Photo : Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa
22 April 2022, Friday| NIAS Europe Daily Brief #182
War in Ukraine: Day 57
By Padmashree Anandhan, Ashwin Dhanabalan and Rishma Banerjee
War on the ground:
On 21 April, president Zelenskyy said that Ukraine has “offerred all options” to Russia for the swapping of citizens in Mariupol for Russian soldiers but is still waiting on Moscow’s reply. He also said that 120,000 civilians were being blocked from leaving the besieged city. He also spoke about his session with Mrs Kristalina Georgieva, the chairperson of IMF. Zelenskyy said that they spoke in general about the condition in Ukraine, and especially the state of Kharkiv, the largest city in the east of Ukraine, which has been under Russian attack. In his address, he also touched upon the food shortage that is bound to plague the world and said: “Without Ukrainian wheat, corn, vegetable oil and other commodities, this will result not only in physical food shortages in many countries in Africa and Asia but also in political instability and possibly a new migration crisis.”
On 21 April, it was reported that the bodies of 1,020 civilians were being stored in morgues in and around Kyiv. This is after the bodies of nine civilians were found in Borodyanka, a town near Kyiv. The head of police of the Kyiv region, Andriy Niebytov, said, “these people were civilians. The Russian military knowingly shot civilians who did not put up any resistance.”
On 21 April, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said that Ukraine had demanded the immediate establishment of a humanitarian corridor in Mariupol. The Mayor of Mariupol, in a news conference, said that around 200 people were waiting to be evacuated, but no buses were available. Serhiy Volyna, a commander from the 36th separate marine brigade fighting in Mariupol, said the forces “may be facing our last days, if not hours. This is in light of how Putin has ordered his troops to seal the Azovstal Factory amidst increasing offending in the city.
On 21 April, the United Nations refugee agency reported that more than 5 million refugees had fled Ukraine, while 7.7 million people have been displaced internally. The report also said that an additional 13 million people were stranded in various parts of the country, unable to leave, due to heightened security leaks.
The Moscow view:
Claims by Russia
Claims on Mariupol
On 21 April, Russia’s defence minister Sergey Shoigu met with president Vladimir Putin and updated him on the situation in Mariupol. He stated that the Russian armed forces, along with the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) forces, have liberated the city.
On the same day, Putin hailed the liberation of Mariupol and called off the operation to storm the zovstal steel plant in the city. The plant is said to be the last resort of 2,000 Ukrainian militants. Putin called off the offensive, saying that the troops would need about three to four days to breach the plant, which would be unreasonable.
Bank of Russia
On 21 April, the governor of the Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina, stated that Russia had all the financial resources to pay off its debts. She added: “…there is no threat of default.”
More restrictions on foreign agents
On 21 April, Russia’s lawmakers said they would submit a few amendments to the law on foreign agents. The amendment would ban journalists and other people designated as foreign agents to not investing in strategic industries or working with children. Which meant that the agents would be banned from investing in defence, security, aviation and teaching.
Russia sanctions 61 Canadians
On 21 April, Russia announced that it would sanction 61 journalists, officials and military experts from Canada. Reuters reported: “The list includes Special Operations Forces commander major-general Steve Boivin, Central Bank governor Tiff Macklem as well as John Tory and Jim Watson, the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa.” They justified the ban by saying the entities supported a “Russophobic” stance.
Russia bars entry to US officials
On 21 April, Russia stated that it had expanded its ban on US officials including vice president Kamala Harris and 28 other American officials, journalists and businesspeople. The Russian foreign ministry said: “These individuals are denied entry into the Russian Federation indefinitely.”
Russia to close its consulates in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia
On 21 April, Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed the closure of its consulates in three former Soviet Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The ministry informed that it was done in reciprocity. They further added that it was also on account of their support of the regime in Kyiv.
Russia-Ukraine talks continue in video format
On 21 April, Russia’s foreign ministry member Alexey Polishchuk stated that the talks between the two countries would continue in a video format almost every day. He added: “Direct Russian-Ukrainian negotiations are currently ongoing. Interdepartmental delegations of the sides are discussing possible agreements on the settlement of the situation in Ukraine, its future neutral, non-aligned status, and other issues.”
