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 17, 2022

Week’s News – October 9-16, 2022

Breaking news since yesterday’s post on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: 

  • Russia hit a key energy facility near Kyiv, seriously damaging it and seizing the property. 
  • President Vladimir Putin said that of his 29 targets for this weekend, seven weren’t damaged but would be taken out gradually.
  • Police and military officers are grabbing men off Moscow streets, even those disabled, as well as in apartment building lobbies, and throughout places of business including cafes and restaurants. Not fitting Putin’s announced criteria Putin, they will be forced into the Russian army.
  • Iran publicly denies contributing weapons to Russia but has secretly agreed to send more weapons shipments, including more “kamikaze” drones and surface-to-surface missiles, for Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Iran has one of the largest and most diverse arsenals of short- and medium-range missiles in the Middle East although they tend to have reliability problems. Among other attacks today, Russia used these drones on Kyiv.
  • A religious argument may have been why two men from Tajikistan killed 11 other volunteers at a Russian military training. Tajikistan, home to the killers, is Islam; Russian is largely Christian.

After Florida areas were hard hit by Hurricane Ian, Gov. Ron DeSantis eased his own voting restrictions such as extending time for voter registration and early voting days, adding drop boxes for ballots, and allowing voters to submit mail-in ballots from addresses not in voting records—but only in Republican areas. He gave no help to regions with a majority of Democratic voters and claimed he’s using advice from supervisors of elections and written requests from the GOP counties.

Bexar County (TX) Sheriff Javier Salazar certified that the 49 migrants who Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard with Florida money provided by the federal government are victims of a crime. As such, they can get a special visa allowing them to stay in the U.S. otherwise not available to them.

According to a federal judge, DDT-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy harmed mail delivery with his changes in 2020 and placed orders to stop him from doing it again. A lawsuit charged DeJoy with higher rates of mail not being delivered on time impacting states’ abilities to stop the spread of COVID and a reliable alternative to in-person voting. DeJoy’s demands removed postal boxes, cut back on the number of mail sorting machines, and hindered the extra postal trips that would have cost overtime as DDT objected to mail-in ballots. These changes were made without consulting the overseeing regulator agency.

The ruling came out the day before backlash to Deloy’s hiking postcard and stamp prices as part of his proposed 10-year plan to change mail operations. The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has not approved the price increases. People ask why the postal service is the only government agency that needs to make a profit, DeJoy’s voiced reason for slashing jobs, closing postal facilities, and raising prices.

Elon Musk thought he could escape problems by offering to go through with his $44 billion purchase of Twitter, but federal authorities are investigating his conduct in the takeover. Attorneys for Musk revealed a “privilege log” of withheld documents, and an October 6 court filing requests an order to share the materials. The FTC is monitoring whether Musk failed to comply with the antitrust reporting requirement related to investor’s intentions of a passive or active shareholder. A trial will be scheduled in November if the deal doesn’t meet the October 28 deadline.

Tesla’s stock prices have badly suffered from Musk’s erratic behavior since he decided to control Twitter. Its latest price drop brought the current value to $204.99 last Friday, almost exactly half the value almost a year ago on November 4–$409.97–$640 billion vanished. Columnist Wolf Richter reports that Tesla shares are “still ridiculously overvalued… Tesla is not a car company, it’s a religion.”

In Alex Jones’ latest civil trial, a Connecticut jury ordered him to pay almost $1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages to 15 plaintiffs, relatives of eight victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting victims. A request had been only $550 million. The judge already ruled that Jones was guilty of defamation, infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. Jurors will determine how much money he owed each of the plaintiffs.

After the verdict, Jones cheered and begged for donations on his program. He told his audience, “They want to scare us away from questioning Uvalde or Parkland. We’re not going away. We’re not going to stop.”

Major U.S. health insurance companies have made up to $25 billion in profits by fraudulently billing the federal government for nonexistent healthcare changes through the 64 million people using a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, almost half the people eligible for Medicare. Companies—including UnitedHealth, Humana, CVS Health, Kaiser Permanente, and Cigna—falsely report patient ailments, and most of them have been accused of fraud in court. Of the top ten companies, only Centene has not been accused of any fraud. Three companies were accused of paying doctors or nurses more for recording additional diagnoses.

Journalist Natalie Shure explained the scam:

“Privatized Medicare plans cherry-pick healthier enrollees, fudge medical records to make them look as sick as possible, coax doctors into tacking on extra sham diagnoses to bill for, and pay themselves a profit on top of it.”

