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In The News

What Happens Now To Mariupol Soldiers?

Up to 1,000 Ukrainian troops have reportedly surrendered from the Azovstal steel plant in the port of Mariupol, with all sent to a prisoner camp in Russian-controlled territory in Donbas. Ukrainians are hoping for a prisoner exchange, though Moscow may try some for war crimes.

What Happens Now To Mariupol Soldiers?

Surrender of defenders from Ukraine's Azov Regiment

Anna Akage, Bertrand Hauger, Shaun Lavelle and Emma Albright

Mariupol has fallen. The first 300 of the last Ukrainian troops holding out in the Ukrainian port city were taken early yesterday from the Azovstal steel plant toward the Russian-controlled former penal colony in Olenivka, Donetsk region. By Tuesday night, another column of seven buses, accompanied by Russian troops arrived in Olenivka, with a total of up to 1,000 soldiers reportedly surrendered by Wednesday morning.

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Ukrainians have been calling Tuesday’s events an evacuation, but Russia says it is the capture and surrender of Ukrainian troops, BBC Ukraine reports.

For almost two months, the Azov batallion was holding ground protecting the remaining people in Mariupol, but for them the last choice was simple: die in the bomb shelters protecting the city which is practically gone, or surrender to the Russians. Zelensky gave the order to save their lives after the Russian army made clear there was no chance for the fighters to leave Ukrainian territory. As of Wednesday midday, there is no information on what awaits them.

"We are very fearful about how they will be treated and whether they will be able to survive before any (prisoner) exchange takes place," a sister of one of the Azov fighters told the BBC's Hugo Bachega.

Adviser to the mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryushchenko last week called the colony in Olenivka "a real concentration camp of the 21st century, which Russia has created in the heart of Europe."

Russian legislators have proposed a bill that would prohibit the exchange of prisoners for the defenders of Azovstal, whom they intend instead to accuse of war crimes.

The Investigative Committee of Russia wrote in Twitter that they will "question the surrendered militants who had taken refuge at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol as part of the investigation into criminal cases concerning crimes committed by the Ukrainian regime against the civilian population of Donbas. Russian investigators will identify the nationalists, verify their involvement in crimes committed against civilians, and the information obtained during the interrogations will be compared with other data available in the criminal case files."

The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War says that Moscow could decide to make a gesture to "spare" Mariupol defenders in order to divert criticism regarding the overall slow pace of the offensive in Donbas. Though ISW suggests that to maintain their narrative that the soldiers in Mariupol were “neo-Nazis,” the Kremlin is more likely to refuse to allow a prisoner exchange.

Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten (Denmark)

Mariupol's last defenders have laid down their arms”

La Repubblica (Italy)

"Bargaining chips"

Vecernji List (Croatia)

Russian Soldier Pleads Guilty In First War Crimes Trial In Kyiv

Vadim Shishimarin

A 21-year-old Russian soldier pleaded guilty Wednesday in the first war crimes trial in Kyiv since the war began. The soldier was accused of shooting an unarmed Ukrainian civilian while he spoke on the phone. Prosecutors allege that the Russian soldier was ordered to shoot so the 62-year-old Ukrainian man would not reveal their location.

Russia denies targeting civilians, but Ukraine says it has evidence of thousands of potential war crimes. Hundreds of bodies and mass graves have been found in areas formerly occupied by Russia. The UK and the US have joined Ukraine in accusing Russia of carrying out war crimes.

Russia Expels 85 Diplomats From France, Spain and Italy

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has announced the expulsion of 85 French, Spanish and Italian diplomats. The diplomats have to leave within weeks. This comes after a number of European countries expelled Russian diplomats back in April, to protest Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Finland And Sweden Formally Apply To NATO

Finland and Sweden have formally submitted their applications to join NATO this morning. "This is a historic moment, which we must seize," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during the official ceremony in which the Swedish and Finnish ambassadors to the alliance handed over their application letters.

Both countries remained neutral during the Cold War, especially considering the fact that Finland shares borders with Russia. Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has, instead, convinced both Nordic countries that NATO protection was necessary.

Turkey’s opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO could slow down the ratification process, which may take up to a year.

