The State of Ukraine: A United Nations Viewpoint on Ukraine’s annexation problem and the Russian repression of the Kremlin
The United Nations General Assembly roundly condemned Russia’s move to illegally annex four regions of Ukraine. In the Oct. 13 session, four countries voted alongside Russia, but 143 voted in favor of Ukraine’s resolution, while 35 abstained.
Russia has increased the number of troops on its border and inside Ukrainian territory after a partial mobilize in September last year. Despite the increased numbers, Western allies have not seen evidence of sufficient changes to those forces’ ability to carry out combined arms operations needed to take and hold new territory.
Sept. 28: The officials in occupied parts of Ukraine made an appeal to join the Russian Federation. Putin’s approval rating fell 6 points to 77% in a poll by the Levada Center. The U.S. Defense Department, meanwhile, announced $1.1 billion in additional security aid to Ukraine.
Oct. 2: Leaders of nine European countries made a joint statement in support of Ukraine joining NATO. Pope Francis urged Putin to end the war.
You can read past recaps here. For context and more in-depth stories, you can find more of NPR’s coverage here. Listen and subscribe to NPR’s State of Ukraine for updates throughout the day.
They were prophetic. Analysts expected the Ukrainian resistance to fall in few days. But for a year, the Ukrainian military has faced down a much larger force, rolling back the Russians’ initial gains in Kharkiv and Kherson, holding the line in the hotly contested Donbas region.
Russia is able to protect its current strongholds in the eastern region of the Donbas and the southern peninsula of Crimea.
The disarray of the Russian forces on the ground caused the Kremlin to acknowledge that they did not know what the new borders of southern Ukraine would be. Mr. Putin will engage in dialogue with the population of the regions, his spokesman said.
Hundreds of thousands of Russians fled to borders such as Georgia in an attempt to dodge the draft after Putin ordered 300,000 additional troops in September.
That’s not to say that the mobilized forces will not be used. If used in support roles, like drivers or refuelers, they might ease the burden on the remaining parts of Russia’s exhausted professional army. They could also fill out depleted units along the line of contact, cordon some areas and man checkpoints in the rear. They aren’t likely to become a capable fighting force. There are signs of discipline problems among soldiers in Russian garrisons.
In the past year, the West has funneled billions in aid and weapons to Ukraine because the outcome has global consequences. It could mean new rules for the world order that global powers have been living by since the second world war.
NATO will hold nuclear deterrence exercises starting Monday. NATO has warned Russia not to use nuclear weapons on Ukraine but says the “Steadfast Noon” drills are a routine, annual training activity.
The First Russian Defendants: A Red Line in the Sand: Diplomacy, Strategy and the History of Wars That Might Still Happen
Russian agents are believed to have taken into custody eight people who were suspected of carrying out an explosion on a bridge.
Two men shot at Russian troops preparing to deploy to Ukraine, killing 11 people and wounding 15 before being killed themselves, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Oct. 15.
There were first convoys of almost 9000 service members who arrived inBelarus as part of a regional group of forces that are supposed to protect the country from threats from Ukraine and the West.
In the north and south, the Ukrainian military has continued to make progress in cutting supply lines and targeting Russian storage facilities with long-range rockets.
The war in Ukraine has been defined by several key trends this past year: Russia did not meet its goals. The country has done well. Western support for Ukraine has remained surprisingly strong.
The author of A Red Line in the Sand: Diplomacy, Strategy and the History of Wars That Might Still happen is a contributor to CNN and twice winner of the Deadline Club Award. He worked as a correspondent for The New York Times in Europe and Asia. The views in this commentary are not those of his employer. CNN has more opinion.
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.
Putin desperately wants time, so that he can use it to convince the Western powers that they have messed with the country’s military-industrial machine and destroyed its armed might.
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.
The EU powers agreed a plan to control energy prices in the early hours of Friday, just days after sanctions on Russian oil imports and the Kremlin’s cutoff of gas supplies to Europe.
