Why don’t international laws apply to Russia?

The Kremlin has denied it targeted the Kyiv children’s hospital that was struck by a missile on Monday. It was aiming at legitimate military and civil infrastructure targets, it says, but the missile was intercepted by Ukraine’s Nasams defence system and the debris fell on the children’s ward. This is an easily debunked lie. The Spectator’s correspondent Svitlana Morenets was nearby and reports in these pages that there is plenty of video evidence to show exactly what happened: a perfectly intact, precision-guided Kh-101 missile going exactly where it was aimed. It is a war crime to target hospitals, yet Russia does so and still a European head of government, Viktor

Lara Prendergast

Downfall: how Nigel Farage became the left’s greatest weapon

44 min listen

This week: Downfall. Our cover piece examines Nigel Farage’s role in the UK general election. Spectator editor Fraser Nelson argues that Farage has become the left’s greatest weapon, but why? How has becoming leader of Reform UK impacted the campaign and could this lead to a fundamental realignment of British politics? Fraser joined the podcast to talk through his theory, with former UKIP MEP Patrick O’Flynn (02:10). Next: Spectator writer Svitlana Morenets has returned to Ukraine to report on the war, which is now well into its third year. How are Ukrainians coping and what is daily life like? Svitlana joined the podcast from Kyiv with Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov (21:53). And finally: has

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

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

What Nigel Farage gets wrong about the Ukraine war

‘We [the West] provoked this war [in Ukraine],’ Nigel Farage recently declared on BBC Panorama, blaming Putin’s invasion of the neighboring country on the ‘ever eastward expansion of Nato and the European Union’. He later doubled down on his claims, arguing that Putin’s behavior in Ukraine was ‘reprehensible, but…’ Farage of course is not alone in explaining Putin’s invasion of Ukraine by blaming Nato and the EU. For a start, Putin himself has done so repeatedly. Putin and Farage clearly see eye-to-eye on this point. But Farage’s views are also aligned closely with those of several academics, best represented by John Mearsheimer whose famous article – ‘Why the Ukraine Crisis Is

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

Mark Galeotti

Why is Putin still so desperate for western validation?

Everyone loves Russia, or at least echoes its talking points – if you believe the country’s state media. Why should it be so important for Vladimir Putin, who tries to appear impervious to foreign criticism, to magnify any seemingly supporting words? It underlines a centuries-old insecurity at the heart of Russia There was a distinct absence of western guests at last week’s St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), once Russia’s shop window for investment and trade deals and nicknamed the ‘Russian Davos’. There was the Hungarian foreign minister (who presented attending as an act of maverick courage), but otherwise the main dignitaries there came from the Global South – or

A short history of cricket in Ukraine

Since the start of Vladimir Putin’s cold-blooded invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the stories and images being broadcast from the country are horrifying. War is gutting Ukrainians’ lives, but the ambitious and quirky place where I have lived and worked is still there. Many people are surprised, for example, to learn that Ukraine has several cricket teams. The father of cricket in Ukraine is a man named Hardeep Singh, who brought the game to the city of Kharkiv in 1993. After first arranging hit-arounds in local parks, where he and other expats from India could stave off homesickness, Singh went on to create a cricket league with several teams. If

Zelensky’s time as president is up, but he’s right to stay put

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky’s five-year term is up, but he’s staying put. Unsurprisingly, some of Zelensky’s critics – and the Kremlin – have questioned his legitimacy. But Zelensky, who marked five years in office on 20 May, is right not to step down. The idea that, as a result, there has been some unprecedented outrage against democracy simply doesn’t stand up. It is impossible to conduct a free, fair and representative presidential election The practical problem in holding an election is obvious. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its occupation of parts of Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014 gave it control of 16,000 square miles of Ukrainian territory. The full-scale military

Lisa Haseldine

Zelensky feels the pressure as Russian offensive intensifies

Volodymyr Zelensky this morning cancelled all of his upcoming foreign trips. He was scheduled to travel to Madrid on Friday to meet King Felipe VI. The news was announced by the president’s press secretary, and comes as Ukrainian troops struggle to hold back a renewed offensive by Russia in the Kharkiv region. Recognising the urgency of the situation, Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, who has been in Kyiv this week, said the US would provide another $2 billion (£1.6 billion) in funds on top of the $60 billion aid package signed off by Joe Biden earlier this month. The fighting in the Kharkiv region has been intensifying for

