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TOPIC: military


Elon Musk, Here's What Unplugging Starlink Means For Ukrainians On The Front Line

Tech billionaire Elon Musk has long been considered one of Ukraine's key supporters, but he has just announced restrictions on the Ukrainian military's use of his Starlink satellites. Die Welt spoke to soldiers on the front lines in Bakhmut who are already feeling the effects.

BAKHMUT — Amid ruins in the eastern Ukrainian frontline town of Chasiv Yar, in front of the shattered window of a high-rise building, Ukrainian soldiers search for Russians on a Monday afternoon.

Bogdan Borodai, 25, part of the 24th Battalion "Aidar", operates a gamepad with buttons and stares at a screen. On it, he sees what their small drone is currently filming from the air.

"That right there," Borodai says, tapping the screen, "is a tank. Every few hours, we spot a bunch of Russian soldiers here."

He says their drone, which costs thousands of euros and is made by the Chinese manufacturer DJI, flies up to 15 kilometers, time and again including into the currently fiercely contested town of Bakhmut. Borodai and his team transmit what they film in real time to their higher-level command center, where they make decisions about firing.

In their drone reconnaissance, Borodai and his team rely on the support of a white portable device they have placed near them. It is a Starlink terminal from the U.S. company SpaceX, founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The Starlink terminals ensure Ukrainian soldiers a stable and fast internet connection everywhere, even in places like Chasiv Yar, where large parts of the infrastructure have been bombed by Russian troops.

"Starlink is one of the most important tools we have in this war," Borodai says. "If that stops now, it would a serious problem."

The soldier has real reasons for concern. In early February, SpaceX announced it would restrict the Ukrainian military's use of Starlink, limiting their possibility to control drones.

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This Is How Russia's New Offensive Could Backfire

Latest reports show that Russia is stepping up its operations in eastern Ukraine, with a major offensive looking to be imminent. But international military strategists and tactical experts think that instead of sealing Kyiv's fate, this rushed assault could precipitate the demise of Vladimir Putin and his war.


There are growing signs that a Russian winter offensive in eastern Ukraine is underway. Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said recently that his country expected a full-blown assault around Feb. 24, on the anniversary of the Russian invasion. “Of course we expect there may be Russian offensives, as they love symbolism,” Reznikov said.

One Ukrainian military adviser told the Financial Times that there was reliable intelligence indicating an attack may move up the calendar to mid-February — before the tanks and armored personnel carriers promised to Kyiv by the West are fully operational.

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For weeks now, experts from the Institute for the Study of War have been reporting that Russia is moving troops and equipment into the Donbas region. Moscow is expected to introduce more troops into the battle around Bakhmut, where the Russian army is advancing slowly and suffering heavy casualties. According to Ukrainian estimates, this past Monday alone, more than 1,000 Russian soldiers were killed and 14 Russian tanks and 28 armored personnel carriers destroyed.

These figures can’t be independently verified, but they would confirm a clear upward trend and indicate that the fighting is indeed intensifying. Military expert Phillips O’Brien from the University of St Andrews in Scotland predicts that we will see a “winter/spring of slaughter,” adding that “It looks like it’s going to be a really bloody few months.”

So far, all the signs suggest that Moscow will focus on the Donbas region, with reports that President Vladimir Putin gave the order to seize the territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions by March.

The question is: Does Moscow have the means to do so?

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Dnipro, A Heinous Attack Sparks Hard Questions About Weapon Supplies — On Both Sides

After Dnipro was left devastated by one of Russia’s deadliest attacks on Ukrainian civilians to date, the problem of arms delivery in a war that keeps escalating has never been more urgent.

The Russian missile that struck a residential building on Saturday afternoon in Dnipro killed at least 40 people, a number that keeps growing as bodies are discovered under the rubble in the central Ukrainian city. It appears to be a war crime with no legitimate target near the neighborhood.

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This bombing is also particularly informative about what’s happening right now on the Russian side of the war: The KH-22 cruise missile used is designed to sink an aircraft carrier, the biggest one in Moscow’s arsenal.

This precision missile was fired from an aircraft hundreds of miles away and has no link whatsoever to the target.

This enormous gap between the type of missile used and its ultimate target might actually reveal a missile scarcity in Russia, after weeks of continuous bombing in Ukraine. Tapping into strategic Russian weaponry (the KH-22 can be equipped with nuclear warheads) can never be justified considering the innocence of the target. Russian arms plants running at full capacity, for the time being at least, cannot keep up supplies.

But this tragic strike is also a clear sign of a progressive escalation in a war that, at this stage, shows no signs it can be stopped.

