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The Russia-Ukraine Drone Warfare, Violence in Kosovo, and a Separatists' Crisis in Cameroon
Conflict Weekly #178, 01 June 2023, Vol.4, No.22
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI and India Office of the KAS
Conflict Weekly #178, 01 June 2023, Vol.4, No.22
Padmashree Anandhan, Rishika Yadav, Jerry Franklin, Varsha K and Nithyashree RB
Russia and Ukraine: A New Drone Warfare
In the news
On 28 May, The Guardian reported on the "biggest drone attack" launched by Russia into Kyiv. The Ukrainian military confirmed countering 52 out of 54 Shahed drones. It reported Russia to have used the eastern coast of the Azov Sea using unconventional routes. Kyiv's military administration head, Serhiy Popko, said: "The attack was carried out in several waves, and the air alert lasted more than five hours."
On 29 May, RT reported on Russia's defence ministry claim of launching "multiple high accuracies strikes" on Ukraine's military "airfields" during 28-29 May. According to the report, Ukraine's command posts, ammunition storage, and aircraft were attacked in the frontline across Luhansk, Donetsk, and Kharkiv districts.
On 30 May, drone attacks were reported in Moscow. According to Russia's Defence Ministry, eight drones hit Moscow. As per the report from Politico, the attacks were particularly launched in Western Moscow, which comprises the elite Russian community. According to one of the residents in the area, the attacks were "shocking and confusing."
On 31 May, The New York Times reported: "The dueling strikes reflected the dialed-up tension and shifting priorities ahead of Ukraine's expected counteroffensive. Ukraine has increasingly been reaching far into Russia-held territory, while Moscow has been adjusting its tactics in an effort to inflict significant damage on Kyiv." According to reports, the US is still collecting information on the Moscow attacks and denied supporting any strikes inside Ukraine.
Issues at large
First, the drone warfare in the Ukraine war theatre. Since the war began, drone attacks into Russian territory and Ukraine's West were sporadic. After 2023, the intensity gradually increased. This can be seen from the drone attacks in the airfields of the Ryazan and Saratov districts, which took place in December 2022, the Belgorod attacks (three to seven kilometres from the Ukraine border) that lasted for two days, and lastly in Moscow. Inside Ukraine, the attacks concentrated in the Donbas region have now changed to recurring attacks in the West, especially Kyiv and Lviv.
Second, the Bakhmut trigger. Despite the Bakhmut battle indicating strategic significance, it began to be perceived as a symbol of pride by Ukraine and Russia. It was to showcase who could fight long and still win the battle. The timing of the drone attacks can be equated with the Russian victory claims over the Bakhmut battle, as it despises Ukraine's ability to hold control.
Third, Ukraine's repeated demand to augment its airpower. Ukraine's demand for modern aviation and advanced air defence systems has been long waitlisted due to the concerns of the escalation of war across the transatlantic. The Council of Europe meeting in May was a breakpoint when the UK and Netherlands formed a coalition to train the Ukrainian soldiers for fighter jet training. Denmark and Portugal agreed to join the coalition, followed by the US agreeing to support Ukraine with fighter jets upon training. In response, Russia has criticized the move, stating that despite such support, Ukraine lacks a conducive environment and enough maintenance personnel. The larger strategy behind the surprise call to help Ukraine attain the capability remains unclear, while Ukraine's air defence is on track for a massive upgrade.
Fourth, the diplomatic offensive of Zelenskyy. The US, NATO, and Europe continue to support Ukraine through weapons, economic, and humanitarian aid, but it has never been fulfilling the demands of Ukraine. The Arab League and G7 Summit, which took place in May, allowed Ukraine to reach out to other international actors. Zelenskyy used it to gain diplomatic support from Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. South Korea agreeing to send artillery rounds and Japan agreeing to humanitarian aid has helped expand its diplomatic support.
First, a possible escalation in two areas. At the ground level, the attack was concentrated in Donbas and Bakhmut. Since Russia's victory claim on Bakhmut, the attacks have expanded to further east of Russia and west of Ukraine, creating a risk for war escalation. In the case of weapon systems, Ukraine, which lags in the advanced air defence systems, the fighter jets coalition creates a possibility to strengthen it. In the case of Russia, the agreement to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus also equates to an escalation.
