Photo : AFP
12 May 2023, Friday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #512
War in Ukraine Day: 442
By Padmashree Anandhan
War on the Ground
On 11 May, in an interview with Eurovision News and the BBC, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy commented on the spring counteroffensive. He stated that if Ukraine launched the offensive now, it would be successful, but it might result in more casualties. Therefore, Ukraine will wait for the delivery of armoured vehicles and weapon system from the West, until which the counteroffensive will be on hold. On the impact of sanctions on Russia, Zelenskyy highlighted that despite the sanction impact on Russia’s defence industry, it has manoeuvred to circumvent with help of other countries.
On 11 May, Ukraine’s Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko stated that Ukraine had received USD 16.7 billion in total as financial aid as of 2023. In a meeting with the G7 finance ministers and central bankers, he appreciated their efforts for the aid. He highlighted the current budget deficit of Ukraine to stand at USD 38 billion as of 2023 and demanded for USD 14 billion more assistance for reconstructing the energy sector and critical infrastructure.
The Moscow View
Claims by Russia
On 11 May, RT reported on Russia’s defence ministry statement on Ukraine’s counteroffensive. On the recent report on Ukraine counteroffensive already underway, the Ministry denied such claims and confirmed on certain breaches in the defence line but the ground situation was under control. It confirmed on the Ukrainian attacks in Bakhmut, Donetsk, Marynka, Kremennaya and Kupyansk, but according to the Ministry, all such were countered or defeated by the Russian forces.
The West View
Responses from the US and Europe
On 11 May, in its intelligent update, the UK Ministry of Defence reported on the speeding up of the Russian military in recruiting prisoners for the war, totalling to 10,000 in April. It observed that prisoners comprised the major part of the Wagner group recruitment. This was mainly seen to avoid another round of mobilisation which earlier trigger domestic dissent.
On 10 May, Institute for Study of War, a US based think tank in its risk assessment reported on the challenges faced by Russian forces in Bakhmut. It found that due to continued shelling, it experienced limitations in combat capability to counter Ukraine’s counterattacks. According to the report: “Pervasive issues with Russian combat capability, exacerbated by continued attritional assaults in the Bakhmut area, are likely considerably constraining the ability of Russian forces in this area to defend against localized Ukrainian counterattacks.”
On 11 May, the UK government confirmed the delivery of “long-range Strom Shadow” cruise missiles to help Ukraine in the counteroffensive. The Strom Shadow is a jointly development system by France and the UK, with a range of 250 kilometres. Its operational range and striking capacity makes it distinct from other systems. The UK became the first to agree to send modern tanks to Ukraine followed by the US to send M-1 Abrams.
“Zelensky says Ukraine needs more time for counter-offensive,” BBC, 11 May 2023
“Russian military clarifies frontline situation in Ukraine,” RT, 11 May 2023
“Ukraine’s counteroffensive has begun – media,” RT, 11 May 2023
“Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 11 May 2023.,” Ministry of Defence/Twitter, 11 May 2023
Jim Sciutto, “Britain has delivered long-range ‘Storm Shadow’ cruise missiles to Ukraine ahead of expected counteroffensive, sources say,” CNN, 11 May 2023
“RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, MAY 10, 2023,” ISW, 10 May 2023
“Ukraine updates: Counteroffensive needs time, Zelenskyy says,” Deutsche Welle, 10 May 2023
By Rishika Yadav, Nithyashree RB and Sreeja JS
DUP condemns Joe Biden over comments on Northern Ireland peace commitments
On 12 May, The Guardian reported that Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Member of Parliament Sammy Wilson criticized US President Joe Biden for his remarks about his recent visit to Northern Ireland, where Biden had expressed his intention to ensure that the UK keeps its Good Friday commitments. Wilson condemned Biden's comments, calling him "anti-British" and demanded that he show some respect to the UK. The DUP, which advocates Northern Ireland's inclusion in the UK, is boycotting the region's power-sharing government over disagreements on post-Brexit trade. The UK’s Prime Minister spokesperson defended the trade protocol and said that protecting the Good Friday agreement was the UK's priority. (“Unionists angry as Joe Biden says he visited Northern Ireland to ‘make sure the Brits didn’t screw around’,” The Guardian, 12 May 2023)
Lawmakers to investigate rising food price inflation
On 12 May, Reuters reported that food price inflation is rising at alarming rates in the UK since the 1970s in 2023. This has prompted British lawmakers to launch a probe to analyze the country’s food supply chain to understand why the inflation is increasing in 2023. The cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee of the House of Commons said that it would examine how profits are shared from “farm to fork,” the level of regulation, and the impact of external actors on the supply chain. (James Davey, “With UK food price inflation at 46-year high, lawmakers launch probe,” Reuters, 12 May 2023)
Homeland Party’s presidential candidate withdraws
On 11 May, Homeland Party’s presidential candidate, Muharrem Ince, withdrew his candidacy. The withdrawal of Ince is advantageous for the National Alliance coalition under Kemal Kilicdaroglu as Ince was a strong contender. According to Deutsche Welle, Kilicidraglu was leading in polls but was unable to cross the 50 per cent threshold to win the elections in the first round. Ince’s withdrawal could help Kilicidaroglu win in the first round. According to Metropoll, 49 per cent of Ince’s support will shift towards Kilicdaroglu while 22 per cent will shift towards Erdogan. (“Turkey election candidate drops out, putting Erdogan at risk,” Deutsche Welle, 11 May 2023)
Wagner troops not facing munitions shortage, says Ukrainian military official
