CLAIRE BERLINSKI, PARIS
🗞News and notes from around the world: Everything you need to know to be well-informed.
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🖊 NB: For detailed daily updates on the war, CG highly recommends Monique Camarra’s EuroFile.
- After more than a month of heavy fighting, Russian forces now control the majority of Severodonetsk. Russia’s urban warfare tactics, which are reliant on heavy use of artillery, have generated extensive collateral damage throughout the city.
- Elements of Ukrainian Armed Forces, along with several hundred civilians, are sheltering in underground bunkers in the Azot Chemical Plant, in the city’s industrial zone.
- Russian forces will likely be fixed in and around Azot while Ukrainian fighters can survive underground. This will likely temporarily prevent Russia from re-tasking these units for missions elsewhere.
- It is highly unlikely that Russia anticipated such robust opposition, or such slow, attritional conflict during its original planning for the invasion.
Ukrainian authorities say they’re evacuating civilians from Severodonetsk during every “quiet” moment after the three main bridges out of the eastern city were destroyed by Russian shelling.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday urged Western allies to redouble their military aid to Ukraine, warning that it “is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield” in the nearly four-month war with Russia.
“We can’t afford to let up, and we can’t lose steam,” Mr. Austin told a meeting in Brussels of nearly 50 countries known as the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. He praised the flow of tanks, missiles and artillery provided to Ukraine so far, but said it was not enough, adding, “The stakes are too high.”
🇪🇺 The European Commission will recommend granting Ukraine official status as an EU candidate country:
Officials familiar with the debate among commissioners said there was keen awareness of the sacrifices made by Ukrainians and clear recognition of the need to send a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he has lost any chance of reclaiming Ukraine into his supposed sphere of influence. “The Commission does not forget that Ukraine is the only country in Europe where people died, where people were shot at because they were on the streets carrying EU flags,” one senior official said. “Now, we cannot tell them, ‘sorry guys, you were waving the wrong flags.’”
⚡️Reuters: Romanian President says Ukraine must be granted EU candidate status ‘as soon as possible.’
“It is a correct solution from a moral, economic, and security perspective,” Klaus Iohannis said after meeting French President Emmanuel Macron in Romania on June 15.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) June 15, 2022
🚢🌾 Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu says the UN has a plan to create a sea corridor from Ukraine for grain exports. He said it would “take some time” to de-mine Ukraine’s ports, but a safe sea corridor could meanwhile be established in areas without mines.
- The Belarusian Armed Forces began a command-staff exercise focused on testing command and control capabilities on June 14. However, Belarus remains unlikely to join the war in Ukraine on behalf of Russia.
- Russian authorities may be accelerating plans to annex occupied areas of Ukraine and are arranging political and administrative contingencies for control of annexed territories.
- The Russian military leadership continues to expand its pool of eligible recruits by manipulating service requirements.
- Russian forces are continuing to fight for control of the Azot industrial plant and have destroyed all bridges between Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, likely to isolate the remaining Ukrainian defenders within the city from critical lines of communication.
- Russian forces continue to prepare for offensive operations southeast of Izyum and west of Lyman toward Slovyansk.
- Russian forces are continuing offensive operations to the east of Bakhmut near the T1302 highway to cut Ukrainian lines of communication to Severodonetsk-Lysychansk.
- Russian forces continued offensive operations to push Ukrainian troops away from frontlines northeast of Kharkiv City.
- Ukrainian counterattacks have forced Russian troops on the Southern Axis to take up and strengthen defensive positions.
⛓ Alexei Navalny has disappeared. According to his spokesperson,
[he] was transported away from the penal colony No. 2. His lawyer, who came to see him, was kept at the checkpoint until 14;00, and was then told: “There is no such convict here.” We do not know where Alexei is now and what colony they are taking him to. Of course, neither Alexei’s attorneys nor his relatives were informed about his transfer in advance. There were rumors that he was going to be transferred to the high-security penal colony IK-6 Melekhovo, but it is impossible to know when (and if) he will actually arrive there.
The problem with his transfer to another colony is not only that the high-security colony is much scarier. As long as we don’t know where Alexei is, he remains one-on-one with the system that has already tried to kill him, so our main task now is to locate him as soon as possible. (In Russian.)
Update: His spokesperson says, “The media, citing the chairman of the PMC of the Vladimir region, Sergei Yazhan, writes that Navalny was transferred to IK-6 Melekhovo. We don’t have any confirmation of this yet. (In Russian.)
⛓ “Maniacs and executioners in the service of the state—how people are killed in the colony where Navalny has (reportedly) been transferred.” The founder of Gulagu.net and human rights activist Vladimir Osechkin described Melekhovo as one of the most terrible places in Russia. He says a hybrid regime has been established in the colony. Both the employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service and prisoner activists brutalize the inmates:
“The creepiest place there is the sanitary unit. If someone needs to be removed, they are led there. There is a separate semi-basement room without cameras, where you can do anything. They transfer undesirable people with fake diagnoses, allegedly isolated because of health problems, and then begin to bully them. … When I was in the sanitary unit, I was constantly beaten, insulted, threatened against writing complaints anywhere. This is done by both the Federal Penitentiary Service and the “goats” (prisoners cooperating with the administration.—Ed.). The cruelest person I met there is Roman Taratin, just a fascist. He personally beat people, there were cases when he raped prisoners with a baton. I even complained to Lyudmila Romanova, Commissioner for Human Rights in the Vladimir region, but nothing has changed.” (In Russian.)
⚰️ “Your husband is missing, stop calling.” How the relatives of the Russian military missing in Ukraine are trying to get them back “alive or dead.”
Families of missing Russian military continue to wait for news about their relatives. When asked what families would like, Irina finds the answer immediately: “Since they [the Ministry of Defense] sent them there, let them return them. Either dead or alive. No person deserves such that he doesn’t even have a grave anywhere. It’s some kind of nightmare, it’s like he fell through the ground.” (In Russian.)
🪙 The Russian budget is about to become even more opaque. Russia’s Ministry of Finance has announced that it will henceforth limit the publication of budget data to minimize the risk of new sanctions. The ministry will stop publishing information about the way the budget deficit is financed along with information on the execution of expenditures by budget sections. (In Russian.)
