Russian Ukraine invasion is Europe’s 9-11

 

Editor's Introduction: Ray Kreig, right, an Alaskan prominent in that state's conservative circles and also the older brother of the undersigned editor of the Justice Ray Kreig 160x160.jpgIntegrity Project, seeks in this guest essay to persuade readers in the column below to support strongly Ukraine's defensive war against Russian invaders.  Must Read Alaska and Alaska Watchman, two conservative Alaska-based publications, first published the column. The author, a consulting engineer and civic activist, was in the Soviet Union during the Soviet coup d’état against Mikhail Gorbachev in August, 1991.

An appendix includes recent news excerpted as part of a daily feature on the Justice Integrity Project's news section.  Shown below at left is one of the world's iconic recent images, which portrays the reaction of Ukraine's president to suggestions from afar last February that he should flee the Russian invasion to try to establish a government-in-exile. This editor had plans, thwarted by travel delays, to meet at a roundtable dinner for 20 on Dec. 5 convened by Semafor with three Ukrainian officials visiting the United States to discuss the current situation there.

-- Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project Editor

 

Russian Ukraine invasion is Europe’s 9-11

Conservatives must not excuse what Putin has unleashed on Ukraine

 

ukraine magnifying glass

 

By Ray Kreig

Recently propagated by Republican members of the Alaska Legislature are two narratives about which they should know better:

• First, that George Soros (Open Society Foundations) helped Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy become president of Ukraine through massive propaganda campaign and he now backs the puppet regime he installed.

• Second, that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy [shown below at left] is tied to Klaus Schwab (World Economic Forum), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and other global elites.

According to the theory, the enemy (Russian President Vladimir Putin) of my enemy (Soros) is my friend. Therefore, apparently, there should be a hesitation to support Zelenskyy and Ukraine’s resistance of the Russian invasion at this pivotal point in history.

Conservatives are justified for crucifying President Joe Biden for his weakness inviting the invasion itself while he continues to pander to green energy as prices burisma logoskyrocket. Outrage is also warranted as Biden demands defense of Ukraine’s borders while he opens our own to massive illegal immigration. His son Hunter Biden’s sleaze with his suspicious Ukrainian gas company Burisma “no-show job” also is a justifiable cause for outrage.

volodmyer zelinsky graphicBut in pounding away on these points, things go off the rails when the rhetoric turns to, “There is no U.S. interest in Ukraine,” “Ukraine is a corrupt, undemocratic failed state,” concepts espoused by Fox News and Tucker Carlson. 

That is wrong. The U.S. has an essential national interest in a Russia that stands down from authoritarianism, becomes a functioning democracy and reduced military threat.  We would save trillions of dollars and live in a better world. The future of Ukraine is critical to that much larger objective.

Some opine that the West, and America in particular, is responsible for this invasion because the continued expansion of the NATO military alliance eastward to Russia’s borders threatens Russian national security.  Is Ukraine then doomed to remain in a Russian sphere of influence as some sort of vassal state to Moscow, notwithstanding the desires of Ukrainians themselves to look to the West, the EU for their integration into a free market and democracy?  It’s completely understandable that, feeling threatened by Russia, Ukraine would want to be a part of the NATO defense alliance.

Yes, Russia and Putin have been consistent for over two decades in saying NATO and Ukraine pose an unacceptable threat to Russia and regional security. They use the missiles in Cuba analogy. Maybe the West did push NATO too hard and too far East to the borders of Russia, but these expansions were popular and were wanted by the people in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.  

Maybe this invasion was avoidable with better, more adroit diplomacy that sought to probe the limits of Russia’s security concerns while not conceding our own principles. Maybe Russia President Putin and his proud countryman in mourning for the loss of the Soviet Empire should not have been insulted and embarrassed by a triumphant West after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

By no means does any of this excuse what Putin has unleashed. Thousands of innocent people have perished.  All thinking and feeling people around the world are shocked and disgusted by the devastation and carnage being unleashed on that poor country. The sight of rows of apartment buildings, cars, factories, hospitals, schools, bridges, and public buildings being rocketed and bombed is disgusting and unacceptable for all civilized people. 

Continued below


 

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine during a news conference in Kyiv on Thurday. “We have a special people, an extraordinary people,” he said (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine during a news conference in Kyiv this spring. “We have a special people, an extraordinary people,” he said (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

 

NATO On Russia's Borders

Regarding NATO on Russia's borders: Just as frightening to Putin and Russia’s Kremlin powerful elite is the tug and attraction of the West for Ukraine’s 50 nato logo flags namemillion people.

Since the shock of losing Crimea and the Donbas to Russian occupation in 2014, Ukraine has been decisively turning away from Russia. Culturally both the Ukrainian speaking areas in Western Ukraine and the Russian speaking areas in Eastern Ukraine are reorienting from Moscow to the West — the European Union, the United Kingdom, and America. Russian speaking Ukrainians are so disgusted with Putin that they are even making the choice to reduce speaking their native language (as illustrated below) and switching to Ukrainian.

 

Ukraine languages 1

Russia feels the pain of losing its totalitarian empire and witnessing the success of its former vassals in building democratic and free societies. Putin sees the existential threat building in a thriving Ukraine — the size of Texas with 50 million people — that is increasingly bonded with the West. He will lose all 144 million people in the Russian Federation as they become aware of how much better off Ukrainians are becoming. There are close and intimate ties between Ukrainians across Russia, from St. Petersburg to Magadan; these include family, friends, and business partners. It will not be possible to keep Ukrainian successes from them, so Putin instead is destroying Ukraine and slaughtering thousands.

george soros uncreditedAs for President Zelenskyy being elected in 2019 with help from George Soros, left, that election is generally considered to have been a free and fair election. Soros’ help may or may not have been significant. Even if it was, everything is changed after the living hell of the Russian invasion. 

Zelenskyy has rallied his people to fight tyranny to the death like no one since Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle in the darkest days of World War II.

After the Russians are defeated, Zelenskyy can be expected to pivot away from any Soros and global elite forces that are incompatible with values now etched into the souls of Ukrainians.

Example: Ukraine’s Parliament granted its citizens the right to bear arms—hours before Putin’s invasion. By now, we are seeing that their citizens slinging Kalashnikovs and AR-15’s are on their way to victory assisting the Ukrainian defense forces. Those citizens are not going to give these guns up and this is a lesson to the world. The Second Amendment means weapons like these. Soros and the one-worlders are not going to make any headway against this. Certainly not with President Zelenskyy.

As for strange bedfellows in war: Remember that in World War II, the West had to ally with mass murderer Joseph Stalin, right, in order to defeat the common enemy, joseph stalin fullHitler. Right here in Alaska, 8,000 U.S. planes were turned over to Soviet pilots who flew them on across Siberia as part of Lend-Lease Program. You do what you have to — to survive and win — and then later oppose your allies, if necessary, after the common foe is defeated.

Ukrainians are fighting the greatest battle for liberty the world has seen this century – maybe since World War II. Remember these names:  Irpin, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol, Hostomel, Kherson, Melitopol.

The courage of the Ukrainians (citizens and military) already has ensured that they will go down in history as famous battles for liberty — battles such as Normandy, Iwo Jima, the Alamo, and Yorktown. Ukraine is the front line of freedom in the world today.

We may not be in a “World War” yet.  For now, it is one big bully invading a smaller neighbor. However, if Putin is allowed to take independent Ukraine after the abomination and war crimes he has vested on the world, an emboldened China can be expected to invade Taiwan. Then you do have an axis of Russia, China (and others) against the free world — World War III. 

Finally, Ukrainian heroism and Russian miscalculations appear likely to result in failure of Putin’s reckless invasion and the end of his rule.  

The media will then help Biden and the Democrats claim credit for defeating Vladimir Putin.

Conservatives who are soft on Zelenskyy and Putin need to get smart, pay attention, and grab this liberty narrative away from the Democrats.  At least make sure you are on the stage and not a useful idiot for this new Hitler — Putin. Don’t be on the wrong side of history — it will give President Biden and the Democrats cover to evade their responsibility for the disasters they have brought down on America, Alaska, and the world.

Ray Kreig 160x160.jpgRay Kreig, right, is an Anchorage civil engineer and is the former president of Chugach Electric, the state's largest utility company, serving the Anchorage region.  His Russian experience includes extensive Siberian terrain assessment, pipeline routing, and infrastructure evaluation.  Kreig was in the capital of Anadyr, Chukotka Province (adjoining Alaska, west of Nome), during the August, 1991 Soviet coup d’état against Mikhail Gorbachev. He helped the deputy mayor with non-combat tasks opposing the coup. In 1994, Kreig briefed then-Vice President Al Gore at the White House on the Russian Komi Oil Spill and was appointed to be his representative for the on-site United Nations field investigation mission there.

 

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Justice Integrity Project Ukraine News Briefs

 

By calling up roughly 300,000 reservists to fight, and abandoning the objective of demilitarizing and “de-Nazifying” Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin of Russia acknowledged the reality and growing resistance of a unified Ukraine in a televised address on Sept. 21, 2022 (Pool photo by Gavriil Grigorov via New York Times).By calling up a reported 300,000 conscripts and reservists to fight, President Vladimir Putin of Russia acknowledged the growing resistance of a unified Ukraine in a televised address on Sept. 21, 2022 (Pool photo by Gavriil Grigorov via New York Times).

February 2023

Feb. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, In unusual wartime summit, E.U. and Ukraine prepare path forward, Emily Rauhala, Feb. 2, 2023. Though the 27-member bloc is broadly supportive of Ukraine, it remains split on the idea of fast-track E.U. membership.

Ukrainian officials have a long list of requests for their European allies this week: fighter jets and other heavy weaponry to fend off a looming ukraine flagRussian offensive, European Union membership within a few years, legal mechanisms to hold Russians to account, and a plan to use seized Russian assets for reconstruction.

european union logo rectangleBut a delegation of senior E.U. officials that arrived Thursday in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, is unlikely to offer concrete promises on any of these. Instead, an unusual wartime summit in Kyiv is expected to yield just a statement lauding Ukraine’s efforts and urging the country to continue reforms, as well progress on issues such as roaming-free mobile access. That, and photo ops.

E.U. officials cast the meeting on Friday itself as an act of solidarity that signals European commitment and sends a message to Moscow. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said showing up in wartime Kyiv shows that the E.U. understands “the price Ukraine pays.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukraine live briefing: Ukraine widens corruption crackdown; France to give Kyiv air defense radar, Kelsey Ables, Victoria Bisset, Robyn Dixon, Dan Lamothe and Claire Parker, Feb. 1, 2023. Ukrainian authorities widened an anti-corruption drive Wednesday, raiding and searching multiple locations, including construction companies in Kyiv and the home of oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.

Local media, including Ukrainska Pravda, reported that the raid against Kolomoisky — who made his fortune through energy companies, banking, airlines and media — was related to an investigation into embezzlement. The construction companies are also accused by Ukraine’s security service of laundering money to benefit former lawmakers allied with Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed the searches in a nightly address and said the head of Ukraine’s customs service was also dismissed. “We will not allow anyone to weaken our state,” he said. “Change as much as necessary to ensure that people do not abuse power.” The moves come as Ukraine prepares to host a summit with the European Union in Kyiv.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • The former head of procurement at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry was charged with embezzlement for allegedly buying nearly 3,000 bulletproof vests of inadequate quality for more than $2.7 million, Ukraine’s Security Service said in a statement. “The purity of processes within the Ministry of Defense, and the defense forces in general, is especially important,” Zelensky said. Any internal supply, any procurement — everything must be absolutely as clean and honest as the external supply for our defense."
  • The fresh investigations came ahead of the E.U. summit on Friday, a meeting Kyiv hopes will help its bid to become a full member of the bloc. An E.U. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to brief the press on Wednesday, called the earlier dismissals “a signal of their determination and of the functioning of what they have now put in place.”
  • Russian FlagRussia is preparing to hold elections on Sept. 10 in the Ukrainian territories it occupies, Russian Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko told reporters Wednesday. Residents of those regions — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — are “full-fledged citizens of Russia, and we can’t deprive them of the right to elect and the right to be elected,” Matviyenko said.

2. Battleground updates

  • At least two people were killed Wednesday night in Kramatorsk in a missile strike on a residential building, the governor of the Donetsk region said on Facebook. The building was “completely destroyed” by a Russian missile, the governor, Pavlo Kyrilenko, said, adding that rescue workers were searching for survivors in the rubble.
  • France is supplying Ukraine with air defense radar systems to track incoming missiles and drones in the area around Kyiv. “This radar will be the cherry on the cake,” the Associated Press quoted Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov as saying at the handover ceremony in northern France, where the equipment is produced. He described the Ground Master 200 system as “very effective,” saying it would mean “Ukrainian lives are saved."
  • U.S. drone maker offers Ukraine two aircraft for $1. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the maker of armed drones, said it offered two of its training aircraft for sale for the symbolic price of $1. The sale would need approval from the Biden administration. The Wall Street Journal reported it would cost Ukraine $10 to ship it and $8 million a year to sustain it. The U.S. has provided small drones, but the kind offered are larger and can be armed with missiles.
  • Ukraine’s Defense Ministry responded to a report accusing it of firing rockets carrying banned antipersonnel mines into Russian-controlled territory. In a statement on Telegram, the ministry said Ukraine is exercising its right to self-defense, according to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. It also urged Human Rights Watch, which released the report, to pressure Russia to end its “criminal war.”

3. Global impact

  • Ukraine “really” deserves to join NATO, Czech President-elect Petr Pavel said. Speaking to the BBC, the retired general said Ukraine nato logo flags namewould be “morally and practically ready” to join once the war with Russia ends. “If we leave Ukraine without assistance, they would most probably lose this war," he said. “And if they lose — we all lose.”
  • South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup did not rule out sending weapons to Ukraine when asked about it at a news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Lee said that he was aware of the “need for the international effort” and that the South Korean government is paying “close attention.” Such an act would require changes to Seoul’s policy that says defense goods can be exported only “for peaceful purposes.”
  • The International Olympic Committee said sanctions against Russian and Belarusian athletes are “not negotiable.” The sanctions prohibit international sporting events in either country, as well as the display of their flags. Zelensky has called on the IOC to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing, but international sporting officials say that would constitute discrimination. The IOC has yet to make an official decision, Nenad Lalovic, a member of the executive board and president of the Serbian Wrestling Federation, said in an interview.

 

January

Jan. 24

 

 

Charles McGonigal, left, former FBI counterintelligence chief in New York, and his alleged ally, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, are shown in a collage.

Charles McGonigal, left, former FBI counterintelligence chief in New York, and his alleged ally, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, are shown in a photo collage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former senior FBI official accused of working for Russian he investigated, Shayna Jacobs, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Jan. 24, 2023 (print ed.). Charles McGonigal, a former counterintelligence chief, is charged with money laundering and other counts connected to oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

FBI logoThe former head of FBI counterintelligence in New York has been charged in two separate indictments that accuse him of taking secret cash payments of more than $225,000 while overseeing highly sensitive cases, and allegedly breaking the law by trying to get Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, left, removed from a U.S. sanctions list, officials said Monday.

Charles McGonigal, 54, who retired from the FBI in September 2018, was indicted in federal court in Manhattan on money laundering, violating U.S. sanctions and other charges in connection to his alleged ties to Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his role at the FBI, McGonigal had been tasked with investigating Deripaska, whose own indictment on sanctions-violation charges was unsealed in September.

Separately, McGonigal was accused in a nine-count indictment in federal court in Washington of hiding his receipt of $225,000 from a former Albanian intelligence agent living in New Jersey. McGonigal was also accused of hiding foreign travel and contacts with senior leaders in countries including Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia where the former Albanian agent had business interests.

McGonigal’s alleged involvement with Deripaska may impact a significant push by the Justice Department to hit wealthy Russians with economic sanctions for conducting business in the United States, an effort that accelerated last year with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The twin indictments are also a black eye for the FBI, alleging that one of its most senior and trusted intelligence officials was taking secret cash payments and undermining the bureau’s overall intelligence-gathering mission.

Through his lawyer, McGonigal pleaded not guilty at a brief court appearance Monday. The lawyer, Seth DuCharme, told journalists that his client "served the United States for decades in positions of public trust and leadership, so this is a distressing day for him, but we’re going to litigate the case in the courtroom.”

Prosecutors alleged that from at least August 2017 and beyond his retirement from the FBI, McGonigal failed to disclose to the FBI his relationship with the former Albanian security official, described as “Person A” in charging papers. He also allegedly failed to disclose that he had an “ongoing relationship with the Prime Minister of Albania,” the indictment said. Since 2013, Edi Rama has served as the prime minister of that country.

In late 2017, authorities charge, McGonigal received packages of cash totaling $225,000 from Person A — the first time, in a parked car outside a New York City restaurant, the next two times at the person’s New Jersey home. According to the indictment, McGonigal “indicated to Person A that the money would be paid back.”

Months later, at McGonigal’s urging, the FBI opened an investigation into an American lobbyist for an Albanian political party that is a rival of Prime Minister Rama, an investigation that used Person A as a source of information, authorities said.

Current and former U.S. officials who know and have worked with McGonigal said they were shocked by the indictments. As a senior FBI counterintelligence official, McGonigal had access to an extraordinary amount of sensitive information, potentially including investigations of foreign spies or U.S. citizens suspected of working on behalf of foreign governments, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the work McGonigal did. One former official said that McGonigal had worked with the CIA on counterintelligence matters.

Jan. 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: NATO Is Holding Strong on Ukraine, but Fractures Are Emerging, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, Jan. 21, 2023 (print ed.). The allies differ on strategy for the coming year and the more immediate question of what Ukraine needs before major offensives in the spring.

The billions of dollars in new arms for Ukraine announced this month — including British tanks, American fighting vehicles and howitzers from Denmark and Sweden — are testament to President Vladimir V. Putin’s failure to split the NATO allies after nearly a year of war. But small yet significant fractures are getting too big to hide.

The differences are over strategy for the coming year and the more immediate question of what Ukraine needs in the next few months, as both sides in the war prepare for major offensives in the spring. And while most of those debates take place behind closed doors, Britain’s impatience with the current pace of aid and Germany’s refusal to provide Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine broke out into public view this week.

When the new British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, visited Washington this week, he gathered reporters for lunch and made the case that it is possible for Ukraine to score a “victory” in the war this year if the allies move fast to exploit Russia’s weaknesses. Officials in Poland, the Baltic States and Finland have largely agreed with the British assessment.

American officials pushed back, saying it is critical to pace the aid, and not flood Ukraine with equipment its troops cannot yet operate. And they argue that in a world of limited resources, it would be wise to keep something in reserve for what the Pentagon believes will likely be a drawn-out conflict, in which Russia will try to wear Ukraine down with relentless barrages and tactics reminiscent of World War I and II.

Jan. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Ukraine sees ‘year of victory,’ but Russia has other plans, Liz Sly, Jan.10, 2023 (print ed.). If 2023 continues as it began, there is a good chance Ukraine will be able to fulfill President Volodymyr Zelensky’s New Year’s pledge to retake all of the nation by the end of the year.

With upgraded weaponry on the way, Western resolve holding firm, and the Ukrainian army continuing to outmaneuver and outwit Russia’s flailing military, Ukraine’s promised “year of victory” is off to a good start.
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If 2023 continues as it began, there is a good chance Ukraine will be able to fulfill President Volodymyr Zelensky’s New Year’s pledge to retake all of Ukraine by the end of the year — or at least enough territory to definitively end Russia’s threat, Western officials and analysts say.

But while Zelensky was rallying Ukrainians to expect victory this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin used his New Year’s speeches to prepare Russians for a drawn-out fight. Russian troops are digging into fortified defensive positions reinforced by at least 100,000 newly mobilized soldiers, and though it seems unlikely that Russia can seize more territory anytime soon, it will also be tougher for Ukraine to make advances in 2023 than it was last year, despite momentum from recent victories, military experts say.

Jan. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Fear Still Remains’: Ukraine Finds Sexual Crimes Where Russian Troops Ruled, Carlotta Gall, Photographs by Laura Boushnak, Jan. 5, 2023 (print ed.). Investigators have uncovered evidence of abuse, including rape and forced nudity. Kremlin officials have denied accusations of rights violations.

On her eighth or ninth day in Russian detention, Olha, a 26-year-old Ukrainian, was tied to a table, naked to the waist. For 15 minutes, her interrogator leveled obscenities at her, then threw a jacket over her and let seven other men into the room.

“It was to frighten,” she remembered. “I did not know what would come next.”

Sitting in Olha’s cramped kitchen weeks later in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, Anna Sosonska, an investigator with the prosecutor general’s office, listened to her recount the ordeal — an account of forced nudity that, prosecutors say, added to an accumulation of evidence that Russian forces had used sexual crimes as a weapon of war in the places they once ruled.

“We are finding this problem of sexual violence in every place that Russia occupied,” said Ms. Sosonska, 33. “Every place: Kyiv region, Chernihiv region, Kharkiv region, Donetsk region and also here in Kherson region.”

ny times logoNew York Times, France has pledged to send Ukraine armored combat vehicles, Aurelien Breeden, Jan. 5, 2023 (print ed.). France has promised to send Ukraine armored combat vehicles and President Biden said the United States is weighing supplying Bradley Fighting Vehicles, signs that Ukraine’s allies are expanding support for Kyiv’s war effort against Russia.

President Emmanuel Macron pledged to provide AMX-10 RC armored vehicles in a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, the French presidency said.

Mr. Macron’s office did not specify how many of the vehicles would be delivered or when. The vehicles, which have a cannon like a tank but move on tires instead of tracks, are usually used for armed reconnaissance.

Also on Wednesday, Mr. Biden confirmed, in response to a reporter’s question, that the United States was considering sending Bradley vehicles, which would broaden the array of weapons being provided to Ukraine. Last month, he agreed to supply Kyiv with the U.S.’s most advanced ground-based air defense system, the Patriot.

The Ukrainians have asked allies for more advanced weapons they say will be critical for their fight against Russia, some of which the United States or Europe have been reluctant to provide for fear of escalation. Even so, the types of weapons allies have been willing to send Ukraine has expanded as the war has stretched on and Russian aggression has intensified.

Mr. Zelensky reiterated his request for more advanced arms in his nightly address Wednesday.

“We must put an end to the Russian aggression this year exactly and not postpone any of the defensive capabilities that can speed up the defeat of the terrorist state,” he said. “Modern Western armored vehicles, Western-type tanks are just one of these key capabilities.”

Mr. Zelensky thanked Mr. Macron on Twitter for the pledge, and he said the two leaders had also agreed “on further cooperation to significantly strengthen Ukrainian air defense and other defense capabilities.”

“Thank you friend!” Mr. Zelensky said in a Twitter post after the call. “Your leadership brings our victory closer.”

France has already delivered armored personnel carriers to Ukraine, as well as rocket launchers, air defense missile systems, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and at least 18 Caesar howitzers.

Several of Ukraine’s allies have pledged or delivered armored personnel carriers or armored vehicles with offensive capabilities, including German and British antiaircraft vehicles and Soviet-designed tanks from Eastern European countries like Poland.

But Ukraine is also seeking heavier fighting vehicles that its allies have hesitated to provide. Germany, for instance, remains locked in debate about whether to send Leopard 2 battle tanks.

Still, the AMX-10 RC — which the French presidency said was the first “Western-designed” armored vehicle pledged to Ukraine — could provide new capabilities to Ukrainian forces battling the Russian Army.

The AMX-10 RC is manned by four people and is a “powerfully armed armored reconnaissance vehicle with very good road and cross-country mobility” that is also “protected against light infantry weapons,” according to the French Army’s website.

Manufactured by Nexter, a French company, the AMX-10 RC weighs 20 tons, moves around with six wheels — not tracks — and is equipped with a 105-millimeter cannon and two 7.62-millimeter machine guns. The French Army has been using the vehicles since the 1980s, but started replacing them with a newer model in 2020.

Mr. Macron has in the past come under fire from some allies, especially in Eastern Europe, for comments on Russia’s inclusion in a new “stability order” in Europe, and for his insistence on not antagonizing Russia and keeping diplomatic channels open with President Vladimir V. Putin. But Mr. Macron has also expressed unequivocal support for a Ukrainian victory in the war.

Jan. 4

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Struggles to Replenish Missile Stocks, Ukraine Says, Victoria Kim, Jan. 4, 2023. Moscow has enough missiles for “two to three” more large strikes and is rushing newly produced munitions into service, a Ukrainian official said.

Russia is struggling to replenish its stockpiles of missiles but still has enough for more large-scale strikes and is rushing new munitions from the production line into use in the war, a senior Ukrainian intelligence official said in an interview published on Wednesday.

The official, Gen. Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy intelligence chief, also said that Russia was compensating for its lack of missiles by increasing its use of drones, including those made by Iran, to strike Ukrainian infrastructure, according to comments published by the news outlet RBC-Ukraine.

Russia’s strikes over the weekend could signal a new tactic of using a smaller number of high-precision missiles, especially in frontline areas, followed hours later by volleys of exploding drones, General Skibitsky said. “They will combine means to maintain the pace of strikes on our civilian infrastructure facilities,” he added.

General Skibitsky said that Russia was straining to produce enough long-range missiles to launch precision strikes, an account that generally matches public statements from American and British military officials, as well as from independent military analysts. The strikes that Moscow launched on Dec. 31 included 20 cruise missiles, General Skibitsky said, compared with the 70 or more missiles it used in mass strikes beginning in October.

