Basketball player against arms dealer: The USA and Russia have carried out a headline-grabbing prisoner exchange, which is celebrated above all in Moscow. Meanwhile, Kyiv laments the dangers posed by mines and plans an offensive on “frozen ground”. The developments of the night.

Ukraine plans offensive on “frozen ground” and could succeed

US Chief of Staff Mark A. Milley expects Ukraine to take “offensive actions” this winter. He told the Wall Street Journal that while the pace of hostilities slowed in the fall, the cold season presented a “potential opportunity” to launch attacks.

“Due to the weather and terrain in the depths of winter,” Zelenskyy’s armed forces may be able to achieve operational success, war experts from the Institute for the Study of War agree. According to the ISW assessment, the Ukrainian armed forces are probably preparing to take advantage of the frozen terrain in order to be able to move around more easily than in the muddy autumn months,” the assessment reads.

Selenskyj complains about the danger from Russian mines

Meanwhile, the armed forces of Russia and the attacked neighboring country continue to wage war on the battlefield in Ukraine. And even where the fighting has ended, deadly danger still lurks in many places. Above all, President Zelenskyj lamented the omnipresent risk posed by Russian mines on Ukrainian territory. “This is the form of Russian terror that we will have to contend with for years to come,” he said in his daily video message on Thursday. He accused Russia of deliberately leaving the mines as a deadly threat to civilians as well. He is therefore certain that mine terrorism will be one of the charges against Russia after the war, said the head of state.

In addition, Zelenskyj reported on his talks with Slovakian ministers, which served to strengthen European solidarity and to find a common line for the next package of sanctions. The Ukrainian President is calling on the West specifically to impose sanctions on Russia’s financial and energy sectors. Most recently, the EU had set a price cap of $60 for shipped Russian oil. Although this is below the world market price, Kyiv had demanded a significantly lower price limit.

Russia is looking for a famous YouTuber

The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, made it clear, according to information from “ISW”, that Russia allows opinions that do not correspond to the Kremlin’s attitude in order to “monitor their influence in society”. This gives you more overview and control, so the tenor. They would also “only remove these figures from the Kremlin’s field of vision,” according to the military experts.

However, the Kremlin continues to tighten censorship against Russian opposition bloggers who criticize the Russian government, analyze combat operations, or publicize concerns about mobilization. According to “ISW”, Russian officials are said to have announced a search for the well-known Russian YouTube blogger Dmitry Ivanov (1.7 million viewers). He is said to have analyzed the siege of Mariupol and criticized Maria Zakharova.

“Merchant of Death” lands in Moscow

In Moscow, nationalist circles cheer the homecoming of Viktor But, the “dealer of death”. According to information from state television, the Russian arms dealer has landed in his home country. Brittney Griner, a US basketball player who is being held in Russia for drug possession, was exchanged for Bout, who is incarcerated in the US.

The athlete was caught with a small amount of vape cartridges and hashish at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport earlier this year and sentenced to nine years in a trial criticized as politically motivated. In Kyiv, meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj wants to have the Russian leadership put on trial for “mine terror”.

US Republicans criticize deal celebrated by Russia

Despite the huge tensions in the wake of the Ukraine war, Washington and Moscow had agreed on the sensational exchange of prisoners. US basketball player Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia, and arms dealer But, who is behind bars in the US, were flown to the United Arab Emirates, where the prisoner swap took place at Abu Dhabi airport.

Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova stressed that President Vladimir Putin personally campaigned for But’s release. The deal is being celebrated in right-wing circles in Russia in particular: “The exchange of Buts is more than advantageous: in 2019 the Russian authorities offered to hand over 15 Americans for his return, the process now took place according to the formula 1 to 1,” wrote the military blog “Rybar”, which is close to the Russian Defense Ministry, on Thursday, adding that Moscow did not have to release a valuable spy or mercenary, just “an ordinary basketball player”.

The government in Washington justified its actions after criticism from US Republicans, who see the American Paul Whelan, who is still in prison in Russia, as being abandoned. “It wasn’t about us having to choose between Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told CNN. It was about releasing a prisoner rather than not. The Russians blocked US proposals to release Whelan The former marine was arrested in Russia in 2018 and convicted of alleged espionage.

Report: 300,000 Ukrainians received Russian passports during the war

According to a media report, around 300,000 Ukrainians have received Russian passports since the beginning of the war. In October alone, after the Kremlin annexed four Ukrainian regions, 70,000 to 80,000 people were naturalized, the Kremlin-critical Internet portal Mediazona reported on Thursday, citing statistics from the Interior Ministry. Most applicants received their new Russian passports in the southern Russian region of Rostov-on-Don and in the Crimea peninsula, annexed by Moscow since 2014.

That will be important on Friday

The verdict against the well-known opposition figure Ilya Yashin is planned for Friday in Moscow. The 39-year-old is not only a confidant of the imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, but also an opponent of the war. Because he denounced Russian war crimes in Ukraine in a stream, the judiciary accuses him of “discrediting the armed forces”. The prosecutor is demanding nine years in prison for Yashin.

Also read: The Ukraine update on December 8th