Western sanctions aren’t damaging Russia’s economy as much as expected, Ukraine’s deputy economy minister said:
“Russia seems to be more resilient to sanctions than we estimated at the beginning. Initially, there was an assumption that impacts [of] sanctions will be more and more visible.” …
“There is a necessity to go further and to increase sanctions on Russia,” Ukraine’s deputy minister said. “We need to get rid of oil and eventually gas: these are the commodities that are bringing in direct revenues for the Russian budget.” He added that Ukraine would also welcome widening sectoral bans, for instance adding products like slabs to the steel embargo. Beyond commodities, the West needs to target Russian services again. “Financial services and transport services, the broader exclusion of Russian financial institutions from SWIFT, insuring vessels—that will constrain Russia in a way that is more efficient,” Kachka said.
🦇📺☢️ “The Kremlin is preparing a nuclear strike.” What they talk about on Russian TV:
The military frenzy on Russian TV is increasing. There they talk more and more seriously about nuclear war, accompanying these threats with stories about the gay war and the commandments of Nazism. If Vladimir Putin really watches federal channels, it’s bad. However, there is hope: Even the most rabid propagandists have sometimes begun to reduce the temperature. …
The rhetoric about the launch of nuclear weapons has not subsided on Russian TV for several weeks. A military frenzy shrouded [the Moscow television and radio tower] Ostankino. Interestingly, the audience is aware of what is happening hypnotized. [sic.] The threat of the end of the world does not seem to cause any reaction among most Russians. And this can still be understood: Protesters against the possible death of themselves and their children may face several days in paddy wagons, dismissal from work and active condemnation. But another thing is more surprising: Margarita Simonyan was allowed to encroach on the sacred—she openly scolded Maxim Galkin and Alla Pugacheva, calling the comedian gay, and the popularly beloved singer an elderly woman. (In Russian.)
“It was agreed to expand cooperation in energy, finance, industry, transport and other spheres, taking into account the global economic situation that has become more complicated due to the West’s illegitimate sanctions policy,” the Kremlin said in a readout of the leaders’ call.
“China is willing to push for the steady and long-term development of bilateral pragmatic cooperation. China is willing to mutually support Russia on core interests and matters of paramount concern, such as sovereignty and security, as well as [achieve] closer strategic cooperation,” Xi was quoted as saying by the state broadcaster CCTV.
✈️🛩 The director of the European Union Aviation Safety is worried that Russia is using Western-made planes without access to spare parts and proper maintenance. He says the situation is “very unsafe.”
⚰️⚰️⚰️ Russia pulls out all the stops to find fresh troops. Putin badly needs soldiers. He wants to avoid a general mobilization, so the military is relying on other methods:
The Russian army is using all means at its disposal to find reinforcements. They are luring them with attractive offers, issuing threats, and even simulating a general mobilization by sending out huge numbers of summons to reservists—which some, either out of ignorance or fear, interpret as a call up order.
Explain the significance of the 1634 Treaty of Polyanovka. What happened in Narva in 1704? And who signed a peace treaty in Moscow in 1920 and why does that matter now?
These are not questions for a history exam. They are burning national security issues that affect peace and war in Europe. They show that Kremlin imperialist thinking goes far beyond Ukraine. Russia is bent on rebuilding its sphere of influence, based on a semi-mystical historical mandate. Everyone in Russia’s neighborhood should worry about that. So should their allies.
☭🚩 By the way, I’m late to this, but did you watch the May 9 Victory Parade? I was so busy trying to figure out whether Putin would declare war on the whole world that I didn’t bother to watch it. But watch the beginning, at least, and don’t forget to turn on the auto-translate:
🕊🦅 Polling across 10 European countries suggests a deepening divide between voters who want “a swift end to the conflict” and those who want “Russia punished.”
Asked what worried them most about the war, respondents in Germany, Italy and France were most concerned about the cost of living and energy prices, while respondents in Sweden, the UK, and Poland were most concerned about the threat of nuclear war.
As the conflict drags on and costs grow, governments will increasingly be forced to “balance the pursuit of European unity with opinions that diverge both within and among member states,” the authors write, pointing to a “growing gap between the positions of many governments and the public mood in their respective countries.”
Ukrainians are of course disgusted:
Those who choose “peace” over justice will have neither peace, nor justice. For justice is the only way to achieve durable piece.
Someone should bring it to the attention of voters in 🇮🇹Italy, 🇩🇪Germany, 🇷🇴Romania and 🇫🇷France and elsewhere. pic.twitter.com/AqskKvjlPa
— Danylo Mokryk (@DMokryk) June 15, 2022
So is anyone else who’s paying even the least bit of attention, including me:
If Ukraine cedes land for a temporary peace, one that allows the Russians to re-arm, the war will not be over. The economic crisis will not come to an end. I do not understand why so many people fail to understand this. This solution is not “realism”, it’s pure fantasy. https://t.co/7m1RcgSvVJ
— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) June 15, 2022
It’s like Europe has completely forgotten about 1933-1945.
— Adot Crawley (@AdotCrawley) June 15, 2022
NATO is preparing for its big Madrid Summit on June 28-30. Stoltenberg and the leaders of seven NATO allies met yesterday in The Hague to prepare for it:
- Stoltenberg: The Summit will be “historic and transformative.”
- It will announce “strong support” for Ukraine over the short and longer terms. Allies will agree to “a major strengthening of our posture” involving “more robust and combat-ready forward presence, even higher readiness, and more pre-positioned equipment and supplies.”
- More NATO members are planning to spend at least two percent of their GDP on defense. Stoltenberg welcomes this.
- NATO will adopt its new Strategic Concept at the Summit. Stoltenberg said this “will be a blueprint for the Alliance’s future.”
- Leaders in The Hague also discussed Finland and Sweden’s applications to join NATO. “I welcome the serious steps already taken to address Türkiye’s concerns,” Stoltenberg said—and NATO even spelled it like that in its press release, which I guess is meant to show how very seriously NATO takes Turkey’s concerns. “Our dialogue continues, to find a united way forward,” Stoltenberg added. I take it that means Tuh-OO-URRRkee-yeah remains recalcitrant.
