Sixth fatality reported in New Caledonia violence

French security forces reported another death in armed clashes in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia on Saturday, the sixth fatality in nearly a week of violent unrest.

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The person was killed in an exchange of fire at one of the many impromptu barricades blocking roads on the island, according to a security official speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to discuss the situation publicly.

Two other people were seriously injured in the violence, the official said, confirming French media reports. The official said the firefight erupted at a blockade in the north of the main island, at Kaala-Gomen.

Noumea’s mayor, Sonia Lagarde, said that while overnight violence has eased, ”we are far from a return to normal.”

France has imposed a 11 day state of emergency in the archipelago following protests over voting reforms backed by the government in Paris.

About 1,000 reinforcements for the security services were deployed with increased powers to quell unrest in New Caledonia, which has a population of about 270,000 and whose indigenous population has long sought independence.

French authorities there and at the interior ministry in Paris said that six people, including two police officers, have been killed since Monday.

At least 60 members of the security forces were injured, and 214 people were arrested over clashes with police, arson and looting on Thursday. Two members of the island’s Indigenous Kanak community were among those killed.

High Commissioner Louis Le Franc announced stringent measures Friday under the state of emergency, which will run for at least 11 days, with a curfew in effect from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. French military forces were deployed to protect ports and airports and free up police troops.

“Exceptions to this curfew include essential public service personnel, urgent medical travel, and critical night-time activities,” Le Franc said. He added that curfew violations would result in penalties of up to six months in prison and a fine.

Speaking to broadcaster BFM-TV, Lagarde described the damage caused as ”incredible”.

”It’s a spectacle of desolation. The situation is not improving — quite the contrary — despite all the appeals for calm,” she said, describing the capital, Noumea as ”under siege”.  

The Pacific island group east of Australia, 10 time zones ahead of Paris, is known to tourists for its UNESCO World Heritage atolls and reefs. Tensions have simmered for decades between the Kanaks, who seek independence and the descendants of colonists who want it to remain part of France.

People of European descent in New Caledonia, which has long served as France’s prison colony and now has a French military base, distinguish between descendants of colonists and those who trace their ancestry to the prisoners sent to the territory by force.

Le Franc announced that reinforcements would focus on regaining control of areas in the territorial capital, Noumea, that remain out of control, including Kamere, Montravel, and parts of La Vallee du Tir.

“Reinforcements will be arriving to control the areas that have escaped us in recent days,” he said.

Despite a measure of calm, violence continued in some areas, with fires set on Thursday night at a school and two businesses. Hundreds of extra military and police have arrived in New Caledonia, where roads are littered with debris, and armoured vehicles patrol the streets. It is the worst outbreak of violence in New Caledonia since the 1980s, with palm-lined boulevards in Noumea turned into battlegrounds.

Le Franc announced that a murder suspect surrendered to authorities on Friday, with others still being sought. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said that about 1,000 extra security forces would be sent to New Caledonia, adding to the 1,700 already present, and authorities would push for “the harshest penalties for rioters and looters.”

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said TikTok had been banned because it was being used by protesters, a decision the social media company called “regrettable.”

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Thierry de Greslan, a representative from the hospital in Noumea, expressed concern over the deteriorating situation, worsened by roadblocks in the city.

“We estimate that three or four people may have died due to lack of access to medical care,” de Greslan said. He added that around 50 dialysis patients had been unable to receive their treatments.

“We are having great difficulty bringing our patients and health care workers in. Teams have been working since Monday and are exhausted,” he said.

The number of visits to emergency rooms dropped significantly, with a 50% decrease recently and an 80% reduction on Thursday.

“We are in an urban guerrilla situation with nightly gunshot wounds,” de Greslan said.

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The hospital’s operating rooms are running around the clock, and while the staff is prepared for immediate crises, de Greslan expressed concern about the future.

“We are ready to face this, but I worry about the ‘rebound’ effect on patients not currently receiving care and who are extremely stressed,” he said.

French lawmakers approved changes to the French Constitution on Tuesday that would allow residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in provincial elections. Independence supporters argue that this change would further marginalise the Kanak community, which makes up about 40% of the population.

The voting reform must still be approved by a joint session of both houses of the French parliament. Macron has indicated that lawmakers will vote to adopt the constitutional change by the end of June unless New Caledonia’s opposing sides can strike a new deal.

A videoconference between Macron and New Caledonian lawmakers planned for Thursday was cancelled as “the different players did not want to speak to one another,” his office said.

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Meanwhile, authorities have detained about 200 of an estimated 5,000 rioters, and security forces placed five suspected independence activists accused of organising violence under house arrest. Sixty-four of the injured are police and security forces.

Darmanin also accused Azerbaijan of interference following visits by several independence leaders, a claim denied by the government in Baku.

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Israel’s largest land seizure since Oslo Accords deals fresh blow to Palestinian statehood

Israel declared 800 hectares of land in the West Bank as property of the state on Friday, a move that will facilitate use of the ground for settlement construction. The area covers large swaths of the Jordan Valley, a vital region for a future Palestinian state, and is the largest piece of land to be seized by Israel since the early 1990s.

