“I thought to myself that there are many Chinese who also want freedom and democracy,” she said. “But where are you? Where can I find you? If we meet on the street, how can we recognize each other?”
At about 4 the next morning, she went downstairs from her dorm room to print some posters. She was nervous about running into other Chinese students, most of whom she would describe as “little pinks,” or pro-Beijing youths. She wore a mask to avoid cameras, even though she had seldom worn one since arriving in London a few weeks ago.
She was even more nervous putting up the posters on campus. Every time she saw an East Asian face, she would run to hide in a corridor or a restroom. She was afraid they could report her to the embassy or post photos of her on social media. Her parents are still in China, so she needs to take their safety into account.
After putting up the posters all over her campus, she felt much more at peace with herself.
A week later, when a new chat group titled “‘My Duty’ Democracy Wall in London” was set up on the messaging app Telegram, Kathy was one of the first to join. Within a day, more than 200 Chinese had also signed up. By Sunday, four days later, there were more than 400 members. Most introduced themselves as students and professionals in the U.K. Many said they had joined to find like-minded people because they, like Kathy, didn’t know whom to trust and felt lonely and powerless.
Citizens Daily CN, the Instagram account, organized Telegram chat groups in London, New York, Toronto and two other places to provide a safe online space for overseas Chinese to exchange views. Most people use online handles that disguise their identity.
They have discussed the depths of their frustration with political apathy and the best way to deal with pro-Beijing youth. Quite a few admitted that they were once nationalistic themselves, but added that China’s harsh zero-Covid policy had made them realize the importance of having a government accountable to its people. More important, they discussed what further actions they could take.
On Sunday, Kathy, who is in her early 20s, joined a demonstration for the first time in her life. For safety, she wore a mask and sunglasses, even though it was dark when the protest reached the Chinese Embassy in London. A young Chinese woman started chanting slogans made popular by the Bridge Man: “Students, workers, let’s strike. Depose the despotic traitor Xi Jinping.”
HONG KONG — Thousands of posters condemning China’s top leader have appeared on college campuses in New York, Barcelona, Stockholm, Tokyo and elsewhere over the past few days as Chinese students and dissidents spread the message of a lone protester in China.
The posters — paper pasted onto just about everything — have one common theme: Oust the “despotic traitor,” Xi Jinping.
Those words first appeared in Beijing on Oct. 13. As Mr. Xi, China’s top leader, was expected to coast to a third term during the Communist Party congress, someone whose identity has not been confirmed, managed to hang a banner on a busy bridge calling for Mr. Xi’s dismissal. On Sunday, that third term was confirmed.
The protest slogans on the banner also included “Elections, Not Dictatorship” and “Citizens, Not Flunkies.”
The appearance of such strong dissent before an important Communist Party meeting, in a heavily policed city, astonished the whole country. The protester was taken away by police, and online discussions were quickly censored.
Dissidents, however, then found ways to amplify the message overseas. The protest slogans on the Beijing bridge have popped up on bulletin boards, poles and bus stations at more than 200 colleges across at least 20 countries, as many international Chinese students said they were saluting the protester and fighting Mr. Xi’s autocracy.
“I used to be surrounded by a deep powerlessness over political resistance, but the Beijing protester inspired me, showing there are ways to fight,” said Xintong Zhang, 24, a Chinese student at the University of Toronto, who sobbed when seeing the protester’s banner on social media. She later put up dozens of “Dictator Out” posters around campus at dawn.
Compared with other autocracies such as Russia, Iran and Myanmar, China is regarded by many human rights organizations as even less hospitable to free speech and government protest. Under Mr. Xi, opposition and criticism is heavily suppressed with a mix of state security, online censorship and the threat of severe punishment. No independent media and civil society organizations remain 10 years into his rule. Freedom House, a U.S. pro-democracy group, has ranked China last in internet freedom for eight consecutive years.
Ms. Zhang said many Chinese — especially her peers, who started high school after Mr. Xi came to power — did not know how to fight authoritarianism whether at home or abroad.
“Now we have the Beijing protester, and I can look up to him,” she said. “I know I should speak out and how to do it.”
Some of the new activists are concerned that even outside China, there are risks that come with opposing the Chinese government.
A student at the University of Texas at Austin who posted anti-Xi posters on campus said that he was worried about being targeted and harassed by nationalist Chinese students. The student, who is surnamed Zhou, declined to be identified by his full name, citing the same reason.
Ms. Zhangsaid she worried about being harassed by other Chinese students, assuming the majority were nationalists. As a result, she wore a mask when putting up posters to avoid being identified.
She found most of her posters had been torn down and some had been left half hanging from bulletin boards. “I felt heartbroken but then relieved,” she said. “It’s okay if they tore down my posters as long as I keep posting until the party congress finishes.”
The overseas anti-Xi slogans gained traction after they were collected and shared by pro-democracy Instagram accounts run by anonymous volunteers, mostly Chinese citizens living abroad.
“A brave man should have an echo,” one of the groups, Citizens Daily CN, posted on Instagram.
