Saturday, February 19, 2022

Russian Proxies in Eastern Ukraine Mobilize Troops, Kill Two Ukrainian Soldiers

I'm actually not paying much attention, especially to television news, which I've quit for the last couple of weeks. But this is some very serious shit going down over there, with heavy duty implications for the future of the international order. I'm against America starting new wars as much as the next guy, but all these people saying that we shouldn't be there, we have no interests there, and "I DON'T CARE ABOUT UKRAINE," well, that's just not me. 

If we're going to be involved in the world, attempting to hang on to our post-WWII role as thy system's hegemonic power, then we should't fuck around. 

Right now the U.S. looks cowardly and weak. Yes, get out of Afghanistan, but at least get out neat and in control, and don't abandon thousands and thousands of Americans --- and Afghans who risked their lives, and those of their family members, to help the mission succeed. And it did succeed for a while, but not in the way everyone thought it should. We were never going to establish a stable democratic republic in that corrupt and godforsaken outback. But we gave millions of people a chance for a better life. That's all gone now, and it's heartbreaking. But the U.S. could have --- quite easily, in fact --- kept a few thousand troops and held key airbases and strategic outposts, with little money (relatively speaking) and little loss of life. 

But it was time to go, sure, popular even. But Americans won't stand for embarrassing failures for too long, even when we're getting out of Dodge. And now Biden's blundering us into a potential global conflagration, and our European allies lie prostrate, if they're not selling us out or knifing us in the back (hello Germany!). 

Just pray we come down from the brink. This is all so crazy.

At the Wall Street Journal, "Amid intensified shelling, Kyiv dismisses call-up and moves to evacuate residents of Russian-held Donetsk and Luhansk areas as provocation":

The Russian-led breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine mobilized able-bodied men against what they said was an imminent attack by Kyiv, as shelling across the front line intensified, killing two Ukrainian soldiers.

Kyiv dismissed the call-up and moves to evacuate civilian residents of Russian-held Donetsk and Luhansk areas to Russia as a provocation. The escalation followed Western warnings that Moscow is about to launch an all-out invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s a fake mobilization in response to a fake threat,” said Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy, who came under shelling near the front line on Saturday. “What they are trying to do is to create panic and fear, also on our side and among our people.”

Russian-installed authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk on Friday night instructed the areas’ women, children and elderly to leave for Russia, organizing convoys of buses. On Saturday, Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, ordered the general mobilization of men between 18 and 55 years old, including reservists, telling them to report to enlistment offices. Men of that age were banned from leaving the enclave.

“I appeal to all the men of the Republic, who are able to hold weapons in their hands, to stand up for their families, their children, wives, mothers,” Mr. Pushilin said in a televised address. Russian-installed authorities in Luhansk announced a similar decision.

Ukraine denies it has any plans to recapture by force the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk that Russian-backed forces seized in 2014. President Biden has said that he expected his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to invade Ukraine in the coming days, with targets including the Ukrainian capital.

Some two million people live in the Russian-controlled parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, and Russian authorities said they are bracing for hundreds of thousands of refugees. Moscow promised each of these refugees accommodation and a $130 cash bonus.

Kyiv has said that while the security situation is deteriorating, it doesn’t share Washington’s apocalyptic predictions. Speaking Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, where he received a standing ovation, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine isn’t living in a delusion but continues to carry on in the face of an existential threat.

“Just putting ourselves in coffins and waiting for foreign soldiers to come in is not something we are going to do,” he said. “But we stand ready to respond to everything.”

Until last week shelling and firing incidents along the front line averaged five to six a day, but that number has surged more than 10-fold in the last three days, said Lt. Gen. Oleksandr Pavliuk, the commander of Ukrainian forces in Donbas.

“The enemy artillery is shooting from behind civilians,” he said. “And, in accordance with our principles, we do not fire back at civilians.”

Washington and Kyiv have warned that Moscow is looking to use fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk, where roughly 14,000 people have died since Russia fomented an uprising in 2014, as a pretext for a broader military operation against Ukraine. Russian officials said Saturday that two artillery shells fell inside Russia near the border, causing no damage. Kyiv denied its forces fired in that direction.

Mr. Monastyrskiy, citing Ukrainian intelligence, said Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group have arrived in Donetsk and Luhansk with orders to blow up critical infrastructure and pin the blame on Kyiv. The claim couldn’t be independently confirmed.

Shelling could be heard throughout Saturday in Stanytsia Luhanska, the Ukrainian-controlled town where the only crossing point between Russian-held areas and Ukrainian parts of Donbas—as the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are collectively known—operates daily.

So far, the crossing has remained open, with more than 840 people, mostly women and children, traversing the front line to enter Ukrainian-controlled areas on Saturday, according to Ukrainian border officials. Some 50 fighting-age men were prevented by Russian-installed officials from leaving, they said...