Category : Russia

(WSJ) In Ukraine, Tens of thousands estimated to have lost limbs since the start of the war, a toll not seen in recent armed conflicts in the West

[Ruslana] Danilkina is one of between 20,000 and 50,000 Ukrainians who have lost one or more limbs since the start of the war, according to previously undisclosed estimates by prosthetics firms, doctors and charities.

The actual figure could be higher because it takes time to register patients after they undergo the procedure. Some are only amputated weeks or months after being wounded. And with Kyiv’s counteroffensive under way, the war may be entering a more brutal phase.

By comparison, some 67,000 Germans and 41,000 Britons had to have amputations during the course of World War I, when the procedure was often the only one available to prevent death. Fewer than 2,000 U.S. veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions had amputations.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(NYT) War Brought Putin Closer to Africa. Now It’s Pushing Them Apart.

Shunned in the West, his authority tested by a failed mutiny at home, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia needs to project normalcy and shore up support from his allies. So on Thursday, he will host African leaders at a flashy summit in St. Petersburg, part of his continuing outreach to a continent that has become critical to Moscow’s foreign policy.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, some African countries have backed Mr. Putin at the United Nations, welcomed his envoys and his warships, and offered control of lucrative assets, like a gold mine in the Central African Republic that U.S. officials estimate contains $1 billion in reserves.

But if Mr. Putin sought to move closer to African leaders as he prosecuted his war, the 17-month-old conflict is now straining those ties. This summit is expected to draw only half the number of African heads of state or government as the last gathering in 2019, a situation that the Kremlin on Wednesday blamed on “brazen interference” from the United States and its allies.

The summit comes against the backdrop of escalating tensions in the Black Sea over Mr. Putin’s recent decision to terminate a deal allowing Ukraine to ship grain to global markets. Russia’s withdrawal has caused food prices to spike, adding to the misery of the world’s poorest countries, including some of those attending the Russia-Africa summit.

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Posted in Africa, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Maria Skobtsova

O Creator and Giver of Life, who didst crown thy martyr Maria Skobtsova with glory and didst give her as an example of service to the suffering and poor even unto death: Teach us to love Christ in our neighbors, and thereby battle injustice and evil with the light of the Resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God in glory everlasting. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, France, Germany, Russia, Spirituality/Prayer

(ABC Nightline) Evan Gershkovich’s parents hold out hope for safe return

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Marriage & Family, Media, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry, Russia

(NYT front page) Russia is Building A Vast Industry Of Spying Tools

As the war in Ukraine unfolded last year, Russia’s best digital spies turned to new tools to fight an enemy on another front: those inside its own borders who opposed the war.

To aid an internal crackdown, Russian authorities had amassed an arsenal of technologies to track the online lives of citizens. After it invaded Ukraine, its demand grew for more surveillance tools. That helped stoke a cottage industry of tech contractors, which built products that have become a powerful — and novel — means of digital surveillance.

The technologies have given the police and Russia’s Federal Security Service, better known as the F.S.B., access to a buffet of snooping capabilities focused on the day-to-day use of phones and websites. The tools offer ways to track certain kinds of activity on encrypted apps like WhatsApp and Signal, monitor the locations of phones, identify anonymous social media users and break into people’s accounts, according to documents from Russian surveillance providers obtained by The New York Times, as well as security experts, digital activists and a person involved with the country’s digital surveillance operations.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Russia, Science & Technology

(FA) Prigozhin’s Rebellion, Putin’s Fate, and Russia’s Future– Conversation With Stephen Kotkin

What options do Washington and its NATO allies have? Just wait and see?

If Washington, NATO, Ukraine, are seen as backing Prigozhin, in cahoots with Prigozhin, it could have the effect of undermining whatever chances he might have to catalyze an end to the aggression. So the response has been properly to just let it unfold, with a bit of tongue in cheek commentary out of Kyiv, but otherwise bite-the-tongue restraint in D.C. and Brussels.

