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Daily review: Russian mercenaries increase presence in Ukraine, sanctions package doesn’t include SWIFT, Scholz in Kyiv

Daily review: Russian mercenaries increase presence in Ukraine, sanctions package doesn’t include SWIFT, Scholz in Kyiv
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Latest developments in the war zone

  • Russian proxies launch 6 attacks on Ukrainian positions in Donetsk, Luhansk and Mariupol sectors, including heavy artillery and weapons banned by Minsk.
  • Member of Russian-led militants threatened OSCE SMM at border crossing point near Dovzhanske, Luhansk Oblast
  • Certain OSCE participating states have ordered their members in the SMM to leave Ukraine within the next days.

Ukraine news flash

  • In a phone talk with President Biden, President Zelensky stressed the importance of providing effective security guarantees for Ukraine, underlining there can be no security in Europe without security in Ukraine, reports presidential press service.
  • During the phone call, President Zelenskyy invited President Biden to visit Ukraine. There was no positive response; US officials reportedly said that a presidential visit to Ukraine is highly unlikely.
  • Putin tells Biden that western states are not putting enough pressure on Ukraine regarding Minsk agreements, reports Russian Presidential assistant Yuri Ushakov.
  • While Russia continues to assert that it is Ukraine that is failing to comply with the Minsk Accord, it is actively creating a situation where a significant number of young Ukrainians from Donbas could, in principle, be liable for conscription into the Russian army.
  • Despite warnings of a possible new Russian attack on Ukraine, more foreign dignitaries plan to come to Kyiv this week. On 15 February, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio is set to visit, Polish Sejm speaker will come on 16 February, while UK foreign secretary Liz Truss on 17-18 February.
  • US, UK, and Canada ordered troops to withdraw from Ukraine on Saturday who were stationed there to train Ukrainian forces. 160 US troops to be repositioned “elsewhere in Europe,” 80 to remain. 130 UK troops, including NLAW trainers, ordered home. A contingent of roughly 260 Canadian soldiers has arrived to Poland from Ukraine
  • Ukrainian Minister of Internal affairs calls for calm: “300,000 policemen, national guardsmen protect the internal security… 2014 will not repeat… If someone tries to seize administrative buildings, he will be shot by our special forces without warning or hesitation.”
  • Russia failed to respond to Ukrainian request under the Vienna Document. Consequently, Ukraine took the next step and requested a meeting with Russia and all OSCE participating states within 48 hours to discuss reinforcement & redeployment of the mission along Ukrainian border and in temporarily occupied Crimea.
  • Russian mercenaries with ties to Moscow’s spies have increased their presence in Ukraine in recent weeks, stoking fears among some NATO members that Russia could try to engineer a pretext for an invasion, three senior Western security sources told Reuters.
  • Speaking at a briefing, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that according to US intelligence, the Kremlin has not yet made a final decision to launch a large-scale offensive in Ukraine, and that a small chance exists that the situation could be resolved with diplomatic means.
  • Prystaiko backtracks, says Kyiv won’t drop Ukraine’s NATO membership bid. Ukrainian ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko found himself embroiled in controversy after commenting to BBC Radio that Ukraine “might” drop its NATO bid, “especially being threatened like that, blackmailed by that, and pushed to it.” But after his comments sparked an outcry, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said the “ambassador’s words were taken out of context” and “the prospect of joining NATO remains enshrined in the constitution.”

Military drills Snowstorm-2022 continue in Ukraine

The drills are conducted in all Ukrainian regions, involving armed forces, national guard and police. Soldiers practice combat shooting from various types of weapons, coordination as well as train with new weapons provided by allies, such as Javelins, NLAW anti-tank missile systems and Stinger air-defense portable systems.

Speaking at a press conference after talks with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv on 14 February, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated that Germany will not arm Ukraine, yet warned of “political and economic” consequences for Russia in case of further military aggression. Scholz also ducked journalists’ questions about Nord Stream 2, the gas pipeline that is set to start delivering Russian gas to Germany, bypassing the route through Ukraine.

