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
Today marks the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier this week, on February 20, US president Joe Biden made a surprise and fully covert visit to Kyiv.
“One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden said. “Today, in Kyiv, I am meeting with President Zelenskyy and his team for an extended discussion on our support for Ukraine. I will announce another delivery of critical equipment, including artillery ammunition, anti-armour systems, and air surveillance radars to help protect the Ukrainian people from aerial bombardments,” Biden stated.
The US government will allocate 450 million US dollars to fight off Russian aggression.
Additional support has also been announced by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.
“To keep up this strong pressure, we are proposing a tenth package of measures. With new trade bans and technology export controls to Russia. This package is worth a total of 11 billion euros. We propose, among other things export restrictions on multiple electronic components used in Russian armed systems – such as drones, missiles, and helicopters. […] [F]or the first time we are also proposing to sanction Iranian entities including those linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.”
So far, the European Union has provided Ukraine with 67 billion euros in economic, humanitarian, and military assistance. Apart from that, in early February, the EU agreed on a roadmap for expanding Ukraine’s access to the European single market.
In the meantime, the Netherlands, together with Germany and Denmark, said they would supply Ukraine with about 100 Leopard main battle tanks and Australia announced its 33 million Australian-dollar package including drones. Australian sanctions, added to the package, envisage travel bans and asset freezes for a further 90 Russian individuals and 40 Russian entities.
At the tripartite meeting, held in Brussels on February 21, NATO, the EU and Ukraine agreed to develop an effective, transparent, and accountable weapons procurement system for Ukraine.
“This has become a grinding war of attrition, a battle of logistics. And key capabilities must reach Ukraine before Russia can seize the momentum. So Foreign Minister [Dmytro] Kuleba, High Representative [Josep] Borrell and I discussed the need to ramp up production. And improve our procurement systems. To continue supporting Ukraine. Upon Ukraine’s request, we have agreed that NATO should assist Ukraine to develop a procurement system that is effective, transparent, and accountable,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
Meanwhile, also on February 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his lengthy annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow. He gave the West a warning — as in his opinion, the United States was turning the war into a global conflict and said Russia was suspending its participation in the New START treaty, signed in 2010, by President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.
A few days later, Putin admitted that his almost two-hour address to the Federal Assembly was long and that it was difficult for those present to listen to it all.
During the meeting of the Bucharest Nine (B9) — the group of the eastern flank NATO Allies — in Warsaw, the leaders agreed to “do everything possible to strengthen NATO’s military presence.” “Russia is the most significant and direct threat to Allied security,” their joint statement said.
In Warsaw, where the US president intended to go originally, Joe Biden said that the Russian dictator would not succeed in subduing the Ukrainians, and Ukraine will never be a victory for the Kremlin. “Brutality will never grind down the will of the free. And Ukraine — Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never,” he added.
According to Ukrainian records, at the beginning of this week, Russian troops committed over 87,000 war crimes and killed almost 10,000 civilians.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon presented at the EU Foreign Affairs Council on February 20 an initiative for an international treaty on cooperation in investigating war crimes in Ukraine.
According to the head of Ukraine’s Parliamentary Committee on Legal Policy Denys Maslov, twenty-five countries have already joined the Coordination Group, which is working on establishing a special tribunal for Russia’s crimes of aggression.
During a special session at the United Nations, on the day before the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, UN members overwhelmingly voted to call for Russia to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from Ukraine. 141 countries condemned the invasion, seven voted against the resolution to end the war and 32 abstained, including China, South Africa and Thailand.
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said the European Union should consider appointing a full-time commissioner to oversee the drafting and enforcing of sanctions so they can be used effectively against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He was frustrated at the number of loopholes being exploited. “Sanctions are becoming so important to the EU single market that we may need to go further and make sanctions policy a political portfolio,” he said in London.
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the contract killing of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, which shook Slovakia and led to massive protests. “Five years on Slovakia is certainly not the state Ján and Martina dreamed of. … The civic movement that emerged after the murder can no longer harness the enormous energy it did back then. But the good news is that somewhere inside us there are still flames that have not been extinguished by politicians [being] incapable of self-reflection. … We still face a long struggle for democracy, which we owe not only to ourselves and the generations to come but also to the legacy of murdered Ján and Martina,” says Peter Bárdy, editor-in-chief of Aktuality.sk, the website for which Kuciak worked.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán initiated the ratification of Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession. On February 21, his party, Fidesz, proposed a plenary debate on Nato in the Hungarian parliament in the coming week. This comes after months of unexplained delays, prompting speculation Orbán was blackmailing the European Union for frozen funds or supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, both of whom he appears to be an ally of.
Poland’s investment rate is expected to continue decreasing this year, after dropping to 16.8 per cent of the GDP in 2022. Economists believe this is due to the combination of high prices of raw materials, global supply chain disruptions, a series of interest rate hikes, and the uncertainty created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On top of that, the 35.4 billion euro of the EU’s Recovery and resilience plan that has been frozen because of the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party’s violations of the rule of law, have made investment even more difficult. Poland has not yet received 76.5 billion euros billion of cohesion funding from the 2021–2027 EU budget which could fund a wide range of investment projects, including energy transition and major infrastructure works.
Bulgaria will not allow transgender people to legally change their gender, following this week’s decision of the country’s Supreme Court. “The current law does not provide for the possibility for the court to allow the change of the data regarding the gender, name and uniform civil number in the acts of civil status of an applicant who claims to be transgender,” the Court said in a statement. Until now, some judges assumed that the legislation in the country allowed legal gender change, but only explicitly after a court decision. This path is now closed.
Serbia considers buying French Rafale fighter aircrafts, as it has become impossible to maintain Russian MiG-29s, the last batch of which Serbia received in 2017. “Almost nothing related to military purposes can be imported from Russia,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucić said. The country wants to modernise its army and the military budget for 2023 could be increased by 700 million euros from the current 1.5 billion euros.
In mid-February, North Macedonia‘s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski submitted a proposal to reshuffle his cabinet to parliament around a common EU agenda. The opposition has now been stalling the debate, insisting that the reshuffle was being done for personal and corrupt interests and not to advance the country’s EU agenda.
Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party, explains that the large numbers of people leaving or wanting to leave the country are caused by visa-free travel with the European Union rather than economic and political frustration. “When an economically strong country eases its visa regime with a relatively economically weak country, naturally, this fact aids the outflow of people,” Irakli Kobakhidze, the party’s chairman wrote in a Facebook post, citing the cases of Baltic countries where, he said, the exodus rose after they joined the European Union. Kobakhidze said that net emigration between 2018 and 2021 totalled “only” 29,000 people.
Kazakstan is preparing for a parliamentary election that will be held in March — the date echoes March 19, 2019, when Kazakhstan’s first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, resigned from the post which he had held for nearly three decades. In March 2022, following a series of mass protests, the incumbent president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, announced a number of radical changes branded as New Kazakhstan: the Path of Renewal and Modernisation. In November last year, he was reelected for seven years. Now, the parliamentary election is expected to help Kazakhstan progress towards greater political liberalization and the establishment of a stronger parliament.
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