Ukraine

State Department Warns Ukraine Crisis Could Continue Beyond US Attention Span

Your Ukraine War update.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been going on for a month, and as Ukrainian cities keep getting hammered by Russian attacks, President Joe Biden is in Europe for a series of emergency meetings with US allies to discuss imposing more sanctions on Russia and providing military aid to Ukraine. Biden will announce new US sanctions on "more than 400 Russians and Russian entities, including the Duma and more than 300 of its members, along with more than 40 defense companies," according to one of those "senior administration officials" we always hear from. [NBC News]

In addition, the White House announced today the US will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, with an emphasis on helping the most vulnerable, NBC News reports:

The administration will allow their entry through a range of pathways, including the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, and other means. There will also be a focus on welcoming Ukrainians who have family members in the U.S. Additional details are expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

The administration believes most Ukrainians displaced by the war will choose to remain in Europe so they can more readily return home when it's over, depending on the outcome. The UN estimates that out of a population of 43 million, 3.6 million people have fled Ukraine for other countries, and another 6.5 million Ukrainians displaced from their homes are taking refuge elsewhere inside Ukraine. [NBC News / BBC]

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Right Wing Extremism

'Domestic Terrorist' Matt Shea In Poland, Adopting Out Ukrainian Babies. That's Fine, Right?

No chance any of these 'orphans' still have family in Ukraine, is there?

In one of the weirder sidebars to the humanitarian disaster in Ukraine, former Washington state Rep. Matt Shea — who in 2019 was named a "domestic terrorist" in a legislative report, for participating in armed standoffs with federal agents — has turned up in Poland. He's at the center of what appears to be a scheme to send Ukrainian children to the USA for adoption. Or maybe he's a big humanitarian hero who's helping rescue the children from the fighting, who can tell?

Either way, Shea is currently holed up in a writers' retreat / boutique hotel in a small Polish town with 62 Ukrainian children and two adult caretakers he says he rescued from an orphanage in Mariupol, the Ukrainian port city that Russian forces have been destroying in a frenzy of war crimes, and nobody seems to know quite what he's planning.

The best that can be said right now is that local authorities have checked on the kids and verified they're being well cared for, and that the US State Department is aware of the situation, so it's unlikely any kids will be sent out of Poland for adoption in the US any time soon. That's good, because at the moment, it's not at all clear what Shea is up to, and his story keeps changing.

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Ukraine

Russia Generously Offers To Let Ukraine Refugees Reach Safety In Russia

Russia not too clear on meaning of 'humanitarian.'

Twelve days into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations says about two million refugees have fled Ukraine for other countries, with the numbers expected to continue to increase. Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said today that the next wave of refugees is likely to be even more desperate than the initial surge, who were able to leave before Russian troops began encircling Ukrainian cities.

"If the war continues we will start seeing people that have no resources and no connections," he said at a press conference in Oslo.

"That will be a more complex situation to manage for European countries going forward," adding that "even more solidarity" will be needed in Europe and beyond.

If you're able to donate to help Ukrainians, Timothy Snyder has an ongoing, updated list of charities providing aid to Ukraine here.

The largest portion of refugees — about 1.2 million — have gone to Poland, which took in 141,000 people just on Monday, according to Polish border officials. DW reports that

Hungary has taken in 191,348 and Slovakia 140,745, while Russia took in 99,300 and other European countries have accepted 210,239, according to the latest UN data on Tuesday.

Japan has announced it plans to take in refugees from Ukraine and has so far let eight people into the country, the government in Tokyo said on Tuesday.

I don't know why the idea of Japan taking in eight Ukrainians makes me tear up; it just does.

US America has granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukrainians already in the country, which will allow roughly 34,000 Ukrainian nationals to get work permits for 18 months, subject to TPS renewal. So far, though, the US has no plans for mass evacuations of Ukrainian refugees to the US.

The need is going to be long-lasting; Nancy Dent, the senior communications officer for the International Rescue Committee, told German news agency DW that "Even if the (war) were to stop right now, there would be a huge amount of humanitarian need" that would drive people to leave Ukraine until the country becomes safer.

"We need people to be guaranteed access to jobs, able to rent houses, to make sure they can really stand on their own two feet again."

Beyond physical support, "the trauma support that they’re going to need is also huge," Dent said.

That's especially true since the Russian military seems determined to provide a steady supply of trauma to Ukrainian civilians. Ukraine has accused Russia of shelling one of the "humanitarian corridors" that Russia declared would provide safe passage out of besieged Ukrainian cities. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that Russia had shelled civilians fleeing the port city of Mariupol, in Southeast Ukraine, for four days in a row, after Russia has announced civilians would be allowed to leave. Hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in Mariupol, which is without food or water, and the city is under constant attack.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said on Twitter,

8 trucks + 30 buses ready to deliver humanitarian aid to Mariupol and to evac (evacuate) civilians to (nearby) Zaporizhzhia. Pressure on Russia MUST step up to make it uphold its commitments.