Behind the scenes, of course, it’s 24/7 very close monitoring of everything and anything, and intense consultation. Twelve hours, 24 hours, 36 hours, of nail biting. But after all the Sturm und Drang, we could be right back where we started: Putin in power in Moscow and Ukraine facing a counteroffensive that will be very difficult to pull off.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Telegraph) Wagner boss refuses to allow his mercenaries to join Putin’s forces

Russia’s most powerful mercenary said on Sunday that his fighters would not sign contracts with the country’s defence minister, publicly refusing an attempt by the Kremlin to bring his fighting force under its sway.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group, has repeatedly attacked Vladimir Putin’s top military brass for what he casts as treachery for failing to fight the war in Ukraine properly.

Neither Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, nor Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff, have commented in public on the insults from Prigozhin, whose forces in May took the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut after a battle in which tens of thousands perished.

The defence ministry on Saturday said Shoigu had ordered all “volunteer detachments” to sign contracts with his ministry by the end of the month, a step it said would increase the effectiveness of the Russian army.

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Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(WSJ) From Drone Strikes to Ground Incursions, War Comes to Russia

Drone strikes inside Russia are now a near-daily occurrence. Those in Moscow have had limited military impact. But, along with hits on refineries and airfields, ground incursions in the southern Belgorod region and assassinations of several prominent Russian war supporters, the attacks have caused a psychological shift.

Fifteen months after President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, expecting a quick victory, the war has come to the heart of Russia. The country’s elites, who believed themselves safe as the invasion campaign rumbled far away, are rattled.

As Moscow struggles with how to respond, each new attack is a blow to the official narrative of Russian supremacy and a challenge to Putin’s image of invincibility.

“The society is starting to worry: Will the war expand inside Russia?” said Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center. “There is a slow internal erosion under way, in attitudes towards the war and towards the elites.”

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Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) Ukraine’s counter-offensive appears to have begun

For months a guessing game has played out in military circles worldwide: where and when would Ukraine conduct its counter-offensive? Most expected it to come through Zaporizhia province, in the south of the country, perhaps directed at the city of Melitopol, with the aim of cutting the “land bridge” seized by Russian troops at the start of the war that connects occupied Crimea with Russia itself. Western officials had expected the offensive to begin two weeks ago, and some were getting impatient.

On June 4th—two days before the anniversary of D-Day, the start of the liberation of Europe from the Nazis—Ukrainian forces launched what Russia’s defence ministry called a “large-scale” assault on five axes in the south-east of Donetsk province, in eastern Ukraine. Some of them may indeed threaten the land bridge; others were further to the north. Western officials tell The Economist that this does in fact mark the start of the offensive, with attacks also under way on other parts of the front. Yet the cream of Ukraine’s forces has not yet appeared on the battlefield.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(FT) F-16s might not win Ukraine’s war, but they promise a more equal fight

The F-16, with its longer-range radars, sensors and missiles, would restore the Ukrainian air force’s edge both qualitatively and quantitatively — and push the VKS back into Russia. That will, in turn, protect both Ukraine’s ground forces and its critical infrastructure. But boosting its effectiveness in the absence of wider air power packaging will require imagination.

Integrated air defence systems work far better than those operating in isolation. The Ukrainian air force must link together its western surface-to-air missiles and their advanced radars to provide its pilots with an enhanced picture of the aerial battle. Ground-based electronic warfare systems can do much to degrade Russian radars, and thereby its surface-to-air missile belt. Using rapidly-prototyped drones in reconnaissance and suppressing enemy air defence missions would make Russia’s fighter aircraft more vulnerable. This package of largely ground-based supporting systems — much cheaper than airborne ones — would allow Ukraine to retain the initiative in the air battle.

Finally, there is a moral dimension to consider. Nato would fight Russia by winning the air battle first, and then using air superiority to drive a more efficient land battle. Given the weakness of the VKS, this is no pipe dream. But the west’s constrained donations to date have forced Ukraine to pursue grinding land tactics. We have restricted Kyiv to fighting in a way that we would not, and to take casualties that we would not.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(NYT) Russia’s assault in eastern Ukraine appears stalled

Evidence is mounting that Moscow has failed to make much progress in the Donbas of eastern Ukraine, despite months of fighting in the industrial and agricultural region close to the Russian border.

