Lots of noise over Ukraine, What we want is peace

Flag of Ukraine

Media are full of information and disinformation on Ukraine. Many of those are adding charges to the Ukraine situation, a few show activities to flare up war situation, and a few show a different situation. Following are a few media reports in brief:

Ukraine Accuses U.S. of Hurting Its Economy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the U.S. was damaging his country’s economy by unduly stoking panic that Russia may be planning an invasion. Zelenskiy said satellite images alone were insufficient to assess the extent of the military buildup and the situation has not escalated.

“We are grateful to the U.S. for the support for our independence and territorial integrity,” Zelenskiy told foreign media in Kyiv. “But I am the president of Ukraine, I am here and I know more details and I have deeper knowledge than any other president.”

The situation on the border with Russia has not escalated beyond where it stood last spring, Zelenskiy told reporters in Kyiv. He criticized “international leaders” who have openly speculated about a possible Russian invasion, and said that officials should be more careful in making comments about the imminent risk of war.

“Unbalanced information” costs Ukraine’s economy “a lot,” Zelenskiy added. His remarks come amid increasingly strong U.S. warnings about Russia’s plans. Biden told Zelenskiy in a call Thursday night “that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February,” according to a U.S. official.

Ukraine needs as much as $5 billion in financial support from countries and international partners to stabilize its economy, Zelenskiy said.

Commodity Price Risk From Fear of Conflict

Tensions over Ukraine have already sent natural gas prices spiraling, and could hit a raft of other raw materials crucial to the global economy at a time governments are dealing with an energy crunch, surging inflation, and a cost-of-living crisis.

The crisis “could spawn a butterfly effect, sending commodity prices spiraling higher as supply woes multiply,” analysts at Bloomberg Intelligence wrote. “Sanctions could usher in shortages of food and energy, causing prices of both to soar.”

France FM Has ‘No Knowledge’ Putin Set to Invade

France’s foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he had “no knowledge” that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a “decision” to engage into military action in Ukraine, but he added that Russia was logistically prepared for such a scenario.

In an interview to newspaper Journal du Dimanche, Le Drian also declined to detail what possible sanctions against Russia could be, because he said describing them would undermine the effectiveness of the threat. His message for Putin was: “Not a single step further.”

U.K. Weighs Big ‘Offer’ to NATO

The U.K. is considering the “biggest possible offer” to NATO, including more troops and weapons to Estonia, to help deter any Russian aggression against Ukraine.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement late Saturday he has ordered British troops to “prepare to deploy across Europe next week.” He is also scheduled to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.

“This package would send a clear message to the Kremlin – we will not tolerate their destabilizing activity, and we will always stand with our NATO allies in the face Russian hostility,” Johnson said. The deployment could include fast jets, warships and military specialists, according to the statement.

Biden Says He Will Send U.S. Forces to Eastern Europe

Biden said Friday he would be sending American troops to Eastern Europe as the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. He added that “not a lot” of soldiers would be involved “in the near term.”

Biden didn’t name any countries where troops may be deployed or elaborate further.

U.S., EU Crafting Sanctions on Russian Debt, Banks, Individuals

The U.S. and the European Union are zeroing in on a package of sanctions against Russia should Putin decide to invade Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter and documents seen by Bloomberg.

The measures would broadly fall into several categories including: restrictions on the refinancing of Russian sovereign debt; financial sanctions; and the singling out of individuals and entities close to the Kremlin. Western allies are also working on a series of trade-related measures covering key goods and sectors.

Biden Team Briefs Wall Street on Possible Russia Sanctions

Biden administration officials met with the largest U.S. banks to discuss possible sanctions against Russia in an effort to make sure any moves don’t disrupt the global financial system.

The banks briefed by included Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

Russia to Shift Location of Naval Drills Near Ireland

Russia will relocate planned naval exercises to outside of Ireland’s exclusive economic zone, according to its ambassador in Dublin, Yuriy Filatov, in what he described as a gesture of goodwill toward the Irish government and local fishermen.

Russia’s navy was set to run drills off the southwest Irish coast from Feb. 3 to Feb. 8. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said this week the exercises weren’t welcome, and the fishing industry raised concern about potential damage.

Coveney commented on Twitter that Russia’s response was “welcome.”

Baerbock Underscores Germany’s Solidarity

Germany is continuing to seek de-escalation between Ukraine and Russia based on the so-called Normandy format, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said ahead of a visit to Kyiv with her French counterpart.

“Our commitment to the inviolability of Ukraine & solidarity with its people” are behind the planned visit, Baerbock tweeted.

French, German Diplomats to Visit Kyiv on Feb. 7-8

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Germany’s Annalena Baerbock plan to visit Kyiv on Feb. 7-8, Le Drian said on Twitter.

Le Drian said he assured Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, of “our full support and solidarity with Ukraine. Our mobilization continues, in particular in the Normandy format, to de-escalate tensions.”

