Daily Briefs

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05 June 2023, Monday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #534

War in Ukraine: Day 465 & 466 | Russia claims taking down HIMARS and storm shadow missiles in Donbas

Unidentified balloon falls near Polish military unit; Protests in Stockholm challenge Sweden's NATO bid

War in Ukraine: Day 465 & 466
By Nithyashree RB and Sreeja JS

War on the Ground
On 03 June, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk in a meeting with the ministers from Donetsk and Luhansk discussed on reintegration of de-occupied territories. During the meeting, Vereshchuk said: “Donetsk and Luhansk are the regions most affected by Russian aggression. Therefore, one of the key tasks will be the restoration of critical infrastructure.” 

On 03 June, the Ukrainian Armed Forces spokesperson reported on airstrikes, and clashes in Luhansk and Donetsk. According to the report Bakhmut Russian forces had launched offensives in Ivanivske but made no advances, while shelling and airstrikes were reported in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

On 04 June, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov had a bilateral meeting with Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada at the Shangri-La Dialogue defence summit in Singapore. During the summit on 02 June, Reznikov accused Russia of being imperialist and asserted that Bakhmut is not under Russia's control. Hamada said: “Japan supports Ukraine in its battle to defend freedom and democracy. Our friendship and cooperation will contribute to global peace and stability.” Reznikov dismissed the peace proposal proposed by the Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto. He said that it seemed like a Russian plan and not an Indonesian plan. 

On 02 June, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi issued a statement on the vulnerability of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. He presented five concrete principles to the UNSC to safeguard the facility during the conflict. He said: “These principles are to no one’s detriment and everyone’s benefit.” He also added that Russia and Ukraine expressed their willingness to ensure nuclear safety and security.

The Moscow View
Claims by Russia

On 03 June, according to Sputnik, the Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded to French President Emmanuel Macron’s offer to conduct a Ukraine Peace Summit in Paris. He said: “France cannot do it anymore because France is a de facto active participant in the conflict and has sided with Ukraine.”

On 04 June, RT News reported on Crimian leader Sergey Aksyonov on the drone strike. According to him Russia had shot down five drones and four had forcefully landed using electronic warfare. He added that one of the drones crashed in Dzhankoy. 

On 04 June, RT reported on Russia’s Defence Ministry claims on missile attacks. According to the report, airstrikes were conducted on Ukrainian military airfields using long-range precision-guided air-launched missiles. In a statement from the ministry: “Command posts, a radar installation, Ukrainian aviation equipment, and storage facilities with weapons and ammunition were hit.” The ministry also claimed to have shot down missiles such as storm shadow missiles, and rockets from HIMARS in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. 

The West View
Responses from the US and Europe   
On 02 June, the Lithuanian Parliament hosted a meeting of representatives of the Parliaments of the NATO countries, Sweden and Ukraine to discuss the challenges the alliance face. Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament Viktoria Cmilyte-Nielsen commented that the representatives are convinced that NATO countries should increase spending for the defence system and accept Ukraine. 

On 02 June, Ukrinform reported on a bilateral meeting between Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Estonian President Alar Karis in Kyiv. Estonia was the first to start practical reconstruction projects in Ukraine. He acknowledged the first steps of reconstruction by Estonia and noted its leadership in developing a national mechanism to confiscate Russian assets to allocate them for the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. 

On 03 June, UK's Ministry of Defence in its intelligence update confirmed Russia’s continued deployment of VDV (airborne forces) in Bakhmut as the Wagner group completed its withdrawal to rear areas. On 04 June, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas during her speech at Shangri-La Dialogue said that: “NATO does not threaten Russia’s security, but Russian Imperialism.” 

The Global Fallouts      
Implications of the War 

On 03 June, Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto proposed a Russia-Ukraine peace plan and called for a ceasefire. He urged United Nations to conduct a referendum on people living in the demilitarized zones and to deploy a peacekeeping force to stop the conflict. He also added that Indonesia is willing to be the first country to join the peacekeeping force. 

