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TOPIC: army

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

On The Donetsk Frontline, Where Kamikaze Drones Are Everyone's Weapon-Of-Choice

In Ukraine, kamikaze drones have gradually overtaken artillery as the main threat to soldiers — on both sides of the frontline. Meanwhile, a bitter winter is taking over life in the trenches.

DONETSK — In the chilly pre-dawn hours, a mud-stained pickup truck drives along a potholed road in Ukraine's eastern region of Donetsk. Despite the darkness and the ice, the vehicle travels with its lights off, its interior illuminated only by the reddish glow of a lit cigarette.

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Throughout the early morning last Monday, the cracking sound of artillery can be heard echoing intermittently in the distance, followed by the bright trail of a projectile soaring into the cloudy sky.

Inside the truck, four soldiers from the 28th brigade of the Ukrainian army have just left the relative comfort of a small country house to go to the frontline, towards Bakhmut. After a short journey through overgrown fields and devastated villages, the car stops at the edge of a forest.

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America's Dilemma: Between Middle East Quagmire And The "Real" Threat In China

In the wake of Hamas's attack on Israel, the United States, often projected as no longer wanting to be the region's policeman, finds itself deploying aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean and conducting F16 raids against Iranian targets in Syria. But the epoch-shifting challenge is elsewhere.

PARIS — Jake Sullivan, the White House National Security Advisor, recently wrote an article for Foreign Affairs magazine, praising the foreign policy of his "boss," Joe Biden, in anticipation of his bid for a second term.

The bit that particularly draws the reader's attention is Sullivan's assertion that the Biden administration had "de-escalated crises in Gaza and restored direct diplomacy between the parties after years of its absence." This sentence, obviously written before Oct. 7, appears in the November issue of Foreign Affairs, but the online version has since been edited.

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This Happened — September 17: Battle of Antietam

The Battle of Antietam was a significant engagement fought during the American Civil War which took place on this day in 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, along the banks of the Antietam Creek. It was one of the bloodiest single-day battles in American history.

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With Ukraine's International Legion, On The Front Lines Of The Counteroffensive

What draws foreigners to fight in Ukraine? Is it bravery, gall, money — or something else? On the ground with the International Legion, Patryk Szymański investigates for Gazeta Wyborcza.

KYIV — Today, the International Legion selects soldiers more carefully than ever before. To get into the unit, it is not enough just to show up in Ukraine and hope to get into the action.

“If something spills out, hold it," Antoni said, opening his bag and handing me a gun. “Your elbow must be straight; you look into the sight and look for the red dot. This is how you take out the magazine. This is how you insert the next one. You have to push it with your hand. There is no safety — this weapon is always cocked."

I looked at the steppes stretching to the horizon, the towns visible in the distance and the single-lane route stretching in a straight line from Zhytomyr to Kyiv, which is paralyzed by air raid sirens several times a day. I looked at the gun in my hand, then at the Polish soldier next to me. What am I even doing here?

Lee didn't hesitate for a moment. He set out from Liverpool, landed in Poland, then crossed into Ukraine by land. As millions fled from danger, he walked towards it.

He arrived in Kyiv in March, two months before I did. The northern half of the city was still under siege, and massacres were ongoing in Bucha and Hostomel. The rest of the world wouldn’t hear about them for another few weeks.

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Marcelo Cantelmi

Why China Has Bet On A Bigger (And Nastier) BRICS To Challenge The West

The BRICS economies' inclusion of new members like Iran may not make business sense, but it fits with the Sino-Russian strategy of drawing states of the Global South into their orbit in open confrontation with the U.S. and the rest of the West.


BUENOS AIRES — Last month's summit in Johannesburg of BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), leading to a decision to expand the club, felt like geopolitical déjà vu. It recalled the 1960s Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of Third World states that refused, apparently, to take sides in the Cold War, either with the capitalist West or Soviet-led communism.

