Category Archives: Conflict

EU: Sweden moves towards NATO

Brussels 16.05.2022 “Let me stress my strong support to Sweden and Finland. Some minutes ago, I had a conversation with the Swedish Minister [for Foreign Affairs, Ann Linde], who was kind enough to call me, to inform that the process has started, that they are going to inform the King, and that there is strong support for this decision inside the Swedish society and the Swedish political spectrum” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said at the doorstep of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, Brussels.

“So, I think the European Union Member States will support this decision, and I hope we could override the opposition of some members of NATO,” he added.

Finland joins NATO without delay

Brussels 12.04.2022 Finland announced it would apply to join NATO “without delay”, with Sweden expected to follow suit, suggesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will bring about the very expansion of the Western military alliance that Vladimir Putin attempted to prevent.

The decision by the two Nordic countries to abandon the neutrality they maintained throughout the Cold War would be a giant shift in European security structure in decades. Finland’s announcement provoked indignation from the Kremlin, which called it a direct threat to Russia and promised an unspecified relevant response.

The announcement by President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin means that Finland is all but certain to join the Western military alliance, though a few steps remain before the application process can begin. Neighbouring Sweden is expected to decide on application for NATO membership in coming days.

“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance,” Niinisto and Marin said in a joint statement.

“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” they said. “We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”

MEPs protect Ukraine women

Strasbourg 05.05.2022 The European Parliament (pictured) debated and will vote on how to protect women fleeing Ukraine from violence and trafficking, and on granting them access to essential health services.

On Thursday, MEPs are set to strongly condemn the use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war and to express their deep concern about the growing number of reports of human trafficking, sexual violence, exploitation, rape and abuse faced by women and children fleeing Ukraine. They are expected to call for trafficking networks that profit from sexual exploitation of women refugees to be identified and prosecuted.

MEPs are also set to urge the EU and all host and transit countries to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), particularly emergency contraception and abortion care, including for victims of rape, as well as obstetric care.

According to the UNHCR, more than five million refugees – 90% of whom are women and children – have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion started on 24 February. A further 7.1 million people are internally displaced within Ukraine, including women and children in need of medical care.

AMENDMENT: The European Parliament adopted a resolution (462-19-89) calling on the EU to protect Ukraine women refugees from violence and sexual exploitation.

Lithuania: letter “Z” ban

Brussels 20.04.2022 The Parliament of Lithuania voted to ban public displays of the letter “Z”, the black and orange ribbon of St George, and other symbols seen as expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The vote took place on Tuesday, April 19.

Russian military vehicles in Ukraine are prominently marked with the letter “Z”, and it has started appearing on social media and on garments elsewhere in support of the Russian army.

Meanwhile the ribbon of St.George, first introduced as an honour by Catherine the Great, has gained significance in the Russian-speaking sphere since separatists in eastern Ukraine adopted it as a symbol of their support for Russia in 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent the troops into Ukraine on what he calls a “special military operation” to “de-militarise and de-nazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

The Lithuanian decision occurs after similar bans in Latvia and Moldova. Germany was also considering such a ban. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has previously called for a universal ban of the political use of the letter “Z,” saying it signified “Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians.”

Finland considers joining NATO in weeks

Brussels 13.04.2022 Finland will take a decision about whether to apply to join NATO in the next few weeks, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (pictured) said on Wednesday, April 13, underlining a shift in security perspectives since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We have to be prepared for all kinds of actions from Russia,” Marin told journalists during a news conference in Stockholm with her Swedish counterpart.

The head of government said the option to join NATO had to be carefully analysed but that everything had changed when Russian forces invaded Ukraine in late February.

“The difference between being a partner and being a member is very clear and will remain so. There is no other way to have security guarantees than under NATO’s deterrence and common defence as guaranteed by NATO’s Article 5,” Marin added.

