Nel's New Day

March 21, 2023

Ukraine after Almost 400 Days

Over a year after he invaded Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first visit to the country he’s trying to add to his country. His surprise visit to occupied Mariupol, 60 miles south of the fighting, came after a trip to Crimea which he illegally annexed in 2014. After Russian troops were forced to retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region and from Kherson city in the south, Mariupol is one of the few occupied regional hubs Putin controls. The front line stayed fairly static during the winter months, and designating the city as the regional capital of the occupied Zaporizhzhia region indicates Russia doesn’t expect any advancements soon

Putin’s tour was the day after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest for alleged war crimes and immediately before this week’s visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping. Putin finds the warrant, partly for the kidnapping of over 1,000 Ukrainian children, unlawful. Putin has lost almost all the West’s support, but he hopes to get help from Xi who still claims China is neutral and willing to be a mediator.

Xi’s meeting with Putin on Monday  lasted over four hours as the two men praised each other, and China wants an improved image as a diplomatic leader. Russia wants military support from China and the view as a world power. Xi’s problem is keeping ties with Russia without alienating European and African countries. The talks will continue for another two days.

With massive sanctions on Russia, Putin wants to use China as a market for energy exports. Trade between Russia and China could get to $200 billion by 2024 with China currently providing 30 percent of Russian exports and 40 percent of Russian imports in 2022.  Yet China wants to be viewed as a peacemaker although its 12-point peace plan to end Putin’s war in Ukraine last month was seen as only symbolic and perhaps a ploy for Russia to stall until he can get more weapons. Xi wants to improve Chinese standing in Western Europe. Cooperation, however, makes Russia dependent on China.

The two countries have different visions. China wants reform and improvement, but Russia wants to reconstruct the international system and its order. That was the purpose of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Cooperation between the two countries, however, makes Russia dependent on China which may allow Xi to force more Chinese access to Arctic naval bases.

Turkey, with an on-again-off-again attitude, now states it will accept Finland’s membership to NATO. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, said he won’t accept Sweden’s membership until it returns it returns over 120 members of Kurdish militant groups. Erdogan calls them terrorists and accuses Sweden of harboring them. Its 810-mil border with Russia has encouraged Finland to be neutral, but Putin’s recent actions have concerned the Finns.

An explosion in Crimea destroyed a shipment of Russian cruise missiles that were being transported by rail. They were intended to supply submarines in the Russian Black Sea fleet. The weapons had a range of over 1,500 miles on land and almost 250 miles against sea targets.

U.S. intelligence has determined that officials at the highest level of the Kremlin approved the destruction of a U.S. drone by two jets over international waters.

European Union countries have accepted a fast-track strategy to provide Ukraine with one million 155-millimeter artillery shells within a year. Eighteen countries are placing joint orders for the ammunition costing $1.1 billion.

Russian conscripts from at least 16 regions are sending Putin videos about their complaints, one of them about not receiving weapons and ammo:

“We ask that our guys be recalled from this assault as they do not possess the necessary training or experience. Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, we are asking you to sort out this situation.”

Soldiers say they are forced to storm Ukrainian positions in Russia’s eastern offensive with insufficient training, ammunition, and weapons. Russian strategy sends waves of inexperienced soldiers to certain death. After they soften up Ukrainian positions, elite, experienced fighters are sent to gain ground. Even pro-Russian war bloggers criticize its effectiveness and the meaningless deaths they call “meat assaults.” It has become more prevalent since Russia lost its initial artillery advantage.

Ukraine has a system for Russian soldiers to surrender because they will be either executed or imprisoned if they desert. The “I Want to Live” surrender hotlines have detailed instructions with professionals who screen applicants for Russian spies. Successful candidates are told to wave a white cloth, take the magazines out of their guns, point the barrels toward the ground, and drop their body armor and helmets. Those with tanks turn the turret in the opposite direction. Paperwork for swapped soldiers report they were captured. 

Having lost 200,000 soldiers to deaths or injuries, Russia is recruiting another 400,000 for three-year stints. In the region of Voronezh, close to Ukraine, residents are receiving subpoenas, mandating updates with enlistment and military registration offices. Volunteer contract soldiers numbered about 400,000 a year ago before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. More Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine, a war Putin said would be over in days, than all its wars  since World War II combined. With the shortage of male recruits, Putin is sending female prisoners to fight in Ukraine. At least 100 of them have been sent although there is not information about whether they are doing so voluntarily.

A drop in Russian population may lead Putin to plunder people from neighboring countries. For 30 years, deaths have outpaced births almost every year, dropping 2 percent of its peak of 148.6 million in 1993. During the Covid pandemic from 2020 to 2023, Russia had 1.2 million to 1.6 million excess deaths, more than the million in the U.S. that has over twice the population. Between 1990 and 2020, the U.S. population grew 33 percent. Russian life expectancy is 71 years; in the U.S. it’s 77 years. Russia’s birthrate is only 1.5 children per woman, below replacement level, and the country has a an unusually high death rate, especially for men, from cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks, strokes, etc.) and injuries (homicides, suicides, accidents). Reasons are bad healthcare, environmental pollution, and high levels of binge drinking and drug addiction, signs of despair.

Since the invasion, 500,000 to 1 million Russians—mostly young and educated—fled Russia. Putin has looked for ways to replace the population, offering financial incentives for childbearing and ways to lure immigrants from Central Asia and NATO countries. He also kidnapped at least 11,000 Ukrainian children.

Putin ally and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who sent thousands of fighters to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine denied he is ill but didn’t quash rumors that he has terminal kidney disease from poisoning. Footage of Kadyrov with Putin this past week exacerbated the rumors because Kadyrov appeared breathless, bloated, and quivering while he awkwardly read from a large font but said, “My eyesight is 100 percent.” Kadyrov plans to start his own private militia like the Wagner mercenaries, saying that it had achieved “impressive results.” Wagner fighters have already suffered 30,000 casualties in Ukraine, 60 percent of its forces.

For over two months, Ukraine and Russia have been fighting for control of Bakhmut, east of Dnipro and just outside the occupied Donetsk Oblast. Last month, the Russians almost took over the city, attacking from both the southwest and northeast, but Ukrainians blew up a bridge on the highway to the south and then another one on the north. Bakhmut is the opening to a chain of cities with hundreds of thousands of people. In the city, Russians demolish residential areas with artillery where only a few thousand civilians remain from its former 70,000.

Ukrainians, low on artillery ammunition, dig into the most defensible areas of the city to kill as many Russians as possible with as few weapons as possible. Last week, a Ukrainian strike hit a multistory building as Russian troops were leaving. Tens of thousands of Russian and their allied troops have been killed or wounded in and around Bakhmut; Ukrainian casualties were much lower.

An ongoing mystery for six months has been who blew holes in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline carrying Russian oil to Germany. Those accused include Russia, the U.S., the UK, and Ukrainian saboteurs. The last theory may be the most accurate. U.S. journalist Seymour Hersh got a lot of traction with his Substack posting that laid the blame on U.S., but he had only one anonymous source whose information had as many holes as the pipeline. The current suspect is a small group of Ukrainians on the 150-foot yacht Andromeda, owned by two Ukrainians.  

Twenty years ago on March 20, 2003, George W. Bush declared war on Iran with general Republican support. Now they want the U.S. to stay out of Ukraine. Chris Sununu, the GOP governor of New Hampshire, countered this position in a Washington Post op-ed, writing that the invasion is not a “territorial dispute,” as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls the war:  

“Russia is engaged in a war against an innocent people, and it must be condemned. The United States of America is the greatest country on Earth, and we must stand with our allies around the globe to fight aggressive and dangerous regimes that threaten freedom wherever they are.”

Sununu added:

“History has taught us that complacency and appeasement benefit our enemies much more than they benefit the United States. Some in the Republican Party have lost their moral compass on foreign policy, as evidenced by former president Donald Trump, who once called Putin’s invasion ‘genius’ and ‘savvy.’”

February 24, 2023

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, the First Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin had a bad week immediately preceding the first anniversary of his unwarranted invasion of Ukraine.    

President Joe Biden delivered an inspiring speech about democracy to 30,000 people in Kyiv the day before he talked to a crowd in Poland. Putin’s “state-of-the-nation” speech hours before Biden’s Warsaw speech elicited little enthusiasm over his threats to use nuclear weapons against any opponents.

Former convict and leader of Russia’s mercenary Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, published a graphic photograph of mutilated Wagner corpses in a ditch and complained about lack of ammunition. The 30,000 casualties in the Wagner Group are about half its entire strength. Two-thirds of the Wagner group were recruited from prisons. Prigozhin also accused the Russian military leadership of “treason.”  

Putin sent only 125,000 soldiers in the early days of the invasion with the belief that he could defeat Ukrainians in a matter of a few days. In the first year, about 200,000 Russian soldiers have been wounded or killed.

Putin conducted a launch of his new SARMAT “heavy” ICBM with the capability of carrying multiple warheads the day before he announced he was suspending participation in the New Start agreement between U.S. and Russia to control nuclear weapons. Yet his three-stage, 200-ton, 120-foot-long ICBM failed; Putin didn’t mention anything about the test in his speech.

Climate change with a warmer winter is helping European countries avoid buy Russia’s oil and natural gas. Russia’s exports are down 80 percent in 2022 from 2021. In December 2022, EU leaders eased up on permits for solar and wind plants; solar power grew by 50 percent in 2022, primarily in Germany which had been the biggest oil purchaser on the continent.  

Ukraine hit nine Russia-occupied cities, including 15 strikes at Russian bases and stockpiles in and near Mariupol, on the day after Putin’s speech, possibly with a new weapon with extended range, precise targeting, and evasion of Russia’s attempt to take it down. Among the sites hit in Mariupol were a large ammunition depot and a loading facility for Russian ships.

