Ukrainian Intelligence: Russia used 60% of its high-precision weapons

Ulrayinska Pravda

Ukrainian Intelligence: Russia used 60% of its high-precision weapons

Denys Karlovskyi – May 25, 2022

According to Ukrainian military intelligence, the Russian forces have already used more than 60% of high-precision weapons stockpiles.

Source: Deputy Head of the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine Vadym Skibitskyi

Skibitskyi’s quote: “According to our data, if we’re talking about high-precision weapons, about 60 percent of their stockpile has already been used. In the case of some types, even more – 70%.

There are relevant regulatory requirements for the threshold level that must be maintained in the army, and the number of Iskanders [mobile short-range ballistic missile systems] has almost reached this threshold level.

The Russian army has changed its tactics when using such weapons. Where, earlier, 2 or 4 missiles might have been used on one object, now the object is clearly selected and the target is hit with 8 to 12 missiles of various forms. [The Russians are using] ballistic and cruise missiles, land-based, naval and air-based [types of missiles], in order to be ready to hit this target.

We see these changes, and we understand that Russian resources of high-precision weapons and high-precision ammunition are at a borderline level. “

Details: Skibitskyi added that in the first two months of its large-scale invasion, Russia launched random strikes with high-precision missiles.

He is convinced that Russia currently does not have sufficient capacity to quickly replenish its spent stocks of high-precision weapons. Due to economic sanctions imposed by Western countries, Russian industry is unable to obtain the required number of imported components to equip high-precision missiles.

Background: 

  • Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Hanna Maliar said on 9 May that Russia still has enough reserves of components to equip missiles and capacity for their large-scale production.
  • In late April, Maliar said that Russia had launched more than 1,300 missiles in Ukraine.

A Russian mother said military officers ‘lied to my face’ and she forced Putin’s government to return her 2 conscripted sons

Business Insider

A Russian mother said military officers ‘lied to my face’ and she forced Putin’s government to return her 2 conscripted sons who were not supposed to be in Ukraine

Azmi Haroun – May 26, 2022

A Russian soldier
on April 13, 2022, a Russian soldier stands guard at the Luhansk power plant in the town of Shchastya.Alexander Nemenov/Getty Images
  • A Russian mother successfully made Russian authorities return her sons from Ukraine.
  • Her two sons were conscripts but never meant to serve in the Ukraine war, the mother told the BBC.
  • She won a case with the military prosecutor and said  “lied to my face.”

A Russian mother who was initially excited about her two sons’ conscription to the Russian military last year forced Putin’s government to return her sons home after she found out they were wrongfully sent to fight in Ukraine, according to the BBC.

Marina, a pseudonym used by the BBC due to fear of retribution, told the outlet that in 2021, she told her two sons that “it was their duty to the motherland,” and they were conscripted for a year in the country’s military.

But months into 2022, Marina worried for her boys as Russian troops were building at the Ukrainian border. When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military invasion into the neighboring country on February 24, Marina stopped hearing from her sons.

“Time stopped for me. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep,” she told the BBC. “I exchanged messages with the mothers of other conscripts from the same unit. It turned out that many of them had lost contact with their children, too.”

In early March, after weeks of denying that he had sent young conscripts into war, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov admitted that Russia had sent conscripts to Ukraine — and that they were among the casualties.

Marina told the BBC that after weeks and an attempt to drive into Ukraine herself, she heard from colleagues in her son’s unit who said that her sons had signed military contracts to fight in Ukraine.

“I wrote to the prosecutor-general’s office asking to investigate,” Marina told the BBC. “I told them there was no way my sons could have signed military contracts. I was certain. Other mothers wrote, too. They all knew their children.”

By March 9,  the military prosecutor’s office investigated Marina’s claim and returned her sons to Russia shortly after, given they had never signed military contracts to fight in Ukraine.

“The lads that came back from there were so thin, dirty and exhausted,” Marina told the BBC. “Their clothes were torn. My son said: ‘It’s better that you don’t know what happened there.’ But all that mattered to me was that he had come back alive.”

She added that throughout the war, military officers “lied to my face.”

“First, they lied that my sons weren’t in Ukraine. Then they lied that they’d signed military contracts. Officers lied, sergeants lied,” she told the BBC. “Later someone told me that they weren’t allowed to tell me the truth. Incredible. They were allowed to break the law and send my sons [to Ukraine], but they weren’t allowed to tell a mother where her children are.”