Gavin Mortimer

Draft dodgers are undermining Ukraine’s plea for help

Emmanuel Macron warned recently that Europe is in ‘mortal danger’. The French president said that Russia cannot be allowed to win its war with Ukraine. He reiterated the idea he first floated in February of sending soldiers to Ukraine, saying: ‘I’m not ruling anything out, because we are facing someone who is not ruling anything out.’ Macron’s comments come amid reports of an upsurge in draft dodgers in Ukraine. They are frightened because their government has launched a crackdown on men avoiding the draft. In November last year it was reported that as many as 650,000 Ukrainians of military age have left the country since the war began. ‘Some men paid

The US war aid might be too little, too late for Ukraine

At the last possible moment, after months of prevarication and with Russian troops on the brink of a major breakthrough in Ukraine, the US Congress last night voted to approve more than $61 billion (£50 billion) worth of military assistance for Kyiv. In a vote that a vocal minority of Republicans had desperately attempted to stop through procedural objections and threats to remove speaker Mike Johnson, 210 Democrats and 101 Republicans finally joined to support Ukraine. A majority of Republicans – 112 Congress members – voted against. The money comes at a critical moment in Ukraine’s war effort. With US aid stalled in Congress since last October and European allies

Ukraine’s plight is getting more desperate by the day

Driving into the bomb-damaged eastern Ukrainian town of Kostiantynivka you can hear the impacts from the big Russian guns and bombs. Block by block they are blowing apart a small workers town just to the east called Chasiv Yar. On the wall of a destroyed building a Ukrainian soldier had vented his frustration. ‘We are not asking too much, we just need artillery shells and aviation,’ the graffiti reads. ‘[The] rest we do ourselves.’ But even that sentiment is now starting to feel dated. A more accurate depiction of how Ukrainian frontline soldiers feel was probably the large phallus that had been spray-painted over the top of the cri de

Putin wants to create an unliveable no man’s land in Ukraine

The residents of Velyka Pysarivka had almost finished renovating their municipal library. They laid the floor with large white tiles, built a special section for hundreds of brightly-coloured children’s books which they brought in from the city, and even painted a large cartoon giraffe with oversized spectacles on one wall to make the place feel welcoming. Although the Ukrainian village was close to the Russian border it had, until last month, escaped the worst of the war. And with no end to the conflict in sight the townsfolk decided they had to get on with their lives and invest in the future. One glide bomb can turn even the most

Svitlana Morenets

Ukraine’s controversial new conscription law takes effect

The Ukrainian parliament has finally stopped delaying the inevitable and voted for a new law that tightens mobilisation processes, strengthens penalties for draft dodgers and allows the government to track Ukrainian men of military age who are living abroad, at its second reading yesterday. Once the law is signed by Volodymyr Zelensky, more men aged 25 and over will undergo military training for two to three months, then head to the front line in time for Russia’s summer offensive. But not everything went smoothly. By the request of Oleksandr Syrskyi, the new commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, lawmakers have removed provisions on demobilisation and the rotation of military personnel from the bill.

Will Biden support Ukraine’s attacks on Russia?

This time last year, Volodymyr Zelensky was touring western capitals, calling for weapons and money to launch a decisive summer offensive. Nato eventually provided Leopard and Challenger tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, M777 howitzers, Himars rocket artillery and Patriot air defences – but too little, too late. The much-vaunted offensive went nowhere, despite a mutiny by the Wagner Group and widespread disarray in the Russian army. Instead, Soledar, Bakhmut and Avdiivka were seized. Today, Russian missile assaults are intensifying, not receding. In March, Russia hit Ukraine with 264 missiles and 515 drones. A relentless bombardment of Kharkiv is making Ukraine’s second city uninhabitable. In response, Kyiv’s most successful strategy to

