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Russia’s war against Ukraine
Disconnecting Russia from SWIFT is not being considered by the White House, according to a Wall Street Journal report. An unnamed official told the WSJ that sanctions on Russia's export of natural gas and oil are also not part of the package. Instead, the U.S. would target large Russian banks, state companies, sovereign debt and restrictions on key exports such as electronics to Russia.
Western media report more signs of possible invasion. The Washington Post reported, citing anonymous sources, that Ukrainian intelligence has moved sensitive files and equipment out of Kyiv to safe locations in western Ukraine. Meanwhile, Reuters said that Russia’s buildup near Ukraine’s borders now includes blood reserves for the wounded – and Ukraine’s defense ministry said it wasn’t true.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit Ukraine this week as part of a diplomatic push to try to prevent an invasion by Russia, according to the Guardian. Johnson will reportedly speak to Putin by phone beforehand. The U.K.'s foreign secretary Liz Truss is set to visit Russia. The country is looking at various options to reinforce NATO forces.
This week, the U.K. government will introduce legislation to allow Britain to hit banks, energy companies and “oligarchs close to the Kremlin” with economic sanctions.
Around 200 people rallied in central Kyiv to thank Western allies for military aid. Demokratychna Sokyra, a right-liberal political party, initiated the demonstration.
Canada temporarily withdraws non-essential personnel, their families from Kyiv embassy. At the same time, Canada will be reinforcing the embassy team with officials experienced in security sector reform, conflict management, democratic reform, consular services and diplomacy.
Over 100 Russian writers, actors, academics and activists sign open letter against invading Ukraine. “Russia doesn’t need a war with Ukraine and the West. No one is threatening us, no one is attacking us,” the letter says.
Russia moves naval drills out of Irish fishing waters. Earlier, Irish fishermen said they will “peacefully disrupt” Russia’s naval drills, scheduled for early February.
U.S. instructors teach Ukrainian troops to operate American weapons. The first group of Ukrainian soldiers has completed a two-day training on operating M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, or SMAW-Ds, recently provided by the U.S. Ukrainians will now pass the new skills to their home units.
Russia detains 2 Ukrainian fishermen. Russian border guards have detained two Ukrainian fishermen who left the port in Kherson Oblast to sail in the Azov Sea on Jan. 25 but were soon washed ashore to the occupied Crimea peninsula after the boat’s engine got broken.
In other news
Record-high Covid-19 cases. Ukraine continues to register a record-high number of new Covid-19 cases: 37,000 new cases were diagnosed on Jan. 28 – the highest since the start of the pandemic. As usual, the numbers went down during the weekend, with 24,000 cases registered during Jan. 29.
Ukraine’s GDP hit $200 billion for first time in 30 years. Ukraine’s gross domestic product was $200 billion in 2021, the highest it’s ever been since the country became independent in 1991, Deputy Minister of Economy Denys Kudin said on Jan. 28. The country managed to hit this peak in spite of the setbacks from the Covid-19 pandemic and close to eight years of being under attack by Russia and its proxies.
All of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors are on. For the first time ever, Ukraine is exploiting all 15 reactors at its four nuclear power plants at the same time. The power plant in Rivne launched its fourth reactor on Jan. 30.
Ukrainian filmmaker awarded at Sundance film festival. Maryna Er Gorbach has won the prestigious Directing Award of the World Cinema Dramatic competition program of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival for her war drama “Klondike.” The film is set in the war-torn Donbas region, following a Ukrainian family just after the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Ukrainian director detained in Italy at Russia’s request removed from Interpol wanted list. Renowned Ukrainian theater director Eugene Lavrenchuk, 39, who was detained in Italy in December due to a Russian extradition request, was removed from the Interpol wanted list, Ukrainian Parliament’s Commissioner for Human Rights Ludmila Denisova wrote on Facebook on Jan. 29. Interpol found that his wanted status was “inconsistent” with Article 3 of the Interpol Statue that strictly forbids “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character,” according to Denisova.