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STOPPING THE SLAUGHTER

October 3, 2022

Diane Francis

 

On September 30, Vladimir Putin strode into St. George’s Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace in Moscow through 30-foot-high gold doors opened by goose-stepping guards. He proclaimed, before hundreds of well-dressed courtiers, that 15 percent of Ukraine had been “annexed” then launched into a tirade against the past colonialism, slavery, and genocide by the West that Russia now inflicts on Ukraine. Just hours later, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and two colleagues, wearing military fatigues, signed Ukraine’s application to quickly join NATO at a modest table alone in a Kyiv square. But as both these ceremonies unfolded, by the perpetrator and the victim, the ongoing slaughter in the biggest war in Europe since World War II continued with no end in sight.

Strangely, there were tiny positives buried in the rhetoric. Putin claimed in his speech that he was willing to negotiate. Zelensky said he’d negotiate but never with Putin. Despite such alleged willingness, both sides escalated their war. Ukraine recaptured land inside newly-annexed territories, and Russia destroyed gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, then kidnapped the director general of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on Ukrainian-controlled territory as part of its continuing nuclear blackmail.

They underscored once again the strategic dilemma here – and the impediment to negotiations at this point – which is that both parties want to optimize their gains before going to the negotiating table, wrote Major General Asthana, an esteemed Strategic and Security Analyst in India. “Russia’s goal remains unmet – to take over the Donbas region as a whole and all of the Black Sea of Ukraine to its militarized strip of land in eastern Moldova, called Transnistria, in order to landlock and cripple the nation. Adding troops is essential to hold on to territorial gains and prolong the war through winter, to obtain leverage to get the West to reduce sanctions.”

“Ukraine’s goal is to be NATO’s champion against Russia and prolong the war in order to continue weakening its war machine,” which aligns with NATO and American goals, “but this may backfire eventually,” he added. The devastation of Ukraine may result in the long-term reduction of its territorial size as well as lead to an unending proxy war which may, ironically, enhance the long-term Russian threat. Besides, he said, NATO doesn’t know how it will respond if Russia drops a tactical nuclear bomb.

This weekend, The New York Times reported that the Pentagon is “gaming out responses” to a tactical nuclear weapon attack, capable of killing 20,000. Most commentators don’t believe this will happen – unless Putin is backed against the wall, which he isn’t as yet – but the threat alone rattles the world and if undertaken would upend 77 years of nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Putin has said that an attack on his newly annexed territories would constitute an “existential” attack on Russia itself, leading to a possible nuclear response. But Ukraine ignores this “red line” and on October 1 recaptured a major city in newly “annexed territory” and continued attacking in

all annexed areas. This won’t abate until there is a solution and the world edges closer toward another 1962 “Cuban Missile Crisis” moment.

Graham Allison, nuclear and crisis expert and author of the best book about the 1962 crisis, said in a recent interview in the Financial Times that “nuclear powers must avert confrontations that force an adversary to choose between humiliating retreat and nuclear war. If Putin is forced to choose between losing on the one hand in Ukraine and escalating the level of destruction, there’s every reason to believe he’ll escalate the level of destruction. We know about him and his history. He had no compunction killing massively in his own city, Grozny, levelling the entire city, as well as levelling Aleppo in Syria.”

Thus far, the White House has responded to Russia’s nuclear threats with counter-threats. President Joe Biden said such an attack would be met with “consequential”, but unspecified, retaliation. According to leaks, sources say retaliation would likely consist of massive conventional assaults that would destroy Russia’s naval fleet in the Black Sea and most Russian troop concentrations inside Ukraine. But Allison said “we have to hope to get to some resolution or some ceasefire or someplace where it stops before we give him [Putin] that option, because I think, unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t conduct a nuclear strike.”

The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis led to brinkmanship that ended, in large measure, because Washington secretly promised to remove its nuclear warheads from Turkey in return for Russia’s agreement to remove theirs from Cuba. Today, Allison said, White House and CIA officials know how to use backchannels and are likely doing so now to break through the rhetorical logjam. “I don’t know exactly what the terms would be. Putin is so much about Putin that you could do something for him or his family or somebody that he really cares about. I mean, this is like dealing with a Mafioso.”

Ironically, the current state of play may lead to a deal. The world is appalled at Russia’s war crimes. Ukraine is spectacularly successful on the battlefield. India and China are upset as are the world’s developing nations because of the damage to their economies. And, on the other hand, Russia is roiling. Many Russians are upset about Putin’s partial mobilization and hundreds of thousands head for the exits, only to be forced to remain inside Mother Russia against their will. And those who have been forced into its military are now armed and angry. Historically speaking, a cohort of armed military men is always hazardous to a potentate.

China and India will publicly speak out against the war at the October 4 Security Council meeting, providing another powerful helpful “deterrent” of sorts to prevent Putin from using weapons of mass destruction. On October 2, China’s Global Times’ editorial even bluntly called for “de-escalation and negotiation with viable options on the table to achieve an early ceasefire”.

But the only “viable options” that must be on the table are two: that Ukraine is given iron-clad security guarantees from NATO and eventual membership and that Ukraine’s lands are returned and the nation rebuilt. However, demanding Putin’s departure, no matter how desirable, is a non-starter. As Allison said “do I believe that in the end we’re going to end up having to do some version of a dirty deal with him? Most likely, and it’s gonna be extremely uncomfortable, but in World War 2 Churchill and Roosevelt didn’t have any trouble dealing with Stalin — and Stalin did kill 30 or more million people. He [Putin] will remain a pariah the way Kim Jong Un is. But we’re gonna have to live with him.”

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UKRAINE WAR: I’VE JUST RETURNED FROM GEORGIA WHERE THEY ARE ANGRY ABOUT THE CONFLICT AND FEAR AN INVASION

September 29, 2022

Natasha Lindstaedt

The Conversation

Arriving in the middle of the night at my Tbilisi hotel recently for a research project, I was told that my reservation had been rescinded and the hotel was now fully booked. A huge busload of Russian men had arrived at the hotel before me and were willing to pay more than the advertised price. I found it difficult to find a spare room in Tbilisi, but this was not surprising.

Days earlier the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had announced a military mobilisation of 300,000 men, regardless of their military experience. Within hours, young Russians were packing their belongings and fleeing to Georgia, Turkey and other neighbouring countries.

On the Russian-Georgian border, cars have been waiting for hours in long lines of traffic. Though some of those fleeing may be against the war, most are just fearful for their own lives.

This contrasts with the first wave of Russian migrants into Georgia (which arrived in March 2022), who were mostly driven by economic factors. Many middle-class Russians fled after sanctions were imposed, but were not necessarily against the conflict or Putin’s regime. These Russians have been welcomed by the Georgian government, led by the Georgia Dream Party, which has a no-irritation policy with Russia – introduced after 2008 to try to smooth relations with Moscow.

The same can’t be said for the largely pro-Ukrainian Georgian population. However, there have been some issues. Russian migrants have caused a housing crunch, with rent costs doubling since March. Some Russians are keeping a low profile, even pretending to be Ukrainians.

In some cases, Georgians have verbally attacked Russians, while many restaurant and bar owners have asked Russians to sign an oath denouncing the war. Some of the graffiti that covers the walls of Tbilisi makes clear what the Georgian people think of Putin.

