Ukraine, Briefly

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This week, Russian forces launched a series of attacks on Ukrainian positions around the city of Avdiivka in the country’s east, Politico wrote. The Ukrainian side has lost some positions in the northern outskirts of Avdiivka, although Kyiv’s troops still control key parts of the city. The intensive fighting has been ongoing for two days even as Avdiivka has been under Russian attack for nearly a year. This offensive aims to protect the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk. The attack may also force Ukraine to shift resources from its southern front.

Also this week:

  • Russia’s lower house of parliament will vote next week on withdrawing Moscow’s ratification of the global treaty that bans nuclear tests, according to Reuters. The move comes after President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that Russia should consider withdrawing its ratification to mirror the United States, which has signed but never ratified the pact. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has been signed by 187 countries and ratified by 178, but cannot take effect until eight holdouts, including the US, have signed and ratified it. The US has observed a moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions since 1992 and has no plans to abandon the treaty, Radio Free Europe noted. Even so, Russia’s announcement has raised fears about the resumption of nuclear tests amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. However, Putin hasn’t confirmed whether Russia would actually resume nuclear tests, a practice it hasn’t engaged in since 1990.
  • Russia failed to rejoin the United Nations’ top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, this week, according to Reuters. Russia’s exclusion from the council 18 months ago was a result of a US-led effort after its invasion of Ukraine. Russia has been accused of war crimes in Ukraine, including willful killings and torture. While there were expectations of Russia’s possible return to the council due to signs of Ukraine war “fatigue,” it ultimately failed, which observers believe may be due to Western diplomats overstating the risk of Russia’s rejoining to maintain pressure. China and Cuba also won seats, despite objections from human rights advocates.
  • Recent satellite photos showed an increase in rail traffic along the North Korea-Russia border, sparking speculation that Pyongyang is supplying munitions to Moscow, the Associated Press reported. This comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia, where he discussed potential military exchanges and cooperation. Foreign officials suspect Kim is trading munitions for sophisticated Russian weapons technologies to bolster North Korea’s nuclear program. The increase in rail traffic at the Tumangang Rail Facility has been viewed as an indicator of this activity. The US and South Korea have warned of consequences if North Korea and Russia proceed with this reported weapons transfer in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
  • Finnish intelligence warned that Moscow now considers Finland a hostile country because of Helsinki’s decision to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, the Associated Press wrote. Tensions between the neighbors have risen in recent months, leading to the closure of Finland’s consulate general in St. Petersburg. While Russia remains focused on the Ukraine conflict and efforts to ease its own international isolation, the threat of Russian intelligence operations and malevolent influence in Finland persists. Intelligence officials noted that the recent joining of NATO and ongoing geopolitical confrontations may lead to stronger Russian countermeasures.

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