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In The News

Territory Gains And Losses Point To Long War

Russia says it has conquered new territory in Donbas, while Ukraine says it has retaken parts of the city of Kharkiv. The competing claims come as Vladimir Putin appears to be bracing for a long "protracted" conflict.

Territory Gains And Losses Point To Long War

A welcoming ceremony for servicemen of the Somalia assault unit returning from Mariupol

Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Some press reports come from the battlefield, some come from headquarters.

The latter was the source for the lead story in today’s The New York Times that declared “Ukraine War’s Geographic Reality: Russia Has Seized Much of the East,” based on an assertion of the Russian Defense Ministry that “its forces in eastern Ukraine had advanced to the border between Donetsk and Luhansk,” the two provinces of Donbas.

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The article continues with an important caveat: “If confirmed,” the report signals that Russia could soon gain control over the entire Donbas region, which could put Moscow in position to force Kyiv to agree to its terms at the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, other Western media on the same day chose this news as their main headline: “Zelensky says Ukraine forces pushing back Russia troops in Kharkiv.” Yes, control of the nation’s second-largest city is no doubt a crucial barometer for how the war is advancing.

Other outlets and analysts try to keep up: Ukrainian news website Livy Bereg lists out, each day, the Ukrainian government’s reports of battle spots, missile counts and casualties. French daily Le Figaro regularly updates a series of maps to show — based on the best information they can access — who controls what territory: “As of today, in Donbas, the [Russian] separatists control more than 50% of Donetsk and around 90% of Luhansk.

Yet, another headline comes from Washington, where a top U.S. intelligence official warns that the Russian President is preparing for "prolonged conflict." That may be an assessment all sides can agree on.

Five Russian Governors Resign, As Putin Consolidates Power

Kommersant front page

Five Russian governors have announced en masse their intention to resign ahead of schedule. Each said they’d made the decision autonomously to step down before the end of their term, acting on their own free will. President Vladimir Putin immediately appointed interim governors, who will have to confirm their powers in September elections.

Russian daily Kommersantreports that the dismissal of these politicians had long been predicted by the media and experts: the reasons cited included "fatigue" of the population, high levels of opposition sentiment in the regions, and poor results for the United Russia party in the Duma elections.

The central government in Moscow is clearly looking for ways to consolidate power on the home front against the backdrop of the war with Ukraine.

Bans And Blocks For Oil And Gas, And Special Treatment For Hungary

Oil refinery in Germany receiving oil from Russia

Patrick Pleul/dpa via ZUMA

Ukraine says it has suspended some of the Russian natural gas it delivers to Europe, blaming Moscow for the interruption of energy supplies that are vital to such countries as Germany and Hungary.

The European Union, meanwhile, continues to negotiate internally its own plans to phase out Russian gas and oil. EU officials are considering offering financial compensation to Hungary, which is particularly reliant on Russian oil, to sign on to the bloc-wide deal that could be a major hit for Moscow.

Crimea’s Deputy Prime Minister: Southern Ukraine Should Become Part Of Russia

Cars expressing support for Russian troops

Dmitry Rogulin/TASS via ZUMA

Deputy Prime Minister of Crimea Georgy Muradov believes that the southern territories of Ukraine, occupied by the Russian military, are destined to become part of Russia.

Muradov says his claim is based on public sentiment and that the southeastern territories have “always been Russian,” reports RIA Novosti. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and Moscow’s current invasion is now mostly focused on the southern and eastern region of Donbas.

Muradov said that civil-military administrations are already being formed in the southern territories of Ukraine, Russian TV channels are being broadcast, Russian textbooks have appeared in schools, and the Russian ruble has entered circulation.

The statement follows a similar declaration by Kirill Stremousov, deputy chairman of the military-civilian administration of the Kherson region of Ukraine, who announced the desire of the region to become part of Russia. He also promised to return the coat of arms of the times of the Russian Empire to the region. In addition, the head of the Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, reported that the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions of Ukraine would be able to receive gas and electricity through Crimea.

Belarus Deploys Troops To Ukrainian Border

Alexander Lukashenko during meeting with Vladimir Putin

Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin Pool/Planet Pix/ZUMA

Belarus is deploying troops near its southern border with Ukraine. The country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russia, said it’s defending Belarus from a buildup of NATO troops near its border and discussed the use of Russian made missiles in boosting the country’s defenses.

