Megathread for news/updates/discussion of Russian invasion of Ukraine - March 14-15
This thread is posted Monday/Wednesday/Friday - please try to post relevant content in here, such as news, updates, opinion articles, etc. Especially significant updates may warrant a separate topic, but most should be posted here.
Hello Tildes. We are on Day 19 of the war.
I mostly kept Friday's thread up to date with links. I have a few more to share today, but honestly, it's all just… "more of the same".
Over the weekend, Russia once again amped up the aggression. We've had confirmations of orders to shoot at civilians.
They have struck a lot of airports, airfields and bases. It's all a second wave of trying to establish air dominance. Ukraine has defended itself quite well, but as you all know, it's still significantly outnumbered. The best we can hope for is to do enough damage to Russian forces that the war becomes untenable more quickly for them. With over half of Russia's $600bn reserves frozen by sanctions, and the US's unlimited reserves of foreign aid, it's not impossible at all.
In escalating talks, while Russia is threatening foreign military aid convoys, NATO is making its position clearer. NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg says that a Russian attack on the supply lines of allied nations supporting Ukraine would be “a dangerous escalation of the war.”.
In summary, the tensions are not easing up.
In happier news, 10 humanitarian corridors have opened up, and it appears they've had a reasonably high success rate this time. But the humanitarian crisis is beyond all alarms. MSF is calling it a race against time. Red Cross: ceasefire needed to prevent 'worst-case scenario’ in Mariupol.
Finally, if you know Ukrainians arriving in the EU, you can share the EU's Ukrainian aid portal with them (other languages: UK, RU). If you specifically know Ukrainians in Belgium who might need help, you can DM me -- I speak FR/EN/EL and my SO speaks EN/UK/RU, and we both somewhat speak NL.
Some extra interesting links:
French activist Pierre Afner entered the villa of Putin's daughter Alta Mira in Biarritz changed the locks, and declared the villa was ready to accept Ukrainian refugees.
The villa has eight bedrooms and three bathrooms
Proud of my fellow Frenchman right now :)
Random news dump:
Pregnant woman, baby die after Russia bombed maternity ward
Power restored to Chernobyl nuclear plant, Ukrainian officials say
US officials say Russia has asked China for military help in Ukraine
- Chinese embassy says has never heard of Russian requests for help
Russian 'dark money' stretches around the globe
Israel announces publicly for the first time it will comply with the international sanctions against Russia. FM Lapid says "Israel won't be used as a means to bypass the sanctions on Russia"
Russian Orthodox church in Amsterdam announces split with Moscow
Leaked Kremlin Memo to Russian Media: It Is “Essential” to Feature Tucker Carlson
Sen. Mitt Romney accused Tulsi Gabbard of 'parroting false Russian propaganda' after her comments on biolabs in Ukraine
Re: Tucker Carlson, hopefully we will get more glimpses like this of how Russia weaponizes foreign media. I've peeked at Fox News several times since the war started and have been really disappointed (but not surprised) by how shamelessly they are exploiting this war for political and "engagement" points. The fact that Fox News has so far abandoned any semblance of journalistic integrity makes them absolutely ripe for manipulation during an information war. I'm not letting any other mainstream media outlet off the hook, but Fox News is particularly shameless. --and at a time when it really matters.
I love law and the reasonable XYZ is an interesting legal standard. It's used to judge the actions in the case against what would be expected in that scenario at any time and there exists a reasonable whatever for just about everything. If a firefighter is sued by someone that was saved by a fire, but while being carried out they hit their head on a door frame and had a concussion or lost an eye, the case will be judged based on if a reasonable firefighter would have been likely to bump the person's head on the doorframe while trying to save them or if this firefighter in particular was negligent in doing so.
It's a hypothetical standard by which to compare the actions against what would be expected. There are reasonable pedestrians in cases involving them, reasonable bystanders, reasonable pilots, drivers, on and on.
