It was a moment few will forget. After weeks of escalating tensions, Russian forces finally crossed Ukraine’s borders in the early hours of 24 February.
Days earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was recognising the rebel-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. Until then, a full-scale invasion had seemed inconceivable. Suddenly, Europe was faced with its largest conflict since the Second World War.
Russia’s incursion and subsequent annexation of Crimea in 2014 was still fresh in everyone’s minds. The threat of further Russian aggression had been building for months as hundreds of thousands of troops lined Ukraine’s borders.
Despite weeks of escalating tensions, the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in the early hours of 24th February shocked the world. Just days earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was recognising the rebel-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. Up to that point, a full-scale invasion had seemed almost inconceivable, but suddenly Europe was faced with its largest conflict since the Second World War.
In this Global Insight podcast, we look at the background to the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s hybrid warfare campaign and the role of sanctions in fighting aggression and autocracy.
Examining these issues are:
Olga Lautman, an expert in Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe and a Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis.
Bill Browder is CEO of Hermitage Capital Management and a long-time supporter of stronger sanctions against Russia.
Daria Kaleniuk, executive director and co-founded of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre in Kyiv (AntAC).
Across Latin America and the Caribbean, more than one million people have already died from Covid-19, making it the worst-hit region worldwide. The reasons are complex but, undeniably, have exposed deep inequalities across the region’s 33 countries.
Latin America’s excess death toll – those that exceed the number that normally occur over a given period – has rocketed. The failure by many countries to establish an effective public health strategy has been compounded by overwhelmed and underfunded health systems and social protection mechanisms that have not responded adequately to the enormity of the crisis.
The slow response – or in some instances complete inertia – of many nations has sealed their fate. ‘Governments in certain countries adopted a position of denying the pandemic and not establishing policies to control it,’ says Fernando Peláez-Pier, former IBA President and a senior consultant at FPeláez Consulting.
The forced diversion of a plane carrying a Belarusian opposition journalist on 23 May sparked international outcry. As global powers resolve to take action, there are doubts about the efficacy of sanctions against authoritarian regimes.
The subsequent removal and arrest of Roman Protasevich from a grounded plane in Minsk prompted calls to punish Belarus, where officials, including the country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko, already face sanctions from multiple states for rule of law violations.
Despite recent efforts to sanction the country, Oksana Antonenko, Director, Global Risk Analysis at Control Risks, says the international community has been powerless to stop the egregious human rights violations being committed by the authorities. ‘We’ve seen now almost a year of really severe repression and violence against its people on a daily basis, including arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture,’ she says. ‘That’s happening in the middle of Europe. Of course, sanctions have been applied, but they so far have done nothing to stop these activities within Belarus.’
Over the past 18 months, Ukraine hit the international headlines time and again as it battled months of widespread demonstrations, bloodshed, the annexation of Crimea, snap elections, the downing of Flight MH17 and a tumbling currency, the beleaguered hryvnia. The country’s long-running spat with Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom, which has a monopoly over the European gas market, has also been well documented since the feud first began ten years ago.
Ukraine is still largely reliant on gas from Russia and disputes over payments have crippled supply numerous times over the past decade as the two countries continue to come to contractual blows. The pipeline that transits the country also carries around half of Gazprom’s exports to the rest of Europe, meaning that the problems have also been felt much further afield.
Over the years, contracts between Russia and Ukraine have been signed, amended and restructured in an unregulated and often arbitrary way. This finally came to a head last year when Gazprom launched a case against Ukraine’s state-owned gas utility, Naftogaz, in the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (SCC), claiming the Ukrainian company owed it billions of dollars in unpaid debts on gas delivered since 2009.
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