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TOPIC: drones

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Russia Is Suddenly Deploying Air Defense Systems On Moscow Rooftops

Russia is increasingly concerned about security from the sky: air defense systems have been installed on rooftops in Moscow's government quarter. Systems have also appeared in several other places in Russia, including near Vladimir Putin's lakeside home in Valdai. What is the Kremlin really worried about?

-Analysis-

The Russian Defense Ministry has refused to comment. State Duma parliamentary officials say it’s a fake. Still, a series of verified photographs have circulated in recent days of an array of long-range C-400 and short-range air defense systems installed on three complexes in Moscow near the Kremlin, as well as on locations in the outskirts of the capital and in the northwest village of Valdai, where Vladimir Putin has a lakeside residence.

Some experts believe the air defense installations in Moscow were an immediate response to recent Ukrainian statements about a new fleet of military drones: The Ukroboronprom defense contracter said this month that it completed a series of successful tests of a new strike drone with a range of over 1,000 kilometers. Analyst Michael Naki suggests that Moscow’s anti-air defense systems were an immediate reaction to the fact that the drones can theoretically hit Kremlin.

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Yet the air defense installations in Valdai seem to have been in place since late December, following Ukrainian drone attacks on a military airfield deep inside Russia’s Sorotov region, 730 kilometers (454 miles) southeast of Moscow.

Others pose a very different rationale to explain Russia’s beefing up anti-air defenses on its own territory. Russian military analyst Yan Matveev argues that Putin demanded the deployment of such local systems not as defense against long-range Ukrainian drones, but rather for fear of sabotage from inside Russia.

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China Rolls Back Zero-COVID, Democrats Win In Georgia, Morocco Celebrates

👋 Kamusta!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where China abandons key parts of its Zero-COVID strategy, U.S. Democrats secure a 51-49 majority of the Senate with a runoff victory in Georgia and Morocco makes history at the World Cup in Qatar. Meanwhile, French daily Les Echos looks at the unlikely methods Paris’ authorities are applying to detect and neutralize drones that could potentially be used as weapons by terrorists.

[*Tagalog, Philippines]

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Beyond Ukraine, How To Defend Against Drones As A Weapon-Of-Choice For Terrorists

The war in Ukraine has shown how civilian drones can be effectively used as weapons. Meanwhile in Paris, with preparations on to host the Olympics in 2024, the city is testing some unlikely solutions to make sure the devices can't be employed by terrorists.

PARIS — Police in Paris are busy walking through the worst-case scenarios. One is a drone appearing out of nowhere, undetected because it flies low and emits no radio waves thanks to its autonomous navigation. The reason? They've been tasked with protecting two major events being organized in France: the Rugby World Cup in September and October 2023, and then the Olympic Games in July and August 2024.

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Kyiv Adds New Charge To Genocide Case Against Russia

Ukraine’s case for pursuing Russia and its leadership for war crimes now includes Moscow’s current strategy of trying to cut off energy supplies to Ukrainian civilians by destroying the country’s power grid. Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Andriy Kostin told the BBC that strikes on key energy infrastructure targeted "the full Ukrainian nation," which fall under the purview of attempted genocide.

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In contrast to other war crimes, genocide is the intention to physically destroy members of a particular population group or ethnicity. Kostin says the evidence of genocide against Russia has already included its forcibly taking Ukrainian children to Russia and giving them for adoption to Russian families; organizing so-called “filtration camps,” torturing and killing civilians — and now Moscow’s waging war against the entire population of Ukraine by trying to deprive millions of light, heat, and water in the winter.

Emergency power cuts continue throughout the country Monday, with the situation aggravated by the onset of winter: Nighttime temperatures have dropped to -8 °C, and -5 °C during the day.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

Unit Of 500 Mobilized Russians Wiped Out,  Putin's "No Front Line" Lie Exposed

If not cannon fodder, many of the reservists are facing shortages of food, weapons and promised payments.

More than 500 mobilized Russian reserve soldiers called up from the Voronezh region were sent to the Ukrainian front lines in Luhansk, where they were decimated in recent days by the Ukrainian army, according to a report in Russian independent publication Verstka

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According to the newspaper, only 31 members of the mobilized unit managed to survive in the battle in the contested eastern region of Ukraine. Those who weren’t killed are reportedly hiding in abandoned buildings in a neighboring village, where they have called their relatives in Russia seeking help to get out of Ukraine.

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Geopolitics
Maria Zholobova

Kyiv Blackout Siege: Russian Strikes On Power Grid Are A War Crime In The Making

Russia takes away light, water, and heat from Ukrainians with their missile strikes against the nation's energy infrastructure. It is a very intentional strategy of cruelty.

KYIV — The Russian Defense Ministry reported in matter-of-fact terms on the strikes with "high-precision weapons" "against military command facilities and energy systems. Russian TV channels and propagandists on the Telegram social network explain that these attacks have military significance: Ukrainians "will not be able to deliver either ammunition or fuel, and then the Ukrainian army will turn into a crowd of armed men with nothing but pieces of iron."

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But in fact, the touted new tactics and military precision adds up to Russia striking Ukrainian civilians.

