Photo : REUTERS/Yulia Morozova
15 April 2023, Saturday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #488
War in Ukraine: Day 415
Russia’s new conscription law to recruit through a digital platform
By Padmashree Anandhan
War on the Ground
On 14 April, the Ukraine forces reported intense artillery attacks in the last “48 hours” in Bakhmut. The UK Ministry of Defence confirmed the same, which disclosed a new possibility of fresh attacks in Bakhmut due to “improved cooperation” between Russia’s Defence Ministry and the Wager Group. According to its observation, Russia’s airborne forces (VDV) had replaced Wagner Group units in northern and southern zones.
On 14 April, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal reported on a site double the size of Austria to have been mined by Russia. Germany’s Tagesschau, a news programme, also reported the same on the impact of anti-personnel landmines on Ukrainians. According to a UN report, 740 have been reported to have either dead or injured due to mines and explosions. The HRW has criticized Russia for using illegal devices posing a danger to civilians in Ukraine. It said: “..appear to have extensively scattered landmines around the Izium area.”
The Moscow View
Claims by Russia
On 14 April, RT reported on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signing of new conscription law to change the provision of the mobilization. One of the fast-tracked regulations will involve the Ministry of Digital Development to collect data on people from their employers and universities. This would help identify eligible conscripts by mail and through e-platform, where once the summon is issued, the recipient has to respond within 20 days. Russia, which mandates military service for men between 18 and 27 for one year, is now changed to 21 and 30 and will apply to those who reach the bracket in 2026.
On 14 April, Russia’s Ministry of Defence reported on the completion of training of Belarus’s air force in “operation and combat” of Su-25. In a statement: “..master new ways of using modern aviation weapons, including special munitions.” However, it is unclear if the tactical nuclear weapons were part of the training.
The West View
Responses from the US and Europe
On 13 April, the EU announced sanctions on Russia’s Wagner Group for its active support in the war. This would be the second time as the Group already faces sanctions for the violation of human rights in Africa. According to the report, the Wagner Group was added “..for actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.” In a statement released by the EU: “..apply to a total of 1 473 individuals and 207 entities. Those designated are subject to an asset freeze and EU citizens and companies are forbidden from making funds available to them.”
On 14 April, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during her visit to China urged Russia to “stop the war.” During the discussion with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang, she highlighted how China’s signal to bring a solution is positive while it is also blurry why it has not taken effort to call out Russia.
On 14 April, US military intelligence head Kyrylo Budanov assured that the leaked classified documents would in no way affect Kyiv’s offensive plan. He said: “This will not be able to affect the real results of the offensive operation.” The leak contains classified information on Ukraine’s fight, the US’s assessment of the war, and sensitive data on Ukraine’s military and limitations. Although the US investigators have arrested the responsible individual, the impact of the leak is yet to be observed.
The Global Fallouts
Implication of the War
On 14 April, in the meeting with Baerbock, China’s Foreign Minister Gang mentioned how China is stubborn in not giving weapons to Russia for the Ukraine war. He said: “We do not and will not supply weapons to parties in conflict.”
On 14 April, IEA reported on stats on Russia’s oil exports. According to the report, the export had peaked three-year high in March, but the revenue had reduced by 43 per cent compared to 2022. The oil exports had increased to 8.1 million barrels a day despite sanctions, and it was mainly due to the return of economies from the pre-pandemic levels.
“Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 14 April 2023.,” UKMOD/Twitter, 14 April 2023
“Putin signs new conscription law,” RT, 14 April 2023
“Belarusian Air Force, Air Defense personnel complete advanced training to operate Su-25 aircraft,” eng.belta.by, 14 April 2023
“Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine: Wagner Group and RIA FAN added to the EU's sanctions list,” consilium.europa.eu, 13 April 2023
Guy Davies and Ian Pannell, “Ukraine's spy chief says 'Russia is the only beneficiary' of US intelligence leak,” ABC News, 14 April 2023
“China vows not to sell arms to any party in Ukraine war,” ABC News, 14 April 2023
“Despite sanctions, Russian oil exports jump to highest level in almost three years,” aninews.in, 14 April 2023
“Ukraine updates: Russia has 're-energized' Bakhmut assault,” Deutsche Welle, 14 April 2023
By Rishika Yadav
Constitutional Council rejects shared initiative referendum
On 14 April, the Constitutional Council announced its decision on the controversial pension reform proposed by Macron's government, followed by heavy protests in France as the government's plan to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64 faced opposition. The Council validated most of the pension reform itself but censored certain measures they deemed to have no place in a budget text, such as the senior index and the senior contract. The decision has not ended to the opposition's fight against the reform, and protests are expected to continue. Macron has invited unions and employers to the Elysée Palace to begin a dialogue. However, the inter-union has refused to attend before 01 May and has asked the President not to promulgate the law. The Council rejected the request for a shared initiative referendum submitted by left-wing parliamentarians, stating that the proposed bill did not constitute a reform according to Article 11 of the Constitution. However, the parliamentarians have submitted a new request for a referendum, which the Council will decide on 03 May. (Isabelle Ficek, “Pensions: the Constitutional Council confirms Emmanuel Macron, the opponents do not give up,” Les Echos, 14 April 2023)
Oil spills in North Sea waters pose a threat to marine life
On 14 April, according to exclusive data obtained by BBC News, regular oil spills in UK waters over the past five years have resulted in thousands of tonnes of pollution, endangering marine life. Activists claim that the data reveals that some spills have impacted areas designated to safeguard wildlife, such as porpoises and orcas, and that 40 per cent of monitored releases were in breach of permits. The analysis of the data shows that from 2017 to 2022, approximately 22,000 metric tonnes of oil were discharged into UK waters, equivalent to 164,000 barrels. Uplift, an energy campaigning group that aims to transition from oil and gas to green energy, revealed that Dana, Repsol Sinopec, CNR, Shell, and Apache were the companies that spilled the most oil. The findings also revealed that 58 per cent of releases were allowed under government permits, threatening UK’s international leadership on marine conservation, as the UK has made major international commitments to protect UK and global oceans. (Georgina Rannard and Erwan Rivault, “North Sea oil spills exceed safe level - activists,” BBC News, 14 April 2023)
Euro reaches new high as dollar weakens
On 14 April, the Euro price climbed up to USD 1.1074, as the dollar is losing ground due to the Federal Reserve's restrictive monetary policy and positive market sentiment. This is being further fuelled by hope for a less restrictive US monetary policy and central bankers in the eurozone, indicating further interest rate hikes to combat high inflation. Additionally, the friendly market sentiment is causing safe assets like the dollar to be less in demand and giving the euro a boost, resulting in a gain of more than two per cent in trading with the US currency since 10 April 2023. (“Euro exchange rate at its highest level for more than a year,” Frankfurter Allgemeine, 14 April 2023)
UK’s growth strategy gets IMF approval despite recent economic challenges
On 15 April, BBC News reported that the UK’s Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has announced that the UK's economy is back on track, and his growth strategy has been well-received at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting in Washington. However, IMF’s latest figures predict that the UK's economy will shrink by 0.3 per cent in 2023, making it one of the worst-performing economies in the world. The UK economy has only recently returned to its pre-pandemic size, following months of industrial action, price hikes, and labour shortages. The UK's financial services sector faces uncertainty following the collapse of three US banks and UBS's emergency takeover of Credit Suisse. However, Hunt is confident that regulations will adapt to support the growth of the UK's tech and life sciences industries. Hunt's predecessor, Kwasi Kwarteng, faced criticism at the previous IMF meeting in October, but Hunt claims the international lending body supports his efforts to put the UK economy on the right path. (Faisal Islam & Lucy Hooker, “Britain's economy is back, says chancellor,” BBC News, 15 April 2023)
Joe Biden concludes Irish tour in ancestral town
