Ukraine Conflict: Day Nineteen

Reports from multiple pro-Ukraine sources indicate that the Russian offensive remains stalled on all fronts.

The Ukrainian Defence Ministry released a press briefing at around midnight local time on the end of day nineteen (14th March) discussing the progress on all fronts. Russian forces are regrouping in most areas, in preparation for future operations. This implies that the estimates of large proportionate vehicle losses (up to a quarter) may be accurate.

In the vicinity of Kiev, Russian forces to the west are consolidating their hold on the Kiev-Zhytomyr highway around Makariv, while to the east of the city the Russians are regrouping in preparation for another attack on Brovary. 

In the east, there are active combat operations around the separatist republics and Mariupol, regions which have been referred to by Russian state media as ‘the cauldron’.

In the south, an attack on Mariupol on day eighteen was repelled by defending forces, according to this source. The Ukrainian Army has secured the roads west of Mykolaiv, while the Russians continue to operate in the countryside around Kherson and Mykolaiv, approaching Kryvyi Rih. The fronts appear to be consolidating approximately 70 miles from the coast. Meanwhile, civilian evacuations are continuing from besieged cities.

Note that there remains some uncertainty surrounding the death of US photojournalist Brent Renaud, with some sources indicating that he was mistakenly shot from a Ukrainian checkpoint rather than by Russian troops. With both claims yet unverified, the media has widely assumed that the shooting came from the Russian side, in order to fit into a broader anti-Russian narrative.

Chinese Aid?

Continuing yesterday’s ‘unnamed US Defence official’ narrative, today western powers continued to allege that Russia had requested military materiel from China. A number of high level spokesmen for the US State Department, including President Biden, issued warnings against China. The State Department has said ‘we will not allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses’. 

Meanwhile, in addition to the $19 billion aid package for Ukraine passed by the Senate recently as part of a $1.4 trillion public spending bill, the Pentagon has secured an additional $200 million in public funds to finance Ukraine’s war effort.

Note that there are as yet no reliable sources supporting the allegation that Russia has requested materiel from China. While it is entirely possible that such a request may have been made, it is also likely to have been invented by the US State Department in order to create a reason to issue warnings against China, thus pre-empting arms sales to Russia.

Peace Talks

Both sides allegedly made progress during recent peace talks, while a fourth round of talks was delayed due to ‘technical issues’. With Ukraine set to win the war on the ground, and receiving more aid as the war continues, while Russia’s economy is increasingly devastated by sanctions, there would appear to be strong incentives not to sign a premature peace agreement. 

A longer war with more destruction of urban areas may even be beneficial in the long term, since an outpouring of postwar foreign aid is likely to replace the devastation with modern buildings and infrastructure. The oligarchs who dominate much of Ukraine’s politics are also likely to benefit by embezzling a large cut of this foreign aid, similar to allegations surrounding multi-billion dollar IMF loans and ‘PrivatBank’. The oligarch who bankrolled President Zelensky’s media career and funded the creation of five of Ukraine’s National Guard battalions, Ihor Kolomoisky (who holds Israeli-Cypriot Ukrainian citizenship despite laws against dual nationality), is alleged to have swindled billions of dollars from the bank over ten years prior to nationalisation.

In addition, Ukraine seeks to reoccupy the Crimea and East Donbas, which could be achieved through a military victory.

The primary reason to end the war early would be to reduce civilian and military casualties, as well as stemming the tide of refugees who may simply settle in the EU and not return to the country. Ukraine’s population has declined by 10 million people since the fall of the USSR, and stood at approximately 41 million people at the start of the conflict. Over two million refugees have left the country since hostilities began.

From a NATO perspective, the longer the war continues, the better. The grand geopolitical prize for NATO is the destruction of the Russian regime, and potentially dividing the world’s largest country into multiple smaller federations — much the same objective as NATO held against the USSR. The cost of economic sanctions is being borne by ordinary Western consumers (not NATO officials), whose cost of living has increased significantly as a result of egregious public spending during the COVID era and continued money-printing throughout the Ukraine crisis.

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