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20 February 2023, Monday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #441
War in Ukraine: Day 360 & 361
By Padmashree Anandhan
War on the Ground
On 18 February, Ukraine’s spokesperson Andriy Yermak reported on Russia using “tactical aircraft” to attack the missiles from the occupied areas. He said that attacks continue across Ukraine excluding Kharkiv, Poltava and Odesa.
On 18 February, Ukrinform reported on CIA Director Bill Burns comments on how US intelligence sharing with NATO members has been useful in supporting Ukraine. He said that the intelligence service was taking all efforts to work with NATO allies, and Europe for clarity and carry out systematic information sharing.
On 18 February, Ukrinform reported on US Secretary of the State Antony Blinken’s conversation with Elon Musk on making use of Starlink satellite capacity to support Ukraine. Although Musk denied disclosing the details of the conversation, earlier SpaceX had restricted Ukraine from using its internet to “operate drones.” According to Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister there has been no issue in operation of Starlink terminal in Ukraine. He added that they have been critical for Ukrainians.
The Moscow View
Claims by Russia
On 18 February, The Guardian reported on Russian Defence Ministry confirmation of replacing of Col Gen Alexandr Lapin with Lt Gen Andrey Mordvichev to head the central military district.
On 19 February, RT reported on a survey taken amongst the Russian to check on the preferability towards “western brands.” The survey was held by NielsenIQ research company, which found that 47 per cent of Russians had shifted to domestic brands and preferred to buy local produced goods. Of the total, one-third still bought West made products and 17 per cent had switched to newer brands. The reasons behind the switch were supporting domestic producers, unavailability of foreign products and a 10 per cent switched over quality compromise. According to Putin, the exit of Western brands has provided opportunity for domestic manufactures resulting in growth.
On 19 February, RT reported on Hungary Prime Minister Victor Orban comments on economic effect on Hungary due to the war. According to Orban, the war had costed EUR 10 billion. He blamed the anti-Russia measures taken by the EU had resulted in high energy prices, and increasing cost. Orban said: “..were supposed to hit Russia, but hit Europe.”
The West View
Responses from the US and Europe
On 18 February, in the Munich Security Conference, the French President Emmanuel Macron stressed on increasing the “military support” to Ukraine and highlighted that peace could not be achieved if Russia goes undefeated. The UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak asked for “lasting peace” along with creation of a new NATO charter for Ukraine. This is to help it defend in future and demanded the international to “double down” their military aid. The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen said that EU plans to improve its defence industry and speed its ammunition production. On the same lines, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and Estonia’s Prime Minister called on increasing the spending to strengthen Europe’s security structures.
Apart from this in the conference, Orban stated that Hungary would continue to have economic relations with Russia and said that it does not see Russia as a security threat. Hungary which is dependent on Russia over oil, gas and nuclear fuel has been the storm in the EU’s decision making process.
On 19 February, in an interview to CNN, US Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield drew a caution line on China to not provide any “lethal support” to Russia. She said that the US continues to have diplomatic talks with China to ensure the red lines are not crossed. On the question over what would be the response of the US in case China lends support to Russia, she said: “We’re not going to advance and announce what we’re planning to do. But we made clear to the Chinese that there will be consequences should they make that unfortunate decision.” On the same, the US secretary of state Antony Blinken, warned China of consequences if any material support is given to Russia. The warning comes as the US is concerned of possible supply.
The Global Fallouts
Implications of the war
On 18 February, RT reported on China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi comments in the Munich Security Conference. According to Yi, China intends to resort the Ukraine conflict through peaceful means and warned those who support continued fighting. He said: “We will put forth China’s position on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.” In terms of the war, he re-iterated China’s respect towards “territorial integrity and sovereignty” and condemned the attacks near nuclear plants. He said that China is in a good position to act as a mediator to vouch for peace.
