Daily Briefs

Photo : US Army/ABC News

16 August 2022, Tuesday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #281

War in Ukraine: Day 173

Finland scraps equal-pay legislation; New tax raises gas bills in Germany; Femicides rise in Italy; Truss and Sunak begin Scotland campaign; Iran sends back EU draft nuclear deal with queries

War in Ukraine: Day 173
By Sai Pranav
War on the Ground
On 14 August, ministry of digital transformation of Ukraine reported that Ukraine’s IT army had blocked over 600 online resources from 01 August conducting four significant attacks on Russia. The IT army disrupted the postal services of Russia with a powerful cyberattack rendering them useless, and the revenue flow of posts was stopped. Another major attack was in the form of withholding pensions of dead or living Russian soldiers from their relatives who participated in the war. Online banking was also meddled with by the IT team of Ukraine. Customers of numerous Russian banks were denied online transactions with their smartphones. The last crucial attack was on Russia’s video conference platforms which were blocked from Russian users.
On the same day, Ukraine’s arms forces spokesperson claimed that Russia-funded Wagner mercenary group was attacked by Ukraine’s Armed Forces (UAF) using a long-range HIMARS precision-guided artillery rocket. UAF confirmed that an abandoned apartment in the Donbas town of Popasna was the headquarters of the Wagner group through a photo published by a pro-Russian reporter, Sergei Sreda. Almost 10 mercenaries were reported to be killed during the attack in an unconfirmed Ukrainian military news feed. 20 more were injured due to the attack—Russia’s president Vladimir Putin’s former personal cook. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner group, was present during the attack but was not confirmed to have been injured or dead in the reports.   
On 13 August, according to Mariupol’s mayor, Ukrainians forced to move out from Mariupol due to the invasion were again deported from the Russian city of Pskov to the port city in Ukraine. The Mariupol residents were becoming a nuisance to the local authorities of Pskov. They were sent to Rostov-on-Don in a trailer. The Donetsk People’s Republic authorities would then transport them to Mariupol. Many Mariupol residents live in abandoned buildings as the war-ravaged city has been almost destroyed, and the water, gas or electricity supply is fluctuating.

The Moscow View
Claims by Russia

On 15 August, Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, revealed for the first time, its new orbital station following its news of leaving the International Space Station after 2024 earlier this year. Russian Orbital Station was on display during the Army 2022 International Military-Technical Forum. The deployment of the space station was decided to be in two stages.
On 15 August, Putin and North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un discussed ways to strengthen their bilateral relations. To enhance the security and stability of the Korean peninsula. North Korea said that there would be a possibility of it sending its workers to help in the construction of the two Russia supported regions in eastern Ukraine and also for other labours.

On the same day, Russian authorities confirmed that Lithuania’s Šiauliai bank’s denial to work with rouble accounts would not affect the transit payment as they were initially paid in euros. The bank's Kaliningrad transit operations with Russia will halt from 15 August and in all currencies from 01 September. 

On 15 August, Lenta reported that Police and FSB discovered Alexander Dus, a resident of Valuyek in the Belgorod region, in possession of an RGD-5 and seven F-1 grenades, a Kalashnikov assault rifle, and 500 rounds of ammunition. Upon investigation, Dus revealed on the procurement of weapons from a Russian soldier. Some of the arms were already sold by Dus to civilians. An investigation to find the seller from the defence ministry is underway. For the illegal sale of weapons Dus and his friend were criminally charged for storing explosives and placed under house arrest. 

The West View
Responses from the US and Europe 

On 14 August, Switzerland’s energy minister Simonetta Sommaruga informed SonntagsBlick, a Swiss newspaper, assuring that it would match its energy-saving plans with the EU to fight the upcoming winter. The EU’s emergency plan to cut gas usage by 15 per cent to save energy for the winter due to uncertain Russian supplies came into effect on 12 August. Sommaruga warned the Swiss citizens to stock up on candles in case of electricity blackouts during winter. She also said heating would be turned down in public buildings.  
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Lithuania’s finance minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that the country’s implementation of a visa ban for Russian tourists should be followed as an example by the EU states. He also said that those who are being persecuted should only be provided humanitarian visas, and all recreational visas for Russians should be banned.

The Global Fallouts
Implications of the Ukraine war

On 15 August, the Philippines’ had discontinued its deal with Russia to buy 16 Mi-17 military transport helicopters worth PHP 12.7 billion due to fear of crossing the US sanctions. Manila is expecting to purchase heavy-lift Chinook helicopters from the US. As per Philippines the cancellation of the contract was due to Ukraine war and also because of the sanctions imposed by the US on Russia. 