Shure added that the companies also refuse to provide additional treatment for these allegedly sick patients subscribing to MA. Almost 80 percent of U.S. House members, many of them taking donations from insurance companies, signed onto a letter “to protect the [MA] program from policies that would undermine” its stability. Critics have stated that the MA program is designed to completely privatize Medicare, allowing private insurance companies to extend the fraud for additional billions of dollars. The MA program costs more money per patient than those enrolled in Medicare.

GOP governors tried to look virtuous for their conservative constituents by not pardoning people for simple possession of cannabis, but they made big bucks after the private prison industry ponied up big campaign donations. Major recipients are Greg Abbott (TX), Bill Lee (TN), and Asa Hutchinson (AR). Private prison corporations even report that their profits need harsh drug laws. Florida Republicans also get a large share of private prison industry donations. Thus far, however, Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) praised Biden for his pardoning people federal convicted of simple Cannabis possession.

Conservatives are so delighted about the revelation that the president of moderate Brookings Institution secretly lobbied for Qatar’s government that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants to join Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in proposing a bill requiring think tanks to disclose donors paying for lobbying. The measure likely won’t pass become right-wing think tanks would block it because they would suffer more than others. Center-left groups such as Brookings already share much of its donation sources, but the Heritage Foundation, for example, claims under two percent of its income is from corporations. The Cato Institute is far more libertarian than Heritage, and the Claremont Institute has a strong MAGA bent.

The proposed law would not have affected John Allen at Brookings because his lobbying for Qatar was finished before he took over Brookings and would be covered by the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Grassley said, “Congress, the executive branch, and the American people deserve to know who’s influencing research and public policy in our country.” He may have to change his mind if conservatives attack the bill. At the age of 89, Grassley is only three points ahead of his opponent, the tightest election he has faced since he started running for office in 1958, 64 years ago.

About 200 same-gender Chinese couples have been married in Utah, thanks to a legal loophole from a combination of two state laws. The state doesn’t have residency or citizenship requirements for marriage licenses, and Utah County permits international marriages online. China does not recognize the marriages, but the couples have an essence of a legal union.

Ben Sasse wants to move from the Senate to heading up the University of Florida because he doesn’t like conflict. Students and faculty, however, are already protesting his arrival because of his LGBTQ discrimination and urging the school’s board of trustees to reject him. He tried to claim that marriage equality is the “law of the land,” reminiscent of the lies that Supreme Court justices used to get confirmed. Sasse’s employment will be formally considered on November 1.  

How crazy are DDT’s supporters? Denis Molla burned down his own camper two years ago so that he could blame the antifa. Now the 30-year-old Minnesota man is sorry because he faces up to four years in prison. He pled guilty to wire fraud after trying to cheat an insurance agency and GoFundMe donors of over $300,000. His lawyer said Molla is “a wonderful husband and father.” (Right: Image of Molla’s handiwork; check for Molla’s anti-left graffiti on his garage door.)  

After Kingsview Asset Management CIO Scott Martin claimed on the Fox Business Neil Cavuto show that he spent $28 for a Taco Bell lunch, his host was stunned—and so were the humorous Twitter responses. Kingsview might want to reconsider keeping Martin as the “chief information officer.”

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.

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 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.

Disagreements:

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.

Agreements:

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.”

August 29, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 188

The U.S. State Department and Yale University have identified at least 21 sites in Donetsk, the eastern part of Ukraine with Russian supporters, where civilians are detained, interrogated, or deported in violation of international humanitarian law. Signs of potential mass graves are also in some of the areas. Sources for their conclusions are satellite imagery and open-source information. Researchers received reports of torture, beatings, lack of water and proper nutrition, unhygienic conditions, and overcrowded cells at the compounds.

Russia is using cluster munitions to kill civilians in Donetsk. The bombs, missiles, rockets, mortar, and artillery shells are designed to open midair to destroy smaller weapons or bomblets detonating on impact. Some of the bomblets are still volatile, capable of exploding later. Over 100 countries ban cluster munitions but not Russia, Ukraine, and the U.S. Hundreds of these munitions have been documented and/or reported in ten Ukrainian official regions, and Ukrainian forces using them at least three times.

