Friday Reads: A Grim update and Prognosis

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I am so late getting started on this!  Today I finally got some reprieve from the 8 days of dawn to dusk grinding, sawing, and hammering from my neighbor’s next door.   They have a covered porch in the back now and I have a migraine.  Then, I spent my evening in disbelief that some Russian Batallion fired on, hit, set on fire, then captured the largest Nuclear Power Plant in Europe.   All that while I nurse whatever I did to my little left toe while managing to pull a heavy garbage bin onto it.  I’m exhausted.

The refugee crisis from the Russian Invasion of Ukraine is worsening. This article in Vox investigates where the refugees are headed and who is helping them and how. “Where are Ukrainian refugees going? The arrival of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees is straining humanitarian resources. has the byline.

The number of Ukrainians who have fled Russia’s war on their country surpassed 1 million on Thursday, and that number is rising hourly.

“I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one,” United Nations Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement Thursday.

European governments and humanitarian organizations have been planning for their arrival for weeks, but the number of refugees has surpassed those expectations. The UN has projected that 4 million Ukrainian refugees could arrive in neighboring countries just in the coming weeks.

Such a heavy influx would be a “huge burden for receiving states and would no doubt stress reception systems and related resources,” Grandi said during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday.

So far, at least 505,000 Ukrainians have gone to Poland, 139,000 to Hungary, 97,000 to Moldova, 51,000 to Romania, 72,000 to Slovakia, and 90,000 to other European countries. Nearly 48,000 have also gone to Russia and a few hundred have gone to Belarus. Most of the refugees are women and children, including a growing number of unaccompanied children. Ukraine has conscripted men between the ages of 18 and 60 to fight, prohibiting them from leaving.

I haven’t heard from my Ukrainian friend Alex for two days now. He’s in the north but is west so he still might be out of the warzone.

The Russians are regrouping in the North where that column of vehicles is still stalled.  However, they are consolidating hold over the southern parts of Ukraine capturing a city with a major port.

The U.S. and European allies scramble to find ways to stop Putin but it looks like a more severe, deadly phase of its invasion. Russia is currently hitting small villages, towns, and cities with all its got. Reporters indicate that several towns north of Kyiv have been flattened. Putin is adding to his list of war crimes. There have been failed assassination attempts on the Ukrainian President’s life. This is from Axios and written by Ivana Saric.

Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council chief Oleksiy Danilov announced during a briefing Tuesday that Ukrainian forces had foiled an assassination plot against President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a Telegram post from Ukrainian authorities.

Why it matters: Zelensky has said since the start of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine that he would be a prime target for assassination. Last Thursday, he warned that Russian “sabotage groups” had entered Kyiv and were hunting for him and his family.

The big picture: According to the Telegram message, Danilov said that a unit of elite Chechen special forces, known as Kadyroviteshad been behind the plot and had subsequently been “eliminated.”

  • “We are well aware of the special operation that was to take place directly by the Kadyrovites to eliminate our president,” Danilov said, per the post.
  • Ukrainian authorities had been tipped off about the plot by members of Russia’s Federal Security Service who do not support the war, he added.
  • Danilov elaborated that the Kadyrovite group had been divided into two, with one being destroyed in Gostomel and the other “under fire.”

As I write, I’m listening to our Secretary of State talk about the situation and our relationship with our allies.

Our country and our allies are doing as much as they feel able to do. From CNN: “US officials say Biden administration is sharing intelligence with Ukraine at a ‘frenetic’ pace after Republicans criticize efforts.

The US has multiple channels open and is sharing intelligence with Ukraine at a “frenetic” pace, US officials said Thursday, disputing criticism that the Biden administration is not sharing battlefield intelligence fast enough.

Still, the US’ secure communications with Ukrainian officials are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain as the war rages on, the sources told CNN. Officials also acknowledged that the US is now more limited in its ability to collect real-time intelligence with no one on the ground, and the apparent lack of military drones flying overhead. The CIA has not acknowledged whether it is flying its own drones to surveil the conflict.

