Emerging Europe This Week

Zelensky calls on West to pressure Russia for peace

Catch up quickly with the stories from Central and Eastern Europe that matter, this week led by news Volodymyr Zelensky urging Western leaders to pressure Russia into peace using ‘all means’ necessary.

Russia’s war on Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week urged Western leaders to pressure Russia into peace using “all means” necessary.

Speaking in Spain, Zelensky said there needed to be “tangible coercion of Russia” , which was seeking to “destroy Ukraine and move on”. Zelensky has long said he will not negotiate with Russia directly until Moscow’s forces leave all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea.

His call, however, comes as Russia makes gains against Ukraine, with Kyiv suffering from a shortage of Western-supplied weapons.

Russia, President Zelensky said, was dropping some 3,200 guided aerial bombs on Ukraine each month. “How do you fight that?” he asked reporters in Madrid where he met Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

The Ukrainian leader rejected the idea of inviting Russia to a planned peace summit in Switzerland next month. The summit is expected to include representatives of more than 90 countries.

France and Germany’s leaders said on Tuesday that Ukraine should be allowed to hit military sites inside Russia from which missiles were being fired at Ukrainian territory, but not other targets.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West earlier in the day that NATO members in Europe were playing with fire by proposing to let Ukraine use Western-supplied weapons to strike inside Russia, which he said could trigger a global conflict.

“We support Ukraine and we don’t want escalation, that hasn’t changed,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Meseberg, Germany.

“We think we should allow them to neutralise military sites from which missiles are fired, military sites from which Ukraine is attacked, but we shouldn’t allow them to hit other targets in Russia and civilian or other military sites in Russia.”

Europe has only a fraction of the air defence capabilities needed to protect its eastern flank, according to NATO’s own internal calculations, laying bare the scale of the continent’s vulnerabilities.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has underscored the importance of air defence, as Kyiv begs the west for additional systems and rockets to protect its cities, troops and energy grid against daily bombing raids.

But according to people familiar with confidential defence plans drawn up last year, NATO states are able to provide less than five per cent of air defence capacities deemed necessary to protect its members in Central and Eastern Europe against a full-scale attack, the Financial Times reported this week.

One senior NATO diplomat told the FT that the ability to defend against missiles and air strikes was “a major part of the plan to defend eastern Europe from invasion”, adding: “And right now, we don’t have that.”

Other news from the region

Georgia’s parliament on Tuesday voted to override a presidential veto on the controversial “foreign influence” law, a move that is poised to derail the EU aspirations of many Georgians in favour of closer ties with Moscow. The divisive bill, which requires civil society organisations and media that receive more than 20 per cent of their revenues from abroad to register as “organisations serving the interests of a foreign power”, was approved by the parliament earlier this month. The president, Salome Zourabichvili, later vetoed the law, which she and other critics argue is modelled on a 2012 Russian bill.

On Wednesday, Georgian NGOs vowed to defy the law. “By adopting this law, the authorities want to subdue Georgia’s civil sector,” some 200 NGOs said in a statement. “The Russian law will not work in our country and will remain an empty piece of paper, which nobody will obey,” it added. Opposition parties and rights groups fear that the ruling Georgian Dream party will use the measures to tighten controls over election monitors and journalists to secure another victory in a parliamentary election scheduled for October.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has moved to home care from a hospital in the central city of Banska Bystrica, where he had been recovering from an assassination attempt, the hospital said on Friday. An attacker shot Fico with four bullets at close range when the prime minister greeted supporters at a government meeting in the central Slovak town of Handlova on May 15. The attack left Fico, 59, in a serious condition and needing a five-hour operation and another one two days later.

The EU and US have been “too soft” on Serbia and should set a deadline for it to adopt sanctions on Russia, the Kosovan prime minister said this week. Albin Kurti said Belgrade needed to side with the west against Moscow to give Kosovo reassurance that it was committed to normalising relations. Brussels and Washington “need to change their approach and give a timeline to Serbia . . . to put sanctions on the Russian Federation and to quit trying to sit on three or four stools,” Kurti told the Financial Times in an interview.

Hungary’s government signed an accord with Belarus to help build Hungary’s second nuclear plant, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in a statement in Minsk on Wednesday. Hungary’s PAK 2 reactor has been under construction by Russia’s Rosatom since 2014. The Russian company is building two reactors with a capacity of 1.2 GW each at PAKS 2 in central Hungary. “Of great importance is the agreement signed here today on nuclear energy cooperation, which allows us to use the experiences Belarus gained here while constructing reactors with a similar technology,” Szijjártó said.

Belarusian flag-carrier Belavia has failed to convince the European General Court to lift restrictions on the carrier, imposed after the airline was accused of aiding illegal migration to the EU for political purposes. State-owned Belavia was sanctioned over concerns that it was supporting efforts in 2021 by president Alexander Lukashenko’s regime to undermine the EU, by transporting migrants from the Middle East to Minsk and facilitating illegal border crossings. Belavia claimed it did not receive any instructions from the Belarusian government ordering it to operate flights to facilitate illegal EU migration.

Poland will have to pay 68 million euros in EU fines over the continued operation of the Turow coal mine despite court orders to the contrary, the EU’s lower court ruled on Wednesday. In 2021, the European Commission ordered Warsaw to close down the controversial Turow open-cast coal mine in the German-Czech-Polish border region, saying it was endangering Czech groundwater levels. When the government failed to comply, the EU executive began levying fines of 500,000 euros per day—deducting it from EU funds earmarked for the country.

The board of the company that owns the UK’s Royal Mail has agreed to a formal takeover offer for the 500-year-old organisation. Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky has firmed up an offer of five billion UK pounds, including assumed debts, for the company which employs more than 150,000 people. The entrepreneur said he had the “utmost respect” for its history and tradition. The offer includes commitments to retain the name, brand, UK headquarters and UK tax residency, as well as protections for employee benefits and pensions.

Romania’s FintechOS, an end-to-end financial product management platform, this week announced the successful completion of a 60 million US dollars Series B+ investment round led by Molten Ventures, Cipio Partners, and BlackRock, alongside existing investors EarlyBird VC, OTB VC, and Gapminder VC. The new funding round comes as the Romanian firm celebrates 40 per cent year-over-year growth and a 170 per cent increase in operating margins. The company says that it is on track to achieve break-even in 2024, underscoring its robust business model.

Photo: Volodymyr Zelensky official Facebook page.

Unlike many news and information platforms, Emerging Europe is free to read, and always will be. There is no paywall here. We are independent, not affiliated with nor representing any political party or business organisation. We want the very best for emerging Europe, nothing more, nothing less. Your support will help us continue to spread the word about this amazing region.

You can contribute here. Thank you.