Source: Agency

Biden closes airspace to Russia

| 2.3.22 |

Escaped Ukrainian refugees arrive at Berlin station

In Ukraine, fighting is now taking place in the cities. Today Russian and Ukrainian negotiators meet again. Economic sanctions are getting heavier. 

• The military superiority of the Russian armed forces over Ukraine is increasingly being felt. Obviously, it is expected and happens regularly that Russia's grip is tightening in cities and towns alike. Russian paratroopers have arrived in Kharkiv and fighting is taking place in the city, Mariupol is under siege and missiles continue to fall on Kiev. At least 128 civilians were injured in the night. 

• West of Kiev, in the city of Zhytomyr, four people, including a child, were killed by a Russian cruise missile, while a Russian military strike in the small town of Borodyanka destroyed two apartment buildings. 

• Ukrainian troops fought back, made life difficult for Russia, they may have caused serious losses but it is not confirmed. What Ukraine cannot (yet) do is react, against the invaders. If due to a lack of means, it is not the weapons that European countries have promised to deliver that will change the balance of power on the ground. If and when they arrive, of course. 

• Today we return to treat. Delegations will always meet in Belarus, somewhere near the Polish border, and hopefully the teams will have a higher level than on the first day of negotiations. It would at least be a sign that Moscow is taking the possibility of a diplomatic route seriously. We'll see.

• Novelty (announced) coming from abroad. This is the night of President Biden's State of the Union address and it's clear that can only start with the Ukraine crisis, even if Ukraine isn't the main topic of the speech: about 10 minutes out of an hour of speech. Despite the necessary emotional appeals, from "We will defend every inch of NATO territory" to long applause from Ukraine's ambassador Oksana Markarova, Biden has succinctly announced a ban on Russian companies flying over American airspace. It took a lot of stomachaches and a long time for Americans to adjust to European choices. 

• In fact, Biden also announced a task force to prosecute "the crimes of the Russian oligarchs and corrupt Russian leaders". Biden did not elaborate on who and what exactly he meant, overall it appeared to be a 'Trumpian' expression for obscurity and bombast. 

• "Russia's economy is shocking because of Putin" can't miss the part about the consequences of economic sanctions that are actually making themselves felt even more. Putin has signed a decree preventing those leaving Russia from taking more than 10,000 dollars in foreign currency. This is an act that is not aimed at the oligarchs, they always have capital abroad, it is aimed at all the citizens of the country queuing up to withdraw their money from the bank and make them fail. The European branch of Sberbank Russia will be liquidated as it has no more funds.

• Meanwhile, many companies have announced to stop their activities in Russia: a few hours ago Apple announced. Then US oil giant ExxonMobil said it would gradually abandon the main oil field it operates in Russia on behalf of a consortium that includes Russian, Indian and Japanese firms, the Sakhalin-1 project. Also of note is the announcement by Boeing, the American aerospace company, that it has suspended technical and maintenance support for the Russian airline. 

• Finally, there are people. In the evening Ukraine and Poland opened two new pedestrian crossings for those fleeing Russian-occupied Ukraine, reducing long queues of refugees. According to estimates by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 600,000 people fled the war in Ukraine to Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia. Thousands more tried to cross the clogged border, waiting for hours in a car or on foot, carrying only minimal personal items. They do not know that beyond the borders there is a Europe waiting for those who do not know how to deal with the influx of refugees estimated at 5-6 million people.

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