There is a display of Russian disarray as Ukrainian forces advance on two Fronts

Russia is not going to Win! Why Russia is fighting for NATO, NATO, and the EU in Ukraine, says Aleksandr Dugin

After weeks of heavy fighting, Russia retreated from a riverbank that had served as a natural dividing line between Russia and the Ukrainians.

The war in Ukraine drew a bright line under the period of High Putinism, a decade that began with Putin’s controversial return to the presidency in 2012. In hindsight, that era was related to the war, as Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and supported armed terrorists in the east of Ukranian.

Russian forces were plagued by desertion, poor planning, and delayed arrivals in the last few days of their occupation, according to an article published Sunday by Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Shurokin suggested on Moscow television last week that the Kremlin has a new objective to keep Ukraine out of NATO and the EU. Shurokin said: “We just want one thing, for Ukraine to be independent of the West and NATO and be friendly to the Russian state.”

On Russia’s flagship Sunday political show, “News of the Week,” there wasn’t even mention of the fall of Lyman until after more than an hour of laudatory coverage of Russia’s annexation of 89 regions in the world views as illegal.

But the soldiers interviewed on the Sunday broadcast said they had been forced to retreat because they were fighting not only with Ukrainians, but with NATO soldiers.

“These are no longer toys here. They are part of a systematic offensive by army and NATO forces, said the deputy commander of a Russian battalion. The soldier said that his unit had been listening in on conversations by soldiers from other countries.

The broadcast seemed intended to convince Russians who have doubts about the war or feel anger over plans to call up as many as 300,000 civilians that any hardships they bear are to be blamed on a West that is bent on destroying Russia at all costs.

The idea that Russia is fighting a broader campaign was repeated in an interview with Aleksandr Dugin, a far-right thinker whose daughter, also a prominent nationalist commentator, was killed by a car bomb in August.

Mr. Dugin, like Mr. Putin, has accused Western countries of damaging the Nord Stream gas pipelines, which ruptured after underwater explosions last month in what both European and Russian leaders have called an act of sabotage.

He said that the West accused them of blowing up the gas line. The war between us and the West is on the scale and extent that it is unfolding. In other words, we must join this battle with a mortal enemy who does not hesitate to use any means, including exploding gas pipelines.”

The nonstop messaging campaign may be working, at least for now. Many Russians feel threatened by the West, said a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who is from Russia.

There is anger and fear but it is not necessarily against Putin, he said in a phone interview. “Part of the anger, even among those avoiding mobilization, is against the West, or Ukrainians.”

The Cost of Chaos: CNN’s Peter Bergen Reports on the Soviet Invasion of the United States in 1979–1994 War on Ukraine

Editor’s Note: Peter Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst, a vice president at New America, and a professor of practice at Arizona State University. Bergen is the author of The Cost of Chaos. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

President Putin ordered Russian troops to enter the country early in the morning. “And all of a sudden, everything we still believed in got completely compromised,” Soldatov, a Russian investigative journalist who lives in self-imposed exile in London, told CNN.

With his allies expressing concern, as well as hundreds of thousands of citizens fleeing partial deployment, Putin has once again taken to making speeches offering his distorted view of history.

(Indeed, his revisionist account defines his rationale for the war in Ukraine, which he asserts has historically always been part of Russia – even though Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union more than three decades ago.)

The Soviets planned to install a puppet government and get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible after invading the country in December 1979 according to a recent book.

The US was reluctant to increase their support for the Afghan resistance due to a larger conflict with the Soviet Union. The Soviets gave up their total air superiority in Afghanistan within three years, after the CIA gave the Afghans highly effective anti-aircraft missiles.

American weapons are once again a decisive part of Russian fortunes on the battlefield. At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the US was also initially leery of deeper involvement, fearing a wider conflict with the Russians.

The satellite-guided HIMARS — short for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System — currently have a range of 80 kilometers. Ukrainian pleas were ignored, despite a longer-range 300- kilometer Heimers not yet being authorized. (The Biden administration has worried that the longer-range system could expand the war beyond Ukraine’s frontiers and lead to an escalation of hostilities.)

Is Ukraine like Russia or nothing like Russia? Russo-Japanese War in 1917, 1918 and the Second World War: The Case of Russia

Putin is also surely aware that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was hastened by the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan two years earlier.

Looking further back into the history books, he must also know that the Russian loss in the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 weakened the Romanov monarchy. Czar Nicholas II’s feckless leadership during the First World War then precipitated the Russian Revolution in 1917. Subsequently, much of the Romanov family was killed by a Bolshevik firing squad.

And that’s the worrying thing. It is not about ending the war in Russia, it is about fixing the mistakes that forced a retreat, reinforced discipline and doubled down on Ukraine.

If you stayed out of politics, you could find a job in St.Petersburg or Moscow and still have a nice life. The bargain is no longer available. Russia is further than ever from Europe, and it remains to be seen if support for an open-ended war can be sustained.

Putin is a tragic example of how the delusions and illusions of one individual can be allowed to shape events without a critical challenge. Autocrats who put their cronies into key positions, control the media to crowd out discordant voices … are able to command their subordinates to follow the most foolish orders.”

“First of all, we need to stop lying,” said Andrei Kartopolov, a former colonel-general in the Russian military and a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. We’ve brought this up before. But somehow it’s apparently not getting through to individual senior figures.”

The ministry of defense had been evading the truth about Ukrainian cross-border strikes in Russian regions, said Kartapolov.

Valuyki is in Russia’s Belgorod region, near the border with Ukraine. The stance of the Ukranian government when it comes to striking Russian targets across the border is a mixture of neither confirms nor denies.

Before and after images of Ukraine are very similar to each other. They are not based on knowledge of the country or the people who live it but on mythology. The mythology in Ukraine is shaped by Russia. Whether people think of Ukraine as just like Russia or nothing like Russia, many still don’t know what Ukraine really is. Ukraine has a story to tell about freedom after centuries of oppression by the Soviet Union.

