There was so much breaking news yesterday, and the flood of information continues this morning. I’ve been focused on the crisis in Ukraine lately, but yesterday the January 6 investigation came back into prominence.
Before I get to the latest news from Ukraine, I want to share an article from Vice about Maria Prymachenko, a Ukrainian folk artist whose work Dakinikat and I have been using for our recent posts: Russian Forces Destroyed the Wild and Beautiful Art of Maria Prymachenko.
Amid the intense battles that broke out approximately 50 miles northwest of Kyiv on February 25 during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum was burned, according toThe Kyiv Independent. “Another one of the irreparable losses of the historical-cultural authority of Ukraine is the destruction of the Ivankiv Historical-Cultural Museum by the aggressor in these hellish days for our country,” wrote the museum’s director in a message on Facebook. As a result, the Ukrainian Minister of Culture, Olexandr Tkachenko, requested that Russia lose its UNESCO membership.
It is not yet confirmed how many pieces in the museum’s holdings survive, but the destroyed artifacts reportedly include roughly 25 works by the celebrated Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko, who died in 1997 at the age of 88. Beloved for her saturated gouaches and watercolors on paper, Prymachenko was known to transform cultural motifs (yellow suns and graphic, stencil-like flowers) into vivid and wildly imagined narratives, in which elephants longed to be sailors, horses traveled to outer space, and villagers hijacked giant serpents.Today, nearly 650 of her works, dating from 1936 to 1987, are also held by the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Applied Art, in nearby Kyiv. Whether or not the Ivankiv museum was targeted intentionally, its loss is pointedly a blow to Ukraine’s cultural history, its collective spirit, its artistic soul.
Maria Prymachenko was born in 1908 close to Ivaniv, in the village of Bolotyna. Her father was a craftsman and carpenter; from her mother and grandmother, she learned Ukrainian arts of embroidery and hand-painting Easter eggs. From an early age, with no formal fine art training, Prymachenko began to create a way of working that stemmed from her encounters in forests and wildflower fields, surrounded by animals….
Around 1936, Tetiana Floru, an artist from Kyiv, saw Prymachenko’s embroideries for sale in the Ivankiv market and invited her to join the Central Experimental Workshop of the Kyiv Museum of Ukrainian Art, an assembly of folk artists from all over the country. It was life-changing for Prymachenko, who in Kyiv underwent surgeries for complications from childhood polio that finally allowed her to walk. In 1936, her works were included in the First Republican Folk Art Exhibition in Kyiv, which later traveled to Moscow and Leningrad, and the following year some of her drawings were presented in the International Exhibition in Paris, where she received a gold medal and the blurb of a lifetime from Pablo Picasso….
“I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian,” Picasso reportedly said, visiting her exhibit in the same year he painted Guernica. Another admirer, Marc Chagall, also fell under the spell of her paintings: When he began to paint animals into his own magic realist scenes in his native Belarus, he called his creatures “the cousins of the strange beasts of Maria Prymachenko.” Other relatives in this imaginary zoo: the animal renderings of Henri Rousseau, Niki de Saint Phalle.
If you’re interested, read the rest at Vice.com.
Here’s the latest on what’s happening in Ukraine:
A top Russian military figure has been killed in the war in Ukraine according to local news outlets citing a social media post by his colleague.
Ukrainian news outlets were reporting that Andrei Sukhovetsky, deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District, had been killed on Wednesday.
Media outlets cited a post on VKontakte announcing the death, written by Sergei Chipilev, a deputy of the Russian veterans group, Combat Brotherhood.
“It is with great sorrow that we learned of the tragic news about the death of our friend, Major General Andrei Aleksandrovich Sukhovetsky, on the territory of Ukraine during a special operation,” his post said, without specifying the circumstances.
Christo Grozev, executive director of fact-checking website Bellingcat, tweeted news of the death, adding that if confirmed it would be a “major demotivator” for Russian forces….
News of the death was also reported by Russian media outlets. Lenta.ru carried the story, while Alexander Kots, a correspondent for the mass circulation tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, described the death in a post on social network Telegram.
A 40-mile column of Russian invaders has stalled on the way to Kyiv, opening itself to attack by Ukrainians, a senior defense official told reporters Wednesday.
“We believe that the convoy is stalled,” the official said. “They are not moving at any rate that would lead one to believe that they’ve solved their problems,” which still include a lack of food, fuel, and spare parts.
