Chief Justice John Roberts says Supreme Court went too far in taking the ‘dramatic step’ of overturning Roe v. Wade
Brent D. Griffiths – June 24, 2022
Chief Justice John Roberts said the Supreme Court shouldn’t have overturned Roe v. Wade.
He argued the court’s conservative justices went too far in ending a federal right to abortion.
He added that a “narrower decision” would have been “markedly less unsettling.”
Chief Justice John Roberts made it abundantly clear that he felt the Supreme Court’s five other conservative justices went too far in their decision on Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade and end a federal right to an abortion.
“The Court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system—regardless of how you view those cases,” Roberts wrote in his concurring opinion, released on Friday along with the majority opinion. “A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case.”
Roberts’ view, though, became largely moot in the face of the bloc of other Republican-appointed justices, including President Donald Trump’s three picks, Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court’s majority opinion, which overturned nearly 50 years of precedent holding that abortion rights are part of a constitutional right to privacy. As he had in a leaked draft opinion, Alito torched the landmark 1973 decision in Roe.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”
Roberts has long cut a reputation as a justice who would prefer that the court more directly address the questions before it as opposed to authoring sweeping opinions that go down in the history books. It has long been thought that this principle animated his decision to preserve the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, better known as Obamacare, in the 2012 ruling that protected President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
Roberts made clear in his concurring opinion that he would have upheld Mississippi’s near-complete ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy — the law at the center of the case decided on Friday — but he stressed that overturning Roe and the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey would have profound effects. Roberts called such an action a “dramatic step” that Mississippi did not want the court to take. (The state changed its view of the case after Barrett was confirmed to the court.)
“Both the Court’s opinion and the dissent display a relentless freedom from doubt on the legal issue that I cannot share,” Roberts wrote. “I am not sure, for example, that a ban on terminating a pregnancy from the moment of conception must be treated the same under the Constitution as a ban after fifteen weeks.”
Roberts’ preferred decision would still have significantly curtailed abortion rights. Upholding Mississippi’s law without overturning Roe would have limited the concept of fetal viability that the court made the center of its ruling in Casey. Roberts said he agreed that the court erred in its original decision in Roe, but he added that the justices did not need to gut the decision “all the way down to the studs.”
Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, sends abortion back to the states
Jon Ward, Chief National Correspondent – June 24, 2022
Roe has fallen, and the fight over abortion in America will now rage on into a new and possibly even more polarizing and divisive chapter.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to abortion, in one of the most momentous and controversial decisions of the past few decades.
The court’s conservative majority overturned the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade by a vote of 5-4. Roe had stood as one of the most debated rulings in the court’s history: revered by many women’s rights advocates and reviled by conservatives who believe abortion kills a human life.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” read the majority opinion.
Under Roe and the court’s 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, states had not been allowed to enact bans on most abortions until after a pregnancy had reached the threshold of fetal viability, when it is believed that an unborn child could survive outside the womb. That viability threshold is about 23 or 24 weeks.
The abortion issue will now be decided state by state. Abortion will not be outlawed across the country. Some states will now expand access to the procedure.
“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens,” read the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
In at least 15 states abortion will be illegal. Most of these states — across the South, the Midwest and the Mountain West — have “trigger” laws in place that will now ban the procedure. The new laws will take effect within a few days in some places, and within a month in others.
Three other states — Georgia, Ohio and South Carolina — are likely to ban abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy. Two other states — Arizona and Florida — have passed 15-week bans this year.
That is a total of 20 states banning or limiting abortion within the first trimester or early in the second.
But others may join them. Iowa currently limits abortion after 22 weeks, and this month the state’s highest court said there is no right to abortion in Iowa’s Constitution. Republican lawmakers in the state are likely to try now to ban the procedure.
And so there are about 20 states, and the District of Columbia, where abortion is likely to remain widely available — and fairly well along into a pregnancy.
President Biden, a supporter of abortion rights, is limited in what he can do in response to the ruling. There are marginal changes he can make to expand access through the Food and Drug Administration and through Medicaid.
Conversely, the overall impact on abortion rates may not be as dramatic as anti-abortion activists might be hoping for, which is likely to lead to the next round of political skirmishes over the issue.
