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ACLED Regional Overview: Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia (30 July - 5 August 2022)

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Last week in Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia, the Russian military invasion of Ukraine continued, while fighting also intensified along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact. Protests against LGBT+ events were recorded in the United Kingdom, while farmers protested across the region.

In Ukraine, fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continued in the eastern and southern regions of the country last week. Ukrainian forces claimed minor territorial gains around the Izium district of the Kharkiv region, but lost control of several settlements in the Bakhmut district of the Donetsk region. Russia also began transferring more troops from the Donetsk region to the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions in response to recent successful Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in the area (ISW, 4 August 2022). Meanwhile, Russian forces used their bases around the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar to launch attacks on Ukrainian forces in the surrounding areas (Bloomberg, 6 August 2022; ISW, 3 August 2022).

Russian forces also continued to shell and launch airstrikes at civilian infrastructure last week, killing over 20 civilians in the Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Sumy regions.1 Abductions of civilians from occupied territories also continued, with Russian forces abducting a government official and a school director in the Kherson region last week. Following a successful Ukrainian strike in the Brylivka area in the Kherson region, Russian forces also reportedly forced civilians living close to a local railway station to relocate. Ukrainian sources claim that the displacement of these civilians was likely related to concerns that they would inform Ukrainian forces of the movement of Russian military equipment (Center for Strategic Communications, 5 August 2022; 24 Channel, 3 August 2022).

Additionally, following an explosion at a prison in occupied Olenivka a week prior, activists held protests in several cities across Ukraine to demand increased international support and protection of the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war held by Russia. Rallies in support of Ukraine and against the war were held in Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, Germany, Poland, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.

Along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact, clashes intensified last week, particularly in the Lachin (Kashatagh), Shusha, and Martakert regions. The escalation in fighting coincided with an Azerbaijani operation in response to the killing of an Azerbaijani serviceman in the Lachin region on 3 August. During the operation, Azerbaijani forces occupied strategically important heights in the Lachin and Shusha regions, killing two Armenian servicemen and wounding 19 others. The escalation could also be attributed to Azerbaijan’s attempts to pressure **Armenia **into handing over the ‘Lachin Corridor,’ which connects Armenia to Artsakh and is currently guarded by a Russian peacekeeping contingent. According to the 2020 ceasefire agreement, Armenia has until November 2023 to construct a new route to Artsakh and to hand over Lachin to Azerbaijan. However, in recent weeks, Azerbaijani authorities have demanded that the handover occur sooner (OC-Media, 5 August 2022). Last week, Artsakh authorities advised residents of Berdzor, Aghavno, and Sus along the ‘Lachin Corridor’ to leave their homes as this territory will be transferred to Azerbaijan’s control on 25 August (Caucasian Knot, 5 August 2022). Meanwhile, an alternative route connecting Armenia and Artsakh will be under construction until the spring of 2023 (OC-Media, 5 August 2022). The escalation along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact contributed to the 342% increase in violence in Azerbaijan and Artsakh last week relative to the past month flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the region in the past month.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, protesters gathered across England demanding the cancellation of the children’s events organized within the framework of the Drag Queen Story Hour tour of libraries last week. Protesters also gathered in Belfast, Northern Ireland, against a family storytime event hosted by a drag queen and an LGBT+ Pride parade as a part of the city’s LGBT+ Pride Weekend celebrations. Meanwhile, LGBT+ Pride parades took place in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland.

In the Netherlands, farmers continued their protest last week against the government’s plans to cut nitrogen emissions. However, the number of protest events remained low for the second week in a row, and in the run-up to the first round of negotiations between farmers’ organizations and the government on 5 August (DutchNews, 5 August 2022). Farmers also demonstrated in Flemish Belgium against the Flemish government’s plans to cut nitrogen emissions in the agricultural sector. Elsewhere, protests related to farmers’ working conditions were also reported in Austria, France, Italy, and Spain last week.