Second, a diplomatic escalation. South Korea and Japan are stepping in support of Ukraine. Similarly, Russia, Iran, Belarus, and China, as per the reports from the US intelligence, may lead to indirect help in the war.
Violence in Kosovo: Dangers of Escalation
In the news
On 30 May, NATO's Joint Force Command Naples announced the deployment of reserve troops to reinforce the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), a peacekeeping force in Kosovo. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed the deployment of 700 soldiers following unrest and the injury of 30 KFOR troops on 29 May. US Commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Admiral Stuart B Munsch, emphasized the need for enhanced capabilities to maintain security according to the UN Security Council mandate. He stated: "An additional reserve battalion would also increase readiness for possible deployment and stop the unrest." The violence resulted in injuries to both protesters and KFOR soldiers. US Senator Chris Murphy urged an immediate end to the provocation.
On 27 May, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic placed the military on high alert and positioned units near the Kosovo border following clashes between police and Kosovo's Serb minority. Violent confrontations erupted when residents gathered outside government buildings in the Serb-majority town of Zvecan. The event took place after police attempted to install new ethnic Albanian mayors in Zvecan. The Chief of Staff of Kosovo's President Vjosa Osmani, Blerim Vela, accused "illegal and criminal structures" in Serbia of escalating tensions.
Issues at large
First, the dispute with Kosovo over its independence and sovereignty. The Serbs living in the northern region of Kosovo, who identify with Belgrade as their capital, do not accept Kosovo's declaration of independence. Additionally, they are unwilling to work with the newly-elected ethnic Albanian mayor and want to create an association of majority-Serb municipalities operating with greater autonomy. Concerns were raised about Serbia's heightened readiness of its armed forces at the border.
Second, the discontent with the government in Kosovo. The Serb minority in Kosovo boycotted the April local elections in four municipalities in the north. The turnout was only 3.47 per cent of voting. When they protested and attempted to block an ethnic Albanian mayor from entering office, they were tear-gassed. Earlier, in December 2022, there was a confrontation over licence plates in northern Kosovo. Some ethnic Serbs do not recognize Kosovo's independence, causing residents in north Kosovo to reject Kosovan licence plates.
Meanwhile, in Serbia, protests and boycotts against Vucic's rule have been met with repression and intimidation. His stance on Kosovo has drawn criticism due to his contradictory statements, expressing willingness to compromise while maintaining nationalist rhetoric. On 27 May, following these events, Vucic announced his resignation as party leader and emphasized his role as President of all citizens.
Third, the setback to the West. The West tried to resolve the conflict for years, but progress has been slow. Serbia and Kosovo have made little progress since committing in 2013 to the EU-sponsored dialogue. The UK, France, Italy, Germany, and the US have jointly criticized Kosovo's decision to access municipal buildings in northern Kosovo forcefully. Germany and France have prioritized resolving the problems between Serbia and Kosovo in 2023; the proposed Franco-German agreement aims for mutual recognition between the two states and emphasizes fostering good neighbourly ties. Serbia's President Vučić, however, opposes the proposal, fearing it would require recognizing Kosovo's independence.
Serbia and Kosovo have been unable to agree on major issues. The Serbian community demands the establishment of a Serbian municipality association, while ethnic Albanians fear it could lead to a pro-Serbian state. The conflict has led to tensions between the two sides and has the potential to escalate into violence.
Cameroon: Anglophone, Francophone and a Separatist Insurgency
In the news
On 24 May, separatists in Cameroon's Northwest region kidnapped around 30 women in Big Babanki, a village near the Nigerian border. According to BBC report, the women were abducted for allegedly protesting against a curfew and taxes imposed by the separatists. AP news quoted the commander-in-chief of the separatist group, Ambazonia Defence Forces, Capo Daniel, that the women were being punished for “allowing themselves to be manipulated” by Cameroon's government. The Cameroonian military reported that they deployed troops to free the women.
Issues at large
First, long-standing clashes between Anglophone and Francophone Cameroonians. The difference dates back to colonial rule when the Northwest and Southwest regions were under British control while the other areas were under French control. Until now, the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon are dominated by the English-speaking population, and the French-speaking population dominates the rest of the country. The Francophone population constitutes the majority. The Anglophone crisis dates back to 2016 when the Francophone-dominated government repressed peaceful rallies and strikes demanding the protection of English-language educational and judicial systems in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon. The government's harsh response to the protests resulted in calls for secession and the rise of extremist groups that used violence and intimidation, intensifying the political crisis.
