Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinskiy has confirmed six humanitarian corridors are being planned for civilian evacuations on 10 March in the following locations: Kiev, Sumy, Enerhodar, Mariupol, Izyum, Volnovakha.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has lost data transmission from its safeguards systems installed to monitor nuclear material at Russian-occupied Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plants.
More Western businesses are reducing operations in Russia as economic sanctions grip the country tighter. Amazon is suspending the delivery of goods to customers in Russia, and has restricted access to the Amazon Prime streaming service. Nestles, Philip Morris and Imperial Brands also announced they are withdrawing from Russia.
Concern is growing among Western governments that Russia could be preparing to use chemical weapons against Ukrainian positions in Mariupol and Kiev.
The Russian stock market will not open for trading on 10 March but the foreign exchange market will operate as normal. The stock market has endured a number of closures since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
-The war in Ukraine has the potential to unleash the largest refugee crisis Europe has faced since World War II. The European Union estimates as many as four million Ukrainians could potentially flee their homeland between now and the end of the war. Even then, assuming a Russian victory, that number could increase considerably. EU rules and restrictions on refugees are being lifted and Brussel promises that EU member-states will welcome Ukrainians with open arms. Eastern European countries are absorbing the first wave of refugees. As of 7 AM, 1 March, 2022, EST Poland had taken in 377,000 refugees. Hungary had taken 89,561, Moldova 65,391, Slovakia 54,304 and Romania 38,461. These numbers are undoubtedly obsolete by now, yet the vast scale of the exodus is apparent. It’s only going to become worse as time goes on. Despite the EU’s assurances, the potential for a once-in-a-century refugee crisis exists.
-The Ukrainian military intelligence believes Russia is preparing a pretext that will justify the introduction of Belarusian troops into the conflict. The role of the Belarussian military in this conflict is one of those points which pundits and journalists have been batting around since the shooting started. Belarus has a role to play in this war, one undoubtedly orchestrated by Vladimir Putin. When the time is right, the exact role will become known. According to intelligence estimates by the Ukrainians there are 300 Belarussian tanks and accompanying infantry massed at the Ukrainian border. Minsk has played the role of good cop to Moscow’s bad cop, even orchestrating the first round of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. That will change at some point, however.
-Parting thought for the evening. Tonight, US President Joe Biden will give his State of the Union address in Washington. He will tout his goal for the US and all of its allies to be on the same page regarding economic sanctions. The sanctions now impacting Russia have been fierce and there are additional salvoes being prepared for delivery. But what happens if economic sanctions alone cannot do the job? The US and its allies have put all their eggs in a single basket. If it is not enough, what will be the next step?
I deliberately waited for President Biden to make his comments on the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine before posting the afternoon update. Biden’s remarks were largely a rehashing the threat of ‘devastating’ sanctions being prepared for implementation and painting Vladimir Putin’s actions in a decidedly dark light, and rightfully so. He believes Putin intends to reclaim through conquest what the Soviet Union ceded in 1991 upon its collapse. Biden also made it a point to explain that sanctions will not damage Russian economy immediately upon being unleashed. It will take some time for the effects to be felt. The rest of the comments and subsequent press conference centered around details of the sanctions as well as requests for clarification of the role of the United States military in the fighting thus far. Biden was clear to point out the purpose of US troop movements into Eastern Europe is to strengthen NATO’s Eastern Flank against possible Russian action in the future. There will be no direct military assistance provided to Ukraine by the US or NATO.
Also this afternoon, the Department of Defense announced the deployment of an additional 7,000 troops to Europe to help strengthen NATO defenses. This force will include an armored brigade, though it was unknown if the brigade will take its equipment from prepositioned war stocks in Europe or if its equipment and vehicles will need to be transported to Europe by ship.
-On the ground in Ukraine this afternoon, fighting continues to rage. As far as determining how much ground the Russian offensive has gained, that remains hidden by the fog of war for now. Fighting west of Kiev at the airport is still taking place. The Russian air mobile force that secured the airport early in the morning has been counterattacked by Ukrainian forces. It’s unclear which side now has control of the airport.
-Mariupol appears to now be in Russian control, or at least parts of the city are in Russian hands. Video obtained from there earlier today showed Russian troops setting up a checkpoint on a road with two armored vehicles in the background. Whether or not this scene occurred inside of Mariupol proper has not been confirmed. However, given that web camera streams from there are now out and communication severely degraded, I’ll assume Russia controls Mariupol unless independent sources confirm otherwise.
This afternoon President Biden gave remarks at the White House, laying out the next phase of the US response to Russia’s recognition of the DPR and LPR. He called the recognition a clear violation of international law. After much confusion and hesitancy about how to label Russia’s actions in the last twenty-four hours, Biden declared them to be the start of an invasion and will be regarded in that manner. He repeated his oft used warning that Russia will face severe sanctions if its forces enter Ukrainian territory. The first wave of US sanctions has already been released and they mainly target a handful of Russian banks and financial institutions.
Biden also announced the movement of Europe-based US military forces into the Baltic States to bolster defenses in NATO’s easternmost member-states. An airborne infantry battalion from the 173rd Airborne Brigade based in Italy and AH-64 Apaches from Germany will deploy, as well as eight F-35A Lightning II fighters that are forward-deployed at Spangdahlem Airbase at the moment.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy has ordered a call up of Ukrainian reservists but stopped short of a full mobilization. A move that expansive would require a declaration of martial law according to Ukrainian law. Operative level 1 and 2 (OR1, OR2) reservists only will be affected. But do not be fooled, OR1 and OR2 reservists still number at 150,000 men and women.
The planned talks between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have been cancelled. The two senior diplomats were set to meet on Thursday, but the meeting was contingent upon Russia choosing to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis rather than an invasion.
Note: I’m going to try and spend some time tonight away from Ukraine and recharge my batteries. So, unless something major develops, this will be the last update for the day. Next one will be up tomorrow morning. –Mike
Whatever hope there was attached to last night’s emergency meeting of the UN Security Council rapidly evaporated as the meeting went on. It was a typical security council meeting punctuated by uniform condemnation of Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian government had requested the meeting yesterday after Russia announced its recognition of the Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic, the breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine that are controlled by pro-Russian separatists. It was a purely symbolic gesture though. Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and holds veto power, guaranteeing no resolution aimed at condemnation of Russia’s actions has even a remote chance of seeing the light of day.
Europe is taking the lead on applying sanctions to Russia for its actions yesterday. Germany has cast aside its reluctance of past weeks and suspended the certification process of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline while Great Britain has targeted five Russian banks for its first round of sanctions. France has not yet taken action, however, the threat of “targeted sanctions” was introduced by Paris minus specifics. The French government has a good amount of egg on its face after working relentlessly to set up a summit between US and Russian leaders this past weekend, only to see it turn to dust following Russia’s recognition of the breakaway republics yesterday. Perhaps this slap to the face will teach French leadership a lesson about trusting Vladimir Putin.
Despite the recognition of the LPR and DPR’s independence, the fact remains that two-thirds of the territory in both breakaway republics is controlled by the Ukrainian military…albeit tacitly in some instances. Russian ‘peacekeeping forces’ are reportedly advancing towards Mariupol, a vital port that sits in Ukrainian controlled territory. There has been contact between government forces and separatists and/or Russian peacekeepers at the Novoazovsk border crossing east of Mariupol. The port city is important to both Ukraine and Russia for a variety of reasons. It’s certainly worth discussing a bit at length later on in the day.