Cannes, 2 March 2022
by Mark Porter
Our reporter on the ground has made it to Lviv, near the Polish and Belarus borders. He reports that 100km up the road 300 Belarusian tanks are waiting for orders from their boss, Putin. “They will likely head for Lviv,” he says.
“I’ve just been on a spectacular and harrowing train journey helping get refugees out of the fighting in Luhansk province in the east. A journey that would normally take 20 hours took more than 70. We got shelled at the station where we set off, and along the way. It was terrifying for the children and their mothers.”
Askold, who is of Ukrainian stock, added: “Putin is delusional and believed, once more his own propaganda, that his army would effortlessly roll over Ukraine. I’m more proud of my Ukrainian background than ever and we will win this, however long it takes.”
Comrade Putin refuses to call this a war but a “special operation.” Russian forces in Ukraine have a running joke: “Have you read that book by Tolstoy? Special Operations and Peace?”
We will be hearing more about Askold’s odyssey later today.
Meanwhile, Russia has been frantically buying gold and selling US Treasury Bonds in a desperate attempt to prop up the rouble. The government is also to make gold purchases tax free in an effort to encourage people to invest in precious metals rather than foreign currencies, which the state needs for its reserves after the west imposed sanctions on the central bank.
Russia’s finance ministry on Wednesday supported parliament’s decision to remove the 20 per cent added value tax, which is charged when gold is bought. “Amid the unstable geopolitical situation, investment in gold will make for an ideal alternative to buying up dollars,” said finance minister Anton Siluanov.
Russians have been emptying ATMs of dollars after the rouble collapsed to historic lows on Monday following western sanctions. People have been buying dollars to protect their savings, holding foreign currencies in cash in case they need to leave the country, reports the FT.