Russian shelling in Nikopol kills 83-year-old woman

Russian forces attacked Nikopol in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, with artillery on Nov. 20, killing an 83-year-old woman and injuring a 53-year-old man, Governor Serhii Lysak said.

In addition, several residential buildings, cars, and gas and electricity lines were damaged.

Lysak said that the extent of the damage was still being investigated, as well as if there were any other casualties.

Nikopol, situated on the banks of the mostly dried-up Kakhovka Reservoir, just across from Russian-occupied Enerhodar and the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, is a regular target of Russian attacks.

Russian troops attacked Nikopol  11 times on Nov. 14, killing a 26-year-old man.

Parliament considering changes to mobilization eligibility

Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, is considering making changes to its law on mobilization to expand the list of persons who must register for military service, lawmaker Mariana Bezuhla said on Facebook on Nov. 20.

Bezuhla, who is a member of parliament of President Volodymyr Zelensky's Servant of the People party, said that a number of changes are set to be made, including clamping down on those who enroll in higher education in order to avoid having to register for military service.

According to current legislation, students have the right to defer military service, which has led to thousands more young men signing up to continue their studies, compared to pre-war figures.

The changes to the law will mean that an exemption only counts for an individual's first degree in higher education, not for continuing education with additional degrees.

Another proposed change will be that the exemption will no longer apply to all of those who care for a disabled family member.

Only those who need to care full-time for a disabled family member of the first degree of kinship, meaning parents, parents-in-law, children, or husband or wife, will remain exempt from conscription.

Those who have done military service in another country prior to becoming a Ukrainian citizen, will also now be eligible for military service, as well as those who have been convicted of a criminal offense and are currently in prison.

Fedir Venislavskyi, Zelensky's parliamentary representative, told the BBC on Nov. 17 that "those who try to avoid mobilization are about 1-5%" of all Ukrainian men.

Russian attacks kill 3, injure 4 in Kherson, Kharkiv oblasts

Russian multi-weapons attacks in Kherson and Kharkiv oblasts killed at least three people and injured another four in the past day, regional authorities reported on Nov. 21.

Russian forces hit a residential building in Kherson on the morning of Nov. 21, leaving a 59-year-old man with a leg injury, the Kherson Oblast Military Administration said on Telegram.

In the previous 24 hours, Russian troops struck Kherson Oblast 44 times, killing two civilians and injuring three, according to Governor Oleksandr Prokudin.

Tanks, warplanes, drones, multiple launch rocket systems, mortars, and artillery were reportedly used to strike Kherson Oblast.

In Kharkiv Oblast, Russian attacks in the town of Kozacha Lopan damaged a residential building and started a fire, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said.

Once the fire was extinguished, the body of a 29-year-old man was found, according to Syniehubov.

Russian troops targeted a total of 16 settlements in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv Oblast over the past day, the governor added.

Trucker protests: Unraveling the standoff between Polish and Ukrainian haulers

As Polish protests blocking three major Poland-Ukraine border crossings stretch into their third week, negotiations have all but failed as Ukraine accuses the protestors of causing further harm to its wartime economy and the risk grows the protests could spread to other EU countries.

Exhausted drivers are stuck in massive lines on both sides of the border, with expected waiting times reaching over one month at the Yahodyn – Dorohusk crossing, according to the electronic service, eCherha. Kyiv on Nov. 19 sent a humanitarian team to the border to provide food and water to truckers.

As temperatures plummet below freezing, tensions are boiling over. Adamant protestors belonging to the Committee for the Defense of Carriers and Transport Employers (KOPIPT) are threatening to carry out the blockade until Jan. 3, 2024, demanding a limit on the number of Ukrainian drivers entering Poland.

Polish truckers complain that the many Ukrainian drivers entering Poland are hauling goods from Poland to other countries, undercutting local businesses that cannot match cheaper Ukrainian prices.

Ukrainian officials and industry representatives vehemently deny the accusations.

Ukraine’s Ambassador to Poland Vasyl Zvarych has called the protests a “stab in the back,” while Volodymyr Balin, Vice President of the Association of International Car Carriers of Ukraine (AsMAP) told the Kyiv Independent that he is “categorically against the fact that we are undermining local businesses in Poland.”

