by: Kate Norman
Monday, 28 February 2022 | The Russian invasion of Ukraine rages on, after a long weekend for many Ukrainians spent hunkered down in air raid shelters and underground stations and garages.
Russian and Ukrainian diplomats are currently in talks at the border between Belarus and Ukraine, though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed low expectations for any productive outcome.
Explosions continued this morning in the two hot spots: Kyiv, over which Russia has yet to gain control, and Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine which lies near the border with Russia.
Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin revived Soviet-era nuclear threats and is showing no signs of slowing down the invasion, despite a hailstorm of international condemnation and sanctions against the Kremlin, its financial system and high-ranking Russian individuals.
Putin yesterday ordered his nuclear forces to stand by on high alert and have the red button ready, citing “aggressive statements” by NATO members.
As Russian troops and tanks push further into Ukraine from the north, east and south, an estimated 352 Ukrainian civilians, including 14 children, have been killed and an additional 1,684 wounded as of yesterday, Ukraine’s health ministry reported.
Some 4,300 Russian troops have fallen in Ukraine, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said yesterday. That number has not been verified, however.
Over 368,000 Ukrainians have fled into neighboring countries, though an estimated 22,000 have returned to Ukraine from other nations to take up arms in defense of their homeland.
Defying all odds and expectations, the Kremlin has yet to seize control of Kyiv, as the invasion is reportedly progressing at a slower pace than Putin expected.
The Ukrainian spirit remains indomitable: President Zelenskyy has become an icon of rebellion, as the comedian-turned-president-turned-national-icon refuses to leave his nation’s capital, famously rejecting an evacuation offer from the US with the words, “I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition.”
Zelenskyy’s fire has spread to the people, as photos circulating social media show Ukrainians bracing themselves for the Russians by setting up sandbag barriers, collecting empty vodka bottles to be made into Molotov cocktails, and passing out guns and a quick training session to anyone who wants one.
The president issued an order last week banning all Ukrainian males between the ages of 18–60 from leaving, indicating the homeland defense will need all hands on deck. He also called on any foreign volunteers to join the fight to defend Ukraine.
Kyiv residents this morning were allowed to emerge from a weekend-long curfew to restock on groceries and other necessities before the curfew is reimposed at 10 p.m. tonight, which will reportedly last until 7 a.m. tomorrow.
But infrastructure in the nation has taken a hit, and there is worry that Ukrainians soon will not have access to much-needed supplies amid the Russian onslaught.
“We are at the border of a humanitarian catastrophe,” Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko told the Associated Press last night, warning that Kyiv has electricity, water and heating, “but the infrastructure is destroyed to deliver the food and medication.”
“That’s why the message for everyone is support Ukraine together…we are strong,” the 6-foot-6 [2 m.] former heavyweight boxing champion added. “Every Ukrainian is proud to be independent, proud to be Ukrainian, and we are proud to have our own country.”
Even some of Russia’s own citizens are against the war on their neighbors, as an estimated over 5,000 anti-war protesters have been arrested in some 45 cities across the nation since the invasion began last week.
The Western world and nations around the globe are clasping hands to fence in Russia with sanctions, boycotts and other isolationist policies.
The European Union (EU) for the first time ever will finance its member states buying weapons for Ukraine. The European body will provide Ukraine with arms, fighter jets, 450 million euros (US $505 million) in weapons and 50 million euros (US $56 million) in fuel and protective equipment, EU foreign policy head Josep Borrell told a press briefing yesterday.
The EU will work to further isolate Russia by barring its airspace to Russian aircraft, Borrell said, and will also battle the spread of disinformation by banning Russian news agencies Russia Today and Sputnik from broadcasting in the EU’s 27 member states.
The United States is joining with the European Commission as well as France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom to “take further measures to isolate Russia from the global financial system and the global economy,” a senior administration official told a press briefing at the White House yesterday.
The measures include disconnecting sanctioned Russian banks from SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), a network that nearly every bank in the world uses to make and receive payments.
The allies will also continue stacking on sanctions against Russian companies and oligarchs.
Even notoriously neutral countries are piling onto the anti-Moscow bandwagon. Sweden is joining the EU in sending weapons to Ukraine—something Stockholm hasn’t done since the Soviet Union invaded Finland in 1939. Even Switzerland has announced plans to freeze high-powered Russian assets in its banking system.
But the falling value of the Russian ruble and the expected financial crisis don’t seem to be slowing Putin down, however, as his tanks continue rolling into Ukraine.
NATO nations still say they won’t put boots on the ground in Ukraine, but they are nonetheless supplying the besieged nation with weapons.
Washington is sending a care package of Stinger surface-to-air missiles as part of a US $350 million military package, AP reported, while Germany is sending 500 Stingers as well as other weapons and equipment, including 1,000 anti-tank weapons.
The Russian Advance
Maps illustrating Russian advancement into Ukraine show the northern, eastern and southern edges highlighted in Kremlin red.
Russian forces are progressing into northern Ukraine with all eyes on the capital of Kyiv. When the invasion began on Thursday, Russian tanks and convoys pushed into northern Ukraine from Belarus, where Russian troops and tanks were stationed in what President Vladimir Putin had insisted was a joint military exercise with Belarussian troops.
Putin also had an easy foot in the door from eastern Ukraine, where Russian troops had entered the day before the invasion began when Putin recognized the independence of two self-declared breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine. The areas are a stronghold of pro-Russian rebels who welcomed Moscow’s troops and tanks with open arms in a mutual defense agreement.
And from the south, Putin also had an easy entry, making use of the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia invaded in 2014 and annexed, though the annexation is not recognized as legitimate by the international community. Nonetheless, Crimea offers an important launching pad as a port city, where Russian warships have been able to station off the coast of southern Ukraine and convoys have streamed into the country.
The fighting is also heavy in this part of the country, as Putin seeks to connect his eastern and southern fighting forces, focusing on the strategic port city of Mariupol. But the people there are holding their ground, not giving up without a fight, despite the near constant shelling.
Putin, though his fighting force far outnumbers that of Ukraine’s, has the stubborn Ukrainian spirit with which to contend. Throughout the first five days of the invasion, stories of heroism continue to emerge.
When the Russian invasion began, Vitaly Skakun Volodymyrovych, a marine, volunteered to blow up a bridge connecting Crimea to mainland Ukraine to slow the entrance of Russian convoys and buy much-needed time for Ukraine to brace itself.
In the process, however, the marine had no time to make it to safety and died in the explosion.
Satellite images taken yesterday show a 5-kilometer-long (3.25-mi.) convoy of Russian military vehicles heading toward Kyiv. All eyes are on Ukraine to see whether the international condemnation, sanctions and the Ukrainians themselves will be able to hold off the red tidal wave from Moscow.
Posted on February 28, 2022
Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 28, 2022)
Photo Credit: Фото Дмитрий Муравский/Flickr.com
Photo License: Flickr
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