Washington Post and New York Times spell out what is at stake in Ukraine as the CCP and Kremlin unite in a new Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which gave Adolf Hitler a free hand to attack Poland without fear of Soviet intervention.

Feb 6, 2022 | Uncategorized

Opinion: My generation of Ukrainians has fought hard for democracy. We stand ready once again.

Opinion | My generation of Ukrainians has fought hard for democracy. We stand ready once again. – The Washington Post

Olga Tokariuk February 1, 2022 WASHINGTON POST Olga Tokariuk is an independent journalist and researcher based in Kyiv. She is a nonresident fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis.

As Russia and the United States clashed at the United Nations on Monday over Ukraine, all I could feel was anger. That has been the predominant feeling these past few weeks here in Kyiv.

Because of the actions of a madman, it’s as if we Ukrainians have ceased to exist: We cannot worry about raising children, do the work we love, make plans, build our future. Instead, we are forced to pack go-bags, make evacuation plans and spend our weekends studying how to survive in an occupied city — and learning first aid.

We have a lot to lose. Most people don’t stop very often to think about independence and sovereignty, but those things were hard-fought achievements. The Ukrainian nation, with its language and rich culture, has existed for centuries. Millions of lives were lost just in the 20th century as a result of failed attempts to create an independent Ukrainian state.

But since official independence was gained in 1991, a whole generation has come of age. It’s a generation that witnessed two revolutions and a war, and that refused to give up in the toughest times. And it’s precisely this determination, resilience and courage that scare Vladimir Putin the most.

I am a part of this generation, and my personal story is closely interconnected with that of an independent Ukraine. I was born in 1985, six years before the Soviet Union collapsed. The same year, the Ukrainian poet and dissident Vasyl Stus in a Soviet gulag. He was yet another victim of a Soviet repressive machine, active until the last days of the U.S.S.R.

When I was 6 years old, on Dec. 1, 1991, my parents took me to the polling station on the day of the referendum for Ukraine’s independence. As we walked hand in hand, I was feeling very proud: I knew my parents were going to vote in favor of it. My family was able to transmit the feeling that independence was something precious, worth cherishing and preserving.

My turn to do that came when I was 19. The Orange Revolution began in 2004, when a wave of mass protests exploded following an attempt to rig presidential elections in favor of a pro-Kremlin candidate. On the day of voting, I was working as an election observer in the Luhansk region, bordering Russia. I saw with my own eyes brutal electoral violations and intimidation of supporters of pro-democracy candidate Viktor Yushchenko, who was poisoned during the campaign but miraculously survived. I was kicked out from the polling station using a false pretext before the vote count even began.

The day after the election, thousands flocked to Maidan Square in Kyiv. I joined them as a volunteer, distributing leaflets with the latest news to thousands of protesters camped on the square in freezing temperatures. Those people didn’t just want their candidate to win; they demanded free and fair elections, and they believed in a democratic Ukraine. And they won: After three weeks of peaceful protesters, another round of elections was ordered, which Yushchenko won.

At 28, I witnessed yet another revolution: the Euromaidan, or Revolution of Dignity. It began in late 2013, when pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who came to power in 2010, refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union. People’s outrage with Yanukovych’s corrupt regime — which reversed Ukraine’s course toward the West, concentrated power in his hands and cracked down on democracy, just as his role model in the Kremlin had done — poured into the streets. I was there too, with a smartphone, live-tweeting the Euromaidan for the world to know.

This time, the protests lasted for three winter months and ended in bloodshed. In late February, the regime’s special forces started shooting protesters with live rounds, killing about a hundred people. I cried with tens of thousands Ukrainians at Maidan Square, when the “heavenly hundred,” as those killed became known, were bid the last farewell. That tragic moment marked the end of peace in independent Ukraine.

It soon became clear we were facing a much stronger enemy than Yanukovych: Just a few days after his escape to Russia, Putin launched the war against Ukraine. It began with the annexation of Crimea, which caught Kyiv and its Western partners by surprise. It continued in Donbas, where Russian special forces seized government buildings and instigated an armed insurgency. Russia continues to send soldiers, weapons and money to nurture this conflict, which has already killed more than 14,000 people.

And that’s where we are today: facing a Moscow bent on keeping Ukraine poor and corrupt, undemocratic and divided. But the Ukrainian people have shown more than once they will have the last word on their future.

We might have regarded independence as a gift when we were children, but later in life we realized that it was not just given to us; we had to protect it with our lives. We have been hardened but never broken. We might be angry and frustrated, but never defeated.

I know my generation will prevail again. I know Putin’s plans for Ukraine, whatever shape they take, are doomed to fail. Millions of Ukrainians stand united, once again, ready to resist.

__

Russian Troops in Final Stages of Readiness Add to Worries for Ukraine

Michael Schwirtz2-5-22NY TIMES

KYIV, Ukraine — While Russia is not yet capable of mounting a total invasion of Ukraine, portions of its army have reached full combat strength and appear to be in the final stages of readiness for military action should the Kremlin order it, according to an assessment by the Ukrainian military’s high command.

Of particular concern to Ukrainian officials is the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014. In the last two weeks, Russia has deployed an additional 10,000 troops to the region, including infantry and airborne forces; more ominously, it has put some commands on the highest level of readiness, according to the military’s assessment.

Along with recent efforts to strengthen forces near two Kremlin-backed separatist enclaves in Ukraine, the deployments mean that Russia could soon be fully prepared to begin military actions along about 800 miles of Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders, according to the assessment.