But Georgians are also concerned that the constant chatter in Russian is not just coming from civilians. There are reports of Russians working for Russia’s security service, the FSB, spying on new arrivals in Georgia.

But the conflict has caused far greater problems for Georgia than just migration. The Georgia Dream Party, (officially led by former business executive Irakli Garibashvili and run behind the scenes by former prime minister and Georgia’s richest man, Bidzina Ivanishvili) has not been critical of Russia. It has also refused to offer Ukraine any support – due in part to fears of Russian retribution.

By contrast, the Georgian public is very staunchly pro-Ukrainian – even leading to mass protests against Georgia’s inadequate support for Kyiv.

In spite of this, the ruling party has propagandised its ability to maintain a relationship with Russia and avoid war as its main asset for the Georgian public. The Georgia Dream Party claims that the opposition (which is tied to imprisoned ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, a former governor of the Odesa oblast in southern Ukraine) wants to provoke Russia into invading. The fears of a Russian invasion are not unwarranted. Russia invaded in 2008 and Russian troops are still stationed about 25 miles from Tbilisi.

No matter what Georgia does, it appears stuck in a catch-22 situation. Many people in Tbilisi told me that if the war goes badly for Russia, in order to save face, Putin may go for a quick invasion of Georgia. Georgia’s government has not invested in its military, believing that a build-up might provoke Russia further. But there are also fears that if the war starts to go better in Russia, Putin will be ambitious to conquer other lands.

Russia has never been comfortable with the idea of the classical nation-state. As Putin has made clear he has imperial ambitions, and there are suggestions that he wants to restore the former Soviet Union.

Attacking a Nato country is highly unlikely at this point, but there is always a possibility of conflict in the Caucasus. Georgians believe that Russia has had a history of using force to defend Russian minorities in other territories and countries. As more Russians flee to Georgia, the government and public face the challenging task of not wanting to give Putin a reason to invade.

For Georgia Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, the situation with Ukraine is also personal. Though his rival and former president Mikheil Saakashvili is currently a political prisoner, he represents Ivanishvili’s main rival. Saakashvili is perceived as an important figure in Ukraine – he is close to Volodymyr Zelensky and is firmly anti-Russian.

By contrast, Ivanishvili may be compromised by his business ties to the Russian government and Russian political elites, and has concerns about Zelensky winning. In spite of public opinion, Georgia is one of the few countries whose government has publicly attacked Zelensky and his administration.

For most Georgians, the memories from the 2008 war with Russia are still fresh. The public wants to support Ukraine while also avoiding another invasion, which would likely directly target its bustling capital of Tbilisi. Georgians fought valiantly but were overwhelmed by Russian aerial bombing, and thus want to avoid war at all costs. But Georgian scholars feel the country has very little influence over its own destiny. Instead, for most Georgians they see their future directly tied to the outcome in Ukraine.

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PUTIN’S NEWEST ANNEXATION IS DIRE FOR RUSSIA TOO

His baldly illegitimate claim to four Ukrainian provinces shows contempt for the global order—and his own subjects.

By Anne Applebaum

Sept. 30, 2022

The Atlantic

Vladimir Putin today announced his annexation of four provinces of Ukraine—four provinces that he does not fully control, that did not vote to join Russia, that have been the site of mass murder and mass deportation since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. With this statement, the Russian president is also declaring war. But this is not merely a war on Ukraine.

Putin’s war—Russia’s war—is also a war on a particular idea of world order and international law, an idea upheld not just by Europeans and North Americans, but by most of the rest of the world, indeed by the United Nations itself. One core principle of this world order is that larger countries should not be able to grab parts of smaller countries, that mass slaughter of whole populations is unacceptable, that borders have international significance and cannot be changed through violence or on one dictator’s whim. Putin already challenged this idea in 2014, when he annexed Crimea. At the time he also held a sham referendum, but he convinced many outsiders that it had some validity. Although some sanctions followed, the world largely gave him a pass. Commerce and diplomacy with Russia continued.

This time, Putin is no longer able even to pretend that the farcical votes he has staged in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson have any validity, and no one, anywhere, believes that they do. The simulation was played out: Armed men went house to house collecting so-called ballots, and some people, left destitute by the war, were bribed in exchange for showing up to vote. But in regions where hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have been evacuated, deported, or murdered, where violent conflict continues and where an active resistance is raging, nothing remotely like an actual vote could ever have taken place. Even as Putin was speaking in Moscow, the Ukrainians announced that they were surrounding and cutting off a large group of Russian soldiers in Lyman, a strategically significant city in Donetsk province.

Russia’s actions under these circumstances show contempt not only for international lawyers in European capitals, but also for Chinese politicians who like to talk about sovereignty and African diplomats who have agreed that borders matter, even when they are arbitrary. In the upside-down reality that Putin has created, he will now claim that Ukrainians, by defending their own land and their own people, are somehow attacking Russia. He will even raise the stakes, will try to frighten Ukraine and the West by calling Ukraine’s self-defense an existential threat to Russia that requires an extraordinary response—perhaps even a nuclear response, echoing a threat he has made repeatedly since he began his invasion.

This annexation is also more specifically a declaration of war against the democratic world, a statement of contempt for democracy itself. Putin has been treating democracy as a tool for

decades, using fake parties, creating fake opponents, and rigging elections. For a long time, he and his spin doctors promoted a form of “managed democracy,” a system that allowed some space for public opinion, while at the same time ensuring that he always remained in power. With today’s announcement, he no longer pretends or plays games. This deliberate farce mocks the very idea of referenda, of voting, of popular opinion. Nothing about this act has any legitimacy, and that is also part of the point. In his world, there is no such thing as legitimacy. Only brutality matters.

 

Finally, this annexation marks the culmination of a two-decade war against any Russians whose vision of their country differs from his. Some of those Russians belong to ethnic minority groups—Dagestanis, Buryats, Tuvans, Crimean Tatars, all of whom have been subject to vigorous mobilization drives, as if Putin wants to use his genocidal war against Ukraine to eliminate them as well. Some simply want to live in a country governed by different rules, a country that does not have murderous designs on its neighbors, a country that is not a menace to the world. Although thousands of such people have fled the country over the past decade, the invasion deliberately sparked a new exodus. Putin’s propagandists have celebrated the departure of anti-war Russians as a form of cleansing; Putin himself has said that the nation should “spit them out like a midge that accidentally flew into their mouths.”

Since the war began, the crackdown at home has also accelerated, because the war provides the context in which dissent can be portrayed as treason, and because any criticism of the war is a crime. Newspapers, websites, social-media channels, and civic groups of all kinds have been shut down. More than 16,400 Russians have been detained in prison for protesting. In the past few days, some protesters have received draft notices after being taken to jail. Others are now the focus of special efforts to undermine and destroy them. Alexei Navalny, the Russian politician who came the closest to creating a grassroots, anti-Putin, prodemocracy movement, received a nine-year jail sentence in May and is now locked in a maximum-security prison. He has spent most of the past several weeks in an isolation cell, as punishment for tiny (or invented) infractions of jailhouse rules. Other inmates are forbidden to speak with him and even to look at him. But his anti-corruption foundation continues to function in exile (I am an unpaid member of its advisory board.). And when he was allowed to speak in an internal prison court last week, Navalny responded to Putin’s call for the mobilization of military reservists without mincing words: “It is already clear that the criminal war that is going on is getting worse and deeper, and Putin is trying to involve as many people as possible in this. He wants to smear hundreds of thousands of people in this blood.”