Scholz in Kyiv confirms Germany won’t arm Ukraine, stays mum on Nord Stream 2

During Scholtz visit to Kyiv Ukrainians demand to sanction Russian agents in Germany

As German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz arrived for talks with President Zelenskyy ahead of a trip to Moscow, he was met by activists demanding to sanction Russian agents in Germany.

The list includes superyachts of Vladimir Putin and his entourage stationed and serviced in Germany, Vladimir Yakunin, who runs the Dialogue of Civilizations Institute, Deutsche Bank, and German former political elite serving at boards of Russian state companies, including from Scholz’s own political party, the SPD.

Demands to sanction Putin’s German agents of influence as Chancellor Scholtz visits Ukraine

Germany exports dual-use products to Russia in violation of sanctions

The German newspaper Welt am Sonntag uncovers surprisingly large-scale German exports of so-called dual-use products (of both military and civilian use) to Russia despite EU sanctions, facilitating Russian militarism and aggression against the peoples of Ukraine, Chechnya, Georgia, Moldova, Syria, and other countries.

Germany exports dual-use products to Russia despite EU sanctions, beefing up Russian military

Shipping in Black Sea partially renewed via new route, undermining Russian blockade

A deepwater trade route was found to circumvent the Russian blockade and to resume trade in the Black Sea. In the evening of 14 February 2022, the MV Melia cargo ship with a draft of 12.85 m successfully traveled via the new Black Sea route from the Neptune grain terminal in the Ukrainian Pivdennyi port. This is the first Panamax-class ship to successfully bypass the Russian blockade closer to the Ukrainian coast.

Shipping in Black Sea partially renewed via new route, undermining Russian blockade

Ukraine creates special Fund to resume full air traffic

International air insurance companies announced they stopped insuring aircraft for flights over Ukraine due high risks of hostilities starting 14 February. Some of the airlines were forced to suspend flights.

In turn, Ukrainian government decided to spend UAH 16.6 bn ($590 mn) to create an insurance fund to guarantee safe flights over Ukraine “from 14 February until the settlement of foreign policy threats.” Fund will work with insurance and leasing companies and air carriers.

Lithuania provides Ukraine with Stingers

A military plane with Stingers, man-portable air-defense systems for the Ukrainian army, has arrived from Lithuania to Kyiv.

Thanks to the Lithuanian government, Lithuanian people & personally to a great friend of Ukraine [Lithuanian Minister of National Defense] Arvydas Anusauskas for the aid! Ukrainian and Lithuanian relations are very close and have lasted for many centuries. I appreciate our centuries-old friendship and strong support of each other!” Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksandr Reznikov wrote.

More military aid from the US arrives in Ukraine

The 16th and 17th planes delivered additional 180 tons of ammunition from the United States for the Ukrainian army on Sunday, 13 February 2022.

Thousands participate in Kyiv March of Unity

On 13 January, a “March of Unity” gathered thousands in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to warn Putin he will fail in Ukraine amid US warnings that a Russian invasion could take place next week. Oleksandr Ivanov, an organizer of the march from the Capitulation Resistance Movement, told Euromaidan Press that the aim of the march is to demonstrate Ukrainian unity in the face of the threat.

“We will fight for every part of our land. The occupiers will pay a big price in blood for their aggression,” Ivanov told.

Thousands march in Kyiv to warn Putin he will fail in Ukraine

President Zelenskyy speaks to Ukrainians in his address, declares 16 February a “Day of Unity”

The President of Ukraine signed a decree declaring February 16, which several Western media outlets called the probable date of Russia’s invasion, the Day of Unity.

On this day, we will hang national flags, wear blue and yellow ribbons and show the world our unity. We have only one European aspiration – we want freedom and are ready to fight for it, “Zelenskyy said.