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Cargo 300: For The Wounds Of Ukraine Have No Time To Heal

After a grim New Year, a soldier and mother reflects on the trauma of the past 10 months: fear, the corpses of friends and the choice between her own children and joining the war effort.


The Facebook feed of holiday photos is not pleasant.

Someone is seen celebrating in a trench; others in blacked-out cities. Another is in a foreign country. And some spend a first holiday without a beloved father, son or husband.

It is all sadness.

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Cargo 300 is a military term for transporting a wounded soldier out of combat zones. Cargo 200 is for the deceased.

As I return to civilian life, I realize that from now on and for decades to come, we will be a nation of "300s," wounded by war, physically and morally crippled, regardless of whether or not we were directly on the battlefield.

Immediately after demobilization, I travelled to Germany, where my children were all this time. I met a friend who had served eight months in Iraq.

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In The News
Anna Akage

Putin In Belarus: Is Lukashenko Ready To Enter The Ukraine War?

Five days after Minsk's troops began amassing at the Belarus-Ukraine border, Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived for an impromptu summit with Alexander Lukashenko. Belarus' strongman is increasingly seen as no longer having the option to say No to entering Putin's war against Ukraine.

This article has been updated on Dec. 19, 2022 at 4:40 p.m. CET with news developments

Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Belarus on Monday, raising concerns that he had come to seal the country's leader Alexander Lukashenko's commitment to join the war against Ukraine.

International observers said the objective of Putin's visit — his first to the country since 2019 — is to push Belarus to send troops across the border into Ukraine, which he's so far avoided doing, despite allowing Russia to launch air and ground attacks from its territory.

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Ahead of his meeting with Putin, Lukashenko said that the country would decide for itself if it would go to war – but there were signs last week that he was preparing to help out. On Dec. 13, Belarusian troops began rapidly deploying to the Ukrainian border and the country’s defense ministry announced a “sudden inspection of combat readiness.”

The inspection finished just before Putin landed in Minsk on Monday, the Belarusian government said, as Russian media reported that troops stationed in Belarus had been ordered to start military exercises.

Over the past week, the Belaruski Gayun media has recorded increasing numbers of troops massing on the border with Ukraine.

Though such sudden exercises have occurred at other times since the beginning of the war, this time it comes amid an accumulation of signs that point to Lukashenko preparing to give final orders. Putin's visit Monday, which was announced less than 48 hours earlier, appears to confirm movement afoot.

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Alexander Gillespie

North Korea And Nukes: Why The World Is Obliged To Try To Negotiate

How to handle a nuclear armed pariah state is not a simple question.

The recent claim by Kim Jong Un that North Korea plans to develop the world’s most powerful nuclear force may well have been more bravado than credible threat. But that doesn’t mean it can be ignored.

The best guess is that North Korea now has sufficient fissile material to build 45 to 55 nuclear weapons, three decades after beginning its program. The warheads would mostly have yields of around 10 to 20 kilotons, similar to the 15 kiloton bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

But North Korea has the capacity to make devices ten times bigger. Its missile delivery systems are also advancing in leaps and bounds. The technological advance is matched in rhetoric and increasingly reckless acts, including test-firing missiles over Japan in violation of all international norms, provoking terror and risking accidental war.

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Dominique Moïsi

Why Ukraine-Russia Peace Talks Are Now More Impossible Than Ever

The reconquest of Kherson seemed like a turning point in the Ukraine war. But while Kyiv and the West can see it as an encouraging sign for the long-term fate of the war, it makes negotiations a veritable non-starter now. A cold, hard analysis from French geopolitical expert Dominique Moïsi.


The liberation of Kherson two weeks ago brought Ukrainian forces closer to Crimea and pushed the Russian army further from Odessa. It was a strategic and symbolic turning point. The images that emerged evoke the liberation of Paris in August 1944. Although it is a show of strength from Ukraine and a sign of Russian weakness, it does not mean that the time has come for negotiations to begin.

Far from it, in fact.

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Up until the Ukrainian army retook Kherson, it was still possible to imagine that Russia and Ukraine might reach a compromise on territory, redrawing the borders as they were on Feb. 23, 2022. That is no longer the case today. For Kyiv, there is no longer any question of going back to February 2022, but rather to January 2014: before Moscow seized Crimea by force.

In nine months of war — with nearly 100,000 victims on both sides — millions of Ukrainians have been displaced, towns and cities have been systematically targeted and infrastructure has been destroyed.

