Der Koolschrank will be busy with a special assignment for about a month or two. During this period we will leave the below on our home page, in observance of what is so far the West’s re-defining conflict. These are the republished daily reporting and analyses of the first month of the war in Ukraine, starting from February 24, 2022. As it is, all assembled here, it amounts to a book-length read. Inside Der Koolschrank (“INNNARDS”) are 100s of international articles on culture, politics, sociology, and almost every subject imaginable -including many more on the Ukrainian situation- to keep our readers occupied.
THE UKRAINE WAR: BEGINNINGS
34 Days That Shook The World
Background Note: Here, in chronological order, are the articles that appeared from Feb. 24, 2022 to March 28, 2022. The reports were the results of immediate, real-time primary information, all of which required additional frantic hours of factual confirmation and multiple translations before writing the articles with no sleep (for a month) then publishing them without so much as a chance to read them. Although they appear now as a recounting, at the time of publication they were nearly all scoops, certainly in North America, almost as often in Europe, and in some cases even in the Ukrainian media. Keep in mind that we were reporting primarily for American and European audiences who were panicked, but without knowing why; most of the shaken had no grasp of the terrain, the languages, histories, or the players, so we were trying to gradually build those up to the point where they became situated -populated- in readers’ mental atlases. As the events poured forth, it was sometimes necessary to write three or four articles per day. Unfortunately, having rested on our thorned laurels for a while, we had at that moment no regular publisher and so for the first time ever found ourselves on the hideous Facebook. While the work was quickly picked up and run pretty much world-wide, our site was inevitably hacked and in fact eliminated by Putinoids. So what is printed here is only whatever we were able to locate in hard copies. Many articles and titles are missing, but we will attempt to keep the order while presenting the series here as one read.
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I had replied about an hour ago to some concerned folks: Putin’s main objective is what I said a month ago: legally embrace Donetsk and Luhansk so that the Russian military is invited in as brother-protectors, then make the 400-mile dash down to Crimea, thus connecting Russia to the Black Sea. He needs the direct sea access, their only other sizable ones being in the far north (from Petersburg to Archangelsk, discounting the minor Kaliningrad base), and nothing else until one reaches the Pacific Ocean (Vladivostok to Kamchatskiy). That’s why he was committing warpower to Assad…quid pro quo for the port of Tartus. He will widen the land corridor by grabbing a few productive cities (Mariupol going down right now) and probably Berdyansk and Melitopol. For which he’ll get a slap on the wrist at most. Unless he’s off his medication, everything else is/has been terror, shake em up, and misdirection (what, he wants to threaten Europe with the release of nuclear plumes from Chernobyl?). Naturally he’s hitting the airports outside of Kyiv and flattening their air forces on the ground all over. Hell, he already fried their ATMs, so suddenly no cash available! He can wait til later to jigger Ukrainian elections so as to get a complaisant parliament/Premiere in place. That will go nicely with his having stationed troops etc in Belarus…they’ll need to stay because Lukashenko has been risking a revolution by going Idi Amin and he’s only still in power because Putin allows him to stay on as a lightning rod and huge buffer state (Luky will also have to foot the bill for his Russian visitors), which is what any normal Kremlin Kong would also wish of Ukraine: a big fat cooperative buffer land. No reason Russia would actually want to end up geographically nose-to-nose with NATO. Apart from his personal haul, Putin sagaciously stockpiled HUGE gold and foreign cash reserves, but not enough to keep the whole country running if 100% sanctioned. For this same matter of economy it would be impossible for him to actually ‘take over’ Ukraine and hold it all. All the foregoing, of course, subject to Putin taking his meds. And nobody else decides to throw their 8.000 troops against Russia’s 200,000+. [end first part] I should now like to add: Putin’s political reckoning is further premised on his rather promptly being hailed as “Mr. Nice Guy,” for not doing all the damage he’s currently showing himself capable of (if he sticks to the east run down to Crimea). However, his rampage is so far so overpowering that he will not be trusted as such by others. And, in his attempts to stomp fealty into the hearts and minds of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, he has repelled many, many lesser politicians in those countries; people who might prefer to knock said nut out of the way and steer a more mundane state, where the most commotion is the noise of money being made. Already thousands are spontaneously protesting throughout Russia proper. That could build. Could reach across to Belarus. Any hack could take advantage of that. And still –if he sticks to the plan above– Putin will have made a hero of Zelenskiy, a comedian who previously played President in a sit-com. Which would REALLY piss Putin off.
After yesterday’s explanation of motives and objectives, this morning we see the eastern buffer widening still as both Kharkiv (northeast) and Kherson (southeast) are being tenderized with aerial attacks, which would make a straight slash (going through Dnipro) cutting off nearly a quarter of Ukraine. So, the heart of the strategy remains the Russian mainland being elongated and expanded to directly reach the Black Sea. Now, with Kherson in play (roughly 50 mile northWEST of already Russified Crimea), and the wipeout of Ukraine forces on Zmiinyi Island (over 100 miles WEST of Crimea), Putin is facing the temptation to include Odessa in his scheme, which would cut another straight line not only insulating the Crimea, but lessening Ukraine to a de facto landlocked country. The emotional focus is even more on Kyiv…both Putin’s and the world’s. The little Funny Guy Zelenskiy has so humiliated Putin that he’s become a target of personal retribution. But Mr. Clean Hands Putin, for appearances and the economic reasons I laid out yesterday, is not yet willing to have Russia effect a total military takeover, so he’s somewhat vehemently requested that the Ukrainian Army itself overthrow the government and set up shop. Not unlike how the Chilean army vanquished Allende when he became a humiliation to the U.S.A. However, there are too many Ukrainian-origin members in the Russian army through all ranks (bet the attacking troops were carefully weeded) and the actual Ukrainian military are largely loyal and irate by now, so if Putin’s ‘request’ is granted it will be the work of a select subset of the army. Otherwise known a a coup.
Now allow me to straighten out a few kinks in history, from one end to the other. When Putin appeared Monday he was querulous and looking oddly ill. Corticosteroids were suspected by some, but Putin doesn’t have emphysema nor any announced rheumatologic disease, so that would leave high blood pressure medications, estrogen, thiazolidinediones or a dead plastic surgeon rotting in a dumpster.
Regardless of his physical condition, Putin summoned the strength to awe the world with a number of pre-set justifications for the week’s Ukraine actions, and like most people, he’d sculpted these around a skeleton of putrid grievance.
Russians in particular –even his close flunkies– were unnerved to hear him attack Lenin as the prime instigator of his injustices. Pay attention to that word. Putin, no communist anyway, said that Lenin’s insistence on a federative state comprised of peoples who retained the right to national self determination was wrong from the beginning, and was the cause of the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union he had in mind was the one invented and mummified by Stalin; the one Putin had lived in as a KGB functionary.
Calling Lenin the “author and creator” of Ukraine,” Putin not entirely accurately said: “Soviet Ukraine is the result of the Bolsheviks’ policy and can be rightfully called ‘Vladimir Lenin’s Ukraine.’ He sourly lectured: “Let’s start with the fact that modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, by the Bolshevik, communist Russia. This process began almost immediately after the 1917 revolution.” Putin “recalled” (according to TASS, the Russian news agency) “that Lenin had a fundamental discussion with Stalin over the principles a future state should rest upon. Stalin’s ideas were rejected and the country was built on ideas implying the possibility of secession of constituent territories. “That right [to secession] was the delayed action mine [time bomb] planted under our statehood. This is what caused the country’s eventual breakup.”
Here is what really happened:
From May of 1922, when he was hard hit by his first stroke, through a period of recovery and regaining his functionality until his second stroke at the end of that year, Lenin put his last efforts into eliminating what he saw as a horrible Gogolesque Tzarist “foul bureaucratic swamp” where he’d once imagined a new society, and removing Stalin (who he believed was most enamored of it) as dangerously conniving and completely unsuitable from any position of authority. As he did not yet have total power, Stalin fought as hard as he could both to keep his position and to undermine Lenin’s convincing first the Central Committee then the Congress of Soviets to establish a federation with previously Tzarist-ruled neighboring nation-states. Lenin was still alive and so by the end of that year his proposals resulted in the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Note the “s” on the end of that.
It was earlier during that same year that Putin’s “injustices” were won by Lenin. Stalin, “Slugger” Ordzhonikidze (his compatriot, pal and possible suicide after backing away in ’37) and Djerzhinsky (founder of the Cheka, the original KGB) had elected themselves to go straighten out some surrounding republics who wished to retain their semi-autonomous status. Naturally the investigators made more problems than they solved and Lenin was livid upon finding out. In December of 1922 he wrote to the Party: “I think the hastiness and impulsiveness of Stalin played a fatal role here […] I wrote long ago in my works on the national question, that an abstract presentation of the question of nationalities is of no use whatever. It is necessary to distinguish the nationalism of the oppressing nations from the nationalism of the oppressed. […] Internationalism from the side of the side of the oppressing, or so-called great nations (although they are great only in their violations) must consist of observing not only a formal equality, but an equality which would destroy upon their side that inequality which is created factually in real life. Anyone who has not understood this decidedly does not understand the proletarian attitude to the national question; he remains essentially at the petit bourgeois viewpoint, and therefore may slide at any moment into the bourgeois viewpoint […] It behooves us to hold Stalin and Djerzhinsky politically responsible for this genuine Great Russian nationalistic campaign.”
This is Putin’s putative “injustice” and Lenin’s “fundamental discussion with Stalin” which Putin “recalled.”
Here’s a shot of protesters in ST. PETERSBURG yesterday evening. Note that carrying placards was made illegal long ago. These unplanned anti-war demonstrations are still popping up across the country and my hope is, as I previously wrote, that these will spread and grasp hands with the people of Belarus, who almost had success in taking down Lukashenko only a matter of months back.
As of this (Saturday) morning the Russian objectives remain the same as I reported yesterday, with Russian gains being quite limited due their military being too bulked up.
Kyiv survived the night. Some air defense still operable –at least 2 Russian aircraft shot down–, and Russian army tripping over their feet outside the city itself. Kyiv quieter, evening-through-morning curfew announced for the city –less for civil protection and more to reveal implanted Russian snipers, saboteurs and bombers.
From Moscow, Putin still demanding Ukrainian military stage a coup, probably for stratospheric amounts of money. At gunpoint.
Meanwhile, on the ground, 3 fronts: Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kherson looking lost, which would establish the new border 200 miles WEST of the original two rebel republics Putin had marched in to “defend.” In the middle of this line running from the Russian border in the north to the Black Sea itself lies Dnipro…hardly conceivable that the Russians would leave it in Ukraine.
Which brings us again to the greatest temptation: Odessa. Mechanized divisions and troops, once Kherson is subdued, could make that 100-mile dash west to seize this prize and own the entire Black Sea border.
Putin’s humiliator, Comedian/President Zelenskiy, is still alive and rallying Ukrainians, and, instead of sleeping, structured deals with Turkish Putin Erdogan to close and infest the Black Sea. Erdogan seems to think it a good chuckle mainly because he knows that Russia already has plans in their drawers to carve out parts of Turkey in time for Thanksgiving. Closure of the Bosphorus will block any Russian reinforcements (reserves and materiel) and landlock the new expanded Russia, which Putin had ironically planned to do to Ukraine.
THE SANCTIONS BATTLE
From the beginnings of Putin’s war on Ukraine, common sense and public clamor demanded that not piecemeal but total sanctions be slammed on Russia. The capstone of those sanction calls was SWIFT; that is, barring Russia from the means of any cross-border financial transactions. In opposition to popular demand, most politicians prevaricated on this, with a notable few nations VERY firmly rejecting the move. They were, in order of the amplitude of their objections: Italy, Hungary and Germany. Germany waffled on shutting down the Nordstream 2 up until Thursday but still dismissed bringing the SWIFT sanction into play. Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a banker and author of absurdist austerity measures after the 2008-9 (and continuing) “crisis,” naturally insisted that Italian luxury goods be exempt (big market for rich Russians), and Hungary’s Orban only agreed yesterday to support “what the prime ministers of the European Union are able to agree [on]” knowing that a major part of his power relies on siphoning E.U. subsidies off to his cohorts and henchmen.
SWIFT is the main global software, protocol and service exchange used for banking transactions. It is collectively owned by its member financial institutions. Those collective owners are, according to SWIFT’s current Board of Directors, represented by 21 bankers and 2 directors of European central securities depositories, one of them, Clearstream, owned by Deutsche Börse, the other, Euroclear, was founded by J.P. Morgan and is now owned by the Belgium-based Euroclear SA/NV. The 24th member is Chairman of Management Board of Central Counterparty National Clearing Centre JSC, headquartered at Bolshoi Kislovsky Pereulok, 13 Moscow, 125009 Russian Federation.
Although ensconced in Brussels, SWIFT has regularly gotten itself in trouble for various substantial illegalities in Europe, many at the prodding of the U.S. And even long after those the Snowden leaks also proved their “inadvertent” exposure of any and every transaction the National Security Agency desired. So it is not surprising that the U.S. has likewise strenuously overlooked SWIFT as a key to sanctions. British Prime Minister Benny Hill proclaimed his intention to sanction only some Russian billionaires and maybe limit the amount of deposits Russian nationals can keep in British banks (that is, he gave a loud alert to the Russian oligarchs to move their holding beforehand), but did assert that he’d support the inclusion of SWIFT in sanctions IF all other nations decided to.
As of this writing: No word whatsoever has seeped out of the peace talks Putin had Lukashenko call on the Belarus/Ukraine border. The Russian delegation must have been sitting at least 10 hours by now. President Zelenskiy had before the talks calmly warned his country not to expect any miraculous conversions to rationality among the Russian negotiators, but he explained that he was sending his team so that “no citizen of Ukraine would have any doubt that I, as president, tried to stop the war when there was even a chance.”
Zelenskiy’s skepticism was not a personality setting; Putin had continuously demanded the impossible all the way up to the start of the war. Putin’s key pre-invasion demand was contractual proof that Ukraine would never join NATO. Indeed similar promises (about other East Bloc nations) to Gorbachev and Yeltsin were disregarded, so now Putin insisted on the agreement in writing. But both EU and NATO requirements for conditions to be met obviously would’ve kept Ukraine out of both for ages. US and EU diplomats repeatedly reminded him of this, and even suggested that the guarantees he sought could be finessed by Ukraine adopting an Austrian or Finland-style formal neutrality. He might’ve known that as soon as his forces stepped into Ukraine he had created a ‘condition of conflict’ which NATO disallows in any country seeking membership. (Just past midnight on Monday morning the 28th, European Commission head von der Leyden –not known for her acuity– stupidly announced concerning Ukraine: ”indeed over time, they belong to us, they are one of us and we want them in.”)
But shock is wearing off and reactions are lumbering along to the extent that the EU has sealed off all its airspace to Russian-connected aircraft, and the US has initiated banning the sale of “some” semiconductors to Russia. Thus far this deprives Putin of chips from Intel, TSMC, and AMD. Or “some.” And SWIFT might finally be denied to the Russians by late Monday, but up til now everyone is haggling over specific banks to sanction, when only a total immediate exclusion will have the necessary speed and infrangibility (see yesterday’s “The Sanctions Battle”).
On the home front: Pulling all they have together under Putin’s pounding, in the last 2 days alone Ukraine mobilized 100,000 more fighters; 50,000 are military reservists and 50,000 are Territorial Defense volunteers. Zelenskiy himself today put out a global call for volunteers, in a vivid flashback to the days of the Spanish Republic.
Unfortunately, the battle situations are extremely dangerous, al fondo because Putin’s lack of success has him facing a coup or revolution in Russia on one side, and the ignominy of the Little Comedian’s refusal to perish on the other.
More specifically: having been chased out of Kharkiv last night, Russia’s planned north-to-south line demarcating the over 200-mile-wide new border down the east ¼ of Ukraine has lost its northern pin. Yet the Russians swerved the imbroglio in Mariupol while connecting mainland Russia via the 2 rebel republics all the way to Crimea. Below Mariupol, Melitopol has fallen to Russian forces and air strikes are wracking Kherson further west, exposing Odessa to peril. As I’ve said, if Odessa is seized, Russia –from its mainland– will possess the entire Black Sea coast and Ukraine will for the first time become a landlocked country.
But the most wretched threat is that now, contrary to Russia’s original plan of using the northwest for feints and misdirection, Putin has turned his personal fury and a growing fighting force on Kyiv. Satellites plainly show Russian tanks and supply lines untangling themselves and charging towards the capital to mash the fly who has been pissing on Putin’s nose. With due respect, Zelenskiy has surpassed even Roberto Benigni as a comedic hero.
Uneasy is the head that wears a crown. While the Russian colossus stumbles down unknown roads and slowly realizes its master has sent him off into a facefull of spit, with insufficient supply lines behind him, Putin seems to have ceased fulminating in public and gone into hiding.
Where’s Vladdie? Is he peering at the walls around him wavering, growing closer? Is he holding his breath waiting for the smack of the footsteps, the Marshal’s baton at his door with news of a Ukrainian city fallen –or his own abdication, already thoughtfully written out for him? How long will the army support his groaning campaign? How much will his faceless collaborators gamble on his taking the rap? How quickly will financial sanctions (finally) vacuum the pockets off the clothes of the decitizenized denizens who had no say in this war?
Like Ivan the Terrible, who stormed off into the frozen north and sulked until the boyars had to come to him, granting him unlimited power, or Stalin, stupidly shocked by Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, who hid in his dark dacha, drinking and dreading the surely lethal opprobrium of his remaining colleagues –until they too made their helpless pilgrimage to beg his return– Putin might be stewing and fearing for his position. What began as a masterplan to immortalize his name is looking more like the pattern of woodworms devouring his throne.
Kyiv met another morning. Zelenskiy, in battle fatigues, broadcast to Ukraine and the world the day’s greetings, cautioning that last night had been “brutal,” with Russian bombardment and shooting throughout all areas of the city.
Kharkiv, meant to be the northeast point of Putin’s intended line down to the Black Sea has fought through the night and seemingly repulsed Russian forces. Ukrainian reports repeat the indications of unqualified, confused and demoralized Russians dropping their weapons and asking to be taken prisoner. The city appears to be in the mopping-up phase. The rest of the line (north to south) is still in play.
Putin finally reappeared today, combed but bloated (see yesterday’s “Where’s Vladdie?”) in a brief broadcast from inside the Kremlin. Surrounded by medal-festooned Defense baboons, who, in the camera cutaways sit scowling with apprehension, Putin announced “I order to move Russia’s deterrence forces to a special regime of duty.” He specifically meant nuclear deterrent forces. The “special regime of duty” he claimed was in response to “NATO countries [are] making aggressive statements about our country.” This seems to be in line with his increasing hypersensitivity; nobody has moved, readied or so much as twitched a nuke outside of possibly Russia. To be fair to him though, great swathes of Ukraine are now covered with signs reading “Russians, Go Fuck Yourselves.” The Ukrainians have actually deployed all their road department to remove any street or direction signs and replace them with this new national motto.
After initially declining a luncheon of polonium pelmini in Belarus, Zelenskiy just now agreed to President Idi Lukashenko’s hosting of peace talks today. Zelenskiy will hold Kyiv while sending a Ukrainian delegation to meet the Russians “without preconditions.” An hour previously Zelenskiy had already asked the Swiss to hold cease-fire negotiations in Geneva, preferably under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council. The current peace talks must have been demanded by a shaky Putin, as Lukashenko had made his first proposal to Ukraine 2 hours before –as an ultimatum in fact, with today as a deadline. The meeting, on the Ukraine/Belarus border, will occur as Russian and possibly Belarus special forces have been spotted piling into transport planes heading to Ukraine. Interestingly, the Russian delegation had already arrived at the site of the talks before Zelenskiy had agreed to participate.
Day broke like sheet glass over Russia this morning as the first reverberations of sanctions started a run on the banks; the ruble crashed as civilians and speculators scrambled to swap it for solid currencies. MOEX –the Moscow stock exchange– was locked shut and withdrawals of money are expected to be locked down today. The western sanctions have also jammed the Russian central bank, blocking it from accessing its $630 billion in international reserves.
Putin now needs two heads; one for roaring at Ukraine, another to watch his back. With the scent of struggle mucking up his war and the volcanic resentment of the Russian people, he’ll have to worry about some kind of uprising. Not that he cares about the lives of his subjects, but without that new second head he could lose the one he has.
Speaking of heads, I should’ve clarified yesterday that, with Putin’s Kharkiv defeat, the land left holding the Russian mainland to the new southern territory is only around 20 miles wide, so all the Russian gains to the Black Sea are hanging by a tendon. But I don’t see enough Ukraine forces in that area to make the 150 mile swing from Kharkiv (where they’re still needed) over to that vulnerable strip –otherwise they’d be able to cut Russia off from the whole invading body.
Further Russian victories along the southern land corridor were limited to the capture of Berdyansk, a minor industrial and tourism city on the Azov/Black Sea coast –roughly 50 miles south of Mariupol, which remains bypassed by the assailants. From Kherson west to Mykolaiv Russia is still trying to consolidate authority as it drools with frustration for its ultimate appetition: the Odessa Steps. And through this past week to today, the ones who originally wished to be recognized as valiant victims –the fighters resident in the Russian-annexed Donets and Luhansk republics– continue to contribute next to nothing, barely inching their borders east.
Kyiv itself arose to more heavy air attacks as Russia desperately fights for supremacy before facing the Ukrainians in today’s negotiations. Overnight they’d fought off repeated Russian troop attacks, resulting in much loss of men and equipment on the Russian side. Kyiv still holds. Russian forces, constipated by their malfunctioning rear logistics, remain bulked some 15 miles outside Kyiv (north). Around Kyiv the best Russia could do last night was to launch missile strikes on Chernihiv, 60 miles north of the capital, and Zhytomyr –about the same distance west of it.
Yesterday’s planned peace talks did not begin until noon today, with the Kyiv delegation headed by Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov and close Zelenskiy adviser/member of the Rada David Arakhamia, a disorientatingly near lookalike of Zelenskiy. More surreal still is that their party is named “Servant of the People” (“Sluha Narodu,” identifiable as CH in it’s Cyrillic initials), which was the name of the sitcom in which Zelenskiy played the President.
Kerensky said from Kyiv that his aims were for “an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine.” One half hour before the talks began he called on the European Union for “immediate accession under a new special procedure.” Because Putin has done such a commendable job of enforcing his demands that Ukraine (and other Russian neighbors) never join the EU or NATO. Continuing his winning streak, for no intelligible reason Putin sent his fellow Duma majority-party testicle Vladimir Medinsky to lead the Russian delegation. This is the creature who called for the new statues of Stalin to be raised across Russia (and tossing Lenin’s corpse in the trash), and is most renown for formulating “a rejection of the principles of tolerance and multiculturalism” during his eight-year embarrassment as Minister of Culture. So: not a lot of room there for deep or quick thinking, but this guy might end up being single-handedly responsible for Russia’s military brass marching Putin down to the Lubyanka basement and putting a bullet in the back of his neck. Just like the good old days.
ENTER BIG DADA
Six hours of peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine produced no immediate end to the war, just both delegations turning back to their capitals to “consult” in preparation for a second promised round of talks either “at the earliest possible opportunity” or “within days,” depending on the spokesperson, the international reaction, or the further conquest of land.
For, even before the talks had finished, Russian forces redoubled their endeavors to beat out the flames of Ukraine resistance, killing dozens of people in rocket strikes on Kharkiv, which they had lost Saturday night. Konotop, just over 100 miles northeast of Kyiv, is at the moment in Russian hands and being used as a staging ground for increased attacks on the capital. From both north and south Russia is finally moving to take Mariupol, which had until now been the sole gap in the corridor from mainland Russia to the Black Sea. Mariupol is still resisting. Deaths and casualties are rapidly mounting, and roughly 200 Iskander missiles have been fired into Ukraine in the past four days.
The most recent Iskander attacks at least have come from Belarus. Putin had much earlier used Belarus to mass his war machine, and has now browbeaten its president into brushing the crackers out of his bed and joining forces to crush Ukraine. Or perhaps Russia has been holding him back until now. Because Alexander “Big Dada” Lukashenko has never not been compelled by his urge to bludgeon civilians. Up through last April “Idi Amin” Lukashenko was ruthlessly fighting a year-long internal revolt, which saw Belarusian police and military absolutely mashing citizens, journalists and anyone with any cultural tendencies into the pavement, much like his more respected protector, Vladimir Putin.
The Belarusian forces are overwhelmingly allegiant. And unlike Russia’s young meandering conscripts, they form a veritable army of ogres. Leaping into the carnage with joy, Lukashenko loudly announced that he would request the return and emplacement of the 81 nuclear warheads Belarus had before handing them over to Russia for safe-keeping in the mid-1990s. His special forces are suspected of having already been airlifted into Ukraine since yesterday.
As of this minute: on one side of the border are bodies of all stations and even nationalities, bewildered yet resolute Ukrainians, and the growing thousands rushing to fight in the new International Territorial Defense Legion. On the other, two rumbling armies, two demented autocrats, rampaging financial collapse, at least one sclerotic military establishment maybe starting to grumble, and two nations worth of citizens whose abuse and abasement are reaching unsustainable levels.