🛫 Russian oligarchs’ jets still flying in Europe’s airspace. The EU’s airspace should in theory be closed to Russian aircraft. But rich Russians are managing to circumvent the flight ban.
The data of these flights are publicly available via flight tracking websites. There is credible evidence for the aircraft that they are owned or controlled by Russian businessmen. In mid-March, British authorities withdrew a Cessna jet with the registration G-LATO from circulation in the south of London. The Ministry of Transport in London attributes the Cessna to the Russian oil billionaire Yevgeny Markovich Schwidler. … According to EU officials, “the application of sanctions against business jets and helicopters registered outside Russia and owned by non-Russian companies is sometimes difficult due to opaque property structures.” (In German.)
The US will build temporary silos on Poland’s border with Ukraine to facilitate the export of grain:
- 🇬🇧 Suspected Russian spy “acting as Putin spook” held at Gatwick Airport:
The man, aged in his forties, was detained under the Official Secrets Act under the clause relating to spying and sabotage ‘useful to an enemy state’.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: ‘We can confirm that officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command arrested a man in his 40s at Gatwick airport on June 13 on suspicion of offenses under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911. He has been taken to a London police station, where he currently remains in police custody. Enquiries continue.”
- 🇬🇧 Boris Johnson picks (another) big Brexit fight: The UK will breach international law if his government uses a newly unveiled bill to unilaterally supersede parts of the Northern Ireland protocol that London doesn’t like. The protocol, introducing sanitary and customs checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, was painstakingly agreed with the EU as a crucial part of the Brexit divorce deal.
- 🇬🇧 Northern Ireland protocol: What is the “doctrine of necessity?” The UK government hopes a little-known legal principle will overturn parts of the post-Brexit agreement
♦️🇬🇧 Bonus: Can you spot the plainclothes police? My guess would be the guy standing alone on the lower right, and perhaps the guy with the blue jacket second-furthest to the right.
As the #FrenchElectionTwitterSummit predicted, the legislative race has become interesting:
- NUPES came out neck-and neck with Macron’s coalition, with Macron now in danger of not having a parliamentary majority:
The gamble paid off. According to the polls, on the evening of the first round of elections to the Assemblée Nationale, the French left has beaten the odds by coming out even with the presidential coalition, even though just a few months ago, it was seen as moribund. This is a personal success for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of this new left, the Nouvelle Union Populaire Ecologique et Sociale, even if victory, which would make him prime minister, is still far from assured.
- Historic breakthrough for Marine Le Pen. She can now hope to chair a group of MPs in the Assemblée Nationale, and her party will probably be the third largest in the legislature.
- Eric Zemmour bombed again. He didn’t even qualify for the second round.
- NUPES now faces an anti-Mélenchon front:
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne made no mistake: In her speech just after results were announced, she lumped the NUPES and [far right] RN together. Without naming them, she stressed that, “In the face of extremes,” the presidential majority “will not back down […] neither on one side nor the other.” She then spoke on a number of issues, all of which were barbs aimed at the left and the environmentalists.
But her barbs were more particularly aimed at Jean-Luc Mélenchon, often presented [correctly—Claire] by his opponents as anti-European and an admirer of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and of the former Venezuelan head of state Hugo Chavez.
- What kind of left is the NUPES?
… For decades, Mr. Mélenchon was seen as playing second fiddle. Raised politically by one of the fiercest and most sectarian scions of French Trotskyism, the Lambertist branch, he joined the Parti Socialiste just before François Mitterrand’s presidential election in 1981. Under the command of President Mitterrand, he was very active in obscure internal battles against what was called the Second Left, which was reformist and pragmatic, embodied by Prime Minister Michel Rocard (in office from 1988-1991).
- Lessons from the first round:
There is only one majority to have emerged from the first round of the legislative elections on Sunday, June 12: those who didn’t vote. For the second time in the history of the Fifth Republic, the number of people who abstained is more than half of the electorate.
- Thomas Piketty: This division among the parties “recalls the three great ideological families that have structured political life for more than two centuries: Liberalism, nationalism and socialism.”
🦄 WITH NUPES, THE POWER TO LIVE: We’ll lower taxes, pay researchers more, cap bank charges, cap diesel prices at 1€40, give you free school supplies; raise the monthly unemployment stipend to €1500, freeze prices, give you a grant to insulate your home, give you 1000 kilowatts of free electricity per year, and give you free, organic meals. We’ll also give you 15 cubic meters of water every year, guarantee a minimum price for agricultural products, mandate that no one earn more than twenty times more than anyone else, and give you a monthly stipend of at least €1500 if you’re retired and €1063 if you’re a student. We’ll also guarantee equal pay for men and women; index pensions to wages; give you free menstrual products, end college tuition, pay caregivers more, lower the cost of public transport, cap the price of movie tickets, cap the price of rent, and everyone, we mean everyone, gets a pony with an adorable pink ribbon in its mane and a minimum 1,000 organic carrots for said pony.
Everything except the part about the pony is not a joke.
🗳🌪 Macron called on French citizens to give him a clear majority in the parliamentary election’s final round or risk chaos:
“We need a solid majority to ensure order outside and inside our borders. Nothing would be worse than adding a French disorder to the world disorder,” Macron said in Paris just before boarding a plane to Romania to visit French NATO troops stationed there. “We must defend our institutions against all those who challenge and weaken them,” he added.
Wien 1160. Guess we can declare the warm welcome which lasted all of about three weeks officially over. Backlash here we come. Putin says thank you. Hope all those morons are learning Russian they are going to need it.
— Tanja Maier (@tanjamaier17) June 15, 2022
🦃⛔️ Another bonus: Would you like to learn how to pronounce Turkey’s new name? I suspect they won’t let Sweden and Finland join until the whole world pronounces it correctly. Go here and push the loudspeaker button in the left box.
