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BLACK SEA CHRONICLES / CMN. Geopolitical logbook at the Euxin Bridge1 9th edition, Saturday, 6 April 2024-Weekly summary prepared by the experts of the Black Sea House Association / Black Sea House- Constanta, Coordinator Dorin POPESCU

Geopolitical logbook at the Euxin Bridge
10th edition, Saturday 6 April 2024

I. White Chronicles
 Russia ideologically aligns its enemies, against the evidence, behind the Crocus City terrorist attack. According to Dmitry Medvedev, former President of Russia and Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, the perpetrators of the Crocus City terrorist attack were not (despite their claims of belonging to the Islamic State terrorist organization) religious fanatics or radical Islamists, but primitive mercenary assassins who allegedly carried out orders from the West. According to his allegations, senior officials from NATO countries appear to be complicit in the Crocus City attacks: “It is obvious that Macron and other Western leaders are sponsors of this terrible terrorist attack.” At the same time, Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry has publicly rejected Nikolai Patrushev’s allegations that the Ukrainian Embassy in Tajikistan is recruiting foreign mercenaries for the Ukrainian army. The statements by Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, are seen as an attempt to artificially build a Ukrainian trail of the recent terrorist attack in Crocus City. Moreover, Turkey has recently resumed the visa system for citizens of the Republic of Tajikistan, holders of ordinary passports. The decision was taken as part of measures to strengthen the national security and law and order system in the context of the Crocus City terrorist attack in the Moscow suburbs.
 Putin will most likely change the composition of the Russian government. On 7 May this year, the Russian Federation government will take office, in accordance with the newly amended provisions of the Russian Federation Constitution. On the same day, the inauguration ceremony of the President of the Russian Federation will take place, following the controversial elections of 15-17 March. According to federal law, the President of Russia will propose a candidate for Prime Minister to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation no later than two weeks after his inauguration; he will appoint the Prime Minister de jure once the State Duma has confirmed the candidate. It is not possible for the State Duma to reject President Putin’s nomination under the current conditions. The current Prime Minister of the Russian Federation is making fewer and fewer public appearances, reinforcing speculation that Vladimir Putin may use this opportunity to make major changes to the structure of the government, including a change of Prime Minister.
 Assessments of the situation on the frontline. Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski has said that Ukraine’s Armed Forces no longer have the ammunition and armaments needed to support a counter-offensive, but instead have the ammunition to carry out homeland defence tasks. Recently, several initiatives have been launched by countries providing military-technical support to Ukraine to increase the pace of equipping the Ukrainian army with ammunition and weapons to strengthen its defence capability and even, at the limit, to support a future offensive on the ground. According to the Ukrainian leader, these initiatives have already begun to have an impact in terms of sustaining defence tasks. The shortage of ammunition and infantry weapons is being covered by the massive use of drones on Russian targets. Ukrainian military officials explicitly state that victory on the battlefield is not possible at the moment. At the same time, according to them, there is no reason to worry about possible Russian strategic escalation on the front.
 Heavy aviation bombs increase Russia’s military superiority on the front. The use of FAB(ODAB)-500 thermobaric aviation bombs has greatly increased Russia’s firepower and highlighted its superiority over Ukraine’s firepower. Launching them with Su-34 aircraft helps to destroy relevant targets on the battlefield. According to experts, the use of several variants of this type of bomb, from FAB-250 to FAB-3000, maintains Russia’s military superiority on the battlefield, in addition to its artillery firepower. The use of FAB-2500 heavy aviation bombs has recently been confirmed and the Russian press believes that the use of FAB-3000 heavy bombs (weighing 3,000 kg) in combat is imminent. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba believes that the Ukrainian army’s future F-16 aircraft could improve Ukraine’s ability to defend its airspace against the use of these types of bombs.
