How Putin's Aggressions Are Playing Out In Ukraine | Crooked Media
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February 23, 2022
What A Day
How Putin's Aggressions Are Playing Out In Ukraine

In This Episode

  • President Biden announced sanctions against Russia on Tuesday while referring to President Vladimir Putin’s recent actions as the “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.” CNN’s senior international correspondent Matthew Chance, who is currently reporting out of Kyiv, joins us to discuss what’s happening on the ground in Ukraine.
  • And in headlines: Ahmaud Arbery’s killers were found guilty of committing federal hate crimes, members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team reached a $24 million settlement with the U.S. Soccer Federation, and the Supreme Court will hear a case that could allow businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ couples.


Show Notes:



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Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, February 23rd. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, the podcast the turns Bored Ape NFTs into Attentive Ape NFTs.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, the pictures of monkeys that cost $200,000 like to listen to our podcast.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, this is not true of monkeys that aren’t NFTs. They honestly couldn’t care less about this show.


Gideon Resnick: They’re not sophisticated enough to understand what we’re saying.


Priyanka Aribindi: They’re not.


Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, Ahmaud Arbery’s killers were all convicted on federal hate crimes charges. Plus we say goodbye to the PBS show “Arthur”.


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, President Biden announced sanctions against Russia yesterday, while referring to President Vladimir Putin’s recent actions as the quote, “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”


[clip of President Biden] So I’m going to begin to impose sanctions in response, far beyond the steps we and our allies and partners implemented in 2014. And if Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further as with sanctions. Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belong to his neighbors. This is a flagrant violation of international law and demands a firm response from the international community.


Priyanka Aribindi: RT. RT, Joey B. Biden’s remarks came a day after Putin sent troops into two separatist-held regions of Ukraine. The sanctions he announced are aimed at a number of targets, including two state-owned Russian financial institutions and a number of Russian elites and their family members, with the promise that more could be on the way if Russia should continue to go further. This followed other sanctions that were announced by the EU and the suspension of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is a natural gas pipeline connecting Germany to Russia. The sanctions have sent markets reeling, and Biden alluded to efforts to make sure that they don’t drastically impact U.S. gas prices.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and if that wasn’t enough to add to the uncertain moment, the parties don’t seem interested in continuing diplomatic conversations at this time. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he had canceled a planned meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for now, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that given that, a summit between Putin and Biden is quote, “not in the plans at this point.” So for more on what is happening on the ground in Ukraine, we spoke with Matthew Chance again, around 11 p.m. his time. He is CNN’s senior international correspondent who is currently reporting out of Kiev. We started by asking him what he’s been observing on the ground since we last spoke.


Matthew Chance: So the big thing that’s changed in the past week is the fact that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has made his move. He has decided essentially to, I think it’s fair to say, abandon diplomacy for the moment and to move ahead with his own solution to address what he regards as his national security problems. He wants NATO to stop expanding. He wants to make sure Ukraine never joins the NATO military alliance. And so he’s taken some quite dramatic steps, the first of which is to recognize two separatist areas, two rebel areas in the east of Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. So that’s all well and good. It doesn’t change the status quo on the ground at all, really, because those areas are already not under government control and they’re run by Russian-backed rebels. But the problem is by recognizing them, he’s not just recognizing the area that they currently control, hes recognizing all their territorial claims as well, which is much bigger than the area they control. The concern at the moment is we could be on the brink of a broader conflict because perhaps these rebels, who are newly emboldened by their recognition, and perhaps now they will have Russian tanks at their backs, will decide to sort of relaunch the really hot war in eastern Ukraine and take back the land that they say is rightfully theirs, but, you know, big population centers that are currently controlled by the Ukrainian government. I mean, I think that’s the central concern at the moment. I think it’s more likely now that the situation will escalate from here.


Priyanka Aribindi: Right?


Gideon Resnick: Right. I’m curious, what have Ukrainians in the course of your conversations and reporting been saying about the recent Putin actions?


Matthew Chance: What are Ukrainians thinking about it? Well, opinion is quite divided. I mean, Ukraine is quite a divided country in some way. There’s an element of society that, you know, the nationalists for instance will be very upset more Ukrainian territory has been lost to Russia. It’s a big political problem for the president of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky, because he came to power a couple of years ago on a promise of bringing these people in these breakaway republics back into the fold. And so that’s been a big fail for him.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I’m really curious, is there a unified sense on the ground of how people are feeling? Like, I feel like all of us are watching this, you know, bated breath, like very closely with a little bit of fear and maybe alarm. Is that the sense that’s on the ground there? How are people kind of feeling about all of this?


Matthew Chance: You’re not seeing the kind of panic and people running around with their hair on fire that you might imagine.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.


Matthew Chance: If Russia was about to invade our countries, you know, with hundreds of thousands of troops, there would be—


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally different.


Matthew Chance: —a good deal more concerned. And it a couple of reasons for that, I think. One of them is that Ukrainians, you know, they’ve got a government that is urging them not to panic. But there’s also a sense in which, you know, Ukrainians feel they’ve been at war with Russia and with Russian-backed rebels for the past eight years, right? And they feel that they have endured this kind of pressure for that period. I think they think that they can handle this. They’re ready for anything.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there are some anecdotal stuff I was seeing about people in eastern Ukraine attempting to relocate in advance of maybe anything else happening. Is there some sort of concerted effort for that at the moment?


Matthew Chance: I’ve seen reports of rich people, you know, kind of fleeing the country. And there’s, you know, I’ve got some friends here near Kiev who have sort of decided to relocate outside of Kiev towards the West. The west of the country is rightly seen as being much less at risk of kind of airstrikes or missile attack if there is an all-out war. It’s funny because it’s been mirrored in a sort of theatrical way on the other side, where you’ve got the administrations, the rebel administrations ordering the civilian population—the elderly, women, and children—to evacuate en masse towards Russia, just leaving the men of fighting age there. Which is another worrying sign, by the way, potentially, but it’s also a bit of political theater, I think is the interpretation. It looks like it’s entirely manufactured and it looks like it’s being used by the Russians to sort of as a pretext to say, look, look at the terrible humanitarian crisis that’s happening in Donbass, that area of eastern Ukraine. And I think it kind of helped sugarcoat the pill for the Russian public to some extent.


Gideon Resnick: Right.


Priyanka Aribindi: So I want to switch gears a little bit. The EU and the U.S. are issuing sanctions against Russia. I’m kind of wondering what impact those will have, and also if that’s something that Russia, you know, will be swayed by or even cares about.


Matthew Chance: What comes to mind, the recent quotes of the Russian ambassador to Sweden. Well, I mean, he was asked about, you know, what about sanctions? And he was like, You know, we don’t give a shit about sanctions—is what he said, but in a thick Russian accent. But I think it’s, that’s true because I mean, I have lost count of how many tranches of sanctions that have been imposed on Russia in the past 10 years for various misdeeds around the world. Whether it’s the poisoning of the Skripals in Britain, the meddling in the 2016 presidential elections in the US, there’s been sanctions upon sanctions up on sanctions. I think they’ve never had even the slightest impact. And I’m sure that the sanctions that are currently being announced won’t have much of an impact either. But I mean, I think that slightly misses the point of what sanctions are really there for, despite what our political leaders say. Sanctions are there to allow governments to take action. Because what’s the alternative? The alternative is to do nothing or to go to war with Russia, and you can’t go to war with Russia because they’ve got more nuclear weapons in any other country in the world, including the United States. And you can’t do nothing because that’s not politically acceptable. So what do you do? You do that thing. You do the thing you can do, which is impose sanctions. Now, having said that, one of the things that struck me today as extraordinary is that the Germans who have been very cold about the idea of criticizing Russia for this, they’ve got that big strategic pipeline, Nord Stream 2 pipeline, gas from Russia to Germany, that the Americans have complained about, and everyone said, Oh, look, this is this handling too much power to Russia—I mean, the first drop of a hat, they suspended that. They’ve halted it. That was the big kind of atom bomb in the sanctions, which I think is, was really quite a stunning and strong response by the German government. Quite unexpected, I think. The problem with it is it was such an important project for Putin and the possibility of it being suspended was such a deterrent, I think, to Moscow, I worry that they’ve done it too soon.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, like you’re describing something that I think it makes a lot of sense and is sort of the question when people are sort of thinking of what is it that these countries are supposed to do? So I’m curious if you’ve heard from people with whom you’ve spoken in Ukraine about what it is that they would or would not want other countries to do in this particular situation.


Matthew Chance: I mean, I think the Ukrainians have really, they’ve welcomed the idea they’re getting such support through these quite tough sanctions that have been imposed. They wanted the sanctions to be imposed a lot earlier, actually, before Russia did anything at all. But now that these sanctions are coming through, I think they’re feeling that they’ve got quite a lot of international support. They want, of course, more military aid, they want more financial aid. The economy in this country has been really, really damaged by this whole crisis, and of course, now that the crisis has moved on to a more and even higher level of escalation.


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. So I’m wondering what else you took away from Biden’s speech and kind of like the actions that he’s proposed, the announced sanctions and so on.


Matthew Chance: I was struck by the fact that, you know, he was quite passionate, wasn’t he, about his opposition to what Russia has done? He said—I’m misquoting him, I expect—I mean, he’s like, What in God’s name do you think you are? He said something like that.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, he did.


Matthew Chance: Recognize in these areas as carving them out of other people’s countries. And I think he was very critical as well of the speech that Vladimir Putin made a couple of days ago when he recognized these areas as independent states where he was extremely critical of Ukraine. He basically said that Ukraine was a fabricated country, you know, an artificial country out of territories that were traditionally Russian territories. And so that was really upsetting, I think, for a lot of people, a lot of people in Ukraine who were really upset to hear the Russian president speak yet again about Ukraine that way, as if it doesn’t really exist, as if it’s not a real country. More worrying for me was that if that really is how Vladimir Putin feels about Ukraine, then it opens the door to the possibility he’ll be quite fine to move in and to change Ukraine’s borders as and when he sees fit. The broader concern is that Russia might decide that it wants to stage a full-on invasion of Ukraine, and why not, you know, it’s not a real country anyway, so there’s nothing morally standing in their way. To be clear, I don’t think that. It’s what he thinks.


Gideon Resnick: Right. Well, Matthew, I know that you are incredibly busy. We are so grateful that you took the opportunity to talk with us again. Thank you so much


Matthew Chance: And thank you very much, Gideon. I appreciate it. Thanks all.


Priyanka Aribindi: We’ll have more on all of this as the situation continues to develop, but that is the latest for now. It is Wednesday, WAD squad, and today we’re doing a segment called WAD Remembers where we unfortunately have to bid a fond farewell to something that is not a person but has still enriched our lives over the years and is recently deceased. The TV show Arthur aired its final episode on Monday, titled “All Grown Up”, after 25 seasons and 253 episodes. In it, fans got to see into the future of the titular aardvark and his friends. It turns out that Arthur grew up to be a bearded graphic novelist, and in a meta twist, he publishes a series of books called Arthur. And D.W., who many of us knew to be capricious and mean, does not become a girlboss. No, she becomes a traffic cop, which I guess could be one and the same, I suppose.


Gideon Resnick: Sure.


Priyanka Aribindi: The show has been on air for a huge chunk of our lives, and it dealt with real issues in a smart way, like with this take on national politics from D.W. herself:.


[speaker 1] Washington is where the president lives.


[speaker 2] I don’t care about the president. I care about ponies.


Gideon Resnick: Speak on it.