Monday, Russia announced six "humanitarian" escape routes out of Ukraine, but they all led to border cities in either Russia or Belarus, the Russian ally from which many of the invasion forces entered Ukraine.

Under the Russian offer, a corridor from the capital Kyiv would lead to Russia's ally Belarus, while civilians from Kharkiv, Ukraine's second biggest city, would be directed to Russia, according to maps published by the RIA news agency. [...]

A spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the Russian proposal was "completely immoral".

"They are citizens of Ukraine, they should have the right to evacuate to the territory of Ukraine," the spokesperson said.

Reuters reports that Russian troops have been allowing Ukrainians to evacuate two locations: the eastern city of Sumy, and the town of Irpin, just north of the capital, Kyiv.

Dmytro Zhyvytsky, the governor of the Sumy region, said in televised comments around noon (1000 GMT) that the evacuation from Sumy was continuing and that the temporary ceasefire had largely held there.

The first wave of vehicles that left the city met around 160 Russian military vehicles coming towards them but the incident ended peacefully when the civilian convoy stopped to let the Russian forces pass, he said.

Around 1,000 foreign students had already been evacuated, Zhyvytsky said, and convoys of 20-30 private cars were leaving in waves.

However, authorities in Sumy also said that late Monday, a Russian air strike had killed 21 civilians there, including two children. Reuters said it hadn't independently confirmed the report.

The Washington Post adds that the foreign students who were evacuated were mostly from India and China; the Indian foreign minister said all Indian students in Sumy had been successfully evacuated. Buses sent to evacuate Sumy also brought food and supplies into the city.

In Irpin, civilians escaped by crossing an improvised footbridge across a river; the road bridge had been blown up by Ukrainian forces to prevent Russian military vehicles from getting to Kyiv. While the video below doesn't show any violence, it's heartbreaking:


youtu.be


On Sunday, civilians in Irpin were shelled as they fled the suburb, and a family of four — two adults, two children — was killed near a military checkpoint, CNN reports:

Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn said eight civilians have been killed across the district, and international media filming at the checkpoint reported that a shell landed as a stream of civilians was coming through.

“A family died,” Markushyn said in a statement. “In front of my eyes, two small children and two adults died.”

In Slovakia, the BBC reports, an 11-year-old boy named Hassan arrived alone at the border with Ukraine, after traveling 600 miles from his home. He had only a backpack and a plastic bag with his passport. He also had the phone number of relatives in Slovakia written on the back of his hand, and a copy of the contact info on a slip of paper in his pocket.


Slovak Interior Ministry via BBC


His mother, Julia Pisecka, put him on a train out of the country after the Russians shelled the nearby nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia (the plant has been shut down with no release of radiation).

Hassan, 11, left his home in Zaporizhzhia because his mother could not leave her elderly mother.

She put him on a train and when he finally got to the border he was helped across by customs officers. [...]

His mother, in a video posted by Slovak police, thanked everyone for taking care of her son and explained why he had travelled across the country when it was in the grip of a Russian invasion.

Slovakian authorities were able to locate Hassan's relatives, who have picked him up; he's in the process of applying for temporary protection in Slovakia. Slovakian charities are organizing aid for his mother and grandmother in Ukraine.

If you're able to help, again, this site has a regularly updated list of groups helping Ukrainian refugees and people still in Ukraine.

[DW / Reuters / Vox / AP / WaPo / Reuters / BBC]

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Immigration

Ukraine Fights To Survive, And Two GOP Dipsh*ts Want To Withhold Aid Until Biden Abolishes Mexico

You'd think Ukrainians would be able to understand our plight.

As Russian artillery and missiles fell on heavily populated civilian areas in Ukrainian cities, let's take a look at bills introduced by two Republican members of Congress that would limit the US response to the crisis as long as there are still undocumented immigrants coming across the US-Mexico border. The bills, introduced by Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Montana) and Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-North Carolina) are meant to put the brutal invasion of Ukraine into what the sponsors appear to believe is the proper perspective. We should note that both bills were introduced during the run-up to the Russian invasion, during the second week of February, but the blog run by GovTrack.org, which keeps track of pending legislation, helpfully reminded us of the bills Tuesday.

On the one hand, the UN estimated on Tuesday that at least 136 Ukrainian civilians have died so far, with over 400 civilians injured, although the UN human rights office said the real number was almost certainly higher. Separately, the Ukrainian government said early Wednesday that Russian shelling and bombing of Kharkiv had killed at least 21 and wounded 112.

On the other hand, lots of people from Central America have been crossing the border between the US and Mexico, frequently turning themselves in to the Border Patrol so they can claim asylum. This really makes rightwing politicians like Rosendale and Cawthorn angry, since like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it involves a border, albeit without the shelling, bombing, alleged illegal use of cluster munitions, and the widespread death and destruction. But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, the parallels really are breathtaking.

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