America’s top priority is to help Ukraine ‘defend itself’ as a sovereign nation, Blinken adviser says

class=”MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>America’s top priority is to help Ukraine ‘defend itself’ as a sovereign nation, Blinken adviser says

What are Washington's current strategic goals and limitations in Ukraine? And how do they align with Kyiv? Derek Chollet, a counselor at the US State Department who advises Secretary of State Antony Blinken, joined The World's host Marco Werman to shed some light.

The WorldFebruary 2, 2023 · 4:15 PM EST

US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet smiles ahead of a meeting in Serbia, Jan. 12, 2023. 

Darko Vojinovic/AP

As Russia continued firing missiles on residential areas in the east of the country on Thursday, senior officials from the European Union paid a visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen stood beside Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and promised more aid. She also announced the establishment in The Hague of an international center for the prosecution of war crimes in Ukraine. 

"Russia must be held accountable in courts for its odious crimes," she said. 

Leading generals from the US and Ukraine also spoke on the phone on Thursday. They discussed developments on the battlefield and how Washington can boost the war effort. But what are Washington's current strategic goals and limitations in Ukraine? And how do they align with Kyiv?

Derek Chollet, a counselor at the US State Department who advises Secretary of State Antony Blinken, joined The World's host Marco Werman to shed some light.

Marco Werman: I'm hoping you can pull back the lens a bit and help us get a sharper view of how Washington sees its role in the war in Ukraine. Is what's happening there an existential threat to Western values or something more limited, do you think?Derek Chollet: It's the former, in the sense that what we're seeing happen in Ukraine is, in fact, an assault on the most fundamental principle of international politics, which is that countries should not use force to invade another country and try to gobble up their land. That's what we and all of our partners are pushing back hard against. It's very important. The EU visit that you mentioned today at the top of the piece is yet just another sign of the unity of the coalition that we have so painstakingly worked to put together and maintain its strength over the last year.I mean, in terms of the military support, it seems like every time the US puts limits on what it'll do, whether it comes to sending Stinger missiles, the Patriot system, armored fighting vehicles, and more recently, Abrams tanks, Every time Washington draws a line, policy eventually blows past it. I mean, isn't that fair?It's not so much of drawing lines or taking them away. We are in a constant conversation with our Ukrainian partners about their needs as this conflict has evolved, and as you rightly noted, in the early days of the conflict, it was all about Stinger, shoulder fire, anti-aircraft missiles. Then it became about Javelin anti-tank missiles, then it was about air defense. And it's been about armor. And undoubtedly, Ukraine's needs are going to evolve as this conflict evolves. Our goal is very simple. We want to give Ukraine as best we can, and take into account all of our interests around the world, the means to be able to defend itself and take back the territory that Russia is trying to take away from Ukraine.Isn't that what you just kind of outlined there? Isn't that exactly the definition of mission creep?Well, the mission is quite clear. Again, to give Ukraine the means to defend itself and to be democratic, independent and sovereign. That's our mission. And importantly, that's not just the US mission. There are more than 50 countries around the world that are giving Ukraine some kind of assistance to defend itself. I didn't mean mission creep in terms of the overall mission and the goals, but the mission creep in terms of what the US will supply. For example, President Biden this week flatly ruled out providing F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, but the same thing happened with tanks, and tanks are now on their way. I mean, you used to work at the Pentagon — why give the Ukrainians tanks but not aircraft, if we're all in? Why is one OK, but not the other?Again, it's an evolving conversation that we're having with Ukrainian friends and it's a constant one. Every time Secretary Blinken talks to the Ukrainian foreign minister or President Zelenskiy, as he does very often, almost on a weekly basis, we're hearing more about their needs as their needs evolve. And look, I fully understand the Ukrainians' perspective on this. They are fighting an existential fight. This is a fight for the survival of their country. Russia is trying to take out the government of Ukraine and occupy the territory of Ukraine. So there's no such thing as too much from their perspective. But of course, we have to weigh all sorts of competing interests and needs. We are taking supplies out of our own stocks to give them to Ukraine. These are not munitions or systems that were just sitting on the shelf waiting for someone else to use. These are all being taken away from other Pentagon priorities that we've deemed Ukraine more important. But we always have to take that into account whenever we're making these sorts of decisions.Would you be surprised if F-16 fighter jets did get a green light in the months ahead?Yeah, I don't want to speculate on any particular system that Ukraine may or may not get right now. All I can say is it is a constant conversation we're having with them on their needs and what we can do to try to help them.Can you think of a historical parallel where Washington has given so much military aid in such a short time in a conflict where the US is not a combatant?Well, it's hard to find a parallel. I mean, I think the closest that comes to mind to my mind is the early days of World War II in the 1940s, through the Lend-Lease Act, where the United States came to assist the UK, in terms of defense of this country.And if we follow the World War II model, at some point the US does get directly involved and it's a broader war. How much does that stay in your kind of collection of scenarios?You can overdo the historical parallels on this, of course. But look, we pay very close attention and don't for a second feel the need to apologize for thoughts about controlling escalation here. We've got many interests around the world. Foremost among them right now is the defense of Ukraine. So as we think about ending the war and maintaining any sort of peace, the illegally annexed territory of Crimea is, of course, crucial. Can Ukraine get Crimea back and keep it? Would Russia ever agree to giving up the naval base in Sevastopol? I don't want to speculate on what Russia may or may not be willing to give up. All I can say is the United States has never recognized the annexation of Crimea as Russia conducted in 2014, and we believe that Ukraine needs to be able to regain all the territory that Russia has tried to take from it. Full stop.There's been some reporting mostly recently in The New York Times suggesting US officials are strongly considering giving Ukraine the go ahead to attack Crimea. Is there new thinking on Crimea in official US government circles?All I can say, and I'm not going to comment specifically on these reports, is that we are in constant dialogue alongside our partners with the Ukrainians on the fight that they're in and trying to give them our best advice about what steps they should take. Also trying to best assess their needs and the ways that we can collectively support them as they try to regain their sovereignty and their independence and get Russia out of their territory.What does a post-war Ukraine look like? Some have suggested it might look like Israel, you know, deal-making whereby no one is really happy and tensions live long. What we're seeking is for Ukraine to be independent, to be sovereign, to be able defend its territory, to be democratic, to be clean, to be free of corruption, which is something that's plagued that country for far too long. … Zelenskiy [is] taking some pretty serious steps just in recent days to try to get at that. And we've been quite impressed, by the way, by Ukrainian stewardship of all of the assistance they have been receiving from us and others. That's our overall goal. And we're going to do whatever we can in the best way we can to try to support Ukraine. Finally, and something of a wild card: China. What about China? Is Beijing going to continue to sit on the fence in this conflict?Well, we've been very clear with the leadership in Beijing that they need to do whatever they can to try to convince Vladimir Putin to stop what he's doing in Ukraine and to have his forces leave Ukraine. We've also been very clear with the leadership in Beijing that they do nothing to help Russia in this conflict, whether that's providing them with military supplies, whether that is helping them circumvent sanctions. And they are well aware of our concerns about this and also the potential consequences if they were to make such decisions.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

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Tanks for Ukraine are ‘ready to go’ when Germany and US strike a deal, retired Navy Adm. says

class=”MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>Tanks for Ukraine are 'ready to go' when Germany and US strike a deal, retired Navy Adm. says

As Germany faces mounting pressure to supply tanks to Kyiv for the ongoing war in Ukraine, retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis talks with The World's host Marco Werman about what the delivery of heavy weapons could mean for the war.

The WorldJanuary 19, 2023 · 3:30 PM EST

Denmark's military officers stand next to a Leopard 2A7 tank at the Tapa Military Camp, in Estonia, Jan. 19, 2023.

Pavel Golovkin/AP

Germany has faced mounting pressure to supply Leopard 2 battle tanks to Kyiv as the war in Ukraine rages on — or to clear the way for other countries, such as Poland, to deliver German-made Leopards from their own stocks.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin plans to host a regular coordination meeting of Ukraine's Western allies at the United States' Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday.

Western leaders have been cautious in their approach to Ukraine’s repeated requests over the past few months for heavier vehicles, including Leopard, as well as American Abrams tanks.

Meanwhile, Berlin has said that it will send its vehicles only after the US sends its tanks.

The World's host Marco Werman speaks with retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis, who is the former NATO supreme allied commander, about how a delivery of tanks would make a difference.

Marco Werman: Admiral James Stavridis, what kind of impact will this decision make?Adm. James Stavridis: A huge impact for several reasons. First of all, the Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers, many, many thousands probably, were destroyed. So, Russia is tank- and armored-personnel-carrier poor at the moment. Number two, if Russia mounts a spring offensive using these newly mobilized foot soldiers, infantry, those are very juicy targets for tanks and armored personnel carriers.So, Germany is facing a lot of pressure this week to send tanks to Ukraine. Why is the German-made Leopard tank especially wanted in Ukraine?First, because it's a pretty heavy tank. It's not quite as big as the Abrams tank. The Leopard is a big, strong, tough tank, but it's relatively simple to operate, compared to, for example, an Abrams. And, most importantly, it's widely distributed across the native nations. Germany has exported many of these to the Baltic states, to many former Warsaw Pact countries. So, there's a lot of expertise, training, a lot of inventory, and therefore, they are highly desired by the Ukrainians. They're in theater, they're ready to go, not a lot of training required.Well, yesterday, German officials said they won't send Leopard tanks unless the US sends Abrams. What do you make of that?I think it's part of an ongoing conversation. And at the end of the day, I would guess that our German colleagues will say, "You know, we would like to put the Leopards out there." And part of this, by the way, is for the Germans to give permission to the other European nations who hold these Leopard tanks to give them, as well as some German Leopards, I think that the Germans ultimately will acquiesce in a deal where we, the US and the Canadians, put a large number of armored personnel carriers. They provide the tanks. That's a pretty good deal.Well, the US is providing Ukraine with other heavy-duty weapons of war. Why is the US hesitant to provide tanks?What has held us back, not only not an obvious military need, which is emerging now, but secondly, we have always in this conflict, tried to use the minimal amount of weapons systems so that we could avoid escalating the war and leading to a direct conflict between NATO and Russia. But I think we hit the point now where the tanks are a necessity, given where we are in the battle.Yes so, why would a tank specifically imply a greater involvement in the war than, say, the Patriot missile system?Marco, I don't think it does. And this has been, I think, kind of a false assumption out of the West. It was taken out of an abundance of caution. I understand that. I think it made a higher degree of sense, say, 10, 11 months ago, when you could have envisioned an outcome where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin got knocked back, then we had a negotiation, we could avoid an escalation. I think we're past that point now, unfortunately. And therefore, yeah Patriots, yeah tanks, I would say, yeah fighter aircraft. That's the next conversation that's going to happen.Can you talk more about that? I mean, that seems a really deep commitment in this war.We are at the point where the Western side needs to say to itself, "Are we going to give the Ukrainians control over their skies?" And to do that, we've already provided surface-to-air missiles. We provided the Patriot batteries, we provided drones. The one big thing we haven't given them is combat aircraft. And by providing them, say MiG-29s, which the Poles own and operate and are willing to give to the Ukrainians, who've been trained in flying those specific airframes, we should do that, in my view, because that will further shut down Vladimir Putin's options. Right now, he's using air control in order to strike Ukrainian targets, and all over Ukraine. And there are war crimes against the electric grid, the water supplies, against civilians in apartment buildings, aircraft could help stop that. We ought to provide them those aircraft.But, I mean, any of these options, starting with a tank deal, would you see that as another step closer to direct war between Russia and NATO?No, I don't think it significantly elevates the chances, because you still don't have NATO soldiers, sailors, airmen actually conducting the combat. These are still Ukrainians conducting the combat. And, as you postulated a moment ago, in the end, giving a Ukrainian a rifle is merely a matter of degree in how you're attacking Russian forces, than giving them a Patriot missile or a tank. So, I think the earlier ideas of doing this in a very measured, incremental way, I think that's fading as we look at Russian intransigence, Russian war crimes, very clear intent of Vladimir Putin to continue to prosecute this unjust war. And don't forget that Putin could stop this tomorrow. It's this idea that somehow we're provoking Russia, which is kind of magical thinking. It's Putin that's invaded here. We need to give the Ukrainians what they need to stop it.So, Admiral, as he said, that the German Leopard tank doesn't require a lot of training. It's already in-theater. If a deal is struck, some kind of agreement between Germany, the US and Ukraine, how soon could you see delivery of these tanks' deployment into the battlefield?Days, and certainly within weeks. This is primed, ready to go. And by the way, my contacts in European militaries, there is a great deal of enthusiasm for getting these weapons in the hands of the Ukrainians. It's a political decision that needs to be made.I mean, in a modern war where we've seen drones play such a key role, remotely operated, does it surprise you, that this historical piece of equipment, like a tank, is so important right now?It doesn't surprise me. And the logical question would be, well, what happened to all of those Russian tanks a year ago? Because a lot of them were destroyed by drones. That's why this marriage of an old weapon, the tank, with these new weapons, the drones, I think is going to be very powerful against the Russians.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.AP contributed to this report.

Related: How well is the grain deal working for Ukraine?

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Email AddressEmail AddressSubscribeI have read and agree to your Privacy Policy.Related ContentHow well is the grain deal working for Ukraine?Ukrainians celebrate Orthodox Christmas amid raging war War in Ukraine sparks fertilizer crisis that may impact the future of global food production This Vermont couple created a home for Ukrainian refugees with a focus on children with disabilities

How well is the grain deal working for Ukraine?

class=”MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>How well is the grain deal working for Ukraine?

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has stressed the importance of the grain deal, saying that it needs long-term protection in order to avoid a global food crisis.

The WorldJanuary 17, 2023 · 3:30 PM EST

The Eaubonne bulk carrier ship docks in the port of Mombasa, Kenya Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The vessel arrived with 53,300 tons of wheat for commercial use in Kenya and procured under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal to ease the export of Ukrainian grain and foodstuffs through the Black Sea, according to the honorary consulate of Ukraine in Mombasa. 

Gideon Maundu/AP

Ukraine’s southern port city of Odesa has always been known as a gateway to the rest of the world.

At the beginning of the war, after Russia targeted the port, shipping came to halt. 

Dmytro Barinov, deputy head of Ukraine’s Seaport Authority, said that even before the full-scale invasion, Russia began mining the area and conducting military exercises.

“That is why the vessel can’t go out from the ports. All ports were blocked,” he said. “[Ukraine brought] the submarines, the navy ships, and Russia start[ed] to attack, all ports were under attack.” 

Russia was globally condemned for embargoing and attacking Ukrainian ports, which exacerbated international food shortages. Ukrainian grain was stuck inside the country, and there were fears that the corn and wheat stored in silos would begin to rot. Food prices around the world soared.

In July, the United Nations brokered a deal with Russia to create a “humanitarian corridor” in the Black Sea to resume sending grain abroad, with ships inspected by the UN and Turkish and Russian and Ukrainian authorities. Now, Ukraine says that the deal, which is set to expire in mid-March, is not meeting expectations. 

Barinov said that Russia is creating delays during the inspection process at the Joint Coordination Center in Turkey.

Dmytro Barinov, deputy head of Ukraine’s Seaport Authority, said that about 17 million tons of cargo has been exported as a result of the grain deal. That’s down threefold from last year, even with the grain deal still holding.


Daniel Ofman/The World

“Now, we have more than 90 [ships] awaiting on this queue, more than one month the vessels are waiting … but Russia every day make something again” to interfere with the shipments, he said.

So far, according to Barinov, about 17 million tons of cargo has been exported as a result of the grain deal. That’s down threefold from last year, even with the grain deal still holding, he said.

Ismini Palla, a UN spokesperson for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, said that there have been vessels waiting for inspection for over a month, but she didn’t lay blame on any of the delegations.

“There are many factors that affect the timely inspection of the ship. We had numerous occasions where the joint teams have [had] to go back to a vessel to conclude the inspection.” 

Palla said that sometimes, vessels don’t have the correct documents in place or there could be difficult weather conditions, or other safety concerns.

“Sometimes, there are different approaches taken by the delegation that may affect the timely inspection of the vessel,” she said.

Ukraine hopes to expand the grain deal, to include more ports, and more products that it could export into the global market.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has stressed the importance of the grain deal, saying that it needs longterm protection in order to avoid a global food crisis.

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War in Ukraine sparks fertilizer crisis that may impact the future of global food production

class=”MuiTypography-root-142 MuiTypography-h1-147″>War in Ukraine sparks fertilizer crisis that may impact the future of global food production

Russia is the world’s largest fertilizer producer, but fewer Russian agricultural products are entering the global market due to the war in Ukraine. It’s changing how farmers and fertilizer suppliers are thinking about agriculture.

The WorldJanuary 5, 2023 · 2:45 PM EST

The hydroponic tomato plants at Ráječek Farm rely on manufactured fertilizer to grow. Unlike traditional farmers who grow crops in soil, hydroponic farmers cannot run their businesses without industrial fertilizers, many of which come from Russia and Belarus. The war in Ukraine has led to a spike in fertilizer prices that has made global food prices rise.

Courtesy of Ráječek Farm

At Ráječek Farm in the southern Czech Republic, bright, red hydroponic tomato plants tower more than 10 feet tall inside greenhouses. 