“Absolute bans in red states probably won’t have the effect that the right-to-life movement expects … especially if blue states step up abortion funding, and especially given the difficulty of eliminating access to abortion medication,” wrote Mary Ziegler, a historian and attorney who has written five books about abortion law and politics, including “Dollars for Life,” which was released this month. “The question becomes what happens then.”
“Some conservative lawmakers will likely respond by trying to stop interstate travel for abortion or fighting for a nationwide ban — steps designed to eliminate abortion in progressive states,” she wrote.
Last December, when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Dobbs case, Ziegler made the point even more sharply: “The right-to-life movement is aiming for the recognition of personhood and the outlawing of every abortion, nationwide. Roe is just the beginning,” she said then.
However, Justice Brett Kavanaugh signaled during those arguments that he does not believe the court can enact a nationwide ban. Kavanaugh, who was confirmed to the court in 2018, described the state of Mississippi as arguing that “because the Constitution is neutral, that this court should be scrupulously neutral on the question of abortion.”
In his concurring opinion in the court’s final decision, Kavanaugh made this point even more explicitly.
“Because the Constitution is neutral on the issue of abortion, this Court also must be scrupulously neutral. The nine unelected Members of this Court do not possess the constitutional authority to override the democratic process and to decree either a pro-life or a pro-choice abortion policy for all 330 million people in the United States,” Kavanaugh wrote.
Since Chief Justice John Roberts wrote his own concurring opinion saying he supported a 15-week ban but did not support throwing out a right to abortion entirely, the court does not currently have a majority of judges who might even be open to enacting a nationwide ban on abortion.
Then, in early May, a draft of the court’s opinion in Dobbs was leaked to a Politico reporter. Politico also reported that a majority of justices were prepared to rule that Roe and Casey were wrongly decided, and that states should decide the issue.
It was not known for sure, however, that the court’s ruling would emerge in the same form as the leaked draft. However, the final decision that was released was largely the same.
Roe, Alito wrote in the final opinion, was “egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided.”
“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” he wrote.
The dissenting opinion said that under Roe and Casey, the court had “struck a balance” between Americans with “profoundly different views about the ‘moral[ity]’ of ‘terminating a pregnancy, even in its earliest stage.’”
“Today, the Court discards that balance. It says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of,” the dissent said.
“Some States have enacted laws extending to all forms of abortion procedure, including taking medication in one’s own home. They have passed laws without any exceptions for when the woman is the victim of rape or incest. Under those laws, a woman will have to bear her rapist’s child or a young girl her father’s — no matter if doing so will destroy her life.
“… Most threatening of all, no language in today’s decision stops the Federal Government from prohibiting abortions nationwide, once again from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest,” the dissent said.
The liberal justices also expressed grave concern that other individual rights, to contraception and to “same-sex intimacy and marriage,” may be under threat from the conservative majority.
Now that the court has thrown Roe out, the American debate may become even more contentious, as the legal and political battles shift to a kaleidoscope of state legislatures and courts.
“This decision shows a branch of government that is so out of touch with the country and any sense of human dignity,” the WNBA players association said in a statement less than two hours after the Court officially ruled on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Sue Bird tweeted that she was “gutted.” Her team, the Seattle Storm, said they were “furious and ready to fight.”
The WNBPA statement continued: “This ruling provides a treacherous pathway to abortion bans that reinforce economic, social and political inequalities and could lead to higher rates of maternal mortality while eviscerating rights to reproductive freedom for everybody.”
The NWSL players association also “strongly condemned” the decision — “a decision that effectively takes away a person’s right to make decisions about their own body, a basic human right at the core of every aspect of life,” the NWSLPA said in a statement later Friday afternoon.
Megan Rapinoe delivers emotional response, call to action
Individual soccer players also spoke out against the ruling while in camp with the U.S. women’s national team. On a previously-scheduled Zoom call with reporters Friday afternoon, midfielder Lindsey Horan said she was “still a little bit shocked,” and called it a “step backwards for our country.”
