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Six Hundred And Counting — Russia Losing Ground, Town By Town

Russia has begun evacuating pro-Moscow residents in the Kherson region after a Russian official in the partially occupied area said residents should leave for their own safety.

​Reflection of Russian reservists in a puddle in Serpukhov, Russia

Reflection of Russian reservists in a puddle in Serpukhov, Russia

Cameron Manley, Sophia Constantino, Bertrand Hauger, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jeff Israely

Ukraine’s armed forces have retaken more than 600 localities under Russian occupation in the past month, including 75 in the strategic Kherson region, Ukraine's Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporary Occupied Territories said.

The ministry said 502 towns and villages have been liberated in the northeast Kharkiv region, 43 in the Donetsk region and seven in the Luhansk region.

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"The area of liberated Ukrainian territories has increased significantly," the ministry said in a statement on its website.

In perhaps another show of its weakened hold on recently occupied territories, Russia has begun evacuating pro-Moscow residents in the Kherson region after a Russian official in the partially occupied area said residents should leave for their own safety.

Russia’s TASS news agency reported a first group of civilians from Kherson was expected to land in Russia’s Rostov region as soon as Friday, while more will move to Crimea.


“Every day, the cities of Kherson region are subjected to missile attacks,” Vladimir Saldo, a pro-Russian politician said. “As such, the leadership of the Kherson administration has decided to provide Kherson families with the option to travel to other regions of the Russian Federation to rest and study.”

Russia And West, When Nuclear Rhetoric And Nuclear Exercises Coincide

“Routine.”

That’s how National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby described Russia’s so-called Grom drills that include part of its nuclear arsenal, which may begin as soon as Friday.

"While Russia probably believes this exercise will help it project power, particularly in light of recent events, we know that Russian nuclear units train extensively at this time of year," Kirby said, adding the United States would "monitor that accordingly."

Of course, these are not routine times, as Putin has recently threatened to use his nuclear capabilities as his invasion of Ukraine continues to not go according to plan.

"This is why you don't want to have extraordinarily overheated rhetoric at the same time you're going to do a nuclear exercise," a Western official told Reuters.

This comes as EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell declared that Ukraine’s Western partners, are “not bluffing” when speaking about the response in the case that Russia uses nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

Borrell added that it would not be “a nuclear answer” but still a “powerful” one.

"Any nuclear attack against Ukraine will create an answer, not a nuclear answer but such a powerful answer from the military side that the Russian Army will be annihilated, and Putin should not be bluffing," Borrell said. “This is a serious moment in the history, and we have to show our unity, and our strength and our determination.”

​Austrian Daily Wonders How Vulnerable Europe Is To A Nuclear Attack


Kleine Zeitung asks “How vulnerable is Europe?” on its Friday front page, after 14 NATO countries pledged to join forces in new air defense system. But “how realistic is that shield,” the Austrian daily wonders, “and how big are Europe's defense gaps?”

​A New Race For The Bomb? From South Korea To Saudi Arabia To South America

Vladimir Putin's nuclear threats fundamentally undermine the basic principles of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction developed in the post-War period, writes

Alina Grytsenko of Kyiv-based Livy Bereg. Indeed, signs show that several nations have recently been intensifying activities around acquiring a nuclear arsenal for national security.

As a non-nuclear power invaded by nuclear-armed Russia, Ukraine stands as an example to other countries around the world of the vulnerability inherent in not having an atomic arsenal.

Here’s a look at the evolving nuclear question in several key countries, from South Korea and Australia to Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

​After Prisoner Swap, Ukraine Demands Red Cross Visit Infamous Olenivka Prison

Olenivka prison

Dmitry Marmyshev/TASS/zuma


Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, announced late Thursday that Ukraine had returned 20 soldiers from Russian captivity under a recent prisoner swap. This comes after the 215 captured fighters from the Mariupol Azovstal plant were released in September.

Some of these released soldiers were held in occupied territories, including in the Olenivka prison in Donetsk region.

"The guys are now undergoing a medical examination, all are happy to be in their native land. They were very much awaited at home," Yermak said. "We will bring everyone back. There is no other way."

Yermak also said that a group of Ukrainian officials had demanded that the International Committee of the Red Cross send a mission to the prison in occupied Olenivka, within three days.

Their concern is more than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war were previously reported to have been killed in what was believed to be a Russian attack on the Olenivka prison on July 28.