The Sklenář family has worked the land on Ráječek Farm for four generations. The family once lost the farm to the state under communist rule. But several years after the Czech Republic switched to a market economy, the family regained control of the farm and launched a successful business growing hydroponic tomatoes.

“My parents had to reinvent the whole business again because if they did the same [farming] model as our grandparents, it wouldn’t have been economically sustainable,” said Matěj Sklenář, 28, the head agronomist at Ráječek Farm.

But last year, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — a war aimed at pulling a large swath of Eastern Europe back into Russia’s influence — once again disrupted the growing season on Ráječek Farm.

Some fertilizers Sklenář uses on his hydroponic tomatoes come from Russia. But last year, those fertilizers became 10 times more expensive. 

The drastic rise in fertilizer prices is a huge problem for hydroponic farmers because they mostly don’t use organic fertilizers like compost or manure.  

“If you grow in soil and you don't add fertilizer you can still do a season with decreased yield, but with hydroponics, if you don't have fertilizers, it's just not possible to grow anything,” Sklenář said.

Matěj Sklenář, 28, the head agronomist at Ráječek Farm in the south of the Czech Republic, stands in one of the farm's hydroponic greenhouses. The farm, which has been operated by the same family for four generations, previously relied on a brand of Russian fertilizer that became about ten times more expensive last year after the war in Ukraine began.


Courtesy of Ráječek Farm

Fertilizer is used by most commercial farming operations. And industrially produced fertilizers are often credited with providing sufficient yields to feed a planet with a growing population that is projected to have reached 8 billion people.

Russia is the world’s largest producer of fertilizers. There are no sanctions against Russian agricultural products, but many shipping companies now refuse to transport Russian products, including fertilizers. 

Belarus is also a large fertilizer supplier, but sanctions against Belarus for its participation in the war in Ukraine have also severely limited the country’s contributions to the global fertilizer supply. 

These restrictions are causing fertilizer prices to skyrocket

Common nitrogen fertilizers found at the store are made from ammonia, which is produced from natural gas. Russia used to export a lot of ammonia to the fertilizer market through a pipeline in Ukraine. But that’s been closed since the war started. 

Fertilizer companies in Europe also make their own ammonia with natural gas from the European grid. But Europe is trying to wean itself off Russian gas right now, so fuel prices are rising. 

“The war caused the price of natural gas to increase, so that’s one of the reasons why fertilizer is so expensive,” Sklenář said.

Last year, major fertilizer companies like Norway’s Yara International had to temporarily curtail production of nitrogen fertilizers because of the war. 

Yara was eventually able to reroute their ammonia supply from other sources to increase production speed again. But fertilizer prices remain high, driving up food costs.

“What we’ve seen with the Russian invasion of Ukraine is that, sadly, the situation with food production has turned to the worst,” said Lars Røsæg, deputy chief executive officer of Yara International.

After the war started last year, Sklenář’s farm was hit with a double whammy because many of the workers are Ukrainian. They were back in Ukraine on holiday when the war started, and men who were old enough to serve were no longer allowed to leave the country. Sklenář has struggled to find new workers. 

Six sisters from Ukraine stand in a greenhouse at Ráječek Farm in the Czech Republic, four of whom are employees at the farm and two of whom sought refuge there after the war started. Many of the farm's workers come from Ukraine, however, some of their male workers cannot leave Ukraine and return to the Czech Republic because men young enough to serve in the military can't leave the country. The farm has struggled to find workers to replace them. 


Courtesy of Ráječek Farm

It’s also more expensive to heat his greenhouses now. 

“We are pretty sure that this season, the profit will not be as big as past seasons,” Sklenář said.

Fertilizer costs have forced farmers all over Europe to make difficult decisions.

Kieran McEvoy, a farmer south of Dublin who grows wheat and barley, said that he usually buys all of his fertilizer around Christmas. But this time, he’s waiting.

“It’s not really a great plan I suppose, but we’re just hoping maybe there might be a little bit of a relaxation in the price of gas,” McEvoy said.

Hydroponic vegetables grow in long troughs year round inside greenhouses at Ráječek Farm in the Czech Republic. The price of natural gas used to heat the greenhouses rose so high after the war in Ukraine that the farm now plans to transition to solar power.


Courtesy of Ráječek Farm

Redistribution of power

The war has made it hard on farmers, but some fertilizer companies have increased their profits. Now, they’re looking to new sources far away from Russia. 

Morocco, which holds an estimated 72% of the world’s phosphate — a key ingredient in another common fertilizer — started ramping up production this year. 

In the Sahara desert, miners blast the earth with explosives to mine phosphate, sending clouds of red dust barreling across the desert.

Damian Berger, co-founder of Ishtar Analytics, a think tank focusing on North Africa and the Middle East, said that Morocco uses its mighty fertilizer reserves as a tool for soft power by helping countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa increase their food production. Less Russian fertilizer is a potential opportunity for a country like Morocco. 

“Morocco has been building up its fertilizer diplomacy and industry for a situation like the one we're facing right now,” Berger said.

Morocco now plans to open a new fertilizer plant in Brazil, a country that once relied heavily on Russian fertilizer. 

Russia also extends its influence in both South America and Africa. But with the war grinding on, Berger said that Morocco is becoming a safer trading partner than Russia. 

The shift in the global fertilizer market is giving African countries greater power in global food production at a time when hunger is on the rise.

“There is the potential for Morocco to assume a leading role as the spokesperson of African food security concerns,” Berger said.

The war is also giving more importance to new projects aimed at creating so-called green fertilizers that don’t require fossil fuels to produce. 

Yara International, the Norwegian fertilizer company, is currently building a new facility with the capacity to produce green fertilizer that they hope will be ready later this year. 

“[Last year] opened the eyes of the whole world to the importance that we accelerate the green transition of the food chain in a way where we reduce the dependency on Russia, so that we can have a sustainable and secure food supply,” Yara International’s Røsæg said. 

The fertilizer company Yara International's production plant in Le Havre, France. Last year, Yara International had to temporarily curtail production of nitrogen fertilizers because of the war in Ukraine, although they eventually were able to get their production up to speed again. Production problems caused by the war have made fertilizer prices skyrocket.


Courtesy of Yara International

The fertilizer shortage, and other difficulties related to the war in Ukraine, are pushing some farmers to pursue more sustainable practices. 

Sklenář in the Czech Republic is now investing in solar panels so he doesn’t have to heat his greenhouses with natural gas. 

For Sklenář, the difficulties associated with the war aren’t all negative.

“It hurts a little bit, but it’s worth the pain to get out of this and become independent from Russia,” Sklenář said.

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Philadelphia’s Ukrainian diaspora puts a unique spin on holiday classic in solidarity with Ukraine

class=”MuiTypography-root-225 MuiTypography-h1-230″>Philadelphia's Ukrainian diaspora puts a unique spin on holiday classic in solidarity with Ukraine

The Ukrainian community in Philadelphia is the second-largest in the United States. As members of the diaspora celebrated the holidays with a special Ukrainian version of “The Nutcracker,” they reflected on a year of worry and solidarity.

The WorldDecember 30, 2022 · 5:15 PM EST

The Voloshky School of Ukrainian Dance in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, staged "The Nutcracker" with a Ukrainian twist.


Courtesy of Andrew Nynka and The Ukrainian Weekly 

For Larysa Spisic, a Ukrainian American whose family is from Lviv, Ukraine, it’s been hard watching the war in Ukraine from afar.

“You definitely feel helpless at times because we are over here and we can give support and prayers and good wishes, but physically, we really cannot do much,” said Spisic, who lives in the Philadelphia area, which has the second-largest Ukrainian community in the United States.

Spisic, the director of the Voloshky School of Ukrainian Dance in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, wanted to find a way to showcase Ukrainian culture and raise money for the cause.

So, she decided to stage the holiday classic, “The Nutcracker” — with a Ukrainian twist, set in a small, Ukrainian village with Ukrainian folk dancing, decorations, dolls and food on prominent display throughout. The production had a two-show run on Dec. 23 at the Josephine Muller Auditorium in Jenkintown.

Because of Russia’s invasion, she said the classic ballet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky has a special impact. The famous composer was born in Russia, but his great-grandfather was from Ukraine’s central Poltava region, according to researchers.

The Voloshky School of Ukrainian Dance in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, staged "The Nutcracker" with a Ukrainian twist.


Courtesy of Andrew Nynka and The Ukrainian Weekly 

“Ukrainians feel very strongly that we do have some personal connection to him as well, and we wanted to embrace that,” Spisic said.

It’s just one way that the community has been resilient and strong throughout the 10 months of the invasion, said Ulana Dubas of Dresher, Pennsylvania.

Dubas’ family is also from Lviv and her husband’s family is from the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine, small parts of which are still occupied by Russian forces.

“We did a lot of drives for clothing and food, monetary donations that really brought the community together in many ways,” she said. “And that’s continuing now because it has to.”

Dubas’ 10-year-old daughter, Mila, was one of some 50 dancers from the Voloshky School of Ukrainian Dance. The school, now in its 50th year, is considered to be a staple of the Ukrainian American community in Philadelphia.

A handful of other Philadelphia organizations and guest dancers also chipped in and donated their time to help make the production happen, including community veterans of Ukrainian folk dance, the Metropolitan Ballet Company and one of Philadelphia Ballet’s Principal Ballerinas, Oksana Maslova.

The Voloshky School of Ukrainian Dance in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, staged "The Nutcracker" with a Ukrainian twist.


Courtesy of Andrew Nynka and The Ukrainian Weekly 

This collaboration, the leaders of the production say, is a testament to the overall support Ukrainian Americans say they’ve received since Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year.

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Critical permafrost research in Russia disrupted by war in Ukraine

class=”MuiTypography-root-233 MuiTypography-h1-238″>Critical permafrost research in Russia disrupted by war in Ukraine

Most of the world’s permafrost lies in Russia. Critical research looks at how melting permafrost contributes to global warming. But sanctions against Russia this year have disrupted field work and threatened collaborations among scientists.

The WorldDecember 20, 2022 · 5:15 PM EST

An iceberg melts in Kulusuk, Greenland near the arctic circle, Aug, 16, 2005. A new report finds permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever before.

John McConnico/AP/File

Flying over the sprawling region of Yakutia — also known as the Republic of Sakha — in Russia's Far East, the landscape below fans into a flat expanse of tundra pockmarked with small lakes that formed by thawed permafrost.

Yakutia is a remote, sprawling region of Russia, nearly the size of India. Much of it rests on permafrost — essentially ground that remains frozen for multiple years. Yakutia is one of the coldest places on the planet, but it’s also one of the fastest warming ones. The changing climate thaws permafrost, releasing climate-changing carbon and methane gasses that increase global temperatures even further.

Scientists estimate thawing permafrost could eventually warm the climate by as much as all of the emissions produced by the United States combined.

Most of the world’s permafrost lies in Russia, but the war in Ukraine is now disrupting critical research there.

“When we do our analysis of where the environmental and ecological gaps are, Russia just lights up,” said Sue Natali, the Arctic program director of the Woodwell Climate Research Center.

For decades, scientists from the US and Europe traveled to faraway parts of Russia, like Yakutia, each year to launch new permafrost research in collaboration with Russian scientists.

But since the war started last February, many Western universities and research institutions have stopped funding permafrost research in Russia. A combination of moral opposition to the war, fear that foreign researchers might face safety issues while traveling in Russia, and the practical impossibility of funding research projects in the face of sanctions that make it impossible to transfer money, have all played into the decisions.

Russian scientists have also been banned from attending some scientific conferences.

Current permafrost research now focuses heavily on Alaska and Canada. 

“I’m very sad, the world is losing a great opportunity for exchange between the international research community,” said Alexander Kholodov, a permafrost researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who has been restricted from visiting his research sites in Russia.

In the past, Kholodov and other researchers helped their Russian colleagues by bringing scientific equipment to Russia that was either not available in the country or too expensive.

Meanwhile, foreign researchers doing fieldwork in places like Siberia benefited immensely from Russian scientists’ local knowledge. Russia has a deep tradition of permafrost research dating back well into the Soviet era.

“Historically, in terms of permafrost science, Russia is one of the pioneers,” Kholodov said. 

In this photo taken on Sunday, March 15, 2015, a Nenets family in the city of Nadym, in northern Siberia, Yamal-Nenets Region, about 1,553 miles northeast of Moscow, Russia. In a study published Wednesday Jan. 16, 2019, scientists working on the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost, say the world’s permafrost is getting warmer, with temperatures increasing by an average of .54 Fahrenheit over a decade.


Dmitry Lovetsky/File/AP

Remote science

As the climate changes, rainfall will likely increase in Yakutia. That could make permafrost thaw even faster and speed up global warming.

Each summer, Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, a professor of earth systems science at the University of Zurich, would travel to Yakutia to research how increased rainfall might affect permafrost. Schaepman-Strub set up testing sites with sprinkler systems on the tundra, including elaborate shelters with gutters and water pumps, to study the impact. 

This kind of research can present quite a few obstacles. Schaepman-Strub’s research site, located in the Kytalyk National Park, is only accessible by a boat ride up the winding Indigirka River. Clouds of ravenous mosquitos swarm in the summer air and researchers sleep in large tents.

But after nearly 15 years of traveling regularly to Russia, her university also prohibited her from working in the region after the war broke out in Ukraine.

“We invested a lot of money and manpower to assemble the systems on site, so this is a huge effort that is just being totally lost.”

Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, professor of earth systems science, University of Zurich

“We invested a lot of money and manpower to assemble the systems on site, so this is a huge effort that is just being totally lost,” Schaepman-Strub said.

This year, she attempted to continue her experiments remotely, by having Russian colleagues check in on her research sites during the summer. But they weren’t able to devote the same amount of time and quality control. Some of the equipment at the research site malfunctioned, ruining parts of the experiments.

Schaepman-Strub had planned to run the experiment for at least three more years. But to continue, she needs to send new water pumps to Russia, which is now difficult, given the restrictions on sending money or importing goods to Russia from the West.

If she fails to get the failed part of her experiment running again next year,  it will be destroyed due to overexposure to natural elements. 

Her Russian colleagues have also been unable to send her this year’s data on soil moisture and temperature, since Russian authorities have implemented new restrictions on sharing data with scientists outside Russia.

“We always needed permission to export the data, but this year, permission is not being granted,” Schaepman-Strub said.

Many other scientists have also been denied the ability to receive scientific data or samples for experiments, like rocks used in geological studies. 

Russian authorities have not officially stated why the scientific data is being withheld.

Meanwhile, Russian researchers are now having to do fieldwork alone.

Alexander Fedorov, deputy director of the Melnikov Permafrost Institute in Yakutsk, Yakutia's capital, said his institute had to reduce the amount of fieldwork they did this year by about half, in part because they lost so much foreign funding in 2022. They’ve had to redirect their work to things like creating computer models that can be done from an office.

“Global warming increases because of permafrost degradation and it’s a problem that’s continuing, so it will be very bad if we lose several years of data,” Fedorov said.

In this Oct. 27, 2010 file photo, Russian scientists Sergey Zimov and his son Nikita Zimov extract air samples from frozen soil near the town of Chersky in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of Moscow, Russia. Scientists say the world’s permafrost is getting warmer, with temperatures increasing by an average of .54 Fahrenheit over a decade.  between 2007 and 2016.


Arthur Max/AP

Permafrost misunderstandings

Most current climate models don’t fully account for how permafrost could contribute to global warming, which means current predictions about climate change might be incorrect. 

“The big issue with greenhouse gas emissions from permafrost thaw is that we're not counting them,” said Sue Natali of the Woodwell Climate Research Center.

Natali has been working with an international team to establish a network of towers across the Arctic that monitor greenhouse gas emissions from permafrost zones. The valuable data they collect can improve climate models and allow the global community to make better-informed plans to prepare for climate change.

But this year, plans to send a new tower to Russia were also put on hold because of the war.

Natali’s institute hasn’t completely banned her from working in Russia, but many logistical complications remain. Natali and her collaborators plan to put up 10 new towers over the next three years across the Earth's permafrost regions. This year, they pivoted their plans from Russia and put up a new tower in Canada.

Their project continues to expand even with temporary changes. 

And there’s still hope that they will be able to continue working with Russian scientists to correct inaccuracies in today’s climate models.

Related: A heat wave in Siberia signals dangerous Arctic warming

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Exclusive: Rounding up a cyberposse for Ukraine

class=”MuiTypography-root-225 MuiTypography-h1-230″>Exclusive: Rounding up a cyberposse for Ukraine

Russian hackers have been trying to break into Naftogaz systems for years, so when Mandiant offered to deploy hunt teams for free to see if anything was lurking in their networks, the company executives couldn’t believe their luck.

December 2, 2022 · 5:30 PM EST

A woman walks with a power plant in the background, in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, March 16, 2022. Ukrainian officials say Russian military hackers tried to knock out power to millions of Ukrainians that week in a long-planned attack but were foiled. 

Rodrigo Abd/AP

Just weeks after Russian tanks began rolling into Ukraine, a representative from the cybersecurity firm Mandiant phoned executives at Naftogaz, Ukraine’s largest state-owned oil and natural gas company, with an unusual offer: Would Naftogaz be open to having Mandiant check their network for bad guys?

