Europe
Italy prison revolt

Italy: prisons in revolt over COVID-19 restrictions

A total of 12 inmates have been killed in prison riots across Italy, triggered by emergency restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The riots began in response to regulation changes that include the suspension of family visits. Uprisings have been reported at facilities from Bologna in the north to Sicily in the south. At Santa Ana prison, outside Bologna, fires were started and guards taken hostage. Soldiers and Carabinieri surrounded the facility to prevent inmates from escaping. Relatives of the inmates have also staged demonstrations outside the prisons. Protests and riots have been reported at a total of 27 prisons across Italy. (Image: Anarchists Worldwide)

Europe
Lesbos

Grim milestone for the Mediterranean

Refugees have become political pawns in a power play between the EU, Greece and Turkey. Turkey abrogated its deal with the European Union to contain refugees within its borders, as a means of pressuring the EU to support its military campaign in Syria. Dramatic scenes ensued at the land and sea borders between Greece and Turkey: Greek police tear-gassing and pushing back crowds of asylum-seekers at a northern border crossing; the Hellenic Coast Guard firing warning shots at a dinghy full of asylum-seekers in the Aegean Sea; angry protesters preventing another group in a dinghy from disembarking in the port on the island of Lesvos. Amid all this came a timely reminder of what can happen when people feel compelled to attempt ever more dangerous journeys. The UN migration agency, IOM, announced that the drowning of 91 people off the coast of Libya last month and other recent fatalities had taken the toll in the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 above 20,000. (Photo: IOM)

Europe
Crimea Canal

Ukraine to lift ‘water blockade’ of Crimea?

Ukrainian lawmakers from the ruling party have proposed resuming the water supply to the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, leading to public outrage. After Russia’s 2014 seizure and unilateral annexation of Crimea, Ukraine ceased supplying water to the arid peninsula. Before the occupation, water was supplied from the Ukrainian mainland through the North Crimean Canal. Today, a dam blocks the canal on the de facto border with Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast. The shortage of water has hurt Crimean agriculture and industry, although most households rely on local wells. MPs from the ruling Servant of the People party proposed either selling the water to Crimea or using it to leverage a withdrawal of Russian military forces from the conflicted Donbas region in Ukraine’s east. But Refat Chubarov, the Crimean Tatar leader who was exiled from the peninsula by Russia after the take-over, responded that any agreement to supply water to Crimea, regardless of the conditions, would be a betrayal of the 500,000 Tatars living in the peninsula. (Map: EuroMaidan Press)

Europe
Sicily migrants

Salvini to face charges over migrant detention

The Italian Senate voted to lift former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s parliamentary immunity over his treatment of asylum seekers. Under Italian law, Salvini had immunity from criminal prosecution over actions he had taken while serving in the cabinet. But, at the request of prosecutors in Sicily, the Senate voted 152-76 to strip Salvini of his immunity, thus formally authorizing prosecutors to press charges against him for his decision to refuse entry to approximately 131 asylum-seeking migrants last July. Salvini will likely be charged with aggravated kidnapping for illegally keeping the migrants aboard a coastguard ship and refusing to let them disembark. (Photo: UNHCR via The New Humanitarian)

Europe
PKK flag

Belgian high court: PKK not ‘terrorist’ organization

The Court of Cassation of Belgium upheld a lower court’s judgement and ruled that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is not a “terrorist organization.” The case, one of several in Belgium relating to the nature of the PKK, stems from an investigation into three local Kurdish supporters of the party by Belgian judicial authorities. The legality of the investigation was challenged, and in May 2017 the Court of Appeals ruled for the three activists. The Federal Prosecutor’s appeal of this ruling has now been rejected. One of the three targeted leaders, Zübeyir Aydar of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress, said: “The Court of Cassation ruling recognizes the fact that the Kurdistan freedom struggle cannot be accused of terrorism, that what is in question is not terror but a war, and the PKK is a party of this war. This is a first in Europe and we hope it will set an example to other countries.” A case has been pending since November 2018 before the European Court of Justice challenging the European Union’s listing of the PKK as a “terrorist organization.” (Photo: ANF)

