Aftermath of the Trump Administration, May 2023


My daily chronicle of news about the Trump administration (20 January 2017 – 20 January 2021), Republicans, Democrats, corporations, courts, resistance, and persistence continues. I am still posting important articles, especially ones that reflect the differences between the Biden administration and the Trump administration and ones that address the toxic legacy of the Trump administration and Republicans. However, I hope to devote more of my time to posting muckraking articles on my site in the coming months. Thanks for reading!


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Monday, 1 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. says Russia has suffered 100,000 casualties since December, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit, and Adam Taylor, Monday, 1 May 2023: “The United States estimates Russia has suffered 100,000 casualties since December, including more than 20,000 killed in action, the National Security Council said Monday. Roughly half of those killed, NSC spokesman John Kirby said, were working with the Wagner mercenary group, often ex-convicts who had been recruited from prison. The figures were first shared by Kirby on a call with reporters Monday; NSC deputy spokesman Sean Savett said later that the casualty count referred to Russia’s losses across Ukraine since December. The numbers are based on ‘some information and intelligence that we were able to corroborate over a period of some time,’ Kirby said. He declined to discuss Ukrainian casualties. ‘That’s up to them to speak to,’ he said. Russia targeted Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities with a ‘massive’ wave of missiles overnight, Ukrainian officials said. The assault on the capital lasted several hours early Monday, but no casualties were reported, as local authorities said air defenses worked to intercept most of the missiles. Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that it carried out strikes against facilities that produce ammunition and weapons for Ukrainian troops. Ukraine said residential areas were hit. The attack followed a weekend drone strike by Ukrainian forces on an oil depot in Russian-occupied Crimea, as Ukraine prepares for an anticipated counteroffensive.

  • Russian strategic bombers launched 18 Kh-101 and Kh-555 cruise missiles against Ukraine’s territory in an attack that began around 2:30 a.m. Monday, according to the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny. Zaluzhny said the attacks were launched from the Caspian Sea and from the Murmansk region in northwestern Russia. He said that 15 of the missiles were destroyed.
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed the strikes, saying in a statement Monday that its armed forces ‘carried out a group missile strike with long-range airborne and sea-based high-precision weapons against the facilities of the Ukrainian military-industrial complex.’
  • The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine criticized the overnight attack. Bridget A. Brink tweeted, ‘Russia again launched missiles in the deep of night at Ukrainian cities where civilians, including children, should be able to sleep safely and peacefully.’
  • An explosion Monday morning caused a freight train to derail in Bryansk in western Russia, the regional governor said. Alexander Bogomaz said that an ‘unidentified explosive device’ went off around the train tracks near Russia’s border with Ukraine and Belarus. He did not specify who might be responsible. State-owned operator Russian Railways said that ‘unauthorized persons’ illegally interfered with the railway’s operations. The Washington Post couldn’t independently verify the claims.
  • A power line was blown up in Russia’s Leningrad region early Monday near the border with Estonia and Finland, regional governor Aleksandr Drozdenko said. According to Drozdenko, the power line in the Gatchinskiy district blew up shortly after midnight, and an unidentified object, ‘presumably an explosive device,’ was found on a second power line. He said emergency crews and government investigators were at the scene.
  • At least 34 people, including five children, were injured in overnight missile strikes against Pavlohrad in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, regional governor Serhii Lysak said. The strikes caused ‘significant damage’ to the energy network infrastructure in Dnipropetrovsk and the Kherson region, leaving thousands of households without power, Ukraine’s energy minister said.
  • Ukrainian officials said the attack on an oil depot in Sevastopol was part of the buildup to Kyiv’s counteroffensive. Natalia Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern command, told local television that undermining Russia’s logistics helps prepare for the ‘broad full-scale offensive that everyone expects.’ Saturday’s strike in Sevastopol, which is home to the Russian navy’s Black Sea Fleet, destroyed more than 10 tanks holding some 40,000 tons of oil products intended for the fleet, according to Ukrainian officials.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a ‘meaningful conversation’ with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, Zelensky’s office said. The leaders discussed French military aid to Ukraine and the upcoming NATO summit in Lithuania, according to a Ukrainian readout of the call. Zelensky has expressed hope that NATO members will agree at the summit to formally invite Ukraine to become a member of the alliance. But leaders of the alliance have avoided giving Kyiv any guarantees on its membership prospects.
  • Pope Francis said the Vatican is involved in a secret peace mission. ‘I think peace is always made by opening up channels; it can never be accomplished by closing [doors]. I’m always urging [everyone] to have new rapports, friendly connections,’ the pope told reporters on a weekend flight back from a three-day trip to Hungary, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
  • President Biden said he is ‘working like hell’ to bring home Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday night, Biden promised Gershkovich’s family, present in the audience, to work to secure the journalist’s release from prison in Moscow, where the State Department says he is being wrongfully detained on espionage charges. ‘Evan went to report in Russia to shed light on the darkness that you all escaped from years ago. Absolute courage,’ Biden said. ‘We all stand with you.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: White House Sets Russian Troop Losses at 100,000 Over Last 5 Months. Of the Russia soldiers no longer on the battlefield, 20,000 were killed, according to John Kirby, a White House spokesman. Half of them were Wagner mercenaries. The New York Times, Monday, 1 May 2023:

  • The U.S. estimates more than 100,000 Russian casualties in recent months.

  • Both sides report attacks before an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.

  • McCarthy, the House’s top Republican, publicly pledges continued support for Ukraine.

  • An explosion derails a freight train in a Russian border area, according to a local governor.

  • In the midst of war, a half-marathon brightens Kyiv.

  • Battlefield Update: Russia and Ukraine each claim gains in Bakhmut.

  • Ukraine’s human rights chief tells civilians in occupied areas to get Russian passports ‘to survive.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: May Day is another war day as Russia strikes Ukrainian cities, NPR, NPR Staff, Monday, 1 May 2023: Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: As much of the world marks the May 1 Workers’ Day holiday, Ukraine tried to fend off a new barrage of Russian strikes in the 14-month-long war. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization launches its Global Report on Food Crises on Wednesday. Last year it predicted the war in Ukraine would exacerbate already severe food insecurity in different countries. Moscow is preparing for a military parade dress rehearsal for Russia’s Victory Day celebration of defeating Nazi forces in 1945. What happened last week: Chinese leader Xi Jinping called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in their first known contact since the Russian invasion last year. Zelenskyy appointed an ambassador to China. And China said it would send a special envoy to work toward a political settlement to the conflict. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov went to New York to chair debates at the U.N. Security Council, over which Russia holds the rotating presidency. In attendance was Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia. Russian missiles struck an apartment building in Uman, central Ukraine, killing more than 20 people, including children. Ukraine likely conducted drone attacks in Sevastopol, Crimea, including on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on April 24 and an oil storage facility on April 29, conflict analysts said. A Ukrainian journalist was killed and Italian reporter injured in an apparent Russian sniper attack, their employer La Repubblica newspaper said. The European Union provided $1.65 billion to Ukraine as part of an annual financial assistance package, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. President Biden and others at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner called for Russia to release Evan Gershkovich, the U.S. citizen and Wall Street Journal reporter jailed in Russia.

Continue reading Aftermath of the Trump Administration, May 2023:


Tuesday, 2 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky says Discord leaks on Ukraine are ‘not beneficial’ to the U.S.; explosions heard in Kyiv, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Jennifer Hassan, Adam Taylor, Mary Ilyushina, and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Tuesday, 2 May 2023: “In a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he has not had any conversations with the White House about the massive leak of highly classified U.S. intelligence documents shared on the Discord messaging platform. The leader said he learned of the intelligence leak — which included grim U.S. assessments about Ukraine’s war with Russia — along with everyone else, when the news broke. ‘It is unprofitable for us,’ Zelensky said. ‘It is not beneficial to the reputation of the White House, and I believe it is not beneficial to the reputation of the United States.’ After midnight local time, an air-raid alert sounded throughout Kyiv. Two loud explosions could be heard in the city center after that. The blasts were the sounds of air defense intercepting projectiles, local officials said.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the Discord leaks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba during a call in April after news of the leak had broken, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic discussions. The call had been previously scheduled to discuss a NATO meeting, the official said.
  • More than 20,000 Russian troops have been killed and 80,000 have been wounded in Ukraine since December, according to an estimate from the U.S. National Security Council. The numbers are based on ‘intelligence that we were able to corroborate over a period of some time,’ NSC spokesman John Kirby said. He declined to discuss Ukrainian casualties. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that the Pentagon’s estimate of 100,000 Russians dead or injured was fabricated. ‘They do not have such data,’ he said.
  • Of the 20,000 Russians killed, half were part of the Kremlin-backed Wagner mercenary group involved in the heavy fighting in the eastern city of Bakhmut, U.S. officials said. Many Wagner fighters are ex-convicts who did not receive sufficient military training, U.S. officials have said.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told top military officials in a Tuesday meeting that Russia must ‘quickly double’ its production of high-precision weapons, saying the Russian military’s ‘activities’ in Ukraine ‘depend heavily’ on timely reinforcements of weapons and ammunition.
  • For the second time in two days, Russia said that a train had derailed in the Bryansk region. Once again, no injuries were reported. Russian Railways blamed the incident, in which 20 freight cars went off the tracks, on ‘interference by unauthorized persons.’ Russia has accused pro-Ukrainian groups of carrying out attacks in the area.
  • Denmark announced that it will donate about $250 million worth of additional military equipment to Ukraine, Reuters reported.
  • New Zealand’s prime minister had his first phone call with Zelensky since becoming leader in January. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who is visiting Britain to attend King Charles III’s coronation, will shake hands with New Zealand troops who are helping to train Ukrainian forces in Britain. Hipkins said he will also make announcements on additional support that New Zealand plans to provide Ukraine.
  • Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, denied illegally transferring thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia in an interview with Vice News. Lvova-Belova called allegations that she is a war criminal ‘funny.’ In March, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lvova-Belova for the war crime of ‘unlawful deportation and … transfer’ of children from regions in Ukraine occupied by Russian troops.
  • Black Sea grain talks will take place WednesdayReuters quoted a senior Ukrainian official as saying. But Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it had received no information about the meeting. The fragile deal among Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations, which allows shipments of grain from Ukrainian Black Sea ports despite the war, will expire May 18 unless renewed.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia’s Defense Minister Urges Faster Weapons Deliveries, Suggesting Stockpiles Are Depleted. A series of Russian officials have made comments this year indicating that the demands of war are outpacing the capacity of the country’s arms industry. The New York Times, Tuesday, 2 May 2023:

  • Russia’s defense minister calls for faster delivery of weapons, suggesting depleted stocks.
  • As attacks on journalists rise, The Times’s publisher warns of risks to democracy.
  • A second train derailment in two days is reported in a Russian border area.
  • Russia is reinforcing its counterintelligence units in occupied areas, Ukrainian officials say.
  • Warsaw and Moscow are locked in a heated diplomatic fight over the seizure of an embassy school.
  • The Kremlin says it ‘knows nothing about’ a secret peace mission announced by the pope.
  • With Ukraine’s huge salt mine in Russian hands, Ukrainian kitchens feel the loss.

Tucker Carlson’s Text That Alarmed Fox Leaders: ‘It’s Not How White Men Fight,’ The discovery of the text message contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to Tucker Carlson’s firing. The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters, Michael S. Schmidt, and Jim Rutenberg, Tuesday, 2 May 2023: “A text message sent by Tucker Carlson that set off a panic at the highest levels of Fox on the eve of its billion-dollar defamation trial showed its most popular host sharing his private, inflammatory views about violence and race. The discovery of the message contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to Mr. Carlson’s firing. In the message, sent to one of his producers in the hours after violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Carlson described how he had recently watched a video of a group of men — Trump supporters, he said — violently attacking ‘an Antifa kid.’ It was ‘three against one, at least,’ he wrote. And then he expressed a sense of dismay that the attackers, like him, were white. ‘Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously,’ he wrote. ‘It’s not how white men fight,’ he said. But he said he found himself for a moment wanting the group to kill the person he had described as the Antifa kid. For years, Mr. Carlson espoused views on his show that amplified the ideology of white nationalism. But the text message revealed more about his views on racial superiority.” See also, Tucker Carlson text on ‘how white men fight’ alarmed Fox board members. The board overseeing Fox News was so alarmed by the prime-time host’s text message that it planned to hire a law firm to investigate his behavior. The Washington Post, Sarah Ellison, Tuesday, 2 May 2023: “On the eve of what was expected to be the most closely watched defamation trial in a generation, the board of Fox Corp. last month reviewed a text message that Tucker Carlson, a prime-time star on Fox News, had sent to one of his producers in early 2021. In the message, he described himself watching a video of Donald Trump supporters beating up someone he referred to as ‘an Antifa kid.’ Carlson wrote of his conflicting emotions, hinting at his dismay that he had found himself ‘rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him.’ But in the most startling passage, Carlson asserted flatly that ‘jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight.’ After seeing the message, the board alerted Fox executives that it planned to retain a law firm to investigate Carlson’s behavior, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive discussions. The text message, first reported Tuesday night by the New York Times, added to a cascading set of concerns about Carlson within Fox News that led the company to fire him last week, according to several people familiar with the internal deliberations around his departure from the network.The Washington Post reported last week that network co-founder Rupert Murdoch had also grown concerned about Carlson’s increasingly far-right commentary — including his disparagement of U.S. support for Ukraine — and that executives had noted his harsh critique of Fox management in his private communications, including some sexist and vulgar language aimed at a female executive.”

Prominent Retired Conservative Judge J. Michael Luttig Calls for Ethics Rules for Supreme Court Justices. In written testimony sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Luttig called for new ethics rules for Supreme Court justices. The New York Times, Abbie Van Sickle, Tuesday, 2 May 2023: “A prominent conservative former federal judge joined a group of legal experts on Tuesday in calling on Congress to enact new ethical standards for Supreme Court justices, after a series of revelations about the justices’ undisclosed gifts, luxury travel and property deals. The statement by Judge J. Michael Luttig, a retired appeals court judge revered by some conservatives, was released hours before the Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Supreme Court ethics. Pressure has mounted among progressives for a stricter code of conduct for the justices, the nation’s highest judges, who are appointed to lifetime terms and are bound by few disclosure requirements. Congress ‘indisputably has the power under the Constitution’ to ‘enact laws prescribing the ethical standards applicable to the nonjudicial conduct and activities of the Supreme Court of the United States,’ Judge Luttig said in a written statement presented to the Judiciary Committee. The judge, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and was close to being nominated for the Supreme Court, was among several legal experts who testified on Tuesday in favor of strengthening ethical rules at the court.” See also, While Republicans at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on the high court’s ethics mostly called it a partisan spectacle, some acknowledged justices needed to take action, Politico, Josh Gerstein and Katherine Tully-McManus, Tuesday, 2 May 2023: “Partisan cannon fire dominated Senate Democrats’ high-profile hearing Tuesday on Supreme Court ethics, but behind the bluster, some Republicans acknowledged the high court needed to address a spate of controversies about justices’ conduct. The Senate Judiciary Committee hosted the hearing to call for more formal ethical standards at the high court. Chair Dick Durbin opened the session by recounting recent reports that Justice Clarence Thomas accepted luxury travel via private jet and yacht from a Texas developer without declaring most of the hospitality on his financial disclosures and sold his mother’s home to the same developer without reporting the transaction. And while Republicans mostly came to Thomas’ defense, dismissing the hearing as a partisan spectacle aimed at the conservative majority, senior GOP senators also advised the court to provide more transparency and a move toward a better defined process to apply their ethical standards.”

Wednesday, 3 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky denies Kremlin’s claims Ukrainian drones targeted Putin for assassination, The Washington Post, Bryan Pietsch, Jennifer Hassan, Miriam Berger, Mary Ilyushina, and Sammy Westfall, Wednesday, 3 May 2023: “Washington takes ‘with a very large shaker of salt’ the Kremlin’s accusations that Ukraine tried to assassinate President Vladimir Putin overnight with drone strikes, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday during a Washington Post Live event. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking during a trip to Finland, denied any attack on ‘Putin or Moscow.’ But Russia said it ‘has a right to respond’ after claiming to thwart what it called ‘a terrorist act’ and intercepting two drones that it said targeted Putin’s Kremlin residence. Russia’s claims could not be independently verified. Putin was not in the building at the time of the alleged attack, and no changes have been made to his work schedule, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.

  • Zelensky said Ukraine fights ‘on our territory’ and does ‘not have enough weapons’ to spend attacking Putin in Moscow. ‘We didn’t attack Putin. We leave it to the tribunal,’ Zelensky said, referring to war crimes charges levied by the International Criminal Court against the Russian leader. Zelensky spoke while on his first trip to Finland since it joined the NATO military alliance last month.
  • Videos circulating on social media and verified by The Washington Post show two drones streaking toward the Kremlin at around 2:30 a.m. local time. The first drone appears to hit the dome of the Kremlin Senate, a building within the fortress that houses Putin’s office, causing an eruption of flames; the second drone appears to explode over the Senate dome. Two people are visible on the roof during the second explosion.
  • Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, wrote on Twitter that the Kremlin’s accusations were ‘predictable’ and give Russia ‘grounds to justify its attacks on civilians.’ He warned that ‘Russia is clearly preparing a large-scale terrorist attack.’
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the ‘United States is certainly not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders’ at a news conference Wednesday. She said she would not ‘speculate’ about the authenticity of Russia’s claims.
  • Russia’s security services said earlier Wednesday that they had dismantled a Ukrainian military intelligence network preparing ‘assassination attempts on the leaders in Crimea,’ the peninsula Russia invaded and illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Moscow is on high alert ahead of its annual World War II victory commemorations on Tuesday, when former Soviet states celebrate Nazi Germany’s defeat, and Ukraine’s expected spring offensive.
  • Talks to extend a deal to export Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea will take place in Istanbul on Friday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Wednesday. The meeting will involve Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials, Akar said — although Russia’s Foreign Ministry separately told state-owned news agency Tass on Wednesday that it had not agreed to a meeting. Turkey and the United Nations brokered the fragile deal to allow grain shipments from Ukraine’s blockaded Black Sea ports despite the war. It will expire May 18 unless renewed.
  • The company behind dating apps Tinder and Hinge is pulling out of Russia. Match Group said in its 2023 Impact Report that it was ‘committed to protecting human rights’ and would complete its exit from the Russian market by the end of June.
  • U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink met with Ukrainian journalists on World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, she tweeted, saying that ‘the work of free and independent media is critical to Ukraine’s success and progress on its European path.’ The group of journalists who met at the ambassador’s Kyiv residence included editors of Ukrainska Pravda and the Kyiv Independent, among others, the latter reported.
  • In this year’s World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders on Wednesday, Ukraine rose over the year from 106th place to 79th, out of 180 countries ranked on their environment for journalism. Russia, meanwhile, dropped from 155th place to 164th. Russia’s war in Ukraine ‘threatens the survival of the Ukrainian media,’ the organization wrote in its index. ‘In this information war, Ukraine stands at the front line of resistance against the expansion of the Kremlin’s propaganda system.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: What Happened When Explosions Occurred Over the Kremlin. Russia accused Ukraine of launching drones at the Kremlin aimed at killing President Vladimir V. Putin. The Ukrainian president denied the claim, and officials in Kyiv warned that Russia could use it to launch ‘a large-scale terrorist provocation.’ The New York Times, Ivan Nechepurenko, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, and Marc Santora, Wednesday, 3 May 2023: “Two explosions occurred 15 minutes apart over the Kremlin early Wednesday, video footage verified by The New York Times showed, in an incident that set off a flurry of accusations and escalated tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Russia claimed the Ukrainian government had orchestrated a drone attack, describing it as a deliberate attempt to strike President Vladimir V. Putin’s residence that was foiled by Russian ‘electronic warfare systems.’ Russia did not release any evidence to show that Ukraine was behind the explosions. Ukraine denied any involvement, asserting that Russia had manufactured the incident to distract attention from Ukraine’s looming counteroffensive. An attack in the heart of Moscow would represent an audacious move by Kyiv, with the potential to create serious repercussions. On Wednesday, U.S. intelligence agencies were still trying to determine what happened, according to two American officials briefed on the situation. U.S. officials have in the past voiced concern about Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil, concerned they could provoke Moscow without having a direct effect on the battlefield.”

Trump Will Offer No Defense Witnesses in Rape Trial, His Lawyer Says. The lawyer said he would call no witnesses to rebut E. Jean Carroll’s account of being assaulted at Bergdorf Goodman. the case could go to a jury early next week. The New York Times, Lola Fadulu, Benjamin Weiser, and Kate Christobek, Wednesday, 3 May 2023: “A lawyer defending former President Donald J. Trump against the writer E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit accusing him of rape said that he would present no witnesses during the trial, which completed its sixth day Wednesday. The lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, had earlier told Judge Lewis A. Kaplan that Mr. Trump would not come to Manhattan federal court to testify in the civil case. Mr. Trump, who is again running for president, went to Scotland and Ireland this week. When a reporter asked him why he was in Ireland instead of New York for his civil case, he responded that he had a longstanding agreement to travel there, according to a recording posted on Twitter on Wednesday. ‘I hear we’re doing very well in New York,’ Mr. Trump added. Even without witnesses, Mr. Trump’s lawyers can still use testimony they have elicited during cross-examinations of Ms. Carroll and others who testified on her behalf when they make their closing argument, likely Monday. Judge Kaplan told jurors that they would likely receive the case to begin deliberations early next week.”

Former F.B.I. Agent Jared L. Wise Charged in January 6 Riot. Prosecutors say the former agent, who worked counterterrorism in the New York field office before leaving the bureau in 2017, called police officers Nazis and illegally entered the Capitol. The New York Times, Adam Goldman and Alan Feuer, Wednesday, 3 May 2023: “Federal prosecutors have charged a former F.B.I. agent with illegally entering the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot and said he had called police officers Nazis as he encouraged a mob of Trump loyalists to kill them. The former agent, Jared L. Wise, was arrested on Monday and faces four misdemeanor counts, including disrupting the orderly conduct of government and trespassing, after agents received a tip in January last year that he had been inside the Capitol, according to a criminal complaint. Mr. Wise, 50, told the police they were like the Gestapo, Nazi Germany’s feared secret police, the complaint said. When violence erupted, he shouted in the direction of rioters attacking the law enforcement officers, ‘Kill ’em! Kill ’em! Kill ’em!'”

Judge Tosses Trump’s Lawsuit Against The New York Times and Orders Him to Pay All Legal Fees. Trump sued the paper, along with his niece Mary, alleging an ‘insidious plot’ to grab his tax records and publish them in a Pulitzer-winning report. The Daily Beast, Lachlan Cartwright, Wednesday, 3 May 2023: “A New York judge has tossed out Donald Trump’s lawsuit against The New York Times, and ordered the former president to pay all attorneys fees, legal expenses, and associated costs. Trump filed the lawsuit in 2021, alleging that the newspaper, three of its reporters and his niece Mary Trump engaged in an ‘insidious plot’ to obtain his private records for a Pulitzer-winning story about his tax issues. While the court tossed out Trump’s claims against the newspaper and its reporters, the claims against the ex-president’s niece have yet to be ruled upon. ‘The New York Times is pleased with the judge’s decision today,’ a paper spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast. ‘It is an important precedent reaffirming that the press is protected when it engages in routine newsgathering to obtain information of vital importance to the public.’ The twice-impeached former president’s claims against the defendants ‘fail as a matter of constitutional law,’ New York Supreme Court Justice Robert R. Reed wrote in his ruling filed on Wednesday afternoon, deeming the paper’s newsgathering as being at ‘the very core of protected First Amendment activity.'” See also, Judge Dismisses Trump’s Lawsuit Against The New York Times. Former President Donald Trump, who has sued The Times, three of its reporters, and his niece over an investigation into his tax returns, was ordered to pay The Times’s legal expenses. The New York Times, Liam Stack, Wednesday, 3 May 2023: “A New York judge dismissed former President Donald J. Trump’s lawsuit against The New York Times on Wednesday, saying the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into his finances was clearly protected by the First Amendment. When Mr. Trump filed the lawsuit in 2021, he accused the paper and three of its reporters of conspiring in an ‘insidious plot’ with his estranged niece, Mary L. Trump, to improperly obtain his confidential tax records for a series of stories published in 2018. In a ruling filed on Wednesday afternoon, Justice Robert R. Reed of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan wrote that Mr. Trump’s claims against The Times and its reporters ‘fail as a matter of constitutional law. Courts have long recognized that reporters are entitled to engage in legal and ordinary news-gathering activities without fear of tort liability — as these actions are at the very core of protected first amendment activity,’ Justice Reed wrote. The judge also ordered Mr. Trump to pay legal expenses and associated costs for The Times and its reporters, Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russ Buettner.”

Special counsel Jack Smith sat in on former Vice President Mike Pence’s testimony to federal grand jury, CNN Politics, Kristen Holmes, Jamie Gangel, and Katelyn Polantz, Wednesday, 3 May 2023: “Special counsel Jack Smith sat in on the federal grand jury proceeding while former Vice President Mike Pence testified for more than five hours last week, three sources familiar with the matter tell CNN. Smith and Pence interacted while Pence was at the courthouse, and one source described the interaction as respectful. Smith’s appearance is the first known time the special counsel has attended a grand jury proceeding in the investigation. Smith is leading the criminal probe with a team of prosecutors into the aftermath of the 2020 election and efforts to overturn the results. Pence was poised to recount for the first time under oath his direct conversations with Trump leading up to January 6, 2021. Then-President Donald Trump repeatedly pressured him unsuccessfully to block the 2020 election results, including on the morning of January 6 in a private phone call.”


Thursday, 4 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. denies Kremlin accusation of involvement in drone incident; Ukrainian drone shot down over Kyiv, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Victoria Bisset, Natalia Abbakumova, and Adam Taylor, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Thursday strenuously denied Russian allegations that Washington played a role in explosions at the Kremlin the day before. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier Thursday that the United States and Ukraine’s denials of involvement — in what Moscow alleged was a drone attack on the Kremlin targeting the residence of Russian President Vladimir Putin — were ‘absolutely ridiculous.’ Decisions ‘about such terrorist attacks are made not in Kyiv, but in Washington, and Kyiv does what it is told,’ Peskov said. ‘One thing I can tell you for certain is that the United States was not involved in this incident in any way, contrary to Mr. Peskov’s lies,’ Kirby told reporters Thursday. ‘We’re still looking at this. We haven’t come to any conclusions,’ he said, adding that Russia had shown it didn’t need ‘pretexts’ for attacking Ukraine.

  • Peskov said Russia is considering a ‘variety of measures’ in response to the alleged drone attack in Moscow, and the country’s ambassador to the United States vowed that the Kremlin would retaliate. ‘How would Americans react if a drone hit the White House, the Capitol or the Pentagon? The answer is obvious for any politician as well as for the average citizen: The punishment would be harsh and inevitable,’ Anatoly Antonov said, according to Russia’s Tass news agency. ‘Russia will respond to this insolent and presumptuous terrorist attack … when we consider it necessary.’ The incident has sparked fears of escalation.
  • Ukraine shot down its own drone over Kyiv on Thursday evening, according to the Ukrainian air force. Dramatic footage of the unmanned aerial vehicle being hit by surface-to-air missiles over central Kyiv spread across social media Thursday, but the air force later announced that it had been a Ukrainian drone and not a Russian attack. The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 was probably malfunctioning, the air force said, adding that investigations were underway and that no one was hurt in the incident. Ukraine had defended itself earlier against a wave of Russian drone attacks against Kyiv and other targets across the country, the air force said early Thursday, shooting down other drones flying over the capital.
  • The drone attack on the Kremlin was probably staged by Russia with an eye on the domestic audience, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in an analysis of the incident. The think tank said it was ‘extremely unlikely’ that two foreign drones could have avoided detection and reached the Kremlin. The Washington Post verified social media videos showing two drones streaking toward the Kremlin around 2:30 a.m. local time Wednesday and later bursting into flames.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Thursday. In a symbolic visit less than two months after the court issued arrest warrants for Putin and another senior Russian official over the abduction of thousands of Ukrainian children, Zelensky said the Russian president ‘deserves to be sentenced for these criminal actions right here in the capital of the international law,’ according to the Associated Press.
  • Zelensky said he was ‘sure’ that Putin would stand trial when Ukraine wins the war, adding: ‘And we will win the war.’ However, the likelihood of Putin ever appearing before the ICC remains distant, despite the arrest warrant against him: Russia, like the United States, does not accept the ICC’s jurisdiction, and the court does not try people in absentia.
  • In a speech in the Netherlands, Zelensky called Russia’s ‘crime of aggression’ in invading Ukraine the war’s ‘primary crime’ — on a higher level than specific atrocities.
  • NATO’s Nordic states pledged to continue their political and military support for Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’ after a meeting with Zelensky in Helsinki on Wednesday. In a joint statement, the leaders of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland said they were committed to pushing for Ukraine’s membership to NATO.
  • Ukraine and the European Union renewed a ‘visa-free’ agreement for businesses for another year, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Telegram. The deal, which allows Ukrainian businesses to sell goods to the E.U. without export duties or tariffs, will help Ukraine’s war-battered economy.
  • Cities across Russia, but not Moscow, canceled parades for the Victory Day holiday on May 9 over security concerns. The day marks the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: White House Rejects Kremlin Claim of a Role in Explosions. The Kremlin alleged, without evidence, that the U.S. ‘dictated’ Ukrainian strikes inside Russia, prompting a vehement denial from Washington. The New York Times, Thursday, 4 May 2023:

  • Russia accuses the U.S. of involvement in the explosions over the Kremlin.

  • Explosions rock Kyiv and Odesa overnight after the Kremlin incident.

  • The top U.S. intelligence official says Putin is focused on consolidating control of occupied territories in Ukraine.

  • In The Hague, Zelensky renews his call for a tribunal to prosecute Russian crimes.

  • The ‘peace dividend’ is over in Europe. Now come the trade-offs.

  • Here’s what we know about the explosions over the Kremlin on Wednesday.

  • The toll from Russian strikes rises in Kherson as a curfew is set for Friday.

Four Proud Boys Convicted of Seditious Conspiracy in Key January 6 Case. The verdict was a blow against the far-right group and another milestone in the Justice Department’s prosecution of the pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Zach Montague, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “Four members of the Proud Boys, including their former leader Enrique Tarrio, were convicted on Thursday of seditious conspiracy for plotting to keep President Donald J. Trump in power after his election defeat by leading a violent mob in attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The fifth defendant in the case, Dominic Pezzola, was found not guilty on the sedition charges, although he was convicted of other serious felonies. The verdicts, coming after seven days of deliberations in Federal District Court in Washington, were a major blow against one of the country’s most notorious far-right groups and another milestone in the Justice Department’s vast investigation of the Capitol attack. The trial was the last of three sedition cases that federal prosecutors had brought against key figures in the Capitol attack. The sedition charge, which is rarely used and harks back to the Union’s efforts to protect the federal government against secessionist rebels during the Civil War, was also used in two separate trials against nine members of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers militia. Six of those defendants — including Stewart Rhodes, the organization’s founder and leader — were convicted of sedition; each of the others was found guilty of different serious felonies.” See also, Proud Boys Enrique Tarrio and 3 others are found guilty of January 6 seditious conspiracy. Prosecutors alleged defendants viewed themselves as Donald Trump’s army, intent on keeping him in power through violence. The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, Rachel Weiner, and Hannah Allam, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “Former Proud Boys chairman Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio and three other leaders of the far-right extremist group were found guilty Thursday of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. A jury deliberated for seven days in Washington before finding Tarrio, 39, and other defendants guilty on 31 of 46 counts. The jury returned not-guilty verdicts on five counts — including acquitting one member, Dominic Pezzola, of seditious conspiracy — and deadlocked on 10 others. The result marked the third decisive victory for the Justice Department in three seditious conspiracy trials held after what it called a historic act of domestic terrorism to prevent the peaceful transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 presidential election.” See also, Jury convicts Enrique Tarrio of the Proud Boys on seditious conspiracy charge, NPR, Carrie Johnson, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “Former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio and three other members of the far-right group have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy by a federal jury in Washington, D.C. Jurors also convicted Tarrio and the others of obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging their duties, obstruction of law enforcement during a civil disorder and destruction of government property with value of over $1,000 in one of the most important cases to date stemming from the siege on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Jurors found defendant Dominic Pezzola not guilty of seditious conspiracy. Pezzola is well known for taking a shield from a police officer on Jan. 6 and using it to bash in a window at the Capitol. The convictions amount to a significant victory for the Justice Department, which has now secured them against top leaders of both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers for their roles in the attempt to keep former President Donald Trump in power and stop certification of the 2020 election. ‘Today’s verdict makes clear the Justice Department will do everything in its power to defend the American people and to defend democracy,’ Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a brief statement at the building’s headquarters. He praised the skill and courage of the prosecutors who have worked on the Jan. 6 cases and said they had secured more than 600 convictions. Garland said that work would continue.” See also, Four Proud Boys members found guilty of seditious conspiracy, CNN Politics, Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “Four members of the far-right Proud Boys have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy by a jury in Washington, DC, for their roles to forcibly prevent the peaceful transfer of power from then-President Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 election. “Enrique Tarrio – the Proud Boys longtime chairman – Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl were found guilty Thursday of seditious conspiracy and a range of other charges, including three separate conspiracy charges, obstructing the Electoral College vote and tampering with evidence.  The guilty verdict marks the third time that prosecutors have secured convictions for seditious conspiracy in the Justice Department’s historic prosecution of those who breached the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.” See also, Proud Boys revealed: Videos and secret chats show how January 6 plot unfolded. Watch trial evidence jurors saw before convicting four members of the right wing group of seditious conspiracy in the Capitol attack. The Washington Post, Adriana Usero, Rachel Weiner, Spencer S. Hsu, and Frank Hulley-Jones, published on Friday, 5 May 2023: “To convict Proud Boys leader Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio and three close allies of seditious conspiracy, prosecutors pulled from thousands of videos and text messages indicating that by Jan. 6, 2021, the right-wing group’s anger and aggression toward government authority had been growing for weeks. The Proud Boys were mobilized by President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud and by their own frustration with D.C. police, whom they saw as failing to protect them during street clashes with far-left protesters in late 2020. When Trump called for a “wild” rally in D.C. on Jan. 6, prosecutors said, Tarrio created a hand-picked ‘Ministry of Self Defense’ or MOSD to lead the Proud Boys that day.”