Russian hackers have been trying to break into Naftogaz systems for years, so when Mandiant offered to deploy hunt teams for free to see if anything was lurking in their networks, the company executives couldn’t believe their luck.

The thing is, it wasn’t really luck. The offer was part of a broad effort by Western tech companies to help Ukraine protect itself against Russian cyberattacks in a time of war. Dozens of companies from the US cybersecurity, threat intelligence and tech world — from Mandiant to Microsoft — have banded together in a kind of volunteer cyberposse, wading into the middle of the conflict without a pretense of neutrality.

They call themselves the Cyber Defense Assistance Collaboration (CDAC), and it is the brainchild of Greg Rattray, a former chief information security officer at JP Morgan Chase. For months, he has been helping build a kind of public-private partnership to combat destructive cyberattacks. This is the first time he’s speaking in depth about the initiative publicly.

US officials have been talking about public-private partnerships to fight destructive cyberattacks for years. The animating logic is that the National Security Agency and the military’s cyberarm, Cyber Command, often have intelligence about cyberattacks before or while they are happening. US cybersecurity companies have the expertise to block them. So, it would make sense that they should join forces to stop them. 

What makes this particular CDAC effort different is that the partner in this case isn’t Washington. It’s Kyiv, and it has become a test case for how such a joining of forces might eventually work in the US. 

“I think the war started on a Thursday and I started making calls on the Monday,” Rattray told the "Click Here" podcast, adding that some two dozen US companies quickly signed on offering to provide licenses, personnel, and expertise to help Ukraine defend its networks. "Click Here" and The Record are editorially independent units of Recorded Future, which has been involved in the effort as well. 

“I think it was easier to get companies to sign on because of the clear transgressions of the Russians,” Rattray said. “Ukraine was a place where people were willing to volunteer quickly to try to figure out what could be done.” 

A natural target for hackers

Naftogaz is a natural target for Russian hackers with its vast network of suppliers, subsidiaries, and online billing systems — any and all of which could be open to cyberattacks. A determined adversary could then use that access to monkey-bar over to Naftogaz and potentially hobble the nation’s gas delivery systems or even turn out the lights. 

Russia had already done something similar back in 2015, when it cracked into Ukraine’s electrical grid and flipped the switch on power to nearly a quarter of a million people in Kyiv for as many as six hours. The feeling was if Russia was willing to do that back then, it would be willing to do so again, during a war, when the gloves are off.

That’s what prompted Ron Bushar, a chief technology officer at Mandiant, to initiate the call to Naftogaz and ask if they wanted Mandiant’s special software programs to sweep their networks. Bushar said there was a general sense that Russian actors were probably lurking in Naftogaz networks and the sweeps, or hunts, were meant to find them.

A hunt team or sweep is the cyber equivalent of a swarm of cops looking for signs of a break in: a kind of high-tech dusting for prints, checking for theft and searching for signs that whoever broke in left nothing — like malicious code — behind. 

“We do that across thousands and thousands of systems very, very rapidly,” Bushar said. “And if we see something from that sweep, then we’ll pivot to that system and do a deeper dive of that system.” 

The thing was, they didn’t find much: Malicious code that could wipe information from hard drives, prepositioned malware that hackers could activate later, but no wholesale douse-the-lights badness. 

“There was no overt detection of aggressive activity,” Bushar said. “But we did find evidence that these attackers had gained access and were moving throughout the environment.”

So, they find where they had slipped in and shut them out.

In the early days of the war, Russian hacking teams had put a number of slow-burn, low-grade attacks in motion all over the country, not just targeting Naftogaz. They erased hard drives and hobbled authentication systems so employees couldn’t log in. 

But once Naftogaz secured and fortified its network perimeter — the walls around their computer systems — wiper malware somehow kept reappearing in their systems. Passwords and logins continued to be stolen. They could see it happening but couldn’t explain why. And then, Bushar said, it dawned on them: they “had to adopt a military mindset.”

Insider threat

It turns out what is different about defending computer networks during a war, Bushar and his team realized, is that the perimeter you think you secured is always changing. What they hadn’t accounted for was that the Russian troops now occupying pockets of Ukraine had started entering gas installations and trying to crack into their operating systems.

“In eastern parts of the country, as Russia was taking territory, they were obviously occupying critical facilities,” Bushar said.

Those included Naftogaz data centers and local telecoms and ministry offices.

“So, we were able to definitively point to systems and IP addresses that were physically located in captured territory and that’s where we were seeing these attacks coming from.”

In fact, sometimes the attacks looked like they were coming from inside Naftogaz itself. They came to find that it was not because they had breached the perimeter but because, Bushar said, “Russia was coming from inside the building or inside the network. They had physically captured that data center or that system so they could plug in their own systems and continue to attack other parts of the infrastructure. … It’s almost like you’re dealing with an insider threat.”

So, they adjusted. They began cutting off systems in areas that were about to fall to Russian forces.

“We were starting to recommend that if people were retreating from a certain province, Naftogaz should start segmenting those systems off the network before they fell into enemy hands.”

And that’s what they did. Naftogaz ended up instructing their employees to contact supervisors if their towns were overrun by Russian soldiers, so their network access could be cut. They would literally call Naftogaz as they were fleeing overrun cities. Once that kind of reporting started, Naftogaz could adjust perimeter security to reflect events on the ground. Bashar said after that, the mysterious insider threats went away.

Technical capability

When CDAC founder Rattray began looking for volunteers for the collaborative, he said his first phone call was to Art Coviello, the former CEO of RSA Security, one of the early entrants into the world of cybersecurity and encryption. Now, Coviello runs a venture capital fund that invests exclusively in cybersecurity companies.

“Ukrainians had a capability,” he said. “The fact that a lot of companies had [software] development sites in Ukraine speaks to the technical capability and the education that was available there. They just had never had the opportunity or perhaps the financial resources to invest in their own defenses as we have here in the US.” 

So, he said, CDAC came in to supplement that.

Coviello said the effort isn’t entirely driven by the war. People outside Ukraine should take note because the cyberweapons Russia wields against Ukraine are unlikely to remain there.

“I wouldn’t underestimate the Russians’ capability,” he said.

“What people fail to realize is that the US lives in the biggest digital glass house” in the world, Coviello said. “We have more to lose than anybody else because we are so interconnected and we are so dependent on technology. All of our critical infrastructures, all of our businesses have been transformed.”

Rattray said Ukraine has surprised everyone, not just on the ground but in cyberspace, too. It has proven to be very agile, quickly moving systems into the cloud where data is out of reach of bombings and basic hacks. Their technical expertise has allowed them to pivot quickly when under assault and now they have found themselves on the receiving end of tremendous assistance from the tech world.

“Russians have not been as operationally proficient as we’ve thought they would be,” Rattray said. “They’re doing things we would expect in the digital space, things like information competition, monitoring things in a classic way to gather intelligence through cyberspace. We certainly haven’t seen the type of disruption that we might have expected.”

An earlier version of this story originally appeared in The Record.Media. There was additional reporting by Sean Powers and Will Jarvis.

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Count me in!Related ContentAs war rages at home, Ukrainian choir heads to Carnegie Hall to celebrate 100 years of ‘Carol of the Bells’ ‘Chervona Kalyna’: This Ukrainian song has become the symbol of freedom and resilienceInvestigators look for answers after Russian forces buried more than 400 bodies in a mass grave in UkraineNorth Korea-Russia relations are warming up amid war in Ukraine

Investigators look for answers after Russian forces buried more than 400 bodies in a mass grave in Ukraine

class=”MuiTypography-root-225 MuiTypography-h1-230″>Investigators look for answers after Russian forces buried more than 400 bodies in a mass grave in Ukraine

A forest in the city of Izium in northeast Ukraine is home to one of the largest mass graves discovered since the Russian invasion.

The WorldNovember 21, 2022 · 12:45 PM EST

The remains at the mass burial site in Izium, Ukraine, have been exhumed but some empty caskets and crosses remain.

Shirin Jaafari/The World

One of the largest mass graves discovered since the Russian invasion in Ukraine lies in a wooded area just outside the northeastern city of Izium.

On a recent visit, fog enveloped the tall pine trees surrounding the graves.

The remains have been exhumed and relocated to the local morgue but a faint smell lingered. A few open, empty caskets stuck awkwardly out of the graves. Not far away, a pile of discarded disposable gloves, masks and other personal protective gear was a reminder of the ongoing forensic investigations here.

Since the recapture of Izium by the Ukrainian forces in September, investigators have been trying to identify the remains in this mass grave. Families with missing loved ones are searching for answers.

In some cases, all the victims got was a number: 146. 189. No name, no cause of death, nothing else.

Yulia Tatarinova, of Izium, Ukraine, fills in forms related to her DNA sample in hopes of finding the body of her husband.


Shirin Jaafari/The World

Out of 451 bodies that were discovered, 150 are yet to be identified, according to Oleksandr Filchakov, head of the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office. At least 17 bodies bore evidence of torture, he said, including ropes tied around their necks, hands tied behind their backs and cracked bones.

Liudmyla Vaschana has been searching for her 31-year-old son, Eduard, since March. When the Russian military started its attack on Izium, she said, Eduard joined the volunteer fighters called the Territorial Defense Unit. Vaschana left Izium to care for her other son, 19-year-old ​​Oleh, who had been injured while fighting in another part of the country. He was recovering in Lviv, a city close to the Polish border.

The fighting got intense in Izium, and on March 6, Vaschana lost touch with Eduard. Four days later, she said, the house that his unit was based in was bombed. Other members of the unit told Vaschana that they searched for his body in the rubble but never found it.

A pile of discarded personal protective gear used by investigators and exhumers at the mass grave in Izium, Ukraine.


Shirin Jaafari/The World

“I just want to find my son,” she said, adding, “That’s the most important thing.”

In September, Vaschana called a hotline set up for missing persons and reported her son missing. But she said so far, no one has gotten back to her.

When The World spoke to Vaschana earlier this month, she was visiting a mobile laboratory to give DNA samples. Technicians swabbed the mouths of visitors, then filled in a form with their personal information.

The lab, set up with the help of the French government, collects DNA from those who have missing relatives. It then runs the samples through a database collected from the remains found in the mass grave in Izium.

Relatives of victims have their DNA samples taken at a mobile laboratory in Izium, Ukraine, set up with the help of the French government.


Shirin Jaafari/The World

“We’re asking relatives of Ukrainian soldiers to submit their DNA samples,” Dmytro Chubenko, Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor's Office spokesperson, told reporters outside the mobile clinic. “We’re constantly finding mass graves of Ukrainian soldiers, we’re examining their bodies and collecting their DNA samples […] to try and identify as many people that were buried here as possible.”

‘We will never forgive them’

There are 7,700 war crimes cases under investigation in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine alone, said Filchakov, from the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office.

A map in his office marked the areas where those investigations are being carried out. Some are off-limits, he said, because they remain under Russian occupation. Others are mined, or are too close to the border where Russian troops are stationed.

“Geographically, we are in an unfavorable position because we are close to the  border with the aggressive country [Russia],” he said.

Besides the arrests, torture and killing of Ukrainians, Filchakov added, the Russian forces have been implementing changes with the goal to erase Ukrainian identity.

Dmytro Leontyev, 41, lost his father on March 20. He said his neighbors buried him in the backyard but then Russian soldiers dug his body up and buried him in the mass grave. Leontyev hasn't been able to find his father's body. "He was a good man," he said. "He was a taxi driver his whole life. He helped everyone and everyone wanted to be his passenger."


Shirin Jaafari 

“We have found documents that were signed by the occupying authorities where they were confiscating Ukrainian school books, and they were introducing Russian school programs,” he said. “In some cases, we found evidence that the Russians were rewriting history. For example, they were saying the famous Ukrainian poet [Taras] Shevchenko was Russian.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin started this war with the excuse to protect the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine, Filchakov said.

“My family lives here, my wife, my kids, my parents and overall people in the Kharkiv region are Russian speaking. He [Putin] is directing his army to kill our wives and our children. ​​All I can tell you is that we will never forgive them.”

Documenting war crimes

Beyond Izium, there are major efforts underway to document crimes committed by the Russian forces all over Ukraine.

Truth Hounds started this work in 2014 when Russia took over Crimea.

Roman Avramenko, executive director of Truth Hounds, at its office in Kyiv, Ukraine.


Shirin Jaafari/The World

Earlier this year, when Russia invaded Ukraine, the nongovernmental organization redoubled its efforts to reach affected areas quickly to collect and document as much evidence as possible.

“This expertise that we developed and gained during previous years really helped us to contribute to the justice processes,” said Roman Avramenko, executive director at the Truth Hounds office in Kyiv.

When it comes to building a case, Avramenko explained, time is of the essence.

“Time flies, craters [get] filled […] people will forget details,” he said. “Some buildings have been repaired and restored. The evidence will just go away, in many cases forever, unfortunately.”

Before investigators leave on a trip, they collect as much data as they can. They search for videos, photos and social media posts online that could shed light on what happened. After verifying them, they go to the scene and begin interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence.

Avramenko gave an example of a recent successful investigation. In March, at least 10 people were killed in an attack on people standing in line for bread in the northeast city of Chernihiv. An American was among the victims.

“We were able to prove there were no immediate military targets that potentially could be legal targets for this attack,” he said. “And that the Russian troops used weapons of indiscriminate nature.”

Avramenko and his team are working to bring cases to courts in Ukraine and outside. He suspects the extent of the crimes committed by the Russian forces to be far beyond what they can document and prove in court.

“The Ukrainians have been so dehumanized in the eyes of the regular Russian soldier that they see no difference between killing a cat or killing a child,” he said.

Volodymyr Solohub supported the reporting of this story.

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Count me in!Related ContentNorth Korea-Russia relations are warming up amid war in UkraineIzium was liberated in September. The hard work of returning back to normal has only begun.War in Ukraine spurs new bonds between historians of shared Soviet past'I thought we were going to die': A Ukrainian woman speaks out about her ordeal as a prisoner of war

North Korea-Russia relations are warming up amid war in Ukraine

class=”MuiTypography-root-225 MuiTypography-h1-230″>North Korea-Russia relations are warming up amid war in Ukraine

Russia’s relationship with North Korea goes back decades. Now, there are reports that Russia is getting military assistance from North Korea amid the war in Ukraine. Yet, both governments deny it. 

The WorldNovember 17, 2022 · 3:45 PM EST

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un shake hands during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia on April 25, 2019. North Korea on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, accused the United States of cooking up a "plot-breeding story" on its alleged arms transfer to Russia, arguing it has never sent artillery shells to Moscow.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP/Pool/File

The Russian military has been steadily losing ground in Ukraine for months. That’s despite the fact the Kremlin has mobilized tens of thousands of new recruits for the war. 

Moscow is also getting help from abroad. Iran is supplying Russia with drones. And, according to Western officials, the Iranians are providing ballistic missiles as well. 

Now, there are reports that Russia is getting assistance from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well, with the country providing artillery shells, rockets and winter military uniforms to Russia. 

Yet, both governments deny it. 

“We have information that despite the public denials that we’ve heard from the DPRK, that the DPRK is covertly supplying Russia’s war in Ukraine, with a significant number of artillery shells,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said earlier this month.

Russia’s relationship with the country goes back decades.

Sung-yoon Lee, who teaches Korean politics and foreign relations at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, said that the role of the Soviet Union is crucial to the history of North Korea. 

Kim Il-sung, the founder of the North Korean state, was glorified by the former Soviet Union. Kim was an officer in the Soviet Army. After World War II, Joseph Stalin chose Kim to be the leader of North Korea, and supported his decision to invade South Korea in 1950. 

“The Soviet Union became thereafter North Korea’s most important supporter militarily, politically, and perhaps most importantly, economically, throughout the Cold War,” Lee said. 

That relationship was not always smooth. And with the fall of the Soviet Union, relations between Russia and North Korea cooled down a lot.

But a decade later, that changed. Pyongyang rolled out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin when he became the first top leader of either the Soviet Union or Russia to visit North Korea, Lee said. During that visit, crowds at the airport cheered and waved Russian and North Korean flags to welcome Putin. Lee said this was the start of a new era of warmer relations between Russia and North Korea.

“When it comes to security matters, the two nations have always been partners, and with Putin’s dreadful war in Ukraine, the old dynamics of the cold war, Russia, China, North Korea on one side, and the United States, South Korea and Japan on the other side, this Cold War rift has come back,” Lee explained. 

He said it makes sense for Kim Il-sung’s grandson, Kim Jong-un, to be supplying Putin with military equipment.  

Fyodor Tertitskiy agrees. He’s a researcher at Kookmin University in South Korea, where he studies the North Korean military.

Tertitskiy said the Russian military has lost a lot of their modern equipment in Ukraine, and they’re now using older artillery and tanks.

“For that, you need ammunition, and North Korean uses a lot of Soviet equipment, and North Korean can supply exactly this kind of ammunition which might have been provided to them by the USSR ironically,” he said. 

Tertitskiy said North Korea needs the cash, as well as oil, food and humanitarian assistance from Russia. And the country is very military industry-oriented, he said, putting it in a good position to provide military hardware. 

Tertitsky said there’s reason to be skeptical — there hasn’t been a smoking gun, or concrete evidence that North Korea is supplying Russia with lots of weaponry. 

