Poland, a NATO member which has been aiming to rejuvenate its aging fleet of fighter jets, is reported to be in talks with the US to transfer its supply of MiGs to Ukraine.

Ukrainian pilots are generally not trained to fly Western-made jets, and therefore the infusion of Russian made MiGs, named for Mikhail Iosifovich Gurevich a Soviet Jew who studied engineering at Kharkov in Ukraine, would be an easier transition.

Some reports have suggested that the US in in talks to allow Poland to directly swap those out for US made replacements.

Putin made a speech on Saturday that the invasion, still labelled by Russian state-press a peacekeeping operation, is going according to plan. This is despite stalled troop movements across the country, and the failure of the Russians to capture any major Ukrainian city besides Kherson.

Ukrainian sources have reported that the Russians have staged pro-PRC solidarity rallies there.

Some reports have suggested that as many as 10,000 Russian troops have already been killed, leading the potential for deep resentment within Russia against the invasion.

Possibly for these reasons, Russian tactics have been taking a different track in recent days, with increasing aerial bombardment and shelling of population centers, and the beginnings of massacres against civilians, designed to encourage cities to capitulate.

Even former allies of Putin in the EU such as Victor Orban have turned on him in recent days, with Orban now supportive of Ukrainian membership in the EU.

Public opinion in the US has been mixed, but the majority have been outspoken in condemning Russia’s actions and supporting the enforcement of crushing sanctions. This is even considering increasing costs of those sanctions, particularly in the energy sector.

Still, there are some fringe figures, such as Tulsi Gabbard, who have been pushing the US towards appeasement of Putin’s interests. She has blamed the US for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, going so far as to claim that Ukraine “isn’t actually a democracy.” Many on the American far-right have similarly been sympathetic towards Putin, despite Putin’s own claims that his operation was aimed at purging fascists from Ukraine. Trump seemed to tacitly praise Putin’s political acumen dismissing weak American sanctions, leading John Bolton to jeer that Trump didn’t even know where Ukraine was, and that he once had thought Finland was a part of Russia.

Belarus is moving in the opposite direction. Its state, like that of Kazakhstan, is now little more than a shell. Acting essentially as a puppet state beholden to Putin for security, Belarus just staged a referendum in which they approved giving up their non-nuclear status, agreeing to host Russian nuclear weapons. They will also now allow Russian forces to be permanently stationed in Belarus, strongly reminiscent of Russian administration of the territory when it was part of the Soviet Union.

Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus has been in power for 27 years. With the other constitutional changes included in the referendum, he can stay in office until 2035, as well as having lifetime immunity for prosecution for any misconduct. Last year he undertook a brutal crackdown, directly aided by Putin, against mass protests calling to an end to authoritarianism in Belarus. Most of his political opposition was imprisoned or fled during this period. He also made international news after using his air force to ground a commercial jet flying through its airspace in order to kidnap a dissident journalist, falsely claiming that there were terrorist threats to the flight.

Now, Israeli PM Naftali Bennett who has close relations with Putin has met with him in an attempt to discuss the cessation of hostilities.

Meanwhile within Russia, while the rest of the world has been distracted by Ukraine, a closed-door trial in Pokrov Penal Colony aims to extend the sentence of activist Alexei Navalny from 32 months to more than 15 years. He is alleged to have misused 2.6M rubles (27K USD) of political donations for personal use.