“The US risks repeating the fate of the Soviet Union. Currently, the greatest threat to America comes from within, argues Donald Tramp.” Screenshot from the TASS page on Telegram. Read the whole story on their website.
“Cooperation between Russia and Myanmar is based on a solid foundation and is not subject to political trends, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin.” Source: TASS (Telegram), 3 August 2022
Kyaw Min Yu, a pro-democracy leader and writer in Myanmar widely known as Ko Jimmy, who rose to prominence in 1988 during protests that helped galvanize political forces opposing military-led regimes for decades to come, was executed with three other activists. He was 53.
In total, Ko Jimmy spent more than 20 years in prison. While detained by the state, which had been under absolute military rule for decades, he worked on literary projects. One surprise bestseller was his translation of a self-help book, which was seen as a manifesto of personal empowerment rare in a country known for its unyielding repression.
Myanmar’s military regime announced that it recently carried out the death sentences, but did not specify when the executions took place at the Insein Prison in Yangon. The junta was strongly denounced by rights groups and governments around the world. But the country’s rulers remained defiant as they seek to crush dissent and political allies of ousted civilian leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Source: Brian Murphy, “Kyaw Min Yu, Myanmar activist known as Ko Jimmy, executed at 53,” Washington Post, 26 July 2022
You can point to various dates: fourteen years ago, when Russia invaded Georgia; twenty-eight years ago, when Moscow went to war in Grozny; thirty-one years ago, when the Kremlin got involved in the conflict in Moldova. Or we could quote Timur Mutsurаyev, who sang that “We’ve been three hundred years at war with Russia…” This would also be true, though that is a whole other story, of course. But for me, a person known in Russia as a khach and a churok[common Russian racial slurs for Central Asian, Caucasian, and dark-skinned people], it makes the most sense to say, “Dear Russians, welcome to New Year’s Eve in Grozny! We’ve been waiting for you. It’ll last forever for you, until it ends. And it’ll definitely end soon, and then it will be a New Year.”
What is this “New Year’s Eve in Grozny” on a symbolic level? It’s not just a tragedy. It’s the beginning of History, which, according to Francis Fukuyama, was supposed to have ended already. The tragicomedy is that the “end of history” didn’t occur in 2001. It occurred—as we can see now—in 1995, with the start of the First Chechen War, which painfully resembles the one underway right now in Ukraine. For examples, see here, here, and here, as well as this, of course:
But why was the continuation of the Russian Federation’s terrible, bloody, and inhumane war against its former colonies on February 24, 2022, such a shock for me, a Kazakhstani and, I’m sure, for many of you?
The simplest and most correct answer lies in the fact that its previous phases did not affect us. It all happened (I have in mind primarily the Chechen Wars) somewhere else, and involved non-white Muslims, gangsters, and terrorists. It was Russia’s internal affair, to which all so-called progressive humanity more or less gave its blessing. Well and what do you expect? It would hardly have befitted the US, after the Gulf War and in the midst of bombing Iraq, to stand up for Muslim Chechnya. But not everyone let Russia off the hook and forgot about this. The first foreign volunteers in unrecognized Ichkeria were, in fact, not Arabs or Afghanis but Ukrainians (see the interview with Aleksandr Muzychko, a.k.a. Sashko Bily). But even I (as, again, a Kazakhstani) thought before February 24 that if Russia were ever going to change, it would be due to civil war rather than military defeat. And so much more terrifying is the irony in the fact that people who previously didn’t care about the fate of Chechnya massively reposted an interview with [Dzhokhar Dudayev], the first president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, in which he predicted this war with Ukraine a full twenty-seven years ago.
But the reasons that prompted me to write this text have nothing to do with a foreigner’s apparent decolonial attack against white masters, one full of ressentiment along the lines of “Did you really think that the slaughter in Bucha wouldn’t happen after the ‘mopping-up’ (this term actually first came into use then) in the village of Novye Aldy? Did you really think there wouldn’t be a strike on the Kramatorsk train station after the missile strike on the Grozny central market? Did you really think that Russian soldiers wouldn’t commit war crimes if, after two wars in Ichkeria, only two people were convicted of war crimes—Budanov and Lapin? If all the people who gathered evidence and conducted investigations (Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova, and Stanislav Markelov) were murdered, all three of them?”