But he said the fact that these reports are so believable says something about the state of Russia’s military and its war in Ukraine.

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Count me in!Related ContentIzium was liberated in September. The hard work of returning back to normal has only begun.War in Ukraine spurs new bonds between historians of shared Soviet past'I thought we were going to die': A Ukrainian woman speaks out about her ordeal as a prisoner of warRussia’s war creates economic hardships for Central Asian migrants

War in Ukraine spurs new bonds between historians of shared Soviet past

class=”MuiTypography-root-225 MuiTypography-h1-230″>War in Ukraine spurs new bonds between historians of shared Soviet past

As Russian dissidents flee to Poland, this moment has created an unexpected opportunity for historians in both countries to work together to uncover the more disturbing aspects of their shared history.

The WorldNovember 11, 2022 · 5:30 PM EST

Historians come together to uncover disturbing aspects of Polish and Eastern European shared history.

Magdalena Chodownik/The World

Dasha Krotova was heading home to her apartment in Moscow late one evening when she felt a presence trailing her from behind. 

It was two policemen, who followed her to her door.

“They started to warn me and my husband about threats,” Krotova said. 

Threats related to her work with Memorial, the Nobel-Prize-winning nongovernmental organization known for exposing Soviet human rights abuses, such as atrocities committed in the Gulag labor camps, or killings in Chechnya.

Krotova had been working as a photographer and editor for Memorial when the police warned her and her husband that they were on a government watch list. 

The incident happened on Feb. 24 — the same day Russia invaded Ukraine.

Two days later, Krotova fled to Warsaw. She’s now one of several Memorial employees living in exile in the Polish capital, alongside dissidents and activists from all over the Soviet diaspora.

This moment has created an unexpected opportunity for the historians among them to work together to uncover the more disturbing aspects of their shared history. 

Long before Russia invaded Ukraine, the history of Eastern Europe has been written and rewritten — with governments in power using their leverage to tell the version of history they prefer.

Zbigniew Gluza is the president of KARTA, a Polish nongovernmental organization.


Magdalena Chodownik/The World

Zbigniew Gluza is the president of KARTA, a Polish nongovernmental organization with a similar mission to Memorial — to uncover the darker aspects of Poland’s past.

For 40 years, KARTA’s team of historians has been revealing concealed parts of Poland’s 20th-century history, such as testimonies from the 1940s Volhynia massacre and a database of Poles repressed in the USSR.

“History needs to be seen in the international context, so we definitely understood that having a partnership in the east would be very beneficial,” Gluza said.

Recent collaborations with Memorial have helped expose the details behind events like the 1940 Katyn massacre, in which 22,000 Polish military personnel were killed by Soviet forces.

An agreement between rights group Memorial and nongovernmental organization KARTA.


Magdalena Chodownik/The World

“Thank God we have a generation of people interested in true history, not the falsified Soviet history,” said Andrei Sannikov, a member of the Belarussian opposition who has been living in exile in Warsaw for 10 years. 

He said that for decades now, the government in Belarus has been censoring its own history — particularly anything that contradicts the narrative of Russia being a friend to Belarus.

“We didn't pay much attention to the history lessons and even the tensions that we are having today,” Sannikova said.

Andrei Sannikov is a member of the Belarussian opposition who has been living in exile in Warsaw, Poland, for 10 years.


Magdalena Chodownik/The World

“Not just with Russia … but even among ourselves. It is quite an indication that we have a long way to go to reconcile — even with friends.”

Friends being allies in other former Soviet countries. But Sannikov is also optimistic and believes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has catapulted a bond between countries across the Soviet diaspora.

People aren’t just questioning the Russian version of history — but also versions of history being championed by each of their own governments.

Eugeniusz Smolar, a foreign policy specialist and former journalist, gave the example of Poland’s far-right government, which he said has been revising history when it comes to things like Polish complicity in the Holocaust.

“Poles often tend to look at themselves as the victims of history and do not recognize enough that they also occasionally behaved as the perpetrators.”

Eugeniusz Smolar, foreign policy specialist and former journalist

“Poles often tend to look at themselves as the victims of history and do not recognize enough that they also occasionally behaved as the perpetrators,” Smolar said.

Indeed, in 2018, Poland’s far-right government passed a law making it a crime in Poland to accuse the Polish people of being complicit in the face of German atrocities. 

This, despite evidence that some acted as bystanders or even facilitated the Nazis in carrying out their mission. 

The details of the real history have been well documented, thanks in part to the work of organizations like KARTA.  

Gluza believes people’s appetites for that real history has only improved since the start of the war.

“For 40 years, KARTA and other organizations have been building up a certain energy that only now is being released into action,” Gluza said.

“Now, nobody wants to risk going back to the totalitarianism of the past — understanding real history may be one of the greatest tools to fight it."

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The war in Ukraine is hampering efforts to stop a polio outbreak

class=”MuiTypography-root-225 MuiTypography-h1-230″>The war in Ukraine is hampering efforts to stop a polio outbreak

Just 10 days before the war began last February, Ukrainian officials launched a nationwide vaccination campaign to stop a rare polio outbreak in the country. But the war has made controlling the outbreak nearly impossible.

The WorldNovember 3, 2022 · 4:45 PM EDT

Anastasia, 3, is held by her mother, as she receives treatment at a schoolhouse that has been converted into a field hospital, in Mostyska, western Ukraine, March 24, 2022. The United Nations children’s agency says Russia’s invasion has displaced half of Ukraine’s children, one of the largest such displacements since World War II. 

Nariman El-Mofty/AP

Last fall, a rare polio outbreak began in western Ukraine. A vaccination campaign in Ukraine kicked off on Feb. 14. But just 10 days later, Russia invaded Ukraine — imperiling the campaign’s success. After the initial outbreak, officials found 19 other people who tested as having had polio — a deadly disease that can lead to paralysis.

“In a number of regions, vaccinations have now been suspended mostly because of shelling and rocket assaults,” said Ihor Kuzin, Ukraine’s deputy health minister. 

Kuzin also said that recent attacks on the electrical grid have made it difficult to store vaccines in proper refrigeration so they don’t spoil. Transporting spoiled vaccines is also a challenge because the war has made it impossible to carry them by plane.

But one of the biggest worries for health officials attempting to manage the polio outbreak during the war is the millions of people — many with young children — who haven’t completed a full polio vaccination and then, migrated internally within Ukraine to seek safety, or sought refuge elsewhere in Europe.

“One challenging thing about polio is the fact that 90% [of people] are asymptomatic carriers; these are individuals that would not come down with paralysis but they can shed the virus,” said Raymond Dankoli, the World Health Organization’s polio outbreak response coordinator in Ukraine.

Children look out the window of an unheated Lviv-bound train, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 3, 2022.


Vadim Ghirda/AP

A rare outbreak

Early last winter, Ukrainian parents were filing into health clinics in central Ukraine to vaccinate their children against polio, a process that takes only seconds. 

The oral polio vaccine has been instrumental in stopping the global spread of polio. But that same lifesaving vaccine has also been linked to a global uptick in polio outbreaks. Oral polio vaccines contain a weakened strain of the virus. And in rare instances, especially among high numbers of unvaccinated people, the weakened virus in the vaccine can mutate and start circulating, causing a polio outbreak. 

The vaccine-derived polio outbreak began in western Ukraine last fall when a 17-month-old girl in the Rivne region was diagnosed with acute flaccid paralysis — a rare but debilitating side effect of polio. A second case of paralytic polio was discovered soon after in a boy who lived in the Zakarpattya region. 

The two cases occurred in regions of western Ukraine that don’t even border each other, underscoring the severity of the situation. With polio, just one case is considered an outbreak because the disease is targeted for global eradication. Unlike COVID-19, which might circulate forever, polio can be completely contained if enough people are vaccinated. 

People, mostly women and children, try to get onto a train bound for Lviv, at the Kyiv railway station, Ukraine, Friday, March 4, 2022. 


Andriy Dubchak/AP

'Let's wait until we go home'

Health Minister Kuzin said that many Ukrainians are hesitant to make unnecessary trips to a hospital or health clinic — given that an air raid siren might go off at any time. He also said that the government has begun dispatching mobile brigades in some parts of Ukraine to deliver vaccines.

Dankoli, with the World Health Organization, said that the war could cause polio to spread further around Ukraine or elsewhere in Europe or beyond.

A lot of Ukrainians who’ve fled home with their kids could get them vaccinated elsewhere. But many are choosing to wait. 

That's according to Pavlo Kovtonyuk, co-founder of the Ukrainian Healthcare Center and the former deputy health minister of Ukraine. 

“The attitude is ‘let's wait until we go home and we'll go to our doctor.’ They just postpone receiving care, not just for vaccinations but also chronic issues,” Kovtonyuk said.

In his previous position, Kovtonyuk helped to usher in major reforms aimed at improving the country’s health system, reducing corruption and creating more equitable and affordable access to health care. 

Kovtonyuk said that when he set out to launch these reforms, Ukraine was a very vaccine-hesitant country. In 2015, the number of children under 1 year of age who received the polio vaccine was less than 17%. The ministry launched special campaigns to increase vaccination rates, and the reforms improved patients' trust in the medical system, in part, because they allowed them to choose their own doctors. Gradually, faith in the medicine system improved, he said, and more Ukrainains got vaccinated for diseases like polio. 

“We managed to get vaccination levels to an average of 80% of the population, which is good compared to what it was before, but not sufficient because for a vaccine like polio, you need 95%,” Kovtonyuk said.

Progress made in increasing the number of vaccinations in Ukraine started to level off during the pandemic, with the number of vaccines given for some diseases, like polio, even decreasing, according to data from the Ukraine’s Health Ministry.

One reason vaccination rates started to decrease, according to experts, might be partially linked to Russian propaganda about COVID-19 vaccines.

Liubomyr Mysiv, the deputy director of the Ukrainian research group Rating, said Russian propaganda convinced some Russian speakers in Ukraine that Russian vaccines against COVID-19 are safer than Western ones.

“It’s hard not to succumb to this propaganda, because it’s very well-made and it plays into people’s fears,” Mysiv said. 

Fears about getting a COVID-19 vaccine could convince some to forgo getting other vaccines. But Mysiv said that his organization’s research shows that the majority of Ukrainians now view vaccines favorably.

As the war continues, attacks on Ukraine’s health care infrastructure will continue to impede the vaccine campaign against polio. Kovtonyuk, of the Ukrainian Healthcare Center, has documented 223 Russian attacks on Ukrainian health care facilities.

“Russia is using health care as a means of war,” Kovtonyuk said. 

The current estimate of Ukrainian babies under 1 year old who got vaccinated against polio this year has fallen to less than 50%, which means that so far, the war has erased the huge gains that were made in stopping the spread of polio in Ukraine. 

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War in Ukraine expedites Poland’s move to destroy Soviet-era monuments

class=”MuiTypography-root-225 MuiTypography-h1-230″>War in Ukraine expedites Poland's move to destroy Soviet-era monuments

The Polish government has steadily been demolishing dozens of Soviet-era monuments ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But many Polish citizens believe preserving their country's complicated history is important.

The WorldNovember 1, 2022 · 5:00 PM EDT

A view of Soviet monuments at the Warsaw's Soviet cemetery in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 8, 2022.

Omar Marques/The World

Pawel Lesnikowski, on a recent afternoon stroll at the Soviet Military Cemetery near central Warsaw, caught himself staring up at a giant obelisk.

“I don’t like that it’s here,” Lesnikowski, a 41-year-old software developer, confessed about the 1950-built obelisk that’s part of a larger memorial dedicated to 20,000 Russian Red Army soldiers who fought in World War II.

Pawel Lesnikowski, 41, a software developer, poses for a portrait next to the Warsaw's Soviet cemetery in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 8, 2022.


Omar Marques/The World

Lesnikowski isn’t alone in his sentiments. The Polish government has steadily been demolishing dozens of Soviet-era monuments ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But many Polish citizens believe preserving their country's complicated history is important.

People walk past the Soviet monuments at the Warsaw's Soviet cemetery in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 8, 2022.


Omar Marques/The World

On the one hand, the Soviet Union liberated Poland from the Nazi regime. But with that liberation came a new era under communist rule.

“‘[The] official narration was that [the Soviets] gave us freedom,” said Rafal Leskiewicz, a spokesperson at the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), a historical organization run by the Polish government.

“But it wasn't freedom. We were under surveillance and under totalitarian regime control.”

In 2016, Poland’s far-right government passed a law ordering the demolition of any remaining Soviet-era monuments as part of an effort to “decommunize” Poland (which shed communist rule in 1989), with the exception of cemeteries or war graves.

But a lot of towns didn’t have enough money to fund the demolitions. That is, until this past March, when IPN started providing financial aid — thanks to a renewed push to speed things up after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

“We said if even now in the 21st century — in 2022 — we are still seeing Soviet symbols in the public sphere, it means that the totalitarian regime is still alive,” Leskiewicz said.

Since March, the IPN has helped oversee the demolitions of more than 20 monuments, mostly in small towns across the country.

The demolition of a giant concrete Red Army memorial in the southwest town of Brzeg in August marked the 24th destruction of this year.

But some people still have mixed feelings.

“It’s a part of history,” said Martin Dzienniak, who comes to the Soviet Military Cemetery in Warsaw every day to walk his dog. “Let it stay as it is.”

Martin Dzienniak, 44, CTO Cloud Service Provider, poses for a portrait next to the Warsaw's Soviet cemetery in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 8, 2022.


Omar Marques/The World

While the cemetery remains exempt from demolition, one site that is not protected happens to also be the tallest building in all of Poland.

The 650-foot tall Palace of Culture and Science, gifted by Josef Stalin in 1955, sticks out in central Warsaw.

Today, the building is used as an exhibition center and art space, and includes a cinema, two museums and an auditorium that can seat 3,000 people.

Still, Leskiewicz said it’s on his list of buildings that must go.

“This is the symbol of Warsaw, but generally, it's also a symbol of perpetrators,” Leskiewicz said.

People line up to enter a museum inside the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 8, 2022.


Omar Marques/The World

While there’s no official plans to destroy the palace, it’s been a topic of debate for a long time.

But the young crowds gathered on the outside promenade on a recent Saturday afternoon call the debate nonsense.

“The palace is the most important place in Warsaw,” said Dariusz Wiater, speaking from the terrace bar.

Dariusz Wiater and Tomasz Katana pose for a portrait as they enjoy a drink at the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Poland, on Oct. 8, 2022.


Omar Marques/The World

“I don’t feel any association between [the palace] and Russia.”

Luigi Erbacci, an Italian architect living in Warsaw, said that associations aside, historical heritage is something to be preserved no matter the context.

“We can always learn something from history,” Erbacci said as he admired the palace’s facade from the outside steps.

Architect Luigi Erbacci, 34 from Italy's Bologna region, poses for a portrait at the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Poland, on Oct. 8, 2022.


Omar Marques/The World

Erbacci said that when it comes to these demolitions, the Polish government is missing an opportunity.

“They’re thinking with their hearts instead of their minds,” Erbacci said.

“It’s one thing to just follow whatever your heart is telling you, but if [the government] would think with a bit more logic, I think they’d find the answer would be to preserve what happened rather than destroy history.”

Keeping reminders of the darker side of history — that isn’t easy. But a bulldozer can’t erase the past, Erbacci said.

So, why not confront it?

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Count me in!Related ContentPoland has taken in more Ukrainian refugees than any other EU country. Local mayors say they’re running out of money. Putin's war in Ukraine through a historical lensRussian dissident remains in prison on trumped-up chargesAs war rages on in Ukraine, some ethnic Russians in Latvia say they feel marginalized

Putin’s war in Ukraine through a historical lens

class=”MuiTypography-root-229 MuiTypography-h1-234″>Putin's war in Ukraine through a historical lensThe WorldOctober 31, 2022 · 4:30 PM EDT

Mark Galeotti speaks at a 2017 NATO meeting.

Courtesy of Mark Galeotti


MARCO WERMAN, HOST: Russian leader Vladimir Putin likes to compare himself to the 18th-century Russian czar Peter the Great. Putin says his goals are the same as a czar. He's on a historic quest to win back Russian territory. But author and Kremlinologist Mark Galeotti has another take. He says Putin risks looking more like Nicholas II. That's Russia's last czar who had a historic falling out with the Russian public and was forced to abdicate. I asked Galeotti, author of the new book "Putin's Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine," why he thinks the war in Ukraine will be Putin's final military action.  

MARK GALEOTTI, GUEST: Firstly, because this much-vaunted military has been chewed to pieces, and although they're busy trying to replenish it with mobilized reservists, people who scarcely remember which is the dangerous end of a Kalashnikov. Nonetheless, we're seeing that just as Ukraine is increasingly acquiring a 21st-century army because of the training and kit that NATO's providing. Well, now the Russians increasingly are fielding what could be described as a late Soviet 20th-century army. So, I think, first of all, just Putin's capacity to fight more wars, he's going to be dramatically limited, whatever happens in Ukraine. But secondly, it also speaks to, I think, the dying days of Putinism. Putin, like any other kind of leader who depended not on democratic legitimation or anything else, depended on the myth, the myth of his own success, the myth that he was a man who never makes a blunder, that he always wins his wars, which in the past he had. Now that is becoming very much a thing of the past. And it's quite interesting. Even in my last trip to Russia before my ban again, you're beginning to hear people talking about him as the old man. I find [it] fascinating for a leader who, you know, even though he's now 70, had still tried to build his image around his political and practical and personal virility. He may well remain in power for a long time. We wait and see whether mortality, fate and political machinations allow that. But he will undoubtedly be a much, much weaker figure, no longer the kind of the great warlord who could unleash his armies when he chooses.