Europe
ATR

Exiled Crimean Tatar TV threatened with silence

The only Crimean Tatar TV channel is facing a new threat to its existence—this time not from the Russian occupiers of Crimea, but the Ukrainian authorities. A dramatic cut in state funding for ATR TV has coincided with Kiev’s decision to drop Tatar-language services on the state network UATV in favor of a new Russian-language channel to be broadcast into rebel-held territory in Ukraine’s heavily Russophone east. ATR has reduced production of its own programs by 90% due to underfunding, and the station’s debts forced it to turn off its satellite signal this month—the only means of actually reaching the Crimean Peninsula. It has been able to restart its satellite service thanks to emergency aid from the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, Yaakov Dov Bleich. (Photo: European Federation of Journalists)

Europe
berkut

Maidan martyrs betrayed in Ukraine prisoner swap

Activists in Ukraine are protesting a judicial ruling they say defers accountability in the massacre of scores of protesters during the Maidan Square occupation of 2014, popularly known as “Heaven’s Hundred.” Five ex-officers of the Berkut, the former regime’s now-disbanded political police, faced charges of killing 48 protesters and wounding 80 others during the February 2014 repression. Another 21 sought in the violence, also members of the Berkut’s elite Black Company, managed to escape to Russia after the fall of the Viktor Yanukovich regime later that month, and some are now believed to have been incorporated into paramilitary groups by the Vladimir Putin government. The five were ordered released from custody by the Kyiv Court of Appeals—among the 200 prisoners freed in a swap between the Ukrainian authorities and Russia-backed separatists. Their release was protested in an open letter to President Volodymyr Zelensky by the group Families of the Heaven’s Hundred Heores, who asserted that it violates international law.  (Photo: EuroMaidan)

Europe

Russia deploys Cossacks to police Crimea

Russia’s Interior Ministry has announced that “Cossacks” will be deployed, together with thede facto police, in patrolling occupied Crimea, as well as in “carrying out anti-drug measures and educational work with young people.” So-called “Cossacks” were used, with other paramilitaries, during the annexation of the peninsula in 2014 to carry out violence that Russia did not want attributed to official security fources. The group Human Rights in Ukraine believes a similar role is planned again, and that “educational work” means propaganda for the Russian military. (Photo via Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

Europe
Ayshe Seitmuratova

World Court to rule on ethnic discrimination in Crimea

The International Court of Justice ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear a case filed by Ukraine against Russia over claims of ethnic discrimination in annexed Crimea, as well as Moscow support of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s east. The case argues that Russian abrogation of the rights of the Crimean Tatars violates the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The claims concerning the eastern separatists invoke the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. On the same day as the ruling, Ayshe Seitmuratova, an 82-year-old veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement, Soviet-era dissident, former political prisoner, and historian, was detained by Russian security forces. (Photo: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

Europe
Free them all

Catalan independence leaders get prison terms

Spain’s Supreme Court ordered imprisoned nine Catalan political leaders—with sentences ranging from nine to 13 years for the crimes of sedition and misuse of public funds—over their role in organizing the 2017 independence referendum. The sentences are each followed by equal periods of absolute ineligibility for public office. Oriol Junqueras—the former vice-president of Catalonia and the highest-ranking of the defendants—received the longest sentence. The sentences sparked protests in the region, with assembled crowds causing flights to be canceled at Barcelona’s airport. Police used rubber bullets to regain control of the facility. Demonstrators also gathered at Barcelona’s Plaça San Jaume, the seat of the Catalan government, and erected barricades across roads and rail lines. Catalonia’s feared anti-riot force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, has been mobilized to clear the streets. (Image via Twitter)

Watching the Shadows
Ukraine

Trump’s phone call: the view from Ukraine

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has finally announced an official impeachment inquiry after reports surfaced that Donald Trump called on a foreign power to intervene in the upcoming election. Trump placed a hold on $391 million in aid to Ukraine just over a week before a July phone call in which he apparently urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden—the son of former US Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s likely opponent in next year’s race. This pretty clearly constitutes use of military aid to Ukraine as a bargaining chip—or an outright bribe. This is not the first time Ukraine’s internal war has become a football in American politics. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Europe

Scores of Ukrainian detainees remain in Russia

Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was among 70 detainees from Russia and Ukraine released in a prisoner swap—35 from each side. Last year, Sentsov spent 145 days on a hunger strike, demanding the release of all Ukrainians held in Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea on politically motivated charges. Human Rights in Ukraine decried the fact that, despite the swap, at least 87 Ukrainian political prisoners remain imprisoned in Russia or occupied Crimea, in addition to at least 225 hostages held by Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region. In light of this reality, the group called the “upbeat noises” in Western media about a “normalization” in Ukrainian-Russian relations “at very least premature.” (Photo via Kyiv Post)