Online Moscow Newspaper Latest in Russia’s List of ‘Foreign Agents’

The Moscow Times, an online newspaper popular among Russia’s expatriate community, was added Friday to the list of “foreign agents” by Russia’s Justice Ministry. This was the latest addition in Russia’s continuing crackdown on any news media and opposition critical of its war in Ukraine.

The “foreign agent” designation subjects individuals and organizations to increased financial scrutiny and requires any of their public material to prominently include notice of being declared a foreign agent. The label aims at undermining the designee’s credibility.

It was not immediately clear how the move would affect The Moscow Times, which moved its editorial operations out of Russia in 2022 after the passage of a law imposing stiff penalties for material regarded as discrediting the Russian military and its war in Ukraine.

Russia has methodically targeted people and organizations critical of the Kremlin, branding many as “foreign agents” and some as “undesirable” under a 2015 law that makes membership in such organizations a criminal offense.

The Moscow Times publishes in English and in Russian, but its Russian-language site was blocked in Russia several months after the Ukraine war began.

Foothold across Dnipro

Ukraine’s military said on social media Friday that it had gained “a foothold on several bridgeheads” on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, near the key southern city of Kherson.  

Russia conceded that Ukrainian forces had claimed back some territory on the opposing bank.

Ukrainian troops are trying to push Russian forces away from the Dnipro to stop them from shelling civilian areas on the Ukrainian-held west bank, the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a report Friday.

Ukraine also said Friday it has destroyed 15 Russian naval vessels and has damaged 12 others in the Black Sea since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in 2022.

Ukraine has forced Russia to move its naval forces to positions more difficult for Kyiv’s weapons to reach, navy spokesperson Dmytro Pletenchuk said in televised comments.

Russia is also suffering logistical problems, he said, because it had to move vessels to Novorossiysk and periodically to Tuapse, both ports on the eastern flank of the Black   Sea southeast of Crimea and farther from Ukraine.

The Associated Press and Reuters could not independently confirm battlefield claims. Russia usually does not acknowledge damage to its military assets and says it repels most Ukrainian attacks.

More aid

Meanwhile, EU membership talks with Ukraine are at risk, and there is no agreement in the bloc to grant Kyiv a further $54 billion (50 billion euros) in aid, a senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Friday. 

The official said Hungary is potentially obstructing the unanimity necessary for Ukraine’s EU membership talks.

The proposal by the bloc’s executive European Commission to revise its long-term budget to assign the funds for Ukraine through 2027 was also criticized from several sides, said the official. 

“Leaders … were realizing it’s quite expensive,” said the official, who is involved in preparing a December 14-15 summit in Brussels of the EU 27 member states’ national leaders. “How do we pay for this?”

The downbeat comments reflect the increasing fatigue and gloomier mood setting in among Kyiv’s Western backers as the war drags on. 

The Dutch government has earmarked $2.2 billion (2 billion euros) more in military aid for Ukraine in 2024, in what Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said Friday was a sign of unwavering support for Kyiv’s war against Russia. 

It is part of a wider package the Netherlands will provide to Ukraine next year that includes an initial $111 million (102 million euros) for reconstruction and humanitarian aid that will be increased during the year if needed. 

The latest package takes the total amount of Dutch support for Ukraine during the conflict to around $8 billion (7.5 billion euros), Ollongren said.

“What’s most critical for me is that we’ll be providing an additional 2 billion euros in military aid next year,” Ollongren told Reuters.

Military conference

Ukraine and the United States will hold a military industry conference in December, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

“In December of this year, a special conference involving Ukrainian and American industries, government officials and other state actors will take place — everyone involved in organizing our defense,” Zelenskyy said in a Friday evening address.

Kyiv is ramping up efforts to produce its own weapons amid concerns that supplies from the West might be faltering. It also hopes joint ventures with international armament producers can help revive its domestic industry. 

Ukraine’s children

Officials in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region have begun building heavily fortified underground schools that will allow children to safely return to in-person studies as Russian airstrikes keep targeting the area. 

Kharkiv is frequently targeted by Russian missiles, drones and artillery, with the governor reporting Thursday that settlements in three different districts had been struck in the previous 24 hours.

Two schools, each accommodating up to 500 people, are under construction and will be able to withstand direct hits, said chief regional architect Anton Korotovskykh.

“These structures will be equipped with everything necessary for the learning process,” he told Reuters in an interview.

More than 2,400 Ukrainian children have been taken to Belarus since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, according to new research published Thursday by Yale University.

The findings by the Humanitarian Research Lab at the Yale School of Public Health are the most extensive yet about Belarus’ alleged role in Russia’s forced relocation of Ukrainian children.

The report found that Ukrainian children, ages 6 to 17, had been transported from at least 17 cities in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied territory.

That’s on top of the nearly 20,000 Ukrainian children who were forcibly taken from Ukraine to Russia since the war began, according to Kateryna Rashevska, a legal expert at the Regional Center for Human Rights in Kyiv.

Ukraine’s war crimes prosecutors are investigating the forced transfer of Ukrainian children as potential genocide.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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