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Russia’s election commission has rejected Boris Nadezhdin, an anti-war challenger, as a candidate in the upcoming presidential election, citing flaws in the signatures submitted with his candidate application. Despite his efforts to contest the decision, the commission upheld its ruling. Nadezhdin, however, vowed to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.

The commission stated that over 9,000 signatures out of the 105,000 submitted by Nadezhdin were invalid, leaving him just short of the required 100,000 valid signatures. Nadezhdin expressed frustration, claiming widespread support and citing polls that positioned him as the second most favored candidate after Putin.

Nevertheless, the commission chairwoman, Ella Pamfilova, declared the decision final, suggesting that Nadezhdin could pursue legal action if he wished. The election is scheduled for March 15-17, with Vladimir Putin expected to secure victory as opposition candidates perceived as Kremlin-friendly dominate the race.

Despite the setback, Nadezhdin remained resolute, asserting that his candidacy was a crucial political decision. He had garnered significant support, amassing over 200,000 signatures nationwide. Nadezhdin, known for his appearances on state-run TV as an anti-war figure, emphasized his commitment to ending the conflict in Ukraine and normalizing Russia’s relations with the West.

Although his candidacy initially faced skepticism from some opposition figures, prominent voices like Alexei Navalny and Mikhail Khodorkovsky endorsed Nadezhdin’s campaign. However, pro-Kremlin commentators accused him of being a pawn for “Ukrainian Nazis,” reflecting the divisive nature of his candidacy.

Nadezhdin’s bid for the presidency echoes previous attempts by candidates to run on an anti-war platform, underscoring the prevalent sentiment of opposition to Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. Despite being barred from the race, Nadezhdin’s campaign resonated with segments of Russian society, particularly those affected by the conflict.

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Russian poet Lev Rubinstein, a prominent figure in the Soviet underground literary movement and a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, has passed away six days after being struck by a car in Moscow, as confirmed by his daughter. The 76-year-old poet, known for co-founding the conceptualist movement in the 1970s and 1980s, utilized various forms of art to challenge traditional Soviet norms and critique socialist realism—the official artistic doctrine during the Soviet era.

Lev Rubinstein’s death elicited reactions from various quarters. The Memorial human rights organization, one of Russia’s oldest civil rights groups (closed in December 2021 due to Moscow’s crackdown on opposition to the Ukraine war), described him as “shakily poetic, astute, and ironic.”

Rubinstein, a close friend of Memorial, had been a staunch critic of Russia’s military actions in Ukraine and the government’s stance on LGBT rights. Despite the challenging circumstances, he chose to remain in Moscow for the past two years, not only for himself but also to provide support for others trying to express themselves and possibly resist through their words.

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President Zelensky has strongly condemned a deliberate attack on the peaceful city of Kostyantynivka in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region. The attack, which occurred in broad daylight on a bustling market street, claimed the lives of 17 people, including a child, and left at least 32 others injured. Videos circulating on social media captured a vivid orange explosion at one end of the street, where people were engaged in shopping. Russia has yet to issue a statement regarding the attack.

President Zelensky, holding Moscow responsible, expressed his outrage at the loss of innocent lives, emphasizing that the victims were ordinary citizens who had done nothing wrong. He cautioned that the death toll could rise further, characterizing dealing with Russia as confronting audacious malevolence.

The blast damaged a market, shops, and a pharmacy, but Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal assured residents that all essential services were functioning, and the fire was under control.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Ihor Klimenko, later announced that the search and rescue operation had concluded. Online footage and images depicted the explosion and its harrowing aftermath.

This incident represents one of the most severe attacks of its kind in recent months, striking a bustling street as people gathered at market stalls and café terraces. Ukraine’s prosecutor-general has initiated an investigation into the attack, pursuing criminal proceedings for violations of the laws and customs of war and documenting potential war crimes committed by the Russian Federation.

Russian officials have not claimed responsibility for the attack, and they have previously denied targeting civilians during their offensive.

Kostyantynivka, situated near the conflict zone, has experienced several attacks this year, causing civilian casualties and extensive damage to residential buildings and infrastructure. Additionally, the city is approximately 17 miles (27km) from the heavily contested city of Bakhmut.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Kyiv coincided with the attack, where he met with Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Ahead of his arrival, sirens blared across the country, and Kyiv’s air defense system intercepted missiles aimed at the capital. It was anticipated that Mr. Blinken would announce a new US aid package for Ukraine during his visit.

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Russian missile strikes on the port city of Odesa, Ukraine, have resulted in the death of one person and injuries to 19 others, according to officials. The Transfiguration Cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage-listed historic site, was severely damaged in the attacks.

Russia claimed that its targets in Odesa were linked to “terrorist acts” and blamed the cathedral attack on Ukrainian air defense. In response to the attacks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed retaliation, stating that Russia would feel the consequences.

