Daily Briefs

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21 May 2022, Saturday| NIAS Europe Daily Brief #207

War in Ukraine: Day 86

Macron reshuffles cabinet; Slana river in Slovakia turns orange due to contamination; Ankara’s NATO objections spillover on US-Turkey relations

War in Ukraine: Day 86
By Rishma Banerjee

War On The Ground
On 20 May, the finance ministry of Ukraine said that they have received USD 530 million from a fund set up by the World Bank. The fund got grants from the US and the UK and has now reached the state budget. The statement released by the ministry also said that the funds will be used for social, humanitarian, and health-related issues, and to support the internally displaced people.

The prime minister of Ukraine, Denis Shmyhal confirmed that the EU has sent EUR 600 million to Ukraine. This is a part of the Macro-Financial Assistance Program. Shmyhal also thanked the European Commission and president Ursula von der Leyen, for their continued support.

On 19 May, president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the Russian forces have wreaked havoc in the industrial regions of Donbas. He also mentioned the 12 casualties in Severodonetsk and how the areas were now akin to hell. He said: “(There are) constant strikes in the Odesa region, in the cities of central Ukraine. The Donbas is completely destroyed… This is a deliberate and criminal attempt to kill as many Ukrainians as possible, to destroy as many houses, social facilities, and enterprises as possible.”

The Moscow View:
Claims by Russia

President Putin issued a warning that cyber attacks on their system have gone up considerably since their invasion in Ukraine. He said that they now have to reduce their dependency on foreign software and hardware, in order to mitigate the attempts on disabling Russia’s ‘critical information infrastructure.’

The defence minister, Sergei Shoigu said that almost 2000 soldiers from Ukraine, who were holed up in the Azovstal steel plant, have surrendered. Moscow has been revising their numbers every day, and Russia and Ukraine have given different estimates of the number of evacuees from Mariupol.

The West View:
Responses from the US and Europe

On 20 May, the assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs, Carol Petsonk reported that a huge US cargo ship set sail from Belgium to Germany. The cargo has been divided into two sections. One will carry the personal vehicles of the people who will start serving as a part of the troops in Europe, and the other half includes military and defence equipment and vehicles to provide medical supplies. 

Canada said that it will be imposing sanctions on 14 Russian individuals who are close associates of Vladimir Putin. They mentioned that this additional set of sanctions will also ban the import and export of some luxury goods from Russia. The export ban will include goods like footwear, luxury clothing, and jewellery, while the import ban will include alcoholic beverages, seafood, and non-industrial diamonds.

Germany’s defence ministry said that they will deliver 15 Gepard tanks to Ukraine. The tanks will reach by July. The defence minister, Christine Lambrecht said that they reached that decision after a conversation with Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksii Reznikov.

On 19 May, in an address to the UN security council, Blinken requested Russia to lift its blockades of the ports in Ukraine. Referring to the growing food crisis in the world, he said that Russia was using food as a weapon in Ukraine, but it was ending up harming not just the people of Ukraine, but the entire world at large. 

The Global Fallouts:
Implications of the Ukraine war

Amidst the growing food crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the African Development Bank has approved an emergency food production facility. According to a statement by the bank, the USD 1.5 billion worth facility will help 20 million farmers to avoid the crisis to a certain extent.

The finance ministers of the G7 countries came to an agreement about sending USD 18.4 billion to help Ukraine in paying its bills in the coming months. A draft communique released by the group says: “We will continue to stand by Ukraine throughout this war and beyond and are prepared to do more as needed.”

On 20 May, the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi said that while focusing on the Ukraine crisis was of utmost importance, states should not ignore the other crises in the world. He said that the war has already raised the number of displaced people, and from the 84 million in 2021, it was progressing towards a ‘red line’ of 100 million people who have been forced to leave their homes. However, he urged countries to not compromise on their overseas development aid. This, he said, will exacerbate the crisis in other places and will backfire.

Ukraine says it gets $530 million in U.S., UK grants from World Bank fund,” Reuters, 20 May 2022
Ukrainian PM says EU disburses 600 million euros to Ukraine,” Reuters, 20 May 2022
Ukraine's Zelenskiy says Donbas region has been completely destroyed,”  Reuters, 20 May 2022
Russia says almost 2,000 Ukrainian fighters from Azovstal have surrendered so far,” Reuters, 20 May 2022
Putin promises to bolster Russia's IT security in face of cyber attacks,” Reuters, 20 May 2022
Michelle Nichols, “Blinken accuses Russia of using food as a weapon in Ukraine,” Reuters, 20 May 2022
Cargo vessel set to ship U.S. medical, defence supplies towards Ukraine,”  Reuters, 20 May 2022
Canada imposes additional sanctions on Russian oligarchs, bans some luxury goods trade,” Reuters, 20 May 2022
Berlin to deliver first 15 Gepard tanks to Ukraine in July, defense minister says,” Reuters, 20 May 2022
“African Development Bank approves $1.5 billion emergency food facility,” Reuters, 20 May 2022
Leigh Thomas and Francesco Canepa, “G7 agree on $18.4 bln to keep Ukraine running, ready with more,” Reuters, 20 May 2022
Philip Blenkinsop, “Don't forget other crises with Ukraine focus, UN warns,” Reuters, 20 May 2022


By Emmanuel Royan

Cabinet reshuffle takes place ahead of parliamentary elections
On 20 May, president Emmanuel Macron reshuffled his cabinet and retained his finance minister Bruno Le Maire and interior minister Gerald Darmanin. France’s current ambassador to the UK, Catherine Colonna, was appointed as the new foreign minister. In addition, Agnes Pannier-Runacher was promoted to energy minister from junior minister for industry. She will be in charge of recovering the country’s struggling nuclear sector, speeding up the deployment of additional renewable energy, and formulating France’s response to the gas crisis and public outrage over rising energy prices. (Elizabeth Pineau, “France's Macron opts for continuity in government reshuffle,” Reuters, 21 May 2022)

Slana River contaminated by iron ore mine, killing numerous fauna

On 20 May, polluted water from an iron ore mine in eastern Slovakia has coloured the Slana River orange, killing fish and animals. The river flows into Hungary and is considered a fast-developing ecological disaster. Rudne Bane mining company stated that the water streaming into the river was underground water emerging from a flooded iron ore pocket mined until 2008. However, the Slovak Environment ministry said that despite the river’s red-orange colour, examinations at the closest point to the Hungarian border revealed that levels of potentially toxic contaminants did not exceed acceptable levels. (Krisztina Fenyo and Krisztina Than, “Slovakia scrambles to stem polluted water that turned Slana River orange,” Reuters, 20 May 2022)

Turkey and US relations in stressed due to its objection to Sweden and Finland joining NATO
On 20 May, the US state department said Turkey's objection to Sweden and Finland joining NATO is not a bilateral matter between Washington and Ankara. While the dispute is technically between Sweden, Finland, and Turkey, analysts believe the president of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, is seeking to manipulate the situation to get Washington to address some of the long-standing concerns that have strained bilateral relations between the two NATO members. These problems include eliminating US assistance for Syrian Kurdish militias that Ankara considers terrorists, easing US sanctions imposed after Ankara purchased the Russian S-400 defence system, and perhaps expediting Ankara's request for F-16 fighter jets. (Humeyra Pamuk, “U.S. says Turkey's approach to Sweden, Finland NATO bid not a bilateral topic,” Reuters, 21 May 2021)

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