THE WAR WITHIN
Stalin famously observed of Molotov that “his brains are stupid,” which is as comprehensive explanation as any for why he was put in charge of foreign affairs. One result of his intriguing with von Ribbentrop was the Soviet Union’s permission to invade Finland, which inspired the Finns to invent the Molotov Cocktail. Once used against Soviet tanks, these are now being made by the thousands in wary, weary Ukraine, listening for the approach of the forty mile long tank column rolling south to Kyiv. Putin’s own stupid-brained emissary to Monday’s peace talks, Medinsky, managed to set the stage for a reprise of Finland, deceptively mouthing terms and conditions while missile strikes continued to pound Ukraine.
But this time the invaded nation is rapidly being, albeit tardily, actively supported by a world rattled out of its fine suit of neutrality, at least to the extent that the world fears blood on its shirtfront.
As of this (Tuesday) morning some of the measures in play are:
Today a special admission procedure has been launched to deal with Ukraine’s formal application to join the EU (smooth work, Vladimir!).
Hungary has done a volt-face and is now in support of integration Ukraine into the EU.
The SWIFT exclusion of Russia looks to be actually kicking in today.
Russia has ordered its domestic exporters to sell most of their foreign-currency holdings. Credit and payment cards controlled by companies outside the country are not functioning within Russia, bank runs are wreaking havoc, imports to Russia have already become prohibitively expensive to the populace, travel is beyond affordable and foreign flights diced by bans from surrounding countries, Russia’s Central Bank foolishly magicked up a 20% interest rate rise precluding any internal borrowing solutions, and the sum of all this is that inflation is bubbling up to 70%
Even Beijing has shuffled back from Putin’s war, as, instead of proving his potency as a future ally, he has induced a consternated reappraisal in China, which last week significantly abstained from the U.N. Security Council’s vote on a resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In fact, China has been Ukraine’s biggest trading partner since 2019, with a total value of 18.98 billion last year. Ukraine has been an important hub within the Belt and Road Initiative since 2017. Ukraine is important for China as a gateway for Beijing in Europe owing to the free trade deal between Ukraine and the European Union and Ukraine’s supply of mineral and agricultural resources. China currently has plenty of active interests in Ukraine; Beinken Energy, Xinjiang Communications Construction Group, and Weldatlantic Group have business operations or product sales in Ukraine. During the past week Chinese state media has made the unprecedented move of highlighting the defiance of Ukrainian nation.
So, yes, now some people are realizing that something’s going down, but reaction per se won’t resolve or preclude these injurious actions. Up to this moment, most of the reactions I’ve seen, in the west, are emotional and so irrelevant as to be nonsequiturs. It is a disgustingly ubiquitous egocentric entanglement, with one’s own reactions being more important than events ostensibly being reacted to; even the outward forms of empathy are just borrowed from those truly suffering. Perception is obscured by the sea of self we rollick in, and that is, in a word, dishonest. Information might be a better vantage point to stand on, but the people seem illiterate and blinded by their own reflection, and knowledge would detract energy and attention from the cynosure of their world: the great ME. Half the modern world believe themselves sanctified for having given up cigarettes and taken up chain smoking slogans instead! Sentiment, memes and cheers are basically automatic, but Ukraine –and we who’ve allowed the world to become what it is– have practical matters to attend to.
And this morning’s practical issues are:
Inside Ukraine, all ground-level developments add up to a design of Russia simply intensifying their efforts to end any resistance, which has thwarted what Putin apparently planned as a blitzkrieg. Since Monday: Russian troops inside Ukraine are now estimated at 150,000; not enough to hold a recalcitrant nation, but the Belarus troops released from their kennels have not yet been counted. The tank convoy grinding south to Kiev grows longer with each satellite pass-over, but is still running without air cover, and mindlessly keeping in close formation; it is a juggernaut exposed to successful Ukrainian drone and artillery hits. Each tank wrecks the road for those behind it. But it is coming. These came south from the Belarus buildup, which always required a separate eye on it since that is the only way to take Kyiv without risking coming over the Dnipro bridges which split the city. Also from Belarus, direct combat has erupted in Bucha and Irpin, on the northeastern outskirts of Kyiv, with field guns pounding Brovary on its northwest. Borodyanka – between Bucha and Irpin– was shelled and now has Russian tanks and ground troops crashing through it Further to the northeast, some 65 miles from Kyiv, Chernihiv also was under heavy artillery attack, with Idi Lukashenko’s official Belarus troops engaged in combat. Still determined to retake Kharkiv, Russia attacked it last night with missiles, at least one of which wipe out its government buildings and central plaza Freedom Square (Майдан Свободи) . Cluster bomb tail fins were also found in Kharkiv. And even small cities are also being targeted: Okhtyrka –25 miles northwest of Kharkiv– has been under relentless attack by Grad rockets for five days. Mariupol, the last eastern-corridor city between Russia and the Black Sea, has been under nonstop rocket and air assaults since yesterday’s peace talks. Kherson (northWEST of Crimea) now has Russian troops fighting their way through its center. It is the last vital prize before Odessa, a mere 130 miles west.
Yesterday, Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s Ambassador the US, claimed that Russia has been using Thermobaric bombs, although no international body has yet been to investigate the areas where evidence might be. Marcus Hellyer, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, is convinced such evidence will come to light once inspectors are able to safely enter the war zones in question. He averred that “The separatists that Russia was supporting in the Donbas region, they have been using them for a number of years now.”
Developments on the Ukrainian side were less spectacular but certainly displaying no defeatist attitude: Kyiv created its own Military Administration –or Kyiv Military Defense Administration– with General Mykola Zhernov as its chief. Previously a commander of the supporting forces. Zhernov, according to accolades by Pravda itself, is esteemed for having “organized the engineering support at a high level for the combat operations of the Ukrainian Army in 2014-2015.” Within Ukraine as a whole: Using fighter jets, S-300 missiles, and anti-aircraft guns, Ukraine downed 5 Russian planes, a cruise missile and a helicopter by dawn this morning.
The military situation is guaranteed to stumble on, growing worse until a peace settlement is reached, either through the U.N. or the yet to be resumed Russia/Ukraine talks. Or until Putin is deposed by either a Kremlin clique or the Russian people.
THE NEW TRIUMVIRATE
Ramzan Kadryov, former Chechen jihadist, now Head of the Chechen Republic, today revealed the participation of his own forces in the war against Ukraine. Kadryrov, who affiliated himself with the FSB (Russian Federal Security Service) in 1999, used the Telegraph app to advise the world that between 2 to 8 of his special forces had been downed in Ukraine, and proclaimed, presumably to Putin, that a “decisive assault.” was immediately necessary. Astoundingly, the tipoff came to the Ukraine’s government directly from the FSB “who today do not want to take part in this bloody war,” according to Oleksiy Danilov, head of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council. The investigative journalist group Bellingcat clarified that, of two Chechen groups said to be in the country, one was in fact a full armored column, destroyed by Ukrainian drones, which they filmed as smoldering wrecks.
Among his milder exploits, Kadryov has a long history of torture, and assassinating Chechens and others who’ve annoyed him, both in and outside the Chech Republic. With Putin and Lukashenko, he thus now takes his place in the triumvirate of autocratics who have lived and do live like gods on the nectar of brutality.
Three hours ago, the European Parliament formally recommended granting Ukraine EU candidate status, which, as a gesture is excellent, but as a concrete act to sway the minds and aims of the belligerents merely spurs them on. Ukraine, to be clear, is by no legal definition a belligerent. Those are Russia, Belarus, and now, it is revealed, the Chech Republic; all acts of aggression have been conducted by them…and hopefully no more state actors. The political heads of those 3 countries are lashing onward both to Kyiv and to charges of war crimes.
It remains to be seen how earnestly the EU will take the European Parliament’s green-light to catch up with Zelenskiy’s call for “immediate accession,” although as that was made only yesterday, it might be regarded as an overall “go.”
Russian artillery, aerial and missile attacks persist, the latter estimated as high as 400 today. The lethality of the missile strikes in particular have left much of the world appalled. Galvanized would be better. The status of the cities and battlegrounds in play are as they were this morning, but that means extremely active. Kyiv is at present determinedly turning itself into a defensive labyrinth, scattering anti-tank barriers every which way. Zelenskiy has ordered full mobilization for the entire country.
While the assault pours on unceasingly,Yuri Vaskrasenski, a member of Lukashenko’s party, told TASS that the second peace talks will occur tomorrow (Wednesday), though no public confirmation has yet come from the Ukraine government. Vaskrasenski subsequently repeated the information to RIA, the Russian state news agency. This is the third time Putin has initiated negotiations (he had Lukashenko make the first –rejected– and second –successful– call to Zelenskiy). Once again, the Russian delegation will arrive early –by this evening it was implied. Even as it delays a cease-fire, something about the origination of these calls might indicate Putin has space for doubts in his seething mind.
As of dawn today (Wednesday) Kyiv is quiet, crouched in the mist drifting down on a maze of trenches, sandbags, anti-tank barriers and random chunks of concrete. After yesterday’s pummeling from airstrikes and artillery, Kyiv seems to be waiting out a short lull before even worse arrives. The world fully expects the assault to resume any minute. Lined up north of the city are 40 miles of Russian intentions comprised of a massive column of tanks, heavy artillery pieces and BMP3 armored carriers. These, along with an estimated 150,000 troops, are about 15 miles away. The Belarusian military are still eagerly waiting on the border. All conceivable force is most probably going to be unleashed in time to coincide with the expected second Russian/Ukrainian peace negotiation today, although President Zelenskiy has insisted that any talks can only be conducted in a cease-fire framework.
However, there is some reason to hope that the armored column has been stalled there for the last days more because of logistic and supply backlogs. Around the Kiev area –and elsewhere in Ukraine– Russian soldiers have been too easily captured and have in some cases just surrendered; from their own words and acts come serious considerations of moribund morale, and reasonable evidence of their having self-sabotaged their own transport. Ground combat appears to be far from their hankerings.
Elsewhere the war crashed on through the night:
Shortly after midnight, Zhytomyr –under 6o miles directly east of Kyiv– was bombarded with Russian cruise missiles.
Still grappling for Kharkiv, which has changed hands at least twice and suffered the terrible missile hits of Monday night, and more last night, Ukrainian forces are fighting off a pre-dawn incursion of Russian paratroopers, who landed in the city’s ruined center and immediately attacked a medical facility. At the same hour, fifty miles to the northwest, three columns of Russians seized Trostyanets, cutting all infrastructure and cutting it off from the rest of the country.
Somehow, despite heavy shelling, the center gap in the eastern land corridor, Mariupol, managed to restore power to the city so as to attend to the wounded and restart the bread ovens.
Despite being unable to persuade western countries to enforce a protective no-fly zone over Ukraine, Ukrainian air forces destroyed a large Russian convoy of circa 800 vehicles nearing the city of Bashtanka (35 miles north of Mykolaiv –where Russia is still sweating to gain control). Back down at the Dnieper delta, Russian troops have captured the port and railway station in Kherson. But in this same clouded area, the Russian 810th Detached Marine Brigade, based in Crimea, have collectively refused to participate in any invasion into Ukraine. Shades of the legendary Odessa mutiny!
Yesterday saw the former (Yeltsin era) Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev openly call for all diplomats to resign en masse in protest over the war in Ukraine, and first thing this morning council members of Moscow’s Gagarinsky district demanded that Vladimir Putin immediately withdraw troops from Ukraine, denouncing the war as “a disaster” and “a path to the degradation and impoverishment of the [Russian] country.”
Yesterday I reported that two groups of Chechen mercenaries –actually dispatched by Ramzan Kadryov, Head of the Chech Republic– had been wiped out by Ukrainian forces, and that the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council had casually admitted the Chechens (and their locations) had been fingered by the Russian FSB itself. Ukraine has no time for prank phone calls, so this tipoff would not have been done by a one-off call to some random secretary in the hopes that the crucial message would somehow move up to the proper authority; the FSB (who Ukraine explained “do not want to take part in this bloody war,”) therefore must have already established a direct line of communication with the Ukrainian government and military. How many other invading forces have the FSB exposed, and when? I do not yet know, but due to the openness of yesterday’s information, it is certain that Putin will have ignited a wildfire now rolling through the security services as he tries to run the informers into the open. This means those FSB members’ lives are at stake –and their wives and their children– and they will need to weigh that threat against the benefits of knocking Putin out of power.
Power versus time: this is Vladimir Putin’s great gamble.
This afternoon the International Criminal Court formally opened an investigation into Russian war crimes, starting immediately. The usual procedure of first clearing the merits with ICC judges was excepted when the unprecedented amount of 38 nations referred reports of atrocities, thus bypassing the threshold for the the initial approval.
Wait til judges take a quick squint inside:
To snuff out any more boisterousness or thoughts of opposition, the Duma is tabling gulag-like sentences for “spreading disinformation about the armed forces of the Russian Federation in any military conflicts” (will they be sentencing themselves? A bit confusing that), and the imposition of martial law, expected to kick in by next week at the latest. I would like to remind the readers that Putin’s war has already long been conducted within Russian borders. The Russian ruling caste has enacted a cascade of prohibitions and steadily horrific punishments as avidly as they’ve raked up the nation’s wealth, which is ripping apart like the ulcer of a krokodil junkie.
The war without, meanwhile, is still a morass of half-seized cities, incessant bombardments, unplanned forays, incomplete conquests and rock-solid dread. Everyone knows the big blows are coming. The sole success Russia could possibly claim as of this writing is in the south, where Kherson appears to have at last passed in to Russian control, with troops storming in from the encirclement and raiding government buildings as first priority, according to mayor Igor Kolykhaev.
Both Russian clumsiness and the strange delay braided through the even stranger ‘peace talks’ have prolonged the uncertainties in every aspect. The second round of Russia/Ukraine deliberations were, and are, mysteriously obscure. Well past midday today Ukraine was still uncommitted to rushing off to the meeting, because, as Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba complained: Russian demands are still “the same…as at the start of the war,” Only by 7:00 pm did Kyiv decide to send their delegation. The destination is being kept somewhat secret, but from the reports of Russians in place, it was generally inferred to be Bilovezka Puscha, in Belarus. Two hours ago Rada sage David Arakhamia said only that while Bilovezka Puscha is not the meeting place in question, “There will indeed be negotiations, but the place is different. All the details later.” I am putting this in to print with no word yet coming from any location after 5 hours of (possible) peace parleys. Naturally, the world waits for the Ukrainians to file out and the supreme push to annihilate Ukraine to commence minutes thereafter.
But come, now; from all we’ve witnessed, things are not so hard to sum up. For the moment –before the bombs come– whether discussing peace or jiving the world, every official Russian representative is obligated to contort every encounter to fit into Putin’s haunted history. But it is history that will devour him.
Such power incinerates. While his mouth might repeat them until all around him drop dead, those “same demands” in truth never hold still. They cannot stay in one place or form any more than Putin’s war aims can. Too much of the world’s time has been diverted by chasing then dodging, ducking and flinching from those unearthly demons of his. Putin’s interior life is by now purely chemical; chemicals swirling into compounds which detonate upon crashing into one another. One man’s embarrassment turned to skyblackening pyroclastic rage.
What Vladimir Putin “wants” is nothing.
And as long as he lives, he will summon it forth, personify it and bring it down on every person. This is the “Asiatic despotism” the Revolution had dreamed of erasing from Russia. This is the European imperialism those who revolted against the First World War sought to end. This is the power that no one man should hold. This is the brute chaos apes express to create order. This is everything that should never be.
STANDOFF STAND UP SITDOWN
One hour ago –5:00 in the evening in Kiev- the Ukraine government announced that they had wrapped up the retaking of the northern Russian/Ukraine border territory of the Sumy Oblast, which is the region directly northeast of Kharkiv. This, depending on the depth of the gains, would insulate Kiev from one of the original massing-points of the Russian invasion forces.
Kharkiv itself is still a battleground until one side or the other can claim to have fully established itself after the city has swung from Ukrainian to Russian to Ukrainian then nearly Russian control over the last days of fighting.
Chernihiv -60 miles to Kyiv’s north- is being pounded by Russian air power. I should stress that Chernihiv has absolutely no military facilities in or even anywhere around the city, which demonstrates Russia’s adopting total war doctrine as their only means of beating down the country as a whole. This new approach is a natural, although savage, development after yesterday’s and last night’s air attacks while the Russian army continues heaving but unable to actually grab it’s opponent. Zelenskiy addressed the nation at noon, explaining that the Russian ground troops had achieved no concrete success in any of their ares of operation. Specifically, he said: “Russia’s missile and bomb strikes on Ukrainian cities are a recognition that they have failed to achieve anything significant on our land.”
On sea however, near the coveted Odessa, a cargo ship sank due to an as of yet unattributed explosion. The ship was Estonian owned.
About the same distance away as Chernihiv, to the southeast, Russian troops were blocked from moving toward Kyiv by Ukraine citizens, supporting their army, who had 2 civilians wounded by a Russian grenade as they resolutely marched out and formed a human barricade before the small city of Enerdgodar on the east bank of the Dnieper river. Energodar is part of the greater Zaporizhzhia NPP, and, tellingly, houses one one of the multiple nuclear power plants Russian ground forces have been swarming towards.
And finally –after yesterdays concertinaed journey- by 4:00 this afternoon the Ukrainian delegation arrived in near Brest, on the Belarus/Polish/Ukraine border and settled around the table to breath life into the second peace talks with Russia. Perhaps this round will achieve more than its eponymous 1918 treaty (that was when Russia lost the Ukraine to the Central Powers).
From the meeting place, Mykhalyo Poldolyak, Zelenskiy’s chief adviser and doppelgänger defined what he considered Ukraine’s agenda for the talks in order of exigency as: an immediate ceasefire, an armistice, a humanitarian corridor for civilian evacuation. The genuine Zelenskiy, in Kyiv, added a reparations condition insisting on Russian compensation to Ukrainian citizens, municipalities, and the nation.
NOTE TO ALL: the reporter Red Wood’s account was hacked 15 seconds after posting this morning’s coverage of the Ukraine war. All content was wiped and of course FB is making it impossible to reclaim the account. Wood had been reporting on the war since day one, sometimes sending 3 to 4 reports a day. He did not expect the pro-Putin lice to turn their attentions to him.
RED WOOD’S LATEST [Evening] REPORT LOCATED!
At noon today, the second round of peace talks reach the point where both Ukraine and Russia agreed on “humanitarian corridors for civilian evacuations and exoduses as well as incoming food, medical and similarly classed supplies The delegations also announced temporary ceasefire zones, although those were left geographically vague. 10 hours later Kyiv was once again rattling under a steel storm of Russian shells, and the Bolshoi battalions in Energodar [see this morning’s report: “STANDOFF STAND UP SITDOWN”] had gracefully managed to direct their fire at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. The Zapporizhzhia, adjacent to the town of Chernihiv, which was mentioned as being defended by its residents this morning. By 1:30 this afternoon reports from Energodar’s civilian defenders and mayor Dmytro Orlov had the power plant itself burning.
The Sumy Oblast, which had earlier today been recaptured by Ukraine, is being bombarded by Russia. The Russian Military brass has knocked its heads together and produced the hollowed clanking of concerted brio, at last finding use for the little brother in Donetsk and Luhansk: Denizens of the two pro-Russian rebel republics are currently being rewarded for their steadfastness by being mobilized for transport to Crimea, from which point they will be pushed forth as sentient sacrifices at the front of an assault on Odessa. A second group of them are likewise being organized and moved into position to spearhead a planned ground offensive on Kyiv. Ukraine’s head of the Armed Forces, General Valery Zaluzhny, touted them as “cannon fodder.”
Unfortunately, our warnings of Odessa being too great a temptation for Putin to resist are becoming material before our eyes. Kherson was -also as forewarned- the last chance for his ambitions to plead satiation, but his gluttony has burst all bounds. Odessa is now ringed with sandbag emplacements and its people preparing for a great raid by sea on the south coast, and land via Kherson.
As night grumbles in, Kyiv is still spared the enormous mechanized invasion, which is menacingly, ridiculously, still no closer than 19 miles outside the city’s northern limits. Zelenskiy’s wizard of peace chatter, Mykhailo Podolyak, left today’s talks expressing discontent and displaying worry. He told the Ukrainians that a third attempt at ending the war will occur “probably in the nearest time.”
First exhale then grab a cigarette, knowing that it’s safe to light it; by 6:30 this morning the fires were squelched at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar.
No one suffered bodily harm and no change was detected in radiation levels (according to the International Atomic Energy Agency); nor was there seriously compromised “essential” equipment, and a good number of people hope they are right. Have two cigarettes.
The ones who decidedly do NOT win a cigar are the Russian boys who’d been shooting and shelling the plant as the local citizens put their bodies on the front lines to protect their home and workplace.
Russia claims to be in possession of the plant, but it is only being kept running (and whole) by Ukrainians. An hour before those flames were extinguished, Russian troops captured the television tower in Kherson. Odessa is readying to be attacked and surrounded, as Russian forces are holding most gains and grouping up in south Ukraine.
Throughout the rest of the country though, Russian actions are bumbling and sputtering. In Brovary, a ‘suburb’ some 2 miles outside Kyiv, Ukraine defense troops encountered and destroyed two tanks, four infantry fighting vehicles, and one armored infantry vehicle while at the same time reclaiming one of their own armored vehicles. Oleksiy Danilov, Ukraine’s Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council began the day enumerating Russian mishaps, citing concrete reversals in Poliske, Siverske, Slobozhanske and Tavriiske. These are a few examples of why Russia has broadly turned to air and missile attacks, particularly directed against civilian targets. Amazingly, Ukrainians in battle-dress are still to be seen climbing over the wreckage that was the city of Zhytomyr, which had marked the deepest (southernmost) Russian advance within some 55 miles east of Kyiv. Exhausted Kyiv is under martial law and in full defense mode, still awaiting the stalled Russian tanks.
In response to western preparations for sanctions to be leveled at his fiefdom, Belarus President “Idi” Lukashenko bravely announced this morning that “The Belarusian army has not taken part in the special operation and does not intend to do so.” -This from his own state-controlled Telegram channel.
As Russian options are now reduced to the most basic but brutal tactics of bombard and besiege, time is truly the last ally Putin has. And the most unendurable ordeal Ukraine is facing. Now, with this equation emerging so clearly identifiable through the smoke and dust, the cacophony of world leaders has coalesced into a call for some miraculous cease-fire. Despite their trepidation of creating a no-fly zone over Ukraine, many of these said leaders are this minute in Brussels -including NATO and EU principals- attempting to formulate a pill or a shiny object which would focus Putin’s prefrontal cortex and bring him to sit at a table of truce. In New York, the United Nations Security Council will be holding an emergency session today. Already this morning the UN Human Rights Council established an international commission to investigate Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy, with his lengthy experience in acting, producing and directing, has decided in a brilliant bit of comedic casting that Recep Erdogan would be the ideal man to talk sense into Putin. No kidding. Even TASS has quoted Erdogan as saying he’d personally met with Zelenskiy in Ukraine and that “[Moscow] responded positively to our invitation to visit Turkey after Mr. Putin’s visit to China. We will define the date now, and then, I hope, we want to hold a high-level meeting, to gather Mr. Putin and Mr. Zelenskiy. We have achieved an agreement with Mr. Zelenskiy in this regard,” In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov -well habituated to denial- responded that a meeting between Putin and Zelenskiy in Turkey is currently “not being discussed in practice.”
NOTE: Our legendary reporter Red Wood, who has been covering the Ukraine war since day one, has not been captured. Only his Facebook was (by Putinos). Best information has it that he is still on the job, disguised as a Capuchin monk, or monkey (the handwriting is somewhat unclear). We continue with his updates, and his previous war reports have been mostly located and reassembled on this page, which you can follow or read at any time you wish.
TO SPEAK TO REALITY
Friday evening and the war grinds on, Kyiv still rocking on its foundations, 100 civilians crushed beneath rubble in the nearby hamlet of Borodyanka The most concentrated mass of Ukrainian forces are fighting the northwesternmost triangle where the invading army entered from Belarus. The triangle is upside-down, with the wide edge -or base- being the Ukraine/Belarus border, and the point meant to pierce Kyiv; but the defense managed to deflect and draw it almost 100 miles west, where the Russians have had to battle for Zhitomir. Most notably, this triangle is vulnerably isolated -a detached piece of pie almost 60 miles away from the nearest Russian-held territory, which begins around Slavutych 50 miles north of Kyiv. That stretches all the way east from the edge of the Belarus/Russian border to Izyum, then ends before it reaches the ambitious corridor tying Russia to the Luhansk and Donetsk republics, down to Crimea and looped northwards through Kherson to Mykolaiv.
Russian tanks in that territory from Slavutych to Izyum have almost no chance of entering Kyiv, as the Dnieper and the bridges over it to the city center are impassible. Hence the shelling, the blasting of residential areas, and the black smoke in daylight, amidst and from the frustrating east bank. However that northern warzone is wide and widening, and we’ve seen a great number of the assaults taking place there; Konotop, Chernihiv, Sumy, Trostynets, Pokrovsk, Kharkiv…all still under barrages and ground onslaughts…because the Russian war machine has not really won there either.