The Dutch Title Transfer Facility is the benchmark for European gas trading, and there is an emergency cap on it.
While French President Emmanuel Macron waxed euphoric leaving the summit, which he described as having “maintained European unity,” he conceded that there was only a “clear mandate” for the European Commission to start working on a gas cap mechanism.
Europe’s biggest economy is skeptical of price caps. Now energy ministers must work out details with a Germany concerned such caps would encourage higher consumption – a further burden on restricted supplies.
Putin has a dream where the divisions are all part of it. Europe could prove crucial in achieving success from the Kremlin’s perspective because of the way it is structured.
France and Germany are at odds with each other on a number of issues. In order to reach some kind of arrangement, the French president and the German chancellor plan on holding a conference call on Wednesday.
From Italy to the Ukraine: The U.S. Post-Fascist Image of Italy’s Prime Minister and a New Prime Minister
And now a new government has taken power in Italy. Meloni, Italy’s first female prime minister, has tried to downplay her party’s post-fascist image. One of her far-right coalition partners meanwhile, has expressed deep appreciation for Putin.
In an audio clip obtained by LaPresse, Berlusconi said that he had returned the gesture with bottles of Lambrusco wine, adding that he knew him as a peaceful and sensible person.
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, both of which have been friends for many years, have become bitter enemies over the issue of Ukraine. Poland takes offense at the pro-Putin sentiment of Hungary’s populist leader.
Kevin McCarthy, the GOP leader in the House who is poised to become Speaker if the Republicans win control of the House, told an interviewer that he thought people would sit in a recession and not write a blank check. They won’t do it.
On Monday, the influential 30-member Congressional progressive caucus called on Biden to open talks with Russia on ending its occupation of swaths of the country, while its missiles and drones are hitting deep into the interior.
Mia Jacob, chair of the caucus, sent reporters a clarification of her remarks in support ofUkraine after she came under fire for them. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba to renew America’s support.
The US has offered more than $60 billion in aid since Biden took office, but only Republicans voted against the latest aid package.
Russia’s High-Tech Arms in the Warsaw Warfare: News from the First Day of Ukrainian Civil War, a Report by the NKIDOV Institute
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.
Russian production of hypersonic missiles has stopped due to lack of necessary semi-conductors, said the report. Plants that produce anti-aircraft systems are shutting down and Russia has reverted to Soviet-era defense stocks for replenishment. The Soviet era ended more than 30 years ago.
The US had seized all property of the top Russian procurement agent, Yury Orekhov, and his agencies that were responsible for procuring US-origin technologies for Russian end- users.
The DOJ announced charges against people and companies for trying to bring high tech equipment into Russia in violation of sanctions.
The pressure from the western world may be starting to produce results. With martial law in Ukrainian territories announced by Putin and a new hardline commander named General Sergei Shurokin nicknamed “General Armageddon”, a growing sense of frustration is bordering on fear.
There are still hardliners such as the leader of Russia’s puppet city in Donetsk who voiced his intentions toward the people of Ukranian origin. 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.”
The scale of Russians’ losses in these infantry advances is not known. The institute says the advances were a blow to the battle-hardened troops of Ukraine. The Ukrainian military’s estimates of Russian casualties are seen to be inflated, but the relative increase in the reported numbers suggests a rising toll. The Ukrainian military reported on Friday that more than 800 Russians had been wounded or killed over the previous 24 hours.
Russian forces are staging up to 80 assaults per day, General Zaluzhnyi said in the statement, which described a telephone conversation with an American general, Christopher G. Cavoli, the supreme allied commander in Europe.
General Zaluzhnyi wrote that they talked about the situation at the front. The U.S. colleague, he said, were being beaten back by Ukrainian forces thanks to the courage and skills of their warriors.
An assessment from the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based analytical group, also said that the increase in infantry in the Donbas region in the east had not resulted in Russia’s gaining new ground.
