Displaying items by tag: Russia
There were about 70,000 people living in Bakhmut before the invasion, but only a few thousand remain in the devastated city, once best known for its salt and gypsum mines and huge winery. The US believe over 20,000 Russian soldiers had been killed in the battle for Bakhmut and another 80,000 wounded. Ukraine has not released figures on its Bakhmut casualties, but there have been heavy losses. Capturing Bakhmut would bring Russia slightly closer to its goal of controlling all of Donetsk region, one of four regions annexed by Russia following referendums widely condemned outside Russia as a sham. Russia's Wagner mercenary group has started withdrawing from Bakhmut and has vowed to transfer control of the city to the Russian army by 1 June, but Kyiv says it still controls pockets of the city.
Ukraine: weapons and counterattacks
The conflict in Ukraine is about to enter a new high-intensity phase as Kyiv’s troops gear up for an anticipated counteroffensive. Ukraine’s persistent lobbying of allies has yielded significant results as NATO members have gradually relented about supplying high-tech weapons. The fighting in the coming weeks is likely to be bloody, as Ukraine aims to take back territory which Russia captured in the opening weeks of the invasion. A mix of complex weapons from across the world will require the adept handling of logistics if the offensive is to keep up its momentum, and supply and repair are vital for any advance to be successful. The Ukrainian military will have its work cut out. Russian forces have had months to prepare for the series of battles that could define the nature of the war. Both sides realise what is at stake. Russia will not give up its ground easily, despite talk of low morale among its forces.
Russia / Ukraine: nuclear power plant concerns
Ukraine is expected to attempt to retake Moscow-held Zaporizhzhia territory. The Russian-installed governor of the partly-occupied province ordered 18 settlements near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to evacuate. The UN's nuclear watchdog is concerned about the facility’s safety. Russian passport-holders were taken to cities on the coast of the Sea of Azov. The International Atomic Energy Agency expressed deepening concern after Russia fired 30+ shells at a Ukrainian-held town near the plant. The nuclear reactors are shut down, but staff and their families remain. Ask God to comfort them in this stressful situation. Meanwhile Ukraine released a video of white fire from phosphorus munitions in the besieged city of Bakhmut, accusing Russia of using incendiary weapons. International law prohibits using any incendiary weapons, and if chemical weapons are used it is a war crime.
Ukraine: Bakhmut defenders losing support
Ukraine’s call for more weapons and ammunition to bolster the defence of Bakhmut has grown louder. A year ago they fired all forty barrels of their rocket launcher in one go. Now they can only afford to fire a few at a time at Russian targets. They haven't got enough ammunition for their weapons but are still called on to provide fire support to Ukrainian forces desperately clinging on to the edges of the town, which Russia has spent months trying to capture. Russians are getting closer to their goal, but at enormous cost. On 1 May a top Ukrainian general said that over 20,000 Russian fighters have been killed in Ukraine since December. Some of the Ukrainian Grad missile supplies are coming from the Czech Republic, Romania and Pakistan. Ukraine is frustrated that it can't provide more support to their fellow fighters being killed in Bakhmut.
Ukraine: children's innocence stolen
Russians are kidnapping Ukrainian children and adopting them into Russian families where they are brainwashed. Last May, Putin simplified Russian adoption laws to enable these illegal adoptions. A majority of the children have living parents or relatives: they were illegally and forcefully separated from them when their parents were taken into 'filtration camps'. NGOs are trying to return these children to their families, and the international community calls this a war crime. The number of children who have been proven by name is 16,121, according to Orphan’s Promise. The Russian commissioner for children's rights said over 300,000 children have been taken to Russia, given Russian citizenship and adopted into Russian families - illegally. A Ukrainian human rights lawyer has said, ‘A mother and her four-year-old daughter were separated at a filtration camp. She had to give her daughter to some woman she didn't know, and we don't know what happened to her.’
Russia: where is Putin’s opposition?
