Europe
Stratofortress

Massive military drills from North Sea to Caucasus

NATO opened an annual exercise to test nuclear deterrence capabilities in Europe, with the participation of 14 of the 30 member countries. The drill, this year dubbed “Steadfast Noon,” will run two weeks and involve 60 aircraft, mostly over the North Sea. Russia’s own nuclear deterrence drills, known as GROM, are expected to begin later this month—which means they will overlap with the NATO exercise. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps meanwhile launched a large-scale military drill along the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The exercise has seen construction of a temporary pontoon bridge, allowing passage of tanks and armored vehicles, over portions of the Araz River that separates Iran from the Caucasus republics. Last month, Tehran warned that it would not tolerate any seizure of territory from Armenia by Azerbaijan after border clashes broke out between its two northern neighbors. (Photo of B-52 Stratofortress via Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
mariupol ruins

Podcast: Grozny, Aleppo, Mariupol

In Episode 144 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes Putin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Donbas region not only came on exactly the same day as the 1938 Munich Agreement, which approved Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland—it was also the same day that Putin launched two of his previous criminal military adventures. On Sept. 30, 1999, Russian tanks rolled into Chechnya, marking the start of the Second Chechen War, with massive aerial bombardment of the region’s capital city of Groazny. On Sept. 30, 2015, Russian began air-strikes in Syria, marking the start of a massive military intervention on behalf of the Bashar Assad dictatorship, in which the city of Aleppo would be virtually destroyed by bombardment. And in Putin’s new war of aggression in Ukraine, the Azov seaport of Mariupol has been similarly nearly obliterated. A review of this history reveals Vladimir Putin as a serial city-destroyer, who must be deposed and put on trial for his crimes against humanity. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Twitter)

Europe
Georgia

Mass exodus of Russian youth

Tens of thousands of conscription-age Russian men have fled to neighboring countries since Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization of military reserve troops to fight in Ukraine. The tide has grown in recent days amid fears that the Kremlin will impose an exit ban. The sense of a closing window has led to chaotic scenes on Russia’s land borders with Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia—countries that do not require a visa for visiting Russians. But Poland, Finland and the Baltic states have stopped issuing visas for Russians entirely. Among European Union countries, only Germany is offering refuge to Russians seeking to escape the war. Anti-war groups including War Resisters International, International Fellowship of Reconciliation and the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection have issued a petition calling on EU leaders to extend asylum for deserters and objectors to military service from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. (Photo: Verhniy Lars via Moscow Times)

Europe
dagestan

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. 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 in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, where police fired in the air to disperse local villagers who were blocking a highway. But the following day, the protests spread to the regional capital of Makhachkala, where demonstrators shouting “No to war” were attacked by riot police. Reports indicate that it is not only military reservists who are being called up, and that a general conscription is actually underway in some areas. There are also reports of disproportionately high numbers called up in poor regions populated by ethnic minorities, such as the North Caucasus. (Photo via Moscow Times)

The Caucasus
Nakhchivan

‘Cleansing’ of Armenian culture in Azerbaijan exclave

New clashes broke out on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan, with each side accusing the other of violating the ceasefire. Fighting was first reported near the Lachin Corrdior, which connects Armenia to the autonomous ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh. But attacks on Armenia have also been launched from the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, which is cut off from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory. A land corridor through Armenia to Nakhchivan is one of Azerbaijan’s outstanding demands in the conflict. Days before the fighting erupted, a report was released by the group Caucasus Heritage Watch at New York’s Cornell University, accusing Azerbaijan of “a systematic, state-sponsored program of cultural erasure” targeting Armenian heritage sites in Nakhchivan. (Photo: CHW)