 

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THE TRUTH MATTERS: THE YERMAK-MCFAUL GROUP EXPLAINS ALL THE SUBTLETIES OF DESIGNATING RUSSIA AS A STATE SPONSOR OF TERRORISM

29 September 2022

Official Website of the President of Ukraine

The International Working Group on Russian Sanctions has developed the fifth Paper of the Working Group on the topic “The Case for Designating the Russian Federation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism”. The document explains in detail the essence and features of the status of a State Sponsor of Terrorism envisaged by American law, and the need to include Russia in the list of countries with SST (State Sponsor of Terrorism) status.

The consequences of the official designation of Russia as a State Sponsor of Terrorism for Russia itself and for the US or Canada were assessed. Working group experts assessed the risks and suggested potential mitigation strategies for many of them.

The document provides factual data confirming the compliance of the actions of the Russian Federation with the definition of “terrorism”. In practice, Russia’s crimes in Ukraine are actually worse than “sponsoring terrorism”, since the main perpetrator of these acts of terrorism is the Russian armed forces, a key institution of the Russian state. The type, scale and purpose of the deliberate, politically motivated violence that the Russian state uses against Ukrainian non-combatants is appalling. The U.S. Department of State should designate the Russian Federation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. A similar designation should be made by the Canadian government.

Experts describe in detail the main consequences: restrictions on transactions, loss of sovereign immunity, secondary sanctions, individual sanctions, symbolic impact.

This designation would increase pressure to add Russia to the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It would also restrict foreign assistance from the United States and from organizations in which the U.S. is a member; ban all arms-related exports and sales; strengthen even further the controls over exports, re-export, and transfer of dual-use items; and put in place additional financial restrictions.

The designation of such status for Russia would make it easier and more likely for the U.S. to impose secondary sanctions on third parties transacting with the Russian state and private sector entities. With the SST designation in place, the U.S. and its allies could impose financial and trade sanctions on any country that continues to cooperate with the Russian state. This threat of secondary sanctions would increase the probability of compliance with sanctions already in place, thus enhancing their credibility and enforceability.

The designation would also greatly increase the scrutiny of many Russian private sector entities and individuals by international counterparties. Potential business partners would need to take extra care in their due diligence and Know-Your-Customer (KYC) research.

The complicated diplomatic, legal, and economic implications for the U.S. and potentially for other members of the sanctions coalition in imposing this designation on the Russian Federation were noted.

However, the paper argues, the laws that allow designation of such status in the United States provide sufficient flexibility to develop effective mitigation strategies for most of these problems.

The designation would bring more global attention to the nature of the Russian regime and the atrocities and terror that it has committed against innocent Ukrainian civilians. It would substantially increase the scale, scope, and effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on the Putin regime.

As for mitigating the risks, first of all, the legislation provides for the possibility of cooperation with Russian entities in joint humanitarian efforts.

It is noted that a waiver could be added to the SST designation that would allow contacts with Russian diplomats when American national interests were being advanced. For example, even while Iran was designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, officials negotiated directly with Iranian diplomats to conclude the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

To reduce fears that American claimants in the U.S. might drain some Russian government assets currently being held in the United States and other banks in the democratic world, the U.S. government could stipulate that these assets are exempt from potential lawsuits and instead will be used for Ukrainian reconstruction.

There could be a condition that if Russia’s armed forces left Ukraine and therefore stopped terrorizing the Ukrainian population, then the designation would be lifted. The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate could commit to this trigger for lifting the designation in a joint resolution. Doing so in advance might create greater incentives for Putin to end his war.

Given the costs of witnessing terrorist acts and doing nothing in response, the Yermak-McFaul Group believes that the benefits of proceeding with SST designation for the Russian Federation outweigh the risks, which, in turn, can be mitigated.

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UKRAINIAN FORCES MOVE TO SURROUND RUSSIAN TROOPS IN KEY CITY AS PUTIN LAYS CLAIM TO REGIONS

By Jared Malsin

Sept. 30, 2022

The Wall Street Journal

Russian forces around a crucial eastern Ukrainian city faced defeat Friday, even as their president said he was annexing the territory they were losing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was formally claiming four areas of Ukraine as part of Russia on Friday in an escalation of the war. His announcement on state television and subsequent government-orchestrated celebrations were broadcast at the same time that Ukrainian troops were encircling thousands of Russian soldiers in the strategic town of Lyman, a logistical center for Russia’s operations in one of the four regions Moscow is claiming.

Russia doesn’t fully occupy any of those areas. Russian-backed authorities held a series of referendums on joining Russia in the territories. Ukraine and Western governments have rejected the votes as a sham exercise intended to confer legitimacy on Russia’s military occupation of parts of Ukraine.

Earlier in the day, a Russian missile strike killed at least 30 civilians, Ukrainian officials said, as Ukrainian forces made military gains in the east, in the hours before Russia declared its annexation of four regions of Ukraine on Friday.

Russian forces fired 16 S-300 missiles at areas near the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia, including a gathering point for Ukrainians preparing to cross the front line into Russian-occupied territory, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. At least 50 people were also wounded in the attack, according to Andriy Yermak, the president’s chief of staff.

Mr. Tymoshenko posted images online of the attack that showed bodies and shattered glass lying on muddy ground next to lines of civilian cars. The S-300 is primarily an air-defense system that Russia has repurposed for ground attacks in inaccurate strikes that have killed civilians, according to Ukrainian authorities and military analysts. Russian-installed leaders blamed Ukrainian forces for the attack.

Mr. Zelensky said on Friday that Ukraine will apply to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization through an expedited procedure, echoing moves by Finland and Sweden, which applied to join the alliance earlier this year in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine first applied to join NATO in 2008 but the country’s application has remained in limbo in recent years.

The Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia is one of four that Mr. Putin claimed as part of Russia on Friday in an escalation of the war. Russia doesn’t fully occupy any of those areas.

Ukrainian officials say Russia is escalating a bombing campaign against civilian targets, including many that lie far behind the front lines of the war. Ukrainian officials have described the attacks as an effort to terrorize and psychologically wear down Ukraine’s general population during the war.

Another attack struck a local transportation company in the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine, sparking a fire that destroyed more than 50 buses and killed at least three people, according to local authorities in the city. Ukrainian authorities published images appearing to show flames engulfing a bus terminal. A separate attack hit a residential neighborhood in the city of Mykolaiv, officials said.

Mr. Zelensky rejected Russia’s declared annexation of Ukrainian territory in a video address on Friday afternoon in which he announced Ukraine’s new application to join NATO. He also met with his top military and security leaders on Friday to discuss ways of countering Russia’s supposed annexation, the Ukrainian president’s office said. “The entire territory of our country will be liberated from this enemy—the enemy not only of Ukraine, but also of life itself, humanity, law and truth,” he said.