At Ukraine’s southern end, in further proof that Putin has exceeded his original war plans -as well as his mental merits- Odessa was subjected to blatant shelling today. The hammering came from the Russian navy, while its ground divisions fought for Mykolaiv, the obvious jumping-off point from which to capture Odessa from the north. As I write, Ukrainians have beaten back the Mykolaiv attack.
People worldwide have been constantly startled by Ukraine’s skin-of-the-teeth military successes since Russia hurled itself at the country, but in fact the formal neutrality of other governments has been moderated just enough thus far that some aid has fortified Ukraine. It took several long days, but Kyiv is taking possession of military hardware from nearly every NATO nation and the U.S. as assault rifles, Stinger ground-to-air missiles, Javelin antitank missiles, diverse shells and artillery ammunition, light mortars and reconnaissance drones were seen being unloaded at Boryspil Airport on the southwestern edge of Kyiv at the beginning of this week. As to bolstering their troops, non-Ukrainian citizens who have enlisted to join the International Legion of Territorial Defense were estimated to be 16,000 and rising as we write, and the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is working to minimize idealistic sacrifices by specifically calling for people with combat experience above all. And despite the initial Russian attempts to flatten their air forces, according to the U.S. Defense Department “The Ukrainians still have a significant majority of their air combat power.” But further fighter aircraft promised by NATO countries this past Monday were canceled by Tuesday. However, Kyiv has swatted away fate and held onto at least some of its MiG-29 Fulcrums and Su-27 Flanker fighters. Considering all the above, what Ukraine needs now is an André Malraux.
Another key to surviving to date is the oddball communications network Zelenskiy was able to string together at the last moment. Also done in the spirit of double-jointed neutrality, as the Americans were closing their embassy, they distributed to Zelenskiy and his people secure satellite phones; in addition to maintaining open lines across the government and military, the President’s and the Defense Minister’s phones can connect directly to U.S. Officials, for whatever that’s worth. Should the Ukrainian power implode, the phones are made so that they can be run off of generators or automobiles.
PLUS, in a great splash of publicity, Elon Musk delivered loads of Starlink internet equipment to Kyiv at the end of February. This setup can also run off generators when needed. But the musky aspect of this is that the system requires putting up what are basically TV satellite dishes, which will act as signaling beacons for any Russian airstrikes. And of course everybody knows that a solar eruption wrecked 40 of 49 newly U.S. launched Starlink satellites in the first week of February. The ‘fleet’ is deployed in low-earth orbit and makes quite easy targets for Russia.
But the core -the gravitational center holding Ukraine together when all other factors would have it shatter- is that Zelenskiy has collected around him sincere, determined, serious people. They know better than anyone how much honesty, in perceiving reality and in addressing it, is the heart of staying alive.
(Where Is The Truth?)
As of now: The Ukraine government is hurriedly using the timeframe for the “humanitarian corridor” agreed upon in the last peace talks (March 3) to evacuate as many civilians as possible from Mariupol and Volnovakha. That timeframe is today, March 5. Pursuant to this terrible task, Zelenskiy has already put forth a resumption of peace negotiations for as soon as March 7. “”We are waiting for a confirmation from the Russians,” his office said. At the same time, in Moscow, Turkish President Recep Erdoğan, was meeting with Putin and has already personally delivered a message to him from Zelenskiy reaffirming the latter’s willingness to hold direct negotiations with Putin.
Mariupol’s city council reports that in spite of the ceasefire Russian forces are now shelling both cities. But, three hours ago -on the southern front- Vitaliy Kim, Head of the Mykolaiv Regional State Administration, posted another unexpected victory on his Telegram account, saying: “The invaders have been forced out of the city. We have a lot of their equipment. Not only did we force them out of Mykolaiv, but also out of Kulbakino. Right now they are simply running away. Mostly in the direction of Kherson. Towards [the towns of] Shevchenko, Such, and Snigurivka. There is no enemy equipment in the city. The city is on lockdown.”
The recaptured areas Kim spoke of were being bulked up for the main land-side invasion of Odessa, 75 miles south and still under Russian naval shelling (although the navy might now be rethinking its commitment), and were universally regarded as lost just yesterday. Kherson is 50 miles in the rear, and around 120 miles away from Odessa.
Around Kyiv, the Ukrainian Armed Forces completely re-took Bucha, Makariv, and the Hostomel airport.
More comprehensively: Two days ago the International Criminal Court began investigating war crimes perpetrated by Russia in its assault on Ukraine. Before readers cheer themselves hoarse, they should know that the ICC is not a function of the United Nations -although it does cooperate with and report to it. The ICC was actually only recently established by means of the 2021 Rome Statute. At least 40 nations refused to sign into the treaty, neglected to complete internal legislation ratifying it, or have pulled out of it when expedient. Among them are the 3 superpowers: USA, Russia, and China. The reasons are self-evident.
Vladimir Putin has called sanctions against Russia a declaration of war. To him, so are holey socks. The devastation of Ukraine he conceived is in this same man’s words a “special operation.” Few people flock to his palace for an “operation,” just as not many pre-pubescent Ukrainian kids want to spend the night in his Neverland. For Putin has indeed built around him a Neverland in which the Soviet past never needed to grow up and integrate its comportment with modern adult standards; never developed beyond killing for cookies and automatically lying about it.
In yesterday’s afternoon article (“TO SPEAK TO REALITY”), I ended my usual war coverage by explaining how it is the integrity of the key people Zelenskiy has drawn around him which has been keeping Ukraine from falling apart. Read through that again and note the central point is that those men and women “…know better than anyone how much honesty, in perceiving reality and in addressing it, is the heart of staying alive.”
As though weirdly inspired by Putin, I have seen and heard innumerable authors/posters favoring peace in Ukraine call much of the this ongoing plight “a propaganda war,” but that itself is mere sloganeering. It would be wiser to consider this a struggle for information. The avalanche of posts, pictures and articles crashing down from the citizenry, academics, and journalists has been preponderantly emotional, and this in effect perpetuates confusion and helpless, decapitated, wing-flapping running in circles. Information is what humanity needs.
But the world’s dependence on the internet as it currently (mal)functions is the greatest barrier to information we run into. Knowledge is dispensed only once it passes the smell test of insentient software. Urgent or vital submissions are instantaneously rejected by algorithms. Alerts and updates are delayed by uncomprehending machinery. Pages are hacked, disappeared, by means of shoddy protective measures programmed to do the opposite of what the buck-toothed codemonkeys sold them as doing. And all this is whirring even before The Shadow tells us what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
Unsurprisingly, that evil is conducted -constantly- via the very means observed above. By now most people on earth have seen documentation coming from leak upon leak of nefarious and near-total surveillance. As narcotized as they are, people world-wide have learned that the interception of their every keystroke or shopping request is fully in the hands of not only state entities, but also nearly every privately-owned business. Curdled together with the technological marvels which enabled this intrusiveness, we are now at the point where conscientious adults cannot speak with each other, but Weight Watchers can run stealth apps to collect children’s personal data (and that’s the lightest of violations entangling the online world).
This platform I am (hopefully) publishing this on is a paragon of all this malfeasance. Bottlenecking the traffic of information is moronic. Nearly 3 billion people voluntarily creating a global monopoly of publishing is suicidal. Publishing on one’s own website can be equally -actually more- secure, and the virtues of human decision-making would easily lift the quality of information disseminated to much higher levels than we’ve been reduced to.
UKRAINE WAR: THE OLD NEW MODEL
March 6, Morning
Some of us smelled something off -almost sideways, as it were, which is generally not a benevolent direction of approach. And now a world that had evolved into a War on Terror has outgrown its skin, swallowed itself, belched, and emerged as a War of Terror.
Vladimir Putin has no choice but to drown Ukraine in terror. He has no choice because his is a mind without options, so it offers no selections, just one skull-packing mania.
We could debate and hypothesize how that cranium filled -the etiology, the psychopathology, neurology, his diet- but it would be too risky to probe, as the entire cavity is jammed to the limit with fury. As I wrote before, we know that what conglutinated the whole was the simple notion that, in full view of the world, a comedian humiliated him. It was, it is, for Putin an incomprehensible reversal of roles, surely enough so as to push him to madness. And I don’t believe he enjoys all the Kremlin adjutants hiding in curtains singing Ridi, Pagliaccio.
Manifestations of Putin’s mortification as of this morning are:
Kyiv’s surroundings are being hit by Russian bunker-buster bombs in addition to the steady hail of shelling and missiles (Chernihiv, Irpin, Zhytomyr), including as far as Vinnytsia, where Russian shells demolished the airport (civilian) and ignited a fuel depot. Russia is still throwing any forces to hand at Mykolaiv (the southern city they lost yesterday) and Kharkiv (just south of Russia, over 100 miles west of the Donbas, allegedly in Russian control for days). The Russian shelling managed to hit the Kharkiv Physics and Technology Institute -a nuclear research facility. The pinched, weak center of the eastern corridor, Mariupol, was the scene of yet another Ukrainian defense move, and by this morning they had destroyed 3 enemy tanks, 4 infantry fighting vehicles, 2 Tiger armored 4x4s, and had captured 30 Russians, some of whom gladly surrendered alive.
Roughly 70,000 Ukrainians who live elsewhere have already returned to Ukraine to join the defense.
Today’s debacles mean, de facto, that Russian military objectives have, perversely, returned to the original ones Putin had sold to the big brass; i.e., fattening up the Donetsk and Luhansk enclaves and stretching them into a corridor connecting Russia proper to reach Crimea and the Black sea. This at least should placate the Russian military chiefs. Subjugating Kyiv is a bonus prize solely to assuage Putin’s ego, but is being rationalized to the troops as a reward for having to work overtime.
As yesterday’s humanitarian evacuation process was continually violated by Russian attacks, those efforts were carried over through last night and today -with the same bloody interference. Both Russian government-owned news agencies, Sputnik and TASS, have described the current frustrations as “proceeding according to plan and on schedule,” while emphasizing that the Russian armed forces “were doing everything possible to preserve the lives and guarantee the security of civilians, precision strikes are targeting exclusively the facilities of military infrastructure.”
Tomorrow’s semi-scheduled Russia/Ukraine peace negotiations are as undetermined as the war zone; Both Turkey’s President Erdoğan and Israels’ Prime Minister Naftali Bennett have met in person with the ever-welcoming Putin this weekend, both to present solid proposals for an end to the war, both specifically engaging at Zelenskiy’s request. Israel already officially denounced the Russian invasion, expressed solidarity, and sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Bennett returned disheartened and explained to the Knesset -on television- that “We will continue to assist wherever this is requested, even if the chances are not great.” Erdoğan returned likewise dismayed but is continuing his efforts in regular phone calls to Putin. Kremlin spokesmen elucidated: “The futility was noted of any attempts to stall the negotiation process used by the Ukrainian army to regroup its forces and means. In relation to that, it was stressed that the suspension of the special operation is possible only if Kiev ceases the military actions and fulfills Russia’s demands that were made perfectly clear.”
Despite its having been reduced to a single, brute medieval strategy, the Ukraine war is modern in that it is the new paradigm.
Welcome to tomorrow.
THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD
March 6, Evening
Today US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced a workaround whereby individual NATO member nations now have a “green light” to deliver fighter jets (among other matériel) to Ukraine. Poland has been ready to send MiGs for days, but has been holding off until it received guarantees that the US would replace them with F-16s. Blinken did not publicly mention any such arrangement.
Also, Ukrainian engineer Eugene Bulatsev has dispelled some of the mystery behind Ukraine’s aerial successes against Russian heavy equipment: light Punisher drones undetectable by radar. Accompanied by the smaller Spectre reconnaissance drone, Punishers can make 3 hits “return to base and be reloaded and sent back into battle within minutes.” The drones carry 3kg of explosives and can accurately hit targets up to 30 miles behind enemy lines.
Unsleeping, unbroken, and sometimes dazzlingly confident, President Zelenskiy announced that he has already forged deals with “the largest financial institutions” preparing funding for reconstruction in anticipation of the war’s end -commitments amounting to emergency aid and tens of billions of dollars to rebuild the country.
Insofar as the assault stands: All the areas, cities and battling I reported on this morning (“UKRAINE WAR: THE OLD NEW MODEL”), are in the same status, excepting the roiling to-and-fro of the fights and flights. Increased naval shelling of Odessa has been periodically reported today. As Kyiv looks for beds this night it is tensed for a decisive battle for its life in the coming days.
In Russia things are spinning further out of control. While the rest of the world has seen anti-war demonstrations naturally attracting huge numbers sympathetic to Ukraine, simultaneous protests of similar numbers have porcupined authoritarian Russia. OVD-info, the most reliable Human Rights monitoring group in Russia (constrained by the 2021 inclusion of the group on the infamous “foreign agents” list), reports demonstrations in 56 cities across the land, From St. Petersburg and Moscow all the way through Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk and Vladivostok. Russia’s state-governed RIA proclaimed that Manezhnaya Square (next to the Kremlin) had been “liberated by the police.” Citizens of neighboring Georgia and Kazakhstan are also marching and insisting their governments act on their behalf. Most significantly, the flattened protesters of Belarus popped up again in Minsk and are planning to reassert themselves across Belarus, where the dissent must expand to and meet Russian protests, to form a moral wall.
Yes, in Russia these days things fall apart, the center cannot hold. Sanctions are jostling through the citizenry, although some western companies as yet lack conviction. To date, the media has exposed Shell Oil’s rigged shell game, Visa and MasterCard were shamed into not processing payments, and American Express fell in line today. But this morning it was learned that the state-backed payments network Mir can and will continue to process the first two; the company explained:“All cards of these payment systems already issued by Russian banks will continue to work within our country as before,” Otherwise, nearly all visible western corporations have pulled out except McDonald’s, Pepsi and Coca-Cola (Coke Adds Life!). Starbucks, Papa John’s and Yum Brands chains including KFC and Pizza Hut are present, but almost all run by native franchisees. Who coincidentally often have close ties to Russian banks or investors. And -as if dooming the Russians to die from fast-food dives wasn’t enough- Mondelez International has shown no inclination to leave, so lucky members of the nomenklatura can also still spread their caviar on Ritz crackers and Oreos.
Samsung, of South Korea, is halting sales of all products, including chips, smartphones, and appliances to Russia. It joins heavy construction equipment manufacturers Komatsu and Hitachi Construction Machinery, along with Panasonic Technology Group, all of Japan, in the embargo.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine Minister of Foreign Affairs, took it further this morning, and was able to reveal (on Ukraine television): “Today, I signed letters to all the foreign ministers of the European Union countries, the G7 countries and the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy with a specific list of the sanctions that Ukraine expects, which are necessary in order to finally clamp the Russian economy in ticks and end the war in Ukraine.”
On the main stage, S&P Dow Jones -which manages both the S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average- will be removing Russian stocks listed or domiciled in Russia, including those trading via American depository receipts from its primary equity indices by Monday (tomorrow).
Putin’s countermoves were neither judo nor chess master, but amateur. He issued a childish decree yesterday (Saturday) which will allow the Russian state and Russian companies to pay foreign creditors in rubles! This ukase establishes mechanisms for individuals, state, and corporate debtors to make payments in worthless rubles to creditors from “countries that engage in hostile activities against Russia, its companies and citizens.” The move is crackpot, but timing is tight; non-Russians now hold over $20 billion of Russia’s dollar- and ruble-denominated government debt, and this -or simply not paying- is the only way to forestall defaults.
Since the Russian oligarchs came into being at an historical pivot point using comradery and gang warfare more focusedly than their western models, they are all the more easily confused, perhaps panicked, by any confounded capitalist switcheroo. Doubtless, Russia is on its knees…thanking Jeffrey Sachs for his 1991 shock treatment.
TAKING THE PEACE
March 7, Morning
The week begins with delegations from Ukraine and Russia bracing themselves for round three of negotiations to stop the war in Ukraine. No time nor location has been publicly confirmed yet.
Vladimir Putin’s own press secretary Dmitri Peskov announced this morning that a mere total of 4 conditions would suffice to fully placate Russia, at which point “All this can be stopped in a moment.” Moscow’s demands were: Ukraine cease military action, change its constitution to enshrine neutrality [i.e., “to reject any aims to enter any bloc.”], acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory, and recognize the separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.
So, a simple four-check sign-off would purportedly suffice to end the war. If the aghast and aggrieved Kyiv government accept the language, this would also reinstitute the original Russian objectives I outlined at the outset of the war, abandoning the goal of usurping the Ukrainian government and obliterating the country.
Peskov himself is notoriously unreliable whether he speaks or holds secrets; I do not have to hand the Guardia di Finanza /Carabinieri list of all the Russian accounts, villas and superyachts confiscated since Friday, but Peskov owns at least one yacht frequently rocking off the Italian coast, so some sweaty poltroonery might’ve inspired this climb-down.
After much arguing between Kyiv and Moscow yesterday, as of 10:00 am today Russia again announced to the world yet another ceasefire in order that they, the Russian army, could re-open humanitarian corridors from Kiev, Kharkov, Sumy and Mariupol. However, the full statement as broadcast by Russia’s RIA Novosti menaced: “The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will carry out continuous objective monitoring of the evacuation, including with the use of UAVs [drones].”
The International Committee of the Red Cross pointed out that besieged Mariupol (still the scrawniest point in the eastern corridor) was unable yesterday to evacuate civilians -as directed by Russia- because “the road that was indicated to them was actually mined.”
It also emerged that all the evacuation corridors in Ukraine were limited by Russia to two routes which would herd people directly into Russia or Belarus. Into captivity.
By 5:00 in the afternoon Russian airstrikes around Kyiv had hit a bread factory in which around 30 civilians were working; 13 confirmed dead thus far. Irpin is still under Russian shelling.
Chuhuiv, outside of Kharkiv -a couple of dozen miles south of the Russian border, amidst the northeastern war front- has been recaptured by Ukraine. Ukrainian Defense officials specified that the Ukraine forces had seized the city from the Russians and inflicted heavy losses on personnel and equipment, killing Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Safronov, Commander of the 61st Separate Marine Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, and Lieutenant Colonel Denis Glebov, Deputy Commander of the 11th Separate Airborne Assault Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces.
Also as of this morning: Vitaly Kim, the governor of Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region said that, under all-night Russian artillery shelling, Ukrainian forces have now retaken the Mykolaiv airport from Russian forces. Mykolaiv has been overrun, captured, and recaptured by both sides in constant intensive fighting involving pissed-off residents since the latter part of last week, and it remains the coveted launching point for any Russian land invasion of Odessa. As of this writing, Russia has recommenced bombarding the city.
In the Hague this morning the UN International Court of Justice opened its hearings in the case brought by the Zelenskiy government accusing Russia of genocide against Ukraine.
NO PEACE IN WAR
March 7, Evening
Once again meeting on the Ukraine/Belarus border, Russian and Ukrainian delegations mulled matters of peace throughout all of today (Monday). By 8:30 pm. the Ukrainian delegation had returned to Kyiv, from where Mykhailo Poldolyak stated that: “The third round of negotiations has ended. There are small positive subductions in improving the logistics of humanitarian corridors… Intensive consultations have continued on the basic political block of the regulations, along with a ceasefire and security guarantees.” Poldolyak only added: “There are no results that significantly improve the situation yet, however, I emphasize once again that the consultations will be continued and we will get the result,”
By late afternoon, the fighting in Kharkiv had cost the Russian Major-General Vitaly Gerasimov his life. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense -which officially released the information- claims that an unclear number of other high ranking Russian officers were killed or wounded. These “other” officers might or might be the same ones I reported fallen this morning (“TAKING THE PEACE”).
Also as per this morning, Russian assaults continued, through the peace talks, unabated, and in the same areas I mentioned.
The concept of invasion has spurted up new meanings in Zaporizhzhia, where Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was captured by Russian military forces. At the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria, the board of governors tried to make plans to react to a situation now out of their hands. The site as well as its operation, as the IAEA revealed, is under complete Russian control and is running with both its ”internal and external communications to have been disrupted and cut off .” Furthermore, the agency admitted that daily operation is strictly as ordered by the same Russian delinquents who shot and shelled and ignited it. Meaning every decision, including ”management of the plant and the approval of technical decisions.” Imagine Joe Dante’s “Gremlins” in a nuclear power plant and you’ll get the implications. The Agency has been losing hair over this forced arrangement.
And, of course, a nuclear “accident” would conveniently poison a third of Ukraine.
UKRAINE STAGGERS ON
March 8, Morning
This morning the Turkish chief of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, announced that the day after tomorrow Turkey will host another attempt at negotiating an end to the war. With this public communique, it seems talks are indeed set for Thursday, March 10, in Antalya, with both the Ukraine and Russian Foreign Minsters attending. So far today neither Dmytro Kuleba nor Sergei Lavrov have contradicted that statement.
Regardless of yesterday’s peace talks, there has been no suspension of Russian bombardments. Both Kharkiv and Sumy (northeast front) were hard hit through the night, with an initial tally of 21 civilian deaths. Collective intelligence of worried European monitors alleged (per The Financial Times) that Russia has deployed loyal units of the FSB to captured territories with instructions to “maintain political order.” The FSB (Federal Security Service) is the most recent incarnation of the KGB, so any such directives would at least tacitly include a menu of punishments.
Monday, Vasily Nebenzya, Russian envoy to the United Nations, announced at a U.N. Security Council meeting that yesterday’s ceasefire agreement will begin at 10 a.m. today, granting citizens from the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, and Mariupol areas a chance to evacuate unmolested. He did not clarify if the roads out had been cleared of Russian mines (reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross in my article of yesterday morning “TAKING THE PEACE”). Neither did he swear that Russia had forsaken its earlier ruse of funneling the evacuees along set routes into Belarus and Russia (!). Ukraine had yesterday argued for evacuation routes with end destinations of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Zaporizhzhia Within hours of this morning’s ceasefire start, Russia rained shells down on the vital Zaporizhzhia/Mariupol “humanitarian corridor.”
As a result of Ukrainian countermeasures around Kherson, by the end of last night Ukraine forces had destroyed 30 Russian helicopters parked at the Chornobaiivka airport, in the course of which other Russian hardware and software -in this case soldiers- were also put out of action. At roughly the same time, another airport, in the still unsettled Mykolaiv, was hit; Ukrainians actually began the operation by flattening 3 moving columns of Russian artillery in the area, then expelled the Russian troops from the Mykolaiv airport, capturing more artillery and D-20 howitzers. Mikolaiv is the furthest city Russia has (several times) overrun in its attempts to establish a land base threatening Odessa. It is a crucial knuckle bone of a thin finger of Russian incursion some 45 miles northeast of Kherson (to which Russia had retreated yesterday) perched about 70 miles above Odessa. It is also only around 120 miles southeast of Yuzhnoukrayinsk Nuclear Power Plant -Ukraine’s second largest- where the Russian finger has been successfully, just barely, extending to.
The only valid situational read is that Ukraine is battling around the clock hoping that clock has enough hours on it for material aid to arrive, and Russia is prolonging and intensifying its ruthlessness waiting for Kyiv to fall.
March 8, Evening
Many have heard rumors, but earlier today the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs released this announcement on their website: “The authorities of the Republic of Poland, after consultations between the President and the Government, are ready to deploy – immediately and free of charge – all their MIG-29 jets to the Ramstein Air Base and place them at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America. At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes. The Polish Government also requests other NATO Allies – owners of MIG-29 jets – to act in the same vein.”
That is the full official statement. However, the week-long untangling of NATO’s bungee cords has no end in sight; Russia made clear in advance that any nation or organization contributing to Ukraine’s fighting power will be considered a belligerent, so neither NATO nor the European Union are willing to be the legal shipping point, which means the U.S. would have to find an intermediary. (Kosovo, for example, is not in the European Union, or a current candidate) “This is why,” Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki soon stipulated, “we are able to give all of our fleet of jet fighters to Ramstein, but we are not ready to make any moves on our own because … we are not a party to this war.”
Ukrainian pilots are well-trained to fly these particular fighter jets, but “all” of them in the Polish fleet only number 27 and are not any overwhelming advantage over Russian aircraft. But the Ukrainians are still by definition fighting a defensive war. Two days ago the Ukrainian General Staff stated that it had received a “large batch” of air-to-air missiles from its “Western partners.”
Meanwhile, back on the ground:
Inching into the second week of the war, the ponderous Russian convoy is still panting outside Kyiv, backed up 40 miles along the road from Ivankiv to Hostomel, where the Ukrainian forces beat back Russia on February 24 –the first day of the invasion. Since the beginning of March, satellite imagery is constantly reported as showing a fearsome column of vehicles including armored vehicles, artillery and tanks which, while growing at its tail end, never advances beyond its blunted head 15 miles outside of the capital. Only yesterday it didn’t.
As the US has the most satellite flyovers, the Ukraine government and military -and most of the world media- rely on information passed down by Pentagon analysts. Some satellite imagery is doled out to other intelligence experts like RAND, et al., but all of it is passed out to be scrutinized and interpreted by nerds specializing in “analysis.” After nearly a week’s staring into the souls of the photos, on Monday the Pentagon publicly realized that the convoy is principally logistics transport –what truckers call “trucks.”