When far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced Israel would seize 800 hectares of land in the West Bank last Friday, it did not come as a surprise to Hamza Zbiedat. 

Though he is based in Ramallah, his family live in a small village close to the border between the West Bank and Jordan called Zubaydat, just north of the vast area now declared Israeli state land.

“Israel has fully controlled the Jordan Valley for the last 15 years at least,” says Zbiedat, who works as an advocacy officer for the Ma’an Development Center, a Palestinian civil society organisation. “The only thing left for Israel to do was to announce it.”

The Jordan Valley is a rich strip of land that runs along the West Bank, east of the central highlands. Sparsely populated, it has many open and undeveloped areas – making it a precious reserve for the future development of the West Bank.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, almost 90 percent of the Jordan Valley region has been designated Area C, meaning it remained under full Israeli control after the 1995 Oslo II Accord.

“While there are those in Israel and the world who seek to undermine our right over the Judea and Samaria area and the country in general,” Smotrich declared, referring to the West Bank region by its biblical name, “we promote settlement through hard work and in a strategic manner all over the country”.

The area covers 8,000 dunams (800 hectares) between three Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank – Masu’a, Ma’ale Efrayim and Yafit. 

A few weeks earlier, on February 29, Israel appropriated an additional 300 hectares near the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. 

Together, these areas represent the largest zone to be designated Israeli state land since the first Oslo Accords in 1993, according to Peace Now, an Israeli organisation documenting settlement activities.

A losing battle

Now that Israel has declared swaths of the Jordan Valley as its own, Palestinians can longer use the land.

“We guess it will help to expand Israeli settlements,” says Yonatan Mizrachi, co-director of the settlement-monitoring branch at Peace Now.

Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law.

Read moreFrom 1947 to 2023: Retracing the complex, tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict

In 2016, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2334 and demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory”, underlining that it would not “recognise any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines … other than those agreed by the two sides through negotiations”.

But the Israeli administration has repeatedly used orders like declarations of state land to take over Palestinian territories.

In recent years, the Israeli Housing Ministry even created subsidised home ownership programmes to combat the housing crisis and created a lottery system that lured Israelis to move into West Bank settlements.

The declaration of parcels as state land means the area can no longer be considered the private property of Palestinians by the Israeli state. The process facilitates settlers’ leasing or buying plots of designated land. 

Rights groups say it is near impossible for Palestinians to appeal these declarations. 

“There is a kind of bureaucracy that if you own the land, you can object in the next 45 days [following a declaration]. But it’s basically official,” says Mizrachi. “I would be surprised if Palestinians … go to court [to appeal].”

Up until 1967, the Jordan Valley was under Jordanian administration. After the war, Israel issued a military order that put an end to land registrations across the West Bank – meaning Palestinian families often lack the paperwork to prove they hold private ownership over their land. What’s more, Israeli authorities do not accept tax receipts, the only alternative recourse to prove property ownership.

Declarations of state land in occupied territories were halted in 1992 under former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. But two years after Netanyahu was first elected prime minister in 1996, he resumed the practice. Since then, around 40,000 dunams (about 4,000 hectares) have been designated state land by Israel, according to Peace Now.

“It might take years before [the land] is used,” says Mizrachi. “Then suddenly we might see a new outpost, a new settlement, new developments.”

The total area under direct control of Israeli settlements constitutes more than 40 percent of the entire West Bank, according to B’Tselem, which is also known as the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

In 2023, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights found that a total of 700,000 Israeli settlers were living illegally in the occupied West Bank.

Limiting chances for a two-state solution

Israel’s annexation of this vast piece of land could make it even more difficult for Palestinians in the West Bank to move from the north to the south of the territory.

The parcels claimed in the end of February near Ma’ale Adumim create a continuous strip of state land between Ma’ale and another settlement called Kedar, marking a divide between the southern West Bank and the Jordan Valley in the north.

Current restrictions on movement such as Israeli military checkpoints already make it difficult for Palestinians to travel within the West Bank.

“I live in Ramallah. If I want to go see my parents in the Jordan Valley for Ramadan, just to eat Iftar (the fast-breaking evening meal during Islam’s holy month) with them, it would take me three or four hours to get there,” says Zbiedat, who works as an advocacy officer for the Ma’an Development Center, a Palestinian civil society organisation. “I don’t have time to go there after work and drive another four hours back at night.”

Part of the area seized by Israel is located close to East Jerusalem, and is what Palestinians hope will become the centre of a future independent state. Since the Oslo Accords were signed in the early 90s, little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood. Experts, as well as the UN Security Council, say the expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land is a major obstacle to a two-state solution.

Cases of settlements being built on land declared as state property by Israel have also grown exponentially in recent months. 