🌍 MIDDLE EAST
- The trip, set for mid-July, will also include Biden’s first stop in Israel as President as well as a visit to the Palestinian West Bank. It will culminate with a major gathering of regional leaders in Jeddah, the Saudi port city, where Biden is expected to engage in some capacity with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
- 🪚 “Betrayal.” Critics condemn Biden’s plan to visit Saudi Arabia.
- Roi Kais, on Twitter: “Sources close to the Saudi royal family say in the news that they hope that Biden’s visit to the kingdom will lead to closer regional coordination that Israel will also be part of in the face of the Iranian threat. According to the same sources, the United States seems to have understood that the key to stability in the region lies in Saudi Arabia and the visit is a good start in terms of establishing peace in the region and establishing a regional alliance (a Middle East NATO).” (In Hebrew.)
- “The commitments from the Saudis don’t relate to anything having to do with energy,” Biden said. “It has to do with much larger issues than having to do with the energy piece.”
- Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid:
“People understand that everyone is looking at Saudi Arabia, and the fact that the president will fly directly signifies that there is a connection between the visit and relations. … Lapid declined to elaborate on the nature of the progress in relations, but said, “We call it regional architecture. We are trying to encircle Iran in terms of security and policy.” Lapid added that Saudi Arabia and Indonesia are target countries for promoting relations with Israel, and said that there are three foreign ministers with whom Israel has no diplomatic ties, with whom he is in contact. (In Hebrew.)
… The two scientists grew sicker and sicker, and ended up in the intensive care units of hospitals in two different cities nearly 400 miles apart. Then, they both died within days of each other. Iran believes Israel killed them by poisoning their food, according to an Iranian official and two other people with ties to the government who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. One of them, Ayoub Entezari, was an aeronautical engineer who worked for a military research center, and the other, Kamran Aghamolaei, was a geologist.
🗳 Efforts to form a new government in Iraq descend into chaos. Muqtada al-Sadr, who controls the largest bloc in Parliament, has directed dozens of lawmakers loyal to him to resign:
The talks on forming a government broke down amid disagreements over who would be president. Under Iraq’s parliamentary system, established after a US-led coalition toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, the president nominates a prime minister and cabinet ministers who must then be approved by Parliament to take up their posts. The mercurial Muqtada al-Sadr suggested that in abandoning the negotiations, he was sacrificing his bloc’s hard-won gains in the elections last year so that a government could be formed. …
His announcement culminated months of political paralysis that underscored the dysfunction of Iraq’s political system and the fragmentation of the multiple Shiite Muslim political blocs. Those inter-Shiite divisions have supplanted sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shiite groups in past years as a main source of Iraqi instability.
🦟 Excellent news, for a change: Africa’s locust situation looks to be under control:
The locust situation is currently very quiet. We have declared the upsurge is over in the entire region for two main reasons: first, we had a massive and aggressive locust campaign in close cooperation with the governments. Second, the region is facing a severe drought situation, which means that conditions are no longer favourable for the Desert Locust to breed. It does not mean that there are no Desert Locusts in the region; the Food and Agriculture Organization is still monitoring their presence. We are back to what we call the recession of Desert Locust, which means they are still present but they are under control and do not pose any threat to the region—not at all in Kenya neither in Somalia nor in Ethiopia. …
How were the locusts brought under control?
… What FAO did was to create a minimum capacity for governments to conduct surveys and control operations. We have trained 3,800 people in the entire region on how to use innovative applications such as eLocust3 to recognize and report on Desert Locust. We helped the Government to establish a national locust information office to manage the data for daily field operations. We also purchased vehicles and motorbikes for the governments to be more mobile. We procured pesticides, provided people with safety protection kits including masks, gloves, overclothes and glasses. And, finally, we hired a number of aircrafts and helicopters to increase capacity on surveillance and control.
🇧🇫💀 Soldiers in Burkina Faso have recovered 79 bodies so far after an attack in the northern Seno province, the latest in a series of high-casualty attacks in rural areas:
At least 100 people were killed, and possibly as many as 165, in the attack … It was the deadliest attack in at least a year in the West African country, which is battling an insurgency by groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
🐘🐆🦓 Ten Maasai leaders were detained and more than 30 wounded during violent clashes with police in northern Tanzania. They were protesting against eviction from their land to make way for a luxury game reserve:
A rights activist working with the Maasai, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Thousands of Maasai from Loliondo are crossing the border, seeking refuge, especially women and kids. They’ve been sleeping in the forest. The victims can’t go to hospital in Tanzania—they’ll be arrested. Kenyan doctors, paramedics and nurses are taking care of those who crossed safely.”
Previous attempts to evict Maasai from the region have been thwarted after local and international pressure. But fears of a renewed attempt were raised in February when Tanzania’s tourism minister, Damas Ndumbaro, said the Maasai did not have a claim to their homeland. In April, community leaders sent letters to the UK and US governments and the EU, appealing for help.
The UN’s emergency food assistance agency said it had planned to deliver aid to more than six million acutely food-insecure people in South Sudan this year, as it did in 2021, albeit with smaller rations. But, in a major cut likened by a spokesperson to a form of humanitarian triage, the WFP said it would now have to prioritize 4.5 million of the most vulnerable people in order to stop them dying of starvation during the lean season, between April and July. …
We had to decide who to keep assisting and who we can afford to suspend the assistance from—not because they’re not in need but because they can survive,” said Marwa Awad, WFP spokesperson in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.She is now very worried about the 1.7 million people cut off from support.“They are food insecure. And if aid is not given to support them, they will slide further down the scale of hunger and reach starvation level. If people are not nourished and are not reached regularly, they will get worse and worse and join the ranks of their brethren who are already looking death in the eye.”
A friend recently told me a story about his attempt to get his first dose of Covid19 vaccine in Accra, the capital of Ghana. When he arrived at the distribution center, he was instructed to join a line outside. An attendant gave each person a number to ensure there were enough doses for everyone. Then a familiar scene appeared: A trickle of cars was ushered into the compound, one by one. Soon afterward, the attendant informed my friend that the facility had run out of shots.
