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May 24, 2024

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The Ukrainian Connection

Compiled by
Robert Strybel, Warsaw Correspondent
Edited by Christina “Krysia” Gutt
(Updated May 16, 2022)

Mariupol under Russian control; hundreds evacuated from  Azovstal
Hundreds of people were evacuated from the massive Azovstal steelworks which had been Ukraine’s last holdout in the Russian-occupied port of Mariupol. Fifty-three seriously injured people were taken for medical care to Novoazovsk, a locality controlled by pro-Russian rebels. 211 others were taken to rebel-held Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor arranged by the UN and the International Red Cross. The Ukrainian military acknowledged that their combat mission there was over. The steelworks, occupying a several-square-mile compound, had been relentlessly bombed, shelled and struck by missiles but withstood for 82 days in its labyrinth of underground tunnels and bunkers originally built to withstand a nuclear attack. The Russians had destroyed or damaged nearly every building in Mariupol and cut off the city’s electricity, gas, water, internet contacts and food supplies, but hundreds of townsfolk managed to survive amid the burned-out buildings and general rubble. Azovstal was especially hated by the Kremlin as a bastion of Ukraine’s hard-line patriotic Azov Regiment. It was not immediately known whether Russia would treat its members as prisoners of war or  put on trial as war criminals

Putin prepares for long haul in Ukraine – US intelligence
According to US intelligence,
Vladimir Putin is preparing for a long war in  Ukraine. Even victory in the east (Donbas) may not end the conflict. There has been speculation that the Russian dictator might settle for the annexation of Donbas, something Ukraine has so far ruled out. Now it appears that such a partial victory would fall short of his ultimate goal. The warning comes as  Russia’s attempt to capture territory in Donbas has met stiff Ukrainian resistance.  As a result, the two opposing forces remain in a stalemate. Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, told a US Senate committee hearing that Putin was still intending ”to achieve goals beyond the Donbas”, but Russia’s current conventional military capabilities fall short of his ambitions.” She added that the Russian leader was counting on US and EU support for Ukraine to weaken as inflation, food shortages and energy prices got worse.

Ukraine can win this war – NATO chief
“Membership applications by Finland and Sweden will be an historic moment,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said following a meeting of foreign ministers in Berlin. He also noted that the Russian invasion was not making significant progress in Ukraine. “They have failed to capture Kyiv, have pulled out of Kharkiv, and their main offensive in Donbas is at a virtual standstill. Ukraine can win this war,” Stoltenberg stated. Nevertheless, the  casualty toll and level of destruction continues are growing, as the maniacal Putin’s forces continue his attacks from afar through unending artillery and missile strikes on different Ukrainian cities.

Russia has to settle for cheap-skate Asian energy markets
Not only the European Union but also the G7 countries, which have the world’s biggest economies, have agreed to free themselves from reliance on  Russian oil. But the Kremlin is not sitting with folded arms and is actively seeking alternative markets. Putin will most likely find customers for his crude,  but shrewd Asian buyers are well aware of their strong bargaining power. “Pushed up against the wall, Russia will have to settle for a lower per-barre price than what Western Europe had been paying,” fuel-market analyst Dr Jakub Bogucki told Polish information channel  TVP Info.

Poland’s embassy in Moscow splattered with red paint
The Polish Embassy in Moscow was splattered with red paint, Poland’s  Ambassador to Russia Krzysztof Krajewski reported recently. The retaliatory incident followed an anti-Russian demonstration in Warsaw at a Soviet-era  memorial mausoleum honoring Poland’s Red Army  “liberators.” Russia’s Ambassador to Poland Sergei Andreyev had come to lay a wreath at the memorial but was heckled and shouted down by Ukrainian and Polish anti-war protesters, When he said: “I am proud of my country Russia and its president,” someone in the crowd splashed him from head to toe with a red liquid initially thought to be paint. It turned out to be a blood-imitating red-colored fruit syrup. Police were called to the scene, and the Polish Foreign Ministry expressed its regret over the incident.

