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TOPIC: kyiv

In The News

Deadly Strikes On Kyiv, Nine Killed In Israel West Bank Raid, Trump’s Meta Comeback

👋 ආයුබෝවන්*

Welcome to Thursday, where Kyiv is facing a new barrage of Russian missiles, Israel troops kill nine Palestinians in Jenin, and Donald Trump is allowed back on Facebook and Instagram. Meanwhile, Niccolò Zancan and Giuseppe Legato in Italian daily La Stampa take us to Campobello di Mazara, the quiet Sicilian village where Italy's most-wanted fugitive Matteo Messina Denaro was hiding in plain sight.

[*Ayubōvan - Sinhala, Sri Lanka]

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Western Tanks To Ukraine Trigger Russian Threats — But Also Fears Of Major Counterattack

Germany and the U.S. overcame months of reluctance in the past 24 hours to commit to sending heavy combat tanks to Ukraine. Russia responded with official bluster, but others in Moscow fear that the tanks delivery could be a gamechanger on the battlefield.

A week of growing expectations of a coming Russian offensive was turned on its head Wednesday as Germany and the U.S. announced their intention to send heavy combat tanks to Ukraine.

The sudden show of resolve on supplying tanks — after months of reluctance, particularly from Germany — has prompted some Russians to fear that Ukraine will now be equipped for a major counterattack. That would be a significant reversal after speculation had been growing this month about a Russian spring offensive.

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government confirmed Wednesday morning that Berlin plans to send at least 14 German-built Leopard 2 tanks to the frontline. U.S. media also reported that Joe Biden’s administration is expected to officially announce Washington's commitment, with at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks expected to be sent.

The timeline remains unclear as to when the vehicles would make it into combat. Still, both sides on the war acknowledged that it is a significant development with the potential to change the math on the battlefield.

Official Russian response was loaded with typical incendiary rhetoric. Dmitry Peskov, press secretary to Russian president Vladimir Putin, said the new tanks would "burn like all the rest, only these ones are expensive.”

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Shame Of A Nation: History Will Judge Germany For Holding Back Tanks From Ukraine

A retired German general spells out in clear language what the choice is for Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and what the long-term consequences of half-hearted support for Kyiv as it battles for survival against the Russian invasion.

-OpEd-

BERLIN — The German television newscaster cheerfully predicted last Friday morning: “Today the German evasive maneuvers are ending...” And yet, the high-level meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group at the Ramstein military base, proved this prophecy completely wrong.

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The burning issue of Germany stalling and blocking the approval of battle tank deliveries to Ukraine continues to burn.

As intense as the international pressure was, Berlin has once again refused to make a commitment. Rhetoric about the difference between what one wants and what one can achieve, the endless counterarguments, the citing of numbers...none of it however, make them any more credible. In reality they are excuses, with which Chancellor Olaf Scholz shirks the responsibility which, after all, the great, prosperous Germany will not be able to escape.

[A Sunday evening comment by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock that Berlin "would not stand in the way" of other countries providing German-made Leopard tanks is only provisional, and still mentions nothing about Germany sending its own tanks.]

The final decisions are ultimately in the hands of Scholz, and one wonders if he is unable to be swayed from an idea he's committed to. Or perhaps he continues to listen to Angela Merkel’s former advisor, General Erich Vad, who said before authorizing the sending of tanks to Kyiv, it would first have to be clear whether the Russian forces should be driven out of Ukraine at all.

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Limits Of Convenience: Why Russia-China Cooperation Won't Last

Moscow and Beijing may seem like strategic partners, but it's revealing itself clearly as a marriage of convenience. And ultimately they are naturally competitors, wary if the other grows stronger.

-Analysis-

Long before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping were growing closer. China’s goal? To revamp the current world order, significantly weaken the West and its leaders, and to become the world-dominating figurehead over and above the United States.

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Russia’s war in Ukraine has become an essential element of this plan to destabilize the global situation.

When the West began imposing stringent sanctions on Russia, China instead chose to economically support Putin and left its markets open to accept raw materials from Russia. But don’t think this means China is Putin’s lapdog. Quite the contrary: Beijing has never helped Moscow to its own detriment, not wishing to fall under the punitive measures of the US and Europe.

