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TOPIC: russia

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Freedom Or Death? Wagner Group Struggles To Recruit New Prisoners For Russia's War

Many of the convicts that the Wagner Group mercenary outfit enlisted to fight in Ukraine are dead or missing, which has created a major recruitment problem for the paramilitary group headed by Putin confidante Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Back in September, Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the private paramilitary Wagner Group, promised a full pardon to any Russian prisoners who agreed to fight in Ukraine. It was a critical recruitment tool to bolster Vladimir Putin's announcement at the time of a "partial" mobilization of new troops.

Then in January, the first group of convicts, who had supposedly “fulfilled their contracts” with Wagner, had all past criminal charges erased from their record.

Yet now, amid fears of a new wave of Russian mobilization, convicts in Russian penal colonies who are refusing to go to the front line are being threatened with new criminal cases and sentences, Russian independent news site Agenstvo reports.

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Indigenous Of Russia, The Silent Victims Of Putin's War

The number of indigenous people in Russia has been declining for decades, but the war in Ukraine has accelerated the trend. Already vulnerable, indigenous groups are more likely to be mobilized and bear the brunt of Western sanctions.

While Russia continues its supposed mission to “denazify” Ukraine, back on home turf its own indigenous people are bearing what may be the heaviest consequences of the Kremlin’s war.

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There are 47 indigenous groups living in Russia, some of them with populations of less than a hundred or even a few dozen. The 2021 All-Russian Population Census showed that the number of indigenous people has substantially declined in the last 10 years.

Russian independent news site Vazhnyye Istorii (Important Stories) reports on certain groups that were already on the verge of extinction, and how their situation has gotten even worse after Russia unleashed a full-scale war in Ukraine.

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The Poroshenko Plan: 7 Ways To Truly Crush Russia's Economy

Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian businessman and politician, who served as the fifth president of Ukraine from 2014 to 2019, believes more can be done to defeat Putin, by truly crippling the Russian economy:

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western countries have pummeled the Russian market and its richest oligarchs with sanctions after sanctions. Despite this, preliminary data from the World Bank shows Russia’s GDP only decreased by 3.5% last year.

Petro Poroshenko, Ukrainian businessman and politician, who served as the fifth president of Ukraine from 2014 to 2019, believes more can be done. Here, he reveals his seven point plan to cripple Putin and the Russian economy:

-OpEd-

KYIV — Ukraine can win a war it did not start and force Russia, the aggressor, to bear international responsibility.

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This will be our joint victory with all the democratic countries of the world.

Fierce battles continue, like those in Bakhmut, and Ukrainian heroes are dying. Civilians, too, continue to perish - from Bucha in March last year, to Dnipro in January.

Russia has begun a new offensive, preparing to avenge the failures of its military campaign which in just under a year has not achieved any (!) of the goals Russia laid out prior to the invasion.

Late last month, the Russian dictator made a number of statements regarding the Kremlin's plans.

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How Fleeing Russians (And Their Rubles) Are Shaking Up Neighboring Economies

Russians fled the war to neighboring countries, bringing with them billions of dollars worth of wealth. The influx of money is both a windfall and a problem.

Posting a comment on a Kazakhstani real estate listing and sales website this past fall, one user couldn't contain his enthusiasm: "It's unbelievable, hasn't happened since 2013 — the market has exploded! ... Yippee! I don't know who to kiss!"

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The boom of demand — and dollars — in Kazakhstan, and other countries in the region, is traced directly to the incoming Russians and their wealth who have arrived since the war in Ukraine began.

The ongoing wave of fleeing Russians is likely the largest emigration from the country in 100 years. There are no accurate estimates of how many Russians have left the country, much less where they will settle or how many of them will eventually return home. But between March and October, up to 1.5 million people left Russia. A conservative estimate suggests half a million haven't returned.

The main flow passed through Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan (which has the longest land border with Russia). In these countries, the Russian language is widespread and visas are unnecessary. Russians can even enter Kazakhstan and Armenia without a passport.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Christoph B. Schiltz

Why It's Now Almost Impossible For Ukraine To Win The War

It’s hard to admit, but every day, the chance of a Ukrainian victory moves further away. Kyiv is running out of troops and equipment. The enemy is better prepared and has significant reinforcements at its disposal. It’s no surprise, then, that the talk among Western diplomats is of a truce.

-Analysis-

At the start of the year, Ukraine seemed optimistic about its prospects in the terrible war of Russian aggression that has been inflicted on the country for almost a year now.

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In The News
Emma Albright, Inès Mermat and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Top EU Officials In Kyiv, U.S. Philippines Pact, King-less Banknotes

👋 Bone die!*

Welcome to Thursday, where top European officials arrive in Ukraine for talks, Israel launches airstrikes on Gaza, and Australia snubs King Charles on its new banknote. Meanwhile, Claudio Andrade in Buenos Aires-based daily Clarin reports on the armada of 500 fishing boats who gather yearly off the coast of southern Argentina for an "industrial harvest."

[*Sardinian, Italy]

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Geopolitics
Lydia Mikhalchenko

With The Chechen War Veterans Fighting For Ukraine — And For Revenge

They came to fight Russia, and to avenge the deaths of their loved ones and friends killed in Chechnya. Not wanting to sit in the trenches, they've found work in intelligence and sabotage.

