Russia

Could Ukrainians ever trust a Putin peace deal?

Last week at the Buxton International Festival I joined a big audience for an onstage interview with Anna Reid. She’s a writer who specialises in Eastern European history, was once the Economist magazine’s correspondent in Ukraine, and made her name with a brilliant book, Borderland, which was both a portrait, a history and an appreciation of that country long before it entered the western public consciousness. It’s still worth reading today. But at Buxton she was introducing her latest book, A Nasty Little War: the Western Intervention into the Russian Civil War, which opened the eyes of many in the audience (including me) to an almost forgotten but serious and

Svitlana Morenets

From the front line of the battle to save Kharkiv

Moonlight shines on the wings of the reconnaissance drone as it glides over the field. Within minutes, the Leleka – Ukrainian for ‘stork’ – crosses the border into Russia’s Belgorod region. The soldiers monitoring it wait in their car, hidden in the undergrowth. Soon the image on their laptop freezes: the Russians are jamming the signal. They manoeuvre the Leleka back and forth, eventually finding a gap in the enemy’s electronic defences. The drone is back in contact, sending footage of Russian roads and towns. The hunt for enemy troops begins. Some 30,000 Russian soldiers are amassed north of Vovchansk, a Ukrainian border town that was attacked two months ago.

The rape of Ukraine continues while the world’s sympathies move on

‘Write and record’ was the dying instruction of the historian Simon Dubnow – shot by Nazis in the Riga ghetto – and two books recently emerging from Ukraine embody this spirit in spades. Now that the world’s anger and sympathies have largely moved on to the Middle East, they may do something to rekindle that earlier sense of outrage and remind the ‘caring’ classes of atrocities closer to home. ‘My hatred flows from thesmall things to the big things. Every fibre is filled with it’ The first, Our Daily War, comes from Andrey Kurkov, the celebrated Russo-Ukrainian novelist and author of 2022’s Invasion Diary, a detailed on-the-ground account of Putin’s

What I saw at the Okhmatdyt bomb site

Kyiv For weeks, Kyiv had felt relatively safe compared with just about everywhere else in Ukraine. People had adjusted to wartime life as the city’s air defences managed to intercept most of Russia’s missiles and drones. There had been a sense that things were improving. This was shattered on Monday morning when a missile struck a children’s cancer hospital in the capital. Okhmatdyt is the largest paediatric clinic in Ukraine, the equivalent of London’s Great Ormond Street. Each year, it treats more than 20,000 children with the most serious health conditions. That Russia had targeted it came as a shock but not a surprise: some 1,700 medical facilities in Ukraine

Brexit has helped the EU

There was hardly an election poster to be seen on the roadside during a two-hour drive from London to the country. The British do not appreciate this miracle. In Poland five days before an election, every other fence would be disfigured with photoshopped faces. Our lovely lunch hosts seemed resigned to the coming Red Terror: a purge of the remaining hereditary peers in the House of Lords, a new relationship with the European Union, inheritance taxes. I tried to cheer them up with a piece of Central European wisdom: there is always time for a magnum of champagne between the revolution and the firing squad. I gather that the Minister

John Keiger

What the National Rally means for France’s foreign policy

The electoral turmoil in France threatens its status as a world power. Friendly nations are despairing; rivals and enemies are gloating, even circling. France is the world’s seventh-largest economic power, a prominent Nato member, a member of the UN Security Council and the EU’s leader on foreign and defence issues. It has the fifth largest strategic nuclear force and the fifth largest navy, a ‘tier one’ military and one of the highly effective ‘Nine Eyes’ intelligence services. Last year France was the world’s second largest arms exporter. It controls the third largest global undersea cables network and has the second largest coastal economic area, whose confetti territories give it a

