Africa
Somalia

US troops ‘back’ to Somalia —but did they ever leave?

The Pentagon announced that a “small, persistent US military presence” of around 500 troops is to return to Somalia, to assist ongoing operations against the Shabaab insurgents. Media commentators widely portrayed this as a policy reversal, with some incorrectly stating that Present Trump “brought the troops home” from Somalia in 2020. However, the Pentagon press release implicitly acknowledges that the so-called “withdrawal” had been largely a fiction: “The existing model of US assistance moving into and out of the country as needed…is inefficient.” The troops were never “brought home”; they were redeployed to neighboring Djibouti and Kenya, and sent back in to Somalia as mandated by contingency. Even if the announcement doesn’t mean very much, it is being met with some trepidation by rights advocates. Human Rights Watch warned against “repeating past laws of war violations.” (Photo: Patrick Crosley/USMC via CommonDreams)

Europe
russonazis

Russian ‘denazification’ goes full Nazi

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, just days after issuing blatant nuclear threats, now engages in the classic anti-Semitic trope of blaming Nazism on the Jews. Speaking to Italian TV, Lavrov responded to a reminder that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish thusly: “When they say ‘What sort of nazification is this if we are Jews,’ well I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing. For a long time now we’ve been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves.” This as Russian state media voices are openly calling for the “total annihilation” of Ukraine, and more mass graves are being discovered daily. Russia will be glorifying this campaign of extermination in massive military parades next week, commemorating the Soviet Union’s 1945 victory over Nazi Germany. (Photo via Twitter)

Europe
druzbha

Transnistria blasts signal spread of Ukraine war

A series of blasts tore through the building of the de facto “Ministry of State Security” in Tiraspol, capital of Moldova’s Russian-backed separatist enclave of Transnistria. Officials said the building was fired on by unknown assailants with grenade launchers. Ominously, the attack came one day after a Russian military commander openly broached extending Moscow’s war in Ukraine to neighboring Moldova, to “give the Russian army access to Transnistria.” The blasts also came on the same day as large explosions in Bryansk, a Russian town near the Ukrainian border which is serving as a key staging area for the invasion. Bryansk is a hub on the Druzhba oil pipeline, and the flames engulfed a petroleum depot. Russian officials are speculating that Kyiv’s forces were behind the blasts, while Ukrainian officials speculate they were Russian “false flag” operations. (Photo of Druzhba blasts: Anonymous Operations)

Europe
mariupol

Ukraine: Russian chemical attack on Mariupol claimed

Ukrainian officials are accusing Russian forces of having used chemical weapons on the besieged Azov Sea port city of Mariupol, causing troops and civilians alike to develop respiratory symptoms. The claim first emerged from the Azov Battalion, a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard involved in the defense of the city, which said a substance believed to be sarin gas was sprayed from a drone. The fact that this report emerges from the Azov Battalion, with its notorious far-right proclivities, will doubtless provide an excuse for those predisposed in favor of Russia to dismiss the claims. However, that same day, a far-right militia commander on the Russian side had openly threatened to use chemical weapons on defenders of Mariupol. Immediately dismissing an atrocity claim at Mariupol—or assuming it was a “false flag” by Ukrainian forces against their own people—amid the destruction of the city by Russia’s war machine is perverse and dishonest on its face. (Photo via Twitter)

Planet Watch
Tengiz

Ukraine war portends new oil shock

Long-depressed oil prices are suddenly soaring in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with impacts already being felt globally. Exports from Kazakhstan and the Caspian Basin are virtually paralyzed, as the Black Sea pipeline terminal delivering the crude to Western markets is incurring a prohibitive “war risk insurance premium.” Berlin has suspended the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany—and Russia has retaliated by threatening to cut gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 line. In his executive order barring Russian oil and gas imports to the US, President Biden issued a warning to the oil companies, urging that the war should not serve as an excuse for price-gouging. But it is actually the oil futures market that plays a determinant role in fixing the international price. There’s a big psychological element involved, which is why every escalation in the Middle East (without fail) jacks up oil prices. A war in Europe will almost certainly mean another oil shock, with grim implications for the world economy and Biden’s political chances. (Photo of Kazakh oil-field via Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
babiyar

Fascist pseudo-anti-fascism: Moscow’s propaganda offensive

Russia announced plans to host an international “Anti-Fascist Conference“—with hideous irony, on the same day its forces bombarded a Holocaust memorial site in Kyiv. The surreal announcement came from Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who said Moscow will hold the conference in August, in conjunction with an arms expo sponsored by his ministry. Among the invited countries are China (accused of genocide in Xinjiang), India (now emulating China’s mass detention policies), Pakistan (a fast-consolidating police state), Saudi Arabia (similarly moving toward a mass detention state), the UAE (a burgeoning police state), Azerbaijan (accused of war crimes in last year’s war with Armenia), Uzbekistan (an entrenched dictatorship), and Ethiopia (accused of crimes against humanity in the Tigray war). (Photo of Babi Yar memorial in Kyiv via Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

