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12 April 2022, Tuesday| NIAS Europe Daily Brief #173

War in Ukraine: Day 47

Germany’s family minister steps down amid vacation controversy; UK to develop a prototype to control SKA; EU plans to revamp roadways and railways

War in Ukraine: Day 47
By Padmashree Anandhan, Ashwin Dhanabalan Rishma Banerjee

War on the ground:
Zelenskyy's everyday address and attacks in eastern Ukraine

Zelenskyy’s address
On 11 April, Zelenskyy in his address issued a warning that Ukraine might use “chemical weapons” and said that they were treating it with “utmost seriousness.” He stressed on the Russian oil embargo, as he feels that only oil-related sanctions can sufficiently bring the Russian powers down. Zelenskyy said: "It is time to make this package in such a way that we would not hear even words about weapons of mass destruction from the Russian side… An oil embargo against Russia is a must. Any new package of sanctions against Russia that does not affect oil will be received in Moscow with a smile." He further asked for aid and help from South Korea and thanked the parliament for agreeing to the sanctions imposed by the US on Russia.

Deputy prime minister’s updates
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshhchuk announced that 4,354 people have been evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Monday. 556 of them were from Mariupol, where the war has been intensely on since 24 February. She also accused Russia of holding civilians, including journalists, activists and elected officials as prisoners in their territories, both in and outside Ukraine. Russia however has kept on denying targeting civilians.

Eastern Ukraine
As the war shifts from the northern parts of the country to the eastern parts, the Russian aggression in the region also increases, in places like Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv and Mariupol.  

On 11 April, a toxic substance was dropped on Mariupol late at night. This was first reported in the form of a Telegram message by the Azov Regiment which is a part of the Ukrainian National Guard. The Azov message said Russian forces used “a poisonous substance of unknown origin.”  The Ukrainian MP and chair of the parliamentary committee on the integration of Ukraine into the EU said that it was “most likely” chemical weapons. The mayor of the city, Vadym Boychenko said that the death toll in Mariupol which has been under attack since 24 February has crossed 10,000 and could cross 20,000. 

The Donetsk region saw a new attack where three people were killed and eight civilians were wounded. The news of the strike was revealed by the region's governor Pavlo Kyrylenko on the Telegram messaging app. However, the head of Donetsk’s rebel region Denis Pushilin warned that the operation will now be intensified further. Pushilin said: "The more we delay, the more the civilian population simply suffers, being held hostage by the situation. We have identified areas where certain steps need to be accelerated." 

On 11 April, Kharkiv faced heavy shelling by the Russian forces. This has caused several casualties which include the death of a child. However, mayor Ihor Terekhov mentioned that the Ukrainian forces were prepared for the worst and said: "There is no panic in the city.”

Other developments
On 11 April, the process of exhuming the bodies of Ukrainians found in mass graves in Bucha has been started. The bodies will be sent for forensic tests to prepare them for proper burial.

On 11 April, the UN Human Rights Office released a report on the number of civilian casualties in Ukraine. Including the 1,842 killed, and 2,493 injured, there have been 4,335 civilian casualties so far. The report also said that most of these casualties were due to the use of explosive weapons, including shelling from heavy artillery and missile and airstrikes.

On 11 April, Ukraine’s Finance Ministry welcomed IMF’s move on opening a new account for donors and international organisations to send funds to support Ukraine. At the same IMF said: “Donors will benefit from the IMF's tested infrastructure to quickly deliver authenticated payments.” So far, the Ukraine government was expecting EUR four billion in foreign financing to handle its budget shortage.

The Moscow view:
Claims by Russia

Claims, warnings and accusations
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov affirmed that Russia will not stop its war operation in Ukraine, even during the negotiation talks take place. He alleged the West for slowing down the progress of talks by accusing Russia of war crimes. He said: “After we became convinced that the Ukrainians were not planning to reciprocate, a decision was made that during the next rounds of talks, there would be no pause (in military action) so long as a final agreement is not reached.”

On 11 April, the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov said that Russia will be launching an offensive on Mariupol, Kyiv and other cities in the east. He said: “I assure you: not one step will be taken back.”