The assessment said the Russian Army was wasting fresh manpower by attacking before massing enough soldiers to make a difference. Several towns and villages have been hit by the attacks.
In the south, where Ukrainian troops are advancing toward the Russian-occupied city of Kherson, the Ukrainian military said Friday morning that its artillery battalions had fired more than 160 times at Russian positions over the past 24 hours, but it also reported Russian return fire into Ukrainian positions.
The remaining residents of the city are in need of food and fuel in case there is a battle in Kherson between Russians and Ukrainians.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives for the Commons Liaison Committee: The First Day of Russia’s First Full-On Invasion
An official announcement is expected on a European Union cap on natural gas prices, the latest measure to tackle an energy crisis largely spurred by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak makes his first appearance as prime minister before the Commons Liaison Committee, where the Ukraine war and other global issues are discussed. On Monday, Sunak met with members of a U.K.-led European military force.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will hold virtual talks sometime this month, according to Russian news reports.
Ukrainians and Russians are preparing to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah for the first time since the Kremlin launched its full-on invasion of Ukraine.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said it would send nuclear safety and security experts to the country’s nuclear power plants.
In one day, Russia launched 36 cruise missiles and Ukraine shot down 16. Most hit critical infrastructure, but Ukraine’s power grid operator said there were no electricity shortages.
The American was released from Russian territory as part of the prisoner exchange. Suedi Murekezi told ABC News he spent weeks in a basement, where he was tortured, and months in a prison in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine.
EU lawmakers approved about $19 billion in financing for Ukraine, Dec. 14, and more sanctions on Russia. The aid package followed pledges earlier in the week from dozens of countries and global institutions to support more than $1 billion in winter relief funds for Ukraine, helping the country with power, heat, food and medical supplies.
The United States is expected to give Ukraine missiles that can shoot down missiles from Russia according to several U.S. news reports. The surface-to-air guided missile system can target aircraft and missiles. The single battery the US is expected to supply would help, some analysts say, but it may not be a game-changer.
Russia’s Land War Against Foreign Agents in the Post-Soviet Era: Recent Developments and The Rise of Social Media Controversy
At the time, Putin suggested a limited campaign that would be over in a matter of weeks.
The invasion has grown into the biggest land war in Europe since World War II, forcing millions of Ukrainians from their homes, decimating the Ukrainian economy and killing thousands of civilians.
The war ended a post-Soviet period in Russia in which the country often pursued democratic reformers, as well as financial integration and dialogue with the West.
Draconian laws passed since February have outlawed criticism of the military or leadership. Nearly 20,000 people have been detained for demonstrating against the war — 45% of them women — according to a leading independent monitoring group.
Lengthy prison sentences have been meted out to high profile opposition voices on charges of “discrediting” the Russian army by questioning its conduct or strategy.
The repressions extend elsewhere: organizations and individuals are added weekly to a growing list of “foreign agents” and “non-desirable” organizations intended to damage their reputation among the Russian public.
Even Russia’s most revered human rights group, 2022’s Nobel Prize co-recipient Memorial, was forced to stop its activities over alleged violations of the foreign agents law.
Russia’s already restrictive anti- LGBT laws have been vastly expanded by the state because of the war in Ukraine.
For now, repressions remain targeted. Some of the new laws are still unenforced. The measures are meant to crush wider dissent should the moment arise.
Leading independent media outlets and a handful of vibrant, online investigative startups were forced to shut down or relocate abroad when confronted with new “fake news” laws that criminalized contradicting the official government line.
Internet users are subject to restrictions as well. American social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook were banned in March. Roskomnadzor, the Kremlin’s internet regulator, has blocked more than 100,000 websites since the start of the conflict.
Access to Russian users of independent sources of information is still possible with Technical workarounds. But state media propaganda now blankets the airwaves favored by older Russians, with angry TV talk shows spreading conspiracies.
