Daily Briefs

Photo : Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters

14 April 2022, Thursday| NIAS Europe Daily Brief #175

War in Ukraine: Day 49

UK to host its asylum seekers in Rwanda; Lithuania prepares for potential Russian attacks; Baltic and Polish presidents to meet Zelenskyy; Right-wing extremist group arrested in Germany.

War in Ukraine: Day 49
By Padmashree Anandhan, Ashwin Dhanabalan and Rishma Banerjee
War on the ground:
Zelenskyy's address
On 13 April, president Zelenskyy addressed Estonia’s parliament and highlighted the plight that is being faced by the Ukrainians. He said that Russia was using phosphorous bombs and also accused them of intimidating civilians with terror tactics. He added: "The Russian army is using all types of artillery, all types of missile, air bombs in particular phosphorous bombs against residential districts and civilian infrastructure.” He also thanked Estonia for their ‘principled support’ and how they were supporting Ukraine’s accession to the EU. 

Zelenskyy’s talks with world leaders
Zelenskyy continued his correspondence with the US president Joe Biden, to discuss further defensive and financial aid. They also spoke about the alleged war crimes committed by Russia and about the imposition of the impending sanctions. Biden announced that he will be authorising USD 800 million in military aid for Ukraine.

On 13 April, a deluge of European leaders visited Kyiv. The presidents of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia promised to increase military support, and said that Russia must be held accountable for its action. The four presidents also visited places in and around Kyiv. Poland’sresident Andrzej Duda said: "This is not war, this is terrorism… We're not just talking about the soldiers who committed those crimes, but those who issued orders - all of them should be brought to justice.”

On 13 April, the head of police for the Kyiv region said that they were still uncovering horrors from below the rubble of destruction. In a televised message, he said: "We are finding terrible things: buried and hidden bodies of people who were tortured and shot, and who died as a result of mortar and artillery fire,"  

On 13 April, Russia’s defence ministry announced that 1,026 soldiers from Ukraine's 36th Marine Brigade had surrendered in Mariupol.The Russian forces captured the Azovstal industrial district, which also granted them full control of the Sea of Avoz port. This will enable them to further strengthen their occupation of the east of Ukraine. 

On 13 April it was reported that there has been a significant increase in bombing in the Kharkiv region. Kharkiv has been under siege since 24 February, but the Russian offensive has increased significantly in the last few days. Governor Oleh Synehubov wrote that four people were killed and ten wounded by strikes. 

Other developments
Nine humanitarian corridors were announced for Thursday, and a prisoner swap with Russia was also agreed upon. Due to it, 30 Ukrainians will be returning home.The World Bank is planning to provide financial support worth USD 1.5 billion to Ukraine, in order to keep essential services like hospital wages, government services and social programmes for vulnerable people, up and running. 

The Moscow view:
Claims by Russia

Russian projects in the arctic to continue
On 13 April, Russian president Vladimir Putin demanded that the projects in the Russian arctic must not be postponed due to the ongoing situation and sanctions. He also mentioned that the implementation of these projects must be increased. He added: “Not to postpone them, not to shift them right, but, instead, we must respond to attempts to curb our development with a maximum increase of the pace of work both on current and upcoming tasks.” 

1,000 Ukrainian marines surrender in Mariupol
On 13 April, Russia claimed that over 1,000 Ukrainian marines surrendered in Mariupol days after Russian forces besieged the port city. Russian forces had encircled Mariupol for weeks; they had even blockaded the ports and called on the defenders to surrender. However, only on 13 April did the marines of the 36th Marine Brigade, which included 162 officers and 1,026 soldiers, laid down their arms. 

US and NATO weapon transports deemed legitimate targets
On 13 April, deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov announced that Russia proclaimed that the US and NATO weapon transports were legitimate military targets. Ryabkov said: “We are warning that US-NATO weapons transport across Ukrainian territory will be considered by us as legal military targets.” He added that these moves were made to deter further damage to Russian contingents and formations by the Americans and the West. 

AUKUS a narrow security pact in the Asia Pacific 
On 13 April, presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the AUKUS pact a “narrow pact” that was incapable of serving as a security pact for the Asia Pacific region. He added that these narrow pacts would unlikely grow into a broad platform that could provide stability and security in such a vast region. 

Kremlin on statements by Kyiv
On 13 April, Peskov mentioned that all statements by Kyiv needed to be checked as Ukraine was creating a fake narrative against Russia. He said: “That’s why I want to urge everyone to treat all the information that way: Don’t take it at face value, don’t believe what you see but just try to double-check everything and at least look for an alternative point of view.” He added that the Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk’s detaining video was also not legitimate and said it was too early to determine the video to be authentic.

