Russian Digest 6/17
Top stories I'm keeping an eye on
1. Russian TV shows videos of 2 US vets captured in Ukraine
Russian state television showed video Friday of two U.S. military veterans who went missing last week while fighting in Ukraine, confirming that the men were taken captive and raising fears about their fate.
Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, both from Alabama, were believed to be the first Americans captured by Russian forces since the war began on Feb. 24. via Washington Post
2. Another delusional speech
Putin called the USSR "historical Russia" and announced his readiness to use nuclear weapons
President Vladimir Putin considers the USSR "historical Russia" and is ready to use nuclear weapons in case of a threat to the sovereignty of the state.
“I spoke publicly and without any hesitation: what is the Soviet Union? This is historical Russia. It so happened, it ceased to exist,” Putin told the guests of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, among whom this year were representatives of the DPR, LPR and the Taliban.
Although the post-Soviet territories are historically Russian lands, Russia, according to the president, has always "respectfully" treated the processes of sovereignization in the republics.
"Brotherly", according to Putin, have become relations with Kazakhstan, whose President Kassym Zhomart Tokayev came to SPIEF. “The same would have happened to Ukraine” if the “military development” of its territory by the West and the creation of a “NATO bridgehead” had not begun, Putin assured.
“The West has fundamentally refused to fulfill its earlier obligations. It turned out to be simply impossible to reach any new agreements with him,” the President said. The decision to conduct a “special military operation” was forced,” he repeated, as the risks and threats rose.
In the event of a threat to the sovereignty of Russia, according to Putin, he is ready to use nuclear weapons, while not considering that they are threatened by someone.
"We're not threatening anything! - he said. “But everyone should know what we have and what we will use if necessary to protect our sovereignty” (quotes from Rossiya-24 and Interfax ). via Moscow Times
3. Russia's tugboat Vasily Bekh, hit by the Ukrainian military in the Black Sea on June 17, has sunk.
Maksym Marchenko, head of the Odesa Regional Military Administration, said this on Telegram, Ukrinform reports.
"This morning, our Navy struck the Black Sea Fleet's support vessel Vasily Bekh, equipped with a Tor air defense missile system. It later emerged that it had sunk," he said in a video address.
Marchenko expressed hope that the Ukrainian military would create in the Russian Black Sea Fleet an "underwater brigade of ships at the bottom of the Black Sea." via Ukrinform
4. Hundreds of civilians are trapped in the besieged Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk. The assault has drawn comparisons to Azovstal, but this time could be different.
The Azot industrial zone appears to be the only remaining part of Sievierodonetsk not under Russian control. Russian troops invaded the city in late May and quickly took control of its residential areas. The industrial zone, according to Luhansk Governor Serhiy Hayday, has come under frequent fire, and communications with the chemical plant’s inhabitants are unstable. The UN has reported that they’re running out of potable water, food, and medical supplies.
The Azot chemical plant has drawn comparisons to the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where hundreds of civilians and thousands of Ukrainian soldiers took shelter for two months in harsh conditions after Russian troops surrounded the city and began shelling the facility. By May 20, all of the surviving civilians had been evacuated, and the remaining soldiers surrendered. via Meduza
5. Jan. 6 Panel Could Start Sharing Transcripts With Justice Dept. as Soon as July
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack could start sharing some transcripts of witness interviews with federal prosecutors as early as next month as Justice Department officials ratchet up public pressure on the panel to turn over the documents.
Negotiations between Justice Department officials and Timothy J. Heaphy, the lead investigator for the House panel and a former federal prosecutor, have intensified in recent days, as the two sides wrangle over the timing and content of the material to be turned over, according to several people familiar with the talks but not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
6. Russian nazi groups continue fighting in Ukraine
7. Arrests Of Telegram Administrators Expose Divisions Among Iran's Hard-Liners
Hard-liners have gained a foothold in Iranian politics during the past year, taking control of the presidency and parliament. But there has been mounting evidence of divisions in the political camp.
In the latest sign of an internal power struggle, authorities arrested the administrators of three hard-line Telegram channels believed to have links to the clerical establishment. Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the elite branch of the armed forces, said on June 15 that the three unnamed individuals were arrested and charged with publishing “classified documents” and “disturbing public opinion.”
The IRGC accused them of creating “discord” among officials by publishing “selective and false news.”
The three Telegram channels -- Semi-Confidential News, Secrets, and Shadow Writer -- were run by individuals believed to be pro-establishment. Each channel has several thousand followers.
Iranian authorities have blocked most social media websites and tools, including Telegram. But many Iranians continue to use the banned platforms.
The arrests came after several damaging, high-profile leaks that have exposed divisions among ruling hard-liners. via RFERL