The Russian War after the Second World War II: The War and the War’s Successes in the Russo-Russian Military Campaign
Thousands of perceived government opponents left in the war’s early days because of concerns of persecution.
Putin argued it was good riddance, part of a “self-cleansing” of Russian society from traitors and spies. Russian officials have suggested stripping those who left the country of their passports. Yet there are questions whether Russia can thrive without many of its best and brightest.
Meanwhile, some countries that have absorbed the Russian exodus predict their economies will grow, even as the swelling presence of Russians remains a sensitive issue to former Soviet republics in particular.
Russia’s ruble currency went into a tailspin in the first days of the invasion. Hundreds of global corporate brands, such as McDonald’s and ExxonMobil, reduced, suspended or closed their Russian operations entirely.
Ultimately, President Putin is betting that when it comes to sanctions, Europe will blink first — pulling back on its support to Ukraine as Europeans grow angry over soaring energy costs at home. He announced a five-month ban on oil exports to countries that abide by the price cap, a move likely to make the pain more acute in Europe.
The downfall of the Russian economy has dashed the hopes of Putin’s loyalists who depended on him to maintain stability after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The government’s tone has not changed when it comes to the military campaign in Russia. Russia’s Defense Ministry provides daily briefings recounting endless successes on the ground. Putin assures that everything is going according to plan.
The length of the war suggests that Russia underestimated the willingness of the Ukrainians to resist.
The true number of Russian losses – officially at just under 6,000 men – remains a highly taboo subject at home. Western estimates put the figures much higher.
A series of explosions, including along a key bridge connecting Russia to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, have put into question Russia’s ability to defend its own strategic infrastructure.
NATO looks set to expand towards Russia’s borders, with the addition of long-neutral states, with the backfired of Russia’s invasion.
Longtime allies in Central Asia have criticized Russia’s actions out of concern for their own sovereignty, an affront that would have been unthinkable in Soviet times. India and China have purchased discounted Russian oil but have refrained from fully supporting the Russian military campaign.
Russian Defence Intelligence Minister Oleksiy Danilov: Preparing for the next defining month in the Ukrainian War of Independence
The address was originally scheduled for April but will not happen until next year. The media event in which Putin fields questions from ordinary Russians was canceled completely.
The December ” big press conference” which allows the Russian leader to handle questions from mostly pro-Kremlin media was tabled until the year 2023.
The US military had assessed it would take as long as until May for the Russian military to regenerate enough power for a sustained offensive, but Russian leaders wanted action sooner. The US now sees it as likely that Russian forces are moving before they are ready due to political pressure from the Kremlin, the senior US military official told CNN.
“Russia is preparing for maximum escalation. It is gathering everything possible, doing drills and training. With regards to an offensive from different directions, we are not barring anything in the next two to three weeks.
“These will be defining months in the war,” Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told Sky News in an interview broadcast Tuesday.
“February and March will be very active”, said the representative of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, on national television.
“During the week, military representatives from the two countries will practice joint planning of the use of troops based on the prior experience of armed conflicts in recent years,” the ministry said in a statement.
Investigating the Crimes of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and his Visit to Ukraine, and their Effects on the State of the Union
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a surprise Europe tour, meeting leaders in London, Paris and Brussels, and reiterating his call for allies to send fighter jets to Ukraine.
Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova attended President Biden’s State of the Union speech, for the second year in a row, but the war in Ukraine received far less attention in the address this time.
We don’t think that Russia is massing its aircraft for an aerial attack. We do know that Russia has a substantial number of aircraft in its inventory and a lot of capability left,” he said. “That’s why we’ve emphasized that we need to do everything that we can to get Ukraine as much air defense capability as we possibly can.”
“It’s unlikely Russian forces will be particularly better organized and so unlikely they’ll be particularly more successful, though they do seem willing to send more troops into the meat grinder,” a senior British official told CNN.
“They amassed enough manpower to take one or two small cities in Donbas, but that’s it,” a senior Ukrainian diplomat told CNN. Compared to the panic they were trying to build in Ukraine, it was overwhelming.