 New Ukrainian drones on the frontline. According to Bild, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are likely to receive aerial drones with a range of 2,500 km in 2024. At the same time, the Luch construction bureau in Kiev is said to be in the final stages of developing and testing an aerial drone (Sokol-300) capable of reaching a range of 3,300 km. Such a drone would be capable of hitting targets including Murmansk, where numerous Tu95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers are deployed. Some 80 Russian air bases could be hit by such drones. Ukrainian experts note several similarities between Sokol-300 drones and Turkish Bayraktar-TB2 drones, which would indicate a possible technology transfer in the development of Sokol-300 drones. At the moment, according to Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation Mikhail Fedorov, the Ukrainian military has (and uses on the battlefield) several drone models, whose average range is in the 700-1,000 km range.
 The Russian army continues its attempt to advance in the direction of Ciasiv Iar, a strategic direction for the final attack on the last large urban settlements in the Donetsk region – Kramatorsk, Slaviansk and Konstantinovka. Ciasiv Iar was used by the Ukrainian army as a logistical and troop transport hub for the Bahmut and Solodar directions. Unlike Bahmut, Solodar and Avdiivka, there are no underground canals in the town that can be used to reinforce the town’s defences. The Russian army leadership claims to have occupied neighbourhoods on the outskirts and that direct clashes are currently taking place in the town.
 Chechen troops are feeding on Wagner mercenaries. According to Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, some 3,000 former soldiers of the privately-owned Wagner company have allegedly joined the structures of the Ahmat special group. Recently, the Russian Defence Ministry leadership reportedly approved the creation of a new regiment in this group; several autonomous battalions of former Wagner fighters are already operating as part of the Ahmat group.
 Military targets of drone and missile attacks. Lately, Russian missile and drone attacks have focused on Ukrainian military targets. The Progres Combat Technical Repair Plant and the Ivcenko-Progress Design Office in Zaporozhye have been targeted and hit. Kinjal missiles were used to hit targets in the Hmelnitsky (Starokonstantinov military airfield), Kiev, Zaporozhye and Harkiv regions. Strikes were also carried out on the Avtogaz plant, on whose territory heavy military equipment is allegedly concentrated. Russian officials said the latest strikes targeted enterprises of the Ukrainian Military-Industrial Complex that carry out repairs of heavy military equipment, military airfields and temporary deployment points of foreign mercenary structures. For its part, the Ukrainian army has also drone-struck the Russian air base Morovosk (about 350 km from the Ukrainian border), headquarters of the 59th Bombardment Aviation Regiment of the Russian Air Force.
 Russian citizens are unabashedly supporting the invasion. According to the most recent poll conducted by the Russian Levada Center , the level of support for the military operation in Ukraine has not changed significantly in Russia since the invasion was launched; 76% of Russian respondents support (of which 48% rather support) the Russian invasion of Ukraine; 16% of respondents do not support the invasion. 81% of 45-54 year olds support the invasion, and over 86% of those over 65 and 82% of those who support Vladimir Putin as President. Support is lowest among young people (58% of those under 24) and among those who do not support Vladimir Putin’s work (28% of those who do not support his work). The number of respondents who support peace negotiations is decreasing – 48% (57% in November 2023). 55% of women support peace negotiations, while men overwhelmingly support (51%) the continuation of military activities. There has been a slight decrease in the number of people anticipating a new mobilization (48% think it will happen in the next 3 months). 52% of young people under 24 think it will happen. Over 91% of respondents believe that the Crimean Peninsula belongs to Russia. 96% of those who support President Putin hold this view. Of those who do not support President Putin, 26% believe that the Crimean Peninsula does not belong to Russia and should not be annexed to Russia.
 New reactions to the hypothesis of foreign troops on the territory of Ukraine. Volodimir Zelenski said he would not oppose the presence of troops from a NATO member state in Ukraine, but did not call for such a presence. The mere request for the presence of foreign troops in Ukraine, especially the troops of a NATO member state, could generate discontent among the population of that country and lead to an escalation of relations with Russia, which would focus its efforts on reducing military and technical support from Western countries. At the moment, according to him, Ukrainian troops are facing a very difficult situation on the front. Russian officials repeatedly make statements to the effect that sending troops from a NATO member state would be tantamount to turning the current conflict in Ukraine into a regional/international one.
