Nel's New Day

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 15, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 235

In breaking news about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two volunteer soldiers from a former Soviet Union republic opened fire on other Russian troops at a military training ground for volunteers in the country’s Belgorod region. Eleven people died, and another 15 were wounded. The two shooters were killed.

Since the explosion on Kerch Bridge from Russia to Crimea, Kremlin accelerated its attacks across all Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin blames Ukraine for the explosion, perhaps caused by Russian intelligence. Suspects—five Russian citizens, two Ukrainians, and an Armenian national—were arrested by Russia. They loaded 22 tons of explosives into a truck and drove from Odesa to Russia through several other countries. Russian authorities partially reopened the roadway part of the bridge hours for only light traffic as well as the railway part of the bridge where oil tankers caught fire.

Strikes on the capital of Kyiv, eastern Lviv, northwestern Kharkiv, southern Odesa, and over a dozen other Ukrainian cities killed at least 19 people, injured another hundreds, and temporarily cut off power and water for millions. Ukrainian air defense system intercepted over half the rockets. Targets included a children’s playground, causing a huge crater;  a glass bridge, a tourist spot crossing the Dnipro River; museums; and the Philharmonic building were hit. The new leader for Russian forces in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, is known as “General Armageddon,” among other epithets, for his brutality and possibly war crimes first years ago in Syria. He has been suggested as a replacement for Putin in case of a coup.

Russian blames Ukraine for shelling an area within Russian territory at the border, but Ukraine blames stray Russian fire. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that “something went wrong” with a Russian missile launched toward Kharkiv.

A Ukraine prosecutor is investigating Russian air strikes as “a classic act of terror” to “provoke a humanitarian catastrophe” and “intimidation tactics toward civilians.” Russia is also threatening to “not renew” its grain and fertilizer export deal unless its demands are met.  

Pushed by war hawk hardlines, Putin’s heavy use of air strikes indicates a failing ground strategy. Troops retreating on three separate fronts lack supplies, worse since heavy vehicles cannot crossing the Kerch Bridge for another nine months. Fear as Putin’s military strategy for the last century is caving to from poor fuel supplies, terrified conscripts, and lack of effective tactics. Russian conscripts must buy their own body armor, especially the modern 6B45 vest which is part of the Ratnik armor personal equipment program costing about $640 after prices soared.

Putin said he had found 222,000 reservist recruits, instead of the 300,000 he wanted, and announced the end of mobilization with the beginning of fall conscriptions. Moscow government officials are leaving in droves after the death of a colleague in Ukraine after Putin’s mobilization. Despite having no combat experience, Aleksey Martynov was conscripted on September 23, sent to the front within a few days, and killed on October 10. In “a mass exodus,” employees left—”IT people, advertisers, marketers, PR people, and ordinary civil servants.” Since the mobilization decree, multiple conscripted Russians mysteriously died before reaching the battlefield and others soon after being deployed in Ukraine. The deaths cause outrage on social media.

Germany has given Ukraine over 16 Biber bridge-layer tanks and ten pontoon bridge machines. Also promised are more Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers and MARS II multiple rocket launchers.

To avoid conscription, Russian men are buying false HIV and hepatitis diagnoses added to the Ministry of Health’s database. HIV costs $620; hepatitis runs for $820. The groups selling these certificates also offer transportation to border countries, job opportunities, and housing as well as offering forged government documents and currency exchanges—all payable in Bitcoin. Unfortunately, buyers cannot confirm if the offered services are genuine.

Instead of weakening Ukraine, Russia strikes confirmed world opinion against Russia, weakened the calls for peace talks, and strengthened declarations to supply more advanced weapons systems and air defenses to the invaded country, speeding up their deliveries. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution with 99 votes; it had only one abstention and no one opposed.

Eight countries, including Ukraine, joined the European Council’s decision on the eighth package of sanctions against Russia. These include oil price caps, new bans on imports and exports, and sanctions against people, legal entities and companies warring against Ukraine.

Strikes temporarily cut power went out in Ukraine, but the stations were built during the Soviet regime and designed to withstand a nuclear attack from the U.S. Now they protect against Russian attacks.

While Putin tries to reduce Ukraine to rubble, he wants help from Belarus and deployed troops near the Belarus-Ukraine border. Yet “elected” leader Aleksandr Lukashenko says he doesn’t want to get into war, and his opposition activists volunteer to fight for Ukraine where they have training with modern weapons and combat which could liberate Belarus. Lukashenk has few combat-ready troops and only Soviet-era hand-me-down equipment.

A Russian submarine off the Brittany (France) coast is being monitored by French, British, and Spanish warships. Two NGOs are also suing France’s TotalEnergies for “complicity in war crimes”; the company allegedly helped fuel Russian planes that bombed Ukraine. Russians control TotalEnergies.

Putin has said he doesn’t need to unleash more massive strikes across Ukraine. Analysts believe Russia could be running out of long-range precision weapons, forcing the military to resort to less-accurate missiles. The 84 missiles used in one day’s attack cost between $400 million and $700 million. Putin said he was willing to hold talks. Russia has been using more “kamikaze” drones, purchased from Iran, as a cheaper and more dispensable alternative, although Iran denies it provides any weapons to Russia. If the military had short pulses of long-range missile fire, they would probably have used them, not concerned about civilian casualties.

