Daily Briefs

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16 April 2022, Saturday| NIAS Europe Daily Brief #177

War in Ukraine: Day 51

Paris attack trials defendant apologizes to victim’s families; Construction of Norway-Poland pipeline resumes

War in Ukraine: Day 51
By Padmashree Anandhan, Ashwin Dhanabalan, and Rishma Banerjee

War on the ground:
Zelenskyy’s address 
During his everyday address, president Zelenskyy detailed how Ukrainians were returning to "normal life" in areas that have been rid of Russian occupiers. He also called on allies for more heavy weapons and to tighten the sanctions on Russian oil. Praising the armed forces of the country, he emphasised how the situation in the south and the east of the country was still quite difficult. Zelenskyy said: "The successes of our military on the battlefield are really significant, historically significant. But they are still not enough to clean our land of the occupiers.”

Zelenskyy also corresponded with Biden and made a direct appeal to him. He asked if the United States could designate Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

Prime minister’s address
On 15 April, Ukraine agreed to receive financial help from Japan and Canada. Japan will be sending JPY 13 billion yen and CAD 500 million. In a televised video address, prime minister Denys Shmygal said: “These are funds to finance our primary needs .... We are negotiating assistance at all levels with everyone who can help.”

Russian troops started withdrawing from Kyiv on 29th March, and since then and relative peace has prevailed. . But given the fact that  Russia’s prized Black Sea fleet flagship Moskva sunk unexpectedly, they have warned that tensions in Kyiv will be on the rise. On 15 April, for the first time since the withdrawal of Russian troops, residents of Kyiv heard huge explosions.

Mariupol has been under siege since 24 February when the war began, but recently the Russian offensive there has increased in an increased attempt to take over the strategically important port city. Explosions rocked the area, and according to Reuters reports,  an attack was made at the Azovstal iron and steelworks, amidst dwindling Ukrainian forces. The Defence Ministry said that for the first time, Russia had used long-range bombers to attack the city.

On 15 April, The southern city of Mykolaiv witnessed cluster munitions being used. The governor of the region informed via the Telegram app that five people had been killed due to shelling.

The Moscow view:
Claims by Russia

Update from the Russian military
On 15 April, Russian defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov informed that they destroyed hundreds of drones and thousands of tanks during their special operations in Ukraine. He stated: “Russian forces have eliminated 132 aircraft, 105 helicopters, 456 unmanned aerial vehicles, 2,213 tanks and other armoured vehicles and 249 multiple rocket launchers since the beginning of their special military operation in Ukraine.” The troops had also eliminated seven Ukrainian military facilities and a Tochka-U missile launcher using airborne precision missiles. He further updated on the targets eliminated in the Ukrainian strongholds and the shooting down of Su-27 fighters of their Air Force. 

Responding to North Macedonia’s expulsion of Russian diplomats
On 15 April, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated that Moscow would retaliate against Macedonia’s explosion of Russian diplomats. The Russian foreign ministry stated: “The North Macedonian administration is continuing on a confrontational path without paying any attention to the fact that such steps damage bilateral relations.” This comes as Macedonia expelled six diplomats from the Embassy of the Russian Federation.  

Moscow to eliminate Ukrainian nationalist battalions 
On 15 April, the Kremlin announced that it prioritised the elimination of nationalist battalions. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov added: “Peaceful life is returning where nationalist battalions do not take civilians hostage and where these nationalist battalions do not open fire on social facilities and houses.” He further accused nationalist battalions of engaging in fierce struggles and hence justified their reason to be eliminated.  

Deputy PM on buyers paying in roubles for Russian gas
On 15 April, Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Novak said many countries who buy Russian gas had already agreed to convert their payments into roubles. He added: “I would like to emphasise that the transfer of payments for gas into the national currency on the Russian side is logical and caused by objective reasons - the desire to receive payment for the delivered goods with a 100% guarantee.” He further mentioned that the EU’s plans to move away from Russian gas by importing it from the US would not work out. The EU would face logistical nuances as the necessary infrastructure for receiving LNG was unavailable. 

Federation council deputy on cooperation with the EU
On 15 April, the federation council deputy Konstantin Kosachev said Russia was willing to continue its cooperation with the EU. However, it also mentioned that it would have to reconsider its relations. He added that the EU’s steps and accusations that stated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to switch to ruble payments for gas ran counter to the EU sanctions. He further mentioned that their accusations were approaching a red line for Russia. 

The sinking of the Moskva missile cruiser
On 15 April, a report by Reuters mentioned how much impact the sinking of the Moskva missile cruiser would cause Russia. Russia claimed that a fire and explosions involving ammunition stowed aboard caused the ship to sink. However, the loss of the ship would degrade the fleet’s defences in the Black Sea but would not change the course of the war in Ukraine. Nevertheless, it would raise questions about Russia’s naval capabilities.  

Russia hit the Kyiv missile factory in retaliation to the Moskva attacks
On 15 April, Russian strikes hit a military factory near Kyiv that made the missiles that had likely sunk the Russian ship Moskva. The strike was Russia’s first significant strike around the capital in the last two weeks. 

