Tuesday, 8th March, 2022

[Day 722]

Today is my Pilates day so to some extent, this dictates how the day is going to shape up. It seemed to be quite a fine morning although a chill wind was blowing. Nonetheless, Meg and I went down to collect our newspaper and then made our way into the park. As we were a little conscious of the passing of time, we occupied some of the benches overlooking the lake where we consumed our coffee and ate our biscuits (well, Meg did – I treat myelf to an orange to cut down on the carbs) Then we had plenty of time to get home and I put some fishcakes in the oven before i departed for my Pilates class, which I must have been doing for about 9-10 years by now. Our sessions are organised into six-week blocks and we typically have a mini-period of relaxation in week 3 and a somewhat longer one at the end of the final week of the block, week six. However, if any one has a birthday in the preceding week (which one of our number had) then our Pilates teacher relents a little and allows us 5 minutes of relaxation at the the end of the session. My contribution to this is that I nearly always manage to fall into a sleep before the end of the 5-minute relaxation session and I gently chide my teacher if she fails to induce me to sleep.

This afternoon after which we had our lunch and a doze the TV event of the afternoon was to witness the historic video link by means of which President Zerlenskyy made the first ever address by a foreign leader to the House of Commons. Sky News reports the ‘first ever address’ but a quick Google search indicates a list of about 50 people from 1939 onwards who have addressed a joint meeting of the House of Commons so I find this claim a little misleading. But an interesting political development has emerged this afternoon. A fascinating report has been published in the Jerusalem Post this afternoon, which quotes sources it says were privy to a meeting three days ago between Israeli PM Naftali Bennett and Vladimir Putin. This reports indicates that the gap between Putin and Zerlenskyy is not as great as popularly supposed. The report indicates that Zelenskyy can fortify Ukraine’s independence but will have to pay a heavy price. Assumptions are that he will be forced to give up the contested Donbas region, officially recognise the pro-Russian dissidents in Ukraine, pledge that Ukraine will not join NATO, shrink his army and declare neutrality. If he declines the proposal, the outcome may be terrible: thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of Ukrainians will die and there is a high probability that his country will completely lose its independence. It is slightly difficult to know what to make of this report. One might not have been totally surprisd if this report had surfaced in about a fortnight from now after the Russians had totally over-run and were, in theory, in control of Ukraine. On the other hand, and against all of the odds, it does seem that there is today a prospect that the Ukraine will not actually lose this conflict. There seem to be inflicting casualties on the Russian troops (about 12,000 by their own reckoning, but about 3,000-4,000n according to America’s CIA) The apparent superiority of the Russian military machine must be tempered by the knowledge that many of the raw young recruits, used by the Russian invading army, do not seem to have too much stomach for a fight and, according to many reports, feel that they hve been cruelly deceived by their military leaders, many believing that the were only on an ‘exercise’ and not knowing they were actually in the Ukraine. The 40 mile long column of military vehicles to the north of Kyiv appears to be literally and figuratively bogged down and crippled by shortages of fuel, food, water and critical supplies – and it appears to be going nowhere in the short term. A least 2-3 senior Russian military leaders have to have lost their lives and there is the prospect that some Russian Mig-29 fighter planes might be sent from Poland to bolster the Ukrainian air defences. The Ukrainians seem to have had quite a lot of success by utilising drones that have successfully attacked the Russian supply chains. So, in my book, it is still a little too close to call.

The breaking news tonight is that Poland is going to hand over all 23 of the Mig-29 fighters (Ukraine already has 37) to the Americans, at no cost. They, in turn, will resupply Poland with the latest generation of fighter aircraft whilst the 23 will be ‘given’ to the Ukrainians. This will increase the supply of this particular fighter by some two thirds and, of course, the Ukrainians already have pilots who know how to fly them. How much of a difference is this going to make and how soon can the aircraft be deployed?