March 19, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russian forces advance near Avdiivka

Institute for the Study of War

Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) as a key guarantor of Russian security and sovereignty following his victory in the Russian presidential election, likely signaling that Russian security services and siloviki (Russian strongmen with political influence) will continue to represent his core constituency in his fifth presidential term. Putin delivered his first major address following his March 18 electoral victory speech at the FSB board meeting on March 19 and praised FSB officers for ensuring Russian security and sovereignty. Putin thanked FSB officers for successful operations in Ukraine, for suppressing attempts to interfere in Russian internal affairs, and for repelling “terrorist” attacks against Russia (in reference to limited raids by all-Russian pro-Ukrainian volunteers in Kursk and Belgorod oblasts). Putin also highlighted the FSB’s role in suppressing attempts by unnamed actors to provoke internal unrest and interethnic conflict within Russia and the FSB‘s responsibilities to ensure Russia’s economic security, combat corruption, and protect critical infrastructure. Putin’s appeals to these FSB functions likely sought to remind his domestic constituency that his regime has the backing of an extensive security apparatus, which the Kremlin has been attempting to expand since the start of the full-scale invasion, particularly since the Wagner Group‘s failed rebellion in June 2023. It is notable that one of the greatest challenges to the stability of Putin’s rule came from a silovik, deceased Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, and Putin likely aims to signal that Russia’s siloviki are firmly united in support of his fifth presidential term and his war effort in Ukraine. Putin, a former KGB officer himself, may be highlighting the FSB as an organization that has his current favor, although Putin has traditionally pitted Russia’s security organizations and siloviki against each other to compete for his support and prevent any singular entity from amassing too much power.

Key Takeaways:



  • Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) as a key guarantor of Russian security and sovereignty following his victory in the Russian presidential election, likely signaling that Russian security services and siloviki will continue to represent his core constituency in his fifth presidential term.
  • Russia continues efforts to build a coalition to counterbalance the West by pursuing bilateral relationships with Iran, North Korea, and China.
  • Armenia’s Central Bank will reportedly ban the use of Russia’s “Mir” national payment system to prevent Armenia from falling under secondary US sanctions.
  • Pro-Russian actors in Moldova are continuing efforts to support wider Kremlin hybrid efforts to destabilize Moldova.
  • Ukraine’s European partners continue efforts to stand up significant initiatives to provide military support to Ukraine.
  • The Russian military confirmed that Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Alexander Moiseev replaced Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov as acting Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy.
  • Russian forces recently made a confirmed advance near Avdiivka on March 19.
  • Russian State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Andrei Kartapolov stated on March 19 that the Russian military will not increase the number of conscripts summoned during the upcoming semi-annual spring conscription cycle in comparison to the previous fall 2023 conscription cycle.
  • Kremlin officials continue to implicate themselves directly in the illegal removal of Ukrainian children to other Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine and the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-19-2024 

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