Last week in Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus, the Russian military invasion of Ukraine continued, with Russian forces increasing operational focus on the Donbas region. Demonstrations against the invasion across the European region continue to be prevalent, with anti-war rallies continuing in Russian cities, despite intimidation by the state. Elsewhere, the government in Northern Cyprus resigned over an internal dispute over electricity price increases. Environmental activists demonstrated across Europe, demanding more climate action. And lastly, demonstration activity continued in France in the lead-up to the presidential run-off election on 24 April.
In Ukraine, Russian forces focused operation activities on the Donbas region last week, where Russia has been supporting separatist armed formations since 2014 (Hromadske 18 April 2022). More than half of all political violence events in Ukraine last week were recorded in Donbas. Increased activity in the Donetsk region in Donbas comes as the city of Mariupol remains under siege. Ukrainian forces continued to fight from their positions in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, despite a Russian ultimatum to surrender (USA Today, 21 April 2022). Alongside Ukrainian soldiers, about 1,000 civilians are trapped in the Azovstal plant as Russia refuses to facilitate the opening of humanitarian corridors (Hromadske, 25 April 2022).
Heavy fighting also continued in the southern regions of Ukraine last week. While fighting was mostly centered in the Zaporizhia region, heavy fighting was also recorded in the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, where Russian forces occupy territories that link the Donbas region with occupied Crimea. This violence contributed to the 113% increase in violence in Ukraine last month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month.1 Amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, changes in the media landscape, inaccurate or delayed reporting on active fighting, and the pullout of international monitors from the country all present difficulties for tracking political violence, especially in real time; these challenges should be taken into account when using any real-time data on this context, including from ACLED.
Meanwhile, Russia continued to launch missiles targeting cities across Ukraine last week. Russia hit the western city of Lviv, killing seven civilians (Ukrayinska Pravda, 17 April 2022), and carried out a series of cruise missile attacks on Odesa, killing at least eight people (Al Jazeera, 22 April 2022). Moreover, at least seven people were killed in explosions of mines and bomb remnants across the country.
Russian forces also continued to abduct people from occupied territories in Ukraine last week, including current and former government officials, their relatives, and other local residents. Russia also continued to forcibly deport Ukrainian citizens to Russia from Mariupol in the Donetsk region and Izium in the Kharkiv region (24 Channel, 18 April 2022; Suspilne Media, 16 April 2022).
In Russia, anti-war action continued, despite police crackdown and attacks against activists in recent weeks. On 18 April, unidentified rioters threw Molotov cocktails at a military enlistment office in the Mordovia region, setting it on fire. This is the latest of several similar incidents reported over the past month, targeting the Russian military’s recruitment campaign amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (The Moscow Times, 22 April 2022). In Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, activists held a series of anti-war pickets for several days in a row, facing arrests and fines (OVD Info, 19-21 April 2022).
Demonstrations in solidarity with Ukraine also took place in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Montenegro, Poland, Finland, Romania, Moldova, Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Meanwhile, in Italy, a hand grenade accompanied by an anti-communist threat — connecting communists with Russian President Vladimir Putin — was located at a supermarket parking lot in Collegno (Italy24 News, 16 April 2022). The threat comes after a series of destructive acts targeting property owned by Russian citizens and the Russian state in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, around 20 pro-invasion rallies were held across Russia last week. In Germany, several acts of vandalism on cars with Ukrainian plates were reported last week (Berliner Zeitung, 17 April 2022).
In Northern Cyprus, the recently elected Turkish-backed government resigned amid an internal dispute over electricity price increases. The coalition government submitted its resignation to President Ersin Tatar after he blocked Prime Minister Faiz Sucuoğlu’s attempt to dismiss Finance Minister Sunat Atun (Detay, 19 April 2022). The prime minister replaced the finance minister in his new cabinet, though the government remains otherwise unchanged (Ahval, 26 April 2022).2This piece focuses on events up to Friday, 22 April.2 This piece focuses on events up to Friday, 22 April. Incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron won a second term following a run-off election on 24 April, which is outside of the time period of this Regional Overview. The new government in Northern Cyprus was formed on 25 April, which is outside of the time period of this regional overview, and will be included in next week’s Regional Overview. [/mfn] The resignation follows weeks of demonstrations by Turkish Cypriots against government policies and ongoing strikes over energy price hikes.
Environmental activists demonstrated across Europe last week, demanding more climate action and less investment in fossil fuels. Demonstration activity was recorded in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, police arrested Extinction Rebellion-affiliated Just Stop Oil affiliates in several cities. Climate activists, targeting fossil fuels industries, climbed atop oil tankers, blocked access to oil depots, and padlocked themselves to industrial facilities. Hundreds of activists have been arrested in recent weeks amid the group’s ongoing campaign calling on the government to stop new oil and gas projects (Time, 16 April 2022).
Demonstration activity continued in France last week ahead of the presidential run-off between incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Rally (RN) party president Marine Le Pen on 24 April. Thousands of people gathered in more than 30 locations against the far-right RN, with events turning violent on a few occasions as demonstrators threw objects at police. Demonstrations against the reelection of Macron were also recorded. Other violence and destructive activity have also been reported. For example, unknown perpetrators vandalized the headquarters of another political party before the run-off elections (Attaque, 21 April 2022). Sporadic outbreaks of violence associated with the elections contributed to the 45% increase in violence in France last month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month.
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