Daily Briefs

Photo : Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

31 May 2022, Tuesday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #215

War in Ukraine: Day 96

The UK plans to re-open gas storage facilities; EU leaders progress on banning Russian imports; Man throws cake at Mona Lisa painting

War in Ukraine: Day 96
By Rishma Banerjee

War on the Ground
The governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Gaidai informed that two civilians were killed and five suffered injuries because of Russian shelling in the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk. He elaborated that only a part of the largest city in Luhansk was still under Kyiv’s control. Gaidai also said that neighbouring Lysychansk was still under Ukrainian control but the main road connecting the two cities had been severely shelled.

On 30 May, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said, “We need a clear legal affirmation that Ukraine is a part of the European integration project, and such an affirmation would be the granting of candidate status.”

The Moscow View:
Claims by Russia

Russia’s defence ministry announced their forces had struck a shipbuilding facility in Mykolaiv in southern Ukrainian. They also mentioned that their artillery had struck a hangar at the Okean Shipyard, and destroyed vehicles and other equipment. The ministry also said that the forces were regrouping to resume their offence toward the Sloviansk region.

A Russia backed separatist leader told the TASS news agency that Russian forces have seized control over almost one-third of Sievierodonetsk, but it was taking longer than they had anticip[ated to gain ground. It was reported that Russian troops have entered through the southeastern and northeastern fringes of the city, increasing their offensive in the Donbas region, as they go.

TASS also reported that the export of grains that were harvested last year, in Ukraine started from the Kherson region, which is under Russia’s control. The product is now being shipped to Russia. 

The West View:
Responses from the US and Europe

On 30 May, the leaders of the European Union met at the summit and discussed how to enforce the terms of the sixth set of embargoes on Russia. Given the impasse, they had been at due to Hungary’s opposition to the oil ban. According to the deliberations at the end of the first day of the two-day summit, it has been decided that the embargo from now till now will ban 90 per cent of all Russian oil. The remaining 10 per cent will be temporarily exempt, and Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which are landlocked, can receive oil for now. It was also decided that the EU countries will go forward with the rest of the terms of the proposal, like cutting Sberbank from the SWIFT messaging system.

US president Joe Biden told reporters at the white house that they will not be sending any missile system that could target Russia. This comes amidst Ukraine’s continuous request to its allies for long-range systems like the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

On 30 May, Ibrahim Kalin, the chief advisor to Turkey’s president, spoke to Jake Sullivan, the chief adviser to the US president. Turkey has been opposed to Sweden and Finland’s application to NATO. Kalin reiterated the issue and said that unless “concrete steps” are taken about the “terrorist organisations” that Turkey alleges are housed by Finland and Sweden, they will not reconsider their NATO bids. Turkey’s president, Tayyip Erdogan also had a phone call with Ukraine’s president Zelenskyy and discussed creating a sea route for transporting Ukraine’s agricultural produce to the global market. Erdogan also spoke to Russia’s president Putin and said that Turkey was ready to take on the mantle of a benign an “observation mechanism” to facilitate peace talks between Moscow, Kyiv and the United Nations if possible.

The state news agency of Belarus, BelTA, reported that they will be conducting military mobilisation exercises in the Gomel Oblast in June and July. This region borders Ukraine in the south and also has places that come under the exclusion zone from the nuclear fallouts of Chornobyl. 

On 30 May, a journalist from France, who was travelling in Sievierodonetsk died when shrapnel from Russian shelling in the region, hit his car. Frederic Leclercq-Imhoff was on his second tour of the conflict in Ukraine when he died. His colleague and cameraman also succumbed to the attack. France’s new foreign minister, Catherine Colonna has demanded a probe into the circumstances of Leclerc’s death, and the governor of Luhansk has said that after the hit, and due to further shelling by Russia, evacuation efforts in the region have also been halted. 

