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.
On 24 June, President Vladimir Putin faced his biggest challenge in over two decades at Russia’s helm: a mutiny by a mercenary group fighting alongside Russian forces in Ukraine. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts explore the implications for Putin’s rule and Russian foreign policy.
Moscow withdrew from several arms treaties and announced record military expenditures in 2024; Finland closed border with Russia.
Russia withdrew from two arms treaties, ramped up military spending. President Putin 2 Nov signed legislation revoking ratification of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, though Russian officials reportedly said withdrawal did not mean Russia would resume nuclear testing; Russia 7 Nov withdrew from Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. State Duma 17 Nov approved 2024 federal budget, which devotes record 10.8tn rubles (approximately $119bn) to defence compared with 6.4tn rubles (approximately $71bn) in 2023. Police conducted raids to draft new army recruits, particularly targeting migrants; notably, police in Voronezh city 14 Nov raided restaurant hosting group of Azerbaijani immigrants and handed around 50 summonses to military enlistment offices.
Crackdown continued, notably targeting war opponents and LGBTQ+ community. Wives of mobilised soldiers 7 Nov staged protest calling on authorities to demobilise their husbands who, according to Putin’s mobilisation decree, could remain in military service until end of so-called special operation in Ukraine. Court in Saint Petersburg city 16 Nov sentenced artist Aleksandra Skochilenko to seven years’ imprisonment for spreading disinformation or “fakes” about Russian army; court in Moscow same day sentenced opposition politician Vladimir Milov in absentia to eight years in prison, also for “fakes”. Meanwhile, Supreme Court 30 Nov labelled “international LGBT movement” as “extremist”, banned activities; UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk same day “deplored” decision, called on authorities to repeal laws that place “improper restrictions on the work of human rights defenders or that discriminate against LGBT people”.
Finland closed checkpoints along border with Russia, Ukrainian strikes continued. Finland 22 Nov announced closure of all but one of its border crossings with Russia beginning 24 Nov, accusing its neighbour of purposely pushing asylum seekers toward border; 28 Nov closed last border crossing point, saying closure would last until 13 Dec and banned filing of requests for “international protection” at border. Meanwhile, authorities 26 Nov announced its air defences had intercepted Ukrainian drones over several regions, including Moscow, day after Kyiv reported one of biggest drone attacks since full-scale invasion (see Ukraine).
Russian weapons and facilities are under solid control and there’s no evidence that Wagner or anyone else is looking to capture them.
If Russian soldiers feel their commanders are not in control, their trenches will be much easier to take for advancing Ukrainian troops.
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.
Russian engagement in the Sahel is very low-cost [financially]. It is distracting the West and diminishing the West’s symbolic power.
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...
We have seen nuclear deterrence work, on the part of both Russia and Western countries.
Crisis Group's Europe and Central Asia Program Director Olga Oliker and Senior Russia analyst Oleg Ignatov discuss the aftermath of the mutiny in Russia and what the future holds for the group.
This week, Richard speaks with Crisis Group experts Olga Oliker, Jean-Hervé Jezequel and Richard Gowan about Wagner’s mutiny in Russia, what it means for the Ukraine war and for places in Africa where Wagner operates – particularly Mali, where the government’s ties to Wagner have informed its recent demand that UN peacekeepers leave.
In this online event, Crisis Group experts discuss the implications of the Wagner rebellion for Putin’s rule, the war in Ukraine, Russian foreign politics and the country’s power projections abroad.
In this Twitter Space, Crisis Group experts explore about the need for and purpose of a tribunal on the crime of aggression.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks with Olga Oliker, Crisis Group’s Europe and Central Asia director, about the latest escalation in Ukraine, as Russian airstrikes batter multiple Ukrainian cities.
Designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism will only backfire.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Elissa Jobson talk with RAND Senior Policy Researcher Dara Massicot about the latest military developments in Ukraine amid Russia’s decision to declare a partial mobilisation.
Following a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russia is escalating its war in Ukraine. Yet developments on the ground show that NATO members’ approach to date – supporting Kyiv while avoiding a direct clash with Moscow – is fundamentally sound. The West should stay the course.
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