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Toxic Masculinity, New Iron Curtain — What Rising War Rhetoric Tells Us

Building in Mariupol

Cameron Manley, Jeff Israely, and Emma Albright

What is happening in Ukraine is decidedly not a war of words — it’s a war. Every day people are dying, soldiers and civilians alike. And it is that war which will determine the fate of both Ukraine and Russia, and have a lasting impact all around the world.

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Still, the rhetoric that has risen throughout the conflict, beginning even before the outbreak of war, plays a role, and certainly garners attention on all sides. Just in the past 24 hours, we’ve seen the Kremlin respond indignantly to recent comments by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that: Russia’s invasion was "a perfect example of toxic masculinity." And if Putin were a woman, Johnson added: “I really don't think he would've embarked on a crazy, macho war of invasion and violence in the way that he has.”


Russia summoned London’s ambassador to Moscow to protest, adding that "in polite society, it is customary to apologize for remarks of this kind."

On Thursday, as news came that Ukraine had recaptured the strategic Snake Island, Russia tried to downplay Kyiv’s military victory, attributing the retreat to a “goodwill gesture.” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, mockingly tweeted: “in order for Moscow to show its goodwill, we have to beat it up regularly.”

Many will also remember the strong words used by U.S. President Joe Biden, who called Putin a “butcher” and other less-than-flattering names in the early weeks of the war, while just this week Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mocked Putin for a past photograph while horse riding bare-chested.

It does seem the West and Ukraine feel more leeway to lash out verbally, since it was Russia that started the war. Still, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov doesn’t hesitate to raise the rhetoric regularly on Moscow’s behalf. Most recently was Thursday when he told reporters that a new “Iron Curtain” was descending between Russia and the West.

The rhetoric coming from all sides offers a window into the situation from each player. And Lavrov reveals plenty with his Iron Curtain comment. He may have forgotten the Iron Curtain was a term coined by Winston Churchill, (light years away from Boris Johnson) — and it was those behind the Soviet sphere who were forbidden to cross over to the other side of the curtain, not the other way around.

Of course, what Lavrov and others in the Kremlin also seem to forget is that they were the only ones who wanted this war.

Russian Missile Hits High-Rise Near Odessa, Kills 19

Three Russian missiles hit a nine-story building and two recreation centers in the village of Sergiivka near the coastal city of Odessa, killing 19, including two children. According to the latest update from the regional governor Maksym Marchenko, 38 people have been injured.

Ukrainian deputy interior minister Yevhenii Yenin said there were no military targets or infrastructure nearby. After a mall in the city of Kremenchuk was hit by Russian missiles on Monday, the Russian authorities said they were targeting areas where ammunition is stored.

The Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, claimed on Friday that Russian forces “do not target civilian infrastructure.” But as with previous Russian attacks on residential or community buildings, he failed to provide any evidence that this was the case at the Odessa sites.

Snake Island Update: Satellite Images Offer New Details Of Russian Withdrawal


New satellite images published by Maxar Technologies show several vehicles and buildings destroyed in the northern part of the Snake Island, located in the Black Sea 35 kilometers south of the Ukraine mainland. The photos, which show that the island is currently free of Russian troops, may give credence to the Ukrainian claim that the Russians fled in response to shelling with the Ukrainian-made Bohdana self-propelled howitzer. Moscow has said Russian troops withdrew as a “gesture of goodwill.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke about the island in a Thursday evening televised address to the nation: "Snake Island is a strategic point, and this significantly changes the strategic situation in the Black Sea,” he said, adding that there is still the risk that Russia tries to recapture the island.

More Than 5.5 Million Ukrainians Have Returned To Their Homes

Numerous people are standing at the train station in the Polish border town of Przemysl, waiting for their onward journey to Ukraine.

Kay Nietfeld/dpa/Zuma


More than 5.5 million people have returned to their homes in Ukraine, especially those living in the North of the country and the capital Kyiv, the International Organization for Migration reports. Nonetheless, there are still 6.2 million people who remain internally displaced in Ukraine. According to the IOM, 15% of those who have returned report that their homes have been damaged by Russia’s war.

Kissinger Lays Out Three Scenarios For How The War Ends

Henry Kissinger

Christoph Soeder/DPA/Zuma


Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that depending on the conditions under which the Russian military operation in Ukraine ends, NATO's role in Europe may be weakened or strengthened. In his opinion, the military conflict can end in three ways, he told British magazine The Spectator:

1. “If Russia stays where it is now, it will have conquered 20 percent of Ukraine and most of the Donbas, the industrial and agricultural main area, and a strip of land along the Black Sea. If it stays there, it will be a victory, despite all the setbacks they suffered in the beginning. And the role of Nato will not have been as decisive as earlier thought.

2. The other outcome is an attempt is made to drive Russia out of the territory it acquired before this war, including Crimea, and then the issue of a war with Russia itself will arise if the war continues.

