EU’s Ukraine ‘Disgrace’: Russian Assault Continues as West Supplies Weapons and Imposes SWIFT Ban

Written by | Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

The Ukrainian people deserve EU membership, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a defiant and emotional address on Saturday (26 February), as at least 150,000 citizens of the country undergoing a Russian invasion are reported to have sought refuge in neighboring Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Intense fighting over the weekend appeared to stem some of the Russian advance towards the capital, Kyiv, after another night of explosions and gunfire, with reports of hundreds of casualties in the fighting. Ukrainian forces are battling Russian troops on the streets of Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv, according to local officials. The advance came after missiles rained down overnight (26-27 February), prompting the authorities to urge its 1.4 million residents to stay indoors. Ukrainians fighting to fend off Russian forces closing in on Kyiv are asking for weapons shipments including anti-tank weapons, as EU countries showed signs they are willing to cut themselves off from Russia financially.
Meanwhile, in what is widely hailed as a historic reversal in Berlin’s long standing policy of never sending weapons to the conflict zone, Germany said it will supply Ukraine with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles from Bundeswehr stocks so it can defend itself against Russian aggression. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point. It is our duty to do our best to support Ukraine in defending itself against Putin’s invading army,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Saturday. The Ukrainian president welcomed Germany’s decision. Before Saturday’s turnaround, senior Ukrainian officials had been complaining bitterly for weeks about Berlin’s refusal to allow arms shipments to bolster Ukraine’s defenses. The details of Ukraine’s requests to NATO are classified so as not to expose gaps in Kyiv’s military capabilities — but they reportedly include anti-tank and anti-aircraft rockets, small arms and ammunition. The Dutch government also announced it will send 50 Panzerfaust-3 anti-tank weapons and 400 rockets to Ukraine. The Netherlands is also jointly considering with Germany sending a Patriot air defense system to a NATO battle group in Slovakia.
The EU, US and UK also finally reached an agreement Saturday to cut “selected” Russian banks out of the SWIFT global payment system and also to impose ”restrictive measures” on Russia’s Central Bank. The measures were announced jointly and mark a major escalation of sanctions targeting Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. “This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “All of these measures will significantly harm Putin’s ability to finance his war and they will have a severely eroding impact on his economy,” she said. “Putin embarked on a path aiming to destroy Ukraine, but what he is also doing in fact is destroying the future of his own country.” This comes after the former Polish Polish President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk, broke with normal diplomatic niceties on Friday (25 February) and launched a blistering attack on Germany, Hungary and Italy, saying they have “disgraced themselves”, voicing his disgust at the “pretend” strength of overnight European sanctions on Russia. “You should be ashamed of yourselves for the rest of your lives that you left us all alone at this moment to face Russian aggression,” Ukraine’s former ambassador to the EU, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, lambasted the EU leaders who added to these voices. “Yesterday I evacuated my family from the city and if anything was to happen to them, you should feel ashamed for the rest of your lives,” he added, voicing raw emotion.
Faced with what could be the biggest inflow of refugees in its history as a result of fighting in Ukraine, the EU still seems reluctant to go into its highest response mode to accommodate what could potentially be millions of frightened and hungry people. At least 150,000 people have so far fled Ukraine into Poland and other neighboring countries, some having walked many miles through the night while others fled by train, car or bus, forming lines kilometers long at border crossings. Those arriving were primarily women, children and the elderly after the Ukrainian president prohibited men of military age from 18 to 60 from leaving. Meanwhile, thousands of people took to the streets in cities across Europe, and all around the world over the weekend to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In Georgia, a country that was the victim of a Russian invasion in 2008, some 30,000 people turned out in the capital Tbilisi. In Tallinn and Helsinki, several thousand people congregated at several anti-war protests, while at the Place de la République in Paris, several hundred demonstrators chanted “Putin assassin”, “Putin terrorist”. In Rome, thousands of people marched in a torchlight procession to the Colosseum, carrying banners with slogans such as “Putin, assassin!”, “Yes to peace, no to war”, “Banish Swift’s Russia”.

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