Second, the separatist insurgency. The historical marginalization led to calls for separatist movements. Many Anglophone separatist groups, including the Ambazonia Defense Forces, Ambazonia Self-Defense Council, and African People's Liberation Movement, comprise nearly 4,000 members supported by Cameroon's Anglophone diaspora. These groups seek independence for the Northwest and Southwest regions. The separatists regard the region as an independent state, calling it Ambazonia. Armed separatists have become increasingly violent, killing, kidnapping, and terrorizing populations while steadily asserting control over large parts of the Anglophone regions. On 1 May, at least 15 Anglophone separatists attacked a military post in the village of Matoukee. The rebels killed at least six people, including five Soldiers and one civilian and wounded several others.
Third, increasing violence and violations. The conflict between the government forces and armed separatist fighters has killed more than 6,000 people. The UN has been denouncing the government forces of committing “unlawful killings and widespread sexual and gender-based violence, burning Anglophone villages, and carrying out arbitrary detention, torture, and ill-treatment.” The separatists enforced a boycott on education that deprived children of their fundamental right to education. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that at least 628,000 people have been internally displaced.
Fourth, the inability of the government to resolve the issue. The government of Cameroon continues to deny the severity of the crisis, and has not taken any meaningful action. It granted a special status to the Northwest and Southwest regions in 2019, making the regional councils regional assemblies. However, the move failed to resolve the conflict as the government pushed the changes without consulting Anglophone leaders and separatists.
Anglophone grievances run deep and have remained unaddressed for a long time. According to the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, the current crisis, which began as a political dispute, has evolved into a "multifaceted security crisis and humanitarian catastrophe." One of the reasons for the prolonged crisis is the degenerated armed separatist groups, and an increasingly disorganized and competing collection of groups, making the possible ways to peace highly challenging. After the special status provided by the government to the northwest and southwest regions to resolve the crisis went ineffective, it is evident that any efforts or negotiations to sustain it should be subjected to the popular will.
IPRI REPORT REVIEW
Five Takeaways of FAO‑WFP report on food insecurity
Varsha K and Nithyashree RB
On 29 May 2023, World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) published a report titled "Hunger Hotspots: FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food Insecurity," June-November 2023 outlook. According to the report, acute food insecurity will likely deteriorate in 18 hunger hotspots comprising 22 countries in six regions. The countries are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Myanmar (Asia and the Pacific); Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (Latin America and the Caribbean); Central African Republic, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Mali (West Africa and the Sahel); Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan (East Africa); Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi (Southern Africa); and Lebanon, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (Northeast and North Africa).
According to the report, hotspots of highest concern are Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, Haiti, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Mali. Hotspots of very high concern are the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Myanmar.
The following are five takeaways.
1. Conflict is a primary driver of acute food insecurity
Asia and the Pacific: The duel between donor governments and de-facto authorities and social constraints in Afghanistan make it difficult to provide humanitarian aid to the vulnerable sections of the society. In Pakistan, acute food insecurity is likely to increase because of upcoming elections (October 2023), which can induce more political tensions and civil unrest. The dominating armed forces and further expansion of martial law in Myanmar resulted in movement restrictions, casualties and new displacement. In March 2023, around 5.33 million people were displaced.
Latin America and the Caribbean: In Haiti, the prevailing threat of armed forces associated with violence disrupts the market supplies, which affects agriculture activities. This eventually led to food insecurity in the region.
Africa: 12 out of 14 African countries mentioned in the report have conflict as a primary driver of acute food insecurity. Malawi and Lebanon are the exceptions. The presence of non-state armed groups in countries including Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo face high food prices. Providing humanitarian assistance and aid to conflict-prone areas is also challenging. The conflicts have triggered internal displacement; 3.1 million people have been internally displaced in northern Nigeria and 3.95 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo as of February 2023. Two million will be internally displaced in northeastern Burkina Faso and northern Mali by the end of 2023. Internal communal violence in South Sudan has displaced around 2.23 million as of December 2022. In Sudan, the conflict began in April and has displaced 730,000 people as of 5 May 2023. The displacement has led to the delay in agricultural activities. Restriction of people in non-state armed groups controlled areas restrains market activities.