Russians shell Sumy region 10 times on Saturday,” Ukrinform, 03 June 2023
Berdyansk city military administration,” Telegram, 03 June 2023
Ministry of Reintegration,” Telegram, 03 June 2023
Comment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine regarding the incorrect designation of the map of Ukraine on the media resource of the government of Hungary,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, 03 June 2023
War update: Ukraine’s Air Force launches 15 strikes on enemy positions,” Ukrinform, 03 June 2023
Reznikov discusses cooperation with Japan’s colleague, invites him to Ukraine,” Ukrinform, 04 June 2023
Darrelle Ng, “Ukraine’s defence minister slams Russian 'imperialism', says Bakhmut remains under Kyiv’s control,” CNA, 03 June 2023
Defense Minister Reznikov brushes off Indonesia’s “peace plan”,” Ukrinform, 04 June 2023
Several drones tried to attack Crimea – local leader,” RT News, 04 June 2023
Russia strikes Ukrainian airfields – Defense Ministry,” RT News, 04 June 2023
Russian Solntsepyok Flamethrowers Hit Kiev Militants,” Sputnik, 04 June 2023
Kremlin Says France Cannot Mediate in Ukraine Conflict,” Sputnik, 04 June 2023
Ukrainian Airfield Hit in Overnight Russian Missile Attack,” Kyiv Post, 04 June 2023
Lukas Juozapitis, “Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament: members of NATO parliaments see Ukraine as part of the Alliance,” m.delfi.lt, 03 June 2023
Estonia first to launch reconstruction projects in Ukraine - PM Shmyhal,” Ukrinform, 05 June 2023
Update 160 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine,” iaea.org, 02 June 2023
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 03 June 2023,” Twitter, 03 June 2023
Kaya Kallas in Singapore: NATO does not threaten Russia's security, but Russian imperialism,” russ.err.ee, 04 June 2023
Shofi Ayudiana, “Russia-Ukraine conflict: Indonesia proposes ceasefire, UN referendum,” Antara News, 03 June 2023