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday following Mr. Zelensky’s remarks that the alliance remained open to new members but that the organization’s current focus was on providing immediate support to Ukraine during the war. He also condemned Russia’s purported claim of Ukrainian territory.  “This is the largest attempted annexation of European territory by force since the Second World War,” he said. “This land grab is illegal and illegitimate.”

Ukraine’s renewed attempt to join NATO is unlikely to succeed anytime soon. The alliance has been reluctant to take any action that could provoke a direct conflict with Russia. Ukraine’s original request to join the alliance in 2008 resulted in an ambiguous promise that it would someday become a member.

All the current members of the organization must also approve any new members. Finland and Sweden are still waiting for the parliaments of all 30 current members to ratify their accession. Turkey initially threatened to veto the Nordic countries’ membership over their policy on Kurdish militant groups, before agreeing to accept the two countries in a pact signed in June.

In response to Russia’s declared annexation, the Biden administration announced a new set of sanctions against hundreds of people and institutions in Russia, including its defense procurement network, its central bank governor and 278 members of its legislature. “Russia is violating international law, trampling on the United Nations Charter, and showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere,” said President Biden.

The Russian decision to lay claim to four regions of Ukraine—Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson—mirrors the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, a move that not even Russia’s closest allies recognized. Countries that have remained friendly with Russia during this year’s Ukraine war, including China and Turkey, have pushed back on the annexation plans.

The attacks on civilians and the annexation come after weeks in which Ukrainian forces have rolled back Russian gains in a lightning offensive in the country’s northeastern Kharkiv region

this month. Faced with swift Ukrainian advances, Mr. Putin also called up hundreds of thousands of reservists and threatened nuclear strikes in an attempt to raise the stakes of the war, military analysts have said.

Ukrainian forces have moved closer to encircling thousands of Russian troops stationed in Lyman, a strategic town and railway hub in eastern Ukraine, according to Russian military correspondents and Ukrainian officials.

Losing Lyman would be a major blow to the Kremlin’s war effort in eastern Ukraine. Russian troops have used the town as a staging ground for operations in the east since seizing control of it in May. It would also be a significant symbolic loss for Mr. Putin as he moves to claim control over all of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas area, made up of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, wrote on Twitter that Russian forces “will have to ask for an exit from Lyman.”

A prominent Russian war correspondent, Semyon Pegov, reported that the last highway used for supplying Russian troops in the town had been cut off by Ukrainian forces. Mr. Pegov called the situation “extremely difficult” for Russian soldiers stationed there.

Separately, a Ukrainian military strike killed a Russian-installed leader in the occupied southern city of Kherson, Russian authorities acknowledged. A senior security official, Alexey Katerinichev, died in the strike, Russia’s state-run news agency TASS reported.

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CANADA SUPPORTS UKRAINE’S BID TO JOIN NATO, MÉLANIE JOLY SAYS

Canada, U.S. and Europe direct more sanctions at Putin’s annexation of Ukraine’s eastern territories as Russian threats escalate.

By Tonda MacCharles

Toronto Star

September 30, 2022

OTTAWA—Russia’s war on Ukraine escalated sharply Friday after President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed four eastern Ukraine territories, prompting Kyiv to apply for fast-track membership in NATO and the U.S. and Canada to promise more support.

In Moscow, Putin renewed threats to use tactical nuclear weapons and blamed the West for sabotaging Russia-built undersea gas pipelines to Germany — an accusation the White House flatly rejected.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly condemned Putin’s latest moves, including “sham” votes this week that were “political theatre” to justify Friday’s “illegitimate” annexations. Joly said Canada supports Ukraine’s bid to join NATO.

Blinken was more cautious, saying only there is a “process” to follow for any country seeking to join the western military alliance. Sweden and Finland were fast-tracked as countries with “very advanced militaries that are fully interoperable already with NATO, with equipment that is also fully compatible with what NATO countries have, and of course, strong democracies that have been partners as part of the European Union and with us for many, many, many years,” he said.  Under NATO’s article five, an attack on any member nation is considered an attack on all.

Neither Joly nor Blinken downplayed the seriousness of the new threats as they rolled out more sanctions with the European Union targeted at Russian oligarchs and senior officials operating in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the four annexed eastern Ukraine territories.

Blinken said the U.S. is looking at whether Russia is “actually doing anything” to act on its tactical nuclear weapons threat, saying Putin’s “loose talk about nuclear weapons is the height of irresponsibility and it’s something that we take very seriously.”

So far, Blinken said the U.S. has “not seen them take these actions,” but he underlined that the U.S. administration is planning against “every possible scenario including this one.”

Ultimately, the question of how the West should respond “is a U.S. decision,” said foreign policy expert Janice Stein of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

For the last four months, she said the U.S. has had a “tiger team working full time inside the U.S. national security council” that is gaming out every conceivable response to actions Russia might take, because the stakes continue to rise. “This is a life-and-death struggle for Ukraine. But

nevertheless, we’ve seen now how much is at stake for Putin. He’s doubled down on everything.” In her view, it is an “especially dangerous” period she likened to the 1950s when the U.S. and the then-Soviet Union had early nuclear weapons, “but there were no rules.”  “What makes it so dangerous is that neither the United States right now nor Russia is confident about the rules. So they push and it’s always possible that one or the other miscalculates and they go over the edge.”

On Friday, Canada along with other G7 countries issued a joint statement denouncing Putin’s actions, calling the annexation “a new low point in Russia’s blatant flouting of international law.” “We will impose further economic costs on Russia, and on individuals and entities — inside and outside of Russia — that provide political or economic support to these violations of international law,” the declaration said. It supported Ukraine’s right “to defend itself against Russia’s war of aggression and its unquestionable right to reclaim its territory from Russia.”

Canada’s latest round of sanctions targeted 43 Russian oligarchs, a “so-called governing body in Kherson,” and 35 Russia-backed senior officials in the eastern Ukrainian territories.

That brings the count to more than 1,400 individuals and entities Canada has sanctioned in response to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, and comes on top of more than 400 sanctions (for a total of more than 1,800) that had earlier been imposed after the 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea.

Joly said Friday that Canada must “redouble efforts for the Ukrainian people” — days after Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters “what we all have to do now is double down on supporting Ukraine.”

Ukraine continues to press Canada for more weapons, ammunition and financial support.

Stein said there is room for Canada to more swiftly deliver weapons and ammunition, because Ukraine is suffering casualties and burning through supplies. “So if we’re doubling down, we have to do much better on that. We’ve pledged but not delivered, unlike financial assistance, which we have pledged and delivered.”

One Germany-based institute that tracks global donations to Ukraine ranks Canada 13th in terms of financial assistance as a percentage of GDP, and fifth in terms of military aid.

Stein suggested there is less to do on sanctions because “we’ve sanctioned all the big fish” with previous penalties on Russia’s central bank and its governor, and restrictions on trade exports. “So it’s not an unwillingness to do more, we’ve exhausted the field.”

She predicted the major impact of those sanctions would be felt next spring when technology restrictions really begin to bite “because of the inability to import technology and critical parts, for advanced weaponry, and for what it takes to run an industrial economy.”

