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06 April 2022, Wednesday| NIAS Europe Daily Brief #168

War in Ukraine: Day 41

Safe To Be Me conference cancelled; New report on fracking to be drafted; EU enforces rule of law on Hungary; Mobile roaming scheme extended to a decade

War in Ukraine: Day 41
By Padmashree Anandhan and Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan

War on the ground:
Zelensky’s address in the UNSC and Bucha massacre

Zelensky’s address
On 05 April, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in his address at the emergency meeting of UNSC called for “open and transparent investigation” into the allegations on civilian killings in the city of Bucha. He said: “there is not a single crime they would not commit.” Zelensky pointed out that if the UN council is unable to find a solution to Russia's crimes, he suggested dissolving Russia. After his address, he also screened a video showing the images of the dead civilians and their bodies.

In his everyday address to the people, he reported that Russian forces had killed and tortured more than 300 civilians in Bucha. He accused Russia for covering up its war crimes in the city of Bucha and many other occupied cities. Along with the accusation, Zelensky vowed to track down the war crime violations of Russia. He confirmed on discussing the same with the leaders of Europe, Poland, and, Austria: “All crimes of the occupiers are documented. The necessary procedural basis is provided for bringing the guilty Russian military to justice for every crime they commit.”

Ukraine Military
On 05 April, the General Staff of Ukraine’s military forces claimed that close to 18,500 Russian had been killed in the war by Ukraine. It also recorded the destruction of war equipment and weapons, which includes “676 tanks, 1,858 armoured vehicles, 150 warplanes and 134 helicopters.” Russian sources are to disclose their casualty figures, but it has confirmed the deaths of only 1,351 now.

Other developments
One of the residents, Alex Dayrabekov who escaped from Bucha described the situation in Bucha in an interview with BBC, He said: “My neighbours - and there are at least 10 of them - lost their closest relatives in their attempt to evacuate from Bucha and Irpin around a month ago…thousands of people died here... because they were deliberately killed.

On 05 April, Mykolaiv Mayor, Oleksandr Senkevych said that the southern city Mykolaiv was being bombarded using cluster munitions by Russia. He pointed that the city held “no military value” and the civilians are being targeted to create fear. He warned the women and children to leave the city to lessen the casualties.

Ukraine officials reported on the count of children wounded and killed. They also stated on the destruction caused to the buildings, schools, and Prosecutor-General’s office. It is predicted that close to 167 children were killed and 279 injured so far since the war began. The Mayor of capital city Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko urged the leaders of Europe to cut down all of the existing commercial ties with Russia. He commented furiously stating: “Every euro, every cent you receive from or send to Russia has blood; it is bloody money and the blood of this money is Ukrainian blood. The blood of Ukrainian people.”

The Moscow view:
Claims by Russia

On 05 April, a Russian representative to the UN Security Council, Vasily Nebenzya denied accepting the allegations of war crimes against Russian troops in Bucha. He said: “flagrant inconsistencies in events shown by Ukrainian and Western media. The corpses in no way resemble those that could be lying on the street for three or four days.” Apart from the denial, the Ambassador pointed out that close 600,000 people were moved into Russia and denied Ukraine’s deportations. He said: “And we're not talking about any kind of coercion or abduction, as our Western partners like to present this, but rather the voluntary decision by these people as testified by many of these videos that are accessible in social media.”

Russian Ministry of Defence
On 05 April, Chechen Leader Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that 267 marines and 503rd naval infantry battalion of Ukraine had surrendered to Russia in the city of Mariupol. Analysts have called it as the major development in Ukrainian forces.

On 05 April, Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that its goal henceforth will be to “liberate” the Donbas region over its initial goals to capture key cities of Ukraine. The Defense Ministry Spokesperson Igor Konashenkov claimed on shooting down of two helicopters of Ukraine which were involved in the rescue of leaders from a nationalist battalion. Adding to it he said: “This morning, April 5, around Mariupol, a new attempt by the Kyiv regime to evacuate leaders of the nationalist Azov battalion was aborted. Two Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopters, trying to reach the city from the sea, were shot down by portable anti-aircraft systems.”

