Monday Reads: Me thinks Putin bit off more than he could chew

Bandera cats at war in the Donbas (photo report) has many pics and stories of ‘trench kitties”.

Well, it’s Monday Sky Dancers!

It’s hard not to be drawn into the war porn blasting endlessly on the normal cable news channels just like the last few wars that were broadcast live.  This one feels different.  It also looks different. There are aspects to this war that bring it home to white Europeans and Americans more than images from places like Somalia or Afghanistan. This is something we should deconstruct.

Most Ukrainians are middle class, urban, and as the Russians who are fighting them mention:  “they look like us”.  Maybe it’s tribal and racist, maybe it’s because most of us grew up seeing pictures and videos of both the World Wars in Europe and all the bombings of cities great and small, but this one is hitting home and it’s getting results, unlike many recent wars.  My guess is that it’s a mix of all that and it damn-well could start World War 3 with possible use of Nukes at its worse.  All these countries have or have had Nukes.

I did feel awful watching the result of Orange Caligula abandoning our Kurdish allies and also the results of him carelessly leaving a mess to Biden when troops left Afghanistan. But this one, this naked aggression in the birthplace of many wars is just on another level altogether. Then there’s the border and kids in cages.  I really felt that I had numbed up to the absolute cruelty of men in power.  The other thing that is different is that I have friends all over the region and I speak to them daily as we play games online.  I can actually ask my friend in Hungary about the refugees pouring into the region or my friend in Ukraine who is in a small city with no fighting who is worried about his small daughter and elderly mother. The internet has brought me cyber neighbors in the region.

And, yes, we’re having a bonus show of Cats and Dogs at War because I can’t handle all the pictures of families scattering yet again and children of war clinging to their pets, their stuffed animals, and each other.  I do have one thought though.  Putin should have thought this over and looked back to history. Ukraine is the historical home of the Cossacks and when part of Russia brought the Russian army its fiercest fighters.   Ukraine also has the highest number of women in its military of any country. ” Why Are Cossacks Key to Understanding the Ukrainian Nation?”

The Ukrainian Cossack has come to symbolize Ukraine’s ethnic image, much like the medieval knight of Western Europe or the Samurai of Japan. In fact, only a minority of Ukrainians belonged to this famed social group – but their influence on history, culture, and the psychology of the country was deeply profound. If you know the history of the Cossacks, you won’t be surprised to find that Ukrainians, who seem quiet and humble at first sight, can go to protest on Maidan and become courageous warriors.

You may read about this history at the link as well as watch a BBC documentary.  It’s fascinating.

Whatever the reason, the majority of the world is behind the Ukrainian people are like siding with David over Goliath. Their young President has risen to the event and has managed to get countries to send all kinds of things to his peoples and armies. The Washington Post reports “The war in Ukraine isn’t working out the way Russia intended. Tactical blunders and fierce resistance from the Ukrainians risk ensnaring the Russians in a protracted conflict, military experts as.”

The war in Ukraine isn’t going Russia’s way.

Videos posted on social media show whole columns of tanks and armored vehicles have been wiped out. Others have been stopped in their tracks by ordinary Ukrainians standing on the street to block their advance.

Lightly armed units propelled deep into the country without support have been surrounded and their soldiers captured or killed. Warplanes have been shot out of the skies and helicopters have been downed, according to Ukrainian and U.S. military officials.

Logistics supply chains have failed, leaving troops stranded on roadsides to be captured because their vehicles ran out of fuel.

Most critically, Russia has proved unable to secure air superiority over the tiny Ukrainian air force — despite having the second-largest air force in the world, Pentagon officials say. Its troops have yet to take control of any significant city or meaningful chunk of territory, a senior U.S. defense official said Sunday.

On Sunday, a Russian attempt to seize control of the city of Kharkiv, less than 30 miles from the Russian border, was repelled. A fresh push toward the capital, Kyiv, came to a smoking end in the suburb of Irpin, where videos posted on social media showed the charred remains of Russian tanks and armored vehicles strewn around the streets while Ukrainian soldiers removed weapons from the bodies of dead Russians.

There are weapons and fighters on their way from the EU. Finland is discussing if they should join NATO. Russian access to international financial markets is declining rapidly as new sanctions are added daily. Values of Russian financial asset markets and their currency have fallen off a cliff. There have been two specific actions that have left me speechless.  First, BP Oil dumped an incredibly profitable project as reported by WaPo: “BP to ‘exit’ its $14 billion stake in Russian oil giant in stark sign that Western business is breaking ties over Ukraine invasion
BP’s role in the oil company had been one of the most significant Western investments in Russia ever.”  They basically walked away from billions of dollars.