To make Russian positions on the west side of the Dnipro River unsustainable, Ukrainian troops have attacked bridges, ferries, and pontoons in recent weeks. In the south, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for the demilitarization of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after Ukrainian engineers twice restored back-up power following last week’s Russian shelling.

Ukraine claims it recaptured over155 miles in the annexed southern Kherson region in less than a week. Russians told civilians to evacuate, indicating Putin thinks he’s losing the region. Last month, Ukraine recaptured over 600 settlements from Russia, including 75 settlements in Kherson along with 502 settlements in the Kharkiv area, 43 settlements in the Donetsk region, and seven in the Luhansk region.

After the invasion, Ukraine lost cellular phone and internet networks, and Elon Musk’s spacecraft engineering firm donated about 20,000 Starlink satellite units to Ukraine. Musk had said that the Pentagon must start paying, but a a new tweet states he changed his mind and will continue the funding. Paying $80 million thus far, Space X estimated the U.S. would have to pay over $120 million for the rest of the year and about $400 million for the next year. The terminals are vital in keeping Ukraine’s military online.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller reported that hundreds of kilometers of the damaged Nord Stream gas pipelines might need replacement. With a series of bullet points, they have filled with water. The process could last require at least a year.  

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called on Hungary and Turkey, the only holdouts of NATO’s 30 member countries, to ratify Finland and Sweden’s memberships. Slovakia was the latest NATO ally to sign ratification documents on Sept. 27.

The UN overwhelmingly condemned Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of the four Ukrainian regions and demanded that the Kremlin reverse course. In a vote, 143 states, three-fourths of the 193-member general assembly, supported the resolution. Belarus, Nicaragua, North Korea, and Syria joined Russia to vote against the resolution, and 35 countries abstained including some of Putin’s quasi-supporters China, India, Pakistan, and South Africa. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said:  

“Today it is Russia invading Ukraine. But tomorrow it could be another nation whose territory is violated. It could be you. You could be next. What would you expect from this chamber?”

The resolution demands that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.” It also supports “the de-escalation of the current situation and a peaceful resolution of the conflict through political dialogue, negotiation, mediation and other peaceful means” that respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and internationally recognized borders.

International Monetary Fund member countries issued a near-unanimous call for Russia to end its war in Ukraine calling the conflict the single biggest factor fueling inflation and slowing the global economy. Only Russia blocked consensus.

In retaliation for U.S. assistance to Ukraine, Russian hackers crashed 14 U.S. airport websites in a coordinated cyberattack. All exhibited “denial to service” to those who wanted to access them. In this attack, air traffic control, internal airline communications and coordination, and transportation security were not targeted. The pro-Russian hacker group “Killnet” took credit.

Russian propaganda films are warning people attempting to seek refuge in the U.S. about the dangers of LGBTQ people, Blacks, and vegetarians.

In ridiculing Russia’s sham vote to annex Ukrainian regions, Poland held a mock referendum to annex Russia’s embassy in Warsaw. Eight days ago, 97.9 percent of an online vote approved the Czech Republic referendum to annex the Russian city of Kaliningrad, changing its name to Královec. Originally the German city of Königsberg, Kaliningrad, not physically connected to Russia, was given to the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. It is Russia’s only ice-free port on the Baltic Sea.

August 11, 2022

Wars on Two Fronts – DDT, Ukraine

On Thursday, AG Merrick Garland announced that the DOJ filed a court request to unseal the search warrant and property receipt for the Mar-a-Lago residence of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) because of massive DDT-engendered lies and violent threats by his allies. One man, who may have participated in the January 6 insurrection, was shot and killed after he tried to storm the Cincinnati FBI office. On Monday, a post on DDT’s Truth Social with the name Ricky Shiffer, the man killed, sent a “call to arms” message:

“People, this is it. Leave work tomorrow as soon as the gun shop/Army-Navy store/pawn shop opens, get whatever you need to be ready for combat. We must not tolerate this one. They have been conditioning us to accept tyranny and think we can’t do anything for 2 years. This time we must respond with force.”

Garland explained the reason for unsealing the search warrant was “the intense public interest” and called out the “unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors.”

“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked. The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated patriotic public servants. Every day, they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights. They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves. I am honored to work alongside them.”

The government has until 3 p.m. EST (1900 GMT) on August 11 to notify the court whether DDT’s attorneys object to unsealing the warrant. The same judge appointed by DDT who signed the search warrant will hear the case.  

A few hours after Garland’s speech, breaking news revealed that the classified documents illegally stored at Mar-a-Lago concerned nuclear weapons. Mar-a-Lago has extremely lax security, and the documents would be classified at the highest levels, restricted to a small number of government officials because details about them allows adversaries to counter the systems.