Russia’s military bloggers and like-minded activists have in recent weeks lamented the lack of progress from the winter campaign. Russia has not secured victory in the city of Bakhmut, or in the towns or Avdiivka, Vuhledar, Lyman or Marinka.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, said on Sunday that his forces had raised a Russian flag over an administrative building in Bakhmut, according to the Reuters news agency, but acknowledged that Ukraine was still holding the western part of the city. Mr. Prigozhin has prematurely called such victories before.

“The winter campaign in the Donbas is over,” said Igor Girkin, a former Russian intelligence officer who led a military intervention in eastern Ukraine and now blogs about military affairs. “We can say that the winter campaign ended unsuccessfully.” The comments by Mr. Girkin, who uses the nickname Strelkov, were echoed by others in Russia who have ties to the military and have at times been critical of the Kremlin’s approach to the war.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(NYT front page) In a Brother Act With Putin, Xi Reveals China’s Fear of Containment

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, flew into Moscow this week cast by Beijing as its emissary for peace in Ukraine. His summit with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, however, demonstrated that his priority remains shoring up ties with Moscow to gird against what he sees as a long campaign by the United States to hobble China’s ascent.

Talk of Ukraine was overshadowed by Mr. Xi’s vow of ironclad solidarity with Russia as a political, diplomatic, economic and military partner: two superpowers aligned in countering American dominance and a Western-led world order. The summit showed Mr. Xi’s intention to entrench Beijing’s tilt toward Moscow against what he recently called an effort by the United States at the full-fledged “containment” of China.

Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin used the pomp of the three-day state visit that ended on Wednesday to signal to their publics and to Western capitals that the bond between their two countries remained robust and, in their eyes, indispensable, 13 months after Mr. Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine. They laid out their vision for the world in a nine-point joint statement that covered everything from Taiwan to climate change and relations with Mongolia, often depicting the United States as the obstacle to a better, fairer world.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia

(NYT) ‘I Live in Hell’: The Psychic Wounds of Ukraine’s Soldiers

Each war teaches us something new about trauma. In World War I, hospitals overflowed with soldiers who screamed or froze or wept, described in medical texts as “moral invalids.” By the end of World War II, a more sympathetic view had emerged, that even the hardiest soldier would suffer a psychological collapse after sufficient time in combat — somewhere, two experts from the surgeon general’s office concluded, between 200 and 240 days on average.

Russia’s war in Ukraine stands out among modern wars for its extreme violence. Its front lines are close together and barraged with heavy artillery, and rotations from the front line are infrequent. Ukraine’s forces are largely made up of men and women who, until a year ago, had no experience of combat.

“We are looking at a war that is basically a repetition of the First World War,” says Robert van Voren, who heads the Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry, which provides mental-health support in Ukraine. “People just cannot fight anymore for psychological reasons. People are at the front line too long, and at a certain point, they crack. That’s the reality we have to deal with.”

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Psychology, Russia, Ukraine

(Washington Post) Ukraine short of skilled troops and munitions as losses, pessimism grow

The quality of Ukraine’s military force, once considered a substantial advantage over Russia, has been degraded by a year of casualties that have taken many of the most experienced fighters off the battlefield, leading some Ukrainian officials to question Kyiv’s readiness to mount a much-anticipated spring offensive.

U.S. and European officials have estimated that as many as 120,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or wounded since the start of Russia’s invasion early last year, compared with about 200,000 on the Russian side, which has a much larger military and roughly triple the population from which to draw conscripts. Ukraine keeps its running casualty numbers secret, even from its staunchest Western supporters.

Statistics aside, an influx of inexperienced draftees, brought in to plug the losses, has changed the profile of the Ukrainian force, which is also suffering from basic shortages of ammunition, including artillery shells and mortar bombs, according to military personnel in the field.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Ukrainian Churches mark war’s anniversary with fresh appeals for aid

Churches in Ukraine have marked the first anniversary of the Russian invasion with calls to prayer and fasting, as President Putin vowed to continue his military assault, and President Biden rallied morale during visits to Kyiv and Warsaw.