The book cover for Mark Galeotti's book, "Putin's Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine."


Courtesy of Mark Galeotti 

WERMAN: The historical context, as your book shows us, is really important. I mean, you start with Chechnya, but allow me to just go back even further. I mean, Russia has been embattled from its western flank for a long time, a battleground, as you point out, since the 1300s. Is there some value in seeing Putin's war in Ukraine through that long historical lens? 

GALEOTTI: There is some value in the sense of it helps us understand, I think, Putin's own frankly, rather warped, but nonetheless kind of historically based notion. Look, Ukraine posed no serious military threat to Russia. But nonetheless, for someone like Putin, who, frankly, you know, we know he pays attention to history. History is one of the few things he reads. He may not understand it very well, but he's certainly interested in it and viewed through that prism. Absolutely. There is this notion that whenever Russia is weak or divided, it is vulnerable and that Russia's neighbors are always potential aggressors. So I think it really contributed to this. I mean, you can use a slightly extreme word, paranoid mindset with which Putin looked at the West. 

WERMAN: I'm speaking with Russia expert Mark Galeotti, whose new book, "Putin's Wars," has just been published. If we look at the wars Russia has waged since Vladimir Putin became president, as you do in your book Chechnya in the 1990s and the aughts, of course, loom very large. What lessons had Putin take from the first and second Chechen wars? 

GALEOTTI: The main thing is precisely one of, to put it very crudely, brutality, that if you are going to fight a war, you fight a war without any limitations. Remember, the Chechen war was actually against a country which was meant to be part of the Russian Federation, even if it was a rebellious part. But nonetheless, its capital city, Grozny, was laying waste. It basically looked almost like Hiroshima after the A-bomb had hit it. Generally speaking, it was the sense that you go all in. And although it didn't mean to say that, it was always about fighting wars with savagery, if you look at the very brief five-day war with Georgia, you know, the Russians could have gone further, but they actually sort of very pointedly stopped before going to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, and withdrew to the areas that they were claiming. But there was always that sense, and we've seen this play out very, very brutally in Syria, that terror is always on the table. It is always one of the potential instruments that you use. 

WERMAN: You alluded to this earlier, Mark Galeotti, but to what degree did the U.S., the West and Naito kind of prod the tiger, you know, provoke Putin? Because we remember those video clips of Lindsey Graham and Amy Klobuchar telling Ukrainian generals that they had their back. 

Mark Galeotti


Courtesy of Mark Galeotti

GALEOTTI: Yeah, this is a difficult one. I mean, to be perfectly honest, I mean, I think the real blunders I mean, they date back to the 1990s. We mishandled Russia immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union very badly and in effect contributed to the circumstances which led to the rise of not necessarily Putin himself, but a Putin someone like him. I think the trouble is we depend way too often on so-called strategic ambiguity, which is more or less saying, look, you know, we will do things, but we're not going to tell you what they are. And in fact, with someone like Putin, I think what we need to be is very, very specific. If you do X, we will do Y. But more broadly speaking, I think by this time, Putin now lives in an enclosed bubble of yes men and cronies. I mean, look, I remember speaking to Russian intelligence officer who said to me, a retired one, I should add, who said to me, look, we've learned you do not bring bad news to the czar's table. So I think that although, yes, they may well be have been all kinds of missteps and so forth, when it comes down to it, I don't think it really mattered. Putin had convinced himself that Ukraine is not a real country, had convinced himself that the 2014 revolution of dignity that brought the new government in place was some kind of CIA and God bless them, MI6 coup. In those circumstances, I don't think there's much we could have done to change his mind anyway.

WERMAN: Is Putin obsessed with the war in Ukraine to the exclusion of other things like domestic politics and economics? 

GALEOTTI: Absolutely. You've got to understand that the Russian system, you know, although it presented itself as a so-called power vertical, some kind of sort of disciplined, monolithic, centralized system, actually was in effect designed under Putin to be in unstable. You have constant struggles between individuals, institutions and factions. And the thing point was this guy, Putin power, this allowed him to constantly divide and rule. He was the final decider who could decide who got control of which industry or who got which particular job or whatever else. But it depends on putting being present. It depends on Putin doing his job. And at the moment, Putin clearly isn't. He is obsessed with the war and therefore, he's neglecting managing the economy, managing society, managing the elite. And therefore, we're seeing increasing tensions are rising. We're seeing figures actually sort of criticizing each other publicly in a way we haven't seen at any point under Putin, especially the defense minister. We've seen a whole series of mysterious deaths that, in my opinion, [have] nothing to do with the Kremlin because the Kremlin has all kind of other ways of punishing people if it wants to, but a rather a return of 1990-style business in which murder is an acceptable way of running a takeover deal. All of these things point to the fact that there is growing instability within the Russian system because it is built been built around Putin and there is now a Putin-shaped hole at the heart of it. 

WERMAN: Mark Elliott is a historian, a political scientist and a former advisor to the UK Foreign Office. His latest book is called "Putin's Wars From Chechnya to Ukraine." Mark, thanks so much for being with us.

GALEOTTI: My pleasure. 

This transcript was created on deadline and may be updated. The World’s authoritative record is the audio record.

As war rages on in Ukraine, some ethnic Russians in Latvia say they feel marginalized

class=”MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>As war rages on in Ukraine, some ethnic Russians in Latvia say they feel marginalized

Ethnic Russians have been living in Latvia for decades. But with public opinion turning sharply against Russia since the war in Ukraine began, some say they are increasingly worried about their place in Latvian society.

The WorldOctober 27, 2022 · 4:45 PM EDT

In Eastern Latvia, the closer you get to the Russian border, the more monuments to fallen Soviet soldiers you’ll find. This one, just outside a Russian-language school, commemorates soldiers killed fighting the Nazis in World War ll.

Gerry Hadden/The World

About half a million ethnic Russians call Latvia home. But since the war started in Ukraine, some say they are increasingly worried about their place in Latvian society.

They’ve been living in Latvia for decades, but with Latvian public opinion turning sharply against Russia, many Russian Latvians sense that they’re being marginalized.

In August, as Russian forces waged war in Ukraine, the Latvian government toppled a Soviet-era monument to the Red Army’s victory over the Nazis that stood in the capital, Riga.

Many Latvians had long been uncomfortable with the towering obelisk — for them, a symbol of five decades of Soviet occupation of Latvia. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine amplified this discomfort into stronger anti-Russian sentiment.

“We are fighting right now by demolishing monuments against Putin's idea of a Soviet Union number 2,” said Latvian historian Valdis Kuzmins from Latvia’s National Defense Academy.

“He wants the Soviet Union back. He said [so] himself many times.”

Latvia has been dismantling Russian symbols since long before Putin came to power, from street signs to statues. And as NATO members, Latvians oppose Putin’s expansionist war. But the August removal of a Soviet-era obelisk struck some of Latvia’s ethnic Russians as too much.

The sounds of cranes clearing rubble from the monument site still bothered Alasia Dudrova, an ethnic Russian doctor in Latvia.

“They think the monument was a symbol of some kind of oppression from the Russian people,” she said. “But it was just a symbol that all the world won [World War II].”

Cranes and bulldozers are still removing the rubble from what remains of Latvia’s Soviet obelisk, a monument to Soviet victory over fascism in World War ll. The government toppled it in August, saying it had become a symbol of Russia’s expansionist goals in Ukraine.


Gerry Hadden/The World

Dudrova said she’s lived in Latvia her whole life, speaks the Latvian language and has Latvian friends. “But what Latvian politics (sic) did here is very stupid in my opinion,” she said.

Most ethnic Russians like Dudrova immigrated during Soviet times and have long lived in peace — if somewhat separately — especially when it comes to language. Many Latvians also speak Russian, as the two groups mixed and intermarried over the years. Latvia has also tried to help Russian families integrate.

But Dudrova said the mood in Latvia has changed since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Latvia, along with a cadre of other governments, is actively trying to keep Russians out — even those who are fleeing conscription.

For the first time in her life, she now thinks twice about speaking Russian in certain public places. Some ethnic Russians in Latvia say they feel unfairly pigeon-holed as “Putinists.”

Ethnic Russians are part of a larger group of people who speak Russian as their first language in Latvia — a population that is increasingly diverse politically, socially and along ethnic lines.

In April, a group of Russian speakers held a protest against Putin’s invasion in Riga. But many ethnic Russians and Russian speakers stayed away.  The divisions within Latvia’s Russian population run along generational lines — the older folks tend to remember the Soviet Union fondly.

Also, the closer you get to Latvia’s border with Russia, the more pro-Kremlin people are, according to newspaper editor Laima Linuža. Her local paper is published in Latvian and Russian in the eastern town of Ludza. Editors took an early stance against the Ukraine invasion. Linuža said the social media attacks and threats to their newsroom began immediately.

Days later, a giant red letter Z — a symbol of the Russian army — was glued to the newspaper’s office window. But Linuža said these days, as the war turns in Ukraine’s favor, pro-Putin voices have gone quiet. Indeed, finding ethnic Russians willing to speak with a reporter is tough.

“I don’t want to comment on politics,” one ethnic Russian man said as he raked leaves along a street only four miles from the Russian border. Nor did he want to give his name.

But as the war rages on, and tensions between the West and Russia rise, Latvia is pushing even harder to erase any vestige of Soviet culture. 

Since the 1990s, conservative politicians have had their sights on the dismantling of Soviet-era Russian-language public schools. Critics say the schools perpetuate a dual society, some using curriculum that promotes Russian imperialism.

But Irina Romanova, a principal at Russian School Number 22, in downtown Riga, disagreed.

"We strive to teach our kids how to debate, to be critical thinkers," she said, "and to be cultured. These are universal values."

Irina Romanova is the principle at Riga’s Russian School Number 22. It was once possible to graduate high school in Latvia only speaking Russian. But since the fall of the Soviet Union Latvia’s been phasing out its many Russian schools. Today, almost all classes are taught in Latvian. Romanova understands the shift, but says it weighs on her heart.


Gerry Hadden/The World

But the days of Russian schooling are numbered. Romanova said they can no longer use Russian textbooks in class. Just about everything is now in Latvian.  And even Russian as a second language might not make the syllabus, she said, because Latvia has passed a law that only official EU languages can be offered. And Russian is not on that list.

Russian-speaking parents wait outside Russian School Number 22, in Latvia’s capital, Riga. They say there aren’t enough native Latvian teachers to help their kids transition from Russian to the official language.  


Gerry Hadden/The World

Romanova said she understands that Latvia wants to protect its national language, but the decision weighs on her heart.

And besides, Russian families will always speak Russian at home, she said. It’s not like they’re going away.

Related: Desperate Ukrainians crossing into Latvia while Russians are blocked

Related ContentRussian dissident remains in prison on trumped-up chargesPoland is feeling the pinch after cutting Russian energy imports Ukraine calls on Western countries to provide air defense systems as Russian barrage continuesA game of numbers: How air defense systems work and why Ukraine is eager for more protection

Ukraine calls on Western countries to provide air defense systems as Russian barrage continues

class=”MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Ukraine calls on Western countries to provide air defense systems as Russian barrage continues

Ukraine’s military has been gaining ground against Russian forces, winning back territory for weeks now. But the Russian military appears to have adjusted its strategy. It’s been hitting Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure with missiles and drones. That presents a challenge for Ukraine’s air defense system.

The WorldOctober 26, 2022 · 4:00 PM EDT

This photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Feb. 19, 2022, shows a Russian Iskander-K missile launched during a military exercise at a training ground in Russia. The Russian military on Friday announced massive drills of its strategic nuclear forces. After Russian unleashed missile attacks across Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has. That is, how long will the Kremlin be able to keep hitting Ukrainian cities?

Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is clear about the threat.

He said that “every downed Russian missile is another Ukrainian life saved.”

The Russian arsenal includes ballistic missiles, long-range cruise missiles and swarms of drones.

Ukraine’s military has the capability of defending itself from many of these attacks. But over the last three weeks, its air defenses have been overwhelmed. Dozens of civilians have died, many more have been injured.

Zelenskiy said that there’s a lot at stake, and he’s doing “everything to get more modern and effective air defense systems for Ukraine.”

In fact, Ukrainian officials have been asking Western countries for this technology for months.

Earlier this month, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Gen. Mark Milley, the US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, spoke about this issue.

“What we think can be provided is an integrated, air missile defense system, so that doesn’t control all the airspace over Ukraine, but they’re designed to control priority targets that Ukraine needs to protect.”

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin elaborated on US plans: “You’ve heard us talking about providing NASAMS, and that’s a good capability, that’s really going to help the Ukrainians.”

NASAMS, or National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, are what Ukraine has been asking for.

Professor Iain Boyd is the director of the Center for National Security Initiatives at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

He said that to understand how these air defense systems work, you need to understand the weapons that Russia is using.

“A cruise missile is maintaining its velocity, it’s not slowing down, it’s maintaining its altitude, it’s not coming down; whereas, a ballistic missile, it kind of follows like if you’re firing a cannonball, it follows an arc and you can kind of see where it’s going, it goes up and it comes down again. Ballistic missiles are kind of like that.”

Boyd said that cruise missiles are harder to shoot down, because they’re less predictable. But in all these cases, he explained, “What does all the action are missiles themselves, so you destroy somebody else’s missile with one of your own missiles.”

It’s not as simple as just pressing a button, though — air defense systems also rely on human operators, starting with the radar station where incoming projectiles are first detected.

“The information is coming in from the radars, they’re seeing what trajectory the weapon is flying, and then the operators they’ll make the assessment of when to fire and then a really important part of all of this is the assessment of whether you’ve been successful or not.”

Boyd said that Ukraine uses the S-300 air defense system developed by the Soviet Union. But it’s an older technology, and Ukraine said that it needs better tools to defend itself.

“This type of warfare does come down to numbers in the end, you know, how many weapons does the offensive side have and how many defensive weapons does the defense, Ukraine and its side have?”

And that’s how Russian drone attacks work. 

William Courtney is a former US ambassador who’s now with the RAND think tank.

He said that drones are relatively cheap and they’ve been used to overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses.

“Particularly, if there’s a swarm attack where there are a bunch of them, some of them will get shot down but others will go through.”

Courtney said the US has been reluctant to provide some of its more expensive technology to Ukraine, like the PATRIOT air defense system.

But there’s no silver bullet here, Boyd said, because of the nature of Russia’s attacks.

“One of the main challenges for Ukraine is just that Russia is throwing a lot of different things at them. It’s not all the same cruise missile even, it’s not all the same ballistic missile and they are these drones, they’re coming from the sea, they’re coming from the air. So, in some ways it’s the diversity of threats that’s part of the challenge.”

Ukraine’s partners are responding to the challenge.

The Biden administration said that it’s speeding up the delivery of two NASAMS for Ukraine. Germany said it’s providing a different air defense system. Several other Western countries are pledging to offer new weaponry too.   

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A game of numbers: How air defense systems work and why Ukraine is eager for more protection

class=”MuiTypography-root-229 MuiTypography-h1-234″>A game of numbers: How air defense systems work and why Ukraine is eager for more protectionThe ConversationOctober 24, 2022 · 3:30 PM EDT

Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system is the gold standard for defending against missiles and rockets. 

Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images

Ukraine has received a broad array of military supplies from the US and other allies. Recently, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made an urgent plea specifically for additional air defense resources from the West in response to increased air attacks by Russia.

To understand Zelenskiy’s emphasis on air defense, it’s important to look at the types of air weapons that Ukraine faces and how air defenses work to counteract those threats. It’s also important to understand why this type of warfare is all about the number of assets each side has at its disposal.

Increased air attacks

On Oct. 10, 2022, Russia launched a large barrage of airborne weapons against a variety of targets in Ukraine. The types of weapons involved in the attack included short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

Ballistic missiles are accelerated by rockets from the ground or from aircraft, tend to follow a predictable path and are somewhat easier to track. Cruise missiles carry a propulsion system that allows them to maintain speed and fly more unpredictable flight paths, including trajectories that are close to the ground. They are much more difficult to detect, track and shoot down.

Then, on Oct. 17, Russia launched a barrage of explosive drones at Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv. Explosive drones, known as loitering munitions, tend to be small weapons that are difficult to defend against. By circling overhead, they are able to surveil a region of interest, gathering information before identifying a specific target to attack. Russia has acquired explosive drones from Iran, according to US officials.

Air defense systems

The defense against all such air threats involves an integrated system of several elements.

Early warning radars located at Ukraine’s borders first detect the approach of missiles. These weapons are further tracked along their flight trajectories by a dispersed network of additional radars. The primary defensive countermeasure against ballistic and cruise missiles involves surface-to-air missiles (SAMs): You destroy a missile using a missile. This is no easy feat because the SAM must track, home in on and hit a high-speed target that may be changing direction.

The fundamental elements of a missile defense system.


