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Thursday, February 24th, 2022

The second day of Vladimir Putin’s bloody, unnecessary war against Ukraine has begun

Ear­ly this Fri­day morn­ing, Kyiv time, there were mis­sile and/or air­craft attacks on Kyiv, appar­ent­ly intend­ed to tar­get air defens­es, but result­ing in attacks on the city itself. Civil­ian casu­al­ties were light, but explo­sions keep being report­ed and air raid sirens have been con­sis­tent­ly active with­in Kyiv since sunrise.

Of greater imme­di­ate con­cern was the prospect that a Russ­ian mech­a­nized force orig­i­nat­ing in Belarus may be with­in thir­ty-two kilo­me­ters of Kyiv, accord­ing to con­ver­sa­tions between Biden admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and House law­mak­ers in a brief­ing that occurred this after­noon around 3:30 PM Pacif­ic Time.

Russ­ian forces mov­ing south from Cher­nobyl ear­ly Fri­day morn­ing, Kyiv time, alleged­ly clashed with Ukrain­ian forces in Ivankiv, pos­si­bly result­ing in the Ukraini­ans suc­cess­ful­ly blow­ing up a bridge across the Teteriv River. 

A sim­i­lar, sec­ond attack around Cherni­hiv, north­west of Ivankiv, was also unsuc­cess­ful. How­ev­er, the Rus­sians suc­cess­ful­ly forced the retreat of the Ukraini­ans at the town of Dymer, approx­i­mate­ly forty-six kilo­me­ters north by north­west of Kyiv, and Russ­ian units may have been seen as close a few kilo­me­ters to the north­west of Kyiv at the small town of Vorzel.

An addi­tion­al con­sid­ered pos­si­bil­i­ty is a Russ­ian Spet­snaz attack on Kiyv itself through either or both of the Siko­rsky and/or Boryspil inter­na­tion­al air­ports around Kiyv. Siko­rsky Inter­na­tion­al Air­port is on the south­west­ern edge of the cen­tral urban area that makes up Kiyv, on the west side of the Dnieper Riv­er, while Boryspil Inter­na­tion­al Air­port is on the far south­east­ern edge of Kiyv, east of the Dnieper Riv­er. Thir­ty-six kilo­me­ters and the Dnieper Riv­er sep­a­rate the two air­ports, how­ev­er, and one has to ques­tion the wis­dom of a simul­ta­ne­ous attack with almost no chance of com­pli­men­ta­ry sup­port of each other.

A partially destroyed building in Starobilsk

Build­ings dam­aged from Russ­ian strikes in Staro­bil­sk, Luhan­sk Oblast (Pho­to: State Emer­gency Ser­vice of Ukraine)

The extent of Russ­ian gains with­in the rest of Ukraine through yes­ter­day’s com­bat, oth­er­wise, is slow­ly becom­ing clear.

In the Kher­son region in the south, there are reports that the Ukrain­ian army used Turk­ish Bayrak­tar drones in bat­tles around Henich­esk, Skadovsk, and Chap­lyn­ka. The Rus­sians have appar­ent­ly respond­ing this morn­ing by advanc­ing a large col­umn of Russ­ian Air­borne forces, includ­ing armor, toward Kherson.

Ukraine has, in response, alleged­ly struck Russia’s Millero­vo air field in Ros­tov with tac­ti­cal bal­lis­tic missiles. 

Russ­ian mil­i­tary forces have been stymied for the moment with­in the Sumy region, north­west of Kharkiv.

The Kharkiv region has alleged­ly been under attack since the start of this con­flict, but there hasn’t been any con­clu­sive details pro­vid­ed to sup­port the claim, though sto­ries are now being released by the news media.

The Volyn region in the north­west­ern cor­ner of Ukraine is prepar­ing for an expect­ed attack as the Rus­sians may con­sid­er widen­ing their front in the north to make it hard­er to defend Kyiv. There have been mis­sile attacks ear­ly Fri­day morn­ing, Kyiv time, imme­di­ate­ly south­east of the region at the Rivne Inter­na­tion­al Air­port, two hun­dred miles west of Kyiv.

The Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary claims that since the begin­ning of fight­ing with Rus­sia they have killed eight hun­dred men, shot down sev­en air­planes and six heli­copters, destroyed thir­ty tanks and one hun­dred and thir­ty oth­er vehicles.

Rus­si­a’s defense min­istry said it has lost no air­craft or tanks, and that its forces had destroyed sev­en­ty-four above-ground mil­i­tary infra­struc­ture facil­i­ties in Ukraine on Thurs­day, includ­ing eleven aerodromes.

Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky declared that 137 Ukraini­ans have died and that 316 have been wound­ed. The state­ment did not break down how many of the dead and wound­ed were mil­i­tary and how many were civilians.

The Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment has imposed cur­fews with­in the Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chekasy, Dnipropetro­vsk, Zapor­izhya, Polta­va, and Vin­nyt­sia regions, which are in effect each evening between 10 PM and 6 AM Kyiv time until fur­ther notice.

Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky, in a tele­vised address released short­ly after mid­night Kyiv time on Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 24th, specif­i­cal­ly asked Kyi­vians to fol­low the cur­few as Russ­ian espi­onage groups are present with­in the city.

After salut­ing the Ukrain­ian dead and wound­ed after the first day of the war, his frus­tra­tion was made clear when he thanked each nation that helped Ukraine “…not just by words… But there is anoth­er thing — we are left alone in defense of our state. Who is ready to fight with us? Hon­est­ly, I do not see any­one. Who is ready to give a guar­an­tee of join­ing NATO? Hon­est­ly, every­one is afraid…”

“We are not afraid of any­thing… We are not afraid to talk about… secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees for our state,” Zelen­sky said. ‘We are not afraid to talk about neu­tral sta­tus since we are not in NATO. But what guar­an­tees will we have? And most impor­tant­ly — what spe­cif­ic coun­tries will give them to us?”

He also stat­ed that that he and his fam­i­ly would be stay­ing in Kyiv even though “The ene­my marked me as tar­get num­ber 1, my fam­i­ly, as tar­get num­ber 2. They want to destroy Ukraine polit­i­cal­ly by destroy­ing the head of state.”

Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky also signed a decree ear­li­er that same day order­ing the mobi­liza­tion of all con­scripts and reservists in all Ukrain­ian regions and states that no Ukrain­ian male cit­i­zen between the ages of eigh­teen and six­ty may leave Ukraine, as they will be need­ed for the defense of the nation.

Approx­i­mate­ly some­where between tens of thou­sands and 100,000 Ukraini­ans have alleged­ly left their homes with­in their coun­try and that around or just over a thou­sand Ukrain­ian refugees have entered Moldo­va and Romania.

Unit­ed Nations Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al António Guter­res told jour­nal­ists on Thurs­day that $20 mil­lion has been released to work on “both sides of the con­tact line,” pro­vid­ing life­sav­ing human­i­tar­i­an relief to peo­ple in need, “regard­less of who or where they are.” Guter­res stressed that “the pro­tec­tion of civil­ians must be pri­or­i­ty num­ber one.”

This same day, the nation of Moldo­va, which was pre­vi­ous­ly the Mol­da­vian Sovi­et Social­ist Repub­lic and which declared its inde­pen­dence from the Sovi­et Union in 1991, declared a state of emer­gency, closed its air­space and declared itself ready to receive refugees from the Ukraine.

Part of the action no doubt was the result of the cur­rent war in Ukraine, but it also may be in response to Moldo­va hav­ing on its bor­der the Pridne­strov­ian Mol­da­vian Repub­lic, com­mon­ly known as Transnis­tria, which broke away from Moldo­va in 1991 and has some­where between one thou­sand and fif­teen hun­dred light­ly armed Russ­ian troops serv­ing as peace­keep­ers between the two nations.

