When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Olena Starik

See more by Olena Starik

Photo of Vladimir Putin entering through a door in Grand Kremlin Palace 2022
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

When Did Putin "Turn" Evil? That's Exactly The Wrong Question

Look back over the past two decades, and you'll see Vladimir Putin has always been the man revealed by the Ukraine invasion, an evil and sinister dictator. The Russian leader just managed to mask it, especially because so many chose to see him as a typically corrupt and greedy strongman who could be bribed or reasoned with.

-OpEd-

KYIV — The world knows that Vladimir Putin has power, money and mistresses. So why, ask some, wasn't that enough for him? Why did he have to go start another war?

At its heart, this is the wrong question to ask. For Putin, military expansion is not an adrenaline rush to feed into his existing life of luxury. On the contrary, the shedding of blood for the sake of holding power is his modus operandi, while the fruits of greed and corruption like the Putin Palace in Gelendzhik are more like a welcome bonus.

In the last year, we have kept hearing rhetorical questions like “why did Putin start this war at all, didn't he have enough of his own land?” or “he already has Gelendzhik to enjoy, why fight?” This line of thinking has resurfaced after missile strikes on Ukrainian power grids and dams, which was regarded by many as a simple demonstration of terrorism. Such acts are a manifestation of weakness, some ask, so is Putin ready to show himself weak?

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

However, you will not arrive at the correct answer if the questions themselves are asked incorrectly. For decades, analysts in Russia, Ukraine, and the West have been under an illusion about the nature of the Russian president's personal dictatorship.

Watch VideoShow less
Destroyed building Kharkiv
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Missiles And Euphoria: The Folly Of War On Full Display In Kharkiv

As Ukraine's counter-offensive gathers steam, the city of Kharkiv is targeted by Putin's forces. Here's a view from up close, during heavy shelling that has sparked power and water outrages, even as the liberation of territory sets off scenes of joy and elation.

KHARKIV — For several years, a woman has been sitting on the corner of my street selling flowers almost every day. On Sep. 9, our neighborhood was shelled for the first time – and have no doubt that an hour and a half after the missile hit our street, she was sitting right there in her usual place. People were cleaning up broken glass and cutting tree branches 50 meters from her. Some came to buy flowers.

In some way, this is all you need to know about life right now in Kharkiv.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

We are hostages of geography: the time it takes for the missile to reach Kharkiv from Belgorod, Russia, as air defense officers tell us, is 43 seconds. None of our existing defense systems are able to prevent their arrival in our neighborhood.

Watch VideoShow less
Ukrainian soldiers in Donetsk in May 2022
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Russia's Next New Strategy: Try To Stall Until 2023

Russia's progress on the frontline has stalled. But without weapons promised by the West, Ukraine has not been able to carry out decisive counteroffensives. The West's indecisiveness risks the war being dragged out until next year — which is exactly what Putin wants.

-Analysis-

KYIV — For about a month, the front line has remained almost unchanged. Russian troops have gone as far as they can.

Obviously, this situation annoys the Kremlin, forcing it to look for new, rather unconventional ways to replenish human reserves and worn-out weapons. But Moscow is also playing for time, believing that the onset of cold weather will play into its hands, as an impending energy crisis spreads through Europe.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Moreover, Putin needs time to restore the Russian army’s ability to fight. For this very reason, a day after Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced a deliberate slowdown in the military campaign in Ukraine, purportedly to reduce civilian casualties, Putin issued a decree to increase the size of the Russian army.

Watch VideoShow less
Putin in wheat field
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Overselling The Russia-Ukraine Grain Deal Is One More Putin Scam

Moscow and Kyiv reached a much hailed accord in July to allow transport of Ukrainian agricultural output from ports along the Black Sea. However, analysis from Germany's Die Welt and Ukraine's Livy Bereg shows that it has done little so far to solve the food crisis, and is instead being used by Putin to advance his own ambitions.

-Analysis-

Brokered by Turkey on July 22, the Grain Deal between Russia and Ukraine ensured the export of Ukrainian agricultural products from the country's largest sea ports. Exports by sea of grains and oilseeds have been increasing. Optimistic reports, featuring photos of the first deliveries to Africa, are circulating about how the risk of a global food crisis has been averted.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

But a closer look shows a different story. The Black Sea ports are not fully opened, which will impact not only Ukraine. The rest of the world can expect knock-on effects, including potentially hunger for millions. Indeed, a large proportion of the deliveries are not going to Africa at all.

As with other reported "breakthroughs" in the war, Vladimir Putin has other objectives in mind — and is still holding on to all his cards.

Watch VideoShow less
Poster of Russia's President Vladimir Putin in ​Warsaw
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Winter Is Coming: Breaking Down Russian Propaganda Across Europe

Hit by EU sanctions, Russia is working hard to spread its own propaganda through neighboring countries. A new study breaks down exactly what that disinformation campaign is saying — and whether it's working.

-Analysis-

KYIV — One of the main narratives of Russian propaganda in recent years can be summed up as: "Russia is a global power and the West must respect it." Yet since the beginning of the invasion, the European Union has imposed a series of sanctions against Russia.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

In light of this clash, Moscow's propaganda in the West has taken four different and distinct lines: "The future of the EU will be cold and hungry...," "the EU shot itself in the foot...," "the U.S. economy is also suffering, and is now looking for ways to resume business with Russia...," and "sanctions do not harm Russia, they only make it stronger."

Watch VideoShow less
Photo of Ukrainian soldiers standing during a presentation of medals by President Volodymyr Zelensky on the frontlines in the Dnipropetrovsk region
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Ukraine War Has Reached A Stalemate — So What Happens Now?

