War Update #17 – Russians Push ‘Dirty Bomb’ WMD Story – More Economic Hardship – President Zelensky Talks with US President

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Russian President Vladimir Putin - Image supplied by the Kremlin
Russian President Vladimir Putin - Image supplied by the Kremlin

Financial issues will be the topic of an Atlantic Council online event on March 8th. The AC says, “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine so far shows no signs of stopping, and Russian and Ukrainian forces continue to battle over control of key cities across the country. Much of the world has condemned the Kremlin’s war and called for consequences for Russia’s political and military elite. With the G7’s sweeping sanctions on Russia’s economy and major international financial nations like Switzerland freezing Russian assets, an estimated $360 billion in foreign reserves is now out of reach for Putin and his government.

“However, according to the most reliable estimates, Russia has the world’s largest volume of dark money hidden abroad—about $1 trillion. With the United States serving as a major hub for global money laundering, what needs to happen so the United States can find and freeze hidden Russian assets in the US economy?”

  • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty has left Russia: The radio station which has broadcast from Russia since 1991 has announced it is suspending operations in Russia. RFE says that part of the reason are bankruptcy proceedings initiated by tax officials in response to the station’s refusal to pay fines for not complying with Russia’s foreign agent designation regulations, and the general intensification of police pressure throughout the country on journalists. T
  • Russian news agencies are pushing promote claims of a Ukrainian dirty bomb program: At roughly 8 am, Moscow time, Russia’s three main news agencies — RIA Novosti, Interfax, and TASS — all simultaneously reported, all citing apparent anonymous sources, that Ukraine was allegedly developing nuclear weapons before Russia’s invasion. In a message not unlike former United States President George W. Bush’s administrations claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, RIA and Interfax both published identical quotes from their source: “It’s worth noting that they were using the Chernobyl nuclear power plant zone as a site to develop nuclear weapons. It was there, judging by the available information, that they were working on manufacturing a ‘dirty bomb’ and plutonium separation. The Chernobyl zone’s increased background radiation concealed that this work was underway.” These claims can not be verified by independent sources.
  • Looming Vehicle Part Shortages: Russia reportedly only has enough vehicle parts to keep up maintenance and repairs for eight week at the most. Auto dealers are reporting that information to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. Thus far into President Putin’s War, vehicle maintenance and repairs including vehicles from manufacturers who have left Russia remain normal.
  • For Everything Else there isn’t Mastercard Anymore: Visa and MasterCard are halting operations in Russia. Although Russia’s Central Bank is working to reassure customers that credit cards issued by international bans will fail only when used abroad. Visa and Mastercard will, according to the Central Bank still work inside Russia. This policy could create financial concern for Russian card holders who have left the country however.
  • Ukraine President Contacted US President: Ukrainian President Zelensky spoke on the phone and over video chat with the U.S. President Joe Biden. The White House says that President Zelensky spoke of Ukraine’s concerns about Russian attack on a Ukrainian nuclear power plant.; “The agenda included the issues of security, financial support for Ukraine, and the continuation of sanctions,” said President Zelensky.

The World Health Organization is on the ground in Ukraine. There was a delivery today of 36 metric tonnes of supplies. There are some major concerns being raised due to the impact of the military actions brought forward by Russian Military Forces in President Putin’s war against Ukraine cities.

One concern of course is COVID-19. The war has put the global pandemic on the shelf per se. However just before the Russians invaded there were over 150,000 active cases of the virus.

Now with the war, there is no reported testing or numbers.

Priority public health concerns

  • Conflict related trauma and injuries exacerbated by lack of access to health facilities by patients and health staff due to insecurity and lack of access to lifesaving medicine and supplies.

  • Excess morbidity and death from commonillnesses due to disruption in services such as non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular, diabetes, cancer etc.) and acute maternal, newborn and child illnesses.

  • Spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19,measles, polio, TB, HIV and diarrheal diseasesdue to widespread destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure, inadequate vaccinationcoverage, lack of access to medicines and medical care, safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene as well as population movements and crowding.

  • Mental health and psychosocial health – due to significant stress due to acute conflict and two years of COVID-19.

WHO Actions

  • Coordinating the health response in support of the Ministry of Health in Ukraine and surrounding countries.

  • Conducting public health risk and health facility and service assessments.

  • Scaling-up surveillance and health information to detect and respond to outbreaks early and to better understand health needs, health threats, and the functionality and availability of health services.

  • Providing WHO technical support and surge staff to manage the priority health concerns as well asmobilizing partners through Emergency Medical Teams (EMT), the Global Outbreak Alert andResponse Network (GOARN) and the Global Health Cluster, among others.

  • Providing health supplies and logistic capacity to deliver medicines, diagnostics and preventivesupplies.

  • Monitoring attacks on health care.

  • Ensuring the safety and security of WHO staff and our implementing partners.