Russia’s Defence Ministry released a statement claiming the attack on 86 military units in Dnipro, Mykolaiv, and Kharkiv. According to major general Igor Konashenkov, two control points, two ammunition warehouses, three combustion warehouses and 49 military equipment were shelled down by the Russian troops. Apart from this it also reported on the destruction of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles and Su-25 aircraft using its cruise missiles. The S-300 missiles were given to Ukraine by Slovakia. Ukraine’s military is yet to confirm the attack. According to the statement from the Russian Ministry: “High-precision sea-launched Kalibr missiles destroyed the equipment of an S-300 anti-aircraft missile division which had been delivered to the Kyiv regime by a European country.”

Other developments
Russia’s Foreign Ministry barred 45 Polish embassies and consulate staff as a countermeasure to the recent expelling of Russian diplomats across Europe. In the recent week, Poland, Finland, and Bulgaria have been on the spin in removing Russian diplomats.

On 11 April, TASS reported that close to 17,000 people along with 2500 children had been moved out from Lugansk and Donetsk regions into Russia considering the increased military activity in the region. Russia’s National Defense Management Center, the chief reported that under Russia’s special military operation, till now 740,000 people had been evacuated. He added: “Over the past day alone, the Russian side received 934 such requests.”

The West view:
Responses from the US and Europe

The US

On 11 April, in the meeting with India’s prime minister, US president Joe Biden said that India’s stance on the Ukraine war was “somewhat shaky.” In the statement released by the US: “mitigating the destabilising impacts of Russia's war against Ukraine.” So far, the US has not pointed out India for its neutral stance on war but has given warnings.

On 11 April, Canada announced to impose sanctions on Russia’s defence sector companies. The new round of sanctions imposed restricts 33 entities in Russia’s defence sector who have been supplying the forces with arms and ammunition for its war in Ukraine. A statement by the government mentioned: “Canada continues to monitor the situation, coordinate actions with its international partners and explore options for new measures.” 

The EU
The EU which released the fifth set of sanctions on Russia, recently added 21 Russian airlines to the list banned from flying above the EU, as it fails to meet the international safety standards. Commissioner for transport pointed out that the airlines that were operated did not have a valid certification of “airworthiness.” Till now, the EU skies have banned 117 such companies.

On 11 April, Lithuania requested NATO to supply battalions to the Baltic countries. Till now four “multinational battalions have been installed by NATO as a counter to Crimean annexation. Since the Russian invasion, the countries in eastern Europe have been calling for more troops and military support.

For the gas purchased from Russia, Hungary will be paying in euros to Gazprombank, which will, in turn, convert it into roubles and send it to Russia. The move comes after prime minister Victor Orban agreed to pay for the Russian gas in roubles. In the past weeks, Putin has been warning the European countries in paying back in roubles for the oil and gas bought from Russia.

The UK
On 11 April, the UK’s Ministry of Defense reported that clashes between Russian and Ukraine forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk region have resulted in the destruction of Russia’s several military equipment and vehicles. The UK intelligence also found the use of phosphorous munitions in the Donetsk by Russia, providing a possibility for usage in Mariupol. The attacks and bombings have threatened the lives of many civilians.

Other countries
Joining the list of other countries, Croatia has asked 24 Russian embassy staff along with diplomats to exit the country for invading Ukraine. In the statement, it said: “brutal aggression on Ukraine and numerous crimes committed (there).”

A volunteer group called the Sunflower Scotland has sent 110 tonnes of animal food to the shelters located in Dnipro, which have been deserted by the people. The organization raised more than EUR 30,000 and basic supplies for families in Ukraine.

Countries surrounding Ukraine, the Belgorod, Voronezh, Bryansk and Krasnodar regions, which are part of Crimea have planned to boost their border security. They have asked the citizens to be prepared as they fear anti-terrorist security issues. The region is alerted to carry out checkpoints at the borders, evacuation plans, and special attention to uncommon vehicles.

The Global Fallouts:
International implications of the Ukraine war

On 11 April, the Central Agency for Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) reported that inflation in Egypt had reached 12.1 per cent in March 2022. This was almost three times of 2021 when the rate was 4.8 per cent. According to CAPMAS, the hike in inflation was a direct effect of the war in Ukraine, which had increased the prices of food, housing, and medical service industries in Egypt.