And, as is apparent here, there is the reasonable viewer standard. The problem, in my opinion, arises from the differences between reasonable viewer and reasonable FOX viewer. A reasonable viewer would be based on the average American; the average American is a 52 year old white woman with a bachelor's degree that works full time in education or healthcare making $46k per year and is politically independent, but typically votes Democrat and voted for Hillary Clinton. So I'd agree that a reasonable viewer would see through Tucker Carlson's bullshit, at least until they gouged their eyes out.
However... The reasonable FOX viewer is a 50+, blue-collar worker with little more than a high school education.
I think we can agree that these are certainly not the same reasonable viewers.
Nevermind that the person who had to make the assumption what that hypothetical reasonable viewer would conclude was presumably quite educated - is that done by a judge?
The argument here is basically that FOX News is clearly not news, and no one would believe that it is. Really? Like, yes, the average person should be able to see that. But to a substantial degree, that's not what's happening. If 30% of the country take you seriously, is it really an excuse that 70% think you're either lying or satirical?
Defendant's counsel will argue for one version of a reasonable person, plantiff's side will argue the opposite, judge gets to determine who argued it better, and certain pieces of information (such as the network's or country's demographics) may or may not have been included (or allowed to be included) in the argument, then judge's bias comes into play as always is the case.
In the vein of random news:
US sanctions Russia's diamond industry, jeweler's associations ask questions about "What is a 'Russian' diamond/how to get around the sanction?",
diamond cartel...ahem... DeBeers takes this chance to remind everyone their blood diamonds come from Africa, not Russia.
In related news @AugustusFerdinand is looking for his incredibly small violin to play a mournful tune at news of there being problems in the ecologically and ethically corrupt pretty rock industry. It has to be around here somewhere.
Finnish polls now decisively pro-NATO. A major shift.
A anti-war protestor interrupted the main Russian 'news' channel
It looks like she is a Channel 1 employee whose father is Ukrainian. She recorded a video shortly before.
It hits me hard to think the odds are high that she will spend months if not years in jail.
Every single one of them is so ready to throw their life away to do the right thing. It’s incredibly humbling.
After the coup, I really hope we will be able to go back and make things right for every single one of them. Check in on every name we’ve seen in the headlines.
Another high-profile Russian anti-war protestor's recent efforts worth highlighting:
From Max Seddon, FT's Moscow bureau chief.
Full translation of the video.
Slovakian intelligence released a remarkable video showing a Russian ‘diplomat’ meeting with a Slovak journalist and exchanging money for contacts/information. The trend of declassification as an effective tactic against Russian efforts seems to be growing.
Maybe a naval invasion of Odessa incoming? Seems they're reaching quite a bit ahead of their land forces. Last I heard, this naval invasion was supposed to happen shortly before the land forces reach them, such that they can get a logistics corridor going quickly. Basically, the assumption I had was that the Russians would use a naval invasion to encircle (or threaten to) the frontline Ukrainians and not much more. Don't try to open up a second front, not too many risks.
But this, at least from my analysis, is not that. If they commit to a landing anytime soon, they're way ahead of the army. The army is on Mykolajiw, and from what we've seen elsewhere in the country, Ukraine can make taking a city very costly. Russia also has no option of bypassing Mykolajiw: The next bridge is 90km to the north in Voznesensk, and the only bridge south of that is right in Mykolajiw. A Russian victory in Mykolajiw is, from what I can tell, not likely to be soon. So landing any troops in the rear of the Ukrainians is going to be very risky. Resupply would happen either via the port of Odessa, or via the beaches. Neither seems pretty - the beaches because it limits Russian logistics capacities, the port because it's the obvious strategic target here. Ukraine can evacuate it and just blow it up, for example. Or defend it really hard. Or just shell it if it falls into enemy hands.
What I'm getting at here is that if Russia commits forces here, they're liable to lose the entirety of their landing forces if this thing goes sideways. Sea-based resupply is unlikely. Land-based relief or resupply is basically impossible.
Russian Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles are releasing a previously unknown decoy designed to evade air-defense systems
The Pentagon estimates Russia has less than 90% of its forces deployed to Ukraine still available
That translates to 15-20,000 Russian casualties so far.
More important, though - what % of the forces that Russia is willing to lose remain? If Putin thinks that NATO want to invade Russia (a paranoid delusion if so) then he can't whittle his military down too much.
