Robert Strybel, Warsaw Correspondent
(Updated 15th March 2022)
Death toll in Russo-Ukrainian war varies significantly
On Day 19 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UN reported that at least 636 confirmed civilians including 46 children have died as a results of the conflict. But the UN cautioned that the total may be considerably higher, because delays usually occur in collecting and compiling incoming figures. It added that the influx of 1.8 million Ukrainian refugees made Poland the world’s fourth largest overall recipient of people displaced by armed conflicts. Aside from officially confirmed data, most of the remaining casualty counts are estimates, and it’s a known fact that the first victim of any war is the truth. The US military estimates that between 2,000 and 4,000 Ukrainian armed forces, national guard and volunteer forces have been killed and that between 5,000 and 6,000 Russian soldiers have died. Recently, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov, acknowledged for the first time that “there are dead and wounded” Russian troops but offered no numbers. The Ukrainian military claims that more than 12,000 Russian troops have been eliminated.
NATO might react if Russia used chemical weapons – President Duda
In an interview with the BBC, Polish President Andrzej Duda was asked whether Putin could use chemical weapons. “At this stage he is in a difficult situation and can use most anything,” Duda replied. “He has already lost the war politically and militarily he isn’t winning it. If Russia resorted to weapons of mass destruction, that would be a game-changer for the entire situation.” Duda indicated that weapons of mass destruction affect the whole world and NATO would have decide how to react. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had suggested that Russia might use chemical weapons against Ukrainians.
Russian aggression draws closer to Polish border
So far, Putin’s invaders had mainly targeted sites in eastern and central Ukraine, Recently however 35 people were killed and 134 were wounded by a Russian missile strike against a large Ukrainian military center near the Polish border. Regional governor Maksym Trotsky said Russian planes fired some 30 rockets at the Yavoriv International Center for Peacekeeping and Security. It is western Ukraine’s largest military base and training ground. Prior to Putin’s invasion, most of Ukraine’s military drills with NATO had been held there.
Poles angrily oppose Putin’s war, show Solidarity with Ukraine
Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Warsaw recently to express their opposition to Russian dictator Putin’s terrorist invasion of Ukraine and show their Solidarity with its embattled victims. Waving white and red Polish and blue and yellow Ukrainian flags, they carried placards that read “Stand with Ukraine” and “Stop Putin” as well as images of the Russian strongman with an added Hitleresque mustache. They also chanted “Kyiv-Warsaw – a common cause” (“Kijów, Warszawa – wspólna sprawa”). Attending the event were two members of Poland’s top leadership, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Sejm Speaker Elżbieta Witek. Similar protests have been taking place in other Polish and foreign cities.
Polish-led EU delegation visits besieged Kyiv
Deputy PM Jarosław Kaczyński and the prime ministers of Poland, Czechia and Slovenia have gone to Kyiv to show EU-wide solidarity with beleaguered Ukraine. The delegation, representing the EU’s priority-setting European Council, traveled by train to the Ukrianian capital where a huge apartment building was still smoldering from an overnight Russian artillery strike. The trip of government leaders into a war zone recalled the high-level 2008 delegation organized by Kaczyński’s late twin brother Lech which traveled to Georgia by plane when Russian forces were closing in on its capital Tbilisi. The presence there of European government chiefs prompted the Russians to halt their march on the city and made Lech Kaczyński a Georgian national hero. “This war is the doing of cruel tyrant. We must stop the tragedy unfolding in the east. That’s why we are here togetehr in Kijów,” Morawiecki remarked.
President Duda signs refugee-aid bill into law
Polish President Andrzej Duda has signed into law a refugee-aid bill overwhelmingly approved by the Sejm. It will provide the legal basis for the country’s far-reaching emergency aid as well as longer-term benefits if the war east of the border continues for some time. Under the new law, refugees, mostly women, will be able to legally work in Poland and enjoy the same health-care, educational and other benefits to which Polish citizens are entitled. Their children will be able to continue their education where they left off in Ukraine, but school attendance is entirely voluntary. Polish families that have put up refugees in their homes will be reimbursed.
What’s going on in Putin’s head? Does anyone know for sure?
