Omnibus Russia Ukraine crisis


Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
U.S. military veteran accused of having explicit images of a child apparently joined Russian army
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Steve Leblanc And Nick Perry
Published Apr 10, 2024 • 4 minute read
Puello-Mota, a U.S. Air Force veteran and former elected official in Massachusetts who fled the U.S. after being charged with possessing sexually explicit images of a child, told his lawyer he joined Russia’s army.
Puello-Mota, a U.S. Air Force veteran and former elected official in Massachusetts who fled the U.S. after being charged with possessing sexually explicit images of a child, told his lawyer he joined Russia’s army.
BOSTON — A U.S. Air Force veteran who fled a charge of possessing sexually explicit images of a child told his lawyer he joined Russia’s army, and video appears to show him signing documents in a military enlistment office in Siberia.

Wilmer Puello-Mota, a former elected official in a small Massachusetts city, was expected to enter a guilty plea in Rhode Island in early January, but did not show up to court, according to prosecutors. Last week, video surfaced that appears to show the 28-year-old in Russia and expressing support for the country’s war against Ukraine — footage that could be used to promote Moscow’s narrative of the conflict.

His lawyer, John M. Cicilline, told The Boston Globe that he called Puello-Mota on Jan. 8, the day before he was expected to plead guilty. According to prosecutors, he boarded a flight from Washington, D.C., to Istanbul, Turkey, a day earlier.

“He said, ‘I joined the Russian army,’ or something like that,” Cicilline told the Globe. “I thought he was joking.”

Cicilline said Puello-Mota wanted a career in politics and thought the criminal case had ruined his life.

“I’m sure he joined the Russian army because he didn’t want to register as a sex offender,” Cicilline said.

The Associated Press made several calls to Cicilline. A person answering his office phone said he would not make any additional comment.

Puello-Mota served in the U.S. Air Force and deployed to Afghanistan in 2015, when he was 19, media releases show. He later served with the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing as a security forces airman.

Puello-Mota was arrested in 2020 in Warwick, Rhode Island, after he called to report a stolen gun and police said they found nude images of a 17-year-old girl on his phone. He was charged with one count of having sexually explicit images of a child. He was later also charged with trying to deceive prosecutors and his commanders about the case. Cicilline told the Globe he reached a deal to plead guilty to all charges in exchange for an 18-month prison sentence.

Videos surfaced on Russian social media and local television in March showing the blurred image of a man in a uniform in what appears to be a war zone displaying the U.S. flag.

In video posted online last week, a man who looks like Puello-Mota talks directly to the camera, speaking in English over background music and Russian subtitles and discussing a military operation. His face is not blurred. He does not say his name, and the videos do not mention the Rhode Island criminal case.

President Vladimir Putin has eliminated nearly all independent media in Russia —and state media aligned regularly trumpet Russian victories in Ukraine, denounce the West and otherwise amplify good news while ignoring the bad.

The Rhode Island attorney general’s office said in a court document last month that it had received images purporting to show Puello-Mota in Ukraine and Russia.

“While the state cannot verify the authenticity of the videos and photographs, if they are accurate the defendant is well beyond the jurisdiction of this court and, if false, the defendant is engaged in an elaborate ruse to conceal his whereabouts,” Rhode Island prosecutors said.

U.S. State Department officials said they were aware of media reports about Puello-Mota fleeing to Russia but have had no contact with him and have no way to confirm those reports.

The most recent video appears to show Puello-Mota entering a building in Khanty-Mansiysk and shaking the hand of a uniformed man. At the end of the video, he is seen signing a document.

The AP verified the location after examining satellite imagery and historical photos of the area. According to a plaque on the door, it’s a military recruitment centre run by the Russian Defence Ministry.

“Obviously it’s a difficult situation. It’s war. It’s a special military operation,” Puello-Mota says in the video, adding that he was lucky to be with “people from the international brigade.”

“We did our work. We did our job. We did what we were supposed to do,” he said. “I was very lucky and fortunate to serve with those guys. I definitely would do it again.”

Ian Garner, an assistant professor of politics at Queen’s University in Canada, called it “a huge propaganda opportunity” for Russia.

“To be able to show off an American citizen who has chosen to reinvent themselves, to reform themselves and become a part of the Russian war machine seems to provide evidence that Russia is winning a much bigger spiritual war,” he said.

Puello-Mota held the rank of technical sergeant when he forced to leave the guard in October 2022 because of the criminal case, said Don Veitch, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts National Guard. His security clearance was also revoked.

Holyoke City Councilor David Bartley, who worked with Puello-Mota on the City Council, said he considers him a good friend. He said the person in the video looks and sounds like him.

“To me that’s him,” he said.

He knew of no connections between Puello-Mota and Russia and called the footage “shocking.”

“The Wil that I know was a good, decent person,” Bartley said.

A Facebook page attributed to Puello-Mota includes a photo of the Kremlin and an updated profile photo of a man in a uniform operating a drone. It says he is from Holyoke and currently lives in Moscow and works at the Russian Defence Ministry, which is spelled in Russian.