100,000 Ukrainian Volunteers Now Seeing Actual Combat

Ukrainian soldier fighting on the ground

Daniel Ceng Shou-Yi/ZUMA

From the beginning of the war, men and women lined up in every city and region of Ukraine, seeking to volunteer for the territorial defense associations. These are unprofessional unions of city dwellers who want to defend their homes and cities. But if at the beginning of the war these volunteers were more involved with logistics and building fortifications, now almost all of them are involved in active combat operations on an equal footing with the Ukrainian army.

According to Serhiy Sobko, Chief of Staff of the Territorial Defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, more than 700 additional volunteer formations of territorial communities have been created. Territorial Defense receives both Ukrainian and Western weapons: machine guns, anti-tank systems, grenade launchers, mobile air defense systems.

Kyiv Independent Estimate Infographic On Russia's Combat Losses 

UK Trade Minister Wants To “De-Putinize” The World Economy

Anne-Marie Trevelyan


British Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan speaking at Bloomberg conference in London spoke about economic weapons that the UK is employing to aid Ukrainians: “We must de-Putinize the world’s economy […] Both through sanctions, and by cutting off access to the oil revenues that power his war machine.”

Virtual Frontlines: Cyberattacks Raging From Ukraine To Russia To … Costa Rica

Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash

A Russian-speaking hacking group carried out a cyberattack against the Costa Rican government, forcing the country to declare a state of emergency. The notorious Conti ransomware gang has claimed responsibility for the attack. "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power," the group said on its official website. Costa Rica’s tax collection and export systems have been crippled for more than a month.

Conti itself has been the target of ransomware attacks. Conti has announced unequivocal support for Russia, prompting a Ukrainian partner to post about the identities of Conti members. Meanwhile, a Russian multinational cybersecurity firm found a direct link between the uptick in online targeting to the invasion of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has welcomed this growth in hacking, as 300,000 people worldwide are using their computers to disrupt Russia’s war effort. One common tactic is to overload Russian websites with junk traffic, forcing them offline.

Aircraft Leasing Giant Loses 113 Planes To Russia

Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA/ZUMA

When the war in Ukraine began and the U.S., UK and EU announced their sanctions, AerCap holdings, the world’s largest owner of jets, had to terminate the leasing of all of its aircraft and engines with Russian airlines.

In response to these sanctions, Russia seized 113 planes and 11 engines from AerCap Holdings causing the company a net loss of $2 billion.

Company executives said the quarter was actually good and they see better times ahead with recovery from the Covid pandemic. CEO Aengus Kelly commented on this loss: “ Across all our business lines we are seeing improving demand, increased utilization of our assets and the improving financial health of our customers.”

On Live TV, Ex Russian Colonel Criticizes Russia’s War Strategy

Retired Russian Army Colonel and military analyst Mikhail Khodarenok broke ranks with the Moscow establishment and leveled severe criticism on live TV of Moscow’s approach to the war in Ukraine.

Speaking on state TV Rossiya’s 60 Minutes talk show, Khodarenok did not question the motivation of the invasion, but offered three key critiques:

1. False information spread in Russia about would-be low morale in the Ukrainian military:

"All this, to put it mildly, does not correspond to reality. They are ready to defend their homeland and intend to fight to the last man. This is an integral part of high combat effectiveness of the army, one of the most important ones."

2. Russia’s complete isolation in the geopolitical arena.

"The most important disadvantage of our military and political position is that we are in complete geopolitical solitude. And practically the whole world is against us, no matter how much we would not like to admit it."

3. Empty threats at neighboring countries

Khodarenok called Russia's "waving missiles" toward Finland "funny" and warned that later those who do not recognize "the reality of history" will be punched on the nose.

Diary Of A Woman Sniper

Bryan Smith/ZUMA

Olena Bilozerska has been a sniper for the Ukrainian army for the past nine years. She told Ukrainian newspaper Novoye Vremya about how the enemy's tactics have changed.

Bilozerska is among the 17% of Ukrainian soldiers who are female. She says the most obvious change when it comes to Russian army leaders is in the nature of the commands they give their soldiers: "Now soldiers are treated like cannon fodder [...]. But their sergeants and junior officers lack initiative and are unable to make autonomous decisions."

She tells Novoye Vremya that her thoughts are with the Ukrainian soldiers of Mariupol: "It was absolutely impossible to save Azovstal's defenders by military means. Mariupol can be liberated only as part of a general counteroffensive by the Ukrainian army, which requires lengthy preparation. The only chance Azovstal's defenders had to escape was through diplomacy."

