The Russian reinvasion of Ukraine is a month old today.
It's been a month of our resistance. The heroic opposition of the ??Ukrainian nation, the Ukrainian people, to the merciless invasion of Russia. It's been a month of our defense against attempts to destroy us.#stoprussiahttps://t.co/yYRCxhItPg pic.twitter.com/jFZzlL9l5u
— Ukrainian Air Force (@KpsZSU) March 24, 2022
Before we dive in, let’s do a little cleaning up. Ukraine is not accusing Russia of having taken 402,000 Ukrainians including 84,000 children to Russia. Rather, Ukraine’s parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmyla Denisova announced that the Russians have made that claim, but that at this time her office is unable to verify the Russian assertion. There has been repeated reporting that Russia is trying to and is actually funneling internally displaced Ukrainians into either Russian controlled portions of Ukraine or into Ukraine proper as the Ukrainians attempt to flee to safety. There has also been reporting regarding the Russian use of isolation facilities, think something along the lines of a cross between a torture dungeon and a black site, established in Russian controlled parts of Ukraine. I referenced some of that about two weeks ago, specifically Christopher Miller’s reporting on the subject. Right now all we know is the Russians are relocating Ukrainians to Russian controlled areas or Russia proper, what we don’t know yet are the actual numbers. I’ve looked at a dozen different pieces of reporting on this today and all of them, other than The Kyiv Independent‘s that I linked to above, botched the story in how they framed it.
Earlier today NATO held a senior leader’s meeting. Here is the video of President Zelenskyy’s remarks to them:
On the one month anniversary of Russia’s invasion, Zelensky addressed NATO: “Never, please, never tell us again that our army does not meet NATO standards. We have shown what our standards are capable of. And how much we can give to the common security in Europe and the world.” pic.twitter.com/hJ4FooIkVb
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) March 24, 2022
TALLINN, Estonia — To anyone who lived under Soviet occupation, reports from Ukraine replay scenes we thought we would never see again. The bombing of civilians and the wanton destruction of buildings recall the carnage unleashed on the European continent by Hitler and Stalin. In Mariupol, a port city subjected to a brutal, horrifying siege, residents are reportedly being deported to faraway places in Russia where an uncertain fate awaits them.
My family knows what that’s like. My mother was only a 6-month-old baby when, in 1949, the Soviets deported her, together with her mother and grandmother, to Siberia. My grandfather was sent to a Siberian prison camp. They were lucky to survive and return to Estonia, but many didn’t. Today the Kremlin is reviving techniques of sheer barbarity. Those who have escaped Mariupol describe it as hell on earth.
To put an end to these horrors, the most optimistic observers have put their hope in a peace deal. But peace is not going to break out tomorrow. We must face up to the fact that the Kremlin’s idea of European and global security is completely at odds with that of the free world. And Vladimir Putin is willing to kill and repress en masse for the sake of it.
At NATO, our focus should be simple: Mr. Putin cannot win this war. He cannot even think he has won, or his appetite will grow. We need to demonstrate the will and commit resources to defend NATO territory. To check Russia’s aggression, we need to put in place a long-term policy of smart containment.
First, we must help Ukraine in every possible way. The people of Ukraine have not tired, and neither can we. True, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has galvanized us into action. Allies and partners have made decisions with remarkable determination and unity. But now is the time to go the extra mile.
Ukrainian soldiers are able fighters, but they need weapons and matériel, including longer-range air defense assets and anti-tank missiles to better protect their skies. Defensive military aid must be our top priority, and we must commit ourselves to it for the long haul.
In Estonia, a country of 1.3 million people, we have provided Ukraine with close to $250 million worth of assistance so far. Much of that is military, but it extends to ambulances, blankets and baby food. The free world should redouble its efforts to support the people of Ukraine however possible — through the delivery of arms, food and daily essentials.
Much, much more at the link.
More after the jump!
Similar to Prime Minister Kallas’s thoughts in the Times, Nataliya Gumenyuk, a Ukrainian author and journalist, wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Russians have asked Ukrainian forces to surrender Mariupol. The Ukrainians have refused.