Now speaking of fuel, troops, food, munitions, and other necessities among some offensive weaponry (probably some covered tanks and artillery), “Our assessment is that it’s largely meant for resupply –but I can’t rule out that there aren’t combat vehicles,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said yesterday. “We can’t even say that it’s all one convoy and not several.” Pentagon analysts are highly prized, so this is another reason, kids, why you should not clean your spectacles with slices of pizza.
Since he was prostrating himself anyway, Kirby offered the American MSNBC another hitherto privileged detail: that Ukrainians had blasted the convoy’s lead vehicles, forcing the wagon train to halt. Hence the 40-mile pileup.
And hence the takedown on March 3 of Russian Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky, deputy commander of the Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District. Reviewing all sources since then, we can deduce that the stalled behemoth was and is a simple target for Ukrainian snipers, who are credited with having killed Sukhovetsky as he stomped around to the head of the column to see what the hell was going on, or not.
But the cursed trucks aren’t the only traffic jam delaying the Russians; the famous, heroic Russian winter was remiss this year and the ground was not frozen as thoroughly as expected, which can be seen in thousands of photos and videos beneath the concern of Intelligence Analysts, of Russian tracked vehicles stuck in mud…then abandoned by their drivers, where they eventually block others on their way to victory. Other, shrewder, drivers saw this as a sign to stay on paved roads, which meander enough that they, too, become Ukrainian targets, then smoked steel junkbuckets blocking other prodigies behind them…and holding back the supply lines.
Will all these obstacles blow away for the Russians? All the above actually indicates that most of their heavy war machinery is already within the Ukrainian borders, and could reconstruct to concentrate in an assault on Kyiv -or any of the fronts they’ve established- tonight or any coming day. But can they?
Of course Russia’s reliance on maximum bombing and shelling is to compensate for its maladroit conduct of the war, but Putin is not Stalin circa WWII and every day more resembles Nicholas II as he personally directed the First World War all the way to his getting fired. Standing behind Putin is the same old Russian General Staff: overconfident and cowardly, overcentralized and stultified, presiding over a conscripted army of youths petrified by fear of war and their officers.
As a final photo-analogy, let me illuminate this 2-day old twitter from Yeltsin’s foreign minister (who once worked with Putin), Andrei V Kozyrev, who wrote: “The Kremlin spent the last 20 years trying to modernize its military. Much of that budget was stolen and spent on mega-yachts in Cyprus. But as a military advisor you cannot report that to the President. So they reported lies to him instead.”
March 9, Evening.
The 12 hours of this second day’s attempt at a ceasefire has slammed out the door and won’t be back until after tomorrow if ever.
During these hours, only 250 civilians escaped from Izium before the Russian shelling recommenced, no hoped for aid was able to get in, and Russian troops destroyed the city’s hospital; Missiles and bombs hit Malyn; in Kharkiv Russian assaults destroyed the (honorary) consulate of Albania; Russian troops fired on civilians evacuating Demydiv; Russian thermobaric bombing destroyed a children’s and maternity hospital in Mariupol -the dreaded bomb that can vaporize people.
Ukrainian forces repulsed Russian drives against Polissya, Slobozhansky, Zalissya, Chernihiv, Tavriya. The Russians incurred casualties and retreated under orders, leaving behind their equipment.
Yet Russia retains power in a run from Kherson to Kakhovka. Mykolaiv is rattling under barrages from Grad and Uragan multiple rocket launcher systems, expected to continue through tonight. Where Russian troops are in close urban battles they are using the residents as human shields, then targets, then shields.
The buildup of complaints from Russia about biological warfare laboratories discovered upon invading Ukraine has Kyiv, London and Washington publicly warning that Putin may be gearing up to use chemical weapons against Ukraine. The reasons for these alarms are twofold: Firstly, that this is the same scenario and pretext he used to release such weapons against opposing militias in Syria, and secondly, because, after almost 2 weeks of both Kyiv and Washington dismissing the allegations, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland idiotically explained to Congress that the United States is “now quite concerned Russian troops … may be seeking to gain control of [the facilities], so we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.”
Nuland, who was US Assistant Secretary of State in 2014, and extremely involved in the Ukraine crisis (Euromaidan, civil uproar, to February revolution to the toppling of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych), was caught on a famous recording presumed to have been intercepted and leaked by Russia, and never denied by the US saying “Fuck the EU.” Her statement above was given to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday –yesterday.
Which renders this day universally nugatory. This morning I had reported that both Kyiv and Washington had for weeks denied the existence of any such labs in Ukraine (“DAWN’S EERIE LIGHT”), as Maria Zakharova, of the Russian Foreign Ministry was demanding accounts for evidence she says Russia has, although Russia has never produced any. Zakharova’s outrage was expressed this morning.
Radiation levels are still normal at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant tonight, but a prolonged power cut combined with captive, overworked staffers acting on orders of untrained Russian soldiers will eventually become critical. IAEA Director General Grossi will be at the Ukraine/Russia peace talks in Antalya tomorrow at the invitation of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. Grossi said he hoped “to make progress on the urgent issue of ensuring the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. We need to act now.”
It is surely something to hope for in your dreams that tomorrow’s Antalya talks will produce some concrete manifestation, particularly since both Grossi and Recep Erdoğan have deep-rooted interests in Ukraine. My own expectations are, as Dmytro Kuleba already expressed: “low.” Leonid Slutsky, speaking for Russia, warned this morning that Putin “will not concede a single negotiating point,” while Kuleba said Ukraine’s agenda will be focused on “a ceasefire, liberation of its territories, and to resolve all humanitarian issues.”
This is not what I’d planned on covering today, but some people shouldn’t be let out unsupervised. I will try again tomorrow, while the turmoil moves to Turkey for a bit.
DAWN’S EERIE LIGHT
March 9, Morning
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba started the day by announcing that a deliberate power cut at the Chernobyl nuclear plant could cause the release of a radioactive cloud capable of engulfing Europe. Kuleba himself had been alerted by the Ukrainian state energy, Ukrenergo, which said that last night the plant“was fully disconnected from the power grid” by occupying Russians. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that the dormant power plant is “no longer transmitting data from its safeguards monitoring system.” but immediately thereafter muffled the alarm, explaining that the age of Chernobyl’s spent fuel and the amount of water around the fuel in the plant’s cooling tanks meant it would remain safe even without a power supply.
This reassurance was flashed in a 5:10 am tweet reading: IAEA says heat load of spent fuel storage pool and volume of cooling water at Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant sufficient for effective heat removal without need for electrical supply. — IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) March 9, 2022
The IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi explained that “The safeguards monitoring systems verify that nuclear facilities are not misused and nuclear material is not diverted from peaceful uses, according to the IAEA. The watchdog group is looking into the status of safeguards monitoring systems in other locations in Ukraine and will provide an update soon.”
And first thing this morning Director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign ministry Maria Zakharova reignited a rumor of Pentagon-backed bio-weapons laboratories in Ukraine.
Zakharova loudly demanded a full accounting for as-yet-unseen documents captured by Russian forces in Ukraine proving that the Ukrainian health ministry instructed said labs to destroy all traces of cholera, plague and anthrax samples the day Russia invaded.
Russia had tried to do something –anything– with this accusation before today but ran into solid denial. Spokespeople for President Zelenskiy had responded “Ukraine strictly denies any such allegation” and a Pentagon spokesman had dismissed it before, saying: “This absurd Russian misinformation is patently false.”
I am dispatching this morning’s reporting yet again to tamp down fires of alarm and conjecture. I will be back later today with more reports on the progress of 20th century homo sapiens.
THE NATURE OF HIS GAME
In the Chernihiv area last night Ukrainian forces destroyed a division of Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) ballistic operational-tactical missile systems, which had been firing on civilians. Ukraine also hammered back Russian offensives around both Kyiv and Luhansk. Drone footage released by the Ukrainian military this morning shows more than 35 Russian tanks ambushed on their way to Kyiv, most probably to the Kyiv Cistern –a big reservoir just on the north of the city. Several tanks and other armored vehicles can be seen exploding before the column scatters. The convoy included a vehicle carrying another thermobaric rocket launcher. As early as the beginning of March thermobaric weapons were seen on the roads from Kyiv to Sumy. Though thermobarics can also be bombs dropped from planes, the mobile versions identified were the unmistakable TOS-1A thermobaric multiple launch rocket systems (which the Russians prefer to downplay as “Heavy Flamethrowers.” They are not).
Also this morning an official communiqué from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine assured: “Ukraine’s defense forces are repelling and holding back the offensive of the Russian armed forces [sic] in all directions. In all directions the ENEMY IS STOPPED by the Defense Forces of Ukraine, has no success, tries to keep the occupied frontiers and positions.”
After but a few hours, today’s “peace talks,” held in Turkey, ended with no agreements whatsoever. Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba revealed that his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov had arrived without the authority to sign any agreements. Having only a 24-hour ceasefire and a single humanitarian corridor on his agenda, Kuleba returned to Kyiv and said: “I came here with a humanitarian purpose, to walk out of the meeting with a decision to arrange a humanitarian corridor to and from Mariupol,” Kuleba affirmed that he is ready to meet again “if there will be prospects to a solution.”
Last night Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had tried to veil his dismay and disgust with NATO, telling ABC News: “I have cooled down regarding this question a long time ago after we understood that … NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine…The alliance is afraid of controversial things, and confrontation with Russia,” Indicating his flexibility for today’s talks, Zelenskiy also addressed Russia’s insistence on recognition for independent Donetsk and Luhansk, saying he was open to dialogue. “I’m talking about security guarantees.”
Naturally, Russia continued its wild assault, detailed below. But first we need to consider the reasons behind why Russia is pushing this insane, nihilistic project.
In my haste Tuesday evening (“Mudwrestling Special”) to relay the mishaps of the Russian vehicular column parked 15 miles outside of Kyiv, I neglected to lay out the problem of fuel. That is, what happens to the fuel supply trucks when they run out of fuel? Every untowed vehicle in that 40-mile caravan now accepted as consisting of supply transport, with some heavy arms, has a human driver requiring warmth and sustenance each day and night they idle there. Now Ukraine is expecting a late sneeze of winter this week, with temperatures predicted to fall to freezing and well below. And no more fuel can pull up to keep the heaters running.
In the warm palaces of Moscow chagrin and tempers are burning nonstop as everyone there concludes that the pre-war intelligence they’d appraised was not actually intelligent.
Peculation aside, the Russian military budget in 2021 was around $62 billion (Ukraine’s was $4.2 billion), but it was squandered on stupidity. Since the beginning of the war on February 24, Russia has drunkenly uncorked Iskander missiles; Kalibr cruise missiles; multiple-rocket launchers (Uragans, Grad and Smerch); 203-mm Peony and 152-mm Acacia and Hyacinth self-propelled howitzers; cluster bombs, rockets, and artillery shells which open in the air and release “bomblets,” that disperse over a large area and demolish multiple targets simultaneously; and warplanes (both bombers and fighter jets).
Manning these are inexperienced soldiers no more discerning than juvenile delinquents, conscripted into a military still infamous for near-fatal hazing as the price of acceptance into one of the world’s biggest gangs. Oafs in the high command sent them there as cannon fodder in their ever-cautious fixation on reserving their best toys. But, in his indignation at the war’s derailments, Putin uncovered this fact (after Ukraine did) and –according to Kremlin mouthpiece Dmitry Peskov– “ordered the Military Prosecutor’s Office to investigate how conscripts had turned up in Ukraine and to the punish officials who allowed their presence there.” Peskov publicly announced this just yesterday, March 9.
The traditionary chain of command and communication is fractured by pomposity; those in the field are forbidden to make ad hoc decisions. In battle this is the equivalent of poor reflexes or paralysis, or turning bezerker. Thus Russia sinks deeper into the morass: Boys running amok, boys lost in the woods, boys sneaking away, looking for a warm farmhouse. Tanks go crashing through bridges which can’t carry their weight; 2S7M Malkas dying in ditches; motorized rifle divisions, disoriented and diminishing as one of every three Ural trucks are abandoned after emptying its fuel for use of the other two.
This aggressively chaotic behavior has managed to undermine Russian coordination, and even just relaying orders has fallen victim to Great Russian nationalism; Last year the Russian Defense Ministry equipped the entire military with a costly new cryptophone system named Era, developed expressly for the armed forces and designed to work “in all conditions.” While Russia was upgrading its war machine, Ukraine was rolling into the future, concentrating on IT, readying its 5G infrastructure since 2019; a March 2022 nPerf map of mobile network coverage in Ukraine shows most of the centers already running on 4G+. Lamentably and laughably, the invincible super-encrypted Era only works with 3G –occasionally 4G (regular) at best. Due to both wild and targeted attacks, the Russian boys destroyed much of Ukraine’s 3G towers, and the military has been reduced to using regular old telephones and unencrypted walkie-talkie radios to communicate. The Dutch-based investigative journalism network Bellingcat’s director Christo Grozev said that “after destroying many 3G cell towers and also replacing others with stingrays,” all of Ukraine was able to eavesdrop, and in one recorded open line call. ”You hear the Ukraine-based FSB officer ask his boss if he can talk via the secure Era system. The boss says Era is not working,”
A March 9 public statement to Ukrainians from their military headquarters exhorted the people to help close remaining gaps in the defense: “Supply of Russian occupation troops fuel, ammunition has already been significantly complicated. Destroyed a lot of equipment. You helped save many lives. The next priority target is Russian radio-electronic combat (REB) and radio-electronic intelligence (REP) systems. Nowadays, a lot depends on modern technology in war. We need to destroy Russian systems of reb and rep.”
As in the ether, so in the air. Russia has been relying on its potent Su-30, -35 and -37 fighter jets and its Su-34 bombers to attack. But Ukraine keeps downing those planes with, among others, Buk surface-to-air missiles, which use radar. Russian pilots can only evade radar by flying low. Which then makes them enjoyable targets for Ukrainian surface-to-air missiles like the Stinger. Even before war burst out, Kyiv, anticipating any Russian moves, had located their air defenses as widely as possible, including some 100 S-300PS SAMs. Just today, Interfax –the Russian news agency– reported that China has now decided to not sell any aircraft components to Russia. Airbus and Boeing have embargoed as well.
As Russia has gone from ambitions to horrors the question has leapt from ‘is Putin incurable?’ to ‘is Russia incurable?’
In thrashing the country into his version of stable modernity, Putin had the collusion of the grand Russian Orthodox Church to keep the masses in line. Unlike Stalin, he has propped it back up and integrated it into the state; chapels have been erected at the The Moscow City Court and the Prosecutor General’s Office, as just two reminders. The church’s head, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’, vocally endorsed the Russian expansions in Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk. Kirill has called all objecting Ukrainians “evil forces.” His regressive cultural attitudes and his boundless national chauvinism has always provided Putin with well-cooked excuses for oppression. Putin has praised the church as one of the “components that strengthen Russian statehood and create necessary preconditions for internal and external security of the country.” With this bludgeon in one hand, and consumer contentment in the other, Putin has ruled poor old Mother Russia for twenty harsh winters.
Ask Nadezha Tolokonnikova or Maria Alyokhina, ask Alexei Navalny. How did this get this far? Anti-war protests have been large and wide, spreading across the whole country, but there should have been more. They should have been sooner. The soldiers should have screamed their revulsion by now. By this point in history the Russian people should have disposed of the entire established pulverizer that passes as a society.
And here comes more as, with the speed of a falling comet, in barely two weeks Russia has plummeted out of the world’s financial, technological and commercial markets. The Moscow stock exchange (MOEX) has been boarded up for a second week. Fitch downgraded Russia’s credit rating to “C”, the pre-default state. The world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, no longer accepts purchases to or from Visa and MasterCards issued from Russian banks. Russia’s largest car maker, KamAZ, already is running out of parts. Over 350 businesses have vanished in two weeks. Every product and service, from manufacturing, heavy industry, vehicles, electronics, IT and all the luxury brands of the rich and the poor; Nike, Apple, Ford, Netflix, Ikea. From Gucci, Hermès and Prada, to Toyota, Heineken, Levis and Lego.
But with or without –as present or promise– could Russia have ever been deStalinized by consumocracy?
While we all wait for the Russian people to rise, the most dismal results of sanctions yet to have surfaced are photos of them packing Russian McDonald’s on its announced final day. While Ukrainians are being run through the Great Russian meat grinder, downmarket Russians doffed their scruples and hurled their rubles at the great global hamburger scyther.
Today Russian planes strafed civilians and infrastructure in Korosten, near Zhytomyr, shelled civilians trying escape Izium, pushed to encircle Mykolaiv, above Odessa, blew up a car and its civilian driver in Darivka, launched an air strike on Rubtsi, unleashed some 74 artillery and mortar shelling attacks on 6 suburbs of Kharkiv, and damaged a high-pressure gas pipeline in Svitlodarsk. Today, in this raging ocean of blood, flounders the Black Sea city of Mariupol, which the Red Cross has said faces “apocalyptic” conditions. There is no longer any pretext. All conditions, demands, postures and pardons are worthless.
This is pure slaughter. Vladimir Putin and Russia have turned Ukraine into a cauldron of bone broth to extract their elixir of eternal grandeur.
THE PLOD THICKENS
Ukraine is bracing for a possible attack from Belarus tonight after two SU attack planes fired into Belarus today in what Ukraine instantly denounced as a Russian act designed to provoke Belarus into the war. The Ukraine Air Force Command issued an alert stating: “Today at 14.30, information was received from the State Border Guard Service that Russian planes took off from an airfield in Belarus, entered the territory of Ukraine, turned around over our settlements of Horodysche and Tumen, after which they inflicted a fiery defeat on the settlement of Kopani (Belarus).”
Armed forces entering Ukraine from Belarus are going to be Russian, or Russians combined with the loyal part of Lukashenko’s leary troops, who have been forced to enter into a hasty decision. The Belarus President Alexander “Big Dada” Lukashenko happened to be in a Moscow meeting with Vladimir Putin at the time of the air attack. However, there is a high probability that he was there being whipped into line, and more that he was not informed of the ruse until a few minutes afterwards, if he was confided in at all.
In the period leading up to the February 24 invasion, Belarus was the grounds for the buildup of Russian forces, which then rushed south into Ukraine and now account for the main body threatening Kyiv. For some days following, Ukraine had to fear the additional incursion of the Belarus army, until, on March 4, President-for-Life “Idi” Lukashenko informed the world that “The Belarusian army has not taken part in the special operation and does not intend to do so.” (See my article of March 4: “FRIDAY’S FOLLIES”).
Considering that he started his military career in the Soviet Border Guards –which were a direct subordinate department of the KGB during his years there– Lukashenko is unlikely to credit today’s nonsense. Nor is it probable that he was involved in the planning or execution of it; at most he would have been informed of any such Russian ploy at the last moment. Having barely survived 2021’s overwhelming uprisings, the Russian use of Belarus to amass its war machine in southern Belarus might have first seemed reassuring to him, but by now his babysitters have effectively taken control of his colony, limiting his duties to preventing internal dissent and grumbling over his ham hocks.
Meanwhile, as Russia absorbed blows from Ukrainian forces, it kept on swinging wildly every place it has one of its 3 legs in. In a war instigated for no reason at all, Russian attacks have become mad efforts to retain their positions, and are swiping down any cities, towns, buildings, and civilians in reach. There is scarcely any way to report it all, minute by minute…nor any decency in doing so. As this churns unceasingly throughout the three fronts, the fury is focused on Kyiv. Ukraine is constantly breaking down Russian regroupings intent on a victory in the capital. How much time is left?
Ukraine has had the wit in recent years to integrate intellectually with more of the world than Russia did. One advantage of doing so is –naturally– a more objective sense of events. We have already seen how this contributed to Ukraine’s preparedness in military, technology, communication, finance, and diplomacy. Kyiv can resort to emotion when pressed to keep the country from perishing, but their assessments and reactions must stay level-headed and they know this.
One of Ukraine’s busy entities is the Center for Strategic Communications, which like millions of us, has been trying to evaluate the fragments of information peeking out of Russia’s political smog. As of a week ago, they could only suggest that friction is starting to shriek and smoke in Russia’s upper heights; the political elite is divided about the dividends of this war. The FSB –as we’ve seen from some renegades informing Kyiv about Russian military moves– is no longer unanimously on Putin’s team; hitherto sidelined businessmen are unsure whether Russia’s isolation will offer them more chances to bloat or wither; the military is breaking into resentful armies within itself; the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) is fighting to maintain order amongst the inrush of negative facts; and Putin himself has to burn his brain wondering how not to lose Ukraine and his own Russia as well.
At the pinnacle I can see at most only Putin and Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu working in harmony (for disharmony of course), but I would not automatically believe that up to date, real, unadulterated information on either Ukraine or Russia itself is reaching them.
Russia might not have the resources to continue a three-front war in foreign territory for more than another two weeks. Quite distinct from the annual military budget, costs of the Ukraine catastrophe were estimated to be around $7 billion in the first week alone. That calculation comes from the Ukraine-based Economic Recovery Center, but Ukrainians have every reason to be extra cautious in their estimates. And one must wonder if Ukraine can sustain their dizzying good luck for that much more.
A gambler would chance some money on the war collapsing sometime around the next few weeks. Kyiv has given clear signs that Putin could hold up his head at home declaring some convincing victory (as he could have had with the original Russian war plan). The wild card is Putin’s personal animosity to Zelenskiy.
What remains unexplained to the world is why Russia continues to evade any guileless meeting in which Kyiv is even permitted to make any concessions. Of the 4 concessions Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Ukraine needed to meet and then “All this can be stopped in a moment.” (see my March 7 article: “TAKING THE PEACE”) Zelenskiy has already indicated his leaning towards recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk independence as well as keeping Ukraine out of NATO (see yesterday’s article “THE NATURE OF HIS GAME”). That leaves only two unmet: that Crimea be acknowledged as Russian territory, and that Ukraine cease military action. The former Zelenskiy could probably get the Rada to concede, since it is more or less in line with his words on Donets/Luhansk. The ultimate — Ukraine ceasing military action– could only happen if split-timing arrangements were made and adhered to, as in every known case of a country or cause laying down arms in a genuine peace arrangement.
Therefore we can only conclude that a hidden 5th concession must be on Russia’s list: the obliteration of Kyiv.
Unlike other governments too near a war front, Ukraine did not transfer its capital to Vinnytsia in the center of the country, so Kyiv is the heart to be protected or pierced; because unlike more effective conquerors, Putin, insulted by Zelenskiy’s defiance and now fueled by spite, turned his feints on Kyiv into the crux of his victory.
THE BIRDS AND THE BEASTS
Again whirlwinds of threats and panic have been whipped up to batter the world outside the battlefields. I shall attempt to dispel them anon.
First, on the field:
Mariupol, surrounded and besieged, continues to crumble under bombardments (like Ukrainian cities in all areas within Russia’s reach), but the Ukraine military, while attempting to break through, are in the process confining the Russians. Ukraine is still beating back Russian forays north- and west-ward from Crimea headed for Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia, and are still holding against Russian advances coming from the rims of the Donetsk/Luhansk republics. Severodonetsk, Rubizhne, Volnovahi, Dnipro, Izumu, Andriíivka, Mykulichyn, Makariv and Borodâanka remain blocked and subject to Russian shelling. And for no strategic reason Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, roughly 200 miles west of Kyiv, were also bombarded.
Belarus is thus far digging in its heels and not being pulled into combat. General Viktor Gulevich, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, repeated yesterday that Belarus had no intention of entering the Ukraine war. President-for-Life “Idi” Lukashenko is stubbornly trying to match wits with Putin by insisting Belarusian troops are needed to defend Belarus from purported NATO plans to invade it via Lithuania and Poland. For the Ukraine border, Lukashenko has merely rotated the guard troops.
That new hissing noise is leaking from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, and is wending its way past tabloids and through some serious major media; it tells us of troubles in the FSB, which Putin is allegedly purging. The firmest reports to date say that several generals have been removed and arrested. Two arrested are Colonel General Sergei Beseda, head of the foreign intelligence branch of the FSB, and his deputy, Anatoly Bolyukh, together responsible for providing the pre-war intelligence(!?!) promising Putin that Ukraine would fall with nearly no effort involved.
War is its own time, its own dimension, within which everything happens at speeds faster than understanding. In Ukraine the Russians are creating a primordial new world of concrete chunks and human chowder. Those on the perimeters hear the screams and explosions, and scramble for comprehension, wondering what to do as empathy, horror and shame eats their brains, while those on the distant peaks dine on profitable comfort, unseeing, unhearing, their heads too engorged with egoism. But through all sectors roam black-marketeers, selling their rumors –their poisoned cures.
I had already tamped down the fretting on March 9, when I had to waste both my morning and afternoon articles explaining the words first of Russia’s top Foreign Ministry flack, Maria Zakharova, then after that Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland. To re-summarize: Nuland is a duplicitous imbecile. Zakharova is a cold war children’s cartoon character.
By yesterday Russia had inspired more rumors; according to Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, birds, bats, insects and some elite reptiles were supposedly being mustered to spread diseases across Europe. Nebenza was shoved out on stage to certify Zakharova’s earlier claim of having evidence that “migratory birds” were being prepared in Ukrainian bio-weapon labs to unleash plague, cholera, anthrax and other pathogens –evidence simple xerox copies of which Russia is still unwilling or unable to show. Inside Russia, the state-run media station RIA Novosti popularized the rumor yesterday in a presentation by Defense spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, who claimed that Russia had captured some of the infected birds around Kherson. He did not display any.