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, independent Russian media have received restrictions or threats. News channels TV Rain and Meduza have had to move abroad; Novaya Gazeta remains in Moscow but has stopped publishing newspapers. The authorities have closed talk radio station Echo and others. Countless commentators are in exile, including veteran journalist Nevzorov, branded a ‘foreign agent’ and given a jail sentence in absentia for spreading ‘fake news’ against Russia’s army. People do not need an audience of millions to be targeted. Mathematics student Dmitry Ivanov ran an anti-war Telegram channel and received an eight-and-a-half-year prison sentence. An anti-war picture sketched by a 13-year-old at school warranted Alexei, her father, being jailed for two years. Putin rules Russia virtually unchallenged. Critics who once spoke out have been forced into exile, jailed or killed. By the time he invaded Ukraine, two decades of stamping out dissent had all but annihilated Russian opposition.
Libya: warlord involved in Sudan war
Libyan warlord Haftar controls eastern parts of Libya and, fuelled by outside interests, could worsen Sudan’s conflict. Analysts describe a ‘nightmare scenario’ of multiple regional powers fighting a proxy war in Sudan, endangering over 45 million people. Recently, Haftar passed on crucial intelligence to Sudanese general Hemedti, detained his enemies, increased deliveries of fuel, and trained hundreds of RSF fighters in the urban warfare tactics needed in Khartoum and other cities. Hemedti and Haftar have also collaborated on smuggling operations of valuable illicit cargo between the two countries. Currently, neither Haftar nor his sponsors, UAE and Russia, will commit entirely to one side in a conflict whose outcome remains unclear. Also, he does not want to alienate Egyptian supporters who back Sudan’s General Burhan. One NLA militia commander said his force was ‘ready to support Hemedti but is still monitoring the unfolding situation in Sudan’.
Ukraine: cyber frontline
When Russia initiated its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a second, less visible battle in cyberspace got under way. The conflict has blurred the lines between those working for the military and the unofficial activist hackers. Oleksandr, one of the most prominent hackers in the vigilante group, the 200,000-strong IT Army of Ukraine, has helped to temporarily disable hundreds of Russian websites, disrupted services at dozens of banks and defaced websites. For over a year, he has devoted himself to causing as much chaos in Russia as possible. He recently joined a team of hackers called One Fist, to hijack Russian radio stations and broadcast the sound of fake air raid sirens and an alert message telling citizens to take shelter. ‘We feel ourselves like the military’, says Oleksandr. ‘When my country calls me to pick up a rifle I am ready, but hacking Russia now, I feel that I am helpful.’
Ukraine: beheading video
Ukraine’s president Zelensky has urged world leaders to act after the emergence of footage showing Russian soldiers beheading a Ukrainian prisoner of war. A second video shows the beheaded corpses of two Ukrainian soldiers next to a destroyed military vehicle. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, it has committed widespread abuses. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Putin’s alleged war crimes. Ukraine’s foreign minister tweeted, ‘A horrific video of Russian troops decapitating a Ukrainian prisoner of war is circulating online. It’s absurd that Russia, which is worse than Isis, is presiding over the UNSC’ - referring to the UN Security Council, where Russia took up the rotating presidency this month. ‘The terror group Isis released a number of videos showing beheadings when it controlled swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. Russian terrorists must be kicked out of Ukraine and the UN and be held accountable for their crimes, and the International Criminal Court must ‘immediately investigate yet another atrocity of the Russian military.’
Ukraine / Russia / France / China: path to peace talks
French president Emmanuel Macron arrived on 6 April for a three-day state visit to China. President Xi Jinping greeted Macron on a huge red carpet lined by Chinese and French flags as the countries’ national anthems played. President Macron said, ‘The Russian aggression in Ukraine has dealt a blow to stability. I know I can count on you to bring back Russia to reason and everyone back to the negotiating table.’ Macron also said that Beijing can play a ‘major role’ in finding a path to peace in the conflict and welcomed China’s willingness to ‘commit to a resolution’. Macron, who was accompanied on his visit by the European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, said he wants to ‘be a voice that unites Europe’ over Ukraine; coming to China with her served to ‘underline the consistency of this approach’.