Daily Briefs

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18 April 2022, Monday| NIAS Europe Daily Brief #178

War in Ukraine: Day 52 & 53

Germany’s Easter marches call for peace Violence erupts over the burning of Quran in Sweden; Le Pen accused of embezzlement ahead of the second round of the election

War in Ukraine: Day 52 & 53
By Padmashree Anandhan, Ashwin Dhanabalan and Rishma Banerjee

War on the ground
Zelenskyy’s address
On 16 April president Zelenskyy spoke about negotiation with Russia and said it has reached a “dead end because we will not trade our territory and our people.” He spoke about reconstruction efforts, and how this moment in history can be considered a turning point to rebuild the country, only better. He said, “we can make quality urban planning where it did not exist. We can take into account real traffic flows. Guarantee energy saving, environmental friendliness of materials, and inclusiveness. This is when it comes to the organization of living space and the quality of reconstruction.” He also mentioned housing queues and giving back to the people who work for society. Zelenskyy mentioned that he had spoken to both Boris Johnson and the Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson on further support for Ukraine and against Russia.

On 17 April Zelenskyy addressed the growing Russian aggression at the eastern cities of Kharkiv and Mariupol. He said: “This is nothing but deliberate terror: mortars, artillery against ordinary residential quarters, against ordinary civilians.” 

Zelenskyy also spoke with the managing director of IMF Kristalina Georgieva, about Ukraine's financial stability and post-war reconstruction. He said that he had a fruitful conversation with the managing director about Ukraine’s post-war financial stability. He assured that if IMF’s cooperation is present, his plans and vision for the country will also be relaised.  "Discussed with IMF Managing Director Georgieva the issue of ensuring Ukraine's financial stability & preparations for post-war reconstruction. We have clear plans for now, as well as a vision of prospects. I’m sure cooperation between the IMF & Ukraine will continue to be fruitful."

On 16 April, the attack on Kyiv intensified further. Even though the Russians had withdrawn at Kyiv, they renewed their attack on the capital city, recently after their Black Sea fleet flagship Moskva sunk. Mayor Vitali Klitschko urged residents to be vigilant and strikes occurred in the southeastern part of the city and air raids went off in the morning.

On 17 April, a missile attack in the early hours of Sunday in Brovary, near Ukraine's capital of Kyiv destroyed infrastructure in the area. The mayor of Irpin, to the west of Kyiv said that Russian forces have destroyed 70 per cent of the buildings in the town. The mayor, Oleksandr Markushin said that as per an UN study, 115 buildings were completely destroyed, 698 suffered significant damage, and 187 were partially damaged. 

On 16 April, the Russian offensive continued in Kharkiv. The regional major reported that one person was killed and 18 were wounded by a Russian missile. 

On 17 April Zelenskyy reported that in the last four days, 18 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in shelling in Kharkiv. A community kitchen, by the World Central Kitchen, set up by celebrity chef José Andrés was amongst the buildings that was destroyed by Russian bombing. They have been operating kitchens in 30 cities in Ukraine, and providing nearly 300,000 meals daily.

On 17 April, the governor of the Mykolaiv region said that the city has been witnessing constant rocket attacks since the morning. Reportedly, the Russians have been attacking the power grids, houses, as well as playgrounds. The governor, Vitaly Kim said: “They [Russian forces] can't advance in one day, even in one a week, they can’t advance and reach Mykolaiv. So people will have some time to leave Mykolaiv, if it becomes dangerous. And if I see it becoming dangerous in the city, I will tell everyone to leave.”

On 16 April Russian forces in Mariupol issued a surrender-or-die ultimatum by 17 April This is in light of the fact that they have been closing in on Ukraine’s troops in order to establish control on the strategically important port city.  

On 17 April, Ukraine’s prime minister Denys Shmyhal however said that troops in Mariupol were still fighting despite the ultimatum. He mentioned that Ukraine’s soldiers continue to occupy some southeastern parts of the city.

Other developments
On 16 April, Iryna Vereshchuk, the deputy prime minister said that nine humanitarian corridors had been agreed upon in order to evacuate civilians, including from the besieged city of Mariupol by private cars. Five of those nine corridors were from Luhansk region, which has been under heavy shelling.

