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Photo : Reuters/Gleb Garanich

09 May 2023 | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #439

War in Ukraine: Day 439

Europe's defence modernisation process slows; Russia launches drone and missile strikes; Russian jet intercepts Polish patrol

War in Ukraine: Day 439
By Padmashree Anandhan

War on the Ground 
On 08 May, Ukraine’s Commander of ground forces, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi reported on the increasing tensions in Bakhmut. Assuring to take all efforts to prevent the capture, he stated that Russia plans to take over the city by 09 May. Owing to this, it is observed to be shelling heavily with more weapons and forces. According to the report in Deutsche Welle, Russia sees Bakhmut as a strategic point to capture subsequent cities of Ukraine.

On 08 May, Deutsche Welle reported on the rapid evacuation of people from the Zaporizhzhia area. As per the report, 1,679 people, along with children, were moved away from the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia. The move comes after a warning was issued over Ukraine’s counteroffensive and a radiation leak threat.

On 08 May, a Ukraine Armed Forces spokesperson claimed over the destruction of 35 Shahed drones that were targeted across Ukraine. Russia was also reported to have launched 16 missiles in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odessa districts causing minimum casualty. Apart from this, explosions were also observed in the southeast of Zaporizhzhia.  

The Moscow View
On 08 May, Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin confirmed the receiving of ammunition from Russia. He claimed on a fierce battle with Ukraine forces in the controlled areas.

On 08 May, RT reported on the agenda of the Victory Day celebrations. Presidents and Prime Ministers of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are expected to attend. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is expected to join, followed by the military parade and his speech. The Victory Day, which marks the traditional military parade, is expected to showcase the units engaged in the special military operation in Ukraine.

The West View
On 08 May, a European Commission spokesperson announced the visit of President Ursula von der Leyen to Kyiv. The agenda is expected to establish ways to improve relations with Ukraine.

On 08 May, Ukrinform reported on Canada’s Prime Minister conversation with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on continuing the support to Ukraine. According to the report, the discussion focused on ways to secure Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and growing concern due to Russian action in the global south.

On 08 May, in its intelligence update, the UK Ministry of Defence reported on the Russian military’s efforts to recruit “Asian migrant workers” to fight against Ukraine. It found that the immigration officers who spoke Tajik and Uzbek had been trying continuously to recruit migrants with an offer of a USD 2,390 bonus along with salary. In the report: “Radio Free Europe reported recruiters offering sign-up bonuses of USD $2,390 and salaries of up to USD $4,160 a month. Migrants have also been offered a fast-track Russian citizenship path of six months to one year, instead of the usual five years. It expects such migrant workers to be sent to the frontlines. Such recruitment is viewed as way to keep the “domestic dissent” as low as possible.  

Head of Russia's Wagner group says still no sign of promised ammunition,” Reuters, 09 May 2023
Ukraine military says all 35 drones Russia launched overnight destroyed,” Reuters, 08 May 2023
Multiple foreign leaders to attend Victory Parade in Moscow,” RT News, 08 May 2023
Trudeau, Sunak discuss support for Ukraine,” Ukrinform, 08 May 2023
The world in brief,” The Economist, 09 May 2023
EU's von der Leyen to visit Kyiv on Tuesday,” Le Monde, 08 May 2023
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 8 May 2023.,” Ministry of Defence/Twitter, 08 May 2023
Ukraine updates: Russia launches new wave of air strikes,” Deutsche Welle, 08 May 2023

By Rishika Yadav, Nithyashree R B and Sreeja J S 

Russian jet intercepts Polish patrol over Black Sea
On 05 May, a Russian jet intercepted a Polish aircraft that was patrolling over the Black Sea for the EU border protection agency Frontex, according to the Poland Border Guard. The border authority released a statement saying that the Russian Su-35 made three attempts towards the Polish Turbolet L-410 at close aerial proximity The resultant turbulence caused the crew of five Polish border guards to lose control of the plane and lose altitude. It was Romania's Ministry of National Defence that first reported the incident and the following day it condemned the aggressive and dangerous behaviour of the Russian Plane and added that it was totally unacceptable. The Ministry also said that this incident gives further evidence to the proactive approach of Russia in the Black Sea. (“Poland Border Guard says patrol intercepted by Russian Jet,” Deutsche Welle, 07 May 2023)

