Plus: Major escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh, women-led IT in Central Asia, Slovenia eyes UN Security Council, and more.

The Big Story: Russian Regional Schools to Stay Closed Next Month

What happened: Russian schools in areas bordering Ukraine will not open for the new academic year due to the threat of cross-border attacks from Ukraine, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region announced yesterday, The Moscow Times reports. Russia has blamed Ukraine for several attacks on Belgorod since the start of the Russian invasion, according to the BBC. Ukraine has denied the charge.

Related: Russian recruits being sent to the war’s front line with only days of training, combined with high casualty rates, are most likely hurting the cohesion of the Russian military, The Moscow Times reports. Ukrainian morale is up due to new supplies of Western weapons as Kyiv seeks to reclaim the Russian-occupied south, ABC reports. The Russian military command is having to choose between shoring up defenses in the south or going on the offensive in the eastern Donetsk region, according to a Ukrainian military analyst cited by ABC.

Worth noting: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has slammed former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s attempts at diplomacy with Moscow as “disgusting,” RFE/RL reports. Schroeder met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week and later said the recent deal to end Russia’s blockade of grain shipments could be “slowly expanded to a cease-fire.” Zelenskiy replied yesterday that “It is simply disgusting when former leaders of major states with European values work for Russia, which is at war against these values.” 

News from the Regions

The Caucasus

  • A deadly flare-up in the conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has led Armenia to call on the international community to intervene as Russia accused Azerbaijan of breaking the cease-fire, RFE/RL reports. Azerbaijani authorities announced yesterday that an Armenian attack killed an Azerbaijani conscript, followed by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry conducting an operation dubbed “Revenge” against Armenian forces. Armenia authorities said two ethnic-Armenian soldiers were killed. 

Eastern Europe and Russia

  • The only cargo ship to leave a Ukrainian port so far under the recently brokered grain deal to end the Russian blockade has made it past Istanbul on the way to Lebanon, according to Reuters. Authorities cautioned that it will take months for Ukrainian grain exports to reach prewar levels and make a dent in the global food crisis, the Financial Times reports
  • The UN announced this week that 10 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed the border out of the country while fleeing Russia’s war, EUobserver reports.  

Central Europe and the Baltics

  • Lithuania is working in consultation with the EU to update its laws dealing with illegal migrants, The Baltic Times reports. Earlier this summer, the EU’s Court of Justice ruled against Lithuania’s automatic detention of people who illegally cross its border from Belarus, saying the policy is incompatible with EU law.
  • New outbreaks of the massive wildfire in Czechia, now in its second week, are impeding progress to contain the blaze, Czech Radio reports. The fire in the “Bohemian Switzerland” national park previously spread over the border into Germany, which is having its own wildfire problems – explosions at an ammunition dump started a large fire at a large urban forest outside Berlin this morning, Euronews reports

Southeastern Europe

  • Montenegro’s Ministry of Finance is turning to European banks for financing of the 23.5-kilometer, second section of a highway that will run from the Adriatic coast to Belgrade in SerbiaBIRN reports. The first 41-kilometer phase, which cost over 1 billion euros and was mostly financed by Chinese funds, took seven years to complete and left Montenegro with a public debt equaling almost 91% of the country’s GDP.  
  • Slovenia is vying for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2024-2025, Total Slovenia News reports. Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon discussed Slovenia’s bid with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and other officials at the UN’s New York headquarters on Monday. 

Central Asia

  • An international initiative to promote women-led tech startups in Central Asia recently chose 16 projects from Uzbekistan, 15 from Kazakhstan, 12 from Kyrgyzstan, two from Tajikistan, and one from TurkmenistanThe Astana Times reports. The chosen projects have been included in acceleration programs conducted by international experts, which include training in financial literacy, public speaking, time management, and other subjects.