Russia blocks The Moscow Times
On 15 April, the Moscow Times’ Russian-language service was blocked by Russia for publishing false reports on police officers refusing to fight the war in Ukraine. State communications watchdog Roskomnadzor banned the service, citing an order from the prosecutor general’s office. 

Russia expels 18 EU diplomats
On 15 April, Russia announced that it was expelling 18 EU diplomats in retaliation for Brussels declaring 19 Russian diplomats as personae non-gratae. In addition, Russia’s foreign ministry handed the EU ambassador to Russia, Markus Ederer, a note of protest. The ministry stated: “The Russian side declared that the EU is responsible for the consistent destruction of the architecture of bilateral dialogue and cooperation that had taken decades to form.” 

The West view:
Responses from the US and Europe

The US
Whitehouse press secretary, Jen Psaki said that the US president will not be sent to Ukraine for dialogue, instead, they are considering the secretary of the state, Antony Blinken. Apart from this, an official from the Defense Ministry confirmed that the Russian cruise missile ship was hit by Neptune missiles of Ukraine.

On 15 April, Ukraine’s army chief and US general held a phone call, where they discussed sending more weapons and the fight on the Kharkiv-Izyum border. Ukraine’s chief remarked that there was a “critical situation,” persisting in Mariupol.

The UK
On 15 April, the UK Ministry of Defense reported the sinking of Russia’s ship vessel Moskva. It said: “will likely lead Russia to review its maritime posture in the Black Sea.”

On 15 April, the Forensic department of France, through a team of experts investigated the mass burials graves located in Bucha. The aim of the investigation is to observe and collect evidence to use for the legal case against Russia in the ICC.

Russia’s media controller, Roskomnadzor blocked the website access to French radio station RFI. It blocked stating that RFI had violated the law of false and extremist information. The site was providing live updates on Ukraine, Russia did not mention the exact reason for blocking, but it is found to be on a spree to shut down independent media.

The soldiers of Wales, belonging to the Royal Welsh regiment conducted training exercises in Estonia. The 1,200 NATO task force was led by the Welsh to “deter and defend,” future possible Russian attacks. Estonia's permanent secretary for defence, Kusti Salm said: “as clear as anything can be.” He also urged NATO to double the troop count in Estonia. Estonia’s president gave a warning that it was possible for Russia to launch a hybrid war in the coming days. He said: “Regardless of what happens we are ready for that. That's what this exercise is about and it's given confidence to our people. We are ready.”       

The Global Fallouts:
International implications of the Ukraine war

On 14 April, Oreo makers Mondelez, Nestle, and PepsiCo were questioned by workers from Ukraine and eastern Europe for continuing their operations in Russia. Reuters reported on the internal communications within the organisation and interview six employees. It observed that the demand from the employees came from Ukraine’s repeated request to western companies to take a step further and cut down its businesses with Russia. According to Reuters, it found an internal memo that indicated the exit of many employees from Nestle and close to 130 employees from the Baltic countries has filed a petition against Mondelez asking to stop its business.

On 15 April, IMF warned that Bulgaria’s economy will be affected due to rising inflation from the Ukraine war. From the recent staff visit, IMF estimated that Bulgaria’s growth which was 4.4 per cent, due to inflation reduced to three per cent. Bulgaria’s banking sector is expected to remain “well capitalised and liquid,” but IMF asked the central bank to be wary of any after-effect of war. In the statement released: “The economic effects of the war will materialize primarily through higher commodity prices, lower trading partners' demand, and the impact of uncertainty on investment, while refugees need to be cared for. High energy dependence from Russia is a significant vulnerability.” As far as Bulgaria is concerned, it proposes to join the eurozone in 2024 to fasten its structural reform and control corruption.

One of the biggest steelmakers in Ukraine, Metinvest has promised to not re-open its businesses until the invasion. It reported that due to war, one-third of the country’s metallurgy producing capacity was down. Ukraine’s major steel and coal assets are located in the easter part and it supplied the largest to Europe. With war slowly shifting to the east, it becomes a challenge for the country’s steel industry to operate. According to Metinvest: “The country has therefore lost 30-40% of its metallurgical production capacity since the plants are not working. We have no doubt that their work will be resumed, but for this Mariupol must remain Ukrainian.”