Republican Megadonor Harlan Crow Paid the Private School Tuition for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s Grandnephew, a relative Thomas said he was raising ‘as a son.’ ‘This is way outside the norm’ said a former White House ethics lawyer. ProPublica, Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott, and Alex Mierjeski, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “In 2008, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas decided to send his teenage grandnephew to Hidden Lake Academy, a private boarding school in the foothills of northern Georgia. The boy, Mark Martin, was far from home. For the previous decade, he had lived with the justice and his wife in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Thomas had taken legal custody of Martin when he was 6 years old and had recently told an interviewer he was ‘raising him as a son.’ Tuition at the boarding school ran more than $6,000 a month. But Thomas did not cover the bill. A bank statement for the school from July 2009, buried in unrelated court filings, shows the source of Martin’s tuition payment for that month: the company of billionaire real estate magnate Harlan Crow. The payments extended beyond that month, according to Christopher Grimwood, a former administrator at the school. Crow paid Martin’s tuition the entire time he was a student there, which was about a year, Grimwood told ProPublica. ‘Harlan picked up the tab,’ said Grimwood, who got to know Crow and the Thomases and had access to school financial information through his work as an administrator. Before and after his time at Hidden Lake, Martin attended a second boarding school, Randolph-Macon Academy in Virginia. ‘Harlan said he was paying for the tuition at Randolph-Macon Academy as well,’ Grimwood said, recalling a conversation he had with Crow during a visit to the billionaire’s Adirondacks estate. ProPublica interviewed Martin, his former classmates and former staff at both schools. The exact total Crow paid for Martin’s education over the years remains unclear. If he paid for all four years at the two schools, the price tag could have exceeded $150,000, according to public records of tuition rates at the schools. Thomas did not report the tuition payments from Crow on his annual financial disclosures. Several years earlier, Thomas disclosed a gift of $5,000 for Martin’s education from another friend. It is not clear why he reported that payment but not Crow’s. The tuition payments add to the picture of how the Republican megadonor has helped fund the lives of Thomas and his family.” See also, Republican Donor Harlan Crow Paid for Two Years of Private-School Tuition for Justice Clarence Thomas’s great-nephew, a Gift the Justice Did Not Disclose, a Friend of the Justice Acknowledged in a Statement on Thursday. the revelation by ProPublica on Thursday added to the lavish gifts and travel from the Texas billionaire that Justice Clarence Thomas has not disclosed. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “The acknowledgment added detail to a report on Thursday by ProPublica, which last month documented how Justice Thomas had received gifts of luxury travel from the billionaire donor, Harlan Crow. The revelations, which also include the sale of the home of Justice Thomas’s mother to Mr. Crow, have raised questions over the justice’s ethical practices. In his statement, Mark Paoletta, Justice Thomas’s friend and a former official for the Trump administration, argued that the justice was not required to report the tuition. He pointed to part of a 1978 law that says judges must disclose gifts to dependent children, who are defined as ‘a son, daughter, stepson or stepdaughter.’ Mr. Paoletta stressed that by that measure, a great-nephew does not qualify…. But ethics law experts rejected that argument and said Mr. Crow’s gift was to Justice Thomas himself, not the great-nephew, so it was clearly reportable. As the legal guardian of the child, Justice Thomas had assumed responsibility for his education, enrolled him in private school and otherwise would have had to pay tuition. ‘There is no ambiguity here,’ said Kathleen Clark, an ethics law expert at Washington University in St. Louis. ‘He paid the tuition, which was a gift to Thomas because it helped Thomas financially fulfill his responsibility as guardian,’ she added. Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota professor who was the top ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, concurred. ‘I believe Justice Thomas had legal custody, and they have not disputed that,’ Mr. Painter said. ‘It was his prerogative to send the child to private school, but he had to pay for it. That was his debt, like a utility bill or food.'” See also, Republican megadonor Harlan Crow paid private school tuition for Justice Thomas’s grandnephew, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “The same Texas billionaire who treated Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to lavish vacations paid private boarding school tuition for Thomas’s grandnephew, a boy the justice has said he raised as a son, according to a new report that said Thomas did not disclose the payments. ProPublica reported that Harlan Crow, a prominent Republican donor, paid tuition at Hidden Lake Academy, a boarding school in Georgia, as well as at Randolph-Macon Academy in Virginia, for Mark Martin. Thomas had legal custody of the boy.”

Judicial activist Leonard Leo directed fees to Clarence Thomas’s wife and urged ‘no mention of Ginni.’ Leo told Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill nonprofit and then use the money to pay Ginny Thomas, spouse of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas. The Washington Post, Emma brown, Shawn Boburg, and Jonathan O’Connell, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “Conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo arranged for the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to be paid tens of thousands of dollars for consulting work just over a decade ago, specifying that her name be left off billing paperwork, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post. In January 2012, Leo instructed the GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill a nonprofit group he advises and use that money to pay Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas, the documents show. The same year, the nonprofit, the Judicial Education Project, filed a brief to the Supreme Court in a landmark voting rights case. Leo, a key figure in a network of nonprofits that has worked to support the nominations of conservative judges, told Conway that he wanted her to ‘give’ Ginni Thomas ‘another $25K,’ the documents show. He emphasized that the paperwork should have ‘No mention of Ginni, of course.’… In December 2012, the Judicial Education Project submitted an amicus brief in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging a landmark civil rights law aimed at protecting minority voters. The court struck down a formula in the Voting Rights Act that determined which states had to obtain federal clearance before changing their voting rules and procedures. Clarence Thomas was part of the 5-to-4 majority. Thomas issued a concurring opinion in the case, arguing that the preclearance requirement itself is unconstitutional. Thomas’s opinionwhich was consistent with a previous opinion he wrote, favored the outcome the Judicial Education Project and several other conservative organizations had advocated in their amicus briefs. He did not cite the Judicial Education Project brief.”

Justice Department Is Intensifying Efforts to Determine if Trump Hid Documents at Mar-a-Lago. Prosecutors investigating the former president’s handling of classified material have issued a wave of new subpoenas and obtained the confidential cooperation of a witness who worked at Mar-a-Lago. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Adam Goldman, Alan Feuer, Ben Protess, and Michael S. Schmidt, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “Federal prosecutors investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of classified documents have obtained the confidential cooperation of a person who has worked for him at Mar-a-Lago, part of an intensifying effort to determine whether Mr. Trump ordered boxes containing sensitive material moved out of a storage room there as the government sought to recover it last year, multiple people familiar with the inquiry said. Through a wave of new subpoenas and grand jury testimony, the Justice Department is moving aggressively to develop a fuller picture of how the documents Mr. Trump took with him from the White House were stored, who had access to them, how the security camera system at Mar-a-Lago works and what Mr. Trump told aides and his lawyers about what material he had and where it was, the people said. At the heart of the inquiry is whether Mr. Trump sought to hide some documents after the Justice Department issued a subpoena last May demanding their return. The existence of an insider witness, whose identity has not been disclosed, could be a significant step in the investigation, which is being overseen by Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. The witness is said to have provided investigators with a picture of the storage room where the material had been held. Little else is known about what prosecutors might have learned from the witness or when the witness first began to provide information to the prosecutors.” See also, Special counsel Jack Smith is investigating Trump Organization’s handling of Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage, CNN Politics, Katelyn Polantz and Paula Reid, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “Prosecutors for special counsel Jack Smith have been asking questions in recent weeks about the handling of surveillance footage from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort after the Trump Organization received a subpoena last summer for the footage, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. The handling of the footage, and how employees within the Trump Organization responded to the Justice Department’s demand for it, have prompted a new round of grand jury subpoenas to top Trump employees in the last few weeks, the sources told CNN.”

In Rape Trial Deposition, Trump Says Vulgar Tape Simply Reflects the Truth. The former president did not disavow the ‘Access Hollywood’ video when questioned by lawyers for E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of attacking her. They rested their case Thursday. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser, Lola fadulu, and Kate Christobek, Thursday, 4 May 2023: “Years after a video recording captured Donald J. Trump bragging about grabbing women by their genitals, he said in a deposition for a trial accusing him of rape that he was merely stating a historical truth. The ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, made public in 2016 — and replayed for a Manhattan jury on Thursday — at first looked as though it might derail his presidential campaign. It did not, and it later became a symbol of his invulnerability to scandal. Asked about the episode by a lawyer for the writer E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of raping her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the mid-1990s, Mr. Trump did not repudiate what he had said. ‘Well, historically, that’s true with stars,’ Mr. Trump says in a video of the deposition. ‘True with stars that they can grab women by the pussy?’ Ms. Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, asks. ‘Well, that’s what — if you look over the last million years, I guess that’s been largely true,’ Mr. Trump says. ‘Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately.'”


Friday, 5 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Head of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries lashes out at Moscow; drone attacks target Russian oil refinery, The Washington Post, Robyn Dixon, Kelsey Ables, Victoria Bisset, David L. Stern, Claire Parker, and Natalia Abbakumova, Friday, 5 May 2023: “The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, which has been fighting for control of Bakhmut since last summer, announced Friday that he would withdraw his forces from the city on May 10 because of insufficient ammunition. In a letter published on his Telegram channel, Yevgeniy Prigozhin demanded that the Defense Ministry sign an order indicating the date on which it would replace Wagner forces involved in a brutal battle for the city in eastern Ukraine. Prigozhin said his forces had no choice but to withdraw to rear bases to ‘lick the wounds.’ It remains to be seen whether he does withdraw — a move that would be catastrophic for Russia’s long campaign to take Bakhmut, and which would probably carry political consequences.

  • The Wagner chief’s letter followed a graphic late-night video posted on Telegram, in which he appeared to display dozens of corpses of Wagner fighters killed in Bakhmut on Thursday.
  • In the video, Prigozhin launches into a furious, obscenity-laden tirade, accusing Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, of supplying Wagner with 70 percent less ammunition than needed. Prigozhin’s struggle with Russia’s military leaders has continued for months, as Wagner has taken huge losses trying to drive Ukrainian forces out of Bakhmut. Ukrainian military spokesman Serhii Cherevatyi told CNN that a Wagner withdrawal could be a ‘turning point’ in the battle.
  • Prigozhin also says in the video message that a top Russian defense official who was removed from his post had joined the Wagner Group as deputy commander. Russia’s defense ministry announced on Telegram Sunday that it had replaced Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, who was in charge of logistics for the military. Prigozhin called Mizintsev a ‘simple man without any super demands.’
  • Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally, defended Prigozhin in comments on Telegram Friday, chastising Russia’s defense leadership for its silence, and saying Prigozhin ‘deserves respect for the invaluable contribution’ of Wagner fighters in eastern Ukraine. He called on Moscow to explain if there is a shortage of ammunition for Wagner troops. Kadyrov also said his forces were ‘ready to move in and take the city’ if Wagner pulls out of Bakhmut.
  • A bipartisan delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine to discuss the war effort and U.S. assistance. The meeting included Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), as well as Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The visit was ‘a powerful signal of support,’ read a statement on the website for the office of the president of Ukraine.
  • Ukraine and Russia did not reach an arrangement Friday to authorize new ships to export Ukrainian grain on the Black Sea, according to a U.N. spokesperson. ‘The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) has not reached agreement to authorize new vessels to participate in the Black Sea Initiative,’ said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, in a statement. ‘We urge all parties to continue their discussions, overcome operational challenges and work towards the full implementation and continuation of the Initiative.’
  • Moscow has continued to vow retaliation for what it alleges was a drone attack on the Kremlin this week targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s residence. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in India that his country would respond with ‘concrete actions’ to what he described as ‘a hostile act.’ Russia accused Ukraine and the United States of involvement, something both countries have strongly denied. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin will chair a security council meeting Friday that may discuss the incident.
  • Lavrov echoed statements by another Russian official alleging foreign involvement in the alleged drone attack on the Kremlin. ‘It is absolutely clear that Kyiv terrorists could not have carried it out without the knowledge of their masters,’ he said Friday, a day after the Russian ambassador to the United States accused Washington of being behind the attack. The aggressive statements have heightened worries in Kyiv that Moscow could further escalate its war.
  • The European Council approved $1.1 billion to finance the provision of artillery rounds and possibly missiles to Ukraine. The measure supports the joint procurement by E.U. countries of ammunition and missiles from operators based in the E.U. or Norway to ship to Ukraine, the council said in a news release Friday. It brings the total amount of E.U. military support to Ukraine to nearly $6.2 billion. ‘The Ukrainian Armed Forces need substantial amounts of ammunition to defend the Ukrainian people and territory. They need it fast,’ E.U. foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
  • Zelensky called for a special tribunal to prosecute Putin for war crimes. Speaking in The Hague, which houses the International Criminal Court, he said the Russian president ‘deserves to be sentenced for his criminal actions right here, in the capital of international law.’ But Putin is unlikely ever to appear before the ICC, because Russia does not accept its jurisdiction and the court does not try anyone in absentia.
  • Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that achieving a sustainable peace would be ‘impossible without transformation in Russia.’ Speaking by video call to an Atlantic Council event ahead of a NATO summit in July, he said Ukraine was ‘completing the mission and putting an end to the Soviet empire,’ but he warned of a ‘rapid rapprochement of the regimes that favor the world order based on the rule of force, instead of the rule of law.’ He said Ukraine must be allowed to join NATO. ‘We need to act, with NATO role as a foundation for collective defense,’ he said.
  • Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations will discuss the extension of a deal that allows Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea, according to Turkey’s Defense Ministry. Technical personnel met Friday ahead of a deputy ministers’ meeting next week.
  • A Ukrainian delegate scuffled with a Russian delegate as tensions soar ahead of the negotiations. The two men were at an event for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in Ankara, when the Ukrainian unfurled his country’s flag behind another Russian delegate who was in the middle of a video interview, according to Reuters. Footage from the news agency and social media showed the Ukrainian chase after a second Russian who snatched away the flag — and hitting the man to retrieve it.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russian Mercenary Leader Yevgeny Prigozhin  Threatens to Pull forces From Bakhmut Next Week. Prigoxhin, who founded the Wagner group, has long made incendiary threats over a lack of ammunition. It was unclear if he would follow through with his threat. The New York Times, Friday, 5 May 2023:

  • Prigozhin, again blaming military chiefs, says Wagner will leave Bakhmut after a major Russian holiday.

  • Russian soldiers could replace Wagner in Bakhmut, but daily combat would likely change, experts say.

  • Russia tries to focus on its Victory Day holiday while unease about the war in Ukraine grows.

  • Attacks on Russian infrastructure help set the stage for Ukraine’s counteroffensive, analysts say.

  • The Russian occupation authorities order evacuations in parts of southern Ukraine as a counteroffensive looms.

  • Russian pro-war activists anticipate Ukraine’s counteroffensive with increasing anxiety.

  • A 58-hour curfew is set to begin in Kherson after deadly shelling by Russian forces. 

January 6 Rioter Peter Schwartz Gets 14 Years for Attacks on Police, the Longest Sentence Yet in Inquiry. The sentence was delivered the same day prosecutors recommended 25 years in prison for Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, who was convicted of seditious conspiracy in the attack. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Zach Montague, Friday, 5 May 2023: “A Pennsylvania welder who attacked police officers at the Capitol with a chair and then chemical spray was sentenced on Friday to slightly more than 14 years in prison, the most severe penalty handed down so far in connection with the events of Jan. 6, 2021. At a hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, the man, Peter Schwartz, 49, joined a growing list of people charged with assaulting the police on that day who have received stiff sentences. Until now, the longest sentence in a Jan. 6 case had been the 10-year term given to Thomas Webster, a former New York City police officer who was found guilty last year of swinging a metal flagpole at an officer at the Capitol. The sentence could presage more long prison terms to come. In a separate case on Friday, prosecutors recommended 25 years in prison for Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, who was convicted of seditious conspiracy in November along with one of his lieutenants. The prosecutors said holding Mr. Rhodes accountable at his sentencing hearing, scheduled for May 24, would be essential to preserving American democracy. His punishment, they said, could help decide whether ‘Jan. 6 becomes an outlier or a watershed moment.'”

After latest January 6 seditious conspiracy convictions, Trump says Justice Department is ‘destroying lives,’ The Washington Post, John Wagner, Friday, 5 May 2023: “A day after federal prosecutors won their latest high-profile cases against leaders of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, former president Donald Trump lashed out in a social media post at the Justice Department, claiming it and the FBI are ‘destroying the lives of so many Great American Patriots.’ ‘Back in the USA, but sadly I see so many really bad things happening to our Country,’ Trump, who broke ground earlier this week on a golf course in Scotland, wrote on Truth Social, his social media platform. ‘The DOJ and FBI are destroying the lives of so many Great American Patriots, right before our very eyes,’ he wrote. ‘The Court System is a RUBBER STAMP for their conviction and imprisonment. All this while the Radical Left protects and coddles extremists and murderers at a level, and with intensity, never seen before. GET SMART AMERICA, THEY ARE COMING AFTER YOU!!!'”

Key moments from the video of Trump’s deposition in E. Jean Carroll trial released to the public, CNN Politics, Kara Scannell, Dan Berman, and Nikki Brown, Friday, 5 May 2023: “The video deposition of Donald Trump played before the jury in the E. Jean Carroll civil battery and defamation trial was made public Friday, showing the former president discussing the accusations against him, the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape and the Russia ‘hoax.’ In the video, Trump confirms that he made the allegedly defamatory statements denying knowing Carroll, calling her allegations that he raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman’s dressing room in the mid-1990s a ‘hoax,’ and saying she is not his type. He also tells Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, that she, too, is not his type. And many times during the deposition, he calls Carroll a series of names, including ‘nut job,’ a ‘whack job’ and ‘mentally sick.'”

At least 8 fake electors have been granted immunity in the Georgia Trump investigation, CNN Politics, Sara Murray and Jason Morris, Friday, 5 May 2023: “At least eight of the Republican ‘fake electors’ in Georgia have accepted immunity deals in an ongoing criminal investigation into efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election there, according to a new court filing. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had previously notified all 16 GOP fake electors in Georgia that they were targets in her investigation. Last month, Willis offered immunity deals to several of the Republicans who served as pro-Trump electors and they accepted, according to the filing. The newly secured cooperators could offer insights into a key prong of Willis’s sprawling investigation into election interference: the attempts to put forward alternate slates of electors to block the certification of the 2020 presidential vote and the role Trump’s allies played in organizing the effort. Other Republicans who served as pro-Trump electors could still face legal exposure in her investigation, according to people familiar with the matter.” See also, At least eight Trump fake electors have accepted immunity in Georgia investigation, The Washington Post, Amy Gardner and Holly Bailey, Friday, 5 May 2023: “At least eight of the 16 Georgia Republicans who convened in December 2020 to declare Donald Trump the winner of the presidential contest despite his loss in the state have accepted immunity deals from Atlanta-area prosecutors investigating alleged election interference, according to a lawyer for the electors. Prosecutors with the office of Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) told the eight that they will not be charged with crimes if they testify truthfully in her sprawling investigation into efforts by Trump, his campaign and his allies to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia, according to a brief filed Friday in Fulton County Superior Court by defense attorney Kimberly Bourroughs Debrow. Willis has said that the meeting of Trump’s electors on Dec. 14, 2020, despite Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s certification of Biden’s win, is a key target of her investigation, along with Trump’s phone calls to multiple state officials and his campaign’s potential involvement in an unauthorized breach of election equipment in rural Coffee County, Ga.”


Monday, 8 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Security fears around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant intensify amid evacuations, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett and Leo Sands, Monday, 8 May 2023: “Security fears are intensifying around Europe’s largest nuclear facility, the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia plant. Russian authorities are preparing to evacuate about 3,100 staff from areas in and around the plant, the head of Ukraine’s nuclear operator said Monday. Nuclear energy experts have warned that fighting near the facility could lead to the disastrous leak of nuclear materials. Nearly 1,700 people — including 660 children — have been evacuated from the area already, according to a Moscow-installed official. Russia launched a swarm of more than 30 Iranian-made drones at the Ukrainian capital in an early-morning air attack Monday, according to Kyiv officials, injuring at least five people and damaging cars and buildings. Kyiv’s military administrator said the hours-long attack marked the fourth time Moscow has targeted the capital in eight days, as it ramps up the frequency of its strikes on the city.

  • The situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is becoming ‘unpredictable and potentially dangerous,’ the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog warned over the weekend. ‘I’m extremely concerned about the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant,’ said Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA. ‘We must act now to prevent the threat of a severe nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment.’
  • Zaporizhzhia evacuees have been temporarily relocated elsewhere in the area, the head of the Russian occupation administration in the southern Ukrainian region, Yevgeny Balitsky, wrote on Telegram late Sunday. Ukraine’s military accused Russian troops of stealing cars and looting goods from the front-line areas under the guise of the evacuation. The Washington Post wasn’t immediately able to verify the claims.
  • The Kremlin called on Western leaders to condemn comments by Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, who appeared to condone attacking Russian targets beyond Ukraine’s borders with lethal force. ‘We will keep killing Russians anywhere on the face of this world until the complete victory of Ukraine,’ Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Kyiv’s military intelligence chief, told Yahoo News. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced the comments on Monday as ‘monstrous.’
  • Two people were hospitalized and a residential building was damaged by falling wreckage from a drone in Kyiv’s west in the early hours of Monday, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. Three others were injured in explosions elsewhere in the city, he said on Telegram.
  • Russian forces also bombarded cities across Ukraine with 16 missiles strikes and artillery fire, according to Ukraine’s military early Monday. Targets in the Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odessa regions were among those struck in the volleys, Kyiv military officials said. The attacks killed and wounded civilians and damaged homes and high-rise buildings, the military said, but it did not immediately provide details. Across the country, military officials said Monday that 35 Iranian-made drones were shot down.
  • A large Red Cross warehouse storing humanitarian aid was destroyed in a missile attack on Odessa, Ukraine’s Red Cross society said Monday. The warehouse, covering 10,000 square meters (nearly 108,000 square feet), caught fire, destroying supplies inside that were intended for the Odessa region, charity officials said. As a result, Ukraine’s Red Cross said it has suspended humanitarian relief projects in the area.
  • Humanitarian supplies for aid group Project HOPE were also destroyed in warehouse strikes in the Odesa and Khersons regions, the group said. Items destroyed included generators and health hygiene kits, Giorgio Trombatore, the organization’s country director in Ukraine, said in a statement.
  • A top Ukrainian general said Russia has intensified shelling of Bakhmut, hoping to seize it ahead of Tuesday’s Victory Day holiday, which celebrates the Soviet Union’s role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. ‘Our task is to prevent this,’ Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky wrote on Telegram late Sunday. Russia’s military claimed early Monday that it struck Ukrainian forces in the Bakhmut area, including a command post and ammunition depot, from the air, Russia’s state-owned Tass news agency reported. The Post wasn’t immediately able to verify the claims.
  • Russia has apparently agreed to provide the weapons and ammunition needed for Wagner mercenaries to continue the bitter battle for Bakhmut, the head of the mercenary group said Sunday, in an apparent reversal of his previous vow to withdraw his troops from the besieged southern city on Wednesday. ‘We are promised to be given ammunition and weapons as much as we need to continue further actions,’ Yevgeniy Prigozhin said in an audio clip posted on Telegram. Russia’s Defense Ministry has not commented on any arrangements with Wagner.
  • Prigozhin has been engaged in a war of words with Russia’s Defense Ministry. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said that if his latest claims are true, he has ‘effectively blackmailed’ Russia’s military command into allocating ammunition to his mercenaries, against the command’s apparent wishes to deprioritize that fight.
  • British Foreign Minister James Cleverly is set to travel to Washington Monday for talks, including over the war in Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Cleverly is also slated to appear at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.
  • Russian prosecutors charged a man with terrorism offenses as part of their criminal investigation into a car explosion that wounded pro-Kremlin writer Zakhar Prilepin, Russia’s investigative committee said on Telegram. Prilepin, 47, a fervent supporter of President Vladimir Putin’s war, was driving when he was injured by an explosive device that had been placed under the passenger seat of his car, where his friend and assistant was sitting, Prilepin said on Telegram. The explosion killed his friend and broke both of Prilepin’s legs, he said.
  • Russian military recruiters are targeting Central Asian migrant workers living in Russia to send to Ukraine, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Monday. ‘Recruiters have visited mosques and immigration offices to recruit,’ intelligence officials said. According to the update, recruiting migrants is part of Moscow’s strategy for fulfilling its target of signing up 400,000 volunteers to deploy to Ukraine.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: In Zaporizhzhia and Other Occupied Areas, Evacuation Orders Sow Confusion. As fighting intensifies before an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russian officials in some occupied areas are ordering residents to leave. The New York Times, Monday, 8 May 2023:

  • Few people in occupied Zaporizhzhia appear to be heeding Russian evacuation calls.

  • Russia launched a large wave of attack drones over Kyiv, Ukrainian officials say.

  • Ukraine complains of Russian delays in the grain deal, which is set to expire next week.

  • Fearing attacks, and perhaps unrest, Russia plans a muted Victory Day.

  • Zelensky pledges ‘a new victory’ on a key World War II anniversary.

  • A ban on Russian flags at Victory Day events in Berlin is restored.

  • The Dnipro River, vital to Ukraine, now serves as a front line in the war.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia will mark WW II Victory Day, as Ukraine war rolls on, NPR, NPR Staff, Monday, 8 May 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: Ukrainians are assessing the damage after waking up to missile strikes overnight in Odesa. On Tuesday, Russia celebrates Victory Day, which commemorates the Soviet Union’s part in defeating the Nazis in World War II. President Vladimir Putin traditionally attends a military parade in Moscow’s Red Square. The day has taken on new symbolism with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Tuesday is also Europe Day — which is supposed to celebrate peace and unity on the continent but is marked for a second year with war in Ukraine. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen plans to visit Kyiv to commemorate the day. On Thursday, Russia’s associates governing occupied territories of eastern Ukraine in Donetsk and Luhansk mark the anniversary of self-proclaimed independence from Ukraine, which nobody else recognized until Putin declared recognition of the two regions as ‘republics’ in February 2022. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy could be planning to go to Germany the coming weekend, say German news reports. Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine are winners of the Charlemagne Prize to be awarded in Aachen, Germany, on Sunday. The Eurovision Song Contest finale is on Saturday. It’s supposed to take place in the country of the previous winning group — but that was Ukraine, and organizers instead chose to hold the event in Liverpool, England. It didn’t stop Ukrainian champs Kalush Orchestra from kicking off the party last week. Delegates from Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations could be meeting this week to discuss extending the deal allowing grain and other farm goods to ship from Black Sea ports. On Sunday, Turkey has a general election. A popular opposition candidate has pledged to align the country closer to the European Union. What happened last week: Russia said it shot down two drones over the Kremlin, alleging a Ukrainian attempt to kill Putin. Ukraine’s government denied it. Moscow later accused Washington of masterminding the alleged attack, which the United States denied. Ukraine said it downed a Russian hypersonic missile over Kyiv using American Patriot defense systems. It was the first known time Ukraine has intercepted this type of missile, which posed a challenge to the country’s defenses particularly before Patriot systems arrived in April. President Zelenskyy visited Finland and the Netherlands. In Helsinki, he took part in a Nordic-Ukrainian summit with leaders of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. In the Netherlands, he met with the Dutch prime minister and visited the Hague, where he called for a special tribunal to try Russian leaders. The president’s wife, Olena Zelenska, and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal attended the coronation of King Charles III, while President Zelenskyy and other officials sent congratulations and thanks for the United Kingdom’s strong support during the war. In London, Zelenska met with Jill Biden, the U.S. first lady, who said of a photo of the two alongside the U.K.’s Catherine, Princess of Wales: ‘We stand with Ukraine.’ Russian leaders were reportedly not invited to the coronation.”

In Rape Trial, Jury Must Now Decide If It Believes E. Jean Carroll or Trump. Trump never showed up for the trial, nor did his lawyer call witnesses. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser, Lola Fadulu, Kate Christobek, and Karen Zraick, Monday, 8 May 2023: “As the civil trial over the writer E. Jean Carroll’s allegation that former President Donald J. Trump raped her neared its end, one of her lawyers focused on the man who was missing from the courtroom. Mr. Trump did not testify on his own behalf or even show up. ‘He just decided not to be here,’ the lawyer, Michael J. Ferrara, told the jury on Monday. ‘He never looked you in the eye and denied raping Ms. Carroll.’  He added, ‘You should draw the conclusion that that’s because he did it.’ But Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, said that there was no reason for his client to appear in court. The rape allegation, he said, was a complete invention.” See also, A jury hears final arguments in E. Jean Carroll’s claims against Trump, NPR/The Associated Press, Monday, 8 May 2023: “Donald Trump should be held accountable for sexually attacking an advice columnist in 1996 because even a former president is not above the law, a lawyer for the columnist told a jury Monday in closing arguments in the lawsuit that accuses Trump of rape. A lawyer for Trump responded by calling the accuser’s account ‘unbelievable’ and ‘outrageous.’ Once the final arguments were complete, the judge sent the jury home with instructions to return Tuesday to hear about an hour of instructions before beginning deliberations. Jurors will be asked to decide whether Trump committed battery and defamed writer E. Jean Carroll and whether damages should be awarded. In recapping Carroll’s case, attorney Roberta Kaplan showed jurors video clips of Trump from his October deposition and replayed the Access Hollywood video from 2005 in which Trump said into a hot mic that celebrities can grab women’s genitals without asking. Kaplan recalled Trump’s comment that ‘stars like him can get away with sexually assaulting women. That’s who Donald Trump is. That is how he thinks. And that’s what he does,’ Kaplan said. ‘He thinks he can get away with it here.'” See also, Jury hears closing arguments in E. Jean Carroll’s civil lawsuit against Trump, who she accuses of raping her in the mid-1990s, The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Kim Bellware, and Mark Berman, Monday, 8 May 2023: “Jury deliberations are expected to begin Tuesday in E. Jean Carroll’s civil lawsuit against Donald Trump, who she has accused of raping her in the mid-1990s, capping off a two-week trial marked by searing testimony, courtroom recriminations and insults lobbed online and from abroad. During closing arguments in the case on Monday, Roberta Kaplan, an attorney for Carroll, depicted the choice before jurors as a simple one. They could believe Carroll, who told a ‘consistent’ story about being attacked, or Trump, ‘a nonstop liar’ who denied her allegation, Kaplan said. Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, painted a different picture, telling jurors that Carroll’s story was implausible and undercut by numerous details from her life, including her assertion that she told two friends of Trump’s alleged assault who also remained silent for decades, even when Trump was elected president in 2016. Carroll’s allegation, Tacopina told jurors, was ‘unbelievable.’… Jurors are tasked with deciding whether to side with Carroll and find Trump liable in the case. She is seeking unspecified monetary damages. Because the case is civil, not criminal, Trump does not face any time behind bars if the nine-member jury sides with Carroll. Civil cases typically involve disputes that get judged based on a preponderance of evidence, which is a lower standard than criminal cases, which require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Judge rules Trump prohibited from posting evidence in hush money case to social media. The judge largely sided with a request from the Manhattan district attorney’s office about what Trump can publicly say about certain aspects of the case. NBC News, Adam Reiss and Dareh Gregorian, Monday, 8 May 2023: “The New York state judge presiding over the criminal hush money case against Donald Trump issued an order Monday restricting the former president from posting about some evidence in the case on social media. Judge Juan Merchan largely sided with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg by limiting what Trump can publicly disclose about new evidence from the prosecution before the case goes to trial. The order says that ‘any materials and information provided by the People to the Defense in accordance with their discovery obligations … shall be used solely for the purposes of preparing a defense in this matter.’ Merchan’s order said anyone with access to the evidence being turned over to Trump’s team by state prosecutors ‘shall not copy, disseminate or disclose’ the material to third parties, including social media platforms, ‘without prior approval from the court.’ It also singles out Trump, saying he is allowed to review sensitive ‘Limited Dissemination Materials’ from prosecutors only in the presence of his lawyers and ‘shall not be permitted to copy, photograph, transcribe, or otherwise independently possess the Limited Dissemination Materials.’ In addition, the order restricts Trump from reviewing ‘forensic images of witness cell phones,’ although his lawyers can show him ‘approved portions’ of the images after they get permission from the judge.”


Tuesday, 9 May 2023:


Donald Trump Sexually Abused and Defamed E. Jean Carroll, Jury Finds. The ex-president must pay Ms. Carroll $5 million. More than a dozen women have accused Mr. Trump of sexual misconduct, but this civil case was the only one tested before a jury. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser, Lola Fadulu, and Kate Chistobek, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “A Manhattan jury on Tuesday found former President Donald J. Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll and awarded her $5 million in damages. More than a dozen women have accused Mr. Trump of sexual misconduct over the years, but this is the only allegation to be affirmed by a jury. In the civil case, the federal jury of six men and three women found that Ms. Carroll, 79, a former magazine writer, had sufficiently proved that Mr. Trump sexually abused her nearly 30 years ago in a dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan. The jury did not, however, find he had raped her, as she had long claimed. The jury, in returning the verdict shortly before 3 p.m., also found that Mr. Trump, who is running to regain the presidency, defamed Ms. Carroll in October when he posted a statement on his Truth Social platform calling her case ‘a complete con job’ and ‘a Hoax and a lie.’ His lawyer said he intended to appeal. Mr. Trump’s lawyers called no witnesses, and he never appeared at the trial to hear Ms. Carroll, who had sued him last year, deliver visceral testimony about the attack she said had ended her romantic life forever…. [Ms Carroll] said: ‘I filed this lawsuit against Donald Trump to clear my name and to get my life back. Today, the world finally knows the truth. This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed.'” See also, Jury in civil trial finds Trump sexually abused and defamed E. Jean Carroll. Jurors awarded $5 million to E. Jean Carroll, who accused Donald Trump of raping her at Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s. The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Kim Bellware, and Mark Berman, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “A civil jury in New York found Tuesday that former president Donald Trump sexually abused and defamed E. Jean Carroll, a writer who has accused him of assaulting her in the mid-1990s. Jurors deliberated for a little under three hours before siding with Carroll, awarding her a combined $5 million in damages. The verdict was an undeniable victory for Carroll, who testified during the trial that Trump violently assaulted her and, years later, unleashed further trauma by ridiculing her as a liar once she spoke out. For Trump, the verdict was a striking defeat, the latest legal setback as he seeks another term in the White House and faces a separate criminal case in New York and ongoing investigations in Washington and Fulton County, Ga. Trump, 76, has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault or misconduct over the years, but never before had any of those claims been fully litigated in court and decided by a jury. He assailed the verdict as a ‘disgrace,’ and his representatives said Trump would appeal. The trial was closely watched around the country, including by some of the other women who have accused Trump of wrongdoing.” See also, 4 takeaways from the E. Jean Carroll verdict against Trump, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Tuesday, 9 May 2023. See also, The E. Jean Carroll suit brought an astonishing moment of accountability, The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “Tuesday brought a stark moment of accountability for Donald Trump. The former president, who leads in the latest polling for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and against Democratic incumbent Joe Biden, has not just been credibly accused of sexual abuse but found liable for it by a jury of his peers. That and the behavior he showcased at trial should remind voters of what they rejected in 2020. Mr. Trump received a fair trial. A mixed decision after three hours of deliberations underscores that jurors weren’t out to get him: The six men and three women did not find Mr. Trump liable for allegedly raping E. Jean Carroll, as she claimed, but they agreed that he was liable for sexually abusing and defaming her, awarding her $5 million in damages.” See also, Jury finds Trump liable for sexual abuse and awards E. Jean Carroll $5 million, Associated Press, Larry Neumeister, Jennifer Peltz, and Michael R. Sisak, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “A jury found Donald Trump liable Tuesday for sexually abusing advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in 1996, awarding her $5 million in a judgment that could haunt the former president as he campaigns to regain the White House. The verdict was split: Jurors rejected Carroll’s claim that she was raped, finding Trump responsible for a lesser degree of sexual abuse. The judgment adds to Trump’s legal woes and offers vindication to Carroll, whose allegations had been mocked and dismissed by Trump for years. She nodded as the verdict was announced in a New York City federal courtroom only three hours after deliberations had begun, then hugged supporters and smiled through tears….  Jurors also found Trump liable for defaming Carroll over her allegations. Trump did not attend the civil trial and was absent when the verdict was read. Trump immediately lashed out on his social media site, claiming that he does not know Carroll and referring to the verdict as ‘a disgrace’ and ‘a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time.’ He promised to appeal.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Leader of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeniy Prigozhin criticizes war effort as Putin presides over scaled-back Victory Day; U.S. announces new aid; The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Adela Suliman, Natalia Abbakumova, and Brittany Shammas, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “The leader of the Wagner mercenary group issued a blistering statement denouncing Russia’s defense leaders for ‘treason’ and ‘destruction’ on Tuesday — a particularly vociferous denunciation that came as Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the nation’s military strength amid a pared-down Victory Day celebration. The holiday, among Russia’s most important, celebrates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War — a fight Putin has often invoked to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the Wagner head, claimed that his troops had ‘no ammunition’ and that Russian troops were fleeing their positions in Ukraine. Blaming ‘those who give them orders and who set the tasks,’ he said that ‘the fish rots from the head.’ He declared that it was no time to celebrate: ‘Victory Day is the victory of our grandfathers. We don’t deserve this victory one millimeter.’ The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a $1.2 billion aid package aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s air defenses and sustaining its ammunition supply.

