Zelensky Appeals for Global Support; Putin’s Spies Play It Cool in Brussels; Ukraine Destroys a Russian Ship
Zelensky, a consummate communicator, can be expected to continue to use every social media tool at his disposal to keep Ukraine’s plight front and center in both the global conversation and in halls of power around the world.
The powwow of NATO leaders conferring in Brussels to work on new sanctions for Russia and coordination of military aid for Ukraine is happening today after the president, Volodymr Zelensky, wowed the social media world with a direct appeal, in halting English, for a greater show of public support for the war-torn country.
As Russia’s all-out war on Ukraine hits the one-month mark — or, as Mr. Zelesnky put it, “One month already. That long.” — he exhorted people around the world to “leave your offices, come to your squares, your streets. Make yourselves visible and heard.” He sounded determined but tired in the video, which was recorded under nightfall near the presidential offices in Kiev. “Say that people matter,” he implored. “Freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine matters.”
Mr. Zelensky, a consummate communicator, can be expected to continue to use every social media tool at his disposal to keep Ukraine’s plight front and center in both the global conversation and in halls of power around the world.
Some Russians, for the moment at least, are keeping things closer to their chests: Politico reports that even with the most powerful man in the world in town, Russian spies in Brussels are lying low.
A spokesperson for Belgian state security said that “they are less active, they have become more cautious and observe a lot of security rules.” Belgian media say that one-third of Russian diplomats are actually intelligence officers, which would add up to a couple of dozen Russian spies in Brussels, Politico notes.
If much of the Russian military apparatus in Ukraine is lying low at the moment, it’s probably not by choice. Although Vladimir Putin might have liked to see a Russian flag fluttering over the Kiev rooftops by now — considering it’s been 30 days of hell that nobody asked for — Ukrainian fighters at virtually all points across the country are there to remind him: Well, not so fast.
In the east, Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian “Orsk” paratrooper ship in Berdyansk, a Black Sea port west of besieged Mariupol that is currently under Russian control, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported in a Facebook post Thursday morning, adding, “There will be more.”
The post included a photo of a large fire and a plume of smoke rising over the port. A Russian Orsk is a large military landing ship that in NATO lingo is designated as “Alligator-class.”
In the center of the country, Kiev’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said at a press conference held outdoors yesterday that Ukrainian forces have repelled Russian troops in several areas around the capital and he vowed to “fight for each building, each street, every part of our city.”
Ukrainian counter-offensives have met with some success notably in the suburb of Irpin, of which its mayor, Oleksandr Markushyn, said the Ukrainian armed forces, territorial defense, and police now “have 80 percent under control.”
CNN reported that, speaking on Ukrainian television, Mr. Markushyn said, “Our city is being constantly shelled by GRAD systems. Very massively. They are pounding the residential area, multi-story buildings.” He added that his own house was destroyed on Wednesday. Up to 6,000 people are still in Irpin, with small groups being evacuated daily, he said.
In the northern city of Chernihiv, the Russians have sharply increased the number of strikes of residential and industrial areas, damaging an ammonia pipeline at one of the city’s largest factories, Ukraine’s national press agency, Ukrinform, reported. Ukrinform also reported that Russian soldiers are now forcing teachers in Melitopol to resume classes using Russian as the language of instruction. The mayor there, Ivan Fedorov, said that Russian soldiers are “going around schools, persuading staff to start teaching kids in Russian starting April 1, in line with some incomprehensible curriculum.”
Earlier this month Mr. Fedorov was kidnapped by Russian forces but later freed in a swap for nine Russian conscripts.
One month into the calamity that is Ukraine 2022, there is no shortage of terror on the ground as well as intrigue from on high. The Times of London reported that a Kremlin powerbroker “who plucked Vladimir Putin from obscurity and secured his path to the presidency” is the highest-ranking official to break ranks with the dictator and flee Russia since the invasion of Ukraine. Anatoly Chubais may have split, but the Guardian reports that he has been spotted in Istanbul.
Regardless of whether the former Putin pal is in Turkey, that NATO-member country has become something of a safe haven for certain high-net-worth Russians of late. The Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that a super-yacht belonging to the onetime Chelsea soccer club owner, Roman Abramovich, a sanctioned Russian oligarch, has docked in a resort in southwestern Turkey. Or maybe he’s not so sanctioned: The Wall Street Journal reports that the Ukrainian president asked President Biden not to sanction Mr. Abramovich, with the thought that he could facilitate peace talks.
The newspaper claims the Russian oligarch is trying to be a go-between with Mr. Putin, though just how big an effort Mr. Abramovich is making in that regard is not exactly clear. Mr. Abramovich, who according to a recent BBC documentary was part of an organized crime group that cheated Russia out of $2 billion and is now banned from entering Britain, was photographed earlier this month at an airport lounge in Tel Aviv prior to boarding a private jet bound for Istanbul.