Ukraine celebrated August 24, coincidentally the six-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion of its country, as Independence Day for Ukraine’s break from the Soviet Union.  Russians used the celebration to kill 25 people in and around a train station in eastern Ukraine with rockets, one of the deadliest attacks on Ukraine’s railways since April when 50 people were killed in Kramatorsk. Russians also used Ukraine’s Independence Day to fire cluster munitions in northeastern and south Ukraine. Instead of a parade, Ukraine honored their Independence Day by moving heavily damaged Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers, and rocket launchers along Khreshchatyk Street, Kyiv’s answer to New York’s Fifth Avenue.  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife carry flowers in commemoration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelling late last week at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex damaged power lines, cutting it off from Ukraine’s grid. Much of the concern focuses on the nuclear reactors’ cooling systems that require power to run. Officials said that a power transmission line had fire damage. Of the 17 Ukrainian shells hitting the plants in one day, four struck the roof of a building storing nuclear fuel. Authorities are distributing potassium iodide tablets living near the plant in case of radiation exposure.

The episode followed ongoing concern about a nuclear disaster since the Russian attacks and the establishment of a nearby military base where Russia stores munitions. Inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency have not been able to inspect the nuclear plant because of Russian objections, but a team plans to go to the plant later this week.

Before Thursday’s shelling, Russia had threatened to disconnect the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, from Ukraine’s power grid, with a catastrophe to its cooling systems if remaining power connections were severed. Then they started the shelling. Three of the four main electricity lines had already been broken during the war, and another two of three back-up lines are also down, according to Petro Kotin, the head of Ukraine’s atomic energy company. A shift between grid systems would require reliance on a back-up diesel-powered generator. There are no other options. Reactors reach a dangerous temperature after 90 minutes without power.

Other Russian threats to nuclear safety are their parking vehicles so tightly parked in turbine halls that firefighters would struggle to reach them in case of fire and violence against workers choosing to stay at the plant. In one turbine hall are 14 trucks and at least six in the other one. Many other military vehicles are lined up under overpasses, built to house pipes and walkways between reactor and turbine complexes. Kotin said that one worker was beaten to death, another injured so severely that he needed three months to recover, and over 200 of them have been detained.

Russian attacks destroyed Ukrainian fuel storage facilities in the Dnipro region supplying Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbas region, left part of Nikopol without electricity, and damaged residences in Marhanets. Ukraine has a counteroffensive near the city of Kherson. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order to increase the military by 137,000, but the UK defense ministry said it doesn’t know if Russia will be recruiting or increasing conscription. Additional troops may not help because of the tens of thousands lost from death and injury in Ukraine. Conscripts are not required to serve outside Russian territory.  

In its occupied Ukrainian territories, Russia is planning rigged referendums to bring the regions under Russia control. Already, the occupiers are teaching Russian curriculum in school, encouraging Ukrainian to apply for Russian passports, and rerouting mobile phone and internet connections through Russia’s censored networks, frequently blocking access to independent media sources.

Citigroup is closing 15 branches and laying off or moving 2,300 workers in Russia as it winds down the retail and commercial banking services in the country. The bank started the process before the war began in February 24.

A Ukrainian official in Luhansk told reporters that Russian forces took the region’s entire grain harvest to Russia, at least 200,000 tons of grain. Russia is also selling 500,000 tons of wheat to Bangladesh for $430 a ton. Ukraine is successfully moving its grain out of the country via its Danube ports, 11 ships with 45,000 tons last Saturday. Under a deal with Turkey, 1 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs had been exported from three Black Sea ports. Thus far, 103 ships have gone either to or from Ukraine.

The hardship in Russia is reflected the country trying to recruit professionals because of “dwindling human resources.” According to Daily Beast reporter Julia Davis:

“Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was meant to bring Russia millions of new citizens, as well as the country’s fertile land, flush with mineral and energy resources. Instead, the war has caused monumental losses on the battlefield, and the exodus of the best and the brightest from Russia. Now, dwindling human resources are causing the Kremlin and its pliant mouthpieces to brainstorm about replenishing the gaping holes in Russia’s general population, workforce, and military.”

Davis added that an “exodus of young Russian professionals” has been “forcing employees to work overtime, during weekends, holidays, or their usual days off, as needed.” She explained that recruiting includes creating discontent in other countries and promising “Moscow as a paragon of religious propriety and freedom.”

Ukraine reports Russia’s losses since February: 47,100 troops, 1,947 tanks, 4,269 armored fighting vehicles, 3,188 vehicles and fuel tanks, 1,060 artillery systems, 279 multiple launch rocket systems, 149 air defense systems, 203 helicopters, 234 airplanes, 844 drones, and 15 boats.