Former senior intelligence officials said that DDT’s administration routinely mishandled highly classified intelligence about sensitive topics. Often it went to people who didn’t need to see it or weren’t authorized to read it. Among this information was signals intelligence, intercepted electronic communications such as emails and phone calls of foreign leaders. They needed to be closely guarded because they reveal how the U.S. penetrates foreign governments. This type of information was included in the 15 boxes removed from Mar-a-Lago last January.

Months later, the DOJ subpoenaed DDT for more documents and were given other materials. Officials suspected DDT’s team was not truthful and withheld additional documents. The current search warrant would describe what was being sought at Mar-a-Lago as well as their related crimes. Republicans who reveled in the search because of political benefits now worry about new damaging discoveries.  

In 2019, whistleblowers expressed concern that DDT wanted to provide U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia as his former national security adviser Michael Flynn had suggested. 

While DDT plays his games trying to return to the White House, the Russian war against Ukraine grinds on for almost six months since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. Earlier this week, a Ukrainian attack on a Russian air base in coastal Crimea took out a dozen or more Russian planes used for missile strikes against Ukrainian-controlled territory. The losses would be the largest in a single day for the Russian air force, further reducing its ability to launch missile strikes against Ukraine. The Russian losses would also curtail its long-term ability to control southern Ukraine, especially the nearby province of Kherson, where Ukraine attempts a counteroffensive to retake its territory. Crimea is a Russian transit point for troops, equipment, and ammunition to supply the Kherson area.

Before the loss, Russia assumed it would be unimpeded in its operation instead of being forced to guard another part of Ukraine. At least three explosions at the base also demonstrated to Russia that it’s not invincible. Special forces fighters caused the destruction because HIMARS couldn’t cross the 150 miles from Ukrainian-controlled area to the air base. Russia only admitted damage to civilian structures and denied any destroyed planes, but satellite images showed the extent of the damage.

Russia continues to endanger the world with more shelling of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant which Ukraine lost in early March. An administrative office near the welding area has been hit and several radiation sensors damaged. Russia turned the facility and the surrounding area in southeastern Ukraine along the Dnieper River into a military base and launches attacks from there.

Russia launched an Iranian satellite from southern Kazakhstan after Putin and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledged to work together against the West. Tehran claims Russia will not use the satellite, named Omar Khayyam after the 11th century Persian poet and philosopher, for intelligence in Ukraine. U.S. officials are concerned that Russia will use the satellite to monitor military in Israel and other parts of the Middle East.  

Assistant director for the Atlantic Council, Doug Klain, wrote that the attack on the Russian air base could be the turning point in the war. Russia has taken great pride in illegally taking Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, an act leading them to believe the Ukrainian invasion would finish within three days. Instead of grinding down a disheartened enemy, Russia faces an enemy achieving daring counteroffensives showing Ukraine able to precisely strike hundreds of miles behind Russian lines. Thanks to the West, Ukraine has up-to-date weapons; Russia is running out of equipment, even stripping commercial jetliners of parts after blocked from components from abroad. The EU has banned Russian coal imports, annually impacting about 8 billion euros worth of Russian exports.

In the Guardian, Nimo Omer writes that the war in Ukraine is entering a new decisive phase. Russia wants to hold out until winter, when Europe will be in an energy crisis and more likely to push for a negotiated agreement. The invaders may also be trying to connect the nuclear facility to the grid in Crimea, for the first time that one country steals a nuclear reactor from another country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin initially wanted to overturn the Ukrainian government and replace it with one of his own. Kyiv didn’t fall so he tried to take the eastern region of Donbas. The artillery onslaught led to Russia occupying the Luhansk province, and Russia wants Kherson as a transport hub with a key river crossing as a barrier from attacks. Russia has more ammunition than Ukraine, but the U.S.-supplied HIMARS partly equalized the battles with its precision-guided artillery aimed at Russian logistics centers, weapons depots, and command points. They also sever some supply lines, decreasing Russian shelling.

Hundreds of Russian soldiers refuse to fight and try to leave the military. Unable to replenish the 80,000 soldiers killed and untold numbers wounded, Russia is recruiting prisoners for replacements. St. Petersburg penal colony prisoners were offered amnesty in return for fighting in Ukraine. Of 11 volunteers, eight died in Ukraine. Russia’s major new ground force, the 3rd Army Corps of “volunteer battalions,” seeks men up to age 50 and requires only a middle-school education. Deployment to Ukraine promises “lucrative cash bonuses,” but complaints in the media indicate Russia isn’t paying off. The Soviet Union used the same tactic during World War II. Supposedly Russia’s shadowy private military force, the Wagner Group, is doing this recruiting.

Kurt Volker, expert in Ukrainian affairs, said that Putin has put himself into a “weak position” because of the widely-condemned war in Ukraine, that he can partner only with vulnerable countries needing financial assistance. These countries will also worry about global sanctions against them like Russia has. Belarus, for example, may suffer from the same sanctions as Russia because it allows Russian troops on and Russian air strikes from its territory while receiving $1.5 billion in return. Even before Russia’s invasion, the U.S., UK, Canada, and Europe sanctioned Belarus in late 2021 for alleged repression of its residents and human rights violations of migrants.

