Amid an atmosphere of repression, Belarus voted in a referendum to approve constitutional changes that consolidate the power of long-ruling strongman Alexander Lukashenko—and drop the country’s nuclear-free status. On the eve of the vote, Lukashenko expressed his willingness to redeploy nuclear arms in the country’s territory, saying: “If [the West] transfers nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania, to our borders, then I will turn to [Vladimir] Putin to bring back the nuclear weapons that I gave away without any conditions.” After the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Belarus ceded the nuclear weapons deployed on its territory to Russia, and the Belarusian constitution declared that the country would remain a “nuclear-free zone.” This clause has now been expunged from the document. (Map via PCL Map Collection)
Amid quickly escalating tensions over Ukraine, Russia lodged a diplomatic protest with the US embassy in Moscow, claiming that a US nuclear submarine penetrated Russian territorial waters near the Kuril Islands. According to Moscow’s Defense Ministry, a Virginia-class US Navy submarine was detected off Urup Island, where Russia’s Pacific Fleet was conducting exercises. The Defense Ministry said the submarine was chased off by Russian vessels, and retreated at “maximum speed.” The statement accused the US of a “violation of Russia’s state border.” Media accounts did not emphasize that whether this purported incident indeed took place in Russian waters is questionable, as the Kurils are in part claimed by Japan—a dispute which has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from entering a treaty to formally end their World War II hostilities. Russia over the past weeks has conducted naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and northeast Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Pacific and Sea of Okhotsk, where the Kurils are located. (Map: International Kuril Island Project)
Under long-ruling dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a fascistic order has long obtained in Belarus—and amid the wave of state terror following last year’s stolen elections, it may now be going over the edge into outright fascism. Which is why it’s particularly sickening that Lukashenko and his propaganda machine are playing to anti-fascism in the international flare-up over his latest outrage. Activist and blogger Roman Protasevich, arrested when a passenger plane was forced down by a Belarusian fighter jet, may face the death penalty for “terrorism” charges. But it all appears to rest on Protasevich’s supposed involvement in Ukraine’s Nazi-nostalgist Azov Battalion—and this seems entirely a matter of conjecture. (Photo: Libcom.org)
As nations across the globe remain under lockdown, more sweeping powers are being assumed by governments in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing demands for relief from poor barrios running out of resources under his lockdown orders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shoot protesters in the streets. Police have opened fire on lockdown violators in Nigeria, Ghana and Peru. In Tunisia, remote-controlled wheeled robots have been deployed to accost lockdown violators. States of emergency, including broad powers to restrict movements and control the media, have been declared from the Philippines to Serbia. Amnesty International warns that the restrictive measures could become a “new normal.” (Photo: Pulse, Ghana)
The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court unanimously approved an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by both sides in the Afghanistan conflict. The investigation will focus on “alleged crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan in the period since 1 May 2003, as well as other alleged crimes that have a nexus to the armed conflict in Afghanistan.” The Pre-Trial Chamber had rejected a request to open an investigation last year, but the prosecutor appealed. The case names three primary parties as the focus of its investigation: the Taliban and affiliated groups for crimes against humanity and war crimes; the Afghan National Security Forces for war crimes; and the US armed forces and its Central Intelligence Agency for war crimes. (Photo:AiirSource Military)
The European Court of Human Rights found that Lithuania and Romania had violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights by allowing secret CIA prisons to operate on their territory. Lithuania had allowed the CIA to open a "black site" on its territory, where the CIA subjected the applicant, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn AKA Abu Zubaydah, to "ill-treatment and arbitrary detention." Lithuania must pay Husayn 130,000 euros ($150,000). The applicant in the Romania case, Abd al-Rahim Husseyn Muhammad al-Nashiri, was transported to a "black site" on that country's territory territory, and faced capital charges in the US. The court apprehended Romania for transferring al-Nashiri to the US when it was likely he would face the death penalty. Romania must pay the applicant 100,000 euros ($115,000). Both men remain interned at Guantánamo Bay. (Photo: WikimediaCommons)
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made a formal request to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by US the military in Afghanistan. The investigation would also examine crimes at secret CIA detention facilities in Poland, Romania and Lithuania. The request cites articles of the Rome Statute concerning murder, torture and unlawful imprisonment. It marks the first time ICC prosecutors have targeted the United States.
The Flynn resignation has been followed by a fast and dramatic escalation of US-Russia tensions, with Pentagon troops deployed to Romania and a near-skirmish in the Black Sea.
The breakdown of US-Russia cooperation over Syria comes as Moscow moves missiles to the Polish border and withdraws from an agreement on plutonium disposal.
The US anti-missile station in Romania was officially activated, to harsh protests from Moscow—as NATO prepares to deploy German troops in the Baltic republics.
Above Russian protests, NATO is beefing up its Baltic Air Policing program with more fighter jets—at the request of regional leaders, who cite Russian provocation.
Moscow police arrested hundreds protesting against military intervention in Ukraine, after President Putin won approval from senators to send troops into the neighboring country.