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)
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)
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)
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.Embed from Getty Images
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)