“We are now witnessing a media information wave about a major Russian offensive and troop mobilisation for a second large-scale attack,” the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations, which includes the main Christian denominations, as well as Jewish and Muslim leaders, said in an appeal on Monday.

“Millions of believers are praying for an end to this war every day, but the great evil at its root does not want to retreat. In these fateful times, we understand that Ukraine needs God’s power to defeat the Russian aggressor.”

The appeal was published in the run-up to Friday’s anniversary, as European Union foreign ministers discussed arms supplies, and Ukrainian fighters struggled to hold back attacks on the eastern town of Bakhmut and other Russian targets.

The appeal mentioned that “many politicians and experts” had predicted that Ukraine would fall within three days of the invasion on 24 February 2022. They now also agreed that a “miracle had happened” when numerically and technically superior forces had been held back.

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Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(CNBC) After a year of death and destruction, Ukraine braces itself for a major escalation in the war

When Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, it shocked the world.

Although, in hindsight, it probably shouldn’t have — after all, Russia had amassed at least 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine in the months leading up to the invasion, insisting all the time that it had no plans to invade.

Moscow had also been rebuffed by the West after it presented NATO with a list of demands asking for the military alliance to essentially roll back its activity in Eastern Europe, and to guarantee that Ukraine would never become a member of NATO.

Needless to say, the Western military alliance refused to accede to Russia’s demands and a few months later, on Feb. 24, 2022, Russian troops invaded Ukraine from the north, east and south of the country. It targeted the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv in the northeast, Donbas in the east, and the southeast of the country, along a swathe of territory reaching across to Crimea — a peninsula Russia had annexed back in 2014.

While Russian forces were able to seize a portion of Ukraine in the east and south, aided by the conduit offered by Russian-occupied Crimea, the overly-ambitious scale and breadth of the invasion quickly came back to haunt Moscow. In April, it was forced to withdraw its forces from the Kyiv area, a retreat seen as a humiliating defeat for Russia.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(W Post) Ukraine readies along all fronts for Russia’s next big attack

Valentyn Lymarenko and his infantry unit have already been seasoned by a year of combat, but they are grunting through exercises in this snowy trench to prepare for the next phase of fighting: a much-anticipated Russian offensive.

“We know they are coming,” Lymarenko said amid the pop of practice rifle fire. “We don’t know where.”

As Moscow struggles to turn the tide of a war that so far has largely failed, Ukrainians are bracing for a Kremlin do-over. But just where Russia will seek to land its blow remains a mystery, forcing Kyiv to ready its troops along a varied and forbidding front stretching from Belarus to the Black Sea.

From boggy northern wetlands to raging street fighting in the east to the treeless southern steppe, each range of terrain presents its own set of challenges and openings for Russian invaders and the Ukrainians intent on expelling them.Read it all.

Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(NYT front page)–USA Predicts Impasse as Ukraine War Endures

As the war in Ukraine soon enters its second year, Ukrainian troops will find it much more challenging to reclaim territory from Russian forces who are focused on defending their remaining land gains rather than making a deeper push into the country, American officials say.

Over the course of the first 10 months of the war, the Ukrainian military has — with significant American support — outmaneuvered an incompetent Russian military, fought it to a standstill and then retaken hundreds of square miles and the only regional capital that Russia had captured.

Despite relentless Russian attacks on civilian power supplies, Ukraine has still kept up the momentum on the front lines since September. But the tide of the war is likely to change in the coming months, as Russia improves its defenses and pushes more soldiers to the front lines, making it more difficult for Ukraine to retake the huge swaths of territory it lost this year, according to U.S. government assessments.

All of these factors make the most likely scenario going into the second year of the war a stalemate in which neither army can take much land despite intense fighting.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) Is there a A looming Russian offensive against Ukraine next year?