Ukraine official: religious dispute led to base shootings
Fighting rages in eastern Ukraine, southern Kherson region
Ukrainian forces damage administration building in Donetsk
KYIV, Oct 16 (Reuters) – Russia has opened a criminal investigation after gunmen shot dead 11 people at a military training ground near the Ukrainian border, authorities said on Sunday, as fighting raged in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Russia’s RIA news agency, citing the defence ministry, said two gunmen opened fire with small arms during a firearms training exercise on Saturday, targeting personnel who had volunteered to fight in Ukraine. RIA said the gunmen, who it referred to as “terrorists,” were shot dead.
The incident in the southwestern Belgorod region was the latest blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. It came a week after a blast damaged a bridge linking mainland Russia to Crimea, the peninsula it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
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Russia’s defence ministry said the attackers were from a former Soviet republic, without elaborating. A senior Ukrainian official, Oleksiy Arestovych, said the two men were from the mainly Muslim Central Asian republic of Tajikistan and had opened fire on the others after an argument over religion.
Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the comments by Arestovych, a prominent commentator on the war, or independently verify casualty numbers and other details.
“As a result of the incident at a shooting range in Belgorod region, 11 people died from gunshot wounds and another 15 were injured,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said, announcing the criminal investigation. It gave no other details.
Some Russian independent media outlets reported that the number of casualties was higher than the official figures.
The governor of Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said no local residents were among those killed or wounded.
Two witnesses later told Reuters they had seen Russian air defence systems repelling air strikes in Belgorod.
Putin said on Friday Russia should be finished calling up reservists in two weeks, promising an end to a divisive mobilisation in which hundreds of thousands of men have been summoned to fight in Ukraine and many have fled the country.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a strong Putin ally, said last week that his troops would deploy with Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, citing what he said were threats from Ukraine and the West.
The Belarusian defence ministry in Minsk on Sunday said just under 9,000 Russian troops would be stationed in Belarus as part of a “regional grouping” of forces to protect its borders.
Russian forces shelled Ukrainian positions on several fronts on Sunday, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said, with the targets including towns in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kherson regions. Russian forces were trying to advance on Bakhmut in Donetsk region and in and around Avdiivka.
Intense fighting is taking place around Bakhmut as well as the town of Soledar, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday in his nightly video address.
FILE PHOTO – An instructor trains Russian newly-mobilised reservists at a shooting range in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in the Donetsk region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, October 10, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
“The key hot spots in Donbas are Soledar and Bakhmut,” Zelenskiy said. “Very heavy fighting is going on there.”
Bakhmut has been the next target of Russia’s armed forces in their slow move through the Donetsk region since taking the key industrial towns of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in June and July. Soledar is located just north of Bakhmut.
Fighting has been particularly intense this weekend in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and the strategically important Kherson province in the south, three of the four provinces Putin proclaimed as part of Russia last month.
Shelling by Ukrainian forces damaged the administration building in the city Donetsk, capital of the Donetsk region, the head of its Russian-backed administration said on Sunday.
“It was a direct hit, the building is seriously damaged. It is a miracle nobody was killed,” said Alexei Kulemzin, surveying the wreckage, adding that all city services were still working.
There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the attack on Donetsk city, which was annexed by Russian-backed separatists in 2014 along with swathes of the eastern Donbas region.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday its forces had repelled efforts by Ukrainian troops to advance in the Donetsk, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, inflicting what it described as significant losses.
Russia also said it was continuing air strikes on military and energy targets in Ukraine, using long-range precision-guided weapons.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.
In the city of Mykolaiv, residents queued on Sunday – as they do every day – to fill water bottles at a distribution point after supplies were severed by fighting early in the war.
“This is not war, this is a war crime. War is when soldiers fight with each other, but when civilians are being fought, it’s a war crime,” said Vadym Antonyuk, a 51-year-old sales manager, as he stood in line.
A spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said Russian forces were suffering severe shortages of equipment including ammunition as a result of the damage inflicted last weekend on the Crimea Bridge.
“Almost 75% (of Russian military supplies in southern Ukraine) came across that bridge,” Natalia Humeniuk told Ukrainian television, adding that strong winds had also now stopped ferries in the area.
“Now even the sea is on our side,” Humeniuk said.
Putin blamed Ukrainian security services for the bridge blast and last Monday, in retaliation, ordered the biggest aerial offensive against Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, since the start of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.
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Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by David Ljunggren, Matt Spetalnick, Gareth Jones and James Oliphant; editing by Michael Perry, Tomasz Janowski, Will Dunham and Nick Macfie
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BUCHA, Ukraine — One woman was badly beaten and shot through the eye. Another, held captive by Russian soldiers, was found in a cellar, shot in the head. An 81-year-old grandmother was discovered hanging in her garden, perhaps killed, perhaps driven to suicide.
They were three victims among hundreds during the Russian occupation of Bucha in the spring. Bucha, a suburb of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, quickly became the main focus of atrocities by Russian soldiers before they withdrew from the area.
The crimes gained worldwide attention. But these women were unknown, their deaths unseen and unexplained.
reported at the time on the Russian brutality and came across these cases. So we went back to Bucha, the place of so many deaths, to learn about these three women — to find out about their lives and who they were.
We found that each woman, in her own way, was a fighter, struggling to survive weeks of hunger, cold, bombardment and shooting, yet tragically vulnerable to the ruthless violence of an occupying army.
