Displaying items by tag: Europe
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has warned against underestimating Russia's determination to continue the war. The EU has delivered 300,000 of its promised 1 million shells to Ukraine, with calls for closer alignment of Ukrainian and NATO arms production. Ukraine reported killing five high-ranking Russian officials in an air strike, and claimed that Russian casualties have reached 327,580. Ukrainian air defences successfully intercepted 21 Iranian-made Shahed drones heading towards a region where an airbase is located. Meanwhile, Russia escalated attacks in the Donetsk region, intensifying artillery fire, airstrikes, and ground infantry attacks. British intelligence indicated the potential use of 500kg cluster bombs. Russia also claimed control of the village of Khromove, near the city of Bakhmut.
The ‘Elgin Marbles’ are ancient Greek sculptures taken from the Parthenon in Athens and currently housed in the British Museum. The British government argues that the marbles are a part of world heritage, while Greece has called for their return to their homeland. The argument has flared up with the visit of the Greek prime minister to the UK. When he raised the issue in a TV interview, Rishi Sunak cancelled their scheduled meeting, claiming that he had reneged on his promise not to campaign publicly about their return. The Greek foreign minister, at a NATO meeting, has said their claim is based on ‘history’ and ‘justice’. This issue highlights the broader question of repatriating cultural artefacts taken during colonial times.
Geert Wilders, a controversial populist leader in Europe, is poised for victory in the Dutch general election. His Freedom Party (PVV), which, amongst other things, advocates bans on mosques, the Quran, and Islamic headscarves in government buildings, secured 37 out of 150 seats in the Dutch parliament. This marks a significant achievement in his career, which has primarily focussed on criticising Islam and mainstream politics. This unexpected win has positioned the PVV as a prominent political force. The left-wing coalition under Frans Timmermans came second with 25 seats, while the ruling VVD, led by outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte, won a disappointing 24 seats. The election signifies a drastic shift from the previous poll two years ago when PVV won only 17 seats. Despite Wilders' success, many remain sceptical about his ability to form a coalition and become the Dutch prime minister due to his divisive rhetoric and extremist positions. The Netherlands is now poised for a complex negotiation to determine the country's leadership.
In an unexpected virtual appearance at the G20 summit, Vladimir Putin called on world leaders to ‘stop the tragedy’ of the war with Ukraine but bizarrely ignored his own role in starting the conflict. In February 2022, after weeks of growing aggression near the Ukrainian border, the Russian president ordered his forces into Ukraine. He claimed it was important to ‘demilitarise’ the country and made baseless neo-Nazi allegations about the Ukrainian government to justify the invasion. Ukraine has only agreed to peace negotiations if Russia agrees to hand back all of the land which it has illegally annexed since 2014 - including the Crimea peninsula, which Putin claims now belongs to Russia. He also broke international law by illegally annexing four other regions in eastern Ukraine in September 2022. In his G20 appearance, Putin also tried to deflect attention from the war by focusing on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, for which he has tried to position himself as a potential mediator.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, almost 20,000 men have sought to escape being drafted, with some taking perilous routes like swimming across dangerous rivers. Also, over 20,000 men were apprehended by Ukrainian authorities while attempting to flee. Following the Russian invasion, men aged 18-60 were prohibited from leaving the country, but numerous individuals still manage to escape. Many of them flee to reunite with family abroad, pursue education, or seek employment opportunities. Of those caught attempting to escape, most tried to cross the border by walking or swimming, while 6,800 used fraudulent paperwork to claim fabricated exemptions. The 40,000-plus number of men who have fled or tried to flee could represent a significant proportion of the men Ukraine needs to replenish its army. In August, US officials estimated the Ukrainian military death toll to be up to 70,000 - although Kyiv won't give a figure. There are more than 800,000 in the Ukrainian armed forces.
A ‘truth and reconciliation’ commission has recommended an official apology and reparations for historic injustices against the Tornedalian minority. The commission found that assimilation policies in the 19th and 20th centuries damaged them, affecting their language, culture, and traditional industries. Tornedalians, originally from the Torne River valley near the Finnish border, are descendants of Finns who settled in the area in the 1800s. They speak Meänkieli, a language closely related to Finnish. In the 1880s, Sweden enforced a policy of 'Swedishisation', including banning their language and traditional clothing in schools and sending thousands of children to boarding schools to enforce Swedish language use. Today’s Tornedalian population is about 50,000; they rely on agriculture, hunting, fishing, and reindeer herding, Although they were recognised as a national minority in 2000, with Meänkieli as an official language, the commission suggests further measures to strengthen their language and culture, including its inclusion in public broadcasting and education. This report coincides with another ongoing investigation into policies against the indigenous Sámi people: see
Experts have warned of a potential volcanic eruption near the town of Grindavik, which could lead to extensive destruction or ash clouds. This concern follows over 800 small earthquakes in the region, indicating possible activity from a volcano on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland. Nearly 4,000 residents of the town were evacuated amid fears that molten rock could surface, threatening the town and a nearby geothermal power station. Scientists from the Icelandic Met Office have warned of a prolonged period of volcanic instability on the peninsula, possibly lasting decades, with eruptions expected in various locations. On 15 November, Thorvaldur Thordarson, a volcanology professor, assessed the probability of an eruption at 30%, a decrease from earlier higher estimates. Despite fears of an impending volcanic eruption, flights in and out of Keflavik international airport, only ten miles from the eruption site, are continuing as usual. In 2010 another volcano in Iceland grabbed the world's attention by spewing ash into the atmosphere and bringing European air travel to a halt.
A court in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia has sentenced a Jehovah’s Witness (JW) follower to seven years in prison on charges of ‘extremism’. Yevgeny Bushev had been under house arrest for over a year on allegations of continuing ‘the illegal activities of a banned religious organisation’. In 2017 the Supreme Court declared the JW movement to be extremist, banning its estimated 400 branches across the country. Bushev is the 15th JW follower from the region to be prosecuted. The prosecution’s witness was an employee of the National Guard (Rosgvardia) who had ‘shown interest in the Bible’: a linguistic examination concluded that Bushev had ‘tempted’ him to accept the JW faith when responding to questions about religion. International human rights NGOs have condemned Russia’s crackdown on JW followers in the years since the ban, and in June 2022 the European Court of Human Rights said that Russia had violated over 1,400 followers' right to religious freedom.
On 8 November Ukraine said that a Russian missile had struck a civilian ship while it was moored in a port in the Black Sea region of Odessa, killing a pilot and injuring four others. The missile hit the ship’s superstructure, which includes the command cabin. The ship was travelling under the Liberian flag, and the three wounded crew members were citizens of the Philippines. If confirmed, the attack would be the first time that Russian forces have hit a civilian vessel sailing near the Odessa region since Moscow pulled out of a UN-brokered deal in July which allowed Ukraine to export its grain through the Black Sea. In another incident, on 3 November, Russia targeted a military medals ceremony, killing at least a dozen men. The Ukrainian army has been criticised for organising an event involving so many soldiers in such a public and old-fashioned way. See
The sixth Paris Peace Forum, on 10 and 11 November, will focus on four different topics. Emmanuel Macron, along with Barbadian PM Mia Mottley and several African leaders, will assess the progress of the ‘Paris Pact for People and the Planet’, launched in June, which aims to provide substantial funding to combat poverty and climate change, in preparation for December’s COP28 in Dubai. An appeal will be launched to address the ‘collapse’ of ‘all ice surfaces on a global scale.’States affected by glacier loss, such as Nepal and Kyrgyzstan, will participate, as will China and India. Although Russia, a major Arctic actor, will not participate due to the conflict in Ukraine, the Elysée asserts that this will not be an obstacle to cooperation between other countries. Macron will also preside over the fifth Christchurch Call Summit, launched with New Zealand after the terrorist attack in Christchurch in 2019, aiming to enhance efforts to ‘combat terrorist and violent extremist content online’. Another top priority for Macron is to regulate digital platforms and artificial intelligence.