The West view:
Responses from the US and Europe

The US

On 13 April, US president Joe Biden declared additional military assistance of USD 800 million to Ukraine. The previous package included heavy artillery, armoured personnel carriers and coastal defence boats. In the additional package, the US has agreed to supply “11 Mi-17 helicopters, 40,000 artillery rounds, counter-artillery radars, 200 armored personnel carriers and 300 additional "Switchblade" drones.” According to Pentagon spokesperson, John Kirby, highlighted that in terms of Howitzers and radars, the Ukrainian forces needed training in using the equipments. On the same the Pentagon released a statement: “focused primarily on accelerating production and building more capacity across the industrial base for weapons and equipment that can be exported rapidly, deployed with minimal training, and prove effective in the battlefield.”  

The UK
On 13 April, UK Ministry of Defence released its observation on the war situation in Ukraine and Russia’s movements. On Russia’s appointment of Army general Alexander Dvornikov. It observed Russia’s attempt in centralising command and control. The change of leader also shows Russia’ inability to coordinate its military activity. Apart from this it showcases Ukraine’s resistance and ill-planning of Russian forces in carrying out its operations.

On 13 April, the UK imposed a new set of sanctions on 206 Russian individuals, out of which 178 were suspected to be involved in supporting the separatists group in the eastern Ukraine region. In the list several oligarchs and cousins on billionaires have been sanctioned. According to foreign secretary Liz Truss: “In the wake of horrific rocket attacks on civilians in Eastern Ukraine, we are today sanctioning those who prop up the illegal breakaway regions and are complicit in atrocities against the Ukrainian people.”  

Poland, and the Baltic states
Poland’s president Andrzej Duda called the Russian attacks in Ukraine as “terrorism.” He urged to account the crimes committed by Russia and demanded for justice. Although Russian has strongly denied the allegations of war crimes, Duda during his meeting with Zelenskyy said that it was not war but it was terrorism. Along with Duda, Latvia’s president stressed that it was their responsibility to support Ukraine with necessary weapons. Whereas  the leaders of  Lithuania and Estonia uniformly support for Ukraine to win the war and criticised Putin for launching the war. 

Chairmen of German’s three parliamentarian committees asked the EU to levy oil embargo on Russia. In contract, Kiel Institute’s vice-president said that such cut down on energy supplies will push Germany’s economy into recession. The German Economy Ministry on the impact of economy said: “They depend heavily on the duration and intensity of the war.” 

Switzerland imposed next round of sanctions against Russia and Belarus for the growing military operations in Ukraine. Similar to UK, 200 individuals were targeted with sanctions. Till now, it has frozen assets of Russians worth Swiss francs 7.5 billion, but it is yet to expel Russian diplomats.

The Global Fallouts:
International implications of the Ukraine war

On 13 April, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian stated that US sanctions on Russia were unacceptable and would have negative implications around the globe. He added that the US had a responsibility to maintain the economic system and stability. However, the sanctions would lead to other countries paying for its ramifications instead of Russia. On the same day, the Guardian reported the increase in trade between Russia and China. The overall trade with Russia had increased by 12.76 per cent. 

On 13 April, the World Health Organization’s head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world was not giving equal attention to other issues apart from the Ukraine war. He added: “I need to be blunt and honest that the world is not treating the human race the same way. Some are more equal than others.” However, he mentioned that the Ukraine crisis was significant as it affected countries worldwide. 

The UN
On 13 April, the UN released an advisory to the UK government to not match Ukrainian women and children with single men. The UN was concerned for the refugees and stated: “Matching done without the appropriate oversight may lead to increasing the risks women may face, in addition to the trauma of displacement, family separation and violence already experienced.” However, the UK government said it had set up “robust security and background checks”. The UK’s spokesperson added: “Councils must make at least one in-person visit to a sponsor’s property and they have a duty to make sure the guest is safe and well once they’ve arrived.” 

Also, on 13 April, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres appealed for a ceasefire in Ukraine. However, he said: “it does not seem possible”. He said it was impossible as Russia had not responded to the UN evacuating Ukrainian civilians from war zones. 

The ICC 
On 13 April, the international court of justice’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan visited Bucha and mentioned: “Ukraine is a crime scene”. This comes as the ICC is investigating the crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine. Khan added: “We have to pierce the fog of war to get to the truth. That requires independent, impartial investigation.” Khan met with Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova and said they planned to collaborate and deepen engagement to deliver accountability to the people of Ukraine. 

On 13 April, the former parent of Mercedes-Benz, Daimler Truck, said that it was looking to possibly sell its stakes in the Russian vehicle and engine maker Kamaz. Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov said he was interested in acquiring the stakes of Kamaz owned by Mercedes-Benz. Roster currently owns 499 per cent of the stake but was looking to acquire the 15 per cent owned by Daimler Truck. The sanctions against Russia and Western companies were disinvesting from Russia.  