Stremousov said that there is no need for a shadow to be cast over the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, because incompetent commanders were not accountable for the processes and gaps that exist today. “Indeed, many say that the Minister of Defense [Sergei Shoigu], who allowed this situation to happen, could, as an officer, shoot himself. But, you know, the word officer is an unfamiliar word for many.”

But after Russia’s retreat from the strategic Ukrainian city of Lyman, Kadyrov has been a lot less shy about naming names when it comes to blaming Russian commanders.

Kadyrov accused Colonel-General Lapin of failing to provide adequately for his troops and of moving his headquarters away from his subordinates.

“The Russian information space has significantly deviated from the narratives preferred by the Kremlin and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) that things are generally under control,” ISW noted in its recent analysis.

Kadyrov has been one of the more prominent voices in arguing for the elimination of the use of brutal methods of the past. He recently said in another Telegram post that, if he had his way, he would give the government extraordinary wartime powers in Russia.

“I would declare martial law throughout the country and use any weapon because we are at war with the whole NATO bloc,” Kadyrov said in a post that also seemed to echo Putin’s not-so-subtle threats.

Monday’s Ukraine-Russia Interaction During the First Day of the War: MICHAEL BUCCIURKIW’s View

Michael Bociurkiw is a global affairs analyst. He is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former spokesperson for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He is a commentator for CNN. The opinions he expresses are of his own. View more opinion at CNN.

Fear of reprisals by the Kremlin were never far away after the massive explosion that hit the strategic and symbolic Kerch Straight bridge over the weekend.

But with the ability to target major Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Russia has shown that it can still cause immense damage and dislocation. Monday’s strikes heightens Russia-Ukraine conflict to one of its most dangerous phases since 2014. The tension was high after Putin said tactical nuclear weapons are on the table.

The significance of the strikes on central Kyiv, and close to the government quarter, cannot be overstated. Western governments should see it as a red line being crossed on this 229th day of the war.

As of midday local time, the area around my office in Odesa remained eerily quiet in between air raid sirens, with reports that three missiles and five kamikaze drones were shot down. (Normally at this time of the day, nearby restaurants would be heaving with customers, and chatter of plans for upcoming weddings and parties).

The attacks came a few hours after Zaporizhzhia was hit with several strikes on apartment buildings while people slept. At least 17 people were killed and several dozens injured.

In a video filmed outside his office Monday, a defiant President Volodymyr Zelensky said it appeared many of the 100 or so missile strikes across Ukraine were aimed at the country’s energy infrastructure. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that 11 important infrastructure facilities have been damaged and some provinces are without power.

In scenes similar to the early days of the war, a few Kyiv media outlets temporarily moved their operations to underground bomb shelters. A small group of people were singing patriotic Ukrainian songs as large numbers of other people took cover in a metro station serving as a shelter.

Indeed, millions of people in cities across Ukraine will be spending most of the day in bomb shelters, at the urging of officials, while businesses have been asked to shift work online as much as possible.

The attacks could cause more damage to business confidence, as many of the asylum seekers returning home are from the same region.

For Putin, the symbolism of the only bridge linking mainland Russia and Crimea cannot be overstated. An attack on a president a day after his 70th birthday can be seen as a blow to an aging autocrat who can cope with shame and humiliation.

Hardwiring newly claimed territory with expensive, record-breaking infrastructure projects seems to be a penchant of dictators. Putin opened the bridge in Europe by driving a truck across it. The world’s longest sea crossing bridge was built after Beijing took over Macau and Hong Kong. Two years of delays have ended with the opening of the road bridge.

The explosion in Ukraine and the West as a wake-up call for U.S. security forces: Why should the West care? What next? What can we do about it?

The explosion in Ukrainians lit up social media channels like a Christmas tree. Many shared their sense of jubilation via text messages.

Facing increased criticism at home and being placed on thin ice by it was an act of selfish desperation.

Before Monday’s strikes, the Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate at Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, had told Ukrainian journalist Roman Kravets in late August that, “by the end of the year at the minimum we have to enter Crimea” – suggesting a plan to push back Russian forces to pre-2014 lines, which is massively supported by Ukrainians I’ve spoken to.

What is crucially important now is for Washington and other allies to use urgent telephone diplomacy to urge China and India – which presumably still have some leverage over Putin – to resist the urge to use even more deadly weapons.

According to the West, the most important thing at the moment is to show unity and resolve against a man who probes for weakness. Western governments also need to realize that rhetoric and sanctions have little if no impact on Putin’s actions. They need to continue to arm Ukrainians and provide urgent training, even if it means sending military experts closer to the battlefield to speed up the integration of high technology weapons.

High tech defense systems are needed to protect energy infrastructure around the country. It’s urgent to protect heating systems as winter looms.

The time has also come for the West to further isolate Russia with trade and travel restrictions – but for that to have sufficient impact, Turkey and Gulf states, which receive many Russian tourists, need to be pressured to come on board.

The Bombing of the Metros on Monday: A Demonstration of Putin’s Strategy for a War in Ukraine and a Challenge to the United States

The war in the subways took a toll on the city’s inhabitants and they haven’t been back to normal since.

The message was clear for the world to see. Putin doesn’t want to be humiliated. He will not admit defeat. He is prepared to wreak carnage and terror in response to his recent battlefield reversals.

But the targets on Monday also had little military value and, if anything, served to reflect Putin’s need to find new targets because of his inability to inflict defeats on Ukraine on the battlefield.

The bombing of power installations, in particular, Monday appeared to be an unsubtle hint of the misery the Russian President could inflict as winter sets in, even as his forces retreat in the face of Ukrainian troops using Western arms.

The White House didn’t specify what might be sent to the President, but he offered air systems that would help defend against the Russian air attacks.

John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, suggested Washington was looking favorably on Ukraine’s requests and was in touch with the government in Kyiv almost every day. “We do the best we can in subsequent packages to meet those needs,” he told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.

