Daily Briefs

Photo : Sputnik / Alexandr Kryazhev

24 September 2022, Saturday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #315

War in Ukraine: Day 212

The EU plans to digitalize its electricity grid; Right-wing alliance campaign for the last time before the election; Germany promises Moldova EUR 60 million

By Sai Pranav

France to extend deadline to construct overdue renewable projects 
On 23 September, France changed its rules on biogas projects, regulated tariffs for inflations and extended deadlines for the construction of the projects to deal with arrears of farm investments. France’s President Emmanuel Macron promised to ensure the renewable projects start quickly to counter the energy crisis induced by the war in Ukraine. Even though France is the EU’s largest agricultural producer, the development of farm biogas using crops and animal manure has been slow due to local environmental concerns and administrative delays. France has 920 biogas projects in total under development, four per cent of the which is its annual demand. The extension of another 18 months and subsidized tariff benefits will be given to renewable developers as announced in the decree. (“France tries to ease farm biogas backlog in renewable energy push,” Reuters, 23 September 2022)
Final campaign of the right-wing coalition ends
On 23 September, the conservative parties held a final campaign to solidify their victory before the elections in Italy. Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia joined hands in the campaign, increasing their supporters among Italian voters. They discussed anti-abortion and blocking migrants. The supporter of Meloni stated that her unwavering nature and coherence are the characteristics that the voters trust. However, the Five Star Movement Party saw its revival in Southern Italy in the later part of the election. The support for the Five Star Movement has increased by 15 to 16 per cent in Southern Italy. Northern Italy still supports Meloni and the right-wing coalition. (Angela Giuffrida and Lorenzo Tondo, “Italian rightwing coalition makes final push before election,” The Guardian, 23 September 2022)
Germany pledges EUR 60 million to Moldova to tackle the energy crisis
On 23 September, Germany promised EUR 60 million in funds to Moldova to elevate the energy crisis in the country. Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz met with Moldova’s President Maia Sandu in Berlin to discuss supporting the economically affected Moldova. Moldova received praise from Germany’s Development Minister Svenja Schulze for tackling reforms needed for the country’s accession to the EU. The country is facing one of the worst economic crises in Europe, with inflation at 34.3 per cent and interest rate at 21.5 per cent. The West supporting President Sandu was blamed for the high inflation and soaring energy prices. Moldova is one of the victims of the effects of war in Ukraine, with the gas price surging twelvefold. (“Germany promises Moldova help with energy crisis,” Deutsche Welle, 23 September 2022)
LGBTQI+ community faces discrimination in Greece, says ECRI report
On 22 September, a report by the Council of Europe was released stating that Greece discriminated against the LGBTQI+ community. Europe’s top human rights watchdog urged Greece to practice equal rights for the LGBTI community, especially children in school. Intersex people have been facing severe discrimination and intolerance in Greece. Council of Europe advised Greece to promote and inculcate tolerance and respond, monitor, and respond to LGBTI-phobic incidents, especially in schools. Greece has faced open criticism about its homophobic nature and failure to introduce measures to tackle homophobia. In the most recent ECRI, Council of Europe’s Racism and Intolerance specialist body, report, there has been an increase in hate speech in Greece regarding migrants, refugees, Romani members and the LGBTQI+ community, and even politicians and state officials having discriminatory behaviour. (Helena Smith, “Greece urged to address anti-LGBTQI+ discrimination and intolerance,” The Guardian, 22 September 2022)

