The latest, former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych is allegedly in Minsk, with the Kremlin reportedly preparing an operation to replace Zelensky with the ex-president ousted by the EuroMaidan Revolution in 2014, this according to Ukrainska Pravda’s sources.
Russian Military have ramped up strikes on Key Ukrainian cities
- In the capital: A Russian missile hit a Kyiv Holocaust memorial on Monday resulting in the death of five people.
- Russian troops around the Ukraine capital are still waiting for reinforcements and supplies. Stiff resistance and apparent logistical problems including food and fuel shortages are slowing the advance. It could be that despite Russian military planning, the logistical log-jam is a real and growing problem.
- Russian Officials are claiming Russian soldiers have taken control of a coastal city, while Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city faced intensified bombing.
- Over 680,000 people have left Ukraine seeking safety. This is the largest human exodus in Europe since the Balkan wars in the 1990s. European Bus company Flix Bus has offered rides for free where possible
Economic Battle Front
Russian banks are being disconnected from the international payment system SWIFT. This consolidated decision was made by the heads of the leading EU countries, UK, Canada and the United States. Payment systems such as Visa and Mastercard have stopped working with Russian banks – in fact, the cards of these banks (especially outside of Russia) are now turning into mere pieces of plastic.
The Central Bank of Russia decided to raise its key refinancing rate to 20%. In effect, the debt capital (credit) market in Russia has simply died. Next, there will be a breakdown in supply chains and problems with goods (even the simplest ones) in stores.
The Russian ruble has plummeted rapidly this week. Google reports the following rate – 106 rubles per dollar (even relatively recently the rate was about 70 rubles, and in 2013, before the beginning of 2014 – 30 rubles). This means that the real purchasing power of Russian money has dropped significantly – if in 2013 a salary of 30,000 rubles was quite good and was about $1,000 at the exchange rate, now it is a measly $280. The same has happened with pensions – the average Russian pension of 18,000 rubles is now about $170, which is below the poorest countries in Africa.
Freedom Curtain for Aviation and Shipping
Russian aviation can no longer fly over the EU. Aeroflot has cancelled all flights west for the foreseeable future. In what may be a real crippling blow to Russian airlines, lease contracts under which Russian airlines have foreign aircraft are being hastily broken up. American Airlines is suspending its agreements with Aeroflot and S7.
United States President Biden in his State of the Union Address promised that the United States will close its airspace to Russian aircraft.
Russian flagged ships will no longer be able to enter British ports. The head of Britain’s Department of Transport, Grant Shapps, has asked the country’s port managers do not to grant access to ships that sail under the Russian flag.
Russian Officials Cracking Down on Media
The Russian-language phrase of the day is “закрывать лавочку” — “To close up shop. Ekho Moskvy editor-in-chief Alexey Venediktov says the radio station must do that if it’s not allowed back on the air with its editorial independence intact.
The station also faces pressure in Europe, where Google has blocked its account on YouTube, apparently because it is majority-owned by a subsidiary of the state-owned multinational energy corporation Gazprom.
On Tuesday, the federal censor removed both Ekho Moskvy and the independent television network Dozhd from Russia’s airwaves for violating the government’s prohibition on referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as either an invasion or war.
In Canada Russian television networks are being removed from cable television packages.
The invasion of Ukraine is rapidly turning Vladimir Putin’s Russia dark.
Getting reliable casualty figures is difficult.
United States Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks met Monday with Australian Defense Secretary Greg Moriarty to advance the United States-Australia alliance and compare perspectives on managing national defense enterprises, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said.
Moriarty told Hicks that Australia’s government has decided to provide lethal and nonlethal aid to Ukraine. Hicks welcomed the announcement as a demonstration of Australia’s enduring commitment to global peace and security, Pahon said.
The leaders also discussed progress in the Australia-United Kingdom-U.S. trilateral security partnership, known as AUKUS. Topics included the identification of initial, advanced capabilities to pursue through trilateral cooperation, governance processes for the trilateral partnership and efforts to bolster information-sharing, Pahon said.
They also discussed alliance management issues, including defense industrial base cooperation and pending U.S. strategic reviews, he said.