British oil giant BP said Sunday that it is “exiting” its $14 billion stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in one of the biggest signs yet that the Western business world is cutting ties over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

BP, which reportedly came under pressure from the British government to sever the Rosneft relationship, also said its current and former chief executives — Bernard Looney and Bob Dudley — have resigned from the Russian company’s board “with immediate effect.”

The abrupt divorce is another sign of the uncertainty Russia’s invasion has created in the energy industry, which experienced wild swings in oil and gas prices last week as the attack began. BP’s 19.75 percent stake in Rosneft accounted for a third of the British company’s oil and gas production and more than half of its reserves.

“Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an act of aggression which is having tragic consequences across the region. BP has operated in Russia for over 30 years, working with brilliant Russian colleagues. However, this military action represents a fundamental change. It has led the BP board to conclude, after a thorough process, that our involvement with Rosneft, a state-owned enterprise, simply cannot continue,” BP chair Helge Lund said in a statement Sunday.

The announcement marks the end of one of the Western world’s largest investments in Russia, seen as so politically important that Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair personally attended a signing ceremony for a key part of the deal in 2003. At that meeting, Putin called the BP-Russia deal “a reflection of the positive trends in Russia’s investment climate.”

The single most breath-taking act by a country that this financial economist with an undergraduate degree in European History was taken by the Swiss today.  This is written by  Nick Cumming-Bruce for the New York Times: “Switzerland says it will freeze Russian assets, setting aside a tradition of neutrality.  ”

Switzerland, a favorite destination for Russian oligarchs and their money, announced on Monday that it would freeze Russian financial assets in the country, setting aside a deeply rooted tradition of neutrality to join the European Union and a growing number of nations seeking to penalize Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.

After a meeting with the Swiss Federal Council, Switzerland’s president, Ignazio Cassis, said that the country would immediately freeze the assets of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail V. Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, as well as all 367 individuals sanctioned last week by the European Union.

Switzerland said it was departing from its usual policy of neutrality because of “the unprecedented military attack by Russia on a sovereign European state,” but expressed a willingness to help mediate in the conflict. It also joined European neighbors in closing its airspace to Russian aircraft, except for humanitarian or diplomatic purposes. But said it would evaluate whether to join in subsequent E.U. sanctions on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. Lavrov, who was scheduled to be in Geneva on Tuesday to address the United Nations Human Rights Council, will no longer make the trip because of the flight ban, Russia’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva said on Twitter.

Obviously, lessons learned about 1938, Neville Chamberlin, and events like Kristallnacht have not been forgotten anywhere on the continent.  Germany gave up access to a natural gas pipeline. Belgium is cutting access to Russia to its Financial Messaging network Swift.  New sanctions fall into these areas.

Details: The commitments agreed to by the U.S., EU, France, Germany, Italy, U.K. and Canada on Saturday fall into five main categories, according to a joint statement.

  1. Disconnect select Russian banks from SWIFT, a move that a senior Biden administration official referred to as the “Iran model.”

  2. Undermine the Russian Central Bank’s ability to defend the ruble.

  3. Limit the sale of so-called “golden passports” that allow wealthy Russians to become citizens of Western countries and exploit their financial systems.

  4. Launch a trans-Atlantic task force to hunt down the assets of sanctioned Russians in order to ensure the penalties are enforced.

  5. Step up coordination of against Russian disinformation and other forms of hybrid warfare.

We’ll try to keep up with the headlines this week including Biden’s SOTU speech Tuesday Night.  I think I can safely say we’re all pulling for the people, animals, and democracy of Ukraine.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Sunday Reads: Now go to eternity.

Cartoons are from the Cagle website…

Some tweets:

From the link:

A group of scientists from the Nationwide Academy of Sciences of Ukraine sheltering in a Kharkiv on Saturday night, said that the situation on the ground is looking dire.

They wrote in an email that a kindergarten and a hospital had been bombed and children killed. “There are many saboteurs who paint fluorescent labels for missiles on residential buildings. They are on the roofs of houses, on the gas pipes of ordinary high-rise buildings. This is an absolute horror and a reality that is hard to believe even today,” they said.

Take a look at this video at the link:

This is an open thread.

Lazy Caturday Reads

Mariia Pryimachenko, Wild Cat

Mariia Pryimachenko, Wild Cat

Good Morning!!