2. Economic crisis leads to hike in food prices
Asia and the Pacific: The reduction of humanitarian funds and currency appreciation in Afghanistan restrict imports, and food inflation remains inaccessible to vulnerable sections. The shortage of foreign reserves in both Pakistan and Myanmar diminishes the ability to import essentials. Pakistan is expected to repay USD 77.5 billion between April 2023- June 2026, which burdens the economy further.
Latin America and the Caribbean: The impact of Covid-19 and the Ukraine war on Haiti and Central America threaten agricultural livelihoods. The report states that pre-existing food insecurity will likely increase in Latin America during June-November 2023.
Africa: Currency depreciation, fuel shortages, deteriorating economy, and lack of foreign investment and currency exacerbate the economic crisis, which leads to hikes in food prices, limiting the purchasing power of the people. The report says that the economic crisis will prolong in Yemen due to the political stability and insufficient external revenues that will hike the food prices. In Sudan, where acquiring basic services is difficult, strain in markets and supply chains will increase the price of commodities by 40 per cent in 2023.
3. Floods and droughts exacerbate the food crisis
Asia and the Pacific: In Afghanistan, the drought conditions are likely to increase and lead to further wheat deficits. The recent Moroccan locust outbreak affects food production increasing food insecurity in the region. The 2022 floods in Pakistan and cyclone Mocha in Myanmar (North Rakhine) drastically impacted lives and livelihoods, causing damage of USD 30 billion in the agriculture sector in Islamabad alone. The effects are likely to continue in upcoming months affecting food production.
Latin America and the Caribbean: Haiti is likely to experience average to slightly above-average hurricanes in June-November 2023, which can result in extensive flooding and crop damage. Meanwhile, inclining El-Niño in Central America can lead to dry conditions, reducing the food reserves and increasing market dependency for 1.9 million farmers. Further, flood-prone areas are likely to experience a hike in food prices because of changing rainfall patterns.
Africa: In drought-prone areas of the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, loss of livelihood, livestock, and crops are prevalent. In Ethiopia, the improved rate of rain and the past droughts did not contribute much to crop production. In Kenya, the three-year-long drought has driven a humanitarian crisis with poor harvests and acute malnutrition. The report forecasted that some areas in Kenya would be subjected to flash floods, further impacting crop production negatively. Somalia has faced six consecutive below-average rain seasons, which drove 43,000 deaths in 2022, where 2.8 million livestock died, and 1.3 million people were displaced. Flood-prone areas in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Malawi have affected the agricultural lands. In Malawi, Cyclone Freddy, in March, killed 1.4 million livestock. The report predicts that the Lake Victoria basin in South Sudan, western areas in Nigeria, southern and central Mali, and Sahelian regions of Burkina Faso will flood in the rainy season 2023.
4. The statistics of acute food insecurity and malnutrition rate
Asia and the Pacific: In Afghanistan, approximately 18.1 million people are predicted to face acute food insecurity and over 11.7 million children and pregnant women are acutely malnourished between November 2022-April 2023. This shows the 10 per cent increase in Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) in the region. In Myanmar, 2.2 million children and women are acutely malnourished in 2023. Pakistan's condition is likely to deteriorate in the upcoming months, which affects more than 43 per cent of the people.
Latin America and the Caribbean: In Haiti, around 6.7 million people are likely to face acute food insecurity during March-June 2023, and over 2.59 million children need nutrition assistance. The rural poverty rate in Central America is likely to increase by at least 50 per cent due to dry conditions.
Africa: In West Africa and the Sahel-32.4 million, in East Africa-39.9 million, in Southern Africa-28.3 million, and in Northeast and Northern Africa- 2.3 million people are expected to face acute food insecurity. The report also provides statistics on how many people are expected to undergo malnutrition. In West Africa and the Sahel-4.5 million, in East Africa-15.7 million, in Southern Africa-5.4 million, and in Northeast and Northern Africa-8.9 million children and women are expected to be malnourished.