Zelenskiy accuses Russia of using phosphorous bombs, terror tactics,”
Pavel Polityuk and Oleksandr Kozhukhar, “
Some 1,000 Ukraine marines surrender in Mariupol, says Russia,” Reuters, 14 April 2022
Visiting Kyiv, leaders of Poland and Baltic states condemn Russia,”Reuters, 14 April 2022
Mayor of Ukraine's Kharkiv says bombing of city has increased significantly,” Reuters, 13 April 2022
Samantha Lock, Maanvi Singh, Lauren Aratani, Léonie Chao-Fong and Martin Belam, “
Civilians flee eastern Ukraine in advance of a widely forecast attack – as it happened,” The Guardian, 13 April 2022
Russia says U.S., NATO weapon transports in Ukraine are legitimate targets,” Reuters, 13 April 2022
Peskov brands AUKUS ‘narrow pact’ unable to serve as security platform in Asia-Pacific,” TASS, 13 April 2022
Russia has no chemical weapons, they have been disposed of — Federation Council speaker,” TASS, 13 April 2022 
Putin demands not to postpone Arctic projects despite sanctions,” TASS, 13 April 2022 
Press review: Kiev nixed Istanbul deal and Palestinians pressured on Russia-Ukraine crisis,” TASS, 13 April 2022 
Kremlin says all statements by Kiev need to be double checked,” TASS, 13 April 2022
Patricia Zengerle, Idrees Ali and Mike Stone “U.S. gives Ukraine $800 million more in military aid, adds heavy weapons,” Reuters, 13 April 2022
German economic institutes see sharp recession if Russian gas cut off,” Reuters, 13 April 2022
Polish president calls war in Ukraine "terrorism", demands justice,” Reuters, 13 April 2022
UK sanctions Russian separatists in breakaway regions, Lukoil chief,” Reuters, 13 April 2022
Swiss adopt latest round of EU sanctions on Russia,” Reuters, 13 April 2022
Visiting Kyiv, leaders of Poland and Baltic states condemn Russia,” Reuters, 13 April 2022
WHO head: Ukraine shows black and white lives not equal,” BBC Live, 13 April 2022
Hamzah Abbas, “Homes for Ukraine: Don't match female refugees with single men, UN says,” BBC Live, 13 April 2022 
The UN chief said today that a ceasefire in Ukraine “doesn’t seem possible,” possibly indicating that the UN is still waiting on a response from Russia on evacuating Ukrainian civilians and providing aid,” The Guardian live, 13 April 2022 
The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, visited the Ukrainian town of Bucha today, telling reporters: “Ukraine is a crime scene”,” The Guardian live, 13 April 2022 “China’s overall trade with Russia rose by more than 12% in March from a year earlier in dollar terms,” The Guardian live, 13 April 2022 
"Chinese Foreign Ministry opposed to US sanctions against Russia,” TASS, 13 April 2022
Mercedes-Benz, Daimler Truck say cannot confirm talks on Russian stake sale,” Reuters, 13 April 2022

By Emmanuel Royan and Sai Pranav

Elections: Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s shift in position
On 13 April, Deutsche Welle examined the French presidential election candidate Marine Le Pen’s relations with Russia prior to the invasion of Ukraine. In 2017, a few weeks before France’s last presidential election, Russian president Vladimir Putin welcomed her to Kremlin. A photograph of their handshake appeared on one of Le Pen’s campaign fliers, which was printed before the war and later discarded. She called for an “alliance” with Russia in her manifesto concerning European security policy. In 2017, the far-right leader secured a EUR 9 million loan from a Russian bank for her presidential election campaign. Le Pen did not condemn the annexation of Crimea as well. However, her position changed following the war in Ukraine, and she denounced Russia’s invasion. (Lisa Louis, “France: Le Pen's Russia ties could lower her chances,” Deutsche Welle, 14 April 2022)

Vereinte Patrioten members arrested by German police 
On 14 April, four members of a right-wing extremist group who were scheming to overthrow the democratically elected government in Germany were arrested by investigators in West Germany. These people called themselves “Vereinte Patrioten” (United Patriots) and had plans to plant bombs on Germany’s energy infrastructure. They even planned to kidnap the health minister. The group’s main goal was to make the German democracy topple. The investigators confiscated several arms, ammunition, gold and silver ingots, and cash. The neo-nazi group has prior involvement in the COVID-denier protest scene and the “Reichsbürger” movement. (“German police arrest far-right extremists over plans to 'topple democracy',” Deutsche Welle, 14 April 2022)

Counter offensives prepared against potential attacks from Russia
On 13 April, the prime minister of Lithuania, Ingrida Šimonytė stated that they were ready to counter any potential attack from Russia. Previously, the head of Lithuania's border guard, Rustamas Liubajevas, said that the Kremlin might deliberately cause a migrant crisis by sending people through the EU's eastern border. Šimonytė raised concerns about a hybrid attack citing the previous attempts of Russia and Belarus to damage power grids and IT infrastructure through hacking, dissemination of information and influx of illegal migration. (“Lithuania ready for Russia’s potential hybrid attacks – PM,” Baltic Times, 13 April 2022)

