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Cameron Manley

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Picture of recently mobilized Russian troops
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

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

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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photo of a guard in a moscow court as Alexei Navalny appears by video link
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

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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Photo of a doll found in the rumble of an apartment block in Dnipro, Central Ukraine
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

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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photo of a missile being fired from a ship
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Zircon Hypersonic Missile: What To Know About Putin's Not-So-Secret Weapon

Vladimir Putin has activated what's believed to be the world’s only bonafide hypersonic missile battery. It comes amid Russian losses on the field, and the U.S. decision to supply Ukraine with its most advanced anti-air defense Patriot missile system. Both may have played a role in the Kremlin's decision, after years of development and testing, to activate it for combat.

Vladimir Putin has ordered a frigate carrying the country’s new Zircon hypersonic missiles to begin a cross-ocean cruise in what is the Russian President’s latest muscle flex as tensions with the West escalate over the war in Ukraine.

In announcing the activation of the missiles (it is not clear how many exist), Putin boasted that "It has no analogues in any country in the world,” according to TASS. But what exactly is the Zircon missile, and why is Russia deploying it now? What are the implications of its potential use?

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screenshot image of Prigozhin speaking to released recruits
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner Boss: First Group Of Russian Prisoners Recruited For War Are Now Free

The Russian public is worried that waves of battle-hardened convicted murderers and rapists will soon be roaming the streets.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the private Wagner paramilitary group and close ally of President Vladimir Putin, made news last September by confirming that he was recruiting from Russian prisons to join his troops in Ukraine.

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Part of the offer to prisoners: in exchange for fighting in the war, you will earn permanent freedom. On Thursday, Prigozhin told Russian state media agency RIA Novosti that the first group of prisoners had “received a full pardon.”

“They fulfilled their contract with honor, with dignity, one of the first… The first,” he said. “They worked the way few people work.”

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

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

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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Photo of a destroyed building after a missile attack in Ukraine
In The News

Air Or Ground War? Why Russian Missile Attacks Make A New Assault On Kyiv More Likely

While Russia again launched a major missile and drone attack Friday, there are growing signs that Vladimir Putin is planning a major ground operation against the capital Kyiv in early 2023. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the path to Moscow victory would be through massive Russian troop casualties.

Russia’s latest large-scale missile barrage on Ukraine on Friday, its seventh major attack since it began targeting energy infrastructure in October, marks another. Yet it also comes amid reports that Moscow may be planning a ground offensive on Kyiv in January or February.

The contrast poses a fundamental question for this war, like so many since the dawn of modern air forces: Can Vladimir Putin achieve any semblance of victory from the air, without sacrificing the massive casualties among Russian ground troops that would almost certainly be necessary for conquering territory.

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Is A Christmas Truce In Ukraine Possible?
Countries

Is A Christmas Truce In Ukraine Possible?

Few see reason right now for holiday optimism, though Christmas ceasefires have happened multiple times since the conflict in Donbas started in 2014. A new call by religious leaders has raised hope for at least a pause in the fighting.

Last year at this time, there was good news coming out of Donbas: the simmering seven-year conflict in eastern Ukraine would see a much needed holiday season ceasefire. Negotiators from the Trilateral Contact Group, along with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, had helped seal a Christmas truce. There was even hope that the pause in fighting could lead to a wider de-escalation between pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian troops, and even a lasting peace.

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Of course, we know what happened next. Not only did the ceasefire not last long (like others before it in Donbas), but two months later Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Now, over the past 72 hours, a widening effort is underway for a new Christmas truce in Ukraine.

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Why The Kremlin's Gloating Over Viktor Bout Could Backfire Quickly
In The News

Why The Kremlin's Gloating Over Viktor Bout Could Backfire Quickly

There’s been no shortage of boasting in Russia after the return of arms dealer Viktor Bout, in exchange for U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner. But even if Vladimir Putin showed his negotiating muscle, it’s a pyrrhic victory as too many other compatriots haven’t made it home alive..

In the dramatic footage of Thursday’s prisoner exchange, Viktor Bout barely seems to notice Brittney Griner, despite the American basketball player’s towering height. Instead, as he walked across the UAE airport tarmac, the convicted Russian arms dealer fixed his attention on the lead Russian agent walking in front of Griner during the handover.

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The warm embrace between the two men and Bout’s smile (the agent’s face is pixelated) is a reminder for all the world to see that Bout was a prized asset of the Kremlin’s inner circle.

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Vladimir Putin “Open To Talks” — If U.S. Changes Its Tune
In The News

Vladimir Putin “Open To Talks” — If U.S. Changes Its Tune

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin was open to negotiations, adding that the possibility of talks would be hampered by the United States’ refusal to acknowledge annexed Ukrainian regions as being part of Russia.

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“The United States still does not recognize new territories as part of the Russian Federation, and this complicates the search for common ground for negotiations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said yesterday during a regular call with journalists. “The most preferable way to achieve our interests is through peaceful, diplomatic means,” Peskov added.

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