Russia-Ukraine Recap: Russia continues to press forward in invasion of Ukraine

Michael Crimmins, Investigative Reporter

There is no shortage of newsworthy topics here in the United States. At times it is easy to get lost in it all, but equally crucial things happen all over the world.

Currently, the big foreign affair is the Russian-Ukraine crisis. This issue of the Herald’s Global Recap column is devoted solely to the several developments that have occurred this week.

In addition, a panel about the crisis will be held on Thursday, March 3 from 3-4 p.m. in room 138 of Grise Hall. The panel is co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science, the Mahurin Honors College and Diplomacy on the Hill. Speakers include Diplomat-in-Residence Michael McLellan, history professor Marko Dumančić and political science professors Timothy Rich, Roger Murphy and Soleiman Kiasatpour.

These developments are complex, and it is highly encouraged to follow the links and read referenced stories in full.

Here’s a look at some of the headlines from this past week about the Russian-Ukrainian crisis:

Russia presses forward with invasion, attacks Kyiv and Kharkiv

Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, attacking the country’s second largest city, Kharkiv, and capital city Kyiv’s main television tower on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

“Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said after the bloodshed on the square in Kharkiv.

According to Ukraine officials, at least five were killed during the air attack with some Ukraine TV stations briefly experiencing issues during their broadcasts.

Ukraine officials also say Russia is increasing its air defenses in response to the slow progress on the ground, NBC reports.

Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, compared the “barbarous” attacks to the Holocaust in a tweet as the bomb damaged Babyn Yar, a Holocaust memorial near the tower.

“To the world: what is the point of saying «never again» for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar?” Zelenskyy said. “At least 5 killed. History repeating…”

A 40-mile long convoy of Russian tanks and other vehicles was seen slowly advancing on the capital, according to the AP. Ukrainian citizens are prepared to defend their homes with roadblocks and rifles, CNN reports.

The AP article also stated that Russian forces were preparing to attack major port cities of the country, including Odesa and Mariupol in the south.

Though the death toll is hard to verify, Western officials estimate roughly 5,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or captured. Ukraine has not yet released an estimate on the number of Ukrainian losses, AP reports.

According to AP, Russia has also attacked government buildings in Freedom Square, killing at least six people. 

“People are under the ruins. We have pulled out bodies,” Yevhen Vasylenko, an emergency official, said.

Zelenskyy, along with other high level Ukrainians, called the attack on the square a war crime and a “frank, undisguised terror” because Freedom Square was the hub for the roughly 1.5 million citizens in Kharkiv, AP reports.

“This is state terrorism of the Russian Federation,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy said as of Monday 16 children had been killed during the six days of fighting. Russia has repeatedly said they are only going after military targets, a statement Zelenskyy disregarded.

“Where are the children? What kind of military factories do they work at? What tanks are they going at?” Zelenskyy said.

Ukraine continues to claim Russian forces are targeting civilian targets, a claim Russia denies, according to NBC

Ukraine also stated that Belarus troops are fighting in the north, but Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko denies those claims and said his forces have no intention to fight, AP reports.

Economic sanctions hit Russian economy

The multiple sanctions imposed by most nations around the world have hit the Russian Economy hard and have left Russia mostly friendless on the global stage, according to the Associated Press

Other than countries like North Korea, Belarus and China, Russia has been mostly isolated from other countries — especially the West, AP reports. 

According to several analysts, never has an economy as globally important as Russia’s faced this level of sanctions. They also say there is a high risk of Russia facing a financial crisis and Russian banks could collapse. 

“We will provoke the collapse of the Russian economy,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told a local news channel on Tuesday.

The rounds of sanctions will not be without consequence to the West as Russia provided Europe with nearly 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil, CNN reports, and it could raise the already elevated gas prices.

Even Switzerland, a country with a long reputation of neutrality, has pledged to impose sanctions on Russia, CNN reports.

The West has cut off Russian banks from the U.S. dollar and is also taking steps to remove part of Russia from SWIFT, an international money transfer service used mostly by banks and other corporations, CNN stated.

According to Le Maire, as of now, approximately $1 trillion of Russian assets are frozen.

“Western democracies have surprised many by pursuing a strategy of exerting intense economic pressure on Russia through effectively cutting it off from global financial markets,” Oliver Allen, markets economist at Capital Economics, said in a research note. “If Russia continues on its current path, it is quite easy to see how the latest sanctions could be just the first steps in a severe and enduring severing of Russia’s financial and economic ties with the rest of the world.”

CNN and the Oxford Economist report that the sanctions could decrease Russia’s gross domestic product by 6%.

“Our strategy, to put it simply, is to make sure that the Russian economy goes backward as long as President Putin decides to go forward with his invasion of Ukraine,” a senior U.S. administration official told reporters.

Russian banks are imposing capital control and ordering companies to sell foreign currency as the Ruble plummets to record lows against the U.S. dollar, according to CNN. Currently the exchange rate is 104.51 Rubles to the dollar, according to a CBS article.

This all comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin proposes temporarily banning foreign companies from selling Russian assets, according to a different CNN article.

All eyes are on the Russian economy as former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issues a dire warning to the West over sanctions.

“Don’t forget that in human history, economic wars quite often turned into real ones,” former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday.

President Zelenskyy files for Ukraine to join EU

Zelenskyy has officially signed an application for his country to join the European Union, according to NPR

This comes just hours after he released a video telling Russian troops to leave Ukraine and to allow Ukraine immediate entry into the EU.

“Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be equal,” he said, according to a translation from The Guardian. “I am confident that it is fair. I am confident we have deserved it. I am confident that all this is possible.”

According to the article, Ukraine is not currently an official candidate for EU membership. However, Charles Michel, European Council president, tweeted his support of Ukraine, saying Ukraine and its people were a “family.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she wanted Ukraine in, according to Euronews

The process to become a member of the EU is a complex one that does not happen overnight, according to the EU website.

Putin threatens nuclear response to opposition 

On Sunday, Putin put the Russian nuclear deterrent on high alert as a response to the “aggressive statements” made by NATO members, according to Reuters.

The increased readiness heightens the chances this conflict could become a nuclear war, CBS reports.

In making the announcement, Putin blamed the increasing Western sanctions that even include Putin himself, CBS stated.

“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said in televised comments.

As Putin announced the war, Reuters reports, he mentioned nuclear capabilities and said any opposition would provoke “consequences that you have never encountered in your history.”

Members of the EU are unsettled by Putin’s threats, according to Reuters.

“We are afraid that Russia is not going to stop in Ukraine,” EU’s foreign policy chief Josef Borrell said. 

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged Russia to “tone down this dangerous rhetoric regarding nuclear weapons” in a recent Security Council meeting.

“President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable, and we have to continue to condemn his actions in the strongest possible way,” Thomas-Greenfield said in a CBS article. 

Investigative Reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @michael_crimm.