Moscow is able to produce about 30 X-101 cruise missiles and about 15 to 20 sea-based Kalibr cruise missiles per month, the general noted. Given its current stockpiles, he said, Russia has enough missiles for “two to three” major barrages of 80 missiles or more. His estimates could not be independently confirmed, though they roughly match those that he gave to The New York Times in an interview last month.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Putin Prepares Russians for a Long Fight Ahead, Anton Troianovski and Anatoly Kurmanaev, Jan. 4, 2023 (print ed.). As the anniversary of Russia’s invasion looms next month, President Vladimir Putin has dropped the pretense that life goes on as normal despite the war.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian commanders blamed for heavy losses in New Year’s Day strike, Mary Ilyushina, Jan. 4, 2023 (print ed.). They were under pressure to explain why ammo was stored in a building used as a barracks.

The deaths of scores of Russian troops in a devastating strike on New Year’s Day has set off a blame game among Russian officials now facing criticism for allegedly packing hundreds of soldiers into a barracks and storing ammunition in the same building — all within Ukrainian firing range.
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In a rare admission of heavy losses, the Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that 89 soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel, died after Ukrainian forces hit their garrison in a missile strike.

In a statement, the ministry blamed the attack in part on the “massive use ... by personnel of mobile phones.” The signals alerted the Ukrainians to the garrison’s location, the statement said, adding that a commission is working to investigate the incident.

But war commentators and ordinary Russians cast the casualty estimate as a gross undercount, and some said the true death toll numbered in the hundreds. Even if understated, the public acknowledgment of the precision Ukrainian attack set off the most public outpouring of grief over fallen soldiers in the more than 10 months since the start of Russia’s invasion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Moscow blames Russian soldiers’ cellphone use for deadly Donetsk strike, Kelsey Ables and Leo Sands, Jan. 4, 2023. The fallout from a deadly attack in the occupied city of Makiivka region has led to finger-pointing by Russian officials.

The fallout from an attack in the occupied city of Makiivka in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, which killed dozens of Russian service members, has led to finger-pointing by Moscow’s officials. The Russian Defense Ministry said the strike was a result of illicit cellphone use among its soldiers, in what some observers see as an attempt to shift culpability from Moscow.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will hold a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told Turkish news agency NTV. Afterward, Erdogan will speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Kalin said.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Russia’s Defense Ministry blamed on-site cellphone communication in a Makiivka building for the deadly strike, as it allowed Ukrainian forces to locate the target. “It is already obvious that the main reason, despite the restriction, was turning on and massive use of mobile phones by the personnel within the range area of enemy firepower,” Kremlin officials said in an explanation of the attack posted to Telegram.
    The ministry also raised the Russian death toll to 89 in its early Wednesday statement, a rare acknowledgment of a significant loss. Ukraine did not directly confirm its involvement in the attack but claimed that at least 400 Russian soldiers were killed in the strike. The Washington Post could not independently verify the figures.
  • Since the attack, Russian military leaders have faced scrutiny for squeezing soldiers into high-density barracks in the same buildings used to store ammunition. Igor Girkin, a former Russian paramilitary commander in Ukraine, wrote on Telegram that he “was warned that this could happen again at any moment since this is not the only such extremely dense deployment of personnel and equipment within HIMARS range,” The Post reported. Russia says Ukraine targeted the building with rockets using U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, though neither Ukrainian nor U.S. officials have confirmed it.
  • Turkey will “continue to maintain this intense diplomacy with both sides” in the Russia-Ukraine war, Kalin said in announcing Erdogan’s plan to speak with Putin and Zelensky on Wednesday. The NATO country has walked a fine line during the war, attempting to maintain its close relationship with Ukraine while still relying on Russian natural gas and imports. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Putin’s call with Erdogan.

2. Battleground updates

  • Careless Russian military practices may have contributed to the high death toll following the Makiivka strike, Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Twitter. “There is a realistic possibility that ammunition was being stored near to troop accommodation, which detonated during the strike creating secondary explosions,” the ministry’s intelligence analysts said. “The Russian military has a record of unsafe ammunition storage from well before the current war,” they added.
  • Military strikes will reach “deeper and deeper” within Russia, Ukraine’s head of military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, told ABC News. But he refused to say whether Ukraine was behind any of the attacks, until the war is over.
  • Zelensky warned of an impending Russian offensive without specifying locations and said Moscow was “on the eve of new mobilization processes.” In his nightly address, the president said Russian forces were throwing everything they have left at Ukraine to turn the tide of the war. In a separate Facebook post, Ukraine’s armed forces warned that the town of Bakhmut, in eastern Donetsk, is a top target for Russian forces.
  • Russian forces targeted an ice hockey arena in a rocket attack in Donetsk, the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine said on Telegram. “People played sports there, celebrated and just enjoyed life,” Zelensky said in his nightly speech, referencing the strike. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, called on Russian athletes to be excluded from global sports competitions — and invited anyone who disagreed with him to visit the arena.

3. Global impact

  • The United States has had direct conversations with Russian officials about Paul Whelan, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a news briefing Tuesday. He was responding to a question about efforts to free Whelan since the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner. Whelan, who the U.S. government has determined was “wrongfully detained,” has been held in Russia for four years on charges of espionage.
  • Zelensky had calls with several international leaders on Tuesday, including the prime ministers of the Netherlands, Britain, Norway and Canada. “Every day, I will continue such diplomatic activity — both formal and informal, both public and nonpublic,” he said in his nightly address, thanking the leaders for their commitment to supporting Ukraine.
  • Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s military chief, spoke on the phone Tuesday with Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. They discussed the tensions in border regions and the intense fighting in Bakhmut, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine wrote on Facebook. Zaluzhny also outlined Ukraine’s defense needs as it continues its fight against Russia in the new year.

Jan. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Anger in Russia over Donetsk strike; Zelensky says Russia planning drone campaign, Andrew Jeong and Annabelle Timsit, Jan. 3, 2023. Russian outrage is growing after officials said a Ukrainian strike in Donetsk killed 63 service members. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Moscow is seeking to exhaust Ukraine.

A Ukrainian strike in its eastern Donetsk region that killed at least dozens of Russian service members has sparked a wave of criticism of Russia’s military leadership. Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the attack in the occupied city of Makiivka, though it said a building housing Russian troops was destroyed. Russian officials acknowledged the attack, but the two sides disagreed on the number of casualties.
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Russia is preparing a prolonged air campaign using Iranian-made drones in an effort to exhaust the Ukrainian people, President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Monday. “We will do everything” for this campaign to fail, he said.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Russia’s Defense Ministry said 63 service members were killed in the strike in Donetsk shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day. Ukraine’s armed forces said at least 400 Russian soldiers were killed and hundreds more injured. In addition, “military equipment of various types” was destroyed or damaged, Ukraine said. Russian officials said Ukrainian troops carried out the attack with U.S.-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). The Washington Post could not independently verify the accounts.
  • Moscow’s acknowledgment of the attack has “generated criticism towards the Russian military command,” the Institute for the Study of War think tank reported. Russian military bloggers have questioned why a large group of service members was apparently stationed in one location. They also criticized claims from Kremlin-backed officials that some soldiers inside the building were using their cellphones, which allowed Ukrainian forces to locate them more easily. Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of Russia’s Vostok Battalion, said that while “what happened cannot be changed,” if it were to happen again, “those whose inaction leads to such consequences” should be punished.
  • The relatively warm and sunny winter weather in Ukraine has led to reduced daytime demand on the country’s beleaguered electricity grid, the national energy company said Tuesday. But Ukrenergo said it expected demand to rise again overnight and would introduce some consumption limits to prevent the grid from becoming overwhelmed.
  • Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s Office said at least 452 children have been killed and 876 injured during the war. The number is in line with figures previously released by international institutions but is probably an underestimate because reliable casualty figures are difficult to obtain in conflict zones. Ukrainian prosecutors said more than 3,000 educational institutions have been damaged in the fighting, over 300 of which were destroyed.

2. Battleground updates

  • Pro-Russian forces have probably increased the pace of infantry assaults against Ukrainian positions near Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city at the center of the heaviest fighting in recent weeks, the British Defense Ministry said.
  • ukraine flagThe governor of Kherson said Russian forces attacked the region dozens of times on Monday. Yaroslav Yanushevych said on Telegram that multiple locations were struck in the region, which Moscow illegally claimed to annex in September. Two people were killed and nine injured in the strikes, he said. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said its forces attacked Russian military positions in Kherson over the weekend, causing casualties among service members and damage to equipment. Russia’s Defense Ministry did not acknowledge the strikes. The Post could not independently verify the claims.
  • More than 80 Iranian-made drones have been shot down in Ukraine so far in 2023, Zelensky said in his nightly address Monday. Ukraine and the West have repeatedly accused Iran of supplying unmanned aerial vehicles to Russia for use in the war. Tehran has denied those claims.
  • More than 20,000 Ukrainian troops participated in trainings in partner countries in 2022, according to figures released by Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the most senior uniformed official in the Ukrainian military. Ukrainian personnel are being trained in 17 European countries, he said.

3. Global impact

  • Some NATO member states want to strengthen the alliance’s defense spending amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Germany’s DPA news agency, according to Reuters. Stoltenberg said that “some allies are strongly in favour of turning the current 2% target into a minimum” and that he hoped to reach an internal agreement by July, when NATO members will meet in Lithuania for a summit, DPA reported.
  • Zelensky’s office said he urged the European Union to provide 3 billion euros, or $3.2 billion, to Ukraine this month during his Monday conversation with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. That financial aid would be the first tranche of a package worth $19 billion, according to Zelensky’s office. Zelensky and von der Leyen will convene for a summit next month in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

 

December

Dec. 29

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Inside the Ukrainian counteroffensive that shocked Putin and reshaped the war, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Paul Sonne, Serhiy Morgunov and Kamila Hrabchuk, Dec. 29, 2022. First, a lightning sweep across Kharkiv. Then, a slower grind into Kherson. In two months of stunning gains, Ukraine’s military redrew the battlefield map and proved it can fight to win.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: ‘Massive missile attack’ as strikes reported in Kyiv, across country, David L. Stern, Ellen Francis, Kelsey Ables and Isabelle Khurshudy, Dec. 29, 2022. Explosions rocked cities across Ukraine early Thursday morning, as Russia continued its unrelenting pummeling of the country’s energy infrastructure, launching dozens of missiles and hospitalizing at least three people in the capital, Ukrainian officials said.

Air raid sirens sounded out across Ukraine at 6 a.m. Washington Post journalists heard the first of several explosions in Kyiv a little over an hour later. Local officials in Odessa in the south, Kharkiv in the east, Lviv in the west and other regions reported missile attacks on social media. It was not immediately clear whether the sounds of blasts were from strikes or air defenses.

“The enemy attacks Ukraine from various directions with air and sea-based cruise missiles from strategic aircraft and ships,” Ukraine’s Air Force said in a statement on Telegram, calling it a “massive missile attack.”

Moscow has pounded Ukraine’s infrastructure since early October, in an effort to leave the country without light, heat and water during the freezing winter months and weaken the Ukrainians’ resolve to continue the war effort — a strategy that so far seems to have failed considerably.

It was the first major missile attack in about two weeks — and just days before the New Year’s holidays. Russian forces also launched an assault of self-destructing drones on Ukrainian energy facilities last week.

Ukraine’s military said that some 69 missiles had been fired, of which 54 were intercepted by the country’s air defense systems. The Washington Post could not independently verify any of the figures cited by Ukrainian officials.

vitali klitschko aris messinis afp via gettyKyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, shown at right in an AFP file photo via Getty Images, said on his Telegram channel that Ukrainian air defense forces had shot down 16 Russian missiles in the capital, while Odessa Gov. Maksym Marchenko said 21 missiles had been destroyed in his region.

But the missiles also caused extensive damage and injuries. Klitschko said that missile fragments struck a residential home, and three people, including a 14-year-old girl, had been injured in the capital. After the attack, 40 percent of Kyiv residents were without power, Klitschko said, though heat and water were continuing “as usual.”

Dec. 26

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s foreign minister proposed a peace summit by the end of February, Carly Olson, Dec. 26, 2022. Ukraine’s foreign minister said on Monday that his government hopes to have a peace summit by the end of February, about one year after Russia invaded Ukraine.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said that the United Nations could host the summit, with Secretary General António Guterres acting as the possible mediator.

“Every war ends in a diplomatic way,” Mr. Kuleba said in the interview. “Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”

Mr. Kuleba said that Russia would need to face prosecution for war crimes at an international court to attend the summit.

Mr. Kuleba added that he was “absolutely satisfied” with President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the United States last week and that the Patriot missile battery would be operational in Ukraine within six months.

Although Ukrainian officials have proposed a peace deal for months, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Monday that he was willing to negotiate, American and European officials have said that it is difficult to envision terms of a settlement that both Ukraine and Russia would accept.

Earlier this month, Mr. Zelensky discussed his vision for a global peace summit in a call with President Biden. And in November, at the annual Group of 20 summit in Bali, Mr. Zelensky spoke about his “path to peace” to end the war, noting that Ukraine would not compromise on its stance until its territory was reinstated.

Also on Monday, Ukraine’s foreign ministry demanded that Russia be removed as one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and called for the country’s expulsion from the United Nations, a move considered unlikely.

The foreign ministry said that Russia illegally took over the Soviet Union’s seat without going through necessary procedures outlined in the U.N. charter when the union broke up in 1991. It also argued that Russia has abused its veto powers on the Security Council.

Russia should be readmitted only once it “fulfills the conditions for membership in the Organization,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Dec. 25

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukrainians struggle to find, reclaim children taken by Russia, Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova, Dec. 25, 2022. While Ukrainians face daunting logistical barriers to recover children taken to Russia, Vladimir Putin issued a decree last May making it quick and easy for Russians to adopt Ukrainian children.

Oleksandr has not seen his mother since Russian soldiers captured the pair in Mariupol, in southern Ukraine, in April and took her away. At 12, he escaped adoption into a Russian family only because he remembered his grandmother’s phone number and called her to come and save him.
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Russia’s proxy social welfare officials in occupied Ukraine discouraged her, warning of heavy fighting.

“They said that they would send him to an orphanage or they would find a family in Russia,” said his grandmother, Lyudmila, of Ichnya, in Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region. “I told them, ‘I’ll risk my life. I’ll come and pick him up.’ I was pleading with them not to send him to Russia.

“They told me, ‘It’s going to be very hard, and the paperwork is awful.’ I said I didn’t care,” Lyudmila said. The Washington Post is identifying her and Oleksandr by first names only to protect them from reprisal.

While Ukrainians face daunting logistical barriers to recover children taken to Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree last May making it quick and easy for Russians to adopt Ukrainian children.
Lyudmila, who lives in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine, had to beg Russian-designated child welfare officials in Donetsk, in occupied Ukraine, not to send her grandson Oleksander to Russia for adoption, after he was separated from his family by war. (Family photo)

The policy is vigorously pursued by Putin’s children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, who openly advocates stripping children of their Ukrainian identities and teaching them to love Russia. Last spring, Lvova-Belova personally adopted a Ukrainian boy — an orphan who had been evacuated from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which was under heavy bombing by Russia, first to Donetsk and then to a sanitorium near Moscow. Lvova-Belova has also spoken publicly about her efforts to change his views.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Russia bombs Ukraine’s infrastructure, its own services crumble, Francesca Ebel, Dec. 25, 2022. As Russia has launched relentless strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, leaving millions without electricity, water and heat, towns across Russia have been beset by their own, utility-related disasters.

A huge gas pipeline explosion outside St. Petersburg last month, major fires in two separate Moscow shopping malls allegedly caused by dodgy welding, and faulty power grids that have left tens of thousands without heat and electricity are just some of the incidents reported since Russia’s efforts to obliterate Ukraine’s infrastructure that began in October.

In late October, two sewer pipes burst in the southern city of Volgograd, flooding several streets with feces and waste water, and leaving 200,000 of the 1 million residents without water or heating for several days.

Ilya Kravchenko, a local lawmaker who collected testimony from more than 1,000 victims of the incident and filed a lawsuit against the corporation that owns the sewer system, said the sight was “not pretty.”

“This is the worst year on record. The city has never had so many problems,” Kravchenko said.

A few weeks later, a similar, though less drastic sewage problem in the town of Pervouralsk, a small city west of Yekaterinburg, provoked residents to drag buckets of fecal water to the offices of the local water council in protest, claiming authorities had neglected the problem for years.

Putin declares ‘war’ – aloud – forsaking his special euphemistic operation

While disasters now raise suspicions of sabotage linked to the war in Ukraine, poorly maintained infrastructure is a long-standing and persistent problem in Russia — the result of old Soviet-era systems in need of repair and costly maintenance, decades of endemic corruption, and the government’s prioritization of defense and security budgets, as well as the development of major cities over regional towns.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the monumental, stop-start effort to arm Ukraine, Karen DeYoung, Dan Lamothe and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Dec. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The U.S. supply of weapons has never been enough for Kyiv. But for Washington and the Pentagon, there are broader concerns.

The constant tempo has evolved from choppy beginnings into precision choreography in the 10 months since Russia’s Ukraine invasion. Similar scenes are being repeated at bases and seaports up and down the East Coast as U.S. commitments surpass $20 billion in military support for a war in which the United States, at least officially, is not a participant.

“It’s all a steady flow on purpose,” Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Mitcham said this fall as he supervised the activity in Dover. “You just understand that you’re at the mercy of what the mission needs.”
Cargo of ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine wait on a tarmac at Dover Air Force Base. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

Both the mission and its needs have undergone a radical transformation since Russia’s full-scale invasion in late February, when the Biden administration provided minimal support for vastly outnumbered Ukrainian defenders. Since then, Washington has dug ever-deeper into its own arsenal and treasury to supply Kyiv with massive quantities of arms.

This week, the administration marked the historic visit to Washington by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by announcing the transfer of a Patriot missile battery, the most sophisticated air defense system in the U.S. arsenal.

But the initial war supply operation clearly wasn’t built for the long haul. As the grueling conflict continues with no end in sight, it has exposed flaws in U.S. strategic planning for its own future battles, and revealed significant gaps in the American and NATO defense industrial base. Stocks of many key weapons and munitions are near exhaustion, and wait times for new production of missiles stretches for months and, in some cases, years.

In interviews over the last several months, more than two dozen senior U.S., European and Ukrainian government and military officials and experts, some speaking on the condition of anonymity about the strategically and diplomatically sensitive effort, revealed new details about how a U.S.-led consortium of democracies has gone about keeping Ukraine afloat in the war.

Dec. 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Rising to a historic destiny, Zelensky embodies America’s values, David Von Drehle, right, Dec. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Zelensky is, like david von drehle twitterLincoln, an improbable protagonist in a vast and consequential drama. This former TV comedy star saved Ukrainian independence in February with a single decision. The Russians had invaded. Assassins were hunting for him. Escape was possible, but Zelensky would have had to leave immediately. A few months earlier, Afghanistan’s president faced the same choice, ran for his life, and the government fell within hours.

Zelensky stood fast. More than 300 days later, against all expectations, he and his nation are still standing.

This matters because the world cannot have peace unless Ukraine has peace. Historian Timothy Snyder has defined Ukraine and its Eastern European vicinity as the Bloodlands, the most violent frontier of the ghastliest era in human history. Its rich culture is macerated by violence, its past traumatized almost beyond belief. Zelensky is emblematic of this disputed territory: a native Russian speaker who is also a zealous patriot of Ukraine; a Jew nearly erased by the Holocaust; a grandson of farmers deliberately starved by Soviet communists. And the blazing eyes and determined enunciation with which he addressed a joint session of Congress put a face on his nation’s determination to put that history in the past and never again to be fodder for the appetites of distant tyrants.

In that moment when he decided to stand and fight, and to use his powers of communication to transmit that courage to his people and to the world, Zelensky drew a line across history. Either Ukraine will live, and the right of people to determine their futures under the rule of law will be vindicated, or Ukraine will die, and the triumphant principle will be that there is no law, only brute force.

washington post logoWashington Post, Using conscripts and prison inmates, Russia doubles its forces in Ukraine, Mary Ilyushina and Francesca Ebel, Dec. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Despite heavy combat losses over ten months of brutal war, Russia now has more than double the number of troops poised to fight in Ukraine as it did when it invaded in February, including thousands of convicts released from prison and conscripts from a controversial mobilization drive this fall.

According to a new U.S. assessment, the Wagner mercenary group, which fights alongside regular Russian troops in Ukraine, in recent months recruited 40,000 prisoners from all over the country into its ranks. Together, with 300,000 new conscripts and 20,000 volunteers, Russia’s force is now more than double the 150,000 initially allocated to what President Vladimir Putin termed a “special military operation.”

The larger Russian force, even after losing an estimated more than 25,000 killed in action and tens of thousands more wounded, backs up Putin’s oft-repeated pledge to press forward until his military objectives in Ukraine are met, even as military experts widely question the level of preparedness and morale among recent recruits.

The new numbers, laid out by U.S. national security spokesman John Kirby at a briefing on Thursday, generally match assessments by rights groups, including Russia Behind Bars, which has said that an unofficial recruitment of Russian prison inmates was conducted separately from “partial mobilization” ordered by Putin late September.

Dec. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Zelensky’s Task Was to Thank Congress, Then Ask for Much More, David E. Sanger, Dec. 22, 2022. For all of his talk of victory against Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky revealed hints about his worries for the year ahead in his remarks in Washington.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s carefully choreographed blitz of Washington was crafted as one part celebration of Russia’s failure to crush Ukraine, one part appreciation for the American taxpayers funding the battle, and one part sales pitch for keeping a fragile coalition together in the long, bloody and freezing winter ahead.

But between the lines were revealing hints of Mr. Zelensky’s worries about the year ahead.

For all the repeated talk of “victory,” and the comparisons of the current moment to the turning of World War II at the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Zelensky and his top military officials doubt that the Russian forces that invaded in February can be vanquished anytime soon. And the Ukrainian president surely knows his country’s remarkable resilience in the first year of the war could be threatened in the second, and the resolve of its saviors could begin to waver.

A Russian buildup of forces has many officials wondering if a humiliated President Vladimir V. Putin is plotting a new attack. And for the first time, there are hairline fractures — but not cracks — among some allies and partners, including a minority of Republicans who question whether America should be spending tens of billions for a nation that is not a treaty ally.

It was up to Mr. Zelensky to address all of that and make the case for more without actually reading out a shopping list. He did so in a speech that was carefully designed to appeal to many constituencies, one in which the Ukrainian president came off as grateful and yet gently demanding more. He wants Abrams tanks and F-16 fighters, layered air defenses and the Patriot missile system that President Biden announced would soon be on its way.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Aid Is ‘Not Charity,’ Zelensky Tells Congress as a Lengthy War Looms, Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Updated Dec. 22, 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky described military assistance for Ukraine as an investment in global security and democracy in the face of Russian aggression.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine delivered an emotional wartime appeal to a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday night, telling Americans that “your money is not charity” and vowing that his people would eventually secure an improbable victory against Russia on behalf of all free nations.

“Against all odds and doom-and-gloom scenarios, Ukraine did not fall,” Mr. Zelensky said in halting but forceful English from the dais in the House chamber, where he was greeted with extended applause from lawmakers.

“Ukraine is alive and kicking,” he said. “And it gives me good reason to share with you our first joint victory: We defeated Russia in the battle for minds of the world.”

In blunt terms, Mr. Zelensky pleaded for more military assistance from the lawmakers, who are poised to approve $45 billion in additional aid by the end of the week, bringing the total over a year to nearly $100 billion. His message: Your support has kept President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia from overrunning our country. Now keep it coming.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Unmasking the Russian Military Unit That Killed Dozens in Bucha, Yousur Al-Hlou, Masha Froliak, Dmitriy Khavin, Christoph Koettl, Haley Willis, Alexander Cardia, Natalie Reneau and Malachy Browne, Dec. 22, 2022 (video report). Exclusive evidence obtained in a monthslong investigation identified the Russian regiment, and commander, behind one of the worst atrocities in Ukraine.

The killings were not random acts of violence. Read our takeaways. We identified 36 of the Ukrainian victims. These were their final moments.

how the agency has become increasingly unable to crack down on wealthy taxpayers who push the legal limits to lower their tax bills and have the means to fend off audits if they get caught.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Buoyed by Hero’s Welcome for Zelensky in Washington, Andrew E. Kramer and Ivan Nechepurenko, Dec. 22, 2022. Ukrainians, many left in the dark and cold by airstrikes, drew solace from President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to Congress.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s unannounced trip to Washington on Wednesday buoyed morale back home in Ukraine, where millions have been plunged into darkness and cold from Russian missile strikes that have knocked out power as winter sets in.

After weeks of a stalemate along much of the front, some Ukrainians said on Thursday they had been cheered to see many members of Congress chant during Mr. Zelensky’s appearance a day earlier the patriotic refrain “Glory to heroes!”

The high-profile visit was greeted in Ukraine mostly with pride and hope that their president’s impassioned in-person appeals would keep American weapons and financial support flowing.

“Friends, everything will be fine, Ukraine will be fine, we will be given everything, we will be helped,” Valeriy Tryhub, a ski instructor, wrote in a post on Facebook.

ny times logoNew York Times, Zelensky’s Weapons Wish List Goes Mostly Unfulfilled on Trip to Washington, Eric Schmitt, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Julian E. Barnes, Dec. 22, 2022. The Biden administration continues to balk at sending U.S. battle tanks, fighter jets and long-range missiles to Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky’s triumphant visit to Washington ended with promises of billions more in U.S. support for Ukraine, but not what he wanted most: American battle tanks, fighter jets and long-range precision missiles.

The United States has repeatedly said there are weapons it will not send to Ukraine to battle Russia’s invading forces. But as the last 10 months of war have shown, the limits of U.S. support have shifted in Ukraine’s favor, and Mr. Zelensky may yet get what he wants.

After his daring 10-hour dash to the nation’s capital on Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky left with nearly $2 billion in new arms and equipment — as well as a likely commitment from Congress for nearly $50 billion in additional aid next year.