Many of the circumstances of their last days remain unclear, but for their families and Ukrainian officials, there is no doubt that they were victims of Russia’s aggression against their country.
A chance trip turns tragic.
Oksana Sulyma, 34, was in Bucha only by chance.
A former public servant, she lived in Kyiv with her 5-year-old daughter, but had visited Bucha to stay with friends only 48 hours before the war began in February. Within days, Russian troops had stormed the wooded suburb and roads and transport links had been cut. Oksana was stuck, said Oleksiy, a childhood friend, who asked that only his first name be used for privacy.
She had grown up and lived much of her adult life in Bucha. Her grandmother lived in an apartment near the center of town. Oksana had moved to Kyiv only after divorcing her husband several years ago; she wanted to be closer to her parents, who helped look after her daughter.
Her mother, Larysa Sulyma, agreed to provide a few details of Oksana’s life for her to be remembered by.
“She was a very bright child,” her mother said. She learned French during an exchange visit to France, completed a degree in sociology at the National Aviation University in Kyiv, and later worked at the Ministry of Infrastructure.
“She was very vivacious,” her mother added. She shared photographs of her daughter on a beach in Crimea, where she used to vacation every year before Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014. “She loved life, she loved to travel.”
In early March, Russian troops set up bases and firing positions in Bucha and began to impose greater control on the streets. They searched houses, confiscated cellphones and began detaining people and killing.
The State of the War
Oksana was last seen by friends on March 10 at Shevchenko Square, her mother said. The square, marked by a statue of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, is a popular meeting place.
Her mother posted a message on Facebook on March 15 expressing concern. Oksana had experienced mental health issues, and anxiety at the onset of the war may have exacerbated her condition, her mother wrote.
“Her behavior may have manifestations of anger, aggression or incompetence,” her post said. “If anyone knows her whereabouts, please call.”
An outing to find dog food.
Anna Noha, 36, had lived most of her life in Bucha and had no intention of leaving.
She had friends and family in the town, and even when her former partner and half sister fled the occupation in early March, she chose to stay. Anna hung out with friends in the basement of her two-story building, sometimes venturing into the streets, visiting her father and rescuing cats.
“She was very independent, very active,” said her stepmother, Tetyana Kopachova, 51. “At the same time, she was very kind, very helpful. She chopped wood all winter for me.”
Anna’s father and stepmother were dog breeders and kept 11 Central Asian sheepdogs in cages on their property in the center of town. Anna would come around to help.
She had always been a tearaway, her stepmother said. She married young, divorced, had a teenage daughter. She had served time in prison for dealing drugs, but had since given that up, her stepmother said.
Anna was also a survivor. Her former partner was abusive and she came over to their house for a couple of nights with a friend, nursing bruises, Ms. Kopachova said.
Her parents pressed her to stay, but she left again on March 13, promising to find dog food because they were running out. She never came back.
A strict grandmother, determined to stay.
Lyudmyla Shchehlova, 81, also did not want to leave Bucha. A retired epidemiologist, she had lived for almost 40 years in a cottage styled like a wood cabin, nestled amid pine trees.
The house had belonged to her husband, also a physician, and together they had raised a daughter, Olena, and later their grandson, Yevhen.
His grandfather was the soft one, Yevhen, 22, recalled in an interview. His grandmother was strict, “It was like good cop, bad cop,” he said laughing. “She taught me a lot,” he added.
Ms. Shchehlova was Russian by origin, and her bookshelves were full of Russian classics. Since her husband died a few years ago, she had lived alone, surrounded by her books and family photographs, with Ralph, a German shepherd, and a cat for company.
Her daughter, Olena, lived in a neighboring suburb, Irpin, and wanted her mother to join her there when the war started, but the roads were blocked by the fighting. Within days, the electricity and telephones went down. She tried to call her mother on March 7, her birthday, but could not reach her.
When the bombardment worsened sharply in their neighborhood, Olena and Yevhen fled on foot across a destroyed bridge toward Kyiv.
The last time Yevhen spoke to his grandmother, she was weeping but was happy that they were out of danger. “She said everything was fine,” he said.
Held captive in a potato cellar.
By mid-March, the atmosphere in Bucha was growing uglier. New Russian units had taken over control and reprisals against civilians grew.
For several days around March 18, a lot of killing occurred in Bucha.
Russian troops had occupied School No. 3 on Vokzalna Street, and they were firing mortars from empty land behind it. Soldiers smashed their armored vehicles through garden fences and camped in people’s homes.
At some point, Oksana Sulyma was apprehended and taken to a house on Vokzalna Street. The house backed up to School No. 3, which she had attended as a girl. Oksana was found there in April, imprisoned in a potato cellar, shot in the head. She was wearing only a fur coat.
The police found bullet casings by the trap door of the cellar and determined she was killed on March 17, a week after going missing. Her passport and ID card were later found by the Ukrainian police near the railway tracks.
Russian soldiers had been living in the house, sleeping on mattresses in the living room and heating water for washing. In a bedroom upstairs, women’s clothes and underwear were strewn about and the police found a used condom. An official familiar with the case said there was evidence that Oksana had been raped.
Seeking shelter, and bringing an abandoned cat.
