Russia (Internal)

Moscow sees itself as having embarked upon a broad confrontation with Western powers aimed at reshaping the global order. Its continuing war in Ukraine is thus meant both to subjugate that country and assert and cement Russia’s place in Europe and the world. Russia’s global diplomacy, meanwhile, also aims to increase Moscow’s influence and underline its great power status. Crisis Group reports on developments in the war in Ukraine, domestic processes in Russia, and Russia’s relations with its neighbours and countries around the world. In its advocacy, Crisis Group encourages policies that can lead to more sustainable peace in Ukraine, Europe, and all of the conflicts in which Russia is engaged. 

CrisisWatch Russia (Internal)

Unchanged Situation

President Putin questioned legitimacy of Ukraine’s leader following his own inauguration, Moscow held tactical nuclear weapons drills with Minsk, and West imposed more punitive measures. 

Putin reshuffled govt following inauguration. President Putin was inaugurated 7 May for fifth presidential term and began reshuffling govt. Notably, Kremlin 12 May announced First Deputy PM Andrei Belousov would replace Sergei Shoigu as Defence Minister. Belousov – an experienced economist and technocrat – is expected to control military spending and fight corruption. 

Putin claimed Zelenskyy could no longer be considered Ukraine’s legitimate leader. Putin 24 May said “legitimacy of the current head of state (in Ukraine) has ended”, referencing expiration of President Zelenskyy’s term on 20 May, extended under martial law. Announcement is part of Russian campaign to delegitimise Zelenskyy as head of state with whom Kremlin will negotiate end to the war. Earlier, Ukraine’s state security service 7 May announced investigators had foiled Russian plot to assassinate Zelenskyy. Meanwhile, Ukraine escalated strikes on border regions in response to Russian offensive in Kharkiv region (see Ukraine); notably, residential building in Belgorod 12 May partially collapsed following missile attack, killing seventeen. Reports emerged late May that U.S President Biden had given Ukraine green light to use U.S. weapons on Russian soil to defend Kharkiv. 

Moscow and Minsk conducted tactical nuclear weapon drills. While Russia conducts regular strategic nuclear weapons drills, Moscow 21 May launched tactical nuclear drills with Belarus close to Ukrainian border for first time since collapse of Soviet Union. Ministry of Defence 6 May said Putin ordered drills in response to “provocative statements and threats by certain western officials”, including those by French President Macron in Feb on sending troops to Ukraine. Meanwhile, U.S. Space Command 21 May reported Russia 16 May launched counterspace weapon capable of inspecting and attacking other satellites.

West imposed more punitive measures. U.S. imposed more sanctions, while EU countries 21 May adopted plan to use windfall profits from frozen Russian central bank assets for Ukraine; Putin 23 May signed decree allowing seizure of U.S. assets in Russia in response to any U.S. seizure of Russian assets. EU 27 May set up new sanctions framework targeting human rights violations in Russia.

Continue reading

In The News

26 Ιουν 2023
Russian weapons and facilities are under solid control and there’s no evidence that Wagner or anyone else is looking to capture them. Time

Olga Oliker

Program Director, Europe and Central Asia
24 Ιουν 2023
If Russian soldiers feel their commanders are not in control, their trenches will be much easier to take for advancing Ukrainian troops. The Hill

Simon Schlegel

Senior Analyst, Ukraine
20 Φεβ 2023
I think they [the Kremlin] will use this [Biden's Kyiv trip] to repeat the line that this is a conflict between Russia and the West, not between Russia and Ukraine. Newsweek

Oleg Ignatov

Senior Analyst, Russia
17 Ιαν 2023
Russian engagement in the Sahel is very low-cost [financially]. It is distracting the West and diminishing the West’s symbolic power. OZY

Franklin Nossiter

Researcher, Sahel
14 Νοε 2022
Moscow also has leverage over Türkiye in other conflict zones such as Syria and the South Caucasus, as well as a vested interest in driving a wedge between Turkey and its... Bloomberg

Nigar Göksel

Project Director, Türkiye
17 Οκτ 2022
We have seen nuclear deterrence work, on the part of both Russia and Western countries. NPR

Olga Oliker

Program Director, Europe and Central Asia

Latest Updates

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.