Lloyd Austin, the US Defense Secretary, said that the US is not seeing Russiamassing its aircraft ahead of an air assault on Ukraine.
In a special report, NPR’s Leila Fadel describes the human cost of Russia’s ambitions, the effects beyond Ukrainian’s borders, and the diplomatic and military efforts to stop the war.
“I do think this is a critical moment,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told NPR. The battlefield is as bloody and difficult as it can be and will influence President Zelenskyy and President Putin’s decision about whether or not to go.
I had a question – for whom do we document all these crimes? Oleksandra Matviichuk, the head of the Center for Civil Liberties, told us. “Because I’m not a historian, and we document human pain in order to get all these Russians brought to justice, I’m a human rights lawyer.”
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu: Keeping a Wary Eye on China, and What Do They Mean to Teach us about the Cold War?
Speaking to NPR’s Leila Fadel, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said his country is learning lessons from the war in Ukraine and keeping a wary eye on China.
“They have expansionist motivation. They want to expand their influence. They would like to expand their power. “If they aren’t stopped, then they will continue to march on, and that’s how I see it.”
The Secretary of State said they’d been able to avoid conflict between great powers. For all of its flaws, this system works. It’s being challenged now.
The First Day of the Ukrainian Invasion: Victims of Zelensky’s Deceleration of the Kyiv Airfield
They tried to flee in the first days of the war, but the family car was shelled, Natalia believes, by Russian forces. She was killed along with her husband and nephew. Vova survived the attack but was hospitalized for months with seven bullets in his body.
Danny Hajek produced and edited the audio for the story. Additional editing and production help from Carol Klinger, Denise Couture and Nina Kravinsky. Hanna Palamarenko and Tanya Ustova provided reporting and translation help.
The Ukrainians inflicted stunning losses on the Russian army and laid bare their outdated leadership and weak tactics, as well as exposing the brittleness of a force more impressive on parade than on the battlefield.
The Ukrainian units have proved that they are able to exploit their opponent’s systemic weaknesses, using drones, smart operational planning and centralized command.
Perhaps one of the most impressive examples of Ukrainian agility came on the first day of the invasion, when a large Russian helicopter assault force seized an airfield on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv, threatening to turn it into a decisive bridge for the invading force to surge further reinforcements.
Zelensky was made aware of his determination by the action, as evidenced by the defiance of a small squadron on Snake Island with their retort to a Russian destroyer, a gesture that became a national symbol.
Long-range rockets from France, Poland, and other countries enabled Ukrainian forces to degrade Russian command posts and fuel depots. Real-time intelligence collection and fusion (supported by NATO), was integrated, creating a battlefield where Ukrainian units detected targets more quickly than the cumbersome Russian force.
Air defense systems have blunted Russian missile and drone barrages and discouraged its air force from conducting missions directly over Ukrainian airspace.
The War Between Russia And Ukraine: Where Do We Need? What Do Ukrainians Need to Know, Where Do They Need It and Where Will They Get It?
But there has been a regular, and costly, lag between what the Ukrainians badly need and when it gets delivered. As one Ukrainian official told CNN this month, “We need help yesterday and we are promised it tomorrow. The difference between yesterday and tomorrow is the lives of our people.”
Ukrainians have more pressing needs than battle tanks, on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion. A CNN team toured frontline positions for two weeks, and every single time they said, “We need shells.”
The timing of GLSDB deliveries and longer-range systems promised to Ukraine by the UK is important in order to defeat mass with precision.
The foundation expects that the war will be decided by Russian and Ukrainian offensives, which are not expected to start until this fall.
The Ukrainian officials are not happy with the never category which includes F-16 fighter jets and US ATACMS missiles with a range of over 200 miles.
Some Western officials expect the Russian air force – largely missing in action so far – to become a more important component of the Russian battle plan. “We do know that Russia has a substantial number of aircraft in its inventory and a lot of capability left,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last week.