UN human rights chief Volker Turk published a report last month that found 24,300 housing units had been built within existing Israeli settlements in the West Bank between November 2022 and October 2023, the highest on record since the UN began monitoring the situation in 2017.

A natural greenhouse

“The Jordan Valley is very important for Palestinians in the West Bank. It is supposed to be one of the biggest areas to be part of the state of Palestine, with huge fertile land and a lot of resources,” says Zbiedat. “Two of the biggest aquifer basins of drinkable water in the West Bank are located in the Jordan Valley.”

Zbiedat says experts consider the Jordan Valley a “natural greenhouse”.

“For the last centuries, most of this land was an open herding area for Palestinian Bedouins or villagers with sheep, camels, cows, goats and so on. It was also cultivated by other Palestinians to grow lemons, oranges and other kinds of fruit,” says Zbiedat.

A few years ago, he travelled to the area now designated Israeli state land to take photos and saw that Israelis had begun paving roads and planting date trees.

“Dates have become the most famous crop in the Jordan Valley,” Zbiedat explains. “Agricultural expansion is important in this area … Now that the date trees are six or seven years old, settlers are making hundreds of thousands of shekels from this land.”

“And the workers are mostly Palestinians. But the owners are the settlers,” he says.

Though much of the region is uninhabited, more land confiscations would mean “less Bedouins, less animals, less Palestinian farms and a shrinking independent Palestinian economy,” Zbiedat sighs. “It means less Palestinians in the Jordan Valley.”

The same report published by UNHCHR chief Turk last month underlined the dramatic increase in settler and state violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, notably since the war in Gaza began on October 7. Since the conflict began, “a total of 1,222 Palestinians from 19 herding communities have been displaced as a direct result of settler violence”, it reported.

The West Bank has also seen frequent Palestinian attacks on Israelis since the war broke out.

‘All for the benefit of settlers’

“[Settlers] believe they need to expand and protect what they are calling ‘a state land’ or ‘our patriarch’s land’ from Palestinians. They believe that any new settlement brings more security to the region. That is the main philosophy,” says Mizrachi. “As long as Smotrich controls the civil administration, he will continue this policy.”

Smotrich, who leads the far-right Religious Zionism party, is a settler himself as well as the head of the Israeli Civil Administration.

Last year, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu offered Smotrich a sweeping monopoly on construction planning and approvals in the West Bank by granting him the power to handle land-use issues. Netanyahu decided it was no longer necessary for himself and Israel’s defence minister to provide their formal sign-off on West Bank settlement constructions at every phase.

As a result, Smotrich was designated a strong authority figure of the occupied West Bank – a move the UN warned could facilitate the annexation of the territory.

For Zbiedat, the most recent land seizure is “a message to the US to say, ‘OK, you don’t want us to invade Rafah [in the southern Gaza Strip]? Then don’t say anything about what we do in the West Bank’.”

Smotrich made the announcement on the day US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Tel Aviv for talks with Netanyahu about the war in Gaza.

The US State Department in March had also ordered financial sanctions against four Israeli settlers in the West Bank, marking a rare rebuke of Israel.

Blinken had also expressed his disappointment with Israel’s decision to approve 3,400 new homes in West Bank settlements on March 6. 

“It is a way to put pressure on the US government not to intervene when it comes to settlers,” Zbiedat says.

“But it is also an internal message to Israeli voters to say, ‘Look, we are expanding our settlements in the Jordan Valley’ … which they say will remain forever a part of Israel. They do not want to give Palestinians any kind of control to any kind of border [with Jordan],” he explains.

Palestinian authorities have condemned Smotrich’s announcement. The Palestinian ministry of foreign affairs called the latest move “a continuation of the extermination and displacement of our people from their homeland”.

Read more‘Freedom is paid for in blood’: In the occupied West Bank, families long to bury their dead

“In any case, it is important for people to know we are also living a siege here,” says Zbiedat, referring to the ongoing war in Gaza. “And it’s all for the benefit of settlers.”

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Russia is now pretending it knows nothing of its colonial legacy

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

Russia has always been one of the largest European colonial powers. Yet, its current leaders are engaging in the historical game of geopolitical opportunism that has been a recurring theme in the nation’s grand strategy, Maxim Trudolyubov writes.

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The ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine in Europe’s eastern fringes, Hamas’ brutal assault on Israel and the ensuing war, and the intermittent clashes between Iran’s proxies and Western forces in the Red Sea beg the question: will these conflicts result in victory, and if so, who will come out on top?

In the West, Ukraine, and even Russia, the anticipation of a victorious outcome is tied to the prevailing understanding of the twentieth century as a master narrative for the future — as a go-to history, which helps to grapple with war and conflict. 

This narrative boils down to defeating one evil in 1945 and another in 1989-1990.

The story of the defeat of evil

In 1945, Germany’s defeat was total. The unconditional victory of the anti-Hitler coalition, which included the United States, the Soviet Union, and China, alongside numerous other countries, followed by initiatives like the Marshall Plan and efforts to prevent new wars, laid the groundwork for the postwar West as well as the postwar Soviet Union.