Protests against gun violence in Belgrade
On 09 May, BBC News reported on Belgrade’s protest against gun violence where tens of thousands of Serbs joined. The protesters demanded the resignation of top government officials including the Interior Minister and the head of Serbia’s intelligence agency. The protests followed last week’s shootings  where 17 people killed including eight school children. The Education Minister Branko Ruzic resigned on 07 May following the protests. On 08 May, Serbian President Aleksander Vucic announced an amnesty for 30 days for the public to surrender illegal weapons without any questions asked. The Serbian police reported that 1500 guns were surrendered on the first day. (Antoinette Radford, “Serbia shootings: Tens of thousands join protests,” BBC News, 09 May 2023)

Police release the anti-monarchist after the coronation
On 07 May, Deutsche Welle reported that UK’s anti-monarchy group Republic's leader, Graham Smith, who was recently detained by the police ahead of King Charles III's coronation, was released recently. The police believed the activists would try to disrupt the procession, while Smith denied any plans to sabotage the event. The UK government had passed new powers to crack down on direct action groups, allowing the police to detain protesters.  (“UK anti-monarchists released from custody after coronation,” Deutsche Welle, 07 May 2023)

Russia launches a fresh wave of drone and missile strikes before Victory Day
On 08 May, Russia launched a fresh wave of drone and missile strikes. It marks the fourth attack in eight days on Kyiv. It comes just before Russia celebrates Victory Day, a major public holiday commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. The latest Russian raids lasted more than four hours, and witnessed Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones swarm across the country. Elsewhere, in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, a warehouse with humanitarian aid was destroyed, and a security guard's body was pulled from the wreckage. (Pavel Polityuk and Gleb Garanich, “Russia launches new attack on Ukraine's capital, officials say,” Reuters, 09 May 2023; Matt Murphy and Jaroslav Lukiv, “Ukraine war: Russia launches 'biggest' kamikaze drone attack,” BBC News, 09 May 2023)

Russian mercenary group Wagner fails to receive promised ammunition
On 09 May, the Wagner group's leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin said: “Russia's Wagner forces have not yet received the ammunition as promised by Moscow.” Prigozhin's forces have been attempting to capture the eastern Ukraine city of Bakhmut for months. He had earlier stated that preliminary data showed they had started receiving ammunition but had not seen it in practice. Meanwhile, Ukraine's military has vowed to prevent Russia from making a final push to capture the city. (“Head of Russia's Wagner group says still no sign of promised ammunition,” Reuters, 09 May 2023)

SAP and Siemens criticise the Data Act
On 09 May, according to Reuters, SAP, a German business software company and Siemens, a German engineering company, criticised the draft Data Act which was proposed by the European Commission last year. The Data Act aims to collect the EU’s consumer and corporate data to achieve its digital and green objectives by curbing the influence of US tech giants. While the US tech giants found the act restrictive, the German companies find that their trade secrets will be exposed to non-European third parties. They said that European competitiveness will be undermined. In a letter signed on 04 May to the EU, the Chief Executives of Siemens Healthlineers, and Brainlab wrote that companies must be allowed to withhold sensitive information that risks the exposition of trade secrets. The EU wrote back saying that trade secrets must not be used as a pretext not to share data. (Foo Yun Chee, “EU draft Data Act puts trade secrets at risk, Siemens and SAP say,” Reuters, 09 May 2023)

