Nel's New Day

June 26, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 123

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine moves into the fifth month, it could be be the deadliest war in recent history. In the eastern province of Luhansk, Russians have taken over Sievierondonetsk and moved on to the twin city of Lysychansk. At the same time, Ukrainian forces, protected by Ukrainian shelling, remain in the Azot chemical plant to direct artillery attacks against the Russians and talk of retaking the southern city of Kherson.  

The two 20th-century world wars killed millions of soldiers and civilians, but the “average war,” according to the Correlates of War Project, kills about 50 soldiers each day and lasts about 100 days, a number surpassed in Ukraine in early June. The Project defines war as sustained combat between organized armed forces of different states resulting in at least 1,000 battlefield deaths in a 12-month period. The Russia-Ukraine war has far surpassed the number of deaths as well as the over 200 battlefield deaths per day for the top 25 percent of wars. Thus far, the invasion has been deadlier than the Mexican American War with 19,000 battlefield deaths and approaches the 1913 Balkan War (60,000 deaths) preceding World War I.

Instead of tapering off, Russia seems to be aggressively building while the Ukrainians receive a continual supply of weapons and ammunitions from outside the country. Russian forces returned to firing on Kyiv as well as launching missile strikes from Belarus, the country to the north of Ukraine. Also hit were the southern port city of Mykolaiv, the northern region of Chernihiv, the central Ukrainian region of Zhytomyr, and a target near Lviv in the west of the country. Russia’s capture of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine is a “significant achievement” for Russian ambitions in the Donbas region, but Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said special forces remain in the city to direct artillery fire against the Russians. The next project for the Russians is cutting off the Sievierodonetsk’s sister city Lysychansk with massive artillery bombardment and airstrikes.

Russian president Vladimir Putin appears to be trying to push Belarus into his war. He plans to send missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to the country in the next few months and offered to upgrade Belarus’ warplanes to make them capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Russia continues to block all shipping in the northwestern part of the Black Sea and continues its capture of residents in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

Yet military experts and Western intelligence predict that the Russian military may have to halt its offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region because of exhausted combat capabilities. The higher ground where Lysychansk is located and its Donets River obstructs Russian advances from the east, forcing movement from the southeast and northeast. Ukrainian forces inflicted losses in Russian occupying forces on the Bakhmut front and repelled an assault on the Sloviansk front as Russia tries to block Lysychansk.

The expenditure of ammunition, especially artillery shells, cannot be sustained for long, and Russia continues the loss of equipment and men. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson used intelligence to estimate Russia’s fight for only the “next few months” before losing any forward momentum. Russian commentators even note the shortage of their country’s manpower; military blogger Yuri Kotyenok projected a need for 500,000 Russian troops to achieve its goals. President Vladimir Putin has not yet instituted the necessary risky and unpopular large-scale mobilization.

Russia’s aggressive recruitment has found only 40,000 to 50,000 troops to replenish forces lost or incapacitated, and some Russian commanders have banned all leave for military personnel because soldiers withdrawn from Ukraine to restore their combat readiness won’t return to battle. Russia is taking ancient tanks out of mothballs and away from bases throughout the huge country for Ukraine’s front lines. Ukraine, on the other hand, is receiving more sophisticated Western weapons such as French Caesar howitzers and German Panzerhaubitze 200 howitzers.

Canada has deployed two warships to the Baltic Sea and north Atlantic,  Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Kingston and Summerside, for four months as part of “deterrence measures in central and eastern Europe” launched in 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea. The two ships join two frigates already in the region to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank. They will do naval mine-sweeping exercises and be present to “quickly and effectively respond” in any operations. HMCS Halifax and Montreal return to port in July from Operation Reassurance. About 700 Canadian troops with artillery and electronic warfare along with several military aircraft are in Latvia.

Russia has sabotaged military supplies for Ukraine since Russia started to take over parts of Ukraine in 2014. Ammunition sellers have been bullied not to sell to Ukraine, and weapon brokers are threatened with death if they make these deliveries. Depots in Eastern Europe have been blown up, for example four mysterious explosions in Bulgaria between 2011 and 2020 as well as other 2017 weapon depots attacks in Ukraine. The 60,000 rounds shot by Russia every day, ten times the Ukrainian capacity. The global supply cannot meet Ukraine’s wartime demand.

Problems for Russia also come from its need to decrease military presence in areas facing a Turkish offensive, such as northwestern Syria near the Turkish border around Aleppo and Tal Rifaat. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans a military operation to create a “safe zone” where 1 million Syrian refugees could return. Any attempt by Russia to take these areas risks confrontation between Turkey, a NATO member, and Russia’s allies with a massive humanitarian poll. The Iranians have taken control of these areas where Russia withdrew about two and a half months ago. Although Russians may have political power, its rival Iran has the military control on the frontlines.

The NATO Secretary General has asked Erdogan, Sweden, and Finland to meet in Madrid before the NATO summit this coming week. Sweden and Finland have applied for NATO membership because of Russian threats, but Erdogan is threatening to veto the two countries’ joining because of their support for Kurdish fighters and arms embargoes on Ankara. No country can join NATO without its members’ unanimous acceptance.

President Joe Biden is in Germany attending a G7 meeting focusing on the Ukrainian invasion and its consequences from energy shortages to a food crisis. Thus far, four members—UK, the U.S., Japan, and Canada—have agreed to ban Russian gold imports aimed at wealthy Russians buying bullion to reduce the financial effect of Western sanctions. Russian exported $15.5 billion worth of gold last year. Another discussion is potentially capping prices on Russian oil imports. Putin may have been sending a message to the G7 leaders, not only by his weekend shelling but also the new round of missiles in Kyiv which killed the parents of a seven-year-old girl.

Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland paid a surprise trip to Ukraine to support identification, apprehension, and prosecution of Russian war criminals. He announced that Eli Rosenbaum, a veteran prosecutor known for investigating former Nazis, will create a U.S. war crimes accountability team work with Ukraine and international law enforcement groups to track these criminals. Garland also visited Poland and Paris where he met the U.S. homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, with European counterparts to explore ways to combat terrorism and hold Russia accountable for its brutality in Ukraine.

The European Union has officially made Ukraine a candidate for membership. The process may require a decade, but Putin has been violently against Ukraine joining the EU.

Tens of millions of people are suffering from food deprivation because Russia’s boycotts won’t allow grain to leave Ukraine, but Putin is stealing the grain himself—400,000 tons thus far from the temporarily occupied territories. That’s almost one-third of what was available.

Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov has auctioned off his Nobel Peace Prize to help Ukrainian children and families displaced by Russia’s invasion. The $103.5 million from an anonymous buyer far exceeds the previously highest amount of $4.76 million for a Nobel medal. Muratov founded the independent Novaya Gazeta and sharply criticized the invasion of Ukraine. Russian threats closed the newspaper in March, and four of its journalists have been killed during Putin’s tenure.

Just like Germans in World War II, Russians are using its invasion of Ukraine to loot art, emptying museums and destroying Ukraine’s cultural heritage. With no trained armies to protect these treasures, museum curators are hiding in basements throughout the country to protect these items in areas where Russians are seizing control. Already, 250 cultural institutions have been targeted by Russian munitions with thousands of important museums pieces destroyed during the Russian bombing of Mariupol and other cities.

Scythian gold artifacts dating back to the 4th century BC valued at millions were stolen in Melitopol from crates used to hide the objects. Surveillance video showed a Russian art expert in a white lab coat carefully removing the gold. Russians have removed some art objects before destroying museums.

For the first time in over a century, Russia may experience its first major debt default on international bonds when the grace period deadline for Russia’s foreign debt payment of $100 million expired today. Taiwan’s holders of Russian bonds said they haven’t received the interest due on May 27 and won’t accept rubles. A default is declared if a deadline is missed. Russia has struggled to keep up with its payments on $40 billion in outstanding bonds since sweeping sanctions for the country invading Ukraine on February 24 cut Russia out of the global financial system.

June 18, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 118

Russian President Vladimir Putin has finally admitted that he invaded Ukraine to expand Russian territory, a belief that the West and Ukraine have held since Putin began his brutal devastation of a foreign country at the end of February. Formerly, he falsely claimed he was preventing Ukraine’s neo-Nazi government from genocide against ethnic Russians and protecting Russian security from NATO’s encroaching expansion.

This past week he compared himself to the 18th-century Peter the Great in their desire to expand Russia. Peter took land from Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland on the Baltic Sea as well as stealing countries from Turkey that he had to return after 15 years. Putin invaded Georgia in 2008 and promoted pro-Russian factions there. In 2014, he annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and invaded the eastern Ukrainian Donbas region. Putin claimed Peter’s invasions had only “returned” the territory to Russia, the way that Putin plans to do—by invading not only Ukraine, but also  the Baltic States, Belarus, all the former Soviet republics in Central Asia like Kazakhstan and Armenia. and parts of Poland and Romania.

Putin is also threatening attacks on countries that send more weapons to Ukraine, but the UK still plans to send Ukraine to long-range rocket artillery with a 50-mile range.

Ordinary Ukrainian citizens are fighting back in their own way, for example poisoning cherries that Russians steal, causing “mass illness” among Russian soldiers. In another example of the Ukrainian civilian resistance, a self-identified soldier in the Kherson region said on an intercepted call:

“No one is sure about the locals: who they are, what they’re doing. Maybe they are fucking with us at night, while they’re peaceful people during the day. No one can be trusted. An old woman walking around with pies might be a fucking colonel acting as an artillery spotter at night.”

Guerilla attacks there include two tractors and three large truck trailers parked outside the Russian Emergency Ministry’s headquarters “suddenly” going up in flames from an arson attack. On the eve of the city’s “Day of Russia” celebrations, a staffer for the same ministry was fatally stabbed in the back while standing in a crowd.

For the start of his goal to take over much of Europe, Putin is destroying the eastern city of Sievierdonetsk (southwest of Luhansk), just as he did in Mariupol. He demolished the third and last bridge between the city and its twin, Lysychanensk, severing Ukrainian supply lines to the west necessary for food, weapons, ammunition, and reserve troops. About 538 civilians are hiding in the Azot chemical plant. Russian’s action hurts itself because their forces cannot cross the river either. Russian has still not taken over Sievierdonetsk.