Russia has committed multiple war crimes, perhaps even crimes against humanity. Unable to compete on the ground with the Ukrainian forces — who outnumber the Russians, are better equipped (thanks to Western aid) and above all are more motivated — Moscow has had no other choice than to try and bring the Ukrainian people to their knees through hunger and cold, while hoping to sow division among Kyiv’s allies.

So far, this strategy has had the opposite of the desired effect. Now that Ukraine has retaken Kherson, and after the G20 summit in Bali, Russia is more isolated than ever on the global stage.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Ekaterina Fomina

Kremlin Kids, Inc: How The Children Of Russia's Elite Keep Busy Avoiding The War

The offspring of Russia's elite were used to luxury loft apartments, expensive cars and carefree living. So how did Putin's mobilization for new troops impact them? As independent Russian news platform Vazhnyye Istorii found out, life essentially continues as normal.

There's a famous quote about war by the late Russian General Alexander Lebed that is universally true: “Let me recruit a platoon of the children of the elite, and the war will be over in a day.”

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Vazhnyye Istorii, as one of the few remaining independent Russian news platforms, decided to investigate what the offspring of the Russian elite thought about Russia's "partial mobilization" that was announced in late September, and whether any of them had been called up.

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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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Marc Pfitzenmaier

Gotland, The Swedish Island Standing Between Russia And NATO Vulnerability

The Swedish island of Gotland is the last bastion between Russia and the entire Baltic region. Sweden has been busy fortifying the island, with the stakes even higher as Stockholm is set to join NATO, and life for locals makes it clear that something has changed.

VISBY (Gotland) — Dag Svensson is kneeling on the ground in full combat gear. Propped on his shoulder is a 12-kilogram anti-tank guided missile, also known as an NLAW. Under the stern gaze of his captain, Svensson takes aim — a red laser dot in the scope indicates his target — and releases the safety with the fingers of his right hand and presses the ignition button.

There is no recoil from the rocket today, instead a mechanical whirring comes from the housing. Dag's captain is happy, so is Dag.

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"I could fire in the field at any time," he says confidently. It is also clear what he would aim for if the exercise turned into an emergency: "We are training here to meet the Russians."

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Christoph B. Schiltz

Here Are Four Ways Putin Could Turn The Tide In Ukraine

Ukraine's recent successes on the battlefield have put pressure on Vladimir Putin, who has launched what appear to be desperate attacks on civilians and infrastructure in response. Experts warn that it is dangerous to believe that Russia is bound to fail.


Russia's airstrikes on Ukraine have continued unabated throughout the week.

More than 40 cities have been hit by Russian missiles over a period of just 24 hours, the General Staff of the Ukrainian army announced Thursday. Heavy strikes occurred in the outskirts of Kyiv for several nights in a row. Sirens wailed, people ran in panic through the darkness.

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Thirty percent of the country's energy infrastructure has now been destroyed, according to Ukrainian figures — a dramatic development as rain and cold weather are just around the corner.

Ukraine needs to urgently "defend itself against the terrible Russian attacks on civilians," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told the alliance's defense ministers meeting in Brussels earlier this week. The message got through.

Germany and the U.S. made new commitments to supply air defense, and a total of 15 countries signed a declaration of intent for a "European Sky Shield" in Brussels on Thursday. The goal is to "close the gaps" in air defense, said Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht.

But to be clear, as brutal as they are, the Russian missile offensives are the direct result of Ukraine's huge military gains in recent weeks.

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Vazhnyye Istorii/Important Stories

Terror As Strategy: Is There A Method To Putin's Vengeance?

This week’s massive strikes by Russia on Ukrainian territory brought back the terror of the first days of the invasion across the entire country. Were they strategic strikes, or simply a retaliation for Ukraine’s attack on a strategic bridge in Russia-occupied territory in Crimea?


KYIV — The toll continues to rise after Russia's massive missile strikes across Ukraine, including the capital. Emergency services say 19 people were killed, 105 were injured and there was widespread damage to the country's energy infrastructure.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had struck "with precision-guided weapons at energy, military command and communications facilities."

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But it was clear from the beginning that the strikes also struck residential buildings, civilians and vehicles, which the United Nations warned may amount to a war crime. Indeed, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia had two goals: energy facilities and people.

“This is perhaps the most massive blow to Ukraine since the beginning of the war,” says Russian military expert Yuri Fedorov.

Still, Ukrainian military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko put the strikes into perspective, saying that no attack could be as strong as those of Feb. 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Russia will not be able to repeat that," he said. "It simply will not be able to overcome a one-time blow of that magnitude.”

The question lingers after scenes of bloodshed in cities far from the front line: was there a strategic rationale behind the strikes? And will October 10 represent the beginning to a new phase of the war.

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