Daily Briefs

Photo : BBC/Institute of War

21 March 2022, Monday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #154

War in Ukraine: Day 25

War on the ground; The Moscow view; The West view; The global fallouts

War in Ukraine: Day 25
By Padmashree Anandhan and Ashwin Dhanbalan

President address in Israel Parliament, Switzerland anti-war protests and targeted attacks in Mariupol

Zelensky’s address
On 20 March, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Israeli Ministers in Israel Parliament. In his speech, he highlighted three points. First, asking the parliament to see it as a full-scale world war and not as a military operation. Second, to support Ukrainians, supply the best weapons, air defense, and third, he questioned the “neutrality of Israel” in the invasion. He also asked why the sanctions have not been levied on Russia by Israel.

On Mariupol, Zelensky accused Russia for the continued bombing of the city. So far, the airstrikes and shelling have hit several civilians ‘spaces such as residences, hospitals, and theatres, killing more than 2400 people.

On 20 March, Zelensky declared the ban on 11 pro-Russian parties under martial law as they were accused of being in relations with Russia. The parties include “Opposition Bloc, Party of Sharia, Ours, Left Opposition, Union of Left Forces, State, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialist party Ukraine, Socialists, and Vladimir Saldo Bloc.”

On 20 March, Zelensky also addressed an anti-war protest outside the Swiss Parliament in Bern. He said: “Ukrainians feel what it is when cities are destroyed. They are being destroyed on the orders of people who live in European, in beautiful Swiss towns, who enjoy property in your cities. It would really be good to strip them of this privilege.” He urged for the confiscation funds in Swiss banks of those involved in instigating the war. Although not being a member of the EU, Switzerland has sanctioned Russia equally.

Ukraine’s military advance
On 20 March, Ukraine’s General Staff claimed that first Naval Officer Andrei Paly, Deputy Commander of Russia's Black Sea fleet, was killed in the fighting. The same was confirmed by the secretary of the Nakhimov naval college, Konstantin Tsarenko. Ukraine’s military has also stated to have killed 15,000 Russian troops in the last three weeks. Apart from the killing, it also updated on the destruction of Russia's Kostroma 331st Guards Airborne Regiment, Russian military hardware, 476 tanks, 200 jets, drones, and 1487 personnel haulers. The Military also observed that, instead of launching fresh attacks, the Russian military was replacing its lost and damaged equipment. It also claimed to have stopped the “Russian offensive” in Izyum located east. 

Continuing attacks and evacuation
On 20 March, Russian troops continued to advance in various locations from the port city of Mariupol, airstrike southeastern Ukrainian city Mykolaiv to eastern Ukraine town Kreminna. In particular, a school that sheltered 400 people and the biggest iron and steelworks factory in Mariupol was stricken by Russia, causing many causalities. The steel plant was considered to be the key element for Mariupol. Russia aims to capture Mariupol because it serves as an access corridor to the eastern Ukraine Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Apart from the strikes on Mariupol, 4000 to 4500 residents have been moved out to farther places by Russia. According to one of the Ukrainians, Russians have begun to walk in the basements where people are found to be sheltering and being forcefully moved. Although Russia initially denied the claim on moving civilians outside Ukraine,  the Defense Ministry later confirmed that the individuals were evacuated by the Russian government. It said the people were moved out upon their wish to “escape to Russia.”

Claims by Russia

On 20 March, TASS reported that people who have moved into Russia had crossed 335,000. The security officials have said that people from Donetsk, Lugansk and Ukraine regions have moved into Russia, out of which 111,000 are reported to be Russian, DPR and LPR citizens. Russian forces reported having brought down protests in many Ukrainian cities under control in Enerhodar. 

On 20 March, Russia launched a hypersonic missile for the second time to fuel deport in Ukraine. Previously the underground military base of Ukraine was targeted using advanced weaponry. Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the attack on the fuel storage and said that the missile could go 2,000kms, targeting at long range. It also claimed to have killed dozens of mercenaries through missile strikes. According to a spokesperson from the ministry: “High-precision air-launched missiles struck at the training centre for special operations forces of the Ukrainian armed forces, where foreign mercenaries who arrived in Ukraine were based.”

On 20 March, Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said that 250 humanitarian cargoes were supplied to Ukraine and Donbass. The spokesperson of the Ministry said: “On March 20, a convoy of 24 heavy-duty trucks from the Russian emergencies ministry’s Noginsk and Don rescue centres delivered another batch of some 250 tonnes of humanitarian cargoes, which included food products and articles of daily necessity, to Donbass and Ukraine.”