Honestly, he can not honestly believe that he has any chance in a conventional war, at this point. Basically, what, 75% of his maneuver troops (correction: about 60%(100/170) of his BTGs) are in Ukraine and getting decimated by a smaller, lower-tech force. (Don't care what you say about ATGMs and MANPADS, Ukraine is substantially outgunned in terms of all the big items - ground vehicles, artillery, navy, air force.) He has (1) nothing left to hold the rest of the country against a serious attack and (2) should have very little faith in even his pre-invasion forces to handle a full-scale NATO invasion. The only reasons NATO doesn't intervene are Russia's nukes and Russian morale, as far as I can tell. Ignoring those two factors, this would be, generally, a slam dunk NATO victory.
I think what he's willing to lose is, well, whatever it takes to stay in power. Basically from day one of the invasion and it not going to plan, he had a PR disaster on his hands once the troops come home. Potentially big enough to get him into a gulag. The only way out for him is towards some kind of victory. Anything that can be spun so hard, it vindicates the loss of several thousand Russians. If he needs to pile on more pressure to get the Ukraine to settle to some kind of Russian advantage, then the soldiers that die in that process don't matter.
(Extra points for using decimated correctly in this context)
Not necessarily, see my other point about caveats to the number that streblo posted. But yes, it was intended quite that way. I take the compliment in the way it was intended and shove my own caveats up my ass.
Putin can always decide to nuke any invading army. Therefore alone NATO invading Russia will not happen.
I think both the losses incurred and the general under-performance of his armed forces in general will force Putin to lean heavily on his nuclear arsenal going forward. Expect to see START ripped up and a new nuclear arms race begin.
And then, on top of the economic and military disasters befalling the federation of soviet socialist republics right now, we add massive arms expenditures and the corresponding tax burden. Something gives, the population snaps and Putin finds himself in a gulag. The first genuinely democratic elections in a while happen in Russia, and Russians decide they no longer want to be a part of any kind of cold war or imperialist ambitions. They seek closer ties to the west, initiating talks with the EU of maybe joining one day.
Don't wake me. Don't.
That is not what the Pentagon said. In the worst case (Ukrainian perspective), that estimate could mean that 90% of Russian units have suffered casualties (wounded, captured, deserted, or indeed killed) that make them unavailable. If you count a mechanized infantry battalion as combat ineffective once their artillery battery is unavailable, this might not even need any personell casualties to happen, just blowing up a few guns would be enough. Obviously a constructed example, but combined with the killed-vs-casualty distinction, definitely some context that needs to be considered when interpreting that number.
Yea it probably includes POWs and deserters as well but I think the number is probably reasonably accurate if we take into account the Pentagon has also said it estimates 5,000 killed in action for Russia and assume a 3:1 wounded:killed ratio.
Mother Jones is echoing a call for support from Meduza, one of the last remaining independent news sources for Russians. This may be one way you can support Ukraine’s fight against Russia, by
helping maintain an alternative to Putin’s propaganda machine.
The Bankrupt Colonialist
Some good reporting on the human side of war, this article follows 30 Ukrainian civilians over the first two weeks of the war as they struggle to get safe and deal with their new reality.
Russian troops have entered a Mariupol hospital after rounding up 400 civilians from the area and are apparently holding them and staff hostage.
US tells allies China signalled openness to provide Russia with military support
Sorry for the paywall, doesn’t seem to be present on mobile.
There was some discussion here about Duolingo for Ukrainian recently. Here’s a statement the Duolingo CEO just released about Ukraine: https://blog.duolingo.com/duolingo-statement-ukraine/
I'm not sure it's entirely appropriate I'm laughing at this, but:
You know shit really hit the fan when Duolingo freezes streaks.
Yeah, that part seemed a little off pitch to me too.
I actually saw quite a few ukrainians on twitter asking for duolingo to freeze their streaks. You know, whatever helps eh? :)
Hey my streak (Spanish) is over 1000 days now, so I know the anxiety about losing it. :) Gamification is powerful.
