Russia Invades Ukraine, Causing Ramp-Up of Kyiv and Civilian Defenses
Russian troops entered Ukraine on Thursday, striking cities and erecting a blockade on the western side of the capital city of Kyiv as Ukrainian forces attempted to hold off the advance.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky remains in Kyiv and said that he is target “number 1” for Russian forces seeking to seize control of Ukraine. Zelensky is pushing for more sanctions to stall Russia’s progress and has offered to discuss a non-aligned status for Ukraine with Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to send a delegation to Minsk, Belarus, for talks with Ukrainian officials. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko permitted Russian troops to stage themselves along the Belarusian border before moving into Ukraine.
Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in #2WW years. As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history. 🇷🇺 has embarked on a path of evil, but 🇺🇦 is defending itself & won't give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks.— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 24, 2022
“Peskov told reporters that after the parties discussed Minsk as a possible venue, Ukrainian officials changed course and said they were unwilling to travel to Minsk and would prefer to meet in NATO member Poland,” according to the Associated Press. “They then halted further communication, Peskov said.
“Putin has claimed that the western refusal to heed Russia’s demand to keep Ukraine out of NATO prompted him to order an invasion of the neighboring country,” the Associated Press continues.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that Kyiv has entered a “phase of defense” with Russian forces launching rocket attacks on the city and striking a residential building. More than 130 Ukrainians have been killed and 316 wounded in the conflict—as of Security Management's press time—and Ukrainian officials said Russian forces were targeting civilian areas, not just military sites.
Russian and Ukrainian forces are also fighting over control of the Chernobyl site—the location of the worst nuclear accident in history, which played a role in the downfall of the Soviet Union. Chernobyl is on the shortest route between Belarus and Kyiv, making it a strategic point to control to enable the movement of Russian forces.
Ukraine's Ministry of Energy said that Russian forces are not allowing detained staff to rotate out at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, breaking safety rules and jeopardizing the "security of the entire European continent."https://t.co/Dl08w253hd— Axios (@axios) February 25, 2022
More than 50,000 people have left Ukraine amidst the conflict. Reuters reports that wait times to cross the border into Poland ranged from six to 12 hours. The United Nations estimated that the war could result in 5 million people fleeing Ukraine.
Ukraine, however, is restricting men ages 18 to 60 from leaving the country because they can be conscripted into military support. For instance, a woman who spoke with Reuters—Marta Buach, 30, from Lviv—told the media outlet that her husband was not allowed to cross the border into Poland with her.
“In Lviv it is ok, but in other cities it is really a catastrophe,” she said. “Kyiv was shelled, other small cities were shelled, we were hearing bombing everywhere. I think it is only a matter of time for it to be as dangerous as other cities.”
U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said more than $1 billion will be needed for aid operations in Ukraine over the next three months as hundreds of thousands of people flee Russia's invasion. Watch the briefing: https://t.co/OitRB9rfkl— Reuters (@Reuters) February 25, 2022
Cyber officials have issued warnings to Ukrainians about a wave of phishing attacks. Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team announced that “mass phishing emails have recently been observed targeting private ‘i.ua’ and ‘meta.ua’ accounts of Ukrainian military personnel and related individuals,” according to CyberScoop. The attacks are said to be from Belarusian hackers and would allow hackers to access victim’s messages and contact details.
The Conti ransomware operation issued an announcement on Friday afternoon that it fully supports the Russian government at this time. “If anybody will decide to organize a cyberattack or any war activities against Russia, we are going to use our all possible resources to strike back at the critical infrastructures of an enemy,” the group said in a statement shared on social media. Palo Alto Network’s Unit 42 has called Conti ransomware one of the “most ruthless of the dozens of ransomware gangs that we follow,” responsible for attacking hospitals, 911 dispatch carriers, and emergency medical services.
Russia has also been deploying disinformation strategies to amplify its claims that its justified in attacking Ukraine. The Associated Press has created a column to help verify some of the information spreading rapidly across the Internet; it includes fact checking by its personnel on the ground in Ukraine.
Russian state media has reported that it will begin restricting some access to Facebook, claiming that the social media company is violating the “rights and freedoms of Russian citizens,” Vice reports. Earlier in the week, Facebook’s Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher shared on Twitter that the company had set up a special operations center to respond to the military conflict.
On Wednesday, Gleicher wrote that Facebook “also took steps to help people in region protect themselves online. We’ve launched a new feature in Ukraine that allows people to lock their profile to provide an extra layer of privacy and security.”
1/ In response to the unfolding military conflict in Ukraine, we have established a Special Operations Center to respond in real time. It is staffed by experts (including native speakers) so we can closely monitor the situation and act as fast as possible.— Nathaniel Gleicher (@ngleicher) February 24, 2022
The EU and the United States have both implemented a variety of economic sanctions designed to deter Russia from continuing its assault on Ukraine. On Friday morning, the EU announced it will freeze Putin’s assets, as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s, as part of a second round of sanctions.
“EU officials agreed early Friday morning to sanctions that targeted finance, transportation and energy, imposed export controls, and included new visa measures,” according to The Washington Post. “They also added more Russian individuals to a sanctions list.”
Another powerful sanction that could be enacted is to cut off Russian banks from SWIFT, a high-security messaging network that connects financial institutions. Ukraine has asked for the sanction to be implemented, as well as leaders from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom.
One measure of funding that is evading sanctions, however, is cryptocurrency. More than $4 million has been sent via cryptocurrency payments to military and hacktivist groups supporting Ukraine, WIRED reports.
“Crypto is censorship-resistant, so there’s no chance they’re going to get their funds seized or their account shut down, like might happen with PayPal, and it’s also more amenable to cross-border donations,” said Tom Robinson, founder of Elliptic—a cryptocurrency tracing and blockchain analysis firm.
In a speech on Thursday morning, Putin announced he would conduct a special operation in Ukraine—which set off the attacks that have escalated throughout Friday. In his remarks, Putin claimed that a “staged coup” seized Ukraine in 2014 and is maintaining that power with the help of “ornamental election procedures,” according to a translation from the Kremlin.
Following a revolution in 2014 ousting then-President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine held a democratic election that resulted in Petro Poroshenko becoming president and set the country on a pro-European trajectory for the first time since Ukraine became an independent country.
Putin also wrongfully claimed that millions of people in Ukraine were facing “humiliation and genocide,” which has resulted in his effort to “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.”