Ukraine’s top prosecutor plans first war-crimes trial
Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said her office has charged captured Russian Sergeant Vadim Shyshimarin, 21, in the killing of an unarmed 62-year-old grandfather. The man was gunned down while riding a bicycle in February, four days into the war. Shyshimarin, who served with a tank unit, was accused of firing through a car window on the man in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka. Venediktova said the soldier could get up to 15 years in prison. She did not say when the trial would start. Venediktova’s office has said it has been investigating more than 10,700 alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces and has identified over 600 suspects. The Russians have been accused of summary executions, burning, rape, torture and dismemberment.

Poland next in line for “de-nazification” –   Russian lawmaker
Oleg Morozov, a member of Russia’s State Duma (main lawmaking chamber of parliament) has accused Polish political leaders of verbal attacks encouraging the Kremlin to put Poland “at the head of the line for de-nazification after Ukraine.” He mentioned a Polish reference to Russia as a “cancerous tumor” and calls for Moscow to compensate Ukraine for that country’s destruction by the Russian army. The Kremlin has been known to use collaborating politicians to make outrageous statements or send out feelers not befitting a head of state. Until his death this past April, such a role had been played by State Duma member Vladimir Zhirinovsky. He once even suggested that Warsaw should team up with Moscow to partition Ukraine, with Poland reclaiming the traditionally Polish Lwów region.

Polish PM Minister Morawiecki attacks Putin on Telegraph
}In a column for Telegraph, the world’s fastest messaging service, Polish Minister Mateusz Morawiecki criticized Russian President  Putin and the propaganda he is spreading about the war in Ukraine. “Putin’s ‘Russkiy Mir’* ideology is the equivalent of 20th-century communism and Nazism. It  justifies invented rights and privileges for Russia. In the name of that ideology, Mariupol and dozens of other Ukrainian cities were razed by Russian troops convinced of their superiority, and encouraged to commit inhuman war crimes. ‘Russkiy Mir’ is a cancer which is consuming the majority of Russian society and also poses a deadly threat to the whole of Europe, We must therefore root out this monstrous new ideology altogether,” Morawiecki wrote.

* The Russian word “mir” can mean both “peace” and “world.”

President Biden signs new lend-lease act into law
President Joe Biden has signed into law legislation officially called  the “Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022.” The act authorizes the administration, through fiscal year 2023, to lend or lease military equipment to Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. The act would exempt the administration from certain provisions of law that govern the loan or lease of military equipment to foreign countries. The original Land-Lease Act was introduced under  FDR during World War II to supply our allies at war with Nazi Germany and other Axis powers. Much of the military hardware was sent to Stalin’s Soviet Russia.

Zelensky ready to hold direct talks with Putin to end conflict
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently reiterated his readiness to hold face to facePresident Volodymyr Zelensky recently reiterated his readiness to hold face-to-face talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to end the Russo-Ukrainian conflict which the UN says has forced more than six million refugees to flee the country. “I am ready to talk to Putin, but only to him, without any of his intermediaries and in the framework of dialogue, not ultimatums,” the Ukrainian president told Italian broadcaster RAI 1. He added that the chances seemed slims,aid, because every day small towns are being re-captured by our forces only to find traces of harassment, torture and executions left by the Russian military,” Zelensky explained.  Earlier, Putin had ruled out such talks saying he did not recognize Zelensky as a legitimate president.

Russia has to settle for cheap-skate Asian energy markets
Not only the European Union but also the G7 countries which have the world’s biggest economies have agreed to free themselves from reliance on  Russian oil. But the Kremlin is not sitting with folded arms and is actively seeking alternative markets. Putin will find customers for his crude oil,  but astute Asian buyers are well aware of their robust bargaining power. “Pushed up agaisnt the wall, Russia will have to settle for a lower per-barrel price than what Western Europe had been paying,” fuel-market analyst Dr Jakub Bogucki told Polish news channel  TVP Info.

Ukraine shuts down gas pipeline serving Western customers
Ukraine has closed down a pipeline running across Ukrainian territory that carries Russian gas to homes and industries in Western Europe. It was the first time since the start of the war that Kyiv disrupted the westward flow  of one of Moscow’s most lucrative exports. But the immediate effect is likely to be limited, in part because Russia can divert the gas to another pipeline and because Europe relies on a variety of suppliers. Ukraine’s gas- pipeline operator said it moved to stop the flow of Russian gas through a compressor station in a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists because enemy forces were interfering with the station’s operation.