She added that other families are still living with the nightmare of not knowing where their children are, and whether they are serving in the war.

“So many sons haven’t come back and never will. So many mothers are still searching for their children,” Marina said. “My children were different people when they came back. You can see it in their eyes. They’re different. They’re disillusioned. I want them to believe again in a bright future, in peace and love. They’ve stopped believing.”

Tariffs on solar panels threaten Biden’s climate change goals

Yahoo! News

Tariffs on solar panels threaten Biden’s climate change goals

Ben Adler, Senior Editor – May 26, 2022

An ongoing Department of Commerce investigation into whether China is circumventing tariffs on its solar energy products is slowing the expansion of solar power capacity in the U.S., according to industry and outside experts.

“In the blink of an eye, we’re going to lose 100,000 American solar workers and any hope of reaching the president’s clean energy goals,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energies Industry Association (SEIA), said in a statement late last month.

On March 25, James Maeder, the deputy assistant secretary of commerce for anti-dumping and countervailing duty operations, announced an investigation into whether crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam that use components from China violate tariffs on Chinese solar imports. Pending the outcome of that investigation, tariffs could be applied — even retroactively, for recent purchases — to solar panels from those four Southeast Asian countries.

Solar panel installers anxious not to run up what could potentially be a huge tax bill are therefore avoiding buying panels from those major suppliers and are often unable to fulfill orders.

A worker wearing a mask, head covering and rubber gloves, leans over a solar battery to assemble it in a bare manufacturing facility, with one other worker visible in the distance.
A worker assembles a solar battery at Irex Energy JSC’s manufacturing facility in Vung Tau, Vietnam, in 2019. (Yen Duong/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As a result, on April 27, after surveying its members on the effect the investigation is having, the SEIA cut by 46% its forecast for new solar installations in 2022 and 2023. A May 10 analysis by Rystad Energy, an independent energy research consulting company, found a potentially even more dramatic contraction in the solar industry, concluding that 64% of the 27 gigawatts of new solar capacity that was to be installed in this year is in jeopardy.

With new tariffs potentially being imposed in August, clean energy advocates and experts say the problems may only grow worse in the months ahead. “Imports have fallen off, projects are being canceled, and projections of growth are being revised radically downward,” David Roberts, host of the podcast “Volts,” said Wednesday. “The tariffs could be anywhere from 30%-250%, which would radically change the economics of big solar projects, and, if applied, will be retrospective over the last two years, which means even existing contracts are in jeopardy. The uncertainty has cast a pall over the entire sector.”

President Biden is publicly committed to expanding solar capacity as quickly as possible to combat climate change. The White House has issued press releases and fact sheets touting its administrative moves to encourage the installation of wind turbines and solar panels on federal lands and waters, and the president has proposed tens of billions of dollars in subsidies for rooftop solar panels in his budget reconciliation package.

Joe Biden, in dark glasses and pursing his lips, in front of a solar array.
In June 2019, while running for president, Joe Biden walks past solar panels at the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative in Plymouth, N.H. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

The administration is caught between its climate goals and its desire to protect American manufacturers from unfair trade practices. If China can produce cheaper solar panels, with or without a government subsidy, it benefits American consumers and helps speed up the replacement of fossil fuels that cause greenhouse gas emissions. But allowing a rival to dominate the supply chain of growing U.S. energy sources could be risky, as Europe has seen with its reliance on Russian oil and gas. Every president wants to create domestic manufacturing jobs, which tend to pay relatively well, especially for those without a college degree.

In 2012, the Obama administration imposed tariffs on Chinese solar panel components — increasing the cost by 24% to 36% — when it found that, in violation of trade agreements, Chinese manufacturers were unfairly undercutting American competitors by using loans from the Chinese government to produce more panels at lower prices. (Tariffs have since increased to as much as 250%.)

The measure was supposed to bolster American solar manufacturing, but it didn’t work out that way.

President Barack Obama at the microphone in front of a solar array.
In March 2012, President Barack Obama tours Sempra’s Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility in Boulder City, Nev. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

“What happened was not that American domestic manufacturing flourished. What happened was: The same Chinese manufacturers decided to locate some of their supply chain in other countries,” Marcelo Ortega, an analyst at Rystad Energy who produced its recent report, told Yahoo News. Those countries include the four in Southeast Asia at issue in this case. As U.S. imports of solar panels from China fell, imports from these other countries rose just as fast.

