Ukraine, Briefly

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This week, Ukraine celebrated the tenth anniversary of the pro-Europe Maidan Revolution, which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the “first victory” against Russia, Al Jazeera reported. The series of mass protests taking place on Kyiv’s Maidan Square in 2013 called on the Ukrainian government to distance itself from Russia and work towards integration into the European Union. Despite violent clashes that killed nearly 100 civilians, the “Revolution of Dignity” led to the resignation of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. Zelenskyy drew a link between the European spirit of the protests and Ukraine’s progress towards becoming part of the EU. While European leaders, including the German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and European Council Minister Charles Michel, visited Kyiv on the anniversary to show their continued support for Ukraine, Russia made comments blaming Ukraine and the West for the war.

Also this week:

  • Frontex, the EU’s border agency, sent reinforcements to Finland this week amid suspicions that Russia is involved in a surge of migrants arriving in the country, the Associated Press noted. More than 800 migrants without proper visas have arrived since August, with at least 700 in November alone. Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo called it a “serious disruption of border security” and accused Russia of initiating and being able to stop the influx. The Kremlin denies these allegations. Finland has closed four busy border crossings with Russia, leaving one Arctic crossing open for asylum seekers. Frontex plans to send 50 border guards, patrol cars, and equipment to assist. The Finnish government has noticed a change in Russia’s behavior at the border since Finland joined NATO in April. Estonia, Russia’s Baltic neighbor, has also experienced a surge in migrants attempting to enter the country, with Estonian officials blaming Moscow for the arrivals.
  • Russia is planning to ban activities by what it calls the “LGBT movement” by labeling it as extremist, the BBC reported. Amongst the accusations of “extremist activity” is the inciting of “social and religious strife.” The ban would leave LGBT activists in danger of prosecution. Observers said this motion was designed to support Putin’s campaign to win a fifth term as president next year. His government has a history of cracking down on gay and queer rights, including an anti-propaganda law on LGBT content and a ban on gender-reaffirming surgery. Russia’s anti-LGBT rhetoric has increased in intensity since the beginning of the war and has become a sort of casus belli, as Putin opposes Western ideology and promotes “traditional Russian values.”
  • Russian people have less trust in their military than before, although support is still high, as indicated in a Gallup poll that Euronews reported. Around 75 percent of Russians still say they have confidence in their army, but that is down from the 80 percent measured when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started. The decline is universal among age, gender, and wealth groups. The pollsters attributed this to the unkept promise made by the Kremlin that the war would be quick, as it approaches its second year. Setbacks against Ukrainian troops and the paramilitary Wagner Group’s coup attempt could have also played a part. While Russians had long distinguished between the army and the government, the poll shows that faith in the army had decreased much faster among anti-Putin citizens, down to an all-time low of 40 percent.

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