No, not at all. First and foremost, I want to repeat for everyone in Central Asia, the Baltics, the North Caucasus, and Eastern Europe who hasn’t yet understood it (and there are fewer and fewer of these people with every passing day): our life didn’t just change into a “before” and “after” on February 24. Those thirty years since the collapse of the USSR took shape as History. That whole viscous, formless time—in which we had led our private lives, built nation-states, felt that we were, as Sergei Timofeev’s poem has it, “the underbelly of Europe” (or Asia), and watched wars in the Middle East—that whole time the History of the post-Soviet space had been going on outside of our private lives. Every attack by Russian officials on various minorities and every minute of propaganda TV broadcasts (as we all found out after the war was continued) were not just a way of consolidating the electorate of Russia’s ruling party, which allegedly had no ideology. No, they were all drops in the ocean of Russism, as Dzhokhar Dudayev called it, something with which we all collided on February 24, 2022. For thirty-one years it had been growing and maturing, and all of our hopes (including my own) for decolonizing Russian and Russia without a military defeat in a monstrous war, were lost. Future historians will describe this time as “the years of Russism and the struggle against it.” While we thought we had been living in an era of local conflicts, nation-states, and gradual democratization!
I thus declare with confidence that the most decolonial (in all senses) decision right now for everyone, for the whole world, is to completely support Ukraine. Because if it’s permitted to bomb even white Christian Europe, then it’s okay to “not sweat it” like China with the Uyghurs and just build concentration camps in downtown Paris. For anyone you want.
To sum up, I want to quote a poem by the Soviet poet Vladimir Burich, who was born in Kharkiv (cruel irony)—a poem we can all feel right now with our whole bodies:
The world is filling up with
among my letters I found
a bar of prewar soap
I didn’t know what to do
The prewar era is
a lost Atlantis
Our prewar era has truly gone under, and we are its last witnesses. Just as the Second World War turned the Great War into the First World War, the thirty-one years between the collapse of the USSR and the bombing of Kyiv on February 24, 2022, have crystalized. Our political philosophy, historiography, and humanities will change. Our whole understanding of social reality will change, whether we want it to or not. History, as is still often the case, is unfolding before our very eyes. Better not blink and miss it.
Finlandization 3.0, apparently, involves joining NATO to keep the Russian imperialists at bay while simultaneously issuing as many Schengen visas as possible to Russian shopping tourists, who are totally clueless, of course, as they make their triumphant return to the hypermarkets of Lappeenranta, the setting of the hit Nordic noir series Bordertown. Its on-the-spectrum protagonist can barely keep his head above the bloodbath routinely unleashed in the town, which in real life is utterly peaceful and lovely. What is not lovely is the utter cynicism of Lappeenranta’s political and commercial elite, who are, strangely, much more like their fictional counterparts than the real town is like its lush but murderous onscreen double. ||| TRR
Russian shopping tourists are now coming by the busload to a border town in Finland, waiting weeks to make the trip: “It’s about time”
The effects of the border’s [re]opening are already visible in Lappeenranta. The number of Russians is nowhere near the record years, but they seem to have purchasing power.
A Sovavto bus from Russia turns in front of the Lappeenranta bus station.
There’s a full load of people exiting the vehicle. One of them is Andrei Kolomytsev of Petersburg. For him, a trip to Finland is a dream come true after a long wait.
“Two and a half years of waiting. It’s about time, ” he sighs.
Last Friday, Russia lifted travel restrictions that it had imposed in response to the coronavirus outbreak last Friday.
Kolomytsev had been one of the first to arrive in Finland in his own car. However, his trip was halted at the Russian border in the morning, because Russia unexpectedly opened the border only at 1 p.m. Kolomytsev had already turned around and headed back home.
Now he’s happy to step off the bus.
“I’ll go to a cafe, and buy cheese and other high-quality food. I’ll have a look around after a long time,” Kolomytsev outlines his plans.
He also plans to visit a local car dealership specializing in Volvos to ask about maintenance prices. This is because it is now difficult to get car spare parts in Russia due to Western sanctions. As a result, car maintenance has also become more expensive.
Buses full Buses to Finland from Petersburg are now fully booked. For example, the Ecolines booking portal has no tickets available from Petersburg to Lappeenranta until August 16.
Another bus company, Sovavto, has no seats available until July 26.
The return of Russian shopping tourists to the shops is already visible in Lappeenranta. There are clearly more Russian cars with long plates on the streets and in parking lots.
The number of Russian customers has also increased, for example, at Lappeenranta’s branches of [Finnish hypermarket chains] Citymarket and Prisma.