There was a unanimous agreement on the severity of Nazi crimes, fostering a shared set of values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, allowing people from diverse cultures to find common ground. It paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel — a protected home for the victims of Nazism.

Four decades later, a world divided by the Cold War found unity again. The fall of the Berlin Wall accompanied by a wave of velvet revolutions that witnessed the collapse of communist regimes in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and other Eastern Bloc nations, marked the triumph of the West. 

Many former communist bloc countries joined the European Union. This time Russia was on the losing side, although it did, for a time, become a partner in the restored victorious coalition.

Yet, this historical consciousness often overlooks events that were pivotal for many non-Western countries and cultures. 

The former colonies experienced their unique twentieth century, complete with its own set of heroes and villains. 

In parallel to the Western narrative, the non-Western twentieth century was characterised by the emergence of national consciousness, the struggle for independence from Western colonial powers, and the establishment of their own political systems.

In its essence, it’s a story only tangentially related to, and much less black-and-white than the much-revered Nazi defeat or the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

Non-Western national resurgence

While for many in the West, the postwar decades were a time of recovery, growth, and eventual victory over communism, for many in Asia and Africa it was an era of battles for independence, civil wars, and political strife. 

Moreover, those who were on the “right side of history” in the Western twentieth century were often on the “wrong side” in twentieth-century Asia and Africa.

The British, who were part of the winning coalition of 1945 in leading roles, crushed the rebellion of the Malayan National Liberation Army, a guerrilla force, shortly after the war. In the 1950s, the British brutally dealt with the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya.

Britain’s hasty partition of India in 1947 resulted in significant displacement of people and mass violence. 

From 1946 to 1954, France attempted to maintain control over its colonies in the Indochina peninsula through military means, leading eventually to the Vietnam War that lasted until 1975. The Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962) also witnessed violence and repression by French troops. 

In the late 1940s Indonesian Revolution, Dutch colonial forces engaged in violent clashes with Indonesian nationalists before acknowledging the establishment of an independent Indonesia.

Although China was not technically a colony, its society felt a sense of humiliation due to the concessions it was forced to make in trade and territory to both the UK and Russia. 

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As an example, the Convention of Peking in 1860 compelled China to give up portions of what is now known as the Far East to Russia, specifically the territories of modern Primorsky Krai and southern Khabarovsk Krai.

In short, Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and various other societies had their unique series of defeats and triumphs, distinctly different from those of Western nations. 

In fact, these experiences often involved confrontations with or victories over Western powers. 

At those moments in history, the Soviet Union often nominally played on the side of what is now called the Global South as part of its greater Cold War strategy. Yet, a collision of these divergent historical experiences and consciousnesses was bound to occur at some point.

Divergent views of history

It did happen, once and again, over the conflicts and wars in the Middle East. 

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The creation of the State of Israel was the product of a broad international consensus that emerged at a time when the anti-Hitler coalition had not yet disintegrated: both the United States and the Soviet Union voted in favour of establishing the new country.

Western politicians probably also sought to rehabilitate themselves from the fact that their countries had been reluctant in the pre-war and war years to accept Jews fleeing the deadly threat. 

In this context, the emergence of Israel was one of the most important positive events of the Western twentieth century. The efforts of many generations of Jews, a people that had not had their own sovereign state for almost 2,000 years, were crowned with success.

But in the non-Western world, this event appeared in a different light. The creators of the Western twentieth century — the US, the UK, and the Soviet Union — had long been involved in Middle Eastern politics. 

From the perspective of the peoples of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and many others, the policies of the Western powers were pursued in the region primarily for Western — or Soviet — interests.

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The collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I was followed by an arbitrary, from this perspective, redistribution of borders and resources in the region. 

The establishment of Israel after World War II and the drawing of the borders of the new country was seen by the inhabitants of the region in this light — as a colonial redrawing of their territories by some outsiders.

In all of that, Russia was hardly the liberator or the supporter of those wronged or oppressed. On the contrary, it sat squarely in the West’s corner.

Could Moscow’s arbitrary game pay off?

The inescapable fact is that Russia stood as one of the largest European colonial powers, especially from the non-Western perspective. This holds true even today. 

Yet, Russia’s current leaders are engaging in the historical game of geopolitical opportunism that has been a recurring theme in the nation’s grand strategy. 

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Following in the footsteps of Stalin, who initially supported the creation of Israel in 1948 but later assumed a quasi-colonial role as a patron of Egypt, Syria, and other Arab nations, Vladimir Putin’s administration presents Moscow as both anti-Western and anti-colonial. 

And, even more cynically, while aligning with China and Iran — nations characterised by their governments’ distinct anti-Western and anti-colonial sentiments — the Kremlin is waging a colonial war of aggression against Ukraine.

While Moscow’s roots lie in Western colonial power, it skillfully projects a contrasting image to appeal to non-Western nations, successfully garnering “positive press” in the Middle East and beyond.