In Ghana, the inside connection that likely allowed the people in the cars to skip the vaccine line is called protocol, or “proto” for short. Paradoxically, protocol often means expedited access that circumvents blished procedure. People in Ghana do not follow protocol; they have it, through kinship or a social connection. One might use protocol to quickly access a public service, while applying for a job, or to get into a good school. Its prevalence reflects how equal rights and access are becoming a mirage in Ghana, fueling disillusionment with the government and the country’s supposed meritocracy.
🇬🇧🇷🇼✈️⛔️ Rwanda asylum flight cancelled:
Boris Johnson’s plan to send an inaugural flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda has been abandoned after a dramatic 11th-hour ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. … a ruling by the ECHR on one of the seven cases allowed lawyers for the other six to make successful last-minute applications. The decision is a significant and embarrassing blow for Boris Johnson and his home secretary, Priti Patel.
Lawyers aren’t the only obstacle to Boris Johnson’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. The UK prime minister will soon also have to grapple with the fallout of a dramatically escalating regional conflict that Rwanda is accused of stoking in the east of neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has accused Rwanda of an “invasion” after rebels it says receive support from Kigali overran a major trading post on the Ugandan border. Fighters from the M23 rebel group seized the town of Bunagana in eastern North Kivu province as some government forces retreated into Uganda, local sources said. The M23 were “supported by soldiers and artillery from the Rwandan army,” the DRC army said in a statement on Monday evening, adding that two soldiers and several enemy combatants were killed. …
A humanitarian source on the ground said heavy clashes had broken out again on Sunday morning and the only way out for the embattled DRC troops was to cross into Uganda. “One hundred and thirty-seven Congolese soldiers and 37 police have surrendered and are seeking protection” to Ugandan security forces officer Hajj Sadiq Sekandi said from Kampala. Thousands of people have fled into Uganda and the DRC territory of Rutshuru since a second bout of violence flared in March. The humanitarian situation was “more and more concerning,” said Herve Nsabimana, coordinator of a human rights NGO.
- 🇨🇳🇹🇼 Xi Jinping signed a new rule governing “non-war” military operations. Details are unclear, but of course people are worried it might be the legal regime he’s planning to use to invade Taiwan:
Xi signed an order which takes effect June 15, state media reported, without printing the order in full. “It mainly systematically regulates basic principles, organization and command, types of operations, operational support, and political work, and their implementation by the troops,” state news agency Xinhua said in a in brief report on Monday. “[It] provides a legal basis for non-war military operation,” it said. Among the six-chapter document’s stated aims are “maintaining national sovereignty … regional stability and regulating the organization and implementation of non-war military operations,” it said.
- China has apparently been claiming during its meetings with the Biden Administration that the Taiwan Strait isn’t an international waterway.
- The Biden Administration leaked the story.
- Taiwan read about this and flipped out.
- The US of course backed Taiwan.
- China then publicly insisted it had sovereign rights over the Strait.
- 🥢 “As China has openly denied the fallacy that the Taiwan Straits are ‘international waters,’ it is entirely possible for the PLA to take more determined actions against the US warships and aircraft’s harmful moves in the Taiwan Straits. I believe this will become a trend,” added Hu Xijin, the Global Times’ arch supervillain.
🇦🇫🌾💵 The World Bank made an unprecedented US$150 million contribution to the Food and Agriculture Organization for the new Afghanistan Emergency Food Security Project, which will try to prevent further deterioration in food security by providing seeds, tools, irrigation, and training to small Afghan farmers. They’ll focus first on wheat production. They say 150,000 women will be trained in improved cultivation techniques.
Kyrgyz and Tajik border guards exchanged mortar and grenade launcher fire in the poorly delineated border region between Tajikistan’s Vorukh exclave and Kyrgyzstan’s Batken Region around 06:00 June 14. The exchange lasted for about an hour and a half, with emergency talks producing a ceasefire at 07:30. One Tajik soldier was reportedly killed in the incident. …
Approximately half of the 970 kilometer border shared by Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan has not yet been officially demarcated. Hence, clashes across the disputed border have frequently erupted since the two nations became independent with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. While most such incidents are small in scale and locally contained, a four-day border conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan during the spring of 2021 left at least fifty people dead and over 40,000 civilians displaced.
🇮🇳🏴☠️ Al Qaeda and ISIS have threatened suicide bombings in Indian cities to avenge the insult to the Prophet:
The Islamic State Khurasan Province, operating in the Indian subcontinent, has begun a news bulletin service. According to independent news handle Khorasan Diary on Twitter, the first news bulletin by the organization is focused on India and the issue of blasphemy. Earlier, the Islamic State in Khorusan Province released a fifty page document on the same issue with pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi petting a cow. It called for attacks on India and against Indian interests.
- Fighting increases in Burma’s Kachin and Northern Shan states.
- Approximately ten junta soldiers were reportedly killed and their weapons seized in Hpruso Township, Kayah State.
- Military, armed groups continuing to engage in armed clashes in Chin State. Tight security measures are in place.
- Myanmar’s economy has contracted so sharply since the coup, and the country is in such a state of chaos, that the World Bank can’t issue growth forecasts beyond fiscal 2021.
- The master of the Myanmar Junta’s ‘Skyful of Lies.’
Min Aung Hlaing, who is responsible for the military coup in February last year, is viewed locally and internationally as a thick general. As notorious as Min Aung Hlaing is Major General Zaw Min Tun, the leader of his information team—officially known as the Tatmadaw True News Information Team—who has earned the title of the regime’s biggest liar, for so tirelessly parroting its claims. …
- Myanmar’s resistance continues to gain momentum. It’s time for ASEAN to recalibrate its approach to the country’s conflict:
It has been just over 15 months since Myanmar’s military junta launched a coup and attempted to grab power from a democratically elected parliament that was waiting to be sworn in. This is not an “internal conflict” as some within ASEAN would like to believe. It is this: a battle between those who believe in freedom, democracy, rule-of-law, and human rights, against one of the most odious regimes in the world. …
The vicious, scorched-earth campaign that the junta, now calling itself the State Administration Council, is waging in a vain attempt to subjugate the people knows no bounds. Its senior leadership, led by Min Aung Hlaing, is directly responsible for orders and actions, beginning in 2016, that murdered thousands of Rohingya and forced more than 700,000 others into Bangladesh … The flood of refugees across borders, the unchecked spread of Covid19, money spent on alleviating the military’s humanitarian catastrophe, the flood of drugs from Myanmar, and the tremendous political capital that must be spent on, once again, dealing with the military’s brutal hand is an anchor around ASEAN’s neck.
