AP:”Putin declares martial law in illegally annexed regions of Ukraine”

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared martial law Wednesday in the four regions of Ukraine that Moscow annexed and gave additional emergency powers to the heads of all regions of Russia.

Putin didn’t immediately spell out the steps that would be taken under martial law, but said his order was effective starting Thursday. His decree gives law enforcement agencies three days to submit specific proposals and orders the creation of territorial defense forces in the four annexed regions.

“We are working to solve very difficult large-scale tasks to ensure Russia’s security and safe future, to protect our people,” Putin said in televised remarks at the start of a Security Council meeting. “Those who are on the frontlines or undergoing training at firing ranges and training centers should feel our support and know that they have our big, great country and unified people behind their back.”

The upper house of Russia’s parliament was set to quickly seal Putin’s decision to impose martial law in the annexed Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions. Draft legislation indicates it may involve restrictions on travel and public gatherings, tighter censorship and broader authority for law enforcement agencies.

The upper house of Russia’s parliament was set to quickly seal Putin’s decision to impose martial law in the annexed Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions. Draft legislation indicates it may involve restrictions on travel and public gatherings, tighter censorship and broader authority for law enforcement agencies.

Putin also didn’t provide details of the extra powers the heads of Russian regions will have under his decree.

In a signal his moves could have broad restrictions for people living in Russia, his decree states that the types of measures envisaged by martial law could be introduced in Russia.

The Russian leader also ordered the establishment of a Coordination Committee to increase interactions between government agencies in dealing with the fighting in Ukraine that he continued to call a “special military operation.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Putin’s order doesn’t anticipate the closure of Russia’s borders, state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

Associated Press story reposted from Politico https://www.politico.com/news/2022/10/19/putin-martial-law-annexed-ukraine-00062475

Taiwan: the First Chinese Republic

Rep. Nancy Pelosi has received criticism from Republicans, Democrats and others for visiting Taiwan. Some have mentioned the insult to China. More thougtful critics have suggested her trip would cause more trouble for Taiwan, by waving a “red flag” at China.(Irony unintentional)

I want to commend the Speaker for including Taiwan in her Asia trip. She visited a number of countries in Asia; Taiwan is a trading partner with the USA, a source of immigrants, and a vacation spot for Americans, so a visit by a member of the US Congress is appropriate for maintaining friendly relations with a true friend of America.

It is true that the US no longer maintains formal diplomatic relations with the government that rules Taiwan. But everyone recognizes that Taiwan exists. Even the People’s Republic of China, which benefits from billions of dollars in direct investment by Taiwan companies, and which actively trades with Taiwan, recognizes that Taiwan exists.

Taiwan has survived many jolts in the past 51 years. It has survived President Richard Nixon’s trip to Beijing, and his friendliness with Mao Zedong. Taiwan has survived the diplomatic recognition of the PRC by the administration of President Jimmy Carter.

Taiwan has survived the overtures toward an alliance with the PRC by President Reagan’s Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Taiwan has survived the elevation by President George H W Bush of the People’s Republic to an equal member of the New World Order.

Taiwan has survived the rush by American and European countries to invest in mainland China. This rush was motivated by the low wage level in People’s China after decades of Communist rule. And Taiwan has survived as the People’s Republic has annexed and come to dominate Hong Kong and Macao.

The Taiwan Miracle

In normal terms, “Taiwan Miracle” refers to the Taiwan Economic Miracle, a period of rapid economic growth at the beginning of the 1960s. Taiwan grew rapidly alongside Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea, the 4 countries referred to as the “Asian Tigers.”

Taiwan has other miracles. Its economic strength provided the basis for the miracle of Taiwan’s survival, referred to above. And the other Taiwan miracle is the implementation of competitive democratic elections in the 1980s and 1990s, ending the one-party rule of the mainland refugees in the Kuomintang.

They Called Themselves Republics

China has proclaimed itself a republic twice. In 1911, when Kuomintang (KMT) – the National People’s Party, took power, it proclaimed the Republic of China and adopted a Constitution providing for a President and a National Congress to be indirectly elected. Democratic as the Constitution appeared, the reality was that from 1911 to 1949, China was under the one party rule of the KMT, with opposition groups harassed and oppressed.

From 1921 to 1927, the Communist Party collaborated with the Kuomintang, with Communists welcomed into the membership ranks of the KMT. The KMT was a full affiliate of the Communist International; Chiang Kai-Shek represented the KMT on the Executive Committee of the Communist International.