Kirby was unable to say whether Putin was shifting his strategy from a losing battlefield war to a campaign to batter the civilian population, and he suggested that it was already in the works.

It was something that they have been planning for a long time. Now that’s not to say that the explosion on the Crimea bridge might have accelerated some of their planning,” Kirby said.

An attack on civilians is consistent with that of the new Russian general in charge of the war, who served in Chechnya and Syria. In both places, Russia indiscriminately bombarded civilian areas and razed built-up districts and infrastructure and is accused of committing serious human rights violations.

The rain of fire against Ukrainian civilians on Monday was also chilling, given that it occurred following Putin’s latest nuclear threats and days of debate over whether he might use a tactical nuclear weapon. It is not likely that he would want to spare innocents from this horrible weapon, if he did not. Still, Kirby said that there was no indication that Russia was activating nuclear arms or that the US needed to change its own nuclear posture.

The attacks on Ukraine may be the beginning of another pivot in the conflict, pointed out the President of France.

He was telling us where he would go in the winter. He is going to attempt to force the Ukrainian population to give up territory in favor of the Russians, Vindman said on CNN.

The Russian Ministry of Defense is claiming that its soldiers cell phone use exposed their location after the Ukrainian military launched a strike on the city of Makiivka early New Year’s Day.

If we had modern equipment, we’d be able to shoot down more drones and missiles and not kill innocent civilians or hurt Ukrainians.

Any campaign against civilians by Putin would be intended to break Ukrainian’s hearts and possibly cause a new flood of refugees to enter Western Europe that might hurt Russia’s ties with NATO allies.

The lesson of this horrible war is that everything Putin has done to fracture a nation he doesn’t believe has the right to exist has only strengthened and unified it.

Olena Gnes, a mother of three who is documenting the war on video, told CNN that she was angry at the return of violence to the lives of Ukrainians from a new round of Russian terror.

She said, “This is just another terror to cause panic, to scare you guys in other countries, or to show to his own people that he is still a bloody tyrant.”

We need to get this done as fast as possible because we know after this war is over, we will have peace here.

Russia’s state media has insisted for months that it was only hitting military targets in Ukraine, despite the suffering that the invasion has caused.

State television reported on the suffering on Monday and also flaunted it. It showed plumes of smoke and carnage in central Kyiv, along with empty store shelves and a long-range forecast promising months of freezing temperatures there.

Andelman’s Failure to Win: The European Road Map to Strengthen Europe Against Russian Encounters with the Kremlin

Editor’s Note: David A. Andelman, a contributor to CNN, twice winner of the Deadline Club Award, is a chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, author of “A Red Line in the Sand: Diplomacy, Strategy, and the History of Wars That Might Still Happen” and blogs at Andelman Unleashed. He was a correspondent for both CBS News and The New York Times. The views in this commentary are not those of his employer. View more opinion at CNN.

First, he’s seeking to distract his nation from the blindingly obvious, namely that he is losing badly on the battlefield and utterly failing to achieve even the vastly scaled back objectives of his invasion.

This ability to keep going depends on a host of variables – ranging from the availability of critical and affordable energy supplies for the coming winter, to the popular will across a broad range of nations with often conflicting priorities.

European Union powers agreed on a road map to control energy prices after embargoes on Russian imports and the cut of natural gas by the Kremlin in the early hours of Friday.

There is an emergency cap on the Dutch Title Transfer Facility, and permission for EU gas companies to form a group and buy gas on the international market.

While the French President said that he was happy with the summit, he conceded that the European Commission only has a mandate to start working on a gas cap mechanism.

Still, divisions remain, with Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, skeptical of any price caps. The ministers must work out details with Germany about how the caps will affect supplies.

Europe is faced with dealing with Russia in a state of denial and hopes it will evolve into a state of decline. The risk for Europe would be overstating its potential as a threat if it had underestimated Moscow’s malice.

Italy’s new prime minister: What does she want to tell us about the crisis in the EU? And what does Congress have to do about it?

Germany and France are already at loggerheads on many of these issues. Though in an effort to reach some accommodation, Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have scheduled a conference call for Wednesday.

And now a new government has taken power in Italy. There was a change in leadership as the first woman prime minister of Italy on Saturday when Giorgia Meloni took charge. One of her far-right partners expressed deep admiration for Putin.

The leader of Italy’s party spoke about the 20 bottles of booze Putin sent to him and a letter he received on his 86th birthday.

The other leading member of the ruling Italian coalition, Matteo Salvini, named Saturday as deputy prime minister, said during the campaign, “I would not want the sanctions [on Russia] to harm those who impose them more than those who are hit by them.”

Poland and Hungary, which had been bosom buddies, now have differing opinions over the EU’s policies towards Ukraine that seem to reduce their influence. Poland has taken deep offense at the pro-Putin sentiments of Hungary’s populist leader Viktor Orban.

Kevin McCarthy, poised to become Speaker of the House if Republicans take control after next month’s elections, said in a recent interview that people would not be writing a blank check if they suffered a recession. They will not do it.

On Monday, the influential 30-member Congressional progressive caucus called on Biden to open talks with Russia on ending the conflict while its troops are still occupying vast stretches of the country and missiles and drones are striking deep into the interior.

Hours later, caucus chair Mia Jacob, facing a firestorm of criticism, emailed reporters with a statement “clarifying” their remarks in support of Ukraine. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba to renew America’s support.

Indeed, while the US has proffered more than $60 billion in aid since Biden took office, when Congress authorized $40 billion for Ukraine last May, only Republicans voted against the latest aid package.

The Ukrainians have learned that they’re stronger than they thought. Have those who have underestimated them learned their lessons? Military aid has made the Ukranian people survive and not crush the enemy.

All these actions point to an increasing desperation by Russia to access vitally-needed components for production of high-tech weaponry stalled by western sanctions and embargos that have begun to strangle the Kremlin’s military-industrial complex.

