the grand Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces opened last year. Its exterior is army green and its floors are made from weapons and tanks seized from the German Wehrmacht. Arched stained glass windows feature insignia and medals.

On a recent Sunday, the church and its accompanying museum and park were full of visitors. A group of fifth graders from the Suvorov Military School in Tver, wearing their uniforms, filed out in two lines before marching to the museum. Their instructor said it was fundamentally important for the students, in their first year of military school, to learn about their predecessors.

“We’re doing a bit of propaganda, too,” the section leader quipped, declining to give his name.

Beyond the church grounds, visitors walked among snow-covered trenches in a simulated front line. Further afield, under the towering dome of the church, children could ride around a go-kart like track in a miniature replica of a battle tank.

“All children should come here and develop an interest in history from an early age,” said Alina Grengolm, as her 2-year-old son scrambled up an icy tank with his father’s assistance.

In Moscow recently, more than 600 people from across Russia gathered for a government-sponsored forum aimed at promoting patriotism among youth. Sergei Kiriyenko, Mr. Putin’s powerful deputy chief of staff, praised the attendees for doing “sacred work.”

a new phase of the conflict.

In a Levada poll published last week, 39 percent of Russians said war between Russia and Ukraine was either inevitable or very likely. Half said the United States and NATO were to blame for the recent rise in tensions, and no more than 4 percent — across all age groups — said Russia was at fault.

The conviction across society that Russia is not the aggressor reflects a core ideology dating to Soviet times: that the country only fights defensive wars. The government has even earmarked money for movies that explore that theme: In April, the Culture Ministry decreed that “Russia’s historical victories” and “Russia’s peacekeeping mission” were among the priority topics for film producers seeking government funding.

“Right now, the idea is being pushed that Russia is a peace-loving country permanently surrounded by enemies,” said Anton Dolin, a Russian film critic. “This is contradicted by some facts, but if you show it at the movies and translate that idea into the time of the Great Patriotic War, we all instantly get a scheme familiar to everyone from childhood.”

On Russian state television, the narrative of a Ukraine controlled by neo-Nazis and used as a staging ground for Western aggression has been a common trope since the pro-Western revolution in Kyiv in 2014. After the revolution, Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, fomented a war in Ukraine’s east and sharpened its messaging about Russia as a “besieged fortress.”

appears to have dissipated amid economic stagnation.

But the Kremlin is doubling down. Its drive to increase “patriotic education” includes funding for groups like Vympel. The “military patriotic” organization has some 100 chapters around the country, and it organized the recent skills competition in the city of Vladimir that ended on Thursday.

Veronika Osipova, 17, from the city of Rostov-on-Don near Ukraine’s border, won the award for best female student. For years, she played the harp, graduating with honors from an elite music school. But in 2015, she started learning how to shoot a machine gun and throw grenades. She resolved to join the Russian military to protect the country against its enemies.

“I follow the example of girls who, under bullets and grenades, went to fight during the Great Patriotic War,” Ms. Osipova said. “They had no choice, but we do have it, and I choose the army.”

Anton Troianovski reported from Moscow, Ivan Nechepurenko from Vladimir, Russia, and Valerie Hopkins from Kubinka, Russia. Alina Lobzina contributed reporting from Moscow.

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Where Ukrainians Are Preparing for All-Out War With Russia

KALANCHAK, Ukraine — A makeshift dam of sand and clay, covered with patches of grass, blocks one of Europe’s great canals. Beyond it, swans drift in the trickle of water that remains. A duck slides into a wall of reeds below the bare, concrete banks.

This quiet spot just north of Crimea may not look like much. But some Ukrainians fear it could be the thing that ignites an all-out war with Russia.

“Putin could send his troops in here at any moment,” said Olha Lomonosova, 38, explaining why she had packed a getaway suitcase this year at her home upstream. “He needs water.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered some of the troops he had massed on Ukraine’s border this spring to pull back last month, but as many as 80,000 remain within striking distance, and many Ukrainians believe that the threat of a new invasion remains. A prime reason is the 250-mile-long Northern Crimean Canal linking Crimea with Ukraine’s Dnieper River: the main source of water for Crimea until Mr. Putin annexed it in 2014 and Ukraine, in a secret operation, hastily built the dam to block the canal’s flow.

Mr. Putin’s showdown with the West.

assurances that even tourists to Crimea will not go thirsty.

Blocking the canal, a senior official in the de facto Russian government controlling Crimea said in February, represented “an attempt to destroy us as a people, an attempt at mass murder and genocide.” Moscow has pledged to spend $670 million to address the water shortage, but this year reservoirs have been running dry and water is being rationed.

Ukrainian officials are unmoved. Under the Geneva Convention, they say, it is Russia’s responsibility as an occupying power to provide water, and they add that sufficient underground aquifers exist to provide for the population. The Kremlin says that Crimea willfully joined Russia in 2014, aided by Russian troops, after the pro-Western revolution in Kyiv; nearly every government in the world still considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine.

