March 14, 2016
Premium stories from Worldcrunch's own network of multi-lingual journalists in over 30 countries.
The Ukrainian army is pushing the front line forward in several directions.
The Ukrainian army is pushing the front line forward in several directions, including the liberation of two more cities – Arkhangelske and Myrolyubivka – in the southern region of Kherson. There were also reports Monday of major breakthroughs by Kyiv forces along the Dnipro River in the south.
Ukraine has also made progress in the past 48 hours in the region of Luhansk. Notably, these are two of the four regions that Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had annexed on Friday.
With these advances by Ukrainian forces, along with gains in Donetsk (see below) and Zaporizhzhia, Russia does not hold the full territory of any of the areas of occupied Ukraine that Moscow now claims as its own.
Fighting has also intensified in the northeastern Kharkiv region, where Ukraine has also made significant advances and Russia continues shelling in response.
The successful counterattacks by the Ukrainian military in Kherson and the Kharkiv region since last month has left Russian forces controlling less Ukrainian land than they did at the start of the war in February 2022, an analysis by CNN found. Russia’s first massive push overnight into February 24 allowed it to secure or advance on one fifth of Ukrainian territory, or about 119,000 square kilometers. Russia now controls roughly 3,000 square kilometers less land than it did in the first five days of the war.
Fighting, however, continues to be intense. Russia launched another rocket attack on Zaporizhzhia and two villages of the Zaporizhzhia district. Infrastructure facilities, including a rehabilitation center where children with special needs studied, were destroyed. For the moment, shelling has quieted around the nuclear plant in the region.
Near the Lyman frontline
Russian forces have lost control over the strategically important city of Lyman in the Donetsk region. According to British Intelligence, Moscow’s forced retreat is a crucial defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin and will put pressure on the command of the Russian army.
British intelligence explains that Lyman is important operationally because it now holds control of a key crossing of the Siverskyi Donets river, where Russia has been trying to strengthen its defenses. But, they estimated, it was defended by understaffed units as well as contingents of voluntarily mobilized reservists.
"Russia's withdrawal from Lyman is also a significant political setback (for Russia), given that it is located within the Donetsk region — a region that Russia allegedly sought to 'liberate' and which it tried to illegally annex," they added.
Putin meeting with State Duma leadersen.kremlin.ru
Russia's Parliament is expected today to study bills and ratification treaties to absorb Luhansk and areas of Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the RIA Novosti news agency reports.
Last Friday, Vladimir Putin officially announced the annexation of the four Russian occupied regions of Ukraine, following what the West decried as “sham” referendums. Yesterday, the Russian Constitutional Court ruled that said “accession treaties” were in compliance with the Russian constitution.
The changing of the honor guard at Lenin's mausoleum in Red Square, Moscow
Sociologists from the Russian Field gave new survey results of war sentiment in the country, with 44% of respondents supporting the idea of peace talks with Ukraine.
Yet, the almost identical number of Russians, 46%, believe that war must continue. If Putin could sign a peace agreement with Ukraine tomorrow, 75% of Russians would support this decision, and 60% of respondents would also support the decision to attack Kyiv again.
While divided over the simple question of war or peace, the results seem to show continued support for Putin as the country’s leader. The poll was conducted by telephone from September 29 to October 1 among 1,610 Russian residents.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency said on Monday in its quarterly gas report that European Union countries would need to reduce use by 13% this winter to conserve under the threat of a Russian cutoff of gas amid the war in Ukraine.
After Russia cut off most pipeline shipments, and in light of the Nord pipeline leaks over the past days, already scarce and expensive liquid gas that comes by ship could be extremely limited in supply. On Friday, the EU agreed to mandate a reduction in electricity consumption by at least 5% during peak price hours.
Russia and several European countries have been fighting over the supply of natural gas from Russia since the country's invasion of Ukraine in February, and the European Union says the Kremlin is using the flow of gas needed for energy in the region as an economic weapon. Eni, the biggest importer of Russian gas in Italy, said in a statement on its website on Saturday that it will not receive any of the gas it had ordered from Russia's Gazprom.
Authorities in Denmark said Sunday that the Nord Stream 1 pipelines have achieved stable pressure and stopped leaking natural gas into the Baltic Sea, a day after officials said the ruptured Nord Stream 2 pipelines also appeared to have stopped leaking.
