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This week, a Ukrainian military officer, Roman Chervinsky, is alleged to have coordinated the September 2022 attack on the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline, damaging three out of four pipelines running under the Baltic Sea, according to Voice of America. The United States and NATO termed it an act of sabotage, while Russia called it an act of international terrorism. Chervinsky, a decorated colonel, is said to have managed logistics for a team that used a sailboat and deep-sea diving equipment to place explosive charges on the pipelines. He denies involvement, claiming the case against him is politically motivated. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reportedly was unaware of the operation. Chervinsky is under arrest for attempting to convince a Russian pilot to defect in 2022, leading to a deadly attack on a Ukrainian air base.
Also this week:
- Russian President Vladimir Putin paved the way for holding Russian presidential elections in occupied Ukrainian territory in March, part of a controlled process aimed at extending his rule until at least 2030, the Washington Post reported. Despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Putin is expected to announce his candidacy for a fifth term, with his victory all but assured due to the manipulation of the electoral system and limited opposition. Most challengers lack influence, and critics argue they serve only to maintain a facade of democracy without posing a real threat to Putin’s regime, though among the declared candidates is Boris Nadezhdin, an opposition pundit critical of the war in Ukraine. The main threat to Putin over the past few years has been opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who survived an assassination attempt while in Germany – only to be jailed in remote Russia for an additional 19 years on extremism charges, in addition to other “sham” charges he was already facing when he returned to Russia, Politico said. Recently, three lawyers who represent Navalny were arrested, depriving the Kremlin critic of one of his few links to the outside world. That sent the signal that it was dangerous to represent any critics of the regime, the Washington Post reported.
- Three Ukrainians, including current lawmaker Oleksandr Dubinsky, former legislator Andriy Derkach, and ex-prosecutor Kostyantyn Kulyk, have been charged with treason for aiding former US president Donald Trump’s campaign’s efforts to discredit the family of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, the BBC wrote. The 2019 drive, led by Rudy Giuliani, centered on unproven allegations of corrupt dealings between Biden and Ukraine. Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) claimed the three were paid $10 million by Russian military intelligence – the GRU – to spread falsehoods, including the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2020 US elections. The charges also involve allegations involving Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine. The accused have denied the charges, with Dubinsky claiming political persecution. The trio had been previously sanctioned by the US for undermining the 2020 election.
- The European Commission is proposing new sanctions against Russia because of its war on Ukraine, including a ban on Russian diamonds, tighter reporting requirements for Russian oil, and restrictions on Russian liquefied propane, Politico noted. The ban on Russian diamonds, to apply from January 2024, aims to address the circumvention of sanctions, and involves collaboration with Belgium and the G7. The draft proposals also seek tougher reporting requirements to prevent the resale of Russian oil from violating existing sanctions, particularly focusing on ancillary costs. The European Union is aiming for approval of the new rules by the end of the year.