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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Ukraine severs diplomatic relations with Russia as it battles against Putin’s invasion

Ukraine is clos­ing its embassy in Moscow and is with­draw­ing its diplo­mat­ic per­son­nel from the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion fol­low­ing the Russ­ian attack on Ukraine ordered by Vladimir Putin, Ukrain­ian offi­cials announced ear­ly Thursday.

Ukrain­ian forces are putting up the fiercest resis­tance they can muster against the Russ­ian assault, but Putin’s forces are bet­ter equipped. Ukrain­ian offi­cials have said their great­est need is equip­ment as opposed to personnel.

It is unclear how effec­tive the ini­tial Russ­ian oper­a­tions have been and whether Russ­ian com­man­ders are achiev­ing Putin’s objec­tives. Videos and pho­tographs com­ing out of Ukraine indi­cate that the first phase of the Russ­ian attack focused pri­mar­i­ly on avi­a­tion infra­struc­ture, specif­i­cal­ly air­ports and radar and air defense facil­i­ties, which often are adja­cent to com­mand-and-con­trol infrastructure.

Giv­en that the gov­ern­ment of Ukraine has imposed mar­tial law on the nation for at least the next thir­ty days (and pos­si­bly longer), and giv­en Rus­si­a’s hos­til­i­ty to the free­dom of the press, inde­pen­dent ver­i­fi­ca­tion of claims being made by both sides dur­ing Putin’s war of aggres­sion may come slow­ly, or not at all.

In addi­tion to airstrikes, there appear to have been a num­ber of air assaults and at least one amphibi­ous assault by Russ­ian forces.

Some have been tac­ti­cal, to out­flank and poten­tial­ly sur­round Ukrain­ian forces.

An air assault on the Antonov Inter­na­tion­al air­port in Hos­tomel, just west of the main ring road net­work of Kiyv (Kiev), has result­ed in Russ­ian air­borne forces in con­trol of at least a por­tion of the facil­i­ty. (Ukran­ian forces have report­ed­ly been bom­bard­ing the area in an attempt to retake the airport.)

More such air assaults may be tak­ing place in order to con­trol the cru­cial Dnieper riv­er net­work in gen­er­al and in par­tic­u­lar the dam at the North Crimean Canal. Russ­ian amphibi­ous com­man­dos alleged­ly made a decap­i­ta­tion strike in Odessa in coor­di­na­tion with air units, killing eigh­teen Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary officials.

Fight­ing appears to be focused along the fol­low­ing axes of approach:

  • Russ­ian forces that had advanced into break­away regions of Ukraine on Mon­day, Feb­ru­ary 21st, have been involved in heavy fight­ing, appar­ent­ly to retake each of the entire orig­i­nal Ukrain­ian regions or oblasts. There are con­cerns that the fight­ing may extend to Kharkiv, to their north­west, as part of a larg­er flank­ing maneu­ver of Ukrain­ian forces, but there have been no reports of fight­ing there as yet.
  • Fight­ing is known to be in progress near the Cher­nobyl Exclu­sion Zone and to its west in Cherni­hiv, north of Kiyv, the like­ly end goal of such an advance. (The area around and includ­ing the Cher­nobyl nuclear pow­er plant has just been cap­tured by Russ­ian mil­i­tary forces.)
  • There have been con­flict­ing reports regard­ing Russ­ian forces attack­ing from the Crimea – at the moment it appears that the Rus­sians are prepar­ing to shell posi­tions in the Ukrain­ian city of Kher­son and that there may be bat­tles in progress between there and Meli­topol. There are con­cerns that the coastal city of Mar­i­upol, just south of the Donet­sk oblast and east of Meli­topol, is about to be attacked.

Ukraine’s neigh­bors are prepar­ing for as many as five mil­lion poten­tial Ukrain­ian refugees. Large num­bers of peo­ple were seen evac­u­at­ing from the cap­i­tal, Kyiv, by vehi­cle last night, and a few refugees have already arrived in Poland.

Oth­er civil­ians in Kyiv have decid­ed to stay in place and already moved to bomb shel­ters and under­ground metro stations.

In a joint state­ment fol­low­ing a vir­tu­al meet­ing, the lead­ers of France, Ger­many, Japan, Italy, the Unit­ed King­dom, the Unit­ed States, Cana­da as well as Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent Ursu­la von der Leyen, Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent Charles Michel and NATO sec­re­tary gen­er­al Jens Stoltenberg strong­ly con­demned Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine. The lead­er­ship of numer­ous nations have also con­demned the inva­sion of Ukraine, with a few that have not explic­it­ly done so ask­ing for restraint or offer­ing aid to poten­tial refugees.

Hun­gary, which has been on more friend­ly terms with Rus­sia in recent years, is falling in line behind ear­li­er Euro­pean Union sanc­tions with an offi­cial con­dem­na­tion of the inva­sion. Chi­na has refused to con­demn Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine, not even being will­ing to declare the attack an inva­sion, urg­ing restraint on all par­ties involved, crit­i­ciz­ing the Unit­ed States for accel­er­at­ing the poten­tial for war, and ban­ning online crit­i­cism of Rus­sia with­in China.

Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Lukashenko was quot­ed by the state-oper­at­ed Belarus Tele­graph Agency (BelTA) claim­ing that the Belaru­sian armed forces were not tak­ing part in Russia’s war against Ukraine – “Our troops are tak­ing no part in this oper­a­tion” — but has reserved the right to sup­port Russ­ian mil­i­tary forces if request­ed to do so. That state­ment has been skep­ti­cal­ly received in the West.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi of India is sched­uled to meet with Pres­i­dent Putin of Rus­sia this evening to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion in the Ukraine, but it may also be to counter a recent vis­it by Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Imran Khan to fur­ther trade and ener­gy coop­er­a­tion with Russia.

There has been no deci­sion by the Euro­pean Union to cut Rus­sia off from the SWIFT glob­al inter­bank pay­ments sys­tem, which could cause severe eco­nom­ic hard­ship for Rus­sia. Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son of the Unit­ed King­dom is def­i­nite­ly in favor of such a move, but Olaf Scholz, Chan­cel­lor of Ger­many, is not on board. NATO’s Baltic con­tin­gent is also press­ing to cut Rus­sia off from SWIFT.

The Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil was in emer­gency ses­sion when the inva­sion of Ukraine took place. A res­o­lu­tion is present­ly being drawn up where Rus­sia would be accused of vio­lat­ing the UN Char­ter, inter­na­tion­al law and a pre­vi­ous 2015 Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion on Ukraine.

Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters is that Rus­sia is present­ly the Chair of the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil for the month of Feb­ru­ary 2022, allow­ing it to pre­vent any res­o­lu­tion form mov­ing for­ward to a vote. Rus­sia is also a per­ma­nent mem­ber of the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, which gives it the abil­i­ty to veto any res­o­lu­tion passed by the Secu­ri­ty Council.

Par­ties in a dis­pute under review by the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil are expect­ed to abstain from vot­ing on any res­o­lu­tions regard­ing the dis­pute, but whether that pol­i­cy will be enforced is open to ques­tion.

Russ­ian police have detained at least 167 peo­ple at anti-war protests held in cities through­out the coun­try, accord­ing to the Russ­ian protest mon­i­tor­ing group OVD-Info. More than 180 munic­i­pal deputies from cities across Rus­sia, includ­ing Moscow, Saint Peters­burg, Sama­ra and Vol­gograd, have signed an open let­ter strong­ly con­demn­ing Putin’s deci­sion to attack Ukraine.

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