 

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star

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THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF UKRAINE LIES WITH ITS VOLUNTEERS

ANASTASIYA RINGIS

September 30, 2022

The Globe and Mail

It’s safe to say that Vladimir Putin’s announcement of “partial mobilization” in Russia to bolster its invasion of Ukraine has backfired.  The effort to call up 300,000 Russians was aimed at replenishing troop levels that have allegedly been decimated over the past seven months; in August, U.S. officials estimated that as many as 80,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded. But while Mr. Putin promised that only military reservists would be drafted, Russians with exemptions have reportedly been drafted anyway, with the burden falling most heavily on rural areas and ethnic minority groups. So it is little wonder that Russians have been fleeing the country in droves, leading to huge queues at checkpoints along its vast border. A spike in arson attacks, protests and even a shooting at an enlistment office reflect growing Russian resistance to the Kremlin’s latest announcement.

Ukrainians couldn’t help but respond to the news with derision, particularly in contrast with their own surge in national pride. In late February, the country’s army recruiting offices were swamped by thousands of men and women who wanted to defend their country. It is remarkable that in a defensive war in which they are outnumbered by a powerful foe, so many people have chosen to stay and fight, not run and hide. They’ve even launched a counteroffensive in the northern Kharkiv region. It’s why General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Ukrainian army’s commander-in-chief, recently declared confidently: “We will destroy all those who come to our land under arms – either voluntarily or from mobilization.”

He has plenty of reasons for optimism. But it goes beyond enthusiasm on the battlefield, and instead reflects Ukraine’s broader and relatively newfound civic spirit.

Anne Applebaum calls this “the other Ukrainian army”: the many civilians supporting and assisting their soldiers and fellow citizens in war-affected areas. They are neither civil nor military servicemen; they call themselves volontery.

This volunteer movement is an authentic Ukrainian phenomenon that traces its roots back to the Soviet era, when Ukraine was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, though with some special privileges. Ukraine – then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic – was one of the 51 co-founders of the United Nations, and Kyiv was allowed to have its own cabinet of ministers and parliament. However, all decision making ultimately happened in Moscow. The military, national security and law-enforcement apparatus in Ukraine went through the Kremlin, leaving Kyiv little space for governance.

In this model, Ukraine’s bureaucrats and officials had no obligation to their own citizens. Most of them were more loyal to Moscow than to their own country and people. As a result, many Ukrainians perceived their institutions as fake, repressive and colonial. Instead of relying on them to cope with various deprivations, they looked to others in their community.

The problem of Ukrainians’ lack of trust in state institutions remained unsolved for years. It was a primary reason behind two popular movements – the Orange Revolution in 2004, and the Maidan Revolution in 2014 – and it’s why Ukrainians demanded that their government move closer to the European Union.

A paradigm shift happened in 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, annexing Crimea and occupying some parts of the Donbas region. Ukrainians grew to trust the army more than any other institution, but quickly discovered that their military was poorly equipped because of government corruption and mismanagement, as well as the alleged infiltration of Russian agents. That was the moment when agile, citizen-organized volontery truly stepped up, to do what state institutions could not.

Regular people who had previously not been engaged in any civic activity started to collect donations and equip their army with everything they could deliver, from uniforms to ammunition. They were fast, competent and

inclusive. The volunteer movement gave every Ukrainian a possibility to become a part of a vast force that was supporting its troops and boosting its morale. Soon, the volontery became one of the most trusted institutions in the country, just after the army they supported.

Since the start of the invasion, they have only ratcheted up their efforts. Eighty-one per cent of Ukrainians have donated money to their armed forces, and 60 per cent have donated money for humanitarian relief, according to a national poll done in August by the National Democratic Institute. Thirty-seven per cent have said that they started to volunteer, and 21 per cent joined the army. This level of civil engagement distinguishes Ukraine from Russia, where a 2019 Levada Center poll found that approximately 39 per cent of Russians feel they bear no responsibility at all for what happens in their country.

Since February, the Come Back Alive Foundation – one of Ukraine’s leading volunteer organizations – has raised more than US$120-million. Another volunteer organization, the Serhiy Prytula Foundation, successfully raised US$20-million in three days for three Bayraktar drones for the Ukrainian army (which were later donated by the defence company Baykar). But volontery not only supply the army with drones, UAVs, rifle scopes, night-vision devices, medical kits, vehicles and communications equipment: They also provide help for civilians in need.

The volontery, alongside Ukraine’s army and aid from the West, have proven to be pillars in the foundation of Ukraine’s war efforts. But they will also need to be a pillar after the war, to build a society that Ukrainians will trust. Their growth has been a driver of the country’s modernization, and when new faces emerge in the politics of a postwar Ukraine, many will come from their ranks. They are driving success in the present – and on the strength of Ukraine’s historical traditions, they will define the country’s future, too.

 

Anastasiya Ringis is a Ukrainian journalist temporarily based in Ottawa.

 

 

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ILLEGAL ATTEMPTS TO LEGALIZE THE OCCUPATION OF EASTERN UKRAINE

As delivered by Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs,

to the Reinforced Permanent Council, Vienna

 

September 29, 2022

 

This past week has laid bare for all to see the truth of Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Russia’s attempts to annex Ukrainian territory are a blatant violation of the UN charter. Russia’s brutal, neo-imperialist war has no place in the modern world.

The Kremlin’s bankrupt and retrograde objective of territorial conquest in Ukraine was put on full display in recent days through sham referenda rushed through and conducted at gun point in areas controlled by Russia. Unable to win the fight on the battlefield, Russia has instead resorted, in true authoritarian fashion, to twisting the values of democracy and freedom into something unrecognizable in the service of Putin’s appetite to redraw the map of the world whatever the cost. To wield force, coercion, and fear — the cornerstones of his rule and foreign policy — in an attempt to present the world with a fait accompli. His calculation appears to be that he can force the world to accept his unilateralism, his bullying, and acquiesce to his imperial ambitions. He is wrong.

These Potemkin referenda do not fool us. They do not change the facts on the ground. Putin and his Kremlin cronies can lie to themselves and the Russian people, but the world sees the truth.

As was the case with the illegitimate and illegal referendum conducted by Russia’s proxies in 2014 in Crimea, we again see orchestrated attempts to hold a farcical so-called “referenda.”

We see Russia’s soldiers wearing balaclavas and wielding guns, flanking so-called election workers and standing over voters as they fill out ballots, forcing Ukrainian citizens to “vote.” As one resident of a small village in the Kherson region was quoted as saying, “How can they say voting is voluntary when they came with guns?”

We see Russian officials going door to door to deliver ballots, peering into the windows of homes, and knocking on the doors of apartments where nobody answers their call. We see reports of soldiers and poll workers approaching pedestrians on sidewalks and directing them to vote regardless of whether they have identification documents or appear on the voter rolls. Mobile armed groups such as these have also been visiting schools, hospitals, and other workplaces to round up “voters.” Is it any surprise we also see reports of residents hiding in or fleeing their homes, terrified that voting against Russia’s attempted annexation would lead to their being abducted, or much worse? These examples, and the many others, belie the underlying depravity and true intent behind Russia’s actions.