New EU sanctions to target circumventing exports to Russia
On 08 May, according to Politico, the 11th package of EU sanctions against Russia will target countries which export the sanctioned items to Russia by circumventing. Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are the first targets. The new trade embargo is expected to target China and Turkey in the future despite the volatility of Turkey’s situation due to the elections and the strong opposition by China on 08 May. Although the proposal doesn’t specify which countries or companies or products will be sanctioned, member states can list companies and products that will be sanctioned with unanimous approval. The 11th round of sanctions is said to be released today. (Jakob Hanke Vela and Stuart Lau, “EU targets Central Asia in drive to stop sanctioned goods reaching Russia,” Politico.eu, 08 May 2023)

European People’s Party leader calls for a fast-track procedure to approve ASAP
On 08 May, according to Politico, the European People’s Party (EPP) head Manfred Weber proposed a fast-track procedure to speed up the approval of the Act in Support of Ammunition Production (ASAP). In a letter dated 03 May to the European Parliament President, Roberta Metsola, Weber wrote that the production of ammunition and weapons must be boosted to help Ukraine. ASAP was debated yesterday in Monday’s plenary of the European Parliament along with Weber’s fast-track procedure to approve the bill by 09 May. The proposal will be discussed on 11 May, and Weber proposed that approval of ASAP be scheduled for the end of the month. (Jakob Hanke Vela and Nicolas Camut, “EU Parliament seeks to speed up ammo deal for Ukraine,” Politico.eu, 08 May 2023)

Europe's defence modernisation process slows, says Economist, quoting a SIPRI study
On 07 May, according to The Economist, European countries are spending more on defence, but the modernisation process is slow. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2022, European defence spending increased by 13 per cent, but two-thirds of it were used up on inflation and the Ukrainian war. In 2022, German President Olaf Scholz declared that 100 billion euros were designated to modernize the armed forces but is left untouched. 50 billion euros was designated to buy 35 F-35 fighter jets, but it will reach Germany by the end of the decade only. Also, defence purchases above 25 million euros are hard to get approved by the German parliament. On the same lines, in Britain, the military support to Ukraine worth 2.3 billion euros has depleted its stocks. Skewed military spending and costly nuclear-capable missile purchases have further depleted the defence budget. In France, though 413 billion euros was pledged for defence spending from 2024, they still invest more in nuclear deterrents. However, in Italy, high defence spending is unlikely owing to the migration crisis and in Poland, three per cent of GDP is to be spent on defence. (“Europe is struggling to rebuild its  military clout,” The Economist, 07 May 2023)

China's call with Ukraine's President is a positive step, says EU ambassador
On 09 May, the EU ambassador to China, Jorge Toledo Albinana, called the recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as a positive step towards achieving peace in Ukraine. Albinana has urged China to do more to help bring about a just peace, including the withdrawal of Russian troops. He also mentioned expectations of further high-level dialogue, including talks on trade, economy, digital affairs, and climate. Albinana defended EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell's recent comments on the Taiwan Strait, stating that they had been exaggerated. (“EU envoy to China hails Xi's call with Ukraine president as positive step,” Reuters, 09 May 2023)

EU cancels reception in Israel over far-right politician's attendance
On 08 May, the Politico reported that the EU's mission to Israel cancelled a reception in Tel Aviv after Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said he would attend and give a speech. The mission said in a statement that they do not want to provide a platform to someone whose views contradict the EU's values. Ben-Gvir is known for his hard-line stance on security issues and controversial statements about Israel's Arab citizens. Several EU officials had asked the Israeli government to send another representative, but Ben-Gvir insisted on attending the event, where he was expected to speak. The EU spokesperson for foreign affairs stated: “The EU does not endorse Ben-Gvir's political views and was consulting internally on how to handle the situation”. Ben-Gvir became a minister last December after his party entered a coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud, forming Israel's most right-wing government ever. (Nicolas Camut, “Far-right Israeli minister was going to an EU event — so they canceled it,” Politico.eu, 08 May 2023)

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