Mines, Fires, Rockets: The Ravages of War Bedevil Ukraine’s Farmers | Big Indy News
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Mines, Fires, Rockets: The Ravages of War Bedevil Ukraine’s Farmers



ZELENODILSK, Ukraine — Their uniforms are dusty jeans and tank-tops, and they drive tractors, not tanks, along the frontline in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

But Ukrainian farmers face many of the same grave dangers as soldiers as they reap this year’s harvest. Across Ukraine, Russian artillery and mines have killed tractor drivers. Thousands of acres of ripe wheat have burned from strikes. Fields are pockmarked where incoming shells have left craters.

Serhiy Sokol, a wheat, barley and sunflower farmer in southern Ukraine, said he and his farmhands plucked dozens of aluminum tubes from Russian rockets from the black earth as they worked his fields. Last month, he said, a neighbor’s combine harvester ran over a mine, blowing off one of its fat tires but sparing the driver.

“There were a lot of cluster munitions in the fields,” Mr. Sokol said with a shrug. “We just risked it, and thank God nobody was hurt.”

And after all Mr. Sokol’s troubles, with his barley crop drying in storage, a Russian artillery shell hit his silo. A dozen or so tons of grain burned.

The breakthrough deal that allowed ships carrying grain to depart from Ukraine’s southern ports this week may have solved a diplomatic problem, but it left a more pragmatic one hanging over Ukraine’s farming community: growing and reaping crops in a war zone, as powerful weapons rain destruction across some of the richest agricultural land in the world.

The farmers say they have little choice. Much of Ukraine’s grain crop is winter wheat and barley, sown in early fall and harvested the following summer. After planting before the war began, farmers near the front must take risks now, lest they lose the entire year’s investment.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporting-nations, and its profitable agricultural industry is a cornerstone of the country’s economy, accounting for about 11 percent of gross domestic product and creating about 1 million jobs. Agriculture is even more important for export earnings, accounting for 41 percent of all Ukrainian exports last year. But the Russians had stymied Ukraine’s ability to export, blocking shipping routes in the Black Sea and, Ukraine says, stealing grain in occupied territory.

Hopes for Ukrainian farming rose this week as the first grain ship, carrying 26,000 tons of corn, left the port of Odesa under an agreement brokered by Turkey and endorsed by the United Nations and intended to ease hunger in the developing world.

Escorted through sea mines safeguarding the port and Russian warships farther at sea on Monday, the ship reached Turkish waters on Wednesday, where it was inspected and cleared to sail on to Lebanon. More ships will follow. The deal is expected to allow the export of about five million tons of grain per month, whittling away at a backlog of about 20 million tons of grain in silos from last year, freeing storage space for this year’s harvest.

But planting and harvesting have become such harrowing undertakings that Ukraine will inevitably have less to export this year and into the future, given the obstacles to farming. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, has forecast that Ukraine’s wheat exports, worth $5.1 billion last year, will fall by half after this year’s harvest.

Out in the fields along a section of the frontline where the Ukrainian Army is pressing a counteroffensive against Russian forces, sunflowers, wheat and barley crops stretch to the horizons.

This is Ukraine’s big sky country: huge expanses of table-flat land, laid out in a checkerboard of gigantic fields.

Closer to the front, chunky Ukrainian military trucks lumber along the back roads, along with tractors and combines bringing in the harvest.

Every few minutes, there is a distant thud from artillery. On the horizon, swirls of smoke blow in the wind from burning fields.

Farmers and Ukrainian soldiers say the Russian military intentionally fires at ripe wheat and barley to start fires, as a form of economic sabotage. There is random destruction as well, as Russian fire aimed at military targets also risks setting fields alight.

“They see the combines and fire at them,” said Yevhen Sytnychenko, head of the military administration in the Kryvyi Rih district, interviewed beside a burning field on a recent tour of frontline farms. “They do it so we won’t have grain, so we cannot eat and cannot export.”

Sgt. Serhiy Tarasenko, whose soldiers with the 98th infantry brigade have been fighting in farmland south of the city of Kryvyi Rih, said Russian artillery has targeted tractors and combines, which are spotted by drones.

“They are shooting at local people collecting the grain,” he said. “These are people who invested their money and now they need to harvest. But they are now doing it under fire, under attack.”

For Ukrainians, the burning fields are an emotionally laden and infuriating development even in a war with no shortage of other outrages. It recalls, said Mr. Sytnychenko, the Soviet Union’s requisitions of grain in the 1930s that caused a famine that historians say killed at least three million Ukrainians, a tragedy known as the Holodomor. “Before, they confiscated the grain, and today they burn it,” he said.

Ukraine is also facing immediate economic consequences. The Ministry of Agriculture has cited studies showing the war will cost farmers and agribusiness companies $23 billion this year in lost profits, destroyed equipment and higher transportation costs.

Ukrainian farmers and the government have been adapting, finding workarounds to blocked transport routes, setting up temporary sites for storing grain and trying to clear mines from fields to bring in the harvest. The hardest hit crops are wheat, barley and sunflowers, as they are grown in areas near the fighting, according to the agriculture ministry.

“While Russia is blackmailing the world with hunger, we are trying to prevent a global food crisis,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said of efforts to keep Ukraine’s farms producing.

Crop fires sparked by artillery strikes are cutting into the harvest. More than 3,000 field fires have broken out, according to Olena Kryvoruchkina, a member of Parliament.

Tractors and combines have hit land mines in northern Ukraine even months after Russia retreated. Late last month, for example, a tractor struck a mine outside of Kharkiv, killing the driver. The tractor burned in the field.

Outside Mr. Sokol’s hometown in south-central Ukraine, two combines, including the John Deere operated by his neighbor, hit land mines over the last two weeks of July.

Rocket debris from Mr. Sokol’s fields now sits in a yard along with tractor tires and sacks of grain. A heap of a dozen or so slate gray, dented tubes and fins lean against a wall.

“I’m angry,” he said. “How angry? I want them to die. That’s how I feel now.”

In the fields on a recent, sweltering afternoon during the harvest, flames crackled through the stubble of the recently harvested wheat crop of Vasyliy Tabachnyuk, picking up with gusts of wind.

Mr. Tabachnyuk, whose fields are just a few miles from the front, said he was fortunate to have harvested early. After previous strikes, he has sent tractor drivers into the burning fields to cut firebreaks, trying to save what grain he could. One strike burned about 200 acres of ripe wheat.

If the Ukrainian counteroffensive does not push the Russians back before sowing season for winter wheat in September, he said, he wouldn’t plant for next year.

“All agriculture will be out of business,” he said, standing in the scorched field, where the soil was blanketed in charred kernels of wheat.

“The wheat was ripe,” he said. “It should have been harvested.”

Yurii Shyvala contributed reporting from Zelenodilsk.

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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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