After the suppression of Communists and labor unionists in Shanghai in 1927, the Communist Party went into opposition, eventually engaging in violent revolutionary insurrection against the KMT regime. After a brief United Front of the two parties in opposition to the Japanese invasion, the civil war resumed in 1946, with the Communist Party taking power in 1949.

The Communist Party shot its way into power, as the KMT attempted to defend its power with its own guns. The People’s Republic of China, allied with the USSR, was established by violence, not democratic elections. Since taking power in 1949, The Communist Party of China has never allowed legal opposition, and illegal dissent has been ruthlessly suppressed. So neither Chinese Republic really qualifies as such under the American understanding.

Republic of Singapore

There is another Chinese polity that claims to be a Republic. Since 1965, the island based city-state Singapore has been independent as the Republic of Singapore. Even before independence, Singapore had a ruling party. The People’s Action Party has ruled continuously since the establishment of home rule for the Singapore colony in 1959. Since Independence the PAP has dominated the legislature with overwhelming majorities, and the President has always been a member of the PAP.

The policies of the PAP which have promoted economic growth through a regulated market economy are popular with many people. The PAP control of the government has given it control of Singapore’s media, either through direct government ownership (in violation of the market economy) or very active censorship of the media.

Opposition parties have been subject to (non-violent) harassment by supporters of the PAP. In several cases, opposition candidates who have won elections have been subject to post-election harassment, even arrest. There has never been rotation in office in Singapore, peaceful or otherwise.

The First Chinese Republic

In the 1980s, after decades of rule by the Kuomintang, run by mainland exiles, several leaders of Taiwan undertook a transition to democracy.

After the death of Chiang Kai-shek in 1975, his son Chiang Ching-kuo became Chair of the Kuomintang in Taiwan. He began reforms in the 1980s to allow more civil liberties and the beginning of democratic participation in the government by the Taiwanese people.

While the KMT remained dominant during the Presidency of Chiang Ching-kuo, the Democratic Progressive Party continued to grow, with less harassment by authorities. The DPP, composed of Taiwan natives, advocated a clear statement of Taiwan independence, while the KMT continued to claim to be part of China; it continued to claim, in a pro-forma way, that it was the legitimate authority in the mainland.

Chiang Ching-kuo picked Lee Teng-hui as his Vice-President and successor in 1984, and Lee was elected by the Congress to the post. Lee Teng-hui was born in Taiwan during the Japanese occupation, and was fluent in Japanese, as well as the Hokkien dialect spoken by 70% of the population of Taiwan. He became the first native born Taiwanese to be elected Vice-President.

On December 25, 1985, Chiang Ching-kuo spoke on Constitution Day about the Presidential succession: The first question is the succession to the presidency. This sort of question only exists in despotic and totalitarian countries. It does not exist in the Republic of China, based on the Constitution. So the next President will be elected in accordance with constitutional procedure by the National Assembly on behalf of the people.

After the death of Chiang Ching-kuo in 1988, the Congress of the Republic of China elected Lee Teng-hui President of the ROC. The first Taiwan-born President, he prepared the way for a multi-party system. He was the last President of the ROC chosen by Congress, and in May 1991. President Lee headed a drive to eliminate the emergency laws adopted by the KMT to deal with the Communist Menace – laws which had been abused to maintain a KMT monopoly of power.

In 1996 Taiwan held direct elections for the first time. Seeing that this would strengthen Taiwan by increasing the loyalty of the population toward the ROC, military forces of the PRC conducted missile tests in the waters surrounding Taiwan, and other military exercizes off the coast of Fujian province. In 1996, Lee Teng-hui became the first President directly elected by the people of Taiwan.

Rotation in Office

President Lee supported the Taiwanese Localization Movement, which emphasized Taiwanese identity, in contrast to the China-centric doctrines promoted in Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek. This, and further political liberalization, prepared the way for the elections of 2000, which were unprecedented in any Chinese polity.

The Democratic Progressive Party had been formed in 1986, a year before the end of martial law. President Chiang Ching-kuo did not suppress it, and it grew based on its appeals to the Taiwanese people. After legalization, it affiliated with the Liberal International, and developed a platform defending civil liberties and the independence of Taiwan.