The report said that the Russian production of hypersonic missiles was almost completely stopped because of the lack of necessary semi-conductors. Plants producing anti-aircraft systems have shut down and aircraft are being cannibalized for spare parts. The Soviet era ended more than 30 years ago.

A day before this report, the US announced seizure of all property of a top Russian procurement agent Yury Orekhov and his agencies “responsible for procuring US-origin technologies for Russian end-users…including advanced semiconductors and microprocessors.”

The Justice Department also announced charges against individuals and companies seeking to smuggle high-tech equipment into Russia in violation of sanctions.

Donetsk vs Moscow: The real intention of Pavel Gubarev, the puppet leader of Ukraine, and his reference to Vladimir Putin

Still, there remain hardliners like Pavel Gubarev, Russia’s puppet leader in Donetsk, who voiced his real intention toward Ukrainians: “We aren’t coming to kill you, but to convince you. But if you don’t want to be convinced, we’ll kill you. We’ll kill as many as we have to: 1 million, 5 million, or exterminate all of you.”

A monograph was written about the work of the special projects curator at the Ukrainian Institute London, and the associate lecturer in Ukrainian at University College London. She has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Birkbeck, University of London. She divides her time between the UK and Ukraine. The IWAM project Documenting Ukraine supports her work. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

The man known as “Vladimir Putin’s chef” admitted to Russian interference in US elections in a post on Monday.

I will answer in a way that is delicately and I apologize, but it will be ambiguous. We interfered and we will do it again, Prigoshyn said.

War, Love, Death and Christmas in Ukraine: The Dark Side of Prigozhin’s Campaign for the Democratic Presidential Candidate

It was carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way. We will remove the organs at once during our operations.

The Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, were hacked in the fall of 2016 by Russia-linked hackers. Those documents were released during the homestretch of the campaign to embarrass the Democratic nominee.

It’s a matter of intense debate, how close is it? In an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Russian author and journalist Mikhail Zygar called Prigozhin’s ambitions “the most hot topic for speculation in Moscow,” noting that he is accumulating a political following that would potentially allow him to challenge Putin.

In September, Prigozhin admitted to founding the Wagner Group – a private mercenary group accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine – after years of denying involvement with the outfit.

Long nights with the promise of a miracle: December is the month of fairy tales, when we peer into the darkness only to be reassured of the “happily ever after.”

“We used to joke that our life was like a dark fairy tale inclined towards a happy ending. Ievheniia, a Ukrainian woman in Poland who is nursing her two-month-old son and grieving for the child’s father, says that the war is over.

Denys, Ievheniia’s husband, was killed on November 18 defending Ukraine against Russia. The 47-year-old died at the site of some of the war’s heaviest fighting, near the city of Bakhmut in the east of the country. There has been a Ukrainian line there for months, with soldiers waist deep in mud and bomb craters.

In this dark Ukrainian fairy tale, pivotal moments – from marriage ceremony to funeral – take place via video link. In a time of war, love shifted to the digital space and was disrupted in the middle of the plot.

A sports medicine physician and reserve officer, Ievheniia is ready to join Ukraine’s army over the course of eight years. “I am not the kind of person who flees,” she explained.

The festive season is well underway in the streets of Warsaw. The Christmas is just around the corner. Ievheniia said people don’t want to be reminded that someone is suffering. “And yet, they must be aware that this fight is unfolding right next to them.”

Ievheniia finally arrived at the enlistment office after driving across the country under Russian bombardment. She had to sign a contract with the military the same day after she was interviewed on a Friday.

On the weekend, she decided to take a pregnancy test, just in case. She said the ground was slipping under one’s feet during the war. “On top of that, it turned out that I was pregnant.”

The plot was changed after the woman who planned to defend her homeland became a refugee in Poland.

A magical time for Ievheniia and Denys, the only Ukrainian servicemen left by a warsaw woman’s wedding

After being separated by war, Ievheniia and Denys sought to confirm their relationship in the state’s eyes. The everyday ingenuity of the country at war was at work; now, Ukrainian servicemen are allowed to marry via a video call. “Instead of (by) boring civil servants, we got married remotely by a handsome man in a uniform. I had nothing to complain about,” Ievheniia said.

Over the following months, Denys kept the magic alive via the Internet, with flower deliveries and professional photoshoots ordered for Ievheniia from the trenches.

When one morning she did not pick up the phone, Denys raised the alarm all over Warsaw and a rescue squad found Ievheniia unconscious in her rented flat. There was a chance that death could have resulted from the delay. There was a Caesarean section. Because the baby was born two months early, the father was able to meet his new son.

Under martial law, Ukrainian men of fighting age, let alone servicemen, are not currently allowed to leave the country. Denys got permission to cross the border, and spent a few days with his family.

It was a magical time filled with common things, such as shopping and registration. Then he left. It was his birthday on November 17 and we sent him greetings,” Ievheniia remembered. “The next day he was killed.”


Why does Russia need more troops? How Ukrainians will respond to Moscow’s desperate plea for more recruits and support in the fight against evil

Italo Calvino, the celebrated Italian journalist and editor of folktales, among other works, called them “consolatory fables” because it is that a rare fairy tale ends badly. If it does, it means the time to be consoled has not yet come. The time has come to act.

And we must not be deluded by the narrative logic of a fairy tale. The wily kid won’t use magic to defeat the monster. Like ten months ago, Ukrainians need military aid sufficient to bring a decisive victory over Russia, not just prolong the fight with enormous sacrifices. Our collective effort is what makes Ukrainian victory possible.

I wondered what I would do in a battle against evil when I was a teenager. I would like to turn away and continue my daily life. I was told by Ievheniia. It’s our chance to find out today.

Despite the Kremlin denying it needed more recruits, Moscow has begun a new campaign to encourage Russians to join the armed forces.

Fighting for the Cause of Democracy: Video footage of a Russian soldier abandoning a family member because he was a soldier fighting for the military

A video posted on December 14 shows a young man who is choosing to fight instead of partying with his male friends and buying himself a car because he made money fighting for the military.

