Translated by: José Chaiça and Matilde São José
A violent earthquake shook Turkey and Syria
Until this edition’s date, and according to the WHO, almost 41.000 have died from the earthquake in these two countries.
The earthquake of magnitude 7.8 caused the destruction of hundreds of buildings that have totally collapsed, due to its weak structure, and made thousands of hostages of the remains of their own houses. International aid has been criticized and somewhat delayed but is already being felt and, despite the difficulties to enter Syria, due to the rebel blockade, some international organizations and volunteers from other entities have already managed to reach the destroyed territories. According to Público, for the first time since 2020 the Syrian northern border was used to let humanitarian aid pass. In this case, to reach areas controlled by the rebels and greatly affected by the earthquake. The most complicated issue has been the coordination of the UN with the Syrian government for the entry of aid from the United Nations.
On Monday, the UN approved at the Security Council – with votes in favor of Russia and China – the opening of border crossings, closed by Assad, so that all aid passes through Damascus. Faced with late aid, the UN has acknowledged that it is aware of the faster aid from other aid organizations, but argues that in its own case, it must act within certain limits that it cannot disrespect.
In an act of courage, the leader of the White Helmets, Raed al-Saleh, criticized in an opinion article for CNN the late and “shameful” response of the UN and reiterated that something better must be done and that the system “assembled to protect and save human lives during an emergency lets children die under the rubble as precious minutes and hours elapse.”
On a more hopeful note, babies with days were rescued, as well as recent mothers and, after too many hours, children and families are still rescued, but as the days pass, the rescue operations are preparing to end.
Zelensky visited the UK and the European Union
Last Wednesday, February 10th, Zelensky visited the UK. On his second official visit after the start of the war, Zelensky arrived in London on a British air force plane. The agenda contained the meeting with Rishi Sunak, another with King Charles III, a speech in the British Parliament and a visit to a military base where Ukrainian soldiers are trained.
In a speech at the Parliament that lasted about 20 minutes, Zelensky recalled that “London has been with Kiev since the first day, since the first seconds and minutes of the war” and that it had “a helping hand when the world had not yet come to understand how to react”. The Ukrainian President also highlighted the strong British character, present in the firm hand of the former prime minister – Boris Johnson – when convincing the allies to support Ukraine and in the pro-active character of the deputies.
In the following day, Thursday, the Ukrainian leader was in Brussels at an European Council meeting. At the same summit, Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, Charles Michel, President of the European Council and Zelensky met. The members of the European Parliament and the 27 leaders of the MS – included in the European Council – were also present. Each leader delivered an exciting speech with the aim of appealing to the more human side of each entity and its members to reach a dialogue and the pursuit of common goals.
President Zelensky also called for Ukraine to join the European Union in 2023. This request was taken into account by the President of the Commission, who guarantees, however, that it will be a long one.
NATO: Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has announced this Sunday that he will not be asking for the extension of his nine-year mandate. The Norwegian Secretary-General had already extended the mandate three times, but this time he decided to withdraw, when it ends, in October 2023. The mandate for this position is four years and was given twice to the former Norwegian prime minister. With the Russian invasion, an exception was made and NATO leaders decided to extend the Secretary-General’s term for another year.
Moldova: Natalia Gavrilita resigned last Friday (10/02) as prime minister and triggered the Moldovan´s government fall. The former prime minister, who was in charge since the summer of 2021, justified her decision with a series of recent disruptions, such as missiles that crossing over Moldovan airspace and an internal energy crisis. Some of the latest Russian missiles fired were launched from the Black Sea and reportedly flew over Romanian and Moldovan territory, before entering Ukraine.
The Moldovan President – Maia Sandu – appointed and asked Dorin Recean, a 48-year-old economist and former interior minister, to form a new government within 15 days.
Moldova and the EU: While visiting the EU, the Ukrainian president said he had information that Russia had plans to attack the former USSR member Moldova. A few days later, Maia Sandu confirmed that some activities, aimed at instigating violence within Moldova, had been noticed. According to the Washington Post, Russian intelligence has been spending millions of dollars, trying to bribe politicians in Moldova, in order to “shift the country policies towards Moscow”. Ilan Shor, alleged figurehead for these groups, is the head of the pro-Kremlin party, that organised several protests against the current presidency.
Last week, the EU – Moldova Association Council met in Brussels, which brought together Josep Borrell (EU High Representative for Foreign Policy) and the then Moldovan Prime Minister, Natalia Gavrilita. The main discussion issue was the current Russian threat and the national integrity of Moldova. In the end, both criticised Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, saying that these alleged Russian intentions “intellectually discredited” him.
Olympic Games 2024: Zelensky has proposed that Russian athletes should be banned from the next Olympic games. For the time being, the request has been refused by the head of the International Olympic Committee, who believes that national governments should not have a word over participants, in international sporting competitions. The proposal is for these athletes to be integrated under a neutral flag, as to motivate dialogue rather than isolation – according to Thomas Bach, “who is doing more for peace?… those who seek to keep the lines open and communicate, or those who want to isolate and divide?”.
Unidentified objects: After a Chinese spy balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina, three more objects, this time unidentified, were spotted near US territory. One was shot down over Alaska on the 10th of February and the other two were shot down over Canadian airspace, two days later. The White House issued a statement, in order to reassure American people, that these are not extraterrestrial objects.
War in Ukraine: The Wagner group has confirmed the capture of Krasna Hora, a village on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut, Donetsk. The leader of the group, Yevgeny Prigozhin attributed this achievement to his men and not to Russian soldiers. Ukraine has, for the past week, been preparing for a possible Russian offensive that will mark the one-year anniversary of the conflict. In light of this, Macron pointed out that Ukraine, in addition to requests for fighter aircraft, urgently needs both artillery pieces and ammunition rounds – raising alarms about a possible lack of military resources, on the part of Ukrainian forces.