 The theme of mobilisation in Ukraine has no popular support. According to Ukrainian presidential advisor Andrii Iermak , the solution of a massive mobilisation of troops has no popular support. The replacement of the Ukrainian army’s commander-in-chief has led to a substantial audit of the Russian army by the new commander-in-chief Oleksandr Sarkii, as well as a massive transfer of non-combatant military personnel to the front line of the war.
 Views in Ukraine on mobilisation. According to a sociological research survey conducted by the Ukrainian Rating Company, commissioned by the International Republican Institute, 36% of respondents consider the current level of mobilization to be insufficient, 30% – that it is optimal and 19% – that it is too high. In general, older people consider the level to be insufficient, and young people – high. The 5 main reasons for refusing to mobilise identified by this research are: fear of death and disability (42%); incorrect and selective mobilisation (22%); insufficient technology, ammunition, weapons (22%); lack of confidence in power (18%) and corruption in the government and army (17%). Top 5 measures by which the power can increase the level of support for mobilization and for joining the Armed Forces: increasing the material security of the army (weapons, clothing, food, etc.) – 31%; mobilization of all social groups, regardless of status and income – 22%; fighting corruption – 20%; higher and stable salaries for the military – 17%; providing social facilities for the military and their families – 17%.
 Western support for Ukraine continues. Direct US financial support to Ukraine in the military-technical field has so far amounted to about $68 billion, according to Pentagon spokesman Charlie Dietz. Germany follows in the hierarchy of direct military-technical support to Ukraine, with about €28 billion in military support alone, according to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz . According to Charlie Dietz, before the actual delivery of F-16 aircraft, it is necessary for partner countries to deliver to Ukraine as many anti-aircraft systems as possible, which will facilitate the use of F-16 aircraft on the battlefield. The US is prepared to deliver batches of Patriot missiles and ATACMS to Ukraine. At the recent meeting between Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken , the main topic was also the delivery of long-range missile systems and new air defence systems, with Patriot as a priority. According to the Ukrainian official, only Patriot anti-aircraft systems are capable of intercepting and hitting Russian ballistic missiles, and during March this year Russia reportedly used 94 ballistic missiles in its air strikes against Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski recently said he feared the exhaustion of Ukraine’s air defence systems. According to him, Ukraine’s air defence systems are under severe pressure as Russia’s intense long-range missile bombing campaign continues, and the intensity of Russian bombing is exhausting Ukrainian interceptor missiles. This increases Ukraine’s urgent need to obtain Patriot air defence systems, which have played a vital role in countering Russian ballistic and hypersonic missile attacks. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmagal has formally called on the European Union to close EU airspace to citizens of the Russian Federation and Belarus, not just to aircraft from those countries.
 Preparing for the Alliance Summit in Washington. At the meeting of NATO foreign ministers, the main topics discussed were the substantiation of support to Ukraine and the preparation of the Alliance Summit in Washington. The NATO Secretary General stated that security assistance to Ukraine will remain high, substantial and predictable as part of a mixed response to Ukraine’s current needs. Discussions at the meeting included the solution of additional financial support of 100 billion euros to be provided to support the procurement of ammunition and armaments, as well as the option of the Alliance taking over the role of coordinating and providing external military-technical support to Ukraine; according to him, in the coming period, NATO commitments will increase in place of the current voluntary contributions of Alliance members. The Russian press quotes Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó as saying that Hungary will oppose any initiatives that could turn the Alliance into an offensive and lead to further escalations.