Rus­sia may attempt to cre­ate an inci­dent in the area to pro­vide a pre­text for inva­sion through the area or to block Ukrain­ian refugees, but that in turn would like­ly require the occu­pa­tion of Chișinău Inter­na­tion­al Air­port in Moldo­va in order to bring fresh Russ­ian forces into the area beforehand.

One thing to keep in mind through­out this con­flict is that while mis­in­for­ma­tion may be pro­vid­ed by the Ukrain­ian or Russ­ian mil­i­taries or gov­ern­ments to advance spe­cif­ic objec­tives, indi­vid­u­als and groups have the poten­tial to do the same thing. Tik­Tok videos regard­ing the war of ques­tion­able verac­i­ty are already becom­ing an issue.

The Come Back Alive Foun­da­tion alleged­ly had its Patre­on account sus­pend­ed Thurs­day, with over $250,000 USD accu­mu­lat­ed with­in its account left in limbo.

Pri­mar­i­ly an orga­ni­za­tion to sup­port vet­er­ans of the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary with social and ther­a­peu­tic ser­vices, it also has been known to help pro­vide active mem­bers of the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary, espe­cial­ly those serv­ing in the Donet­sk and Luhan­sk regions, with non­lethal gear such as bul­let­proof vests and night goggles.

Dona­tions to the account sky­rock­et­ed with­in the last twen­ty-four hours, poten­tial­ly in part due to Twit­ter post­ings alleg­ing that dona­tions to the Patre­on site would be used to pur­chase muni­tions, and giv­en that the orig­i­nal web­site had been rec­om­mend­ed on a Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment web­site imme­di­ate­ly after the out­break of hos­til­i­ties by Rus­sia, result­ing in such respons­es as dona­tions of almost $400,000 USD worth of Bit­coin, it was inevitable that Patre­on would take action.

Read­ers should also keep in mind that it isn’t just Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian enlist­ed mil­i­tary per­son­nel involved in this conflict.

The 141st Akhmad Kady­rov Spe­cial Motor­ized Reg­i­ment of Russia’s Nation­al Guard (Ros­g­var­dia), offi­cial­ly to be used for inter­nal secu­ri­ty with­in an occu­pied region after con­flict, but in actu­al­i­ty the per­son­al force of dread­ed Chechen strong­man Ramzan Kady­rov, was con­firmed to be enter­ing Ukraine as of Wednes­day, Feb­ru­ary 2nd.

The Dzhokhar Dudayev Bat­tal­ion, a unit present­ly in south­east­ern Ukraine which pre­vi­ous­ly had fought in the Donet­sk and Luhan­sk regions against eth­nic Russ­ian Ukrain­ian sep­a­ratists in 2014, who’s leader has been wrapped up in con­tro­ver­sy, is also made up pri­mar­i­ly of Chechens.

Oth­er for­eign vol­un­teers are attempt­ing to join in the fight on the side of Ukraine, and the Geor­gian Legion, a para­mil­i­tary unit of around one hun­dred mem­bers, are thought to be pro­vid­ing sup­port in the Kyiv area.

The Azov Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Detach­ment, also known as the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard unit large­ly staffed by neo-Nazis and relat­ed right-wing extrem­ists, has been an attrac­tor of for­eign white nation­al­ist vol­un­teers in the past and is like­ly to revi­tal­ize recruit­ment out­side Ukraine to increase its ranks.

The Russ­ian gov­ern­ment has also alleged­ly assigned approx­i­mate­ly 300 mer­ce­nar­ies aligned with the Wag­n­er Group to the con­flict, which has been used in pre­vi­ous efforts by Rus­sia and present­ly has details pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty and mil­i­tary sup­port with­in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic, Libya, South Sudan, Mada­gas­car, Mozam­bique, and Mali.

