More to ignore, Book 64........

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: Russia wants to turn Kherson into a colony to feed Putin's dreams of an empire
Mark Sumner

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Russian forces raise a Soviet banner of victory over the Ukrainian city of Kherson. May 20, 2022.

It’s not necessary for an occupying power to win a battle in order to cause irredeemable damage. They don’t even have to destroy a building. After all, they have something that gives them a leverage unmatched by the people giving everything in the effort to drive them out: hostages. Thousands, even millions, of hostages.

In the Kherson region, those hostages mean that while Russia is free to unlimber all the artillery it wants at Ukrainian positions, Ukraine is extremely reluctant to point its big guns back toward the towns and villages where Russian forces are crouching. Just like any advance, retaking a position requires application of more force than holding it, and when the people on one side are more concerned about capturing territory without destroying homes and threatening civilians, that difficulty goes up by an order of magnitude.

What Russia did in capturing territory was amputation. What Ukraine is trying to do now is surgery. It’s harder. It takes longer. It’s frustrating to those who want a quick response.

Unfortunately, that delay means that Russia is also using its hostages in another way. In several areas controlled by Russia, but in Kherson in particular, those hostages are being subjected to a daily gamut of challenges meant to break their will, change the way they think, and surrender their hope.

Across the city, Russia is taking away signs, papers, and books written in Ukrainian and replacing them with ones written in Russian. Citizens are being drafted to help in this effort in an extremely effective way. Russian troops have erected checkpoints throughout the city, halting and demanding papers from those who try to pass. People have been, and are still being, shot in the street for being out without proper paperwork. How to get proper paperwork? Agree to help in remaking the city into a Russian colony.

Schools, which are preparing to reopen in the area, are being given Russian textbooks and a Russian curriculum—a curriculum that teaches that the nation of Ukraine does not exist, and that anyone who claims otherwise is a traitor. So far, only two out of 60 school administrators have agreed to go along with this, but don’t expect that opposition to last. During the first days of Russian occupation, there were many images of citizens in Kherson protesting against Russia. Such events have become much less common, not because the people there have decided Russia is not so bad, but because they’ve seen how hundreds have been hauled away, never to reappear, when they’ve said something judged to be anti-Russian or pro-Ukrainian. Russia often follows a pattern in Kherson that is also followed in Moscow. Don’t stop people immediately, but take down names for later.

From a distance, the idea that people pointing a gun at everyday citizens, demanding papers, and then taking them away for any sign of opposition might claim to be “getting rid of Nazis” seems ironic. From up close, it just seems terrifying.

People in Kherson are now able to get only Russian phones. Watch only Russian television. Read only Russian newspapers. Moscow has put in place procedures which will, in the next few weeks, make them all “Russian citizens.” There has been some pretense, off and on, of having a “referendum” in the city to officially align Kherson with Russia. But that’s not really necessary. The Kremlin has declared that Kherson is “Russia forever.” This is a good, old-fashioned, war of conquest after all, and Kherson is one of Russia’s fattest prizes.

According to the Ukrainian southern command, things in Kherson are getting steadily worse. Russia has tightened up the borders of the region, making it much more difficult to escape from the occupied area. In fact, just about the only road available leads straight out of Kherson and … into Crimea. The crackdown on what Russia now views as dissidents is getting harder. The transformation of the city into a Russian outpost is accelerating. The numbers of those being disappeared is growing.

As Ukrainian forces attempt to move toward the city, Russian forces are engaged in a predictable response—they are shelling every village and town that Ukraine captures, making the approach of the Ukrainian army something like the trumpet of doom. They’re creating the destruction Ukraine has been working to avoid.


In some areas, like the bridgehead established across the Inhulets River south of Davydiv Brid, Ukraine seems to be taking these actions into account. They’re not driving to take and hold that town, or others along the river. They’re not driving village to village over the highways. They’re establishing a broad front, moving across fields, taking advantage of the weather and terrain to advance without creating unnecessary confrontations. But that can’t continue. No matter what route Ukraine takes into the city, there is going to be destruction. Because Russia is not about to let Kherson go without causing as much pain as possible.

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Fighting is going on all along the front between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the Kherson area

There are fights going on at so many points along the line between Ukrainian forces and Russian forces in Kherson oblast, that almost every point of intersect might be considered an area of active fighting. At the northern end of the line, Ukrainian troops are still attempting to seize Vysokopillya, which Russia has turned into a regional nexus for command and control. Taking that town could be especially important in thwarting what is rumored to be a Russian force organizing for another run toward Kryvyi Rih to the north.

