In his ‘declaration of war’ speech just before he sent Russian troops across the border into the Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin set out the objectives of the campaign. These included striving “for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine” and creating “the necessary conditions … despite the presence of state borders, to strengthen us … as a whole”. In other words, blurring the distinction between Russia and Ukraine.

Frank Ledwidge assesses the Russian invasion, including its weaknesses, and why Putin is resorting to laying siege to cities as well as indiscriminate shelling and bombing.

The Kremlin is devoting immense resources and energy to keeping its own citizens united in support of the invasion. Based on her work as a scholar of Russian history as well as her personal encounters with family members, Cynthia Hooper provides insights into how the propaganda war is being waged - by those in power, and by those who oppose the war.

And what of Putin’s popularity in Russia? Noah Buckley points out that, contrary to widespread belief, research has found that his approval ratings aren’t an artefact of massaged polling numbers. They’re real, and routed mainly in Putin using economic recovery and stability after the collapse of the Soviet Union to underpin his popularity. But, can he make it last?

On a different note, March 4 2022 marks the day on which South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba would have been 90. She passed away in 2008. Nomfundo Xaluva argues that it’s time to lose Makeba’s “Mama Africa” nickname and to begin remember her as a powerful young woman in exile who fought from the stage for the freedom of all black people.

Caroline Southey

Founding Editor

Ukraine war: what are Russia’s strategic aims and how effectively are they achieving them?

Frank Ledwidge, University of Portsmouth

Putin has clearly defined political objectives, but Russian military planners have not gone about them the right way.

Putin’s approval has stayed strong over the years – war in Ukraine could change that

Noah Buckley, Trinity College Dublin

Vladimir Putin’s popularity could come crumbling down if anti-war sentiment in Russia continues to grow.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has Kremlin battling for hearts and minds at home

Cynthia Hooper, College of the Holy Cross

Even as it wages a propaganda and disinformation campaign in Ukraine, Russia is fighting to retain control of the story within Russia.

Germany’s €100-billion army fund: a remarkable change in post-war policy in response to the Ukraine crisis

Ed Turner, Aston University

The settled foundations of German foreign policy have been overturned in an instant following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

‘Freedom will triumph over tyranny’: Biden’s first State of the Union echoes themes from the Cold War

Allison M. Prasch, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Biden tapped into themes of unity – both among Americans and with Western allies – while warning Russian President Vladimir Putin that he had badly miscalculated in invading Ukraine.

Fake viral footage is spreading alongside the real horror in Ukraine. Here are 5 ways to spot it

T.J. Thomson, Queensland University of Technology; Daniel Angus, Queensland University of Technology; Paula Dootson, Queensland University of Technology

Footage claiming to document the situation in Ukraine may not necessarily be genuine. Here’s how to treat viral footage with the right level of scepticism before sharing it on social media.

Ukraine war: what are the risks that Russia will turn to its nuclear arsenal?

Mark Webber, University of Birmingham; Nicolò Fasola, University of Birmingham

We’re still a long way off nuclear escalation.

The legacy of iconic singer Miriam Makeba and her art of activism

Nomfundo Xaluva, University of Cape Town

Makeba, who would have turned 90 on 4 March 2022, was a hugely influential artist and an icon of African liberation and identity.

What you eat can reprogram your genes – an expert explains the emerging science of nutrigenomics

Monica Dus, University of Michigan

Scientists are just beginning to decode the genetic messages in your food – and how that may affect your health.