Ukraine agrees to financial support from Japan, Canada,” Reuters, 15 April 2022
Pavel Polityuk and Elizabeth Piper, “
Ukraine says fighting rages in Mariupol, blasts rattle Kyiv,Reuters, 16 April 2022
Natalia Zinets, “
Ukrainians hang on at Mariupol steel plant,Reuters, 15 April 2022
Ukraine says Russia used long-range bombers on Mariupol; 1st time in war,” Reuters, 15 April 2022
Ukraine says five killed in shelling in city of Mykolaiv,” Reuters, 15 April 2022
Russian troops destroy 456 drones, 2,213 tanks in Ukraine special operation — top brass,” TASS, 15 April 2022 
North Macedonia declares six Russian diplomats personae non gratae — Foreign Ministry,” TASS, 15 April 2022 
Moscow views eliminating Ukrainian nationalist battalions as priority task, says Kremlin,” TASS, 15 April 2022 
Several buyers of Russian gas already agree to convert payments into rubles — Deputy PM,” TASS, 15 April 2022 
Russia willing to cooperate with EU, but may reconsider relations — lawmaker,” TASS, 15 April 2022 
How big a loss to Russia is the sinking of the Moskva missile cruiser?,” Reuters, 15 April 2022
Russia expels 18 EU diplomats from Moscow,” Reuters, 15 April 2022 
Daphne Rousseau, “Russia Hits Kyiv Missile Factory After Moskva Flagship Sinks,” The Moscow Times, 15 April 2022 
Moscow Times' Russian Service Blocked Over War Coverage,” The Moscow Times, 15 April 2022
Ukraine update,” Bloomberg, 15 April 2022
Gwyn Loader, “Ukraine: Royal Welsh soldiers support Estonia amid conflict,” BBC, 15 April 2022
Russia blocks FRANCE 24 sister radio station RFI website,” France24, 15 April 2022
War in Ukraine: French police officers probe Bucha mass grave,” France24, 15 April 2022
Bulgaria's growth prospects dented by war in Ukraine, IMF says,” Reuters, 15 April 2022
Oreo-maker, Nestle, Pepsi face pressure from European employees over Russia,” Reuters, 15 April 2022
EXCLUSIVE Ukraine's top steelmaker vows never to work under Russian occupation,” Reuters, 15 April 2022

By Emmanuel Royan and Sai Pranav

Berlin to reduce dependency on Russian energy by 2023
On 15 April, Germany’s vice-chancellor Robert Habeck asked the public to reduce their energy consumption by 10 per cent to reduce importing energy supplies from Russia. Germany is one of the only two countries resisting the Russian oil embargo in Europe till now as it depends majorly on Russia for gas and oil. Cutting down on imports from Russia would lead to economic decline. Habeck said: "It starts with personal behaviour. If you heat your home and draw your curtains in the evening you save up to 5% of energy. If you lower the room temperature by 1C it's around 6%." (“Ukraine conflict: Save energy and annoy Putin, Germans told,” BBC News, 16 April 2022)

Elections: Le Pen and Macron confronted over policies on headscarves
On 15 April, Muslim headscarves were at the forefront of France's presidential campaign when women in headscarves approached both candidates, asking why their wardrobe choices should be entangled in politics. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen was confronted by a woman wearing a headscarf at a farmers market when she was greeting her supporters. Le Pen called the headscarf a "uniform imposed over time by people who have a radical vision of Islam." On the same day, incumbent president Macron, on the matter of headscarf, debated with a woman on the channel France-Info. He tried to set himself apart from Le Pen by claiming he would not modify any laws. However, he still backed the present prohibition on headscarves in schools as part of France's secular values. (“Macron clashes with Le Pen over Islamic headscarf ban,” Deutsche Welle, 15 April 2022)

Paris attack trials defendant apologizes to victims and their families
On 15 April, Salah A, the lone survivor of the terrorist group that carried out the November 2015 Paris attacks, apologized to the victims and their families in his trial testimony. Salah A has been on trial with 19 other defendants since September 2021 at the historic court of justice on the Ile de la Cite in central Paris. He was accused of assisting in the planning and execution of Paris' bloodiest peacetime terrorist attack. Among the other defendants, six are being tried in absentia, and five are believed to be dead. At the end of his trial testimony, Salah said: "I know that hatred remains... I ask you today that you hate me with moderation, I ask you to forgive me." (“Main Paris attacks suspect apologizes to 'all victims,” Deutsche Welle, 15 April 2022)

Norway-Poland pipeline construction to be restarted  
On 13 April, Norway-Poland pipeline construction was resumed to reduce the imports of Russian oil and gas. The construction of the pipeline was initially stopped as it was considered harmful to the environment. The pipeline is expected to become functional from 01 January 2023. According to the project manager: "It's also about having the gas in the Danish system, but above all to help the gas system of our good neighbours and Polish friends." After Russia, Norway is the second-largest gas supplier and this means, no more exporting of Poland's gas to western Europe. It might help Poland, but Norway's gas exports to the UK and Germany will reduce. (“Amid war in Ukraine, work resumes on Poland-Norway gas pipeline,” Euronews, 16 April 2022)

Indian citizens travelling to the UK via EU airlines denied entry 
On 15 April, Indian citizens who did not have transit or regular Schengen visas were denied boarding on the EU airlines such as Lufthansa, KLM, and Air France at origin airports to travel to the UK. Since the UK is no longer a member of the EU, non-EU nationals must obtain a transit Schengen visa to fly to the UK on flights operated by EU airlines. A Schengen visa is a short-term visa that permits its bearer to travel freely across the Schengen region, including 26 EU nations known as ‘Schengen States’. The UK is only accessible for non-EU citizens via non-stop flights or one-stop flights through the Gulf or Switzerland without transiting or obtaining a standard Schengen visa. (“Indians without Schengen visa can't fly to UK on EU airlines,” Business Standard, 15 April 2022)

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