The death toll continues to rise in Vladimir Putin’s deadly assault on Ukraine—now two weeks old—as the misery deepens for millions of Ukrainians who by now realize this nightmare is not ending any time soon. To make matters worse, an Arctic cold front is set to sweep the nation over the weekend, undoubtedly adding unthinkable agony to those who are already sheltering without electricity or proper clothing.
Their only consolation: The cold will also be devastating to the Russian invasion force, especially those soldiers in the 40-mile convoy idling on the outskirts of the capital city Kyiv.
“Minus 20C [or -4F] will degrade the Russian force, there is no question. It will improve cross-country mobility because there will be less mud but the Russians are not ready for Arctic conditions,” military analyst Major Kevin Price told the Times of London, adding that it will essentially turn Russia’s tanks and trucks into “4o-ton freezers.”
Among the latest confirmed deaths are Tatiana Perebeinis and her two children, ages 9 and 18, who were struck by Russian mortars as they tried to escape the Kyiv suburb if Irpin on Sunday, according to the Silicon Valley tech firm that employed the dead mother. SE Ranking confirmed the tragic news on its Facebook page, describing Perebeinis as their chief accountant. “There are no words to describe our grief or to mend our pain. But for us, it is crucial to not let Tania and her kids Alise and Nikita remain just statistics,” the post says. “Her family became the victim of the unprovoked fire on civilians, which under any law is a crime against humanity. The Russian army are criminals, and they should be stopped. Our hearts are broken. Our prayers are for all Ukrainians, who are fighting for their right to exist.”
Their story came to light when an Associated Press reporter photographed their corpses after they were hit Sunday. The Palo Alto company later identified the children as her dependents. Perebeinis’ husband, who was on the battlefield, posted photos of the family on his own Facebook page and confirmed that the family’s dog was also killed in the mortar attack.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed their deaths personally, stating in a recorded statement that he will see to it that those who killed the family were punished. “There will be no quiet place on earth for you,” Zelensky said. “Except for the grave.”
Zelensky also said Wednesday that the threat to his country is now at “maximum level” after another night of deadly battles in a dozen Ukrainian cities followed by another day in which his pleas to NATO for a no-fly zone were denied.
He also urgently requested allies to resolve a logistical problem to move fighter jets from Poland into Ukraine. The Polish military offered its Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets to the Ukrainian Air Force by way of a U.S. base in Germany, but the Pentagon nixed the idea, saying it would put NATO directly into combat with Russia. “It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said of Poland's proposal. “We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one.”
Zelensky, clearly losing patience with the West’s promise for support being compromised by politics, asked Wednesday, “When will there be a decision? Look, we’re at war,” he said. “We have no time for this media, for the signals... This is not a game of ping pong. This is about human life.”
The Ukrainian president, now no longer hiding in bunkers, also took a dig at Russian troops, asking them to leave once again. “Our military have managed to replenish the ammunition arsenal with many trophies taken in the battlefield,” he said in a televised address from Kyiv. “The enemy’s tanks, armored vehicles, and ammunition will work for our defense, our life, our country. What can be more humiliating for the occupants? We will fight the enemy with their own weapons, in addition to ours.”
Meanwhile, attempts to secure six “green corridors” in cities including Mariupol and Sumy, to allow aid in and terrified civilians out, have been marginally successful with sporadic fighting sending many of those hoping for safety scrambling back into the battlefield.
Separately, Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who testified against President Donald Trump at his first impeachment— after he fired her and accused her of undermining his efforts to have Biden’s son Hunter investigated—has emerged to back Zelensky’s request for a no-fly zone.
In a lengthy interview with NBC’s Today, she supported further exploration of a NATO no-fly zone over Ukraine, even if it leads to a full nuclear confrontation.
“We cannot let Putin set the terms of this debate and have Putin decide how this going to go,” she said. “The Ukrainian people are unruly, they love freedom, they’re not going to let anybody tell them what to do, certainly not Putin. They’re kind of like us.”