own investigation into possible Russian election meddling. Committee members later said Lewandowski had refused to answer many of their questions. (Reuters, 03.08.18)
  • U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway and other Intelligence Committee Republicans are signaling they’re ready to end the investigative phase of their Russia probe and move on to writing the final report, while Democrats say there are still scores of witnesses the committee needs to speak with. (CNN, 03.08.18)
  • Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar and Jeanne Shaheen on March 7 asked major vendors of U.S. voting equipment whether they have allowed Russian entities to scrutinize their software, saying the practice could allow Moscow to hack into American elections infrastructure. (Reuters, 03.08.18)
  • Proposed Federal Election Commission rules aimed at preventing foreign influence on U.S. elections through better disclosure of online political ad sponsors may not take effect before the 2018 midterms. (The Washington Post, 03.09.18)
  • Former chief of staff to U.S. President Barack Obama Denis McDonough said that the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell insisted that a bipartisan appeal for states to step up election security in the face of Russian aggression be “dramatically watered down” before it was issued in advance of the 2016 election. (The Washington Post, 03.04.18)
  • As Russia’s virtual war against the United States continues unabated with the midterm elections approaching, the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy. (New York Times, 03.04.18)
  • In a plot carried out by 80 employees, Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which has come to be known as the “troll factory,” stole identities from Americans and created social media campaigns and fake online personas to try to manipulate voters, activists and Trump campaign staff members, court papers show. (New York Times, 03.08.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the Russian citizens indicted by the United States for election meddling didn’t act on behalf of his government, and insisted that Moscow will “never” extradite any of them. Putin argued his government had little to answer for until the U.S. provided “some materials, specifics and data.” He said Russia would be “prepared to look at them and talk about it,” while reiterating the Kremlin’s insistence that it had no role in directing the operatives to act against the U.S. He also said that Russian nationals accused by the U.S. of election tampering could be prosecuted in Russia if they were found to have broken Russian law. (RFE/RL, 03.04.18, Reuters, 03.06.18)
  • The Russian Senate’s commission on the protection of state sovereignty said March 5 that it had “proven” that the U.S. consistently and illegally interfered in the affairs of other states since the U.N. Charter was adopted after World War II. Earlier on March 5, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow had evidence of U.S. attempts to interfere in Russia’s coming presidential election, but did not say what that evidence was. (The Moscow Times, 03.06.18)
  • The U.S. State Department has no plans to grant the asylum request of a self-described Belarusian “sex-huntress” in exchange for alleged evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. “This sounds like a pretty bizarre story,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. Anastasia Vashukevich said she had more than 16 hours of audio recordings that could help shed light on Russian meddling in United States elections. The escort said she would hand over the recordings if the United States granted her asylum. (The Moscow Times, 03.07.18, New York Times, 03.05.18)
  • Albania’s Democratic Party, the main opposition group, has rejected allegations by U.S. publication Mother Jones that the party received secret funds from Russian sources during last year’s parliamentary election. (AP, 03.07.18)

Energy exports:

  • The U.S. is likely to overtake Russia to become the world’s largest oil producer by 2023, accounting for most of the global growth in petroleum supplies, the International Energy Agency said. (Wall Street Journal, 03.05.18)
  • Several Eastern European states have ramped up their opposition to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Russia with Germany and have raised their concerns in Washington. Some of the most vocal critics are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, whose foreign and defense ministers met with their U.S. counterparts in Washington in the past week. (RFE/RL, 03.09.18)
  • Russian state oil company Rosneft has emerged with an important role in talks between Iraq’s government and Iraqi Kurdistan on resuming full oil exports from the semi-autonomous region. (Reuters, 03.05.18)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • No significant developments.

Other bilateral issues:

