EU foreign ministers plan sanctions against Russia, Venezuela and Myanmar: European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to impose sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in response to the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said individuals in Russia’s judiciary could face EU sanctions in the coming days. One EU diplomat said the proposed new travel bans and asset freezes would target, among others, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, which handles probes into major crimes, the director of prisons, the director of Russia’s National Guard as well as the prosecutor general. In a statement Monday, Russia’s foreign ministry said the EU sanctions were unlawful, disappointing and adopted under a far-fetched pretext. The EU has also imposed sanctions on 19 senior Venezuelan officials, lawmakers and members of the security forces in response to December’s legislative election that the bloc said was rigged in favor of President Nicolas Maduro. Furthermore, EU ministers approved sanctions against those responsible for the coup in Myanmar, after the military seized power this month and launched an increasingly deadly bid to crush protests. Huge crowds brought Myanmar’s towns and cities to a standstill Monday in a mass strike against the coup, despite a warning from the military junta that protesters will „suffer loss of life“ if demonstrations confront security forces. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the United Nations must respond to China’s human rights violations, including abuses committed on an industrial scale against Uighur Muslims in the region of Xinjiang.
reuters.com, dw.com (Russia); reuters.com (Venezuela); france24.com, cnn.com, politico.eu (Myanmar)
Italian ambassador to DR Congo dies in attack on UN convoy: Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luca Attanasio, and two other people have been killed in an attack on a United Nations convoy in the restive east of the central African country. The convoy from the World Food Program was attacked during an attempted kidnapping near the town of Kanyamahoro, a spokesperson for Virunga national park said. Attanasio and a male Italian military police officer travelling with him were killed, the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement. A driver also died in the attack, diplomatic sources and local officials said. Attanasio had been Italy’s head of mission in Kinshasa since 2017 and was made ambassador in 2019.
Iranian lawmakers criticize Tehran’s deal with IAEA: Iranian lawmakers protested on Monday against Tehran’s decision to permit monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for up to three months, saying the move broke a law mandating an end to the agency’s snap inspections this week. Iran has been gradually breaching terms of a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers since then US President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. The pact aims to keep Iran at arm’s length from being able to make nuclear arms, which Tehran says it has never wanted to build. The United States will seek to strengthen and extend the agreement between world powers and Iran aimed at curbing its nuclear program, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.
Merkel ready to extend Afghanistan mission: During the Munich Security Conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised NATO allies a possible extension of the Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan. Germany’s Bundeswehr has been in northern Afghanistan for 18 years and its “withdrawal must not end in the wrong forces gaining the upper hand there,” said Merkel, who was virtually connected to the conference. Originally, the approximately 10,000 NATO soldiers were supposed to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of April. Now the units, which also include around 1,100 German soldiers, are to remain on site to support the democratically elected government.
Annual report of Germany’s Armed Forces Commissioner: The first annual report published by Armed Forces Commissioner Eva Högl, who has been in office since 2020, doesn’t paint a particularly rosy picture of the situation. One of the biggest problems is the aging of the armed forces and a high number of suspected right-wing extremist tendencies. Since 2012, the average age of professional and contract soldiers has increased by an average of 3.1 years. The average soldier today is an average of 33.4 years old, which is “not very useful with regard to the operational readiness of the armed forces”, the report states. If the trend continues, the appeal to the younger generations – even more so – could wane. The increasing number of suspected right-wing extremism cases in the Bundeswehr is also worrying. The number of „suspected cases of membership in the so-called Reich Citizens Movement“ has almost doubled: from 16 (2019) to 31 (2020). The suspected cases in the area of Islamism, however, are falling: from 77 to 31 reports within one year. The Commissioner for the Armed Forces announced „Education, sanctions and prevention“ in all areas.
Guest article: Beijing and Moscow take advantage of the sluggish EU vaccination campaign tagesspiegel.de
Libya: Libyan interior minister’s convoy in shootout he calls assassination attempt reuters.com
Nord Stream 2: At least 18 companies withdraw spiegel.de
Cyber security: Is there a war on the internet? zeitung.faz.net
Military: Bundeswehr paramedics fly to Portugal for relief missions zeit.de
NUMBER OF THE WEEK
Germany’s Military Counter-Intelligence Service (MAD) recorded 477 new cases of right-wing extremism suspected in the Bundeswehr last year, according to the annual report of the Armed Forces Commissioner.
Turkey arrests hundreds over alleged Kurdish militant links in Iraq executions: Turkey on Monday announced the detention of 718 people it accuses of being part of the Kurdish militant group PKK, which Ankara says executed 13 Turks in northern Iraq. The mass arrests were announced a day after Ankara said Kurdistan Workers‘ Party (PKK) rebels had executed the 13 captives. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called his Turkish counterpart on Monday, and said Washington concurred that the PKK bears responsibility for the killings of 13 Turkish hostages. The move followed condemnations from Ankara after the first US reaction expressed condolences but did not categorically blame the PKK.
KSK commander Markus Kreitmayr could be replaced: German newspaper „Süddeutsche Zeitung“ reports that Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is considering dismissing the commander of the Special Forces Association (KSK). Under the leadership of Brigadier General Kreitmayr, the controversial amnesty regulation for the return of missing ammunition was introduced, among other things. Apparently, soldiers of the elite KSK unit were given the opportunity to return unauthorized hoarded or possibly stolen ammunition without further penalties – which could be a severe violation of regulations. The KSK is currently under close scrutiny due to repeated right-wing extremist incidents. Green party politician Tobias Lindner told the newspaper that „very serious questions about the commander’s responsibility“ should be raised if the allegations are true.
US gun maker Colt bought by Czech company: Czech firearms company Ceska Zbrojovka has signed a deal to acquire Colt, the American gun maker that helped develop revolvers in the 19th century and has since supplied the armed forces in the US and other countries. Ceska Zbrojovka Group SE said that it has purchased all the shares in Colt Holding Company LLC, the parent company of Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC and its Canadian subsidiary, Colt Canada Corp.
„Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.“
Remarks by US President Joe Biden at the 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference.
Reorganization of Germany’s defense budget: Green party politician Tobias Lindner has proposed that the procurement of large and expensive defense projects should be regulated by law in the future, the newspaper FAZ reports. A „Defense Planning Act“ is intended to create the basis for new acquisitions and planning security.