Despite a bill to discontinue military and financial aid to Ukraine from 11 extremist MAGA House members led by Florida’s Matt Gaetz, five GOP House members—Michael McCaul (TX), Darrell Issa (CA), Max Miller (OH), Keith Self (TX), and Jake Elizey (TX)—met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv this week in support of his battle against Russia.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) provided bipartisan support for Ukraine at the Munich Security Conference. McConnell pledged the commitment of GOP leaders to Ukraine because “America’s own core national interests are at stake.”

Professor of strategic studies Phillips O’Brien wrote that Russia’s “massive” offensive is a sign of declining efficiency, especially with its failure to take Vuhledar. Russia’s increasing casualties, especially in the last two months, are four times those last spring. The current 800 Russian losses a day is a “massacre,” according to O’Brien. Morgues in Russia have been told to restrict the number of military dead they give families each day to keep the public from “panicking” about the growing death toll. The Republic of North Ossetia is allowed to “hand over no more than two bodies a day.” Putin’s next mobilization is of full-time students in higher educational institutions.

A year ago, Russia had about 8,000 tanks, many of them damaged or too outdated to be used. Engineers can refit no more than 600 tanks a year, about 50 a month, added to building about 20 tanks per month. Yet Russia is losing an average of 270 tanks each month, a monthly loss of 200 tanks. Of the possible 3,000 tanks still remaining, no one knows what shape they are in; some of them are stripped down, lacking in basic gear, and/or corrupted by rust, making them unsalvageable.

Ukraine started the war with 2,000 tanks and lost 434. The country can’t build any because many necessary parts were made in Russia-occupied Crimea, forcing Ukraine to depend on donations from allies, frightening Russia. Ukraine estimates that Russia lacks the resources or capability of a new mass assault because Russian soldiers continues smaller attacks where it assumes weaker Ukrainian defenses.

Historians note that fascists are incompetent when executing wars. Umberto Eco wrote “they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy” because they consistently try to force reality to match their view of the world. Commanders in the Wagner Group execute their own recruits who falter or desert, crushing in their skulls with sledgehammers. Russia denies any connection with the mercenaries but uses them as a tactical tool. Putin has ordered its operatives to Kyiv to assassinate Zelensky, who survived at least a dozen attempts, and kill other high-placed officials.  

Wagner may have fallen out of favor with Putin: state media outlets were ordered not to promote either the Wagner Group or Prigozhin. The Kremlin may be afraid that Wagner, which owns notorious Russian troll factories, might try to replace Putin. Wagner published the sledgehammer-execution videos—to show their ability for this violence. Pitting poorly trained convicts against Ukrainians protecting their families and homeland led to failure. One of the captured prisoners said:  

“We thought we’d be fighting Poles and various mercenaries. Germans. We didn’t think anyone was left in the Ukrainian army there. We thought they’d left the country. So it became clear they were just spinning lies to get us to enter into battle with the Ukrainians. No one really thought that the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine] would actually fight for their own country, for their loved ones. We only learned this after going in there.”

In another video of the Wagner militia, four members dragged their wounded commander from the battlefield and then beat him violently with what appeared to be shovels near Bakhmut, the site of intense fighting for months.

The Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom has permission to create its own private militia, like the Wagner Group.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, at least 500,000 Russians, perhaps one million, are fleeing the country, comparable to emigrations after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. Reasons for the exodus vary—opposition to rising authoritarianism, economic interests, and the military mobiolization leading to the flight of hundreds of thousands of men. Ten percent of the IT workers left in 2022 and have not returned. Over 100,000 Russians upset with Putin’s invasion are sending “significant amounts of money” through cryptocurrency back channels to help Ukraine in amounts varying from a dollar to millions of dollars.

Putin’s war has been bad for his country. Western countries bonded in one goal: Russian defeat. Russia is a “global pariah and the world remains inspired by Ukrainian bravery and resilience,” according to Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He added, “Russia has lost … strategically, operationally and tactically.” Its military arsenal is severely depleted. Russia is forced to use older-era, sometimes Soviet, weapons. Western sanctions, which Biden is expanding, contracted Russia’s economy, damaged its industrial capacity, and blocked any integration into Europe.

Russia hoped to drag Belarus into his invasion of Ukraine, but Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said his military would join Russia only if the country is attacked on its own soil, “if at least one soldier sets foot in Belarus to kill my people.” Russia also failed to turn another country bordering Ukraine, Moldova, into attacking Ukraine after the Russian defense ministry lied about Ukraine taking over Transnistria, part of Moldova but controlled by Russian separatists. 

Moldovan President Maia Sandu described a Russian plot to overthrow her country’s leadership and place Moldova “at the disposal of Russia.” She said:

“The Kremlin’s attempts to bring violence to Moldova will not work. Our main goal is the security of citizens and the state. Our goal is peace and public order in the country. The purpose of these actions is to overturn the constitutional order, to change the legitimate power from Chișinău to an illegitimate one that would put our country at Russia’s disposal to stop the European integration process, but also so that Moldova can be used by Russia in its war against Ukraine.”

Another Russian official mysteriously died in mid-February, falling out of a window in St. Petersburg. Marina Yankina, 58, had directed the Financial Support Department of the Russian Defense Ministry in St. Petersburg’s Western Military District. She lived in the high-rise building. Her death came soon after another suspected suicide of Major General Vladimir Makarov, who Putin recently fired. Makarov died of a gunshot, but other deaths are falls from a window, down a flight of stairs, or off a ship. They had almost all spoken against Putin’s invasion. Suspicious deaths of 31 highly-placed Russians since January 30, 2022.

U.S. isolationists who oppose any Biden decision, including support for Ukraine, don’t understand that a Russian win would result in an emboldened China to start a war with the U.S. over Taiwan. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, exiled Russian tycoon and critic of Putin’s regime, said:

“A lost war in Ukraine is a steppingstone to war in the Asia Pacific… If the U.S. wants to go to war in Asia, then the most correct path to this is to show weakness in Ukraine as well.”

Fortunately, the Russian assets in the U.S. House don’t have the votes to remove existing funding to support Ukraine.

January 5, 2023

Third Day of House Speaker Election Chaos; Ukraine Update

Filed under: Legislation,War — trp2011 @ 10:57 PM
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In the five ballots for House Speaker on the third day, the votes for Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), 212, and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), 200, stayed the same as yesterday while Vicky Spartz (R-IN) continued to vote “present” and another 20 members voted for “others.” The only difference came from those who didn’t vote for Byron Donalds (R-FL): Matt Gaetz (R-FL) picked Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) in his first two votes of the day, and Josh Brecheen (R-OK) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) chose Kevin Hern (R-OK) starting with the second ballot on January 5. Hern had voted for McCarthy but said he wouldn’t mind being Speaker. For the ninth ballot, Boebert nominated Hern, who received three votes when Gaetz joined Boebert and Brecheen. Donalds’ 17 votes and Spartz’s “present” vote left McCarthy and Jeffries with their usual votes because Hern voted for McCarthy.

After these three votes, the House moved on to the tenth ballot—same status for both Jeffries and McCarthy with Spartz’s “present.” The change came with a movement to Hern, seven votes, while 13 members stayed with Donalds. In the 11th ballot, Hern kept the seven votes, and Donalds lost one to Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), nominated  by Gaetz who also voted for him. These eleven ballots make the number of votes for House Speaker the highest since 1856 with its 133 ballots. Only 14 Speaker elections have required multiple ballots in the 127 Speaker elections since 1789. Thirteen of them were before the Civil War, and, until the 118th Congress, only seven required over nine ballots.

McCarthy had one victory today: he managed to get the House to adjourn with a vote of 219 to 213 before he lost a 12th ballot. The House reconvenes at noon on January 6, the second anniversary of the GOP insurrection at the Capitol. One Republican joined all Democrats in opposing the adjournment. The freshman congressional retreat with trainings and policy discussion planned for this weekend was postponed.

Before the January 5 ballots, McCarthy made more concessions to the recalcitrant 20 when the first set of concessions lost him a vote. The biggest rule change he promised was to allow one House member to force a vote ousting the Speaker from his former concession of lowering the number to five. He also promised to put more conservative Freedom Caucus members onto the House Rules Committee that debates legislation before it moves to the floor. Another McCarthy promise was to relent on allowing floor votes for term limits on members and enact specific border policy legislation.

Thus far, McCarthy’s concessions have done no good; several of the non-McCarthy 20 have said they will not support him. McCarthy may also lose moderates who formerly pledged they would never support a rules package giving one House member the power to vacate a Speaker.

Another concession came from McCarthy’s super PAC, Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) , which promised to not participate in open House primaries for safe Republican seats. The conservative Club for Growth, originally in opposition to McCarthy, made the same promise. Earlier concessions included no more remote votes and markups, a custom beginning with the pandemic; the ability to zero out a government official’s salary; 72 hours for lawmakers to a read bill before it comes to the floor; and a new select commit to investigative the “weaponization” of the Justice Department and the FBI. Any elected Speaker must comply with McCarthy’s concessions, weakening the position and the House itself.

During the 2022 election cycle, CLF spent almost $260 million to help reelect Republicans including members voting against his speakership bid. Top donors were business billionaires, giving them power over the GOP. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) tweeted:

“It is creepy that dark money super PACs are explicitly part of the negotiation regarding who becomes speaker of the United States House.”

Federal law blocks candidates from coordinating with super PACs; in this case, their action benefits McCarthy, possibly breaking the law. Club for Growth, that has switched opposition to McCarthy after his latest concessions, receives dark money from the Koch network and other right-wing forces.

