Like many other topics linked to Ukraine, the grain crisis was also used to discredit Kyiv and undermine international assistance to this country. Certain aspects about this story have been exaggerated or taken out of context, while quite a few false narratives have also surfaced in the region. Veridica has examined 12 burning questions about the Ukrainian grain crisis.
Latvia is a staunch supporter of Ukraine. However, around one quarter of its population is made up of Russian ethnics, and the number of those speaking Russian as a first language is higher. The war in Ukraine brought into focus the loyalties of that population – do they support Riga’s policy and Ukraine, or Russia’s aggression and president Vladimir Putin? No one seems to know the answer to that.
The war in Iraq started with a campaign against Saddam Hussein’s army and ended with the defeat of the Islamic State. In-between these milestones, the Sunnis and Shiites staged insurrections and started a civil war. Thousands of suicide bomb attacks were carried out during this period while battles left whole cities destroyed. Veridica presents the milestones of one of the most devastating conflicts in the Middle East.
Putin’s Russia is a conglomerate of toxic residue carried over from successive historical eras. From Russia’s imperial past, Russia inherited the fixation of becoming a global power. From the Soviet era, Putin sought to capitalize on the symbolic remnants of the superpower status, to make Russians believe this chapter in Russia’s history represented the pinnacle of their political existence. He added to this legacy the cynical and cunning attitudes specific to the criminal underworld, and he wrapped them in the illusion of power and wealth, to conceal the ruin and rot of widespread corruption.
The linguistic and identity issue has persisted throughout the Republic of Moldova’s 30 years of independence. The most important claim during the national liberation movement of 1988-91 – the recognition of the Romanian language as the official language and the fact that Moldovans are part of the Romanian people – was hijacked in the following years by politicians from the old communist nomenclature, who also succeeded to include in the Constitution the phrase “the Moldovan language” as the state language.
The Russian leadership believes the country is permanently at war and pursues imperial and expansionist policies, the Russian independent media writes. Russian journalists also say Putin’s plan to restore “Great Russia” seeks to capture Ukraine through armed force and Belarus by forcing a unification.
Russia launched its “special military operation” in the early hours of February 24. The scale and direction of the Russian attack show that Moscow was planning a blietzkrieg that would end with the beheading of the Ukrainian leadership and at least the seizing of the entire Black Sea coast to open the way to Transnistria. However, the Ukrainian resistance overturned Moscow's plans, and the conflict became a long-lasting one, in which both camps have scored successes, but also failures. Veridica presents 10 of the main moments of this war.
Russians must understand that the war in Ukraine is lost in order to be able to bring about a change for the better in their own country, dissidents quoted by independent Russian media believe. They also talk about the losses caused by the war launched by Russia against the neighboring country, but also about the need for the West to become more attractive to developing countries, in order to win the competition with the alternative model offered by autocracies.
The Kremlin’s censors have little to monitor in terms of anti-Putin criticism, Russian investigative journalists note, after the entire opposition media in Russia was snuffed out or blocked. The Russian independent media also describe how the Kremlin has failed in recruiting mercenaries from Serbia for its Ukrainian war effort.
Russia’s imperialistic drive is the result of policies in the “liberal” ‘90s, which the West and Ukraine turned a blind eye to at the time, the Russian independent media writes. Independent publications also claim that, by invading Ukraine, Russia brought European closer together. Previously, Moscow was bankrolling MEPs to gather support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Independent journalists have also analyzed the attitude of Russian artists towards the war, and noticed that those artists who are particularly popular with the younger generations refrained from supporting the war and even criticized it.
Russian funeral businesses are overcrowded and cemeteries across the country are expanding or new ones are being created due to the large number of people killed in the war in Ukraine, the Russian independent media writes. Veridica has also discovered an analysis about the failure of the so-called Gerasimov doctrine, which was supposed to make the Russian army a modern force capable of fighting a new type of war with hybrid elements
“In Russia, journalists don’t ask questions”, one officer suspected of having played a part in the bombing of a residential building in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro told a journalist. The Russian independent media also says that the Kremlin’s efforts to increase the size of its army are doomed to fail, and describes how the Putin regime is trying to keep the Russians in check and strike fear into the international community.
Over the past year, the health of the former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is serving a six-year prison sentence, has been a major topic of political debate both inside and outside of Georgia. The opposition and Saakashvili's lawyers say he should be transferred to a European clinic to be treated for mental illness, personality deterioration and severe depression. The government claims that the former president is faking it. Finally, signals are coming from Brussels that if Mikheil Saakashvili dies in detention, Georgia's European future could be jeopardized.
The Russian authorities have for the first time admitted to sustaining heavy losses following a Ukrainian attack, and the shift in the communication strategy seems to be meant to prevent a scandal, the Russian independent media writes. Independent journalists also discuss the Russification of Ukrainian children deported to Russia and the arms race triggered in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
Estonian city Narva and Russia’s Ivangorod are connected by a Friendship Bridge, a name that sounds quite ironic nowadays when many Ukrainian refugees use the bridge to make their way to Europe. They had to go East, then North, as their route West was blocked by the fighting. A network of Russian and Estonian volunteers has been helping these refugees. While some continue towards other European countries, many decided to stay in the small Baltic country, which is starting to feel overwhelmed.
