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Daily review: Blinken visits Ukraine, more Russian troops go west, France wants pact with Russia.

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Past 24 hours in the war zone

  • Joint Forces Operation headquarters report no attacks/shelling by Russian hybrid forces.
  • As of 19:30 Jan 17, OSCE SMM recorded 232 violations, incl 11 explosions in Donetsk Obl; 2 violations, incl 1 explosion in Luhansk Obl.
  • Ukraine Defense Ministry ready to deploy over 150 battalions of territorial defense forces (TDF) across country. “TDF are formed into 25 brigades (1/region), which will comprise about 150 battalions (1/district). In peacetime, 10,000 personnel. Special period, TDF forces will count 130,000 persons plus reserve.”

News flash

  • Russia’s further aggression against Ukraine will lead to “crippling costs” on Russia’s economy, “increase defensive assistance to Ukraine above and beyond what we are already providing” and reinforced NATO presence in its eastern flank, Department of State stated following a meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has held a phone call with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Zelenskyy: “Exchanged information and views on the diplomatic efforts needed for stability in Europe. Discussed preparations for the NATO Summit in June and Ukraine’s possible participation in it. The open door policy remains unchanged!”
  • Ukraine will present to the European Court of Human Rights evidence of Russia’s human rights violations in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • As U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Ukraine, the Biden administration confirms it is providing an additional $200 million in defensive military aid to Ukraine that was approved in late December. No details disclosed.
  • MEPs from the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence of the European Parliament intend to visit Ukraine on 30 January — 2 February to demonstrate EU’s solidarity with Ukraine as well as “collect facts”.
  • The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba had a telephone conversation with the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell about the security situation around Ukraine.
  • Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said on Wednesday that the arrival of Russian troops in Belarus poses an even greater direct threat to Lithuania.
  • The head of the Czech Senate, Miloš Vystrčil, warned against making concessions to Moscow amid tensions over Russia’s troops build-up near the border with Ukraine.
  • The White House says that the disconnecting Russia from the international payment system SWIFT is not removed from the agenda.
  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov said Russia was ready to consider either revoking the Bucharest summit, which allowed Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO, or the U.S. judiciary commitment to never vote for Ukraine and other countries to join NATO.
  • Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said that the real threat to Vladimir Putin’s Russia is the spread of democracy from Ukraine, which is why Russia has launched an aggression.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Ukraine amid mounting threat of Russian full-scale attack

Blinken is also set to travel to Berlin for four-way talks with Britain, France, and Germany on January 20 as he looks to ensure Western unity before heading to Geneva for an expected meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, the next day. The two spoke by phone on January 18.

“ We know that there are plans in place to increase that [Russian military] force even more on very short notice, and that gives President Putin the capacity, also on very short notice, to take further aggressive action against Ukraine, ” Blinken warned in Kyiv, RFE/RL reports.

Blinken had meetings with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba.

“ Now, more than ever, everything depends on Ukrainians and no one else – to decide their future and the future of this country, ” Blinken said, naming 100,000 Russian soldiers near Ukraine’s borders “an unprecedented threat to Ukraine,” and confirming that Russia can attack at any moment.

He also said the visit was to reassure Ukrainians in the U.S. support for them and to inform Ukraine’s leadership about current state of negotiations with Russia. The US Secretary of State also assured that Washington applies the principle of “Nothing about Europe without Europe” in discussions with Moscow as well as the principle of “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.” He said Washington tries to return Russia to diplomatic negotiations.

After meetings with Ukrainian counterparts, Blinken also visited the U.S. embassy in Kyiv:

“ An extra thank you to our Embassy colleagues in Kyiv who have been working tirelessly on the ground in Ukraine. We appreciate you and your families’ sacrifices and hard work on behalf of the American people. Your safety and well-being are of the utmost importance ,” he wrote in a tweet.

