Russia’s war against Ukraine
Bloomberg: Germany, others seek exemptions in possible sanctions on Russia. The report obtained by Bloomberg reveals disagreement among Western allies about how to punish Russia, which massed 120,000 well-equipped troops on Ukraine’s borders. Berlin has reservations about disconnecting Russian banks from the SWIFT transaction system, as well as freezing Russian assets.
Blinken says no concessions in US response to Russian demands. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Jan. 26 that the U.S. supports an open door policy for NATO despite Russian demands for the alliance to stop expanding eastward. Blinken said that the U.S. had delivered a written response to Russia’s demands but did not elaborate on its details. He said the response contains offers for a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions over Ukraine by addressing some of Russia’s concerns.
Advisors to leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany met on Jan. 26 in Paris under the Normandy Format to discuss humanitarian help and the status of the Donbas. It was the first meeting like that in two years. France took the initiative to host this summit in preparation for the Jan. 28 call between French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin to find “a path to de-escalation.”
New maps show deployment of Russian forces around Ukraine. The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. research organization, released two new maps showing the locations of specific Russian battalion tactical groups (BTGs) and the Russian troop deployments inside Belarus.
State Department: Beijing Winter Olympics could delay Russian invasion. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said that U.S. intel showed Russia was ready to move troops into Ukraine. However, according to Sherman, Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely wary of upsetting his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping by upstaging Beijing’s Winter Olympics, which are due to start on Feb. 4 and conclude on Feb. 20.
Contrary to Sherman’s comments, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Jan. 26 that the number of troops that Russia brought to Ukraine’s borders is “insufficient” for a full-scale invasion. He added that Moscow can build up its troops to a sufficient level over time and can still launch an attack on Ukraine.
US advises its citizens to leave Ukraine due to "the increased threat of Russian military action."
Russia considers openly supplying weapons to its proxies occupying eastern Ukraine. These are the first official statements by Russian authorities that discuss sending weapons to the occupied territories in Ukraine, a fact that the Kremlin has been denying throughout the conflict.
Canada to expand its mission in Ukraine. It’s part of a $268 million commitment, said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Canadian Armed Forces will deploy 60 service people to join 200 troops already stationed in Ukraine. In the future, the mission will number 400 people. Initially set to end in March, the mission was prolonged until 2024. Canada will also provide Ukraine with non-lethal military equipment, boost intelligence sharing and support exercises set to combat cyberattacks.
Czech Republic provides Ukraine with artillery rounds. The transfer of 4,006 stored 152-millimeter shells with a total value of $1.7 million at no costs to Ukraine was approved on Jan. 26 following a request from the Czech Defense Ministry.
56% of Ukrainians say they are ready to join the ranks of the Territorial Defense Force. The Territorial Defense Force is a reservist army made up of over 150 battalions in total. It could reach 130,000 soldiers once fully mobilized. However, according to the survey by the Ukrainian Institute of the Future and New Image Marketing Group, only one-third of Ukrainians (33%) believe that Russia could really attack Ukraine.
Covid-19 in Ukraine
Kyiv is seeing a rapid increase in new coronavirus cases. The capital detected 1,919 new daily cases on Jan. 25, the highest number since early November. Kyiv also registered the highest number of Covid-19 deaths compared to any region in Ukraine on the same day.
Australia is considering supplying liquefied natural gas to Europe to compensate for Russia’s gas supply. Keith Pitt, the Australian resources minister, said Australia was “a leading and reliable global exporter of LNG” and “stands ready to assist with any request for further supplies”. Russia supplies about one-third of Europe’s natural gas, which led to concerns from the U.S. and the U.K. of gas being used as an energetic weapon in the standoff between the West and Russia over Ukraine.
76 out of Russia’s 104 billionaires have lost $28 billion since December 2021. Amid geopolitical risks and reports of a possible invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the Moscow Exchange index fell by 5.9% on Jan. 24. The founder of Russia’s web portal Yandex, Arkady Volozh, lost 26% of his fortune, taking a chunk of $600 million from his $1.7 billion net worth.
Spanish dental clinic Impress acquires Ukrainian startup OrthoS that creates invisible braces. OrthoS uses clear aligners to straighten patients’ teeth and allows them to do orthodontics check-ups via mobile app. Founded by the former medical student Taras Semenyuk in 2017, the startup now has four clinics in Ukraine. It will now expand under the Impress' brand. In the next three years, Impress will invest 10 million euros in the Ukrainian market – to construct new clinics and research centers. The company operates in over 100 cities across Europe. It didn’t disclose how much it paid for the Ukrainian startup.