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In The News

Blinken Lands For Surprise Visit In Ukraine With $2 Billion Aid Package

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced trip to Ukraine on Thursday, his second visit to the country since the start of the war on February 24, annoucing that the U.S. intends to provide an additional $2 billion aid package to Ukraine and 18 other countries in and around the region.

This new aid package is in addition to the latest $675 million package to Ukraine, announced by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. It will include rounds for HIMARS, as well as military vehicles, and other equipment.

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Minsk Never More: Lessons For The West About Negotiating With Putin

The longer the war in Ukraine continues, the louder calls will grow for a ceasefire . Stockholm-based analysts explain how the West can reach a viable deal on this: primarily by avoiding strategic mistakes from last time following the annexation of Crimea.

-Analysis-

Each new day the Russian assault on Ukraine continues, the wider and deeper is the global impact. And so with each day, there is more and more talk of a ceasefire. But just how and under what conditions such an agreement might be reached are wide open questions.

What is already clear, however, is that a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine must not repeat mistakes made since the open conflict between the two countries began more than eight years ago.

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Contrary to widespread opinion, the so-called Minsk ceasefire agreements of 2014-2015 were not meant as a definitive solution. And as we now know, they would not offer a path to peace. Instead, the accord negotiated in the Belarusian capital would indeed become part of the problem, as it fueled the aggressive Russian strategies that led to the escalation in 2022.

In early September 2014, the Ukrainian army suffered a crushing defeat at Ilovaisk against unmarked regular Russian ground forces. Fearing further losses, Kyiv agreed to negotiations with Moscow.

The Minsk Protocol (“Minsk I”) – followed shortly thereafter by a clarifying memorandum – baldly served Russian interests. For example, it envisaged a “decentralization” – i.e. Balkanization – of Ukraine. An uneasy truce came about; but the conflict was in no way resolved.

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More Than 40 Ukrainian Prisoners Dead, Russia And Ukraine Blame Each Other

Russia and authorities in the occupied region of Donetsk say that more than 40 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been killed as well as at least 130 injured, after Ukrainian forces shelled a prison where they were being held. The prison located in Olenivka was housing Ukrainian soldiers taken into custody after the fall of Mariupol in April.

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Early Friday, Russian authorities accused the Ukrainian forces of targeting the prison to either prevent them from testifying against Kyiv or to discourage other Ukrainian armed forces from surrendering. In a statement, the Russian defense ministry said the prison “was hit by a missile attack from the American HIMARS multiple launch rocket system."

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The Next Big Move? What Would Happen If Belarus Enters War Against Ukraine

As the war in Donbas is bogged down, the most likely major new gambit in Vladimir Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine would be to get military support from his ally in Minsk, Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko. How would that actually go down?

What will Lukashenko do? It’s a high-stakes corollary to the even higher stakes "what-will-Putin-do" question that has been weighing on the world since the beginning of the year.

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Few doubt that the role of Belarus and its leader Alexander Lukashenko is absolutely crucial to the outcome of the war in Ukraine, and the risks of escalation. Will he invade Ukraine? Will he bide his time? Will he do whatever Putin tells him to do? But the questions themselves remain unanswerable; aka: only he knows … or maybe he doesn’t either!

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In The News
Shaun Lavelle, Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Death Toll Rises In Ukrainian Mall Attack, As Russia Steps Up Targeting Of Civilians

Officials fear the death toll will continue to climb after two Russian missiles hit the Armstor shopping center in the central Ukrainian city of Kramenchuk. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, more than 1,000 people were inside the mall Monday at the time of the attack.

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For the moment, the death toll is at 18 with 36 people missing and at least 59 injured, reported a regional official on Tuesday. The search and rescue operations continue under the rubble.

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In The News
Cameron Manley, Lila Paulou, McKenna Johnson, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

Stark World Divisions, As BRICS And EU Meetings Coincide

Russian President Vladimir Putin is being hosted (virtually) by China, along with Brazil, India and South Africa, as Europe is set to offer precious EU candidate status to Ukraine.