On 17 April, Ukraine and Russia failed to agree on humanitarian convoys for the evacuation of civilians, and as a result no humanitarian corridors were made functional on Sunday. Vereschuk said that they have also asked for an opportunity to evacuate civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol.

Ukraine also completed a questionnaire that will be a starting point for the EU to consider their membership. This questionnaire was given to Zelenskyy by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, when she visited Kyiv on 08 April.

The Moscow view:
Claims by Russia

Russia Defence Ministry
On 17 April, Russia issued a warning to the Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol. It threatened the soldiers to surrender to avoid being “eliminated.” Russia’s Defense Ministry pointed that the Ukraine forces located in the steel plant of Mariupol had rejected the talks to surrender and it warned saying: “In case of further resistance, all of them will be eliminated.” Capturing Mariupol means Russia will have control to build a bridge between the east and Crimea.

On 16 April, the Defense Ministry claimed of destroying military troops in Kyiv and Mykolaiv as a counter to the missile hit on Moskva, Russia’s cruise missile ship. It also reported on attacking one of the military plants outside Kyiv and killing people in Kharkiv using a rocket. Apart from this Russia claimed that it had circled the steel plant in Mariupol where Ukraine forces are observed to be defending. The same was confirmed by major general. Igor Konashenkov, who stated that 2,500 Russia’s troops had circled the steel plant. He said: “The only chance to save their lives is to voluntarily lay down their arms and surrender.”

Other developments
On 16 April, Russia announced a ban on UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson and imposed sanctions on U.K. foreign secretary Liz Truss, defence secretary Ben Wallace, treasury chief Rishi Sunak and home secretary Priti Patel. It further added Scotland’s first minister and former UK prime minister. As per the ministry, the decision comes as a response to UK’s attempts in isolating Russia from the international and for trying to target its domestic economy.

Upon Finland and Sweden approaching NATO to submit its applications for future membership, Russia warned on unintentional incidents in the Arctic. Russia’s representative to Arctic Council’s said: “The internationalization of military activity by the alliance in the high latitudes cannot but cause concern.” Earlier, Russia threatened on using nuclear if Finland and Sweden joined NATO. 

The governor of St. Petersburg gave a statement confirming the death of Russia’s general, Vladimir Frolov. There were no further details, till now seven generals have been recorded to have died in the war.

The West view:
Responses from Europe

The EU
On 17 April, the EU announced EUR 50 million aid to support people injured during the war. It will be used for medical services, ensure safe drinking water, shelter and help those hurt by gender violence.

On 17 April, Austria’s chancellor Karl Nehammer expressed on the meeting with Putin. He assured that Austria will cooperate with ICC for investigation into the war crimes and also said he does not trust the West. Nehammer also remarked that although Russia does not seem to be winning the war, he observed from the meeting that Putin was believing Russia to be winning.

Italy and Bulgaria
On 17 April, Italy and Bulgaria banned Russian ships from entering their national ports to abide by the recent sanctions levied by the EU. Although the supplies on energy and food have been excepted, the Italy Coast Guard issued a statement saying all the ships with Russian flags will be under the rule and existing ships in the Italian ports will be allowed to remain till the commercial activities are completed. Similar to Italy, Bulgaria also imposed the port ban. In terms of the EU, the sanctions imposed provide exceptions for certain products such as natural gas, oil, petroleum products, metals, pharmaceuticals, wheat, fertilizers, nuclear fuel and for humanitarian purposes.

According to the Estonia Information System Authority (RIA) head, Lauri Tankler reported on Estonia’s vulnerable position on the cyber domain. Tankler said that Tankler had become the biggest target due to its supporting stance for Ukraine. It is being targeted using misinformation campaigns, which urges people to click and through which the malware steels information to use to spread false information.

On 17 April, the Dutch Ministry of Defense sent its Patriot missile unit to Slovakia as part of the NATO eastern flank reinforcement. The supply comes due to colliding of five vehicles from a convoy due to poor sight and bad roads. It announced further supply of 150 personnel to strengthen Slovakia, apart from this, Netherlands has also vowed to join with Germany in boosting the air defence of the country.