- Losing a Generation: How the military junta is attacking Myanmar’s children:
The military’s 1 February 2021 coup has meant disaster for Myanmar’s children. Military attacks on civilian populations have displaced more than 250,000 children, who join the roughly 130,000 children in protracted displacement and the more than half million child refugees from Myanmar in neighboring countries. The junta has arbitrarily detained over 1,400 children with at least 61 children currently being held hostage by the junta. Junta forces have tortured at least 142 children since the coup was launched. They have beaten, cut and stabbed children, burned them with cigarettes, forced them to hold stress positions, subjected them to mock executions, and deprived them of food and water. 33,000 children could die preventable deaths in 2022 alone, merely because they have not received routine immunizations. 1.3 million children and more than 700,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women require nutritional support. 7.8 million children remain out of school. The relentless attacks on children underscore the depths of the military junta’s depravity and its willingness to inflict immense misery and hardship on innocent victims to try and subjugate the people of Myanmar. The suffering of children is further reason why the international community must rethink and reset its response to the worsening crisis in Myanmar.
- 🇲🇲🪢 Junta rebuffs Cambodian call to halt executions. If the hangings are carried out, they will be the first executions to take place in Myanmar since 1976:
In a demonstration of its determination to execute two democracy activists on death row, Myanmar’s military regime has turned down their ally’s request to refrain from carrying out the death sentences.
On Friday, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen sent a letter to junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing urging him “to reconsider” and “refrain” from executing ousted National League for Democracy lawmaker Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw and veteran democracy activist Ko Jimmy. Hun Sen said the proposed executions were attracting “great concern among the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations” and its external partners. However, the junta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs replied to Cambodia on Saturday with legal explanations on why the death sentences have to be carried out, as well as detailing the alleged crimes committed by Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy.
- Myanmar’s armed resistance rejects junta call for surrender:
In a statement published in both Burmese and English by Myanmar’s state-run newspapers on Monday, the junta’s Information Team announced that all members of the armed resistance—including the pro-democracy People’s Defense Force paramilitary group it has labeled a terrorist organization—will be allowed to return to civilian life if they willingly lay down their arms. … “If we had thought surrender was a possibility at the beginning, we would never have started the revolution,” said a spokesman for PDF in Kayah state’s Demawso township, speaking on condition of anonymity “We will never surrender.”
- 🇲🇲🇺🇳 UN risks funding Myanmar junta’s crimes against humanity:
Burma civil society organizations concerned at UN aid funds being weaponized by the military-appointed State Administration Council issued a statement calling for an end to the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance and the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs decision to conduct humanitarian assessments in collaboration with the Military Council. The alliance joint statement pointed out that ASEAN and UN aid programs, implemented without relevant consultation with local organizations, would instead be used by the Military Council to continue its crimes against humanity—torching towns, artillery and aerial strikes on villages and killing civilians. … “It is as if the organizations assisting aid in the region have been ignored. The military junta is the root of the problems that are currently causing harm to the people of Burma. That is why the Military Council cannot be a partner in providing this assistance.”
- 🇲🇲⛓ “Nothing called freedom.” Myanmar authorities have detained over 135,000 Rohingya and Kaman Muslims arbitrarily and indefinitely in Rakhine State for a decade. Authorities have capitalized on the ethnic cleansing campaign launched in June 2012 to segregate and confine a population they had long sought to remove from daily life:
Concerned governments should recognize the atrocities against the Rohingya and the post-coup military junta as intersecting crises that require a cohesive international response. The Rohingya’s freedom depends on the military being excised from the vast control it wields in every layer of Myanmar life. The UN Security Council should end its inaction borne of anticipated vetoes by China and Russia and urgently pass a resolution that institutes a global arms embargo on Myanmar, refers the military’s grave crimes to the International Criminal Court, and imposes targeted sanctions on the junta and military-owned conglomerates. If China and Russia continue to oppose council action on Myanmar, other governments should bring concerted global pressure against them for upholding the junta’s widespread abuses.
🇯🇵💴 Money for nothing at the end of the world. The Japanese yen is at its weakest point in two decades. Here’s the back story:
Long before the world wars, even long before America’s Admiral Perry forced Japan open to the world, the Japanese had a unique view of debt. In Japan capital exists not to serve economic needs, but instead to serve political needs. To that end, debt was allowed, even encouraged . . . so long as it didn’t become inconvenient to the sovereign. Dating back to the seventh century, if widespread debt got in the way of the emperor or shogun’s goals, it was simply dissolved under the debt forgiveness doctrine of tokusei. Drought? Tokusei! Floods? Tokusei! Famine? Tokusei! Government in the red? Tokusei . . . with a 10 percent processing fee!
🇰🇭⛓ Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American lawyer and a human rights activist, was sentenced to six years in prison in Cambodia’s sweeping crackdown on opponents of prime minister Hun Sen.
- 🇷🇺 The government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has authorized Russian troops, planes and ships to deploy to Nicaragua for purposes of training, law enforcement or emergency response:
In a decree published this week, and confirmed by Russia on Thursday, Ortega will allow Russian troops to carry out law enforcement duties, “humanitarian aid, rescue and search missions in emergencies or natural disasters.” The Nicaraguan government also authorized the presence of small contingents of Russian troops for “exchange of experiences and training.”
- 🚺⛔️ Dozens of groups in Nicaragua that support vulnerable women have been labelled “foreign agents” and outlawed by the government, meaning they can no longer operate:
“It’s a delusion of absolute control,” says María Teresa Blandón, a sociologist and prominent feminist who coordinates one of the affected groups, La Corriente. The authorities “know there is critical thinking, a defense for human rights and a democratic vocation in feminist organizations.” …
Last month, the Nicaraguan National Assembly—which is controlled by the ruling party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front— terminated the legal status of 50 civil society organizations, including La Corriente and six other feminist groups. President Daniel Ortega’s regime has outlawed 267 NGOs since 2018, including 40 women’s groups.
