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Ukraine Crisis

Former U.S. Marine released in U.S-Russia prisoner swap

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The United States and Russia swapped prisoners on Wednesday amid their most tense relations in decades over the war in Ukraine, with former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed released in exchange for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko

In a surprise prisoner swap – former U.S. marine Trevor Reed, who was detained in Russia since 2019, has been released.

Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko – who was serving a 20-year sentence in the United States for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine – was released in return.

The swap, which U.S. officials have said was the result of months of hard and careful work, comes as U.S.-Russia relations are at their worst in decades.

Officials said the talks that led to Reed’s release strictly focused on securing his freedom… and was not the start of a broader diplomatic conversation.

President Joe Biden did not comment on details of the release, but said (quote) “The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.”

Reed was convicted in Russia in 2019 of endangering the lives of two police officers while drunk on a visit to Moscow. The U.S. has called his trial a “theater of the absurd.”

In 2020, his father Joey spoke to Reuters from Moscow:

“Dismissing charges in Russia, from my understanding, is very rare. But at least – lower the charges, so it is a lower penalty.”

Over two years later… Reed on Wednesday was on his way to be reunited with his family in the United States, according to senior administration officials, who said the 30-year-old Texan was in good spirits.

Reed’s parents thanked President Biden for the release of their son, adding he may have saved their son’s life.

In a statement, they said their son would tell his own story as soon as he was ready, adding

“We’d respectfully ask for some privacy while we address the myriad of health issues brought on by the squalid conditions he was subjected to in his Russian gulag.”

Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they were working to free another U.S. citizen held in Russia, Paul Whelan, also a former Marine.

Ukraine Crisis

Zelensky addresses the U.N. as protests break out in Russia

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Zelensky addresses the U.N. as protests over Putin’s mobilisation plan break out in Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Zelensky says his nation just wants peace and believes Russia should be punished and ostracised for its actions.

“A crime has been committed against Ukraine and we demand just punishment. The crime was committed against our state borders. The crime was committed against the lives of our people,” Zelensky said. “Ukraine demands punishment for trying to steal our territory”.

In the powerful speech, the Ukrainian President also called for Russia to lose its U.N. veto power. Russia is currently one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

He is also seeking more military aid, pleading for more weapons to help liberate his country’s land.

Protests engulf major Russia cities

In Russia, police have arrested hundreds of protestors who are rallying against Vladimir Putin’s military mobilisation.

Human rights group OVD Info estimates more than 1,000 people have been taken into custody so far. The largest number of arrests were made in St Petersburg and Moscow.

As the Kremlin announced its intention to call up thousands of extra troops to fight the warn in Ukraine, flights departing Russia sold out almost immediately.

The mobilisation will likely see at least 300,000 military reservists drafted to bolster Russia’s forces.

In Moscow, the prosecutor’s office is warning that calls on the internet to join protests, or participation in these protests, could result in up to 15 years in jail time.

Russia’s disinformation laws about the war have made public demonstrations rare.

In his first national televised address since the war began, Putin said he will use “all available means” to protect Russian territory.

In theory, this could include nuclear weapons.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance remains vigilant.

“We will make sure that there is no misunderstanding in Moscow about exactly how we will react. Of course it depends upon what kind of situation or what kind or weapons they may use. The most important thing is to prevent that from happening and that is why we have been so clear in our communications with Russia about the unprecedented consequences,” Stoltenberg said.

Meanwhile, Putin’s mobilisation follows weeks of heavy losses for Russia in Ukraine, with Kyiv recapturing a huge area just east of Kharkiv.

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Ukraine Crisis

U.S. to provide Ukraine with tanks in the future

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U.S. to provide Ukraine with tanks in the future, but there is a catch

The U.S. will provide tanks to Ukraine in the future, but issues with maintenance and training may delay the rollout.

Ukraine has received billions of dollars worth of weapons and military equipment, allowing the war-torn nation to defend itself against Putin’s regime.

Russian forces are continuing to “conduct airstrikes that are impacting civilian infrastructure”, most recently striking a “dam near Kryvyi Rih”, according to a top U.S. official.

“This disturbing pattern which includes strikes that hit power stations last week continues to show Russian forces’ disregard for civilian life,” the official added.

When it comes to further military aid, the offical confirmed tanks are “absolutely on the table”, but are not an option for the immediate battle.

Once training, maintenance and sustainment issues are addressed, the roll out is more likely.

This follows verified reports Ukraine has successfully shot down 55 Russian
fighter jets.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed there would be no let-up in fighting to regain
territory lost to Russia.

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Ukraine Crisis

Mass burial site discovered in Ukraine

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A mass grave with over 400 bodies has been found in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region

The price of war is beginning to reveal itself in Ukraine as a mass grave, with over 400 bodies has been discovered in the recently liberated Kharkiv region.

The burial site was found in the city of Izyum, an area captured by Russian forces at the beginning of the war, and a victim to ultimate brutality.

Over recent days, Ukrainian forces have recaptured the area. So far, they have discovered over 1000 bodies in the city, with this number rising every day.

The mass grave site shows the extent of Russia’s atrocities, although Russia denies responsibility.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is launching an investigation and says “Russia leaves death everywhere and it must be held accountable for that.”

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