By Rishika Yadav

Massive protests marks the anniversary of first postwar democratic election
On 04 June, in Warsaw, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered to commemorate Poland's first postwar democratic election in 1989. They expressed opposition against the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), which critics claim is leading the country towards autocracy. Poland’s first popularly elected president of Poland, Lech Walesa, addressed the crowd, calling out PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The local government estimated that around 500,000 people participated in the protest. (“Poland opposition stages major anti-government protest,” Deutsche Welle, 04 June 2023)
Unidentified balloon falls near Polish military unit
On 04 June, Guildhall reported that a balloon, potentially for reconnaissance or meteorological purposes, landed in Poland's Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship near a military training ground. Experts are examining its intended tasks. The discovery was promptly reported by a local resident to the police and military authorities. Poland's radar systems did not detect the balloon, raising suspicions of possible espionage. The device bore Cyrillic inscriptions, an antenna, and a polystyrene box. Similar incidents involving Chinese spy balloons in other countries have been documented, emphasizing the need for thorough investigation and heightened security measures. (“An unknown air object fell near a military unit in Poland,” Guildhall, 04 June 2023)
Protests in Stockholm challenge Sweden's NATO bid
On 04 June, protests erupted in Stockholm against Sweden's NATO bid and anti-terror legislation despite Turkey's opposition. The demonstration, organized by groups associated with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), raised concerns as PKK flags and anti-NATO slogans were displayed. Turkey expressed dissatisfaction with the planned protest and called for its prevention, citing the presence of PKK terrorists operating freely in Sweden. Swedish officials defended the new law, stating that it does not target freedom of speech. The incident follows previous allegations of Russian influence and destabilization efforts in Sweden, including the burning of the Quran near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. (“Sweden staged a rally against Erdogan before the decision on NATO membership,” Guildhall, 04 June 2023)
NATO Allies conduct joint training exercises in Estonia
On 04 June, the UK’s Ministry of Defence published a press release, on 02 June, that in Estonia, the UK engaged in extensive training exercises with NATO allies, involving over 10,000 personnel from 11 countries. British RAF Typhoon fighter jets and Army Air Corps Apache helicopters participated in a joint exercise called Spring Tempest. They practiced firing heavy machine guns and advanced missiles at sea targets, showcasing the ability to conduct precision strikes deep in enemy territory. The mission demonstrated the UK's commitment to collective defence, regional security, and interoperability with NATO allies. The training was supported by a Forward Air Controller operating from a Wildcat helicopter. The UK's contribution to European security remains a priority. (“British fighter jets and helicopters train to attack targets at sea, alongside NATO allies in Estonia,” gov.uk, 04 June 2023)
Docherty reinforces support for Central Asia
On 04 June, a UK Minister, Leo Docherty, embarked on a significant visit to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan to reaffirm the UK's support for the region. This visit marks the highest-ranking UK official's trip to Kyrgyzstan in over ten years. As Central Asia grapples with economic uncertainty due to Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, Docherty aims to strengthen the UK's partnership with the region. The visit will focus on promoting British expertise for sustainable economic development and discussing emerging opportunities for British businesses. Additionally, discussions on energy security, climate cooperation, and trade ties will take place, highlighting the strategic importance of the region. The Minister will also engage in activities that showcase UK-supported initiatives, such as promoting inclusive tourism in Kyrgyzstan and exploring cooperation in critical minerals, clean technology, and agriculture in Kazakhstan. In Uzbekistan, discussions will center around defense, trade, counter-terrorism, and support for domestic reforms. (“Europe Minister to forge closer relations in Central Asia,” gov.uk, 04 June 2023)
Former intelligence chief appointed as Foreign Minister
On 04 June, Guildhall reported that Turkish former intelligence chief Hakan Fidan was appointed as foreign minister by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Fidan, previously a military officer, served as Erdogan's advisor during his tenure as prime minister. Speculation arose that Fidan could also assume the role of vice president. Notably, only the health and culture ministers retained their positions in the government. On the same lines, the appointment of ex-banker Mehmet Simsek as finance minister raised public interest, signalling a potential shift away from Erdogan's unorthodox policies. (“Erdogan appoints former Turkish intelligence chief as foreign minister,” Guildhall, 04 June 2023)
EU calls for de-escalation and dialogue in Northern Kosovo
On 03 June, the EU strongly condemned the violent acts against citizens, KFOR troops, law enforcement, and media in northern Kosovo. The EU fully supports NATO's mission KFOR and the EU's mission EULEX in fulfilling their mandates. Kosovo and Serbia must immediately and unconditionally de-escalate, refrain from divisive rhetoric, and halt further uncoordinated actions. Urgent restoration of calm is necessary. Kosovo should suspend police operations near municipal buildings, hold inclusive early elections, and involve Kosovo Serbs. Concern is expressed over the heightened alert status of the Serbian Armed Forces. The EU expects both sides to engage in the EU-facilitated Dialogue to find a sustainable solution, ensuring safety, security, and participatory democracy for all citizens. Immediate work on establishing the Association/Community of Serb Majority Municipalities is urged. (“Kosovo* - Statement by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the latest developments,” consilium.europa.eu, 03 June 2023)
Stoltenberg urges Turkey to support Sweden's membership bid
On 04 June, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called on Turkey to withdraw its opposition to Sweden's bid to join the US-led defence alliance, emphasizing that Sweden's membership would enhance security for both countries. Stoltenberg expressed his eagerness to finalize Sweden's accession promptly during his visit to Istanbul, where he attended Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's inauguration ceremony. He held talks with Turkey's new foreign minister, Hakan Fidan, who replaced Mevlut Cavusoglu in Erdogan's reshuffled Cabinet. Stoltenberg acknowledged that Sweden has taken significant steps to address Turkey's concerns regarding terrorism, such as implementing stricter laws and improving counter-terrorism cooperation. The approval of existing NATO member states, including Turkey and Hungary, is necessary for Sweden's NATO membership. (“NATO's Stoltenberg again urges Turkey to let Sweden join,” Deutsche Welle, 04 June 2023)
Kyrgyz Republic and EU strengthen bilateral cooperation
On 03 June, Kyrgyz Republic’s President Sadyr Zhaparov and EU’s President Charles Michel held a constructive meeting in Cholpon-Ata. They reaffirmed their strong commitment to deepening bilateral cooperation based on democratic principles, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. The presidents emphasized the importance of economic cooperation, sustainable development goals, and adherence to the UN Charter's principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. They welcomed the achievements of the long-standing Kyrgyz-EU partnership and expressed the need to further strengthen trade, economic, and investment cooperation. The signing of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was anticipated to elevate relations to a new level. The Kyrgyz Republic appreciated the EU's support for democratic reforms, human rights, rule of law, education, and the green agenda. (“Joint press statement of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic Mr Sadyr Zhaparov and the President of the European Council Mr Charles Michel,” consilium.europa.eu, 03 June 2023)
Germany to send warships to Indo-Pacific in 2024 amid tensions
On 04 June, Germany’s Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said: “Germany will deploy two warships to the Indo-Pacific in 2024 amidst rising China and Taiwan tensions and South China Sea disputes." Speaking at Singapore's Shangri-La Dialogue, he emphasized the importance of upholding the rules-based international order and safeguarding vital maritime passages. The deployments aim to protect this order and are not targeted at any specific nation. Germany seeks to balance its security and economic interests, considering China as its primary trading partner. In 2021, a German warship reentered the South China Sea after nearly two decades, joining other Western nations in addressing concerns over China's territorial ambitions. (“Germany to send two warships to Indo-Pacific in 2024 amid South China Sea tensions,” Reuters, 04 June 2023)

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