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Russia Not Critically Weakened By War So Far, Estonian Minister Says

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his wife, Olena, pay their respects to the victims of the Holodomor famine at a memorial in central Kyiv on November 26.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his wife, Olena, pay their respects to the victims of the Holodomor famine at a memorial in central Kyiv on November 26.

KYIV — President Volodymyr Zelenskiy declared that Ukraine “cannot be broken” as he cited his country’s fight against the Russian invasion and marked the anniversary of the famine regarded by Ukrainians to be a deliberate act perpetrated by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

 

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“Ukrainians went through very terrible things…Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger — now, with darkness and cold,” Zelenskiy said on November 26 in a video message.

“We cannot be broken,” he declared. The prime ministers of EU and NATO members Belgium, Lithuania, and Poland were in Kyiv to mark the day and to attend a summit hosted by Zelenskiy to press the “Grain From Ukraine” initiative designed to get crucial supplies to world markets. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron were among those speaking through video addresses. Zelenskiy’s remarks came amid widespread cuts in power and water supplies in his country after weeks of Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and as temperatures plunge with the beginning of winter.

Zelenskiy and other leaders commemorated the victims of the Holodomor famine, which took place in 1932-33 as Stalin’s police forced peasants in Ukraine to join collective farms by requisitioning their grain and other foodstuffs.

Historians say the failure to properly harvest crops in Ukraine in 1932 under Soviet mismanagement was the main cause of the famine.

It is estimated that up to 9 million people died as a result of executions, deportation, and starvation during the Stalin-era campaign.

Many Ukrainians consider the famine an act of genocide aimed at wiping out Ukrainian farmers.

Along with Ukraine, at least 16 other countries have officially recognized the Holodomor as “genocide.”

In October 2018, the U.S. Senate adopted a nonbinding resolution recognizing that Stalin and those around him committed genocide against the Ukrainians in 1932-33. German lawmakers are preparing to recognize the Holodomor as genocide, according to a draft text seen by the AFP news agency of a joint resolution from Germany’s ruling coalition and opposition.

Moscow has long denied any systematic effort to target Ukrainians, arguing that a poor harvest at the time wiped out many in other parts of the Soviet Union.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that he “honored the memory of the Holodomor victims” at a memorial in the Ukrainian capital.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, on his first visit to Kyiv since the Russian invasion, said on Twitter that “after the heavy bombing of recent days, we stand with the people of Ukraine. More than ever before.”

“With the cold winter months ahead, Belgium is releasing new humanitarian and military aid,” he added. Zelenskiy told the grain summit that Kyiv is one of the guarantors of world food security and will fulfill its duties despite the Russian invasion, citing the new “Grain From Ukraine” initiative. He pressed world leaders to support the initiative aimed at feeding about 5 million people in poor countries, particularly Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Congo, Kenya, and Nigeria. Speaking through video statements to the summit, Scholz and Macron unveiled new financial packages designed to aid Ukrainian grain exports, which have been hit hard by the war, causing food shortages in many of the world’s poorer nations. “The most vulnerable countries must not pay the price of a war they did not want,” Macron said. Zelenskiy said the Black Sea Grain Initiative — brokered by Turkey and the UN and agreed to by Russia and Ukraine — is not operating at full capacity, blaming what he called Moscow’s efforts to delay the movement of ships, leaving many vessels trapped at Ukrainian ports. The deal took effect in August, aimed at unblocking grain shipments to countries in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. Ukraine and Russia are key global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other food to those countries, and Russia was the world’s top exporter of fertilizer before it launched its ongoing invasion of Ukraine in February.

Many in the West have accused Russia of weaponizing the shipment of crucial food-related supplies to world markets. Moscow denies the accusations.

Meanwhile, throughout Ukraine, millions of people are still without heat or electricity after the recent devastating Russian air strikes on infrastructure sites. Authorities on November 26 were gradually restoring power in many cities — helped by the reconnection to the grid of the nation’s four nuclear plants.

Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces was reported in the east and south of the country, as Kyiv’s troops continue their counteroffensive, which has recaptured thousands of kilometers of territory seized by Russia early in the war.

In the recently liberated southern city of Kherson and its environs, authorities said at least 32 people have been killed by Russian shelling since pro-Kremlin forces withdrew two weeks ago and moved to the eastern bank of the Dnieper River. “Daily Russian shelling is destroying the city and killing peaceful local residents. In all, Russia has killed 32 civilians in the Kherson region since the de-occupation,” Ihor Klymenko, chief of the National Police of Ukraine, said on Facebook.

“Many people are evacuating to seek refuge in calmer regions of the country. But many residents remain in their homes, and we need to provide them with the maximum possible security,” he added.

With reporting by AFP and AP
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CIA ops, commandos in Ukraine: Can we just admit we are fighting this war?

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The Central Intelligence Agency is operating in Kyiv and has been for some time, according to new reporting by the New York Times. So, while Biden has insisted on “no U.S. boots on the ground” in Ukraine, there are soft-soled operatives, otherwise known as American spies, providing  intelligence and other tactical assistance to Ukraine in its war with Russia.

Sounds like Americans are in this war, like it or not. 