In the Western world, the concept of victory is deeply ingrained in the narrative of a triumphant twentieth century — a worldview in which evil is punished and its victims are rewarded. 

For Russia, a former totalitarian power, there is no such concept, because it was both a winner and a loser within the West’s historical narrative. 

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In the contemporary landscape, there is no compelling reason to expect a definitive victory that neatly assigns everything and everyone to predefined roles. 

The post-war world’s contours remain elusive and undefined. And Moscow wants to capitalise on that as we speak.

Maxim Trudolyubov is a Senior Fellow at the Kennan Institute and the Editor-at-Large of Meduza. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna (IWM).

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Russia’s multiculturalism claims are a front for colonialist policies

In today’s Russia, Putin’s policies — obscured by quotes of one nation “united by a common destiny” — are feudal and assimilationist, Aleksandar Đokić writes.

“We, the multinational people of the Russian Federation, united by a common destiny on our land” — this is the first line of the Boris Yeltsin-era Constitution of the Russian Federation.

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Those are the same words Vladimir Putin used to begin his speech at the Luzhniki Stadium on 18 March 2022, shortly after launching the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

In today’s Russia, like in all other autocracies, laws cannot be placed above the will of the dictator. Quoting the country’s founding documents — just like Putin did — boils down to a charade.

Most often these laws are mere fronts, behind which the repressive machinery clumsily hides. After all, Joseph Stalin’s 1936 Constitution formally guaranteed the disenfranchised Soviet nations universal rights “irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social, and political life”. 

Yet, millions of Soviet citizens ended up either being imprisoned in horrendous Gulag labour camps or forcefully displaced from their homes with low odds of survival. In their case, this was done truly irrespective of their nationality or race.

Falling for the spiel is easy

However, the opening quote about the “multinational people” does in fact represent an actual political concept present in contemporary Russia. 

This policy, a mix of two contradictory concepts, represents the eclectic nature of Putin’s domain: it’s a simplified variation of the USSR’s civilisation-building project, which strived to construct a new Soviet — an identity superior to traditional ethnoreligious collective ones, contrasting the Russian imperial idea of separate communities. 

The Soviet concept represented a break with the policies of the Russian Empire, in which ethnic and religious differences also meant various levels of political and economic rights. 

That didn’t stop the Soviet system from persecuting and differentiating between its citizens using ethnic and cultural profiling — as seen in the forced displacement of the North Caucasus nations to Central Asia in 1944, or the purges of influential scientists of Jewish descent after World War II. 

Another good example of seemingly altruistic policies towards minorities can be observed in the Soviet state granting people of Jewish descent the right to emigrate should they wish so back in the 1970s. 

This was done to quietly and systematically facilitate their exodus from the USSR while presenting the Soviet leadership as more democratic than it is to those in the West.

And some took the bait. A number of Western observers saw this policy as a sort of liberalisation, while antisemitism — which was also a factor — flew under the radar. 

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The same goes for the “multinational people” concept we see today. Given how about 20% of the country’s population is of non-Russian ethnicity, some laud it as a multicultural paradigm, emphasising its idealistic promise to include all nations comprising Russia into its society as equals. 

That might as well have been the intention of the authors of the Russian Constitution in the 1990s. But in today’s reality, Putin’s policies obscured by quotes of those ideals are feudal and assimilationist. 

What Putin boasts about is not respect for others — it’s feudal policies

“The desecration of the Holy Qur’an is a crime and will be penalised in Russia”, Putin said on 29 June during his visit to the Republic of Dagestan, one of the Muslim-majority regions of Russia. 

This statement was a part of the information war to prevent Sweden — which was struggling to deal with its Qur’an-burning far-right extremists — from becoming a part of NATO. 

But it also has a long-term goal: to demonstrate to the global Muslim population that Putin respects their religious beliefs more than Western democratic systems who also have to contend with their pesky freedom of expression. 

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The reality in Russia bites a little differently, though. Putin is intentionally creating isolated non-Russian communities, wherever the ethnoreligious structure allows it, in order to obtain the loyalty of the regional elites. 

Nowhere is this practice more acute and noticeable than in Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechnya, where not only political dissenters are persecuted, but ordinary people trying to escape the everyday brutality of patriarchal relations. 

The most recent such case is that of Selima Ismailova, a young girl who attempted to flee Russia from her abusive family in June this year. She was stopped at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport and turned over to the Chechen police, no questions asked. 

Other reports of Chechen authorities acting without a warrant or approval of local courts — a practice unheard of for law enforcement from other parts of Russia — have shown this was now systemic practice and not an isolated case.

In effect, Putin has basically facilitated the creation of an Iranian- or Saudi-style moral police inside Russia. 

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This example — unfortunately, only one of many — shows that what Putin boasts about is not multiculturalism: these are feudal policies, in which there is one set of laws in ethnically Russian regions and a different one in non-Russian-majority ones. 

This kind of practice represents a return to the Russian imperial model — a regression even when compared to the Soviet times.