Modernization of the EU’s electricity grid requires EUR 584 billion 
On 23 September, the European Commission aims to publish a plan to digitalise Europe’s energy system and modernize the energy grid. The EU also plans to increase its renewable energy to be free from Russian gas dependency. The EU needs EUR 584 billion by 2030 for electricity grid investments. It supports electric vehicles, renewable energy, heat pumps and transitioning from fossil fuels. The Eu also aims to meet its climate goals by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent and having 45 per cent renewables by 2030. The draft of the plan stated that the EU needs 30 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030 and solar panels in every new home by 2029 to eliminate reliance on Russian fossil fuels and achieve the EU’s climate targets. The digitalized energy grids will be flexible enough to adapt to renewable resources. (Kate Abnett, “EU's green shift depends on mammoth investment in energy grid, document says,” Reuters, 23 September 2022)
Australia closer to acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine
On 23 September, marking one year of the AUKUS pact, the UK’s Prime Minister Liz Truss, the US President Joe Biden and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement that Australia made notable strides in acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine. AUKUS was created to keep China in check in the South China Sea region and aims to provide nuclear-powered submarines and technologies to Australia. They also made improvements in the areas of hypersonic weapons, cyber, electronic warfare and additional undersea capabilities. (“U.S., UK, Australia leaders: progress made in Australia getting nuclear-powered sub,” Reuters, 24 September 2022)

War in Ukraine: Day 212
By Rishma Banerjee

War on the Ground
On 23 September, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed the Presidential Decree No. 661/2022, to establish a proper investigation and prosecution tribunal. According to paragraph 28 of Article 6 of the Constitution, ordering the formation of a working group to facilitate the setting up of the tribunal for crimes of aggression against Ukraine. The working group will be headed by the head of President’s Office Andriy Yermak.

The exposure of the mass killings in the Izyum region was completed, where 447 bodies were recovered, of which 215 were women, 194 men and 5 were children. The Chief of Ukraine’s National Police, Ihor Kymenko said that many of the bodies had signs of torture, and forensic experts were found to be facing difficulty in identifying the victims. Moreover, 18 torture chambers were discovered in the Kharkiv region, where Russia illegally detained Ukrainians. A National Police spokesperson said that evidences of war crimes from these sites have been collected, and a register on  Russian soldiers and affected civilians was being maintained.

Following the record exchange of prisoners of war with Russia, Ukraine’s military intelligence spokesperson said that many of them show signs of violent torture. While some of them were brutally tortures, some suffered from chronic malnutrition due to adverse conditions of detention.

On 23 September, Ukraine reduced its diplomatic relations with Iran, as Iran-made weapons were being used by Russia to target Ukraine. The move comes after Russia intensified its attacks using Shahed 136 kamikaze drones in southern Ukraine the charge d'affaires ad interim of Iran has been summoned by the Foreign Ministry to provide answers about the issue. The ministry also noted that it would revoke the Iranian ambassador’s accreditation and reduce the presence of diplomats at the Iranian embassy in Kyiv. 

The Moscow View
Claims by Russia

Upon Russia’s executive order on partial mobilization resulted in many military-aged men flee the country to avoid conscription. AP News reported a 10-kilometer queue of Russians trying to flee the country along the Russia’s border with Georgia, and lines of cars at the border with Kazakhstan. Countries which do not mandate a visa for Russians, like Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Serbia, were also top destinations according to the plane tickets sold at extremely high prices. 

On 23 September, the referenda in LPR, DPR, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, which has largely been termed as “sham” by the EU and Ukraine began. The voting is scheduled to continue till 27 September. Though the logistics of the referenda remain unclear, armed Russian soldiers carried ballots to apartment blocks, and mobile polling stations were set up. RT reported that people gathered in various parts of Russia to show support for the referenda. In Moscow, the All-Russia People’s Front (ONF) organized the ‘We Don’t Abandon Our Own’ event, which saw participation from actors, pop stars and other celebrities.

On 22 September, President Vladimir Putin spoke with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. They discussed mutual cooperation in Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the role of the two states in ensuring the stability of the global oil market. Putin also appreciated Salman’s efforts at mediating the prisoner exchange with Ukraine.

On the same day, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov addressed the UN Security Council. He called the situation in Ukraine “impunity”. He criticised promotion by the West, labelling Russia as the aggressor and instigator. Lavrov also listed human rights violations committed by Ukraine before Russia’s invasion.

The West View
Responses from the US and Europe 

France conducted a meeting on food security during the UNGA on “Save Crops Operation.” The African Union, the EU, World Food Program, Food and Agriculture Organization, the IMF, WTO and the World Bank and other international organizations launched the new initiative. Export restrictions, fertilizer needs, and production bottlenecks will be mapped and addressed. Additionally, an emergency fertilizer purchase mechanism and support system for production and access will be set up for Africa.