Ministry of Digital Information of Ukraine, “Update regarding IT army blocking over 600 Russian online platforms,” Telegram, 15 August 2022 
Stefan Korshak, “Wagner Mercenaries Blasted With Long-Range Weapon,” Kyiv Post, 15 August 2022
“Reverse deportation”: Russia returns Ukrainians from Pskov to war-torn Mariupol,” Ukrinform, 15 August 2022
The FSB began the search for grenades and a Kalashnikov military assault rifle that sold to the Russian” LENTA.RU, 15 August 2022
Russia unveils look of its new space station,” RT, 15 August 2022
Russian authorities assessed the refusal of the Lithuanian bank to work with rubles,” LENTA.RU, 15 August 2022
Russia, North Korea to expand bilateral relations: Putin,” Daily Sabah, 15 August 2022
Switzerland could align with EU energy saving drive, energy minister says,” EURACTIV, 15 August 2022
EU could give Russians 'humanitarian' visas only, Lithuanian FM says,” Deutsche Welle, 15 August 2022
Philippines in talks to buy US helicopters after dropping Russia deal,” Daily Sabah, 15 August 2022

By Rishma Banerjee


Coalition differences lead Finland to cancel equal-pay legislation
On 15 August, Finland’s equality minister, Thomas Blomqvist released a statement addressing the cancellation of the equality legislation. The legislation had been to reduce the pay-gap between men and women, but the five-party centre-left coalition government in the parliament could not reach consensus. Finland currently has a 16 per cent average pay gap and was positioned 38th in an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report published in 2021. The deliberation on pay transparency was promised by prime minister Sanna Marin’s programme when she took office in 2019. However, Blomqvist assured: "The work to prevent gender-based pay discrimination and advancing pay equality will continue in other government actions supporting equal pay." (“Finland scraps equal pay legislation amid coalition differences,” Reuters, 15 August 2022) 

German families to see rise in gas bills under new gas surcharge
On 15 August, the Germany organization in charge of coordinating the gas market announced that a surcharge has been imposed at EUR 2.419 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for homes and businesses. The levy will be in effect from 01 October and will continue till April 2022 to help gas importers of the country deal with the soaring gas prices. Because of the tax, on an average, households with a family of four will have to pay and additional tax of about EUR 480. On this issue, economy minister Robert Habeck said: “The alternative would have been the collapse of the German energy market, and with it large parts of the European energy market.” However, economists have warned that this step might accelerate the inflation in Germany, which is already elevated at 8.5 per cent. The chief economist at Commerzbank, Jeorg Krämer, said: "This could cause the inflation rate to exceed 9% in October and November… it significantly lowers customers' purchasing power.” (Markus Wacket and Rachel More “German families face 480 euro rise in gas bills under new levy,” Reuters, 15 August 2022)

Femicides on the rise in Italy
On 15 August, The Guardian reported on the rise of femicide in Italy. The report mentions that according to official data published by the interior ministry, 125 femicides have been recorded between 01 August 2021 to 31 July 2022, which shows a 16 per cent rise. In the previous cycle, 108 women had been murdered. Of the 125, 108 were killed in a family context and 68 were killed by their partners of former partners. Italy’s coordinator for the global network against violence against women called One Billion, Luisa Rizzitelli expressed concern about the failure of institutional policy in this regard and said: “The thing which I believe is very terrifying, is that we never been to be able to change direction… There are always around 100 or more femicides each year, and this, in a civilised country, is unacceptable.” (Angela Giuffrida, “Italy records a big increase in femicides over the past year,” The Guardian, 15 August 2022)

Truss and Sunak to commence campaign in Scotland to swing voters in their favour
On 16 August, the prime ministerial candidates from the Tory party will head to Perth, Scotland for their respective campaigns. Even though both candidates have set their proposals to appeal to Scottish conservatives, in terms of mobilising the Scottish vote, no clear frontrunner has emerged. Rishi Sunak is promoting greater political scrutiny with Scottish and Welsh civil service leaders answering to the UK parliament annually and also more visibility of UK ministers in Scotland. Meanwhile, Liz Truss has suggested giving members of the Scottish parliament the “parliamentary privilege” to be more robust. Out of the six Scottish Conservative MPs, two former parliamentary aides to Truss, Andrew Bowie and John Lamont are backing Sunak. Ruth Davidson also supported Sunak, but there has also been a growing preference for Truss’s premiership due to her dismissive attitude towards the first minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. (Esther Webber and Andrew McDonald, “With the Union in peril, Scottish Tories hedge their bets,” POLITICO, 16 August, 2022)

Iran asks for clarifications about renewal of EU-mediated nuclear deal with the US
On 15 August, at an extraordinary meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, a detailed report on the draft deal to renew the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was discussed. Iran also sent EU their answer to the draft, focusing on outstanding questions about the future of implementation of sanctions and guarantees around economic engagement. However, Iran’s reply does not have further queries about the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) investigation about the origin of traces of nuclear material found in several sites in Iran. The response submitted by Iran suggests that it wants to continue their negotiations on certain aspects of the deal and does not confirm whether Iran has or will accept the tabled draft. US chief negotiator, Special Envoy Robert Malley also addressed the proposed draft and said: “We are considering the text very carefully to make sure that it lives up to the president’s very clear guidance that he would only sign up to a deal that is consistent with U.S. national security interest.” (Stephanie Liechtenstein and Nahal Toosi,“Iran delivers deadline response to draft nuclear deal,” POLITICO, 15 August 2022)

Other Daily Briefs