Ukraine Invasion Day 20: “worse than the 415 BCE Athenian invasion of Sicily.”

Bombardment continues with over 900 missiles launched against Ukraine and the notable media appearance was the on-air protest by an editor on Russian State TV. She was arrested and seems to be held incommunicado from her lawyers.

“(T)oo many civilian targets have been hit by Russian bombs for them all to be mistakes and not part of Vladimir Putin's strategy”. No progress came from negotiations yesterday but they also continue amidst some disinformation about China’s involvement. The military clusterflop continues with air attacks and artillery attacks on the cities that cannot be encircled. As written before, partition looks to be ahead with that Donbas to Crimea land bridge. Only a UN peacekeeping mission will stop the ceaseless Russian brutality.

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  • I’ll start with the strikes Sunday on the Ukrainian military training center at Yavoriv, near the border with Poland.
  • A senior U.S. defense official says they were carried out by cruise missiles launched from long-range Russian bombers from Russian airspace. 
  • Note: That’s different than speculation and some reporting yesterday that they were carried out by sea-launched missiles from Russian ships. Those are still quite rare in this war. 
  • “More than a couple dozen” Russian cruise missiles were launched at the training center from aircraft, the senior U.S. defense official says.
  • He notes that a no-fly zone patrolling Ukrainian airspace would not have stopped this strike. 
  • The Pentagon cannot verify the number of killed and wounded at the training center. The senior U.S. defense official repeats U.S. statements yesterday that no U.S. troops, U.S. contractors, or U.S. civilians in a government capacity were there. 
  • The Pentagon is not clear on whether any Americans there as volunteers for the Ukrainian effort were there. It’s not something they are tracking, the senior U.S. defense official says. 
  • Russian ground advances remain largely stalled, the senior U.S. defense official says. No “appreciable” change on advances on Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, etc. 
  • Pentagon still sees no indications of the Russians sending in military reinforcements from elsewhere in Russia, the senior U.S. defense official said. 
  • “Siege mentality” by Russia still playing out, the senior U.S. defense official says. Heavy bombardment of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, etc.
  • Mariupol and Chernihiv remain under attack and isolated. 
  • Senior U.S. defense official on Russia: “Clearly, they are increasing the amount of long-range fires they are applying to these cities, these population centers that are holding out … They are obviously continuing the bombardment and increasing that, no doubt about it.” 
  • Russia now has 100 percent of the forces it assembled prior to invading committed to the fight. It has under 90 percent of those forces available to them, after taking losses, senior U.S. defense official says. 
  • Pentagon still sees no indications of Belarus sending in forces to join the fight, senior U.S. defense official says. 
  • As of Monday, Russia has launched more than 900 missiles at Ukraine since the beginning the invasion Feb. 24, senior U.S. defense official says. 
  • No change in force posture for the about 5,000 U.S. troops in Poland following yesterday's airstrikes on the Yavoriv military training center just inside Ukraine, senior U.S. defense official says. 
  • Russia still has not achieved air superiority over Ukraine, senior U.S. defense official says. But he couches by saying Russia has not achieved air superiority over “all of Ukraine.”
  • Last week, lawmakers sent a letter to POTUS suggesting Russia had air superiority already. 

