What Our Analysts Are Reading – April, 2022

Navanti’s data collection and analysis are based on networks of on-the-ground researchers from all walks of life: journalists, academics, and humanitarian workers, to name a few. Our analysts also keep abreast of open source reports to inform their work. Below, these analysts have summarized and contextualized the most important pieces they have read and listened to over the past month.


Brian Whitmore assesses Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s difficulties as Russia continues to involve Belarus in its war in Ukraine. Though the Belarusian military is not included in Russia’s war in Ukraine, Russia is using Belarusian territory to launch missile attacks and transport troops and equipment. Whitmore underscores how Lukashenka is increasingly at odds with Belarusian public opinion. Recent polls suggest two-thirds of the populace oppose the use of Belarusian infrastructure for Russia’s war in Ukraine, and 50.4 percent of Belarusians disapprove of Russia’s actions in the war. In addition, the effects of international sanctions are beginning to cripple the economies of Russia and Belarus, making Lukashenka’s balancing act between pleasing Russia and keeping the Belarusian populace down while holding onto his power a more arduous endeavor.


Amid an already tight global energy market, mounting political tensions in Libya threaten to further curb the output of one of Africa’s largest oil producers. Libya’s National Oil Company (NOC) confirmed that inter-militia clashes caused damage to the Zawiya oil refinery on Friday April 22. These threats to Libya’s energy infrastructure come amid an oil shutdown as protesters and forces aligned with parallel Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha and Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) chief Khalifa Haftar forcibly close several ports and oil facilities in the country, cutting national production, which had been hovering around 1 million to 1.2 billion barrels per day, by an estimated 550,000 barrels a day.


In a piece for Vilnius-based Eastern Europe Studies Centre, Denis Cenusa explores who could be behind the April 2022 attacks in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria. Located in eastern Moldova on the left bank of the Dniester River, Transnistria is an unrecognized breakaway state that has had a Russian military presence since 1992. At the end of April 2022, an attack on Transnistria’s Ministry of Security building in Tiraspol and the attack on two Soviet-era radio transmitters outside the city increased public anxiety and brought international attention to Moldova’s breakaway region. Against the backdrop of the Russian war in Ukraine, fears that Transnistria could be Russia’s next target are swirling, especially after the Russian military announced the need to extend military actions across southern Ukraine to Transnistria. After analyzing whether actors in Russia, Ukraine, or Transnistria could have been behind the attacks on the Ministry of Security and radio transmitters, Cenusa suspects that the attacks could have been carried out by Transnistrian stakeholders to draw attention to issues between Transnistria and Moldova but does not rule out any of the mentioned scenarios.


Satellite photos uncovered that the Russian Navy is using trained dolphins to protect its Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol. These photos show two dolphin pens at the entrance of the harbor. The use of marine mammals is not new for the Russian navy, as it has previously deployed dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea naval base in Tartus, Syria in 2018 and belugas at the Olenya Guba’s deep sea research naval base in the Arctic.

In a recent article, renowned Russian experts Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov posit that the siloviki, the Russian security elites who help enforce Kremlin policy domestically and abroad, are mired by infighting over dissatisfaction with Russian actions in Ukraine. Citing their numerous reputable sources within the Russian security forces, Borogan and Soldatov point to internal anger toward the FSB’s foreign intelligence branch as a possible catalyst for division among the siloviki. The authors note the recent arrest and cover-up of Sergei Beseda, one of the heads of the FSB’s so-called Fifth Service, suggests internal scapegoating has already begun. Additionally, the story argues that the division is now affecting policy making decisions, as sources told the authors that the decision to reconcentrate forces to Ukraine’s east was not unanimous. Should the allegations from Borogan and Soldatov be true, a bleak picture of Russian leadership rivalries emerges, with the aftershocks of the failed first phase of the Russian invasion reaching as high as President Vladimir Putin himself.

Several studies examining Russian soldiers’ deaths in Russia’s war on Ukraine have been recently published. Mediazona analyzed publications on social networks, media, and government sites and found that most of the dead are from poorer regions of Russia, with notably low amounts of reported deaths from the population centers of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The study found the highest share of deaths to be in the republics of Buryatia and Dagestan. Separate reporting in Buryatia and Dagestan outlines the effects the reportedly heavy share of deaths is causing within ethnic minority communities in the republics. Findings from a study by Ridl.io likewise highlight the disproportionate share of deaths amongst those from poorer regions, while supplementing the discussion with a deeper look at the economic, political, and ethnic factors influencing these results. Both the Mediazona and Ridl.io studies caveat that the Russian government’s sparse official information about its soldiers’ deaths and warn that actual numbers may vary. However, as noted by the Ridl.io study, examining the information available can provide a snapshot of what is occurring in Ukraine and what information the Russian government is willing to publicly share.


The authors of, “Compounding Fragmentation: Security force assistance to fragile states in the Sahel and Horn of Africa ,” analyze the effectiveness of security force assistance (SFA) in six fragile states in the Sahel and Horn of Africa, with a specific focus on Mali and Somalia. They find that uncoordinated and piecemeal approaches to SFA are often ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst in weak state settings. To combat these challenges, the authors advocate for more coordination between SFA providers and long-term programs that emphasize security force cohesion.


“When discussing the socio-economic situation, it is impossible not to mention the war in Ukraine and its impact on Africa,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres from Dakar, Senegal during a meeting with the country’s president Macky Sall. The conflict is impacting global food and fuel prices and is pushing more people towards food insecurity.

The effects of the Ukraine conflict are already being felt across Senegal.  By mid-April, Senegal’s international airport had been hit by a fuel shortage, prompting the airport to require incoming flights to carry enough fuel to be able to make their return flights for a period of about two weeks. Air France’s flight from Dakar to Paris was required to make refueling stops in Spain’s Las Palmas island along the route.

In some areas of the country, especially the more northern reaches near the Mauritanian border, gas shortages have forced residents to find alternative cooking methods, such as resorting to more traditional practices like using firewood. Supply chain disruptions have driven up food prices and caused shortages of some commodities in markets across the country. Since January 2022, Wheat prices have increased from 325 to 450 euros per ton. During the month of Ramadan, meat was only available to the wealthy due to the higher-than-usual prices, a situation many in the country had never previously experienced.

An analysis of the food and nutritional situation in Senegal for the period between March and May 2022 revealed that a total of 549,000 people in several areas in the northern regions of the country were unable to adequately provide three daily meals, around 3 percent of the total population analyzed. In order to improve the situation, the government is launching a cash transfer of around 40 billion West African CFA to targeted houses in the most vulnerable areas. Furthermore, Senegal is set to increase its agriculture budget in order to provide more support to small farms and promote local grain production and processing in order to offset shortages caused by the Ukraine conflict.


Tensions between the Prime Minister and the President in Somalia have threatened the country’s already delayed elections. They also serve as an image of the dysfunction of the Somali government, over which the President continues to preside despite his mandate expiring in February 2021. Disagreements over the involvement of foreign partners, such as the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS, previously AMISOM), only further fracture stability, exposing the need for external involvement but also fueling political conflict.


The International Crisis Group (ICG) released a report analyzing the political nature of Yemen’s Ansar Allah (otherwise known as the Houthis) in the context of Yemen’s current truce and raised international hopes of an enduring peace deal. The report addresses the central questions of who the Houthis are, what they want, and how they can be brought to the negotiating table. Through an exploration of their religious roots, their rule in northern Yemen, and their support from Iran, the report probes prevailing narratives surrounding the Houthis (such as that of their rivals who paint them as an Iran-backed extremist organization that will not accept a settlement) to establish how diplomats should engage with the group.