At a recruitment center in St Petersburg
In the Russian city of Kazan, an 18-year-old woman was arrested after throwing a Molotov cocktail into the military commissariat building where men are being forced to sign up for the draft. It is one of at least 20 attempts to burn or blow up commissariats since Putin announced mobilization.
Across the country, mobilization efforts appear to be going slowly, writes Russian-language media Meduza. As reports continue of men trying to flee the country, the local commissars are being pressured to meet quotas of draft signups, which has led to reports of recruits chosen without regard to health, age, or military experience.
Ukrainian fighter jet pilot Colonel Mykhailo Matyushenko
From the first days of the war, ace fighter pilot dubbed “The Ghost of Kyiv” became a national legend in Ukraine. It was the “Ghost” who protected the capital from the air, destroying numerous Russian planes. Only later it was revealed that it was not one, but the group of pilots from the Ukrainian Air Force's 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade.
But there was a leader, who had been responsible for recruiting and training the new generation that ensured the successful defense: veteran Ukrainian fighter jet pilot Colonel Mykhailo Matyushenko known by the moniker Did (Grandpa).
His name was kept top-secret just until now — but on June 26, in an aerial battle over the Black Sea, the 61-year-old leader of Ghosts was killed. This information became public on Monday; Matyushenko will be buried in his hometown, which happens to be Bucha, site of some of the worst alleged Russian war crimes against local civilians.
French daily La Croix's Monday front page featuring Russian flags in Burkina Faso
After days of violent protests against the French embassy in support of a coup by Burkina Faso’s self-declared military leader Captain Ibrahim Traore, a conditional resignation offered by President Paul-Henri Damiba to avoid further violence has been accepted.
Videos of the protests shared online showed hundreds of people supporting Traore’s takeover gathered in protest in front of the French embassy chanting in support of Russia while soldiers on armored vehicles waved Russian flags. It is unclear whether Russia is directly involved.
Earlier this year, Damiba led a coup against a civilian government that had lost support over rising violence by Islamist extremists. Damiba’s failure to stop the militant groups led to anger, especially among armed forces, in the former French territory. Since then, further divisions have emerged over whether to seek help from other international partners to combat the militants. Among those partners up for consideration was Russia. “We want cooperation with Russia. We want the departure of Damiba and France,” said Alassane Thiemtore, one of the protesters.
Here’s a story of Gidikumar Patil, an Indian-born Ukrainian doctor with a passion for big cats. The BBC tells how the war separated Patil from his pets, and his current efforts to be reunited with his jaguar and black panther.
When the Russian invasion started, Patil — a.k.a. "Jaguar Kumar" — vowed to stay with his pets. But the hospital he was working at as an orthopedic doctor in Svavtove (a small town near Severodonetsk, in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine) quickly closed down, and was eventually destroyed by airstrikes. Patil documented his struggles to remain with his beloved big cats — which he bought from a Kyiv zoo two years ago — through his YouTube channel.
Two weeks ago, Patil had to leave his jaguar and black panther behind, as he was forced to cross over to Poland to earn a living and enough money to keep feeding his big cats, entrusted to a caretaker. He told the BBC, he’s now looking for help from his native country: “If the Indian government can help and pick them up and take them home to a zoo or a forest in India, it is fine. I just want to save them."
The Ukrainian army is pushing the front line forward in several directions.
Europe should welcome the exodus of conscientious objectors from Russia. But the conditions vary across the continent, and there needs to be some security precautions.
The Jehovah's Witnesses in Chile have launched a Bible version translated into the native Mapudungun language, evidently indifferent to the concerns of a nation striving to save its identity from the Western cultural juggernaut.
Brazilian politics has a long history tainted with violence. As President Jair Bolsonaro threatens to not accept the results if he loses his reelection bid Sunday, the country could explode in ways similar to, or even worse, than the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol after Donald Trump refused to accept his defeat.
Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.
Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.
Then there is Mariupol, under siege and symbol of Putin’s cruelty. In the largest city on the Azov Sea, with a population of half a million people, Ukrainians make up slightly less than half of the city's population, and Mariupol's second-largest national ethnicity is Russians. As of 2001, when the last census was conducted, 89.5% of the city's population identified Russian as their mother tongue.
Between 2018 and 2019, I spent several months in Mariupol. It is a rugged but beautiful city dotted with Soviet-era architecture, featuring wide avenues and hillside parks, and an extensive industrial zone stretching along the shoreline. There was a vibrant youth culture and art scene, with students developing projects to turn their city into a regional cultural center with an international photography festival.