We know President Putin wants to use these sham referenda and their pre-ordained outcomes to try to solidify his weakening grasp on Ukraine’s sovereign territory. Why else would he pursue this fraud in regions with less than half of their pre-war populations, or even in Zaporizhzhya and Kherson where Russia controls less than half of the territory and continues its shelling, hitting

civilian areas and causing large scale death and destruction? In an even more perverse reflection of this reality, there are public reports of Russia prohibiting all men between the ages of 18 and 35 in Zaporizhzhya and Kherson from traveling – likely in a repugnant attempt to conscript Ukrainian citizens to fight against their own country against their will. We have seen the reactions from these brave patriots still living under the brutal authority of Russia’s armed forces and proxies in these areas.

These phony referenda are egregious violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty. The United States will never accept these illegal referenda as anything other than Moscow’s true intention: to shred the international order that has been instrumental in building peace, stability, and prosperity in Europe — and to do so at the whim of one man, Vladimir Putin. As President Biden said at the UN General Assembly last week, “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should make your blood run cold. We will stand in solidarity against Russian aggression. Period.”

Rather than Putin’s retrograde vision for the world in which he and he alone determines the fate of other countries, the United States chooses freedom and sovereignty. We are not cowed by the Kremlin’s bluster or its completely irresponsible and amoral nuclear threats. We will not waver in our commitment to providing Ukraine with exactly what it needs to defend itself, which it is doing admirably. We must – and will – protect the international order in which no country can redraw the borders of another by force. And we strongly repudiate the Kremlin’s flimsy effort to justify the unjustifiable with its attempt to annex the sovereign territory of Ukraine through fraudulent referenda. We will never recognize this affront to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we will remain clear and firm in our support for Ukraine.

 

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INSIDE THE UKRAINIAN COUNTERSTRIKE THAT TURNED THE TIDE OF THE WAR

By SIMON SHUSTER and VERA BERGENGRUEN

Sept. 26, 2022

TIME Magazine

It would be easy to underestimate Valeriy Zaluzhny. When not in uniform, the general prefers T-shirts and shorts that match his easygoing sense of humor. When he first heard from aides to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in late July 2021 that he was being tapped to lead the country’s armed forces, his stunned response was, “What do you mean?” As it sank in that he would become commander in chief, he tells TIME in his first interview since the Russian invasion began, he felt as if he had been punched “not just below the belt but straight into a knockout.” George Patton or Douglas MacArthur he is not.

Yet when the history of the war in Ukraine is written, Zaluzhny is likely to occupy a prominent role. He was part of the Ukrainian brass who spent years transforming the country’s military from a clunky Soviet model into a modern fighting force. Hardened by years of battling Russia on the eastern front, he was among a new generation of Ukrainian leaders who learned to be flexible and delegate decisions to commanders on the ground. His dogged preparation in the run-up to the invasion and savvy battlefield tactics in the early phases of the war helped the nation fend off the Russian onslaught. “Zaluzhny has emerged as the military mind his country needed,” U.S. General Mark Milley wrote for TIME of his counterpart last May. “His leadership enabled the Ukrainian armed forces to adapt quickly with battlefield initiative against the Russians.”

That initiative has now taken a key turn in Ukraine’s favor. In Kyiv’s biggest gains since the war began in February, a lightning counteroffensive in the country’s northeast in early September stunned Russian troops, who fled in disarray and ceded vast swaths of occupied territory. Combined with a second operation in the south, Ukrainian forces say they wrested back more than 6,000 sq km from Russian control in less than two weeks, liberating dozens of towns and cities and cutting off enemy supply lines. The Ukrainian army’s deft game of misdirection, touting a counter-offensive in the south before attacking in the northeast, caught Russia off guard. And it validated the Ukrainians’ arguments that intelligence collaboration and billions of dollars in weapons and materiel supplied by Western allies would yield results on the battlefield.

The sudden victories came at a critical point in what had become a grinding war of attrition. As the economic pressures built across Europe and around the world, skeptics were beginning to doubt whether Ukraine could endure a protracted fight. The dramatic rout rattled Moscow, forcing Kremlin propagandists to admit the setback and upping the military and political pressures on Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Sept. 21 he responded by announcing the first mass conscription since World War II, a partial mobilization of up to 300,000 citizens.

Ukrainian and U.S. officials alike believe the war will be longer and bloodier than most imagine. Putin has shown he’s willing to sacrifice his troops and commit atrocities to exhaust his

adversary. In a menacing speech, he warned that he was “not bluffing” when he threatened to use everything at his disposal to defend Russia—an allusion to nuclear weapons. The recent Ukrainian offensive may be a turning point, but it is not the decisive blow. “In hindsight, we’ll look at this like the Battle of Midway,” says Dan Rice, a U.S. Army combat veteran and leadership executive at West Point who serves as a special adviser to Zaluzhny, referring to the pivotal 1942 clash that preceded three more years of war.

Zaluzhny is just one of many Ukrainians responsible for the grit and progress of the nation’s outmanned army. Other key officers include General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, who led the defense of Kyiv and, more recently, the counteroffensive in the east, and Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service. But after the President, Zaluzhny has become the face of the war effort. His persona is omnipresent on Ukrainian social media. One widely shared image shows the “Iron General” kneeling in front of the sobbing mother of one of his soldiers, head bowed in grief in front of a casket. In another he flashes a grin presiding over the wedding of one of his servicemen during a lull in the fighting. Fan channels on Telegram have hundreds of thousands of followers, with many changing their profiles to a photo of the general with his hands held in the shape of a heart. “When Zaluzhny walks into a dark room he does not turn on the light, he turns off the darkness,” one viral TikTok video jokes.

It’s hard to predict where the war is headed or the part Zaluzhny will play in the end. But perhaps for the first time, it now seems possible that the army he commands could achieve victory.

Zaluzhny was drinking a beer at his wife’s birthday party when he stepped outside to take a cell-phone call and learned about his new job. The 48-year-old general’s rank and stature at the time were far below the position Zelensky was offering him. Commander in chief of the armed forces of Ukraine is the nation’s top military title, outranked only by the President himself. The height of that perch induced a feeling like vertigo. “I’ve often looked back and asked myself: How did I get myself into this?” Zaluzhny told TIME in a June interview.

To some, the choice seemed rash. While he had earned a reputation as an aggressive and ambitious commander, Zaluzhny was also considered a bit of a goofball, better known for clowning around with his troops than disciplining them. Born on a Soviet military garrison in northern Ukraine in 1973, he says he had dreams of becoming a comedian, much like Zelensky himself. Instead, he followed in the footsteps of his military family, entering the academy in Odessa in the 1990s as the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine descended into crisis.

Zaluzhny rose through the ranks with a new generation of officers that bridged very different eras: raised in Soviet Ukraine, but eager to shed USSR military dogma. For a master’s thesis, Zaluzhny analyzed U.S. military structure. Seeing how Ukrainian forces were still weighed down by the Soviet model that relied on rigid, top-heavy decision-making, he began to implement changes to mirror the forces of U.S. and NATO partners.

Zaluzhny worked his way from commanding a platoon to leading the country’s forces on the eastern front following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. In that role, he developed junior officers and encouraged more agile decision-making, pushing down authority to commanders on

the ground. Unlike in the Russian army, sergeants would not be “scapegoats,” but rather real deputies meant to create a pipeline of military talent, he said in a 2020 interview published by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. “There is no going back,” he said, to “the army of 2013.”