The former girlfriend of a soldier was in a video that was posted on December 15 asking him to get back together with her. A middle-aged man leaves his factory job to go to the front of the military but can’t afford to sign a military contract.

Another of the videos shows a group of 30-something, well-off Russian men loading a car as they are asked by elderly women where are they going. One of the men said they wanted to Georgia. Forever.” When one woman spills a bag of groceries, the men just get into the car and leave, instead of helping, while younger Russian men rush to pick up the groceries. “The boys have left, the men stayed,” one of the elderly women concludes.

Many of the videos portray the war as an escape for men from a bleak daily reality of drinking vodka, poverty and helplessness. Meanwhile, reports and complaints of shortages of provisions and equipment in the Russian military continue to emerge.

During a meeting with mothers of the mobilized in November, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that it was better to be killed fighting for the motherland than to drink oneself to death on vodka.

The numbers that have left Russia pale in comparison to the more than 4.8 million Ukrainians who have registered as refugees across Europe because of the war, but the huge outflow of mostly educated people is having a significant impact on Russian society.

Face-to-Face Meeting of Volodomyr Zelensky: What a Scrappy Kid Learned to Be Bullied

Earlier this month, addressing a news conference after a summit of Eurasian countries in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Putin attempted to reassure the public that there were no plans for additional mobilization.

Questioned about reports of continuing military equipment shortages on the front lines, Putin said he was working closely with the Russian defense ministry and that the issue was being resolved.

Less than a year into his term as president of Ukraine, Volodomyr Zelensky’s skills as negotiator were put to the test in his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In Paris at the time, I witnessed how Zelensky pulled up to the Élysée Palace in a modest Renault, while Putin motored in with an ostentatious armored limousine. The host gave Putin a hug, but only to shake hands with Zelensky.

Fast forward to 2022 and Zelensky is the instantly recognizable wartime president in trademark olive green; as adept at rallying his citizens and stirring the imaginations of folks worldwide, as naming and shaming allies dragging their feet in arming his military.

Zelensky’s upbringing in the rough and tumble neighborhoods of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine shaped him into a scrappy kid who learned how to respond to bullies.

“After the full-scale invasion, once he got into a position of being bullied by someone like Vladimir Putin he knew exactly what he needed to do because it was just his gut feeling,” Yevhen Hlibovytsky, former political journalist and founder of the Kyiv-based think tank and consultancy, pro.mova, told me.

This, after all, is the leader who when offered evacuation by the US as Russia launched its full-scale invasion, quipped: “I need ammunition, not a ride.”

A toast to Zelensky in the fog of war: a 30-year anniversary of the Petroniev Nightclub in Kyiv

Amid the fog of war, it all seems a long, long way since the heady campaign celebration in a repurposed Kyiv nightclub where a fresh-faced Zelensky thanked his supporters for a landslide victory. He looked in disbelief when he stood among the confetti on stage and defeated Petro Poroshenko, who was a veteran politician.

Around 55% of Ukrainians did not trust Zelensky to lead them into war as Russian troops began to mass on their borders. It was a rating likely influenced by him not keeping some of his campaign promises, especially failing to launch an effective fight against corruption in the judiciary.

His past life as a TV comedian and member of the theatrical group Kvartal 95 has been included in his bubble. Even in the midst of the war, a press conference held on the platform of a Kyiv metro station in April featured perfect lighting and curated camera angles to emphasize a wartime setting.

As for his skills as comforter in chief, I remember well the solace his nightly televised addresses brought in the midst of air raid sirens and explosions in Lviv.

Zelensky is projecting confidence and competence in a modern way through his shirtsleeves and hoodie, to a younger, global audience that recognizes it as such.

Journeying to where her husband can’t, Zelenska has shown herself to be an effective communicator in international fora – projecting empathy, style and smarts. She met with King Charles at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in London, a refugee assistance center. (Curiously, TIME magazine did not include Zelenska on the cover montage and gave only a passing reference in the supporting text).

There are subtle signs that Zelensky’s international influence may be waning. Zelensky was not happy with the price cap imposed by the G7 on Russian crude, and he appealed to them to set it at $30 to hurt the Kremlin more.

Zelensky administration has a lot of work to do if they want to fulfill the hopes and dreams of most Ukrainians. The tough guy is still going strong for the time being.

“Paradoxically, Zelensky achieved the thing that Putin most wanted to achieve but failed … to rally support domestically with a patriotic war in order to deflect and distract from his abject failures at home. According to New York-based geopolitical and business analyst Michael Popow, this is how Putin feels about being shown up by a comedian.

As Zelensky said in a recent nightly video address: “No matter what the aggressor intends to do, when the world is truly united, it is then the world, not the aggressor, determines how events develop.”

The speech made it clear that the struggle of Ukrainian people was connected to the revolution in our country, and that we want to be warm in our homes during the Christmas season to make sure the families in Ukraine are not forgotten.

She said Zelensky’s address made Democrats and Republicans understand what is at stake in the fight against Putin and Russian aggression, and now with their ally, Iran.

“I hope that they will send more than one,” she added. She noted there’s “been some reluctance in the past” by the US and NATO to provide advanced equipment, but added “We’ve seen with our own eyes how effective Ukrainian military is.”

Clinton, who previously met Russian President Vladimir Putin as US secretary of state, said the leader was “probably impossible to actually predict,” as the war turns in Ukraine’s favor and his popularity fades at home.

Clinton thinks that Putin could use Russian conscripts to throw more bodies into the fight in Ukraine.

“The Putin regime has done a very good job of either forcing out or imprisoning all viable alternatives that are of the more democratic fashion and then on the other side you have fear of going out into the streets if there’s no clear path forward,” she said.

One woman who still lives in Moscow and whom CNN will call Olga, described February 24 as the point of no return. She told CNN that life turned into a nightmare and that it was impossible to wake up to the news and protests. “The aggressor is our country. On our behalf, on my behalf, this terrible massacre is being waged,” she said.

