How the international media covered the Russo-Ukrainian war, April 29

Sasha Sverdlova

The Washington Post writes about disturbance among the Russian elite over the growing consequences of the invasion of Ukraine. While some elite - including senior officials like Chubais – have been able to leave, many others don’t have this option, Elvira Nabiulina Russian central bank chief allegedly tried to step down, but Putin refused. More than two months after the beginning of the full-scale Russo-Ukrainian war, some of the Russian tycoons have begun to speak. Most speak to international media anonymously, however, there are public complaints as well – they are primarily focused on criticizing the response to western sanctions, and never directly target Putin. According to some private conversations with Russian tycoons, no one beyond a very close circle had known about the plan for invasion and no one was able to prepare. There is a difference between Boris Yeltsin-years oligarchs and Putinʼs circle. Those who are speaking publicly are mostly from the Yeltsin era, as they remember different times. By contrast, those closest to Putin — who is from St. Petersburg and became fabulously wealthy after his rise to the presidency — such as Gennady Timchenko, Yury Kovalchuk, and Arkady Rotenburg, are resolutely silent. Putin let them make their fortunes and they won’t say a word against him or his regime. The other part of elite ― state officials are simply fine with the sanctions, as they still have their millions, but instead of Austria, they have to go to Sochi. At the same time, if the war lasts for long, all of them will begin to lose, then there is a possibility a big battle inside Russia will follow.

Ukraine is doing unexpectedly great in the digital battle against Russia, writes Wired. Ukraine has been effectively using digital tools to counter Russia, including deploying thousands of Starlink terminals, crowdsourcing intelligence collection, and pushing back the attempts to break down the internet, energy, and financial systems of Ukraine. One of the controversial tools Ukraine has been deploying is a face recognition Clearview AI, that is used to identify killed and captured Russian soldiers. According to Ukrainian officials, Moscow has maximized its capacity to launch cyber attacks, but one should not underestimate the threat as there are groups like Sandworm or Fancy Bear that are still active and can be threatening. Kyiv’s ability to beat back is possible due to years of training and cooperation with the West, including information-sharing with western intelligence agencies. While Ukraine is doing very well in the digital war, Wired quotes Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov who says the most effective way to keep Ukraine online for long – is to supply heavy weapons, that could actually end the war.

Bloomberg informs Russia is using dollar reserves to avoid defaulting on bonds, and the US is allowing the funds to be transferred according to a private conversation Forbes had with a Treasury official. Friday morning Russian Ministry of Finance sent dollars to the paying agent, following an unsuccessful attempt to make the payment in rubles in early April. Russia draining reserves has been a primary goal of economic sanctions, then it would lack the capacity to fund further invasion of Ukraine. While sanctions have previously frozen Russian foreign reserves, this payment was allowed allegedly due to Russian threats and cutting off gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland.

Russia is way behind achieving its objectives in Donbas, writes Politico citing Pentagon officials. An anonymous senior Defense Department official told the outlet that the Russians are falling behind on all fronts – north, east, and south out of Mariupol. According to the source, the Russian troops are not managing to link north with the south as they have planned. In addition to severe weather conditions, like rain and mud, Moscow is having problems with supplies, especially the precision-guided munitions. The official also said that according to Pentagon assessment, Ukrainians “continue to resist effectively in the Donbas”.