Daily Briefs

Photo : President of Ukraine

20 September 2023, Wednesday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #625

War in Ukraine: Day 573 | At the UN, Zelenskyy warns against secret negotiations with Russia

EURO two million in aid to Morocco and Libya for natural disasters; France and Germany presents joint proposal for EU enlargement; Spain's Parliament allows the use of minority languages amidst protests

War in Ukraine: Day 573
By Rishika Yadav

War on Ground
On 19 September, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s President, warned against secret deals with Russia. Zelenskyy, addressing the UNGA, emphasized that “evil cannot be trusted.” He cited the unfulfilled promises of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, and urged transparent unity in decision-making. He also highlighted Ukraine’s commitment to preventing future global aggression post-Russia’s actions. He accused Russia of weaponizing food shortages, attempting to exchange them for recognition of captured territories. 

On 19 September, Russia’s strikes in Ukraine left six dead. The strikes targeted Kupiansk in northeastern Ukraine, raising the day’s toll to nine. Ukraine’s forces have been pushing back Russia’s advances in the Kharkiv region. The Ukraine’s army reported shooting down 27 out of 30 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched by Russia during the night. 

On 18 September, The New York Times reported on a likely strike in Ukraine from an errant missile. On 06 September, the missile strike in Kostiantynivka, Ukraine, killing 15 civilians, was initially attributed to Russia’s forces. However, the evidence collected by The New York Times suggested it was an errant Ukraine’s air defence missile. This missile was fired from a Buk launch system. Evidence includes missile fragments, satellite imagery, witness accounts, and social media posts. Such missiles can go off course due to electronic malfunctions or damage to guidance fins during launch. 

On 19 September, Oleksandr Kurakov, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister, confirmed the departure of a cargo ship loaded with grain from a Black Sea port. It comes despite Russia’s warnings of treating civilian vessels as military targets. Ukraine established a naval corridor to facilitate the safe passage of cargo ships. Kurakov announced the departure of the vessel Resilient Africa, carrying 3,000 tons of wheat, from the port of Chornomorsk, heading towards the Bosphorus. 

The Moscow View
Claims by Russia

On 19 September, Oleh Synehubov, Governor of Kharkiv region, informed that Russia’s attack on the northeastern Ukraine’s town of Kupiansk resulted in at least three fatalities. The attack involved a guided air bomb, marking another instance of ongoing conflict in the region.

On 19 September, according to TASS, Putin called for increased production of counterbattery and air defence systems. He said this at a meeting of the Russian Defence Industry Commission. He emphasized the need to supplement delivery schedules for these systems by 2024. Putin praised defence enterprises for maintaining steady operations in the first eight months of the year.

On 18 September, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation reported that Russia and China reaffirmed their alignment on several issues. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, and Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister addressed the alignment over the Ukraine conflict and the US. Both countries emphasized the importance of considering Russia’s interests and participation in resolving the Ukraine crisis. Wang also discussed his talks with Jake Sullivan, US National Security Adviser. 

On 19 September, Russia’s troops struck an industrial facility in Lviv. It resulted in the destruction of a humanitarian aid storage point. Edvard Kava, assistant bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lviv, revealed that over 15 trucks of humanitarian aid were burned. It also included clothes, food, and generators from the Vatican.

On 19 September, Putin chaired a Military-Industrial Commission meeting in Izhevsk. The meeting covered the supply schedule for weapons and equipment, discussed the draft State Armament Program for 2025–2034, and considered candidates for key positions related to weapon development and technology. He ordered to increase the military production by ten fold. 

The West View
Responses from the US and Europe  

On 19 September, Lloyd Austin, US Defence Secretary, called on allies to enhance Ukraine’s air defence capabilities. He said this during a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Austin emphasized the importance of air defence in saving lives and encouraged allies to contribute air defence munitions as Ukraine prepares for another winter of conflict.

On 19 September, Joe Biden, US President, at UNGA, emphasized the need for unity in defending Ukraine against Russia’s aggression. He warned against allowing Ukraine to be carved up and called on allies to support its air defence capabilities. Biden requested USD 24 billion in aid for Ukraine, facing opposition from isolationist elements within his own party. 

