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May 24, 2024

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The Ukrainian Connection

Compiled by Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent

(Updated 7 June April 2023)

Russia accused of blowing up dam, endangering thousands
Putin’s dictatorial regime has been accused of blowing up a Ukrainian hydroelectric dam on the River Dnipro near the southeastern city  of Kherson. A video circulating on social media showed a missing central section of the dam and water violently surging through the gap. The governor of the Kherson region, Oleksandr Prokudin, said that about 16,000 people had found themselves in the “critical zone” on the Ukrainian-controlled right bank of the river and were being evacuated. Putin apparently wanted to throw Ukraine’s counteroffensive into disarray.

Has Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive started?
Some media reports have suggested that the dam on the river Dnipro had been blown up on the second day of Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive, but it has yet to be officially announced by the Ukrainian authorities. Some believe they will purposely not announce it to keep the Russians guessing and just ease into their efforts to retake occupied territory. So far they have made very modest gains capturing  up to 1,600 yards of terrain in parts of Donbas. Fighting continued around the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut which the Russians captured after a grinding nine-month siege. Some analysts believe Ukrainian forces that control outlying areas are trying to encircle the city to trap the Russians inside.

NATO diplomats mull alliance membership for Ukraine in Oslo
Foreign ministers of the NATO countries met recently in Oslo, Norway to prepare for the alliance’s forthcoming summit. Much of the discussion centered on the prospect of Kyiv’s NATO membership. Poland’s top diplomat Zbigniew Rau said that some NATO allies had argued for “a return to the position adopted at the 2008 summit in Bucharest, Romania” which “declared that Ukraine’s future is in NATO, without specifying a date or a roadmap for Kyiv’s accession.” In general, the countries of the alliances eastern flank support NATO membership for Ukraine, while others, notably Germany and France, fear that would overly provoke the Kremlin.

Ukrainian mothers cross Russia to find kidnapped kids
In occupied parts of Ukraine, Russian soldiers would  order school children not a waiting bus which drove them deep into the Russian Federation. There they were put into foster care, indoctrinated in Russian schools and forbidden to speak Ukrainian. Persistent Ukrainian mothers who managed to find out their children’s whereabouts were told they would have to come in person to obtain their release. After war had made border areas out of bounds for civilians, some mothers used circuitous routes through Poland and the Baltics to get into the world’s biggest country. There they traveled for days by train , bus, taxi and  and on foot to where their kids were being held. The Russians deny kidnapping charges, cynically claiming they were only taking the school children to safety away from dangerous combat zones.

Russia’s Belgorod border area again under attack
The Russian region of Belgorod has again come under attack from across the Ukrainian border, with at least eight people reportedly hurt in shelling. Russia’s defense ministry claims it thwarted other attempts by Ukraine to invade the region. Kyiv has not commented on the allegations but has denied involvement in previous attacks across the border. The latest strikes come more than a week after the most significant cross-birder raids of the war.

High Russian casualty rate in Ukraine — Ukrainian military authorities
Since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February last year, the Russians have lost 208,910 troops. During their aggression, the invaders have also lost 3,819 tanks, 7,490 armored fighting vehicles and 3,501 artillery system, Ukraine’s General Military Staff reported recently. But Ukrainian authorities rarely report their own troop losses which are believed to be somewhat smaller than those of the Kremlin forces. Russia’s high casualty rate is largely due to Putin’s “cannon-fodder” approach of throwing poorly trained and under-equipped recruits into battle. The morale of Russian troops is also considerably lower than that of the Ukrainians fighting in defense of their own homeland.

AI may be destroying evidence of Putin’s crimes
Recently voices have been raised warning of ways Artificial Intelligence could potentially threaten humanity and even the world as such. But new examples of AI subverting human endeavors keep emerging, even in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict. AI is often used by platforms to remove offensively graphic videos,  but footage that may help prosecute Russia’s war crimes can be taken down without being archived. Meta and YouTube say they aim to balance their duties to bear witness and protect users from harmful content. When it comes to moderating violent combat imagery, however “dumb” machines  lack the human nuance to identify human-rights violations.