Ukrainian southern counteroffensive forces are seeing success in advancing toward Kherson using their accuracy with shelling Russian equipment and ammunition.

The Russian economy won’t return to 2021 levels for another decade because of Western sanctions, according to Herman Gref, CEO of the Russian largest lender Sberbank. He forecasts the 2022 GDP will fall 7 percent, followed by 10.3 percent the next year after growing by 4.7 percent in 2021. Gref said 56 percent of Russian exports and 51 percent of imports were tied to countries sanctioning Russia. The bank, holding one-third of Russia’s banking sector assets, left the European market after EU sanctions. About 15 percent of Russian millionaires are leaving the country this year. Russians can’t afford to pay Italy for its fine fashions, and shipments are sitting in Italy’s warehouses.

The European Central Bank will increase interest rates a quarter point for the first time in 11 years in both July and September to improve prospects for economic growth. With the problem of inflation, consumer prices rose a record high of 8.1 percent in May. The ECB are currently zero lending rate to banks and minus 0.5% on overnight deposits from banks.

The U.S. oil industry company Baker Hughes has stopped servicing all of Russia’s liquefied natural gas projects, risking any new plants and existing operations. Engineers have been recalled along with shipments of equipment to Gazprom and Novate projects. Russia’s oil and gas industry is highly dependent on foreign technology because of the country’s inability to build its own services sector, and repairs will no longer have spare parts.

President Xi Jinping assured Putin of China’s support on Russian “sovereignty and security.” China will not condemn Russia’s invasion and promised to “continue to offer mutual support (to Russia) on issues concerning core interests and major concerns such as sovereignty and security,” according to a Russian state broadcaster. Russia and China are now linked by a land bridge between Blagoveshchensk and Heihe. President Joe Biden indicated his ire at China’s declaration.

Officials in the Russian Republic of Chechnya are forcing men to join “volunteer” battalions to fight in the invasion. New soldiers report intimidation, blackmail, and threats of torture and kidnapping against their loved ones. Men are also imprisoned on fabricated criminal charges before offered release if they join the armed forces.

Putin has threatened direct strikes on the homes of Ukrainian soldiers if they don’t surrender, put down their weapons, or side with the Russians. Threats including the soldiers’ exact location are directly sent via SMS or mobile-messaging platforms such as Telegram or WhatsApp. About 3 million Ukrainians are living under Russian occupation.  

Russia’s invasion has led to a shortage of commercial drones. Since China’s DJI suspended business in Russia, 90 percent of Russia’s consumer drone market, prices for drones in the oil and gas industry as well as search and rescue operations skyrocketed by 200 percent. A drone cost went from $17,500 to $53,000. Ukraine is using 6,000 commercial drones, repurposed for military needs, on the battlefield. Russia’s commercial drones can be used only for surveillance because of their limited payload, battery, and flight range.

Further Russian crackdowns on dissemination of information about its invasion of Ukraine include the extension of a critic’s detention and charges against two others. Moscow’s chief rabbi has fled Russia to Israel after pressure on him to support Russian military operations in Ukraine.

To help the global food crisis, Ukraine established two routes through Poland and Romania to export grain and is negotiating with Baltic countries for a third route. The fourth largest exporter of grain in the world, Ukraine has been stymied by Russia’s blockage of the Black Sea ports and sea routes along with missile attacks on grain elevators and rail infrastructure. Russia wants to force migration to Europe becvause of African famine. Russian officials offered to release grain exports in exchange with lifting sanctions, but countries including the U.S. refused. Putin has falsely claimed there are “no problems with the export of grain from Ukraine” and that it can be exported in five different ways.

Putin has put himself in an impossible situation. He can keep bombing Ukraine, but he lacks the military troops to achieve a win without calling up large numbers of reservists. To do the latter will destabilize his regime because he calls his war in Ukraine a “special military operation” while potentially turning the population against him. For ten years, Putin has promised stability and relative prosperity if he’s left alone. That “peaceful” time ended in 2011 with his rigged parliamentary elections and his presidency that chipped away at Russian society’s rights and freedoms. The 2014 Ukrainian uprising made Putin feel he was losing control. He controlled protests, and his participation in the Syrian civil war seems far from Russia. 

Even the protests fomented by Alexei Navalny’s videos about top-ranking elites’ corruption didn’t disturb the illusion of stability in 2020 and 2021, but Putin shattered all illusions in February 2022 with his invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions, travel restrictions, Western boycotts, and Ukraine’s victories—all came as a complete surprise to Putin and the Russians. Mobilizing for war requires strong justifications. He can use the war as opposition to the West, but Ukrainians are considered “brothers” or “the same people.”

Putin tries to keep his people at a distance from any invasion news—no words of casualties or shortages. Shifting to war mode would turn that situation 180 degrees. Outside Russia, however, hundreds of thousands of highly educated Russians live across Europe, Central Asia, Turkey, and in the South Caucuses, some leaving the home country for economic or anti-war reasons. Their knowledge will trickle into Russia through family, friends, and social media showing life without Putin.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of UK’s armed forces, said that Russia, now a “more diminished power,” already “strategically lost” the war in Ukraine. Putin has lost 25 percent of Russia’s land power and “50,000 people either dead or injured” for only “tiny” gains and is strengthening NATO with Finland and Sweden are “looking to join.”

Putin has lost not only the Baltic countries to NATO but also Ukraine and Moldova to the European Union. The process is not instant, but EU officials demonstrated a positive attitude about the move after four EU leaders met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky this week.

The good news from Ukraine is that Russia released Yuliia “Taira” Paievska, the Ukrainian medic who provided two-weeks footage of her team’s efforts to save the wounded to an AP team that smuggled out of the besieged city of Mariupol through an AP team. Three months ago, she was taken captive in the city after she treated Russians and Ukrainians alike.

June 4, 2022

Russian Brutality on Its 100th Day of the Ukrainian Invasion

Shooting: Shortly after President Joe Biden completed his speech about gun violence on June 2, a shooter killed two women outside an Ames (IA) church before turning the gun on himself. Constituents of the state’s two GOP U.S. senators had begged Chuck Grassley to do something about the gun violence. The NRA has paid him $225,000; Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) received $3 million from the NRA.

On the 100th day of Russia invading Ukraine:

  • 12 million: Ukranians who are refugees inside their own country. Another 5 million have fled the country
  • 30,000: An estimate of Russian soldiers killed in the war.
  • 5,000: Ukrainian soldiers estimated to have been killed.
  • 1/5: Amount of Ukraine currently held by Russia. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to restore Ukraine’s pre-war borders, but it’s not clear whether his allies will wait that long.
  • 749: Tanks estimated to have been lost by Russia in the conflict, as modern tech like drones collided with a poorly-prepared Russian army.
  • +28%: Change in the value of the Russian ruble against the dollar..
  • +24%: Change in European crude oil prices as sanctions and embargoes limited Russia’s contribution to global fossil fuel markets.
  • $600 billion: An early estimate for post-war reconstruction costs in Ukraine.

Russia’s latest “scorched earth” project in Ukraine with artillery barrages is the manufacturing city of Sievierodonetsk, meaning “North Donetsk.” Located in eastern Luhansk, it lies across the Siverskyi Donets River from twin city Lysychansk. Prewar, the two cities’ population was about 200,000. Russian fighters captured Sievierodonetsk in May 2014, and Ukraine took it back two months later. Russia said they are flattening the cities to “liberate” the territory belonging to the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics because Russia declared them independent countries immediately before the invasion. Intelligence, however, suspects Russia will annex them as soon as they can move out Ukraine.

Russia said the goal was “to preserve the city infrastructure first and foremost.” Yet Serhiy Volodymyrovych Haidai, current Luhansk governor, wrote on Telegram:

“Almost 100 percent of the city’s critical infrastructure has been destroyed, 90 percent of the housing stock has been damaged, 60 percent of which critically, i.e. it cannot be restored.”

Haidai called Russian attackers “uncultured orcs” and blamed Russians for “exposing residents to toxic fumes” by blowing up a nitric acid tank at the city’s Azot chemical plant. Russia tried to blame the Ukrainians. When Russia began its assault, the shelling was so bad that Haidai told the 13,000 civilians to shelter in place because safe evacuation was impossible. Ukraine may have allowed Sievierodonetsk to fall, thus conserving forces for counterattacks. The battle may repeat the one on Mariupol.

Earlier this week, Russia held about 80 percent of Sievierodonetsk, although Chechen forces claimed to have taken the entire city. Ukraine, however, may be taking it back. Some say that the city was a trap to lure Russian soldiers and that Ukrainian forces are taking prisoners. Ukrainians are still severely outnumbered, and 800 adults and children are hiding below a chemical factory. Yet the governor of the Luhansk region said Ukrainian gains make it “not realistic” for Russia to retake the city in two weeks even with deployed Russian reinforcements. 

Ukraine forces have retaken 20 small towns and villages in the south in an area where U.S.-supplied heavier artillery can help. This gain threatens a highway Russia needs to supply its troops. 

Of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians forcibly deported by Russians, over 200,000 children, according to Zelensky.

OPEC Plus has agreed to release more oil supplies than originally planned during July and August from concerns about a world recession because of sky-high prices. EU sanctions have dropped purchases of oil from Russia except in Italy where Sicilian refineries need oil.

Dolphins in the Black Sea are mysteriously dying in large numbers, perhaps because of their use to guard Russian ships. Ivan Rusev, an environmental scientist at Ukraine’s Tuzla Estuaries National Nature Park, wrote, “Some of the dolphins had burns from bomb or mine explosions and they could no longer navigate and of course could not look for food.” Other researchers see more causes.

The southern city of Odesa is on alert after Russians intensified its activity around Snake Island. Russia wants control of the island in the Black Sea to control the Black Sea and threaten the Odesa.

In talking about the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians forcibly deported by Russians, Zelensky said over 250,000 of these deportees are children separated from families and from orphanages. Russia claims the deportations for Ukrainians’ safety, but investigators contradict this claim.

