TODAY’S LIVE BRIEFING BY AMERICAN EMBASSY IN UKRAINE AND FROM POLAND
The briefing this morning was to bring the latest information to stake holders in the region along with NGO Intelligence and Security personnel. The briefing covered the Political, Military and Humanitarian issues facing Ukraine and those who have assets within the country.
As was noted by the briefers, everyone was surprised and impressed by how well the Ukraine military has performed by holding the line and in many cases pushing back the Russian forces. One important example is being able to hold Kiev and see the city now coming back to life with business, cafes and other infostructure being rebuilt.
It was noted that Ukraine military is mainly operating with professional solders along. with the backup of reginal security teams set up before the war. Along with the high level of volunteers it is not seen that Ukraine will have a draft or conscription for the military.
One example noted by the briefers was the Ukraine rail system which has for the most part been running with very little interference. The rail system has allowed food, medical supplies, and troops to be moved to the places they are needed.
The commitment of President Zelenskyy and his performance has been a big part in the success of Ukraine politically on the International Stage and the military success. He has surprised everyone including Putin, and he is continually calling for the free world to step up with more support particular with weapons.
An overview of the damage to lives and business was presented. Over 7 million citizens within Ukraine have been misplace and 4 ½ million have left the country. Most of the citizens getting out of the country have done so on their own getting to friendly boarders anyway they can. DART teams working out of Poland are on the ground in Ukraine working on opening transportation lines that are more secure. At this point there are 3.5 million unemployed and 25% of the companies are no longer working.
There are 1000 aid workers on the ground in Ukraine working on logistics and getting supplies where they are needed. The ongoing problem even in some of the more secure areas is the unpredicted missiles or bombs Russia can still send into these areas.
What has this war cost Ukraine and what are some of the top concerns now. There has been a high cost to the economy with the first quarter GDP down 16% with an anticipated 40% drop over the year ahead. One of big concerns now is Food Security and transportation for it. As the Russian army has been pushed back from Kiev, they have mined a lot of the roads which makes moving supplies and people a high risk. Work is being done to start mine removal, but it will be a major task to complete, particular with the war still going on.
The question was raised with the use of Smart Weapons, what is the possibility that Putin could attack his neighbors on the NATO side. The briefers felt this was very low with Putin not wanting a fight with NATO. The risk would be that a missile went off course and landed in another country, but the feeling is the Russian military will be wary of that and working to avoid it.
The possibility of Belarus entering the war with troops was discussed and discounted due to the small military, about 40,000 soldiers in Belarus army. The president of Belarus is under the thumb of Putin but seems to be settled on letting Russia use the country for troops and entry to Ukraine but not risking direct involvement that might have repercussions from Ukraine.
There are reports that both Belarus and Chechnya solders are in Ukraine fighting the Russians.
Of big concern is the health care system with at least 25% of the hospitals, clinics, etc. being damaged or destroyed. The current issue is the medical supplies and medicine that is needed and the difficulty of the coordination of movement with the war going on.
Private security groups, with their own vehicles and security, out of Poland and other countries have been going in and helping people get out of the country to a safe place. At this point the embassy in Kiev is not open and there no consular services in Ukraine. Contact can be made in Poland where the staff is based at this time.
They alerted any Americans in the country to make sure they make copies of their passports in the event they lose them in most cases they can get out of the country with the copy or on an expired passport. It is unknown at this point when Embassy services might resume in country.
There was much discussion about what Putin will do next. May 9 is a big day in Russia, and it is thought that Putin will be looking for a win of some sort before then. The fact that he is amassing troops along the eastern front could be an indication he will attempt to gain a firmer control over this region to claim a win and look to save face. The assessment of what elements the troop being moved are coming from is not complete at this point. Are they coming from the regular army from other areas, new recruits, or mixture of both? The performance or non-performance, in Ukraine, of both troops and equipment would normally give a leader pause but with Putin who knows
All were in agreement with Putin you never know, and no one has the Chrystal ball that will reveal Putin’s mind. One might surmise that Putin himself does not know what he will do until it happens.
There was a lot more discussion but will end this with the discussion about Putin and his Military officers being charged with war crimes. There was a strong Yes to this question and they said there were multiple groups in government and NGO’S building the necessary files and evidence to support those charges when the war has ended. The briefers said the United States as well as European countries are together in this matter.
There is something we all can do for the people of Ukraine and that is pray for them and for their country and for this war to end.
Until next time be safe. May God Bless the United States of America