On 11 May, a Ukrainian brigade commander fighting in Bakhmut, in his interview with Reuters, said that Wagner troops are not facing any ammunition shortage and that they have stepped up shelling and artillery in recent days. This comes after Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin's public complaint to Moscow regarding the severe weapons shortage his group is facing and his threatening to withdraw his troops. He added that Russians continue to hold their positions despite counterattacks from the Ukrainian army. (Tom Balmforth and Alex Richardson, “In Bakhmut's ruins, Ukraine says intensity of Wagner attacks growing,” Reuters, 11 May 2023)
UK sends Storm Shadow, a long-range missile to Ukraine
On 11 May, The Guardian reported UK’s decision to send Storm Shadow missiles to Kyiv to enhance its much-anticipated counteroffensive that is going on. According to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, this decision is “a calibrated and proportionate response” to the Russian invasion. These missiles will allow Ukraine to push back Russian forces outside its sovereign territory. Some of the missiles are delivered while the rest are en route to Ukraine, told Wallace. The missile was developed by both the UK and France and has a range of about 560 kilometers. According to Politico, the missiles have the capability to strike eastern and southern Ukrainian regions under Russian occupation. The US is supportive of the UK's decision and has substantiated it. In a press briefing in Moscow, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov exhibited Moscow’s contrariety toward UK’s move and refrained from divulging the details. (Dan Sabbagh and Luke Harding, “UK sending long-range Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine, says defence minister,” The Guardian, 11 May 2023; Cristina Gallardo, “UK confirms it’s delivered long-range missiles to Ukraine,” Politico.eu, 11 May 2023)
Moscow denies claims of Ukrainian breakthroughs in Bakhmut
On 11 May, in a statement, Russia’s Defence Ministry said that the reports circulating in individual Telegram channels about Ukrainian defence breakthroughs Bakhmut are not reality and claims that the overall situation in Ukraine is under control. According to Reuters, this statement reflects the Moscow’s acknowledgement that the ongoing conflict is a “very difficult” military operation. This is in contrast to the Ukrainian position that Russian forces are forced back in several places in Bakhmut. The several statements released by the Ukrainian army personnel and Zelenskiy show that it is preparing for an effective counter-offensive and is stepping up its attacks. (Tom Balmforth, Olena Harmash, Pavel Polityuk, David Ljunggren and Ron Popeski, "Russia denies reports of Ukrainian breakthroughs along front lines,” Reuters, 11 May 2023; Antoinette Radford, “Russia denies claims of Ukrainian front-line gain,” BBC News, 12 May 2023)
UK can contribute EUR 15 billion by levying tax on the high-income class quotes The Guardian
On 12 May, according to Christian Aid, a charity fighting global poverty, a 0.5 per cent tax on wealthy people in the UK can contribute to its share of the international loss and damage fund, The Guardian reported. The international loss and damage fund was established at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt in 2022. According to The Guardian, to bolster adaptation efforts in developing countries an estimate of 400 billion dollars is needed by 2030. A tax of five pence for every EUR 10 collected from the top one per cent of UK households can raise 15 billion EUR by 2030, The Guardian quoted Christian Aid. The entire sum can be collected by levying a 95 per cent tax on fossil fuel companies’ excess profits or through air passenger taxes, emissions trading schemes, and financial transactions taxes. (Damien Gayle, “Wealth tax of 0.5% could cover UK’s share of loss and damage fund, says charity,” The Guardian, 12 May 2023)
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
EU to establish AI rules
On 11 May, the Internal Market Committee and the Civil Liberties Committee of the EU voted in favour of the Artificial Intelligence Act draft. The AI Act was proposed in 2021. The act will mandate how AI products and services will be utilized. AI applications will be made transparent and accurate according to the four ranks of AI. The AI act doesn’t mention chatbots and generative AIs but according to Deutsche Welle, they will be considered as high-risk systems. Tools that predict where and who will commit crimes will be banned. Remote facial recognition tools will be used only to counter and prevent terrorist threats. The act will be presented next month in the European Parliament for adoption. The EU will be the first to establish AI rules. (“EU lawmakers take first steps toward tougher AI rules,” Deutsche Welle, 11 May 2023)
EU urge further talks to reinforce data transfer pact with US
On 11 May, EU urged the European Commission to continue negotiations to reinforce a proposed data transfer agreement with the United States. The EU executive had previously deemed U.S. safeguards against American intelligence activities to be strong enough to address EU data privacy concerns. However, the EU has stated that there are still shortcomings in the proposed agreement, and that elements such as judicial independence, transparency, access to justice, and remedies are missing. The resolution voted against the proposed pact is non-binding, and EU countries have yet to adopt an opinion before the executive makes a final decision. (Foo Yun Chee, “EU lawmakers want more talks to strengthen proposed US data transfer pact,” Reuters, 11 May 2023)
Hugo Bachega, Zelensky says Ukraine needs more time for counter-offensive
BBC News, 11 May 2023
“Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has said his country needs more time to launch a much-anticipated counter-offensive against Russian forces, as the military awaits the delivery of promised aid.”
Hugh Pope, The battle of the Turkish centuries
Politico.eu, 11 May 2023
"Erdoğan’s Turkish Century — announced last year — continues this long-standing, implicit challenge to Atatürk’s imposition of Western ways and a narrow idea of Turkishness. And at home, this fuzzy neo-Ottoman culture has so far featured a museum, built outside the Byzantine walls, celebrating the 1453 conquest of Constantinople with startling realism; the reconsecration of Aya Sofya as a mosque; and a mentality that leans on state employees to attend Friday prayers as communal obligation."