Ukraine, Briefly

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This week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kyiv and pledged more than $1 billion in additional aid for Ukraine as it continues its counteroffensive against Russia, according to the Wall Street Journal. Blinken’s visit aimed to demonstrate ongoing US support and strengthen Ukraine’s long-term defense capabilities. Ukraine’s counteroffensive has recently shown progress, but it faces challenges in overcoming entrenched Russian positions. Long-term US support is crucial, analysts have said, considering the Kremlin’s indication of a years-long war.

Also this week:

  • Ukrainian forces have made a series of gains this week as they battle to retake Russian-occupied territories, according to Ukrainian officials, Newsweek reported. Ukrainian troops have made gains near Klishchiivka, close to the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast. Over the past week, they’ve liberated about 1.15 square miles, adding to the 18 square miles gained since the counteroffensive began in June. Ukrainian forces are also pushing toward Melitopol along the Sea of Azov, part of the “land bridge” to occupied Crimea. Meanwhile, Russia claimed naval aircraft from its Black Sea Fleet destroyed four US-made Ukrainian military boats carrying paratroopers heading toward Crimea, and shot down two Ukrainian drones.
  • Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was replaced this week in a significant leadership reshuffle, Time noted. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cited the need for new approaches as the reason for the change and nominated Rustem Umerov as the new defense minister. The decision follows a series of corruption scandals related to procurement within the defense ministry. Still, Reznikov had played a key role in securing military aid and modernizing Ukraine’s military capabilities. Now, Umerov, with a background in economics and political negotiation, is seen as having the credentials necessary for the role during Ukraine’s quest for continued international support.
  • Meanwhile, Ukrainian billionaire and former Zelenskyy supporter, Ihor Kolomoisky, has been sentenced to two months in jail on charges of fraud and money laundering, according to Reuters.
  • The United Kingdom government is set to designate the Russian mercenary Wagner Group as a terrorist organization, making it illegal to be a member or support the group, the BBC noted. A draft order will allow its assets to be categorized as terrorist property and seized. British officials called Wagner “violent and destructive” and a “threat to global security.” Wagner has been involved in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has operated in Syria, Libya, Mali, and other African countries. The group has faced accusations of numerous crimes, including killings and torture. The new British designation will make it harder for members of Wagner to move money and also allow for potential compensation claims through British courts.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected efforts by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to revive a United Nations-backed grain deal for Ukraine, NPR reported. Putin complained that the previous agreement favored Ukraine and said Russia would only rejoin it once Western-imposed restrictions were lifted. Erdogan defended the deal’s benefits for poorer countries and expressed hope for a resolution. Russia’s blockade on Black Sea shipping, initiated with its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, has disrupted commercial vessels’ entry to Ukrainian ports. The Black Sea Grain Initiative had allowed safe passage for Ukrainian grain and other commodities, but it has been in limbo since Russia exited it in July.
  • The Nobel Foundation has reversed its decision to invite ambassadors from authoritarian states involved in the Ukraine war to its annual awards ceremony, following strong condemnation from Kyiv and other European capitals, Politico reported. In response to mounting criticism, the Swedish trust has disinvited the ambassadors of Russia, Belarus, and Iran to the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm. The move comes amid ongoing tensions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine and concerns about Russia’s crackdown on civil society, including the recent labeling of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov as a “foreign agent.”
  • Russian taxi companies will have to share passenger trip data with the country’s Federal Security Service (FSB), as part of a new law enacted this month, Radio Free Europe wrote. Taxi firms will also be forbidden from disclosing their collaboration with the FSB. The law also grants the FSB access to taxi company databases, obliging them to store passenger travel information for six months.

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