Around the same time, Anna Noha moved to an apartment a few blocks away, just west of Vokzalna Street. Her windows had been blown out by the shelling and it was freezing, so a friend, Vladyslav, took her and a former classmate, Yuriy, to stay with his mother, Lyudmyla.
Anna brought coffee and tea with her and asked Lyudmyla if she could also bring an abandoned cat, a beautiful longhaired Siamese, that she had found.
“She seemed very kind,” said Lyudmyla, who asked that only her first name be used. “That’s why I gave her shelter.”
On the evening of March 18, the three friends cleaned the apartment and took out the trash, Lyudmyla said. They said they would have a smoke while they were outside. They never came back.
Lyudmyla later learned from neighbors that Russian troops had detained them by the trash bins and marched them with bags over their heads into the basement of a nearby 10-story building. Neighbors said Anna had shouted out “Glory to Ukraine.”
A week later, Lyudmyla was gathering firewood with a friend when she found their bodies. First she saw Anna and Yuriy, lying in the garden of an unoccupied house. Later she found her son, Vladyslav, inside a shed. They had been beaten and each was shot through an eye. Anna was so badly bludgeoned that her face was unrecognizable, Lyudmyla said.
“She was cheerful, strong,” Lyudmyla said of Anna. “Maybe she suffered for her outspokenness.”
Was it suicide? Friends and family say no.
By March 19, only two residents, Ms. Shchehlova, the 81-year-old retired epidemiologist, and Mariya, 84, a former factory worker, remained on their narrow lane.
Soldiers occupied a house at the end of the lane, Mariya said. “There were 15 of them in that gang and they made such trouble here,” she said. Someone stole bottles of alcohol from her fridge while she dozed in an armchair, she said.
A builder, Bogdan Barkar, 37, was out scouring for food one day and came across Ms. Shchehlova in the alley behind her house. “She had tears in her eyes,” he said. He sensed she was being threatened by someone. “Just come by in two days and see if I am alive or not,” she told him.
Some days later, Mariya said she heard Ms. Shchehlova arguing with someone and saw a strange man in her yard. But weak from hunger and fearful, Mariya did not intervene.
It was only days later when the Russians withdrew from Bucha that Mariya’s son came back and discovered Ms. Shchehlova hanging from a tree, a ladder propped against the trunk.
The police recorded it as a suicide, but few who knew Ms. Shchehlova believed she could have done it herself. She was religious and knew it to be a sin, said her neighbor Valentyn Melnyk.
Her grandson Yevhen cut the ropes down from the tree and said he doubted that she would have been able to tie them on the high branches. But he was resigned to his doubts.
“I am a realist,” he said. “How is it possible to find out what happened if all the neighbors left, and she was alone at that moment?”
The grief and loss remains overwhelming. His mother, a refugee in Sweden, wept at missing her mother’s funeral.
Anna Noha’s father, Volodymyr Kopachov, died on July 7, soon after burying his daughter. He lies beside her in Bucha City Cemetery in the section reserved for victims of the war.
Oksana Sulyma’s parents made separate visits to the cellar where she died. Weeping, her mother distributed sweets to the neighbors.
KYIV, Ukraine — Six and a half feet down a ladder inside a small shed at the back of Oleksandr Kadet’s home is an underground room with a cement hatch that he hopes he never has to use.
For the past two weeks, Mr. Kadet, 32, said that he and his wife, who live outside the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, had been preparing for the possibility of a nuclear attack by stocking the room — an old well that they converted into a bunker — with bottled water, canned food, radios and power banks.
“We are more anxious now, especially after yesterday’s attacks,” Mr. Kadet said on Tuesday, a day after a series of Russian missile attacks across Ukraine. “But we do think that in case of a nuclear explosion, we will be able to survive if we stay in the shelter for some time.”
The fears of escalation rose on Saturday after an attack on the 12-mile Kerch Strait Bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. Initially, Ukrainians celebrated, but that quickly gave way to worry that such a brazen assault on a symbol of President Vladimir V. Putin’s rule could prompt a severe retaliation.
Even before these recent events, though, concerns about the potential for a nuclear disaster had increasingly been making their way into Ukraine’s national psyche. The fear is that Russia could either use tactical nuclear arms or launch a conventional attack on one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.
U.S. officials have said they think the chances of Russia’s using nuclear weapons are low, and senior American officials say they have seen no evidence that Mr. Putin is moving any of his nuclear assets.
On Sunday, Mr. Putin called the assault on the bridge a “terrorist attack aimed at destroying the critically important civilian infrastructure of the Russian Federation.”
But his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, appeared to tamp down fears of a nuclear reprisal, saying that the attack on the bridge did not fall within the category under Russia’s defense doctrine that allowed for such a response.
Last month, Mr. Putin raised fears that he could resort to nuclear weapons when he warned that he would “use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” if Russian-controlled territory was threatened.
“This is not a bluff,” he said.
Days later, Russia illegally annexed four Ukrainian territories.
Mr. Kadet, who noted that he had begun preparing two weeks ago, said it felt better to have an action plan.
“It’s psychologically easier because you know you are at least somehow prepared for it,” he said. “It’s not a guarantee it will save you, but at least you’re ready.”
Residents of Kyiv said that they had felt wary even before the most recent missile strikes there on Monday.