Despite Russia’s intensifying attacks, Kharkiv carries on

Irina Kotenko, 53, was already awake when a Russian drone crashed into the roof of her three-story building at 1 a.m. last Thursday. She had heard another strike nearby and was wondering where it might have hit. The explosion blew out the windows of her home. Somehow Irina, her husband, Vitaly, 48, and her daughter Aleksandra, 21, survived unscathed. Aleksandra began to shout: ‘Mum, are you alive?’ In the next-door flat a neighbour, an older man who lived alone, was buried in rubble. Soon emergency workers arrived. Outside firemen poured water on to the roof of the building to put out a fire that had broken out. These days little

What the rise of Islam means for Putin’s Russia

The term ‘Russians’, which the world likes to use for the 144 million citizens of my country, is often a misleading one. Granted, in the 2020 census, 71 per cent of those surveyed identified themselves with this label, with only three ethnic groups coming in above one per cent: Tatars (3.2 per cent), Chechens (1.14 per cent and Bashkirs (1.07 per cent). This all suggests a near mono-ethnic state with only minor influences from other nationalities and cultures. But nothing could be further from the truth. Many non-Russians, provided they master the language well enough, simply prefer to identify themselves with the ‘title nation’. Sticking with the majority and even mimicking it

Svitlana Morenets

Ukraine has brought the war back to Russian soil

Ukraine can’t stop Vladimir Putin’s re-election as Russian President on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean it can’t shatter the perfect image of his sacred day – by bringing the war once again to Russian soil. Throughout the week, Ukrainian drones have been striking oil refineries and energy facilities deep inside Russian territory, while anti-Kremlin Russian militias fighting on Ukraine’s side have crossed the border on tanks and started a fight with Russian forces. This incursion into Russian territory wasn’t unprecedented: last spring, exiled Russians fighting on Ukraine’s side infiltrated several Russian towns in the Belgorod region, fought for several days, and then withdrew. The dire state of Russia’s border defences hasn’t improved

Why can’t Ukraine trademark the phrase: ‘Russian warship, go f**k yourself’?

Ukraine’s bravery and daring in the face of Russian aggression marks a stark contrast with European – or at least EU – lethargy and disinclination to take sides. A recent spat over, of all things, European trade mark law is a case in point. In early 2022, a soldier on the desolate Snake Island in the Black Sea famously added to Ukrainian folklore by greeting the Russian cruiser Moskva, which had come to take over the island, with the words ‘Russian warship, go f**k yourself’. This slogan quickly became hot merchandising property. Kyiv understandably decided to put to work to aid the war effort: it applied to register the phrase as a European

John Keiger

Why is Macron suddenly pro-Ukraine? Fear of Le Pen

Its an old ruse to deploy foreign policy for domestic purposes. France has a long history in that vein. General de Gaulle was adept at using popular domestic anti-Americanism on the world stage to embarrass pro-Nato political forces at home; François Mitterrand exploited the early 1980s Euromissile crisis with the Soviet Union to humiliate and isolate the French Communist party. Emmanuel Macron’s startling declaration that the West should not rule out putting troops on the ground in Ukraine is less a Damascene conversion than a strategy to stymy the Rassemblement National’s runaway 10 point poll lead for June’s EU elections. Macron has doubled down on his new-found international bellicosity by

Lost friendships are a painful price of the Ukraine war

One thing you learn about war, if you are close enough for it to touch you, is that it splits the atom. Situations and relationships that have grown over time and seem to have deep roots – a life in fact – can be blown apart in a day. Now, over two years on from the start of Vladimir Putin’s ‘special military operation’ (which came at a time when I was living in Rostov-on-Don, an hour or two from the Ukrainian border), I’m still in touch with several Russians I knew back then. We find common ground, avoid certain topics and continue the conversation. But other friendships were killed stone dead,

What drives Ukraine’s fighting spirit?

Judging by the welcome uplift in commentary around the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the popular western view appears to be that the war began on 24 February 2022. However, that aggression – the largest incursion by one European country on another since the Second World War – was just an explosive escalation of a war that had started ten years ago. Throughout those years, Kyiv’s Mykhailivska Square has featured rows of Russian military vehicles captured during the war in Donbas. The population of Ukraine is less than a quarter of Russia’s but despite this disparity in size the country has kept the Russian bear at bay