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Ukraine Talks, ep. 2. Russia’s nuclear ambitions in space: A threat or a bluff?

The second episode of Ukraine Talks delves into the motives and risks behind Russia’s plan to launch nuclear weapons into orbit, the strategic and political consequences of the Ukrainian troops’ retreat from the frontline town of Avdiivka, Navalny’s death and US military aid to Ukraine.
Ukraine Talks
Ukraine Talks. Episode 2.
Ukraine Talks, ep. 2. Russia’s nuclear ambitions in space: A threat or a bluff?

In the second episode of Ukraine Talks, a weekly podcast by Euromaidan Press, two Kyiv-based Ukrainian journalists, Ivan Verstyuk and Serge Havrylets, discussed what the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Avdiivka in the Donetsk Oblast (eastern Ukraine) could mean for the future of the Russo-Ukrainian war, how the death of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and Vladimir Putin critic, will change Russia, whether Ukraine will finally receive military aid from the United States, and why Russia plans to launch nuclear weapons into space.

On 14 February 2024, House Speaker Mike Johnson said at a press conference of the Republican Party leadership in the House of Representatives that a standalone bill to provide aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan would not be passed in the House of Representatives because it ignores problems with US border security.

The Speaker of the Republican-led House of Representatives has been blocking the approval of new aid funding for Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel for several months amid disputes in the US Congress over strengthening US border security. The suspension of US military aid significantly impairs Ukraine’s ability to repel a full-scale Russian invasion.

On 14 February 2024, US Congressman (Republican) Mike Turner, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that his committee “has provided all members of Congress with information regarding a serious national security threat.” The same day, the sources familiar with the discussions amid US top officials who have access to classified information told ABC News that the US intelligence suggested that Russia plans to launch nuclear weapons into space.

On 16 February 2024, Alexei Navalny, 47, died in a Russian prison. Navalny was a Russian opposition leader, lawyer, anti-corruption activist and political prisoner. He organized anti-government demonstrations and stood for election, advocating reforms against corruption in Russia and against President Vladimir Putin and his government. Navalny was a member of the Coordination Council of the Russian Opposition, leader of the Russia of the Future party, and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FCF).

Through his social media channels, Navalny and his team published material about corruption in Russia, organized political demonstrations, and promoted his campaigns. Navalny received a suspended sentence for embezzlement in 2013 and 2014. Both criminal cases were widely considered politically motivated and intended to bar him from running in future elections.

In August 2020, Navalny was hospitalized in serious condition after being poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. He was medically evacuated to Berlin and discharged a month later. In January 2021, Navalny returned to Russia and was immediately detained on accusations of violating parole conditions while he was hospitalized in Germany.

Alexei Navalny was recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience and awarded the Sakharov Prize for his work in human rights. He was serving a 19-year sentence in a high-security prison in the town of Kharp beyond the Arctic Circle.

On 17 February 2024, after more than four months of heavy fighting, Ukrainian troops withdrew from Avdiivka in the Donetsk Oblast (eastern Ukraine) to avoid encirclement. Ukrainians managed to retreat from Avdiivka in an organized manner and maintain the combat capability of the units defending the city for many months. The capture of Avdiivka became a Pyrrhic victory for the Russian army due to the extremely high level of personnel and military equipment losses.

To learn more, please join our podcast, where Ivan Verstyuk and Serge Havrylets discuss the above topics in detail.

Ivan Verstyuk is a journalist and analyst in Kyiv, Ukraine. Formerly an editor at the Kyiv Post and New Voice of Ukraine, he has 20 years of experience in media. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Ivan has been commenting on war developments for BBC and several Ukrainian publications. He authored a book about Ukraine and its fight – “Changes Outside My Windows” (in Ukrainian), published by Yakaboo in 2022.

Serge Havrylets is a Kyiv-based journalist with Euromaidan Press and a screenwriter. His pitch-winning script for the Ukrainian film “Brass Band” was set to become a movie in 2022, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine put the film on hold. Serge covers political life in Ukraine and abroad and the Russo-Ukrainian war.

Related:

Consequences of reshuffle in Ukraine’s military command and Putin’s big interview

Russian authorities announce Alexei Navalny’s death in prison

Russia to launch nukes into space, US intel warns

Why Avdiivka fell to Russia

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