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Cameron Manley

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War In Ukraine, Day 85: Russia’s "Smaller" Operations And Shrinking Ambitions
In The News

War In Ukraine, Day 85: Russia’s "Smaller" Operations And Shrinking Ambitions

U.S. Department of Defense officials report that instead of the typical battalion tactical groups in Ukraine, which number several hundred soldiers, the Russians have now shifted to attacks by smaller units.

A new Pentagon report has found that Russia is continuing to reduce the scale of its military actions toward more "small" operations, which is another sign that it has lowered the ambitions of its invasion of Ukraine.

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The Washington Post, citing a U.S. Department of Defense official, reports that instead of the typical battalion tactical groups, which number several hundred soldiers, the Russians have now shifted to attacks by smaller units, each ranging from a few dozen to a hundred soldiers. These smaller units have also scaled down their objectives and are targeting towns, villages and crossroads.

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Cyber War Chronicles: Meet The Hackers Taking On Russia
Future

Cyber War Chronicles: Meet The Hackers Taking On Russia

The war in Ukraine is not just being fought on the ground. The battle for dominance increasingly happens on the digital field, where a worldwide network of cyber-soldiers conduct attacks to disrupt Russia's war effort, from the outside and inside too.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian hackers have been fighting tit for tat on what we can call the "digital front line." To quantify the firepower involved, the number of ransomware attacks on Russian companies has tripled since Feb. 28, according to Kaspersky Lab, a Russian multinational cybersecurity firm that found a direct link between the uptick in online targeting to the breakout of military conflict in Ukraine.

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Sweden May Decide Monday To Join NATO Too
In The News

Sweden May Decide Monday To Join NATO Too

A leading Swedish daily says the government will move toward a decision over the weekend, with the formal application coming as soon as Monday evening. This follows the announcement Thursday that neighboring Finland would seek membership in the Western military alliance, which both countries had long rejected to avoid provoking Moscow.

Sweden is to send in a formal NATO application on Monday, Swedish daily Expressen reported on Friday citing anonymous government sources. The news comes on the heels of the announcement Thursday that neighboring Finland would seek membership in the Western military alliance, which both countries had long rejected to avoid provoking Moscow that has been reconsidered following the invasion of Ukraine.

Expressen, a sometimes sensationalist tabloid that nevertheless often breaks big stories, says that Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson will call a government meeting Monday, where the historic decision on whether to join NATO will be made. If nothing unforeseen takes place, the report says Sweden plans on submitting the formal application late Monday.

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On Sunday Andersson’s Social Democrats party will decide whether or not to back the initiative which will be crucial in the final government decision. While leftist parties, including the Greens, do not want to give up on Sweden’s neutrality, the Social Democrats are expected to back the NATO plan.

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Photo of Vladimir Putin thinking on live TV
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

What The Obsession With Putin’s Health Says About The Grim State Of The War

The ongoing speculation around the Russian president being suddenly gone from power, because of either illness or death, captures the reality that this is Putin’s war. What could come next is no less troubling.

Every few days, a fresh round of speculation circulate about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s deteriorating health: He’s got Parkinson’s or Rett syndrome or inoperable cancer. The latest reports this week declared that Putin was heading any day into surgery for cancer, and would be out of the public eye for an extended period and temporarily turn over the reins of power to a deputy.

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Part of the explanation is that, objectively, Putin has appeared weaker and less steady in recent public appearances. Some point to a widely viewed video last month of the Russian President showing signs of limp arm during a meeting with his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, followed a week later by an apparently shaky Putin during Easter Mass.

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Photo of a bus transporting a group of Mariupol residents heading for Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine.
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Major New EU Sanctions Against Russia Include Ban On Oil Imports

Testimonies are emerging of civilians being evacuated from Mariupol and Lyman, as Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities continue. Meanwhile, the EU has revealed plans to enforce its sixth package of sanctions against Moscow.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced a new package of sanctions against Russia. Speaking to the European Parliament on Wednesday morning, von der Leyen unveiled plans to ban Russian oil imports as well as a proposal to ban three banks, including Sberbank, the country’s biggest, from the SWIFT international payments networks.

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Von der Leyen also announced that three big Russian state-owned broadcasters “that amplify Putin's lies and propaganda aggressively” would be banned from EU airwaves. The proposal needs to be approved by all EU member states to become effective.

The ban on oil poses a serious risk to the European economy, and will require countries to seek other energy sources after having long been reliant on Russian supply.

"Let's be clear: It will not be easy,” said von der Leyen. “But we simply have to work on it. We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, to maximize pressure on Russia, while minimizing the impact on our own economies."

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Photo of sign with a hammer and sickle in Transnistria
Geopolitics

Fears Of Putin’s War Spreading Amid Rumblings In Transnistria

More of the latest: European economy under threat by gas cuts, Mariupol soldier holed up in steel plant, Finland poll on joining, Russia pulls out mercenary troops from Libya, U.S. considers labeling Russia sponsors of terrorism, and more...

The recent series of explosions occurring in part of Transnistria, a breakaway territory within Moldova that has housed Russian troops for decades, have sparked fears that this region may be where Vladimir Putin will take his expansionist war next.

The inhabitants of Transnistria, considered to be pro-Russian, insist they want to be left out of the conflict, reports Tonia Mastrobuoni reports for Italian daily La Repubblica. “We want peace and want to be left in peace,” one of several residents interviewed who refused to give their name.