The news, based on sourcing from current and former U.S. government officials, is part of a broader report about a “stealthy network” of U.S. and European commandos and spies in “cells” run by the Pentagon’s European Command “to speed allied assistance to Ukrainian troops.” Much of this is operating from military bases in France and Germany and elsewhere. But as the NYT points out, there are European commandos and CIA agents working on the inside. 

The commandos are not on the front lines with Ukrainian troops and instead advise from headquarters in other parts of the country or remotely by encrypted communications, according to American and other Western officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters. But the signs of their stealthy logistics, training and intelligence support are tangible on the battlefield.

Several lower-level Ukrainian commanders recently expressed appreciation to the United States for intelligence gleaned from satellite imagery, which they can call up on tablet computers provided by the allies. The tablets run a battlefield mapping app that the Ukrainians use to target and attack Russian troops.

As usual it appears that the administration wants to have it both ways: assure the American people that it is being “restrained” and that we are not “at war” with the Russians, but doing everything but planting a U.S. soldier and a flag inside Ukraine. The CIA, as you will recall, has increasingly had an operational combat focus since 9/11,  running elaborate secret prisons overseas, engaging in enhanced interrogations (torture) and manhunting with armed drones and commando teams over the last 20 years. There may be a sliver of daylight between the CIA operatives there today and the U.S. special forces that left Ukraine after Russia invaded, but given the circumstances, is it a meaningful one? Is it all about who is pulling the trigger?

The Russians may not see the distinction and consider this news as further evidence that their war is more with Washington and NATO than with Ukraine. For this and other reasons the NYT report has sparked a heated debate on social media.

What possible value add could the public bring to the debate? They don’t have access to the details or the situational awareness.

— John Sipher (@john_sipher) June 26, 2022

Heer, who is a writer for The Nation, responded to Sipher by saying that military decisions are “subject to civilian oversight,” to which Sipher, whose Twitter profile says he is at the Atlantic Council and is “former CIA Clandestine Service,” quipped, that’s to be done “through elected representatives.”

Right. And I have a bridge to sell you in Fallujah.

Perhaps two percent of Congress through the House and Senate intelligence committees is aware the CIA is operating in Kyiv but like everything — from the 20-year war in Afghanistan to specific operations like the assassination of Qasem Soleimani in 2020 —  the whole process has a whiff of retroactive rubberstamping with no room (or interest) for debate in Congress. Operational secrecy and security are no doubt the fig leaf, but when we’re not supposed to be in a war we aren’t supposed to be in a war, right?

“I don’t think people realize that right now the spigot from Congress is fully open. Money, weps, intel, whatever they need,” tweeted Jack Murphy, journalist and Iraq/Afghanistan vet. “The American public is not being appropriately informed about what our government is up to as basically every single op DOD/CIA proposes is getting the green light.”

But then again the CIA acted with impunity through much of  its formative years, and it wasn’t until the Church Committee brought all the nastiness to light in the 1970s that the American public was made aware of it. Still, the agency continued to fight bloody proxy wars in places like El Salvador and Nicaragua — and let’s not forget Afghanistan in the 1980s. Are we to believe that there is any more stringent oversight today?

Which brings us to the million dollar question — what do we expect to come from this particular (proxy war) for which the U.S. is engaged well beyond just sending assistance? My Quincy Institute colleague George Beebe, who spent years engaged in Russia analysis for the CIA, wonders if Washington even knows how far it is going here.

“This is reminiscent of the ‘sunk cost’ phenomenon that caused Washington to increase its involvement in Vietnam from a handful of advisors to half a million troops in direct combat,” he tells me.

“In the face of growing Russian success in taking the Donbass, we are doubling down on even more economic sanctions on Russia and deeper U.S. and NATO support for Ukraine. How this is supposed to produce anything beyond an ongoing and very volatile stalemate is very unclear. We seem to have no viable exit plan.” 

If history is any guide, we won’t have one, until it’s too late.

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President Biden Turns 80, Making Him the First Octogenarian in the Oval Office – The New York Times
President Biden Turns 80, Making Him the First Octogenarian in the Oval Office  The New York Times The post President Biden Turns 80, Making Him the First Octogenarian in the Oval Office – The New York Times first appeared on The News Links.
Kamala Harris: If Biden runs again, he should pick a new VP. – Slate
Kamala Harris: If Biden runs again, he should pick a new VP.  Slate The post Kamala Harris: If Biden runs again, he should pick a new VP. – Slate first appeared on The News Links.
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Thirty enemy shells fired at border areas of Sumy region

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On the morning of December 8, Russian troops once again shelled the border parts of Sumy region – the settlements of Sosnivka and Khodine.

“The military of the occupiers when all over again shelled the border regions of Sumy region. From 10:25 to 10:45, 20 strikes, presumably from 120mm mortar, on the region of Sosnivka village were described,” the press provider of the Operational Command “North” posted on Facebook.

In addition, five shots presumably from an automated grenade launcher were noted from 10:43 to 10:47, and modest arms pictures – in the space of Khodine. From 11:50 to 11:55, an additional strike on this village was launched. It is identified about 5 pictures, possibly from 82mm mortar.

No casualties among the armed service personnel or civilians and damages to army products or civilian infrastructure ended up recorded.

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