Immediately after the bridge attack, many Ukrainians had shared their glee on social media. They toasted triumphantly in the capital’s bars over the weekend, and posed for selfies in front of posters of the burning bridge.
But the worry soon set in.
“I feel this real fear about how the Russians will answer this,” said Krystina Gevorkova, 30, who was shopping with her friend in Kyiv on Sunday. “Earlier it had felt safer here,” she added. “Now, I have this feeling like something is going to happen.”
Kyiv has for months been spared the worst of the Russian onslaught while Moscow focused its attention instead on southeastern Ukraine. But on Monday, a Russian missile struck just blocks away from where Ms. Gevorkova had spoken.
She said that she had been reading up on how to stay safe during a nuclear war, but that she was skeptical that it would help.
“We can’t really do anything,” she said.
The war has felt far from Kyiv in recent months, as life’s rhythms return to a semblance of normalcy after Russian forces were ousted from parts of northeastern Ukraine. Nevertheless, the city has also been slowly preparing for a potential nuclear attack.
The Kyiv City Council said on Friday that potassium iodide pills would be distributed to residents in case of a nuclear incident “based on medical recommendations,” adding that the pills were also available in city pharmacies.
Potassium iodide is used to saturate a person’s thyroid with iodine so that radioactive iodine inhaled or ingested after exposure will not be retained by the gland.
Alina Bozhedomova, 23, a pharmacist in Kyiv, said that customers were coming in daily looking for the pills, but added, “I haven’t seen people panicking about it.”
Some elementary schools have advised parents to prepare emergency packs for their children to keep with them at school.
Nadiia Stelmakh, 50, who works in a market selling home goods, said that one mother had come to her with a list from the school that included latex gloves, a poncho, boot covers, tissues, wet wipes and a flashlight.
“People are really concerned right now,” she said. Her husband, Volodymyr Stelmakh, who has another stall nearby, agreed.
“I have an emergency bag packed,” he said, “but I think if the nuclear threat is imminent, you will have no time to run away.
After worries grew about the security of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the country’s southeast in recent weeks, Ukraine’s Ministry of Health issued guidance about how to respond to a nuclear incident.
The risk of nuclear fallout can feel very real in Ukraine, a country that still bears the scars of the Chernobyl accident in 1986, one of the worst nuclear disasters in history. Chernobyl is only about 60 miles north of Kyiv.
And some who experienced the life-threatening fallout firsthand say that they, possibly more than anyone, understand the full risk of nuclear exposure. Oleksandr, 55, who asked that his last name not be used, said that he and his family had fled Chernobyl for Kyiv immediately after the meltdown, when he was just 18.
His family closely followed guidance to move south, as winds were pushing radioactive materials north, and he said that was the only reason they escaped unscathed.
“Now, people here are really not ready. People don’t know what to do,” he said. “There is not enough information.”
He owns a market stand that sells household necessities and said that more people had come in during the past two weeks preparing for a nuclear disaster, buying flashlights, batteries, knives, radios and small camp stoves.
While some were preparing for the worst, others remained optimistic that Russia would never carry out such an extreme attack, which would draw international outrage.
Dmytro Yastrub, 31, said he felt more concerned about Mr. Putin using conventional weapons to target Kyiv.
“I presume something will happen” after the bridge attack, he said, standing outside a bar in the Kyiv city center on Sunday evening with a group of friends. But, he added, the risk of a nuclear attack was not weighing heavy on his mind.
Svetlana Zozulia, 47, and her husband, Vladyslav Zozulia, 37, were walking in central Kyiv with their daughter, Anastasiia, 11, on Sunday night. Ms. Zozulia said she tried to remain optimistic and did not believe that Mr. Putin would launch a nuclear attack on Ukraine.
But she did buy potassium iodide tablets just in case, she said.
“I think our success disturbs him,” Ms. Zozulia said. “But there is also a threat for him if he chooses a nuclear attack.”
For months, Russia’s state media insisted that the country was only hitting military targets in Ukraine, leaving out the suffering that the invasion has brought to millions of civilians.
On Monday, the mask came off. Russian state television showed gas lines in Ukraine, empty store shelves and a long-range forecast promising months of freezing temperatures there. And rather than focus on the civilian destruction in Russian-held areas as they usually do, news broadcasts in Russia showed columns of smoke and carnage in central Kyiv.
“There’s no hot water, part of the city is without power,” one anchor announced, describing the scene in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.
The sharp shift was a sign that domestic pressure over Russia’s flailing war effort had escalated to the point where President Vladimir V. Putin felt a decisive show of force was necessary.
His military has come under increasingly withering criticism from the war’s supporters for not being aggressive enough in its assault on Ukraine, a chorus that reached a fever pitch after Saturday’s attack on the 12-mile bridge to the annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea — a symbol of Mr. Putin’s rule.
With Monday’s brutal escalation of the war effort, Mr. Putin in part appears to be responding to those critics, momentarily quieting the clamors of hard liners furious with the Russian military’s humiliating setbacks on the battlefield.
“This is important from the domestic political perspective, first and foremost,” Abbas Gallyamov, a Russian political analyst and former Putin speechwriter, said of Monday’s strikes. “It was important to demonstrate to the ruling class that Putin is still capable, that the Army is still good for something.”
