War Update #8 – February 28, 2022: Ukrainians ‘David vs. Goliath’ battle Against Russian Invaders

Covering the War in Ukraine
Covering the War in Ukraine

Russia President Vladimir Putin says that there are three conditions needed for Russia to end the invasion of Ukraine.

In a telephone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, President Putin laid out his conditions for ending the war in Ukraine. President Putin says a settlement would be possible if there were “Unconditional consideration of Russia’s legitimate security interests.”

The Russian President named the following conditions as paramount:

  • Recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea;
  • The demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine;
  • Ensuring Ukraine’s neutral status.

President Putin claims that “The Russian side is open to negotiations with Ukraine’s representatives”, adding that he expects “This will lead to the desired results.”

Ceasefire Talks End in Belarus

The first round of Ukraine-Russia negotiations in Belarus have been completed. The talks lasted around five hours in total.

Myhailo Podoliak, an advisor to President Zelensky’s Chief of Staff and part of the Ukrainian delegation, says that the two parties outlined “priority topics” and “certain solutions,” and are now returning to their respective capitals for consultations on their implementation.

The head of the Russian delegation, former Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, stated that the parties “Found three points upon which it is possible to foresee common positions.”

A second round of negotiations will happen in a few days on the Polish-Belarusian border.

Russia Reacts to Economic Sanctions

  • Currency controls: President Putin has signed a decree imposing what he called special economic measures in response to what he says are the “unfriendly actions” of the United States and its allies. From March 1, Russian residents and companies will be prohibited from transferring money to foreign accounts. However, as the Central Bank clarified, this does not apply to the repayment of foreign debt.
  • Moscow Exchange: Russia’s Central Bank suspended morning and evening trading on the Moscow Exchange from March 1–5, 2022. Tuesday, trading on the Moscow Exchange’s currency and money markets will be open from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm Moscow time. “The Bank of Russia will assess the feasibility of opening trading on other markets based on the development of the situation,” the Central Bank said in a statement.

Russian Forces Continue into Ukraine

Weather in Ukraine
Weather forecast for Ukraine…

Since Russian military forces illegally invaded Ukraine last week, Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, as well as Russian soldiers have been killed in the conflict. Estimates are in the thousands.

“We offer Russian soldiers a choice: to die in an unjust war or a full amnesty and five million rubles [nearly $46,000] in compensation. If they lay down their arms and surrender voluntarily,” Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a Facebook post, written in Ukrainian, Russian, and English.

The Ukraine is reporting that at least 4,500 Russian soldiers have died in fighting so far.

Deaths of Ukraine civilians and soldiers are not easily calculated. However the Pentagon is putting all the blame for the deaths directly in the hands of Russian President Putin.

“Every one of those deaths is directly attributable to Russian president Vladimir Putin”, charges Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby.  “He’s perpetrating violence on a neighboring nation state that presented no threat to him, and innocent lives are being … taken. And we’ve seen casualties … we know there’s casualties on both sides of this conflict. All of this … was avoidable,”

Kirby made these statements at a briefing today at the Pentagon. “This is a war of choice … and all the casualties are on his hands — all the blood is on Mr. Putin’s hands.”

The Pentagon says, “In furtherance of Russia’s illegal war, a convoy of Russian military forces, by some estimates as long as 17 miles, continues to move towards the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv”.

“I think the main conclusion we can draw … is that … they continue to want to move on Kyiv, to capture Kyiv, to take Kyiv,” added Kirby. “Although we don’t know everything about this convoy, it is certainly in keeping with what we believe to be their intent, with respect to the capital city.”

How the Russians plan to capture Kyiv once the convoy reaches its destination, Kirby said, is unknown right now.

“Whether it’s encirclement, or bombardment, or street-to-street fighting, I mean, I just don’t think we have that level of dexterity now to give you that kind of detail in terms of Russian planning,” said Kirby.

“The Ukrainian military has so far provided a stiff and determined resistance in defense of their country which has appeared to slow Russian plans there”, Kirby added.

Earlier today, United States Pentagon officials estimated that almost 75 percent of the forces that Russian President Vladimir Putin amassed for invasion are now in Ukraine.

A senior defense official also said the United States has not seen anything specific as a result of Putin putting Russian nuclear deterrence forces on high alert. The official, speaking on background, said “DOD will continue to monitor the situation. There is no change to U.S. nuclear defense posture. We remain comfortable and confident in our own strategic deterrence posture.”

Before the invasion five days ago, Pentagon officials estimated that Russia had more than 160,000 troops along its borders with Ukraine and inside Belarus, also along the border with Ukraine. If the estimate of 75 percent is accurate, then an estimated 120,000 Russian troops are taking part in the invasion.

Ukrainians continue their David vs. Goliath battle against the Russian invaders

The Pentagon states that Russia has, thus far, failed to achieve air superiority over Ukraine.

“The airspace over Ukraine remains contested. Ukrainian air defenses remain intact and viable, both in terms of aircraft and missile defense systems, and they’re engaged,” according the the official.

Ukrainian ground forces have slowed the Russian advance on the capital city of Kyiv and Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv. Still, Russian forces are roughly 25 kilometers out of Kyiv. The official said this appears to be the Russian’s main line of effort.

There have been roughly 380 ballistic and cruise missile launches against Ukraine, the official said.

Despite news reports, U.S. officials have seen no indications that Belarussian troops are being readied to move into Ukraine. “Our best information is that the forces inside Ukraine are all Russians,” the senior official said.

Logistics Matter in a War

The Ukrainian resistance and Russian military problems with logistics and sustainment have combined to slow the Russian invasion.

“Our indications are that they ended up having to rely on fuel and sustainment capabilities earlier in the process than what we believe they had planned to,” the official said. “So, on day four, they’re running out of gas, and they’re having logistics problems.”

It is hard to ‘Fact-Check’ Ostlund’s Tweet, however it matches to the Pentagon’s briefing.

Added to this is Ukrainian resistance, including disabling a major bridge, which has worked in Ukraine’s favor.

Russia seems to be trying to encircle Kharkiv and Kyiv. Kharkiv is the scene of heavy fighting. Russian units have not taken the city but appear intent on encircling it.

The same tactic appears to be in play in Kyiv. “We believe that they want to be able to approach Kyiv from multiple directions and put pressure on Ukrainian defenses, all around Kyiv,” the official said.

The official said Ukrainians have proven “very creative in how they are … resisting.”

“We talked about the combined arms capabilities of the Russians,” the official said. “The Ukrainians have proved pretty effective with their own combined arms approach. … It varies from place to place based on where the Ukrainians are, and how fast they can get there and what they have at their disposal, but they are using pretty much everything that they have in their arsenal from small arms all the way up to surface-to-air missiles to try to slow down the Russians.”

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