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TOPIC: crimea

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Next Target, Crimea? Why Crossing The Dnipro Could Be The Boost Ukraine Needed

International support for Kyiv is waning and calls for negotiations are growing louder. But Ukraine has now managed to establish a bridgehead on the other side of the Dnipro River. From there, its troops could advance to Crimea — and turn the tide of the war.

Updated Nov. 27, 2023 at 2:30 p.m.


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Ukraine Will Face A New Battle This Winter: How To Boost Morale

No significant breakthroughs, growing skepticism about optimistic claims, and a war with no end in sight add to the psychological struggles of Ukrainians already facing the prospect of energy and heat shortages.


KYIV — Ukraine is bracing for a bitter winter. Continued enemy attacks and further disruptions in energy supply, leading to more power outages, are not only on the cards but almost guaranteed.

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Millions of Ukrainians, from Kharkiv to Chernivtsi, are pondering the same question: Will this second winter at war be more or less gruelling than the previous one?

On the one hand, Ukraine has achieved a great deal this year which puts it in good stead ahead of the winter. This includes modern air defense systems, essential backup power infrastructure like generators, charging stations, power banks, and portable stoves, as well as invaluable experience gained from the challenges faced in 2022. Power workers, utility personnel, and ordinary citizens are now better prepared to handle emergencies, and the once-dreaded term "blackout" no longer evokes the same fear. Many of those who endured the previous winter now feel like seasoned veterans.

On the other hand, the country has also lost a great deal over the past 12 months. The loss of irreplaceable human lives destroyed by enemy attacks is incomparable, but with winter looming, Ukraine is also reckoning with body blows to its power infrastructure, which has seen a significant reduction in its safety margin compared to the previous year.

Yet equally critical is the noticeable decline in the country's morale compared to 2022. Unfortunately, a majority of Ukrainians are heading into the new winter of conflict in a worse psychological state than before. There are at least three compelling reasons for this decline in morale.

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Worldcrunch Magazine #52 — Target: Crimea

October 2 - October 8, 2023

Here's the latest edition of Worldcrunch Magazine, a selection of our best articles of the week from top international journalists, produced exclusively in English for Worldcrunch readers.


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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.

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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Pierre Haski

Is There Any Way To Rein In The Power Of Big Tech?

A new biography of the Tesla, X (formerly Twitter) and Space X boss reveals that Elon Musk prevented the Ukrainian army from attacking the Russian fleet in Crimea last year, by limiting the beam of his Starlink satellites. Unchecked power is a problem.

This article was updated Sept. 14, 2023 at 12:20 p.m


PARIS — Nothing Elon Musk does leaves us indifferent. The billionaire is often admired for his audacity, and regularly criticized for his attitude and some of his decisions.

A biography of the founder and CEO of Tesla and Space X, came out today in the United States — 688 pages published by Simon & Schuster and written by William Isaacson (the renowned biographer of Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein).

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One revelation from this book is making headlines, and it's a big one. Elon Musk — brace yourselves — prevented the Ukrainian army from destroying the Russian Black Sea fleet last year.

A bit of context: Starlink, the communications and internet satellite constellation owned by Musk, initially enabled Ukraine to escape Russian blackout attempts.

But when the Ukrainian army decided to send naval drones to destroy Russian ships anchored in Crimea, it found that the signal was blocked. And Starlink refused to extend it to Crimea, because, according to Issacson, Musk feared it would trigger World War III.

It's dizzying, and raises serious questions.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

What Does Prigozhin's Death Mean For Russia's Ambitions In Africa?

Russia has entered the race for influence in Africa over the past decade, largely on the shoulders of the Wagner Group and its founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin. What happens now is unclear, though Vladimir Putin won't want to cede any ground to other world powers in the race for influence on the continent.

Africa will become increasingly important in Russian foreign policy in the near future, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently declared. Statements by Russian officials are often empty words — but not this one.

Russia entered the race for influence in Africa in the second half of the 2010s, when it became obvious that cooperation with the West was coming to an end. The annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas and sanctions were already things of the past.

