Ukraine, Briefly

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced a shake-up of the military and fired the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the BBC reported Thursday. In an interview with Italian public television Rai on Sunday, the president had said he was considering sacking Zaluzhnyi, a popular military officer hailed by Ukrainian service members as a hero. Zaluzhnyi and Zelenskyy have fallen out since the launch of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in June, which failed to provide the promised territorial gains in Russian-occupied areas, the Associated Press wrote.

Amid outrage in Ukraine, smiles in the Kremlin, and concerns among Western allies caused by the rumors of the general’s dismissal earlier this week, Zelenskyy on Tuesday announced the creation of a new army branch dedicated to drones. The so-called Unmanned Systems Forces are the first of their kind: One analyst told NBC News no other military had ever created such a branch. Zelenskyy noted that drones have been crucial in “(changing) the security situation in the Black Sea,” while Russia has also used dozens of drones in its attacks on Ukraine.

The latest one, on Wednesday morning, saw Moscow fire drones in addition to missiles at three major cities, including the capital. At least five civilians were killed. The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borell, was in Kyiv when the attack happened and said he started his day in an air raid shelter.

Borell was visiting Ukraine to discuss military and financial aid from the EU after the Financial Times reported on Saturday that the Group of Seven, of which the bloc is part, was considering using around $300 billion of frozen Russian assets in the West as collateral for debt sold to support Ukraine. Calling the move illegal, Russia threatened to retaliate by freezing Western assets in Russia.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s State Security Service said they had seized a shipment of explosives sent from the Ukrainian port of Odesa bound for the Russian city of Voronezh, 110 miles from the border with Ukraine, Reuters reported. The explosives were clandestinely placed in a cargo of car batteries that followed a route similar to a truckload that exploded on the Crimean Bridge in 2022. Ukrainian security services refused to comment on the incident.

Also this week, Sweden was at the center of the West’s attention. On Monday, Stockholm’s hopes of joining NATO were left hanging after the ruling party of Hungary – the sole country that has still not approved the bid after Turkey’s greenlight last month – boycotted a parliamentary session to ratify Sweden’s membership of the transatlantic alliance. Then on Wednesday, Sweden’s top prosecutor closed a national inquiry into explosions that damaged Russian gas pipelines Nord Stream 1 and 2 in September 2022, the BBC reported, saying the case was outside Swedish jurisdiction. Responsibility for the blasts has still not been established.

On Thursday, Russia’s electoral commission banned Boris Nadezhdin, who ran on an antiwar platform, from running in next month’s presidential election. Though Nadezhdin was not expected to defeat President Vladimir Putin, the Washington Post wrote that his banning betrayed worries in the Kremlin of growing antiwar sentiments among the population, and signaled backsliding toward totalitarianism.

Prior to the ban, police arrested 20 journalists at a protest in Moscow of Russian wives demanding the return of soldiers.

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