Ahead of the meetings Blinken also said in the Pod Save America podcast:

“ You’ve got one country, Russia, by its actions, saying that it can just change the borders of its neighbor by force, saying it can decide for its neighbor what its decisions are going to be, with whom it may choose to associate — not the people of that country through their elected government. You have a country saying that it’s fine to have a sphere of influence where we basically bend neighbors in our area to our will, not their own choices. If we let that go with impunity, then I think we open a huge Pandora’s box where it’s not just Ukraine. ”

Macron calls on the EU to forge its own plan for “security and stability” with Russia , undermining western solidarity

In a speech to the European Parliament, Macron called for EU states to “conduct their own dialogue” with Russia rather than support diplomatic efforts led by the US and Nato, in sharp contrast to a plea from US secretary of state Antony Blinken for “unity”, Financial Times reports.

Russia assures it won’t attack

Russian embassy in the U.S. as well as Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Riabkov once again stated Russia doesn’t have any plans to attack Ukraine, neither from the territory of Russia nor from the territory of Belarus.

Russia deploys more troops to Belarus as well as to its borders with Ukraine’s

There are multiple amateur videos showing more recent Russsian troops and equipment movements westward. This one, for examples, shows what appears to be the Iskander-M 500 km range missiles that Russia could potentially use to destibilize Ukraine and hit the most important objects in the beginning of assault.

Russia also continues moving troops into Belarus, ostensibly in preparation for joint military exercises scheduled to take place in February. However, in case of full-scale war, this means an additional 1,000 km of Ukrainian border under threat.

In his analysis for Athlantic Council, Brian Whitmore writes that “Moscow can now attack Ukraine from Russia in the east and southeast, from the annexed Crimean peninsula in the south, and from Belarus in the north… Basing troops in Belarus provides Russia with one particularly important logistical advantage. It gives Moscow the ability to reach Kyiv, which is just 90 kilometers from the Belarusian border, without crossing the Dnipro River.”

Russian embassy in London opposes deployment of defensive weapons from UK to Ukraine

The embassy tweeted the move “fuels the crisis” although anti-tank weapons are exclusively dfensive short-range weapons, not dangerous for Russia unless it attacks.

What we know about the “light anti-tank weapons” UK started supplying to Ukraine

Both the UK and Ukraine have stayed mum on the type of anti-tank weapons being delivered to Ukraine amid a growing military threat from Russia. However, a video of the weapons bring unloaded in Kyiv reveals they are NLAWs and that at least a thousand are already in Ukraine.

What we know about the “light anti-tank weapons” UK started supplying to Ukraine

Court refuses to arrest former Ukraine president Poroshenko in state treason case yet limits travel

The Kyiv Pechersk district court refused to arrest Ukraine’s fifth president Petro Poroshenko in a case where he is charged with state treason for alleged facilitation of coal supplies from occupied Donbas to Ukraine in 2015. The court, however, did impose restrictions: Poroshenko must hand in his passport for traveling abroad and must not leave Kyiv Oblast without permission, as well as appear in court on a judicial summons.

After the court ruling was announced, supporters of Poroshenko headed to the Presidential Office, holding the banners that urge Zelenskyy to “stop his games” against Poroshenko.

Visiting Kyiv U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as well as Poroshenko himself appealed to Ukrainians to “stick together.” Zelenskyy’s advisor Mykhailo Podoliak stated court decision shows there is “no politization of the case” and expressed hope future investigation will “establish all circumstances.”

Court refuses to arrest former Ukraine president Poroshenko in state treason case yet limits travel

Ukrainians offer private land for NATO base

Ukrainian landowners and even a cafe are taking the country’s NATO membership drive to a new level: they are writing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, offering private land to host NATO bases and appealing for the Alliance to accept them as private members.

The marathon comes amid the growing scare of a Russian invasion and Russian demands that NATO not expand eastward. Ukrainians are asking to join NATO in a personal capacity and offering to donate their private land parcels for the establishment of a NATO base. Two such letters were sent by residents of south-eastern Ukraine, which is known to be more NATO-sceptic than the rest of the country.

Ukrainians ask to personally join NATO, offer private land for NATO base

Canada may supply defensive weapons to Ukraine; Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly first visit to Ukraine

Canada’s government will endorse a decision to supply defensive weapons to Ukraine in accordance with the current legislation, Ukrinform reports. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly made a corresponding statement at a joint press conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv on January 18.

