Last week in Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia, Russia announced the annexation of four regions of Ukraine amid the ongoing military invasion of Ukraine. The “partial mobilization” in Russia continued to drive demonstration activity in the country, as well as an increase in attacks on military recruitment centers. Clashes along the Armenia-Azerbaijan Line of Contact continued. Meanwhile, the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran and rising living costs continued to spark demonstrations across Europe. Pro-choice rallies were also held in the region, coinciding with International Safe Abortion Day on 28 September. In Italy, the victory of the far-right coalition in the general elections triggered protests across the country.
In Ukraine, fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continued in the eastern and southern regions of the country last week. Ukrainian forces made advances in the area of Lyman in the Donetsk region throughout the week1 Ukrainian forces liberated Lyman on 1 October, which is outside of the time period of this piece and will be covered in next week’s Regional Overview. and recaptured several settlements in the Kupiansk and Izium districts of the Kharkiv region. Ukrainian forces also continued counteroffensive operations in the Kherson region, shelling Russian positions and re-supply routes.
Russian forces also continued to target civilian infrastructure with shelling, missiles, and airstrikes, killing over 60 civilians last week.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). In Zaporizhia, Russian forces carried out a missile strike at a civilian evacuation column on 30 September, killing 30 people and wounding almost 100 (Ukrayinska Pravda, 30 September 2022).
Following the so-called “referendums” on 23-27 September, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed four Ukrainian regions – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson – as part of Russia on 30 September (Wall Street Journal, 30 September 2022). Despite this, Russia did not clearly define the borders of the annexed territory, as its forces do not have full control over any of the regions (ISW, 30 September 2022). Some analysts suggest that one of the goals of the annexation, which coincides with the recent announcement of the “partial mobilization” in Russia, is to allow the Kremlin to conscript Ukrainian civilians in the occupied territories (ISW, 26 September 2022). Much of the international community condemned the annexation and refused to recognize any potential changes to Ukrainian borders (Al Jazeera, 1 October 2022; Reuters, 30 September 2022).
In Russia, anti-mobilization protests continued last week following the announcement of the “partial mobilization” the week prior. The opposition Vesna movement and the Feminist Anti-War Resistance movement organized demonstrations in dozens of cities across the country. Ahead of the demonstrations, police attempted to prevent demonstrators from gathering in the city centers, dispersing people gathering in groups (RFE/RL, 24 September 2022). In Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Makhachkala, police tased demonstrators and journalists, and beat them with batons (TV Rain, 24 September 2022; OVD Info, 26 September 2022). Over 700 people were arrested during demonstrations on 24 September (RFE/RL, 24 September 2022), with several demonstrations also taking place on 25 and 26 September in Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria. Following the arrests, reports emerged of police engaging in the torture of detained activists (Caucasian Knot, 1 October 2022). This violence contributed to the 99% 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, 14 arson attacks against military enlistment offices and local administration centers were recorded throughout the country last week. Additionally, on 26 September, a reservist shot a military commissar at a military enlistment office in Ust-Ilimsk after his friend received a mobilization notice (RFE/RL, 26 September 2022).
Along the Armenia-Azerbaijan Line of Contact, cross-border shelling and clashes continued last week. Three Armenian servicemen were killed and four Azerbaijani servicemen were wounded. Two Azerbaijani civilians were also killed as a result of a landmine explosion in the Fizuli region.
The death of Mahsa Amini in Iran continued to spark demonstration activity across Europe last week for a second consecutive week. Rallies in support of the ongoing Iranian protests and women’s rights in Iran were recorded in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In France and Greece, demonstrations outside Iranian embassies were dispersed by police with tear gas, while a Molotov cocktail was thrown against the Iranian embassy’s outer wall in Athens on 25 September in a separate incident. In the United Kingdom, a similar rally turned violent after participants sought to enter the premises of the Iranian Embassy in London, leading to clashes with police and the arrest of 12 demonstrators.
Meanwhile, ‘pro-choice’ supporters took to the streets across Europe to coincide with International Safe Abortion Day on 28 September. Protests were recorded in France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Demonstration activity linked to rising living costs, inflation, and energy prices also continued across the region last week, with protests observed in Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In France, more than 110 demonstration events were recorded on 29 September in opposition to the government’s controversial pension reform, which would provide for a progressive postponement of the retirement age up to 65 years in 2031 (Le Monde, 29 September 2022).
On 25 September, early general elections in Italy gave a clear lead to the right/far-right electoral alliance, including Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which went from garnering less than 2% of votes in 2013 to 26% last week. The result triggered several protests and school occupations across the country (New York Times, 26 September 2022; ANSA, 27 September 2022).
In Belgium, police forces carried out a series of raids against suspected far-right extremists across the country on 28 September, arresting six men on suspicion of preparing a ‘terrorist’ attack (Euronews, 28 September 2022). One man was killed during a gunfire exchange that broke out during a police raid in Merksem.
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.