In February, Auxin Solar, a U.S. manufacturer of solar modules, filed a complaint with the Commerce Department, which is responsible for enforcing the tariffs, claiming that the solar manufacturers in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are making an end run around the tariffs on Chinese photovoltaic cells. Imports from those countries accounted for 85% of all imported U.S. solar power capacity installed in 2021 and 99% of solar imports in the first two months of this year, according to Rystad’s analysis.

Companies that provide solar panels to U.S. customers say their business has been thrown for a loop.

“It makes deploying solar simply just more difficult and more expensive,” Gabe Phillips, CEO of Catalyst Power, a retail energy provider and solar developer, told Yahoo News. “On the distributed solar side, the pricing’s all over the place. They can’t commit to pricing. They’ll give me a price, with the caveat that it’s contingent on the outcome of this case. It’s stymieing the sales process.”

Two women in head coverings, masks, gloves and blue work clothes, bend over a production line.
Employees in Nantong City, in China’s Jiangsu province, work on the solar panel production line at a workshop of Jiangsu Fox Group on April 18. (Zhai Huiyong/VCG via Getty Images)

Apart from the uncertainty in pricing, the process of providing a customer with solar energy has become slower and less reliable.

“Suppliers don’t want to take the risk of being slapped with a potential 100% import tariff,” Ortega said. When the SEIA surveyed its members, 83% reported that purchases had recently been canceled or delayed.

“At the moment, the products we’re seeking to market have been pushed back at least a quarter,” Phillips said. “There’s less expectation of panel availability, and therefore dates for projects are being pushed back.”

The White House declined to comment on the record, noting that it does not get involved in legal proceedings such as the current Commerce Department investigation, but it reiterated the president’s commitment to deploying solar power.

“While we cannot comment on an ongoing, independent judicial investigation, the process cannot factor in policy or our solar strategy,” a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity wrote in an email. “President Biden remains committed to standing up clean solar energy across the country to lower energy bills for families, create good-paying union jobs, and … grow our clean energy economy. As the president has made clear from the earliest days of the campaign, solar power is at the heart of his agenda for cutting energy costs for American families, creat[ing] good jobs, and fight[ing] the climate crisis that is already causing unprecedented harm to our economy and national security.”

A worker in a red hardhat walks across a solar array followed by a colleague carrying a solar panel.
Electricians install solar panels at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, N.Y., in November 2021. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

The solar industry’s answer is to build up American solar manufacturing without resorting to jacking up the price on imports.

“I understand the detriment to American manufacturing that dumping causes,” Phillips said. “However, I’m not sure that I have a problem with the Chinese government subsidizing American renewable energy development. There are other ways that we could support our own domestic manufacturing of solar panels, other than sticking a tariff on someone else’s solar panels. We could do what China does and subsidize [it]. There must be tools that are available.”

Uvalde newspaper publishes powerful front page 2 days after school massacre

Yahoo! News

Uvalde newspaper publishes powerful front page 2 days after school massacre

Dylan Stableford, Senior Writer – May 26, 2022

The Uvalde Leader-News, a locally owned newspaper in Uvalde, Texas, published a powerful front page on Thursday, two days after 19 children and two teachers were killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

The cover of the twice-weekly paper was completely black, except for the date of the massacre — May 24, 2022 — a stark reminder of the darkness that has enveloped the community of about 16,000 people in southwest Texas.

The front page of Thursday's Uvalde Leader-News.
The front page of Thursday’s Uvalde Leader-News. (Uvalde Leader-News)

Inside, the first 10 pages of the 12-page paper contain news from what would have been an ordinary week in a small town: graduations, taxes, local elections, weather, sports. Three collegiate rodeo athletes have qualified for the National Rodeo Finals, the paper reported.

There is almost no indication of the carnage that unfolded on Tuesday, except for the announcement of a blood drive at the civic center on Saturday (there is an urgent need for donors, particularly those with type O blood, the paper said) and an advertisement for the Robb School Memorial Fund established by the First State Bank of Uvalde. An ad for the Uvalde Honey Festival, which had been scheduled for June 10 and 11, shows that it has been canceled without explanation.

The final two pages, however, are dedicated to the tragedy.