Under Rhode Island law, Puello-Mota’s trial cannot begin without him being present.

— Perry reported from Meredith, N.H. Associated Press reporters Beatrice Dupuy and Rhonda Shafner in New York also contributed.


Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
Ukraine passes controversial law to boost much-needed conscripts
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Samya Kullab And Illia Novikov
Published Apr 11, 2024 • 3 minute read

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s parliament passed a controversial law Thursday that will govern how the country recruits new soldiers to replenish depleted forces who are increasingly struggling to fend off Russian troops.

Two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion captured nearly a quarter of the country, the stakes could not be higher for Kyiv. After a string of victories in the first year of the war, fortunes have turned for the Ukrainian military, which is dug in, outgunned and outnumbered. Troops are beset by shortages in soldiers and ammunition, as well as doubts about the supply of Western aid.

Lawmakers dragged their feet for months over the new law, and it is expected to be unpopular. It comes about a week after Ukraine lowered the draft-eligible age for men from 27 to 25.

The law will become effective a month after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signs it — and it was not clear when he would. It took him months to sign the law reducing conscription age.

It was passed Thursday against a backdrop of an escalating Russian campaign that has devastated Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in recent weeks. Authorities said Russian overnight missile and drone attacks again struck infrastructure and power facilities across several regions and completely destroyed the Trypilska thermal power plant, the largest power-generating facility in Kyiv region.

With Russia increasingly seizing the initiative, the law came in response to a request from Ukraine’s military, which wants to mobilize up to 500,000 more troops, Zelenskyy said in December. Incumbent army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi and Zelenskyy have since revised that figure down because soldiers can be rotated from the rear. But officials haven’t said how many are needed.

The law — which was watered down from its original form — will make it easier to identify every draft-eligible man in the country, where even in war many have dodged conscription by avoiding contact with authorities.

But it’s unclear that Ukraine, with its ongoing ammunition shortages, has the ability to arm large numbers of recruits without a fresh injection of Western aid.

Earlier this month, Volodymyr Fesenko, an analyst at the Center for Applied Political Studies Penta, said the law is crucial for Ukraine’s ability to keep up the fight against Russia, even though it is painful for Ukrainian society.

“A large part of the people do not want their loved ones to go to the front, but at the same time they want Ukraine to win,” he said.

Thursday’s vote came after the parliamentary defense committee removed a key provision from the bill that would rotate out troops who served 36 months of combat — a key promise of the Ukrainian leadership. Lawmaker Oleksii Honcharenko said in a Telegram post that he was shocked by the move to remove the provision.

The committee instructed the Defense Ministry to draft a separate bill on demobilization within several months, news reports cited ministry spokesperson Dmytro Lazutkin as saying.

Exhausted soldiers, on the front lines since Russia invaded in February 2022, have no means of rotating out for rest. But considering the scale and intensity of the war against Russia, coming up with a system of rest will prove difficult to implement.

Ukraine already suffers from a lack of trained recruits capable of fighting, and demobilizing soldiers on the front lines now would deprive Ukrainian forces of their most capable fighters.

In nighttime missile and drone attacks, at least 10 of the strikes damaged energy infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said more than 200,000 people in the region were without power and Russia “is trying to destroy Kharkiv’s infrastructure and leave the city in darkness.”

Ukraine’s leaders have pleaded for more air defense systems — aid that has been slow in coming.

Four people were killed and five injured in an attack on the city of Mykolaiv on Thursday, the regional governor, Vitalii Kim, said. In the Odesa region, four people were killed and 14 injured in Russian missile strikes Wednesday evening, said Gov. Oleh Kiper.

Energy facilities were also hit in the Zaporizhzhia and Lviv regions.


Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
Rescuers in Ukraine pull 5 puppies from the rubble of a building destroyed by fire
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published Apr 12, 2024 • Last updated 2 days ago • 1 minute read

This screengrab of a video showing Ukrainian firefighters with a puppy pulled from the rubble of a destroyed building that was on fire in the northeastern city of Sumy, close to the border with Russia.
This screengrab of a video showing a Ukrainian firefighter with a puppy pulled from the rubble of a destroyed building that was on fire in the northeastern city of Sumy, close to the border with Russia. PHOTO BY SCREENGRAB /The Associated Press
KYIV, Ukraine — Rescue workers in Ukraine have pulled five puppies from underneath the rubble of a destroyed building, a video released by the country’s emergency services Friday showed.

Officials said the puppies were rescued from a non-residential building that was on fire in the northeastern city of Sumy, close to the border with Russia. The video showed the puppies squealing as the firefighters cuddled them in their hands and rinsed them off with water.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the rescue took place or what caused the fire.

“Fortunately, everything is fine with the little one(s), they were not injured. The furries were returned by their mothers,” officials said in a post on the emergency services’ Telegram channel.

“This rescue story reminds us of the importance of human compassion and the willingness to help everyone, regardless of the circumstances,” they added.