Friday 25 February 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 25/2/2022

The Monocle Minute

Breaking news / Ukraine

Kyiv under attack

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has entered its second day. There have been reports of air strikes and fierce fighting in cities across the country, including in the southeastern port city of Mariupol and the northern reaches of the capital, Kyiv. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered a full military mobilisation and confirmed that at least 137 Ukrainians soldiers and civilians were killed yesterday; the UK’s defence minister says that as many as 450 Russian soldiers have been killed in the fighting as well. All Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 have been barred from leaving the country and Ukraine’s defence ministry has said that even military veterans above the age of 60 are being called back into service.

Attention is turning to the battle for Kyiv, which was rocked by explosions in the early hours of this morning as Russian tanks reached its outskirts, aiming to encircle the city. Blasts and fighting were later heard closer to the centre of the capital, with reports that Russian troops had entered its northern district of Obolon and potentially infiltrated other parts of the city. The US believes that Russia is seeking to overthrow the Ukrainian government, while Zelensky has accused Moscow of wanting to “liquidate” him and his family and destroy Ukraine politically. That claim seemed to be backed by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in a combative press conference with reporters this morning. Lavrov said that Russia was open for negotiations if Ukraine’s army agreed to a surrender and that his nation’s goal was to free the Ukrainian people from “oppression”.

Earlier today, Emmanuel Macron had a “frank” phone conversation with Vladimir Putin at the behest of Zelensky, whose calls to the Kremlin have not been taken. These efforts at halting the fighting come as the EU yesterday joined the US and UK in announcing a raft of new sanctions on Russia. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen hailed the “massive and targeted” measures as a show of European unity, after talks among EU leaders ran late into Thursday night. However, the bloc is likely to face criticism for leaving out the importing of Russian gas. The pressure is also likely to be back on for Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz, after he resisted calls from Washington and London to cut Russia off from the Swift international banking payments system. Attention today will turn to an emergency summit of the Nato military alliance’s 30 members.

Yulia Marushevska, an anti-corruption activist and one of the faces of Ukraine’s 2014 Euromaidan protests, spent the night in a bomb shelter in Kyiv and described the mood in the city on this morning’s edition of The Globalist. “It’s a real war that has started in Ukraine,” she said. “It’s shocking and I can’t believe that it is happening in the heart of Europe. I don’t think that Kyiv will fall but there is a danger that a lot of people will become victims of Putin’s craziness. Kyiv will stay to the end. But it may cost all of us too much.”

Read more from Monocle’s editors and correspondents below and tune in to Monocle 24’s news shows throughout the day for the breaking news on Ukraine.

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Lord

On penalty

“Putin chose this war and now he and his country will bear the consequences.” So says Joe Biden, who addressed his nation in grave awareness that every economic sanction, every threat he has laid down in recent days, failed to deter Russia on the road to war. But this round of “devastating” sanctions, co-ordinated with western allies, isn’t close to the kinds of controls that the US puts on Iran.

Yes, there are asset freezes on four major Russian banks, including those of the second-largest, amounting to about $250bn (€220bn) assets in total; there are limitations on exports to Russia; and there is further economic blacklisting for Kremlin insiders. But there’s still room in all this for Putin to wriggle. Russian access to the Swift payment network remains intact, direct sanctions on its oil and gas exports are absent (even as, perversely, the price of oil rises) and personal sanctions for Putin are “on the table” but not in place. “Why not sanction him today?” one reporter asked Biden. “What more are you waiting for?” asked another.