A recent poll from the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found that 82 percent of Ukrainian adults believe that “no territorial concessions should be allowed” in order to reach a peace agreement, compared to 10 percent who thought some territorial concessions should be made.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Biden wrote that the U.S. will provide Ukrainians with rocket systems and munitions to more precisely strike key targets in addition to other weaponry—Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger antiaircraft missiles, powerful artillery and precision rocket systems, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, Mi-17 helicopters, ammunition, and more financial assistance. The rockets have warheads and are propelled by solid-fuel motors, and the 23-ton armored vehicle launcher moves on treads up to 40 mph. Lighter ones carry one pod of munitions instead of two but moves faster on and off-road. The 40-mile range of the newest guided rocket, used for the first time in 2005, doubles the range of older rockets. Russia has used three types of unguided artillery rockets in Ukraine. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Ukraine promised it will not target Russian territories.

The UK and EU have agreed for an embargo on insuring vessels carrying oil from Russia, trying to keep the country out of the important Lloyd’s of London insurance market and restrict its ability to export crude. India is thriving on cheap Russian crude with a record high of imports in May and likely much more in June. Doing so, however, risks the possibility of sanctions against them to cut Russian energy. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may attend a NATO summit of its leaders in late June to coordinate with the West over the invasion.  

At least 115 Russian national guardsmen have been fired for refusing to fight in Ukraine. A judge has rejected a class action lawsuit protesting the firing. Anecdotal evidence relates bad morale among mid-grade officers “up to the battalion level” who “either refused to obey orders” or were not obeying them with the expected measure of “alacrity.” The militarized guardsmen are separate from the army, formed in 2016 to fight terrorism and maintain public order, and has been called Putin’s “private army,” especially in crackdowns on peaceful anti-government protests. Its units have suffered heavy casualties. One Russian soldier talking about the poor conditions of their Army equipment said they were like “blind kittens.” 

In Ukraine’s first war crimes trial, a 21-year-old Russian soldier has been sentenced to life in prison because he killed a 62-year-old civilian on his bicycle. Russian authorities are threatening trials of captured Ukrainians who were evacuated from tunnels at Mariupol’s steelworks. One of the regiments has far-right origins, and Russia calls the evacuees “Nazis,” accusing their commander of “numerous atrocities” with no evidence. A prosecutor has asked Russia’s Supreme Court to designate the regiment a terrorist organization.

In opposition to the war, Boris Bondarev, a veteran Kremlin diplomat at the UN office at Geneva, resigned and sent a letter to foreign colleagues expressing his extreme shame in his country since February 24. In his letter, Bondarev denounced the “aggressive war unleashed” by Putin. He wrote that those who conceived the war “want only one thing—to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian Navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity.” He also accused Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs of all being about “warmongering, lies and hatred.”

Bondarev also criticized Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, for an increasing “level of lies and unprofessionalism in the work of the Foreign Ministry” which have “become simply catastrophic.” In 2017, DDT hosted top Russian diplomats including Lavrov and gave them code word classified top secret intelligence which put Israeli spies at risk.

The most recent fire at Russian military assets came at the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute in Zhukovsky, 43 miles south of Moscow, a center of jet engine design and development for Russian rockets and military jets. [map of fires]  It is the latest of almost three dozen suspicious fires in Russia since March. Putin’s response is increasing the shelling of Donbas, the area formerly sympathetic to Russia. It is the home of coal mines and factories that Russia desperately wants to capture. Only 320,000 of the pre-war population of 1.6 million remain in the region, and Russia is evacuating as many as possible.

Desperate to have its sanctions lifted, Putin offered to release food to the starving world in exchange for sanctions’ removal. Russian shelves are emptying with an 18 percent inflation rate. Africa has a food crisis as Crimean ports are storing great quantities of grain because Russia is blocking them. The U.S. has refused. Europe is moving grain by rail but can carry only a small fraction of Ukrainian production.

A recent poll from the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found that 82 percent of Ukrainian adults believe that “no territorial concessions should be allowed” in order to reach a peace agreement, compared to 10 percent who thought some territorial concessions should be made.

May 21, 2022

Russia Invades Ukraine – Day 88

Joshua Berlinger has an excellent overview of the past three months. Following is my perception.

Russian military, suffering huge losses of soldiers and equipment in at least three attempts to cross the Seversky Donets River with pontoon bridges, plans another try hoping for an offensive at Yampil. The 650-mile-long river starts in Russia and goes through the Donbas area before returning to Russia. Its lakes, floodplains, and swamps create a barrier for Russian armored vehicles. River crossings, inherently dangerous, require favorable terrain, and Ukrainian surveillance drones allow artillery units to see where rounds fall before guiding them onto Russian personnel. Instead of sending small numbers of troops across the river, Russian commanders put them all together. Russians lack the ability to adapt quickly when problems occur.

Putin has taken over ordering troop movements, working closely with the commander of the Russian armed forces, Gen. Valery Gerasimov. His operational and tactical are “at the level of a colonel or brigadier.” Russia’s top-down military style also means generals are closer to the frontline where up to 12 of them have been killed in under three months.  

The mass mutiny from poor morale among Russian soldiers has worsened, as described in their intercepted telephone conversations. Fed up with Putin’s incompetent leadership and lack of battle support, the caller said, “Everyone is planning to take off on the 26th.” He continued “that a battalion commander is leaving with us and even a staff colonel.” In another call, a soldier told his friend to “take someone else’s weapon, a Ukrainian one, and shoot yourself in the legs.” Another soldier said a commander shot himself in the leg to get out of the war—“and he served in Chechnya.” Russia is supposedly planting informants into one of its military regiments to identify and “neutralize” soldiers who refuse to carry out orders.

Russia is attempting to restructure its faltering offensive in Ukraine—firing commanders, dividing combat units into small groups, and increasing reliance on artillery and other long-range weapons. People over 40 years old can also sign up to fight. Russia’s transport minister said that his nation’s transport and shipping logistics are “practically broken.” In recent week, Russia has seized only a little over a mile per day, leaving most of Ukraine to be taken after a year.

No major cities not controlled by Russia in the Donbas region in February have been seized. According to British officials, Russia has lost one-third of the troops it sent to Ukraine. One recent battle was so deadly for Russia that it led to criticism from pro-Russia bloggers. One blogger with 2.1 million followers said he was finally criticizing the Russian military, “the last straw” being the events of the fourth bridge failure  because “due to stupidity—I emphasize, because of the stupidity of the Russian command–at least one battalion tactical group was burned, possibly two.” He continued by describing the shortage of equipment. Another blogger wrote that commanders left so much of their force exposed amounted to “not idiocy, but direct sabotage.” A third posted that Russia’s eastern offensive moved slowly partly because of “these generals” and their tactics.

In a new strategy to take over Ukraine, Russia promised to pay Melitopol residents money for blaming Ukrainian military for destroying housing and killing people. Local radio programming in the city has been replaced by a loop of Putin’s speech. Russia claims only one of the 500 sailors on its flagship Moskva, sunk by Ukraine, was killed but has no answer for families about the missing ones.

With 25 tons of grain stranded in cities along the Black Sea, the U.S. plans to deliver anti-ship missiles which would force Russia to lift its blockade. Without this food, African and Middle Eastern countries are faced with starvation. The U.S. may also send Harpoon missiles and Naval Strike Missiles with a range of 150-180 miles. Harpoon, however, need launchers which have limited availability. The U.S. may remove the system from one of its warships. Twelve to 24 of these missiles could lift the ports’ blockade from Russia’s 20 ships and submarines in the Black Sea. 

Russian ships at Sevastopol are being protected by “military” dolphins on either side of the harbor to keep Ukrainians from sabotaging the fleet underwater. According to reports from the 1990s, Russia outfits dolphins with lethal devices that could inject enemy divers with CO2 and trained the marine mammals to parachute out of helicopters.

Russians have evacuated about 900 Ukrainians from Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant and sent to a prison colony in Russian-controlled territory while 100,000 civilians remain in the occupied southeastern port city. The Ukrainians fighters may be exchanged for Viktor Medvedchuk, godfather to Putin’s daughter. Ukraine recaptured Medvedchuk in mid-April and seized 154 of his assets including a $200 million yacht. Under house arrest, Medvedchuk had been facing between 15 years and life in prison for treason plus aiding and abetting a terrorist organization because he mediated coal purchases for the separatist, Russia-backed Donetsk republic in eastern Ukraine.

A Ukrainian medic provided two weeks of video to AP journalists before she was captured on March 16 and disappeared on March 21. She had saved hundreds of lives. Hidden inside a tampon, the data card was smuggled past 15 Russian checkpoints. Also available are images of the steelworks disaster taken by Dmytro Kozatsky, a member of Ukraine’s military who is now a prisoner of war taken by the Russians.

The first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes in Ukraine admitted to killing a 62-year-old unarmed civilian but said his commander ordered the killing. Ukrainian authorities have brought war crimes charges against two other Russian soldiers, alleging they targeted Ukrainian civilians in the Kharkiv region using a truck-mounted rocket launcher. One defendant allegedly drove the truck while the other operated the rocket launcher to fire at civilians. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has sent 42 investigators, forensic experts, and support staff to Ukraine, the “largest ever single field deployment” since the ICC began in 2003, according to Prosecutor Karim Khan.  

The past week has seen back and forth discussions regarding Sweden’s and Finland’s applications to join NATO. Putin has threatened Finland with retribution, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is making requirements for his acceptance. All 30 NATO members must agree to accept applications for new members. One of Erdogan’s conditions is that the two countries stop supporting what he calls “terror groups” his country. He refers to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group and the Gulen movement, accused of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt. Erdogan also demanded the lifting of an arms exports embargo by both countries imposed on Turkey after its 2019 incursion into Syria against the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) militia. A NATO member since 1952, Turkey has caused problems for NATO allies because of its decades of bloody conflict with Kurdish insurgents, mainly in the southeast, have often posed problems for NATO allies.

Switzerland, always maintaining neutrality and nonalignment, plans options to bolster its security including joint military exercises with NATO countries and regular meetings between Swiss and NATO commanders.

Putin is losing the faith of some Russian oligarchs who grumble about their losses from sanctions against them and Russia after the Ukrainian. Those speaking out were likely to have made fortunes before Putin took power and who are no longer in Russia. They complained about losing tens of billions of dollars in assets, a situation worsening with President Joe Biden’s decision to sell their assets and give the proceeds to Ukraine. Oligarchs talked about how “in one day” everything “what was built over many years” has been destroyed. “It’s a catastrophe,” one of them said. In anonymous comments, several billionaires and senior bankers and officials explain how they feel blindsided by the isolated Putin who they cannot influence because of a few hardline security officials in his inner circle.  At least four Russian senior officials have resigned and left the country.