Other developments
On the Bucha Massacre, Russia’s UN Ambassador denied the allegations against Russia and called out on Ukraine as “staging provocation,” along with the West. So far Russia has neither accepted the allegations nor has given any evidence to support them. As per report of BBC Reality Check and satellite images from New York Times confirmed the killing of civilians, was three weeks ago when Russia was in control of Bucha.

On the expulsions of Russian diplomats, Russia called the move “short-sighted.” At the same Russia spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “Narrowing down opportunities for diplomatic communication in such an unprecedentedly difficult crisis environment is a short-sighted move that will further complicate our communication, which is necessary to find a solution.”

The West view:
Responses from the US and Europe

The US
On 05 April, the US Internal Revenue Service(IRS) said it had suspended information exchanges with Russia’s tax authorities. This would hinder Moscow’s ability to collect taxes and use them to fund its war in Ukraine. The 30-year-old tax treaty was between the IRS and Russia’s Federal Tax Service, where they shared information to aid domestic tax collections and enforcement of tax laws. The US said it had stopped sharing Anu tax information on 24 February but formally announced it. 

On the same day, the US blocked Russia from paying its sovereign debt using its reserves held in US banks. Russia wanted to pay its USD 600 million using its foreign reserves. However, under the sanctions and the US measures against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, they had frozen these accounts. A US Spokesperson said: “Russia must choose between draining remaining valuable dollar reserves or new revenue coming in, or default.” 

Calls for Russia’s suspension from the UN rights council 
On 04 April, the US and the UK urged the UN to suspend Russia from the Rights Council. The US and the UK called on the UN after the reports surfaced about the atrocities of Russian forces in Bucha. US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “Russia’s participation in the Human Rights Council is a farce.” She added that it was time for the UN General Assembly to vote the Russians out. Thomas-Greenfield further mentioned: “My message to those 140 countries who have courageously stood together is: the images out of Bucha and devastation across Ukraine require us to now match our words with action.” 

The EU
On 05 April, the EU’s Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said they were planning a new set of sanctions. She listed down six measures: “An import ban on coal from Russia. A full transaction ban on four key Russian banks - among them the country’s second-largest, VTB. A ban on Russian ships and Russian-operated ships from accessing EU ports. Further bans on exports, targeting areas in which Russia is vulnerable, such as transportation equipment. New import bans on products including seafood, liquor, and wood. Additional targeted measures which include halting financial support for Russian public bodies.”

Earlier, the EU said it would only be focusing on the current measures. However, the reports on Bucha have revived the EU’s use for new sanctions against Russian forces’ atrocities near Kyiv. France’s European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune said: “The new sanctions will probably be adopted tomorrow.”  

On the same day, the EU declared 19 Russian diplomats non-gratae for not “engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status.” The decision was based on the EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell and was a follow-up to other EU member countries expelling Russian diplomats. The countries accused Russia of using its diplomats to spy. However, the EU said it was in response to the reports of Bucha.  

The UK
On 05 April, the UK said it would announce the frozen USD 350 billion of Russia’s “war chest.” UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “So far, our sanctions have had a crippling impact on those who feed and fund Putin’s war machine. This week we will announce that we’ve frozen over $350 billion of Putin’s war chest.” She further said the UK was planning to implement more sanctions on Russia that would push it back to the Soviet era. 

On the same day, the UK urged G7 and NATO to ban Russian ships from their ports and plan to phase Moscow’s oil and gas imports. Truss said: “On Thursday, I will be urging our NATO and G7 partners to go further in sanctions by joining us in banning Russian ships from our ports, cracking down on more Russian banks, going after industries that are filling Putin’s war chest like gold, and agreeing on a clear timetable to eliminate imports of Russian oil, coal and gas.”

