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"I did not know that there were so many ways in the English language to convey a simple message: the Azov Nazis have surrendered unconditionally"


- Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations Dmitry Polyanskiy


🤪 ->


'Western' media are nothing but Zelenski regime megaphones.

Liveuamap @Liveuamap - 21:30 UTC · May 16, 2022
Zelensky confirms Azovstal troops evacuation: «Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This has been our principle»
https://liveuamap.com/en/2022/16-may... via @myroslavapetsa
The New York Times @nytimes - 22:59 UTC · May 16, 2022
Breaking News: Ukraine ended its “combat mission” in Mariupol and said fighters were being evacuated, signaling that the battle at a steel plant was over.
CNN International @cnni - 23:39 UTC · May 16, 2022
Ukrainian forces say they have ended their "combat mission" in besieged Mariupol, as hundreds are evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant. https://cnn.it/3FQALcV
Reuters @Reuters - 3:35 AM · May 17, 2022
Ukraine's military said it was working to evacuate all remaining troops from their last stronghold in the besieged port of Mariupol, ceding control of the city to Russia after months of bombardment https://reut.rs/3wlYbUG

From the false headline down the Washington Post report on the issue is a master piece of propaganda:

Ukraine ends bloody battle for Mariupol, evacuates Azovstal fighters

Ukrainian fighters have ended their weeks-long defense of a besieged steel plant in the strategic port city of Mariupol, as hundreds of combatants — dozens of them seriously wounded — were evacuated from the complex Monday.

One has to read beyond 323 words of falsehood to find out, down in paragraph 7, what really has happened.

Moscow hasn’t yet publicly responded to the developments in Mariupol, which were described by Russian state media as an order from Ukrainian military command for its troops to “surrender.”
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I can't understand why our govt is so slow to respond to the Russian nazi plan to disable Ukrainian agriculture. Even the Germans realised they needed to switch to growing wheat and oil crops THIS year and have suspended many stupid green limitations. Our govt has dragged its heels for so long that the wrong crops are already in the ground and it will be 2023 before we can make any meaningful change in domestic agricultural output. Meanwhile Putin's nazis continue to murder Ukrainian farmers, destroy crops and send looted food and seed stores back to the fatherland.

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Lviv, Ukraine

“In the old days, we had horses and cows and pigs and chickens. Now we are dying of hunger. In the old days, we fed the world. Now they have taken all we had away from us and we have nothing. In the old days, I should have bade you welcome, and given you as my guest chickens and eggs and milk and fine, white bread. Now we have no bread in the house. They are killing us.”


The words are spoken by a Ukrainian peasant to the Welsh Journalist Gareth Jones and duly reported in the Daily Express on 6 April 1933. Jones was the first person to report the truth of the famine that Josef Stalin unleashed on Ukraine when he decided its people were hoarding grain that rightly belonged to the State and duly sent his commissars backed by troops to expropriate (read: steal) it. At least 5 million people died from starvation in the USSR between 1931 and 1934 — including 3.9 million Ukrainians. It was a low point even by the standards of the vertiginously bloody 20th century.


Now, almost a century later, soldiers have once more been sent by Moscow to seize Ukrainian grain. Once more, farmers are killed and their barns and stores looted. And once more, the Ukrainian people are being made to pay for the madness of their neighbouring Tsar.


Ukraine is a country cursed by its good luck. It is well-known that it is perennially — and unambiguously — cursed by geography: it sits next to Russia, which has brought it the USSR, Josef Stalin, the gulags and an unsuccessful Cold War. There isn’t really any upside to all this.


Less known is that Ukraine also suffers from its own fecundity. The country is coated in so-called “black soil” (Chernozem), which contains the humus and variety of micro elements that make it the most fertile soil in the world. In it grows massive amounts of barley, wheat, corn, soy, rape seed and sunflowers. Only about 2% of the world’s soil is black soil and about 25% of that is found in Ukraine. The country has around 42 million hectares of agricultural land of which roughly 32 million is cultivated every year — equivalent to roughly one-third of the arable land in the entire European Union. It is an agricultural superpower.


According to former Minister of Agriculture, Roman Leshchenko, “it is no exaggeration to state that Ukraine can feed the world” — and therein lies the problem. Stalin considered Ukraine the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union and when Hitler dreamt up a demented idea of empire based up on the principle of Lebensraum it was control of Ukraine’s black soil that he hoped would feed the Third Reich. In came the Germans; once more Ukrainian blood flowed.

Since the Russians invaded on 24 February, they have destroyed civilian districts, smashed public infrastructure, and tortured and executed prisoners. They have also stolen farm equipment, shelled food storage sites and stolen thousands of tonnes of grain. It’s systemic and it’s planned and most obvious in the country’s south, where I spent considerable time over the past two months. In both the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts farmers have reported multiple thefts. In the Kherson village of Mala Lepetykha, Russian soldiers reportedly stole 1,500 tons of grain from storage units which they then drove to Crimea.