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Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu insisted that the situation in Transnistria is "more or less calm," though in the past 36 hours there have been a series of explosions that no one has taken responsibility for — and which Ukraine says could be used by Moscow as a pretext to move into Moldova.

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Photo of a man burying a relative
Geopolitics

UK-Russian Escalation As Ukraine Hits Targets On Russian Soil

As London and Moscow continue to exchange threats and accusations, targets in Russian territory were reported hit overnight.

Russia says that Ukraine was responsible for an explosion at an ammunition depot in Russia’s Belgorod region near the Ukrainian border, though Kyiv has yet to confirm. Moscow daily Kommersant also reports that Russian air defenses shot at unmanned aircraft in neighboring border regions Kursk and Voronezh.

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The Russian government has accused the UK of "provoking" Ukraine into attacking Russian territory, following the statement yesterday by a British cabinet member James Heappey that it was “legitimate” to strike targets in Russia. According to Russian state news agency TASS, Kremlin spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called Heappey’s declaration “a monstrous statement.”


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Firefighters walking in devasted streets in Odessa
Geopolitics

The True Face Of Russia

Today is the 61st day of the war in Ukraine. While military attention is still very much focused on Donbas, where the main front of the war is now, the Russian army continues to launch missile strikes across Ukraine, targeting critical infrastructure, railway stations, and, most importantly, residential buildings, killing countless Ukrainian civilians.

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It's been a week since the start of Russia's all-out offensive on eastern Ukraine — so are the Kremlin's forces anywhere near a breakthrough?

Phillips O'Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, told BBC that airstrikes on civilians shows the true face of Russian army. The fact the Russians aren't letting them rest, he continues, "is a sign of either stupidity or desperation".

"These soldiers that were taken out of Kyiv were defeated soldiers — they'd seen and they had committed war crimes, they had seen people die, they were exhausted, their equipment had gone," says O’Brien.

Saturday, a missile struck Odessa, where it destroyed an apartment building and killed eight people, including a three-month-old baby.

Russian shelling in Vinnytsia region has left an undetermined number of dead and wounded, while on Sunday airstrikes hit Lviv, with an explosion occurring near the railway station.

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​Photo of Russian social network VKontakte (VK) logo
Economy

Instagram Nyet! Russian Influencers Lose Mojo On Homegrown Platforms

It's a different kind of "migration" indeed, from Instagram to VKontakte, after U.S. social media were banned in Russia. It's yet another kind of difficulty for Russians trying to continue with daily life.

MOSCOW — Since the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, access to international digital platforms and social networks within Russia has become virtually impossible. Facebook and Instagram were banned in late March, the activities of their parent company Meta were declared extremist and blocked, and Twitter was quickly added later to the hit list.

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A Ukrainian Guide Of "Life Hacks," To Help Yourself And Help Win The War
Society

A Ukrainian Guide Of "Life Hacks," To Help Yourself And Help Win The War

From sharing positive news to evacuating areas where combat is ongoing, no action is too small in the list of tips created by Victor Kruglov for Ukrainian media Livy Bereg.

Since the Russian invasion on February 24, everyday life of Ukrainians has changed dramatically. Some 12 million people — more than one-quarter of the country's entire population — are believed to have fled their homes, according to the United Nations. Families have been separated, men have gone to the front, cities have endured month-long sieges, with civilians being targeted and tortured.

So, what can ordinary citizens do to support their country at this time?

KYIV — I talk a lot with the people from the military and the defense. Their general opinion about those who remain in the area of potential hostilities is that if you do not work or are not involved in critical infrastructure, it is better to leave. If a citizen decides to stay, it should be because they play a critical role in supporting the war effort. Helping those who are unable take care of themselves: the elderly, neighbors, the injured. People will always be needed to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid or support communal workers who work tirelessly to help those fighting to defend the country.

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For those who have left, there should be no shame or guilt. Most importantly, they will be alive, and their families will be safe. When the time comes for Ukraine to be rebuilt, they will be ready to play the vital role of picking up the rubble and laying new foundations.

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Photo of a protest in support of Mariupol in Warsaw, Poland, on April 21
Geopolitics

Signs Of Mariupol Mass Graves, As Russia Pounds Azovstal

Mariupol’s mayor Vadym Boichenko has accused Russia of burying dead civilians in mass graves, a charge that appears to be confirmed by satellite photos released late Thursday of sites in a nearby village.

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Ukrainian sources report Friday that there are currently multiple wounded and dead people inside separated bunkers of the plant, which have room for between 80 and 100 people each. The entrances to some shelters are blocked by concrete slabs, which cannot be moved without heavy equipment. On Thursday, Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had “liberated” Mariupol, but acknowledged that the steel plant is still in Ukrainian control, and would be sealed off rather than attacked.

Kyiv-based Livy Bereg news outlet reports Friday that the Russian military continues to shell the Azovstal plant with warships and air attacks, capable of destroying Ukrainian bunkers.

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Satellite picture of Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putin’s Mariupol Surprise, From Assault To Isolation Of Azovstal

The attention of Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world has zeroed in on the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol, where several thousand soldiers and civilians have been holed up for weeks. While most had been awaiting an imminent Russia assault, Putin made the surprise announcement Thursday that his military would hold off on attacking the plant.

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Speaking on television with his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Russian president said the army would instead seal off the industrial port area “so that not even a fly can escape.”

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