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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Any Attempt At Ukraine Peace Is A Non-Starter Right Now

African leaders traveled to both Kyiv and Moscow to discuss a potential "peace plan" for the war in Ukraine. Predictably the envoys failed, and others will likely meet the same fate as Ukraine's counteroffensive kicks into gear and Putin keeps digging in.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa sitting next to each other.

Putin and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa meet in St Petersburg on Saturday

© Sergei Bobylev/TASS via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It was an attempt at mediation that had absolutely no chance of success. The four African presidents who traveled to Kyiv and then on to Moscow left without making any progress in bringing the two sides closer.

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The predictable failure can be attributed to two factors: first, ambiguities in the proposals and positioning of the mediators from South Africa, Senegal, Zambia and Comoros. And second, the meeting's timing — in the middle of the Ukrainian counteroffensive — wouldn't have allowed for any political movement while the balance of power remains unstable.

Ukraine had the most cautious reaction to the content of the proposals. An end to the fighting today would mean "freezing" the conflict in favor of Russia and its territorial gains, without any guarantee that possible future negotiations would restore the country's sovereignty.

One particular clause in the African plan was unacceptable to Ukrainian ears: the suspension of the indictment of Vladimir Putin before the International Criminal Court for war crimes. African heads of state visited the Ukrainian city of Bucha, site of a massacre of civilians in the early weeks of the Russian invasion, but apparently it did not move them enough to reverse that clause.

"Freezing" the conflict

If there is one positive outcome, it is that this it is the first time that African nations, collectively, have attempted mediation in a conflict in which they are not involved.

Non-alignment primarily benefits the aggressor.

That said, Africa bears the full brunt of consequences of the war, including food insecurity and increasing energy prices and interest rates. Africa had a legitimate claim to make its voice heard. It missed an opportunity due to the diversity of positions on the continent.

On one hand, Africans have good reasons to refuse, like other countries in the Global South, to automatically align themselves in a conflict outside the continent. But in this case, non-alignment primarily benefits the aggressor.

\u200bA Russian Army Central Military District serviceman in a mission.

A Russian Army Central Military District serviceman is seen during a combat mission, May 30, 2023, Russia.

© Stanislav Krasilnikov /TASS via ZUMA

No mediation 

Also on the positive side, the African initiative lays the groundwork for the day when negotiations will be possible. It also demonstrates the impatience of the rest of the world regarding the Ukrainian war, even though Africans would have benefited from expressing it more candidly — or more forcefully.

So, negotiations are not on the agenda at the moment. Neither Kyiv nor Moscow are currently inclined towards talks, especially in the midst of a decisive battle.

Ukraine has launched its counteroffensive and hopes to reverse the balance of power. Volodymyr Zelensky is not willing to negotiate before demonstrating on the ground that Ukraine can push back against Russia.

Putin shares a similar reasoning: he believes that his army can withstand the Ukrainian assault, even if they are armed with Western weapons. He hopes to hold onto his territorial gains, including the connection between Donbas and Crimea, and wants to maintain control over the Sea of Azov.

Therefore, it will be weapons that will determine the timing of any potential negotiations, and the balance of power. It is still too early to assess the outcome of the Ukrainian offensive, despite recent announcements of liberated villages or the spectacular destruction of a Russian weapons depot in the Kherson region. No mediation is possible in this context— and certainly not the imperfect one offered by African states.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Pro-Ukrainian Hackers Have Undermined Russia's War Every Step Of The Way

Authorities in Moscow continue to struggle to stem the tide of data breaches from hackers inside and outside Ukraine, who have been one of the unsung heroes in the resistance to the Russian invasion.

photo illustration of a light bulb with code in front of ukrainian and russian flags

Digital assets continue to be a point of vulnerability for Moscow

Andre M. Chang/ZUMA
Lizaveta Tsybulina

It was a concerted effort that began with Russia's Feb. 24, 2022 full-scale invasion, and has not relented since: pro-Ukrainian hackers have been targeting Russian government agencies and businesses, gathering secret information and passing it on to the Ukrainian security and intelligence forces.

Discrepancies exist in total reported breakthroughs and leaks obtained over the past 20 months. This year so far, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s digital watchdog, identified 150 major leaks, while Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity firm, reported 168 leaks, totaling about 2 billion lines of data, including 48 million with top secret passwords.

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Following the Russian invasion, a substantial number of hackers worldwide expressed solidarity with Ukraine, and took action. "My colleagues and I operate under the principle that 'if it can be hacked, then it needs to be hacked,'” said a representative of the Cyber.Anarchy.Squad group. “We believe in targeting anything accessible, especially if it's significant to defeating the enemy."

“BlackBird,” one of the founders of the DC8044 community, explained that the primary objective of hacking Russian entities is to acquire data useful to Ukrainian security forces.

"The personal data obtained by our groups is typically shared with security forces,” he said. “They aggregate and analyze this information to support their operations effectively.”

Hackers closely cooperate with Ukrainian intelligence services as well: they are engaged in reconnaissance, sabotage and information operations. Andrey Baranovich, co-founder of the Ukrainian CyberAlliance group said that “If we spend 24 hours hacking something, our victims should spend at least a week recovering, and in the optimal case, the victim should not recover at all.”

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