Over the past month in Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia, the Russian military invasion of Ukraine continued into its seventh month, with Ukrainian forces conducting successful counterattacks in the Kherson and Kharkiv regions. Violence related to the Russian invasion also continued to spill across the border into Russia. The six-month anniversary of the invasion, which coincided with Ukraine’s Independence Day on 24 August, drove demonstration activity across the region. Fighting along the Armenia-Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact escalated following a recent transfer of the Lachin corridor to Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, demonstrations in support of LGBT+ rights, against climate change, and related to the current cost of living crisis were recorded across the region.
In Ukraine, fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces continued in the southern and eastern regions of the country over the past month. In the first nine days of September, Ukrainian forces successfully pushed back Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, regaining control over an estimated 2,500 square kilometers as of 9 September (ISW, 9 September 2022).1This piece focuses on events up to Friday, 9 September; Ukrainian forces regained control of Izium and Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region on 11 September which is outside of the timeframe of this piece and will be covered in more detail in the next week’s Regional Overview. On 29 August, Ukrainian forces also launched offensive operations in the southern part of the country, attacking Russian supply lines and liberating several settlements in the Kherson region (New York Times, 29 August 2022; RFE/RL, 30 August 2022; CNN, 7 September 2022). Heavy fighting continued in the Donetsk region, where Russian forces conducted ground assaults in the areas of Bakhmut and Avdiivka; however, they did not lead to significant changes to the frontline (ISW, 9 September 2022).
Ukrainian partisan activity also continued amid the recent counteroffensives of the Ukrainian army. Partisan activity was particularly pronounced in the Zaporizhia region, but also present in the Kherson, Donetsk, and Crimea regions. Over the past month, partisan groups carried out a series of explosions targeting Russia-appointed officials, alleged Russian collaborators, and Russian soldiers, as well as railway tracks, trains, and barges used by Russian forces for resupply.
Meanwhile, shelling intensified in Enerhodar in the Zaporizhia region over the past month, causing several incidents of power outages and external power supply loss at the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) (IAEA, 5 September 2022). Ukrainian and Russian officials blamed each other for the increased shelling ahead of and during the visit of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 1 September (CNN, 1 September 2022; Ukrainska Pravda, 28 August 2022). The threat of a potential nuclear emergency prompted the United Nations Secretary-General to call for a demilitarized area around the NPP on 6 September (The Guardian, 6 September 2022). Shelling also intensified in other areas along the frontline in the Zaporizhia region, where Russian forces have launched heavy artillery and rocket barrages on Orikhiv, Huliaipole, and a number of other locations, amid a rapidly worsening humanitarian situation (WSJ, 16 August 2022; Ukrinform, 7 September 2022).
Russian forces have continued targeting civilian infrastructure along the frontline with shelling, airstrikes, and missile attacks, reportedly killing over 150 civilians in the past month.2Fatality numbers are frequently the most biased and poorly reported component of conflict data; they can vary considerably and are often the subject of debate given the strategic incentives to over- or underestimate these numbers, as well as the significant logistical difficulties in collecting accurate data, among other factors (for more, see this piece by ACLED in Washington Post, 2 October 2017). This includes a Russian missile strike on a railway station in Chaplyne in the Dnipropetrovsk region on 25 August that killed 25 civilians, and shelling of Kharkiv on 17 August that took the lives of 19 people (Euromaidanpress, 25 August 2022; Ukrinform, 22 August 2022). Russian forces also abducted dozens of civilians in the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions over this period.
In Russia, incidents of cross-border shelling were reported in several villages in the Kursk, Belgorod, and Bryansk regions bordering Ukraine during the past month. Meanwhile, members and activists of the Communist Party (KPRF) faced attacks and harassment in the run-up to municipal elections on 11 September. These attacks included unidentified perpertators setting fire to the house of a KPRF activist in Ryazan and attacking a KPRF candidate and a party activist in Moscow and Yekaterinburg, respectively. Meanwhile, state forces arrested protesters taking part in a KPRF-organised rally for fair elections in Moscow (OVD Info, 3 September 2022). Separately, on 20 August, a car explosion killed Darya Dugina, the daughter of prominent Russian far-right public figure and Vladimir Putin supporter, Aleksander Dugin (MediaZone, 21 August 2022). This violence contributed to the 54% increase in weekly violent events in Russia in the past month relative to the weekly average for the preceding year. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map also warned of increased violence in the country during the preceding four weeks.
Demonstration activity against the war and in support of Ukraine continued throughout the region, with an outbreak of demonstration activity on Ukraine’s Independence Day on 24 August, which coincided with the six-month anniversary of the invasion. Rallies in support of Ukraine were held in Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, and the Netherlands. In Russia, police broke up a small protest against the invasion, arresting all demonstrators. Pro-Ukraine demonstrations not linked to Ukraine’s Independence Day were also recorded in Belgium and Ireland.
Along the Armenia-Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact, clashes continued over the past month. Fighting escalated last week, resulting in the death of one Armenian serviceman, with ceasefire violations recorded in the Shahumyan, Kashatagh, and Tovuz regions of Azerbaijan, and the Gegharkunik region of Armenia. This violence contributed to the 260% increase in violent events in Azerbaijan and Artsakh last week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map also warned of increased violence in the region during the preceding four weeks.
Meanwhile, Berdzor, Aghavno, and Sus settlements in the Lachin (Kashatagh) region were handed over to Azerbaijan on 26 August (168 Hours; 26 August 2022). The settlements are located along the Lachin corridor, the only available route connecting Armenia to the Artsakh Republic. An alternative route is currently under construction (Caucasian Knot, 5 August 2022). The transfer of territory caused ongoing anti-governmental protests both in Armenia and Artsakh. Meanwhile, five Armenian prisoners of war were returned to Armenia on 8 September as “a step towards the normalization of relations” following a meeting between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that took place in Brussels on 31 August (Jam News, 9 September 2022).
Environmental and climate activists continued to demonstrate across Europe over the past month. Demonstration activity was recorded in Albania, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The police intervened and arrested activists on a number of occasions in the United Kingdom. Animal Rebellion activists demonstrated for a plant-based future by blocking access to meat and milk aisles in several supermarkets across the country and staged several other sit-in protests at dairy product distribution centers. Meanwhile, Just Stop Oil members blocked several service stations to put pressure on the government to end new oil and gas projects. Activists also damaged properties on a few occasions (Essex Live, 29 August 2022; The Argus, 24 August 2022).
Meanwhile, demonstration activity linked to rising costs of living, inflation, and high energy prices were recorded in Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Moldova, Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Workers from various industry sectors staged demonstrations to demand salary increases in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Romania, North Macedonia, and Kazakhstan.
Demonstrators gathered in support of LGBT+ rights in France, Germany, Malta, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Finland, Poland, Norway, and Sweden. In the United Kingdom, protesters gathered to demand the cancellation of children’s events organized within the framework of the Drag Queen Story Hour tour of libraries.
Note: This dashboard automatically updates to cover the latest four weeks of data released by ACLED.