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Eastern Europe Geopolitical Watch – from June 4 to June 10, 2022

The Eastern Europe Geopolitical Watch Team: Clelia Frouté, Victor Martin, Amandine Paillette, Alicia Tintelin.

06/07/2022: War crimes trial of three alleged mercenaries opens in Donetsk – Amandine Paillette –

On June 7, a trial involving two British and a Moroccan accused by the Kremlin of «terrorism» and «spying» opened. The three prisoners, apparently voluntarily enlisted by the Ukrainian army, were captured in the Mariupol theatre of operations and put on trial by the separatist forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. The foreigners, called mercenaries  by the Russian authorities,  were brought before the Donetsk court and accused of violating various articles of the Criminal Code of the republic.

The three prisoners admitted their guilt in following «training for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities». In addition, the two British men confessed having committed actions with the aim of overthrowing the government by force. The decision that will be made could imply a prison sentence of 15 to 20 years or even life imprisonment, but also a death sentence because of their status as prisoners of war. Indeed, the representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Donetsk Republic, Viktor Gavrilov, told the Russian news agency Interfax «given the wartime situation, the defendants may be liable to capital punishment – the death penalty». However, if the prisoners’ involvement in the Ukrainian army was proven, they would no longer be threatened by the death penalty as this punishment does not apply to «war fighters» in this case. A mercenary is a fighter acting on behalf of a foreign government for the sake of profit. In this sense, the activity of mercenarism being recognized by international law as a crime, the Geneva Convention does not apply to them. 

06/08/2022 : The leaders of Albania, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia and Serbia sign cooperation agreements within the framework of the Open balkans – Amandine Paillette – 

On June 8, was held in Ohrid «Open Balkans», a summit bringing together members of a Balkan economic union composed of Albania, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia and Serbia since October 10, 2019 in order to improve their trade and co-create a regional common market. The occasion for the leaders to strengthen their cooperation by signing agreements in the field of culture, tourism and economy. The companies of Albania, Northern Macedonia and Serbia in charge of road tolls also announced to be discussing a connection of the electronic toll systems of the three countries, facilitating the traffic. Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in the event as observers and guests. 

Northern Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski used the occasion of the summit to emphasise the political significance of this union, which is to accelerate the process of integration of the Western Balkan countries in the European Union. Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement, welcomed this statement, saying that the Open Balkans was a great initiative that would allow the region to face the different challenges it is confronted with. For his part, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, called the summit an «unstoppable initiative of the peoples of the Balkans».

06/08/2022 : Turkyie hosts negotiations with Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations on Ukrainian agricultural reserves facing Russian blockade. – Alicia Tintelin –

On 8 June, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu received his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Ankara to negotiate the establishment of maritime corridors in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea that would allow the export of Ukrainian food resources.

Ukraine has a large granary on which many states depend, and was, before the beginning of the attacks sent by Moscow, about to become the third largest exporter of wheat in the world. The blocking of harvests – estimated at 20 million tons – inside Ukrainian ports could pose a threat of famine in some countries of Africa and the Middle East and lead to the death of «millions» people, as the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs warned. So the war is also on the agricultural front, and Russia and Ukraine are challenging each other’s responsibility for the worsening global food crisis.

At the request of the UN, Turkey proposes to be at the initiative of the demining of the Ukrainian ports to subsequently escort maritime convoys. The establishment of maritime corridors seems to be on track and Mevlüt Cavusoglu would like Istanbul to host an «observation center» to monitor the proper execution.

The presence of Sergei Lavrov in Turkyie is not insignificant and represents for Ankara the opportunity to reaffirm its intention to be a mediator between the two belligerents. Thus far, attempts to negotiate through Turkey have been rather futile and Turkey’s position needs to be clarified. Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the phone with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who reportedly told him he was ready to work with Turkey to free the sea routes blocked by the war.

06/08/2022: Moldova’s Supreme Security Council meets to discuss food security. -Victor Martin-

On June 8, Moldovan President Maia Sandu convened the Supreme Security Council (SSC) to ensure Moldova’s food security as the war in Ukraine rages on, driving up food prices. 

At the end of the meeting, the SSC said it wanted to improve and facilitate trade, both exports and imports, in order to facilitate supplies. The state’s mandatory reserves for food and raw materials will be increased. 

Finally, the Ministries of Agriculture and Economy will have to finalise a new food security strategy within three weeks, which could include strict export controls. 

06/08-09/2022: New appointments for the governments of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. – Clelia Frouté –

On June 8, the government of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic was sacked following the resignation of Prime Minister Alexandr Ananchenko, requested by the head of the republic Denis Pushilin. 

Denis Pushilin justifies this order by the need to stimulate the process of integration of the republic. A second decree appointed as new Prime Minister Vitaly Khotsenko, previously an official of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Vitaly Khotsenko said that «the synchronisation of the legislation with the Russian Federation is of crucial importance», and that thus shows a desire to reform in order to achieve a «unification with the Russian laws».

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Kremlin, commented on the announcement to confirm that «an exchange of views had taken place», and that the Kremlin «respects the decision of the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic». He added that «Moscow expected new members of the government to help intensify efforts to revive the region».

Dmitry Peskov took the opportunity to announce that future election appointments would be made in the «liberated» Ukrainian regions.

At the same time, Leonid Pasechnik, head of the Luhansk People’s Republic, appointed Vladislav Kuznetsov, the former Deputy Governor of the Russian Kurgan Region, as the first Deputy Governor of the Luhansk People’s Republic.

06/09/2022: The European Union opens its market to Moldovan agricultural products. -Victor Martin-

On June 9, the European Union decided to open its market more widely to exports of Moldovan agricultural products and more specifically seven products (plums, grapes, apples, tomatoes, garlic, cherries and grape juice). These exports are subject to quotas that have temporarily been doubled. Other exports are not subject to these quotas. The volumes affected by this partial liberalisation represent 55 million euros.

This decision “is a tangible sign of the solidarity of the European Union” with the countries that are victims of the consequences of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, said Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission. Indeed, the Moldovan economy has suffered greatly from this conflict, with inflation now reaching 29%.

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