“No water for Crimea until de-occupation,” said Anton Korynevych, the representative for Crimea of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, spelling out government policy. “Period.”

visit to the trenches at the Crimean border last month. Even though Russian troops are withdrawing, he warned, Ukraine must be prepared for them to return at “any moment.” In Washington, senior American officials believe that an incursion to secure the water supply remains a real threat, though the costs and difficulty of such a move appear to have been sufficient to dissuade Russia for now.

trove of ancient Scythian treasure.

The canal even has its own anthem, still framed on the wall of the canal’s headquarters. “We built the canal in peace, along with the whole great and powerful country,” the words go. “Keep it, as dear as your breath, for your children and grandchildren!”

But when Russia seized Crimea in 2014, a senior aide in the Ukrainian president’s office, Andriy Senchenko, organized the damming of the canal as a way to strike back. Before the canal’s annual springtime opening, he directed workers to pile up a pyramid of bags of sand and clay near the border with Crimea. And he had them put up a sign saying they were installing a flow-measurement mechanism, to put Russian intelligence on the wrong track.

He is convinced that blocking the canal was the right decision because it imposed costs on Moscow, much as military resistance would have.

“In order to cause as much damage to the Russian Federation as was caused by seven years of blocking the canal, tens of thousands would need to have died at the front,” Mr. Senchenko said.

tell it, Ukraine’s leaders since 2014 have forced Russian speakers in the country to “renounce their identity or to face violence or death.” The reality is different in Kherson, where many residents still value some common bonds with Russia, including language — but want no part of a further military intervention by Mr. Putin.

A hill outside the city of Kakhovka, near the canal’s beginning, bears another reminder of historical ties to Russia: a towering Soviet monument of Communist revolutionaries with a horse-drawn machine gun, marking the fierce battles here in the Russian Civil War a century ago. Kyiv in 2019 demanded that the monument be taken down, calling it “insult to the memory of the millions of victims of the Communist totalitarian regime.” The city refused, and the monument still stands, overlooking rusty, dismantled lampposts.

Tending her mother’s grave at an adjoining cemetery, Ms. Lomonosova, a gardener, and her father, Mikhail Lomonosov, 64, said they did not want the monument torn down.

They spoke Russian, described themselves as “little Russians,” and said they occasionally watched Russian television. But if Russian troops were to invade, Ms. Lomonosova was ready to flee, and Mr. Lomonosov was ready to fight against them.

“We may have a Russian last name, but we are proud to be Ukrainian,” Ms. Lomonosova said. “Everyone has their own territory, though all have a shared past.”

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Fighting Escalates in Eastern Ukraine, Signaling the End to Another Cease-Fire

MOSCOW — The war in eastern Ukraine, which has been on a low simmer for months, drawing little international attention, has escalated sharply in recent days, according to statements Tuesday from the Ukrainian and Russian governments.

In the most lethal fighting so far this year, four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and another was seriously wounded in a battle against Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk Region of eastern Ukraine, the country’s military said.

The exchange of artillery and machine-gun fire was unusual in that it lasted most of a day. Fighting across the so-called Line of Contact, an about 250-mile-long barricade of trenches and fortifications, are typically briefer.

But it was not the only sign of tensions in a region where Ukrainian and the Russian-backed separatist forces have settled into trenches that have barely moved over the seven years since fighting first erupted in 2014.

acknowledged the recent uptick in fighting and said that Russia “sincerely hoped” it would not escalate. The fighting, he said, was “canceling out the modest achievements made earlier.”

In Ukraine, Parliament on Tuesday approved a statement declaring an “escalation” along the front, essentially acknowledging that a cease-fire negotiated in July had broken down. The statement noted a “significant increase in shelling and armed provocations by the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”

The statement called for Western governments to “continue and increase international political and economic pressure on Russia,” something Ukraine has been requesting for years. The United States and European allies have imposed financial sanctions on Russia, targeting President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle, banks and oil companies.

The war that began in 2014 after pro-Western street protesters ousted a Russian-aligned president in Ukraine, prompting a military response by Russia, is the only active conflict in Europe today.

the cease-fire in July, one that has held longer than dozens of others that have been made over the past seven years. Eight cease-fires have broken down since 2018 alone.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have also escalated along the de facto border between the two countries at the isthmus of the Crimean Peninsula, which is to the south and west of the Line of Contact, and which was annexed by Russian forces in 2014.

In February, the Russian military announced rehearsals of paratrooper drops in Crimea that commentators in Russia and Ukraine saw as possibly telegraphing a fresh Russian incursion. The target this time: water canals supplying Crimea from the Dnieper River in Ukraine.

Ukraine cut off the supply of water from the river when Russia annexed the peninsula. Since then, water has been so scarce that a majority of residents in Crimea do not have round-the-clock supplies, according to the Interfax news agency. Most towns ration supplies by turning off water mains except for brief windows in the mornings and evenings.

The Russian military described the exercise with 3,000 paratroopers as practicing “seizure of the enemies’ objects with subsequent defense until uniting with the main force.” It did not mention water canals. The exercise also practiced marine landings by the Black Sea Fleet.

In response, the Ukrainian military announced an exercise rehearsing the defense of the flatlands between Crimea and the river against air or sea attacks, further ratcheting up tensions.

Maria Varenikova contributed research.

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