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Now, the full-scale invasion of Ukraine has returned Moscow's foreign policy to the Cold War era, when it was critical to have political spheres of influence. But Russia is struggling: it has almost nothing it can offer Africa. Instead, it is Russia that needs Africa’s support. As one of the largest blocs of countries voting in the UN, and one of the most promising regional economies, Africa is of huge strategic importance for Russia.

Moscow's return to Africa began after its military operation in Syria in 2015. After it had regained influence in the Middle East, many governments in the Global South appreciated the strength Russia demonstrated in defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and turned to Moscow to aid in resolving regional conflicts.

As confrontation with the West intensified, Moscow needed allies, if only from a rhetorical standpoint. Indeed, Russia’s emphasis on the hypocrisy of Western elites and their colonial projects resonate with people in Africa.

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Cameron Manley

Report: Russia's New National High School Exam To Include Ukraine War Justification

High school students will now need to know details of the Russian annexation of territories in eastern Ukraine and "reunification" of Crimea with Russia. Regular topics in the past, such as democracy and human rights, will no longer be part of the high school exam.

In a draft of a new Unified State Examination in Social Studies paper seen by independent Russian news site Agenstvo, graduating high school students must now demonstrate an understanding of the causes and consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but also how the Russian Federation has been “revived” as a leading world power, as well as the necessity both for Crimea’s “reunification” with Russia and the invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Reuters confirmed the publication of four new history textbooks for schoolchildren aged 16-18. Among the co-authors was presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky. These textbooks entirely reinterpreted the fall of the Soviet Union, the rule of President Vladimir Putin and added a chapter especially devoted to the causes of what is referred to as the "special military operation" in Ukraine.

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The newly published exam syllabus states that candidates must “be able to defend historical truth” and must “not allow the feat of the people in defending the Fatherland to be diminished.”

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Cameron Manley and Michal Kubala

Why F-16s Could Be Decisive For Ukraine

Denmark and the Netherlands have jointly declared their intention to dispatch F-16 fighter jets to bolster the Ukrainian Air Force. Once Ukrainian pilots are trained, it may help tip the balance in Kyiv's favor.

This article was updated on Aug. 21, 2023 at 3 p.m.


KYIV — After the U.S. announced it will help train Ukrainians on F-16 fighter jets in late May, Yuriy Ignat, spokesman for the Ukrainian air force command, confidently declared: "Once we have the F-16s, we'll win this war."

With Denmark and the Netherlands jointly declaring their intention to dispatch dozens of F-16s to the Ukrainian Air Force (the Netherlands says it will give 42), Kyiv is one major step closer to having the jets in hand.

After the announcement Sunday, Ignat reiterated after his belief that the jets could be the decisive factor. “We won't win immediately, of course," he added. "But the F-16 is capable of changing the course of events, capable of providing us with what we need most today — air superiority in the occupied territories."

Ignat revealed that eight to nine Russian fighter jets currently operate in the occupied regions, deploying aerial bombs and missiles, Kyiv-based Livy Bereg reported. With the F-16s in Ukraine's arsenal, such actions would be significantly hampered, diminishing the Russian capacity to exert air dominance. Ignat reinforced the notion that control over the skies directly translates to success on the ground, thereby making the F-16's strategic value indisputable.

Military experts argue that it may not be as simple as that, but for military pilot instructor and Ukrainian reserve colonel, Roman Svitan, the Western fighters could help cut Ukrainian casualties and even shift the balance in Ukraine's favor during the counteroffensive.

Ukraine has launched a major counteroffensive to expel the Russian forces that have invaded its territory, but the fight has been slow going. Speaking to the independent Russian news site Important Stories, Roman Svitan explained how the F-16s could help Ukraine achieve this objective.

For starters, Ukraine can reach the Azov coast in the southeast under the protection of surface-to-air missile systems and sufficient artillery cover, Svitan explains.