Russia to end military operation after NATO’s colonisation of Ukraine is eliminated
On 21 April, Russia stated that its special military operation would end once threats related to NATO’s colonisation of Ukraine ended. Polishchuk said: “The special military operation will end once its tasks are fulfilled. Among them are the protection of the peaceful population of Donbass, demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine, as well as the elimination of threats to Russia coming from the Ukrainian territory due to its colonisation by NATO members.”
Russia to make Ukraine nuclear-free and restore a neutral status
On 21 April, Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, stated that their special operation in Ukraine was focused on demilitarisation and denazification. He also slammed the Organization of American States (OAS) decision to suspend Russia’s observer status. He added: “We need a confirmation of this eastern European country’s non-nuclear and neutral status. We will ensure it. This is vital for our Slavic peoples living in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.”
The West view:
Responses from the US and Europe
On 21 April, US president Joe Biden announced a USD 800 million package for new arms supplies sent to Ukraine. He said he would ask Congress for more funding for Ukraine to fend off Russia’s new offensive in the east and south. Biden added: “And the United States and our allies and partners are moving as fast as possible to continue to provide Ukraine the weapons their forces need to defend their nation.”
On the same day, the US disproved Russia’s claims of liberating Mariupol. US spokesperson Ned Price said: “We understand that Ukraine’s forces continue to hold their ground, and there is every reason to believe that President Putin and his defence minister’s show for the media that we saw in recent hours is even yet more disinformation from their well-worn playbook.” Price further mentioned that Russia was still battling thousands of Ukrainian troops defending the Azovstal steelworks.
Also, on 21 April, Biden announced that the US would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees under their ‘Uniting for Ukraine’ program. The program will commence next week, and will allow Ukrainians to move to the US if they have sponsors there temporarily.
On 21 April, the UK government said it was training Ukrainian soldiers to use their armoured vehicles. This comes as UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson revealed that they would be sending at least 120 armoured vehicles to Ukraine. Out of the 120 vehicles, 80 of them are the Mastiff, Husky and Wolfhound protected mobility vehicles, which the UK uses for combat, combat support and combat services roles. This would help Ukraine to fight the Russian offensive in the east.
On the same day, the UK announced the ban of imports of Savia and other high-end products from Russia in its latest round of sanctions. UK’s international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: “We are taking every opportunity we can to ratchet the pressure to isolate the Russian economy, and these further measures will tighten the screws, shutting down lucrative avenues of funding for [Vladimir] Putin’s war machine.” The import ban would include silver and wood products, while the tariffs on the import of diamonds and rubber from Russia and Belarus would be increased by 35 per cent.
On 21 April, Ireland’s prime minister Micheál Martin said it would look to open more areas to offer shelter to Ukrainian refugees. Martin met with Ukraine’s prime minister Denys Shmyhal and discussed the possibility of taking in more Ukrainian refugees and extending financial support to Ukraine. Ireland has welcomed 24,438 refugees from Ukraine, and out of that, 16,128 are currently living in state accommodation.
On 21 April, Spain announced that it would be sending 200 tonnes of ammunition and military supplies to Ukraine. The shipment will include heavy transport vehicles and ammunition to defend against Russian forces. Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez added: “The ship carries 30 trucks, several special heavy transport vehicles, and ten small vehicles loaded with the military material that will be transferred to Ukraine.” This comes as the prime ministers of Denmark and Spain were visiting Kyiv to meet with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
On 21 April, a poll carried out by the polling institute Novus stated that 51 per cent of Sweden’s citizens favoured joining NATO. This is more than last week’s toll of 45 per cent.
Latvia and Estonia
On 21 April, the parliaments of Estonia and Latvia announced that they would recognise Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide. The parliament of Estonia stated: “These crimes are ideologically incited by Russia’s political and military leadership and its national propaganda authorities.” A Latvian MP mentioned how the killings, torture, and abuse of the civilians in Ukraine were genocidal and urged the world to #StandupForUkraine.