Forward Megan Rapinoe, who was not originally slated to meet with reporters, asked to speak in light of the Court’s ruling, and wiped away tears as she described a “disheartening,” “infuriating” and “scary day.”
In an unscripted opening statement that lasted more than nine minutes, she stressed that the decision will hit various groups of marginalized women most forcefully.
“We know that this will disproportionately affect poor women, Black women, Brown women, immigrants, women in abusive relationships, women who have been raped, women and girls who have been raped by family members — [or] who, you know what, maybe just didn’t make the best choice,” she said.
“And that’s no reason to be forced to have a pregnancy. It will completely exacerbate so many of the existing inequalities that we have in our country. It doesn’t keep not one single person safer. It doesn’t keep not one single child safer, certainly. And it does not keep one single — inclusive term — woman safer. We know that the lack of abortion [rights] does not stop people from having abortions, it stops people from having safe abortions.”
“I absolutely think gay rights are under attack, I absolutely think we will see legislation pop up state by state by state that will eventually come to this radical court. I have zero faith that my rights will be upheld by the court. I have faith in our country, and I have faith in people, and I have faith in the voters. And if you ever needed a f*cking motivation to vote, to get involved — quite literally, people’s lives depend on it. Actual lives. We’re talking life and death, and also your life in terms of, what does it mean to even be alive? If you can’t be your full self, what the f*ck is the point?”
She also explained why she doesn’t view the ruling as “pro-life,” pointing to other areas — such as healthcare — that will be affected by the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I just can’t understate how sad, and how cruel this is. I think the cruelty is the point. Because this is not pro-life by any means. This way of thinking, or political belief, is coupled with a complete lack of motivation around gun laws, it comes with pro-death penalty, it comes with anti-healthcare, anti-prenatal care, anti-childcare, anti-pre-K, anti-food assistance, anti-welfare, anti-education, anti-maternity leave, anti-paternity leave.
“This is not pro-life. And it’s very frustrating and disheartening, and frankly just infuriating to hear that be the reason that people are wanting to end abortion rights, and end this vital aspect of a woman’s — not only healthcare and general basic safety in this country, but her bodily autonomy, and the right to freedom, and the pursuit of happiness and liberty, is being assaulted in this instance. And it’s just incredibly disheartening.”
She concluded with a call to men who’ve “been silent” on abortion rights. “Stand up,” she said. “Say something.”
She pointed out that the decision was made by a majority-male court, and that the many systems and laws that discriminate against women in the U.S. were created by men.
“You are allowing a violent and consistent onslaught on the autonomy of women’s bodies, on women’s rights, on women’s minds, on our hearts, on our souls,” Rapinoe said when asked what her message to men, as a monolith, would be. “We live in a country that forever tries to chip away at what you have enabled, at what you have been privileged enough to feel your entire life.
“You also have the opportunity to do better every single day. You have the opportunity to show up, make your voices heard, whether that’s in the workplace, on a media zoom, in stadiums, in your family, the way that you vote. It is not a women’s issue. It is everyone’s issue.”
Other prominent athletes speak out on Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade
Several athletes past and present referenced the timing of the decision, one day after the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the watershed law that helped spark a decades-long women’s sports boom. “Yesterday we celebrated Title IX,” Orlando Magic guard Devin Cannady tweeted. “Today we tell these same women that they don’t have the freedom to make decisions about their own body.
“I’m sick for you, I stand with you,” Cannady wrote. “This country needs to be better, this sh*t is so backwards.”
Several teams and leagues responded with incisive statements, including the NBA and WNBA, which vowed to ensure access to reproductive health care for their employees.
“The NBA and WNBA believe that women should be able to make their own decisions concerning their health care and future, and we believe that freedom must be protected,” the joint statement reads. “We will continue to advocate for gender and health equity, including ensuring our employees have access to reproductive health care regardless of their location.”
In the NWSL, the Kansas City Current said they were “heartbroken.” The OL Reign said they “fiercely oppose the decision.” Gotham FC said it “vehemently objects to any rollback of Roe v. Wade and believes reproductive rights are human rights.”
The NWSL released its own statement, saying the ruling denies individuals “liberty and equality.”
