Ukraine to Putin: Never Again
Word from the battlegrounds in Ukraine is scattered and cannot always be confirmed, but some credible accounts give every indication that Putin may have blundered and faces a stronger defense than he (or the Biden administration) imagined possible. The bravery of a former comedian elected the Ukrainian President and a multimillionaire former boxing champion, now the mayor of Kyiv, who refused flight and stayed to defend their homeland at great risk of their lives, is part of the story. But to my mind, the memory of the Holodomor in which Russia’s Stalin starved to death millions of Ukrainians plays an even greater role and explains why so many ordinary citizens are taking up arms, making makeshift weapons and using every means at their disposal to turn Putin’s incursion into a fight on quicksand. It’s such a welcome surprise to see Europeans defending themselves and even getting support from their neighbors in the fight.
The situation on the ground remains fluid, but here are some of the reports on which my opinion is based.
The Spirit of the Ukrainians
President Volodymyr Zelensky was offered a way out by the United States (which stopped him from negotiating directly with Putin), but gave the State Department the back of his hand: “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.” He stayed even though he is well aware of the Russian plan to decapitate the leadership. Certainly, he knows that’s the plan. This was the tactic Russia used in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. Indeed, it’s been reported that Putin had dispatched troops from Chechnya with playing cards picturing the top Ukrainian leaders with orders to kill them.
Zelensky’s bravery and spirit is not unique. One Ukrainian marine sacrificed himself to blow up a bridge and slow the advance of Russian troops. One woman approached a Russian soldier and offered him sunflower seeds, saying that when he was killed the seeds would sprout to mark his resting place.
Everything is being done to mobilize the civilian population, even opening up stores of weapons and handing them out for defense.
As Russian forces advance on Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, people all over the country are being urged by officials -- and sometimes compelled by necessity -- to fight back in whatever ways they can.
The country’s former president is patrolling the city streets with a civilian defense force, armed with an AK-47. Civilians have been called to find their own weapons and make molotov cocktails -- a type of crude, homemade explosive named, mockingly, after a former Soviet foreign minister.
Roughly 18,000 weapons have already been distributed in the Kyiv region, according to the government. At the country’s borders, Ukrainian guards have been stopping vehicles, looking for men between the ages of 18 and 60 who can help in the fight.
In fact, almost anyone who wants to fight for Ukraine is welcome. “If you have combat experience in Europe, come to our country and defend Europe together with us,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a desperate video statement Friday.
Oleksandr Usyk, a former heavyweight champion, answered the plea and left his comfortable home in the UK to join the fight.
Multimillionaire and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko (now mayor of the capital Kyiv) and his brother Wladimir publicly have taken up arms.
Dmytro Kuleba, the country’s foreign minister, responded to a call to surrender by telling Putin to “go to hell.”
There are credible reports (which Russian propaganda is late contesting) that 13 Ukrainian guards on Snake Island in the Black Sea told the attackers to “go f--- yourself” before they were shot and the island overrun.
The armed forces seem to share the widespread sentiment of the leaders. At this site you can see a video of a lieutenant in the armed forces making this obdurate defiance plain:
“Me, a lieutenant in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, company commander. Here are my warriors. We are not afraid, we are not panicking. We do not lay down our arms and we will not succumb to any tyrants. We will not allow any murderers to impose their will on us. We will not give you a millimeter of our own land.
"Maybe this is our last recording. I don't know if I was a good or bad person, or what God will say. But I know that I am a good citizen and a good soldier. I am the protector of my homeland. The guarantor of her peace. Her shield and sword in time of war.
"You who come here whoever you are, whatever you are, who invade our house -- get out of our land. We'll fight you until the last bullet. And when they're over, we'll fight you with our bare fists. We will fight you on land, in water, underground, and in the air. Neither of you will get out of here alive. You will all die. And our land will be free.
"Glory to Ukraine. Glory heroes.”
Working online, Ukrainians flirted and tricked Russian soldiers into exposing their locations and other valuable intelligence.
The leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate denounced the invasion and urged Ukrainians to support the Kyiv government. A rare deviation from Moscow.
The Ukrainian defenders are being supported by neighboring Poland which just transported truckloads of ammunition to Ukrainian forces. Germany has switched on military aid and has now authorized the Netherlands to send Ukraine 400 rocket-propelled grenade launchers
A Spirited Defense Slows the Invasion
The Ukrainian foreign minister taunted Putin,” Today, the Kremlin counted the number of downed planes and helicopters, the number of burnt tanks and armoured personnel carriers, and saw how many Russian racists our soldiers disposed of per day.”
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister said about 2,800 Russian soldiers were killed in the first 36 hours of the invasion -- “500 armoured vehicles, 10 aircraft, and seven helicopters.” (As Epoch Times notes, “If confirmed, it would mean that Russia has suffered more losses in fewer than 48 hours than the United States soldiers suffered during the 20-year long invasion of Afghanistan.” ) There were even several reports that Russian troop transports included mobile crematoria and a suggestion that this was to keep the number of casualties secret.
By Friday U.S. officials conceded that the Ukrainian defense was stronger than they had anticipated, that the Russian push into Kiev had been slowed.
On Saturday the Daily Mail, which is a constant source of the latest news, reported that Ukrainian troops obliterated an enemy convoy. As well, they downed two military transport planes reportedly carrying 300 paratroopers, a fighter jet, and a helicopter. Putin is spending 15 billion GBp a day on the invasion, and while it might be hyperbolic, the Estonian ex-defense chief says if Kiev can hold out for 10 days, Russia will run out of money and weapons.
In the face of such fierce and widespread defense, will Putin’s impetuous act prove his undoing? Maybe not, but in contrast to what appears to be a very unified Ukrainian defense, significant numbers of Russians are bravely demonstrating defiance of Putin’s invasion.
Videos and published reports online show protestors in the streets of 50 Russian cities, bravely protesting despite being threatened with treason for doing so.
It is heartening to see the great attachment to country and bravery of the Ukrainian military, political, and civilian forces. Ukraine after all has many more citizens than Putin has troops to send and keep there. In my heart I think it is more than mere nationalism and love of country, though. The memories of a Russia that caused millions of Ukrainians to painfully starve to death in the Holodomor is something that puts a lot of grit in the fight to stay free of Russia.
Updates via Nick Arama of Redstate:
Now, there are even reports that Ukraine is not only defending itself but hitting back at the Russians, in Russia, hitting an airbase in Rostov. That’s stunning, if true, and the reporter from Kyiv Independent is calling it “confirmed.”
It is now confirmed — Ukrainian military has delivered a strike on a Russian airfield in Millerovo, Rostov Oblast— Illia Ponomarenko (@IAPonomarenko) February 25, 2022
A number of enemy aircraft have been destroyed. pic.twitter.com/xwex4z5ryg
And via Politico:
Germany on Saturday reversed a historic policy of never sending weapons to conflict zones, saying the Russian invasion of Ukraine was an epochal moment that imperiled the entire post-World War II order across Europe. (snip)
From its own stockpile, the German government will send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft defense systems to Ukraine. The government has also authorized the Netherlands to send Ukraine 400 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and told Estonia it ship over send nine howitzers.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement. “It threatens our entire post-war order. In this situation, it is our duty to do our utmost to support Ukraine in defending itself against Vladimir Putin’s invading army. Germany stands closely by Ukraine’s side.”