Daily Briefs

Photo : REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

18 February 2022, Friday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #128

Ukraine: Kyiv in talks with Washington over potential SDRs from IMF

Macron announces troop withdrawal from Mali; Shelling increases in Eastern Ukraine; Russia criticized for expelling the US diplomat;


By Joeana Cera Matthews and Padmashree Anandhan 


Emmanuel Macron announced withdrawal of troops from Mali

On 17 February, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal of troops and allies in European force from Mali. The French troops had been present in Mali to battle out Islamist militants since 2013 and upon the crack in the diplomatic relations has made the French to withdraw from the region. Macron said: "We cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de-facto authorities whose strategy and hidden aims we do not share." In response, spokesperson from the Junta said: “terrorism engulfed the entire Malian territory.” The start point to the break in relation between France and Mali began when the army took over in a coup in 2020. (“Mali conflict: Macron announces troops to leave after nine years,” BBC, 17 January 2022)


CNE to delay the Socialist party from taking charge

On 17 February, the National Electoral Commission (CNE) delayed the positioning of the new Socialist government. It had asked the Portuguese citizens to vote again in March. The repeat of elections is due to recent court ruling against the agreement of political parties to remove the need to include identity of voters in the mail-in ballot. The court declared such votes to be illegal and invalid. With the court decision, the socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa who won with majority, will not be able to take up the role as per schedule on 23 February. (“Portuguese voters abroad to recast ballots after election mess-up,” Reuters, 17 January 2022)


Dutch Prime Minister apologises to Indonesia on using extreme violence

On 17 February, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologised to Indonesia for the use of systematic and extreme violence against citizens during the 1945-49 war of independence. A recent study of three historic institutions found that in the archipelago nation's war of independence, Dutch armed forces, politicians, civil servants, and judges had engaged deliberately in a violent manner towards the public of Indonesia. According to the review: “"extrajudicial executions, ill-treatment and torture, detention under inhumane conditions, the torching of houses and villages, the theft and destruction of property and food supplies, disproportionate air raids and artillery shelling, and what were often random mass arrests and mass internment." (“Netherlands apologizes to Indonesia over war crimes,” Deutsche Welle, 17 February 2022)


Ukraine: Gold rates spike to eight-month high; Euro falls

On 17 February, the rate of gold reached an eight-month high while safe-haven debt increased alongside. This was considered a result of the warning of an imminent Russian attack on Ukraine by US President Joe Biden. While the bonds of the US and German governments witnessed a fall, the oil rates also saw a fall owing to Iran nuclear deal reaching its last stages. The Euro fell by 0.11 per cent to USD 1.1361 while the bitcoin fell by 8.2 per cent to USD 40,470.33. Meanwhile, Chief Investment Officer at Key Private Bank commented: “There's a lot of confusion right now and everybody's crystal ball is pretty cloudy… It's going to be a challenging year, but not a dire year. Expect some volatility this year, but don't abandon risk altogether, don't get super defensive. There's a lot of missed opportunities inside the market.” (Herbert Lash, “Gold jumps, stocks slide on Ukraine tensions mount,” Reuters, 18 February 2022) 


Ukraine: Kyiv in talks with Washington over potential SDRs from IMF

On 17 February, Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko announced that the country is in talks with the US on the possibility of receiving the International Monetary Funds’ (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). This facility would let countries transfer reserve assets to Kyiv. Marchenko stated: “We are discussing a very sophisticated tool which can help us with SDR allocation.” This is an initiative undertaken by the Ukrainian government against the Russian gathering of troops along its border. Marchenko, hoping the US grant of USD 1 billion reaching the country soon, added: “U.S. guarantee means that we can borrow with a triple A rating… We can top up necessary finance to finance our deficit, we'll be able to support our currency as well.” (Karin Strohecker and Natalia Zinets, “EXCLUSIVE Ukraine bids for SDR transfers in funding push, new IMF deal - FinMin,” Reuters, 17 February 2022) 

Ukraine: UN Political Affairs Chief calls for Minsk Protocol implementation 

On 17 February, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo called for the implementation of the 2015 Minsk agreements. Commenting on the ambiguous information being spread regarding the status of the Russian troops along the Ukraine border, DiCarlo stated: “Whatever one believes about the prospect of such a confrontation, the reality is that the current situation is extremely dangerous.” She called on a de-escalation of the crisis using regional and other frameworks enabling increased diplomacy. (“Ukraine crisis: UN political affairs chief calls for ‘maximum restraint’,” UN News, 17 February 2022) 

Eastern Ukraine: Shelling increases, continues for second day

On 18 February, Reuters reported eastern Ukraine to be witnessing increased shelling for the second day in a row. The West has termed this escalation as a potential Russian justification for an invasion. No deaths have been reported yet. The OSCE’s mission in eastern Ukraine reported around 600 violations of the ceasefire agreements on 17 February alone. The Kremlin also commented on the escalation terming it as “dangerous”. Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden commented: “We have reason to believe they are engaged in a false flag operation to have an excuse to go in.” (Dmitry Antonov and Pavel Polityuk, “Alarm as east Ukraine shelling enters second day,” Reuters, 18 February 2022) 

Russia criticized for expelling the US diplomat

On 17 February, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre while warning on the increasing tensions on Russian invasion, called the dismissal of the US Deputy Ambassador to Russia as “unprovoked.” Jean Pierre criticized Russia’s act to expel the Deputy Chief, stating the importance of diplomatic individuals at a crisis situation was important to exchange critical communication. On the same lines of President Joe Biden, she warned that the attack by Russia on Ukraine may occur at any moment. (“Russia expulsion of U.S. deputy ambassador 'unprovoked' - White House, Reuters, 17 January 2022)

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