DDT is pleased with the standoff, saying it will make the position of House Speaker “BIGGER & MORE IMPORTANT.”

The lack of a House Speaker for at least three days has stymied all House action: members can’t be sworn in or paid. and House rules cannot be passed. Without rules by January 13, staffers will also receive no pay. No elected representative is privy to national security matters and cannot see top-secret information or discuss these issues with national security officials because they lack clearance until sworn in. Most distressing to Republicans is that they cannot begin their oversight of the Biden administration.

McCarthy’s idea for getting enough votes is to lower the current 217 votes, Spartz already voting present, to a much lower number by more members also voting present. Democratic candidate Jeffries has received 212 votes. If ten Republicans vote present and McCarthy can’t come up with 212 votes, the Democrat could become House Speaker in a chamber with a GOP majority.

George Santos, new representative from New York who McCarthy kept in Congress for his vote despite serious ethical problems, has reached another low in lying. On his website, he stated he voted “nay” on the Omnibus bill passed on December 23, impossible because he and all other House members cannot be sworn in until a Speaker is elected. In addition, the Omnibus bill was passed in the 117th Congress; Santos can’t vote until the 118th Congress. He also claimed to have voted on four other bills during last year’s session. 

The GOP search for House leaders has come up with questionable choices. Bryon Donalds was touted by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) because the nominee for Speaker is Black and his large size would intimidate Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Missing from the description is his background as a youth, arrested on a marijuana charge dropped through a pretrial diversion program. Later he pled guilty to a felony bribery charge in a plot to defraud a bank, a charge later expunged. He was also part of the “Freedom Force,” a Republican group that lobbied for federal funding for a cobalt plant started by a GOP consultant who had run the Conservative Leadership PAC and led by a firm netting almost $1 million from GOP campaigns. In 2021, Donalds was refused membership in the Congressional Black Caucus and voted to overturn Joe Biden’s election. He also supported Florida’s voter suppression laws.

Steve Scalise (R-LA), already second in House GOP leadership who may be considered for Speaker, has a history of white supremacy. In 2002, Scalise accepted a speaking engagement at a white supremacist conference, but Scalise said he only vaguely recalled his speech and didn’t know that it was a white nationalist group. A journalist reported that Scalise “told him he was like David Duke without the baggage.”

Updates from the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

The U.S. and Germany are sending armored combat vehicles to Ukraine, and both countries will train Ukrainian forces on their use. France will send light tanks. Russia has moved its long-range bombers farther from Ukraine after they and medium bomber aircraft were damaged in two attacks by Ukraine last month. Long-range planes can still fire cruise missiles into Ukraine, but the range increases the maintenance stress on the planes. Sixty percent of Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsky region largely held by Russia was destroyed by Russian shelling.

Russia has pardoned the first recruits for its Wagner mercenary group after six months fighting in Ukraine. Last month, the group received infantry rockets and missiles from North Korea. Wagner has 50,000 troops in Ukraine, 40,000 convicts serving prison sentences when they were enlisted.

Ukraine started 2023 by shooting down dozens of Iranian attack drones fired by Russia and killing dozens of Russian soldiers in a rocket strike on a vocational school used as an ammo dump in the occupied city of Makiivka, in Donetsk province. Russia declared the strike killed 89 of their soldiers, but Ukraine and Russian war correspondents said hundreds of Russian troops were killed, possibly 1,200. A day later, Ukraine destroyed another huge Russian ammo dump near Svatove.

Ukraine has also become skilled at shooting down the drones, reporting that it downed all 80+ exploding drones sent by Russia, some of them with antiaircraft guns and small-arms fire. Other methods are surface-to-air missiles.

Military analysts report that Ukraine’s success comes from its use of HIMARS, howitzers, and other long-range artillery along with Russian blunders. Russia blames its troops for giving away their location by using cellphones, but Ukraine and Russian military bloggers accuse their commanders. Russia lacks transport vehicles to distribute new conscripts, leaving the concentrated groups vulnerable to Ukranian attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to hold a unilateral cease-fire for Orthodox Christmas from noon January 6 through January 7. He said he was following a request from the church leader, Patriarch Kirill. He called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do the same, but Zelensky said Putin’s order would increase the death toll. “Everyone in the world knows how the Kremlin uses respites at war to continue the war with renewed vigor.” Ukraine celebrated its Christmas on December 25.


October 27, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 245

Russian President Vladimir Putin has one last chance to win his invasion of Ukraine—a GOP congressional takeover on November 8. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested that the House would pull funding for the war if he becomes speaker. They would destroy Ukraine’s courageous struggle to keep its democracy at the same time that its troops are retaking land Russia started to occupy since its attack on February 24, 2022. Putin’s conscription attempts are bad to terrible, and men dragged onto the battle field are poorly equipped and badly trained. While Russian propaganda proposes Ukrainian genocide, the Russian attacks on Ukrainian power stations removing electricity from a million people has only increased Ukrainian resolve.

In the past, Republicans have exhibited friendship with Putin and Russia, and recent votes against aid for Ukraine has shows that continued Russian support by far-right congressional members. In a New Yorker interview with Isaac Chotiner, columnist Christopher Coldwell gave reasons for this GOP fondness for the brutal country trying to annihilate Ukrainians. The GOP sees Putin as an ally in their culture wars and the shared contempt for international institutions. They also admire Putin’s “macho nativist authoritarianism” and have been swayed by his trolling propaganda to influence U.S. elections in the past eight years.   

Fortunately, for Ukraine, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-CA) opposes McCarthy’s position. McConnell called on President Joe Biden to expedite military aid to Ukraine and promised GOP senators will work to ensure “timely delivery of needed weapons.” There was no mention of McCarthy, but the difference was obvious.

Another reason for the far-right extremist attachment to Putin is his similarity to Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) and their similar goals. Maureen Dowd wrote:

“They would rather destroy their countries than admit they have lost. They have each created a scrim of lies to justify lunatic personal ambition. And while it should be easy to see through these lies, both cult-of-personality leaders are able to con and bully enough people to remain puissant.”

The strongmen who went into Ukrainian apartments with rifles and forced the occupants to vote in favor of the sham referenda annexing eastern Ukraine oblasts bear an alarming resemblance in dress and manner to the men stalking the Arizona ballot drop boxes.

Conservatives permiting Russia to overcome Ukraine and move across Europe will have the same danger as conservatives’ supporting Germany in the leadup to World War II. With other members of “America First,” Charles Lindbergh, the hero of many people in the U.S. for making the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, urged people to join Germany to preserve “our inheritance of European blood.” In 1940, editors of the conservative Wall Street Journal wrote that “our job today is not to stop Hitler [who had] already determined the broad lines of our national life at least for another generation.”

Famous U.S. manufacturers supported Germany’s efforts in his prewar preparations. In 1938, Henry Ford opened an assembly plant in Berlin to build “troop transport-style” vehicles for the German military, and both Ford and his chief executive received the Nazi Grand Cross of the German Eagle for “distinguished service.” GM built the “Blitz” truck in Berlin, used for German army blitzkreig attacks on Poland, France and the Soviet Union.   GM and Ford converted their Axis plant to production of military aircraft and trucks, building almost 90 percent of the armored “mule” 3-ton half-trucks and over 70 percent of the Reich’s medium and heavy-duty trucks which served as “the backbone of the German Army transportation system.” Ford provided access to huge quantities of raw materials, especially rubber, and GM gave Hitler the synthetic fuel technology. All the dealings were “extremely profitable.”

Eighty years later, blatant anti-Semitic attacks by leaders such as Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, and rapper Kanye West have resulted in the highest levels of harassment, vandalism, and violence toward Jews since the 1970s. Russians are donating millions of dollars to U.S. politicians—including DDT—through straw donors. Putin capitalized on U.S. political divisions with the statement that the West is divided into “traditional, mainly Christian values” and another—“aggressive, cosmopolitan, neocolonial, acting as the weapon of the neoliberal elite.”

The UN objected to a Russian argument that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cannot report to the Security Council regarding allegations Moscow is using Iran-made drones in Ukraine, violating a 2015 resolution. Tehran denies it supplied the drones, but they have been filmed in attacks. Russia also accused the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany of trying to exert influence over Guterres to investigate this use of drones. In addition, Russia may be advising Iran on ways to suppressing open demonstrations after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for not following Iran’s dress code.

Iranian troops are “directly engaged on the ground” in Crimea supporting Russian drone attacks on Ukraine’s power stations and other key infrastructure, according to the White House. Russians may need the Iranians to train them how to use their drones. Zelensky said that Russia had ordered 2,400 drones from Iran.

A senior Russian foreign ministry official threatened the U.S. and its allies with targeting their commercial satellites in return for their involvement in the Russian war against Ukraine. He may have been referring to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation, used by Ukrainian soldiers for communications, and synthetic aperture radar satellites tracking Russian troop and tank movements. The official made the same threat last month but may not have followed through because taking this action is difficult. In addition, Russians threaten to blow up a hydroelectric power plant in the Kherson region.

Russia also calls for the “de-Satanization” of Ukraine, a lie one step lower than their earlier goal of “de-Nazification” and reminiscent of the QAnon conspiracy theories in the U.S. Russian soldiers’ strategy to defeat Ukrainian civilians is to capture, torture, and then kill them in organized brutality throughout Russian occupied territory.

Ukraine is advancing on occupying Russian forces in Kherson despite heavy fighting. A Russian military blogger wrote, “I don’t exclude the surrender of Kherson [by the Russians].”

