Sakharov Center

Russia: court closes Sakharov human rights center

A Moscow court ruled to liquidate the Public Commission for the Preservation of the Heritage of Academician Sakharov, or Sakharov Center, one of Russia’s most respected human rights organizations, after an application from the Ministry of Justice. The Sakharov Center, established in 1996, had been convening public discussions for citizens to speak about the status of human rights and freedom in the country. The Justice Ministry contended that the Center’s discussion groups constituted a “violation of its territorial sphere of activity.” In a statement, the Center warned of closing political space in Russia, saying: “Uncontrolled power corrupts society… Sakharov warned about this, we see it with our own eyes today.” (Photo of Sakharov Center building via Wikipedia. Sign reads: “War in Chechnya since 1994. Enough!”)

Ukrainian anarchists

Podcast: Ukraine and anarchist internationalism

In Episode 187, the CounterVortex podcast presents audio from the panel “Ukraine and Anarchist Internationalism” at the Los Angeles Anarchist Book Fair. Bill Weinberg urges solidarity with the Ukrainian anarchist units fighting the Russians—and calls out the American left for essentially supporting the wrong side in the war. For instance, the perennially problematic Democracy Now ignores the heroic Russian left-dissidents who have sacrificed their freedom or even lives to resist Putin’s war effort, such as Darya Polyudova, Aleksandra Skochilenko and Dmitry Petrov. But it gives splashy coverage to Yurii Sheliazhenko, the Ukrainian pacifist just arrested in Kyiv for “justifying Russian aggression.” Also: Yevgeny Lerner speaks on the national liberation struggle of the Crimean Tatars. Introduction by Javier Sethness, author of Eros & Revolution: The Critical Philosophy of Herbert Marcuse and the upcoming Queer Tolstoy. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Ukrainian anarchist football hooligan militia via The Resistance Committee)

Darya Polyudova

Solitary confinement for Russian anti-war dissident

Imprisoned Russian anti-war activist Darya Polyudova has been placed in punitive solitary confinement after guards said they found a razor-blade in her belongings, which is considered a major violation at the penal colony in the North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria where she is incarcerated. Polyudova’s mother told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty  that her daughter said guards had planted the blade in her belongings to frame her, adding that the activist is starting a hunger strike to protest the move. Polyudova, affiliated with the Left Resistance dissident network, was sentenced to nine years in prison in December on “extremism” charges related to her nonviolent opposition to the Russian war in Ukraine. (Photo: Polyudova with sign calling for release of Ukrainians detained by Russia, including filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and Crimean anarchist Oleksandr Kolchenko. Via RFE/RL)


Ukraine: ‘forced citizenship’ in Russian-held territory

Russia has launched a systematic effort to force residents of occupied areas of Ukraine to accept Russian citizenship as part of its program of consolidating authority, according to a new report. Residents of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya oblasts are subjected to threats, intimidation, restrictions on humanitarian aid and basic necessities, and possible detention or deportation—all designed to force them to become Russian citizens. Based on a comprehensive review of open source material, Yale Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL) has identified the laws and tactics used to make it impossible for residents to survive in their homes unless they accept Russian citizenship. These laws and tactics violate international law, including the prohibition on discrimination against people living under occupation based on nationality, and forcing people to declare allegiance to an occupying power, both illegal under the Hague Convention and the Geneva Conventions. (Map: PCL)


Russia’s grain-for-influence gambit

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged free grain to six African nations. The announcement comes one week after Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain deal, triggering a spike in global prices. Opening the Africa-Russian summit in St. Petersburg, Putin promised to send 25,000 to 50,000 tons of free grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic, and Eritrea. The countries are among Moscow’s closest allies on the continent, but they are not all the most food-import dependent. UN Secretary-General AntĂłnio Guterres warned that a “handful of donations” would not correct the market impact of Russia’s termination of the year-long deal, which had cut cereal prices by more than one third. The African Union echoed Guterres’ criticism. (Photo: Wikipedia)


UN protests Russian strikes on Odesa heritage sites

UNESCO released a statement condemning Russian strikes on the Ukrainian port of Odesa, and especially damage to cultural heritage sites, including the city’s Transfiguration Cathedral, which is within the Historic Centre of Odesa World Heritage Site. UNESCO’s Director-General Audrey Azoulay stated: “This outrageous destruction marks an escalation of violence against the cultural heritage of Ukraine. I strongly condemn this attack against culture, and I urge the Russian Federation to take meaningful action to comply with its obligations under international law, including the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the 1972 World Heritage Convention.” (Photo via Twitter)


