Vive la Resistance!

The dead Russian soldier’s text messages to his mother

Today is Tuesday March 1st, 2022. Kia ora!

This morning I met a friend for coffee, at a café.  I had chosen this one, but it was very busy, as things turned out. Afterwards, I went to the Johnsonville Shopping Centre to pick up a prescription.  It was pretty busy there too. I should change to the Churton Park Pharmacy. The chemist at Johnsonville doesn’t have RAT’s yet, either.

Today the news is grim. Dr Bloomfield looks increasingly flustered as he delivers the news that there are almost 20,000 recorded new community cases of Covid 19: 19,566. There are 373 people in hospital, and 9 in Intensive Care. No doubt the actual case numbers are larger than this.

Of the new cases announced on Tuesday, 2,513 were via PCR tests and 17,053 via rapid antigen tests (RATs). Speaking to media on Tuesday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield apologised for testing delays.

It’s reported that Tuesday’s active cases are in: Northland (329), Auckland (12,530), Waikato (1812), Bay of Plenty (1185), Lakes (376), Hawke’s Bay (168), MidCentral (260), Whanganui (45), Taranaki (165), Tairāwhiti (88), Wairarapa (42), Capital and Coast (691), Hutt Valley (355), Nelson Marlborough (196), Canterbury (740), South Canterbury (37), Southern (529), West Coast (17); Unknown (1).  Later in the afternoon it’s announced that 20 people connected with the protest have tested positive for Covid 19. Nearly 1,000 Countdown staff have tested positive for Covid 19, or are isolating at home because of being close contacts, and consequently there are some shortages in their supermarkets.  A pupil at Newlands College has tested positive. In Wellington, about 22% of tests are positive.

Apparently New Zealanders can come back from Australia now without the need to isolate, if they’ve been fully vaccinated.

The war in Ukraine continues, with great devastation, and brave resistance from the Ukrainian people.  It seems that Russian spies were planted in Kyiv. Some captured Russian soldiers have spoken of their regret for the harm cause to Ukraine. They thought they were going on training exercises. They look incredibly young. Some of the recordings are very moving.  It’s evident that the propaganda they were given – about defending Russian speakers in Ukraine – was nonsense.  Despite the Ukrainians’ bravery, there is much devastation. There have been pictures of someone standing in front of a tank, reminding us all of the student at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. China will not allow commemoration of that attack by Chinese forces against peaceful students. Of course there have been casualties in Ukraine, on both sides, as well as dreadful destruction of property.

I was particularly moved by the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN quite (a character in his own right) reading out text messages from a young soldier to his mother before he died. Here’s a link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2022/mar/01/ukraines-un-ambassador-reads-texts-from-russian-soldier-to-mother-before-he-was-killed-video

 I was also very moved by singing of a Jewish prayer recorded in a Synagogue in Odessa. Here’s a link to this: https://pasyn.org/video/prayer-synagogue-odessa-ukraine    

Now, in early afternoon, there’s debate about the size of bombs dropped on Kyiv. There’s a very long tank column heading there (64 km). But I’ve also seen footage of drone strikes attacking tanks. If I were Russian, I think I’d be very scared. There’s great fear for Putin’s brutal tactics, as demonstrated in Syria, even if he doesn’t use nuclear weapons.  Everyone is very afraid, but the Turks have blocked access to Russian ships through the Bosphorus Straits, and European countries are supplying weapons. There are still huge demonstrations against this war, and not only outside of Russia – within it as well. But there’s concern that Putin is so well insulated from reality that he may be unaware of the harm to the Russian economy, as well as the harm in Ukraine, and the intense opposition to his aggression.  His crazy fixed stare makes me wonder if he has Parkinson’s disease. There’s been a meeting between Russian and Ukrainian delegations, on the border with Belarus, but the fighting continues. How long can brave Zelensky keep up this resistance?  It must get harder and harder, as people yearn for some return to normality.

It’s now Wednesday February 2nd.