A recent discussion about nuclear-laced “dirty bombs” has been exacerbated by Russia’s letter to the UN with the evidence-free accusation that Ukraine plans to use them. While he spreads these lies, his military had an exercise of tests capable carrying nuclear warheads involving land, sea, and air. Videos of launches were published along with the defense minister’s claim that the tests were successful.

Earlier this week, Ukraine pushed back Wagner Group mercenaries operated by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Bakhmut, Donetsk, and seized a key highway in Luhansk. Prigozhin admitted slow progress amid “fierce enemy resistance.” Sergei Surovikin (aka General Armageddon), Russia’s new commander of the invasion in Ukraine known for his brutality, used the word “tense” in trying to retake southern and eastern Ukrainian regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin had claimed to annex through his coercive faux referenda. Russian troops are in danger of being pinned against the western bank of the 1,367-long Dnipro River bisecting Ukraine from north to south.

About trying to keep Kherson, Surovikin said, “The situation in this area is difficult.” He blames Ukraine for shelling infrastructure and residential buildings which Ukraine said was done by Russian military. Russians struggle to obtain supplies from the east because Ukrainians bombed the main bridge across the Dnipro and decided to ferry materials and equipment from the west bank of the Dnipro River to the eastern bank toward Russia. 

Syrian war crimes investigators may join crime victims in Ukraine to put Russian President Vladimir Putin into prison because he has used the same people, weapons, and tactics in both countries’ atrocities. In the command hierarchy, Putin is responsible for the crimes and its prosecution. Russia never agreed to be called up in the International Criminal Court, but Ukrainan courts or those in third countries could prosecute him. The U.S. could also declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism or support calls from Baltic states for an international tribunal to hold Putin and Russia accountable for the separate international crime of aggression used to prosecute Nazi criminals at Nuremburg. Putin’s international crimes have no statute of limitations.

A new shadow government in Belarus is planning to form a coalition with Ukraine to reduce Russia’s expansion after concerns that Russia will also invade Belarus. Taking Belarus allows Putin to move onto attacking Western Europe. Russia is sending about 9,000 troops and hundreds of armored vehicles for possible deployment.

In his latest escalation to the invasion, Putin has declared martial law in the four Ukrainian areas he annexed although he doesn’t occupy all the territory. He also ordered an “economic mobilization” in eight regions adjoining Ukraine, including Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed in 2014. In Russia, he gave additional powers to leaders of its 80+ regions to protect critical facilities, maintain public order and increase production in support of the war effort.

U.S. F-16 warplanes intercepted two Russian bombers within the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. It is a perimeter where air traffic is monitored beyond the border of national airspace to provide additional reaction time in case of hostile actions. A Russian jet also crashed into an apartment in Yeysk, a port town about 25 miles from Ukraine, while it was on a training mission. The death toll is at least 14, including three children.  

October 8, 2022

Russia Invades Ukraine – Day 228

The speaker of the Duma, Russia’s lower house of Parliament, called an explosion on the 12-mile Kerch Bridge linking Russia and Crimea an “act of war,” and the nation’s investigative committee is looking into it as a criminal case. The first assumption was that a truck blew up the bridge, but others believe it required more explosives under the bridge. Seven fuel tanks ignited a train heading toward the Crimean Peninsula, and two bridge lanes collapsed. Three people thus far died. Ukrainians did not take credit although they celebrated, and Russia is still not declaring Ukrainian sabotage. Because the truck was coming from the Russian side, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak suggested that Moscow was involved.

The disaster will cause more problems with Russia’s supply chain to the war front in Ukraine. Supplies for troops in southern Ukraine are now being sent on the 25-mile route along the Sea of Azov and on ferries across the sea. Russia built the road and rail bridge in 2018 at a cost of £2.7 billion after the Kremlin violated international law in 2014 by annexing Crimea from Ukraine. The explosion occurred hours after other explosions in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv from missile strikes in the city’s center. Blasts started fires at a medical institution and a non-residential building.

The Ukrainian Postal Service will issue new stamps featuring the damaged Kerch Strait bridge and an envelope with the image of Crimea breaking handcuffs with Russia.  

Hours after the explosions, light traffic resumed on the bridge, and the railway where oil tankers caught fire also reopened. Other events in the invasion:

After Russian missile shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest plant in Europe has lost all external power and relies on emergency diesel generators for necessary electricity for reactor cooling. The European Union “condemns in the strongest possible terms” Russia’s attempted seizure of the power plant after Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a decree putting it under Russian state control.

Putin announced that Air Force General Sergei Surovikin would oversee the entire invasion of Ukraine, the first time that one person is completely in control, after Putin fired commanders of two in five Russian military regions. The UK Ministry of Defense said, “Surovikin’s career has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality.” He was added to the EU sanctions list in February 2022.

Russian media accused Ukrainian forces of shelling a printing house in the separatist-held city of Donetsk.

Ukrainians have reclaimed large swathes of territory, forcing Russian troops to abandon long-held positions.

Russian TV talk shows, presenters, and studio guests discuss increasing doom and gloom about the Russian invasion.

In September, exports from Ukraine jumped by 23 percent from August to their highest level since the war started in February, helped by an internationally brokered deal allowing shipment of grain from Black Sea ports.

Ukrainian police found bodies of 534 civilians and evidence of torture in recaptured territory, mostly in mass burial sites.

Two released U.S. prisoners from the Ukrainian invasion detail the brutal treatment by Russians during the 104 days they were in captivity.

Members of Putin’s inner circle at the Kremlin are using Russia’s losses in Ukraine to undermine defense chief Sergei Shoigu. Officials are giving Putin ways to change his failures or staying low to hold on power and avoid punishment. Chechens Yevgeny Prigozhin, previously the Kremlin caterer known as “Putin’s chef,” and leader Ramzan Kadyrov are heading the charge against Shoigu. Putin has a pattern of pitting underlings against each other to stop them from uniting against him.

Other critics of the Russian military, openly criticizing the draft, are state TV propagandists Margarita Simonyan and Vladimir Soloviev, who accuse Russia of recruiting Russians unfit for service. Investigative journalist Yevgenia Albats, who left Russia for her reporting, said her contacts estimate at least 70 percent of tope officials are opposed to the war. She added that “the higher you go, the more desperation you feel. There is general understanding now that the war can’t be won.”

Much has been said about Russians fleeing across borders of countries west of the country to avoid conscription, but two men took a boat across the Bering Sea to Alaska and are now seeking asylum. They were sent to Anchorage for vetting and processing under U.S. immigration laws. In other reverberations of Putin’s promise to recruit an additional 300,000 soldiers for his war, those fleeing Russia could number 261,000 between the ages of 16 and 40, according to the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The number could be higher; the Interior Ministry of Kazakhstan, which shares a border with Russia, reported 200,000 in that country alone.

New recruits, according to social media postings, are being left in desolate fields without supplies, given rusty old rifles, or ordered to buy their own food and equipment. They also say they are sick with fevers. Told they would be sent to Ukraine the next day, new conscripts, who have no uniforms, said they would not go without training. Most men were issued a summer uniform as temperatures move toward freezing, a bag, a mug, a spoon, and a small thermos. One of them said:

“That’s all. No dry rations, bulletproof vests, helmets, or flasks. The uniforms were mostly the wrong size. So were the boots. The guns jam after every reload. These are weapons from the ’70s and ’80s.”

One new unwilling conscript is municipal deputy Dmitry Baltrukov, 43, who complained that the war in Ukraine has killed thousands of Russian soldiers and damaged the country’s economy. He has no military experience, required for conscripts. After his protest to the war, he and his fellow councilors of Smolninskoye were fined 44,000 rubles (£675).

Two organizations and an individual, “symbols of resistance and accountability” during the Russian war on Ukraine, have received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize:

Ales Bialiatski, an imprisoned Belarusian human rights advocate, helped initiate the Belarus democracy movement in the mid-1980s and founded Viasna, originally supporting jailed demonstrators and now adopting a broad human rights focus. His involvement in demonstrations led to his imprisonment since 2020.

Memorial, a Russian human rights organization, was created in the former Soviet Union to remember victims of communist oppression before becoming the country’s largest human rights organization.

Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), a Ukrainian human rights organization, was formed in 2007 to advance Ukrainian human rights and democracy and now works to document Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians.

Ukraine’s counteroffensives have broken through Russian lines on two fronts in more areas that Putin claims belong to Russia after his sham referenda. Earlier this week, Ukrainian forces took back at least 10 villages in the Kherson region. A cargo train in Ilovaisk in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region was also hit by a “powerful explosion.” The offensive caught Russia by surprise.

With Ukrainian gains, Russia no longer fully controls any of the four provinces it claims to annex. Russia occupies only about 30 percent of the Zaporizhzhia region and released the head of the nuclear plan after abducting him. Ukraine was close to liberating all the Kharkiv region. Once again, Russian forces are reportedly fleeing.

Ukraine is trying to bring back 32 illegally adopted children from Russia forcibly removed from their parents who “want them back.” Russia has deported at least 7,343 children to its country; another 236 are still missing since the invasion beginning on February 24, 2022. Ukrainian social services found 5,391 children and returned 55 home. According to Zelensky, Russia forcibly deported over 1.6 million Ukrainians, “many of them … abused and intimidated.”

 Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) accused the U.S. of “almost forcing” Putin to invade Ukraine, following other accusations about how President Joe Biden has handled diplomatic relations with Russia. On Real America’s Voice, DDT said that The Biden administration’s “rhetoric” before the invasion led to Putin’s actions. With no evidence, he said, “They actually taunted him” and called it “dumb.” DDT bragged about his working relationship with both Putin and Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky—who he tried to blackmail in a telephone call that led to his first impeachment. Immediately before the invasion, DDT said that Putin was a “genius” for moving troops into Ukraine to “declare a big portion of Ukraine independent.” In March, DDT pushed Putin to release information about Hunter Biden’s alleged business dealings in Russia.