The Global Fallouts:
International implications of the Ukraine war
On 20 April, upon Russia’s offer to recruit soldiers to fight against Ukraine, numerous Ethiopian men lined up before the Russian embassy in Addis Ababa. The spokesperson of the embassy later cleared that the recruitment was rumour and said that there was no selection going on. She said: “We have a lot of visitors to the embassy in order to express support for Russia. Some of them are telling us they are willing to help in any way they can. But we are not a recruitment agency.”
On 20 April, a public prosecutor from Fiji disclosed that US has been attempting to seize a superyacht of a Russian oligarch who was subject to sanctions by the West. It has applied for a restraining order against the Russian and the ship that has been docked in the port. The US is yet to confirm on the same, but the penalty notice has been issued by authorities of Fiji. According to the police commissioner, upon fines becoming overdue, the captain will be taken into charge.
On 20 April, due to the war in Ukraine, Netflix for the first time reported a decrease in the count of subscribers in past 10 years. The company has also come under a suit by the Russian subscribers for blocking its service in Russia.
On 21 April, the Women’s Tennis Association criticised the decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus from the Wimbledon tournaments. In the statement issued: “of the WTA is that individual athletes may participate in professional tennis events based on merit and without any form of discrimination.” The Association urged for allowing individual players to compete in the tournament and asked to not impose penalties on players for government’s decisions.
On 21 April, China’s minister of National Defence, general Wei Fenghe held a 45-minute call with the US defence secretary Lloyd Austin. Upon Austin stressing the significance of China not supplying weapons to Russia and in response, Fenghe said: “If the Taiwan issue were not handled properly, it would have a damaging impact on Sino-US relations.” The response comes as US sent arms to Taiwan to defend China in case of a conflict.
On 21 April, China’s President Xi Jinping stressed back China’s opposition to the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia. China has not condemned the invasion of Russia and also continues to maintain economic trade with Russia.
SpaceX company has provided Ukraine with increased internet connectivity and the civilians were provided full access. The Ukraine military said that, with access to speed internet, it was able to connect to satellites located in the low orbit. The minister of Digital Transformation said that there were currently 10,000 terminals installed in Ukraine, which has become the alternative to the damaged infrastructure.
On 21 April, World Bank president, David Malpass said that the organization was facing the worst food crisis due to the war in Ukraine. He said: “It's a human catastrophe, meaning nutrition goes down. But then it also becomes a political challenge for governments who can't do anything about it - they didn't cause it and they see the prices going up.” The World Bank estimated that there was an increase of 37 per cent in food prices which has pushed many under the poverty line. He compared the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic to reflect the crisis situation being faced by the population who are in poverty. Another highlight was the rise in the unsustainable debt seen in the poorest countries, which are turning into a debt burden.
