Russia and Ukraine – War Appears Inevitable Now

February 21, 2022

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President Putin of the Russian Federation has just given a press conference addressing the Russian people on the situation in Ukraine.

At the end of a rather rambling and threatening speech in which he covered a range of topics, from the history of Russia, Ukraine and the Soviet Union to railing against NATO expansion in the aftermath of the Cold War, President Putin announced that he intends to recognize the independence of the two Russian-back separatist states.

He also warned that should the Ukrainian government not “stop hostilities immediately” then they would face the consequences of their actions.

In the last few days there has been a constant flow of incidents, many of them frankly ludicrous and which I will detail below.

But these incidents have received copious coverage on Russia state news and were feared to be to provide Russia with a reason for war and to prepare the Russian people for the possibility of war.

This went hand in hand with the governments of the separatist regions ordering the evacuation of all women and children into Russia itself and the conscripting of the male population for military duty over the weekend.

Russia currently has an estimated 125 Battalion Tactical Groups –approximately 75% of the Russian Army’s manoeuvre units – now situated around Ukraine.

Even as Putin delivered his speech, reports from Ukrainian positions report an increase in artillery fire on them.

Unsurprisingly the separatists had called on Russia to recognize them and provide them with military support against Ukraine only a few hours ago.

Now Russia effectively recognizes the separatists states as independent, it will feel justified in moving the military forces it has massed in the area into them, even though it will be recognized as an invasion by the international community.

And so, I am afraid we can most likely expect the outbreak of hostilities between Ukraine and Russia in the next few hours.

Where it ends is now the question.

Points in Putin’s Speech

Run down of recent events:

Despite stating that they have been withdrawing military forces after conducting exercises in near the Ukrainian border, it has become clear that instead of withdrawing Russia has in fact moved more units into the region.

An estimated 125 Battalion Tactical Groups –approximately 75% of the Russian Army’s manoeuvre units – are now situated around Ukraine.

Additionally, throughout last week state-run media in Russia has been running stories of atrocities being committed by Ukrainians against separatist areas that Russia supports.

Friday 18th February saw a whole range of events take place.

In the morning, Russian backed separatists released footage that they claimed was from the helmet-mounted camera of a Ukrainian solider engaged in a special operation to, apparently, explode a chlorine gas canister in the separatist areas as a chemical weapons attack.

The whole situation was rather confused, but experts generally derided the footage as, quite frankly, rather amateurish.

Despite the seriousness of the accusation, no further evidence of this alleged attack has since come to light and instead seems to have been dropped.

What did follow was the sudden announcement by the leaders of the two separatist enclaves that all civilians should evacuate to Russia immediately.

This led to people in those areas queuing at banks to get money before leaving.

Throughout the night footage has been flooding Russian media of the refugee columns.

However, it was notable that this evacuation did not extend to men of military age, who were expressly ordered to remain.

Additionally, and of note, was when the video metadata was analysed by OSINT specialists, it was discovered that the footage for this announcement, by both separatist state leaders, was recorded on the 16th of February, clear evidence of a pre-planned operation.

Shelling by separatist forces on Ukrainian military positions also increased dramatically throughout the day.

Russian sources state that Ukrainian artillery is bombarding the separatists.

In response the Ukrainian government issued a statement that they not only refute all charges being laid against them but that they had ordered the Ukrainian military NOT to respond to the shelling but only to direct attacks.

The Ukraine Ministry of Defense then put out a warning that they had information that Russian special services have mined several social infrastructure facilities in Donetsk.

More specifically, they warned that they anticipated an attack on the civilian refugees, which would provide Russia with an excuse to intervene.

That evening then saw two more attacks in the Russian backed separatist areas.

First a car bomb went off at 1900 local time, destroying the vehicle of the Donbas region security chief.

No one was reportedly hurt in the explosion.

Shortly after this, explosions occurred at two gas line facilities that pump Russian natural gas.

A remarkably rapid investigation by the separatist authorities concluded that this was a result of sabotage using explosives, and naturally once gain pointed the finger at Ukraine.

On the morning of Saturday, the 19th of February, the separatist exclaves announced a full mobilization of their military forces and called up all males between the age of 18 and 55.

Shelling carried on throughout the day but seemed to have reduced later in the day.

Then later that day came the announcement that Russia troops would be staying in Belarus after the conclusion of their exercises there.

Belarus, while a very close ally to Russia already, now appears to be effectively under the control of the Kremlin.

Only time will tell how that situation will pan out.

On Sunday the 20th Russian BMP-T assault vehicles were filmed in transit to the Ukrainian border area.

These rare and specialist vehicles are expressly designed for urban warfare.

Early on Monday morning Russian media claimed that the Ukrainians had begun heavy shelling of separatist forces on the Mariupol front, a claim that was disputed by foreigner volunteers in the area.

This was followed by a Russian claim that Ukrainian forces had destroyed a Russian border guard post with an artillery round.

The problem was that the border post, again which suffered no casualties, could only have been hit by Smerch MLRS or Pion self-propelled howitzers, which would have inflicted far greater damage.

Then came news that two Ukrainian armoured vehicles had crossed the Russian frontier and been destroyed by their forces in the Mityakinskaya area, killing five Ukrainians.

As Ukrainians would have had to cross their frontline with separatists forces and travelled 35km to get to area that they are supposed to have been destroyed in, that seems unlikely.

This was followed at about 1300 GMT by the heads of both separatist enclaves requesting President Putin recognize the status of both as independent states live on Russia24 and requested military assistance.

There was then a televised meeting of the Russian security council, chaired by Putin. This discussed the ongoing situation and whether Russia should recognize the separatists.

Putin replied that the decision would be made today.

However, despite appearing to be a live broadcast, it does appear that the meeting was prerecorded. Other observers have noted that Putin seemed to inspire genuine fear in some of his cabinet when they fumbled their lines.

Ed Nash

Ed Nash

Ed Nash has spent years traveling around the world. Between June 2015 and July 2016 he volunteered with the Kurdish YPG in its battle against ISIS in Syria; his book on his experiences, Desert Sniper, was published by Little, Brown in September 2018.
Ed Nash

Ed Nash

Ed Nash has spent years traveling around the world. Between June 2015 and July 2016 he volunteered with the Kurdish YPG in its battle against ISIS in Syria; his book on his experiences, Desert Sniper, was published by Little, Brown in September 2018.

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