Emerging Europe This Week

Returning the war to 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 high-rise building in Moscow’s business district that houses three Russian government ministries was struck by a drone on Tuesday for the second time in three days.

Russia says it has shot down Ukrainian drones near and over Moscow in the past few days, though there are no reports of anybody being hurt.

Turkmenistan’s flagship airline has suspended flights to Moscow, it said on Wednesday, citing safety concerns after Ukrainian drone attacks on the Russian capital. The drone attacks prompted Vnukovo, one of Moscow’s airports, to close briefly but it later resumed full operations.

A day after Volodymyr Zelensky said war was “returning to Russia”, the Kremlin launched a deadly airstrike against the Ukrainian president’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih.

At least six people were killed, including a five-year-old girl, and dozens of others were wounded when a pair of ballistic missiles struck a school building and residential tower in the central Ukrainian city.
Residents said there were no air raid sirens before the missiles struck and took out significant portions of two buildings. Zelensky said more than 350 people were involved in the rescue operation.

After meeting with African leaders in St Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that an initiative presented by African leaders could be a basis for peace in Moscow’s war on Ukraine but claimed that attacks from Kyiv made a cessation of hostilities “virtually impossible”.

The African proposal floats a series of possible steps to defuse the conflict, including a Russian troop pullback, removal of Russian tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, suspension of an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant against Putin and sanctions relief.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has rejected the idea of a ceasefire now, which would leave Russia in control of nearly a fifth of his country and give its forces time to regroup after 17 grinding months of war.

Ukraine and Croatia have agreed on the possibility of using Croatian ports on the Danube and the Adriatic Sea for the export of Ukrainian grain, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said after talks with his Croatian counterpart, Gordan Grlić-Radman, on Monday.

Russia quit the United Nations-brokered Black Sea grain deal this month, depriving Ukraine, a global producer, of a vital conduit to safely export its agricultural products during the war.

“Now we will work to establish the most efficient routes to these ports and make the most of this opportunity,” Kuleba said after meeting Grlić-Radman in Kyiv. “Every contribution to unblocking export, every door opened is a real, effective contribution to the world’s food security.”

Ukraine currently relies on land export routes via the European Union as well as an alternative route via the Danube River. Russia attacked infrastructure along the latter route earlier this month.

Other news from the region

The United States has tightened visa-free access for Hungarians to its territory, amid security concerns stemming from policies by prime minister Viktor Orbán. Hungarians will now be limited to a single entry into the United States, while the validity period of travel has been reduced from two years to one. Washington had long threatened to impose travel restrictions on Hungary over concerns the identities of nearly one million foreigners granted Hungarian passports in the past decade were not properly verified.

Azerbaijan’s three most prominent opposition parties have been denied registration by the state and now face the possibility of being disbanded. They failed to meet the key criterion of the country’s new highly restrictive law on political parties – proving that they have at least 5,000 members (through submitting a list with each member’s name together with their phone number, address, and other details). Once a party is deregistered by the state, it is prohibited from operating “in any way,” including holding meetings and making financial transactions. 

In Moldova, fugitive oligarch Ilan Şor, whose Şor party was outlawed for corruption, said he will challenge a parliamentary decision that prevents some 600 of his members from running in elections for several years. The party is allegedly associated with a criminal group led by Şor, who was convicted in the ‘Grand Theft’ case of stealing one billion US dollars from the Moldovan banking system between 2012 and 2014. The decision—approved by Parliament on July 31–will prohibit Şor party representatives from participating in November’s local elections, presidential elections in November 2024 and parliamentary elections in July 2025.

Poland’s parliament has approved changes to energy laws that, among other things, will introduce dynamic pricing that allows electricity costs to be adjusted every 15 minutes based on supply and demand to address the challenges created by the growing share of renewable power sources in Poland’s energy mix—as their output can fluctuate significantly over the course of a day. Lawmakers also hope that the change will reduce the need to sometimes shut down renewables when electricity production is too high compared to demand – for example, when there is a lot of wind or solar while electricity consumption is low. 

Kosovo’s government has suspended the license of the country’s biggest private television broadcaster over a registration error, alarming journalists who accused the ruling party of an open war against free media. The issue began in June when the government said it identified problems with the registration certificate of TV station Klan Kosova. The station later said it had already fixed those problems, as requested. The decision can be appealed in court.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are accelerating the integration of their electricity grids with continental Europe and their disconnection from Russia and Belarus. Under a joint declaration signed on Thursday by the leaders of the three Baltic countries, the deadline for synchronisation to the European power grid is brought forward to February 2025. This follows an agreement between the respective Transmission System Operators earlier this week on the steps for accomplishing the synchronisation in that timeframe.

The leaders of Georgia and China have agreed to ‘elevate bilateral relations to a strategic partnership’, during a week-long visit by Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili to China. The prime minister was officially in China to attend the 31st World Summer Games of the International University Sports Federation. According to Georgian media, information about the agreement was not announced in advance. Critics have warned the agreement could endanger the country’s relations with the West.

Thousands of people staged protest rallies in the capital, Sofia, and other Bulgarian cities following a case of shocking violence against an 18-year-old woman. The incident happened on June 26 in the central city of Stara Zagora, where a woman identified by her initials, DM, was allegedly beaten and disfigured with a knife by her boyfriend, but was only made public on July 28 following the victim’s family’s frustration with the slow pace of the investigation. Some 5,000 people gathered in Sofia on Monday, while large crowds also gathered in other cities in the Balkan country, including in Stara Zagora.

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