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Putin Annexes Ukrainian Regions while Italy Elects its First Far-Right Party Since WWII

Russia raises the stakes in Ukraine amid battlefield defeats while a political party and premier with neo-fascist roots takes control in Italy.
Putin Annexes Ukrainian Regions while Italy Elects its First Far-Right Party Since WWII

President Vladimir Putin declared on Friday that some 40,000 square miles of eastern and southern Ukraine would become part of Russia — an annexation broadly denounced by the West, but a signal that the Russian leader is raising the stakes in the seven-month-old war, reports the New York Times.

What to Know About Russia’s Annexation of Four Ukrainian Provinces (New York Times)

Excerpt from the New York Times: The Russian leader spoke in the chandeliered St. George’s Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace — the same place where he declared in March 2014 that the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea was part of Russia. "This is the will of millions of people," he said before signing decrees to declare four Ukrainian regions part of Russia. "This is their right, their inalienable right." Russia says it is annexing four provinces — Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — in the south and the east of Ukraine where intense fighting continues. Moscow hastily put the plan in motion after a humiliating battlefield defeat drove the Russian Army out of another province, Kharkiv, in early September and the Ukrainian advance appeared to be gathering force. The move sets the stage for the Kremlin to assert that it is defending, not attacking, in the war in Ukraine — and so it is justified to use any military means necessary, a thinly veiled nuclear threat. Annexing the provinces could be used as a rationale for drafting Ukrainian men living there to fight other Ukrainians in the war, helping to solve a shortage of troops in the Russian Army.
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In a related story from Politico, western allies are rushing to formulate responses to the Kremlin’s pending forced annexation of parts of eastern Ukraine expected to be unveiled Friday, as Vladimir Putin pushes to consolidate dwindling gains in his faltering war.

“It is a land grab. It’s a steal. And it is another craven, brazen tactic by Vladimir Putin to test the West’s support for Ukraine and we are having none of it," said Senator Richard Blumenthal.

‘It's a land grab’: U.S. scrambles to respond ahead of Putin's annexation claim (Politico)

Excerpt from Politico: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) unveiled legislation Thursday that would cut off military and economic aid to any country that recognizes the "annexed" territories as part of Russia. The legislation would also pressure the Biden administration to swiftly punish Russia, and could be attached to the annual defense policy bill in the coming weeks. "We are dealing with Hurricane Putin, for the lack of a better word," Graham told reporters. "He’s trying to rewrite the map of Europe. He’s trying to do by force of arms what he can’t do by process." A senior administration official told Politico, "This also doesn’t change our thinking on the outlook. We’ve always been prepared for the long haul, and the Russians have as well."
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UPDATE: President Zelensky of Ukraine responded to Russia’s claims to have annexed four Ukrainian provinces by announcing Ukraine is applying for membership in NATO. "We are taking our decisive step by signing Ukraine’s application for accelerated accession to NATO," Mr. Zelensky said in a statement posted on the presidential website. He said Ukraine was already cooperating closely with NATO and argued that Ukraine’s army has already helped secure alliance members in Europe against Russian aggression by inflicting battlefield defeats on the Russian army in Ukraine. (New York Times)

Meanwhile, the Brothers of Italy party, which won the most votes in Italy’s national election, has its roots in the post-World War II neo-fascist Italian Social Movement. Keeping the movement’s most potent symbol, the tricolor flame, Giorgia Meloni has taken Brothers of Italy from a fringe far-right group to Italy’s biggest party, writes the Associated Press.

How a party of neo-fascist roots won big in Italy (Associated Press)

Excerpt from the Associated Press: A century after Benito Mussolini’s 1922 March on Rome, which brought the fascist dictator to power, Meloni is poised to lead Italy’s first far-right-led government since World War II and Italy’s first woman premier. Meloni co-founded the party in 2012, naming it after the first words of the Italian national anthem. "A new party for an old tradition," she wrote. Brothers of Italy would only take in single-digit results in its first decade. The European Parliament election in 2019 brought Brothers of Italy 6.4% — a figure that Meloni says "changed everything." As the leader of the only party in opposition during Mario Draghi’s 2021-2022 national unity government, her popularity soared, with Sunday’s election netting it 26%. In general, the party’s neo-fascist roots appear to be of more concern abroad than at home. Some historians explain that by noting a certain historical amnesia here and Italians’ general comfort living with the relics of fascism as evidence that Italy never really repudiated the Fascist Party and Mussolini in the same way Germany repudiated National Socialism and Hitler.
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