  • In a brief speech under tight security at a scaled-down parade for Victory Day, a holiday commemorating the Soviet Union’s role in the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, Putin claimed that ‘real war’ is being waged against Russia and accused Western nations of stoking conflict and treating Ukraine as a ‘bargaining chip.’ The traditional military flyover was canceled, as were celebrations in at least 20 cities due to security concerns, after what Moscow alleges was a drone attack on the Kremlin last week.
  • Military experts noted that the 45-minute parade featured about 50 vehicles, a drastic decrease from the 2021 event that showcased 131 pieces, and there was only one tank — a World War II-era T-34. The traditional flyover of military aircraft was canceled.
  • Putin attended the commemoration in Red Square with a small group of foreign leaders, mostly from former Soviet states such as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Kazakhstan. Wearing a black coat with a St. George ribbon pinned to his chest, he greeted World War II veterans and said, ‘We are proud of the participants of the “special military operation,” referring to the war in Ukraine. ‘The future of our statehood and our people depends on you.’
  • Protesters in Warsaw blocked Russian diplomats from laying flowers at the Soviet Military Center to commemorate soldiers killed in World War II. The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the incident in a Tuesday statement, calling it ‘another manifestation of unfriendly attitude from the Polish side’ and an affront to those killed.
  • ‘Victory Day is supposed to be about peace and unity in Europe,’ White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a news briefing Tuesday. ‘It’s supposed to be about the end of war and bloodshed and suffering. Instead, Mr. Putin promised only more violence and spewed only more lies about a war he falsely claims has been unleashed against Russia. Make no mistake, Russia is the aggressor here.’
  • The newly announced U.S. aid package includes 155 mm artillery rounds, commercial satellite imagery services and equipment to integrate Western air defense launchers with Ukraine’s systems, the Department of Defense said in a news release. The aid is being provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, meaning it will be spent over a longer timeline. The latest package brings the U.S.’s financial commitment to Ukraine to more than $37.6 billion since the Russian invasion began in February 2022.
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is in Kyiv on Tuesday, to join Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in celebrating Europe Day on May 9, a holiday honoring ‘peace and unity’ on the continent. She also announced further economic sanction proposals on Russian entities. ‘We continue to do everything in our power to erode Putin’s war machine and his revenues,’ she said at a news conference alongside Zelensky.
  • In his own Europe Day remarks, Zelensky drew a parallel between the battle against Nazism and his country’s fight against the Russian invasion. ‘The more people know the honest history, the more they see the commonalities between the brutal aggressions of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries,’ he said in a Tuesday address. ‘It is only a matter of time before the current aggressor loses,’ he added, ‘like the aggressor who lost 78 years ago, before Russian revanchism is crushed by the bravery of our warriors and the joint power of the free world.’
  • Russia is preparing to evacuate more than 3,000 staff members from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest facility of its kind in Europe, where experts have warned that fighting could lead to a disastrous leak of nuclear material, according to Ukraine’s nuclear operator. Occupying Russian authorities have also evacuated nearly 1,700 civilians from communities near the facility ahead of a potential Ukrainian offensive in the region, according to a Moscow-installed official.
  • ‘We need to continue to support [Ukraine] irrespective of whether this forthcoming offensive generates huge gains on the battlefield,’ British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said during a joint news conference Tuesday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington. ‘[Until] this conflict is resolved and resolved properly, it is not over,’ he said. Blinken, for his part, reiterated that the U.S. intended to provide indefinite backing to Ukraine.
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Europe should not be intimidated by Moscow’s military display. Speaking at the European Union’s Parliament in Strasbourg, France, he said that ‘2,200 kilometers northeast from here, Putin is parading his soldiers, tanks and missiles today,’ a reference to Russia’s Victory Day events. ‘We must not be intimidated by this show of power! Let’s stand firm in our support for Ukraine.’
  • The United Nations reported Monday that there have been at least 23,606 civilian casualties in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has confirmed 8,791 civilians killed and 14,815 injured, but it acknowledges that its count is incomplete and ‘believes that the actual figures are considerably higher,’ given limited information, the report said.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine; Putin Remains Defiant Toward West at Muted Victory Day Events. President Vladimir V. Putin gave a televised address from Moscow’s Red Square ahead of a pared-back military parade, hours after Ukraine’s air defenses intercepted Russian cruise missiles headed for Kyiv. The New York Times, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “President Vladimir V. Putin on Tuesday struck a defiant though largely familiar tone on Victory Day, the nation’s most important secular holiday, casting his invasion of Ukraine as a struggle for national survival akin to World War II. But the day’s celebrations of the 1945 Soviet victory over Nazi Germany were muted, reflecting the uneasy moment facing Russia in the 15-month conflict. Russia has been struggling on the battlefield; a long-heralded Ukrainian counteroffensive looms; and Ukraine has stepped up attacks in Russian-occupied territory and has been accused of striking within Russia. Many Victory Day events across the country were canceled or scaled back because of security concerns, and the annual military parade in Moscow’s Red Square — normally a display of the size and power of the Kremlin’s arsenal — proceeded without a single modern tank or its signature flyover.”

First on CNN: Representative George Santos is charged by Justice Department in federal investigation, CNN Politics, Mark Morales, Evan Perez, and Gregory Krieg, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “Editor’s Note: This story originally published on May 9, 2023. For the latest on Santos, read here. Federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against New York Rep. George Santos, the Republican lawmaker whose astonishing pattern of lies and fabrications stunned even hardened politicos, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Santos, who was taken into federal custody Wednesday morning, is expected to appear at federal court in New York’s Eastern District. He faces 13 federal charges: seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.” See also, George Santos Is Said to Face Federal Criminal Charges. The First-term Republican congressman’s extensive lies on the campaign trail and questionable financial dealings were the focus of criminal and ethical inquiries. The New York Times, Michael Gold, William K. Rashbaum, and Grace Ashford, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “Representative George Santos, the New York Republican who has been the target of numerous investigations into his personal and campaign finances since his biography was found to be a web of lies and exaggerations, has been charged by federal prosecutors in New York, three people familiar with the investigation said. The charges come after months of investigation by the office of the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, which has been conducting one of the inquiries into Mr. Santos’s financial and campaign activities. The specific charges against Mr. Santos, 34, are not yet clear. Mr. Santos could appear as soon as Wednesday in federal court, according to CNN, which first reported the charges. Mr. Santos has been subject to intense scrutiny in the wake of reporting published by The New York Times last year that found he had lied about his biography, education and work history to voters and that raised questions about his personal wealth and campaign finances.”

Senate Democrats Seek Accounting of Gifts to Thomas and Other Justices. In a new letter, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee asked Harlan Crow, a billionaire with extensive ties to Justice Clarence Thomas, to provide a list of any benefits he provided. The New York Times, Carl Hulse, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have given Harlan Crow, a billionaire Republican donor, until May 22 to provide the panel with a full accounting of gifts and other valuable benefits provided to Justice Clarence Thomas or other members of the Supreme Court. In a letter sent on Monday, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the chairman of the committee, led fellow Democrats in pressing Mr. Crow for documentation of gifts and travel provided to justices as well as any real estate transactions involving members of the court. The letter sought information on benefits valued above $415 — the threshold for reporting such transactions for federal judges — including admission to private clubs. The committee’s action followed reports by ProPublica and others that Mr. Crow provided luxury travel for Justice Thomas, purchased real estate from him and paid private school tuition for his relative — arrangements that were not reported on the justice’s financial disclosures. Members of the Supreme Court have said they are not bound by the disclosure rules applied to the rest of the federal judiciary but do voluntarily abide by them. The disclosures of the financial ties between Mr. Crow and Justice Thomas have intensified calls for tighter disclosure and ethics rules on the court, though Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has said the court is capable of policing itself. He declined to take part in a recent Judiciary Committee hearing on possible new ethics rules, citing separation of powers issues.” See also, Senate panel asks Republican megadonor Harlan Crow for a full accounting of gifts to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and other justices. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Democrats also asked for a list of guests who had access to Clarence Thomas during his luxury travels. The Washington Post, Liz Goodwin and Marianne LeVine, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “The Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter Monday asked billionaire Harlan Crow to provide a full accounting of the free travel and other gifts he has made to Clarence Thomas or any other Supreme Court justices, marking an escalation of the powerful committee’s efforts to convince the court to adopt stricter ethical standards for itself. Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and the committee’s 10 other Democrats signed on to the letter asking Crow to provide an itemized list of gifts worth more than $415 that he’s made to Thomas, any other justice or any justice’s family member, as well as a full list of lodging, transportation, real estate transactions and admission to any private clubs Crow may have provided. The Judiciary Committee is now the second Senate committee to target Crow after ProPublica reported that the Republican donor invited Thomas on pricey vacations, bought his mother’s house and provided Thomas’s grandnephew with private school tuition, most of which were not disclosed by the justice.”

Republican megadonor Harlan Crow rebuffs congressional request by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden to disclose details about travel and real estate deals with Clarence Thomas, CNN Politics, Ariane de Vogue, Shawna Mizelle, Lauren Fox, and Tierney Sneed, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “Harlan Crow, the GOP megadonor who paid for luxury travel for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, declined to answer questions raised by a key Democratic senator who is examining whether those trips and a private real estate deal could have triggered violations of US tax law. ‘We have serious concerns about the scope of and authority for this inquiry,’ Michael D. Bopp, a lawyer for Crow, said in a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden on Monday evening and obtained by CNN. ‘Given the Letter’s timing and focus, this inquiry appears to be a component of a broader campaign against Justice Thomas and, now, Mr. Crow, rather than an investigation that furthers a valid legislative purpose,’ Bopp wrote. Wyden sent a series of questions to Crow in a letter last month, inquiring about trips over the years that the megadonor paid for on his private plane and super yacht that Thomas chose not to list on his financial disclosure forms. Separately, on Monday, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee penned a similar letter to Crow. The letter – signed by all the Democrats on the committee including Dianne Feinstein – requests information on all gifts and payments that exceed $415 that were given to any justice of the Supreme Court or family member as well as an itemized list of real estate transactions and trips.” See also, Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden says Republican megadonor Harlan Crow is ‘stonewalling’ over perks for Clarence Thomas. Wyden has previously said he would ‘explore using other tools at the committee’s disposal’ should Crow not cooperate with the request. Politico, Benjamin Guggenheim, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden on Tuesday accused billionaire Harlan Crow of ‘stonewalling’ for refusing to comply with a request for a complete accounting of Crow’s gifts to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. ‘The bottom line is that nobody can expect to get away with waving off Finance Committee oversight, no matter how wealthy or well-connected they may be,’ Wyden said in a statement. ‘I will send a full response to Mr. Crow’s attorney in the coming days.'”

Clarence and Ginni Thomas: Politics, Power, and the Supreme Court, PBS Frontline, Tuesday, 9 May 2023: “As controversy erupts around Clarence and Ginni Thomas, FRONTLINE tells the inside story of their path to power. This investigation from veteran filmmaker Michael Kirk and his team traces how race, power, and controversy collide in the rise of the Supreme Court justice and his wife and how the couple has reshaped U.S. law and politics.”


Wednesday, 10 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Officials say Ukrainian forces advance near Bakhmut, The Washington Post, Siobhán O’Grady, Kamila Hrabchuk, Andrew Jeong, Adela Suliman, Brittany Shammas, and Sammy Westfall, Wednesday, 10 May 2023: “Ukrainian forces made a significant advance near the embattled city of Bakhmut this week, Ukrainian military officials said Wednesday, pushing Russian forces back more than a mile, detaining some enemy troops and destroying combat vehicles. The claimed Ukrainian advance came on the heels of Victory Day on Tuesday, when Russia commemorated the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. Moscow had pledged to capture Bakhmut by the holiday. As it became increasingly clear that the objective would not be achieved, Yevgheny Prigozhin, who leads the Wagner mercenary group fighting in the eastern city, posted videos accusing the Russian military of failing to provide him with enough ammunition to accomplish that goal. The fight for Bakhmut has dragged out since last year, leading to mass casualties on both sides. Capturing the war-battered city would be a symbolic victory for Russia, its first such territorial gain since the summer. Ukraine sees holding Bakhmut as essential to preventing further Russian advances. Russian authorities controlling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine are preparing to evacuate more than 3,000 staff members and families from the facility and surrounding areas, Ukraine’s energy provider, Energoatom, said Wednesday. News of the plan was first reported by The Washington Post on Monday.

  • Despite Russian efforts in Bakhmut, ‘the enemy was still unable to capture the Ukrainian city,’ Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s ground forces commander, said in a statement Wednesday. A Ukrainian assault brigade posted on Telegram that Russia’s 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade had escaped from the city. The Washington Post could not verify the claim. In a video shared on social media, Andriy Biletsky, commander of Ukraine’s 3rd Separate Assault Brigade, said his forces helped defeat units from Russia’s 72nd Brigade, leaving two companies ‘completely destroyed.’ A squad of Wagner fighters also ‘lost a lot,’ he said.
  • Syrsky said that in some parts of the front line, Russian forces ‘could not resist the onslaught of the Ukrainian defenders and retreated to a distance of up to two kilometers.’
  • The Ukrainian assault ‘exhausted’ Wagner troops, Syrsky said, ‘and forced them to be replaced in certain directions by less-well-prepared units of the Russian regular troops, which were defeated and left.’
  • Prigozhin, the Wagner Group chief, has lashed out at Russian military leaders, accusing their soldiers of fleeing the battlefield and causing hundreds of casualties among Wagner fighters. He has threatened to pull his fighters because of weapons and ammunition shortages. On Wednesday, he said on Telegram that Wagnercontinues the offensive in Bakhmut and is awaiting a decision on the issuance of ammunition and weapons in the required quantity.’
  • An evacuation from the Zaporizhzhia plant would leave a ‘catastrophic lack of skilled personnel,’ Energoatom said in a Telegram post. Previously, many of the workers were ‘prohibited from leaving the town by the Russians,’ it said. The plant pullout is part of the occupying Russian authorities’ effort to evacuate civilians ahead of a potential Ukrainian offensive in the south.
  • The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said that two drones detonated over a residential area on Wednesday, damaging two houses. Another drone was shot down by air defenses, he said on Telegram, adding that there were no casualties. He had reported more shelling in the region, on Russia’s border with Ukraine, on Monday.
  • In Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly promised continued support for Ukraine regardless of the outcome of Kyiv’s anticipated counteroffensive. Noting that ‘the Ukrainians have consistently outperformed expectations, but there can be no guarantees in war,’ Cleverly said the aid should continue ‘irrespective of whether this forthcoming offensive generates huge gains on the battlefield.’ Ukrainian officials worry that the operation, which is expected to start in the coming weeks, could fall short of Western expectations and jeopardize future aid.
  • Blinken and Cleverly also urged Russia to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal that has allowed Kyiv to export grain through the Black Sea despite the war. Cleverly exhorted Russia to ‘re-sign the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and do so immediately,’ and Blinken repeated accusations that Russia is using hunger as a weapon. When the deal was last up for a 120-day renewal, on March 18, Russia agreed to extend it for only 60 days. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that the Russian position on the deal was ‘well known’ and ‘consistent.’
  • The French judiciary opened a war crimes investigation into the death of Arman Soldin, 32, a journalist for Agence France-Presse, who was killed close to the front lines in Bakhmut on Tuesday. In a Wednesday statement, the French justice ministry said the investigation would be handled by France’s Central Office for Combating Core International Crimes and Hate Crimes. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that ‘all we can do is express our regret,’ adding without elaborating that it was ‘necessary to look into the circumstances of the death of this journalist.’
  • Japan is in talks to open a NATO liaison office, the first in Asia, its foreign minister said. Yoshimasa Hayashi told CNN on Wednesday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made the world less stable. ‘We are already in discussions, but no details [have been] finalized yet,’ he said.
  • France is calling on the European Union to label the Wagner Group a ‘terrorist organization.’ The French Parliament adopted the nonbinding resolution with support across the political spectrum, France 24 reported. Similar measures are underway in Britain, according to local media reports.
  • The United States announced a fresh $1.2 billion military assistance package for Ukraine. It includes air defense systems and munitions, 155mm artillery rounds, commercial satellite imagery services and more training support, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Ukraine Claims Gains Near Bakhmut as Deadly Fighting Continues. Ukraine’s military said it had reclaimed about three square miles outside the eastern city of Bakhmut, which would be its first significant gains there in weeks. The New York Times, Wednesday, 10 May 2023:

  • Ukrainian troops break through a Russian flank near Bakhmut, officials say.
  • The Wagner leader has escalated criticism of Russia’s military leadership.
  • The Justice Department transfers funds seized for sanctions violations to help rebuild Ukraine, a first.
  • Russia is resorting to poorly trained soldiers and aging stock, NATO says.
  • On one Ukrainian official’s screen, a map tells the story of Russia’s constant strikes.
  • Russia eases travel restrictions on Georgian nationals, in the latest sign of thawing ties.
  • Canada expands training for Ukrainian soldiers to Latvia.
  • Ukraine Diary: Hardy Kyiv residents use a lull in attacks to try an underground adventure.

George Santos Is Charged With 13 Counts Including Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, Stealing Public Funds, and Lying on Federal Disclosure Forms, The New York Times, Grace Ashford and Michael Gold, Wednesday, 10 May 2023: “For months, Representative George Santos seemed to possess a Teflon-like resistance to repercussions, even as questions mounted over his income, campaign finances and rags-to-riches life story. Mr. Santos, a first-term Republican representing Long Island and Queens, gave numerous speeches on the House floor and appeared to relish his growing notoriety. Just in the last month, he announced his bid for re-election and tried to leverage his vote with House Republican leadership on a contentious bill to raise the debt ceiling. But on Wednesday, Mr. Santos was confronted with consequences that may prove difficult to skirt. Federal prosecutors charged him with 13 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, stealing public funds and lying on federal disclosure forms, and took him into custody.” See also, These Are the Charges Against George Santos, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Wednesday, 10 May 2023. See also, Representative George Santos pleads not guilty to 13 counts of financial crimes. Santos is accused of money laundering, misleading donors, and falsely claiming unemployment benefits. The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Devlin Barrett, and Perry Stein, Wednesday, 10 May 2023: “Rep. George Santos, the freshman Republican congressman whose myriad falsehoods became both a scandal and a national punchline, was charged with a host of financial crimes in court papers unsealed Wednesday, including defrauding his donors, using their money for his personal benefit and wrongfully claiming unemployment benefits. Santos, 34, surrendered to federal authorities in the morning at the Alfonse M. D’Amato Federal Courthouse in this hamlet on Long Island. The freshman congressman, who announced his reelection bid last month, was arraigned before a magistrate judge, told to relinquish his passports and ordered released on $500,000 bond.” See also, George Santos pleads not guilty to 13 federal charges, including fraud and money laundering, CNN Politics, Mark Morales, Evan Perez, Fredreka Schouten, Gregory Krieg, Tierney Sneed, Hannah Rabinowitz, and Devan Cole, Wednesday, 10 May 2023: “Rep. George Santos has pleaded not guilty to 13 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misusing campaign funds and lying about his personal finances on House disclosure reports. Santos was released on a $500,000 bond, according to the US Attorney’s Office in New York. He was ordered to surrender his passport and will need permission to travel outside of Washington, DC, New York City and Long Island. The New York Republican appeared in a federal court on Long Island on Wednesday. He has been charged on seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.” See also, New York Representative George Santos pleads not guilty to federal fraud charges, NPR, Brian Mann, Wednesday, 10 May 2023: “Republican Rep. George Santos surrendered to federal authorities at a courthouse in suburban Long Island on Wednesday facing 13 counts of criminal wrongdoing. Federal prosecutors say he allegedly ‘devised and executed a scheme’ aimed at defrauding donors to his 2022 political campaign. ‘This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,’ said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in a statement. ‘Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself.'” See also, George Santos pleads not guilty to federal indictment and says he won’t resign, Associated Press, Jake Offenhartz and Michael R. Sisak, Wednesday, 10 May 2023: “U.S. Rep. George Santos, infamous for fabricating his life story, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he duped donors, stole from his campaign and lied to Congress about being a millionaire, all while cheating to collect unemployment benefits he didn’t deserve. Afterward, he said he wouldn’t drop his reelection bid and defied calls to resign. Santos’ 13-count federal indictment was a reckoning for a web of fraud and deceit that prosecutors say overlapped with the New York Republican’s fantastical public image as a wealthy businessman — a fictional biography that began to unravel after he won election last fall.” See also, The George Santos Indictment, Annotated, The New York Times, Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Michael Gold, Wednesday, 10 May 2023.

Trump’s Falsehoods and Bluster Overtake CNN Town Hall. Facing questions from the audience and the moderator, Donald Trump insisted, falsely, that the 2020 election was rigged. He also dodged questions on abortion, praised January 6 rioters, and mocked E. Jean Carroll. The New York Times, Jonathan Weisman, Wednesday, 10 May 2023: “Former President Donald J. Trump used a raucous town hall meeting in New Hampshire — broadcast live on CNN — to resume the lies and name-calling that marked his presidency, signaling to voters that criminal investigations, a jury holding him liable for sexual abuse and ongoing struggles with swing voters have not changed him a bit. He pressed his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, praised the rioters who violently attacked the Capitol and suggested that Congress allow the federal government to default on its debt, at the risk of a global economic crisis. A day after a Manhattan jury ordered him to pay $5 million in damages to E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of sexually abusing and defaming her, he called her a ‘wack job,’ and then called CNN’s moderator, Kaitlan Collins, ‘a nasty person.’ CNN had been criticized by some Democrats for giving Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, such a platform. And from the outset, the former president showed how difficult a live television interview can be, though his bluster did not seem calibrated to appeal to swing voters. Mr. Trump had not appeared on a major television channel outside the conservative media bubble since 2020, and his prevarications, half truths, lies and name-calling on Wednesday showed he had not changed his politics ahead of his run for another presidential term.” See also, Five takeaways from Donald Trump’s unruly CNN town hall, The New York Times, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, published on Thursday, 11 May 2023. See also, Trump Revives Election Lies and False Boasts in CNN Town Hall. He misleadingly and wrongly described his own record, the events of January 6, 2021, his handling of classified documents, foreign policy, and the economy. The New York Times, Linda Qiu, Wednesday, 10 May 2023. See also, Trump’s CNN town hall: Defending rioters, mocking sexual assault, threatening default. The former president used his highly anticipated return to mainstream cable television news to give a broader swath of Americans an unvarnished view of what he has been saying at rallies and in right-wing media. The Washington Post, Isaac Arnsdorf and Maeve Reston, Wednesday, 10 May 2023: “He refused to acknowledge he lost the last election. He said he’d pardon rioters at the U.S. Capitol. He condoned sexual assault and smeared a victim. He wouldn’t rule out restoring a policy of separating immigrant families at the border or say if he wanted Ukraine to defeat Russia. He countenanced defaulting on the national debt. And he dodged repeated questions on abortion. Former president Donald Trump used his highly anticipated return to mainstream cable television news to give a broader swath of Americans an unvarnished view of what he has been saying at rallies and in right-wing media. The televised CNN town hall kicked off with Trump repeatedly refusing to accept his defeat in the 2020 election and defending the mob of his supporters who disrupted the peaceful transfer of power.” See also, Trump fills his CNN town hall with a fire hose of old and new false claims, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, published on Thursday, 11 May 2023. See also, What We Learned About Trump’s Policies in Contentious Town Hall. Former President Donald Trump staked out positions on several major issues, including separating migrant children from their parents and pardoning January 6 rioters. The New York Times, Neil Vigdor, published on Thursday, 11 May 2023. See also, Trump Suggests He Knowingly Took Documents From the White House. The former president, in his appearance on CNN, misstated the law governing presidential records, saying he was allowed to take the material now at the heart of a Justice Department investigation. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, published on Thursday, 11 May 2023. See also, Trump and the Town Hall, CNN Reliable Sources, Oliver Darcy, Wednesday, 10 May 2023: “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening. Kaitlan Collins is as tough and knowledgable of an interviewer as they come. She fact-checked Trump throughout the 70-minute town hall. Over and over and over again, she told him that the election was not stolen. That it was not rigged. That there was no evidence for the lies he was disseminating on stage. ‘The election was not rigged, Mr. President,’ Collins told Trump at one point during the event. ‘You cannot keep saying that all night long.’ Yet, he did. Trump frequently ignored or spoke over Collins throughout the evening as he unleashed a firehose of disinformation upon the country, which a sizable swath of the GOP continues to believe. A professional lie machine, Trump fired off falsehoods at a rapid clip while using his bluster to overwhelm Collins, stealing command of the stage at some points of the town hall. Trump lied about the 2020 election. He took no responsibility for the January 6 insurrection that those very lies incited. And he mocked E. Jean Carroll’s allegations of sexual assault, which a jury found him liable for on Tuesday.  And CNN aired it all. On and on it went. It felt like 2016 all over again. It was Trump’s unhinged social media feed brought to life on stage. And Collins was put in an uncomfortable position, given the town hall was conducted in front of a Republican audience that applauded Trump, giving a sense of unintended endorsement to his shameful antics.” See also, What to know about Trump’s CNN town hall: Lies about election and abortion, attacks on accuser E. Jean Carroll, Associated Press, Michelle L. Price, published on Thursday, 11 May 2023. See also, 5 takeaways from Trump’s CNN smackdown. Trump did a greatest-hits medley of his false election claims and January 6 explanations. And the Republican-heavy crowd loved it. Politico, Adam Wren, Natalie Allison, and Meridith McGraw, Wednesday, 10 May 2023: “If there’s such a thing as an even more unvarnished view of Donald Trump, Wednesday’s town hall-turned-circus on CNN was it. Steamrolling his way through a made-for-primetime spectacle, Trump maintained his lie that the 2020 election was rigged, refused to pledge to accept the results of the 2024 election and called his interviewer a ‘nasty person.’ And he had the crowd on his side for all of it, cheering his answers and laughing at his jokes.” See also, Don’t Say You Haven’t Been Warned About Trump and 2024. CNN’s awful town hall with the former President heralds a disastrous election year to come. The New Yorker, Susan B. Glasser, published on Thursday, 11 May 2023: “It took barely a minute for Donald Trump to say ‘rigged election.’ From there, he rambled. He ranted. He lied. And he lied some more. And that was the response to the first question of the evening to the first President in American history to refuse to concede his defeat and accept the peaceful transfer of power: ‘Why should Americans put you back in the White House?’ The disaster that was the CNN ‘town hall’ with Trump in New Hampshire on Wednesday night was both predictable and predicted. None of it was a surprise. The Donald Trump running in the 2024 Presidential election is the same Donald Trump he always was, a purveyor of industrial-strength untruths. A demagogue. A hater. The struggle of the interviewer, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, to fact-check his fire hose of falsehoods was painful to watch. The kindest thing to say is that she tried. It is not easy when the former President of the United States is calling you a ‘nasty person’ in front of a cheering crowd of his voters. The cheering crowd, in fact, was the tell, the most revealing part of the whole exercise. Trump without the approval of the mob, his mob, would be just another angry old American man, an unwilling Florida retiree shouting at the television after a round of golf. Instead, he still commands his following, which means that he gets to be an angry old man shouting on the television and not merely at it. CNN described the audience on Wednesday night at Saint Anselm College as a collection of Republican and undecided New Hampshire voters who would consider voting Republican in the upcoming G.O.P. primary. But the whoops and cheers for Trump throughout did not convey undecidedness.”

House Republican Report Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by President Biden. After months of investigation and many public accusations of corruption against Mr. Biden and his family, the first report of the premier House Republican inquiry showed no proof of such misconduct. The New York Times, Luke Broadwater, Wednesday, 10 May 2023: “After four months of investigation, House Republicans who promised to use their new majority to unearth evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden acknowledged on Wednesday that they had yet to uncover incriminating material about him, despite their frequent insinuations that he and his family have been involved in criminal conduct and corruption…. [O]n Wednesday, the Republicans conceded that they had yet to find evidence of a specific corrupt action Mr. Biden took in office in connection with any of the business deals his son entered into. Instead, their presentation underscored how little headway top G.O.P. lawmakers have made in finding clear evidence of questionable transactions they can tie to Mr. Biden, their chief political rival. It has not stopped them from accusing the president of serious misconduct.”

Thursday, 11 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Battle for Bakhmut intensifies; U.S. authorizes transfer of forfeited Russian assets to Ukraine, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Siobhán O’Grady, Kamila Hrabchuk, Victoria Bisset, David L. Stern, Natalia Abbakumova, Brittany Shammas, and Lesley Wroughton, Thursday, 11 May 2023: “The U.S. ambassador to South Africa on Thursday accused the country of loading weapons and ammunition onto a Russian vessel docked at a Cape Town naval base in December. The ambassador, Reuben Brigety, said during a press round table that the U.S. is confident about the assertion, though he offered no evidence. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called the ambassador’s remarks ‘disappointing’ and said the issue is being investigated. Ukraine needs more time before launching its long-anticipated spring counteroffensive against Russian forces, President Volodymyr Zelensky said. Speaking to the BBC and European public broadcasters, Zelensky said that while the effort could proceed now ‘and be successful,’ it would incur an ‘unacceptable’ level of loss. But the founder of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, claimed Thursday that Ukraine’s counterattack in the besieged front-line city of Bakhmut is ‘in full swing.’ Ukrainian forces are attempting to attack his fighters’ flanks, he said on Telegram, adding: ‘Unfortunately, in some places they are successful.’

  • In a first, the U.S. Justice Department has transferred millions of dollars seized from a Russian oligarch for use in rebuilding Ukraine. The funds were taken from a U.S. bank account traceable to sanctions violations by Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, the Justice Department said. Although it is the first such transfer of forfeited Russian assets to Ukraine, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement, ‘it will not be the last.’
  • Zelensky said in the interview published Thursday that Ukrainian forces are mentally prepared and have enough manpower for a counteroffensive. But he added, ‘In terms of equipment, not everything has arrived yet.’ He said the Ukrainian army still needs ‘some things’ and that armored vehicles have been arriving in batches.
  • A critical meeting on the future of the Black Sea grain deal proceeded Thursday in Istanbul, involving officials from Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations and Turkey, according to the Turkish news agency Anadolu. The deal, which has been crucial for global food security, is set to expire on May 18. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said after the talks that the country opposes an indefinite extension or expansion of the grain deal, the government-owned news agency Tass reported. Discussions are set to continue online, Ukrainian infrastructure minister Alexander Kubrakov said Thursday.
  • Former president Donald Trump refused to say whether he wants to see Ukraine or Russia triumph, telling a CNN town hall late Wednesday: ‘I want everybody to stop dying.’ He said he doesn’t ‘think in terms of winning and losing. I think in terms of getting it settled so we stop killing all these people.’ The former president also claimed he would end the war in a single day if he were reelected to the White House.
  • Poland will revert to using the historical name for Kaliningrad, a Russian city and region that shares a border with the country, the Associated Press reported. The move to rename the area as Krolewiec has angered Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called it a ‘process bordering on insanity.’
  • Kremlin spokesman Peskov condemned the U.S. decision to transfer millions of dollars in seized Russian assets for use in Ukraine. Russia will not leave the move ‘unanswered,’ Peskov said Thursday.
  • Britain confirmed Thursday that it will provide longer-range missiles to Ukraine. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Parliament that the Storm Shadow cruise missile would give Ukrainians ‘the best chance to defend themselves against Russia’s continued brutality’ and allow the country ‘to push back Russian forces based within Ukrainian sovereign territory.’
  • The French Justice Ministry will investigate as a war crime the death of 32-year-old journalist Arman Soldin, a ministry statement said Wednesday. Soldin, who worked for Agence France-Presse, was killed Tuesday on the front lines near Bakhmut.
  • Canada and Latvia have joined hands to provide training to Ukrainian soldiers, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand announced Wednesday. The training will take place in Latvia and provide instruction on intelligence reconnaissance, among other skills.
  • The Czech Republic will send two antiaircraft defense systems to Ukrainelocal media reported Wednesday, adding that the country was also considering sending fighter jets. The 2K12 ‘Kub’ is a Soviet mobile surface-to-air missile system.