On 19 September, Lloyd Austin, US Defence Secretary, announced that the US will soon deliver M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. It comes as a part of over USD 43 billion in security assistance pledged since Russia’s invasion. The tanks will be equipped with 120 millimetre depleted uranium rounds, a controversial choice due to potential health concerns. 

On 19 September, Czech Republic, Denmark, and the Netherlands signed a letter of intent to provide financial support for the supply of Czech weapons to Ukraine. The initiative aims to cover various military supplies, including tanks, howitzers, small arms, air defence capabilities, and electronic warfare equipment. The first project will involve donating modernized T-72EA tanks to Ukraine. Denmark will also contribute by donating 30 Leopard, one tank and 15 T-72 tanks. 

The Global Fallouts
On 19 September, G7 foreign ministers urged China to use its influence to compel Russia to cease its aggression in Ukraine. The joint statement, released by Japan, called for the immediate withdrawal of Russia’s troops without conditions. Concerns arose after a meeting between Putin and Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, raising fears of closer military ties between Russia and North Korea.

Tetiana Lozovenko, “Zelenskyy on agreements with Russia: Ask Prigozhin whether Putin can be trusted,” Ukrainska Pravda, 19 September 2023
Russian Strikes In Ukraine Kill Nine,” Barron’s, 19 September 2023
John Ismay, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Haley Willis, Malachy Browne, Christoph Koettl and Alexander Cardia, “Evidence Suggests Ukrainian Missile Caused Market Tragedy,” The New York Times, 18 September 2023
Ukraine Grain Ship Leaves Black Sea Port Despite Russian Threat,” Barron’s, 19 September 2023
Russia’s weaponization of food and energy impacts all countries, Zelenskyy tells UN Assembly,” UN News, 19 September 2023
Anna Pruchnicka, “Three killed in Russian attack on Ukrainian town of Kupiansk - governor,” Zawya, 19 September 2023
Putin orders ramping up production of counterbattery, air defense systems,” TASS, 19 September 2023
Russia Hails 'Similarity' of China's Position on U.S., Ukraine,” The Moscow Times, 19 September 2023
Meeting of the Military-Industrial Commission,” President of Russia, 19 September 2023
Drone attack on Lviv: 300 tonnes of humanitarian aid destroyed, including from Vatican,” Ukrainska Pravda, 19 September 2023
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley Hold Press Conference Following Ukraine Defense Contact Group, Ramstein Air Base, Germany,” U.S. Department of Defense, 19 September 2023
Biden urges world leaders at UN to remain united against Russian aggression,” Le Monde, 19 September 2023
Ukraine will receive M1 Abrams tanks for counteroffensive, says US,” Euronews, 19 September 2023
Letter of Intent: Joint donation of Czech weaponry to Ukraine initiative,” Forsvarsministeriet, 19 September 2023
G7 ministers call on China to press Russia to stop aggression in Ukraine,” Reuters, 19 September 2023

EM In Brief
By Rishika Yadav

EURO two million in aid to Morocco and Libya for natural disasters
On 19 September, Karl Nehammer, Austria’s Chancellor, announced that the country would provide EUR two million from the foreign disaster fund to assist Morocco and Libya in the wake of recent natural disasters. Austria’s aid will be directed toward emergency relief efforts by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society. It will provide essential assistance such as medical care, clean water, food, and shelter to those affected by these disasters. (“Chancellor Nehammer: Austria is helping Morocco and Libya with 2 million euros from the foreign disaster fund,” Bundeskanzleramt, 19 September 2023)

Donates Cargo carriers to Ukraine for supply transport
On 19 September, the Government of Norway announced that Norway would provide around 50 tracked cargo carriers to Ukraine. It is to aid in the transportation of supplies to areas lacking roads. Bjorn Arild Gram, Norway’s Defence Minister, highlighted the carriers’ ability to manoeuvre in terrain inaccessible to wheeled vehicles. It makes them vital for transporting goods, including ammunition, food, and water to Ukraine’s troops. The vehicles, known as NM199 in Norway and M548 internationally, have been in storage within the Norwegian Armed Forces and will be maintained before donation. (“Norway donates cargo carriers to Ukraine,” Government.no, 19 September 2023)

