Witnesses report large numbers of Russian tanks and other military hardware have been massed near the towns of Dzhankoy and Armyansk in Crimea's north, close to the administrative border with mainland Ukraine. "The occupiers are conducting manoeuvres and we should understand that at any minute, at any hour, they could start a large-scale or small-scale attack," said Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman for Ukraine's presidential administration. The apparent build-up comes after an Aug. 6 bomb blast in the separatist-held city of Luhansk targtted an SUV carrying Igor Plotnitsky, head of the self-declared "Luhansk People's Republic" (LNR). Plotnitsky and two others injured in the attack, which LNR authorities branded a "terrorist" act.
The relentless terror attacks and massacres are now a near-daily occurrence—even if we limit ourselves here to industrialized countries supposedly at "peace." But they are ot as random as many commentators assume. Just over the past week... On July 26, two men armed with knives took over a church in the French town of St.-Étienne-Du-Rouvray during mass, taking hostages and killing the elderly priest. The attackers were killed by the police. ISIS released a statement saying its "soldiers" carried out the attack. (NYT) That same day, a former employee of a care center for the disabled in the Tokyo suburb of Sagamihara stabbed 19 to death as they slept in their beds, injuring 26 more. Upon turning himself in to the police, he boasted: "I did it. It is better that disabled people disappear,." (The Guardian)
French President Francois Hollande announced that he will extend the state of emergency for another three months in light of the Nice attack—just hours after saying he would lift it. Both Hollande's earlier Paris announcement that he would lift the emergency provisions and the Nice attack came amid official Bastille Day celebrations. Speaking to a crowd on the Champs-Elysées, Hollande said that the state of emergency—in place since November's Paris attacks— would not extend beyond July 26: "We can't prolong the state of emergency forever. That would make no sense, it would mean that we were no longer a republic with laws which can apply in all circumstances." The state of emergency was extended three times by parliament—most recently in an effort to to ensure security through the Euro-2016 soccer match.
A sadly hilarious story in the Washington Post today headlines: "The British are frantically Googling what the EU is, hours after voting to leave it." A majority of Great Britain's voting public voted for the "Brexit" yesterday, apparently without even understanding exactly what it is they were voting to leave, and now may now be feeling some morning-after buyer's remorse. Prime Minister David Cameron, who cynically called the vote in a play to the populist right even as he urged rejecting the exit from the European Union, will now step down—and may go down in history as the man who oversaw the beginning of the dissolution of the United Kingdom, two centuries and change after its creation. Most obviously, Scotland overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU, and the Brexit is now reviving calls for its secession from the UK. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already announced that it is "democratically unacceptable" that Scotland will be taken out of the EU against its will, and that a second independence referendum is "highly likely." (The Independent)
A court on the Greek island of Lesbos on May 20 ruled that Turkey is an "unsafe third country" for asylum seekers, throwing into doubt the EU-Turkey migrant deal. The panel of judges refused to reject an asylum application by a Syrian refugee and have him deported to Turkey. The decision came the same day that 51 refugees and migrants of different nationalities were forcibly returned to Turkey by Greek authorities. (Ekathimerini, May 20) Amnesty International's Giorgos Kosmopoulos hailed the decision, charging that Turkey is not complying with standards of the Refugee Convention. "Until it becomes a safe country nobody should be returned there," he said. He cited violations of the rights to work, medical care and family life, and said there have been "widespread returns of Syrians back to Syria from Turkey." On the pact with the EU, he added: "The whole deal should stop and refugees should be settled in other European countries safely and with dignity." (BBC News, May 21)
The US Aegis anti-missile station at Deveselu, Romania, was officially activated this week—to harsh protests from Moscow, despite Washington's claim that the system is intended to intercept missiles fired from the Middle East. Together with an installation in Poland, the Deveselu facility forms the long-delayed "missile shield" first conceived under the George Bush administration. (BBC News, AFP, RT, May 12) Moscow's claim that the "missile shield" is actually aimed at encircling Russia is mirrored by Washington's charge that Russia is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, having deployed cruise missiles in contravention of the 1987 pact. (Arms Control Association, May 2016)
Far-right protesters marched through Berlin on May 7 to demand that Chancellor Angela Merkel step down for allowing more than a million migrants and refugees from the Middle East into Germany since last year. But the some 1,000 protesters, chanting "No Islam on German Soil," were confronted by more than five times as many anti-fascist counter-protesters who chanted "Nazis out!" Some anti-immigrant protesters held signs calling Merkel "Volksschaedling"—"enemy of the people," a term used by the Nazis. Riot police separated the two groups. (EuroNews, The Telegraph, Reuters) That same day, dozens of hooded anarchists clashed with riot police who blocked their approach to the Austrian border during a protest against plans to tighten controls to prevent the passage of migrants. Police fired tear-gas to disperse protesters wearing motorcycle helmets and gas-masks who tried to occupy the Alpine Brenner border crossing. Claiming that as many as 1 million migrants are massing in Libya with the aim of crossing into Europe through Italy, Austrian authorities are preparing to build an "emergency fence" on the Italian border. (WP, EuroNews, AP)
The Supreme Court of Russia-annexed Crimea on April 26 officially designated the Tatar Majlis an "extremist entity" and banned its activities—effectively ending the last vestige of autonomy for the Crimean Tatar people. The move to ban the Majlis—the representative body of Crimean Tatars—was brought by Crimean prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya in February, and the body was ordered closed by judicial authoriities two weeks ago, before the regional high court had even ruled. Poklonskaya hailed the decision as "aimed at maintaining stability, peace and order in the Russian Federation." The body's powers had already been eroded since Moscow's annexation of the peninsula two years ago. The current and former leaders of the Majlis—Refat Chubarov and Mustafa Jemilev—have been forced to flee, and currently reside in Kiev. The Crimean prosecutor's office has accused them of involvement in Tatar road blockades launched to protest Russian annexation last year. (RBTH, April 26; HRW, April 15)