But Zaluzhny also respected and admired the institutions of his Russian counterparts. In his office, he keeps the collected works of General Valery Gerasimov, the head of the Russian armed forces, who is 17 years his senior. “I was raised on Russian military doctrine, and I still think that the science of war is all located in Russia,” Zaluzhny says. “I learned from Gerasimov; I read everything he ever wrote. He is the smartest of men, and my expectations of him were enormous.”

When Zelensky took office in 2019, the war in eastern Ukraine was already in its fifth year, and Zaluzhny was acting commander in the war zone. It fell to him to brief the new President on military operations and command structures. He knew Zelensky had never served in the military, and had no plans to school him in the tactical details of warfare. “He doesn’t need to understand military affairs any more than he needs to know about medicine or bridge building,” Zaluzhny says. To his surprise, Zelensky seemed to agree. “This has turned out to be one of [Zelensky’s] strongest features,” says Oleksiy Melnyk, a former Ukrainian Assistant Defense Minister. He has allowed his generals to run the show “without direct interference into military business.”

In 2020, Zaluzhny oversaw an ambitious set of military exercises, which included a test of the Javelin anti-tank missile. With the President watching from the observation deck, the demonstration failed, and pundits went on Ukrainian TV to debate the bad omen for the nation’s military. Zaluzhny was sure he would be known in the President’s office as “the loser with the faulty Javelins.”

Yet Zelensky has shown a determination to jettison an older generation of officials in search of new blood, and a habit of elevating leaders with whom he feels a rapport, regardless of rank. In July 2021, with the Russians hauling tanks to the border and the Americans warning that Ukraine could soon face a full-scale attack, the President decided to put Zaluzhny in charge. “I gave my opinion that he strikes me as a fairly professional, smart person,” says Andriy Yermak, Zelensky’s chief of staff. “But the President made the call.”

Unlike Zelensky, who was skeptical of intelligence reports that a mass-scale Russian invasion was imminent, Zaluzhny was part of a corps of Ukrainian officers who viewed it as a matter of time. Within weeks of taking up his post, he began to implement key changes. Officers would be free to return fire “with any available weapons” if they came under attack, with no need for permission from senior commanders. “We needed to knock down their desire to attack,” Zaluzhny says. “We also needed to show our teeth.”

By early February, the pressure of his new role was starting to show. The launch of an ambitious set of military exercises involving thousands of Ukrainian troops had been a disappointment, with basic maneuvers meant to simulate a Russian attack exposing cracks in Ukraine’s defenses. In Zaluzhny’s view, the drills were a centerpiece of Ukraine’s defensive strategy, its best chance

of survival, and the commanders were not taking them seriously enough. “I spent an hour yelling,” he recalls. “I lost it.” The men seated around the table were mostly older and more experienced than Zaluzhny, who did not have a reputation for losing his cool. “I explained to them that if they can’t pull this off, the consequences will not only cost us our lives, but also our country.”

After the outburst, the generals picked up their preparations. They relocated and camouflaged military hardware, moving troops and weapons out of their bases and sending them on tours around the country. This included aircraft, tanks, and armored vehicles, as well as the antiaircraft batteries Ukraine would soon need to maintain control of its skies. “There’s no mistaking the smell of war,” Zaluzhny says, “and it was already in the air.” But when it came to the details of his strategy, Zaluzhny held them close. “I was afraid that we would lose the element of surprise,” he says. “We needed the adversary to think that we are all deployed in our usual bases, smoking grass, watching TV, and posting on Facebook.”

When the invasion started on the morning of Feb. 24, the general had two strategic goals for Ukraine’s defense. “We could not allow Kyiv to fall,” he said. “And, on all the other vectors, we had to spill their blood, even if in some places it would require losing territory.” The aim, in other words, was to allow the Russians to advance and then destroy their columns in the front and supply lines in the rear. By the sixth day of the invasion, he concluded it was working. The Russians had failed to take airports around Kyiv and had advanced deep enough to begin straining supply lines, leaving them exposed.

Milley, Zaluzhny’s U.S. counterpart, was in some ways astounded when he saw the Ukrainians holding out. He asked Zaluzhny whether he planned to evacuate to safer ground. “I told him, ‘I don’t understand you,’” Zaluzhny says. “For me the war started in 2014. I didn’t run away then, and I’m not going to run now.”

He too was surprised by Russia’s blunders. When the enemy faced heavy resistance or lost the ability to resupply, they did not retreat or shift to a different approach. “They just herded their soldiers into the slaughter,” Zaluzhny said. “They chose the scenario that suited me best of all.”

Even as the U.S. and allies continued to flood the country with billions in military aid, the news was grim. Russia pounded the strategic port city of Mariupol, killing thousands of civilians. In May, hundreds of Ukrainian fighters who had defended the last stronghold in the city, the Azovstal steel plant, surrendered. (More than 150 were returned Sept. 21 in a prisoner swap, including five top Ukrainian commanders.) Mass graves were discovered in towns and villages occupied by Russian troops. Still, Ukrainian officials insisted they could win. “We will fight until the last drop of blood,” Zaluzhny told TIME.

A few weeks later, Ukraine began to do something that struck military analysts as unusual. From the top of the government, Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky and Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, began to publicly tout their preparations for a large-scale operation to retake territory in the south. In anticipation of an attack, Russia began to reposition troops, including some of its most elite units from other regions to reinforce its positions in the south. On Aug. 29, the Ukrainian military announced that the long-anticipated southern offensive had begun.

But there were indications something else was afoot. “We have a war on, not only in the south,” Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told TIME on Sept. 1. “The front line is 2,500 km long.” Many experts doubted that Ukraine would be capable of mounting a counter-offensive on one front, let alone two.

Five days later, Ukrainian troops launched a surprise strike in the country’s northeast. The Russians were caught off guard. Many fled in disarray, leaving behind weapons and equipment. Local reports painted a humiliating picture of retreat, describing soldiers stealing civilians’ clothes, bicycles, and cars to escape.

In six days, the Ukrainian military retook an estimated 3,000 sq km of Russian-held territory, including strategically important rail hubs used to resupply its forces. The strike stunned the Kremlin, U.S. officials, and even top Ukrainians. “I taught myself to moderate my expectations, so as not to be disappointed later,” Reznikov tells TIME. “Some breakthroughs occurred a little faster than planned.”

Intelligence and advanced weaponry provided by the West also helped. “They gave us the location of the enemy, how many of them are at that location, and what they have stored there,” Reznikov says. “Then we would strike.” The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) provided by the Pentagon allowed Ukraine to destroy warehouses of ammunition, fuel, and command posts. Lighter vehicles like U.S.-donated humvees, as well as trucks and tanks sent by the U.K., Australia, the Netherlands, Poland, and the Czech Republic, allowed them to outmaneuver the Russians. “Ukrainians have demonstrated much better distributed tactical-level operations,” says Jeffrey Edmonds, a former CIA analyst and Russia director on the National Security Council. “They’re much more disciplined.”

Also crucial, Ukrainian officials say, was the flexible command structure that allowed them to exploit the quick Russian collapse. “The Ukrainian army has the freedom to make decisions at every level,” Reznikov says, likening it to NATO standards. “They do it quickly, unlike the Russians.”