In the middle of the line, that bridgehead on the east of the Inhulets continues to expand, in spite of Russian claims that it has been eliminated. Reports have put forces much farther south than indicated here, but without any details or confirmation, I’m leaving the borders where they are for the moment. Even if this force is driving hard for the bridge at Nova Kakhovka, as many tweets and Telegram messages insist, it seems impossible for them to get there without first pushing past significant Russian defenses.

At the south end of the line, Ukrainian forces are once again within 15 km of Kherson. But just ahead of them are two sets of Russian defensive lines. One just south of Kyselivka and another immediately outside the city. As in the force south of Davydiv Brid, there have been confusing reports, including some that suggest Ukrainian forces are in the immediate suburbs of Kherson. But there seems no evidence to support this claim. For now.


One point of dispute that is also a point of confusion: there have been multiple posts indicating fighting in the area of Tamaryne. Whether this represents Ukrainian forces moving in from the area around Snihurivka, which is still largely held by Russia, or whether it shows the force to the north moving in an unexpected direction, it’s unclear how this connects to other actions.

SEVERODONETSK​

At this point, Severodonetsk might as well be it’s own “front” (though if Russian forces manage to get close to Lysychansk from another direction, that could change).



As far as what’s going on in the city … fighting continues. There have been claims from Russia and from the Luhansk nationalists that LNR forces killed Ukrainian soldiers in the industrial zone overnight. Didn’t happen. There have been claims that either Russia or Ukraine has “begun to withdraw.” Hasn’t happened. Russia still seems determined to capture the city by the arbitrary deadline of June 10. Ukraine still seems determined to fight it out. But there is little doubt both sides, and the civilians trapped in the battered city, are taking tremendous losses. Ukraine still might decide to withdraw, and has the opportunity to move across the river if things get desperate.


On Wednesday, President Volodomyr Zelenskyy praised the “heroic defense” of the city, but also admitted that Russian forces outnumber Ukrainian forces in the city and stated that withdrawal is an option.

KHARKIV​

In spite of continued gains by Ukrainian forces in the area, Russian troops on Tuesday and Wednesday engaged in the one thing they are still capable of in the Kharkiv area—lobbying artillery and missiles into the city to cause pain and misery for civilians. These attacks don’t even have the appearance of a military objective. They’re just trying to hurt people. And so long as Russia holds on to Lyptsi, less than 20km from the city, they can do this easily and cheaply. So they are.

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Kharkiv area shows small, but significant, changes

Not much has really changed hands in the area since Ukraine took Vesele and outlying villages over the weekend. Russian reports on Sunday had it fully capturing Ternova, but the latest word is that Russia is “continuing to expel the enemy” from Ternova. Which translates to: Ukraine has Ternova.

Maybe the most interesting thing in Russian reports is that they mention fighting on the east bank of the Siverskyi Donets River at Rubizhne. That seems to confirm Ukraine’s continued presence on the east bank, and at a spot well to the north of anything previously known. Russia is also bragging about how they have mined every possible way into Rubizhne, something that the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense was complaining about earlier in the week.

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FIRMS data shows heavy activity around the Rubizhne bridge

The latest satellite images show that the former bridge at Rubizhne is still unrepaired, but there has been too much cloud cover in the area over the last two weeks to determine if Ukraine has erected a pontoon bridge in the area. In any case, artillery fire near the bridge landing on both sides of the river continues to be heavy. On Tuesday, there was also a burst of artillery fire well over to the east, which could signal Ukrainian forces that had been near Buhaivka making a move.


IZYUM​

The big news at Izyum is not good. Russia has apparently taken Svyatohirske, one of the last Ukrainian-held towns on the north bank of the river east of Izyum. But at the same time, Russia may have managed to get forces across the river to the village of Tetyanivka.

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Russian forces may have crossed the river at Svyatohirske.

Images late on Monday, as Ukrainian forces were still fighting in Svyatohirske, showed that the single bridge leading across the river at that point was heavily damaged, but not actually down. It’s possible that bridge isn’t capable of allowing heavy equipment across, but is still sturdy enough for infantry and lighter transports. Descriptions of the force reportedly in Tetyanivka would support that idea.