“It’s very simple,” says Andrey Stavnitser, co-owner and CEO of Ukrainian port operating company TransInvestService. “They’re stealing grain in the areas they have invaded — Mariupol, Kherson Melitopol and so on — which they then take to Crimea, load onto vessels pretending its Russian grain, and then sell. With grain, if you don’t tag it, it’s impossible to tell where it comes from, especially if they mix it with Crimean and Russian grain.”

Then there is the problem that Ukraine cannot export the grain it has. When I first arrived in Odessa last month, I noticed that the city’s most famous sight, the Potemkin steps that connect the harbour to the city, were inaccessible: surrounded by soldiers who had closed the port for fear of Russian attacks. Russia stole Crimea in 2014 and with it the Ukraine’s most important port. Now it has taken Mariupol and, with it, Ukraine’s access to the Azov sea. Now it heads toward Mykolaiv and then eventually, it hopes, Odessa. In the meantime, it is shelling both cities, rendering their ports unusable. Ukraine cannot get its grain out.


This creates a twofold problem. First, Ukraine has 320 million tonnes of grain stuck in the country from last year’s crop, which Stavnitser calculates is costing Ukraine around $15 billion of revenue. To make matters worse, the new crop is ready in late June, which means more will need to be stored if it cannot be sold. But Kyiv usually just sells its grain immediately so it never bothered investing in the appropriate technology for longer-term storage. Now the grain risks going rotten.


Together this creates a second problem that spreads far beyond Ukraine. Several African countries depend on Ukrainian grain. Around 40% of Egyptian milling grain —the grain that is used for bread — comes from Ukraine. If this fails to materialise there won’t be famine but there would likely be widespread hunger. The effect of this on the country, as well as on the region’s political stability, would almost certainly be catastrophic.


And there are dangers closer to home, too. Just this week, Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England warned that Britain faces an “apocalyptic” rise in food prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “[An inflation risk factor] I am going to sound apocalyptic about is food,” he told the Treasury select committee. “Ukraine does have food in store but can’t get it out at the moment.”


In her book Red Famine, the historian Anne Applebaum writes that “long before collectivisation began, the phenomenon of the violent expropriator — a man who brandished a gun, spouted slogans and demanded food — was familiar in Soviet Ukraine.” Now the violent expropriators are back and almost a century later, not only have their goals — the theft of Ukraine’s resources — remained unchanged, but seemingly also their tactics.

The Russian army still fights like the Red Army did during the Second World War. Its tactics remain equally stupid, its brutality equally unchecked. It murders Ukrainian children. It destroys Ukrainian artefacts. It tries to erase all traces of the country’s national identity. No surprise, then, that its incompetence means it has only succeeded in galvanising it. The more Russia stirs memories of the Holodomor the more national feeling it breeds in Ukranians; the more it steals and rapes and kills, the more Ukraine becomes determined to resist — until the end if need be.


But it needs help. While the world buys Russian oil and finances its war, many countries are also buying its grain, some of which is almost certainly stolen from Ukraine. Beginning in March Moscow has struck new deals with Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Libya. “It is totally unacceptable that anyone can buy grain from Russia because this is fuelling the war,” says Stavnitser. “You cannot protest the war and then go out and do things that only serve to prolong it.”


The next few weeks are likely to prove critical. As Stavnitser concludes: “We all hope the UN succeeds in negotiating humanitarian corridor for grain with Russia and if this happens, we will start exporting last year’s crop fast and also be able to start exporting the new crop in a few weeks’ time. If that doesn’t happen then we will be reduced to using rail and road and some smaller ports and can export only around 1.2 to 1.5 million tonnes [as opposed to 5-6 million]. If this happens then many countries — especially in Africa — will be facing a severe ad urgent food crisis.”


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17 hours ago, ranger_syntax said:

What's all this I hear about Ukrainians surrendering in Mariupol?

Yes they have given up the steelworks and are focussed on the push to retake Kherson. They have advanced and re-taken some outlying towns.

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Why Russia fears the Azov battalion


“People say that we are heroes,” says Lieutenant Illya Samoilenko. “But heroism only occurs when planning and organisation fails.” It’s early May and Samoilenko, second-in-command of the Azov Battalion that has spent weeks inside Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant, is talking to journalists in a closed press conference over Zoom. The steelworks are vast: a four-square-mile maze of tunnels designed to survive nuclear war. He is sitting against a filthy wall, clearly exhausted. His black hair is damp, his long beard has grown out under siege.


The situation is dire. There are around 2,000 soldiers in the plant, 700 of whom are reportedly wounded. But Samoilenko is defiant. “We could have retreated months ago when it was clear Russia was encircling us,” he says. “But we had to stay to fight.”

Ultimately, however, he is resigned: “We are military. Our job is to die for the country. I know that each one of our communications with the world can be our last. A lot of people in Ukraine gave their lives to defend the West. Don’t let it be in vain. We know that we’re dead men. That’s why we fight so fiercely.”


But in the weeks since that meeting, he received a reprieve — of sorts. Russia subsequently allowed wounded civilians to leave the plant. Then the soldiers started evacuating. Those inside were not just Azov fighters, but also Marines, police and border guards. On May 20, the last of them left in buses laid on by the Russian army. Ukraine and Russia had struck a deal to spare their lives. The Red Cross would accompany them out. The downside? They’d be going to Russian-controlled Donbas.


