Economic Troubles Mount for Russia
The Russian Stock Market was closed early on Monday. Stock prices were dropping as investors sought to sell and gather their investments. Russian officials have not confirmed that the market will open for business on March 1st.
The Russian Ruble hit record lows compared to the U.S. Dollar. The economic sanctions as well as concern by Russian investors over President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine appear to be hitting the country.
Russia’s Central Bank has increased the key annual interest rate from 9.5 percent to 20 per cent.
The Finance Ministry is demanding that exporters sell 80 percent of all foreign exchange earnings. Despite these efforts, the ruble is still rapidly losing value.
Also, Great Britain announced sanctions on Russia’s Central Bank, and previously announced EU sanctions against Russia’s Central Bank have started.
The Pentagon says that it appears Russian tanks and vehicles are facing logistical problems in getting fuel.
This follows widespread posts on social media of Russian soldiers with gas cans seeking to get fuel for their vehicles.
It appears that President Putin didn’t count on the level of resistance from Ukraine military forces.
Death Toll Reports Unconfirmed – 4,500 Russians Claimed Dead
Ukraine officials report that over 4,500 Russian soldiers have been killed in fighting.
Moscow has not reported specific numbers of combat losses. The Russian Defense Ministry however has finally acknowledged that some of its soldiers have been killed or wounded in the fighting.
“Russian servicemen are showing courage and heroism while fulfilling combat tasks in the special military operation. Unfortunately, there are killed and injured among our comrades,” reported Russia’s state news agency Tass quoting military spokesman Igor Konashenkov. “The losses of the Russian Armed Forces are many times less than the number of servicemen of the Ukrainian armed forces.”
The government in Kyiv says Russia’s invasion, so far, has claimed the lives of at least 352 civilians and injured another 1,684 noncombatants.
Russia’s Nuclear Deterrence Forces on High Alert
Pentagon officials are not doubting reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has placed Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert, a senior defence official said at a press briefing late Sunday.
“We have no reason to doubt the validity of these reports,” the official said. “This is an unnecessary step for Putin to take because Russia has never been under threat from NATO and certainly not from Ukraine”.
“It is escalatory because it’s potentially putting at play forces that could, if there’s a miscalculation, make things much more dangerous”, the official continued. “We remain confident in our ability to defend ourselves and our allies and our partners, and that includes in the strategic deterrent realm.”
Regarding the situation in Ukraine, the official said that roughly two-thirds of Russian forces arrayed along the border are now inside Ukraine, an increase over the last 24 hours when roughly half of those forces were inside Ukraine.
Ukrainians are putting up stiff resistance in the face of invading Russian forces, the official said, adding that no major cities inside Ukraine have yet been captured.
“We believe that their advance was slowed both by resistance from the Ukrainians, who have been quite creative in finding ways to attack columns, and, number two, by the fuel shortages and the sustainment issues that they have had,” the official said.
Logistics shortages have been particularly acute in their advanced on Kharkiv,” which is in northeast Ukraine, the official said.
Some Russian reconnaissance elements have been in Kyiv over the last two days, and there are reports that they are wearing Ukrainian military uniforms to disguise themselves, the official said. In some cases, they have been identified by locals and by the Ukrainian military.
Russian forces, which are converging from the northeast and northwest, remain about 30 kilometres from the city center of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, the official said.
In the south of Ukraine, Russian forces are moving northeast toward Mariupol and are now about 50 kilometers from the center of that city, the official said. They are also moving northwest toward the city of Kherson.
“Our assessment is that Mariupol is defended, and the Ukrainians will put up stiff resistance there,” the official said.
The airspace over Ukraine is still contested, and that means that Ukrainians are still using their own aircraft and air and missile defense systems, which are believed to be still intact and still viable, although somewhat degraded, the official said.
Russians continue launching missiles against targets in Ukraine, mostly short-range, ballistic missiles, the official said. There are indications that some of the missiles launched have experienced failures.
There are indications that Russian forces are adopting siege tactics around the city of Chernihiv, which is northeast of Kyiv. This is particularly troubling as it could result in civilian casualties, the official said.
The U.S. and NATO continue providing Ukraine with lethal and nonlethal assistance, the official said.