A visit to the hill tribes near Chiang Rai, in northern Thailand, usually ends up with tourists buying crafts or taking picture of locals posing in traditional costumes. I did both, bringing back one of these colorful hats — though I tried to snap a more candid shot.
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Russian troops are attempting to encircle Severodonetsk, the last key city remaining under Ukrainian control in the Luhansk region, as Vladimir Putin looks to claim victory in a war that is not going Moscow's way. But will the toll be for civilians?
Severodonetsk, the last key city remaining under Ukrainian control in the Luhansk area, is now the focal point of Russia’s war. In 2014, it had been recaptured from the pro-Russian separatists in a hard-fought battle by Ukrainian forces. Now, eight years later, Moscow is launching an all-out attack to try to take it back again.
Alex Crawford, a Sky News correspondent in the region, says Russian forces have the means to conquer the city that in normal times has a population of circa 100,000 — and Moscow will be eager to cite it as the “victory”. But, Crawford wrote, “the path to victory comes – like the capture of the port city of Mariupol – strewn with the broken and battered bodies of the city's citizens.”
The comparison to Mariupol is increasingly being cited. Putin’s soldiers are encircling Severodonetsk with the same tactics as they did in that southern port city. "Russian troops have advanced to be so close that they can fire mortars" at the city, regional governor Sergei Gaidai warned Wednesday, May 25, reported the French weekly L’Express. Severodonetsk "is simply being destroyed,” he added.
The offensive around Severodonetsk had been expanded in recent days. The Russian army was trying to break through the Ukrainian defense lines in Severodonetsk from various directions and a key highway linking the cities of Lyssychansk and Bakhmut has been under constant fire. But it still has not been fully blocked off, the BBC confirmed.
“If the Russians manage to take the city, they will be able to claim the conquest of the entire Lugansk Oblast," says General Dominique Trinquand, a military expert and former head of the French mission to the UN, told L’Express.
Still, it will not come easily, or quickly — and could take weeks, “if not months,” said Frans Osinga, professor of war studies in Leiden, the Netherlands, according to Dutch broadcaster RTL Nieuws.
Osinga, too, sees a “second Mariupol” in Severodonetsk. "The Russian troops are trying to surround the city just like they did there. If they manage to close off all access roads, Ukrainian soldiers could run out of ammunition," he said. “But,” he added, "the Russians want to avoid getting into street fights, because that is very dangerous for them." That's why attempts are being made to take the city under fire from the outside.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cited the city in his nightly address to the nation Tuesday. In reference to Severodonetsk, he said: "The occupiers want to destroy everything there. But it will take great efforts by the Ukrainian people to overcome Russian superiority in armaments and technology,” German Die Welt reported.
Dutch Defense Expert Dick Zandee, according to RTL Nieuws, noted Russia’s biggest obstacle: "In Mariupol we also saw that Ukraine is prepared to fight to the last man," says "They dig in."
Putin Visits Wounded Soldiers For First Time
Putin visiting wounded soldiers from the "special operations" in Ukraine.
screenshot from video
Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited soldiers who were wounded during fighting in Ukraine for the first time since the invasion began on Feb. 24. Wednesday’s visit to Moscow’s Mandryka military hospital was shown on videotape in Russia and around the world.
Dressed in a white medical coat, Putin spoke with soldiers and hailed them as “heroes of Russia.” As of March 25, Russia reports that 1,351 of its soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded in Ukraine, which Putin still refers to only as a “special operations.”Ukraine and international observers cite significantly higher casualties.
Russia Claims It’s Allowing Foreign Ships To Leave Black Sea
In Odessa, looking toward the Black Sea.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it had allowed five foreign ships to leave the Black Sea. State news agency Interfax also reports that Russia plans to open a safety corridor on Thursday to allow ships to leave Mariupol via the Sea of Azov port as well as Kherson and Odessa on the Black Sea. Russia’s claims, which would loosen its ongoing blockade of commercial vessels, have not yet been verified.
