A Guide Through the News About the Ukraine Crisis

From Politico Playbook by Eugene Daniels:

BREAKING: Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN has ordered the country’s nuclear deterrent forces to be on high alert or “a special regime of duty.”

— Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY agrees to peace talks.Statement after his phoner today with the President of Belarus, ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO:

“We agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River.

“Alexander Lukashenko has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, talks and return.” (Translation via Google) (The latest from our team in Brussels)

DAY FOUR: Kyiv remains under Ukrainian control. 

HAGUE SUIT — Zelenskyy tweeted Ukraine has filed suit in the Hague against Russia: “Ukraine has submitted its application against Russia to the [International Court of Justice].,” he tweeted. “Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression. We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now and expect trials to start next week.” Reuters has the latest. 

NEW SANCTIONS — The U.S., the EU and allies made it official Saturday night:“Selected Russian banks” are now banned from participating in SWIFT, the international payment system. In a joint statement, the US, the European Commission, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy promised to “hold Russia to account,” adding “As Russian forces unleash their assault on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, we are resolved to continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies.”

The leaders are also restricting the Russian Central Bank from (1)“deploying its international reserves,” (2) blocking the sale of “golden passports” to people with links to the Russian government, (3) creating a task force to begin “identifying and freezing assets” of any sanctioned companies, officials and oligarchs and (4) working on ways to boost the fight against disinformation campaigns.

The Central Bank sanctions are the biggie here. The president of the EU Commission put it this way: “We will paralyze the assets of Russia’s central bank. This will freeze its transactions. And it will make it impossible for the Central Bank to liquidate its assets.”

The former Deputy Head of Central Bank of Russia called the central bank sanctions “a kind of financial atomic bomb.”

WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima, Paul Sonne, Jeff Stein and Tyler Pagerreport “the White House didn’t immediately release details on how the moves against the central bank would be implemented. Steps short of freezing Russia’s reserves held in all the major Western economies could have a lesser impact on its central bank, which is Russia’s equivalent of the Federal Reserve.”

POLITICO’s Lili Bayer, Ben Lefebvre and Alex Ward dig into the possible impacts of new sanctions. “Even as they announced their move, allies were still working to find ways to limit its impact on energy prices,” the trio writes. “If removing Russian banks from the financial payments service prevented the country from selling oil and natural gas, prices could jump as European customers scrambled to find alternative sources.”

David Frum has a good piece on the potential impact of aggressive CBR sanctions. 

INVASION LATEST — Russia failed to capture Kyiv again Saturday, but a major bombardment continued apace (as in other areas). Ukraine’s armed forces (and volunteers) are targeting Russian supply lines while Russia continues to try to capture Kyiv and Kharkiv.

— “Enemy troops, deprived of timely replenishment of fuel and ammunition, are stopped,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement at 6 a.m. on Sunday. “The personnel of the occupying forces, the vast majority of whom are young conscripts, are exhausted by previous military exercises and have low morale.” More from the NYT.

 — Russia has now invaded Ukraine with a majority of the 150,000 troops it had amassed along the country’s borders, the U.S. assessed Saturday, per Paul McLeary and Ward. That means “the main thrust still appears to be on the horizon.”

— In the face of fierce Ukrainian opposition, Russia has had to “commit a bit more logistics and sustainment capability, like fuel specifically, than what we believe they had originally planned to do this early in the operation,” a U.S. defense official said.

— Before Russia invaded, hackers stole tons of data from a crucial Ukrainian law enforcement agency — which could give them “potentially valuable insights into the communications and movements of people inside the country before Russian troops began their assault,” Bloomberg’s Jordan Robertson and William Turton report.

— LIZ TRUSS, Britain’s foreign secretary supports people from the UK who want to go to Ukraine and fight. She told the BBC that Ukrainians are fighting for freedom, “not just for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe because that is what President Putin is challenging.”

REFUGEE CRISIS — The UNHCR says 368,000 people have fled Ukraine during the fighting to nearby countries and the total “continues to rise.” The organization’s spokesperson said “up to 4 million people may flee Ukraine” by the time it’s all said and done.

The Department of State says the US will be sending millions more in assistance to Ukraine. In a statement, Secretary ANTONY BLINKEN said, “It is with the welfare of ordinary Ukrainians in mind that we are announcing the provision of nearly $54 million in humanitarian assistance to those affected by Russia’s further invasion. This funding includes nearly $26 million from the Department of State and $28 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development.”


“Pentagon wants Moscow back channels to prevent nuclear escalation,” by Bryan Bender

— In a major policy shift, Germany will send weapons to Ukraine and allow allies like the Netherlands and Estonia to follow suit where Berlin had previously blocked them, David Herszenhorn, Lili Bayer and Hans von der Burchard report. The move Saturday alters Germany’s “historic policy of never sending weapons to conflict zones,” following weeks of pressure from Ukraine and other Europeans.

— The U.S. and others are seeking a full U.N. General Assembly vote to urge Russia to withdraw, following Russia’s veto of a similar measure on the Security Council, per WSJ’s William Mauldin.

THE LEADERS AND THE STAKES — NYT’s Peter Baker takes a step back to look at this moment for Biden and Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN, both children of the Cold War who have interpreted its end in radically divergent ways. “Not since JOHN F. KENNEDY and NIKITA S. KHRUSHCHEV squared off over Berlin and Cuba have an American president and Russian leader gone eyeball to eyeball in quite such a dramatic fashion.” The moment, he adds “holds enormous consequences for the world order that may be felt for years to come.”

YOUR DAILY CRY — “At the Ukrainian border, a mother brings a stranger’s children to safety,” by Reuters’ Anita Komuves in Beregsurany, Hungary

Further reading: “‘Weapons to anyone’: Across Ukraine, militias form as Russian forces near,” WaPo … “Putin Seems to Sideline Advisers on Ukraine, Taking a Political Risk,” NYT … “3 years ago Zelenskyy was a TV comedian. Now he’s standing up to Putin’s army,” NYT

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