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukrainian drivers had to apply for permits to enter EU countries. Brussels suspended transport permits last year until June 2024 as part of the Solidarity Lanes Initiative to help Ukraine’s struggling export industry after Russia blocked Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

The protesters' key demand is that the EU reinstate permits. Although this currently seems unlikely, the protestors appear inspired by the success of protests by Polish farmers earlier this year that saw Brussels impose a temporary ban on importing Ukrainian agricultural goods in five EU countries.

A quick resolution appears unlikely. As the Ukrainian side repudiates the Polish protestors' complaints, analysts in Poland say that there is likely broad support for reinstating EU permits and restoring a level playing field.

One of the key figures in the blockade is Rafal Mekler, the leader of a protest in the border town of Dorohusk, and a member of the Confederation of Liberty and Independence Party in the Lublin region.

The party consists of members who have expressed anti-Ukrainian and Rusophillic stances and are the most prominent backers of KOPIPT. Confederation founder Janusz Ryszard Korwin-Mikke recognized Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and last year rallied against sanctions on Russia.

Mekler himself has business ties to Russia and Belarus. He previously participated in a much smaller, short-lived blockade on the Dorohusk checkpoint in May. Mekler did not reply to the Kyiv Independent’s request for a comment.

In light of this connection with the Confederation party, Ukrainians in the transport industry have called into question the legitimacy of the protests.

Balin claims that Mekler’s association primarily leads the protests to pressure Ukraine’s economy. Ukrainian haulers are already losing 300 euros a day waiting at the checkpoints, he told Ukrainian Radio.

The blocked checkpoints are essential for the export of Ukraine’s agricultural products. According to Ukrainian investment platform Dragon Capital, the three crossings account for a quarter of oilseed and grain export by road.

Balin also believes that there are divisions among the protestors. He noted that AsMAP attended negotiations on Nov. 13, in which Ukraine proposed solutions to improve the logistics on the border, with protestors split between those wanting to resolve the practical issues and those wanting to carry on the blockade.

Mekler’s association primarily leads the protests.

While Mekler’s association may be the most vocal critic of Ukrainian haulers, many Polish companies are likely to share the same sentiment as KOPIPT, according to Sebastian Stodolak, vice-president of the Warsaw Enterprise Institute think tank.

“It is difficult to estimate from available data how many trucking companies (KOPIPT) brings together. However, it can be assumed that most companies share its demands,” Stodolak told the Kyiv Independent.  

“The protesters' demands boil down to restoring the system of protection of the EU's internal market against external competition. Referring to the need to introduce fair rules, a level playing field, and symmetry in relations with Ukraine is very appealing to citizens.”

Polish companies have dominated the European transport market for years and tensions with their eastern neighbor are nothing new.

Since Kyiv signed the Free Trade Agreement in 2016, road transport between Ukraine and the EU increased by 42%. As such, Poland faced heightened competition from cheaper Ukrainian haulers.

In response, Warsaw reduced the number of new transport permits issued to Ukrainians year by year from 10,000 in 2019 to zero in 2021, according to the Ukrainian think-tank Better Regulation Delivery Office.

US shell deliveries to Ukraine have dropped over 30% since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack

The U.S.'s deliveries of NATO-standard 155mm shells to Ukraine have decreased "by more than 30%" since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict on Oct. 7, an unnamed Ukrainian official told ABC News on Nov. 21.

"They (U.S. officials) were telling us it (the Israel-Hamas war) wouldn’t influence the commitments (from the U.S.), but it did," the official said.

However, an unnamed senior U.S. defense official disputed that connection, saying to ABC News that the reduction in shell provisions has "absolutely nothing to do with what's happening in Gaza."

According to U.S. officials, U.S. presidential drawdown authority packages "start to get put together weeks in advance, so there is no link between what's happening in Gaza to what’s happening in Ukraine."

It is not the first time that such a connection has been drawn.

President Volodymyr Zelensky echoed the assessment, saying on Nov. 16 that the delivery of shells from Western allies had "really slowed down" since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

"Let’s be frank: the crisis in the Middle East is already having a lasting impact on our policy in Ukraine," said Josep Borrell, the EU's top diplomat, in a speech on Nov. 6.