At his Minden (NV) rally, DDT claimed the world will be destroyed if Ukraine doesn’t agree to a deal with Russia. One of the first two women in line at the rally said, “I love Putin” and supports both Putin’s war and Viktor Orbán. Does MAGA want Russia to annex the U.S.?   

September 30, 2022

Russia Invades Ukraine – Day 218

Although he didn’t cite anyone, Russian president Vladimir Putin finally admitted that mistakes were made in his mobilization of 300,000 new recruits to kill more people in his invasion of Ukraine—such as summons to “fathers of many children, or people suffering from chronic diseases, or who those who are already past conscription age.” Nevertheless, people still protest or flee the country, and even his own official supporters, including his state TV hosts, criticize him. By now, over 200,000 Russians have fled the country with about 98,000 of them going into Kazakhstan. Carlines at the Georgia border were over ten miles long, about a two-day wait, despite Putin’s warning to men not to leave the country. Russia plans a station there to serve summons to “citizens of the mobilization age” and is sending forces and armored vehicles to Georgia and other borders such as Kazakhstan and Mongolia to block Russian men from these escapes.  

Putin has also victoriously announced his sham referendum election of about 98 percent win to annex four areas after he either killed or drove off hundreds of thousands of people who might have opposed the annexation. Between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainians may have been forcibly deported to Russia, many of them children. Putin also benefited from sending in armed men with ski masks into homes or placing them at polling stations to mark ballots for people. Russian Parliament will also vote for formal annexation. One consequence could be conscription of Ukrainians within these areas into the Russian army, already in existence in Luhansk and Donetsk which have been controlled by Russia and its proxies since 2014.

Russian newspapers also spread propaganda in referenda areas, trying to create a feeling of normalcy and unity amid the demolished homes and infrastructure, looted stores, and struggling civilians lacking provisions. Cellphone and internet service from the West had been mostly cut. The newspapers were found when Ukrainians took back Izyum. Ukrainians also found ten letters from Russian soldiers in Izyum begging to be dismissed. Dated August 30, they drew a picture of depressed troops desperate for rest and concerned about health and morale because they don’t receive medical care. The ten authors may have banded together to draft the letters which were abandoned as troops fled the city.

Patriotic pageantry was front and center at the gilded Grand Kremlin Palace in Putin’s announcement of the annexation in violation of international law, claiming 40,000 square miles of land, or about 15 percent of all Ukrainian territory. Putin launched the ceremony with long, angry threats about nuclear attacks and promises to “protect” the newly annexed lands “with all the forces and means at our disposal.” Even Italy’s newly-elected far-right prime minister Giogia Meloni said the annexation has no “legal and political value” and that Putin’s move again demonstrated his ” Soviet-style, neo-imperialist vision that threatens the security of the entire European continent.” She called for Western unity.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky responded by a post on Telegram announcing Ukraine is formally applying for “accelerated accession” into NATO. The annexation effectively eliminates a diplomatic resolution to Putin’s war in Ukraine, and Putin will be challenged with his claim to territory that he doesn’t control. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he didn’t know the boundaries of Russia’s new “territory.” He added, “It has to be liberated.” President Joe Biden announced a new round of sanctions against government, military officials, and their families. Some of them restrict Russian access to key technologies and other materials to fuel its war effort.

On the same day, Russia faced new setbacks near Lyman as Ukrainian forces “semi-encirled” the eastern city, a critical logistic route. The thousands of Russians trapped in Lyman are part of the 752nd Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment with a tradition of being cut off, surrounded, and almost destroyed since 1994. Ukrainians’ strategy has been to destroy Russian supply dumps and command centers, starving battalions and disrupting their leadership. East of Kharkiv, Russians abandoned their tanks and fighting vehicles to flee into separatist Luhansk Oblast. Ukrainians split to circle the Russian troops with no way out by the end of the week.

Russia is attempting a partnership with Saudi Arabia after its Kingdom Hold Company invested over $600 million in Russia’s three largest energy companies last spring after sanctions from the West. In the summer, Saudis doubled the amount of fuel oil buying from Russia to free up its own crude for export at elevated prices before they guided OPEC members to reduce output targets in last month to raise global oil prices and give both Russia and Saudi Arabia more profits. Saudis have turned from the U.S. since its fracking production threatens the power of OPEC and Russia.

High-profile Russians keep dying, many in mysterious or bizarre ways. Ten days ago, the former head of a Russian aviation research institute died by falling down stairs. It was announced as “an accident,” but an unnamed source told the newspaper that he fell “from a great height” down several flights of stairs.

The deaths started in January, a month before Putin invaded Ukraine, with first of four men tied to Gazprom, the energy giant owned by Gazprom, the others dying in February, April, and July. Early deaths appeared to be suicides.

  • A Russian billionaire also died in February, again regarded as suicide in addition to a 43-year-old CEO of an energy development company who died of a stroke.
  • March’s death was of a businessman, owner of the medical supply company Medstorm.
  • The second death in April was of a former executive at Novatek.
  • The dead businessman in August was an outspoken Putin critic, supposedly falling in his apartment.
  • Four other high-placed Russians died in September, the first one an energy executive who “fell out of a window” on September 1 after his company, Lukoil, criticized the war six months earlier. Another Lukoil executive had an apparent heart attack on the grounds of a Moscow shaman in May. The aviation director for the same company as February’s death washed up over 100 miles from where he “suddenly fell” from his speeding yacht.  
  • The last September death was of the editor-in-chief of the Russian state newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, who supposedly had a stroke and suffocated on his way to lunch.

Timelines and further details about the 16 deaths.  

Sweden and Denmark are investigating leaks in the Nord Stream gas pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Europe. The simultaneous “unprecedented” damage in three lines 70 yards under the surface of the Baltic Sea sparked the possibility of sabotage. One pipe is a major source of gas for Europe with Russia stopping the flow; the other one was blocked by sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine. Blasts were detected a few miles from the pipelines before the disruption. The attacks on the pipeline are seen by Western countries as precursors to other physical and cyber sabotage of their infrastructures. 

Fox network’s Tucker Carlson is leading the charge that Biden ordered the pipeline to be blown up and has joined the MAGA people’s new mantra, “Blame America First.” He said Putin would have to be a “suicidal moron” to blow up the pipeline. Biden has not directly blamed Russia for the leaks but accused Putin of “pumping out disinformation and lies” and asserted that the leaks are a result of sabotage. At the same time, Putin is blaming “Anglo-Saxons” for the explosions, which Biden does not believe. Russia’s state company Gazprom is the majority shareholder in #1 and the sole owner of #2.

Russia’s denial of the explosions and blame for the U.S. match its false claim that it didn’t shoot down a Malaysian airline over Ukraine with a missile battery in 2014. Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) DDT is also offering to “head up [a] group” to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin to avoid further escalation for his war.

Denmark, Norway, and Poland have celebrated the opening of the Baltic Pipe which will transport natural gas from the Norwegian shelf through Denmark and the Baltic Sea to Poland. The goal is to create more independence from Russian energy. Poland has been cut off from Russian gas supplies since April for not paying in rubles. The pipe should benefit other Baltic states as well as the Danish market.

As Putin puts all his energy into destroying Ukraine to remove its sovereignty, Biden is moving into his turf of mediating the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict with national security adviser hosting “direct and constructive talks” between his counterparts of the two countries. The “road map” to further peace negotiations leads to a meeting in a few days between the countries’ foreign ministers. Both countries had been part of the Soviet Union which dissolved in 1991.

September 23, 2022

Vladimir Putin Smells of Desperation

Three days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin broadcast a seven-minute speech for the 1160th anniversary of the country’s statehood announcing a mobilization of 300,000 recruits and the use of nuclear weapons “to defend the country.” The speech was scheduled for 8:00 pm the night before, and he made his audience wait. His decree stopped short of a national draft and calling he invasion a war. To place the blame on the military, he said:

“I find it necessary to support the proposal of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff on partial mobilization.”

Putin’s statements were in response to Ukraine’s surprise counteroffensive that recaptured 3,500 square miles near the eastern city of Kharkiv.

At this week’s UN meeting, President Joe Biden denounced Putin’s “brutal, needless war” and urged world leaders to hold Russia accountable for trying to extinguish “Ukraine’s right to exist as a state.” Other countries equally criticized Russia’s war and his threats of mobilization and a nuclear strike. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters that Putin’s behavior were “acts of desperation.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated the false claim that Kyiv oppressed Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine and called Zelensky a “bastard” before he walked out of the UN Security Council meeting.

A hidden part of the mobilization decree stated that the Ministry of Defense can call up one million people, but Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president’s press secretary, said that was a lie. Yet officials starting mobilizing men before the order and with no directives. Before Putin’s speech, officials pulled students out of classes, went to homes at midnight, and took men into their 50s and others who have never served in the military. A disproportionate percentage of forced conscripts are ethnic minorities, already a disparate percentage of the fighting force and casualties in Ukraine.

Putin’s actions demonstrate a desperate man. Russia is conscripting anti-war protesters as soon as they are arrested, punishing those who refuse by a 15-year prison sentence. Putin offers freedom to convicts if they fight on the front lines. Employees of Surgutneftegas, a Russian oil and gas company in Western Siberia, received lists of people required to show up for a two-week “training session,” and men in several cities have received notices to attend the “training.” Conscripting ignores the guidelines—age, prior experience, number of children, etc. Except in Moscow, reserve servicemen without mobilization orders or a summons cannot leave their district or city.