“The number of Russians has increased since Friday. While it used to be a matter of lone customers, now we are talking about numbers in the dozens,” says Antti Punkkinen, Prisma’s director in Lappeenranta.
Ari Piiroinen, the storekeeper at Lappeenranta’s Citymarket, has a similar message.
“The number of Russians has increased steadily since the weekend, ” he says.
But there is still a long way to go to return to the state of affairs before the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is absolutely not possible to talk about numbers like they were in 2019 or earlier,” Punkkinen says.
He stresses that it has only been a few days since the border opened, so it is still too early to draw conclusions about the future number of Russians.
They’re not visible everywhere However, the increase in Russian shopping tourists is not visible everywhere in Lappeenranta.
For example, the opening of the border has not been felt in terms of shoppers at the IsoKristiina shopping center in the downtown.
“I haven’t noticed any significant change. The number of shoppers is about the same,” says Matti Sinkko, IsoKristiina’s manager.
They’re buying what they used to, and they seem to have money According Antti Punkkinen at Prisma, the contents of the Russian shopping basket appear to have remained more or less unchanged.
“They’re mainly buying foods: cheese, coffee, and baby foods, as well as certain detergents. As far as home and speciality goods are concerned, Russians have been interested in clothes during these few days,” Punkkinen says.
The contents of the shopping bags of Vladimir Vapilov of Petersburg, strolling the aisles at Prisma, seem to bear out Punkkinen’s words.
“I bought jeans and sneakers and cheese and chocolate,” he says.
According to Punkkinen, the Russians also seem to have enough money.
“The Russians seem ready to buy,” he says.
Source: Kalle Schönberg, Yle, 21 July 2022. Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the link. Translated, from the Finnish, by the Russian Reader, who wonders why the residents of Bordertown were not out in droves picketing Russian shoppers.
Specialists from Russian Ministry of Defense have started construction of 12 residential buildings in Mariupol in June 2022. About 2.5 thousand residents will occupy more than a thousand apartments in new five-storey buildings. The flats will be fully renovated.
Commercial and non-commercial property and social facilities, such as shops, will be on the ground floors. There will be recreation areas, children’s and sports grounds with full equipment, including play and exercise facilities.
In Mariupol, it will be one of the first such complexes.
Source: Russia House in Kathmandu, Facebook, 17 July 2022
So, what’s to be done? The United States needs to open a diplomatic channel with Moscow to get a clearer sense of what would be an acceptable settlement for all parties. Right before the invasion, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman indicated “possible support” for an approach in which Ukraine would pledge military neutrality and give up its bid for NATO membership. If it will stop the suffering of ordinary Ukrainians, why should the United States not encourage Ukraine to put that back on the table now? Given its ongoing struggles with corruption and undemocratic practices, Ukraine is still far from meeting the democratic criteria of NATO membership anyway.
Promises of unlimited support only embolden what is starting to be seen as the Ukrainian president’s “reckless stubbornness” in outright rejecting the possibility of territorial concessions. President Biden has repeatedly expressed that there are limits to U.S. assistance — it does not help Ukraine to pretend otherwise. It is rare that a war ends in total defeat, and it is not realistic to expect Moscow will fully retreat. U.S. policy must now shift to embrace this reality, and plan for the months ahead when deep divisions within the Western coalition grow, and when, in a lopsided war of attrition, Ukraine might lose even more ground.
Mark was born and raised on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He received a BA from UPenn, an MA from Columbia, and a PhD from USC’s Annenberg School. His doctoral research examined international transitions of journalism from statist to capitalist media models.
Mark worked on John Kerry’s presidential campaign and the 2008 Obama campaign. During the Obama administration, he regularly provided political and policy analysis on MSNBC, FOX News, and CNBC. His writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, TIME Magazine, PBS, Politico, The Huffington Post, NBCNews.com, and elsewhere.
His knowledge about the role which media play in driving — and sometimes thwarting — democratic progress was what first caught the eye of EGF. And Mark was excited by the innovative and important work being led by Allyn Summa and Ian Bremmer at the new organization. Mark wanted to work in the world of ideas, but also knew that world all too often seemed unapproachable to most Americans. He wanted to help foster a conversation around the urgent foreign policy challenges our country currently confronts. EGF has enabled him to do just that.
He currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two young sons. After a childhood on Cape Cod, he enjoys spending as much of his free time as possible at one beach or another. He is learning to whittle, but despite being from a long line of carpenters, has found it to be quite challenging. He loves reading, and George Saunders, Philip Roth and Marilynne Robinson are among his favorite authors.
What strikes me as particularly undeniable is that the absence of the feeling of belonging to a class is characteristic of children of the bourgeoisie. People in a dominant class position do not notice that they are positioned, situated, within a specific world (just as someone who is white isn’t necessarily aware of being so, or someone heterosexual). Read in this light, Aron’s remark can be seen for what it is, the naive confession offered by a person of privilege who imagines he is writing sociology when all he is doing is describing his own social status. I only met him once in my life, and immediately felt a strong aversion towards him. The very moment I set eyes on him, I loathed his ingratiating smile, his soothing voice, his way of demonstrating how reasonable and rational he was, everything about him that displayed his bourgeois ethos of decorum and propriety, of ideological moderation.
Kateryna burst into tears when describing how she saw some 2,000 dead bodies with her own eyes. The shooting made it impossible to go in and help, despite the desperate pleas of bystanders.
“Russian units were occupying our flats, and I saw them shooting at civilians from the streets from the apartments. I was travelling around with a medical kit, trying to evacuate them to the main hospital, but then the Russian soldiers captured it too, using the patients and medical staff as human shields.”
On her last day in Mariupol, the road was destroyed, so she had to travel on foot. She saw a car that had hit a tree, with the driver already dead inside.
But then she spotted a teenage girl sitting in the back of the car. “Get out, we need to leave, they’re bombing here,” Kateryna told the teenage girl. On the other side of the car, a woman was lying in a pool of blood, moaning.
She realised that these were the girl’s parents, but she knew that with projectiles flying overhead she could only help one person — so she had to make the horrifying choice between saving the mother or the daughter.
Seeing that the younger woman was still able to walk, she chose the daughter. When she got her down the stairs of the shelter, Kateryna saw that the woman’s shirt was so full of blood that she was not able to wring it out.
When she was finally evacuated from the Black Sea port city, thousands of dead bodies were still on the streets, but she received messages from friends saying that Russian soldiers forced the remaining civilians to clean up the bodies to hide their crimes.
Now safe in Warsaw, Kataryna believes she will never forget what she has seen.
Source: James Jackson, “‘I was praying we would die quickly,’ Mariupol survivor says,” Euronews, 12 July 2022
Ravich, Dzikun and Malchanau were detained in Svetlagorsk on 4 March this year – a week after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine – along with Alisa Malchanau, Aleh’s daughter, and Natalia Ravich, Dzmitry’s wife, who were released a few days later.
Dzianis Dzikun’s brother, Dmitry, said in an interview last month that Dzianis had wanted “to help Ukraine somehow”. Three people had been arrested, he said, and:
As far as I understand, people knew [at that time] that all the Russian equipment was moving towards the north of Ukraine through Belarus. And for that they used the railways. They wanted to help Ukraine somehow – to stop these armaments, to make sure they couldn’t go further.
There are 11 people in the “railway partisans” case, and now the first three are going to court. For me, these people are heroes. They didn’t sit at home, like the “armchair battalion”. At least they tried to do something.
Dmitry said that Dzianis, who is in a detention centre at Gomel’, had been able to send and receive letters, and had been visited by his partner and and his sister.
Straight after his arrest in March, it was very different. Dzianis was severely beaten and forced to record a so-called confession on video – one of the Belarusian security forces’ standard techniques. Dmitry said:
On the so called “confessional” video it is clear that my brother’s face was smashed in. A black eye, swelling on his chin. The day before he was arrested, we spoke [on line] in the evening. I saw how he looked; not so much as a scratch. He was feeling fine. [But after his arrest] he was limping. Other people saw him. He was holding his side, his face was bruised.
The case against Ravich, Dzikun and Malchanau concerns an arson attack on a railway relay cabinet. This is reportedly the most common form of rail sabotage: it wrecks automatic signalling systems, disrupts schedules and forces trains to move at reduced speeds of 15-20km/hour.
The Svetlagorsk trio have been charged with participating in an extremist organisation; acts of terrorism; deliberate harm to the transport system, resulting in serious damage and threats to life; and treason.
The Investigations Committee said the trio could face the death penalty. But Zerkalo, the independent news site, published legal advice that the death penalty for terrorism offences, introduced on 29 May this year, can not be applied retroactively. Prior to that date, it could only be applied if the offences had led to deaths.
