Illustration by Ben Beechener
Russian invasion of Ukraine
Russian troops launched a three-pronged invasion of Ukraine on Thursday 24th February. The attack from the north has largely followed the path of the Dnieper river, down from the Belarusian border to the suburbs of Kyiv, especially targeting the Hostomel airport. There has also been intense fighting centred around control of Chernobyl on the West Bank, although this northern force has halted the attack on Chernihiv due to fierce resistance. Kyiv has thus far held out, and the Ukrainian army has retaken the city of Irpin nearby. The attack from the east has focussed on three cities: Donetsk, Sumy and Kharkiv. While Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, was taken by Russian forces and Sumy had seen fierce fighting, late on Sunday afternoon both are back under Ukrainian control. Donetsk has faced shelling but has not fallen to the Russian advance. The advance from the south, beginning in occupied Crimea, has launched an amphibious attack on the port city of Mariupol. The city stands as an obstacle to the prospect of Russian occupied areas in Crimea and the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east linking up. The fate of Kherson, the other target of the southern attack, is still to be decided as heavy fighting continues, though a Russian assault on Odessa has been repelled. The Russian advance has been slower than expected due to an unexpectedly successful Ukrainian defence, made possible by the highly motivated population. In response to a call from President Zelenskyy that any citizen willing to fight would be given arms, many have joined in the resistance, and any foreign nationals who want to defend the country are being armed. Blood donations have also soared to help wounded soldiers and civilians.
International response to invasion of Ukraine
There has so far been a mixed international response to the invasion, with most Western countries increasing their existing sanctions against Russia and senior governmental figures, or implementing new programmes of financial sanctions. Eastern European countries such as Poland have taken in large numbers of Ukrainian refugees and have provided them with temporary shelter and free public transport. After initial resistance from Germany and Hungary, certain Russian banks have now been excluded from the Swift international payments system, a huge blow to their role in international trade, and President Duda of Poland has expressed support for Ukrainian membership of the EU. Sweden and Finland are now observing NATO meetings, and Poland is supplying ammunition to the Ukrainian army via convoys. A resolution was introduced in the UN Security Council by Albania and the United States, calling for an immediate end to military operations by Russia and their immediate withdrawal from the country, as well as demanding they rescind recognition of the breakaway republics. 11 countries voted in favour, though it failed due to a Russian veto. China, India and the UAE abstained.
President Zelensky’s reaction to the Ukraine crisis
The whole world has been watching Ukraine’s President Zelensky during the crisis of the past few days. Prior to the invasion and amid a heavy atmosphere of fear, President Zelensky made a speech in Russian, as a last plea to avoid war. On the 26th of February, Zelensky announced that Russia has labelled him as a primary target, and his family a secondary one. Despite this, he has vowed to stay and fight. From the start of the invasion, the President has urged the people of Ukraine to take up arms, to defend their country and rights against the Russians. The mayor of Kyiv has displayed a similar attitude, having vowed to take up arms and fight for Ukraine along the rest of the citizens, inspiring resilience and unity at a desperate time. The Ukrainian President has made it clear that he wants the war to end, having declared on the 27th of February that Ukraine wants to talk. With scope for negotiations on the table, Mr. Zelensky’s next set of moves may be crucial in determining how this war will progress next.
Biden nominates the first black woman to serve on the U.S Supreme Court
President Joe Biden nominated federal appellate judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court on 25th February. If appointed she will succeed Justice Stephen Breyer, who resigned in January 2022. The nomination comes following Biden’s campaign promise that he would deliver a historic appointment to the Supreme Court. Jackson worked as a federal district judge in Washington, after which she served on the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. President Biden has described her as an “extraordinary” candidate, with an “independent mind, uncompromising integrity and a strong moral compass”. Following Biden’s nomination, Ms. Jackson simply requires a majority from the Senate to confirm her position, which the democrats narrowly control.
Kenya’s president endorses opposition leader for president
President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, who cannot run for re-election due to term limits, has endorsed Raila Odinga for this August’s presidential election instead of his own deputy William Ruto. Odinga, a key member of the opposition who has portrayed himself as the anti-establishment candidate during his four previous presidential races, was Prime Minister from 2008-2013 and ran against Kenyatta in the 2017 election. In the aftermath of that vote, Odinga accused Kenyatta of vote rigging, and even staged a mock swearing-in ceremony of himself as President but has since reconciled with Kenyatta. Ruto has left the incumbent Jubilee Party to found his own United Democratic Alliance. The race is widely expected to turn on who can capture the votes of the Kikuyu, the largest ethnic group in the country.