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BLACK SEA CHRONICLES / CMN. Geopolitical logbook at the Euxin Bridge11 th edition, Saturday, 4 MAI 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
12th edition, Saturday 4 May 2024

I. White Chronicles
 Russia celebrates Putin’s inauguration and Victory Day modestly and with trepidation. The Russian Federation is preparing for two relevant public events. On 7 May, President Vladimir Putin, re-elected in a pseudo-election in March this year, will be inaugurated into office. At the same time, on 9 May, the traditional Victory Day military parade will take place in 28 cities across the Russian Federation. A total of about 50,000 Russian servicemen and women will take part in the celebrations on 9 May. In Moscow, about 9,000 servicemen will take part in the military parade. The Russian authorities are also organising an exhibition in Moscow’s Victory Park throughout May entitled “Trophies of the Russian Army”, which will also display Western military equipment captured in the war in Ukraine. Alongside the Russian president, several heads of state from Commonwealth of Independent States countries and countries whose leaders are loyal to the Kremlin, such as Laos and Guinea-Bissau, will be present at the parade in Red Square. The modest and exotic attendance at the military parade in Moscow will confirm Russia’s real international isolation and the Russian president’s international unpopularity. The Russian authorities have taken exceptional measures to ensure that the public events on 9 May will take place without any major incidents. Predictions: These events will take place without any major problems in the context of the draconian measures adopted. International attendance at the Victory Day celebrations will be modest and will reflect Russia’s shaky role in the new world order. After President Putin’s inauguration, changes in the government of the Russian Federation are possible.
 Moscow is stepping up its hybrid attacks against European countries. The Polish Foreign Ministry recently publicly reported that several state institutions had been cyber-attacked by Russian hackers from groups controlled by the Military Intelligence Directorate / GRU of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. On the same day, the executive authorities in Berlin reported that these groups (APT28 and Fancy Bear) had carried out multiple cyber attacks on public institutions in Germany. The Czech authorities also reported similar attacks. NATO officially accuses the Russian Federation of intensifying hybrid activities against member countries and the Alliance as a whole, including disinformation activities, cyber actions and sabotage, with the aim of weakening these countries’ support for Ukraine. Several cases of Russian espionage are currently under investigation in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and the UK. “Disinformation” – is Moscow’s reaction at the MFA level. Predictions: Russian hybrid attacks on European countries will multiply and diversify, in the known electoral context in Europe, which amplifies the vulnerabilities of the European/Western democratic system and provides Moscow with a broader framework for hybrid action.
 Assessments on the need for permanent adaptation of NATO action to crises. According to Lithuanian Defence Minister Laurynas Kasčiūnas, NATO does not yet have the right tools to assess the Kremlin’s ability to adapt to current war conditions in Ukraine. According to the Lithuanian official, the Alliance is applying principles and assessment criteria that do not fully correspond to the reality on the ground. It is necessary for these assessments to take into account particular aspects of the internal situation in the Russian Federation, such as the mobilisation without internal social risks of the war economy or the existence of mobilising human resources of up to 25 million people. The Lithuanian official calls for rapid measures to be taken at Alliance level, such as the creation of enhanced NATO capabilities for crisis prevention and rapid response on the southern flank, an increase in defence budgets above 2% of member countries’ GDPs, and substantial strengthening of the defence industry.
 Hungary challenges NATO’s new support initiatives for Ukraine. The Russian press praises Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó’s statement that the NATO Secretary General recently called on NATO member countries to identify ways to support Ukraine with a new $100 billion support package over the next 5 years; Hungary disputes the fairness of this new initiative. According to the Hungarian official, “NATO is leapfrogging over previously drawn red lines and, in addition to wanting to coordinate more closely arms deliveries to Ukraine and the training of Ukrainian soldiers, now wants to pump another 100 billion dollars into the war.” . Hungary calls for an end to the war, calls for negotiations and still refuses to provide Ukraine with arms or financial support for arms procurement. According to Péter Szijjártó, preparations for a nuclear war are underway in Europe and Budapest will not participate in NATO’s programmes to arm Ukraine and train Ukrainian soldiers, as “peace in Ukraine will be achieved through negotiations, not on the battlefield”. Prediction: There are no signs that Hungary will change its current line on the war in Ukraine. Hungary’s assumption of the six-month EU presidency in the second half of this year (July-December 2024) could inhibit current and new EU support initiatives towards Ukraine, as well as possible NATO decisions on Ukraine expected to be adopted/announced at the Alliance’s July Summit.
