Last week in Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia, the Russian military invasion of Ukraine continued amid the ongoing counteroffensive of Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions. Amid Ukrainian advances, reports of cross-border shelling and acts of sabotage continued to surface in Russia. Fighting escalated along the Armenia-Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact and the disputed border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Meanwhile, demonstrations in support of migrants’ and refugees’ rights and related to the current cost of living crisis were recorded across the region.
In Ukraine, fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continued in the eastern and southern regions of the country last week. In the Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian counteroffensive continued, with Ukrainian forces regaining most of the previously occupied territory in the region, including the large logistical hubs of Kupiansk and Izium (The Guardian, 12 September 2022). Ukrainian successes in the Kharkiv regions also allowed Ukrainian forces to retake ground in the Luhansk region, which had been fully occupied by Russian forces since July (ISW, 11 September 2022). These events contributed to the 162% increase in violent events in the Luhansk region over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker. Ukrainian counterattacks also continued in the Kherson region, albeit with no confirmed territorial gains. On 16 September, Ukrainian forces struck Russia’s occupation headquarters in Kherson during a meeting of Russian-appointed city and municipal heads (ISW, 16 September 2022).
Similar to Russia’s withdrawal from the northern regions in early April, the de-occupation of Kharkiv has revealed atrocities committed by Russian soldiers, including a mass grave with over 400 bodies near Izium and torture chambers across the region (The Guardian, 17 September 2022). Meanwhile, over 20 civilians were killed last week by Russian shelling and missile strikes in the Donetsk, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, and Zaporizhia regions. Additionally, at least four civilians were killed and four were wounded in mine explosions in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, and Donetsk regions.
In Russia, the governor of the Belgorod region accused Ukrainian forces of targeting several villages in the border area with artillery fire, killing a civilian. Further cross-border shelling was also reported in Tyotkino in the Kursk region. This shelling contributed to the 66% 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. Meanwhile, incidents of railway sabotage were reported in the Republic of Tatarstan, the Yamalo-Nenets region, and the Bryansk region. The anti-war Ostanovi Vagoni (’Stop the Wagons’) movement claimed responsibility for two of these incidents aimed at disrupting the movement of Russian military equipment to Ukraine (Activatica, 14 September 2022).
Along the Armenia-Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact, daily clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continued last week, with fighting intensifying on 13-14 September. Notably, unlike previous recent clashes in the region, much of the fighting last week took place in Armenia in addition to fighting in Azerbaijan and Artsakh. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map also warned of increased violence in the region during the preceding four weeks. Amid the fighting, Russia brokered an initial ceasefire agreement on 13 September; however, clashes continued, prompting the signing of a second US-brokered ceasefire on 14 September (Euronews, 16 September 2022).
According to preliminary estimates, 207 Armenian and 80 Azerbaijani soldiers were killed and hundreds were wounded during the two days of intense fighting (Report Az, 17 September 2022; Azertac, 17 September 2022). Additionally, at least three civilians were killed and over 7,600 were displaced on the Armenian side (168 Hours, Aysor Am, 16 September 2022). As a result of clashes, Azerbaijani forces occupied Armenian territory in several areas of the Vayots Dzor, Syunik, and Gegharkunik regions. Both sides have blamed each other for the escalation; while Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of starting intense shelling unprovoked (Ministry of Defense of Armenia, 13 September 2022), Azerbaijan claims that they were responding to Armenian mining of Azerbaijani re-supply routes (Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, 13 September 2022). Analysts have linked the flare-up to Russian territorial losses in Ukraine, suggesting that Azerbaijan may be testing the Russian ability to aid Armenia and, at the same time, attempting to compel Armenia toward accepting Azerbaijan’s terms for a future peace treaty (USIP, 15 September 2022).
Meanwhile, three months after a previous round of clashes, fresh fighting erupted on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan last week. Clashes first broke out on 14 September between border guards in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan and the Sughd region of Tajikistan. They resulted in the death of two Tajik soldiers and the wounding of 16 people on both sides, including eight civilians. Despite official meetings between the two countries, further fighting broke out on 16 September, resulting in another 59 deaths in Kyrgyzstan and 35 civilian deaths in Tajikistan (BBC, 18 September 2022). These events contributed to a sustained increase in violent events in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker. The Kyrgyz-Tajik border has been the site of a decades-long dispute, with much of the 970-kilometer border yet to be demarcated (RFE/RL, 22 July 2022), prompting sporadic outbreaks of violence (for more, see this ACLED report on violence along the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border).
Demonstration activity linked to rising living costs, inflation, and energy prices continued to take place across the region last week, with protests recorded in Albania, Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, North Macedonia, Portugal, and Spain. In France, a Yellow Vests demonstration in Paris against inflation turned violent when some participants attempted to blend in with a march in support of Ukraine and vandalized street furniture, leading to 103 arrests (Le Parisien, 10 September 2022).
Protests were also observed across the region last week in relation to asylum seekers’ and migrants’ rights. In Belgium, Denmark, Malta, the Netherlands, and Poland, gatherings were recorded to call on governments to adopt a more humane and responsive approach to the influx of refugees. In France, rallies were staged to demand the regularization of immigrant workers.
Note: This dashboard automatically updates to cover the latest four weeks of data released by ACLED. Use the date filters to view data for the one-week period covered by this Regional Overview.