After my fruitless snowy adventure last night in which I almost froze to death, this morning I was woken abruptly to the sound of air raid sirens as cities across Ukraine were attacked by volleys of Kinzhal missiles. These are medium range hypersonic giant cruise missiles that carry enormous warheads, similar to the Iskander range of cruise missiles but air-launched. Their extremely high speeds - it is believed they can fly up to Mach 10 - makes them extremely hard to shoot down using convention air defence systems. So what the Russians are doing is having their bomber aircraft take off over Russian territory, not actually fly anywhere, but fire these Kinzhal missiles at cities across Ukraine and then just land again. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this but what happened this morning - these things always take place in the early hours - was on an unprecedented scale, with dozens of Kinzhal missiles being fired at cities across Ukraine. Like the Iskander, these hypersonic missiles are not hugely accurate - they’re far too fast for that. However their warheads are so large that they can take out a block. So that’s how they work: mass destruction, to cause terror. It’s believed they might be able to sink an aircraft carrier, which is what it was imagined the Russians would reserve them for; but now the Russians are just firing them at Ukrainian cities at the edge of their range.
Not a huge amount is known about these missiles. It’s thought they have a range of about 400km, reasonably accurately. The missiles fired at Lviv didn’t make the city; it seems that they dropped off or slowed down after exceeding their ranges, and thereupon became susceptible to air defences. But they made a mess in several other Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv and Dnipro, and used in this way these are weapons of pure terror. Actually they were designed to carry high payload nuclear warheads, but the Russians won’t dare use nuclear weapons because they know the Americans will annihilate them so now they are using these extraordinary weapons just as instruments of civilian terror. This is a remarkably inept battle strategy, as well as being a war crime: each Kinzhal costs US$10 million so it is estimated, so last night the Russians spent hundreds of millions of Dollars mindlessly striking civilian targets (or attempting to).
I’ve been close to an Iskander (the surface-launched equivalent) when I was in Kharkiv and they make an enormous noise and leave the most gigantic hole in whatever they strike. They’re strange weapons to use to target civilian infrastructure and I can’t understand why the Russians would be doing this except perhaps because they feel they want to make some sort of strange statement. The attempt to demoralise the Ukrainian people like this isn’t going to work; it makes the Ukrainians, and those foreigners working with them to support Ukraine, even more determined to push through and fight and fight and fight and keep on fighting. I was going to take the day off today because I have barely had a spare moment to myself since I arrived; but, having heard the news, after a few more hours’ groggy sleep I am ever more determined to keep going so today I will work hard and put in a few more hours with the vegetables. I think that’s how we all feel here. We’re not going to let this sort of thing grind us down or stop us. Whatever sacrifices we have to make, we’re going to keep on going.
I feel a bit sick and delirious. I don’t even know whether there’s time for a coffee. I’ve had to move my Saturday meetings. I woke up with a Stepan Bandera patch on my jacket. Some guy in Mano’s Bar last night ripped off a British flag patch and replaced it with a red and black trident. I suppose that’s quite funny, and I think it was consensual, and I don’t normally display images associated with Stepan Bandera but I thought “screw it” because, as my Ukrainian friend reminded me yesterday evening, displaying icons associated with Stepan Bandera really infuriates the Russians: they hate it, as they see him as a hate figure. It makes them scream and rail at us as Nazis. And that’s how I want the Russians to react right now. I want them to know that the Ukrainian spirit, and of those supporting and defending them, is indefatigable. So I have shifted my meetings due today so I could get some more sleep and despite my faint sense of nausea, I’m going to rush off to work and join the happy crowd of volunteers.
I’ve been trying to encourage an old friend of mine to move to Lviv and come to join the war effort. I don’t think she’s going to. She was tempted by the idea, but I think she thinks it’s dangerous and nuts. Well it’s not really dangerous unless you’re on the front line, but it probably is a bit nuts and it takes a certain type of person voluntarily to immerse themselves in all this. But a lot of us will be involuntarily immersing themselves sooner or later, as NATO re-arms and re-mobilises. Because that will happen. Whether Trump or Biden wins the next US General Election (and I might return to that hot and heated topic later or I might not), the United States, the world’s greatest armed forces, are again going to have as the leaders of the Free World to come to the aid of the Old World. Europe can’t defend itself. We’re insufficiently organised and after the end of the Cold War we thought we could do deals with the Russians and we thought we’d never again have to fight a war on the scale of World War II. Yet that’s what we’re doing right now. A wall of Russian munitions and production threatens to overrun the whole of Europe and this is not some regional eastern European conflict. It’s a battle for all the values we in the West believe and share in. You can’t do deals with the Russians. You never could and, until Russia through internal implosion transforms herself into a democracy (or a series of democracies), you never will.