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Daily review: Ukraine continues preparing to possible attack, no progress in Russia-West talks, successful launch of Ukrainian satellite

Ukraine news
Daily review: Ukraine continues preparing to possible attack, no progress in Russia-West talks, successful launch of Ukrainian satellite
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Past 24 hours in the war zone

  • Russian hybrid forces launch 4 attacks on Ukrainian positions in Donetsk, Luhansk and Mariupol sectors, incl heavy artillery and weapons banned by Minsk.
  • 1 Ukrainian soldier wounded.
  • As of 19:30 Jan 11, OSCE SMM recorded 197 violations, incl 26 explosions in Donetsk Obl; 105 violations, incl 20 explosions in Luhansk Obl.

News flash

  • Finland and Sweden can expect a quick joining to NATO if they apply for membership, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at press conference. In their New Year’s addresses to the citizens, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin emphasized that Finland has the right to apply to NATO at any time to join the military-political alliance.
  • “Russia is threatening Ukraine and putting into question Europe’s security architecture. This week in Brest, EU Foreign&Defence Ministers are meeting: we should be united, clear about what we want and, above all, what we intend to do.” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy Josep Borrell.
  • The Russian-led military alliance, The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), announced the end of “peacekeeping mission” in Afghanistan and the beginning of the withdrawal of troops.
  • The Supreme Court in Prague has upheld on appeal a 20-years long sentence for a man who fought against Ukraine in the Donbas in the ranks of Russian hybrid forces. This is not the fist such case in the Czech legal practice.
  • Estonian Ambassador to Ukraine Kaimo Kuusk said that Estonia is ready to provide Ukraine with the most modern field hospital for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in eastern Ukraine. The peculiarity of a military hospital is that it can be unpacked or packed in an hour. The hospitals are manufactured in Estonia, their production is funded by Germany.
  • Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitriy Peskov says it’s first necessary to implement previously reached Minsk Accords before setting up new meeting.

First Ukrainian satellite in 10 years launched into orbit by SpaceX

On 13 January, in its mission Transporter-3, the American company SpaceX launched the Ukrainian satellite Sich-2-30 among a few dozens of other payloads. The rocket soared into space from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Designed by the design bureau Pivdenne (or Yuzhnoye) in the central-Ukrainian city of Dnipro, the Ukrainian Sich-2-30 satellite is designed to obtain digital photos of the Earth’s surface in the visible and near-infrared ranges. Additionally, the satellite is used to monitor the ionosphere of the planet.

SpaceX launches Ukrainian satellite Sich-2-30 into orbit

Russian gas exports through Ukraine fall further in 2022 as part of wider energy war against Europe

Executive Director of the International Energy Agency Fatih Birol reports Russia has artificially reduced its Natural Gas supplies, which is among the reasons of contemporary gas crisis:

“We see strong elements of ‘artificial tightness’ in European gas markets, which appears to be due to the behaviour of Russia’s state-controlled gas supplier. Unlike other pipeline suppliers – such as Algeria, Azerbaijan and Norway – Russia has reduced its exports to Europe by 25% in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020 – and by 22% compared with its 2019 levels.”

Moreover, since the new year, Russian gas exports through Ukraine have aggressively fallen:

US to vote on Republican draft sanctioning Nord Stream 2, Democrats propose Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act

Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, along with 25 other Democrats, presented a draft Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act 2022, which provides for new “crippling sanctions on the Russian banking sector and senior military and government officials” and additional support for Ukraine in the event of further Russian invasion. Among else, the bill blocks Russia’s access to the international banking system (SWIFT).

As was reported earlier, a group of influential Republicans in the US House of Representatives has initiated a bill designating Ukraine a “NATO Plus” country, sanctioning Nord Stream 2. This bill is expected to be considered soon.

US House Republicans propose designating Ukraine a “NATO Plus” country, sanctioning Nord Stream 2

No progress at West-Russia talks during OSCE meeting

A third round of talks in Europe in a week aimed at defusing tensions between Russia and the West appears to have ended in deadlock, with neither side budging on their core positions in tense diplomacy seeking to avoid a major security crisis.

Diplomats offered a dire assessment of developments at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on January 13, taking place against the backdrop of Western concerns that a Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s doorstep may be a prelude to an invasion.

It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years,” Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said, launching his country’s yearlong chairmanship of the 57-member security organization.

On 12th January after Russia-NATO talks, NATO refused to decrease its military presence on the eastern flank as demanded by Russia.

