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TOPIC: vladimir putin

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Now Or Never? The Five Reasons Putin Is Moving Up His “Spring Offensive” To February

The Russian army is fighting fiercely for every kilometer in the Donbas, amid reports of new masses of troops arriving in Ukraine. By most accounts, it looks like Putin has moved up the calendar on a major assault that was originally planned after the winter thaw.

-Analysis-

As February began, fierce battles were raging in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, with elite units of the Russian army and fighters from the Wagner Group mercenary outfit engaged in the action.

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More Russian troops and equipment from all quarters are descending toward a widening front line, all overseen by General Valery Gerasimov, a veteran of the Russian military, who is now commanding both regular defense department battalions and the Wagner soldiers. Gerasimov took over last month, appointed by President Vladimir Putin who was apparently dissatisfied with three previous top commanders of the war.

Taken together, these and other signs from the past week appear to point to Russia launching a major offensive on Ukraine — now. Russia increased the number of missile launchers in the Black Sea with 16 "Kalibr" salvos. In the Luhansk region, they continue to conduct offensive actions in the Lyman and Bakhmut directions. Some reports say the attack will match in breadth and intensity the initial invasion last February.

If confirmed, this imminent Russian assault would be a significant acceleration on the battlefield calendar, after most had been expecting Putin to launch the attack in the spring. Why has Moscow changed its mind?

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Modi Is Wrong: Russia's War Also Creates Real Risks For India

By shrugging aside Russia’s aggression, India has shown indifference to fears that China could follow Russia’s example.

-OpEd-

NEW DELHI — India is wrong to dismiss Russia’s war in Ukraine as Europe’s problem. The illegality and destructiveness of the invasion, and consequential food and energy crises, have global ramifications.

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This explains why 143 out of the 193 member-states of the UN General Assembly voted against recognizing Russia’s illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions after holding sham referenda there. Ninety-three voted in favor of expelling Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

India has abstained from every vote in the UN condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The reason? Moscow is India’s top arms supplier and some 70% of India’s military platforms are of Russian origin.

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How Blocking Sweden's NATO Bid Plays Right Into Erdogan's Election Campaign

Turkey's objections to Swedish membership of NATO may mean that Finland joins first. But as he approaches his highly contested reelection bid at home, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is ready to use the issue to his advantage.

-Analysis-

PARIS — This story has all the key elements of our age: the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the excessive ambitions of an autocrat, the opportunism of a right-wing demagogue, Islamophobia... And at the end, a country, Sweden, whose NATO membership, which should have been only a formality, has been blocked.

Last spring, under the shock of the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin's Russia, Sweden and Finland, two neutral countries in northern Europe, decided to apply for membership in NATO. For Sweden, this is a major turning point: the kingdom’s neutrality had lasted more than 150 years.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised objections. It demanded that Sweden stop sheltering Kurdish opponents in its country. This has nothing to do with NATO or Ukraine, but everything to do with Erdogan's electoral agenda, as he campaigns for the Turkish presidential elections next May.

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A Decisive Spring? How Ukraine Plans To Beat Back Putin's Coming Offensive

The next months will be decisive in the war between Moscow and Kyiv. From the forests of Polesia to Chernihiv and the Black Sea, Ukraine is looking to protect the areas that may soon be the theater of Moscow's announced offensive. Will this be the last Russian Spring?

Ukrainian forces are digging new fortifications and preparing battle plans along the entire frontline as spring, and a probable new Russian advance, nears.

But this may be the last spring for occupying Russian forces.

"Spring and early summer will be decisive in the war. If the great Russian offensive planned for this time fails, it will be the downfall of Russia and Putin," said Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence.

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Skinitysky added that Ukraine believes Russia is planning a new offensive in the spring or early summer. The Institute for the Study of War thinks that such an offensive is more likely to come from the occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk than from Belarus, as some have feared.

Still, the possibility of an attack by Belarus should not be dismissed entirely — all the more so because, in recent weeks, a flurry of MiG fighter jet activity in Belarusian airspace has prompted a number of air raid alarms throughout Ukraine.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

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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Geopolitics
Petro Shevchenko

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
Anna Akage

And If It Had Been Zelensky? How The War Became Bigger Than Any One Person

Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Denys Monastyrsky was killed Wednesday in a helicopter crash. The cause is still unknown, but the high-profile victim could just have well been President Zelensky instead. It raises the question of whether there are indispensable figures on either side in a war of this nature?

-Analysis-

The news came at 8 a.m., local time: a helicopter had crashed in Brovary, near Kyiv, with all the top management of Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs on board, including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky. There were no survivors.

