Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has declared February 16, Wednesday, a day of unity. This date was chosen as the national day of unity as it was predicted by the United States government through intelligence reports that Russia would launch an attack on Ukrainian soil on that specific date. Instead, Russia announced that it was sending units back to their garrisons today.
In a statement released by Zelensky, he acknowledged that the situation of Ukraine is tense and that a war against them had been systematically waged from various fronts. For him, there are four fronts that Ukraine is facing: a potential military conflict on their borders; a diplomatic war where he stated that “they are trying to deprive us of the right to determine our own foreign policy course.” An energy war where they are currently experiencing shortages of natural gas, electricity, and coal, and lastly, an informational conflict where various key figures and countries (of which he did not refer to by name) are spreading panic through the media.
The signed day of unity decree asks every Ukrainian citizen in cities, towns, and villages in the country to raise the country’s flag with all residents singing the national anthem at 10 a.m. They are also advised to wear yellow and blue ribbons to show the world that the Ukrainian public is united in whatever conflict that may or may not arise.
“This is not the first threat that the strong Ukrainian people have faced. Two years ago, we, like the rest of the world, looked confused in the eyes of the pandemic. However, we united and with clear systemic steps practically defeated it. In this difficult time, the strong Ukrainian people have shown their best qualities – unity and the will to win,” the Ukrainian President said.
This statement comes after the talks between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin yielded no substantial improvements toward the crisis. It also comes after the United States had received intelligence reports that a full Russian invasion of Ukraine was to happen on February 16 starting with an incursion along the border. As a response to these reports, National Security Jake Sullivan has recommended that Americans in Ukraine should leave within 24to 48 hours. The US Embassy in Kyiv was also evacuated, with a small consulate remaining functional in Lviv for emergency communication purposes. Several other countries also followed suit.
Reports have also surfaced that the Russian government had been planning a false-flag attack, where US intelligence claiming to have discovered a ploy to create a fake video showing Ukrainians attacking Russian-speaking populations. However, when Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby and State Department Spokesperson Ned Price were pressed by journalists for evidence regarding the fake video, no substantial evidence could be given.
However, the evidence for an invasion does remain raw and sparse. In fact, just a few hours ago, Russia has begun pulling back some of its troops from the border with Ukraine as some military exercises have concluded, however, joint Belarusian-Russian military drills are still ongoing. Russian Defense Ministry Chief Spokesman Igor Konashenkov stated that several military districts were moving back to their military garrisons. US officials have remained skeptical about the significance of this withdrawal.
“Units of the Southern and Western military districts, having completed their tasks, have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and today they will begin moving to their military garrisons,” said the spokesman.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that “This day “will go into history as the day western war propaganda failed. They have been disgraced and destroyed without a single shot being fired.”
On the other hand, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dymytro Kuleba also claimed the Russian pull out as a Ukrainian win, stating that they and their allies have successfully deterred Russia from advancing and escalating the situation further.
On Russian statements regarding withdrawal of some forces from the Ukrainian border. We in Ukraine have a rule: we don’t believe what we hear, we believe what we see. If a real withdrawal follows these statements, we will believe in the beginning of a real de-escalation.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 15, 2022
With Russian troops pulling back and withdrawing, SOFREP has analyzed the intelligence work by the US and other Western countries, stating that if an invasion were to really happen in the next day or so, Russian armored formations would’ve been seen in satellite images staging closer to the border, Ukraine would be calling up its reservists and NATO would have gone to Amber alert status. We also considered whether the U.S. vastly overstated the possibility of an invasion as a diplomatic tool or whether our intelligence agencies misread what the Russians were doing in an intelligence failure not unlike our failure to assess the progress made by the Taliban in taking Kabul last year, writing,
“It is also possible that U.S. and Western intelligence agencies totally misread what was coming out of Russia and took Putin’s bluffing and posturing as a real threat of invasion. This is not entirely implausible since the rapid conquest of Afghanistan by the Taliban last year came as a complete surprise to our own intelligence agencies and the State Department, while we had assets in the country able to make on-the-ground assessments of the situation in real-time,”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also included the issues of Donbas and Crimea within their statement. He claimed that Donbas and Crimea would likely return to Ukraine exclusively through diplomacy. “We do not encroach on what’s not ours, but we will not give up our land,” said. Along with this statement, he also highlighted the full confidence and support from the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and that the country should support the military during these times of tension.
On the other hand, Russia has granted citizenship to at least 720,000 people located in Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk). The Russian parliament has also voted in favor of recognizing Luhansk and Donetsk to be independent of Ukraine, a region where Russian-backed separatists have been at war with the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 2014.
Zelensky ends the day of unity announcement statement with a message of hope and strength amidst their country’s trying times, “We believe in our own strength and continue to build our future together. Because we are united by love for Ukraine, united and unique. And love will win. Yes, now you may think it’s darkness all around. But tomorrow the sun will rise again over our peaceful sky.”