Russia Geopolitical Watch – From February 19 to February 25, 2022

Russia  Geopolitical Watch Team: Lauren Lemaire-Hec, Manik Tadevosian, Ilinka Léger

02/19/2022: Ballistic and cruise missiles are launched as part of exercises in Russia. – Lauren Lemaire-Hec – 

On 19 February 2022, the Russian armed forces conducted strategic force exercises under the direction of the Russian President. Along with his Belarusian counterpart, Vladimir Putin observed the exercises from the Kremlin operations room. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the various launches were conducted to test the readiness of military command and control bodies, combat crews, ship and missile crews, and the reliability of the weapons of the strategic nuclear and non-nuclear forces. Several types of missiles were launched at various locations, including Kinzhal hypersonic aeroballistic missiles; at the Kapustin Yar test site in the Astrakhan region, cruise missiles belonging to the Iskander missile system; and from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, the Yars intercontinental ballistic missile was launched at the Kura test site in Kamchatka. In addition, the Kremlin reported that the objectives of the exercise were fully achieved: “All missiles reached their designated targets, confirming the specified characteristics.”

02/20/2022: Russia’s Investigative Committee Chairman calls for criminal prosecution over alleged attacks by the Ukrainian military in the LPR. – Lauren Lemaire-Hec – 

On 20 February 2022, representatives of the LPR said that the Ukrainian army “attempted to attack the positions” of the LPR’s people’s militia near the village of Pionerskoye. The Investigative Committee said in a statement on its website that five residential buildings were destroyed and civilians were killed. In addition, as a result of the shelling towards Kominternovo, one civilian was concussed and residential buildings were damaged. The Chairman of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, instructed the Committee’s investigators to initiate criminal cases on these facts and to record evidence of the crimes committed by the Ukrainian armed forces in the Donbass.

02/21/2022 : A state of emergency is declared in Volvograd, Orel, Ulyanovsk and Saratov regions. -Lauren Lemaire-Hec – 

The governors of Volvograd, Orel, Ulyanovsk and Saratov regions declared a state of emergency on 21 February 2022. The state of emergency was put in place in these regions due to the arrival of residents evacuated from the DPR and LPR, as reported by the press service of the Saratov governor on the instant messaging application Telegram. Earlier, the authorities in Voronezh, Kursk, Penza and Rostov declared a state of emergency for the same reasons. On 18 February, the leaders of the LPR and DPR had announced the start of the evacuation of their inhabitants to Russia due to “growing tensions in the region”. According to the authorities in Lugansk and Donetsk, several hundred thousand people are to be evacuated to Russia. The governor of Ulyanovsk said that on 22 February the first part of the evacuees arrived in the region, about 600 people, mostly women, children and elderly people. In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered on 18 February that each refugee arriving from Donbass should receive 10,000 roubles.

02/21/2022 : Russian President Vladimir Putin has officially recognized the independence of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. – Manik Tadevosian –

Russian President Vladimir Putin decided on Monday, February 21, to recognize the independence of the pro-Russian separatist regions of eastern Ukraine and signed “friendship and mutual aid” agreements with the leaders of these territories. During a speech lasting almost an hour, the Russian president announced that he considered it “necessary to take this decision that has been ripe for a long time: to immediately recognize the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. In response, the United States and the European Union have initiated a new round of sanctions against Russia. The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced the suspension of the authorization of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

02/24/2022 : Russia launches a “special” military operation in Ukraine, described as an invasion by many countries. – Manik Tadevosian-  

After massing 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border to exert military pressure, Vladimir Putin went a step further by launching a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Infrastructure such as airports and military command centers, as well as civilian institutions were targeted in various cities across the country with air and missile strikes. Russian forces also conquered the Antonov military airport in Gostomel located at the gates of the Ukrainian capital and took control of the Chernobyl power plant, according to Ukrainian authorities. The military offensive began following a second televised speech by Vladimir Putin, where he officially announced his decision to intervene, upon the request of the leaders of the separatist republics of Donbass officially recognized earlier this week by the Kremlin. During his speech, Vladimir Putin denounced a “genocide” orchestrated by the Ukrainian regime in the Donbass independence territories. At the same time, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, declared a general mobilization, then announced that 137 Ukrainians were killed and 316 were injured. The Russian military aggression was strongly condemned by the international community. The European Union, meeting at a summit in Brussels on Thursday, has tightened its sanctions against Russia, without going so far as to exclude the country from the Swift international banking system.

02/24/2022: Roskomnadzor asks Russian media to prepare their publications about Ukraine with information “which they receive only from official Russian sources”. – Lauren Lemaire-Hec – 

The Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technologies and Mass Media stated on its website on 24 February 2022 that it has observed a “significant increase in the dissemination of unverified and inaccurate information by mass media and other information resources operating on the Internet”. The Service informed the media that they “are obliged to use the information and data they receive only from official Russian sources” when preparing their materials and publications on the situation in Ukraine. Roskomnadzor pointed out that under Article 13.15 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation, media outlets that disseminate false information are liable to a fine of up to 5 million roubles and to the blocking of materials containing “false information”.

02/25/2022: On the second day of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Kiev appears to be the priority target of Russian troops. – Ilinka Leger –

The second day of Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine has seen an advance of Russian troops toward Kiev and an intensification of fighting. European Union countries and the United States have called the Russian military venture an invasion, and announced a ban on their financial markets to the Russian banking sector (VTB, Sberbank, Gazprombank) and frozen the European and British assets of Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. As Russian troops advance into Ukrainian territory, the capture of Kiev, which has been under fire since the beginning of the conflict, seems to be their priority. For NATO member nations, this confirms the political goal of the Russian maneuver, which aims to overthrow the head of state Volodymir Zelenski and replace him with a pro-Russian ally. On Friday 25 February, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate end to the conflict and the withdrawal of Russian troops, while 11 of the 15 members voted in favour (3 abstentions). The French Ambassador to the UNSC, Nicolas de Rivière, declared that “the result of today’s vote is clear: Russia is alone“, before affirming that the war started by Russia was part of a hope to reconquer the Russian Empire.

02/25/2022: 100,000 Ukrainian displaced and refugees and 1700 arrests in Russia, civilians at the heart of the conflict.  – Ilinka Leger –

Shabia Mantoo, representative of the United Nations refugee agency, said the conflict has already displaced 100,000 people and refugees in Ukraine. The majority of Ukrainians who wanted to leave the country went to Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu announced that Moldova had already received more than 25,000 Ukrainians on its territory. In Russia, on the first night of the war, picket demonstrations (a stationary person holding a sign) and rallies were held in various cities to denounce the war and the Russian government’s decision. As the rallies were not authorized beforehand, their participants were subject to mass arrests. More than 1700 people were arrested across the country on Thursday 24 February alone.


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