Russia is massing men and arms for a new offensive. As soon as January, but more likely in the spring, it could launch a big attack from Donbas in the east, from the south or even from Belarus, a puppet state in the north. Russian troops will aim to drive back Ukrainian forces and could even stage a second attempt to take Kyiv, the capital.

Those are not our words, but the assessment of the head of Ukraine’s armed forces, General Valery Zaluzhny. In an unprecedented series of briefings within the past fortnight the general, along with Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, and General Oleksandr Syrsky, the head of its ground forces, warned us of the critical few months ahead. “The Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops,” General Zaluzhny told us. “I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv.” Western sources say that Russia’s commander, General Sergey Surovikin, has always seen this as a multi-year conflict.

This is not the view outside Ukraine. In the freezing mud, the conflict is thought to be deadlocked. There has been almost no movement for a month along the 1,000km or so of battlefront. Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Britain’s most senior officer, this week said that, right now, a shortage of artillery shells means Russia’s scope for ground operations is “rapidly diminishing”.

The appearance of stalemate is feeding new interest in peace talks. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, America’s Joe Biden and (for very different reasons) the Russian aggressor, Vladimir Putin, have all in recent days talked about a diplomatic solution. Many in the West, appalled at the suffering, and, more selfishly, wearying of high energy prices, would welcome this. But Ukraine’s commanders argue that it should not happen too soon, and they are right.

If Ukraine sought to stop the war today, freezing the battle lines where they are, the Russians could prepare better for the next attack.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(NYT) In a Wary Arctic, Norway Starts to See Russian Spies Everywhere

In hindsight, some things just didn’t add up about Jose Giammaria.

For one, the guest researcher at the University of Tromso, in Norway’s Arctic Circle, was ostensibly Brazilian. But he couldn’t speak Portuguese. Then there was the fact that he self-funded his visit, an oddity in academia, and even planned to extend it — yet he never talked about his research. But he was always helpful, even offering to redesign the home page for the Center for Peace Studies, where he worked.

That was until Oct. 24, when Norway’s security police, the PST, arrived with a warrant to search his office. Days later, they announced his arrest as a Russian spy, named Mikhail Mikushin.

The revelation sent a chill through campus, said Marcela Douglas, who heads the Center for Peace Studies, which researches security and conflict. “I started to see spies everywhere.”

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Norway, Politics in General, Russia

(NYT) Ukraine Targets Bases Deep in Russia, Showing Expanded Reach

Ukraine executed its most brazen attack into Russian territory in the nine-month-old war on Monday, targeting two military bases hundreds of miles inside the country using drones, according to the Russian defense ministry and a senior Ukrainian official.

The drones were launched from Ukrainian territory, and at least one of the strikes was made with the help of special forces close to the base who helped guide the drones to the target, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to convey sensitive information.

The strikes signaled a new willingness by Kyiv to take the fight to bases in the heart of Russia, raising the stakes in the war, and demonstrated an improved ability to attack at a distance. Shortly after the attacks on the bases, Russia sent a barrage of missiles streaking toward Ukrainian cities.

The Kremlin said that the weapons launched by Ukraine were Soviet-era jet drones and were aimed at bases in Ryazan and Engels, about 300 miles from the Ukrainian border. It said that its forces had intercepted the drones, and that “the fall and explosion of the wreckage” had “slightly damaged” two planes, killing three servicemen and wounding four others.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Archbishop Welby pledges solidarity during three-day visit to Kyiv

The Archbishop of Canterbury has pledged solidarity with Ukrainians during a three-day visit to Kyiv, in which he deplored the suffering inflicted on them during the war, now in its tenth month.

“The people of Ukraine have shown extraordinary courage in the face of Russia’s illegal, unjust, and brutal invasion,” Archbishop Welby said on Wednesday.

“This visit is about showing solidarity with them as they face a profoundly difficult winter.” He said that he was looking forward to meeting church leaders and Christians in Kyiv, “and learning how we can continue to support them amidst the ongoing devastation, loss and destruction of this war”.

The Archbishop spoke after arriving in the Ukrainian capital from Poland, where he said that he had been “deeply moved” by stories told to him by refugees at a crisis centre in Warsaw.

