In Other News – Russia Continues the Assault on a Strong Ukraine – 4-28-2023

April 28, 2023

Russia continues its physical and ideological attacks, but Ukraine and allies are holding their ground. It’s been nearly two months since Russia had the audacity to attack Kyiv, but on Friday, Putin renewed his attack on the capital city and broader nation. Ukraine’s air defense reportedly shot down over 10 Russian cruise missiles in Kyiv airspace, but a barrage of Russian missiles killed at least 17 people in the central Ukrainian cities of Uman and Dnipro, including two children. The intense wave of attacks is in line with Russia’s complete disregard for attacking civilian targets and infrastructure and supports the UN’s latest findings that Russian forces and private military companies in Ukraine have perpetrated significant human rights violations over the course of its unprovoked invasion.

In response to Friday’s attacks, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy quickly issued a request to his allies for more air defense supplies. And Zelenskyy has consistently demonstrated that if his troops are well-supplied, Ukraine can prevent a Russian advance. While there’s currently a lot of chatter about an upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive, the fact that Ukraine can defend Kyiv as effectively as it did on Friday demonstrates how far the discussion has come. Over a year ago, when Russia first invaded, Ukraine surprised much of the world by its ability to hold Putin at bay. These days, Russia is exerting great effort just trying to maintain control of one city, as the back and forth on Bakhmut continues.

Indeed, given the initial projections of Russian military dominance, holding the line is itself a type of victory for Ukraine. This week, Zelenskyy had a long phone call with Chinese President Xi, indicating that China might be growing tired of the war’s negative global economic ramifications. Xi said that he’d send special representatives to Ukraine and hold talks with all parties on resolving the crisis. But as Russia ramps up his attacks, and Ukraine continues to defend itself effectively, the circumstances just aren’t conducive to ceasefire. And based on Putin’s historic behavior, the Ukrainians don’t have any reason to believe that Russia would be satisfied with one.

In addition to the physical attacks on Ukraine, Russia is excessively attacking opposition figures and attempting to expand the definition of cybercrime to repress dissent. Earlier this week, Russia handed an extraordinarily high 25-year prison sentence to Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition activist who was charged with treason and spreading false information about the Russian military after speaking out against the Ukraine invasion. After the sentencing, Kara-Murza’s lawyer, who has defended other prominent Russian activists and dissidents, was also compelled to flee the country due to a warning that there was “interest” in him.

Russia’s fierce desire to contain any counternarrative about its leadership and policies is also visible in its consistent protest of global cyber cooperation. A UN panel just finished another round of negotiations on a new international cybercrime treaty and a draft is expected by June. But Russia has unsurprisingly advocated for the treaty to expand the definition of cybercrime to include greater control of information and speech. Russia’s hesitation is, of course, also complicated by its state-level involvement in perpetrating cybercrimes. While the goal of the new treaty is international cooperation on cybercrimes, Russia has protested previous such agreements like the Budapest Convention due to concerns that it encroached on national sovereignty. Indeed, Russia is unlikely to sign-off on the latest cyber treaty, but the nation’s desire to criminalize free speech on a global level is further proof of just how repressive it’s become.