Emerging Europe This Week

Insurrection in Russia: Emerging Europe this week

You can read all of our coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including explainers and articles offering context and background information here.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

A fast-moving crisis unfolded in Russia on Saturday as President Vladimir Putin faced an apparent insurrection from an erstwhile ally, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, and the Russian mercenary fighters he leads. 

Prigozhin said his Wagner Group mercenaries had taken control of the main Russian military command base in the southern region of Rostov and told two Russian military commanders that he would blockade Rostov and send his forces to Moscow unless he could confront his enemies: Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu and chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov. Prigozhin accused the pair of lying about the war in Ukraine and undercounting casualties. 

The situation de-escalated after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko allegedly brokered a deal to avert civil war. The forces answering to Prigozhin halted their march toward Moscow and turned back, as Prigozhin was offered safe passage to Belarus and charges against him dropped. Prigozhin was told that his Wagner group would no longer fight in Ukraine as he had refused to sign contracts to bring his mercenaries under the sway of Russia’s defence ministry. 

Ukraine this week hit back at doubters over the progress of its summer counteroffensive, insisting recent modest gains against Russian occupiers were merely a “preview” of a much bigger push to come.

Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, told the Financial Times that the liberation of a group of villages under Russian occupation in recent weeks was “not the main event” in Kyiv’s planned attack.

“When it happens, you will all see it . . . Everyone will see everything,” said Reznikov, brushing aside media coverage of slow progress against well-fortified Russian positions.

He confirmed that Ukraine’s main troop reserves, including most brigades recently trained in the west and equipped with modern Nato tanks and armoured vehicles, have yet to be used in the operation.

Lithuania is buying two NASAMS air defence launcher systems for Ukraine for 9.8 million euros and will deliver them within three months

Lithuania was reacting to an urgent Ukrainian request to help strengthen air defences in the face of Russian attacks against military and civilian targets.  

At least 11 people, including three children, were killed and over 60 were wounded in a strike on Tuesday that hit a restaurant in Kramatorsk in Ukraine’s Donetsk region. The Ukrainian secret service arrested a man it accused of helping Russians carry out the attack. 

The European Union is preparing to offer “future security commitments” to Ukraine as the bloc’s leaders seek to agree long-term pledges for Kyiv against the backdrop of rising instability in Russia and entrenched battle lines in the war. 

Discussions over the French-devised pledge included in the draft conclusions of Thursday’s summit of EU leaders come as the modest progress of Ukraine’s counteroffensive and the fallout from Wagner’s failed mutiny in Russia prompt capitals to rethink what support levels Kyiv requires. 

Leaders will commit to continue financing weapons supplies to Kyiv through the European Peace Facility, a fund paid for by EU countries; expand the EU’s initiative to train Ukrainian troops; and included the possibility of EU military missions to Ukraine if the conditions for it were deemed suitable and such a step was agreed by all members. 

While falling well short of the mutual defence that would come with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) membership, the pledges are designed to provide some form of stop-gap to reassure Kyiv and give it confidence in enduring Western support.

Other news from the region

Poland has strengthened security on its eastern border with Belarus because of the “potentially new situation” arising from the arrival of soldiers from Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group, as well as its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, following their recent rebellion. The arrival of Wagner forces in Belarus “could mark a new phase of hybrid warfare, a phase much more difficult than the one we have faced so far”, said deputy prime minister Jarosław Kaczyński. 

Early on Wednesday, the de facto government of Nagorno-Karabakh reported that four of its servicemen were killed overnight in a major attack using artillery and drones by Azerbaijan. The previous day, Baku claimed an Azerbaijani soldier had been wounded by firing from Karabakhi Armenian positions. Nagorno-Karabakh has demanded that Armenia halt ongoing negotiations with Azerbaijan in Washington. 

Lawmakers in Bosnia‘s Republika Srpska voted on Tuesday to suspend rulings by Bosnia’s constitutional court, a move described as a “legal secession” that is set to deepen political divisions. Lawmakers agreed that the decisions and acts of the constitutional court would not be implemented on their territory until a nationwide law on the court had been adopted by the national parliament and that Serb representatives in Bosnian state institutions would not take part in any talks on reforms needed for Bosnia’s integration into the EU until the constitutional court had been reformed.  

Iranian officials praised an Albanian police raid on the dissident Iranian group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) widely described as a “cult” and which was previously classified as a terrorist organisation by the United States. In the chaotic raid in a Tirana suburb on June 20, the MEK said that at least one of its members had died while scores more were injured. The Albanian interior ministry, however, said the MEK had violated the humanitarian terms under which it had been granted asylum in 2014.  

The Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian joint venture Rail Baltica, aiming to connect the Baltic states and Poland with the rest of Europe by railway, will receive 928 million euros from the Connecting Europe Facility, the European Union’s instrument for strategic investment in transport infrastructure; the funding is on top of the 1.2 billion euros already received from the EU. “Overcoming different gauges is imperative to create an integrated European railway area that brings fast trains to the region and gives citizens new opportunities to travel between the Baltic states and the rest of Europe,” said EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean. 

Serbia released three Kosovan policemen on June 26, more than a week after detaining them in a border area, easing a mounting stand-off between the neighbouring countries and former wartime foes. The three officers, who were freed by a Serb court ruling. The European Union welcomed the move and urged Kosovo and Serbia to take further steps to defuse the simmering crisis, including holding new local elections in northern Kosovo. 

Kazakhstan has, in a fresh effort to ease bottlenecks in a transportation corridor bypassing Russia, reached an understanding with Azerbaijan and Georgia to set up a jointly run and owned logistics company. The goal behind establishing the company will be to simplify the process of handling cargo transportation between China and Europe and to streamline the tariff process. Pessimistic analyses on the prospects of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, or the Middle Corridor, as it is also known, often cite the fact that cargo is required to cross multiple national borders.

Belgian group Avesta Battery and Energy Engineering (ABEE) is planning a 1.4 billion euros battery plant in Romania’s Galați, creating up to 8,000 jobs, the city’s mayor said on Tuesday. “Our city has become more and more attractive to investors,” Galati Mayor Ionut Pucheanu said on Facebook. The lithium-ion factory will have production capacity of 22 GWh, news agency Agerpres reported. “Battery production is crucial for the (European Union) due to the current market situation where China dominates the supply of Li-ion batteries,” the agency quoted an ABEE official as saying.

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