Siberia

Russia: anti-draft uprising spreads

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. At least 20 were detained Sept. 25 in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, where police fired in the air to disperse local residents who were blocking a highway at the village of Babayurt. But the following day, the protests spread to the regional capital of Makhachkala, where demonstrators shouting "No to war" were attacked by riot police. Dagestan's regional leader Sergei Melikov dismissed the demonstrations as foreign-fomented, sayng: "Obviously, the protests in Makhachkala were prepared and controlled from abroad." (The Guardian, Moscow Times, Moscow Times, Radio Australia, Meduza, BBC News)

Russia: irredentist claims on Alaska

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."

Podcast: the looming breakup of Russia

In Episode 118 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the possibility that Putin's criminal adventure in Ukraine could backfire horribly, actually portending the implosion of the Russian Federation into its constituent entities, the "autonomous" republics, oblasts and krais. Troops from Russia's Far East were apparently involved in the horrific massacre at the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. But indigenous leaders from Siberia and the Russian Arctic are breaking with Moscow over the Ukraine war. Rumblings of separatist sentiment are now heard from Yakutia (Sakha), Khabarovsk, Kalmykia, Kamchatka, Tatarstan, Tuva, the Altai Republic, and the entirety of Siberia. China, which controlled much of what is now the Russian Far East until the 1850s, has its own expansionist designs on the region. Frederick Engels called for the "destruction forever" of Russia during the Crimean War, but it may collapse due to its own internal contradictions rather than Western aggression.

Russian indigenous leaders protest Putin's war

Exiled leaders of Russia's Itelmen, Kamchadal, Udege, Shor, Saami and Selkup indigenous peoples issued a statement on March 10 declaring that they are "outraged by the war President Putin has unleashed against Ukraine. At the moment, the entire population of Ukraine is in grave danger. Old people, women and children are dying. Cities and towns of an independent country are being destroyed because their inhabitants did not want to obey the will of a dictator and a tyrant." The statement adds: "As representatives of Indigenous peoples, we express solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their struggle for freedom and are extremely concerned about ensuring the rights of Indigenous peoples during the war on Ukrainian territory, including the Crimean Peninsula that remains illegally occupied by Russia."

New wave of anti-war protest sweeps across Russia

Police detained more than 4,300 people in over 50 cities across Russia on March 6, as activists mounted a second wave of protests against the invasion of Ukraine. From Moscow and St. Petersburg to the Siberian city of Irkutsk and the Pacific port of Vladivostok, thousands of unpermitted demonstrators chanted "No to war!" and "Shame on you!"—a message directed at President Vladimir Putin. In the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, a mural glorifying Putin was defaced—prompting a charge by the riot police. The independent monitoring group OVD-Info reports that over 8,000 have now been arrested in anti-war protests across Russia since the Ukraine invasion was launched last week.

Belarus 'votes' to abandon nuclear-free status

Belarus on Feb. 28 voted in a referendum to approve constitutional changes that include dropping the country's nuclear-free status. On the eve of the vote, President Alexander Lukashenko expressed his willingness to redeploy nuclear arms in the country's territory, saying: "If [the West] transfers nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania, to our borders, then I will turn to [Vladimir] Putin to bring back the nuclear weapons that I gave away without any conditions." 

Anti-war protests sweep across Russia

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of cities across Russia in open protest of Putin's invasion of Ukraine—from Kaliningrad in the west to Vladivostok in the east. What began as isolated "solo pickets"—essentially the only legal form of public protest in Russia—quickly snowballed into mass unpermitted marches and rallies. The largest demonstrations were reported from Moscow and St Petersburg, where they were met with riot police in full body armor. In Moscow, Red Square was closed off by military vehicles, preventing protesters from marching on the seat of government power. Independent monitoring group OVD-Info counted some 1,800 protesters arrested by security forces in some 60 cities, including Tyumen, Kazan, Rostov-on-Don, Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk and Yekaterinburg. Popular slogans include "No to war" and "Hands off Ukraine." Many demonstrators were heard to shout "Arrest Putin, not me!" as they were dragged away by police. (Euronews, Moscow Times, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, LBC, CBC, NYT, OVD-Info, OVD-Info)

Podcast: 007 in the New Cold War

In Episode 97 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg dissects the geopolitics of the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die, and how the Daniel Craig reboot of the series has finessed the cultural icon's role in the New Cold War. Famously, the film was produced pre-pandemic, with its release postponed a year due to the lockdown—and its key plot device is a mass biological warfare attack, anticipating the conspiranoid theories about COVID-19. Yet it could also be prescient in warning of a superpower confrontation over the Kuril Islands—disputed by Russia and Japan, and an all too likely flashpoint for global conflict. 

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