PUTIN TAKES A MAJOR UKRAINIAN CITY AND CONTINUES SIEGE… NYT: 1 Million Flee Ukraine as Russia Bombards Key Cities
A day after gaining control of their first major Ukrainian city, Russian forces on Thursday laid siege to urban areas across the country in a grinding offensive that has pummeled civilian neighborhoods with increasingly heavy artillery and reduced basic services to rubble. The assaults have deepened a humanitarian crisis that has prompted one million people to flee the country, and many more to abandon their homes for Ukrainian cities farther from the fighting.
The swift fall of the major city of Kherson in the south of the country, raised fears that other cities could soon follow as Russia’s bombardment created pressure on people to surrender. Russian forces appeared to be making their biggest gains in the south, where they had nearly surrounded two strategic cities in an apparent bid to capture Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast, potentially cutting off the country from world shipping.
MEANWHILE, IN THE NORTH… NYT: The miles-long Russian convoy headed for Kyiv has stalled, intelligence officials say.
LONDON — A miles-long convoy of Russian military supply trucks and attack vehicles that has come within 20 miles of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, “has made little discernible progress in over three days,” according to an intelligence assessment released by Britain’s defense ministry on Thursday. […]
The bulk of the convoy remains about 18 miles from Kyiv, “having been delayed by staunch Ukrainian resistance, mechanical breakdown and congestion,” according to the British assessment.
UKRAINIANS CLAIM THEY’VE KILLED THOUSANDS OF RUSSIANS… RUSSIA PEGS DEATH TOLL AT 498… NYT…
On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry for the first time announced a death toll for Russian servicemen in the conflict. While casualty figures in wartime are notoriously unreliable — and Ukraine has put the total of Russian dead in the thousands — the 498 Moscow acknowledged in the seven days of fighting is the largest in any of its military operations since the war in Chechnya, which marked the beginning of President Vladimir V. Putin’s tenure in 1999.
MORE… PUTIN CRACKS DOWN ON DISSENTING RUSSIAN CITIZENS…
“Individuals who carry out falsification must be punished in the most severe way,” said Vasily Piskaryov, a senior lawmaker in Mr. Putin’s party. “They are discrediting the absolutely rightful and understandable actions of our armed forces.”
His proposed punishment: 15 years in prison. The Parliament, which is controlled by the Kremlin, will take up the law on Friday.
Some feared that Mr. Putin could go even further, repressing dissent to an extent unseen in Russia since Soviet times. Tatiana Stanovaya, a scholar who has long studied Mr. Putin, wrote it was “more than logical” to expect that lawmakers this week would approve the imposition of martial law in order to block the open internet, ban all protests and restrict Russians from being able to leave the country.
KREMLIN OFFICIALS ALLEGEDLY REELING, BUT LIVING IN FEAR, AS PUTIN CONTINUES INVASION… JULIA IOFFE, PUCK NEWS: “Everyone is f*cking stunned,” says one source close to the Kremlin. Another source says no one in the presidential administration expected a full-scale war—or the sanctions. “You can’t resign,” said first source. “You can only resign right to jail.” WOW.
A RARE RUSSIAN RESIGNATION… FINANCIAL TIMES: Russian World Bank adviser quits in protest at invasion of Ukraine
An adviser at the World Bank has become the first Russian official to resign from a prominent position at an international body in protest at Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Boris Lvin, a senior adviser to Russia’s representative at the Washington-based financial institution, revealed his intention to quit to World Bank board members and their staff last week. “In view of the ongoing events I can no longer associate myself with my government, and will have to resign my position,” he wrote in an email.
Lvin, who has worked at the World Bank for more than 24 years, confirmed to the Financial Times that he had “officially relinquished” his duties on Tuesday. That involved “rather little sacrifice on my side, especially compared to what currently endure people in Ukraine and brave protesters in Russia”, he added.
FASCINATING CONVERSATION ON HOW RUSSIA HAS SLIPPED FROM OLIGARCHY TO DICTATORSHIP… AND HOW PUTIN ISN’T A TYPICAL WEALTH-DRIVEN DESPOT… KLEPTOCRACY EXPERT NATE SIBLEY: ‘THEY ARE NO LONGER IN AN OLIGARCHY. THEY ARE IN A PERSONALIST DICTATORSHIP, THE MOST EXTREME FORM OF AUTHORITARIAN GOVERNMENT’ (PODCAST)
EARLIER THIS WEEK… RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS ARE TOO PANICKED TO SPEAK OUT… AND CHECK OUT PUTIN’S WEIRD EXTREME SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES… JOHN SEXTON: Even Russia’s oligarchs can’t get Putin to change his mind(LINKS, PHOTOS)
Whatever it is that is going on with Putin, his rigid, paranoid and defensive behavior means there may be no one who can press him to take a different course. Those who try could wind up in jail or worse as government critics and journalists have a habit of winding up dead in Russia. Indeed, one of the oligarchs mentioned above pointedly refrained from any direct criticism of Putin saying it was too risky:
Mr [Mikhail] Fridman said the conflict in Ukraine should end as soon as possible, but avoided questions about outright condemnation of President Vladimir Putin’s actions.
