The Council of the European Union announced sanctions Sept. 8 on six Russians it says committed rights violations in Crimea. The six individuals were singled out for participating in legal proceedings against Ukrainian journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko, who was targeted by Russia for his outspoken opposition to the Russian occupation of Crimea. Federal Security Service (FSB) agent Vitaliy Vlasov was sanctioned for his investigation of Yesypenko. Denis Korovin, another FSB agent, was sanctioned for allegedly participating in Yesypenko's torture.
In Episode 187, the CounterVortex podcast presents audio from the panel "Ukraine and Anarchist Internationalism" at the Los Angeles Anarchist Book Fair. Bill Weinberg urges solidarity with the Ukrainian anarchist units fighting the Russians—and calls out the American left for essentially supporting the wrong side in the war. For instance, the perennially problematic Democracy Now ignores the heroic Russian left-dissidents who have sacrificed their freedom or even lives to resist Putin's war effort, such as Darya Polyudova, Aleksandra Skochilenko and Dmitry Petrov. But it gives splashy coverage to Yurii Sheliazhenko, the Ukrainian pacifist just arrested in Kyiv for "justifying Russian aggression." Also: Yevgeny Lerner speaks on the national liberation struggle of the Crimean Tatars. Introduction by Javier Sethness, author of Eros & Revolution: The Critical Philosophy of Herbert Marcuse and the upcoming Queer Tolstoy. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Imprisoned Russian anti-war activist Darya Polyudova has been placed in punitive solitary confinement after guards said they found a razor-blade in her belongings, which is considered a major violation at the penal colony in the North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria where she is incarcerated. Polyudova's mother told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Aug. 1 that her daughter said guards had planted the blade in her belongings to frame her, adding that the activist is starting a hunger strike to protest the move.
Russia has launched a systematic effort to force residents of occupied areas of Ukraine to accept Russian citizenship as part of its program of consolidating authority, according to a new report. Residents of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya oblasts are subjected to threats, intimidation, restrictions on humanitarian aid and basic necessities, and possible detention or deportation—all designed to force them to become Russian citizens. These efforts parallel the "passportization" campaign that Russia has executed in Crimea and areas of Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014. Based on a comprehensive review of open source material, Yale Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL) has identified the laws and tactics used to make it impossible for residents to survive in their homes unless they accept Russian citizenship. These laws and tactics violate international law, including the prohibition on discrimination against people living under occupation based on nationality, and forcing people to declare allegiance to an occupying power, both illegal under the Hague Convention and the Geneva Conventions. (Conflict Observatory)
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."
In Episode 177 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the unfolding Kakhovka dam disaster in Ukraine, an evident design by Russia to forestall a Ukrainian counter-offensive into the occupied southeast of the country. Massive flooding has been unleashed downstream, imperiling some of the world's most important farmland. Upstream, coolant water to the Zaporizhzhia power plant is threatened, escalating Russia's "reckless nuclear gamble" at the facility. It is true that the disaster gravely impacts much Russian-held territory, including the Crimea Peninsula. However, despite the Kremlin's official denials of responsibility, Russia's online internal propaganda organs are bragging about it. The Wagner Group mercenary outfit calls the disaster "beautiful" and boasts that the destruction of dams on the Dnipro River is a "trump card" against Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned last October that Russia was planning to destroy the Kakhovka dam as a "false flag" attack to blame on Kyiv. The breaching of the dam also comes days after Moscow conveniently instated a four-year moratorium on investigation of industrial disasters in Russian-held territory in Ukraine. And critics note that Russia has never committed a war crime it didn't deny. In any case, the cataclysm on the Dnipro provides a grim test case as the International Criminal Court moves to adopt "ecocide" as a recognized international crime. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The Supreme Court of Russia on May 25 ordered the liquidation of the People's Freedom Party (PARNAS) at the request of the country's justice ministry, according to state news agency TASS. The Ministry of Justice contended that the number of the party's regional offices dropped by seven, from 47 to 40, and law requires parties to have representative offices in half of the regions of the Russian Federation. According to the independent Mediazona, whose reporters were in the courtroom, PARNAS leaders responded that the party still had 44 offices, and was only considered out of compliance with the law because the court counted Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine as Russian administrative regions.
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."