Daily Briefs

Photo : Kacper Pempel/Reuters

16 August 2023, Wednesday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #596

War in Ukraine: Days 538

Alexander Stubb to run for Finland's presidential elections; Spain passed a law for stillborn babies; UK invests in AI initiatives to slash carbon emissions

War in Ukraine: Day 538
By Rishika Yadav

War on Ground
On 15 August, Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine's Prime Minister, reported on Telegram that another Russian missile attacks hit multiple Ukrainian cities, damaging civilian structures in eight regions. The attacks caused casualties and injuries, affecting residential buildings, schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure. Shmyhal praised the Air Defence Forces for intercepting most missiles during the night, minimizing the impact. Over 200 emergency service personnel are engaged in firefighting and rescue operations. The missile strikes occurred after an air alert due to missile launches from the Caspian Sea region.

The Moscow View
Claims by Russia

On 15 August, according to TASS, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President addressed the 11th Moscow Conference on International Security, attributing global security challenges to Western geopolitical recklessness and neocolonialism. Putin highlighted the simmering tensions worldwide and emphasized that these issues primarily arise from the West's selfish actions and geopolitical decisions. He cited examples such as the Sahara-Sahel region's instability due to the fallout from the intervention in Libya. Putin advocated for international cooperation to counteract these challenges, strengthen confidence between nations, and create opportunities for development.

On 15 August, according to Russia's defence ministry, Russian forces conducted airstrikes on multiple military industrial facilities in Ukraine, causing significant damage. Ukraine reported that the country's air force successfully destroyed 16 of the 28 cruise missiles launched by Russia.One missile hit a Swedish ball bearing factory in Lutsk, killing three employees. The strikes also damaged a sports complex in Dnipro and a children's playground in Lviv. On the frontlines, Russia claimed to have repelled multiple attacks. Additionally, Russia intercepted French SCALP missiles delivered to Ukraine.

On 15 August, according to The Moscow Times, Alexander Bogomaz, Bryansk regional governor, Russian military and security forces successfully intercepted a Ukrainian sabotage group attempting to infiltrate the Bryansk region in western Russia. The operation involved Russia's armed forces, Federal Security Service (FSB) border agents, and National Guard special units. The targeted area was Kurkovichi village, located across the border from Ukraine's Chernihiv region.

On 15 August, according to The Moscow Times, Russia's Central Bank raised interest rates from 8.5 per cent to 12 per cent due to the ruble's decline below 100 against the US dollar. The decision aims to curb price stability risks. The ruble briefly strengthened before falling back below 98 after the rate hike announcement. This emergency meeting marked the first since February 2022, when rates were raised to 20 per cent during the Ukraine conflict.

The West View
Responses from the US and Europe  

On 15 August, according to The Wall Street Journal, British police arrested five individuals, including three Bulgarians, suspected of working for Russian intelligence while living undercover in the UK. Charges include violating the Official Secrets Act and possession of false identity documents. They were released on bail and are due to appear in court in September. The UK has also passed new legislation criminalizing undeclared covert agents for foreign powers and actions undermining democracy.

On 15 August, according to Reuters, Sweden plans to provide Ukraine with a new military support package worth USD 313.5 million, including ammunition and spare parts for existing weapon systems. The Defence Minister stated that this aid is part of Sweden's long-term commitment to Ukraine in what is anticipated to be a prolonged conflict. This marks Sweden's 13th military aid package to Ukraine, bringing the total value of their assistance to around USD two billion.

On 15 August, according to Reuters, Poland showcased its largest military parade since the Cold War in Warsaw, with a display of military strength aimed at sending a message to Moscow and bolstering ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) credentials ahead of upcoming elections. With 2,000 soldiers from Poland and NATO countries, 200 military items, and 92 aircraft participating, the parade marked the 103rd anniversary of Poland's victory over the Soviet Union. PiS, in power since 2015, intends to double the army's size and allocate four per cent of GDP to defence.

On 15 August, according to The Defence Post, Germany was reportedly considering modifying its long-range Taurus missiles before potential deployment to Ukraine. Kyiv seeks these air-launched cruise missiles to counter Russian aggression. Concerns over using the weapon to strike deep into Russia have made Germany hesitant. Discussions with the missile manufacturer are underway to integrate programming restrictions.