There were also many offices of international NGOs and human rights organizations, a consequence of the fact that Mariupol was the last major city before entering the occupied zone of Donbas. Many natives of the contested regions of Luhansk and Donetsk had moved there, taking jobs in restaurants and hospitals. I had fond memories of the welcoming from locals who were quicker to smile than in some other parts of Ukraine. All of this is gone.
Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
According to the latest data from the local authorities, 80% of the port city has been destroyed by Russian bombs, artillery fire and missile attacks, with particularly egregious targeting of civilians, including a maternity hospital, a theater where more than 1,000 people had taken shelter and a school where some 400 others were hiding.
The official civilian death toll of Mariupol is estimated at more than 3,000. There are no language or ethnic-based statistics of the victims, but it’s likely the majority were Russian speakers.
So let’s be clear, Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
Putin’s Public Enemy No. 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is a mother-tongue Russian speaker who’d made a successful acting and comedy career in Russian-language broadcasting, having extensively toured Russian cities for years.
Rescuers carry a person injured during a shelling by Russian troops of Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine.
Yes, the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, and a 2019 law aimed to ensure that it is used in public discourse, but no one has ever sought to abolish the Russian language in everyday life. In none of the cities that are now being bombed by the Russian army to supposedly liberate them has the Russian language been suppressed or have the Russian-speaking population been discriminated against.
Sociologist Mikhail Mishchenko explains that studies have found that the vast majority of Ukrainians don’t consider language a political issue. For reasons of history, culture and the similarities of the two languages, Ukraine is effectively a bilingual nation.
"The overwhelming majority of the population speaks both languages, Russian and Ukrainian,” Mishchenko explains. “Those who say they understand Russian poorly and have difficulty communicating in it are just over 4% percent. Approximately the same number of people say the same about Ukrainian.”
In general, there is no problem of communication and understanding. Often there will be conversations where one person speaks Ukrainian, and the other responds in Russian. Geographically, the Russian language is more dominant in the eastern and central parts of Ukraine, and Ukrainian in the west.
Like most central Ukrainians I am perfectly bilingual: for me, Ukrainian and Russian are both native languages that I have used since childhood in Kyiv. My generation grew up on Russian rock, post-Soviet cinema, and translations of foreign literature into Russian. I communicate in Russian with my sister, and with my mother and daughter in Ukrainian. I write professionally in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and English, and can also speak Polish, French, and a bit Japanese. My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
At the same time, I am not Russian — nor British or Polish. I am Ukrainian. Ours is a nation with a long history and culture of its own, which has always included a multi-ethnic population: Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, Poles, Jews, Greeks. We all, they all, have found our place on Ukrainian soil. We speak different languages, pray in different churches, we have different traditions, clothes, and cuisine.
My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
Like in other countries, these differences have been the source of conflict in our past. But it is who we are and will always be, and real progress has been made over the past three decades to embrace our multitudes. Our Jewish, Russian-speaking president is the most visible proof of that — and is in fact part of what our soldiers are fighting for.
Many in Moscow were convinced that Russian troops would be welcomed in Ukraine as liberating heroes by Russian speakers. Instead, young soldiers are forced to shoot at people who scream in their native language.
Starving people ina street of Kharkiv in 1933, during the famine
Putin has tried to rally the troops by warning that in Ukraine a “genocide” of ethnic Russians is being carried out by a government that must be “de-nazified.”
These are, of course, words with specific definitions that carry the full weight of history. The Ukrainian people know what genocide is not from books. In my hometown of Kyiv, German soldiers massacred Jews en masse. My grandfather survived the Buchenwald concentration camp, liberated by the U.S. army. My great-grandmother, who died at the age of 95, survived the 1932-33 famine when the Red Army carried out the genocide of the Ukrainian middle class, and her sister disappeared in the camps of Siberia, convicted for defying rationing to try to feed her children during the famine.
On Tuesday, came a notable report of one of the latest civilian deaths in the besieged Russian-speaking city of Kharkiv: a 96-year-old had been killed when shelling hit his apartment building. The victim’s name was Boris Romanchenko; he had survived Buchenwald and two other Nazi concentration camps during World War II. As President Zelensky noted: Hitler didn’t manage to kill him, but Putin did.
Genocide has returned to Ukraine, from Kharkiv to Kherson to Mariupol, as Vladimir Putin had warned. But it is his own genocide against the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine.