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CWA # 691, 2 March 2022
Conflict Weekly #113, 2 March 2022, Vol.2, No.49
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI and KAS-India Office
Conflict Weekly #113, 2 March 2022, Vol.2, No.49
D. Suba Chandran
Russia’s Ukraine Invasion: One Week Later
In the news
On 26 February, a group of leaders across the US, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Commission, came together to “condemn Putin’s war of choice and attacks on the sovereign nation and people of Ukraine.” The joint statement underlined their resolve to “continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies” and undertake the following measures: to ensure that “selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system” thereby disconnecting these banks from their global operation; to impose, “restrictive measures that will prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves,” so that the international sanctions are not undermined by Russia; to act “against the people and entities who facilitate the war in Ukraine and the harmful activities of the Russian government,” addressing wealthy Russians linked with the Russian government; to launch “a transatlantic task force that will ensure the effective implementation” of the sanctions; and, to coordinate “against disinformation and other forms of hybrid warfare.”
On 26 February, the Russian news agency TASS reported the Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying: “Immediate measures are certainly being taken in order to mitigate the damage from sanctions and ensure the unhindered operation of all economic sectors and systems…(Russia) has every possibility and potential to do that…Analysis will be required to determine the retaliatory measures that would best serve our interests.”
On 27 February, the TASS also reported a Russian defence ministry’s note on casualties on its side. According to the news, the TASS quoted the defence ministry report saying: “Russian servicemen are showing courage and heroism during the special military operation. But, regrettably, there are killed and wounded among them.” A Wall Street Journal report also claimed a Russian defence ministry source accepting “extensive losses in the seven days of war, saying that 498 Russian troops have been killed and 1,597 injured.” The same WSJ report also mentioned Ukraine’s version of the casualties, with the latter’s military having killed 5,840 Russian troops and placing the civilian death toll at about 2,000.
On 27 February, the British oil company – BP announced its decision to leave Rosneft, the State-controlled big oil company in Russia. Rosneft is a global company that has operations in more than 20 countries; BP has invested close to 20 per cent in the same. According to a statement by the BP chairman: “It has led the BP board to conclude, after a thorough process, that our involvement with Rosneft, a state-owned enterprise, simply cannot continue.” On 01 March, TotalEnergies, a global energy company of France, with a presence in more than 130 countries, made an official statement about not providing capital for any new projects in Russia. According to the statement: “TotalEnergies supports the scope and strength of the sanctions put in place by Europe and will implement them regardless of the consequences (currently being assessed) on its activities in Russia. TotalEnergies will no longer provide capital for new projects in Russia.”
On 2 March, the UN General Assembly had an emergency meeting over Ukraine. The resolution (supported by 141 states and 35 abstaining) deplored “in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter.” It demanded, “that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and to refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force against any Member State.” Only five countries voted against the resolution, including Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea. Earlier, on 27 February, the UN Security Council also met on the same question; it was decided to convene an emergency session of the UN General Assembly.
On 2 March, Kherson, a port city of the Black Sea, fell to the Russian forces invading from the south from Crimea. In the northeast, during the week, Russia has been bombarding Kharkiv and in north Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
Issues in the background
First, the political objective of Russia’s Ukraine war. One week after Russia having launched a military invasion, politically, the elected government of Ukraine led by President Zelenskyy has not been toppled. A primary political objective of Putin’s war in Ukraine is to change the government, considered pro-Europe and pro-West. The first week of the Russian invasion has instead united the Ukrainians to rally behind their President.
Second, the international support for Ukraine and condemnation for Russia. This could be seen in the UN resolution and the individual statements from capitals worldwide. There is widespread criticism against Russia and more considerable political support for Ukraine. The emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly was categorical in its resolution. While the international support has been substantial in supporting Kyiv, its condemnation of Moscow is insufficient to prevent Russia from changing its course. The first week could be described as a political stalemate, with neither Russia achieving its primary objective nor Ukraine losing the case.
Third, the military stalemate in Ukraine. While Russia has captured a key port city in the Black Sea, and in Ukraine’s south, and has been bombarding Kharkiv in the northeast, the first week of war has neither yielded success for the Russian advances, nor Ukraine’s security forces collapsed, as the Kremlin could have wanted.
Fourth, the new refugee situation for Europe from Ukraine. The Russian attack has triggered a new wave of refugees from Ukraine into Europe, mainly through Poland. Besides facing the military invasion of Russia into Ukraine and preparing for a political and military response, the EU is now faced with addressing the refugee question.
Fifth, the supply chain disruptions. An analysis in the New York Times analysis looked into what the war in Ukraine and the sanctions on Russia would bring. For example, the automobile industry would suffer, as “Ukraine and Russia are both substantial sources for palladium and platinum, used in catalytic converters, as well as aluminum, steel and chrome.” The NYT analysis also argues how the war and sanctions would affect other sectors: “Semiconductor manufacturers are warily eyeing global stocks of neon, xenon and palladium, necessary to manufacture their products. Makers of potato chips and cosmetics could face shortages of sunflower oil, the bulk of which is produced in Russia and Ukraine.”
First, the primary focus of the Russian invasion is in the south of Crimea. Perhaps Moscow’s political objective is to control the entire Black Sea and aim to build a land corridor along the coast from eastern Ukraine. Second, the primary response from the US and its allies in Europe is aimed at imposing economic sanctions but avoiding a direct military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. Third the rising humanitarian cost for the people of Ukraine. Besides the direct fallouts of war, a refugee situation is likely to increase and become a multi-year question to address.
Also from around the World
By Padmashree Anandhan and Satyam Dubey
Peace and Conflict from East and Southeast Asia
China: Report released on human rights violations in the US
On 28 February, the State Council Information Office of China released a report on human rights violations in the US in 2021. The key issues stated in the report were the COVID-19 deaths, increasing gun violence, losing the value of democracy, and rising discrimination. It also highlighted that the US was the “biggest destroyer” when dealing with its human rights violations and addressing them in other countries. A professor at the China Foreign Affairs University has remarked that the US must improve its lines of communication with other regions than imposing its standards.
North Korea: Pyongyang resumes missile launch
On 27 February, North Korea is suspected of having fired a ballistic missile near the east coast of Sunan, which is its first test in February since Pyongyang, where it conducted a record number of launches in January. The launch on 27 February was a medium-range ballistic missile that flew to a maximum height of 620 km. South Korea's National Security Council issued a statement convening an emergency meeting: "Launching a ballistic missile at a time when the world is making efforts to resolve the Ukraine war is never desirable for peace and stability in the world, the region and on the Korean Peninsula."
Australia: Rainfall induced floods in Brisbane
On 28 February, ten people lost their lives after heavy rainfall, where parts of Brisbane experienced disastrous flooding. With the death toll still rising, extensive evacuation operations are underway as military helicopters and service missions rescued trapped residents from rooftops. The annual rainfall rate has been marked to 80 per cent since the floods, and till now, the 2011 floods mark the worst in its history. Although the severity of rain has eased, the weather bureau predicts the flood conditions to remain till the end of the week.
Myanmar: Military junta launches air attacks against rebel forces in Kayah
On 23 February, Myanmar’s military junta launched fatal airstrikes and deployed forces in Nan Mei Khon village in Kayah. The attack triggered fear and caused thousands to flee the region. This move by the military junta came in response to the stubborn resistance from the Karenni National Defence Forces (NDKF). NDKF’s founder David Eubank stated that two people were killed and three were wounded during the recent bombardment. NDKF is one of the many rebel militias in the country that has been challenging the junta rule since the coup in February 2021.
Peace and Conflict from South Asia
India: Second defence dialogue with Africa scheduled
On 27 February, India and Africa agreed to hold the second defence dialogue on 12 March. With over 20 African defence ministers already confirmed to attend the meeting, the broad theme of this meeting will be 'India – Africa: Adopting Strategy for Synergizing and Strengthening Defence and Security Cooperation. As agreed at the first India Africa Defence Ministers Conclave (IADMC), the meeting will take place on the sidelines of DefExpo 2022 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. The DefExpo 2020 will be participated by around 70 countries and will take place from 10-14 March.
Nepal: Parliament ratifies MCC pact amid protests
On 27 February, Nepal’s house of representatives approved the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) pact, amidst heavy protests and weeks of quibbling among the political parties. A grant of USD 500 million was ratified with an “interpretative declaration” that clarifies the questions raised by the opposition. While the 12-point declaration stated that MCC Compact will not be above Nepal’s constitution, and will be taken strictly as financial assistance. The declaration assured that the grant would be for infrastructural development and not harm Nepal's sovereignty. The US government's MCC signed the compact with Nepal's government in 2017, but its ratification was pending following constant opposition.
Sri Lanka: Indian fishermen arrested by Navy for illegal fishing
On 27 February, Eight Indian fishermen were arrested by Sri Lankan Navy for illegal fishing into their waters. The Sri Lankan Navy also seized trawlers of Indian fishermen during a patrolling in the sea north of Talaimannar. The Sri Lankan Navy informed that nine Indian fishing vessels and 59 fishermen poaching in their waters had been taken on hold earlier in February. The Navy said that the local fishing community and the biodiversity of the marine environment are getting affected due to the foreign fishermen poaching into the Sri Lankan waters. To curb such illegal fishing and poaching activities of foreign fishermen, the Sri Lankan Navy is conducting regular patrols and operations.
Afghanistan: UN delegation in Kabul to ensure transparency in humanitarian aid
On 25 February, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Crisis (OCHA) director in the operations and advocacy division, Reena Ghelani, who is leading a nine-member delegation in Kabul to monitor the distribution of humanitarian aid, said that the organization had established a new system to ensure corruption-free and transparent aid process. She further urged the international community to support the people of Afghanistan. Reena Ghelani said that “Absolutely, the UN and its partners, we have asked for USD 4.4 billion, which we do not have yet, we need to raise this money because we need to urgently get assistance to people. We saw horrible nutrition. We saw children begging to go to school, both boys and girls.”
Afghanistan: Gunmen kill health workers involved in polio vaccination
On 24 February, it was reported that unidentified gunmen in the northern provinces of Takhar and Kunduz killed at least eight health workers, including four women in separate attacks. Local officials confirmed that seven workers in Kunduz capital city were providing polio vaccinations when they were attacked by some unidentified gunmen. Polio campaigns started due to the risk of Afghans contracting Polio from the absence of a full-scale vaccination of children and the remoteness of living areas. Qari Obaidullah Abidi, a spokesman for the Kunduz security department, said, “two perpetrators have been detained as suspects.”
Afghanistan: Residents in Kabul panicked after house raids by security forces
On 25 February, Kabul residents panicked by raiding homes and reported that the house-to-house searches caused panic among children and women. The Islamic Emirates has launched a clearing operation in some parts of Kabul and other neighbouring provinces to tighten security. However, some of the residents of Kabul criticized the house raids and claimed that the security forces should have a permit and there should be women among them to search the houses. While, the Islamic Emirate’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said: “We have already detected all the (spots) through intelligence, and after full detection, the operations were launched, and criminals were detained. There will be searching—of course—if there is nothing no one will be harmed, but if the criminals are hiding anywhere, they will be detained.”
Afghanistan: Report says millions of children to be affected with malnutrition in 2022
On 27 February, a UN delegation estimated that at least four million Afghan children will get affected with malnutrition in 2022, of whom 137,000 might also lose their lives. The delegation led by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) director Reena Ghelani visited Kabul following many complaints made by the citizens about the unjust distribution of UN aid. As the economic situation in the country worsens, the delegation further added that at least 18 million Afghans face food insecurity and are in dire need of food. While addressing the matter, Ghelani said: “The time is currently. We have no time to wait. We have to get the economy going, and we need to give people hope today.”
Peace and Conflict from Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa:
Yemen: UNSC extends arms embargo to the Houthi rebel group
On 28 February, the UN Security Council extended the arms embargo on all Houthi rebels after several attacks in Gulf countries. The resolution was put forth by the UAE was passed with 11 voting in favour, through the recent embargo, the restriction will now extend to the entire rebel group that targeted only a few Houthi leaders. The Emirati mission appreciated the resolution and said: “curtail the military capabilities of the Houthis & push toward stopping their escalation in Yemen & the region.” The UAE government has taken the initiative to push for the resolution due to increased attacks of the Houthi rebels on the UAE.
Tunisia: Migrants bodies found dead after a boat capsized near coast
On 1 February, Tunisian Defence Ministry informed that nine migrants were found dead after their boat capsized near its coast. The Tunisian coast guards recovered nine bodies while the Navy rescued nine other migrants from different African nations in critical condition. However, it is not clear how many peoples were there on the boat which sank near the port of Mahdia in the Tunisian central-east region from where many people cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. According to UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration, at least 1300 migrants either drowned or went missing in the Mediterranean Sea in 2021.
Congo: Allied Democratic Forces suspected for recent attacks
On 28 February, the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was under attack, as reported by the President of a local activist organisation in the village of Kikura. Close to 20 civilians were killed in the attack, and houses were set on fire. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) group is currently being suspected due to the group’s history of launching attacks and killing citizens. The unrest is continued to be seen in Congo since the 2013 launch of a joint operation by DRC and Ugandan troops opposing the ADF.
South Africa: Government authorises hunting endangered black rhinos, leopards and elephants
On 25 February, the government of South Africa authorised the hunting of 10 critically endangered black rhinos through their annual hunting and export licences. It also allowed the hunting of a similar number of leopards and 150 elephants. Although the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies black rhinos as severely endangered, their number rose to more than 5000 in the last three decades. These hunting and export permits were granted by international regulations for trading endangered animals. The government stated that the hunting enterprise brought around ZAR 1.4 billion in 2019.
Peace and Conflict from Europe and the Americas
Belarus: Voters reach consensus to give up non-nuclear status
On 28 February, Belarusian voters approved constitutional reforms discarding the country's non-nuclear status. This amendment allows the country to host nuclear weapons and strengthen military ties with Russia. The referendum also included reforms that would enable the president to remain in power until 2035 and have lifetime immunity from prosecution. Russia, an essential ally of Belarus, recently deployed troops there under the pretext of military exercises and then entered Ukraine in the ongoing invasion. Speaking at the polling station on 27 February, Lukashenko also admitted that he could ask Russia to return their nuclear weapons.
