Photo: Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu

Saturday’s Coverage: Putin Staging “Re-Election” on March 17

Map: Institute for the Study of War


Bypassing a border blockade by Polish truckers, Ukraine has transported a first convoy of trucks to Poland by rail.

“The truck consignment arrived in Poland by rail. The Ukrainian and Polish parties have agreed on all issues related to the transport and customs and border procedures,” said Ukraine State railways Ukrzaliznytsia. “The trucks will continue to their destination by road,”

The Polish truckers have blocked three crossings with Ukraine since November 6. They are demanding that the European Union end the waiver of permits for Ukrainian drivers and that they get acress to Ukraine’s markets.

Last week Ukraine and Poland opened another crossing to truck traffic.


Associates of Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a long-time ally of Vladimir Putin, are meeting Republicans in Washington to press for the end of US military support for Ukraine.

Márton Ugrósdy, the Deputy State Secretary for Orbán’s political director, pro-Orbán academic Attila Demkó, and members of the Hungarian Embassy in Washington are attending a two-day event hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation from Monday.

The closed-door talks, including Republican members of Congress, will be on Tuesday.

Hard-right Republicans and Trumpists in the House of Representatves have blockaded a Biden Administration request for budget authorizeation of $61.4 billion for Ukraine since October.

Earlier this week Senate Republicans enabled the blockade by defeating a proposal supporting the Biden request, which also includes aid for Israel, Taiwan, and the Asia-Pacific region. The GOP legislators are blackmailing the Administration to make draconian measures on asylum-seekers and migrants the priority.

See also

Ukraine War, Day 653: Russia Celebrates Republicans Blocking US Aid to Kyiv

While Hungary is a member of the European Union and NATO, the Orbán Government has held up EU aid to Kyiv, sanctions over Russia’s invasion, Swedish accession to NATO, and negotiations for Ukraine’s membership in the EU.

A “diplomatic source close to the Hungarian embassy” said, “Orbán is confident that the Ukraine aid will not pass in Congress. That is why he is trying to block assistance from the EU as well.”


Four Ukraine civilians were killed and seven wounded overnight by Russian attacks on residential areas.

The fatalities were in the regions of Kherson in the south, Donetsk in the east, and Kharkiv in the northeast.

A dormitory, 12 houses, an educational institution, and infrastructure facilities were damaged, said former Ukraine Deputy Prosecutor General Gyunduz Mamedov.


Russian officials detained American-Russian dual national Yuri Malev in St. Petersburg on Saturday over social media posts.

Authorities claimed Malev was “rehabilitating Nazism” when he “expressed clear disrespect for society and the days of military glory”. They claimed photos displaying the St. George’s ribbon in an offensive manner.

Malev arrived in Russia via Estonia just two weeks before his detention. He faces up to five years in prison.


One person was killed and four injured in Russian shelling of the Kherson region of southern Ukraine on Saturday.

Kherson Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said Russia carried out 71 attacks with 264 shells from mortars, artillery, Grad rockets, tanks, drones, and aircraft.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: The Zelenskiy Government and Ukraine’s military are preparing for a lengthy fight against Russia’s 21 1/2-month invasion.

The US-based Institute for the Study of War assesses that Ukrainian forces are setting aside the gradual gain of a 6-month counter-offensive, in the east and south of the country. They are consolidating defense against a Russian attempt to seize the initiative in eastern Ukraine, notably through its two-month assault on the town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region.

See also Ukraine War, Day 649: Russia Assault on Avdiivka Slows

Russia has only captured one Ukrainian city, Bakhmut in Donetsk, since July 2022. However, similar to its year-long “human wave” assaults on Bakhmut, Russia is sustaining heavy loss — estimated at about 1,000 casualties per day — in the effort to overrun Avdiivka.

Avdiivka is about 20 km (12.5 miles) from Donetsk city, the center of Russia’s occupation in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

The ISW explains, “Russian forces have likely committed to offensive operations in multiple sectors of the front during a period of the most challenging weather of the fall-winter season in an effort to seize and retain the initiative prior to the Russian presidential elections in March 2024.”

On Friday, in a conversation at a Kremlin ceremony, Vladimir Putin — already in power for more than 20 years — said he will run in the staged election on March 17.

In interviews with the Wall Street Journal, “Western diplomats and military strategists” agree that Ukraine is preparing for conflict through 2025, digging in to prevent any Russian advances.

Last week Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ordered the construction of an extensive network of battlefield fortifications. Speaking on Armed Forces Day last Wednesday, Zelensky noted the difficulty of liberating occupied areas but asked and answered, “Is there really an alternative? No.”

Amid uncertainty in the US over the future of American aid to Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany must be ready to continue assistance to Kyiv until 2025: “That is why, if necessary and as others are paring back, we must be able to possibly make an even greater contribution.”

See also Ukraine War, Day 653: Russia Celebrates Republicans Blocking US Aid to Kyiv

Scholz addressed Vladimir Putin: “He should not and cannot count on us giving in.”