Daily Briefs

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NIAS Europe Daily Brief #592 | 11 August 2023, Friday

War in Ukraine: Day 533

Roscosmos launches Luna-25 | Romania to pay foresters EUR 200 million | Russia declares the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) 'undesirable'

War in Ukraine: Day 532
By Rishika Yadav

War on Ground 
On 10 August, according to The Kyiv Independent, Russian attacks on Zaporizhzhia killed four and injured 20. The strikes targeted a church, shops, and high-rise buildings, hitting civilian infrastructure. The governor stated no military targets were involved in the attacks. 

On 10 August, according to Ukrinform, Ukraine announced temporary merchant vessel routes for Black Sea ports. These routes are primarily for civilian vessels stranded in Ukrainian ports since Russia's invasion. Ships confirming readiness to navigate under current conditions will be allowed.  
 On 10 August, according to Ukrinform, a massive drone attack hit Ukraine's oil depot.  No casualties were reported, and radiation and chemical levels in the region remain within normal limits, eliminating the need for mandatory evacuations.

On 10 August, the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) suffered a power outage from its main 750 kilovolt external line. Forced to switch to a backup 330 kilovolt line, further disconnection could lead to a blackout, posing a nuclear and radiation safety threat to the plant. The plant's unit four is already in a precarious "hot shutdown" state due to the occupiers' actions, according to Energoatom (State Enterprise National Nuclear Energy Generating company). 

On 10 August, according to Alarabiya News, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, lauded Saudi Arabia-hosted talks and growing global interest in Volodymyr Zelenskyy's, Ukraine's President, ten point peace plan, seen as a breakthrough. Over 40 nations attended, including major economies but not Russia, aiming to support Ukraine's vision for peace amid its conflict with Russia. 

The Moscow View
Claims by Russia

On 10 August, according to Barrons, Russia declared the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) 'undesirable.' Russia's prosecutor has labelled the CIT, known for investigating Moscow-related conflicts, as "undesirable," a move often used to suppress dissent. This action criminalizes CIT's work, endangering its staff and banning the sharing of its content online. The group, which monitors Russia's Ukraine offensive, is accused of engaging in anti-Russia propaganda campaigns. This decision aligns with Russia's efforts to curb independent media, as it has previously targeted outlets like Meduza, Dozhd, and Bellingcat.

On 10 August, according to TASS, Russian air defence brought down two drones targeting Moscow. According to Sergey Sobyanin, Moscow Mayor, Russian Air Defence Forces intercepted and destroyed two military strike drones aimed at Moscow. The drones were shot down in the Kaluga Region and near the Central Ring Road federal highway.

The West View 
Responses from the US and Europe  

On 10 August, according to The Washington Post, Joe Biden, US President, requested USD 20.6 billion in additional funding for Ukraine. Biden has urged Congress to approve USD 20.6 billion in extra funding for Ukraine as its military faces challenges in its counteroffensive against Russia. The funding request includes USD 13 billion for new military aid and USD 8.5 billion for economic, humanitarian, and security assistance, with additional forms of support. While the Western allies have provided strong support, the ongoing counteroffensive's progress has been slow, and questions arise about the conflict's state. The White House's request for aid aligns with Ukraine's 10-point peace plan. The House Freedom Caucus opposes more funding, potentially leading to debates over government spending in September. Biden's overall funding request totals around USD 40 billion.

On 10 August, according to the Associated Press, Poland plans to station 10,000 troops along its Belarus border due to concerns about Russian-linked mercenaries in Belarus and unauthorized migrant crossings. The move follows Poland's addition of 2,000 troops to the border in the next two weeks. Worries over migrants entering illegally from Belarus have persisted for two years, with Poland accusing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of exploiting the situation for "hybrid warfare." Concerns also extend to the Wagner Group fighters deployed in Belarus and Belarusian military helicopters entering Polish airspace. The move to bolster security aligns with Poland's parliamentary elections in October, as the ruling Law and Justice party seeks a third term. NATO monitors the situation in Belarus but sees no immediate threat.

 On 10 August, according to Deutsche Welle, Germany announced the dispatch of two more Patriot air defence missile systems to Ukraine. Zelenskyy hailed the move as a step toward establishing a comprehensive air shield for the nation, safeguarding both people and communities. The Patriot system, developed by the US, effectively counters Russian aircraft, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles. It encompasses mobile batteries equipped with command centres, radar stations for threat detection, and launchers. Ukraine already utilizes German and the US-supplied Patriot systems, which have successfully intercepted Russian hypersonic missiles. The reinforcement highlights international support for Ukraine's defence capabilities amid ongoing tensions.