Finland and fellow Nordic state and neighbour Sweden are close partners with NATO but have shied away from joining the 30-member alliance, founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

52 percent of Finnish Swedes say yes to NATO membership, shows a recent survey Swedish Yle and the think tank Magma commissioned. This is a smaller proportion than in Finland as a whole.

Today, Wednesday, the Government is expected to approve and present the defense policy report. It will be discussed in the Riksdag next week.

At the same time, a new survey shows that Swedes in Finland express greater uncertainty regarding NATO membership than the general population does. Survey has been commissioned by Svenska Yle together with the think tank Magma.

The survey shows that Finnish Swedes’ NATO support is lower in Finland overall. 52 percent of Finnish Swedes say yes to NATO membership, compared with over 60 percent in Yle’s latest NATO survey for the entire
population.

“I won’t give any kind of timetable when we will make our decisions, but I think it will happen quite fast – within weeks not within months,” said Marin, whose country shares a 1,300-km (810-mile)-long border with Russia to the east.

She said it was important to reach consensus in Finland, which fought Soviet invaders during World War Two and has been militarily non-aligned since then, and that political parties would have internal talks and in parliament in coming weeks.

EU diplomats: talks on food and energy price

Brussels 11.04.2022 “We are going to discuss about Ukraine, once again” said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell upon arrival to Foreign affairs Council in Luxembourg.

“I will debrief the Foreign Affairs Council about the travel to Ukraine, together with the President of the Commission [Ursula von der Leyen]. We have witnessed what is happening there, the brutal aggression of the Russian troops against the civilian population. We came back really move after what we have seen. Really, you can go to Kyiv. Go to Kyiv as much as you can and witness.

“We have opened our Delegation there. We are going to discuss how we can support better the Ukrainian people and also how we can support the International Criminal Court [ICC]. I have just been meeting with the [ICC] Prosecutor, Mr [Karim] Khan. We will provide as much support as we can, through our mission, to the prosecutors, both the Ukrainian and the ICC prosecutors.

“We will also discuss about other issues. The Global Gateway, for example. How we can better partner around the world with our like-minded countries and how we can support them in order to face the economic crisis, which is coming. Because everybody will have to face the consequences of this war – not of the sanctions, but of the war – in terms of price increase on energy and food”.

“This is more or less what we are going to do today”.

Finland and Sweden way to NATO

Brussels 11.04.2022 Sweden and Finland may join NATO as early as this summer, the Times newspaper reported citing its sources. (Image: Sandra Marin Prime minister of Finland).

According to the news outlet, it is expected that Finland will apply for its membership in June and Sweden will follow.

The governments of Sweden and Finland are co-operating on reaching consensus on the matter domestically, however, the final decision will be made by each country independently.

Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the possible NATO membership of Sweden and Finland became one of the most debated subjects during the April 6-7 meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

EU top diplomats convene in Brussels

Brussels 11.04.2022 The Foreign Affairs Council will review recent events and current affairs, including the situation in Mali, Libya and Yemen.

Ministers will also discuss the latest developments concerning the Russian aggression against Ukraine, following the European Council of 24-25 March 2022.

They will then exchange views on the Global Gateway, the new European strategy to boost smart, clean and secure links in digital, energy and transport sectors and to strengthen health, education and research systems across the world.

Over lunch, EU foreign affairs ministers will hold an informal discussion with the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Anniken Huitfeldt, and the Icelandic Foreign Minister, Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd Gylfadóttir.

NATO pledge for heavy weapons to Ukraine

Brussels 07.04.2022 The NATO member states have agreed to supply new types of advanced weaponry to Ukraine, alliance representatives have said, as Kyiv prepares for a next offensive by Russia in the Donbass region.

The pledge has been announced after a plea from Ukraine Foreign minister to move faster with weapons supplies. Six weeks since Russia invasion of Ukraine, some of the troops have largely withdrawn from territory north of Kyiv after failing to seize the capital, but are regrouping and rearming ahead of an attempt to advance in the Eastern region near Donbass.

