At War

Russia attacks Ukraine

It’s now Thursday February 24th, 2022. Kia ora.

During the night I listened to podcasts about the history of Ukraine. What a sad one, where borders changed repeatedly, as they did over much of northern Europe.  It seems that a sense of place, of ownership, is really important, even though it may be built up over a relatively short number of decades. Poor Ukraine!  Putin, after delivering a maudlin speech, is showing all the tactics of being a thug. It seems he’s taken over Belarus, the Russian troops there aren’t leaving any time soon; and Ukraine is, of course, threatened.  A fine speech was made by the Kenyan Ambassador to the UN, talking about the evils of empire, and the haphazard demarcation of boundaries in Africa. I am hearing a lot about the history of Ukraine, and debates about the sanctions delivered so far; it’s really unsettling that senior people on the far right wing (like Trump and Pompeo) in the US are decrying Biden’s moves, and praising Putin’s. Hey, guys, what about the Budapest Agreement? It’s clearly forgotten by many people.  If you look at a map of Ukraine, it’s pretty much surrounded by Russian troops, especially now that Putin has neutralised Belarus. As ever, truth is a casualty of this conflict: there are reports that citizens of the “breakaway republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk are asking for Russian help, and other reports that no, they don’t want to be part of Russia. The whole thing has escalated fast, after weeks of inaction; it’s said that parts of Ukraine will be muddy soon, making movement of troops and tanks on the ground very difficult. 

With regard to sanctions, the general agreement is that UK imposed sanctions are very weak; US sanctions are potentially very strong; and that the German Chancellor’s action in delaying certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is very significant, although it should be remembered that it wasn’t operational yet. Apparently if sanctions are lifted on Iran it could supply plenty of oil. There are arguments, of course, about thee timing and effectiveness of sanctions on Russia.

Ukraine has declared a state of emergency, and has asked its 3 million citizens who live and work in Russia to leave. Kyiv has mobilised its reserves, and people are buying guns.  It’s thought Putin may attack tonight. Lieut-Colonel Alexander Vindman (Retd) is predicting “shock and awe”. President Zelensky of Ukraine is vowing to defend his country.

Last night there was a skirmish between police and protesters in the grounds of Parliament. Protesters moved one of the heavy concrete bollards, and allowed several (about 100) vehicles to enter the grounds. There was some violence.

This morning I went to Tai Chi. It was lovely, and there was a huge turnout.  There is a limitation on numbers of 100 in the large hall – we are well short of that. It’s quite possible to “socially distance” there.

Afterwards, I read a few pages while I am waiting to be picked up. I don’t want to get the train from there at present. I have almost finished An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris, about L’Affaire Dreyfus. It is such an interesting book, and tells a great deal about the times – late 1800’s/early 1900’s in France, and the French army.  I would like to read it again, but I suspect I won’t.

Then I catch up with today’s news here in Wellington, New Zealand. Apparently we are to move to Phase 3 of the government’s omicron response at midnight tonight. Given that more than 5,000 new community cases are expected today, everything changes.  More RAT’s will be available, and people are expected to notify their close contacts (now other household members), and isolate for 10 days, I think. Close contacts should isolate for 7 days. But basically, you’re on your own, now, scary as that may be. RAT’s will be the primary testing method.

As it turns out, there are 6,137 reported new community cases today, with 205 people in hospital, including 2 in Intensive Care. Of these, over 2,000 were diagnosed through use of RAT’s. Another person has died at Middlemore Hospital. The protest camp at parliament is now deemed a ”high risk” location of interest; it was visited by hundreds of people over the weekend, so that poses a danger too. The only other locations of interest in Wellington seem to be airline flights – heaps of them. Evidently there are two sex offenders at the protest, wearing ankle bracelets. There have also been more vile threats. Ambulances are under pressure, with several staff off sick or isolating, and added demand for their services. Patients are waiting up to 12 hours in Auckland, in some cases, for an ambulance. It’s reported that 2,624 RAT’s were used to diagnose positive cases.

Cases diagnosed through PCR tests are in: Northland (56), Auckland (1979), Waikato (314), Bay of Plenty (116), Lakes (75), Hawke’s Bay (30), Mid Central (69), Whanganui (13), Taranaki (30), Tairāwhiti (26), Wairarapa (11), Capital and Coast (120), Hutt Valley (68), Nelson Marlborough (112), Canterbury (194), South Canterbury (3), Southern (305) and the West Coast (4).

Cases found through rapid antigen tests (RATs) are in: Northland (24), Auckland (1900), Waikato (163), Bay of Plenty (75), Lakes (16), Hawke’s Bay (30), Mid Central (8), Whanganui (4), Taranaki (4), Tairāwhiti (0), Wairarapa (4), Capital and Coast (44), Hutt Valley (5), Nelson Marlborough (11), Canterbury (43), South Canterbury (3), Southern (290). No RATs in West Coast district health board area returned positive results. Combined, that’s a lot of cases in the Wellington area.

Rotorua’s mayor, Steve Chadwick, got Covid 19, despite being fully vaccinated and generally fit and healthy. She was very ill, but is recovering now. Infected students in Dunedin are planning to hold a Covid party – a move police called highly irresponsible.