Poland’s First Lady lobbies for Ukraine among Chicago’s Polonia
Agnieszka Kornhauser-Duda traveled to Chicago recently where she met prominent Polish-American leaders and ordinary Polonian alike. The main purpose of her visit was to discuss humanitarian assistance to war-torn Ukraine. “I wish to thank the American Polonia for the aid they are providing to the people of Ukraine,” the official website of the President of Poland Andrzej Duda quoted her as saying. During her meeting with Polonian activists, including Polish American Congress and Polish National Alliance President Frank Spula, she called attention to the need to coordinate preparations for long-term assistance. After the war ends, Ukraine will have to rebuild itself. Many Ukrainian citizens will not be able to return to their homes which were destroyed in the conflict, the First Lady added.

Jill Biden visits Ukraine, her first solo trip as First Lady to a combat zone
First Lady Jill Biden recently greeted her Ukrainian counterpart, Olena Zelenska, in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, near the Slovakian border. Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has been in hiding along with her children since the start of Putin’s invasion. This was the first time since the war began that Zelenska had appeared in public. Ms Biden was preceded in war-torn Ukraine by Vice-President  Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and a group of Congressmen. During his visit to Poland earlier this year, President Biden met with Ukrainian refugees near the border but for security reasons did not venture into Ukraine.

Polish armaments rolling into Ukraine
Polish-designed weaponry has been steadily flowing into Ukraine to aid its resistance to the Russian invaders, It is believed to include tanks,  armored personnel carriers, intelligent missile systems, artillery and,  unmanned reconnaissance planes (drones). Poland’s Pioneer (thunderbolt) missiles have been effectively shooting down Russian helicopters, and its modern, compact Grot (arrowhead) automatic carbines have proved themselves in diverse combat situations. The Polish military is understandably tight-lipped about the exact type and quantity of equipment it is providing, especially how it is being delivered. Russia has begun targeting rail lines and railway stations suspected of involvement in this operation.

Ukraine pushes Russian  troops out of Kharkiv area
Ukrainian forces have recaptured a number of localities north and north-east of Kharkiv, pushing Putin’s troops back towards the Russian border. After refocusing on Donbas, Moscow’s forces are undermanned elsewhere in Ukraine. Among the recaptured localities was
the village of Ruska Lozova. It was recently liberated in a coordinated effort led by senior military commanders seeking to push the Russians back along a 32-.kilometer (20-mile) front line. But shells continued to hit the village, and without power or water, little food, and neither phone or internet access, its residents had been isolated from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, just five miles south.

Russia sustains record war losses – Ukrainian General Staff
According to Ukraine’s Armed Forces General Staff, from the start of Putin’s invasion on February 24th, Russia has lost 26,000 troops, 2,856 armored personnel carriers, 1,187 tanks,  199 planes and 160 helicopters. Ukrainian forces have also destroyed 528 Russian artillery systems, 185 multiple rocket launchers and 87 anti-aircraft systems. Ukrainian forces have shot down 94 missiles and 390 unmanned aircraft, sunk 12 battle ships and destroyed 1,997 military vehicles and fuel tankers. The accuracy of these figures could not be independently confirmed. In the past, Ukrainian reports of Russian war losses have been higher than Western intelligence estimates.

US ambassadors full of praise for Poland’s aid to Ukraine
In a lecture he gave at the University of Warsaw, America’s Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzeziński praised Poles for the amount of humanitarian aid they have been providing to Ukraine. “Thanks to you, Poland is seen as a humanitarian superpower. I am proud to be a US Ambassador to a humanitarian superpower,” Brzeziński said. His like-minded predecessor, former American ambassador Georgette Mosbacher, has described Poland as “the most important country in the region that coordinates humanitarian policy and the transport of weapons to Ukraine.” In Poland, displaced Ukrainians “are  not going into refugee camps but Poland is taking them into  their homes. So far as I’m concerned, Poland should get the Nobel Peace Prize.” So far, Poland has welcomed some 3.4 million Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.