Situation on the ground, international reactions, sanctions: the point on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Twenty countries pledge to supply additional weapons to Ukraine
Twenty countries pledged to provide additional weapons to Ukraine to deal with Russian forces at a meeting of allies on Monday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced. “Today’s meeting went very well,” he said. “Many countries will donate much-needed artillery ammunition, coastal defense systems, tanks and other armor” to the kyiv army, he added.
In this second meeting of the “Contact Group for the Defense of Ukraine”, 44 countries came together virtually to discuss military assistance to Ukraine at this stage of the conflict. The Ukrainian Minister of Defense briefed the participants on the current military situation, three months after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Among the equipment to be delivered to Ukraine, Denmark has notably undertaken to send a Harpoon anti-ship missile system.
Opposed to the war, a Russian diplomat resigns with a bang in Geneva
A Geneva-based Russian diplomat opposed to the war against Ukraine has announced his resignation with a bang, saying in a letter made public that “never” had he been “so ashamed” of his country, according to several concordant sources. Boris Bondarev, Advisor to the Russian Permanent Representation sent an email to fellow diplomats to announce his decision, which was revealed by the NGO UN Watch and confirmed by several diplomatic sources.
“During the 20 years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns in our foreign policy but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24 of this year” when Russia invaded Ukraine, writes Mr. Bondarev. Mr. Bondarev – whose name appears well in the official directory of diplomats to the UN in Geneva – says he has worked in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2002 and since 2019 on the shores of Lake Geneva.
The conquered region of Kherson establishes the ruble
The new pro-Russian authorities of the Ukrainian region of Kherson, conquered by Moscow, on Monday made the Russian currency, the ruble, the official currency alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia. “The region is becoming a dual-currency zone: the ruble will circulate in the same way as the hryvnia. Companies and entrepreneurs can post prices in both currencies,” announced the pro-Russian civil and military administration of this region located in southern Ukraine. “The course is two rubles for one hryvnia,” she continued, in a statement on her Telegram account. The administration adds that the first branch of a Russian bank will open “very soon” in Kherson, the regional capital, and that “all entrepreneurs wishing to do so” will be able to open an account there.
War crime in Ukraine: Vadim Chichimarine sentenced to life imprisonment
The first Russian soldier to be tried for a war crime since Russia invaded Ukraine, Vadim Chichimarine, was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison on Monday in kyiv for the murder of a civilian. His lawyer immediately announced that he would appeal. “The court has decided to find Chichimarin guilty and sentence him to life imprisonment,” said judge Serguiï Agafonov, noted an AFP journalist present in the courtroom. Sergeant Chichimarine, 21, had admitted shooting dead Oleksandre Chelipov, a 62-year-old civilian, in the northeast of the country during the first days of the Russian army’s invasion of Ukraine. He is found guilty of war crimes and premeditated murder.
An “increasingly difficult” situation in the Donbass
The situation is becoming “more and more difficult” for Ukrainians in the Donbass where Moscow is bombarding Severodonetsk “24 hours a day”, while the verdict in the first war crimes trial against a Russian soldier is expected in kyiv on Monday. Moscow continues to step up its firepower in the Donbass. There are, according to Serguiï Gaïdaï, governor of the Lugansk region, the units withdrawn from the Kharkiv region (north-east), the attackers of the siege of Mariupol (south-east), the militias of the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk , Chechen forces and troops mobilized as reinforcements from Siberia and the Russian Far East.
“All Russian forces are concentrated in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions,” Gaidai said on Telegram. Same with armament. “Everything is concentrated here,” added the governor, including the famous anti-aircraft and anti-missile complexes S-300 and S-400, equivalent to the American Patriots. Crucial point of this battle of Donbass, Severodonetsk, in the region of Lugansk, is under fire from Moscow “24 hours a day”, was indignant Mr. Gaïdaï. “They are using scorched earth tactics, they are deliberately destroying the city” with aerial bombardments, multiple rocket launchers, mortars or tanks firing at buildings, he added.
The Ukrainian army announced on Facebook on Sunday at least seven civilians killed and eight others injured in bombings in 45 municipalities in the Donetsk region. The fate of Severodonetsk resembles that of Mariupol, which today presents an apocalyptic landscape after several weeks of siege. Several neighborhoods are nothing but a tangle of sheet metal and debris, bars of buildings ripped open by missiles and shells. Hundreds of thousands of residents fled. Others died. An unknown but undoubtedly enormous balance sheet.
Zelensky speaks in Davos
The Ukrainian president is continuing his videoconference tour with world leaders. Volodymyr Zelensky will speak on Monday at the World Economic Forum (WEF), which is meeting again in Davos after two years of suspension due to the pandemic. He should take advantage of this platform to call for more aid, financial and military. If this intervention will be on screen, several Ukrainian leaders will be present in the Swiss station, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kouleba or the mayor of kyiv Vitali Klitschko.
These Ukrainians will not meet Russians, excluded from the WEF. The “Russian house” usually open in the city during the Forum will be replaced by a “Russian war crimes house”, where various support events with Ukrainian personalities will be organized. Faced with the gratin of the world economy, Mr. Zelensky could also evoke kyiv’s desire to join the European Union, a subject that divides the members of the EU.
Table of negotiations
Polish President Andrezj Duda indeed supported Ukraine’s candidacy on Sunday during his speech to the Ukrainian Parliament, the first for a head of state since the war. “We must respect” the peoples who “shed their blood” to belong to Europe, he launched, targeting French President Emmanuel Macron and his proposal for a “European Political Community”, as well as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz opposed to granting Ukraine a “short cut” in EU membership. The French Minister Delegate for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, defended these positions again on Sunday, stressing that Ukraine’s accession to the EU would take “probably 15 or 20 years”.
The Russians say they are ready to return to the negotiating table, placing the responsibility for the cessation of talks on kyiv. “For our part, we are ready to continue the dialogue,” Vladimir Medinski, Kremlin adviser in charge of negotiations with kyiv, said on Sunday in an interview with Belarusian television. “The freezing of the talks was entirely an initiative of Ukraine”, he added, believing that the ball was “in their court”. The two belligerents had started discussions after Moscow’s failure to take kyiv. However, these had fizzled out, despite several meetings in Turkey.