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller has gathered evidence that a secret meeting in Seychelles just before the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump was an effort to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin. In January 2017, Erik Prince, founder of the private security company Blackwater, met with Kirill Dmitriev, who manages a Russian sovereign wealth fund and is thought to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff would like Lebanese-American businessman George Nader—who allegedly helped set up the meeting—to appear before the panel and for Erik Prince to return to the House Intelligence Committee for additional questioning to clear up seemingly inconsistent accounts. (The Washington Post, 03.07.18, Vox, 03.07.18, AP, 03.09.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin praised U.S. President Donald Trump as a willing partner as he lashed out at the U.S. for what he described as its “unpredictable” behavior, warning there’s no guarantee Moscow’s Cold War rival wouldn’t resort to nuclear weapons. “I’m not disappointed with my opposite number, I’m increasingly disappointed with the system itself” in the U.S., Putin said. Putin insisted that the U.S. president is someone with whom he can seek compromises and “come to an agreement.” (Bloomberg, 03.07.18)
  • The Russian embassy in Washington has proposed using Twitter as a channel for diplomatic correspondence with the U.S. State Department after a breakdown in communication this week. The initiative follows Russia’s unsuccessful attempts to set up a meeting between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Ethiopia this week. (The Moscow Times, 03.09.18)
  • Weeks after Donald Trump was elected president, Russia-backed online “trolls” flooded social media to try to block Mitt Romney from securing a top job in the incoming administration. The allegations of Kremlin opposition to Romney surfaced in a New Yorker article about Christopher Steele. According to the report, Steele created a previously unreleased memo in late November 2016, which said the Kremlin “intervened to block” Trump’s choice of Romney for secretary of state. The memo is attributed to a single source described as “a senior Russian official.” (Wall Street Journal, 03.08.18, The New Yorker, 03.12.18)
  • Icarus, a film about doping in Russia, has won the Oscar for best documentary. U.S. director Bryan Fogel’s film was made with the assistance of Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director who now lives in the United States. (RFE/RL, 03.05.18)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • Incomes more than doubled in the first decade of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tenure, but have stalled and are roughly where they were in 2010. In a January poll commissioned by the central bank, almost two-thirds of Russians said their financial situation hasn’t improved in the past 12 months, and nearly half expect little difference over the coming year. (Bloomberg, 03.08.18)
  • “If we don’t raise taxes or the pension age, it will be difficult to seriously improve pensions and the quality of health care,” said Maxim Oreshkin, Russia’s minister for economic development. (Bloomberg, 03.08.18)
  • Government officials in Russia earned twice as much as doctors and three times as much as teachers last year, according to official statistics. An average federal government official earned 118,300 rubles ($2,073) per month in 2017. (The Moscow Times, 03.05.18)
  • The Russian central bank will spend 56.9 billion rubles on boosting the financial strength of B&N Bank, a troubled lender it had to rescue last year. Earlier the central bank said it planned to spend around one trillion rubles ($18 billion) to bail out Otkritie, formerly Russia’s largest private bank. (Reuters, 03.06.18)
  • Moscow now has the largest number of vehicles available for car sharing in Europe. (The Moscow Times, 03.09.18)
  • United Co. Rusal’s Oleg Deripaska agreed to let rival Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich sell a $1.5 billion stake in MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC, providing that the sale is reversed if a London judge later finds that a shareholder agreement doesn’t allow it. (Bloomberg, 03.08.18)
  • Incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin has held a campaign rally at a major Moscow sports arena, promising “victories” for Russia in remarks to a supportive audience 15 days before an election that seems certain to hand him a new six-year term. (RFE/RL, 03.03.18)
  • “I’ve gotten used to it [being called a villain] a long time ago … My guiding light is the interest of Russia and its people. If I feel that I haven’t strayed and that I’m going in the right direction, then I don’t care about anything else,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a new TV interview. (The Moscow Times, 03.07.18)
  • Moscow city officials have rejected opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s request to hold a rally in the capital on March 18, the day of Russia’s presidential elections. (The Moscow Times, 03.09.18)
  • Head of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee Leonid Slutsky, who has been accused in recent weeks of sexual harassment by five female journalists, released an apology on International Women’s Day on March 8. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny has released an investigation into Slutsky, accusing the lawmaker of living beyond his means. (The Moscow Times, 03.08.18,The Moscow Times, 03.08.18)
  • Balkars in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria are marking the 74th anniversary of their mass deportation to Central Asia by Soviet leader Josef Stalin. (RFE/RL, 03.08.18)

Defense and aerospace:

  • No significant developments.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russia’s National Anti-Corruption Committee has seen bribe-taking triple in the past year to nearly $119 million. (The Moscow Times, 03.06.18)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted Russia had thwarted more than 400 foreign spies last year and on March 5 called on the Federal Security Service (FSB) to act to block further foreign attempts to obtain political, economic and military information. In his comments at the FSB, Putin also said that “Russia’s information space must be protected from modern cyberthreats.” (The Moscow Times, 03.05.18, RFE/RL, 03.05.18)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