Nguyen, Dang-An et al., CC BY-NC


In the US, key strategic assets such as the White House are protected against aerial attack by the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS). NASAMS was designed to counteract a variety of incoming threats, including cruise missiles, aircraft and drones. Each NASAMS contains 12 interceptor SAMs. No information is available publicly on its effectiveness. NASAMS is one of the options being considered by the US to help support Ukraine.

Another notable example of an air defense system is the Israeli Iron Dome. The system is designed to defend against rockets and artillery shells launched from up to 155 miles (250 kilometers) away. Each Iron Dome missile battery consists of three to four missile launchers, each with up to 20 interceptor SAMs.

The system is reported to have a 90% kill rate for rockets launched against Israel. Veteran national security correspondent Mark Thompson described Iron Dome as possibly the most effective missile defense system the world has seen.

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system fired missiles to intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, in Ashkelon southern Israel, on Aug. 7, 2022.


Tsafrir Abayov/AP


Both NASAMS and Iron Dome are reported to be effective against drones. However, SAMs are an expensive way to defend against such low-cost targets, and they could be overwhelmed by large numbers of drones. Directed energy weapons such as high energy lasers are being developed and deployed to provide a potentially more cost-effective approach to neutralizing low-cost drones.

A numbers game

The significance of the plea by Zelenskiy for additional air defense systems can be understood in the context of a numbers game. Different air defense systems have a range of effectiveness against different aerial threats. However, none of the defense systems is 100% effective.

Moreover, an adversary can significantly reduce the effectiveness of air defense by launching salvos of multiple weapons simultaneously. Therefore, an attacker can always overwhelm a defender if the attacker has more attack missiles than the defender has defensive missiles. Conversely, a sufficient number of defensive systems may cause an attacker to stop firing altogether. It becomes a war of attrition, with the winner being the side with the most missiles.

Ukraine likely has sufficient air defenses to protect strategic military targets such as command and control centers and ammunition dumps. They do not have coverage of many other key assets such as transportation hubs and power and water facilities, the types of targets Russian forces have been targeting in recent days.

Air defenses are generally effective at protecting relatively small areas, like this Patriot missile battery defending Rzeszow Airport in Poland.


Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images

Should the West agree to provide significant numbers of air defense systems to Ukraine, it could significantly change the course of the conflict. At some point, Russia will have to confront the finite depth of its missile stockpile. The number of remaining Russian high-precision missiles is already reported to be running low.

Without the ability to wear down and demoralize Ukraine through airstrikes, Russia would be faced with the much more daunting and drawn-out prospect of relying solely on ground forces to grind out its objectives.

Iain Boyd is a professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at University of Colorado Boulder. 

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent nonprofit news organization dedicated to sharing the knowledge of scholars with the public, under a Creative Commons license.

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Digital clues and the stories Ukraine’s mass graves tell

class=”MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Digital clues and the stories Ukraine’s mass graves tell

There are two kinds of mass graves in Ukraine, the ones left after Russian executions, and the ones dug by local people to prevent disease or to protect the bodies. Now, there are efforts underway to document the graves and create digital records of the bodies, in order to identify them later.

The WorldOctober 19, 2022 · 2:30 PM EDT

Funeral workers burry a coffin with an unidentified civilian body, who died in Bucha during the Russian occupation period in February-March 2022, during a funeral in Bucha, near Kyiv, Ukraine, Sept. 2, 2022.

Emilio Morenatti/AP/File

Mass graves offend something deep in the human conscience because they fly in the face of our instinct to honor the dead. Years ago, Dina Temple-Raston, the host and executive producer of the "Click Here" podcast, as well as a senior correspondent at The Record, wrote a book about a war crimes trial in Rwanda and always assumed mass graves were the work of perpetrators — a ham-handed effort to cover up unspeakable crimes. 

But in Ukraine, that’s only half the story. 

“In Bucha we have different kinds of mass graves,” said Mykhaliya Skoryk-Shkarivska, the city’s deputy mayor.

The first is the kind that Ukrainians actually stumble upon, unexpectedly, in the forest or on the outskirts of town. “These are the mass graves where Russians executed people, [dug] the holes in the graves to hide them,” she said.  

And then there is a second kind of mass grave; the kind that appeared in many of the Russian-occupied cities in Ukraine — these mass graves were dug by local people to prevent disease, or to stop stray dogs from desecrating the bodies. In Bucha, the largest is near the Church of St. Andrew, in the center of town. Municipal workers and hospital employees dug it when they were still under occupation this past spring.

“Russians allow them to do a temporary cemetery, so they dug a big trench and put like, they are saying … about 67 bodies inside,” said Skoryk-Shkarivska, who advised the mayor on digital innovation before the war.

“You have to bury people even without the documentation. And when you do it without the documents, you have to dig them out [to identify them]."

Skoryk-Shkarivska, advised the mayor of Bucha on digital innovation before the war

Eventually, there would be hundreds of bodies in the temporary cemetery at St. Andrew.

“You have to bury people even without the documentation. And when you do it without the documents, you have to dig them out” so people can identify them, she said. But there was no one to connect a name to a face with a body.

To keep track of hundreds of DNA samples, establish cause of death and gather evidence of possible war crimes, someone has to organize millions of little digital clues. It fell to Skoryk-Shkarivska, in charge of all things digital for Bucha, to build a system to modernize something she’d never expected to modernize: a way to account for the dead.

“Our system was not able to manage such a big amount of requests looking for the bodies or looking for the disappeared people and, of course, to recognize the corpses, ” she said. “Nobody in Bucha expected it to become a place of tragedy.”

Creating a system to account for the dead

Before the war, Skoryk-Shkarivska’s digital innovation involved getting city data on computers and automating tax collection. City workers provided permits for single funerals on the cemetery grounds.

Life as she knew it changed on a Thursday, announced by black smoke. Her first glimpse of what was to come was out near the airport. She was driving to get some gas in her car when she saw Russian aircraft flying low and she turned to see that the Ukrainian helicopters parked on the tarmac were already on fire.

“I heard heavy battles, very close,” she said. 

That was the starting gun. The world watched as things got worse from there. Russian troops entered Bucha on March 3, and they left 32 days later, leaving death and destruction in their wake. 

Skoryk-Shkarivska, also called "Mika" by her foreign friends, had fled from Bucha hours after she’d seen the helicopters ablaze. She had been an activist and a journalist and was sure she would be included on a Russian hitlist. She gathered her son and didn’t wait to find out.

When Mika returned to Bucha in mid-April, the city’s satellite communications and electricity were back on and she had already mapped out what she would do next. “We asked our colleagues to provide us some smartphones and one iPad,” and she began collecting data on the dead.

“We had lots of imprisoned people. We had lots of killed people,” she said. 

Bucha had police databases, missing persons reports, photographs of the disappeared on Telegram channels, but the problem was all these little clues were siloed. There was no central repository, no single database to search. Mika came to find out that even Ukraine’s morgues were mostly pen-and-paper operations.

Digitizing records was something Bucha’s city officials had always intended to do — but never got around to.

Mika decided it was time to change all that. “We received data from five morgues around Bucha and we created a primary database,” she said. The database ingested everything the morgues knew about the more than 400 bodies they had examined, but didn’t have room to keep.

They had catalogued not just sex, approximate age and hair color, but a collection of details that might help families find their loved ones. Things like tattoos, birthmarks and scars. Mika created a second database that cataloged who went into which mass grave and where. Then she cross-referenced the information, so that when families arrived with details about their missing relatives, she knew exactly where to look.

Her system allowed the families, not just to honor the dead, but to hold real funerals and proper burials for the people of Bucha. Knowing precisely what happened to each of them — before they were put in the mass graves — will take some time. “I think that in one year, in two years, maybe three years time, we will have not only the names and the data from the morgue, but also the results of the investigations,” she said, adding that it will be a painstaking forensic endeavor that will unfold in slow, incremental steps.

The database helps anchor things, offering not just a semblance of order, but closure, too. “We are still helping families to recognize their killed relatives,” she said.

As forensic pathologists, ballistics experts and international authorities descend on the city of Bucha, Mika has given them a place to start.

‘War crimes are about organizations’

Ambassador Stephen Rapp was the chief prosecutor of a Rwandan war crimes trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Temple-Raston met him more than 20 years ago while writing a book about the trial of the journalists behind the radio station, RTLM, that helped foment the genocide.

In the intervening years, he’s been involved in war crimes prosecutions in Sierra Leone and Syria, and then became an Ambassador-at-Large focused on war crimes at the State Department. So, he is intimately familiar with what it takes to build these kinds of cases, and he’s advising the Ukrainian government on how it might build cases against Russian soldiers who committed atrocities during the war.

“Building a war crimes case is quite different from building a normal violent crime case,” Rapp said.

“Most violent crimes involve some planning, but they are over and done with in a few minutes. You can control the crime scene and you can take advantage of video cameras.”

In Bucha, crimes were committed all over the city for 32 days. And, while there will be social media posts, CCTV footage and witnesses’ secret iPhone videos to help build these cases, finding all that digital evidence — in a city of 30,000 in the midst of war — only scratches the surface of why trials for war crimes continue to be so complicated.

The physical evidence tells just part of the story.

“You have mass graves, bodies left on the street for three or four weeks with hands tied behind their back, with bullets in the back of heads,” Rapp said. “Those are situations in which there are war crimes without question. But then there’s the issue of who committed those crimes? Who’s really responsible? Were they rogue units? Scared young soldiers who just acted out of their own impulses? Or was that part of a strategy in which the military command really looked to intimidate the population? That’s what we have to prove.”

Before 2014, answering those kinds of questions was nearly impossible. Then, two things happened. Mass surveillance moved from something that was largely in the purview of governments to becoming open source.

And no collective of citizen investigative journalists leveraged that better than an organization called Bellingcat. It was behind a number of remarkable investigations, but the one that put it on the map was the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which disappeared from the radar over Ukrainian airspace in 2014. All 298 people aboard were killed. 

Bellingcat began looking through social media posts around eastern Ukraine, the area where the airplane went down. They managed to uncover the actual video of the Russian surface-to-air missile launcher, not just coming into Ukraine shortly before the crash, but actually heading back to Russia the very next day carrying just three missiles instead of four.

Dutch investigators were then able to find intercepted calls from that same period, and what they heard was confusion after rebels realized they may have just downed a commercial plane, and their arguments over how to whisk the missile launcher back to Russia. In the end, four men — three Russians and a Ukrainian — were charged for the murder of all 298 people in absentia.

The story, unfortunately, doesn’t have a completely satisfying ending: eight years later, there’s still no verdict in the case. But Rapp said it is a good illustration of just how much digital information can help prosecutors make a seemingly impossible case stick. And, he added, that was back in 2014. There is a lot more digital dust now, which could help when it comes time to prove who is responsible for crimes like the ones in Bucha.

“It’s people up the chain,” he said.

People like Russian President Vladimir Putin. People who ordered the bombardment of civilian targets in Ukraine. People who told soldiers to show “no mercy” to the residents of occupied cities.

“Of course, it’s not an easy way to prove this system of command responsibility from the highest level,” prosecutor general of Ukraine Andriy Kostin told CBS’s "Face the Nation" recently. “We know who is responsible for it. Because the crime of aggression is the mother of all of these crimes: of war crimes, genocide, because without aggression, there will be no other war crimes. And for that reason, for the crime of aggression, the highest political and military leadership should be prosecuted and should be punished.”

Ambassador Rapp, who is part of a group strategizing how those trials might be organized, said it is a little more complicated than that. He said prosecutions need to be structured and systematic to bring speedier justice. In Rwanda, among others, there was the trial over the media, and a case focused on genocide and rape in the university town of Butare. 

“They could be working with police in particular on a strategic approach, or perhaps moving in the direction of having a special court or a special division within the national court and within the national prosecutor service to deal with more mid-level offenders,” he said.

Actually trying to prosecute Putin would be more complicated, he said, though Rapp made clear that Putin isn’t doing himself any favors by not having court martials or investigations when news of fresh atrocities surface.

Putin giving awards to at least one of the major units involved [in Bucha] as heroes and defenders of the fatherland, that you could impute responsibility all the way up to him, potentially,” he said.

That is what Mika wants. She wants Putin, and everyone who might have been responsible for what happened in Bucha, to be held to account.

In the meantime, it is hard to shake the feeling that Bucha is a prelude. Mika said that while she’s worried about what Putin might do next — her life in Bucha has to go on. So, she’s making those accommodations you have to make when you’re at war. She carries her smartphone everywhere now, because Bucha has instituted a new missile warning system — which sounds like an Amber Alert, but in this case it, warns of rocket attacks.

She said the war has changed everyone.

“My little son, he’s 7 years old. He’s all the time talking about killing Putin and about Russians as enemies,” she said. And while he is back at school, sometimes his class is held in the basement when the smartphone alerts ring.

“It’s hard to be in a position that every minute you have to stop what you are doing and hide from the air attack.”

She said he builds pillow forts to protect them both now and has taken to singing Ukrainian patriotic songs.

Sometimes they sing them together.

Related: Spain passes law to remember and exhume victims of civil war and dictatorship

An earlier version of this story originally appeared in The Record.Media. There was additional reporting by Sean Powers and Will Jarvis.

Russia is using suicide drones in Ukraine. They’re coming from an unlikely source.

class=”MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Russia is using suicide drones in Ukraine. They’re coming from an unlikely source.

Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said this week that Russia has been deploying Iranian-made drones in his country, targeting civilian areas. The drones are relatively small and can fly at low altitude, evading Ukrainian radars, Zelenskiy said.

The WorldOctober 17, 2022 · 1:45 PM EDT

Firefighters work after a drone attack on buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 17, 2022. Waves of explosive-laden suicide drones struck Ukraine's capital as families were preparing to start their week early Monday, the blasts echoing across Kyiv, setting buildings ablaze and sending people scurrying to shelters.

Roman Hrytsyna/AP

In recent days, residents of the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Odesa say they have been hearing the buzzing sound of drones overhead more often.

Some have been capturing them in videos and photos, documenting how they are being used by Russian forces as deadly weapons and a means to sow fear in civilian areas.

In Odesa, for example, the Russians used to attack places on the outskirts of the city, said Volodymyr Dubovyk, who teaches international relations at Odesa National University.

“But with the drones attack, they [are] very visible and people [are] basically getting their heads up in the sky and seeing them buzzing,” he said. “And, it’s terrifying because it’s slow moving and no one knows where they’re going.”

Russia has intensified its attacks on civilian areas in recent weeks following major losses in several regions in Ukraine. These attacks also follow a truck bomb attack on the Kerch Bridge on Oct. 8, which was a strategic route linking annexed Crimea to Russia. Ukraine has not publicly claimed responsibility, and Russia announced this week it has arrested eight suspects, including five Russians and three citizens of Ukraine and Armenia.

Part of Russia’s response to losses in Ukraine and the bomb on the Kerch Bridge has involved the use of "kamikaze" or suicide drones.

Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, accuses Iran of providing these drones to Russia and has asked the international community for more air defense support.

Analysts say intelligence reports as well as video footage and photos from the ground support Zelenskiy’s claim. They say Shahed-136 delta-wing and ​the Mohajer-6 are being deployed in Ukraine. Some of these Iranian drones, they add, are repainted and rebranded in Russia.

Dubovyk, who is currently a visiting professor at Tufts University in Massachusetts, described the use of Iranian drones to attack Ukraine as “humiliating for the Russian military.”

That’s because “They always praised themselves as the strong military which has enough of these weapons but it turns out it doesn’t,” he said.

Last month, Ukraine responded to Russia’s use of Iranian drones on its territory by downgrading its diplomatic ties with Tehran.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called the accusations “bogus" and Iranian officials have denied sending drones to Russia.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said “the Islamic Republic of Iran has not and will not provide any weapon to be used in the war in Ukraine. We believe that the arming of each side of the crisis will prolong the war,” he said, according to a readout of his call with his Portuguese counterpart published on Saturday.

But Peter W. Singer, a strategist with the New America think tank and author of “Wired for War,” pointed to evidence that connects Iran to the drones.

“The first is trackers who have been tracking the movements of cargo planes from Iran during this period to Russia,” he told The World, adding that a variety of pictures of them in action has appeared online. US and British intelligence reports also support the claim they are being used.

“So, put me in the camp of no, I don’t believe Iran, in this instance, that they’re not playing a role,” Singer said.

The Shahed-136 drones are cheap and easy to make, he said. They carry explosives and self-destruct once they hit their target — that’s why they are called suicide or kamikaze drones.

In the air, they’re actually slow moving — “Snoopy and his biplane back in World War 1 could actually fly faster than them,” as Singer put it, but they are having an impact on the ground, partly because the Russian military deploys them in batches or swarms.

“It means they can be in a high number. They can also be in multiple different places,” he said.

The news that Russia is relying on Iranian drones says a lot about the state of its military capabilities, Samuel Bendett, an expert on Russia’s military and weapons at The Center for Naval Analyses, a nonprofit research and analysis organization in Arlington, Virginia, told The World.

“How is it that one of the most-advanced militaries in the world is unable to manufacture relatively cheap, loading munitions at scale?”

Bendett said that Russia quickly ran through a large number of its domestic drones in the first few months of the war and faced a gap in its capabilities, which its own domestic industry was unable to address fast enough.

