More than 20 missiles were fired in just over an hour, leaving at least 15 injuries, and may be a sign that Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko is ready to join the invasion as an active participant.
In a 70-minute span early Thursday, Ukraine was the target of multiple missile attacks from Belarus in what is believed to be by far the most sustained attack from within that country since the Russian invasion began.
Between 5:20 and 6:30 a.m., between 20 and 25 missiles were launched from the territory of Belarus across the border into Ukraine. There are reports of at least 15 casualties.
A statement released by Ukraine’s local Pivnich Military Command, near the Belarus border, said: "At the moment it is known about the arrival of nine missiles on the territory of Goncharivka community of Chernigiv region, which fell into the forest. Our anti-aircraft defense system also operated."
There is growing speculation about whether Belarus, which is run by President Alexander Lukashenko, a strongman and Vladimir Putin ally, will enter the war on Russia’s side.
Until now, Belarus has been a mostly passive supporter of Moscow’s war, allowing Russian troops to enter Ukraine through its territory in the first days of the invasion. Russian missile launchers and warplanes have also been deployed to military bases near the Ukrainian border, and sporadic missiles have been fired across the border.
Thursday morning’s barrage of missiles may be a sign that Russia will be relying on forces in Belarus in response to Kyiv's major counter-offensive to recapture areas in southern Ukraine around the city of Kherson. That could be further missile attacks or a land invasion across the border.
Proposed Prisoner Swap: Russian Arms Dealer Bout For WNBA Star Griner And Ex Marine Whelan
The U.S. has offered to exchange Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer, in exchange for the two Americans held by Russia, basketball star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan. Bout is currently serving a 25 year U.S. prison sentence.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to have a call about the proposed swap this week with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which would be their first direct communication since the war began.
Die Welt: Tracing Scholz’s “Strange Stalling Techniques” On Arms Shipments
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine
German arms suppliers have been offering Kyiv heavy equipment for sale for months. But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz refuses to approve them, always with new explanations. Berlin-based Die Welt published a chronological summary of the number of times Scholz refused to authorize the supply of weapons.
The first request for weapons came shortly after the Chancellor proclaimed the "new reality" in the Bundestag parliament speech just after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which required a change in Germany’s post-World War II military policy. Fast forward to April, when Scholz was under pressure from the U.S. to ramp up Ukraine support. He presented a number of reasons for why he wouldn’t do that to the public, most of which were empty excuses, according to Die Welt.
Germany should not go it alone, Scholz explained, suggesting that other countries would also deny Ukraine heavy weapons. By that time, however, half a dozen states, including the U.S. and the U.K., had already delivered heavy equipment to Kyiv. Scholz also argued that the security of Germany and other NATO States would be compromised; a risk that didn’t exist according to other NATO members.
On April 26, Die Welt recalled, the U.S. was furious. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin invited 40 of his colleagues for a "workshop" on support for Ukraine. Scholz had to let his defense minister announce there, surprisingly, that 30 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks will now be delivered. 72 hours earlier, the Chancellor had ruled this out. The first three arrived in Ukraine this Monday – a full three months later.
Tallying Ukrainian Forests Destroyed Since Feb. 24
Russian shelling hit multiple civilian locations causing fires in Kharkiv
Since the beginning of the war, Russians have destroyed the territory of Ukraine's forests equivalent to to half of the Czech Republic, according to a new tally.
For five months of the war the Russians have trenched and burned the territory of the Ukrainian forests, which are half of the Czech Republic, said Ruslan Strylets, Minister of Environmental Protection. Another close to 1 million hectares of protected territories are in danger of extinction.
"After the war, all this must be reshaped and renewed", - said the minister.
Even before the large-scale invasion in February 2022, the UN called the war zone in eastern Ukraine the most mined area in the world. In 2018, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry estimated that approximately 7,000 square kilometers were mined in the controlled territory, and twice as many in the so-called "republics."
After NATO Membership, Finland May Hit Russia With Visa Ban
Consulate-General of Finland in St Petersburg
Finland has recently joined Sweden in seeking NATO membership in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Now Finnish politicians say they also support blocking Russian tourists from coming across the 1,340-km-long border the two countries share.
Earlier this week, a majority of political parties in Finland stated that they would be in favor of putting a temporary freeze on tourist visas for Russians. This would align Finland with Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which have already stopped processing tourist visas. It would also bring Finnish policy closer to that of Norway, another Nordic country sharing a land border with Russia, which tightened its visa regulations for Russian tourists in June.
The visa issue is one more sign that the relationship between the two neighbors has fundamentally changed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Interviewed last week on Russian television, Moscow’s ambassador to Finland Pavel Kuznetsov said "Finns used to be good friends until not that long ago and now they have cut all cooperation."
Polemics After Zelensky Couple’s Vogue Photo Spread By Annie Leibovitz
Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska had already appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in early July, on the eve of her trip to the U.S. to speak before Congress. Now Vogue magazine featured Zelenska on the cover and in a major photographic spread, along with her husband President Volodymyr Zelensky, for its digital issue that will be printed in October.
The photographic spread, shot by legendary portraitist Anne Leibovitz, show the Ukrainian couple in and out of war-like settings. Shots of the first lady amid soldiers have been criticized for “glamorizing” the conflict, reports French feminist media Madmoizelle.
On Twitter, others have criticized the couple for focusing on a Vogue shoot while the war rages on, some even questioning President Zelensky’s leadership. Plenty of others defended the choice. Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Povoroznyk told the HuffPost of Zelenska: “Her job is to keep the world’s attention on Ukraine, and that’s why she’s giving interviews and speeches and yes, even having her photos taken by huge publications like Vogue.”