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  • No significant developments over the weekend. The frontline around Kyiv remains similar. Ukraine has regained 70% of Irpin or the little that has remained of it. In some areas there is a tiny advance of Russian units. 
  • Regarding the south: Ukrainians have control over some parts of Volnovokha but not all. Russia still controls the eastern parts of it. Russia remains roughly in the same positions around Mykolaiv, and actively attacks Severodonetsk. 
  • As the weather has improved, there are fears of a Russian landing in Odessa. Allegedly Russian ships are back near Odessa but this time a bit farther away. 
  • If Russia doesn't have access to Odessa from the land (it hasn't been able to destroy air and naval defence) it would be risky to try a landing with ships. Ukraine would destroy the ships. 
  • Russia hasn't been using all-out attacks for days. It shows they are taking into account the lives of their own troops. 
  • Finding a compromise between Ukraine and Russia is still hopeless. Russia's minimum would be full control of the two “people's republics” and land access to Crimea. 
  • Ukraine won't go for that unless Kyiv is in real danger of falling. Every day that the war continues brings Russia's minimum demands lower. 
  • Talks of Russia bringing additional troops from the Far East and Armenia: They have only around 6,000 troops in Armenia and they can't take them all away. This wouldn't change the overall picture in Ukraine. 
  • No imminent signs that Belarus is going to send their military into Ukraine. Lukashenko is doing what he can for it not to happen. Question is, how much maneuvering space does he have? 
  • The Russian officers put in charge of Belarusian units are mostly logistics and support units that are used to repair damaged equipment, etc. 
  • Russia has managed to recruit up to 3,000 Syrians who should arrive in Ukraine shortly. This is not considered a serious deployment. 
  • Reports are that Russian troops have started digging trenches. This indicates positional warfare. Russians are “very far” from encircling Kyiv. This encirclement would need to be 300km long and very tightly sealed. 
  • Possibility of a more intensive attack from the Russian side in the next 2-3 days but still nothing to suggest it would break the balance. Russian goals would be to get Kyiv, Kharkiv or cut off Ukraine from the sea (Odessa). I can't see them getting success with any of this. 
  • Morale, which we have heard so much about, is continuing to fall. Reports of Russian troops surrendering for food and self-inflicted injuries to get out of the war. 
  • Reports about Xi having been aware of a “special operation” but not about a total war. Xi feels that Putin wasn't honest. Generally there isn't much optimism about the idea of China coming to assist Russia. 
  • Even if China promises equipment, it would be a question of months not weeks to happen. That said, the U.S. is very concerned about China's decisions. Revealing the info about Russia's request goes in line with U.S. tactics in the case: reveal to hinder or stop from happening. 
  • FSB lacks resources to control occupied areas (Kherson). FSB needs their manpower to repress back home. 
  • It's noteworthy that it was the counter-intel FSB (5th Service) that was tasked with foreign intelligence regarding Ukraine (and not the SVR, GRU). The heads of service under home arrest are close to 70 years old. 
  • In a Western agencies you wouldn't find people older than 55 in respective positions. The same gang has been there for 25 years. It doesn't make the system work any better. /END 

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2. know much about the ICC, it appears that Ukraine's earlier 2013 and continuing submission to ICC jurisdiction gives the court sufficient jurisdiction. What I don't know is whether it can issue a ruling that will find Russia, and Putin in particular, have engaged in 
3. aggressive war and war crimes. I think the reason that the Kremlin produced the bioweapon fabrication is to be able to pose a defense. I presume it won't work but if I'm right that it was what prompted the bioweapon farce, it may mean the Kremlin expects to be charged or at 
4. least subject to a proceeding for war crimes. I need to confirm my understanding that any UN member who does not heed a ICC judgment can be subject to automatic UN penalties. If so, one would imagine that China, Israel and Turkey, when they ponder the downside of being 
5. Putin's pals, may find a convenient way to tell the Ukrainian genocide planner, thanks, but not thanks. 
6. He's the Chinese response. Good luck Vova! It's just you and your crew and your BFF Lukashenko and his crew going to the the ICC. @BelarusMFA

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7. Because the geniuses in the @KremlinRussia_E chose to create their fake Ukraine version of Japanese Empire's Manchukuo that Japan used as pretext to invade China, Russian defendants like Putin, Lavrov, Peskov and Shoigu may have waived jurisdiction by being covered by 
8. part of the Ukrainian submission. Who could be that dumb? Perhaps the nitwits who though a tank war in Ukraine during winter was a good idea. I wonder how Lukashenko and his son feel bout being sucked into this? @BelarusMFA About as good as Lavrov. @mfa_russia 

