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The True Face Of Russia

Firefighters walking in devasted streets in Odessa

Consequences of Russian missile strikes in Odessa

Anna Akage, Jeff Israely and Cameron Manley

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.

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

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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.

On the morning of April 25, the Russian occupiers fired on five railway stations in central and western Ukraine, killing and injuring civilians and delayed at least 16 trains meant to evacuate civilians.

The total number of civilian casualties, according to the prosecutor's office, is 3,818 people — a figure that risks being way off mark, as it does not take into account the situation in besieged Mariupol or places in the Kyiv region to which the prosecutor's office has no access.

Zelensky Thanks U.S. For “Unprecedented” Support

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and government officials in Kyiv

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv

Ukrainian Presidency

“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Kyiv on Monday.

Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have been in Ukraine since Sunday, in the highest-level visit of U.S. officials to the country since the Russian invasion began, more than two months ago.

Austin and Blinken committed a total of $713 million in foreign military aid for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries, of which $322 million are meant for Ukraine alone. The rest will be shared between NATO members and other countries that have provided Ukraine with important military supplies, officials said.

Such funding differs from previous U.S. military assistance to Ukraine, as it does not consist of a donation from the U.S. Department of Defense: Instead, it is cash that countries can use to buy the supplies they need.

According to officials, the new aid, along with the sale of $165 million-worth of non-U.S. and Soviet-era munitions, increases total U.S. military aid to Ukraine to $3.7 billion since the invasion.

In response, Zelensky said, "We appreciate the unprecedented assistance of the United States to Ukraine. I would like to thank President Biden personally and on behalf of the entire Ukrainian people for his leadership in supporting Ukraine, for his personal clear position."

Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that the supply of weapons to Ukraine by the United States does not contribute to the search for a "diplomatic solution" in the war. “We stressed the unacceptability of the situation when the United States is stuffing Ukraine with weapons, we demanded an end to this practice," Antonov said in an interview with Russia-24, as quoted by TASS.

Pseudo-Referendum In Kherson

File:Kherson Railway Station.png - Wikimedia Commonscommons.wikimedia.org

Pseudo-referendums are a well-known practice of the Kremlin to entrench itself in occupied territories. British intelligence says Russia aims to hold one such referendum in Kherson, which is key for the invaders to justify its occupation. The city, an important port on the Black Sea, is key to Russia's goal of establishing a land connection with Crimea and dominating southern Ukraine.

Mariupol Testimonies

Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, in an interview with Die Welt, told about the evidence of mass graves, and the dangerous search for evidence. “The situation on site at these graves is dangerous. At any moment, a Russian soldier may ask people to hand over their cellphones to check their photos. So it's a big risk for our people. We understand that it is very difficult to verify the information. And we try everything to find out as much as possible,” Andriushchenko said.

Mutilated bodies are also found in the plastic bags around the city, as locals report. “We found two massive graves near Mariupol. They are more than 300 meters tall. We had information about this before, but it's difficult to research given the current situation. We have now spoken to people who have seen what is in the graves: large plastic bags containing the bodies of our compatriots. In the worst cases, it is only parts of the body”, confirms mayor’s adviser.

The last defenders of the Mariupol — Azov battalion — continue their resistance in the Azovstal plant, where hundreds of civilians found shelter. They continue to publish videos of people trapped deep underground of Azovstal, showing mainly children.

Not all who escaped Mariupol are safe, many locals were taken by force to the filtration camps in Russia. The BBC published a story of a couple who managed to flee from one of such camps. "If a person was suspected of being a 'Ukrainian Nazi', they took them to Donetsk for further investigation or murder," says one man named Oleksandr, although the BBC has not been able to verify this claim. "It was very dangerous and risky. Any small doubt, any small resistance - and they could take you to the basements for interrogation and torture. Everybody was afraid to be taken to Donetsk."

The centers have been compared by Ukrainian officials to those used during Russia's war in Chechnya, when thousands of Chechens were brutally interrogated and many disappeared.

UN Secretary General's Controversial Moscow Visit

United Nations Secretary General Ant\u00f3nio Guterres in front of the peace sculpture on the United Nation grounds

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres set to visit Ukraine

Bruce Cotler/ZUMA Press Wire

Against the backdrop of high-ranking U.S. officials' visits to Kyiv, President Zelensky advised UN Secretary General to first visit places of torture of Ukrainians before finding time for "honorable people from Moscow" — in reaction to the announcement that António Guterres would arrive in Moscow on April 26 to meet with Putin and Lavrov.

"We are not a country for tragic selfies. You can't come to us empty-handed," Zelensky added.

Arab Emirates Oil To Replace Russian Oil In Europe

White flumes against a black and stormy sky from facilities of TotalEnergies Raffinerie Mitteldeutschland GmbH in Leuna\u200b, Germany

Facilities of TotalEnergies Raffinerie Mitteldeutschland GmbH in Leuna, Germany

Waltraud Grubitzsch/dpa via ZUMA Press

A shipping unit of France's TotalEnergies has provisionally chartered a tanker to load Abu Dhabi crude oil in early May for Europe — the first such shipment in two years, Reuters report. More cargoes are expected to head to Europe in the cmoing months to replace the Russian shortfall as the European Union prepares more sanctions on Russian oil imports, traders said, possibly diverting some supplies away from Asia.

The global trade flow is readjusting to reflect changes in Russian oil supplies, while it is Europe's biggest oil supplier, providing 26% of EU imported oil in 2020.

Before-and-after Ukraine

City of Borodyanka before and after being bombed by Russians

Borodyanka, a town 40 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, were at least 41 people died from Russian strikes.

Google Maps/Kostyantyn Chernichkin - Kyiv Independent

According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, since Feb. 24, Russia has launched 2,000 missiles at the Ukrainian territory. Beyond the dramatic human costs, shelling and airstrikes, have left infrastructural damages estimated to reach $100 billion, according to Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov.

Under continuous heavy bombardment, many of the Ukrainian cities and their trademark locations can be barely recognized now, as shown in these before-and-after photos in the Kyiv Independent.

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Influencer Union? The Next Labor Rights Battle May Be For Social Media Creators

With the end of the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the creator economy is the next frontier for organized labor.

​photograph of a smartphone on a selfie stick

Smartphone on a selfie stick

Steve Gale/Unsplash
David Craig and Stuart Cunningham

Hollywood writers and actors recently proved that they could go toe-to-toe with powerful media conglomerates. After going on strike in the summer of 2023, they secured better pay, more transparency from streaming services and safeguards from having their work exploited or replaced by artificial intelligence.

But the future of entertainment extends well beyond Hollywood. Social media creators – otherwise known as influencers, YouTubers, TikTokers, vloggers and live streamers – entertain and inform a vast portion of the planet.

✉️ You can receive our Bon Vivant selection of fresh reads on international culture, food & travel directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

For the past decade, we’ve mapped the contours and dimensions of the global social media entertainment industry. Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, these creators struggle to be seen as entertainers worthy of basic labor protections.

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