“The Supreme Court’s ruling today denies individuals in this country the full liberty and equality that is the cornerstone of a just society. Reproductive rights are human rights. Until every individual has the same freedoms as their neighbor, our work is not done. We will continue to make our voices heard. The NWSL is more than just a soccer league; we are a collective who will stand up every day for what is right.”
While most strong statements came from women’s leagues and teams, the Seattle Sounders of MLS said they “believe in the right to autonomy over our bodies, and the right to choose.” Their goalkeeper, Stefan Frei, tweeted that “our country is actively moving in the wrong direction.”
Orlando City, in a joint statement with the NWSL’s Orlando Pride, said that this autonomy, and access to safe reproductive healthcare, were “basic, nonnegotiable human rights, and our club deeply objects to today’s Supreme Court decision.”
“Today’s reversal of Roe v. Wade is one that will not only put many at risk, disproportionately those in BIPOC and underserved communities, but is one that opens the door for future discrimination and civil rights violations of other marginalized groups,” the two Orlando clubs continued.
“Defending human rights is a battle that we will continue to fight, both for those impacted today, and for those who may be targeted in the future.”
Abortion protections have been in place since the court’s decision in 1973, and polls show roughly two-thirds of Americans think it should stay that way. Yet the explosive opinionin Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization invalidates Roe and leaves abortion laws up to states. About half of states plan to partially or fully ban abortions, which is bound to generate storms of protest.
There will also be stark financial implications for many women who want to end a pregnancy but find they can’t. “What we’re going to see is a shock to poverty and inequality for poor women, Black women, young women in the Deep South,” economist Caitlin Myers told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview, before the June 24 decision came down. “What we will see are poor, vulnerable women, many of whom are already parenting, having children that they do not feel prepared for and suffering financial shocks as a result.”
Myers organized more than 150 economists and other researchers who filed an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson, which began in Mississippi in 2018 when the state legislature banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. There were prompt legal challenges, and the Supreme Court heard the case last December. With the court overturning Roe, it won’t make abortion illegal everywhere, but will leave the decision up to states. Some states are ready to impose bans much stricter than the Mississippi law.
While there are obvious moral arguments against abortion, it may also be morally dubious to ban abortions and effectively impose financial hardship on reluctant mothers. Research shows that abortion protections afforded by Roe have helped reduce teenage motherhood by 34% and teen marriage by 20%. That has allowed more young women to complete high school, attend college and establish professional careers. People who go further in school have higher lifetime earnings, in general. By most metrics, the improved outcomes are more pronounced for Black women than for whites, which suggests Black women would suffer more from a new set of bans than white women would.
“Some of the financial instability that these women experience, it is severe, it can last for years,” Myers told Yahoo Finance. “We do see some evidence of recovery, particularly at about five years out. But then there are other components of the shock, for instance, shocks to the probability that these women complete their desired education, that they finish high school, that they finish college, that they enter a professional occupation. Those shocks appear to be much more permanent. And they can have long run effects on the probability that women live in poverty.”
That may not sound like a lot, but women who can’t afford to travel out of state are generally in tough financial circumstances already. They’re unlikely to be able to afford $10,000 or more per year for child care so they can work after the child is born. They’re at risk of falling into or remaining in the poverty trap Roe has helped some women avoid.
States that do enact abortion bans can put programs into place that would help keep new mothers afloat, such as child-care and health-care subsidies and more generous welfare programs. But they seem unlikely to, given that virtually all the states likely to enact bans have Republican governors or legislatures that tend to oppose well-funded social programs. Of the 12 states that have refused to expand Medicaid, as the Affordable Care Act allows them to do, for instance, 10 also have abortion bans on the books or in the works, including Florida and Texas, the most populous anti-abortion states. Abortion opponents who think they’ve won a historic victory should consider the women who will lose from the decision.
Zelenskyy: Ukraine’s defense will be as powerful as Israel’s
Roman Petrenko – June 23, 2022
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine insists that after winning the war Ukraine will work towards becoming a truly European state – more liberal than before in many respects, but with a powerful security and defence system akin to Israel’s.
