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In The News

First Russian Found Guilty Of War Crimes, Gets Life In Prison

Vadim Shishimarin had confessed to shooting an unarmed 62-year-old man in northeast Ukraine shortly after the invasion began.

First Russian Found Guilty Of War Crimes, Gets Life In Prison

Vadim Shishimarin in court

Meike Eijsberg, Anna Akage and Emma Albright

On Monday, Vadim Shishimarin became the first Russian soldier to be convicted of war crimes since the Russian invasion three months ago, found guilty of shooting an unarmed 62-year-old man in northeast Ukraine shortly after the invasion began.

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Shishimarin, 21, who confessed to the shooting and asked the victim’s wife for forgiveness, was sentenced by a Kyiv court to life in prison.


Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the Kremlin is “concerned” about the treatment of Shishimarin. There is no death penalty in Ukraine, and Kyiv made a point of holding an open trial and following due process court proceedings.

Ukraine-Poland Joint Customs Control Could Be First Step Toward Kyiv In EU

Gazeta Wyborcza front page


Ukraine and Poland agreed on Sunday to establish a joint border customs control as well as a shared railway company to facilitate the movement of people and increase exports coming from Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky said in his nightly address: “This will significantly speed up border procedures. It will remove most of the corruption risks. But it is also the beginning of our integration into the common customs space of the European Union. That is a truly historic process.”

This comes after Polish President Andrzej Duda’s visit to Kyiv, making him the first foreign leader to address Ukraine’s parliament, the Rada. In his address, Duda emphasizes the strong relationship between Poland and Ukraine: “no one can break our unity”, he said to Zelensky.

Nearly 3.5 million Ukrainian refugees have entered Poland since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Due to this, Zelensky also announced the preparation of a bill that will mirror the law passed in Poland about Ukrainian citizens who were seeking refuge. “It will be the right gesture to pass such a law in Ukraine," Zelensky said. "Let it be so that the citizens of Poland will never have to use such a law. But let us show our gratitude and our respect."

Russia’s Three-Month Death Toll Same As Nine-Year Afghan War

Young men are sitting on Russian tanks in Afghanistan, abandoned during the Soviet-Afghan war

Philip Poupin/ZUMA


The Soviet military is believed to have lost some 15,000 troops during the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, which is considered its worst defeat. Now British defense intelligence estimate that the war in Ukraine, which is reaching its three-month mark, has brought on the same number of casualties for the Russian military.

The combination of poor tactics at low altitudes with limited air cover, lack of flexibility and a team approach that is ready to increase failures and repeat mistakes has led to such a high level of losses, which continues to increase during the Donbas offensive, the UK military said in a report posted online .

Intelligence experts emphasize that the Russian public has in the past been sensitive to the losses suffered during the wars of choice. Therefore, as the number of victims in Ukraine grows, the losses will become more and more obvious, and public dissatisfaction with the war and the desire to voice it may increase.

Kasparov Says Russia Is “Infected,” Defeat In Ukraine Is Needed “Antidote”

Garry Kasparov in a chess tournament in Lison

Bruno De Carvalho/SOPA/Zuma


Former chess world champion Garry Kasparov has been one of Vladimir Putin's harshest critics since he took office. In an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza (also translated and reported by Die Welt), he said he believes Ukraine will win the war, and that “the victory of Ukraine and the liberation of Crimea will give Russia a chance to return to normality.”

Kasparov says three overlapping conditions would have to be met to guarantee change: Sanctions against Russia must not be lifted before Ukraine is liberated. Russia must pay reparations for the destruction of Ukraine. And finally, war criminals must be brought to justice. Once these conditions are met, the new beginning will be possible. “The Russians are infected,” Kasparov said. “A military defeat is the antidote.”

Kasparov, who was added to the Kremlin’s list of “foreign agents”, i.e. enemies of the people, on Friday, believes that a new and improved Russian state can be created with the right conditions. “There are millions of Russians abroad who are waiting for Russia to open up. For them it would be something wonderful to return and work for a completely new state.”

Erdogan Sticks To NATO Hardline In Separate Weekend Talks

Pro-Kurdish protesters in Istanbul in March

Serkan Senturk/ZUMA


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks over the weekend with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, and separately with the leaders of Finland and Sweden, holding to his position that Turkey will block the two Nordic nations’ bid to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

"Unless Sweden and Finland clearly show that they will stand in solidarity with Turkey on fundamental issues, especially in the fight against terrorism, we will not approach these countries' NATO membership positively," Erdogan said, according to his office.

Erdogan has complained that both Finland and Sweden are harbouring “terrorists,” citing groups that he considers political enemies, including the Kurdish organization PKK.

Washington Institute fellow Soner Cagaptay said Turkey may be more ready to accept Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, than Sweden. As details slowly emerge, it’s become clear that Erdgoan is indeed not bluffing.

Russian Student Denounces War At Graduation, Forced To Apologize In Video

A 16-year-old Russian student posted an apology video Sunday after having denounced the invasion of Ukraine at her graduation ceremony: “No to war! Freedom to Ukraine! Damn Putin!,” Zukhra Alibekova had said at the school in Izberbash, in the southern Caucus region of Dagestan.

The telegram channel Dagestanskiye Izvestia published the video with the teen saying she regrets her actions, explaining that she "just wanted to draw attention" to herself. In a second video, the girl's mother also apologizes, and says her daughter was facing "stress" and "home problems." The mother also declared her support for Vladimir Putin and the "special operation," which is what the Ukraine war is referred to in Russia.

Dagestan’s governor Sergei Melikov had personally called the mayor of Izberbash demanding to look into what happened, and administrative protocols have been drawn up against the schoolgirl and her mother.

It is important to note that Dagestan is the region where many of Russian short-term contract soldiers come from to fight in Ukraine.

Levi’s Leaving Russia After 29 Years

A sign outside a closed Levi's shop in the Aviapark Shopping and Leisure Centre in Russia

Artyom Geodakyan/TASS/Zuma


After McDonald’s, another iconic American consumer brand — Levi Strauss & Co — has announced it is halting its business in Russia, in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow-based business daily Kommersant cited anonymous sources for the news of the pullout after 29 years of doing business in Russia.

The jeans retailer had long been banned by the Soviets throughout the Cold War as an object of American culture. It had suspended its business just after the invasion, but now is exiting the country completely.

McDonald’s announced its definitive departure from Russia one week ago.

Ukrainian Couple Fled Irpin With 19 Dogs

handout


Anastasiya Tikha (20) and her husband, Arthur Lee (26), fought their way through bombs and gunfire to save the animals in their care including dogs, cats, turtles and more, reports The Guardian.

It all started with a picture of Anastasiya that went viral. She is pictured trying to cross a bridge to travel from Irpin to Kyiv under Russian fire. The couple made seven crossings in total, in order to save as many animals as possible.

“We had too much to do to be worried or scared”, said Tykha, who has run an animal shelter in Irpin for four years. The couple along with their animals were able to flee to a southwestern district of Kyiv, where a disactivated sauna on the side of a house had been made available to them and their animals to stay in.

They are now back in Irpin and their shelter has grown to 30 dogs and 10 cats.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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