Moscow outlines its preconditions for peace negotiations.
Ukraine at D+369: Russia goes constitutional.
Little change in the lines in Russia's war, but Moscow is putting a legalistic stake in the ground. It's now a matter of law that Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk are Russian territory, whether Russia actually holds them or not.
Russia will not compromise on occupied Ukrainian territories.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has laid out the conditions under which Russia will negotiate. It must be permitted to retain the territories it's claimed. In fact, since it hasn't succeeded in fully occupying them, the portions of those territories Ukraine holds will have to be handed over. The Guardian quotes Mr. Peskov's explanation. "There are certain realities that have already become an internal factor. I mean the new territories," he said, referring to the four regions annexed in September after bogus referenda: Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk. There's no room for compromise, he added. "The constitution of the Russian Federation exists, and cannot be ignored. Russia will never be able to compromise on this. These are important realities." All Ukraine needs to do is accept Russia's annexation, and then talks can proceed. "With a favourable state of affairs and the appropriate attitude from the Ukrainians, this can be resolved at the negotiating table. But the main thing is to achieve our goals."
More on the drone strike against Russian aircraft in Belarus.
The UK's Ministry of Defence this morning commented on claims by Belarusian dissidents that they'd damaged an A-50 MAINSTAY AEW aircraft based in Belarus. "On 19 January 2023, amateur aircraft spotters observed a Russian A-50 MAINSTAY Airborne Early Warning (AEW) System accompanied by two MIG-31K FOXHOUND fighters departing from Machulishchy air base, Belarus. Participating in joint Russian-Belarusian air drills between 16 January and 1 February 2023. On 26 February 2023, Belarusian partisan group BYPOL and exiled opposition leaders reported an A-50 MAINSTAY had sustained damage from Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) attacks at Maschulishchy air base. BYPOL reported two explosions and damage to the front and middle sections of the A-50 MAINSTAY as well as the radar antenna. The A-50 MAINSTAY is a Russian airborne early warning and control platform. Its role is to build a recognised air picture and to provide coordination to adjoining fighter aircraft.Attribution and damage has not been officially corroborated. However, the loss of an A-50 MAINSTAY would be significant as it is critical to Russian air operations for providing an air battlespace picture. This will likely leave 6 operational A-50s in service, further constraining Russian air operations."
Machulishchy is a military airfield in the vicinity of Minsk. BYPOL is a dissident organization that identifies itself as an association of former Belarusian security officers. The Guardian quotes the BYPOL communique that claimed responsibility: "One of the nine Awacs of the Russian aerospace forces worth $330m [was destroyed]. These were drones. The participants of the operation are Belarusians. [They have attained] ‘Victory’ and are now safely outside the country. Everyone has escaped. [The plane] “definitely won’t fly anywhere." "AWACS" is a familiar acronym for "airborne warning and control system," and it alludes to the operational role the MAINSTAY has. Various comments from BYPOL and its sympathizers refer to the drone strike as a "diversion." This doesn't mean in this context "misdirection" or "distraction." "Diversion" is a term inherited from Soviet doctrine that covers what the US would call "special operations," and what some other countries might call "commando operations."
Another communication from BYPOL, reported in the Telegraph, suggests that both sides of the conflict are calling the others "Nazis." “Belarusian partisans are consistent in their striving to drive nazis away from their land.” The Russians have long said that the Ukrainian government is run by literal Nazis. Now the Belarusian opposition put the Nazi label on Russians and, by implication, the authoritarian regime of Belarusian President Lukashenka.
Moldova sees continued attempts at destabilization.
Moldova has expelled two "foreign nationals" posing as tourists, ABC News reports. Moldovan authorities see their activities as part of a larger Russian attempt to destabilize and subvert Moldova's society and government.
More perspective on Russia's hybrid war.
SpyCast has an interview with the Washington Post's Shane Harris, who encapsulates how the conventional wisdom went astray. "At the outset, I believed that what we were looking at was probably a pretty swift Russian victory," he said. "They would come in, they would decapitate the central government in Kiev in the first 72 hours, and it would be bloody, and it would be violent, but that Russia would prevail because they were deemed to have the superior military in terms of technology experience numbers. Turns out, all those things were spectacularly wrong.”