In another Russian difficulty, Finland and Sweden are on their way to becoming NATO’s 31st and 32nd member states following the acceptance of North Macedonia in March 2020. Bosnia, Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine are also interested in joining NATO. All senators except Josh Hawley (R-MO) agreed to the expansion of NATO, and President Joe Biden signed the NATO accession protocols for Finland and Sweden. Putin called the expansion of NATO an imperialistic threat, but it would not have happened if he hadn’t “shattered peace and security in Europe,” as Biden said when he signed the protocols.

Even conservative senators such as Ted Cruz (TX) and Marco Rubio (FL) criticized Hawley for his objection; both of them emphasized NATO’s importance in protection against China. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) pointed out that Hawley had voted to permit Montenegro and North Macedonia into NATO.

Hawley has been mocked since the July 12 House January 6 investigative committee showed him running away from the insurrectionists who he incited. The irony comes from his image of masculinity that he described in his new book. Jonathan Capeheart described Hawley’s message: “if you’re a man, you believe in these things”: patriarchy, opposition to female’s body choice, opposition to marriage equality, aversion to labor organizing. Hawley’s sense of exclusion, and intolerance leading him to vote against other countries joining NATO. To Hawley, masculinity is the prejudice manifested by conservatives in the U.S. who cling to a vision of White America, identical to the beliefs of DDT’s followers.

July 29, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 156

The Russian invasion in Ukraine may have come to a temporary standstill with newly delivered Western weapons helping Ukrainians to regain advantages they recently lost. After no significant territorial gains since the July 2 Ukrainian retreat from the eastern city of Lysychansk from crushing artillery fire, Russia has control of one region, Luhansk in eastern Donbas, the only strategic success since its retreat from the Kyiv area in April. Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed his troops were pausing to “rest and develop their combat capabilities,” but the end of the hiatus on July 16 brought no additional intensity in his assaults. George Barros, a Russia analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, said Russians may not even conquer the entire Donbas region, their supposed goal at the beginning of the invasion.

Putin hasn’t quit. He hopes to generate manpower for his war from a massive recruitment campaign in Russia or even change tactics by using the country chemical and nuclear stockpiles. Meanwhile, Ukraine has made use of the advanced artillery provided by its Western allies, including the U.S. High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). This weapon allows Ukrainians to strike almost 50 miles behind Russian lines with great accuracy; they have destroyed over 100 high-value Russian targets such as command and control centers, ammunition storage sites, and logistics and support facilities.

Russian mercenaries from the private military firm Wagner Group may be responsible for front-line fighting although they may not have meaningful impact on the invasion.

Recently HIMARS have been employed in counteroffensive in and near the southern city of Kherson, including the third attack this week against the Antonovsky Bridge over the Dnieper River. The destruction of the over one-half-mile-long bridge took out the main supply route between Russia’s 49th Army on the west bank of the river and the remaining Russian force, leaving troops “highly vulnerable,” according to the British Department of Defense.

Ukraine’s taking out ammunition stocks forced Russia to move them farther from the front, increasing the supply lines which includes artillery shells. Lacking a “good automated logistical system,” moving the shells “requires a lot of manual labor … not very efficient,” according to Rob Lee of the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute. Striking command and control centers takes out Russian officers and commanders, responsible for orders to block the HIMARS.

Members of the Russian miliary still suffer from low morale and recruitment while having trouble matching forces to equipment. Soldiers complain about being on the frontline without food or medicine. In May, Russian generals and other high officials were killed because of poor chain-of-command communication. Putin may be recruiting soldiers from prisons for his private army.

Sanctions against Russia are having an effect: about 1,000 multinational companies suspended operations in Russia, and major Russian state-owned companies lost 70 to 90 percent of their market capitalization. According to a Yale University study, Russian imports have mainly collapsed, and its domestic production came “to a complete standstill.”

In Ukrainian air space, Russia lost one of its newest and most advanced fighter plane, worth $50 million, when its own air defense mistakenly shot it down. Former FSB colonel Igor Girkin tweeted the information on July 18. Russian forces may have been trying to take out a missile fired by a Ukrainian HIMARS. Thus far, Russia has lost at least 35 fighter jets along with 221 aircraft and 38,850 personnel, according to Ukraine.

Cyberhacking is one advantage that Ukraine has against Russia, having been in action since the invasion began. The IT Army uses volunteers from around the world to deny services to the Russian government and company websites, 662 targets as of June 7.  

