Ukraine, Briefly

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This week, Russia released Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who had been held in Russian prisons for months on drug charges, in a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout. Thursday’s release brought an end to an ordeal that had sparked intense high-level negotiations between Washington and the Kremlin to secure her release, CBS News reported. It also followed a declaration by Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday that the conflict in Ukraine would be prolonged, the New York Times wrote. His comments came during a televised meeting, in which he said the war in Ukraine “might be a long process,” moving further from the Kremlin’s blitzkrieg rhetoric at the start of the invasion in late February. They also followed an attack on two Russian bases hundreds of miles inside Russia by Ukraine using domestically modified Soviet-era drones. The attack underscores a lethal new capacity for a country that relies heavily on imported weapons to counter Russian advances, according to Politico.

In other Ukraine-related news:

  • A top adviser to Ukraine’s president said 10,000 to 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the country’s 10-month fight against Russia, a rare comment on casualty data that falls far short of Western leaders’ estimates, the Associated Press noted.
  • The European Commission intends to damage “Russia’s military and industrial complex” with a new package of sanctions targeting a variety of businesses, according to documents obtained by Politico. Drone engines, chemical and biological equipment, riot control agents and electronic components come under these new sanctions. Meanwhile, EU member state Hungary blocked an agreement on a $19 billion aid package for Ukraine, forcing the Commission and other nations in the bloc to seek an alternate option to ensure Kyiv receives much-needed funding in January, Radio Free Europe added. At the same time, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) objected to a proposal by the EU to create a special UN-backed tribunal to prosecute war crimes in Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported. Prosecutor Karim Khan asked the international community to support – and fund – the ICC as it conducts its own investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian authorities captured a group of thieves who attempted to steal a mural by famed graffiti artist Banksy on the outskirts of Kyiv, NBC News wrote. The attempted theft comes amid accusations that Russian forces systematically looted art and ancient relics from museums and theatres in occupied Ukrainian territories, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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