Sending US contractors to Ukraine could provoke Moscow

Call it ‘slippery slope’ or ‘mission creep’, America’s strategy for helping Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion has adapted and expanded many times in the last 28 months. However, there was a golden rule laid down by President Biden almost on the first day of Russia’s aggression against its neighbour. There would be no ‘boots on the ground’, he said. No US troops would be deployed to fight the Russians. Civil contractors have played a significant role in the field in every US war in modern times. But the US is not at war in Ukraine That Biden doctrine has not changed. And yet now there is serious consideration

Putin is trying to annexe people, not just land

On 1 September 2021, six months before his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin was speaking at the All-Russian Children’s Centre, known as ‘Ocean’, near the harbour city of Vladivostok. He turned to a topic that obviously haunted him during his long Covid-19 isolation. He told his audience of children that Russia’s population could have been about half a billion today, rather than the current 146 million, if it hadn’t been for the shocks of the past century: two world wars, the Bolshevik Revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Having a smaller population can make a country richer, but never more powerful A country’s population, Putin said, is

Svitlana Morenets

My return to Ukraine

I arrive at Lviv station just before 9 a.m. As the clock strikes, the conductor announces a minute’s silence: a daily commemoration for those who have fallen in the war. But it’s observed only by the railway staff, who stand up to bow their heads. The passengers just carry on. After all, isn’t part of the resistance to carry on life as normal, despite the war? This was the idea at first, but soldiers at the front line have come to resent the chasm between those who are fighting and those who don’t want to have any part in the war. It’s just one of many ways in which, returning to

The myth and memory of Yevgeny Prigozhin

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny, when his Wagner mercenaries seized the city of Rostov-on-Don and sent a flying column of several men towards Moscow. You would scarcely know it, though, because while Russian social media is full of discussion, eulogies and conspiracy theories, the state-controlled press is largely pretending this never happened. The closest thing to a recognition of the anniversary has been the arrest on extortion charges of two senior figures from Prigozhin’s media – and trolling – arm. One, Ilya Gorbunov, seems to have been the coordinator of the media coverage of the Wagner ‘march of justice,’ who even tried to organise street protests in

Matt Ridley, William Cook, Owen Matthews and Agnes Poirier

28 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud: Matt Ridley argues that whoever you vote for, the blob wins (1:02); William Cook reads his Euros notebook from Germany (12:35); Owen Matthews reports on President Zelensky’s peace summit (16:21); and, reviewing Michael Peel’s new book ‘What everyone knows about Britain’, Agnes Poirier ponders if only Britain knew how it was viewed abroad (22:28).  Presented by Patrick Gibbons.  

Who are the Russian NHS hackers?

What do you do if you’re a modern state and need extra capacity in a hurry? You outsource. And if you’re also a kleptocracy, to whom can you turn for this? Criminals. It’s not clear whether Qilin, the Russian hacker group behind the recent attack on NHS suppliers is run, encouraged, or simply given a pass by the Kremlin, but the growing interpenetration of espionage, subversion and crime is a threat we must recognise. Qilin, which engages in ‘ransomware’ attacks whereby it locks up a target’s systems until it pays to have them unlocked – £40 million is the demand in this latest attack – has been active since October

Zelensky’s peace summit flop

Volodymyr Zelensky’s Global Peace Summit in Switzerland was meant to demonstrate the world’s support for Kyiv and underscore Russia’s isolation. It did the opposite. Russia wasn’t invited. China didn’t send a delegation. Other major countries that might influence the Kremlin – including Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the UAE – refused to sign the watered-down final communiqué. According to a former senior member of Zelensky’s administration, Ukraine’s leader had ‘hoped the conference would mark a new benchmark of international support… [but] it just showed how badly we have lost the support in the Global South’. Take Brazil’s President, Lula da Silva. He was one of the first world

The pleasure of reliving foreign travel through food

The idea of the kitchen as a space for transformation and transportation is not a new one. Many writers have explored the room’s ability to offer both domesticity and alchemy at the same time – how it allows cooks to travel vicariously through the food they make. This is the subject of Cold Kitchen, Caroline Eden’s memoir of her time spent in her kitchen in Scotland and of her travels to Eastern European and Central Asian cities – and somehow she makes it fresh and compelling. She is an author and critic who has written extensively about the food and culture of the countries of the former Soviet Union. Black