It's been more than 150 days of Putin's relentless invasion, and a clear-eyed view of the war now is neither side is winning. This will make bold decisions by Ukraine's allies essential to any hope for victory.

KYIV — The Ukrainian army received high-precision long-range artillery systems on July 18, prompting the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi to declare that after the occupation of the eastern cities of Sieverodonetsk and Lysychansk, the Armed Forces had managed to stabilize the situation.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

In fact, a better way to characterize the situation is that we've been in a stalemate since June. The enemy is no longer able to actively attack, and the defenders cannot yet counter-attack.

Watch VideoShow less
Photo of street art depicting Vladimir Putin in Sicily, Italy
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why The West Quietly Fears Russia's Defeat

Western leaders have given mixed messages on ending war in Ukraine. They fear the fallout of a power change in Moscow, and when it comes to Putin, it may be a case of "better the devil you know."

-Analysis-

KYIV — If you tried to summarize how the West feels about ending the Russian-Ukrainian war, you would be pretty surprised at the drastically varied range of responses. On the one hand, Western leaders often say that they will stand by Ukraine as long as necessary, and that Russia "must not win." And yet they also emphasize that a change of power in Russia is out of the question.

Watch VideoShow less
​A farmer looks on as a combine harvests grains in a field in Odesa, southern Ukraine
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Beyond Wheat: How Russia's Blockade Undermines The Entire Global Food Chain

Russia's blockade of the Black Sea has sent food prices skyrocketing around the globe, with poorer countries being affected most severely. But if the blockade continues, then the cost of a vast variety of foods looks set to go even higher.

KYIV — The longer Russia continues its naval blockade of Ukraine's ports along the Black Sea, the louder the alarm grows about hunger for millions of people around the world. The blockade poses systemic threats to global food security, with developing countries being affected most severely.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

As a report by the UN Development Program makes clear: "The consequences of the war in Ukraine have disrupted energy and food markets. Among many other factors, supply chain disruptions and price spikes for key commodities are pushing the world into a dangerous inflationary spike. This will have immediate and devastating effects on household welfare, with those in poverty and near-poverty will be hit hardest."

Watch VideoShow less
Screenshot of a head of the Luhansk Military Administration Sehiy Haidai speaking on camera
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Serhiy Haidai: Ukraine's Man In Donbas Is Forced To Explain Russian Gains

Ukrainian newspaper Livy Bereg asked Volodymyr Zelensky's chief adviser on the Donbas, Serhiy Haidai, why he did not hold Ukraine's position in the Luhansk region.

Volodymyr Zelensky's chief adviser on the Donbas, the head of the Luhansk Military Administration, is a 46-year-old businessman and politician named Serhiy Haidai, with a salt-and-pepper beard and stern disposition. He is despised by Russians, yet also increasingly criticized by Ukrainians.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Ukraine's military has been losing ground in the Luhansk oblast since the beginning of the war, suffering heavy losses among its personnel and civilians, and has been forced to abandon two major cities, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Russia continues to commit virtually all of its forces into the Donbas, taking much of Luhansk not by direct combat or occupation, but by simply burning territory to the ground with artillery, with Russian tanks then rolling in to "liberate" the dead cities.

Watch VideoShow less
Photo of a doll in the rubble, aftermath of shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine
Geopolitics

Mykolaiv Postcard: Life On Ukraine's Creeping Southern Front Line

The fate of Mykolaiv and surrounding areas of southern Ukraine are crucial in the next stage of the war. A reporter visits local villages ... and the troops on the front line.

MYKOLAIV — This large port city in eastern Ukraine carries great strategic importance for the war. After the Russian army managed to destroy Mariupol and occupy most of the Kherson region, which has access to the annexed Crimea, it leaves Mykolaiv, along with Odessa, as the largest port cities with access to the Black Sea.

If these cities fall, Ukraine will not only lose control over the eastern territories, but also access to the Black Sea, which will completely halt exports and imports by sea.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Needless to say, the fate of Mykolaiv is highly important. And with hundreds of thousands of people still living in the city and surrounding region, a reporter from the Ukrainian media Livy Bereg visited one of the villages on Mykolaiv's outskirts to see for herself how Ukrainians live in close proximity to the Russian army.

Watch VideoShow less
Photo of Dmytro Kuleba, Foreign Minister of Ukraine at the summit of foreign ministers
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

"Welcome To Our Hell..." Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba Speaks

In a rare in-depth interview, Ukraine's top diplomat didn't hold back as he discussed NATO, EU candidacy, and the future of the war with Russia. He also reserves a special "thank you" for Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

KYIV — This is the first major interview Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba has given. He spoke to the Ukrainian publication Livy Bereg about NATO, international assistance and confrontation with Russia — on the frontline and in the offices of the European Parliament.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

At 41, Kuleba is the youngest ever foreign minister of Ukraine. He is the former head of the Commission for Coordination of Euro-Atlantic Integration and initiated Ukraine's accession to the European Green Deal. The young but influential pro-European politician is now playing a complicated political game in order to attract as many foreign partners as possible to support Ukraine not only in the war, but also when the war ends.

Watch VideoShow less
Vladimir Putin and regional heads of state for the opening session of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation Summit meeting at the Kremlin.​
Geopolitics

Unpacking Why Belarus Will Or Won't Join The War Against Ukraine

Analysts have closely followed whether Belarus, a loyal Kremlin ally, will invade its neighbor. But even though the Belarusian president toes the Kremlin line, he is unlikely to want to get in over his head in Ukraine.

-Analysis-

KYIV — For several months, Belarusian troops have been conducting regular training exercises, particularly in the regions bordering Ukraine. Combined with the specific statements by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, this raises logical fears about the direct involvement of the Belarusian army in the war.

Watch VideoShow less