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky’s Announcement of Counteroffensive’s Delay Stirs Debate. To some, the Ukrainian leader was making a candid assessment about needing more time. To others, it was an attempt at misdirection to catch the Russians unprepared. The New York Times, Thursday, 11 May 2023:

  • Zelensky’s comments about needing more time for a successful counteroffensive set off a debate on any hidden agenda.

  • Zelensky says that military hardware from the West has been arriving ‘in batches.’

  • Britain says it is donating long-range ‘Storm Shadow’ missiles to Ukraine.

  • The U.S. ambassador to South Africa accused the country of providing weapons to Russia.

  • Ukrainian officials say they need more weapons. The West says it has already sent them.

  • Russian efforts to evade sanctions show they are having an effect, Yellen says.

  • The Justice Department transfers funds seized for sanctions violations to help rebuild Ukraine, a first.

E.P.A. (Environmental Protection Agency) Proposes First Limits on Climate Pollution from Existing Power Plants. It’s the last in a string of major regulations proposed by the Biden administration to sharply cut the greenhouse gases produced by the United States. The New York Times, Coral Davenport, Thursday, 11 May 2023: “The Biden administration on Thursday announced the first regulations to limit greenhouse pollution from existing power plants, capping an unparalleled string of climate policies that, taken together, could substantially reduce the nation’s contribution to global warming. The proposals are designed to effectively eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s electricity sector by 2040. The regulations governing power plants come on the heels of other Biden administration plans to cut tailpipe emissions by speeding up the country’s transition to electric vehicles, to curb methane leaks from oil and gas wells and to phase down the use of a planet-warming chemical in refrigerants. Together with the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which is pouring more than $370 billion into clean energy programs, the actions would catapult the United States to the forefront of the fight to constrain global warming.” See also, EPA: New pollution limits proposed for US coal and gas power plants reflect ‘urgency’ of climate crisis, Associated Press, Matthew Daly, Thursday, 11 May 2023: “The Biden administration proposed new limits Thursday on greenhouse gas emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants, its most ambitious effort yet to roll back planet-warming pollution from the nation’s second-largest contributor to climate change. A rule announced by the Environmental Protection Agency could force power plants to capture smokestack emissions using a technology that has long been promised but is not used widely in the United States. ‘This administration is committed to meeting the urgency of the climate crisis and taking the necessary actions required,’ said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.” See also, Biden rule tells power plants to cut climate pollution by 90 percent–or shut down. The administration is launching Washington’s most ambitious effort in almost a decade to reduce the nation’s second-largest source of greenhouse gases–and hopes this one will survive in court. Politico, Alex Guillen, Thursday, 11 May 2023: “The Biden administration is announcing a climate rule that would require most fossil fuel power plants to slash their greenhouse gas pollution 90 percent between 2035 and 2040 — or shut down. The highly anticipated regulation being unveiled Thursday morning is just the latest step in President Joe Biden’s campaign to green the U.S. economy, an effort that has brought a counterattack from Republicans and coal-state Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. That’s on top of efforts by Biden’s agencies to promote the use of electric cars, subsidize green energy sources like solar and wind and tighten regulations on products including gas stoves and dishwashers.” See also, An EPA proposal to (almost) eliminate climate pollution from power plants, NPR, Jeff Brady, Thursday, 11 May 2023: “Coal and gas-fired power plants would have to eliminate nearly all their climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions in just a little over a decade, under proposed regulations issued today by the Environmental Protection Agency. Owners of those plants have been allowed to spew climate-warming carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere for more than a century. If these proposed regulations are finalized, they would come close to putting a stop to that practice. ‘The EPA’s proposed rule sends an unequivocal signal to American power plant operators: the era of unlimited carbon pollution is over,’ wrote Dan Lashof, U.S. Director at the World Resources Institute, in a statement responding to the proposal. The regulations are based on technologies that capture and then store deep underground 90% of carbon dioxide from coal and gas-fired plants. But some facilities that plan to shut down in coming years or that operate at less than 20% of their capacity would be subject to less stringent requirements. Those could include adding cleaner hydrogen to natural gas to limit its climate-warming effects. Environmental groups welcomed the rules, which are almost certain to face opposition and a legal challenge from the fossil fuel industry and its allies.”

E. Jean Carroll May Sue Trump a Third Time After ‘Vile’ Comments on CNN. In an interview, her lawyer said that the former president’s mocking comments in a town hall broadcast could create fresh legal jeopardy. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser, Lola Fadulu, and Kate Christobek, Thursday, 11 May 2023: “Mr. Trump, in response to questions from the CNN moderator about the Manhattan jury’s verdict Tuesday, called Ms. Carroll a ‘wack job’ and said her civil trial was ‘a rigged deal.’ The audience had been drawn primarily from Republican groups, and his comments drew applause and laughter…. Ms. Carroll, 79, is now weighing whether to file a new defamation lawsuit against Mr. Trump, said her lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan. In addition to the case that ended Tuesday, Ms. Carroll has an earlier defamation suit against Mr. Trump, 76, that is still pending. Mr. Trump has argued in that case that he cannot be sued because he made those comments in his official capacity as president.”

George Santos Settles Stolen-Check Case in Brazil. The first-term congressman of New York accepted responsibility for his actions and agreed to pay a settlement in exchange for the charges to be dropped. The New York Times, Grace Ashford and Leonardo Coelho, Thursday, 11 May 2023: “A day after Representative George Santos was charged in a 13-count federal indictment, the embattled first-term Republican from New York appeared in court again on Thursday for a hearing that had a far different outcome. Mr. Santos and Brazilian prosecutors on Thursday agreed to resolve a criminal charge that involved a pair of shoes and a stolen checkbook. Mr. Santos, who appeared remotely, accepted responsibility for his actions and agreed to pay 24,000 Brazilian reais (about $4,850), some of which will go to the victim, and some to charity, according to documents viewed by The New York Times. In exchange for his confession, prosecutors dropped the case against him, according to his lawyer and another person familiar with the case.”


Friday, 12 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: The head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, calls on Russian defense leaders to ‘stop lying’ about battlefield strength, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Victoria Bisset, Robyn Dixon, David L. Stern, Natalia Abbakumova, Claire Parker, and Mikhail Klimentov, Friday, 12 May 2023: “The Ukrainian and Russian sides have given conflicting statements on whether Ukraine’s counteroffensive has begun, amid fierce fighting for the eastern city of Bakhmut. The head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, said his forces control most of the city but that a Ukrainian counteroffensive is ‘in full swing,’ with successful attacks on Russian forces. Later Friday, Prigozhin called on Russia’s defense leaders to ‘stop lying’ about the battlefield state of play. Russia’s Defense Ministry denied reports of Ukrainian forces breaking through on the front lines. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country needed to wait for more equipment to arrive before starting a spring offensive — even as defense officials announced gains around Bakhmut. Some Ukrainians fear that, if the counteroffensive is perceived as falling short, pressure will grow on Zelensky to negotiate a peace deal with Moscow, or Western support could wane.

  • Prigozhin asked Russia’s defense minister to visit Bakhmut to assess the ‘difficult situation’ there for himself. In a letter published Friday on Telegram, a day after he claimed that Ukraine has started its offensive, the Wagner chief said his forces control 95 percent of the city. But ‘the enemy has launched a number of successful counterattacks’ on Russian forces, he said. Prigozhin has been openly critical of the Russian military and continues to accuse its leaders of failing to provide his forces with enough ammunition in Bakhmut.
  • Ukrainian military officials also claim to have made gains around Bakhmut. On Friday, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian troops have advanced two kilometers (1.2 miles) over the past week. Her statement echoed comments by Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s ground forces commander, who said earlier this week that Russian forces have retreated along some parts of the front line.
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry denied reports that Ukraine has made breakthroughs on the front line. ‘Statements circulated by individual Telegram channels about “defense breakthroughs” that took place in various parts of the contact line do not correspond to reality,’ the ministry wrote on Telegram. In a news briefing Friday, however, Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov appeared to tacitly acknowledge that Russian forces had retreated at Berkhivka reservoir, saying troops have ‘taken advantageous decisions’ in the area to ‘enhance defense lines.’ Several Russian military bloggers have reported Ukrainian advances and suggested that Ukraine’s counteroffensive has begun.
  • Prigozhin issued a sharp rebuke in response to the ministry’s statement, saying in another video message Friday that Russian forces’ ‘flanks are crumbling, the front is failing, and the Defense Ministry’s attempts to smooth things over in the information field will lead to a global tragedy for Russia.’ He added: ‘That is why they should immediately stop lying.’
  • The U.N. nuclear watchdog intends to present a plan to protect Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to the Security Council this month, reports Reuters, citing four diplomats. International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi has sought an agreement between Ukraine and Russia on principles relating to the safeguarding of the plant for months. Grossi’s planned presentation signals that an agreement between the two countries may be forthcoming.
  • Talks to continue the Black Sea grain deal are continuing in Turkey. On Friday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said parties are approaching an agreement to extend the deal, which is set to expire on Thursday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said no decision has been reached and that talks are continuing.
  • Spanish President Pedro Sánchez reaffirmed Spain’s solidarity with Ukraine and condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a press scrum after a meeting with President Biden at the White House on Friday. ‘In this war there is an aggressor and an aggressed, and the aggressor here is Putin,’ Sánchez said, detailing his conversation with Biden. ‘I can say that the ending we envision for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.’
  • South Africa loaded weapons and ammunition onto a Russian vessel docked at the country’s main naval base in December, Reuben Brigety, the U.S. ambassador to South Africa, said, without providing evidence. Brigety said the weapons and ammunition were placed on the ship, the Lady R, which docked at the Simon’s Town naval base outside Cape Town between Dec. 6 and 8. South Africa’s ruling ANC has denied the allegations, and ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula told local media that the United States is ‘not an ally of the ANC.’ President Cyril Ramaphosa said the issue was being investigated, but later said the ambassador’s comments ‘undermine the spirit of cooperation and partnership’ between his country and the United States.
  • Ramaphosa spoke with Putin on Friday to discuss their countries’ ‘strategic partnership,’ according to a Kremlin readout of the call. Putin offered to supply ‘significant volumes of grain and fertilizers to needy African states,’ potentially free of charge, and expressed support for Ramaphosa’s proposal for a group of African leaders to discuss a resolution to the Ukraine conflict.
  • Zelensky is headed this weekend to Italy, where he is expected to meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, a staffer in Mattarella’s office told The Washington Post, speaking anonymously to discuss planning that has not been made public.
  • Germany was also slated to host Zelensky in the coming days — but uncertainty surrounds that visit after details of his itinerary leaked to the press. Kyiv was ‘furious’ after arrival details and the name of the hotel the Ukrainian president was planning to stay in were published by a Berlin newspaper earlier this month, according to a Ukrainian official, who said the trip was almost completely called off. Kyiv has been reassessing details because of security considerations but also annoyance over the leak, the official said. German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said he could not confirm that the visit would go ahead.
  • The Eurovision Song Contest has rejected Zelensky’s request to address the competition final Saturday. The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the contest, said in a statement that any address would be against ‘the nonpolitical nature of the event.’ Britain is staging this year’s Eurovision contest on behalf of Ukraine — the first time in decades that the previous year’s winner isn’t hosting — after the EBU decided it would not be safe for Ukraine to host the competition.
  • President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, met with senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Wang Yi this week in Vienna, the White House said. The two had ‘candid, substantive, and constructive discussions’ that included the war in Ukraine, it said.
  • China’s special representative on Eurasian Affairs, Li Hui, is set to visit Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and Russia next week to discuss a ‘political settlement of the Ukraine crisis,’ Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a news conference Friday. The planned trip ‘reflects China’s commitment to promoting peace talks and staying on the side of peace.’ Li previously served as ambassador to Moscow from 2009 to 2019. Even as Washington continues to voice concerns about China’s relationship with Russia, the Biden administration appears to be weighing whether to work with China to seek a negotiated settlement of the war in Ukraine, Blinken indicated at a Post Live event earlier this month.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Ukraine’s Advances Near Bakhmut Threaten Russia’s Flanks. Ukrainian commanders said their troops were advancing in localized attacks near the eastern city of Bakhmut. The New York Times, Friday, 12 May 2023:

  • Kyiv’s gains near Bakhmut raise alarms in Russia that Ukraine’s counteroffensive has begun.

  • Recriminations plague Russian forces as Ukraine steps up pressure.

  • China will send an envoy to Russia and Ukraine in a quest for peace talks.

  • Turkish opposition leader accuses Kremlin of election meddling, straining a strategic alliance.

  • Top E.U. diplomat vows to stand with Ukraine for the long haul.

  • Russian-ordered evacuations near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant alarm officials.

  • Kherson was a symbol of hope when it was liberated. Now ‘death is everywhere.’


Saturday, 13 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky meets pope and hails ‘important meeting for approaching victory’ alongside Italian Prime Minister, The Washington Post, Stefano Pitrelli, Andrew Jeong, Victoria Bisset, Claire Parker, and Nick Parker, Saturday, 13 May 2023: “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Italy’s president and prime minister in Rome on Saturday before visiting Pope Francis at the Vatican. It was the first time Zelensky met the pontiff since Russia’s invasion, though ultimately Francis’s influence over the conflict may be limited. There were reports of missile attacks across Ukraine late Saturday night. Local officials said air defenses were activated near midnight in the Kyiv region and on the outskirts of the city. The head of the Ternopil region also said an industrial zone was hit, while warning locals to remain under cover until the air raid alarm ended. The attacks follow strikes earlier in the day that hit the cities of Nikopol, Khmelnytskyi and Mykolaiv, local officials said. Air sirens also blared in the capital, Kyiv, and the port city of Odessa. Meanwhile, pro-Russian officials in Luhansk, a breakaway Ukrainian region backed and occupied by the Kremlin, reported explosions that they blamed on Ukrainian forces.

  • The pope told Zelensky that he was in ‘constant prayer’ for peace, according to a Vatican news release. ‘The Pope stressed in particular the urgent need for “gestures of humanity” in favor of the most fragile people, innocent victims of the conflict,’ the news release said in Italian. The pope has frequently called for an end to the war and has cast himself in the role of peacemaker, though some analysts question whether there is a viable mediator role for the Vatican in a part of the world dominated by the Russian Orthodox Church.
  • The Ukrainian president thanked Francis for his support and requested more. ‘I’m grateful for his personal attention to the tragedy of millions of Ukrainians,’ Zelensky said in a statement published after their meeting. ‘In addition, I asked him to condemn crimes in Ukraine. Because there can be no equality between the victim and the aggressor.’
  • Zelensky described his trip as ‘an important visit for the approaching victory of Ukraine.’ He is rallying his European allies for a planned counteroffensive on the battlefield and is looking for sustained military support from Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. In their ‘fruitful’ meeting, Zelensky said, the leaders discussed Ukraine’s bids to join NATO and the European Union, punitive sanctions against Russia, potential peace plans and postwar reconstruction.
  • Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella stressed to Zelensky that peace in Ukraine ‘must be a true peace and not a surrender,’ according to an account of the meeting provided by a source in the presidential office, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. Mattarella also confirmed Italy’s readiness to provide ‘military, financial, humanitarian and reconstruction aid’ to Kyiv in the long and short term, the source added.
  • At least four people were injured after Russian strikes in Ukraine early Saturday, according to Ukrainian officials. Injuries were reported in Nikopol and Mykolaiv in the south, while in the western city of Khmelnytskyi multiple people were injured, its mayor said, adding that educational, medical and residential buildings, along with industrial facilities, were damaged. One person was also killed by Russian shelling in the village of Cherneshchyna in central Ukraine, the regional governor said.
  • Germany was also slated to host Zelensky in the coming days — but uncertainty surrounds that visit after details of his itinerary leaked to the press. Kyiv was ‘furious’ after arrival details and the name of hotel where the Ukrainian president was planning to stay were published by a Berlin newspaper this month, according to a Ukrainian official, who said the trip was almost called off as a result. German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said he could not confirm that the visit would go ahead.
  • Germany is sending a further $3 billion in military aid to Ukraine, news agencies reported Saturday. Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said the new package would show ‘that Germany is serious in its support’ for Kyiv, according to the Associated Press. Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said on Telegram that the latest package would include 30 Leopard tanks, air defense systems, reconnaissance drones and armored vehicles.
  • Poland’s Defense Ministry said Saturday that an unidentified object, probably an observation balloon, flew into its airspace from the direction of Belarus. The ministry tweeted that radar contact with the object was lost near Rypin, in central Poland, and that its forces were conducting a search for the object.
  • The U.S. ambassador to South Africa met with his host country’s foreign minister, after causing controversy by publicly accusing his host country of supplying weapons to Russia. U.S. envoy Reuben Brigety tweeted late Friday that he was ‘grateful’ to be able to ‘correct any misimpressions left by my public remarks,’ after his comments caused anger in Pretoria, which is investigating the allegations. In a statement, the South African government said it found the ambassador’s behavior ‘puzzling and at odds with the mutually beneficial and cordial relationship’ between the two countries.


Sunday, 14 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky meets German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and thanks Germany for $2.95 billion in new military aid, The Washington Post, Loveday Morris, Kate Brady, Niha Masih, Annabelle Timsit, Leo Sands, and Maham Javaid, Sunday, 14 May 2023: “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Berlin on a visit that could help repair the strained ties between Kyiv and Germany, a country that for decades has preferred to avoid involvement in military conflicts. At a news conference with Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday, Zelensky described a new German defense package as ‘a very strong pillar of support’ and thanked Germany ‘for every life in Ukraine you saved.’ Germany’s initial reluctance to provide Ukraine with its Leopard battle tanks prompted a backlash from other Western allies. But on Saturday, the government announced a fresh $2.95 billion in military aid for Kyiv. The latest package is likely to include 30 Leopard tanks, at least 100 other armored vehicles, 200 reconnaissance drones and ammunition, according to a top Ukrainian official.

  • Scholz said Germany would support Ukraine for ‘as long as it takes,’ at the news conference with Zelensky on Sunday morning. ‘This is about fighting back an attack on Ukrainian territory,’ he said. Rejecting a characterization of ties between Berlin and Kyiv as rocky, Scholz said: ‘We have very good relations.’
  • Zelensky also met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on the trip, his first to the country since the Russian invasion began. ‘Germany will continue to support Ukraine politically, militarily and financially for as long as it is necessary,’ Zelensky said on Telegram. Zelensky is expected to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Sunday evening, according to French news outlet Le Figaro.
  • For the first time, Russia appeared to acknowledge Ukrainian claims of an advance in the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut. Russian troops retreated from some northwest positions in Bakhmut, according to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, who described the move as a decision to ‘enhance defense lines.’
  • The Ukrainian leader received the Charlemagne Prize in Aachen, Germany, on Sunday for ‘work done in the service of European unification.’ The awards were conceived shortly after World War II by people who wanted to see a more democratic and peaceful Europe. Naming the prize for Charlemagne — Charles the Great in English — has a nuanced and somewhat problematic history, according to a Bloomberg analysis.
  • Ukraine’s reign at the Eurovision Song Contest ended Saturday when Swedish singer Loreen’s song ‘Tattoo’ overtook 2022 winner Kalush Orchestra. Britain, last year’s runner-up, hosted the contest because Ukraine is still under invasion. Contestants representing 26 countries advanced to the final round, including Ukraine’s electronic music duo Tvorchi, who were selected from an underground bomb shelter. They performed ‘Heart of Steel,’ written about the siege of the Mariupol steel plant a year ago.
  • Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’ leader, skipped a state celebration fanning rumors around his ill healthsaid the BBC. The 68-year-old leader usually speaks at the annual National Flag, Emblem and Anthem Day but this year his prime minister took over for him. The BBC also said ‘Lukashenko looked visibly tired, and his right hand was bandaged,’ last week. So far, Lukashenko’s office has not commented on the health concerns.
  • Key areas of the Russian economy should be nationalized to support the war effort, the head of the country’s federal crime agency suggested, according to Reuters. ‘We are essentially talking about economic security in a war,’ said Alexander Bastrykin. He added that the main sectors of the economy should return to being state-owned.
  • South Africa is ‘actively nonaligned’ on the war in Ukraine, a top adviser to President Cyril Ramaphosa said, according to Reuters. Security adviser Sydney Mufamadi told an online briefing that ‘our contribution will always be calculated at helping the parties and everybody else to bring such conflicts to an end.’ On Thursday, the U.S. envoy to South Africa accused Pretoria of facilitating a shipment of weapons and ammunition to Russia for its war in Ukraine.

Wade Searle, the Digital Director for Representative Paul Gosar (Republican-Arizona), Is a Prominent Follower of Neo- Nazi Nick Fuentes. Evidence shows Congressman Paul Gosar’s digital director is behind an online persona that Fuentes called one of his ‘strongest soldiers.’ Talking Points Memo, Hunter Walker, Sunday, 14 May 2023: “Nick Fuentes was under attack. On May 6, 2022, two high-ranking members of Fuentes’ white-supremacist ‘Groyper’ movement had defected from his organization and gone on a rival far-right streaming show to criticize Fuentes and air their grievances about the group. Fuentes responded five days later on his own stream, ‘America First.’ After denouncing his ‘enemies,’ Fuentes raised his hand and made a demand from his remaining followers. ‘Now it’s time to pledge your allegiance to me forever, OK?’ Fuentes declared. Fuentes was seated in front of a digital studio backdrop with a Russian flag bearing the ‘Z’ insignia used by supporters of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in the corner of his screen. In a chat feed alongside the host, messages from viewers poured in. They took Fuentes’ oath via emoji, sending in row after row of cartoon hands. One audience member who pledged fealty to Fuentes used the handle ‘Chikken.’ A wrench icon next to their name indicated they were a moderator in the chatroom for Fuentes’ streams. ‘Chikken’ sent in multiple hand emojis, signaling their loyalty to Fuentes as he elaborated on the pledge. ‘Raise your right hand. I swear my undying allegiance to Nicholas J. Fuentes and the America First movement, so help me God,’ Fuentes said, continuing to recite his pledge, ‘Raise your hand. Hold it high. I swear I will defend the white race, my nation America, and my savior Jesus Christ, and my loyalty to the America First movement, Nicholas J. Fuentes, so help me God.’ As the emojis continued to roll in, Fuentes punctuated his oath by crossing his arms across his chest and — as he often does — unleashing racial slurs…. Many of his followers were clearly on board. In addition to emojis, they sent in paid ‘superchats’ that allowed them to display a note on the screen alongside Fuentes. These paid messages are a staple of Fuentes’ broadcasts on Cozy TV, the video platform Fuentes launched after he was suspended from YouTube for violations of its hate speech policy in 2020. Fuentes read these ‘superchats’ aloud. Most of the donors gave a few dollars, but one, who used the handle ‘Chikkenright,’ gave an especially generous gift, $150, along with a note that gushed to Fuentes, ‘You are our voice!’ ‘Chikken’ and ‘Chikkenright’ were aliases associated with a social media persona that became relatively prominent in the ‘Groyper’ movement between 2020 and last year. As he gave thanks for the donation, Fuentes indicated his personal familiarity with ‘Chikkenright.’ ‘Thank you so much Chikkenright,’ Fuentes said. ‘Chikkenright, one of the best. Thank you so much, king.’ The ChickenRight persona was a unique figure in the Groyper movement. Fuentes’ core audience is made up of young, alienated ‘Zoomers’ who watch his hours-long streams, in which he rails against minorities and gays. But ChickenRight wasn’t just some kid tuning in to Fuentes’ fringe online world from a basement. Evidence indicates ChickenRight has a real job in the corridors of power in Washington D.C. TPM has uncovered an extensive digital trail of interconnected Groyper social media pages using variations of the ‘ChickenRight’ and ‘Chikken’ handles that can be linked to Wade Searle, who works as the digital director for Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), one of the most extreme, far-right members of Congress. ChickenRight’s posting on far-right websites and Searle’s alleged involvement with Fuentes occurred before and after he started working in Gosar’s Capitol Hill office. Gosar, his chief of staff, his press secretary, and Searle have not responded to multiple detailed requests for comment.”



Monday, 15 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Explosions heard in Kyiv; White House says Russia has used hundreds of Iranian-supplied drones in Ukraine, The Washington Post, Adam Taylor, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Karen DeYoung, and David L. Stern, Monday, 15 May 2023: “Air raid alarms sounded in Kyiv on Tuesday, a little before 3 a.m. local time. Soon after, there was a succession of loud explosions that shook windows and set off car alarms. In total, there were about two dozen explosions — marking one of the loudest nights of attack on the capital in months. Three victims were injured in the Solomyansky district of Kyiv, Mayor Klitschko said, and several cars caught fire as a result of falling rocket debris. A building was also damaged. There were no victims in the Obolonsky district, where debris also fell. Rescuers are working on location, though no victims have been found so far, Klitschko said. The air raid alarms were silenced shortly after 3 a.m. local time. Earlier on Monday, U.S. National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby told reporters that Russia has used more than 400 Iranian-supplied drones since August to attack Ukrainian infrastructure and wants Iran to send more, and more advanced models. Under their ‘full-scale defense partnership,’ Moscow and Tehran have also inked a deal to supply Iran with Russian Su-35 jets as well as attack helicopters, radar and training aircraft. New U.S. sanctions are coming, Kirby said. He said that he could not confirm Russia’s claims that it had shot down one of the Storm Shadow cruise missiles Britain recently supplied Ukraine and that there had been no change in U.S. policy not to send comparable American-made long range missiles or fighter jets to Ukraine.

  • The British government on Monday unveiled a new military aid package designed to support Kyiv as it ‘prepares for an intensified period of military activity.’ The announcement came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Britain and met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as part of a whirlwind tour of European countries.
  • Zelensky met Sunak at his official countryside retreat, Chequers, for talks about the war, the prime minister’s office said in a statement. Zelensky is ‘the first world leader the Prime Minister has hosted at the residence,’ the statement said. After his meeting with Zelensky, Sunak said it was important to show Russia that Britain is ‘here for the long-term,’ the BBC reported.
  • The package of British aid was announced during Zelensky’s visit. In its statement, the British government said it will provide Ukraine with ‘hundreds of air defense missiles’ and ‘hundreds of new long-range attack drones’ and other unmanned aerial systems, to be delivered in the next few months. The prime minister’s office also said that Britain will open a new flight school to train Ukrainian pilots ‘to handle different types of aircraft.’
  • Peskov said the new British aid to Ukraine ‘will not affect the course’ of the war ‘but will lead to retaliatory actions by the Russian Federation.’ London said last week that it provided Kyiv with cruise missiles that have a range of about 300 kilometers (186 miles).
  • During other visits over the weekend, Ukraine’s leader secured fresh commitments from Berlin and Paris. Germany announced a military aid package totaling $2.95 billion, almost doubling its commitment since the start of the war. And Ukraine announced after Zelensky’s surprise visit to Paris that France has agreed to train and equip several Ukrainian battalions with armored vehicles and light tanks.
  • A former U.S. Embassy employee in Russia was arrested and charged with collaborating with a ‘foreign state or international or foreign organization,’ Russia’s state-owned news agency Tass reported Monday. The man, identified as Robert Shonov, was taken to Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, the same prison where the detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is being held. ‘I’ve seen those reports and I don’t have any additional information at this time,’ said State Department spokesman Vedant Patel.
  • Chinese envoy Li Hui was set to arrive in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, on Monday. He is the highest-ranking Chinese diplomat to visit since the start of the war. China has been positioning itself as a potential mediator in the conflict. Kyiv is the first stop on Li’s tour of Europe, during which he will try to build support for Beijing’s proposed settlement terms just as Ukraine launches a much-anticipated counteroffensive in a bid to reclaim territories seized by Russia.
  • Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who lives in Vienna and is wanted for extradition by the United States in a bribery case, has been delivered a ‘notice of suspicion’ over allegations that he embezzled close to $500 million through a gas-purchasing plan. Several of his top managers also received the notices.
  • The head of the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, offered to give Russian troop locations to Ukraine if Ukraine’s commanders withdrew their soldiers from the area around Bakhmut, according to leaked intelligence documents reported by The Washington Post. In a rambling audio file released Monday, Prigozhin didn’t comment directly on the documents. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday dismissed the report, calling it ‘yet another hoax.’
  • Zelensky reiterated his calls for NATO to invite Ukraine to become a member of the alliance. ‘It is time to remove the biggest security uncertainty in Europe — that is, to make a positive political decision on our NATO membership,’ Zelensky said in televised remarks at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Monday. He said it would ‘be a timely signal’ if NATO agreed to greenlight Ukraine’s membership bid at a July NATO summit in Lithuania. But, as The Post has reported, officials from NATO nations say this is unlikely to happen because there are divisions within the alliance on the issue.
  • Zelensky and French President Emmanuel Macron focused on France’s military assistance in their Sunday meeting, including practical ways Paris can support Kyiv in its bid to liberate territories occupied by Russian forces, according to an official readout on the talks released by Ukraine.
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised to support Ukraine for as long as needed to drive back Russia. In a joint news conference in Berlin, Zelensky said that with the help of allies, Kyiv could make Russia’s defeat ‘irreversible’ this year.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky Visits U.K. for Talks on Military Aid. The Ukrainian president’s trip on Monday comes after a whirlwind trip through Europe’s capitals over the weekend that included meetings with allies in Rome, Berlin, and Paris. The New York Times, Monday, 15 May 2023:

  • The U.K. promises more missiles and drones for Ukraine.
  • Iran and Russia are discussing more drone sales, the White House says.
  • A former U.S. Embassy employee is being held in Moscow, according to Russia’s state news agency.
  • With a new tranche of weapons, Ukraine has much of what it needs for a counteroffensive, analysts say.
  • Ukraine claims further advances around Bakhmut.
  • The Wagner leader disputes a report that he offered to betray Russia.
  • State news media release a photo of Belarus’s leader amid speculation about his health.
  • Ukraine Diary: Under the threat of airstrikes, a film crew in Kyiv forged ahead to ‘tell a story.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelenskyy made a spring diplomatic offensive in Europe, NPR, Monday, 15 May 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy just made a surprise visit to the United Kingdom and discussed military aid with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. China’s government is dispatching special envoy Li Hui to visit Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and Russia this week, saying he would open up dialogue with those countries toward a political settlement of the crisis in Ukraine. The Copenhagen Democracy Summit this week will discuss the war in Ukraine, among other topics, and features a list of speakers including NATO head Jens Stoltenberg and former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The foreign minister of Belarus will visit Russia. On Thursday, a 60-day extension for the Black Sea Grain Initiative agreement is up. What happened last week: Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy took a whirlwind Europe tour, visiting Italy and the VaticanGermany and France last week, and on Monday Britain. He met with Pope Francis and leaders of each country, picked up the Charlemagne Prize for promoting European unity and secured more military aid for Ukraine. On Monday, he made a trip to the United Kingdom for the second time this year. Arman Soldin, a video journalist with Agence France-Presse, was killed by rocket fire near eastern Ukraine’s embattled city of Bakhmut. French prosecutors opened a war crimes investigation. This followed the killing of a Ukrainian reporter in April — the latest of 15 media workers killed in 14 1/2 months of war, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Zelenskyy said his country needs more time to launch a planned counteroffensive until more promised Western military aid arrives, in an interview with a European broadcasters’ network earlier last week. Britain delivered Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine, giving it long-range weapons to ‘push back Russian forces’ based within Ukraine, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace told Parliament. The Group of Seven’s top financial leaders recommitted to enforcing sanctions against Russia and supporting Ukraine. Putin assailed the West for unleashing a ‘real war’ against Russia in a Victory Day address, trying to link the fight in Ukraine with the anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany. Ukrainian forces took back part of Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine that’s been the site of the war’s longest battle. Ukraine’s military commanders said their forces recaptured more than 1.2 miles of territory from Russian forces in the past week. Former President Donald Trump claimed he would quickly end the war in Ukraine without committing to help Ukraine, if elected next year, in a CNN town hall. It set up a potential preview of a stark choice for U.S. voters in next year’s election compared with the Biden administration’s ‘unprecedented’ levels of aid to Ukraine. Zelenskyy dismissed concerns about potentially losing American support. Russia now has about 5,889 nuclear warheads, the Federation of American Scientists estimated in a report. It said some of the weapons are in storage headed for retirement but many are assigned for long- or shorter-range use. Britain hosted the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine, which won last year but could not host this time because of the ongoing war. (Swedish singer Loreen won.) Ukrainian officials reported that the hometown of the country’s act this year, Tvorchi, came under Russian missile attack moments before the band played for Eurovision in Liverpool, England.”

Durham Finds Fault With F.B.I. Over Russia Inquiry. The special counsel’s final report nevertheless did not produce blockbuster revelations of politically motivated misconduct, as Donald J. Trump and his allies had suggested it would. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Glenn Thrush, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner, Monday, 15 May 2023: “John H. Durham, the Trump-era special counsel who for four years has pursued a politically fraught investigation into the Russia inquiry, accused the F.B.I. of having ‘discounted or willfully ignored material information’ that countered the narrative of collusion between Donald J. Trump and Russia in a final report made public on Monday. Mr. Durham’s 306-page report revealed little substantial new information about the inquiry, known as Crossfire Hurricane, and it failed to produce the kinds of blockbuster revelations accusing the bureau of politically motivated misconduct that former President Donald J. Trump and his allies suggested Mr. Durham would uncover. Instead, the report — released without substantive comment or any redactions by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland — largely recounted previously exposed flaws in the inquiry, while concluding that the F.B.I. suffered from confirmation bias and a ‘lack of analytical rigor’ as it pursued leads about Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia.” See also, Durham report sharply criticizes FBI’s 2016 Trump campaign probe, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein, Monday, 15 May 2023: “Special counsel John Durham has issued a long-awaited report that sharply criticizes the FBI for investigating the 2016 Trump campaign based on ‘raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence’ — a conclusion that may fuel rather than end partisan debate about politicization within the Justice Department and FBI. Durham was tapped in 2019 by President Donald Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr, to reexamine how government agents hunted for possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to interfere in the presidential election. The very appointment — of an investigator to reinvestigate the investigators — led to significant criticism from current and former law enforcement officials. The report, coming almost four years to the day since Durham’s assignment began, will probably be derided by Democrats as the end of a partisan boondoggle. Republicans will have to wrestle with a much-touted investigation that has cost taxpayers more than $6.5 million and didn’t send a single person to jail, even though Trump once predicted that Durham would uncover the ‘crime of the century.'”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs bill to defund Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs at Florida’s public colleges, The Washington Post, Jack Stripling, Monday, 15 May 2023: “Joining a national wave of conservative attacks on programs that promote diversity in higher education, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill into law Monday to defund such efforts at the state’s public colleges and limit how race can be discussed in many courses. Critics of the new law worry it is trampling on academic freedom and could hurt efforts they say are critical to serving increasingly diverse student populations. But DeSantis and other opponents of diversity, equity and inclusion programs say they reinforce racial divisions and promote liberal orthodoxy…. DeSantis, who is expected to launch a bid for the White House, has made ‘culture war’ issues a major focus as governor. Florida’s new law joins legislation in 19 other states where lawmakers have targeted diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, according to a tracking project from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Under the new law, Florida’s public colleges are prohibited from spending state or federal money on DEI efforts. These programs often assist colleges in increasing student and faculty diversity, which can apply to race and ethnicity, as well as sexual orientation, religion and socioeconomic status. The bill does not prohibit colleges from spending money on such programs if they are required by federal law.” See also, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs bill to defund Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs at Florida public colleges, CNN Politics, Kit Maher, Monday, 15 May 2023: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed legislation to defund diversity, equity and inclusion programs at all state universities, which he called a ‘distraction from the core mission. This is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination, and that has no place in our public institutions, DeSantis said at a news conference in Sarasota…. Under the law, Florida state universities are barred from spending state or federal funds to promote, support or maintain any programs that ‘advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, or promote or engage in political or social activism.’… The law also demands that general education courses ‘may not distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics’ based on ‘theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.'” See also, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Bill Defunding Diversity Spending in State Schools, The New York Times, Nicholas Nehamas, Monday, 15 May 2023: “Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation on Monday that largely banned Florida’s public universities and colleges from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and imposed other measures that could reshape higher education at state schools. The legislation also restricts how educators can discuss discrimination in required, lower-level courses — by forbidding the teaching of ‘identity politics,’ for example — and weakens tenure protections. Mr. DeSantis signed it at New College of Florida, a public liberal arts institution that the governor has aggressively sought to transform, replacing trustees with conservative allies and engineering the appointment of a new president. The governor, who is expected to announce a presidential campaign soon, was met with loud protests on Monday that could at times be heard through the television broadcast of his remarks.”