The U.S. has reported at least 18 “filtration” camps where Russians subject Ukrainians to inhumane conditions—abuse and sometimes executions. A video also shows a POW being castrated in Russian-occupied Donbas. Ukraine has asked the UN and the Red Cross to help with evacuating and treating wounded after Russia’s attack on a prison camp camp holding Ukrainians that killed at least 50 detainees and investigate the attack. Prisoners included those captured while defending Mariupol in May who Russians claimed were neo-Nazis and war criminals. Russia is blaming Ukraine for the attack, but Ukraine states it has overwhelming evidence, including an intercepted radio conversation between Russian-backed separatists talking about a series of explosions deliberately engineered by the rebels themselves. Other Ukrainian sources blame mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner group.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited a port in the Odesa area with the hope that grain exports could soon begin to alleviate some of the world’s starvation. Last week’s negotiation for transferring grain out of Ukraine between Russia and Turkey was immediately followed by Russian cruise missile attacks on Odesa, blocking the movement of the ships across the Black Sea. Ukraine is a world leader in exporting wheat, barley, corn, and sunflower, and grain silos in Odesa have been left undamaged. Russia has not promised to stop the strikes.

Trying to root out Russian spies and collaborators, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has fired two senior law enforcement officials, saying they had not been nearly aggressive enough in weeding out traitors. He says that Russian sympathizers in the church, government, intelligence agencies, security service, and Russian-occupied areas are reporting locations of Ukrainian targets, sheltering Russian officers, informing on Ukrainian activists in Russian-occupied areas, and removing explosives from bridges so that Russians can cross.

Exiled Belarusian sources state Russian military activities inside Russia’s ally are trying to threaten an attack against northern Ukraine after failing an assault on Kyiv. An invasion into northern Ukraine may not be imminent, but the information raises the possibility about Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko joining a Russian offensive. At the beginning of its war on Ukraine, Russia deployed tens of thousands of its troops in Belarus, but the number has shrunk to about 1,000, but Russia still has access to Belarusian airspace. The country has little public support for the inexperienced Belarusian soldiers fighting in Ukraine, and Belarusian deaths in Ukraine can cause instability for Lukashenko who may be an illegitimate president.  

Putin has moved the goalposts for his invasion in the past five months, shifting from taking over the western Donbas region to getting rid of “the absolutely anti-popular and anti-historic regime” of Ukraine, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He claims Russia want Ukrainians to have “a much better life.” Yet three months ago, Lavrov stated Russia wasn’t looking for a change of power in Kyiv. Now Russia seems to be aiming to annex southern Ukraine as well as the western portion.

Russia’s aim of annexation has been shown by establishing the ruble as the official currency and installing banks, forcing Ukrainians to apply for Russian passports and citizenship, putting Russian loyalists into government positions, and controlling telecommunications infrastructure including broadcasting towers and the internet. Occupying forces are also putting Russian curriculum into schools. The same process was used in Crimea in 2014. Putin is promising teachers salaries over five times what they currently make to teach Ukrainian students a “corrected” education so they learn the Russian version of Ukrainian history during the coming school year. The offer offers free transportation and “accommodation and food under discussion.” Almost 250 teachers signed up for the deal.

As of July 13, Russia had forcibly relocated from 900,000 to 1.6 million Ukrainians into Russia into filtration camps where they are either detained or disappeared. About 260,000 of the deportees are children, many of them separated from their parents. Russia claims the moves are “voluntary” for “humanitarian” reasons, but U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they may be war crimes. Forcible removal can be to take the assets and property left behind by deportees. International law considers mass deportation and forced transfers of civilians crimes against humanity when undertaken in a “widespread or systematic” manner during peace or war. Happening during armed conflict, these deportations and population transfers are war crimes.

Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger changed his position that Ukraine should cede territory to Russia and now states that Ukraine should not do so.

At the beginning of the invasion, some of the most conservative GOP legislators, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) followers, justified Russia’s invasion by saying the country need to protect its borders. They have typically voted against supporting Ukraine and still claim they are isolationists, not understanding that Putin might want a regime change in the United States. Domestic problems and fatigue with the war may discourage more Republicans from support for Ukrainian democracy, some of them going as far as supporting Putin. On July 18, 18 House Republicans voted against a resolution to urge NATO’s acceptance of Finland and Sweden, citing fiscal reasons.  

June 26, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 123

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine moves into the fifth month, it could be be the deadliest war in recent history. In the eastern province of Luhansk, Russians have taken over Sievierondonetsk and moved on to the twin city of Lysychansk. At the same time, Ukrainian forces, protected by Ukrainian shelling, remain in the Azot chemical plant to direct artillery attacks against the Russians and talk of retaking the southern city of Kherson.  

The two 20th-century world wars killed millions of soldiers and civilians, but the “average war,” according to the Correlates of War Project, kills about 50 soldiers each day and lasts about 100 days, a number surpassed in Ukraine in early June. The Project defines war as sustained combat between organized armed forces of different states resulting in at least 1,000 battlefield deaths in a 12-month period. The Russia-Ukraine war has far surpassed the number of deaths as well as the over 200 battlefield deaths per day for the top 25 percent of wars. Thus far, the invasion has been deadlier than the Mexican American War with 19,000 battlefield deaths and approaches the 1913 Balkan War (60,000 deaths) preceding World War I.

