Photo : Reuters Graphics
07 March 2022, Monday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #142
By Ashwin Dhanabalan
War in Ukraine: Day Twelve
Continued shelling soar the gas and oil prices
Cities in Ukraine faced shelling in the centre, north and southern regions of the country. Ukraine’s Presidential Adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said: “The latest wave of missile strikes came as darkness fell.” The recent shellings caused evacuations in the regions of Mariupol and Volnovakha. The war in Ukraine had even impacted the global supply chains which resulted in an increase in the cost of food. Fertilizer companies too have been facing a shortage of raw resources as more than 60 countries bought essential raw materials from Russia.
Also, due to the war, the gas and oil price has soared 10 per cent, while stocks have taken a plunge as the US and Europe consider a ban on Russian crude oil. The rise in prices and the plunge of stocks hint at a possible stagflationary shock for world markets. Ukraine’s military has also speculated a possible Russian invasion on the capital of Kyiv as Russian troops were advancing towards it with tank and motorized infantry units.
President Zelenskyy’s video address
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a video address on 06 March, spoke on Russia violating the humanitarian corridor that led to the death of eight civilians. He criticized the Western leaders’ failure to respond to Russia’s plans to attack Ukraine’s military-industrial complex. He said: “The audacity of the aggressor is a clear signal to the west that the sanctions imposed on Russia are not sufficient.”
Zelenskyy further asked the UN’s top court to issue an emergency ruling to stop Russia’s invasion. Ukraine argued that Moscow claimed justification of war, citing a faulty interpretation of the genocide law. Zelenskyy urged the international community to further impose sanctions on Russia and requested military aircraft. He said: “If the invasion (of Ukraine) continues and Russia has not abandoned its plans against Ukraine, then a new sanctions package is needed... for the sake of peace.”
Russia’s counter claims: On humanitarian corridors and Ukraine’s attack on nuclear reactor
Russia claimed that Ukrainian Security forces and the nationalist Azov battalion planned to blow up an experimental nuclear reactor at the Kharkiv Institute. Russia’s Defense Ministry released a statement: “The Ukrainian military and the Azov battalion militants are planning to blow up the reactor and accuse the Russian Armed Forces of allegedly launching a missile strike on an experimental nuclear system.”
Russia also announced a ceasefire to open humanitarian corridors for four Ukrainian cities. Kyiv, Kharkiv, Sumy and Mariupol were allowed to open humanitarian corridors to evacuate citizens. Russia’s Inter-Agency Humanitarian Response Coordination Center said: “at the personal request by President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron to President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the Armed Forces of Russia announce a ceasefire from 10:00 on 07 March 2022 for humane purposes and are opening humanitarian corridors.”
External actors in the crisis: Responses from the UK, Northern Ireland, China and Anonymous
UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson held discussions with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in London regarding additional sanctions on Russia. The UK has earmarked GBP 74 million to help Ukraine financially while the Parliament will be voting on an Economic Crime Bill. The Economic Crime Bill would make it easier to sanction individuals. In four days, Northern Ireland announced to raise GBP 1.4 million in response to Ukraine’s humanitarian appeal for those affected by the conflict.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China’s Red cross would provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Wang’s statements came a few hours after Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Beijing to denounce Moscow. Wang also stressed China’s strong ties with Russia and reiterated a call for diplomatic talks to continue.
Anonymous, the hacking collective claimed to have hacked into Russian channels and broadcasts. The collective mentioned that they showed footage of the war in Ukraine. Anonymous said: “Remember us when various powers turn their attention towards us because it will happen…We can change the world for the better. That has always been the idea”.
From the ground: Plights of the people evacuating Ukraine
The people of Ukraine rejected Moscow’s proposed humanitarian corridors as it suggested the transportation of civilians to Belarus and Russia. The vast majority of the people fleeing Ukraine were headed towards Poland and among those fleeing, where children with cancer who were being evacuated by the non-governmental organisations. At the same time, the war in Ukraine resulted in an exodus of Indian students studying in Belarus to leave the country despite assurances from the authorities and their universities.
By Joeana Cera Matthews and Padmashree Anandhan
Prime Minister Frederiksen announces referendum on 01 June 2022
On 06 March, Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced a referendum to be held on 01 June. The referendum would decide whether or not the country should continue with its “opt-out from EU defence policy”. The move follows the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During a news conference, Frederiksen said: “Historic times call for historic decisions… (the government) very clearly calls on Danes to lift the opt-out on defence.” Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has also promised to expand defense spending by NOK 7 billion over a period of two years. Frederiksen added: “For me, as prime minister, this is a values-based decision… Putin’s pointless and brutal attack on Ukraine has heralded a new era in Europe, a new reality.” The referendum is expected to be a part of a newly-approved parliamentary agreement called the Folketing. (“Denmark to hold referendum on scrapping EU defence opt-out,” The Guardian, 06 March 2022)
Northern Ireland reports an increase in oil prices
On 07 March, Northern Ireland reported the increase in oil prices which have shot up by 35 per cent since the Russian invasion. Two-thirds of people in Northern Ireland depend on oil for heating purposes, which is the highest rate in Western Europe. After seven days of the invasion, the oil prices have increased from GBP 555.72 to GBP 758.11 within a span of one week. According to National Energy Action (NEA) it expects fuel poverty amongst households to be expected to double. This has resulted in oil companies selling the oil at losses as the price rise and demand falls. (Jessica Black, “Energy prices: NI oil prices up 35% since Russia invades Ukraine,” BBC, 06 March 2022)
Cabinet Reshuffle: Minister for Petroleum and Energy replaced
On 07 March, the Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store’s office announced the replacement of the Minister for Petroleum and Energy Marte Mjoes Persen with Terje Lien Aasland. Meanwhile, Persen was appointed in the Ministry for Labour and Social Inclusion.
The change of ministers during the concerning energy crisis is crucial given Norway is Europe’s top producer of oil and gas. Aasland has been a member of parliament for 16 years and is currently the head of the Energy and Environment committee. Persen replaces Hadia Tajik, who had resigned recently. (“Norway names Labour's Aasland as oil minister in cabinet shuffle,” Reuters, 07 March 2022)
Women in Sport reports more than one million girls drop out of sports after primary school
On 07 March, a recent study by Women in Sport found that more than one million girls in the UK drop out of sports when they become teenagers. The main reasons behind the dropout were due to “fear of judgement and lack of confidence.” As per the survey 43 per cent of girls expressed that they were no longer interested in sports after their primary level of education which sums to 1.3 million all over the UK. The stats showed that eight out of 10 girls accepted that the percentage of people who didn’t take part exceeded those who were active. The Women in Sport said: “Teenage girls are not voluntarily leaving the sport, they are being pushed out as a consequence of deep-rooted gender stereotypes. We must all do more to reverse this trend and not continue to accept this as inevitable.” (Matthew Weaver, “More than 1 million girls in the UK lose interest in sport as teenagers,” The Guardian, 07 March 2022)
The US extends support to Moldova to handle the refugee crisis
On 06 March, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the US stands united with Moldova as the country experiences inflow of huge number of refugees as a result of the war in Ukraine. So far, 230,000 refugees have gone across the Moldovan border to escape from the Russian attacks. According to Moldovan President Maia Sandu: “In this region now there is no possibility for us to feel safe.” The US administration has urged for humanitarian aid of EUR 2.5 billion to support Moldova in handling the refugee influx. (“US top diplomat reassures Moldova amid Ukraine crisis,” Deutsche Welle, 06 March 2022)