Crosses with the names of victims of the mass shooting are seen at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday.
Crosses with the names of victims of the mass shooting at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Thursday. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Under the headline “City’s Soul Crushed,” the back page of the paper includes photos of children being taken out of the school through windows, and a teacher running to safety after the last of her students were evacuated.

Another shows the suspect’s abandoned pickup truck crashed in a ditch, and a rifle, believed to be the shooter’s, sitting atop a duffel bag on the ground next to the passenger door.

There is also a story about the school district’s graduation ceremonies, which had been scheduled for Friday, being postponed.

“My heart is broken,” Hal Harrell, the district’s superintendent, is quoted as saying. “We are a small community and we are going to need your prayers to get through this.”

‘People of Ukraine know your pain’: Volodymyr Zelenskyy offers condolences after Texas school shooting

USA Today

‘People of Ukraine know your pain’: Volodymyr Zelenskyy offers condolences after Texas school shooting

Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY May 25, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered condolences to the families of the 19 children killed in an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

It’s “terrible to have victims of shooters in peaceful times,” Zelenskyy said while speaking at a news conference Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

“I would like to express my condolences to all of the relatives and family members of the children who were killed in an awful shooting in Texas in a school,” Zelenskyy said. “The people of Ukraine share the pain of the relatives and friends of the victims and all Americans.”

Authorities said a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday in Uvalde, a small community about an hour from the Mexican border.

‘Enough is enough’: Biden calls on lawmakers to take action after Uvalde school shooting

Bloodshed since Sandy Hook:: Uvalde school shooting among deadliest school attacks in past 10 years

An 18-year-old male, armed with a rifle, shot his grandmother before going to the school and opening fire in the state’s deadliest shooting in modern history. It was the country’s third mass shooting within weeks, according to Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Erick Estrada.

In Ukraine, almost 250 children have been killed since the Russian invasion began in February, according to U.N. humanitarian agency figures shown earlier this month.

“I feel it is my personal tragedy when children are killed in Texas, and now in my country Russian military is killing our children,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian ambassador on Texas school shooting: ‘Should not happen in US’

The Hill

Ukrainian ambassador on Texas school shooting: ‘Should not happen in US’

Laura Kelly – May 25, 2022

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova on Tuesday expressed solidarity with Americans following the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, saying that such violence “should not happen in the U.S.”

“For us, the pain of losing children, especially of that age, is something we live for the past 90 days nonstop, and our condolences go to the American people,” she said.

“This should not happen anywhere. It should not happen in the U.S. and it should not happen in Ukraine.”

Markarova said that Ukraine’s condolences are with the American people, describing the “horrible tragedy” in Texas, where at least 19 children and two adults were killed in a shooting rampage by an 18-year-old on Tuesday. The age of the victims is not yet released but the elementary school included second, third and fourth grades.

“This cycle of hate and brutal shooting and shooting children and civilians in general, should be stopped.”

Markarova spoke with reporters briefly before addressing the American Jewish Committee’s Diplomatic Seder, where she thanked Washington diplomats, representing dozens of countries, and the American Jewish community for supporting Ukraine in its more than three-month, defensive war against Russia.

Hundreds of Ukrainian children are believed to have been killed amid indiscriminate and alleged targeting of civilian areas by Russian forces during the unprovoked invasion of the nation.

Markarova later tweeted that losing children to gun violence “in a peaceful time is a tragedy beyond understanding. Ukraine knows too well the horror of growing number of lost children.”

Ukraine gathers Russian dead in chilled train for prisoner exchange

Reuters

Ukraine gathers Russian dead in chilled train for prisoner exchange

Vitalii Hnidyi – May 24, 2022

Ritual worker picks up bodies of killed Russian soldiers to load them to refrigerated rail car, in Kharkiv
Ritual worker picks up bodies of killed Russian soldiers to load them to refrigerated rail car, in Kharkiv
Ukrainian servicemen load bodies of killed Russian soldiers to refrigerated rail car, in Kharkiv
Ukrainian servicemen load bodies of killed Russian soldiers to refrigerated rail car, in Kharkiv
Ukrainian servicemen and a ritual worker load bodies of killed Russian soldiers to a refrigerated rail car, in Kharkiv
Ukrainian servicemen and a ritual worker load bodies of killed Russian soldiers to a refrigerated rail car, in Kharkiv
Ritual workers stand next to bodies of killed Russian soldiers before loading them to a refrigerated rail car, in Kharkiv
Ritual workers stand next to bodies of killed Russian soldiers before loading them to a refrigerated rail car, in Kharkiv

MALA ROHAN, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine is gathering the bodies of dead Russian soldiers strewn among the rubble of formerly occupied towns and using everything from DNA to tattoos to verify their identities in the hope of exchanging them for prisoners of war.

