Three weeks of the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia has demonstrated the essential cruelty and homicidal nature of the Russian military and civilian leadership. Having discovered that their political goal of occupying the country and installing a puppet leader friendly to Moscow was going to be harder than anticipated, they have settled for wholesale slaughter of civilians with no particular goal other than that of terror and enlarging Russia’s territory.
This is not the first or second time that the Muscovite government has attempted to erase the Ukrainian culture and people for the crime of being born on lands that Russia considers theirs to control. Much of the Russian-speaking populace of Eastern Ukraine are Russians that were moved into the region from Russia, while native Ukrainian families in the area were killed or forcibly relocated to Russia. This region with a higher density of Russian speakers is what Putin has used as a pretext to “protect” ethnic Russians from the violence in the region resulting from the Russian-backed separatists who revolted against the government in 2014. The banning of the Ukrainian culture in the Russian Empire and the deliberate death by starvation of millions of Ukrainians by Stalin were historical attempts at erasure still fresh in the Ukrainian cultural memory, along with recent injustices like Chernobyl and the annexation of Crimea and the Donbas, not to mention the twenty or so wars previously fought between Russia and Ukraine. Considering this it should have not been a surprise to the Kremlin when their invasion force was not welcomed with open arms as liberators.
Since the invasion failed to quickly occupy and control Kyiv, the parade uniforms brought with the soldiers were shelved and the standoff weaponry was hauled out as in previous Russian military campaigns against unwilling citizenry like in Syria and Chechnya. Due to their fear of entering hostile cities, the Russian military has been targeting critical civilian infrastructure for bombardment. Artillery, ballistic missiles, precision guided missiles, multiple-launch rocket systems, dumb bombs, smart bombs, and everything else that explodes has been lobbed into Ukrainian cities and towns that the Russian Horde comes upon. Hospitals, water treatment facilities, nuclear power plans, internet providers, mobile phone and TV towers, schools, government buildings of every sort, and residential buildings have all been targeted and blown to pieces.
Entire cities are now without electricity, internet, heat, or water. The strategy appears to be the same as in Aleppo and Grozny: murder and terrorize citizens until the city is no longer a point of resistance, due to surrender or complete razing, whichever comes first.
There are additional domains that the Kremlin is waging warn in: the cyber and information spaces. At the time of the invasion a new piece of malware was activated in Ukraine which was designed to permanently destroy all data stored on a computer. Not simply overwriting all files with garbage data but leveraging a signed disk driver to overwrite the master boot record and corrupting filesystem structures to make recovery impossible. A highly destructive and targeted attack launched right before the invasion.
And in a modus operandi that everyone should be familiar with now, the Russian government has been using every avenue of communication to get its false messages out regarding Ukraine. That the country is run by a “neo-Nazi junta” who seized power illegitimately, despite the free and fair democratic elections which elected a Jewish president.
Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations Security Council called an emergency meeting to warn of the dangers posed by biological laboratories in Ukraine. In the meeting, Russia’s top UN ambassador claimed without evidence that Ukraine in conjunction with America was gathering DNA samples from Slavic peoples to create an avian delivery system for targeting Slavs with a biological weapon. I’m not making this up, you can watch the meeting yourself.
And in recent days Russian state media has been warning that Ukraine will use chemical weapons:
“Ukrainian neo-Nazis are preparing provocations with the use of chemical substances to accuse Russia, the Ministry of Defense said.”
These are just a couple examples of a massive disinformation campaign coming out of the Kremlin. The claims are easily debunked. Ukraine is in compliance with biological safety inspections and only maintains facilities working with low-danger pathogens (BSL-1 and BSL-2) which are of no threat to anyone. Ukraine maintains no chemical or biological weapons research or weaponry, in contrast to Russia which operated the largest biological weapon program in world history and is infamous for using nerve agents to assassinate people in modern times, the only other country besides North Korea.
While the Russian government tries to convince the world of the aggressive and deadly nature of the Ukrainian threat, it is Russia that has invaded Ukraine and continues to deport and murder civilians and torture journalists in an effort to terrorize the country into submission. As of March 18th, the UN reported that about ten million civilians have fled their homes as a result of the war, with 6.5 million internally displaced and 3.2 million refugees fleeing to other countries. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 1,900 civilian confirmed casualties in three weeks, with official Ukrainian estimates much higher.
In occupied Kherson, an illustrative example, it has been hard to get news out lately because the Russian military destroyed all means of telecommunications, confiscated cell phones, disabled the internet, and only allows citizens to watch Russian propaganda on TV. There are reports of Russian plans to stage a referendum in Kherson to annex the city by Russia, as was done in Crimea. The Crimean referendum only gave voters two choices: become an independent state or become part of Russia.
Many cities with millions of residents in Ukraine are being destroyed, as can be seen on this interactive map. Endless footage of civilian casualties can be seen on cell phone recordings taken on the ground by Ukrainians. The stories from cities under siege, like Mariupol, Kharkiv, Sumy, Mykolaiv, are the same. Indiscriminate bombardment of military and non-military targets alike, mostly the latter. Attacks on critical civilian infrastructure. Attempts to block electricity, internet access, food, water, and information from reaching the city. Rounding up and arresting Ukrainians critical of Russia.
The Russian plan appears to be to seize territory that it can, and erase territory that it cannot. The new political objective remains unclear.