Photo : Kremlin.ru
01 March 2023, Wednesday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #449
War in Ukraine: Day 370
By Padmashree Anandhan
War on the Ground
On 28 February, the Ukraine armed forces Commander reported on the battle situation in Bakhmut to be “extremely tense.” He remarked that despite Russia facing losses, it has been deploying Wagner group to break into the defences held by Ukrainian forces. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy added: “The enemy is constantly destroying everything that can be used to protect our positions for fortification and defence.”
On 28 February, Ukraine government announced its decision to apply for candidacy in the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for 2023 to 2025. Ukraine’s Energy Minister highlighted how Ukraine continues to strive to align with European energy market as per the Ukraine energy strategy till 2050. It prioritises nuclear generation and renewable energy as way to bifurcate Ukraine’s power system.
The Moscow View
Claims by Russia
On 28 February, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in his address in the meeting with the Federal Security Service, took stock of 2022 operations and highlighted areas to work better for future. He asked to continue the assistance given to the armed forces especially in “counterintelligence” and exchange of “operational significant information.” Putin stressed on increasing the support for the security agencies in DPR, LPR, Zaporozhzhia and Kherson areas by adding more equipment, and operational capability. He called for protection of law enforcement structures, critical technologies, personal data and strengthening of economic security in the face of special military operation. On the same day, Putin signed the law ending Russia’s contract to the New START Treaty.
On 28 February, Russia imposed a fine on Wikimedia Foundation for “spreading misinformation.” It fined EUR 25,000 on the Organization for not removing two articles relating to war.
The West View
Responses from the US and Europe
On 28 February, after the Samak Nordic summit NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that Ukraine becoming a NATO member remains a long-term goal and the present issue relates to fighting for sovereignty and providing support. He stressed on how NATO must act to prevent such future wars and has to take measure to ensure Russia does not break into European and Ukraine security. Stoltenberg added: “I hear concerns that our support increases the risk of escalation. But as long as our biggest neighbor is willing to invade another country, there are no risk-free options…supporting Ukraine is not only the morally right thing to do. It is also in our own security interest.” He also highlighted how NATO keeps Finland and Sweden accession as first and increase the exercises in the Nordic to assure the security.
On 28 February, Turkey’s State Agency of Land Melioration and Fisheries approved the quality standard certificate to Ukraine to export its fish products. According to the report: “From now on, Ukrainian producers of fish products have new opportunities to sell their own products - the export market to Türkiye has opened.” Ukrinform reported on 2022 figures, where Ukraine had exported 8,400 tonnes of fishes and aquatic biological products. This is exported to Moldova, Germany, the US, Denmark, and Lithuania. Since the approval, Ukraine now will be able to export to Turkey.
On 28 February, Finland began to construct 200 kilometre fence on the border shared with Russia. This will start with forest clearance and then proceed to road construction and plotting of the fence, it is planned to be three-kilometer long in the southeastern border crossing, estimated to be completed by June. Another set of construction is scheduled to happen between 2023 and 2025 for another 200 kilometeres at cost of EUR 380 million.
“Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” Ukrinform, 28 February 2023
“Meeting of the Board of the FSB of Russia,” Kremlin.ru, 28 February 2023
“Ukraine updates: Fighting around Bakhmut 'extremely tense',” Deutsche Welle, 28 February 2023
“Secretary General in Helsinki: time to welcome Finland and Sweden as NATO members,” NATO, 28 February 2023
“Ринок Туреччини відкрито для експорту української рибної продукції,” darg.gov.ua, 28 February 2023
By Femy Francis
Lukashenko discusses financial plan for procuring military equipment and weapons
On 27 February, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said that they are keeping close tabs on the military ad industrial production given the threats Belarus is facing. He reiterated that despite the threats and sanctions imposed they are able to produce enough weapons and military equipment. As they are easily able to procure hardware from Russia and preserved technologies inherited from Russia. Lukashenko stated that they could export to 57 countries as they have also been able to develop modern weapons while they are mastering new areas including calibre artillery ammunition. Russia has supplied Belarus with Iskander operational tactical missile system and an S-400 long-range anti-craft missile. (“Lukashenko: Belarus keeps tabs on defense industry given modern threats,” Belta, 27 February 2023)
Government removal of a national holiday to increase defence spending lead to protests
On 28 February, Demark plans to remove the public holiday of “Great Prayer Day” to generate more funds and boost defence savings. As the nation tries to reach NATO’s spending target they want to alter the country’s welfare model. The bill passed with 95 votes stating that shops and businesses will remain open. The government argues that this move would add EUR 403 million to the public sector as people would work for additional 7.4 hours. Unions, churches and opposed the move through protest against the bill. (“Denmark abolishes public holiday to boost defense spending,” Deutsche Welle, 01 March 2023)
Viktor Orban addresses the state on the Ukraine war, inflation and Child protection
On 25 February, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addressed the state in Budapest. He began by acknowledging the efforts of rescue workers in Turkey and Syria who have saved 35 individuals from the rubble. Talked about his electoral success even in the face of the united left being against them and that not even US left funding could defeat them. The economy and the call for national reunification were stressed stating the focus on family policy, a work-based economy and pensioners' aid to be the focus of the coming year. Orban criticized the sanction imposed saying, “Providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine does not mean cutting off relations with Russia, so we will not agree to sanctions that would destroy Hungary.” He expressed the want for peace and how EU and US sanctions are also affecting the world economy. The coming US elections would be a vital turning point for the war strategy as they said Orban as their “Republican friends” would opt for pro-peace demanding to cease fire. He stressed how the sanctions have taken EUR 10 billion out of Hungarian pockets in 2022 which has reached record inflation. He further enlisted no tolerance for paedophilia and stated the Child protection policies would be strengthened in protecting the children. (“Viktor Orbán Holds State of the Nation Address,” Hungary Today, 25 February 2023)
FT reports on Turkey's GDP increase of 5.6 per cent
On 28 February, Financial Times reported that the Turkish economy grew owing to the rapid rise in consumer spending where the GDP rose to 5.6 per cent on an inflation-adjusted basis. The period before the earthquake was focused on economic pumping output while now eve with inflation consumer buying has increased as they prefer to purchase items before they become more expensive. According to the report, Turkey has adapted to high inflation through government support under Erdogan there has been a boost in minimum wage and public sector salaries. While the full impact of the disaster on the Turkish economy remains to be seen. The is a growing expectation for a short time hit to growth and dependency on government funding amid recovery efforts. (Adam Samson, “Turkish economy’s growth driven by strong consumer spending,” Financial Times, 28 February 2023)
EU and UK sign Windsor framework reforming the Northern Ireland protocol
On 27 February, Britain and the EU settled their dispute over Northern Ireland's trading rules. As UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen took a step towards a ‘new chapter’ dubbing it as the ‘Windsor framework.’ The protocol established will prevent hard borders in Ireland island. Sunak maintains that this would slash trade bureaucracy and reduce EU laws in Northern Ireland. The agreements aim to make shipment easier including pets, medicines, parcels etc. A ‘Green Lane’ would be established in Irish Sea ports reducing checks and a ‘red lane’ created for goods continuation into Ireland. However, the acceptance of the agreement by the Democratic Unionist Party would decide the formation of the government in Northern Ireland. (George Parker, Sam Fleming, Jude Webber, “EU and UK strike Brexit deal on Northern Ireland” Financial Times, 27 February 2023)
European Parliament members amend the AI act
On 15 February, Members of the European Parliament part of the amendments made to the AI act extended the ban on social scoring to private companies and installed of a regulatory sandbox to check compliance as the role of AI has been downsized. They also look to introduce a fundamental rights framework assessing the impact of AI uses especially in areas related to high risks. The formation of conformity assessment recognition is to be established as well for mutual recognition assessments among countries so that they are comparable. (Luca Bertuzzi, “AI Act: MEPs extend ban on social scoring, reduce AI Office role,” Euractiv, 28 February 2023)
Lukashenko talks to Chinese media on future cooperation with China
On 28 February, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko talked to Chinese media and expressed the high-level cooperation between Belarus and China. He also discussed the future prospects between the two countries where there are free economic ones and trade partners. Talking about the Belarusian National Biotechnology Corporation (BNBC) the launch of a vitamin production facility would need some support and for that, they believe Xi Jinping would become a possible facilitator. Expressing the years of cooperation he said, “There are very few states with which China has such a level of cooperation. We appreciate this very much, given the difference between giant China and our Belarus. We appreciate it very much.” (“Lukashenko: Belarus has been reliable friend of China and will remain so,” Belta, 27 February 2023)