 Kiev is politically and diplomatically pushing for an invitation to NATO on the occasion of the US Summit. Ukraine’s objective at the NATO Summit in Washington is to obtain a formal invitation to join the Alliance, accompanied by a roadmap for membership. Deputy Chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Rada’s Committee on National Security, Defence and Intelligence, Egor Cernev, said that Ukraine wants to reserve a place in NATO before the end of the conflict, with de facto membership to follow. According to him, the failure to invite Ukraine to join the Washington summit would be (and would be perceived in Moscow as) a sign of weakness. The NATO Secretary General said that Ukraine’s accession to NATO would not follow the pattern of its accession to the European Union.
 NATO, coordinating role for Ukraine. NATO has announced its intention to assume the coordinating role of external military-technical support for Ukraine, instead of the United States, as insurance for the scenario of chronic and long-term US fatigue with Ukraine in the event of a change of political administration in Washington. A decision to this effect is expected to be taken at the Alliance Summit in Washington in July this year.
 A bridge to NATO. According to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanișina, at the moment only the US and Germany would be opposed to extending an invitation to Ukraine to join NATO at the Alliance Summit in Washington in July this year. The other NATO member states would support or already support this option (extending an invitation to join NATO at the Washington Summit), although, according to her, “two other allies are sceptical – Hungary and Slovakia”. Numerous NATO officials have recently stated that the Alliance’s 9-11 July Summit in Washington will be a “bridge” to Ukraine’s accession to NATO, even if no consensus is reached at the Summit on issuing an actual membership invitation.
 Possible informal discussions in the West on the risk of Ukrainian concessions in the difficult situation on the front. At the same time, the Italian publication La Repubblica notes that negative scenarios are already being discussed in the Alliance, including territorial concessions by Ukraine in exchange for actual NATO membership. According to the publication, this scenario is increasingly discussed in informal meetings. The information published in La Repubblica has not been publicly or officially confirmed. NATO’s Secretary General recently stated that “Ukraine has to be the one to decide what kind of compromises they are willing to make, and we have to give them the opportunity to be in a position where they actually get an acceptable outcome around the negotiating table”.
 Russia and its friends look biased toward peace plans. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov praised China’s proposed 12-point peace plan, stressing that it would be the clearest and most balanced of all publicly presented plans for political-diplomatic negotiation of the war in Ukraine. Several Russian officials, such as Sergei Lavrov (Foreign Minister) and Sergei Shigu (Defence Minister), have recently tendentiously reiterated Russia’s alleged readiness to resume peace negotiations with Ukraine, but on the basis of current (territorial) realities – i.e. with recognition of illegal occupations of territory in Ukraine. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer calls for the resumption of direct dialogue between Russia and Ukraine as a guarantee for peace negotiations in Ukraine. According to him, “without Russia there will be no peace”. .
 China gets new yellow cards. US officials have issued new warnings to China if Chinese companies continue to provide military-technical support to the Russian Federation. There will be serious consequences in this case, US Treasury Secretary Jennet Yellen said recently in the context of her recent discussion with Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng . Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “China continues to provide materials and equipment to support the Russian military industrial complex.” Since the onset of the full-scale Russian invasion, foreign trade between Russia and China has doubled ($108 billion in 2020, $240 billion in 2023). Similar warnings (with the introduction of sanctions) are repeatedly voiced by EU officials against Chinese companies that might support Russia through deliveries of arms and military equipment.
 Pellegrini’s election reinforces Slovakia’s anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian course. Officials in Moscow are already welcoming the election of Peter Pellegrini as president of Slovakia. Like Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, he is against military-technical support for Ukraine, against arms deliveries to Ukraine and in favour of a “rapid settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict”. According to Pellegrini, continued arms deliveries to Ukraine will lead to catastrophe. Pellegrini’s election as president in Slovakia reinforces the country’s anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian course. These tendencies are currently being reinforced in Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna.
