Your Thursday Briefing: Russia Blames its Dead Soldiers

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Russia said yesterday that their soldiers’ unauthorized use of cellphones in the Donetsk region was the “main reason” that Ukraine was able to launch a deadly attack on New Year’s Day. The Ministry of Defense said Ukraine used cellphone data to home in on their locations.

Some Russian lawmakers and military bloggers pushed back against the swift assignment of blame. They said the statement from the Defense Ministry was an attempt to fault the rank and file rather than their commanders.

They argued that leaders did not take precautions to protect troops, such as dispersing the newly arrived soldiers to safer locations and housing them away from munitions.

Context: Russian soldiers’ use of open cellphone lines has been a known vulnerability, often revealing forces’ positions. Ukraine killed at least one general and his staff after he spoke over an unsecure phone, U.S. officials say.

Death toll: Russia now says that 89 soldiers died in the strike, including a deputy commander. The adjustment from its initial figure of 63 is a rare acknowledgment of casualties.

Other updates:

On New Year’s Day, North Korean state media carried undated photos of a young girl and Kim Jong-un visiting a nuclear missile facility.

Her name and age were not reported, and she was simply referred to as Kim’s “most beloved daughter.” That was enough to suggest that she might be being groomed as ​his eventual successor to inherit ​the regime and its fast-growing nuclear arsenal. He also brought a daughter, identified as Kim Ju-ae by South Korean intelligence, to a major weapons test in November.

A change is hardly imminent: Kim Ju-ae is believed to be 9 or 10, and Kim Jong-un turns 39 on Monday. But slowly introducing her to the public may be Kim’s effort to avoid his father’s mistakes with succession.

Kim, the youngest son, was his father’s choice for leader. But ordinary people had never seen him until he appeared in state media in 2010​, a year before his father died. It took years before he established his unchallenged authority through bloody purges.

Analysis: Most analysts agreed that by taking his child to events related to his arsenal, Kim was reminding North Korea’s people, especially its youth, that his family’s dynastic rule and nuclear weapons development would continue into the next generation.

Details: South Korean intelligence officials have said that Kim has three children, with the eldest most likely being a son. Ju-ae is his second child, they said.

To supporters, he is the pope who first met with victims. He forced the church to defrock hundreds of abusive priests. He raised the age of consent and expanded laws that protected minors to include vulnerable adults. He also allowed the statutes of limitations on sexual abuse to be waived.

But a report last year commissioned by the Catholic Church in Munich accused Benedict of mishandling cases of sexual abuse by priests when he was the city’s archbishop. And as a Cardinal, his office also failed to act in egregious cases. In the 1990s, it halted a secret trial of a U.S. priest who had molested as many as 200 deaf boys. The priest was never defrocked.

Context: After the commissioned report came out last year, Benedict apologized for any “grievous faults” but denied any wrongdoing.

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Hiromi Kawakami, one of Japan’s most popular contemporary novelists, travels with books that help her immerse herself in her destination. Now, Kawakami has suggestions for visitors to Tokyo, her own hometown.

She suggests a 17th-century travelogue, “the record of a five-month, 1,500-mile journey on foot.” Historical detective fiction takes readers through the city’s 19th-century isolationist past. Works of psychological complexity probe the oppression women have faced, or the tensions between traditional Confucianism and European spirituality. And there’s even some short fiction in case of stubborn jet lag.

“I start reading as soon as I know my departure date,” she writes, “and keep reading throughout my stay, remaining immersed in those novels even after I’ve returned home.”

Here’s her book list for a visitor to Tokyo.


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