Eastern Europe Geopolitical Watch – From November 19 to November 25, 2022

Eastern Europe Watch Team : Matisse Grenier, Alicia Tintelin, Olga Chekhurska, Séverine Ly,  Elisabeth Nagy and Olivier Husson

21/11/2022: New financial aid granted to Moldova during the third ministerial conference of the Moldova Support Platform -Séverine Ly-

According to the Elysée’s press release, the third ministerial conference of the Moldova Support Platform took place in Paris on 21 November. Bringing together representatives of thirty-six states and fifteen international organisations, this platform co-chaired by France, Germany and Romania was created last March to provide “operational (…) and concrete solutions” to one of the main collateral victims of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

At the end of the conference, the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, announced a “new envelope of more than one hundred million euros“, the first ten of which will be paid by the end of the year in the form of grants to UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF to support the 80,000 Ukrainian refugees in Moldova.

The Moldovan president, Maia Sandu, thanked on Twitter her French counterpart for his “warm welcome“, his “confidence” and his “support“. But she also spoke at the conference about the situation in her country, recalling that despite the aid already provided, Moldova is facing “a dramatic energy crisis, a shrinking economy and extreme high inflation of 35%” and remains “the most vulnerable neighbour of Ukraine”. Echoing this, on November 23, the country once again suffered “massive power outages” as a result of Russian bombing of the Ukrainian power grid, according to Moldova’s Deputy Prime Minister on Facebook

21/11/2022: WHO expresses concern over the challenges of a tough winter for Ukraine, after numerous Russian attacks on health and energy infrastructure – Alicia Tintelin.

On 21 November, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, expressed in a public statement in Kyiv his concern about the humanitarian challenges related to access to energy and health care. In his opinion, “the devastating energy crisis, the deepening mental health emergency, constraints on humanitarian access and the risk of viral infections will make this winter a formidable test for the Ukrainian health system and the Ukrainian people, but also for the world and its commitment to support Ukraine”.

To date, the health system is suffering from the partial or complete destruction of “half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure”. According to the WHO, 703 Russian attacks on the Ukrainian health system have been recorded since the beginning of the war, which is a violation of international humanitarian law and the law of war. As a result of these attacks causing power outages, hundreds of hospitals and care facilities are non-operational.

On 23 November, “the whole city” of Lviv suffered a power outage caused by Russian strikes on energy plants, reported Andrii Sadovy, the city’s mayor, on Twitter. On the same day, the local army official, Oleksii Kouleba, reported that the entire Kyiv region was deprived of electricity.

On 22 November, Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Telegram the opening of special “Points of Invincibility” for Ukrainians who have lost access to basic services. Attacks on energy infrastructure are depriving the local population of electricity, heating, water and the Internet. The centres should therefore provide all these resources free of charge and on an ongoing basis. The Ukrainian president indicated that 4,000 centres had already opened and that the opening of new centres should follow.

What is described as a strategy from the Russians to make the war unbearable to the Ukrainians, comes at a time when the need for access to care is significant. If the war is now in its ninth month, nearly 10 million people are likely to be affected by mental disorders related to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the WHO. In preparation for winter, Ukraine needs additional resources for its health care system. This issue is therefore on the agenda of the Ukrainian Conference to be held in Paris on 13 December, under the auspices of Emmanuel Macron and Volodymyr Zelensky.

22/11/2022: Ukrainian security services raided the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra complex- Olga Chekhurska.

On 22nd November, the Ukrainian security services, according to its public relations department, together with the national police and National Guard carried out the “counter-intelligence measures aimed at countering the subversive activities by Russian special services” in order to prevent the use of the cave monastery as the “centre of the Russian world” and to protect the population from provocations and terrorist attacks. The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery, home of the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, is suspected of links with Russia.

The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is the oldest monastery in Kyiv, founded in the 11th century. It is also the headquarters of the Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that falls under the Moscow Patriarchate. Later the same day, Ukrainian security services announced that they were carrying out further “counter-intelligence activities” in two monasteries in the Rivne region, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Sarny diocese also falling under the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Ukrainian security services were monitoring people in the territory regarding their involvement “in illegal activities to the detriment of the sovereignty of the Ukrainian state” and carrying out to look into suspicions “about the use of the premises for sheltering sabotage and reconnaissance groups, foreign citizens, weapons storage“, which would be hidden in the monastery under religious cover.

According to the statement of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on November 23, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church denounces “unproven and baseless” accusations of collaboration and insists that the investigation must be impartial. They also recalled that they condemned the Russian invasion in Ukraine and have supported Ukraine since the first days of the war.