5. The anticipatory and emergency responses to face the crisis
The anticipatory responses include providing vegetable seeds, drought-tolerant seeds and ruminants to farmers, small gardening packages, cash-for-activities, and locust-control operations. Enhancing market and price-monitoring systems and allowing unconditional cash transfers in high-risk areas. Set up early warning information tools in flood-prone areas. Some emergency responses include immediate food assistance, humanitarian assistance and aid. To provide livelihood support to farmers, pastoralists, and agropastoralists. To control the malnutrition rate and nutrition surveillance, that has to be set up. School meal programs should be maintained and scaled up. Immediate treatment across risk zones is mandatory.
Issues in Peace and Conflict This Week:
Rishika Yadav, Taffy Tonia A, Lakshmi Parimala H, Nithyashree RB, Subiksha S, Sreeja JS, Varsha K, Jerry Franklin, and Immaculine Joy Paul
East and Southeast Asia
China: Pentagon releases video of aggressive Chinese jet manoeuvre
On 30 May, the US military accused a Chinese fighter jet of executing an "unnecessarily aggressive manoeuvre" during the interception of a US spy plane in international airspace over the South China Sea. The video, released by the Pentagon, captures the moment when a Chinese fighter jet approached within 121 metres of a US Air Force RC-135 surveillance plane in the South China Sea, causing the US plane to pass through the turbulence created by the Chinese jet. The US Indo-Pacific Command stated: "The RC-135 was conducting routine operations in international airspace." China's military responded by claiming that the US spy plane had "deliberately intruded" into their training area, rejecting the US's accusation of aggressive behaviour.
China: Clashes erupt over mosque demolition
On 30 May, The Strait Times reported that after clashes broke out over the proposed partial demolition of a mosque, China deployed numerous police officers and made arrests in Nagu, a predominantly Muslim town in Yunnan province. According to an anonymous resident, the town planned to demolish four minarets and the dome roof of the Najiaying Mosque. Videos circulating on social media showed dozens of officers with truncheons and riot shields confronting a crowd hurling objects at them outside the mosque. The Tonghai government investigated the incident, issuing a notice urging those involved to cease all illegal activities. The government promised leniency for those who surrendered before 6 June.
Taiwan: Chinese aircraft carrier sails through Taiwan Strait
On 27 May, the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defence reported that the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong sailed through the Taiwan Strait accompanied by two ships. The Shandong, commissioned in 2019, followed the median line of the strait, an unofficial boundary between the two sides while moving in a northerly direction. Taiwan's military closely monitored the group and responded using their ships and aircraft. The Chinese Ministry of National Defence hasn't yet responded to the Taiwanese statement. The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defence also reported that eight Chinese fighter jets crossed the strait's median line in the past 24 hours.
North Korea: Satellite launch ends in failure
On 31 May, The Strait Times quoted KCNA, the North Korean state media, that North Korea's satellite launch failed, with the rocket and payload falling into the sea. The rocket, named "Chollima-1," experienced instability in its engine and fuel system, resulting in an unsuccessful launch. The incident triggered emergency alerts and evacuation warnings in parts of South Korea and Japan, but no danger or damage was reported. The Seoul military initiated a salvage operation to recover parts of the space launch vehicle after sharing images of a cylindrical object floating in the sea. The US, Japan, and South Korea strongly condemned the launch. North Korea's National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) stated that it will investigate the technical failures and aim for a second launch after addressing the defects.
Philippines: To conduct joint-maritime drills
On 29 May, Nikkei Asia reported that in a display of increased cooperation against China's assertive actions in the South China Sea, the coast guards of the Philippines, the US, and Japan are set to hold their first-ever joint maritime exercises from 1 to 7 June. The drills will involve around 400 personnel, including law enforcement exercises, search and rescue operations, and communication exercises. The Philippine coast guard clarified that the exercises are unrelated to the ongoing tensions in the West Philippine Sea. The joint drills come after aggressive tactics by Chinese vessels in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
Philippines: Prepares for Typhoon Mawar
On 29 May, Philippine authorities evacuated thousands of residents, closed schools and offices, and enforced a no-sail ban as typhoon Mawar approached the northern provinces. The typhoon is expected to spare the mountainous region a direct hit, potentially veering towards Taiwan or southern Japan. Despite projections indicating a slowdown, authorities have warned about tidal surges, flash floods, and landslides as the typhoon passes through Batanes province from 30 to 31 May. Classes, office work, flights, and vessel operations have been suspended in affected areas, while precautions like reinforcing houses have been implemented. The Philippines, prone to natural disasters, remains vigilant in its response to typhoons and other calamities.