In his presidential address he also said:

We are confident, but not frivolous. We understand all the risks on a daily basis, we constantly monitor the situation, calculate different scenarios, prepare strong responses to all possible aggressive actions. We clearly know where the foreign army is stationed along our border, its number, its locations, equipment and its plans. We have what to oppose, we have a wonderful army, our boys and girls have unique combat experience and modern weapons, this is a much stronger army than eight years ago.

Full-scale invasion of Ukraine still unlikely according to Ukrainian analysts

A full-scale Russian occupation of Ukraine and massive bombing of Ukrainian cities is still unlikely. Yet a “false flag” event, escalation in eastern Ukraine, and a non-military hybrid war escalation are highly probable, say experts from the Center for Defense Strategies.

Full-scale invasion of Ukraine still unlikely, yet local escalation probable: analysis of scenarios

The agreed sanctions package against Moscow in case of invasion doesn’t include SWIFT

The agreed-upon set of sanctions to be imposed on Russia, should it launch a new invasion of Ukraine, does not include disconnecting Moscow from the SWIFT global banking messaging system, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview.

As of now, SWIFT isn’t a part of the sanctions package, but it has nothing to do with Russian pressure (on Western countries),” said Kuleba. “It’s a result of internal EU dynamics, with some countries remaining unwilling to compromise their economic interests by disconnecting (Russia) from SWIFT.

“The aggressor will not take any of our cities” Ukrainian Minister of Defense and Commander-in-Chief call for calm

Anyone who has ever looked into the eyes of our soldiers knows for sure – the aggressor will not take Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv or any other city,” said Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Lieutenant-General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi.

“What to do now? Keep calm, support the Armed Forces and diplomats… To ensure normal economic activity, and hence the ability of the army to defend the country. Keep calm and do at your level what is up to you, so that we all become stronger together… 420,000 Ukrainian soldiers and every commander, without exception, have already faced death. Commanders of troops, generals… are specialists in their field and patriots of their state. We will not give away a single piece of Ukrainian land!”

Ukraine and Belarus agree for mutual drills monitoring

Ukrainian and Belarusian defense ministers held a phone conversation to decrease the level of tensions and ensure more transparency during military drills. Belarusian Minister of Defense Viktor Khrenin assures there is no threat for Ukraine from Belarusian territory. Ministers agreed on the visit of the Belarusian military attaché to Snowstorm-2022 Ukrainian drills and the visit of the Ukrainian military attaché to Belarusian-Russian Union Resolve-2022 drills.

The conversation took place in order to restore the atmosphere of dialogue […] and ensure security in the region,” the statement said.

Embassies, air transport situation in Ukraine thus far

While most embassies continue operating in Ukraine as usual, several countries announced full or partial evacuation:

  • The US embassy orders non-emergency staff to evacuate, will maintain a consular presence in Lviv, but not provide regular services
  • EU Ambassador stays, non-essential staff allowed to depart
  • Germany cuts down staff but embassy remains operational; Dnipro consulate relocated to Lviv
  • Russia “optimizes” the amount of staff, but embassy&consulates remain operational
  • Israel is evacuating family of embassy staff
  • Japan is evacuating all embassy staff from Ukraine
  • Greece winds down staff in Kyiv but strengthens consulate in Mariupol
  • Canada has relocated embassy staff to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, services by appointment only.

Most of the countries that were actively supporting Ukraine with military aid are not withdrawing their embassies. In particular,

  • UK Ambassador & core team stays, embassy operational
  • Poland is not evacuating diplomats; such decision to be made only in case of “extreme necessity”
  • Estonian embassy staff stays and the country is not withdrawing military instructors

Despite reports that airlines will cancel flights to Ukraine due to international insurance companies dropping guarantees, most of the companies are on schedule at Kyiv’s Boryspil and “Kyiv” airports. So far, KLM & Ryanair either stopped services or canceled flights. Skyup renewed its operation after a short break. AirBaltic organizes additional flights due to high demand.

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