Fires and explosions have been reported at military targets inside Russia and Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, in the latest of a string of apparent sabotage missions deep into Russian-held territory, reports the Guardian. Crimea is a key hub for the Russian invasion and the UK Ministry of Defense said Russia’s military leaders were likely to be "increasingly concerned" about the surge of setbacks there, even if Moscow has dismissed them as local "sabotage".
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on Wednesday that panicking Russians have realized that Crimea is "not a place for them" and hinted more attacks could lie ahead. He urged Ukrainians to stay away from enemy command posts and logistics bases. "Do not approach the military objects of the Russian army," he said.
Fires and explosions reported at military targets in Russia and Crimea (Guardian)
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Excerpt from the Guardian: Two Russian villages were evacuated after a blaze at a munitions depot near the Ukrainian border in Belgorod province. “An ammunition depot caught fire near the village of Timonovo”, less than 50km from the border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a statement. At least four explosions hit near the major Belbek airbase, north of Sevastopol in the occupied Crimean peninsula. The pro-Russia governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said: “There is no damage. No one was hurt.” Air defenses were also activated near Kerch, the city at the Crimean end of a bridge to mainland Russia, which is a strategically vital supply route that many in Ukraine would like to see destroyed. Local media said a Ukrainian drone was shot down. The overnight incidents on Thursday came soon after devastating explosions at a major airbase and a munitions depot in Crimea. After those attacks, many Russians raced to leave the peninsula, with a record 38,000 cars crossing on Tuesday.
According to Politico, attacking Crimea is fair game for Ukraine — and it has America’s support to hit the Russians there. Kyiv was behind the three explosions this past week on the Russian-annexed peninsula, per a CNN-obtained Ukrainian government document, including a large blast at Saki airbase that destroyed several of Moscow’s warplanes.
U.S. approves of Ukraine striking Russian-occupied Crimea (Politico)
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Excerpt from Politico: No Ukrainian official has yet publicly admitted to Kyiv’s involvement in the Crimea campaign. But its Defense Minister told Voice of America Wednesday that Ukraine hasn’t ruled out striking the occupied territory with U.S.-provided weapons. “If we are talking today about the de-occupation of temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine where the enemy is, then, correspondingly, we have no such restrictions,” he said, emphasizing that there still would be no attacks inside the legally recognized boundaries of Russia. A senior administration official told NatSec Daily the U.S. supports strikes on Crimea if Kyiv deems them necessary. “We don't select targets, of course, and everything we've provided is for self-defense purposes. Any target they choose to pursue on sovereign Ukrainian soil is by definition self defense,” this person said. After your host checked to see if the administration considered the peninsula sovereign Ukrainian territory, the official replied: “Crimea is Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, Iraqi political leaders are struggling to form a government, their country sinking deeper and deeper into political paralysis in the face of growing drought, crippling corruption and crumbling infrastructure. And now, there is a scramble for power as Iraq’s main political factions vie for the upper hand, writes the New York Times.
"We’re looking at the beginning of the end of the American-backed political order in Iraq,” said Robert Ford, a former American diplomat in Iraq and now a fellow at Yale University and the Middle East Institute.
A Power Struggle in Iraq Intensifies, Raising Fears of New Violence (New York Times)
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Excerpt from the New York Times: The powerful Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who leads the largest bloc in Parliament, quit the negotiations in frustration, then urged his followers to take to the streets to get what they wanted. Heeding his call, they set up a tent encampment that has blocked access to Parliament for more than two weeks to prevent any government from being voted in. It is not the first time that Mr. al-Sadr has resorted to the threat of violence to get what he wants politically. He led the armed Shiite revolt against the American occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2009, and U.S. officials say they now worry that Iraq could plunge again into violence and instability. For decades, Iraq has reeled from crisis to crisis — a cycle that shows no signs of abating. After the 2003 U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, there was a civil war, and then the takeover of large parts of the country by the Islamic State. As a result, Iraq, despite vast oil reserves, has remained mired in political chaos with a stagnant economy that has left its unemployed youth vulnerable to recruiters for extremist movements and made investors leery. At the same time, Gulf States led by the United Arab Emirates normalized relations with Israel and forged ahead politically and economically to become the new center of gravity of the Middle East.
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