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Thursday

Feb 22, 2024

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The Polish Connection – 6

Polish foreign minister proposes more stiff sanctions                   Zbigniew Rau, Poland’s top diplomat, has called for additional tough sanctions to punish Putin’s Russia for its merciless devastation of Ukraine. He made the proposal at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels. The sanctions would hit Russia’s energy sector and cut off all Russian banks from the global SWIFT financial-messaging system, Rau told reporters after the meeting, The measures would also hit 13 entities of Russia’s military-industrial complex “working directly for the Russian military units now in action in Ukraine,” Rau said. He also repeated Poland’s call for Ukraine to receive EU candidate status as soon as possible.

Despite massive destruction and disconnected utilities Mariupol fights on
Although mercilessly pounded and all but leveled to the ground by Russian bombs, artillery and missiles, the Ukrainian Port of Mariupol has rejected  a demand to lay down its arms and surrender to the invaders. An estimated 95% of the city’s buildings were struck and many neighborhoods resembled rubble-strewn 1945 Warsaw after Hitler ordered the city to be leveled.
 Mariupol has been under siege for  weeks and has seen some of the worst attacks  since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24th. These have included deadly strikes on a maternity ward, children’s hospital, theater and art school sheltering homeless residents as well as countless apartment blocks. The Russians have switched off the city’s electricity, gas, heating and communications, but have failed to break its spirit. Captured residents have been deported to Russia, and their fate remains unknown.

Defence bill enacted without votes against or abstentions
In a rare display of unity, the Polish Senate approved without any corrections the Homeland Defense Act passed by the Sejm (lower house).  All voted for the legislation with none opposed and no abstentions, and President Andrzej Duda speedily signed it into law. The Senate is Poland’s only official body controlled by the liberal-left opposition, and ordinarily it would have taken the full three weeks allowed to add its corrections if only to to delay a government-backed bill’s  passage. It has been said that Putin has done more to de-polarize Poland’s political scene than anyone else. The act doubles the troop strength of Poland’s armed forces to 300,000 and increases annual defense spending to three percent GDP.

Ukrainians block trucks at Belarus border                                         Despite all the economic sanctions against Russia, some Ukrainians living in Poland coined that an unending stream of large trucks delivering goods to Russia via Belarus undisturbed. Convinced that such a practice only serve Putin’s war machine, they set up a roadblock, not letting the trucks cross the border. At this writing, there was a back-up on the Polish side some 25 miles long. The Polish authorities said they were waiting for the EU to decide the matter, The protesters are letting through only trucks carrying livestock for which extended delays could be deadly.. Many truckers resent being stopped, but some understand the rationale behind it and sympathize with the protesters.

Refugees storm Warsaw’s National Stadium for ID numbers     Warsaw’s National Stadium, which had served as an emergency hospital at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, is now besieged by throngs of Ukrainian refugees seeking to get a PESEL ID number. (PESEL is the Polish acronym* for Universal Electronic Population Registry.) Recent Polish legislation has generously granted the same benefits Poles enjoy to Ukrainian refugees, but to qualify they need their own, unique PESEL number. That entitles them to work legally and receive social benefits including their children’s schooling. When the PESEL center opened, some applicants had begun queuing before dawn, but by 8 AM those who hadn’t been served were told to come back the next day.

Heavy losses, inability to conquer prompt Putin to order destruction
Army intelligence readings and media reports tend to agree that Russian forces have been unable to occupy a single major Ukrainian city due to fierce resistance by the Ukrainian military and civilian population. Columns of Russian tanks and other combat vehicles have been stalled in the approach to such cities, often running out of fuel and other supplies. Ukrainians have entrenched themselves around cities such as Kharkiv and the capital Kyiv. Double-X-shaped iron tank barriers have been placed on approach roads, and mountains of sandbags protect major buildings. Russia has lost six generals and up to 14,000 troops plus hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles, planes and helicopters. Putin appears to have deliberately resorted to aerial bombardment and missile strikes against civilian targets – universally acknowledged as war crimes.

Greedy EU members armed Putin*s invasion of Ukraine             Ten members of the 27-nation bloc defied a 2014 EU embargo and continued to sell weapons to  Putin’s Russia, Polish TV reported recently.  The embargo was introduced by the EU after Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and incited separatist warfare in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. The biggest offenders were France ($198 mln worth of contraband) and Germany ($135 mln), but also included Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Finland, Slovakia and Spain.  None of them were taken to court, fined or otherwise harassed the way Poland has been over its anti-communist and anti-corruption judicial reforms.

Putin revives Stalin-era heritage                                                             As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drags on, many observers have noted similarities between Stalin’s and Putin’s Russia. British PM Boris Johnson was among he first to publicly state that Putin has patterned himself after Stalin. Displaying little respect for human life, Stalin would throw Soviet penal brigades or poorly armed troops against German tanks and ruthlessly treated enemy civilians. Putin has also shown his disregard for Russians losses and has merciless targeted Ukrainian civilians. NKVD units followed Soviet troops into battle and shot in the back who retreated or deserted. Putin is using squads of pro-Russian Chechen traitors for a similar purpose. Stalin starved as many as 10 million Ukrainian peasants by appropriating every last bit of grain and causing a manufactured famine. Russian troops are now trying to starve out the Ukrainian cities they are besieging. At pro-Stalin rallies, supporters would hold up placards that read: “Za Stalina” (For Stalin), At present the placards read: “Za Putina!”

Russia quits Council of Europe to avoid getting kicked out          When Putin heard the Council of Europe was planning to remove the Russian Federation from its membership, the Kremlin quickly moved to avoid a humiliating expulsion. Essentially jumping before it was pushed from the Strasbourg-based body, the Russian foreign ministry said it had given notification of its departure to the Council’s Secretary General, Marija Pejcinovic Buric. Not connected to the European Union, the Council of Europe was set up after World War II to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.

Belarusian soldiers refuse to fight against Ukraine                       Stanisław Żaryn, a Polish security official, has reported that “further information shows that there is a growing rebellion among soldiers in Belarus,” In a a tweet he explained: “They categorically refuse to participate in the Russian war against Ukraine,” He added that the command is looking for way to force soldiers to participate, Ruthenian Belarusians and Ukrainians are culturally and linguistically closer to each other than either of them is to Russia.

Russians cheer Putin on anniversary of Crimea’s annexation    Flag-waving Russians packed Moscow’s 80,000-seat Luzhniki stadium to cheer their leader Vladimir Putin on the anniversary of his 2014.annexation of Crimea. In his address to the crowds, the dictator repeated his narrative that his “special military operation” in Ukraine was to protect Russian speakers from genocide. The Ukrainians defending their country against his invasion he referred to as “bandits,” “extremists”, “radicals” and “neo-Nazis.”  With very limited access to alternative news sources, it appears that the overwhelming majority of Russians actually believe his version of things, Whether Putin himself does –  remains unknown. His invasion of Ukraine was backed by 86% of Russians.

Poland most likely to be attacked by Russia – Ukrainian survey
A survey carried out by Ukraine’s Active Group showed that 86.6% of Russians tolerate and support the potential assault on the territory of the European Union, including: Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and 75.5% believe that it should be Poland. Those mentioning  other countries as victims of Russian assault were the Baltic states (41%) and Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary (39.6%). Respondents were allowed to mention several countries. According to the survey, only 25.5% of Russians strongly oppose the use of nuclear weapons, whilst, 40.3% consider an atomic attack absolutely acceptable.