Priyanka Aribindi: Preach! So Gideon. How does the finale make you feel, assuming it makes you feel any way at all?


Gideon Resnick: I don’t like where they ended up.


Priyanka Aribindi: Me either. That’s . . . no. These are all wrong.


Gideon Resnick: I think that that sort ofruins the allure of it in my childhood. The limited allure, because I have to be honest—


Priyanka Aribindi: Gideon wasn’t really a fan of Arthur, which is what we’ve learned in the making of this show, which is extremely crazy to anyone in the demographic that Gideon and I are in.


Gideon Resnick: It’s not that I wasn’t a fan, because as a youth, I wouldn’t have had such discerning taste to—.


Priyanka Aribindi: What, were you like more in the Teletubbies camp? Like, tell us, what were you watching.


Gideon Resnick: Certainly not. No, no, no. The Teletubbies are demonic entities and should be treated as such.


Priyanka Aribindi: I agree. I agree.


Gideon Resnick: I think we all know that at this point. No, I just, I feel like I remember more of the memes from Arthur now than actual Arthur and that those memories have displaced any memories that have existed of Arthur.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, all you remember is like the little fist meme.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And so that’s how the internet has poisoned—


Priyanka Aribindi: Our brains.


Gideon Resnick: —our minds. And that’s unfortunate. But how about you? How did you feel about all of this in the finale?


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m with you. I think they got this completely wrong. I think Arthur should have been like Mr. Rapper. And I’m digging deep because I remember all of these names: Muffy, Francine, Brain.


Gideon Resnick: Muffy! That’s doing something for me.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I thought Arthur would have gone on to be a school teacher. D.W. Like, I see major like “girlboss who was later canceled” energy out of her. I think Muffy goes on to be the mayor, which I thought might be right. But anyways, all I’m saying, I do think they made some major errors. I could have consulted on this. I don’t think I could have written the whole thing, but I think I would have had some good ideas. They may have contacted me. That’s all I have to say.


Gideon Resnick: Right. That was WAD remembers, and certainly one to remember. We’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: The three white men guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty of committing federal hate crimes as well yesterday. A jury agreed with federal prosecutors, who presented an overwhelming amount of evidence and testimony that father and son Greg and Travis McMichael, as well as their neighbor William Bryan, harbored racist views against Black people, which led to them killing Arbery in 2020. After the verdict was announced, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said this outside the Georgia courthouse:


[clip of Wanda Cooper-Jones] The way Ahmaud left here, I knew that we would give victory on the state level and in the federal level. I knew that from day one.


Gideon Resnick: With this guilty verdict, the three men face up to life in prison, which will be determined at a later sentencing date. And that is on top of the life sentences they already got me state court earlier this year for murdering Arbery.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Rest in peace, Ahmaud Arbery. The Supreme Court announced that it will hear a case that could allow businesses to use their religious beliefs as an excuse to refuse service to LGBTQ couples. The case in question was filed by Lorie Smith, a website designer in Colorado who describes herself as quote, “a Christian who believes that God gave me the creative gifts that are expressed through this business.” Smith says that her religious beliefs prevent her from using those quote gifts to design wedding websites for same-sex couples. No, a same sex couple did not actually approach her, asking her to do that, she just wants to explicitly state this policy on her website but doing so would violate her state’s anti-discrimination laws. Smith argues that the law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, infringes on her right to free speech and freedom of religion. The Supreme Court said it will only review the case as it relates to free speech, and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said of the court’s decision quote, “Companies cannot turn away LGBTQ customers just because of who they are. We will vigorously defend Colorado’s laws, which protect all Coloradans by preventing discrimination and upholding free speech.” The case will likely be argued in the court’s next term, which begins in October. And given how the Supreme Court is right now, I’m a little terrified at what is going to happen.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, her website is just the graphic-design-is-my-passion little frog thing. I will not be checking if that’s accurate, but that’s what I’m saying. A red card has been pulled on one of the most egregious gender pay gaps: members of the U.S. women’s soccer team announced yesterday that they’d reached a $24 million settlement in their gender discrimination lawsuit against their employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation. The lawsuit was filed in 2019 by players who allege that they were paid substantially less than their male counterparts, even at times when their teams were bringing in more revenue and winning far more games. I don’t really remember a time when they weren’t winning for more games than the U.S. men’s tea. Anyway, the lawsuit began a years-long legal battle that drew national attention in the fight for equal pay in professional sports. Of the $24 million settlement announced on Tuesday, two million will go towards establishing a charitable fund for women’s and girl’s soccer. The other 22 million will go to the players behind the lawsuit as back pay. Among the team members that led the suit is soccer celebrity Megan Rapinoe, who said this of the settlement:


