The Turkish military is unveiling a new upgraded "unmanned combat aerial vehicle," the Bayraktar Akıncı, developed by private drone manufacturer Baykar Defense, which is owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. The Akıncı, which is Turkish for "raider," is a more advanced version of Turkey's iconic Bayraktar TB2, able to fly higher and stay in the air longer as well as carry more missiles. The TB2, developed in collaboration with another Turkish defense contractor, Roketsan, has been used by Ankara against Kurdish PKK guerillas in northern Iraq, and against Syrian regime forces in Idlib provice. Turkey is said to have 75 of the TB2 drones in its own fleet.
A Law on Indigenous Peoples passed last month by Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has aroused rage from Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces have been occupying the Crimean Peninsula since 2014. Bill No. 5506 was introduced by President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 18, the day that the Crimean Tatars commemorate Stalin's 1944 deportation of the entire people from their homeland. The law recognizes three indigenous peoples of Ukraine—the Tatars, Karaites and Krymchaks. It guarantees these peoples collective and individual enjoyment of all cultural, educational and linguistic rights, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In Episode 83 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes signs of hope on the 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, with the city's Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on the world's nations to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. President Trump walked away from US-Russia nuclear arms control treaties, and China is now rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Ukraine and Syria are ominously likely flashpoints for superpower conflict. But South Africa provides a shining example of progress—under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, newly post-apartheid South Africa became the first and only nation on Earth to willingly dismantle its nuclear weapons.
Let's start by stating the obvious. Under long-ruling dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a fascistic order has long obtained in Belarus—and it may now be going over the edge into outright fascism. Since 1994, Lukashenko has maintained power through the usual admixture of electoral fraud, party patronage and state terror. When the fraud became a bit too blatant in last August's presidential race, the country exploded into protest. Lukashenko unleashed riot squads and army troops on the protesters, but the movement stayed strong—for months holding weekly demonstrations demanding the fall of the regime. This movement was finally beaten back in a wave of harsh repression earlier this year; tens of thousands have been detained, and hundreds have been subject to torture. Anti-fascists and anarchists have been particularly singled out for persecution under Lukashenko, and the current wave of terror has been no exception. Regime propaganda has been periodically punctuated by paranoid anti-Semitism. And this machinery of repression has, of course, been amply lubricated by foreign capital, which has invested heavily in the regime.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced Jan. 14 that it will hear a case by Ukraine alleging human rights violations by Russia in the Crimean Peninsula. The peninsula was unilaterally annexed by Russia in 2014. Soon after Russian forces seized control there, Moscow oversaw a referendum in which Crimea, which has a Russian-speaking majority, voted to join Russia. The results of this referendum were deemed illegal by Ukraine and the West. In addition to the legality of the annexation, human rights violations in the peninsula have been a cause of great concern. There have been claims of violations on 12 counts, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and persecution of Crimean Tatars. The issue was brought forth by Ukraine for adjudication by the ECHR, which has agreed to take up the case.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Jan. 21 unanimously held that there had been multiple violations of the European Convention on Human Rights during the 2013-14 Maidan protests in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities that led to the removal and flight of President Viktor Yanukovych. The court gave judgments in five cases having a total of 38 applicants who were either present at or played a role in the protests. They had all faced the police or non-state agents under police control (or titushky), and alleged police brutality, unjustified detention, and the denial of their right to protest.
In Episode 59 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump's evident preparation for a coup d'etat and what could be a culminating moment for the current crisis of American democracy. In the context of this dilemma, he discusses two very timely new books with similar titles that both examine the mechanics by which dictators seize and maintain power: Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis and Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor said Dec. 11 that a preliminary examination has found that there is a reasonable basis to believe crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in Ukraine, justifying the opening of an investigation. The preliminary examination was opened in April 2014 when Ukraine, not formally a member of the ICC, lodged a declaration under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, accepting the jurisdiction of the court over possible crimes committed on its territory from November 2013 to February 2014.