Pakistan: Pakistani American community organizes Capitol Hill meeting to address the political crisis
On 29 May, Dawn reported that the Pakistani American community is organizing a bipartisan meeting on Capitol Hill in June to address the deteriorating political situation in Pakistan. The purpose of the meeting is to raise awareness about the situation and push for action at the highest levels of government. Dr Asif Mahmood, a California Democrat, is spearheading the effort with the support of lawmakers Brad Sherman and Jim Costa. They have also initiated letters to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and plan to send another letter signed by prominent US Senators.
India: Union Home Minister appeals for 15-day peace in Manipur
On 30 May, Union Home Minister Amit Shah appealed for 15-day peace in Manipur during his meeting with Kuki civil society groups in Churchandpur district. Shah is on a three-day visit in Manipur that began on 29 May. Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) General Secretary, Muan Tombing, said that the union government is likely to announce a judicial inquiry commission headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate the violence. Separate teams will visit Imphal and Churchandpur to assess the ground situation. In a meeting held between Shah and the State's Council of Ministers, decisions were taken on equally sharing compensation to the next of kin of each person killed in the violence. The home minister also met members of various civil society groups and women leaders from the Meitei community in Imphal and Kuki-Zo groups in Churchandpur. He stated: "They expressed their commitment to peace and assured that we would go together to contribute to paving the way to restore normalcy in Manipur."
Nepal: Government sends a diplomatic note on the US religious freedom report
On 27 May, in the meeting of the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Renu Dahal said that the government had sent a diplomatic note to the US, seeking views on its latest religious freedom report. On 15 May, the US published the "Report on International Religious Freedom," calling out Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan and India for religious freedom violations. The report alleged that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party in India, has been providing funds to politicians from major parties in Nepal, such as the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), to speak in favour of a Hindu statehood.
Bhutan: 12th Expert Group Meeting held with China
On 27 May, Kuensel reported that the 12th Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on the Bhutan-China boundary issue was held in Thimphu from 24 to 25 May. In the meeting, the two countries reviewed the positive consensus reached in the previous meeting and held discussions to take forward the implementation of the Three-Step Roadmap. They also emphasized increasing the frequency of their meetings.
Bangladesh: Growing Chinese efforts in Rohingya repatriation
On 30 May, The Daily Star reported that China is appearing to be active in turning the Rohingya repatriation into a reality. On 27 May, during Bangladesh-China Foreign Office Consultation (FOC), the Chinese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sun Weidong, stated that early repatriation would benefit Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the entire region. While the efforts from China and Myanmar towards repatriation are more active now, the Rohingyas still seem to lack trust and confidence in the junta. To build confidence and trust, visits by Myanmar officials to Rohingya camps and by the Rohingyas to Myanmar have been taking place. Recently, on 5 May, a 20-member Rohingya delegation visited a model village in Rakhine at the request of the Myanmar government.
Myanmar: Around 30 junta forces killed in resistance attacks
On 29 May, The Irrawaddy reported that at least 30 junta forces were killed in clashes between the People's Defense Forces (PDFs) and Ethnic Revolutionary Organizations (EROs) on one side and the junta forces on the other in the past three days. The attacks were reported in Sagaing, Magwe, and Mandalay regions and the state of Karen. According to Black Wolf Army, at least two regime soldiers were killed in a drone attack conducted at the school of Hpone in the Bwet Village.
Central Asia, The Middle East, and Africa
Palestine: Israeli forces attack Qusaya, a Lebanese town
On 31 May, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) official, Anwar Raja, alleged that Israeli forces attacked the Lebanese town of Qusayr where five Palestinians were killed. However, Israel did not make an official statement on the attack. One of the reports on the attack remarked that the blast resulted from an old rocket exploding in an arms depot while moving. Previously, the Israeli army killed a Palestinian and injured eight people during a Jenin refugee camp raid. The Israeli forces' near-nightly raids have been continuing resulting in multiple arrests.
