Displaying items by tag: Russia
A Wagner mercenaries Serbian-language video showing Serb volunteers training to fight alongside Russian troops in Ukraine has outraged Serbia's president Vucic. He said, ‘Why do you, Wagner, call Serbians when you know it is against our rules?’ So far, Serbia has prioritised Russian friendship over ambitions to join the EU, but now Belgrade lawyers and anti-war groups have filed criminal complaints against Russia’s ambassador and Serbia's state security and information agency for recruiting Serbians for Wagner. Vucic said, ‘Serbia’s path is towards the West, not towards invading Ukraine. Serbia consistently voted in favour of resolutions at the UN, condemning Russian hostility.’ That stance does not impress MEPs because Serbia refuses to impose sanctions on Russia. MEPs have called for ending Serbia membership negotiations until they agree to sanctions and forego cheap Gazprom gas from Russia.
Russia has not taken a key position for months, despite intense efforts to achieve military gains. Wagner claims to have Russian mercenaries in control of a Soledar salt mine. But the regular Russian armed forces and Moscow defence ministry say the battle is still going on, hinting of a rift in pro-Russian forces. Ukraine also says there is still fighting there. Soledar’s deep salt mines could be used to position troops and equipment while being protected from Ukrainian missiles, and the tunnel network could be used to penetrate Ukrainian-controlled territory. The salt and gypsum mines provide sources of revenue for whoever works them. Wagner mercenaries have previously taken control of valuable African mining resources. Soledar’s battle is just one in a campaign that is not going well for Putin. If Russia seize Soledar the course of the war could change and Putin gain a propaganda win to present to his critics.
‘There is no time to wait, this is genocide’, said Dr Sukhudyan, describing the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, a landlocked enclave between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Deadly battles between Armenians and Azerbaijanis have previously raged there. Armenia is the world's first official Christian country, and 120,000 Christians live in the enclave. The road to it was protected by Russian peacekeepers, but on 12 December Azerbaijani protesters blocked it, preventing food, medicine, and other basic transport in or out. Now this ongoing dispute - in light of the past genocidal horrors - has human rights groups deeply concerned about what is to come. The minister of state for Nagorno-Karabakh said this is probably the prelude to an Azerbaijani armed attack, and if Russia does not step in, Armenia is not strong enough to stop them conquering the region. There will be massacres, with the oldest churches in the world possibly destroyed.
The British barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice, who led the prosecution of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, said Vladimir Putin should go on trial in Ukraine this year for war crimes committed there. He expressed his surprise that prosecutors and politicians were not ‘spelling this out much more freely and openly’. He described Moscow's actions during the invasion as ‘crimes against humanity’ as civilian targets were being attacked. Crimes against humanity are considered the most serious offences under the so-called ‘rules’ of war. These laws ban attacks on civilians - or infrastructure vital to their survival - and are set out in international treaties such as the Geneva Conventions. Russia's repeat attacks on the Ukrainian energy grid over the winter are described as war crimes because of the harm done to civilians. Russia claims to be hitting only military targets. Kyiv’s prosecutor-general has reported 62,000+ war crimes, including over 450 child deaths.
Dressed in the colours of Ukraine, Vladyslav Bondar, a ballet dancer, moves delicately across the stage of Rotterdam's mediaeval St Lawrence Church. He is performing with the United Ukrainian Ballet at a Salvation Army Christmas party - a setting far removed from the war in his homeland. ‘I wanted to fight for Ukraine.’ Vladyslav said after the performance, knowing it could have meant the end of his career as a professional dancer. But instead of taking up arms, he joined over 70 other Ukrainians who make up the United Ukrainian Ballet - a dance company formed directly in response to the outbreak of war. Fellow dancer Oleksii Kniazkov said, ‘Every Ukrainian has his own battlefield. And the stage is ours.’ Their dance is a dance of defiance.
Contrary to the common perception (‘Syria’s situation has settled, so Syrians no longer need urgent humanitarian aid’) conditions especially in the rebel-held northwest have been worsening. The Assad regime and Russia continue to block access to food, medicine and other vital necessities. The Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the consequent global economic downturn have exacerbated the crisis. Soaring inflation in neighbouring Turkey has also had a devastating effect on the economy in the region, where the Turkish lira is widely used along with the US dollar. Four million people in north-western Syria urgently need aid. Over 3.1 million internally displaced persons are food-insecure. Clean water is scarce. Cholera is spreading and there is a sharp decline in humanitarian aid. Pray for unconditional access to vital food and water to be guaranteed for all Syrians; International media coverage and fundraising campaigns to boost donations for the Syria crisis; and in the longer term, for Syrians to be able not merely to survive but to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, has called for the Ukraine war to end. He warned that geopolitical struggles could ‘lead to humanitarian crises’. In a thinly veiled swipe at the Russian president, he said, ‘Our era need not be one of war. Indeed, it must not be one!’ The comments echoed his previous criticism of Mr Putin in September. India has abstained from condemning Moscow’s actions in Ukraine at the UN as the government balances its ties with Russia and the West, but has shifted its stance as the war intensifies and energy and food shortages pose greater global threats. Mr Modi said the world’s greatest challenges ‘can be solved not by fighting each other, but only by acting together’. India hosts the next G20 summit, whose theme is One Earth, One Family, One Future.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, a major exporter of grain, led to the blocking of all grain shipments until an agreement called the Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia and the UN. This agreement will expire on 19 November unless renewed. Renewal negotiations were being facilitated by the UN throughout October until the 29th, when a drone attack on Russian naval ships prompted Russia to suspend participation. Talks resumed on 2 November, with hopes to extend the agreement for a year. On 17 November Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure said the initiative would be prolonged, but only for 120 days.
Russia has ordered its military to pull out of Kherson, the only regional capital it has captured since invading Ukraine. Russia will entirely leave the western bank of Dnipro River, saying it wasn’t possible to continue supplying the city. Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky said his country is moving ‘very carefully’ in response to the announcement, fearing a Russian trap.
1,500+ new graves have been dug at a mass burial site near Mariupol in Ukraine. Over 4,600 graves have been dug there since the beginning of the war. Officials believe at least 25,000 people were killed in fighting there, and 5,000-7,000 died after their homes were bombed. Witnesses have seen Russian authorities removing bodies from destroyed buildings and taking them away for burial, over 1,500 according to new satellite images. From the start of the war Mariupol, a strategic target, was pounded relentlessly from the air and from the ground. Pray for the thousands of survivors who have now escaped the city, but do not know where their families’ bodies are. Pray for those unable to get that information, and pray for those who suspect their loved ones are still buried beneath the rubble of their houses.