Instead of tapering off, Russia seems to be aggressively building while the Ukrainians receive a continual supply of weapons and ammunitions from outside the country. Russian forces returned to firing on Kyiv as well as launching missile strikes from Belarus, the country to the north of Ukraine. Also hit were the southern port city of Mykolaiv, the northern region of Chernihiv, the central Ukrainian region of Zhytomyr, and a target near Lviv in the west of the country. Russia’s capture of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine is a “significant achievement” for Russian ambitions in the Donbas region, but Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said special forces remain in the city to direct artillery fire against the Russians. The next project for the Russians is cutting off the Sievierodonetsk’s sister city Lysychansk with massive artillery bombardment and airstrikes.

Russian president Vladimir Putin appears to be trying to push Belarus into his war. He plans to send missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to the country in the next few months and offered to upgrade Belarus’ warplanes to make them capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Russia continues to block all shipping in the northwestern part of the Black Sea and continues its capture of residents in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

Yet military experts and Western intelligence predict that the Russian military may have to halt its offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region because of exhausted combat capabilities. The higher ground where Lysychansk is located and its Donets River obstructs Russian advances from the east, forcing movement from the southeast and northeast. Ukrainian forces inflicted losses in Russian occupying forces on the Bakhmut front and repelled an assault on the Sloviansk front as Russia tries to block Lysychansk.

The expenditure of ammunition, especially artillery shells, cannot be sustained for long, and Russia continues the loss of equipment and men. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson used intelligence to estimate Russia’s fight for only the “next few months” before losing any forward momentum. Russian commentators even note the shortage of their country’s manpower; military blogger Yuri Kotyenok projected a need for 500,000 Russian troops to achieve its goals. President Vladimir Putin has not yet instituted the necessary risky and unpopular large-scale mobilization.

Russia’s aggressive recruitment has found only 40,000 to 50,000 troops to replenish forces lost or incapacitated, and some Russian commanders have banned all leave for military personnel because soldiers withdrawn from Ukraine to restore their combat readiness won’t return to battle. Russia is taking ancient tanks out of mothballs and away from bases throughout the huge country for Ukraine’s front lines. Ukraine, on the other hand, is receiving more sophisticated Western weapons such as French Caesar howitzers and German Panzerhaubitze 200 howitzers.

Canada has deployed two warships to the Baltic Sea and north Atlantic,  Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Kingston and Summerside, for four months as part of “deterrence measures in central and eastern Europe” launched in 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea. The two ships join two frigates already in the region to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank. They will do naval mine-sweeping exercises and be present to “quickly and effectively respond” in any operations. HMCS Halifax and Montreal return to port in July from Operation Reassurance. About 700 Canadian troops with artillery and electronic warfare along with several military aircraft are in Latvia.

Russia has sabotaged military supplies for Ukraine since Russia started to take over parts of Ukraine in 2014. Ammunition sellers have been bullied not to sell to Ukraine, and weapon brokers are threatened with death if they make these deliveries. Depots in Eastern Europe have been blown up, for example four mysterious explosions in Bulgaria between 2011 and 2020 as well as other 2017 weapon depots attacks in Ukraine. The 60,000 rounds shot by Russia every day, ten times the Ukrainian capacity. The global supply cannot meet Ukraine’s wartime demand.

Problems for Russia also come from its need to decrease military presence in areas facing a Turkish offensive, such as northwestern Syria near the Turkish border around Aleppo and Tal Rifaat. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans a military operation to create a “safe zone” where 1 million Syrian refugees could return. Any attempt by Russia to take these areas risks confrontation between Turkey, a NATO member, and Russia’s allies with a massive humanitarian poll. The Iranians have taken control of these areas where Russia withdrew about two and a half months ago. Although Russians may have political power, its rival Iran has the military control on the frontlines.

The NATO Secretary General has asked Erdogan, Sweden, and Finland to meet in Madrid before the NATO summit this coming week. Sweden and Finland have applied for NATO membership because of Russian threats, but Erdogan is threatening to veto the two countries’ joining because of their support for Kurdish fighters and arms embargoes on Ankara. No country can join NATO without its members’ unanimous acceptance.

President Joe Biden is in Germany attending a G7 meeting focusing on the Ukrainian invasion and its consequences from energy shortages to a food crisis. Thus far, four members—UK, the U.S., Japan, and Canada—have agreed to ban Russian gold imports aimed at wealthy Russians buying bullion to reduce the financial effect of Western sanctions. Russian exported $15.5 billion worth of gold last year. Another discussion is potentially capping prices on Russian oil imports. Putin may have been sending a message to the G7 leaders, not only by his weekend shelling but also the new round of missiles in Kyiv which killed the parents of a seven-year-old girl.

Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland paid a surprise trip to Ukraine to support identification, apprehension, and prosecution of Russian war criminals. He announced that Eli Rosenbaum, a veteran prosecutor known for investigating former Nazis, will create a U.S. war crimes accountability team work with Ukraine and international law enforcement groups to track these criminals. Garland also visited Poland and Paris where he met the U.S. homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, with European counterparts to explore ways to combat terrorism and hold Russia accountable for its brutality in Ukraine.

The European Union has officially made Ukraine a candidate for membership. The process may require a decade, but Putin has been violently against Ukraine joining the EU.