NOTE: Today’s cat paintings are by Ukrainian artists.

Putin’s attack on Ukraine is not going as smoothly as he probably hoped. In fact he looks isolated by most of the world and is even getting negative feedback from the Russian people and from close neighbor and ally Kazakhstan.

Peter Alexander at NBC News: One of Russia’s closest allies denies request for troops.

Kazakhstan, one of Russia’s closest allies and a southern neighbor, is denying a request for its troops to join the offensive in Ukraine, officials said Friday.

Additionally, the former Soviet republic said it is not recognizing the Russia-created breakaway republics upheld by Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, as a pretext for its aggression in Ukraine.

Despite ceasefire accords covering the disputed land, Putin on Monday declared Russia’s recognition of Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) as independent states.

The surprising development from a traditional ally of Russia has the support of the United States.

“We welcome Kazakhstan’s announcement that they will not recognize the LPR and DPR,” the National Security Council said in a statement. “We also welcome Kazakhstan’s refusal to send its forces to join Putin’s war in Ukraine.”

At home in Russia, Putin is struggling to put down popular antiwar protests.

The Economist: Russians greet Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine with dismay, not enthusiasm.

As the sun set over the Kremlin on the first day of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Moscow felt tense. Black cars with tinted windows, flashing lights and police escorts zipped around the city centre. Police vans pushed ordinary cars to the side of the road. It was as though Moscow itself was coming under attack.


Rimma and her cat, by Gubsky Igor

And the “attack” did come, a couple of hours later as several thousand people, mostly young, poured onto the streets holding signs condemning the war their president had unleashed against their brothers and sisters in Ukraine. They chanted, “Net voine” (“No to war”). The same words were splashed with paint on the glass doors of the Russian state Duma, the parliament that had almost unanimously supported the invasion.

The protesters’ faces were crestfallen, gripped by dismay and grief. And they were met with brutality. Helmeted riot police pushed them to the ground and bundled them into vans. Gregory Yudin, a sociologist and left-wing philosopher, was beaten and taken to a police cell before finally being transferred to hospital. On February 24th some 1,700 people were arrested, half of them in Moscow. But anti-war protests also rolled through the country from Siberia to St Petersburg, where more people were detained the following day….

Journalists, artists, celebrities, rockstars and bloggers have been speaking out. “Fear and pain,” wrote Ivan Urgant, a popular host on state-owned television, on his Instagram. Monetochka (“Little coin”), a pop star, published a photo of her own face, weeping, with a sign: “So ashamed!” So far there have been no resignations among senior officials, but neither has there been any enthusiasm for war. Sergei Utkin, a security expert who had previously peddled the Kremlin’s line on foreign policy, wrote on Twitter, “My country is committing a horrible crime in Ukraine that can have no justification…We all bear a part of responsibility. There is no good way out of that.”

A petition against the war has gathered 500,000 signatures in a single day, and is growing. Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s main pro-opposition newspaper, came out in two languages, Russian and Ukrainian. Its editor, Dmitry Muratov, the most recent winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, wrote that Mr Putin “is spinning a nuclear button around his finger like some expensive car key chain…But we can never recognise Ukraine as an enemy. And never will.”

In Kyiv, former comedian and now Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky is turning out to be an inspirational leader.

CNN: Zelensky refuses US offer to evacuate, saying ‘I need ammunition, not a ride.’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has turned down an offer from the United States of evacuation from the capital city Kyiv, the Ukraine embassy in Britain said Saturday on Twitter.

“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” Zelensky told the US, according to the embassy.

“Ukrainians are proud of their President,” the tweet adds.

Cat in the Strawberry, dedicated to Mariia Pryimachenko, by Olesya Kaznokh

Cat in the Strawberry, dedicated to Mariia Pryimachenko, by Olesya Kaznokh

In a video posted on Saturday morning entitled “do not believe the fakes,” Zelensky revealed that he is still in Kyiv.

“I am here. We are not putting down arms. We will be defending our country, because our weapon is truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this,” he said.

“That is it. That’s all I wanted to tell you. Glory to Ukraine,” he added….

“According to our information, the enemy marked me as target №1, my family – as target №2,” Zelensky said Thursday.

“They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state. We have information that enemy sabotage groups have entered Kyiv.”

An American businessman with close ties to Volodymyr Zelensky says the Ukrainian president was “calm and businesslike” when they talked yesterday, even as Russian troops pressed on toward Kyiv and the volume of rocket attacks on the capital soared.