And while Mr. Zelensky did not get everything on his wish list, John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, said on Thursday that the United States was committed to providing the equipment that Ukraine needs, although he declined to provide specifics.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Zelensky Heads Home to Dire Situation After Hero’s Welcome in Washington, Andrew E. Kramer, Dec. 22, 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky was returning to Ukraine on Thursday after a high-profile visit to Washington that was greeted at home with mostly pride and hope that his impassioned, in-person appeals would keep American weapons and financial support flowing.

Amid the darkness and cold from Russian missile strikes that have knocked out power for millions of people as winter sets in — and after weeks of stalemate along much of the front line — the surprise presidential trip buoyed morale in Ukraine. Some Ukrainians said that they were cheered to see members of Congress chant during Mr. Zelensky’s appearance the patriotic greeting, “Glory to heroes!”

“Friends, everything will be fine, Ukraine will be fine, we will be given everything, we will be helped,” Valeriy Tryhub, a ski instructor, wrote in a post on Facebook.

Reached by telephone later, Mr. Tryhub said that he had stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to watch Mr. Zelensky’s address to a joint session of Congress, where the Ukrainian president received standing ovations and presented Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a Ukrainian flag that had been signed by soldiers.

“This is, without exaggeration, an historical event,” he said of Mr. Zelensky’s visit, his first trip abroad since Russia’s invasion in February.

Here’s what we know:

  • While the U.S. gave the Ukrainian leader a coveted missile battery, additional aid was tied up by a political squabble in Washington.
  • Zelensky’s U.S. trip lifts spirits during a cold winter for Ukraine.
  • In Russia, Zelensky’s visit to Washington provokes outrage and ridicule.
  • The Ukrainian leader sought to convey the reality of the war to Washington.
  • Belarus’s leader tries to play down suggestions that recent military moves were aimed at Ukraine.
  • Germany and France welcome Zelensky’s trip to Washington.

During a Dec. 21 address to a joint session Congress, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky presents to the people of the United States a Ukraine flag signed by the country's fighters he visited this week at the Ukraine-Russia war's hotest frontline battlefield of Bakmut, which has been pulverized fo. months by Russian attacks but resists strongly.

During a Dec. 21 address to a joint session Congress, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky presents to the people of the United States a Ukraine flag signed by the country's fighters he visited this week at the Ukraine-Russia war's hotest frontline battlefield of Bakmut, which has been pulverized fo. months by Russian attacks but resists strongly

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Is ‘Alive and Kicking,’ Zelensky Tells Congress, Ben Shpigel and Anushka Patil, Dec. 22, 2021 (print ed.). President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine capped his visit to Washington by asking Congress to approve nearly $50 billion in additional aid to his country. Swift passage would not only stop Russian influence in the region, but preserve democracy as a whole, he said.

Addressing a joint session of Congress, Mr. Zelensky spoke for roughly 25 minutes, mixing doses of humor with pleas for the future safety and stability of Ukraine. He delivered the speech in English, giving it more impact than if it had been translated from Ukrainian. 2m ago

President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Congress to continue to support Ukraine. “Your money is not charity,” he said. “It’s an investment.”

Mr. Zelensky delivered his remarks in English and closed with “Happy victorious New Year” — drawing loud cheers.

President Volodymyr Zelensky told Congress that the fight now raging for Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, could “change the trajectory of our war for independence and for freedom.”

That battle has turned into one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war, and as losses for both sides have mounted, Ukraine’s hold on the ravaged city has taken on a symbolism that outstrips its military significance. There are bumper stickers, artwork and T-shirts in shops across Ukraine with the slogan: “Bakhmut Holds.”

But in Washington on Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky emphasized that holding was not enough. “To ensure Bakhmut is not just a stronghold that holds back the Russian army, but for the Russian army to completely pull out, more cannons and shells are needed,” he said.

Before his trip to Washington to ask for that increased support, Mr. Zelensky made an unannounced visit on Tuesday to Bakhmut to rally the soldiers there. It was perhaps his most daring visit to the front lines since Russia invaded Ukraine, and a demonstration of defiance in the face of Moscow’s ceaseless assault against the ravaged eastern city.

Despite months of Russian bombardments and waves of assault by formations from the Wagner Group, an infamous paramilitary organization that has helped lead the Kremlin’s war effort in parts of Ukraine, the city has remained in Ukrainian control.

The Ukrainian forces holding Bakhmut are from a mix of units, including the 93rd Mechanized Brigade and the 58th Motorized Infantry Brigade, that have been worn down by the nonstop Russian assaults. Other units relocated from southern Ukraine have arrived in recent weeks to bolster the defense of the city.

While Russian forces are digging in and establishing more fortified defensive positions across much of the 600-mile front, they have continued to assault Bakhmut from multiple directions.

Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Bakhmut came as Ukrainian troops say they have pushed Russians out of some positions on the edge of the city, although the situation there is far from stable.

“Last year, 70,000 people lived here in Bakhmut, in this city, and now only a few civilians stay,” Mr. Zelensky told Congress. “Every inch of that land is soaked in blood, roaring guns sound every hour.”

He told Congress that the troops he met with in Bakhmut had given him a Ukrainian battle flag and asked that he bring it to Washington.

“Let this flag stay with you, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “This flag is a symbol of our victory in this war. We stand, we fight and we will win because we are united — Ukraine, America and the entire free world.”

“This is so important,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, speaking to reporters on the Hill. “The most important thing going on in the world is to beat the Russians in Ukraine. Fortunately they have a leader that everyone can look up to and admire. And also it’s nice to have something here at the end of the year that we all actually agree on.”

 

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was greeted by President Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the White House on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 (New York Times Photo by Tom Brenner).

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine arrived at the White House Wednesday for a show of solidarity with President Biden and a plea for continued support from his American allies as his country digs in for a long, cold winter of war. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was greeted by President Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the White House on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 (New York Times Photo by Tom Brenner).

ny times logoNew York Times, Beside Zelensky, Biden Vows Support for ‘as Long as It Takes,’ Staff Reports, Dec. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Biden’s Pledge Comes During Zelensky’s Defiant Visit to U.S.

nato logo flags name“I’ve never seen NATO or the E.U. more united about anything at all,” President Biden said about the U.S. and its allies’ support for Ukraine.

Mr. Biden and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine are holding a joint news conference. Watch live.Zelensky is flying back after he talks to Congress tonight. An exhausting trip? Or will his time on the U.S. plane, which has a cabin with a bed in it, be his most peaceful night of sleep in a while? I wonder.

ukraine flagThis is quite a scene. A foreign journalist asks Zelensky and Biden if Ukraine could receive all that it needed to drive Russia out of Ukraine. “His answer is yes,” Biden cut in. “I agree,” Zelensky says. There is laughter in the room, but this is serious talk about what is needed — and what can be given — on the battlefield.

The U.S. has been unwilling to give long-range ATACMS missiles because their range could reach deep into Russian territory, and they would most likely be seen by Moscow as an escalatory step. And if Kyiv used the missiles to strike Moscow, the White House fears Russia would expand the war to NATO.

American FlagLet’s face it, one Patriot battery is a drop in the pan compared to what is needed considering the volume of Russian airstrikes.

And not to mention, Zolan and Katie, that the United States has at least 50 of these things, if not more.

washington post logoWashington Post, A remarkable moment for two presidents, Toluse Olorunnipa, Dec. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainian leader briefly leaves his war-torn country to meet U.S. counterpart who has rallied nations on his behalf.

Capping a year in which they each faced long odds and defied gloomy predictions, the two men stood side by side at the White House on Wednesday — President Biden in a blue suit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an olive-green military shirt and heavy boots.

The stark sartorial contrast was one of the few differences on display as Biden and Zelensky praised one another and presented a united front during the Ukrainian leader’s visit to Washington, his first appearance abroad since Russia’s invasion. The visit underscored how the relationship between the two men — a 44-year-old born in what was then the U.S.S.R. and an octogenarian born in Scranton, Pa. — has unexpectedly become one of the most vital partnerships in global affairs.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine President Volodymyer Zelensky at the White House on Dec. 21, 2022.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine President Volodymyer Zelensky at the White House on Dec. 21, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid a show of unity, Zelensky and Biden differ on some war needs, Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan, Dec. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Behind the smiles and handshakes — and a new $1.85 billion military aid package — the Ukrainian president and his advisers continue to push Washington for advanced weaponry that Biden is reluctant to provide.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Ukraine Readies for Second Year at War, Prospect of Stalemate Looms, Julian E. Barnes, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, Dec. 22, 2021 (print ed.). American officials believe that with Russia bolstering defenses and learning lessons, Ukraine will find it more challenging to retake land.

As the war in Ukraine soon enters its second year, Ukrainian troops will find it much more challenging to reclaim territory from Russian forces who are focused on defending their remaining land gains rather than making a deeper push into the country, American officials say.

Over the course of the first 10 months of the war, the Ukrainian military has — with significant American support — outmaneuvered an incompetent Russian military, fought it to a standstill and then retaken hundreds of square miles and the only regional capital that Russia had captured.

Despite relentless Russian attacks on civilian power supplies, Ukraine has still kept up the momentum on the front lines since September. But the tide of the war is likely to change in the coming months, as Russia improves its defenses and pushes more soldiers to the front lines, making it more difficult for Ukraine to retake the huge swaths of territory it lost this year, according to U.S. government assessments.

All of these factors make the most likely scenario going into the second year of the war a stalemate in which neither army can take much land despite intense fighting.

Steady, Historical Commentary: Zelensky Speaks, Dan Rather, right, author and former CBS Evening News Anchor and Managing Editor, Dec. 22, 2022. A historic dan rather 2017address to Congress and the nation.

In the history of momentous occasions at the United States Congress, there has not been anything quite like what we witnessed tonight.

A man. A moment. A nation under siege. Freedom on one side. A ruthless autocracy on the other.

By now, we all know the general story of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — a former comedian who as his nation's leader has had the mantle of greatness thrust upon him. Through steadfast leadership and uncommon courage, against seemingly all odds, he has stared down a murderous tyrant, Russian President Vladimir Putin, on a bloody battlefield. It is not hyperbole to say that the future of freedom in Europe and beyond stands in the balance.

dan rather steady logoIn his speech tonight, Zelensky appealed to America, in the best of our own courageous traditions. He invoked the Battle of Saratoga, in which a plucky band of revolutionaries stood down the mighty British in our war for independence. And he spoke of the Battle of the Bulge, when U.S. forces countering the Nazis in World War II held the line during a brutal Christmas and New Year from 1944 to 1945. Zelensky's message was not subtle, but it was effective. The Ukrainians, like the Americans, are fighting for freedom against a mighty foe and at great sacrifice.

In making the case for Ukrainian resolve, Zelensky quoted from President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech on December 8, 1941, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the United States suddenly entered World War II. Roosevelt said that “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” Zelensky said the Ukrainians would do the same. The allusion to “absolute victory” was certainly not a coincidence when some are calling for the Ukrainians to accede to Russian demands.

Make no mistake, behind the fierce and often lofty rhetoric was a careful deployment of strategy. Zelensky wants the United States and other allies to not only maintain their support for the Ukrainian military, but in fact increase it. He said that Ukrainians could drive American tanks and fly American planes, although this country is not likely to provide that level of backing for fear of escalating to a larger regional conflict.

Zelensky needed to show his deep appreciation for the support he has received — and also suggest that this could and should be expanded. He spoke of urgent desperation with untold human suffering. Zelensky painted a compelling picture of Christmases by candlelight due to Russian attacks on Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure. And he spoke of millions of his fellow citizens living without heat or running water in the dark, cold days of winter. It was very effective at showing the depravity of Russian battle plans in their targeting of civilians.

It was heartening to see the rousing support Zelensky received by members of Congress, although there were some notable exceptions on the Republican side of the aisle. By and large, there has been bipartisan backing for Ukraine, but in a nation where everything is ultimately passed through the meat grinder of partisan politics, this cannot be assured.

washington post logoWashington Post, A remarkable moment for two presidents, Toluse Olorunnipa, Dec. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainian leader briefly leaves his war-torn country to meet U.S. counterpart who has rallied nations on his behalf.

Capping a year in which they each faced long odds and defied gloomy predictions, the two men stood side by side at the White House on Wednesday — President Biden in a blue suit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an olive-green military shirt and heavy boots.

The stark sartorial contrast was one of the few differences on display as Biden and Zelensky praised one another and presented a united front during the Ukrainian leader’s visit to Washington, his first appearance abroad since Russia’s invasion. The visit underscored how the relationship between the two men — a 44-year-old born in what was then the U.S.S.R. and an octogenarian born in Scranton, Pa. — has unexpectedly become one of the most vital partnerships in global affairs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid a show of unity, Zelensky and Biden differ on some war needs, Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan, Dec. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Behind the smiles and handshakes — and a new $1.85 billion military aid package — the Ukrainian president and his advisers continue to push Washington for advanced weaponry that Biden is reluctant to provide.

Dec. 21

 

 

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was greeted by President Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the White House on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 (New York Times Photo by Tom Brenner).

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine arrived at the White House Wednesday for a show of solidarity with President Biden and a plea for continued support from his American allies as his country digs in for a long, cold winter of war. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was greeted by President Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the White House on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 (New York Times Photo by Tom Brenner).

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Beside Zelensky, Biden Vows Support for ‘as Long as It Takes,’ Staff Reports, Dec. 21, 2022. Biden’s Pledge Comes During Zelensky’s Defiant Visit to U.S.

nato logo flags name“I’ve never seen NATO or the E.U. more united about anything at all,” President Biden said about the U.S. and its allies’ support for Ukraine.

Mr. Biden and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine are holding a joint news conference. Watch live.Zelensky is flying back after he talks to Congress tonight. An exhausting trip? Or will his time on the U.S. plane, which has a cabin with a bed in it, be his most peaceful night of sleep in a while? I wonder.

ukraine flagThis is quite a scene. A foreign journalist asks Zelensky and Biden if Ukraine could receive all that it needed to drive Russia out of Ukraine. “His answer is yes,” Biden cut in. “I agree,” Zelensky says. There is laughter in the room, but this is serious talk about what is needed — and what can be given — on the battlefield.

The U.S. has been unwilling to give long-range ATACMS missiles because their range could reach deep into Russian territory, and they would most likely be seen by Moscow as an escalatory step. And if Kyiv used the missiles to strike Moscow, the White House fears Russia would expand the war to NATO.

American FlagLet’s face it, one Patriot battery is a drop in the pan compared to what is needed considering the volume of Russian airstrikes.

And not to mention, Zolan and Katie, that the United States has at least 50 of these things, if not more.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Ukraine Readies for Second Year at War, Prospect of Stalemate Looms, Julian E. Barnes, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, Dec. 21, 2022. American officials believe that with Russia bolstering defenses and learning lessons, Ukraine will find it more challenging to retake land.

As the war in Ukraine soon enters its second year, Ukrainian troops will find it much more challenging to reclaim territory from Russian forces who are focused on defending their remaining land gains rather than making a deeper push into the country, American officials say.

Over the course of the first 10 months of the war, the Ukrainian military has — with significant American support — outmaneuvered an incompetent Russian military, fought it to a standstill and then retaken hundreds of square miles and the only regional capital that Russia had captured.

Despite relentless Russian attacks on civilian power supplies, Ukraine has still kept up the momentum on the front lines since September. But the tide of the war is likely to change in the coming months, as Russia improves its defenses and pushes more soldiers to the front lines, making it more difficult for Ukraine to retake the huge swaths of territory it lost this year, according to U.S. government assessments.

All of these factors make the most likely scenario going into the second year of the war a stalemate in which neither army can take much land despite intense fighting.

ny times logoNew York Times, Zelensky Will Meet With Biden in Washington and Address Congress, Officials Say, Michael D. Shear and Emily Cochrane Dec. 21, 2022. The visit with President Biden will be the first time President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has left his country since Russia invaded in February.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine will meet with President Biden at the White House on Wednesday and later deliver a prime-time address to a joint session of Congress, a daring trip abroad intended to reaffirm American support for his country, White House officials announced late Tuesday night.

ukraine flag“Three hundred days ago, Russia launched a brutal assault against Ukraine,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said in a statement confirming Mr. Zelensky’s trip to Washington. “The visit will underscore the United States’ steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes, including through the provision of economic, humanitarian and military assistance.”

Senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about Mr. Zelensky’s safety, said the risks involved in such a visit — with the wartime leader leaving his country for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine in February — were high, and that planning for his arrival had been conducted under intense secrecy.

Mr. Zelensky will arrive in the United States almost 10 months after President Vladimir V. Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine and as Congress considers approving nearly $50 billion in aid to help Ukraine’s forces battle Russia next year. That would bring the total amount of American aid to more than $100 billion.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukraine’s president is taking his plea to Congress amid a wave of Russian attacks, Andrew E. Kramer, Marc Santora and Andrés R. Martínez, Dec. 21, 2022. The Ukrainian leader was flying to Washington, a day after making a bold visit to the front line in the east. Ukrainian officials warned of more Russian attacks against the energy grid.

President Volodymyr Zelensky will land in Washington on Wednesday to meet with President Biden and deliver an evening address to a joint session of Congress, capping a remarkable two days that will take the Ukrainian leader from the most violent point on the eastern front line to a daring show of solidarity in the capital of his most powerful ally.

Mr. Zelensky’s first trip outside Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February comes at a pivotal point in the war, which is now being waged on two fronts: in the fields and forests of southern and eastern Ukraine, where the armies are squaring off, and in the skies over the country as Ukrainian forces try to shoot down Russian missiles and drones aimed at civilian infrastructure.

Russian FlagWith Ukraine having pushed back Russian forces in the northeast and south, the armies are digging in along a new, 600-mile front line, and Ukraine’s ability to regain more ground could depend on more weapons from allies, including the United States. Mr. Zelensky’s trip comes a day after congressional lawmakers proposed another $44 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine, which would bring the total American wartime assistance to more than $100 billion.

Both Mr. Zelensky and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia have sought to project resolve as the war approaches the 10-month mark, steeling their people for a long fight ahead. On Wednesday, Mr. Putin used an annual meeting of senior military leaders to praise Russian soldiers as “heroes” and repeated his vow that Russia’s goals in Ukraine will be achieved.

Here is what you need to know:

  • Mr. Zelensky was scheduled to arrive at the White House at around 2 p.m. Eastern time to meet with President Biden after a long trans-Atlantic flight. The two leaders are expected to hold a joint news conference beginning at 4:30 p.m.
  • Mr. Biden will announce on Wednesday $1.8 billion in immediate aid for Ukraine that includes the most advanced American ground-based air defense system, including a Patriot missile battery. Deliveries of new U.S. weapons will lead “to an aggravation of the conflict” and do “not bode well for Ukraine,” Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said on Wednesday.
  • Mr. Zelensky’s address to Congress, scheduled for 7:30 p.m., follows a speech he made virtually to American lawmakers in March, weeks into the war, when he invoked the attack on Pearl Harbor and urged the United States to do more to help his country.
  • On Tuesday, Mr. Zelensky made his boldest visit yet to the front line, meeting soldiers defending the eastern city of Bakhmut, which Russian forces have failed to seize despite months of unrelenting bombardment.
  • Ukraine’s prime minister has said that Russia wants to plunge Ukraine into total darkness during the winter holiday season, and warned the government to “prepare for new attacks.”
  • Schumer noted that Zelensky’s appearance before Congress comes as the Senate is poised to approve nearly $50 billion in additional military assistance to Ukraine. He also said the Senate would confirm President Biden’s pick for ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Extremist Russian nationalism triggers nationalism among non-Russian ethnicities, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and a former Navy intelligence officer, Dec. 21, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. In what stands as a classic cause and effect relationship, Vladimir Putin's championing of extreme Russian nationalism in concert with Russia's invasion of Ukraine has resulted in increasing nationalism among the non-Russian ethnic groups of the not-so-federal Russian Federation.

wayne madesen report logoThere is some evidence that an increase in nationalist fervor among some non-Russian groups has resulted in sabotage of key infrastructure elements such as pipelines, refineries, ammunition depots and other inviting targets in order to stymie Russia's war in Ukraine.

Few people outside of Ukraine and the Far East of Russia have ever heard of Green Ukraine or as it is known in Ukrainian, Zeleny Klyn. Located over 4,000 miles from Ukraine, Green Ukraine is located in a vast area between the Amur River and the Pacific Ocean in Siberia. In the late 1800s, the Czarist government of Russia, in seeking to populate the region, offered free land to anyone from European Russia willing to settle in what is now the Primorskiy Territory bordering North Korea and the Chinese province of Heilongjiang. This remote area of northeast Asia is the last place on Earth anyone would think there would be Ukrainians.

In January 1918, the Second All-Ukrainian Far Eastern Congress at Khabarovsk proclaimed Green Ukraine as part of the Ukrainian State even though it was 4000 miles away.

ny times logoNew York Times, The U.S. will give Ukraine Patriot missiles for the first time, Helene Cooper, Dec. 21, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden will announce on Wednesday an aid package for Ukraine that includes the most advanced U.S. ground-based air defense system, senior administration officials said, as part of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s expected visit to Washington.

The $1.8 billion aid package will include precision guided munitions for fighter jets, as well as other weapons. But most significantly, it will include, for the first time, a Patriot missile battery in answer to Ukraine’s urgent request to help defend against an onslaught of Russian missile and drone attacks, the officials said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III will send a Patriot battery that is already overseas to Ukraine, the officials said on the condition of anonymity to discuss the package before the announcement. The officials said Mr. Biden had approved the transfer in recent days.

The Patriot would be one of the most sophisticated weapons the United States has provided Ukraine. It can knock down Russia’s ballistic missiles, unlike other systems the West has provided, and can hit targets much farther away.

The package to be announced Wednesday will include about $1 billion in weapons from Defense Department stockpiles and an additional $800 million in funding through another government program, which provides money for training Ukrainian troops to use some of the weapons provided.

Dec. 20


A photo made available by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows President Volodymyr Zelensky in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Dec. 20, 2022.


A photo made available by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows President Volodymyr Zelensky in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Dec. 20, 2022.

ny times logoNew York Times, Zelensky visits the battleground city of Bakhmut, aiming to show Ukraine’s resolve, Marc Santora and Anton Troianovski, Dec. 20, 2022. In perhaps his most daring visit to the front lines since Russia invaded Ukraine 300 days ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to the ravaged city of Bakhmut on Tuesday morning to rally the soldiers there and demonstrate his defiance of Russia’s invasion. Despite months of Russian bombardments and waves of assaults, the city has remained in Ukrainian control.

His unannounced visit came only hours after President Vladimir V. Putin acknowledged that his war may not be going according to plan, saying the situation in Russian-held parts of Ukraine was “extremely difficult.”

The battle for Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, has turned into one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war. As losses for both sides have mounted, Ukraine’s hold on the ravaged city has taken on a symbolism that outstrips its military significance. There are bumper stickers, artwork and T-shirts in shops across Ukraine with the slogan: “Bakhmut Holds.”

Despite months of Russian bombardments and waves of assault by formations from the Wagner Group, an infamous paramilitary organization that has helped lead the Kremlin’s war effort in parts of Ukraine, the city has remained in Ukrainian control.

In Bakhmut, Mr. Zelensky saluted the courage of the soldiers fighting in grueling conditions.

“It seems to me that the Bakhmut heroes should get the same that every person gets,” Mr. Zelensky said, according to Freedom TV, a Ukrainian network that covered the trip. “I wish their children, families — that everything is fine with them, that they have warmth, that they have health.”

Mr. Zelensky has repeatedly spoken about that the “very difficult” situation in parts of Donbas, with the fighting around Bakhmut particularly vicious. He said in a recent address that Russian forces had “destroyed” Bakhmut, turning the city, once home to 70,000 people, into “burned ruins.”

On previous trips to the front, Mr. Zelensky went to raise Ukraine’s blue-and-gold flag after Russian occupation forces were driven out of cities including Izium in the northeast and Kherson in the southwest. Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Bakhmut came as Ukrainian troops say they have pushed Russians out of some positions on the edge of the city, although the situation there is far from stable.

The Ukrainian forces holding Bakhmut are from a mix of units, including the 93rd Mechanized Brigade and the 58th Motorized Infantry Brigade, that have been worn down by the nonstop Russian assaults. Other units relocated from southern Ukraine have arrived in recent weeks to bolster the defense of the city.

While Russian forces are digging in and establishing more fortified defensive positions across much of the 600-mile front, they have continued to assault Bakhmut from multiple directions. They have suffered heavy losses and there have been widespread reports of low morale and disorder in the Russian ranks, with convicts recruited to fight clashing with other units.

The British military defense intelligence agency said on Monday that Russian recruits in eastern Ukraine are “likely being threatened with summary execution” if they fail to heed orders to assault Ukrainian positions.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Vladimir Putin told Russia’s security agencies to intensify their efforts, Anton Troianovski and Carly Olson, Dec. 20, 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.

As President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia made a rare acknowledgment of military challenges in the war, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine highlighted Russia’s struggles on Tuesday by making a bold visit to a frontline city that Moscow has failed to capture despite months of withering bombardment.

Mr. Zelensky’s visit — to Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region — was announced by his office hours after Mr. Putin said that conditions for Russia were “extremely complicated” in that region and three others in eastern and southern Ukraine that Moscow has illegally tried to annex, but does not fully control.

But far from relenting in his war effort, Mr. Putin signaled that he would continue to fight in Ukraine and would seek to crack down more harshly at home and in the illegally annexed areas. In a transcript of a video address published early Tuesday by the Kremlin, the Russian leader called on his security agencies to intensify their efforts “to put a firm stop to the activities of foreign special services and to promptly identify traitors, spies and diversionists.”