On 05 April, Sweden said it was opening a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. It further urged victims and witnesses to submit pieces of evidence that could be used against Russia. The Swedish Prosecution Authority said: “Based on the information available on the situation in Ukraine, there is reason to believe that serious war crimes have been committed.” 

The Global Fallouts:
International implications of the Ukraine war 

On 05 April, at the UNSC meeting, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, in his speech in the security council said that he “will never forget, this is not a time for protectionism.” The images of the dead people in Bucha. He called for the attention of the council to tend to the consequences of the war on the world economy.

On 05 April, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned Russia for its atrocities in Bucha. He said: “The images and testimony from Ukraine are horrific. Russian forces committed war crimes against a defenceless civilian population. I strongly condemn these war crimes.” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also condemned the reports of Bucha and assured that Israel would do everything to assist Ukraine.  

On 05 April, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and discussed the possibility of promoting peace talks. China’s and Ukraine’s Foreign Ministers spoke for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine. Wang said: “China is willing to take an objective and fair position to continue playing a constructive role in its own way.” Kuleba responded by saying that Ukraine was grateful for Wang’s solidarity with civilian victims.  

On 05 April, US government officials warned about an acute shortage of food supplies amid the war in Ukraine. The US representative to UN agencies in Rome, Cindy McCain, said that since the war hindered the supplies from Ukraine, Europe’s breadbasket and caused a shortage of food supplies in Africa. She added: “The Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that as many as 13 million more people worldwide will be pushed into food insecurity as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” Ukraine is a major export of wheat to Africa and sends about 40 per cent of wheat and corn to the continent.  

On 05 April, Twitter introduced new measures against Russian accounts to reduce Moscow’s propaganda. Twitter said: “When a government blocks or limits access to online services within their state, undercutting the public’s voice and ability to access information freely, but continues to use online services for their own communications, a severe information imbalance is created.” Russia had restricted Twitter in the country, and thus the platform retaliated with the new measures. 

World Bank
On 05 April, the World Bank said it had downgraded its economic outlook for East and Southeast Asia. The Bank’s announcement came as the ongoing war in Ukraine was pushing inflation and China’s slow growth in the region. It further mentioned that the region would see a five per cent growth instead of a 5.4 per cent growth. World Bank Vice President for East Asia and Pacific Manuela Ferro said: “Just as the economies of East Asia and the Pacific were recovering from the pandemic-induced shock, the war in Ukraine is weighing on the growth momentum.” 

Video game Fortnite
On 05 April, video game maker Epic Games announced that it would donate USD 144 million from its game Fortnite to help the people in Ukraine. Xbox head Phil Spencer responded: “Really incredible to see how the gaming community can have an impact beyond the playing of game.” The money would be given to UNICEF, WFP, and UNRA for their humanitarian assistance to the country and the refugees. 

BBC Live,” BBC, 05 April 2022
Ukraine: As It's Happening,” The Moscow Times, 05 April 2022
U.S., Britain Call For Russia’s Suspension From UN Rights Council,” Radio Free Europe, 04 April 2022
Jessica Parker, “EU targets Russian coal and ships in new sanctions,” BBC, 05 April 2022 
Britain says $350 billion of Vladimir Putin’s war chest’ frozen,” The Hindustan Times, 05 April 2022
David Lawder, “EXCLUSIVE US suspends tax information exchange with Russian authorities,” Reuters, 05 April 2022 
UK urges G7 to ban Russian ships and set timetable for oil and gas exit,” Reuters, 05 April 2022
Megan Davies and Alexandra Alper, “US stops Russian bond payments,raising risk of default,” Reuters, 05 April 2022 
Swedish prosecutors open preliminary investigation into war crimes in Ukraine,” Reuters, 05 April 2022
EU orders 19 Russian diplomats to leave Belgium,” Reuters, 05 April 2022
Twitter Moves to Limit Reach of Russian Government Accounts,” The Moscow Times, 05 April 2022 