“Please, don’t push me to comment,” he said, adding it would be not just “my personal risk, but also a risk for my colleagues and staff”.
He said his companies had tens of thousands of staff in Russia, Ukraine and the UK. “It’s a very sensitive issue. We have a dozens of partners and I do not have a right to put all of them at risk.”
ANOTHER PUTIN QUIRK… HE MEASURES A MAN BY HIS DOGS… PAUL KENGOR: Mad Dog Putin — “It’s important to know if your adversary is a bastard, or a crazy bastard.”
In total silence, Putin led the Americans through some corridors and down various sets of stairs into the literal basement of the Kremlin, a place where bad things had happened over the years, as John, a student of Russian history, knew well. There, the grimacing Putin showed them roughly 10 of the fiercest-looking canines that John had ever seen. There were restrained in large cages. Putin then looked at the Americans and said simply and sternly, “This is what a real dog looks like. Tell your president.”
Putin then left. That was the only thing he said to them and wanted to show them. He left the Americans there with an aide, who then brought them back to the meeting room.
John told me it was one of the weirdest things he had ever experienced. “It was utterly surreal,” he told me. “It was also very Russian.”
AMERICAN COMPANIES FINALLY FIND ANOTHER COUNTRY TO PUNISH… REUTERS: Apple stops product sales in Russia, adding to pressure from shippers, car makers
March 1 (Reuters) – American big brands including Apple, Google, Ford and Harley-Davidson on Tuesday stopped sales and distanced themselves from Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine, joining a growing list of companies from shippers to car makers to energy companies shunning the country.
Apple Inc (AAPL.O) said it had stopped sales of iPhones and other products in Russia, Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O)Google dropped Russian state publishers from its news, Ford Motor (F.N) told its Russian manufacturing partner it was suspending operations in the country, and Harley-Davidson Inc suspended its business and shipments of its bikes.
Early in the day, the world’s biggest shipping lines, MSC and Maersk (MAERSKb.CO), suspended container shipping to and from Russia, deepening the country’s isolation.
REPORT: US SANCTIONS ARE STILL RATHER WEAK… NATE SIBLEY: Important [thread] illustrating why supposedly strong US sanctions currently in place are actually half-measures. Just astonishing that, with the Russian military deliberately brutalizing civilians, we have not done everything in our power to close off Putin’s war economy. (THREAD)
MORE DETAIL… BIDEN ADMIN PROTECTS CHINA’S ABILITY TO TRANSACT WITH RUSSIAN CENTRAL BANK… MARSHALL BILLINGSLEA, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR TERRORIST FINANCING UNDER TRUMP: They deliberately decided to take “off the the table” the option for US sanctions on foreign banks or companies who continue to transact with the RCB despite our prohibitions.
This was a conscious decision to not sanction the [Russian Central Bank] in a way that we could deter, say, the Chinese or others from transacting with the RCB, possibly helping keep Russia’s economy afloat. This not how we used sanctions on Iran or Venezuela. It is a much weaker approach.
That is not to say that the measures taken by the Biden Admin aren’t having an effect. They clearly are, mostly magnified by market overreaction & overcompliance. But this yet another example of half-measures being taken, when overwhelming economic force is urgently needed.
SPEAKING OF CHINA… NYT: China Asked Russia to Delay Ukraine War Until After Olympics, U.S. Officials Say
WASHINGTON — A Western intelligence report said senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials in early February not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, according to senior Biden administration officials and a European official.
The report indicates that senior Chinese officials had some level of direct knowledge about Russia’s war plans or intentions before the invasion started last week. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia met with President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing on Feb. 4 before the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Moscow and Beijing issued a 5,000-word statement at the time declaring that their partnership had “no limits,” denouncing NATO enlargement and asserting that they would establish a new global order with true “democracy.”
CHINA SITS OUT UN RESOLUTION CALLING FOR END OF WAR… AP: UN Assembly votes to demand that Russia stop war in Ukraine
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly voted at an emergency session Wednesday to demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops, with sustained applause breaking out after a formidable show of support among the 193 member nations against the invasion.
