Ukraine, Briefly

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This week saw moves by Russian President Vladimir Putin to shore up the effort to bring Ukraine to its knees, actions analysts say are a sign of Russia’s desperation in the face of battlefield successes by Ukraine. For example, Putin said Wednesday he would activate some 300,000 military reservists into the country’s armed services, the Washington Post reported.

That set off protests against the president across the country with Russian authorities arresting more than 1,300 protesters. At the same time, many Russians are attempting to flee the country, even as some countries – including neighboring ones – are not offering any asylum or residence permits for those trying to leave Russia. Some, like the Baltics, are refusing entry to Russians completely.

Putin, in his speech on Wednesday, vowed again to “cleanse” Ukraine of nazis. Meanwhile, Moscow-backed officials in occupied Ukraine announced plans this week to hold “referendums” from Friday to Tuesday on the option of joining Russia. The operations signaled the moving up of the timetable to permanently conquer large portions of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meanwhile, mocked Putin while unveiling a “peace formula” that includes “just punishment” for the Russian leader and those involved in crimes against Ukraine, according to Fox News. Zelenskyy, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, suggested Russia be stripped of its veto power in the Security Council, while promoting his own peace plan that “punishes crime, protects life, restores security and territorial integrity, guarantees security, and provides determination.”

Zelenskyy’s speech came nearly a week after Ukrainian authorities discovered around 450 graves outside the formerly Russian-occupied city of Izium, Agence France-Presse noted. The European Union has called for the establishment of an international tribunal for war crimes to punish those responsible for the atrocities. Russia, however, denies the recent allegations, Reuters added.

In other Ukraine-Russia news:

  • Russia and Ukraine carried out a surprise prisoner swap this week involving around 300 individuals, the largest since the beginning of the war, Radio Free Europe wrote. Ukraine announced the release of 215 Russian soldiers, including fighters who led the defense of Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks. In exchange, Kyiv handed over 55 inmates to Russia, including Viktor Medvedchuk, a former Ukrainian politician and Putin loyalist.
  • North Korea denied claims it has supplied weapons to Russia, adding that it has no plans to do so despite US accusations that Moscow was looking to Pyongyang to replenish its stockpiles, the BBC reported. According to US intelligence, Russia is in the middle of purchasing missiles and artillery ammunition from North Korea.
  • The British government lifted its ban on fracking on Thursday, claiming the need to expand its domestic energy supply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, CNBC added. Meanwhile, the German government said that it has agreed to nationalize Uniper, the country’s largest natural gas importer, broadening state intervention in a bid to avoid an energy deficit caused by the invasion, the Associated Press noted.

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