Ukrainian officials are careful to spread the credit for the military successes so far. “It’s not a story of one star, but a constellation of our military elite,” Reznikov says, naming a long list of celebrated officers from the armed forces—the infantry, navy, air force, medical corps and others.

There are rumors of tensions between Zelensky and his top military commander, though the President and his aides have dismissed them. “The so-called conflict with Zaluzhny was invented by our opposition from start to finish,” says Oleksiy Arestovych, a Zelensky aide and veteran of Ukraine’s military intelligence service. “On the one hand, it’s obviously made up. On the other, it has a painful effect, because stirring up conflict between the military commander and the commander in chief is a catastrophe.”

Hardened by war, Ukrainian leaders know the recent successes have only bought time. “Russia has staked everything on this war,” says Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. “Putin cannot lose. The stakes are too high.”

Ukraine’s operations in the south have moved slowly. As winter approaches, Kyiv must take care not to overextend its forces. And there are forces at play outside Ukraine’s control. The looming energy crisis could sap Western military support, with Russia already cutting its gas supplies to Europe from 40% to 9%.

For his part, Zaluzhny is girding for a long and bloody slog. “Knowing what I know firsthand about the Russians, our victory will not be final,” he told TIME. “Our victory will be an opportunity to take a breath and prepare for the next war.”

 

With reporting by Leslie Dickstein and Simmone Shah

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RUSSIA: A TERRORIST STATE

September 29, 2022

Diane Francis

On September 26, Putin’s war escalated after explosions disabled gas pipelines beneath the Baltic Sea linking Russia to Germany and began spewing methane and gas, equivalent to a small country’s annual emissions. The pipeline, and its newer twin, had been virtually stopped from shipping energy to punish Europe, but now they are out of commission. “This is an act of sabotage — an act which likely means a further step of escalation of the situation in Ukraine,” declared Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. NATO called it sabotage, US officials dubbed it as “apparent sabotage”, and Russia blamed America. An investigation will take months, but the damage suspiciously occurred at a location just outside NATO territory near Denmark. (If inside the territory, the attack would have constituted an act of war against NATO itself.) And missing from news stories is the fact that the same day of the “simultaneous accidents”, Russia’s Gazprom announced it will shut down its still-operating Ukrainian gas pipeline that serves Eastern and Central Europe, and indirectly Ukraine. That leaves only two lines beneath the Black Sea that link Russia to Turkey, and southeastern Europe, the Balkans, and Turkey. This week winter arrived in Europe.

The news jolted markets as well as political capitals. Germany and Denmark immediately tried to prevent panic and stated that the lines were shut down anyway and new sources of supply will get Europeans through the winter. But that won’t be the case if Putin shuts down all remaining pipelines to intimidate Europe. There is already a scramble for alternative supplies and new energy sources, along with massive subsidies to consumers to keep the lights on as well as plans to ration energy. Now NATO must scramble to provide protection for Europe’s critical infrastructure from pipelines to refineries, telecommunications cables, LNG ports and pipelines, wind farms, solar parks, nuclear reactors, power plants, transmission lines, and water treatment facilities. Nothing will be safe. “The Baltic Sea `leaks’ were `a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards E.U.,’” tweeted Ukraine.

Surely, the piecemeal shutdown or sabotage of Europe’s energy system is reason enough to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism and remove it from membership in the United Nations where it has weaponized the Security Council by vetoing any attempt to impede its terrorism and warfare. Evidence mounts in Ukraine of Russia’s war crimes, genocide, nuclear blackmail, and food blackmail. And two million Ukrainian citizens, including hundreds of thousands of children, have been “forcibly removed” to Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week.

Frankly, Putin’s Russia should have been isolated and labelled a menace years ago, as were North Korea and Iran. But free to roam, Putin helped the Butcher of Aleppo, the Assad regime in Syria who drove seven million Syrians into refugee camps and Europe; poisoned or assassinated many Russian dissidents and Europeans; sabotaged elections; and shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014 over Ukraine after it left Amsterdam, killing all 298 persons on board. Russian cyberattacks have been constant, aimed at closing major infrastructure in countries around the world, its support for Islamist terrorist groups are known, and its Wagner Group mercenaries operate in dozens of countries waging war and perpetrating terrorist attacks. Even Mohammed Attah, of 9/11 infamy, worked for Russian intelligence, among others, according to a recent, fascinating article in The Hill by Ukrainian-American activist and lawyer Victor Rud.

How can a nation-state, with a rap sheet that long, be granted any standing geopolitically? The U.S. Congress agrees and recently passed a resolution to designate the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism — as is the case for Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba. However, the hold out has been the Biden White House, notably its current Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who resists because, he says, this would require America to sanction U.S. allies doing business with Moscow, and because it would prevent a diplomatic solution. But why should anyone be doing business with this regime? Was diplomacy a thing when Hitler was murdering millions? And does anybody in the world really think that Putin can be negotiated with?

After Sweden reported the explosions, the European Union limply announced more sanctions. This signals, once again, a lapse in perception and vigilance against the reality that Putin weaponizes everything and there’s more to come. For instance, the current flood of young Russian men fleeing his partial mobilization may have been weaponized. An estimated 200,000 have left, but how many posing as draft dodgers will become “Trojan Horse” saboteurs, setting up cells inside Europe? This is a possibility which has yet to be raised publicly, but should be, given the Kremlin’s evil expertise.

Only tiny Estonia is wise to this danger, hardly surprising given the battering it’s received at the hands of Moscow. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has asked Russian or Belarusian national residents, living in Estonia, to surrender any firearms they own, and will face search and seizure by police because they are potential security risks. Estonia was the first European nation to slam shut its border to Russians and has told its 20,000 residents with Russian citizenship that they will be deported and cannot ever return if they join the Russian military. All European nations should do the same.

Fortunately, China understands that Putin must go, hardly surprising since its leader publicly posed for photographers as Putin’s “no limits” partner on the eve of a genocidal war. Even before Putin’s underwater trick this week, China’s state media began to turn against Putin’s war. On September 15, Putin only admitted publicly that President Xi Jinping had “concerns” about his war, but privately Xi raised objections to Putin’s loose talk about nukes, and his mobilization of 300,000 reservist troops who, it now turns out, are mostly press ganged from Asian or Turkic minorities inside Russia, not white Russians.

The usually anti-Western Asia Times noted China’s shift in tone: “Political [Chinese] commentators said even if Moscow could recruit substantially more soldiers it would only gain a marginal advantage over the Ukrainians in the battlefield in the coming winter season. They claimed Russian troops were suffering from poor food, outdated weapons, and low morale

echoing much of the Western media reporting that is slanted in favor of the Ukrainians over the Russians.”

“Zhou Ming, a military columnist at Phoenix TV, wrote that it could not be justified for Russia to use nuclear weapons on Ukraine, which had fulfilled its promise to turn over thousands of atomic weapons in 2001, especially when Moscow was among those who agreed [to the Budapest Memorandum, also signed by the US, and the UK, with weaker assurances from France and China] to provide security guarantees to the country,” reported Asia Times.

This is very significant because Chinese censors have never allowed anti-Russian messages to be circulated online. Now they are published which means the tide, in terms of world opinion, is finally turning against Putin the Terrorist.