“They need something right now and not a month from now or two months from now,” he said.

That's where Iran comes in.

Iran has been developing its own unmanned aerial vehicles for decades, Bendett explained. It has been supplying them to militias in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

“So, all of that accumulative experience over many decades is basically resulting in a current Iranian drone lineup. Russia really doesn’t have that long-term expertise. Even though it was one of the major military powers during the Cold War that also used UAVs. A lot of that expertise was lost in the 1990s and early 2000s,” he said.

Ukraine is also getting drones from the US and Turkey. And in response to Zelenskiy’s repeated pleas for more effective air defenses, the British government announced it would provide missiles for advanced NASAM anti-aircraft systems that the Pentagon plans to send to Ukraine, according to the Associated Press.

The UK is also sending hundreds of aerial drones for information-gathering and logistics support, plus 18 howitzer artillery guns.

“These weapons will help Ukraine defend its skies from attacks and strengthen their overall missile defense alongside the US NASAMS,” UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.

Singer said that these weapons are unlikely to determine which side is going to win the war. But their impact cannot be ignored.

In the past, he said, there was a debate within military circles about the value of drones in conventional warfare.

“The events of the last months have ended that debate. It does give us a taste of hey, we’re going to see a lot more of this,' not just in the war in Ukraine but in all wars to come,” Singer said.

Russia must change its power structure to get back on a democratic path, opposition figure says

class=”MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Russia must change its power structure to get back on a democratic path, opposition figure says

Russian businessman and opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky recently released a new book, "The Russia Conundrum: How the West Fell for Putin’s Power Gambit — and How to Fix It." He spoke with The World's host Marco Werman about Russia, President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine.

The WorldOctober 11, 2022 · 12:45 PM EDT

Russian opposition figure and former owner of the Yukos Oil Company Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks during a press conference with Lithuania's Minister of Foreign Affairs at the "Esperanza" hotel in Paunguriai village, Aug. 20, 2021.

Mindaugas Kulbis/AP/File photo

Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a businessman and Russian opposition figure, and the former chief executive officer of the Yukos Oil company. He was a political prisoner for a decade between 2003 and 2013, sentenced under the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Khodorkovsky also founded the Open Russia foundation with the aim of "building and strengthening civil society in Russia." He enlisted global figures such as Henry Kissinger and Lord Rothschild to serve on the board, among others. The group had to temporarily cease operations in 2017 after a decision by Russian courts, but is currently operational outside of the country.

Khodorkovsky recently released a new book, written with Martin Sixsmith, called "The Russia Conundrum: How the West Fell for Putin’s Power Gambit — and How to Fix It."

He joined The World's host Marco Werman from London for a discussion about Russia, Putin and the war in Ukraine, speaking through interpreter Elena Cook.

Part IMarco Werman: We'd like to focus on your new book and your own personal story. But first, the question that is on everyone's mind, what is Vladimir Putin thinking at this moment? How close is he to pulling the nuclear trigger?Mikhail Khodorkovsky: Well, what Putin is thinking about now, you should ask of Putin himself, or a psychiatrist. But if you try to evaluate him as a pragmatic person, if you think he is a pragmatic person, at the moment, he's still thinking that mobilization might help him. And [while] it is not clear to him that, in fact, mobilization hasn't helped him, at the next stage, which is using nuclear weapons, that next stage is not going to happen. This is the topic for the next year, for the beginning of the next year.So, you've sat across the table from Putin many times. You've incurred his wrath. Who do you think Vladimir Putin is listening to right now? Like his advisers, are they people you once knew?Today, there's no point in thinking that somebody is imposing some solutions or decisions [on] him. He's taking his own decisions. But among his entourage, his inner circle, there are, of course, people like [Yevgeny] Prigozhin, Mr. [Ramzan] Kadyrov. The majority, however, consist of people proposed by Mr. [Yury] Kovalchuk. This part of his inner circle is controlled by Kovalchuk, and they have maximum access to Putin. They have his ear.So, are you saying there's nobody around him who can provide some opposition or some kind of dissenting opinion?Well, over the last 20 years, those people who were in conflict with Putin, or [opposed] him, expressed different points of view that Putin didn't like, they have been removed from his inner circle. Today, when the level of risks for people in his entourage has growing much higher, we can see that conflict has arisen in his inner circle. At the moment, these conflicts sometimes break through into the public domain, which haven't affected Putin himself directly. Whether anyone in these conditions could tell Putin face-to-face something he doesn't like to hear, of course this might happen. Whether Putin is ready to acknowledge this unpalatable truth, I don't think so.But when you hear him talking about using a tactical nuclear weapon, is there anyone around him who would say, "Not such a good idea"? Does anyone dare to question him?I think that Putin, himself, realizes full well that using nuclear weapons is not really the best idea. He's not quite as crazy as that. I think what is more likely is that the part of his circle who are crazy and who understand that they're going to be responsible if the war is lost, they would bear the responsibility, this part of his entourage are trying step-by-step, to pressurize Putin into getting him to fight to the very bitter end, including using nuclear weapons. If Ukraine were to receive the necessary number of weapons in order to finish the war off this year, we would say with confidence that Putin's opinion about the use of nuclear weapons will not have formed. However, if this conflict extends for another year, it's quite likely that the combination of this pressure that he experiences from his inner circle and his own depression as a result of an obviously lost war, this might lead to the fact that he discovered that he's cornered, and by the beginning of spring next year, he might come to use nuclear weapons.Do you think you understand Putin's own personal limits?I think what you have in your head is something quite bizarre. You think that there are some red lines? There are no red lines, in fact. What I think is that there is a perception, a feeling for the situation, and that largely is connected to the tiredness that is accumulating with the psychological aspects, the depression, that is accumulating and growing as well, with the constant pressure of his entourage. And this is developing, this is flowing dynamically. This is not to say that there is some red line that you step over and you launch nuclear weapons. No, this is not the case. "I feel, (I, Putin), I don't like it. I feel really badly. And then I get to the stage, where I don't care anymore. And then I'm launching nuclear weapons." This takes time. So, what is important now is to finish off the war as soon as possible rather than extend it for a long period of time.Mr. Khodorkovsky, today you live in London, and from that perch you wrote your new book, "The Russia Conundrum," a sort of manifesto for a post-Putin Russia. Do you think Putin has long in power?Having started the war with Ukraine, he has reduced the time in power. If, before the beginning of this war, I thought that the likelihood of him staying in power until 2036 was quite considerable, now I think it's more likely that by 2026, 10 years earlier, he's going to either disappear or he [will] be taken out of that chair. But this would largely depend on the results of the war in Ukraine. Let's suppose that if Putin were offered by the West, those conditions that Elon Musk had suggested recently, I think it's quite likely that Putin, today, would want to accept those conditions and he would stop at the borders of those four regions. But the accumulated inertia, those national patriotic forces that have formed during this new military operation would not allow him to stay in these negotiations and ceasefire for a long time. And, I think, within a few months or maximum a year, we would have another war, a new war with those million people who have been mobilized, conscripted, drafted, this Putin's army with a defense industry that will have changed to a military production manufacturing regime. And this would be a much harder continuation of the existing war.Part II

To listen to the second part of this interview, click on the audio player below.

Right now, though, no one is around Putin to provide contrary, dissenting opinions, as you said. What is the state of opposition and dissent across Russia? I mean, so much of the opposition is now in exile or in jail or they've been killed.We have three types of opposition to the regime in Russia. One is the communists who, at present, have almost merged with Putin. The second are national patriotic forces. These are those people or the moving force of the war in Ukraine at the moment, the moving factor. And the third one is democrats. I wouldn't call them liberals, but these are democrats, democratic forces. And this part of the opposition, at the moment, is experiencing a lot of change. Those democrats who stood for legal methods of fighting the regime, participating in elections, peaceful protests, that part of the opposition is slowly losing their influence on society. Those people in opposition who are gaining influence, are those who think that to confront this regime, it can only be done by force, or at least by threat of force, threat of violence. And I think this process will come to fruition within the forthcoming few months.Will it really happen that quickly, given the strength Putin's security forces have over the country?Well, people will mobilize, they are mobilizing, and there are already draft offices, conscription offices burning, being set on fire in the dozens. Mobilization has been declared. People are going to find themselves on the battlefield and they will be coming back, both injured or deserters with weapons in their arms. These are the processes which will take a few months, perhaps until the summer of next year. And this will grow and become much more obvious, much more significant, and politically, this is quite fast.Mr. Khodorkovsky, in the 2000s, you led the important oil firm, Yukos, and you famously challenge Vladimir Putin face-to-face on live TV in Russia. That video has basically disappeared from the internet. Take us back to that point in time. What were you trying to accomplish?Has it really disappeared from the internet? Quite recently, I looked at the link and it was still on YouTube. That was the point in time when Russian businesses wanted to move on to become transparent. Our company, Yukos, was one of the leading Russian companies at the time, and we wanted to have an IPO in America. At the time, the Sarbanes-Oxley Law was adopted in the US that demanded that companies control corruption practices within their own companies if they wanted to do an IPO in the stock market in the US. So, my colleagues in the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs decided to go to Putin with a proposal and say to him, "Let's start global work cleaning up, getting rid of corrupt practices in the country." Unfortunately, it turned out that Putin, in fact, had already decided the opposite. He had already decided that he was going to make corruption one of the linchpins of his regime. With the help of corruption, he decided to control his closest circle, and fighting corruption was something totally unacceptable. And that was clearly obvious in that video when we're talking about corruption. Putin, contrary to what any normal politician would do, who in any case would say, "Oh yes, let's fight corruption," and then would do nothing. Putin didn't even find it in himself to say those words.That event ended with a lengthy jail sentence for you. You were one of the most powerful men in Russia at the time, and you ended up in a gulag, a Siberian labor camp. You say prison changed you and your view of the world. Can you explain what you mean?When I left to go to prison, I was a businessman. Ten years of prison made entrepreneurship less interesting for me than it was for me before jail. I suddenly realized, in myself, that it is impossible to be free in business if the whole country is not free, if people in the country are not free. And fighting for democracy was first and foremost the main objective that had to be resolved, that had to be achieved, even compared with economic issues.Can you imagine going home again, Mikhail Khodorkovsky? And where do you consider home?Home, for me, as well as for many other people, is the place where my family and my friends are. At the moment, this circle has been dispersed across a whole range of countries. But if we are talking about my native land, my motherland, my fatherland, it's Russia. It's the only one. And I would like to be able in my lifetime to see that Russia has come back onto the path of democratic development. And if I can do anything to promote it, I will do it. If and when Putin leaves the political stage, or just dies, this possibility will arise with a quiet livelihood inside the country. And then for Russia, it would be dangerous to have this idea of searching for a good or kind czar. There could never be a kind czar in Russia. Such kind czars, like Gorbachev, lose power. What is important for Russia is to change the structure of power. Russia should become a parliamentary republic. Russia should become much more federalized in its makeup. But it should remain as Russia. And in that case, the world would have a non-aggressive neighbor and Russia would be at the possibility of democratic development. And whatever I can do in order to put it in place, I will do.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Related: Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks out against Russia's intervention in Ukraine

The controversial Chechen leader who supports Putin in Ukraine

class=”MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>The controversial Chechen leader who supports Putin in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin promoted Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to army general this month. Kadyrov is a long-time ally of Putin and is known for his inflammatory remarks and abysmal human rights record. He has also described Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a “holy war.”

The WorldOctober 10, 2022 · 3:45 PM EDT

Chechnya's regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov addresses servicemen attending a review of the Chechen Republic's troops and military hardware in Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic, Russia, Feb. 25, 2022. Ramzan Kadyrov said that the servicemen of the Chechen Republic are ready to carry out any order of the President of the country.

Musa Sadulayev/AP

Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, a Muslim-majority republic under Russian rule in the Caucasus Mountains, is a recognizable figure.

He’s a modern-day warlord who gets into Twitter fights with Elon Musk. He sends long messages to his roughly 3 million followers on Telegram, and he makes video calls with his fighters in Ukraine. His fighters, the “Kadyrovtsy” or “Kadyrovites” as they’re known, have reportedly been fighting since the war in Ukraine began.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin promoted Kadyrov to army general. Ramzan Kadyrov is a long-time ally of Putin and is known for his inflammatory remarks and abysmal human rights record. He has also described Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a “holy war.” But his relationship with Putin is complicated.

Ramzan Kadyrov, 46, is the son of Akhmad Kadyrov, the Chechen separist leader who fought against the Russians in the 1990s and 2000s. Russia fought two wars in Chechnya, and during that time, Grozny, the Chechen capital, was leveled, and tens of thousands of civilians were killed. Later, human rights groups discovered mass graves in an abandoned village in the vicinity of the nearby Khankala military base.

In the aftermath, rose the Kadyrovs — father and son — with a pro-Kremlin stance. When the elder Kadyrov was assassinated in 2004, Ramzan Kadyrov took over with the blessing of Russia’s leader.

“President Vladimir Putin came to power in the year 2000 and became known to the Russian public for this war against Chechnya, to bring back Chechnya into the Russian Federation,” said Valery Dzutsati, who teaches international relations at the University of Kansas. “And [Akhmad] Kadyrov implemented Russian policies of subjugation, of repression and all kinds of other policies in Chechnya.”

So, in a way, Dzutsati said, Ramzan Kadyrov is crucial to Putin’s identity as the Russian leader who brought Chechnya back to the empire.

“They depend on each other, Putin and [Ramzan] Kadyrov,” he explained.

Chechnya provides a model for Russia’s goals in Ukraine, said Miriam Katharina Heß, a research fellow on extremism and terrorism at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

Additionally, she said, the Chechen leader has global influence.

“[Ramzan] Kadyrov can be used to consolidate alliances with the Arab world. By, for example, staging himself as a Muslim and demonstrating [that,] in Russia, it is possible to conflate foreign policy and religion [by] calling fighting in the Ukraine war a jihad,” Heß explained.

Last week, Ramzan Kadyrov announced that his three sons will go to Ukraine to fight. He posted a video online showing the teenagers training with guns, rocket launchers and tanks.

Cerwyn Moore, who teaches international relations at the University of Birmingham in the UK, said that he doubts Ramzan Kadyrov’s sons will actually go to the front lines in Ukraine.

He added that Ramzan Kadyrov likes to project the idea that his forces are making a big difference on the ground, but the reality is different.

“The pro-Kremlin Chechen forces often are criticized for being sort of TikTok warriors, and by that, I mean people that tend to post images and footage, but don’t actually engage in any of the real front-line, major combat operations,” Moore said.

There are also Chechen fighters, Moore said, allied with Ukraine, fighting against the Russians.

Moore added that he believes that what Ramzan Kadyrov says and does is for domestic consumption.

“I don’t think we should put as much emphasis on what he says as some commentators might want to suggest. However, we should understand that it does resonate very much within the local communities and region of the North Caucasus.”

He went on to add that Ramzan Kadyrov is trying to project solidarity with Putin’s Russia at a time when people in places like Dagestan — which is next to Chechnya — are protesting against Moscow’s recruitment drive for the war in Ukraine.

But as close as Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov might seem, their alliance may not last, Dzutsati said.

Lately, Kadyrov has criticized Russia’s military performance in Ukraine.

“They have made mistakes, and I think they will draw the necessary conclusions,” Ramzan Kadyrov said in an audio message posted to his Telegram channel earlier this month.

“If things don’t turn out well for Russia and Putin, [Ramzan] Kadyrov is likely to be among the first, if not the first, governor of a Russian region who will try to establish his own state,” Dzutsati said.

Clean-up raves invite volunteers to dance and rebuild together in Ukraine

class=”MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Clean-up raves invite volunteers to dance and rebuild together in Ukraine

Repair Together, a volunteer group in Ukraine, helps clean up homes and villages that have been damaged by the war, while dancing to music.

The WorldOctober 7, 2022 · 2:15 PM EDT

Repair Together hosts a clean-up rave in Ivanivka, Chernihivska oblast.

Repair Together/YouTube

Ukraine’s thriving underground rave scene came to a stand-still when Russia invaded the country in February. As the war has torn apart houses and entire villages, the chance to release stress and dance the night away has been out of reach. Even for people who are now in relatively safe regions — it’s just not realistic.

“If you spend your time in the capital — in Kyiv — and just go to a party or whatever, it feels not right,” said Dima Kyrpa, a Kyiv resident. “Because you understand that just [125 miles] from you, there is a real war and people die every day and houses are destroyed. So, it’s not right.”

Kyrpa saw the need to reconcile a yearning for fun amid an ongoing war by co-founding Repair Together, a volunteer group that helps clean up homes and villages that have been damaged by the war. The group hosts traditional clean-ups and weekly building camps where volunteers rebuild homes, but their clean-up raves are getting the most attention. 

The group sets up a DJ amid the rubble, so while volunteers clear debris, they also dance and make new friends. A live-stream from a clean-up rave last month shows volunteers helping to repair a brick wall with one hand while pumping their fist to the beat with the other. One young woman has a Ukrainian flag draped around her shoulders as she sways to the music.