The video was released on a holiday devoted to Russia’s security officials, and Mr. Putin used the occasion to highlight a “rapidly changing global situation and the emergence of new threats and challenges” to Russian security.

Russia claimed Ukraine’s Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions in September, after orchestrated referendums, a move widely denounced by Ukraine and its Western allies as a violation of international law. But Russia’s setbacks on the battlefield have continued. In November, Russian forces ceded control of the city of Kherson, the only regional capital they had captured in nearly 10 months of war. And they have failed to break through Ukrainian defenses in Bakhmut despite unrelenting bombardments and paramilitary assaults.

In the video address, Mr. Putin acknowledged the “difficult tasks” facing the Russian security agencies working in the annexed areas, which he referred to as “Russia’s new regions.” He framed the problem as one of ensuring the security, rights and freedoms of “Russian citizens,” as he claims the populations of those areas to be.

Mr. Putin charged the Russian authorities with strengthening their efforts, especially the border services of the F.S.B., the successor to the Soviet security agency, the K.G.B. “Maximum composure, concentration of forces is now required from counterintelligence agencies, including the military,” Mr. Putin said.

He said that the F.S.B. should ensure that places where citizens gather “should be under constant control,” along with “strategic facilities, transport and energy infrastructure,” and that Moscow would be sending additional equipment, weapons and “experienced personnel” to the annexed regions.
Image
In a photo distributed by Russian media, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia shakes hands with Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-installed head of the illegally annexed Donetsk region of Ukraine at the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday.
In a photo distributed by Russian media, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia shakes hands with Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-installed head of the illegally annexed Donetsk region of Ukraine at the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday.Credit...Valery Sharifulin/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Later, at a ceremony marking the Russian holiday, Mr. Putin awarded medals to some of the best-known hard-line figures in the war, yet another signal that Russia is set on continuing its invasion.

The honorees at the Kremlin included the Russian-imposed heads of the four Ukrainian regions that Russia illegally annexed. He also bestowed government honors on Semyon Pegov, a hawkish war blogger who was injured in Ukraine, and on Margarita Simonyan, the editor of one of the Kremlin’s main propaganda arms, the RT television network.

“Thank you for wresting our people out of the bloody mouths of these man-eaters, despite the pain and the blood,” Ms. Simonyan said at the ceremony. “And we will help you whack these man-eaters as much as you demand it from us.”

Mr. Putin said in a brief speech at the end of the ceremony that these were “difficult, unusual times.”

“When a country or even every person develops, moves forward, it always overcomes certain difficulties on this path,” he said. “But today, it’s indeed being accompanied by particular challenges.”

Here’s what we know:

  • On a day when the Russian president called on his security agencies to intensify their efforts in eastern and southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian leader visited Bakhmut, which Moscow has failed to capture.
  • Putin says the Russian authorities face an ‘extremely complicated’ situation in occupied areas.
  • Zelensky visits the battleground city of Bakhmut, aiming to show Ukraine’s resolve.
  • A battered Kyiv has power for only about a fifth of residents.
  • Inside a high-tech Ukrainian operation in the battle for Bakhmut.
  • The Pentagon says it has helped Ukraine thwart Russian cyberattacks.
  • The U.N. secretary general isn’t optimistic about peace talks in the near future, but maybe sometime in 2023.
  • Putin says the Russian authorities face an ‘extremely complicated’ situation in occupied areas.

ny times logoNew York Times, Surrender to a Drone? Ukraine Is Urging Russian Soldiers to Do Just That, Marc Santora, Dec. 20, 2022. Capitalizing on reports of low Russian morale, Ukraine has begun offering enemy troops detailed instructions on how to lay down their arms.

Tens of thousands of drones have been employed across Ukraine to kill the enemy, spy on its formations and guide bombs to their targets. But this month the Ukrainian military began a program to use drones in a more unusual role: to guide Russian soldiers who want to surrender.

The program had its genesis in late November, when the Ukrainian military released footage of a Russian soldier throwing his weapon to the ground, raising his hands and nervously following a path set out by a drone overhead, leading him to soldiers from the Ukrainian army’s 54th Mechanized Brigade.

A few weeks later, the Ukrainian General Staff released an instructional video explaining how Russian soldiers can surrender to a Ukrainian drone, and it is now part of a wide-ranging effort by Ukraine to persuade Russian soldiers to give up. The program, called “I want to live,” includes a phone hotline, a website and a Telegram channel all dedicated to communicating to Russian soldiers and their families.

  • New York Times, A Culture in the Cross Hairs, Dec. 20, 2022. Russia’s invasion has systematically destroyed Ukrainian cultural sites. A Times investigation identified 339 that sustained substantial damage this year.

Dec. 19

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Vladimir Putin Visits Belarus as Ukraine Warns of New Offensive, Andrew Higgins, Dec. 19, 2022. Mr. Putin is in Minsk for talks with his Belarusian counterpart. Ukraine has warned that Russian forces could be preparing a new offensive from there.

Under mounting Kremlin pressure to provide more support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus is hosting a rare visit by his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, on Monday.

alexander lukashenko resized 2019Mr. Lukashenko, left, Mr. Putin’s closest ally, relies on Moscow for finance, fuel and security assistance to maintain his 28-year grip on power. The two men have met at least six times since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, using Belarus as a staging ground for its abortive assault on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. But those meetings were all outside of Belarus, mostly in Russia.

After months holed up at the Kremlin and at his country retreat near Moscow, keeping a distance from Russia’s military and diplomatic setbacks, Mr. Putin has in recent weeks sought to project a more hands-on image. His trip on Monday to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, follows a visit last week to Kyrgyzstan and a visit on Friday to a Russian military command post at an undisclosed location.

Mr. Putin bounded down the steps of his aircraft in Minsk on Monday. Mr. Lukashenko was waiting there to greet him on the tarmac, and Mr. Putin gave him a hug. It was Mr. Putin’s first visit to Belarus since 2019, according to the Russian news agency Tass.

As Russia has floundered on the battlefield, Mr. Lukashenko has allowed Moscow to use his territory to launch missiles and bombing runs against Ukraine, but has so far resisted pressure from the Kremlin to send in his own troops. In remarks reported by the state news agency Belta, the Belarusian strongman insisted that his meeting with Mr. Putin on Monday would focus on economic matters, particularly the price of Russian natural gas, on which Belarus is heavily dependent.

But he conceded that “of course, we will not avoid” military issues and “we will talk about defense capability and the security of our state.”

The meeting follows repeated warnings from Ukraine in recent days that Russian forces could be preparing a new offensive from Belarus aimed either at making another effort to seize Kyiv, only around 55 miles from the Belarusian border, or at disrupting the flow of Western arms into Ukraine from Poland.

But many military experts believe that Russia’s military has been so badly battered by nearly 10 months of war that it is no condition to launch a new offensive from Belarus, with or without the participation of Belarusian troops.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group, said in a report published on Friday that a new Russian thrust into Ukraine was unlikely as “there are still no indicators that Russian forces are forming a strike force in Belarus.”

Defense ministers from Russia and Belarus signed an unspecified agreement earlier this month to strengthen military ties, and last week, Belarus said it was checking the combat readiness of its troops. The last time it did that was just days before Russia invaded Ukraine from its territory.

But the flurry of military activity in Belarus, including the arrival of thousands of Russian troops ostensibly for training, could be part of an elaborate ruse aimed at forcing Ukraine to divert its troops to the north from active fronts in the east and south of the country. Konrad Muzyka, an independent defense analyst, said open-source intelligence suggests that Russia has between 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers engaged in training activities in Belarus, although that is a fraction of the number they had when they launched the full-scale invasion.

Still, Mr. Putin’s meeting with Mr. Lukashenko, according to the Institute for the Study of War, “will reinforce the Russian information operation designed to convince Ukrainians and Westerners that Russia may attack Ukraine from Belarus.”

Whatever Russia’s ‌aims, alarm is growing in Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine held a meeting on Sunday with his defense and security chiefs where Belarus was “the main issue on the agenda,” his office said in a statement. Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Mr. Zelensky, told The New York Times on Sunday that Ukraine is bracing for the possibility that Russia will escalate the war by launching a winter offensive.

In an unusual public acknowledgment of the view that he is so beholden to Moscow that he can only submit to its demands, Mr. Lukashenko on Friday dismissed as untrue talk that “there is no power in Belarus anymore, that the Russians are already running everything” and insisted: “no one, except us, governs Belarus.”

Here’s what we know:

  • The Russian president is in Minsk for talks with his Belarusian counterpart. Ukraine has warned that Russian forces could be preparing a new offensive from Belarus.
  • Putin’s visit signals pressure is mounting on Belarus’s leader to expand support for Russia’s war.
  • Overnight drone attacks target Kyiv and two other regions of Ukraine.
  • Russia’s pre-dawn drone strikes are part of a pattern: attacking under the cover of darkness.
  • Families mourn in Kherson, where Russian attacks continue.
  • In a bomb shelter-turned-TV set, Ukraine selects its Eurovision contestant.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia attacks Kyiv overnight with swarm of self-detonating drones, David L. Stern, Dec. 19, 2022. An overnight Russian attack on Kyiv using drones signaled a sinister tactical shift, denying residents of the capital not only of heat, electricity and water but also of sleep.

Russia attacked Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities in the early hours of Monday with a horde of self-detonating drones — once again bombing critical infrastructure but with a sinister tactical shift that seemed intended to deprive Ukrainians not only of heat, electricity and water but also of sleep.

Air raid sirens rang out in Kyiv at 2 a.m., the shrill sound amplified by the emptiness of the capital’s streets during its overnight curfew.

Russia has been relentlessly bombing Ukrainian cities with missiles and drones since early October — including a heavy missile barrage Friday — seeking to destroy the country’s energy grid and leave citizens without urgent services in the frigid winter.

But Monday’s strikes mark the first time Russia had sent such a large fleet of drones overnight — potentially a recognition by Russian commanders that their noisy, slow-flying Iranian drones are far easier to spot and shoot down during daylight.

Ukraine’s Western supporters have rushed to bolster its air defenses in response to the repeated Russian missile and drone strikes. But while the Ukrainian military claimed to have destroyed most of the unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, officials said several had hit their targets, causing new and serious damage to the country’s energy systems.

Dec. 18

 

President Vladimir Putin of Russia, seen in this photograph from a state-run media organization, addressed a crowd at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Friday, March 18, 2022 (Photo by Ramil Sitdikov of Sputnik via AFP and Getty Images).

President Vladimir Putin of Russia, seen in this photograph from a state-run media organization, addressed a cheering crowd of tens of thousands at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, the city's largest, on Friday, March 18, 2022 (Photo by Ramil Sitdikov of Sputnik via AFP and Getty Images). Shown below at left is an array of wealthy Russian tycoons, some living abroad and all popularly referenced as "oligarchs" on occasion.

 

A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday.Credit...Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images  A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt Agence France-Presse via Getty Images).

A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt Agence France-Presse via Getty Images).

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin’s War: The Inside Story of a Catastrophe: Eight Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation Into Putin’s War, Anton Troianovski, Dec. 18, 2022 (print ed.). A team of New York Times reporters investigated one of the central questions of the war in Ukraine: Why has Russia bungled its invasion so badly?

The story — based on secret battle plans, intercepts and interviews with Russian soldiers and Kremlin confidants — offers new insights into President Vladimir V. Putin’s state of mind, the stunning failures of his military, and U.S. efforts to prevent a direct war with Russia.

Here are eight takeaways from the report.

russian flag wavingReached by phone inside Russian hospitals, wounded soldiers described being sent to war with little food, training, bullets or equipment — and watching about two-thirds of their platoon get killed. Materials recovered from battlefields point to the military’s lack of preparation: a map from the 1960s, a Wikipedia printout on how to operate a sniper rifle, a wildly optimistic timetable for Russia’s invasion. In interviews, one soldier recalled asking how to use his rifle just before heading off to battle, while another described how his supervisor revealed they were going to war: “Tomorrow you are going to Ukraine to fuck up some shit.”

Many of the people closest to Mr. Putin fed his suspicions, magnifying his grievances against the West. A former confidant compared the dynamic to the radicalization spiral of a social media algorithm: “They read his mood and they start to slip him that kind of stuff.” Mr. Putin planned the invasion in such secrecy that even Dmitri S. Peskov, his spokesman, said in an interview that he learned of it only once it had begun. Anton Vaino, Mr. Putin’s chief of staff, and Aleksei Gromov, Mr. Putin’s powerful media adviser, also said they did not know in advance, according to people who spoke to them about it.

The State of the War

  • A Botched Invasion: Secret battle plans, intercepts and interviews with soldiers and Kremlin confidants offer new insight into the stunning failures of Russia’s military in Ukraine.
  • The War in the Skies: As Ukrainian officials warn that Russia might be preparing for a new ground offensive this winter, waves of Russian missiles continue to batter Ukraine’s infrastructure. The attacks are leaving a trail of destruction and grief.
  • Russian Draft: A Times reporter spoke to Russians at a draft office in Moscow to gauge how they felt about going to war.
  • The Next Front? Using missiles and saboteurs, Ukraine is focusing on the strategically important city of Melitopol, ahead of an expected Ukrainian offensive to drive Russian forces from southern Ukraine.

The United States tried to stop Ukraine from killing a top Russian general. American officials found out that Gen. Valery Gerasimov was planning a trip to the front lines, but withheld the information from the Ukrainians, worried that an attempt on his life could lead to a war between the United States and Russia. The Ukrainians learned of the trip anyway. After an internal debate, Washington took the extraordinary step of asking Ukraine to call off an attack — only to be told that the Ukrainians had already launched it. Dozens of Russian soldiers were said to have been killed. General Gerasimov wasn’t one of them.

A senior Russian official told the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, last month that Russia would not give up, no matter how many of its soldiers were killed or injured. One NATO member is warning allies that Mr. Putin might accept the death or injury of as many as 300,000 Russian troops — roughly three times his estimated losses so far. Before the war, when Mr. Burns warned Russia not to invade Ukraine, another senior Russian official said Russia’s military was strong enough to stand up even to the Americans.

Days into the invasion, Mr. Putin told Israel’s leader that the Ukrainians had turned out to be “tougher than I was told.” But, he warned the leader, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, “we are a big country and we have patience.” Earlier, in October 2021, during his first meeting with Mr. Bennett, Mr. Putin had railed against President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine: “What kind of Jew is he? He’s an enabler of Nazism.”

Invading Russian soldiers used their cellphones to call home, enabling the Ukrainian military to find and kill them. Phone intercepts obtained by The Times showed the bitterness Russian soldiers felt toward their own commanders. “They’re preparing you to be cannon fodder,” one soldier said. Another described a commander warning him he could be prosecuted for leaving his position, only for the commander to flee when shelling began. “His wheels didn’t even get stuck in the mud,” the soldier said.

Russian oligarchsThe day of the invasion, Mr. Putin set a trap for Russian business tycoons (some shown at left), putting them on television “to tar everyone there,” as one of them described it. Indeed, the businessmen present were all hit by Western sanctions in the months that followed. Even so, another billionaire at the Kremlin that day, Andrey Melnichenko, was defiant, insisting sanctions would not make Russian tycoons turn against Mr. Putin. “In textbooks, they call this political terrorism,” he said.

Mr. Putin’s fractured armies have sometimes turned on each other; one soldier said a tank commander deliberately fired on a Russian checkpoint. Mr. Putin divided his forces into fiefs, some led by people who are not even part of the military, such as his former bodyguard, the leader of Chechnya and a mercenary boss who has provided catering for Kremlin events, Yevgeny Prigozhin. In an interview after being captured by Ukraine, one Russian soldier said he had been in prison for murder when Mr. Prigozhin recruited him. Later, after he was returned to Russia in a prisoner swap, a video emerged of his execution by sledgehammer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Front-line video makes Ukrainian combat some of history’s most watched, Leila Barghouty, Dec. 18, 2022. User-generated footage is helping journalists cover — and historians document — Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It's not always as simple as watching, though.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine’s combat amputees face a hard road home, Alex Horton, Dec. 18, 2022. America’s wars led to profound advancements in prosthetics and new standards for care. But for most Ukrainian soldiers in need, the best is often out of reach.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Zelensky renews air defense call; Northern European leaders to meet, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit and David L. Stern, Dec. 18, 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky renewed his appeal to Western leaders to provide Ukraine with a “reliable air defense shield” after a barrage of Russian missile strikes. Zelensky said that when Ukraine’s skies are protected, “the main form of Russian terror — missile terror — will become simply impossible.”

Zelensky said his government is preparing several proposals to strengthen “all the countries of Europe,” ahead of a meeting Monday of the leaders of Britain, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Iceland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Minsk on Monday for talks with ally Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president’s news service said. Putin could be trying to set conditions for a renewed offensive against Ukraine, according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank. Lukashenko has not committed Belarusian forces in support of Russia’s invasion but has allowed Russian troops to use Belarus as a staging ground for the assault.
  • Zelensky said Saturday evening that power had been restored to 6 million Ukrainians after Friday’s attacks, but that there was still a lot of work to do to stabilize the system. Zelensky described the situation as “most difficult” in the capital, Kyiv, and the surrounding region, as well as in the Vinnytsia and Lviv regions. Heating was restored in Kyiv early Sunday, the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said on Telegram, as temperatures there dipped below 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 Celsius). Ukraine’s electricity transmission operator said that work is underway to repair distribution networks throughout the country, but that the frost and strong winds are making it more difficult.
  • Ukrainian officials said FIFA turned down their request to play a message from Zelensky ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final in Qatar. In the message, which was shared on Facebook by Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zelensky advocates for Ukraine’s peace plan and says that “war must fail.” Ukraine’s presidential office told The Washington Post in a statement that “FIFA refused to show” the video. FIFA did not respond to a request for comment Sunday. CNN first reported the news and cited the presidential office as saying that “Qatar supported the President’s initiative, but FIFA blocked” it.

2. Battleground updates

  • Russia’s efforts to raise its troops’ morale by assembling groups tasked with entertaining them are “unlikely to substantively alleviate” soldiers’ broader concerns about pay and the direction of the war, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its daily update. The ministry said the two new “front line creative brigades,” announced by Russia’s Defense Ministry last week and made up of opera singers, actors and circus performers, are part of a “Soviet-era concept of ideological political education.”
  • Putin met with military commanders to determine next steps in the offensive, the Kremlin said Saturday. “We will listen to the commanders in each operational direction, and I would like to hear your proposals on our immediate and medium-term actions,” Putin said as he toured military headquarters Friday alongside Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Analysts said the Kremlin was probably attempting to depict Putin as a “competent wartime leader” and rehabilitate the battered image of Russia’s Defense Ministry by publicizing the visit.
  • Ukrainian officials warned that Russia may be trying to draw troops into a trap on the left bank of the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine. Ukraine’s military said Russian soldiers have been telling residents of the Kakhovka area, in the Kherson region, that they intend to withdraw by the end of the year. A spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command said this could be a ruse to lure Ukraine to advance — a tactic she said was deployed by Russia during the Ukrainian counteroffensive on the right bank.

3. Global impact

  • Ukraine picked its entry for next year’s Eurovision song contest. “Heart of Steel,” by electronic music duo Tvorchi, was chosen to represent Ukraine, which won this year’s contest, in a selection program streamed online and recorded in a Kyiv metro station. On social media, the two-man group said they would “do everything to properly represent Ukraine.”
  • Henry Kissinger called for peace negotiations to end the war in Ukraine. In an editorial for the Spectator magazine, the former secretary of state said a peace process should have two goals: “to confirm the freedom of Ukraine and to define a new international structure, especially for Central and Eastern Europe,” in which Russia would eventually find a place. Kyiv has repeatedly rejected the idea of any peace talks unless Russia first withdraws its troops from all of Ukraine’s territory.
  • Russia said Friday’s missile barrage using airborne and sea-based weapons prevented the delivery of foreign weapons to Ukraine. “The strike prevented the transfer of foreign-made weapons and ammunition, blocked the movement of reserves to combat areas and halted Ukraine’s defense enterprises producing and repairing weapons, military equipment and ammunition,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a Saturday briefing.
  • Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, announced the launch of three more Ukrainian-language audio guides in world museums — part of a project that aims to make refugees who fled Ukraine after Russia’s invasion feel more at home in their temporary places of residence. The audio guides have appeared as far away as the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Nearly 8 million Ukrainians have fled to elsewhere in Europe since the conflict started, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

 

Ukraine War Map, Day 298 Analysis, Juzzie, Dec. 18, 2022 (17:12 min. video). Military Personnel losses for Russia as of December 18th now standing at approximately 98,280 (+590 for the day).

Dec. 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Kyiv recovering after missile strikes, says mayor; Putin met with military commanders, Andrew Jeong, Adela Suliman, David L. Stern, Natalia Abbakumova and Nick Parker, Dec. 17, 2022. Water supplies returned to residents of Ukraine’s capital on Saturday, and the metro system resumed, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said, as the city began to recover from a barrage of Russian missile strikes Friday that pummeled critical infrastructure.

A third of people in Kyiv remained without energy, and emergency power shutdowns were scheduled, he added. Damaged cities — including Kharkiv, Sumy, Poltava and Dnipro — reported power outages after the strikes.

In Kryvyi Rih, the hometown of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the death toll rose to four on Saturday after the body of a toddler was pulled from the rubble, according to the regional governor, and dozens remain injured. Zelensky said such attacks would not “change the balance of power in this war,” contending that Ukrainian forces had shot down at least 60 Russian missiles. However, he warned that the Kremlin still has enough missiles to mount several more “heavy strikes” across Ukraine, and he called for international support in bolstering its air defenses.

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin met with military commanders to determine next steps in the offensive, the Kremlin said Saturday. “We will listen to the commanders in each operational direction, and I would like to hear your proposals on our immediate and medium-term actions,” Putin said as he toured military headquarters Friday alongside Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had “heard a report on the progress of the special military operation and also held a joint meeting and separate meetings with commanders.”
  • A protective shield is being installed over spent nuclear waste at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Russian-installed official Vladimir Rogov said Saturday on Telegram. The “protective dome” will stop the hazardous waste from being targeted by drones or missile strikes, he said, with Europe’s largest nuclear power plant under close scrutiny during the war.
  • Russia probably will not enter “a real negotiation” to end the war, said CIA Director William J. Burns. “Most conflicts end in negotiations, but that requires a seriousness on the part of the Russians in this instance that I don’t think we see,” he told PBS. “It’s not our assessment that the Russians are serious at this point about a real negotiation.”
  • WNBA star Brittney Griner has returned home and vowed to support Paul Whelan. In an Instagram post, Griner said “it feels so good to be home” and thanked President Biden and others who assisted in her release from Russian detention after she departed Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where she was recovering from her incarceration. Griner pledged to help get Whelan, a former Marine turned corporate security executive, home and announced her intention to resume her WNBA career with the Phoenix Mercury when the season begins next year.

2. Battleground updates

  • There’s been an “uptick in Russia’s campaign of long-range strikes against Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said Saturday in a daily intelligence update. The waves of strikes “have almost certainly also included Iranian-provided uncrewed aerial vehicles” it said, launched from Russia’s Krasnodar region, rather than from Crimea. The change of launch site could indicate “Russian concerns about the vulnerability of Crimea,” it added. The Washington Post could not independently verify the assertions.
  • Putin will visit Minsk on Monday for talks with his ally President Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president’s news service said. Putin could be trying to set conditions for a renewed offensive against Ukraine, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War think tank said Friday. Lukashenko has not committed Belarusian forces in support of Russia’s invasion, though he has allowed Russian troops to use his country as a staging ground for the assault.
  • The CIA sees the tempo of fighting in Ukraine slowing amid the onset of winter, Burns told PBS. “The Russian military is badly battered right now. The Ukrainian military is determined to keep up the pressure, build on their battlefield successes of the last several months. But they also need time to refit and resupply,” he said. He added, “but there’s nothing at all reduced about the tempo of Putin’s increasingly brutal attacks against Ukrainian civilians and Ukrainian civilian infrastructure.”

3. Global impact

  • Moldova has suspended the broadcast license of six outlets, citing misinformation about the war in Ukraine. The federal government said it would restrict Primul in Moldova, RTR Moldova, Accent TV, NTV Moldova, TV6, Orhei TV. The European Union on Friday announced sanctions against RTR and NTV, among others, for spreading what the bloc called Russian propaganda. In July, Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said she was “very worried” that the Kremlin may be considering an invasion of her nation.
  • Canada is to send a $500 million loan to Ukraine thanks to the sale of bonds that allow financial institutions, cities and individuals to support Ukrainians fending off Russian attacks this winter, Canada’s finance minister said Friday. The Canadian government said it is the first country — other than Ukraine itself — to offer such a bond. Ukraine is struggling to meet the rising financial costs of Russia’s invasion.
  • Japan announced changes to its national security strategy and a major ramp-up of its defense budget. The dramatic shift to shed its longtime postwar pacifist constraints was motivated by China’s military ascension, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Post reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, Where Brittney Griner spent the week: A military program for ex-hostages, Joanna Slater, Dec. 17, 2022. The basketball star has spent several days doing “post-isolation support activities” at a military base in San Antonio. Here's what that means.

In her first public comments since her release from a Russian penal colony, basketball star Brittney Griner expressed gratitude Friday to her family, her legal team, the Biden administration and everyone who had worked to free her.

She also singled out the “PISA” staff at the military base in San Antonio where she spent the past week. “I appreciate the time and care to make sure I was okay and equipped with the tools for this new journey,” Griner wrote on Instagram.

PISA refers to “post-isolation support activities.” It’s a program that was developed by the military to address the physical and psychological needs of people who have been detained or held hostage.