Some Ukrainian troops have also targeted the convoy, although in limited fashion, the official said.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s security service posted a video of a captured Russian soldier who says he and his unit were sent across the border with only three days’ food.
“Putin expected to capture Ukraine in three days,” Ukraine’s security service wrote above the video, which could not be independently verified. “By the order of the top Russian leadership, the phones and documents were taken from the fire brigades, removed food and water for three days and sent to war with Ukraine,” the agency said, according to the English translation of the post.
Insufficient food is among the missteps that have slowed the Russian advance, and perhaps edged Russia into more ferocious and indiscriminate use of missiles and airstrikes. As of Wednesday, Pentagon officials had counted roughly 450 such strikes on Ukrainian targets.
The senior defense official said Pentagon leaders expect the invasion to accelerate as Russia adjusts and gets provisions to its forces inside Ukraine.
As soon as the curfew was lifted in Kyiv, I drove around to understand what had happened to our capital overnight. For two full days residents had not been allowed to go out, even during the daytime. Russian saboteur groups were identified, and random street fights took place.
I did not recognise my city, with checkpoints in the old town, with people digging trenches, bridges being fortified and the subway turned into a bomb shelter.
“Do you enrol everybody who shows up?” we asked a young guy in charge. “Almost all, but I do not accept those under 18,” he said. “And there are a lot of them. I wouldn’t be able to look their mothers in the eyes. I fought in 2014-2015 in Donbas, so I know what the war is.”
It’s a predominantly male group but there are three women. The youngest is a lawyer. “What Russia has already done to the civilians has made us act,” she said. She had not told her family of her decision to fight. They live in a small town on the Ukrainian-Russian border, which has been partially destroyed. Another woman, in her 60s, said she was a nurse. Her husband had joined the defence units and she felt she needed to be with him. The last was a retired officer. She enrolled because her son had already joined the Ukrainian army. “When our grandparents, who remember the second world war, were wishing for peace, we didn’t understand why,” she said. “But now I know.”
The figures say one thing, experience another. The official toll of civilian deaths is 350, but after seven days’ fighting, there cannot be a single Ukrainian who doesn’t know somebody who has been touched by tragedy. There are more than 1,600 wounded….
“Those of you who have come to ‘rescue us’, just go away,” cries a woman holding a baby at Kyiv’s main station. “We were all right before you came. Just leave. All I have is some cash and a backpack.” Like thousands of people here, her mission is to go somewhere else, anywhere. The Ukrainian railway allows everybody to ride without tickets, including foreign citizens, and is running extra trains to the west.
We count the hours: seven, 20, 70, 100, 144: hours of the Ukrainian army on its own, its citizens holding off one of the mightiest armies in the world, which is now being bolstered by support from Belarus. The count becomes symbolic. For those under bombardment, each hour seems like a year.
Read more at the Guardian link.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces captured a strategic Ukrainian port and besieged another Thursday in a bid to cut the country off from the sea, as the two sides met for another round of talks aimed at stopping the fighting that has set off an exodus of over 1 million refugees.
Moscow’s advance on Ukraine’s capital has apparently stalled over the past few days, with a huge armored column north of Kyiv at a standstill, but the military has made significant gains in the south as part of an effort to sever the country’s connection to the Black and Azov seas.
The Russian military said it had control of Kherson, and local Ukrainian officials confirmed that forces have taken over local government headquarters in the Black Sea port of 280,000, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began a week ago.
Heavy fighting continued on the outskirts of another strategic port, Mariupol, on the Azov Sea, plunging it into darkness, isolation and fear. Electricity and phone service were largely down, and homes and shops faced food and water shortages.
Without phone connections, medics did not know where to take the wounded.
More Ukraine reads:
The New York Times: A War the Kremlin Tried to Disguise Becomes a Hard Reality for Russians.
The New York Times: Anxiety Grows in Odessa as Russians Advance in Southern Ukraine.
January 6 prosecutions
This is huge: yesterday a January 6 defendant w ho worked closely with Oath Keepers leader Stuart Rhodes has agreed to cooperate with investigators. Law and Crime: Oath Keepers Member Pleads Guilty to Seditious Conspiracy and Obstruction in Jan. 6 Capitol Attack, Will ‘Fully Cooperate’ with Feds.