He said: “In this season of Advent, we remember that Jesus was born into conflict and persecution — and became a refugee when his parents fled violence and persecution to seek safety in Egypt.

“I urge Christians in the Church of England and around the world to keep praying for the people of Ukraine in this Advent season — and all people around the world caught up in conflict. Let us keep offering our solidarity and support in every way we can”.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine, Violence

(Crux) Ukraine Catholics warn that priests arrested by Russia could be tortured

After two of its clergy were detained by Russian forces last week, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Exarchate of Donetsk has warned they could be victims of torture and has called for their immediate release.

In a Nov. 30 statement labeled as “urgent,” the exarchate voiced their solidarity with the clerics, who serve in the city of Berdyansk, in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region.

The priests are Father Ivan Levytskyi, who serves as abbot of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos parish, and Father Bohdan Geleta, who assists at the parish.

They were detained several days ago for allegedly housing explosives with the intention to commit “guerilla” activities against the Russian army.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine, Violence

(NYT front page) In Blacked-Out Kyiv, Life Goes On, by Flashlight

Elevators across Ukraine’s capital are stocked with emergency supplies in case the power fails. Banks have sent messages to customers to assure them their money is safe in the event of prolonged blackouts. The National Philharmonic played on Tuesday night on a stage lit by battery-powered lanterns, and doctors last week performed surgeries by flashlight.

This is Kyiv, a modern, thriving European capital of 3.3 million people, and now a war-torn city struggling with shortages of electricity, running water, cellphone service, central heating and the internet.

One popular cafe has created two menus — one featuring heated food like homemade pasta for when it has power, a second offering cold dishes like Greek yogurt with granola and applesauce when it doesn’t. At another restaurant, a chef cooked on a sidewalk grill as two young men warmed their hands over the coals. The sun sets early, before the school day is done, so children hold flashlights while waiting for their parents to arrive in total darkness to pick them up.

Generators of all sizes rattle and roar across the city, where municipal officials estimate that 1.5 million people are still without power for more than 12 hours a day.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) How will America deal with three-way nuclear deterrence?

The cold war, in which America and the Soviet Union menaced each other with tens of thousands of nukes, was scary enough. In the new age America confronts not just Russia but also China. New weapons—among them hypersonic missiles that are hard to detect and shoot down, and space and cyber weapons that threaten command-and-control systems—may unsettle the nuclear balance. Worse, decades of arms-control agreements may end by 2026. A new nuclear-arms race looms. Many think that it has already started.

Admiral Richard last year sounded the alarm that China was staging a “strategic breakout”. This month he warned that America was losing the military contest: “As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking.” President Joe Biden says America faces a “decisive decade” in which to shape the global order. In a flurry of national-security policy documents this autumn his administration classifies Russia as the “acute” threat and China as “the “pacing challenge”.

“By the 2030s the United States will, for the first time in its history, face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors and potential adversaries. This will create new stresses on stability and new challenges for deterrence, assurance, arms control, and risk reduction,” declares the Nuclear Posture Review (npr).

Stratcom says it needs a new generation of theorists.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia

(Washington Post) Ukrainian energy systems on brink of collapse after weeks of Russian bombing

After just six weeks of intense bombing of energy infrastructure, Russia has battered Ukraine to the brink of a humanitarian disaster this winter as millions of people potentially face life-threatening conditions without electricity, heat or running water.

As the scope of damage to Ukraine’s energy systems has come into focus in recent days, Ukrainian and Western officials have begun sounding the alarm but are also realizing they have limited recourse. Ukraine’s Soviet-era power system cannot be fixed quickly or easily. In some of the worst-hit cities, there is little officials can do other than to urge residents to flee — raising the risk of economic collapse in Ukraine and a spillover refugee crisis in neighboring European countries.

“Put simply, this winter will be about survival,” Hans Henri P. Kluge, regional director for the World Health Organization, told reporters on Monday in Kyiv, saying the next months could be “life-threatening for millions of Ukrainians.”

