Ukraine Update 28 March, 2022

  • US President Joe Biden did some damage control on his own behalf over comments he made over the weekend suggesting Russian President Vladimir Putin should be removed from power. Biden said today that he stood by the statement, yet it was a personal expression of his outrage and not an official change in US policy. “I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward this man,” Biden told reporters today, effectively rejecting suggestions he misspoke. Right, Joe. 😊 Administration officials have been trying to put out fires created by the comments. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed the United States does not  “have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter.”
  • The Group of Seven (G7) member nations have rejected Russia’s demand to pay for natural gas exports in rubles. G7 energy ministers and secretaries met via videoconference and affirmed that doing so would be a breach of  existing contracts. Last week, Vladimir Putin announced that ‘unfriendly’ nations will now be required to pay for natural gas in Russian currency. Putin’s announcement raised gas prices even higher amid worries this could be a precursor to a shutdown of pipelines providing natural gas supplies to many European nations.
  • The next round of Ukraine-Russia peace talks will take place in Istanbul on 29 March, 2022. The Turkish government will be the host.
  • There have been conflicting reports on which side controlled Irpin, a town located north of Kiev. Initial reports of Ukrainian forces liberating the town made the rounds through much of Monday. In his nightly address  President Volodymyr Zelenskiy clarified the situation. “The occupiers are pushed away from Irpin, However, it is too early to talk about security in this part of our region.”  Translation: Russian forces have retreated from Irpin, but a counterattack is expected within the next 12 hours or so.

Ukraine Update 27 March, 2022

  • The White House was forced to walk back potentially explosive remarks made by President Biden during yesterday’s speech in Warsaw. In the speech, Biden called Vladimir Putin a ‘butcher’ who ‘cannot remain in power.’ The remarks were largely viewed as escalatory among America’s NATO allies with French President Emmanuel Macron remarking, “We want to stop the war that Russia has launched in Ukraine without escalation — that’s the objective.” Granted, Macron has his own more self-serving reasons for not wanting to escalate the situation with a presidential election on the horizon. Then there is Macron’s continued hope that the war provides the opportunity for France situate itself in a position to Europe in the post-Ukraine War era.
  • The head of Ukrainian military intelligence noted today that Russia’s new strategy appears to be dividing Ukraine into two separate states with one being controlled by Moscow. Since Russia’s failure to occupy the entire country so far appears to be permanent, the Kremlin is turning to an alternate plan containing more attainable political goals.
  • In the past twenty-four hours I have spoken to a handful of chemical and biological weapons experts who claim a consensus is growing in Western defense circles that Russia will use chemical weapons in the coming days. The subject has been lurking in the background for the past week as Russia’s advances in Ukraine have come to a halt, with little prospect of resuming anytime soon.
  • Finland has suspended rail services with Russia, terminating the rail link between the European Union and Russia. All passenger, commercial and cargo services have ended for the moment. Finland’s national railway operator announced the halt will start on Monday.

Ukraine Update 26 March, 2022 (Afternoon)

  • Joe Biden’s ‘major speech’ was anything but. The address given by Biden in Warsaw today was a rehashing of the US and Western positions on Russia and Russian leadership. The highlight came when Biden called for Putin’s removal from power. He labeled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a ‘strategic failure’ reaffirmed US and Western support for Ukraine and that the world must prepare for a ‘long fight ahead’. Biden also attempted to adopt a firm stance when he warned Russia about taking action against any NATO member-state.
  • On Saturday afternoon, Lviv was struck by three Russian missiles. Two of the missiles landed in the city’s eastern outskirts, reportedly at an oil or fuel storage facility. A short while later a third missile impacted somewhere inside the city limits. Lviv’s mayor also said the city has been targeted by airstrikes.
  • With Kiev and most other Ukrainian cities proving to be nearly impossible objectives to capture, the Russian military is shifting its focus to the Donbas region. In an operational briefing on Friday, Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoy stated his nation’s is now the liberation of Donbas. “The main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been accomplished,” Rudskoy announced to gathered reporter. “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 the Donbas.”

Ukraine Update 25 March, 2022

  • US President Joe Biden will give an address on Saturday, marking the end of his latest trip to Europe. The White House is calling the upcoming speech ‘significant.’ “He will give a major address tomorrow that will speak to the stakes of this moment, the urgency of the challenge that lies ahead, what the conflict in Ukraine means for the world, and why it is so important that the free world sustain unity and resolve in the face of Russian aggression,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said. During his trip, Biden made it clear he is looking ahead to the post-Ukraine conflict time period and the US role.
  • On the topic of the geopolitical order post-Ukraine, a number of NATO allies are making moves designed to improve their spot in the pecking order. France, Greece and Turkey are planning a joint humanitarian operation to evacuate civilians from Mariupol in the near future. French media claims Emmanuel Macron will be speaking to Vladimir Putin on the matter later this evening.
  • Western officials claim a Russian brigade commander was deliberately run over by an armored vehicle driven by his own men. The officer was a colonel and commander of the 37th Motor Rifle Brigade. “The brigade commander was killed by his own troops, we believe, as a consequence of the scale of losses that have been taken by his brigade,” a British official said. “We believe that he was killed by his own troops deliberately. We believe that he was run over by his own troops.”

Ukraine Update 18 March, 2022 (Afternoon)

  • Great Britain’s Chief of Military Intelligence Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull believes Russia is overhauling its battlefield strategy to one where attrition is the centerpiece. After a little over three weeks of hostilities, Russia has not achieved any of its major political or military objectives in the campaign. The lightning-fast war of maneuver that was prematurely envisioned by Russian general officers has fallen flat for a wide variety of reasons. Moscow is finally realizing the time has come to shift gears. A war of attrition will take advantage of Russia’s overwhelming superiority in artillery. Indirect artillery fire specifically. This will increase collateral damage to Ukrainian infrastructure and likely raise civilian casualties.
  • US President Joe Biden held a two-hour video call this morning with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Before the call, the White House described the call as a component of “ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication” between the United States and China. After the meeting concluded, China’s foreign ministry said Xi emphasized “severe challenges” around the globe. China’s alignment with Russia is a major worry in light of the war in Ukraine and Biden probably broached the matter of Russia’s request for military aid from China during the call.
  • In spite of Russian claims, US Central Command has said there is little evidence of foreign fighters traveling from Syria to Ukraine. The comments from CENTCOM commander Gen. Frank McKenzie on the topic came from a question on Russian efforts to recruit foreign fighters for the war. Earlier in March Syrian media reported Moscow was offering six-month contracts with pay ranging between $200 and $300 a month in a push to increase its force posture in Ukraine.
  • Lviv was struck by Russian cruise missiles again on Friday. The target was a military aircraft repair facility. According to the Ukrainian military, six Russian cruise missiles were fired from warships in the Black Sea and four impacted buildings at the repair facility.