Maria does not want CNN to publish her full name or her employer’s name because of personal security concerns. Maria is at risk of being persecution because she works for a non profit that is considered a foreign agent by Russia.

Russian Civil Liber Liberation Law and the Exodus of the Middle-class Population during the 1979 Revolution: Analytical Results from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow

We left Russia on the third day. I felt like it was a moral obligation. I could no longer stay on the territory of the state that has become a fascist one.

The court in Moscow used the law this month to sentence the Kremlin critic, who spoke up about the killings of civilians by Russians, to more than eight years in prison. The Kremlin denied that there was any involvement in the mass killings, while repeating claims that the images of civilians bodies were fake.

The free press has been wiped out by the war. Russians trying to access social media sites and publications that aren’t government propaganda have been forced to use VPNs, which allow them to use private internet networks to access the internet. Data from Sensortower, an apps market research company, show the top eight VPN apps in Russia were downloaded almost 80 million times in Russia this year, despite the government’s efforts to crack down on their use.

The US Border Patrol recorded over 36 thousand encounters with Russian citizens. The number includes people who were apprehended or expelled by the border force and is significantly higher than the 13,240 and 5,946 recorded in the two previous fiscal years.

OK Russians, a non-profit helping Russian citizens fleeing persecution, said its surveys suggest those who are leaving are on average younger and more educated than the general Russian public.

“If you take the Moscow liberal intelligentsia, and of course, I’m talking only about the people I know and I know of, I would say that maybe 70% left. It’s journalists, it’s people from universities, sometimes schools, artists, people who have clubs and [foundations] in Moscow that got closed down,” Soldatov said.

“If you are losing the educated middle-class portion of the population, then it matters for your economic prospects, but it also matters for the potential political reconstitution of the country,” said Kristine Berzina, a Russia expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. She pointed to the exodus of liberal, educated Iranians following the country’s 1979 revolution as an example of what can happen when large numbers from such demographics leave the country.

Maria said she is staying in Russia, even though most of her friends and son have left. Maria doesn’t want to leave her elderly mother, because she won’t travel abroad. If the borders are not closed and I can come at any time to help my mother, it will probably be easier for me to leave. She told CNN that she is scared of something else happening at any moment.

She said she is trying to see hope for the future because she still believes her work is important. Like Olga, she described her own life as a perpetual cycle of panic, horror, shame and self-doubt.

Are you to blame? Did you not do enough? Can you do something else or not, and how should you act now?” she said. There aren’t any prospects. I’m an adult, and I didn’t exactly have all my life figured out, but all in all I understood what would happen next. Nobody comprehends anything. People don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

Soldatov said he had begun to question his own identity. He said that the memory of the Second World War, which was a mainstay of their lives, became completely compromised when he heard of Putin’s baseless claim.

“It’s part of the Russian national identity that the Russian army helped to win the war (against Hitler’s Germany) and now it feels absolutely wrong because this message was used by Putin. You start questioning the history,” he said, adding that the favorable reaction by some parts of the Russian society to the invasion prompted him to research pre-war rhetoric in Germany.

Speaking about Russians as “us” had begun to feel wrong because he deeply disagreed with Russia’s actions, he said. It didn’t seem right to say “Russians”. I do not want to hide from what is going on because I have some partial responsibility for it.

Maria, a historian by training, has spent years taking part in anti-government protests, describing herself as a liberal deeply opposed to Putin, a former KGB agent. I knew that our country’s leader should not be a person from the KGB. She said that it is deeply rooted with horrors and deaths.

Berzina believes that people in the West have an unrealistic expectation of a wave of protests on the streets and calls for government change when they start feeling as though their leaders are doing wrong.

Most of the opposition leaders and opinion leaders are either in prison or abroad. There is no power base or leader for the people and they don’t have a chance of taking action against the security forces.

It is difficult for people from democratic countries to understand life in a powerful autocracy. “It’s a terrifying feeling of one’s own insignificance and helplessness in front of a gigantic machine of death and madness.”

What Has Europe Learned from the Decay of Ruling a Nucleus in June 2004? The Unification of Europe and the War with the West

People felt that it was not ok to threaten people with nukes as the destruction they brought was complete for everyone on the planet.

Despite this palpable Russian decline, Europe is not welcoming in an era of greater security. Calls for greater defense spending are louder, and heeded, even if they come at a time when Russia, for decades the defining issue of European security, is revealing itself to be less threatening.

Russia has also met a West that, far from being divided and reticent, was instead happy to send some of its munitions to its eastern border. Western officials might be surprised to learn that Moscow has limited options when it comes to non-nuclear weapons. This was not supposed to happen. So, what does Europe do and prepare for, now that it has?

Key is just how unexpectedly unified the West has been. Despite being split over Iraq, fractured over Syria, and partially unwilling to spend the 2% of GDP on security the United States long demanded of NATO members, Europe and the US have been speaking from the same script on Ukraine. At times, Washington may have seemed warier, and there have been autocratic outliers like Hungary. The shift is not towards disparity. That was quite a surprise.

The prospect of a Russian defeat is in the broader picture: that it did not win quickly against an inferior adversary. They talked about taking the gloves off after Kharkiv, so that they wouldn’t expose a damaged fist. The Russian military will struggle for decades to regain a semblance of peer status with NATO. Over the past six months, mismanagement has undermined the reputation of Moscow as a smart, asymmetrical foe with conventional forces to back it up.

Yet some good has come from this debacle. Europe knows it must get off its dependence on Russian gas immediately, and hydrocarbons in general in the longer term, as economic dependence on the fossil fuels of dictators cannot bring longer-term stability.

WarGop: Why a Russian Army is Fighting To Win The World and Its Own Fire. Why Crime and Intelligence is at Work in the Middle East

If the Russian account is accurate, it was the cell phones that the novice troops were using in violation of regulations that allowed Ukrainian forces to target them most accurately. Ukraine does not have any idea of how the attack was executed. But the implications are broader and deeper, especially for how Russia is conducting its war now.

