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Daily review: Russia opens “cultural center” in seized Donetsk temple, US&UK warn Russia against invading Ukraine, Associated Trio visits Brussels.

This is a digest of today’s Ukrainian and Ukraine-related news. Russia has opened its “cultural center” in occupied Donetsk in a former Mormon temple, seized by Russian-hybrid forces back in 2014. As the US and the UK warn Russia against incursion into Ukraine amid Russian military buildup near Ukrainian borders, Ukraine announces 10 large international drills in 2022. Ukraine’s security service says Russia employed some 7,000 of its officers to work online over undermining the situation in Ukraine. Meanwhile, prime ministers of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova – the so-called Associated Trio – visited Brussels for the first time together to meet with EU officials.

Past 24 hours in the war zone

  • On 29 November, according to Ukraine’s Joint-Forces Operation Staff, Russian-hybrid forces launched 8 attacks on Ukrainian positions in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Mariupol sectors, two Ukrainian soldiers and one civilian were wounded.
  • Between the evenings of November 26-28, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission recorded 495 violations in Donetsk Oblast and 164 in Luhansk Oblast.
  • Russian-led militants denied OSCE passage to non-government-controlled areas near Zolote and Molodizhne, Luhansk Oblast.
  • Direct aggression against Ukraine would lead to huge losses for Russia, says German Ambassador to Ukraine Anka Feldhusen.
  • US Department of Defense decides to increase number of soldiers in Germany, lifting the 25,000-man limit introduced by Trump, reports Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Mara Karlin.
  • Russian units arrive in non-government-controlled areas in Donbas to strengthen sabotage and sapper units, reports Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate.
  • Turkish President Erdogan offers mediation in Ukraine-Russia talks to reduce tensions.

Russia opens “Russky Dom” in captured Mormon temple of occupied Donetsk

LDS Church temple in Donetsk prior to 2014. Photo: shukach.com

Russia has opened its so-called “Russky Dom” (Russian House) in the occupied city of Donetsk, establishing yet another way to promote the narratives of Russian propaganda in the east of Ukraine. Presented as cultural centers, the Russian Houses across the world are affiliated to Rossotrudnichestvo, the Kremlin’s main organization for advancing Russia’s so-called “soft power” abroad.

Notably, the occupation authorities of Donetsk didn’t come up with any better idea than to open this “cultural center” in the temple of the local LDS church, seized by Russian-hybrid forces back in summer 2014.

Warnings to Russia

Antony Blinken in Latvia. 30 November 2021. Photo: Twitter/SecBlinken

At a news conference in Riga, where a meeting of NATO foreign ministers took place on 30 November, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Moscow that any renewed aggression in Ukraine would trigger “serious consequences,” amid growing Western concern over a Russian military buildup near the Ukrainian border.

Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was reportedly going to underline at the meeting that an incursion into Ukraine would be a “strategic mistake.” Earlier, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called Russia’s military build-up near the border with Ukraine “unprovoked and unexplained.”

Ukraine to hold 10 large drills in 2022

The Ukrainian military is going to hold 10 large international drills in 2022. Reportedly, at least 21,500 Ukrainian and 11,000 servicemen from the United States, Britain, Poland, Romania, and other country-partners would participate in the drills.

Russia may fully shut down its gas transit through Ukraine

Russia may not extend the agreement on natural gas transit to the European Union after 2024, according to Yuriy Vitrenko , head of Ukraine’s state energy firm Naftogaz. He stated it in his interview with Reuters.

Some 7,000 Russian special service agents work remotely from Russia to undermine the situation in Ukraine – SBU

“To date, about 7,000 officers of special services work against Ukraine from the territory of the Russian Federation,” said Illia Vitiuk, Head of the Cyber Security Department of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), on TV on 29 November 29.

The SBU Cyber Security Department, he says, has blocked 15 extensive networks of anti-Ukrainian Internet agitators since 2014 and has shut down about 20 sockpuppet farms with a capacity of more than 150,000 accounts.

Associated Trio’s first visit to Brussels

Left to right: Moldovan, Ukrainian, and Georgian PMs – respectively, Natalia Gavrili?a , Denys Shmyhal, Irakli Garibashvili – meeting in Brussels on 30 November 2021. Photo: Government of Georgia’s Press Office

Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal , Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili , and Prime Minister of Moldova Natalia Gavrili?a held a meeting in Brussels on 30 November, prior to meeting with top EU officials, ahead of the December 15 summit of the EU’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative.

It was the first visit to Brussels of the three PMs in the Associated Trio format, which is a joint initiative of Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova launched in May 2021 for deepening cooperation towards common European goals and EU membership. Later the three PMs met with President of the European Council Charles Michel .

Russian-occupied Crimea

A Russian court in Simferopol convicted Crimean Tatar civic leader Dilyaver Memetov for a 12-day arrest, this was the price he pays for coming to see human rights lawyer just released from his 12-day detention for refusal to undress in administrative proceedings. As of today, 127 Crimeans are imprisoned in Crimea or Russia on political, national, and religious grounds.

History

On this day in 1939, less than two months after the Soviet-Nazi campaign to conquer and divide Poland, the Soviet Union invaded Finland. The USSR faced fierce opposition and in the course of 3,5 months of the war, its casualties approached 400,000 (against 70,000 from the Finnish side). The Soviets lost up to 3,500 tanks (the Finns only a couple of dozens) and over 500 aircraft (with only 62 lost by Finland).

Not everyone in the USSR believed Soviet propaganda; many were against invading Finland, according to KGB records. Read our archive article to know how Soviet citizens changed their attitude to the war in its course:

Not everyone in the USSR supported the 1939 invasion of Finland, KGB archives show

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