Source: Zelenskyy during a meeting with the Israeli university community
Details: Zelenskyy noted that many Ukrainians have already learned how to repulse an aggressor. In the future, Ukraine will work to widen the participation of Ukrainian citizens in the country’s defence.
Quote from Zelenskyy: “This concerns not only the security of our borders, but also internal security. With neighbours like ours, we can expect bombardments, cruise missiles and who knows what else at any moment. So the air defence system of our country has to be improved.
We will build a European country, which will be a member of the European Union. But with a defence system as powerful as that of Israel.”
Earlier: Oleksii Reznikov, Minister of Defence of Ukraine, announced that the first shipment of HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, a light multiple rocket launcher supplied to Ukraine by the US – ed.] systems has arrived in Ukraine.
I know exactly why Uvalde police didn’t rush that classroom. And who can blame them?
June 23, 2022
Officers had reasonable fears
I don’t need to see the body camera footage to understand why police officers in Uvalde waited more than an hour before confronting a gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers. They obviously feared for their own lives, knowing that they’d be facing a military-style assault rifle capable of shooting through cars, doors and walls.
The failure of police in Uvalde must be shared with every police union in the country. They’ve stood by and done nothing to protect their officers from being outgunned. Police departments across the country should go on strike and demand that Congress ban assault weapons with high-capacity magazines to ensure the safety of officers as well as every child they’ve sworn to protect.
Boris Johnson says the Russian army might soon run out of soldiers and weapons and lose its ‘forward momentum’ in Ukraine
Cheryl Teh – June 23, 2022
Boris Johnson told European media outlets that Russia might soon run out of weapons and soldiers.
British intelligence on the Ukraine war suggests Russia may lose its “forward momentum,” per Johnson.
Johnson said he intends to ask the G7 to aid Ukraine in a counter-offensive with more equipment.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that he believes Russia will soon lose momentum in its war with Ukraine.
Speaking to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Johnson said that he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army was suffering heavy losses of soldiers and equipment just to gain ground in Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Citing intelligence reports from the British defense forces, Johnson told the outlet that he believed the Russian onslaught in Ukraine would likely lose steam in the coming few months.
“Our defense intelligence service believes, however, that in the next few months, Russia could come to a point at which there is no longer any forward momentum because it has exhausted its resources,” he said, per Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
“Then we must help the Ukrainians to reverse the dynamic. I will argue for this at the Group of Seven summit,” he said, per the outlet.
Johnson also told Sueddeutsche Zeitung that he thought it was important for the Ukrainian army to be supported in launching a counter-offensive if it is able to do so.
“This is their crisis. They are the victims of Putin’s aggression, they must decide what they want to do. But it is absolutely clear if you go to Ukraine, if you talk to the Ukrainians, and if you talk to [Ukrainian President Volodymr] Zelenskyy. you will come away with the overwhelming view that the Ukrainians will not concede their territory,” he said, per the outlet.
Johnson added that he thought a win for Ukraine would include Russian forces being repelled from the areas they invaded and for Ukraine to “regain the status quo” before the invasion on February 24, per Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
“Ukraine must win, we agree on that. The unity of the West is far more conspicuous than the divisions,” Johnson told the outlet.
War for eastern Ukraine reaches ‘fearful climax’ as European Union approves Ukraine candidacy
Nabih Bulos, Jaweed Kaleem, Tracy Wilkinson – June 23, 2022
Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers appeared to be all but encircled as Russian troops advanced Thursday around two strategically important cities in eastern Ukraine in what a senior Ukrainian official called a “fearful climax” of the battle for the Donbas, signaling that the fall of a significant part of the region was imminent.
The comment, from Ukrainian presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych, highlighted the stark contrast between the battlefield and growing international diplomacy in support of Ukraine as the war approaches its fourth month.
Millions of people are displaced, cities are in ruin and air-raid sirens have become a terrifying part of everyday life across wide swaths of the nation even as Western support for it grows. Meeting Thursday in Brussels, European Union representatives acting with unusual speed granted Ukraine status as an EU candidate. The idea that once faced significant hurdles in the bloc gained greater appeal amid the protracted war and economic sanctions against Russia.
