UKRAINE WAR UPDATE . Financial Times: “Ukraine claims it’s killed almost 3,000 Russian soldiers in the first 36 hours of the invasion. As ever, you have to take these things with a grain of salt, but anything even remotely close to that number would be stunning – the US lost 4,431 in two decades in Iraq.”
However, a warning from the Associated Press: “In the fog of war, it was unclear how much of Ukraine remains under Ukrainian control and how much or little Russian forces have seized.”
“Outmanned Ukrainian forces are holding on to their capital after resisting an overnight onslaught that included explosions and bursts of gunfire,” the Washington Post reports. “As fighting receded during daylight hours, Kyiv was still in Ukrainian government hands.”
“Ukraine’s defense forces, outmanned and outgunned, waged a ferocious resistance to the Russian invasion on Saturday, battling to keep control of the capital, Kyiv, and other cities,” the New York Times reports. “There was intense street fighting, and bursts of gunfire and explosions could be heard across Kyiv.”
Wall Street Journal: “On the third day of the war that Russian President Vladimir Putin unleashed with the aim of overthrowing Ukraine’s elected government and ending its alignment with the West, Ukrainian forces fought fiercely on all fronts, with each side asserting it had inflicted heavy losses on the other.”
New York Times: “As Russian troops entered Kyiv on Friday, Ukraine’s military began arming civilians to help defend the capital.”
“Scores of residents stood in line to pick up assault rifles at a distribution center in central Kyiv after President Volodymyr Zelensky called for volunteers to take up arms.”
New York Times: “On the first day of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, his generals and troops followed a textbook strategy for land invasions. They attacked the country’s military installations and air defense systems with missiles launched from the air, sea and land, seeking to take ownership of the skies, and sped forces to Kyiv, the capital, with the goal of decapitating the government of the democratically elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky.”
“But then, things slowed. It is one thing to cross the border of another country with tanks and artillery, protected by warplanes above, Pentagon officials and analysts say. It is another thing entirely to lay siege to cities and an army populated by people willing to put their lives on the line to protect what they view as their sovereign right to self-determination.”
“Within a day of entering Ukraine, Russian forces lost some momentum, senior American and British officials said, as Ukrainian fighters mounted a resistance.”
“Russia on Friday rejected talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and made it clear that it was seeking to topple his democratically elected government,” the New York Times reports.
Said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov: “What we’re talking about is preventing Nazis and those who push methods of genocide to rule in this country. Right now, the regime that is located in Kyiv is under two mechanisms of external control: first, the West, led by the United States, and secondly, neo-Nazis.”
SWIFT SANCTIONS. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in new remarks on Saturday that he had spoken with the leaders of Britain, Poland, Turkey and several other nations as he sought to rally an “antiwar coalition” against Russia, the New York Times reports.
President Biden late Friday ordered the release of up to $350 million for military aid for Ukraine, The Hill reports.
The U.S. is planning to impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin as soon as Friday, CNN reports. Additional Russian officials are likely to be included.
“The U.S. Treasury Department is looking at imposing sanctions against Russia’s central bank, a move that would seek to dramatically ramp up the financial isolation of Russia,” the Washington Post reports.
“The Biden administration and its key European allies have reached a preliminary agreement to bar sanctioned Russian companies, oligarchs and government officials from using the SWIFT system, essentially barring them from international financial transactions — but without interfering with gas deliveries to European nations,” the New York Times reports.
“The agreement, referred to in general terms by German officials and confirmed by American and European diplomats, falls short of a blanket cutoff of Russia from the financial messaging system, which some officials see as a nuclear option of sorts. Such a move would have essentially severed Russia from much of the global financial system.”
British transport minister Grant Shapps said in a tweet on Friday that no Russian private jet can fly in UK airspace or touch down, effective immediately, Reuters reports.
“The main Kremlin website and other Russian government websites were inaccessible Saturday amid reports of cyberattacks targeting Moscow in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Lawrence Freedman: “We now know that the Ukrainians are serious about defending their country and are resilient. They have not been rolled over. A quick fait accompli would have helped Putin a lot.”
“For example, the design and implementation of Western sanctions would have felt very different if it was against the backdrop of Russia apparently walking over Ukraine. It would have provided the opponents of anything too punitive with an argument that while what happened to Ukraine was a tragedy it was a situation about which little could be done, and so expensive gestures were pointless.”
“Liquor stores and bars in North America are pulling Russian vodka off their shelves — and in some cases, pouring it down the drain — in protest of the country’s invasion of Ukraine,” the Miami Herald reports.
