Photo : Raymond Roig/AFP
20 June 2023, Tuesday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #547
War in Ukraine: Day 481
By Sreeja JS and Rishika Yadav
War on the Ground
On 18 June, the Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate accused Russia for continuing its nuclear blackmail tactics, utilizing the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and potentially the territory of Belarus for the placement of Russian nuclear weapons. According to a spokesperson Andriy Yusov, the occupation authorities no longer ensure nuclear safety standards at the Zaporizhzhia plant. This involves the presence of forces, weapons, shelling, and petrifying of power plant personnel. Yusov stated that the safety of these facilities, including environmental and nuclear safety, can only be guaranteed when they are under Ukrainian control. The threat persists as long as Russians troops remain in the occupied territories.
On 19 June, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held a phone conversation on hostility situation and defence requirements of Ukraine. They focused on enhancing the capabilities of the Ukrainian army, particularly through the acquisition of long-range weapons. Zelenskyy also highlighted Russia's increased missile production using western components and stressed on intensifying sanctions.
On 19 June, Ukrinform reported on Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defence Hanna Maliar comments on increased Russian troops presence. According to the report, the Russian forces were trying to advance in the Lyman and Kupiansk directions. The Russia has concentrated a significant number of airborne assault units in the eastern region. Maliar highlighted the challenging situation in the east, with the Russian conducting an active offensive, intensifying shelling, and aiming to reach the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The main direction of attack for Russia currently lies in this area. Despite, Russia’s offensive Ukrainian troops have successfully preventing Russia's advancement.
The Moscow View
On 19 June, RT news reported on South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa comments on his visit to Ukraine and Russia. According to the report, the delegation presented a ten-point roadmap to Putin and Zelensky, aiming to end the ongoing conflict. The proposal included de-escalation of hostilities, respect for sovereignty under the UN charter, unrestricted grain exports, prisoner releases, and repatriation of children. While Zelenskyy emphasized the need for the withdrawal of Russian forces from occupied territories, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin expressed a willingness to engage in constructive dialogue based on equity and the recognition of legitimate interests. Russia’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov acknowledged the implementable ideas in the roadmap and confirmed continued dialogue with African countries.
On 19 June, RT news reported on Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson comments on the progress of stationing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. According to the report, stationing of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus has no specified time limits. The initial shipment of nuclear warheads has already arrived in Belarus. The agreement took into account the "destructive practices" of joint nuclear missions by NATO members. Polishchuk emphasized that unlike the US warheads in Europe, Russia's weapons would be situated near their own borders and within the Union State of Russia and Belarus. While the possibility of withdrawing the weapons from Belarus exists, Moscow would only consider it if the US removed its nuclear infrastructure from Europe. The director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's second department of CIS countries, Alexei Polishchuk, said: "Russia's decision was a response to what they perceive as aggressive actions by the US and NATO."
The West View
On 19 June, the UK Ministry of Defence in its daily intelligence update noted that Russia started redeploying its Dnipro Group of Forces (DGF) in Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut. DGF was previous;y deployed in the eastern bank of the Dnipro River. According to the Ministry, redeployment reflects Russia’s perception that a Ukrainian counteroffensive across the Dnipro is less likely to occur after the Kakhovka Dam collapse and the flooding.
On 19 June, Reuters reported on Swedish Parliamentary defence committee’s concerns over deteriorating security in the nordic. According to the report the defence and security policy of Sweden should be designed to deal with Russia, which might pose a long-term threat to European and global security. Prerequisites of a Sweden’s defence policy had changed due to the Ukrain war, but according to Sweden’s Defence Minister Pal Jonson, Sweden was in a “better position” to protect itself compared to a decade earlier. According to Sweden’s armed forces chief, it needs more equipment, personnel, and infrastructure to strengthen its defence.
On 19 June, according to AP News, Russia had means, motive and opportunity to destroy Kakhovka Dam. According to the report, from the exclusive drone photos and information collected, Russian troops were stationed in the area inside the dam where Ukrainians reported on the explosion. Additionally, the photos showed an explosive-laden car atop the structure that might have exploded or not. The Institute for the Study of War also assessed: “The balance of evidence, reasoning and rhetoric suggests that the Russians deliberately damaged the dam.”