But with his escalation, Mr. Putin is also betting that Russian elites — and the public at large — do indeed see it as a sign of strength, rather than a desperate effort to inflict more pain in a war that Russia appears to be losing.
“The response was supposed to show power, but in fact it showed powerlessness,” Mr. Gallyamov said. “There’s nothing else the army can do.”
After Monday’s strikes, some of the invasion’s harshest critics among the Russian hawks declared that the military was finally doing its job. The strongman leader of the Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov — who recently excoriated the army’s “incompetent” leadership — said in a Telegram post that he was now “100 percent happy” with the war effort.
“Run, Zelensky, run,” he wrote, referring to Ukraine’s president.
Other cheerleaders of the war triumphantly recalled Mr. Putin’s declaration in July that Russia had not “started anything yet in earnest” in Ukraine.
“Now, it seems, it’s started,” one state television talk show host, Olga Skabeyeva, said.
Mr. Putin described Monday’s strikes as a response to Ukrainian “terrorist acts,” casting them as a one-time assault to deter future Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory. In his home city of St. Petersburg, where he had traveled on Friday for his 70th birthday, Mr. Putin spoke on national television for just over three minutes in what the Kremlin characterized as the start of a meeting with his Security Council.
He made a point of saying the strikes came at the military’s initiative, an apparent effort to head off assertions that he was plotting the war effort in isolation.
“This morning, at the suggestion of the Ministry of Defense and according to the plan of the Russian General Staff, a massive strike with air, sea and land-based high-precision long-range weapons was launched against Ukrainian energy, military command and communications facilities,” Mr. Putin said. “If attempts to carry out terrorist attacks on our territory continue, the measures taken by Russia will be tough and in their scale will correspond to the level of threats posed to the Russian Federation. No one should have any doubt about it.”
In his speech, Mr. Putin made one notable omission: he did not mention the West as the ultimate culprit behind Saturday’s Crimean bridge explosion or other suspected Ukrainian attacks. That was a departure from the typical Kremlin rhetoric that portrays Washington and London as the puppeteers behind Ukraine’s resistance.
The shift was a possible signal that the Russian leader was interested in controlling the escalation of the war, and that he was not on the verge of provoking a direct conflict with NATO.
But some signs pointed to Mr. Putin being prepared for a wider escalation of the war. On Saturday, he appointed a general known for his ruthlessness, Sergei Surovikin, to lead the war effort in Ukraine. And Mr. Putin’s closest international ally, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, declared on Monday that thousands of Russian soldiers would soon arrive in the country to form a joint military group with Belarusian forces — creating the specter of a new threat to Ukraine’s north.
Greg Yudin, a professor of political philosophy at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, said Mr. Putin had bent to pressure from right-wing hawks who are calling for even more escalation. He said he expected that Mr. Putin would “sooner or later” heighten the threats of potentially using tactical nuclear weapons.
In central Moscow, many people said they were unaware of what had happened in Ukraine. People soaked up the sun in the chic neighborhood of central Tsvetno, or rushed to work or appointments.
Some younger people, more attuned to social media, said they were aware of the strikes on Ukraine but felt powerless to assign blame. “It is bad when people are killed for any reason,” said Sasha, 19, a university student. Still, she went on, “In any fight, both sides are responsible.”
In Russia, the penalties for criticizing the war — or even using the term war — come with hefty fines and even jail time, so many Russians are cautious about making comments that might have a negative connotation about the war.
Valerie Hopkins reported from Moscow. Alina Lobzina also contributed reporting.
Within hours of a blast that damaged the sole bridge linking Crimea with Russia early Saturday, hard-line military bloggers and Russian officials were calling for a swift and strong response from Moscow.
One high-level politician said that anything less than an “extremely harsh” response would show weakness from the Kremlin, which is facing continued losses on the battlefield and mounting criticism at home.
For President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who presided over the bridge’s opening in 2018, the explosion seemed to be a highly personal affront, underscoring his failure to get a handle on a relentless series of Ukrainian attacks.
Some news media commentators demanded that Russia destroy Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure and the transportation systems used to import Western armaments.
Evgeny Poddubny, a war correspondent for the state RT outlet, said that nobody in the Ukrainian leadership seemed to fear Russia anymore.
“The enemy has stopped being afraid, and this circumstance needs to be corrected promptly,” he wrote in RT’s Telegram channel. “Commanders of formations, heads of intelligence agencies, politicians of the Kyiv criminal regime sleep peacefully, wake up without a headache and in a good mood, without a sense of inevitability of punishment for crimes committed.”
Krasnodar, Russia ▶
Outer two lanes
Several tanker cars
of a train could be
seen burning here.
Krasnodar, Russia ▶
Outer two lanes
Several tanker cars
of a train could be
seen burning here.
Aleksandr Kots, a war correspondent for the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, wrote on Telegram that disabling the bridge bodes ill for Moscow’s already troubled efforts to hold onto territory in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine — and most likely foreshadowed a future attack on Crimea itself.
He described the “consistency” that Ukraine was showing in the war as “enviable” and called for Russia to “hammer Ukraine into the 18th century, without meaningless reflection on how this will affect the civilian population.”
While there were no official claims of responsibility, Ukrainian officials, who in the past have said the bridge would be a legitimate target for a strike, indicated that the explosion was no accident and made no secret of their satisfaction.