The activities include medical checks and repeated counseling sessions, all designed to facilitate “the return of the recovered person to military or civilian life as expeditiously as possible,” according to a manual from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dec. 16

washington post logoWashington Post, War in Ukraine Investigation: Once-feared Russian brigade decimated by months of war, Greg Miller, Mary Ilyushina, Catherine Belton, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Paul Sonne, Dec. 16, 2022. The 200th was among the first units to plunge into Ukraine on Feb. 24, as part of a fearsome assault on the city of Kharkiv.

By May, the unit was staggering back across the Russian border desperate to regroup, according to internal brigade documents reviewed by The Washington Post and to previously undisclosed details provided by Ukrainian and Western military and intelligence officials.

russian flag wavingA document detailing a mid-war inventory of its ranks shows that by late May, fewer than 900 soldiers were left in two battalion tactical groups that, according to Western officials, had departed the brigade’s garrison in Russia with more than 1,400. The brigade’s commander was badly wounded. And some of those still being counted as part of the unit were listed as hospitalized, missing or “refuseniks” unwilling to fight, according to the document, part of a trove of internal Russian military files obtained by Ukraine’s security services and provided to The Post.

The brigade’s collapse in part reflects the difficulty of its assignment in the war and the valiant performance of Ukraine’s military. But a closer examination of the 200th shows that its fate was also shaped by many of the same forces that derailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion plans — endemic corruption, strategic miscalculations and a Kremlin failure to grasp the true capabilities of its own military or those of its adversary.

After months of ceding territory and losing thousands of troops, Putin is now trying to salvage his grandiose aims with an entire force that resembles the 200th: badly depleted, significantly demoralized, and backfilled with inexperienced conscripts.

This reconstruction of the brigade’s decimation is based on the document trove, interviews with members of the unit and their families, as well as accounts from officers in Ukraine’s military units that faced the 200th in battle. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence or, in the case of Russian soldiers, to maintain their own security. The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

The bloody fate of Russia’s 200th Motor Rifle Brigade in Ukraine is emblematic of Vladimir Putin’s derailed invasion plans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: ‘Massive’ missile attacks reported across Ukraine, residential building hit, David L. Stern, Jeff Stein, Victoria Bisset and Erin Cunningham, Dec. 16, 2022. Explosions and strikes reported in at least seven cities in Ukraine; Russia claims to have destroyed arms depot in Kharkiv.

A wave of explosions and missile strikes was reported across Ukraine early Friday — from the capital, Kyiv, to Kharkiv and Sumy in the northeast and Poltava in central Ukraine.

Reporters with The Washington Post heard blasts in Kyiv and the central city of Dnipro, as Kyiv officials said the city had experienced “one of the biggest missile attacks” since the beginning of the war. A Ukraine air force spokesman said that Russia had launched more than 60 missiles at the country in the latest barrage of attacks.

At least two people were killed and eight injured when a residential building was hit in the central city of Kryvyi Rih, local officials said. Meanwhile, Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s energy operator, said emergency shutdowns were taking place in all regions of Ukraine as a result of the strikes.

Here’s what to know

  • Friday’s barrage of strikes come after the United States and the European Union announced additional measures to support Ukraine. The Pentagon announced Thursday that it will begin training large formations of Ukrainian soldiers beginning in January, while the European Union approved 18 billion euros ($19.1 billion) in financing for Ukraine next year.
  • Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, reported blasts in three districts of the city, while Sumy’s regional governor described a temporary power outage due to a “massive missile attack.” A regional official reported three attacks on “critical infrastructure” in Kharkiv, which left the regional capital without electricity.
    Several local officials also urged Ukrainians to gather drinking water, warning that the supply could be shut off as a result of the strikes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Griner Says She Will Be Home for the Holidays, Oskar Garcia, Dec. 16, 2022. Brittney Griner, the American basketball star who had been at a military base in San Antonio since her release from imprisonment in Russia, said on Instagram on Friday that she was “home” and planned to spend the holidays with her family. She also said she would play basketball next season.

“I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon,” Ms. Griner said in her first public statement since her release. The post included two photos, including one of her disembarking from the plane that returned her to the United States and one of her embracing her wife.

Though Ms. Griner suggested that she was heading to her home to Phoenix, it was unclear whether she was released on Friday from the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. CNN reported she had left the hospital. Hospital officials declined to comment. The State Department also declined to say whether she had left the military base.

“It feels so good to be home,” Griner said in her Instagram post. It was not immediately clear whether she was referring to being in the United States, at her own home in Phoenix or elsewhere with family.

Ms. Griner thanked numerous people in her post, including the staff at the U.S. Army’s Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, where she arrived at the medical center one week ago. She also thanked her family and President Biden, and she pledged to help him seek the release of Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia on espionage charges that the United States has said is politically motivated.

“I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home,” she said. “Every family deserves to be whole.”

Here’s what we know:

  • The basketball star spent eight days at Fort Sam Houston after being released from a penal colony in Russia in a prisoner swap.
  • In her first statement since her release, Griner pledges to help Biden seek freedom for Paul Whelan.
  • Missile strikes knock out heating systems in towns and cities amid freezing temperatures.
  • Ukraine warns of a renewed Russian offensive early next year.
  • ‘We are fed up’: Anger boils over in Kyiv after another wave of missiles.
  • The E.U. agrees on new sanctions against Russia.
  • Russia keeps its key interest rate steady amid worries of inflation.
  • A package bomb wounds a Russian official in the Central African Republic, the Russian state media says.

Ukraine Daily War Map, Analysis: Day 296: Juzzie, Dec 16, 2022 (10:24 min. video).  Military Personnel losses for Russia as of 16th December 2022 now standing at approximately 97,270(+680).

Dec. 15

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Will Train More Ukrainian Troops, Adding Advanced Battle Tactics, Eric Schmitt and Andrew E. Kramer, Dec. 15, 2022. Western instruction since Russia’s invasion has focused on basic training or the use of sophisticated weapons systems. Officials say “combined arms” tactics could be a key next step. The “combined arms” tactics would emphasize tight coordination among infantry, artillery, armored vehicles and, when it is available, air support. Western instruction since Russia’s invasion has focused on basic training or the use of sophisticated weapons systems. Officials say “combined arms” tactics could be a key next step.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Russian Missile, a Sudden Death, and Unspeakable Grief, Photographs by David Guttenfelder, Written by Oleksandr Chubko, Dec. 15, 2022. These photographs of Ukraine capture the randomness of death and violence that is often overlooked after an attack.

The explosions were audible in the center of Kherson, a city recently freed from Russian occupation. A quick check with a Ukrainian first-response team confirmed that it was a Russian missile attack, and that it had targeted a tiny settlement of little or no strategic value on the shores of the broad Dnipro River. We quickly set off.

There is a grim monotony to many daily reports from the Ukraine war. A town or village is hit with shells or missiles, an accounting is made of the dead and wounded, usually accompanied by a comment from a local official. And the world shrugs and moves on, often oblivious to the terrible impact on families and lives.

The following photographs capture the reality — the randomness of death, the often life-changing violence and suffering visited in one terrible moment — that is often overlooked in these attacks.

Russia sent half a dozen rockets at the settlement, a part of Kherson City, that day. In the immediate aftermath, residents rushed to and fro, sometimes at a sprint, searching for victims, helping the wounded and dousing whatever fires raged. It seemed like everyone was on the move.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Alternate Reality: How Russia’s State TV Spins the Ukraine War, Paul Mozur, Adam Satariano and Aaron Krolik, Dec. 15, 2022. The reporters spent the past year writing a series of stories about Russian censorship, surveillance and propaganda. Dec. 15, 2022. Leaked emails detailed how Russia’s biggest state broadcaster mined right-wing U.S. news and Chinese media to craft a narrative that Moscow was winning.

As Russian tanks were stuck in the mud outside Kyiv earlier this year and the economic fallout of war with Ukraine took hold, one part of Russia’s government hummed with precision: television propaganda.

Spinning together a counternarrative for tens of millions of viewers, Russian propagandists plucked clips from American cable news, right-wing social media and Chinese officials. They latched onto claims that Western embargoes of Russian oil would be self-defeating, that the United States was hiding secret bioweapon research labs in Ukraine and that China was a loyal ally against a fragmenting West.

Day by day, state media journalists sharpened those themes in emails. They sometimes broadcast battlefield videos and other information sent to them by the successor agency to the K.G.B. And they excerpted and translated footage from favorite pundits, like the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose remarks about the war were shown to millions of Russians.

“Be sure to take Tucker,” one Russian news producer wrote to a colleague. The email referred to a clip in which Mr. Carlson described the power of the Chinese-Russian partnership that had emerged under Mr. Biden — and how American economic policies targeting Russia could undermine the dollar’s status as a world-reserve currency.

The correspondence was one of thousands of email exchanges stored within a leaked database from Russia’s largest state-owned media company, the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company, known as V.G.T.R.K. The data was made publicly available online by DDoSecrets, a group that publishes hacked documents.

The New York Times created a search tool to identify material from the 750 gigabytes of files related to the buildup to the war and its earliest stages from January to March 2022, when the available documents ended. The Times verified the documents by confirming email addresses and people’s identities. In many instances, matters discussed in the emails led to content broadcast on the air.

The emails provide a rare glimpse into a propaganda machine that is perhaps Russia’s greatest wartime success. Even as the country faces battlefield losses, mounting casualties, economic isolation and international condemnation, state-run television channels have spun a version of the war in which Russia is winning, Ukraine is in shambles and Western alliances are fraying. Along with a fierce crackdown on dissent, the propaganda apparatus has helped President Vladimir V. Putin maintain domestic support for a war that many in the West had hoped would weaken his hold on power the longer it dragged on.

To create this narrative, producers at the state media company cherry-picked from conservative Western media outlets like Fox News and the Daily Caller, as well as obscure social media accounts on Telegram and YouTube, according to the records. Russian security agencies like the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., the successor to the K.G.B., fed other information, creating an alternative version of events such as the bombing of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Update from Ukraine, Russia will try to take Kyiv Again in February 2023, Denys Davydov, Dec. 15, 2022 (18:22 min. video).

Dec. 14

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon preparing to send Patriot missile system to Ukraine, Dan Lamothe, Karen DeYoung and Alex Horton, Dec. 14, 2022 (print ed.). Amid Russian bombardment of the energy grid, the U.S. is set to provide its most advanced air defense system The Pentagon is preparing to send the Patriot missile system to Ukraine, senior U.S. officials said Tuesday, a move that would provide the government in Kyiv with the most advanced air defense weapon in the American arsenal as Russia carries out an unrelenting assault on the country’s electrical grid.

The plan is not yet approved by President Biden or Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, but it could be soon, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to detail sensitive internal deliberations. It would fulfill one of Ukraine’s biggest and most frequent requests of Washington, and follows weeks of Russian bombardment that has plunged much of the country into cold and darkness as winter takes hold.

While the Biden administration has committed about $20 billion in arms and military equipment to Ukraine since the invasion in late February, it has steadfastly resisted sending certain advanced weaponry — including long-range missiles, fighter jets and battle tanks — on grounds that, in Russia’s eyes, doing so would draw the United States even deeper into the war, and the maintenance and operation of such systems is complex. The White House National Security Council recommended reversing course only in recent weeks, as Russia has intensified its attacks and increased its defense coordination with Iran to supplement its dwindling drone and ballistic missile supply, a senior administration official said.

Pentagon eyes major expansion of Ukraine military training

The United States has taken other steps to improve Ukrainian air defenses, including sending two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, last month, and signing a $1.2 billion contract to build and provide six more over the next two years. Earlier in the conflict, U.S. officials helped broker a deal with Slovakia, a NATO ally, to send its only S-300 air defense system to Ukraine in exchange for NATO Patriot units.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Live Briefing: War in Ukraine, David L. Stern, Kelsey Ables and Victoria Bisset, Dec. 14, 2022. Drones shot down over Kyiv; U.S. Air Force veteran freed in swap with Russia.

The sky in central Kyiv lit up with explosions early Wednesday, as air defense forces reported more than a dozen drone attacks. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said emergency services were dispatched, and the Kyiv military administration reported damage to two administrative buildings. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

ukraine flagAs Ukraine endures its 10th month of war and faces the frigid months ahead, nations around the world are increasing aid to the country. The Pentagon is preparing to send Ukraine the Patriot missile system, which would be the most advanced air defense weapon in Kyiv’s hands, senior U.S. officials told The Washington Post on Tuesday. Dozens of nations and institutions at a conference in Paris also upped their commitment to Ukraine on Tuesday, pledging to donate more than $1 billion in aid aimed at short-term support for the country during the winter months. More than $440 million of that aid is expected to go to Ukraine’s energy network.

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the world.

1. Key developments

  • A U.S. Air Force veteran has been freed following a prisoner swap with Russia, a senior Ukrainian official announced Wednesday. Andriy Yermak, the head of the presidential office of Ukraine, said Suedi Murekezi had been released alongside 64 Ukrainian soldiers. According to his family, Murekezi was captured by pro-Russian separatists in the southern city of Kherson in early June. As the pace of exchanges has picked up, former Ukrainian prisoners of war have told The Post of the abuse they faced while in Russian captivity.
  • The drone attacks early Wednesday on Kyiv, in the central Shevchenkivskyi district, were the first in weeks. The district covers the center of the city, extending to the east, and includes Kyiv’s city hall and some ministries and universities. Air raid sirens ended about 9 a.m. Wednesday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said preliminary information on the attacks indicated that 13 drones were sent and all were shot down. The Ukrainian military identified them as Iranian-made Shahed drones. The claims could not be immediately verified by The Post. The national power grid operator, Ukrenergo, said the strikes did not damage energy facilities, but it warned of ongoing challenges due to previous Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy sector.
  • If the United States sends the Patriot missile system to Ukraine, it would mark a departure from previous policies. It has refrained from sending certain advanced weapons — long-range missiles, fighter jets and battle tanks — to Ukraine to avoid being drawn deeper into the conflict. A senior Biden administration official told The Post that the White House National Security Council recommended reversing course in recent weeks, given intensifying attacks on Ukraine and Russia’s defense partnership with Iran.
  • Nations around the world pledged at least $67 million for food and water in Ukraine, $18 million for the health sector and $23 million for transportation at a donor conference Tuesday in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron said the pledges are “tangible proof that Ukraine is not alone.” U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk described the Paris conference as “a success” in an interview with The Post and noted the presence of non-Western countries including India and Indonesia.
  • The United States charged five Russian nationals, an American citizen and a U.S. permanent resident with helping Russia evade sanctions by assisting with global procurement of weapons and money laundering on behalf of the Russian government. One of the Russians is a suspected Federal Security Service officer who was arrested in Estonia and will undergo proceedings for extradition to the United States, the Justice Department said. The other four Russians remain at large, it said, while the U.S. citizen and resident were also arrested.

2. Battleground updates

  • Ukraine announced two developments in efforts to produce equipment for its fight against Russia. Ukraine’s parliament ratified an agreement with Turkey that will allow for the construction of a factory in Ukraine to manufacture Turkish Bayraktar drones. Ukraine has also launched production of 152mm and 122mm shells, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of national security and the Defense Council of Ukraine, said Tuesday during a telethon, according to the Ukrinform broadcasting platform.
  • Russian FlagRussian forces continue to strike Kherson, a port city on the Dnieper River that has been under bombardment this week. According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Russia carried out 79 attacks on Tuesday from rocket salvo systems, resulting in civilian casualties. It also said that five missile strikes hit civilian infrastructure in Kostyantynivka, a city in the eastern Donetsk region.
  • Vitaly Bulyuk, the Russian-appointed deputy head of the occupied Kherson region, was injured in a car blast that killed the driver, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported. Bulyuk’s injuries are not life-threatening, according to Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed head of the occupied region, who vowed to find and punish those who carried out the “attack.”
  • A withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine by the end of the year is “out of the question,” the Kremlin said Tuesday. Speaking to reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said a peace deal with Kyiv is “impossible.” The Kremlin continues to call the war “a special military operation.”

3. Global impact

  • Pope Francis urged people to consider having more modest Christmas celebrations this year and instead donate money to help Ukrainians. “Let’s make a more humble Christmas, with more humble gifts, and let’s send what we save to the people of Ukraine who need it,” he said Wednesday, as he called for “concrete gestures of charity.” The pope has regularly spoken about Ukraine since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Air Force veteran freed in Russia prisoner swap, Ukraine says, Victoria Bisset, Dec. 14, 2022. Suedi Murekezi, a U.S. Air Force veteran whose family says he was captured by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine earlier this year, has been freed in a prisoner swap, a senior Ukrainian official announced Wednesday.

Murekezi, who has lived in Ukraine since 2018, was taken by pro-Russian forces in the southern city of Kherson in early June, according to his brother Sele Murekezi, who added that he had been falsely accused of taking part in pro-Ukrainian protests.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, wrote on Twitter Wednesday that Murekezi was released alongside 64 Ukrainian prisoners of war who had been fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The bodies of four other Ukrainians were also repatriated, Yermak added.

Born in Rwanda, Suedi Murekezi came to the United States as a teenager and went on to spent eight years in the Air Force, according to his brother. He later moved to Ukraine and was based in Kherson — the first major city to fall to Russian forces following the Feb. 24 invasion, and which was recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Has Built Vast Defenses Across Ukraine. Will They Hold?  Marco Hernandez and Josh Holder, Dec. 14, 2022. A Times analysis of satellite radar data shows that Russia is constructing a network of trenches, traps and obstacles to slow Ukraine’s momentum.

Dec. 13

 

 

From left, Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady; President Emmanuel Macron of France; Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal of Ukraine and Catherine Colonna, France’s foreign minister, in Paris on Tuesday. (Reuters photo by Gonzalo Fuentes). From left, Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady; President Emmanuel Macron of France; Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal of Ukraine and Catherine Colonna, France’s foreign minister, in Paris on Tuesday. (Reuters photo by Gonzalo Fuentes).

ny times logoNew York Times, World Leaders Pledge $1 Billion in Immediate Aid for Ukraine, Catherine Porter and Liz Alderman, Dec. 13, 2022. President Emmanuel Macron of France said that the funds would help Ukraine get through the winter as Russian forces continued to attack its infrastructure.

International leaders agreed to deliver 1 billion euros in fresh financial aid for Ukraine on Tuesday to rapidly repair energy grids, water systems, roads and health centers decimated by relentless Russian strikes, the latest attempt to buoy Ukraine through what is already a brutal and dark winter.

The pledge of aid came at a one-day summit in Paris convened by President Emmanuel Macron that brought in countries outside of the usual list of Ukrainian allies. Leaders from about 50 countries attended, including Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, Kuwait and Oman.

“It’s tangible proof Ukraine is not alone,” Mr. Macron said at the opening of the summit. He was flanked by Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine’s prime minister, and Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady. Leaders and diplomats from about 50 countries also attended.

“The fight you are waging is a fight for your freedom, your sovereignty,” Mr. Macron said. “But it is also a fight for the international order and for the stability of all of us.”

The Paris conference was the latest in a series of international meetings focused on the current and future reconstruction of Ukraine. On Monday, leaders from the Group of 7 wealthy democracies met virtually to agree a new system of funneling funds to Kyiv, and the European Union’s foreign ministers met in Brussels, pledging another €2 billion for military support. Weeks before, the United States pledged $53 million to rebuild Ukraine’s electricity grid at a NATO meeting in Bucharest.

What makes Tuesday’s conference and announcements different, organizers said, was the timeline. The money raised will be delivered between now and the end of March to meet Ukraine’s short-term needs. One criticism of previous aid pledges has been the length of time for delivery.

Here’s what we know:

  • President Emmanuel Macron of France told a Paris summit that aid provided by political and business leaders would help Ukraine get through the harsh winter as Russian forces continue to attack its infrastructure.
  • Paris hosts a vast gathering to coordinate urgent aid for Ukraine.
  • The E.U. gets past a Hungary veto to approve $19 billion in loans to Ukraine.
  • Ukraine ratchets up attacks in a Russian-occupied city described as a ‘gateway to Crimea.’
  • Belarus says it is checking its army’s combat readiness. Analysts see little chance it will join Russia’s fight.
  • Banksy’s works near Kyiv have inspired Ukraine. But did one activist go too far?
  • Ukraine could see another exodus as winter bites, a senior aid official says.

 

Ukraine President Volodymer Zelensky

Ukraine President Volodymer Zelensky

washington post logoWashington Post, They survived Russian occupation, then got hit by explosives left behind, Siobhán O'Grady, Michael E. Miller and Anastacia Galouchka, Photos by Wojciech Grzedzinski, Dec. 13, 2022. The day Russian forces withdrew from her Ukrainian town, 69-year-old Lyudmila Ivanenka rushed outside to see which way they were headed.

But her celebration over their unexpected retreat was cut short when, on her walk home, she stepped on a land mine, one of what she believes are explosives the troops scattered on their way out. The blast ripped off her right foot and badly injured her right arm.

ukraine flagTerrified that Russian troops would shell any moving vehicles, witnesses pushed Ivanenka to the hospital in a shopping cart. The journey took hours, and she nearly bled to death.

Mines and other explosives that troops leave behind have haunted generations of war victims, maiming and killing civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and many other countries, even decades after peace treaties have been signed and troops withdrawn.

In Ukraine, such hidden ordnance is tormenting civilians who — often after surviving the horrors of Russian occupation — are wounded or killed in explosions after the Russians retreat.

Ivanenka said she stepped on what she described as a PFM1 anti-personnel mine — also known as a butterfly or petal mine. These mines, which are around the size of a fist, can be triggered by a footstep on or near them.

Typically green or brown, they can be dispersed by aircraft or through mortars and are often hard to discern in forests and fields. They, like other antipersonnel mines, are banned by international law because of how easily they harm civilians.

ny times logoNew York Times, Belarus says it is checking its army’s combat readiness. Analysts see little chance it will join Russia’s fight, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Dec. 13, 2022 (print ed.). President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus is a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and Belarus relies on Moscow for finance, fuel and security assistance.

Military experts say it is highly unlikely that Belarus will send troops to Ukraine, not least because it would be deeply unpopular domestically, but they say that President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus may be giving the impression of combat readiness in order to force Ukraine to divert troops from other fronts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Cybercriminals were in the mix for the Russia prisoner swap, Tim Starks and Aaron Schaffer, Dec. 13, 2022. The U.S. government reportedly floated offers to send Russia two alleged cybercriminals alongside arms dealer Viktor Bout, as part of negotiations to free both WNBA star Brittney Griner and Marine Paul Whelan.

Russia didn’t take that part of the offer, CNN reported, leaving Alexander Vinnik and Roman Seleznev behind bars in the United States and Whelan in captivity in Russia, as Griner and Bout were swapped and returned to their home countries. But it was a cybersecurity dimension to an international tale of diplomacy Russian Flagand intrigue.

The Griner-Bout exchange has proven divisive within the Biden administration, and the release of the cybercriminals might have gotten a similar reception. It’s hard to get convictions and extraditions for overseas cybercriminals, and returning them to Russia in a prisoner swap could have stoked frustrations and concerns.

“To get a conviction and someone actually sentenced to jail is something that doesn’t happen every day. I’m sure the cyber prosecutors in the Department of Justice probably are glad to see them remain behind bars,” Marc Raimondi, a former Justice Department communications official during the Obama and Trump administrations who now serves as chief of staff to the executive chairman at the Silverado Policy Accelerator, told me.

Ukraine War Map,

, Juzzie, Dec. 13, 2022 (18:17 min. video). Now standing at approximately 95,260 Military Personnel losses for Russia as of Dec. 13, 2022.

Dec. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: G-7 leaders meet; Griner healthy and full of energy, special envoy says, Rachel Pannett and Leo Sands, Dec. 12, 2022. Leaders of the Group of Seven nations and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are meeting virtually Monday, to discuss the situation in Ukraine and other topics. Zelensky described the summit, hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, as one of a number of important meetings due to take place this week to consolidate support for Ukraine as it heads into winter with a devastated power grid.

“The leaders will discuss Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and coordinate our efforts to support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a meeting the White House has not publicly announced.

ukraine flagBrittney Griner, the WNBA star who was detained in Russia for 10 months before returning to the United States last week, is undergoing medical evaluations in Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Roger D. Carstens, special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, described her as healthy and full of energy in an interview Sunday with CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer released last Thursday in a prisoner swap with Griner, has joined a pro-Kremlin ultranationalist political party, just days after returning to Russia. Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) confirmed Bout’s membership on Monday, posting a video to Telegram that showed Bout standing on a stage next to party leader Leonid Slutsky.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Ukraine, the climate and Germany’s role as president of the G-7 this year are among the topics to be discussed in Monday’s virtual meeting of leaders, a German government spokesperson said. Scholz will then host a news conference at around 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. Japan will take over the G-7 presidency in 2023 and plans to host next year’s annual summit in Hiroshima.
  • E.U. foreign minister, at a meeting Monday, agreed to channel an additional $2 billion to the European Peace Facility. “Today’s decision will ensure that we have the funding to continue delivering concrete military support to out partners'’ armed forces,” E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
    Griner spent most of her flight home to the United States talking about “everything under the sun,” Carstens told CNN. “I’ve been in prison for 10 months now listening to Russian. I want to talk,” Carstens, who was on the flight, quoted Griner as saying when she was led to her aircraft seat.
  • Bout’s move to join the LDPR follows a series of interviews he gave over the weekend. During an interview on the state-backed channel Russia Today, Bout railed against LGBTQ identities and said that the West was committing a “suicide of civilization.”
  • Ukrainian forces struck a hotel in Luhansk where Wagner Group mercenaries were based, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said. “They had a little pop there, just where Wagner headquarters was located,” Haidai said in a Sunday television interview, according to Reuters. “A huge number of those who were there died.” The Washington Post could not independently verify the claim. The Kremlin-linked force of private security contractors has operated in Ukraine since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and is known for its brutal tactics.