 Russia is building a new Pobeda in Chisinau. The establishment of the Victoria/Pobeda political bloc in Moscow, with the participation of a pro-Russian audience and prominent political leaders from ATU Gagauzia, confirms Moscow’s direct support for this formation. Pobeda has become an explicitly Russian political creation. Moscow’s interest and Ilan Shor’s money are the basis of the Pobeda bloc’s political action. The new party has decided to take part in the presidential elections and the referendum on Moldova’s EU membership on 20 October. Predictions: Two main orientations have already emerged in the presidential elections in the Republic of Moldova on 20 October: the pro-European orientation (the core of which is represented by Maia Sandu, the presidential candidate, and the political parties that will support her) and the pro-Russian populist-radical Pobeda orientation. The second (main) pro-Russian pole is expected to be formed, around the Socialist Party and the Communist Party (this is still being formed; the candidate of this bloc will be Maia Sandu’s strongest counter-candidate in the presidential elections in October this year), as well as reorientations/clarifications of the pro-Romanian political segment in the Republic of Moldova. Moscow has pompously announced its small (its) Pobla to lull vigilance on the big Pobla it is preparing for the autumn elections (the candidate of the main pro-Russian political bloc in Moldova). With Shor’s lieutenants, Moscow is just warming up for the presidential elections in October this year.
 Moscow’s multiple plans to destabilise and increase Russian influence in Moldova. The Moldovan authorities have taken matters into their own hands and opened an investigation targeting supporters of the new Victoria/Pobeda political bloc of fugitive Ilan Shor. Prosecutors recently opened a criminal case for smuggling following raids in several localities on the homes of several members of a criminal group who had recently attended the so-called Congress for the establishment of the new political bloc Victoria/Pobeda (Moscow). The raids resulted in the seizure of more than 20 million lei in lei and foreign currency, which were smuggled into Moldova by several couriers for the illegal financing of pro-Russian political parties. Many voices in the Republic of Moldova are calling for the opening of treason investigations against political leaders who attended the so-called Moscow Congress of Ilan Shor’s supporters. The episode confirms the existence of multiple plans by Moscow to destabilise and increase Russian influence in the Republic of Moldova in the context of elections. The reaction of the Chisinau authorities is moderate and appropriate.
 Guțul, from the Kremlin’s suffragettes to the dock. The criminal case against Evghenia Guțul, the governor of Gagauzia, has begun. The first hearings will take place on May 27 this year. Guțul is accused that, in complicity with other party colleagues from the pro-Russian party Shor, currently banned in Moldova , was involved in a systematic diversion of unaccounted funds in 2019-2022 to finance this party . Guțul is also accused of paying several people to participate in anti-government protests organised by the Shor party in 2022. If convicted, Guțul faces a prison sentence of between two and seven years, as well as a ban on holding government posts. The Bashkan of the Gagauzia Autonomous Region denies the charges and claims to be the victim of a trial ordered and politically orchestrated by President Maia Sandu, which he calls “a crime against Gagauzia and the whole of Moldova”. Predictions: the trial against the Bashkan of Gagauzia will take place slowly and without strategic surprises, so as not to give her electoral ammunition for the presidential elections this autumn.
 “Chance” is looking for its lane to Victory/Pobeda. Repeat local elections will be held on 19 May in some localities of the Republic of Moldova. The novelty of the elections is the participation for the first time in these elections of the political party “Chance” (by decision of the Central Electoral Commission), excluded from the race in the previous local elections. Sixty-three parties are taking part in these elections. There is a possibility that, due to the re-inclusion of the “Chance” party in the electoral race, pro-Sor administrations may be elected in some southern localities (Cairaclia, Salcia and Cealîc in the Taraclia district, Chioselia Rusa and Cotovscoe in ATU Gagauzia). At the same time, this CEC decision may represent a favourable corridor for the participation of this party, within the Victoria political bloc, in the presidential elections on 20 October this year.
 Romania and the Republic of Moldova strengthen their military cooperation framework. The Government of Romania has recently approved, through a Memorandum, the amendment of the Agreement between the Government of Romania and the Government of the Republic of Moldova on cooperation in the military field (document signed in Chisinau on 20 April 2012). New provisions have been introduced in the document, whereby the two sides will support each other in various areas: “This Memorandum amends the Agreement between the Government of Romania and the Government of the Republic of Moldova on Cooperation in the Military Field to introduce a provision whereby the two parties will support each other, on a reciprocal and timely basis, in all matters relating to the preparation and participation in missions and operations in multinational coalitions under the aegis of the UN, OSCE, NATO or the EU, including logistical support, transport, telephone and internet services, financial and medical support and evacuation in emergency situations”.