Ukraine has been counting on river crossing to give them a chance to inflict more disasters on Russia. They not only have to get across almost 100m of water, but climb steep banks to get away from the bridgehead, while Ukraine looks down from the heights. If Russia has what amounts to a freebie in getting across the river, that’s a Not Good Thing.
 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Russia’s war in Ukraine is not the same conflict that it was earlier this spring. The Russian Army’s initial campaign, in February and March, was a three-front invasion with little coherence or military logic. Ukrainian troops mounted small-unit ambushes and used rocket-propelled grenades, antitank weapons, and drones to destroy Russian troop formations and armor. Viral videos show their direct strikes, with tanks disappearing in flame and smoke. Now the Russian military has regrouped its forces for a more targeted assault in the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, drawing on its advantages in artillery and airpower. As Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military at CNA, a defense research organization, said, “Russia is making fitful but incremental gains, and Ukraine’s position in the Donbas is more precarious than it once seemed.” I spent several days in the Donbas recently, where a number of officers and enlisted soldiers told me that Ukrainian infantry rarely see the enemy. Rather, battles are often fought at distances of ten miles or more. The war has become, as one soldier told me, a game of “artillery Ping-Pong.”

In Bakhmut, a midsize town a few miles from the front, I met members of a Kyiv-based unit of the Territorial Defense, a voluntary military corps, who had been sent east in recent weeks; they looked ragged but cheerful. Since Russian forces had captured the nearby town of Popasna, in May, Bakhmut fell well within Russian artillery range; it was also on Ukraine’s main supply route to Sievierodonetsk, the city that is now Russia’s main target and the site of running street battles. One of the soldiers switched to English to describe the fighting: “Let me put it like this: very ****ing awful.” He went on, “We want to shoot the enemy, but we don’t see him. An infantryman has nothing to do in an artillery war other than dig—and run.”......

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukrainians!

All our defenders!

Exactly 10 years ago, this day marked the start of EURO 2012, the European Football Championship, which brought together all Ukrainians, Ukrainians and Poles, Ukrainians and the vast majority of Europeans.

The opening ceremony was in Warsaw, the final ceremony was in our capital, Kyiv. The matches were hosted in different cities of our two countries and in particular in Donetsk, at the Donbas Arena. Only 10 years have passed - and it seems that it was in another world.

Just today, the occupiers announced the absolutely crazy news that they are preparing to unite some football clubs from all occupied territories into one pseudo-championship - from Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, Melitopol, Crimea, and even part of Georgia. It's just a mockery of the occupiers over people who remember everything well.

10 years ago our Donetsk was a strong, proud and developed city. And then Russia came. Brought ideas of just such an inadequate level. And now it is a ghost town that has lost most people, thousands of lives and absolutely all prospects.

Only the return of Ukraine, which will definitely happen, only our flag and only Ukrainian law will mean a normal life for these territories, for these cities - again. The life that was there. Peaceful, safe, open to the world. And of course - new matches of world-class teams at the Donbas Arena.

I am grateful to President of Poland Andrzej Duda, a friend of all Ukrainians, for the fact that he has now started a special trip to European countries to support the European perspective of our country. This June we are to get a decision on the candidacy. And all our friends, all our diplomats are now working for this, working in full.

President of Slovakia Zuzana Čaputová was to go with Andrzej - such a joint initiative of the two leaders was planned. A positive COVID-19 test hindered it. Well, these are the conditions of our life now. I wish Zuzana a speedy recovery.

I spoke today with German Chancellor Scholz. About the decision in favor of Ukraine on the candidacy as well, which, in fact, will be a decision in favor of Europe. We talked about defense support. And about food security, guaranteeing which is really a global interest already. Because no one can be interested, except the Russian state, in the global food crisis.

I addressed today the participants of the investment conference organized to discuss the economic prospects of our state. Representatives of the world's largest funds were among the participants. Although the event was not public, it was still very important and powerful. I invited them to invest in Ukraine. Invest.

I also talked to members of the community of leaders of major American companies. This is the 133rd such summit, and this year it brought together the leading forces of global business. We discussed how business can help Ukraine withstand. I urged them to leave the Russian market and not to support this war with their taxes.

It is very important for me to see that such an audience - and these, I emphasize again, are representatives of the most influential part of American business - believes that sanctions against Russia should be strengthened. Therefore, it would be right for politicians to hear this position. Leading business and the majority in American and European societies believe that there is still not enough pressure on the Russian Federation to end this war.

