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Jan. 24 news wrap-up

January 25, 2022 1:50 amby TheKyivIndependent
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As tensions rise on the Ukrainian-Russian border, four European airlines suddenly changed their flight schedule so that their planes and crew would not spend the night in Kyiv. (kbp.aero)

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

NATO sends more military power to eastern flank. A number of NATO militaries are putting their forces on standby and sending more warships and jet fighters to eastern Europe in a bid to deter Russia’s aggressive build-up in and around Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden presented with options to send thousands of troops to eastern Europe to bolster allies, CBS News reported. While the U.S. has ruled out putting boots on the ground in Ukraine, it may send troops to forces stationed in Europe. The number of troops sent to shore up the eastern flank of the alliance could increase tenfold if Russia begins a large-scale invasion.

Think tank: Russia not ready to start full-scale invasion of Ukraine. A new analytical report by a Kyiv-based think tank, translated by the Kyiv Independent, argues that Russia won’t be ready to attack in at least two weeks — and is unlikely to attack at all. 

UK begins to withdraw non-essential embassy staff from Ukraine. The UK embassy will continue operating, as the order concerns non-essential staff and relatives of diplomats. EU embassies won’t follow suit yet, according to EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.

Second shipment of U.S. defense assistance to Ukraine arrived on Jan. 23. It's part of the additional $200 million aid package allocated in early 2022 to help Kyiv defend itself from the looming threat of Russia’s all-out invasion. The 80-ton cargo was delivered to the Boryspil Airport from the Travis Air Force base in California.

European Commission proposes $1.35 billion loan to Ukraine amid invasion threat. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the EU will send the first $675 million tranche to Ukraine immediately after it’s approved by the European Parliament and Commission. The funds are meant to shore up Ukraine’s financial stability as the country faces a potential invasion from Russia.

11,000 troops added to Ukraine’s defense forces. Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told reporters that the Jan. 1 armed forces law, which established a new structure for Ukraine’s territorial defense forces, has already added 10,000 new territorial defense troops, as well as 1,000 new special forces troops specializing in resistance activity.

Nearly half of Ukrainians believe that Russian invasion is real threat. Almost 40% believe that there will be no invasion, according to the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology's latest poll. These proportions have remained practically the same since December. Meanwhile, close to 30% of Ukrainians believe that the government is doing enough to prevent the invasion with defense and diplomacy, while 56.5% say it's not enough.

Russian parliament delays motion on recognizing Kremlin’s proxies in Ukraine. The leadership of the State Duma will consider including in the parliament’s agenda an address to Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognize the Russian-occupied parts of Ukrainian Donbas in early February.

War threat hits Russian market. Russian stocks and currency tumbled on Jan. 24, as the perceived risk of a large-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Kremlin grew. The main Russian stock index sunk 6% by close of trading, now standing at 15% down year-to-date. The rouble also fell to 79.5 against the dollar, its lowest position in 14 months.

Chechen strongman calls for invasion of Ukraine. Ramzan Kadyrov, the despotic ruler of Russia's southern Chechen Republic and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, called on Jan. 24 for sending troops to Ukraine and occupying the country as a preemptive strike against the U.S.

Ukrainian, Russian radio enthusiasts battle over alleged Russian military frequency. The frequency of a suspected Russian military shortwave radio broadcast, known as the “buzzer” for its recognizable repeating channel marker, has become the battleground for rival Russian and Ukrainian radio enthusiasts, who have been attempting to hijack the frequency to play memes and propaganda.

Covid-19 in Ukraine

Health minister: 18,000 lives saved by Covid-19 vaccines. Health Minister Viktor Lyashko told reporters that the government’s statistical modelling showed 18,000 Covid deaths had been prevented by the Covid-19 vaccination campaign. Ukraine has fully vaccinated 46% of the adult population.

Elderly may soon use Hr 1,000 bounty for getting vaccinated to pay for utilities. As of today, people older than 60 can also use the money to buy medicine, while others can spend the reward on books, movies, theater and railway tickets.

Ukrainians will receive additional Hr 500 for getting a booster shot, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Jan. 24. Just like the Hr 1,000 bounty paid by the state to the fully vaccinated Ukrainians, the government will be sending rewards through the Diia mobile app. The booster doses are currently available to Ukrainians who have had their second shot at least six months before.

Politics

Ex-President Poroshenko’s party leads in new ranking pollEuropean Solidarity, a party led by Petro Poroshenko, would now receive 18.9% of the vote, compared to 15.4% in December. President Volodymyr Zelensky's party, Servant of the People, would get 13.7%, dropping by almost 4% from December. It’s the first time that Poroshenko’s party outranks Zelensky’s party in a poll.

Business

Ukraine spends record $7.5 billion on roads in 2020-2021. The government plans to keep that momentum going in 2022. While four oblasts have now fully completed their road repairs, the Big Construction program has been criticized for corruption, with the biggest tender winner allegedly being within President Zelensky's inner circle.

4 European airlines pull back from overnight stay in Kyiv amid invasion fears. Germany’s Lufthansa, Dutch KLM, Austrian Airlines and Swiss International Airlines have made sudden changes to their Kyiv flight schedule so that their planes and crew would be spending fewer hours in Ukraine amid heightened tensions, according to Flightradar24’s data from Jan. 22-23. It’s common for airlines to make sudden changes to their flight schedule if they see danger, experts say.

Prosecutors allege tax evasion of over $915,000 by management of big gas station chain. The director of a large gas station chain, who is also a deputy of a regional council in Zhytomyr Oblast, had been busted with the former financial director for retailing petroleum products without proper declaration in 2015, the General Prosecutor's Office reported.