 Russian attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure targets will continue at high speed. According to Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski, in April this year Russian troops used more than 300 missiles of various types, about 300 “Shahed” drones and more than 3,200 guided aerial bombs against Ukraine. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba said that about half of Ukraine’s energy system had been damaged by Russian bombing, primarily as a result of the massive use of ballistic missiles. Prediction: Until Ukraine’s anti-aircraft defences are credibly strengthened with Western support, Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure targets will continue apace.
 Putin will continue his aggressive tactics in Ukraine – CIA assessment. The CIA director told Congress that Russia has stepped up its strikes against Ukrainian energy infrastructure to prevent Kiev from redeploying its weapons and troops to the front lines, delay weapons production and push Ukraine toward peace negotiations. According to it, the transfer of dual-use components and materials by several Chinese companies to the Russian Military-Industrial Complex is one of the factors that have changed the dynamics on the Ukrainian front in the Kremlin’s favour; according to the CIA’s assessments, Putin believes that the international and domestic situation is developing in his favour and will most likely continue his aggressive tactics in Ukraine; in this context, an end to the war is unlikely in the near future.
 The US accuses the Russian Federation of using chemical weapons. The US has for the first time accused the Russian Federation of using chemical weapons in the war against Ukraine, which would be a direct violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The accusations were made by the US State Department; according to it, “the use of chemical weapons is linked to a desire to drive the Ukrainian military from entrenched positions and achieve tactical successes on the front lines”. In this context, the US has introduced new sanctions against institutions in the Russian Federation involved in programmes to produce and use chemical and biological weapons. Moscow denies Washington’s accusations.
 Ukraine is strengthening its defences on the Ciasov Yaroslav direction. The 110th Independent Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces returns to the front after a break of about 2 months. Meanwhile, the 67th Independent Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (redeployed to the area in March this year) is losing ground in the battles to defend the town of Ciasov Iar. There is a strong possibility that the 110th Brigade will be deployed in the Ciasov Yaroslav defence structure to strengthen the defence of this strategic logistical centre.
 Peace summit in Switzerland. The Swiss Foreign Ministry estimates that delegations from more than 160 countries and international organisations (including more than 120 states), including representatives of G7 countries, BRICS, the European Union, as well as representatives of international organisations (UN, EU, Council of Europe) and religious organisations (Vatican, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople), will attend the Ukraine Peace Summit in Switzerland on 15-16 June. According to the official communiqué, the Russian side was not invited because officials in Moscow have repeatedly stated that they are not interested in attending the first Peace Summit. The stated objective of this Summit is to initiate the peace process in Ukraine; related objectives: to stimulate the negotiation process, to create a platform for dialogue, to ensure the widest possible circle of participants and to establish the conditions for bringing all parties into the process; it is planned to draw up a roadmap for a peaceful, political-diplomatic settlement of the conflict: “the ultimate goal is to bring peace closer and to develop concrete steps in this direction”. President Volodimir Zelenski said Russia was working to sabotage the summit. According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba, Russia can become a party to the negotiations after being presented with the peace document agreed at the first summit in Switzerland. “A conference without Russian participation will not have concrete and real results in terms of achieving peace,” Dmitry Peskov said again. China’s presence at the Swiss Summit remains uncertain. Predictions: China will attend the Summit at a moderate level of representation. There is little chance that a document in the form of a roadmap will be agreed at the Summit, to be agreed by all Summit participants.
 Europe’s strategic ambiguity is increasing. President Emmanuel Macron has said that France will responsibly consider the option of sending troops to Ukraine if the Russian army breaks the front line and Kiev formally requests French military support and intervention. According to Emmanuel Macron, France’s priority strategic objective is to not allow Russia to win. His statements were again disavowed in Moscow by Maria Zaharova (Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman) and Dmitry Peskov (Russian Presidency spokesman), who noted President Macron’s “very dangerous tendency” to inflame the conflict with statements of this kind. Initial reactions in Europe to the French president’s new statements are as different as reactions to previous similar statements by the French president (the Polish foreign minister supports the thesis of Macron’s proposed strategic ambiguity, while officials in Italy and the UK highlight the risks of such statements). Defence Minister Guido Crosetto said in context that “Italy’s position is clear: we will help Ukraine in every possible way, but we exclude direct intervention on the ground by our military”. . Russian media subservient to the Kremlin headlines that Macron’s statements would pave the way for an official request for support from Kiev.