2. Battleground updates

  • Deadly fighting continues in Ukraine’s east, local Ukrainian officials said. A civilian was killed Sunday by Russian forces in the city of Velyka Novosilka in Donetsk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram early Monday, without providing further details. Russian forces also hit the Dnipropetrovsk region with at least 30 shells, another local official said, adding that there were no casualties. The Post has not been able to independently verify the claims.
  • Russian FlagRussian forces have made marginal territorial gains around the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk, according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank. Ukraine’s armed forces said in a Facebook post that Russia “continues to make attempts to break through the defense of our troops.” More than two dozen settlements were fired upon Sunday, the Ukrainian General Staff wrote. The Post was unable to verify those claims.
  • Western military experts say Russia is firing larger batches of missiles at Ukraine, which risks depleting Kyiv’s stockpiles of interceptor missiles. Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp., wrote in a Twitter thread that Russia is trying to “confuse and overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses.” Gen. Sergei Surovikin, Russia’s top commander of the war in Ukraine, has been shoring up Russia’s defensive positions, she said, and mounting the terrible yet effective campaign to knock out critical infrastructure — a Russian military strategy deployed in past conflicts.
  • Moscow-backed officials accused Ukrainian forces of using U.S.-supplied HIMARS rockets to attack the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol over the weekend. Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the strike. Ivan Fedorov, the exiled Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, said the attack hit a church seized by Russian troops for use as a base several months ago.

3. Global impact

  • The European Union will have enough natural gas this winter but could face shortages in 2023, Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said Monday at a European Commission news conference. “This winter, it looks like we are off the hook,” he said. But he warned that next year would be more difficult if European temperatures return to their colder averages, if capacity to import liquefied natural gas isn’t ramped up, and if Russia continues reducing its gas supplies to Europe. “Next year it is very likely that we won’t have any Russian gas in our system,” Birol warned.
  • The remains of a Zambian student killed in Ukraine while fighting as a Russian conscript have been returned to the capital, Lusaka, Zambia’s Foreign Ministry announced. According to information received by Zambian officials from their Russian counterparts, Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda, 23, was serving a nine-year prison sentence on the outskirts of Moscow when he received a conditional pardon on Aug. 23 in return for joining the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where he died the following month. Zambian Foreign Minister Stanley Kakubo described Nyirenda’s death as a “tragic ordeal.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukrainian politician who idolizes Reagan tries to win over today’s Republicans, Jeff Stein, Dec. 12, 2022. The seven-foot-tall bronze statue of Ronald Reagan bursting through the Berlin Wall was supposed to be here by now, standing in one of the Ukrainian capital’s prominent public squares.

The monument was the brainchild of Maryan Zablotskyy, who grew up venerating Reagan in Lviv in western Ukraine — as many did in the post-Soviet years. Zablotskyy founded the Ayn Rand Center Ukraine to promote the libertarian author and covered his office walls with posters of Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill, with their quotes translated into Ukrainian.

Now a member of his country’s parliament, Zablotskyy, 37, faces the prospect that the party of his favorite politician could turn against Ukraine in its moment of greatest need — under invasion and relentless bombing by Russia, with about one-fifth of its land occupied and its economy in tatters.

In Washington, congressional Republicans, who are about to take control of the House, have vowed to bring more scrutiny to the Biden administration’s requests for aid to Ukraine. Some have voiced skepticism about continuing assistance to Ukraine; others may obstruct the aid packages as part of a broader effort to thwart President Biden’s agenda ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

On Monday afternoon, Zablotskyy stood by the 164-foot Arch of Freedom in Kyiv’s Pecherskyi district, initially built in 1982 to symbolize the strength of the ties between Ukraine and Russia and called the People’s Friendship Arch. Earlier this year, Ukrainian officials renamed the monument to strip it of its Soviet past, and the Reagan statue will be placed here after the war ends.

“What I can do is explain that Ukraine is important to the whole world, and that we fight for values and ideals that should be equally important to both parties,” Zablotskyy said in an interview.

Ukrainian Map,

: Juzzie, Dec. 12, 2022. A down to earth and simplified look at the day-by-day happenings on the ground in Ukraine. Including news, military personnel losses for Russia, aided by imagery -- for Day 292: Now standing at approximately 94,760 Military Personnel losses for Russia as of 12th December 2022.

Dec. 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Fierce claims to Crimea highlight slim chance of Russia-Ukraine peace deal, Francesca Ebel, Dec. 11, 2022. After nine months of death and destruction, the key to Russia’s war against Ukraine lies in the craggy, sea-swept peninsula of Crimea — with its limestone plateaus and rows of poplar trees — which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.

It was in Crimea in February 2014, not February 2022, that Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine began. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insists that only by retaking Crimea will the war end, with Ukraine defeating its Russian invaders.

“Its return will mean the restoration of true peace,” Zelensky declared in October. “The Russian potential for aggression will be completely destroyed when the Ukrainian flag will be back in its rightful place — in the cities and villages of Crimea.”

But for Russian President Vladimir Putin, the annexation of Crimea has become a pillar of his legacy, which would crumble if he loses the peninsula. Putin has indicated that any effort by Ukraine to retake Crimea would cross a red line that he would not tolerate.
Russian soldiers patrol the area surrounding a Ukrainian military base outside Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, in March 2014. Russia invaded and illegally occupied Crimea that year in a precursor to its wider invasion of Ukraine in 2022. (Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

ukraine flagUkraine’s hope of recapturing Crimea long seemed a far-fetched fantasy, but Kyiv’s recent battlefield victories and Moscow’s missteps have suddenly made it seem plausible — maybe dangerously so.

The West, while backing Ukraine, fears that any Ukrainian military incursion into Crimea could incite Putin to take drastic action, potentially even the use of a nuclear bomb. Some Western officials hope that a deal relinquishing Crimea to Russia could be the basis for a diplomatic end to the war. Ukrainians dismiss that idea as dangerously naive, while Russians say they will not settle for what is already theirs.

The unwavering claims to Crimea illustrate the intractability of the conflict, and it is hard to imagine the fight over the peninsula will be resolved without further bloodshed.

Russian mercenaries accused of using violence to corner diamond trade

It was a shocking attack in early October on the Crimean Bridge — a $4 billion symbol of Putin’s imperial ambitions in Ukraine — that the Kremlin says triggered Moscow’s unrelenting bombing campaign of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure that now threatens to tip the country into a humanitarian crisis.

And following Kyiv’s liberation of Kherson — which Moscow vowed would be “Russia forever” — Russian officials have stepped up their rhetoric. Former president Dmitry Medvedev promised a “judgment day” in the event of any attack on Crimea, while a member of Russia’s parliament warned of a “final crushing blow.”

Ukraine, meanwhile, is developing detailed plans for the reintegration of Crimea, including the expulsion of thousands of Russian citizens who moved there after 2014.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine live briefing: Deadly strikes in occupied Melitopol; Russian negotiators treated Whelan ‘very separately, very distinctly,’ Rachel Pannett, Leo Sands, Ben Brasch and Kyle Rempfer, Dec. 11, 2022. Moscow-backed officials accused Ukraine of deploying HIMARS rockets in Melitopol. Kyiv has not taken responsibility.

Russian and Russian-backed officials reported deadly attacks in the occupied city of Melitopol on Saturday night, both saying that a recreational center was struck and that there were deaths and injuries. The pro-Moscow officials blamed Ukraine, though Kyiv has not taken responsibility.

ukraine flagMeanwhile, fallout from the prisoner swap of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for WNBA star Brittney Griner continues. Some conservatives were angry that American negotiators couldn’t land a deal for Paul Whelan, the Marine turned corporate security executive serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian prison on espionage charges. John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that the Russian negotiators are “treating Paul very separately, very distinctly because of these sham espionage charges they levied against him. And then it kind of came together last week in the end game with just a Bout-for-Griner deal.”

Former president Donald Trump on Sunday said on Truth Social that he turned down a deal to release Whelan in exchange for Bout during his time in the White House. “I wouldn’t have made the deal for a hundred people in exchange for someone that has killed untold numbers of people with his arms deals,” Trump said. “I would have gotten Paul out, however, just as I did with a record number of other hostages. The deal for Griner is crazy and bad.”

Bout told Russian state media he “wholeheartedly” supports the war in Ukraine and would volunteer for the effort if he could. Russian President Vladimir Putin previously said negotiations over the prisoner swap did not thaw U.S.-Russian relations.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke by phone with President Biden on Saturday, according to Zelensky’s office. Zelensky thanked Biden for the defense and financial assistance the United States provides to Ukraine. “This not only helps succeed on the battlefield, but also maintains the stability of the Ukrainian economy,” Zelensky said in a statement posted to his Telegram channel. “We also appreciate the help that the U.S. provides to restore Ukraine’s energy system. I count on deepening cooperation in this area.” U.S. officials announced in late November a total package of $53 million to support energy infrastructure to strengthen the stability of Ukraine’s energy grid in the wake of Russia’s targeted attacks.
  • Ukraine deployed HIMARS rockets in Melitopol, Russian-installed officials said on Telegram, with regional governor Yevgeny Balitsky adding that the recreation center they hit was “destroyed” and civilians were eating dinner there. The Washington Post could not independently verify the claims. The United States has throughout the war supplied Ukraine with multiple High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, which are capable of striking precise targets from up to 50 miles away and have wreaked havoc on command posts and logistical hubs behind Russian lines.
  • Ukrainian and pro-Russian officials reported different death tolls in the Melitopol strikes, with Balitsky claiming two deaths and more than 10 injuries. Ivan Fedorov, the exiled Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, said 200 people were killed or injured. The Post could not independently verify the figures, but such tolls have often been inflated by Ukraine and undercounted by Russia in the war.
  • Ukraine’s biggest rock star, who has been described as the country’s Bruce Springsteen, showed support for Melitopol. Sviatoslav Vakarchuk posted a selfie on Instagram of him wearing a shirt that said, “Melitopol is Ukraine!” to his 342,000 followers. Fedorov thanked Vakarchuk on Telegram.
  • “Nobody’s doing backflips … about the fact that Mr. Bout is a free man six years earlier than he would have been. But we’re going to protect our national security,” Kirby said on ABC’s “This Week.” In response to detractors of the deal, Kirby said: “They weren’t in the room. They weren’t on the phone. They weren’t watching the incredible effort and determination … to try to get both Paul and Brittney out together. I mean, in a negotiation, you do what you can. You do as much as you can. You push and you push and you push. And we did.” American negotiators have learned a lot about Russia’s expectations, Kirby said, and they’ll continue to seek Whelan’s return.
  • Russian shelling of a residential neighborhood in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region killed two people, regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said in a Telegram post. He said Saturday’s attacks targeted a hospital, cafe, infrastructure facility and residential buildings, and also injured five other people.

washington post logoWashington Post, After the honeymoon, former detainees say, comes ‘surviving survival,’ Karin Brulliard, Joanna Slater and Alex Horton, Dec. 11, 2022. Brittney Griner is now part of a small club nobody wants to join, former detainees say. But many have found kinship with each other while readjusting to life back home.

The experience of Griner, a celebrity whose arrest for cannabis possession became a high-profile geopolitical standoff, is different from those of many other Americans wrongfully imprisoned or held hostage abroad. But no matter the circumstances, she is now a member of a small club nobody wants to join, former detainees say, bound by the common experience of stolen freedom and an often turbulent reacquaintance with it.

As this unusual society has grown, some of its members have formed advocacy organizations supporting hostages and their families. Some have become foreign policy activists. Some retreat from the public eye. Some rely on each other privately.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Putin is trying to silence those who tell of the war’s horrors, Editorial Board, Dec. 11, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin has imposed Stalin-like restrictions on speech about the military and its disastrous invasion of Ukraine. On Friday, opposition politician Ilya Yashin was sentenced to 8½ years in prison for calling attention to possible war crimes committed by Russian troops in the Ukrainian city of Bucha during the early days of the war. This marks another attempt to lock up the truth.

Russian FlagIn a YouTube livestream in April, Mr. Yashin dissected evidence of potential war crimes documented by Western journalists and Ukrainian officials to debunk the official Kremlin line that the reports were staged or fabricated to smear Russia. Criticism of the military has been made criminal under Russian law. Mr. Yashin, who helped organize protests against Mr. Putin in 2011, was charged in July and tried recently for “spreading false information” about the military.

False information? A growing body of evidence suggests otherwise. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Dec. 7 published the report of an investigation that found Russian forces had carried out at least 441 extrajudicial killings of civilians around Kyiv. The investigators documented 73 summary killings in Bucha, and they were working to corroborate 105 more. The report said that when Ukrainian security forces and journalists entered the town on April 2, they “saw dozens of dead bodies, first on the streets and then in many other locations: in yards, apartments, basements, vehicles, forested areas and improvised individual and collective graves.”

  • Ukraine War Map,
    , Juzzie, Dec. 11, 2022 (13:34 min. video).

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Russian attacks left more than 1.5 million people in the dark in Ukraine’s Odesa region, Matt Stevens, Dec. 11, 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that Russian drone strikes on the southern port city of Odesa left more than 1.5 million people in that region without power Saturday night, the latest attacks in a series of assaults on Ukrainian energy infrastructure by the Kremlin.

In his nightly address on Saturday, Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine had shot down 10 of 15 drones that Russian forces used. It was not immediately possible to verify his tally.

Nonetheless, he said, the strikes, using Iranian-made drones, had left many in the dark. Mr. Zelensky called the situation in the Odesa region “very difficult,” noting that only the most critical infrastructure there remained operational. He warned that although repair crews were working “nonstop,” restoring power to civilians would take “days,” not “hours.”

“Please, while the repairs are in progress, help your friends, your neighbors, and the elderly in Odesa,” he said.

In recent months, Russian troops have relentlessly targeted Ukraine’s power grid, repeatedly pounding power plants, heating systems and other energy infrastructure with targeted drone and missile strikes. The attacks have spanned the country on the cusp of winter, leaving Ukrainians vulnerable and in the dark just as the coldest time of the year is beginning.

The repeated assaults on the plants and equipment that Ukrainians rely on for heat and light have drawn condemnation from world leaders, and thrust Ukraine into a grim cycle in which crews hurry to restore power only to have it knocked out again.

In his remarks Saturday night, Mr. Zelensky said that blackouts had persisted throughout various parts of Ukraine including in the capital, Kyiv. Some were what he classified as “emergency” outages resulting from attacks. Others were what he called “stabilization” outages, or planned blackouts on a schedule.

“The power system is now, to put it mildly, very far from a normal state — there is an acute shortage in the system,” he said, urging people to reduce their power use to put less strain on the battered power grid.

“It must be understood: Even if there are no heavy missile strikes, this does not mean that there are no problems,” he continued. “Almost every day, in different regions, there is shelling, there are missile attacks, drone attacks. Energy facilities are hit almost every day.”

Two people were killed and another five wounded in Russian shelling in the southern region of Kherson on Saturday night, according to Yaroslav Yanushevich, the head of the Kherson regional military administration.

“The enemy again attacked the residential quarters of Kherson,” Mr. Yanushevich said on Telegram, the messaging app. “Enemy shells hit the maternity ward of the hospital, a cafe, an infrastructure facility, private and apartment buildings.”

Russian shelling has become part of daily life in the city of Kherson, which was retaken by Ukrainian forces last month. Russian troops withdrew east across the Dnipro River and have since then fired hundreds of shells at the city from their new positions.

Here’s what we know:

  • More than 1.5 million people were without electricity in and around the southern city of Odesa after Moscow’s latest attacks on energy infrastructure, Ukrainian officials said.
  • Zelensky says it will take days to restore electricity to the Odesa region.
  • An academic who was imprisoned in Iran welcomes Brittney Griner to a ‘bizarre club.’

ny times logoNew York Times, Nobel Winners Decry Russian Aggression at Peace Prize Ceremony, Victoria Kim and Marc Santora, Updated Dec. 11, 2022. The laureates, from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, have become symbols of resistance amid Russia’s invasion.

Human rights advocates from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus being honored on Saturday at the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo denounced the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, as the Biden administration expressed new worries about the lengths to which Moscow might go to regain its momentum after recent setbacks.

Russia launched more than a dozen Iranian-made attack drones at targets in Ukraine’s south before dawn on Saturday, in a continued assault on the country’s infrastructure.

ny times logoNew York Times, War Next Door Brings Energy Crunch, and Paid Protests, to Moldova, Andrew Higgins, Dec. 11, 2022. The tiny country, starved of natural gas and electricity because of the war in Ukraine, is also confronting rallies paid for by a pro-Russian politician.

Starved of natural gas from Russia and electricity from Ukraine’s missile-battered power grid, Moldova has been so unsettled by skyrocketing utility bills and occasional blackouts that, according to the mayor of a small city in the north, residents can barely contain their anger.

“They stop me on the street and ask: ‘When can we go to another protest?’” said the mayor, Pavel Verejanu, of Orhei, describing what he called public fury at the pro-Western central government and its failure to secure a deal with Russia for a steady supply of cheap energy.

But there is another reason people are so eager to protest: They are paid to join the noisy weekly rallies that have been held since September in the capital, Chisinau, calling for the removal of Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, a former World Bank official pushing Europe’s poorest country out of Moscow’s orbit.

The paid protests against the president and her Westward tilt are organized by the mayor’s political party, a vociferously pro-Russian force led by his predecessor, Ilan M. Shor, a convicted fraudster and fugitive who, officials say, is working to turn an energy crisis into a political crisis that threatens the government.

Anger at high energy prices has been bubbling across Europe for months, offering Moscow what it sees as its best hope of eroding public support for Ukraine and pressuring Western governments to back away from their condemnations of Russia’s invasion.

Russia-friendly activists on the far-left and far-right have helped mobilize protests over high energy prices in the Czech Republic, Germany and other European countries. But those demonstrations have been less frequent and far less well-funded than the weekly rallies and often daily flash mob protests in Moldova, a country that is particularly vulnerable because of its longstanding political, economic and linguistic cleavages.

Dec. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Live briefing: Peace Prize winners decry authoritarianism; Russia expanding nuclear arsenal, U.S. says, Justine McDaniel, Kyle Rempfer, Niha Masih, Ellen Francis, Andrea Salcedo and Nick Parker, Dec. 10, 2022. A trio of human rights defenders in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine received the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo on Saturday in another rebuke of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

The honorees are Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties, which is working to document alleged war crimes; the Russian human rights group Memorial; and Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski, who was imprisoned after criticizing President Alexander Lukashenko, a Putin ally.

On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russia is adding to its nuclear stockpiles; the head of NATO said he worried that the conflict in Ukraine could spin “out of control.”

The comments follow a prisoner swap that secured the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russian custody. Those negotiations did not thaw U.S.-Russian relations, Putin told a televised news conference Friday.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Nobel laureates and a proxy highlighted their desire for an end to the region’s authoritarian bent. In her speech, Oleksandra Matviichuk, head of the Center for Civil Liberties board, asked foreign leaders to “adequately respond to systemic violations” in Ukraine and to “stop making concessions to dictatorships.” Jan Rachinsky, historian and representative of the human rights society Memorial, asked countries to stop the “chain of unpunished crimes.” In her speech on Saturday, Natallia Pinchuk, who spoke on behalf of her imprisoned husband, Ales Bialiatski, decried Lukashenko’s “dependent dictatorship” that supports Putin’s military aims in Ukraine.
  • Russia is “modernizing and expanding its nuclear arsenal,” Austin said Friday at a ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where the U.S. Strategic Command oversees the country’s nuclear operations. He said the United States is on the verge of facing “two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors,” as China is also increasing and updating its nuclear forces.
  • The conflict in Ukraine could become “a major war” between NATO countries and Russia if things go wrong, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned in an interview with Norway’s public broadcaster. He said that a wider conflict must be prevented and that “we are working every day to avoid that.”
  • Griner was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center in her home state of Texas after landing in the United States on Friday. She “is resilient and so happy to be home and be with her wife,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.). U.S. officials said she was in good spirits. Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer released in the exchange, was treated well during the swap, his wife told Russian news agency Tass.
  • Odessa and much of the southern Ukrainian region were without electricity on Saturday. Crews were working to restore power near the Black Sea after a Russian strike knocked out power to the region, according to Odessa’s Telegram page. Germany on Saturday said it has provided $21 million worth of generators for Ukraine, some of which will go to Odessa, to help keep the lights and heat on as Kremlin-backed troops target Ukrainian electricity infrastructure.

2. Battleground updates

  • Britain expects Iranian backing for the Russian military “to grow in coming months” as Moscow attempts to obtain more weapons, including ballistic missiles, the Defense Ministry said in its Saturday update.
  • U.S. officials have also issued warnings about a growing defense partnership between Russia and Iran. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday that “support is flowing both ways” in areas such as weapons development and training.
  • Bout says he supports the war in Ukraine and would volunteer for the effort if he had the opportunity, Russian state media reported. The former prisoner told RT that he lacked the skills to volunteer for the war.

3. Global impact

  • Putin said Russia is “just thinking about” adopting what he described as the U.S. concept of preemptive military strikes, according to the Associated Press. Earlier this week, he said that while the threat of nuclear war has risen, Moscow’s strategy centers on “retaliatory strikes.” “We have not gone crazy. We are aware of what nuclear weapons are,” he said Wednesday.
  • Ukraine was the most dangerous place for journalists this year, with 12 media fatalities due to the ongoing war. Sixty-seven journalists and media staffers have been killed this year while performing their duties, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists said Friday in its annual report documenting reporters’ deaths. That’s an increase from last year, when 47 were killed, and is the highest since 2018, when 95 journalists and media staffers died because of “targeted killings, bomb attacks or crossfire incidents.”
  • TotalEnergies will end its stake in Russian natural gas producer Novatek and will incur a $3.7 billion loss, the company said in a statement Friday. European sanctions prevent the French energy company from selling its 19.4 percent stake in the company.
  • Violent altercations involving Russian soldiers who returned from Ukraine this year are piercing through the slumber of Russian society, raising the specter that many will return from the front with psychological injuries to an ill-equipped mental health system.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia sends soldiers to war but ignores mental trauma they bring home, Mary Ilyushina, Dec. 10, 2022. Thousands of Russian soldiers have gone to war, In Afghanistan, Chechnya and now Ukraine, but there are few health services to treat their psychological wounds.

When Vladimir returned from the front line to his hometown in Siberia, his wife barely recognized him.

The nice young man she married in university was gone. Instead, she now lived with a secluded, abusive husband who routinely drank himself into oblivion, brutally beat her and tormented their three children.
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Their four years of happy marriage had ended when Vladimir was conscripted into the Soviet army in the mid-1980s and sent to fight in Afghanistan. He rarely spoke about what he experienced, except when the flashbacks occasionally broke through from the depths of his consciousness during drinking bouts.

“He would get so drunk he wouldn’t remember who was in front of him, and he’d confuse us with those on the front line, screaming that he was going to kill us all,” his daughter, Alya, said in an interview, speaking on condition that only first names be used to protect her family’s privacy.

It is now widely understood that psychological injuries remain long after combat ends. And as Russian President Vladimir Putin presses on with his bloody war in Ukraine, it is only a matter of time before thousands of veterans begin returning from the front — to their families and to a failed mental health care system that many experts say is no better equipped to help them than it was when the Afghanistan war ended in 1989, or after two wars in Chechnya in the 1990s and 2000s.

Violent altercations involving soldiers who returned from Ukraine this year are already piercing through the slumber of Russian society, which has tried to tune out the war from daily life.

In September, a soldier who recently returned from “behind the ribbon,” a euphemism for the Ukrainian border, walked into a pizzeria in Tula and hit the owner with a metal chair, reportedly dissatisfied by the look the owner gave him.

 

Ukraine Matters,

Georgi, Dec. 10, 2022 (16:57 min. video).

Dec. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukrainians are learning to survive without heat, water as freezing weather sets in, David L. Stern, Dec. 9, 2022. Russia says U.S. relations in ‘sad state’ despite Brittney Griner release.

The electricity was out and the water service was cut off, and in an eighth-floor apartment in one of Kyiv’s outer neighborhoods, Olha Tkachuk felt like her world was coming apart.

A priest had come to her home to baptize her 4-month-old daughter, Nikol, who was scheduled to undergo lifesaving heart surgery the next day. Guests had arrived for the ceremony, and her oldest daughter, Kristina, 17, stepped out to grab extra pizza from a nearby cafe.
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Just then, Russian missiles started slamming into the Ukrainian capital — again. The power went out. Kristina was trapped in the elevator. The surgery was thrown into doubt.

“I had one child in the elevator, the other I’m baptizing, and tomorrow we have a heart operation,” Tkachuk said. “This was a horrible time.”

The attack, on Nov. 23, was part of Russia’s relentless missile campaign targeting Ukraine’s energy systems, which has knocked out critical services across the country and, as the Kremlin clearly intended, disrupted the lives of ordinary Ukrainians, complicating decisions large and small.

With freezing temperatures setting in, residents of Kyiv and other cities are not only asking where to find heat, water and electricity but also wondering if they can stay in Ukraine. Officials are warning of a humanitarian catastrophe for those who remain and a new refugee crisis if too many leave.

In the meantime, stress is rising, including signs of tension among public officials responsible for making repairs, which are difficult, expensive, and, in some cases, impossible without scarce new equipment.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the creation of some 4,000 “Points of Invincibility” across the country — shelters where the population could keep warm, charge electrical devices, access the internet and get something warm to drink.

In a recent address, however, Zelensky said not all city governments “have done a good job,” singling out the Kyiv mayor’s Office.

 

Ukrainian Map,

, Juzzie, Dec. 9, 2022 (12:11 min. video). A down to earth and simplified look at the day-by-day happenings on the ground in Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live briefing: Putin vows to continue strikes on civilian targets, Ellen Francis, James Bikales and Natalia Abbakumova, Dec. 9, 2022. Putin admits attacks on civilian infrastructure, asking: ‘Who started it?’