Rudy Giuliani is accused of offering to sell Trump pardons for $2 million each in new lawsuit. The suit includes allegations of sexual assault and harassment as well as wage theft and discussions of plans to overturn the 2020 election. NBC News, Zoë Richards, Monday, 15 May 2023: “A woman who said she worked for Rudy Giuliani during the last two years of the Trump administration alleged in a wide-ranging lawsuit that Giuliani, the former president’s personal attorney, discussed selling presidential pardons and detailed plans to overturn the 2020 election results. In a 70-page complaint filed in state court in New York on Monday, Noelle Dunphy said that after Giuliani hired her in January 2019 he sexually assaulted and harassed her, refused to pay her wages and often made ‘sexist, racist, and antisemitic remarks,’ adding that she had recordings of numerous interactions with him…. Dunphy alleged in her suit that Giuliani talked about presidential pardons. She said Giuliani claimed to have ‘immunity’ and told ‘her that he was selling pardons for $2 million, which he and President Trump would split.’ The lawsuit did not suggest any pardons were sold.”

Tuesday, 16 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russian strike on Kyiv damaged Patriot air defense system, U.S. says, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Jennifer Hassan, Claire Parker, and Sammy Westfall, Tuesday, 16 May 2023: “Russian airstrikes rocked Kyiv early Tuesday, with several missiles fired in a short period of time, the city military administration said on Telegram. The attack, which included drones, cruise missiles and potentially ballistic missiles, was ‘exceptional’ in its intensity, Ukrainian officials said. A Patriot air defense system — the most advanced air defense in the U.S. arsenal — was damaged in the attack, a U.S. official said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. The extent of damage is unclear, the official said, though it is unlikely Ukraine will need to ship it to another country for repair. Earlier on Tuesday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters, without evidence, that a Kinzhal missile had hit the Patriot missile defense system, contradicting Ukrainian accounts. The strikes came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Britain, France, Germany and Italy as part of a whirlwind European tour and secured more military aid for Ukraine from European allies.

  • The United States condemned Russia’s arrest of Robert Shonov, a former employee of the U.S. Embassy in Russia, on charges of collaborating with a foreign state or international or foreign organization.The allegations against Mr. Shonov are wholly without merit,’ said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. Employed by a company contracted by the U.S. Embassy, Shonov’s ‘only role at the time of his arrest was to compile media summaries of press items from publicly available Russian media sources,’ Miller said, adding that Russia’s targeting of Shonov ‘highlights the Russian Federation’s blatant use of increasingly repressive laws against its own citizens.’
  • Wagner chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin claimed that an American national fighting for Ukraine had been killed in the Bakhmut region. In comments posted to a Wagner-linked Telegram channel on Tuesday, he said his forces were in possession of the body and would hand it over to the United States. ‘We are aware of the reports of the death of a U.S. citizen in Bakhmut and are seeking additional information,’ a State Department spokesperson said. ‘Our ability to verify reports of deaths of U.S. citizens in Ukraine is extremely limited.’
  • Ukraine’s armed forces shot down 18 missiles across the country in the early hours, according to Ukraine’s top military commander, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny. Six of them were ‘Kinzhal’ hypersonic missiles, he said.
  • The strikes in Kyiv injured three people in the city’s Solomyanskyi district, where several cars caught fire. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said debris landed in several districts, including on a zoo in Shevchenkivskyi. None of the staff or animals were injured in the attack, Klitschko said, adding that the zoo would be open as usual Tuesday.
  • The attack was ‘another primitive attempt by the Kremlin to show its own power,’ Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in an interview, ‘as if they still have the power to destroy Kyiv as a decision-making center.’ He said the attack ‘cost Russia at least $120 million’ and was part of an effort to exhaust Ukrainian air defenses. Podolyak reiterated Kyiv’s calls for Western fighter jets.
  • Britain and the Netherlands said they would work together to ‘build an international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, supporting with everything from training to procuring F16 jets,’ according to a British government readout following a Tuesday meeting between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Council of Europe Summit in Iceland. The day prior, Zelensky met with Sunak, where the Ukrainian leader hinted at a ‘very important decision’ coming on a jet coalition.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is alive — and well enough to tour an air force installation, according to photos and videos published by his office Monday, in what appeared to be an effort to dispel rumors about the authoritarian leader’s poor health after he skipped a celebratory breakfast in the Kremlin last week and canceled other events on his schedule for days. In the photos released this week, Lukashenko’s left hand is wrapped in a bandage. The Belarusian leader has been a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has permitted his country to be used as a launch point for Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
  • A South African military delegation arrived in Moscow to discuss bilateral military cooperation, the Russian Defense Ministry said. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has dismissed accusations by the United States that his country has taken Russia’s side amid its invasion of Ukraine.
  • The British government announced a new aid package to support Ukraine as it ‘prepares for an intensified period of military activity.’ The announcement came during Zelensky’s surprise visit to the United Kingdom, where he met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
  • A Ukrainian oligarch received a ‘notice of suspicion’ over allegations that he embezzled close to $500 million through a gas-purchasing plan. Dmytro Firtash lives in Vienna and is wanted for extradition by the United States in a bribery case. Several of his top managers also received the notices.
  • The Ukrainian flag was raised at NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Estonia on Tuesday, marking Kyiv’s official accession to the multinational group. Experts have been closely watching the threat of cyberattacks amid the conflict, which included an early attack on the U.S. satellite firm Viasat, disrupting communications in Ukraine.
  • Forty-six European leaders in the Council of Europe will meet in Iceland on Tuesday for a summit to show their support for Ukraine through ‘concrete measures to help achieve justice for the victims of the Russian aggression,’ the group’s website said. The meeting of the COE, which is separate from the European Union, will also focus on challenges to democracy and human rights.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. Officials Confirm Damage to Patriot Defense System in Kyiv Attack. Officials in Kyiv and one U.S. official said air defense systems intercepted hypersonic missiles, demonstrating Ukraine’s growing capability to defend against Russia’s arsenal of aerial weapons. The New York Times, Tuesday, 16 May 2023:

  • U.S. officials confirm damage to a Patriot air defense system in the attack but say it remains operational.
  • Ukraine’s push around Bakhmut presents Russia with tough decisions about its resources.
  • A journalist resigns from PEN America’s board after it cancels a panel with Russian writers.
  • The chief of Ukraine’s Supreme Court has been detained and accused of taking a $2.7 million bribe.
  • Ukraine’s first lady requests nonlethal military aid from South Korea while in Seoul.
  • African leaders plan ‘peace mission’ to Russia and Ukraine.
  • With a new tranche of weapons, Ukraine has much of what it needs for a counteroffensive, analysts say.
  • A Russian-controlled dam risks causing flooding in southern Ukraine.

Who Is Leonard Leo’s Mysterious Dark Money King? U.S. needs to know who Barre Seid is, what kind of country he wants–and just how massive an impact a gift of that size can have on our political discourse. The New Republic, Tuesday, 16 May 2023: “A few months before the midterms, with pollsters spewing red wave predictions and post-Roe conservatives planning to force raped children to give birth, a bit of political news added to progressives’ gloom. A Chicago billionaire had gifted anti-abortion Supreme Court fixer Leonard Leo the largest known tranche of dark money in U.S. history: $1.6 billion. The sum is staggering; it will finance at least a generation of extreme right-wing political proselytizing. And almost no one—except for the conservative cabal that bagged the whale—had heard of him. The gift from nonagenarian electronics magnate Barre Seid (pronounced Barry Side) is effective altruism in reverse: a fire hose of cash aimed at destroying American liberal culture through lawsuits and support for politicians challenging gay rightsunionsenvironmental protection, voting rights, and public education. The money will last a good long while. Philanthropic recipients usually follow a 5 percent rule: They try not to spend more than 5 percent of the endowment per year. Seid’s pile is so large that it could return an average $136 million a year, or north of $230 million on a good year, to influence U.S. law and policy. Without ever having to touch the nut. For a sense of how enormous that is, consider this. The Heritage Foundation and its affiliates spent about $86 million in 2021. Heritage is a huge, and hugely influential, conservative think tank. Leo could create two Heritage Foundations and one more sizable organization on the side—all, again, without having to dip into the principle at all.”

Wednesday, 17 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russian attack damages Patriot system; grain deal renewed for 2 months, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Jennifer Hassan, Claire Parker, Alex Horton, and Sammy Westfall, Wednesday, 17 May 2023: “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky again called on allies to provide more air defense assets following a barrage of Russian airstrikes on Kyiv. Ukraine’s military shot down 18 missiles during the attacks on the capital, Zelensky said, but more support is needed to protect the entire country. ‘We need additional air defense systems and missiles,’ he said. ‘We also need modern fighter jets.’ The Patriot air defense system damaged by Russian fire in the vicinity of Kyiv suffered an indirect hit but is still mission capable, a U.S. defense official said Wednesday, though the extent of the damage is still being assessed. Russia agreed to a two-month extension of the Black Sea grain deal on Wednesday, a day ahead of its expiration, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced. The initiative, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last summer, allows Ukraine to ship grain to countries around the world. Moscow had threatened to pull out unless measures to facilitate the export of Russian fertilizer were implemented. Erdogan did not specify what, if any, promises were made to Russia to clinch the extension.

  • The Patriot’s radar was not damaged in Tuesday’s attack, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the incident. The Patriot is an air defense suite with several components that are often spread out, which helps reduce risk to the system as a whole. The radar is a vital component that helps make it the most advanced air defense system in U.S. stocks. Ukraine’s security service said Wednesday it identified and searched the homes of six ‘bloggers’ who posted footage of the Russian attack — video that could expose the location and workings of Ukraine’s air defenses, an offense punishable by up to eight years in prison.
  • United Nations Secretary General António Guterres hailed the extension of the grain deal Wednesday as ‘good news for the world’ during a ‘record-breaking cost-of-living crisis,’ noting that 30,000 tons of wheat just left Ukraine for Sudan on a ship chartered by the World Food Program. Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations will continue to discuss outstanding issues, Guterres told reporters.
  • China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, wrapped up a two-day visit to Ukraine on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Li discussed Ukraine-China relations with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who emphasized that Kyiv ‘does not accept any proposals that would involve the loss of its territories or the freezing of the conflict,’ the statement said, in an apparent reference to China’s 12-point peace proposal. Beijing and Moscow have maintained warm relations throughout the conflict, and Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March. Li’s trip to Ukraine comes after a phone call between Xi and Zelensky last month.
  • Britain is willing to help other countries send fighter jets and other military assistance to Ukraine, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said Wednesday at a news conference with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius. ‘Any nation that comes to us and says we want to get tanks into Ukraine … we will help with that process,’ Wallace said. On Tuesday, Britain and the Netherlands agreed that they would build a global coalition ‘to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, supporting with everything from training to procuring F-16 jets,’ according to the British government.
  • But Germany won’t go in on supplying Western jets, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday. Germany is instead concentrating on tanks, ammunition, air defenses and the establishment of ‘a working system for repairs,’ he said. Zelensky has long called on other nations to provide jets as part of their support for Ukraine in the war. In March, Poland became the first NATO country to deliver an initial batch of Soviet-made MiG-29s.
  • European leaders announced the creation of a register of damage sustained during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The initiative, announced by top officials gathered in Reykjavik, Iceland, for a two-day Council of Europe summit, will be based in The Hague and aims to take stock of ‘damage, loss or injury caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine’ as a step toward accountability for war crimes and compensation for victims, the council said in a news release Wednesday. More than 40 countries and the European Union have joined or said they intend to join the project.
  • President Biden is traveling to Japan on Wednesday to attend a Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima. Ukraine will be a topic of discussion there, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. ‘And you’ll see concrete action to further isolate Russia and weaken its ability to wage its brutal war,’ he said.
  • Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska is visiting South Korea. In a speech Wednesday at an event in Seoul, she echoed her husband’s call for air defense weapons, saying that humanitarian aid alone cannot stop a criminal from trying to kill, according to the Seoul Shinmun, a local newspaper. Meeting the day before with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, Zelenska requested nonlethal military aid such as demining equipment and ambulances, according to Yoon’s office.
  • A Kyrgyzstan court sentenced a man to 10 years in prison on charges of serving as a mercenary, fighting on behalf of Russia in Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. The Kyrgyz Embassy in Moscow had warned citizens in September against joining hostilities on foreign state territory, citing the Kyrgyz criminal code.
  • Hungary blocked an E.U. military support package for Ukraine meant to be distributed by the European Peace Facility, a Hungarian government spokesman’s office told Reuters on Tuesday. The off-budget instrument was established in 2021 to allow the E.U. to allocate money to ‘preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security,’ according to the Peace Facility’s website. ‘Hungary does not agree with the fact that the European Union … uses the European Peace Facility solely with regard to Ukraine as this does not allow sufficient funds to be channelled to promote the EU’s interests in other areas,’ the spokesman’s office said.
  • The leaders of six African countries will visit Moscow and Kyiv with the aim of finding ‘a peaceful resolution’ to the war, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said. ‘I presented an African leaders peace mission … on behalf of African heads of state from Zambia, Senegal, Congo, Uganda, Egypt and South Africa,’ he told reporters. Putin and Zelensky have agreed to the visits, and U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has ‘welcomed the initiative,’ Ramaphosa said. He made the remarks as a South African military delegation arrived in Moscow to discuss bilateral military cooperation, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Ramaphosa has dismissed accusations by the United States that South Africa has taken Russia’s side amid the war in Ukraine.
  • Communication about Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, two Americans detained in Russia, takes place only at the presidential level, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. ‘We do not communicate at the ministerial level,’ he said Wednesday. Whelan is a former Marine who was convicted of espionage and is serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian prison. He says he was set up and maintains his innocence. Wall Street Journal reporter Gershkovich has also been accused of spying — an allegation he vehemently denies — and is behind bars awaiting trial.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Ukraine and Russia Agree to Extend Black Sea Grain Deal. A two-month extension of the agreement, which had been set to expire on Thursday, will permit Ukraine to continue exporting grain from its blockaded ports. The New York Times, Wednesday, 17 May 2023:

  • The Black Sea grain agreement was extended until July 18, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said.

  • Ukraine will not trade territory for peace, its foreign minister tells a Chinese envoy.

  • Britain and the Netherlands are the latest to call for F-16s for Ukraine.

  • ‘That was very scary’: A nighttime Russian missile barrage jolts residents of Kyiv.

  • A Russian-controlled dam risks causing flooding in southern Ukraine.

  • Ukraine Diary: A rebuilding effort brings together Ukrainians from across generations.

  • The chief of Ukraine’s Supreme Court has been detained and accused of taking a $2.7 million bribe.

After Years of Political Hype, the Durham Inquiry Failed to Deliver. A dysfunctional investigation led by a Trump-era special counsel illustrates a dilemma about prosecutorial independence and accountability in politically sensitive matters. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Wednesday, 17 May 2023: “The limping conclusion to John H. Durham’s four-year investigation of the Russia inquiry underscores a recurring dilemma in American government: how to shield sensitive law enforcement investigations from politics without creating prosecutors who can run amok, never to be held to account. At a time when special counsels are proliferating — there have been four since 2017, two of whom are still at work — the much-hyped investigation by Mr. Durham, a special counsel, into the Russia inquiry ended with a whimper that stood in contrast to the countless hours of political furor that spun off from it. Mr. Durham delivered a report that scolded the F.B.I. but failed to live up to the expectations of supporters of Donald J. Trump that he would uncover a politically motivated ‘deep state’ conspiracy. He charged no high-level F.B.I. or intelligence official with a crime and acknowledged in a footnote that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign did nothing prosecutable, either.” See also, The Truth about Russia, Trump, and the 2016 election, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Wednesday, 17 May 2023: “There have been four major investigations into Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election and the FBI’s handling of the subject — a 2019 report released by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a 2019 Justice Department inspector general report, a bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee issued in 2020 by a GOP-controlled Senate, and now a 2023 report released by special counsel John Durham. All told, the reports add up to about 2,500 pages of dense prose and sometimes contradictory conclusions. But broad themes can be deduced from a close reading of the evidence gathered in the lengthy documents, as well as indictments and testimony on related criminal cases. Russia tried to swing the 2016 election to Trump…. The FBI had reason to investigate a tip suggesting Trump campaign involvement…. The Trump campaign welcomed help from Russia…. The ‘Steele dossier’ proved to be a red herring….”

Exclusive: New evidence in special counsel investigation may undercut Trump’s claim documents he took were automatically declassified, CNN Politics, Jamie Gangel, Zachary Cohen, Evan Perez, and Paula Reid, Wednesday, 17 May 2023: “The National Archives has informed former President Donald Trump that it is set to hand over to special counsel Jack Smith 16 records that show Trump and his top advisers had knowledge of the correct declassification process while he was president, according to multiple sources. In a May 16 letter obtained by CNN, acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall writes to Trump, ‘The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records.’ The 16 presidential records, which were subpoenaed earlier this year, may provide critical evidence establishing the former president’s awareness of the declassification process, a key part of the criminal investigation into Trump’s mishandling of classified documents.”


Thursday, 18 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. says damaged Patriot system in Kyiv has been fixed, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis, Sammy Westfall, Natalia Abbakumova, and Karen DeYoung, Thursday, 18 May 2023: “Explosions rocked Kyiv early Thursday, as Russia continued a wave of strikes on the Ukrainian capital. An air raid alert remained in place, and residents were urged to stay in shelters. Debris from missiles fell on the city, but no casualties were reported. The Patriot air-defense system damaged in Ukraine on Tuesday by a Russian strike has been fixed and is operational, Deputy Pentagon Spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Thursday. Singh added that the United States provided ‘some assistance’ on the repair of the system, but declined to offer additional detail. A U.S. defense official had earlier said the system suffered an indirect hit from Russian fire in the Kyiv region. Since Tuesday, Ukrainian officials have steadfastly rejected Russia’s claims that it had destroyed one of the billion-dollar Patriot systems donated by the West.

  • The missile attack on Kyiv caused damage in the Desnyansky and Darnytskyi districts, the head of the city’s military administration said in a Telegram post, counting it as the ninth air attack on the capital this month.
  • Ukraine’s air force said it destroyed 29 of 30 missiles and four drones during the overnight strikes. Elsewhere, a young boy was killed by Russian shelling in the southern Kherson region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address. He said the child, whom he referred to only by the name Vsevolod, would have turned 6 in July.
  • Russia agreed to a two-month extension of the Black Sea grain deal, a day ahead of its expiration on Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced. The deal allows the flow of grain from Ukraine to countries around the world, helping alleviate a global food crisis. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the deal was extended for two months but added: ‘Its fate is still in the hands of those with whom the U.N. must agree on the Russian part of the arrangements.’
  • Ukraine claims to have taken back territory in the fiercely contested eastern city of Bakhmut. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian troops have liberated about eight square miles in the suburbs over the past few days, although battles continue in the city. The Washington Post could not verify the claims.
  • After a meeting of Ukraine’s military cabinet, Zelensky said, ‘the offensive brigades are doing a good job, we are preparing, no details.’ He also said in his Thursday nightly address that the defense brigades ‘fulfilled the main strategic tasks.’
  • Russia called a U.N. Security Council meeting to denounce what it called ‘uncontrolled’ arms proliferation by Western governments shipping weapons to Kyiv. Labeling donor nations ‘accomplices to war crimes,’ Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya specifically noted Britain’s delivery of cruise missiles to Ukraine and ‘discussions to deliver military aircraft — fighter jets and bombers.’ Albania’s deputy U.N. representative responded with accusations of hypocrisy, saying it wanted to ‘remind’ the group that Russia had violated international law by invading Ukraine. Several members noted that, while their shipments of weapons to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity is legal under the U.N. charter, Russia is also violating international law by receiving arms transfers from Iran and North Korea, both of which are subject to international sanctions.
  • Russia on Thursday expressed objections to a move by the Czech Republic to begin collecting rent on land granted to Russia for diplomatic use under Soviet-era agreements: ‘The Czech Republic’s ex post facto demands for land rent for Russian diplomatic missions resemble extortion and violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.’
  • Russia has frozen the bank accounts of the Finnish diplomatic mission in Russia, according to Pekka Haavisto, Finland’s foreign minister. ‘We keep saying that we cannot allow unfriendly actions to go unanswered — and we will not let them slide,’ Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told reporters. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said in a statement that the restrictions ‘are a symmetric response’ to Finnish restrictions on Russian diplomats.
  • China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, met with Zelensky and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba during his visit to Ukraine, China’s Foreign Ministry said. Beijing is willing to promote efforts to restore peace based on its 12-point proposal and will ‘continue to provide Ukraine with assistance within its capacity,’ according to a ministry statement. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said separately that Kuleba emphasized Kyiv ‘does not accept any proposals that would involve the loss of its territories or the freezing of the conflict.’
  • The International Rescue Committee welcomed the extension of the grain deal, which it said would help reduce pressure on food prices when exports through the mechanism reach the countries most in need in East Africa and elsewhere.
  • Ukraine’s Western allies are at odds over whether to send fighter jets to Ukraine. The United Kingdom is willing to help other countries send the jets and other military equipment as part of a joint effort with the Netherlands, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said. The United States has so far resisted the push.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Explosions Damage Freight Train in Russian-Controlled Crimea. The railway’s operator suggested that the derailment, the latest attack in a Russian-occupied region, may have been an act of sabotage. There was no immediate confirmation from Ukrainian authorities. The New York Times, Thursday, 18 May 2023:

  • The train derailment in Crimea interrupted service of a critically important supply route for Russia.
  • Attacks on Russia’s rail network expose its vital role in war strategy.
  • Another volley of missiles targets Kyiv after a period of relative calm.
  • What are F-16 jets and why does Ukraine want them?
  • A Chinese diplomat ends his Ukraine trip with no sign of a breakthrough.
  • Gains near Bakhmut raise Ukraine’s hopes of a meaningful shift.
  • A Ukrainian government program received 10,000 applications to repair homes.

Disney Pulls Plug on $1 Billion Development in Florida. A new office complex, and relocation of a division from California, would have created more than 2,000 jobs but was scuttled as the company and Governor Ron DeSantis continue to feud. The New York Times, Brooks Barnes, Thursday, 18 May 2023: “In March, Disney called Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida ‘anti-business’ for his scorched-earth attempt to tighten oversight of the company’s theme park resort near Orlando. Last month, when Disney sued the governor and his allies for what it called ‘a targeted campaign of government retaliation,’ the company made clear that $17 billion in planned investment in Walt Disney World was on the line. ‘Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?’ Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said on an earnings-related conference call with analysts last week. On Thursday, Mr. Iger and Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chairman, showed that they were not bluffing, pulling the plug on an office complex that was scheduled for construction in Orlando at a cost of roughly $1 billion. It would have brought more than 2,000 Disney jobs to the region, with $120,000 as the average salary, according to an estimate from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.”


Friday, 19 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Officials say U.S. won’t block transfer of F-16s to Kyiv, The Washington Post, John Hudson, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Kelsey Ables, Victoria Bisset, and Mikhail Klimentov, Friday, 19 May 2023: “The Biden administration has informed European allies that Washington will not block their export of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, U.S. officials familiar with the decision told The Washington Post. Biden has ruled out U.S. deliveries of F-16s to Ukraine, but will train Ukrainian pilots. The decision follows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s repeated requests for fighter jets, including from the Netherlands. In February, Ukrainian officials said they had made significant progress in persuading Dutch officials to send F-16s, but Washington’s approval is necessary because of third-party transfer agreements associated with the purchase of the U.S.-made jets. A transfer would require the sign-off of the chairs and ranking minority-party members of relevant U.S. congressional committees. While top GOP contenders for the presidency such as Donald Trump have criticized the scale of U.S. aid for Ukraine, senior Republican leaders in Congress have been supportive of it throughout the war.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken was a major force within the administration in pushing to allow U.S. allies to make the transfers and had also worked extensively with countries within NATO to move the policy forward, said U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
  • Blinken played a similar role when NATO was at an impasse over whether to provide sophisticated tanks to Ukraine. At the time, Germany was hesitant to approve the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks — a roadblock overcome when Blinken pushed for the United States to approve the transfer of M1 Abrams tanks, making sure allies on both sides of the Atlantic were making major commitments to the war effort in tandem.
  • The U.S. said it will join efforts to provide fighter jet training to Ukrainian pilots, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, adding that it would be ‘a safe bet President Biden will meet’ Zelensky.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Arab nations to work with Kyiv to secure the release of Ukrainians in Russian detention, in an address at the Arab League summit in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday. Even ‘if there are people here at the summit who have a different view of the war on our land, calling it a conflict, I am sure that we can be united in saving people from the cages of Russian prisons,’ he said. Zelensky is set to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Zelensky criticized unnamed countries in the Arab League and the world for ‘turn[ing] a blind eye to those cages and illegal annexations’ — in an apparent rebuke of nations including Russian ally Syria. Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, returned to the meeting for the first time since his country’s civil war began 12 years ago. ‘I’m here so that everyone can take an honest look,’ Zelensky said. ‘No matter how hard the Russians try to influence, there must be independence.’
  • Zelensky’s visit to Saudi Arabia follows his recent whirlwind trip to G-7 member states Italy, Germany, France and Britain, where he secured pledges for more weapons and military aid. He is set to address the G-7 meeting virtually on Friday before appearing in person, according to people familiar with his plans, although he has not confirmed the trip publicly.
  • In Japan, President Biden and other leaders of the Group of Seven nations gathered for a three-day summit, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine among the top agenda items. On Friday, in coordination with the G-7, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions meant to curb Russian efforts to bypass existing ones. ‘Today’s actions will further tighten the vise on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s ability to wage his barbaric invasion and will advance our global efforts to cut off Russian attempts to evade sanctions,’ Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a statement.
  • G-7 leaders, at the beginning of their summit, pledged to strengthen sanctions against Russia, saying in a joint statement Friday that they will take steps ‘to increase the costs to Russia and those who are supporting its war effort.’ On Thursday, a senior White House official said the U.S. package would include more than 300 new sanctions to target circumvention and people supporting Russia’s war. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, tweeted that his country will ban all imports of Russian diamonds, copper, aluminum and nickel.
  • Russia’s Interior Ministry placed the International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor, Karim Khan, on its wanted list. In March, the ICC issued an arrest order for Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation opened an investigation into the ICC’s prosecutors and lawyers several days later.
  • Russia called a U.N. Security Council meeting to criticize what it described as ‘uncontrolled’ arms proliferation by Western governments shipping weapons to Kyiv. Responding to the statements, U.S. Ambassador Robert A. Wood, alternate representative for special political affairs, said Russia’s remarks were ‘underscoring its own hypocrisy.’ The provision of weapons is ‘not extending or exacerbating this conflict,’ he said, but helping ‘repel Russia’s invasion of its neighbor and prevent an even further invasion of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.’
  • Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a travel ban for 500 Americans, describing it as a countermeasure to Western sanctions. The list of banned Americans includes White House staff, think tank and NGO members, as well as late night comedians such as Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel. President Barack Obama is also on the list. Celebrities including Ben Stiller, Sean Penn and Morgan Freeman have been sanctioned by Russia in the past as well.
  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is set to visit Beijing next week, the Russian news agency Tass reported Friday. During the trip, he is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who visited Moscow in March.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: With Prospect of F-16s Closer, Zelensky Heads to the G7 Summit Strengthened. The Ukrainian president, heartened by a U.S. shift that creates a path to supplying Kyiv with the American-made warplanes, will be in Japan for the G7 meeting. The New York Times, Friday, 19 May 2023:

  • A strengthened Zelensky lands in Japan for the G7 meeting.

  • Biden opens a path for Ukraine to get fighter jets.

  • What are F-16 jets and why does Ukraine want them?

  • The Ukrainian president urges Arab leaders to reject Russian influence.

  • ‘Only a plus’: Many Kyiv residents say Zelensky’s overseas trips benefit Ukraine.

  • G7 nations are dialing up sanctions to choke off funding for Russia’s war.

  • Brittney Griner returns to basketball after her detention in Russia with a bigger platform and mission.


Saturday, 20 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia claims victory in Bakhmut, but Ukraine says fight is still on, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Ellen Francis, Nick Parker, and Andrea Salcedo, Saturday, 20 May 2023: “The Russian military says its mercenary forces have overrun Bakhmut, though the Ukrainian military says it is continuing to defend the eastern city that has hosted some of the war’s fiercest fighting for the past several months. The Kremlin-supported Wagner group said earlier in the day that it had taken the city. The protracted fighting for the city, which has little strategic value, has slowed Russia’s full-scale invasion and brought its squabbles with allies into public view. Meanwhile, President Biden is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Japan for the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, according to a readout from a White House press call. Before the announcement was public, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden ‘looks forward to the opportunity to be able to sit down face to face with President Zelensky.’

  • Wagner chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin said on Telegram that Wagner has ‘taken’ Bakhmut, a claim Ukraine rejected. Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, said fighting continued in Bakhmut, though the situation was critical. The Russian Defense Ministry credited Wagner late Saturday. The mercenary group has been fighting for control of the Ukrainian city for at least nine months and has argued that the Kremlin hasn’t supplied enough ammunition to properly manage the operation.
  • Russia’s president promised awards for exemplary fighting in Bakhmut. ‘Vladimir Putin congratulates the Wagner assault detachments, as well as all servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces units, who provided them with the necessary support and flank cover, on the completion of the operation to liberate Artemovsk,’ the Kremlin’s press service said after the Defense Ministry announcement. (Russians call Bakhmut Artemovsk.)
  • The United States will not block its European allies’ exports of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. The turnaround from the Biden administration, which had repeatedly said no to Ukraine’s requests for the fighter jets, came after steady pressure from allies, Congress and Zelensky. Ukraine hopes to have the F-16s in the air by ‘the end of September,’ according to a Defense Ministry adviser.
  • Moscow warned of ‘enormous risks’ if Western countries send F-16 jets to Ukraine. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told the Tass state news agency that moves by Kyiv’s backers to send the fighter jets were a continued escalation in the conflict.
  • Zelensky has been boosted by Washington’s decision not to block allies from responding to Kyiv’s appeals for U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets. The United States will also support the joint effort to provide training to Ukrainian pilots, Sullivan said.
  • Biden informed his G-7 counterparts that the United States will support the joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16s, Sullivan told reporters in Hiroshima. Sullivan described the training as the next phase, after Washington provided artillery, tanks and other arms.
  • Zelensky’s trip to Japan is his first to Asia during the war. Upon his arrival, Zelensky tweeted that he would have meetings with Ukraine’s partners over ‘security and enhanced cooperation for our victory’ and ‘peace will become closer today.’
  • The Ukrainian president has been on a whirlwind diplomatic tour in recent days, visiting Western European capitals and Saudi Arabia. Zelensky landed in Hiroshima airport on a French plane Saturday and met with leaders from India, France, Germany and more. His precise plans for the weekend remain unclear.
  • Pope Francis announced a mission that he hopes will lead to peace in Ukraine. Top Catholic officials including Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, will try to ease tensions in the conflict, according to a Vatican statement. Francis, who has blamed Russia and NATO for the war, has sought to position himself as a peace broker between Moscow and Kyiv.
  • Zelensky urged Arab countries to help secure the release of Ukrainians in Russian detention in a Friday speech at the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia. Even ‘if there are people here at the summit who have a different view of the war on our land, calling it a conflict, I am sure that we can be united in saving people from the cages of Russian prisons,’ he said. He criticized unnamed nations for turning ‘a blind eye to those cages and illegal annexations,’ in an apparent rebuke of countries including Russian ally Syria, whose leader, Bashar al-Assad, was at the summit for the first time in 12 years.
  • Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a travel ban for 500 Americans, describing it as a response to U.S. sanctions. The list of Americans banned from entry includes former president Barack Obama, White House staff, think tank and NGO members, as well as late-night comedians such as Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel.
  • The Russian foreign ministry said it had denied a U.S. consular visit to detained journalist Evan Gershkovich. The Wall Street Journal reporter has been detained in Russia since his arrest in March while on a reporting trip. He is being held on espionage charges that his colleagues and the Journal have condemned as bogus. Press advocates are calling for his release and the United States deems him ‘wrongfully detained.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Wagner Group Says It Took control of Bakhmut. There was no response from Ukraine, which earlier had insisted that fighting continued. President Volodymyr Zelensky is in Japan, meeting with leaders from the Group of 7. The New York Times, Saturday, 20 May 2023:

  • Here’s the latest on Russia’s claims that it has taken control of Bakhmut.
  • Russia’s retaliation to the latest U.S. sanctions has a striking feature.
  • The key events in the battle for Bakhmut, the war’s longest-running sustained fight.
  • Bakhmut has exposed an ugly, personal feud between the Russian Defense Ministry and ‘Putin’s chef.’
  • China denounces G7 summit, warning democratic leaders against putting pressure on Beijing.