These events influenced demands from Kyiv for western countries to supply more heavy weapons, armour and more advanced systems. Ukraine foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said he would use the Alliance meeting in Brussels to ask for aircraft, missiles, armoured vehicles and heavy air defence systems, additionally to the other types of equipment.

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss said to press that member states had agreed to send more weapons.

“There was support for countries to supply new and heavier equipment to Ukraine, so that they can respond to these new threats from Russia,” the top diplomat explained. “And we agreed to help Ukrainian forces move from their Soviet-era equipment to NATO standard equipment, on a bilateral basis.”

Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, said Washington was looking at sending “new systems” to Ukraine.

“We are not going to let anything stand in the way of getting Ukrainians what they need,” he said. “We are looking across the board right now, not only at what we have provided . . . [but] whether there are additional systems that would make a difference.”

Previously the allies have supplied Ukraine with anti-tank missiles, drones and other defensive weaponry before and during the war. However, they have declined to supply other classes of weapons or impose a no-fly zone, as Kyiv has demanded, over the risk of engaging Russia in a wider war.

Ukrainian defence forces with NLAW anti-tank weapons in Kyiv last month: Nato countries have promised to send more advanced systems as a fresh assault by Russia looms
Kuleba said afterwards he was “cautiously optimistic” that alliance states would meet his demand but warned that delays would result in more deaths.

“Either you help us now, and I am speaking about days . . . or your help will come too late,” Kuleba said. The Ukranian diplomat added also added that without these weapons many people might die.

He added: “I was very specific about the requests and the timeline that they should be accommodated. I will be looking forward to the follow-up from allies.”

Ukraine has warned Russia is preparing a fresh offensive in the Donbas, aimed at seizing territory in the two administrative regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which separatists have partially occupied since a Moscow-backed uprising in 2014.

Ukraine’s military authorities on Wednesday called on residents living in the regions to leave “while they still had the chance”.

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary-general, said allies had agreed to “further strengthen” support for Ukraine immediately and in the “medium and long term”.

The promise of further military aid came amid regrets of Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesperson, admitting Russia had suffered “significant losses of troops” during the invasion of Ukraine, which he described as “a huge tragedy” for his compatriots.

Peskov said Russia had withdrawn from Kyiv and Chernihiv in central Ukraine last week as a “goodwill act to lift tension from those regions and show Russia is really ready to create comfortable conditions to continue negotiations”, however fighting would continue in the Donbas, he added.

“It was a clear message from the meeting today that allies should do more and are ready to do more to supply more equipment. They realise and recognise the urgency,” he said.

Europarliament: €3.4bn for Ukraine refugees

Strasbourg 07.04.2022 The EU countries sheltering people fleeing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will immediately receive €3.4 billion, MEPs decided on Thursday, April 7.

Following Parliament’s green light to redirect EU regional and asylum funding to EU countries sheltering people fleeing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during the last plenary session, MEPs adopted additional urgent support measures.

With 549 votes to one and eight abstentions, Parliament agreed to immediately release around €3.4 billion (out of €10 billion available) from the “REACT-EU” funds and speed up EU governments’ access to funds to pay for infrastructure, housing, equipment, employment, education, social inclusion, healthcare and childcare for Ukraine refugees.

The new rules will increase the initial pre-financing of REACT-EU resources from 11% to 15% to all EU countries. EU countries bordering Ukraine – Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia – and those that have received a significant number of refugees from Ukraine equivalent to more than 1% of their national population – Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia and Estonia – can immediately get 45% (rather than 11%) of their recovery funds without any invoices to be presented at this time.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 4 million people have left the country since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, most of them heading to neighbouring countries.

REACT-EU is a €50 billion package set up in 2020 to help mitigate the immediate effects of the COVID-19 crisis across the EU.

The draft rules will now also have to be formally approved by Council. The regulation will enter into force one day after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

« Older Entries