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Plus: Pussy Rioter flees, Czech racism in refugee crisis, Siberian fires, fewer Catholics in Bosnia, and more.

The Big Story: Gas Markets Shaken by Ukrainian Supply Shutdown

What happened: Ukraine announced that it is shutting down about a third of the gas transiting from Russia through Ukraine via the eastern border entry point of Sokhranivka, raising fears of supply problems and price increases in Europe, AP reports

More context: The Ukrainian gas authority said the shutdown was due to the Russian military interfering at gas facilities, which endangered “the stability and safety of the entire Ukrainian gas transportation system,” and because Moscow’s army was intercepting gas and sending it to Russian-occupied separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, Reuters reports.

Worth noting: Though the gas could be rerouted through other supply points, news of the cutoff caused already shaky natural gas markets to fluctuate yesterday, according to Bloomberg. Russia recently cut off gas to Poland and Bulgaria over their support for Ukraine. 

News from the Regions

Central Europe and the Baltics

  • EU officials are considering paying Hungary to join the sanctions against Russian oil, Politico reports. The funds would be channeled to Budapest as part of the EU’s new energy strategy, due to be announced soon, according to three unnamed EU officials cited by Politico. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that stopping Russian oil imports would be like a “nuclear bomb” detonated on Hungary’s economy. The increasingly authoritarian Orban has expressed pro-Russia and anti-EU sentiments for years, though today Budapest announced it would not block Ukraine from EU membership. 
  • Several organizations in the Czech Republic are calling on Prime Minister Petr Fiala to convene a crisis meeting to address alarming reports of racism against Ukrainian Romani refugees that they say “rise to the level of breaching the international human rights conventions,” Romea reports. Several racist incidents have been reported in the last 24 hours. In the city of Brno, police officers with dogs were accused of stopping Roma refugees from getting off a train, telling them “Brno is full” in broken Russian. At a train station in Usti nad Labem, an activist reported insults, derision, and discrimination openly directed against a group of Roma trying to get to Germany. Personnel on a train to Plzen told a group of Roma – four women, two girls, and a baby – that they would be thrown off the train if they did not buy a ticket, even though they had an officially issued free ticket and Ukrainian passports. When the group made it to Plzen, a police officer was overheard saying that nobody can expect him “to support these gypsies.”
  • Latvian police dispersed lingering participants of a pro-Russia rally in Riga last night, detaining several people for illegally displaying symbols supporting the invasion of Ukraine, the Baltic News Network reports. But police at the Victory Park gathering did not interfere with people displaying the Russian flag, or for singing or playing songs glorifying Russia and the victory of the Soviet Army, the article notes.

Southeastern Europe

  • The Roman Catholic population in Bosnia and Herzegovina has plummeted over 50% in 30 years, according to a report from the country’s bishops, writes Euractiv, citing a local news report. Most Catholics in the country are ethnic Croats and they “have disappeared, more precisely around 54.6%,” the statement said. The issue is the starkest in the Republika Srpska entity, where the number of Catholics has dropped  from 220,000 to 15,000 since the Bosnian War in the early 1990s. The bishops also urged a change in election laws, which they say are unfair to Croats.
  • Bne Intellinews offered an overview this week on where countries stand in relation to Russia’s war on Ukraine. The countries seen as firmly supporting the West include RomaniaAlbaniaKosovoNorth Macedonia, and Slovenia. The countries emitting mixed messages are Bulgaria and Croatia, while Montenegro has supported sanctions against Russia though the invasion has caused rifts among the population. Moldova and Serbia are described as neutral in the analysis, though Serbia is a complex case: the generally pro-Russia country was taken aback by recent comments by Putin that suggested Kosovo is an independent country, a notion that Serbia vehemently opposes.

Eastern Europe and Russia

  • A member of Pussy Riot, the Moscow-based feminist activist and performance art group, disguised herself as a food courier to avoid police while fleeing to Lithuania recently, The New York Times reports. Maria V. Alyokhina has been jailed multiple times on various trumped-up charges for her activism, and in April authorities announced she would have to spend 21 days in a penal colony. An upcoming Pussy Riot tour will raise money for Ukraine, the article says.     
  • Out-of-control wildfires raging across southwestern Siberia have killed at least 10 people this week and Russian leader Vladimir Putin is trying to get local authorities to be better-prepared, AP reports. “We can’t allow a repeat of last year’s situation,” said Putin in a phone call with the authorities yesterday. The 2021 fire season in Russia was its worst in modern history.   

Central Asia

  • The new leader of Turkmenistan, the son of the former leader, is “exploring novel ways to make his subjects’ lives even more miserable and austere” by increasing restrictions on women, an analysis in Eurasianet notes. President Serdar Berdymukhamedov is now forbidding tight-fitting clothes, fake nails, false eyelashes, and cosmetic surgery, according to a recent RFE/RL article cited in the article. Turkmenistan has been called the world’s weirdest dictatorship.

Borderlands

  • Mongolia is “sleepwalking into a pipeline deal” that will increase its reliance on Russia and could allow China to endanger the country’s Tibetan Buddhist community, according to an analysis in The Diplomat. The Soyuz-Vostok pipeline would be able to transport Russian gas to China, and Ulaanbaatar would likely have to take out unfavorable loans from Russia to hold up its end of the pipeline project. Meanwhile, Moscow will not be able to get China to pay high prices for the gas due to the ongoing sanctions against Russia, which means China would be in a position to negotiate other favors, such as putting pressure on Mongolia’s Buddhists to cut ties with Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. China took control of Tibet in the 1950s.