“He seemed reluctant to leave the country,” said the businessman, who has extensive projects in the country and asked not to be identified because of the fraught security situation.

“U.S. officials were urging him to leave. He feared he’d never be able to come back.”

Zelensky’s position hardened Friday when he posted a defiant video in which he said he and his government were “defending our independence” from the Russian invasion.

“We are all here,” he said, surrounded by senior advisers and his prime minister.

“Our troops are here, citizens are here. All of us are here protecting the independence of our country.

“And it will continue to be this way.”

On Thursday evening he told European Union leaders “this might be the last time you see me alive,” according to Axios.

Reports on the progress of Putin’s attack:

The New York Times: Russia’s Assault in Ukraine Slows After an Aggressive Start.

The Fat Cat, by Olena Kamenetska-Ostapchuk

The Fat Cat, by Olena Kamenetska-Ostapchuk

On the first day of President Vladimir V. 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. No population centers had been taken, a senior Defense Department official told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday. Nor had Russia yet managed to achieve air superiority over Ukraine, partly because the Ukrainians are using mobile systems and partly because Russian missiles have hit old air defense sites, which could show a flaw in Russia’s intelligence. The Ukrainian air defense and missile defense systems were degraded, he said, but the country’s air force was still flying planes and denying air access to Russia.

In addition, officials said, Russia was conducting most of its initial operations during the day, suggesting that its ability to fight at night — a hallmark of the American military — was less effective.

Read the rest at the NYT.

From CNN this morning: Battle moves into Kyiv as Ukrainians fight to keep control of their capital.

Ukrainian troops held the capital Kyiv for the third day on Saturday, despite Russia’s stronger military power, after a night of fierce fighting that punctuated the city with sounds of explosions and gunfire.

The country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky remained defiant. Despite being a prime target in the invasion, he turned down a US offer of evacuation, the Ukraine embassy in Britain said Saturday on Twitter….

But as Russia’s war of aggression moves to the streets of the Ukrainian capital, with the country’s outnumbered and outgunned military continuing to hold back the invading forces in multiple locations, more reports are emerging of civilian infrastructure being hit.

Ukrainian folk art, artist unknown

Ukrainian folk art, artist unknown

Early Saturday, a large residential apartment block in the west of Kyiv was struck by a missile or rocket, as residents across the city were forced to seek shelter after a terrifying night of fighting.

Images and video from the scene showed a large impact some ten floors up in the building, with the cause of the strike unclear and the extent of casualties unknown. Several apartment units were blown out entirely, their outer walls and windows missing, leaving a gaping hole visible in the building’s side, as residents were evacuated.

“Active fighting is taking place on the streets of our city. Please stay calm and be as careful as possible!” the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said on its Facebook page Saturday, calling on residents to “hide indoors” and take cover to prevent injury from bullet fragments.

The resistance to Russia’s invasion has seen civilians prepare to defend their capital in recent days, with officials arming reservists with 18,000 guns and ammunition in Kyiv alone and Ukrainian TV broadcasting instructions for making Molotov cocktails.

Ukrainian troops are fighting against a significantly more advanced military power. Russian defense spending is roughly ten times that of Kyiv’s and its armed forces stand at some 900,000 active personnel and 2 million in reserve, versus Ukraine’s 196,000 and 900,000 reservists.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia has yet to gain control of Ukrainian airspace “greatly reducing the effectiveness of the Russian Air Force.” Russia has also faced “staunch resistance” from Ukrainian Armed Forces, it said in a Saturday intelligence update shared on Twitter.

But it stressed that the bulk of Russian forces are now only 18.6 miles from the center of Kyiv, warning that casualties are “likely to be heavy and greater than anticipated or acknowledged by the Kremlin.”

More Ukraine/Putin stories to check out:

The Economist on Biden’s sanctions: America has targeted Russia’s technological fabric.

Michael D. Weiss at Time: Even If Russia Wins, It Won’t Do So Easily.

Jason Stanley at The Guardian: The antisemitism animating Putin’s claim to ‘denazify’ Ukraine.

Max Seddon at Financial Times: Vladimir Putin, Russia’s resentful leader, takes the world to war.

Douglas McGrath at Air Mail with a terrific piece on the GOP worship of Trump and Putin: The View from Here. Ukraine is attacked and Trumpists swoon over Vlad the Invader. With global and U.S. democracy in peril, the G.O.P. is M.I.A.

Eric Wemple at The Washington Post: Opinion: How did Tucker Carlson turn into a Putin apologist?

