Shelling in the rebel-held eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk left two dead Sept. 17, despite a ceasefire and a law passed by Kiev's parliament a day earlier granting greater autonomy to the country's east. Fighting centered on the city's airport, which remains in government hands, with nearby neighborhoods caught in the crossfire. Civilian casualties have continued to rise since the supposed ceasefire, adding to the estimated 3,000 people killed in the conflict so far. (The Independent, Sept. 17) In an asburd irony little noted by the world media, as Vladiimir Putin backs the brutal "People's Republics" (sic) in eastern Ukraine, he has cracked down on a separatist movement that has emerged in Siberia. Last month, when the Ukraine crisis was at a peak, Russian authorities banned a Siberian independence march and took hrash measures to prevent the media from even reporting it—threatening to block the BBC Russian service over its coverage of the movement. BBC's offense was an interview with Artyom Loskutov, an organizer of the "March for Siberian Federalization," planned for Aug. 17 in Novosibirsk, The Guardian reported.
We've noted that Iran is a de facto member of the Great Power convergence against ISIS, but the Islamic Republic wasn't invited to today's summit in Paris, where leaders of some 30 nations pledged to support Iraq in its fight against the so-called "Islamic State" by "any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance, in line with the needs expressed by the Iraqi authorities, in accordance with international law and without jeopardizing civilian security." However, the two principal US imperial rivals were there: Russia and China. Of course we can take the reference to "civilian security" with a grain of salt, and the final statement made no mention of Syria—the stickiest question in the ISIS dilemma. (AFP via Lebanon Daily Star, Sept. 16) China's interest in the issue was crystalized over the weekend by the arrest in Indonesia of two ethnic Uighurs on suspicion of ties to ISIS. The two were detained in Central Sulawesi province, said to be a "major hotbed of militancy," in a sweep of suspected ISIS recruits. They had allegedly procured false passports in Thailand, and were in possession of literature and other paraphernalia with ISIS insignia. (SCMP, Sept. 15)
In a Sept. 9 statement, Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevics accused Russia of carrying what is "in essence the ethnic cleansing" of the Tatar people from annexed Crimea. Mustafa Cemilev, leader of the Crimean Tatars who has been banned from his homeland by the Russian authorities, added that Russia's FSB security agency has been raiding the homes of Tatar leaders in an effort to intimidate them into fleeing Crimea, accusing Moscow of "the systematic violation of human rights on the peninsula." Russian authorities banned Cemilev from his homeland for five years after the annexation of the peninsula, and he took refuge in Kiev. But he said in an interview that Russian authorities have called for him to appear for an interrogation, and he fears he would be arrested if he appears. (EuroMaidan Press, Sept. 9)
We have been noting, with growing unease, a phenomenon we call the Paradoxical Anti-Fascist Rhetoric of Contemporary Crypto-Fascism—witnessed both in the stateside far right Hitler-baiting Obama, and (more disturbingly) in the increasingly fascistic Vladimir Putin Nazi-baiting the Ukrainians. Now the websites Human Rights in Ukraine and Kyiv Post report on a far-right summit just held at Yalta (yes, in recently annexed Crimea, and the site of an Allied summit in World War II), attended by representatives of such unsavory entities as Hungary's Jobbik party, Belgium's Parti Communautaire National-Européen, and the British National Party—and overseen by Sergei Glazyev, a senior adviser to Putin, and Maxim Shevchenko, a member of Putin's human rights council (sic!). Predictably, this assemblage of neo-fascists discussed forming an "Anti-fascist Council" to oppose the "fascist junta in Kiev." Many of the Russian militants in attendance are said to have been followers of the Eurasia Party of Alexander Dugin—seemingly a key ideologue of Putin's Eurasian Union project.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his Western allies charge that Moscow has sent at least 1,000 regular army troops into the two easternmost oblasts of Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, to back up the separatist rebels there. Russia's President Vladimir Putin responds with an outburst of presumably unintentional irony. He compared Kiev's encirclement of rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk to the 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad in which 1 million civilians died. Speaking at a pro-Kremlin rally at a lakeside youth camp, he also told supporters—some waving banners bearing his face—that Russia remains a strong nuclear power and therefore "it's best not to mess with us." He added that Russians and Ukrainians "are practically one people"—recalling his recent references to the disputed areas of southeastern Ukraine as "Novorossiya." So, let's get this straight... he accuses his enemies of being like the Nazis while enouraging a fascistic personality cult around his own leadership, while making claims to the territory of a neighboring country on ethno-nationalist grounds, and while threatening use of nuclear weapons. This is another example of what we call the Paradoxical Anti-Fascist Rhetoric of Contemporary Crypto-Fascism. Although in Putin's case, it is barely crypto.
The BRICS group of five nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—held its sixth annual summit this year from July 14 to July 16 in Fortaleza in the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará and in Brasilia, the Brazilian capital. The main business for the five nations' leaders was formalizing their agreement on a plan to create a development bank to serve as an alternative to lending institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which are largely dominated by the US and its allies. Although the project will need approval from the countries' legislatures, the BRICS leaders indicated that the group's lending institution would be called the New Development Bank, would be based in Shanghai and would be headed for the first five years by a representative of India. The bank is to start off in 2016 with $50 billion in capital, $10 billion from each BRICS member. The BRICS nations will maintain control of the bank, but membership will be open to other countries; in contrast to the IMF and the World Bank, the New Development Bank will not impose budgetary conditions on loan recipients.
Nicaragua's Commission for the Development of the Grand Canal on July 7 approved a route for the proposed inter-oceanic canal through the Central American country. The waterway, to be built by Chinese company HKND, is slated to run from the Río Punta Gorda (South Atlantic Autonomous Region) on the Caribbean Coast to Brito (Rivas department) on the Pacific coast—a route more than three times as long as the 48-mile Panama Canal. The Commission said the canal will be operational by 2020, but questions have been raised on how the Hong Kong-based company plans to finance the project, estimated at $50 billion—nearly four times greater than Nicaragua's national economy. The canal is to be privately owned and operated. Ecologists have raised concerns about impacts on Lake Nicaragua (also known as Cocibolca), Central America's largest lake and an important fresh-water source for the country. There are fears the the water used by the canal's locks could seriously deplete the lake. The Río San Juan, which feeds the lake and forms the border with Costa Rica, would be dammed to feed the locks. Costa Rica has formally demanded the right to review environmental impact studies for the project before work begins. The Rama-Kriol indigenous people, whose territories in the Punta Gorda river basin would be impacted, are demanding to be consulted on the project. (La Prensa, Nicaragua, July 17; Tico Times, Costa Rica; July 15; Nicaragua Dispatch, Reuters, El Financiero, Mexico, July 8)
President Obama in his statement on the downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in Ukraine emphasized that it was "shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine." He added that "we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia." Vladimir Putin, of course, blamed Ukraine for the incident, saying: "Without doubt the government of the territory on which it happened bears responsibility for this frightening tragedy." Of course he was referring to Kiev's military offensive against the rebels, but Business Insider wryly notes that placing the blame on "the government of the territory" where the disaster occurred "technically points the finger at the rebels themselves, who have proclaimed the area 'The People's Republic of Donetsk.'"