Obviously there is no reason to think that Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime will obey its own laws, and so the lives of the Svetlagorsk accused are in danger.
On 21 April, a coalition of six human rights organisations recognised the Svetlagorsk three, and eight other “railway partisans”, as political prisoners.
An overview of the “railway partisans” movement by Belarus Digest estimated that in the first two months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there were more than 80 actions.
“Incidents at this scale have not been seen since world war two”, Lizaveta Kasmach wrote in that report. Railway workers had been among those arrested, and in the last week of March, independent Telegram channels had reported that more than 40 of them had been arrested.
The authorities charged the detainees with high treason, espionage, and terrorist acts. By 30 March, Telegram channels affiliated with the security forces posted more than three dozen “confession” videos featuring arrested railway workers.
The fate of these detainees is unknown to Belarusian activists I have been in touch with. They are not included in the human rights organisations’ list of political prisoners, but that does not mean they are safe. There are so many detainees that activists are struggling to keep track of them all; people are only included on the list according to narrow criteria.
In April, the Belarusian opposition politician Franak Viačorka reported that, as well as sabotage, there were “dozens” of smaller actions, e.g. by train drivers who refused to carry equipment.
A decentralised network, including Bypol (former security services officers now in exile), the Community of Railway Workers (organised on Telegram) and the Cyber Partisans (Belarusian IT professionals now in exile), helped facilitate action against Russian military transport, the Washington Postreported.
The “railway partisans” actions are indicative of widespread discontent with the Belarusian regime over its support for Russia’s war on Ukraine. In response, the authorities have lashed out with renewed repression of trade unionists, journalists and other opponents.
The Supreme Court of Belarus last week (12 July) ordered the liquidation of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union, which for thirty years has played a leading role in the struggle for workers’ rights.
“The union’s activities have always been about increasing workers’ wages, workplace safety, and fair and dignified relations with people in the workplace”, its organisers stated prior to the decision.
Since 1991 members of our trade union, united in primary organisations of Mozyr, Novopolotsk, Soligorsk, Grodno, Bobruisk, Minsk, Mogilev, Vitebsk, independently defended their legal rights by concluding collective agreements.
The union’s president Maksim Poznyakov was arrested in May in Novopolotsk. A week previously he had been elected as president of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions – to replace Aleksandr Yaroshuk and his deputy, Sergei Antusevich, who were also arrested.
This month, Katsiaryna Andreyeva, a journalist, had an eight-year sentence for treason added to her two-year jail term for participating in the 2020 protests, and Danuta Perednia, a student, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years for reposting an anti-war statement.
Human rights organisations say there are now more than 1200 political prisoners in Belarus – although the total numbers detained in response to protest activities (such as the rail workers mentioned above) is far higher.
Railway workers’ support for the antiwar movement this year follows their active participation in the wave of protests that swept Belarus in 2020.
Those actions, too, led to dismissals, arrests and jailings, which are documented, together with information about the “railway partisans”, in a report by Our House, the civil society campaign group. (A downloadable version of the report, that Our House has circulated among trade unionists in the UK, is here.)
On Saturday 23 July, Belarusians and their supporters in the UK will demonstrate in support of the “railway partisans” and other political prisoners, at 12 midday, at the Belarusian embassy, 6 Kensington Court, London, W8 5DL.
The demonstration is called “in support of the rail workers of Belarus, who despite facing tremendous repression from the regime, successfully disrupted the Russian invasion in Ukraine by sabotaging the railway network. We will be demanding an immediate release of the imprisoned heroes”.
Earlier this month, a conference of the UK rail workers’ union RMT resolved to support Belarusian rail workers facing repression. This welcome stand will help to strengthen desperately needed solidarity.
At the moment I’m worried by the sense that there is no way out of the situation at the regional level—the war between Russia and Ukraine can go on indefinitely long. Continuing within the pre-established framework of geopolitical nationalism, Russia wants to expand its borders or fortify them with new puppet buffer entities; Ukraine wants to preserve existing territories and get back lost ones; other countries in the region are concerned about preserving themselves as nation-states; and finally, there are territories that someone hopes become new nation-states. We understand some of the above while condemning others, but all of it together is a nationalistic impasse in globalization from which there is no global way out.
