Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was in Munich on Saturday trying to reinforce Western support for his nation as the prospects of a diplomatic resolution to the crisis grow even dimmer. Zelenskiy was critical of the Western response thus far. He appealed for economic sanctions against Russia to start before the shooting does. He also pointed out that daily predictions of a Russian invasion by US and European leaders only serves to damage Ukraine’s economy, rather than deter Russia. In conclusion, Zelenskiy said no deal should be reached between Russia and the West that does not include his country. US and European officials were uneasy with Zelenskiy’s decision to fly to Munich today. It was feared that his departure from Kiev would be viewed as a window of opportunity, enticing Russia to take action.
Allied Resolve, the military exercise taking place in Belarus is coming to an end. Before the exercise even started, Belarussian government assured a nervous world that Russian forces would be leaving their country as soon as Allied Resolve concluded. Today, Belarus announced Russian forces will not be departing the country after Allied Resolve concludes on 20 February. Government officials in Minsk have denied ever limiting the amount of time Russian troops would be allowed to remain on Belarussian soil.
To be fair, it was apparent from the moment Allied Resolve was announced that the exercise was being launched at least partly to provide cover for the movement of tens of thousands of Russian troops into Belarus. As the exercise continued on, more Russian units continued arriving in the country, tying up highways and railways across much of Belarus in the process. Neither Minsk or Moscow were fooling anyone and it is likely both Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko knew it.
Pro-Russian separatists launched a number of artillery strikes against Ukrainian military positions around the Kiev government-controlled town of Svitlodarsk in eastern Ukraine. Artillery picked up along the length of the line of confrontation in the east, it was heaviest around Svitlodarsk for most of the morning and early afternoon. The rate of fire was nearly twice what it has been in the previous two days and included mortar rounds, artillery shells and RPGs.