Russian oligarchs also aren’t safe. At least seven of them, some with their wives and children, have been found dead this year, five of them connected to large Russian gas companies. The ones called murder-suicide have been questioned. Six of the deaths were after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and one was shortly before.

In addition to selling off Russian oligarchs’ assets, Biden will take innovators from Russia by relaxing visa requirements for highly educated Russians. Putin already has serious problems with lack of ability to climb the ladder to higher ratings among countries. In addition, Russia is making money selling oil to China and India, but sanctions block them from spending the revenue on necessities for both daily life and war.

A new 110-mile pipeline may start removing Europe’s reliance on Russia’s natural gas to generate electricity, fuel industry, and home heating. Completion of the project, ending in Italy, will join the 27-nation bloc to the global gas market. Eight additional interconnectors in Europe could reach as far as Ukraine and Austria.

Putin has more than his invasion of Ukraine to worry about: Siberia’s early season wildfires promise another record-breaker after almost 33,000 square miles burned in 2021. Already burned is an area the size of Rhode Island, and the future looks bleak, especially because firefighting requires military personnel and resources such as helicopters.

May 14, 2022

Ukraine Makes Progress against Russia

The U.S. Pentagon has newly captured Russian war plans and documents showing that its president, Vladimir Putin, “is in a corner, not just in Ukraine where his army is failing, but also in facing an existential threat from Europe, now even more united because of his missteps.” It appears “Odesa [Ukraine’s third largest city] is safe from Putin’s army and from coastal landings.” Also abandoned is advancement on Mykolaiv, and Ukraine has slowed Russia’s offensive efforts on the west bank of the Dnieper. Russian reinforcements have little fighting spirit while Ukraine displays high morale and excellent command.

Russia recognizes the possibility of Ukrainian victory both on the battlefield and in its change into a western Army as an expansion of NATO. Ukrainians may have won the “battle of Kharkiv,” blocking Russian troops from encircling and seizing the country’s second largest city. Russians attacking from Popasna in the north have made no progress and lack fresh combat power to offset huge losses. Russians plan to withdraw and return its forces home.

Ukrainians destroyed a Russian tank battalion trying to cross the Donets River on a pontoon bridge with possibly 1,500 Russians dead and up to 70 vehicles either burned or fallen into the water. The surviving 30 vehicles and Russian troops are stranded on the other side of the river in the third Ukrainian attack in three days.

Sean Spoonts, editor-in-chief of the military news outlet SOFREP, estimates Russia will run out of forces and equipment within 90 days. He added that figure could be optimistic. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also believes Putin doesn’t want a direct conflict with NATO.

Putin has appeared ill for several months, and a KGB defector to Britain, Boris Karpichkov, said he suffers from Parkinson’s disease, a stroke, and possibly dementia. At an April 22 meeting, he clung to a small table for over 13 minutes, perhaps to conceal tremors or vertigo. The press recently reported an authenticated audio recording from an oligarch close to the Kremlin describing Putin as “very ill with blood cancer.” The change of his facial appearance from gaunt to puffy is “compatible with steroid use,” according to Ashley Grossman. He explained that steroids are typically prescribed for various kinds of lymphoma or myeloma, cancer of the plasma cells, which “can cause widespread bone disease and definitely affect the spinal column and back.” A Russian coup to replace Putin may be underway.

Even Putin’s allies and state media admit his army is an embarrassment. State Duma member Semyon Bagdasarov called him a pariah fighting a war of aggression:

“Everyone is ashamed to talk about this topic … It’s a crying shame!”

On May 6, analyst Konstantin Sivkov said on Russian State TV show, “The Evening with Vladimir Solovyov” that “current economic market system is unfit to meet the needs of our Armed Forces and of the entire country under these conditions.” He pushed for “military socialism,” putting “all strategic resources—including land and factories—under the direct control of the government to better fund the war.”

Without martial law, Putin cannot force soldiers into his Ukrainian war. Troops refusing to fight can be dismissed but not prosecuted and are looking for advice to stay out of the battle. Using volunteers or conscripts will only increase losses with untrained troops.

On Russia’s 60 Minutes, retired Colonel Mikhail Khodaryonok said that even “mass mobilization in Russia wouldn’t help alter the course of Putin’s stalled invasion of Ukraine.” Fighter aviation would take until New Year’s, and ships require two years. Even tanks can’t be built in fewer than 90 days. Khodaryonok added that nothing would be “equipped with modern weaponry because we don’t have modern weapons and equipment in our reserves … Sending people armed with weapons of yesteryear into a war of the 21st century to fight against global standard NATO weapons would not be the right thing to do.”

U.S.-led sanctions make Russia struggle to find parts for military equipment production. Technology exports from the U.S. have fallen by almost 70 percent. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo reported that some equipment is “filled with semiconductors that they took out of dishwashers and refrigerators.”

According to an intercepted telephone call between two Russians, the authorities in Ukraine’s occupied city of Donetsk are throwing thousands of their dead soldiers in a secret dump and then charging family and friends money to find them. The caller reluctantly explained that a soldier has been found after missing for a month after the dead man’s “sister went to Donetsk, and there, basically, roughly speaking, is a dump”:

“They just toss them there. And then later it’s easier to make as if they disappeared without a trace. It’s easier for them to pretend they are just missing, and that’s it…. There’s nowhere left to place them. It’s a dump. I’m telling you in plain Russian—a dump. It’s as tall as a person. [The site is] fenced off, sealed, they don’t let anyone in.”

Local authorities let the woman find her brother after she paid “good money” and then “they rearranged it until she found [the body.]” Al Jazeera released footage of refrigerated train cars holding unclaimed bodies of Russian troops killed in Ukraine. Putin won’t take the bodies back to Russia to hide the horrific death toll. Russians admit the deaths of only 1,300 military members in its “special military operation”; Ukraine’s estimates Russian death toll at about 26,000.

Ukraine will try a 21-year-old Russian soldier for war crimes, accusing him of killing an unarmed 62-year-old village resident in the northeastern region of Sumy. The man was pushing a bicycle along the road before he was shot in the head and “died on the spot a few dozen meters from his home.” The soldier said he was told his unit would have military exercises in Russia about 200 miles from Ukraine and was later captured in Ukraine when his column tried to take wounded soldiers back to Russia. Ukraine have opened over 5,000 cases connected to war crimes and crimes of aggression and filed charges against ten Russian soldiers in absentia for war crimes in Bucha after discovery of torture and mutilation.

Lithuania is the first country to declare Russia a terrorist country because of genocide. The UN reported accelerating numbers of Russian human trafficking, rape, and other sexual violence in Ukraine. Ukrainians forced into “filtration” camps in Russia endure strip searches, interrogations, and theft of their vital documents. Those suspected of Ukrainian sympathies are tortured and perhaps “disappeared.” On one day, May 13, 8,787 people deported from Ukraine including 1,106 children, according to Russian media.

Putin’s state TV has created more fantasies about the reasons for the invasion: “black magic” practiced by the troops, and President Volodymyr Zelensky’s non-existent drug use. These add to the falsehood of Ukraine’s prevalence of neo-Nazis.

The Finnish Parliament’s defense committee recommended NATO membership, and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin agree in an historical shift of security policy for the traditionally nonaligned Nordic country. NATO will likely pave the way to the year-long process. Russia threatens with “to retaliatory steps.” Neighboring Sweden is also expected to follow Finland’s lead. The expansions would double NATO’s land border with Russia, increasing the military alliance’s frontier to the far north and around the Baltic Sea.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may not block Finland and Sweden from NATO, but the Turkish authoritarian leader isn’t happy about the addition because “Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organizations.” All 30 NATO members must approve any additions. Erdoğan is actually upset about Scandinavian support for Kurdish militants who he calls terrorists and because he approved Greece before it took “an attitude against Turkey.”

The U.S. has delivered the first of 11 helicopters as part of its “lend-lease” agreement. The Mi-17 transport aircraft, once earmarked for Afghanistan, are primarily used for personnel transport but can be armed with rockets and cannons for use in close air support situations.

The food shortage in the world has become worse after India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer with about ten percent of the world’s reserves, banned its exports with a few exceptions. Both Ukraine and Ukraine are major suppliers of wheat, but Black Sea fighting and blockades interrupted transport of any existing supplies. China’s drought caused poor harvests there, and the U.S. harvest is hurting from its heat wave and rising temperatures. Large port cities such as Odesa are storing about 25 million tons of staple grains such as corn, wheat, maize, and barley. Destined for the international market, the badly need food is stranded, and Russia has not reacted to pleas for lifting the blockade.

Not to be outdone by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who took a delegation of Democrats to meet in Ukraine with Zelensky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took his own three-Republican delegation for the same purpose. The trip was soon after one of McConnell’s GOP caucus, the other Kentucky senator Rand Paul, blocked the House bill to provide $40 billion in aid to the beleaguered nation. In 2019, Joe Scarborough labeled McConnell “Moscow Mitch.” The then-Senate Majority Leader blocked two bills to stop foreign influence in U.S. elections the day after special counsel Robert Mueller testified that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

According to Fox’s biggest voice, Tucker Carlson, U.S. aid to Ukraine is revenge for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 presidential election. Ukrainians “are merely unfortunate pawns,” according to Carlson, and “we arm Ukraine so that we can punish Russia … for stealing Hillary Clinton’s coronation.” He asserted that the U.S. doesn’t want to save lives or protect Ukraine—just create regime change in Russia as “payback.”

Nick Cohen wrote about Carlson’s—and his employer Rupert Murdoch’s—support of Russian atrocities:

“Murdoch is boosting Russian morale and, conversely, undermining Ukrainian resolve by supplying a dictatorship with foreign validation. Do not underestimate its importance. Russians who suspect their TV anchors are state-sponsored bootlickers are more likely to believe foreign commentators who assure them that the lies they are hearing are true.”