The news comes amid increasing concerns about rising global food prices. A report by the African Development Bank stated that about 1.8 million people in Africa could be pushed into extreme poverty due to the impact of economic problems caused by Russia’s invasion.
Russia has been under pressure to lift its blockade of the Black Sea. Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday that there could be a “multi-year food crisis” if a Russian blockade of ships carrying vital export produce, particularly wheat, is not lifted.
Zelensky Calls Out Kissinger For “Munich” Moment
Chamberlain (far left) was Hitler's guest in Munich.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lashed out at former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for comments he made at the Davos summit earlier this week, suggesting that Kyiv should cede territory to Russia in order to bring the war to an end.
Speaking in his regular evening address Wednesday, Zelensky said: “It seems that Mr. Kissinger’s calendar is not 2022 but 1938, and he thought he was talking to an audience not in Davos but in what was then Munich.” The reference to the German city is the 1938 conference held there in which British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain agreed to let Hitler take over part of Czechoslavakia, which paved the way for the Nazi leader to expand his ambitions across Europe.
Ukraine War Threatens To Sink British Fish And Chips
The war in Ukraine is weighing heavy on appetites in the UK: the price of British fish and chips is going up faster than other consumer goods because Russian seas provide the fish, and Ukrainian sunflower oil fuels the friers. As a result, one-third of fish and chip shops in the UK are at risk of going bust this year due to the price pressures, Reuters reports.
Some of the recent difficulties for fish and chip shops began after Brexit, when the amount of Arctic cod Britain is allowed to catch in 2022 was reduced to about 40% of what it was before leaving the European Union. In just a year, prices for cod and haddock (Britain’s favorite fish) are up 75%, sunflower oil is up 60%, and even flour, used to batter the fish, is up 40%. The meal is such a staple that unlike other food in Britain, it was not rationed during the last century’s two world wars.
Seoul To Send Ukraine Masks And Filters In Case Of Chemical, Biological Or Nuclear Attack
South Korea is planning to send $1.1 million non-lethal military aid to Ukraine. The Yonhap agency, citing the Ministry of Defense, reports that South Korea intends to send gas masks and filters to Ukraine. Tthis is the third package of assistance to Ukraine, and it is delivered to the country for "chemical, biological, radiological" protection.
“We will consult with Ukraine so that our assistance can be delivered there as soon as possible,” Deputy Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Moon Hong Sik said at a regular press briefing (quoted by Yonhap ). These deliveries worth $1.18 million could arrive in Ukraine next month, the agency writes.
Russian Curriculum Imposed In Mariupol Schools
Children are seen at a humanitarian aid distribution center in Mariupol
Mariupol was officially claimed as captured by the Russians last week after nearly 1,000 Ukrainian fighters left their positions and handed themselves over to the Russian forces. Ever since then, the Russian occupants have wasted no time imposing their rule.
According to Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko, Russian officials in the city continue to forcibly impose the Russian curriculum in Mariupol's schools and have announced the extension of the school year until September 1, he shared on his telegram channel.
"The occupiers have announced the extension of the school year until September 1. That is, without vacations. The main goal is de-Ukrainization and preparation for the school year under the Russian program. Children will be taught all summer. They’ll learn Russian language and literature, Russian history, and mathematics in Russian," he wrote.
Both Andryushchenko and Boychenko still seem to be in Ukraine and communicate updates via Andryushchenko’s telegram channel.
French Satirical Magazine Charlie Hebdo Features Ukrainian Cartoonists
Putin, the ballerina...
"Respond to Rockets with Laughter": The satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has turned over many of its pages of this week’s edition to Ukrainian cartoonists who "continue to do their job" despite the Russian invasion.
Among the 20 cartoons published: a Russian bear that dips its paw into a hive before it is devoured by bees, soldiers who slide on a shell from a slide in a kindergarten, and instruments of torture depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin.