Russia

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 escalates threats of nuclear war

In the wake of Vladimir Putin's barely veiled nuclear threat upon announcing a mobilization of Russia's reserve forces to reverse his recent losses in Ukraine on Sept. 21, official and semi-official Moscow commentators have made such menacing completely explicit. Later that same day, former Putin advisor Sergei Markov was interviewed by BBC Radio, whose anchor politely began with "Good morning to you." Markov replied: "It's not a good morning for everybody. In Russia there's partial mobilization and for Western countries, for your British listeners, I would say that Vladimir Putin told you that he would be ready to use nuclear weapons against Western countries, including nuclear weapons against Great Britain. Your cities will be targeted." (Daily Beast, Indy100)

Crackdown on civil society widens in Crimea

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.

EU calls for war crimes trial over Ukraine mass graves

Following last week's discovery of mass graves containing some 450 bodies in the Ukrainian town of Izium, the European Council presidency has issued a call for "the speedy establishment of a special international tribunal that will prosecute the crime of aggression." Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Lipvasky of the Czech Republic, which currently holds the Council's rotating presidency, wrote on Twitter Sept. 18: "Russia left behind mass graves of hundreds of shot and tortured people in the Izium area. In the 21st century, such attacks against the civilian population are unthinkable and abhorrent. We must not overlook it. We stand for the punishment of all war criminals."

Russia: municipal revolt against Putin

Dozens of municipal deputies from Moscow and St. Petersburg on Sept. 12 issued a public statement calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to resign. "President Putin's actions are detrimental to the future of Russia and its citizens," reads the petition shared on Twitter by Xenia Torstrem, a deputy for St. Petersburg's Semyonovsky district. The call comes amid claims of vote-rigging in the previous week's local and regional elections—as well as a dramatic advance by Kyiv's forces that marks the most significant setback yet in Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Several towns have been liberated in the Ukrainian counter-offensive in northeastern Kharkiv region.

UN documents Russian rights abuses in Ukraine

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.

Roger Waters: another brick in the war propaganda

In Episode 140 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out former Pink Floyd creative genius Roger Waters as a propaganda agent for the criminal regimes of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Bashar Assad. In his recent CNN interview, Waters blames Ukraine for getting invaded, falsely states that "Taiwan is part of China," and dismisses as "bollocks" that there are human rights abuses in China. He has the unmitigated chutzpah to send an open letter on social media to Ukrainian First Lady Elena Zelenska urging her to use her influence on her husband to "end the war"—to which she rightly responds: "If we give up, we will not exist tomorrow. If Russia gives up, war will be over." We've noted before Roger's spewing of genocide-abetting denialism about the Syria chemical attacks. And he disses his own fans who don't go along with his war propaganda. Roger Waters has become the fascist rock star he once satirized in The Wall. The public acrimony between Waters and his ex-bandmate David Gilmour has now become political, with Gimour's release (under the banner of Pink Floyd) of the song "Hey Hey, Rise Up," explicitly in support of Ukraine. David Gilmour is right, while Roger Waters is now just another brick in the wall.

Report sheds light on Wagner Group crimes in Africa

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) issued a new report Aug. 30 on the Wagner Group's activities in the Central African Republic and Mali, and it makes for chilling reading. The Russian mercenary group has targeted civilians in more than half of its operations in CAR (where it began operating in 2018) and over 70% in Mali (where it arrived last year). Its CAR deployment was initially limited to training the national armed forces, but it took on a direct combat role in late 2020 as rebels threatened the capital. It won praise for helping the state capture major towns, but abuses have now angered large parts of the civilian population. In jihadist-hit Mali, the mercenaries have also been involved in a number of high-profile abuses—mostly notably in the central town of Moura, where hundreds of non-combatants were massacred earlier this year. 

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