This is bad. The Azov Battalion are no ordinary fighters; they tied up Russian firepower for months, which gave other cities the chance to prepare and to better resist. In Ukraine, they call them the 300, or the Spartans: they are heroes. For Russia, though, they are something else entirely: the corporeal embodiment of the Nazi trope Moscow has used to justify its invasion of Ukraine from the very beginning.


“We’ve been accused of being Nazis and far-Right radicals and other bullshit,” Samoilenko told us. “The only thing we’re radical about is defending Ukraine.” But in the days since their capture, Russian officials have said that Azov fighters are “Nazi criminals” who must not be part of any prisoner swap with Ukraine. The battalion’s Twitter feed went silent on Friday. Ukrainian friends search for more information. They worry.

The story of the Azov fighters contains within it many of the contradictions and tropes and lies and truths that make up this war, while the story of their evacuation from the plant marks the end of the war’s beginning.


Russia has never got over its Second World War victory. It was perhaps its last unequivocal victory that was also an unequivocal moral good — even if the means were often anything but. It squats in the collective consciousness (helped by no end of state-sponsored content). Like so many national myths it is Manichean in form, based upon a fundamental binary: Good Russians versus Evil Nazis.


When Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran needed to send thousands of Iranians into Iraq to fight Saddam Hussein, he employed the imagery of the day of Ashura to motivate them. They were marching to fight not Saddam but the modern-day Caliph Yazid who had martyred Hussein at Karbala in 680, the central event of Shiism. As Khomeini was heard to have remarked: “Gradually the political dimension of this matter is becoming evident and, God willing, it will become even more apparent.”


Khomeini understood that to mobilise people to fight, you must give them the enemy they want. Moscow has been doing this since the moment Ukrainians overthrew their pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych, in what Moscow described as a “fascist coup”. In those early days the Nazi enemy was Pravy Sektor, a hard-Right group that had battled government riot police and troops on the streets of Kyiv. Its leader Dmytro Yarosh became for Russians a kind of Emmanuel Goldstein figure, on to whom they could transpose all the sins of Nazi Ukraine. Wherever I went in the occupied east of the country in 2014, people told me tales of the murder and pillage he had apparently committed.


Pravy Sektor soon faded into irrelevance. Not least because a far more impressive — that is to say threatening — enemy had appeared: the Azov battalion. Founded in May 2014, it recaptured Mariupol from Russian forces (aligned with local pro-Russian separatists) in June. It was a big win for Ukraine. The Russians were enraged. It was, they said, a victory by Nazis.


They weren’t totally wrong. When Russia invaded Crimea in February 2014, and then eastern Ukraine in April, the Ukrainian state was in trouble. It was under attack and underprepared; it needed people who could fight — and fast. The requisite raw material could be found on the football terraces and among the far-Right. The movement had its origins in football Ultras in the North-eastern city of Kharkiv, who then morphed into a volunteer battalion originally called the “Black Corps” which some suggest was a reference to the official German Schutzstaffel (SS) periodical published in 1935-1944 (Das Schwarze Korps).

As Aris Roussinos has noted, the movement was founded in 2014 byAndriy Biletsky, former leader of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi group Patriot of Ukraine, during the Euromaidan Revolution. Biletsky was a typical far-Right scumbag, steeped in both thuggery and pseudo-intellectual, anti-Semitic thought. Among his more absurd and sinister claims was the one that Ukraine would “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade… against Semite-led untermenschen”.


But he didn’t last long. A career in politics — one that would ultimately fail — beckoned and off he went in late 2014. Meanwhile, as the analystIvan Gomza observes, the state knew it had to co-opt Azov and channel its militancy in a useful way, and so, in October 2014, it incorporated the battalion into Ukraine’s National Guard (a militarised branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs). It has functioned under the auspices — and orders — of the state ever since.


Today, the battalion is a mix of political affiliations and ethnicities. The Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy — one of the most public opponents of fascism and anti-Semitism in the world — recently spoke to several of its senior members. “There are so many different types of fighters,” he told me, “including Brits and Greeks and Jews and Georgians, and they are definitely not Nazis. This is just a slander.”


But it is a necessary one. Azov has proved to be Russia’s most formidable opponents. They held up the entire advance into south Ukraine. They came to embody everything Russia claimed it was fighting against. Now they are in its hands. How they are treated will provide a signpost to what comes next. If they appear at show trials — after obvious torture — then we will know that Putin is doubling down on his madness. If talks of a prisoner exchange materialise, it will signal that broader compromise is possible.


Either way, two things are clear. First, the Azov fighters are in the closest approximation to hell on earth for them right now. And second, their fate will decide what comes next, not just for them, but for the country for which they have fought so hard.



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1914 was the year for rebranding.


The Royal family received a new surname - 'Windsor' whilst Dachshunds were being booted.


German Band music became Brass Band music, I suppose it depends upon your personal oompah?


My favourite is those two icing covered biscuits joined by a layer of jam, known for two hundred years as, 'a German Biscuit'. August 1914 saw it rebranded as, 'an Empire Biscuit'.

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