I’ll add more news links in the comment thread. I hope you all have a nice weekend!

Friday Reads: The Honorable Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson gets the Nod!

Mariia Pryimachenko: Animals Visiting the Lion (1963).

It’s Friday Sky Dancers!

We need to recognize every step to inclusion in our and other democracies around the world today as every democratic government has experienced increasing threats from a radical and violent right-wing insurgency. I’m continuing BB’s sharing the work of Ukrainian artists today with more offerings. The majority of the world stands with Ukraine and its nascent democracy as Russian forces invade its borders.

First things first!  We now have Biden’s first nomination to the Supreme Court!  It’s the Honorable Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson who was always the clear favorite.  It will be so exciting to see a Black woman bring her experience and knowledge to this bench.  Let’s hope the Republicans on the Judiciary don’t continue to harass nominations that don’t represent their idea of proper demographics.

Nykyfor: Church in Mushyna.

This is from The Washington Post and includes live updates: “Biden calls Jackson ‘one of our nation’s brightest legal minds’ as he announces intent to nominate her to Supreme Court.”

Here’s what to know

Nykyfor: Portrait of a Man.

This is from Katie Rogers writing for The New York Times: “Biden Chooses Ketanji Brown Jackson for Supreme Court.”

President Biden has selected Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court, the administration said Friday, choosing a well-regarded federal appeals court judge who if confirmed would make history by becoming the first Black woman to serve as a justice.

Mr. Biden’s decision, made after a monthlong search, fulfilled a campaign vow to nominate a Black woman to the bench, and set into motion a confirmation battle that will play out in an evenly divided Senate.

One of several statements sent by the Republican National Committee this morning seeks to paint Judge Jackson as an elitist. The group said her past as a director of the Harvard Alumni Association raised “questions about her judgment,” in part because of a trip the group had planned to make to North Korea that was canceled during her tenure on the group’s board. Prospective participants were advised to “show respect” to Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader at the time, if they made the trip. It’s not clear whether Judge Jackson was involved in any way in planning the trip. Even so, it is a curious line of criticism, given the effusive public comments former President Donald J. Trump has frequently made about Kim Jong Un, the current North Korean leader and son of Kim Jong Il: “We fell in love,” Mr. Trump said of the younger Mr. Kim in 2018.

Kateryna Bilokur: Field on Collective Farm (1948-49).

The worst of the Republican trolling appears to come from Lady Lindsey who is pearl-clutching at her Harvard Credentials.  He didn’t seem to mind her the last time she was up for her current position  He also didn’t complain about Kavanaugh or Gorsuch’s Ivy League credentials when they were quickly shuffled to the High Court.  But, here he is!  This is from the New Civil Rights Movement:” ‘Absolute BS’: ‘Gaslighting’ Lindsey Graham Blasted for Denouncing Biden SCOTUS Pick as Proof ‘Radical Left Has Won’. It’s written by David Badash.

Judge Jackson has more experience on the bench than the combined experience of Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Elena Kagan, and Clarence Thomas when they were confirmed, as University of Texas Law law professor Steve Vladeck noted.

Regardless of Judge Jackson’s excellent qualifications (the White House has already published a microsite on her background) Senator Graham was furious – and is being roundly condemned for that outrage.

Many social media users noted Graham voted to confirm Judge Jackson twice, including as recently as June, so his outrage seems highly suspect.

Give them hell Your Honor!

Mariia Pryimachenko: The Autumn Riding on a Horse (1984).

Here are some of the latest headlines from the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.

Council of Europe suspends Russia’s rights of representation  —  In line with the Statute of the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers has today decided to suspend the Russian Federation from its rights of representation in the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly

From Philip Pullella at Reuters:Departing from protocol, pope goes to Russian embassy over Ukraine … Pope Francis went to the Russian embassy to the Holy See on Friday to relay his concern over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Moscow’s ambassador, in an unprecedented departure from diplomatic protocol.

From Barak Ravid at Axios: Zelensky to EU leaders: “This might be the last time you see me alive”  —  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told EU leaders “this might be the last time you see me alive” during a video conference on Thursday night, two European sources briefed on the call tell Axios.

Another great mid- 20th century actress has passed on.

The last few years have made me feel quite old.  I feel like the Post World War 1 and 2 eras have gone full cycle.

Take care of yourselves and each other!   We love you here and are glad we, as a community, can share all of this.

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?

Thursday Reads: And So It Begins…

Tenderness, by Ivan Marchuk

Tenderness, by Ivan Marchuk

Good Morning!!