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

  • Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, remained in a critical condition in a British hospital on Friday after being attacked with what U.K. experts identified as a nerve agent. Det. Sgt. Nick Bailey, a police officer who was early on the scene, is also in the hospital, although he was talking and engaging. A total of 21 people have received medical treatment. (Bloomberg, 03.08.18,  AP, 03.09.18)
    • U.K. intelligence officials are treating the poisoning as a state-sponsored assassination attempt. British authorities have also deployed members of the military to assist police in their investigation. (AP, 03.09.18, Bloomberg, 03.08.18)
    • Alastair Hay, a toxicologist at Leeds University, said the attackers would need to use only a “tiny, tiny” amount of the substance to leave Skripal in a critical condition. Hay, who is a member of the British government’s advisory group on chemical warfare agents, also said:  “I think it’s more a case in which we are talking about a military capability.” When asked how long it may take before the British government can identify the responsible party in this case, he said: “I think we will be talking about weeks in this instance.” (Financial Times, 03.08.18, RFE/RL, 03.09.18)
    • Former London police chief Ian Blair said Friday that Det. Sgt. Nick Bailey visited Sergei Skripal’s house—perhaps a hint that the nerve agent may have been delivered there. (AP, 03.09.18)
    • According to U.K. security officials, 66-year-old Sergei Skripal had not been fully decommissioned. One former senior security official said Skripal had provided information to the U.K. and other western intelligence agencies for a period after he arrived in Britain in 2010. “While it wasn’t spying there was an ongoing use,” a second official said, before adding examples of the sort of information Skripal might have been able to share. (Financial Times, 03.09.18)
    • A security consultant who has worked for the company that compiled the controversial dossier on U.S. President Donald Trump was allegedly close to the Russian double agent poisoned last weekend. The consultant, who The Telegraph is declining to identify, lived close to Sergei Skripal and is understood to have known him for some time. (Daily Telegraph, 03.07.18)
    • Britain will respond appropriately if evidence shows Moscow sponsored a nerve agent attack on a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in southern England, British Prime Minister Theresa May said. (Reuters, 03.08.18)
    • U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd called for caution and said the facts needed to be clear before assigning blame. (Bloomberg, 03.08.18)
    • U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been quick to point the finger at Russia. Johnson told Parliament on March 6 that Russia had become a “malign and disruptive force,” and that Britain would be likely to increase sanctions if evidence emerged that Russia was behind the attack. (Bloomberg, 03.08.18)
    • A former head of London’s Metropolitan Police force says there should be further inquiry into the deaths of 14 Russians in the U.K. amid suggestions they were targeted by the Russian state. (AP, 03.09.18)
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the country could help Britain investigate the poisoning there of an ex-Russian spy, but expressed resentment of suspicions cast on Moscow. Britain’s warnings of retaliation if it is proven Russia was behind the poisoning are propaganda and not serious, Lavrov said on March 9. Lavrov said Russian officials had not received a single fact or piece of concrete evidence about what happened to Skripal and his daughter. (The Moscow Times, 03.09.18, AP, 03.09.18)
    • Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharov said on March 7 that allegations of Russian involvement in the mysterious illness of a Russian ex-spy were “bogus” and that his illness was being cynically used to escalate an anti-Russian campaign in Britain. (Reuters, 03.07.18)
    • The Russian news media had mostly ignored the nerve agent attack, until the evening news on March 7 on government-controlled Channel One, when the host issued a lightly veiled threat to those like Sergei Skripal who had “betrayed the motherland.” (Reuters, 03.08.18)
  • Italy plans to propose to other European Union members that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development resume lending to small- and medium-sized enterprises in Russia, on hold since 2014. (Reuters, 03.08.18)
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on March 8 his country was pursuing military cooperation with Zimbabwe and looking at opportunities in the diamond sector as well as fully implementing a $3 billion joint platinum project near Harare. (Reuters, 03.08.18)
  • “It is an opening,” Khurram Dastgir Khan, Pakistan’s defense minister, said in reference to Pakistani-Russian relations. “Both countries have to work through the past to open the door to the future.” (Reuters, 03.05.18)
  • Turkey’s first nuclear power plant is likely to miss its 2023 target start-up date as Russian builder Rosatom struggles to find local partners. (Reuters, 03.09.18)


