In Episode 143 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the all too telling irony that Putin's annexation of Ukraine's Donbas region came on exactly the same day as the 1938 Munich Agreement, which approved Hitler's annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland region. Russian annexation of the Donbas was preceded by that of Crimea, just as the Nazi annexation of Sudetenland was preceded by that of Austria. This is the same pattern of escalation toward world war—only this time Putin's overt nuclear threats make the stakes even higher. Signs of hope include the anti-draft uprising in Russia and mass exodus of Russian youth, which undermine Putin's war effort and threaten his very regime. War Resisters International has issued a petition demanding that European states offer asylum to all Russian deserters and conscientious objectors to military service. Alas, much of the Western "left" continues to cover up for Putin's criminal aggression. Dissident websites such as CounterVortex and Balkan Witness debunk the Russian war propaganda being recycled by Putin's internet partisans on the pro-fascist pseudo-left.
More than 2,000 people have been detained in protests across Russia since President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization of military reserve troops to fight in Ukraine, according to human rights monitor OVD-Info. The demonstrators are risking long prison terms under laws passed shortly after the Ukraine invasion was launched, which have facilitated a harsh crackdown on dissent.
Drone strikes and unexplained explosions on the Russian-annexed Criman Peninsula have prompted the Moscow-controlled administration to urge citizens to hunt for possible saboteurs. This comes amid widening repression on civil society, especially targeting the Crimean Tatar people. On Sept. 15, a local court jailed at least four people involved in a Tatar wedding in Bakhchysarai for performing a Ukrainian patriotic song, "Red Kalyna." Each accused performer was held for several days.
The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission (UNHRMM) on Sept. 9 accused Russia of arbitrary detentions and forced disappearances in Ukrainian territory, and violating the basic human rights of Ukrainian war captives. The UNHRMM documented numerous cases of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war. Russian authorities have also prevented Ukrainian prisoners of war from contacting their relatives or sharing their locations or health conditions with loved ones.
A series of explosions tore through a Russian airbase on the Crimean Peninsula Aug. 9, leaving one dead. Russia's Defense Ministry said ammunition had detonated at Saki airfield, near the village of Novofedorivka. The base is some 200 kilometers from the Ukrainian lines, and President Volodymyr Zelensky's office denied responsibility for the blasts. However, an unnamed Kyiv official anonymously told the New York Times that Ukrainian forces carried out an attack on the base. The official emphasized that "a device exclusively of Ukrainian manufacture was used."
In Episode 132 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that deputy Duma speaker Pyotr Tolstoy, one of the most bellicose supporters of Putin's Ukraine war, is a direct descendent of Leo Tolstoy—and recently invoked his great-great-grandfather's "slaughter" of British and French troops during the Crimean War as a warning to the West. This is, of course, an utterly perverse irony given that the literary giant's anarcho-pacifist beliefs were antithetical to everything that his descendant Pyotr stands for. Indeed, it was Leo Tolstoy's experiences in the Crimean War that turned him into a committed pacifist. His final novel, Hadji Murat, vivdly depicts the brutality of Russia's counterinsurgency campaign in Chechnya in the 1850s—a history that repeated itself in Chechnya in the 1990s. This is bitterly recalled by the Chechen volunteers fighting for Ukraine, where this history is now repeating itself yet again. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament on July 6 threatened to "claim back" Alaska if the United States freezes or seizes Russian assets in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine. "Let America always remember: there's a piece of territory, Alaska," Vyacheslav Volodin said at the last session of the State Duma before summer break. "When they try to manage our resources abroad, let them think before they act that we, too, have something to take back," Volodin said. He noted that deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoy had recently proposed holding a referendum in Alaska on joining Russia. The day after Volodin's comments, billboards proclaiming "Alaska Is Ours!" appeared in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, apparently placed by a local "patriot."
A court in Russia has sentenced another group of Crimean Tatars to lengthy prison terms on charges of belonging to a banned political organization. The Southern District Military court in the southwestern city of Rostov-on-Don on May 12 sentenced Bilyal Adilov to 14 years, while Izzet Abdullaev, Tofik Abdulgaziev, Vladlen Abdulkadyrov and Mejit Abdurakhmanov each received 12-year sentences. The men are accused of being members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organization that advocates for the peaceful restoration of an Islamic Caliphate. It operates freely in Ukraine but is banned in Russia as an "extremist" organization. The men, arrested in March 2019 in a sweep along with more than a dozen other Tatars, were also members of the group Crimean Solidarity, formed to oppose the illegal Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Since the annexation, over 30 Crimean Tatars have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, more than half this year alone. (Al Jazeera, RFE/RL)