Europe
tolstoy

Podcast: Tolstoy would shit

In Episode 132 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that deputy Duma speaker Pyotr Tolstoy, one of the most bellicose supporters of Putin’s Ukraine war, is a direct descendent of Leo Tolstoy—and recently invoked his great-great-grandfather’s “slaughter” of British and French troops during the Crimean War as a warning to the West. This is, of course, an utterly perverse irony given that the literary giant’s anarcho-pacifist beliefs were antithetical to everything that his descendant Pyotr stands for. Indeed, it was Leo Tolstoy’s experiences in the Crimean War that turned him into a committed pacifist. His final novel, Hadji Murat, vivdly depicts the brutality of Russia’s counterinsurgency campaign in Chechnya in the 1850s—a history that repeated itself in Chechnya in the 1990s. This is bitterly recalledby the Chechen volunteers now fighting for Ukraine, where this history is repeating itself yet again. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image adopted from Europeana Foundation)

The Caucasus
georgia

ICC issues warrants for crimes in Russo-Georgian War

The International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber issued arrest warrants for three individuals for alleged war crimes committed during the Russia-Georgia war in 2008. Two Russian nationals and one Georgian national are charged with various war crimes, including illegal detention, torture and inhumane treatment, hostage-taking, and illegal transfer of civilians. The ICC says the crimes were committed in August 2008, when the three were fighting for the Russian-backed South Ossetian separatist forces. (Map: PLC)

The Caucasus
georgia

South Ossetia suspends referendum to join Russia

The de facto president of South Ossetia, Alan Gagloev, suspended a planned referendum to determine whether the breakaway region of Georgia should join the Russian Federation. The referendum, scheduled for July, had been ordered by decree of Gagloev’s predecessor Anatoly Bibilov, and was widely seen as a play to cement his grip on power. However, Bibilov lost his bid for reelection, bringing his rival Gagloev to the presidency. In calling off the vote, Gagloev said that the Kremlin must be consulted on “issues related to the further integration of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation.” Georgian officials had denounced any moves by South Ossetia to join Russia as “unacceptable.” (Map: PLC)

Central Asia
russia

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. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: PCL)

The Caucasus
Chechen rebels

Chechen rebels take up arms for Ukraine

The long-simmering conflict in the Russian Federation’s Chechen Republic appears to be playing itself out in Ukraine. As Vladimir Putin launched his invasion, the “official” (Moscow-installed) Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov boasted that elements of the Russian National Guard from Chechnya are taking part in the “military operation.” The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria rebel government-in-exile meanwhile announced that volunteers from across the Chechen diaspora are preparing to fight for Ukraine. Two Chechen volunteer battalions have fought against Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region since 2014. Most of their fighters fled Russia after the fall of the de facto independent government that controlled Chechnya between 1996 and 2000. (Photo of the the Sheikh Mansur Battalion: OC Media)

The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenia brings World Court case against Azerbaijan

The Republic of Armenia instituted proceedings against the Republic of Azerbaijan at the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ top judicial organ, over alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by Azerbaijani authorities. In its application, Armenia contended that “for decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination,” including mass killings, torture and other abuses. The complaint charged that “Armenian cultural heritage has also been systematically destroyed, erased and falsified.” Armenia has requested the Court to take provisional measures “as a matter of extreme urgency” in order to “protect and preserve Armenia’s rights and the rights of Armenians from further harm.” (Map: Wikipedia)

The Caucasus
Tbilisipride

Tbilisi Pride cancelled after right-wing attacks

LGBT activists in Georgia cancelled a Pride march in the capital Tbilisi after violent attacks from right-wing groups. Activists began five days of Pride celebrations last week which were to culminate in a “March for Dignity” in central Tbilisi, despite opposition from the Orthodox Church and conservatives who said the event had no place in Georgia. But as marchers were gathering, they were set upon by counter-protesters, who ransacked the office of the organizers. “The situation is really bad,” Tbilisi Pride director Giorgi Tabagari told Thomson Reuters by phone, saying he is still being stalked and threatened by mobs, and that some members of his team have gone into hiding in fear for their lives. (Photo: Openly)