Parliament allows the use of minority languages amidst protests
On 19 September, Spain’s national parliament permitted the use of three minority languages – Catalan, Basque, and Galician – after the concession by Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s Prime Minister, to Catalan separatists. The move led to objections from the far-right party, Vox, which then abandoned the chamber in protest. The conservative Popular Party demanded formal approval for the use of minority languages. This development is part of Sanchez’s efforts to gain support from Catalan separatist parties for his investiture vote. Spain has also called for these languages to be recognized as official EU languages, but this has faced resistance from some member states. (“Spain's parliament allows use of Basque, Catalan, Galician,” Deutsche Welle, 19 September 2023)

Bilateral agreement with Slovakia for second contribution
On 19 September, Switzerland and Slovakia inked a bilateral agreement for the implementation of Switzerland’s second contribution to selected EU member states. Switzerland will provide CHF 44.2 million to support programs in Slovakia, focusing on vocational training, sustainable tourism, and healthcare. This agreement marks the final step in establishing 13 bilateral implementation agreements for Switzerland. It is aimed at strengthening cohesion within the EU. The cooperation program with Slovakia addresses the country’s current needs, promoting Swiss-Slovak partnerships where Switzerland can offer valuable experience. This contribution seeks to enhance sustainable tourism, vocational education, and healthcare in Slovakia. (“Greater cooperation with Slovakia,” The Federal Council, 19 September 2023)

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer meets Macron in Paris
On 19 September, Keir Starmer, UK’s Labour Party leader, met with Emmanuel Macron, France’s President, in Paris. Although it is not unusual for Macron to meet with opposition leaders, the talks did not provide Starmer with any endorsement from the French president. Starmer has been making appearances on the world stage and recently expressed his desire for closer ties with the EU while ruling out rejoining the bloc if he becomes the UK’s prime minister. Starmer’s visit to Paris highlights the warming UK-France relationship after disputes over the Brexit deal. (“French President Macron to host UK opposition leader Starmer,” Deutsche Welle, 19 September 2023)

New IT coalition launched to support Ukraine’s defence forces
On 19 September, Luxembourg and Estonia led a kick-off meeting of the IT Coalition within the “Ramstein framework” during the Ukraine Defence Contact Group (UDCG) meeting. This coalition is supported by seven countries including Belgium, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, and Estonia. It aims to provide a secure and resilient IT infrastructure for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence and Defence Forces. Luxembourg has pledged EUR 10 million for 2023 to launch this initiative. The coalition focuses on IT, communications, and cybersecurity support to enhance Ukraine's military efficiency and effectiveness. The coalition was initially announced during the June UDCG meeting. (“Luxembourg, Estonia and Ukraine have launched the IT Coalition,” The Luxembourg Government, 19 September 2023)

France and Germany presents joint proposal for EU enlargement
On 19 September, France and Germany submitted a joint report outlining EU reforms. It comes with the need to accommodate new member states like Ukraine, Moldova, and the Western Balkans. The report suggests tighter rules on the rule of law, changes to voting procedures in the European Council, and an expanded EU budget. It also proposes a multi-tiered bloc that includes an inner circle of select EU countries, the EU itself, "associate members" of the single market, and an outer tier. This proposal aims to facilitate an enlarged EU while avoiding treaty changes, with some countries opting for deeper integration while others maintain a looser association. (Mared Gwyn Jones, “Germany, France present EU reform proposal as bloc prepares for new members,” Euronews, 19 September 2023)

EU urges Serbia and Kosovo to fulfil commitments amid dialogue stalemate
On 19 September, the EU expressed concern about both parties’ failure to implement their commitments under the Agreement on the Path to Normalisation. This took place following the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue on 14 September. The EU called on Serbia and Kosovo to engage constructively, starting implementation without delay, including the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb Majority Municipalities. The EU expressed concern over tensions in northern Kosovo and criticized actions by both parties that risk further escalation. The EU reaffirmed its readiness to lift or impose measures based on progress and emphasized the importance of holding early local elections in northern Kosovo. (“Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue: Statement by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union on expectations from Serbia and Kosovo*,” European Council, 19 September 2023)

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