NAM neutrality was limited, often deceptive, and became obsolete with the fall of the Communist bloc in the late 1980s. The dilemma of what was then called the Third World — now, the Global South — was in the stance it should take toward Russia, the successor state to the Soviet Union that shared few of its traits and goals. Ideologically, the end of communism confused NAM: It didn't know what to do with itself.

That is until now, with an apparent resuscitation of its spirit in BRICS (formed in 2009). Yet the idea of equidistance ends there, as BRICS is led by Russia and communist China and increasingly a part of their open challenge to Western hegemony.

Its founders include Brazil, which has its own agenda, and India. Both states have adopted their own versions of neutrality in the Ukrainian crisis, first in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine,then after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in Feb. 2022.

So far, says Oliver Stuenkel, a professor at Brazil's Getulio Vargas Foundation, the two states have resisted Russia's systematic bid to use an explicitly anti-Western vocabulary in BRICS documents. This, he says, would explain the vague tone of the group's resolutions.

South Africa, the last member to join the group (in 2010), is a lesser power in terms of economy and political clout. But it symbolizes the worldwide spirit the group would come to embody.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Viktor Kevlyuk

Denial And Dissent: On The Deeply Conflicted Psychology Of Russian Soldiers

The Ukraine war is not just physical — it's also being fought on a psychological front. Russian soldiers are subjected to complex psychological pressures at home and abroad.


KYIV — Written messages have recently been found under car windshield wipers, in mailboxes, and on the doors of apartments of the families of Russian military recruits, known as Chmobyk. The messages carried phrases like: "You're the wife of a murderer, we all know!" or "You're the mother of a murderer, we all know."

These notes put substantial psychological pressure on the relatives of Russian soldiers who have been enduring months of unceasing battles.

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In the broader context, psychological warfare has emerged as a pivotal component within Ukraine's strategic arsenal. Within this context, there's a belief that a fighter, despite appearing as an individual, is shaped by moral, political, and psychological factors.

This perspective suggests that there might be instances of split personalities or confusion induced by political manipulation — the alignment of personal ideological and political beliefs, along with moral values, influences behavior and attitudes.

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Uranchimeg Tsogkhuu

Mongolian Soldiers Accuse The Military Of Using “Torture” To Maintain Discipline

Illegal punishment through the use of torture is increasingly common in Mongolia’s military, where 44 soldiers have died and 468 violations have been reported in the last decade, according to a 2022 report. Many former soldiers have been physically abused and harassed. After hearing recent reports of torture, the commission has begun training mental health professionals to serve in the military to help.

ZUUNBAYAN — Bayartsogt Jargalsaikhan had been guarding the weapons warehouse since midnight in the January freeze, and he was cold. Five minutes before his shift ended, he went inside to warm up.

That fateful decision in 2017 would get Bayartsogt and his fellow soldiers tortured by their commanding officer, leaving him permanently disabled and making him one more statistic in Mongolia’s long history of human rights violations inside the military.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Polina Uzhvak

Of Death And Disillusion: Tales Of Young Russians Lured By Glory To The Frontlines

Many Russians have tried to avoid being conscripted to join the war in Ukraine, but many others believed deeply in the constant campaign of state propaganda. Here are some of the stories of the lucky ones who made it back — and those who didn't.

For two years now, Russian citizens have been relentlessly encouraged to embrace a so-called "true man's profession" by joining the military and heading to the frontline as a simmering war in eastern Ukraine turned into a full-scale invasion. They were enticed with promises of handsome salaries, social security benefits for their families and the esteemed status of a hero.

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These men and women in uniform, along with their families, recount how they once placed unwavering faith in their government's call, only to be disillusioned and let down.

There was, for example, Andrey...

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In The News

Worldcrunch Magazine #43 — A Kherson Replay?

July 24 - July 30, 2023

This is the latest edition of Worldcrunch Magazine, a selection of our best articles of the week from the best international journalists, produced exclusively in English for Worldcrunch readers.


