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Geopolitics

Ukraine Night Patrol: Elite Forces Hunt Russian Spies — And House Parties

A reporter in Kharkiv joins the Ukrainian Special Forces patrolling the streets in search of pro-Russian saboteurs. But the military police teams also have to deal with those violating the curfew, which can become a deadly offense during war.

Photo of a Ukrainian soldier holding a rifle in an apartment building in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Ukrainian soldier holding a rifle in an apartment building in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Francesco Semprini

KHARKIV — The appointment is set at 10.30 p.m. in one of the operational centers of the national police. The special teams begin patrolling Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, before midnight — in the darkness brought on by curfews and blackouts for more than 40 days now.

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The goal: to identify anyone wandering around the city without permission — looters, vagrants, and saboteurs in particular. The latter are agents recruited by Moscow to facilitate attacks with drones, missiles and artillery. They're a real thorn in the side for the Ukrainians who, at night, engage in a city-wide hunt to drive out anyone who may represent a danger to the city's security.

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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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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