U.S. government officials hailed the arrival of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Texas on Friday, after 10 months in Russian custody. “So happy to have Brittney back on U.S. soil,” the U.S. special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, Roger D. Carstens, tweeted. “Welcome home BG!”

Washington secured her release in a prisoner deal with Moscow in exchange for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. The Kremlin said Friday the high-profile swap, after months of negotiations, did not indicate a step toward resolving U.S.-Russian diplomatic tensions over the conflict in Ukraine.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Griner release

  • The basketball star is set to reunite with her family and get medical treatment in San Antonio. Bout, who was imprisoned in Illinois for conspiring to kill U.S. nationals and selling weapons, had arrived in Moscow, Russian media reported Friday. He and Griner passed each other in a dramatic moment in Abu Dhabi on the tarmac Thursday.
  • Moscow said bilateral relations with Washington "are still in quite a sad state,” according to Russian news agency Tass. The talks “were exclusively about the topic of the exchange,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying.
  • The White House said it would keep working for the release of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was charged with spying in Russia and is serving a 16-year sentence. “We are actively working to try to get Paul home,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday. Whelan told CNN in a phone interview earlier that he was glad Griner was free but disappointed not to have been included in the exchange.
  • American basketball star Brittney Griner steps out of a plane on Dec. 9, 2022, in San Antonio. (Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images)

2. Key developments

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin doubled down on attacks on energy infrastructure in Ukraine. He accused Kyiv of provoking the strikes, which have battered the country’s power grid. “Yes, we are doing this. But who started it?” Putin said Thursday, highlighting the attack on Russia’s prized Crimea Bridge. International condemnation “will not prevent us from completing our military objectives,” he said.
  • As temperatures drop, residents of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities are struggling to find heat, water and electricity — and wondering if they can stay in Ukraine, The Washington Post reports. Officials have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe for those who remain and a new wave in the refugee crisis if many leave.
  • A Moscow court on Friday sentenced Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin to 8½-years in prison for spreading “fake information” about the Russian army’s operations in Ukraine. Yashin, a former municipal deputy and ally of jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny, was reportedly sentenced for sharing photos and footage related to the killings of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.
  • Britain’s foreign secretary announced a new round of sanctions Friday against individuals from 11 countries, including Russia, over allegations of human rights abuses.

3. From our correspondents

  • War has tamed Ukraine’s oligarchs, creating space for democratic change: Interviews with more than two dozen current and former Ukrainian and U.S. officials, analysts and others, show the conflict has diminished the power of a group of wealthy Ukrainians who held outsize influence in the country and have been accused of corruption, Kevin Sullivan, David L. Stern and Kostiantyn Khudov report.

Update from Ukraine,

Denys Davydov, Dec. 9, 2022 (19:23 min. video). Ukraine recovers territory lost this week on outskirts of Bakhmut, with explanation of why Russia fights so hard there with large losses and Ukraine resists.Dec. 8

ny times logoNew York Times, Away From the Spotlight, a Debate Rages Over a Postwar Ukraine Economy, Patricia Cohen, Dec. 8, 2022. Beyond the enormous cost of rebuilding the country are difficult and delicate choices about how to best connect the nation to the European economy.

Attention to salvaging Ukraine’s damaged cities and infrastructure has focused largely on its cost. The tussle over the framework that will in large part be expected to carry out that restructuring has taken place below the surface, gaining far less public notice.

Any shift for Ukraine from a wartime to a peacetime economy promises to be fraught, pitting ideas for a strong central government that would target spending with a tighter hand against one with lighter-touch regulation in which free markets dominate. There are other tricky, though perhaps less prominent, transitions that would need to be simultaneously navigated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia’s invasion a ‘brutal wake-up’ for Europe, E.U. foreign policy chief says, Erin Cunningham, Rachel Pannett, Jennifer Hassan and John Hudson, Dec. 8, 2022. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “brutal wake-up” for Europe, which lacks the capabilities needed to european union logo rectangledefend itself from “higher level threats,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Thursday. “We lack critical defense capabilities,” Borrell said, adding that Europe’s military stockpiles have been “quickly depleted” amid the conflict and blaming underinvestment for Europe’s vulnerabilities.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Russia is not seeking to annex more Ukrainian territories, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, right, said Thursday, a day after President Putin hailed the dmitry peskovabsorptions as positive results of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Peskov also described some of the regions illegally annexed by Russia in September as “occupied territories” that needed to be “liberated.”
  • The conflict in Ukraine has made oligarchs in the country less powerful, The Washington Post reports. The group of fewer than 20 wealthy people have long wielded outsize — and often, anti-corruption activists contend, malign — influence over the country — but experts say vast losses from the war and a newly energized population unwilling to accept the politics of the past could give Ukraine the opportunity to rebuild a postwar society that is more democratic.
  • Kyiv’s mayor warned that the Ukrainian capital faces an “apocalypse” this winter if Russian airstrikes continue. “Kyiv might lose power, water and heat supply. The apocalypse might happen, like in Hollywood films, when it’s not possible to live in homes considering the low temperature,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko told Reuters. He added that officials are doing “everything we can” to prevent this and said there is currently no need to evacuate residents.

2. Battleground updates

  • Russia has created an “almost continuous trench system” along a 37-mile strip of land between the Russian border and the occupied city of Svatove, Russian Flagwhich sits north of Luhansk, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Thursday. Ukraine has begun to make gains at the edges of the occupied Luhansk region, which borders Russia.
  • Fighting is intensifying in the battered city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, Ukraine’s armed forces said Thursday. “The enemy does not stop trying to go on the offensive,” officials said in a Facebook update. Ukrainian President Zelensky on Wednesday described the area is one of the “hottest spots” of the conflict.
    Russian ally Belarus said it was moving military equipment and personnel on Wednesday and Thursday as part of a counterterrorism exercise, according to state media. Kyiv has raised concerns that Russia, facing battlefield setbacks, could attack Ukraine from Belarusian territory. Also Wednesday, Belarusian lawmakers gave their initial backing to a proposal to introduce the death penalty for treasonous officials and soldiers, Reuters reported.
  • Four Ukrainian policemen were killed and four more seriously injured in the Kherson region after a Russian land mine detonated near their patrol, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. “Police forces … are now on the front line. And together with everyone, they protect Ukrainians,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday night.
  • Russian shelling killed 10 people in the city of Kurakhove in the eastern Donetsk region, Zelensky said Wednesday. The attack, he said, was “very brutal” and “absolutely deliberate,” hitting a market, gas stations, a bus station and residential buildings.

 

United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, A U.N. report documented 441 killings of civilians around Kyiv early in the war, Andrew E. Kramer, Dec. 8, 2022 (print ed.). The United Nations has detailed extrajudicial killings by the Russian Army during the first month of the war that it described as likely war crimes, releasing a report on Wednesday that offered a harrowing, fine-grained examination of the risks to civilians in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine.

A report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights documented 441 killings of civilians in areas along the Russian attack route toward the capital, Kyiv, on both the west and east banks of the Dnipro River. Of these, 28 were children, the report said. It said the total number of killings in the area was “likely considerably higher.”

The report, whose aim was to document war crimes and assist future prosecutions, arose from one of several international investigations into the macabre scenes discovered in the wake of the Russian Army’s retreat from Kyiv. Ukrainian prosecutors are also collecting evidence.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Ukraine and Russia step up prisoner exchanges, scarred POWs tell of abuse, Jeff Stein and Kostiantyn Khudov, Dec. 8, 2022. The 60 prisoners of war arrived on Ukrainian soil Tuesday afternoon — free after the latest trade between Moscow and Kyiv, but still under strict rationing.

The nurses treating them at a hospital in northeast Ukraine were instructed to give each soldier no more than 300 milliliters of chicken soup, or about 20 tablespoons. Many were so malnourished during Russian captivity that they would be unable to digest more that, the hospital director said.

The POWs who arrived here, at a location that military authorities asked not be disclosed for security reasons, were a reminder that in addition to the thousands killed in action in Russia’s war in Ukraine, and tens of thousands more wounded, there is yet a third category whose fate is often far murkier and about whom often far less is known.

Although they are supposed to be protected by the Geneva Conventions, which require humane treatment, the prisoners’ physical condition — protruding shoulder blades and ribs, bandaged limbs, long scars — bore evidence of abuse from their months of imprisonment in addition to injuries from combat.

“Tasers, currents — they beat us with clubs; they beat us with sticks. I said goodbye to my life there more than once,” said Vitalii, whose surname and military unit The Washington Post is not identifying for security reasons.

“There were such beatings that I could not stand them,” Vitalii said. “My ribs were broken; my kidney was beaten off, it was lowered,” he said, adding that he urinated blood for 10 days with no medical attention after his kidneys were hurt.

Ukrainian Map,

, Juzzie, Dec. 8, 2022 (12:19 min. video). A down to earth and simplified look at the day-by-day happenings on the ground in Ukraine. Including news, military personnel losses for Russia, aided by imagery for Day 288. Now standing at approximately 93,080 Military Personnel losses for Russia as of 8th December

ny times logoNew York Times, One liberated Ukrainian town remains divided by where people’s allegiances lie: with Moscow or Kyiv, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Natalia Yermak, Photographs by Tyler Hicks, Dec. 8, 2022. “Friends are not friends anymore,’’ said one woman in the town of Sviatohirsk, which remains divided not by trench lines and artillery, but by where people’s allegiances lie: with Moscow or Kyiv.

Suspicions run so high that residents do not even agree which side, Russia or Ukraine, is responsible for shelling that struck various neighborhoods in the city, damaging houses and killing several dozen people.

“No one is even letting it out — who he stands for and all that,’’ said one resident, an older man who declined to provide his name. He was sitting beside a warm steel stove at a makeshift coffee shop called Bouchée that serves as de facto neutral territory: a place where both pro-Ukrainians and pro-Russians can get a bite to eat undisturbed, as long as they keep to themselves.

Combat Veteran Reacts,

Combat Veteran, Dec. 8, 2022 (13:15 min. video).

Dec. 7

 washington post logoWashington Post, On east front with Ukrainian troops: Constant shelling, no heat or coffee, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Dec. 7, 2022. Battling mud and newly mobilized Russian reinforcements, Ukrainian forces are advancing slowly into occupied Luhansk, where Moscow is trying to avoid a new defeat.

Deep in the forest and less than a mile from enemy Russian positions, the sound of incoming artillery landing nearby thunders every few minutes. The landscape is littered with unexploded ordnance, so the Ukrainian soldiers don’t dare step anywhere they have not before. They pack light because they might be on the move quickly — forward, they hope.

In their cramped, hastily dug mud outpost, they apologize that they only have tea — no room for coffee.

Less than a month after Moscow withdrew its troops from the western bank of the Dnieper River and the city of Kherson — the sole regional capital Russia had captured in this invasion — the focus of the war has once again turned to eastern Ukraine, where Russia has stoked armed conflict since 2014.

Here, Ukraine is still on the offensive. But the gains are slower and harder-fought than the surprise counteroffensive that expelled Russian forces from nearly the entire northeast Kharkiv region in just one week in September.

The fight here epitomizes the grinding pace that military analysts and Western intelligence officials expect the war to slow to this winter. Ukrainians have refuted suggestions of an operational pause, saying that would just give Russia time to regenerate its forces at a moment they appear weakened.

But Ukrainian soldiers concede that the battles in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, collectively known as Donbas, are tougher — perhaps reflecting the new priority of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his commanders: avoiding further defeats after the humiliating retreats from the north and south.

Putin has repeatedly said that the main goal of his war is to “liberate” all of Donbas, meaning losses in the region would mark a clear and obvious failure.

 

 vladimir putin puffy face

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Putin Acknowledges Fighting in Ukraine ‘Might Be a Long Process,’ Ivan Nechepurenko, Dec. 7, 2022. Speaking at a meeting with Russian journalists, activists and public figures, President Vladimir Putin, shown above in a file photo, also said there was no need to mobilize more troops.

President Vladimir V. Putin said on Wednesday that Russia’s war effort in Ukraine “might be a long process.” But despite mounting fears within Russia that the Kremlin might draft another wave of fighters, he said that as of now there was no need to mobilize more troops.

Russian FlagSpeaking at a meeting with members of the Kremlin’s human rights council — a loyal group of journalists, activists and public figures — Mr. Putin said that half of the 300,000 civilians conscripted to fight in Ukraine as part of a call-up announced in September were still training outside combat zones. About 77,000 of them are currently engaged in fighting in Ukraine, he said, with the rest serving in territorial defense units or training.

“In these conditions, the talk about some additional mobilization efforts make no sense,” the Russian leader said. “There is no need for this for the state and for the Defense Ministry.”

After suffering a series of setbacks in the war, Mr. Putin announced the “partial mobilization” of troops in late September. The decision shook Russian society, and thousands of men rushed to leave the country, some paying exorbitant prices for flights to whatever destinations they could manage to get tickets to.

The mobilization effort was hampered by chaos and inefficiency, with some enlistment offices trying to fill their quotas at any cost. Many conscripts have reported that little training was provided and that whole units were left without commanders. Some complained that they had to buy their own equipment and uniforms.

In the face of criticism, Mr. Putin announced the end of that draft in October, although he did not issue an official order to stop it. That has prompted fears that the Kremlin might announce another wave at any moment.

Adding to the worries is a continuing series of setbacks for Russian forces in Ukraine, including their recent retreat from the southern city of Kherson.

On Wednesday, Mr. Putin appeared to acknowledge that the war, now in its 10th month, is taking much longer that the Kremlin had expected, saying that the conflict “might be a long process.” But he also said that Russia had become bigger by annexing Ukrainian territory.

Here’s what we know:

  • Amid setbacks on the battlefield, and fears in Russia that more soldiers will be conscripted, the Russian leader says he is not mobilizing additional forces for now.
  • Putin says Russia doesn’t currently need to conscript more troops.
  • A U.N. report documents 441 killings of civilians around Kyiv.
  • How Russia’s campaign of terror in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha unfolded.
  • Ukraine escalates its offensive in Luhansk, aided by a winter freeze, officials say.
  • Zelensky is named Time’s person of the year.
  • The U.S. stops short of condemning attacks inside Russia, but says it didn’t encourage them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Kyiv allies cautious after drone attacks on Russian military installations, Erin Cunningham, Missy Ryan, Jennifer Hassan and Emily Rauhala, Dec. 7, 2022. Ukraine’s allies are walking a fine line after a series of drone strikes targeting Russian military airfields this week, seeking to acknowledge Ukraine’s right to defend itself by hitting military targets, while also balancing concerns about escalating the conflict.

antony blinken o newSecretary of State Antony Blinken, right, told reporters Tuesday that the United States has “neither encouraged nor enabled” Ukraine to carry out attacks inside Russia. Separately, a Western official said in a background news briefing: “Attacks on legitimate targets would be legal, but that’s not to say that we support or endorse.”

Kyiv has not publicly claimed responsibility for the attacks, which are the most brazen and far-reaching inside Russia since its invasion in February. But a senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that all three attacks were carried out by Ukrainian drones.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • The recent strikes show that Ukraine “can operate in Russia at will — and that will scare the Russians,” the Western official said Tuesday, adding: “The Russians will be doubting their ability to defend their strategic assets in Russia.”
  • Asked whether the United States was working to prevent Ukraine from developing its own ability to strike inside Russia, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday: “No. Absolutely not.”
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called a U.S. plan to deliver a further $800 million to Ukraine “extremely confrontational” on Wednesday. The measure was adopted by lawmakers Tuesday as part of a larger defense spending bill. The United States has pledged more than $19 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including Stinger missiles, air defense systems, combat drones and artillery equipment.

Battleground updates

  • Russia is working to extend defensive positions along its international border with Ukraine and inside its Belgorod region, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday, noting that Russia was installing “more elaborate” defense systems.
  • The Russian military said Ukraine used a “Soviet-era made” drone in at least one of the attacks this week. Alexander Kots, a prominent military correspondent with the Kremlin-friendly newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, said the Engels air base was hit on Monday by a Soviet Tu-141 Strizh unmanned aerial vehicle, which uses technology from the 1970s.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited his country’s forces near the front line in the eastern Donetsk region on Tuesday. In an address marking Ukraine’s Armed Forces Day, Zelensky said the country “cannot be defeated and cannot be broken.” He continued: “Thousands of Ukrainians gave their lives for the day to come when not a single occupier remains on our land and all our people are free again.”
  • Russia and Ukraine carried out a prisoner swap Tuesday, exchanging 60 prisoners each, officials said. Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff, told Reuters that some of the returned Ukrainian prisoners were those who held +out in the besieged city of Mariupol earlier this year. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Russian prisoners would be flown to Moscow to receive medical care and psychological support, Reuters reported.

Global impact

  • The conditions for a peaceful resolution to the war in Ukraine are “not there now,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. He blamed Russia for failing to participate in negotiations that respect “the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
  • The State Department approved a potential sale of more than 100 M1A1 Abrams tanks to Poland, the Pentagon said Tuesday. The deal, which includes munitions, combat recovery vehicles and other related equipment, is worth $3.75 billion. European nations have stepped up major weapons purchases this year to defend against Russian military aggression.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin “has no genuine interest in negotiation or meaningful diplomacy” to end the war in Ukraine, the United States told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday. Ambassador Lisa Carty, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, said Putin is “trying to break Ukraine’s will to fight by bombing and freezing its civilians into submission.”
  • Hungary vetoed an 18 billion euro ($19 billion) financial aid package to Kyiv, deepening the rift between the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other European Union member states. David Pressman, the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, said Tuesday that he was traveling to Brussels “to consult with Hungarian officials and senior European Union and NATO counterparts on a range of pressing issues of shared concern,” the Associated Press reported.

Combat Veteran Reacts,

Combat Veteran, Dec. 7, 2022 (12 min. video). Russian ultra-nationalist, combat veteran and military blogger Igor Girkin volunteered for combat recently. Leaving combat, he has published harsh criticisms of Russian strategies, morale and capabilities.

He was one of the architects behind the Russian operations in the Donbas in 2014 as well. He's a massive Russian nationalist and was responsible for the shoot down of MH17. He's been highly critical of the ministry of defence in Russia from pretty much day one of the invasion.

 

Ukraine Matters,

, Georgi, Dec. 7, 2022 (14:30 min. video). "I don't worry about the nuclear situation at all," the blogger Georgi says with his view that all signficant world leaders have warned Russia's leader against using nuclear weapons. He argues also that NATO would destroy Russian capabities if any such weapon were used.

"The fact that Ukraine was able to use Soviet-made technonology, maybe modernized to a fifth generation but still, means only one thing: Russian cannot protect its strategic assets.....The strike that Ukraine executed on Russia showed that Russian air defense and defense of their strategic assets is dogshit. They are going to fall apart as soon as they will try to use any kind of nuclear weapons. So, I hope this will be reassuring for you that the situation is still going just one way, which is their complete unconditional surrender."

 

Dec. 6

 

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (File photo).

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (File photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukrainian Drones Hit 2 Bases Deep in Russia, Official Says, Andrew E. Kramer and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Kyiv used pilotless drones to strike two bases in the heart of Russia, a Ukrainian official confirmed, in Ukraine’s most brazen attack on Russia. The strikes signaled a new willingness by Kyiv to take the fight to Russian soil, raising the stakes in the war.

Ukraine executed its most brazen attack into Russian territory in the nine-month-old war on Monday, targeting two military bases hundreds of miles inside the country, using unmanned drones, according to the Russian Defense Ministry and a senior Ukrainian official.

The drones were launched from Ukrainian territory, and at least one of the strikes was made with the help of special forces close to the base who helped guide the drones to the target, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to convey sensitive information.

ukraine flagThe strikes signaled a new willingness by Kyiv to take the fight to bases in the heart of Russia, raising the stakes in the war, and demonstrated for the first time Ukraine’s ability to attack at such long distances. Shortly after the attacks on the bases, Russia sent a barrage of missiles streaking toward Ukrainian cities.

The Kremlin said that the weapons launched by Ukraine were Soviet-era jet drones and were aimed at bases in Ryazan and Engels, about 300 miles from the Ukrainian border. It said that its forces had intercepted the drones, and that “the fall and explosion of the wreckage” had “slightly damaged” two planes, killing three servicemen and wounding four others.

The Engels airfield, on the Volga River in southern Russia, is a base for some of Russia’s long-range, nuclear-capable bombers, including the Tupolev-160 and Tupolev-95. Ukrainian officials say it is also a staging ground for Russia’s unrelenting campaign of missile attacks on infrastructure, which have left millions of Ukrainians with intermittent light, heat or water — or none at all — at the onset of winter. Security footage from an apartment complex near the base showed a fireball lighting up the sky.

The other explosion occurred at the Dyagilevo military base in the central city of Ryazan, only about 100 miles from Moscow, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. It was there that the fatalities and injuries occurred, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Ukraine’s government declined to publicly acknowledge the strikes, in keeping with its practice with other attacks on Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea.

The Engels air base and the Ryazan military installation are between 300 and 450 miles from the Ukrainian border, which is beyond the range of any known missile in Ukraine’s arsenal.

Update from Ukraine,

, Denys Davydov (former Boeing 737 Captain), Dec. 6, 2022 (19:29 min. video)

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia reports third attack at airfield within 24 hours, David L. Stern, Erin Cunningham, Mary Ilyushina, Jeff Stein, Kelly Kasulis Cho and Jennifer Hassan, Dec. 6, 2022.  An oil tanker close to an airfield in Russia’s Kursk oblast, near the Ukrainian border, caught fire Tuesday following a drone strike, regional governor Roman Starovoit said on Telegram, adding that there were no casualties. This would be the third attack on or near a Russian airfield in 24 hours.

The strike comes a day after explosions at two military installations deep inside Russia, including an airfield that served as a base for bombers allegedly used in Moscow’s relentless strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. Three Russian service members died in those blasts, which marked the deepest strikes yet inside Russia. Russia’s Defense Ministry blamed Ukraine for the attacks and said it had intercepted low-flying drones in the area.

Kyiv did not publicly claim responsibility for the strikes Monday and Tuesday, but a senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that all three attacks were carried out by Ukrainian drones.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • “These were Ukrainian drones — very successful, very effective,” the senior Ukrainian official said of the strikes, which signal a potentially serious security lapse by Russia. The official added that Moscow has “sowed the seeds of anger, and they’ll reap the whirlwind.” He said he could not comment on whether the drones were launched from Ukrainian territory or whether special forces were involved.
  • Ukraine is carrying out emergency shutdowns of its power grid in key regions after another barrage of Russian missiles knocked out power and water supplies in cities including Odessa on Monday. About half of the Kyiv region will be without electricity in the coming days, Oleksiy Kuleba, the region’s military leader, said on Telegram. “We will do everything to restore stability,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address.
  • Russia said there are no direct negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv on the issue of a security zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, after Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he was nearing an agreement between the two sides to safeguard the facility. “We are discussing the possible parameters of a declaration on the establishment of a zone of protection,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. But under no circumstances would Russian forces withdraw from the plant, she added.

2. Battleground updates

  • The Monday drone strikes on Russian military bases angered pro-Moscow military bloggers, who criticized officials for failing to anticipate and prevent the attacks, according to the Institute for the Study of War. “Several prominent Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups must have launched the strike against the Engels-2 air base from inside Russian territory,” the Washington-based think tank reported.
  • At least four people were killed in Russian missile strikes in Ukraine on Monday, Zelensky said. But air defense systems provided by Ukraine’s allies helped shoot down 60 of the 70 missiles fired by Russia, according to the Ukrainian armed forces. “Every downed Russian missile is concrete proof that terror can be defeated,” Zelensky said. The missile strikes on Ukraine came shortly after the explosions at the Russian military installations.
  • Russia appears to be capable of producing guided missiles despite heavy sanctions, weapons analysts say. Conflict Armament Research, an investigative organization based in Britain, examined two cruise missiles that struck Kyiv last month and concluded that they were produced in recent months, even after export controls prohibited vital components from reaching Russia. The group said Russia could be producing the weapons using a supply workaround or stockpiled components from the United States and Europe.
  • Russia attacked the outskirts of the Zaporizhzhia region on Monday, damaging critical infrastructure and residential buildings in a missile strike, the area’s governor, Oleksandr Starukh, said on Telegram. No deaths were reported.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Face-Off Between Russia and a Small Internet Access Firm, Adam Satariano and Paul Mozur, Dec. 6, 2022. The cat-and-mouse experience of Proton, a Swiss company, shows what it’s like to be targeted by Russian censors — and what it takes to fight back.

After Moscow erected a digital barricade in March, blocking access to independent news sites and social media platforms to hide information about its unfolding invasion of Ukraine, many Russians looked for a workaround. One reliable route they found came from a small Swiss company based nearly 2,000 miles away.

The company, Proton, provides free software that masks a person’s identity and location online. That gives a user in Russia access to the open web by making it appear that the person is logging in from the Netherlands, Japan or the United States. A couple of weeks after the internet blockade, about 850,000 people inside Russia used Proton each day, up from fewer than 25,000.

That is, until the end of March, when the Russian government found a way to block Proton, too.

Targeting Proton was the opening salvo of a continuing back-and-forth battle, pitting a team of about 25 engineers against a country embarking on one of the most aggressive censorship campaigns in recent memory.

Working from a Geneva office where the company keeps its name off the building directory, Proton has spent nine pressure-packed months repeatedly tweaking its technology to avoid Russian blocks, only to be countered again by government censors in Moscow. Some employees took Proton off their social media profiles out of concern that they would be targeted personally.

washington post logoWashington Post, She fled Russian occupation by boat. Minutes later, she was shot, Samantha Schmidt and Serhii Korolchuk, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). For weeks, Dmytro Matiukha had urged his in-laws to leave their cottage on the east bank of the Dnieper River.