“European soccer’s governing body on Friday voted to move this season’s Champions League final, the showcase game on the continent’s sporting calendar, to Paris as punishment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the New York Times reports.
RUSSIAN ISOLATION. “President Vladimir Putin has ushered in a crisis for his country — in its economy and identity,” the New York Times reports. “The Kremlin is hiding the reality of the country’s attack on Ukraine from its own people, even cracking down on news outlets that call it a ‘war.’”
“But the economic carnage and societal turmoil wrought by Mr. Putin’s invasion is becoming increasingly difficult to obscure.”
The Economist: “The sombre, shamed mood in Moscow could hardly be more different from the euphoria that gripped it in 2014 when Mr Putin seized and annexed Crimea. Then Russian society swelled with pride. Even those who recognised that the annexation was illegal admitted that the bloodless operation had been well executed. Mr Putin’s sagging popularity rating soared.”
“This time opinion polls by Levada, an independent pollster, show that the country is divided, with less than half of the population supporting Mr Putin’s recognition of two Potemkin republics in Ukraine–a precursor to the war. There are no public displays of support for Mr Putin’s invasion.”
Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, told a Russian TV station that relations with the West “have reached the line after which the point of no return begins.” Oh, I agree. Russia is now a pariah state that must be isolated and punished. It is now the enemy of the world. There is no going back.
Zoya Sheftalovich: “Russians know how to suffer, of course. They are used to it. Famine, war, death — these are not hypothetical, far-away, historical things. Even those born as recently as in the ’80s remember being cold and hungry, remember empty shelves and petrol pumps. But during those Soviet years, Russians were suffering for what many saw as the great good.”
“Will Russians suffer for Putin and his cronies? Will they suffer for a man who lives in a golden palace, and who hasn’t been seen for days? How long will Russians continue buying into this war — a war they know Putin started, despite what their TVs might be telling them? How long will they watch videos of Ukrainian soldiers telling Russian warships to go fuck themselves in their common tongue?”
EUROPEAN REACTION. “Germany will send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine, marking a complete reversal in Berlin’s restrictive arms export policy,” Axios reports.
Washington Post: “The move raised hopes of a broader increase in the flow of weaponry to Ukraine, since Germany is a major arms manufacturer that until now has prevented other European countries from sending German-made equipment to Kyiv.”
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shocked the former Soviet satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe, drawing strong condemnation even from the region’s most pro-Kremlin politicians,” the AP reports.
“For some of the countries that fled the Soviet bloc following a series of anti-communist revolutions more than 30 years ago, footage of tanks and troops rolling in to punish a nation trying to pursue its own independent course looks painfully familiar.”
PUTIN’S MISCALCULATION. New Yorker: “In the eyes of the world and almost certainly history, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday was an epic miscalculation, drawing comparisons to Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein for cold-blooded aggression that could challenge the world order and change its borders.”
THE HERO OF UKRAINE. “The U.S. government is prepared to help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky leave Kyiv to avoid being captured or killed by advancing Russian forces,” the Washington Post reports. “But so far, the president has refused to go.”
“As the Russian military ratcheted up its attacks on Friday, a defiant Zelensky pledged to remain in charge of his government despite grave personal risk.”
Franklin Foer: “When Zelensky rejected Washington’s offer of exile, he wasn’t making an obvious decision. After Germany invaded France, Charles de Gaulle made his way to London. Or to take a more recent example: Afghan president Ashraf Ghani boarded a helicopter out of Kabul the moment he heard a rumor that the Taliban had entered the city. And, really, who could blame them? Most human beings would rather not have their enemies hang their corpse from a traffic light, the sort of historic antecedent that is hard to shake from the mind.”
“In Ukraine, the decision for a leader to flee would be the expected choice. It’s what his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, did in the aftermath of the revolution in 2014, leaving behind his palace filled with exotic cars and ostriches for the safety of Moscow. The enduring failure of Ukrainian democracy has been the gap between the code of behavior that applies to the elite and the one that the rest of the country must follow. It’s been the elites who profit off the state, who stash their ill-gotten fortunes in French villas and Cypriot bank accounts, while their compatriots have stagnated. By staying put, Zelensky has erased this gap. There’s no airlift awaiting his fellow residents, so rather than accepting the perk of his position, he’s suffering in the same terror and deprivation that they are forced to endure.”