At the same time, the Russian-Chinese alliance stirred dissatisfaction amongst the elite in both Beijing and Moscow. China was not expecting Russia’s plans to occupy Ukraine in a matter of days to fail and as a result, China’s aim to destabilize the West alongside its Russian partner failed.

Add to this the various alliances in the West emerging against Beijing and fears for China’s economy on home turf is beginning to grow.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Yevhen Rudenko

Meet The Mufti Of Ukraine, From Friday Prayers To The Front Line

Russia has a complicated history with Islam, often built on Moscow's repression of the religious minority. Now, Muslims in Ukraine are ever more committed to a project for a multi-religious society that Kyiv espouses. Ukrainian Mufti Said Ismagilov has taken up arms for that cause, and to defend his nation.

BAKHMUT — Before Feb. 24, Said Ismagilov dedicated his service to the Muslims of Ukraine. Since Feb. 24, his service has shifted to the front line.

A native of Donetsk, Ismagilov was the Mufti of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Ukraine (UMMA). His decision to volunteer at the front, currently fighting in one of the paramedic brigades in Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, is connected to his roots.

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"Russians have been coming to my family for a century, destroying and taking away everything we own, everything we value," says the 44-year-old.

Recently, a video appeared on social networks of Said reading out Sura 48 of Al-Fath, one of the chapters of the Quran dedicated to victory. The clip showed the ruins of Bakhmut, against the background of the unfinished mosque, delayed due to the full-scale invasion.

Among the many motives for Ismagilov to take up arms is a personal one that embodies the history of Ukraine.

"In 2014, the same Muscovites came to Donbas and persecuted me," Ismagilov recalled. "I had to go to Kyiv to settle in Bucha. But the Muscovites came there in 2022 and robbed my apartment. Honestly, I'm getting sick of them. We have to destroy this empire."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Pierre Haski

Blood Of Bakhmut: Why Both Sides Are Ready To Die For A Deserted City In Donbas

Fighting has been fierce for the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. What is the price of a victory that is, above all, symbolic?

-Analysis-

PARIS — The name of Bakhmut will go down in history as one the fiercest, most contested battles in the Ukraine war. Fighting has been raging for weeks, in this city of the Donetsk region, in eastern Ukraine's Donbas. The toll of victims is rising considerably.

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What’s at stake today is less strategic than symbolic — which is not a trifling thing in this type of conflict. There is something about Bakhmut that’s reminiscent of World War I, where men die to conquer a house or a neighborhood only to lose it again the next day. The weapons, of course, differ: 21st-century drones, geo-location, missiles.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

Why Zelensky Will Not Promise Victory In 2023

Will 2023 be the year of victory? A negotiated settlement? The beginning of the new year was a time for speeches in Kyiv and Moscow aimed at inspiring the respective nations 10 months since Russia’s bloody invasion. Yet, for one good reason, certain words were not spoken.

-Analysis-

In Ukraine, New Year's was a sad and violent occasion: Kyiv, the capital, along with other cities, were subjected to drone attacks as the air-raid alarms barely stopped sounding in most parts of Ukraine throughout the would-be “holiday” weekend.

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Ukrainians couldn’t help noticing the contrast with other parts of the world, not just because people were ringing in the new year with celebrations, but more importantly because of the array of politicians, military experts and journalists making predictions for how the war will go in 2023.

The single question underlying all the others: Will the war in Ukraine end this year?

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Oleksandr Decyk and Vitaly Alekseev

How The War Is Doing Long-Term Damage To Ukraine's Fertile Soil

Ukraine's fertile soils used to feed the world. But even when the war ends, food production will take decades to recover because of damage to the land.

KYIV — After the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, most of the world's consumers of agricultural products such as wheat, sunflower oil and corn suddenly learned that most of these products were grown in Ukraine. They also discovered that this is a country whose fertile lands feed a significant part of Africa and Europe.

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Without its wheat and sunflowers, many all over the world will starve to death. So, the war in Ukraine has become a world war. And even when the hostilities end, Ukraine will not be able to immediately resume feeding the world, as Russian troops are destroying the basis of its agriculture — chernozem soil.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, during the war in Ukraine, significantly degraded agricultural land increased by 13%. A significant percentage of the land is at risk of degradation. Scientists call it ecocide – the deliberate destruction of Ukraine's ecosystem. More than 200,000 hectares of territories in the combat zone are contaminated with mines, shells, and debris.