“Ukraine situation: Flash Update #9,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 21 April 2022
“Ukraine can develop ‘maximum speed’ in joining the EU, Zelenskiy says – as it happened,” The Guardian, 21 April 2022
“Joe Biden announces $800m in new arms supplies to Ukraine,” The Guardian Live, 21 April 2022
“Putin's claim to have 'liberated' Mariupol is disinformation, US says,” The Guardian Live, 21 April 2022
“US to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees under new 'Uniting for Ukraine' programme,” The Guardian Live, 21 April 2022
"UK training Ukrainian soldiers to use British armoured vehicles,” The Guardian Live, 21 April 2022
“Britain has banned imports of caviar and other high-end products from Russia in the latest round of sanctions,” The Guardian Live, 21 April 2022
“Ireland finds new ways to shelter refugees,” BBC Live, 21 April 2022
“Spanish PM: 200 tonnes of ammunition and military supplies sent to Ukraine,” The Guardian Live, 21 April 2022
“Latvia and Estonia recognise Russia’s actions in Ukraine as ‘genocide’,” The Guardian Live, 21 April 2022
“A majority of people in Sweden are in favour of joining Nato,” The Guardian Live, 21 April 2022
“The prime ministers of Spain and Denmark have arrived in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to meet Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy,” The Guardian Live, 21 April 2022
“Russia is closing the consulates of three ex-Soviet Baltic nations, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the Russian foreign ministry said,” The Guardian Live, 21 April 2022
“Putin hails liberation of Mariupol, calls off operation to storm steel plant,” TASS, 21 April 2022
“Russian defense minister reports to Putin on liberation of Mariupol,” TASS, 21 April 2022
“Russia does not face risks of default — Bank of Russia,” TASS, 21 April 2022
“Diplomat says Russia-Ukraine talks continue in video format almost every day,” TASS, 21 April 2022
“Russia to end special op after removing threats caused by NATO’s colonization of Ukraine,” TASS, 21 April 2022
“Russia to secure nuclear-free, neutral status of Ukraine — Russian diplomat,” TASS, 21 April 2022
“Russia bars entry to U.S. VP Harris, other U.S. officials and figures,” Reuters, 21 April 2022
“Russia sanctions 61 Canadian officials, journalists, military experts,” Reuters, 21 April 2022
“Russia draws up more restrictions for 'foreign agents’,” Reuters, 21 April 2022
“BBC Live,” BBC, 21 April 2022
“The Russia-Ukraine War: April 21, 2022,” WSJ, 21 April 2022
By Ashwin Dhanabalan and Rishma Banerjee
Parliament approves to equip unarmed military drones with weapons
On 21 April, the lower house of the parliament said it supported the call from the Commander of Armed forces to arm military drones. The MQ-9 Reaper drones were intended for surveillance over land and sea and were recently acquired. The lower parliament approved the resolution in a majority as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changed the members’ perception of its use. However, the cabinet still has to approve the proposal. (“Parliament supports arming unmanned military drone,” NL Times, 21 April 2022)
Boris Johnson visits Modi amidst rising scrutiny of “party gate” scandal
On 21 April, Boris Johnson has flown to India to meet with prime minister Modi, as investigations about his “partygate scandal” intensify in the UK. Johnson and Modi who will be meeting on 22 April will be discussing the Ukraine War, and a potential two-way investment deal worth more than EUR 1 billion, with the possibility of creating 11,000 jobs in Britain. This visit comes at a time when the police are investigating alleged instances of breaches to the lockdown rules by the prime minister and government offices. Johnson however said: "I don’t want this thing to endlessly go on. But, I have absolutely nothing, frankly, to hide." (“Boris Johnson seeks trade deal with India as 'partygate' scrutiny intensifies,” Deutsche Welle, 21 April 2022)
Norway’s prime minister apologises for a law that criminalised homosexuality
On 21 April Norway’s government issues an official apology for the law that criminalised homosexuality. Even though the law was scrapped in 1972, this apology that comes 50 years later was welcomed by the LGBTQ community and activists in the country. Prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre said: "Criminalising and prosecuting people for their love life, treating [medically] healthy people, depriving them of career and work opportunities are serious violations of our values." Norway incidentally was the second country to recognise civil partnerships for same-sex couples in 1993. Same-sex marriage was also given the same status as heterosexual marriages in 2009. (“Norway issues formal apology 50 years after decriminalising homosexuality,” Euronews, 21 April 2022)
EU suggests working from home to reduce the region’s dependency on Russian energy
On 21 April, the EU asked its citizens to temporarily work from home as the International Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that it would save EUR 450 per household. This comes as the region needs time to find alternative supplies and thus is asking its citizens to adjust their lifestyles until then. The EU released a nine-point program that is titled “Playing My Part” for the people to support the bloc's efforts against Putin. Executive director of the IEA Fatih Birol said: “This guide has easy-to-follow steps that with little or no discomfort on our part can reduce the flow of money to Russia’s military and help put us on a path to a cleaner and more sustainable planet.” (Ben King, “Work from home to beat Putin, says EU,” BBC, 21 April 2022)