A member of the Oath Keepers right-wing militia group charged in the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol has pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress. He vowed to “fully cooperate” with the federal investigation into the attack.
Joshua James, 34, is the first member of the militia group charged with seditious conspiracy to plead guilty to that charge. At a hearing Wednesday, he confirmed that under the plea agreement, he will “fully cooperate” with the government’s prosecution and testify before a grand jury and at trial.
The seditious conspiracy and obstruction charges, both felonies, carry potential jail sentences of 20 years each. The seditious conspiracy charge is the most serious charge yet in the federal government’s sprawling prosecution of those who participated in the Jan. 6 siege.
James was named in a 17-count indictment that also charged Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes. According to prosecutors, James and the other Oath Keepers made plans to bring a variety of weapons to support the mob of Donald Trump supporters who violently overran police to swarm the Capitol building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s win in the 2020 presidential election.
At Wednesday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, James confirmed the Statement of Offense submitted in connection with his plea, which outlines the actions James took in support of the plan to overturn the election and keep Trump in office…
Here are a couple of things James admitted to:
In advance of and on January 6, 2021, James and others agreed to take part in the plan developed by Rhodes to use any means necessary, up to and including the use of force, to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power….
In the weeks leading up to January 6, 2021, Rhodes instructed James and other coconspirators to be prepared, if called upon, to report to the White House grounds to secure the perimeter and use lethal force if necessary against anyone who tried to remove President Trump from the White House, including the National Guard or other government actors who might be sent to remove President Trump as a result of the Presidential Election.
Read the rest at Law and Crime.
James is also close to Roger Stone and was communicating with him the morning of January 6, 2021.
House January 6 Committee investigation:
The New York Times: Jan. 6 Committee Lays Out Potential Criminal Charges Against Trump.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol said on Wednesday that there was enough evidence to conclude that former President Donald J. Trump and some of his allies might have conspired to commit fraud and obstruction by misleading Americans about the outcome of the 2020 election and attempting to overturn the result.
In a court filing in a civil case in California, the committee’s lawyers for the first time laid out their theory of a potential criminal case against the former president. They said they had accumulated evidence demonstrating that Mr. Trump, the conservative lawyer John Eastman and other allies could potentially be charged with criminal violations including obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the American people.
The filing also said there was evidence that Mr. Trump’s repeated lies that the election had been stolen amounted to common law fraud.
The filing disclosed only limited new evidence, and the committee asked the judge in the civil case to review the relevant material behind closed doors. In asserting the potential for criminality, the committee largely relied on the extensive and detailed accounts already made public of the actions Mr. Trump and his allies took to keep him in office after his defeat.
The committee added information from its more than 550 interviews with state officials, Justice Department officials and top aides to Mr. Trump, among others.
It said, for example, that Jason Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior campaign adviser, had told the committee in a deposition that Mr. Trump had been told soon after Election Day by a campaign data expert “in pretty blunt terms” that he was going to lose, suggesting that Mr. Trump was well aware that his months of assertions about a stolen election were false. (Mr. Trump subsequently said he disagreed with the data expert’s analysis, Mr. Miller said, because he thought he could win in court.)
The evidence gathered by the committee “provides, at minimum, a good-faith basis for concluding that President Trump has violated” the obstruction count, the filing, written by Douglas N. Letter, the general counsel of the House, said, adding: “The select committee also has a good-faith basis for concluding that the president and members of his campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.”
The filing said that a “review of the materials may reveal that the president and members of his campaign engaged in common law fraud in connection with their efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.”
This post is way too long, but so much is happening! Have a great Thursday, Sky Dancers, and please share your thoughts a recommended reads with us.
Good Morning and Happy Caturday!!
Today’s images are from the book Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics, by Heather Busch and Burton Silver. It’s a delightfully tongue-in-cheek discussion of “cat artists” that is really fun to read. Here’s some commentary on the book at Goodreads.
Today’s news is full of Ukraine stories. It’s looking as if Putin really plans to go through with an invasion. Here’s the latest:
President Joe Biden on Friday said he is now convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine, but emphasized that room for diplomacy remains.
“As of this moment, I am convinced he’s made the decision,” Biden said during remarks at the White House.