It so hap­pens that Mali has been deal­ing with both Islamist mil­i­tants and a sec­ond over­throw of its civil­ian lead­er­ship by its mil­i­tary in the last two years. While not numer­ous, their typ­i­cal­ly advanced mil­i­tary skills could be used in achiev­ing very dif­fi­cult objec­tives in order to reduce the num­ber of Russ­ian con­scripts killed in action and thus also reduce adverse pub­lic­i­ty regard­ing the latter’s deaths.

Final­ly, read­ers should keep in mind that this war will have a num­ber of unin­tend­ed ram­i­fi­ca­tions. An exam­ple is that Ukraine pro­vides 90% of semi­con­duc­tor-grade neon and that Rus­sia pro­vides 35% of semi­con­duc­tor-grade pal­la­di­um. There are oth­er sources for both ele­ments, but few as rel­a­tive­ly inex­pen­sive. Anoth­er exam­ple is the deci­sion by the Union of Euro­pean Foot­ball Asso­ci­a­tions (UEFA) to move an upcom­ing Cham­pi­ons League final out of St. Peters­burg and result­ing mul­ti­ple knock-off effects in response to the decision.

Pres­i­dent Biden has decid­ed to send sev­en thou­sand Amer­i­can troops, the focus of which will be an armored brigade com­bat team, sup­ple­ment­ing an addi­tion­al sev­en thou­sand troops sent to Europe with­in the last two weeks.

He also met with mem­bers of the Group of Sev­en nations to deter­mine and coor­di­nate addi­tion­al mea­sures against Russia.

But he also held back from impos­ing sanc­tions on Putin him­self. Euro­pean nations, mean­while, could not come to agree­ment on dis­con­nect­ing Rus­sia from the SWIFT inter­na­tion­al bank­ing system.

One step under con­sid­er­a­tion is whether or not to active­ly arm a Ukrain­ian resis­tance in the event of the fall of its gov­ern­ment, which could allow Rus­sia to inter­pret the Unit­ed States as a co-com­bat­ant, thus rais­ing the stakes for a world war between NATO and the nations in Vladimir Putin’s orbit (not just the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, but Belarus and poten­tial­ly oth­er for­mer Sovi­et states as well).

Con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans have been, not sur­pris­ing­ly, unhelp­ful­ly crit­i­cal of Pres­i­dent Biden’s lead­er­ship in the midst of the conflict.

The Euro­pean Union and many oth­er nations have also increased the num­ber and over­all inten­si­ty of sanc­tions against Rus­sia since the onset of the cur­rent phase of the attacks. Britain has also estab­lished its own addi­tion­al unique set of sanc­tions. But Chi­na has approved imports of wheat from Rus­sia and “called on par­ties to respect oth­ers’ legit­i­mate secu­ri­ty concerns.”

Iran, mean­while, offered a rel­a­tive­ly restrained response.

OVD-Info present­ly reports that 1758 anti-war pro­tes­tors in Rus­sia have been arrest­ed in fifty-five Russ­ian cities and towns as of the end of Feb­ru­ary 24th, of which 967 were in Moscow and 431 were in St. Petersburg.

For those wish­ing to read more, here’s a sum­ma­ry of addi­tion­al developments:

  • There have been odd goings-on with Russ­ian naval forces in the Mediter­ranean.  Here are some poten­tial impli­ca­tions and considerations.
  • This is a good expla­na­tion of what Pres­i­dent Putin of Rus­sia means when he says “denaz­i­fi­ca­tion.” Its impli­ca­tions are chilling.
  • And here is a link to a rec­om­mend­ed set of news and opin­ions sources regard­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine that are mak­ing use of Twit­ter, pro­vid­ed by Josh Mar­shall of Talk­ing Points Memo Take every­thing said with a gain or two of salt, but it will pro­vide a sense of what is hap­pen­ing some­what bet­ter then through most media.

We’ll have anoth­er update on Putin’s war against Ukraine this weekend.

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