The images in this post are by famous Ukrainian artists. You can read more about them at this Odessa Journal link.

Well it really happened last night. Russia attacked multiple Ukrainian cities. There is a massive amount of reporting and commentary; I can only offer a sampling.

Politico: Battles flare across Ukraine after Putin declares war.

After his declaration of war just before 6 a.m. Moscow-time, the Ukrainian government reported airstrikes at military facilities in the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipro, as well as artillery fire on the border. The authorities in Kyiv reported a pincer movement attack on its troops from Belarus to the north, potentially attempting an encirclement of Kyiv, and from Crimea to the south. Russia insisted it was destroying military bases and airfields, not civilian targets.

Ukraine warned that Moscow was turning to propaganda tricks by suggesting that Russian troops were not meeting resistance and by exhorting Ukrainians to lay down their weapons. Kyiv insisted that its troops were locked in heavy fighting, had shot down seven warplanes, destroyed dozens of armored vehicles and killed dozens of enemy soldiers. Fighting has drawn very close to Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office Oleksiy Arestovych vowed that the Russian forces would not reach the capital. “Fierce battles will be waiting for them there, we will stop them,” he was quoted as saying by local media.

In a sign of the desperate straits Ukraine is facing against a stronger adversary, however, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for a general mobilization. The country also put out an appeal for blood donors as news began to filter in of dozens of Ukrainian casualties across the country.

Kateryna Primachenko

By Kateryna Primachenko

U.S. President Joe Biden vowed a united response against the Russian attack by Washington and its allies, while U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said: “President Putin, in the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia. This conflict must stop now.” Later on Thursday, the EU is set to agree a sanctions package intended to weaken Putin’s ability to wage war, though there was no immediate sign that it would touch all-important energy revenues.

Earlier on Thursday, Zelenskiy imposed martial law and said he had contacted Biden to co-ordinate an international response. “Today we need calm from each of you. Stay at home if possible. We are working, the army is working, the whole security apparatus of Ukraine is working.” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for “devastating” sanctions on Russia and for weapons’ deliveries to the Ukrainian military.

Vitaly Klitschko, mayor of Kyiv and former heavyweight boxing champion, told people to have an emergency suitcase ready in case they needed to get to shelNAter.

At Just Security, Maria Popova and Oxana Shevel argue: Russia’s New Assault On Ukraine Is Not Entirely – Maybe Not Even Largely — About NATO.

In his Feb. 15 Just Security article “Ukraine: Unleashing the Rhetorical Dogs of War,” Barry Posen argued that NATO and Ukraine should have cut a deal with Russia because the Ukrainian military would surely be defeated by Russia without direct U.S./Western military participation and U.S. offers of equipment were only encouraging a potential Ukrainian insurgency against Russian occupation that would be as bloody as it would be futile. The prescription depends entirely on Posen’s assumption that to satisfy Russia, all Ukraine would have had to do would be “to swallow the bitter pill of accepting armed neutrality between NATO and Russia, rather than NATO membership.”

This assumption contradicts events of recent months and the historical record. While Vladimir Putin has claimed that his goal is keeping Ukraine out of NATO, he also insisted that he was just conducting military exercises. Instead, he is invading Ukraine again. He likewise insisted in 2014 that he wasn’t capturing Crimea, despite the presence of his unidentified “Little Green Men” and his subsequent annexation of the peninsula, or that he was not fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas area in the east all these years, despite all evidence to the contrary. There is no reason to take Putin at his word. His Feb. 21 diatribe conferring Russian recognition of independence for the two eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and his order for Russian troops to move in as ostensible “peacekeepers” shows clearly his disdain for diplomatic resolutions.

Katerina1842 by Taras Grigorievich Shevchenko

Katerina, by Taras Grigorievich Shevchenko, 1842

Moreover, this is not even primarily about NATO.

NATO’s eastward expansion may have played a role in straining the relationship between Russia and the West, but mainly because, for Russia, seeing former satellites eagerly abandon it for the greener pastures of Euro-Atlantic integration stung. However, Putin’s rhetoric and actions over almost two decades reveal that his goals extend beyond imposing neutrality on Ukraine or even staving off further NATO expansion. The larger objective is to re-establish Russian political and cultural dominance over a nation that Putin sees as one with Russia, and then follow up by undoing the European rules-based order and security architecture established in the aftermath of World War II. Given these goals, Ukrainian neutrality is a woefully insufficient concession for Putin.

Read much more at the link.