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  • I said we would ramp up military aid and so on but that it would take crossing a lot of red lines to get us to act. Sometimes discussions on TV shows just stream by, questions come and answers go and we move on. But I have to say, this question haunts me. 
  • Because letting Ukrainians die is horrific and unjust. The story of the past century is of slaughters and genocides that occurred because the political and military calculus was that the cost of intervention was too high, too risky. And every one of those answers seemed right… 
  • …at the time and in retrospect seemed wrong, terribly terribly wrong. Surely, the answer is not triggering a nuclear war. But why is it that we who are deterred by Russian nuclear threats do not feel Russians would be deterred by ours. 
  • Oh, I understand that Putin is a barbarian. As I said to one of the crew while walking out of the studio this morning, “You can't say it on the air, but I'm from New Jersey and the only accurate way to describe him is he's a motherfucker.” He's as bad a man as is on the planet. 
  • So, yes, he might enter a nuclear exchange. But would every one around him permit that? Would they embrace the destruction of Russia? Further, it is taken as a matter of near theology that any military response to Putin must necessarily escalate to nuclear war. 
  • Why? Who sets those rules? What if, as Wes Clark suggested on CNN last night, we asked the UN to step up and send in blue helmeted troops to protect humanitarian corridors and perhaps Western Ukraine? Would Russia block it? Is there a way around that? 
  • What if we enlisted non-NATO nations to play that role? What if we said European neighbors would play that role but only act in defense? Russia might call it provocative…but frankly, we do nothing and they manufacture provocations like this myth of bio weapons facilities. 
  • Certainly, no one would pursue any action that is more egregious than were there actually to be bio weapons facilities. Russia implies the Ukrainians are Nazis and of course, they are not. They speak of anti-Russian plots and of course, they are absurd fabrications. 
  • In other words, they will do what they want regardless of what we do. Another argument is that if we intervened we would defeat them and because Putin could not bear that he would launch a nuclear war. Well, first of all, Ukraine is likely to beat him sooner or later. 
  • (W/our assistance.) That not only does not deter us, that's our goal. Secondly, we are waging total economic war against Russia, we will bring the economy to its knees & trigger massive unhappiness among the Russian people, how is that less than some modest military intervention? 
  • I know thoughtful scholars who would argue it is…but where is the evidence? Again, I'm not dismissing it, I just wonder if we are spending too much time negotiating with ourselves…because predicting costly outcomes is the low risk path to avoiding taking action. 
  • Can't the international community lay down a few red lines of our own? Stop killing innocent civilians or else? Stop using banned munitions or else? Stop threatening nuclear accidents at power plants or else? Or can't we set some ground rules…perhaps in conjunction with the UN? 
  • Ground rules that define a defensive mission and make it clear that defensive actions (by their very nature) are not escalatory and that they should not be seen as such and that we will respond to escalation harshly. I've been very impressed with the Biden Admin… 
  • …and Western response to date. I believe Biden deserves credit for not taking the nuclear bait from Putin. But I am increasingly sympathetic to the idea (raised I think by @JonLemire during this morning's show) that a little more strategic ambiguity may be in order. 
  • I don't know the answers & fortunately military strategy and foreign policy are not made in Twitter threads (or on cable television shows). But we are on the brink of once again committing the great crime of the past century and that is not doing enough to help millions at risk. 
  • And we need to recognize that it is Putin's confidence that we will not act that enables him to take such barbarous actions. (That calculus has, after all, worked for him in Chechnya, Syria, Georgia and Crimea.) 
  • On the show, I said we have to send a clear message to him that we are breaking the pattern of the past with regard to what will happen after this crisis–that he will not simply be embraced again by the international community, that he will be held accountable. 
  • But I walked away deeply unsettled that we are through our inaction already giving him all the license he needs to commit new atrocities. We need to find a way, ideally with the international community, ideally with rules & communications that minimize the risk of escalation… 
  • …ideally forcefully enough and soon enough to save Ukrainian lives…to break the pattern that has occurred as he has conducted his past wars. We need to grapple with this hard question now or we will most certainly be haunted by it for the rest of our lives. 