Poland and the countries in the Baltics display their support for Ukraine
On 13 April, presidents of the Baltic countries and Poland were scheduled to meet president Zelenskyy of Ukraine in a bid to show their support. The press office of the Latvian president, Egils Levits, released the statement regarding the meeting only at the last moment. Former Latvian president Valdis Zatlers mentioned that these kinds of meetings are announced only at the last minute to avoid any interruptions and security threats to the presidents. The presidents discussed the best ways to help Ukraine against Putin and Russia. They also discussed their support to let Ukraine join NATO and how the EU should impose tougher sanctions against Russia. They showed strength in unity and stood up against Russia without any fear. (“Baltic and Polish presidents to meet with Zelensky,” The Baltic Times, 14 April 2022)

UK to host its asylum seekers in Rwanda
On 13 April, the UK’s home secretary Priti Patel agreed on a migration deal with Rwanda. The deal is set to send asylum seekers in the UK to Rwanda to get their applications processed and encourage them to live there. The Rwandan government is expected to receive an initial EUR 120 million as part of the trial, but critics claim the whole scheme’s annual cost would be far higher. The liberal democrats critiqued the proposal citing it does nothing to stop the perilous Channel crossing or combat smuggling and trafficking. Prime minister Boris Johnson is set to announce several steps such as placing the navy in command of Channel operations and establishing a new processing centre to keep checks on anyone seeking to enter the UK. (“UK to sign deal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing,” BBC, 14 April 2022)

L’Occitane stores remain open in Russia, amid the war in Ukraine
On 14 April, French cosmetics brand L’Occitane decided to keep its retail stores open in Russia amid the war in Ukraine. Hundreds of international brands, including L’Oreal and Estee Lauder, have already shut down their stores and stopped selling online in Russia in protest of the war. Customers have criticised L’Occitane’s decision and have called for a boycott of the brand, which is marketed in over 3,085 retail shops globally and had EUR 1.5 billion in sales in 2021. However, the firm said it strongly condemned Russia’s “unjustified and unprovoked” invasion, drastically reduced its business and suspended all new investment plans and exports. (“Beth Timmins, “Beauty firm L'Occitane keeps Russian stores open,” BBC, 14 April 2022)

Allotment of homes for Ukrainian women refugees to be scrutinised
On 14 April, the UN stated that the UK should take care of the allotment of hosts to the refugees who opt for the scheme Homes for Ukraine. The UN further added that the matchups were being exploited by single men trying to get innocent and helpless Ukrainian women and children. Louise Calvey, the head of safeguarding at Refugee Action from UNHCR, said that the scheme could become tinder for sex traffickers. In response to the UN, the UK’s government said that it conducted robust security and background checks of the hosts. The matchups should be done appropriately, and women and children would feel safer if they were to stay with a family or a couple. Most women refugees fall prey to exploitative men using social media. The process of immigration is seen to be slow, and the visas are also being given at a slower rate. (Hamzah Abbas, “Homes for Ukraine: Don't match female refugees with single men, UN says,” BBC, 14 April 2022)


A new study on the efficiency of commitments made in the COP26 conference 
On 13 April, the BBC reported on the findings and suggestions of a new study titled “Realization of Paris Agreement pledges may limit warming just below 2 °C,” published in the journal Nature. According to the study, if all of the commitments made by governments at the Glasgow committee meeting are followed “in full and on time,” temperatures will rise by 1.9-2 degrees Celsius. However, the paper projects only a ten per cent success rate for staying under the critical threshold of two degrees celsius. By evaluating the short-term goals set by governments, the study estimates CO2 levels would rise by 13 per cent rather than drop to 45 per cent by 2030. (Matt McGrath, “Climate change: COP26 promises will hold warming under 2C,” BBC, 13 April 2022)

Germany’s foreign minister meets Mali’s interim president to discuss Russia’s role
On 13 April, Germany advised Mali to stop working with Russian mercenaries and soldiers. Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock met with Mali’s interim president Assimi Goita to discuss Mali’s involvement with Russian troops and mercenaries. Mali underwent political turmoil and Goita came to power after two successful coups in 2020 and 2021. Germany has been pushing to democratize Mali as the country is witnessing corruption and judicial impunity under the military regime. After France withdrew its troops from Mali, countries of the EU were pressured to face security threats. The stationing of German troops expires in May, after which the German parliament plans to renew its contract to cooperate with the people of Mali. However, Mali’s ties with Russia and China are a matter of concern to Germany. (“Germany tells Mali to halt work with Russian mercenaries,” Deutsche Welle, 14 April 2022)

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