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War in Ukraine: A Miscalculation Devolves into a Massacre

Russia repositions its forces outside Kyiv while Mariupol faces a humanitarian crisis and Putin goes after his enemies at home.
War in Ukraine: A Miscalculation Devolves into a Massacre

Russian Forces Reposition

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine grounds to a stalemate after a month of fighting, Moscow announced plans early this week to scale back its military operations in and around Ukraine's capital of Kyiv. Despite these assurances, Russian forces continued their bombardment of the area.

The Pentagon has characterized the move as a repositioning of forces versus a withdraw and said "less than 20% of the forces have been removed" while Ukrainian authorities said "Russian forces instead began bombarding homes, stores, libraries, and other civilian sites on the outskirts of Kyiv," writes Celina Tebor and John Bacon for USA Today. News outlets are reporting that it appears Putin aides are afraid to tell him how poorly the war is going.

Immense battles continue around Kyiv despite Russia's promise to scale back (Celina Tebor and John Bacon - USA Today)

Excerpt from USA Today: U.S. and British intelligence officials have determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about Russian forces’ performance in Ukraine. Jeremy Fleming, the head of the U.K.'s spy service, said it "increasingly looks like Putin has massively misjudged the situation." He said Russian soldiers, short on weapons and morale, are refusing to carry out orders and sabotaging their own equipment.
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In an intriguing opinion piece from Bret Stephens for the New York Times, the author suggests "the conventional wisdom that Vladimir Putin catastrophically miscalculated" may be incorrect and instead, "suppose for a moment that Putin never intended to conquer all of Ukraine: that, from the beginning, his real targets were the energy riches of Ukraine’s east, which contain Europe’s second-largest known reserves of natural gas (after Norway’s)."

What if Putin Didn't Miscalculate (Bret Stephens - New York Times)

Excerpt from New York Times: Combine that with Russia’s previous territorial seizures in Crimea (which has huge offshore energy fields) and the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk (which contain part of an enormous shale-gas field), as well as Putin’s bid to control most or all of Ukraine’s coastline, and the shape of Putin’s ambitions become clear. He’s less interested in reuniting the Russian-speaking world than he is in securing Russia’s energy dominance. “Under the guise of an invasion, Putin is executing an enormous heist,” said Canadian energy expert David Knight Legg.
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Mariupol in Ruins

Regardless of Putin's endgame, a humanitarian crisis is underway in Ukraine as civilian deaths mount and collateral devastation is widespread across the country. No where is this suffering more evident than in the besieged southern city of Mariupol. "There is no humanitarian corridor now out of Mariupol. Just a trickle of people gambling on Russian military checkpoints - and Russian political whim," writes Lucy Williamson for BBC News.

Mariupol's refugees carry wounds of battered city (Lucy Williamson - BBC News)

Excerpt from BBC News: Mariupol's mayor says 5,000 people have been killed, and 90% of the buildings damaged. Some 160,000 people are thought to still be trapped inside the city. France, Greece and Turkey have all tried to push for a pause in the attacks to get aid in and allow civilians to leave. But Russia's President Putin has said Mariupol must surrender in order for the bombardment to stop.

On Thursday, fresh efforts were under way to evacuate civilians trapped in Mariupol after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed Russia had agreed to open a safe corridor. However, Russia has repeatedly broken these temporary truces to evacuate civilians, so most countries are doubtful of its success.

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Enemies at Home

While the human suffering in Ukraine continues, Russian President Vladimir Putin has also been tightening control at home by expelling journalists, jailing protestors, and escalating the propaganda on its state-run television networks.  

Although these highly visible crackdowns are a direct result of the war in Ukraine, Putin has been targeting his suspected enemies of the homeland for some time. As this special report from Reuters explains, "A widely used weapon in the Kremlin’s armory is the state’s register of 'foreign agents.' People whose names appear on this official list are closely monitored by the authorities."

Putin targets enemies at home as his missiles strike Ukraine (Lena Masri - A Reuters Special Report)

Excerpt from Reuters Special Report: Throughout 2021, the Kremlin tightened the screws on its opponents using a combination of arrests, internet censorship and blacklists. The crackdown accelerated after Russia invaded Ukraine. Now a Reuters data analysis and interviews with dozens of people chart these tactics’ success in eroding civil freedoms.