Ukraine asks for more US military aid
Additionally, Albania’s political feud continues, Navalny’s defender arrested, and more.
The big story: Blinken heads to Ukraine
What happened: US military assistance to Ukraine will be on the agenda during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s two-day visit from May 5. The US Congress has allocated around $ 400 million in “security assistance” for Ukraine this year, Acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip T. Reeker said at a briefing, according to Interfax-Ukraine. The deployment by Russia of a around 150,000 soldiers recently, near the Ukrainian border and in the Crimea, raised fears of renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine. Russia began withdrawing its troops last week, a development Blinken said on Sunday that Washington was watching closely.
More context: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy seeks US and EU support after the Kremlin downs his proposed summit meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Zelenskiy has to face the reality which, according to the Financial Times, “The Russian president may not, for now, want peace in Donbass, where 14,000 combatants and civilians have been killed – unless Kiev accepts conditions that are politically unacceptable to any Ukrainian leader.”
To note: Russia has granted citizenship to 527,000 people in separatist-controlled areas of Ukraine over the past two years. Viktor Vodolatsky, deputy chairman of a State Duma’s foreign relations committee, said that up to 1 million new passports could be issued to Ukrainians by the end of the year, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reports.
Central Europe and Baltic States
- A underwater tunnel twice the length of the Channel Tunnel could link Tallinn and Helsinki in a few years. EstoniaEconomy Minister Taavi Aas and Finnish Transport Minister Timo Harakka signed a memorandum of understanding last week on joint transport projects, including the possibility of a 103-kilometer (64-mile) rail tunnel, public broadcaster ERR Reports. The 15 to 20 billion euros project, largely funded by Chinese investors, would cut dramatically Travel time for the 10,000 Estonians who take daily ferries to Helsinki.
- Unemployment in Poland and the Czech Republic remained the EU’s lowest in March, according to data from the EU’s statistical agency, Eurostat. Poland recorded an unemployment rate of 3.1%, one point lower than the Czech Republic, the Netherlands after 3.5%, Poland First news reports. The average for the bloc as a whole was 7.3%, up from 6.4% in March 2020. Thanks in large part to generous job retention programs, the EU economy has lost only 2.6 million workers since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, compared to 9.6 million jobs lost in the United States, a study by the Pew Research Center find.
South Eastern Europe
- To accuse President Ilir Meta violating the constitution during the recent election campaign, members of Albania the socialist party in power has started a process of impeachment against him, Associated Press reports. Meta, a longtime enemy of the socialists Prime Minister Edi Rama, accused Rama of leading a “kleptocratic regime” and of concentrating power in his hands. Socialists won 74 seats out of 140 in the April 25 elections, allowing them to govern without forming a coalition. Rama has been Prime Minister since 2013.
- the Kosovo government campaign to build modern replicas of traditional houses with stone tower to stimulate the patriotic spirit to its detractors, Balkan Insight Reports. Kulla The houses were built for defense in the Albanian-speaking areas during the late Ottoman period, but unlike the originals, the new state-funded houses in Kosovo are built of brick covered with decorative stones. “It’s unprofessional and mediocre,” heritage expert Sali Shoshi said. Although they appear on tourist routes, many original surviving kullas in northern Albania, it is in dire need of repairs, Exit News Notes.
Eastern Europe and Russia
- Russian lawyer Ivan Pavlov, who defended clients accused of treason and revealing state secrets, was arrested in Moscow on April 30. Pavlov leads Team 29, a group of lawyers some of whom represent the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s organization, Meduza Reports. Police also searched Team 29’s office in St. Petersburg, Pavlov’s wife’s apartment and her dacha, RFE / RL reports. Pavlov is accused of illegally disclosing confidential preliminary investigation information in an unnamed case. Among those accused of treason that Team 29 represented was former journalist Ivan Safronov.
- Siberian scientists began to tattoo sacred hawks with the aim of preventing endangered birds from smuggling out of the country. As Siberian Times reports, bird watchers tattooed “SOS” on the beaks of 12 birds and the number 22 above their claws. Poaching has helped halve Russia’s Saker Falcon population over the past 20 years, to 1,200 breeding pairs, scientists say. Falcons illegally captured in Siberia, Central Asia and South Asia are often smuggled into the Middle East, where award-winning birds can sell for over $ 100,000.
- At least seven journalists have been attacked or threatened Tajikistan last year, as the climate for freedom of expression and information in the authoritarian country deteriorated further, according to the International Partnership for Human Rights in Brussels. Journalists can no longer cover subjects deemed sensitive by the authorities “without endangering their safety or that of those close to them,” the group said. “Several dozen” Tajik journalists have received asylum in Germany and other European countries after fleeing repression at home, and authorities were exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to tighten the screws even further, journalist Marat Mamadshoev told Deutsche Welle Last June.
- Turkish media Sunday reported the arrest of a high-ranking official Islamic State figure in Istanbul, Agence France Presse reports, claiming that the man, known as “Basim”, was a close ally of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before he was killed by US special forces in 2019. “Basim” was reportedly said to have been responsible for the “so-called military wing of ISIS”. Turkish broadcaster NTV said. DHA news agency said he was arrested on April 28 after arriving in Istanbul with false documents.