Daily Briefs

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10 June 2022, Friday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #224

Sievierodonetsk: The bastion of the east

Boris Johnson promises more house-ownership; Palaeontologists find remains of the largest dinosaur in Europe; Head of Paris police owns up to Champions League failure

By Ashwin Dhanabalan

Sievierodonetsk: The bastion of the east
After the fall of Mariupol, the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk emerged as the next bastion for Ukraine. But, On 30 May, Russian troops entered the city through the eastern front while shelling the southern region of Sievierodonetsk. The city is strategically important for Ukraine and Russia as they both fight to decide the fate of the Donbas region. For Moscow, it would be a win to secure Luhansk and Donetsk, while for Kyiv, it would decide the fate of the war in Eastern Ukraine. 

The strategically important region of Sievierodonetsk
The region is at a geographical junction near the Donets river, in the Luhansk region on the border with Donetsk. It is also nine miles south of Russia’s border. Sievierodonetsk is one of the last cities of defence for Russia to take control of the Donbas region, after which it could focus more on Lysychansk and then eventually the Luhansk region. However, the Donets river remains a natural barrier for Russian forces to capture Lysychansk. For Ukraine, it is equally essential after Mariupol and could prevent Russian forces from achieving its goals of liberating the entire Donbas region. 

Russia’s endgame for the city 
First, a pivot to capturing Donbas. On 03 June, according to the UK’s defence ministry, Russia was concentrating its forces around Sievierodonetsk to capture the city and eventually take control of the Donbas region. Sievierodonetsk is the current administrative capital for Ukraine after the city of Luhansk fell to the Russians. Taking control of the city would push Russia’s line of capture further into the Donbas region, cutting off supplies for Ukrainian forces who were trying to win back control of territories. 

Second, the symbolic importance of the city. The city has always been a bone of contention for Ukraine and Russia since 2014. In 2014, Russia briefly held the city as it moved to take control of Crimea. Thus, winning the city again would revive the morale of the Russian forces, who had been receiving setbacks in its war since February. Moreover, the people of Sievierodonetsk majorly speak Russian, and victory over the city would reinvigorate Putin’s plan of liberating the people of Donbas. 

Third, securing the hinterland for the land corridor. Russia has already secured a land corridor and has control of the water supply to Crimea and the biggest power plant in Europe. But, securing Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk would give it more hinterland to set up its defenses and secure administration for a more extended period. This could help Russian forces push further south and east, encircling Ukraine. 

Ukraine’s strategies for Sievierodonetsk
First, a possible retreat. On 08 June, Luhansk’s governor Sergiy Gaiday stated that Ukraine’s troops might have to retreat from the city of Sievierodonetsk. He added: “No one is going to surrender Sievierodonetsk even if our forces have to fall back to better-fortified positions.” Fierce fighting continued as Ukrainian soldiers controlled the industrial zone and the surrounding settlements, but Russia’s 24/7 shelling has left the soldiers vulnerable. 

Second, a prolonged battle like Mariupol. The situation might prolong as the people of Sievierodonetsk or the forces do not want to give up on the strategic city. Mariupol held out for two months, three weeks, and five days, Sievierodonetsk, also an industrial town, could hold on for a more extended or a shorter period.

Third, a stalemate. With Russia controlling the residential parts of the city and Ukraine holding on to the industrial zone and a few settlements, there could be a likely stalemate. This comes as Ukraine plans to send fresh battalions to defend the lines with foreign fighters and equipment from the West. Thus, it is leading to a possible stalemate scenario as a new front of resistance by Russian forces just as they did in Kyiv for months. 

Patrick Jackson, “Sievierodonetsk: Zelensky ties fate of east Ukraine to battle for city,” BBC, 09 June 2022
Russian forces control most of eastern Ukraine’s Sievierodonetsk, governor says,” France24, 08 June 2022
Claire Parker, “What to know about Sievierodonetsk, the Ukrainian city Russia wants to capture,” The Washington Post, 04 June 2022 
Paul Kirby, “Donbas: Why Russia is trying to capture eastern Ukraine,” BBC, 26 May 2022 

By Rishma Banerjee

The UK
Boris Johnson promises new provisions for home-ownership after no-confidence scare
On 09 June, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that he will be looking to create a high-growth, low-tax economy, that will allow everyone to buy their own home. This promise was mainly targeted at especially the young population and ones living in social housing, as the UK has reported declining rates of home ownership. Johnson said that he will also launch a review of the mortgage market so that low-deposit mortgages can be accessed. The announcement comes after his narrowly won no-confidence vote, amidst speculations that he might lose the party’s support as the Tory leader. However, economists stated their doubts that this promise looked doubtful, as tax revenue is likely to rise to its highest level since the 1940s. (Andy Bruce and William James, “In another reset, PM Johnson pitches plan for UK economy, housing,Reuters, 09 June 2022)

ECB’s interest rates to see a rise in 11 years
On 09 June, the European Central Bank reported that they will raise the interest rates by 0.25 per cent in July. This is the first time in 11 years that interest rates for Eurozone are being increased. The president of the ECB, Christine Lagarde, said that inflation will be elevated for some time and that the rise in interest rates will also require some time to be reflected. The latest Eurozone inflation was estimated at 8.1 per cent, but the governing council of the bank is aiming to bring it down to their target of two per cent over the medium term. (“Eurozone interest rates set to rise for first time in 11 years,BBC, 10 June 2022)

Spills of an unidentified substance detected in the Baltic Sea
On 09 June, it was reported that there has been a spill of an unknown substance in the Baltic Sea, along the coast of Sweden. The spill, which the coastguard says is not of mineral oil, is yet to be identified. The head of the coast guard investigation, Jonatan Tholin indicated that it could be a new type of fuel like biofuel. The spill initially covered an area of 30 sq. miles and was in both Swedish and Finnish waters. However, it was reported that by the later part of the day, the spill was no longer visible. (“Huge mystery spill detected in Baltic off Swedish coast,” The Guardian, 10 June 2022)

Palaeontologists find Europe’s largest dinosaur so far
On 09 June, palaeontologists said that they have found fossilized bones of what may be the largest carnivorous dinosaur species to be discovered so far in Europe. These were found on the Isle of Wight in England. This dinosaur lived about 125 million years ago in the Cretaceous period.  Based on the bones of the back hip tail and some limp fragments palaeontologists have estimated that the dinosaur exceeded 10m in length. They have also said that it belonged to the Spinosaurus species, and is considered to be the longest known dinosaur predator. (“Europe’s largest carnivorous dinosaur found in UK’s Isle of Wight,” Aljazeera, 09 June, 2022)

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