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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent U.S. think tank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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Territory Gains And Losses Point To Long War

Russia says it has conquered new territory in Donbas, while Ukraine says it has retaken parts of the city of Kharkiv. The competing claims come as Vladimir Putin appears to be bracing for a long "protracted" conflict.

Some press reports come from the battlefield, some come from headquarters.

The latter was the source for the lead story in today’s The New York Times that declared “Ukraine War’s Geographic Reality: Russia Has Seized Much of the East,” based on an assertion of the Russian Defense Ministry that “its forces in eastern Ukraine had advanced to the border between Donetsk and Luhansk,” the two provinces of Donbas.

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The article continues with an important caveat: “If confirmed,” the report signals that Russia could soon gain control over the entire Donbas region, which could put Moscow in position to force Kyiv to agree to its terms at the negotiating table.

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Is Odessa The Next Mariupol?

Other top news breaking: UN says civilian toll much higher, Moscow metro workers may be forced to fight, Lithuanian Parliament calls war "genocide", special Pulitzer for Ukrainian journalists, and more.

A new Russian overnight offensive aimed at the southern port city of Odessa may signal a new focus in the Ukraine war.

Ukrainian newspaper Pravda reports that at least one person was killed and five injured as Russian rockets pounded Ukraine’s third largest city, targeting a shopping center and a depot and leaving emergency services scrambling to put out fires and rescue civilians.

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These are not the first attacks by Russian missiles on the city, but officials imposed martial law for the first time yesterday.

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Blitzkrieg To Salami Tactics: A Closer Look At Russia's Pivot To The East

Vladimir Putin's original plans for conquest of Ukraine have not changed. By pulling back from Kyiv and flirting with negotiations, he is trying to buy time to reorganize for a longer war that require Ukrainian forces to hold their ground in the eastern Donbas region.

-Analysis-

KYIV — Be clear: It is too early to talk about peace.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently said Moscow is preparing its reaction to the peace treaty proposal presented by Ukraine. It is pointless to discuss the Ukrainian version of the proposals now, which would be subject in any case to significant adjustments.

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Moreover, the invading army will try to occupy as many southeastern territories of Ukraine as possible, destroy strategically important objects of Ukrainian infrastructure. So it is too early to talk about a peace deal because it is the Russian leadership that isn't ready to talk about it seriously yet.

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Ideas
Martin van Creveld*

What Fog Of War Can't Hide, Putin Is Doomed To Fail

Since day one of the war in Ukraine, military theorist Martin van Creveld has been analyzing the problems facing Russia. He recognized Putin’s supposed retreats as the deceptions that they are. But the current situation is even more complex than it appears.

-Analysis-

As far as we can tell, the situation in Ukraine is above all else chaotic. We first heard reports that Russian troops were advancing on every front, then Ukrainian forces reported success after success, claiming to be slowing down and in some places even halting the invader's advance.

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Cities are reported to be occupied, then we hear they are still disputed. Convoys are halted for many days, but no one knows why. Some reports claim the Russians are running out of reinforcements, while others say they have only deployed three-quarters of their troops so far. Moscow says it will shift its focus from Kyiv to eastern Ukraine, but then we see that the capital is still under intense assault.

Both sides accuse each other of war crimes and reporting losses that are obviously underestimates, unreliable and unbelievable. A maternity ward has been shelled, although it’s not clear whether this was a deliberate target or, as it euphemistically called, “collateral damage.”

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

Acclaimed Ukrainian Photographer Maks Levin Hasn’t Been Seen Since March 13

The veteran photojournalist was covering the Russian invasion north of Kyiv, after spending years chronicling Ukraine’s longstanding battles in its eastern regions against pro-Russian separatists.

Maks Levin, a leading Ukrainian combat photographer and documentary filmmaker, has disappeared while covering the war north of Kyiv. Levin, 41, last made contact on March 13 while working in an active combat zone.

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It later became known that in the area where Levin was working, intense combat operations began, and colleagues fear he may have been injured or captured by Russian troops.

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Geopolitics
Valentin Badrak

How Ukrainian Forces Have Thwarted Putin’s Blitzkrieg Plans

The Russian invasion of Ukraine that began Thursday morning on multiple fronts was meant to quickly overrun the outnumbered defensive positions. Kyiv-based Livy Bereg reports that it hasn’t turned out that way.

KYIV — Vladimir Putin’s plans for a blitkreig, rapid all-out assault, have not gone as planned. Reports from the Ukrainian side show surprising ability of the defensive forces to slow the Russian assault.

In war, you can never say which day is going to be hardest. But it was the second day and second night that proved to the Russian invading forces that the blitzkrieg Vladimir Putin was counting on had not gone as planned.

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By the third day, Saturday, street fights with Russian Armed Forces and their sabotage and reconnaissance units played out in several districts of Kyiv. But the danger of conquest of the capital posed by the enemy was averted, as Ukraine's military forces bravely defended Kyiv.

Russian invaders were shocked by the strong defense, the motivation of the army and the unprecedented unity of the Ukrainian nation.

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