Syria
White Helmets

UN Rights Council sees Russian ‘war crimes’ in Syria

A UN Human Rights Council report concludes that air-strikes on civilian infrastructure by Syrian government and Russian forces in Idlib and Aleppo provinces amounted to war crimes. The report assessed incidents that occurred from November 1, 2019, to June 1, 2020. The Syrian government and Russian Aerospace Forces carried out both land and air attacks, which destroyed civilian infrastructure. The report documented 52 “emblematic attacks” that led to civilian casualties or damage to civilian infrastructure. These included 17 attacks on hospitals and medical facilities as well as 14 attacks on schools. (Photo via EA Worldview)

Watching the Shadows
neo-Nazis

State Department sees global ‘white supremacist’ threat

The US State Department’s newly released “Country Reports on Terrorism 2019” makes special note for the first time of an international white supremacist threat. The report states that the Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau “increased its efforts to combat racially or ethnically motivated terrorism (REMT). REMT, in particular white supremacist terrorism, continues to be a threat to the global community, with violence both on the rise and spreading geographically.” Given that this report is released just as Trump is becoming more blatant than ever in his own espousal of white supremacy, we must ask if this is not another example of the “Deep State” (read: those elements of the bureaucracy not completely co-opted by his dictatorial agenda) acting independently of the White House—or even, as the deplorables love to fear, actually seeking to subvert it. (Photo via Germ)

Central Asia
shaman

Demand release of dissident Siberian shaman

Russia’s Memorial Human Rights Center is calling for the release of Alexander Gabyshev, a shaman from the Siberian region of Yakutia, who has been forcibly interned at a psychiatric clinic. Gabyshev is best known for making multiple attempts to travel on foot to Moscow with the intention of “exorcising” President Vladimir Putin. The statement called Gabyshev a “political prisoner,” noting: “He was deprived of freedom solely because of his political and religious beliefs.” Memorial asserts that there are no legal grounds for involuntary hospitalization in Gabyshev’s case. (Photo via Hromadske)

North Africa
haftar

Libya: Haftar’s forces retreat from Tripoli

Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) regained full control of Tripoli with the recapture of the city’s airport—the last pocket held by the eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, whose forces had been besieging the capital since April 2019. Haftar’s forces fled east toward Tarhouna and Bani Walid, their last remaining strongholds in the west, with the GNA forces in pursuit. The GNA advance, dubbed Operation Volcano of Rage, follows reports last month that mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, who had been fighting for Haftar, were being evacuated from Libya. This suggests that Russian support for Haftar may have been sacrificed in Moscow’s new rapprochement with Turkey, the main foreign sponsor of the GNA. (Photo: Libya Observer)

Planet Watch
NORILSK

Russia: state of emergency after Arctic oil spill

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency after 20,000 tons of diesel oil leaked into a river within the Arctic Circle. The spill went unreported for two days, which may have caused irreparable damage to the ecologically fragile region. The spill was caused by rupture of a fuel tank at a power plant run by Nornickel, the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer. The Russian government has launched a criminal case over the pollution and alleged negligence. The spill has caused large portions of the Ambarnaya River to turn a dark crimson, and is believed to be the second-largest in Russian history. An area of at least 350 square kilometers has been contaminated. (Photo: Russian Civil Defense via TASS)

Planet Watch
air pollution

UN climate talks delayed one year by COVID-19

International climate negotiations will be delayed by a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government announced. The next summit, dubbed COP26, was due to take place this November in Glasgow, but has now been put off to November 2021. Delaying the talks could encourage governments, industrial concerns and financial institutions to adopt recovery plans with high climate costs—such as a bailout for the oil companies. The postponement is particularly critical given the failure of last year’s summit, held in Madrid, to reach any agreement. (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Kremlin in new drive to co-opt US ‘alternative’ voices

In a truly surreal irony, CounterVortex chief blogger Bill Weinberg got e-mail from RT.com editor-in-chief Igor Ogorodnev, saying he’s impressed with our website and extending an invitation to contribute to RT. This is evidently part of a concerted push by RT—a direct organ of Russian state propaganda—to appropriate dissident and alternative voices in the American blogosphere ahead of this year’s elections. The strategy here is clear: Wth Fox News playing to the right and RT playing to the left, the Putin-Trump agenda will control both sides of the debate. It is imperative that progressives do not take the RT bait. (Photo: Wikipedia)

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)

Syria
Idlib ruins

Amnesty sees Russian-backed ‘war crimes’ in Syria

A report by Amnesty International finds that the Syrian government, supported by Russia, committed a series of war crimes in the northwest of the country in late 2019 and 2020. The report states that “attacks from the air and the ground repeatedly struck residential areas and crucial infrastructure” in opposition-held areas of Idlib, Aleppo and Hama provinces. The report documents 18 attacks on schools and medical facilities, calling them “serious violations” of international humanitarian law. (Photo: White Helmets)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Kremlin propaganda machine weaponizes Tara Reade

You don’t have to dismiss Tara Reade’s claims of sexual assault by Joe Biden to note how they are being exploited, and by whom. It is hardly surprising that her accusations are widely touted by Kremlin propaganda outlets like Sputnik. Nor that Douglas Wigdor, a prominent Trump donor, has been named as Reade’s attorney. Of greater interest to followers of Moscow propaganda efforts on behalf of Trump is a second attorney now working for Reade: William Moran—a Sputnik veteran editor who Sputnik star contributor Max Blumenthal sicced on the Southern Poverty Law Center two years ago to get them to suppress researcher Alexander Reid Ross’ exposé of Russian-lubricated fascist entryism on the American left. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Syria
syria occupied

Has Assad outlived usefulness to Putin?

The Russian International Affairs Council, an official diplomatic think-tank, issued a report predicting that Russia, Turkey and Iran will soon reach a joint agreement to remove Syrian dictator Bashar Assad from power, replacing him with a transitional government including members of both the regime and opposition, as well as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Russian news agency TASS suggests that Moscow fears a repeat of the “Afghan scenario” in Syria if it continues to back an unpopular regime. (Photo via Syria Call)

Planet Watch
Oilsands

Negative oil prices slow tar sands production

Despite a new agreement by Saudi Arabia and Russia to end their price war, the oil market remains in free-fall amid the virtual shut-down of the world economy by the COVID-19 pandemic. The price of the main US and Canadian oil benchmarks have now fallen below zero—the first time oil prices have ever turned negative. Canada, the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, has already started slashing oil sands output. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $2.5 billion in aid to the industry, and Trump is now also pledging a bail-out. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)