It is telling that days after the deadliest known attack on Russian servicemen, President Vladimir Putin called for a temporary ceasefire, citing the Orthodox Christmas holiday. Ukrainian and US officials saw the move as a cynical attempt to get breathing space for Russian forces at a very bad time.

Russian officials said that four Ukrainian-launched rockets hit the school in which the forces were housed, near the arms depot. Two more rockets were shot down by Russian air defenses.

Russia continues to have large quantities of weaponry close to their troops and well within range of enemy weaponry. Standard military practice dictates that large depots be broken up and scattered and that they be located far behind enemy lines — even within Russian territory that western powers have declared off-limits to Ukrainian strikes.

Chris Dougherty, a senior fellow for the Defense Program and co-head of the Gaming Lab at the Center for New American Security in Washington, has told me that Russia’s failure to break up or move large arms depots is largely a function of the reality that their forces cannot communicate adequately.

It’s a view shared by other experts. “Bad communications security seems to be standard practice in the Russian Army,” James Lewis, director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told me in an e-mail exchange.

He’s not the only Russian war blogger casting doubt. The blame for what happened in Makiivka was being placed on soldiers themselves, said a post on the Telegram channel known as “Grey Zone”, linked to the leader of the Wagner Group of mercenaries. “In this case, it is to 99% a lie and an attempt to throw off the blame.”

The most recent arrivals are inmates from Russian prisons, freed and moved to the Ukrainian front. One can only imagine how appealing the use of cell phones would be to prisoners accustomed to years of isolation with little or no contact with the outside world.

Semyon Pegov, who blogs under the alias WarGonzo and was personally awarded the Order of Courage by President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin two weeks ago, attacked the Ministry of Defense for its “blatant attempt to smear blame” in suggesting it was the troops’ own use of cell phones that led to the precision of the attack.

He wondered if the location of the soldiers in the school building could not be determined using a local source.


The Defence Ministry of Ukraine: Sergei Shoigu, Sergei Mizintsev, and Gen. Sergei Zelensky

The question is when the blame will begin shifting from the military to Putin himself, particularly since he has seemed ill-prepared to change the leadership at very the top. The last change was the appointment of Sergei Surovikin as the first person to be placed in overall command of all Russian forces on the Ukraine front — an army general formerly in charge of the brutal Russian bombardment of Aleppo in Syria.

A month earlier, the defense ministry underwent a shakeup when Col. Gen. Mikhail Y. Mizintsev, known to Western officials as the “butcher of Mariupol,” was named deputy defense minister for overseeing logistics, replacing four-star Gen. Dmitri V. Bulgakov, who had held the post since 2008. The location of the arms depot would have been on Mizintsev’s watch.

Still, Putin-favorite Sergei Shoigu remains defense minister — as recently as Saturday, before the Makiivka attack, telling his forces in a celebratory video: “Our victory, like the New Year, is inevitable.”

There seems to be no indications that the West will relent on its support for Ukraine. Europe and the US have recently committed to raising their funding by $2 billion, so they hope to see Ukraine through this winter.

Just this week, the Biden administration announced the US was considering dispatching Bradley armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron also announced he would be sending light tanks, though Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was urging the dispatch of heavier battle tanks. German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is under pressure to add Leopard 2 tanks to the mix.

One Year After the First Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russian President Vladimir Putin Has Been During the February 23rd Night of February 23, 2022

It’s the evening of February 23, 2022. In Kyiv, the boss of a news site relaxes with a bath and candles. In Zaporizhzhia, a young woman goes to bed planning to celebrate her husband’s birthday in the morning. In Moscow, a journalist happens to postpone his travel plans to Kyiv.

Their lives change dramatically within hours. Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine the next day.

A year has passed since the war began and tens of thousands of lives have been lost. It unleashed atrocities, decimated cities, caused a global food and energy crisis and tested the resolve of western alliances.


War and Punishment: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin, Zelensky, and the Path to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Zaporizhzhia, February 23, 2022. I went to bed thinking that I would celebrate my husband’s birthday the next day. Our life was going well. My husband ran his own business. Our daughter made a lot of friends at school. We were lucky to have arranged support services and found a special needs nursery for our son. I had time to work. I felt happy.

We had to come to terms with our displacement and were exhausted and scared at the same time. I will be forever grateful to all those who helped us come to Prague and adjust to a new life in a foreign land.

Thanks to the opportunities for Ukrainians provided by the Czech Republic, my husband got a job. I found special needs classes for my son. He has a learning support assistant and attends an adaptation group for Ukrainian children. My daughter goes to a Czech school while studying in her Ukrainian school remotely.

Mikhail Zygar is a journalist and former editor in chief of the independent TV news channel Dozhd. He is the author of “All the Kremlin’s Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin” and upcoming book “War and Punishment. Putin, Zelensky, and the Path to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine.”

That morning we woke up to learn that the invasion started. I wrote an open letter denouncing the war, which was co-signed by 12 Russian writers, directors and cultural figures. Soon after its publication, tens of thousands of Russians added their signatures.

We moved to Berlin to be closer to our family. There was a refugee camp near the main railway station which had thousands of Ukranian people arriving every day. And I started writing a new book. It starts like this:

What has Russia done with the Ukrainians? A year in the life of a frustrated, desperate country. How the Russians have fought for their country

I am aware that the Russian people are having a problem with imperialism. We failed to spot just how deadly the very idea of Russia as a “great empire” was – now we have to come a long way, healing our nation from that disease.

This whole year has been full of tears and worries. I read about people killed by Russians, including a teammate, a school director, and a friend’s parents.

There was another fight that I had to fight, trying to get my life back. The life Russia stole from me and millions of Ukrainians.

Time and again since the Russian invasion started, I’m haunted by the darkness in my father’s eyes during the re-telling of chilling dinnertime stories of relatives shipped off to the Soviet gulag, never to return. Stalin imposed a famine on the Ukrainians in the late 18th and early 19th century.