In 2000,Chen Shui-bien, candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party was elected President, with a plurality vote in a three way race. Then the miracle: the incumbent President affiliated with the KMT, left office and let the newly elected Chen Shui-bien take office as President. This was the first time in Chinese history that a Chinese polity experienced peaceful rotation in office. Since 2000, every election in Taiwan has been accompanied by a peaceful rotation in office, as incumbents surrender their power to those elected to succeed them.

An American Principle

Rotation in office is a fundamental principle of the American republic, enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. It is true that until the accession of Caesar to leadership of the Roman Republic, Rome had elections for Consul, and when new Consuls were elected, they peacefully took office. After the end of the Roman Republic, it would be nearly two millenia before any European country had a peaceful rotation in office.

In America, the first President, George Washington was ready to retire after one term, but gave in to demands that he accept a second term in office. At the end of his second term, in 1797, Washington retired to Mount Vernon, and devoted his time to his plantation, his distillery, and other business interests. In retiring from office, George Washington proved the strength of the new Republic and its Constitution, and set the precedent for peaceful rotation in office, a precedent unbroken until the events of January 6, 2021.

As America faces a threat to its Constitution and its Republic from the forces loyal to former President Donald J Trump, those of us who defend the Republic need allies and friends. What better friend to our Republic than the first Chinese polity to move beyond the Chinese history of one-party rule, the first Chinese polity to institutionalize rotation in office?

Long Live Free Taiwan! And, we can hope, Long Live Freedom and a Free America!

(by Gene Berkman, Editor, California Libertarian Report)

Russia Has Blocked 138K Websites Since Ukraine Invasion

Ben Kolde / unsplash

Russian authorities have blocked or deleted some 138,000 websites since Moscow launched its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February, the country’s prosecutor general said Monday. 

Following over 300 requests from prosecutors, Russia’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor has censored thousands of websites in a bid to combat “fake news,” according to prosecutor general Igor Krasnov. 

“After the start of the special military operation, we have strengthened our counteraction to the spread of calls for extremism and terrorism, mass riots and fake news on the internet,” Krasnov told the Kommersant business daily. NEWSMoscow Times’ Russian Service Blocked Over War CoverageREAD MORE

The Kremlin has sought to strictly control the narrative of the war at home since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Many of the blocked websites have criticized the war or in Ukraine or referred to it as a “war” or “invasion” rather than the Kremlin’s preferred term “special military operation.”

Websites publishing information contradicting Moscow’s versions of events in Ukraine, which it considers “fake news,” are also subject to being blocked.

Criticizing the war or sharing non-Kremlin-approved information about it are both punishable under new laws passed shortly after the invasion.

All of Russia’s independent media has either been blocked or shut down since February, with many journalists fleeing the country to escape prosecution. 

Russian authorities have also outlawed Facebook and Instagram as “extremist” organizations since the war began and restricted access to Twitter.

Source: The Moscow Times https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/08/08/russia-has-blocked-138k-websites-since-ukraine-invasion-prosecutor-says-a78532

Viktor Orbán Flatters Republicans

In his triumphant speech Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán played one of the oldest—and most morally grotesque—rhetorical cards in the central European diplomatic playbook: comparing the domestic political opponents of his audience with the totalitarian murderers who once subjugated his homeland.

“The Hungarians defeated communism, which was forced on us by Soviet troops and arms. It took a while. We began our fight in 1956 and won in 1990, but we did it,” Europe’s longest-serving prime minister said. “But communists are tough to beat. They rose from their ashes, came together with the liberals, and come back all around the world stronger than ever. If somebody has doubts whether progressive liberals and communists are the same, just ask us Hungarians. We fought them both, and I can tell you they are the same.”

The claim that communists have come back “stronger than ever” would surely be news to the three dozen or so modern-day countries whose populations in 1988 were still under the iron boot. Only in China, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba have communist parties retained their monopoly on power. One could perhaps make the argument that current and former communists, after allowing for quasi-capitalistic economic activity, now have more internal strength and financial resources in China and post-Soviet Russia than they did in 1990, but that’s not an argument that Orbán, the best friend of both Moscow and Beijing within the European Union and NATO, is eager to make.

The conflation of contemporary Western lefties with former East bloc totalitarians, a favorite dinner-party trick of such perennially overrated post-communist politicians as former Czech President Václav Klaus, serves the dual purpose of flattering American conservatives that their parochial political concerns (about, say, gay marriage) are imbued with internationally heroic heft, while diverting attention away from the less seemly (and less traditionally conservative) record of the speaker.