The constant attacks on Odesa have escalated since Russia withdrew from a significant grain deal. The cathedral’s destruction is seen as a war crime, and UNESCO has urged Russia to cease its attacks on Odesa, a designated endangered World Heritage site.

Ukraine’s southern command reported that Russia used at least five different types of missiles in the attacks. The strikes have also targeted grain supplies and infrastructure vital to the UN-backed grain deal between Russia and Ukraine.

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Wheat prices on the global markets have experienced a sharp rise following Russia’s declaration that it would consider ships heading to Ukrainian ports as potential military targets. This decision came after Moscow withdrew from a UN agreement that guaranteed safe passage for grain shipments through the Black Sea. In recent nights, Russia has launched attacks on Ukraine’s grain facilities in cities like Odesa. The White House has accused Russia of planning to attack civilian ships and then falsely blaming Ukraine for it. As a result of these developments, European stock exchange wheat prices surged by 8.2% to €253.75 per tonne, with corn prices also rising by 5.4%. US wheat futures recorded their highest daily increase since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, jumping 8.5%. President Vladimir Putin has expressed willingness to return to the international grain agreement if certain demands, including the lifting of sanctions on Russian grain and fertiliser sales, are met.

Amid these escalating tensions, Russian air strikes continued in Black Sea coastal cities for three consecutive nights, leading to civilian casualties. The attacks have targeted grain export infrastructure and raised concerns about the safety of shipping routes for essential food supplies. Ukraine’s options for exporting grain by rail are limited, with rail capacity smaller than shipping volumes, and some EU countries in Eastern Europe blocking Ukrainian grain to protect their own farmers.

Analysts have warned that Russia’s threatened escalation could disrupt waterborne grain shipments from the Black Sea, impacting both Russian and Ukrainian exports. Some Ukrainian officials have called on the UK, US, France, and Turkey to provide military convoys and air defenses to protect grain ships heading to Odesa.

The situation has raised concerns about potential impacts on global food security and inflation, particularly in developing countries, leading to social instability, food shortages, and increased migration. Critics accuse Russia of using food supplies as a political tool in its conflict with Ukraine.

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Conflicts in Ukraine and Sudan, as well as the Afghanistan crisis, have pushed millions of people to migrate in search of safety.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of persons displaced worldwide has reached a record 110 million, with hostilities in Ukraine and Sudan causing millions to flee their homes.

The UNHCR stated in its annual Forced Displacement report on Wednesday that around 19 million people were forced to escape last year, the largest yearly increase on record, bringing the total to 108.4 million by the end of last year.

According to UN refugee director Filippo Grandi, the figure has subsequently climbed to at least 110 million, owing mostly to Sudan’s eight-week-old war.

“It’s quite an indictment of the state of our world to have to report that,” he remarked during a news conference in Geneva.

The total number includes both persons seeking protection within their own nations and those who have crossed borders. According to the data, refugees and asylum seekers accounted for around 37.5 percent of the total.

“Solutions to these movements are becoming increasingly difficult to even imagine, let alone put on the table,” he explained. “We live in a highly polarised world, where international tensions spill over into humanitarian issues.”

According to the organisation, prior to the Syrian crisis in 2011, there were around 40 million refugees and internally displaced persons, a figure that had been steady for roughly 20 years. However, the figure has climbed each year thereafter.

According to the research, 339,300 refugees were able to return home last year, while 114,300 were relocated in a third country – more than double the amount expected in 2021.

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After a Russian missile struck an apartment building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Saturday, the mayor of that city issued a dire warning that there might be no more survivors.

25 people died in the attack, while another 43 are still missing, according to local officials. Borys Filatov, the mayor of Dnipro, said there was a “limited” prospect of discovering any survivors.

Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasised that military operations were going according to schedule while speaking to state television in Moscow. On Saturday, assaults that Moscow said were directed at Ukraine’s military and energy infrastructure also affected Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa.

The nine-story building’s entryway was struck by the devastating attack in Dnipro, which reduced many levels to smouldering ruins.

The number of casualties, according to Mr. Filatov, is anticipated to be in the dozens. Ten of the about 70 people who needed medical attention were, according to him, “in a bad state.”

Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland, referred to the missile strikes as “inhuman” and said that “Russia deliberately keeps on committing war crimes against civilians.”

In an effort to “push Russian troops back,” UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that his country will provide Challenger 2 tanks to Kyiv’s military forces on the same day that Russia launched its missile attack.

Moscow’s argument was that giving Ukraine more weaponry will result in increased Russian military activity and civilian losses.

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Vladimir Putin asserts that both countries are “sharing a sorrow” and that Russia is not to blame for the conflict in Ukraine. The Russian president stated that he still views Ukraine as a “brotherly nation” in a televised talk with senior military leaders.