According to the results of this day, the 105th day of the full-scale war, Severodonetsk remains the epicenter of the confrontation in Donbas. We defend our positions, inflict significant losses on the enemy.

This is a very fierce battle, very difficult. Probably one of the most difficult throughout this war. I am grateful to everyone who defends this direction. In many ways, the fate of our Donbas is being decided there.

I also signed decrees on awarding our heroes. 285 combatants were awarded state awards, 68 of them posthumously.

Eternal memory to all who gave their lives for Ukraine!

Eternal glory to our heroes who defend the state!

Glory to Ukraine!

 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Colorado attorney general reviewing Lauren Boebert’s dubious campaign spending for fraud
Walter Einenkel

First they came for Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina. Now, as foretold, they are coming for Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado. The battle for control over what will be the Neo-fascist Republican Party continues as a new leak of dirty dealings makes its way back into the public sphere. Boebert is running for re-election in Colorado’s 3rd District, and the conservative Super PAC group that helped run media attacks on Rep. Cawthorn during his failed primary campaign has turned its attention toward another fish in the same barrel of corruption.

To be clear: Lauren Boebert has nothing but skeletons of corruption in her short career closet. We have written about the fiery red warning flags of Boebert’s campaign finance spending. I even wrote about Boebert’s campaign reimbursement “mileage” claims that, if true, would make her more of a navigator in one year than Ferdinand Magellan. On Wednesday, a new report came out saying that Colorado’s state’s attorney general is reviewing claims of fraud concerning those very mileage claims.

The New York Times is reporting that besides the possibly* inflated mileage she logged on the 2020 campaign trail (for gas reimbursement), the attorney general’s office will be looking at whether Ms. Boebert used $20,000 of those reimbursements to cover tax liens on her small business—a gun-themed restaurant called Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado.


Janet Drake, the state’s deputy attorney general for criminal justice, told David B. Wheeler, one of the founders of the American Muckrakers PAC, on Tuesday that her department would work with the Colorado Department of Revenue and Department of Labor and Employment “to investigate the issue.”

I am sure we will see a follow-up investigation of the thousands Boebert’s campaign spent on her rent and utilities, and I also suspect we will see even more things come out detailing how terrible of a tiny monster she is. Not unlike Madison Cawthorn, Rep. Boebert is an easy target: You only have to tell the truth.

Boebert began her public career by branding herself as a small woman with a fetish for guns. It appeals to the base-level MAGA dream of a world where white men and women have guns, live in Monument Valley, and fight off the Comanche. Recent events have once again highlighted how immoral and dangerous Boebert and her inflammatory and intellectually empty positions on the Second Amendment are. Shortly after 19 elementary school children and two adults were murdered in Uvalde, Texas, Boebert defended her do-nothing position on guns by arguing that creating gun safety laws is the same as banning planes after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon........
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Two decapitated, bullet-pulverized children - a Uvalde doctor’s story
TheCriticalMind

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Americans have become so inured to school massacres that there is a growing demand to publish the pictures of children shot in school killings. Too often, the gun debate is abstract, and images of dead kids will show the stark reality of death by bullets from high-powered weapons of war.

Today, in testimony before Congress, a local Uvalde pediatrician, himself a graduate of Robb Elementary, offered graphic testimony. He gave his audience a clear picture of what those photographs would show.

Here is Dr. Roy Guerrero’s description of what he saw at the hospital after the Uvalde school shootings

“I had heard from some of the nurses there were two dead children who had been moved to the surgical area of the hospital. As I made my way there I prayed that I wouldn’t find her.
I didn’t find Alaina but I did find something no prayer will ever relieve. Two children whose bodies had been pulverized by bullets fired at them decapitated, whose flesh had been ripped apart, that the only clue of their identities was the blood-spattered cartoon clothes clinging to them, clinging for life and finding none.”

The conservative reflexive position on school massacres - under the rubric of “it’s too soon” - is to claim that liberals are “politicizing” tragedy. And that the parents and families of the dead children should be allowed time to mourn. However, not doing anything is politicizing school shootings by taking the gun lobby's position.

Further, if you listen to the parents of many children who have been shot dead, their only comfort is their belief their child’s death would not be in vain if it leads to actions that would reduce the number of future dead children. It is supremely arrogant — a characteristic not unusual in conservatives — to presume to speak for the parents who have brutally lost a child. They can speak for themselves.

