Ukraine, Briefly

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This week, Ukrainian military intelligence said that Russia was now attacking defense industry sites, Business Insider reported, after long aiming missiles at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Despite killing thousands of Ukrainians and leaving others without heating in the wintertime, the initial strategy failed to tame the nation’s will to fight. However, Russia’s new target selection could give it the upper hand in the conflict, analysts said, as Ukraine’s ammunition supply from the West remains uncertain.

Ukraine, too, is adapting its strategy. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country’s priority this year was to reclaim control of its skies, Al Jazeera reported, adding that the move would determine the outcome of the war. Kuleba’s statement comes after the Ukrainian military shot down two Russian command planes flying over the Sea of Azov on Sunday, the latest in a series of awkward setbacks for Russia.

Meanwhile, Moscow’s ally Belarus on Wednesday issued a revamped military doctrine that, for the first time, permitted the use of nuclear weapons, the Independent reported. The country has been one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most crucial allies, especially during the invasion’s launch. It began last month storing some of Russia’s nuclear warheads, causing outrage among NATO member states.

The threat of the conflict spilling over to the rest of Europe has begun to worry some officials. After two Swedish defense officials told the public last week to brace for war, the German newspaper Bild this Tuesday reported that a leaked document showed Germany’s armed forces were also preparing for that eventuality. The document allegedly provided a month-by-month scenario of a “hybrid war” Russia would launch on NATO’s eastern front starting in February 2024.

Meanwhile, state-owned banks in China, a close friend of Russia, have been heightening restrictions on their Russian clients to avoid US secondary sanctions on foreign firms aiding Moscow, Bloomberg reported.

At home, the Kremlin continues to name its enemies. Renowned writer Boris Akunin – the pen name of Grigori Chkhartishvili – was designated as a foreign agent last Friday. On Saturday, a court of the Russian Orthodox Church ruled that a liberal priest, Aleksiy Uminsky, should be expelled from the institution for refusing to recite the now compulsory “Prayer for Holy Rus,” the Guardian reported.

For Moscow, the war remains an ideological one. While Moldovan authorities have said they were overwhelmed with citizenship applications from Russian nationals, Putin claimed on Tuesday that exiled Russians were returning because of gender-neutral toilets abroad, Newsweek reported. Nonetheless, a St. Petersburg lawmaker pointed out that 25 percent of Russians had no centralized sewage system, adding that a “backyard latrine-style toilet” is as gender-neutral as it gets.

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