Last week, in Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus, police violence against activists continued in the aftermath of mass demonstrations in Kazakhstan. In Montenegro, a junior member of the government coalition launched a motion of no-confidence in the government, sparking demonstrations across the country. In Austria and Germany, demonstrations against coronavirus-related measures, such as compulsory vaccination, continued to rise. In Greece, far-left activity increased after police removed anarchist squatters from university grounds. Meanwhile, the migrant crisis continued along the Belarusian-Polish border.
In Kazakhstan, reports of torture and police brutality continued to surface last week following mass demonstrations that started on 2 January over a liquified petroleum gas price hike. Media outlets and the Kazakhstan-based Coalition against Torture human rights group have registered dozens of incidents of the torture of arrested demonstrators in police custody (KIBHR, 19 January 2022). International organizations have also criticized the Kazakh government for failing to protect human rights during the crisis (HRW, 13 January 2022; European Parliament, 20 January 2022). These trends contribute to the 625% increase in violence in Kazakhstan over the past month relative to the past year that is flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map. (For more on the outbreak of demonstrations in Kazakhstan, see ACLED’s infographic on Demonstrations in Kazakhstan).
In Montenegro, demonstrations broke out across the country last week as a political crisis developed within the ruling government coalition. On 19 January, the United Reform Action (URA), a junior coalition party, launched a motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic that will be voted on in parliament in early February (Balkan Insight, 19 January 2022). The URA justifies this move by referring to the ongoing political crisis in the country, where the parliamentary majority blocks important initiatives, including the ones related to EU integration (DW, 21 January 2022). The party of ex-President Milo Djukanovic, the Democratic Party of Socialists, as well as the rest of the current parliamentary opposition support the motion, which should provide enough votes for the no-confidence vote to pass (DW, 21 January 2022). Demonstrations against the no-confidence vote were organized by supporters of other coalition parties, who claim that the URA is acting against the will of voters in the country. Some demonstrators also expressed Serbian nationalist sentiments.
In Austria, demonstration events, often involving far-right actors and parties, were organized across the country ahead of the National Council’s adoption of the Mandatory Vaccination Act on 20 January. The law makes vaccination compulsory for adults without a medical exemption from February, making Austria the first EU member state to do so (Euractiv, 21 January 2022). In Germany, demonstration levels increased last week by just under 40%, driven by similar demonstration events against the possibility of compulsory vaccination. Demonstrations drew support from Querdenken members and far-right groups, and counter-demonstrations saw participation from Alliance Against the Right and local elected officials. While violent demonstrations are continuing at a comparatively steady rate, the regions in which they are taking place continue to fluctuate, with Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Niedersachsen the most active regions last week. These trends contribute to the 123% increase in violence in Germany over the past month relative to the past year that is flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map.
In Greece, far-left activity spiked last week after police raided a university building and cleared the basement area, which had been used for squatting by anarchist groups for 34 years (Ekathimerini, 12 January 2022), contributing to a 100% increase in violence in the country last week relative to the month prior, as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map. Demonstrators oppose the eviction of the anarchist squatters from university grounds and clashed with police in Thessaloniki last week. Smaller incidents of far-left rioting also took place in Athens and Thessaloniki, opposing the presence of police on university campuses. ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker warned of a surge in violence in Attica, home to Athens, earlier this month.
On the Belarusian-Polish border, the migrant crisis continued, contributing to a 263% increase in violence in Poland last month relative to the past year, as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map; this violence has centered in Podlaskie, which has seen a 388% increase in violence over the past month relative to the past year, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker. Polish border guards continue to report attempts by migrants to cross the border from Belarus, leading to clashes between migrants and Polish police and military forces. Amid the ongoing border crossing attempts, Belarusian military forces threw stones at Polish soldiers and helped migrants to cut the wire fence along the border (Straz Graniczna, 19 January 2022). International organizations report human rights abuses against the migrants stranded at the border by both Polish and Belarusian forces (UN News, 9 November 2021; DW, 6 January 2022).
In the Donbas region of Ukraine, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-led forces decreased last week compared to the previous week. There were 31 armed clashes, 58 shelling incidents, and no fatalities reported. Despite the decrease in violence, tensions between Ukraine and Russia remain high. There is an estimated 100,000 Russian troops poised for a possible move across the border into Ukraine, and Russia continues to demand written guarantees that Kyiv will never be allowed to join NATO (New York Times, 21 January 2022).
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