I can easily imagine that some observers in the outside world might find that bewildering. The Russians have shelled the city into a smoking wreck, targeting residential areas. First, the airstrikes destroyed power stations, so there’s no more electricity. Then the biggest supermarkets were obliterated, so there’s no food. After another deliberate attack, the firefighters no longer had vehicles, leaving them struggling to put out fires and rescue survivors.
Nothing could show more clearly how Russia aims to continue this war. If Vladimir Putin’s troops don’t win battles with the Ukrainian military, they’ll attack civilians, pressuring the government to surrender. In Mariupol right now, an estimated 300,000 people are effectively being held hostage by the Russian troops who have encircled the city.
Those watching from afar struggle to understand how Ukrainians should respond. I’ve been getting calls from analysts in Paris and London, asking me why we don’t simply give up Mariupol. They’re also asking me how Russians and Ukrainians can arrive at a deal to end the war. Surely, the reasoning goes, anything must be better than enduring such slaughter.
But we don’t see airstrikes on maternity hospitals and bomb shelters where kids and women hide as invitations to negotiate. We see them as demonstrations of what the Kremlin will do to Ukrainians if it can. It’s not about pride. It’s about survival. We have no choice but to win. If we lose, we know what awaits us.
Much, much more at the link.
When I am being asked what I want from NATO leaders, it is this: I want them to remember about this child sitting next to his dead parents on the cold street of Mariupol.
And many others, who were not picked up by strangers and who are still sitting next to their killed parents.
— Inna Sovsun (@InnaSovsun) March 24, 2022
Here’s a thread with pictures from Kharkiv. I’m posting the entire thread because of the images.
Kharkiv today. A thread. All pictures by AP Efrem Lukatsky
A dead resident lies at the store as he was killed it the Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 24, 2022. Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second biggest city 30 kilometers of the Russian border. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
— Kyrylo Loukerenko (@K_Loukerenko) March 24, 2022
A Ukrainian soldier inspects a destroyed Russian APC after recent battle in Kharkiv, March 24, 2022. The writing made by Ukrainian soldiers reads: ‘Not to War’. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) pic.twitter.com/jzidlk8ocs
— Kyrylo Loukerenko (@K_Loukerenko) March 24, 2022
A man reacts in a room in his apartment in a multi-story house destroyed after the Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) pic.twitter.com/fsLzsQSQ1m
— Kyrylo Loukerenko (@K_Loukerenko) March 24, 2022
An elderly man plays the accordion to amuse children in a city subway that people have used as a bomb shelter for over three weeks as they save themselves from the Russian shelling in Kharkiv, March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) pic.twitter.com/mEC7ZYqc3B
— Kyrylo Loukerenko (@K_Loukerenko) March 24, 2022
In the months before Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, an oligarch with Russian ties allegedly paid for locals to paint swastikas around Kharkiv, sources say. The effort, according to the sources, was part of a false flag operation to exaggerate Ukraine’s Nazi presence at a time when Putin was using it as a pretext for war.
The alleged plot, according to multiple sources, involved Pavel Fuks, a real estate, banking, and oil magnate who, the sources claim, was co-opted by Russian security forces to participate. Through intermediaries, Fuks allegedly offered between $500 and $1,500 for street level criminals to vandalize city streets with pro-Nazi graffiti in December, January, and February.
The accounts of Fuks’ alleged efforts to stir up animosity in Ukraine is derived from multiple sources, including U.S. intelligence reporting. Rolling Stone spoke to an Ukrainian who says he confronted Fuks twice about the alleged swastika plot. Another account of the plot was relayed to the U.S. government in recent weeks by a U.S. informant with high-level business and government contacts in Ukraine. A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, confirmed that the allegations about Fuks’ activities had been received and distributed for analysis throughout the U.S. intelligence community. Finally, Rolling Stone spoke to four other sources who spoke on condition of anonymity and confirmed they heard about Fuks’ alleged role in a plot to paint swastikas independently of one another.
