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War in Ukraine. Daily updates. Day 37 [10.00 am, 01.04.2022 🇬🇧🇪🇸🇭🇷🇬🇪🇷🇸🇬🇷🇭🇷🇫🇷🇩🇪🇨🇿🇵🇱🇮🇹🇷🇺🇯🇵🇹🇷🇱🇻🇸🇪]

Foreign policy. On Thursday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stated that ‘Russian units are not withdrawing but repositioning’. Russia is trying to regroup, resupply and reinforce its offensive on the Donbas region. At the same time, Russia maintains pressure on Kyiv and other cities. Previously US and UK officials confirmed this information as well. 

The extension of the mandate of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine was blocked by Russia, the official statement informs. The OSCE SMM has been present as an international monitor at the Donbas territory since 2014, following a request by the Ukrainian government to the OSCE, and by a consensus decision by all 57 participating States. “Mission has been playing a crucial role by providing objective information on the security and humanitarian situation on the ground and relentlessly working to ease the effects of the conflict on the civilian population,” OSCE Chairman Rau said.

Roberta Metsola, European Parliament President, is on her way to Kyiv. She will be the first chief of the EU establishment visiting Ukraine since the beginning of the war. The details of the visit are not revealed, however, the spokesperson has confirmed she ‘will pass a message of support and hope on behalf of the European Parliament’.

Election weekend approaches Hungary, France, and Serbia. The roll-out of the election campaigns has been impacted by the war in Ukraine. In France, President Macron has been leveraging the rotating French presidency of the Council of the European Union (each Member State holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on a rotational basis for six months – Editor’s note) along with his own election campaign. In addition, he tried to steer attempts of the peacekeeping process with Putin, acting as a last communication channel with Russia. As for Hungary and Serbia, regardless of both Presidents’ ties with Russia, they most likely will remain in their seats. Learn more about Hungary and Serbia’s electoral situation analysis.

Redeployment vs Withdrawal. President Zelenskyi in his daily night address underlined the difficult situation in Ukraine’s South and in Donbas, warning about Russia’s build-up of forces near the besieged city of Mariupol. In the light of current regrouping and preparation for the troops’ redeployment, the Polish Prime Minister warned in a CNN interview, that Russia aims to capture a third of Ukrainian territory in order to strengthen its negotiating position. Hanna Maliar, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense, stated that the Russians aim to take full control of the entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and might even try to take over the Kharkiv region. There is an active movement of the Russian troops close to Gomel, Belarus, as more missile systems are relocated there. 

Cities under attack. Two Russian missiles hit a military base in the Dnipropetrovsk region, as a result, two were killed, five were injured. Russian troops have intensified shelling in Kharkiv, where a missile hit the central part of the city. Also in Kharkiv, a gas pipeline was damaged during the shelling, leaving 34 thousand inhabitants without gas. Russian troops fired at an oil depot in Fastiv, Kyiv region. Heavy shelling was in Luhansk region, particularly in Severodonetsk, Rubizhne, Lysychansk, Kreminna. 20 objects of infrastructure were damaged, among them were 9 apartment blocks and 9 private houses. Liberated Trostyanets, Sumy region, calls for help, as 90% of the city remains without heating, water and electricity. In Melitopol, all school directors wrote resignation letters in order not to cooperate with the invaders, mayor Ivan Fedorov says. In Mariupol, the Ukrainian officials, International Red Cross, and Russian news agencies reported that the corridor could begin on Friday. Finally, Ukrainian Armed Forces have liberated eleven settlements in the Kherson region, five in Zaporizhzhia region, and two in Chernigiv region.

Energy security. The World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) will transfer all Ukrainian nuclear power plants’ operations to its Paris Center. Previously, Ukrainian NPPs were part of the Moscow center. The association brings together power plant operators of the world and promotes the exchange of experience between nuclear power plants so that members of the association can work together to achieve the highest level of safety and reliability in the operation of their nuclear power plants.

Russian troops withdrew from the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant after more than a month of occupation. “Currently, there are no unauthorized personnel at the site of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant at the moment”, — State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management reported. However, the mayor of Slavutych, a nearby town and home base for many of the plant workers, informed that Russian troops have taken Ukrainian National Guardsmen hostage since the first days of the plant seizure.

Economic security. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development warns about the greatest supply shock  since at least the early 1970s, as war in Ukraine causes a major growth slowdown. The ongoing war will lead to increased costs for commodities such as food, oil, gas and metals, which will have a profound impact on economies, particularly those in lower-income countries. The EBRD forecasts assume that if a ceasefire is set in the upcoming months, Ukraine’s GDP as of the end of 2023 will be still below pre-war levels.

Sanctions. More sanctions against Russia are announced. Australia imposes an additional 35% fees for all imports from Russia and Belarus. Earlier, their government imposed large-scale sanctions on more than 500 Russian companies and individuals and banned the import of Russian oil. In addition to the sanctions, the Australian Government will provide humanitarian aid, thermal coal supplies, and temporary protection systems. The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on 13 Russian individuals and 21 Russian legal entities working in the field of scientific research and technology. The sanctions will target Russian sanctions evasion networks as well companies in the technology sector.

The EU has already introduced the 4th package of sanctions against Russia. However, it will take some time before Russia will feel a significant effect. Some EU Member States express hesitance to proceed with cutting gas ties with Russia. Russian gas made up 42% of Europe’s gas imports via pipelines alone. Shutting that off would create painful economic fallout for European countries that are already grappling with the specter of high inflation, says POLITICO. At €60.1 billion in 2020, energy makes up around two-thirds of Europe’s imports from Russia. Have a look at our recent factsheet about EU energy (in)dependence. 

Digital security. Reports indicate Russia had full access to Hungary’s foreign ministry networks, and the Hungarian government has been unable to stop them. Russian hackers completed a series of attacks on the Ministry’s communication channels, including the latest one in January 2022. This allowed Russia to gain access to all official communication and documents. Meanwhile, there has been no public protest from the Hungarian government regarding this Russian cyber espionage. 

Tech workers urge companies to join Ukraine’s digital blockade of Russia. While Microsoft, SAP, IBM previously have announced limiting their operation in Russia, they still maintain operations or staff in Russia despite Ukraine’s appeals. Small groups of employees at Microsoft, SAP and IBM have called on their management to withdraw fully from Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian hackers have recently attempted to penetrate the networks of NATO and the militaries of some eastern European countries, Google’s Threat Analysis Group said in a report published on Wednesday. While information is unavailable on which units were targeted, one of the aims was credentials phishing. 

Disinformation. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation issued a new statement about ‘biological weapons in Ukraine’. The document indicates that the activities of ‘five Kiev biological laboratories’ have been terminated. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation claims that Hunter Biden, son of the US President, was involved in pathogen work in Ukraine. Russia also claims that Ukraine considered the possibility of transporting radioactive, biologically hazardous and narcotic substances using drones, including Bayraktars.

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