Former key Trump attorney Timothy Parlatore says he left because of legal team infighting, CNN Politics, Kaanita Iyer, Saturday, 20 May 2023: “Former Donald Trump attorney Timothy Parlatore, who departed the former president’s legal team earlier this week, said Saturday he left because of infighting among the group. ‘It had nothing to do with the case itself or the client,’ Parlatore told CNN’s Paula Reid on ‘Newsroom.’ ‘The real reason is because there are certain individuals that made defending the president much harder than it needed to be. In particular, there is one individual who works for him, Boris Epshteyn, who had really done everything he could to try to block us – to prevent us from doing what we could to defend the president.’ In response, a spokesperson for Trump told CNN, ‘Mr. Parlatore is no longer a member of the legal team. His statements regarding current members of the legal team are unfounded and categorically false.'” See also, Former Trump Lawyer Timothy Parlatore Describes Conflict Inside Legal Team. Parlatore, who withdrew this past week from representing the former president in the special counsel investigations, said he stepped aside over differences with a Trump adviser, Boris Epshteyn. The New York Times, Saturday, 20 May 2023: “A conflict inside former President Donald J. Trump’s legal team erupted into public view on Saturday as one of his former lawyers went on television to attack one of his current lawyers, who has been the focus of ire from others on the team. The former lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, withdrew this past week from representing Mr. Trump in the special counsel’s investigations into his handling of classified documents and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. But Mr. Parlatore did not explain the reasons behind his departure at the time, saying only that it was not related to the merits of the inquiries. Appearing on CNN on Saturday, Mr. Parlatore disclosed that his departure had been spurred by irreconcilable differences with Boris Epshteyn, another lawyer who has been working as something akin to an in-house counsel for the former president, hiring lawyers and coordinating their efforts to defend Mr. Trump. Mr. Parlatore described how Mr. Epshteyn had hindered him and other lawyers from getting information to Mr. Trump, leaving the former president’s legal team at a disadvantage in dealing with the Justice Department, which is scrutinizing Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents after leaving office and his efforts to remain in office after losing the 2020 election.”


Sunday, 21 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Biden meets Zelensky at G-7, announces $375M aid package including ammunition, weaponry, The Washington Post, Matt Viser, Tyler Pager, Niha Masih, Leo Sands, Ben Brasch, and Paulina Villegas, Sunday, 21 May 2023: “President Biden unveiled a $375 million military assistance package for Ukraine at the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, the latest pledge from Washington of aid that totals $37 billion since Russia’s war began. ‘Ukraine’s ability to defend itself is essential to being able to end this war permanently and through diplomacy,’ Biden told a news conference in Hiroshima. The package includes ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), antitank weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected Russia’s recent claim that it captured Bakhmut after he sparked some confusion when he said the eastern city was now ‘only in our hearts.’ Speaking at a news conference Sunday, Zelensky clarified his earlier comments: ‘Bakhmut is not occupied by Russian Federation as of today. There are no two or three interpretations of those words.’

  • Bakhmut is ‘just dead and a lot of dead Russians,’ Zelensky told reporters, lamenting the city’s destruction.They came to us. Our defenders in Bakhmut, they did strong work, and of course we appreciate them’ for their effort, he said. Russia claimed control of the eastern Ukrainian city on Saturday, but the Ukrainian armed forces said Sunday that battles were continuing there.
  • Troops are still fighting in Bakhmut, Ukraine’s eastern military commander said later Sunday. Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Telegram that his forces are making gains in the suburbs in an attempt to surround the battered city.
  • The United States will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots to fly fighter jets, including the coveted F-16s, Biden said Sunday, with the understanding that Kyiv would not use the jets to escalate the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders. ‘I have a flat assurance from Zelensky that they will not, will not, use it to go into Russian geographic territory,’ Biden told reporters.
  • Zelensky and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had their first face-to-face meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. India has been reluctant to join the Western coalition against Moscow’s invasion, ramping up its imports of Russian crude oil while other countries cut back. Zelensky also met the heads of state of Italy, France and Germany, he said, adding that his focus at the summit is to press for more weapons. After concluding several days of meetings with world leaders, the Ukrainian president said in his nightly address that ‘we have an understanding with the world majority on every important point for Ukraine.’
  • The leaders of G-7 nations are aiming for the ‘double containment’ of Russia and China, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a televised conference Saturday, according to Reuters. A joint statement by the G-7 members — made up of the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Canada — called on China to help end the war in Ukraine and underlined China’s growing economic and military power.
  • Berlin police are investigating the alleged poisoning of two Russian exiles at a conference last month in the German capital. Berlin State Criminal Police Office spokesman Martin Stralau told The Washington Post that investigators had ‘opened a case,’ though he declined to comment on potential motive. Natalia Arno, whose Free Russia Foundation criticizes Russian President Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine, wrote on Facebook that she found her hotel door ajar and was immediately hit with the ‘foreign and sharp smell of cheap perfumes in the room.’ She woke up in pain hours later, flew back to the United States and went to a hospital.
  • Arno blamed the Kremlin, which has been linked to the poisoning of its enemies in recent years — including Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Arno had been attending a conference led by a Kremlin-opposition figure, media outlets reported.
  • An accounting error means the Pentagon may be able to send about $3 billion more in aid to Ukraine, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday. Defense Department spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told the Wall Street Journal last week that the Pentagon discovered ‘inconsistencies in equipment valuation for Ukraine’ during a regular review, meaning the aid may flow more easily because it already has congressional approval. On Sunday, Sullivan told CNN that the Defense Department was using ‘the replacement cost for the equipment we provided’ to Ukraine rather than ‘just the actual cost of that equipment,’ meaning ‘we can spend to provide even more weapons to Ukraine.’
  • The International Criminal Court rebuked Russia’s move to add the court’s top prosecutor to a wanted list. In a statement, the ICC called the move ‘unjustified.’ The court, which in March issued warrants for Russian officials including Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, said ‘coercive measures’ will not deter it from ensuring accountability.
  • German defense manufacturer Rheinmetall is looking to join hands with Ukrainian state-owned defense company Ukroboronprom to build German tanks, the company’s chief executive, Armin Papperger, told the German newspaper Bild. The focus, he said, will remain on addressing Ukraine’s battlefield needs such as maintenance and repair before moving to manufacture armored vehicles.
  • About 70,000 Moldovans gathered in the capital Sunday to express their support for the country’s bid to join the European Union, speakers who addressed the demonstration said. The former Soviet republic, which borders Ukraine and is governed by a pro-Western administration, has been subject to intensifying Russian pressure since the invasion of its neighbor. ‘Moldova’s place is undeniably within the EU,’ President Maia Sandu tweeted.
  • A Russian victory over Ukraine could endanger Moldova and the region, former U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates warned Sunday. ‘If Vladimir Putin wins … there’s no doubt in my mind that Moldova is next,’ Gates said on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation.’ He added that Putin’s territorial ambition ‘creates great danger to the Baltic states and to Poland, where we have treaty alliances that would require American forces to confront the Russians.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky Denies Bakhmut Has Fallen as Biden Pledges Commitment to Ukraine. At the G7 summit in Japan, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said Kyiv’s forces were still fighting for the city. But even if Bakhmut falls, gains on its outskirts could give Ukraine a tactical opportunity. The New York Times, Sunday, 21 May 2023: “Russia’s claim of victory in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut suggests that the brutal urban combat that marked the deadliest battle of its war in Ukraine might be over. But what comes next is far from clear. While Moscow is trumpeting a ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment in its war, Ukraine — even as it insists Bakhmut has not completely fallen — sees an opening to seize the initiative from the city’s outskirts if Russian forces are no longer pressing forward inside the city’s center.”

Russia’s Latest Sanctions on U.S. Officials Turn to Trump enemies. Among the 500 people singled out for travel and financial restrictions were Americans seen as adversaries by former President Donald Trump. The New York Times, Peter Baker, Sunday, 21 May 2023: “Russia has expanded its list of sanctioned Americans in a tit-for-tat retaliation for the latest curbs imposed by the United States. But what is particularly striking is how much President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is adopting perceived enemies of former President Donald J. Trump as his own. Among the 500 people singled out for travel and financial restrictions on Friday were Americans seen as adversaries by Mr. Trump, including Letitia James, the state attorney general of New York who has investigated and sued him. Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state of Georgia who rebuffed Mr. Trump’s pressure to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election, also made the list. And Lt. Michael Byrd, the Capitol Police officer who shot the pro-Trump rioter Ashli Babbitt on Jan. 6, 2021, was another notable name. None of those three has anything to do with Russia policy and the only reason they would have come to Moscow’s attention is because Mr. Trump has publicly assailed them. The Russian Foreign Ministry offered no specific explanation for why they would be included on the list but did say that among its targets were ‘those in government and law enforcement agencies who are directly involved in the persecution of dissidents in the wake of the so-called storming of the Capitol.'”

N.A.A.C.P. Issues Florida Travel Advisory, Joining Latino and L.G.B.T.Q. Groups. The N.A.A.C.P. urged people to consider Florida’s policies on diversity and race under Governor Ron DeSantis when thinking of traveling there. The New York Times, Jesus Jiménez, Sunday, 21 May 2023: “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Saturday issued a travel advisory for Florida, saying that under Gov. Ron DeSantis the state has become ‘openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and L.G.B.T.Q.+ individuals.’ The N.A.A.C.P. joins the League of United Latin American Citizens, a civil rights organization that issued a Florida travel warning on Wednesday, and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group that issued one last month. The N.A.A.C.P.’s travel advisory does not explicitly recommend against travel to Florida. But it urges travelers to be aware of the state’s politics, and the organization said that ‘the governor and the state of Florida have shown that African Americans are not welcome in the state of Florida.’ The N.A.A.C.P. said in a statement on Saturday that the travel advisory was in ‘direct response to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity and inclusion programs in Florida schools.'”

Federal investigation finds Trump-appointed CEO Michael Pack abused power at Voice of America, NPR, David Folkenflik, Sunday, 21 May 2023: “On the day after his confirmation as chief executive of the U.S. Agency for Global Media in June 2020, Michael Pack met with a career employee to discuss which senior leaders at the agency and the Voice of America should be forced out due to their perceived political beliefs. ‘Hates Republicans,’ the employee had written about one in a memo. ‘Openly despises Trump and Republicans,’ they said of another. A third, the employee wrote, ‘is not on the Trump team.’ The list went on. (Firing someone over political affiliation is typically a violation of federal civil service law.) Within two days, Pack was examining ways to remove suspect staffers, a new federal investigation found. The executives he sidelined were later reinstated and exonerated by the inspector general’s office of the U.S. State Department. Pack ultimately turned his attention to agency executives, network chiefs, and journalists themselves. The report, sent to the White House and Congressional leaders earlier this month, found that the Trump appointee repeatedly abused the powers of his office, broke laws and regulations, and engaged in gross mismanagement.”


Monday, 22 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv focuses attacks on Bakhmut’s outskirts; G-7 summit yields more aid, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Leo Sands, Sammy Westfall, and Paulina Villegas, Monday, 22 May 2023: “Ukrainian forces are staging counterattacks on Russian troops on the outskirts of Bakhmut, even as their presence on the ground dwindles to just small footholds of the eastern city, according to Kyiv, which denied Moscow’s claim over the weekend to have captured the city. Ukraine’s military said its stated goal is to encircle Bakhmut to force Russian troops to defend their ground. ‘In the future, this will give us the opportunity to enter the city when the operational situation at the front changes,’ Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s eastern military commander, wrote on Telegram early Monday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky painted a grim picture of the devastated city at a weekend summit of the Group of Seven nations, acknowledging that it has been effectively destroyed over months of fierce battles.

  • President Biden unveiled a $375 million military assistance package for Ukraine at the G-7 summit in Japan on Sunday, including ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), antitank weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment. It brings Washington’s aid to a total of $37 billion since the war began. Biden also said the United States will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets.
  • Russia’s ambassador to the United States suggested that any transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv would bring NATO partners into the conflict. In a Telegram post, Anatoly Antonov suggested that Ukraine would have to rely on foreign personnel to fly and maintain F-16s. He asked, ‘What would happen if American fighters take off from NATO airfields, operated by foreign ‘volunteers?’ The Kremlin has sought to cast its invasion as a fight against the transatlantic alliance, which is not directly involved in the conflict.
  • Ukraine is probably ‘several months at best’ away from receiving significant numbers of the fighter jets from Western allies, U. S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said on Monday. He cautioned that even when they arrive they are unlikely to be a ‘dramatic game changer’ in Kyiv’s effort to fend off invading Russian forces.
  • Workers are focusing on restoring electricity in the Zaporizhzhia area after what a local official described as an emergency situation at one of its energy facilities. Zaporizhzhia is home to Europe’s largest nuclear plant. ‘The work does not stop — electricity and water are gradually appearing in the city’s districts,’ Anatoly Kurtev, the secretary of Zaporizhzhia’s city council, wrote Monday on Telegram.
  • The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant temporarily lost all its external power supply, Ukraine’s state energy company said in a statement posted to Telegram Monday. The site depended on backup diesel generators before power lines were restored, Energoatom said, the seventh time it has done so since Russia’s invasion began. Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, described the plant as extremely vulnerable. ‘This situation cannot continue,’ he tweeted Monday.
  • The governor of the Russian region of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, accused a Ukrainian ‘sabotage and reconnaissance group’ of crossing into Russia in a Telegram post on Monday. Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor, said Russian forces were repelling the incursion. In a separate Telegram post, Gladkov said that an improvised drone attack on a government building resulted in no casualties.
  • The purpose of the alleged crossing was ‘to divert attention from the Bakhmut direction,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement.
  • Ukrainian officials distanced themselves from the alleged attack. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s presidential administration, said on Twitter that Ukraine had ‘nothing to do with it.’ Andriy Yusov, a representative of Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency, told local media outlets that two armed anti-Kremlin Russian groups — the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps — had carried out the attack in Belgorod, acting independently.
  • In a Telegram post, groups calling themselves the ‘Freedom of Russia Legion’ and ‘Russian Volunteer Corps’ said they had ‘liberated’ the settlement of Kozinka in the Belgorod region. ‘We are not your enemies. Unlike Putin’s zombies, we do not touch civilians and do not use them for our purposes. Freedom is near!’ said one message posted Monday.
  • Russian and Chinese officials will hold security talks in Moscow on Monday, according to Kremlin-affiliated state media. Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Russian Security Council, will meet with Chen Wenqing, the Chinese Communist Party’s top law enforcement official, as part of regular security discussions held annually in either country.
  • Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said an expected meeting between him and Zelensky on the sidelines of the G-7 gathering did not go ahead because his Ukrainian counterpart was running late, Reuters reported Monday. Zelensky had been expected to use the summit to try to woo leaders of countries such as Brazil and India that maintain close ties with Russia.
  • NATO Parliamentary Assembly pledged Monday to maintain ‘unwavering’ support for Ukraine and appealed to leaders of the Alliance to speed up the delivery of fighter aircraft and other military hardware Kyiv needs to repel Russian aggression. The assembly also accused Russia and ‘its co-aggressors in the Belarussian regime’ of committing ‘crimes against humanity and possible acts of genocide’ in Ukraine.
  • NATO members Estonia and Latvia are starting negotiations with German weapons maker Diehl Defence over a medium-range air defense system. The Iris-T SLM air defense system will ‘provide the maximum possible protection for our people, as well as civil and military infrastructure,’ Latvian Defense Minister Inara Murniece said Sunday.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: With Bakhmut in Ruins, Ukraine Shifts Focus to City’s Outskirts. Ukraine’s top military commander concedes that only a small contingent of troops is still defending Bakhmut, site of the war’s deadliest battle. The New York Times, Monday, 22 May 2023:

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelenskyy scores F-16 training, as Russia claims to take Bakhmut, NPR, NPR Staff, Monday, 22 May 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: The war in Ukraine will round the 15-month mark this week, with no end in sight, untold numbers of Ukrainian civilian casualties and troop fatalities on both sides, as well as ripple effects across the globe. China’s special envoy Li Hui continues his European tour this week as Beijing says it aims to get countries talking toward an eventual political settlement between Russia and Ukraine. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin will visit China to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping and other senior officials for more talks between the two increasingly close governments. The United Nations Security Council is due to discuss protection of civilians in conflict. What happened last week: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy continued his world tourdropping by an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia and then the Group of Seven summit in Japan. President Biden endorsed helping train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s, after reluctance to allow providing the fighter jets. He said Zelenskyy assured him Ukraine would not use F-16s to strike inside Russia. Moscow warned this poses ‘colossal risks’ for Western countries and raises the question of NATO’s involvement. Russia said it captured the city of Bakhmut, but Ukraine said the battle wasn’t over. Similar back-and-forth claims have played out before over the destroyed city in eastern Ukraine, in what’s now considered the longest battle in a year and three months of war. The Ukraine grain deal was renewed, one day before it would have expired, after Russia had threatened to pull out. A new expiration date is set for July. Russian security agents arrested a Russian who worked for the U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia. Robert Shonov was charged with ‘collaboration on a confidential basis with a foreign state.’ The U.S. strongly condemned the arrest. Russia launched intense attacks on Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine. But Ukraine said Tuesday it managed to shoot down 18 missiles, including six hypersonic missiles. China’s special envoy Li Hui visited Ukrainemeeting with President Zelenskyy and senior officials. The envoy toured other European countries as well, including Poland.”

E. Jean Carroll Seeks New Damages From Trump for Comments on CNN. The former president’s repeated denials that he sexually abused Ms. Carroll ‘show the depth of his malice’ and merit heavy damages, her lawyer wrote. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser, Monday, 22 May 2023: “E. Jean Carroll, who this month won $5 million in damages from former President Donald J. Trump, is now seeking a ‘very substantial’ additional amount in response to his insults on a CNN program just a day after she won her sexual abuse and defamation case. Ms. Carroll’s filing Monday in Manhattan federal court seeks to intensify the financial pain for Mr. Trump. The jury in her civil case found him liable on May 9 for sexual abuse and defamation. It ordered him to pay Ms. Carroll, a former advice columnist and fixture in Manhattan’s media circles, $2 million for the sexual abuse and $3 million for the defamation.” See also, E. Jean Carroll seeks damages from Trump for CNN town hall comments, The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Monday, 22 May 2023: “E. Jean Carroll, an author and advice columnist who recently won a $5 million judgment against Donald Trump in a civil sexual assault and defamation case, is seeking damages from the former president for disparaging comments he made about her during a recent CNN town hall. Attorneys for Carroll filed an amended complaint Monday in a separate, still-pending defamation lawsuit. They said they would seek at least $10 million in damages for comments Trump made at the prime-time event on May 10 and for the initial defamation that Carroll alleged. The lawsuit was originally filed over comments Trump made about Carroll in 2019, when he was president and she had first publicly accused him of a decades-old sexual assault. The lawsuit has been delayed by appellate litigation having to do with whether Trump is shielded from liability because he was president at the time he made those comments.” See also, E. Jean Carroll asks judge to amend lawsuit to seek further damages for what Trump said at CNN town hall, CNN Politics, Kara Scannell, Monday, 22 May 2023: “E. Jean Carroll has asked a judge to amend her initial defamation case against former President Donald Trump to seek additional punitive damages after he repeated his statements at a CNN town hall. The request was made in a letter to the judge seeking clarity on the initial lawsuit following a civil jury verdict earlier this month finding Trump sexually abused Carroll and awarding her $5 million. Carroll’s attorneys said Trump’s defamatory statements repeated during the town hall earlier this month go directly to the issue of punitive damages, which are intended to punish the person found liable. Carroll’s initial lawsuit was held up on appeal and relates to statements Trump made in 2019 while he was president. The trial involved a statement Trump made in 2022.”

Prosecutors Sought Records on Foreign Business Deals Trump Has Entered Into Since He Took Office in 2017. The special counsel scrutinizing the former president’s handling of classified documents issued a subpoena to the Trump Organization seeking records related to seven countries. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman, and Ben Protess, Monday, 22 May 2023: “Federal prosecutors overseeing the investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of classified documents have issued a subpoena for information about Mr. Trump’s business dealings in foreign countries since he took office, according to two people familiar with the matter. It remains unclear precisely what the prosecutors were hoping to find by sending the subpoena to Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, or when it was issued. But the subpoena suggests that investigators have cast a wider net than previously understood as they scrutinize whether he broke the law in taking sensitive government materials with him upon leaving the White House and then not fully complying with demands for their return. The subpoena — drafted by the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith — sought details on the Trump Organization’s real estate licensing and development dealings in seven countries: China, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, according to the people familiar with the matter. The subpoena sought the records for deals reached since 2017, when Mr. Trump was sworn in as president.”

Federal prosecutors have evidence Donald Trump was put on notice that he could not retain any classified documents after he was subpoenaed for their return last year, as they examine whether the subsequent failure to fully comply with the subpoena was a deliberate act of obstruction by Trump, The Guardian, Hugo Lowell, Monday, 22 May 2023: The previously unreported warning conveyed to Trump by his lawyer Evan Corcoran could be significant in the criminal investigation surrounding Trump’s handling of classified materials given it shows he knew about his subpoena obligations. Last June, Corcoran found roughly 40 classified documents in the storage room at Mar-a-Lago and told the justice department that no further materials remained at the property. That was later shown to be untrue, after the FBI later returned with a warrant and seized 101 additional classified documents. The federal investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith has recently focused on why the subpoena was not compiled with, notably whether Trump arranged for boxes of classified documents to be moved out of the storage room so he could illegally retain them.”

Tuesday, 23 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Detention of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich extended for 3 months; battles rage on Bakhmut outskirts, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Ellen Francis, Natalia Abbakumova, Kim Bellware, Mary Ilyushina, and Alex Horton, Tuesday, 23 May 2023: “A Moscow court on Tuesday approved a three-month extension of the detention of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich. The Wall Street Journal reporter was arrested in March by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on accusations of spying, which he, his employer, rights groups and the U.S. government have strenuously denied. Russian authorities have not presented evidence to support their claim. The U.S. State Department says Gershkovich is ‘wrongfully detained.’ He is facing trial. A date has not been set. ‘We are deeply concerned that Russia has extended the pretrial detention of Evan Gershkovich by an additional three months today,’ White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a Tuesday briefing. ‘We have been very clear that the claims against him are baseless. Russia should release Evan and Paul Whelan immediately and we’ll continue to be very clear on that point.’ Whelan is a former U.S. Marine who was convicted of espionage in Russia in 2020. Ukrainian officials say troops are still battling around Bakhmut, after Russia claimed to have seized the eastern city that has been a focal point of the war for months. Ukraine’s armed forces and its deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, said fighting continues to rage on the city’s outskirts. Across the border, Russia said it launched an investigation Tuesday into an alleged attack in its Belgorod region, after it accused pro-Ukrainian fighters of targeting the area. The Kremlin said it expelled the perpetrators from the region and blamed Ukraine; Kyiv denied any direct involvement.

  • Belgorod’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said that the Russian region was targeted by a sabotage group and that a ‘counterterrorism operation’ is underway. Russian officials described the incident as a cross-border attack on the Grayvoron district, and the country’s Investigative Committee said it has opened a criminal case. The full scope and details of the incidents remained unclear.
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed ‘members of Ukrainian armed formations’ for the Belgorod incident, after Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that Ukraine had ‘nothing to do with it.’ Responsibility was claimed by groups called the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps. On Telegram, the militias — composed of ethnic Russian fighters siding with Ukraine — said they ‘liberated’ a settlement in Belgorod. The Washington Post could not independently verify the claims.
  • A video verified by The Post showed two heavily damaged U.S.-made Humvees on the Russian side of a border station outside Belgorod. It is unclear if the militias used them, or if Ukrainian forces provided them to the group. The U.S. has provided more than 2,000 Humvees to Ukraine. A Pentagon spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
  • As their foothold in Bakhmut shrinks, Ukrainian troops are focused on counterattacks on the city’s periphery, officials said. Maliar said early Tuesday that fighting inside the city has subsided and that Russian forces are sweeping areas under their control, while battles rage on the city’s edges. She said Ukrainian troops control the southwestern outskirts.
  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is in China, where he spoke at a business forum in Shanghai, according to Russia’s Tass news agency. He is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit.
  • European allies have begun training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets, European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday. ‘I am happy that finally the training of the pilots for the F-16 has started in several countries. It will take time, but the sooner the better,’ he told reporters in Brussels. The training ‘opens the door for the provision of jets.’
  • Poland is in advanced talks to obtain early-warning aircraft from Swedenaccording to Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak. Northern European defense ministers met in Poland on Monday to discuss threats to European security and securing NATO’s eastern flank. The group assured continued support for Ukraine, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Rare Assault Inside Russia Stretches Into Second Day. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had pushed pro-Ukrainian fighters back across the border, but the group that claimed responsibility for the incursion said its attacks were continuing. The New York Times, Tuesday, 23 May 2023:

  • The Kremlin blames ‘Ukrainian militants’ amid a rare cross-border assault.

  • Pro-Ukraine forces appear to have used several U.S.-made armored vehicles in their incursion into Russia.

  • Who are the soldiers behind the Free Russia Legion?

  • As attacks continue, Russians fear the border incursion could create new military challenges.

  • A Russian court orders the American journalist Evan Gershkovich jailed through August.

  • Poland says it is ‘ready’ to begin training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s.

  • The E.U. has given Ukraine 220,000 shells toward its goal of one million by March of next year.

Trump Criminal Trial Scheduled for March 2024. Former President Donald Trump appeared to react angrily at a virtual appearance when the judge in his case disclosed the trial date. The New York Times, Jonah E. Bromwich, Tuesday, 23 May 2023: “The trial of Donald J. Trump has been scheduled for March 25, 2024, the judge presiding over his Manhattan criminal case said at a hearing on Tuesday. Mr. Trump attended the hearing remotely, making his first courtroom appearance since 34 felony charges were unveiled against him last month. He appeared to react angrily when the trial date was announced by Justice Juan Merchan, though his microphone was muted and it was unclear what he was saying to the lawyer seated next to him, Todd Blanche. The trial is set for three weeks after Super Tuesday, one of the most important days on the Republican presidential primary calendar. And the disclosure of the date came just a day before Mr. Trump’s chief rival for the Republican nomination, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, was set to announce his own run, highlighting the way that Mr. Trump’s legal entanglements could complicate his third campaign for the White House.” See also, Trial date is set in Trump’s New York criminal case; judge issues contempt warning, The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Tuesday, 23 May 2023: “A judge Tuesday set a March 2024 trial date for Donald Trump and warned the former president that he could be found in contempt if he shared evidence provided to his lawyers in his criminal case on charges of falsifying business records. Trump appeared on a video feed at a Manhattan courtroom from his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida with his attorney Todd Blanche. New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan told the parties not to make plans around and after the trial start date of March 25, 2024. When that happened, Trump shook his head. ‘All parties including Mr. Trump are directed to not engage or otherwise enter into any commitments personal or professional or otherwise,’ Merchan said, reading from an email exchange with the attorneys that had already addressed a trial schedule. He also warned Trump that disclosing documents the defense obtains from the district attorney as part of pretrial discovery is strictly prohibited — limits that were imposed in recognition of Trump’s habit of making social media attacks against his detractors. ‘Any violation of a court order or a violation of a court mandate could result in sanctions,’ Merchan said. ‘There’s a wide range of sanctions [but] they could include up to a finding of contempt, which is punishable.'” See also, Trump’s New York criminal trial will begin in March 2024, halfway through presidential primaries. During a hearing before Judge Juan Merchan, the former president acknowledged he’d reviewed a protective order barring him from disclosing certain evidence. NBC News, Dareh Gregorian and Adam Reiss, Tuesday, 23 May 2023: “Former President Donald Trump made a virtual appearance in New York criminal court Tuesday for the first time since pleading not guilty last month to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. A stern-looking Trump appeared before Judge Juan Merchan on video to hear the terms of a protective order barring him from publicly disclosing evidence, which the Manhattan district attorney’s office will be turning over to his lawyers in the hush money payments case. Trump — whose in-person arraignment in the same courthouse last month came with massive security precautions and paralyzed operations there for the day — appeared virtually from Florida, with lawyer Todd Blanche at his side. Merchan also set a trial date in the case — March 25, 2024. By that time, at least 25 states will have already held their presidential primary contests, based on the current scheduled dates.”

Trump lawyers seek meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland over special counsel Jack Smith’s actions, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Tuesday, 23 May 2023: “Former president Donald Trump’s legal team fired off a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday asking for a meeting to discuss what they call the ‘unfair’ treatment of their client by special counsel Jack Smith. As a legal tactic, it is unorthodox to seek a direct meeting with the attorney general to discuss investigations that have been handed to a special counsel to ensure quasi-independent management of politically sensitive matters. Garland tapped Smith, a career prosecutor, in November, days after Trump launched his third consecutive bid for the White House. Smith is overseeing two distinct categories of Trump-related investigations: the first into how hundreds of classified documents were taken to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago private club and residence in southern Florida and the second into issues related to efforts to prevent Joe Biden from being certified as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Tuesday’s letter, signed by Trump attorneys John Rowley and James Trusty and labeled ‘via courier,’ repeats a longtime mantra of Trump — that the Justice Department, even when he was the president, has been biased against him. A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment on the letter, which Trump made public by posting it on social media Tuesday night. ‘Unlike President Biden, his son Hunter, and the Biden family, President Trump is being treated unfairly,’ the letter says. ‘No President of the United States has ever, in the history of our country, been baselessly investigated in such an outrageous and unlawful fashion. We request a meeting at your earliest convenience to discuss the ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated by your Special Counsel and his prosecutors.’ The letter does not specify what those alleged injustices are or even say which part or parts of the special counsel’s work they object to. But it was sent as grand jury activity in the classified documents case has slowed in recent weeks and amid speculation by some Trump advisers and outside observers that Smith may be getting closer to making a decision on whether to pursue charges in that case.” See also, Trump Lawyers Seek Meeting With Attorney General Merrick Garland Over Special Counsel Inquiries. Two lawyers for the former president asserted that he was being treated unfairly in the investigations into his handling of classified documents and his efforts to remain in power. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Tuesday, 23 May 2023: “Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump sent a letter on Tuesday requesting a meeting with Attorney General Merrick B. Garland related to the special counsel investigations into Mr. Trump’s conduct. The letter cited no specifics but asserted that Mr. Trump was being treated unfairly by the Justice Department through the investigations led by the special counsel, Jack Smith. Mr. Smith is scrutinizing Mr. Trump’s handling of classified material that was discovered at his private Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, after his presidency, as well as his efforts to retain power after he lost the 2020 election. There are indications that Mr. Smith is approaching the stage of the investigation where he could start making decisions about whether to seek indictments of Mr. Trump and others in the documents case. The status of his other line of inquiry, into Mr. Trump’s efforts to reverse his election loss and how they contributed to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by his supporters, is less clear.”

Harlan Crow Declines to Provide Information Sought by Senate Democrats, The New York Times, Carl Hulse, Tuesday, 23 May 2023: “The billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow refused this week to comply with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s request to hand over information about gifts and travel he provided to Justice Clarence Thomas. ‘After careful consideration, we do not believe the committee has the authority to investigate Mr. Crow’s personal friendship with Justice Clarence Thomas,’ Michael D. Bopp, Mr. Crow’s lawyer, wrote to the panel on Monday. Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the chairman of the committee, balked at the rejoinder, saying in a statement on Tuesday that Mr. Crow had not provided a ‘credible response’ to his panel’s requests.” See also, Republican megadonor Harlan Crow refuses to cooperate with Democratic senators’ Supreme court investigation, Politico, Katherine Tully-McManus, Tuesday, 23 May 2023: “Real-estate billionaire and GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, who has come under fire for his mysterious relationship with Justice Clarence Thomas, is refusing to cooperate with a Senate Judiciary Committee probe. In a Monday night letter to Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, obtained by POLITICO, Crow’s lawyer said the panel did not have ‘the authority to investigate Mr. Crow’s personal friendship with’ Thomas. Crow declined to answer questions from Durbin and other Democrats about the developer’s relationship with and pattern of expensive gifts to the Supreme Court justice. The committee ‘has not identified a valid legislative purpose for its investigation and is not authorized to conduct an ethics investigation of a Supreme Court Justice,’ reads the letter from Michael Bopp. Durbin tore into that response Tuesday. ‘Harlan Crow believes the secrecy of his lavish gifts to Justice Thomas is more important than the reputation of the highest court of law in this land. He is wrong,’ the Illinois Democrat said.”


Wednesday, 24 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. distances itself after Humvees are seen in Belgorod, The Washington Post, Bryan Pietsch, Victoria Bisset, Natalia Abbakumova, Lily Kuo, and Alex Horton, Wednesday, 24 May 2023: “The United States is trying to distance itself from an incident in the Russian region of Belgorod where two heavily damaged U.S.-made Humvees were seen in a video verified by The Washington Post on the Russian side of a border station. Moscow alleged that militias made up of Russians fighting on Ukraine’s side attacked a border post. It is unclear whether militias used the Humvees and whether Ukrainian forces provided them to the group. The Pentagon on Thursday is set to host a virtual meeting of military leaders from the dozens of nations providing weapons and other support to Ukraine. Such forums are used to discuss sourcing arms and ammunition and deliberating whether additional capabilities are needed to help the government in Kyiv repel Russia’s ground advance and protect its people from aerial bombardment. An anticipated provision of F-16 fighter aircraft, and the associated training and maintenance requirements, is likely to be one focal point during the meeting. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley are due to brief the media after it concludes.