On 14 April, US President, Joe Biden wrapped up his visit to Ireland by giving an emotional speech to tens of thousands of people in his ancestral town, County Mayo. In his address, he used the tale of his ancestors who left famine-stricken Ireland for liberty and opportunities in the US to convey the essence of the American dream. A crowd of 27,000 people gave Biden an enthusiastic reception, concluding his brief but action-packed visit that reemphasized his Irish identity. His trip to Ireland marked his third visit to the country since 2016 and his first as President. According to the report, his visit to Northern Ireland was politically sensitive as he marked the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement amidst the DUP power-sharing boycott. (Rory Carroll and Lisa O'Carroll, “Joe Biden ends Ireland tour with passionate address to thousands,” The Guardian, 14 April 2023)
Russian pacific fleet conducts surprise inspection
On 14 April, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced that the unscheduled inspection of Russia's Pacific Fleet is aimed at increasing the country's armed forces' ability to defend against potential maritime aggression. This includes refining operational plans, preparing troops for combat actions in a short time, and working out a set of training and combat tasks in both near and far maritime zones. Specifically, the Pacific Fleet will practice repelling potential enemies' landing on the Southern Kuril islands and Sakhalin, and conduct missile launches to destroy naval strike groups and ground targets. According to Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov: “the surprise inspection of the Pacific Fleet is a routine practice to maintain combat readiness in the country's armed forces”. When asked if the inspection is related to possible NATO expansion or Japan's potential accession to the alliance, Peskov denied any connection. The purpose of the inspection is solely to increase the country's defense capabilities and preparedness against potential threats from maritime directions. (“Shoigu: Check of Pacific Fleet Aimed at Boosting Russian Ability to Repel Ocean Attack,” Sputnik, 14 April 2023)
FSB claims mass hacker attacks on Russia
On 13 April, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) accused the United States and other NATO countries of using Ukraine to carry out massive hacker attacks on Russian civilian facilities. The FSB stated that Western countries use the network infrastructure of Ukraine for offensive cyber operations, allowing them to use new types of cyber weapons. The Pentagon's joint command is also involved in preparing cyber-attacks against Russia, and the United States seeks to blame the IT Army of Ukraine group to conceal its involvement. The cyberattacks are being prepared in cooperation with international and national hacker groups, including Anonymous, Silence, Ghost Clan, RedHack, GNG, Squad 303, and others, according to the report given by FSB. (“US, Other NATO Countries Use Ukraine For Mass Hacker Attacks on Russia - FSB,” Sputnik, 114 April 2023)
Lukashenko proposes a coordinated transformation of Judicial Systems to CIS partners
On 14 April, during a meeting with the heads of the supreme courts of foreign countries in Minsk, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko proposed a coordinated transformation of the judicial systems among CIS partners. He acknowledged the establishment of the CIS Council of Chairmen of the Supreme Courts, which he believes will enable coordinated approaches to justice. Lukashenko stressed that Belarus's judicial reforms were carefully planned without any replication of foreign experience, and he was interested in sharing experiences with other countries in the field of judicial construction. He acknowledged that after the once-unified judicial system collapsed, national models of judicial procedure needed to be established, and Belarus opted for a path of continuous improvements. The president recognized the contribution of the previous generations to judicial construction and believed that the exchange of experience would be of particular interest. (“Lukashenko offers CIS partners to coordinate judicial reforms,” Belta, 15 April 2023)
JUICE Mission successfully launched after a short delay
On 14 April, the European Space Agency (ESA) successfully launched the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) satellite from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana after a delay due to weather conditions. JUICE will be sent on a 6.6 billion km journey, taking 8.5 years to reach the Jovian system, using a series of gravitational slingshots around Venus and Earth to reach its destination. The satellite will study the three largest moons of Jupiter (Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa) remotely, using radar, lidar, magnetometers, and other sensors, as well as taking countless pictures with its cameras. JUICE will also investigate the moons' electrical and magnetic environments and the particles that surround them. NASA's Clipper satellite will conduct similar investigations, with a focus on Europa, and is planned to arrive in 2024. The mission aims to gather more information about potential habitability to inform future missions that could potentially drill through the ice crust of one of Jupiter's moons to reach the water beneath. (Jonathan Amos, “European Space Agency: Blast off for Jupiter icy moons mission,” BBC News, 14 April 2023)