Iran: Three killed in clashes between with Afghanistan over water rights
On 27 May, three people, including two Iranian border guards and one Taliban fighter were killed in an ongoing clash between Iran and Afghanistan over a water rights dispute. Iran's official IRNA news agency later said that two Iranian civilians were injured. The clashes came in the backdrop of Iran accusing the Taliban of violating a 1973 treaty by blocking the water flow from river Helmand to Iran's eastern regions. However, the Taliban has denied the allegations. Taliban Ministry of Defence spokesperson Enayatullah Khowarazmi stated: "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers dialogue and negotiation to be a reasonable way for any problem. Making excuses for war and negative actions is not in the interest of any of the parties." Meanwhile, Iran accuses Taliban forces of starting the fight by shooting first.
Mali: The US sanctions the head of the Wagner Group
On 26 May, the US Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on the head of Wagner Group, Ivan Aleksandrovich Maslov, for supporting Russia's war against Ukraine. The US accused the Wagner Group of trying to exploit the abundance of arms in Mali. The Treasury Department imposed sanctions by accusing Maslov of acquiring military equipment for the war in Ukraine through the operations of the Wagner Group in Mali. The US Treasury Department stated: "The Wagner Group's presence on the African continent is a destabilizing force for any country that allows for the deployment of the group's resources into their sovereign territory."
Sudan: Clashes continue despite the extension of the ceasefire
On 30 May, Al Jazeera reported that the intense clashes continued on the outskirts of Khartoum after military factions agreed to extend the ceasefire for an additional five days. The residents reported intense fighting in Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North hours before the ceasefire extension was signed and resumed on the outskirts of Khartoum. Army leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan stated that the army had agreed to the ceasefire extension to ease citizens' access to service. Additionally, he said: "The army hasn't used its full deadly power, but it will be forced to do so if the enemy does not obey or listen to the voice of reason."
Europe and the Americas
France expresses concerns over Iran's ballistic missile test; Ukraine sanctions Tehran
On 25 May, the French Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Anne-CLaire Legendre, said Iran's test-fire of ballistic missiles concerns its nuclear programme. The comment comes as a response to Iran's test firing of a 2000 kilometres range ballistic missile on 25 May. She accused Iran of violating the UN Security Council's 2231 resolution, which limits Iran from pursuing "any activity" relating to ballistic missiles with nuclear capability. Legendre stated: "Iran's activities pose serious and increased non-proliferation risks without any credible civilian justification." On 28 May, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy introduced a bill to sanction Iran for 50 years in response to Tehran's weapon supplies to Moscow, says Zelenskyy's Chief of Staff. The bill would impose trade, financial and technology sanctions against Iran and its citizens. It would also stop the transit of Iranian goods through Ukraine and the use of its air space.
Netherlands: 1579 arrested in a protest organized by Extinction Rebellion
On 27 May, BBC reported that about 1579 climate protesters were arrested by police for blocking A12, a major motorway in Hague. The Extinction Rebellion organized the protest and demanded an end to fossil fuel subsidies. According to the police, most protesters were released except 40 people, who would be prosecuted. The Extinction Rebellion accused police of using water cannons; however, the police refuted by saying that the protestors were allowed to move before firing water cannons. It is the seventh time the Extinction Rebellion protestors are blocking A12, which is prohibited for protests under the new rules by the mayor.
Sweden: Russian spy whale spotted in Hunnbostrand
On 28 May, a beluga whale, accused of espionage, was spotted in Hunnbostrand in western Sweden. In 2019, the whale was found wearing a camera harness and "Equipment St Petersburg" was printed on the camera. The beluga whale was named Hvaldimir by the Norwegians. The biologists removed the harness. According to the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, the whale escaped from the Russian training enclosure. The directorate added that it will go towards the ships as it was accustomed to the company of humans. According to OneWhale organization's Sebastian Strand, the whale is moving faster, which might be hormones or loneliness. The OneWhale reported that Hvaldimir had lost weight and is moving from the cold waters of Greenland and the Arctic, which it preferred.
Ukraine: Russia and Ukraine neglect to protect the Zaporizhzhia plant, IAEA Director General
On 30 May, the Director General of IAEA, Rafael Gross, accused Russia and Ukraine of not following the principles to protect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the UN Security Council. The principles comprise no attack on or from the plant, and no heavy weapons, artillery systems and munitions, tanks and military personnel should be harboured in the plant. He also announced that off-site power to be provided to the plant. According to the Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vasily Alekseyevich Nebenzya, Russia is following the same. The Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Olehovych Kyslytsya, called for the "demilitarization and deoccupation" of the power plant.