The synching of the diplomatic calendar is pure coincidence, but it offers a clear picture of a world starkly divided nearly four months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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China is hosting the 14th BRICS summit alongside the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa to discuss global economic recovery, climate action and public health. The meeting is the clearest opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin since his invasion of Ukraine to demonstrate that he is not isolated diplomatically.

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In The News
Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lila Paulou, McKenna Johnson, Joel Silvestri and Lisa Berdet

BRICS Meeting, Maradona Homicide Charges, Longer Tweets

👋 Mandi!*

Welcome to Thursday, where BRICS members are meeting for the first time since the Ukraine war began, a judge in Argentina orders a homicide trial for medical staff of football legend Diego Maradona and Twitter tests a new feature to push its character limit. Meanwhile, Ukrainian media Livy Bereg looks at the reasons why Belarus might not be so keen on joining the war against Ukraine.

[*Friulian, Italy]

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In The News
Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Three Months Since The Start Of A War That’s Changed The World

Vladimir Putin had planned to roll through Ukraine and splinter the West. While it has not gone according to plan, the destruction and uncertainty left in the path of the invasion has shaken the world.

Few will forget waking up to the news that Thursday morning in February. It was, exactly three months ago, in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 24, when Vladimir Putin sent his armies, missiles and fighter jets across Ukraine’s borders, from points north and east, launching a full-scale invasion of a sovereign nation of 44 million.

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It has, by all accounts, not gone as Putin had planned: the Ukrainian military resisting the much larger, better-equipped Russian invaders; the West unified in its support of Kyiv, through arms shipments and harsh sanctions against Moscow; steadily rising opposition at home.

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In The News
Anna Akage and Emma Albright

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.

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.

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Geopolitics
Taras Kuzio

Yanukovych And A New "Little Russia": Putin's Final Plan For Ukraine

Putin says he wants to "denazify" Ukraine, but his true goal is bringing the country back into Russia's sphere of influence as part of an all-Russian nation. To achieve that, he will try to turn it into a second Belarus, with a puppet ruler who has a familiar face.

-Analysis-

KYIV — An article recently appeared on Ria Novosti, Russia’s main state online news agency with the headline: "Russia is restoring its historical fullness, bringing together the Russian land and the All-Russian nation — Great Russians, Belarusians and Little Russians." The article said stopping the “disintegration of Russian lands” should be the first step towards restoring the effective rule of the USSR.

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Even now, three decades later, its collapse remains a tragedy for Vladimir Putin. He believes that "Little Russia"— that is, Ukraine — must be led by a Russian puppet like the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Jane Herbelin

Libya PM Targeted, Russia-Belarus Drills, Gazpacho Tactics

👋 Bonjou!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Libya’s prime minister survives an assassination attempt, Belarus and Russia start joint military drills and a Republican congresswoman spills her gazpacho. Fasten your seatbelts, we’re also looking at the world of private jet travel, a means of transportation that soared during the pandemic.

[*Haitian Creole]

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Geopolitics
Anna Akage

Putin's Puppet - Or Worse? Lukashenko Is The Real Wild Card On Ukraine

With Russian troops now deployed through Belarus, the risk is growing of an invasion through Ukraine’s northern border. Vladimir Putin’s regional strategy and Alexander Lukashenko’s dictatorial demands are not always what they seem.

-Analysis-

Ukrainians have a joke that started in the 1990s: Russia will never feel ashamed as long as there is Ukraine, and Ukraine will never feel ashamed as long as there is Belarus.

This bit of dark humor used to reflect the economic situation in the former Soviet republics. But somewhere in the interval, after the two democratic revolutions in Ukraine, in 2004 and 2014, we acquired a different vision of things, a sense of direction and demand from society. It was as if we broke away and swam in the opposite direction, away from where Russia was heading … leading Belarus by the hook.

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