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Michael_Novakhov
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Biden 'Grumpy' Over Ukraine, Sidelines NSA Adviser Sullivan

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Joe Biden is "grumpy" these days, a White House insider shared with Newsmax.

The high-level Democrat, who has known Biden for years, said the president spends most of his White House meetings complaining about his low approval numbers, bad press, and the fact he's not getting credit "for what's going right."

Notably, Biden sees Ukraine’s success in holding off Russia's massive invasion as a major "win" for his administration, but feels he's gotten little to no credit.

Biden is said to be so cranky about the Ukraine matter that he has moved almost all federal oversight of the Russian war from his young national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, to chief of staff Ron Klain.

"This is the same thing that happened with Afghanistan, when Joe and Klain decided to control the flow and looped out State, the Pentagon and even Jake," the insider said, noting the significant chaos that ensued as a result.

Biden is said to trust Klain, his former vice presidential chief of staff during the Obama years, "like a son."

Klain is said to return the loyalty. Biden likes making decisions "by the gut," the source noted, adding he sticks to those decisions even if facts and events prove him wrong.

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"But Ron's not going to tell POTUS he's wrong," the source said.

Another source confirmed that Sullivan has been increasingly sidelined for several weeks from leading administration efforts on the Ukraine, arguably the most important national security issue of the day. 

The White House declined to comment on Sullivan's status, but last week the national security adviser's distance from Biden was confirmed obliquely.

Just over a week ago, the White House announced that Sullivan had contracted COVID-19. As for Biden’s possible infection, the White House assured the press there was no risk.

A National Security Council representative, Adrienne Watson, assured reporters that the national security adviser "is asymptomatic, and he has not been in close contact with the president."

With multiple foreign policy issues dominating the administration, from Ukraine to Iran's nuclear deal, China's increasing belligerence toward Taiwan and other matters, several former national security officials from previous administrations were stunned by the White House’s admission that Sullivan had no direct, close interaction with the president.

The national security adviser’s office holds a premium spot in the West Wing near the Oval Office. One-time national security adviser Henry Kissinger noted its importance because of "the geography of power, its closeness to the president."

National security advisers typically have daily face-to-face interaction with the president ,and they often travel with the president.

"I think the bigger problem is that, from what the White House says repeatedly, there are hardly any advisers who are 'close contact' to the president," John Bolton, who served as former President Donald Trump's national security adviser, told Newsmax. "If he [Biden] really is as isolated as the press office is at pains to tell us, that is a major obstacle to effective decision-making."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Michael_Novakhov
22 hours ago
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Latest Russia-Ukraine war news: Live updates

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the United Nations Security Council to label Russia a terrorist state after Moscow fired more than 60 missiles across Ukraine in recent days, killing scores of civilians, including at a busy shopping mall in central Ukraine. Russia is tearing through long-range weapons for tactical advantage, Western defense officials say, but so far it has made only limited battleground gains in the east, and its forces are increasingly hollowed out.

Here are some updates from across the country:

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Michael_Novakhov
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Erdogan takes vicious aim at Putin as former-ally attacks: 'End terrorism funding!' | World | News

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Ukraine pushes Russians back near Kherson in major counter-offensive

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NATALYNE, Ukraine — At a school where Russian forces had set up a base in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, three of their armored personnel cars remained on the property — for now. They were damaged when Ukraine’s military recently forced the occupying soldiers back from this area. Over the weekend, three locals hammered at one vehicle to salvage spare parts.

The ground was still covered in fragments of ammunition. The other two cars were parked behind the building, in a field of lavender, a jarring contrast in the idyllic rural landscape.

The new Russian positions are just some three miles from this spot, but the makeshift mechanics appeared unconcerned. The day had passed quietly. Just one plume of smoke — an indication of an artillery strike — had appeared on the horizon all day. And it was on the Russian side of the front line.

With Moscow concentrating its efforts on taking territory in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region — battering cities, towns and Kyiv’s troops with a near-constant barrage of artillery — Ukraine has been able to make steady gains in the south. Village by village, more of the strategically important Kherson region is returning to Ukrainian control — another sign that Russia’s forces might be overextended with a front line that stretches about 300 miles.

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Regaining control of Kherson, a rich agricultural region with Black Sea access, is critical for Ukraine. It’s the only position the Russians hold west of the Dnieper River, and a prime position to launch any future offensive down the Black Sea coast to the major port city of Odessa. The Ukrainian counteroffensive is squeezing Russian positions from two directions — the west and the north.

“Here, you can hunt them,” said a Ukrainian reconnaissance commander in the region whose call sign is “Makhno.” “They’ve committed everything to the east.”

Residents in the region say they’ve stopped spending every night in their underground hideouts. Shelling from the Russian-controlled side hasn’t stopped, but people have simply grown used to it. Most of the Kherson region has been occupied since the first week of the war — Moscow’s first major land grab after its tanks and troops advanced from the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia invaded and annexed in 2014.

But holding the territory has proved challenging while more Russian forces have been concentrated northeast. Near the school in Natalyne, another village that had been considered a “gray zone” — a status for areas considered not completely controlled by either side — returned to Ukrainian control a week ago.