  • The Pentagon said it did not approve any transfers of equipment to paramilitary organizations outside the Ukrainian military, Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said in a news briefing. The Pentagon has not received any request from the Ukrainian government for such a transfer, he said. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that the Belgorod incident showed that the West’s ‘direct and indirect involvement’ in Ukraine is ‘growing every day.’
  • ‘Our focus is on providing Ukraine with the equipment and training they need to retake their own sovereign territory — we do not encourage or enable attacks inside of Russia,’ said a U.S. defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. ‘In terms of the reports and videos circulating online, we continue to look into them.’
  • The strenuousness of Washington’s denials has diminished as officials try to piece through what happened. ‘We’re skeptical at this time of the veracity of these reports,’ State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Tuesday, of the claims that fighters used U.S. equipment. On Wednesday, White House spokesman John Kirby said: ‘We’re looking into those reports that U.S. equipment and vehicles could’ve been involved.’
  • The militias that have made unverified claims of responsibility for the raid, the Legion of Free Russia and the Russian Volunteer Corps, held a news conference Wednesday, near the Russian border in the north of Ukraine. Russian Volunteer Corps commander Denis Nikitin claimed that his fighters made it some 26 miles into Russia.
  • U.S. officials have privately made a ‘low confidence’ assessment that Ukraine orchestrated the drone attack on the Kremlin earlier in May, according to the New York Times. The assessment is based on intercepted communications in which Ukrainian officials expressed a belief that their side was involved, as well as communications in which Russian officials blamed Ukraine, which led the United States to believe the attack was not a ‘false flag.’ U.S. officials could not identify specific individuals involved in the attack, which lowered confidence internally in the assessment.
  • The Biden administration is ‘deeply concerned that a senior U.N. diplomat met with a fugitive subject to an ICC arrest warrant for committing war crimes against children,’ State Department spokesman Matt Miller told reporters Wednesday. Last week, U.N. official Virginia Gamba reportedly met with Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, who has been charged by the International Criminal Court with deporting Ukrainian children to Russia. ‘Such conduct undermines our shared commitment to protecting children in conflict zones,’ Miller said. ‘As we have said before … Russia is forcibly deporting children from Ukraine, they’re denying parents and legal guardians access to those children. … We continue to call for accountability for war crimes.’
  • The U.S. State Department approved a possible $285 million sale of a NASAMS air defense system to Ukraine Wednesday. NASAMS — which stands for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems — is the air defense suite used to protect the White House. The U.S. previously sent two NASAMS systems to Ukraine, and planned to send six more, not including the one system approved Thursday.
  • China intends to elevate its cooperation with Russia ‘to a higher level,’ Chinese leader Xi Jinping said Wednesday during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in Beijing, where according to state broadcaster CCTV the two countries agreed to strengthen their economic ties. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Chinese officials have refrained from directly condemning, has brought the two powers closer together in the past year — to the disapproval of Western governments.
  • Russia’s annual trade with China is expected to exceed $200 billion this year, Mishustin said Wednesday in Beijing, according to Interfax. Xi said China will continue to ‘firmly support’ Russia on issues related to the two countries’ ‘core interests,’ while Mishustin said their relations are ‘at an unprecedented high level,’ according to Reuters.
  • F-16 fighter jets sent to Ukraine by its Western allies will become a ‘legitimate target’ for Moscow’s forces, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday. His warning came one day after European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell announced that ‘several countries’ have started training Ukrainian pilots on the aircraft. The training ‘opens the door for the provision of jets,’ Borrell said.
  • The head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, said Moscow’s plan to demilitarize Ukraine is not working. In an interview with a military blogger published Wednesday, Prigozhin — who has publicly feuded with Russia’s military top brass — said Ukraine’s army is now larger than before. ‘If they had conditional 500 tanks at the beginning of the special operation, they have 5,000 tanks. If they had 20,000 people who can fight, now they have 400,000 people who can fight,’ he said.
  • Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs warned about the ‘dangers of canceling Russia’ in parliamentary hearings Wednesday, according to Russian state newswire TASS. The diplomat, Mauro Vieira, said that sanctions ‘narrow down the space for dialogue.’ Brazil has attempted to position itself as a mediator in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
  • The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog met with the director of Russia’s state-owned energy corporation to discuss safety at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency tweeted Wednesday that its director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, met with Rosatom chief Alexei Likhachev as part of IAEA efforts to gain support for a proposal ‘to avoid a nuclear or radiological accident’ at the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.
  • Japan has no plans to become a NATO member, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday, Reuters reported. Japan’s foreign minister told CNN this month that Japan plans to open a NATO liaison office, prompted by the war in Ukraine.
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it is ‘obvious that there is no victory for poor Ukrainians on the battlefield.’ Speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum, Orban — who often clashes with the rest of the European Union in regard to the war — said the conflict represents a ‘failure of diplomacy’ and ‘should never have happened.’ But, he said, there is ‘no chance’ of victory on either side, and he posited that ‘the only solution is cease-fire.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Pro-Ukraine Fighters Behind Cross-Border Attack Pledge More to Come. Military analysts suggested that the two-day incursion was aimed at forcing Russia to divert troops from the front in southeastern Ukraine and embarrassing the Russian government. The New York Times, Wednesday, 24 May 2023:

  • Fighters aligned with Ukraine warn of additional attacks inside Russia.

  • The Wagner group forecasts disaster if Russia does not move into total war footing.

  • A unit of Ukraine’s security services likely orchestrated the Kremlin drone attack, U.S. officials say.

  • A U.S. aircraft carrier visits Oslo, in a show of strength aimed at Russia.

  • Pro-Ukraine forces appear to have used several U.S.-made armored vehicles in their incursion into Russia.

  • Ukraine’s intelligence chief says it needs ‘significant reserves’ of weapons for a counteroffensive.

  • Xi vows stronger ties with the Kremlin during a meeting with the Russian prime minister.

The deepening radicalization of Donald Trump. The former president’s positions and rhetoric have grown more confrontational and extreme as he seeks a second term. The Washington Post, Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey, and Adriana Usero, Wednesday, 24 May 2023: “In the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6, 2021, President Donald Trump stayed mostly silent, and when he finally delivered his farewell address to the nation, he disavowed the attack on the U.S. Capitol as something that ‘all Americans were horrified by’ and ‘can never be tolerated.’ Now, as Trump seeks to return to the White House, he speaks of Jan. 6 as ‘a beautiful day.’ He says there was no reason for police to shoot the rioter attempting to break into the House chamber, and he denies there was any danger to his vice president, Mike Pence, who was hiding from a pro-Trump mob chanting for him to be hanged. He has promised to pardon many rioters if he becomes president again. On this and a host of subjects, from sexual assault to foreign and domestic policy, Trump’s positions have become even more extreme, his tone more confrontational, his accounts less tethered to reality, according to a Washington Post review of Trump’s speeches and interviews with former aides. Where he was at times ambiguous or equivocal, he’s now brazenly defiant.”

Poet Amanda Gorman speaks up after Miami-Dade school bars elementary students from reading her poem, Miami Herald, Omar Rodríguez Ortiz and Sommer Brugal, Wednesday, 24 May 2023: “A nationally known poet said Tuesday she is ‘gutted’ after learning that a school in Miami-Dade barred elementary school children from reading her poem and three other library titles following the complaint of a parent. Amanda Gorman — the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history — recited the poem, ‘The Hill We Climb,’ at the inauguration of President Joe Biden on Jan. 20, 2021. Gorman, now 25 and a Harvard graduate, is an award-winning writer based in Los Angeles. ‘Book bans aren’t new,’ said Gorman, in a statement shared on Twitter. ‘Often all it takes to remove these works from our libraries and schools is a single objection.’ Gorman, a Black woman, added: ‘Most of the forbidden works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on the bookshelves. The majority of these censored works are by queer and non-white voices.’ Her poem celebrates the United States not as a perfect union, but as an unfinished nation that yearns for equity and inclusion.” See also, Florida School Restricts Access to Amanda Gorman’s Inauguration Poem. A grade school in Miami-Dade County said ‘The Hill We Climb,’ which Ms. Gorman read at President Biden’s inauguration in 2021, was ‘better suited’ for older students after a parent complained about it. The New York Times, Amanda Holpuch, Wednesday, 24 May 2023: “Amanda Gorman, who in 2021 became the youngest inaugural poet in United States history when she spoke at President Biden’s swearing-in, said she was ‘gutted’ this week after a Florida school said the poem she recited that day was inappropriate for its youngest students. The Miami-Dade County school district said that one of its schools, the Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes, which educates children from prekindergarten through eighth grade, had determined that the poem, ‘The Hill We Climb,’ was more appropriate for middle school students. Ms. Gorman, now 25, said in a statement on Instagram on Tuesday that she wrote the poem ‘so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment. Ever since, I’ve received countless letters and videos from children inspired by The Hill We Climb to write their own poems,’ she said. ‘Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.'”


Thursday, 25 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Pentagon says European coalition to train Ukraine on F-16s, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Adela Suliman, Isobel Koshiw, Sammy Westfall, and Karen DeYoung, Thursday, 25 May 2023: “Denmark and the Netherlands are set to head a new European coalition to provide Ukraine with F-16 pilot training and maintenance as the allies prepare to supply Kyiv with fighter jets, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Thursday. The United States will participate in the training program, to be conducted in Europe, along with Norway, Belgium, Portugal, Poland and others that have F-16s in their arsenals. Speaking at a news conference following a virtual meeting of the larger, 52-member international coalition aiding Ukraine, Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to put a timeline on delivery of any F-16s. Last week the Biden administration agreed to lift restrictions preventing other countries from transferring the U.S.-made aircraft to Ukraine, although administration officials said the United States would not send any of its own. Austin and Milley defended long-standing U.S. hesitation to supply Ukraine with fourth and fifth generation fighter jets despite persistent Ukrainian appeals. ‘As we said from the beginning … that is very lethal airspace,’ Austin said, and the focus of allies has been on providing Ukraine with air defense capabilities against Russian attacks on infrastructure and civilians. The F-16 is not a ‘magic weapon,’ Milley said. If the expensive fighters — each worth tens of millions of dollars — had been sent earlier, he said, it would not have been possible to supply all the other advanced weaponry the United States and others have transferred. ‘It’s not a question of we agree now or we agree later, under pressure,’ said Milley. ‘This is hardcore military analysis.’ While F-16s will give Ukraine additional ability to fire long range weapons behind Russian defensive lines, even the 40-50 planes Ukraine has asked for would be up against what he said were ‘thousands’ of comparable Russian aircraft.

  • Russia’s Wagner Group began a planned withdrawal Thursday from the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, according to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary force.
  • ‘From today at five in the morning, May 25 until June 1, most of the units will rebase to camps in the rear,’ Prigozhin said in a video Thursday. ‘We are handing our positions to the military.’ Earlier this week, he vowed to hand over responsibility for the embattled city, now under Moscow’s control, to Russia’s Defense Ministry — with which he has engaged in long-running public feud over resources and support. The Washington Post could not independently verify his claims.
  • Regular Russian army units replaced Wagner forces in Bakhmut’s outer suburbs, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in a Telegram message Thursday. She added, however, that Wagner units are still in the city. Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern command, told The Post he could confirm that some Wagner troops are rotating but that he didn’t know the scale. He noted that Russia has mounted fewer attacks there over the past two days.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu signed an agreement Thursday with his Belarusian counterpart, allowing for the storage of tactical nuclear weapons on the Russian ally’s territory. The deal meets ‘every existent international legal obligation,’ Shoigu said during a signing ceremony in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. He warned that further steps could be taken to protect the countries’ collective security. At the same time, he underlined that Russia ‘is not giving nuclear weapons to Belarus’ and that control over their use and deployment remains ‘in the hands’ of Moscow.
  • The U.N. Security Council plans to meet on Tuesday to discuss the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, CBS reported. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has been pushing for months for an agreement to secure the plant — which remains elusive given tense relations between Moscow and Washington, as well as Kyiv’s reluctance to accept a deal that falls short of a complete Russian withdrawal from the plant and its surroundings. The Post had reported this week that Grossi planned to present a list of five principles to the Security Council.
  • Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has filed lawsuits, seeking nearly $280 million, against state-owned arms companies that it alleges have failed to deliver on contracts signed earlier in the conflict, Ukrainian news outlet Ukrainska Pravda reports.
  • Ukraine’s Defense Ministry appeared to confirm an attack on a Russian reconnaissance ship, posting a video on Twitter on Thursday saying that the Black Sea Fleet ship ‘Ivan Khurs met a Ukrainian drone.’ Russia’s Defense Ministry had said a day prior that Ukraine had made an ‘unsuccessful attempt’ to attack the Ivan Khurs with three unmanned surface vehicles, adding that the ship was not damaged. The Post was unable to verify the claims.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky surprised graduates at Johns Hopkins University on Thursday, appearing in a live stream at their commencement ceremony. He told the crowd that time is of the essence and urged them not to waste it. ‘Every person eventually realizes that time is the most valuable resource on the planet — not oil, or uranium, not lithium or anything else, but time. Time,’ he said. He told them he was proud that Ukraine is not losing a single day in its defense against Russian aggression.
  • Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, accused Russia of ‘constantly’ hitting the dam of the Karliv reservoir, putting villages at risk of flooding. On Telegram on Thursday, Kyrylenko said that officials warned residents of the villages of the danger and that emergency services are preparing in case of an emergency.
  • The U.S. military is still trying to determine whether U.S. Humvees and potentially other military material was used in a cross-border attack from Ukraine into Russia by anti-Putin Russians earlier this week, and if so, where it was obtained. ‘I’ve got the staff looking at that to confirm it now. I don’t have an answer,’ Milley said. The ‘rules,’ Milley said, are that Ukraine does ‘not use U.S.-supplied equipment’ to attack into Russian territory. Video verified by The Post after the attack showed two heavily damaged U.S.-made Humvees on the Russian side of the border.
  • Moscow summoned the Danish, German and Swedish ambassadors Thursday, accusing their governments of failing to make progress in investigations into attacks on the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines last year.
  • Zelensky urged Iran to stop supplying Russia with Shahed drones, which have been used to target critical infrastructure in Ukraine. More than 1,100 Iranian-made drones have been deployed in Ukraine, he said in his nightly address, adding that most were downed by Ukrainian troops.
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reaffirmed Russia’s position that Ukrainian intelligence units were responsible for a drone attack on the Kremlin earlier this month, citing a New York Times report that suggested U.S. officials hold similar beliefs. ‘We said right off the bat that the Kyiv regime was behind the drone attack. … It doesn’t make much difference which unit is behind it,’ he said. U.S. officials told the Times that the incident still lacked clarity and that their level of confidence that the Ukrainian government directly authorized the attack was ‘low.’ Ukraine has denied involvement in the attack.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Wagner’s Withdrawal From Bakhmut Would Present Test to Russian Army. The mercenary group’s leader said his fighters would hand the ruined city to regular Russian forces, who are already stretched and will have to fill the gap lift by the mercenaries. The New York Times, Thursday, 25 May 2023:

  • Stretched Russian forces would have to fill the gap if Wagner fighters pull out of Bakhmut.
  • Prigozhin says his forces have begun withdrawing from Bakhmut.
  • Ukraine and Russia engage in dueling drone attacks.
  • The United States condemns a deal allowing Moscow to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus.
  • Zelensky asks Iranians to stop backing  Russia.
  • A U.S. aircraft carrier visits Oslo, in a show of strength aimed at Russia.

Oath Keepers Leader Stewart Rhodes Is Sentenced to 18 Years in January 6 Sedition Case. The sentence for Rhodes was the longest so far in the federal investigation of the Capitol attack and the first issued to a defendant convicted of sedition. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Thursday, 25 May 2023: “Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was sentenced on Thursday to 18 years in prison for his conviction on seditious conspiracy charges for the role he played in helping to mobilize the pro-Trump attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The sentence, handed down in Federal District Court in Washington, was the most severe penalty so far in the more than 1,000 criminal cases stemming from the Capitol attack — and the first to be increased for fitting the legal definition of terrorism. It was also the first to have been given to any of the 10 members of the Oath Keepers and another far-right group, the Proud Boys, who were convicted of sedition in connection with the events of Jan. 6. For Mr. Rhodes, 58, the sentence was the end of a tumultuous and unusual career that included Army service, a stint on Capitol Hill and a law degree from Yale. His role as the Oath Keepers’ founder and leader thrust him into the spotlight and will now send him to prison for what is likely to be the better part of his remaining days. At a dramatic, nearly four-hour hearing, Judge Amit P. Mehta chided Mr. Rhodes for seeking for years through his leadership of the Oath Keepers to have American democracy ‘devolve into violence.’ ‘You, sir,’ Judge Mehta went on, directly addressing the defendant, ‘present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country, to the Republic and the very fabric of our democracy.'” See also, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes gets 18 years in prison for January 6 seditious conspiracy. Rhodes’s sentence is the longest given to any of the hundreds of people found guilty of involvement in the pro-Trump riot. The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner, Tom Jackman, and Spencer S. Hsu, Thursday, 25 May 2023: “Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison Thursday in the first punishment to be handed down for seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The sentence is the longest given to any of the hundreds of people found guilty of involvement in the pro-Trump riot, and the first to include an enhanced penalty for terrorism. Judge Amit P. Mehta said it was merited by the role Rhodes, a leader in the armed anti-government movement for decades, played in convincing others that they had the right to impose their political beliefs by force. ‘You, sir, present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country, to the republic and the very fabric of our democracy,’ Mehta told Rhodes, saying he had never expressed such a belief about another defendant. He described Rhodes — who remained insistent that he was being targeted for his far-right political beliefs — as a disturbingly charismatic figure who manipulated followers to bring firearms to the D.C. area and prepare for battle on Jan. 6. ‘They, too, are victims, victims of the lies, the propaganda, the rhetoric and ultimately the intention that you conveyed,’ Mehta said.” See also, Stewart Rhodes, Oath Keepers founder, is sentenced to 18 years for seditious conspiracy, NPR, Thursday, 25 May 2023: “The founder of the far-right Oath Keepers group has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in a seditious conspiracy to disrupt the electoral count, the stiffest punishment to date to stem from the violent assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. A jury in Washington, D.C., convicted Stewart Rhodes last November of the politically charged sedition charge and multiple other felonies. Given the rare nature of the charge, his prison term could influence any sentence Enrique Tarrio, the former chairman of the far-right Proud Boys group will face on the same charge later this summer.” See also, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes is sentenced to 18 years for seditious conspiracy in January 6 attack, Associated Press, Michael Kunzelman, Alanna Durkin Richer, and Lindsay Whitehurst, Thursday, 25 May 2023: “Oath Keepers extremist group founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison for orchestrating a weekslong plot that culminated in his followers attacking the U.S. Capitol in a bid to keep President Joe Biden out of the White House after winning the 2020 election. Rhodes, 58, is the first person convicted of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack to receive his punishment, and his sentence is the longest handed down so far in the hundreds of Capitol riot cases. It’s another milestone for the Justice Department’s sprawling Jan. 6 investigation, which has led to seditious conspiracy convictions against the top leaders of two far-right extremist groups authorities say came to Washington prepared to fight to keep President Donald Trump in power at all costs.”

Trump workers moved Mar-a-Lago boxes a day before FBI came for documents. New details, including alleged ‘dress rehearsal’ for moving sensitive papers, show a focus on Donald Trump’s instructions and intent. The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu, and Perry Stein, Thursday, 25 May 2023: “Two of Donald Trump’s employees moved boxes of papers the day before an early [2022] June visit by FBI agents and a prosecutor to the former president’s Florida home to retrieve classified documents in response to a subpoena — timing that investigators have come to view as suspicious and an indication of possible obstruction, according to people familiar with the matter. Trump and his aides also allegedly carried out a ‘dress rehearsal’ for moving sensitive papers even before his office received the May 2022 subpoena, according to the people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a sensitive ongoing investigation. Prosecutors in addition have gathered evidence indicating that Trump at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others, these people said. Taken together, the new details of the classified-documents investigation suggest a greater breadth and specificity to the instances of possible obstruction found by the FBI and Justice Department than have been previously reported. It also broadens the timeline of possible obstruction episodes that investigators are examining — a period stretching from events at Mar-a-Lago before the subpoena to the period after the FBI search there on Aug. 8.” See also, Mar-a-Lago Worker Provided Prosecutors New Details in Trump Documents Case. A maintenance worker for the former president recounted helping to move boxes into a storage room a day before a Justice Department official came seeking the return of classified material in June 2022. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Thursday, 25 May 2023: “The day before a key meeting last year [June 2022] between a lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and officials seeking the return of classified documents in Mr. Trump’s possession, a maintenance worker at the former president’s private club saw an aide moving boxes into a storage room, according to a person familiar with the matter. The maintenance worker offered to help the aide — Walt Nauta, who was Mr. Trump’s valet in the White House — move the boxes and ended up lending him a hand. But the worker had no idea what was inside the boxes, the person familiar with the matter said. The maintenance worker has shared that account with federal prosecutors, the person said. The worker’s account is potentially significant to prosecutors as they piece together details of how Mr. Trump handled sensitive documents he took with him from the White House upon leaving office and whether he obstructed efforts by the Justice Department and the National Archives to retrieve them. Mr. Trump was found to have been keeping some of the documents in the storage room where Mr. Nauta and the maintenance worker were moving boxes on the day before the Justice Department’s top counterintelligence official, Jay Bratt, traveled to Mar-a-Lago last June to seek the return of any government materials being held by the former president.”

Supreme Court Limits the Environmental Protection Agency’s Power to Address Water Pollution. Experts in environmental law said the decision would sharply undercut the agency’s authority to protect millions of acres of wetlands under the Clean Water Act, leaving them subject to pollution without penalty. The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Thursday, 25 May 2023: “The Supreme Court on Thursday curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to police millions of acres of wetlands, delivering another setback to the agency’s ability to combat pollution. Writing for five justices, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that the Clean Water Act does not allow the agency to regulate discharges into wetlands near bodies of water unless they have ‘a continuous surface connection’ to those waters. The decision was a second major blow to the E.P.A.’s authority and to the power of administrative agencies generally. Last year, the court limited the E.P.A.’s power to address climate change under the Clean Air Act…. ‘This is a really disastrous outcome for wetlands, which have become absolutely vital for biodiversity preservation and flood control,’ said Patrick Parenteau, a professor at Vermont Law School.” See also, Supreme Court weakens the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce the Clean Water Act, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Timothy Puko, and Ann E. Marimow, Thursday, 25 May 2023: “The Supreme Court on Thursday cut back the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the nation’s wetlands, another setback for the agency’s authority to combat air and water pollution. At issue was the reach of the landmark 51-year-old Clean Water Act and how courts should determine what count as “waters of the United States” under protection of the law. Nearly two decades ago, the court ruled that wetlands are protected if they have a ‘significant nexus’ to nearby regulated waters. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for himself and four other of the court’s conservatives, rejected that test and imposed one that environmentalists say will remove millions of acres of environmentally sensitive land from federal regulation. ‘We hold that the CWA extends to only those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are “waters of the United States” in their own right, so that they are “indistinguishable” from those waters,’ Alito wrote, quoting from past court opinions. He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett. All of the justices agreed that federal regulators went too far in the case at hand, which involved an Idaho couple’s quest to build a home near a lake. But instead of a narrow decision saying just that, the court majority sided with a decades-long effort by property rights groups and businesses to narrow regulations to wetlands and other areas directly connected to ‘navigable waters’ such as rivers and lakes.” See also, The Supreme Court has narrowed the scope of the Clean Water Act, NPR, Nina Totenberg, Thursday, 25 May 2023: “The U.S. Supreme Court Court on Thursday significantly curtailed the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the nation’s wetlands and waterways. It was the court’s second decision in a year limiting the ability of the agency to enact anti-pollution regulations and combat climate change. The challenge to the regulations was brought by Michael and Chantell Sackett, who bought property to build their dream house about 500 feet away from Idaho’s Scenic Priest Lake, a 19-mile stretch of clear water that is fed by mountain streams and bordered by state and national parkland. Three days after the Sacketts started excavating their property, the EPA stopped work on the project because the couple had failed to get a permit for disturbing the wetlands on their land. Now a conservative Supreme Court majority has used the Sackett’s case to roll back longstanding rules adopted to carry out the 51-year-old Clean Water Act. While the nine justices agreed that the Sacketts should prevail, they divided 5-to-4 as to how far to go in limiting the EPA’s authority.”

Friday, 26 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky says Russian missile strike wrecks Dnipro hospital; Kyiv faces barrage, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Adela Suliman, and Isobel Koshiw, Friday, 26 May 2023: “A Russian missile strike wrecked a hospital in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Friday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement. Rescue operations were ongoing, he added, and emergency services were at the scene. The strike killed at least two people and injured 30, including two children, Dnipro regional governor Serhi Lysak said on Telegram. He said the three-story hospital was partially destroyed, with flames engulfing a neighboring building. Ukraine’s capital also faced a barrage of missile strikes early Friday — the 13th such attack since the start of May — regional officials said. No casualties or hits were recorded, according to a statement from Kyiv’s new regional governor, Ruslan Kravchenko.

  • Zelensky condemned the hospital attack, saying it showed how Russian ‘terrorists’ were willing to attack ‘everything humane and honest.’ Dnipro was considered a relatively safe region at the start of the war but has since been targeted by Russia. An attack on a residential building there in January killed at least 46 people. A coalition of human rights and health-care groups has reported more than 700 attacks on hospitals, health workers and medical infrastructure in Ukraine since the war began.
  • The Ukrainian defense ministry’s military intelligence service alleged that Russia was planning a provocation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in a Telegram post Friday. The service, known as the HUR, wrote on Telegram that after the attack, Russia ‘will announce the leakage of the radioactive substances. They obviously will blame Ukraine.’ In dueling statements, both sides accused the other of disrupting a Friday monitoring mission by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors. The U.N. Security Council plans to meet Tuesday to discuss plans to secure the safety of the power plant.
  • Lawyers for U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich on Friday appealed a Moscow court’s decision earlier this week to extend his pretrial detention by three months. He was arrested in March on accusations of spying that he, rights groups and his employer, the Wall Street Journal, strenuously deny. The United States considers him ‘wrongfully detained.’ Kremlin-backed news agency RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed Russian official on Friday threatening the Wall Street Journal. The paper should change the tune of its Russia coverage if its editors are ‘interested in the fate of Gershkovich,’ the official reportedly said.
  • U.S. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted Friday that he had visited Kyiv to meet with Zelensky, as well as Kyiv’s mayor and Ukrainian defense officials. ‘It is clear to me that the Russians have been bloodied and weakened,’ Graham tweeted. ‘We must provide cluster munitions and additional long-range artillery to make the counteroffensive a success.’
  • European nations led by Denmark and the Netherlands have agreed to form a coalition to provide Ukraine with F-16 pilot training and maintenance, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. He said the United States will also take part in the training program to be held in Europe. The Biden administration last week removed restrictions prohibiting countries from supplying Ukraine with American-made F-16s, though U.S. officials reiterated that Washington would not be sending its own.
  • The war could go on for ‘decades,’ said outspoken Kremlin supporter Dmitry Medvedev. The former Russian prime minister and president told state media Friday: ‘This conflict is for a long time, for decades, maybe. It is a new reality, new living conditions.’ He is a staunch critic of Kyiv’s leadership and has dismissed peace negotiations, predicting instead that there could be ‘three years of truce, two years of conflict and then everything will go over again.’
  • Japan announced new economic sanctions Friday on Russia. The announcement followed a Group of Seven summit that Japan hosted last week and that was attended by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Japan’s Foreign Ministry said it would freeze assets of 78 Russian groups and 17 individuals, including army officials, and ban exports to 80 Russian entities, Reuters reported.
  • Moscow and Minsk signed an agreement allowing for the storage of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a Thursday news briefing that Washington does not see any indication that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons, but she called it another example of Moscow ‘making irresponsible and provocative choices.’
  • National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stressed that the United States does not want Ukraine using American-made equipment to attack Russia on Russian soil. ‘We’ve made it very clear to the Ukrainians what our expectations are,’ he said in an interview with CNN. The U.S. military is trying to determine whether anti-government Russians used U.S. military materiel in a cross-border attack from Ukraine into Russia earlier this week.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Sweden, Norway and Finland to discuss the war in Ukraine, among other subjects. The trip will go from May 29 to June 2.
  • The European Union will suspend restrictions on Ukrainian imports until June 2024, renewing a policy that the E.U. said demonstrates ‘unwavering political and economic support for Ukraine.’ The move comes after farmers in E.U. countries protested the low prices of Ukrainian imports, which they said were threatening local agriculture.
  • A Russian blogger said he was fired after an interview with Wagner’s leader calling out Moscow’s invasion and warning of a revolution in Russia, The Post reported. The blogger, Konstantin Dolgov, worked for the Telega Online video project, an alternative to YouTube. The video was deleted from the channel.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Anti-Kremlin Group Involved in Border Raid Is Led by a Neo-Nazi. The leader of the Russian Volunteer Corps, one of the two insurgent groups responsible for an armed incursion into Russia this week, is a far-right extremist, German officials and humanitarian groups say. The New York Times, Friday, 26 May 2023:

  • For Ukraine Military, Far-Right Russian Volunteers Make for Worrisome Allies.

  • Evan Gershkovich, the American reporter Russia accuses of spying, appeals the extension of his detention.

  • Lindsey Graham, on a visit to Kyiv, insists U.S. support is firm despite Republican campaign rhetoric.

  • A Russian strike on a medical complex killed at least two people, Ukrainian officials say.

  • Russian forces blow up a dam, in the latest apparent use of flooding as a tactic of war.

  • Explosions again echo over Russian-occupied Berdiansk, a local official says.

  • The United States condemns a deal allowing Moscow to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus.


Saturday, 27 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv readies for counteroffensive as commander vows to ‘take back what’s ours,’ The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Adela Suliman, and Nick Parker, Saturday, 27 May 2023: “Ukrainian officials continue to talk up a much-anticipated counteroffensive against Russia, with the commander in chief of Ukraine’s army, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, on Saturday releasing an ‘informational support campaign’ video venerating his military forces and promising that ‘the time has come to take back what’s ours.’ The recent warm, dry weather in southern Ukraine has raised expectations that the spring counterattack could begin soon — or may already be underway. President Volodymyr Zelensky and others have described the looming campaign as a make-or-break chance to show Western backers, who have provided military aid and training, that Ukraine is capable of taking back its land from Russia.

  • Ukraine’s counteroffensive could begin ‘tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week,’ another senior Ukrainian security official, Oleksiy Danilov, told the BBC in an interview Saturday, describing it as a ‘historic opportunity’ that ‘we cannot lose.’ An adviser to Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, has cautioned that Ukraine would not necessarily make a formal announcement before an offensive. ‘This is not a ‘single event’ that will begin at a specific hour of a specific day with a solemn cutting of the red ribbon,’ he tweeted.
  • Wagner troops are withdrawing from positions around the embattled city of Bakhmut, according to Britain’s defense ministry. The Saturday observation aligns with comments made by the group’s chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin that his troops are rebasing, to be replaced by regular Russian military forces. Ukrainian officials have also noted withdrawals from the outskirts of Bakhmut, which Russia took control of this month after a months-long battle. ‘Wagner forces will likely be used for further offensive operations in the Donbas following reconstituting its forces,’ the intelligence update from the ministry added.
  • A Russian governor said two drones had caused an explosion, damaging the administrative building of an oil pipeline, early Saturday in the region of Pskov in northwestern Russia. Mikhail Vedernikov said on Telegram that the incident occurred near the village of Litvinovo; there were no casualties. The Washington Post could not independently verify his assertions. They follow reported attacks causing damage in Russian territory in recent weeks, for which Ukraine has denied any involvement.
  • President Biden criticized Russia’s plans to host tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, saying his reaction to that was ‘extremely negative.’ His comments on Friday came a day after Russia’s defense minister was in Minsk to sign the agreement with its ally. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also condemned the deal, warning: ‘This is a step which will lead to further extremely dangerous escalation.’
  • Lawyers for U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich appealed a three-month extension of his pretrial detention in Russia. Gershkovich was detained in March and accused of spying, which he, rights groups, and his employer, the Wall Street Journal, have denied. The United States considers him ‘wrongfully detained.’
  • Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said that if the United States fails to back Ukraine, it would send a signal to China about taking Taiwan. ‘There can be no backing off of helping Ukraine because if we fail here, there goes Taiwan,’ he told reporters after a meeting with Zelensky, Reuters reported. The Republican Party has been divided over support for Ukraine in recent months, though maintaining a tough stance on China remains a priority.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Sweden, Norway and Finland to discuss support for Ukraine, among other subjects, from Monday to Friday, the State Department said.
  • Iran accused Zelensky of promoting ‘anti-Iranian propaganda’ on Saturday, after the Ukrainian president called for Tehran to stop supplying its Shahed drones to Russia. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said his comments were ‘in line with the … media war’ against Iran and aimed at attracting Western arms and finances.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Brazilian counterpart that Moscow is open to dialogue on Ukraine, according to Reuters. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva tweeted that during the phone call he reiterated Brazil’s willingness to participate in peace talks. Also on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told China’s special envoy Li Hui that there were ‘serious obstacles’ to peace talks, according to a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.
  • Russia is expelling German diplomats and staffers, the Associated Press reports. The expulsion appears to be part of the retaliatory move announced in April, after the German government said it was ‘reducing the Russian intelligence presence’ there.

White House and Republicans Strike Debt Limit Deal to Avert Default. With the government on track to reach its borrowing limit within days, negotiators sealed an agreement to raise the debt ceiling for two years while cutting and capping certain federal programs. The New York Times, Jim Tankersley, Catie Edmondson, and Luke Broadwater, Saturday, 27 May 2023: “President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Saturday reached an agreement in principle to lift the debt limit for two years while cutting and capping some government spending over the same period, a breakthrough after a marathon set of crisis talks that has brought the nation within days of its first default in history. Congressional passage of the plan before June 5, when the Treasury is projected to exhaust its ability to pay its obligations, is not assured, particularly in the House, which plans to consider it on Wednesday. Republicans hold a narrow majority in the chamber, and right-wing lawmakers who had demanded significantly larger budget cuts in exchange for lifting the borrowing limit were already in revolt. But the compromise, which would effectively freeze federal spending that had been on track to grow, had the blessing of both the Democratic president and the Republican speaker, raising hopes that it could break the fiscal stalemate that has gripped Washington and the nation for weeks, threatening an economic crisis. Mr. Biden urged the House and Senate to pass the agreement in a late-night statement issued by the White House, saying it would prevent a catastrophic default.” See also, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reach ‘agreement in principle’ to raise debt ceiling as default looms, The Washington Post, Tony Romm, Theodoric Meyer, Leigh Ann Caldwell, and Mariana Sotomayor, Saturday, 27 May 2023: “President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) reached an ‘agreement in principle’ on Saturday to raise the debt ceiling and cap federal spending, clinching a critical first step toward preventing a government default that could be nine days away. The agreement offers Congress a road map for averting a fiscal crisis: It preserves the country’s ability to borrow money into 2025, resets the budgets at a broad swath of federal agencies and institutes new work requirements on some Americans who receive federal nutrition assistance known as food stamps. The full details were not immediately clear Saturday night, as lawmakers had yet to introduce any legislative text. But it arrives more than four months after Republicans assumed control of the House in January and plotted a strategy to leverage the debt ceiling to achieve their policy agenda — ignoring repeated warnings that their brinkmanship could plunge the country into a recession.”