Tens of millions of people are suffering from food deprivation because Russia’s boycotts won’t allow grain to leave Ukraine, but Putin is stealing the grain himself—400,000 tons thus far from the temporarily occupied territories. That’s almost one-third of what was available.

Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov has auctioned off his Nobel Peace Prize to help Ukrainian children and families displaced by Russia’s invasion. The $103.5 million from an anonymous buyer far exceeds the previously highest amount of $4.76 million for a Nobel medal. Muratov founded the independent Novaya Gazeta and sharply criticized the invasion of Ukraine. Russian threats closed the newspaper in March, and four of its journalists have been killed during Putin’s tenure.

Just like Germans in World War II, Russians are using its invasion of Ukraine to loot art, emptying museums and destroying Ukraine’s cultural heritage. With no trained armies to protect these treasures, museum curators are hiding in basements throughout the country to protect these items in areas where Russians are seizing control. Already, 250 cultural institutions have been targeted by Russian munitions with thousands of important museums pieces destroyed during the Russian bombing of Mariupol and other cities.

Scythian gold artifacts dating back to the 4th century BC valued at millions were stolen in Melitopol from crates used to hide the objects. Surveillance video showed a Russian art expert in a white lab coat carefully removing the gold. Russians have removed some art objects before destroying museums.

For the first time in over a century, Russia may experience its first major debt default on international bonds when the grace period deadline for Russia’s foreign debt payment of $100 million expired today. Taiwan’s holders of Russian bonds said they haven’t received the interest due on May 27 and won’t accept rubles. A default is declared if a deadline is missed. Russia has struggled to keep up with its payments on $40 billion in outstanding bonds since sweeping sanctions for the country invading Ukraine on February 24 cut Russia out of the global financial system.

March 15, 2022

Women’s Equal Pay Day, More Ukraine

Today, March 15, 2022, is Equal Pay Day for white women. The National Committee on Pay Equity sets the date each year that represents how far into the year women, on average, must work to earn what men earned in just the previous year. In 2020, women earned 83 cents for every dollar men make. All women make 73 cents for every dollar that white men make. Other equal pay days in 2022:

  • Asian American/Pacific Islander Women’s Equal Pay Day: May 3 (75 cents for each white man’s dollar)
  • Black Women’s Equal Pay Day: September 21 (58 cents for each white man’s dollar)
  • Native Women’s Equal Pay Day: November 30 (50 cents for each white man’s dollar)
  • Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day: December 8 (49 cents for each white man’s dollar)

On the day before Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress, President Joe Biden blocked all property and interests owned by Russian-supporting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his wife. Lukashenko allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to send his troops into Belarus for his Ukrainian invasion. A new U.S. visa restriction bans current and former Russian government officials and their families from entry to the U.S., affecting at least 38 people “believed to be involved in suppressing dissent.” 

Upset about the U.S. sanctions, Putin sanctioned 13 U.S. Democrats: Biden, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and other high level Biden officials. (The sanction misspelled Biden’s name.) Putin even included Hunter Biden and Hillary Clinton in the sanction roundup in blocking travel to Russia and freezing their assets there. (Which they don’t have.) In response to the sanction, Clinton tweeted, “I want to thank the Russian Academy for this Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Russians have killed two more journalists in Ukraine, one of them Pierre Zakrzewski, the Fox network photojournalist riding with Fox reporter Benjamin Hall when they were fired on at a checkpoint outside Kyiv. Also murdered was 24-year-old Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, a Ukrainian working for the Fox network.

Fox network host Tucker Carlson has stopped praising Putin, but he’s still pushing disinformation that Putin re-broadcasts on Russian state TV. In one clip, retired Army Col. Doug Macgregor told Carlson:

“What is happening now is the battle in eastern Ukraine is really almost over, all the Ukrainian troops there have been largely surrounded and cut off … and if they don’t surrender in next 24 hours, I suspect the Russians will ultimately annihilate them. The game is over.”

This statement is false, but Putin uses it to convince Russians that he is victorious. MacGregor also told Carlson that Putin invaded Ukraine “in defense of his country” to stop Ukraine’s genocide on Russian-speaking civilians. He also blamed the U.S. “globalists” trying to destroy Russia’s “national identity.” Carlson has frequently chosen the conspiracy theorist with a history of xenophobia as his “first choice for foreign policy analysis.” They agree that the Russia should “absolutely” be permitted to annex as much of Ukraine as Putin wants. They are promoting the country killing their network’s journalists.

Carlson and MacGregor aren’t the only conservatives who have a record of supporting Putin’s brutality over Ukraine’s democracy. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) calls a group of Putin-supporting lawmakers the “Putin wing” in their attempt to support Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) attempt to blackmail Zelensky. Staunch DDT supporters are still trying to whitewash his demand for a “favor” to investigate Hunter Biden, the president’s son, in exchange for releasing the congressionally-approved military aid. 

With 80 percent of registered voters in the U.S. viewing Russia as the enemy, Carlson’s propaganda is failing. The number of those seeing Russia as a U.S. ally has dropped by one-half from 17.6 percent in February 2017 to 8.4 percent, according to a YouGov weekly tracking poll. The 80 percent is across both parties and unaffiliated; it’s up one-third from 60 percent since DDT’s inauguration.

