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As Attacks Mount in Crimea, Kremlin Faces Rising Domestic Pressures



Nearly six months into the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin still refers to its invasion as a “special military operation” while trying to maintain a sense of normalcy at home.

But a series of Ukrainian attacks in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that President Vladimir V. Putin illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, is puncturing that narrative.

And as Ukrainian attacks mount in the strategically and symbolically important territory, the damage is beginning to put domestic political pressure on the Kremlin, with criticism and debate about the war increasingly being unleashed on social media and underscoring that even what the Russian government considers to be Russian territory is not safe.

On Saturday, a drone slammed into the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, sending a plume of smoke over the port city of Sevastopol. Separately, in western Crimea, Russian troops launched antiaircraft fire at unidentified targets, the region’s Russian governor said.

Local Russian officials blamed the drone attack on Ukraine and urged residents and beachgoers not to panic, while insisting there had been no injuries and that Russian air defenses were functioning properly.

But as images of antiaircraft fire streaking through the blue Crimean sky ricocheted through social media, the visceral reality of war was becoming more and more apparent to Russians — many of whom have rallied behind the Kremlin’s line, hammered home in state media, that the “special military operation” to save Ukraine from Nazi domination is going smoothly and according to plan.

“People are beginning to feel that the war is coming to them,” Andrei Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research organization close to the Russian government, said in a phone interview. “I think this is serious.”

“One can literally feel in the air of Crimea that the occupation there is temporary, and Ukraine is returning,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on Saturday in his nightly address to the nation.

Mr. Kortunov said the Kremlin is likely to view the Ukrainian attacks not as a military threat but as “irritating,” showing Ukraine’s ability to threaten Russian lives deep behind the front lines. But it remained unclear how — or if — Mr. Putin would respond to the attacks, even as pro-Kremlin commentators called for retaliatory strikes.

Russia continues to retain military superiority, and the recent strikes in Crimea haven’t resulted in territorial gains for Ukraine. But they nevertheless appear to have dealt a psychological blow to Russia, undercutting the previous perception of Russian invincibility in a peninsula that exerts a strong hold on the Russian psyche.

Crimea is more than a pivotal military base. A sun-splashed resort and staging ground for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Crimea has particular symbolic resonance for Mr. Putin, who has called it Russia’s “holy land.”

Crimea is where czars and Politburo chairmen kept vacation homes. As home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, it also helps Russia exert control over the sea, including a naval blockade that has crippled Ukraine’s economy.

On the social network Telegram, one of Russia’s best-known state television hosts, Vladimir Solovyov, shared a post describing the attacks in Crimea and in Russian regions near the Ukrainian border as “some kind of surrealism.”

“Are we fighting or what are we doing?” the post by a pro-Kremlin military blogger asked. “Tough, cardinal measures must be taken, every day we pay for half-measures with human lives.”

While the military impact of the attacks may be minimal, there are mounting signs that local people are becoming unsettled by them, prompting officials to issue soothing reassurances about their safety.

“I understand that many are worried,” the Russian governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said on his social media page on Saturday. “But that is exactly what the Ukrainian Reich” — a reference to Russia’s false characterization of Ukraine as a Nazi state — “wants to achieve.”

In an interview over a messaging app on Saturday, one resident of Sevastopol said she had never imagined that she would live to see the events of the last six months — both the war and the booms of antiaircraft fire that she said she had heard herself recently. She said that her solution was to try to continue living her life and to avoid the news.

“When you read the news, chaos erupts in your head,” said the woman, Elena, 34, who requested her last name be withheld for her security. “You get the feeling that all around you everything is exploding and burning and that you are in hell.”

To bolster national morale or, perhaps, to poke another stick in the Kremlin’s eye, Ukraine staged a brazen act of defiance on Saturday, with captured Russian tanks rolling into downtown Kyiv on flatbed trucks. Collected from battlefields in the east and south of the country, they were placed on the elegant thoroughfare in the center of the capital that leads to Independence Square, the site of the pro-Western uprising in 2014.

The disarray in Crimea comes as Russia’s war effort appears stalled on multiple fronts. Fighting in Kherson, in the south, and the Donbas region, in the east, has largely ground to a standstill. A Russian offensive to seize Donetsk Province, part of the Donbas, has temporarily halted — partly, American officials said, because Moscow rushed several thousand troops to the south to counter the anticipated Ukrainian offensive there.