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  • Says Russian soldiers and officers know they can't win. “They flee the battlefield, abandon their equipment. We take the trophies and use them to protect Ukraine.” Says Russia is now “one of the suppliers of equipment for our army.” 2/ 
  • Zelenskyy now switches to Russian, and addresses Russian soldiers, “those who have already entered our land, and those who are preparing to be sent to fight us. Russian conscripts, listen to me especially carefully. Russian officers, you already understood everything.” 3/ 
  • “From Ukraine, you will take nothing. You will take lives; there are so many of you. But your life will also be taken. What do you need to die for? … I know you want to live.” 4/ 
  • “We hear in your intercepted phone calls what you really think about this war, about this shame, and about your state. Your conversations with one another, your calls back home – we hear everything. We draw conclusions. We know who you are,” Zelenskyy says. 5/ 
  • “So I am giving you a choice. A chance, on behalf of Ukrainians. A chance to live. If you surrender to our forces, we will treat you the way people ought to be treated … The way you were not treated in your army. The way your army doesn't treat ours. Make your choice.” 6/ 
  • Switches to Ukrainian, gives update on captured/destroyed equipment. Switches back to Russian. “I am grateful for those Russians who aren't stopping to tell the truth. Those who are fighting disinformation and are telling the truth,” Zelenskyy says. 7/ 
  • Grateful to Russians who are “telling the real facts to their friends, close ones, loved ones. And personally to the lady who walked into the studio of Channel 1 with a poster against the war. Those who aren't afraid to protest.” 8/ 
  • [He is referring to Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor working for Russia’s state-run Channel One, who ran onto set live on air, held up poster that said “Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here” and shouted: “Stop the war. No to war.” 9/

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  • Zelenskyy continues in Russian, speaking to Russians: “For now, your country has not yet fully closed off from the rest of the world and turned into a very large North Korea. You must fight. You must not lose your chance.” 10/ 
  • Switches to Ukrainian. Talks about EU's 4th sanctions package, “the fourth and I'm sure not the last.” Says everyone who is responsible for helping Russia's war will be hit. “The whole world sees what is happening” in Ukraine. 11/ 
  • Zelenskyy says he has spoken with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, President of Poland Duda, PM of Luxembourg Bettel. 12/ 
  • Now this is crucial bit. Zelenskyy says: “The conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Bennett is also important. As part of a negotiation effort to end this war as soon as possible. With a fair peace.” 13/ 
  • [Bennett has been speaking with both sides, and there has been criticism of Israel for not doing more to help Ukraine. This is a nod to that – Zelenskyy is signalling that Bennett has been working behind the scenes on peace talks – but also that any peace deal must be fair.] 14/ 
  • Zelenskyy continues. Says his negotiating team has told him peace talks with Russia have been going “pretty well,” but he shrugs and sounds skeptical. Adds: “But let's see. They continue tomorrow.” 15/ 
  • Then gives update on new rules to help SMEs and businesses with tax reforms. For small business, says there's a voluntary tax. “Whoever can, pay. If you can't, no questions asked.” Finally, speaks about medals and awards for Ukrainian troops, including 59 posthumously. 16 

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The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian military expedition to Sicily, which took place from 415–413 BC during the Peloponnesian War between Athens on one side and Sparta, Syracuse and Corinth on the other. The expedition ended in a devastating defeat for the Athenian forces, severely impacting Athens.

The expedition was hampered from the outset by uncertainty in its purpose and command structure—political maneuvering in Athens swelled a lightweight force of twenty ships into a massive armada, and the expedition
“The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian military expedition to Sicily, which took place from 415–413 BC during the Peloponnesian War between Athens on one side and SpartaSyracuse and Corinth on the other. The expedition ended in a devastating defeat for the Athenian forces, severely impacting Athens.
The expedition was hampered from the outset by uncertainty in its purpose and command structure—political maneuvering in Athens swelled a lightweight force of twenty ships into a massive armada, and the expedition's primary proponent, Alcibiades, was recalled from command to stand trial before the fleet even reached Sicily. “ www.pbs.org/…
John Fletcher's 90 minute radio play “The Sicilian Expedition – Ancient Athenian War Drama with Iraq War”, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in December 2005, is based on real events from the Peloponnesian War, particularly the Sicilian Expedition. Fletcher implies a parallel between America's involvement in the Iraq war and the Athenian aggression against Sicily, which in his view were both disastrous abroad and at home.[44] en.wikipedia.org/…

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