Volunteers have helped the military gather 60 bodies in the northeastern region of Kharkiv where Russian forces have retreated in recent weeks, stacking them up in a refrigerated rail carriage.

Bodies are sometimes used as part of prisoner exchanges and other times in exchanges for Ukrainian bodies, said Anton Ivannikov, captain of military-civil cooperation branch, Ukrainian Armed Forces, which is coordinating the effort. The bodies of those related to high ranking officials can be especially valuable to an exchange.

“We are gathering all the documents, all the credit cards. Anything which would help us identify the body” including tattoos and DNA, Ivannikov said.

“In the future this will tell us which soldier, which brigade was in this region, for further exchange,” he said.

The bodies will travel on the train to Kyiv where the team negotiating exchanges is based, he said.

The recovery effort has been made possible due to Ukraine’s pushing of Russian forces from towns in the Kharkiv region – and largely out of artillery range of Kharkiv city, the second-largest in the country.

At a recent recovery effort in the village of Mala Rohan, just east of Kharkiv city, Reuters witnessed volunteers using ropes to drag the bodies of two Russian soldiers from a well between houses severely damaged by shelling.

At least one of the two had their hands tied, a sign, Ivannikov said, that they may have been punished as deserters. Reuters was unable to verify the circumstances of any of the deaths.

Two volunteers wrapped the bodies in white plastic tarpaulin and lifted them into a waiting ambulance.

The volunteers dug another body out of a shallow grave marked with a makeshift cardboard sign that said “Russian occupant buried here” with the soldier’s name and date of burial.

A fourth body – one of 12 found in the village over three days – was pulled from the basement of a woman’s home. He was left alone when his fellow servicemen retreated,” Ivannikov said. “Most likely, he shot himself.”

Russia’s Defence Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the allegation that Russian soldiers may have been shot for deserting or on whether it would consider exchanging bodies for Ukrainian prisoners of war.

While the Ukrainian military recovers bodies around Kharkiv, about 240 kms(149 miles) to the south east, its forces are defending against intense assaults in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine.

Moscow calls its actions a “special operation” to disarm its neighbour. Kyiv said it never threatened Russia in any way and says the attack was completely unprovoked.

(Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

Lithuania now fully independent of Russian energy

Euractiv

Lithuania now fully independent of Russian energy

 By Giedre Peseckyte, Euractiv – May 23, 2022

Nord Pool, a pan-European power exchange, decided to stop trading Russian electricity from its only importer in the Baltic States Inter RAO, meaning Lithuania no longer imports Russian energy supplies such as oil, electricity, and natural gas. [Shutterstock/PX Media.

Lithuania on Sunday dropped Russian energy imports including oil, natural gas and electricity, making it completely free of Russian energy supplies.

Nord Pool, a pan-European power exchange, decided to stop trading Russian electricity from its only importer in the Baltic States Inter RAO, meaning Lithuania no longer imports Russian energy supplies such as oil, electricity, and natural gas.

“Not only it is an extremely important milestone for Lithuania in its journey towards energy independence, but it is also an expression of our solidarity with Ukraine. We must stop financing the Russian war machine,” said Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys.

Lithuania will achieve full energy independence when it successfully implements synchronisation, meets its electricity needs through local green energy production and becomes an electricity exporter, Kreivys also stressed.

For liquefied natural gas, the terminal in Klaipėda has received cargoes from the US. At the same time, local power generation and imports from EU countries through existing interconnections with Sweden, Poland and Latvia cover the country’s electricity needs. Meanwhile, Orlen Lietuva, the only oil importer in Lithuania, refused to import Russian crude oil more than a month ago.

Commenting on Lithuania’s decision to stop imports of Russian fossils and electricity, Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko tweeted on Sunday (22 May) that it is “a crucial milestone towards energy independence, a great sign of dignity, and a motivating example for the rest of Europe.”

“Ukraine is ready to support you [Lithuania] with our carbon-free electricity,” he added.