Oleg Plyush, a former top Ukrainian kickboxer who says he’s a friend of Fuks and spoke to him about the swastika plot, tells Rolling Stone he learned about the scheme from an intermediary involved with finding people to carry out the vandalism. According to Plyush’s account, when confronted about the scheme, Fuks claimed that “he had no choice” and that it was his “assignment” — mandatory if he wanted to stay in business in the region.
Fuks is Jewish and a major contributor to a holocaust memorial in Kiev, and there’s no reason to believe he would pay for swastikas out of antisemitism. Instead, if confirmed, the plot suggests there was at least one deliberate attempt by the Russian security state to manufacture evidence to exaggerate the sway of Nazism in Ukraine. In the run-up to the invasion and after, Putin claimed Ukraine had fallen under Nazi control and that the invasion was necessary to liberate the country — a claim broadly dismissed internationally but that, with the help of state-run media, seems to have taken hold among many Russians.
Much more at the link.
Newlines Magazine broke an interesting and important story on how Russian backed and financed hard right and neo-nationalist parties, politicians, and activists in Europe are closely coordinating their messaging with the Kremlin.
ast November, during Matteo’s working visit to Moscow, my boss arranged a private meeting with him, renting a room on the same floor of the Lotte Hotel to prevent the Western press from catching wind of the meeting.
So wrote Mikhail Yakushev, a Russian national, in a Microsoft Word document he emailed to himself on June 18, 2019. Yakushev is the director of Tsargrad, an organization in Russia that describes itself as a group of companies whose mission is “the revival of the greatness of the Russian Empire.”
“Matteo” referred to Matteo Salvini, the former Italian deputy prime minister and interior minister and current leader of the League, Italy’s nationalist and anti-migrant party. Now a senator in Italy’s upper chamber of Parliament, Salvini has been an avowed admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom in 2019 he labeled “the best statesman currently on earth.”
The documents and digital correspondence, obtained by New Lines from the London-based Dossier Center, in collaboration with Estonian news outlet Delfi, Italian magazine l’Espresso, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and German public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk, offer documentary evidence of just how much a major European party known for its racist and xenophobic politics has relied on financing and strategic political support from a key proxy and influence peddler of the Kremlin.
As Moscow rounds out its first month of an illicit war in Ukraine undertaken on a flimsy pretext of “de-Nazification,” these communications show it is thoroughly aligned with a host of extremist right-wing politicians and activists throughout Europe who come far closer to satisfying the definition of fascism than does the embattled government in Kyiv.
Yakushev’s boss and the chairperson of the Tsargrad group of companies is Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian politician and business owner more commonly known as the “Orthodox oligarch” for his outward religiosity. Malofeev has been sanctioned by the EU and the U.S. for his involvement in the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukrainian control in 2014. Ukraine has accused him of financing illegal pro-Russian paramilitary groups.
In the document Yakushev sent himself, he expressed concern that the “situation had drastically deteriorated” and “now we cannot continue to have contact with Matteo.” According to the document, the contact between Salvini and Tsargrad had been Salvini’s adviser Gianluca Savoini, who had “lost his free access to his boss.”
In February, the Italian magazine l’Espresso published an investigation in which it revealed Savoini’s secret negotiations in Moscow with an apparent aim to acquire millions of euros’ worth of covert funding to the League ahead of the EU parliamentary elections in 2019.
As a result of that exposé, Yakushev’s document noted that Savoini was “under the watchful eye of the local [Italian] security services.” He pondered how to get in contact with Salvini, whom he always referred to by his first name, “so that he can allocate a reliable person to contact us, with whom we can communicate in Russia or anywhere in Europe.”
The same document described a plan to hold a convention in the fall of 2019 at the Konstantinovsky Palace in St. Petersburg. The leaders of the European Parliament’s freshly created Identity and Democracy faction, uniting its far-right political parties, would be invited to attend. The meeting would be covered by the international press.
The event never took place.
I can’t possibly imagine something like that happening in the US…
Much, much, much more at the link.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Israeli government rejected requests from Ukraine and Estonia in recent years to purchase and use Pegasus — the powerful spyware tool — to hack Russian mobile phone numbers, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.