It seems to me that there’s little to protest about now, given that we’re all on our own, and self-responsibility is key. I realise it must have been upsetting to lose your job, if you refused to be vaccinated, but I wouldn’t want an unvaccinated person caring for my daughter or teaching my grandchildren. That says it all, really.  We have a very safe and effective vaccine; you don’t have to have it if you don’t want to. Sadly, in most families there’s one hangout, someone who refuses to be vaccinated, no matter how young the grandchildren, or how frail the elderly parents. It’s not as though the middle so-called adult generation are immune, either. Thankfully there are no vaccine-deniers in my immediate family.  Apparently a convoy protest is planning to march on and settle in Washington D.C., in time for Biden’s State of the Union address.  DC police have been warned.

This afternoon (4:22 pm) I learn that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is all on. There is rhetoric, of course, but the invasion is on.  Before I go to bed, it’s evident that Russian troops are attacking several sites in Ukraine. President Zelensky has imposed martial law over Ukraine.  We watch some Youtube footage of cities in eastern Ukraine; some cars are trying to leave; there isn’t much other traffic about. People are withdrawing money from banks. Otherwise, things are quiet.

Back here, there has been another clash between police and protesters.

It’s now Friday, February 25th.

This morning I learn there is still more devastation in Ukraine. The Chernobyl area has been taken by Russian troops. Evidently there have been protests in Russia against this war, and some arrests have been made. Some sanctions have been imposed by the West, although evidently the EU is holding out on denying Russia access to the Swift international payment system. With regard to sanctions: are they ever enough? Are they effective? The  threat of sanctions did nothing to deter Putin from this attack, it seems. Although Russian troops  had been building on Ukraine’s borders for some time, the attack, when it came, was sudden and severe. Poor, poor Ukraine! They’ve had border changes, tragic things happening under Stalin, such as the collectivisation of the kulaks, and the Holodomor, the dreadful famine of the 1930’s, caused by Stalin. There is a very good film about it called Mr Jones. Stalin evidently knew who his political enemies might be, and sought to eliminate any resistance by killing them or imprisoning them. Then they had the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. They tried to cover it up, as they had other nuclear disasters, but this one was the beginning of the end for the USSR, and Ukraine became a country in its own right in 1991. Under the Budapest Treaty, its independence was guaranteed by Russia, the US and the UK, provided Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons. That guarantee seems well forgotten, now. As at early afternoon, the death toll  was 137. It’s reported that Ukrainian staff are being held hostage at Chernobyl. There’s potential for significant threats there.

Here in New Zealand, we moved to Phase 3 of the government’s omicron response last night. I wonder what the protesters have left to protest about, seeing that most Covid 19-related restrictions have gone now.  Schools are very hard hit: Tawa College has had 4 students test positive’ hundreds of students in Dunedin have tested positive; and a principal of a school in Hamilton has talked about a “tsunami” of Covid 19 cases. A Tauranga café has more staff ill or isolating than well – the owners are having to turn their hand to dishwashing.  It’s said that yesterday’s new case tally of over 6,000 is probably only a third of actual cases.

This morning I got my hair cut and coloured. It was lovely at the salon: they looked after me very well, and there weren’t many people there. Afterwards JD and I debated having lunch at one of our favourite cafés, but decided it was safest to buy something to take home from Nada’s Food Truck in Tawa. I think the food truck is a genius move, although they don’t have all the items on sale that you can usually buy from the shop.

Today’s tally is 12,011 (that’s almost double yesterday’s); there have been 5 deaths, and there are 237 people in hospital, with three of them in Intensive care. . People have died in Auckland (2), Waikato (2) and Tauranga (1). More than 8,000 positive results were detected using RATs.

The total number of cases found through a PCR test is 3807 and the total number of cases found through RATs is 8223.

Of the cases diagnosed through a PCR test, it’s reported that 1,585 are in Auckland, Waikato (388), Bay of Plenty (297), Northland (46), Lakes (23), Hawke’s Bay (54), MidCentral (112), Whanganui (13), Taranaki (37), Tairāwhiti (34), Wairarapa (10), Capital & Coast (182), Hutt Valley (85), Nelson Marlborough (79), Canterbury (355), South Canterbury (13), Southern (524), West Coast (6) and Unknown (1).

The PCR testing positivity rate in the past 24 hours is 12.3 per cent.

Positive RATs were returned as follows: Northland (87), Auckland (6403), Waikato (544), Bay of Plenty (338), Lakes (140), Hawke’s Bay (40), MidCentral (41), Whanganui (5), Taranaki (11), Tairāwhiti (18), Wairarapa (4), Capital & Coast (77), Hutt Valley (20), Nelson Marlborough (23), Canterbury (114), South Canterbury (5), Southern (343), West Coast (3); Unknown (7). There are 19 cases at the border.

We are in the thick of this current wave; let’s hope it peaks soon. These are scary times. 

I am listening to lots of podcasts about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian troops are attacking Kyiv. Peace be with you. Ngā mihi.

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