Maria Alyokhina, lead singer for Russian feminist arts collective and punk rock band Pussy Riot, escaped from Russia after three years of house arrest for criticizing Putin. The group plans a 19-show European tour to raise money for Ukrainian war victims. Alyokhina took that step after Russia announced she would have to serve 21 days in a penal colony. She said that Russia, not Ukraine, needs de-Nazification.

May 9, 2022

Victory Day Passes with Lies, More Killing

When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his “special military operation” (aka invasion of Ukraine), he claimed he was rescuing residents of the Donbas region, which he had declared the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, from “genocide.” Since then he has killed thousands of Ukrainian civilians, destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, and driven millions of people from their homes. Casualties of Russian soldiers have been far greater, and Ukrainians are not enthusiastic about his ”rescue”—to say the least. Former Russian supporters are extremely offended because they are being conscripted into the Russian army. They have said:

“They forced us into it. Many of us have been killed. What are we doing here?”

“We are ordinary people. Take us back to the Donbass. We are cannon fodder.”

Russia has not conscripted soldiers from across Ukraine, but military-aged men in separatist areas such as Donbas are subject to being sent to the front with no training or adequate equipment. Musicians from the Donetsk Philharmonic were killed when sent to fight in the Kharkiv region. Russia admitted the death of the musicians but tried to minimize the concerns.

According to the Pentagon, Ukrainians are being forcibly sent to Russia, perhaps as many as 1.2 million. The camps are often in isolated or economically depressed regions of Russia. Zelensky has been reporting about this since early April and puts the number of forced deportees at over 1.9 million including at least 200,000 children.

Before the invasion, Russian-backed separatists in Donbas bombed Ukrainian lines to provoke fighting, but Ukrainian troops refused to buy in. Yet buses transported local residents to Russia for free. One of them said that “the Russians didn’t want the locals to see what they were about to do.” After the artillery attacked her home, she evacuated to Kyiv with her husband. She said she wanted to return home when “they don’t use people like us as human shields.”

Hackers celebrated Russia’s Victory Day by displaying messages on smart TVs in the country instead of the regular programing. One of them read:

“The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands,” read the message that took over their screens.

Another one:

“TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.”

The same anti-war message appeared on the platforms of Yandex, Russia’s IT giant with many products including a search engine and a TV programming service. Rutube, Russia’s equivalent of YouTube, was similarly affected. Russia reports it has faced an “unprecedented” wave of hacking on its government websites and state-run media outlets since it initiated its invasion on February 24.

Articles on the front page of the Russian news website Lenta.ru condemning the invasion all explained that the information had “not been agreed with the editorial leadership” and that “the Presidential Administration will punish the publication for publishing this.” The articles advised, “Take a screenshot of this now, before it is deleted.”

Stories included such headlines as “Vladimir Putin has turned into a pitiful and paranoid dictator” and “Russia abandons the corpses of their soldiers in Ukraine.” They were soon removed. A law passed since the invasion  bans any attempt to discredit Russian forces and prevents the use of “invasion” to describe Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Yegor Polyakov, an editor at Lenta, asserted that the material didn’t come from hackers and claimed joint responsibility for the antiwar material with colleague Alexandra Miroshnikova to make a “conscious decision” opposing the war.

As expected, yesterday’s Victory Day in Moscow was more restrained, even lacking the aerial display in the clear skies because of the “weather.” Putin could have paraded Ukraine prisoners through Red Square or declared war or mobilized everyone in Russia. Or even fired nuclear weapons. He didn’t–thus far.

Putin withdrew from Kyiv over a month ago, and he’s failed to make significant advances in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas. At a lower guess, Russia has lost over 3,500 vehicles including 600 tanks, 121 aircraft, and nine naval vessels, one of them Putin’s Black Sea fleet flagship Moskva. These losses are the worst for the country since World War II.

The hundreds of Russian tanks destroyed in Ukraine suffer from a defect called the “jack-in-the-box effect.” In the turret, the stored shells, up to 40, make them vulnerable to even an indirect hit, enough to blast the turret as high as a two-story building. Exploding munitions cause problems for almost all armored Russia vehicles used in Ukraine.

On the other hand, Ukraine has more tanks than at the war’s beginning, much better artillery, and far more weapons systems of all kinds. The country has sky-high morale while Russia’s morale is low and sagging more every day. Russia’s economy badly suffers, probably shrinking at least ten percent this year, and its inflation can hit 23 percent. Cut off from Western imports such as microchips, the economic damage in Russia can only worsen. Unified, the West now has a NATO far stronger than the recent past, and the organization may expand if Finland and Sweden join.

Putin’s current quagmire resembles the U.S. in its war with Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq—but much more disastrous. And he can’t bear to withdraw and doesn’t know how to escalate. A new leader might rescue Russia as Mikhail Gorbachev did in Afghanistan. But Putin won’t permit it. The probable result is a conflict that hasn’t moved since 2014 when Russia tried to take Crimea and fought to control Donbas. Regaining borders to those on February 24 and continuing sanctions might even look like a victory for Ukrainians. And a defeat for Putin.

On Victory Day, Putin repeated his common lie that the invasion was to denazify Ukraine because of its genocide. Having a Jewish president of the country has been awkward for Putin so he has created a new definition of “Nazi.” The new Russian definition of the word is anyone who opposes Russia. That includes Zelensky and Biden and most of the people in the U.S. who aren’t white supremacists, many of them classified as Neo-Nazis, because most people in the U.S. oppose the invasion. Russians can be more comfortable torturing and killing Ukrainian children because they are—Nazis. Skip the fact that the vast majority of murdered Ukrainians has Russian heritage.

Former U.S. Marine Colonel Andy Milburn, heading up a group of U.S. and British veterans to train Ukrainian forces, said that Russian military actions in Ukraine are worse than those of ISIS. He wrote that they have “a very, very deliberate approach to killing civilians. Having served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Libya, Milburn was one of the first people in Bucha after the Russian retreat and saw the bodies dumped there, including children. Russia’s actions left him “filled with the deepest contempt and anger.” After a civilian massacre, almost 300 people were buried there in mass graves. He said:

“People were dragged from their homes and killed, women gang-raped in cellars and executed.”

According to Milburn, Ukrainian forces are better than U.S. and UK troops in some areas, such as understanding drones, which play a crucial weapon of the war. He said Ukrainians understand “not just strike drones, but how drones extend the reach of your senses.” He praised Ukrainian forces for their high morale and their “confidence that the Russians will not win that increases with the more atrocities that they come across.”

At the White House press briefing, Jen Psaki discussed President Joe Biden’s comments on Putin’s “revisionist history,” aka “disinformation,” regarding Victory Day, including his “absurd” lie that Western aggression to the Ukraine war. The May 9 commemoration should be “about celebrating peace and unity in Europe and the defeat of Nazis in World War Two,” but “Putin is perverting history” to justify his unprovoked and unjustified war.

Sergey Andreev, Russian ambassador to Poland, had an unpleasant Victory Day when he went to lay flowers at the Soviet military cemetery in Warsaw. Protesters threw red paint at him while a crowd chanted “fascists” and “murderers.” The Russian foreign ministry demanded an immediate new organization of the wreath-laying ceremony and “ensure complete protection against any provocations.” Poland cancelled all official commemorations of the day. Polish interior minister Mariusz Kaminski tweeted that “the Polish authorities did not recommend the Russian ambassador to lay flowers on 9 May in Warsaw.” The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova called protesters “Nazis” and repeated the lie that Russia is fighting fascists in Ukraine. Poland is key arms supply route for Ukrainian weapons, and Russia is lying about Poland wanting to annex western Ukraine. Russia also shut off gas supplies to Poland because it wouldn’t pay with rubles. 

May 8, 2022

Russia’s Victory Day Approaches

Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S., and the nation’s first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, made a secret visit to Ukraine and talked with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska. Very few first ladies have ventured into active war zones on their own. Biden and Zelenska spent time with children working on art projects for their mothers. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP) 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made a surprise visit to Ukraine, going to Irpin, damaged by Russia’s attempt to take Kyiv at the start of the war, and raised his country’s flag at the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv. Canada will lift trade tariffs on Ukrainian imports for one year, give Ukraine another $50 million in assistance, and impose more sanctions on Russian individuals and groups.

President Joe Biden met on a video call with other G7 leaders—Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan—and Ukrainian President Volodymyr and pledged to phase out Russian oil imports.

The U.S. will ban citizens from providing services used to operate multinational businesses, create workarounds from sanctions, and hide ill-gotten wealth for Russians. These services include accounting, trust and corporate formation, and management consulting services. Other new U.S. sanctions affect industries supporting Russia’s military capabilities such as the motor and boiler sectors. Other U.S. bans are on over 2,600 Russian and Belarusian military officials including personnel operating in Bucha where multiple war crimes were committed.

EU plans a new round of sanctions against three popular state Russian TV stations spreading the misinformation about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Another EU target could be Putin’s alleged girlfriend and mother to some of his children Alina Kabaeva. Putin’s two daughters by his ex-wife Lyudmila are also sanctioned by the U.S. and the UK. Kabaeva, 31 years younger than Putin, is an Olympic rhythmic gymnast who moved to politics. [Visual – Ukraine Putin’s girlfriend]

For the first ten weeks of the invasion into Ukraine, Russia has spent $900 million—each day—not counting losses from economic sanctions. The money pays Russian soldiers; provides munitions, bullets, and rockets; and replaces/repairs lost or damaged military equipment. By April, Ukraine may have destroyed over 5,000 pieces of Russian equipment with the flagship Moskva the most expensive. Thousands of critical weapons and cruise missiles each cost $1.5 million.

Russian soldiers also damage Russian equipment. They share tips about destroying equipment on their cellphones, and one fighter said, “I don’t follow stupid orders, I simply refuse.” Another soldier told his family that the regiment had one tank left and “we broke the tank ourselves in the morning so not to go [on an attack].”

More senior Russian military commanders are being deployed to Ukraine. The British Defense Ministry explained:

“Difficulties in command and control, as well as faltering Russian performance on the front line, have drawn senior Russian commanders onto the battlefield, likely to take personal leadership of operations.”

The deployments put senior officers at “significant risk, leading to disproportionately high losses of Russian officers in this conflict. This results in a force that is slow to respond to setbacks and unable to alter its approach on the battlefield.”