A U.S. assessment stated that Ukraine has a “good chance” to retake territory captured by Russia in its initial invasion. Ukraine has taken out “most” of the bridges crossing the Dnipro River, removing Russia’s ability to resupply its troops. HIMARS allow Ukraine to strike behind Russian lines and put them into defensive positions. Putin has already been forced to pull resources from the Donbas where he concentrated most of his forces. Today, Ukraine reported the military killed 82 Russian troops and destroyed at least 30 units of Russian equipment.

After six months of failure and death, Putin understands he doesn’t have an easy win in fewer than six days. Quitting, however, would be humiliating. So what does he do in the face of the weapons sent to Ukraine amounting to tens of billions of dollars from many Western countries?

Putin could declare that the NATO threat is neutralized and propose a settlement allowing him to keep the occupied areas, including Crimea. But Ukraine won’t agree.

Putin could try for a huge battlefield escalation and use Belarus to open a second front north of Kyiv, but Russia is rapidly losing generals, some of them dead and others fired because of competency.

Putin can threaten loss of gas supplies which he has already done. European countries, however, are already planning for this contingency. Die Welt reports that German gas reserves are at 82 percent capacity with 85 percent by early September.

Putin could work to undermine Western unity and staying power. He already has Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko by supporting his theft of the 2020 election despite nationwide protests. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, is much closer to Putin’s racist, homophobic ideology than the democratic philosophy of other European Union countries. Italy may move back to far-right control after next month’s elections. Aleksandar Vučić, Serbia’s president, has been called “little Putin.”

Putin’s willingness to unleash radiation from a nuclear plant across the continent shows that he is willing to do anything.

August 16, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 174

According to Ukraine, one of its elite military unit caused the huge explosions at a Russian ammunition storage site on August 16, 2022, the 174th day of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine may also have been behind strikes in northern Crimea destroying an important railway hub for supplying Russian troops and equipment to occupied Melitopol as well as a military air base. Blasts in Melitopol, south of Zaporizhzhia on the coast, have also knocked out pro-Russian television broadcasts spreading propaganda and controlling war news which had replaced Ukrainian media sources. Another explosion also took out an electricity substation about 125 miles from the front line. Until recently, Crimeans suffered few consequences from Russia’s war, but the strikes are unnerving them.

Last month, a senior Russian official threatened “Judgment Day” if Ukraine attacked Crimea, possibly an impetus for the series of attacks on the Russian-occupied Ukrainian peninsula illegally seized in 2014. Putin calls Crimea a “sacred place” and Russia’s “holy land.” Last week, beachgoers ran for cover after blasts at a Russian air base, and a July 31 makeshift drone attack on Sevastopol forced Russia to cancel its Navy Day celebrations.

With his annexation of Crimea, Putin gained the reputation of a great leader resurrecting Russia as a great power, and he cited the Ukrainian land as an existential security threat, warning of a war between Russia and NATO from a Western-supported effort to take Crimea from him. His launch of the invasion on February 24, 2022 moved north from Crimea in capturing a large area in southern Ukraine, including the Kherson region. Crimea is the location for air and logistics support to Russian forces in Kherson and neighboring Zaporizhzhia region, home to an endangered nuclear power plant. Ukraine countered with an offensive, limiting Russia’s abilities to group his forces.

With a temperate climate and expansive beaches, the critical staging ground for Russia’s invasion is tied to Russia with a bridge and serves as homeport for the country’s Black Sea Fleet, making the peninsula a vital link to Russia’s military supply chain for tens of thousands of soldiers in southern Ukraine. Crimea is the location for air and logistics support to Russian forces in Kherson and neighboring Zaporizhzhia region, home to an endangered nuclear power plant. The peninsula also has two main rail links for moving heavy Russian military equipment, air bases to attack Ukrainian positions, and a launching ground for long-range Russian missiles.

Catherine the Great declared Crimea part of Russia in 1783, and Soviet Ruler Nikita S. Krushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954 when Ukraine was a Soviet republic. Russia lost its “jewel” with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin promised to not further divide Ukraine in 2014 but broke his promise eight years later when he started the current war.

Russian troops remain at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, continuing the dangers of nuclear safety and security. The UN wants to support an inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but a Russian diplomat claimed that any mission going through Ukraine’s capital was too dangerous. Inspectors cannot go unless both Ukraine and Russia agree. The Ukrainian company overseeing the nation’s nuclear plants reported that Russian forces targeted a nearby fire station responsible for extinguishing blazes at the facility in the event of an emergency. An accident at the plant would require evacuation of over 400,000 people. 