Finally, the agency known as “The World Heath Organization, that’s WHO” was obliged to step forward and calm everybody, explaining that entirely non-secret labs do exists in Ukraine, all partners in the Biological Threat Reduction Program, which was established in the 1990’s to decommission former Soviet Union republics’ own bio weapons programs. In its present-day form, it works with official Ukrainian agencies such as the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences, the Ministry of Health, the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection, and the Ministry of Defense. Since 2019 it was involved in the construction of two new Ukrainian labs for the Ministry of Health and the State Food Safety and Consumer Protection Service.
Disregarding a few dozen desolate poor nations, which country in the world does not have medical research institutions pharmaceutical labs, industrial centers that use toxic processes, oil refineries, gas pipelines and in some cases even nuclear power plants? Yes, all residents should be made fully aware of these things around them. But if one is concerned, it might be a good general rule to not invade, overrun, shoot, shell, and bomb them.
Justice is slow. War is frantic. But while having to deal with murderers loosed into the world, I strongly suggest that we lock Victoria Nuland, Maria Zakharova, Vasily Nebenzya and Igor Konashenkov in a room together for the duration.
Meanwhile, as the carnage continued yesterday, Putin announced that he was willing to meet personally with Zelenskiy –“for decision-making, not talks.” This announcement, while itself still a stall, is of note because it reiterated Thursday’s statement by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that Putin would accept a meeting with Zelenskiy to discuss “specific” issues. Zelenskiy has frequently called for direct negotiations between the two leaders.
For the coming week we should be prepared to watch Russian forces flailing madly on the northeastern and eastern north-to-south fronts, and in the south pushing hard above Odessa towards the Yuzhnoukrainsk nuclear power plant northwest of Mykolaiv, while consolidating around Kyiv to hurl heavy blows as Putin uses the time he has left to maximize damage before any peace talks minimize his magnificence.
The Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been plugged back into the grid and is now operating with full electricity restored, courtesy of Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s national energy company. Deputy Energy Minister Herman Galushchenko said the plant’s cooling system is running as normal again.
Last night in Yavoriv —roughly 25 miles from Lviv, and only 8 from the Polish border– Russian rocket strikes hit an international training facility for peacekeeping forces killing 35 and wounding 134 people. The base is a joint Ukraine/NATO operation, officially named International Center for Peacekeeping and Security, but is being referred to as a center of “foreign mercenaries” by Russia in justifications after the attack. The Lviv area suffered some similar unexpected attacks yesterday in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, but those were uninvolved civilian targets 200 miles away from any other battle zones, whereas the Yaroviv assault was a goading of NATO. Vladimir Putin’s office had already said yesterday that Russia will now consider any weapons en route to Ukraine as hostile and subject to Russian attacks. Ivano-Frankivsk was hit again this morning, although the attack was more focused on the airport there.
By yesterday evening Ukrainian forces were faced with determined Russian moves from the Hostomel/ Irpin/ Boyarka chain clawing eastwards into Kyiv, and a solid block of advancing Russians from the Konotop area (between Chernihiv and Sumy) from the west, also aimed at taking Kyiv. The latter force made it as far as Bobrovystya, and combined the two make a pincer closing on Kyiv from east and west, which will be where Ukraine’s defense is focused. With additional rumbling out of Chernihiv, Russia would be closing in on Kyiv from north, east and west.
Russian moves northwest from Kherson and Mykolaiv, in concert with moves north from Crimea continue to threaten Odessa and Yuzhnoukrainsk.
By 4:00 this morning Ukraine was ringing with air raid sirens in every province. By mid-day in central Europe, Pope Francis was on his St. Peter’s Square balcony abjuring 25,000 people: “In the name of God I ask you: stop this massacre!.” He was speaking to anyone in the Kremlin who might’ve been listening in, but he did not speak the name “Russia” in his declarations. What the world needs is to hear those words from the head of the overly-influential Russian Orthodox Church.
To be clear: Ukraine is fighting a guerrilla war. Its air defense systems and surface-to-air launchers are just enough to frighten Russian jets out of the daylight skies, but an increasing amount of the damage is being inflicted by nighttime bombings. Ukraine must deploy small and medium groupings armed with anti-tank and anti aircraft equipment like Javelins and Stingers; tight airstrikes, ambushes –here and gone tactics of an insurgent army– to blast the insistent Russian advances; once Russian forces settle close enough to a city it becomes a 24-hour jerking, dying casualty of artillery shelling. Kyiv keeps kicking them back, but it is also prepared for an urban battle the minute Ukraine fails to block Russian guns from choking the city and invades. More peace talks are being held today. If Kyiv can last 2 weeks, Vladimir Putin will delay any peace agreement for 3.
Kyiv will be fighting for its life this week and, as Zelenskiy has warned, how goeth Kyiv goeth Europe. But the genuine war was initiated over 22 years ago; in Russia, by Russia, against Russia.
As Putin appears reduced to pantomiming Nicholas II, ‘enlightened’ Europe is once again waiting for the Russian people to save it. As modern-day Europe clutches what it can to avoid being sucked by a historical maelstrom back and down into the First World War, the west secretly prays that the benighted Russians will overturn their autocrat and his dangerous incompetents. Back then over three years of war had ground on before the people rose up. Yesterday antiwar demonstrations took place in 37 Russia cities, but not all of them. Russia’s benevolent deity is making a shambles of all they put in his hands. Putin was a reaction to the mangled introduction of consumerist and monopolist ambitions in Russia. He botched that and is stuffing the scraps behind the cushions. Had the citizens of Russia been powerful and perspicacious enough to not allow his regime to loot their lives for this long they would not now be an island of 146 million dead souls.
Just weeks after the west clamped sanctions around Russia, the street-level results are plainly felt by its citizens. On March 10 the IMF’s (International Monetary Fund) managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, said: “Unprecedented sanctions have led to abrupt contraction of the Russian economy, moving into a deep recession. We are mindful that massive currency depreciation is driving inflation up. It is denting severely the purchasing power and standard of living for a vast majority of the Russian population.” This was the same day Russia re-jiggered their laws in order that foreign debts (to the west) could be paid in rubles instead of the much more valuable currencies they were incurred with, and a week or so before $40 billion of external payments come due. The last time Russia defaulted on that scale was after the Bolsheviks took over and repudiated the Tzar’s international and financial obligations. Yet Putin seems satisfied that Russia can outlive economic isolation as much as it can political ostracism. Soon he will have to withdraw the ruble altogether and order his people to donate their sphincters to the National Bank, from where they will be distributed kiln-dried as the new currency.
Naturally, all over the world there are boils bursting as the effluent of the nation-state is rejected by the body of supra-national capital. But the instinctive reaction to the woes of internationalism is nationalism, which is what is driving Russia into wars, and propelling Ukraine into patriotism. Ukraine itself was ridden with toothless oversight and wacky monopolists, but Zelenskiy tried to roll with the surf while scooping up as much of the garbage as he could. Ukraine today is rubble. If it survives and reassembles itself it will have to carefully brush off and pull out the splinters of jingoism, emotional patriotism, religious delirium and supremacist nationalism before re-entering the world. Especially if it is to return to a world itself constantly battling the same contradictions of the emergent system.
China, of course, remains the most puissant example of nationalism (Han) managing international capitalism, but they will not be able to sidestep the chunks of their skyscrapers falling. Frankly I’d say it is only managing mismanagement. The western post-war economic model barely sustained itself for 30 years, and anyone who’s lived through the last 30 knows it is all crisis-management. Unfortunately some fools put the Efficiency Experts in charge of Crisis Management.
The war insanity is due to insanity. Putin, embarrassed by his military leaders, embarrassed them by superseding Plan A, replacing it with his personal monomania. As in Russia, so in the new lands: the economy cratered, buildings and information holed by administrators of ignorance, the population cut off, passersby, mayors, foreign diplomatic staff and journalists abducted and killed as each day rises on a reign of terror under a rain of hellfire.
Europe is dumbfounded as Russian forces destroy power lines to Chernobyl one day after electricity was restored. The mad Tzar goosed NATO hard by shelling the Yavoriv International Center for Peacekeeping and Security. “Now it’s obvious,” Zelenskiy calls out. “Now I repeat again: If you do not close our sky, it is only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall on your territory.” The Baltic militaries are on near war footing. Poland has some 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees it is sheltering, and volunteers funneling the other direction to join the Ukraine army. Slovakia has flipped from anti-NATO/American protests to welcoming their arrival. Moldova and Romania have their people organizing the directing, receiving and housing of Ukrainians fleeing the war zone…even Hungary’s Orban has gone nervously quiet. It is impossible for European countries with daily torrents of refugees pouring in to not imagine the flood overrunning them next.
I trust that Zelenskiy, as haggard and bomb-blasted as he is, had some flash in his mind of the larger sense of the situation; not necessarily that Russia is coming for Europe, but that the contradictions, infections, and histaminic reactions would also erupt there. Far-spread effects of the obliteration of Ukraine are already clear, as global hunger projections scream, inflation leaps up out of the birthday cake, and European states stay exposed to any excuse for hostilities. What has been grasped? That democracies last as long as a bunch of grapes. Archaic territorial wars are still part of any politician’s toy collection. The world at large must see the unfeasibility of the irreconcilable concepts allowing that those panting for power should ever be permitted to pursue it. And that uninformed and unthinking neighbors will always be instrumental in the rise of terror.
A COLONIAL WAR OF ATTRITION
Ukraine/Russia peace talks are in progress today following a “technical pause” yesterday. Zelenskiy double Mykhalo Podolyak yesterday explained that the break was to give time for “additional work in the working subgroups and clarification of individual definitions.” Beginning next month, Russian troops are scheduled for rotation, so Moscow is ‘negotiating’ knowing that its fatigued conscripts will be replaced by new ones in that period. If their troops last that long; supplies have broken all coordination with battle needs, and Russians are being left to survive as best they can by scavenging.
Encroaching attacks are shaking Kyiv. Russian shelling has hit residential areas in the Svyatoshynsky, Osokorki, and the Podilskyi districts, while the Lukyanivska metro station was damaged by blast waves. Also last night two Russian attacks extensively damaged the Dnipro airport 80 miles in the east. But Kyiv and nearly all other cities remain uncaptured, thus relentlessly bombarded by the frustrated Russians. Yet Ukrainian forces keep regrouping and driving them away from the prizes, maybe long enough to drag Russia to an admitted stalemate and an end of warfare; until then all we have left to watch is a snaggle-toothed land and a war of attrition.
Once more the Tzarist army parallels are powerful. The mere idea that Russia, after less than three weeks of war, has been requesting military aid –including food– from China, Syria and nearby ex-Soviet warlords indicates the severity of its situation. Only yesterday Chinese state media released the news that Foreign Minister Wang Yi called José Manuel Albares, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, suggesting talks between Russia and Europe –the concept being to “set up a balanced, effective and sustainable European security framework.” China has issued contradictory statements about its interest in getting involved during the course of the war so far, and the Americans are currently working to dissuade them from contributing to Russia’s catastrophe. The US remains China’s biggest export market, and with the E.U. combined amounted to over $100 billion in 2021. Russia was a considerably less valuable market at $8.2 billion. China’s conflicting public positions are likely the result of different factions in their ruling circles adducing differing figures, and their true position will have to be seen materially.
Neither should anyone take the Americans’ pronouncements as knowledgeable. Ill-fortune has made the Ukraine of 2022 the bastard of 2014’s. Much of that creature was birthed with the skills of U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, and its fate branded by America’s slapstick interventionism. Now, like a curse, Nuland has again been designated midwife of the present Ukraine. Nuland’s shining record of failures goes even farther back than the Iraq war, when she was a top adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, then on to hawking the occupation of Afghanistan for George W. Bush to Europeans, but she truly glowed like a pyromaniac during the 2014 Euromaiden Uprising, trying to abscond with the still emerging baby and mold it to meet her own desires. (for example, see: Les cinq leçons du «fuck the EU!» d’une diplomate américaine; Le Monde, 9 février 2014)
It was then that Ukraine was set up as a shield against earlier Russian power, which required a few trial steps before attaining some maturity in the age of Zelenskiy, who still had to scrub the mirror of the dirty hands and faces of oligarchs and previous politicos each morning. Now he is leading Ukraine through this terrible cleansing. These weeks, as I said, its a war of attrition, but perhaps with a heavy inflow of armaments the Ukrainians can keep attacking Russian forces and sending them far enough back away from the cities; the Panzerfausten coming from Germany via the Netherlands are deadly, armor-piercing portable launchers, good for the field or urban confines. Perhaps Europe learned about unbalanced neutrality watching the fall of the Spanish Republic. More ground-to-air weapons are vital; the no-fly zone one hears of in pleas and petitions would actually require first destroying Russian emplacements of field guns, radar, and air defense capabilities on Russian territory before any protecting aircraft could fly over Ukraine. The key word is “first”.
The Ukrainian military must know this, as would the government, but it helps emphasize the urgency of delivering other military means. If leverage it is, then repeating it works in concentric effect…Yesterday the Parliament of the Republic of Estonia adopted a resolution calling on UN member states to close the sky over Ukraine…and by afternoon that had become more official calls for a no-fly zone over the territory of Ukraine OR the provision of the Ukrainian army with modern air defense systems and fighter jets. Today the prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic will meet Zelenskiy “to confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and to present a broad package of support for the Ukrainian state and society.” Per the Ukrainian Air Force Command itself, successful defenses Monday included the destruction of four more Russian helicopters, another plane, the downing of a cruise missile (by fighter jets) and the creaming of several military convoys by Ukrainian SU-24ms (bombers) and SU-25s (attack planes). On the Mykolaiv road Ukraine seems to have old ZSU-57 anti-aircraft guns still in action.
By now Ukraine realizes it was raised as a target and shield placed between Russia and the West. And by now, in fighting this mad, archaic, Imperial Russian invasion the defense has become a decolonial war, which the Ukrainians surely must understand. Still they stand and ask for the arms they, not others, will use to fight.
TIDINGS FROM NO MAN’S LAND
In Ukraine: Negotiations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine have become “more constructive”, said Ighor Zhovkva, deputy head of Zelenskiy’s office. By the end of last night, chief Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said: “We’ll continue tomorrow. A very difficult and viscous negotiation process. There are fundamental contradictions. But there is certainly room for compromise.” Zhovkva claimed that Ukraine’s representatives at the talks are “moderately optimistic,” noting that a big breakthrough in these negotiations will be achieved with the personal participation of the heads of state. In Zelenskiy’s words the Russians “have already begun to understand that they will not achieve anything by war.” Sergei Lavrov, The Russian Foreign Minister and head negotiator, admitted to Interfax that “talks are now continuing on giving Ukraine neutral military status, in the context of security guarantees for all participants in this process…specific formulations which in my view are close to an agreement.” but added: “as well as on “demilitarizing Ukraine.” Zhovkva said that Russia is no longer speaking of demands that Ukraine surrender. Talks are to resume via video today.
Not to be lulled –there were more residential buildings hit this morning– Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko has extended the capital’s curfew to include daylight hours through March 17 (for now), in anticipation of Russian airborne attacks, concentrated shelling, mass ground attacks, and advance infiltrations. Civilians are instructed to remain safely indoors or in bomb shelters. The bars are closed, but the households well stocked with Molotov cocktails. Last Sunday the city’s residents were nauseated by a video of action star/murderer/FSB pitbull and Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadryov claiming to be on the outskirts of Kyiv, with his national television broadcasting ‘proof’ of him planning mayhem with his fighters –or at least blue-screened into the footage. In Kyiv’s buildings are single-minded men with antitank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades; around them bridges have been defensively blown, artillery batteries embedded in elevated vantage points, roads have been salted with anti-tank mines, every kind of barrier from damaged vehicles to broken concrete to homemade steel ‘hedgehogs’….and Ukraine citizens are understandably alert and phoning in any Russian movements they see.
As of this morning, the large Russian block threatening Kyiv from the northeast hasn’t advanced for over 24 hours, and the expected assault from the northwest has been scattered showers. Both areas are frustrated and in need of more buildup from Russia. If those reinforcements ever arrive (adequately equipped and supply-connected), the showers could well turn into a cloudburst.
Donner und Blitzen continued in the south and east parts of Ukraine, in most instances sending the Russians back, seeking shelter. While Mariupol and Kharkiv are still under solid bombardment, Kharkiv had another two residential buildings bombed early this morning. In the wreckage of besieged Mariupol, the Media Initiative For Human Rights reports that the staff and patients of the Regional Intensive Care Hospital are effectively being held hostage by Russian troops, who seized the hospital and are using those inside as living shields. The information came from a doctor calling from inside, who explained: “You can’t leave the hospital. There is intensive shooting, we’re staying in the basement. Cars haven’t been able to get to the hospital for the last 48 hours. Highrise apartment blocks are burning all around us. The Russians have driven 400 people from neighboring buildings to our hospital. It’s impossible to leave.” [Dear foreign journalists! We received information from a doctor from the hospital. We can’t name him because of the threat to him. -MIHR]. Outside of Mariupol Ukraine is trying to break through to the city; Russia is incurring regular losses in the process, both in men (special forces) and equipment (BRT-82 armored personnel carriers torched, deserted). With Ukrainian fighters engaging in the same surround and break through strategy in Mykolaiv, the Russian military likewise retreated, leaving materiel, including communications equipment. Ukraine repelled another attempt by the Russians to fight their way into Kharkiv, and Ukraine also attacked Russian forces at the airport in Kherson, again destroying 6 to 10 Russian helicopters and about 20 KamAZ trucks of ammunition. All the above in the last 12 hours.
In Belarus today, just past midnight, Belarusian anti-war bands sabotaged a key part of the system used to transport Russian troops to Ukraine, burning the Vibetsk branch of the railway relay cabinet of the alarm, centralization and blocking system.
In Russia: Marina Ovsyannikova, the woman who appeared behind Russia’s official Channel One newscast with the big “NO WAR” placard, reappeared yesterday after two days, taken before a judge, fined the equivalent of $280, then released. The prosecutor only charged her for the a video statement she recorded before the actual protest, not a protest, which would have carried a mandatory 15-year prison sentence. An additional, strange, factor: The newscasts in Russia now are cautiously pre-taped, meaning some other person/people shared that sentiment…and risk…when they broadcast it. No one would think of a fine even as an initial punishment…which could mean both the TV station and the courts are sliding away from Putin’s rule(s). The fact that the broadcast was aired also made her a cause celebre; something the Russian people can rally around. That TV station is the main source of news for the country and up to 250 million viewers could have seen that incident.
Without Russia: Sanction-struck Putin retaliated yesterday by counter-sanctioning (i.e., barring from Russia unless for top-level discussions, and freezing any ruble accounts) US President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, CIA chief William Burns, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh, US Agency for International Development chief Samantha Power, Deputy Treasury Secretary Adewale Adeyemo, US Export-Import Bank chief Reta Jo Lewis, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (along with the majority of Canadian MPs), and Hillary Clinton. Not sanctioned were Donald Trump, nor any members of his family, nor any members of the Republican Party.
The groaning midweek climaxed leaving cracks shot through the Kremlin’s pseudo-empire. Wednesday Russia was unanimously expelled from the Council of Europe after 26 years of membership, while, in The Hague, the International Court of Justice ordered that Russia “shall immediately suspend the military operations commenced on 24 February 2022 that have as their stated purpose and objective the prevention and punishment of a claimed genocide in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of Ukraine.” The decision is legally binding in international law. The court found no evidence of Russian claims of “genocide” perpetrated by Ukraine. Only two judges out of 15 did not support the ruling: those of China and the Russian Federation.
Today, at noon, Turkey officially stated that it does not recognize the temporary occupation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia, but does support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Turkish Foreign Ministry wrote: “Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation following the illegitimate referendum held on 16 March 2014. Turkey and the international community do not recognize this act which is a clear violation of international law…we reaffirm our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a strategic partner of Turkey.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was half way to Beijing last night for scheduled meetings, when his plane reversed over Novosibirsk and returned to Russia, leaving earthbound creatures wondering if China had suddenly refused his visit.
A further victory for Ukraine was achieved when it yesterday freed the kidnapped mayor of Melitopol in an exchange for 9 teenaged Russian soldiers.
In return, Russians shelled Rubizhne –near Luhansk– throughout the night, hitting least 27 residential buildings, and missile strikes damaged two high-rise apartment blocks in the southeastern Darnytskyi district of Kyiv. Russian shelling of Chernihiv center resulted in 53 dead and others wounded, including one known American. Wednesday, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russian troops abducted the mayor of Skadovsk and his deputy, and Russian forces in Chernihiv open fired on residents waiting in a bread line, killing 10. The US Embassy in nearby Kyiv said “Such horrific attacks must stop. We are considering all available options to ensure accountability for any atrocity crimes in Ukraine.” So far this morning 130 people have been saved from under the rubble of the Mariupol Drama Theater, which was hit by Russian bombing yesterday; it was being used as a shelter for 500 displaced residents. Russia additionally attacked Merefa, Kramatorsk, Khmelnytsky, and Nizhyn, leaving behind damages and casualties. Late yesterday, Russian warships loosed missile and artillery fire on the Odessa environs of Lebedivka, Sanzheika, Zatoka, and Bilenke. At least 90 shells were fired, injuring inhabitants. Along the southern Buh (Bug) river, Russian forces increased their activity and, having already occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, are clutching at the Yuzhnoukrainsk (aka South Ukrainian) nuclear plant, but were stopped by the Ukrainians today.
Yesterday’s peace negotiations were as confused as the war. Early Wednesday morning London’s Financial Times ran an article supposedly reproducing the contents of the day’s decided Ukraine/Russia peace plan. The article boasted that “Ukraine and Russia have made significant progress on a tentative peace plan including a ceasefire and Russian withdrawal if Kyiv declares neutrality and accepts limits on its armed forces” Oddly, according to the Times, since talks resumed this week, Russia’s previous 4 simple demands have clusterbombed into a 15-point “draft.” FT quoted an unidentified Ukraine delegate as saying: “There’s a likelihood this is trickery and illusion. They lie about everything — Crimea, the build-up of troops on the border, and the ‘hysteria’ over the invasion,” but the paper also cited a Russian member as stating: “Every side needs a win. He [Putin] needs to be able to sell it to the people. Putin can say that we wanted to stop Ukraine joining NATO and putting foreign bases and missiles in its territory. If they do that, he can say, ‘I got it.’” However, by 8:00 Wednesday evening Mykhailo Poldolyak, adviser to the head of the President’s Office, insisted that “The data on a draft treaty between Ukraine and Russia, published in the Financial Times, reflect only Russian demands. Briefly, FT published a draft, which represents the requesting position of the Russian side. Nothing more. The Ukrainian side has its own positions. The only thing we confirm at this stage is a ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops and security guarantees from a number of countries.” The Russian news agency TASS then quoted former culture minister Vladimir Medinsky, who leads Russia’s delegation, as enthusing: “The preservation and development of Ukraine’s neutral status, a demilitarization of Ukraine, a whole range of issues related to the size of the Ukrainian armed forces are being discussed…Ukraine is proposing the Austrian, Swedish versions of a neutral demilitarized state, which is a state that has an army and a navy.”
The Russian’s positive spin might be due to the the fact that talks were underway at the same time that the Moldovan President Maia Sandu called for the removal of munitions and “complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces” from Transnistria, and China, through its ambassador to Ukraine, Fan Xianrong, announced that China would never attack Ukraine and would provide economic aid to the country.
Governments and their military chiefs everywhere are amazed at how much the Russian forces are in disarray, and have reached a sour consensus that Vladimir Putin will continue to compensate by stepping up aerial attacks on whole cities, churches, schools, shelters, residential blocks, evacuation routes and hospitals.
To resume our examinations of the imperial, national and colonial fragmentings of this disaster: The most enduring mystery of this war, and the mind behind it, is how Vladimir Putin could take a Faberge’ Russia and turn its historical form into scrambled eggs. Although Putin inherited a still Stalinized realm, Stalin had forced economic –or at least industrial– growth, and in war molded an empire, whereas Putin barely achieved those, and only in illusory ways. His runny-egg ideology, humorously enough, has found no better name than “Putinism.” Lacking the exalted omnipotence of Stalinism, he has always been stuck paddling around in a kiddie pool version of the old Russian Empire, and he’s been infected with the same bacteria as the Tzardom. While dreaming of expansion, the emperor had only two playmates: the greasy fat kid named The Russian Orthodox Church, and the whiny one called Great Russian Nationalism; neither of the three then or now could survive outside of the pool. So their positions are defensive, not truly empire oriented. Unable to rule the lands visible all ’round them, their splashings established arbitrary ‘spheres of influence’. In this same manner the previous Russian Empire was exposed as a national –ergo nationalistic– polity. And that defined entitlement is what has brought the Russian Federation down on Georgia and now Ukraine.