The decision does not guarantee admission to the EU, and the candidacy process could take years. Ukraine will need to fulfill economic and political requirements and gain unanimous approval from the EU’s 27 members. Still, giving Ukraine a candidacy position — which the EU also granted tiny Moldova, another former Soviet republic that borders Ukraine — is a boost to Kyiv’s aspirations to be part of the West and a snub to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This is “a good day for Europe,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded via Twitter: “Ukraine’s future is within the EU.”
Zelensky, who had called the EU meeting a “crucial moment” for his nation, said in an overnight address that the war was reaching a tipping point and repeated pleas for more help from Western powers.
“We must free our land and achieve victory, but more quickly, a lot more quickly,” Zelensky said early Thursday as he asked for bigger and faster armaments.
The U.S. and other Western countries have increased shipments of heavy weaponry to Ukraine. Washington announced another $450-million package Thursday that will include long- or medium-range rocket systems, tactical vehicles, grenade launchers, machine guns and aquatic patrol boats, the latest in approximately $6 billion in U.S. equipment supplied to Ukraine since the Russian invasion.
Still, Zelensky and Kyiv’s military officials say Moscow’s military superiority is hard to match in what has become a sustained artillery battle in the east, where Putin’s forces are backed by separatists. Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzianyk estimated this week that Russian fire often outnumbers Ukrainian fire 6 to 1.
“There were massive air and artillery strikes in Donbas. The occupier’s goal here is unchanged. They want to destroy the entire Donbas step by step,” Zelensky said in his overnight video address.
The president said, “Russian troops aim to turn any city into Mariupol,” the major port city that Moscow overtook last month after relentless pounding.
Zelensky is scheduled to appear virtually at summits this and next week of the Group of 7 major economies and, separately, of NATO’s 30 countries. Major points on both summits’ agendas will be Ukraine and ways to continue to arm it and ease its humanitarian crisis.
The Russian advance around the sister cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk underscored the do-or-die strategy the Ukrainians have adopted for their defense.
Ukrainians have slowed Moscow’s push and Russians have incurred losses as they gain ground in the Donbas. But the cost has been devastating and has often left Ukrainian defenders with no path of escape.
In Lysychansk, Ukrainian personnel said Thursday that the Russian army had made gains along the Seversky Donets River with apparent aims to surround Lysychansk from the north and the south. That would leave leave thousands of Ukrainian soldiers trapped. The river separates Lysychansk from Severodonetsk.
It was not clear Thursday if the Russian encirclement around the cities had fully closed. One aid worker who was delivering assistance to Lysychansk said that he could still make it from the west into the city but that the Russians were pressing closer to cut off access. He said Russians had already overrun suburbs south of Lysychansk.
Alexander, a special forces police instructor in Lysychansk, acknowledged the situation was bad. “It’s hard, we understand,” he said Thursday. “But we stand.”
The war, now largely concentrated in the east, has also continued elsewhere in the Donbas in addition to other regions.
Shelling reported overnight in the second-largest city, Kharkiv, and towns around it left 10 people dead, said regional governor Oleh Sinegubov. The Ukrainian army — whose counteroffensives in the south have reportedly made gains around the Russian-held city of Kherson — said Thursday that three cruise missiles hit nearby Mykolaiv. The army also said two missiles were shot down near the coastal city of Odesa.
In the west, Lviv has remained among the major cities least affected. The city is a key route for refugees and international workers on their way to Poland, and Lviv’s shops were open and its streets were bustling. At a crossing at the Ukraine-Poland border, the commercial shipping truck lane was crowded while regular travelers came in quickly.
Once through the border, Ukrainian soldiers on their way to training made their way to a bus where an army officer checked off names from a list. The Polish end of the crossing was lined with hundreds of cars waiting to enter Ukraine that formed a miles-long queue.
It was a stark contrast to Ukraine’s east, where blacked-out ghost towns and the disquieting silence after air-raid sirens are most of what can be seen.
Bulos reported from Lviv and Kaleem from London. Wilkinson reported from Washington.
Distracted Putin Is About to Tumble Into a New Bloodbath, Officials Warn
Kristina Jovanovski – June 22, 2022
ISTANBUL—Russia’s distraction over the war in Ukraine has forced its military presence to decrease in areas that may soon face a Turkish offensive, Syrian opposition officials told The Daily Beast this week.