The Russian invasion is vastly reducing Ukraine’s population. In the eastern Donbas region where artillery fire continues in a battle for control, the population has dropped from 1.67 million to about 220,000 civilians with more being evacuated. Almost all the vital infrastructure has been destroyed, eliminating power and heat.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, as many as 80,000 Russian troops have been wounded or killed during fighting, according to the Pentagon. It was estimated by Western officials that about 150,000 Russian troops were stationed near Ukraine’s border at the start of the war. Russia has found a way to avoid the European Union ban for propaganda and misinformation (aka falsehoods) on RT and Sputnik as diplomats are spreading the lies.  

Putin is blaming the U.S. for turning Ukrainians into “cannon fodder” because of the U.S. continued support for the invaded country. At a security conference, he spoke to military officials from Africa, Asia, and Latin America and repeated his claim that troops were sent to Ukraine to keep it from being an “anti-Russia” bulwark. Putin said that the U.S. behaves exactly the same way as when it tries “to fuel conflicts in Asia, Africa and Latin America” and compared their actions to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) visit to Taiwan. He said:

“It was part of a deliberate and conscious U.S. strategy intended to destabilize the situation and create chaos in the region and the entire world, a blatant demonstration of disrespect for another country’ sovereignty and its own international obligations.”

Survivors of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine say the mercenaries in the Wagner Group are kidnapping male children as young as 11 years old from their families, putting some of them at work in gold and diamond mines controlled by the mercenaries. Soldiers beat up family members trying to stop them, breaking their hands if they don’t let go. Russians need workers in their gold mines in the Central African Republic (CAR) after massacres killed scores to hundreds of artisan mine workers mostly from Sudan and Chad between March 13 and May 24. The children are less likely to disobey Russians and the migrant miners and are not as greedy. Russia wants the gold and diamonds to survive problems from the sanctions after the invasion.

CAR has one of the world’s largest child labor rates with a 50 percent increase in the number of children in the diamond mines when the 2020 COVID lockdown closed schools. The country’s Mining Code prevents children employed in mining, but Russians control the CAR security apparatus. The owner of Concord Management, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. His children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, also created the plan that “violently” took thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia for forced adoptions “from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions” of Ukraine.

According to reports, Ukrainian artillery has struck Wagner’s headquarters in eastern Ukraine after a Russian journalist gave its secret location. A photo on Telegram posted by Sergei Sreda, now removed, showed five people in military uniform with the street sign of Popasna, Luhansk.

After lengthy planning, a UN-chartered ship with 23,000 metric tons of Ukrainian left a Black Sea port for Ethiopia, one of five countries considered at risk of starvation. On August 5, three ships left port with 58,000 metric tons of corn. Before the war, Ukraine supplied about 45 million metric tons of grain a year to the world market, according to the U.N. Roughly 20 million tons of grain have been stuck in Ukrainian silos since the beginning of the war.

Ukraine’s grain exports are down 46 percent at 2.65 million tons thus far in the 2022-23 season. The loss of land to Russian forces and lower grain yields will cut grain harvest to 50 million tons compared to 86 million tons last year. Last year, grain exports were up 8.5 percent to 48.5 million tons before Russia invaded the country on February 24. Brokered by the UN and Turkey, a deal between Moscow and Kyiv opened three Black Sea ports at the end of July, hopefully allowing hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian grain to buyers. Thus far in 2022-23, Ukraine has exported 1.75 million tons of corn, 658,000 tons of wheat, and 226,000 tons of barley.

Putin is also reaching out to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to deepen the two countries relationship, and Kim seems amenable. He said the friendship was forged in World War II with the victory over Japan. Putin bragged about Russian weapons and said, “We are ready to offer allies and partners the most modern types of weapons from small arms to armoured vehicles and artillery, combat aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.” In July, North Korea was one of the few countries officially recognizing the two Russian-backed separatist “people’s republics,” Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine after Russia signed a decree declaring them as independent. At that time, Ukraine cut off diplomatic ties with North Korea. Many North Korea’s Russian-designed weapons are old, from the Soviet era, but its missiles are similar to Russian ones.

Last year, President Joe Biden spent months trying to persuade other countries that Putin was planning an invasion of Ukraine. No one believed him because it was not a “rational” thing to do. Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky because his own intelligence was riddle with Russian moles. Not until the actual attack on February 24, 2022, did Western leaders understand that the word “rational” doesn’t fit Putin. He sent troops he had massed at the border into Ukraine to massacre Ukrainians and destroy their land. For months, however, French President Emmanuel Macron still believed that he could persuade Putin to leave Ukraine. Almost six months later, the Western world understands they were wrong and Biden was right. The details of their mistakes is in this remarkable report.

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