In a reflection of the challenges Moscow is facing, the Russian state news media also reported Friday that the Kremlin had replaced the commander of the Black Sea Fleet after a series of setbacks that include the loss of its flagship vessel, Moskva, in April. Ukraine said it had used Neptune missiles to sink the Moskva, a strike Russia dismissed as an onboard accident. It was the biggest warship lost in combat in decades.

As Ukraine stoked instability in Russian-controlled Crimea, there finally appeared to be some movement to get international inspectors into the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, which is occupied by Russian troops and where anxiety has been growing that shelling in the area could lead to a devastating meltdown.

In a conversation late Friday, Mr. Putin told his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, that Russia “had reconsidered” its insistence that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency first travel through Russian territory to reach the Zaporizhzhia plant, according to the French presidency.

The I.A.E.A. — the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog and monitoring agency — has met with several obstacles in its discussions with Russia and Ukraine to get into the Zaporizhzhia plant since at least June.

Ukraine objected to the idea that the inspectors would enter through Russian-occupied territory, an option that would have seemed to underscore Russian control of the plant, which provides at least a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity. The United Nations had significant security concerns about having inspectors travel through the front lines of this bitter war, with so much shelling.

The war also continued to reverberate outside of Ukraine, including in ongoing concerns that the Kremlin was using Russia’s vast energy resources as a weapon to punish the West.

The Russian energy giant Gazprom said it would close the taps of its Nord Stream pipeline to Germany from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 to replace a turbine with the help of its manufacturer, Siemens. Gazprom has said Western sanctions have slowed repairs, reducing gas flows by up to 60 percent. But Berlin has accused Gazprom of playing politics on Moscow’s behalf.

“The Russian side’s justification is simply a pretext,” Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister, told reporters in Berlin in June. “It is obviously the strategy to unsettle and drive up prices.”

Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.

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The F.D.A. Now Says It Plainly: Morning-After Pills Are Not Abortion Pills



The F.D.A. said it made the change now because it had completed a review of a 2018 application to alter the label that was submitted by Foundation Consumer Healthcare, a company that in 2017 bought the Plan B brand from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Agency officials said the pandemic delayed the review process and that the timing was not motivated by political considerations.

A spokeswoman for the company, Dani Hirsch, said in an interview that for its 2018 application, the company had not conducted any new studies but had submitted “what was already out there.”

In a statement, the company’s marketing director, Tara Evans, said “the misconception that Plan B works by interfering with implantation can present barriers to broader emergency contraception access. The Plan B labeling correction will help protect continued over-the-counter emergency contraception access and reduce confusion about how Plan B works and further clarify that Plan B does not affect implantation.”

Plan B One-Step and its generic versions — including brands like Take Action, My Way and Option 2 — contain levonorgestrel, one of a class of hormones called progestins that are also found at lower doses in birth control pills and intrauterine devices. The pills are most effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, although they can sometimes work if taken within five days.

Another type of morning-after pill, marketed as Ella and containing a compound called ulipristal acetate, is only available by prescription and is not affected by the F.D.A.’s label change. There has been less research on this type of pill, but studies suggest that it is highly unlikely to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. In 2009, after months of scrutiny, Ella was approved for sale in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, where laws would have barred it if it had been considered to induce abortions.

According to data published in 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-quarter of women of reproductive age who have sex with men answered yes to the question: “Have you ever used emergency contraception, also known as ‘Plan B,’ ‘Preven,’ ‘Ella,’ ‘Next Choice,’ or ‘Morning after’ pills?” The agency did not break down the data by the type of pills taken.

As far back as the 1999 approval process, the maker of Plan B — Barr Pharmaceuticals, later acquired by Teva — asked the F.D.A. not to list an implantation effect on the label, The Times reported in 2012.

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Who are Caroline Ellison’s parents? Fraudster’s mom and dad are MIT economists



This apple fell far from the tree.

Caroline Ellison — who pleaded guilty to fraud charges related to her role in the FTX cryptocurrency scandal, which led to the extradition of Sam Bankman-Fried this week — is the daughter of high-profile economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to his curriculum vitae, Ellison’s father, Glenn Ellison, was educated at Harvard, Cambridge and MIT before becoming the Gregory K. Palm (1970) Professor of Economics at the latter. 

In addition to coaching youth softball and his daughters’ middle school math teams, he writes “Hard Math,” a series of textbooks and workbooks about teaching arithmetic to younger students.