Russia’s partial mobilization order had triggered a response from the citizens in Russia as well as the international community. As many Russians crowd the borders of neighbouring countries to escape conscription, the recipient countries are also taking a stance against them. European Council President Charles Michel said that Europe should allow the Russian citizens entry and they should maintain “…openness to those who don’t want to be instrumentalized by the Kremlin.” 

On 22 September, in the US, 17 members of Congress wrote a letter to US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin urging him to hasten the review of Ukraine’s request for drones. The initial plan to sell four such MQ-1C Grey Eagle drones to Ukraine was stalled amidst security concerns in June. However, the risk assessments mitigation should not be at the cost of Ukrainian lives.

The Global Fallouts
Implications of the Ukraine war

On 22 September, at the Security Council, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterated UN’s support for Ukraine. He pointed out that Russia is unlikely to decrease its offensive in Ukraine. The latest on ground developments were “dangerous and disturbing” as per Guterres. Nuclear conflict as threatened by Putin’s recent address would be “totally unacceptable”. Moreover, Guterres also expressed concern about the referenda being held in DPR, LPR, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. He marked that these annexation efforts would be a violation of International Law and the UN Charter.

On 23 September, AP News, reported on the change in narrative in the international community, regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While the West has been vocal about their position against Russia from the initial days of the war, many non-aligned countries are now coming forward to criticize Russia’s recent moves. In the UN General Assembly Summit, most of the international community spoke against Russia. 

On the same day, Uzbekistan suspended the use of Russia’s Mir system. The Mir system was set up by Russia in 2015 to bypass western sanctions after the annexation of Crimea. But now, with increasing Western pressure, many countries have opted out of the system. Uzbekistan cited “technical procedures” as the reason behind the suspension. 

Ukraine has shown that we have the truth, strength, initiative and confidence in victory - address of President Volodymyr Zelenskyi,” president.gov.ua, 23 September 2022
Decree of the President of Ukraine No. 661/2022,” president.gov.ua, 23 September 2022
Exhumation in forest near Izium completed. 447 bodies found, ” Ukrinform, 23 September 2022
Eighteen torture chambers discovered in Kharkiv region, 1,000 war criminals identified,” Ukrinform, 23 September 2022
“‘Many’ Exchanged Ukrainians ‘Tortured’ In Captivity: Ukrainian Official,” Kyiv Post, 23 September 2022
Ukraine revokes accreditation of Iran’s Ambassador,” Ukrinform, 23 September 2022Khalil Hamra and Mehmet Guzel, “Russian men join exodus, fearing call-up to fight in Ukraine,” AP News, 23 September 2022
People gather in Russia to show support for Donbass, Zaporozhye, Kherson referendums,” RT, 23 September 2022
Shaun Walker, “‘Referendums’ on joining Russia under way in occupied Ukraine,” The Guardian, 23 September 2022
Telephone conversation with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud,” kremlin.ru, 22 September 2022
Lavrov puts spotlight on ‘impunity’ in Ukraine,” RT, 23 September 2022
Launch of the “Save Crops Operation” initiative,” elysee.fr, 23 September 2022
Mike Stone “Congress tells Pentagon to speed review of large drones for Ukraine,” Reuters, 22 September 2022
Suzanne Lynch, “Charles Michel favors opening EU to fleeing Russians,” POLITICO, 23 September 2022
Essi Lehto, “Finland mulls barring Russians from entering as border traffic grows,” Reuters, 22 September 2022
Czechs will not issue humanitarian visa to Russians fleeing mobilisation,” Reuters, 22 September 2022
Antonio Guterres, “Secretary-General's remarks to the Security Council on Ukraine,” un.org, 22 September 2022
Krishna N. Das, “India says Ukraine conflict trajectory, outlook very concerning,” Reuters, 22 September 2022
Matthew Lee, “World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow,” AP News, 24 September 2022
Uzbekistan Suspends Russia's Mir Payment System,” The Moscow Times, 23 September 2022

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