Russian media announced a run on airline ticket sales after the speech as people left the country. One carrier charged up to $16,000 for a ticket to Dubai, and Russian news announced all planes to visa-free countries were sold out. Those who couldn’t get tickets created miles-long traffic jams at checkpoints to borders with Finland, Mongolia, and Georgia. Former Soviet republic Kazakhstan has seen a large number of arrivals from Russia. Finland plans to eliminate entry from Russia, and the Czech Republic will not issue humanitarian visas to Russian citizens fleeing mobilization. Chatrooms provide updates about availability of border crossings.

A Moscow millionaire temporarily back into the country from Italy said he was afraid he would be stranded in Russia although he isn’t in the military reserve. Spiking internet searches include “how to leave Russia” and “how to break an arm at home.”

Russian Parliament passed a law this week defining “voluntary surrender” as a crime with a sentence of up to ten years. New penalties have been set for mutiny, “using violence against a superior,” and stealing while in uniform. Conscripts have no release time, and all legislation signal poor morale. The call-up for conscripts cannot create Russian air superiority with the country’s loss of 55 combat aircraft—at least four in the past two weeks—and ground forces cannot counter Ukraine’s superior Western-supplied missile artillery which Russia cannot destroy because they cannot find the locations. Intercepted phone calls of Russian contract soldiers show their intent to leave the army at the end of their enlistment. Forcing them to stay until they’re killed or wounded may cause them to refuse to fight, even with penalties. Newly mobilized soldiers may have no basic training.

Russia lacks training or supplies for the hundreds of thousands Putin plans to mobilize. His army looks weak, sanctions created problems for both him and his trading partners who are becoming less tolerant, and Central Asian leaders snubbed him at a summit in Uzbekistan last week. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rebuked him for the invasion, and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed “concerns and questions.” The Russian abuse of Ukrainian civilians even caused North Korea to back off, issuing a statement that they didn’t provide any weapons to Russian and have no intention to do so in the future.   

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged Putin to end the war and return all invaded lands, including Crimea, to Ukraine. Alla Pugacheva, a Soviet-era pop star with millions of mainstream followers, proclaimed her patriotism and her opposition to the war. Pro-war nationalist bloggers on social media continue to criticize the war. Protectors high in the security services or heavily armed mercenaries may keep Putin from blocking or arresting the critics.

Across 42 cities, almost 1,400 people were detained just on September 21, some as far away as Novosibirsk in remote Siberia.  The anti-mobilization petition, launched by anti-war activists, has already been signed by over 340,000 people. Protesters have set military registration and enlistment offices on fire and blocked a federal highway.

Putin hopes that four referenda in the Russian-separatist east—Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia—will help his support and nuclear threats create fear. Yet these areas don’t have full Russian military occupation. Zaporizhzhia still has a Ukrainian political administration, and Kherson is returning into Ukrainian control. In Donetsk, the city of Lyman is almost encircled by Ukrainian forces. Officials, however, ban people from leaving some occupied areas until the vote was completed

Lasting four days, they start today. Armed groups go to homes, demanding people tell them how they will vote before marking their ballots and taking them. The election has no independent observers. Yuriy Sobolevsky, the displaced first deputy council chairman of Kherson region, told people in the area to not open their doors. The sham referenda are illegal under international law, but Putin will announce his win in all four districts within a week. Turkey, India and China all indicated disapproval of the referenda.

A strategy of Russia is denial. On August 9, Ukraine’s military hit the Saki air base in Crimea. The next day, deputy chair of the Russian security council Dmitry Medvedev removed his threat on Telegram that any attack in Crimea would precipitate a “judgment day” response “very fast and hard.” The Russian Ministry of Defense denied that an attack occurred at the air base, calling it an “accident,” and didn’t acknowledge the total rout of Russian forces in Kharkiv when Ukrainians reclaimed up to 3,500 square miles of land in the past three weeks as frightened Russian soldiers ran away. [Great interactive maps here!] The Kremlin called it a “regrouping.”

Ukraine has begun artillery strikes against military targets in Russia and Russian officials in cities and towns along the Ukrainian border. Russia is quickly closing schools and evacuating. One hit was at the Russian 3rd Motorized Rifle Division base near Valuyki, nine miles north of the Russian border, one of the dozens of small Russian settlements used as military staging grounds. Russians are unnerved by nighttime explosions, destroyed homes, and some casualties. Ukraine promised not to use U.S.-provided weapons.

Russia and Ukraine had its largest prisoner swap since Russia’s invasion. In exchange for 215 Ukrainian fighters, Russia received 55 Russian prisoners and Viktor Medvedchuk, the father of Putin’s goddaughter. Medvedchuk had been arrested in Ukraine for high treason. Of the 215 returned to Ukraine were 108 members of the Azov Battalion defending Mariupol and its Azovstal steelworks for 80 days, including five military commanders who will stay in Turkey until the war ends. Many of the released prisoners showed signs of brutal torture.

Ten international prisoners received by Ukraine included five British citizens, two U.S. foreign fighters, and people from Croatia, Sweden, and Morocco. Believed to be the first U.S. citizens captured in Ukraine, the two rescued men had been living in Alabama before they volunteered to fight. They disappeared in June near Kharkiv, months before the successful Ukrainian counteroffensive freed the northeastern city from Russian occupation.

Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Giczan tweeted that returning the Ukrainians shows Putin’s “denazifying Ukraine was just a bluff” and his mobilization will inspire “a huge apolitical part of the population” to angrily oppose the war. Giczan said that 9/21/22 may be marked as a key day “in the fall of Putin’s Russia.” He also stated that Putin’s release of the Azov command for his personal friend is “an even bigger blow to Russian nationalists than the Kharkiv retreat because it undermines Putin’s rationale for the invasion.

Putin may not have lost, but right now every day gets worse for him.

September 12, 2022

Ukraine’s Progress, DDT Stalls

The 9/11 post about Ukrainian’s counteroffensive to the Russian invasion showed hope that continues. Disguised as locals, abandoned Russian troops fled Zaliznychne, 37 miles east of Kharkiv, on stolen bicycles and cars or any other way they could, leaving their weapons behind. Soldiers pled for rescue with unit commanders, but they were told “you’ve on your own.”

Investigators came from Kharkiv to collect civilian bodies shot by Russians, some lying exposed for months. One investigator repeated vomited over a guardrail as officers picked up the remains of bodies rotting on the floor of a gravel elevator at an asphalt plant which Russians used as a sniper tower.

The day after Russia reported leaving the Balakliya and Izyum area, its Defense Ministry briefing showed forces retreating behind the Oskil River on the eastern edge of the Kaharkiv region. By Sunday, Ukraine reported taking back over 1,100 square miles of territory while advancing to the east, south, and north, penetrating Russian lines up to 42 miles in some places. The report added that Ukrainians “captured more territory in the past five days than Russian forces have captured in all their operations since April.” Later Zelensky added that Ukraine had taken back 3,600 square miles and over 40 settlements since the beginning of September.

Russia still holds about one-fifth of Ukraine and continues heavy shelling in several regions, but Ukrainian soldiers hope this weekend is a turning point. Ukraine’s Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the nation could not negotiate a peace deal permitting Russian an occupying presence anywhere in Ukraine, even in those such as Crimea and the eastern regions controlled by Russia or Russian-backed separatists for eight years. At the Yalta European Strategy summit in Kyiv on Saturday, Reznikov said, “The point of no return has passed.” Later he told Russia that Ukraine was “not refusing the talks” when Russia planned another round of sham referendums to annex occupied territories, but added that the longer the delay, “the more difficult it will be to negotiate.”

Chechen republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who sent his own fighters to Ukraine, said he would have to contact Moscow leadership for an explanation without immediate changes in Russia’s actions in the invasion. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky didn’t give details about his plans but said they “won’t be standing still.”

Refusing to acknowledge a rout, Russia claimed they were regrouping its troops for deployment. Even Russian social media users scoffed at this weak excuse, calling the pull-out “shameful.” Hawkish Russian war bloggers have turned against Putin, calling the war a “catastrophe.” On state television, a former Duma member blamed unnamed “people who convinced President Putin that the special operation would be effective and swift, that we won’t be hitting the civilian population . . . that the Ukrainians will surrender and run away and ask to join Russia.” He clearly favored peace negotiations to end the “war” instead of using Putin’s term “special operation.” On Saturday, Putin had time to open a new Ferris wheel in Moscow, the largest in Europe. People were stuck as high as 460 feet over the ground, and the wheel closed for “calibration.”  

According to Ukrainian officials, the Russian military has stopped sending new units into Ukraine:

“The current situation in the theatre of operations and distrust of the higher command forced a large number of volunteers to categorically refuse the prospect of service in combat conditions.”

Ukrainians have no place for all their Russian prisoners of war they have captured.

 Energoatom, operator of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, is shutting down the last working reactor at the Russian-controlled plant which had powered the crucial cooling system. It will be cooled and transferred to a safer state after Russians continued its shelling of the area. Shelling can still disconnect the grid, forcing the plant to use emergency diesel generators to avoid a nuclear meltdown, but only ten days of diesel fuel remains. 

Sunday, Russian missile strikes against power stations and other infrastructure left tens of thousands of people with no electricity and running water for several hours. The Kharkiv called the power outage “revenge by the Russian aggressor for the successes of our army at the front, in particular, in the Kharkiv region.” The outages were not related to the reactor shutdowns at the Zaporizhzhia plant.    A new filing by Deposed Donald Trump’s (DDT) legal team argues that the documents marked classified aren’t really classified. Like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the attorneys claimed the situation was a “document storage dispute.” The filing is in response to the DOJ’s request that the over 100 classified documents, including military and nuclear secrets of a foreign government, be exempted from the examination. Yet DDT’s lawyers wouldn’t lie under oath to declare that DDT had declassified the documents. They just claim that prosecutors are overstating any national-security concerns and said the government was not being fair.  

