Scott Ritter, a commentators with solid record of good calls on foreign affairs, and particularly on Russia, says the war in Ukraine is over. Ritter says that Mariupol, expected to be the most stubborn holdout thanks to the Azov Battalion taking its stand there, has been captured:
We already have reports of Russian troops taking the city of Mariupol, supposed to be the hardest fought, that’s where the Azov Battalion is. In less than an hour the city fell. Russian troops have landed in Odessa, the tanks are pouring out of Crimea and pouring down towards Chortkiv [sp?]….It’s all over. This is a massive operation. The Urkainian military is not up to the task. I feel bad for those guys, because they’ve been led to believe they can fight the Russians. They’ve had NATO trainers there, they’ve received, you know, so called lethal weapons. Those lethal weapons were in warehouses. Those warehouses are destroyed right now. I’ve seen the explosions. They’re gone. [0:48]
Ukraine is not going to exist as it currently exists. The Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, raising hell and havoc right now, he represents a dead government. [21:40]
The fact that the outcome of the war is certain does not mean that a lot can’t still go wrong for the Russians. The government still has not surrendered and Russia has yet to take major cities like Kiev, and the major force outside Donbass, which is effectively encircled, has yet to be captured and disarmed.
As Ritter and other experts have stressed, it is not in Russia’s interest to occupy Ukraine. Russia therefore needs to continue to try to keep down the level of civilian deaths and the destruction of non-military infrastructure. That implies that Russia can’t take any holdout cities by bombardment. It would need to starve them out, which could take time.
The press reports that Macron and Putin had a heated 90 minute talk. Reuters said Putin is upping the ante. If Kiev does not come to the table soon, Russia will increase its demands. Oddly the report is based on a Kremlin account; apparently France has not yet provided its readout:
In a statement issued after the French and Russian presidents spoke by phone, the Kremlin made clear its goals included the demilitarisation and neutrality of Ukraine.
Any attempts by Kyiv to delay negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials would result in Moscow adding more items to a list of demands it has already set out, it said..
The statement said Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine was going “according to plan”. It said reports that Russian forces were bombarding Kyiv were part of an “anti-Russia disinformation campaign”, and that Russian forces were doing all they could to protect civilians.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.
A couple of days ago, Matt Levine reported no one wanted Russian assets. That’s changed. Bottom feeders are hoovering them up….although perhaps not yet enough to offset the selling pressure. From Bloomberg:
As the U.S. and allies tighten sanctions on Russia and choke off investor demand for its assets, parts of Wall Street are jumping on the buying opportunity that it’s creating.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have been purchasing beaten-down company bonds tied to Russia in recent days, as hedge funds that specialize in buying cheap credit look to load up on the assets, according to people with knowledge of the private transactions.
Bloomberg piously notes that trading Russian assets isn’t banned.
Blackrock is also increasing some Russian holdings. From Sharecast:
Private equity giant Blackrock has taken a punt on beleaguered Russian gold miner Polymetal, doubling its stake to just over 10% even as the stock takes a battering from sanctions imposed against Moscow.
Note here Blackrock is buying this stake when the giant Norwegian sovereign wealth fund is selling.