  • Beijing and Moscow may have struck a preliminary deal for the Chinese army to procure more Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets. (Asia Times, 03.08.18)
  • “The number of Chinese tourists to Russia reached 1.5 million in 2017. This is the largest number among all countries for Russia,” the state-run TASS news agency cited Chinese Ambassador to Russia Li Hui as saying. (The Moscow Times, 03.06.18)


  • The United States’ special representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker says he hopes that Russia will still “make peace and withdraw from eastern Ukraine” and that if it does, Washington stands ready to play a role in the transition. (AP, 03.07.18)
  • “The current Ukrainian government tells me that soldiers in the Ukrainian army are being killed by arms supplied from Russia. When I think about this, it leaves a deep impression on me. I actually think that everyone there is our people,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a new TV interview. “I sometimes think that … someone deliberately tipped us to the edge, where—once there—we had to act in the way that we did,” he said in reference to the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. (The Moscow Times, 03.07.18)
  • “Can you imagine that in 2013, almost one-third of our trade balance was trade with Russia. And in one moment it was closed dramatically. That was, for example, like if one moment for Canada, the U.S. closed their market. We tried to survive,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said. (Financial Times, 03.06.18)
  • Ukrainian national Volodymyr Ruban, who negotiated the exchange of prisoners in the eastern conflict zone, was placed under court-ordered detention on March 9 on suspicion of preparing “terrorist acts,” after he was caught transporting weapons into Ukraine-held territory. (Reuters, 03.09.18)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says gas deliveries to Ukraine have “stabilized” after Russian gas giant Gazprom halted gas supplies to the country earlier this week in the latest energy dispute between the two countries. (RFE/RL, 03.03.18)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has warned that international donors cannot dictate laws to the country amid a stand-off over demands for Kiev to set up an independent anti-corruption court that has delayed vital financing. (Financial Times, 03.06.18)
  • Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovych said on March 2 that he never had a face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump’s ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort, despite Manafort’s extensive work for his government. (RFE/RL, 03.03.18)
  • Police in Kiev have raided a protest camp near the national parliament building, sparking clashes with protesters. The press service of the National Guard said 50 people had been detained in the action close to the Verkhovna Rada on March 3. (RFE/RL, 03.03.18)
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on Ukrainian authorities to investigate allegations that police attacked journalists covering a protest in the capital last weekend. (RFE/RL, 03.05.18)
  • A memorandum of understanding signed by Holtec International and Energoatom envisages Ukraine’s adoption of Holtec’s small modular reactor (SMR) technology with the country becoming a manufacturing hub for SMR-160 reactor components. (World Nuclear News, 03.02.18)
  • Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak has been added to an unofficial Ukrainian blacklist after announcing her plans to visit Crimea as part of her election campaign. (The Moscow Times, 03.08.18)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Russia has not decided yet whether it needs another military base in Kyrgyzstan, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov said. (RFE/RL, 03.06.18)
  • The first Central Asian summit in many years is due to take place in Astana on March 15-16. But on March 2, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov took some of the excitement out of the gathering by announcing he would not be going. (RFE/RL, 03.06.18)
  • Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev, making a landmark visit to Tajikistan, has vowed to swiftly build stronger relations after years of tension between the Central Asian neighbors. (RFE/RL, 03.09.18)
  • Amid persistent speculation that he may be preparing for a political transition, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has suggested he is not going anywhere soon. (RFE/RL, 03.05.18)
  • The brother of Gulmurod Halimov, the fugitive Tajik colonel who joined Islamic State, has resigned from his post at Tajikistan’s department of prisons after three of his close relatives were sentenced on terrorism-related charges. (RFE/RL, 03.05.18)
  • Uzbek opposition journalist Yusuf Rozimurodov has been released from prison after spending 19 years behind bars. (RFE/RL, 03.02.18)
  • Rahmatulloh Saifutdinov, the chief imam of Tashkent’s Mirzo Yusuf Mosque, told worshippers that fantasizing about someone other than your spouse during sex can lead to a woman giving birth to a homosexual child. (RFE/RL, 03.08.18)
  • The European Union has criticized Belarus for executing convicted murderer Kiryl Kazachok and urged President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s government to abolish capital punishment. Kazachok was sentenced to death in December 2016 after a court found him guilty of killing his 17-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter in order to punish his wife for wanting a divorce. (RFE/RL, 03.08.18)

IV. Quoteworthy

  • No significant developments.