The President also said the US believes Russian forces intend to attack Ukraine “in the coming week” or sooner, and that an attack will target the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday said Russia was “moving into the right positions to conduct an attack,” echoing Biden’s assertion that Putin had made up his mind on invading.
“They’re uncoiling and now poised to strike,” Austin said, speaking from Vilnius, Lithuania. Austin said the US would pursue a diplomatic solution “until the very last minute, until it’s not possible.”
Biden plans to spend the weekend monitoring the ongoing Ukraine crisis from the White House as he meets with his national security team and remains in close contact with world leaders, multiple officials say. Biden had considered traveling to Delaware, as he typically does, but decided to remain in Washington.
Vice President Kamala Harris is in Germany today for the Munich Security Conference. Reuters: West puts up united front as Russia begins nuclear exercises.
MUNICH, Feb 19 (Reuters) – Russia must not attempt to move Ukraine’s borders by force, Western leaders warned on Saturday, saying they would be ready to respond even if Russia created a pretext for an invasion by accusing Ukraine of aggression.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States would reinforce NATO’s eastern flank to act as a further deterrent to any Russian military action in addition to the threat of sanctions.
“National borders should not be changed by force,” Harris said at the Munich Security Conference.
“We have prepared economic measures that will be swift, severe, and united,” she said. “We will target Russia’s financial institutions and key industries.”
Western leaders were meeting in Munich amid reports of explosions just inside Russian territory to Ukraine’s east and in the parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Moscow-backed rebels.
But most also added that diplomacy had not yet run its course.
“History has not yet been written: there is an exit that the Russian government can choose at any time,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock after a meeting of Western foreign ministers.
“Our common message to them is very clear: Don’t make this fatal mistake. Withdraw your troops … Let’s talk.”
But she warned against being misled by misinformation coming from separatist regions , saying Ukraine had done nothing to give the separatist leaders a reason for the evacuations they ordered on Friday.
Read more about the Munich meeting at The Washington Post: Harris, Blinken navigate Munich Security Conference as Europe holds its breath.
Pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine ordered a full military mobilization Saturday, amid a spike in violence that has heightened fears that Moscow is planning to use an escalation in the conflictas a pretext to invade.
The announcements came ahead of planned large-scale drills involving Russian nuclear forces, overseen by President Vladimir Putin, offering a timely reminder of the country’s nuclear might, as Europe faces its gravest security crisis since the Cold War. Ballistic and cruise missiles were launched from land, air and sea the Kremlin said in a statement Saturday.
In eastern Ukraine, where the Moscow-supported separatists have been fighting government forces since 2014, Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic,” urged reservists to show up at military enlistment offices in a video released on the chat app Telegram on Saturday.
In neighboring Luhansk, Leonid Pasechnik, leader of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic,” also signed a decree calling for “full combat readiness.”
The separatists control an enclave about the size of New Jersey, where it’s population of around 2 million speak Russian use the Russian ruble and hundreds of thousands have Russian passports.
Their statements came as the evacuation of civilians from the rebel-held territories in those regions to neighboring Russia continued.
The New York Times interviewed Russia expert Fiona Hill about Putin’s motives: Explaining Putin’s Decades-Long Obsession With Ukraine. Here’s the beginning of the interview:
How would you evaluate the administration’s handling of this crisis so far? What’s worked and what hasn’t?
I think they’re handling it as well as they can be, given the circumstances. Writ large, what the administration is doing right now is certainly what I would recommend doing. But I don’t know whether we can say if it’s going to work or not. The real test is going to be over a long period of time. I don’t think this is going to be a short, sharp crisis.
What do you mean?
Putin’s been trying to get a grip on Ukraine for years now. They cut off the gas to Ukraine in 2006. He’s been in power for 22 years, and the whole of that time, he’s had Ukraine in the cross hairs one way or another, and it’s intensified over time. Putin wants to be the person who, on his watch, in his presidency, pulls Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit. And he could be president until 2036, in terms of what’s possible for him.
Is this fundamentally ideological for him, or geopolitical?
It’s about him personally — his legacy, his view of himself, his view of Russian history. Putin clearly sees himself as a protagonist in Russian history, and is putting himself in the place of previous Russian leaders who’ve tried to gather in what he sees as the Russian land. Ukraine is the outlier, the one that got away that he’s got to bring back.
Head over to the NYT to read the rest.
Back in the USA, we continue to learn more about Donald Trump’s many crimes.