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For the roughly 75 people who stayed in town, the Russian occupiers went door to door and confiscated their phones, creating an information blackout for most. They didn’t know the Ukrainians were successfully running counteroffensive operations on this front until the night the Russians suddenly pulled out, under pressure from Ukrainian artillery strikes.

The villagers said their daily life hadn’t changed much, even with the Russians gone. Their home was still a war zone. Soldiers still patrolled the streets — only now they were wearing Ukrainian uniforms. The sounds of fighting remained loud and close.

“But I’d rather our guys be here than theirs,” said Alyona Kharaim, who was out for a bike ride to pick up milk on Saturday afternoon with her husband and young daughter.

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Along one gravel road leading here, a group of kids have set up their own pretend checkpoint for cars driving by. A 12-year-old girl playfully asked Washington Post journalists to say a code word — “palianytsia,” a type of Ukrainian bread — before allowing them to pass. Ukrainian soldiers who saw this chuckled that the kids have apparently learned to regularly change the password — for security reasons, of course. One that they previously used was a crude quip about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the town of Novovorontsovka, at the northern boundary of the Kherson region, residents of one bombed-out apartment block covered neighbors’ windows with plastic. The glass was shattered long ago. Most people had left town, but a handful had stayed.

Mykola Kostitsyn, 66, held pieces of shrapnel in the palm of his hand. At first, bits of the artillery destroying his neighborhood were a novelty and people collected them. But now there is so much of it that no one cares anymore.

“Why bother collecting them?” he said. “There is more and more every day. How much of this stuff can you collect?”

Shelling has become such a part of daily routine for Liudmyla Denysenko, 59, and her 86-year-old mother, Anastasia Bilyk, that they wait for their walls to actually rattle from the blasts before they bother moving to their cellar for shelter.

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They also wait for word from Denysenko’s son, fighting for Ukraine somewhere along the vast front. He calls only once a day and he never tells her his location. On Saturday afternoon, she was concerned that he hadn’t checked in yet. Maybe he could be fighting around the Kherson region, she said, aiding the counteroffensive to end the shelling of their home.

“It would be great if they pushed them back even further,” she said. “Because we can’t go on like this.”

Serhiy Morgunov contributed to this report.

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Michael_Novakhov
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Vladimir Putin could face a ‘hammer to the head’ if his inner circle turns on him over Ukraine war, former CIA official says

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Russian President Vladimir Putin could face an assassination attempt from his inner circle if they begin to tire of the war in Ukraine, according to a former CIA official.

Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA Moscow chief of station, told The Daily Beast in an interview that if Putin’s inner circle of top advisers begin to feel on edge about the war, the Russian leader’s position could come under threat.

“Nobody’s going to ask, ‘Hey Vladimir, would you like to leave?’” Hoffmann said.

“No. It’s a f****** hammer to the head and he’s dead—or it’s time to go to the sanatorium. They schwack him for it. That’s what they’ll do.”

Hoffmann named Nikolai Patrushev, the chief of Putin’s Security Council, Alexander Bortnikov, the director of the FSB (Russian Federal Security Service), and Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu as three members of the Russian President’s inner circle who could potentially pose a significant risk to Putin.

“These guys that are going to [oust him] are going to be so secret about it so that Putin doesn’t find them and kill them first,” he added. “It’ll happen all of a sudden. And he’ll be dead.”

Ousting Putin 'a danger'

Andrew Wood, an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia program and former British ambassador to Russia, told Fortune that losing the war in Ukraine “would be very dangerous” for Putin – but he added that his ousting could create huge instability in the country because “there is absolutely no mechanism for replacing him.”

“There's no means of saying who it would be,” he said in a phone call. “And if someone replaced him, that ruler would have some ideas or different approaches that might be better or worse.”

However, he added: “This was common when [Soviet leader Joseph] Stalin was approaching his physical end. A lot of people in the West believed someone who was worse would come in after, but that wasn't the case. Someone with different ideas did come in and produce some change.”

Ronald Marks, a former CIA clandestine service officer, told the Daily Beast that he believed Putin was safe provided that members of Russia’s elite security services remained on his side – noting that Putin has “done a nice job of getting rid of those who aren't on his side.”

The Russian regime has a history of silencing its critics. Prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is currently incarcerated, and was denied an appeal on Tuesday for his lawyers to be permitted to bring recording equipment when they visit him in jail.

Navalny suffered a near-fatal poisoning in 2020, which UN officials believe happened by the Russian regime’s hand to send a “clear, sinister warning” to anyone wanting to criticize the government.

Russia's crackdown on critics

Meanwhile, Russia has seen new laws come into force since the invasion of Ukraine in late February that have made it illegal to criticize the war.

Shortly after Russian forces crossed the border into Ukraine, Russian media outlets were banned from referring to Moscow’s so-called “special military operation” as an “assault,” “invasion,” or “declaration of war.”

Broadcasters and news websites have faced a crackdown on their coverage of the events in Ukraine, with some of the country’s few remaining independent outlets being taken off air over their reporting on the war.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update earlier this month that, already, “some high profile Russian officials have highly likely been side-lined after criticizing the war.”

While few high-ranking Russians have publicly criticized their country’s invasion of Ukraine, some have spoken out against the war.

Oleg Tinkov, who founded one of Russia’s largest banks, was forced to sell his stake in the bank by the Kremlin after he criticized the war as “crazy” on Instagram, the New York Times reported.

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