A NOTE: Our Russia-Ukraine Resources are updated weekly - if you're accessing the page a week or more past the below date, pieces mentioned in this post may have been removed to make room for up-to-date resources.
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Updated Resources - May 17, 2023
A billboard in Russia reads 'Wagner PMC - Join the winning team' (Alexander Davronov, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Satellite imagery reveals 16 Russian strategic bombers capable of carrying conventional and nuclear cruise missiles are deployed near border with Finland and Norway
China's special envoy and former ambassador to Russia begins Europe tour in Kyiv seeking ‘political settlement’ to the war
This week’s Council of Europe Summit in Iceland to focus on Ukrainian support and Russian accountability
Russian Prosecutor General’s Office and Rosobrnadzor launch investigation into the European University at St. Petersburg to prevent extremism and terrorism’
Telegram confirms vulnerability allowing malware access to user mic and camera detected in macOS app available via App Store
Kremlin has reportedly threatened to press felony charges against senior Russian officials who resign during the war, excluding health and corruption causes
Four military aircraft downed in Russia’s Bryansk region, Prigozhin suggests Russian air defense may have been involved
South Africa investigating claims made by US ambassador in Pretoria that the country has armed Russia despite stated neutrality
US Attorney General authorizes first transfer of seized funds from Russian oligarch to aid Ukraine
Germany, France, UK pledge new rounds of military aid to Ukraine
2023 sabotage acts in Russia more than double that of 2022
South African military delegation in Moscow for ‘Combat Readiness’ talks
Russian authorities include ‘third parties’ who assist ‘foreign agents’ — even unintentionally - in ‘foreign agents’ law
Aeroflot reportedly orders flight attendants not to record plane malfunctions before consulting pilot amid sanctions
Belarus PM replaces Lukashenko at ceremony, fueling speculation of health concerns
Russian-appointed authorities in Crimea seize Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Simferopol, hand it over to Russian Orthodox Church
Russia agrees to two-month Black Sea Grain Deal extension
Russian scientists working on hypersonic missile development at Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ (RAS) arrested on suspicion of treason over the past year
St. Petersburg woman found guilty of desecrating Putin’s parents’ graves after handwritten note stating ‘you’ve raised a monster and a murderer’
Yevgeny Prigozhin shows the arms cache in the mines near Soledar (Пригожин Евгений Викторович (правообладатель), CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
WHAT'S ON OUR MIND
Media scrutiny of paramilitary organization Wagner PMC and its role in the Russian war machine mounts after tensions boiled over last week between founder Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russian military leadership. The eruption came after many months of abrasion between the public and private arms of the Russian offensive. In today’s collection, we survey the role of Wagner PMC - and its leader - in Russia’s shifting power landscape and the Ukraine War.
One piece offers a primer on the group’s role in this conflict including a brief history, insight into one of its main competitors, and a synopsis to date of its involvement in Ukraine. Another presents scrutiny of the organization’s active - and at times, forceful - recruitment from Russia’s prisons, including examination of the ‘subcultural notions’ introduced by these former inmates that now shape Russian military life and the conduct of the war.
Further offerings delve deeper, examining Wagner’s position within Russia’s power structure. One piece sheds light on how central pillars of the Russian state - the GRU, the FSB, and the military at large - view the organization. It seeks to interpret Prigozhin’s value to Putin, contending that Putin’s own complicated relationship with his nation’s military bears the key to the Wagner Group founder’s worth. Another explores accusations that Prigozhin is a ‘project’ of Putin’s inner circle made by Russian ultranationalist, Putin critic, and veteran Igor Girkin.
In recent events, a probe of last week’s flare-up over Bakhmut offers a piece that questions the ‘many oddities’ in the events that transpired. It suggests that Prigozhin’s ascension through the Kremlin’s halls of power and the public sphere, evidence the ‘Donbasization’ of Russia wherein ‘gangster norms and practices’ that evolved in post-2014 Eastern Donbas have migrated to Russia.
Outside of Russian and Ukrainian borders, we learn of the UK’s plans to designate the Wagner Group as a ‘terrorist organization,’ joining the likes of white supremacist groups, ISIS, and al Qaeda. The author argues that the designation could serve as a consequential global signal that might curtail the profitability of Wagner's mercenary pursuits abroad. He acknowledges the scholarly perspective that terrorist proscription can make it more difficult to end wars and negatively impact humanitarian aid.
Learn more about this organization - and many more facets of the war - in today’s resource update.
ARTICLES OF PARTICULAR INTEREST
Find these stories and more on our Resource Page
For Russians, Reading Is the New Resistance (Foreign Policy)
What the 68-year-old Austria treaty could tell us about Ukraine today (Responsible Statecraft)
The Future of Ukraine's Political Consensus (Wilson Center)
Political scientist Erica Frantz on what Russia’s future holds after Putin (Meduza)
It’s being called Russia’s most sophisticated cyber espionage tool. What is Snake, and why is it so dangerous? (The Conversation)
Nuclear Notebook: Russian nuclear weapons, 2023 (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)
The Vanishing Acts of Vladimir Putin (The New Yorker)
How Schools And Teachers Can Make Refugee Children Feel Welcome (The Conversation)
A Mysterious New Hacker Group Is Lurking in Ukraine’s Cyberspace (Wired)
Nuclear Tests May Be Back on Moscow’s Agenda (Foreign Policy)
Mothers of killed soldiers find meaning in helping war effort, refugees (The Kyiv Independent)
Russian Confectioner Fined for Anti-War Cakes Vows to Keep Baking (The Moscow Times)
‘There is a Desire Prevailing: Let it All End Soon and Not Bother Us’ (Russia.Post)
OVERVIEW & VIDEOS
In videos, TV Rain anchor and history of journalism researcher Mikhail Fishman shares historical context for press freedoms in Russia and sheds light on their current diminishment. An insightful edition of the Kyiv Independent's podcast, as well as an examination of how Ukrainian artists construct new cultural narratives and dismantle prior conceptions of Ukrainian identity as a postcolonial state.
Find also a new music video from the US band Imagine Dragons, filmed on the front lines of Ukraine, which follows a young boy who endured months of shelling on his hometown.
Left to right: The Ukrainian rap group Kalush at Ukraine Media Center. April 28 2022. (Ukrinform TV, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons), Rublev's icon showing the three Angels being hosted by Abraham at Mambré. Early 15th century (Andrei Rublev, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons), US pop rock band Imagine Dragons, Roundhouse, London (Drew de F Fawkes, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
In the arts, Ukrainian war posters on display at New Hampshire’s ‘Our Fire is Stronger Than Your Bombs’ exhibition, artists at the Ukrainian ArtPole Agency use their diverse artistic visions to capture pre- and postwar Ukraine, art conservators concerned as Putin directs Tretyakov Gallery to hand over Andrei Rublev’s ‘Trinity’ to the Russian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra’s journey to international advocacy for their homeland, how Eurovision 2023 highlighted humanitarianism, empathy and solidarity, and Ukraine’s leading primitivist painter Dmytro Moldovanov draws inspiration from the war.