Responses from the US and Europe

On 20 March, a report by Radio Free Europe mentioned how Belarusian railway workers had cut off railway lines with Ukraine so that Russians could not send supplies from Belarus to its campaign against Kyiv. Ukraine's Director of the Ukrzaliznytsya state railroad, Oleksandr Kamyshin, said: "At the present moment, I can say that there is no railway connection between Ukraine and Belarus. I cannot discuss details, but I am grateful to Belarus's railway workers for what they are doing." He also called Belarus's railway workers honest people and noted that their actions deter Russia from sending military equipment through trains. 
On 20 March, a concert was held in Berlin to show the people's solidarity with Ukraine. Many performers wore shades of blue and yellow, which are the Ukrainian flag's colors. The concert was held near Brandenburg Gate, which symbolized a divided Germany in the Cold war. Ten thousand people were said to have attended the concert, waving Ukrainian flags or holding banners that opposed the Russian invasion. 
The US
On 20 March, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin mentioned a "significant reaction" from Washington if Russia resorted to chemical or biological weapons attack on Ukraine. He further talked about how Russia's advance had been stalled in other major cities. However, as reported by Deutsche Welle: "He also would not confirm or dispute whether Russia used hypersonic weapons in the war but added they have not been a game-changer." He further assured that the US and the allies would help create conditions for Ukraine to receive similar equipment like the Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to defend itself from the superior Russian air force. 
The UK
On 20 March, with the influx of Ukrainian refugees increasing rapidly, the Isle of Man came up with a scheme to host refugees. Under the scheme, people of the Isle of Man have to commit to offering accommodation for at least six months. Cabinet Office Minister Kate Lord-Brennan said: "We have decided to create our own scheme instead of following the UK approach, to better meet the needs of our community." The government would ensure checks of the properties are appropriate and safe for both the hosts and the guests. However, the decision to provide financial assistance to hosts is still under consideration. 
The Vatican
On 20 March, Pope Francis appealed to Russia to end its atrocities in Ukraine. At St Peter's Square, he said: "….there is no justification for this! I plead with all those involved in the international community to truly commit to ending this abhorrent war." Pope Francis also talked about his visit to the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital on 19 March, where he saw children affected by the war receiving treatment. He then urged the Europeans to be more generous and welcome the Ukrainian refugees wholeheartedly. 
On 20 March, Switzerland's President Ignazio Cassis extended an offer to organize talks between Ukraine and Russia. Cassis mentioned: "It's a small country with a strong commitment to freedom. It is ready to play the role of a mediator behind the scenes or host negotiations." Cassis had earlier stressed on the idea that Switzerland was a neutral country, and it "…combines neutrality with a humanitarian tradition." 
On 20 March, the first units of the Patriot air defense systems from NATO partner countries arrived in Slovakia. Slovakia's Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad stated that the systems would be set up at the Sliac airport. As a part of NATO, Germany and Dutch soldiers would operate them to strengthen air defenses in Eastern Europe further. However, Slovakia's Russian-made S-300s would not be replaced, and the new defense systems were just an addition.

International implications of the Ukraine war

On 20 March, Australia announced to step up its support to Ukraine and committed 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal for the country. In addition, Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government said they would offer USD 21 million for military support and another USD 30 million in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Furthermore, Canberra announced to impose a ban on exporting alumina and aluminium ores to Russia. 

Japan and Cambodia
On 20 March, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen urged Russia to immediately end the war in Ukraine. The two leaders condemned Russia's aggression in Ukraine and said it was "A grave breach of the United Nations Charter." A joint statement read: "...recognised that this aggression jeopardises the foundation of international order which does not accept any unilateral change of the internationally recognised borders by force." Hun Sen cited Cambodia's civil war of 1970-1991 and mentioned how a war could only end by peaceful means and not by war. 

On 20 March, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that Beijing stood on the right side of history concerning the crisis in Ukraine. Wang said: "China will never accept any external coercion or pressure, and opposes any unfounded accusations and suspicions against China." His comments were a response to US President Joe Biden's warning on consequences if China supplied military equipment to Russia. Wang reiterated: "We have always stood for maintaining peace and opposing war." 

On 20 March, the UNHRC said about 10 million people had now fled Ukraine or were internally displaced due to the war. UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said: "Among the responsibilities of those who wage war, everywhere in the world, is the suffering inflicted on civilians who are forced to flee their homes." Furthermore, 90 per cent of the people who have fled were women and children. At the same time, men aged 18-60 could not leave Ukraine due to the imposition of martial law. 

The Anonymous
On 20 March, the Anonymous hacktivist collective said they had been attacking Moscow with cyber-attacks since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began. A recent hack interrupted Russian TV networks with images and clips of bombs exploding in Ukraine and soldiers talking about the horrors of war. The group also said: "We will intensify the attacks on the Kremlin if nothing is done to restore peace in Ukraine." In addition, the collective has been using DDoS attacks that overwhelm a server and temporarily take it offline.

