Africa
Lundin

Swiss oil CEO faces trial for Sudan war crimes

The Supreme Court of Sweden¬†ruled that the trial of Alex Schneiter, a Swiss citizen and former CEO of Lundin Oil charged in connection with war crimes in Sudan between 1999 and¬†2003, may proceed in the Swedish courts. While Lundin Oil is a Swedish-based company, Schneiter claims that he cannot be tried in Sweden because he is neither a citizen nor a resident. The high court held that Schneiter’s alleged crimes are subject to “universal jurisdiction,” which allows anyone to be prosecuted anywhere in the world for serious international crimes. The case concerns an area called Block 5A in southern Sudan, which was then wracked by a pro-independence insurgency.¬†The¬†indictment holds that Lundin demanded that government forces and allied militias provide security for its operations, knowing that this would¬†entail deadly force and enflame the conflict.¬†(Map via Rixstep)

Europe
Nordstream

Russia ‘weaponizes’ gas supplies to Europe

Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off the flow of natural gas to Germany and other European markets via the Nord Stream pipeline, calling it a three-day shut-down for maintenance. But Western governments charge that Russia is “weaponizing” gas supplies amid the Ukraine war. Days earlier, Germany’s government broached allowing the blocked Nord Stream 2 pipeline to begin pumping Russian gas. Wolfgang Kubicki, vice president of the Bundestag, said the move is necessary so “people do not have to freeze in winter and that our industry does not suffer serious damage.” His comment prompted a harsh response from Kyiv, where Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that “addiction to Russian gas kills.” (Map: Wikipedia)

Europe
druzbha

Transnistria blasts signal spread of Ukraine war

A series of blasts tore through the building of the de facto “Ministry of State Security” in Tiraspol, capital of Moldova’s Russian-backed separatist enclave of Transnistria. Officials said the building was fired on by unknown assailants with grenade launchers. Ominously, the attack came one day after a Russian military commander openly broached extending Moscow’s war in Ukraine to neighboring Moldova, to “give the Russian army access to Transnistria.” The blasts also came on the same day as large explosions in Bryansk, a Russian town near the Ukrainian border which is serving as a key staging area for the invasion. Bryansk is a hub on the Druzhba oil pipeline, and the flames engulfed a petroleum depot. Russian officials are speculating that Kyiv’s forces were behind the blasts, while Ukrainian officials speculate they were Russian “false flag” operations. (Photo of Druzhba blasts: Anonymous Operations)

Afghanistan
kunar

Pipeline plans threatened by Af-Pak border clashes

Afghanistan authorities say some 60 civilians, including five children, were killed as Pakistan launched air-strikes across the border on Khost and Kunar provinces. The strikes follow a series of attacks on security forces by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Pakistan’s borderlands. The escalation was harshly condemned both by the Taliban regime and the Afghan permanent mission in the United Nations‚ÄĒthe loyalty of which remains unclear more than six months after the Taliban takeover. The new tensions come a week after top diplomats from China, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and other regional states met for a summit in China’s Anhui province on reviving the long-stalled Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which would deliver Central Asian gas to world markets through Afghan territory. (Photo via¬†Khaama Press)

Planet Watch
fracking

Ukraine war windfall for US fracking industry

US President Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced a joint Task Force to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and “strengthen European energy security as President Putin wages his war of choice against Ukraine.” The press release states: “The United States will work with international partners and strive to ensure additional LNG volumes for the EU market of at least 15 bcm [billion cubic meters] in 2022, with expected increases going forward.” This means liquified natural gas from the US fracking industry.¬†Environmental group¬†Global Witness¬†reacted with alarm to the announcement, stating: “If Europe truly wants to get off Russian gas the only real option it has is phasing out gas altogether.” (Image: FracTracker)

Planet Watch
Tengiz

Ukraine war portends new oil shock

Long-depressed oil prices are suddenly soaring in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with impacts already being felt globally. Exports from Kazakhstan and the Caspian Basin are virtually paralyzed, as the Black Sea¬†pipeline terminal delivering the crude to Western markets is incurring a prohibitive “war risk insurance premium.”¬†Berlin has suspended the¬†Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany‚ÄĒand¬†Russia has retaliated by threatening¬†to cut gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 line.¬†In his executive order barring Russian oil and gas imports to the US, President Biden issued a warning to the oil companies, urging that the war should not serve as an excuse for¬†price-gouging.¬†But¬†it is actually the oil futures market that plays a determinant role in fixing the international price. There’s a big psychological element involved, which is why every escalation in the Middle East (without fail)¬†jacks up oil prices. A war in Europe will almost certainly mean another oil shock, with grim implications for the world economy and Biden’s political chances. (Photo of Kazakh oil-field via Wikimedia Commons)

