Russian Ukraine Mega Update
032: Best Sources, Correspondents, and War Intelligence
Welcome to the thunder-dome.
Over the last several days we’ve watched Russia launch a full scale invasion of Ukraine. And I mean that literally, we’ve watched it unfold across digital platforms and mediums at an unprecedented scale and availability. The Russians seem to have brought along their stereotypical chaotic offensive doctrine losing up to 3,500 men already according to some reports, not to mention dozens of helicopters and over 100 tanks destroyed. The Ukrainian’s have truly put off a 300-esque stand off against a pretty aggressive Russian spearhead across the entire nation.
Paratroopers, Tanks, Fight Jets, Bombers, APCs, BMPs, ballistic missiles, Anti Air, and other mediums of modern warfare have clashed in past days with unprecedented ferocity and scale. Perhaps its the history lover in me, but I can’t help but be absolutely captivated by the conflict unfolding before us and I don’t say that in a desensitized manner. I’m more in shock and awe at how quickly things actually ended up escalating.
MARKETS & CRYPTO
Quick update on markets this weekend. Not too much to report until we see how futures shape up tomorrow. Will likely depend on how much escalation there is tonight and tomorrow.
$BTC has responded well to the invasion and has anchored around the $39,000 range defying traders who were certain it would fall to $25,000. $ETH performing well too.
Recently compiled research shows that $1M to $4M in crypto has been raised and sent to the Ukrainian military since the invasion began, including a single $3 million donation early Friday.
Vitalik Buterin, the founder and developer of Ethereum, made his feelings about the crisis known this week on Twitter:
“This is a crime against the Ukrainian and Russian people,” he wrote. “I want to wish everyone safety and security, even though I know there won’t be.”
Buterin added: “Reminder: Ethereum is neutral, but I am not.”
Arb Letter will continue to cover the Russian/Ukraine crisis as news develops and we see if the Ukrainians can withstand the Russian onslaught, which according to intel has re-gathered and is preparing to move once again on all fronts. Below is a quick list of notable developments from major media sources and Twitter/Nich websites in the last 24 hours to note:
A NATO Response Force has been activated for the first time ever as a defense measure to reassure allies surrounding Russia’s border
China announces "military exercises" in the South China Sea across a 6-nautical-mile-radius from Sunday into Tuesday. Surprise Surprise.
EU is closing its airspace to Russian airlines (ARD)
Some bars and liquor stores around the world are refusing to sell Russian vodka in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to various reports
Greece is summoning Russia's ambassador after ten civilians were killed in Ukraine today
Russia is officially being excluded from SWIFT as of today (SWIFT is a key mechanism in the global financial system that supports millions of secure messages daily to facilitate bank transactions worldwide) (NPR).
Former Russian Central Bank officials say there will be a 'catastrophe' on the country's (Russia’s) currency, the ruble, during market open on Monday
Initial estimates are 3,500 Russian casualties and somewhere around 200 Ukrainian casualties recorded so far
The United Nations says it has confirmed at least 240 civilian casualties, including at least 64 people killed, in the fighting in Ukraine that erupted since Russia’s invasion (NBC News)
Russian forces bombarded Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, again on Saturday night, after a day of pitched fights around the city. Most of the more than 150,000 Russian troops who had massed around Ukraine are now fighting in the country, U.S. officials said (NY Times)
Russian forces have killed at least 198 people, including three children, and 1,115 people, including 33 children, have been wounded, according to the Ukrainian National Guard, and a U.N. official said more than 150,000 Ukrainian refugees had fled.
Historically it is of massive significance that two modern nation states have now entered into a conflict that could rather easily spill over into neighboring regions or worse NATO countries. Like never before social media so far has documented with incredible detail, modern warfare at it’s absolute purest and raw form. It’s obviously a completely inappropriate comparison but I can’t help but think back to Call of Duty or Battlefield video game story lines from my younger years. They were almost exclusively reiterations of the events we see playing out before us in Europe now and were released years ago. Wild stuff. But I digress.
