The U.S. Finally Cuts the Crap and Calls It a Russian Invasion

Daily Beast

The U.S. Finally Cuts the Crap and Calls It a Russian Invasion

Emil Filtenborg, Stefan Weichert – February 22, 2022


ZOLOTE, Ukraine—Every building in the neighborhood of Zolote-3 near the front line in Eastern Ukraine is marked by war. Many have broken windows and bullet holes in the walls; others have been completely destroyed by eight years of Russian artillery fire.

The school—which has just seven students left—has attached wooden boards to the lower parts of the windows to protect the children from fragments of war.

“We are afraid—when we are home, if we have to go to work and if we are going shopping. We are afraid all the time. They can hit us at any time,” says schoolteacher Sveta, 46. “But I cannot leave, I don’t know where to go. I just want this war to end.”

But the conflict isn’t going to end anytime soon. It’s just getting started. And finally, White House officials who have dawdled over using the “I-word” are catching up to their European counterparts and calling the latest round of Russian aggression what it, in fact, is: the start of an invasion.

Photos Show Russian Troops Creeping Closer to Ukraine from Forest Hideout

“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine… an invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway.” John Finer, deputy national security adviser to the Biden administration, said in a CNN appearance on Tuesday.

And with good reason, as Russian troops and military vehicles have been pouring into Ukraine since Monday night, after President Vladimir Putin gave a rambling ahistorical speech about Moscow’s right to control Ukraine, a nation he sees as part of a larger Russian empire.

Putin’s military now stretches into the regions of Eastern Ukraine that were already under the control of pro-Kremlin rebels who seized power in parts of Donbas at the height of the last incursion, which began in 2014.

The grandiose speech Putin gave from the Kremlin on Monday raises fears that his ambitions do not end there.

His main spokesman Dmitry Peskov appeared to confirm on Tuesday that Russia would “recognize” the broader regions claimed by the rebel areas even though they are currently controlled by Ukraine, although he refused to clarify.

If the Russian military was ordered to enter those areas, that would almost certainly mean a direct military confrontation with the Ukrainian armed forces. And now, Putin has officially won approval from the Federation Council to use Russia’s Armed Forces abroad.

Valentina Matviyenko, the head of the upper house of parliament, announced on Tuesday that Putin had requested permission from lawmakers to deploy troops abroad. She said the decision was based on the fact that “these will be peacekeeping troops aimed at bringing peace to the Donbas.” She went on to claim the troops would “create normal living conditions for people and ensure security.”

The Defense Ministry also spoke out in favor of sending troops abroad, saying: “Russia will take all available measures to eliminate threats to peace in the Donbas, the situation is intensifying, we must take residents of Donbas under our protection.”

“The Kremlin has taken another step towards the revival of the Soviet Union,” said Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, on Tuesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who appeared to spend much of the past weeks tamping down Western expectations of an imminent invasion, responded to the arrival of Russian troops on his country’s soil by calling for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. He spoke with President Joe Biden over the phone and, even before the latest Russian escalation, he told leaders including Vice President Kamala Harris that they needed to take concrete action before a full invasion, demanding a shift away “from a policy of appeasement” in a speech at the Munich security conference on Saturday.

The United States, the European Union and Britain were set to announce new sanctions on Russia on Tuesday in response to Putin’s decision to formally recognize the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which are under the control of pro-Kremlin stooges but on sovereign Ukrainian land.

There was a debate raging over whether to unleash a full package of sanctions now or wait to see if a full invasion of Ukraine follows. By then, some argue, it may be too late.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he would cancel the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was set to deepen Germany’s reliance on Russian gas.

On the ground in Eastern Ukraine, the population continues to wait as the movement of these great tectonic plates is broadcast on their televisions.

“Of course, I heard about Putin’s speech but I don’t know what to think. Ukrainian experts say that he will attack, Americans say something and Russians say something. I don’t know what to think. I really don’t. It is a war of politics, not a war between people here,” Andriy, 38, who works in a mine in Toretsk near the front line, told The Daily Beast.

“I will not evacuate if Russia invades. I didn’t do that back in 2014. I was scared back then, as I am now, but I will not evacuate. I will continue to work, scared, of course, but continue to work.”