On 11 April, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi discussed the war in Ukraine with US President Joe Biden on a video conference. The two leaders discussed the pandemic, the global economy, and the war’s implications in Ukraine. Biden said the US would “continue our close consultations on the consequences of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating its destabilising impact on global food supply and commodity markets”. Biden also indirectly conveyed the US’ displeasure as Russia sought new markets for its oil exports amid sanctions from the West. Moreover, India was using the opportunity to buy around six billion barrels of oil. The meeting comes in a follow up to the US deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh's visit, where he had asked the Indian government not to rapidly increase their purchases of Russian oil. 

Later, PM Modi urged Russia’s President and Ukraine’s President to hold direct talks. PM Modi furthermore discussed the situation with Biden and shared how India was concerned about the implications of the war and stated that New Delhi even condemned the killing at the UN general assembly. He added: “We have also emphasised the security of civilians in Ukraine and unhindered humanitarian supply and assistance to them.”

North Korea
On 11 April, North Korea denounced Russia’s suspension from the UN human rights council. North Korea was one of the 24 countries that had voted against the move. A government statement said: “What the US is after... is to isolate the independent countries, and forces challenging them at the international arena, so as to maintain its illegal and inhumane US-led hegemonic order.” North Korea further accused the US of using international organisations as a means for the US to put political pressure on other countries. 

New Zealand
On 11 April, prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced that it would be sending the country’s Hercules aircraft and 50 personnel to Europe. Ardern said: “Our support is to assist the Ukraine army to repel a brutal Russian invasion because peace in the region of Europe is essential for global stability.” The personnel will be deployed for two months in support of Ukraine and would additionally give the country financial support of USD 8.8 million. The defence aircraft will be used to carry equipment and supplies across Europe and to crucial distribution centres. 

On 11 April, the Tribune reported the implications of the war in Eastern Europe on Yemen. This comes as Ukraine was a major supplier of grain to the country, and due to the restrictions on export, Yemen is likely to see a famine. Yemen is an import-dependent country for food items, and nearly one-third of its wheat supplies come from Ukraine. 

World Bank
On 11 April, the World Bank reported that it expects Ukraine’s economy to shrink by 45 per cent due to the war. The report also mentioned how the economic damage caused in Europe and Central Asia would have a worse impact than what COVID-19 did. Ukraine, a crucial supplier of wheat and sunflower oil, has not been able to export its commodities due to war and as Russian forces blockaded its ports. 

The UN
On 11 April, the director of the UN’s women’s agency Sima Bahous called for investigations into Russia’s violence against women during the war in Ukraine. Bahous said: “We are increasingly hearing of rape and sexual violence. These allegations must be independently investigated to ensure justice and accountability.” She further mentioned that the combination of conscripts, mercenaries, and the recent reports of Bucha had raised all red flags. 

Also, at the UN security council meeting, US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “When men like President Putin start wars, women and children get displaced, women and children get hurt. Women and children get raped and abused and women and children die.” She exclaimed about the situation in Ukraine and the plight of women and children. 