Russians also fail with their inability to electronically intercept, alter, and jam communications. A leading electronic war (EW) specialist was killed in a command post near Izyum. Ukraine, on the other hand, does an excellent EW job, and NATO has provided EW equipment and training. The big Russian systems with heavy top-down command structures are better used in static positions. British intelligence officials reported that one-fourth of Russian invaders were lost in 74 days, called “combat ineffective” with the most elite units, including its Airborne Forces, experiencing the highest attrition.

Russia’s most important holiday, Victory Day on May 9, represents the May 8 defeat of Nazis ending World War II. The Russian event is commemorated on the following day because of the time difference between Western Europe and the Soviet Union. With multiple failures by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his invasion of Ukraine, the 2022 parade has been reduced “by almost 35 percent” because of soldiers deployed to Ukraine and their huge casualties. According to Sasha Lensky in The Spectator, the disasters of the last ten weeks make May 9 the “cult-of-war day, glorifying the nation as Ultimate Victors, while hinting at forthcoming revenge for the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as issuing dark threats to unnamed enemies.”

While Putin kills World War II veterans in Ukraine, he sent a message praising them for their involvement in the second world war, calling Victory Day a shared history. He used the message to repeat disinformation about his mission, falsely claiming it was to stop Naziism.

May 9 has been of great concern for Ukraine because it may escalate Putin’s war. GZERO stated that Putin can’t “announce the capture of Kyiv and the installation of a Kremlin-compliant president there” so he he needs to find alternative ways to pump himself up. Ben Wallace, Britain’s defense secretary, predicts Putin is “probably going to declare … that ‘we are now at war with the world’s Nazis and we need to mass mobilize the Russian people.'” According to Oleg Ignatov, a senior analyst for Russia at Crisis Group, a declaration of war would allow far more Russian conscripts for a longer period of time, imposition of martial law, and requests for more support from Russia’s international allies. Like the two or three Russian claims of Syrian victory while continuing the killing, Putin could declare a victory such as securing Donbas while accelerating the destruction and murders.

Putin wants to drag the U.S. into a war that President Joe Biden has struggled to avoid while the media has enabled this attempt by spreading exaggerated news that the U.S. helped Ukraine sink the flagship Moskva and kill Russian generals. On Fox, Tucker Carlson accused Biden’s officials of escalating the war by “bragging about” sharing intelligence that helps Ukraine kill Russian soldiers and declared they “want war with Russia.” The Pentagon announced that it shares intelligence with Ukraine but denies involvement in the disasters. Biden told senior intelligence and defense officials the leaks must stop.

Six Russian cruise missiles fired from aircraft hit the region of Odesa although Ukrainian air defense shot down four rockets. In Bilohorivka, a village of 850 people, a Russian bomb on a school killed two with another 60 missing. Thirty people sheltering there were rescued. Chechen forces said they took Popasna, a town of about 20,000 which is 30 miles south of Bilohorivka, and Ukrainian troop withdrew from the Luhansk area because “everything was destroyed there.”

Ukrainians may drive Russian troops back from the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, with a counteroffensive north and east. The Ukrainian infantry assault is supported by artillery, tanks, and other armored vehicles. Ukraine is also trying to regain Snake Island, 20 miles off the coast, to delay Russia’s attempts to control the Black Sea and sank a Russian landing ship in the Black Sea that was taking an anti-aircraft missile system to Snake Island.

In a third evacuation of Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks, all civilians, making the final total about 800, escaped after numerous Russian attacks on the place. An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters remain in the tunnels where they have been for weeks. On April 21, Putin announced victory in Mariupol and still refused to pause military activity for civilian evacuation.

Russians also completely demolished the former Mariupol theater which they struck earlier this year despite its clear labeling “CHILDREN.” It was used not only as a bomb shelter but also as a gathering for evacuations from the city. About 600 people, mostly civilians, were killed in that strike, and Russia may be trying to erase evidence of war crimes described by witness accounts of 23 survivors, rescuers, and people familiar with the refuge. The number of deaths might be higher: about 1,000 people were inside the theater at the time of the strike, and only 200 people were seen escaping. Russian soldiers may have either pulverized or removed them. A bombing survivor said, “They came not to capture the city—they came to destroy it. They are trying to hide how many people actually died in Mariupol, hide their crimes.” Last month, Russians used mobile crematoriums to burn civilian bodies after Russia “ordered the destruction of any evidence of crimes committed by its army in Mariupol,” according to the city council. Satellites found at least two mass graves outside Mariupol.

For months, Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, pushed Putin into killing Ukrainians and devastating their land. Pope Francis has now revealed a 40-minute virtual talk with Kirill on March 16 in which he warned Kirill not to become “Putin’s altar boy.” The pope added, “We are not clerics of the state. We cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus.” A meeting on June 14 in Jerusalem between the two religious leaders has been postponed. The Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam is one of a growing number of priests and churches separating ties from their leader in Moscow.  

Kirill’s church said that it was “regrettable” that “Pope Francis has the wrong tone for conveying the contents of the conversation.” Kirill is among those in the proposed sixth round of EU sanctions against Russia. Kirill’s spokesman said the sanctions are not in touch with “common sense.” The Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam is one of a growing number of priests and churches separating ties from their leader in Moscow.  

Formerly one of the biggest grain exporters in the world at 11 percent of the world’s wheat and 17 percent of corn, Ukraine has stored almost 25 million tons of the grain after Russian troops blockaded its ports. Most of the summer crops have been planted, but Russians are jeopardizing future crops by stealing farm equipment. They are also stealing grain and taking it to Russia.

Putin has worked to keep only disinformation spreading throughout Russia, but hundreds of thousands of VPNs (Virtual Protector Networks) are daily downloaded in Russia, granting Russians to information blocked by Putin. VPNs hide the IP address, encrypts data, and rout them through secure networks to conceal online identities for secure and anonymous internet browsing. Like shortwave radios used in the 1980s allowed forbidden news of dissident arrests on the U.S. Radio Liberty. Government bans on VPNs would create a technological challenge, and many Russians use them to access nonpolitical information and entertainment. Even Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov uses them.

Putin apologized to Israel after his foreign minister compared Judaism to Adolf Hitler, using anti-Semitic tropes and Nazi propaganda to justify the invasion of Ukraine. Sergei Lavrov dismissed Zelensky’s Jewish faith with the discredited claim that “Hitler also had Jewish blood.” To Putin’s false “denazification” excuse for attacking Ukraine, Zelensky said Lavrov was using tactics similar to those employed by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels during World War II.

For weeks, Russian state TV has been encouraging Putin to use nuclear weapons to demolish cities in the U.S. and other Western nations. When a panel tried to point out that no one would survive the war because of the West’s nuclear weapons, the host glibly responded, “We’ll start with a blank slate.”

April 24, 2022

Russia Invades Ukraine: Day 60

The best news today for Ukraine was Emmanuel Macron’s win over Marine Le Pen for France’s president, possibly by 16 points. The far-right, anti-NATO, anti-EU Le Pen has praised Adolf Hitler and admired Russian President Vladimir Putin although she toned down her rhetoric during her campaign. Le Pen owes over $10 million to Russian banks close to Putin and almost that much to the autocratic Hungary.

Orthodox Easter, the holiest holiday in Ukraine, saw no abatement in Russia shelling throughout south and east Ukraine. refused both a cease-fire and humanitarian corridors for the religious holiday, and services were moved to morning.

Violating the Geneva Convention, Russia plans to forcibly conscript civilians from the partly occupied regions of Kherson and Zapoizhzhia like Putin did in Russian-occupied Crimea and Donbas regions. Special monitoring mission staff members of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have also been detained in eastern Ukraine after the organization evacuated almost 500 international mission members.

A spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights said humanitarian law seems to be “tossed aside,” with “a horror story of violations perpetrated against civilians.” In one form of Russia’s vicious murders, forensic doctors found tiny metal arrows, fléchettes, in civilians buried in Bucha’s mass graves from shells fired by Russian artillery, an anti-personnel weapon widely used during the first world war. Each shell holds up to 8,000 fléchettes about 1.5 inches long that arc and bend into a hook on impact with the body. The four fins at the rear cause a second wound.

Satellite images show Russians hiding their “barbaric” war crimes by burying civilian bodies killed by shelling in new mass graves. Russian trucks take corpses from the streets of Mariupol. 12 miles away, and transport them to Manhush, a nearby village. Bodies of as many as 9,000 Ukrainian civilians are thrown into 100-foot-wide trenches.

The UN office reported 114 attacks on medical facilities “although the actual figure is likely to be considerably higher.” Spokesperson Ravina Shamdansi said:

“We estimate that at least 3,000 civilians have died because they couldn’t get medical care and because of the stress on their health amid the hostilities. This includes being forced by Russian armed forces to stay in basements or not being allowed to leave their homes for days or weeks.”

Mariupol, vital to Russia’s path to the Crimea and the Sea of Azov, is mostly rubble, over two-thirds of its 400,000 residents gone—evacuated, forcibly taken to Russia, or dead. Pleased by seeing the horrors, Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on television, “The work of the armed forces to liberate Mariupol has been a success. Congratulations.” A few thousand people, including children, remain in the basements and tunnels of the four-square-mile steel plant along the coastline, imprisoned until they die of illness, starvation, or thirst.

Mariupol native and computer programmer Dmitry Cherepanov created Mariupol Life, a site to help people search for their missing loved ones, listing names, addresses, birth dates, and, if possible, last-known locations of missing individuals and photographs.

Putin desperately wants a win by Victory Day on May 9, celebrating the Soviet Union’s defeat of the Germans in World War II. Taking Mariupol gives him both a land bridge and a “success” for his propaganda—the first Ukrainian city to fall since he began his invasion. Seizing Mariupol gives Putin control of the Ukrainian coast on the Sea of Azov, blocking maritime trade “vital for the Ukrainian economy.” Mariupol’s metal industry accounted for one-third of Ukraine’s steel production in 2019.

According to Russian commander Rustam Minnekayev, Putin doesn’t plan to stop with taking over Ukraine. Minnekayev said that Russia wants “full control” of eastern and southern Ukraine as a path to taking over neighboring Moldova and perhaps beyond. Part of the plan is to take over Transnistria, a narrow, land-locked areas between Ukraine and Moldova. Capturing Odesa would give Putin far more control over the Black Sea.