Europe: IPCC report warns severity in living conditions of humans due to rising temperatures
On 28 February, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on factors contributing to climate change. The report stated that the current changes to the environment were pushing the limits of the survival of humans and nature to exist. It is expected that more than 40 per cent of the world population will be put under vulnerable climate conditions. The IPCC team hopes that if the increase in temperature is maintained at 1.5 Celsius, there might be lessening in the impact. According to Prof Debra Roberts, who is a co-chair of the IPCC: “Our report indicates that places where people live and work may cease to exist, that ecosystems and species that we've all grown up with and that are central to our cultures and inform our languages may disappear.” The report will be the sixth assessment of the organisation, urging countries to go towards “Net Zero” emissions.
France: Russian cargo ship seized by authorities
On 26 February, the French authorities seized a cargo ship called the ‘Baltic Leader,’ which was suspected to be operated by Russia and was running against the sanctions. It was blocked by France and redirected to Boulogne-sur-Mer, a port located in north of France. According to the US Treasury Department: “for operating or having operated in the defense and related materiel and financial services sectors of the Russian Federation economy." In response, the shipowner had denied the link of ships being under sanctions.
The US: Three ex-policemen found guilty in killing of Goerge Floyd
On 24 February, the jury found three ex-Minneapolis policemen guilty of the death of George Floyd. Tou Thao, aged 36, J Alexander Kueng, aged 28, and Thomas Lane, aged 38, appeared to defend in the trial stating they did not realise if Floyd needed assistance. Still, the court charged them under “deliberate indifference to [Mr Floyd's] serious medical needs.” As per the video footage, the two officers, Kueng and Lane, were helping Dereck Chauvin, who is serving his sentence, while Thao helped keep the onlookers away. The trio defended the argument saying they only listened to the senior officer. Despite that, the convicted officers will appear back in court in June to face the criminal charges for letting Chauvin carry out the act.
Colombia: Coal mine explosion kills civilians
On 27 February, 11 people were killed and four missing in an explosion at a coal mine in Boyaca's province of Colombia. A build-up of methane gas caused the explosion at the coal mine, located in the Tasco municipality, Informed by the National Mining Agency (ANM). Colombia's mining industry operated by multinational companies has open pit and underground projects and hundreds of small and informal deposits. Accidents in mining happen regularly as many enterprises, some illegal, do not enforce proper safety measures. According to ANM, in 2021, 128 mining incidents occurred, which killed 148 people and in 2022 until now, 19 such incidents happened with 36 deaths.
Mexico: Migrants clash with police in protests
On 24 February, more than 20 people were left injured in Tapachula in a clash between police and migrants caused due to violent protests on the southern border of Mexico. National Migration Institute informed that about 100 migrants from Cuba, Haiti, and other countries in Africa joined in the violent protests after stopping from jumping the queue for permits to continue their journey to the northern part. The immigration centre in Tapachula is the biggest one in Mexico, which has become the main bottleneck on migrant's journey. The UN refugee agency has urged the authorities to clear the backlog quickly. Rights activist Irineo Mujica said that the migrants were desperate to be given an appointment with the immigration authorities of Mexico after waiting for months.
El Salvador: Former president charged in 1989 Jesuit priests' massacre
On 26 February, the prosecutors charged the former president of El Salvador Alfredo Cristiani in the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests that fuelled international outrage. Prosecutors announced a list of charges including murder, terrorism and conspiracy against former military officers and a dozen other convicts involved in the massacre. In January this year, the Supreme Court ordered to re-open the probe after the investigation had been put on hold for over the years on the appeal of the military officers in 2019. Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado twittered: ''The office is determined to go after those accused of ordering this regrettable and tragic event,” before the charges were made against convicts in the 1989 massacre.
Trinidad and Tobago: 3 bodies recovered, one missing after pipeline incident
On 28 February, the bodies of three welders were recovered by the rescuers in Trinidad and Tobago after five workers were sucked up into an underwater 30-inch U-shaped pipeline. While the company is searching for the body of another worker remains missing. The accident happened when five welders were working out for underwater maintenance in the pipeline at the project. One of them was rescued from inside the pipeline just four hours after the incident, which was yet to be specified how it occurred. In a statement, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said: "I want to give the assurance to the families that nothing will stand in the way of determining how this tragedy occurred."
About the authors
D Suba Chandran is a Professor and Dean at the School of Conflict and Security Studies. Padmashree Anandhan is a Research Assistant at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, NIAS. Satyam Dubey is a postgraduate scholar at Pondicherry University.
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