Even the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is removed from the phantasmagorical empire after over 300 years of subservience. This month its leader, the Kyiv Metropolitan, spoke out for “an immediate end to this fratricidal war,” while the rest of the (Ukraine) church denounced the “murderous orders” emanating from Moscow. Present-day Russia is a parody of a past empire; a backwards autocracy so repressively vile that even the Prussians and Austrians considered it a hopeless penal colony, peopled by a debauched aristocracy, an uncommitted bourgeoisie inexperienced in democracy or leading it, and the rest mumbling masses –beaten husks or imprisoned objectors. Modern-day Luhansk/Donetsk are the imagined equivalent of WWI’s Serbian ‘little brothers’. The Russian forces in the Ukraine war are on par with the last Tzar’s pre-looted army: constructed of ignorant conscripts; extemporaneous planning; fatalistic yet overly optimistic projections; inappropriate logistics like the Tzar’s national Russian railway gauges which couldn’t transport their military past their borders to reach crucial fronts; faulty equipment like flappy tires and obsolete armor (old T-72 B tanks have been seen outside Kyiv); poorly maintained transport and weapons systems –too readily abandoned– and incompetent coordination. Over half the Russian force in Ukraine is being used to move on Kyiv on the Tzar’s whimsy. Contrary to grandiose expectations of Russian imperialism, Russian nationalism is cannibalizing Russia. The Russians –including the military– finally revolted towards the end of that previous Great War; their universal demand was “Bread and peace.”
European countries and the United States have begun delivering air defense systems to Ukraine, including some older Soviet-made SA-8 (Osa military anti-aircraft missile system), SA-10 (S-300PT air defense system), SA-12 (S-300V complex) and SA-14 (Strela MANPADS)-3″). Tardy but helpful, as a Russian Black Sea submarine launched 6 cruise missiles at far-off Lviv, two of which were intercepted early this morning.
Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman, updated the number of people who’d been sheltering in the Mariupol Drama Theater from earlier reports of 500 to 1,300. 130 have been removed from the wreckage, but Russian shelling continues to disrupt the second day of rescue attempts.
Since Wednesday, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Karim Khan, and his investigative team, have quietly been visiting Ukraine to collect evidence of war crimes perpetrated by the Russian Federation. Khan has also been interviewing refugees in Poland for the same purpose. Such investigations tend to expand and often wind up with sheaves of documentation implicating other accomplices in the immediate war zone. That procedure is undoubtedly bound to spill over into the open house of collaboration and rights abuse –everybody’s favorite neighbor Belarus.
Despite the atrocious threat of Belarusian forces descending on Ukraine, Kyiv has so far been spared that overwhelming disaster. Which nonetheless brings up the question: How HAS the war affected Belarus? For now, because of western sanctions, the Russian ruble immediately crashed, and neighborly Belarusian banks knocked down the exchange rate for Russian currency to one Belarusian ruble per 100 Russian rubles. Most just ceased buying Russian money at all. Because selling foreign currency is for now prohibited in Russia, the banks in Belarus are hording whatever non-Russian currencies they have just for those desperate Russians who can eventually get there to buy some. For how long? Belarus already has sanctions levied against most of its trade sectors, it still relies on Russian economic support, and Russia will not be in a position to extend further subsidies, patronage or loans. In short (indeed), Belarus might only last as long as the Russian war.
As I reported on March 11 (“The Plod Thickens”), President-for-Life Alexander “Idi” Lukashenko was called to a Moscow meeting with Putin when Russian planes lifted off from Belarus, flew into Ukraine, swooped back and strafed two towns in Belarus in a comic Kremlin gimmick to pique Lukashenko into joining the assault on Ukraine. Unfortunately for Putin, Lukashenko returned home and groused to the world that “The Belarusian army has not taken part in the special operation and does not intend to do so.” Since then the most the Belarusian military has done is send a routine scheduled rotation of five battalion tactical groups to stand next to their border guards last week. Careful to explain this, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and First Deputy Defense Minister of Belarus, Viktar Hulevich, emphasized that “the movement of troops is in no way connected with the preparation, let alone participation of the Belarusian military in a special military operation in Ukraine.”
But Luky has as his reward had his country colonized by Russian armed forces and FSB goons to keep him from any further faux pas. They humor him as they trick him, knowing his weakness is playing the strong-man buffoon. On Tuesday, March 15, Lukashenko called a meeting of the Belarus special services, i.e., the GUBOPiK (Chief Directorate to Combat Organized Crime and Corruption), OMON (riot police) and SOBR (Special Rapid Reaction Department) –which only fight Belarusian citizens, not foreign armies– “For a serious man-to-man talk” (all per his own official governmental/presidential website). His “talk” consisted of expressing “a strong approval of the actions of the special services to respond to emerging challenges.” After that, ‘Europe’s longest sitting president’ returned with his security staff to his sofa, his resentments growing as he passes his days re-watching video tapes of midget wrestling and losing bets.
At present, the Russians have taken over the country for security reasons as much as for its geographical position vis a vis Ukraine; for the Belarusian military is becoming a threat to the war, not just by avoiding supplying additional forces Putin had factored into his original plans, but by the mutinous mindset spreading though Luky’s tough troops. Since March 4 I have been holding back a photo of Chief of Staff Hulevich’s letter of resignation, addressed to Belarusian Defense Minister Victor Khrenin, because no matter how far I tunnel, I can not definitely trace it back to his desk. The letter said in part: “Conducting explanatory work with the commanders of military units did not yield results. I have the courage to assume that the replacement of the commanders of these military units, who could not organize the formation of groups on the ground, will not give us the result we need.” That is: Belarusian military unit personnel refused to take part in hostilities and that the Armed Forces of Belarus could not complete a single battalion group. The letter I have looks authentic, and the Ukrainians admitted that they themselves were attempting to authenticate it, but by now the issue of Hulevich is moot; his resignation was either refused or the letter was spurious. Regardless, from such established Belarusian opposition information organizations like Charter97 –among others– reports of Belarusian troop intransigence is plentiful. Charter97 directly says that despite the orders “from above” most of the rank and file of the Belarusian units are against taking part in the war, and that “The officers report to the General Staff of the Belarusian Armed Forces that if they cross the border, the officers’ lives will be in great danger because the soldiers will raise arms against them. Mass surrender of Belarusian soldiers is also expected. A number of small units of the Belarusian army already crossed the border with Ukraine a few days ago, but were turned back because the soldiers refused to take part in combat operations.”
As that news flurried through the lines, Lukashenko used it to again annoy Putin, telling the same conclave of security acronyms “I want to emphasize it once again: We are not going to get involved in this operation that Russia is conducting in Ukraine. There is no need for it,” cleverly exposing that Russia has sufficient forces in Ukraine. “Can we give something to Russia from the perspective of weapons? No. We buy all this from the Russian Federation. They have everything and even better. That’s why we have no business there. And no one is telling us to go there. Our task is to prevent an attack from behind on advancing troops, the Russian ones. We must never allow it,” This was actually reported by TASS.
Mulish enough to give Putin a stroke, Luky is not tender enough to feel itchings of conscience. Belarus has already incurred a deadweight of judgments and sanctions from all across the west, The United Nations, OSEC, and the European Union on its own. Just the more recent causes for these were the beating, arrest and torture of protesters from 2020 through 2021, the dissident Roman Protasevich’s kidnapping (technically air piracy); shutting off the gas flow to Europe (hilariously neglecting to forewarn Putin); trying to spark a war with Poland by opening travel agencies in the Middle East (“Tsentrkurort” and “Oskartur”) and, for good money, flying thousands of unprepared would-be immigrants to Minsk, then herding them at bayonet point over the Polish border (the golden destination publicized in the travel brochures).
And we can set all that beside Wednesday’s International Court of Justice ruling what is legally the blueprint for a war crimes trial. “Idi” Lukashenko’s Belarus is already a 24-year war crime. I am uncertain whether or not Lukashenko understands the dangers approaching even though he has sometimes been allowed to watch live broadcasts, as his bodyguards convinced him that all those little people actually live inside his television.
THE ESCALATOR RIDE
Continuous satellite monitoring has by now confirmed that Russia is moving military forces from its Pacific Ocean bases in Kamchatka and Vladivostok to the Ukraine/Belarus border/invasion staging ground.
Because it has spent the past two weeks pushing forwards then retreating on all fronts –while drawing out spurious negotiations for peace, cease-fires, humanitarian corridors for evacuation and humanitarian aid deliveries– Russia must realize that it is caught in a standoff. Naturally, instead of making a rational decision to end the war, Putin has set his boiling brains on ways to multiply the chaos and casualties.
Late today Igor Konashenkov, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, warned the world that Ukraine was planning to slay American and other unnamed Western diplomats…after which they would blame poor Russia.
The still-functioning Russian social network VK has filled with messaging from wives, friends and hostages all looking to establish the what and where of Ukrainian civilians from the Donbas region who have been abducted by Russians and forced, with guns at their backs, to fight on the worst fronts Russia expanded out from the Donetsk/Luhansk republics. And farther away; Some of the men were shocked to discover themselves in firefights around Mariupol.
Last week Russia had bragged that it annihilated a Ukrainian munitions warehouse in the west of the country. Having cautiously reviewed both on-site evidence and real-time electronic recordings of the incident, the Pentagon concluded that the attack was carried out with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles –the first known instance of hypersonic missiles being employed in combat. Dr. James Bosbotinis, a U.K.-based specialist in military matters, in a BBC interview said: “The speed of the Kinzhal puts it beyond the reach of any Ukrainian air defense system and the launch platforms can launch from ranges beyond the reach of Ukraine.” Bosbotinis added that hitting the “high-value target” of an underground military depot was “sending the message to Ukraine that Russia has the means to escalate this conflict further … It’s also a warning to the west that Russia can of course, up the ante in Ukraine and the Kinzhal could also be deployed if the war escalated and drew in external powers.” He said it was “messaging” that Russia could hit targets in Europe.
Other scenarios percolating through Moscow minds have been odorating out ever since the war was stalled by Putin’s change of strategy. Some can be seen steaming into place by flyovers, others by sensitive analysts familiar with the new ‘Kremlinology’. One such ploy is for Ukraine-based Russian forces to shell Russia itself and pin the responsibility on Ukraine. This has in fact already been tested. On March 14 the Russians fired at least one Tochka-U missile into the Russified republic of Donetsk, killing dozens of civilians.
Thus Russians, Ukrainians, and civilians of any nationality are now targets of Putin’s thwarted desires. From Moscow has come increasing pronouncements which conveniently set the stage for an escalation of outrages; chemical attacks, bio weapons attacks, and the looming shadow of a tactical nuclear warhead strike.
In Putin’s enraged mind, every nation can be nullified. Every city can be abolished. Every life in human form can be shredded. After skirmishing with Polish troops the Belorussians backed off and the 3- to 4,000 quasi-migrants Belarus first flew in then chased to the Polish border (as the promised door into the E.U.) late last year, all, after weeks in the freezing no man’s land, simply filtered back towards Minsk, thinking “Well…I’ve lived in worse joints than this.” Over the last week and a half, eyewitness and participants’ reports emerged that Lukashenko’s tourgroup refugees were tentatively pushed into Ukraine, where, instead of attacking Ukrainians, they dispersed, undoubtedly figuring “I’ve been thrown out of worse joints than this.” But Russia’s real needs are on the frozen front lines, so by Thursday, March 17, pro-Russian fighters had begun arriving from Syria. The Ukraine Defense Ministry, together with European intelligence and defense departments and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, estimate 40,000 Syrians have signed up to fight in Ukraine. Collecting in and being flown on daily military transport aircraft out of the Khmeimim base, the mercenaries consist of all types: Syrian military men, Hizbullah fighters, any of the varied nationals who fought and remained in Syria, and even Isis jihadists who’d been on the opposing side. Instead of $15 per month, Russia has promised them $3,000.
Even whole continents can be undermined. Putin and his General Staff know full well that, of the 1.1 million refugees admitted into Germany in 2015, only 243,721 were Syrian citizens. Having been on the spot and, in many comical street-level encounters finding myself translating, I noticed that no beat cop Bulle realized there was a difference between Arabic, Albanian, Urdu, Macedonian, Pashto, Romanian, Farsi or other foreign languages. Always the protégé of Helmut Kohl, Angela Merkel had made her historic gesture, but had given no forethought to the hazards of either disgruntled invitees or the anti-immigrant parties who went pumping iron and muscled into a large spot in the Bundestag. Of the registered refugees alone, 130,000 had disappeared within the first year, and later the German migration office publicly complained that close to half the lot –400,000 of them– were lost –in Germany or elsewhere. That admission was aired soon after the Bundesnachrichtendienst said it was “urgently” looking for 12 specific refugees who they believed had used false passports from the same source which provided passports to some of the jihadists who killed 130 people in Paris, in November of that same year, 2015. Note that the statement of the migration office was in response not to clamor from the anti-immigrant ADF and other such parties, but from the German Left party (Die Linke). So, whether or not Moscow is able to get its foreign fighters to the Ukraine fronts, it is no idle consideration that the unimaginative Putin will recall the successes of terror attacks throughout Europe and simply re-employ that masterstroke as revenge against a continent revoking his legitimacy.
THE SUNDAY CRUNCH
This morning Russia bombed a Mariupol art school sheltering some 400 people. By noon 4 Russian warships were shelling the city. Just this past Wednesday they had bombed the city’s Drama Theater, with approximately 1,300 civilians believed to be inside. As this genuine ‘culture war’ continues, keep in mind that yesterday the Azovstal steel works –one of the biggest in Europe– was also destroyed by bombing, the Mariupol pediatric and maternity hospital was bombed on March 9, and the entire city has been besieged for over two weeks, cut off from communications, food, water, heat, and hope. And that the open spaces around the Drama Theater had been marked with the large word дети (children) in Russian. Calculating by the numbers moving towards Zaporizhzhia, more than 39,000 Mariupol residents have managed to escape the city this week amidst continuous Russian shelling and attacks.
Kharkiv was shelled throughout the night. The village of Velyka Kostromka (pop. 3,000), about 60 miles south of Kyiv, was also blasted by Russian Grad multiple rocket launchers. The incessant bombing and shelling –of mainly residential areas– is the answer to Russia’s inability to conventionally capture Ukrainian cities. At dawn air raid alerts went off in the regions of Kyiv, Ternopil, Kharkiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Poltava, Zhytomyr, Volyn, Odessa, Rivne, Cherkasy, Kirovohrad, and Vinnytsia.
Answering understandably concerned questions from journalists and citizens, a chief adviser to President Zelenskiy, Oleksiy Arestovych, said this morning that “They [Russia] were able to accumulate certain reserves. The state and volume of these reserves are now difficult to accurately express…However, I can say that this is a dozen or two battalion tactical groups and their quality is rather doubtful. There is a core of combat brigades that arrived from Russia and this is the last thing they can throw here, and some are policemen from some Bashkiria [citizens of a small Russian republic near Kazakhstan, although he could be derisively referring to park rangers from that republic’s Bashkirya National Park] who were caught, given machine guns and said: “Go fight in Ukraine.” And some are PMC [private military companies] members.” Summarizing the overall war situation, Arestovych completed his response by saying: “A week ago, we talked and I said that there would be a “fork:” either they would agree to negotiations, or they would agree to negotiations after the next attempt to capture something… They chose the most stupid course of action, i.e. they will throw into battle these scratched reserves. As a result, we will return to negotiations anyway. There will simply be 10,000 more Russians killed. Why is this necessary, this is a question of the Russian people to their government.”
The Ukrainian General Staff today announced that it is expecting Belarus to actively attack Ukraine “within the next 1 to 2 days.” The department said that it’s intelligence shows the possibility as now real –in spite of the known opposition to entering the Ukraine war amongst the Belarus armed forces– and that the decision had just been made by President-For-Life “Idi” Lukashenko…who nowadays makes no decisions on anything. As I’d detailed in my March 18 article (“HENCHMAN NATION”), Belarus is at present merely another Russian-occupied country, so the “decision” would’ve come from Vladimir Putin, not Luky. But Putin in his Moscow palace is likely too clogged with his purblind loathing to have learned that by now the Belarusian railway workers have apparently finished sabotaging their system extensively enough that trains can no longer pass from Belarus into Ukraine. Perhaps Kyiv anticipates a fresh wave of conscripts and foreign mercenaries to enter via mudfields or roadways, either of which would become a fairground shooting gallery for Ukrainian forces and irregulars.
This morning began with fireworks from all directions. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the Red Cross Society of China will provide Ukraine with additional $1.4 million in humanitarian aid. Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s Foreign Minister, openly accused Russia of war crimes and announced that the E.U. will up its defensive military aid to Ukraine to $1.1 billion. New Zealand voted to give Ukraine an additional $3.4 million in defensive (non-lethal) aid, including tactical equipment.
The first thing residents of Berdyansk witnessed this morning was Russian tugs stealing Ukrainian carrier ships holding tens of thousands of tons of grain. Berdyansk is an Azoz port some 65 miles south of the besieged Mariupol. 250 miles due east, Russia launched Grad rockets into residential parts of Odessa, with eight known deaths so far. 20 miles north of Zhytomyr (and 115 west of Kyiv), the innocuous village of Selets was attacked, leaving three soldiers and one civilian dead. Another 115 miles west of Zhytomyr, a military training ground in Rivne was hit by two missile strikes; damages, dead and wounded still unknown this early. In Kyiv itself, at least four residents are confirmed dead due to Russian shelling of the Retroville mall and adjacent buildings; further casualty counts can not be released until the resultant fires are quelled.
At 6:00 this morning in Melitopol, gunmen burst into the homes of four Ukrainian journalists and took them away. The four: Mykhailo Kumok, Yevhenia Borian, Yulia Olkhovska, and Liubov Chaika, worked under the auspices of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, which has been collating and reporting war crimes committed by Russians in Ukraine and passing the evidence on to the European and International Federation of Journalists.
A couple of hours after all the above, and a healthy Moscow breakfast, Dmitry Peskov, the Russian presidential press secretary, yawned and forecast this week’s inclemency by declaring that “Progress seen in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine is not sufficient thus far to discuss direct contacts between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.”
And yet contacts within Moscow are growing more charged and prone to spark. Both Ukrainian intelligence staffers and the investigative media organization Bellingcat (Netherlands-based) are quickly becoming convinced and convincing that enough of the top political caste in Russia has had enough. Bellingcat’s director, Christo Grozev has since the second week of March been scrutinizing material leaked to him supposedly by people in the FSB; Grozev, highly dubious at first, ran the stuff by some FSB contacts of his own, and has now opined that at least some key documents are authentic. Yesterday Ukraine intelligence themselves finally saw fit to share its suspicions that Putin, having overstepped his bounds directly into a sinkhole of dogshit, has reached the point of no return –most probably to be replaced by Alexander Bortnikov, head of the FSB since 2008. The Cheka-hearted Bortnikov made his bones in the same St. Petersburg gang as Putin (whence the title of my March 10 article “THE NATURE OF HIS GAME”), and with him grew up to be a golden-haired balding billionaire by grabbing state assets and eliminating rivals.
But all those assets per se don’t turn to gold by alchemy, so the disapproving world must ask: where did the money part come from? In short: it came from purchasers beyond the border, and entered the pockets of those within. –The same modus operandi forever found throughout South America, North America, Asia, Africa, Australia, east and west Europe, and a few research stations in Antarctica. Who paid the money? We all did. Because that’s the only currency, so to speak, of our relationships.
Coincidentally, the same day Ukraine announced its considered opinion, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, of the Yale School of Management published a list of Western companies still operating without pause or qualm inside Russia. For your benefit, they are: Air Products, AstraZeneca, Asus, Auchan-Retail, Ball Corporation, BNP Paribas, Bose, Cloudflare, Credit Suisse, Decathlon, Emerson Electric, Emirates Airlines, Fortive, Geberit, Glencore, Greif, Gruma, ID Logistics, International Paper, IPG Photonics, Koch Industries, Leroy Merlin, Liebrecht & Wood, Manitowoc, Metro, Nestle, Oriflame Cosmetics, Polpharma, Raffeisen, Renault, Rockwool, SC Johnson, Societe Generale, Subway, Weatherford International, and Young Living. The common traits of all these firms are insatiability, disassociation from reality, and maintaining a façade of progress while bestowing the good life on humankind. Excepting Subway, of course, which was only organized to poison poor folks by selling sliced donkey scalp.
As of this week, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expects the greater part of the world to enact sanctions on some of the Western companies still operating in Russia (e.g. Nestle, Danone, Unilever), with particular focus on those involved in the manufacture –at any level– of Russian arms, missiles and other munitions.
As for those Russian nationals who filled their pants with inflows of wealth, they know the capriciousness of Russian law even better than the poor do, and therefor completed (they assumed) the monetary cycle by moving the bulk of it back outside the Motherland. But the final settling of the gang wars in Russia meant centralizing authority, and the capo di tutti capi never allowed the oligarchs complete liberty from ‘Our Thing’. The Ukraine invasion is scything through the assets of everyone in range of Putin’s calamities. The war is rapidly running through March’s approximately $300 billion in gold reserves and foreign currency available to Russia even after the West cut off its central bank, some $130 billion of which is actual gold in the Russian bank and the rest in foreign currency held in Russia itself, China, and other non-sanctioning nations.
But Putin’s aggression has accelerated the counterattacks of the real arbiters of money; on the final day of the past week, the European Parliament declared that Russian and Belarusian envoys were prohibited from entering. Yesterday TASS reported that France had locked up 22 billion euros of the Bank of Russia’s assets, as well as those belonging to sanctioned individuals. The Russian-owned news agency quoted the French Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Marie, as boasting: “We have frozen the assets of the Russian Central Bank worth 22 billion euros. We have also frozen funds on accounts of individuals in French enterprises worth 150 million euros.” Property totally worth “half a billion euros” owned by around 30 Russians have also been frozen on French territory, and two yachts totally worth 150 million euros have been detained, the minister added.”Since we established a center that unites the efforts of hundreds of employees of the TRACFIN financial intelligence service, the treasury, customs and the Public Finances Directorate for the first time in the history of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, we have managed to unveil and freeze the assets of Russian tycoons totally worth 1.8 billion euros on French territory apart from the Russian Central Bank’s 22 billion euros.”
At nearly the identical moment, the E.U. sanctioned three Belarusian banks –Development Bank of Belarus, Belagroprombank, and Dabrabyt Bank– and disconnected them from SWIFT. Putin responded by ‘rescheduling’ existing Belarusian debt to Russia “for 5 to 6 years.”
As of this moment, E.U. nations are initiating discussions on still greater sanctions against Russia, concentrated in the area of energy and oil. Their intention is is catch up to the U.S. and Great Britain. Starting this morning Poland is setting out to confiscate all Russian assets in its territory, Prime Minister Morawiecki ruefully stating that although there are no Russian yachts in Poland, “there is some real estate and financial assets, shares of companies.” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala chimed in, saying “The Russian army has devastated Ukrainian Mariupol. The whole world sees that Vladimir Putin is committing war crimes and that innocent people are dying because of his war. We must continue to insist on a clear and unified approach to Russia and other sanctions, this is the only way to stop Putin.” Bulgaria announced it will not negotiate a new gas deal with Russia’s Gazprom after it expires in later this year on account of the Russian war on Ukraine, and “will be looking at alternative supplies,” Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev said on Saturday. Australia banned the sale of alumina and aluminum ore to Russia. And the third of the “big four” oil companies –the American-owned Baker Hughes– said it will no longer invest in Russia.
On the other side of the black book, Russia made around $63 billion from global oil, petroleum, and liquefied natural gas in the third quarter of 2021, the last period for which Bank of Russia figures are available. It also exported another $70 billion worth of other goods, including non-energy commodities such as iron and other metals in the same quarter. Even now, as the war pounds on, Europe imports around 40% of its natural gas from Russia (the exact percentage varies by country). Germany, which eventually shut down approval of the Russian-owned NordStream 2 pipeline last week, is dependent on Russia for roughly half of its natural gas. Poland about 50%. Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and Slovakia require almost 60% of the natural gas from Russia.
Peeling off the layers of Germany’s deflecting calls to release itself from the NordStream 2 project reveals a soiled and shaming example of how the enlightened West managed to finance the present gangland wars. Only a few days after exiting the office of Chancellor of Germany, in 2006 Gerhard Schröder became Chairman of the Shareholders’ Committee of NordStream AG –owned by the Russian state-owned Gazprom. Schröder was, like the current Chancellor Olaf Scholz, head of the SDP (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands), a putatively left-leaning party with a long tradition of travesty. While still Chancellor, he worked closely with Vladimir Putin to push NordStream. The agreement to build the pipeline was signed ten days before Schröder’s last election. By 2006 Schröder was elevated to NordStream AG’s Chairman of the Board. By 2017 he was chairman of the Russian oil behemoth Roseneft. By 2022 he was nominated as a director of Gazprom.
Through both his terms as Chancellor, Schröder’s Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister was the Green Party’s (Die Grünen) gormandizing former radical street-fighter Joschka Fischer. In direct competition with his former boss, Fischer, by 2009, had formally become a top ‘adviser’ to the Nabucco pipeline project –the competitor to Gazprom’s South-Stream line– which would have bolstered the power and treasure chest of Turkmenistan, unlawfully violating the E.U.’s rulings on human rights. As the Nabucco deals were breaking apart, Fischer, in 2012, hopped over the crash to become a member of the supervisory board of the Paris-based Meridian –a “global investor and asset manager.”
