Ukraine, 26th Feb, 2022
A friend of mine told me yesterday that he didn’t realise how much Ukraine meant to him until now. I posted yesterday about the time we spent there, and we’re all getting super pre-occupied about the invasion. As I said in that post, I can’t get our waitress out of my head. I can sort of remember what she looked like now. She had an undercut. I think maybe her hair might have been blue? But - I will never know if she lives through this, and it’s driving me very slightly mad.
So naturally, my husband spent all day yesterday obsessively researching everything he could about it with the help of his journalist friends, as a way to help me process it.
This post is me putting it all in order, as a way to try and process my own emotional response as much as anything else (I freely admit there is an element of self-indulgence here). Please don’t take me as the spokesperson for Ukraine right now, nor as a solid reliable news source. But, I haven’t seen this stuff except in bits and pieces on Tumblr, so here we go.
(This is also not about why the invasion has happened. This post is solely about what has happened, and how the invasion is going.)
So, Putin and the rest of the world believed that this invasion would take 1-4 days. The plan was to push through fast, take Kyiv, and force Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, to surrender. Given Russia’s military might, it really looked likely.
Here is the conclusion of all that’s happened so far:
Ukraine is absolutely nailing this??? Actually???
They managed to defend every single city overnight, including Kyiv. They started rolling out and using these WW2-style anti-tank thingies that look a bit like angry gabbions, look, here’s a picture of one being delivered:
A bunch of spare iron girders turned into a hefty octopus of Russian misery, basically.
But it’s not just tanks they’re taking down, oh no. Ukraine successfully shot down a transport plane 20km from Kyiv. That is, I shit you not, the single biggest hit to the Russian military since the Second Chechen War. Volunteers from Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Azerbaijan and Israel are all entering Ukraine to help fight and bolster the anti-Russian forces, which is probably illustrative of how Eurovision voting is going to run for the next decade. Most countries have banned Russian planes from their air space. To help stop the Russian advance, Ukraine has made and installed new road signs, like this one:
I can only say a handful of sentences in Ukrainian, Tumblrs, but as I understand it, from top to bottom, it says:
“Fuck off again”
“Fuck off Russia”
Meanwhile, it turns out the Russian military might we feared is… possibly not quite as advertised?
They’re underfunded and badly trained. Ukraine captured 200 soldiers in one go, and most of them were confused 19 year olds with no training. The equipment is shite. The tanks keep running out of fuel. Russian soldiers keep abandoning their tanks and handing them over to the Ukrainian army. Putin’s plan was to take Kyiv fast and move on, and he didn’t have a plan B - hence these kids, playing soldier. Here is an image of a Russian tank receiving roadside assistance from Russia’s finest, an old Lada.��
No one expected Zelenskyy to survive the night; but he did. America offered him asylum in the White House.
But he said no.
Zelenskyy remains in Kyiv, with his people.
And Putin, in his desperation to be adored, has turned Zelenskyy into a global icon and hero.
Here is something you may not know about Volodymyr Zelenskyy - he used to be a standup comedian. Was he any good? No idea - but what he IS good at is producing funny short videos he can put on Twitter and that, which are absolutely fantastic for Ukrainian morale. And morale is vital in an invasion like this, and Ukraine are smashing it out of the park there.
They are utilising the internet to its fullest extent. In addition to Zelenskyy’s videos, they’ve made sure that the final words of the Ukrainian defenders of Snake Island are known and now echoed around the world: “Russian warship, go fuck yourselves.” A video has gone viral of Ukrainians mocking a group of Russian soldiers whose tank had broken down and who didn’t know the way to Kyiv anyway, presumably because of all the new road signs. They have created a website that lists every single Russian death they can identify, partly so Russian mothers can have closure (thus also painting themselves as the defenders of decency and humanity), and partly for the enormous morale boost of the world knowing, categorically, that they’ve already killed 3700 Russian soldiers (over 100 of which were from that transport plane.) Not one word has leaked of Ukrainian casualties. I’m sure they’re devastating, but for morale purposes, they’re being kept quiet until the dust settles. Ukrainians have started setting up fake Tindr profiles to catfish Russian soldiers for intel, and they’re all 19 and lost, so it’s working. Plus, they’re using Grindr to actually track where the soldiers are, because it turns out Putin was not entirely correct about there being no gays in Russia.
So, Russia wants to cut their internet access. Can the Ukrainian Minister for Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, shame a billionaire into providing aid?
This is crucial, remember. Atrocities happen best in the dark, and the world is watching - because of the internet. Morale is vital to maintain. Can they convince Elon Musk to help?
Ukraine now has the fastest internet service in the world. The fastest, most stable internet service in human history, in fact. Russia cannot now disable it. The world watches.
Which is just as well, because then Anonymous decided to get involved, and have leaked the website database of the Russian Ministry of Defence. Lol. Also this happens:
And then the Russian propaganda channels started broadcasting the truth of what is happening in Ukraine. Double lol.
So what is the political response?
Well, in addition to closing airspace to Russian planes, loads of countries are sending weapons to Ukraine. Those that can’t are offering asylum. They’re also offering asylum to any Russian soldiers who surrender or defect, which is startlingly good tactics, and there are rumours of around 5000 Russian soldiers who have done just that. Germany, of course, has long had a block on lethal weapons transfer; but Germany recognise this shit for what it is. They’ve lifted the block, thus allowing the Netherlands to send weapons. Efforts are now underway to fast-track Ukraine into the EU. I presume they will consider the lack of pint glasses with crowns on to be a worthwhile price to pay.
So what about Russia’s supporters?
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenka helped Russia with this invasion. Now, this has happened:
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was actually elected president, but some wild nonsense kept her out of power. She’s now running a government in exile. I have literally no idea what this means or will mean! But my god. She has a spine of steel, and this is not a good time to be happening for Putin.
And it’s really, really not, because then intel on a meeting of Putin and assembled Oligarchs LEAKS (hello Anonymous, probably). The highlights:
This war is costing Russia $15bn a day
He expected it to take ONE TO FOUR DAYS TO WIN
It’s been two days and he is losing very badly, currently
They will run out of rockets by day 4, maybe sooner
After that they will be down to rifles and ammo
It will take 3-4 months to make more significant weapons, except they need raw materials, and the countries that can provide them… have cut supply lines
If the war lasts 10 days, Russia will have completely run out of money and weapons
It’s only day 2, and Russian soldiers are knocking the doors of random Ukrainian homes begging for food and water because they’ve already run out
So, out of desperation, Putin turns to his greatest, closest and most trusted ally for help: Kazakhstan.
And then Ukraine shoots down a second Russian plane.
Anyway, I’m going to finish off with a final point. Morale is vital in this situation, so here is the message from the Ukrainian government at the minute, to everyone watching around the world:
Be VERY SUSPICIOUS of any negative news about Ukraine. Russia uses misinformation and propaganda. They will want to damage Ukrainian morale.
Use your social media to spread news of Ukrainian victories.
Don’t give oxygen to negative stories. Especially since they might not be true.
That’s genuinely something we can do to help. Every victory of Ukraine, blast it far and wide. So on that note, I’ll leave you with this:
Congrats to Natalia Antonova’s cousin’s son.