Kuleba, also on Twitter, said he and Le Drian had spoken on ways to help Ukraine’s economy “mitigate security risks.”

Boris Johnson to Call Putin, Visit Eastern Europe

Boris Johnson will speak with Putin this week and plans to go to Eastern Europe soon as the U.K. boosts its efforts to help end the Ukraine crisis.

UN Security Council to Debate Crisis Monday

The U.S. said the UN Security Council should be fully engaged on the Ukraine crisis and confirmed that the council will discuss the issue during an open meeting on Monday, one day before Russia assumes the rotating presidency of the Security Council for February.

Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy, the deputy at the Russian Mission to the UN, tweeted his opposition to the meeting, calling it a “stunt shameful for the reputation” of the council.

NATO Has Boosted Readiness

NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance has increased the readiness of its response force this month and is considering adding battle groups to the Black Sea region.

“Our aim is to convey a clear message to Russia,” Stoltenberg said at an Atlantic Council conference. “If they use military force against Ukraine it will have severe consequences.”

Western Foreigners in Ukraine

A report by BuzzFeed News (NATO Won’t Put Troops In Ukraine, But Western Foreigners Are Volunteering To Join The Fight Against Russia, January 28, 2022, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/christopherm51/russia-invade-ukraine-western-fighters-nato) said:

“He walked and talked and dressed like a Ukrainian soldier — and according to a contract with its armed forces, he is one. But Private Aiden “Johnny” Aslin is a British citizen with a Midlands accent and no formal orders from his home government to be fighting on the battlefields of the Donbas.

“‘It was my own decision to come here,’ the 27-year-old told BuzzFeed News in this war-ravaged village, just north of the Sea of Azov. As he spoke, explosions from landmines being cleared in a nearby field reverberated. ‘I just want to support the Ukrainian state, the people, and help them fight for their sovereignty and independence,’ he added.

“Aslin, who has served with Ukraine’s marines since September 2018 and just extended his contract for a fourth year, is one of the thousands of foreign fighters who have flocked to Ukraine since the war began in 2014 to fight for one side or the other. Most of them have been Russians and citizens of other former Soviet republics, and most joined unofficial volunteer units. But hundreds have come from the European Union, roughly 40 have arrived from the US, and at least 12 from the UK, according to BuzzFeed News’ reporting and independent research done by experts who track such fighters.”

The report said:

“The Western foreigners who have come to Ukraine are a motley crew. There are the idealists like Aslin who believe their own countries aren’t doing enough to help the Ukrainians secure their freedom and want to do what they can to help fight against Russian aggression against its former subject. There are the tourists who hop from conflict to conflict seeking adventure and war stories as much as money. And then there are the extremists who have seen opportunities to link up with far-right paramilitary groups fighting in Ukraine. Of course, some of the foreigners fit into more than one category.

“The Ukrainian military has made little effort on its own to recruit them, instead letting any interested foreigners simply come or leaving it to word of mouth. (Ukraine did, however, adopt legislation in 2015 allowing foreigners to officially serve in its regular armed forces, and it created a path to citizenship for those who complete a three-year contract.) But as Russia masses more than 100,000 troops around Ukraine in preparation for what President Joe Biden warned Thursday is likely to be a large-scale attack in February, the Ukrainian military has approved limited recruitment and vetting of prospective foreign fighters.

“‘We have the green light,’ Mamuka Mamulashvili, a former Georgian military officer who now commands an English-speaking force of volunteer fighters known as the Georgia National Legion, told BuzzFeed News this week. ‘We are recruiting professionals.’

“More than 300 Western foreigners have passed through the ranks of the Legion since its inception in 2014. Many of them came from NATO countries and with prior military experience. ‘If they all came at once we’d have a very good battalion,’ said Mamulashvili, who fought the Russian army as a teenager in Abkhazia, a separatist Georgian enclave backed by Moscow.

“But in recent years, what had been a steady stream of foreigners slowed to a trickle. Many Westerners, Mamulashvili said, were turned off by the idea of joining what had become a war of attrition, a grinding — even boring at times — trench battle reminiscent of the First and Second World Wars dug into a frozen front line.”

It said:

“Mamulashvili said he has received more than 30 inquiries “mostly from the US and the UK” and “one from Germany” in the past two weeks alone.

“‘I am from the United States and wish to do something fulfilling and bigger than myself,’ read one message sent this month that was seen by BuzzFeed News.

“‘How does an American join? I want to fight for whats right im prior service i started taking basic russian classes im in decent shape and i have a good aim and can help train,’ another inquiry read.

“‘I was a combat medic in the us army infantry as well as training in the police academy. I’m a dual US and Ukraine citizen,’ yet another interested man wrote.