Glenn Ellison is also an Elected Fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory and American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Caroline Ellison’s parents, Glenn and Sara Ellison, outside their Newton, Mass., home in early December.
Robert Miller

Ellison’s mother, Sara Ellison, is also an accomplished academic. Armed with an undergraduate degree from Purdue University and a mathematical statistics diploma from Cambridge University, her profile shows she completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993. 

Sara Ellison is currently a senior lecturer in the department alongside her husband.

“We were definitely exposed to a lot of economics [growing up],” Ellison, 28, once told Forbes.

Ellison, 28, plead guilty to fraud this week.
Ellison, 28, pleaded guilty to fraud this week.
Twitter / @AlamedaResearch
Caroline Ellison's sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.
Caroline Ellison’s sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.

Glenn and Sara Ellison were photographed by The Post outside their home in Newton, an affluent Boston suburb, earlier this month. Armed with several bags, they told reporters they were too “busy” to comment on the FTX scandal.

The eldest of three sisters — including Anna, 25, who now lives in Manhattan’s West Village — Ellison distinguished herself as a precocious math whiz at a young age. 

When she was just 8 years old, she reportedly presented her father with a paper analyzing stuffed animal prices at Toys ‘R’ Us.

Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday.
Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan federal court on Thursday.
Matthew McDermott
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Robert Miller

She went on to compete in the Math Prize for Girls while at Newton North High School before studying mathematics at Stanford University, where former professor Ruth Stackman described her to Forbes as “bright, focused, [and] very mathy.”

Ellison and Bankman-Fried, 30, crossed paths at the Wall Street trading firm Jane Street. Bankman-Fried’s parents are also both university lecturers, at Stanford in California. They became good friends and she joined Alameda Research, the hedge fund arm of the FTX crypto exchange, in 2018. She then became CEO in 2021. However, the company remained owned 90% by Bankman-Fried and 10% by another member of his circle.

In addition to documenting her supposed foray into polyamory on Tumblr, Ellison once boasted about drug use on social media.

Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Robert Miller

“Nothing like regular amphetamine use to make you appreciate how dumb a lot of normal, non-medicated human experience is,” she tweeted in 2021.

Ellison reportedly admitted to Alameda employees that FTX had used client funds to bail out the fledgeling hedge fund during a video call in November. She was eventually terminated as CEO by insolvency professional and current FTX CEO John J. Ray III after FTX and Alameda filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

She pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges on Monday, and has subsequently been released on $250,000 bail.

Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Twitter / @AutismCapital

Although she could be sent to jail for up to 110 years for her part in the FTX-Alameda scandal — which has been said by federal prosecutors to have lost between $1 billion and $2 billion of customers’ cash — she is thought to have struck a deal with the feds for a much lighter sentence in return for her cooperation.

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Iran condemns Zelensky’s remarks to Congress as ‘baseless.’



Iran has condemned President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks to the U.S. Congress, warning the Ukrainian leader against further accusing Tehran of supplying weapons to Russia for use in the war.

Mr. Zelensky told Congress on Wednesday that Iranian-made drones “sent to Russia in hundreds” had been threatening Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, a view shared by American and European officials. In Iran, he said, Russia had found an “ally in its genocidal policy.”

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Nasser Kanaani, called Mr. Zelensky’s comments “rude” and “baseless.”

“Mr. Zelensky had better know that Iran’s strategic patience over such unfounded accusations is not endless,” Mr. Kanaani said in a statement on Thursday.

Although Iran has officially denied supplying Russia with the weapons since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials have said that the first shipment was delivered in August.

Mr. Zelensky has said that drones used in Monday’s wave of predawn attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities were from a batch recently delivered to Russia by Iran. The strikes came after Biden administration officials said that Russia and Iran were strengthening their military ties into a “full-fledged defense partnership.”

The European Union last week condemned Iran’s military partnership with Russia as a gross violation of international law and announced new sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities over their roles in supplying the drones that Moscow has used to attack Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure. That followed a round of sanctions on Iranians over the drone deliveries in October.

Mr. Kanaani “once again emphasizes” that Iran has not supplied military equipment for use in Ukraine, the statement issued on Thursday added, and urged Mr. Zelensky to learn “the fate of some other political leaders” who were happy with U.S. support. It was not clear which other leaders the statement was referring to.

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