Ukraine Update: 18 January, 2022 (Morning)

This will be the first of two Ukraine Updates that will be posted on 18 January, 2022. The amount of activity in and around Ukraine, and related news and events in Europe appears to be increasing steadily with every passing hour.

Russia is continuing a drawn-out evacuation of its diplomats, embassy staff and dependents from its embassy in Kiev. The first departures began in the days leading up to the first negotiations between Russian and US officials in Europe last week. They have continued at irregular intervals since then. 50 people have left the embassy in total and a smaller number has departed from the Russian consulate in Lvov. Diplomats and staff at other Russian consulates in Ukraine have been told to be prepared to leave the country at some point in the coming days. The purpose behind this move is unknown. Some sources claim it is strictly a propaganda move to further cause uncertainty in Ukraine and the West. Traditionally, the departure of embassy staff and diplomats is a sign that hostilities are imminent. Yet until today, few people paid close attention to the comings and goings at the Russian embassy and consulates in Ukraine. In the wake of the cyber attacks last week, eyebrows are starting to be raised.

Material help from the West is continuing to arrive in Ukraine. Not in the numbers and types that will deter a potential Russian attack, but some is better than none. Great Britain has started shipping light anti-tank guided missiles to Ukraine. A small number of British troops will also arrive to assist with training. Canada has sent a contingent of special operations troops to Ukraine. The appearance of Canadian troops is expected to be part of a NATO effort to deter Russia from launching an invasion. These troops will also be tasked with helping to develop evacuation plans for Canadian diplomatic personnel in the event that an invasion does occur.

Russia has started moving military forces into Belarus, ostensibly to take part in the military exercise Joint Resolve, which is scheduled for February. The maneuvers are set to take place along the western border of Belarus, in close proximity to Poland and the Baltic States, as well as the southern border neighboring Ukraine. We’ve discussed the Russian obsession with using military exercises as cover for real military operations before. That is a topic that will be talked about more in the coming days.