It’s okay to be autochthonous, as long as it’s in Russian

While ethnically non-Russian regions have the nominal right to preserve their autochthonous culture, in reality, Russian culture and the Russian language are intensely propagated instead. 

It is very important to make a distinction here between immigrant and autochthonous communities since Russia is not only a focal point for Central Asian migrants but also occupies many colonised territories of those nations which were, over the centuries, conquered and subsumed into Russia. 

Many of these native regions have been intrusively colonised during the Soviet period. 

For example, the once Finno-Ugric Komi Republic, which only had 6% of ethnic Russians living there in 1926, has been turned into an ethnically Russian region. 

Today, even the more economically developed and highly populated non-Russian republics, such as Tatarstan, are in danger of losing their own language and, consequently, cultural identity. 

During an official meeting of the State Council in 2018, Deputy Minister of Education of Tatarstan Ilsur Khadiullin first boasted about the official number of Tatar schools in the republic — a total of 702 — and then went ahead to admit that the Tatar-language education hasn’t been organised in any of them. 

The Tatarstan official explained the reason for this trend: the government in Moscow has introduced centralised examinations for university admissions, and these exams are administered in only one language — Russian — thus revealing the assimilatory intentions of Putin’s Russia once again.

Ideals as a volume knob

The cultural and demographic policies of Moscow today do not follow clear ideological stipulations, as is the case with the political system of contemporary Russia. 

The policies tend to be opportunistic, following neither the ideology of nationalism nor the school of thought of multiculturalism. 

Where the regional elites are stronger, Putin gives free rein to their leaders, expecting loyalty in return. These leaders can be as fundamentalist and extremist as they like, as long as they don’t endanger his rule or test his patience. 

In those regions where there are more ethnic Russians and the regional elites are less cohesive, Putin strives to impose Russian culture in order to further centralise the country and solidify his control. 

Setting the self-centred motivations of Russian leadership aside, the cultural policies they facilitate and promote have long-standing negative effects on non-Russian communities inside the country, 

And that is a picture quite different than the harmonious one-state propaganda of being “united by a common destiny” paints for the global audience.

Aleksandar Đokić is a Serbian political scientist and analyst with bylines in Novaya Gazeta. He was formerly a lecturer at RUDN University in Moscow.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Wonkette Book Club Part 1: A (Climate) Change Is Gonna Come

We’re starting off our summer 2023 edition of the Book Club with a book that’s about as timely as you could hope for: Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 novel The Ministry for the Future, which imagines a very near future of catastrophic climate change and a decades-long process of humanity’s attempts to bring the climate crisis … well, not under control, but to at least to remake politics and economics in a direction that’s better suited to survival of the Earth’s inhabitants.

For this week, I asked you to read the first chapter, which is fairly short, and and tends to stay with you after you read it. If you just got here and want to catch up, the publisher, Orbit Books, conveniently posted Chapter 1 in full right on the interwebs for free! The discussion from here will involve spoilers for the first chapter, so take a few minutes to go read it … or maybe the discussion here will make you want to go read it.

Last summer, novelist Monica Byrne tweeted for a lot of us who have read the book:

I feel like my circles have divided between those who’ve read the opening chapter of The Ministry for the Future and those who haven’t.

If you haven’t….you should. Because I basically can’t think about my future without it now.


Let’s jump in, shall we? In this brief chapter, we meet one of the novel’s many main characters, Frank May, an American everyliberal from Florida who’s working at the local office of an unnamed relief NGO in a small city in Uttar Pradesh state in India. A perfect storm of atmospheric conditions leads to a long heatwave, with heat and humidity at levels — a “wet bulb” temperature of 38 degrees C (103 degrees Fahrenheit) at dawn, with 35 percent humidity — that’s right on the edge of what human beings can survive.

Then the overstressed electrical grid goes down, all over the region. Things go from bad to worse. No one is coming to help. Frank does what little he can for several local families, inviting them into the clinic where he works, where there’s a single window air conditioner connected by an extension cord to a portable generator on the roof. He keeps for himself the last of the water in the clinic’s refrigerator, in a thermos jug he’s careful not to let anyone see.

The toilets back up, the temperature keeps rising, the oldest and the youngest start dying. On the second day with no power, a group of young men break in and point a gun at Frank, telling him they’ll be taking the AC and the generator.

“We need this more than you do,” one of them explained.

The man with the gun scowled as he heard this. He pointed the gun at Frank one last time. “You did this,” he said, and then they slammed the door on him and were gone.

And really, dear reader, Frank did. So did you. So did I. America and Europe filled the atmosphere with greenhouse gases for 150 years, and then other countries, like China, began adding their own greenhouse emissions. The countries already suffering from the worst effects of climate change — such as last year’s floods in Pakistan, which killed over 1,700 people and left millions homeless — are not the countries that caused the climate disaster.

By the end of the chapter, everyone in the city except Frank is dead. He’s the only person still alive in a shallow lake filled with corpses.