 New assessments on Moldova. Russian experts are increasingly mentioning “Moldova’s transformation into a NATO platform amidst a failure of Ukraine”. According to them, “the fall of the Kiev regime will lead to a NATO expansion on the territory of the Republic of Moldova”. Similar assessments, quoted by the Russian press, are also made by former US military officials, who do not rule out the possible presence of US troops on the territory of the Republic of Moldova in a negative dynamic of the evolution of the war in Ukraine: the Republic of Moldova could have a strategic relevance in such a scenario – the West’s “plan B”, the defeat of Ukraine, a plan that is increasingly discussed in Western capitals. Other experts believe that the Republic of Moldova could become a buffer zone, especially if the current Russian influence in Moldova is maintained. Numerous Russian analyses also mention the so-called militarisation of Romania (development of the Mihail Kogalniceanu base, increase in the allied military presence on the country’s territory). Kremlin-affiliated Russian experts are trying to support the idea that the deployment of troops by a NATO state in Ukraine would be carried out through the territory of the Republic of Moldova in the direction of Odessa. The objective of these analyses is to provide propaganda grounds for the occupation of the Odessa region, which is of strategic importance for keeping Crimea under occupation.
 New Russian and local challenges in the Transnistrian region. The so-called Transnistrian authorities are claiming a new alleged drone attack on a military target in the region, in Rabnitsa . The constitutional authorities in Chișinău consider these announcements to be provocations supported by the Russian Federation, the effect of which is already modest, given the high degree of resilience of society to provocations of this kind.
 Population census in the Republic of Moldova. The population and housing census “Open the door for the Census: Community, Transparency, Participation”. According to the Law on Population and Housing Census, participation in the census is compulsory. The referendum is conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics with the support of the Government of the Republic of Moldova, the European Union and the UN Population Fund.
 Population choices of the Republic of Moldova on the external vector. According to the latest sociological data, recently presented publicly by the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDIS) Viitorul, 54.5% of Moldovan citizens would choose integration into the European Union as the country’s main external vector in a referendum. According to the survey, 49.9% of respondents would vote in favour of the EU in a possible referendum on Moldova’s accession to the European Union (EU) or the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), and 30.5% – for the EEU; 7% said they would not participate in the referendum, 11.3% were undecided, and 1.8% did not answer the question. At the same time, in a referendum on EU integration, 54.5% of respondents would vote in favour and 30.5% against. In a similar referendum, but on NATO membership, only 28.5% would support this idea, while 55.4% would vote against (4.9% said they would not participate in this plebiscite, 9.7% were undecided and 1.5% did not answer the question).
 EU support for Moldova continues. The European Union will allocate an additional €41 million to the Republic of Moldova to strengthen its defence capabilities. The money is for the purchase of non-lethal military equipment and will be allocated over the next three years. The new assistance package is expected to enable the authorities to better protect the civilian population in exceptional and crisis situations. The Moldovan Ministry of Defence has signed a contract for the purchase of a new airspace monitoring radar. The radar will be purchased with financial support from the EU under the European Peace Facility programme. Previously, the first radar was bought for €14 million.
 Gagauzia’s Bashkan, new arrows to Bucharest. The pro-Russian Bashkan of the Gagauz Autonomous Region of the Republic of Moldova (UTA Gagauzia), Evghenia Gutul, has publicly warned that the region will declare independence if Moldova chooses to unite with Romania: “If the current Moldovan authorities opt for unification (with Romania), the Gagauz Autonomous Region will not remain passive (. …) Any unification initiative will lead to the immediate launch of the separation procedure of Gagauzia and the reinstatement of the independent state of Gagauzia”. Evghenia Guțul has held several public meetings recently on sensitive issues concerning the region’s relations with the constitutional authorities in Chisinau. The Bashkan of Gagauzia accuses Chisinau of “implementing a strategy of undermining the foundations of Gagauz autonomy, deliberately blocking the work of the Executive Committee, refusing to sign the Decree on my inclusion in the Government of the Republic of Moldova” and blocking the development of infrastructure and the implementation of economic and social projects in the region.