 New forms of Russian threat in Europe. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has submitted to the Polish Sejm a draft law that takes into account new forms of threat from the Russian Federation and sets out in detail the action of state bodies in the event of an external threat to the country’s security; the document provides for strengthening the country’s defence capacity and measures to strengthen the national security infrastructure. According to a press release from the Polish National Security Office, the draft legislation provides for the introduction of amendments to the current security and defence package, aimed at strengthening capabilities to combat hybrid threats and direct military aggression, representing “a response to new forms of threats from the Russian Federation against Poland and other EU and NATO member countries”. According to recent statements by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, “Europe is now in a pre-war era”.
 London increases its support for Ukraine. On a new visit to Kiev, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron pledged that the UK will provide Ukraine with around €3 billion in annual financial support “for as long as it is needed”, as “this war is the challenge of our generation”. He said London was allowing British weapons to be used in Ukrainian strikes on targets inside Russian Federation territory: “Ukraine has the right to strike inside Russia because Russia strikes inside Ukraine.” . The British official announced new military-technical support to Ukraine, including guided missile bombs and air defence missiles. The UK also has plans to double munitions production through massive investment in the field, worth around €10 billion over the next 10 years. The British official also confirmed support of around €36 million for Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, while promising to increase the commitment and contributions of Britain’s partner countries to the International Fund for Ukraine in the coming period. The Russian Foreign Ministry has summoned the British ambassador to Moscow for clarification on the issue.
 Russia, increased domestic security measures. The Russian authorities recently decided to ban several Tajik citizens from entering the Russian Federation at border crossings between Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation, a situation which has provoked a negative public reaction from the Tajik Foreign Ministry. The Russian officials justify this decision by the increased security measures that have been adopted in Russia after the terrorist attack on 22 March at the Crocus City Hall shopping mall and the need to prevent similar attacks. Several foreign citizens also complain about the length of time it takes to check their passports when entering the Russian Federation via land border crossing points. Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry recently advised its citizens to refrain from travelling to the Russian Federation without good reasons, in the context of the Russian authorities’ enhanced security measures and the tightening of control measures at the Russian Federation’s state borders. In April this year, the Russian authorities refused entry to the Russian Federation to 69 Kyrgyz citizens. Assessments: The Russian measures are in total contradiction with Moscow’s hypocritical narrative of alleged Ukrainian involvement in the preparation and carrying out of the March terrorist attack. This narrative is no longer circulating in Russian public spaces, having outlived its usefulness.
 Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to France. On 5 May this year, the Chinese president began a visit to a number of European countries, including France, Serbia and Hungary. The German Chancellor recently visited Beijing. The Chinese president said he came to Paris on his visit with three main messages: opening up Chinese markets to Western companies, conveying Beijing’s understanding of the stakes of the war in Ukraine for European countries, and mutual respect and peaceful coexistence between states globally. The Chinese leader’s visit to Paris did not generate any substantial visible developments. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Sholz had previously discussed and agreed on possible joint positions of France and Germany towards China in the context of the Chinese President’s official visit to France.
 Estonian patrol stars for Ukraine. Estonia has handed over to Ukraine two Patrol 18 WP class patrol vessels (Р01 Roland and Р02 Risto), renamed “Irpin” and “Reni”; the two vessels will perform tasks in the field of civil navigation security: the vessels were produced by the Estonian company Baltic Workboats AS and handed over to the Search and Rescue Service of Ukraine.
 A second top-level visit for Erdogan is long overdue. After the repeated postponement of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Turkey, Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s visit to the United States, announced by the Turkish authorities and prepared for by the Turkish foreign minister’s trip to the United States, is postponed indefinitely. According to Turkish analysts, the postponement of the visit was proposed by Washington amid the current differences between the US and Turkey.
 Moscow is looking for Zelensky. Russian officials have announced that they have put out a search for Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski. According to the Russian Interior Ministry, he is wanted for violating an unspecified article of the Criminal Code. Also wanted is former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as well as other European figures such as Kaja Kallas (Prime Minister of Estonia, who was added to the list in February this year) and numerous other Baltic officials. The Ukrainian authorities call the Russian authorities’ decision “propagandistic” and point out that the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, has an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court, which is valid and binding in around 120 countries around the world.

