In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has focused his diplomatic efforts on Germany and China, two nations that remain key to the balance of power in the war in Ukraine. In different ways the two powerhouse countries have been less than clear where they stand in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
In what was a clear reference to former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s recent visit to Russia, Zelensky said in his nightly address on Wednesday that “it is simply disgusting when former leaders of powerful states with European values work for Russia, which is fighting against these values.”
Schroeder, who has longstanding business ties to Russia, revealed Wednesday that he’d again met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month and discussed possible negotiations to end the war. Meanwhile, current German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is also a source of concern for Kyiv, as Berlin appears increasingly worried about having access to Russian gas supplies. Scholz is eager to return a repaired Nord Stream 1 turbine to Russia in order to ensure gas arrives in Germany for the winter. Russia’s Gazprom has refused to take back the turbine that is part of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. Russia is accused of cutting gas supplies via Nord Stream to blackmail and intimidate Europe.
Zelensky’s attention is also turned this week towards China. In an interview with South China Morning Post, the Ukrainian President said he has been asking for a direct conversation with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping since the start of the war, without success.
Zelensky called on China to leverage its political and economic influence over Russia to stop the fighting. “I’m sure that without the Chinese market for the Russian Federation, Russia would be feeling complete economic isolation,” Zelensky said.
Britney Griner Faces Up To 9.5 Years In Prison
Britney Griner appears in court in the region of Moscow
Russian prosecutors Thursday asked for a 9.5-year jail sentence for American basketball star Brittney Griner, who is standing trial in a Moscow regional court on charges of drug smuggling.
The case has become a diplomatic row between the U.S. and Russia in the midst of the war in Ukraine, as Washington has sought a prisoner exchange to free the 31-year-old WNBA star, who was first arrested at the Moscow airport in February with cannabis oil in her luggage.
Fleeing Ukrainian Refugees Stuck Due To Floods
People waiting to receive humanitarian aid in Zaporizhzhia.
Some 6,000 people trying to leave Russian-occupied territories for the city of Zaporizhzhia are stuck due to flooding on the roads. “The waiting time there is up to seven days,” , Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov told Ukrainian television on Thursday. “But the situation has become more complicated in the last few days, because there is heavy rain in the Zaporizhzhia region, and the dirt road, which is in the gray zone, is now impassable”
With the Ukrainian army trying to take back the occupied city of Kherson, officials said the number of refugees trying to travel through the road has increased.
The route to the city of Zaporizhzhia is one of the few “green corridors”, allowing citizens to escape the Russian-occupied territories. Fedorov added that Russians are “deliberately blocking this path now, because they are deliberately releasing our citizens, who will then get stuck on this dirt road.”
Ukraine’s Crackdown On Draft Dodgers
Ukrainian soldiers patrolling the streets of Kyiv
Ukrainian State Border Services detained over 6,400 men of draft age trying to flee Ukraine since the start of the war. The arrested individuals presented fake documents, hid in transport, and tried to bribe border guards. At least 2,400 of them were arrested as they tried to pass through passport control. Guards refused a total of Hr 3.5 million ($95,000) in bribes among the cases, Border Services reports.
U.S. Accuses Russia Of Fabricating Evidence In Deadly Prison Attack
Rally after prison attack in Lviv
U.S. officials believe that Russia is attempting to fabricate evidence regarding the attack in occupied Olenivka, during which 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed. Intelligence officers say that the Russian Federation is trying to plant false evidence in order to blame Ukraine for blowing up the prison, writes the Associated Press.
Classified U.S. intelligence reports indicate that the Russians may even drop HIMARS ammunition used against the Russia’s targets elsewhere to make it look like it was the Ukrainians who fired at the prison with U.S.-supplied weapons.
On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he would appoint a fact-finding mission in response to requests from Russia and Ukraine to investigate the killings at the prison.
Inside Zelensky’s Crackdown On Ukrainian Oligarchs
Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko with oligarch Igor Kolomoisky at a press conference in 2015
When he was elected, President Volodymyr Zelensky knew the disproportionate political power of Ukraine’s own oligarch class stood in the way of progress. Since Russia’s invasion, the war effort has been his singular priority.
Yet over the past few weeks, accelerated by the close-up scrutiny of Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership, it seems that the dual challenges of Russian aggression and domestic corruption are ultimately bound together. It is another reminder of how much the history and destiny of these two nations are connected.
Read the article in Worldcrunch by Anna Akage
Russia’s New Duty-Free Shops Resemble Hard-Currency “Beriozka” Stores In USSR
\u201cCustomers of "Beriozka" hard currency store. Photo by Boris Losin, Leningrad, USSR, 1965\u201d— Soviet Visuals (@Soviet Visuals) 1614094560
Russia has announced it’s launching several duty-free shops accessible only to diplomats, employees of embassies, consulates, international organizations, and their families. The shops, which will open in Moscow and St. Petersburg with prices listed in rubles, U.S. dollars, and euros, are to be operated by the Russian foreign ministry and another local entity chosen in a competition.
The idea resembles that of Beriozka stores, state-run shops in the USSR to which only foreign tourists with hard currency had access.