Ukraine, Briefly

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This week, Russia experienced the biggest assault by drones on its territory since the Ukraine conflict began, with attacks reported across six regions, including Moscow, according to CNN. Russian officials claimed to have prevented most of the strikes and reported no casualties. Moscow responded to the strikes by launching a series of bombardments on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv that killed two people. Recently, Ukraine has been increasingly targeting strategic locations inside Russia. Moscow’s airports faced temporary closures because of the attacks.

Also this week:

  • Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, was secretly buried in St. Petersburg this week, in an unannounced event that saw few people attending and heavy security, NPR reported. Prigozhin died in a plane crash along with other Wagner leaders last month, weeks after the mercenary group attempted a rebellion against the Russian government. The Kremlin distanced itself from Prigozhin’s funeral, and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend. Conspiracy theories about Prigozhin’s death have been raging across Russia and in capitals around the world. Some believe the plane crash was orchestrated by the Kremlin as revenge for the mercenary leader’s rebellion. Russian authorities are investigating the cause of the plane crash and have refused an international probe into the incident, Politico added.
  • Meanwhile, Putin has ordered Wagner mercenaries to pledge allegiance to the state, NBC News noted. The oath commits Wagner fighters to defend the country and follow orders, tightening state control over private military groups. Putin is aiming to bring these groups under greater state supervision, analysts say.
  • The Kremlin is recruiting Central Asian migrants, including those with Russian citizenship, to bolster its military forces for the conflict in Ukraine, Radio Free Europe reported. Central Asian human rights advocates have reported pressure on migrants to sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry, leading to concerns about their treatment and rights. A number of Central Asian countries have warned their citizens against participating in foreign military activities because it is a violation of local laws. Lawmakers in Russia are considering legislation to tighten citizenship rules for migrants who evade military conscription, potentially affecting their families as well. In April, President Putin signed a bill allowing citizenship to be revoked for discrediting the Russian army or posing a security threat.
  • The European Union’s imports of Russian liquified natural gas (LNG) increased by 40 percent after the invasion of Ukraine, with bloc nations buying more than half of Russia’s LNG in the first seven months of the year, the Guardian reported. Spain and Belgium became the country’s largest customers of Russian LNG after China. In no small part due to reduced pipeline gas flows from Russia due to the invasion, LNG shipments have surged from various sources, including Russia. Meanwhile, European efforts to reduce reliance on Russian energy and also the imposition of sanctions have not hindered the growth in LNG imports, which have indirectly funded Russia and its war in Ukraine, the newspaper said.
  • Dutch beer brewer Heineken sold its Russian business to the Russian manufacturer Arnest Group for the symbolic sum of one euro, CBS News wrote. This move comes more than a year after Heineken announced its intention to withdraw from Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Despite incurring a loss of around $325 million, Heineken joins a growing list of companies exiting the Russian market. The company’s CEO, Dolf van den Brink, clarified that the reason for the delay in the exit was to ensure the welfare of its Russian employees throughout the sale process.

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