BBC Live,” BBC, 20 March 2022
Over 335,000 people have arrived in Russia from Ukraine, Donbass, says source,” TASS, 20 March 2022
Russian aviation hits 62 Ukrainian military facilities during night, says top brass.” TASS, 20 March 2022
More ugly facts about Western nations to surface after operation in Ukraine – diplomat,” TASS, 20 March 2022
Russia’s emergencies ministry delivers 250 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Donbass,” TASS, 20 March 2022
China on the right side of history over Ukraine war, foreign minister says,” Reuters, 20 March 2022
Daniel Boffey, “Zelenskiy tells Knesset Russia envisages a ‘final solution’ for Ukraine,” The Guardian, 20 March 2022
UN says 10 million have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia invasion,” The Times of Israel, 20 March 2022
Joe Tidy, “Anonymous: How hackers are trying to undermine Putin,” BBC, 20 March 2022
Germany and Netherlands deploy air defense systems in Slovakia,” Deutsche Welle, 20 March 2022
Matthew Ward, “Australia to send 70,000 tonnes of Whitehaven coal to Ukraine,” Financial Review, 20 March 2022
US Defense Secretary says Russia ‘stalled’,” Deutsche Welle, 20 March 2022 
Melissa Quinn, “Austin vows "significant reaction" if Russia uses chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine,” CBS News, 20 March 2022
Pope Francis: 'War against Ukraine is inhuman and sacrilegious’,” Vatican News, 20 March 2022
Switzerland ready to host Ukraine-Russia negotiations,” The Statesman, 20 March 2022
Isle of Man scheme to host Ukrainian refugees created,” BBC, 19 March 2022
Berlin concert draws 10,000 in solidarity with Ukraine,” Reuters, 20 March 2022
Yevhenia Tahanovych, “Ukrainian Railways Chief Says 'Honest' Belarusians Are Cutting Russian Supplies By Train,” Radio Free Europe, 20 March 2022
Japan and Cambodia leaders urge Russia to immediately end war in Ukraine,” South China Morning Post, 21 March 2022

By Emmanuel Royan 

Chernobyl workers relieved after a month of working round the clock
On 20 March, half of the single shift staff working persistently at the Chernobyl nuclear waste facility were replaced by other workers. On 24 February, Russia captured Chernobyl nuclear facilities. The team that was working then had been on duty constantly, since Russia captured the facility and were unable to rotate out. The International Atomic Energy Agency had warned that they were exhausted and working under extreme pressure, which posed a threat to safety. In the presence of foreign military forces and without appropriate rest, they were performing important work tasks under highly stressful and tiring conditions. (Francis Murphy, “Chernobyl staff rotated out for first time since site's capture, IAEA says,” Deutsche Welle, 21 March 2022)

EU discusses fifth round of sanctions
On 21 March, the EU initiated the discussions on the fifth round of sanctions over Russia, which included talks on the oil embargo. Baltic countries such as Lithuania are pressing for an embargo as the next logical step. Germany, which is heavily reliant on Russian gas, is cautioning against acting too quickly due to Europe's inflated energy prices. Defense ministers of the EU will also discuss a "strategic compass," a new EU military strategy meant to address the changing geopolitical landscape in the region. (Siebold and Melander, “EU must impose sanctions on Russian oil, ministers tell divided bloc,” Reuters, 21 March 2022)

Germany: Transatlantic trade agreements resumed with the EU and the US
On 20 March, Germany’s Finance Minister Christian Lindner asked to resume talks over free trade between the EU and the US. Former US President Donald Trump, under his tenure, had halted negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. He further emphasized the significance of free trade with partners who share similar values amid the crisis. In an indirect response to the call, the US embassy in Germany mentioned that the existing US-EU trade and technology council encourages trade and broad-based growth. They further stated: "The current crisis shows the United States and Germany, and the European Union, are indispensable partners." (“Germany calls for new talks on transatlantic trade deal,” Reuters, 20 March 2022)

German Economic Minister Robert Habeck visits Qatar
On 20 March, Economic Minister Robert and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani agreed on a long-term energy partnership at Doha. In addition, the agreement also focuses on promoting energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy projects. Berlin plans to import Qatar’s Liquified Natural Gas through ships but lacks the terminal infrastructure to receive them. However, they have announced plans to build two LNG terminals by 2026; Until then, Germany will depend on Russian gas through Nord Stream 2 pipelines. (“Qatar to help Germany cut reliance on Russian gas, says minister,” Deutsche Welle, 20 March 2022)

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