Kosovo on Dec. 29 reopened its main border crossing with Serbia following calls from the international community to de-escalate rapidly rising tensions between the two countries. Serb protesters removed barricades along the border crossing following a meeting the previous night with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. An order issued by Vučić days earlier to increase the Serbian army's combat readiness was also revoked. However, Vučić insisted that Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, is still a part of Serbia.
In Episode 155 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the accusations that the coup conspiracy by the ultra-right Reichsbürger cult in Germany was Russian "hybrid warfare." The plausibility of this claim reveals the degree to which far-right forces around the world today look to Moscow for tutelage and sponsorship. Volodymyr Zelensky's historic Congressional speech was dissed in the most vulgar terms by Tucker Carlson—whose comments were avidly promoted by RT, the official Russian state propaganda outlet, as per explicit instructions from the Kremlin. This same RT similarly promotes Putin-shilling voices of the "tankie" pseudo-left. Our rightist enemies are enthused by the genocidal regimes of both Syria's Bashar Assad (backed by Russia) and the Argentine generals of the 1970s (backed by the US). They've rallied around Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic, as well as the neo-Ustashe in Croatia. It is only confused "leftists," indoctrinated by campism and accustomed to seeing everything in terms of geopolitics, who fail to recognize the fascism on both sides—and get taken in by fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Despite the left's obsessive fixation on the Azov Battalion, reactionary forces around the world are looking to Putin as their leader—not Zelensky.
More than 1.1 million refugees and asylum seekers have entered Germany this year—outpacing the 890,000 that arrived during the Mediterranean migration crisis in 2015. Back then, the vast majority were Syrians. This year, around one million of those who have entered are Ukrainians, although Syrians, Afghans, and others continue to arrive. For Ukrainians, the EU Commission this week extended the Temporary Protection Directive—first activated in March, and allowing them to live, work, and access services throughout the EU. Some 4.2 million Ukrainians have registered under the directive, which is now valid until March 2024. Meanwhile, the EU is pursuing much less welcoming policies for asylum seekers and migrants from other parts of the world. These include the the Dublin Regulation, that since 2003 has required asylum seekers to apply for protection in the member state they first entered—often prolonging perilous journeys to reach sanctuary beyond countries with harsh immigration policies, such as Poland and Hungary.
In Episode 100 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses recent uprisings in two disparate parts of the world—the South Pacific archipelago nation of the Solomon Islands and two of the states that have emerged from the former Yugoslavia. In both cases, people who were pissed off for damn good reason took to the streets to oppose foreign capital, and corrupt authoritarian leaders who do its bidding. But in the Solomon Islands, popular rage was deflected into campism and ethnic scapegoating, while in Serbia and Kosova the people on the ground actually overcame entrenched and bitter ethnic divisions to make common cause against common oppressors. The contrast holds lessons for global protest movements from Hong Kong to New York City. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In what local media are calling an "environmental uprising," protesters blocked roads and occupied public squares in Belgrade and other towns across Serbia on Nov. 27 to oppose plans for a lithium mine at Loznica, on the Drina River. Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto has been buying up land in the area, in anticipation of final approval of the project. But concerns over a toxic threat to local waters have sparked widespread outrage over the plan.
Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic on June 8 lost his appeal of a 2017 conviction for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) at The Hague upheld the life sentence for his role in the killing of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. The Appeals Chamber also upheld his convictions for the persecution of Bosnian Muslims and Croats, terrorizing the population of Sarajevo with a campaign of shelling and sniping during the nearly four-year siege of the city, and taking UN peacekeepers hostage. The Chamber also reaffirmed his acquittal on charges of carrying out genocide in five other Bosnian municipalities in 1992—a disappointment for surviving residents of Prijedor, Sanski Most, Kotor Varos, Foca and Vlasenica. (BBC News, Balkan Insight, Balkan Insight)
President Hashim Thaci resigned Nov. 5 and traveled to The Hague to turn himself in after the Kosovo Specialist Chambers formally confirmed his indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1990s armed conflict against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) for Kosovo’s independence. Thaci was indicted on crimes of persecution, imprisonment, illegal or arbitrary arrest and detention, other inhumane acts, cruel treatment, torture, murder, and enforced disappearance of persons, that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is said to have committed against opponents. Opponents included persons who were or were perceived to have been collaborating with FRY authorities, and persons of Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities. Thaci held a leadership position with the KLA.
As nations across the globe remain under lockdown, more sweeping powers are being assumed by governments in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing demands for relief from poor barrios running out of resources under his lockdown orders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shoot protesters in the streets. Particularly naming the popular organization Kadamay as planning protests, Duterte said April 1: "Remember, you leftists: You are not the government. Do not go around causing trouble and riots because I will order you detained until this COVID [outbreak ends]. I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military...that if there is trouble... shoot them dead. Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I'll send you to the grave." (Rappler)