The officials, including in the opposition Syrian National Army (SNA), said Moscow has withdrawn from several areas in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border, including Tal Rifaat, where Ankara has said it would carry out a military operation to combat the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers a terrorist group.
The SNA, a coalition of rebel groups backed by Turkey, would take part in the possible operation, according to Yusuf Hammoud, an officer and former spokesperson for the SNA.
Hammoud, who is based in northwestern Afrin, Syria, said Russia has decreased its presence in areas around Aleppo and Tal Rifaat.
“It will make it easier for Turkey to win this war,” Hammoud told The Daily Beast.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that his country will carry out a military operation in the northwestern cities of Tal Rifaat and Manbij near the Turkish border to create a “safe zone” where 1 million Syrian refugees could return.
Tensions between Syrian refugees and locals in Turkey have been rising, putting domestic pressure on Erdogan, whose popularity has declined amid an economic crisis a year before national elections are due.
If there is an attempt to take these areas, it risks a direct confrontation between NATO member Turkey and groups allied with Russia.
Beyond engaging in conflict with possibly several armed groups, an incursion could also have a heavy humanitarian toll, leading to the death or displacement of people who have gone through 11 years of Syria’s civil war.
Erdogan has not said when the offensive will begin.
“Like I always say, we’ll come down on them suddenly one night. And we must,” the Turkish president stated at the end of May, according to the Associated Press.
Ankara insists the YPG, which has cooperated with the U.S. in its fight against ISIS, is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey, leading to tens of thousands of deaths.
Turkey, the U.S., and the EU consider the PKK a terrorist organization. Ankara has carried out four previous incursions into Syria, including against the YPG.
Turkey’s presence in Syria has put Ankara at odds both with its NATO allies and powerful competitors, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, who backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
While Erdogan has continued support for opposition rebel groups, he has had to placate the competing interests of Russia, a nearby nuclear power with a permanent UN security council seat and a crucial source of energy and tourism to Turkey.
After Moscow put economic sanctions on Turkey for downing a fighter jet in 2015 that Ankara said had violated its airspace, Russia said Erdogan had apologized for the incident.
If the Kremlin now tacitly accepts a Turkish incursion into areas it or its allies controlled, it could be seen as a sign of how the invasion of Ukraine has overstretched the Russian military and it can no longer enforce its interests or its allies, even against a country with less geopolitical weight and military power.
The Turkish government did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on the possible operation.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price has expressed concern over the possible operation, stating it would undermine regional stability, and put U.S. troops and the fight against ISIS at risk.
Still, Moscow-based analyst Kerim Has, who specializes in Turkish-Russian relations, said that Russia could give Turkey a green light to launch an offensive, despite its public comments.
Has stated that if Turkey, or groups it backs, take control over Tal Rifaat, that could lead to an attempt to take nearby Aleppo, controlled by Russia’s ally, Assad.
Has believes Russia’s war in Ukraine has made Moscow more dependent on Ankara, a NATO member that has not imposed sanctions on Russia and which could serve the Kremlin’s interests by delaying NATO membership for Sweden and Finland.
“Mr. Edrdgan’s hands are stronger now in regards to Russia compared to four months ago,” Has said.
He added that since Russia would want Erdogan to win the upcoming election, Moscow could allow the incursion to boost the Turkish president’s popularity among his nationalist base.
Hammoud, with the SNA, said that Iranian forces were taking over some of the areas the Russians have retreated from.
Ahmad Misto, a civil leader in northwestern Syria with a brigade in the SNA, stated that Iranian forces have taken control of areas around Aleppo and Idlib province in the northwest where Russia has withdrawn.
“The Russians still have political power over the [Syrian] regime but the Iranians have it military-wise on the frontlines,” Misto said.
He added that the pullback of Russian forces happened about one to one-and-a-half months after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mohammad Ismail, a senior leader of the Kurdish National Council, based in Qamishli, northeastern Syria, said the increased presence of forces from Iran would provide more motivation for Turkey to go on the offensive.