Jonathan Last: “He declined an offer of evacuation from the United States. Ukrainian forces held Kyiv into Saturday morning and Zelensky emerged onto the streets of the capital, walking with his countrymen. This is a level of personal bravery that we are utterly unaccustomed to seeing from heads of state. Zelensky’s conduct over the last few weeks—which has been utterly extraordinary—has substantially buttressed Ukraine’s resolve. He has become more than a man. More than a leader. He has become a symbol.”
“What we are witnessing is the emergence of a figure who will become a key part of Ukrainian history for the next century. There will be statues of him all over the country. Ukrainians will name their children after him. This is like watching another country’s Washington or Churchill emerge in real time.”
“I hope we all appreciate how special this is. And how rare. Because normally when world-historical figures emerge, it’s because they’re bad guys.”
SUPREME COURT NOMINEE. New York Times: “The White House decided to go ahead with the announcement — which the president had promised by the end of the month — even though news of the war raging in Ukraine is dominating cable television and internet news sites.”
“Officials hope that the historic nature of the step, nominating the first Black woman to the court, will allow the news to break through and attract attention this weekend, though they acknowledge the importance of the war coverage as well. Announcing his choice now allows Mr. Biden to highlight her nomination during his State of the Union Address on Tuesday.”
Also of note, from Politico: “It is two years to the day that then-candidate Biden announced on the South Carolina debate stage that he was going to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court.”
“Senate Republicans signaled they have no intention of turning the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court into an ugly partisan fight, focusing their energies instead on using President Biden’s pick to try to rally conservative voters heading into the midterm elections,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
BUT HER EMAILS. “Some of the presidential records recovered from former president Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago are so sensitive they may not be able to be described in forthcoming inventory reports in an unclassified way,” the Washington Post reports.
CHINA. A U.S. warship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Saturday, part of what the U.S. military calls routine activity but which China described as “provocative,” Reuters reports.
Politico: “Beijing isn’t cheering on a land war in Europe, but it’s not altogether unhappy that the result might be to divert U.S. attention and resources allocated to the Indo-Pacific, where Washington has been aggressively working to offset a perceived growing Chinese regional security threat.”
BIDEN AND THE INTELLIGENCE WAS RIGHT. New York Times: “The success of American intelligence in reading Mr. Putin and stripping away any element of surprise is one of the most striking developments of the crisis and has had substantial implications as the conflict has exploded into bloodshed.”
“It was not enough in the end to deter Mr. Putin from carrying out the broad assault that got underway early on Thursday.”
“But the depth and quality of the American intelligence strengthened President Biden’s hand in bringing the trans-Atlantic alliance into a unified front against Moscow. It provided time to prepare waves of sanctions and other steps to impose a cost on Russia, dispatch troops to bolster NATO allies and move Americans out of harm’s way.”
TRUMP DIRECTED GEORGIA FAKE ELECTORS PLOT. “The chairman of the Republican Party in Georgia on Friday told the House select committee investigating the January 6 riot that the Trump campaign had directed the party in 2020 to put forward an alternate slate of electors after then-President Donald Trump lost the state’s vote,” CNN reports.
RUSSIAN TROLLS. New York Times: “The online conversations reflect how pro-Russia sentiment has increasingly penetrated Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, right-wing podcasts, messaging apps like Telegram and some conservative media. As Russia attacked Ukraine this week, those views spread, infusing the online discourse over the war with sympathy — and even approval — for the aggressor.”
“The positive Russia rhetoric is an extension of the culture wars and grievance politics that have animated the right in the United States in the past few years.”
BEING BLIND TO PUTIN. Wall Street Journal: “Fifteen years ago, the former KBG agent railed against U.S. domination of global affairs and assailed the post-Cold War security order as a threat to his country. In the years that followed, he grabbed portions of Georgia, annexed Crimea and sent troops in Ukraine’s Donbas region.”
“Mr. Putin sent repeated signals that he intended to widen Russia’s sphere of influence and cast the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s eastward expansion as an existential threat to Moscow’s security. He made plain he viewed Ukraine as part of Russia.”
“Yet until recently few Western leaders imagined Mr. Putin would go through with a full-scale invasion, having miscalculated his determination to use force—on a scale that recalls the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968—to restore Russian control over the nations on its periphery.”
The infamous Florida bill that would ban “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” passed the state’s Republican-controlled House on Thursday.
It’s expected to become law. The GOP-controlled Senate is poised to pass the bill, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has publicly backed the legislation.
The bill’s sponsor insists it’s about “parental rights,” a thing conservatives cherish deeply unless the parents in question have a trans kid.
Speaking of which, the five Texas district attorneys in the state’s largest counties announced yesterday that they have no interest in following Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) directive to prosecute parents who allow their kids to get gender-affirming care.