Mexico
Pemex

Control of oil behind Mexico-Spain tensions

Mexico’s President Andr√©s Manuel L√≥pez Obrador¬†called for a “pause” in relations with Spain, in a speech that explicitly invoked the legacy of colonialism going back to the Conquest. But the speech was aimed principally at Spanish oil company Repsol, which had been favored during the presidential term of Felipe Calder√≥n. Specifically, L√≥pez Obrador questioned the granting of¬†gas contracts in the Burgos Basin, in Mexico’s northeast. He charged that Repsol operated the fields less productively than the state company Pemex had. “In the end, less gas was extracted than Pemex extracted” before the contracts, he charged. Repsol is meanwhile under investigation by Spanish prosecutors on charges of graft related to the company’s efforts to fend¬†off a take-over bid by Pemex.¬†(Photo via Digital Journal)

East Asia
kurils

Submarine incident in flashpoint Kuril Islands

Amid quickly escalating tensions over Ukraine, Russia lodged a diplomatic protest with the US embassy in Moscow, claiming that a US nuclear submarine penetrated Russian territorial waters near the Kuril Islands. According to Moscow’s Defense Ministry, a Virginia-class US Navy submarine was detected off Urup Island, where Russia’s Pacific Fleet was conducting exercises. The Defense Ministry said the submarine was chased off by Russian vessels, and retreated at “maximum speed.” The statement accused the US of a “violation of Russia’s state border.” Media accounts did not emphasize that whether this purported incident indeed took place in Russian waters is questionable, as the Kurils are in part claimed by Japan‚ÄĒa dispute¬†which has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from entering a treaty to formally end their World War II hostilities.¬†Russia over the past weeks has conducted naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and northeast Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Pacific and Sea of Okhotsk, where the Kurils are located. ¬†(Map: International¬†Kuril Island Project)

The Amazon
OCP

Pipeline rupture in Ecuador’s Amazon fouls river

Ecuador’s trans-Andean Heavy Crude Pipeline (OCP) ruptured amid heavy rains, spilling oil into a sensitive area of Napo province and contaminating several rivers draining into the Amazon Basin, including the Napo, Piedra Fina, Quijos and, most seriously, the Coca. The contamination also penetrated Cayambe-Coca National Park. Pipeline operator OCP Ecuador didn’t announce that it had stopped pumping through the stricken line until the following day, and at first denied that any waterways had been contaminated. This was repudiated in a statement from the Confederation of Amazonian Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONFENIAE), which cited reports from impacted Kichwa communities and tweeted a¬†video showing crude polluting the Rio Coca. (Photo:¬†Ecuador¬†Ministry of Environment via EcoWatch)

The Andes
arauca

Anti-war protests in northeast Colombia

Rural communities in Colombia’s northeastern Arauca department held anti-war protests amid inter-factional guerilla violence that has been terrorizing the region. Demanding attention from the government and international human rights organizations, some 1,200 marched in the hamlets of¬†Puerto Jordan and Botal√≥n.¬†Recent days had seen an outbreak of fighting in the area between the National Liberation Army (ELN) and “dissident” factions of the demobilized FARC guerillas that have refused to lay down arms, in defiance of a 2016 peace agreement. At least 23 were killed in the clashes, which were said to be over control of smuggling routes across the nearby Venezuelan border. About a dozen local families were also forced to flee their homes. (Photo:¬†Arauca Online¬†via¬†Colombia Reports)

Europe
poland border

Escalation on the EU’s eastern frontier

Tensions on the European Union’s eastern border escalated sharply as Polish border guards repulsed a wave of some 4,000 asylum seekers and migrants seeking to cross from Belarus. Poland has mobilized 15,000 soldiers to the region to prevent people from crossing, and Belarusian security forces are not allowing the migrants to turn back. The migrants are sleeping rough as temperatures plunge below freezing; a 14-year-old boy froze to death, becoming at least the eleventh person to have died attempting to cross the border. There are fears the situation could result in a military confrontation.¬†(Photo: Visegrad24)

Greater Middle East
egypt police

State of emergency lifted in Egypt ‚ÄĒcharade?

The ending of Egypt’s nearly four-year state of emergency, announced by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was hailed by international human rights groups as a positive step. But Sisi is now trying to make permanent a more recent, and officially temporary, national security law that would give the military powers normally used during a state of emergency. The amendments to the national terrorism law, which have been approved by the House of Representatives, would give the president the authority to take “measures necessary to preserve security and public order,” including the ability to impose curfews. It would also expand the purview of military courts, giving them power over any crimes concerning “public infrastructure.” A related measure passed by the House would impose penalties for conducting “research” on the military. (Photo via Wikipedia)