Indeed, these are the questions being asked all over Capitol Hill. The divided nation can at least agree that, as Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell put it yesterday, the US needs to “ratchet up” the pressure if it wants to stop the Russian march across Ukraine. As tanks move to encircle Kyiv, Nato leaders will convene today for an emergency summit. The question is whether delaying the “mother of all sanctions” will end up costing the West its credibility – and Ukraine even more dearly.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Turkey

Picking sides

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has drawn understandably sharp criticism from Russia’s opponents and predictable support from its allies. But Turkey’s reaction has been more muted than its Nato peers, as headlines in the country show (“Turkey calls on Russia to stop unlawful operation,” reads one article in Hürriyet). Ankara has previously opposed sanctions on Russia but has also called Russian steps against Ukraine “unacceptable”. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has since called the invasion a “heavy blow to regional peace and stability” and said that Turkey “rejects” Russia’s military operation. Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, is now calling on Ankara to close the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits to Russian warships, after Ankara allowed six Russian ships through to conduct drills near Ukraine’s waters earlier this month. But the real question is whether Erdoğan’s words precede action: Turkey sells advanced drones to Ukraine but has also forged close ties with Russia on defence. It might prefer to sit this fight out.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / China

Past precedent

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying (pictured) notably refused to use the term “invasion” to describe Russia’s advance into Ukraine yesterday, saying that it was a “prejudiced” word. In the lead-up to yesterday’s attack, China had said that it supported the territorial integrity of nations but Hua also questioned the role of the US in driving Russian action against Ukraine. “When the US drove five waves of Nato expansion eastward all the way to Russia’s doorstep, did it ever think about the consequences of pushing a big country to the wall?” she said.

The relationship between China and Taiwan has also drawn notable comparisons to the Russia-Ukraine dynamic. Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen said that her country must ramp up military surveillance and combat misinformation, cautioning against “foreign forces intending to manipulate the situation in Ukraine and affect the morale of Taiwanese society”. Beijing responded swiftly and ominously: “Taiwan is not Ukraine. Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China.”

Image: Getty Images

Energy / Europe

No pain, no gain

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine comes amid an already fraught situation in global energy markets. A lack of investment in new oil and gas supplies over several years, a post-pandemic economic resurgence – the world’s thirst for oil is expected to reach record highs this year – and a global gas shortage have all contributed to a sharp recent rise in energy prices. Now governments and businesses around the world “cannot afford any supply disruptions”, says UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo. “If we’re worried about the world’s second-largest oil exporter [Russia] then the market will be very nervous,” he says. If the West or Russia turn off the taps, using pricier tankers could push record prices even higher. Further down the line, Europe may reduce its dependence on Russian energy by building up its gas storage, pressing ahead with renewables projects and asking Saudi Arabia and the UAE – two of the very few major oil producers not maxing out their capacity – for more fossil fuels. Still, western nations must prepare for some economic pain in their bid to sanction Russia.

Image: Shutterstock

Society / UK

Acts of resistance

Slava Ukraini (“glory to Ukraine”). Those were the loudest cries heard outside Downing Street yesterday as protesters amassed in anger and solidarity against the Russian invasion. Led by Natalia Ravlyuk, co-founder of the charity British-Ukrainian aid, the rally began with songs and prayers from members of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church and continued with activists’ calls for punitive action against Russia from the UK. When asked what she wanted from the UK’s response, Ravlyuk told The Monocle Minute, “Sanctions now. Isolation from Russia by all means. We’ve been talking about this for eight years. They let Putin do what he wants and we’re now in the sad reality of war.” The several hundred people, many draped in blue-and-yellow flags, clutching at placards and begging for an end to war, won’t be disappearing any time soon. “I’m ready to mobilise thousands of people,” says Ravlyuk. “We’ll be organising an ongoing rally, if we can, every single day.”

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Value Retail

Value Retail founder and chairman Scott Malkin calls in at Monocle’s Zürich HQ for a discussion with editorial director Tyler Brûlé. Picking up a conversation that they began in early 2020, Malkin reflects on retail, property, great brands and the status of luxury – and explains why he remains positive despite the headwinds. Plus: a report from Japan that shows why the primacy of “customer first” is as true for a small Tokyo homeware shop as it is for a global giant in luxury retail.

Monocle Films / Global

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