Pussy Riot Member Recounts Escape From Russia

Maria Alyokhina with paint that reads "No to War"


A member of the punk band Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, has fled Russia, using a Delivery Club courier suit and leaving her phone at home to help evade authorities. After that, she was taken to Belarus, to the Lithuanian border, the anti-government activist and musician recounted her odyssey and the continued opposition of Pussy Riot to Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine.

The Russian feminist punk rock band has long performed anti-regime and anti-conformist lyrics in unauthorized concerts in public places. In 2012, Alyokhina was arrested on charges of hooliganism in connection with the protest action in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow, and has been arrested multiple times since then for her opposition to the Kremlin’s policies.

Boris Johnson Visits Sweden And Finland To Discuss NATO Membership

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister of Sweden Magdalena Andersson

Tayfun Salci/ZUMA

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has landed in Sweden ahead of a similar visit to Finland to discuss possible NATO membership of the two Nordic countries as a response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Johnson signed an agreement with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, pledging that the countries would come to the other's aid if attacked.

Zelensky Reacts To Death Of Ukraine’s First President Leonid Kravchuk

Leonid Kravchuk

Danil Shamkin/Ukrinform/Zuma

The first leader of the post-Soviet independent Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, has died at the age of 88. With his place in modern Ukraine history, his death in the midst of Russia’s invasion has stirred reaction around the country.

President Volodymyr Zelensky reacted to the news: "Today the first President of Ukraine Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk died. He was not just a politician or even just a historical figure. He was a man who knew how to find wise words and say them so that all Ukrainians heard. This is especially important in difficult, moments of crisis, when the future of the whole country may depend on the wisdom of one person.”

Front Page: A Reconciliation Between Kyiv And Berlin

German front pages covered the visit Tuesday of Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock to Kyiv. She is the highest-ranking German official to visit the Ukrainian capital since the war began, amid tensions over past ties to Russia of several senior officials.

A Majority Of Bulgarians Fear A Russian Attack

Bulgarian Flag | The Bulgarian Flag on the top of the Largo … | Flickrwww.flickr.com

A new poll found that two out of three Bulgarians fear Russia will use missile and bomb strikes on sites in Bulgaria, and more than half fear Russia could occupy it.

Ukraine Qualifies For Finals In Eurovision

Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra have qualified for the Eurovision Song Contest finals Saturday, which will be decided partially by a public vote. Support for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion is expected to help the band’s chances of victory.

Band member Oleh Psiuk said that a win would send a message: “So if we win, it will be another opportunity to show Ukraine to the world, to remind people about Ukraine, and to increase morale in the whole country."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Vulnerable Are The Russians In Crimea?

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on the occupied Crimean peninsula, and Russia is doing all within its power to deny how vulnerable it has become.

Photograph of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters with smoke rising above it after a Ukrainian missile strike.

September 22, 2023, Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia: Smoke rises over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters after a Ukrainian missile strike.

Kyrylo Danylchenko

This article was updated Sept. 26, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.

Russian authorities are making a concerted effort to downplay and even deny the recent missile strikes in Russia-occupied Crimea.

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Media coverage in Russia of these events has been intentionally subdued, with top military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov offering no response to an attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, or the alleged downing last week of Russian Su-24 aircraft by Ukrainian Air Defense.

The response from this and other strikes on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding waters of the Black Sea has alternated between complete silence and propagating falsehoods. One notable example of the latter was the claim that the Russian headquarters building of the Black Sea fleet that was hit Friday was empty and that the multiple explosions were mere routine training exercises.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that the attack killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. "After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored," the Ukrainian special forces said via Telegram.

But Sokolov was seen on state television on Tuesday, just one day after Ukraine claimed he'd been killed. The Russian Defense Ministry released footage of the admiral partaking in a video conference with top admirals and chiefs, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, though there was no verification of the date of the event.

Moscow has been similarly obtuse following other reports of missiles strikes this month on Crimea. Russian authorities have declared that all missiles have been intercepted by a submarine and a structure called "VDK Minsk", which itself was severely damaged following a Ukrainian airstrike on Sept. 13. The Russians likewise dismissed reports of a fire at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, attributing it to a mundane explosion caused by swamp gas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refrained from commenting on the military situation in Crimea and elsewhere, continuing to repeat that everything is “proceeding as planned.”

Why is Crimea such a touchy topic? And why is it proving to be so hard to defend?

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