A thriving City will test Labour’s tolerance

The City is having a busier year than pessimistic observers – including me – might have expected. The biggest deal on the block, the £39 billion bid by Australian giant BHP Billiton for its London-listed South African mining rival Anglo American, has fallen away. But plenty of bankers’ and advisers’ fees have already been clocked up on both sides and BHP may now pursue global domination of the copper market by stalking other London-listed miners such as Antofagasta of Chile. Meanwhile, the £3.5 billion takeover of International Distribution Services, the parent of Royal Mail, by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky’s private EP Group, is cruising ahead with scant opposition – but

Portrait of the Week: Farage returns, Abbott reselected and Trump guilty 

Home Nigel Farage took over leadership of the Reform party from Richard Tice and is standing for parliament in Clacton. This came as news on Monday to Tice, and to Reform’s candidate for Clacton, Tony Mack. Outside the Wetherspoons pub where he launched his campaign, Farage had a McDonald’s banana milkshake thrown over him. Farage proposed net-zero immigration. The Conservatives then said they would ask the independent Migration Advisory Committee for a recommended level for an annual cap on visas, and put that to a parliamentary vote. Invasive Asian hornets, which can eat 50 bees a day, were found to have survived a British winter and might stay permanently. Rishi

Quentin Letts, Owen Matthews, Michael Hann, Laura Gascoigne, and Michael Simmons

31 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud: Quentin Letts takes us through his diary for the week (1:12); Owen Matthews details the shadow fleet helping Russia to evade sanctions (7:15); Michael Hann reports on the country music revival (15:05); Laura Gascoigne reviews exhibitions at the Tate Britain and at Studio Voltaire (21:20); and, Michael Simmons provides his notes on the post-pub stable, the doner kebab (26:20). Produced by Patrick Gibbons and Oscar Edmondson.  

The shadow fleet helping Russia to evade sanctions

Economic sanctions were meant to be the West’s secret weapon against Russia, a way of crippling Vladimir Putin’s war machine and bringing his invasion of Ukraine to a halt without Nato firing a shot. Instead, Russia’s economy and military remain in rude health. After recent heavy attacks north of Kharkiv, Putin’s troops have seized more than 38 square miles of territory and stretched Kyiv’s already thinly deployed defences as they grind forward in Donbas. Putin has demoted his long-serving defence minister Sergei Shoigu, replacing him with the little-known economist Andrei Belousov. Appointing a finance specialist as military chief was a reminder that armies march on money. In Russia’s case, oil

Anti-Semitism has returned to French politics

New Caledonia is an archipelago in the South Pacific not far from Australia. James Cook discovered it in 1774, but, after concluding that too many languages were spoken there, he declined to annex it to the British Empire. France, not as cautious, made it a distant colony under Napoleon III. Today, riots are convulsing the territory. Supposedly ‘decolonial’ in aim, they are most certainly violent and fuelled by the anti-white racism that, from London to Brussels and Paris, has become the trademark of the new radical left. The strangest thing is that among the flags of the Kanak independence movement, one also sees Azeri flags. Why Azeri? Because Azerbaijan, which

Martin Vander Weyer

The need for greed

I suspect I’ve had a lot more fun writing about the annual Sunday Times Rich List over the years than many of its denizens have had clambering into it and staying there behind their high-tech security gates and their phalanx of tax advisers. The 2024 roll call includes some great British wealth-creation stories – led by the industrialist Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the inventor Sir James Dyson and the Far Eastern trading Swire dynasty. But if the completed jigsaw of 300 names makes any sort of picture, it is of a vast treasure hoard from elsewhere, and in some cases from nowhere, that has found a relatively safe vault in the