The Global Fallouts
On 19 June, Nikkei Asia reported that Japan has agreed to establish a liaison system that will help Ukraine to reconstruct areas damaged because of Russian invasion. Japan’s reconstruction minister Hiromichi Watanabe and Ukraine’s Deputy Minister for Restoration of Ukraine also signed and MoU regarding the reconstruction support initiative. Nikkei Asia also said that Tokyo at the request of Ukraine, intends to advice and provide knowledge to Kyiv on rebuilding devastated regions based on the experience it gained from the earthquake and Tsunami that hit northern Japan in 2011.
"Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 19 June 2023," Twitter, 19 June 2023
Niklas Pollard, Johan Ahlander, Anna Ringstrom and Simon Johnson,“Swedish defence must adapt to match 'long-term' Russian threat -lawmakers,” Reuters, 19 June 2023
Mstyslav Chernov and Lori Hinnant, “Russia had means, motive and opportunity to destroy Ukraine dam, drone photos and information show,” AP News, 19 June 2023
“Ukraine latest: Kyiv says unable to contact war prisoners shifted to Hungary,” Nikkei Asia, 19 June 2023
By Sneha Surendran
Member’s of the Parliament vote to sanction Johnson
On 19 June, UK’s Member’s of the Parliament in the House of Commons approves the report which states that the former prime minister Boris Johnson deceived the parliament about the parties he held during the COVID pandemic. The ‘partygate’ as it is termed refers to a series of gatherings between 2020 and 2021 that was organized by Johnson during his tenure as PM. This flouted the strict lockdown rules that the UK was under at the time. The house’s Privileges Committee report recommended sanctioning Johnson for misleading the parliament, which equals “contempt” of the house. Member’s of the Parliament voted by 354 to 7. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak skipped the vote, as did many Conservative party members. Former prime minister Theresa May welcomed the move as a “small but important step in restoring people’s trust” in the parliament. Meanwhile, Johnson responded by accusing the committee for deliberately targetting him, terming it a “witch hunt.” (“Boris Johnson: UK lawmakers approve 'Partygate' report,” Deutsche Welle, 20 June 2023)
Switzerland moves ahead with climate-sensitive law
On 18 June, 59.1 per cent of voters in Switzerland voted to approve the government's new climate and innovation law. The law has several areas it looks to tackle such as achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The law also aims at increasing energy security by replacing imported fossil fuels with Swiss-made renewables. Businesses will also benefit from incentives if they invest in green technologies. The new law has raked up support from most political parties, business communities and environmental groups. The main opponent has been the right-wing Swiss People’s Party which criticized the new law, describing it as an “electricity guzzler.” WWF responded to the news by stating that “the result shows that the Swiss people are more than ever willing to take responsibility for improving climate protection.” (Simon Bradley, “Swiss approve net-zero climate law,” Swissinfo.ch, 18 June 2023)
Impact of climate change manifests as sea surface temperatures increase
On 19 June, BBC reported that the European Space Agency (ESA) has alerted about intense marine heat in the seas around the UK and Ireland. Water temperatures are reported to have increased by three to four celcius above average. The Met Office has concluded that human-instigated climate change is one of the causes of this warming. Such marine heat waves can adversely impact sea life. According to data from the Met Office, global sea surface temperatures for April and May were the highest ever recorded. Further, the EU’s Copernicus climate and weather monitoring service showed that the first 11 days of June were the hottest ever recorded globally. In June, global air temperatures also breached preindustrial levels by more than 1.5 celcius for the first time. The winds from the Sahara desert blow dust that blocks and helps reflect the sun's energy out of the atmosphere, thereby controlling sea temperatures. However, Atmospheric scientist Professor Michael Mann said that these winds have been lower than average this year. (“Climate change: Sudden heat increase in seas around UK and Ireland,” BBC, 19 June 2023)
Climate in Europe continues to deteriorate says Copernicus
On 19 June, a report by the World Meteorological Organization and the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change informed that Europe was the fastest-warming continent. Last year, temperatures on the continent were 2.3 degrees Celsius hotter compared to pre-industrial times. Apart from dangerous heatwaves, droughts, increasing sea-surface temperatures, marine heat waves, and unparalleled glacier melts are experienced. Copernicus director Carlo Buontempo warned: “Unfortunately, this cannot be considered a one-off occurrence or an oddity of the climate.” Below-normal rainfall has also negatively impacted the agricultural sector. The hot weather also led to raging fires in France, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. In a small cheer for Europe, the report stated that for the first time, output from wind and solar power overtook electricity production from fossil gas for EU in 2022. (“Europe is world's fastest warming continent, finds climate report,” Le Monde, 19 June 2023)
UN adopts first international treaty on high seas after 15 years debate
On 19 June, the UN adopted a historic first international treaty that will afford protection to the high seas. Officially titled the treaty on “Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction,” (BBNJ) it will draw up a legal framework that will cover 60 percent of the world’s oceans. The treaty is the result of over 15 years of deliberations, with the UN members finally giving their assent to it in March. The high seas fall outside the purview of the Exclusive Economic Zones of countries, which is the reason any treaty on the matter mandates international cooperation. The treaty also has principles for sharing the benefits of “marine genetic resources” (MGR) collected by scientific research and also has regulations listed for environment studies in international waters. (“UN adopts treaty to protect high seas,” Le Monde, 19 June 2023)
Investigation over Greece boat tragedy finds nine guilty
On 19 June, BBC reported that nine Egyptian men who have been accused of the Greek migrant boat tragedy have pled not guilty to charges of human trafficking. The disaster that took place off the Greek coast has led to the opening of investigations including from the UN. Pakistan has also arrested alleged human trafdickers and opened up an inquiry to probe human trafficking rings in the country. Meanwhile, the BBC has flagged concerns regarding the testimonies of the Greek coastguards. According to investigations about ship movements in the region, the migrant boat was stationary for several hours. However, Greek authorities continue to maintain that the boat was on course to Italy and refused assistance. (“Greece boat disaster: Trafficking suspects plead not guilty,” BBC, 19 June 2023)
Macron urges to promote development of European airspace
On19 June, France’s President Emmanuel Macron urged European nations to take an active interest in developing their airspace defence. He made the comments in a Paris meeting attended by defence delegations from 20 European countries as well as NATO and EU representatives. Macron stressed reducing reliance on the US and for European defence equipment manufacturers to relocate manufacturing in Europe under European standards. France has also not joined the European Sky Shield project which is a German-led initiative of 17 European member states to improve Europe’s air defences. France has said that this initiative undermines Europe’s sovereignty as it is largely collaborating with US and Israeli industries. Macron also informed that the Mamba anti-missile system developed along with Italy is now deployed and operational in Ukraine. (“Macron calls on Europe to develop its own airspace protection strategy,” Le Monde, 20 June 2023)
EU-Kenya sign new trade deal to allow free accessibility of markets
On 19 June, Kenya and the European Union signed a new trade deal. With this, Kenya will have duty-free and quota-free access to the markets of the EU. The EU is Kenya’s biggest market to which it exports majorly agricultural products. In return, imports from the EU to Kenya will benefit from an incremental tariff cut over a 25-year period, with a few exceptions. Kenya receives chemicals and machinery from the EU. The trade pact is being viewed as the EU’s attempt to strengthen economic ties with Africa and hold off China. The new Economic Partnership Agreement took just 7 months to finalize. (“Kenya, EU sign trade deal as Brussels bolsters Africa ties,” Deutsche Welle, 19 June 2023)
Airbus-IndiGo deal as India’s aviation sector continues to grow
On 19 June, Airbus, the world's largest aircraft manufacturer announced that it had acquired a million-billion dollar deal with Indian airline IndiGo. Based in Haryana, IndiGo is India’s premier airline in the aviation sector with regard to passengers ferried and fleet size. Under the deal, IndiGo has placed an order for 500 single-aisle Airbus aircraft. IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers said that “This is just the beginning, there's more going forward. With the growth of India [and] the growth of the Indian aviation market [...] this is the right time for us to place this order.” Relations between IndiGo and Airbus date back to 2005 when IndiGo, then a startup, placed its first orders for a hundred A320s. India’s growing middle class and rapid expansion in the economic sector are increasingly presenting the country as an untapped reservoir of potential for the aviation sector. (Andreas Spaeth, “Airbus wins record IndiGo order as Indian aviation soars,” Deutsche Welle, 19 June 2023)