The biggest ground offensive in Europe since World War II

Russia started its invasion of Ukraine on Thursday February 24, 2022, with airstrikes on cities and military bases. Russian troops and tanks then entered the country on three sides and reached the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, on Friday, in the biggest ground offensive in Europe since World War II. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned other countries not to come to Ukraine’s aid, reminding the world of Russia’s nuclear weapons stockpile and threatening “consequences you have never seen.” Ukrainian leaders said their military was fighting back, and that dozens of their soldiers and hundreds of Russian troops had been killed. They said Russian forces had seized control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant in an attack that could “cause another ecological disaster” at the site of the world’s worst nuclear meltdown. [The Associated Press, The Washington Post]

Thousands of people across Russia took to the streets but were silenced. Opposition activist Tatyana Usmanova called the invasion “a disgrace” and she asked for “forgiveness” from Ukrainians.

“We didn’t vote for those who unleashed the war,”

she said.

Despite hundreds of arrests daily, and nearly 3,000 total since the invasion began, demonstrators held signs and marched through the centres of cities from Moscow to Siberia, chanting “No to war!” in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Russia’s smaller neighbour.

It is good to hear how International businesses operating in Russia and Ukraine one after the other started closing offices and factories after Russia invaded Ukraine, all facing dark days for all of us.

Siemens Energy CEO Christian Bruchtold shareholders at their annual meeting.

“The attack on Ukraine represents a turning point in Europe; a war was simply unthinkable for many people, especially the younger generations.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had agreed to send a Ukrainian delegation to negotiate with Russia near Ukraine’s border with Belarus. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to use Belarus as a staging ground for his invasion, arranged the meeting. But we could see yesterday that Russia did not keep to the agreement to have a corridor for the civilians to flee the terrorised cities. As soon they drove out of those cities they were shot at by the Russians, and as such were driven back to where they came from.

The European Union has shut down its airspace to commercial and private Russian airplanes and committed, along with several member countries (including non-NATO Sweden and Finland), to arming Ukraine. And perhaps most astonishing of all, Europe and the United States (joined even by perennially neutral Switzerland) have put together a package of economic sanctions far more severe than anything anticipated prior to the outbreak of hostilities. There’s now a very real possibility Russia could be plunged into a catastrophic economic tailspin.

Last Sunday Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was putting Russian nuclear deterrence forces on high alert due to what he called “aggressive statements” Western nations were making against Russia.  Yesterday he went a step further, calling all those who wanted to interfere with his peace mission, dangerous attackers of his state, to which he will not shrink from counterattacking. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen her call for promptly opening EU membership talks, Putin considers as a war declaration.

Elon Musk came to help Ukraine maintain internet access as it fights a Russian invasion. Musk’s private rocket company SpaceX has deployed thousands of Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit, establishing a network over the last three years to beam high-speed internet service to users from more than 100 miles up. The service can work in parts of the world with limited conventional internet infrastructure. Since Russia invaded, Ukraine has experienced internet disruptions, so Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, asked Musk to send Starlink terminals.

Russia’s central bank on Monday hiked a key interest rate from 9.5 percent to 20 percent to fight inflation and depreciation of the ruble, after the Russian currency fell by 30 percent to a record low against the dollar as Europe and the U.S. imposed harsh sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The move came after the United States, European Union, Canada, and the United Kingdom over the weekend announced plans to cut off some Russian banks from the SWIFT financial support network, a global payment system connecting international banks. The allies also said they would take steps to thwart the Russian central bank’s attempt to boost Russia’s economy with its more than $600 billion in reserves, part of an escalating push by the West for Moscow to negotiate peace.

Ukrainians are fleeing en masse to clogged borders of European neighbours, with the biggest share heading to Poland while smaller numbers try to reach Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and Romania. More than 500,000 Ukrainians have left for Europe since Russian forces invaded on Thursday and Europe expects this going to grow to 1,5 million. Over previous weekend, one crossing into Poland had a line nearly nine miles long. The exodus has been the biggest Europe has seen in years, with some authorities bracing for a humanitarian crisis like the one that occurred in 2015 when more than a million refugees arrived from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries. Many European nations were hostile to the refugees who arrived in 2015, but so far they have said they would welcome Ukrainians.

Big question for Europe is now how long it can stand at the sideline.

Switzerland has edged away from its long-standing tradition of neutrality. Finland is not comfortable with Putin’s aggressive expansionism, which may also have its eyes on several of Russia’s neighbouring countries. It is on the cusp of asking for admission into the NATO alliance after decades of standing to the side. Germany, after a nearly 80-year break from militarism, is suddenly beefing up its defence budget and sending arms to Ukraine.  Previously, neutrality for countries like Finland and Switzerland had benefits to those countries — and to the world at large, but in which way is a neutrality tenable?

 

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8 responses to “The biggest ground offensive in Europe since World War II

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