Fighting Continues

Mar 1, 2022

As of 28 February 2022, fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continues in the northwestern part of the capital Kyiv. Heavy gunfire and explosions resulting from Russian artillery and rocket strikes were reported in Kyiv; however, Russian forces have so far failed to enter the city. Russian forces appear to have largely paused their efforts after failing to advance into the city proper over the weekend of 26-27 February amid significant resistance from Ukrainian forces. The majority of Russian troops reportedly remain near Hostomel’s Antonov Airport (UKKM/GML), located nearly 40 km (25 mi) northwest of downtown Kyiv. In northeastern Ukraine, Russian forces entered Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, located approximately 40 km from the Russian border, for the first time on 27 February. Intense fighting then ensued between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the streets of the city. The local governor later stated that Ukrainian forces repelled the attack and were in full control of the city. According to a Ukrainian official, Russian rocket strikes killed dozens of people in Kharkiv and wounded hundreds more. Meanwhile, intense shelling was reported in the city of Chernihiv, located approximately 150 km northeast of Kyiv, where multiple homes and a commercial building were damaged. Elsewhere in the country, Russian forces on 27 February seized control of the southeastern city of Berdyansk, located on the coast of the Azov Sea. Overall, Russian forces have been unable to make anticipated strategic gains in Ukraine over the past five days as evinced by the current Ukrainian control of most major locations, including Kyiv.

Conflicting estimates of injuries and deaths continue to emerge. The Ukrainian Ministry of Health announced that 354 civilians have been killed and 1,684 others have been injured amid clashes between Ukrainian and Russian soldiers since 24 February. Meanwhile, the U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) estimated that 102 non-combatants have been killed and 304 others have been injured in the clashes. However, the injury and death tolls are likely much higher. OHCHR also reported that more than 500,000 refugees have fled Ukraine to bordering countries. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claims that more than 5,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since Russian forces began an invasion in Ukraine.

On the diplomatic front, Ukrainian and Russian representatives held a meeting near the Pripyat River on the Ukraine-Belarus border on 28 February to begin negotiations aimed at resolving the ongoing conflict. The latest reports indicate the initial meeting has ended, but further details are not immediately available. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko promised the safe passage of Ukrainian officials to Belarus, but missiles were fired from Belarus into Ukraine hours later on 27 February. Despite the latest efforts for negotiations, the overall rhetoric significantly escalated over the past weekend. Russian President Vladimir Putin placed nuclear forces on higher alert on 27 February, citing the increasingly aggressive measures that NATO and Western countries are taking against Russia. Meanwhile, Belarus held a constitutional referendum on 27 February in order to revoke the country’s non-nuclear status. The referendum passed with a 65% affirmative vote. Passage of the constitutional amendment now allows for the presence of Russian nuclear arsenals in Belarus. Lukashenko has threatened to allow Russian nuclear missiles in the country if Western countries place nuclear-capable missiles in Poland or Lithuania. In other developments, U.S. officials warned that Belarusian troops could be deployed to assist Russian forces in Ukraine on 28 February.

Following severe economic sanctions imposed by Western countries, Russian officials closed the Moscow Stock Exchange on 28 February as the ruble depreciated by approximately 30%. Russian officials doubled the central bank’s interest rate to 20%, compared with the previous rate of 9.5%, to offset the effects of stringent sanctions on Russian banks. Officials made the decision to double the interest rate after several Russian banks were banned from using the banking payments system of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a popular intermediary company that facilitates secure transactions among 11,000 banks globally. Additionally, British Petroleum, a prominent U.K. energy company, announced that it will sell almost 20% of its shares in Russian oil. Equinor, a Norwegian energy corporation, will also divest its shares in Russian energy.

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