Kyrpa, 34, said DJs play a wide range of music at the raves. They have even featured some major artists, like Onuka. She was a frontrunner in Ukraine’s electronic music scene and performed for “Repair Together” in the downstairs of a ruined cultural center in Ivanivka, an urban area within the Chernihivska region. One of her musicians continued to volunteer with the group. “Repair Together” has also hosted ТУЧА, an artist whose song, "Воїн," is about a Ukrainian warrior.

Kyrpa said listening to these songs and dancing at the clean-up raves is therapeutic for volunteers. But the music isn’t just for fun — it also makes the work more sustainable.

“In order to repair all these things that unfortunately were destroyed, volunteering must become a lifestyle for our whole generation. … And in order to do that, volunteering must be partly joyful besides being useful.”

Dima Kyrpa, founder, Repair Together, Kyiv, Ukraine

“In order to repair all these things that unfortunately were destroyed, volunteering must become a lifestyle for our whole generation,” he said. “And in order to do that, volunteering must be partly joyful besides being useful.”

Since April, Repair Together has cleaned up 16 villages, 200 houses, and three cultural houses — public buildings that host libraries, children’s theaters and local choirs. Kyrpa said he also has teams rebuilding 16 private homes right now. It’s taken more than 3,000 volunteers to get the job done.

“Mostly, we have Ukrainians, but the initiative became international,” he said, adding that volunteers have come from the Netherlands, Slovakia, Germany and the US. 

“For instance, we have one guy who arrived three days ago from Michigan. He is an experienced and professional carpenter.”

Donations are coming in from abroad, as well. But Kyrpa said the group doesn’t accept donations from Ukrainians, because they feel those resources should be going toward defense, not reconstruction.

Related: ‘You continue to live’: Some people step up to help Ukrainians cope with the trauma of war

The US Senate passed a bill with assistance to Ukraine for $12.3 billion

The government of Ukraine will receive, among other things, $4.5 billion for its own needs and $3 billion worth of weapons. The project was supported by 75 senators, only 25 Republicans opposed it. The minority leader called the document a contribution to US security

The US Senate approved a bill on short-term government spending until mid-December, which provides for the provision of financial and military assistance to Ukraine for $12.3 billion, writes The New York Times.

72 senators voted for, against— 25, and all who voted against were Republicans. After approval in the Senate, the bill is sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The approved aid package for Ukraine includes, inter alia, $4.5 billion for the country's government fund, $3 billion for weapons, equipment and other military support, $2.8 billion for the Pentagon, which will allow President Joe Biden to transfer up to $3.7 billion

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell emphasized that the allocation of funds to help Ukraine is not “some nice symbolic gesture”, but an investment in US national security and the security of allies.

The United States began to support Ukraine before the outbreak of hostilities and stepped up support after Russia launched a special operation. Biden, with the approval of Congress, signed two documents on the supply of weapons to Ukraine— Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act and Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act. The first provides assistance for a total of $13.6 billion, the second— $40 billion

During several months of the conflict, by the end of June, the United States became the largest donor of humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine. By that time, Kyiv received from Washington humanitarian support for $9.4 billion, financial support for $9.5 billion, military support— $25.5 billion, calculated RBC. By mid-September, the Pentagon reported on the transfer of 140 artillery systems and 660 thousand shells and missiles to Ukraine by mid-September.

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Russian authorities criticize Western military support for Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow would achieve its goals, and such actions only prolong the conflict. The Foreign Ministry believes that the United States has become “actually a party to the conflict”, accusing Washington of “losing touch with reality”.

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Trump offered his mediation to Russia and Ukraine

Former US President Trump has asked if he could lead a negotiating team on Russia and Ukraine The conflict in Ukraine has “the whole world at stake,” but both sides would like to agree on an end to hostilities, Trump said. He also saw the risk of “serious escalation or war” in the situation around Nord Stream ” media=”(max-width: 320px) and (-webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), (max-width: 320px) and (min-resolution: 192dpi)” >

Trump offered his mediation to Russia and Ukraine

Former U.S. President Donald Trump asked on Truth Social if he could lead a negotiating team between Russia and Ukraine, Business Insider writes.

“Be strategic, be smart. Close the deal now. Both sides need it and want it. The whole world is at stake. Shall I lead the group?,— he wrote.

Trump also expressed confidence that the Nord Stream pipeline would sabotage occurred, warning of the risk of “major escalation or war.” The ex-president of the United States called on the country's authorities to be calm and calm in relation to what happened with Nord Stream. The incident should not provoke a “big decision, at least not yet,” Trump warned.

Trump has previously said that, prior to the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine, he considered the increase in tension in this situation to be a “smart way to negotiate.” Trump expressed confidence that hostilities in Ukraine would not have begun if he had retained the presidency. “There will be nothing left but death and destruction” if there are no negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, the ex-President of the United States emphasized.

The negotiation process between Russia and Ukraine was frozen in early April after publications about the deaths of civilians in the city of Bucha, Kyiv region, the Russian authorities consider reports of this to be a staged and provocation. Kyiv warned that the dialogue would be impossible to resume if Moscow recognized the referendums in the Russian-occupied Kherson and part of the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine, the LPR and the DPR. “Another attempt to annex Ukrainian territory will mean that we have nothing to talk about with the President of Russia,” — noted at the end of September, President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Read on RBC Pro Pro What costs will companies have to bear when preparing for mobilization How To Pro What industries will be hit by new EU sanctions Forecasts Pro No worries: practical techniques for managing stress Pro How to why Adobe buys Figma and why it angers investors and users Articles Pro Cross Pollination: How the Environment Forms Leaders, and the Environment Forms Leaders Articles Pro How to Use a Foreign Account and Avoid Tax Penalties Instructions Pro Forward to the USSR: Soviet Skills That Will Help You in Work and Life us people to be torn to pieces by executioners. Referendums were held from 23 to 27 September. The civil-military administrations of the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, as well as the authorities of the DPR and LPR, provided data according to which the voters supported the inclusion of the regions into Russia by a majority of votes.

Treaties on the inclusion of new regions into Russia will be signed by the president on Friday , September 30, announced in the Kremlin.

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How will the Marker robot be finalized to participate in hostilities in Ukraine?

Plot Russian special operation in Donbass and Ukraine

In Russia will create a new version of the promising robotic platform "Marker". It is being upgraded to perform special tasks in Ukraine. It is known that the combat robot will retain its weight and dimensions, but at the same time, its functionality will be significantly expanded.

At present, the project has been launched, the selection of enterprises is underway, which will have to adapt weapons systems intended for installation on this Marker-2 robotic platform. It is assumed that the new robot will be able to work both in urban conditions, and in the frontline zone. The tasks are not set yet quite specific — protection, liquidation of consequences of emergency situations and maintenance of auxiliary works.

Previously, for military use "Marker" taught to work with small arms and destroy ground and air targets. He has a Utes machine gun in  and a block of two RPG-26 grenade launchers. With this weapon, the platform has successfully passed a series of firing tests, during which the firing algorithm of machine guns was worked out in automatic mode, and also under the control of an operator. Also, this platform can autonomously aim at mobile and fixed targets, although it opens fire only on the operator's command.

Also confirmed the possibility of “Markers” use intelligence, control and communications complexes. A module with unmanned aerial vehicles can be installed on its board, which provides autonomous launch of a large group of unmanned aerial vehicles. This option was confirmed by the successful pilot launch of 20 multirotor drones. During the experiment each performed the tasks in as a group and individually. In the  perspective, the complex can be armed with kamikaze strike drones.

This combat platform was created according to the modular principle, it is a technological constructor that allows you to quickly install a variety of payloads and surveillance systems on the robot. The robot is equipped with remote control means, an autopilot, a computer system, and technical vision, etc.  The composition of the equipment can be changed to perform different tasks. The robot can operate both in autonomous mode and in radio-controlled distance from two to five kilometers. But in the perspective, the developers want to teach the robot to perform tasks at a removal of the operator hundreds and of kilometers.

Marker robotic platform project started in March 2018 as a joint development of the Advanced Research Foundation and Android Technology Research and Production Association, the latter made the Fedor robot. In total, two tracked and three wheeled autonomous platforms were made, equipped with a unified payload module and a cluster launch module for unmanned aerial vehicles. “Marker” has two versions: tracked and wheeled, the first has a weight of 3 tons, accelerates to 70 km/h and can drive 600 km on one charge, the second — 4.5 tons, maximum speed 80 km/h, has a cruising range of 1 thousand km.

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The LPR announced the “activation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine” along the entire front line

People's Militia of the LPR: due to referendums, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have become more active on all fronts The USA and Ukraine refused to recognize them

Ukrainian troops have increased their activity along the entire length of the front, the territory of the Luhansk People's Republic is increasingly being shelled, said Ivan Filiponenko, a representative of the People's Militia of the LPR. His words are reported by the Lugansk information center.

“In our opinion, this is the reaction of the Ukrainian army to the fact that the counting of votes in the referendum is being carried out and [this] is increasingly, let's say, actively giving an understanding that civilians, including the liberated territories, do not want to be with Ukraine, — he suggested, calling what was happening “animal aggression.”

The LPR considers the administrative borders of the Luhansk region to be its state borders, Russia recognized the independence of the republic within the borders of the region in February.

Referendums on joining Russia were held in the LPR, DPR and in the territories of the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops. Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to support their results, emphasizing the lack of the right to “give people close to us to be torn apart by executioners.” “We cannot but respond to their sincere desire to determine their own destiny,” — he said. During the same address, Putin announced the introduction of partial mobilization in Russia and promised to defend the country with all available means.

As of 21:30 Moscow time, 98.54% of the LPR residents supported joining Russia, 91.2% of the protocols were processed, Elena Kravchenko, chairman of the Luhansk CEC, announced. The head of the LPR, Leonid Pasechnik, after the first results of the referendum, announced his intention to go to Moscow “today or tomorrow” to meet with Putin and appeal to him with a request to accept the republic into the country. “It is already obvious that the Luhansk region will return to Russia,” — he emphasized. Pasechnik also did not rule out that martial law would be introduced in the republic.

The United States, Turkey and Serbia have said they do not recognize the results of the referendums in the Donbass and in the south of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops. Belgrade considered that the recognition of the vote was contrary to the national interests of Serbia, and the Turkish authorities pointed to the consistent support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, manifested in the non-recognition of the loss of Crimea by Kyiv. “This is a fiction, a false pretext for attempts to annex parts of Ukraine by force, which is a flagrant violation of international law,” — US President Joe Biden praised the holding of referendums.

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Peskov called the minimum goal of the Russian special operation in Ukraine

Dmitry Peskov: the minimum goal of the Russian operation in Ukraine is the liberation of the DPR (max-width: 320px) and (-webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), (max-width: 320px) and (min-resolution: 192dpi)” >

Peskov called the minimum goal of the Russian special operation in Ukraine

Military operations in Ukraine after the annexation of the LPR, DPR and other territories to Russia will continue, “at least” it is necessary to liberate the entire territory of the DPR, Dmitry Peskov told reporters, RIA Novosti reports.

“At least what I can tell you with absolute accuracy, you know that not all territories of the Donetsk People’s Republic still released. We are talking about the territory that is within the boundaries of 2014. Therefore, at a minimum, it is necessary to liberate the entire territory of the Donetsk People's Republic, — he explained.

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The Ministry of Defense announced attacks on the warehouses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Nikolaev and Zaporozhye

During the day, Russia launched strikes on 163 areas where Ukrainian military and equipment were located, and a Su-24 bomber was also shot down, the Defense Ministry said in a briefing. The agency reported on 302 downed aircraft of the Armed Forces of Ukraine since the end of February

Over the past day, Russian troops have attacked three warehouses of ammunition and missile and artillery weapons of Ukraine in the cities of Nikolaev, Zaporozhye and Kramatorsk, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported.

“Fighter aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces in the area of ​​​​the settlement of Selidovo, Donetsk People's Republic, shot down a Su-24 of the Ukrainian Air Force,” — added in the department.

In addition, the Russian military reported strikes on five command posts of the Armed Forces of Ukraine located near Kamyshevakhi, Zaporozhye region, Vysokopolye, Kherson region, Kupyansk, Kharkiv region, as well as near Shchurovo and Kirovo, located on the territory of Donetsk regions of Ukraine (the DPR considers its administrative borders to be their state borders, Russia recognized the independence of the republic in February).

The strikes were also carried out on Ukrainian servicemen, military equipment and 56 artillery units in 163 regions of Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry added.

Russia sent troops to Ukraine more than seven months ago— on the night of February 24th. President Vladimir Putin justified his decision by the desire to protect the inhabitants of Donbass from the “genocide by the Kyiv regime”, as well as to “restore” sovereignty of the Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics. On the morning of September 21, the president announced partial mobilization, the Ministry of Defense claims that 300 thousand people will be called up.

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The United States saw a threat to Ukraine when recognizing Russia as a sponsor of terrorism

White House: Recognizing Russia as a sponsor of terrorism will limit Ukraine's flexibility in negotiations The US has better options than recognizing Russia as a sponsor of terrorism, according to the White House. Blinken noted that this status could become “rather counterproductive.” The Russian Foreign Ministry did not rule out the rupture of diplomatic relations with the United States 320px) and (-webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), (max-width: 320px) and (min-resolution: 192dpi)” >

John Kirby

Recognizing Russia as a sponsor of terrorism will complicate Kyiv's negotiating position, there are better tools to put pressure on Moscow, John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator at the White House National Security Council, said at a briefing in the White House. The broadcast was on YouTube.

“President [Joe Biden] has made it very clear that we believe there are better alternatives to holding Russia to account and increasing the costs and other consequences for its actions in Ukraine,” said Kirby.

He clarified that if recognized, a deal on the export of Ukrainian grain, the supply of humanitarian aid to Ukraine would be difficult, which would threaten food security, in addition, the position of President Volodymyr Zelensky during the negotiations would be limited, “when and if it comes to this.”

The desire to give Russia this status was also criticized by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, explaining that sanctions have already been imposed against Moscow, which are applied against the countries — sponsors of terrorism. However, giving Russia that status would have “unintended consequences,” he warned.

“What we do,” mdash; we are working with congress right now to see if there is another way that can be achieved by using the country designation — sponsor of terrorism without any unintended consequences that would make it more counter-productive than productive,— Blinken said, reports CNN.

The recognition by the United States of any country as a sponsor of terrorism implies severe sanctions: a ban on the export of goods for the defense sector, control over the export of dual-use products, financial restrictions, and others. In addition, by law, if a country is recognized as a sponsor of terrorism, the United States can impose sanctions against other states that maintain trade relations with it.

The United States has recognized four states as sponsors of terrorism: Syria (in December 1979), Iran (January 1984), North Korea (November 2017) and Cuba (January 2021).

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Recognize Russia as a country — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked American colleague Joe Biden to sponsor terrorism, The Washington Post wrote in April, citing sources. According to the newspaper, he did not make any specific statements in response, noting that he was ready to explore different methods of pressure on Russia.

The US Congress will independently designate Russia as a sponsor of terrorism if the State Department does not do so, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi warned Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Politico sources said. An unnamed interlocutor of the newspaper noted that there are no legal reasons that could prevent Congress from passing such a resolution. “Passing legislation by Congress is obviously a more difficult route than a secretary decision, but it will give the administration the political cover it needs to escalate economic pressure and anti-Putin rhetoric,” he believes.

In mid-September, Republican and Democratic US Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) introduced a bill.

The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that recognition would be a “point of no return” in relations between the two countries “with the most serious collateral damage to bilateral diplomatic relations.” The ministry did not rule out that diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States could be severed as a result.

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Ukraine approves criminal punishment for obtaining a Russian passport

The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved a draft on criminal punishment for obtaining Russian citizenship Obtaining a Russian passport, according to the bill, is justified if it is needed to return through Russia and third countries to Ukraine

The Ukrainian government has agreed on a bill on criminal responsibility for obtaining Russian citizenship. This was announced by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for the Reintegration of Uncontrolled Territories of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk, reports.

“Unfortunately, international law does not contain adequate norms to counter illegal Russian passportization on the territory of Ukraine. Therefore, we must respond by strengthening the criminal legislation,— she said.

According to the bill, criminal liability is introduced:

  • for obtaining a Russian passport by civil servants— from 10 to 15 years;
  • for forcing citizens of Ukraine to obtain a Russian passport— 8 to 12 years old;
  • for creating conditions in which the failure to obtain a Russian passport will lower the rights of a Ukrainian citizen or otherwise put him in a disadvantageous position, & mdash; from 8 to 12 years old;
  • for promoting Russian citizenship— from 5 to 8 years.

Specialists from the General Prosecutor's Office, the Security Service of Ukraine, as well as human rights activists and people's deputies participated in the drafting of the bill. Now the document is being prepared for submission to the Verkhovna Rada.

Obtaining a Russian passport, according to the bill, is justified only if it is needed to return through Russia and third countries to Ukraine.

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In late May, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree granting residents of Zaporizhia, as well as the Russian-controlled Kherson region, the right to obtain citizenship of the country in a simplified manner.

After that, passport issuance centers were opened in the cities of Zaporozhye occupied by Russian troops. They work in Berdyansk, Melitopol, Energodar and other cities in the region. Russian passports began to be issued in the Zaporozhye region on June 11.

In late August, the Ministry of Defense announced that more than 8,000 residents of the Zaporozhye region, part of which is controlled by Russian troops, have received Russian citizenship.

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