He asserted that rather than being the outcome of Russian policy, the conflict was “the product of the policy of third countries.” Outside of Russia, the theory—which contends that Western expansion is the reason—has consistently been refuted. President Putin asserted that the West had “brainwashed,” beginning with Ukraine, the post-Soviet republics.

He said: “For years, we tried to build good-neighbourly relations with Ukraine, offering loans and cheap energy, but it did not work.

“There’s nothing to accuse us of. We’ve always seen Ukrainians as a brotherly people and I still think so.

“What’s happening now is a tragedy, but it’s not our fault.”

President Putin’s persistent worries appear to be related to Nato’s expansion since the Soviet Union’s fall in 1991.

Although the Kremlin has long contended that NATO’s admission of former Soviet allies as members endangers the alliance’s security, Nato’s primary purpose was to thwart Russian expansion following World War Two.

Following the fall of pro-Kremlin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 as a result of months of public unrest, tensions between the Kremlin and the West grew.

Military personnel vowed to continue the alleged “special military operation” through 2023 during the speech. The amount of money Russia was willing to spend was unbounded, President Putin added.

Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s minister of defence, suggested raising the minimum age requirement for conscription.

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The US claims that there is now a full-fledged defence alliance between Russia and Iran. According to John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, Russia is providing an unheard-of amount of military assistance.

The US is aware of rumours that the two nations are thinking about producing lethal drones together, he continues. It comes despite initial denials from Tehran after Ukraine charged Iran with providing Russia with “kamikaze” drones used in fatal assaults on October 17.

Later, the Middle Eastern nation acknowledged providing Moscow a small number of drones “several months” prior to the conflict. Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, responded by claiming that this was untrue and that many more Iranian drones were in use.

In the early hours of Saturday, the Ukrainian air force claimed to have shot down 10 of the 15 such drones being deployed to strike southern regions. The majority of his territory experienced power outages, according to the governor of Odesa.

Australia has issued sanctions on three Iranian individuals and one Iranian company for providing drones to Russia for use against Ukraine.

Speaking on Friday, Mr. Kirby asserted that a joint drone-production venture between Iran and Russia would be detrimental to Ukraine, Iran’s neighbours, and the global community.

“Russia is seeking to collaborate with Iran in areas like weapons development, training,” he said, adding that the US fears that Russia intended to “provide Iran with advanced military components” including helicopters and air defence systems.

“Iran has become Russia’s top military backer…” he said. “Russia’s been using Iranian drones to strike energy infrastructure, depriving millions of Ukrainians of power, heat, critical services. People in Ukraine today are actually dying as a result of Iran’s actions.”

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly responded to Mr. Kirby’s remarks by claiming that Iran had turned into one of Russia’s primary military allies and that their alliance was endangering international security.

Iran has sent hundreds of drones to Russia as part of the “sordid negotiations” between the two nations, he claimed. Australia’s foreign minister, Penny Wong, issued the following statement on Saturday: “The sale of drones to Russia is proof of Iran’s contribution to the weakening of international security. This listing emphasises that individuals who give Russia material help will suffer the repercussions.”

Following the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in jail earlier this year, she also announced actions against 19 additional people and two companies, including Iran’s Morality Police, for the cruel treatment of anti-government protestors.

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US intelligence agencies predict that the combat in Ukraine will continue to wane through the upcoming winter. However, according to US head of intelligence Avril Haines, there hasn’t been any indication of Ukrainian forces’ resistance weakening.

Both sides, according to her, would endeavour to “refit, replenish, and reconstitute” for any springtime counteroffensive. The crucial energy infrastructure of Ukraine had already been attacked by Russia.

Even though Russia has lost more than half of the territory it had conquered, the war in Ukraine is already in its ninth month. The majority of the combat is presently taking place near the eastern Ukrainian cities of Bakhmut and Donetsk, Ms. Haines stated at a defence symposium in California.

She said fighting had slowed down following Russia’s withdrawal of troops from the west of the Kherson region last month.

“We’re seeing a kind of a reduced tempo already of the conflict… and we expect that’s likely to be what we see in the coming months,” she said.

She said both Ukraine and Russian militaries would be looking to prepare for any counter-offensive after the winter.

“But we actually have a fair amount of scepticism as to whether or not the Russians will be, in fact, prepared to do that,” she said.

“I think more optimistically for the Ukrainians in that time frame.”

According to Ms. Haines, US intelligence believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is now unaware of the full extent of his military’s difficulties.

“We observe ammo shortages, morale problems, supply problems, logistics, and a host of other issues that they are dealing with.”

On the other hand, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that a price ceiling imposed on Russian oil exports by his Western partners was “weak” and that it was not “severe” enough to harm the Russian economy.

The cap, which is set to take effect on Monday, aims to prevent nations from paying more than $60 (£48) a barrel for Russian crude oil that is transported by sea.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, stated that although Moscow had planned for the action, it would not sell its oil under the quota.

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