The UK
On 17 April, UK Defence Ministry tweeted that Russia was keen on persuading Ukraine in restraining its “Euro-Atlantic orientation,” and to focus on its key role in the region. It added that, Russia was deploying combat and equipment to the east of Ukraine from Belarus and has been constantly shelling through the east with renewed attacks.

The Global Fallouts:
International implications of the Ukraine war

On 17 April, India's defence ministry stated that the impact of the Russian war on Ukraine would be discussed at the five-day Army Commanders' Conference in New Delhi. The defence ministry stated: "During the conference, the senior leadership of the Indian Army will review the operational situation along the active borders, assess threats in the entire spectrum of conflict and undertake analysis of capability voids to further focus on capability development and operational preparedness plans." 

On 16 April, India's Agricultural and Processed Food Products Exports Development Authority (APEDA) announced that it would set a record for exports of wheat to become a global supplier. The war in Ukraine led to the shortage of wheat from the world's breadbasket and has been a significant concern for countries that rely on wheat imports. The APEDA would be sending delegations to Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Lebanon to extend the possibility of increasing Indian exports of wheat to these countries. Egypt, one of the world's largest wheat importing countries, has already sent officials to India to monitor the export systems. 

On 15 April, a report by Deutsche Welle mentioned that the war in Eastern Europe intensified Nepal's economic crisis. Nepal does not have strong economic ties with both Russia and Ukraine. But, the global implications of war, the rising fuel and food costs have deepened the economic crisis in the country. The war has also discouraged tourists and the tourism industry, which was already weakened by the pandemic. Furthermore, the fall in remittances, a trade deficit and depletion of foreign reserves are other reasons for the economic situation. 

On 16 April, concerns arose about China's investments in Russia's Bashkortostan region as the war continued. The project was earlier stalled due to budget issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and local protests. With the sanctions in place by Western countries, the project has again received a setback and is likely to perish due to the uncertainities. 

On 16 April, in a united effort, Japan and five Central Asian countries pledged to communicate their responses to the war in Ukraine closely. Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said: "The international community needs to keep in step to deal with (the Ukrainian crisis)." The foreign ministers of Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan met virtually to discuss the war in Ukraine and celebrate the 30th anniversary of Japan's establishment of diplomatic ties with the five Central Asian countries. 

Central Asia
On 17 April, a report by Eurasiareview highlighted that the war in Ukraine meant that Russia would be less focused on the central Asian countries. In addition, it talked about how Russia's security guarantees for Central Asian states and the members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) would have implications due to the war.  

The UN
On 16 April, the UN stated that another 40,000 had fled the country as the war escalated with the recent attacks on Kyiv. The UN also mentioned that nearly five million people who have fled Ukraine would not have homes to return to. France24 reported: "The UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) says nearly 215,000 third-country nationals -- largely students and migrant workers -- have also escaped to neighbouring countries, meaning more than five million people in all have fled Ukraine since the war began."

World Food Programme 
On 16 April, the World Food Programme (WFP) mentioned that it had delivered aid to 1.4 million people in Ukraine since the war began. It further mentioned that it would need safe access to deliver the additional aid to 2.3 million people. But, unfortunately, they were not allowed to access Mariupol due to the selling. Concerning Mariupol and Mykolaiv WFP, executive director David Beasley said: "It's one thing when people are suffering from the devastation of war. It's another thing when they're being starved to death." 

We are fighting for a free future and the development of our country – the address of the President of Ukraine,” President of Ukraine, 16 April 2022
Blasts heard in Ukraine's capital Kyiv and western city of Lviv, local media report,” Reuters, 16 April 2022
Ukraine deputy PM: 9 evacuation corridors, including Mariupol, agreed for Saturday," Reuters, 16 April 2022
One killed, 18 wounded in missile strike on Ukraine's Kharkiv region, governor says,” Reuters, 16 April 2022
Russia-Ukraine war: latest updates,” The Guardian, 16 April 2022
Missile attack damages infrastructure in Brovary, near Kyiv, mayor says,” Reuters, 17 April 2022
Celebrity chef José Andrés’ kitchen destroyed in bombing,” BBC, 17 April, 2022
Ukraine's deputy PM says Ukraine, Russia fail to agree on evacuation convoys,Reuters, 17 April 2022
Ukraine completes questionnaire for EU membership,” Reuters, 18 April 2022
Ukrainians defy Russian surrender demand in Mariupol on 'Easter of war,” Reuters, 18 April 2022
Zelenskiy, IMF managing director discuss Ukraine's 'post-war reconstruction,” Reuters, 18 April 2022 
Trapped Ukrainians 'starving to death’,” BBC Live, 16 April 2022 
What Happened on Day 53 of the War in Ukraine,” The New York Times, 17 April 2022
Francis X. Rocca, “EU Countries Begin to Ban Russian Ships From National Ports,” The Wall Street Journal, 17 April 2022