Addressing a CPAC audience, Orbán made sure to shout out the conference’s patron saint: “We know what we have Ronald Reagan to thank for.” But that’s a considerably different song than he was singing two weeks ago in front of an audience of ethnic Hungarians in the Transylvania region of neighboring Romania.

There, in a speech that generated controversy for other reasons, the Hungarian actually compared Reagan to communists: “Historically, the Americans have had the ability to pick out what they identify as an evil empire and to call on the world to stand on the right side of history—a phrase which bothers us a little, as this is what the communists always said.”

Full Post by Matt Welch @ Reason https://reason.com/2022/08/05/viktor-orban-flatters-republicans-with-the-lie-that-progressive-liberals-and-communists-are-the-same/

Russians Urged to Snitch on Ukraine War Critics in Return to Soviet-Style Denunciations

Following Russia’s bombing of a drama theatre in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol in March, St. Petersburg-based artist Alexandra Skochilenko swapped supermarket price tags with stickers containing information about the attack that reportedly killed hundreds of civilians.

A fellow store customer reported her act of resistance to the police.

“I was extremely outraged by the slander I read because I worry a lot about Russian soldiers in Ukraine,” the 72-year-old informant claimed in testimony published by local media.

Soon after, Skochilenko, 31, was arrested for spreading “false information” about the Russian Army — a crime under new legislation that is being used to clamp down on information deviating from the Kremlin’s narrative of the war in Ukraine.

Skochilenko is one of dozens of Russians who have been criminally charged for anti-war actions or statements since the invasion began on Feb. 24. 

Many have been reported to police by family, neighbors and passersby in a trend analysts say harks back to Soviet denunciations — and is being actively encouraged by Russian authorities.

Complete Post @ The Moscow Times https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/06/30/russians-urged-to-snitch-on-ukraine-war-critics-in-return-to-soviet-style-denunciations-a78024

Investigations Uncover Russia’s Alleged Ukrainian Grain Smuggling

Satellite images and GPS data indicate that Russia could be exporting grain smuggled out of occupied Ukrainian territory, investigations by the BBC and the Financial Times have revealed.  

Russia has been accused by Western powers of using food as a weapon in its war with Ukraine by targeting the country’s grain storage facilities and blockading its Black Sea exports.

The Financial Times said its analysis of satellite photographs and port records indicated that Russia had exported around 140,000 tons of grain in eight shipments from annexed Crimea to Syria and Turkey in May.

The figures mark an unseasonal increase in the volume of grain exports at the sanctioned Crimean port compared with previous years.

The publication also tracked activity consistent with the smuggling of looted goods, such as vessels switching off their transponders in violation of international law, using ship-to-ship transfers at sea and forging paperwork to obscure the origins of its cargo.

Full Report @ The Moscow Times https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/06/29/investigations-uncover-russias-alleged-ukrainian-grain-smuggling-a78142

The Strategic Meaning of Russian War Crimes in Ukraine

The wife of a civilian victim reacts after his body was exhumed from a shallow grave near their home in the village of Andriivka, Kyiv region, on April 11, 2022.Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

The mass torture and killings carried out by Russian forces in Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka and other Ukrainian towns add a new level of horror to a terrible war. But they are not only a humanitarian disaster: they also change the strategic context in three ways.
First, they will entrench Ukrainian hostility towards Russia, completing the estrangement that began with Russia’s first invasion in 2014 and intensified with the second in February. In less than a decade, Putin has turned a fellow eastern Slavic people that had been well disposed towards Russia, into an object of deep and personal hatred.

Second, they are driving the Russian public into a dark place. Expecting a rapid and easy victory, the state did not try to mobilize mass opinion before the invasion of Ukraine. When it began, many brave people, at known risk to themselves, demonstrated against it, and several public figures and influencers supported them. But the propaganda machine is now working flat out to justify the war and to discredit atrocities as fabrications. Despite severe censorship and repression, Russians still have access to a vastly wider range of information than at any point in the pre-internet Soviet period, if they choose to look for it. Yet most Russians appear to believe official lies over all evidence, even the testimony of their friends and relatives in Ukraine.

This upsets assumptions that a costly conflict would be unpopular. Indeed, many analysts had predicted that Putin would not go to war for this reason. The regime’s concealment of casualties in Syria, and public criticism of the first Chechen war in the mid-1990s, seemed to corroborate this. Instead, most Russians have rallied around a regime and leader that, before the war, had become as unpopular as at any point during the Putin presidency. This is happening even as official rhetoric reaches new levels of hysteria and portrays Ukrainians as a Nazified population whose elites must be “liquidated.”

