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)

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
antiwar

New wave of anti-war protest sweeps across Russia

Police detained more than 4,300 people in over 50 cities across Russia as activists mounted a second wave of protests against the invasion of Ukraine. From Moscow and St. Petersburg to the Siberian city of Irkutsk and the Pacific port of Vladivostok, thousands chanted “No to war!” and “Shame on you!”—a message directed at President Vladimir Putin. In the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, a mural glorifying Putin was defaced—prompting a charge by the riot police. The independent monitoring group OVD-Info reports that over 8,000 have now been arrested in anti-war protests across Russia since the Ukraine invasion was launched. After the first wave of protests, the Duma passed a law imposing a 15-year prison term for anyone who opposes the war—or even calls it a “war.” Reporters have been arrested for defying the edict that the invasion only be referred to as a “military operation.” (Photo: protesters in St. Petersburg. Sign reads “In war we will lose everything.” Via  OVD-Info)

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)

Planet Watch
warplane

Trump tears up arms control treaties

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the United States is formally withdrawing from the Treaty on Open Skies, a post-Cold War trust-building measure that allows the US and Russia to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over each others’ territories. Having last year withdrawn from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, the White House is now threatening to similarly abandon New START, the 2010 agreement that limits the US and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear missiles each. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

The Caucasus

Protest, polarization in ex-Soviet Georgia

A massive protest encampment erected in front of Tbilisi’s parliament building demanding the resignation of Georgia’s government prompted President Georgi Margvelashvili to meet with demonstration leaders and remove his chief prosecutor. The latest round of mass protests began over accusations of a government cover-up in the slaying of two youths. But pressure was building for weeks. The first protests broke out in mid-May to demand drug legalization after a series of police raids on nightclubs. Gay rights advocates took to the streets to mark Inter­na­tion­al Day Against Homo­pho­bia—to be confronted by gangs of neo-Nazis, who tried to intimidate them into dispersing, giving Hitler salutes and chanting “death to the enemy!” The protest wave indicates a new generation tired of rule by ex-Soviet elites coming of age—but starkly divided between more liberal and harshly reactionary currents. (Photo: OC Media)

Watching the Shadows

DoD announces transfer of Gitmo detainees

The US Department of Defense  announced  the transfer of five detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Slovakia and Goergia, leaving 143 prisoners at the facility.

Europe

Great Game for Arctic in Ukraine struggle?

At the NATO summit called in response to the Ukraine escalation, a particularly hard line is being taken by Canada—now in a race with Russia to claim Arctic oil resources.