Thanks to satellite and drone surveillance, the military intelligence units of different countries can readily follow the ongoing combat activities ofthe Russo-Ukranian war. But there is far less confirmed information on what is going on behind the Kremlin’s closed doors in dictator Putin’s inner circle and in his head. Academics, politicians, military experts and media observers have largely painted the picture of an obsessed, land-grabbing neo-imperialist who may have actually come to believe his own absurd narration. But instead of flowers from welcoming Russian-flag-waving Ukrainians, his intruders were greeted with fierce, nationwide resistance. Putin’s nuclear-war threats are widely seen as a symptom of his frustration at a game plan that has gone astray. He has reportedly fired some of his top advisers and commanders who had misinformed him about Ukraine’s actual public mood and military potential. His response has been to increasingly target civilian sites including residential buildings, hospitals and schools. The bottom line seems to be that when a frustrated, unpredictable megalomaniac such as little “tsar” Vladimir is cornered and loses both ground and face, most anything can happen.
World firms exit Russia, some stay on to maximize profits
A corporate exodus from Russia got under way soon after Putin’s February 24th unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. A research team headed by Yale Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld has documented some 330 American and multinational companies that have severed their business ties with Moscow, and the list is growing. But, in fear of losing lucrative profits, a number of big-name firms have resisted pressure to withdraw. They include American food and beverage producer Mondelez, the parent of such brands as Oreo, Ritz, and Chips Ahoy!, which boasts annual Russian revenues of $1 billion. Others include hotel giant Marriott, cosmetics maker Coty. pharmaceutical firm AbbVie and fast food chains Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts. McDonald’s and Burger King, which had continued operations for some time, ultimately pulled out.
Przemyśl – Poland’s main refugee hub
Many Poles are helping refugee strangers get settled with basic necessities in their new home from home. The moment they step off their train in the SE city of Przemyśl, near the Ukrainian border, they find small mountains of clothing, shoes, jackets and outerwear filling cardboard boxes just outside the train station at a refugee relocation center. Everything they see is free for the taking. Newcomers that know where they want to go will find Polish motorists offering to drive them there. Those totally bushed from their exhausting, several-day train trip can count on a warm meal, bath and a place to spend the night.
“Poles make refugees feel at home” – President Zelensky
Ukrianian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the relationship between Ukraine and Poland had become “special” and he was speaking on the phone with Polish head of state Andrzej Duda several times a day. The Polish and Ukrainian prime ministers, Mateusz Morawiecki and Denys Shmyhal, also remain in contact, Zelensky added. Referring to his compatriots fleeing Russia’s aggression into Poland, he said the Polish people were seeking to make them feel “at home, and indeed that’s how they feel. We haven’t been left alone to deal with the enemy – Polish brothers and sisters are with us!”
V-P Harris screws up, White House “doctors” transcript?
The Biden Administration sent Vice-President Kamala Harris to frontline Poland and Romania to demonstrate its support for its NATO allies and its solidarity with war-torn Ukraine. Neither a convincing speaker nor a foreign-policy expert, in her official remarks Harris said: ”’The United States stands firmly with the people of Ukraine in defense of the NATO alliance,” which some said implied that Ukraine was already a member of NATO. The White House ”doctored” the official transcripts or her remarks, and Fox TV lost no time in highlighting the blunder. Rita Panache, host of Britain’s Sky News, called Kamala Harris ”utterly inept in her role as vice-president. Ms. Harris went to Poland amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. “To send her there when she is hopeless in this area,” Panahi said. “She has completely failed to do anything about the illegal immigrant crisis which was the last thing she was tasked with. “So why would you send someone who is so unserious.” Harris’ political foes have long suspected her of “sleeping her way tot he top.”
Florida’s Polish institute aids Ukrainian refugees
The American Institute of Polish Culture and the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Poland in Florida have secured much needed medical supplies, donated by hospitals in the US. The Miami-based institute is sending them to the Polish Medical Mission which distributes the supplies to facilities treating Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Within two weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, over 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees entered Poland, mostly women and children. Ukrainians are receiving extraordinary assistance from many Polish humanitarian, non-profit and government-sponsored organizations as well as altruistic private citizens.
Poland safe to visit despite war next door – tourism agency
Poland’s tourism agency has sought to reassure international travelers that, despite the war in neighboring Ukraine, “the country remains safe, tourist attractions remain open and visitors can book hotels and accommodation as usual”. the Polish Tourism Organization said recently. The country continues to welcome all visitors and remains a safe destination for travelers as it takes in Ukrainian refugees. The PTO said: “Following the invasion of Ukraine thousands of refugees have been welcomed to Poland and also across Europe. All visitors are encouraged to remember that as a member of both the EU and NATO, Poland’s safety is secured.