Mexico
michoacan

Mexico: narco-massacre in militarized Michoacán

As many as 17 people were killed in a massacre in Mexico’s west-central state of Michoacán, with video of the grisly incident going viral on social media. The victims were lined up along the outer wall of a house and shot dead execution-style after armed men forced them out of a wake they were attending in the pueblo of San JosĂ© de Gracia. The perpetrators removed the bodies in trucks and took them to an unknown location. It appears to be the worst massacre in Mexico under the presidency of AndrĂ©s Manuel LĂłpez Obrador, who came to office in 2018 pledging to de-escalate violence in the country. Michoacán, where the Jalisco New Generation Cartel is fighting regional rivals, has been particularly hard hit by recent violence. Contrary to his promises to eschew military solutions, LĂłpez Obrador has responded by flooding the state with army troops. (Photo via RedMichoacán)

Mexico
Pemex

Control of oil behind Mexico-Spain tensions

Mexico’s President AndrĂ©s Manuel LĂłpez Obrador called for a “pause” in relations with Spain, in a speech that explicitly invoked the legacy of colonialism going back to the Conquest. But the speech was aimed principally at Spanish oil company Repsol, which had been favored during the presidential term of Felipe CalderĂłn. Specifically, LĂłpez Obrador questioned the granting of gas contracts in the Burgos Basin, in Mexico’s northeast. He charged that Repsol operated the fields less productively than the state company Pemex had. “In the end, less gas was extracted than Pemex extracted” before the contracts, he charged. Repsol is meanwhile under investigation by Spanish prosecutors on charges of graft related to the company’s efforts to fend off a take-over bid by Pemex. (Photo via Digital Journal)

East Asia
kurils

Submarine incident in flashpoint Kuril Islands

Amid quickly escalating tensions over Ukraine, Russia lodged a diplomatic protest with the US embassy in Moscow, claiming that a US nuclear submarine penetrated Russian territorial waters near the Kuril Islands. According to Moscow’s Defense Ministry, a Virginia-class US Navy submarine was detected off Urup Island, where Russia’s Pacific Fleet was conducting exercises. The Defense Ministry said the submarine was chased off by Russian vessels, and retreated at “maximum speed.” The statement accused the US of a “violation of Russia’s state border.” Media accounts did not emphasize that whether this purported incident indeed took place in Russian waters is questionable, as the Kurils are in part claimed by Japan—a dispute which has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from entering a treaty to formally end their World War II hostilities. Russia over the past weeks has conducted naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and northeast Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Pacific and Sea of Okhotsk, where the Kurils are located.  (Map: International Kuril Island Project)

Europe
anti-war

Glimmers of anti-war dissent in Russia

More than 100 Russian writers, activists and academics have signed a petition in protest of the war drive on Ukraine, which was published on the independent news site Echo of Moscow. The “Declaration by supporters of peace against the Party of War in the Russian government” charges: “The citizens of Russia are…becoming prisoners of criminal adventurism.” It has especially harsh words for Russia’s state media: “On state TV there is only one point of view, and that is the point of view of the supporters of war… [A]ggression pours out, and hate towards Ukraine, America, and Western countries… [W]ar is treated as an acceptable and inevitable development of events.” Some signatories have been officially designated as “foreign agents” by the Russian government, limiting their right to political activity. (Photo: Sign reads “Putin, hands off Ukraine!” Moscow, March 2014. Via RS21)

The Andes
Playa Cavero

Peru demands Repsol pay in coastal oil spill

Peru’s authorities declared an environmental emergency after announcing that 21 beaches around the Lima area were contaminated by an oil spill at a refinery run by Spanish multinational Repsol, calling it the “worst ecological disaster” in the city’s history. The Environmental Evaluation & Control Organism (OEFA) estimated some 6,000 barrels of crude had spilled—dramatically above the mere seven gallons that Repsol had initially reported to authorities when the disaster occurred days earlier. Some 1,740,000 square meters of coastline and 1,1187,000 square meters of sea have been covered in sludge that has blackened beaches and killed marine life. Peru is demanding compensation from Repsol, accusing the company of trying to cover up the scale of the disaster and not having a contingency plan in place. (Photo: Andina)

South Asia
Nagas

Nagaland: cross-country march against ‘special powers’

Hundreds in India’s conflicted eastern state of Nagaland held a two-day cross-country march to protest the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives the military broad power to use deadly force in areas where it is declared to be in effect. The march swelled to a thousand by the time it reached state capital Kohima. The action was called in response to last month’s massacre of 14 residents in the village of Oting, where army troops fired on what proved to be truck filled with mine workers—not guerillas, as had apparently been suspected. The march was organized by the Naga Mothers’ Association, whose spokesperson Rosemary DzĂĽvichĂĽ accused the Indian government of viewing Nagas as “the other.” She lamented: “We still have this colonial attitude being shown to us.” (Photo: Nagaland Express)