The vote on the “Aggression against Ukraine” resolution was 141-5, with 35 abstentions. It came as Russia bombarded Ukraine’s second-largest city and besieged two important ports, and a huge convoy of Russian military vehicles was poised outside the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
Only Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea joined Russia in opposing the measure, a powerful indication of the international isolation that Russian President Vladimir Putin faces for invading his country’s smaller neighbor — and that the resolution’s supporters sought to emphasize.
The abstentions included China and India, as expected, but also some surprises from usual Russian allies Cuba and Nicaragua. And the United Arab Emirates, which abstained on Friday’s similar Security Council resolution, voted “yes.”
BOOT-EDGE-EDGE KNOCKS DOWN KEYSTONE RECONSIDERATION, SAYS WE SHOULDN’T BE LOOKING FOR ‘PERMANENT SOLUTIONS’… BREITBART: Buttigieg on Keystone Pipeline amid Ukraine Invasion: We Don’t Want ‘Permanent Solutions’ to Short Term Problems (VIDEO)
Anchor Stephanie Ruhle said, “I want to stay on gas for another moment. You’re absolutely right, the president does not set the price of gas, but he can influence it. And while releasing some strategic reserves matters, given how much has been released, it is really just a drop in the bucket. Are there things, and I realize this is controversial, it has huge environmental impacts, could the president possibly consider authorizing the Keystone Pipeline? Or working something out with Iran?”
Buttigieg said, “Look, the president has said that all options are on the table. But we also need to make sure that we are not galloping after permanent solutions to immediate short term problems, where more strategic and tactical actions in the short term that can make a difference, like what you have with the strategic reserve, which exists partly in order to respond to situations like this.”
He added, “The president has laid policies that are going help cushion the impacts of any volatility in energy markets in the future by building up more of a diversified and homegrown energy base for this country.”
BIDEN ADMIN DEMANDS BIG TECH HAND OVER RECORDS OF ‘COVID-19 MISINFORMATION’… NYT: The surgeon general calls on Big Tech to turn over Covid-19 misinformation data.
A request for information from the surgeon general’s office demanded that tech platforms send data and analysis on the prevalence of Covid-19 misinformation on their sites, starting with common examples of vaccine misinformation documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The notice asks the companies to submit “exactly how many users saw or may have been exposed to instances of Covid-19 misinformation,” as well as aggregate data on demographics that may have been disproportionately exposed to or affected by the misinformation.
The surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, also demanded information from the platforms about the major sources of Covid-19 misinformation, including those that engaged in the sale of unproven Covid-19 products, services and treatments.
Georgetown Law’s cancellation campaign against Ilya Shapiro has gone national. The libertarian-conservative constitutional law scholar, who was placed on administrative leave at the end of January amid an activist-led backlash over his tweets, was shouted down by students at a University of California, Hastings College of Law event on Tuesday.
National Review has viewed the full 45-minute video of the encounter, revealing a chaotic scene in which students mocked and hurled profanity at Shapiro, who remained calm throughout.
JUDGE LOCKS UP WOMAN FOR BURNING CARS IN 2020 RIOT, SCOLDS HER FOR MAKING BLM LOOK BAD… SEATTLE TIMES: Tacoma woman gets 5 years in prison for torching police cars during Seattle protests
A 26-year-old Tacoma woman was sentenced to five years in federal prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to arson stemming from the torching of five police cars during the racial justice protests that rocked downtown Seattle after the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May 2020.
Margaret Aislinn Channon was arrested June 11, 2020, after an investigation by federal agents and Seattle police, who identified her from video showing an individual in distinctive clothing with tattoos on her hands setting fire to the vehicles.
During the sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour told Channon that her conduct had done “tremendous damage to Black Lives Matter in Seattle.”
‘WHEEL’ HOST PAT SAJAK EXPLAINS HOW SMART PLAYERS COULD WHIFF ON ‘FEATHER IN YOUR CAP’… PAT SAJAK: It always pains me when nice people come on our show to play a game and win some money and maybe fulfill a lifelong dream, and are then subject to online ridicule when they make a mistake or something goes awry. (THREAD)
[…] The first attempted solve was “Feather in your hat” which, by the way, is how a lot of people say it. So all three players thought it was a good solve, and were stunned when I said it was wrong.
Now imagine you’re on national TV, and you’re suddenly thrown a curve and you begin getting worried about looking stupid, and if the feather isn’t in your hat, where the heck can it be? You start flailing away looking for alternatives rather than synonyms for “hat.”
CALLING ALL PATRIOTS: During his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, President Joe Biden gave Americans a glimpse into what the Democratic Party’s plan could be to take on the midterms and the 2024 election. His speech included significant departures from previous party rhetoric around COVID-19, immigration and police, as well as subtle pivots on other issues. Patriots, how did you think Biden did at his address? Let us know in the form.