A sensible global response to the crisis will emerge only if the situation (no matter how scary this is to say) actually escalates into a global confrontation, into a Third World War. And then those who abstractly and dogmatically insist today that everyone is to blame for the new insane war and the new arms race—Putin, NATO, Ukrainian and European elites—will be proven right. Because the global war, which has been going on for a long time and has lost even a semblance of meaning, naturally provokes peoples and nations who are worse off to ask questions of elites who are still well off or even better off than they were before.
Apparently, this is the only way the one big question to the world order of the last thirty years can be posed and give rise to a big answer—in the form of a new global anti-war, anti-imperialist, redistributive, climate, human rights, unifying federalist, etc., agenda, which would be articulated by new international bodies fueled by genuinely widespread grassroots discontent.
It would be just terrible if different parts of humanity had to kill and maim each other even more in order to feel unity again, embrace common challenges, and suggest common responses.
Hanna Perekhoda Here the Western left has been looking and looking for an anti-war movement on the Russian left. They have searched high and low, wondering how to help them and guessing that those poor people are thinking how to stop the war and undoubtedly need support. With your permission, I will show them this post as an illustration of the ardent zeal on the Russian left to accelerate the defeat of its own fascist regime and stop the war in Ukraine.
Hanna Perekhoda I reread [this post] and was even more gobsmacked. Has helplessness really crushed your brain so much that you are practicing at imagining exactly how the Third World War would solve problems that you no longer have the courage try and solve, let alone think about normally? Have even basic moral and ethical principles fallen by the wayside? This is the living end, and a pathetic one at that. No fucking war indeed. Game over.
Source: Kirill Medvedev, Facebook, 11 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
In an existential crisis and looking to solve a cold case, Max checks into a secretive hotel with elaborate assisted suicide fantasies. He uncovers a disturbing truth, questioning the nature of life, death, and his perception of reality.
“There used to be diasporas, now there are communities,” say newcomers in Kas. Some of them organize traditional guided tours, some are in charge of taxi services jointly with locals or are developing food delivery companies.
Maksim Zaikin creates co-living spaces for people with similar habits and values by subletting villas. Maksim, a mentor for several projects in Moscow and St. Petersburg, creator of Co eco-system, arrived in Kas in November 2020 to pass the winter. He first organized a party in the neighboring town of Kalkan attended by 45 people mostly from Kas. Maksim then realized that it’s better to move there.
“All people that I am talking to here say that it’s a sort of place of power,” he says. “Kas gives you energy and helps you grow. Everyone in my circle can feel it. I was meeting people that I knew through Facebook but never had personal contacts with when Russians were arriving here in big numbers. Now, the trend has reversed — people stayed in Turkey for the officially allowed 90 days and decided to move back home or change the location.”
“We often see people leave, realise what they really want and come back. In the time of war, Kas has become not just an isle of calmness but also a space for development.”
At their peak, Maksim and his business partner Nikita had 6 villas on the peninsula and apartments in the centre. Prices start from $1,000 per month for a double room outside of the tourist season. When it gets hotter, prices go up as well to at least $1,700. Coworking spaces that host events, lectures and workshops are also available. It has essentially transformed into a home for the community or a culture centre. “It’s very easy for us to find speakers, they themselves come looking because Kas is a place with a lot of fantastic people.”
The team is planning to set up camps with experts on their villas and launch educational programs for kids. Maksim himself has two, 8- and 10-year-olds, they are currently studying online. But the entrepreneur is dreaming of creating an offline program for education.
Many Russians come with kids but the nearest school offering education in Russian is located in Antalya.
“I am not thinking of going back to Russia,” Maksim concludes. “I want to create a lifestyle where I can move between hubs: Kas, Bali, Portugal. We go where there’s a market for it, where Russians go. I want to live on the planet, not in a country.”
Source: Olga Grigoryeva, “Russians in Kas: A small town in southern Turkey turned into a hub of Russian intellectuals,” Novaya Gazeta. Europe, 14 July 2022
My name is Nermin Al-Hassan and I’m one of the first women to join the White Helmets’ unexploded ordnance (UXO) removal team in northwest Syria. The White Helmets have responded to 247 military attacks this year, the majority by the Syrian regime and its Russian ally. Cluster bombs and rockets have turned our farms into minefields and river banks where children should be free to play into a no man’s land.
With your generous support, the White Helmets respond quickly to every attack to rescue the injured and save lives. Afterwards, our UXO awareness teams go into camps and schools near the bombing to teach people to stay away from the remnants of war that litter our land, which will later be destroyed by our teams. Having women volunteers is so important as we now reach more women in society, alongside their families and crucially children. We also help to survey land and cordon off dangerous areas.