I’m reminded of the end of Flannery O’Connor’s story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (spoiler coming!), where the murderous serial killer the Misfit says of the grandmother he’s just killed — after her sudden realization that all humans are family to each other — “She would have been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

The first chapter of The Ministry for the Future may just be the gun we all need pointed at our own heads to make us pay attention.

So let’s discuss a few things!

1) How are you doing? This chapter hits hard, but I also want to shake every elected leader in the country and tell them they have to read it. At Slate, Rebecca Onion, in an interview with Robinson, told him that the first chapter “gave me insomnia, dominated my thoughts, and led me to put the book down for a few months. Then I picked it back up and found that the remainder of it is actually quite optimistic.”

Robinson replies:

I wanted pretty much the response you described. Fiction can put people through powerful imaginative experiences; it generates real feelings. So I knew the opening scene would be hard to read, and it was hard to write. It wasn’t a casual decision to try it. I felt that this kind of catastrophe is all too likely to happen in the near future. That prospect frightens me, and I wanted people to understand the danger.

2) Did it work? That is, did the chapter make climate change more real to you? Or did it squick you out so badly that you stopped reading? (If so, do you think you’ll pick it up again?)

3) As you’ll see as we go along, this isn’t whizbang laser gun science fiction. There’s almost no technology we don’t have today — Robinson doesn’t even cheat by bringing cheap infinitely abundant fusion power online a decade from now. If anything, I think the “science” being fictionalized is about equal parts sociology and economics. Gee, I guess that was more a comment than a question.

4) Colonialism is a running theme in the novel, not only as a historical backdrop but, as is the case right now, in terms of how the damage from climate change hits less wealthy nations who had virtually nothing to do with wrecking the planet’s atmosphere. And yet our focus character for Chapter 1 is Frank, an American in India. We don’t get the perspective of any of the Indian characters, just the white outsider who witnesses their deaths. He’s also close to death, but he is the lone survivor. As we keep reading, I’d like to hear your thoughts on how Robinson navigates questions about affluent nations and the parts of the world that have climate change landing on them like a million-pound shithammer.

Those are just starters, of course, it’d be terribly boring if y’all only address those like essay questions. Feel free to disregard them if you want to talk about other stuff, including just your visceral reactions to the story — one of the things I loved about Glen Reed, my American Lit professor at Northern Arizona University, was that on the day we discussed “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” he didn’t start off with the standard stuff about O’Connor’s work, her Catholic faith, and the way her stories often rise to a crisis and a “moment of grace.” Instead, he said that every time he’d read the story, it just scared the hell out of him to think of his own family in such a situation: having a car wreck out in the middle of nowhere because of a bad turn, and then the person who finds you is a killer. I loved him for that.

So let’s also talk about this chapter, and climate change, as humans. Let’s talk about the whole book that way.

Your assignment for next Friday is a lot more than for today: Let’s read through Chapter 30 (they’re mostly short chapters, some only a page or less).

And if you haven’t read the book (THIS week you can go do the reading right now of course), always feel free to join the conversation. It’s not a class and there won’t be a quiz. Also, no worries about spoilers, since for the most part this is an idea-driven book, not a plot-driven one. (We’ll talk about that more next week, including the fairly common complaint from some readers that after that holy shit first chapter, the rest of the book reads like a collection of white papers, not a novel.)

The one rule I am going to enforce strictly for this post is that, to keep the conversation focused, I will remove any off topic comments and ask you to save ’em for the open thread in a couple hours, please. I’d honestly like to keep the conversation going all weekend, and if you wanna come back and say more, please do so!

So talk!

[The Ministry for the Future (Wonkette gets a bit of sales from this linky) / Slate / Chapter 1 at Orbit Books]

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‘Tirailleurs’: France’s forgotten colonial soldiers step out of the shadows

The last surviving African soldiers who fought for colonial-era France will be able to live out their final days in their home countries following the French government’s U-turn on their pension rights. The decision coincides with the cinema release of a film highlighting the untold sacrifices made by African “tirailleurs” on France’s battlefields during World War I.

In November 1998, just months after France’s multiracial football team lifted its first World Cup title, another legacy of the country’s colonial history passed away quietly in a faraway village north of Dakar, Senegal. 

Abdoulaye Ndiaye, who died aged 104, was the last of the tirailleurs, the African riflemen who fought for their colonial masters in the trenches of northern France during World War I. He died just one day before France’s then-president, Jacques Chirac, was due to decorate him with the Legion of Honour in belated recognition of his services. 

The failure to acknowledge Ndiaye’s sacrifice during his lifetime has stuck with French director Mathieu Vadepied ever since, inspiring a long-gestating project that has come to completion this week with the release in France and Senegal of his film “Tirailleurs” – whose English version is titled “Father & Soldier”. 

“It felt like a symbol of France’s failure to recognise the tirailleurs and tell their story,” said the director following his film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last year. 