   

After 3 months of war, life in Russia has profoundly changed

Associated Press

After 3 months of war, life in Russia has profoundly changed

The Associated Press – May 23, 2022

When Vladimir Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine, war seemed far away from Russian territory. Yet within days the conflict came home — not with cruise missiles and mortars but in the form of unprecedented and unexpectedly extensive volleys of sanctions by Western governments and economic punishment by corporations.

Three months after the Feb. 24 invasion, many ordinary Russians are reeling from those blows to their livelihoods and emotions. Moscow’s vast shopping malls have turned into eerie expanses of shuttered storefronts once occupied by Western retailers.

McDonald’s — whose opening in Russia in 1990 was a cultural phenomenon, a shiny modern convenience coming to a dreary country ground down by limited choices — pulled out of Russia entirely in response to its invasion of Ukraine. IKEA, the epitome of affordable modern comforts, suspended operations. Tens of thousands of once-secure jobs are now suddenly in question in a very short time.

Major industrial players including oil giants BP and Shell and automaker Renault walked away, despite their huge investments in Russia. Shell has estimated it will lose about $5 billion by trying to unload its Russian assets.

While the multinationals were leaving, thousands of Russians who had the economic means to do so were also fleeing, frightened by harsh new government moves connected to the war that they saw as a plunge into full totalitarianism. Some young men may have also fled in fear that the Kremlin would impose a mandatory draft to feed its war machine.

But fleeing had become much harder than it once was — the European Union’s 27 nations, along with the United States and Canada had banned flights to and from Russia. The Estonian capital of Tallinn, once an easy long-weekend destination 90 minutes by air from Moscow, suddenly took at least 12 hours to reach on a route through Istanbul.

Even vicarious travel via the Internet and social media has narrowed for Russians. Russia in March banned Facebook and Instagram — although that can be circumvented by using VPNs — and shut access to foreign media websites, including the BBC, the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

After Russian authorities passed a law calling for up to 15 years’ imprisonment for stories that include “fake news” about the war, many significant independent news media shut down or suspended operations. Those included the Ekho Moskvy radio station and Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper whose editor Dmitry Muratov shared the most recent Nobel Peace Prize.

The psychological cost of the repressions, restrictions and shrinking opportunities could be high on ordinary Russians, although difficult to measure. Although some public opinion polls in Russia suggest support for the Ukraine war is strong, the results are likely skewed by respondents who stay silent, wary of expressing their genuine views.

Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center wrote in a commentary that Russian society right now is gripped by an “aggressive submission” and that the degradation of social ties could accelerate.

“The discussion gets broader and broader. You can call your compatriot — a fellow citizen, but one who happens to have a different opinion — a “traitor” and consider them an inferior kind of person. You can, like the most senior state officials, speculate freely and quite calmly on the prospects of nuclear war. (That’s) something that was certainly never permitted in Soviet times during Pax Atomica, when the two sides understood that the ensuing damage was completely unthinkable,” he wrote.

“Now that understanding is waning, and that is yet another sign of the anthropological disaster Russia is facing,” he said.

The economic consequences have yet to fully play out.

In the early days of the war, the Russian ruble lost half its value. But government efforts to shore it up have actually raised its value to higher than its level before the invasion.

But in terms of economic activity, “that’s a completely different story,” said Chris Weafer, a veteran Russia economy analyst at Macro-Advisory.

“We see deterioration in the economy now across a broad range of sectors. Companies are warning that they’re running out of inventories of spare parts. A lot of companies put their workers on part time work and others are warning to them they have to shut down entirely. So there’s a real fear that unemployment will rise during the summer months, that there will be a big drop in consumption and retail sales and investment,” he told The Associated Press.

The comparatively strong ruble, however heartening it may seem, also poses problems for the national budget, Weafer said.

“They receive their revenue effectively in its foreign currency from the exporters and their payments are in rubles. So the stronger the ruble, then it means the less money that they actually have to spend,” he said. “(That) also makes Russian exporters less competitive, because they’re more expensive on the world stage.”

If the war drags on, more companies could exit Russia. Weafer suggested that those companies who have only suspended operations might resume them if a cease-fire and peace deal for Ukraine are reached, but he said the window for this could be closing.