- US slaps visa restrictions on 93 Nicaraguan officials:
The United States has imposed visa restrictions on dozens of Nicaraguan officials, accusing them of having “undermined democracy” in the aftermath of President Daniel Ortega’s successful re-election last year.
“The United States remains deeply concerned about the Ortega-Murillo regime’s unjust detentions of political prisoners and ongoing abuses against members of civil society,” Blinken said in a statement. He said judges and prosecutors aligned with Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, “share complicity” with the government because they have participated in prosecutions and convictions of opposition leaders and human rights defenders, among others.
- 🪧 Sandinistas march in support of Ortega:
This government “is the best thing that could have happened to Nicaragua”, said Faldeni Castro, who with her daughter in her arms said she was “happy” to be a member of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front. Dressed in T-shirts, caps and red and black flags alluding to the FSLN, the mostly young Sandinistas walked through the drizzling rain through the streets of several neighborhoods in southeastern Managua.
The march culminated at a place known as Colina 110, where in June 1979, 35 young people were murdered by the Somoza dictatorship, which ruled for almost half a century until the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution on July 19, 1979. “It is a source of pride that the revolution is among us. My father has told me many beautiful and tragic stories” about that era, said Erick Parrales, 16, who belongs to a Sandinista family.
- A hundred hooded men with high-powered weapons and bulletproof vests occupied a market and streets in the northern part of the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the main tourist center of Chiapas, a day after the Ministry of National Defense announced that five hundred uniformed personnel would be deployed to the region. (In Spanish.)
- More: Hooded civilians with long guns, some with bulletproof vests, were captured on camera by residents as they roamed around the northern area of San Cristóbal de las Casas, one of the most touristic places in Chiapas, without any authority preventing them. (In Spanish.)
- People took shelter inside a self-service store because they feared being hit by a stray bullet, since several gun detonations were heard in the vicinity. It wasn’t until almost 4:30 p.m. that the Army, the National Guard, as well as the State and Municipal Police showed up. (In Spanish.)
- President Andrés Manuel López Obrador meanwhile justified his daily haranguing of journalists at his morning press conferences by saying he only criticizes the “spokespeople” of economic power and political power:
The Mexican president say that “there is a lot of propaganda” against his government, but that it has a political motivation. He said that his conservative opponents abroad are upset with his government and the last thing they care about is the lives of journalists. López Obrador took the opportunity to say that the European Parliament wants to use the murders of journalists against him “for political reasons” and maintained that he has “moral authority and political authority because we do not establish relations of complicity with anyone.” (In Spanish.)
🇸🇻 El Salvador’s gangs are becoming guerrilla groups, says president.
El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, who has declared “war” on gangs, warned Saturday that these groups are trying to “evolve” into guerrilla groups by setting up more and more clandestine camps in rural areas.
“The captures of gang members are increasingly taking place in clandestine camps in rural areas. It is clear that the gangs are trying to evolve into guerrilla groups,” the president said on his Twitter account. In the “last few weeks,” authorities have dismantled “more than 100 clandestine camps” of gang members in different rural areas of the country, Bukele said.
Jeanine Añez, the former president of Bolivia, was sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of illegally taking over the presidency after the resignation of her predecessor, Evo Morales:
Ms. Añez stepped forward, promising to be only a caretaker interim president and to hold new elections in which she would not run. But almost immediately, she started to reshape Bolivia’s foreign policy. A conservative Christian, she introduced religious symbols into secular state procedures and started a campaign against the leftist supporters of Mr. Morales, who during his 14 years in office had stressed the importance of Indigenous culture.
Her government then charged Mr. Morales with sedition and terrorism, though international human rights groups said evidence to substantiate those charges was lacking and called the case against him politically motivated. Ms. Añez’s defense team has insisted that in 2019 she had to step in to fill a power vacuum, but Mr. Morales’s supporters called the ouster a “coup.”
The effects of [the] crisis on Latin America and the Caribbean must be analyzed considering almost two decades of external shocks that—despite different directions and intensities in each country—have worsened investment and production conditions in the region, against a backdrop of lingering and generally growing uncertainty. Major external shocks include the 2008–2009 global financial crisis, economic tensions between the United States and Europe, on one hand, and China, on the other, from 2017 onward, the coronavirus disease pandemic from 2020 onward, and now the war in Ukraine. These shocks have triggered feedback loops of changes, have weakened globalization as an engine of growth and have led to geopolitical motivations taking precedence over efficiency.
- After 6.3 percent growth in the regional economy in 2021, the region is now forecast to see an average annual growth of 1.8 percent this year.
- South American economies are expected to grow by 1.5 percent; Central American economies and Mexico by 2.3 percent; Caribbean economies by 10.1 percent (but only 4.7 percent if you exclude Guyana).
- The fastest-growing countries in South America will be Venezuela, at 5.0 percent, Colombia at 4.8 percent, and Uruguay at 3.9 percent. In Central America, they’ll be Panama at 6.3 percent, the Dominican Republic at 5.3 percent, and Guatemala at 4.2 percent. In the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean economies, they’ll be Guyana (49 percent), Saint Lucia (10.5 percent) and the Bahamas (8.5 percent).
- The slow recovery in employment affects women in particular, since more of them left the labor market during the pandemic. Food price increases are particularly damaging for women, and most damaging, of course, to single mothers.
- The regional poverty rate is forecast to be around 33 percent. The extreme poverty rate will be 14.5 percent. These levels are appreciably higher than those seen before the pandemic. A 1.1 percentage point increase in extreme poverty means an additional 7.8 million people added to the 86.4 million whose food security is already at risk.
- Food price growth accelerated and outpaced headline inflation in all reporting countries, with the exception of Ecuador. Year-on-year food inflation reached double digits in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, and Uruguay—all countries with no recent history of chronic inflation.
- Food price growth will continue to outpace headline inflation in most countries, harming not only those in extreme poverty, but also middle- and lower-middle-income households.