What’s changed since Russian missiles first began falling on February 24, 2022? The fear felt by Ukrainians has been replaced with anger as they stand up to barrages of rockets and drones.

A year into the full-scale invasion, my passport is a novel in stamps. My life is split between London, where I teach Ukrainian literature, and Ukraine, where I get my lessons in courage.

My former classmates from Zaporizhzhia whom, based on our teenage habits, I expected to perish from addictions a long time ago, have volunteered to fight. My hairdresser, whom I expected to remain a sweet summer child, turned out to have fled on foot from the Russia-occupied town of Bucha through the forest with her mother, grandmother and five dogs.

My capital, which the Kremlin and the West expected to fall in three days, has withstood 12 months of Russia’s terrorist bombings and energy blackouts. The Russians have managed to bring closer to eternity the number of stars over Kyiv during these dark winter nights.

We have experienced several eras in the past year. The first was euphoric, when Putin suddenly, after a significant time of stagnant ratings, received more than 80% approval from the population.

By aborting the past, he canceled the future. Those who were disoriented, preferred to support Putin: it is easier to live this way when your superiors decide everything for you, and you take for granted everything you are told by propaganda.

It is not possible for me and my family to adapt to what happened. As an active commentator on the events, I was labeled by the authorities as a “foreign agent,” which increased personal risk and reinforced the impression of living in an Orwellian anti-utopia.

On February 23, I washed my dog, cleaned the house, took a bath and lit candles. I have a cozy, one-bedroom apartment in a northern district of Kyiv. I loved taking care of it. I enjoyed the life I had. There are small routines and struggles. That night was the last time my life mattered.

I was trying to organize a small army of volunteers in order to strengthen the newsroom. And calling my parents to organize buying supplies.

The life I knew started falling apart soon after, starting with the small things. It no longer mattered what cup I used to drink my morning tea, or how I dressed, or whether or not I took a shower. The battle mattered more than life.

Just a few weeks into the full-scale invasion it was already hard to remember the struggles, sorrows and joyful moments of the pre-war era. I was upset with my boyfriend at one point, but that is no longer true. On February 24, 2015, my life was taken from me.

By March, my initial shock and fear of the war turned into a desire to act through sports. Athletes could fight against Russian propaganda in the best way. We just had to tell the truth about the war and Ukrainians – how strong, kind and brave we are. How we have united to defend our country.

I had stopped caring about my personal ambitions. Only the common goal was crucial – to raise our flag and show that we are fighting even under these circumstances.

I was not happy about my victories on the track. They were possible because so many defenders had sacrificed their lives. I received messages from soldiers. They were very happy to follow our progress, and that’s what motivated me to continue my career.

The wonderful Russia of the future – and what it may have to come to: a bittersweet anniversary of the first Russian victory in the Great Patriotic War

Russia’s opposition leader is fond of saying “the wonderful Russia of the future,” a phrase he uses to mean a country without President Putin.

After last February’s invasion, Putin shrugged off protests and international sanctions. Independent media and human rights groups have been branded as foreign agents or shut down entirely.

On February 2, Putin paid a visit to the southern Russian city of Volgograd to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory at what was then called Stalingrad, a crucial turning point in what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War.

“Those who draw the European countries, including Germany, into a new war with Russia – and all the more irresponsibly declare this as a fait accompli – those who expect to win a victory over Russia on the battlefield, apparently do not understand that a modern war with Russia will be completely different for them,” he warned.

“A return to rapid warfare with tanks ruins this new strategy that Russia has just set its sights on,” Baunov wrote. It is possible that new people will be needed to hold the front.

The first Mobilization caused a lot of tremors in Russian society. Hundreds of thousands of Russians voted with their feet. Protests erupted in ethnic minority regions such as Dagestan where police faced off against anti-mobilization demonstrators in multiple cities. A surge of videos and public complaints about the lack of equipment and substandard conditions for newly mobilizers was seen on Russian social media.

The methods of Wagner are also a return to a bleak chapter of Soviet history. In recent years, Prigovshkin has recruited thousands of prisoners with the promise of a pardon, which is reminiscent of Stalin’s use of penal battalions and convicts to take on desperate or suicidal missions in the toughest sectors of the front.

Ira, a 47-year-old who is a journalist, said there has been a lot of change in Russia but that he cannot really make a difference. I try to maintain some internal balance. Maybe I’m too apolitical, but I don’t feel it (further mobilization) is going to happen.”

Ira felt anxious in February and March last year after the invasion. She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to pay her mortgage after she bought an apartment.

“It got a lot worse in the spring,” she said. It seems that we have gotten used to a new reality. I started to meet and go out with girlfriends. I started to buy a lot more wine.”

She said the restaurants are now full and that the faces are different. You know what they’re called, the Hipsters. there are less of them.”


Ukrainian War Anniversaries: What Happens When You’re There, But What Does Them Tell Us About Russia? A Comment on Olya

Olya, a events organizer with two teenage children, said that her family had more domestic holidays. Europe is mostly closed to direct flights from Russia, and there are limited opportunities to travel abroad.

Olya said that life goes on even though there is a war. She said that she couldn’t influence the situation. My friends tell me we do what we can. It doesn’t help to get depressed.”

The Russian government has helped matters by the resilience of parts of the Russian economy. The country’s Finance Ministry recently admitted it ran a higher-than- expected deficit in due to increased defense spending, but the International Monetary Fund is projecting a small return to growth for Russia.

“Those who adapted quickly reorganized, they are seeing growth,” he said. “In January we concluded an unusual number of deals, and most of our activity usually picks up in February.”

He discussed the cutoff of Western imports and said nothing has changed in terms of everyday life. It might be difficult to find parts for a Mercedes Benz G-Class.


Rejoinder of a Senator and a Generalized President of the United States on the “State of the Art” of Press Freedom and State Media

He looked at other sources of information, and said he was skeptical of state media. And he acknowledged that he could theoretically be called up in another wave of mobilization.

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