AP News: The Latest: UN chief warns Russian actions could devastate.

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says Russia’s attack on Ukraine — as he appealed for President Vladimir Putin to stop his troops — was “the saddest moment” of his five-year tenure.

The U.N. chief opened the emergency Security Council meeting late Wednesday by urgently appealing to Putin: “In the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia.”

But during the meeting, Putin announced that he was launching a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine.

Guterres later urged the Russian president to withdraw his troops and added: “In the name of humanity do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century, with consequences not only devastating for Ukraine, not only tragic for the Russian Federation, but with an impact we cannot even foresee in relation to the consequences for the global economy.”

A war would cause deaths and displacement and people will lose hope in the future, Guterres said, adding Russia’s actions would harm the global economy.

“What is clear for me is that this war doesn’t make any sense,” Guterres said, stressing that it violates the U.N. Charter and will cause a level of suffering if it doesn’t stop that Europe hasn’t know since at least the 1990s Balkans crisis.

CNN: Biden to impose additional sanctions on Russia now that Ukraine assault is underway.

President Joe Biden, vowing the world will “hold Russia accountable” for the attack underway in Ukraine, will spell out a set of sanctions on Thursday once meant to deter such an assault.

Set to address the nation Thursday afternoon, Biden is expected to unveil new measures that could cut off Russia from advanced technology, announce new restrictions on large financial institutions and slap sanctions on additional members of the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Victor Sidorenko, Expiration Levitation Series

Victor Sidorenko, Expiration Levitation Series

The planned sanctions, the latest US reprisals against Moscow this week, had been reserved as Biden hoped to maintain some leverage in dissuading Putin from a full-scale invasion. But so far, Western threats of economic punishment, as well as Biden’s strategy of revealing what the US knew about Putin’s buildup of forces to try to make the Russian leader second-guess himself, have proven ineffective.

After months of predictions and warnings, Russian forces began their attack on Ukraine Thursday morning local time, with reports of troops crossing the border to the north and south, explosions in multiple cities including the capital Kyiv, and warnings from Putin of future bloodshed unless Ukrainian forces lay down their arms.

Biden’s sanctions are now meant to punish Putin’s actions, rather than prevent them, by going after Russia’s economy, its military capabilities and those closest to the Russian President. How much they can alter Putin’s decision-making going forward, however, remains an open question.

Before he speaks, Biden is planning to confer with the leaders from the Group of 7 industrialized nations about which sanctions they plan to impose, hoping to coordinate a response that projects unity among Western allies. US and European officials spoke by phone overnight into Thursday to coordinate their responses.

Gideon Rachman at Financial Times: Putin’s war will shake the world.

The phoney war is over. The real war has begun. For several weeks, the US and British governments have believed that Vladimir Putin was intent on a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. That is now happening.

The precise targets of the Russian military are still emerging. But it is already clear that this is not a limited attack, confined to the disputed regions of eastern Ukraine. Explosions have been heard in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. And there are reports of Russian troops crossing the border from Belarus — which is the shortest and most direct route to Kyiv.

Western security services, which have accurately predicted the course of events up until now, believe that Putin intends to overthrow the Ukrainian government and install a puppet regime in its place. This “decapitation” strategy will take in not only the central government, but also regional and local governments. Lists have been drawn up of Ukrainian officials who will be arrested or killed.

Kateryna Bilokur

By Kateryna Bilokur

The military tactics that Russia uses are likely to be extremely brutal — “the kind of thing we saw in Syria and Chechnya”, according to one US official. The deployment of Russian artillery and its air force would mean heavy military and civilian casualties on the Ukrainian side. Some western sources have spoken of 50,000 deaths within a week.

The Ukrainian military is determined to fight back. But it is likely to find itself heavily outgunned. The Russian goal may be to surround Kyiv and force the collapse or resignation of the Ukrainian government, led by Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Russians will not want to get involved in urban warfare, if they can avoid it. They are also determined to keep the west out of this conflict. In his speech, announcing the invasion, Putin warned outsiders tempted to interfere that there would be “consequences you have never encountered in your history” — a thinly veiled reference to nuclear war.

This is a terrifying article that concludes by asking whether Western states could end up getting involved.

Western governments are also actively debating how to help a Ukrainian insurgency — if and when it emerges — to fight a Russian occupation. Supporters of this plan of action believe that it will be both a moral duty and a strategic imperative to allow Ukrainians to continue the fight. Others worry that supporting an insurgency could turn Ukraine into a new Syria on the borders of Europe.