23/11/2022: More than seventy missiles fired by Russia at Ukraine -Severine Ly-

On 23 November, the Ukrainian Air Force Ministry announced on Telegram that “51 out of 70 enemy cruise missiles and five suicide drones were shot down” during the day. Launched from the Russian regions of Volgodonsk, Rostov and the Caspian and Black Seas, the missiles caused extensive material damage plunging much of Ukraine into darkness, without water or internet. 

The Kiev region was particularly affected, targeted by 30 missiles according to the Ukrainian armed forces on Facebook. Ten managed to escape the air defence and damaged critical infrastructure and residential buildings. As a result, the region was completely switched off, heating and water supply suspended. 

The attacks also affected the regions of Vinnytsia, Lviv, Khmelnitsky, Odessa, Mykolayiv, Dnipro, Zaporizhia, Sumy and Kryvyi Rih, but all administrative regions suffered partial or total power cuts accompanied by some deactivation of water stations according to local medias (24 канал, top news, байрактар…)

Shortly after the end of the air alert, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Twitter to have “requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council”. A few hours later, he condemned these energy strikes before the UN, calling them “crimes against humanity“. His French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, also denounced on Twitter the “massive bombing” recalling that “any strike against civilian infrastructure is a war crime and can not go unpunished”.

23/11/2022 : The European Parliament makes Serbia’s continued accession process conditional on alignment with Western sanctions against Russia. -Matisse Grenier-

According to a press release published on 23 November on the European Parliament’s website, MEPs said that any further enlargement must be conditional on the candidate country’s alignment with EU foreign policy. The press release does not fail to highlight the case of Serbia, for which “Accession negotiations [with Serbia] should only move forward if the country supports EU sanctions against Russia and makes significant progress in EU-related reforms“.

According to Balkan Insight, the resolution received 502 votes in favour, 75 against and 61 abstentions. Serbia has been a candidate for EU membership since 2012, but its ambivalent foreign policy towards Russia, but also Kosovo, remains an obstacle to rapid integration.

Finally, MEPs urged that the funds allocated by the EU to the Serbian authorities be reviewed and better supervised to ensure that they serve European values and strategic interests.

22/11/2022 : Canada Announces Belarus Sanctions As Opposition Leader Visits -Olivier Husson-

On 22 November, according to CBC, Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during her first official visit to Canada. “I will ask Canada to speak out and to take steps in support of our independence” she said at the press conference. Political prisoners number at least 1400 in Belarus. 

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly told the press conference that Belarusian authorities are committing human rights violations and that Belarus is helping the Russians launch attacks on Ukraine. “These measures will increase the pressure on the Belarusian leadership” she said, calling on President Alexander Lukashenko to “stop being a tool of the Russian regime“.

According to Barron’s, the sanctions will also impact 16 Belarusian companies in the military, technology, engineering, transport and banking sectors. In total, more than 100 individuals and entities have been added to the sanctions list by Canada since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

While last month’s announcement of cooperation between Belarus and Russia fueled fears that Minsk could be gearing up to send its troops into Ukraine, Tikhanovskaya cited a recent poll showing that 86% of Belarusians were strongly opposed to the participation of the Belarusian military in the conflict.  “If such an order is made, we would call on Belarusian soldiers to disobey, to defect, to refuse to fulfill the orders“, she stressed.

23/11/2022: Serbia and Kosovo, towards a sustainable peace agreement? – Elisabeth Nagy-

Since September 2021, according to euronews, tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have been growing. Serbia, led by President Aleksander Vucic, and Kosovo, led by Prime Minister Albin Kurti, have been unable to reach an agreement on the issue of licence plates. 

Indeed, this conflict has a political and identity-related dimension. Serbia continued to issue Kosovar number plates dating from before the country’s declaration of independence in 1999, to which Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti reacted by threatening to fine the 10,000 or so Kosovars living in Kosovo who kept these plates. It should be noted that Serbia still does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state, which it considers the cradle of the Serbian nation and religion.

After several threats from the Kosovar government, and a failure of negotiations between the two leaders on 20 November in Brussels, an agreement was finally reached on Wednesday 23 November in Brussels. 

I am delighted to announce that the negotiators (Kosovar and Serbian, editor’s note) have agreed, under the aegis of the EU, on measures to avoid a new escalation,” tweeted Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy. Serbia pledged to stop issuing licence plates, and Kosovo to have them replaced. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke out on the issue last October, saying: “It is important that the rules are respected. There are clear rules and laws and they must be followed in all countries. At the same time, if there is a transition period, the transition must be smooth, it must be inclusive.”

These new measures should ease tensions between the two countries somewhat, although the demands of the Serbs in Kosovo do not stop there. Indeed, they want the creation of associations in Serb-majority municipalities with a large degree of autonomy, promised in 2015 by the Brussels agreements. 

However, both countries want to join the EU, but to do so they will have to find a peace agreement, which is a sine qua non condition for their membership. 


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