By Emmanuel Royan and Sai Pranav 

Safe To Be Me conference cancelled 
On 05 April, the government cancelled its LGTQ+ conference following a mass boycott of involved organizations. The conference “Safe To Be Me” was scheduled for 29 June to promote LGBTQ+ rights internationally. The groups have stated that they would not attend the global conference unless the government includes transgenders in the ban on “Conversion Therapy.” The government promised to outlaw conversion therapy for everyone, but any ban would only apply to attempts to change a person's sexuality, not gender identity. Member of Parliament Dehenna Davison expressed disappointment over the cancellation and said: "We had such a huge opportunity to prove the UK (and the Conservative Party) is a defender of freedom. As a Conservative member of the LGBT+ community, it is so wrong it has come to this." (Josh Parry and Lauren Moss, “'Safe To Be Me' LGBT conference cancelled after boycott,” BBC, 05 April 2022)

New report on fracking to be drafted
On 05 April, the government ordered a new scientific report on the impact of fracking. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng granted the British Geological Survey (BGS) three months to review any modifications to the facts around the contentious practise. Despite concerns about the security of access and increased energy prices, they asserted that fracking will provide the country with a "competitive and stable source of energy." The move comes ahead of the government's energy supply strategy, which will be released this week. Only one fracking site has ever been operational in the UK, which was shut down in 2019 following a report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA). The OGA imposed the indefinite prohibition after discovering that estimating the technique's likelihood or size of earthquakes was impossible. (“Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng orders scientific review of fracking impact,” BBC, 05 April 2022)

EU enforces rule of law on Hungary
On 05 April, the European Commission initiated the rule of law for the first time against Hungary, which might cut funds to the country. The experimental procedure, which all 27 EU leaders adopted in December 2020, could eventually deprive Budapest of more than EUR 40 billion in EU funds. In February, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rejected Hungary and Poland’s appeal against the rule of law mechanisms. The Court stated: “Compliance with those values cannot be reduced to an obligation which a candidate state must meet in order to accede to the European Union and which it may disregard after accession.” (Jon Henly, “European Commission launches rule-of-law disciplinary procedure against Hungary,” The Guardian, 05 April 2022)

Spain and Netherlands suggest outlines for the EU fiscal plans 
On 04 April, Dutch Finance Minister Sigrid and Spain's Economy Minister Nadia Calviño proposed their joint statement to influence the negotiations on drafting the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) fiscal plans. Spain and the Netherlands are usually at odds over fiscal policies, suggested country-specific fiscal plans, and introduced a simple expenditure rule. They insisted the new budgetary framework to be simple, transparent, credible and practical, and that all member states be treated equitably. They further said that the SGP should equip the EU to prepare for the next economic crisis by encouraging more investment in green and digital transitions. (Jorge Liberiro and Vasilis Glynos, “Watch: Spain and the Netherlands strike surprising alliance on EU fiscal reform,” Euronews, 05 April 2022)

AUKUS members sign pact to counter Russia-China hypersonic weapons
On 05 April, US President Joe Biden, UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison released a statement for further expansion on the approved Trilateral Military Agreement named AUKUS. The agreement looks for ways to develop counter-hypersonic weapons against Russia and China. These hypersonic weapons are high-speed nuclear weapons of mass destruction. AUKUS was revived due to Russia’s usage of Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in Ukraine last month. At the same time, China has been testing its own hypersonic glide vehicle, a different type of supersonic weapon carrier. UK’s National Security Adviser Stephen Lovegrove said: “In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s more important now than ever that allies work together to defend democracy, international law and freedom around the world.” The General Secretary of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Kate Hudson condemned the development of the weapons, saying it would drain the wealth of the US and the UK. (Dan Sabbagh and Daniel Hurst, “Aukus pact extended to development of hypersonic weapons,” The Guardian, 05 April 2022)

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