The war in Ukraine, sovereigntist rhetoric and conspiracy theories regarding the so-called sanitary dictatorship were the topics of scores of disinformation narratives and fake news published in Romania in 2022. They were promoted by/on various media outlets (România liberă, Național, Activenews, GoldFM, gândește.org etc.) as well as on social media by controversial figures such as Sorin Roșca Stănescu, Cosmin Gușă, Diana Șoșoacă and Adrian Severin.
The war launched by Russia in Ukraine also led to an intensification of the use of propaganda materials, fake news and disinformation targeting the Republic of Moldova. The goal was to discredit the West and undermine the values it promotes, but also to blame the pro-European government for the economic and social issues initially triggered by the Covid pandemic, then by the war.
The war in Ukraine is costing Russia more and more every day, the Russian independent media writes, reporting on the budget deficit for 2022 and the budget for 2023, also referring to the problems facing the industry sector, where the focus is on military production.
On February 24, 2022, the free world woke up to a dystopia. It had believed in peace more than it did in the signs of war, and had invested Putin with its good faith, just as it had done with Hitler in the years leading up to World War II. Russia has reintroduced large-scale war into a post-modern, hedonist society whose instincts were weakened by peace and prosperity, thus restoring evil to a global standing. Prior to the launch of the invasion, Europe hadn’t seen an interstate conflict in over 75 years. Any counterfactual examination is obviously pointless, but still, the question remains: how could the West fail again to foresee the predictable advent of a totalitarian regime with fascist overtones and the start of a new war in Europe?
Russian servicemen sent to the frontline in Ukraine are trying to flee the war and dodge military service, and the authorities respond by putting them on trial, the Russian independent media writes. Independent journalists also look at the Kremlin’s response to the defeats sustained by the Russian army in Ukraine: it fashioned a “crisis propaganda”.
The decision of the four countries to leave the International Investment Bank (IIB), also known as the “Russian Spy Bank”, came within days of Russia invading Ukraine. The legal proceedings were cumbersome in certain countries, due to the financial risks such a move entailed. Set up in 1970, the Bank continues to operate today in Budapest, although key decisions are taken in Moscow.
Rich Western countries with important markets are a major stake for China. Chinese companies are also present, to a lesser extent, in Central and Eastern Europe. But is this region a stake in itself for Beijing, or just a “stop” on the New Silk Road to the West? How extensive are bilateral relations and to what extent are they influenced by the West? Veridica collaborators in the region – Bulgaria, the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania and Ukraine – have tried to answer these questions.
The Russian independent media writes that Russian special services have developed a new propensity for “preventing” terrorist attacks perpetrated by Ukrainian “nationalists”. Journalists also note that the Kremlin’s official channels are still followed by Russians in the European diaspora, although they have been banned at EU level.
As the years pass, the last witnesses to the nightmare of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the death factory where more than a million Jews from all over Europe were exterminated, are passing away. What remains is the camp itself, and the objects within it that allow historians and conservationists to learn the stories of individuals. Their stories not only help to understand the tragedy of the victims who were exterminated here, but add a human, personal dimension to these memories.
The Russian independent media writes that losses among the ranks of the recently mobilized will soon reach 100 thousand people, but that’s not going to stop Putin. On the contrary, the Russian president will send every young recruit to the frontline as well. Independent journalists also tell the story of a couple recently arrested in Sweden, tied to the Russian military intelligence and the people who poisoned Sergey and Yulia Skripal.
The Russian independent media writes that a record-high number of inmates has disappeared from Russian prisons, after having been enrolled by Putin’s friend in the war against Ukraine. On the other hand, focus groups commissioned by the Kremlin reveal that the population opposes the war, contrary to the Kremlin’s wishes. Russian journalists also describe how generals guarding Putin want to use priests, hypnotists and psychics to bolster his protection.
Originally developed as surveillance aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – commonly known as drones – underwent a number of transformations, from aircraft used to carry out tactical airstrikes to weapons included in the arsenal of modern warfare, the same as artillery and aviation. Drones play a key role in the war in Ukraine as well, where in recent weeks they have been primarily used as instruments of terror.
The Russian independent media revealed how Russian emigrants in the United States are being used to promote the Kremlin’s agenda, particularly after the annexation of Crimea and in the context of the war in Ukraine. Independent journalists also noticed that official webpages of Russian authorities did not publish the map of territories annexed in this war, as well as the fact that information on budget spending is now unavailable, preventing the media from estimating war casualties.
Whole battalions of Russians have been annihilated on the Ukrainian frontline, and soldiers are left behind by their commanders, the Russian independent media writes. Independent journalists also reveal how propaganda officers are trained to reflect one of the biggest failures of Putin’s war – the retreat from Kherson
The Russian independent media writes that a third of Russian workers have left the country after the mobilization decree was passed. Journalists also note that fake news targeting the West stemming from Putin’s speech at the Valdai club could be true only if they pointed to Putin’s own actions.
Journalists have discovered the secret subdivision in the Russian army that is directing the missile attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. Moreover, the independent media noticed that the myths underlying Putin’s regime have unraveled one after the other due to the war in Ukraine.
Serbia has been, for years, Russia’s closest ally in the Balkans. For Moscow, the relationship is a means to project an image of power and international relevance. Belgrade, on the other hand, plays the pro-Russian card to show that it has an alternative to a West that bruised its ego during the Kosovo war, but also for some pragmatic reasons, such as Russia’s support in the UN Security Council and its role as an energy provider. Belgrade’s real interests lie, however, with the EU, and the war in Ukraine may bring about a change – albeit a slow one – in its relationship with Russia.