Russia/Ukraine INTSUM 02MAR22–2; 1405 Eastern/2105 Kyiv
[Originally posted on author’s Facebook page; post is publicly available.]
1.) In the diplomatic world, Bulgaria has announced that it is expelling two Russian diplomats it has accused of spying. Two days ago, the US expelled 12 Russian diplomats at the UN over the same allegations, who are expected to leave NLT 07 March 2022. Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said of the latter expulsion that it’s just another “hostile” act and that “This is sad news and again another demonstration of gross disrespect to the host country agreement.”
1.a.) The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as demanding the cessation of hostilities by Russia. The vote tallies: 141 in favor, 5 against, 35 abstentions. Those against: Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Eritrea, the Syrian Arab Republic, and…Russia. While this resolution has no real teeth whatsoever, it is a hefty symbolic hit to Russia’s reputation and global standing.
1.b.) Reuters is reporting that, according to TASS, Georgia will submit its EU membership application on Thursday. Firstly, that sounds convoluted because citing a TASS report seems problematic; it’s a Russian news agency, so I’d prefer to go with something more credible. Secondly, Georgia has already approved plans to apply for EU membership by 2024. It’s significant that, reportedly, the ruling party might seek to speed up its entry — likely as a result of recent events — but this was in their plans beforehand and does not represent a tectonic shift in Georgia’s intentions.
1.c.) Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been understandably active lately. Yesterday, while addressing the UN Human Rights Council (remotely) — an address during which virtually all attendees left — he claimed Ukrainian human rights violations against Russians in Ukraine as justification for Russia’s invasion and denounced the shipment of weapons to Ukraine by the West. This happened about an hour after most attendees left his speech at the UN Disarmament Conference, during which he claimed that Ukraine was attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. “Ukraine still possesses Soviet nuclear technologies and the means to deliver such weapons, and we cannot fail to respond to this real danger,” he said, reading from some papers and looking into the camera. Further, he can assure us that Russia is a responsible member of the international community, “committed to its obligations regarding non-proliferation…” Russia, he says, is taking all measures necessary to keep Ukraine from acquiring nuclear weapons. Today, Lavrov reminded everyone that a Third World War would involve nuclear weapons and that it would be destructive, both sentiments considered by this analyst as being candidates for Understatements of the Year. The repeated talk and spectre of nuclear arms is a traditional go-to of Russian foreign policy, because Russia knows that it gets attention. Rightfully so. While yes, a confrontation between NATO and Russia may well devolve into the lobbing of large missiles containing multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs), this is possibly just another reminder by Russia for the West to stay out of Ukraine, especially with the recent talk in the media regarding Zelenskyy’s request for a “no-fly zone.” Western leaders should, without question, be diligent and take the necessary precautions, but the situation isn’t to the point of grave concern.
2.) UA Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant General Valerii Zaluzhnyi has stated that the Armed Forces of Ukraine have secured Makariv in the Kyiv Oblast, directly west of Kyiv. This further complicates RU’s attempts to fully encircle Kyiv, which seems to be running into significant problems. In other news, it’s being widely reported that Kherson has, indeed, fallen to Russian forces. One report suggested that it was handed over after negotiations between UA and RU officials in the city. I suspect, though, that it remains contested and that UA forces there are organized and being directed. I could be wrong, but I’m awaiting some more information regarding the city’s fate.
3.) A document from Russian troops seems to indicate that the invasion of Ukraine was approved on 18 January, was scheduled to begin on 20 February, and that Russian forces were expected to seize the country by 06 March. An image of the document was posted along with an incident marker on the very informative and excellent liveuamap[.]com, and several other images of this document posted on some Twitter feeds. I’ve looked at them, and they do appear to have the veneer of legitimacy. I’d love to know where and how they were acquired from a document/media exploitation (DOMEX) and chain of custody perspective. They include what seem to be battle plans for a landing of the 177th Separate Regiment Marines with the intent of taking Melitopol. I cannot confirm the providence or veracity of this document, but given everything that’s been known about this conflict from well before it started, this seems plausible. I had picked on or about 20 February as the date which this would begin, though I’m no genius in that regard. What seems less plausible, in hindsight, is the two-week window Russia evidently gave itself to subdue Ukraine. Kharkiv was expected to fall in two days. Suffice it to say, very little has gone as Russia has planned. No plan survives contact with the enemy, as the saying goes.
4.) UA citizens, using trucks and, apparently, their actual bodies, were earlier reported as having blocked RU access to Energodar, a city on the Dnieper and which contains the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest in Europe. This is another city that the Russians claimed to have captured several days ago, but which was later refuted. The amount of people and the barricading is pretty impressive based on the drone video I’ve seen. There appear to be multiple garbage trucks and a lot of sandbags. A recent video, however, allegedly shows RU forces firing on those civilians. Injuries are reported but not confirmed.
5.) Reporting today by Michael Weiss and Courtney Dobson, both with New Lines Magazine, suggest that the EU fighter jet subject has not definitively been solved one way or the other. It seems that Ukraine might have jumped the gun by stating that Polish MiG-29s would be transferred from Poland, with one report on the day of the announcement suggesting they could be there “within the hour.” Clearly, this was not the case. Ukrainian pilots are, evidently, in Poland working on paperwork for the possible transfer, but a Polish military official stated that “no decision at the political level has been made.” On a 01 March Facebook post, the Air Force Command of Ukraine stated that “if necessary…[the new UA MiG-29s would] be able to base themselves at Polish airports, from which Ukrainian pilots will perform combat tasks.” Regardless of whether or not these planes are transferred, I can say with a high degree of certainty that element will not be happening any time soon. UA planes sortieing from NATO territory to engage RU forces is a non-starter. This would absolutely switch Poland, and perhaps all of NATO, firmly inside the realm of co-combatants. Giving the weapons is one thing, albeit one thing the Russians do not like and protest heavily, but basing them there is another altogether.
6.) Yet another update on the large convoy supposedly heading to Kyiv, an unnamed senior US defense official said: “They are not moving at any rate that would lead one to believe they’ve solved their problems. So we would characterize it as stalled.” US believes Ukrainian troops are “targeting” said convoy. That said, a reporter covering the Pentagon states that “Russia has become more aggressive in targeting infrastructure in Ukraine,” and “Increase in missiles and artillery targeting Kyiv.” Both of these statements are very clearly borne out in video and photography. This will likely continue in the short term as RU attempts to rectify its issues with moving troops and other forces around Kyiv.
Edit: 7.) As usually happens, a few minutes after I update the INTSUM, something interesting takes place. Reportedly, four Russian fighters, 2 x Su-27 Flanker and 2 x Su-24 Fencers violated Swedish airspace near the island of Gotland, which is off the Swedish mainland’s east coast and in the Baltic Sea. While not entirely without precedence, this instance is significant due to the current tensions in the area between Russia and other European nations. One source stated that Sweden and Finland are conducting joint exercises with FA-18s and JAS-39 fighters over the island, but I’m not able to confirm that.
More to follow. Thanks for reading.