“The ground is as flat as a table," he notes, "so it's easy to pull equipment like artillery there."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anatoly Bondarchuk

How Russian Mind-Control Tactics Prey On Ukrainians In Occupied Territories

Russia has occupied of parts of Ukraine for almost a decade, busy promoting a pro-Russian narrative in those territories. Moscow's aim is to ensure loyalty and deliberately create tensions among Ukrainians in free territories. It is a formula that has been

KYIV — For almost a year and a half now, Russia has been trying to defeat Ukraine both on the battlefield and in the information space. Special attention has been paid behind the front lines, where the Kremlin has been busy trying to widen the gap between Ukrainians who live in the “Temporarily Occupied Territories” (TOTs) and people living in the free territories of Ukraine.

Its strategy, on the one hand, is designed to undermine the trust of the TOT residents in Ukraine and weaken resistance to the occupation. On the other hand, it seeks to force the Ukrainian leadership and public to abandon the liberation of the occupied territories.

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The longer the war lasts, the higher the likelihood that people who live in the Russia-occupied territories will be ready to accept the status quo. People who have lived or are still living under occupation describe life following the February 24 full-scale invasion as follows: the destruction of infrastructure and residential buildings, terror, and repression against those who do not support the occupation.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A Closer Look At The Special Sea Drones Used To Pull Off The Crimea Bridge Attack

The Crimean bridge was attacked in the pre-dawn hours by two Ukrainian sea drones, the Russian National Anti-Terrorist Committee reported. The attack has impressed military analysts who spoke with Russian independent media agents.media (Agenstvo) about the weapons used and the potential next target.

Ukrainian sources were quick to claim responsibility for a deadly overnight attack on the Kerch bridge, which connects Crimea to the mainland, a crucial transport and supplies hub for Russian troops in Ukraine. This is the second attack on the bridge in less than a year, following an explosion in October that killed five and caused damage to key sections of the bridge.

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According to Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee, the strike early Monday was carried out by Ukrainian sea drones, unmanned weapons also known as surface drones. Multiple Russian Telegram channels, Ukrainian sources in the special services, and analysts interviewed by Agenstvo all corroborate the use of these weapons.

The Ukraine war has already seen extensive use of drones. But the use of these these obscure unmanned "sea drones," used to attack the symbol of Russia's annexation of Crimea, is a taking the tactic to another level.

To military experts Kirill Mikhailov and Yuri Fedorov, the attack on the Kerch bridge shows that Ukrainian sea drones can now hit any target in the Black Sea. They believe that the drones were launched from the Ukrainian-controlled part of the Black Sea coast. This means that the drones traveled about 700 kilometers.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

On Ukraine's "Slow" Counteroffensive: Do You Even Know When The War Began?

After months of anticipation, expectations were impossibly high when Ukrainian forces finally launched a counteroffensive into Russian-occupied territory. But those expecting a lightning advance, like last year's liberation of Kharkiv, overlooked one critical fact: the war is nearly 10 years old.


If the war in Ukraine were a Hollywood movie, the counteroffensive would be the final 20-minute stretch, just before Ukrainian tanks roll into Crimea and liberate the last village. Roll credits.

Of course, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reminded the BBC this week, life isn’t like the movies. Both because real "people's lives are at stake,” and also because time passes much more slowly in the reality of war.

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We’ve seen months of expectation and speculation, deliveries of new weapons to Ukraine and the return to the battlefield of freshly-trained soldier – but when the action finally started, and it turned out that Ukrainians were liberating occupied territory through brutal fighting, one village per week, there was a sense of worry and disappointment.

There was a critical error in those optimistic calculations.

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In The News
Marine Béguin, Yannick Champion-Osselin, Sophie Jacquier and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Ukraine Targets Crimea, Pope & Lula, Musk v. Zuck

👋 Dumela!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Ukraine says it has struck a road in Russian-occupied Ukraine that leads to Crimea, time is running out in the search for the missing submarine and Lula meets Pope Francis, just back from the hospital. Meanwhile, Alfonso Masoliver, for Spanish daily La Razón, travels with Rwandan fishermen on the silent waters of one of Africa's largest lakes.

[*Tswana, Botswana and South Africa]

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