This is interesting from Anton Troianovski at The New York Times: Many Russians Feel a Deep Unease Over Going to War.

MOSCOW — Waiting for her friends on Moscow’s primly landscaped Boulevard Ring earlier this week, Svetlana Kozakova admitted that she’d had a sleepless night. She kept checking the news on her phone after President Vladimir V. Putin’s aggrieved speech to the nation on Monday that all but threatened Ukraine with war.

“Things are going to be very, very uncertain,” she said, “and, most likely, very sad.”

For months, Russians of all political stripes tuned out American warnings that their country could soon invade Ukraine, dismissing them as an outlandish concoction in the West’s disinformation war with the Kremlin. But this week, after several television appearances by Mr. Putin stunned and scared some longtime observers, that sense of casual disregard turned to a deep unease.

You're My Space, by Evgeniya Gapchinskaya, 2019

You’re My Space, by Evgeniya Gapchinskaya, 2019

Early Thursday morning, any remaining skepticism that their country would invade was put to rest, when Mr. Putin declared a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Pollsters said that most Russians probably supported Mr. Putin’s formal recognition of the Russian-backed territories in eastern Ukraine this week, especially because they had no choice in the matter and because no significant political force inside the country has advocated against it.

War is a different matter altogether, though; in recent days, Russia has not seen any of the jubilation that accompanied the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Going to war is one of Russians’ greatest fears, according to the Levada Center, an independent pollster. And after Mr. Putin’s angry speech and his cryptic televised meeting with his Security Council on Monday, Russians realized that possibility was lurching closer toward becoming reality.

Read the rest at the NYT.

At Mother Jones, David Corn asks why Republicans are rooting for Putin: Is It Amnesia or Hypocrisy That Fuels the GOP’s Crazy Response to Putin?

In the midst of an international crisis created by Russia that could potentially trigger a war in Europe, Republicans and right-wingers on and off Fox News have pledged allegiance to…Vladimir Putin. At the least, they are siding with the Russian autocrat and trash-talking President Joe Biden’s effort to block his aggression. But there’s nothing surprising about the ongoing romance between conservatives and the democracy-crushing thug-leader of Russia, who has invaded Ukraine and violated international law. Anyone shocked by this has forgotten one of the key facts of the 21st century: Putin waged war on the United States, and Donald Trump and his party aided, abetted, and benefitted from that attack.

In recent days, as Putin has threatened a conflagration, top conservatives and GOP officials have practically pinned “I’m-with-Vlad buttons” onto their lapels. One example: Mike Pompeo, Trump’s final secretary of state and before that his CIA director, had only praise for the corrupt Russian autocrat, describing him as “talented” and “savvy.” Donald Trump, speaking to a conservative podcaster on Tuesday, hailed Putin’s moves in Ukraine as “genius.” Referring to Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine, Trump said, “Putin declares a big portion of…of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful…I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper…Here’s a guy who’s very savvy.” Later in the interview, Trump continued to gush: “I knew Putin very well. I got along with him great. He liked me. I liked him. I mean, you know, he’s a tough cookie, got a lot of the great charm and a lot of pride. But the way he—and he loves his country, you know? He loves his country.”

No condemnation. No call for opposing Putin’s illegal and provocative maneuvers. Just one big bear hug from Trump for the tyrant. Putin may spread repression by force but he sure “loves his country.” (Remember, Trump’s crush on Putin stretches back to 2013 when he tweeted: “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow—if so, will he become my new best friend?”)

Eve, by Ivan Marchuk

Eve, by Ivan Marchuk

Conservatives have also boosted Putin by pooh-poohing the invasion of Ukraine as no big deal. In his usual too-clever-by-half way, Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night dismissed outrage over Putin’s aggression:

What is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity? Does he eat dogs?

It seemed as if Carlson was quasi-defending Putin because the Russian leader does not advocate critical race theory and is not the leader of China. He ridiculed concerns over Putin’s threat to world peace and stability and asserted Americans are being “trained to hate” the Russian leader. In other words, there’s no reason to fret about Putin’s militarism—and if you do worry, you’re just a brainwashed sheep.

Read the rest at Mother Jones.

So here we are. I have no idea what’s coming, but I’m very worried. After four years of Trump, and two years of a deadly pandemic, we don’t need any more calamities.

I’ll try to post updates in the comment thread today. I have difficulty looking at the computer screen for very long these days, but I’ll do my best. I hope you all will post comments and links too. Take care everyone!