US to designate Wagner Group 'transnational criminal organization'
The US Treasury Department announced Jan. 20 that it will designate the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group as a "transnational criminal organization," imposing further sanctions on the group's financial activities. White House national security representative John Kirby accused the Wagner Group of "committing atrocities and human rights abuses in Ukraine and elsewhere," especially citing Syria, Libya and the Central African Republic. He also presented satellite photo evidence purporting to show missile deliveries to the Wagner Group from North Korea, via rail across Russia. He added that there are now some 50,000 Wagner mercenaries fighting in Ukraine. (CNN, BBC News)
Outrage after police slaying of Atlanta forest defender
Protests and vigils have been held across the US following the police slaying of environmental activist Manuel Teran, 26, also known as Tortuguita, on Jan. 18 in Georgia's Dekalb County. A protest over the killing turned violent in downtown Atlanta Jan. 21, with a police car burned, windows smashed, and several arrested. Tortuguita was shot in a police raid on an encampment in the Weelaunee Forest, a threatened woodland within the South River Forest conservation area. The Atlanta Police Foundation seeks to clear hundreds of acres in order to build a $90 million Public Safety Training Center, referred to as "Cop City" by local residents.
Podcast: Peru at the precipice
In Episode 159 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the inspiring and terrifying situation in Peru—which is only escalating, with no resolution in sight. Since left-populist president Pedro Castillo was ousted in a "soft coup" last month, a mass movement has rapidly mobilized to demand that new president Dina Boluarte step down, that Congress be dissolved, and that a "constituent assembly" be called to draft a new constitution with the participation of popular organizations. Despite repression approaching genocidal levels, thousands of protesters from across Peru converged on the capital for a "Taking of Lima"—which only brought street-fighting to the center of national power, when the gathering was charged by the riot police. It is a case of "bad facts" for the popular movement that the crisis was sparked by Castillo's attempt to seize autocratic power in an auto-golpe in response to relentless efforts to remove him by the reactionary fujimorista bloc in Congress. But this does not alter the basic right and wrong of the struggle in Peru, which is fundamentally that of campesinos, indigenous peoples and common folk fighting for their elementary rights and even very survival, against the corrupt political class fighting to preserve its privileged position and ill-gotten gains. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Turkey: Kurdish party challenges ban order
Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) on Jan. 16 asked the Turkish Constitutional Court to postpone its decision on a government request to ban the party until after the upcoming general elections, planned for June. Co-leader of the HDP, Mithat Sancar, told reporters: "The Constitutional Court should stop all proceedings on this case. The authorities want to use this case against the HDP as a tool to threaten us." President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government accuses the HDP of having ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey. The HDP won 12% of the vote in the 2018 general election and holds 56 of parliament's 579 seats. (Kurdistan24)
Iran: resistance grows as death toll tops 500
The independent Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) on Jan. 16 released statistics finding that 522 protestors, including 70 children and youths, have been killed in Iran since the start of the national uprising in September. Authorities have arrested 19,400 people, including 168 children and youths. Of those detained, 110 are "under impending threat" of a death sentence. Four protestors have already been executed. Human Rights Watch additionally reported that authorities have fired assault rifles on protestors, and have subjected those in detention to torture, mistreatment and sexual abuse. (Jurist)
Podcast: against tankie MLK-exploitation
In Episode 158 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the Russian Socialist Movement has issued a call for solidarity actions with anti‑war activists in Russia on Jan. 19. This is the date when left activists Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were gunned down by far-right militants in Moscow in 2009. Today, the Vladimir Putin regime is persecuting activists such as Alexandra Skochilenko—who faces a long prison term for producing public art on an anti-war theme. Instead of responding to this call for solidarity, the ANSWER Coalition and other exponents of the "tankie" pseudo-left have called a rally against aid to Ukraine, and implicitly in support of Putin and his war aims, for Jan. 14 in locations such as New York's Times Square—perversely, in the name of Martin Luther King. The Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign repudiates this pseudo-anti-war rally, urging: "No exploitation of Dr. MLK Jr. to support war criminal Putin!" Debunking the Russian propaganda that portrays Putin's aggression as a defensive move against NATO encroachment, Weinberg demonstrates that the principles propounded by Dr. King in his courageous dissent from LBJ's criminal war in Vietnam now mandate that we direct our protests at Vladimir Putin.
Taliban regime in oil deal with Chinese company
Afghanistan's Taliban regime has agreed to sign a contract with a Chinese company to exploit oil in the Amu Darya basin in the country's north, the acting mining minister announced Jan. 5. The contract with the Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum & Gas Co. (CAPEIC) is to be the first major resource extraction deal the regime has signed with a foreign company since taking power in 2021. "The Amu Darya oil contract is an important project between China and Afghanistan," China's ambassador, Wang Yu, told a joint press conference with Taliban officials in Kabul. Beijing has not formally recognized the Taliban government but has significant interests in Afghanistan, a country deemed critical for its Belt & Road Initiative.
Armenia detains anti-Russia protesters
At least 65 protesters were arrested in Armenia's second city of Gyumri on Jan. 8 as authorities dispersed a rally outside a Russian military base. Activists were demanding that Yerevan cut ties with Moscow amid a deepening stand-off with Azerbaijan over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. A livestream of the rally showed demonstrators struggling with police officers, including troops from the notorious Red Berets anti-riot squad, while crowds chanted slogans calling for Armenia's withdrawal from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Armenia, unlike rival Azerbaijan, is a CSTO member. But the military alliance has drawn popular ire as Russian "peacekeepers" have failed to re-open the Lachin Corridor, the only access in or out of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been closed by Azerbaijan for almost a month—leaving 100,000 ethnic Armenians trapped, with supplies of food and medicine running low. (Eurasianet)
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