Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22 likely to discuss sanctions evasion schemes and Chinese interest in mediating a negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine. The Kremlin stated that Putin and Xi plan to sign unspecified bilateral documents and discuss topical issues in Russia’s and China’s comprehensive partnership. Chinese companies have reportedly sold rifles, drone parts, and equipment to Russian entities that could be used for military purposes, and Western intelligence agencies have stated that Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment to Russia. Xi likely plans to discuss sanctions evasion schemes with Putin and Russian officials to support the sale and provision of Chinese equipment to Russia. ISW previously assessed that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Xi signed a package of 16 agreements on March 1 that may facilitate Russian sanctions evasion by channeling Chinese products through Belarus. Xi also likely aims to promote Chinese efforts aiming to position China as an impartial third-party mediator for negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. China released a broad 12-point peace plan for the war in Ukraine on February 24, although it remains unclear what more definitive Chinese proposals for a negotiated settlement to the war would encompass. Xi may seek to parlay his success in mediating the restoration of diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia into a larger effort to mediate in this war.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that Belarusian industry is supplying Russia with electronic components, potentially supporting previous ISW assessments that Belarus may assist Russia in evading Western sanctions. Lukashenko stated on March 17 that Belarus and Russia signed an agreement on establishing a joint Belarusian-Russian center for the development and production of photomasks (an intermediate good used in the production of integrated circuits), that the two states have developed a list of critically important electronic components, and that Belarusian industry has already begun shipping unspecified microelectronics to Russian enterprises. ISW previously assessed that Belarus might facilitate sanction evasion for Russia and that China might clandestinely transfer goods and/or equipment to Russia via Belarus. The US State Department sanctioned several additional Belarusian defense entities and tightened existing export controls to Belarus as of February 24, 2023, but these sanctions may not be comprehensive enough to prevent Belarus from sending Russia electronic components used in weapon systems and other dual use technologies. Lukashenko made this announcement at the Belarusian Planar Joint Stock Company technological enterprise, which the US does not appear to have sanctioned.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s rhetoric about Belgrade’s refusal to sanction Russia is softening. Vucic refused to promise that Serbia will not sanction Russia, acknowledged that Belgrade’s decision not to join European sanctions against Russia has brought Serbia “tough [economic] circumstances,” and stated that he will evaluate “when we are in a deadlock and when our policy has to change” on March 17. Serbian Economy Minister Rade Basta called on the Serbian government to impose sanctions on Russia and stated that Serbia is paying a “high price” for not doing so on March 14. Politico previously reported that Vucic is seemingly reconsidering Serbia’s close ties with Russia, spurred in part by ongoing Wagner Group recruitment and subversion efforts in Serbia and demonstrating the international economic and informational costs imposed on Putin by his invasion of Ukraine.
- Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22 likely to discuss sanctions evasion schemes and Chinese interest in mediating a negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine.
- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that Belarusian industry is supplying Russia electronic components, potentially supporting previous ISW assessments that Belarus may assist Russia to evade Western sanctions.
- Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s rhetoric about Belgrade’s refusal to sanction Russia is softening.
- The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Commissioner on Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova on March 17 for alleged war crimes involving the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.
- Russian outlet Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that it did not submit a press request to Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin concerning a rumored plot by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev against him.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks across the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
- Russian forces continued offensive operations in and around Bakhmut.
- Russian forces continued offensive operations along the outskirts of Donetsk City.
- Russian sources claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian forces along the front line in southern Ukraine.
- The Kremlin continues to call up reservists throughout Russia.
- Russian authorities reportedly detained three Ukrainian partisans in occupied Zaporizhia Oblast.