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1. Why Putin’s nuclear threat could be more than bluster:
The scariest site on the Internet isn’t lurking on the dark web, but hiding in plain sight at nuclearsecrecy.com. “Nukemap” lets you pick the size of a nuclear bomb, plunk it anywhere in the world and see the extent of the possible destruction. Drop a pin near Kyiv and you’ll see the plausibility of the Russian invasion of Ukraine going nuclear.
Not because of the vast devastation of such a device — but because of just how limited the damage could be in certain scenarios.
The advent of tactical nuclear weapons — a term generally applied to lower-yield devices designed for battlefield use, which can have a fraction of the strength of the Hiroshima bomb — reduced their lethality, limiting the extent of absolute destruction and deadly radiation fields. That’s also made their use less unthinkable, raising the specter that the Russians could opt to use a smaller device without leveling an entire city. Detonate a one kiloton weapon on one side of Kyiv’s Zhuliany airport, for instance, and Russian President Vladimir Putin sends a next-level message with a fireball, shock waves and deadly radiation. But the blast radius wouldn’t reach the end of the runway.
The Russians are thought to have roughly 2,000 such weapons — some so small as to be attached to torpedoes, depth charges, or even artillery shells and land mines. The world might reel in horror at nuclear deployment of any size. But, if boxed into the right kind of corner, some argue, Putin could use one in Ukraine without necessarily triggering World War III. (Sources: nuclearsecrecy.com, washingtonpost.com)
2. The Wall Street Journal reports on what is happening inside the Chernobyl complex:
The picture that emerges is of a skeleton crew of nuclear technicians that has been working under duress for nearly three weeks. One has a thyroid problem and needs medicine, as do several with high blood pressure. In the one-minute calls Russian soldiers allow workers to place to family members, they have told of extreme fatigue, dizziness, nausea and terrible headaches.
That exhaustion is mutating into rebellion, with staff members arguing with their captors over the nature of Russia’s war and staging acts of defiance. Every morning at 9, the national anthem, ‘Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished,’ blares through the loudspeaker. The Ukrainian workers stand, palms pressed to chests, then return to work.
Their families, meanwhile, are running low on heat and power, trapped by a Russian military encirclement around the Atomic City, as Slavutych is known, where locals clang church bells or honk car horns to sound the alarm whenever warplanes approach. Their calls for a safe corridor to evacuate the exhausted Chernobyl workers and replace them with other staff are backed by Ukraine’s government but rejected by Russia. (Source: wsj.com)
3. Fresh attacks:
The heads of three governments in the European Union traveled Tuesday to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in an extraordinary attempt to demonstrate support for Ukraine as Russian attacks raged across the country and targeted the besieged capital.
The dramatic visit from top officials in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia to a city that was shaken Tuesday morning by new blasts came amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis and a new push to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin. As many as 3 million people have fled the war-torn country in the three weeks since the Russian invasion began, according to new estimates.
The White House announced Tuesday that President Biden will travel to Brussels next week to meet with European leaders for a NATO summit, a trip meant to reinforce the U.S. commitment to the alliance as worries grow about Russian aggression creeping up to Ukraine’s boundaries. (Source: washingtonpost.com)
4. Geek Squads:
Thousands of amateur hackers from countries around the world have joined a Ukrainian group dedicated to bringing down Russian government and financial websites in response to the invasion of the country, according to statements from the Ukrainian government, evidence of Russian website outages and instant-messaging groups seen by New Scientist.
The so-called IT Army of Ukraine was conceived by Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister, who tweeted on 26 February – two days after the invasion began – that the country was seeking people with computer skills willing to take on “operational tasks”.
According to one hacker, who wished to remain unnamed, and messages seen by New Scientist, most of the team is focused on distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which involve flooding a server with thousands or millions of spurious requests simultaneously in the hope of overwhelming it and causing it to crash. The hackers are currently attacking Russian government websites, as well as those of banks and companies that they deem to not be taking sufficient steps to withdraw services from Russia in line with global sanctions. (Source: newscientist.com)
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