Matthew Luxmoore, “Russia Warns NATO Expansion Would Destabilize Security in the Arctic,” The Wall Street Journal, 17 April 2022
James Hookway, “Russia Loses Another Major General in Ukraine Fighting,” The Wall Street Journal, 16 April 2022
Mauro Orru, “Russia Imposes Travel Ban on Boris Johnson, Other Top U.K. Officials,” The Wall Street Journal, 16 April 2022

RIA expert: Estonia could become greater target for Russian cyber attacks,” The Baltic Times, 17 April 2022
Dutch Patriot missile unit arrives in Slovakia for NATO defense after convoy collision,” NL Times, 17 April 2022

UK says Russia committed to compelling Ukraine to abandon its Euro-Atlantic orientation,” Reuters, 17 April 2022
Many of the nearly 5 million people who have fled Ukraine will not have homes to return to, the United Nations warned,” The Guardian Live, 17 April 2022 
UN says another 40,000 Ukrainians have fled the war,” France24 Live, 17 April 2022 
Impact of Russia-Ukraine war on Army Commanders’ meet agenda,” The Indian Express, 17 April 2022 
James M Dorsey, “Iran Capitalizes On Central Asian Vacuum Created By The Ukraine War – Analysis,” Eurasiareview, 17 April 2022 
Japan and five Central Asian nations vow to closely communicate over Ukraine,” The Japan Times, 16 April 2022 
"Moscow's Ukraine War Could Make Chinese Investment In Russia's Bashkortostan Disappear,” Radio Free Europe, 16 April 2022 
Lekhanath Pandey, “Ukraine conflict intensifies Nepal's economic woes,” Deutsche Welle, 15 April 2022
India to Boost Wheat Exports to North Africa Amid Ukraine Crisis,” Morocco world news, 16 April 2022

By Emmanuel Royan and Sai Pranav

Easter protestors demonstrate for peace, amid war in Ukraine
On 16 April, thousands of people gathered in several cities for their traditional Easter marches. The demonstrators marched under the banner "Lay down your arms! — Stop the war in Ukraine!" to protest against the war and increase military spending. According to police, around 1,200 people assembled in the streets of Berlin and Bremen. Meanwhile, hundreds of protestors gathered in Hanover, Munich, Cologne, Leipzig, Stuttgart, and Duisburg, among other cities. The protests received backlash from several politicians, calling it unrealistic and a far-away dream for pacifism in the current situation. Ukraine's ambassador to Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, condemned the demonstrations saying they "had nothing to do with Easter or peace," and accused them of living in a "parallel world". (“Germany holds Easter peace marches in shadow of Ukraine war,” Deutsche Welle, 16 April 2022)

French elections: Le Pen accused of misappropriation of funds
On 17 April, France’s prosecutors accused far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen of embezzlement claims. She and her associates have been accused of misappropriation of funds worth over EUR 600,000. The prosecutors were studying a report from the European Union’s anti-fraud office OLAF, which dates back to when she was a lawmaker in the European Parliament between 2004 and 2017. The agency further accused her of using EU funds for national political purposes, services that would benefit companies close to her party and personal expenses. (“France: Le Pen faces embezzlement claims ahead of election runoff,” Deutsche Welle, 17 April 2022)