Two civilians killed as Russian troops enter Sievierodonetsk - governor,” Reuters, 30 May 2022
Russian forces moving deeper into Sivierodonetsk - Luhansk governor,Reuters, 30 May 2022
Evacuation halted after French journalist killed by shelling in Ukraine's Luhansk region - governor,Reuters, 30 May 2022
Ukraine fed up with EU integration fudging, says foreign minister,” Reuters, 30 May 2022
Russia says it struck shipyard in Ukraine's Mykolaiv,Reuters, 30 May 2022
Russian forces regrouping to resume attack in Sloviansk direction -defmin,” Reuters, 30 May 2022
Assault on Sievierodonetsk taking longer than Russian forces hoped - TASS,Reuters, 31 May 2022
Russian shelling of Sievierodonetsk has destroyed ‘entire critical infrastructure’ of city Zelenskiy says – as it happened,The Guardian, 31 May 2022
Russian-controlled Kherson region in Ukraine starts grain exports to Russia - TASS,” Reuters, 30 May 2022
Jan Strupczewski and Philip Blenkinsop, “EU, resolving a deadlock, in deal to cut most Russia oil imports,Reuters, 31 May 2022
U.S. will not send Ukraine rocket systems that can reach Russia, says Biden,Reuters, 30 May 2022
Turkey tells U.S. it wants 'concrete steps' from Finland, Sweden for NATO bids,Reuters, 31 May 2022
Erdogan tells Zelenskiy he values project to create sea route for agriculture exports,Reuters, 31 May 2022
Turkey can help in Russia-Ukraine 'observation mechanism', Erdogan tells Putin,” Reuters, 30 May 2022
Belarus to conduct military mobilisation exercises near Ukraine border -BelTA,Reuters, 31 May 2022
Lorenzo Tondo and Jon Henley, “French journalist killed by shrapnel from Russian shell in eastern Ukraine,The Guardian, 30 May 2022

By Ashwin Dhanabalan

Government plans to re-open its gas storage facility
On 30 May, the UK’s government said it was planning on opening its gas storage facility as a contingency plan amid the war in Ukraine. Energy firm Centrica owns a gas storage facility that closed down in 2017 after the government cancelled its subsidies in 2017. According to the BBC, the UK government now plans to revive its strategic gas reserves in case of supplies from Russia are cut off. Additionally, the government plans to extend the life span of the coal-fired power plants. However, the UK receives only a minute amount of supplies from Russia. Yet, the government is concerned that its Norwegian supplies might be diverted to other parts of Europe if Moscow cuts its supplies to the EU. (Simon Jack, “UK in talks to re-open giant gas storage facility for winter,” BBC, 31 May 2022)

Boris Yeltsin’s son-in-law quits the Kremlin
On 30 May, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin’s advisor Valentin Yumashev left his role as a Kremlin adviser. Yumashev was one of the last links of Yeltsin within the Kremlin and a part of Putin’s administration. Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov did comment on the issue. Many senior figures from the Yeltsin era of liberal reforms have been leaving the Kremlin. In March, Anatoly Chubais, a part of the Kremlin’s special envoy, left his role. (“Exclusive: Yeltsin’s son-in-law quits as Putin adviser -sources,” Reuters, 31 May 2022) 

EU leaders reach an agreement on banning oil imports from Russia
On 31 May, European commission chief Ursula von der Leyen mentioned: “I am very glad that the leaders were able to agree in principle on the sixth sanctions package.” She added that the bloc will now be able to finalize a ban of up to 90 per cent of oil imports by the end of 2022. Concerning the remaining ten per cent, Von der Leyen said the commission would soon be addressing the issue. (“EU leaders agree “in principle” on Russia oil embargo - von der Leyen,” Reuters, 31 May 2022) 

Man throws cake at the Mona Lisa painting, saying, “Think of the Earth” 
On 30 May, a man disguised as an older woman in a wheelchair smeared cake across Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, the Mona Lisa. The activist also threw roses across the gallery while being escorted by security. He added: “There are people who are destroying the Earth. Think about it. Artists tell you: think of the Earth. That’s why I did this.” According to the police, the 36-year-old man was sent to the police psychiatric unit. Meanwhile, the prosecutor’s office confirmed the painting was not damaged due to the glass installed back in the 1950s. (“Mona Lisa: Man dressed as old woman throws cake at da Vinci painting,” BBC, 30 May 2022)

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