Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

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).

Released on 03-03-22. Listen here

Ukraine: United front against Russian aggression needed to combat autocracy

After weeks of rising tensions on Ukraine’s borders and clashes on the ground, on 21 February Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was recognising the rebel-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states and ordered troops into the country.

As many as 200,000 Russian soldiers had reportedly been deployed along Ukraine’s borders in recent days, making the threat of a Russian invasion dangerously imminent. World leaders threatened to impose tough sanctions on Moscow. But as diplomatic negotiations show no sign of overcoming an impasse the influx of Russian troops, under the pretext of ‘peacekeeping duties’, suggests a full-scale invasion is now inevitable.

Following Russia’s incursion and subsequent annexation of Crimea in 2014, there were growing concerns that President Vladimir Putin would use the escalating situation in eastern Ukraine as a ‘false flag’ attack to justify invading the two separatist territories. Parallels have also been drawn with the 2008 Russo-Georgia war, when Russia invaded Georgia after violence broke out between Georgian troops and South Ossetian separatists.

Published on 22-02-22. Read on here.

Kazakhstan: Unrest unseats oligarchy amid human rights concerns

Deadly unrest ripped through Kazakhstan in early January. Peaceful demonstrations against fuel price hikes galvanised outrage at three decades of leadership that has widened the chasm between the ruling elite and the general population.

As clashes between protesters and the authorities intensified, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency and took the extraordinary step of seizing control of the Security Council and removing its chair, his predecessor the former president. Nursultan Nazarbayev had ruled the country from 1990-2019 and his family and allies still control a large proportion of the oil-rich nation’s economy.

Tokayev also called on the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization to send in 2,000 soldiers to act as peacekeepers, bolstering Moscow’s military presence in a country where Russian influence is already significant. Nazarbayev later appeared on video denying claims that he had been forced to flee the country.

Published on 04-02-22. Read on here.

Belarus: The human cost of the crackdown on dissent

An escalating crackdown on civil society following 2020’s disputed presidential election in Belarus – which saw Alexander Lukashenko claim victory – has already provoked international sanctions. Now, the country’s continued attacks on fundamental freedoms are exacting a significant human cost, as a migrant crisis unfolds on the country’s border with Poland.

In June 2021, President Lukashenko rejected EU calls to stop the flow of illegal migrants to the country’s border with the EU. This followed global powers imposing more sanctions against Belarusian officials in response to the removal and arrest of opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, from a grounded plane in Minsk.

A stream of migrants has flooded into Belarus since August after the government relaxed visa requirements for certain countries. By November, thousands of refugees, mainly from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, were stranded at the Belarus-Poland border. Many became embroiled in violent clashes with Polish police. At least nine migrants died due to freezing conditions and a lack of humanitarian aid.

Published on 07-01-22. Read on here.

Taliban takeover threatens independence of Afghan Bar

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated markedly since the Taliban toppled Kabul on 15 August, with lawyers and judges increasingly under threat. The legal profession came under a renewed attack 100 days later as Taliban forces stormed the offices of the country’s only bar association and detained and threatened its members and staff.

The attack on the offices of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) took place during an extraordinary meeting of AIBA’s Leadership Council on 23 November. Najla Raheel, AIBA’s Vice-President, was attending the meeting virtually when the line went dead. She learned later that armed Taliban had entered the building, closed the offices, tore down nameplates and demanded her colleagues hand over all of AIBA’s goods and documents. ‘We built the Association with the blood of our hearts,’ she told Global Insight. ‘Now my colleagues, who include women, are in a very bad situation. The Taliban may harm them and their families at any moment.’

Raheel and AIBA President, Ruhullah Qarizada, are two of the AIBA Executive team that have managed to flee Afghanistan with their families. The Taliban announced that the AIBA will be merged with the Ministry of Justice and has appointed one of its own leaders as president, effectively stripping the association of any independence.

Published on 09-12-21. Read on here