Despite having been in the line of combat for years, Bilozerska says the hardest day so far was on February 24: "It is one thing to fight in Donbas, having a strong rear-guard in Kyiv, and quite another - not to have backup at all and realize that your destiny is somewhere here, not far from your house, to stand to the end, because you cannot be captured, you know. And then, in a couple of days, there was such relief and such pride for the state and the people that now I can survive anything."

Russians Line Up For One Last Big Mac

Moscow dwellers were pictured queuing in front of McDonald's restaurants in Russia ahead of the U.S. fast-food chain’s leaving the country, in a mirror image of the lines that welcomed its arrival back in 1990.

Earlier this week, McDonald's announced that it was shutting down for good in Russia, marking the first time it has ever left a major global market. The chain is reportedly looking for a local buyer for most of its 850 restaurants across the country, although what will become of the brand’s name, logo and menu is unclear.

An anonymous source within McDonald's in Russia told state-owned news agency TASS that the restaurants were expected to resume working under a new brand, which could happen by mid-June, and would keep the same staff and menu.

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Longyearbyen Postcard: World's Northernmost Town Facing Climate Change — And Russia

The melting of the sea ice in the Far North has accelerated in recent years. The Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard has become the focal point of the environmental drama gripping the Arctic as well as the geopolitical tensions it is causing there, with Russia in particular.

A statue of a coal miner stands in the center of the photos with houses surronding it, draped around their shoudler is a Ukrainian flag. The environment is snowy and the sky is white from clouds.

A Ukraine flag placed on a statue of a coal miner in the center of Longyearbyen

Steffen Trumpf/dpa/ZUMA
Laura Berny

LONGYEARBYEN — The Longyearbreen glacier, which once unfurled to the sea, is now a shadow of its former self. Only the name of Longyearbyen’s Isfjorden now conveys the idea of something frozen.

“Last January, during the polar winter, the temperature was between 0 and 5 °C. When I went for a walk by the fjord, I could hear the waves. This was not the case before at this time of year,” says Heidi Sevestre. The French glaciologist fell in love with Svalbard as a student, so much so that she now lives here for part of the year.

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Compared to Siberia, Canada’s and Greenland’s High North – the Arctic archipelago, located just over a thousand kilometers from the North Pole – has historically benefited from a slightly more benign climate despite its extreme latitude. Temperatures here range between 5 °C and 15 °C in summer and usually not below -30 °C in the coldest of winter. This relatively “mild" weather has its origin in the Gulf Stream — the marine current which rises up from the Caribbean and runs along the west coast of Svalbard.

But the situation has now changed.

“There has been a lot of talk about the rise in atmospheric temperature for at least 20 years. But in the past three years, ocean temperatures have also risen significantly. This is what is causing the increasingly rapid retreat of the ice pack,” explains Jean-Charles Gallet, a glaciologist who has worked at the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) since 2010.

“The sea ice acts like an air conditioner for the ocean, so the more it decreases, the more the ocean warms up. This causes a chain reaction which ends up accelerating the warming process,” adds Eero Rinne, a Finnish specialist on the topic and a researcher at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). Rinne is working on the CRISTAL sea ice satellite mission, slated to go live in 2028 as part of the European Space Agency’s Copernicus program.

Beyond the alarming disappearance of glaciers and ice packs and the threat to polar bears (of which there are still around 300 in the archipelago), global warming is also causing cracks in the infrastructure of the territory, which is covered by permafrost. Landslides are increasingly frequent, and all recently constructed buildings in the region are on stilts.

“It used to rain very little in Svalbard, but now it is getting wetter and wetter, which is weakening the soil,” explains Hanne Hvidtfeldt Christiansen, a Danish-Norwegian scientist and specialist on permafrost at UNIS.

Norwegians kept a low profile about Svalbard's growing crisis, until 2017. That was the year when the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was flooded, less than 10 years after its foundation. The facility, dug near a mine in Longyearbyen, the capital of the archipelago, was built to preserve more than a million seeds from a possible cataclysm. The disaster didn’t affect the seeds but left a scar in people’s minds. Even this close to the pole, permafrost is thawing.

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