Israel feared that selling the cyberweapon to adversaries of Russia would damage Israel’s relationship with the Kremlin, they said.
Both Ukraine and Estonia had hoped to buy Pegasus to gain access to Russian phones, presumably as part of intelligence operations targeting their increasingly menacing neighbor in the years before Russia carried out its invasion of Ukraine.
But Israel’s Ministry of Defense refused to grant licenses to NSO Group, the company that makes Pegasus, to sell to Estonia and Ukraine if the goal of those nations was to use the weapon against Russia. The decisions came after years of Israel providing licenses to foreign governments that used the spyware as a tool of domestic repression.
In the case of Ukraine, the requests for Pegasus go back several years. Since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, the country has increasingly seen itself as a direct target of Russian aggression and espionage. Ukrainian officials have sought Israeli defense equipment to counter the Russian threat, but Israel has imposed a near-total embargo on selling weapons, including Pegasus, to Ukraine.
More at the link.
With the exception of the Turks and the Qataris, all of our Middle Eastern allies and/or clients – the Israelis, the Saudis, the Emiratis – have been somewhere between useless and actually working against us in regard to dealing with Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine. In the case of Saudi, it is because MBS and Jared are conspiring.
Several days prior to Biden and King Salman’s call, Jared Kushner traveled to the Middle East, meeting with MBS and other top Saudi officials, including the CEO of Aramco, at the state oil company’s headquarters in Dhahran. It is not known what they discussed. Asked about the purpose of the meetings, neither Kushner nor his firm, Kushner Companies, responded to requests for comment.
I can’t possibly imagine what Jared, MBS, and the CEO of Aramco might possibly have been disucssing back in January.
Here’s another excellent thread explaining why sanctions and economic measures will not have the effects we need them to:
THREAD: Things are not going well for Putin in Ukraine war. But slew of news today should remind everyone that Putin definitely knows how to build and exploit leverage. 1/x
— Andrew S. Weiss (@andrewsweiss) March 23, 2022
- Take Putin’s unexpected announcement that EU countries will now have to pay for natural gas shipments in rubles, not euros. That move, plus a Russian-directed shutdown of the Caspian Pipeline (1 mln/bpd), are pushing oil prices back to the $120 level today. 2/x
- Just as Biden lands in Europe, Moscow is trying to damage some of the much-touted Western unity over how to punish the Kremlin under pressure. It’s probably a manageable challenge for US and Germany policymakers but hardly desirable under the circumstances. 4/x
- The bigger question for Biden, Scholz, et al is how to manage this crisis over the long-term and to deal with the limitations of the West’s toolkit. What if Putin refuses to slow down his devastating attacks on major cities across Ukraine and kills huge number of civilians? 5/x
- Yet Western leaders are being stampeded by public anger. Every single day they are being forced to “do something” to hurt Putin. Their main response is to impose sweeping sanctions on Russia. The White House and the EU will highlight that during Biden’s trip. 6/x
- But money is always fungible (esp if you’re in the oil/gas business!), and there is a big timing mismatch between the imposition of sanctions and the impact on the Kremlin. How long will it take to starve the Russian war machine? 7/x
- In short, the West is entering a pain contest with Vladimir Putin. Can Joe Biden tolerate an uninterrupted spike in energy prices and the pass-through to inflation from other disruptions in global commodities markets and supply chains? 8/x
- The moral imperative to support Ukraine in their defense against a Russian invasion is 100% unquestionable. Yet Ukraine’s remarkable s/t successes on the battlefield may not immediately impact Kremlin decision making about how much punishment Russia is willing to absorb. 9/x
- Does Putin get accurate information from his generals? Does he even trust it? Impossible to say. But what we know for sure is that Putin has routinely used escalation in such situations to upend his opponents’ best-laid plans. No reason to doubt that that’s changed. END
Your daily bayraktar!
Un drone de combat Bayraktar traitant une cible mobile, ici, un char dont il fait sauter la tourelle : pic.twitter.com/pPcSvqiQ1L
— Dominique (@FreeFrance) March 24, 2022