Having come just days after a Russian missile killed dozens in a Dnipro apartment, the first thought of most Ukrainians was about the senseless loss of innocent life in this brutal war inflicted on Ukraine. Indeed, it occurred near a kindergarten and at least one of the dozens killed was a small child.

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But there was also another kind of reaction to this tragedy, since the victims this time included the country's top official for domestic security. For Ukrainians (and others) have been wondering — regardless of whether or not the crash was an accident — if instead of Interior Minister Monastyrsky, it had been President Volodymyr Zelensky in that helicopter. What then?

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Stanislav Zhelikhovsky

Saturate The East! Poland Revamps Its Military Strategy In Response To Russian Threat

Poland has a border with Russia and Belarus, so it is not just watching how the Ukraine war develops. Warsaw is rethinking its entire defense strategy.

KYIV — It will soon be exactly one year since the Russian Federation launched its large-scale invasion of Ukraine. During that time, neighboring Poland has been playing the role of a front-line country — NATO's eastern outpost.

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Polish government agencies have been hard at work on what to do if the country is attacked. In particular, a new defense directive. After all, Poland’s Political and Strategic Defense Directive, which has been in effect since 2018, must be updated because it simply doesn't match today's reality.

Poland's Deputy Minister of National Defense, Wojciech Skurkiewicz, announced a change in defense doctrine with the defense forces set up on the Vistula River, located in northeastern Poland. Ukraine's experience shows the need to protect the country's entire territory as quickly as possible.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Cameron Manley

Yes, Navalny Still Matters — But Putin's Opposition Can't Fix Russia Now

Two years ago, Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic Alexei Navalny was jailed. Much has and hasn't changed since then, but Putin's invasion of Ukraine means that Russia has put itself on a course of no return.

-Analysis-

It was exactly two years ago, when leading Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was finally in good enough health to fly home from Germany to Moscow. But he knew the risks.

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“Russia is my home,” he said before leaving. “I want to go back and try to change it.”

Landing on the tarmac, five months after he was nearly assassinated by a nerve agent, he embraced his wife. They walked to passport control, followed by hordes of eager journalists.

The border guard carefully scrutinized Navalny’s passport, looking at his face, at his passport — again, his face, his passport. He called over his superiors, who did the same. “You need to come with us,” they told him.

His lawyer protested, exclaiming that she should be allowed to accompany him. But in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, then as now, there is no use in protesting.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Maxim Katz

The Dnipro Massacre, A Perfect Embodiment Of Russia's War

Russian writer Maxim Katz breaks down what it means when a missile is destined for an ordinary apartment block, and death counts start to lose their meaning.

-Essay-

Footage of destroyed buildings, fires and horrified civilians are flooding news feeds this week after yet another Russian missile attack struck a Ukrainian residential building – this time on Jan. 14 in the eastern city of Dnipro.

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Any reasonable viewer would have felt sick to their core.

As of Jan. 17, local authorities have said the strike killed 40 people. Another 34 remain trapped under the rubble.

This war has drastically changed our perception of reality.

What happened to one apartment block could easily be dwarfed by the whole cities that Russian aggression has wiped off the map: Mariupol, Soledar, Bakhmut — all reduced to piles of rubble. These 40 confirmed deaths are on top of a still unknown number of lives, both civilian and military, claimed after almost 11 months of war.

A single human life is no longer a meaningful statistic.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Roman Anin

Inside Russia's "Game Of Thrones" To Succeed Putin

As Vladimir Putin's end increasingly seems near (political or physical), the battle to replace the Kremlin strongman heats up. Here are the main characters in this very Russian blood sport.

Today, Russia deservedly ranks among the most isolated and inhuman regimes in the world. And it's not just because of the war — this is the result of two decades of political and moral degradation of the Russian state.

The clans surrounding Vladimir Putin today resemble organized crime groups.

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Some of them command their own armies, like Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin and the head of the Rosgvardia, Viktor Zolotov. Others, like Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Security Council, have security units.

And each clan has its financial resources — banks, state corporations and large companies. Some clans own entire regions, like Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya.

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In The News
Renate Mattar & Ginevra Falciani

Russia’s New Commander, More Classified Biden Files, Musk Record Loss

👋 Selamat pagi!*

Welcome to Thursday, where U.S. President Joe Biden aides find a second cache of classified files, Russia appoints a new commander in yet another military reshuffle, and Elon Musk really is a big loser. Meanwhile, speculation is rising that Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro and his family may take refuge in Italy, where they could qualify for citizenship.

[*Indonesian]

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