A popular demand by some Republicans is a no-fly zone over Ukraine, allowing U.S. and other foreign planes to shoot down Russian planes which can lead to a world war, possibly a nuclear war. Former U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker, is leading the charge. Volker was part of DDT’s 2019 blackmail scandal to block the $400 million of U.S. military aid to Ukraine without a bogus probe into Hunter Biden. Volker’s job was to connect Giuliani with a Zelensky aide, access that Giuliani used to push for DDT’s deal.  He even lied about DDT’s behavior under oath in House testimony, saying he wanted to release the funding. Volker also said he had no idea that the deal had anything to do with Biden.

The indictment of Russian oligarch Andrey Muraviev in September 2020 has been made public. The tycoon allegedly funneled illegal foreign donations for Rep. Pete Sessions’ (R-TX) and DDT’s campaigns, among others. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Soviet-born associates of DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have been convicted on the same charge in Giuliani’s failed attempt to force Ukrainian officials to investigate Hunter Biden. DDT’s PAC received $325,000 in foreign donations from Muraviev. Sessions received his money for asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to fire Marie Yavanovitch as U.S. Ambasador to Ukraine, writing Pompeo that he had “notice of concrete evidence” that she had been trashing the Trump administration. DDT fired her a year later, one of the events leading to his first impeachment trials.

For over two decades, Russian oligarchs have stashed their money in the U.S. through the purchase of condos in New York and other U.S. cities, the “luxury apartments” Biden promised to go after in his State of the Union speech. DOJ’s new Task Force KleptoCapture plans to go through the labyrinth of trusts and shell company LLCs to find the owners’ names. DDT joined the scam when he sold Dmitry Rybolovlev a Palm Beach mansion for $95 million at over twice DT’s cost of $14.35 million four years earlier.

Putin claims he’s keeping approximately 500 airplanes leased from foreign countries, most of them inside Russia when the country invaded Ukraine, even if he can’t pay for them. He signed a law allowing his airlines to register the planes, worth approximately $12 billion, and keep flying them. Almost half of the planes are from Ireland, a member of the EU which banned any planes’ sales or leasing to Russia as part of their sanctions. Many of the over 100 leasing companies are too small to survive if they lose these planes.

Leasing companies must end contracts in Russia by March 28. Sanctions also prevent Western companies from providing spare parts and maintenance to Russian airlines, and the planes may also not be insured. Russia will likely use up all the parts they have and then start cannibalizing planes to keep the others flying. Russia plans to use only the planes they own or lease from Russians for flights outside the country.

Putin’s law violates the 1944 Chicago Convention that allows lessors to cross international borders and take back planes from defaulting customers. As of 2019, every UN member—including Russia—had signed on to the agreement except Lichtentein. Because of sanctions, Boeing is losing on-order sales for 35 of its 737 Max and 777 cargo planes. Airbus had orders for 27 planes.  

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new law helps Putin, according to Mark Hertling, a retired U.S. Army officer and Florida resident. In an op-ed for the Miami Herald, Hertling wrote that the law eliminating any incentive for Floridians to generate their own alternative energy provides more oil money to Putin. As former commanding general of the United States Army-Europe, he asserted Russia’s invasion did not come as a “complete surprise” to “those of us who spent most of our professional lives in the U.S. Armed Forces.” They had tracked and reported on Putin’s takeovers and “other adventures in Moldova and Azerbaijan.” Hertling wrote that solar panels on his house cut his electric bills by two-thirds and were paid for within a few years.

Russia’s invasion and its fake disinformation have created a dilemma for its two allies, North Korea and China. Most awkward is Kim Jong Un’s nationalist position, causing an invasion of another country hard to approve. Yet he wants to support one of his very few allies. Korea-language press ignores he invasion.

China looks on Russia as a good ally, but the rapid destruction of Russia’s economy warns the Chinese about danger on Russia’s side against most of the industrialized countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to follow a “pro-Russia neutrality,” a series of contradictory messages with echoes of Russian disinformation. Last week, China promised almost $800,000 humanitarian aid to Ukraine and called the invasion “a war” against Putin’s rules. Yet its propaganda account accidentally posted guidelines for its coverage that said “no posts unfavorable to Russia or with pro-Western content should be published.” State media also published posts using Putin’s term for the U.S. as “an empire of lies” and Russian lies about the U.S. building bioweapons in Ukraine. The question will be whether China gives Russia the military aid it requested.

A custom LEGO retailer in Chicago has raised controversy by selling custom figures of Zelensky and war weapons Molotov cocktails. All the proceeds, thus far $16,540, are donated to Direct Relief, providing emergency medical assistance throughout the world, that donated $26 million to Ukraine in the past six months. When the company ran out of the product, it asked people to donate to “a relevant charity.” The LEGO group has stopped shipments to Russian brand stores and donated £12.3 million in relief efforts through the LEGO Foundation.



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