Gennady Ryabtsev, a member of the expert council at Ukraine's Agency on Energy Efficiency, lives in the area of the thermal power plant. "There was shelling: one "shahed" [an Iranian drone] crashed into a residential building across from this plant, another flew into the yard of a business center, police hit the third, a fourth fell on the roof of the administrative building of Ukrenergo, the call center there went out of order, and a fifth fell somewhere in the yard of this thermal power plant," Ryabtsev recounted. "That is the destruction of energy facilities by high-precision weapons."

Those missiles and drones that hit power plants and power lines are aimed to hit civilians: both hospitals and schools in Kyiv are now without heat and light work.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Alex Hurst, and Bertrand Hauger

Both Kyiv And Moscow Refuse To Back Down In Fight For Kherson

As Moscow and Kyiv direct their troops toward the southern Ukrainian city, the strategic and symbolic value cannot be overstated.

Kyiv and Moscow both appear ready for a major battle to control the contested Ukrainian city Kherson. Statements by Ukrainian officials and recent troop movements from both sides indicate heavy fighting to come in the key southern city.

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Russia still controls the city despite recent Ukrainian counteroffensives in the area that have retaken significant territory, and Moscow has reportedly been reinforcing areas around Kherson with more soldiers. Russian media Vazhnyye Istorii spoke Wednesday with several local residents in Kherson who reported an uptick in looting and forced evacuations by occupying forces loyal to Moscow.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

Why Iran Has Decided To Arm Russia, And The Price To Pay

After months of trading barbs with Ukraine's allies in the West, Tehran is now fully engaged alongside Moscow in the conflict, most notably with supplies of so-called Kamikaze drones. Although the fact that Iran still denies its activities is a sign that the partnership is loaded.

-Analysis-

In Ukraine, they’ve been nicknamed “mopeds” for the sound of their motors as they terrorize from the air. The Shahed-136 kamikaze drones striking Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipro, and Odessa are also the most visible sign that Iran has officially entered the war in Ukraine as an active military partner for Russia.

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These drones, which have a range of more than 1,000 kilometers, are being launched from Crimea and Voronezh in southwestern Russia. They cost far less than missiles, and although they don't have the same destructive power, they can kill humans and disable critical infrastructure at any moment on any street in any Ukrainian city.

U.S. intelligence, which had warned this past summer that Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to buy a large batch of drones, are now reporting that Iran is also planning to sell ground-to-ground ballistic missiles to Moscow. On top of this, there are multiple reports that Iran is sending military advisors to train Russians to use their weapons.

After limiting itself in the first months of the war to rhetorical barbs aimed at Ukraine’s allies in the West, the past two weeks have thus seen a major escalation of Tehran’s role alongside Moscow.

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In The News
Cameron Manley, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

Fresh Troops Arriving As Final Battle For Kherson Appears Imminent

A missile attack early Friday kills four, as civilians try to evacuate the largest Ukrainian city under Russian occupation.

The Ukrainian military's General Staff reports that up to 2,000 Russian troops have arrived in the wider occupied Kherson region to replenish losses and reinforce units on the southern front line. These troops are believed to be made up of men called up in Vladimir Putin’s “partial mobilization,” brought in for what many believe will be a major battle for the key port city and regional capital of Kherson.

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The Kremlin has accused Ukrainian forces overnight of targeting civilians evacuating from the Russian-controlled city of Kherson, after a missile attack killed at least four.

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In The News
Cameron Manley, Sophia Constantino and Bertrand Hauger

Putin’s Martial Law Dismissed As “Propaganda Show,” “Desperate Tactic”

Russia's martial law for the occupied territories of Ukraine is a "pseudo-legalization of looting of Ukrainians' property," said another official in Kyiv.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is fast-tracking the imposition of martial law in the four occupied territories of Ukraine — Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia — which he now considers annexed parts of Russia.

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But Kyiv and its Western allies are reacting with disdain more than fear or worry. Residents of Kherson have reported receiving mass text messages warning the city would be shelled and informing them that buses would be leaving from the port from 7 a.m. on Thursday. Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to the Ukrainian president, described Russian announcements as “a propaganda show,” adding that the population transfers amounted to “deportations”

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In The News
Anna Akage, Meike Eijsberg and Sophia Constantino

Russia Unleashes 28 Kamikaze Drones On Kyiv, Young Family Among Dead

A total of 43 of the reported Iranian-made drones fell across the country.

Monday in Kyiv began much as it did one week again: with a new barrage of air attacks that coincided with the morning rush hour: at least three people have been killed and more than a dozen missing under the rubble after at least 28 kamikaze drones targeted the Ukrainian capital.

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Reuters reports from Kyiv that Ukrainian soldiers fired into the air trying to shoot down the drones. Authorities encouraged all residents to take shelter underground. Among the deaths reported was a young couple expecting their first child, reports an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Shaun Lavelle and Emma Albright

Where’s Putin? Russian Leader Stays Silent As Ukrainian Offensive Accelerates

The last sighting of Vladimir Putin was five days ago, when the Russian President appeared at the inauguration of a giant Ferris wheel in Moscow.

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Since then, as the Ukrainian army’s major counter-offensive in the northeast and south has gained momentum, and Russian troops make a hasty retreat, Putin has disappeared from the public space and made no comments on the dramatic events on the front of what he continues to call a “special military operation.”

The same is true of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, considered a loyal Putin insider and chief architect of the war, who has made no appearances or declarations.

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