“Some [areas] have noticed a Russian withdrawal and it was filled by Iranian forces instead. If Iran is increasing their influence, then also Turkey has to get in,” he said.
Turkey and Iran are long-time rivals, battling for influence in the region and taking opposing sides in Syria where Tehran backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Russian air force’s struggles in Ukraine are surprising because they’re fighting ‘their own systems,’ top US Air Force general says
Christopher Woody – June 22, 2022
Russia’s inability to achieve air superiority is one of the biggest surprises of the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s air force has been unable to ground Ukrainian aircraft or overcome Ukrainian air defenses.
That’s surprising because they use some of the same equipment, Gen. Charles Brown Jr. said Wednesday.
The Russian air force’s failure to gain control of the air over Ukraine and its struggles to operate effectively against Ukrainian air defenses are among the biggest surprises in the four-month war.
Russia’s failure to ground Ukraine’s aircraft and to overcome Ukrainian anti-aircraft weapons contributed to the faltering of Moscow’s initial ground offensive — an unusual outcome because the Russians themselves use many of the same weapons, according to Gen. Charles Brown Jr., the chief of staff of the US Air Force.
“I think for me it’s surprising for the Russians because the systems they’re going against are their own systems. They should know them fairly well and how to defeat them,” Brown said Wednesday at the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington DC.
“It kind of begs a real question for me: How come they don’t understand their own systems and how they might defeat their own systems?” Brown added.
Like other former Soviet republics, Ukraine still uses Soviet-origin military hardware. Among its fixed-wing fleet are Su-24 and Su-25 attack aircraft and MiG-29 and Su-27 fighter jets.
Ukraine also operates Soviet- or Russian-origin air-defense systems and missiles, some of which were donated by neighboring countries. It has also shot down Russian aircraft with the Soviet-designed S-300 air-defense system, the vulnerabilities of which should be well known to Russian mission planners and pilots. Ukrainians have also captured Russian anti-aircraft weapons.
Like the Soviet-made aircraft operated by some NATO member militaries, Ukraine’s jets and helicopters are aging and finding spare parts and expertise to keep them in operation has grown harder as time passes and tensions have risen.
The absence of large-scale Russian air operations in Ukraine perplexed observers and led analysts to conclude that Russia’s air force was not as capable as believed. Russian failure to suppress and destroy Ukrainian air defenses is also seen as a major shortcoming that has reduced Russian ground forces’ ability to seize territory rapidly.
In his remarks Wednesday, Brown contrasted Russia’s performance in Ukraine with the US military’s emphasis on achieving air superiority, pointing to US air operations against Iraq during the first Gulf War of 1991.
“We were able to take out many of the surface-to-air defense systems to clear areas so then we could provide air superiority over the areas where the ground forces were operating,” Brown said. “That’s not the way the Russians have operated. They really haven’t looked at suppressing air defense.
Russian air power has moved closer to where Russian troops have superiority on the ground, Brown added. “They kind of stuck to where they were overhead of where their ground forces were [and] wouldn’t venture very far because of what the Ukrainians were able to do with their air defenses.”
Brown credited the Ukrainians for being “fairly dynamic” with their air-defense systems, which have been bolstered by thousands of portable weapons, including US-made Stinger missiles, supplied by NATO countries.
Being dynamic has “made it more difficult” for the Russians, Brown said. “If you can’t do dynamic targeting very well, you’re going to have a hard time hitting moving targets. That’s something I think we do fairly well and it’s something we’re going to continue to work on.”
While losses on both sides are unclear, Ukraine said in mid-May that it had destroyed 200 Russian aircraft.
Russia appears to have reduced its ambitions in Ukraine in recent weeks, focusing on operations in eastern Ukraine and using bombardment by long-range artillery and other weapons to overwhelm Ukrainian positions.
Eastern Ukraine’s geography is less hospitable to Ukrainian aircraft and air defenses and will likely allow Russia to gain some local air superiority, but shortages of weapons and equipment for close air support and a lack of training for that complicated mission will limit Russia’s ability to exploit that advantage, according to Justin Bronk, an expert on air warfare at British defense think tank RUSI.