“The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and General Staff of the Armed Forces declined to comment on their recruiting efforts and the number of foreigners currently enlisted in the country’s armed forces. But a press officer for the Joint Forces Operation, as the military’s operation in eastern Ukraine is known, told BuzzFeed News that two British men, including Aslin, and one American man were serving in the area. The press officer said they were of value to their units due to their previous military experience, even if some of it was not in official military structures, and that their presence helped keep up the morale of their Ukrainian comrades.

“In emailed comments, a State Department spokesperson didn’t address the issue of U.S. citizens fighting here but suggested they should heed the department’s advice to leave the country. ‘We urge U.S. citizens not to travel to Ukraine and have advised U.S. citizens in Ukraine that they should consider departing now,’ the official said.

“The U.K. Foreign Office referred questions to the Ministry of Defence, which did not provide comments. In 2017, a British court convicted UK citizen Benjamin Stimson on terrorism charges for fighting on the Russia-backed side of the war.”

The report said:

“To some in Ukraine’s military, the foreign fighters fill the role of Western boots on the ground that they would like to see here.”

It said:

“The U.S. has provided more than $2.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, including lethal aid and training, since 2014. A third delivery of the latest $200 million package arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday. It included about 300 Javelin anti-tank systems and missiles as well as “bunker busters” and smaller ammunition. The U.K. has also provided significant security assistance, including, in recent days, anti-armor missiles and, since 2015, British personnel to train upwards of 21,000 Ukrainian troops.

“But both countries have stopped short of sending troops to fight alongside Ukrainian soldiers, and Biden has said repeatedly amid Russia’s latest buildup that such an option is not on the table.

“But among the new prospects who are considering travel to the front on their own is 26-year-old Detroit resident Tychus. He asked that his nickname be used in place of his legal name for security reasons and because he had not yet discussed his idea to come fight in Ukraine with his family.

“Tychus claims he is a Marine veteran who served a year in the corps and was medically separated in 2016. While working in a security job and playing online games with Ukrainians in his downtime, he came to learn more about the ongoing war against Russia and its separatist proxies in the Donbas region. Two weeks ago, he reached out to Mamulashvili to ask about joining the Georgian National Legion because he wanted to continue his military service and has grown frustrated by what he believes is a meager U.S. response to the deepening crisis in Ukraine.”

The report added:

“Applications for foreigners to join the official military have taken up to four months to process in the past, but Aslin said it was recently streamlined. On his Instagram account, where he goes by the name CossackGundi (a mashup of the Ukrainian term for the warriors who roamed its steppe lands and a Kurdish term for villager, which he picked up while fighting for two years alongside the Kurds against ISIS in Syria), he regularly shares photos and videos from the front line with his 30,000 followers.

“In recent weeks, Aslin said, he has received hundreds of DMs from people interested in joining him. He is careful not to call what he does recruiting, but he does provide advice on how to follow in his footsteps.”

The report said:

“Experts have warned that Ukraine has become a destination and training ground for Western far-right paramilitary groups who might want to bring what they’ve learned back home.

Craig Lang, a U.S. Army veteran who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before being dishonorably discharged for going AWOL and allegedly threatening the life of his ex-wife, was a thrill-seeker who sought military adventure on three continents. He came to Ukraine as a volunteer in the far-right paramilitary unit Right Sector but also spent two months in the Ukrainian army. While here, colleagues say, he was radicalized, and U.S. authorities have investigated him for possible war crimes against Ukrainians. When he returned to the U.S., authorities allege, he and another American man whom he had met in Right Sector shot to death and robbed a Florida couple to fund their next foreign military adventure; the pair wanted to go to Venezuela, where they hoped to link up with rebels fighting to overthrow the country’s socialist government. Lang eventually escaped law enforcement and is now in Kyiv, fighting extradition. He denies the charges against him.

“Lang’s story cast a long shadow over Ukraine and the Georgian National Legion, of which he was briefly a member.”

It said:

“Many foreigners looking for a war seek out Ukraine for its low barrier to entry. There are few visa restrictions for many Western visitors, who are generally welcomed here. Ukraine is a relatively affordable country that enjoys connections with much of the rest of Europe. And the war zone is accessible by the Intercity “fast train” from Kyiv. Moreover, groups like the Georgian National Legion help pave the way for people to sign official contracts with the Ukrainian military.

“BuzzFeed News observed a training at the legion base beside an ice hockey rink on the outskirts of Kyiv this month. The foreign fighters moved swiftly and efficiently through an abandoned building that resembled the battle-ruined infrastructure of some of the Donbas, practicing capturing enemy fighters and killing a sniper positioned in a window.”

It said:

“Aslin, whose youthful face is hidden behind a full beard, agreed. But the fight for him is also personal. While here, he met a Ukrainian woman, and they are now engaged. When his contract expires late this spring, he hopes to settle in a nearby city and start a life in Ukraine. And that is what is motivating him right now as Russia threatens a new invasion.”


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