The assessment was described in general terms by a senior Ukrainian military official who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose confidential intelligence findings. It broadly aligns with newly released satellite images showing a significant military buildup in Crimea over the last few weeks. But it is not just Crimea. Along much of Ukraine’s border, analysts are seeing what they describe as a near textbook example of a modern military making final preparations for war. They cited the arrival of logistical infrastructure like hospital and communications units, electronic equipment meant for disrupting enemy communications, air power and additional troops to man equipment that was deployed earlier.

“What unnerves me is how methodically they’re going through this,” said Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. “It’s by the book. You know what’s coming next and it shows up.”

The Kremlin’s ultimate intentions remained unclear, the Ukrainian official said, echoing the determination of American officials who say that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has yet to decide whether to attack.

Russia has roughly 130,000 troops massed near Ukraine’s border, U.S. and Ukrainian officials say. The Kremlin has said repeatedly it has no plans to attack, and Mr. Putin — while claiming that the United States was trying to goad Russia into war — was less strident in his language in an appearance this week, leaving the door open for future diplomacy.

The Ukrainian military’s assessment of Russian capabilities diverges from one the Pentagon provided last week, which said that Moscow had deployed sufficient troops and military hardware to mount a full invasion. But it moved Ukraine’s military leadership closer to the American position. And the assessment painted a dire picture of Russian combat readiness in Crimea, an area that has drawn less attention than the Russian troop buildup in the east and, more recently, its moving of forces into Belarus on Ukraine’s northern border.

On top of the tens of thousands of troops already stationed in Crimea, Russia has recently deployed two additional battalion tactical groups — battle ready forces of up to 1,000 troops plus tanks, armor and artillery. This includes one group of airborne troops and another that arrived with 10 trains’ worth of equipment and armor, the senior Ukrainian official said. Ukrainian military officials assess that additional forces are on the way, including a subdivision of national guard troops, which could be deployed to hold territory in the event of an invasion.

Moreover, several units deployed to Crimea have been put on the Russian military’s highest state of military readiness, the official said, including marine forces based near the Kerch Strait, which separates mainland Russia from Crimea, and at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. Troops in other locations have been put on the second highest level of alert, the official said.

Satellite images released by Maxar, a space technology company, this week confirm a buildup of forces in Crimea. They show the addition of numerous tent camps in areas close to military equipment, an indication that troops had arrived or were on the way.

The senior Ukrainian official said any incursion could start with localized action and that, if successful, could prompt the Russians to expand the conflict zone. “For now, they’re doing everything they can to panic us and panic the West,’’ the official said, calling it “a real game of poker.”

The Crimea troops are augmented by Russian naval forces deployed to the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, a small strategic body of water over which Ukrainian and Russian forces have clashed repeatedly in recent years. Last April, Russia dispatched its Caspian Flotilla to the waters around Ukraine for exercises and left behind several large landing craft.

Ukrainian officials are now watching the movements of six Russian landing vessels capable of deploying tanks and thousands of troops that Russia has sent from its Baltic and Northern Fleets for exercises in the Mediterranean for any signs that they may continue into the Black Sea.

“It’s a huge assault grouping,” Ihor Kabanenko, a retired admiral with the Ukrainian Navy, said. “We have not enough capabilities at sea to adequately respond to such a Russian deployment.”

Beyond Crimea, military analysts say it may only be a matter of weeks before the crescent of troops deployed along Ukraine’s northern, eastern and southern border is ready for action.

Until now, such forces might have looked menacingly large, but they lacked the supply lines and other logistical infrastructure needed to fight.

The satellite images showing row upon row of tanks that have appeared regularly in newspapers were most likely meant to send a message and force a conversation, said General Philip M. Breedlove, who was formerly the supreme allied commander of NATO. “You’ve seen the pictures of the trucks lined up,” Gen. Breedlove said. “That is not in tactical or offensive formation. That’s a formation for show.” All that has started to change in recent weeks with the arrival of Iskandar-M cruise missiles, fighter jets and helicopters, according to satellite imagery, Ukrainian and western intelligence assessments and Russia’s own military announcements.

In some areas where Russia still does not have enough personnel to man equipment, more troops appear to be arriving daily, officials and analysts say. And there is still a question of whether the Russian military has been able to muster sufficient reserve forces for any prolonged military campaign. In the coming weeks, Russia will likely conduct a series of military drills meant to test the preparedness of its forces, said Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute based in Arlington, Va. After that, the troops need only to get in their vehicles and head for the Ukrainian border, he said. What a military operation might look at this point is hotly debated.

In late January, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Russia had deployed enough forces to invade all of Ukraine, and suggested that fighting could even extend to the streets of Kyiv, the capital, something Mr. Kofman agrees with. “The Russian military is positioning itself to be able to conduct a large scale military operation against Ukraine, and its force posture indicates that if given the order they’re going to conduct a multi-axis attack,” Mr. Kofman said.

Under Ukraine’s assessment, Russia would be unable to sustain an invasion across different points of attack for more than a week because of a lack of supplies including ammunition, food and fuel deployed to front line positions, nor does it have sufficient reserve forces.

In most areas there are enough forces available for smaller, localized assaults that could be used as a diversion from a main attack coming from the east or south where forces are stronger, according to the assessment.

For weeks, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has attempted to play down the severity of the Russian threat, though even he now appears to be growing more concerned.

“This is not going to be a war of Ukraine and Russia,” should diplomatic efforts still underway fail, Mr. Zelenksy said last week. “This is going to be a European war, a full-fledged war.”

Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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