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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Alfred Hackensberger

On The Donetsk Front, Ukraine's Counteroffensive Follows The Kherson Playbook

For many observers, Ukraine's counteroffensive seems to be progressing too slowly, with losses leading some critics to call it a "suicide mission." Yet the view from the frontline makes clear that Kyiv is pursuing a strategy that has already proven successful.

VREMIVKA — Roofs of houses are torn off, side walls collapsed. Window frames dangle in the wind, refrigerators, tables and chairs lie scattered. Wrecked cars, pieces of metal, chunks of stone, splintered branches and trees are everywhere on the streets. The destruction is unspeakable.

None of these houses, with their vegetable gardens and fruit trees, so typical of rural Ukraine, are even remotely habitable. The road runs through the heart of the chaos, over two pontoon bridges that cross the Mokri Jaly River, and then continues along a dirt road filled with white gravel. This is the route the Ukrainian army paved to stab the Russian occupation forces in the back at Vremivka.

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This village on the border of Donetsk and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts had been divided in two since last year. The front line between Russian and Ukrainian troops ran right through the village, which was home to just 1,300 people.

Vremivka has been liberated - as have six other villages near the small town of Velyka Novosilka. Ukrainian forces recaptured these villages between June 10 and 12. The area, which covers a total of 139 square kilometers, is so far the largest territory that Kyiv has been able to free as part of its current counteroffensive.

"Nowhere else have so many villages been captured," says Ivan, a press officer with the 35th Marine Brigade, which was instrumental in the recapture. Like most Ukrainian soldiers on combat duty, he asks to keep his last name private.

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Dominique Moïsi

Why Israel's "Splendid Isolation" Is Doomed To Fail

The Israeli army's operation last week in the Jenin camp was particularly striking in its scale and violence, further undermining any hope of appeasement in the region or the newfound alliance with Arab countries, or even among American Jews. What if Israeli politics, instead, was inspired by the nation's Netflix series scriptwriters?


PARIS — On television screens around the world, the images appear in a steady chain, one after another — and they start to blend together.

There are endless divides between Ukraine and the West Bank: geography, history, geopolitical stakes. Everything except the most fundamental point: civilian victims. By intervening as they did in Jenin a few days ago, the Israeli armed forces were targeting an operational command center of the "Jenin Brigades."

But this intervention, the largest since 2005 (counting between 500 and 1,000 men, accompanied by armored vehicles, under the protection of the air force and drones) took place in the heart of a refugee camp of 14,000 people. Refugees who are often the children and grandchildren of Palestinians who have been – or are still – living in camps since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

This escalating violence is unlikely to lead to a third intifada, but it does make any hope of a political solution even more far-off and abstract. Was the Zionist ideal embodied by Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion to impose survival of the fittest on its neighbors? Could that somehow erase from memory the Jews' own tragic history, in which they found themselves in the position of the weakest? Do children who've been abused tend to reproduce, as adults, the abuses of which they were the victims?

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Pierre Haski

From East And West, Two Ways To Scare Putin Off The Nuclear Option

Kyiv is accusing Russia of planning to blow up the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in eastern Ukraine, which would cause incalculable horror, and extend beyond the borders of Ukraine. But it may be messages in Beijing and Washington that can dissuade Vladimir Putin even more than exposing civilians, including Russians, to nuclear fallout.


PARIS — Is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky crying wolf, or does he have bonafide information? On Saturday, during a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Zelensky accused Russia of making preparations to blow up the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

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This is not just a subplot in a cruel war; it would be the unprecedented violation of an absolute taboo, the consequences of which would be incalculable and undoubtedly extend beyond the borders of Ukraine. It is the first time in history that a nuclear power plant has become a possible war target — and international law is powerless.

Since its occupation by the Russian army in March of last year, at the very beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant – let's not forget, it is the largest in Europe – has been a constant focus of attention. Concerns have been raised about its operation, its cooling system, and its use as a shield by Russian soldiers. But nothing comes close to the deliberate destruction of nuclear reactors.

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