The German Social Democrats and Greens departed and the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) placed Angela Merkel on the throne for 16 years, during which time she fondled the inherited Gazprom/NordStream heirlooms all through the planning of the new NordStream 2 in 2011 to its completion in September 2021.
Qui reddit? Who pays? We all did. No Lagarde list could ever be long enough to include everybody involved in the smiling transactions that financed this war. Only those whose coin is humanity are scorned and made to pay in blood.
THE SLEEP OF REASON
In the past 24 hours, Russia sent 300 aircraft over Ukraine; Ukrainian defenses shot down a Russian missile flying towards Kropyvnytsky, over Mykolaiv; and Ukraine shot down a Russian bomber over Mariupol, which had been shelling the city for weeks.
Using the Telegram app, the Mariupol city council reported that the city was struck by “two most powerful air bombs” this morning. Mariupol has always been the weak joint in Russia’s land run connecting the country to the Black Sea, Russian forces having initially sidestepped it in their early charge south. Afterwards they moved back to close off the city and subjected it to weeks of unending aerial and field gun bombardment, in what to anyone’s eyes appears to be a commitment to smashing it off the crust of the earth. Intentionally deprived of water, food, electricity, heat or their own shelter, an estimated 300,000 residents –not all necessarily alive– have been caged in the Azov port city this entire time as though in an experimental concentration camp. Mariupol in fact stands as an example of what Putin imagines his post-victory Ukraine will look like.
Although unable to break through the encirclement and either pull out Mariupol’s captives or directly fight the Russian besiegers, Ukrainian forces have been successfully beating the Russians back on most other fronts. Continuing to hack away at the main threat west of Kyiv, Ukraine completely retook Makariv, pushing the Russian bulk more than 31 miles further away from the capital. Kyiv-based fighters are simultaneously muscling off the Russian forces which have been encroaching from the east; Volodymyr Borysenko, mayor of Boryspil, almost 18 miles from Kyiv, has asked residents to leave in anticipation of a major battle to eliminate the enemy mass from that side. As large as it was, the Russian agglomeration was always a folly, as the Dnieper river separating Kyiv from the eastern access from Russia has not moved in several millennia. This is the same obstacle to the still heaving invasion force in the Chernihiv to Brovary corridor which Russia stupidly sent in at the war’s beginning –originally to terrify Kyiv while it took the eastern borderlands. On the southern front, Ukrainians have retained the advantage they gained upon expelling the Russians from Voznesenks (nearing the Yuzhnoukrainsk/South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant) and all along 30 miles of the Mykolaiv road back to just 25 miles northwest of Kherson. Satellite info however appears to show the Ukrainians not stopping there, but moving on to Kherson and its airfield.
I should confess that I’ve known since it occurred in early March –at the 30th meeting of the Steering Committee of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE)– that Ukraine was invited in as a member and contributing participant. The Tallinn headquartered CCDCOE is a ‘think tank’ which actively engages in cybersecurity, analysis, information exchange and applied (as opposed to pure) research. In plain, this is one of many quick-reflex manoeuvres Zelenskiy made since the beginning of the war that accounts for the accuracy of the Ukrainian General Staff’s prognostications and real-time intelligence.
Now, today, March 22, the consensus of all 27 members of the above mentioned group, and the Ukrainian intelligence agencies, is that Russian troops currently in Ukraine have roughly 3 days’ to a week’s worth of supplies necessary to continue fighting (this excludes external means of attacks). Ukraine’s AGS (Army General Staff) elucidated that their constant targeting of Russian food, fuel and munitions convoys have drastically undercut Moscow’s operational abilities, and that Ukrainian air and small-unit attacks behind Russian lines have reduced re-supply attempts to trucks driven by the road they drive…which simply become targets to Ukraine military forces and partisans. Nor is Russia sufficiently able to resupply human material quickly enough to make up for their casualties. As is often the case in war, soldiers become disillusioned before their comfortable, patriotic compatriots back home; this morning the Ukraine defense Ministry confirmed that, in the eastern Sumy zone, 300 Russian soldiers defied orders to attack, circled their 70 fighting vehicles, and drove back to Russia. As you all know, there have been reports and witness accounts of Russian troops deserting and even surrendering on sight since the war began.
In distant Moscow, the reactions were to send Dmitry Medvedev out to pointlessly tell TASS that “Russia has refused to continue peace treaty talks with Japan. In the context of the Kuril Islands, this is a historically justified step that is long overdue and fair”, and to initiate cunning discussions on future joint prosperity with North Korea. No kidding.
In the corporeal world, Ukrainian President Zelenskiy continued to speak of ending the war, repeating all his offers, concessions, and logic, including once again making clear his desire to sit down directly with Putin, saying: “At a meeting with Putin I am ready to hear out everything that Russia is displeased with and I will tell him everything that the Ukrainian people think. We cannot resolve all the issues, but there is a chance that we might, and we could at least stop the war.” Zelenskiy was sure to add that Ukraine is prepared to consider rejection of a NATO membership and embrace geopolitical neutrality –two of the four demands Russia made many peace talks ago.
“Ukraine is not being invited into NATO because they (NATO states) are afraid of Russia. Ukraine needs to accept this and seek other security guarantees,” Zelenskiy said, summarizing his dilemma by explaining: “Ukraine will never agree to any ceasefire deal that leaves the country under risk of a repeat invasion.”
Raising the matter of who in their right mind would be willing to host the ‘next’ peace negotiations yesterday, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov suggested: “Actually, someone who can [do this] should exert their influence on Kiev to make Kiev more cooperative, more constructive in these talks.”
In 1993 the Russian Federation enacted a constitution which anointed its president as the Supreme Commander in chief of the Armed Forces, meaning, at that time, that war decisions would be made by a permanently drunken, floor-clutching Boris Yeltsin. Not all nations attach that power to the presidency. America was one of the first, and that was in deference to General George Washington’s proven record of running away, which was considered a most advanced military ploy in a new country. But now that addendum has enshrouded Vladimir Putin, who has less ties to reality than did his beloved Tzar Nicholas The Last.
WHAT THE WIND SAID
The transference of self-loathing onto others is a daily activity for most people. It is persistent yet malleable enough that it can be and often is redirected on to a new person every 10 minutes, averaged out. Most people also have no purpose in life, so this becomes their organism’s sole function, apart from the stimulation of their alimentary canal.
The Ukraine night –of March 23– was another man made meteorite shower, as bombs and rockets cascaded down. The Kharkiv area alone was hit 32 times by tank cannons, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and artillery shelling. Russian forces bombed medium-sized towns and even villages in the regions of Mykolaiv, Chernihiv, Rubizhne, and Luhansk –where they also ignited a fire in a children’s hospital. Ten miles northeast of Donetsk, the industrial city of Avidiivka was blasted with Smerch (tornado) -C Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, which tear through armor, and are considered the most powerful weapon after an atomic bomb.
Yet the war, from the Russian perspective, is all going wrong. Top officers are uncharacteristically being killed in active advance battles. Neither commanders nor fighting men are being replenished quickly enough to fill their holes. In Crimea Russian troops are not quite openly mutinying, but almost unanimously refusing to attack Ukraine. Russia technically has, and holds, 5 fronts, but is fighting 11 fronts.
So, naturally, from the cataclysm in Ukraine, blowback is splattering into Russia, it’s first globs hitting as recriminations, its heartier clumps as repercussions. As these latter begin marring peoples’ quotidian lives, Russia’s ruling caste is darting around holding up ad hoc shields; Moscow has just announced that all its gas deliveries to Europe must now be paid in rubles. Price controls on basic goods are needed to hold down the war and sanction induced inflation. Those basic goods are vanishing before any price can be stamped on them. The world watches to see when the Russian people will resent the increasing deprivations enough to mentally and morally connect them to the war, and to see what that process will translate to in action. By comparison, recall that it took at least four years before a majority of Americans began to view the Vietnam war as unjustifiable. In that case it turned largely on a leading newscaster, “America’s Most Trusted Man”, broadcasting his verdict. In Russia’s case it will likely depend on how ‘uncomfortable’ peoples’ days have become.
The recriminations only soaked out into public view a few days ago, when Putin had already purged some of his military brass as well as arresting Colonel-General Sergei Beseda and Anatoly Bolyuk, the two top FSB officers he chose to blame for all the shoddy pre-invasion intelligence he was given…or had bothered listening to. But that was merely the official excuse. Putin was in the middle of a full-bore hunt for the FSB mole or renegades who had been communicating with the Ukraine General Staff and giving them in advance the plans and locations of Russian forces in Ukraine. (see my March 21 article: “Qui Reddit?”). As of this morning still in place were Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and SVR Director Sergei Narayshkin, although their situation is looking tenuous.
In that March 21 article I mentioned that both the Ukraine Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense and the investigative media organization Bellingcat had been busy authenticating the source of certain memos from one particular FSB agent inside Russia, and that they were satisfied that the writer was sincere and genuine. Those writings were also sent to, verified, and published by the Russian dissident Vladimir Osechkin, who runs Gulagu.Net. The same degree of scrutiny was conducted by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, also long-time Russian dissidents who run Агентура.Ру (Agentura.Ru), as the cautious Osechkin conferred with them in addition to his own contacts within the FSB. Osechkin had been receiving the FSB agent’s letters of warning since March 17, so plenty of time was allowed for everyone to decide the leaker was serious. The showstopper I wrote was “that Putin, having overstepped his bounds directly into a sinkhole of dogshit, has reached the point of no return –most probably to be replaced by Alexander Bortnikov, head of the FSB since 2008.” As summarized on March 20th by Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, the whistleblower –flatulently code-named “Winds Of Change”– had actually written: “A certain part of the Russian political elite of the Russian Federation considers as the successor of Putin – the director of FSB Alexander Bortnikov. It is noteworthy that Bortnikov has recently fallen out of favor with the Russian dictator. The official reason for the disgrace of the head of the FSB – fatal miscalculations in the war against Ukraine. It was Bortnikov and his department who were responsible for analyzing the mood of the Ukrainian population and the capacity of the Ukrainian army. It is known that Bortnikov and some other influential members of the Russian elite are considering various options for removing Putin from power. In particular, poisoning, sudden illness, or other “accident” is not excluded. It is possible that these processes are connected with the recent “downpour” of the location of Chechen units in the north of Kyiv. The information came from the Russian side. Probably, this is how the FSB leadership is trying to weaken Kadyrov’s influence. It may also be an attempt to establish cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities in advance, bypassing the current leadership of the Russian Federation.” For English speakers, the words “Kadryov” mean the Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadryov, and “downpour” refers to the eradication by Ukrainians of the Chechen maniacs he’d sent in to Ukraine on Russia’s (i.e. his own) behalf.
By March 21, ‘Winds of Change’ had sent further missives to Osechkin, revealing Russian intentions towards Ukrainians in Russian-held Ukraine cities, warning that “people will be taken from their homes in the middle of the night. Even if we have to deport as many as half the city — we are ready for that…If it were possible to identify protest leaders, they would have been liquidated already. Protesters are saved only by the fact that it is unclear who exactly needs to be captured. There are also fears that a move to violence may end in a real riot, which could only be suppressed by large-scale fighting.” Orders had been given “from the very top” for a solution to be found, it asserted, and a “great terror” coordinated by the security services would aim to reduce protest with “extremely strict methods of dispersal”, including “severe injury” to individual demonstrators. A second phase would involve “door-to-door terror” with residents kidnapped and taken abroad. The agent appeared to be speaking most specifically about Kherson.
Some background: Putin and Bortnikov were both FSB and ran bag together in St. Petersburg. As Putin connived his way into Yeltsin’s administration and arranged to be appointed his successor in a deal which guaranteed Yeltsin and Putin immunity from imminent prosecution for just about every transgression imaginable, he pushed aside the SVR –Russia’s nominal Foreign Intelligence Service– in favor of his home team, the FSB, who he likewise had to protect from arrests…and what better way to ensure that than by elevating them to the apex of power? Since the end of the 90s, the newly formed FSB’s Fifth Service spread like a bloodspill through all the former Soviet republics and smothered anything and anyone who deviated from Putin’s stratagems. This included the Russian Federation, where after all, power was centralized. Ergo, Bortnikov, at the head of the network, wound up holding as much, and possibly more, power than Putin himself. The military remained as distrusted as the SVR; Bortnikov is the man in charge of keeping Putin alive, and he knows where all the proverbial and literal bodies are buried, so he hasn’t been burned in Putin’s frantic FSB witch hunt.
But as his power grew it began to choke on itself, as Putin’s directives became more egocentrically propelled; he threatened then alienated the men he’d made rich; he punched his Chiefs of Staff into a war they were unprepared for; he united every former Soviet republic and subdomain into an anti-colonial bloc; and now he has fueled resentment, fear and an imperative for self-preservation among the thugs and spooks who built his imagined empire. His wholly personal determination to win the Ukraine war, perversely, is eating away at his supremacy daily. Putin isn’t as simple-minded as Hitler was –entirely absorbed with transferring his self-loathing on to one race. But what sort of halfwit who wants to ‘de-nazify’ and ‘protect’ his coveted Lebensraum turns it into a bloody gravel pit? The missing half, that’s who. Compared to what he has done by this stage, Putin could have opened Ukraine to every narco-militia in the world and he would’ve been regarded as humane. Sane.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES OUT
Cracks in the enamel and pearls falling off: Today TASS, the Russian state-run news agency, wrote that Russia’s National Wealth Fund decreased by 675.16 billion rubles ($6.8 billion) in February. More internal Russian press agencies are continuing to bring up food and staple commodity shortages. The Russian professional physicians’ group VrachiRF, reported shortages of more than 80 pharmaceuticals –this was amplified (very much) by reporting in Vedomosti (Ведомости), a Moscow daily business newspaper. Bloomberg news claims that the Elvira Nabiullina, head of the Russian Central Bank for almost 9 years, quit when Russia attacked Ukraine, but President Putin refused her resignation. On March 18, Arkady Dvorkovich, former chief economic adviser to President Medvedev from 2008 to 2012, then a deputy prime minister until 2018, quit as chairman of the state-backed Skolkovo Foundation –a Muscovite version of Silicon Valley– after condemning the war on Ukraine. Yesterday TASS had disclosed that Anatoly Chubais had just left his post as special Russian presidential representative after speaking out in opposition to the war. Chubais, the prime mover of Russia’s 1990s privatizations, gave Putin his first Kremlin position. Subsequently, Chubais took over leadership in major state companies until Putin appointed him Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Relations with International Organizations and achieving sustainable development goals, thus making him the highest-level official to break with the Putin over the invasion. TASS quoted their Kremlin source as saying: “He left the post of Special Representative and left the country.”
Early this morning Ukraine sank the large Russian amphibious landing ship Orsk near the Azov port of Berdiansk, in the south-east. North, in the Chernihiv region, Ukrainian groups eliminated a Russian convoy of Tiger, MT-LB, and BMP-2 vehicles, capturing some of the equipment intact. Shelling launched from waters north of Berdiansk pounded distant Kharkiv throughout last night and this morning. The head of the regional military administration, Oleh Synehubov, reported that “Over the past 24 hours, the Russians have dealt 44 strikes, activated the MLRS Grad and Uragan 140 times. In the center of the city, the invaders fired Caliber missiles from the ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.” Either in response to the increasing Russian destruction or for psychopharmacological reasons, Dmitry Polyansky, the Russian Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations told British media that Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if “provoked” by NATO or decides it is facing an “existential” threat.
In a video message aired the night of March 24th, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Ukraine: “This is a war for independence.” The day before, addressing the Japanese Parliament, also by video link, Zelenskiy was bitter about the United Nations’ inaction and identified the core problem being its structure, in which any one permanent member of the Security Council can veto or block all others. “Neither the United Nations nor the UN Security Council have functioned. Reforms are needed,” he said. “We need a tool to preemptively ensure global security. Existing international organizations are not functioning for this purpose, so we need to develop a new, preemptive tool that can actually stop invasions.”
There is a solution. And an explanation. The solution involves a little reverse engineering in order to reach the explanation. Hold tight and follow closely, because this took an insane amount of tortuous spelunking.
On February 25, the day after Russia invaded Ukraine, Russia –a permanent member of the UN Security Council– vetoed a draft resolution demanding that it cease all military action and withdraw from Ukraine. Since its inception in 1945, Chapter V, Article 23 of the UN Charter says “The Security Council should consist of fifteen Members of the United Nations. The Republic of China, The French Republic, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America shall be permanent members of the Security Council.” In the “Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics,” the “s” is a plural. We shall return to the “Russia” bit. Vasily Alekseevich Nebenzya is the current Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations (officially, or officiously, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary). The President of the United Nations Security Council is a position rotated monthly among the 15 member-states of the United Nations Security Council. The UNSC is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions on member states. For the month of February, 2022, Nebenzya was the President.
That draft resolution, which I reproduce here, although unpublished, is an archived document prepared and maintained by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, which fortunately kept it from simply being thrown in the garbage. It can be hunted down under: Security Council – Veto List, found research.un.org
Here is the complete two-page “Draft”:
United Nations S/2022/155
Security Council Distr.: General
25 February 2022
Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria,
Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia,
Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland,
Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Latvia, Lesotho,
Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall
Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Montenegro,
Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, North Macedonia, Norway,
Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland,
Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania,
Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain,
Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and
Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Northern Ireland and United States of America: draft resolution
The Security Council,
Recalling the obligation of all States under Article 2 of the United Nations
Charter to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against
the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner
inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, and to settle their international
disputes by peaceful means,
Recalling its primary responsibility under the United Nations Charter for the
maintenance of international peace and security,
Recalling the 1975 Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and
Co-operation in Europe and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum,
Recalling its Resolution 2202 (2015) that calls on parties to fully implement the
“Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”, including a
comprehensive ceasefire as provided for therein, as well as stressing the importance
of the full implementation of the Minsk Protocol of 5 September 2014 and the Minsk
Memorandum of 19 September 2014,
Endorsing the Secretary-General’s call for the Russian Federation to stop its
offensive against Ukraine,
Condemning the 23 February 2022 declaration by the Russian Federation of a
“special military operation” in Ukraine,
Expressing grave concern at reports of civilian casualties,
1. Reaffirms its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity, and
territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders;
2. Deplores in the strongest terms the Russian Federation’s aggression
against Ukraine in violation of Article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter;
3. Decides that the Russian Federation shall immediately cease its use of
force against Ukraine and shall refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force
against any UN member state;
4. Decides that the Russian Federation shall immediately, completely, and
unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within
its internationally recognized borders;
5. Deplores the Russian Federation’s 21 February 2022 decision related to
the status of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as a violation
of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the
principles of the Charter of the United Nations;
6. Decides the Russian Federation shall immediately and unconditionally
reverse the decision related to the status of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk
regions of Ukraine;
7. Calls on the parties to abide by the Minsk agreements and to work
constructively in relevant international frameworks, including in the Normandy
Format and Trilateral Contact Group, towards their full implementation;
8. Calls upon all parties to allow and facilitate the rapid, safe, and unhindered
access of humanitarian assistance to those in need in Ukraine, to protect civilians,
including humanitarian personnel and persons in vulnerable situations, including
9. Condemns all violations of international humanitarian law and violations
and abuses of human rights, and calls upon all parties to strictly respect the relevant
provisions of international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions of
1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, as applicable, and to respect human
10. Welcomes and urges the continued efforts by the Secretary-General, UN
Member States, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other
international and regional organizations, to support de-escalation of the current
situation, and also the efforts of the United Nations to respond to the humanitarian
and refugee crisis that the Russian Federation’s aggression has created;
11. Decides to remain actively seized of this matter
Russia was the sole vote against, so Ukraine’s allies referred the matter to the general assembly.
Next in sequence in the Security Council – Veto List is the discussion and vote on the above “Draft.” Although also unpublished, it is an archived document (also rescued by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library), marked “provisional” as it did not pass. Here is the relevant excerpt from the “Written Record”:
United Nations S/PV.8979
Friday, 25 February 2022, 5 p.m.
United Nations S/PV.8979
Friday, 25 February 2022, 5 p.m.
President: Mr. Nebenzia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Russian Federation)
Members: Albania . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Hoxha
Brazil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Costa Filho
China . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Zhang Jun
France . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. De Rivière
Gabon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Biang
Ghana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Agyeman
India . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Tirumurti
Ireland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Kelly
Kenya. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Kimani
Mexico . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. De la Fuente Ramírez
Norway . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ms. Juul
United Arab Emirates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mrs. Nusseibeh
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland . . Dame Barbara Woodward
United States of America. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mrs. Thomas-Greenfield
Letter dated 28 February 2014 from the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to
the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2014/136)
S/PV.8979 Ukraine 25/02/2022
The President (spoke in Russian): I shall put the
draft resolution to the vote now.
A vote was taken by a show of hands.
Albania, Brazil, France, Gabon, Ghana, Ireland,
Kenya, Mexico, Norway, United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of
China, India, United Arab Emirates
The President (spoke in Russian): The draft
resolution received 11 votes in favor, 1 against and 3
abstentions. The draft resolution has not been adopted,
owing to the negative vote of one permanent member
of the Council.
I now give the floor to those members of the Council
who wish to make statements after the vote.
Mr. Hoxha (Albania): We deeply regret
That crucial page ends on Mr. Hoxha’s “regret”, and there follows 11 further pages of speechifying in safe old New York. The above noted vote was conducted in the 11th time the UN has held an emergency session since 1950 (the last one was in 1997). On that general motion, 141 of the 193 member states voted for the resolution, 35 abstained and five voted against it –those 5 being: Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea, and Eritrea.
Now: How did the single entity, Russia, ever wind up holding the permanent membership once held by the USSR, which was comprised of 15 republics?
Here is the first pertinent quote, directly from the current website of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations (russiaun.ru): “Since 1991, after the disintegration of the USSR, Russian Federation, along with other former republics of the Soviet Union is represented at the UN as an independent state and operates under the “Provisions on the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to international organizations”, approved on 29 September 1999 by a Presidential Decree.” It is immediately followed by this: “In December 1991, the Russian Federation, as the continuator state of the Soviet Union in the international arena, has officially taken its place as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.” And that’s it. Those are the two explanatory paragraphs in full.
Chasing that echoing “Yes, fine, but how?”, we must writhe further back into the darkness. Almost immediately after the USSR materially collapsed in 1991, by December 8 of that same year, a homunculus was birthed, called the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Its formation was legalized in the Belovezh Accords, and it dissolved the USSR and replaced it with the CIS, which consisted of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. The founding charter clearly said that each member was a sovereign and independent nation.
As soon as December 21, again, that same year, CIS held out its welcoming arms to other former USSR nations. Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia told it to go fry in hell. Georgia ducked (but later joined in 1993..until 2008). Accepting the offer were: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. That occasion was formalized in the Alma-Alta Declaration. Here is the relevant res:
THE ALMA-ATA DECLARATION
Signed by eleven heads of state on December 21, 1991.
The independent states:
The Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, the Republic of Turkmenistan, the Republic of Ukraine and the Republic of Uzbekistan;
seeking to build democratic law-governed states, the relations between which will develop on the basis of mutual recognition and respect for state sovereignty and sovereign equality, the inalienable right to self-determination, principles of equality and noninterference in the internal affairs, the rejection of the use of force, the threat of force and economic and any other methods of pressure, a peaceful settlement of disputes, respect for human rights and freedoms, including the rights of national minorities, a conscientious fulfillment of commitments and other generally recognized principles and standards of international law;
recognizing and respecting each other’s territorial integrity and the inviolability of the existing borders;
Agreement on Councils of Heads of State and Government
The Council of Heads of State is the supreme body, on which all the member-states of the Commonwealth are represented at the level of head of state, for discussion of fundamental issues connected with coordinating the activity of the Commonwealth states in the sphere of their common interests.
After swearing to uphold the goodness, inviolability, sovereign equality, etc., they signed at the same time an agreement that “Member states of the Commonwealth support Russia in taking over the USSR membership in the UN, including permanent membership in the Security Council.” That is spelled out here:
“The plenipotentiary representatives of the states of the new commonwealth shall be instructed to submit proposals concerning the abolition of the structures of the former Soviet Union, as well as the coordinating institutions of the commonwealth for the consideration of the Council of the Heads of State. ON U.N. MEMBERSHIP
Member states of the commonwealth, referring to Article 12 of the agreement on the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States,
PROCEEDING from the intention of each of the states to fulfill its duties stipulated by the U.N. Charter and to take part in the work of that organization as equal members;
TAKING into account that previously the Republic of Byelorussia, the U.S.S.R. and Ukraine were members of the United Nations organization;
EXPRESSING satisfaction that the Republic of Byelorussia and Ukraine continue to be U.N. members as sovereign independent states;
BEING full of resolve to promote the consolidation of world peace and security on the basis of the U.N. Charter in the interests of their nations and the whole of the world community;
1. Member states of the commonwealth support Russia in taking over the U.S.S.R. membership in the U.N., including permanent membership in the Security Council and other international organizations.
2. The Republic of Byelorussia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine will help other member states of the commonwealth settle problems connected with their full membership in the U.N. and other international organizations.