“Russia uses tactical aircraft to fire missiles – Yermak,” Ukrinform, 18 February 2023
“CIA director says intelligence sharing with NATO allies ‘essential cement’ in coalition to support Ukraine,” Ukrinform, 18 February 2023
“U.S. authorities discuss with Musk use of Starlink in Ukraine – Blinken,” Ukrinform, 18 February 2023
“Half of Russians no longer need Western brands – survey,” RT, 19 February 2023
“Hungary reveals cost of anti-Russia sanctions,” RT, 19 February 2023
“Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Pamela Brown on CNN’s State of the Union,” usun.usmission.gov, 19 February 2023
“MSC 2023 closes with call for more German defense spending,” Deutsche Welle, 19 February 2023
“Russia-Ukraine war at a glance: what we know on day 360 of the invasion,” The Guardian, 18 February 2023
“China to present Ukraine peace proposal,” RT, 18 February 2023
By Madhura S Mahesh
Anti-government protest held in Chisinau
On 19 February, thousands of people took to the streets of Chisinau to protest against the ruling pro-western government and Moldovoan President Maia Sandu. The protest was attended by deputies from the opposition and people linked to the Shor Party, a Russian-friendly party. The protestors called for Sandu’s resignation and urged the government to pay for Moldovans rising utility bills for the winter. This comes as Prime Minister Dorin Recean was sworn in as the new leader of the government and amid accusations against Russia for allegedly trying to “destabilize” Moldova. (“Protesters Rally In Chisinau Against Moldova's Pro-Western Government,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 19 February 2023)
Thousands take to the streets in an anti-racism march
On 18 February, thousands of people marched in Dublin in support of diversity and migration. The “Ireland for All” march was attended by 50,000 people and was supported by political parties, United Against Racism, MASI, the National Women's Council of Ireland, and TENI. Former MP and Civil rights leader Bernadette McAlliskey attended the protest and said that the way Ireland is organized is the problem not the number of refugees. This comes as anti-refugee and asylum seekers held protests across Ireland. (“Thousands take part in anti-racism march in Dublin,” BBC, 18 February 2023; Colman O'Sullivan “Tens of thousands attend anti-racism march in Dublin,” RTÉ, 18 February 2023)
Putin address in the African Union summit reflect scope for closer ties
On 18 February, RT reported on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin address in the African Union (AU) summit. In his address, Putin highlighted his intent to increase the cooperation and appreciated the Union’s efforts in resolving local conflicts, and ensuring stability in the region. He said: “For Russia, African states have always been and remain important and reliable partners. We are united by the desire to build a just and multipolar world order.” Putin said that the forum helps in increasing the engagement at bilateral and multilateral. Since the Ukraine war, the cooperation has been close than before and Africa has continued to resist the Western sanctions. (“Putin speaks on partnership with Africa,” RT, 18 February 2023)
Search and rescue operations cease in earthquake-hit provinces
On 19 February, the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) head Yunis Sezar said that search and rescue operations were ended in many earthquake-hit provinces. Sezar said that rescue operations continue in Kahramanmaras and Hatay provinces and added: “We believe we will end the search and rescue operations by tomorrow night.” This comes as the death toll in Turkey rose to 40,642. (“Turkey earthquake rescue operations to end, government says,” Al Jazeera, 19 February 2023)
Sunak says Northern Ireland protocol deal talks still underway
On 18 February, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the Northern Ireland protocol deal with the EU is “by no means done.” Sunak said that some challenges need to be addressed and added: “There isn't a deal that has been done - there is an understanding of what needs to be done.” This comes as the UK government is said to announce the new post-Brexit agreement regarding Northern Ireland next week. The European Commission Vice President Frans Timmerman said that the talks are going “quite well” and added: “There's a willingness on both sides to find a compromise, to find a way out.” The Northern Ireland protocol is a post-Brexit trade deal which protects the free movement of goods across the Irish border. (“NI Protocol deal by no means done, says Rishi Sunak,” BBC, 18 February 2023)
European trade union personnel expelled from Tunisia
On 18 February, Tunisian President Kais Saied ordered the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) general secretary Esther Lynch to leave the country. This comes as Lynch took part in a protest organized by the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) on 17 February. Lynch addressed the protesters in Sfax saying: “We say to governments: hands off our trade unions, free our leaders,” and called on the Tunisian government to negotiate with the UGTT for a solution. Tunisian government accused lynch of interfering in Tunisia’s internal affairs and asked Lynch to leave the country within 24 hours. The ETUC on 19 February stated that Lynch had left Tunisia and added that this incident “is in line with the campaign of intimidation and harassment being waged against trade unions” in Tunisia. (“Tunisia expels European Trade Union chief for 'interference',” Deutsche Welle, 18 February 2023; “Tunisia orders top European trade union official expelled,” AP News, 20 February 2023)
US pledges USD 100 million in aid to earthquake-hit Turkey
On 19 February, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged USD 100 million to earthquake-hit regions of Turkey. Blinken visited Tuekry where he took a helicopter tour of Hatay one of the worst-hit provinces. This comes as recovery missions are slowing down in the affected provinces. Blinken said: “The search and rescue, unfortunately, is coming to an end. The recovery is on and then there will be a massive rebuilding operation.” The USD 100 million aid provides additional emergency refugee and migration funds and humanitarian assistance. (“Top US diplomat visits Turkey quake zone; pledges $100m in aid,” Al Jazeera, 19 February 2023)
Germany pledges an additional EUR 22 million in aid to Syrians affected by earthquakes
On 19 February, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock announced an additional EUR 22 million in aid to victims of the earthquake in Syria. Baerbock said: "They now lack even the most basic necessities for survival: a roof over their heads, clean drinking water, something to eat and medicine.” She also accused the Syrian government of setting up obstacles for aid organizations. This new aid brings Germany’s total aid to Syria to around EUR 50 million. This also comes as the UN outlined that around 8.8 million people in Syria were affected by the earthquakes. (“Germany pledges more aid for Syrian earthquake victims,” Deutsche Welle, 19 February 2023)