Putin has said the invasion will continue until “full completion” but doesn’t define the term. Earlier, he claimed he didn’t plan to permanently occupy Ukrainian cities; now he’s intent on regime change. Putin also reneged on his claim that he wouldn’t continue shelling Mariupol. Yet he still maintains the “special military operation” is for national security and denies any atrocities or indiscriminate shelling.

In his “second phase” of invasion, Putin concentrates on severing the Donbas region, in eastern Ukraine, from the rest of Ukraine to create puppet Russian republics. Although Putin faces the same low morale from his troops, Russians may find the terrain easier—broad plains instead of streets and buildings for concealing Ukrainians and easier use of tanks and large missile systems. Donbas’ border with Russia allows easier supply lines than further inside Ukraine, and soldiers are more familiar with the territory. Residents were more sympathetic to Russia: before the war, 30 percent of them wanted to join Russia, and another ten percent wanted independence.

The new commander strategizes a pincer movement to crush Ukrainians in the east, moving south from the Kharkiv area and north from the coast near Mariupol before Russians move west. As always, Russians pound Ukrainians with heavy firepower. About 70 to 80 combat battalions, about 400 soldiers each, will try to execute a “double encirclement” of Ukrainian forces like Hannibal defeated the Roman army in 216 B.C. Or the Battle of Stalingrad when the Red Army broke through German lines in the decisive battle on the Eastern front. The German army called the tactic kesselschlacht, or “cauldron battle”; Russians want to make eastern Ukraine into a deadly cauldron.

The industrial heritage of Donbas of both heavy mining and steel-producing capacity and large coal reserves makes it desirable for Putin. The 2015 Minsk peace deal would have given the two eastern regions autonomy to regain Ukraine’s border with Russia, but Putin refused because he wanted to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty. Putin formally recognized the Donetsk and Luhansk republics three days before the invasion; Mariupol was one of the last urban areas in Donetsk not under his control. He is moving onto Izyum on the western border of Donbas before heading to occupy Popasna, between the two republics, move onto Izyum on the western border of Donbas. Last week, the Russians took Kreminna and called the remaining residents “hostages.”

Since the beginning of the invasion, Ukrainians have located and destroyed at least 31 Russian command and communication posts, killing ten or more generals, two of them in the attack on a command post near Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine that also critically wounded another general. Russians have a large supply of generals, but the casualties temporarily confuse units and make them vulnerable to a swift attack.

Ukraine now has more tanks in Ukraine than Russia does, partly because of contributions from the West but also from the capture of 212 functioning Russian tanks. Russia captured only 73 Ukrainian tanks. The Czech Republica donated many Soviet-era tanks and other war equipment. Russia lost about 3,000 armored vehicles in the 60 days of invasion but only half in combat. When vehicles run out of fuel or are abandoned, “it’s finder’s keepers for these farmers,” Ukrainian military expert Yuri Zbanatski said.

Two months ago, Putin thought “phase one” of the invasion would be an easy win. Russia suffers from the same problems as then—poorly maintained vehicles and Ukraine rapidly acquiring more tanks and heavy, longer-range artillery. Sympathy in Donbas for Russians may also wane as bombs drop on homes in the area.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said sanctions are part of the reason that Russia hasn’t reached its goals. The U.S. placed sanctions this past week on the privately owned commercial bank Transkapitalbank (TKB) offering clients such as banks in China and the Middle East the ability to conduct their transactions through their own Internet-based banking system. This alternative to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network allowed customers to process otherwise sanctioned U.S. dollar payments. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also targets companies in Russia’s virtual currency mining industry, including Bitriver, the third largest in the world. In addition, Russian-affiliated ships are no longer permitted to enter American ports.

Sanctioned Russian oligarchs and their families are also starting to die. Two cases this week in Spain and Russia “appear” to be murder-suicide: Sergey Protosenya was top manager of Russia’s energy giant Novatek, and Vladislav Avaev was a Gazprombank executive. Last month, billionaire Vasily Melnikov, his wife, and his sons were found dead. Russia’s largest single chemical plant, the Dmitrievsky Chemical Plant, went up in flames, and a fire broke out at the primary analytical center for Roscosmos, the Russian space program. Days earlier, a fire broke out at a research facility connected to both the Russian Ministry of Defense and Roscosmos and the design of Iskander missiles.

Sixty days after Putin promised Russian soldiers they would overcome Ukraine in a matter of hours, their casualties pile up, and Kremlin’s senior insiders are worried. Open criticism is not accepted, but high-ranking government and state-run business leaders look at the invasion as a catastrophic mistake as growing isolation and economic disaster will set the country back for years. They also worry about whether Putin will use his nuclear weapons if his “holy war” continues to fail. Putin continues his propaganda of winning, but empty grocery shelves, like this photo of Russian shelving for sanitary napkins, tell a different story.

Russia claims a successful launch of “Satan II,” the RS-28 Sarmat nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile to bull through the U.S. missile defense systems. More nuclear rattling.

April 20, 2022

Easter 2022: A Time of Death, Not Resurrection

 

On this Easter, Donald Trump Jr. celebrated the holiday in the same way that Reps. thoma Massie (R-KY) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) celebrated Christmas–with guns. It’s something that his five children can remember about the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the NRA, 25 states allow the legal purchase of buying and carrying a firearm with no permit, testing, or training. The rationale for these laws is that the greater the number of guns, the more safety. Almost 40 million firearms were sold in 2020 and 2021, but the murder rate soared 30 percent in 2020, DDT’s last year in the White House. The U.S. averages over one mass shooting of four or more people every day, and violent crime is also up.

On Easter weekend, the U.S. had at least ten mass shootings with eight dead people and dozens injured. That makes a total of 144 mass shootings in the first 106 days of 2022, following the definition of a mass shooting being four or ore people shot not including the shooter. Earlier in the week, the attack on a Brooklyn subway train left ten people shot out of almost 30 injured.

Stockton (CA): Two men killed and two others wounded with no suspect or motive.

Miami-Dade (FL): Four people shot at a residence.

Baltimore (MD): One person dead and three others injured; two other male victims were found at a hospital.  

North as Vegas (NV): Four people injured, a result of an argument and no one in custody.

Syracuse (NY): One person killed and four others wounded.

Portland (OR): One man killed and three boys wounded in the Centennial Neighborhood.

Pittsburgh (PA): Two 17-year-old boys dead and over a dozen injured after over 90 shots were fired at a party in an Airbnb.

Philadelphia (PA): Four men shot in the Fairhill neighborhood.

Columbia (SC): At least nine people shot and five others injured with two men arrested and an arrest warrant for a third.

Furman (SC): Nine people shot at an Easter party in a lounge.

 Russia spent Easter Day continuing his strikes on churches and residential areas from Lviv in the east to the east, primarily Mariupol when about 1,000 people are hiding in the tunnels below the steelworks. These were built by the Soviet Union after German bombed the area during World War II. Russian President Vladimir Putin bragged about his new barrages and promised to capture the eastern area. Ukraine has refused to surrender Mariupol so Russia plans to close the city for entry and exit with people not permitted to move throughout the city without Russian-issued “movement passes.” In the south, regions surrounding Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are being transferred to “the ruble zone” and subordinated to Russian administration. The Ukrainian president said Russia’s actions in the territories were following the example of the so-called separatist republics of the DPR and LPR.

For war crimes and mass killings, Putin awarded the Russian military brigade responsible for Bucha’s horrible killings with the honorary title of “Guards” for “great heroism and courage.” Putin made no mention of his war in Ukraine when he cited the soldiers for “mass heroism and valour.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has classified soldiers in Russia’s 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade as war criminals. Russia claimed images of graves, dead bodies, and bombing aftermath as “fake.”

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin ally, has turned on his parishioners in Ukraine in his support for the Russian invasion; almost half these parishes are under Moscow jurisdiction. Of those 45 Orthodox dioceses, about half of them have stopped praying for Kirill, a leader asking, “How can you accept prayers for the patriarch who is blessing the soldiers trying to kill your son?” In a rare church tribunal, hundreds of Ukrainian Orthodox clergy have signed a petition from Archpriest Andriy Pinchuk accusing Kirill of committing “moral crimes by blessing the war against Ukraine” and asking global Orthodox leaders to sanction their Russian colleague for “heresy.”

In Northern Italy and Amsterdam, Russian Orthodox–aligned churches in Northern Italy and Amsterdam have formally severed ties to the Moscow Patriarchate. Parishioners are switching churches in the U.S., and Orthodox seminarians in France asked their bishop to break with Kirill. Orthodox priests in Russian Orthodox priests are either fined or fired for criticizing the war. The head of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church for called for “greater church independence” from Moscow. The world-wide leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew, criticized Kirill for calling Russia’s war against Ukraine “sacred.”

Six Supreme Court justices have accepted the racism tainting a Black man’s death sentence in Texas by refusing to take his case. At the 2018 trial of Kristopher Lowe, his attorneys asked prospective jurors if they believe some races “tend to be more violent than others,” searching for illicit bias. One white juror, Zachary Niesman responded, “Yes. Statistics show more violent crimes are committed by certain races. I believe in statistics.” During preliminary examination he gave his belief that “news reports and criminology classes” bore this out but said he could be fair and impartial because he gets this belief from “statistics.”

In Texas, defendants are eligible for capital punishment only if the jury concludes they’re likely to “commit criminal acts of violence” in the future. Love’s attorney tried to strike Niesman “for cause,” in this case his bias, but the trial judge denied the challenge with no explanation. The attorney attempted a peremptory challenge which requires no specific reason for the juror’s exclusion but had none left. The jury found Love guilty and likely to commit violent crime in the future. The judge imposed the death penalty.

The appeal argued that the sentence violated Love’s constitutional right to a trial by an impartial jury because one juror was “racially biased.” The all-Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled against the appeal because the trial judge’s refusal to strike the juror for cause was “harmless” because the attorney had expended his peremptory challenges.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated, “An already-expended peremptory strike is no cure for the seating of an allegedly biased juror.” In frustration, she wrote the Texas courts “deprived Love of any meaningful review of his federal constitutional claim” by deploying a non sequitur. She was joined by only Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. Thus the U.S. Supreme Court joins the conspiracy to overturn a decades-long tradition of blocking jury bias by protecting a defendant’s ability to question and strike a biased juror, especially a problem in capital trials which kill people. The death of a person is never “harmless.”

In Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado (2017), a similar situation, the Supreme Court reaffirmed no amount of racism in the jury box is ever acceptable in a criminal trial: the biased juror believed racial minorities are more prone to violence and may have played a role in convicting the defendant. Before DDT’s appointments to the Supreme Court, a five-justice majority followed its duty to “enforce the Constitution’s guarantee against state-sponsored racial discrimination in the jury system.” At a minimum, Sotomayor wrote the lower court should have “meaningfully reviewed Love’s allegations of racial bias” rather than ignoring it. Once again, vital precedents are being struck down.

Almost two years ago, George Floyd, a Black man, was killed in Minneapolis for being suspected of trying to pass a $20 counterfeit bill. On April 4, a Grand Rapids police officer killed Patrick Lyoya, a Black man, during a traffic stop. A private autopsy shows he was shot in the back of the head while he was on the ground. Lyoya, 26, died instantaneously from the “contact shot,” the gun pressed to his head. He had been driving in a residential area and stepped out of the car when he was stopped. The video shows he looked confused when the officer told him to get back into the car before he tried to run away.

The officer said he stopped Lyoya for an improper license plate, but he couldn’t have seen the plate. They were driving in opposite directions when the officer stopped Lyoya. During the struggle, the officer’s bodycam stopped working so a period of time is missing. The officer claimed Lyoya had grabbed for his taser, but it had already been used twice, the maximum usage before re-loading.

Between 2016 and 2021, police killed more than 400 drivers or passengers who were not wielding a gun or a knife or under pursuit for a violent crime. Many vehicle stops begin for common traffic violations or questioning about nonviolent offenses. Traffic stops are a money-maker for communities. Grand Rapids residents have protested police actions. In 2017, officers searching for a middle-aged woman wanted for a stabbing handcuffed an 11-year-old girl. Months earlier, other officers held five innocent teenagers at gunpoint.

Happy Easter!

April 16, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 52

The biggest news from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the past week was the sinking of Russia’s 611-foot flagship, Moskva, from two Ukrainian Neptune missiles, developed from a Soviet design. Russia asserts that a fire on the ship caused the damage and a “stormy” sea caused the sinking as it was being towed back to port. Yet conditions in the Black Sea were not stormy, and Russia moved six other ships further away from port as a precaution. Ukraine also said that the captain died in the disaster, and Russia is not telling what happened to the crew of almost 500 who were evacuated from the vessel. Furious with the sinking, Russian President Vladimir Putin doubled down on wiping out civilians and their homes in cities such as Lviv, Kyiv, and Mariupol.

The Moskva can carry 16 long-range cruise missiles as well as torpedoes, naval guns, close-in missile defense systems, and a helicopter; it may possibly have had nuclear weapons. The largest warship to be taken down by missiles, the loss is the second large naval ship to be taken down during the first seven weeks of Russia’s invasion.  In retaliation for the ship’s sinking, Russia’s strikes near Kyiv hit a military factory making the Neptune missiles, seriously damaging the workshop and administrative building.

Another Russia general has been killed in Ukraine, bringing the total of dead high-ranking military officials to at least 42, 8 generals and 34 colonels, not counting other commanders. Overall military losses are at least 20,000 although Putin isn’t providing any numbers.

Russian disinformation published a video of a U.S. citizen it supposedly captured, but 35-year-old man Cesar Quintana is in California. The video used Quintana’s passport to “prove” that Quintana died fighting in Mariupol while fighting with the Ukranians. After Quintana’s estranged wife took their two-year-old son to Ukraine, he went to Ukraine in March and tried to rescue the boy. Police confiscated Quintana’s passport, and he went home. His wife then took the boy to Russia.

In another online lie, Army Lt. Gen. Roger Cloutier, NATO’s Allied Land Commander, was allegedly captured in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol despite NATO’s promise not to sent troops. According to NATO, Cloutier hasn’t been in Ukraine since July 2021. He answered the disinformation, “These rumors are completely false.” Photograph of Cloutier hosting NATO’s Land Operations Working Group in Izmir, Turkey on April 5 were posted on official Facebook and Twitter accounts for NATO’s Allied Land Command. Another debunked lie on the internet is that a sniper nicknamed “Wali,” who went to Ukraine from Canada to fight, was killed by Russian Special Ops forces in March.

Russia has a history of lying about Americans being caught in wars against Russia. In 2018, Russian media spread disinformation about three Canadian soldiers killed in war-torn eastern Ukraine. Two years earlier, Russia falsely reported 11 Canadian troops on a NATO mission in Latvia being killed in Donbas where they raided separatist locations.

Germany has seized the world’s largest yacht, the 1,680-feet-long Dilbar worth $600 million belonging to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov. It has been docked at a Hamburg shipyard for repairs since last October. The use of offshore companies to conceal ownership required several weeks to identify the owner. Usmanov, 68, is the sixth wealthiest person in the UK. Russian oligarchs have lost 27 percent of their wealth during the past year; since the beginning of the year, their collective worth fell by 42 percent, $263 billion.

Because Russia paid its most recent debt in rubles, Moody’s Investors Service may consider Russia in default if it doesn’t pay the $650 million in dollars by May 4. Standard & Poor’s already declared Russia in “selective default.” Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the government will “go to court” because it tried to pay the debt.

In the Washington Post, Aaron Blake gave four big times in the Ukrainian invasion in its first 52 days. The first one, of course, is the sinking of the Moskva last Thursday and another is the amazing leadership of Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky who managed to coalesce the world’s goodwill. A third one is China staying at arms-length from its former buddy Russia. China hasn’t voted against Russia in the UN, but it now typically abstains in votes opposing the country.

The fourth defining act is the movement of Finland and Sweden toward NATO membership. One of Putin’s goals for the invasion was to block any expansion of NATO, but he’s actually moving Sweden and Finland closer to joining the alliance. Russia warned the two countries it would reinforce the Baltic Sea region, including nuclear weapons. Article 5 of the 30-country NATO stating that an armed attack on one member is an attack on all. Russia’s preemptive attack on Ukraine makes this agreement inviting.

The two countries may make a decision by the end of summer, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced plans for a much larger, permanent military presence on its borders with Russia. Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov threatened both countries with “confrontation” if they join NATO along with a Russian foreign ministry threat of “serious military and political consequences”; the threats only strengthen their joining NATO for protection. Finland’s membership would more than double Russia’s current land border with member states. Both countries have maintained an uneasy neutrality with Russia while avoiding total Soviet domination, but Ukraine’s invasion has changed the conversation toward security with NATO.

But what happens if the Putin-wing blocks Finland from joining NATO? By the first week of April, 70 percent of people consider Putin an enemy of the country, up over 30 points from the 41 percent just three months earlier. Both parties pretty much agree—72 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans. In the third week of March only seven percent have a favorable opinion of Russia and six percent have confidence in Putin, compared to 72 percent who believe in Zelensky. About Russia, 92 percent have an unfavorable view.

Permission to join NATO comes only from unanimous approval of all members, and U.S. requires approval from two-thirds of senators to ratify acceptance. In 1999, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary joined, and in 2004, seven former communist countries, once part of the Soviet Union, became NATO members. The latter vote was 96 to 0 in the Senate, but the earlier vote was 80 to 19 after much uncertainty. An amendment from Sen. John Warner (R-VA) barring new NATO admissions for three years received 41 votes, over one-third of the Senate. Last week, over 30 percent of House Republicans voted against support for NATO.

Except for the far-right wing, people in the U.S. are demanding Putin be tried for his alleged war crimes in Ukraine. The process would take him to the International Criminal Court (ICC), but neither Russia nor the U.S. are among the 123 members belong to the ICC. Like Iran, Sudan, and China, the U.S. refused to sign the Rome Statute, the treaty establishing the ICC. DDT even sanctioned court staff members for completing their jobs. In creating the Nuremberg trials after World War II, the U.S. took leadership in litigating crimes against humanity. Now it’s gone.

Anyone accused of a crime in the jurisdiction of the court, which includes countries that are members of the ICC, can be tried. Only people, not countries, can be tried, and the ICC concentrates on those leaders and officials with the most responsibility. Ukraine has accepted ICC jurisdiction, and Putin could be indicted for previously ordering war crimes in Crimea although he would have to be present—which is unlikely. Because 39 countries requested the crimes, the ICC plans to look into alleged crimes in Ukraine since 2013. The ICC is also looking into crimes in Georgia and Syria. Conservatives will never approve joining ICC because they are afraid the U.S. will also be charged with crimes against humanity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion is causing many Ukrainians to abandon Russia in both language and culture. His defense for attacking the country and killing as many Ukrainians a possible—that Ukraine is just a part of Russia—is disappearing in the rejection of “Russky Mir” or “Russian World.” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Russian language is now associated with crimes, deportations, “explosions and killings” where Russian “has always been a part of everyday life.” He added that Russia is inadvertently doing everything to “ensure that de-Russification takes place” in Ukraine.

Russia is determined to flatten Ukraine’s buildings and kill its civilians. In the western city of Irpin, population 60,000, the mayor said Russian forces have damaged or destroyed over 70 percent of buildings: 115 buildings were completely destroyed, 698 were significantly damaged, and 187 were partially damaged.

Ukraine reported that Russian soldiers stole radioactive substances from two laboratories at Chernobyl and contaminated their military equipment through carelessness. The Chernobyl power station was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986. In the north, authorities found the remains of chemical weapons in Russian-occupied Bilka.

After European nations stocked up on gas from Russia, its gas giant Gazprom stopped all deliveries to Europe though the Yamal-Europe pipeline because Europe is limiting Russia’s access to the international financial system. UK’s economic sanctions on Russia also cuts off the country from Russian gas. Earlier this week, Russian oil and gas production fell below 10 million barrels per day from its previous 29 million barrels.   

Throughout the past 52 days, the people of Ukraine have displayed heart and courage. Rinat Akhmetov, owner of Mariupol’s steelwork factories and the country’ wealthiest man, praised Zelensky and said, “We will rebuild the entire Ukraine.”

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