Daily Briefs

Photo : REUTERS/Edward McAllister

19 February 2022, Saturday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #129

EU and African Union leaders meet in Brussel

Storm Eunice batters the UK; Blinken to meet Lavrov soon; Fire on Euroferry Olympia near Corfu island;


By Joeana Cera Matthews and Ashwin Dhanabalan


Defense Ministry declares Putin to monitor military drills

On 18 February, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov announced that President Vladimir Putin would monitor the upcoming military exercises which would involve missile tests. The Russian Defense Ministry stated that Putin would “preside over a planned exercise of strategic deterrence forces... during which ballistic and cruise missiles will be launched". According to Deutsche Welle, Putin will supervise the drills from the defense ministry’s situation control center. Peskov also commented on the possibility of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attending the drills; he commented: “If they decide to be there together, then they will be there together. But it will depend on the decision of the heads of state.” (“Vladimir Putin to supervise Russian missile drills,” Deutsche Welle, 18 February 2022)  


Storm Eunice batters the country

On 18 February, the government urged the people to stay indoors as storm Eunice battered the isles with record-breaking wind gusts. Britain’s meteorological agency said: “This is provisionally the highest gust ever record in England,” with winds up to 196 kilometres per hour. With the storm’s severity increasing, the government is expected to hold a COBRA emergency later today. A meteorologist at the University of Reading in England, Peter Inness, said: “A strong jet stream like this can act like a production line for storms, generating a new storm every day or two.” Mayor of London Sadiq Khan warned: “Please stay at home, do not take risks, and do not travel unless absolutely essential.” (“O2 Arena damaged as deadly storm batters UK and heads for northern Europe,” Euronews, 18 February 2022)


Ukraine: Latvian Prime Minister expects long-term pressure from Russia 

On 18 February, during an interview with POLITICO in Brussels, the Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš expressed that Russia would have a hold over Ukraine and Europe for an extended period of time. He said: “In the best-case scenario — best-case meaning no war — we will be facing long-term pressure from Putin on Ukraine and on Europe as a whole… we have to be prepared for probably a long haul — not two weeks or two months or even two years.” (Jacopo Barigazzi, Andrew Gray and Cory Bennett, “West must brace for years of Putin pressure on Ukraine, Latvian PM says,” POLITICO, 18 February 2022)

Fire on Euroferry Olympia near Corfu islands 

On 18 February, a boat with 290 people on board the Euroferry Olympia was to be rescued as the ferry burst into flames. The incident happened near the Greek island of Corfu and was headed for the Italian port of Brindisi when a fire broke out on the car deck. The Greek coast guard said: “Most of the passengers were Italian nationals, according to Ionian islands governor Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, while the crew was both Greek and Italian.” 11 people were still missing, but the official still has to confirm the number of people who were able to leave the ferry when the orders to abandon the ship were given. (Ferry fire: Eleven missing as hundreds rescued off Corfu, BBC, 18 February 2022)


Ukraine: Blinken to meet Lavrov soon

On 17 February, the US State Department announced Secretary of State Antony Blinken to have agreed to a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Previously, speaking at the UN Security Council meeting, Blinken expressed: “We don’t know precisely how things will play out, but here’s what the world can expect to see unfold… Russia may describe this event as ethnic cleansing, or a genocide, making a mockery of a concept that we in this chamber do not take lightly.” (Julian Borger, Daniel Boffey and Dan Sabbagh, “Ukraine crisis: Blinken and Lavrov agree to meeting as tensions reach 'moment of peril',” The Guardian, 18 February 2022) 

EU and African Union leaders meet in Brussels 

On 18 February, EU and African leaders discussed reviving their relations that were hampered due to COVID-19. 40 African heads of government and state were expected to meet 27 EU leaders and the presidents of the Institution in Brussels. As reported by Euronews: “The joint summit is seen as an opportunity to turn the page on the last couple of years and open a new chapter to address common challenges, such as climate change, the energy transition, sustainable development, and the economic recovery.” As a way to improve their relations, the EU officials have pledged a EUR 150 billion investment package that would be announced during the summit. (“EU and African leaders meet in Brussels to reset relations after turbulent COVID years,” Euronews, 18 February 2022)

Antonio Guterres: “catastrophic” outcome is conflict in Eastern Europe escalates into war 

On 18 February, UN N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that if the Russia-Ukraine conflict escalates into a war, it would be catastrophic. He further said: “With a concentration of Russian troops around Ukraine, I am deeply concerned about heightened tensions and increased speculation about a military conflict in Europe. I still think it will not happen. But if it did, it would be catastrophic.” Guterres made these remarks during the Munich Security Conference and also said: “It’s high time to seriously de-escalate.” (“UN chief says Russian invasion of Ukraine would be ‘catastrophic’,” BBC, 18 February 2022

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