Key Takeaways from the ISW:

  • Head of the Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill made a series of anti-migrant and xenophobic remarks that directly contradict Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing efforts to reestablish the inclusive Russian World (Russkiy Mir) ideology.
  • Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov explicitly stated that the Kremlin is uninterested in negotiations with Ukraine, suggesting that the Kremlin is moving away from its information operation meant to feign interest in negotiations.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD)-controlled Africa Corps announced a recruitment campaign targeting former and current Wagner Group personnel and people with combat experience in the war in Ukraine.
  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin discussed bilateral economic cooperation with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on December 20.
  • Moscow State University (MGU) is reportedly ending its master's program in “information and hybrid warfare” aimed at teaching students how to create information operations and conduct hybrid warfare, generating outrage from Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov.
  • The Kremlin continues to set conditions to create a veneer of legitimacy over the upcoming March 2024 presidential election.
  • Russian forces made a confirmed advance north of Bakhmut and continued positional meeting engagements along the entire line of contact.
  • Russian officials issued military summonses to migrants at a naturalization ceremony on December 20 as part of ongoing efforts to target naturalized migrants for crypto-mobilization efforts and to placate the Russian ultranationalist community.
  • Russian occupation administrators continue to use educational organizations to facilitate the temporary deportation of Ukrainians to Russia.

Authors: Riley Bailey, Kateryna Stepanenko, Christina Harward, Angelica Evans, and Frederick W. Kagan.

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