Republican Sens. Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio, the top GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have both said publicly in recent days that they are concerned intelligence isn’t getting to the Ukrainian military quickly enough. House Republicans began amplifying those concerns this week, ramping up criticism of the Biden administration for allegedly “withholding” intelligence from the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians, though, have not complained publicly about any lack of intelligence-sharing by the US.

One Senate source familiar with GOP concerns said that lawmakers were concerned both that the intelligence was being downgraded, or made less specific, and that it wasn’t being conveyed to the Ukrainians fast enough.

Sources familiar with the intelligence said it is indeed being downgraded, but primarily to scrub sensitive sources and methods — a particular concern given the logistical challenges with establishing fully secure lines with Ukrainian officials amid the Russian onslaught.

Many UK people and NGOs also believe the UK may not be doing enough.  This is from The Guardian.  The two difficult topics are a no-fly zone which could lead to a direct battle between Russian and NATO forces.  The other appears to be the degree to which Russia can be cut off from the international oil markets.  There are also calls for more help to get on top of the expanding refugee crisis. “Charities and opposition parties urge UK to do more for Ukrainian refugees.  Lib Dems call for fully funded refugee scheme and Mark Drakeford wants Wales to be a ‘nation of sanctuary’ ”

Charities and opposition parties have urged the government to do more to help with an expected surge in refugees fleeing Ukraine after the Russian invasion, with concerns also raised about the issuing of visas now UK diplomats have left the country.

With the UN refugee agency warning that as many as 5 million Ukrainians could be forced to flee, the Liberal Democrats called for a comprehensive and fully funded refugee scheme. Mark Drakeford, the Labour Welsh first minister, said he wanted his country to be a “nation of sanctuary”.

Dozens of refugee charities have jointly called for an evacuation and resettlement plan similar to the one that housed thousands of families in the UK after the Balkans conflicts in the 1990s.

I was in London during the Balkans conflict.  I sat up in the Parliament’s small balcony and watched PM Thatcher taking questions from the opposition party. I have to admit it was one of the most thrilling moments of all my travels given my heritage and my interests. I can’t imagine I’d feel the same watching Bojo.

Foreign Policy indicates that “There Could Be 10 Million Ukrainians Fleeing Putin’s Bombs. Europe has opened its borders to the continent’s biggest exodus of refugees since 1945.”   This is written by  Bart M. J. Szewczyk, a nonresident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund and an adjunct professor at Sciences Po.  We better settle into watching this escalating suffering.  I’m just relieved we have President Biden who knows how to build consensus.

.As Ukrainians flee in massive numbers, Europeans have opened their countries and homes with unprecedented speed and generosity. The scale and pace of the Ukrainian refugee exodus—more than 1 million within only a week—dwarfs even the worst of recent humanitarian crises and is quickly approaching the epic dislocations last seen in Europe in 1945. In Syria, it took two years before refugee flows reached a similar level. In 2015 and 2016, the European Union took in 1 million asylum-seekers each year from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, and this so-called migration crisis quickly turned into an existential issue for the continent. Ukraine, with twice the population of Syria and three times its territory, could generate over 10 million refugees and internally displaced people in the coming months and years. Nonetheless, recent international experience and initial European responses suggest that the open-door strategy is sustainable—not to mention morally right.

We already know that most refugees seek shelter in neighboring countries. Syrians primarily fled to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan; Afghans to Pakistan and Iran; and South Sudanese to Uganda, Ethiopia, and Sudan. This makes sense since families fleeing conflict, often on foot or by any immediately available transport, will search for refuge in the closest area where they can find protection. In principle, staying close to home can also expedite returning home once the conflict ends. Neighboring countries are also likely to host diaspora communities that can help ease the hardship and transition for refugees.

This global rule applies fully to the crisis in Ukraine. Over the past week, a majority of refugees fled to Poland—which already had a large and well-integrated Ukrainian community of over 300,000—with the rest going primarily to the other states on Ukraine’s western border: Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and Romania. Some Ukrainians are moving and will move to other parts of Europe or countries with large diasporas, such as the United States and Canada, but many will stay in the front-line states of first refuge. Being uprooted is difficult every time.