Texas House Votes to Impeach Ken Paxton, the State’s Republican Attorney General. Mr Paxton, a conservative star, is immediately removed from office, pending a trial in the Senate. The New York Times, J. David Goodman, James Dobbins, and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Saturday, 27 May 2023: “Lawmakers in the Texas House voted on Saturday to impeach Ken Paxton, the state’s Republican attorney general, temporarily removing him from office over charges that he had used his elected position to benefit himself and a campaign donor. After a four-hour proceeding before a packed gallery, the vote landed with titanic force in the Texas Capitol, where a statewide office holder had not been impeached in more than a century, since the Legislature voted to oust the sitting governor, James E. Ferguson, in 1917, for embezzlement and misuse of public funds. Before the vote, Representative Andrew Murr, the Republican chair of the House investigating committee that recommended impeachment, closed by urging his colleagues to impeach. ‘The evidence presented to you is compelling and is more than sufficient to justify going to trial,’ he said, adding: ‘Send this to trial.'” See also, Takeaways From the Impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The extraordinary vote on impeachment exposed rifts among Texas Republicans and set the stage for a contentious showdown in the State Senate. The New York Times, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and J. David Goodman, published on Sunday, 28 May 2023. See also, Texas House impeaches Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, The Washington Post, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Saturday, 27 May 2023: “The Texas House impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday over allegations of bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust, a stunning rebuke of the conservative firebrand that at least temporarily forces him from office pending a state Senate trial that could lead to his permanent ouster. Paxton has been a fierce defender of former president Donald Trump and a defiant opponent of the Biden administration, but his impeachment came at the hands of fellow Texas Republicans, who have long controlled all three branches of state government. Before Saturday’s vote, only two officials in Texas’s nearly 200-year history had been impeached, both for misuse of public funds: A state district judge in 1975 and the governor in 1917. Of 146 House members present, 121 voted to impeach Paxton — more than the majority required, including all but one Democrat and 60 Republicans — 23 voted no (all Republicans), and two were present but did not vote. The vote came after four hours of debate about the legitimacy of the process and the 20 articles of impeachment.” See also, Texas House Votes to Impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, The Texas Tribune, Texas Tribune Staff, Saturday, 27 May 2023:



Sunday, 28 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia Launches drone raid on Khiv; Ukraine suggests counteroffensive is imminent, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Jennifer Hassan, Ben Brasch, and Nick Parker, Sunday, 28 May 2023: “Explosions rocked Kyiv early Sunday, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said, adding that one person was killed and several were injured as drones swarmed the capital. Another wave of drone attacks occurred early Monday morning, officials in Kyiv and Odessa said. The attacks come as Ukraine appears to be preparing a long-anticipated counteroffensive aimed at taking back captured areas. Although there haven’t yet been shock maneuvers of the kind that reshaped the war in the fall, Kyiv is signaling that the offensive may be underway.

  • Overnight, 54 Iranian-made drones attacked Ukraine — a record, according to Ukraine’s armed forces. The country’s air force destroyed 52 of those, it said.
  • Ukrainian forces shot down 36 drones in the Kyiv region, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday evening. That tally is slightly lower than a preliminary report from the capital city’s military administration. The Washington Post could not immediately verify specifics. The capital region has experienced more than a dozen attacks this month, according to officials. The latest assault came as Kyiv, one of Ukraine’s oldest cities, prepares to celebrate the anniversary of its founding 1,541 years ago.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin urged security officials stationed near combat zones and in occupied areas of Ukraine to ‘ensure fast movement of both military and civil vehicles and cargoes … on their way to new constituent entities of the Russian Federation’ — referring to Ukrainian regions that the Kremlin illegally claimed to annex last year. Putin’s remarks came during an address Sunday honoring border guards.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Sweden, Norway and Finland from Monday to Friday to discuss support for Ukraine, among other matters, the State Department said. He will also attend a gathering of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo.
  • Russia is expelling hundreds of German teachers and cultural workers, according to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The expulsion appears to be part of a retaliatory move announced in April, after the German government said it was ‘reducing the Russian intelligence presence’ in its country.


Monday, 29 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia continues to strike Kyiv; official says Ukrainian counteroffensive coming soon, The Washington Post, Isobel Koshiw, Jennifer Hassan, Rachel Pannett, and Marisa Iati, Monday, 29 May 2023: “Explosions rang across the capital Monday as it suffered its 16th air attack this month and second in 12 hours. The Ukrainian air force described the raid as a ballistic missile attack and said air defenses had ‘destroyed everything.’ At least one person was injured, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. The Kyiv city administration said more than 41,000 people took refuge in subway stations during the day. Kostiantyn Vashchenko, Ukrainian state secretary for defense, linked the attack to a long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive that he said could begin within days. ‘Russia clearly understands our readiness for an offensive,’ he said during a security forum in Bratislava, Slovakia.

  • Monday’s attacks come a day after Russia dispatched a record number of drones — 54 in total, according to Ukrainian authorities — aimed mostly at the capital. ‘With these constant attacks, the enemy seeks to keep the civilian population in deep psychological tension,’ Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said Monday.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken begins a five-day visit to Sweden, Norway and Finland on Monday to discuss support for Ukraine, among other matters, the State Department said. He also will attend a gathering of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced plans over the weekend to implement sanctions against Iran for a 50-year period. Tehran has provided Moscow with hundreds of drones that have been used in attacks on Ukraine.
  • New sanctions from Ukraine would apply commercial, financial and technological restrictions on Iranian citizens, according to draft legislation shared Sunday by Andriy Yermak, head of the presidential office. Iranian flights and the transit of resources through Ukraine would be terminated, and Iranian citizens would be prohibited from withdrawing money from Ukraine.
  • Ukraine congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his reelection. ‘We look forward to a broader strategic partnership for the benefit of our peoples and a safer future for humanity,’ Zelensky’s office said. Erdogan has acted as a mediator between Russia and the West during the war in Ukraine and helped broker a crucial grain export deal. But he has also slowed the expansion of NATO.
  • A senior Belarusian official said his country had no alternative but to allow Russia to deploy tactical nuclear weapons there as a means of ‘strategic deterrence’ against the West crossing any ‘red lines’ in the conflict in Ukraine, Reuters reported. Russia and Belarus agreed to the deal last week.
  • Ukrainian tennis star Marta Kostyuk was booed at the French Open after refusing to shake hands with Belarusian player Aryna Sabalenka. While Belarus is an ally of Russia, Sabalenka has repeatedly said ‘no-one supports war,’ and ‘if we could stop it, we would.’ Sabalenka said Kostyuk, who lost the game on Sunday, ‘didn’t deserve to leave the court that way,’ while Kostyuk said those who jeered at her ‘should be embarrassed.’
  • South Africa’s president has appointed an independent panel to look into U.S. allegations that a Russian ship docked at the country’s largest naval base, near Cape Town, in December and took aboard weapons. South Africa has previously denied that it made any arms trade with Russia. President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday that he decided to launch the inquiry because of the allegations’ effects on South Africa’s international relations.


Tuesday, 30 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kremlin blames Kyiv for drone strikes on Moscow; U.N. hears Zaporizhzhia nuclear safety plan, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Annabelle Timsit, Natalia Abbakumova, and Claire Parker, Tuesday, 30 May 2023: “In a rare attack deep inside Russian territory, at least two residential buildings in Moscow were hit by drones Tuesday morning, Moscow’s mayor said on Telegram. No one was seriously injured, the mayor said. Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed without providing evidence that Ukraine was behind the drone strikes, which it called a ‘terrorist attack.’ Kyiv denied involvement. The Washington Post was unable to independently verify the claims. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the attacks would provoke retaliation. The strikes in Moscow occurred after Russia conducted its third aerial attack on Kyiv in 24 hours. Falling debris killed at least one person and wounded at least four people in Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. The air raid was the 17th this month, he said. Later Tuesday, Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, presented the U.N. Security Council with the agency’s monitoring plan: a set of safeguards meant to avoid an accident at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. The plan calls for unhindered operation and maintenance of nuclear facilities, as well as several commitments regarding attacks and weapon storage in and around the plant. ‘We are fortunate that a nuclear accident has not yet happened,’ Grossi said. Still, he warned, if the status quo continues, ‘one day our luck will run out.’

  • Reports varied on how many drones were used in the strikes against Russia’s capital. Russia’s Defense Ministry said that there were eight, and that Russia was able to jam three of the drones, which deviated from their intended targets, while it shot down five others with antiaircraft missiles and artillery. Russian lawmaker Alexander Khinshtein said drones were brought down across the Moscow region, including inside the capital and in three districts west of the city. Other reports said more than 25 drones were involved in the attack. The Post could not independently verify the claims.
  • The drone attack in Moscow caused minor damage, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. Emergency services officials evacuated residents from two buildings affected by the attack, he said.
  • Putin accused Kyiv of ‘trying to intimidate Russia, intimidate Russian citizens and strike residential buildings.’ In remarks during a visit to a cultural center in Moscow on Tuesday afternoon, he suggested that the attack was retaliation for a Russian strike on a Ukrainian military site and was ‘aimed at evoking a mirror response from Russia.’ Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday that its armed forces targeted ‘central decision-making points where terrorist attacks against Russian territory were being planned under the guidance of Western intelligence experts.’
  • A Ukrainian presidential adviser said Kyiv was not involved in the strikes in Moscow. Asked by a Ukrainian television channel about the attack Tuesday, Mykhailo Podolyak said, ‘Of course we have no direct involvement.’ Podolyak later clarified in a WhatsApp message: ‘The war is more and more obviously returning to Russia itself, which is absolutely not ready for it,’ he wrote, in response to a question about what the attacks meant for the future of the conflict. ‘If Russian armed groups do not leave the borders of Ukraine in the near future, the Kremlin will have to fight on two fronts — an external one in Ukraine and an internal one — with its own citizens.’
  • British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Ukraine has the ‘right to project force beyond its borders’ in response to Russia’s invasion. Speaking to reporters at a news conference in Estonia on Tuesday, Cleverly said ‘legitimate military targets’ outside of Ukraine could be included in the country’s self-defense. ‘We should recognize that,’ he said, according to Sky News.
  • ‘We do not support attacks inside of Russia,’ said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about Tuesday’s drone strikes. U.S. officials have consistently voiced discomfort with Ukraine’s striking targets outside of its internationally recognized territory. The State Department is ‘still gathering information’ about the attacks on Moscow, a department spokesperson said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive subject.
  • In Kyiv, Ukraine’s military destroyed more than 20 Russian drones in the city’s airspace, the local military administration said early Tuesday. But residential buildings and vehicles were damaged, it said. Russia’s previous attack, on Monday, included Iranian-designed drones, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and guided bombs, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address.
  • South Africa plans to offer diplomatic immunity to leaders attending the BRICS summit in August — a cohort that may include Putin, who faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court. ‘This is a standard conferment of immunities that we do for all international conferences and summits held in South Africa irrespective of the level of participation,’ South Africa’s foreign ministry said Tuesday. ‘The immunities are for the conference and not for specific individuals.’ In March, the ICC accused Putin and another Russian official of forced deportation of children from Ukraine. South Africa, a member of the International Criminal Court, may be legally compelled to arrest Putin; the foreign ministry’s announcement noted that the offered immunities ‘do not override any warrant.’ The Russian president has not yet said whether he will attend the summit.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Sweden to meet with officials about the war in Ukraine and other matters, the State Department said. Blinken urged Turkey on Tuesday to take immediate action on Sweden’s bid to join NATO, saying there was no reason for further delay in bolstering the trans-Atlantic alliance at a time of profound tension with Russia. Blinken will be in Norway on Wednesday for talks with NATO foreign ministers, and then to Finland, NATO’s newest member.
  • Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) criticized ‘Russian efforts to arrest and try me for speaking the truth,’ after Russia’s Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant for Graham following a meeting last week between the senator and Ukraine’s president. While in Kyiv, Graham said that the ‘Russians are dying’ and that U.S. financial assistance to Ukraine was ‘the best money we’ve ever spent.’ The remarks appear to have been spoken in different parts of Graham’s conversation with Zelensky, but the video released by Ukraine juxtaposed them, triggering outrage in Russia. On Monday, Graham said he doesn’t ‘expect to be tried by Russia anytime soon.’
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the West is stepping up support for Ukraine. ‘Everyone is on alert for signs of fatigue in our democracies, in NATO countries and partners, in terms of our ability to support,’ he said at an event in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, on Tuesday, CNN reported. ‘So far, we haven’t seen it.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Drone Strikes Damage Buildings in Moscow as Kyiv Is Hit Again. The drone attack in Moscow was a potent sign that the war is increasingly reaching the heart of Russia. It came as an aerial assault on Ukraine’s capital left at least one person dead. The New York Times, Tuesday, 30 May 2023:

  • Here’s the latest on strikes in Moscow and Kyiv.
  • The I.A.E.A.’s new measures for the Zaporizhzhia plant are meant to avert nuclear catastrophe.
  • Russia has carried out more than 1,000 attacks on Ukrainian health care facilities, the W.H.O. says.
  • Drone strikes force Moscow to adapt its Cold War missile shield to modern warfare.

Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran said he was steered away from searching Trump’s office at Mar-a-Lago for classified documents where the FBI later found the most sensitive materials, The Guardian, Hugo Lowell, Tuesday, 30 May 2023: “Donald Trump’s lawyer tasked with searching for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after the justice department issued a subpoena told associates that he was waved off from searching the former president’s office, where the FBI later found the most sensitive materials anywhere on the property. The lawyer, Evan Corcoran, recounted that several Trump aides had told him to search the storage room because that was where all the materials that had been brought from the White House at the end of Trump’s presidency ended up being deposited. Corcoran found 38 classified documents in the storage room. He then asked whether he should search anywhere else, like Trump’s office, but was steered away, he told associates. Corcoran never searched the office and told prosecutors the 38 papers were the extent of the material at Mar-a-Lago. The assertion that there were no classified documents elsewhere at the property proved to be wrong when the FBI seized 101 classified documents months afterwards, including from the office, which was found to be where the most highly classified documents had been located. Corcoran’s previously unreported account, as relayed to the Guardian by two people familiar with the matter, suggests he was materially misled as the special counsel Jack Smith examines whether his incomplete search was actually a ploy by Trump to retain classified documents. It was not clear who waved off Corcoran from searching elsewhere at Mar-a-Lago – whether it was Trump himself or Trump employees who advised him to look for classified documents in the storage room, according to an account of his testimony to the grand jury.”

Mar-a-Lago prosecutors eye July 2022 episode with Trump surveillance cameras. Summer interactions inside Trump’s home and private club are part of the special counsel’s classified documents investigation. The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu, Josh Dawsey, and Devlin Barrett, Tuesday, 30 May 2023: “A Mar-a-Lago employee who helped move boxes of documents last June has been questioned about his conduct weeks later related to a government demand for surveillance footage from Donald Trump’s property, according to a person familiar with the federal probe of the former president’s handling of classified material. The employee’s actions in June and July have caught the attention of special counsel Jack Smith’s investigators as they try to determine whether Trump or people close to him sought to obstruct justice in the face of a grand jury subpoena to return all documents marked classified, or lied about what happened, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation.”

Trump vows to end birthright citizenship for children of immigrants in the US illegally, Reuters, Ted Hesson, Tuesday, 30 May 2023: “Donald Trump said on Tuesday that if elected president again in 2024 he would seek to end automatic citizenship for children born in the United States to immigrants in the country illegally, a plan that contradicts how a 19th century amendment to the U.S. Constitution long has been interpreted. Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in an increasingly crowded field of candidates, said in a campaign video posted to Twitter that he would issue an executive order instructing federal agencies to stop what is known as birthright citizenship. Any such action by Trump would be certain to draw a legal challenge.”


Wednesday, 31 May 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Drone attacks in Moscow and Kyiv escalate tensions; Biden approves $300M security package for Ukraine, The Washington Post, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit, and Claire Parker, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “Tensions remained high after a rare drone attack in Moscow damaged buildings on Tuesday, the first strikes to hit civilian residences in the Russian capital since the invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. Russia said it shot down or disabled all of the drones in the attacks — which it blamed on Kyiv. Ukraine denied any direct involvement. In Kyiv, Ukrainians woke up Wednesday to destruction in parts of their capital following back-to-back Russian airstrikes. Debris from a drone killed at least one person and wounded more than a dozen others. Later Wednesday, the Biden administration said it approved transferring another $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine, in a package that includes air-defense weapons, artillery rounds, small-arms ammunition and munitions to be launched from unmanned aircraft. The shipments will bump the amount of security assistance that the administration has provided Ukraine to more than $38.3 billion, including $37.6 billion since Russia invaded more than 15 months ago, the Defense Department said in a statement. The latest package is the 39th approved by the Biden administration for Ukraine.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Kyiv for the drone attacks on Moscow, accusing officials of retaliating for a Russian strike on a Ukrainian military site. In remarks Tuesday at a cultural center in Moscow, Putin accused Ukraine of ‘trying to intimidate Russia, intimidate Russian citizens and strike residential buildings.’
  • A Ukrainian official denied that Ukraine was involved in the drone strikes but said Moscow residents deserved whatever came at them. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote in a WhatsApp message that ‘Ukraine is not directly connected to the nighttime drone attack in Moscow. There is no strategic sense in this.’
  • We don’t tell them where to strike. We don’t tell them where not to strike,’ White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Wednesday, referring to Ukraine’s military operations. Kirby explained that the United States offered training and equipment, and helped conduct tabletop exercises, but left planning decisions to Zelensky and Ukraine’s military commanders. Still, Kirby reiterated: ‘We have been very clear with the Ukrainians privately. We certainly have been clear publicly that we do not support attacks inside Russia and we do not enable and we do not encourage attacks inside Russia. We certainly don’t want to see attacks inside Russia … that are being conducted using U.S.-supplied equipment.’
  • French President Emmanuel Macron said Ukraine is ‘preparing very well’ for its much-anticipated counteroffensive in ‘the next weeks and months.’ Europe must ‘guarantee tangible and sustainable protection’ for Ukraine, and persuade countries in the Global South to side with Ukraine in the conflict, he said Wednesday at a conference hosted by the think tank Globsec in Bratislava, Slovakia. The upcoming months will be ‘crucial,’ Macron said. Key Group of 20 countries should be included in eventual peace negotiations, he added, though Ukrainians must set the conditions of any peace deal. ‘Let’s be clear, if we decrease our support, if de facto we accept a cease-fire of frozen conflict, time will be on the Russian side,’ he said.
  • European leaders are gathering in Moldova for a major summit scheduled for Thursday. Heads of state and government from members of the European Political Community — a broad group including nations that aren’t members of the European Union — will hold their second meeting. Moldova, a small former Soviet republic, borders Ukraine and has sought further integration with the West, including membership in the European Union, amid fears that Moscow will seek to take control of the pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria.
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called Moldova ‘the political heart of Europe’ this week. ‘Your country embodies Europe’s core values,’ she said in remarks alongside Moldovan President Maia Sandu after arriving in Chisinau, the capital, on Wednesday. Von der Leyen announced a new E.U. support package for the Eastern European nation, including lower data roaming fees and up to $1.7 billion in additional economic assistance.
  • The head of the Wagner mercenary group called on Russian authorities to investigate top Defense Ministry officials for their conduct of the war in Ukraine. In comments published on a Wagner-linked Telegram channel, Yevgeniy Prigozhin said he sent letters to Russian investigators and the public prosecutor’s office asking them to examine top defense officials for a potential ‘crime’ in their handling of the Russian invasion. The comments marked the latest salvo in Prigozhin’s public feud with leaders of Russia’s defense establishment, whom he accuses of botching war strategy and withholding ammunition from his troops fighting in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian authorities alleged Russia is holding captive more than 27,000 Ukrainian civilians. Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner, gave the estimate during a briefing Wednesday, calling it a ‘huge number of our citizens,’ Ukrainian news outlet Ukrinform reported.
  • Berlin said that four of Russia’s five consulates in Germany must close by the end of the year. The measure, announced Wednesday by the German Foreign Ministry, comes days after Russia capped the number of staff in German diplomatic missions and other German organizations at 350. Christofer Burger, a spokesman for the ministry, said the German consulates in Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk would close ‘to comply with the Russian requirements.’ Russia’s Foreign Ministry decried the move as ‘another unfriendly step to destroy relations’ between the countries that ‘will not go unanswered.’
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to Oslo on Wednesday for a gathering of NATO foreign ministers. The officials plan to discuss preparations for a NATO summit in July hosted by Lithuania. Blinken will also meet with the Norwegian prime minister and foreign minister. His Norway trip comes after a visit to Sweden, where Blinken urged Turkey to green-light Sweden’s bid to join NATO.
  • South Africa is considering offering diplomatic immunity to world leaders — including Putin — who attend August’s BRICS summit. South Africa’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it was ‘standard’ practice to confer immunity ‘for all international conferences and summits’ held in the country — though it added that such immunity would not ‘override any warrant that may have been issued by any international tribunal’ against a conference participant. In March, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin, accusing him and another Russian official of forcibly deporting children from Ukraine. The court’s action put legal pressure on its members, which include South Africa, to arrest Putin. The Russian president has not yet said whether he will attend the summit.
  • Melbourne, Australia, cut ties with its Russian sister city, St. Petersburg, in response to protests by Ukrainian residents. The cities have maintained a formal relationship since 1989, though the Melbourne city council suspended it in March 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia’s embassy in Australia hit back in a statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday, calling the decision an ‘act of empty virtue signaling’ that ‘diminishes the standing of Melbourne as the cultural heart of Australia.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Washington Approves Another $300 Million in Military Aid to Ukraine. The package includes more ammunition for air defense systems, long-range artillery and drones. It comes as Moscow has come under drone attacks in recent days, and Ukraine is gearing up for a counteroffensive. The New York Times, Wednesday, 31 May 2023:

  • The U.S. promises more aid to Ukraine, including ammunition for drones and artillery.

  • Western governments have largely declined to criticize raids and strikes on Russian territory.

  • Macron urges West to give Ukraine ‘tangible and credible’ security guarantees.

  • Germany closes Russian consulates in a tit-for-tat dispute with Moscow.

  • The U.N.’s safety plan for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant faces an uphill battle.

  • A Zelensky adviser suggests that Russia should agree to a buffer zone as a condition of a peace accord.

  • Blinken discusses Russia and China with European officials in Sweden.

House Passes Debt Limit Bill in Bipartisan Vote to Avert Default. An overwhelming bipartisan coalition pushed through the compromise struck by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden, even as lawmakers in both parties signaled displeasure with the plan. The New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation negotiated by President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy to suspend the debt ceiling and set federal spending limits, as a broad bipartisan coalition lined up to cast a critical vote to pull the nation back from the brink of economic catastrophe.

The bill would defer the federal debt limit for two years — allowing the government to borrow unlimited sums as necessary to pay its obligations — while imposing two years of spending caps and a string of policy changes that Republicans demanded in exchange for allowing the country to avoid a disastrous default. The 314-to-117 vote came days before the nation was set to exhaust its borrowing limit, and days after a marathon set of talks between White House negotiators and top House Republicans yielded a breakthrough agreement. With both far-right and hard-left lawmakers in revolt over the deal, it fell to a bipartisan coalition powered by Democrats to push the bill over the finish line, throwing their support behind the compromise in an effort to break the fiscal stalemate that had gripped Washington for weeks. On the final vote, 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats backed the measure, while 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats opposed it.” See also, House approves debt ceiling deal, The Washington Post, Kati Perry, Hannah Dormido, Nick Mourtoupalas, Adrian Blanco, N. Kirkpatrick, and Kevin Schaul, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “A bipartisan coalition in the U.S. House passed a bill in a 314-117 vote Wednesday evening to raise the limit of how much money the federal government can borrow to pay its bills for the next two years. The legislation must clear the Senate and become law before Monday — the day the government would default on its debt without an extended borrowing cap. Before the vote, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made the case for the deal they had negotiated to their respective parties. The legislation accomplishes much for both Biden and McCarthy. Biden can point to a deal that, at least temporarily, frees him from the headache of the debt ceiling, while staving off Republican demands for steep cuts to domestic spending. McCarthy gets a deal that curtails federal spending, and increases some work requirements on federal aid programs, such as food stamps. Some of the more liberal and conservative members, however, withheld support, citing concerns with the compromises party leaders made in the deal. In all, 46 Democrats and 71 Republicans opposed the bill.”

EXCLUSIVE: Trump captured on tape talking about classified document he kept after leaving the White House, CNN Politics, Katelyn Polantz, Paula Reid, and Kaitlan Collins, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “Federal prosecutors have obtained an audio recording of a summer 2021 meeting in which former President Donald Trump acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran, multiple sources told CNN, undercutting his argument that he declassified everything. The recording indicates Trump understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. On the recording, Trump’s comments suggest he would like to share the information but he’s aware of limitations on his ability post-presidency to declassify records, two of the sources said. CNN has not listened to the recording, but multiple sources described it. One source said the relevant portion on the Iran document is about two minutes long, and another source said the discussion is a small part of a much longer meeting. Special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the Justice Department investigation into Trump, has focused on the meeting as part of the criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of national security secrets. Sources describe the recording as an ‘important’ piece of evidence in a possible case against Trump, who has repeatedly asserted he could retain presidential records and ‘automatically’ declassify documents.” See also, Trump Was Taped Discussing Sensitive Document He Had Kept After Leaving Office. Federal prosecutors obtained the recording as part of their investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan, and Alan Feuer, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “Federal prosecutors investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of classified material have a recording of Mr. Trump from 2021 discussing a sensitive military document he had kept after leaving the White House, two people briefed on the matter said. In the recording, Mr. Trump suggested he knew the document was secret and had not declassified it, one person briefed on the matter said. The existence of the recording could undermine Mr. Trump’s repeated claim that he had already declassified material that remained in his possession after he left office. Prosecutors are scrutinizing whether Mr. Trump obstructed efforts by federal officials to retrieve documents he took with him after leaving office and whether he violated laws governing the handling of classified material. The existence of the recording was reported earlier by CNN. The recording was made during a meeting Mr. Trump held in July 2021 with people helping his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, write a memoir of his 10 months in the White House, according to the people briefed on the matter. The meeting was held at Mr. Trump’s club at Bedminster, N.J., where he spends summers.” See also, Prosecutors have recording of Trump discussing sensitive Iran document. The July 2021 recording could undercut key defense claims that Trump declassified or didn’t know about the documents. The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, and Carol D. Leonnig, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “Special counsel Jack Smith has obtained a 2021 recording in which Donald Trump appears to brag about having a classified document related to Iran, suggesting the former president understood both the legal and security concerns around his possession of such restricted information, multiple people familiar with the matter said Wednesday. The recording was made at a meeting at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J., said the people, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation. The audio features Trump describing a multi-page document that he claims is about possibly attacking Iran, expressing a desire to share that information with others but also making some kind of acknowledgment that he shouldn’t do so, the people said.”

Prosecutors Scrutinize Handling of Security Footage by Trump Aides in Documents Case. Investigators are trying to determine if there was any attempt to obstruct them from getting access to footage from a security camera near the room where classified material was stored. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman, and Ben Protess, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “For the past six months, prosecutors working for the special counsel Jack Smith have sought to determine whether former President Donald J. Trump obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve a trove of classified documents he took from the White House. More recently, investigators also appear to be pursuing a related question: whether Mr. Trump and some of his aides sought to interfere with the government’s attempt to obtain security camera footage from Mar-a-Lago that could shed light on how those documents were stored and who had access to them. The search for answers on this second issue has taken investigators deep into the bowels of Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida, as they pose questions to an expanding cast of low-level workers at the compound, according to people familiar with the matter. Some of the workers played a role in either securing boxes of material in a storage room at Mar-a-Lago or maintaining video footage from a security camera that was mounted outside the room.”

Trump White House Aides Subpoenaed in Firing of Election Security Expert. The special counsel is scrutinizing the dismissal of Christopher Krebs, who contradicted baseless claims by the former president that the 2020 election was marred by fraud. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, Thursday, 31 May 2023: “The special counsel investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election has subpoenaed staff members from the Trump White House who may have been involved in firing the government cybersecurity official whose agency judged the election ‘the most secure in American history,’ according to two people briefed on the matter. The team led by the special counsel, Jack Smith, has been asking witnesses about the events surrounding the firing of Christopher Krebs, who was the Trump administration’s top cybersecurity official during the 2020 election. Mr. Krebs’s assessment that the election was secure was at odds with Mr. Trump’s baseless assertions that it was a ‘fraud on the American public.’ Mr. Smith’s team is also seeking information about how White House officials, including in the Presidential Personnel Office, approached the Justice Department, which Mr. Trump turned to after his election loss as a way to try to stay in power, people familiar with the questions said. The investigators appear focused on Mr. Trump’s state of mind around the firing of Mr. Krebs, as well as on establishing a timeline of events leading up to the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021. The latest subpoenas, issued roughly two weeks ago, went to officials in the personnel office, according to the two people familiar with the matter.”

Trump Asks Judge Juan Merchan in Hush-Money Case to Step Aside. Lawyers for former President Donald Trump said Merchan has ties to Democratic causes and candidates. The New York Times, William K. Rashbaum and Ben Protess, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “Former President Donald J. Trump is asking the judge overseeing his criminal case in Manhattan to step aside, citing ties between the judge’s family and Democratic causes, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said in a statement Wednesday. The motion for recusal, which has not yet been filed publicly, represents the latest effort by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to move his case away from the judge, Juan M. Merchan of State Supreme Court in Manhattan. The Trump legal team also recently sought to shift the case, brought by the Manhattan district attorney, to federal court. On Tuesday, the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, filed court papers opposing that effort, and he is expected to oppose the effort to get Justice Merchan to recuse himself. Mr. Bragg’s case centers on a hush-money payment to a porn star in the last days of the 2016 presidential campaign. The $130,000 payment, made by Mr. Trump’s former fixer, bought the silence of the porn star, who was otherwise poised to tell her story of a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.” See also, Claiming conflicts, Trump lawyers to seek recusal of judge in criminal case, The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “Attorneys for former president Donald Trump are expected to argue that the judge overseeing his criminal case has conflicts that should disqualify him from seeing it forward. New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, a veteran judge who also handled the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial, was appointed to preside over Trump’s 34-count falsifying business records indictment when it was voted by a grand jury in late March. Merchan recently set a March 2024 trial date, which was met by criticism from Trump and his advocates because it is expected to interfere with presidential election primary activities. Trump is seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for a second term as president.”

Scientists say earth’s health is failing in seven out of eight key measures. It is hoped that groundbreaking analysis of safety and justice will inform next generation of sustainability policy. The Guardian, Jonathan Watts, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “Human activity has pushed the world into the danger zone in seven out of eight newly demarcated indicators of planetary safety and justice, according to a groundbreaking analysis of the Earth’s wellbeing. Going beyond climate disruption, the report by the Earth Commission group of scientists presents disturbing evidence that our planet faces growing crises of water availability, nutrient loading, ecosystem maintenance and aerosol pollution. These pose threats to the stability of life-support systems and worsen social equality. The study, which was published in Nature on Wednesday, is the most ambitious attempt yet to combine vital signs of planetary health with indicators of human welfare. Prof Johan Rockström, one of the lead authors, said: ‘It is an attempt to do an interdisciplinary science assessment of the entire people-planet system, which is something we must do given the risks we face. We have reached what I call a saturation point where we hit the ceiling of the biophysical capacity of the Earth system to remain in its stable state. We are approaching tipping points, we are seeing more and more permanent damage of life-support systems at the global scale.’ The Earth Commission, which was established by dozens of the world’s leading research institutions, wants the analysis to form the scientific backbone of the next generation of sustainability targets and practices, which extend beyond the current focus on climate to include other indices and environmental justice. It hopes that cities and businesses will adopt the targets as a way to measure the impact of their activities.” See also, Study says the earth is ‘really quite sick now’ and in the danger zone in nearly all ecological ways, Associated Press, Seth Borenstein, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “Earth has pushed past seven out of eight scientifically established safety limits and into ‘the danger zone,’ not just for an overheating planet that’s losing its natural areas, but for the well-being of people living on it, according to a new study. The study looks not just at guardrails for the planetary ecosystem but for the first time it includes measures of ‘justice,’ which is mostly about preventing harm for countries, ethnicities and genders. The study by the international scientist group Earth Commission published in Wednesday’s journal Nature looks at climate, air pollution, phosphorus and nitrogen contamination of water from fertilizer overuse, groundwater supplies, fresh surface water, the unbuilt natural environment and the overall natural and human-built environment. Only air pollution wasn’t quite at the danger point globally.”

Climate Shocks Are Making Parts of America Uninsurable. It Just Got Worse. State Farm, the largest homeowner insurance company in California, said it would stop offering new coverage. It’s part of a broader trend of companies pulling back from dangerous areas. The New York Times, Christopher Flavelle, Jill Cowan, and Ivan Penn, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “The climate crisis is becoming a financial crisis. This month, the largest homeowner insurance company in California, State Farm, announced that it would stop selling coverage to homeowners. That’s not just in wildfire zones, but everywhere in the state. Insurance companies, tired of losing money, are raising rates, restricting coverage or pulling out of some areas altogether — making it more expensive for people to live in their homes. ‘Risk has a price,’ said Roy Wright, the former official in charge of insurance at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and now head of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, a research group. ‘We’re just now seeing it.’ In parts of eastern Kentucky ravaged by storms last summer, the price of flood insurance is set to quadruple. In Louisiana, the top insurance official says the market is in crisis, and is offering millions of dollars in subsidies to try to draw insurers to the state. And in much of Florida, homeowners are increasingly struggling to buy storm coverage. Most big insurers have pulled out of the state already, sending homeowners to smaller private companies that are straining to stay in business — a possible glimpse into California’s future if more big insurers leave.”

Woman who accused Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993 defects to Russia, CNN, Mariya Knight, Wednesday, 31 May 2023: “A former staffer who accused Joe Biden of sexual assault has defected to Moscow, telling state media that she felt ‘safe’ in Russia and would seek citizenship there. Tara Reade, who drew headlines during the 2020 presidential race by accusing then-candidate Biden of sexually harassing and assaulting her, said she decided to go to Russia after receiving threats in the US. Biden has strongly denied Reade’s allegations, and no ex-Biden staffer has come forward to say they ever witnessed or heard about any kind of sexual misconduct in his Senate office.”







Even though the Trump administration is no longer in office, I am continuing to post summaries of the daily political news and major stories relating to this tragic and dangerous period in US history. I try to focus on the differences between the Trump administration and the Biden administration and on the ongoing toxic residual effects of the Trump administration and Republicans. I usually post throughout the day and let the news settle for a day or so before posting.

I created Muckraker Farm in 2014 as a place to post muckraking (investigative) journalism going back to the 19th century. I hope to return to this original project soon. You can find these muckraking pieces under the Home Page link at the top of this site. Thanks for reading!