While DDT’s Judge Aileen Cannon tries to protect him, the DOJ issued about 40 subpoenas to obtain more information on DDT and his associates regarding the 2020 election and January 6 insurrection. Several of the subjects are still close to DDT including former White House social media director Dan Scavino. Last week, the DOJ seized phones from top advisers Boris Epshteyn and Roman who helped submit fake electoral votes from swing states won by President Joe Biden in 2020. Some of the subpoenas are related to DDT’s fraudulent donation scheme from his Save America PAC falsely claiming the money would to go the non-existent court cases to put DDT back into the White House. At least one subpoena asked for information about members of the executive and legislative branches taking part in blocking the presidential election election. Several congressional members have already been identified

DDT’s filing based its entire legal argument on a reading of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) (1978) which states that the National Archives “shall” become the custodian of presidential records. DDT’s team claims that he doesn’t have to return the classified documents because the law does not state “must.” After the Supreme Court ruled in Gutierrez de Martinez v. Lamagno (1995) that “shall” could mean “may,” much to the surprise of the entire legal world which had defined “shall” as “must,” Congress passed the Plain Writing Act in 2010, requiring the word “must” for mandatory. Originalists, however, must accept the word “shall” as “must” because the PRA was passed 17 years before the Supreme Court ruling.  

According to a new memoir by Geoffrey Berman, fired because he wouldn’t voluntarily resign as the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, former AG Bill Barr is a liar, a bully, and a thug. And stupid.

In Holding the Line: Inside the Nation’s Preeminent US Attorney’s Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department, to be published this week, Berman gave a firsthand account of how Barr tried to orchestrate the prosecution of DDT’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and the Halkbank investigation about Turkish bankers and government officials helping Iran circumvent the Iran nuclear deal. Berman had been Barr’s adversary during the presidency of George H.W. Bush when Barr protected Bush from legal problems by suggesting that the president pardon the conspirators of the Iran-Contra scandal along with more sleazy actions.

To protect DDT, Barr took “point person” for the Halkbank investigation that was run out of New York. At one meeting, Barr raised his voice when he asked Berman, “Who do you think you are to interfere?” Berman had refused to give people in the case a non-prosecution agreement without disclosing the move and said it would be a “fraud on the court.”

Barr used the same words over the appointment of Audrey Strauss as Berman’s deputy. Berman let himself be fired rather than resign so that she could take over Berman’s position instead of Barr appointing his own person. Another contentious issue between the two men was Berman’s refusal to sign a letter attacking former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, criticizing the mayor’s COVID restrictions to religious services.

Berman’s refusal led Barr ask him for a meeting where Barr said he wanted to “make a change in the southern district.” Berman turned him down and didn’t know if he could be removed by anyone other than judges who appointed him on an interim basis or by a Senate confirmation of a successor. Barr offered Berman more money by leading the DOJ civil division before he threatened to fire Berman before he asked Berman if he wanted to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, “not [Barr’s] to offer.”

Barr said he’d talk to Berman again but issued the press release saying Berman was “stepping down.” Berman followed up with his own press release, stating he hadn’t resigned, and showed up for work the next day. Barr released a letter stating that DDT had fired Berman.

Oddly enough, Barr has made many anti-DDT comments both on television and in interviews with the House January 6 investigative committee—that the 2020 election was legal, DDT has no right to the classified documents, the DOJ has enough information to indict DDT, etc. Yet Barr’s reputation  will follow him.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), running for another six-year term, accused Democrats of having “infilitrated” life in the U.S. by going to church, attending college, and having jobs. He said “this entire election is … fighting for freedom.” (I know: it doesn’t make sense!) 

September 11, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 200, DDT’s ‘Special Master’

Russian lawmakers in both St. Petersburg and Moscow called for President Vladimir Putin to be removed from power, dangerous because dissent results in prison or—even worse—being killed. They not only called for Putin’s removal but also a charge of high treason for the invasion. Deputy Dmitry Palyuga of the Smolninsky District Council in St. Petersburg called Putin’s decision “detrimental to the security of Russia and its citizens.” Smolninsky councilors had urged Putin to stop the war in March. Moscow lawmakers accused Putin of sending “our country back into the Cold War era.” Police told the lawmakers they face legal charges “due to actions aimed at discrediting the current Russian government.” 

Ukrainian successes caused Russia to pull out of two formerly occupied areas in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region. The Russian Defense Ministry said its troops will be regrouped to the Donetsky region in eastern Ukraine and repeated its goal “to liberate Donbas” which it keeps violating by destroying all of Ukraine, trying to take over the entire country.

The Institute for the Study of War estimates Ukraine has taken back 965 square miles in its eastern counteroffensive. More Russian positions can be collapsed around Izyum by severing Russian ground lines of communication north and south of town. According to Ukraine, Russians have no food or fuel for troops in the area. The military claimed only 386 square mils this week. Kzyum is an important command and supply hub.   

In the northeastern Kharkiv region, a Ukrainian counteroffense forced invading Russian troops to evacuate from a city they occupied, Kupiansk. As part of the counteroffensive, Ukraine took over the northeastern railway hub in the city, trapping thousands of Russian troops.According to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine retook the eastern town of Balakliia near Kharkiv. Video showed Russians had abandoned trucks, artillery, and ammunition. A pro-Russian official told Russian state television that the city remains in Russian control.

Russian forces will be stretched between that area and the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the southeastern Kherson region. A major Russia objective is to keep Crimea. Yet Ukrainian troops have also had some success in cutting off and isolating Russian troops west of the Dnipro River while attacking Russian supply lines. 

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War theorize that Russians are struggling after redeployment in the face of Ukraine’s “tactical surprise.” Russian military bloggers suggest the surprise “is likely successfully demoralizing Russian forces.” Britain added the eastern advance on Bakhmut in Donbas to possibility Ukrainian successes.  

On the scary side, Russia won’t stop shelling the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warns the risk of a nuclear accident has “significantly increased” because of the ongoing fighting. It might force the shutdown of the last of six reactors, setting a chain of events to intensify the nuclear crisis. The plant not only provides electricity for consumers but also feeds the plant’s grid to protect the safety and cooling systems. Water must be constantly pumped through the cores with pumps requiring electricity for a long time during a cool-down. Depleted fuel and/or damaged generators can cause a meltdown.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said he thought power lines were deliberately targeted to cause these problems. Another problem is the strain on the plant’s almost 1,000 operators living in a nearby town where water, sewage, and electrical supplies are disrupted by the same fighting that damages the lines around the plant. The Moscow Times reported that Russians killed two power plant staff members by beating them and abused dozens of others in a regime of personnel harassment.

The mayor of Energodar, location of the power plant, reported that electricity and water were restored to his city after the IAEA team inspected Zaporizhzhia.

The U.S. has sanctioned Iranian firms for their drone transfers to Russia, both in manufacturing and transportation. Russian strategies:

  • Drones attacking Ukrainian forces from so high in the sky that targets cannot hear the vehicles buzz.
  • Tanks leaving newly built cement shelters to fire on Ukrainian targets before going back under its cover for protection from mortars and rockets.
  • Counter-battery radars permitting Russian forces to target Ukrainian artillery.
  • Hackers taking over Ukrainian drones.

Turkey plans to build a drone factory in Ukraine. The Baykar’s Bayraktar TB2 drone, popular in Ukraine, has helped destroy many Russian artillery systems and armored vehicles. Russia has complained to Turkey about its sale of drones to Ukraine.

While Ukraine fights for democracy, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) fights against it. In Florida, his appointed judge Aileen Cannon is mulling over the DOJ appeal to DDT’s request that a “special master” examine all seized documents from Mar-a-Lago because, as the judge ruled, DDT is above the law. The appeal asks that the intelligence community—including the FBI and DOJ—examine all classified materials and continue with an investigation while the special master examine the other documents for non-existent executive and attorney-client privileges.

If the DOJ had not appealed, the judge might have given DDT highly sensitive classified documents because the court treated DDT’s request as the return of property, documents with such danger if exposure that the government had to make a full-scale intelligence community damage assessment. DDT not only mishandled the documents that the FBI found but also may have passed some of them to other people, even foreign governments. The appeal was also vital because the FBI is not separate from the intelligence community and must help with the review, as the FBI pointed out in the appeal because the DDT-appointed judge didn’t understand the government hierarchy. She said only the Office of National Intelligence, of which the DOJ and FBI are part, could evaluate the classified documents.

According to Alan E. Kohler, assistant director of the FBI Counter Intelligence Division, FBI work is vital to find what happened to items such as those missing from dozens of empty folders with classified markings that the FBI located during the search at Mar-a-Lago. Kohler explained that the use of grand jury subpoenas, search warrants, and other criminal investigative tools” could be necessary and “could lead to evidence that would also be highly relevant to advancing the FBI’s criminal investigation.” Judge Aileen Cannon blocked these steps by the FBI. Kohler noted:

“The FBI is the only IC [(Intelligence Community)] element with a full suite of authorities and tools to investigate and recover any improperly retained and stored classified information in the United States.”

The judge may be considering her way out of her mistakes: she ordered parties to consider the government motion for relief on the classified documents in their filing for the recommendations for special masters and the order of operations. Part of the DOJ request for a stay is permission to continue using the classified documents in its criminal investigation in addition to an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court. That strategy of parallel legal actions can save time.