Kurds betrayed in Sweden NATO deal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dropped his opposition to Sweden’s entry into NATO, it was announced ahead of the alliance summit in Vilnius. In an apparent quid pro quo, the Biden administration is dropping its objections to Turkey purchasing F-16 fighter jets from the US. Sweden has also offered concessions to Erdogan. In blocking Sweden’s NATO bid, Turkey had accused Stockholm of harboring Kurdish “terrorists”—meaning supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara labels a “terrorist” group. Last November, Sweden amended its constitution to strengthen its “anti-terrorism” laws, weakening free-speech protections—clearly in deference to Turkey. The Swedish Supreme Court in June also ruled to allow extradition of the accused PKK figures to Turkey. And the rallies held in Stockholm against the extraditions by Kurdish immigrants and exiles may now be criminalized. (Photo of F-16: USAF via Wikimedia Commons)

arm ukraine

US to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions —despite protests

The US announced it will provide Ukraine with cluster munitions, despite a plea from Human Rights Watch for both Russia and Ukraine to cease their use of the controversial weapons, which have already caused many civilian deaths and injuries over the course of the war. In a White House press briefing, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stressed that the US deferred the decision for as long as possible due to such considerations, but ultimately found that the harm of a continued Russian offensive outweighed the risks of providing the munitions. Russia and, to a far lesser extent, Ukraine have used cluster munitions since the start of the war in February 2022, despite international criticism from bodies including the UN Human Rights Council. (Photo from Little Ukraine, NYC: CounterVortex)


France: far-right parties invoke ‘civil war’

French police have arrested more than 3,000 protesters in unrest that has spread since the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old delivery worker Nahel Merzouk, the son of North African immigrants, during a traffic stop in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. The Ministry of the Interior has mobilized some 45,000 police troops and gendarmes, as fierce clashes with police have spread across the country. The French far right is meanwhile baiting President Emmanuel Macron for what they portray as a weak response to the uprising. Marine Le Pen issued an inflammatory video statement warning of “anarchy” and calling for a state of emergency to be declared. Marion MarĂ©chal, Le Pen’s niece and a former National Front parliamentarian, has called for armed vigilantism and repeatedly invoked “civil war.” (Photo via Crimethinc)


Hague prosecutors prepare case against Russia

A Hague-based international prosecutorial team launched preparation of case materials against Russia for the crime of aggression—an offense that is notoriously difficult to prosecute. The International Center for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression (ICPA) was established within Eurojust, the European Union’s agency for judicial cooperation. The new office will draw together prosecutors from various European countries, as well as from the International Criminal Court (ICC), to gather evidence of Russian aggression in Ukraine. The center will collect evidence with the awareness that it remains unclear where the crime of aggression will ultimately be prosecuted—in national courts, a dedicated international tribunal, or before the ICC. (Photo via Twitter)

Azov Battalion

Russia opens criminal trial of Azov Battalion troops

A Russian court has begun hearing the case against 24 Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Battalion, seized in May 2022 during the battle for the city of Mariupol. The battalion members—including eight women—face charges of involvement with a “terrorist organization,” and participating in activities to “overthrow” Russian authorities. The Russian Supreme Court designated Azov a “terrorist organization” in August 2022, and Russian prosecutors first filed charges against the Azov fighters this May. The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, asserts that the trial has no legal basis, citing international law and military immunity. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, “Combatant immunity bars the prosecution of combatants for mere participation in hostilities.” (Photo of Azov Battalion fighters: Carl RidderstrĂĄle/Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch

Podcast: free Puerto Rico, free Russia

In Episode 180 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg compares two demonstrations outside the UN on the same day—one in support of Puerto Rican independence, timed for the meeting of the Special Committee on Decolonization, and one in support of Russian anti-war dissidents, LGBTQ people and indigenous peoples, now all facing harsh repression. The police state tactics seen in Putin’s consolidating dictatorship mirror many of those US colonialism has used in Puerto Rico. And Russia’s indigenous peoples have been denied self-determination as surely as the Puerto Ricans. Yet the presence of “tankies“—pseudo-leftists in the camp of Russian imperialism—at the independentista rally illustrates how those who support freedom in Puerto Rico and in Russia have been pitted against each other. Yet another example of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: CounterVortex)