The shelling was getting worse on the Russian-occupied island where they lived, and the couple had lost power in their home. So over the weekend, when Ukrainian officials encouraged residents to flee across the river to the liberated city of Kherson, Matiukha’s in-laws decided to make the trip.
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Matiukha told them to be careful, he recalled, and waited in his car to pick them up on the Ukrainian-controlled side of the river. But just minutes after they left on Sunday, Matiukha received a call from his father-in-law.

“Mom was hit,” said Vladyslav Svitlov, 76. “What do I do?”

Ukraine live briefing

At least four bullets pierced through the side of their small motorboat. Tetiana Svitlova, 75, was crouching low in the boat when the gunfire struck her in the abdomen. She reached her arm toward her husband briefly before collapsing into the boat.

The gunfire also damaged the boat’s weak engine, so it would take two more hours for a passerby to tow the couple to shore. By the time they reached their son-in-law, Svitlova no longer had a pulse.

Her death, a day after Ukrainian regional officials invited residents to cross the river to Kherson, underscored a dilemma facing officials about when and how to move the residents closest to the fighting as battle lines shift. At what point is it more dangerous to flee than to stay?

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We can win a battle of production lines with Russia. But there’s a better way, Max Boot, right, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The conflict in max boot screen shotUkraine has already lasted nearly 10 months, and it has turned into something the United States has not seen since World War II: a battle of production lines.

Both Russia and Ukraine have been expending munitions at a furious rate. “At the height of the fighting in Donbas, Russia was using more ammunition in two days than the entire British military has in stock,” notes the Royal United Services Institute, a British think tank.

Not surprisingly, both sides are now running low. Ukrainian intelligence estimates, for example, that the Russians have already expended 80 percent of their Iskander short-range ballistic missiles, which have been used to target Ukrainian cities and energy infrastructure.

It’s vital, but insufficient, for Congress to pass the Biden administration’s new aid request of $37.7 billion for Ukraine. Unfortunately, more funding alone won’t immediately bust through bottlenecks in defense production, raising the need to provide Ukraine with more potent weapons systems to maintain its battlefield progress.

The U.S. Army just awarded Raytheon a $1.2 billion contract to deliver six National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile (NASAMS) batteries to Ukraine, in addition to the two that are already shooting down Russian missiles. But it will take 24 months to build the additional batteries. Ukraine needs to protect its cities now — not in two years.

The best solution would be to help Ukraine win the war faster by providing it with higher-end weapons systems such as F-16 fighters, long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), Abrams tanks and Gray Eagle drones that the Biden administration has so far refused to supply. The Wall Street Journal just reported that the Pentagon even altered HIMARS supplied to Ukraine to prevent it from firing longer-range rockets capable of hitting Russia — even as Russian bases continue to be used for despicable and illegal attacks on Ukrainian civilians. That’s counterproductive self-restraint.

We can win a battle of production lines with Russia (the U.S. economy is 14 times larger), but we should be doing everything possible to minimize the cost and length of the conflict so that we don’t have to. If you think the supply strains are bad today, imagine what they will look like if the war is still raging at its current tempo a year from now. That’s a scenario we need to avoid if we can.

washington post logoWashington Post, Support slipping for indefinite U.S. aid to Ukraine, poll finds, Claire Parker, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). A strong majority of Americans continue to support sending arms and economic aid to Ukraine, according to a poll released Monday. But as the conflict drags into winter, Americans are divided over whether Washington should push Ukraine to reach a negotiated peace as soon as possible.

More than two-thirds of respondents back supplying Ukraine with weapons and economic assistance, and about three-quarters support accepting Ukrainian refugees and sanctioning Russia, according to the survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs last month.

While support among the American public for assistance to Ukraine remains robust, Republican backing for aid to Ukraine has slipped since the spring, with 55 percent of Republicans saying they support sending military aid, compared with 68 percent in July and 80 percent in March. Half of Republicans favored providing economic assistance to Ukraine last month, compared with roughly three-quarters in March, according to the Chicago Council’s findings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukrainian drones hit two air bases deep inside Russia in brazen attack, Mary Ilyushina, Jeff Stein and David L. Stern, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Blasts rocked two military installations deep inside Russia on Monday, including an airfield that served as a base for bombers allegedly used in Moscow’s relentless airstrikes on Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure. The attack marked Kyiv’s most brazen hit on Russian territory since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion nine months ago.

Russia’s airstrikes continued on Monday with a fresh barrage fired at targets across Ukraine just hours after reports of the explosions in Russia, which occurred at the Engels-2 strategic bomber base in Saratov, on the Volga River, and at the Dyagilevo military air base in Ryazan region.

Dec. 5

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (File photo).

 President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine (File photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukrainian Drones Hit 2 Bases Deep in Russia, Official Says, Andrew E. Kramer and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Dec. 5, 2022. Kyiv used pilotless drones to strike two bases in the heart of Russia, a Ukrainian official confirmed, in Ukraine’s most brazen attack on Russia. The strikes signaled a new willingness by Kyiv to take the fight to Russian soil, raising the stakes in the war.

Ukraine executed its most brazen attack into Russian territory in the nine-month-old war on Monday, targeting two military bases hundreds of miles inside the country, using unmanned drones, according to the Russian Defense Ministry and a senior Ukrainian official.

The drones were launched from Ukrainian territory, and at least one of the strikes was made with the help of special forces close to the base who helped guide the drones to the target, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to convey sensitive information.

ukraine flagThe strikes signaled a new willingness by Kyiv to take the fight to bases in the heart of Russia, raising the stakes in the war, and demonstrated for the first time Ukraine’s ability to attack at such long distances. Shortly after the attacks on the bases, Russia sent a barrage of missiles streaking toward Ukrainian cities.

The Kremlin said that the weapons launched by Ukraine were Soviet-era jet drones and were aimed at bases in Ryazan and Engels, about 300 miles from the Ukrainian border. It said that its forces had intercepted the drones, and that “the fall and explosion of the wreckage” had “slightly damaged” two planes, killing three servicemen and wounding four others.

The Engels airfield, on the Volga River in southern Russia, is a base for some of Russia’s long-range, nuclear-capable bombers, including the Tupolev-160 and Tupolev-95. Ukrainian officials say it is also a staging ground for Russia’s unrelenting campaign of missile attacks on infrastructure, which have left millions of Ukrainians with intermittent light, heat or water — or none at all — at the onset of winter. Security footage from an apartment complex near the base showed a fireball lighting up the sky.

The other explosion occurred at the Dyagilevo military base in the central city of Ryazan, only about 100 miles from Moscow, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. It was there that the fatalities and injuries occurred, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Ukraine’s government declined to publicly acknowledge the strikes, in keeping with its practice with other attacks on Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea.

The Engels air base and the Ryazan military installation are between 300 and 450 miles from the Ukrainian border, which is beyond the range of any known missile in Ukraine’s arsenal.

  • Ukrainian War Map,
    , Juzzie, Dec. 5, 2022 (12:59 min. video). A down to earth and simplified look at the day-by-day happenings on the ground in Ukraine.

 

 

Update from Ukraine, Analysis:

, Denys Davydov, Dec. 5, 2022  (12:57 min. video).  Russian AIRCRAFT DESTROYED 2 hrs BEFORE THE ATTACK. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Explosions rocked two Russian military bases, according to some Russian media. It was not clear what caused the blasts, Marc Santora and Ivan Nechepurenko, Dec. 5, 2022. Explosions rocked two Russian military bases on Monday, according to some Russian media, including an airfield that Kyiv officials said has been used as a staging location for the bombers whose missiles have ravaged Ukraine’s energy grid.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion at either military installation, and the full extent of any damage was also unclear.

Hours after the blasts were reported, Ukrainian officials said Russia had launched a volley of missiles at targets throughout the country. Two people were killed and two others wounded in a Russian strike in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official in the Ukrainian president’s office.

Of the two explosions reported in Russia, one hit the Engels-2 air base, which is near the southwestern city of Saratov, hundreds of miles from the Ukrainian border, and hosts Russian strategic bombers, according to Astra, a Russian news outlet.

In Washington, a Defense Department official said that the Pentagon had seen evidence of an explosion at the Engels base. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Earlier on Monday, an explosion at a military base in the city of Ryazan killed three people and wounded six others, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported. It said that a fuel truck had exploded, citing a statement from the local emergency services, but did not say what had caused the explosion.

Ukraine did not take responsibility for either blast. In the past it has remained deliberately ambiguous about its military’s involvement in strikes in Russian territory. But military and political officials took note of reports circulating in Russian news media.
Here’s what we know:

Hours after blasts were reported at two Russian bases, Ukraine’s Air Force said that a Russian missile attack was underway. The cause of the explosions in Russia was unclear.

Here's What To Know

  • Explosions rock two military bases in Russia, according to some Russian media.
  • An E.U. embargo of Russian oil and the G7’s price cap take effect.
  • A woman is shot and killed trying to cross into Ukrainian-held territory in Kherson.
  • Ukraine will auction a yacht seized from a Putin ally.
  • To help Ukraine, a widow parts with a rare emerald from a 1622 shipwreck.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Missile attack spurs air raid sirens across Ukraine; blasts reported at Russian air bases, Jeff Stein, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Emily Rauhala and Claire Parker, Dec. 5, 2022. Air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine as Russia launched a barrage of missiles at multiple cities, including the capital, Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said. They warned people not to ignore the sirens and urged residents to seek shelter. Social media filled with images of people sheltering underground.

The attack is the latest to hit weary residents of Ukraine’s capital. Dmitry Gyrenko, 35, had already spent more than an hour out of his workday sheltering at the Klovska subway station in downtown Kyiv. His power and water went out last week and was just starting to come back Saturday and Sunday before Monday’s attacks forced him below ground yet again. “I’m so angry — so angry,” Gryenko told The Post. “It’s enough.”

Reports of two separate incidents at air bases in western Russia that killed or injured several people did not yield immediate claims of responsibility. Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Putin’s war in Ukraine has moved Germany into a new era, Emily Haber, Dec. 5, 2022. Emily Haber, right, is the German emily haberambassador to the United States.

An American friend called me the other day, having just returned from Berlin. He told me he’d been struck by how deeply Russia’s war in Ukraine has affected Germany. He could trace its impact throughout his visit. One telltale sign he mentioned — dimly lit airports and streets in the late afternoon of his german flagarrival — seemed a bit superficial to me. That, after all, is almost nothing compared with Russia’s systematic attacks on the Ukrainian energy system and the hardships it is inflicting on the Ukrainian people. And yet his impression — as first impressions often do — had the ring of a more profound truth.

It is a fact that Germany and Europe are affected by the war in ways that the United States is not. First, the war is nearby — the drive from Berlin to Lviv, Ukraine, is a mere 10 hours. Ukrainian refugees, more than 1 million by now, are visible everywhere (as is the Ukrainian flag). Their status is comparable to that of a green card holder in the United States. They’re entitled to social benefits, work permits, housing. They enjoy full health insurance. Schools, which are tuition-free, are struggling to accommodate their children (more than 200,000).

The Hill, US secretly modified HIMARS for Ukraine to prevent Kyiv from shooting long-range missiles into Russia, Brad Dress, Dec. 5, 2022. The Pentagon secretly modified advanced rocket systems it sent to Ukraine to make the weapons unable to fire into Russia and escalate the war.

Since June, the U.S. has supplied Kyiv with 20 of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), but the weapons are uniquely modified so they can’t fire long-range missiles, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing U.S. officials.

The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for comment.

The HIMARS are wheeled vehicles equipped with rocket systems, which are attached to the back.

Along with the HIMARS, the U.S. has supplied Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) with a range of 50 miles, which have been used to strike Russian ammunition depots and command centers within Ukraine.

When President Biden announced the Defense Department was shipping the HIMARS and ammunition to Ukraine at the end of May, he said they would only be used for defense and the administration was “not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia.”

The Hill, Opinion: The far-right’s pro-Russia posture endangers the nation and the world, Douglas E. Schoen, Dec. 5, 2022. Throughout the 20th century, American leadership was paramount in pushing back against authoritarian and revisionist dictators who sought to undermine global peace and quash human rights. 

Both Democrats and Republicans alike recognized that the United States could ill afford to take a passive role on the world stage, as problems in Europe or republican elephant logoAsia would eventually make their way to our shores. It was an accepted principle that, when democracy was being threatened abroad, America would come to its defense. 

However, this ideal has come under fire since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Isolationist tendencies have become increasingly prominent on the political right, and Republicans have been leading the charge to curtail U.S. support for Ukraine, a sovereign and democratic nation that Russian President Vladimir Putin has brutalized and tried to lay claim to.  

kevin mccarthyIn the early days of the war, only far-right nationalists such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) were doing Putin’s bidding by lobbying for a reduction in American support for Ukraine.  

But as with other fringe views, this position quickly infiltrated the mainstream, and dozens of high-profile GOP officials have adopted a similarly pro-Russian posture. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, even called the U.S.’s current support level for Ukraine a “blank check.”  

 

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia delivering an address Friday, March 25, 2022, on

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia delivering an address Friday, March 25, 2022 on "cancel culture” that was broadcast nationwide. (Pool photo by Mikhail Klimentyev.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A week in the life of Vladimir Putin, David Ignatius, right, Dec. 5, 2022. All politics is local, as the saying goes, and that applies even david ignatiusto Russian President Vladimir Putin. That truth becomes evident from a close look at Putin’s publicly available calendar, which offers fascinating insight into a leader who oversees virtually every aspect of Russian life.

Putin is often portrayed in the Western media as something of a cartoon villain. But he’s also a skillful politician who has used the state-run media, a pliant bureaucracy and brutal repression to dominate Russian politics so totally that he appears to have no significant opposition. For many in the West, he’s a figure of derision, even hatred. But at home, he retains a bedrock of popular support, even amid the Ukraine fiasco.

The calendar shows Putin filling his days with a surprisingly mundane string of meetings, videoconferences and ceremonies that demonstrate how he tries to bolster domestic confidence even as he wages a failing war in Ukraine. He is peripatetic, talking with aides about animal husbandry one day and artificial intelligence the next. He knows that he rules a vast nation, and although he’s often seen as a Russian nationalist, he assiduously cultivates Russia’s other, disparate ethnic groups. And although the Soviet Union is gone, he stays in regular touch with fractious leaders of former republics. His nostalgia for the Soviet era is palpable.

ny times logoNew York Times, War and Sanctions Threaten to Thrust Russia’s Economy Back in Time, Valerie Hopkins and Anatoly Kurmanaev, Dec. 5, 2022. While Russia’s economy has not collapsed, an exodus of Western companies is eroding hard-won progress, and experts say the worst may be yet to come.

Valery Volodin, a welder at a sprawling Volkswagen plant in western Russia, relaxed for most of the summer at his dacha, or weekend house, planting his garden and looking after his children. Mr. Volodin, 41, had little choice: The car factory closed down in March, joining more than 1,000 multinational companies that had curtailed operations in Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine.

Since then, he has been sitting at home while Volkswagen looks for a buyer. He goes into the plant, in Kaluga’s industrial zone, once a month to collect 50,000 rubles, about $800, a payment required by Russian labor law that is the equivalent of two-thirds of his previous salary.

“We go into work, but the plant stands empty,” Mr. Volodin said in an interview. He does not mind a temporary break from the physically demanding work, but he is not sure how to plan for the future.

“We live day to day, for now,” he said.

His experience is playing out across Russia for hundreds of thousands of workers after the West imposed sweeping economic sanctions that were intended to hobble Moscow’s ability to wage war and to undercut public support for President Vladimir V. Putin.

Dec. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, After Kherson, Ukraine’s military ponders new push south and east, Samantha Schmidt and Serhii Korolchuk, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). A logical step for Ukraine would be to press south through the Zaporizhzhia region and sever the "land bridge" between Russia and Crimea.

The path to a Ukrainian victory — or at least the most obvious path — will probably cut south, through the muddy and flat fields of the Zaporizhzhia region.

ukraine flagFollowing Russia’s retreat from the city of Kherson — the only regional capital captured by Moscow since the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion — Ukrainian forces have limited options for their next big push to continue recapturing occupied territory and, ultimately, to expel the invaders.

Much attention is now shifting here, to the southern front line less than 100 miles north of the Azov Sea, where Ukrainians are eager to sever the “land bridge” connecting mainland Russia to Crimea, which Russia invaded and illegally annexed in 2014. Kyiv is also intent on liberating cities such as Melitopol and Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is located.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Forests Full of Mines, Ukrainians Find Mushrooms and Resilience, Maria Varenikova, Photographs by Brendan Hoffman, Dec. 4, 2022. These misty and damp parts of the country have long beckoned to mushroom hunters, but now peril, too, lies beneath the surface.

Weighing the risk of mines and the allure of their quarry, thousands of Ukrainians in the first mushroom season since the Russian invasion hunted for mushrooms.

Now, they are in the post-picking phase of the season, tallying their spoils and setting out to preserve them for the hard winter ahead. The risk may seem extreme for what was so long seen as a pastoral pastime, but Ukrainian mushroom hunters view it differently. They are passionate about their tranquil walks in the forest, and see in them a sign of Ukraine’s resilience and a way to preserve ordinary life during wartime.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said the $60-a-barrel price cap set on Russian oil was too high, Matt Stevens, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Ukraine’s president criticized the $60-a-barrel limit set by the Group of 7 nations, suggesting that the architects of the plan were “trying to avoid big decisions.”

Update from Ukraine,

, Denys Davydov, Dec. 4, 2022 (13:31 min. video report).

ny times logoNew York Times, He Returned a Dazed Soldier to the Russians. Ukraine Calls It Treason, Jeffrey Gettleman, Photographs by Finbarr O’Reilly, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). No one knew what to do with a lost Russian pilot. The case has revealed the blurred line between pragmatism in a war zone and collaboration with the enemy.

Russian FlagA team of guards had encountered someone stumbling toward a checkpoint in a strange green uniform, slathered in mud, looking shellshocked. He wasn’t a looter. He was a lost Russian pilot.

It was a highly unusual prisoner of war situation — a band of civilians capturing an enemy officer in a city that the enemy controls. They couldn’t hand him over to Ukrainian forces — there were no Ukrainian forces in the city at that time. And there was no Red Cross. And the Russians were everywhere.

Dec. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia and Ukraine are fighting the first full-scale drone war, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Mary Ilyushina and Kostiantyn Khudov, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). The fight set off by a land grab befitting an 18th-century emperor has transformed into a digital-age competition for technological superiority in the skies.

A war that began with Russian tanks rolling across Ukraine’s borders, World War I-style trenches carved into the earth and Soviet-made artillery pounding the landscape now has a more modern dimension: soldiers observing the battlefield on a small satellite-linked monitor while their palm-size drone hovers out of sight.

washington post logoWashington Post, Western allies move to cap the price of Russian oil at $60 a barrel, Emily Rauhala, Catherine Belton, Karen DeYoung and Beatriz Ríos, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.). After months of lobbying by the United States and days of fraught negotiations, Ukraine’s allies are closer to implementing a plan to cap the price of Russian oil starting next week, but European ambassadors on Friday proposed a cap so close to current prices that it is not clear if it will hit the Kremlin’s war chest.

At meetings in Brussels, diplomats agreed to $60 per barrel as an upper limit, with regular reviews to make sure the ceiling stays at least 5 percent below average market prices for Russian oil. If the Group of Seven nations and Australia agree, the cap would be implemented starting Monday, the day the European Union’s embargo on Russian seaborne crude goes into force.

janet yellen oThe idea of the cap, pitched hard by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, right, is to limit how much Russia can make on the oil it diverts elsewhere in the world without creating a massive disruption in global supply. Participating countries would ban the provision of maritime services — such as finance and insurance — for shippers transporting Russian oil that do not comply with the cap.

washington post logoWashington Post, Germany’s Scholz speaks with Putin; Ukrainian embassies in Europe mailed bloody animal eyes; Up to 13,000 Ukrainian troops killed, aide says; Biden outlines conditions for Putin meeting, Andrew Jeong, Ben Brasch, Adela Suliman and Claire Parker, Dec. 3, 2022 (print ed.).

The Kremlin responded to President Biden’s comment that he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin if Moscow was willing to end the invasion, saying that Russia would not give up the Ukrainian territory it has declared to be Russian land. “The special military operation is continuing,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday.

ukraine flagPeskov, right, added that while Putin remains open to negotiations, the United States’ refusal to recognize territories annexed by Russia “dmitry peskovcomplicates the search for the ground for mutual discussion.”

Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call Friday that “Western states, including Germany” were to blame for Kyiv’s refusal to negotiate with Russia, charging that they are “pumping up the Kyiv regime with weapons and training the Ukrainian military,” according to a Kremlin readout of the call. At a meeting Thursday in Washington, Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron affirmed their support for Ukraine and rejected Russia’s illegal annexations of Ukrainian territory.

Dec. 1

 

President Biden told reporters he hosted President Emmanuel Macron of France for his first state dinner as president “because he’s my friend.” (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).President Biden told reporters he hosted President Emmanuel Macron of France for his first state dinner as president on Dec. 1 “because he’s my friend.” (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Says He Is Willing to Talk to Putin About Ukraine, With Conditions, Roger Cohen and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Dec. 1, 2022. During a state visit by President Emmanuel Macron of France, President Biden said he would talk to President Vladimir Putin if he showed he would end the war.

Standing beside the French leader who has championed the need for dialogue with Moscow, President Biden said he would talk to President Vladimir V. Putin, but only in consultation with NATO allies and only if the Russian leader indicated he was “looking for a way to end the war.”

Mr. Biden’s public expression of conditioned willingness to reach out to Mr. Putin gratified French officials and provided unexpected support for President Emmanuel Macron’s outreach. Mr. Biden noted that Mr. Putin had shown no interest yet in ending his invasion, but said that if that changed, “I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he has in mind.”

Evidently determined to present a united front during a White House news conference that at times resembled a love fest, Mr. Macron said that France would increase its military support for Ukraine and “will never urge Ukrainians to make a compromise that will not be acceptable for them.”

In effect, the two leaders met each other halfway, with Mr. Biden showing more openness to a negotiated settlement and Mr. Macron more unequivocal support for the Ukrainian cause. If partially choreographed, the meeting of minds appeared to exceed expectations on both sides.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lavrov says Ukraine’s energy system is a legitimate target, Ivan Nechepurenko, Dec. 1, 2022. Russia's foreign minister defended the strikes on Ukraine’s energy system. The U.N. has said they could amount to war crimes.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, right, on Thursday defended Moscow’s mass missile and drone strikes against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, Russian Flagcalling it a legitimate military target, despite sergey lavrovwarnings by the United Nations that the strikes could amount to war crimes.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Mr. Lavrov (shown at right in a file photo) said that the repeated strikes against Ukraine’s infrastructure — which have knocked out electricity and water for millions of people as winter looms — were justified because Russia is hitting targets that are used to replenish Ukrainian forces with weapons provided by Western nations.

 

United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: U.N. Asks for Record Amount of Aid to Deal With Growing Disasters and War, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Dec. 1, 2022. The appeal is aimed at tackling what the U.N. called “the largest global food crisis in modern history,” fueled in part by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The United Nations launched a record-breaking appeal to international donors on Thursday asking for $51.5 billion to tackle spiraling levels of desperation, fueled in part by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

 

volodymyr zelenski t shirt siege

ny times logoNew York Times, President Zelensky of Ukraine rebukes Elon Musk’s peace proposal, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Dec. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Speaking at the DealBook summit, the Ukrainian leader (shown above in a file photo) said the billionaire would do well to fully understand the situation before making pronouncements about it.

ukraine flagPresident Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on Wednesday invited Elon Musk to visit Ukraine to see the damage done to the country by Russian forces, saying that such a visit could help the billionaire understand the situation before making pronouncements about it. He also said he didn’t think there was any immediate threat that Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, would use nuclear weapons as the war enters a new phase of winter combat.

Mr. Zelensky’s comments, made via video link to The New York Times’ DealBook Summit, were an implicit rebuke of Mr. Musk, the entrepreneur who last month proposed a peace plan for Ukraine that included ceding territory to Russia.

Nov. 30

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Retreat Reveals Signs of an Atrocity in a Ukrainian Village, Jeffrey Gettleman, Photographs by Finbarr O’Reilly, Nov. 30, 2022 (print ed.). In the southern Kherson region, the pattern seen in eastern Ukraine is repeating: Russia’s withdrawal yields evidence of possible war crimes.

First came small pieces of bone. Then a pair of arms tied at the wrists with rope.

And then the shovel unearthed a skull with a bullet hole, mouth cracked open, teeth covered in thick, black mud.

Even though scenes like this have been repeated across Ukraine wherever the Russians have retreated, the clump of villagers and police officers seemed stunned on Monday as they stood at the lip of a common grave in Pravdyne, a village near the city of Kherson.

A cold rain pelted their backs but they didn’t move as the grave was exhumed. None of the villagers even knew the last names of the six men who had been killed, execution-style, and then buried here, but that didn’t matter. “They were Ukrainians,” said Kostiantyn Podoliak, a prosecutor who had come to investigate.

And now their remains lay in a shallow grave because of it.

Kherson and the surrounding villages in southern Ukraine were liberated after eight brutal months of occupation, when the embattled Russian forces abruptly pulled out more than two weeks ago. Residents streamed into the streets, waving flags, hugging soldiers and clinking glasses of cognac.

But as days pass, that elation has given way to mounting evidence of atrocities, and the sobering reality of battered, barely livable communities from which most civilians fled months ago and may not return anytime soon. On their way out, the Russians blew up power stations, taking down electricity, running water, heat and phone service and casting residents back more than a century.