Russia: No lectures on nuclear weapon deployment, Russia to the United States
On 25 May, Russia dismissed criticism from US President Joe Biden over Moscow's deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Russia has been pushing ahead with the first deployment of tactical weapons outside its borders since 1991. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stated that the arms were already on the move. Biden had an "extremely negative" reaction to reports that Russia had moved ahead with weapon deployment in Belarus. Russia's embassy in the US called the US criticism of Moscow's deployment hypocritical. It also stated that the US had maintained a large arsenal of nuclear weapons in Europe for decades. Putin has warned that Russia will use all means to defend itself and stated that the US has hundred B61 tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe.
El Salvador: Former President Mauricio Funes given a 14-year prison term for dealing with gangs
On 29 May, the judge sentenced former El Salvador President Mauricio Funes to 14 years in prison for negotiating with gangs during his administration from 2009 to 2014. His former Security Minister, David Mungua Payés, was also sentenced to 18 years for his involvement in the negotiations. The Attorney General's Office (FGR) stated: "Former officials allowed the gangs to strengthen themselves economically and, in the territory, in exchange for reducing the homicide rate between 2011 and 2013, to benefit the government in power and favour it in the elections." Former President Mauricio Funes sought refuge in Nicaragua and was investigated for illicit enrichment, embezzlement, illegal negotiations, and influence peddling. He has been sentenced to eight years for illicit association and six years for failure to perform duties.
Canada: A new wildfire prompts a call for evacuation in Nova Scotia
On 30 May, Canadian emergency officials issued a mandatory evacuation order in parts of Bedford, Nova Scotia, due to a wildfire and the potential for an ammonia leak. A state of local emergency was declared in Halifax, Nova Scotia, after the wildfire caused evacuations and power outages, impacting 18,000 people. Forest fires led to the evacuations of about 400 homes in New Brunswick and Alberta.
The US: Nine people were injured in a shooting on Memorial Day in Florida
On 29 May, on Memorial Day, six adults and three children were injured when gunfire erupted at a beachside promenade in Hollywood, Florida. Yanet Obarrio Sanchez, a spokesperson for Memorial Healthcare System, stated that the victims were in stable condition. There were 20 mass shootings reported across the US on Memorial Day. Meanwhile, the police arrested an individual responsible for the shooting but have been looking for more suspects. There have been more than 260 mass shootings in the US this year, but Congress has been unable to pass substantial federal gun control.
About the authors
Padmashree Anandan is a Research Associate at NIAS. Rishika Yadav is a Research Intern at NIAS. Subiksha S, Taffy Tonia A, Lakshmi Parimala H and Nithyashree RB are Postgraduate Scholars at the Stella Maris College, Chennai. Sreeja JS, Varsha K, Immaculine Joy Paul and Jerry Franklin are Postgraduate Scholars at the Madras Christian College, Chennai.
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Harini Madhusudan, Rishika Yada, Sneha Surendran, Prerana P, Sreeja JS and Padmashree Anandhan
Rishika Yadav | Research Assistant, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore
Rishika Yadav and Nityashree RB | Research Assistant and Research Intern, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore
Padmashree Anandhan | Research Associate National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore
Harini Madhusudan, Rishma Banerjee, Padmashree Anandhan, Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan, and Avishka Ashok
Padmashree Anandhan and Rishma Banerjee
Emmanuel Selva Royan
Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan
Angelin Archana | Assistant Professor, Women’s Christian College, Chennai
Shreya Upadhyay | Assistant Professor, Christ (Deemed to be University), Bangalore
Uma Purushothaman | Assistant Professor, Central University of Kerala, Kerala
Debangana Chatterjee | Assistant Professor, JAIN (Deemed-to-be University), Bangalore
Himani Pant | Research Fellow, ICWA, Delhi
Emmanuel Selva Royan
Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan
Joeana Cera Matthews
Joeana Cera Matthews
Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan
Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan
Joeana Cera Matthews
Joeana Cera Matthews
Joeana Cera Matthews
Chetna Vinay Bhora
Joeana Cera Matthews
Joeana Cera Matthews
Keerthana Rajesh Nambiar
Chetna Vinay Bhora