Plus: EU cannabis talks, Slovenia gets new vaccines, Navalny back in solitary, and more.
The Big Story: UN and U.S. Call for International Access to Ukrainians Held in Russian Camps
What happened: Moscow’s forced deportations of up to 1.6 million Ukrainians to Russia is a war crime, U.S. ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield charged yesterday, according to RFE/RL. The AP reports that UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo demanded that Russia allow the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross to have “unimpeded access to all individuals detained in relation to the ongoing war.”
More context: Soon after the Russian invasion began, accounts began appearing of over 20 so-called filtration camps where Ukrainian civilians are detained, interrogated, and often subjected to filthy and overcrowded conditions – and reportedly to torture – before being forced to relocate to often-distant parts of Russia. Some observers have used the term “genocide” to describe Russia’s apparently systematic campaign to destroy Ukrainian nationality.
Worth noting: Russian officials claimed the centers are for registration of refugees and said the allegations in the UN were part of a Western disinformation campaign.
News from the Regions
Central Europe and the Baltics
- Market regulation of marijuana and decriminalization for users were on the agenda at the recent meeting of European anti-drug coordinators in Prague, Euractiv reports.
- A UN committee has issued recommendations for Slovakia to address continuing racial discrimination against minorities, including the Romani community and those of African descent, Romea.cz reports, citing the TASR news agency. The report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination published last week found that victims of discrimination cannot effectively access the legal system due to the slow pace of court proceedings.
- Latvians are receiving fake text messages on their phones purportedly from the army informing them of military conscription, BNN reports. The Defense Ministry said that no such messages are being sent.
- Two Polish doctors responsible for the treatment of a pregnant woman who later died are being prosecuted for criminal negligence, with one of them also reportedly being charged with manslaughter, according to Notes from Poland. The woman’s death in late 2021 led to mass protests against Poland’s extremely strict abortion laws, though some observers say the case was medical malpractice not connected to abortion restrictions.
- Albania’s ruling Socialist Party has submitted bills to parliament that would prevent anyone who worked for the communist-era Sigurimi secret police from running for office, and would allow the vetting agency to recheck politicians who were previously cleared, Euractiv and Exit.al report. In July, Sigurimi files naming former President Ilir Meta as an informant appeared, though he had previously received a clean report on his past. Meta is now pursuing criminal charges against the vetting agency for allegedly falsifying documents, VOX reports.
- Evidence shows that at least 10 Bulgarian border police officers have been involved in trafficking migrants into the country, and other officials may be involved, the Interior Ministry has announced, Novinite reports. Public uproar over border control corruption and human trafficking has recently led to a series of arrests across the country.
- Over 370,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against omicron variants of COVID-19 will be delivered to Slovenia this week and more are on the way, according to the National Institute for Public Health, STA reports. The new doses should hit vaccination centers next week.
Eastern Europe and Russia
- A confidential report obtained by Bloomberg intended for Kremlin officials has concluded the growing impact of U.S. and European sanctions could prolong and worsen Russia’s economic recession, bne Intellinews reports. However, the report is just one of many prepared by Russian ministries and was intentionally leaked as part of the annual lobbying process over budget deliberations, according to economic consultants cited by Intellinews.
- Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny announced via social media yesterday that he is once again in solitary confinement for the fourth time in little over a month, The Moscow Times reports.
- China is expanding vocational training centers across Central Asia and beyond, Eurasianet reports. The Luban Workshops program, which has opened centers in 19 countries since 2016, is often popular with locals eager for job opportunities, though regional leaders in Central Asia must deal with skepticism about Beijing’s intentions stemming from predatory lending practices as well as China’s widespread abuse of human rights across the border in Xinjiang.
- Tajikistan is stepping up its deportation of Afghans despite President Emomali Rahmon’s pledges of support for the refugees, Eurasianet reports. About 200 refugees have reportedly been deported back to Afghanistan over the last three weeks.
- The Greek government has asked NATO, the EU, and the UN to formally condemn recent threatening statements by Turkish officials, AP News reports. Greece’s move comes after the U.S. State Department issued a statement Tuesday calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent statements toward Athens “unhelpful.”