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Eastern Europe Geopolitical Watch – from September 10 to September 16, 2022

The Eastern Europe Weekly Geopolitical Watch Team: Olga Cherkhurska, Elisabeth Nagy, Alicia Tintelin.

09/10/2022: Albania accuses Iran of a new cyber attack, cementing relations between the two countries. – Elisabeth Nagy –

On September 10, 2022, Edi Rama accused Iran of having “hired four groups to mount an attack against Albania“, by launching a cyber-attack against its governmental digital infrastructure. This attack follows an earlier one on July 7. 

Following the attack, the Albanian Prime Minister ordered Iranian diplomatic personnel to leave the country within 24 hours and broke off diplomatic relations with Tehran. 

Since 2013, Iran has condemned Albania for hosting exiles from the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran in Albania, who are considered terrorists by Iran, which has only deepened the friction between the two countries. 

Albania’s identification and information system was shut down for the entire day on Saturday, allowing almost 200 people on trial for crimes in Albania to leave the country, and travel to Dubai where there is no extradition agreement. 

The hackers also sold the stolen information, with payment in Bitcoins to make the transaction untraceable. 

In a statement, Iranian intelligence ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani denied this and accused the US of orchestrating it in order to destabilise the country. However, these hacker groups have been known to be linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which is known to exploit vulnerabilities in computer systems to sell data and demand ransom for its recovery. These groups had also attacked the municipality of New Jersey in February 2021 in the United States, private companies, media, telecommunications and diplomatic and government information. 

NATO has also given support to Albania, where a new attack cannot be ruled out. 

09/10/2022: On the strength of Ukraine’s recent military advances, Volodymyr Zelensky promises that “history will put everything in its place”. – Alicia Tintelin –

On the evening of Sunday September 10, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a resounding war speech before what promises to be a difficult winter. Addressing Russia directly, his firm tone said: “Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst are not as terrible and deadly for us as your ‘friendship and brotherhood‘”, before promising that “history will put everything in its place“.

This speech will be a landmark as it symbolises the current turning point between Russian and Ukrainian forces on the military level. The week leading up to the speech witnessed dramatic reversals on the battlefield as Russian troops retreated in the eastern region of Ukraine and more than 3,000 square kilometres of Ukrainian land was reportedly retaken. Shortly before his speech, Volodymyr Zelensky testified that Russian retaliation in eastern Ukraine had hit infrastructure causing major power cuts throughout the region.

The day after President Zelensky’s speech, the Ukrainian army said it had recovered “more than 20 localities” in 24 hours, mostly in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.

09/15/2022: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visits Kyiv. -Olga Chekhurska-

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv on September 15, 2022, to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Chmyhal. This is his third visit to the Ukrainian capital since the start of the war.

This visit was announced on Wednesday 14 September during an annual speech to the European Parliament. During this speech, Ursula von der Leyen proposed granting Ukraine “easy access to the European single market” and integrating it into the EU’s free roaming zone. She also announced funding of 100 million euros for Ukraine. Ursula von der Leyen said the European Union was not considering lifting sanctions against Russia and was intransigent in its support for Ukraine. She also accused Vladimir Putin of unleashing an energy and economic war against Europe.

And we will be tested. Tested by those who want to exploit any kind of divisions between us. This is not only a war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine. This is a war on our energy, a war on our economy, a war on our values and a war on our future. This is about autocracy against democracy,” said Ursula von der Leyen.

On September 15 the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Chmyhal discussed the process of Ukraine’s integration into the European Union, in particular Ukraine’s desire to integrate the common market of the European Union.

Ursula von der Leyen also assured Volodymyr Zelensky that the European Union would support Ukraine in this war and said:

We can never match the sacrifice Ukrainians are making, [but] what we can say is that you will have your European friends by your side for as long as it takes. We are friends forever.

 

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