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Russia’s war against Ukraine
Biden: ‘My guess is Putin will move into Ukraine. He has to do something.’ The U.S. president said he thinks Putin will invade Ukraine further to test the West, but “will pay a serious price for it.” Biden’s remarks suggested, however, that a degree of escalation may go unpunished: “It depends on what Russia does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having a fight about what to do and not to do, but if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the force they massed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia.”
Meanwhile, Zelensky downplayed the invasion threat in a video address to the nation. He called upon Ukrainians to cease the panic and blamed the media for the “craze” surrounding the Russian threat.
Earlier, the White House confirmed that Russia has embassy evacuation plans from Ukraine, amid the Kremlin’s ongoing military buildup. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Jan. 19 that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine “at any point,” underscoring the immediacy of the threat if Moscow decides to take action. “Our view is this is an extremely dangerous situation,” she said.
Blinken visited Kyiv on Jan. 19 and met with Ukraine’s top officials. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and discussed military aid, Ukraine’s slow-moving reform efforts, and possible sanctions against Russia should it further invade Ukraine.
US will provide $200 million in military aid to Ukraine. An additional $300 million will come at a later date. Both packages were approved in December, as part of the U.S.' annual defense spending bill. The U.S. has been Ukraine’s largest provider of military assistance, giving over $3.7 billion since 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine.
French President Emmanuel Macron called on EU states to “conduct their own dialogue” with Russia instead of supporting efforts led by the US and NATO. Macron said EU countries need to build a new security and stability framework requiring "strategic rearmament" and "frank and demanding" talks with Russia.
"We need to build it between us Europeans, share it with our allies in NATO, and propose it for negotiations with Russia," Macron told the European Parliament.
This is the first time a Western leader has publicly questioned the West’s unified response to Russia’s ongoing military escalation. Macron’s comments come days after France began its six-month presidency in the Council of the EU.
Turkey offers mediation in Russia, Ukraine crisis. Turkey’s presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin, on Jan. 18, inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to meet in Turkey to discuss a peaceful solution to the ongoing Russian military buildup and avoid “serious and irreversible consequences.”
Erdogan to visit Ukraine, meet Zelensky on Feb.3. Erdogan warned the Kremlin on Jan. 18 against invading Ukraine, calling it a "powerful" country with international friends. He added that Russia should “review the state of affairs in the world and its own state of affairs before deciding to take this step.”
Russia’s Communist Party drafts motion to officially recognize ‘independence’ of Russian proxies in Donbas. Lawmakers from the party submitted a draft law set to recognize two Kremlin-controlled territories in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas as independent states.
Court rules not to arrest Poroshenko. On Jan. 19, the court ordered Poroshenko to sign a writ of personal recognizance, which is a pledge by the defendant to attend court without posting bail. The court chose not to place Ukraine’s fifth president in pre-trial detention, which had been demanded by prosecutors.
The prosecution asked the court to arrest Poroshenko and set the bail at Hr 1 billion ($37 million) on Jan. 17. Poroshenko was charged with high treason in December.
Ukraine performs its first liver transplant surgery from a deceased donor. Surgeons in a Lviv children’s hospital performed the transplant surgery to save the life of a one-year-old boy from Zakarpattia Oblast who was born with acute liver failure.
The family of a 44-year-old man from Vinnytsia, who died from a ruptured brain aneurysm, agreed to donate his organs to be transplanted and thus saved the boy’s life.
Covid-19 in Ukraine
Ukraine receives a million new Covid-19 vaccines from US government. The batch of Pfizer vaccines was delivered by the UNICEF as part of the global COVAX initiative, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv reported on Jan. 19. In total, the Ukrainian Health Ministry planned to purchase 25 million doses of Pfizer vaccines and 6.5 million doses of CoronaVac in 2022.
Omicron Covid-19 variant detected in eight Ukrainian oblasts, the Ukrinform news site reports. The first cases of Omicron were detected in Ukraine back in December. It is now present in Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, Zhytomyr, Poltava, Ternopil, and Lviv oblasts, as well as in the city of Kyiv.
Ukraine has shortened the validity of Covid-19 certificates from 12 to 9 months, Health Minister Victor Lyashko announced on Jan. 19. The countdown starts after the second or booster dose. The Cabinet has also confirmed that booster doses can be received between 6 and 9 months after the second dose.
In January, Ukraine’s daily gas transit fell to a four year record low for this time of year. The average amount of gas transmitted through Ukraine between Jan.1 and Jan.16 was 52.4 million cubic meters, Sergiy Makogon, head of the Ukrainian Gas Transmission System, reported on Jan.18.
The volume was five times lower compared to the 2019 average and half of the average for 2021. In addition, Russia's state-owned gas export monopoly Gazprom didn’t book any additional gas transit volumes for February. “Pressure on Europe to launch Nord Stream 2 (pipeline) continues,” said Makogon.
Three Ukrainian glass factories close due to soaring gas prices, the Association of Ukrainian Glass Producers announced on Jan. 18. Surging gas prices, which account for 50% of costs, threaten the survival of the domestic glass manufacturing market in Ukraine. The report says that 12,000 workers could lose their jobs.
Ukraine exported 27,550 tons of meat abroad in 2021, an 11% increase year-to-year. Ukraine exported 12,330 tons of meat to China, 3,680 tons to Belarus and 3,100 tons to Kazakhstan in 2021.
Meanwhile, Ukraine imported 2,780 tons of beef in 2021, a 34% increase year-to-year. Frozen meat represented 70% of this amount, accounting for 1,940 tons. Austria was the key exporter of beef to Ukraine shipping 1,148 tons in 2021.
Ryanair launches 13 new routes from Ukraine starting in summer, the company announced on Jan. 19. The “Open Skies” Treaty signed in 2021 allowed the low-cost carrier to increase its summer schedule in Ukraine with more than 230 flights per week, Ryanair commercial director Jason McGuinness said.
The new flights will connect four Ukrainian cities with nine countries, including Belgium, Sweden and Italy. Meanwhile, fewer planes are entering Ukrainian skies during the winter, due to Omicron-related disruptions. Ryanair had canceled 17 Ukrainian routes in January while seven more are scheduled to be canceled next month.
Moldovan government introduces state of emergency over potential gas shortages. The Jan. 19 decision is subject to ratification by parliament. Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom has officially warned Moldova that it will stop supplies if the country fails to pay its gas debts by Jan. 20, amid skyrocketing prices. Gazprom demands an advance payment of $63 million.