As the war enters its 7th day the number of allies Putin has in his corner continues to fall. Over the last couple of days, we have seen several Oligarchs speak out against his invasion, and even more shocking has been the several members of the Russian government itself speaking out.
One of if not the most important ways that Putin has been able to keep the power he has had over the last 20+ years in Russia resides in how he treats his Oligarchs. The billionaires that emerged from Post-Soviet Russia came from a variety of backgrounds including criminals but rather than rid the economy of these people Putin instead was able to get them to bend to his knee. If they did not a couple of things would happen and it would start with them losing everything. Even if they were able to get out of the country and into another more often than not these people did not survive. Their cause of death was in a very Soviet way done in that it provided protection to Russia and Putin.
Times have changed though, especially with these severe sanctions that are crushing the Oligarchs' ability to flee out of Russia and access funds they have implemented abroad. Neutral countries are abandoning their neutrality as the humanitarian catastrophe continues to unfold. Departments in the US government have set up task forces to track, locate, and seize any Oligarch assets they can find leading to Russian yachts fleeing to either Russia itself or countries these people think will protect their assets. Even the teenager who made huge news a few weeks ago for tracking Elon Musk and his flights across the US has turned his aim to now tracking all of the Russian Oligarch's planes and where they are going or are headed.
So far none of the oligarchs have directly attacked Putin for this war however any dissent from the wealthy and those in power is very rare in Russian politics. As of this writing, four different Oligarchs have spoken out and while this could be in an attempt to save their Western fortunes it is pretty safe to say that ship sailed. Just as equally surprising is how three members of Russia's parliament have come out against the invasion. These three members are not part of Russia's ruling party however they did vote to recognize the independence of the two Republics in the Dombas region but believe what is happening is wrong and have stated as much.
Putin has also managed to maintain a very happy relationship with Russian sports stars over the years one of the biggest is Washington Capitol Superstar Alexander Ovechkin who has even campaigned for Putin in recent years. Ovechkin and other Russian NHL stars have also made statements calling for peace in Ukraine. An issue faced with these stars is that most of them have their families in Russia still so speaking out could lead to severe or even deadly consequences. That has not stopped all sports stars though as Russian Tennis Star Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who is ranked number one in Russia and number eleven in the world has called out Putin directly and demanded a stop to the war on civilians in Ukraine. It may have taken 7 days for this to occur but now that it has it will be interesting to see if more dominos (players) begin to fall or if they leave the US/Canadia. The NHL is currently having to deal with a ton of turmoil in the league and with fans over Russians being able to play and make millions of dollars.
While all of these are bad enough for Putin as his grip on power at home is shakier than it has been in recent memory one of if not his most important ally in Europe has turned his back on him. Hungary’s Viktor Orban has been a vital partner for Russia as Hungary is in the European Union and was able to be used to oppose things that were too harsh on Russia. The devastation going on in Ukraine and the support that the Hungarian people have for their friends in Ukraine forced the Hungarian government to announce it will be enforcing the EU sanctions against Russia. Really the only thing going for the Russians right now is that China will not implement all of the sanctions. However, that does not really help the country too much economically as it still cannot access the majority of its foreign reserves since they kept those in banks abroad that have already implemented the sanctions. It will allow if China wants to accept Russian Rubles but a single Ruble is now worth less than a cent in USD. China's Yen is also under economic pressure as well given the struggles of its housing sector which has just been completely imploding and the government has been having to walk a fine line.
The Cost of War
Today the Ukrainians have updated the number of civilian casualties since the beginning of the conflict. Since this is war though true numbers are not necessarily known about the tolls this invasion has taken on all sides but so far the intelligence has been pretty close in line with Ukrainian numbers. Ukraine announced today that the number of civilian casualties had surpassed 2,000 civilians and highlighted at least 21 children have been killed as well. In their announcement, they stated that these numbers were only the ones that could be validated and Ukraine mentions the true toll could be much higher.
Yesterday the UN did release a report that put the number at 536 however yesterday we witnessed some of the most severe attacks yet including the one on Kharkiv that hit several regular cars that people were driving and then followed it up with another strike on the same place minutes later once first responders could arrive. That attack alone accounts for 11 deaths the last I checked with dozens injured and more people under the rubble they were trying to get out. The strikes at night have been much more deadly and intense as well so with the UN report only covering the first 4 nights and with how the airstrikes have begun to target residential areas, schools, hospitals, city centers, and more the number of civilian casualties is most likely going to shoot through the roof.
The Russian cost though has been significant. According to the Ukrainian government they have claimed over 5,300 Russian fatalities and Western intelligence has put it right above 5,000 deaths as well. Honestly, as I am sure you have seen even if by accident the Russians have literally left their dead behind from their assaults. When CNN was showing a column of destroyed armored vehicles yesterday that the prior night had tried to break through the defenses two charred bodies were found outside of the vehicles and they did not even look human. It is only logical to believe that often these troops in these personal carriers at least one or two of them do not make it out when it explodes. Below are the numbers from yesterday that run pretty close to what Western Intelligence has been able to see as well.
These are huge losses and other infographics show even more helicopters and planes compared to the size of the Ukrainian armed forces and the number of similar vehicles that they have. Not included in here but confirmed is that they have also managed to actually take out an anti-missile system! The biggest threat that continues to contain the Ukrainian success is they are going through the missiles provided to them quickly but those missiles are being replaced very quickly as well. This is why it has been a huge thing that Kyiv and other cities are not completely surrounded to allow for supplies to reach the defenders in the city.
As I wrote this more and more information continues to emerge about the new program the US and other powers are putting into play to track down these assets for seizure. Sanctions on Russian oil and gas remain on the table and while that could lead to a huge impact on the price of gas worldwide it would be a blow of epic proportions to Russia. Last night during his State of the Union address President Biden announced the closure of airspace to Russian planes and aviation. Again, this is a huge squeeze on the Russian Elites which will push Putin to back down or lose everything.
Ukraine has also continued to expand the different cryptos they accept for donation including big ones like Polkadot (whose founder added an additional $5 million DOT) and now the crypto of the people Doge! In 7 days they have now raised over $34 million and the vast majority of this amount has come from small hodlers and are not large million dollars at a time donations! It is showing how the people of the world can really have an impact especially as adoption continues to grow worldwide! Though some governments have advised their citizens against going to fight the Russians in Ukraine that has not stopped the drive of people to do so.
It is amazing to see that now early 836,000 people have fled Ukraine so far into neighboring countries. Those countries have gone above and beyond what they had to as civilians have set up offering supplies for as soon as they get into the country. While discrimination has been pointed out the EU and Poland have promised to address this. An issue that has not been talked about near as much is that the Ukrainians are fleeing with Ukrainian passports and IDs. With students and civilians from other countries fleeing into these countries there is an issue with these new documents that have not been expected/processed. Because the EU does not want a flood of immigrants again from the Middle East and Africa they are going to need additional paperwork to make sure that people are not coming to Ukraine to then go into the EU. When the EU and Europe overall offered all sorts of protections and documents to Ukrainians this did not apply to citizens of other countries and that is going to cause an issue that has been starting to appear. This problem does not have an easy or quick solution but hopefully, something is rapidly brokered to get these innocent lives to safety as soon as possible.