Good morning from Kyiv. Unsurprisingly, it’s gray again outside. Situation normal. What wasn’t normal was last night’s events in the sky above our ancient, golden-domed city.
The air raid siren went off and suddenly something very bright flashed across the heavens. As this city has been subject to deadly missile and rocket attacks, that’s what everybody suspected at first, judging by the initial social media reaction.
Or was it?
Something major just lit up the night skies over Kyiv. Waiting to hear what it was.— Natalka (@NatalkaKyiv) April 19, 2023
So far people are guessing that it's either a meteorite, a NASA satellite, or just an old boring Russian missile shot down by the Ukrainian air defense. #Kyiv #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/MCQ96qijoy
The President’s advisor, Andriy Yermak, started the frenzy of frivolity. He tweeted: "Don’t worry. It’s not a UFO. It’s our air defence systems in action."
Did you say UFO?
Kyivans went off like a rocket themselves after that. We briefly won the internet with thousands of jokes, memes, and text group exchanges about the aliens over Kyiv. Much fun was had at the expense of the Martian visitors.
What REALLY happened 🙄#Kyiv #UFO pic.twitter.com/JwvdiAsnrV— Andrew Chakhoyan 🇺🇦 (@ChakhoyanAndrew) April 19, 2023
The brilliant graphic artist Nikita Titov went further and depicted our intergalactic guests not as foes but friends – bent on attacking the Kremlin.
The Ukrainian Air Force chimed in to say "it wasn’t us" and cheekily added “Please do not use official air force symbols to create memes for the enemy to enjoy!”
As we were all having a good laugh, and were at least relieved that it was not murderous missiles from Moscow, it all got even weirder.
Kyiv’s City Hall said it was a NATO satellite that had fallen from the sky and had broken up over the city. While NATO had earlier said that one of theirs was scheduled to soon fall, it denied that this one was it!
So what was it? Local stargazers soon posted that the lights and fireball were caused by a bolide meteoroid - a very bright meteor. The light is created by the ionized atmosphere, heated up by the meteor crashing through Earth’s air. There was a similar one over Israel last weekend which lit up the sky even during daytime across much of the country.
Meteors are asteroids under a meter in size. If this was, in fact, a hurtling space rock the size of a beer cooler, it sure caused a lot of excitement in Kyiv last night.
What is happening today?
Expect more shenanigans in the "Great Grain Strain." Yesterday, Bulgaria jumped on the bandwagon and also said it was banning Ukrainian grain imports.
Lo and behold, during the day, the EU announced a $109 million compensation package for Central and Eastern European farmers – who apparently need to be compensated even though grain prices are higher than they were before the full-scale war. Did someone say opportunism? Or even extortion by legal means?
All this is against the background of the EU considering extending the free-trade agreement with Ukraine until June 2024.
President Zelensky continued to travel the country yesterday, visiting military and other authorities in Volyn in the northwest which borders Belarus. He’s back in Kyiv today and will address the Congress of Mexico by video link. That country’s leftist government has stated neutrality in the war, but legislators of a “friendship group” – who invited Zelensky to speak – are trying to change that in support of Ukraine. It’s an interesting example of the different perspectives in Latin America and Africa of the events here.
What may not happen today is more Ukrainian talking heads sharing their inner thoughts about what the pending offensive may look like. One MP did that yesterday. While he is actually a war hero in his own right, that didn’t stop the Government from jumping on him from a great height and saying that to speculate is “incorrect.” Read about it here.
What was in President Zelensky’s latest message?
The truth is that war or no war, the business of governing must continue. Zelensky’s message last night, delivered from a train, showed exactly that:
“We constantly work on the development of our regions – absolutely all of them. Today in Volyn, I held a broad meeting with the region’s leaders, local law enforcers, military personnel, and all those responsible for the security and social condition of the region. We agreed on several infrastructure projects that will strengthen Volyn – this is important – and will make it possible to guarantee long-term jobs and economic growth.”
What is the latest in the military situation?
Ukraine’s ground forces commander, General Oleksandr Syrsky, yesterday said Bakhmut is the “epicenter” of Russian military operations and that “dynamic” fighting continues there. He further said that Russian forces are experiencing “significant losses.”
For the last 24 hours to 6 a.m. Kyiv time today, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported:
· 3 Russian rocket attacks and 57 airborne attacks, including 26 Iranian Shahed drones of which 21 were neutralised;
· 69 assaults on Ukrainian positions and civilian objectives using anti-aircraft weapons;
· 55 land-based assaults in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Mariynka and Shakhtar districts with fighting remaining most intense in Bakhmut and Maryinka;
· 35 artillery assaults in the Zaporizhia and Kherson districts, and;
· Ukraine’s Air Force conducted 7 assaults on Russian rocket and artillery units, personnel concentrations, and ammo dumps.
The Institute for the Study of War’s daily Ukraine update particularly noted:
· Russian forces continue to use Shahed drones and other lower-precision systems to offset the degradation of Russia’s precision munition supply.
· Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks near Kreminna.
· Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk frontline, and in western Donetsk Oblast. [Note: ISW did not yesterday note Russian progress in Bakhmut.]
· Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted limited ground attacks in Zaporizhia Oblast.
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