Displaying items by tag: Europe
There has been a chorus of international condemnation after the Russian authorities announced the death of Alexei Navalny in an Arctic prison on 16 February. His widow Yuli Navalnaya has deliberately stepped into the spotlight by declaring her commitment to continue his fight for a better Russia. Blaming Vladimir Putin, she has called on fellow Russians to join her in opposing him. Her message resonates with those opposed to Putin's regime, offering hope and inspiration. Previously reserved, Yulia has emerged as a woman of resilience and moral authority, compelling in her grief and love for her husband's cause. Meanwhile, a court in the far north will hear a case brought by Navalny’s mother, who at time of writing still had not been allowed to see her son’s body: see
On 21 February, In a coordinated effort across four German states, with cooperation from France and Belgium, law enforcement agencies launched a targeted operation against a suspected human-smuggling gang at dawn. This response to illegal trafficking reflects growing concerns over such activities in Europe. It aimed not just to make arrests but to dismantle the entire network. The raid sheds light on the human suffering behind smuggling, emphasising the need for international collaboration to address its root causes. It underscores the importance of comprehensive strategies prioritising human dignity and safety. While there are questions about its long-term impact, the move represents a pivotal moment in the struggle against trafficking. It serves as a beacon of hope for a future where exploitation does not thrive on the vulnerabilities of the desperate.
In a makeshift field hospital near Avdiivka, a surgeon is treating soldiers for frostbite and shrapnel wounds as the war with Russia nears its two-year anniversary. With exhaustion and frustration mounting among defenders due to weapon shortages and the absence of a swift victory, casualties are rising. Vitalii, a former children's hospital surgeon, said, ‘I urge the West to be more decisive in assisting Ukraine; otherwise sooner or later their soldiers will (also) have to fight against this evil that has invaded our country.’ After many months, the Kremlin's forces appear close to surrounding the ruins of Avdiivka, with some Ukrainian soldiers privately admitting that the town, scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the war so far, could fall at any moment. In such dire circumstances, the resilience of the Ukrainian soldiers shines through as they continue to fight against overwhelming odds.
On 14 February Vladimir Putin signed a law enabling authorities to seize assets from individuals convicted of spreading false information about the military. The law, approved swiftly by parliament, targets those discrediting the government or inciting extremism, potentially affecting exiled critics who have property in Russia. A Kremlin spokesman dismissed concerns about misuse, stating it aims to penalise traitors and scoundrels. The law expands on existing legislation which is used to silence dissent, particularly about the war in Ukraine. Thousands have faced imprisonment or fines for criticising the government. The timing of this new law, a month before the election in March, underscores the restricted political environment in Russia. Putin’s main rival Alexey Navalny is in prison, and Boris Nadezhdin, critical of the war in Ukraine, has been barred from standing.
Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valerii Zaluzhny has highlighted the use of drones as a way of countering Russia's military advantage and altering the course of the war. Russia has also continued to attack Ukraine with drones and missiles, but it has failed to capture new territory despite its superior resources. Recent Ukrainian successes which illustrate the potency of drones include sinking a Russian warship and strikes on airfields and an oil refinery. Ukraine expects to exploit this technological advantage by producing millions more drones. Meanwhile, although the EU finally approved a €50 billion aid package for Ukraine on 2 February, this is seen as only a small step: see
Dozens of farmers were arrested on 31 January after breaking into the huge Rungis wholesale food market south of Paris, during their ongoing protests. Emmanuel Macron’s government had warned farmers not to approach the market, which feeds twelve million people a day. But that failed to take into account the level of anger over what farmers view as unacceptably low pay, stifling red tape, unworkable European policies, and unfair competition from foreign rivals. 91 farmers managed to enter the Rungis site and were arrested for ‘damaging goods’, though they claim they caused no harm. While progress was reported in discussions with new prime minister Gabriel Attal, the protests reflect the deep-seated grievances of farmers against policies they view as detrimental to their livelihoods. At present 4,500 tractors are blocking eighty spots along major roads.
On 31 January, Russia and Ukraine conducted a prisoner exchange. Russia claimed that each side received 195 soldiers, but Volodymyr Zelensky said that 207 Ukrainian soldiers had been returned. This was the 50th exchange since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and the first such swap since the recent plane crash which Russia claimed had 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war on board. There are continuing doubts in Kyiv regarding this assertion, especially because no photographs have been released showing dozens of dead bodies. Both sides have called for an international investigation, and the details of the incident remain unverified. In another development, the International Court of Justice has ruled that Russia violated terrorism and anti-discrimination treaties: see
Russia has accused Ukraine of shooting down a military transport plane carrying 74 people, including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, on a flight to Belgorod in southern Russia, where a prisoner exchange was planned. However, the exact details and the cause of the crash (on 24 January) remain unverified by independent sources. The ongoing conflict, now nearing its two-year mark, has been marked by mutual accusations and disputes. The Russian defence ministry stated that the Ilyushin Il-76 plane was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile system, leading to the deaths of six crew members, 65 Ukrainian military personnel, and three Russian military personnel accompanying them. In response, Ukraine's military acknowledged the planned prisoner exchange, but said they lacked reliable information about the plane's passengers. They asserted that they had fulfilled their obligations and ensured the safety of captured Russian servicemen who were supposed to be part of the exchange.
The EU, along with European port authorities, has launched a new public-private alliance aimed at combating drug smuggling and organised crime. This initiative comes as the EU faces record levels of cocaine seizures, with over 300 metric tons seized every year. The home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, said, ‘Europe has a huge problem of organised crime, and we know its source of income is drugs’. Nearly 70% of all drug seizures by customs occur at ports, making them a crucial focus for tackling drug trafficking. The partnership, which involves Europol and Eurojust, will allocate 200 million euros to support EU customs, raise awareness, and assist port authorities in addressing this problem. It will aim to enhance security and protect port workers from criminal threats and exploitation.
Poland's main evening news studio is under heavy police protection amid a fierce battle for control of the country's media landscape. This struggle emerged following elections that ended eight years of populist rule, leading to promises of media balance by the new coalition government led by Donald Tusk. Under the previous right-wing administration, public TV and radio channels had become highly partisan. In December, the culture minister replaced TVP's top management, resulting in the 24-hour news channel being temporarily taken off the air. Opposition figures protested the move, and rival management teams vied for control. While protesters no longer occupied TVP's reception area, security remained tight, and journalists worked from makeshift spaces, including a converted bathroom. TVP Info, the 24-hour channel, and the flagship evening news show, renamed ‘19:30’, eventually returned with a focus on a more inclusive and balanced approach. The new editor, Pawel Pluska, emphasised a shift away from divisive language and pledged to present diverse viewpoints. Despite ongoing protests by some, there is a clear effort to promote media neutrality in Poland, following years of media polarisation during the previous government's rule.