I mean, it belongs in there. Their contributions to the Ukrainian people are minor, so even that little bit isn't content-wise out of place. Not letting those streaks die is what keeps people going, so this move ensures Ukrainians have the best chance of picking their language learning back up when this is over. It's a reasonable thing to do.
It just seems so minor the way it's written there. But every little bit helps.
A wonderful, perfect response. It's made me want to support them more than ever.
Here's Uber for comparison. https://mobile.twitter.com/RReverser/status/1503407723576188928
I can't verify this but here's a Twitter thread on logistics and tactics being used for camouflage in Ukraine
It seems like people are discovering that the "good guys" might not always be good? This is to be expected in a war, especially as it turns into a protracted war. Distinguishing between fighters and civilians is likely to become increasingly difficult.
I don't think it should change the West's support for Ukraine.
That thread doesn't convince me that Ukraine is actually using unmarked cars for their logistics. We can see 3 cars. One from the inside. One clearly marked. And one partially from the outside, where we're not sure whether it's marked or not. To liken that in any way to Russian use of red-cross vehicles for arms transports, just stinks a tad much for my taste. We also do not know to which degree these ruses affect anything at all. If Ukraine transports arms through green zones in unmarked cars, does it matter? If they're using it to avoid detection by Russian forces, sure. I'm not sure to what degree that is happening. However, with the (unverified) statement that Russia is taking measures against this (perceived?) threat, that's kind of immaterial to the facts as they happen on the ground and only relevant in a post-hoc court proceeding.
Which is interesting, because if Russia invalidated the protection of civilians by shooting at civilian cars, then what harm is there in not marking your car? On the other hand, if you're encountering civilian cars transporting military supplies, what compels you to afford them the required protections? The morality of the entire situation (maybe? Not sure I'm seriously arguing, rather than just contemplating this) depends entirely on who threw the first rock, and then you can either justify that combatants need not be uniformed/marked or that civilians deserve no protections.
Regardless, I'm not even sure to what degree I agree with the law as it exists here. I get that it's designed to protect civilians, but I'm not sure my moral code compels me to derive a moral judgement from that. "You did not mark your vehicle as a military vehicle when you were moving arms as a partisan/combatant in a war zone. Therefore, you are responsible for eroding the protections of civilians and are morally responsible for their death at the hands of the enemy" has a bit of a schoolyard bully tone to it. It completely disregards that Russia and it's military has agency here and have their own duty to protect civilians; it just treats them as an act of god. Never mind the fact that Russia has already shown quite the reckless disregard for the safety of civilians in other aspects of the war. I dunno. I'm not really sure what to think here morally. I think I can get away with accepting the displayed logistics as a consequence of the situation without determining that the good guys aren't so good.
Well, that's why I said "I can't verify." Most people, having chosen a side, aren't going to talk about whatever tactics people in Ukraine might be using. (If I knew anything secret I wouldn't report it either.) So we might not find out until after the war. We will hear everything the Russians are doing, and in some cases without important context.
Of course the overall context is that Russia invaded Ukraine. All of this is a consequence of Putin's decision.
With respect to what rules should apply during a war, from a pragmatic standpoint it's largely a matter of what both sides can agree on in a situation when most rules of civilized behavior have been discarded. It's good when they can agree to rules about "humanitarian corridors" and bad when it stops working due to mistrust. (Of course, from the Ukrainian standpoint it's even better if they are trusted and take advantage. After all, there is a war to be won and "fighting fair" isn't a good idea when you're the underdog.)
A lack of trust might mean, for example, that supplies are only allowed into surrounded cities after the Russians search them.
As an observer, I don't see much point in arguing over who is at fault when trust breaks down. It's unfortunate when it does.
Just to clarify, I wasn't accusing you in any way. I didn't think you were trying to convince me that Ukraine is bad akshually. I was more finding a concrete reason to distrust that twitter thread.
At the matter-of-fact observational level I think your argument is spot on, this is all about trust. I think you can also see that I was musing at a different level of analysis. (Which is not to say you're off topic or whatever, as I still find your point important)
Sure, yes that's fine. I guess I had some things to say, and wanted to say it somewhere less heated than that other topic.