Russian missile attack damages civilian objects in eight regions - PM Shmyhal,” Ukrinform, 15 August 2023
Global tension spots stem from West’s neocolonialism, 'geopolitical recklessness' — Putin,” TASS, 15 August 2023
Russia Says Hit Military Industries In Ukraine Overnight,” Barron’s, 15 August 2023
Russian Forces Repel Ukrainian Incursion Into Border Region – Governor,” The Moscow Times, 15 August 2023
Jake Cordell. “Russia Raises Interest Rates to 12% After Ruble Plummets,” The Moscow Times, 15 August 2023
David Luhnow and Georgi Kantchev, “U.K. Arrests Bulgarian Trio Suspected of Spying for Russia,” The Wall Street Journal, 15 August 2023
Sweden prepares $314 mln military support package for Ukraine,” Reuters, 15 August 2023
Poland displays military might in huge parade as elections loom,” Reuters, 15 August 2023
Joe Saballa, “Germany Mulls Modifying Long-Range Taurus Missiles for Ukraine,” The Defence Post, 15 August 2023
Top UN aid official in Ukraine condemns latest wave of indiscriminate attacks,” news.un.org, 15 August 2023

In Brief
By Rishika Yadav

Mass protests in Bosnia demand action on violence against women
On 15 August, according to the Associated Press, thousands of Bosnians rallied in multiple cities demanding authorities to address violence against women following a live-streamed murder of an ex-wife. Demonstrators called for increased protection for women, curbing violent media content, and better police handling of violence cases. Bosnia's citizens were particularly outraged as the victim had reported harassment, and the shooter had a criminal record. The incident highlights pervasive gender-based violence in the Balkans, fueled by conservative norms and post-conflict challenges. This news illustrates the global concern regarding gender-based violence and highlights how incidents of violence against women spark widespread social movements demanding policy changes and increased protections. (“Thousands in Bosnia protest against violence after man livestreamed killing of ex-wife on Instagram,” Associated Press, 15 August 2023)
Alexander Stubb to run for presidential elections
On 15 August, according to Politico, Alexander Stubb, Former Finnish Prime Minister, announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections in Finland. Stubb, known for his roles in Brussels and the Finnish government, will compete against other contenders including Pekka Haavisto, ex-foreign minister, and Olli Rehn, Bank of Finland governor. The first round of voting is scheduled for 28 January 2024, with a runoff on 11 February, if needed. Alexander Stubb's candidacy adds a significant player to the Finnish presidential race, with his extensive political and European experience shaping the competition. (Elisa Braun, “Former Finnish PM Alexander Stubb to run for president,” Politico, 15 August 2023)

Wildfire under control after evacuations
On 15 August, according to the Associated Press, a large fire in southern France, scorching 500 hectares, is now under control after evacuating over 2,000 people. No injuries reported, and residents have returned. Firefighters continue to battle the blaze as the affected area remains under watch. The Pyrenees-Orientales region faced extreme heat, dryness, and winds. (“France: Pyrenees wildfire contained but still dangerous,” Associated Press, 15 August 2023)

Registration and naming of stillborn babies
On 15 August, according to Euronews, Spain passed a law allowing stillborn babies with a gestation period of over six months to be registered and named in the civil registry. This change follows advocacy by pregnancy loss associations. Previously, such babies were registered as "Abortion Creatures" without names or parents' identification. While some view this as a positive step for grieving families, feminist organizations are concerned it could be a step towards recognizing the fetus as a person and undermining abortion rights. The law doesn't conflict with Spain's current abortion rights, however, it reflects a delicate balance between acknowledging grief for families while sparking concerns about potential implications for abortion rights in Spain. (Laura Llach, “Spain's new registry for stillborn babies sparks deeply personal debate,” Euronews, 15 August 2023)

UK invests in AI initiatives to slash carbon emissions
On 15 August, according to the Government of the UK, the UK allocated GBP one million to fund twelve AI projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions and advancing renewable energy generation. These initiatives cover diverse areas, including AI-enhanced solar energy forecasting, AI robots for monitoring dairy farming's environmental impact, and low-power AI hardware development. An additional GBP 2.25 million will back more AI innovations targeting emission reduction in energy sectors. This funding aligns with the UK's ambitious goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The UK government's financial support of AI-driven projects demonstrates its commitment to leveraging technology for achieving ambitious environmental targets. By fostering innovation in AI and decarbonization, the government aims to propel the nation toward a sustainable future, reducing carbon emissions across various industries. (“AI to help UK industries cut carbon emissions on path to net zero,” gov.uk, 15 August 2023)

Bulgarians charged in UK espionage case
On 15 August, according to the Associated Press, three Bulgarians arrested in England in February on suspicion of espionage have been charged with possessing false identity documents. Orlin Roussev, Bizer Dzhambazov, and Katrin Ivanova were also suspected of working for Russian security services. The trio was found with multiple fake IDs from various countries. They were initially arrested under the Official Secrets Act 1911. The investigation is ongoing, and two others were arrested in connection with the case. This incident highlights the ongoing concern over espionage activities and the use of false identities in international intelligence operations. (“3 Bulgarian nationals arrested in espionage investigation face charges in U.K.,” Associated Press, 15 August 2023)

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