Here is the testimony of one mother, Kimberly Rubio, whose 10-year-old daughter, Lexi, was slaughtered at Robb

“We don’t want you to think of Lexi as just a number. She was intelligent, compassionate, athletic. She was quiet, shy unless she had a point to make. When she was right — she so often was — she stood her ground. She was firm, direct, voice unwavering. So today, we stand for Lexi, and as her voice, we demand action.”

And it is not just the parents. Also testifying today was an 11-year-old survivor of the Robb Elementary School Massacre. It is not “too soon” for her. Even at just 11, she realizes the importance of the world knowing the truth of what happened. Here is the pre-recorded testimony from Miah Cerrillo, who described what happened when the Uvalde shooter forced his way into her classroom.

“There is a door between our classrooms, and he went through there and shot my teacher and told my teacher ‘goodnight’ and shot her in the head. He shot some of my classmates and the whiteboard.
I went to the backpacks, he shot my friend that was next to me, and I thought he was going to come back to the room so I grabbed the blood and I put it all on me”
Asked what she did next, Cerrillo said “I just stayed quiet, and then I got my teacher’s phone and called 911.”
“What did you tell 911?”

“I told her that we need help and to send the police into our classroom.”

As the world now knows, the police dithered while children died. And now the GOP is doing the same.

House Democratic leaders have scheduled votes for Wednesday evening on two minimal gun control laws. One is the "Protecting Our Kids Act" — a package of seven gun violence-related measures that includes raising the age for the legal purchase of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns to 21, closing the "bump stock" loophole, and other measures aimed at preventing the illegal trafficking of guns.

The other is the "Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act," a federal "red flag" bill that would allow family members and law enforcement officials to temporarily block firearm access to anyone who a court determines poses a danger to themselves or others.

House Republicans are going to vote against them. Largely due to their craven obeisance to the gun nut lobby. In a "whip notice" sent to rank-and-file members on Tuesday afternoon, House GOP leadership urged a "no" vote on all eight bills, referring to the seven-bill package as the "Unconstitutional Gun Restrictions Act." They wrote that House Democrats had "thrown together this reactionary package comprised of legislation that egregiously violates law-abiding citizens' 2nd Amendment rights and hinders Americans' ability to defend and protect themselves and their families."

It is complete bullshit. In the Heller v. DC decision, in which the Supreme Court’s conservative majority declared that the second amendment guaranteed the right to have a gun, Justice Scalia was clear that 2A is not unlimited - and restrictions on the sale and carrying of guns were constitutional.

But the GOP is not scared to lie while children die.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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The House voted Wednesday 223-204 to pass a wide-ranging package of gun control legislation called the "Protecting Our Kids Act," after lawmakers faced intense pressure to act in the wake of recent mass shootings.

Five Republicans voted for the bill: Reps. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Fred Upton of Michigan, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Chris Jacobs of New York. Two Democrats -- Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon -- voted against it.

The measure is not expected to pass the Senate, however, amid widespread GOP opposition to stricter gun control. A bipartisan group of senators is engaging in talks in an attempt to find common ground on gun policy, but it is still unclear what, if anything, will come of the effort.......
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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.....In many ways, Meadows’s skill for obfuscation has delayed an inevitable reckoning about his role in enabling Trump’s post-election conduct. But the evidence is now much clearer that Meadows’s actions in the White House at this crucial moment not only mattered but might well have been decisive. It’s very possible, in fact, that the tragedy of January 6th might never have happened had it not been for Trump’s final chief of staff.

One of the most persistent themes my husband and I found in our reporting was the moral struggles of the people around Trump during earlier stages of his destructive Presidency—their justifications and rationales for working for a man whom many of them considered reckless and loathsome. They could make things better, they told themselves. They could stop bad things from happening. They would be replaced by people who would be far worse. There was always a measure of self-aggrandizing or self-justification. But there was also a measure of truth, as well.

There is little doubt that the situation in the White House after the 2020 election would have been different had John Kelly still been chief of staff, instead of Mark Meadows. Kelly might not have been able to persuade Trump to concede, or stop Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman, and the MyPillow guy from getting into the Oval Office and feeding Trump wild lies about crooked voting machines and foreign intrigues while urging the imposition of martial law—but it’s hard not to think that Kelly would have thrown his body on the grenade in trying.....


FUxKCPjUcAAebBh
 
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