None of the front-line states are as affected as Poland, which immediately mobilized for the influx. The mass deployment of Polish government officials, municipal workers, emergency services, and ordinary civilians on behalf of Ukrainian refugees is as admirable as it is unsurprising. Etched deep into Poland’s DNA is the memory of Soviet and Nazi aggression—and the experience of facing impossible odds against an occupying power. Poland’s support to Ukrainian refugees is visceral as much as rational.

NPR explores one issue we’ve discussed here: “Race, culture and politics underpin how — or if — refugees are welcomed in Europe.” None of these three should influence the degree we commit to being our “brother’s keeper” and providing refuge to those in need but there it is.

More than a million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries to escape the Russian invasion — and that number could soar to more than 4 million in coming months, the United Nations refugee agency says.

More than half have entered Poland, with others going to Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania — and they have been receiving a warm welcome.

Ukrainians arriving in Hungary are coming to a “friendly place,” Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said.

“We will do everything to provide safe shelter in Poland for everyone who needs it,” said Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski.

At the Polish border, guards hand out sandwiches to Ukrainians in waiting rooms. Polish citizens donate piles of toys and meet migrants with hot tea and free rides to where they need to go.

The open-arm welcome for those fleeing Ukraine stands in sharp contrast to the treatment of previous waves of refugees from places like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Just two months earlier, Orbán said Hungary was keeping its restrictive immigration policies: “[W]e aren’t going to let anyone in.”

Earlier this week, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov drew a distinction between those fleeing Ukraine and others.

“These people are Europeans,” Petkov said. “These people are intelligent, they are educated people. … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists …”

Some folks sure haven’t read their Jesus teachings.  And this is another reason why:

“Global group of Black attorneys file U.N. complaint for African refugees. The group of lawyers, which includes Ben Crump, will send the complaint to two agencies with the United Nations.”

An alliance of prominent civil rights lawyers from around the world on Wednesday announced it will file an appeal to the United Nations on behalf of Black refugees facing discrimination while trying to flee Ukraine.

The group includes Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney for the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery; attorney Jasmine Rand, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown; Peter Herbert, one of Britain’s few nonwhite judges; Jamaican Member of Parliament G. Anthony Hylton; British solicitor Jacqueline McKenzie; and Carlos Moore, president of the National Bar Association in the U.S. They plan to file the appeal to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Earlier this week Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, and Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, acknowledged that some Africans looking to escape the Russian invasion of Ukraine had experienced discriminatory practices at the country’s borders.

“Such blatant racism cannot be tolerated,” Zita Holbourne, the chairwoman of the Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts U.K. told The Independent. “Human rights of Black and brown people, predominantly students situated in Ukraine, must be honored and safe exit facilitated for all, free of discriminatory selection processes at borders. The targeting of Black and brown people in this way is a racist human rights abuse on top of a human rights crisis impacting all people forced to flee Ukraine.”

So, I’m hearing that many parts of the United States are already preparing to accept refugees. This is from KOMO news in the Puget Sound area of Washington state.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is sparking concerns worldwide. In Puget Sound, groups like Lutheran Community Services Northwest are gearing up to help.

The agency has helped resettle more than 2,100 Ukrainians in Washington and Oregon in the past five years. That includes placing 100 Ukrainians in the past year in Washington state.

The group is helping Ukrainian refugees even now. David Duea is CEO/President of LCS Northwest.

“We have been scheduled to resettle 55 in the next couple of weeks. We don’t know if they are coming. I don’t know if we are ready. But we have to be,” said Duea.

Months ago, there was an urgent plea for help from the community when Afghans started arriving from their war-torn country.

According to LCS Northwest, since last summer the agency helped resettle 700 Afghans in the Pacific Northwest after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

“What the overall community can do (now) is continuing what we do with Afghans–which is donating furniture; We have welcome kits. Just being ready,” said Duea. “It is a bit of a deja vu. We know the community is already starting to rally and people are volunteering their homes to be host homes–which we are going to take them up on because of the housing crisis in our area. It’s all hands on deck.”

Yes, people of Earth.  It’s all hands on decks.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?