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 ]
NATO Estimates 7,000 To 15,000 Russian Troops Dead. So It Goes.
The Wall Street Journal reports NATO estimates as many as 40,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, injured, or captured in the first month of the invasion. All told, Russia may have lost as much as a 10 percent of its equipment and a fifth of its combat forces, including between 7,000 and 15,000 troops killed. The Journal notes that the NATO estimate is higher than US estimates of Russian casualties, although the "senior US defense official" who commented on the NATO figures didn't provide an alternative number.
The heavy losses, a NATO official said, have impaired the pace of Russia's invasion effort, and, as the Journal puts it,
would underscore how much Russia’s attack on Ukraine that began Feb. 24 has become bogged down after what defense analysts have said have been a series of operational missteps. Ukrainian defensive operations have emerged as far-tougher and enduring than was expected.
The Journal also reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday that talks with the Ukrainian government had been difficult because the Ukrainian government keeps changing its position, which we assume must mean that Russia doesn't like Ukraine's insistence that Russia can't just take over the entire country and kill its leaders. That's us, doing "Kremlinology." Lavrov also
accused the West of looking to keep Russia engaged in hostilities for as long as possible by continuing to pump weapons into Ukraine. The U.S. and others have shipped arms and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine to help Kyiv fight off the Russian attack, allowing the defenders exact a heavy toll on the invading military.
Mmm hmm , and to underline the point that maybe Russia is a bit concerned about the impact being made by all those arms, the Journal notes that the last time the Kremlin released any figures on war — err, special military operation — casualties in Ukraine was on March 2, when it said 498 troops had died. Also too:
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday the Russian Defense Ministry will provide additional information on Russian losses “when they see fit…The operation is developing and being carried out strictly in accordance with the plans and tasks.”
Pretty bizarre to see Russia replaying Pee Wee Herman's "I meant to do that!" as part of its war propaganda. [ WSJ ]
Asked For Proof Of War Crimes, US Says Turn On Your TV
The US government has formally accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine, which actually matters in terms of moving toward international justice. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement yesterday,
Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the U.S. government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine. [...]
We’ve seen numerous credible reports of indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians, as well as other atrocities. Russia’s forces have destroyed apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, civilian vehicles, shopping centers, and ambulances, leaving thousands of innocent civilians killed or wounded.
Blinken said the US will share the evidence with allies and with international institutions that do the work of investigating alleged crimes against humanity.
Neither the US nor Russia formally signed on to the treaty that created the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. The US Senate never voted to ratify the treaty late in the Clinton administration, because Republicans feared evil UN intrusions on American sovereignty, and George W. Bush formally withdrew the US from the treaty. Human Rights Watch notes that "US relations with the court have been complicated but often positive." Yes, that really does depend on who's president, too.
Still the Associated Press notes,
The U.S. could still assist a prosecution before the court, which earlier opened an investigation into atrocities committed in Ukraine, by helping to gather evidence against Russian forces in Ukraine, using some of the vast abilities it has deployed to track and monitor what has been happening in the conflict.
The U.S. could also provide support and backing to a commission of inquiry established by the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Countries like Spain and Germany have laws recognizing universal jurisdiction in war crimes, so it's possible that Russian soldiers or officials might be prosecuted there or in other countries with similar legal codes. Those people would have to be arrested in order for that to happen, though. And if an American were a victim of war crimes in Ukraine, it's also possible the US would prosecute.
Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu and Rep. Eric Swalwell have written to Merrick Garland urging that the US Justice Department investigate possible war crimes in the deaths of American journalist Brent Renaud and Idaho resident Jimmy Hill, who was killed in a Russian attack while waiting in a bread line. Hill had travelled to Ukraine to care for his partner, Ukrainian citizen Irina Teslenko, who was hospitalized in Chernihiv for treatment of multiple sclerosis. The Justice Department hasn't yet responded to the letter from Lieu and Swalwell. [ AP / KTVB-TV ]
We would also like to take this opportunity to urge top Russian officials and members of the military to remember that Germany and Spain are very attractive vacation destinations, especially their many international airports and INTERPOL offices.
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