Narendra Modi has urged Putin and Zelensky to meet directly,” BBC Live, 11 April 2022 
Biden to speak with Modi amid criticism of India’s crude imports,” BBC Live, 11 April 2022
North Korea blames US for Russia’s expulsion from UN human rights body,” BBC Live, 11 April 2022
New Zealand sends team to help Ukrainian aid effort,” BBC Live, 11 April 2022
“Ukraine’s economy to shrink by 45% - World BankBBC Live, 11 April 2022
Russia-Ukraine war latest,” The Guardian Live, 11 April 2022
IMF sets up administered account to allow donors to fund Ukraine,” Reuters, 11 April 2022
2+2 India-US talks: Ukraine looms large over Modi-Biden meeting,” BBC, 11 April 2022
Ukrainian War: Scots send aid for the pets left behind,” BBC, 11 April 2022
Over 17,000 people evacuated from Ukraine, DPR, LPR to Russia in past day,” TASS, 11 April 2022
UK says Russian shelling has continued in Donetsk and Luhansk,” Reuters, 11 April 2022
Chechen chief Kadyrov says Russian forces will take Kyiv,” Reuters, 11 April 2022
Russia says it destroyed S-300 missile systems given to Ukraine by European state,” Reuters, 11 April 2022
 “EU adds 21 Russian airlines to those banned in EU,” Reuters, 11 April 2022
Andrius Sytas, “Lithuania wants NATO to expand Baltic battalions into brigades,” Reuters, 11 April 2022
Russia will not pause military operation in Ukraine for peace talks,” Reuters, 11 April 2022
Hungary says roubles-for-Russian gas plan breaches no EU sanctions,” Reuters, 11 April 2022
Russian regions bordering Ukraine step up security,” Reuters, 11 April 2022
UN ‘increasingly hearing of rape and sexual violence’ against women in Ukraine,” The Guardian Live, 11 April 2022
Egypt’s inflation rate spikes in March amid Ukraine war,” Africa News, 11 April 2022 
Famine-threatened Yemenis fear impact of Ukraine war,” Tribune, 11 April 2022 
Canada imposes sanctions on Russian defence sector over Ukraine invasion,” Reuters, 11 April 2022

By Ashwin Dhanabalan

Family minister Anne Spiegel steps down due to political pressure
On 11 April,  Germany's family minister Anne Spiegel decided to step down as controversies emerged about her and her family going on a vacation right after the devastating floods of 2021. Spiegel is a member of the Greens party and was asked to step down to avert damage to the office amid political challenges. During the flood times, she held the position of state environment minister in the region of Rhineland-Palatinate. The flood killed 170 people and was Germany's most lethal flood in six decades. Her decision to step down came ahead of the region's elections that are to be held in May. ("Germany's family minister steps down after vacation controversy," Reuters, 11 April 2022) 

Institutions to develop a prototype to control the Square Kilometre Array(SKA)
On 11 April, institutes in the UK stated that they were planning to build a prototype "brain" to control the world's largest radio telescope that has antennas spread across South Africa and Australia. The software built will be first trialled in smaller subsets, and later be deployed across the network. RAL Space astronomy group leader Dr Chris Pearson mentioned the computing challenges as the SKA comprises 197 dishes and 130,000 antennas. The UK's Science & Technology Facilities Council has been a leading contributor to the SKA Organisation as it had committed 15 per cent of the total cost for the years 2021 to 2030 for its construction and the initial operations. (Jonathan Amos, "SKA: UK to build software brain for giant radio telescope," BBC, 11 April 2022)

Member of Parliament, David Amess' killer, convicted 
On 11 April, Ali Harbi Ali, a follower of the Islamic State, was found guilty of murdering the Conservative MP David Amess. Ali stabbed Amess 30 times outside a church in October 2021. He was charged with murder and preparing acts of terrorism as he claimed that he targeted the MP for his vote towards airstrikes on Syria. However, he denied the charges, pleaded not guilty and said he did not regret murdering the MP. He further mentioned: "If I thought I did anything wrong, I wouldn't have done it." The death of Amess has also led the government to question the personal security of British MPs. (Esther Webber, "Islamic State terrorist convicted of British MP's murder," POLITICO, 11 April 2022)

The EU plans to revamp roadways and railways to improve military movements 
On 08 April, the war in Ukraine highlighted the need for the EU to reverse its neglect of roads and railways. The EU met with many hindrances to transport its tanks and other military vehicles across the continent as it faced many bottlenecks and had to buttress its tracks and bridges. A former commander of the US Army in Europe said: "The further east you go, the infrastructure does not support the heavyweight of U.S., German, British and Dutch tanks, it's the bridges." The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) had earlier allocated EUR 1.7 billion to improve military mobility, which was a reduced budget from the EUR 6.5 billion that was initially proposed. The countries agreed to bring the issue of project funding up in the next round of meetings to be held in May. (Hanne Cokelaere and Joshua Posaner, "Europe's roads and railways aren't fit for a fight with Russia," POLITICO, 08 April 2022)

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