European Theater

France: far-right parties invoke 'civil war'

French police have arrested more than 3,000 protesters in unrest that has spread since the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old delivery worker Nahel Merzouk, the son of immigrants from Algeria and Morocco, during a traffic stop in the Paris suburb of Nanterre June 27. The Ministry of the Interior has mobilized some 45,000 police troops and gendarmes, as fierce clashes with police have spread across the country. On July 2, rioters rammed a burning car into the home of the mayor of Paris suburb L'Haÿ-les-Roses. Merzouk's grandmother later pleaded with protesters to stop the violence. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued an appeal to French authorities, writing: "This is a moment for the country to seriously address the deep issues of racism and discrimination in law enforcement… Any allegations of disproportionate use of force must be swiftly investigated." The officer who fired the shot that killed Merzouk has been taken into custody on charges of voluntary homicide. (Jurist)

Hague prosecutors prepare case against Russia

A Hague-based international prosecutorial team launched preparation July 3 of case materials against Russia for the crime of aggression—an offense that is notoriously difficult to prosecute. The International Center for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression (ICPA) was established within Eurojust, the European Union's agency for judicial cooperation. The new office will draw together prosecutors from various European countries, as well as from the International Criminal Court (ICC), to gather evidence of Russian aggression in Ukraine. 

Russia opens criminal trial of Azov Battalion troops

A Russian court has begun hearing the case against 24 Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Battalion, seized in May 2022 during the battle for the city of Mariupol. The battalion members—including eight women—face charges of involvement with a "terrorist organization," and participating in activities to "overthrow" Russian authorities. The Russian Supreme Court designated Azov a "terrorist organization" in August 2022. Photographs captured by the Associated Press show soldiers from the Azov Battalion at a military court in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. In the photographs, the captured soliders sit with shaved heads behind a glass panel, separating them from others present in court. Russian prosecutors first filed the charges against the Azov fighters this May, according to state news agency TASS.

Politics, neglect hobble Italy's migration system

The number of asylum seekers and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Italy has surged this year, according to EU officials. More than 56,000 people have made the journey–almost double the total over the same period last year. The increase prompted Italy's government to declare a six-month state of emergency in April, in part to address overcrowding at a center for those who arrive on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Wagner forces halt march on Moscow

Troops from the Wagner Group mercenary force abruptly reversed course after advancing through southern Russia toward Moscow on June 24, bringing an apparent end to what appeared to be an attempted coup d'état. Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the Wagner Private Military Company, announced:

UK orders closure of China-run 'police stations'

UK Minister for Security Tom Tugendhat updated Parliament June 6 about Chinese "overseas police service stations" operating within the United Kingdom.  Tugendhat told lawmakers that the UK has ordered China to close any remaining "police stations" on UK soil, calling the stations' existence "unacceptable." Tugendhat said that British authorities received reports from non-governmental organization Safeguard Defenders of these stations in Croydon, Hendon and Glasgow, with allegations of another in Belfast.

EU action against Poland over 'Russian influence' law

The European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Poland June 8 over the country's recently-passed law aimed at officials who have allegedly come under Russian influence. The new law, nicknamed the "Lex Tusk" after former Polish PM and purported target Donald Tusk, establishes a committee to investigate whether certain officials acted under "Russian influence" between 2007 and 2022. The law authorizes the committee to hand out 10-year bans from obtaining security clearances, controlling public funds or holding a firearms license.

France: far-right party Kremlin links exposed

A French parliamentary report leaked to the press June 1 asserts that Marine Le Pen's far-right party Rassemblement National knowingly served as a "communication channel" for Kremlin propaganda. Le Pen called the report "sectarian, dishonest and politicized"—despite the fact that it was Le Pen herself who demanded an investigation into foreign interference in French politics. Le Pen has long been openly supportive of the Kremlin. After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, Le Pen insisted that Moscow's annexation of the territory was not illegal. In testimony before the investigative committee, she reiterated this position, calling the annexation a "re-attachment."

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