Ukraine Update: 17 January, 2022

The weekend is ending and the week ahead promises to be active and eventful. Once the West’s official response to Russia’s security proposals and demands is presented, the ball will be entirely in Vladimir Putin’s possession. The Kremlin, as well as the rest of the world, is well aware the West’s response will be a firm ‘NO.’ Odds are, Russia has been banking on a full rejection of its unrealistic redrawing of the post-Cold War boundaries and the numerous security concerns attached to it. A negative reply has been factored into its planned justification of hostility and will be used accordingly.

Late last week and over the weekend, Russia has been busy on a number of fronts. On Friday, increased Russian military activity in the Baltic led to the Swedish government’s decision to send troops to the Swedish island of Gotland. Officially, it was the failure of NATO-Russia talks and the movement of three amphibious assault ships into the Baltic that brought on the Swedish action. There have also been reports of unmarked drones flying over Stockholm, Gotland and around some Swedish nuclear reactors. Between the lines though, Russia’s actions are pure intimidation tactics intended to help keep Stockholm on the sidelines and mute as the crisis with Ukraine intensifies. Sweden has been vocal when it comes to calling out Russia’s aggressive moves and behavior in the Baltic as well as Ukraine. Moscow’s response has not been limited. Operating amphibious assault ships in close proximity to Gotland is sending a message that will be difficult for Sweden to misinterpret.

Microsoft revealed early on Sunday morning that computer systems at Ukrainian government agencies have been subjected to a malware attack. In a blog post earlier, Microsoft said it detected the Malware on Thursday, not long after the final round of talks between NATO, the US and Russia came to an end with no agreements made. The detection of malware also came around the same time a cyberattack took 70 government websites temporarily offline. Cyber attacks are almost certain to play a major role in any Russian plan for offensive operations against Ukraine. They are a large part of the  ‘Military-Technical Response’ Vladimir Putin has been threatening and talking about for weeks now.