 Bashkan of Gagauzia, new arrows towards Chisinau. At the initiative of Bashkan Evhenia Guțul, a meeting of the autonomy’s leadership recently took place in ATU Gagauzia, attended by representatives of the Executive Committee, the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia, the Council of Elders of Gagauzia, mayors and local councillors. The participants in the meeting stated that the constitutional authorities in Chisinau would carry out the current justice reform with disregard for the special legal status of the Gagauzia autonomous region. Guțul accused the political leadership in Chisinau that this reform aims to annul the legal status of the autonomy and intends to “transform the autonomy into an ordinary district with certain ethnocultural specificities”. In particular, they condemned the decision to liquidate the Vulcanesti Court and the resubordination of the Comrat Court of Appeal. A wider process of justice reform is currently underway throughout Moldova. The authorities of ATU Gagauzia are pressing for this process not to undermine the current configuration of the legal system in the Gagauz autonomy.
 Bashkan Gut looks fondly at Moscow and Ankara. Bashkan promised that the Gagauz Autonomy will strengthen its relations with its strategic partners, Russia and Turkey.
 Kiev-Budapest bilateral dialogue without solutions and results. The bilateral Hungarian-Ukrainian high-level talks on the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine and the development of bilateral relations ended without any notable results. The Hungarian Foreign Minister promised support for the development of border infrastructure and the export of Ukrainian grain transiting through Hungarian territory. The two officials noted that mutual confidence-building measures are needed to solve the current problems in the bilateral relationship. Hungary continues to advocate the restoration of the rights of ethnic Hungarians in the Transcarpathian region (about 1.5 million ethnic Hungarians live in the region), and there have been no recent developments in this area that would satisfy the Hungarian side. Additional Hungarian-Ukrainian sectoral consultations on education took place on 5 April this year, but they did not produce any results. Hungary calls for a return to the level of rights of 2015, when ethnic Hungarians were able to take national exams in their mother tongue. On this occasion, Hungary handed over to the Ukrainian side an updated list of current problems and proposed solutions to them. A special committee was set up at the level of the two ministries to identify possible solutions.
 New steps and initiatives challenged in Tbilisi. The Georgian government has resumed attempts to adopt a special law on foreign agents (called the Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence), despite recommendations to this effect by the US and the EU. According to the current draft, a foreign agent is an organisation that promotes the interests of a foreign force. According to the draft law, the media and non-governmental organisations that are funded with more than 20% of their own income from abroad must periodically disclose their income and expenditure reports to the public. Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobahidze cites the European principle of transparency in support of the law. Previous draft legislation has been opposed by the opposition and the public, including through widespread street protests.
 The Orthodox Church of Ukraine calls again on the Romanian Orthodox communities in Ukraine. Officials of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (autocephalous) have recently resumed public actions to attract Romanian parishes in Ukraine to the Romanian Vicariate opened within this Church. Recently, Bishop Teognost (Bodoriak) of Chernivtsi and Bukovina urged the Romanian parishes in the Chernivtsi region to join the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Autocephalous), offering them the opportunity to integrate into the so-called “Romanian Orthodox Vicariate” of this Church. According to him, the statute of the “Romanian Vicariate” was developed on the model of the Ukrainian Orthodox Vicariate of the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR), and the language of religious services could be chosen by the parishioners. At present, no Romanian parish in the region has joined this “Romanian Orthodox Vicariate”. The Vicariate does not have a leader and the possibility of holding services in Romanian is purely theoretical. No details are known about the Romanian Orthodox Vicariate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Autocephalous), established in 2019. According to the Romanian community in Ukraine, the Vicariate was created to improve the image of the BOU (autocephalous) in relation to the Patriarchate in Bucharest and to obtain recognition from the latter. Recently, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church decided to support the establishment of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, a future religious structure subordinated to the Romanian Patriarchate.