Already, snow has fallen across much of Ukraine and temperatures are dipping below freezing in many parts of the country. Kluge said that 2 million to 3 million Ukrainians were expected to leave their homes “in search of warmth and safety,” though it was unclear how many would remain inside the country.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Hedgehog Review) Tara Isabella Burton–On Hope and Holy Fools

What if the truth of our lives lay not in our self-separation from the sheeple but in our embrace of the fact that the life we live with one another is the truest expression of who we really are: that there is as much weight to our kid brother kissing us, gently, in the middle of our existential crisis, as there is in the substance of the crisis itself?

Such a reading of our lives demands humility. It asks that we envision ourselves not as special or distinct but as ordinary human beings, those shepherds and butlers and housemaids, whose ordinary lives are as worthy of attention as those of tragedy’s kings and warriors. It insists, as a moral and philosophical duty, that we take ourselves not more seriously but less, that we learn to laugh at ourselves. It demands that, instead of aestheticizing our foibles—raising our sins to the substance of high art—we see ourselves as, well, a little bit silly, perhaps well intentioned, but constantly getting in our own way: Gilligans failing in every single episode to get off the island. To accept grace—the undeserved happy ending—demands that we see our lives as a comedy (as Dante indeed understood). In order to accept our lives as a comedy, we must accept that none of us are the heroes we imagine ourselves to be.

This is the truth understood by Dostoevsky’s Alyosha and by the wider Russian tradition of the “holy fool”: the innocent whose faith in God causes him to appear stupid, if not mad, in the eyes of the world. To hope is a kind of foolishness. It is, too, a kind of refusal of the aesthetic, at least of the sophisticated aesthetic stance that rejects such populist kitsch as Hollywood happy endings. To hope is, necessarily, to hope for a narratively unsatisfying ending: to hope for an unearned joy that changes the entire genre of our lives, that brings comedy from ruin. It is to refuse the red pill or the black pill, to refuse any narrative of ourselves as uniquely heroic or uniquely brave, because we can withstand the wickedness of the world. It is a quieter kind of bravery: the conviction that, one day, we might not have to. It may not be narrative. But it remains, instead, poetry.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Eschatology, Russia, Theology

(TLS) Andrew Preston reviews Max Hastings new “The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 (William Collins)”

Perhaps the book’s most interesting contribution is its reassessment of the key figures, for this really was a historical moment driven by personality, which turned on individual decisions. Of the three key players, only John F. Kennedy comes out with his reputation intact, indeed burnished. Hastings doesn’t hesitate to point out his mistakes, but throughout the American president seems to be the only sane person in the room. By contrast, Nikita Khrushchev is one of the book’s main villains, albeit a very human one: ambitious and impulsive, but also vulnerable and bewilderingly inconsistent. The megalomaniacal Castro, almost suicidally committed to resisting Yankee aggression at any cost, even nuclear war, is subject to stern criticism. Of the supporting cast Hastings praises Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk for encouraging Kennedy’s diplomatic manoeuvres. He saves his harshest words for the Strangeloveian US military, which pushed relentlessly for authorization to bomb and invade Cuba despite – or, for some of the brass, precisely because of – the chance that it would lead to World War Three. The civilian members of the White House’s fabled ExComm who advocated for military intervention also come in for stinging criticism. Hastings is shrewd to zero in at times on the hawkish National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, one of Kennedy’s less famous but most important aides, who was “so smooth and smart that you could have played pool on him”, but whose surface polish concealed some poor judgement.

But while Abyss makes reputations from 1962 come into clearer focus, the lessons for diplomats and politicians today remain frustratingly murky. Hastings shows how, in the face of unimaginable pressure, Kennedy’s patient diplomacy found an incredibly narrow path to a peaceful solution. And from there he draws a line from the warmongering of Kennedy’s adversaries during the missile crisis – in the Pentagon, not the Kremlin – to the subsequent escalation of the war in Vietnam. Some US officials, including Bundy, did in fact push for war in Cuba, then in Vietnam. Yet that line wasn’t always so straight: in 1964-5 the Joint Chiefs were actually reluctant to wage war in Southeast Asia, while McNamara and Rusk, the civilian voices of reason during the missile crisis, applied the crisis-management techniques that were so successful in Cuba to the conflict in Vietnam, this time with disastrous results.

