Ukraine Update: 22 January, 2022 (Late Afternoon)

The US State Department is ordering family members of US Embassy and consulate personnel in Ukraine to prepare for evacuation from the country beginning on Monday. American citizens who are currently in Ukraine for their own reasons will be advised to leave on commercial flights while those remain open and available. The announcement concerning dependents came a few short hours before the first US shipment of weapons and other material arrived in Ukraine.

The talks between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday seem to have set the stage for the next phase of this crisis to commence. Despite the mutual promises to continue discussions aimed at defusing the current crisis, it is clear Washington has accepted the fact there will be some type of Russian military operation aimed at Ukraine in the coming days or weeks. On the flip side, Russia has accepted that the United States has no intention of discussing its security concerns candidly. The State Department has delayed giving the official US response to Russia’s security proposals in the hopes a deal could be reached. With hopes for a deal fading, State Department has announced the official reply will be delivered to the Russian government this coming week.

US shipments of weapons and other types of war material now underway and expected to increase as time goes on. Most of the 200,000 pounds of aid consists of small arms ammunition. Javelin anti-tank missiles will start to arrive in Ukraine next week, from the Baltics, as well as from US stockpiles in other parts of Europe.  

General Strike In Myanmar

Protests blossomed in Myanmar on Monday despite stern threats by the military government to use lethal force against citizens who join a nationwide general strike. Businesses, factories and markets were closed in response to the call for a general strike across Myanmar. On Sunday evening, the military government made a public announcement on state television. “It is found that the protesters have raised their incitement towards riot and anarchy mob on the day of 22 February. Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life.” The government also blames criminals for inciting violence during past demonstrations which led the deaths of three protesters at the hands of security forces.

Reports, photographs and video from Monday’s protests show crowd numbers in the tens of thousands across Myanmar’s largest cities. The police have moved in to break up a number of anti-military demonstrations and have arrested upwards of 200 people. The military appears to have held back on its promise to use lethal force, but the reason for that decision remains a mystery. It’s very possible that increasing outside scrutiny is compelling the military government to restrain police and security forces.

An example of the growing foreign attention on Myanmar is the US warning that it will seek “against those who perpetrate violence against the people of Burma as they demand the restoration of their democratically elected government.” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken released this statement on Twitter. A State Department spokesperson released this follow up statement on Twitter shortly thereafter. “We call on the military to stop violence, release all those unjustly detained, cease attacks on journalists and activists, and respect the will of the people.”

Venezuela Update: 15 March, 2019

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On Thursday the last remaining US diplomats in Venezuela departed. The US flag was lowered and the embassy locked up. The embassy staff that had remained in Caracas were being removed because they had become a ‘constraint’ on US policy. There was growing concern in Washington that Venezuelan authorities would eventually target a US diplomat for harassment, or arrest. With the embassy cleared out now, it is no longer an issue. The State Department has also issued a travel advisory warning  US citizens not to travel to Venezuela now that the United States cannot offer any consular services for them in the event they need it.

Power has been restored to some parts of Venezuela but it will be a long time before normal service is restored. Large areas of the country remain without power in the aftermath of a devastating nationwide blackout. Although Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro initially blamed the power issues on a US cyberattack, though it is clear now this was not the case. Damage from  a bush fire near the Malena substation in the eastern part of the country is what brought on the power outage. The blackout spurred protests and looting around Venezuela. Over 300 people were detained by authorities.