II. Red Codes
 Signs of the hybrid war and its effects outside Ukraine are multiplying. Aerial drones downed on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, marine drones damaged near Romanian territorial waters, allied aircraft taking to the airspace of Poland to prevent Russian aircraft from violating NATO airspace, aircraft jammed by Russian jamming systems and radio-electronic warfare in the Baltic Sea area, ships in the Black Sea aquarium with similar problems with the functioning of communication systems, increasingly frequent cyber attacks by networks close to the Kremlin, overlapping disinformation campaigns, cyber attacks on transport systems in countries such as the Czech Republic, etc. – signs of hybrid warfare and its effects outside Ukraine are multiplying. At the beginning of March this year, the European Union Cyber Security Agency published a report stating that the number of cyber-attacks on transport systems in the EU has increased alarmingly, with the most frequent cases reportedly in the Baltic countries and Romania.
 Russian media are inciting the multilateral break-up of Ukraine. Russian media affiliated to the Kremlin power are once again crediting uncontrolled territorial expansions in southern and western Ukraine, pointing out that Russia’s western border has not yet been established as part of the Russian Federation’s current expansionist project. A recent analysis presents the break-up of Ukraine as inevitable and argues for the need to fully occupy the cities and regions of Kharkov and Odessa, as well as the Herson, Zaporozhye, Donetsk and Lugansk regions. It again provocatively insists on the hypothesis that Poland, Hungary and Romania will issue territorial claims to Ukraine following the scheme for the break-up of Ukraine repeatedly and insidiously presented by the Kremlin’s obedient press.
 Armenia emerges from the shadow of the great bear with Western support. At the US-EU-Armenia summit, attended by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, it was agreed to develop the current trilateral partnership framework for the next four years. The main measure agreed and announced is an EU financial package of around €270 million over the next 4 years (“grants for economic and social development of Armenia for the period 2024-2027”). The US will also allocate additional investment support of $65 million over the next 4 years. The US will work with Armenia in the areas of nuclear energy, investment attraction, cyber security. European and US officials stressed the importance of supporting Armenia at a time when the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan are trying to isolate Armenia and impose political conditions that would reduce its regional relevance, militarily and politically. At the meeting, the Armenian side informed partners that Azerbaijan is concentrating troops and military equipment near the border with Armenia, in particular military equipment recently acquired from Israel and Pakistan. For its part, the Azerbaijani MFA mentions a trend towards militarisation of Armenia.
 Azerbaijan responds with rapprochement with partners (Russia and Turkey). The Azerbaijani side has responded by stepping up bilateral talks with external partners such as Russia and Turkey. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received Mevlüt Çavușoğlu, former Foreign Minister of Turkey and head of Turkey’s parliamentary delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, for a visit. The two said that the plan formulated by several state actors, such as the US and the EU, for the South Caucasus could lead to future disasters in the region.
 Tensions provoked/encouraged by Russia on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border are rising. The situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border has worsened further in the context of new geopolitical developments. Maria Zaharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said the meeting had caused Moscow serious concern. According to the Armenian side, structures of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces have opened fire on Armenian positions and civilian infrastructure in the area of several border towns in the regions of Tovuzgala, Basarkechar, Gorus, Tovuz, Dashkasan, Kalbajar and Lacin. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence denied this news. The Armenian Foreign Ministry called on the Azerbaijani side to respect the ceasefire regime and prevent escalation in the region. This does not correspond to the peace intentions expressed by the Azerbaijani side in the public arena, according to Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan. The EU mission in Armenia (EUMA) has stepped up its patrols in the area of several border towns. The day before, similar ceasefire violations were reportedly recorded by the Azerbaijani side in the area of other localities in several border regions. The Armenian and Azerbaijani sides accuse each other of disinformation, political manipulation and a desire to escalate the situation on the border between the two states.

III. Grey Alerts
 In the short term, the medium-intensity alerts concern: further escalations in the war in Ukraine; hybrid actions by the Russian Federation to destabilise the political situation in some countries of the region, primarily Moldova and Armenia.

IV. Black Swans
 Breakdown of the front in southern and eastern Ukraine; one side taking the strategic initiative.
 Moscow’s provocation of a destabilisation of the political situation in the Republic of Moldova within the framework of the current hybrid war against it.

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