UXO removal is one of the most dangerous jobs at The White Helmets, but knowing that I am part of a team that saves lives helps me overcome my fears. Despite all the risks we face, whether in unexploded ordnance removal or elsewhere, I am honored to be part of an organization that gives people new hope despite all our years of suffering and war.
Northwest Syria lacks almost all of society’s basic services and the White Helmets are stepping up where international actors fail us time and again. During these hot summer months, the medical needs of elderly residents and children in displacement camps are rising and we’ve doubled our services to ease their suffering.
Thanks to your donations to the White Helmets, our volunteers have provided tens of thousands of ambulance services this year, conducted over 700 firefighting operations and we are working hard to repair infrastructure destroyed by bombing. The women volunteers have provided 55,000 consultations to families across 33 women’s centers – with first aid, immunization campaigns and medical advice.
Your generous support is helping the families of volunteers who tragically died doing this life-saving work. 296 families receive $600 each per quarter, and in 2021, donations from supporters like you helped 233 volunteers receive medical treatment for issues ranging from field injuries and urgent surgeries, to cancer treatment and prosthetics.
We all do this stressful work while worrying about our own families’ safety, but our mission to save lives and to keep hope alive for our neighbors who have been abandoned by everyone else sustains us. Knowing that we have the support of individuals like you around the world motivates us greatly even on our most difficult days.
PS – If you can, please consider starting a monthly donation to help The White Helmets reach even more people in northwest Syria with life-saving services.
Source: Email newsletter from The Syria Campaign, an independent advocacy group campaigning for a peaceful and democratic future for Syria. I just donated $25 to them via PayPal. It took me less than a minute to do this.
I have read again ([on the social media pages] of those who have left [Russia], of course) that we [who have stayed in Russia] have no right to rejoice, that we must feel terror and depression all the time. I didn’t want to respond to specific people—I could have snapped and said harsh things—so I will speak out in general. A person who constantly experiences negative emotions is a weak person. All their strength and energy are spent on emoting; they are unable to fight back, unable to do good. Yes, there are people who can draw energy from rage, from anger. But not all people can do this. For example, I cannot; I can only draw energy from positivity. So excuse me, dear departed comrades, but I will go to restaurants and concerts, admire the beauty of the sunset, enjoy an interesting book, and strive to communicate with friends. I will maximize the positive energy in and around me. Because I want to be strong, among other things, so that I can help those who are in trouble. My suffering won’t make their situation any better, but my strength might be useful to them—and to me, too. I woke up the other day with the feeling that I didn’t want to live, so much so that I even got scared. Thank you, but I don’t want any more of this, once was enough. If a person is happy, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the horrors in their midst and those who have ended up in this hell. It just means that they want to survive.
Source: Irina Starodubrovskaya, Facebook, 8 July 2022. Thanks to Alexander Kynev for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader
How do the prospects for peace look from Europe? There is a consensus that Putin cannot be expected to end the war. Firstly, because the war enables him and a large group of the war’s beneficiaries to transform Russian society to their liking (his confidence rating has risen to 92%). Secondly, because Putin is confident of his superiority over Ukrainians and believes that Europe will not withstand the war’s economic consequences (inflation, the energy crisis, supply chain breakdowns, etc.).
Can we expect the war’s end to come about due to processes in Russian society? That is, can the society pressure Putin into ending the war? The polling numbers (seventy-five, eighty-five, one hundred percent support for the war) drift from one publication to the next, but European decision-makers do not rely on these figures. They rely on so-called agency. The support figures are fictitious. But the factor of “silence” is a political reality. “Silence” is the absence of agency. Europeans look at the situation and say that, in such circumstances, at least one of the three “manifestations of agency” could be expected.
1. Household protests: mothers protesting the deaths of their men and children, “casserole protests,” family-centered grassroots protests.
2. Mass strikes: the war threatens people with unemployment and the closure of their workplaces, prices are rising but wages are not, etc.
3. A revolt by oligarchs, if only in the shape of an alliance formed abroad.
None of these three things has happened. And since agency has not been manifested in any guise, the concept that “society is silent”—i.e., that there is no society [in Russia]—becomes the explanation. (Usually, in these cases, our delegations tell the Europeans that there is totalitarianism in Russia, people are intimidated by the FSB, etc. To which their interlocutors nod sympathetically. But at the same time they think: it’s the same in Turkey, but all those three factors are constantly flaring up there. No one says it out loud, though, so as not to offend us.)