What was initially a shocking and swift push into Ukraine by Russian Forces has seemingly transformed into a brief pause and stalemate, as stiff Ukrainian resistance inflicts heavy casualties on Russian Forces. Videos of Russian convoys in smolders circulated twitter and Instagram on Friday, with intense videos of fighting across the country coming out towards the evening.
Ukrainian President Zelensky posted several videos in the last 48 hours but the one he released last night with his staff and team and another this morning where he directly called out the Russian people. It is an incredible video of true leadership in the face of absolute hardship. This guy has also been on the front lines and well within the range of active combat all throughout the conflict.
Other European nations have begun to shift their stances and bulk up assistance directly to Ukraine. Hundreds of charities and fundraisers have been launched digitally for the people of Ukraine including crypto addresses to directly support the Ukrainian military. I would mention, be careful sending to random addresses and make sure you properly vet any of them.
Not financial advice.
OAF NATION - One of the best military community pages on Instagram to get recent developments and great video/content from the conflict. Usually one of the first to break new content.
ATLAS.NEWS3 - I’m new to the page but they seem to have good recent content and updates.
Bob Gourley - Co-Founder and CTO of tech and due diligence consultancy OODA LLC - Essentially the mix of tech, cyber security, and global risk analyses
Anastasiia Lapatina - Journalist from Ukraine. Ex Kyiv Post, now Kyiv Independent
Illia Ponomarenko - Defense reporter with The Kyiv Independent.
Asami Terajima - Japanese journalist based in Kyiv
The capital of Kyiv is currently under attack from rockets and what looks like air strikes. There are also videos of either supply drops or what looks like paratroopers dropping. Videos are starting to come in on Twitter and other niche internet sources. As of several hours ago the European Union and the US will start to remove Russian banks from the SWIFT system. This will have massive financial and economic consequences on Russia, particularly on the countries wealthy elite, Putin himself, and the broader business interest of the Russian Federation.
Zelensky recently commented, praising leaders for the move to cut off Russia with increasing sanctions and from the SWIFT network. These will have painful economic implications for Russia’s elite.
One of the dominant headlines today is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is supposedly “furious” that his invasion of Ukraine hasn’t been an east feat after Russian troops have been unable to take even one major city in three days of fighting, according to a member of the European Union Parliament who said he was citing Ukrainian intelligence reports (NY Post).
US Defense officials also made statements on Saturday that Russian forces are growing more and more frustrated by the strength and will of the Ukrainian resistance forces across the country. In the last several days ordinary civilians have joined with Ukrainian forces to mount a defense, making Molotov cocktails, blocking roads, creating obstacles, and even shooting at groups of Russians as well as the tires of Russian vehicles to impede their progress into different cities.
These extensions of aid from neighboring and NATO countries could give incredibly valuable momentum to an already staunch Ukrainian Defense. I thin kit’s important to mention that the so called phenomenon of fog of war is very much a thing. There is definitely fake and aged content circulating so bear in mind that if content or pieces of media are real, there can still be developing situations and context that surround said media. Don’t believe everything you see and understand that Ukraine is likely suppressing media internally among the population for security concerns about troop locations and movements/capability. Just something to keep in mind.
It remains to be seen if Russia can take Ukraine completely. The beginning days of the assault, while shocking, didn’t exactly end in victory. It seems clear that the Russians have taken strong losses and haven’t been able to complete objectives easily. They face mounting pressure from the international community and from our allies in Europe.
As I mentioned in the previous Arb Letter I think markets have largely priced in this conflict unless we see further escalation that threatens to scale the conflict rapidly. an attack or involvement of a NATO country for example would likely led to market sell offs.
Old Serbian saying: “In war the politicians give ammunition, the rich give the food and the poor give their children… When the war is over the politicians get back the leftover ammunition, the rich grow more food and the poor search for the graves of their children.”
Stay safe be grateful.