“Crimea, the bridge, the beginning,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, wrote in a Twitter post on Saturday. “Everything illegal, must be destroyed. Everything stolen returned to Ukraine. All Russian occupiers expelled.”
The explosion is emblematic of a Russian military in disarray. Russian forces were unable to protect the road and rail crossing despite its centrality to the war effort, its personal importance to Mr. Putin and its potent symbolism as the literal connection between Russia and Crimea.
For Russia, the rail crossing “has played a key role in moving heavy military vehicles to the southern front during the invasion,” the British defense intelligence agency wrote in its daily assessment on Sunday. It added that although the extent of the damage to the rail line was uncertain, “any serious disruption to its capacity will highly likely have a significant impact on Russia’s already strained ability to sustain its forces in southern Ukraine.”
Hours after the explosion, the Kremlin appointed Gen. Sergei Surovikin, yet another new commander, to oversee its forces in Ukraine. Previous leadership shake-ups have done little to right the military’s floundering performance.
General Surovikin, 55, has long had a reputation for corruption and brutality, military analysts said.
“He is known as a pretty ruthless commander who is short with subordinates and is known for his temper,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at C.N.A., a defense research institute based in Virginia.
His appointment was quickly praised by some of the biggest supporters of the war, including Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group that was deployed heavily in Syria. He made a rare public endorsement of the general, calling him “legendary.”
LYMAN, Ukraine — In front of the mayor’s office in Lyman lay a heap of Russian propaganda posters, apparently freshly torn down and partially burned in a fire that went out in a thin fall drizzle on Sunday.
Decorated in the white, blue and red colors of the Russian flag, they were soggy from the rain. One explained the significance of Russian state symbols, the Russian flag and national anthem. “The national anthem of Russia is loved in our country,” a partially burned poster read.
A day after Ukrainian forces retook control of Lyman, a strategic railway hub in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, a picture began to emerge of the destruction left behind by fleeing Russian soldiers who had occupied the city for months. In a hasty withdrawal, they abandoned official documents, military vehicles and the bodies of their comrades.
After weeks of fierce fighting, Russian forces retreated from Lyman on Saturday, just one day after President Vladimir V. Putin illegally declared the surrounding region to be part of Russia citing what Ukraine and its Western allies have called sham referendums in territories partly under Russian control.
The intense battle for the city was evident on Sunday afternoon. Whole city blocks were panoramic scenes of collapsed brick and corrugated tin roofing. A local bakery, Seagul, was reduced to a heap of rubble. Its bread trucks were still parked in a lot waiting for morning distributions that wouldn’t come.
About 5,000 of the pre-war population of 22,000 remained in Lyman, the police said.
“Look at the destroyed houses,” said Roman Plakhaniv, a lieutenant in the Kramatorsk district police force, who arrived on Sunday to patrol the city. “This was a nice, normal town. People from another country came and destroyed it.”
Signs of Russia’s plans to put down roots were abundant. Inside city hall were notices explaining how to apply for building permits under the occupation authority and with phone numbers to call to apply for a Russian pension. A stamped and signed document left on a table announced “the creation of the committee for reviewing controversial questions in distributing social assistance.” It was formed on Sept. 9.
Copies of a newspaper called Donetsk Republic were scattered about on the floor. An edition dated Sept. 15 ran an article under the headline, “Defense of the Republic and Borders of Russia” — apparently intended to tamp down worry as Ukraine’s counteroffensive gained ground.
“The President of Russia Vladimir V. Putin announced that in the course of the special operation Russia is not losing military strength and will defend its sovereignty,” the article explained.
In one office was a poster emblazoned with a Z, a symbol of Russia’s invasion, that said, “We don’t abandon our own.”
The only accessible road into Lyman is muddy and rutted, crossing a pontoon bridge over the roiling water of the Oskil River, which the Russian military had briefly tried to maintain as a defensive barrier last month, before falling back farther.
Dense pine forest surrounding the town had slowed and frustrated both sides in the fighting, and now show signs of the ferocity of the artillery battles in severed branches scattered along the road. Whole villages along the route are in ruins.
At one point, the road into town passed the remnants of what appeared to be a Ukrainian attack on Russian soldiers trying to flee the city in a civilian van. The vehicle’s doors were open and sleeping bags, pads, military coats, rations, shoes and other supplies had spilled out.
Nearby, on the side of the road, were anti-tank mines and the bodies of half a dozen Russian soldiers. A line of Ukrainian military trucks rumbled by, as a demining team checked the bodies for boobytraps, using ropes to tug and jostle them from a distance in case they exploded.
Asked how the Russians had died, one of the soldiers on the demining team shrugged. “They came to a foreign land,” he said.
As the number of people dealing with mental health challenges increases, it’s putting a strain on psychiatrists and mental health professionals.
More American adults are seeking resources for help in getting treatment for mental health. A new CDC survey finds the trend is higher among adults 18 to 44.
But with an increase in patients comes a new strain on mental health professionals, on psychiatrists.
The Association of American Medical Colleges says the current shortfall is at 6%. That’s expected to be between 14,000 and 32,000 psychiatrists by 2024.
