President Petro Poroshenko on Aug. 11 put Ukraine's armed forces on high alert and "full combat readiness" near the lines of control with Russian-annexed Crimea and the separatist region of Donbas. Russia meanwhile announced it has deployed long-range S-400 missile systems in Crimea. Russian state TV has broadcast footage of men confessing to a plot to carry out terror attacks on the annexed peninsula. The accused saboteurs tell interrogators they were acting on orders from Kiev. Said Russia's President Vladimir Putin: "Our special forces prevented terrorist attacks organized by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry—the situation is pretty disturbing." Responded Poroshenko: "These fantasies are just a pretext for another portion of military threats against Ukraine." (Kyiv Post, NYT, Al Jazeera, BBC News)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein in a statement released Aug. 11 expressed concern over Bulgaria's criminalization of migrants leaving and entering the country. Zeid stated Bulgaria's practice of arresting migrants for both entering and leaving Bulgaria irregularly "places many of them in an invidious Catch-22 situation" and calls into question the country's compliance with international law. While Zeid stated he was pleased with the positive steps the country has taken in integrating international asylum standards, he is upset with the country's practice of arresting migrants who do not fall within the category of refugee, despite having "legitimate reasons for being unable to return to their home country." The high commissioner was particularly displeased with the "disregard for due process and fair trial guarantees." Finally, Zeid stated that he was worried the current detention regime will continue to expand, and called for leadership to respect the human rights of migrants and guard against intolerance.
Witnesses report large numbers of Russian tanks and other military hardware have been massed near the towns of Dzhankoy and Armyansk in Crimea's north, close to the administrative border with mainland Ukraine. "The occupiers are conducting manoeuvres and we should understand that at any minute, at any hour, they could start a large-scale or small-scale attack," said Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman for Ukraine's presidential administration. The apparent build-up comes after an Aug. 6 bomb blast in the separatist-held city of Luhansk targtted an SUV carrying Igor Plotnitsky, head of the self-declared "Luhansk People's Republic" (LNR). Plotnitsky and two others injured in the attack, which LNR authorities branded a "terrorist" act.
The relentless terror attacks and massacres are now a near-daily occurrence—even if we limit ourselves here to industrialized countries supposedly at "peace." But they are ot as random as many commentators assume. Just over the past week... On July 26, two men armed with knives took over a church in the French town of St.-Étienne-Du-Rouvray during mass, taking hostages and killing the elderly priest. The attackers were killed by the police. ISIS released a statement saying its "soldiers" carried out the attack. (NYT) That same day, a former employee of a care center for the disabled in the Tokyo suburb of Sagamihara stabbed 19 to death as they slept in their beds, injuring 26 more. Upon turning himself in to the police, he boasted: "I did it. It is better that disabled people disappear,." (The Guardian)
French President Francois Hollande announced that he will extend the state of emergency for another three months in light of the Nice attack—just hours after saying he would lift it. Both Hollande's earlier Paris announcement that he would lift the emergency provisions and the Nice attack came amid official Bastille Day celebrations. Speaking to a crowd on the Champs-Elysées, Hollande said that the state of emergency—in place since November's Paris attacks— would not extend beyond July 26: "We can't prolong the state of emergency forever. That would make no sense, it would mean that we were no longer a republic with laws which can apply in all circumstances." The state of emergency was extended three times by parliament—most recently to boost security through the Euro-2016 soccer match.
A sadly hilarious story in the Washington Post today headlines: "The British are frantically Googling what the EU is, hours after voting to leave it." A majority of Great Britain's voting public voted for the "Brexit" yesterday, apparently without even understanding exactly what it is they were voting to leave, and now may now be feeling some morning-after buyer's remorse. Prime Minister David Cameron, who cynically called the vote in a play to the populist right even as he urged rejecting the exit from the European Union, will now step down—and may go down in history as the man who oversaw the beginning of the dissolution of the United Kingdom, two centuries and change after its creation. Most obviously, Scotland overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU, and the Brexit is now reviving calls for its secession from the UK. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already announced that it is "democratically unacceptable" that Scotland will be taken out of the EU against its will, and that a second independence referendum is "highly likely." (The Independent)
A court on the Greek island of Lesbos on May 20 ruled that Turkey is an "unsafe third country" for asylum seekers, throwing into doubt the EU-Turkey migrant deal. The panel of judges refused to reject an asylum application by a Syrian refugee and have him deported to Turkey. The decision came the same day that 51 refugees and migrants of different nationalities were forcibly returned to Turkey by Greek authorities. (Ekathimerini, May 20) Amnesty International's Giorgos Kosmopoulos hailed the decision, charging that Turkey is not complying with standards of the Refugee Convention. "Until it becomes a safe country nobody should be returned there," he said. He cited violations of the rights to work, medical care and family life, and said there have been "widespread returns of Syrians back to Syria from Turkey." On the pact with the EU, he added: "The whole deal should stop and refugees should be settled in other European countries safely and with dignity." (BBC News, May 21)
The US Aegis anti-missile station at Deveselu, Romania, was officially activated this week—to harsh protests from Moscow, despite Washington's claim that the system is intended to intercept missiles fired from the Middle East. Together with an installation in Poland, the Deveselu facility forms the long-delayed "missile shield" first conceived under the George Bush administration. (BBC News, AFP, RT, May 12) Moscow's claim that the "missile shield" is actually aimed at encircling Russia is mirrored by Washington's charge that Russia is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, having deployed cruise missiles in contravention of the 1987 pact. (Arms Control Association, May 2016)