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In this week’s edition: Ukraine update, EUCO coming and Stubb interview.
The Ukrainian army’s steady reclamation of territory continues even after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin formally annexed four occupied regions of the country, including areas it does not currently control, in Europe’s biggest land grab since World War II.
Ukraine’s lightning victories in the Kharkiv region, including the recapture of Lyman in neighbouring Donetsk, could be critical in reclaiming lost territory in Luhansk, according to its Governor, Serhiy Gaidai.
“The liberation of this city in the Donetsk region is one of the key factors for the further de-occupation of the Luhansk region,” Gaidai wrote on Telegram.
Luhansk and Donetsk, and the eastern Donbas region, have seen heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces that have escalated over the last few months.
Putin’s annexation makes it “much more difficult, nearly impossible for the war to end,” the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell told Spain’s RTVE television over the weekend.
“Russia is losing” the war, he said in separate comments to a forum in Spain, and “has lost in moral and political terms,” but “Ukraine has not yet won.”
Emboldened by its progress on the battlefield, Kyiv said it would request fast-track NATO membership shortly after Russia formally annexed four Moscow-held regions of Ukraine.
While NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg shied away from endorsing Ukraine’s bid while reiterating the alliance’s open-door policy, Baltic members were more enthusiastic.
Of course, this won’t happen any time soon, nor is there such a thing as fast-track membership. But it is, however, another symbolic move in a war that’s increasingly tilting the needle towards Kyiv.
Does that mean Moscow could go nuclear?
The Russian withdrawal from Lyman prompted Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to urge Moscow to consider using a “low-yield” nuclear weapon in Ukraine.
“More drastic measures should be taken, right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram.
Putin’s nuclear threats have steadily grown more direct as his battlefield situation in Ukraine has become more precarious.
The Kremlin announced on Friday that attacks against any parts of the annexed areas of Ukraine would be considered aggression against Russia itself.
After multiple warnings in the months before that Russia would consider using nuclear weapons, Putin this week felt the need to add: “This is not a bluff.”
EU IN THE WORLD
EUCO ON NORD STREAM | European countries have stepped up security measures to protect energy supplies in the North Sea and off the coast of Italy as an investigation of the alleged sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines continues.
EU leaders meeting in Prague will discuss the security of their critical infrastructure next week on Friday, European Council President Charles Michel announced, adding that sabotage of Nord Stream pipelines is a threat to the EU”.
Beyond, expect more energy crisis talk. The European Commission said it will put forward proposals to tackle high gas prices “soon”.
NEXT SANCTIONS | EU ambassadors in Brussels discussed the new sanctions proposal on Friday, with several EU diplomats saying they hoped for final approval next week.
New import sanctions would tighten the screws on Russian industry, covering steel and steel products, paper and timber, but Russia hawks might be disappointed as many of their ideas have not found their way into the text.
VISA QUESTIONS | In response, the European Commission unveiled tighter visa requirements for Russians that would throw difficult – and, for some, impossible – hurdles up for them to enter the bloc except on humanitarian grounds.
RENEWED PURPOSE | Russia’s war in Ukraine has pushed Europeans to do more for their own security, but this new strategic autonomy should not result in protectionism, former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb told EURACTIV.
WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING
ON OUR RADAR
- General elections in Bosnia i Herzegovina
| Sunday, 2 October 2022 |
- EU-Israel Association Council
| Monday, 3 October 2022 | Brussels, Belgium
- European Political Community Summit
| Thursday, 6 October 2022 | Prague, Czech Republic
- Informal EU summit on Ukraine, critical infrastructure, energy
| Friday, 7 October 2022 | Prague, Czech Republic
[Edited by Alice Taylor]
Source: Eura Ctiv