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Editor’s Note: The following is the latest edition of the Kyiv Independent’s newsletter, Ukraine Daily. If you would like to receive news about Ukraine in your mailbox six days a week subscribe here. It’s free.
Russia’s war against Ukraine
Zelensky responds to Biden: ‘There are no minor incursions.’ Officials in Kyiv reacted to U.S. President Joe Biden’s statement that Russia’s “minor incursion” into Ukraine would provoke a different response to a full-scale invasion. “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,” President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted.
On Jan. 20, Biden walked back his earlier statement, saying that “any assembled Russian units moving across the Ukrainian border is an invasion…If Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price.” Russian false-flag operations and cyberattacks on Ukraine will also not be tolerated, he said.
Russian soldiers in country’s east sent on mysterious 6-9-month missions toward Ukraine. Friends and family members of Russian soldiers deployed to the areas near Ukraine’s border have been sharing what they know of the missions. Some say the soldiers are going into Ukraine, while others insist it’s a drill, according to the Conflict Intelligence Team’s investigative report.
US Treasury includes 4 Ukrainian pro-Kremlin politicians to its list of sanctioned individuals. The four have allegedly “engaged in Russian government-directed influence activities to destabilize Ukraine.” They include lawmakers Taras Kozak and Oleh Voloshyn, and former lawmakers Volodymyr Oliynyk and Vladimir Sivkovich.
Peskov makes veiled threat: Sanctions will lead to invasion of Ukraine. New financial sanctions against Russia will encourage Ukrainian leadership to “start a new civil war,” said the Kremlin's spokesperson. The remark was interpreted in Ukraine as a threat of a Russian attack justified by a false-flagoperation. Russia maintains that the war in Ukraine, ongoing since 2014, is a “civil war.” This has been disproven by evidence showing direct Russian intervention.
US allows Baltic states to send anti-armor missiles, other US-made weapons to Ukraine, according to Politico. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were required to obtain approval from the State Department under export regulations before transferring weapons to Ukraine. The approval was granted amid mounting tensions with Russia.
Latvia will provide weapons to Ukraine, the Baltic country’s Defense Minister Artis Pabriks told reporters in Riga on Jan. 19. The official said that Latvia is ready to supply “lethal and non-lethal weapons” to Ukraine, but he did not clarify which types of weapons the country will be sending to Ukraine. "I am very sorry that there are several European countries that, for various reasons, are not ready for this,” Pabriks said.
Zelensky says talks with Russia can lead to de-escalation, peace in eastern Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky said the recent events surrounding Ukraine "show its unique role for Europe and its future" – that security in Europe is not possible without the restoration of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Czech Republic to supply weapons to Ukraine. The new coalition Czech government has a consensus on helping Ukraine in view of Russia’s possible invasion, Defense Minister Jana Cernochova told Hospodarske Noviny newspaper. Kyiv has to tell the Czech government what it needs, she said, and Prague will give or sell arms and ammunition in coordination with other Central European countries.
Health Ministry announces beginning of new Covid-19 upsurge with 18,479 new cases reported on Jan. 19. Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, where most infections are concentrated, will be designated as a "red" zone, the strictest quarantine level. Omicron strain of Covid-19 has now been detected in 10 out of 24 Ukrainian regions.
Zelensky visits Poland, meets Duda. On Jan. 20, President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the small town of Wisla to discuss a range of topics, including security.
Tainted top judicial officials resign ahead of judicial reform. The High Council of Justice, the judiciary’s highest governing body, accepted the resignation of two of the council’s most controversial members, including its acting head, on Jan. 20. The resignation comes ahead of the expected firing of tainted members of the council with the participation of foreign experts.
$120,000 reportedly stolen from Lviv courthouse. A safebox belonging to a local judge was robbed, according to the court’s press service. The safebox allegedly contained $120,000. The court’s press service says the stolen money was “stated in the property and income declaration” of the judge.
National Bank of Ukraine raises its main interest rate from 9% to 10%.The central bank aims to slow down the country’s inflation from the current 10% to 5% within the next two years. The bank worsened its inflation forecast – from 5% to 7.7% for 2022 – indicating high energy prices, geopolitical risks, smaller harvests, and acceleration of labor migration as the top reasons.
National Bank downgrades its forecast for Ukraine's GDP growth from 3.8% to 3.4% in 2022 due to tense geopolitical situation, increasing inflation. Despite a gradual end to the pandemic, consequences of the Covid-19 crisis, high energy prices, and higher raw material costs will continue to hamper the economy. The NBU projects inflation will slow to 4% in 2023–2024, if tensions with Russia and the Covid-19 pandemic settle.
Ukraine allegedly loses $40 million in taxes due to shady gasoline production. Ukrainian imports of chemical solvents skyrocketed by 86% to 132,000 tons in 2021, according to Kyiv-based A-95 consulting group. The increase is likely linked to counterfeit gasoline production.
Ukraine’s State Audit Office reveals tender procurement violations worth $265 million in state road agency Ukravtodor’s use of national fund for fighting Covid-19 in 2020. Authorities opened six criminal proceedings. Ukravtodor received almost $1 billion in funds in 2020, making it the biggest recipient of the $2.3 billion spent to combat the pandemic last year.
Portuguese company TCS to invest 33 million euros in building material factory in Vinnytsia. The brand new 7,000-square meter factory, located 270 kilometers southwest of Kyiv, will be finished in 2025 but already operational by 2023. It will create over 200 jobs.
Alleged photos of Putin's secret palace published. The team of Russia's jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Jan. 20 published what they say are hundreds of photos from the interior of the $1 billion palace of dictator Vladimir Putin, who denies owning it.
Report: Belarusian regime lied about bomb threat leading to arrest of Roman Protasevich. The pretext of a bomb threat used by Belarusian authorities to land a Ryanair plane in Minsk was "deliberately untrue,” according to a United Nations Civil Aviation Agency report (ICAO). Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's regime used the landing to detain opposition blogger Protasevich and his girlfriend on April 23.