Afghanistan
kunar

Pipeline plans threatened by Af-Pak border clashes

Afghanistan authorities say some 60 civilians, including five children, were killed as Pakistan launched air-strikes across the border on Khost and Kunar provinces. The strikes follow a series of attacks on security forces by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Pakistan’s borderlands. The escalation was harshly condemned both by the Taliban regime and the Afghan permanent mission in the United Nations—the loyalty of which remains unclear more than six months after the Taliban takeover. The new tensions come a week after top diplomats from China, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and other regional states met for a summit in China’s Anhui province on reviving the long-stalled Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which would deliver Central Asian gas to world markets through Afghan territory. (Photo via Khaama Press)

Central Asia
Sukhbaatar

Youth protests in Mongolian capital

Thousands of young Mongolians with no political affiliation filled central Sukhbaatar Square in the capital Ulaanbaatar for two days of peaceful protest, demanding reforms to address a long list of grievances related to taxation, inflation, job opportunities, police brutality and judicial independence. After the first day’s demonstration broke up, one group of some 20 youth was set upon by the police and beaten—which only set off a second day of protests. Support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s aggression was also a popular sentiment at the demonstrations, with many protesters displaying the Ukrainian colors as well as the Mongolian flag. Mongolia’s government abstained in the two UN General Assembly votes condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo via Twitter)

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, KalmykiaKamchatka, TatarstanTuva, 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)

Central Asia
Itelmeni

Russian indigenous leaders protest Putin’s war

Exiled leaders of Russia’s Itelmen, Kamchadal, Udege, Shor, Saami and Selkup indigenous peoples issued a statement 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.” (Photo of Itelmen people in the Kamchatka Peninsula via Wikipedia)

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)

Central Asia
GBAO

Tajikistan: internet darkness in Gorno-Badakhshan

Human Rights Watch urged Tajikistan’s authorities to restore internet connectivity in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO, by its Russian acronym), and called on the national government to ensure due process for detained political activists. The trouble in the GBAO began in late November, when the shooting of a local man during an arrest sparked protests in the regional capital, Khorog. Protests calmed several days later, after local authorities vowed to undertake an investigation into the shooting, as well as the deaths of two demonstrators. The government also pledged that it would not prosecute arrested protesters, and would restore internet connectivity—but two months on, it has not done so. The GBAO is the home of the increasingly restive Pamiri ethnic minority, and was recently the scene of Russian-led military maneuvers on the border with Afghanistan. (Map: Wikipedia)

Central Asia
Zhanaozen

Arbitrary arrests continue in Kazakhstan

Human Rights Watch (HRW) charged that during and since last month’s popular uprising in Kazakhstan, security forces have arbitrarily detained protestors, tortured some detainees, and interfered with their access to lawyers. The nationwide protests, which began over of a rise in energy prices, turned bloody after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered his armed forces to “shoot and kill without warning,” leading to the deaths of at least 227 people. HRW says it has received dozens of credible accounts of arbitrary detentions, with some of those arrested being beaten with batons or given electric shocks. Media have reported at least two cases of deaths in custody in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, apparently as a result of police mistreatment, and one such case in Kyzylorda. Authorities say some 10,000 people have been detained across the country, and 898 are facing criminal charges, including for “terrorism.” (Photo: San Francisco protest following 2011 Zhanaozen massacre in Kazakhstan, by Amineshaker/Wikipedia via The Ecologist)

Central Asia
Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan president asks Russia to help quash uprising

Kazakhstan’s President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev called participants in the protests that have swept the Central Asian nation “terrorists,” accusing them of attempting to undermine his government at the behest of foreign powers. After concessions such as a cabinet purge and instating fuel-price controls failed to quell the uprising, Tokayev quickly unleashed harsh repression. Declaring a state of emergency, he flooded the streets with riot police and pledged to “conduct counter-terrorist operations.” He also called on Russia and the other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to come to the defense of his regime. The CSTO has agreed to send “peacekeepers” to Kazakhstan. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Central Asia
beijing olympics

Corporate sponsors of Beijing Olympics under pressure

Human Rights Watch accused the corporate sponsors of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics of ignoring China’s crimes against humanity in its far western region of Xinjiang, thus “squandering the opportunity” to pressure China to address its “appalling human rights record.” Coca-Cola, Intel, Toyota and Airbnb are among the 13 Olympic Partners accused by name of overlooking China’s mass detention of ethnic Uyghurs and members of other Muslim ethnicities, as well as repression of free speech in Hong Kong. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Central Asia
Ilshat Kokbore

Podcast: Ilshat Kokbore on the Uyghur struggle

In Episode 96 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Ilshat Kokbore, former president of the Uyghur American Association and current director for China affairs with the World Uyghur Congress. Kokbore relates the story of his exile from his homeland in East Turkistan, known to its current Chinese rulers as Xinjiang, for petitioning against the purge of the Uyghur language from the educational system in 2003. Since then, of course, the situation has escalated to mass detention and even, in the opinion of many international legal experts, genocide. Kokbore discusses the history of the independence struggle in East Turkistan and the current campaign to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Afghanistan
tajikistan

Russia-led bloc in war games on Afghan border

Some 5,000 troops from member states of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) initiated military maneuvers code-named “Echelon-2021” in Tajikistan near the border with Afghanistan. More than half of the troops involved are Russian. Gen. Anatoly Sidorov, head of the CSTO joint staff, said in a statement: “We pay special attention to the Central Asian region. The situation around the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan remains the main source of instability.” China is meanwhile said to have taken over an old Soviet outpost in Tajikistan near the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan’s eastern “panhandle,” where the People’s Liberation Army is conducting joint drills with Tajik forces and monitoring the situation on the border. (Map: CIA via PCL Map Collection)

Central Asia
Uyghur

Uyghur Tribunal in UK hears testimony on abuses

The Uyghur Tribunal, an “independent people’s court” convened by exile and human rights groups, concluded after months of hearings in London. Following a request from the World Uyghur Congress, the Tribunal was organized last year by Sir Geoffrey Nice­, the lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal heard testimony from some 500 witnesses, including survivors of the detention camps in Xinjiang, on torture, sexual abuse, coerced labor, and forced sterilization. (Photo via Coda)