Macron alerts the voters to be wary of Le Pen even though he leads
On 16 April, Emmanuel Macron is seen leading the first round of France's presidential election securing 27.6 per cent of the vote while National Rally's Marine Le Pen has 23.4 per cent. In a survey taken by Ipsos-Sopra Steria, Macron was found to have 55.5 per cent of support from the respondents however Marine Le Pen has only 45.5 per cent. The voter turnout for the second round is expected to be 72 per cent with a margin of error between 0.7 to 2.4 per cent. While incumbent Macron holds the lead, he emphasises that "nothing is decided" in the race for the presidency. He urged the voters to vote and warned them against far-right Le Pen. Macron was seen appealing to young voters about his stance on climate change and urged them to vote for him. Due to the danger posed by Le Pen to democracy and liberalism, socialists and leftist activists are most likely to back Macron. (Darko Janjevic, “French election: Macron leads Le Pen, but warns 'nothing is decided',” Deutsche Welle, 16 April 2022)

Violence erupts over alleged burning of Quran
On 17 April, riots erupted for the fourth day in several cities that were triggered by right-winged extremist Rasmus Paludan who claimed to have burned the Quran. Paludan’s anti-immigration and anti-Islamic Stram Kurs (Hard Line) movement supporters threatened to burn copies of the Quran during the rallies. Paludan declared to hold another rally despite the police’s denial, which led to counter-demonstrators in the area against it. As the violence escalated, many vehicles were set on fire, and at least 11 individuals were arrested. Sweden’s justice minister, Morgan Johansson, urged the rioters to go home and labeled Paludan a “right-wing extremist fool, whose only goal is to drive violence and divisions.” (“Swedish police shoot 3 during fresh riots,” Deutsche Welle, 17 April 2022)

70 Extinction Rebellion protestors detained 
On 17 April, 70 demonstrators participating in the Extinction Rebellion protests across the UK were arrested. Six were arrested for scaling and glueing themselves to an oil tanker at Hyde Park; Olympic gold medal-winning canoeist Etienne Stott and sailor Laura Baldwin were among them. Dozens more were arrested for climbing the marble arch structure and attaching a green banner that read: “end fossil fuels now.” The protestors also waved flags and set off flares that resulted in a public order direction to clear the roads. The protests on 16 April were a continuation of the 15 April protests where they had blocked London’s busy streets. (“Extinction Rebellion: Seventy arrested at climate change protests,” BBC, 17 April 2022)

The life expectancy of women is lesser in deprived regions of the country
On 17 April, The Guardian reported on the stark analysis of the average life expectancy of women in the UK. According to the health foundation analysis of life expectancy data, women in England’s poorest parts die earlier than in every comparable country. The study also reveals the actual extent of health disparities in England. The data demonstrates that life expectancy for women in the poorest districts is significantly below the UK’s average age of 83.1, England’s average age of 83.2, and the OECD average age of 83.4. Women in the richest and poorest communities had a 7.7 year age difference in life expectancy. The local council areas of Blackpool, Knowsley, Liverpool, and Middlesbrough are among the most disadvantaged and deprived in England. (Andrew Gregory, “Women in England’s poorest areas die younger than in most OECD countries,” The Guardian, 17 April 2022)

Labour shortage stumbles energy efficiency
On 17 April, ABN bank said the ongoing labour crisis is a stumbling barrier for the Netherlands' energy efficiency goals. More than a third of job openings in the renewable energy sector, such as wind and solar power, remain vacant. This includes a scarcity of installers capable of handling heat pumps and solar panels. In addition, roofing, plumbing, heating, and gas and water pipe fitting technicians are in shortage. According to the bank, the labour market shortfall has never been this severe. More than one-fifth of all positions had no personnel available. There is virtually no staff available for 36 per cent of the professions related to the energy transition. (“Labor market tightness hindering energy transition: ABN Amro,” NL Times, 17 April 2022)

Africa is influenced by Russia through Facebook pages. 
On 17 April, pro-Russian and anti-Western sentiments were spread through Facebook pages in west African countries. These misinformation campaigns spread Russian influence across unstable countries in western Africa. The Wagner group, a Russian mercenary group is suspected to be behind the actions. Facebook has already taken down inauthentic pieces of information but is struggling to contain the anti-western and pro-Russian posts. These posts are contributing to the political instability of the West African countries. The military coup in countries like Mali and Burkina Faso had garnered support from the public by using loopholes in Facebook's moderation policies presumably with the help of the Wagner group. While Facebook commented that it would improve its third-party fact-checking technology and would tackle the problem in an efficient way. (Jason Burke, “Facebook struggles as Russia steps up presence in unstable west Africa,” The Guardian, 17 April 2022)

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