- Even before the pandemic, the prevalence of undernourishment in the region was increasing (from a low of 5.4 percent in 2014 to 7.1 percent in 2019). The pandemic accelerated the deterioration: in 2020, the prevalence reached 9.1 percent, a level not seen in the region since 2005. In 2020, around 14 million more people in the region were hungry than in 2019. Caribbean countries are particularly vulnerable: 16.1 percent of their inhabitants suffered from malnutrition in 2020.
- The high price of agricultural products will create pressure to expand land for crops and grazing. This will harm forests and scrubland.
- Around 78 percent of the region’s fertilizers are imported. In 2020, 88 percent of its nitrate- and phosphate-based fertilizers came from Russia, as did 74 percent of its ammonium nitrates.
- Fertilizer supply in 2021 was affected not only by rises in commodity prices, but also by physical disruption. For example, restrictions were placed on exports to ensure sufficient supply for the domestic markets in China, the Russian Federation, Egypt, and Türkiye (OMG, they’re spelling it like that too!—Claire); weather-related physical disruptions have hampered nitrogen and phosphate production in the United States, and sanctions on Belarus have affected potash supplies.
Why are Americans so hard on Biden, who’s done a pretty good job under exceptionally difficult circumstances? Tom Nichols thinks it’s because Americans still aren’t taking it in:
My suspicion is that the full weight of our foreign and domestic crises has not broken through the self-absorption and solipsism of not only our political parties but the American public. We are just not capable of understanding that at home, we are inches away from the meltdown of our constitutional system of government, and abroad, we are one errant cruise missile away from a nuclear crisis.
If you’re an American who lives in the US right now, I’d be curious to know if you agree—not with those two points, which are inarguable, but with the observation that Americans 1) aren’t behaving as if this is so; and this is because 2) they aren’t capable of taking it in. I don’t have a good feeling for what other Americans are thinking and saying, day to day. Do the people around you seem to get this?—Claire.
A half dozen current and former government officials briefed on the issue, and several outside experts, told NBC News there was no playbook and little agreement about how the US would respond to a norm-shattering act of destruction that could obliterate a Ukrainian city, kill tens of thousands and send a cloud of nuclear fallout drifting over NATO countries in Western Europe. …
If Russia used a nuclear weapon of any type, “I expect (the president) to say we’re in a new situation, and the US will directly enter the war against Russia to stop this government that has not only broken so many international laws and violated human rights but also now violated the nuclear taboo,” said Evelyn Farkas, a former top Pentagon official for Russia and now executive director of the McCain Institute. “Putin will be signing the order on changing the regime.” But two US officials briefed on the issue did not agree, with one saying, “Unless they use them on NATO we’re probably not going to respond militarily.”
☢️💣☢️💣☢️💣 SIPRI Institute: “If the nuclear-armed states take no immediate and concrete action on disarmament, then the global inventory of nuclear warheads could soon begin to increase for the first time since the Cold War … All of the nuclear-armed states are increasing or upgrading their arsenals and most are sharpening nuclear rhetoric and the role nuclear weapons play in their military strategies. This is a very worrying trend.”
📓 The Authoritarian Playbook: A media guide. How reporters can cover and distinguish threats from politics-as-usual.The Cosmopolitan Globalist has offered a similar guide.
The implications of long Covid: About thirty percent of people infected with Covid19 will develop long Covid. This has significant economic implications.
✍🏼📜 BY THE COSMOPOLITAN GLOBALISTS
June could be Ukraine’s decisive month, by Olga Tokariuk:
It’s mid-June, and a crucial battle for Donbas rages in Eastern Ukraine, with Russia seeking to grab as much Ukrainian territory as possible, as Putin’s recent remarks have made obvious. The nearly four month long conflict is no longer said to be about NATO enlargement, elusive Nazis, secret biological laboratories, or any other ludicrous pretext: Russia’s dictator has very clearly laid out his imperial ambitions, comparing himself with Peter the Great, and laying claim to all lands that once belonged to Russia—in Ukraine and far beyond.
Despite the rousing rhetoric, Russia’s successes on the battlefield in Ukraine have so far been modest. Having failed to capture any major city, with the exception of Kherson, and after razing Mariupol to the ground, Russia concentrated on seizing control of the entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In recent weeks, the war in Ukraine has been transformed into a battle of attrition, fought mostly with artillery. A victor may emerge in the coming weeks. Western ammunition can help to turn the tide in Ukraine’s favor—but it would need to arrive quickly and in much larger quantities (some reports suggest the Russian artillery preponderance is 20:1.)
🎧 Toomas Hendrik Ilves and David Kramer talk to Power Vertical about whether the West can hold together.
🦇 THE DAILY BAT
Top Kremlin propagandists encountered some unexpected resistance from state TV pundits, irritated by ongoing attempts to scare the West with nuclear strikes [no one is buying it] and bluffing about manufacturing some version of the Cuban Missile Crisis [just a pipe dream].
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) June 14, 2022
🥢 THE DAILY SCOLDING
Together with three existing railways that trim the desert, the operation of the Hotan-Ruoqiang railway will make the world’s first railway loop around a desert a reality. The new line will further boost railway connections in the western border areas and facilitate the flow of people and goods, and the development of regions along their routes, with the effect of boosting ethnic unity, bolstering national defense and promoting rural revitalization, the company said.
Talk about making a desert and calling it peace—Claire.
🕊☁️ TODAY’S SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE
BAGHDAD (Dispatches) … “On this auspicious day, the plot of the big powers with their extortionate spending and their various support for terrorist groups to occupy, disintegrate and commit genocide against the children of Iraq failed,” Ka’abi said.
“Their efforts failed and God returned their plot to them. The righteous sons of Iraq stood up and rolled up their sleeves and obeyed the fatwa and the call for dignity; they sacrificed their pure blood and souls for the nation’s faith and soil, and displayed the most beautiful images of bravery and manhood.”
🦊 TODAY’S ANIMAL: THE FENNEC FOX
Are these guys cute or what?
Claire Berlinski is the editor of the Cosmopolitan Globalist.