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Ideas
Gaspard Koenig

Tolstoy's Lesson: Why Boycotting Russian Culture Is Such A Bad Idea

The Ukrainian Culture Minister has called for a total boycott of Russian culture. Such a move should be resisted because it ignores culture's potential to challenge power.

-Essay-

PARIS — Oleksandr Tkachenko, the Ukrainian Culture minister, recently called for an international boycott of Russian culture — a measure that has already been put into practice by some Western opera theaters and universities.

Yet, despite the utter sympathy that we feel for Ukraine, the answer for Tkachenko is clear: No.

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Today, Tkachenko argues that Russia is trying to undermine Ukrainian’s culture by destroying its cultural heritage or by eradicating Ukrainian’s language in occupied territories. And that’s precisely the reason why Ukraine, which wishes to be the herald of European democracies, shouldn’t use the same means nor the same logic as its enemy.

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In The News
Cameron Manley

Bad Comic, Neo-Nazi, Beggar For Dollars: How Russia Tries (In Vain) To Tear Zelensky Down

Compared to the worldwide admiration for Volodymyr Zelensky, authorities in Moscow have systematically tried to demean the Ukrainian leader. Yet even among Russians, that strategy appears to be backfiring.

While others watched in awe and admiration, Russia’s ruling class had a very different take on Volodymyr Zelensky’s surprise visit to the U.S. this week.

As the Ukrainian president touched down in Washington on Wednesday, Russian state media had already begun taunting Zelensky: he was “prostrating himself” and “begging for money” from the Americans, “an embarrassment.”

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Pavel Danilov, a prominent Russian political scientist told Russia’s Channel Five news that the visit was “some kind of image opportunity for Ukrainian domestic consumers. He went to the American priest who confirmed that he was on our side, that everything was fine, let's carry on, lads, fight on and all that.”

Pro-Kremlin television host Vladimir Solovyov, whose sharp rhetoric has made him one of the key propagandists since the start of Russia’s war, said live on air that he “kept thinking during this [Biden-Zelensky] press conference that this bastard [Zelensky] should simply be destroyed…”

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Hannes Stein

Zelensky As Churchill, An Iconic 'V' For Victory Sign By Other Means

On his historic trip to Washington, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recalls Winston Churchill in multiple ways, including that we wouldn't have thought much of either one before war turned each into leaders of epic proportions. A view from Germany.

-Analysis-

It was a speech reflecting an impressive understanding of the American soul. A speech that leaves no doubt. The words and gestures Volodymyr Zelensky brought into the U.S. Congress recall Winston Churchill in 1941. And its effects will unfold before us.

During the winter of 1941, Winston Churchill traveled to Washington. It was not a safe journey; after all, the German Air Force was not sleeping, and American warships carrying weapons to Britain had been sunk by German submarines. Churchill arrived in Washington on December 26, according to the British tradition of "Boxing Day," when people visit each other and bring gifts.

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It was bitter cold. The British Prime Minister addressed both houses of Congress, House of Representatives and the Senate. Of course, a certain reputation had preceded him: Everyone knew that the rotund figure with the bulldog face also possessed a certain sense of humor. But they also knew compromise was not an option with so much at stake.

Churchill spoke during a unique moment of world history. The British had been at war for two years and living under German bombardment for nine months — but for the Americans, World War II was only three weeks old. The shock of the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7th was still fresh in their bones.

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In The News
Cameron Manley

Zelensky In Washington: How It Played In Moscow, Kyiv And The Rest Of The World

For the Russians, the Ukrainian president went to the U.S. “begging for money.” But elsewhere in the world, this visit was shaping up as one of the most significant episodes of a 10-month-old war with planetary implications.

-Analysis-

Ten months into Russia’s war in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky once again took the world by storm. His momentous visit to Washington was his first trip abroad since Russia’s full scale invasion, and signals a landmark moment in a war with so much at stake beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Zelensky addressed a joint session of Congress late Wednesday, stressing the need for more weapons and adding that “against all odds, and doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn’t fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking.”

Earlier, U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed the Ukrainian president at the White House, where he confirmed a new $1.85 billion U.S. aid package to Ukraine, including the much discussed Patriot missile defense system. “We understand in our bones that Ukraine’s fight is part of something much bigger,” Biden said.

As dawn broke in Moscow, the reaction from Russian leaders was swift — and dripping with sarcasm and vitriol.

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