Saturday, March 19, 2022

Putin Turned to a Chechen Warlord to Intimidate Ukraine. It Hasn’t Worked; Ukrainian Counteroffensive Near Mykolaiv Relieves Strategic Port City; Russian forces ‘remain largely stalled across the country’; NY Post/WSJ: Russia-Ukraine News LATEST UPDATES, and other related stories

Musa Sadulayev/Associated Press
Putin Turned to a Chechen Warlord to Intimidate Ukraine. It Hasn’t Worked:
In the first days of his war on Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin looked to Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov to supply the fighters he wanted to take an airfield north of Kyiv and launch Russia’s advance on the capital.
That unit was pummeled and its commander was killed by Ukrainian forces when it tried to seize the Hostomel Airport. But Mr. Putin has turned again and again to Mr. Kadyrov’s forces from Chechnya, reveling in the Chechens’ fearsome reputation as Russia steels for another push on the capital—and Mr. Kadyrov appears happy to comply.
“We are in Hostomel, these days we are 20 kilometers away from you,” Mr. Kadyrov said on his personal Telegram channel earlier this week, goading Ukrainians bracing for the onslaught in Kyiv. “Should I knock on your door?”
A shaky video showed him in a darkened bunker, laughing with Chechen military officers looking over documents blurred out on screen, though Ukrainian sources say it wasn’t shot in Ukraine and said some server logs from Mr. Kadyrov’s web activity showed he was in Chechnya at the time.
In many ways, the relationship between Mr. Putin, the Muslim Chechens and Mr. Kadyrov in particular, has become symbiotic. Mr. Putin burnished his reputation in the early years of his rule by sending troops into Chechnya, a Russian republic on the country’s southern flank, to put down an Islamist insurgency. Mr. Kadyrov’s father, Akhmat Kadyrov, a rebel religious leader, sensed which way the wind was blowing and pledged allegiance to the Kremlin, helping the Russian forces put down the separatist movement and routing the capital, Grozny.
After his father was killed in a bomb attack, the younger Mr. Kadyrov strengthened his family’s alliance with Moscow. He ensured Chechnya’s loyalty in return for vast inflows of cash that enriched his family and helped him build a huge security apparatus that at times has served as his personal army. His forces have since been implicated in some of the worst rights abuses in modern Russia, including the mass detentions of Mr. Kadyrov’s opponents, along with allegations of torture and the disappearance of both his critics and ordinary citizens, say Russian and international human rights groups. --->READ MORE HERE
Photographs by Manu Brabo for The Wall Street Journal
Ukrainian Counteroffensive Near Mykolaiv Relieves Strategic Port City:
For weeks, Mykolaiv was on the front line. Russian tanks and infantry made incursions into the streets of the southern Ukrainian port city. Russian artillery blasted civilian neighborhoods. Now, with Ukrainian forces pressing a counteroffensive, the Russians have been pushed back and Mykolaiv’s 470,000 people are attempting a tentative return to normality.
Coffee shops and some restaurants are open again. Supermarkets have been restocked with fresh groceries. Bank branches have reopened. Municipal buses and trams run the streets. Mothers with children play in playgrounds as the sound of artillery thuds in the distance. Fresh tulips and roses are available in a variety of shades in a row of downtown flower shops.
“It’s not that we are no longer afraid, but we are getting used to this. We have to survive. Nobody wants to leave the city anymore,” said Yulia Fistik, 23, who works alongside her mother in one of the flower shops. “Business is good. There are lots of soldiers in town, and they all buy flowers.”
Svitlana Herashchenko, who owns a grocery store on the southern edge of Mykolaiv, where the front line used to be, said she thoroughly enjoyed her first night without air-raid sirens and shelling after three weeks of constant attacks.
“It was so fantastic, such a feeling,” she said, basking in the sun outside her grocery. “We want so much to return to normal life, when they don’t shoot, when they don’t shell.”
A regional capital and a strategic eastern gateway to Odessa, the country’s main port, Mykolaiv came under sustained attack in the first week of the war as Russian forces pushed north from Crimea and seized the city of Kherson 40 miles away. Dogged resistance from the Ukrainian army and local territorial defense forces prevented Mykolaiv from being overrun, as successful ambushes destroyed Russian columns before reinforcements arrived. --->READ MORE HERE
Follow links below to relevant/related stories:

+++++Russia-Ukraine News LATEST UPDATES: (NY POST) and (WSJ)+++++

+++++Pentagon: Russian forces ‘remain largely stalled across the country’+++++

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