Done in Alma-Ata on Dec. 21, 1991, in one copy in the Azerbaijani, Armenian, Byelorussian, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Moldavian, Russian, Tadzhik, Turkmen, Uzbek and Ukrainian languages. All texts have equal force. the original copy will be kept in the archive of the Government of the Republic of Byelorussia, which will send the high contracting parties a certified copy of this protocol.
Three days later, on December 24, the Secretary General of the United Nations received a letter from the President of Russia, reproduced here:
Moscow, 24 December 1991
I have the honour to inform you that the membership of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the United Nations, including the Security Council and all other organs and organizations of the United Nations system, is being continued by the Russian Federation (RSFSR) with the support of the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In this connection, I request that the name “the Russian Federation” should be used in the United Nations in place of the name “the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”.
The Russian Federation maintains full responsibility for all the rights and obligations of the USSR under the Charter of the United Nations, including the financial obligations.
I request you to consider this letter as confirmation of the credentials to represent the Russian Federation in the United Nations organs for all the persons currently holding the credentials of representatives of the USSR to the United Nations.
Accept, Sir, the assurances of my highest consideration.
As of today, there are only 9 full members of the CIS. Georgia and Turkmenistan departed for historical reasons. Of the remaining membership,Armenia and Azerbaijan have warred with and detest each other; Belarus is teetering; Kazakhstan tries to maintain relations with all 3 superpowers but had called for peace talks during Russia’s foolery in Crimea; Kyrgystan is about 50% pro-Russian in general but likes to war against Tajikistan; Moldova is partially Russian occupied and indignant about it; Russia is pro-Russia; Tajikistan is both pro-Russia and pro-China and also anti-Kyrgystan (see: war, above); and Uzbekistan withdrew from the CIS collective security arrangement in 1999, but is these days –or until this month– generally supportive of Russia.
Whew. I now hand it back to you, Mr. Zelenskiy…and you others.
MAMA SAY YES, PAPA SAY NO
Today brought the sound of that repetitive drone President-For-Life Alexander “Idi” Lukashenko, once again reiterating that Belarus will not be suckered into participating in the Ukraine war. “I have said a thousand and twenty times that we have no plans to fight in Ukraine. But the issue is hot. The Belorussians do not tolerate war on a genetic level. That is why it has begun to be exploited. We should respond in a beautiful way. It used to be sensible in the Soviet times to talk not only about propaganda, but also about counter-propaganda. So we need to respond calmly, but not to make excuses.” Lukashenko, the top hostage in his own fiefdom, was boring and boggling his serfs via the state-owned BelTA media and giving Vladimir Putin aneurysms as his only way of getting back at him.
Bombers still fly, shells still fall, but apart from the blind destruction, the Russian war machine is at a standstill. Panting breaks are being used for buildups, but basically confined to Crimea and the Kyiv areas, plus bulking up in Belarus and crowding into the northeast corner. Obsolete, corroded armaments have already been seen and captured in battle, and now more are being tugged out of warehousing and loaded up for the fronts. But Belarusian saboteurs have disabled the rail system. After four weeks of war, the Russian Defense Ministry finally admits the loss of 1,351 toy soldiers –not far off the 15,000 to 16,000 calculated by most other countries’ intelligence. Boy conscripts are being assembled. NCOs and ratty reserves are assigned to head up their ruin. The Russian military operation is retrenching –in the sense that it is frantically digging itself a deeper grave.
Ukraine forces have fought off Russian leapfrogging all along the Mykolaiv road, and beaten them back miles around every new thrust around Kyiv. Crimean, Donetsk, and Luhansk ethnic Russians are malingering (in the latter 2 regions) or mutinous (in the former). The Sumy to Kharkiv front keeps sacrificing 25 to 50 percent each time a Russian unit charges. Through ambuscades and post-clash mop ups, every day Russian equipment winds up in Ukrainian hands. Despite losing 74 of its own tanks, by capturing 117 Russian ones, Ukraine now fields more tanks than they started the war with…and those are functioning. Destroyed Russian tanks are estimated in numbers between 274 and 561 (acc. various non-Russian military observers).
Turkey-talking Erdogan tells us his mighty efforts to manage things have brought Ukraine and Russia closer than ever to practical agreement on Putin’s “four demands”, which he today accidentally adduces as 6. Kuleba brushes the claim away in disgust; even the number of “points” (in his words) is a fantasy. Indeed, we’ve seen Putin’s starting demands multiply to as many as 15 during the course of prolonging talks and pounding his table.
Kremlin mouthpiece Dmitry Peskov, in dire need of something to blab to the real world, yesterday confided that Roman Abramovich was indeed playing go-between for peace earlier in the war. Abramovich –generally team Russian Oligarch– has some trust from both Zelenskiy and Putin, and his endeavors are not necessarily at an end, especially now that he must redeem his name and money from the little awkwardness of western sanctions.
And today was the grand day Russia proclaimed that “The main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been accomplished.” This vocal pratfall was assigned to Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Russian General Staff’s main operational directorate, who further extemporized: “The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which … makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbas.”
Any settlement is now going to take the form of the grabs I delineated in my February 24th article. Those were the real original war objectives: establishing a land corridor connecting Russia to the Black Sea is the sole practical goal. Luhansk and Donetsk just happen to be already placed stepping stones in that land run down Ukraine’s eastern border.
Kyiv continues to kick back and pick off Russian forces set by Putin to first distract, then (when humiliated) capture the Ukrainian capital, with particular success on the side of a group known as 72 SMBr, in honor of the Black Zaporozhian Cossacks. These modern Cossacks have harried the Russians slogging through Hostomel, Irpin, Bucha, and Pushcha-Voditsa, with rigged traps, ambushes and attacks, giving active protection to the whole northwest perimeter. At best, the Russians are currently trying to fortify defensive pockets in healthy outdoor campsites away from Kyiv. Northeast, on the other bank of the Dnieper, the regular Ukrainian army is moving on the Chernihiv threat. 40 miles west of Chernihiv and that much closer to Kyiv, Ukraine retook Slavutych, freed its captured hospital and its mayor, and managed to kill more retreating Russian officers.
Further below, Ukraine is still fighting, with gradual re-gains, along the Sumy to Kharkiv front, despite Russia shelling Kharkiv 24 times last night (but no Russian planes overhead for 24 hours). Some 70 miles southeast of that intense fighting persists around Izyum. While in use as a nexus for supply and logistics, Ukraine has inexplicably loaded too much of its military in the area; the Donets river is already a difficult barrier for the Russians to cross, and it is an overextension of the Russians’ Luhansk muscle of the eastern corridor their military seems to have finally pared their goal back to [see yesterday’s article: “Mama Say Yes, Papa Say No”]. The battles are Russia’s attempts to set the ‘on-the’ground’ status quo before any more peace talks erupt.
In the middle of that coveted eastern land corridor is Mariupol: Putin’s monument to a world without man. But yesterday the French President Emmanuel Macron announced after the EU summit that France, Turkey, and Greece had agreed on a plan to evacuate civilians from the siege: “a humanitarian operation to evacuate everyone who wants to leave Mariupol…in the next few days”. Macron added that “we will be negotiating in a conversation with President Putin,” which translates to either a gesture, a hopeful but serious plan, or an ukase backed by force the 3 countries have just sprung on Putin.
Overall, as of this writing, as Ukraine is growing in strength and deflating the invasionary tumors, Russia is stopped and stuck, and unhappily trying to rebuild itself with whatever can reach its forces. A majority of the resupply has been arriving ransacked –looted of parts including engines and cannon. Russian complaints intercepted by the Ukraine Defense Ministry were summarized thus: “In particular, at the airfield in the village of Klimovo, Bryansk region [15 miles from the Ukraine border], the enemy is deploying a repair and restoration base. Right now, the enemy’s repair base is trying to “put into service” a significant amount of equipment that arrives from long-term storage warehouses. The state of this equipment is mostly extremely unsatisfactory, which makes it impossible to fully use it.”
As Saturday’s noon approached, the irrepressible Vitaliy Kim, head of the Mykolaiv Regional State Administration, announced: “The weather is beautiful! If only these assholes had been shot by now, everything would have been gorgeous in general.”
1. PUT MONEY IN THY PURSE
As the landscape ratcheted into focus over the last few days and articles, we can now see much more clearly the figures wrestling for power –their own and as seconds for clashing politico-economic confederations– and the environment they grapple in. We see now that Ukraine must remain on its feet while fatiguing the Russian colossus, stay alert while awaiting incoming aid and the draining out of Russian resources.
Of the second matter: As announced yesterday, March 26, the Moscow Exchange plans to re-open for trading on Monday, the 28th. This alone is not very enlightening, since the hours are only for half a day, and no further decisions about even a single day beyond that were relayed. More interesting is the news that by last Thursday, the 24th, the Russian Ministry of Finance said it had paid out interest on bonds totaling $117.2 million, thereby avoiding debt defalcation in spite of sanctions designed to shut down the Russian economy, including the freezing of foreign-placed assets. No clarification was given by the ministry as to whether or not those payments were made in rubles, as Russia had laughingly threatened.
The debt payments are also curious because they flash out in harsh contrast against the rest of the economic results of the sanctions. Already we’ve seen weeping oligarchs who can’t reach their stashes due to the freeze. I’ve written elsewhere on the effects spreading through the general population. Now frozen assets have lamed one Russian corporation which has for some years been a barometer of Russia’s economic ascent, making it particularly worth mentioning; Yandex, the nation’s biggest tech company. Yandex is Russia’s Google but does far more, and holds a similar monopoly grip on information, e-commerce, nearly every app of culture or convenience, and users’ personal data. That naturally brought the Russian government calling with an offer Yandex couldn’t refuse. Nominally a multinational company, built up over 24 years with mostly western investments, using the state owned Sberbank, the Kremlin took over a 30% slice, control over board decisions and it’s ‘foundation’, and fitted it with concrete shoes made up of a quick-hardening mix of laws keeping all its servers in Russia and every other aggregate grab conceivable. In short, it was the same procedure Putin himself had plied in his St. Petersburg gangland days. And how he learned to manufacture a government. But Putin’s flailings led to troubles; once he invaded Ukraine, Yandex board members began resigning in helpless protest, and Yandex shares became locked down in European and US stock exchanges. In reaction, its western shareholders squealed for repayments on $1.25 billion in bond guarantees. Which Yandex doesn’t happen to have.
But Russia might. How? Perhaps from some of the following schemes:
On Friday, March 25th, members of the European Council summit in Brussels left the meeting without having initiated any practical moves to hold the lid down on energy prices boiling over, or even a collective response to Putin’s new caper requiring gas payments in Rubles, which European nations would have to buy with euros or other non-ruble currencies. From the Russian Central Bank. After the banquet, the Council issued a public statement informing us that “Sustained high energy prices have an increasingly negative impact on [European] citizens and businesses…The European Council calls on the Commission to submit proposals that effectively address the problem of excessive electricity prices while preserving the integrity of the Single Market.” The sated sages then confided that the problems are increased by the war in Ukraine.
Towards the end of this last week, Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov told sundry media: “Gazprom supplies Russian gas for transit through the territory of Ukraine in the regular mode in accordance with the requests of European consumers — 109.5 million cubic meters as of March 26.” In all of 2021, Europe purchased 98.9 billion euros of fuels from Russia; 155 billion cubic meters of gas, for around 15 billion euros (figures per Eurostat). So Europe is actually increasing purchases from Russia throughout this war period; almost 19 billion euros for all Russian fuels, including 12 billion euros for natural gas.
And, in the finest tradition of adding injury to injury, yesterday an official memo from the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration (on its Telegram) announced that in the Russian-occupied city of Tokmak and surroundings there will be a full transition to the Russian ruble starting April 4, 2022.
2. OUT, DAMN SPOT!
This past Wednesday, March 23, another resolution demanding an immediate stop to the Russian war in Ukraine, co-drafted by France and Mexico was put up to the United Nations. The next day, March 24th, it was adopted by the UN General Assembly with a tremendous majority; 140 countries for versus only 5 against. 38 members abstained. The five who voted against the resolution were: Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea, and Eritrea –the same 5 who voted down a similar attempt on February 25 in the 15-member Security Council, although that was moot because Russia, as one of the 5 Permanent Members of the UN Security Council had earlier vetoed the draft, and the vote was merely a chance to air the grievance which Ukraine had filed the day before. However, the March 24 General Assembly resolution is “non-binding’. Meaning meaningless.
In my March 24 article “THE EMPIRE STRIKES OUT” I detailed the two February UN sessions and documented how The Russian veto blocked any movement on the issue at hand. I then tore through the matter of how Russia –not the USSR– wound up in its place on the 5-member Permanent Security Council, which involved excavating letters, Accords, Declarations, and Memoranda dating from the formation of the United Nations, through the dissolution of the USSR, to the present. To those it concerns, you might wish to read it again.
It is a blueprint for removing the veto from Russia and for removing Russia from the 5-member Permanent Security Council.
Look again at the first precipitous manoeuver I documented: the Belavezha Accords. Imperial Russia supplanted the USSR while the latter was still the sole legal state polity. Boris Yeltsin –the man who brought Putin to power– actually shut down the Communist Party in November and literally ran the Russian Imperial flag up the flagpole while Gorbachev was still President. A month later, and in complete secrecy, Yeltsin, deciding he represented both Russia and the USSR, wrote up and signed the Belavezha deal with Kravchuk (Ukraine) and Shushkevich (Belarus), thereby erasing the USSR and usurping the power of all 15 republics (the CIS). Gorbachev was only informed of this afterwards and coincidentally. He warned the world that the deal was “illegal and dangerous”.
Before the month was done, 11 other USSR republics were co-opted into formalizing the new situation and, with less than a day’s thought, handed supreme representative power to Russia alone (the Alma-Ata Declaration).
Both agreements, however, stipulated that military decisions would be equally exercised by a joint strategic forces command (beginning in Belavezha/Minsk: article 6).
Everything was a fait accompli, and Yeltsin pushed Gorbachev off stage by December 29, 1991. It had all passed in a blur –a pair of months– and, at the time, the world acquiesced, having grown used to Gorbachev’s reasoning, thus assuming Russia was a safe partner –the most stable of all the fractious hinterlands– and it was in fact the United States which negotiated the collecting of all nuclear power from the republics into Russia’s hands. Former US Secretary of State James Baker described that era in a 2012 interview with the Russian Forbes magazine, saying: “Yeltsin, with unprecedented frankness, told me, the U.S. Secretary of State, how the nuclear program and nuclear weapons control would develop within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States…Who would have the button and who wouldn’t, and what the leaders of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan thought about it, and that they believed that they would have nuclear weapons while in actual fact they wouldn’t.” By 1992, Kazakhstan, juggling the world’s second biggest nuclear test site on the planet (Semipalatinsk) had readily rid itself of all such materials. By 1994, Belarus gave Russia whatever nukes were stationed there in exchange for ‘security guarantees’, although President-for-Life “Idi” Lukashenko still grumbles about it, saying “It should not have been done, we should have sold this hugely important possession of ours, which was a valuable commodity, for decent money.” The fourth major nuclear custodian, Ukraine, was the most suspicious, but by the end of 1996 all nuclear former USSR republics had ceded their weapons to Russia. And, concomitantly, all their sovereignty. Both in violation of the founding contracts which wafted Russia to the USSR’s chartered position in the United Nations.
Re-read that March 24 article, follow the progression I laid out, All those measures in getting Russia to its present position were ephemeral whimsy and extralegal blunders by every entity involved. Of those, one thin artifice remains at the base, and of that the signatories are barely solid entities themselves. Look again at the stipulations of the Alma-Ata Declaration, and you’ll see it immediately invalidated by the most fundamental breaches. Look again at the names affixed to the contract, and now look at their present situations –their inclinations, their enmities, their potentials and their fears. A ridiculous minority would hesitate to withdraw from the deal, if they even remember its existence.
I would not be able to justify the presence or omnipotence of any of the other UNSC Permanent Members in this day and age, but the course of the Ukraine war has made Russia’s position an urgent focus. What raised it to its status was malfeasance, at best. No member’s presence on that council should be a vicious abuse of it, and anyone desirous of removing Russia’s military and politico-economic supremacy had best get to work on that.
WHAT’S UNDER THE TABLE
Yesterday I wrote in part about the increasing European use of Russian fuel. And the world’s increasing independence from Russia, or how to go about it. Today I will address the stakes in tomorrow’s scheduled peace parley, which will begin around noon in Istanbul. So I will skip the day’s battle reports, atrocity listing, or even just trying to count pieces of buildings. I will for now pass over rumors of Russia’s “Korea-style demarcation” approach to ending their war, and Ukraine’s already expressed willingness to side-step NATO, leave Luhansk and Donetsk as they wish, and probably allow Russia their land corridor to the sea –all contingent on peace and honest security guarantees– and go directly to the talks; what is truly on the table, and under it.
At this historical juncture, we can see too well how power can be provided by guns, legal sophistries, electricity, and fossil fuels.
Ukraine, having spent more of its budgets and development on infrastructure than its military, is of necessity leading Europe towards amicable and dependable solutions. Already, by March 16, the European Union and Ukraine integrated their electrical energy systems, with Ukraine becoming a full member of what the Heinrich Böll Foundation once dubbed ‘the European Energy Union’. On that day Ukrenergo National Power Company plugged into the European grid to complete a single system, which, President Zelenskiy explained means “Now our electricity flows to the EU and vice versa,” and “are now working synchronously.” He added that the Ukrainian electrical system had immediately disconnected itself from Russia the first day of the war, and swore that it “will never return.” However, while still sizzling on the subject of electricity, readers should note that the largest private utility company in Ukraine, DTEK, still operates a few power plants in the Luhansk and Donetsk environs.
This full partnership gave further hope and inspiration to everyone resentful of Russia’s present domination in the forms of power listed above, starting from the assessment that no nation in Europe can offer its people guarantees against future (or even daily) price spikes with the current level of dependency on gas, oil and coal, regardless of where it comes from, and thinking forwards from there; setting aside for the moment the European Council’s March 25th meeting of pusillanimous minds, other thinkers began to consider the EU/Ukraine melding in terms the European Commission’s program already laid out on July 14 (Bastille Day) just last year. In the published words of the Commission itself:
“The European Green Deal presented by the Commission on 11 December 2019, sets the goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The European Climate Law, which enters into force this month, enshrines in binding legislation the EU’s commitment to climate neutrality and the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.” To wit: “Energy production and use accounts for 75% of EU emissions, so accelerating the transition to a greener energy system is crucial. […] The Renewable Energy Directive will set an increased target to produce 40% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030. All Member States will contribute to this goal.” And while looking ahead, the program also happened to look up and below, specifying that: “Aviation and maritime fuels cause significant pollution and also require dedicated action to complement emissions trading. The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation requires that aircraft and ships have access to clean electricity supply in major ports and airports. The ReFuel IEU Aviation Initiative will oblige fuel suppliers to blend increasing levels of sustainable aviation fuels in jet fuel taken on-board at EU airports, including synthetic low carbon fuels, known as e-fuels. Similarly, the Fuel IEU Maritime Initiative will stimulate the uptake of sustainable maritime fuels and zero-emission technologies by setting a maximum limit on the greenhouse gas content of energy used by ships calling at European ports.”
But the battleground is still in every sense in Ukraine. Back in 2019, the European Commission in its own interest mediated a deal which committed Gazprom to send 40 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas to Europe through the Ukrainian “Brotherhood” (Druzhba) pipeline until 2024, and was in negotiations to extend that through to 2039. If that extension were signed, Ukraine was willing to reduce its transit fees by 50%. At the beginning of February this year, transit fees charged by pipeline nations transporting Russian gas were: Belarus: $1,75 per 1,000 cubic meters per 60 miles; Poland: $1,05; Ukraine: $2.66; and Western Europe starting rates are $3.50. The individual nations’ earnings from that were: Ukraine: $1.2 billion; Poland: “a fraction of that”; and Belarus: zero (stats per Oxford Institute for Energy Studies). Ukraine itself ceased purchasing gas directly from Russia in 2015, instead buying back some of what transited through the country in what’s called “reverse flow,” from Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. Including this looping, by February 24, 2022, Ukraine actually consumed 27.3 billion cubic meters of gas –the majority of it (about 19.8 bcm) being self-produced. Then, when Russia attacked, the Ukrainian Ministry of Energy prohibited the export of all non-flow-through liquid natural gas in order to preserve what it had for its own use. This was wise, because nearly 40 LNG distribution stations have been damaged, destroyed and shut in the course of the war, and nobody who is not an artillery shell can get close enough to repair them. The fees for fuels transiting from Russia through Ukraine are paid by the end-recipients; Russia does not pay a cent to Ukraine. Before war broke out, the thinking was that Ukraine could import via the Trans-Balkan pipeline (from Azerbaijan). Of that pipeline, the Balkan Hub might’ve included LNG via Turkmenistan, Thrace and what was to be an endless field beneath the Black Sea.
In terms of hypothetical self-sufficiency, the chief Ukrainian oil and gas regions are: Chernihiv, Sumy, Poltava, Kharkiv, and Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk (these latter two far from any fronts, but targeted by Russian bombs and shells recently). As of this morning, Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that “Russia continues to attack villages of Topolske, Kamyanka, and Sukha Kamyanka near the city of Izyum, southeast of Kharkiv.”
Ukraine inherited a substantial gas and oil delivery network from the Soviet years. Until recently, a third of Europe’s gas purchases flowed through Ukraine, although that is today down to about 20%, yet the Ukrainian system remains attached to Europe’s energy consuming corpus. The three pipelines running through Ukraine to Europe are the Yamal, the Soyuz. and the Brotherhood, which all eventually lead into the Baumgarten Gas Hub in Austria. By March 11, Russia had captured two key pipeline compressor stations controlling the flow of exports passing through Ukraine, both in what became the eastern front. One in Novopskov near Dnipro, about 60 miles south of Poltava and a second in Kupyansk, slightly shy of 150 miles due west of Poltava, but only 20 miles in from the Russian border. The Soyuz carries almost a third of all Russian gas transiting Ukraine. On the Russian side of the border area are the compressor stations at Sudzha –25 miles east of Sumy– and Sokhranovka –roughly 60 miles north of Luhansk.
In the fall of 2013, Ukraine, under President Viktor Yanukovich, signed a deal with Royal Dutch Shell to explore and develop the Yuzovska field, which was estimated to contain reserves of some 4 trillion cubic meters of shale gas. The assessments from both RDS and the Ukraine energy agencies involved anticipated that not only would Ukraine become fuel-self-sufficient, but that the country would be in a position to export enough to Europe to drastically reduce reliance on Russian exports. The Yuzovaska deposit resembles an upside-down tuning fork, starting around Konotop and splitting right where one could draw a line from Kyiv to Sumy. The northern tine runs from Lebedyn/Trostyanets down to Bilokurakyne (basically following within 20 to 25 miles of the Russian border above it); the southern forks through Poltava (55 miles southwest of the Russian border) and fades out near Izyum (70 miles southwest of Russia). The Donetsk find is coal. This explains the implacable Russian attempts to subdue the northeast border from Konotp to Kharkiv (Sudzha), and the far northeastern tiny earlobe above Luhansk (Sokhranovka).
What’s more, since 2011 Ukraine aimed to increase its Black Sea natural gas extraction from 1 bcm to 3 bcm in 2015. By 2012 Black Sea production reached 1.2 bcm. That was the year Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and other major oil companies explored the Black Sea and discovered an estimated 2.3 trillion cubic meters of gas were found to be under it –the Ukrainian-owned section of it. In August 2012, Ukraine signed a contract with an Exxon group to extract the oil and gas, the development phase of which would cost Ukraine $12 billion.
Naturally, Vladimir Putin heard of the exploratory results, tried to replay his standard protection racket for a cut, was rejected, and then annexed Crimea in 2014. Adept at using the United Nations as its Imperial knout, Russia knew that from then on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Part V, from Article 55 all the way through to Article 75 gave it complete ownership of nearly four fifths of the Black and Azov Seas and all they contained. Or, as the UN has it, a 230 mile radius around the shore of whatever Russia calls Russia entitling it to: “sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds” (Part V, Article 56,1;a).
All deals Ukraine made have been frozen since 2014, and now, since February, 2022, Russian forces have been piling up in a southern and southeastern front, which also happens to be the coastline of the Black and Azov Seas. Ergo their attacks and digging in from Mariupol, to Melitopol, to Kherson, and up to Mykolaiv, with the threat to Odessa pulsating throughout the war.
As a final point, Turkey, which will be hosting tomorrow’s talks, had, near the end of last year, arranged with Ukraine’s Naftogaz to begin extracting those same gas reserves
Our last article was on March 28 (“What’s Under The Table”). This was because, checking several hours later on the Istanbul peace talks, I was reassured that all was inchworming along, and –above all– that the course of the Ukraine war had come full circle, returning to what we’d predicted on February 24th. The goals and grabs had settled back to their expected positions. The devastation and human liquifaction will continue until those aims are finessed with whatever excuses are agreed upon, but our own reportage to date should suffice to illuminate the inner workings of this catastrophe. The articles are all archived here and available to anybody who can use them. Hopefully some will. As I take my leave, you might hear a passing whisper, perhaps the slightest suggestion of a new tune; If the accepted forms of man’s reason invariably blossom into murder, then something is wrong with human cognition.