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Pro-Russian activists gather in front of a government building in Donetsk on April 9.
Pro-Russian activists gather in front of a government building in Donetsk on April 9.
Olga Filina

MOSCOW — The same picture that we saw at the end of 2013 in Kiev has now simply moved to Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Mykolaiv. Buildings stormed, barricaded streets, people in masks and flags flying.

The differences, at first glance, appear insignificant. Before, there was just one center of the protests — Kiev — whereas the protests now are scattered in different locations. In the capital, protesters stood their ground 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but now protesters are only coming out periodically, on the weekends. But that doesn’t mean, it’s not the prelude to a serious conflict.

The new Ukrainian government also reacted to the protests in a predictable way, calling them “pro-Russian gangs,” as if they had forgotten how Viktor Yanukovych behaved himself and seeming to repeat his mistakes in ignoring the protesters. For example, a third of the police force in Kharkiv risks being fired after showing too much sympathy for the protesters.

What is more, the most active protesters are being threatened with a five-year prison sentence and being labeled “separatists.” Less than a day after those arrests were announced, the government changed the sentencing guidelines to make “separatism” punishable by 15 years in prison. As a result, the number of people who sympathize with the “separatists” is only growing — the more people are arrested, the more sympathy the movement gets.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Hide-And-Seek Of Drone Warfare, A Letter From Ukraine's Front Line

A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces writes his account of the new dynamic of targeting, and being targeted by, the invading Russian troops, as drones circle above and trenches get left behind.

A Ukrainian military drone operator during a testing of anti-drone rifle in Kyiv.

Igor Lutsenko*

KYIV — The current war in Ukraine is a game of hide-and-seek. Both sides are very well-stocked with artillery, enough to destroy the enemy along many kilometers. Swarms of drones fly through the air day and night, keeping a close eye on the earth's surface below. If they notice something interesting, it immediately becomes a target. Depending on the priority, they put it in line for destruction by artillery.

Therefore, the only effective way to survive is to hide, or at least somehow prove to the drones your non-priority status — and avoid moving to the front of the 'queue of death.'

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In general, the nature of this queue is a particular thing. It may seem to be a god, but is instead a simple artillery captain's decision of when to have lunch, and when to fire on the house where several enemy soldiers are staying. It's just a handful of ordinary people (observers, artillerymen) deciding how long their enemies will live depending on their own schedule or the weather, the availability of ammunition or if they're feeling tired.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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