[clip of Megan Rapinoe] I think we are really in the midst of an incredible turning point in women’s sports. I think we’re all going to look back on this moment with incredible pride. But if you’re not paying attention to this right now and what’s happening in women’s sports, you’re sleeping on the whole thing.


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. This is amazing for them. Like, Hell, yeah, this is awesome. Also, just like, commend them for making this such a big part of the conversation for the last, however—to 2019. This has been a part of the conversation because of their continued effort. So thank you to them for doing that. When you are 12 or 13-years old, there are two things that guarantee that your sleepover isn’t fun anymore. Either you run out a bagel bites or a candidate for U.S. Congress decides to burn it all down. A Valentine’s Day weekend overnight for a group of middle school girls ended in the latter outcome after Oklahoma candidate for Congress Abby Broyles allegedly berated several of the children in attendance while drunk, calling them a bunch of variations of the F-word and commenting on their race and then throwing up in a hamper.


Gideon Resnick: Wow.


Priyanka Aribindi: Broyles—not a mom in this situation, not, you know, there dropping off her kid hosting a sleepover, no, no, no—she was attending as the friend of the mom who hosted the sleepover, so just completely unrelated to the situation, happens to be here. She has since apologized for the incident, saying she had an adverse reaction to a sleeping pill and hallucinated. But her apology comes after she told the local publication that broke the story “NonDoc” that she was not even at the event and had in fact been on a fundraising trip out of town.


Gideon Resnick: Wow.


Priyanka Aribindi: If that fundraising trip was part of the hallucination, I would recommend having more fun hallucinations. I don’t know. In taking responsibility, Broyles said quote, “I apologize for any hurt or damage or trauma that my behavior, when I didn’t know what I was doing, caused.”—OK, not the best apology, in my opinion. Yesterday afternoon, she tweeted that she’d be taking some time away from the campaign. Anyway, this could all be part of ambiance plan to crush the competition and mount its own congressional run in Oklahoma.


Gideon Resnick: Look out for the lobbyists behind big sleep. They’re up to something in this race.


Priyanka Aribindi: Really. This story, I’m sorry every single piece of it, top to bottom, just absurd.


Gideon Resnick: Completely.


Priyanka Aribindi: Why is she even there? Just stay home. It’s not sad to not have plans on Valentine’s Day. You can stay home and hang out by yourself. It’s OK.


Gideon Resnick: She knew that these kids were watching Titanic and that it wouldn’t really hold up, and she was like, I got a more memorable story for all of you so sit tight and enjoy it.


Priyanka Aribindi: A Valentine’s Day you’ll never forget.


Gideon Resnick: Truly. I would, I would tell this story for the rest of the time. In fact, I will, and I wasn’t even there. I love it. And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, pull a red card on pay gaps, and tell your friends to listen.


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just wise quotes from D.W. like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And behave better at sleepovers!


Priyanka Aribindi: If you can’t handle the sleepover, just leave. It’s fine. Don’t take the risk. It’s fine. No one wants you there.


Gideon Resnick: You get your own sleepover in your own house, you know. That’s my word to the wise. Got to puke, do it in your own hamper. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.