Alexander Query, "Ukraine war latest: Russian attacks on Zaporizhzhia kill 4, injure 20," The Kyiv Independent, 10 August 2023
"Ukraine announces temporary corridors for merchant vessels sailing from its ports," Ukrinform, 10 August 2023
"Russian drones destroy oil depot in Rivne region," Ukrinform, 10 August 2023
"ZNPP loses power from main line, on verge of blackout - Energoatom," Ukrinform, 10 August 2023
"Ukraine talks in Saudi Arabia were a breakthrough for Kyiv: Ukrainian FM," Alarabiya News, 10 August 2023
"Russia Brands Conflict Monitoring Group' Undesirable'," Barron's, 10 August 2023
"Russia's Air Defense Forces down two strike drones targeting Moscow, says mayor," TASS, 10 August 2023
Jeff stein and Marianna Sotomayor, "Biden asks for $20.6 billion for Ukraine as counteroffensive sputters," The Washington Post, 10 August 2023
Vanessa Gera, "Poland plans to deploy 10,000 troops to its border with Belarus," Associated Press, 10 August 2023
"Germany bolsters Ukraine's air defenses with 2 more Patriot systems," Deutsche Welle, 10 August 2023

In Brief
By Padmashree Anandhan

Concerns over Belarus’s military exercises trigger Poland to deploy more border force
On 11 August, Poland’s defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced the deployment of 10,000 additional soldiers on the Belarus border. According to Blaszczak: “..closer to the border with Belarus to scare the aggressor so that they do not dare to attack us.” The move comes after Belarus plans to do a military exercise near Poland’s border and the general elections date was announced. In 2021, Poland was breached by illegal border crossing by 4000 migrants, post which a steel fence was installed covering half of the shared border with Belarus. (Raphael Minder and Barbara Erling, “Poland to station 10,000 troops on Belarus border,” Financial Times, 10 August 2023)
Roscosmos launches Luna-25 to study Moon’s South Pole
On 11 August, Russia’s space agency Roscosmos launched its first lunar mission after 50 years. Luna-25 mission aimed to study the moon’s south pole, which is believed to hold water in the form of ice. Such resources will be critical to support life on the moon and help explore the cosmos from the moon's surface. According to Russia’s Space Research Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences spokesperson: “The first goal is to find the water, to confirm that it is there .. to study its abundance.” From the geopolitical dimension, the US, China, and India have been consistently working to land on the moon. The ongoing efforts by big space powers to mark their presence are driving a pole race on moon. (Joshua Posaner, Matt Berg And Laura Hülsemann, “Russia shoots for the moon as space race against US heats up,” Politico, 11 August 2023; “Russia launches first moon mission in nearly 50 years,” Deutsche Welle, 10 August 2023)
Data leak of police officer prompt relocation in the Northern Ireland
On 10 August, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief apologised for an accidental leak of police officers online. According to the chief: “An early worst-case scenario that we have been dealing with is that third parties would attempt to get this data to intimidate, corrupt or indeed cause harm to our officers and staff.” Such leaks are sensitive as the officers become targets of “dissident groups” The data leak, which took place in July, was also revealed on 09 August included the details of the UK’s domestic intelligence body MI5 in Northern Ireland. In response, the government plans to relocate the officers whose data was exposed. (“Northern Ireland police data breach puts officers at risk,” Deutsche Welle, 11 August 2023)
Romania to pay foresters to prevent cutting of trees
On 10 August, the European Commission approved EUR 200 million as an aid to Romania to pay to its foresters. Till 2027, the foresters will receive the aid to not cut trees. The motto of the scheme is to reverse the biodiversity loss, boost the ecosystem and preserve the habitat. In the press release of the European Commission: “..the scheme was necessary and appropriate to support the development of the forestry sector.” In 2020, the Commission began an infringement procedure against Romania to protect the Natura 2000 forests and prevent the illegal cutting of trees. Romania, which was under EU’s pressure to combat illegal logging for years has implemented similar measures to control such illegal activities and deployed a police force to follow such crimes. According to many environmentalists, such measures have not been effective. (Louise Guillot, “Romania to pay farmers to leave trees standing,” Politico, 10 August 2023)
Energy prices expected to double by winter for Europe
On 10 August, Financial Times reported on the increasing gas prices and Europe’s energy shocks. According to the report, Europe was able to thwart energy crisis in 2022, but after supply cutoff by Russia has led Europe to depend more on LNG. This has resulted in energy prices becoming more sensitive to supply shortage and price surges up to 40 per cent. According to one of the energy consultants: “Europe has understandably backfilled Russian pipeline supply with versatile LNG. But that versatility leads to increased price volatility.” One of the top investment banks, Goldman Sachs warned that energy prices can double or triple by winter in Europe. The existing problems are, Australia’s LNG is not cost-effective to reach Europe’s shores due to long voyage and high shipping cost Europe’s storage currently stands at 90 per cent, but the reserves does not promise as winter temperatures may severe. (Shotaro Tani, “Gas price spike underscores Europe’s vulnerability to global energy shocks,” Financial Times, 10 August 2023)

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