"I do not understand why the Red Cross mission has not yet arrived in Olenivka during this entire period.” Yermak wrote on Telegram. “There is no time to wait because human lives are at stake.”

​Reports Of Belarus’ Secret Small-Scale Mobilization

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has reportedly begun conducting a small-scale covert mobilization to "man up the existing combat units," according to independent Belarusian publication Nasha Niva.

"It will go under the guise of a combat capability test," Nasha Niva writes, citing several unnamed sources. "In the first stage, it will not affect large cities – the rural population will be mobilized first."

Lukashenko hasn't announced the start of mobilization publicly. According to Nasha Niva, Belarus first plans to draft about 2,000 men. It’s another sign that Minsk, which had tried to avoid being dragged into the Ukraine war, will wind up joining alongside Russia.

According to a Russian Izvestiya newspaper interview with Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, Belarus has also announced a counter-terrorist operation regime. The country's army and special services are "ready to respond to any provocations from neighboring countries," Makei said.

​Kremlin Spokesman Says Russia Open To Talks

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov

Wikimedia Commons


Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying that the goals of Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine remained unchanged, while hinting that they could also be achieved through negotiations.

“The direction has not changed, the special military operation continues, it continues in order for us to achieve our goals,” Peskov was quoted as saying in the Russian Izvestia newspaper. “However, we have repeatedly reiterated that we remain open to negotiations to achieve our objectives.”

The spokesman added however that he didn’t see any prospects for talks in the near future given the West’s “very hostile stance” towards Russia, despite several statements released this week hinting at Moscow's openness to talks.

​Russia Threatens To Withdraw From Black Sea Grain Exports Deal

Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, told Reuters that Moscow would withdraw from a renewal of the UN-backed grain deal next month if the UN didn’t address Russia demands that the UN help with "allowing the exports of Russian grains and fertilizers."

The U.S. and Europe, however, have not targeted Russian grain or fertilizer exports through sanctions.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his team are reportedly working on an expanded Black Sea Grain Initiative, a four-month-long agreement between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the UN.

The deal was originally signed back in July in Istanbul to alleviate a global food crisis over Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports. More than 300 vessels have successfully left Ukrainian Black Sea ports since then transporting grain to countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

France Sends Germany Gas For First Time

For the first time amid the Russia energy crisis, France has sent Germany gas in a show of “European solidarity”.

This agreement comes after last month’s energy solidarity deal in which Germany pledged to provide electricity to France when needed in exchange for France helping Germany with gas supplies.

​Elon Musk To Stop Paying For Satellites Sent To Ukraine

A SpaceX rocket with Starlink hardware onboard, prepared for launchStarlink/Facebook


Elon Musk confirmed that SpaceX will no longer fund satellite communication terminals to be sent to Ukraine. CNN reports that Musk asked the Pentagon to pay for the program in his place.

So far around 20,000 Starlink satellite units have been donated to Ukraine. Musk tweeted on Friday that in total the “operation has cost SpaceX $80 million and will exceed $100 million by the end of the year.”


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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Western Tanks To Ukraine Trigger Russian Threats — But Also Fears Of Major Counterattack

Germany and the U.S. overcame months of reluctance in the past 24 hours to commit to sending heavy combat tanks to Ukraine. Russia responded with official bluster, but others in Moscow fear that the tanks delivery could be a gamechanger on the battlefield.

Picture of recently mobilized Russian troops

Recently mobilized Russian troops getting ready to depart for service

Cameron Manley

A week of growing expectations of a coming Russian offensive was turned on its head Wednesday as Germany and the U.S. announced their intention to send heavy combat tanks to Ukraine.

The sudden show of resolve on supplying tanks — after months of reluctance, particularly from Germany — has prompted some Russians to fear that Ukraine will now be equipped for a major counterattack. That would be significant reversal after speculation had been growing this month about a Russian spring offensive.

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government confirmed Wednesday morning that Berlin plans to send at least 14 German-built Leopard 2 tanks to the frontline. U.S. media also reported that Joe Biden’s administration is expected to officially announce Washington's commitment, with at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks expected to be sent.

The timeline remains unclear as to when the vehicles would make it into combat. Still, both sides on the war acknowledged that it is a significant development with the potential to change the math on the battlefield.

Official Russian response was loaded with typical incendiary rhetoric. Dmitry Peskov, press secretary to Russian president Vladimir Putin, said the new tanks would "burn like all the rest, only these ones are expensive.”

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