Every week we wrap up the must-reads from our coverage of the Ukraine war, from news and features to analysis, visual guides and opinion.
‘I don’t see justice in this war’: Russian soldier exposes rot at core of Ukraine invasion
Pavel Filatyev knew the consequences of what he was saying. The ex-paratrooper understood he was risking prison, that he would be called a traitor and would be shunned by his former comrades-in-arms. His own mother had urged him to flee Russia while he still could. He said it anyway.
“I don’t see justice in this war. I don’t see truth here,” he told Andrew Roth and Pyotr Sauer over a tucked-away cafe table in the Moscow financial district. It was his first time sitting down in person with a journalist since returning from the war in Ukraine.
Two weeks ago, Filatyev published a 141-page bombshell: a day-by-day description of how his paratrooper unit was sent to mainland Ukraine from Crimea to enter Kherson and capture the seaport. It is the most detailed voluntary account from a Russian soldier participating in the invasion of Ukraine.
Filatyev described how his exhausted and poorly equipped unit stormed into mainland Ukraine behind a hail of rocket fire in late February, with little in terms of concrete logistics or objectives, and no idea why the war was taking place at all. “It took me weeks to understand there was no war on Russian territory at all, and that we had just attacked Ukraine,” he said, his fingers shaking from stress as he lit another cigarette.
“We were sitting under artillery fire by Mykolaiv,” he explained. “At that point I already thought that we’re just out here doing bullshit, what the fuck do we need this war for? And I really had this thought: ‘God, if I survive, then I’ll do everything that I can to stop this.’”
Ukraine hints it was behind Crimea attack
A series of mysterious and devastating strikes in occupied Crimea destroyed a key railway junction used for supplying Russian troops and a military airbase this week, Luke Harding reports.
Smoke billowed into the sky near Dzhankoi on Tuesday while several explosions appeared to have destroyed a Russian ammunition depot and an electricity substation about 125 miles (200km) from the frontline with Ukrainian forces.
According to Russian media, a further blast took place at a military airfield in the village of Hvardeyskye, not far from Crimea’s regional capital, Simferopol.
While not formally confirming responsibility for the strike, Kyiv officials reacted with glee on social media
“The reasons for the explosions in the occupied territory can be different, very different, in particular, I quote the definition of the occupiers themselves, ‘bungling’,” Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, mused in an evening address.
Kyiv has hit Crimea three times in a week, in clinical and flamboyant style. Russia’s logistics and weapons dumps have been badly affected.
‘It’s madness’: Putin turns nuclear plant into frontline
The situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is perilous, Luke Harding and Christopher Cherry reported from Nikopol, the Ukrainian-held city 7km away on the opposite bank of the Dnieper River.
The plant – Europe’s largest – is now on the frontline between Russian-occupied and Ukrainian-controlled territory. Russia is using the sprawling site as a military base from which it has been shelling the nearby towns of Nikopol and Marhanets.
According to Ukraine’s state energy company, Energoatom, Russia has fired on the plant several times. Shells landed close to the fire station and director’s office, not far from a radioactive sources storage unit.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has demanded access and called on the Russians to demilitarize it to avoid a possible nuclear disaster.
One former senior employee, who spoke to Luke Harding on the condition of anonymity, said the Russians were shelling the plant from surrounding villages and roads with the goal of raising the stakes in negotiations with Kyiv.
But the Kremlin is also trying to do something unprecedented: to steal another state’s nuclear reactor, he adds. Engineers are working to connect the facility to the electricity grid in occupied Crimea and cut it off from Ukrainian homes. One reactor has already been knocked out. It is a ghoulish game of radioactive Russian roulette, in a country that has known the 1986 Chornobyl atomic disaster.
Dan Sabbagh in Kyiv covered the moment Zelenskiy vowed his forces would target Russian soldiers who shot at or from the plant.
Russia is resorting to “unconcealed nuclear blackmail”, Zelenskiy alleged. A “terrorist state”, it was threatening the “whole world” with Armageddon. He urged the UN and international community to do something.
Ukraine aims to create chaos within Russian forces, Zelenskiy adviser says
Ukraine is engaged in a counteroffensive aimed at creating “chaos within Russian forces” by striking at the invaders’ supply lines deep into occupied territories, according to a key adviser to the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Mykhailo Podolyak told Dan Sabbagh and Luke Harding there could be more attacks in the “next two or three months” similar to those which struck Crimea.
Speaking from the presidential offices in Kyiv, Podolyak said: “Our strategy is to destroy the logistics, the supply lines and the ammunition depots and other objects of military infrastructure. It’s creating a chaos within their own forces.”
The adviser, often described as the country’s third most powerful figure, said Kyiv’s approach ran counter to Moscow’s use of blunt artillery power to gain territory in the Donbas region to the east, which has seen Russian troops destroy cities such as Mariupol and Sievierodonetsk in order to gain territory.
“So Russia has kind of taught everybody that a counteroffensive requires huge amounts of manpower like a giant fist and just go in one direction,” he said, but “a Ukrainian counteroffensive looks very different. We don’t use the tactics of the 60s and 70s, of the last century.”
‘A referendum is not right’: occupied Kherson looks to uncertain future
“A city with a Russian history,” proclaim billboards across the Ukrainian city of Kherson, occupied by the Russian army since the first days of March. Others display the Russian flag, or quotes from Vladimir Putin.
Over the past five months, Moscow has appointed an occupation administration to run the Kherson region and ordered schools to teach the Russian curriculum. Local people are encouraged to apply for Russian passports to access pensions and other benefits.
The next stage of the Kremlin’s plan is a referendum, to add a dubious sense of legality to these facts on the ground, and create a pretext for bringing Kherson and other occupied parts of southern Ukraine into Russia, using an updated version of the 2014 Crimea playbook.
“You have to remember there was never any talk in Kherson of a referendum; no one thought about it before the war. Now it will be a referendum at gunpoint,” said Kostyantyn, who worked in the IT sector before the occupation, told Shaun Walker and Pyotr Sauer.
Calls grow for a Russian visa ban
Thousands of Russians have flocked to Europe on short-term visas since the country invaded Ukraine, Andrew Roth and Pyotr Sauer report.
Some sought an escape from repression, while summer has brought Russian tourists just looking to escape to the beach. Now some European politicians are calling for an end to the short-term visas that allow Russians to holiday in the EU as the war in Ukraine rages on.
“They need to see a free world,” said Ilya Krasilshchik, a Russian online publisher who has been threatened with prosecution in Russia for opposing the war and is currently in Europe. “The experience of the Soviet Union shows that closing borders does not lead to overthrow of the regime.”
The British passport-holding son of a Russian businessman said wealthy Russians would probably find a way around any ban. “The elite will always find a way to get to Europe,” he said. “Many of my generation went to school here. We have lived long enough in the west to receive residency permits or a second passport… There will always be loopholes for those with money.”