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Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Russia’s latest military setbacks in Ukraine, Uganda’s ebola outbreak , and the European Union’s potential sanctions on Iran.

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Russia’s latest military setbacks in Ukraine, Uganda’s ebola outbreak, and the European Union’s potential sanctions on Iran.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Russia’s Military Woes Grow

Ukrainian forces have driven back Russian troops in three partially occupied Ukrainian territories—humiliating setbacks for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has claimed the regions as his own and is already facing sharp domestic criticism for his battlefield failures.

The rapid retreat from strategic cities underscores the growing disorder in Russia’s military campaign, even as the Kremlin moves to illegally annex four Ukrainian territories and mobilize hundreds of thousands of new forces. In recent weeks, Kyiv has recaptured large swaths of territory, while some 200,000 Russian men have fled to bordering nations to escape Putin’s conscription order.

“Russia isn’t winning. Putin’s great nationalist celebration of conquests is turning out to be a debacle,” said Daniel Fried, a fellow at the Atlantic Council and former U.S. ambassador to Poland.

Just days after seizing the city of Lyman, a strategic hub in Donetsk, and pushing forward into Luhansk, Ukrainian forces have now also forced Russia to retreat along the strategic west bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson. The rapid retreat is due in part to overstretched Russian units, according to the Institute for the Study of War. Citing Russian military bloggers, ISW noted that “elements of the 126th Coastal Defense Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet have operated in the area without rotation since March” and that “the frontline is stretched so thin that some villages in this sector have 15 men defending them.”

These advances add to over 2,000 square miles of land in Kharkiv that Kyiv recaptured over the last month, as FP’s Jack Detsch reported.

Fried said Ukraine’s recent tactical victories are consistent with its military performance throughout Putin’s invasion. “At each turn in the war, the Russians have been worse than people expected, and the Ukrainians have done better,” he said.

Russia’s losses in Lyman in particular have provoked stinging criticism from two of Putin’s close allies, who publicly attacked top military officials over their battlefield failures.

“Send all these pieces of garbage barefoot with machine guns straight to the front,” wrote Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group and Putin’s close associate. Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, said a leading general should be “sent to the front to wash his shame off with blood.”

The dysfunction on the ground also appears to be ingrained at the top, especially with the Kremlin’s recent admission that it can’t identify the precise borders of its annexed territories amid its struggles to repel advancing Ukrainian forces.

What We’re Following Today

Uganda’s ebola outbreak. Uganda is scrambling to respond to an ebola outbreak that has killed nine people and infected dozens more. Since the strain currently cannot be vaccinated against or treated, officials are establishing isolation centers and testing labs while Uganda’s neighbors are monitoring travelers for symptoms. Six new vaccine candidates that could potentially defend against this strain are currently in development.

“This is another wake-up call for the international community,” Kartik Chandran, a virologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, told the Wall Street Journal. “The medical community has to keep working on vaccines and therapeutics that work on multiple strains, not just a single strain, ready for the next outbreak.”

EU mulls Iran sanctions. The European Union is considering imposing sanctions on Iran in response to its harsh crackdown on mass protests, just a day after U.S. President Joe Biden also vowed to inflict “further costs” on complicit Iranian officials. Human rights organizations estimate that as many as 130 people have died since the demonstrations first began.

Keep an Eye On

U.K. train strikes. Train operators and railway staff in the United Kingdom are expected to hold another strike over working conditions and wages on Wednesday, after their respective unions said ongoing negotiations with the government had stalled. The strike takes place while the Conservative Party gathers in Birmingham for its annual party conference; the planned disruptions will halt most train lines in and out of the city, making it difficult for the members of Parliament and other London-based party activists and officials to make their way back to the capital.

Iran protests. High school girls in Iran have added their voices to the protests sweeping the country by staging protests of their own in classrooms, the Guardian reports. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has blamed the ongoing demonstrations on foreign provocateurs, but even hard-line media outlets have begun to criticize the government. “Neither foreign enemies nor domestic opposition can take cities into a state of riot without a background of discontent,” an editorial in the conservative newspaper Jomhuri Eslami said. “The denial of this fact will not help.”

Blinken’s Latin America trip. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has embarked on a five-day tour to three Latin American countries—Colombia, Chile, and Peru—in a bid to strengthen ties with the countries’ left-wing presidents. Discussions over drug trafficking, migration, and economic issues are expected to dominate the agenda.

Tuesday’s Most Read

• Putin’s World Is Now Smaller Than Ever by Angela Stent

• The Russian Warship and the South China Sea by Alexander Wooley

• Russia May Use Nord Stream Aftermath to Cause More Trouble by Elisabeth Braw

Odds and Ends

Twelve plump brown bears will be competing for the title of Fattest Bear™ as Fat Bear Week kicks off Wednesday. In the competition—which showcases how bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park & Preserve are bulking up for hibernation—fans can vote for their favorite contender based on their perceived size (the bears are not actually weighed), life history, and other personal challenges.

Some of the competitors are seasoned veterans: One bear, named 480 Otis, has won four times, the Washington Post reported. Other front-runners include 435 Holly—whom Lian Law, a visual information specialist at Katmai, called “beautiful, large and in charge”—and a bear named 747, the 2020 champion and by far the beefiest contestant.

“When you see him in person, you’re like, ‘Yeah, there’s no comparison,’” Kristyn Whatley, an avid Fat Bear Week fan, told the Post. “He’s definitely the fattest.”