Russia seem to be not changing its position after the talks, claiming that

“NATO countries must stop any kind of assistance to Ukraine” for de-escalation, as Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandr Grushko stated during his press brief.

He also said that big differences in the approaches of Russia and the West to the Ukraine issue did not allow the Russia-NATO Council to agree on the algorithm for further steps.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov, who talked on behalf of the Russia side during the US-Russia talks on 10 January, said he “doesn’t want neither to confirm nor to deny’ the possibility of the deployment of Russian troops to Venezuela and Cuba

As Poland took over the OSCE chair, the chairman will pay his first international visit to Ukraine

OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland Zbigniew Rau will pay his first visit to Ukraine, including the front line in the east “to see the situation on the ground with my own eyes,” Ukrinform reports.

Poland took over the OSCE chair on January 1. Poland’s OSCE chairmanship is also ready to present initiatives aimed at achieving mutual understanding and reducing tensions in the region.

Ukraine continues to prepare for possible Russian invasion, deploying and training more troops

In the Kherson region in Ukraine’s south, units of the Ukrainian air defense group “South” conducted training using an anti-aircraft missile systems “Osa-AKM”. The Ukrainian military trained to use missile systems to destroy enemy drones, helicopters, planes and ground equipment.

Osa-AKM missile system can detect target in the distance up to 45 kilometers and hit it in the distance of up to 10 km.

Anticipating Russian air attack from Crimea, the Ukrainian military has deployed an anti-aircraft missile unit to guard its southern territory. The recently repositioned battalion is armed with upgraded, Soviet-era S-300PS surface-to-air missiles. The unit’s missiles can strike targets as far away as 75 kilometers and up to an altitude of 27 kilometers, according to a Ukrainian military report.

Upgraded S-300PS surface-to-air missiles.

Military weapons move westward on trains from Russia’s Far-East

The Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) observed that in the past week, videos on social media have showed military vehicles on trains in Russia’s Far East, moving West. Trucks, tanks IFVs and MLRS can be seen on the flatbed railcars. Eyewitnesses report several trains per week or even per day.

“Russia’s security services take steps to hide those trains from open databases, but indirect data points to departure from the bases of all four armies of Russia’s Eastern Military District. Some trains are already seen further west than the EMD, suggesting unusual redeployment. Given that Russia’s paratroopers are soon to leave Kazakhstan, the only other likely destination is near Ukraine, where they’d join other Russian units already there. Videos filmed from the trains themselves suggest at least some personnel is moving with the vehicles. Of particular note are trains from Ulan-Ude, the base of the 5th Separate Tank Brigade, which was active in Ukraine in the winter of 2015. The final destination of these vehicles is yet unknown, as is the date and scope of Russia’s potential operation against government-controlled areas of Ukraine,” CIT wrote.

Photo: CITeam_en/Twitter

The Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine took part in a meeting of the NATO Military Committee

The Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Lieutenant General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, took part in a meeting of the NATO Military Committee at the level of the Chief commanders. The military committee provides the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s highest political authority, with consensus-based military advice.

Russia has not accepted the European choice of the Ukrainian people and continues its aggression against us, increases its military presence around our border. The threat of a new stage of Russia’s armed aggression, along with its ultimatum to the West, requires a comprehensive and consolidated response based on the inviolable values of the democratic world,” Zaluzhnyi said.

Court rules 8 years of imprisonment for pro-Russian militant

Based on he evidence collected by Ukraine’s security service, the court has ruled 8-year imprisonment for commander of a special unit of pro-Russian militants in Donbas. The convicted provided personal protection for the leader of DNR and LNR Russian puppet Republics and their Russian curators.

SBU officers detained the malefactor in 2017 when he tried to enter Ukraine from Russia. According to the investigation, the convicted is a resident of Odesa, who moved to Donetsk in 2014 and voluntarily joined the ranks of illegal armed groups of the so-called DNR.

Russia holds Crimean Tatar journalists and activists in conditions tantamount to torture

Cold, damp and teeming with vermin, these are the conditions in the Novocherkassk SIZO, or remand prison, where seven Crimean Tatar civic journalists and activists are imprisoned while awaiting their appeal against horrific sentences. Nor are they the only Ukrainian political prisoners whom Russia is subjecting to conditions tantamount to torture.

