March 13 was a busy day for Putin’s War against the West on many battlefronts, starting with the main campaign against Ukraine. Here’s a sampling:
Putin’s War in Crimea: Russian administration authorities continued to conduct the affirmation exercise for Vladimir Putin (inaccurately called an “election”) on the territory of Ukrainian Crimea, illegitimately occupied by Russia. The international bridge between Russia and Ukraine that will span the Kerch Strait continues to be built without the consent of Ukraine. The Ukrainian ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol on the Azov Sea continue to be blockaded by Russia, in violation of international maritime law. Ukrainian citizens continue to be deprived of their passports and citizenship in Crimea, and the occupation regime continues to force Russian passports and citizenship upon them. Ukrainians in Crimea are conscripted into a foreign army, the Russian army, in a gross violation of international humanitarian law. The Crimean Tatars, the autochthonous people of Crimea, continue to be persecuted by the foreign invader-occupiers from Moscow.
Putin’s War in Donbas: Russian armed forces continue to bombard Ukrainian defenders and civilians along an invasion battlefront that stretches from Stanytsia Luhanska to Popasna to Svitlodarsk to Toretsk to Avdiivka to Krasnohorivka to Maryinka to Mariupol. Putin’s invasion-occupation army continues to control over 400 kilometres of the international border between Ukraine and Russia, and to deny access to the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Russia continues to send unlimited weapons, ammunition, fuel, and matériel to its two army corps invading Europe in Donbas.
Putin’s War in the United States: Trump fired his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. He did this immediately after Tillerson expressed US solidarity with the United Kingdom after the UK was attacked by Russia with chemical weapons on March 4. Russian TV propagandist Olga Skabeeva said: “Yesterday Tillerson supported Theresa May in her ‘highly likely’ Russian accusation. And Trump immediately fired him. Trump is ours!” Tillerson slammed Russia’s behaviour in his farewell statement. It seems he had a “road to Damascus” moment in his last few days as US Secretary of State. Quite likely he saw foreign analyst reports and intelligence community reports and what they told him about Russia at war disturbed him greatly. Tillerson was by no means a great Secretary of State, but he did not lift sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine, as many feared he would do. Trump has a consistent record of never criticizing Putin or Russia, and of not tolerating those who do. Trump had an opportunity to stand by US ally Britain and to defend US foreign policy interests in resisting Russian aggression, but he sided with Putin instead. Trump chose not to support Britain in its effort to bring Russia to account for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury. Ukraine has no hesitation in standing by Britain in its time of need, and Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin said that he is certain it will be proven that Russia is behind the poison attack and that Ukraine will support the UK. On March 14, Foreign Minister Klimkin strongly backed Britain’s punitive measures against Russia, and urged every country in the world to boycott the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Putin’s War in the United Kingdom: Britain presented proof that Sergie Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned with a Russian nerve agent, Novichok. 21 people were hospitalized in the March 4 attack in Salisbury, England. On March 13, Nikolai Gushkov was found dead in London. Gushkov was a prominent critic of Putin, and a friend of Boris Berezovsky (also a critic of Putin, who died in 2013 either from suicide or ‘foul play’ – an inquest could not determine which). Gushkov had said that he was certain Berzovsky was murdered. About Gushkov’s death, Russian newspaper Kommersant, owned by Putin-Kremlin crime syndicate member Alisher Usmanov, reported there were “traces of strangulation on his neck.”
Putin’s War in Cyberspace and “The Fifth Estate”: Ukrainian journalist Gosha Tykhyi reported on Twitter: “Popular Ukrainian social media users are being banned on a massive scale. Russian bots complain over old posts. May be a sign of escalation!” A prominent translator of battlefront witness accounts from Donbas, known as English Luhansk, was suspended by Twitter for two days by the abuse of clumsy algorithms by Russian trolls and ‘bot’ accounts. Meanwhile, Russian information warriors continued to spread disinformation about the March 4 nerve agent attack in Salisbury, on a scale not matched since Russia shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with a BUK missile on 17 July 2014.
Putin’s War in Syria: Russian Air Force bombers attacked civilians in East Ghouta, in violation of United Nations Security Council resolution 2401 (2018), passed on February 24 by a vote of 15 in favour to none against with zero abstentions. Russia itself voted for the ceasefire it is now breaking. Casualties from Russia’s bombing are unknown, but the number of unarmed civilians who are killed and injured is very high.
March 13 passed, and Russia had not responded positively to Britain’s ultimatum over the nerve agent attack in Salisbury. Russia escalated its aggression against the West in every theatre of Putin’s War, instead of choosing the path of peace. The world awaits the British government’s response, as the UK defends its sovereignty and the well-being of its citizens from Russian aggression.