Vadepied, who has travelled and worked in Senegal and elsewhere in Africa, said he felt a duty to exhume the history of the tirailleurs. His film is a tribute to the young men of Senegal and other French colonies who were snatched from their homes and forced to fight in a war that meant nothing to them for a “motherland” whose language most didn’t speak. 


 

While the film’s original title, “Tirailleurs”, or “riflemen”, has evocative power in French, its English version highlights the director’s concern to approach war through an intimate focus on a father’s relationship with the son he is desperate to protect. “Lupin” star Omar Sy plays a weary village farmer who enrols in the army to watch over his son after he is forcefully conscripted by the French. 

Vadepied stressed the importance of rooting his story in Senegal and keeping an intimate gaze on the film’s protagonists while giving war itself a distinctly unspectacular treatment. 

“We know the history of the war, but not that of the tirailleurs,” he said, highlighting cinema’s “mission to educate, to pass on stories and historical memories, while also interrogating the society we live in.” He added: “The story of France’s colonial troops needs to be recognised and told, to allow subsequent generations to identify with this history too.” 

As Sy, himself a son of Senegalese immigrants, told the audience at the Cannes premiere, “We don’t have the same (historical) memory, but we share the same history.” 

A decision long overdue 

In one of the film’s rare battle scenes, moments before the tirailleurs leap out of the trenches and charge into muddy no-man’s land, a French officer is pictured yelling: “After this battle, you will no longer be indigenous, you will be French!”  

It would take a full century for France to deliver on that promise. 

In April 2017, then-president François Hollande granted French citizenship to a first group of 28 former tirailleurs in a ceremony at the Élysée Palace, following a petition signed by more than 60,000 people, including Sy. The event was timed to coincide with the centennial of the Chemin des Dames, a gruesome battle in which more than 7,000 African soldiers perished in the fields of northern France. 

Six years on, the last surviving tirailleurs have won another battle in their decades-long quest for recognition, securing the right to live out their final days in their home countries – while continuing to receive their French pensions. 

>> France’s forgotten African war heroes finally given full pension rights

France’s former colonial troops were previously required to spend at least six months of the year living in France in order to qualify for a monthly payment of 950 euros ($1,000). The rule separated ageing former combatants from their families in Africa, leaving some to die alone, often in cramped quarters, away from their loved ones. 

The change of rule will apply to 37 former soldiers known to be living in France, said Aïssata Seck, a campaigner for the rights of the tirailleurs. She said news of the breakthrough might inspire more veterans to come forward, estimating the total number of surviving tirailleurs in France at “around 80”.  


FOCUS © FRANCE 24

 

Seck, whose grandfather was a tirailleur, expressed relief that the last of his comrades would “finally be able to return home and live out their lives with their wives, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren”.

France’s decision was long overdue, said the head of Senegal’s National Office for Veterans and Victims of War, in an interview with AP.  

“For a long time veterans have asked to return with their pensions but were not successful. This decision will relieve them. These veterans live alone in their homes, they are not accompanied, they live in extremely difficult conditions,” said Capt. Ngor Sarr, 85, who fought for the French military in Algeria and Mauritania and then moved to France in 1993 so he could receive his pension. He said he then lost it when he returned to Senegal 20 years later. 

‘Repair the injustice’ 

A product of France’s 19th-century colonial expansion in Africa, the tirailleurs were initially designed as a lightly-armed infantry corps deployed to harass enemy lines. The corps was expanded during World War I to bolster French troops on the Western Front, and eventually disbanded in the early 1960s.  

Over the two World Wars, some 700,000 soldiers from France’s African colonies fought for the colonial power. While some volunteered, others – like the son’s character in Vadepied’s film – were captured and forcibly enlisted. 

Historians estimate that around 30,000 African soldiers died in the trenches fighting for France during World War I. But their names never featured on the war memorials that grace towns and villages across the country, daily reminders of the cost of the conflict. 

The tirailleurs were a vastly enlarged force by the time Nazi Germany invaded France. They fought for Free French forces in sub-Saharan and North Africa and took part in the Allies’ landings in southern France in August 1944, precipitating the Nazis’ retreat.  

Months later, however, French troops at a barracks near Dakar opened fire on mutinous tirailleurs demanding back pay for years spent in prisoner-of-war camps. Dozens were killed in a massacre that was hushed for decades but is bitterly remembered in Senegal.

REPORTERS
REPORTERS © FRANCE 24

 

Hollande promised to “repair the injustice” on a trip to Dakar in 2014 – in line with tentative steps to acknowledge France’s debt towards its former colonial troops. Their sacrifice was honoured on Armistice Day last year during a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe attended by Aïssata Tall Sall, Senegal’s minister for foreign affairs and Senegalese abroad. 

Despite such gestures, more needs to be done to “give the tirailleurs visibility in the public space”, said Seck, whose campaign group has appealed to French mayors to name streets after France’s African soldiers.  

“The history of the tirailleurs is still insufficiently known,” she explained. “But things are starting to go in the right direction – slowly but surely.” 

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