Ukraine’s security service may be cooperating with the relevant Russian and Kazakh agencies, human rights activists warn

In the evening of 6 January, people identifying themselves as Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) officers assaulted Zamanbek Tleuliev and Yeldos Nasipbekov, Kazakh opposition activists and coordinators of the peaceful opposition movement Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK), Lyudmila Kozlovska, chair of the human rights NGO Open Dialogue Foundation, reported on her Facebook page.

Although the SBU officers wore no uniforms and presented no documents, they were clearly the attackers, since they commented on the meeting with the activists later on.

The activists monitor the violence of Kazakh authorities against peaceful protesters in Almaty and coordinate activists in Kazakhstan.
This has led Ukrainian human rights experts to voice concerns that Ukraine’s Security Service may be cooperating with the relevant Russian and Kazakh agencies.

Ukraine’s Security Service attacks Kazakh activists in Kyiv

Prosecution of ex-President Poroshenko

Is Ukraine’s prosecution of its ex-President Poroshenko political persecution or well-grounded in evidence? We examine the facts of the accusation and the events that led to the charges, as well as Poroshenko’s legal defense team.

Prosecution of Ukraine’s ex-President Poroshenko, explained

Politico: Inside Biden’s secretive weapons shipment to Ukraine

In late December, the Biden administration quietly authorized an additional $200 million in security assistance to Ukraine. POLITICO worked to track down more information on this transfer. The $200 million was approved as part of President JOE BIDEN’s drawdown authority, which empowers him to have the secretary of State ask the secretary of Defense to deliver items from existing Pentagon stock to a country in peril. None of the $200 million in weaponry has gone to Ukraine yet, as the drawdown process was just completed.

EUObserver: Who were Russia’s spies at Nato HQ?

A lieutenant colonel with top-level Kremlin links, a spy-catcher, and a Big Data specialist – the identities of eight Russians recently expelled by NATO from Brussels give clues to why Moscow reacted so harshly and what its operatives were doing, EUObserver reports. At the same time, a brief look at Russia’s embassies and consulates in Belgium by the Dossier Center was able to identify several more Russian ‘diplomats’ who filed reports to intelligence services in Moscow. And EU institutions have never declared any Russian diplomats to be persona non grata, the EU foreign service said.

Malanka in Ukraine

The celebrations of MALANKA begin on or around the night of January 13-14aracter in the celebrations is Malanka, “a girl of many talents and of exceptional beauty” and her faithful companion, Vasyl.

Malanka celebrations are best seen in the city of Chernivtsi and the village of Krasnoyilsk (Western Ukraine). Thousands of people wearing masquerade costumes of Devils, Gypsies, Bears, Goats and other creatures pour out into the streets engaging passers-by and spectators in their boisterous and sometimes wild fun. The participants and spectators let themselves go, but there is never any violence.

In the evening before Malanka night, young men put on all kinds of costumes, some of them extremely weird and bizarre — Devils, Warriors, Police, Witches, Old Women and Men, Death, Blacksmiths, Jews, Gypsies, Turks, Hutsuls and representatives of other nationalities. All of these disguised persons move from house to house performing little plays and improvisations, making a lot of noise and music, and playing practical jokes on people.

Many old pagan customs are associated with Malanka. Villagers go around their gardens at night asking the trees to bring more fruit. It is believed that plants understand human speech during Malanka night, and animals can talk.

In some villages, women whitewash the “pich” (the traditional Ukrainian pich has a special place in the house — it is much more than just an oven and stove combined; it’s a brick platform, on which you can rest or sleep) because it’s believed that on Malanka Night the pich will join in the dancing. One must not lie on it during Malanka Night; some oats should be put on the pich for the horses, which will feed on them and take the pich to the neighbouring town for fun and revelry.

Some costumes are passed on from generation to generation — the bear skins, for example, which are worn by Malanka performers who impersonate bears. The strongest and most robust young men are chosen to play the role of the Bears who must protect Malanka and defend her dignity.

The role of Malanka is usually played by a witty cheerful young man. He chooses a woman from the village whom he will mimic or parody, and then he does it in such a way that everybody immediately recognizes the original person.

The masks and personages that take part in Malanka celebrations often reflect recent happenings, current political events or trends. Politicians or prominent figures can be made fun of; the masks and costumes can ridicule or represent pop stars, actors in popular films, or well-known television hosts. No two Malankas are alike — each one will have its own distinctive features.

Malanka in Ukraine
Photo: Markiian Lyseiko (RFE/RL), Malanka celebrations in the village of Krasnoyilsk, 2021
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