Forensic psychiatry specialist Dr. Abdi Tinwalla, as president of the Illinois Psychiatric Society, has seen how the shortage of psychiatrists has reached a crisis point.
“The prevalence of mental illness in the population is increasing, the American population is increasing. So year over year so far we have more doctors going into retirement than doctors coming into the workforce,” said Tinwalla.
Another factor in the shortage, he says, is feeding the pipeline — as in residencies. These take place after medical school in a hospital or clinic and provide doctors with crucial hands-on training.
Dr. Tinwalla says there’s growing interest in the field but financial barriers are posing steep challenges.
“This year itself there were twice the number of people wanting to go in than the seats they had available. The biggest barrier for that is funding and, you know, the government funding for these programs has not increased in the last couple of years,” said Tinwalla.
It’s actually been decades. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 capped the number of residents each teaching hospital is eligible to receive Medicare-funded reimbursements for.
Individual institutions are responsible for any additional slots. Though there is a new federal push to bolster the medical workforce. The “Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act”, which Democratic Senator Bob Menendez introduced in 2021, would expand Medicare funding for thousands of residency positions.
But despite support from medical groups and organizations, the bill’s future is uncertain, with minimal movement since introduced.
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The demands of the job are also pushing some psychiatrists to rethink their careers.
A 2022 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that nearly half of psychiatrists experience burnout.
It cited lack of resources and lack of autonomy as contributors to feelings of professional exhaustion.
“Part of us experience it in our lives, if we don’t deal with it appropriately it does lead to shortage in our careers so I definitely think burnout so if you ask me if it’s a real phenomenon? It’s a yes,” said Tinwalla.
Despite the reasons for the shortage, Dr. Tinwalla say he sees solutions including collaborative care which involves a team approach.
“Collaborative care has been popular in the last decade, its the care in which is given by the primary care physician in his office, in collaboration with a behavioral care manager and a psychiatrist is a consultant over the phone or video or whatever,” he said.
He also says technology is opening doors for treatment with telemedicine. And he’s encouraged insurers are more likely to cover mental health appointments than in years past.
“Well I’m hoping with the collaborative care model and hopefully with the telepsychiatry we are doing we are going to bridge some of those care gaps that we are having right now,” he said.
Roughly 900,000 people on the island were without power four days after the storm, and nearly 500,000 people did not have water service.
Hurricane Fiona left hundreds of people stranded across Puerto Rico after smashing roads and bridges, with authorities still struggling to reach people four days after the storm smacked the U.S. territory, causing historic flooding.
For now, government officials are working with religious groups, nonprofits and others braving landslides, thick mud and broken asphalt by foot to provide food, water and medicine for people in need, but they are under pressure to clear a path so vehicles can enter isolated areas soon.
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Nino Correa, commissioner for Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency, estimated that at least six municipalities across the island had areas that were cut off by Fiona, which struck as a Category 1 hurricane and was up to Category 4 power Wednesday as it headed toward Bermuda.
Living in one of those areas is Manuel Veguilla, who has not been able to leave his neighborhood in the north mountain town of Caguas since Fiona swept in on Sunday.
“We are all isolated,” he said, adding that he worries about elderly neighbors including his older brother who does not have the strength for the long walk it takes to reach the closest community.
Veguilla heard that municipal officials might open a pathway Thursday, but he doubted that would happen because he said large rocks covered a nearby bridge and the 10-foot space beneath it.
Neighbors have shared food and water dropped off by nonprofit groups, and the son of an elderly woman was able to bring back basic supplies by foot Wednesday, he said.
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Veguilla said that in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that struck five years ago and resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths, he and others used picks and shovels to clear the debris. But Fiona was different, unleashing huge landslides.
“I cannot throw those rocks over my shoulder,” he said.
Like hundreds of thousands of other Puerto Ricans after Fiona, Veguilla had no water or electricity service, but said they there is a natural water source nearby.
Fiona sparked an islandwide blackout when it hit Puerto Rico’s southwest region, which already was still trying to recover from a series of strong earthquakes in recent years. Some 62% of 1.47 million customers were without power four days after the storm amid an extreme heat alert issued by the National Weather Service. Some 36% of customers, or nearly half a million, did not have water service.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent hundreds of additional personnel to help local officials as the federal government approved a major disaster declaration and announced a public health emergency on the island.
Neither local nor federal government officials had provided any damage estimates as Puerto Rico struggles to recover from the storm, which dropped up to 30 inches of rain in some areas. More than 470 people and 48 pets remained in shelters.
“Our hearts go out to the people of Puerto Rico who have endured so much suffering over the last couple of years,” said Brad Kieserman, vice president of operations and logistics at the Red Cross.
After Puerto Rico, Fiona pummeled the Dominican Republic and then swiped past the Turks and Caicos Islands as it strengthened into a Category 4 storm. Officials there reported relatively light damage and no deaths, though the eye of the storm passed close to Grand Turk, the small British territory’s capital island, on Tuesday.
“God has been good to us and has kept us safe during this period when we could have had a far worse outcome,” Deputy Gov. Anya Williams said.
Fiona was forecast to pass near Bermuda early Friday, and then hit easternmost Canada early Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph on Thursday morning. It was centered about 485 miles southwest of Bermuda, heading north-northeast at 13 mph.