3. The third outcome, which I sketched in Davos, and which, in my impression, Zelensky has now accepted, is if the Free People can keep Russia from achieving any military conquests and if the battleline returns to the position where the war started, then the current aggression will have been visibly defeated. Ukraine will be reconstituted in the shape it was when the war started: the post-2014 battleline. It will be rearmed and closely connected to Nato, if not part of it.”

Finland Foreign Minister Is Optimistic That Relations Can Be Healed With Russia

Pekka Haavisto, Foreign Minister of Finland

Bernd Von Jutrczenka/dpa/Zuma


Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto is convinced that trust between Russia and the EU will one day be restored. He expressed this opinion in an interview published on Friday with the Spanish daily El Mundo .

“It’s very calm on our border now, [...] and our embassy in Moscow remains open,” the Foreign Minister noted. “We have many families on both sides of the border, we must remember this on a human level, regardless of disagreements on the political level".

“The problem is that after the attack on Ukraine, trust disappeared and it will take time to restore it,” Haavisto said. “I am convinced that someday this trust will return, but it is very difficult to say how and when.”

Surge In Weapon Development, Pentagon Reports

Weapons used by the Ukrainian army

Tass/Zuma


The Pentagon has received 1,300 proposals from 800 companies that are looking to develop new weapons that will help Ukraine in its war against Russia. The proposals center around Ukraine's key military needs and include weapons capabilities for air defense, anti-armor, anti-personnel, coastal defense, anti-tank, unmanned aerial systems, counter battery, and secure communications.

The U.S. Defense Department expects to decide in the coming weeks which projects to pursue, leading to possible production for Ukraine as well as for the US military.

Ukrainian Borscht May Get UNESCO Heritage Status

Ukrainian beetroot borscht soup

Facebook


Ukrainian beetroot soup borscht may be included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage that needs urgent protection. UNESCO may rule on the matter as soon as Friday, according to the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Emine Dzheppar.

Under the normal procedure for heritage status nomination, borscht was included for consideration in 2023. But after Russia invaded Ukraine UNESCO officials considered it under potential immediate threat, and included its nomination on the list of intangible cultural heritage UNESCO that needs urgent protection.

This comes after Spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova made a statement in April accusing Ukraine of refusing to share its recipe for borscht with Russia, which she said shows that it is governed by "xenophobia" and "Nazism".

Polish Women Carpooling Ukrainian Women And Children To Safety

"Women behind the wheel!"

Facebook


To rescue Ukrainian women, Ella Jarmulska created a network of women carpooling to the border. Since early March, Polish women have been organizing transport for Ukrainian refugees, women and children, to bring them to safety from one border to the other between Ukraine and Poland, in Dorohusk reports the French edition of Huffington Post.

Ella Jarmulska, a 38-year-old Polish entrepreneur and mother living in the suburbs of Warsaw, decided she wanted to help and drove to the border one day. She saw men waiting to carpool refugees but the women and children were not getting in the cars. At that moment she decided to raise her hand and display the international sign for women in danger, made popular during COVID for women victims of domestic abuse. One of the Ukrainian women she carpooled told her that women did not feel comfortable getting in cars with men, already traumatized by the war in their country and the fear of getting kidnapped or raped.

After her first trip, Jarmulska took to Facebook: “Calling all Polish women! I have just returned from the border post of Dorohusk. Tomorrow, with all due respect, men, stay in the kitchen and make soup, and women, take the wheel!” Due to the success of her post, she created a group, "Women behind the wheel!" ("Kobiety Za Kółko!"). Now over 650 women have joined the effort and 150 are carpooling every day.

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Geopolitics

A Ukrainian In Belgrade: The Straight Line From Milosevic To Putin, And Back Again

As hostilities flare again between Serbia and Kosovo, the writer draws connections between the dissolutions of both the USSR and Yugoslavia, and the leaders who exploit upheaval and feed the worst kind of nationalism.

On the streets of Belgrade, Serbia

Anna Akage

-Analysis-

At high school in Kyiv in the late 1990s, we studied the recent history of Yugoslavia: the details of its disintegration, the civil wars, the NATO bombing of Belgrade. When we compared Yugoslavia and the USSR, it seemed evident to us that if Boris Yeltsin or Mikhail Gorbachev had been anything like Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, bloody wars would have been unavoidable for Ukraine, Belarus, and other republics that instead had seceded from the Soviet Union without a single shot being fired.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Fast forward to 2020, when I visited Belgrade for the first time, invited for a friend's wedding. Looking around, I was struck by the decrepit state of its roads, the lack of any official marked cabs, by the drudgery, but most of all by the tension and underlying aggression in society. It was reflected in all the posters and inscriptions plastered on nearly every street. Against Albania, against Kosovo, against Muslims, claims for historical justice, Serbian retribution, and so on. A rather beautiful, albeit by Soviet standards, Belgrade seemed like a sleeping scorpion.

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