The senior US military official last week said it was likely more realistic than aspirational, due to political pressure from the Kremlin.
The Russian chief of general staff Valery Gerasimov was put in direct charge of the Ukraine campaign last month, prompting Rand analyst Dara Massicot to say that the “possibility of the Russians asking their tired force to do something that it cannot handle rises exponentially.”
The only playbook that has worked for the Russians in this conflict is to lay waste to what’s in front of them, so there is nothing left to defend. We’ve seen this in Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna and above all Mariupol.
A successful counter-attack by Ukrainian forces, especially with a thrust southwards through Zaporizhzhia towards Melitopol, would raise the stakes for the Kremlin still higher.
In September, Putin warned that they would make use of all weapon systems available to defend Russia and the people. This is not bluffing.
But Ukraine will need time to assimilate tanks, fighting vehicles and other hardware to break through Russian lines, which are deeper and denser than they were a few months ago.
It’s possible that the conflict will settle into a violent stasis after a burst of fury this spring, with little ground changing hands despite relentless attrition and high casualties.
The Security Conference on Ukraine (Summitte 21-24 February 2016): Russia’s response to Ukraine’s crisis in the light of the Munich Security Conference
Also on Wednesday, the U.N. General Assembly holds a special session on Ukraine. The Security Council discusses Nord Stream pipelines at Russia’s request. Russia’s parliament will have extraordinary meetings.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy opened the Munich Security Conference, speaking via video link to attendees including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Vice President Kamala Harris. The vice president told the gathering that Russia had committed crimes against humanity.
NATO defense ministers met in Brussels, where Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged a boost in ammunition to Ukraine, warning that the Kremlin is preparing for new offensives and attacks.
The Russian government is operating a systematic network of at least 40 child custody centers for thousands of Ukrainian children, a potential war crime, a Yale University team reported.
“Neither of these armies look today the way they did at the beginning of the war. They have taken heavy losses. The Center for Naval Analyses’ Kofman said that both had lost a lot of their best people and equipment.
The Russians didn’t have enough troops to capture and hold large swaths of Ukraine, according to analyst Dmitri Alperovitch.
“So if at the beginning, they didn’t have enough troops, but they had plenty of equipment, now it’s sort of the reverse, where they’re flowing more troops in, but they may no longer have enough equipment to actually execute a successful campaign,” said Alperovitch, who heads a think tank, the Silverado Policy Accelerator.
Many analysts believe that it burned through excessive amounts of bullets. According to the Defense Department estimate, Russia lost half its tanks in the past year.
The Russian military reduced the amount of territory they have to defend as a result of retreating from a good deal of Ukrainian territory last fall. “That means that as a military, they have far more force density. They have echelon lines. They have reserves.”
“I think it’s going to be very difficult for the Ukrainians to make quick progress,” he said. “I think it will be difficult to watch the lightning offensives we saw last year if the Russian line just collapses.”
Neither side has shown good ability at combined arms. Neither side has air superiority, which is really important if you’re going to take these fortified positions,” Alperovitch said.
The two sides are expected to start offensives. In fact, a Russian one appears to be underway in the east, and Russian forces have already suffered one resounding defeat around the town of Vuhledar.
Many had anticipated that U.S. and European aid would be weaker. Just last month, Western countries pledged the biggest military assistance package yet, including, for the first time, tanks.
“I do think at some point, Western support will start fraying, especially as the political winds change in the U.S.,” Ioffe said, pointing to a group of Republicans in the U.S. House who are questioning U.S. aid.
“You are seeing these reassertions of an isolationist kind of ‘America First’ sentiment of, ‘Why are we in this fight? Why did we send a blank check to Ukraine? She said they should not be doing this.
The main issue is not the will to support the Ukrainians on the Western side. He said it’s the capacity to do so. The rate at which the Ukrainians are using their weapons is much higher than that of the collective West.