At least five Chechen units are fighting for Ukraine, with more than 1,000 troops in each unit — and their number is growing.

Most of these Chechen fighters took part in the first and second Chechen wars with Russia, and were forced to flee to Ukraine or elsewhere in Europe after their defeat. Vazhnyye Istorii correspondent Lydia Mikhalchenko met with some of these fighters.

Four of the five Chechen battalions are part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and are paid the standard wages (about €4,000 per month for those on the front line) and receive equipment and supplies.

Chechen fighters say they appreciate that Ukrainian commanders don't order them to take unnecessary risks and attack objectives just to line up with an unrealistic schedule or important dates — something Russian generals are fond of doing.

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The experienced Chechen fighters have taken fewer losses than many other units. Unhappy sitting in trenches, they mostly engage in reconnaissance and sabotage, moving along the front lines. "The Russians wake up, and the commander is gone. Or he's dead," one of the fighters explains.

Some of the fighters say that the Ukrainian war is easier than their previous battles in Chechnya, when they had to sit in the mountains for weeks without supplies and make do with small stocks of arms and ammunition. Some call this a "five-star war."

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Geopolitics
Pierre Haski

How Ukraine Keeps Getting The West To Flip On Arms Supplies

The open debate on weapon deliveries to Ukraine is highly unusual, but Kyiv has figured out how to use the public moral suasion — and patience — to repeatedly shift the question in its favor. But will it work now for fighter jets?

-Analysis-

PARIS — In what other war have arms deliveries been negotiated so openly in the public sphere?

On Monday, a journalist asked Joe Biden if he plans on supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. He answered “No”. A few hours later, the same question was asked to Emmanuel Macron, about French fighter jets. Macron did not rule it out.

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Visiting Paris on Tuesday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksïï Reznikov recalled that a year ago, the United States had refused him ground-air Stinger missiles deliveries. Eleven months later, Washington is delivering heavy tanks, in addition to everything else. The 'no' of yesterday is the green light of tomorrow: this is the lesson that the very pragmatic minister seemed to learn.

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Economy

Russian Diamonds Are Belgium's Best Friend — But For How Much Longer?

Belgium has lobbied hard for the past year to keep Russian diamonds off the list of sanctioned goods. Indeed, there would be a huge impact on the economy of the port city of Antwerp, if Europe finally joins with the U.S. and others in banning sale of so-called "blood diamonds" from Russia. But a 10th package of EU sanctions arriving this month may finally be the end of the road.

Since Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has agreed to nine different packages of sanctions against Russia. With the aim to punish Moscow's leadership and to cripple the war economy, European bans and limits have been placed on imports of a range of Russian products from coal, gas and steel to caviar and vodka — were successively banned over the past 11 months.

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Still, one notable Russian export is a shining exception to the rule, still imported into Europe as if nothing has changed: diamonds.

Russian state conglomerate Alrosa, which accounts for virtually all of the country's diamond production (95%) and deals with more than one-fourth of total global diamond imports, has been chugging along, business as usual.

But that may be about to change, ahead of an expected 10th package of sanctions slated to be finalized in the coming weeks. During recent negotiations, with 26 of the 27 EU members agreeing on the statement that ALSROA’s diamonds should no longer be imported, the one holdout was not surprisingly Belgium.

The Belgian opposition to the ban is explained by the port city of Antwerp, where 85% of the rough diamonds in the world pass through to get cut, polished, and marketed. There are estimates that 30,000 Belgians work for Alrosa.

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In The News
Ginevra Falciani & Renate Mattar

New $2 billion Ukraine Aid Package, Peshawar Suspects Arrested, The Last 747

👋 Ekamowir omo!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where the U.S. is readying another $2 billion in military support to Ukraine, suspects are arrested in the Peshawar mosque bombing and the long (jumbo) life of Boeing’s 747 reaches a final milestone. Meanwhile, French daily Les Echos reports on the emerging haute cuisine culture rising around gluten-free.

[*Nauruan, Nauru]

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Geopolitics
Aytug Özçolak

It's A Golden Era For Russia-Turkey Relations — Just Look At The Numbers

On the diplomatic and political level, no world leader speaks more regularly with Vladimir Putin than his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But the growing closeness of Russia and Turkey can also be measured in the economic data. And the 2022 numbers are stunning.

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL — As Russia has become increasingly isolated since the invasion of Ukraine, the virtual pariah state has drawn notably closer to one of its remaining partners: Turkey.

Ankara has committed billions of dollars to buy the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system, and contracted to Russia to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant. The countries’ foreign policies are also becoming increasingly aligned.

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But the depth of this relationship goes much further. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin more than any other leader: 16 times in 2022, and 11 times in 2021. Erdoğan has visited Russia 14 times since 2016, compared to his 10 visits to the U.S. in the same time period (half of which were in 2016 and 2017).

But no less important is the way the two countries are increasingly tied together by commerce.

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This Happened

This Happened—January 31st:  McDonald's In The USSR

Emerging from decades of communism and the Cold War with the United States, on this day in 1990, more than 5,000 people showed up at the opening of Moscow’s first McDonald's.

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