An appeals court in Moscow on Aug. 22 upheld the 13-year sentence imposed on Ukrainian human rights defender Maksym Butkevych, in what Amnesty International called "a grave miscarriage of justice." Butkevych had been convicted in a "sham trial" by a de facto court in the Russian-occupied "Luhansk People's Republic" in Ukraine, which Moscow has unilaterally declared annexed territory. A platoon leader in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Butkevych was taken captive in March and charged with war crimes. Amnesty dismisses the case as "a reprisal by Russia for his civic activism and his prominent human rights work." Before the invasion, Butkevych led a Ukrainian NGO helping refugees find asylum in the country, and had long been a frontline opponent of the militant right in both Ukraine and Russia.
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)
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.
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."
A tankie agent carried out "false flag" vandalism of a synagogue and other Jewish targets in Detroit, attempting to blame it on the Azov Battalion and tar Ukrainians. She turns out to have been a member of the retro-Stalinist Workers World Party and a staff writer for openly dictator-shilling MintPress News—which has itself engaged in "false flag" disinformation, blaming the Syrian rebels for chemical attacks against their own strongholds by the Bashar Assad regime. MintPress has also received funding directly from the Assad Lobby. In Episode 176 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines this ultra-cynical propaganda nexus, and asks whether such agents are mere "useful idiots" for the Kremlin, or actual conscious assets operating in the "gray zone"—the sphere of "hybrid warfare" in which the line between state and non-state actors is blurred. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
As Russian propaganda portrays Ukraine as a "Nazi state," exemplifying fascist pseudo-anti-fascism, actual far-right links among forces backed by Kyiv constitute "bad facts" for the Ukrainian cause. In Episode 175 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the self-declared Freedom of Russia Legion and other forces involved in the armed incursion into Belgorod oblast. The incursion force seems to have constituted a strange liberal-fascist alliance, joining fighters seeking a democratic revolution and those seeking an even more totalitarian state. Meanwhile, anti-fascist forces, including Russian anarchist defectors, are also fighting for Ukraine. And an armed resistance has emerged in Belarus—with no indication that its politics are anything other than pro-democratic. Is there hope for a new Russian revolution? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Some 100 fighters in armored vehicles crossed into Russia from Ukrainian territory May 22 and seized the town of Kozinka in Belgorod oblast. They were only driven out after Russian forces responded with fighter planes and artillery, and Moscow says its troops are still "mopping up saboteurs." Two groups claimed responsibility for the raid, both said to be made up of Russians who are fighting for Ukraine. One is the self-proclaimed Freedom of Russia Legion, which released a video message to coincide with the attack, calling on Russians to take up arms "to put an end to the Kremlin's dictatorship."