But what is there? We can say that there is a Russian anti-war movement abroad. “There is one” not in the sense that it is large and influential, but only in the sense that it has “shown up.” “There is one” means that you can point your finger at it. Therefore, Europeans are willing to meet, both individually and in groups, with representatives of this movement—because, by European standards, “it is at least something.”
At the same time, however, everyone is eagerly waiting for the Russian people to evince some minimal will to save themselves and to show up in some way. Then it would be possible to say that, no, ninety-two percent of Russians are not “proud of the successes of Russian arms and the liberation of Ukraine from Nazis,” that there is an sensible part of society and here it is, it has “surfaced”—via casserole riots, strike committees, or a conference of oligarchs on Capri. We could then talk about peace, about the war’s end. Without such “showing up,” it is impossible for Europeans to envision peace.
Petersburg residents grabbed up all the appointments in July to apply for a Schengen visa at the Finnish visa center in the city after it was reported that all restrictions on crossing the border would be lifted.
Finland lifted all anti-covid restrictions on entering the country on June 30, and visa restrictions were lifted on July 1. The scheduling of appointments for processing visa applications was opened a month in advance, and in four days Petersburgers booked all the slots for dates up to and including July 29, writesPetersburg Patrol, citing a source in the visa center.
The source at the visa center could not rule out that “the management [would] add additional slots.” Usually, appointments to apply for visas were scheduled a week in advance.
Before the hype, Petersburgers who previously held two-year Schengen visas were issued them again without any problems.
The Finnish Interior Ministry conjectured that the lifting of restrictions would increase traffic from non-EU countries, in particular, on its eastern border, while the desire of Russians to visit Finland and the number of valid visas issued to Russian nationals would affect the volume of traffic.
Tour operators believe otherwise: the flow of tourists from the Russian Federation will be affected by difficulties with obtaining visas and exchanging currency. Aleksan Mkrtchyan, vice-president of the Alliance of Travel Agencies, noted that the opening of the land border is “certainly a good thing,” from which Finland and residents of Petersburg and the Leningrad Region would benefit. However, it would be Russians who already hold a valid Schengen visa who would be the first to go to Finland, he said.
“It is almost impossible to get a Finnish visa in the near future—[appointments at the visa center] are booked out almost till the end of August,” Mkrtchyan told Interfax.
Petersburgers will be able to travel in large numbers to Finland from July 15—the day on which Russia removes all restrictions on crossing the border, which were introduced in March 2020 due to Covid-19. Upon returning to the country from abroad, Russians will still have to take a PCR test.
In Finland, citizens of non-EU countries have not been required to have a vaccination certificate or a coronavirus test since July 1. Coronavirus testing will also no longer be carried out at border crossings.
The city of Lappeenranta would be prepared, if necessary, to offer its airport as a NATO base: “It will certainly be available if the Defense Forces so wish”
Lappeenranta has not discussed with the Finnish Defense Forces what investments would be involved in possible NATO membership, but in theory the city would welcome them.
The city of Lappeenranta aims to get the maximum benefit if Finland joins NATO.
Political decision-makers and officials in Lappeenranta have expressed the hope that, with membership, even a NATO base could be established in Lappeenranta.
According to Lappeenranta’s city manager, Kimmo Jarva, the idea has come about at a time when the debate on joining NATO has been lively, and because South Karelia is located on the frontier between Europe and Russia.
There has been no discussion of the matter in defense policy circles, nor has there been any discussion with the Defense Forces. However, the city of Lappeenranta hopes that the Defense Forces will make investments in South Karelia due to NATO membership.
“I’ve heard conjectures about the airport, among other things. I’m sure it’s available if the military would like it. As for whether there will be any changes in the locations of the Army Academy and the Defense Forces, I cannot say as I’m a layman,” Jarva says.
According to Jarva, the progress of Finland’s NATO membership bid has given hope to the whole of South Karelia. It brings a sense of security and confidence to companies, for example.
“Companies, for example, believe this is a stable environment. This has been the case all along, but it brings a sense of security and can encourage investments in the region,” Jarva says.
He believes the war will eventually end and ordinary people will again travel across the eastern border.
“NATO membership does not preclude the movement of ordinary people, after things are sorted out first,” Jarva hopes.
Source: Tanja Hannus, Yle Uutiset, 30 June 2022. Translated, from the Finnish, by the Russian Reader