“ As for military equipment, we have heard from many Ukrainian officials about the need for it. It is important for us to play our part, and we will also endorse this decision, ” Joly said when asked if Canada plans to start supplying defensive weapons to Ukraine after the United Kingdom.

The statement comes during Joly’s first visit to Ukraine, where he met with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Dozens of networks of the Internet agency of the special services of the Russian Federation were exposed in 2021

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) says it neutralized over 2,000 cyberattacks on government web resources and strategic infrastructure objects in 2021.

Ukraine’s Security Service says it neutralized over 2,000 cyberattacks in 2021

Slovakia

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy of Slovakia Richard Sulik believes that the Russian Federation will not return Crimea, seized in 2014, to Ukraine, and sanctions against Russia only harm its trading partners. This was reported by RBC.

“ Countries need to trade with each other. And some of our exporters have been affected. Thus, sanctions only cause damage, and Russia will not return Crimea anyway. We need to look ahead and build relationships ,” he said.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister responded that “talks about returning to business as usual with Russia, which grossly violated international law by seizing Crimea by force and launching an armed aggression in the Donbas, only promote impunity and encourage Russia to continue its aggression.”

Ukraine’s president, Foreign Minister, call to unity, “no panic”

During the press conference, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign affairs Dmytro Kuleba stated:

“Today Ukraine is very strong. We have a strong army, we have – I will say immodestly – a strong diplomacy, we have strong international partners… Russia’s greatest achievement today would be sowing panic, despair in Ukrainian society and shaking us from within, first and foremost destabilizing our economy and financial system. Therefore, we must make every effort to prevent Russia from achieving this goal… All our efforts are aimed at the situation in the country remaining stable, the financial system remaining strong and predictable so that the Ukrainian economy would not suffer from security problems.”

In his evening statement, president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said:

“ Isn’t this a reality for 8 years? Didn’t the invasion start in 2014? Is the threat of large-scale war just emerging? These risks have been existing not for a few days. And they did not grow. There were more talks around them. And now [enemy] is actively attacking your nerves, not your land. So that you have a constant feeling of anxiety. All our citizens, especially the elderly, need to understand this. Exhale. Calm down. Don’t run for buckwheat and matches. What should we do? Only one thing. Keep calm, cool head, confidence in our strength, in our armies, in our Ukraine.”

Russian communists propose to recognize LNR and DNR puppet states

Russian MPs from the Communist party prepared a draft appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking to recognize puppet Donbas republics LNR and DNR. According to them, the recognition will create grounds for ensuring the security and protection of these peoples from external threats and from the policy of genocide against the people of the republics.

That’s according to the Russian news agency Ria novosi.

It will also help strengthen peace and regional stability and launch a process of international recognition of both countries. In addition, the deputies called for the start of negotiations with the “DNR” and “LNR” as soon as possible to “create a legal basis for interstate relations.”

Join the Winter letter marathon for Ukrainian political prisoners of the Kremlin – 2022

Caring people who want to convey their support and empathy. This is how Ukrainian political prisoner of the Kremlin Eldar Kantimirov describes those who remember about him in prison.

“I recently received four letters from different people. They weren’t the first and, I hope, not the last. These letters were written by caring people who want to convey their support and empathy! The words that express such support and empathy are the words of truth. They are the verses of the Koran and the Hadith. They reflect the warmth in people’s hearts and souls! After reading such letters, I understand that my people are on the right path.”

Find all the instructions for writing a letter here:

This January, send a letter to a Ukrainian political prisoner of the Kremlin

This day in history

From January 16, 2014 onward, Maidan protests and rallies intensified in Kyiv and all across Ukraine until events finally erupted into rage as protesters clashed with law enforcement agencies in the capital.

January 19 became known as Vohnekhreshche — baptism by fire — when the streets of Kyiv exploded into fury and flames. Violent protests began on January 19, carried on throught the night and all day January 20, centered mostly on Hrushevskoho Street.

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