Solid news from Ukraine is sparse, and some of what we think we know will turn out to be wrong. But one thing is certain: the Russians have not yet been able to take Kiev.
This has to be a major setback for Putin’s regime. The Ukrainians don’t have to win, they just have to keep fighting. And they seem to be all in. The Klitschko brothers, both former heavyweight world boxing champions, are under arms (and Vitali, of course, is the mayor of Kiev). Lomachenko, regarded until recently as the best fighter in the world, was outside the country when Russia invaded but has now returned to Ukraine and joined the Belgorod-Dniester Terror Defence Battalion:
It isn’t just the celebrities, naturally:
“The air-raid sirens were ringing all night, so our men sent the women and children away and stayed to fight,” said a teary Nadia, 36, as she headed across the Hungarian border with her 6-year-old son Oleg and friend Tatiana and her 9-year-old-son, Makartha.
“Not a single fighting-age male decided to leave Ukraine. They all wanted to stand up and fight,” Nadia said.
“Our men picked up a weapon, and they are fighting against the Russians.”
Ukraine’s tortured history no doubt contributes to its citizens’ determination to retain their independence.
It is reported that Vladimir Putin has put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert. This is the kind of thing that is easy to do, may sound impressive but is really meaningless. It strikes me as more evidence that things are not going as the Russian military had planned.
Russia’s banks are now being locked out of the international SWIFT system. Is this important? I don’t know. I have seen conflicting opinions. The Telegraph says that a run on the ruble is under way, and at least one commentator I have seen says that Putin has therefore ordered the Russian army to take Kiev by tomorrow at all costs. True? Who knows?
In the Wall Street Journal, Tom Fairless argues that the West’s financial sanctions against Russia could be a nuclear bomb:
The U.S., Europe and Canada pledged Saturday to prevent the Bank of Russia from deploying its $630 billion stockpile of international reserve “in ways that undermine the impact of our sanctions,” they said in a joint statement Saturday. The move directly targets the war chest that President Vladimir Putin has built up in recent years to help insulate Russia’s economy from outside pressures.
The move could be a hammer-blow to Russia’s financial system, limiting the government’s ability to defend the ruble in currency markets, to make overseas purchases and to backstop banks that have been hurt by international sanctions, economists and central-bank officials said.
More at the link.
Still, however important financial sanctions may prove, the key variable is the Ukrainians’ determination to resist Russian aggression. Russia is not strong enough to take, hold and pacify a nation of 44 million in the face of determined resistance. Here as always, leadership is key, and President Volodymyr Zelensky has risen courageously to the occasion. If and when the Russians take Kiev, they may be able to kill Zelensky. But if that happens, it will be at best a mixed blessing. Zelensky’s example will inspire resistance that I doubt the ramshackle, dispirited Russians can overcome.
By the way, did you know that the alleged “neo-Nazi” Zelensky is a Jew? Funny how that keeps happening.