What, then, were the lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis? As Vladimir Putin rattles his nuclear sabre over Ukraine, what can Joe Biden learn from his hero Jack Kennedy? Not much, it seems. “In 1962, the world got lucky”, Hastings concludes. Let’s hope we get lucky again.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Cuba, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, Russia

(C of E) New £15 million fund to help churches with energy bills announced

The Energy Costs Grant will be distributed to dioceses to enable them to help Parochial Church Councils (PCCs) cover the increased cost of heating and lighting church buildings this winter.

Dioceses will also be able to use some of their fund allocation to make additional targeted hardship payments for clergy and other employed ministers to cover household bills, in particular energy costs.

The new funding comes after £3 million was made available earlier this year by the Church of England for dioceses to distribute to clergy and lay ministers facing particular hardship because of the cost of living crisis.

The Energy Costs Grant is accompanied by information aimed at helping churches to become more energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, Parish Ministry, Russia, Stewardship, Ukraine

(Lawrence Freedman) Retribution and Regime Change–The consequences of Putin’s weakness

Everything that now happens in this war, including the murderous missile attacks on Ukrainian cities, has to be understood in terms of the logic of Putin’s exposed position as a failed war leader. He is desperately trying to demonstrate to his hard-line critics that he is up to the task. The opening salvos of this week, ending yet more innocent lives for no discernible military gain, will not make Ukraine less determined or able to win this war. They will have the opposite effect.

The trigger was the damage inflicted on the Kerch bridge last Saturday. The bridge was built at considerable expense to connect Crimea to the mainland and opened by Putin with great fanfare in 2018. The attack combined a symbolic blow with painful practical consequences. Although some road and rail traffic will still pass through, the loss of so much capacity adds to the headaches for Russian logisticians. This link is vital to keeping Crimea, and, through Crimea, forces in southern Ukraine, supplied. News of the attack left the normal suspects on Russian state media unsure about whether to be angrier with the shoddy security that allowed the attack to happen or the audacity of the Ukrainians in mounting the attack. TV Host Vladimir Solovyov, who has been increasingly despondent of late, demanded to know ‘when will we start fighting?’, adding, channeling his inner Machiavelli, that ‘it’s better to be feared than laughed at’. When on the night of 9 October Putin declared this to be a terrorist act against vital civilian infrastructure (despite its evident military value) it was clear that he shared this sentiment.

Putin’s statement claimed that ‘high-precision weapons’ were used against ‘Ukrainian infrastructure, energy infrastructure, military command and communications’, as both an answer to the ‘crimes of the Kyiv regime’ and a warning against further ‘terrorist attacks on the territory of the Russian Federation.’ Some infrastructure targets were hit but so have, just in Kyiv, a playground, a symbolic glass bridge in a park (which survived), and the German consulate. As Kyiv is Ukraine’s main decision-making centre it is telling that none of these supposedly precise weapons hit anything of political or military significance.

State Media’s Margarita Simonyan, who had called the bridge attack a ‘red line’ for Russia expressed delight at the landing of our ‘little response’. Yet while they might satisfy urges for vengeance their impact will be limited unless they become part of a persistent campaign. Alexander Kots, a war reporter, has expressed his hope that this was not a ‘one-off act of retribution, but a new system for carrying out the conflict’ to be continued until Ukraine ‘loses its ability to function.’ Former President Dmitri Medvedev, who once appeared as a serious figure, has expressed his conviction that the goal of ‘future actions’ (but not current?) must be the ‘complete dismantling of the political regime in Ukraine.’

Such hopes are contradicted by the harsh reality of Russia’s position. Putin’s statement highlighted retribution. Russia lacks the missiles to mount attacks of this sort often, as it is running out of stocks and the Ukrainians are claiming a high success rate in intercepting many of those already used. This is not therefore a new war-winning strategy but a sociopath’s tantrum.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine