Thursday, February 9

Germany will deliver anti-tank weapons and missiles to Ukraine

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Germany will deliver weapons to Ukraine in a major policy shift after resisting Kyiv’s previous calls for defensive weaponry. 

In its coalition agreement, the German government had agreed on a restrictive arms export policy that does not allow any weapons deliveries to crisis regions. The delivery of such weapons also has historical connotations post-World War II.  

“The Russian attack marks a change in times. It is our duty to support Ukraine as much as we can defending themselves against Putin’s invasion army. Therefore we will deliver 1,000 antitank weapons and 500 stinger missiles to our friends in Ukraine,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted Saturday after a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda.15 min ago

Ukrainian President Zelensky hints that there is consensus on SWIFT restrictions for Russia

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has hinted that there is consensus on SWIFT restrictions for Russia. 

In a statement on Saturday evening, the Ukrainian leader said “we feel Ukraine has got the support of the whole civilized world. The practical result? SWIFT.”

He hailed this as an “important victory” and “means billions and billions of losses for Russia. It is a price for a sneaky invasion into our country.”

Earlier on Saturday, the Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the “technical preparations” for Russia’s ban from the SWIFT system have begun. 

“Official decision hasn’t been processed yet, but technical preparations for making and implementing that decision have begun,” Kuleba said in a statement posted on his official Facebook page.  

Banning Russia from the SWIFT high-security network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world would cut Russia’s banks off the global financial system. The move is considered the “nuclear option” of sanctions, because while it would be very damaging to the Russian economy, it would hurt other countries, too.

A number of European countries said on Friday and Saturday that they would support cutting Russia off from SWIFT. The UK, France, Italy, Hungary, Cyprus, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Germany already indicated they would not block the sanction.

US President Joe Biden is seriously weighing whether to remove Russia from SWIFT, the high security network that connect thousands of financial institutions around the world, but has yet to make a final decision, multiple people familiar with his thinking say.

Biden says Putin’s invasion is bringing Europe and NATO closer together

US President Joe Biden, in a taped interview that aired on Saturday, said one of his major strategic goals as Russia invades Ukraine is to keep NATO and the European Union united. 

“My goal from the very beginning was to make sure that I kept all of NATO and the European Union on the same page. Because the one thing I think Putin thought he could do was split NATO, creating a great aperture for him to be able to walk through. And that hasn’t happened,” Biden told podcaster and commentator Brian Tyler Cohen.  

Biden also predicted that Russia would pay a heavy price in both the long and short term for its invasion of Ukraine, adding that the conflict is bringing Europe and NATO closer together.“He’s producing the exact opposite effect that he intended,” Biden said of Putin. 

When asked about sanctions, Biden argued that he believes it’s one of the only ways to penalize Russia without risking war on a global scale. 

“You have two options. Start a third world war, go to war with Russia, physically. Or two, make sure that a country that acts so contrary to international law pays a price for having done it,” Biden said.

He also pointed to the defense weaponry and economic assistance the US is providing Ukraine as the country continues to fend off the Russian advance. 

Germany supports SWIFT sanctions against Russia in some form

Germany has said it will support restricting Russia from SWIFT after days of debate among European Union members as to whether to include the global interbank payment system in its next round of sanctions.  

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and German Economics Minister Robert Habeck in a joint tweet on Saturday said they are “under high pressure to avoid collateral damage when decoupling (Russia) from SWIFT so it will hit the right people. What we need is a targeted and functional constraint of SWIFT.”

More background: US President Joe Biden is seriously weighing whether to publicly support expelling Russia from SWIFT, but has yet to make a final decision, according to multiple people familiar with his thinking say.

The decision to trigger the action has always been contingent on sign-off by the European Union, which has been split in a contentious debate for weeks over the action, ultimately choosing not to go forward this week.

Ukraine appealed for Russia to be removed from SWIFT after President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion on Thursday. The call from Kyiv was backed by numerous countries, including Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and the United Kingdom.

Hungary will not block sanctions against Russia, including on SWIFT, according to its foreign minister. Italy has also signaled that it would support taking measures to expel Russia from the SWIFT global payment system as part of further EU sanctions. 

Russian thermobaric “vacuum bombs” launcher seen by CNN team in Ukraine

A Russian thermobaric multiple rockets launcher has been spotted by CNN team south of Belgorod, Russia, near the Ukrainian border early Saturday afternoon. 

The TOS-1 or TOS-1A Multiple Rocket Launcher seen by CNN is capable of launching rockets with thermobaric warheads.

There is no evidence that thermobaric weapons have been used in the conflict in Ukraine.

These types of weapons do not use conventional ammunition. Instead, they are filled with high-temperature, high-pressure explosive. They are sometimes called “vacuum bombs” because they suck in the oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a powerful explosion and a large pressure wave that can have enormous destructive effects. 

Thermobaric weapons have been used in Chechnya, with horrifying consequences, according to Human Rights Watch. Their use has been condemned by number of non-governmental organizations.

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