Ukrainian president offers to arm anyone who will fight, as Russian assault continues

Russian tank fires in the snow

Citizens who want to fight Russia will be given weapons. That’s the promise of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky as the Russian assault on the country continues. Targets in Ukraine were hit early on Thursday. Months of posturing are now over.

Up to 50 people are reported dead, including civilians, as airstrikes hit targets inside Ukraine. Zelensky tweeted that sanctions would be lifted on all citizens, allowing anyone willing to defend the country by force to take part:

Russia’s vastly superior numbers are no secret. So, the idea of arming the population smacks of desperation. Western allies rallied to the Ukrainian cause. Among them Boris Johnson:

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Expansion

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the invasion, speaking of Russia’s “renewed aggression”. But while Russian ambitions have been the western focus, the alliance’s own expansion into Russia’s sphere of influence, which many critics cite as key context in the current situation, went unmentioned:

Military exports

Anti-war voices also made themselves heard. They included Labour MP Dawn Butler-Brent. She expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people and with antiwar advocates. She also called for tough sanctions on British arms sales to Russia. The first layer of UK sanctions, aimed at only three individuals and five banks, were criticised as being weak:

Misinformation 

Amid reports Russian jets had been shot down, there were warnings about misinformation. One BBC fact-checker said a video circulating of Russian troops raising a flag in Ukraine was from 2014. And another of a jet coming down was actually from Libya in 2011.

Turmoil

And Ukrainians are also feeling the bite. With the country’s central bank placing limits on bank withdrawals, there are fears of economic turmoil.

US President Joe Biden promised his support. But as ground forces and air attacks rock Ukraine, a promise of more talks must appear impotent to many:

Stocks plunge

But the overall financial impacts of the conflict began to show straight away. Russian stocks plunged as the fighting started. Al-Jazeera reported the Russian currency had hit an all-time low against the US dollar. The effects this will have domestically aren’t yet clear:

Confusion

Confusion reigns in Ukraine. And in an age of misinformation, it is hard to get a picture of what is happening on the ground. Yet, it is clear is that Vladimir Putin feels confident enough to launch strikes within Ukraine. This could mean international rivals no longer view the US and its allies as seriously as before. And as the bombs land and the death tolls rise, Zelensky’s offer to arm the population could be both a deadly and desperate move.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Russian Defence Ministry, cropped to 770 x 440, licenced under CC BY 4.0

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