We are truly blest. In the past 24 hours, both our sons living overseas at present rang up.  They are well. We had good chats with them both. I learnt this morning that a convoy of tanks was still snaking its way, slowly, towards Kyiv; that there’s been very bad shelling in Kharkiv, and another city, stating with “O” (Ostryka?), has been badly damaged.  In other news, Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, has diagnosed positive for Covid 19. The terrible rain in Queensland has now moved south to NSW, and there have been several deaths; the floodwaters aren’t going away any time soon, and more rain may be on its way. Oh well, Morrison was never much use in a crisis, anyway; he was holidaying in Hawaii when they had the dreadful fires just over two years ago. But here the big news is that the police moved in early this morning to clear the protest in Thorndon. I can hardly believe it:  I daren’t look at the news, I’m so excited. Perhaps I’ll be able to shop at the lovely New World supermarket in Thorndon again.

We had an appointment in Lower Hutt this morning. Afterwards we had lunch at Tutaki, a lovely café, where the tables were well  spaced and we felt quite safe; unlike my experience yesterday where the café where I met my friend was rather busier than I felt comfortable with, and unlike some cafés, they hadn’t removed the cushions from the bench.  I later read about traffic problems in Petone, but thankfully we encountered no problems.  Another testing site has been set up at what is now the Sky (formerly Westpac) Stadium (better known as the Cake tin).  Testing sites are under pressure.

Afterwards, I caught up with local new reports.

First, Covid 19. One of my sons locally had an RAT test, but it was negative, thankfully.  My son and his wife from the UK can finally come and visit, later this month, but what are they coming to, I wonder, when we have heavy omicron infections here.  Today there are officially 22,152 community cases of Covid 19, but that is no doubt an understatement, given the delays in testing and difficulty of getting hold of RAT’s. There are 405 people in hospital, with 10 in Intensive Care. It’s reported that the new cases are in Northland (382), Auckland (13,231), Waikato (2139), Bay of Plenty (1270), Lakes (415), Hawke’s Bay (273), MidCentral (367), Whanganui (56), Taranaki (261), Tairāwhiti (137), Wairarapa (91), Capital and Coast (1115), Hutt Valley (473), Nelson Marlborough (272), Canterbury (1033), South Canterbury (36), Southern (578), West Coast (15); and eight in unknown locations. There were 8 new cases detected at the border. At 1 pm I got a message saying the 2 pm meeting of the Stroke Group had been cancelled, apologies for the short notice. I think you’d have to be brave to go anywhere you don’t have to go, right at present. My church has informed me that visiting at rest homes is cancelled for now. It’s reported that Tauranga hospital is under pressure.

The police are finally taking action to remove the protest in Parliament grounds in Wellington.  They’re reported to be  meeting with stiff resistance.  It seems this exercise was carefully planned, and began before dawn this morning. Everything is being moved; some arrests have been made, but people have been asked to go quietly. There are reports of pepper spray being used. That’s a far cry from tear gas, tasers, truncheons, or air guns. Some vehicles are being towed. 

Mid afternoon it’s reported that there are small explosions as protesters throw gas bottles on a fire at Parliament grounds. There was a warning yesterday of a possible terrorist attack there; perhaps this is what has moved police to act. There is a lot of violence and upset there, from watching the journalists’ filmed records.  There has been concern expressed about children at the protest, potentially in an environment with significant concerns about health and safety and their general well-being.  That’s within the protest. Outside, we just put up politely with the inconvenience, and wonder how much longer it will go on. There’s very little to protest against now. Oh, for level 3 or level 2, where everyone was careful! Now you scan your Covid 19 barcode reader, and show your vaccine pass, and wear your KN95 mask, and anything goes – in some places. People can still get far closer than I’m comfortable with.

Evidently it’s war down there, in the Thorndon area, and the police have vowed to stay until the job is done.

With regard to Ukraine, now. How much we have admired their bravery, and their resistance! One recalls the brave stand by the Germanic tribes under Arminius at the Teutoberg Forest in 9 A.D., where some Roman legions were lost. Some brave Germanic tribes stood up to the mighty Roman army, and won. The sanctions and moves against Russia have been awe-inspiring. Even Switzerland (ever neutral, perhaps they want to redeem their image after the Crédit Suisse debacle?) and Sweden have agreed to contribute arms to Ukraine. Yet there is a feeling that things have changed. It’s evident that Putin (or perhaps his terrified underlings) are taken aback by the concerted resistance to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the ridiculous lies that accompanied it, and yet the Russians have obviously reinforced their troops, Putin has put his nuclear what exactly on high alert, and there’s fear that he’ll use thermobaric weapons; meanwhile, civilians are dying – no one knows how many.  This wasn’t going to be over quickly. The meeting of joint delegations on the border of Belarus didn’t achieve anything; while it was underway, the attacks continued. There is talk of an “acceptable off-ramp” for Putin, but many people think he’s more than a little unhinged. There’s a lot of talk about the history of Russia, and the Russian Empire which I find really annoying; the beautiful city of Lvov/Lviv/Lemberg, now in Ukraine, has seen its borders and nationality change many times. I wanted to go there: perhaps now I won’t be able to. English lawyer Phillippe Sands’ family came from there, and he’s written an extraordinary book about it called East West Street. Different historians have different perspectives on the history of Russia/Ukraine/the Russian Empire. As I’ve said already, most people don’t do very well under an empire. There’s a strong urge towards self-determination; witness the Basque movement in Spain. Why shouldn’t New Zealand be ruled by the Māori people?  Why shouldn’t Ukraine be a country in its own right, as it clearly wants to be. Rumania and Poland (hardly a bastion of democracy) have offered support and are taking in fleeing Ukrainians. No one wants to be invaded by Russia.

It seems that there was a Russian plot to assassinate Ukrainian President Zelensky, of which details were leaked by Russians themselves, and this the plot was foiled.  He knows that he’s target number one – he said so soon after the Russian attack started.

At almost 5 pm the NZ Herald reports that parliament grounds have been cleared. The protest has moved to the street. A policeman has been injured.

Back in Ukraine, CNN has footage of an interview with President Zelensky. He’s in a bunker, is unshaven, and looks even more exhausted. He doesn’t really answer the questions, and who can blame him? He wans a no-fly zone over Ukraine, and that’s probably not going to happen.

There’s very moving footage of Zelensky speaking to delegates of the EU about fast-tracking Ukraine’s application to join; there’s also footage of a UN Human rights delegation fleeing while the unsmiling Sergei Lavrov lectures them about nuclear arms. He’s talking to himself. There are photos of the Babi Yar site, where thousands of Jews were killed.

Back here, it’s truly dramatic. Rocks are being thrown at police. There are lots of police, with riot shields. There seem to be lots of spectators. Prime Minister Ardern has spoken briefly, but this conflict is still very much alive. She spoke about the right to protest, but also about the foreign element in the protest that does not represent most New Zealanders.

There are fireworks, and alarming sounds of shooting. There are so many police! They just keep coming.  This is truly dramatic. I keep trying to figure out where we/they are. It seems like you get a good view from the Beehive balconies. The alarming sounds are thought to be rubber bullets. Lambton Quay is cordoned off. More tents are being dismantled.

Tents in the Law School grounds, of the largest and oldest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere, have been set on fire. Hopefully they don’t reach the building. The fire brigade is in attendance.

Later, there seems to be relative calm. Police are calmly, unopposed, throwing tents and debris from the grounds of the Law School.  Now (almost 7 pm) the clean up continues.

The Dompost reports that Wellington Railway Station has been closed, and all passenger services suspended over the protests. Police are urging people to stay away from the CBD. It seems just crazy that such a fight us going on here, in Wellington, while in Ukraine Putin is waging a deadly, unprovoked war against Ukraine and Ukrainians.  There’s no comparison really, but I have been shocked by the violence here. Mass hysteria can be very dangerous.

I’d like to write more about the brave Ukrainians. Perhaps I will tomorrow. Ngā mihi.

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