“If you walk around shopping malls in Moscow, you can see that many of the fashion stores, Western business groups, have simply pulled down the shutters. Their shelves are still full, the lights are still on. They’re simply just not open. So they haven’t pulled out yet. They’re waiting to see what happens next,” he explained.

Those companies will soon be pressed to resolve the limbo that their Russian businesses are in, Weafer said.

“We are now getting to the stage where companies are starting to run out of time, or maybe run out of patience,” he said.

‘Ashamed’ of war, Russian diplomat resigns; Russian POW sentenced to life for killing civilian: Live updates

USA Today

‘Ashamed’ of war, Russian diplomat resigns; Russian POW sentenced to life for killing civilian: Live updates

John Bacon, Kim Hjelmgaard, Tom Vanden Brook, Jordan Mendoza and

Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY – May 23, 2022

A veteran Russian diplomat to the U.N. Office at Geneva resigned his post Monday, saying he is “ashamed” of his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Boris Bondarev, 41, confirmed his resignation in a letter delivered Monday at the Russian diplomatic mission blasting the “aggressive war unleashed” by President Vladimir Putin.

“For twenty years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on Feb. 24 of this year,” he wrote, referencing the date the invasion began.

Bondarev, who has recently worked on Russia’s role in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, told the Associated Press he is concerned about Moscow’s response to his letter and that he has no plans to leave Switzerland. His letter and statement take aim at Russian oligarchs who have grown rich under the Putin regime.

“Those who conceived this war want only one thing – to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity,” Bondarev wrote. “To achieve that they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes.”

U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer called on other Russian diplomats worldwide to follow Bondarev’s “moral example” and resign.

“Boris Bondarev is a hero,” Neuer said.

Latest developments:

►The Russian economy is “withstanding the blow” of international sanctions well, even though it “is not easy,” President Vladimir Putin said.

►Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon remains committed to avoiding escalating the war with Russia. A call last week with his Russian counterpart was “purposeful and worthwhile,” Milley said.

►Russia has forcibly deported more than 1.4 million Ukrainian citizens, including 240,000 children, to the Russian Federation, said Liudmyla Denisova, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights.

►Russian forces are stepping up their bombardment of the Donbas area. Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said heavy fighting was continuing near Luhansk and that the front line was under continuous shelling. Of 1.6 million people who lived in the region before the invasion, there are “not more than 320,000 people” remaining, he said.

►Starbucks is closing its 130 stores in Russia and no will longer have a brand presence there. The company said it will continue to pay its nearly 2,000 Russian employees for six months and help them transition to new jobs.

West pledges sophisticated weaponry to aid Ukraine’s fight

Western allies have promised new, sophisticated weaponry to support Ukraine as it resists Russia’s invasion, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday. Denmark will send Harpoon anti-ship missile systems to help Ukraine defend its Black Sea coastline, Austin said. The missiles will pose a significant threat to Russian ships in the event of an attack on the key port city of Odesa, or an amphibious landing by Russian forces on the Ukrainian coast, he said.

In all, 20 countries pledged military aid to Ukraine at a meeting of allies Monday morning, Austin said. Italy, Greece, Norway and Poland have agreed to send artillery cannons and ammunition, which have been in demand as the war rages in eastern Ukraine.

There have been “serious exchanges of artillery fires over the last several weeks,” Austin said.

Zelenskyy says war will decide ‘if brute force will rule the world’

Countries, large cities and even large companies can stake out a section of Ukraine to lead rebuilding after the war, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video speech to global business and political leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Zelenskyy said the world had reached a “turning point” on freedom.

“This is really the moment when it is decided if brute force will rule the world,” he said. “If so, there is no need for further meetings in Davos.”

Zelensky also urged international corporations to shun Russia and set up shop in Ukraine.

“Set a precedent so that your brands will not be associated with war crimes,” Zelensky said through an interpreter.

Russian POW sentenced to life in prison for killing Ukrainian civilian

The first trial of a Russian soldier for war crimes in Ukraine since the invasion concluded Monday with Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old from Siberia, sentenced to life in prison for premeditated murder and violating international laws for war.

Shishimarin, a captured Russian tank-unit sergeant, fatally shot Oleksandr Shelipov, a 62-year-old civilian, in the head in late February. Shishimarin had pleaded guilty, but his defense had argued he was carrying out a direct order that he initially disobeyed.