The fear has been ratcheting up since late last week, when the local population described the shelling as becoming more and more intense.

It has become familiar over seven years of sporadic shelling and ceasefire violations that include machine-gun fire and mortar attacks, but you can never truly become accustomed to the onslaught. The sound bounces off buildings and the landscape, making it hard to locate. It reflects. Every shell comes as a surprise and your body shakes a little and you feel the pressure or shock wave from the blast—even from far away. As it comes closer, your brain starts to panic somehow, to wonder where it happens next.

In Zolote-3, the population used to stand at more than a thousand, but the relentless pressure of an enormous, hostile neighbor has seen it dwindle to just a few hundred, mainly pensioners. At the entrance to the school, a drawing warns children not to pick up anything suspicious and to keep away from dangerous places.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>“Call 101,” says a drawing outside the school, teaching kids to call the authorities if they see something like an undetonated bomb.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Emil Filtenborg/The Daily Beast</div>
“Call 101,” says a drawing outside the school, teaching kids to call the authorities if they see something like an undetonated bomb.Emil Filtenborg/The Daily Beast

The OSCE reported 1,500 ceasefire violations on Saturday alone, leaving the teachers increasingly concerned. “The situation now is terrible. There have been so many shootings in the last three days,” said Sveta, over the weekend. “I cannot even go to work. Children just sit at home. We cannot let them go out.”

The Daily Beast was stopped in the city by 60-year-old Larysa, who stands at her balcony in an apartment block, which she says is almost abandoned.

“We have shootings every hour. Shootings and shootings. I can hear it all the time,” she says, “We don’t need that here. We want peace. We want things to be normal.”

Her neighbors have left, mainly to the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, Larysa explains. Her children and grandchildren have also left, and she feels abandoned.

“We want peace, we want peace, we want peace,” she says.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Larysa has faith in the Ukrainian President to provide peace, but she fears all-out war will break out.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Emil Filtenborg/The Daily Beast</div>
Larysa has faith in the Ukrainian President to provide peace, but she fears all-out war will break out.Emil Filtenborg/The Daily Beast

The neighborhood of Zolote-3 is part of a larger area named Zolote, which is divided into five parts. Zolote-5 is under the control of the Russian-backed separatists, and Zolote-4 is split in two right on the front line. In Zolote-1 and Zolote-2, a few miles from the front line, the locals also complain about the increased number of ceasefire violations.

They can hear mortar attacks frequently and feel the waves from the explosions. Like Zolote-3, they have also suffered from war and economic decay. People in these parts of Zolote are dependent on the local coal mine for jobs.

Pavel, 52, who doesn’t want to provide his last name, recently retired from working in the mines. He fears that it will soon close and leave everyone without work.

“Before the war, we lived peacefully and calmly,” says Pavel, who served in the Soviet Army in his younger years and says he doesn’t have a negative view of Russia. “Back then, we were one country, one people, and now we are divided and we are only ruins.”

He says that what he experiences now is “brothers going against brothers” and that there isn’t anything worse than that. Such a war is “scary,” he says.

Russian troops are now stationed just a few miles from his home. A British Cabinet minister warned Tuesday: “The invasion of Ukraine has begun.”

Zelensky said Kyiv would not accept Russia’s de facto land grab in Donbas. “We are on our land, we are not afraid of anything and anyone, we don’t owe anything to anyone, and we will not give away anything to anyone,” he said in a televised address Tuesday morning.

The president added that Ukraine’s international borders will “remain as such” regardless of Russia’s “declarations and threats.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Nina Vasilievna, 72</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Emil Filtenborg/The Daily Beast</div>
Nina Vasilievna, 72Emil Filtenborg/The Daily Beast

Nina Vasilievna, 72, said the latest mortar attack on Zolote was so close to her that her balcony was trembling. She, however, said that she wasn’t afraid.

“There was no panic for me. My hope is in the Lord. He provides calm. People without God are, of course, in a panic. In fear. But my hope is in the Lord. If it were not for God, I would also be in a panic,” she told The Daily Beast.

“Children in Russia are also panicking. My daughter and my granddaughter say, ‘Come on Mom, come on. We’re going away’, but I’ve already been here for eight years. Even while Russia took the city [in 2014]. I will stay here,” she says.

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.