Third, the war crimes show that, as long as Russia occupies Ukrainian territory, an end to fighting does not mean an end to violence. On the contrary: a ceasefire would allow Russian forces not only to regroup and rearm, but to brutalize and murder civilians unhindered. As the “Realist School” of international relations does not appear to recognize, not just geopolitical space but human lives are at stake. All Ukrainians now know for certain what awaits them if Russian forces enter their town or village, and will resist accordingly. It follows that partition or negotiated compromise will bring neither peace nor stability.

Full Commentary @ The Moscow Times https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/04/13/the-strategic-meaning-of-russian-war-crimes-in-ukraine-a77345

Moscow Shutting Down Amnesty, Human Rights Watch in Russia

Russia said Friday it was shutting down the local offices of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that have been working in the country for the past 30 years.

The announcement came on the 44th day of Russia’s military campaign in pro-Western Ukraine, with thousands killed and more than 11 million having fled their homes or the country in the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Human Rights Watch has been operating in Russia for 30 years, while Amnesty has had a presence in the country since 1993.

All in all, 15 organizations have been taken off Russia’s registry of international organizations and foreign NGOs due to “violations of the current legislation of the Russian Federation,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement without providing further details.

Russia also shut down the local offices of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Aga Khan Foundation, the Wspolnota Polska Association and other organizations.

Complete story @ The Moscow Times https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/04/08/moscow-shutting-down-amnesty-human-rights-watch-in-russia-a77290

Over the past year Russian authorities have been presiding over an unprecedented crackdown on dissent and independent journalism.

The Stain of Bucha Will Stay With Russians Forever

Bucha — the name of this city will now go down in history like My Lai in Vietnam, like Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon, like Vukovar in Serbia.

Bucha, Irpin and Motyzhin… a woman’s hand with multicolored nail polish; a young man lying next to his bicycle; a woman’s head lying next to other human remains in a pit that appears to have been set on fire; a white scarf or belt tied around the hands of a man shot through the head and lying on the ground; another corpse lying a yard away, and another, and then more corpses, and more corpses.

Did they ride along the road shooting people? Shooting at everyone who was walking or running down the street? But if so, then who tied their hands behind their backs?

Were they driving out a column of prisoners — although in the photographs the bodies are all in civilian clothing. Were they leading them to be executed or moving them to a filtration camp when they got the order to drop everything and retreat?

Or as they were leaving Kyiv, did drunk and drugged out “Nazi hunters” decide to leave a bloody bacchanalia behind for their “fraternal nation” to remember them by?

In Irpin, they at least buried the civilians in a mass grave. In Bucha, why did they leave them lying on the pavement? Were they in a hurry to get home by Palm Sunday?

Ukrainian and international investigators will, without question, discover the name of the division, all the names and surnames of the men who committed these crimes.

Full column by Yevgenia Albats, editor of Novoya Vremya @ https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/04/05/the-stain-of-bucha-will-stay-with-russians-forever-a77220

A mass grave is seen behind a church in the town of Bucha:

Ukraine: Apparent War Crimes in Russia-Controlled Areas

(Warsaw) – Human Rights Watch has documented several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations against civilians in occupied areas of the Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions of Ukraine. These include a case of repeated rape; two cases of summary execution, one of six men, the other of one man; and other cases of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022. Soldiers were also implicated in looting civilian property, including food, clothing, and firewood. Those who carried out these abuses are responsible for war crimes.

“The cases we documented amount to unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Rape, murder, and other violent acts against people in the Russian forces’ custody should be investigated as war crimes.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 10 people, including witnesses, victims, and local residents of Russia-occupied territories, in person or by telephone. Some people asked to be identified only by their first names or by pseudonyms for their protection.

On March 4, Russian forces in Bucha, about 30 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, rounded up five men and summarily executed one of them. A witness told Human Rights Watch that soldiers forced the five men to kneel on the side of the road, pulled their T-shirts over their heads, and shot one of the men in the back of the head. “He fell [over],” the witness said, “and the women [present at the scene] screamed.”

Full Report by Human Rights Watch @ https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/04/03/ukraine-apparent-war-crimes-russia-controlled-areas

Destroyed armored vehicles on a road