II. Code Reds
 Russia will respond to new “escalations”. For now, propagandistically. It has become increasingly common for Ukrainian officials to claim that previous limitations on the use of Western technologies and weaponry to carry out strikes on targets on Russian territory are no longer in place. In this context, the idea of resuming strikes on the Kerch bridge, a strategic objective of the Ukrainian army, has become topical again. Recently, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron publicly stated that London is allowing Ukraine to use British-made weapons against targets on Russian territory. His statements provoked harsh reactions from Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zaharova saying that “Russia will respond” in this case, as any nuclear country would, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov describing the British official’s statements as “a direct escalation of tension and a potential danger to European security”. President Putin has ordered tactical nuclear weapons exercises to be carried out in the coming period in response to the new “escalations” (statements by the French President and the British Prime Minister, new Western support measures for Ukraine, etc.). Assessments: The measure is seen as purely propaganda, trying to prove the thesis of a strong/savvy President (at the beginning of his term) who will firmly and unhesitatingly lead a country “at war with NATO”.
 Chisinau, Janus bifrons. Multiple public activities will take place in the Republic of Moldova on 9 May to celebrate both Europe Day and Victory Day separately. Officials of the EU Delegation in Chisinau have publicly stated that “there is no contradiction between paying tribute to those who died in the Second World War and celebrating Europe Day. The European Union was created after the Second World War as a peace project, so that there would never be another war on the European continent”. The Europe Day celebrations will begin on 9 May at 12:00, when the “European City” will be inaugurated in the Grand National Assembly Square in Chisinau. On the same day, 9 May, a number of pro-Russian political groups are organising a Victory Day march in Chisinau – the “Regiment of Immortals” demonstration (dedicated to Victory Day and organised by the Victory Committee). Predictions: The Moldovan authorities are aware of the risk of street/public clashes on 9 May, given Moscow’s increased interest in creating the conditions for destabilisation in Moldova. These conditions have not yet been created and attempts to destabilise the situation in Moldova will not go beyond episodic turbulence on 9 May.
 The crisis in Georgia, without the “light at the end of the tunnel”. The political situation in Georgia has turned into a genuine internal crisis. Public and political protests against the adoption of the Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence indicate an unprecedented level of resistance of Georgian society to the political impulses of the Russian world. On the other hand, the Tbilisi government’s insistence on continuing the debate on the adoption of this draft legislation, which has already passed two readings, is toxic for Georgia’s internal stability and its Euro-Atlantic course. Internal divisions are deepening rapidly in Georgia. The last few days have demonstrated beyond doubt that Europe and the US do not perceive this initiative as responding to internal political needs or as corresponding to European principles and values, as the initiators of the law initially hypocritically claimed. It is certain that, these days, in Tbilisi, a new battle is being fought between the Russian world and pro-European circles in Georgia. The Georgian Government is sacrificing its relations with the USA and the EU for narrow political interests. The US ambassador to Tbilisi, Robin Dunnigan, has accused members of the government of not wanting to pursue talks with the US on the strategic partnership between the two countries. According to her, the government’s decision to impose this law has distanced the country from its European future, and “some members of the government have decided to attack the biggest supporters of Georgia’s sovereignty – the U.S. and the EU. We call on the Georgian government to support the predictability of Georgia’s European course, enshrined in the Georgian Constitution.” Several European countries, as well as international institutions and organisations, have condemned the recent violence against protesters and the excessive use of force against them. The conclusion of representatives of international institutions and Western countries (including Joseph Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Edgars Rinkēvičs, President of Latvia, Annalena Baerbock, Foreign Minister of Germany, Swedish MFA, Norwegian MFA, Estonian MFA etc. ) is that the “Geoenergy Dream is becoming more and more clearly a nightmare for the Georgian population” ; European officials support the “European Dream” of Georgia, which is above the “Georgian Dream”, and this law will build in Georgia rather the “Russian Dream”. “The adoption of this law does not meet the expectations and principles of the EU and will take Georgia away from its European path”, EU spokesman Peter Stano said recently. Several EU officials are even proposing individual sanctions against Bidzina Ivanishvilli and all those who voted and will vote for this draft legislation, withdrawal of Georgia’s candidate status, freezing of EU funds, etc.
 New tensions and clashes along the Azerbaijani-Armenian border. Despite some positive developments in the bilateral Azerbaijani-Armenian negotiations on the border demarcation process, new tensions and clashes are taking place in various regions along the border of the two states, in particular in several localities in Tavus province. A bilateral agreement in principle on border demarcation seems to have been reached in the framework of this dialogue. On the basis of this agreement, the technical, physical process of border delimitation and demarcation has already started. This process has generated hostile reactions among the population of several localities on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border.

III. Grey alerts
 In the short term, the medium-intensity alerts concern: new 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, Georgia and Armenia.

IV. Black Swans
 Front break-up in southern and eastern Ukraine; one side taking over the strategic initiative.

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