Last week Shishimarin had asked Shelipov’s widow, Kateryna, for forgiveness. She said she wanted a life sentence to be handed down, but also that she would be willing to see Shishimarin returned to Russia in an exchange for Ukrainian fighters who surrendered to Russian forces at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

During the trial the three-judge panel heard that Shishimarin was ordered to kill the man so he wouldn’t be able to report them to Ukrainian military authorities. Shishimarin fired his Kalashnikov rifle at the victim through the open window of a car.

“I was nervous about what was going on. I didn’t want to kill,” Shishimarin said at the hearing in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. Judge Serhiy Ahafonov said he did not consider the defendant’s remorse sincere.

Swedish PM cites ‘positive’ call with Erdogan over NATO membership

Negotiations with Turkey on Sweden’s membership to NATO will take more time, but a recent phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was “good and positive,” the Swedish prime minister said Monday. Magdalena Andersson told Swedish official news agency TT she was looking forward to the upcoming negotiations with Ankara. Edrogan has taken issue with Sweden and Finland, citing their alleged support for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK and other groups that Turkey views as terrorists. Andersson said Sweden was one of the first countries that classified the PKK as terrorists.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last week – a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine. Unanimous consent of all NATO members is required for new members. Erdogan has made few references to Finland amid reports that most of Turkey’s grievances are directed at Sweden, which has a large community of Kurdish exiles.

Russian casualty rate high – and rising, British assessment says

In the first three months of its “special military operation,” Russia has likely suffered a similar death toll to that experienced by the Soviet Union during its entire nine-year war in Afghanistan, the British Defense Ministry said in its latest assessment of the war in Ukraine. About 15,000 Russians died in the Afghan war that ended in 1989.

“Poor low-level tactics, limited air cover, a lack of flexibility, and a command approach which is prepared to reinforce failure and repeat mistakes has led to this high casualty rate (in Ukraine), which continues to rise in the Donbas offensive,” the assessment says.

The Russian public has, in the past, “proven sensitive to casualties suffered during wars of choice,” the assessment says. As the death toll rises and the human cost becomes more apparent, public dissatisfaction with the war and a willingness to voice it may grow, it says.

Fighters who surrendered at steel mill to face ‘international tribunal’

The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine says almost 2,500 fighters from the Azovstal steel mill captured by the Russian forces will face “international tribunal” there. Denis Pushilin was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that “at the moment the charter for the tribunal is being worked out.”

Family members of the fighters taken prisoner at the mill have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned to Ukraine.

Ex-Defense Secretary: Russia unlikely to use nuclear weapons

Even with the war in Ukraine going much worse than expected for Russia, the probability of Russian President Vladimir Putin deploying a nuclear weapon is “low but not zero,” former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Robert Gates said Sunday. Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan,” Gates said Russia’s use of a tactical weapon would prompt a strong response from the West.

“The other thing that I hope somebody around Putin is reminding him is that, in that part of the world, and particularly in eastern Ukraine, the winds tend to blow from the west,” Gates said. “If you set off a tactical nuclear weapon in eastern Ukraine, the radiation is going to go into Russia.”

Gates, who served as defense secretary under Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic President Barack Obama from 2006-2011, said the Biden administration should have started arming Ukraine for a conflict with the Russians months earlier. But he gives President Joe Biden high marks for rallying the U.S. allies and assembling a coalition to confront Russia, resisting calls for a no-fly zone – which would require deeper intervention – and for refusing to bite on Putin’s nuclear threats.

Gates pointed out that sanctions from the West and failures on the battlefield have dealt a major blow to Russia and its global standing. “Putin will remain a pariah,” Gates said: “He has put Russia really behind the eight ball economically, militarily, and because now people are going to look at the Russian military and say, ‘You know, this was supposed to be this fantastic military. Well, they give a good parade, but in actual combat, not so hot.'”

Biden, Harris on Russia’s banned list, but not Trump

Russia has permanently barred nearly 1,000 Americans from entering the country in response to the United States’ support of Ukraine in the war, and the list includes numerous elected leaders but conspicuously leaves out a prominent one – former President Donald Trump.

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy were among the 963 banned by Russia, a largely symbolic gesture.

Recent living former presidents like Barack Obama and George W. Bush were not on the banned list, but Trump’s name stands out as he has frequently been accused of being too cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Two days before the Feb. 24 invasion, Trump referred to Putin’s strategy toward Ukraine as “genius” and “savvy.”