Friday, both DDT and the DOJ each submitted two names for the judge-mandated special master:

DOJ: two retired federal judges, former US district court judge Barbara Jones, who previously served as a special master; and Thomas Griffith, a former US appeals court judge for the DC Circuit and a lecturer at Harvard Law School. Jones examined materials seized with warrants from Rudy Giuliani’s home and office and from Michael Cohen. Both men were DDT’s lawyers when DOJ investigated them. 

DDT:  former U.S. district court chief judge Raymond Dearie, one of four judges who authorized a wiretap on former DDT’s 2016 campaign aide Carter Page; and former Florida deputy attorney general Paul Huck. Appointed by Ronald Reagan, Dearie is a senior judge after he retired in 2011 and served seven years on the FISA court. Huck now has his own law firm but was a partner at the Jones Day law firm representing DDT’s 2016 campaign and a contributor to the conservative Federalist Society. DDT’s newest lawyer, Chris Kise, worked with Huck in the Florida AG’s office. Huck’s wife, a judge on the 11th Circuit Court where DOJ is filing an appeal, was on DDT’s short list to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the Supreme Court.

The judge makes the choice for the special master.

In addition to disagreeing on the identity of the special master, the two parties also failed to reach consensus on most of the key issues connected to the scope of the work and the responsibility for the added expense.


DOJ: special master should not review documents with classified markings or subject them to executive privilege; DDT: all documents should be reviewed.

DOJ: the agency wants to review proposed protection designations before documents goes to the special master; DDT: documents retain designations to protect the process.

DOJ: the agency wants to see DDT’s lawyers’ categorizations before sending documents to the special master to save time if they agree; DDT: the special master should review all the seized materials.

DOJ: the plaintiff should pay for the cost of the special master’s work; DDT: the costs should be evenly divided.

DOJ: The deadline should be October 17; DDT: he should have a 90-day window for examining the materials after details have been worked out.


The 21-day period for reviewing and objecting on the special master’s eventual recommendations should be shortened.

The special master should be able to have help from a support staff.

Thus Ukraine fights for democracy, and the former leader of the U.S. fights against democracy.

September 6, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 195, More DDT

[Update for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago: A good day would be one without news for Deposed Donald Trump (DDT); once again this is not a good day. Like the judge who put DDT above the law in permitting him a special master to delay an investigation regarding his theft of government documents, the public now knows that at least one of these documents described an unidentified foreign government’s nuclear military defenses. The material is so secret that even senior officials in President Joe Biden’s administration are not authorized to see them, so closely guarded that a “designated control officer” is assigned to monitor the documents in its location. Only the president and a few Cabinet or near-Cabinet level officials could authorize other government officials to view them. Over two weeks ago, DDT had lied when the seized documents were harmless and he had nothing related to nuclear secrets. A question now is whether Republicans continue to cover for DDT, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who said the investigation concerned only a mere records issue, “a fight over storage of documents.”

Judge Aileen Cannon’s opinion explained she ordered temporary halt to an investigation because of DDT’s status as a former president. In 2016, DDT promised his administration would “enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information” because “no one is above the law.” He even strengthened the law while he was in hte White House. Yet DDT refused to voluntarily give up the nuclear document voluntarily after classified documents were subpoenaed; it was found only when the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago, largely deserted for the past months for the summer. The judge may also have violated the code preventing conflict of interest when she ruled in favor of the man who appointed her to her position. Ian Millheiser has a thorough explanation of how bogus the judge’s ruling is.]

And now returning to a country fighting to preserve democracy. The news from Ukraine regarding Russia’s invasion of the country has focused on two major subjects for the past week: the disaster of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the hope that Ukrainians are taking back land and populated areas.

At Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, a fire shut down the last working reactor hours before the UN atomic inspectors was scheduled to brief the Security Council on conditions there. With Russia’s military base nearby, its troops continue catastrophic shelling that they blame on the Ukrainians. Of the six reactors operating before Russians seized the plant after the invasion, only two were operating until last Saturday when shelling disconnected one of them. In the fire eliminating the last one, a backup power line was damaged but could be restored. Russia occupies the plant, but Ukraine is responsible for operating the facility, the largest in Europe.

Since Ukraine has been disconnected from the power plant grid, over 600,000 people are without electricity in the country, more than 80 percent in the eastern area of Donbas and the remainder in Mykolaiv to the south and Kharkiv to the northeast. About 235,000 people remain without natural gas supplies. Energoatom, the country’s nuclear agency, is working to restore the connection to the Ukrainian grid. The problem doesn’t seem to be a crisis because a power unit is working to cool the remainder of the nuclear reactors. 

A team of 14 from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited the power plant last week, and two members of the team will stay permanently at the plant for purposes of monitoring it. The shelling near the plant presents “a constant threat to nuclear safety and security,” according to IAEA. Despite the discovery of Russian troops and equipment at the plant, including military vehicles in turbine halls, Moscow denies it used the plant as a shield. The IAEA said, “Ukrainian staff operating the plant under Russian military occupation are under constant high stress and pressure, especially with the limited staff available.” Damaged areas of the plant are a building housing nuclear fuel, a facility storing radioactive waste, and a building housing an alarm system. The plant has also been frequently cut off from offsite power supplies critical to safe operation.

After the team reported to the UN, its Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laid out specific steps for both sides to demilitarize the area and refrain “from military activity in and around the plant.” They should also agree “on a demilitarized perimeter,” including “a commitment by Russian forces to withdraw all military personnel and equipment from that perimeter, and a commitment by Ukrainian forces not to move into it.” Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia claimed his country’s forces were defending the plant.  

Artyom Bardin, the Russian-installed commandant of the Zaporizhzhia region, was critically injured from his car exploding in Berdiansk, an Azov Sea port of about 100,000 people in southern Ukraine. Eleven days earlier, the city’s deputy chief of traffic police died from a bomb blast, and another Russian-back official in the Kherson region, former Ukrainian lawmaker Alexei Kovalev, was shot dead.

The biggest Western economies, the G7 countries, agreed to cap Russian oil prices and ban services allowing transportation of its crude oil and petroleum products above the cap, including insurance cover or finance for oil shipments. Russia’s energy giant Gazprom closed down gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, claiming an oil leak. It put the blame on sanctions keeping machinery for repairs. Russia had already stopped the supply of gas to Germany which sent European gas prices skyrocketing.

In another disaster for the second largest Russian oil company, LUKOIL, its chair Ravil Maganov died after he supposedly fell from a sixth-story balcony or window after going to an elite clinic for a heart condition. No video exists because cameras were turned off for repairs. Since the Russian invasion, six businesspeople with ties to the nation’s energy industry have mysteriously died, but none of them is classified as a murder. Russia considers the deaths suicides.  LUKOIL had criticized the invasion and publicly called for a ceasefire one week after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his “special military operation.”

Ukraine has expressed optimism about its counteroffensive in the south, and the Luhansk regional governor stated early signs of “good news” in the “de-occupation of our region” on Monday after two villages were retaken. The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S.-based think tank, reported that “Ukrainian forces are advancing along several axes” to the west of the Kherson region, and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “Ukrainian flags are returning to the places where they should be by right.” Russia has “paused” a referendum in Kherson that would force Ukrainians to become Russians after Ukrainians destroyed the storage warehouse for the referendum ballots, including all printed materials.

Ukraine is keeping its strategy quiet while trying to take back the first important city taken by Russia in late February; it is part of Putin’s “land bridge” to Crimea. For the first time in the invasion, reporters have been barred from front-line access. Russia claims Ukraine is failing, but its forces are thin in some of those areas with “severe manpower shortages,” according to a recent U.S. intelligence finding.

Ukraine did claim shooting down five Russian cruise missiles on September 6, most of them in the south. Witnesses reported fighting around Balakliia, an eastern town of 27,000 people between Kharkiv and Russian-held Izyum where Putin’s forces rely on a major railway hub for supplies., Ukraine military earlier said it repelled Russian offensives, pushing the armies back in a number of eastern Ukrainian settlements. The Ukrainian artillery also destroyed an important Russian ammunition depot with S-300 missiles used to fire on the city of Kharkiv. In addition, Ukrainian officials reported unsuccessful Russian advances in southwestern Ukraine where Ukrainians destroyed Russian command centers, pontoon bridges, and eight ammunition depots.

Over six months into the invasion, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Russia “has yet to achieve any of its strategic objectives.” Their forces have missed several deadlines and are advancing only 0.6 miles a week in the area where they have the most success. He added that Russia “continues to lose significant equipment and personnel,” losses that will have a lasting impact on its future combat effectiveness. Wallace estimates over 80,000 soldiers dead, injured, or deserted because of morale and discipline issues from combat fatigue, high casualties, and problems with not being paid. He explained:

“The Russian military has consistently failed to provide basic entitlements to troops deployed in Ukraine, including providing appropriate uniforms, arms, and rations, as well as pay. This has almost certainly contributed to the continued fragile morale of much of the force.”

In late August, U.S. and Western officials said that Ukraine has become more evenly matched with Russian forces because of advanced Western weaponry and the Ukrainian’s advantage of morale, unit cohesion, tactical acumen, and a superior ability to improvise on the fly.

A week ago, Russia picked up scores of Iranian combat drones to use against Ukraine, but they suffered several failures. Russian drones are made with Western electronics which Russia can’t obtain for repair. Although Russia has between 1,500 and 2,000 surveillance drones, it has almost no attack drones while Ukraine has Turkish-made combat UAVs when it has used to attack Russian, armor, trucks, and artillery since the beginning of the invasion. Russian new drones have not been tested against Ukraine’s sophisticated electronic jamming and antiaircraft systems.

According to U.S. intelligence reports, Russia is buying millions of artillery shells and rockets from North Korea, indicating that Russia has “severe supply shortages in Ukraine.”

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